SHAKESPEARE: Hamlet [Acts I-II]

SHAKESPEARE: Hamlet

  • Barnardo is a sentinel. He is startled by another sentinel named Francisco, who has come to relieve him of his watch duty. Barnardo tells Francisco that he has had a quiet watch.
  • Marcellus and Horatio arrive and greet Barnardo. Horatio asks Barnardo if “the thing appeared again tonight.” Barnardo says no, and Marcellus tells Barnardo that Horatio is skeptical of the dread sight they claim to have seen twice before.
  • A ghost appears on stage in the form of the king that’s dead. Horatio attempts to speak to it, but it walks away.
  • Horatio believes that the ghost is a portent of injurious things to come. Marcellus asks Horatio why the state seems to be preparing for war. Horatio explains that the dead King Hamlet killed the King of Norway and won the Norwegian lands for Denmark; the son of Norway’s King named Fortinbras is mustering an army to attack Denmark to avenge his father’s death and loss of lands. Thus, Denmark is preparing for war. As Rome was beset with portents such as comets, walking dead, and eclipses before the death of Julius Caesar, so too is Denmark now beset by omens foretelling calamity.
  • The ghost reenters. Horatio beseeches it to speak, but the Ghost leaves at the crowing of a cock. Horatio, Marcellus, and Barnardo resolve to inform Prince Hamlet of the ghost. Horatio believes that the ghost will speak to Hamlet. End Scene 1
  • The Court of Denmark. Claudius gives a speech to the members of court. He explains through oxymorons the sorrow he feels concerning his brother King Hamlet’s death and the joy at his marriage to Gertrude who is the widow of the dead king. Claudius believes that the marriage was prudent and emphasizes that the court also approved of the marriage.
  • Claudius then addresses the threat posed by Fortinbras. Claudius says that Fortinbras believes Denmark to be disjoint and out of frame because of King Hamlet’s death or because Fortinbras believes Claudius is an inept ruler, and therefore has demanded the lands lost by his father to King Hamlet. Claudius informs the court that he has written to Fortinbras’ uncle to arrest his nephew’s intent. Claudius orders Voltemand and Cornelius to convey his letter to Fortinbras’ uncle.
  • Claudius addresses Laertes, who petitioned the new king. Claudius tells Laertes that his father is such a good friend and counsel that he will grant whatever Laertes asks. Laertes asks for leave to return to France. Claudius asks Laertes’ father Polonius if he has granted his son leave. Polonius says yes. Claudius wishes Laertes farewell.
  • Claudius addresses Hamlet. He asks Hamlet why he is still mourning his father’s death. The Queen also implores Hamlet to cast away his melancholy, reasoning that death is common and should not be grieved excessively. Hamlet knows that it is common, but this does not discourage his mourning for his father’s death. Hamlet also asserts that he truly feels the grief and is not merely playing a part to deceive others about his sorrow.
  • Claudius chides Hamlet for mourning too long, referring to Hamlet’s behavior as impious stubbornness and ignorance. Claudius asks Hamlet to remain in Denmark rather than return to Wittenberg as Hamlet intends; for Claudius loves Hamlet as a son and Hamlet is next in succession to the throne. Hamlet says nothing. Then Queen Gertrude requests Hamlet to remain in Denmark. Hamlet responds that he will obey her wish. Claudius is content and all exit except Hamlet.
  • Hamlet wishes that he would die, or that God had not forbidden suicide so that he could end his life with impunity. He thinks that the world is tedious, insipid, and without purpose or meaning. He curses his mother for marrying his uncle so soon after his father’s death. He states that a beast who lacks reason would have mourned longer. He predicts that the marriage is not nor cannot come to any good.
  • Horatio, Marcellus, and Barnardo enter. Hamlet is happy to see Horatio, who is a friend from Wittenberg.
