In Hamlet, Act 1, Scene 2, why does Claudius bring to the attention of everyone that there is 'dirge in marriage'? Surely he means otherwise.

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William Delaney | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The complete line is: "With mirth in funeral and with dirge in marriage." Claudius is trying to explain and justify his marriage with Gertrude which occurred only a couple of months after the death of her husband and his brother. Claudius is saying that he and Gertrude share mixed feelings because they are still mourning the death of King Hamlet while delighting in their love for each other. He acknowledges that there should have been a longer period of general mourning when he says: "...that it us befitted / To bear our hearts in grief and our whole kingdom / To be contracted in one brow of woe." But he suggests that it was somehow of great practical importance to the welfare of the kingdom for him to marry Gertrude as quickly as possible. He says that everyone approved of this decision: "Nor have we herein barred / Your better wisdoms, which have freely gone / With this affair along." It seems as if he feels he has to say something about this precipitate marriage but keeps it in vague generalities. Then he quickly shifts to practical matters, changing the subject that seems to embarrass him, as well it should. He starts talking about the warlike actions of young Fortibras and says no more about marriage.


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