More than kin and less than kind
But now, my cousin Hamlet, and my son—
A little more than kin, and less than kind.
How is it that the clouds still hang on you?
Not so, my lord, I am too much in the sun.
"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.