  • Horatio informs Hamlet of the apparition of his dead father. Hamlet tells them that he will join them on the battlements between 11 and twelve that night with the hope that the apparition will appear again. He also asks the three other men to remain silent about this occurrence. All exit except Hamlet.
  • Hamlet suspects that the apparition means that his father was murdered. He eagerly wishes for night to come because he believes the ghost will provide answers to him. Hamlet knows that evil deeds are always discovered though all the earth attempt to hide them.
  • Laertes bids farewell to his sister Ophelia, and asks her to write to him every chance she has. He also warns her to regard Hamlet’s advances made toward her as transitory. Although Hamlet might indeed love her, Hamlet must marry a woman according to the will of Denmark, not his own choosing. In youth, disasters are most imminent.
  • Ophelia assures Laertes that she will heed his advice, but she also cautions Laertes to listen to his own advice.
  • Polonius enters and gives advice to Laertes. My favorite piece of advice is to be true to yourself, and it must follow as the night the day that you cannot then be false to any man.
  • Laertes exits, and Polonius asks Ophelia what Laertes said to her. Ophelia confesses that it was something about Hamlet. Polonius praises Laertes foresight, and commands Ophelia to not slander another moment’s leisure with Hamlet. Polonius chides her for believing that Hamlet is truly in love with her. Polonius informs Ophelia that Hamlet’s vows of love are springes to catch woodcocks.
  • Hamlet, Horatio, and Marcellus enter the scene on the battlements. They are not sure of the time, but they believe it is past twelve, the time at which the ghost usually walked. Cannons fire, and Hamlet explains that the king and courtiers are carousing. Hamlet disdains the drunken spectacle, and explains that other countries regard Denmark with contempt because of their immorality. Hamlet muses that a small defect or fault in a man will often lead to his general censure. The dram of evil will extinguish all the noble substance of a man, though his grace is infinite.
  • The ghost enters. Hamlet questions it, asking why it has left the sepulcher to revisit the glimpses of the moon and horridly shake their dispositions with thoughts that reach beyond their souls.
  • The ghost beckons Hamlet to follow. Horatio tries to persuade Hamlet not to follow the ghost. He tells Hamlet that the ghost may tempt him to a precipice, deprive him of his reason, and compel him to hurl himself into the surge and die. Horatio also states that the very place puts toys of desperation, without more motive, into every brain that looks so many fathoms to the sea and hears it roar beneath (Horatio seems to be asserting that we all desire to commit suicide, or at least consider it). Hamlet disregards Horatio’s warnings and follows the ghost. Horatio and Marcellus resolve to follow Hamlet.
  • The ghost tells Hamlet that he is in Purgatory, and could a tale unfold whose lightest word would harrow up Hamlet’s soul, but this depiction of eternity cannot be told to ears of flesh and blood. The ghost then commands Hamlet to avenge his foul and unnatural murder. He tells Hamlet that Claudius killed him whilst he slept in his orchard. Claudius poured a leprous distilment into his ear (in this play, there is a lot of imagery related to the ear being abused, whether it be through deceit or poison, which causes calamity). The ghost tells hamlet that he was murdered without having made a reckoning to heaven, and thus he is bound to serve for an indefinite time in Purgatory until his sins are washed away. He commands Hamlet to avenge his murder, but not to corrupt his mind and contrive against his mother anything.
  • Hamlet vows to wipe all trivial fond records from his brain, and impress the ghost’s command to avenge his murder upon his brain. He will think of nothing but revenge.
  • Horatio and Marcellus enter and ask Hamlet what the ghost told him. Hamlet does not tell them because he believes that they will reveal it to others. Then, he orders Horatio and Marcellus to swear not to tell what they saw that night, and not to reveal Hamlet’s deception when he feigns madness in the future.

