The glass of fashion
Ophelia:Hamlet, Act 3, scene 1, 150–154
O, what a noble mind is here o'erthrown!
The courtier's, soldier's, scholar's, eye, tongue, sword,
Th' expectation and rose of the fair state,
The glass of fashion and the mould of form,
Th' observ'd of all observers, quite, quite down!
After Hamlet repeatedly advises her to "get thee to a nunn'ry" [see p. 46], Ophelia bewails the noble prince's apparent madness and mourns Denmark's loss of so exemplary a gentleman. Like the society of Shakespeare's England, the society of Hamlet's Denmark seems to operate on a principle of emulation: all noblemen are expected to remark and imitate the manners of the prince. Hamlet's eye (perception), tongue (discourse), and sword (prowess) set standards for courtiers, soldiers, and scholars, if not in that order. Till he went bonkers, he was the chiefest bloom of the realm, the princely paragon observed by all observers. Hamlet was the "glass of fashion": that is, the mirror of comportment. "Glass" commonly meant "mirror" in Shakespeare's day; "fashion" was more ambiguous, meaning fashion as we know it, but more commonly what Ophelia also calls "form": "manner," "demeanor," or "self-disposition."