|Character + scene
|“this bodes some strange eruption to our state”
|Horatio says this after seeing the ghost Foreshadows unnatural disturbance and corruption to come
|‘seems’, madam – nay it is”
|Reveals his grief His grief and mistrust of others as he feels he’s the only one grieving the loss of his father creates unbearable suffering for Hamlet which fuels his hatred. Here Hamlet is mocking his mother. The anaphora of ‘nor’ reiterates Hamlet’s real grief, contrasting that of Gertrude’s. This contrast emphasises Hamlet’s concern for his mother’s lack of grief also emphasising his agitation towards her not showing her true feelings.
|“ ‘tis unmanly grief”
|The character of Hamlet would’ve been seen as unmanly due to his inaction and failure to fulfil his filial responsibility
|Hamlet 1st soliloquy 1.2.129
|“O that is too too sallied flesh would melt and resolve itself into a dew”
|Expresses spiritual despair, disgust with the world and suicidal thoughts. he wishes he would evaporate into nothingness or that God had not forbidden suicide.
|Hamlet 1st soliloquy 1.2.132
|“O God, God, how weary, stale, flat and unprofitable seem to me all the uses of this world.”
|Vocative use of ‘O’ demonstrates Shakespeare’s emotive, sensory language to communicate a feeling of helplessness to the audience.
|Hamlet 1st Soliloquy 1.2.135
|“Tis an unweeded garden, that grows to seed; things rank and gross in nature.”
|This is an extended metaphor for the corruption of Denmark which comes forth from the centre; the court and into society like a growing, spreading ‘unweeded’ garden causing troubled times.
|Hamlet = 1.2.140
|“that was to this Hyperion to a satyr”
|Idolizing his father and contrasting him with Claudius. The Greek mythology used here shows him comparing his father whom he sees as a great man almost God-like to Claudius whom he views as a lowlife ‘satyr’ usually associated with lust and intoxication.
|Hamlet = 1.2.146
|“Frailty, thy name is woman”
|The word ‘frailty’ suggests that Hamlet believes that women are weak this belittling them and showing his hatred towards them. Comes right after his confrontation with Gertrude when she thinks he ‘seems’ mournful. This reveals his newly found hatred towards women as now he is suffering due to the mistrust his mother has created because of her haste remarriage as well as lack of grief.
|Hamlet 1st Soliloquy 1.2.157
|Laertes about Hamlet 1.3.19
|“For on his choice depends the safety and health of this whole state.”
|Reflects the difficulty for Hamlet to act as his actions would affect the whole of Denmark.
|Ophelia to Laertes 1.3.46
|“Do not as some ungracious pastors do, show me the steep and thorny way to heaven … and recks not his own rede.”
|Ophelia here is challenging her brother and telling him to not be a hypocrite thus suggesting that Laertes does not follow his own advice. This for the Elizabethan audience would seem normal as male actions in love and relationships were often ignored, however, women’s actions such as Ophelia’s were focused on and they were supposed to be given advice regarding matters like these. Ophelia’s reply here implies that she is defending her relationship with Hamlet this showing her initial strong bond with him.
|Polonius to Ophelia 1.3.104
|“Think yourself a baby”
|Male world denies her any independence
|Ophelia to Polonius 1.3.109
|“my Lord, he hath importuned me with love in honourable fashion.”
|This suggests that Hamlet and Ophelia initially had a healthy relationship as the word ‘honourable’ suggests. Moreover, Shakespeare makes her defend her relationship with Hamlet further shows their initial bond “never doubt I love.”
|Ophelia to Polonius 1.3.135
|“I shall obey my lord”
|Hamlet about ghost 1.4.40
|“Be thou a spirit of health, or goblin damned”
|Unsure whether to trust the ghost due to his religious identity ‘damned’ might be a figure from hell Uncertainty creates Hamlet’s inner suffering – overthinking moral character
|“Something is rotten in the state of Denmark”
|The corruption of the throne is apparent and is felt by the people of Denmark as seen by Marcellus’ remark. During Elizabethan times the majority of the people believed that the health of the nation was connected to the legitimacy of its king, however, the illegitimacy of Claudius causes the decay of Denmark. Perhaps Shakespeare suggests a connection between external decay and internal systemic decay. The external decay being the physical corruption Claudius brings about with the ‘most foul and unnatural murder’ and the internal decay being the poisoning of the political, and social affairs of Denmark as seen by the foreign takeover of Fortinbras and the domestic problems leading to a bloodbath in the Royal court.