In the gross and scope of my opinion this bodes some strange eruption to our state.

A mote it is to trouble the mind’s eye.

It is as the air invulnerable.

Do not for ever with thy veiled lids seek for thy noble father in the dust. Thou knowst tis common. All that lives must die, passing through nature into eternity.

To persever in obstinate condolement is a course of impious stubbornness. Tis unmanly grief. It shows a will most incorrect to heave, a heart unfortified, or mind impatient, and understanding simple and unschooled. For what we know must be and is as common as any the most vulgar thing to sense, why should we in our peevish opposition take it to heart?

O, that this too too solid flesh would melt

Thaw and resolve itself into a dew!

Or that the Everlasting had not fix’d

His canon ‘gainst self-slaughter! O God! God!

How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable,

Seem to me all the uses of this world!

Fie on’t! ah fie! ’tis an unweeded garden,

That grows to seed; things rank and gross in nature

Possess it merely. That it should come to this!

But two months dead: nay, not so much, not two:

So excellent a king; that was, to this,

Hyperion to a satyr; so loving to my mother

That he might not beteem the winds of heaven

Visit her face too roughly. Heaven and earth!

Must I remember? why, she would hang on him,

As if increase of appetite had grown

By what it fed on: and yet, within a month–

Let me not think on’t–Frailty, thy name is woman!–

A little month, or ere those shoes were old

With which she follow’d my poor father’s body,

Like Niobe, all tears:–why she, even she–

O, God! a beast, that wants discourse of reason,

Would have mourn’d longer–married with my uncle,

My father’s brother, but no more like my father

Than I to Hercules: within a month:

Ere yet the salt of most unrighteous tears

Had left the flushing in her galled eyes,

She married. O, most wicked speed, to post

With such dexterity to incestuous sheets!

It is not nor it cannot come to good:

But break, my heart; for I must hold my tongue.

We’ll teach you to drink deep ere you depart.

Foul deeds will rise though all the earth overwhelm them to men’s eyes.

His greatness weighed, his will is not his own.

Keep you in the rear of your affection, out of the shot and danger of desire.

Do not as some ungracious pastors do, show me the steep and thorny way to heaven, whiles like a puffed and reckless libertine himself the primsrose path of dalliance treads and recks not his own rede.

Give thy thoughts no tongue,

Nor any unproportioned thought his act.

Be thou familiar, but by no means vulgar.

Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried,

Grapple them to thy soul with hoops of steel;

But do not dull thy palm with entertainment

Of each new-hatch’d, unfledged comrade. Beware

Of entrance to a quarrel, but being in,

Bear’t that the opposed may beware of thee.

Give every man thy ear, but few thy voice;

Take each man’s censure, but reserve thy judgment.

Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy,

But not express’d in fancy; rich, not gaudy;

For the apparel oft proclaims the man,

And they in France of the best rank and station

Are of a most select and generous chief in that.

Neither a borrower nor a lender be;

For loan oft loses both itself and friend,

And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.

This above all: to thine ownself be true,

And it must follow, as the night the day,

Thou canst not then be false to any man.

Springes to catch woodcocks. I do know, when the blood burns, how prodigal the soul lends the tongue vows.

It is a custom more honored in the breach than the observance.

Angels and ministers of grace defend us!

Be thou a spirit of health or goblin damn’d,

Bring with thee airs from heaven or blasts from hell,

Be thy intents wicked or charitable,

Thou comest in such a questionable shape

That I will speak to thee: I’ll call thee Hamlet,

King, father, royal Dane: O, answer me!

Let me not burst in ignorance; but tell

Why thy canonized bones, hearsed in death,

Have burst their cerements; why the sepulchre,

Wherein we saw thee quietly inurn’d,

Hath oped his ponderous and marble jaws,

To cast thee up again. What may this mean,

That thou, dead corse, again in complete steel

Revisit’st thus the glimpses of the moon,

Making night hideous; and we fools of nature

So horridly to shake our disposition

With thoughts beyond the reaches of our souls?

Say, why is this? wherefore? what should we do?

