Hamlet Themes and Quotes




“There assume some other horrible form,/Which might deprive your sovereignty of reason/And draw you into madness?” (Horatio) A1S4 

• Verb “assume” suggests uncertainty and doubt - he is worried that the Ghost may eventually turn • Hamlet to madness - foreshadowing.

  • Verb “deprive” suggests torture, connotations of loss of sanity - foreshadowing further events.
  • Could provoke Hamlet’s antic disposition.
  • Verb “draw” suggests an unwillingness. 

“These are wild and whirling words my lord.” (Horatio) A1S5

  • Alliteration of elongated ‘w’ sounds Horatio’s feelings of how Hamlet’s plan is ridiculous and doesn’t fully believe him. Also, stresses his uncertainty and caution around the subject. 
  • Use of the phrase “my lord” accentuates Horatio’s loyalty and trust in Hamlet despite his doubts about his actions.
  • Emphasises Horatio’s position as voice of reason and foreshadows the plot and Hamlet’s constant inaction
  • Syndetic listing elongates the phrase emphasising Horatio’s lack of conviction in Hamlet’s plan

“As I perchance hereafter shall think meet… to put an antic disposition on -” (Hamlet) A1S5

  • Used as a plot device and was typical of revenge tragedies of the time.
  • Confirms that, at least at the beginning of the play, Hamlet’s madness is feigned and used purely to distract Claudius and the rest of the royal court 

“Mad for thy love? / My lord I do not know, / But truly I do fear it.” (Polonius and Ophelia) A2S1

  • Suggestion that Hamlet has gone mad because of the actions of Polonius in keeping him and Ophelia apart.
  • Polonius' idea has its roots in a popular idea of the time, which was that frustrated love brings on a melancholy that is a near neighbor to madness.
  • The fact that Ophelia “truly [does] fear it” suggests that Hamlet’s madness is becoming true as Ophelia truly believes it. Also, because she “fears” it highlights Hamlet’s dangerous capabilities and foreshadows the catastrophic conclusion to his revenge

“Something have you heard/Of Hamlet’s transformation; so call it” (Claudius to Rosencrantz and Guilderstern) A2S2

  • Noun “transformation” shows royal court’s ignorance of mental health issues and Claudius’ arrogance and egocentric view of life.
  • “So call it” dismissal of Hamlet’s emotions - uncaring, cold nature of Claudius - doesn’t have a conscience.

“Your noble son is mad./Mad call I it, for to define true madness,/What is ‘t but to be nothing else but mad?” (Polonius) A2S2

• Repetition of ‘mad’ highlights how focused Polonius is on that his daughter is responsible for Hamlet’s mental state. Exaggerates his foolishness and how not understood Hamlet is. 

“How does Hamlet? / Mad as the sea and wind when both contend/Which is the mightier” (Gertrude) A4S1

• Allusion to the natural world “sea and wind” shows the magnitude of Hamlet’s power and his motivation. However Gertrude also lies to Claudius through this, so “sea and wind” may be an exaggeration and shows the breakdown of the royal court’s loyalty to Claudius - beginning of the end. 

“O he is mad, Laertes.” (Claudius) A5S1

  • Claudius is dismissive of Hamlet’s behaviour -