|“revenge his foul and most unnatural murder” – repeated
|According to the conventions of classical tragedy, I should die by the sword or in combat; Hamlet, Laertes, Polonius, and Claudius are all stabbed or cut by swords. Only the king dies in an ‘unmanly’ way which emphasizes that it was ‘strange and unnatural’”
|“And curd, like eager droppings into milk”
| Purity vs. impurity
The reference to milk, similar to Macbeth, could arguably be that the nature of king Hamlet was pure and natural – his place on the throne is that of the natural order. Claudius corrupted his bloodstream and therefore did the same to the natural order by murdering and usurping the throne. His place on the throne is therefore unnatural.
|“let not the royal bed of Denmark be a couch for luxury and damned incest”
|Incest as corruption – affects entire Denmark
|Hamlet 2nd soliloquy 1.5.106
|“O villain, villain, smiling damned villain”
|Anger at Claudius Starts his revenge and madness
|“to put an antic disposition on”
|Hamlet will put up an act of madness for his quest for revenge
|Ophelia to Polonius 2.1.105
|“but as you did command, I did repel his letters and denied his access to me”
|Submissive and controlled by her father – a pawn
|“O cursed spite, that ever I was born to set it right”
|Ironic – he does not set things right or at least takes forever to do so and at the expense of a foreign takeover and a tragic bloodbath.
|Gertrude to Polonius 2.2.95
|“more matter with less art”
|“I’ll loose my daughter to him be you and I behind an arras then.”
|Mocks Polonius but also shows his sense of awareness and sanity thus revealing that this dialogue is an act of madness The word is a euphemism for ‘pimp’ and in this case Hamlet accuses Polonius of selling his daughter off for information about hamlet
|Hamlet to Polonius 2.2.179
|“Have you a daughter?”
|Acts mad through being illogical – he asks Polonius questions he already knows the answers for The dialogue is also not in Iambic pentameter or verse reflecting the lack of logic or from in what Hamlet is saying
|“Though this be madness yet there is method in’t”
| Act of madness Dramatic Irony
Uses madness to aid his revenge
|Hamlet after Polonius’ exit 2.2.214
|“These tedious old fools”
|A shift in character as now he is being more direct with his criticism and is speaking with sense showing that the earlier dialogue was just an act of madness
|Hamlet to R & G 2.2.268
|“nothing but foul and pestilent congregation of vapours”
|Hamlet can no longer see the beauty of the world around him and this is due to the melancholy that engulfs him after his father’s murder and the corruption of Denmark.
|Hamlet to R & G 2.2.315
|“I am but mad north- north- west.”
|Madness here is metaphorically identified as a compass meaning he’s just putting up an act, thus mad only in certain situations; when the wind blows in one point of the compass.
|Hamlet 3rd soliloquy 2.2.503
|“unpregnant of my cause”
|Metaphor – the seed is in me but can’t give birth to it – his motive is in him but cannot act upon it
|Hamlet 3rd soliloquy 2.2.506
|“Am I a coward?”
|Rhetorical question doubt + uncertainty
|Hamlet 3rd soliloquy 2.2.510
|“who does me this? Ha!”
|Laughable – he’s causing this to himself – his moral compass
|Claudius and Gertrude 3.1.28 + 3.1.37
|“Sweet Gertrude, leave us two” “I shall obey you.”
|Submissive and left out. She is pushed aside due to her passivity
|“That he, as ‘twere by accident, may here affront Ophelia”
|Used as an object – a pawn – immanence (De Beauvoir)
|4th soliloquy to be or not to be 3.1
|“To be or not to be”
|Questions the purpose of existence reflects the psychological state of Hamlet and makes the audience question his sanity
|Hamlet 4th soliloquy 3.1.58
|“sea of trouble”
|Metaphor reflects his life and conflicted mind.
|Hamlet = 3.1
|‘sleep’ ‘the heart-ache’
|Hamlet explores the ‘not to be’ option and compares suicide to ‘sleep’ which is repeated throughout and is an extended metaphor for death. For him this ‘sleep’ will end all ‘the heart-ache’
|Hamlet = 3.1.64
|“there’s the rub:/ for in that sleep of death what dreams may come.”
|He further contemplates showing his overthinking character; tragic flaw The noun ‘rub’ shows that there is a difficulty for suicide and the ultimate pause and this is emphasized by the caesura and the split of a line as it stops and blocks Hamlet’s speech literally and metaphorically blocks Hamlet’s actions. Sleep always brings the possibility of unknown dreams and these could be nightmares that are worse than bearing the pains of existence.
|Hamlet = 3.1.79
|“undiscovered country” “no traveller returns”
|Metaphorical of death. This statement sounds straightforward and logical till you remember his father’s ghost. The audience are forced to either think of the ghost as not a full-fledged return to life as he also did not tell his son about the afterlife or the audience could interpret it as a confirmation that Hamlet’s doubts of the ghost has grown as it ‘may be a devil’
|Hamlet = 3.1.68
|“calamity of so long life”
|‘calamity’ symbolises the sufferings and anguish of life because the alternative is so dark and unknowable. It is our fear of something worse that keeps is bound to the long ‘calamity’ of life. The audience starts to believe that Hamlet finally reached a conclusion which is ‘to be’ however he counters it again with a long breathless list of all the suffering of life-extending the earlier question again. Revealing the overthinking nature of Hamlet
|Hamlet 4th soliloquy 3.1.82-84
|“Thus conscience does make cowards of us all” “hue of resolution is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought.”
| Hamlet is saying that our ‘conscience’ makes us overthink, in his case his moral compass, makes us ‘cowards’ and stops us from taking action.