I do not set my life at a pin’s fee, and for my soul, what can it do to that, being a thing immortal as itself?

The very place puts toys of desperation, without more motive, into every brain that looks so many fathoms to the sea and hears it roar beneath.

Haste me to know it, that I, with wings as swift as meditation or the thoughts of love, may sweep to my revenge.

O my prophetic soul!

While memory holds a seat in this distracted globe.

One may smile, and smile, and be a villain.

These are but wild and whirling words.

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

The time is out of joint. O cursed spite that ever I was born to set it right!

I love this play. I have read and watched various productions of it over a dozen times. There is so much to find in this play that I often discern additional ideas, jokes, plot parallels, etc. every time I engage with the material. In this analysis, I will spare the summary, and focus upon some of the aspects of the story that arrested my attention during this reading.

Fortinbras, Laertes, and Hamlet are very similar. All three young men lose their fathers in this play at the hands of another, and all seek revenge according to their unique personalities and situations. I always knew that this plot parallel existed, but during this reading, I was struck with the idea that Shakespeare might be commenting upon the lack of originality in the world. The same play is acted out on stage over and over; only the names of the actors change. A young man seeks to avenge his father’s death. This must have occurred several thousands, if not millions of times throughout the course of human history. Any possible scenario has likely been acted out in the past, and we can look to the past for answers about how to address the dilemmas we face today. The problems of the past are the problems of the present and the problems of the future. Mankind will always have insatiable desires; though the object of desire might change (for example, many people desire iPhones today) the same principles of greed, ambition, lust, etc. apply to modernity as it did in the past. This grain of truth is important to remember when faced with a seemingly insurmountable obstruction, or confronted with profound angst. The realization that many people have faced the same circumstance as you provides some comfort that a remedy can be found in the annals of history. We just need to find it.

