Shakespeare Quotes

Flaming youth

Flaming youth

O shame, where is thy blush?
Rebellious hell,
If thou canst mutine in a matron's bones,
To flaming youth let virtue be as wax
And melt in her own fire.

In the infamous "closet scene," Hamlet delivers a furious lecture to his appalled mother, Queen Gertrude. The prince finally vents his barely repressed resentment of her marriage to her brother-in-law, whom Hamlet considers a very low specimen of slime. After holding up two portraits—one of his murdered father, the other of his despised stepfather—and comparing the latter to a "mildewèd ear" (line 64), Hamlet demands to know how Gertrude could sink so low. Such gross lack of judgment hardly befits an aging matron. According to Hamlet's curious biology, lust ("Rebellious hell") is an infection of the bones, and Gertrude's bones ought to be made of sterner stuff. If the cool constitution of a matron is so vulnerable to lust, then virtue is weak, soft, pliable as wax, and will melt instantly in the flames of youthful passion.

Themes: misogyny, sex and sexuality

Speakers: Hamlet