What does Hamlet mean when he says, "wormwood" in Act III, Scene 2?



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Hamlet says "Wormwood!" in response to the player queen's speech. Her husband the king has just told her that he believes he is about to die, and she tells him that she will not remarry, believing that to find a second love is to destroy or demean the first. Wormwood is an exceedingly bitter plant, and Hamlet means to say that the sentiments expressed in the speech are bitter and heart-rending. Of course, the Queen views it differently, claiming that "the lady protests too much." Clearly, the speech has hit close to home with her, which is, of course, precisely what Hamlet had wished. 


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