  • Polonius gives a messenger anme Reynaldo money and notes to give to his son Laertes in Paris. Polonius also advises Reynaldo to inquire into Laertes behavior in Paris by telling lies about Laertes to men in Paris and asking whether the men have seen Laertes behave in such a manner (such as gaming, swearing, entering a brothel, etc.). Polonius demonstrates that we often obtain the truth through lies, falsehoods, and deception.
  • Ophelia enters the scene distraught. She tells Polonius that Hamlet visited her in her room with a disheveled appearance, and took her by the arm, stared into her face, and piteously sighed. Polonius concludes that Hamlet has been driven to madness by unrequited love. He resolves to inform the king of it. Polonius expresses remorse at his misjudgment of Hamlet’s true feelings.
  • In Elsinore, the King, Gertrude, Rosencrantz, Guildenstern, and others enter the stage. Claudius explains to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern that he sent for them so that they could discover the cause of Hamlet’s transformation. Claudius cannot dream of any other cause than the death of Hamlet’s father, but believes that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, being Hamlet’s friends from childhood, will be able to glean the cause of his grief and madness. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern readily agree to fulfill the request of Claudius and Gertrude.
  • Polonius enters, and informs Claudius that the ambassadors from Norway have arrived, and that he has discovered the cause of Hamlet’s insanity. He assures Claudius that he will inform him of the origin of Hamlet’s insanity after he has heard the ambassadors.
  • Voltemand and Cornelius enter, and inform Claudius that Norway was shocked when he heard that his nephew, Fortinbras, intended to attack Denmark. Norway believed that Fortinbras planned to attack Poland. Norway immediately sent out orders to Fortinbras to cease his action. Fortinbras obeyed, and vowed never to attack Denmark. Norway, delighted because of Fortinbras’ obedience, agrees to allow Fortinbras to commission the soldiers he has already levied to attack Poland; and therefore, requests Claudius to give Fortinbras and his army safe passage through Denmark on their way to Poland. Claudius is pleased with the news, and states that he will further consider the matter and swiftly render a response.
  • Polonius tells Claudius and Gertrude that Ophelia has given him a letter written by Hamlet to her, and proceeds to read it to the king and queen. The letter expresses Hamlet’s love for Ophelia. Polonius further explains that he commanded his daughter to not admit any messengers from Hamlet or communicate with him in any way when he first heard about their relationship. Polonius told Ophelia that Hamlet was out of her star. Thus, Polonius believes that unrequited love is the source of Hamlet’s madness. Claudius asks how they can test this hypothesis further. Polonius suggests that when Hamlet walks about the corridors of the castle, he will loose his daughter to him whilst Polonius and Claudius hide behind an arras from where they can surbey the encounter whilst remaining unseen.
  • Hamlet enters the scene, provoking Polonius to hurry the others away whilst assuring them he will greet and distract Hamlet for a while. Hamlet intellectually triumphs over the ignorant Polonius with clever puns and metaphors. Polonius muses that Hamlet’s replies are often very witty though he is insane, which is a unique quality in madness that it can sometimes produce marvelous things that reason is incapable of rendering. Polonius decides to leave Hamlet and contrive the means for his daughter to meet Hamlet in the corridor. Polonius takes his leave of Hamlet, and Hamlet replies that there is nothing Polonius can take from him that he would not more willingly part with except his life. Hamlet is still suicidal.
  • Rosencrantz and Guildenstern enter the scene. Hamlet is delighted to see them, and asks them why they came to Denmark. They reply that they came to see him Hamlet does not believe them, and begins to distrust them because of their insincerity. Hamlet finally discovers that Claudius and Gertrude sent for them to find out the cause of Hamlet’s distemper. Hamlet gives a monologue in which he expresses his profound melancholy, but states that he does not know the cause of it. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern inform Hamlet that they overtook a troop of actors on the way to Denmark. Hamlet is delighted at this news (because it is a pleasurable hobby, or distraction from his melancholy, or perhaps an opportunity to dishonor Claudius before the court). R and G also tell Hamlet that the company of actor have left London because plays with young actors are now in fashion. Hamlet is initially astonished that the young men would participate in such an industry that they would no longer be capable of engaging whilst they are older, but then he remembers the absurdity of the state of Denmark and reflects that it is not so odd after all. Hamlet tells R and G that he is not truly mad (why?).
  • Polonius enters and tells Hamlet that the payers have arrived. Hamlet mocks him. The players enter. Hamlet joyfully greets them. He requests a speech from the players, a speech that was unaffected (Hamlet longs for the truth rather than the deceit he perceives permeating the court of Denmark; he is feigning madness as Claudius is feigning innocence as R and G are feigning friendship as Ophelia is feigning aversion to Hamlet’s love).  Hamlet asks for the speech told by Aeneas to Dido about Priam’s slaughter. The speech depicts Pyrrhus slaughtering Priam. Pyrrhus’ father Achilles was slain during the Trojan War. This is yet another example of a young man losing his father, and seeking revenge through murder. Whilst Pyrrhus was about to kill Priam, a tower of the city sonorously fell, arresting Pyrrhus’ actions for a short while. Pyrrhus’ hesitation resembles Hamlet’s hesitation. Pyrrhus’ subsequent wrath foreshadows Hamlet’s subsequent wrath. Whilst giving the speech, the actor begins to choke up and cry. Hamlet kindly dismisses them after asking them to play the Murder of Gonzago tomorrow before the King and court. Hamlet also requests one of the actors to memorize some 15 lines that Hamlet has written and speak them during the play.
  • Hamlet is alone on stage, and gives another soliloquy. He chastises himself for lacking the passion shown by the player during the speech. The player’s whole disposition was moved by his own conceit; and, what’s more, Hecuba is nothing to him, or he to Hecuba. Had he the motive and cue for passion that Hamlet has, he would make mad the guilty, appall the free, confound the ignorant, and amaze the very faculties of eyes and ears. He castigates himself for his hesitation to avenge his father’s murder. Then he remembers hearing that guilty people sitting at a play have been so struck to the soul by the cunning of the scene that they immediately proclaimed their malefactions. Hamlet determines to have the players play a scene similar to the death of his father in the orchard and observe Claudius’ reaction. Hamlet thinks that there is a possibility the ghost of his father was a spirit sent to damn him; and therefore he needs further proof of Claudius’ guilt.

