Page (2 of 4) Quotes: 1 2 3 4
How we cite the quotes:
(Act.Scene.Line) according to the Norton edition
| Quote #4
O, that this too too solid flesh would melt
Thaw and resolve itself into a dew!
Or that the Everlasting had not fix'd
His canon 'gainst self-slaughter! O God! God!
How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable,
Seem to me all the uses of this world!
Fie on't! ah fie! 'tis an unweeded garden,
That grows to seed; things rank and gross in nature
Possess it merely.
At the play's outset, Hamlet is clearly suicidal – he wishes his "flesh would melt" because his mother's betrayal of his father has made the world seem like a completely corrupted place. Here, he laments that suicide or, "self slaughter" is a sin. Compare this passage to Hamlet's infamous "to be, or not to be" speech in 3.1.1 below. (Check out "Symbols, Imagery, Allegory" if you want to know more about the "unweeded garden" reference)
| Quote #5
I am thy father's spirit,
Doom'd for a certain term to walk the night,
And for the day confined to fast in fires,
Till the foul crimes done in my days of nature
Are burnt and purged away. But that I am forbid
To tell the secrets of my prison-house,
I could a tale unfold whose lightest word
Would harrow up thy soul, freeze thy young blood,
Make thy two eyes, like stars, start from their spheres,
Thy knotted and combined locks to part
And each particular hair to stand on end,
Like quills upon the fretful porpentine:
But this eternal blazon must not be
To ears of flesh and blood.
The Ghost seems to have returned from Purgatory, where he must suffer until his sins are "brunt and purg'd away." In Hamlet in Purgatory, literary critic Stephen Greenblatt argues that the Ghost represents a common fear (among the living) of being completely forgotten after death. We talk about all of this in more detail in "Religion" so, be sure to check it out when you're done here.
| Quote #6
To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to, 'tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish'd. To die, to sleep;
To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause: there's the respect
That makes calamity of so long life;
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
The oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely,
The pangs of despised love, the law's delay,
The insolence of office and the spurns
That patient merit of the unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin? who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscover'd country from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pith and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry,
And lose the name of action.
Earlier in the play, we saw that Hamlet wished for his "too solid flesh" to "melt," a clear indication of his suicidal tendencies (1.2.6). But, literary critics are notoriously divided over this infamous passage, which occurs about mid-point in the play. On the one hand, some critics say that Hamlet is (still) contemplating his own suicide ("to be, or not to be"). On the other hand, other critics argue that Hamlet's not considering whether or not he should kill himself. Rather, he's merely exploring the reasons why people in general don't commit suicide. (Notice Hamlet doesn't ever use the words "me" or "I" here.)
Either way, Hamlet concludes that most people reject suicide, not because of religious beliefs, but because they have no idea what comes after death. Death, says Hamlet, is the "[t]he undiscover'd country from whose bourn / No traveller returns." This is not a very Christian line of argument, since Elizabethan Christians ostensibly knew what awaited them in the afterlife: heaven or hell (or Purgatory, for Catholics). Hamlet seems to be agnostic here but later in the play, he'll embrace the idea of divine fate. (See 5.2.37 below. In case you haven't noticed, Hamlet changes his mind a lot.)
We're also interested in the fact that Hamlet seems not to remember that his father has "return[ed" from the "undiscover'd country" in ghost form. It seems that Hamlet's forgotten all about his father's little visit and his request for Hamlet to take action against Claudius.