Compares decision making to a ‘hue’ which makes us think of something colorful and something desired to the ‘sicklied’ and ‘pale cast of thought’. The image of sick and dim, shadowy image is ‘cast’ reflects how decision making is weakened by thought. And thus, we postpone action and ‘lose the name of action’ as it is weakened by our overthinking ‘conscience’
|No iambic pentameter
|no logic or form to his speech – acts mad
|Ophelia to Hamlet 3.1
|“My Lord, I have remembrances of yours” she calls them “words of so sweet breath composed” “their perfume lost”
| Hints at the romantic nature of letters thus implying the genuine love they once shared Her opinion of those letters’ language is ‘sweet’ contrasting her father’s view of ‘vile’ reflecting her love of Hamlet.
However, the metaphor here reflects the loss of love and trust in their relationship now. This is shown later on in the scene when Hamlet starts attacking her.
|Hamlet to Ophelia 3.1.129-130
|“Where’s your father?” “At home my lord” “let the doors be shut upon him, that he may play the fool nowhere but in his own house”
|Hamlet does not believe her and knows that Polonius is eavesdropping Here Hamlet is testing Ophelia’s loyalty to him and now he completely loses faith in all women after being betrayed by two women The fact that Ophelia lies to him reconfirms his mistrust in women this leads to his anger
|Hamlet 3.1 Nunnery scene throughout
|“Get thee to a nunnery”
|Repetition (5x) = reflects his anger and the belief that he can’t trust people any longer Double meaning A religious place where she can be chaste and not spread her sins and faithlessness to her children Brothel, meaning he is calling her a whore and disrespecting her
|Hamlet to Ophelia 3.1.137
|“marry a fool, for wise men know well enough what monsters you make of them.”
|This is an allusion to the idea that men whom their wives cheated on grew horns thus suggesting that all women are unfaithful and turn their husbands into monsters.
|Hamlet to Ophelia 3.1.141
|“I have heard of your paintings too, well enough. God hath given you one face, and you make yourselves another.”
|Shakespeare uses the inauthenticity of painting the face with makeup as an analogy for women’s deception, thus Hamlet is comparing Ophelia’s love for him as fake. Hamlet shifts his specific criticism of Ophelia in this scene to attack women in general as a criticism of makeup was a standard element of misogyny in Elizabethan England.
|Play within the play 3.2.162-222
|“thou – O confound the rest! Such love must needs be treason in my breast” “in second husband let me be accurst!” Hamlet: [Aside] “Wormwood, wormwood.”
| Irony – she cuts off the king mid-sentence and claims that for her to love again after his death would be treason to her own heart
Reflects Gertrude in a sense as she is ‘cursed; in her marriage. Claudius is the cause of her husband’s death, her son’s estrangement and ultimately her own death as well. This would make Gertrude feel uncomfortable A herb that contains a poison – he is saying what the player queen is saying is bitter for the ear to hear. This is literally a bitter moment for the family as this is what Gertrude allowed to happen
|Gertrude about Player Queen 3.2.224
|“The lady doth protest too much methinks”
|Irony, mocking woman acting her part
|Hamlet 5th soliloquy 3.2.380
|“Now I could drink hot blood”
|In the evil atmosphere of the ‘witching time of night’, Hamlet feels ready to kill Claudius after confirming his guilt. He feels anger. This is ironic as right after this scene comes to the church scene and he does not act on his revenge.
|Hamlet 6th soliloquy 3.3.76
|“A villain kills my father; and for that, I, his sole son, do the same villain send to heaven.”
|His father didn’t get the chance to repent meanwhile Claudius just did and Hamlet does not want to risk sending Claudius to heaven. Inaction – just an excuse – he kills Polonius without remorse but he is still not ready to kill Claudius.
|Closet scene 3.4
|Hamlet about Polonius 3.4.29
|“thou wretched, rash, intruding fool, farewell!”
