Hamlet Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

Hamlet book cover
Start Your Free Trial

In act 1, scene 4, does Hamlet approve of this custom? Why or why not? In this scene, there are trumpet sounds and it is a custom in Denmark, so does Hamlet approve of the custom?

Expert Answers info

David Morrison eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2017

write11,401 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Law and Politics

On the night when Hamlet meets the ghost of his father, there's a party going on at Elsinore. It seems that the whole court's turned out to get blind drunk, but it's Claudius who's the center of attention. The custom at such boozy gatherings is for the kettle-drum and the trumpets to announce when Claudius has drunk down all his wine. Hamlet is throughly disgusted with this, not least because he's still brooding over the death of his father and hates to see anyone else having a good time, especially Claudius.

Hamlet tells Horatio that it is a custom "more honor'd in the breach than the observance," meaning that it would be more honorable to break this custom of drunken revelry than to observe it. The riotous celebrations are doubly offensive to Hamlet as they appear to confirm his conviction that "something is rotten in the state of Denmark,"—though it's actually Marcellus who speaks that line—that the whole kingdom's become noticeably more corrupt in its morals since Claudius came to the throne.

Further Reading:

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

lmillerm eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2007

write105 answers

starTop subject is Literature

Hamlet is utterly disgusted with this custom. He feels that this custom has given Denmark a poor reputation: "They clepe [call] us drundards..." (Lines 18.3 Norton*) Hamlet is furious because this custom detracts from the positive achievements his country has made.

*The lines I have referenced are from the Norton Anthology (based on the Oxford edition). In the footnote of my version it states that there are lines that were omitted in other versions. They have indicated these as lines 18.1 - 18.22).

check Approved by eNotes Editorial