Die Heuning Pot Literature Guide
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Intro

That it should come to this

I'm Hamlet. I'm a smart aleck with a penchant for delivering long speeches about the meaning of life. I've been pretty depressed since my dad died and my mom married my uncle. And you know what I think?

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. That it should come to this!
But two months dead: nay, not so much, not two:
So excellent a king; that was, to this,
Hyperion to a satyr; so loving to my mother
That he might not beteem the winds of heaven
Visit her face too roughly. Heaven and earth!
Must I remember? why, she would hang on him,
As if increase of appetite had grown
By what it fed on: and yet, within a month--
Let me not think on't--Frailty, thy name is woman!--
A little month, or ere those shoes were old
With which she follow'd my poor father's body,
Like Niobe, all tears:--why she, even she--
O, God! a beast, that wants discourse of reason,
Would have mourn'd longer--married with my uncle,
My father's brother, but no more like my father
Than I to Hercules: within a month:
Ere yet the salt of most unrighteous tears
Had left the flushing in her galled eyes,
She married. O, most wicked speed, to post
With such dexterity to incestuous sheets!
It is not nor it cannot come to good:
But break, my heart; for I must hold my tongue. (1.2.129-160)

Who Said It and Where

We start off with a bang. Or, considering that this is Hamlet we're talking about, maybe more like a whimper. He's moaning about how depressed he is over his father's death and mom's remarriage, and wishing that his "flesh" would "melt"—i.e., that he'd die.

After seeing Claudius, the new King of Denmark, give his inaugural address to the court, Hamlet is super depressed. Claudius manages to explain away the fact that he has married his brother's widow, Gertrude, only a month after her husband's death. No one has any issues with this. Conveniently, marrying the Queen also meant that Claudius got to become King.

That's when we find our mopey Hamlet delivering his first mopey soliloquy. In it he reveals that he's contemplating suicide and wishes that his "flesh" would "melt." Yep, he's serious.

History Snack! Elizabethans believed the human body was made up of four basic elements, called humors: phlegm, blood, yellow bile, and black bile. Hamlet seems to be suffering from what Elizabethans referred to as "melancholy," which was associated with too much "black bile" in the body.

This state led to lethargy, irritability, distorted imagination, and so on. Basically, it sounds a lot like what we call "clinical depression" today. But since this is 1600 rather than the 21st century, Hamlet can't just take some pills. He has to plot (and delay) a murderous revenge.

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