For each allusion, please provide the following: the literal meaning, how it develops theme, and a source. 1. "I would have such a fellow whipped for overdoing Termagant" (II,ii,14). 2. "It out...

For each allusion, please provide the following: the literal meaning, how it develops theme, and a source.

1. "I would have such a fellow whipped for overdoing Termagant" (II,ii,14).

2. "It out herods Herod" (III,ii,14).

3. “For O, For O, the hobbyhorse is forgot.”

Expert Answers
lynnebh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This first quote is from Act III, Scene ii of Hamlet. Hamlet is giving instructions to the troupe of actors that has come to the castle. These actors are going to perform a play within a play and Hamlet has added some lines to the play in the hope of exposing Claudius’ treachery. “Termagant” is an allusion to a god that Elizabethans believed Muslims worshipped. Herod is the king in the Bible that had John the Baptist beheaded and was responsible for Jesus’ death. This allusion is particularly important to Hamlet because like Claudius, Herod married his brother’s wife. John the Baptist told Herod that this was evil, so Herod’s wife Herodias instructed her daughter to ask for the head of John the Baptist, a request with which Herod complied. Hamlet is telling the players not to overdo their acting, not to be more like Herod than Herod himself. Hamlet wants the players to reveal the treachery in a subtle way. Hamlet is disturbed, although perhaps not mad, and although his anger against his mother and stepfather is intense, it tortures him more than them. Throughout the play, he is unable to act on his desires and seek revenge, as his father’s ghost has instructed him to do.  I think he fears what might happen if the players are too bold. I think he wants to get back at Claudius through Claudius’ conscience, or at least get back at his mother, who is less stable than her husband.

In the third quote, Hamlet is talking to Ophelia. It is right before the play is to be performed. He looks at his mother and Claudius and complains that they have forgotten all about his father, who has only died two hours ago. Ophelia tells him it has been four months. Hamlet’s response continues his pretext of being mad because he replies that his father has been dead two months, trying to convince Ophelia further that he is mad, but if a man is to be remembered after six months, he must build churches, otherwise he will not be remembered any more than a prostitute. The hobby horse allusion refers to a player in the pagan May-Day festivals and is sometimes associated with prostitutes. This is an obvious insult to Ophelia and we see that later, she kills herself because of Hamlet’s ill treatment of her.

Read the text here on eNotes because there is an enhanced version that is easier to understand and see if you agree with me.

jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The first quote means that Hamlet will whip any actors who do a bad job in the play he orders performed in his castle. "Termagant" is an allusion to the god of the Saracens who was known for his violence. The character of Termagant often appeared in plays at the time, so Hamlet's quote develops the theme that he wants the actors to produce a lifelike play that will provoke his uncle, Claudius, to admit to killing Hamlet's father.

To "out herod Herod" also refers to overacting, and it also refers to Hamlet's orders to the actors not to overact. Herod was a character who often appeared in plays at the time and who was also known for being tempestuous. Hamlet's quote is again about the importance of the actors producing a play that seems real enough to provoke Claudius's confession, and it relates to the idea of producing a play within a play.

Hamlet says, "For O, for O, the hobby horse is forgot" in reference to the idea that his father has been forgotten since his death. The hobby horse is a reference to a character in a pagan-like dance who is often associated with continuity and fertility. The idea that Hamlet's father has been forgotten and that his father is associated with a fertility symbol relates to the theme of discontinuity. After Hamlet's father is killed, the line of continuity has been broken. 


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