Hamlet - Key Quotes


"That it should come to this" - Hamlet - Act 1 Sce

Just after speaking to his Mother and his Uncle, Hamlet has his first of five soliloquies. When he excalims "that it should come to this" he had just finished describing how the world has gone to fodder. 

Hamlet then goes on to say how he cannot believe his mother would marry his father's brother.

This quote shows Hamlet's fury and shock at his mother's remarriage. In Hamlet's mind, the world is in chaos and the remarriage is ithe apex of things spiralling out of control.

Soliloquies allow the audience to see into a character's inner thoughts. 

The soliloquy as a whole belays the reasons for Hamlet's inital deep melancholy and confusion that persists for the rest of the play.

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"Frailty, thy name is woman!" - Hamlet - Act 1 Sce

Hamlet is still speaking in his first soliloquies.

The "woman" he specifically refers to is his mother.

Hamlet felt she was weak, or not strong enough to mourn his father longer.

Hamlet goes on further to say that not even an animal or beast, who has no reasoning skills, would have abandoned the mourning so quickly.

All in all, this shows how angry and confused Hamlet is by his mother's remarriage

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"Neither a borrower nor a lender be; For loan oft loses both itself and friend, and borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry" - Polonius to Laertes - Act 1 Scene 3

Polonius is giving his son sound advice before Laertes returns to Paris.

Polonius is really saying loaning money to other people is dangerous.

Often people don't pay you back and you use a friend because of the failed transaction.

On the flip side, it is distasteful to borrow money because it is impolite and usually indicates you are living outside of your means.

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"This above all: to thine own self be true"

Polonius to Laertes - Act 1 Scene 3

Polonius is giving advice to his son.

Simply put, he is telling him "be yourself".

In the context of the play, Polonius is also telling Laertes to be a gentleman and not "false to any man".

Overall, Polonius' advice helps reveal a theme of irony that threads throughout the play. 

Neither Polonius nor Laertes pay attention to the advice Polonius gives and both perish due to their lack of adherence

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"Something is rotten in the state of Denmark."

Marcellus to Horatio - Act 1 Scene 4

After Hamlet follows the ghost, Marcellus and Horatio know they have to follow as well, because Hamlet is acting so impulsively.

Marcellus' words are remarking on how something evil is afoot.

This moment could be interpreted as foreshadowing of the impending deaths of many of the principle characters.

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"Though this be madness, yet there is method in't.

Polonius to Hamlet - Act 2 Scene 2

At this point of the play, Hamlet and Polonius are interacting onstage, but this quote is technically spoken by Polonius to the audience in an aside.

What Polonius is saying is that, even though Hamlet is talking craazy, it actually makes sense, or it has a "method".

Polonius' assertion is ironic because he is right and wrong. 

Polonius believes Hamlet it acting mad because Hamlet's love of Ophelia has driven him to such. 

While Polonius is correct to think that there is reason behind Hamlet's actions, he is incorrect as to the cause. Hamlet is purposefully acting mad to disguise his true missions to avenge his father's murder.

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"To be, or not to be: that is the question."

Hamlet in one of his soliloquies - Act 3 Scene 1

In the beginning of his fourth soliloquy, Hamlet muses about the conundrum of suicide.

He worries if one route is "nobler" than the next.

At this point in the play, Hamlet has been unable to act upon his motives for personal revenge, and this frustrates him.

The tone of Hamlet's soliloquy is more meditative than angry, but he does seriously consider suicide.

He relates his personal struggle to the struggles that all of mankind shares.

Given that you don't know what happens after you die, Hamlet realises that death wouldn't be the ideal escape that he craves.

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"The lady doth protest too much, methinks."

Gertrude to Hamlet when watching 'The Murder of Gonzago' - Act 3 Scene 2

Gertrude is talking about the queen in the play.

She feels that the play-queen seems insincere because she repeats to dramatically that she'll never remarry due to her undying love of her husband. 

The play-queen, in-fact, does remarry.

It is unclear whether Gertrude recognises the parallel between herself and the play-queen; Hamlet certainly feels that way.

This moment has an irony that is shown throughout the play.

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