|Reveals his real madness as it is out of character He shows no sympathy or remorse as he calls him ‘fool’ and ‘rash’ which is ironic and hypocritic, as Hamlet is rash here for killing Polonius without knowing who was behind the arras even though he is presented as a morally responsible prince who has been contemplating whether he should commit murder or not but ends up killing the innocent with ease thus showing his madness as he isn’t acting like he usually does. Furthermore, we learn throughout the play that he has difficulty making quick decisions and is controlled by his moral compass, yet he immediately stabs the arras something contrary to his original behaviours suggesting insanity.
|Hamlet to Gertrude Closet scene 3.4.90
|“an enseamed bed stew’d in corruption”
|Associates his mother’s marriage with rot and decay. His mother’s hast remarriage affects the whole of Denmark (royal bed of Denmark) and the image of her marriage bed is the bed of Denmark reinforces the idea that corruption has become innate to Denmark and the decay and rot that comes with corruption spread from the throne to society.
|Hamlet about ghost to Gertrude 3.4.128
|“Do you see nothing there?”
|A pun as he literally sees nothing and Hamlet have completely lost his sanity and is hallucinating in this scene as he is the only one seeing the ghost this time in contrast to other scenes in the play where other characters could see the ghost as well such as Horatio and the guards.
|Hamlet to Gertrude Closet scene 3.4.185
|“I essentially am not in madness, but mad in craft.”
| In this scene, he loses his sanity and acts rashly but insists he is not mad, but it is an act. However, this is hard to believe as he has always insisted on keeping his madness a secret and he wouldn’t have told his mother if he was sane at the moment
His denial of genuine madness is further emphasized by the killing of the innocent and showing no remorse (look above)
|Hamlet to Gertrude Closet scene 3.4.146 + 3.4.149
|“Whiles rank corruption, mining all within, infects unseen.” “And do not spread the compost on the weeds” links to “T’s is an unweeded garden”
| His mother unaware of corruption
|Hamlet to Claudius 4.3.26
|“A man may fish with the worm that hath eat of a king and eat of the fish that hath fed of that worm.”
|Worm symbol of corruption and decay Hamlet is accusing Claudius of eating a dead corpse of the old king thus symbolising the corruption of the state as it reflects the regicide committed by Claudius.
|“[sings] He is dead and gone, lady, he is dead and gone.”
|Repetition emphasises Ophelia’s dwelling on her grief reflects her suffering
|Ophelia Flower scene 4.5.151
|Gives fennel and columbine to Claudius Rue to Gertrude and herself Violets have all withered Picks a Daisy and sets it down
| Symbolising flattery and adultery and faithlessness
All withered when her father dies- faithfulness and fidelity
Symbolising lost innocence Ophelia’s madness frees her o the restraints of the patriarchal society – freeing her from the oppression of her father and being a pawn in Hamlet’s game as she is continuously exploited by Hamlet, her father and Claudius. Due to her madness, she speaks frees and voices her opinions metaphorically through the use of the flowers.
|Laertes about Hamlet 4.7.124
|“to cut his throat i’th’ church.”
|Hamlet’s character is contrasted with Laertes. Laertes wants to act right away and swears to revenge his father’s death even if he had to kill Hamlet in a church whereas Hamlet misses his chance to kill Claudius due to Claudius praying in church.
|Hamlet Gravedigger scene 5.1.175-193
|“infinite jest” “why may not imagination trace the noble dust of Alexander till ‘a find it stopping a bung-hole?”
|Fortinbras is needed to purify Denmark and this is demonstrated when Hamlet finds the skull of Yorick a former jester lamenting on how all the parts of Yorick he knew the man’s ‘infinite jest’, warmth and geniality but also physical attributes such as his tongue and flesh are gone forever thus realizing that all men, even the most influential leaders in history like Alexander the Great return to ‘dust’. He also obsesses over the body’s process of decay and asks the gravediggers for detailed descriptions of how long it takes for flesh to rot off the bones. Hamlet’s continued fixation on the inescapable process of dying and decay shows that he feels incapable of stopping the decay and rot of Denmark due to it being engulfed in corruption and indeed, in the end, a foreign leader is needed to take over Denmark and cleanse it from its corruption. Denmark needs to rot in order to flourish just as human flesh decays and fertilizes the ground beneath it.
|Hamlet to Laertes 5.1.259
|“Forty thousand brothers, could not, with all their quantity of love, make up my sum.”
|Hyperbole confirms Hamlet’s genuine love for Ophelia however it also makes his loveless believable because of how much he exaggerates it, especially after the audience has seen how he had treated her and shunned her. However, this could prove the idea that Hamlet genuinely loved Ophelia before all the resentment towards women grew thus leading him to lose his vision of love, and seeing Ophelia dead now brings back his past feeling of love thus triggering this hyperbolic reaction.
|“Killed my king and whored my mother.”
|Greater emphasis on his mother, arguably he seeks revenge due to his mother’s remarriage rather than the death of his father