Hamlet A Common Allusion: "A little more than kin, and less than kind."

William Shakespeare

A Common Allusion: "A little more than kin, and less than kind."

It isn't far into the second scene of Shakespeare's Hamlet that the reader will come upon one of the most famous lines not only from this play but also from all of Shakespeare's collected works.  In fact, this line is one of the most common allusions to Shakespeare found in other works.  Soon after Hamlet appears on stage, he looks to the side and declares with disgust, "A little more than kin, and less than kind."  Hamlet is absolutely disgusted with his uncle Claudius who now, after marrying Hamlet's mother (Gertrude), has become Hamlet's "father."  When other authors use this line as an allusion, it is important to note the play on the words "kin" and "kind." Both pertinent parts to this allusion rely on the double meanings of something being "natural" vs. something being "kind or nice." Let's take each of them in turn.  Hamlet is asserting that Claudius is "more than kin."  This means that where Claudius used to be a distant uncle, now he is (disgustingly) considering himself a second father to Hamlet due to Claudius's marriage to Gertrude.  The irony here is that the term "more than kin" has a positive connotation, as if someone were saying you are "closer than family."  However, Hamlet means the exact opposite in this case.  "More than kin" can also mean that, according to Hamlet, Claudius has crossed the border from family to enemy.  The second aspect of this common allusion is the term "less than kind." The word "kind" can also mean family, as if we were to say "of one's own kind."  Hamlet saying Claudius is "less than kind" can mean that Hamlet does not think of Claudius as part of the family and certainly not as his mother's husband.  To complete the play on the word "kind," it can also mean that Claudius wasn't being nice (and certainly not kindly) when he took his brother's sister as his wife.