What element does this quote portray and what is the significance of this quote?    Why, man, they did make love to this employment. They are not near my conscience. Their defeat Does by...

What element does this quote portray and what is the significance of this quote?

 

 

Why, man, they did make love to this employment.
They are not near my conscience. Their defeat
Does by their own insinuation grow.
'Tis dangerous when the baser nature comes
Between the pass and fell incensèd points
Of mighty opposites.

Act 5 Scene 2
Expert Answers
Doug Stuva eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Shakespeare's Hamlet, the lines you quote are spoken by Hamlet in response to Horatio's wondering about the fates of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.  Hamlet, of course, rewrote the king's instructions for Hamlet to be executed upon arrival in England, to read that Ros. and Guil. should be executed upon arrival in England. 

Paraphrased, Hamlet's words mean something like the following:

Why, man, they loved their work.

I do not feel guilty about what I did to them.  They are

the ones who intruded into the situation.

It's dangerous when lesser human beings

come between the thrusts of the fierce swords

of mightier, more powerful people. 

The passage is highly metaphorical.  Ros. and Guil. did not really make love to their job, they cannot really be near or far from Hamlet's conscience, and they didn't really get caught between a sword fight featuring Hamlet against Claudius.  They did get caught in a power struggle between the two. 

The lines explain Hamlet's reasoning and motivation for doing what he did to Ros. and Guil.  Some see Hamlet's action as excessive, and it may be.  But the lines do explain his side of the issue. 

They also demonstrate Hamlet's disgust when lesser beings attempt to "play" him and betray him.  In effect, Hamlet says in these lines that Ros. and Guil. got what they deserved. 

Read the study guide:
Hamlet

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