Shakespeare Quotes

More than kin and less than kind

King:
But now, my cousin Hamlet, and my son—

Hamlet:
A little more than kin, and less than kind.

King:
How is it that the clouds still hang on you?

Hamlet:
Not so, my lord, I am too much in the sun.

Hamlet Act 1, scene 2, 64–67

"A little more than kin, and less than kind" is Prince Hamlet's withering assessment of his relationship to the new king of Denmark, his uncle Claudius. Claudius—who has secretly poisoned Hamlet's father—sleazily ingratiates himself to the mourning prince with rhetorical appellatives like "my cousin Hamlet, and my son." ("Cousin" in Renaissance English could refer to an aunt, uncle, niece, or nephew.) Hamlet mutters that Claudius is more than "kin" (more than a "cousin" because now a stepfather), but definitely less than "kind."

"Kind" has a triple meaning here, as often in Shakespeare [see THE MOST UNKINDEST CUT OF ALL]. On one hand, Hamlet says that Claudius is less than a direct blood relative, "kind" meaning "ancestral stock." On another hand, Hamlet refers to what he sees as Claudius's unnatural lust, "kind" meaning "natural." Finally, Hamlet indicates his resentment toward the new king for his insensitive haste in marrying the queen. Here, "kind" has it's modern sense: "considerate."

Hamlet pushes the black humor further in responding to Claudius's reproachful comment on his clouded disposition. "I am too much in the sun" plays on the sun/son pun which an audience could not miss.

Themes: family, wit

Speakers: Hamlet, King