Page (3 of 4) Quotes: 1 2 3 4
How we cite the quotes:
(Act.Scene.Line) according to the Norton edition
| Quote #7
Now, Hamlet, where's Polonius?
At supper! where?
Not where he eats, but where he is eaten: a certain
convocation of politic worms are e'en at him. Your
worm is your only emperor for diet: we fat all
creatures else to fat us, and we fat ourselves for
maggots: your fat king and your lean beggar is but
variable service, two dishes, but to one table:
that's the end.
A man may fish with the worm that hath eat of a
king, and cat of the fish that hath fed of that worm.
What dost you mean by this?
Nothing but to show you how a king may go a
progress through the guts of a beggar.
Where is Polonius?
In heaven; send hither to see: if your messenger
find him not there, seek him i' the other place
yourself. But indeed, if you find him not within
this month, you shall nose him as you go up the
stairs into the lobby.
Hamlet describes Polonius's death in mocking terms when he tells Claudius the old man is "at supper" (his dead body is being eaten by worms), which seems particularly callous. Is this part of his "antic disposition" or is this really how Hamlet sees things? Either way, he's keenly aware that all humans share the same fate – "fat kings" and "leans beggars" alike eventually become food for "maggots" and "worms." Compare this passage to 5.1.30 below.
| Quote #8
There is a willow grows aslant a brook,
That shows his hoar leaves in the glassy stream;
There with fantastic garlands did she come
Of crow-flowers, nettles, daisies, and long purples
That liberal shepherds give a grosser name,
But our cold maids do dead men's fingers call them:
There, on the pendent boughs her coronet weeds
Clambering to hang, an envious sliver broke;
When down her weedy trophies and herself
Fell in the weeping brook. Her clothes spread wide;
And, mermaid-like, awhile they bore her up:
Which time she chanted snatches of old tunes;
As one incapable of her own distress,
Or like a creature native and indued
Unto that element: but long it could not be
Till that her garments, heavy with their drink,
Pull'd the poor wretch from her melodious lay
To muddy death.
Audiences always wonder about whether or not Gertrude actually witnesses Ophelia's death first hand. (The answer is never made clear in the play and we're also never sure about whether or not the drowning is accidental.) But, we're more interested in something different. Death, as we know, is not glamorous. Yet, here, Gertrude describes Ophelia's drowning as though it were a very peaceful and lovely sight to behold – "Her clothes spread wide; / And, mermaid-like" before "her garments, heavy with their drink" weighted her down. Where is this coming from? The death of a young woman isn't romantic but, even in death, Ophelia is described in rather erotic terms. Why is that?
| Quote #9
Is she to be buried in Christian burial that
wilfully seeks her own salvation?
I tell thee she is: and therefore make her grave
straight: the crowner hath sat on her, and finds it
How can that be, unless she drowned herself in her
Why, 'tis found so.
It must be 'se offendendo;' it cannot be else. For
here lies the point: if I drown myself wittingly,
it argues an act: and an act hath three branches: it
is, to act, to do, to perform: argal, she drowned
Nay, but hear you, goodman delver,—
Give me leave. Here lies the water; good: here
stands the man; good; if the man go to this water,
and drown himself, it is, will he, nill he, he
goes,—mark you that; but if the water come to him
and drown him, he drowns not himself: argal, he
that is not guilty of his own death shortens not his own life.
But is this law?
Ay, marry, is't; crowner's quest law.
Will you ha' the truth on't? If this had not been
a gentlewoman, she should have been buried out o'
According to the two gravediggers or "Clowns," Ophelia has committed suicide, a mortal sin that typically affects the kind of burial service that's performed. Since Ophelia's a "gentlewoman," some strings are pulled and she's given a "Christian burial." Though, the priest gives a shoddy service, which you can read more about by checking out "Quotes" on "Religion." What interests us here is the way the discussion about Ophelia's death is handled with comedic dialogue that's likely to incite laughter in the audience. The witty dialogue is humorous, which makes the weighty matter of their discussion of life and death all the more compelling (and perhaps pessimistic).