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Die Heuning Pot Literature Guide
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Quotes

Quote #10

CLAUDIUS
Hamlet comes back: what would you undertake,
To show yourself your father's son in deed
More than in words?
LAERTES
To cut his throat i' the church.
KING CLAUDIUS
No place, indeed, should murder sanctuarize;
Revenge should have no bounds.
(4.7.13)

Now here's a revenge hero the groundlings can get behind: revenge is a higher ideal even than church—or so Claudius tells Laertes. But, come on, would you trust the guy?

Quote #11

HAMLET
Does it not, think'st thee, stand me now upon—
He that hath kill'd my king and whored my mother,
Popp'd in between the election and my hopes,
Thrown out his angle for my proper life,
And with such cozenage—is't not perfect conscience,
To quit him with this arm? and is't not to be damn'd,
To let this canker of our nature come
In further evil?
(5.2.9)

Translation: Claudius disrupted Hamlet's succession to the throne of Denmark by taking advantage of Hamlet's absence (he was away at school) and convincing the noble councilmen to elect him king. So, is Hamlet more concerned with getting the throne than avenging his father?

Quote #12

HAMLET
O, I die, Horatio;
The potent poison quite o'er-crows my spirit:
I cannot live to hear the news from England;
But I do prophesy the election lights
On Fortinbras: he has my dying voice;
So tell him, with the occurrents, more and less,
Which have solicited. The rest is silence.
(5.2.48)

Shakespeare's tragic heroes always die. That's just what you get for being a tragic hero. At the same time, the plays are always concerned with reestablishing a sense of political order. Hamlet's dying words and his "prophesy" that Fortinbras will win the next "election" anticipates the Norwegian prince's arrival in Denmark and likely succession to the throne. We're left with a sense that Denmark, as a collective whole, will be in capable hands. Happy ending?

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