What is the significance of this quote from Shakespeare's Hamlet? "How all occasions do inform against me,And spur my dull revenge!..."How all occasions do inform against me,And spur my dull...

What is the significance of this quote from Shakespeare's Hamlet? "How all occasions do inform against me,
And spur my dull revenge!..."

How all occasions do inform against me,
And spur my dull revenge! What is a man,
If his chief good and market of his time
Be but to sleep and feed? a beast, no more.
Sure, he that made us with such large discourse,
Looking before and after, gave us not
That capability and god-like reason
To fust in us unused.

Asked on by juno60

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literaturenerd's profile pic

literaturenerd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

The quote in question comes from Act IV, scene iv of William Shakespeare's play Hamlet.

Hamlet understands that many things are against him. That said, he does not understand how a man can truly be a man if all he does is eat and sleep. A true man has been given the ability to reason, unlike animals. Hamlet goes on to state that it would have been a waste for God to provide man with the ability to reason for it to simply be wasted on eating and sleeping only.

Hamlet is, essentially, wondering why he has not taken advantage of his ability to reason. He thinks that, to this point, he has been no different from an animal. He now understands his undoing (his revenge) and plans to take advantage of his God-given gift of reason.

mwestwood's profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

The renowned critic Harold Bloom reflects that perhaps Hamlet writes the play better than Shakespeare himself.  For, the introspective Hamlet and his soliloquies are what generate the action of this tragedy.  Moreover, Hamlet, as the quintessentially existential man, possesses an inwardness and maturing self that also propels the play's unfolding.

This passage from Hamlet's final soliloquy, finds Hamlet again given a motive for action. Fortinbras has requested from the Prince of Denmark permission to cross through Denmark in order to battle the Poles for a small piece of land.  Hamlet gives his permission, noting how Fortinbras is willing to battle for what is essentially a worthless plot of land that was lost in the past only because it is the honorable action to take. 

He, then, ponders that this advancement of Fortinbras is yet another reason for him to act, another occasion to "spur" his "dull revenge," or his dilatory thoughts of avenging King Hamlet's death. Here in this passage, Hamlet berates himself for not having taken action before since reason has been given to him to be used.  Further, Hamlet wonders more why he has yet not acted since he has all the motivation he needs,

I do not know
Why yet I live to say 'This thing's to do,'
Sith I have cause, and will, and strength, and means
To do't. (4.4.45-48)

And, when he compares himself to Fortinbras, who is willing to go into battle for "an eggshell," this worthless plot of Polish land, Hamlet determines to avenge his father's assassination.  He vows, "My thoughts be bloody, or be nothing worth"; that is, Hamlet decides he will now act and kill Claudius or he is worth nothing.


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