Hamlet Quotes in Context
by William Shakespeare

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"A Consummation Devoutly To Be Wished"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Hamlet, the meditative, melancholy Prince of Denmark, finds himself with a father dead and a mother taken in an incestuous marriage by his uncle, declared by the Ghost of his father to be the murderer. In his most famous soliloquy, Hamlet, faced with the necessity for revenge, considers his course of action. The idea of the cessation of life through suicide pleases him, but the consequences of the act do not.

HAMLETTo be, or not to be, that is the question–Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to sufferThe slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,And by opposing end them. To die, to sleep–No more; and by a sleep to say we endThe heart-ache, and the thousand natural shocksThat flesh is heir to; 'tis a consummationDevoutly to be wished. To die, to sleep–To sleep, perchance to dream, ay there's the rub,For in that sleep of death what dreams may comeWhen we have shuffled off this mortal coil,Must give us pause; . . .

"A Dream Itself Is But A Shadow"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: As Hamlet probes further the story told him by his father's ghost–that his father was murdered by his Uncle Claudius, the present king, and that his mother had committed adultery with Claudius–the young prince feigns madness and is himself probed by others eager to discover the cause of his madness. The king and queen send for two of Hamlet's youthful companions, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, who agree to scout the melancholy Dane. The quick-witted Hamlet spars with his old friends–who wonder whether ambition may be at the root of his trouble, that is, disappointment at not being made king after his father's death–and manages to keep them interested while avoiding any definite commitment. Hamlet calls Denmark a prison; Rosencrantz and Guildenstern protest:

HAMLETWhy then 'tis none to you; for there is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so. To me it is a prison.ROSENCRANTZWhy then your ambition makes it one; 'tis too narrow for your mind.HAMLETO God, I could be bounded in a nutshell, and count myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams.GUILDENSTERNWhich dreams indeed are ambition, for the very substance of the ambitious is merely the shadow of a dream.HAMLETA dream itself is but a shadow.

"A King Of Shreds And Patches"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Prince Hamlet of Denmark is informed by his father's ghost that he, his father, was murdered by his brother Claudius, who is now king, and that Queen Gertrude, Hamlet's mother, was adulterous with Claudius. Hamlet swears to avenge his father's murder. Before he does, he arranges to have actors play, in the presence of his uncle and mother, a scene depicting his father's murder. Claudius' reactions prove to Hamlet that the king is indeed guilty. His mother is upset by the play and summons Hamlet to her chamber to upbraid him. Instead, he shakes her to her very soul by reminding her of her adulterous past, and contrasting the virtues and nobility of her first husband to the evil and villainy of Claudius. The phrase "shreds and patches" is a famous line in a song from The Mikado (1885) by W. S. Gilbert. It is there used in a warmly human, and humorous, sense, and not as Shakespeare employed it.

HAMLETA murderer and a villain,A slave that is not twentieth part the titheOf your precedent lord, a vice of kings,A cutpurse of the empire and the rule,That from a shelf the precious diadem stoleAnd put it in his pocket.GERTRUDENo more.HAMLETA king of shreds and patches–

"A Little More Than Kin, And Less Than Kind"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Claudius, brother to King Hamlet, has secretly murdered his brother, usurped the throne from its rightful owner, Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, and married immediately his former sister-in-law, Queen Gertrude. Young Hamlet, unaware of the fact that Claudius has killed the noble king, but feeling deeply the difference between the two kings, and the hasty marriage of his mother to his uncle, broods about the court. On his first appearance in the play, Claudius acts the role of the good king by attending to the affairs of state and to the personal affairs of Laertes , the son...

(The entire section is 14,272 words.)