Your bait of falsehood takes this carp of truth.

This is the very ecstasy of love.

Since brevity is the soul of wit, and tediousness the limbs and outward flourishes, I will be brief. Your noble son is mad. Mad call I it, for, to define true madness, what is’t but to be nothing else but mad?

To the celestial, and my soul’s idol, the most beautified Ophelia. Doubt thou the stars are fire; doubt that the sun doth move; doubt truth to be a liar; but never doubt I love. I love thee best, o most best, believe it. Thine evermore, most dear lady, whilst this machine is to him.

For if the sun breed maggots in a dead dog, being a good kissing carrion – have you a daughter? Let her not walk in the sun. Conception is a blessing, but as your daughter may conceive, friend, look to’t.

You yourself, sir, shall grow old as I am if, like a crab, you could go backward.

Though this be madness, yet there is method in it. How pregnant sometimes his replies are! A happiness that often madness hits on, which reason and sanity could not so prosperously be delivered of.

These tedious old fools!

There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so.

I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams.

I have of late–but

wherefore I know not–lost all my mirth, forgone all

custom of exercises; and indeed it goes so heavily

with my disposition that this goodly frame, the

earth, seems to me a sterile promontory, this most

excellent canopy, the air, look you, this brave

o’erhanging firmament, this majestical roof fretted

with golden fire, why, it appears no other thing to

me than a foul and pestilent congregation of vapours.

What a piece of work is a man! how noble in reason!

how infinite in faculty! in form and moving how

express and admirable! in action how like an angel!

in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the

world! the paragon of animals! And yet, to me,

what is this quintessence of dust?

There is something in this more than natural, if philosophy could find it out.

I am but mad north-northwest. When the wind is southerly I know a hawk from a handsaw.

An old man is twice a child.

Twas caviar to the general.

‘The rugged Pyrrhus, he whose sable arms,

Black as his purpose, did the night resemble

When he lay couched in the ominous horse,

Hath now this dread and black complexion smear’d

With heraldry more dismal; head to foot

Now is he total gules; horridly trick’d

With blood of fathers, mothers, daughters, sons,

Baked and impasted with the parching streets,

That lend a tyrannous and damned light

To their lord’s murder: roasted in wrath and fire,

And thus o’er-sized with coagulate gore,

With eyes like carbuncles, the hellish Pyrrhus

Old grandsire Priam seeks.

‘Anon he finds him

Striking too short at Greeks; his antique sword,

Rebellious to his arm, lies where it falls,

Repugnant to command: unequal match’d,

Pyrrhus at Priam drives; in rage strikes wide;

But with the whiff and wind of his fell sword

The unnerved father falls. Then senseless Ilium,

Seeming to feel this blow, with flaming top

Stoops to his base, and with a hideous crash

Takes prisoner Pyrrhus’ ear: for, lo! his sword,

Which was declining on the milky head

Of reverend Priam, seem’d i’ the air to stick:

So, as a painted tyrant, Pyrrhus stood,

And like a neutral to his will and matter,

Did nothing.

But, as we often see, against some storm,

A silence in the heavens, the rack stand still,

The bold winds speechless and the orb below

As hush as death, anon the dreadful thunder

Doth rend the region, so, after Pyrrhus’ pause,

Aroused vengeance sets him new a-work;

And never did the Cyclops’ hammers fall

On Mars’s armour forged for proof eterne

With less remorse than Pyrrhus’ bleeding sword

Now falls on Priam.

Out, out, thou strumpet, Fortune! All you gods,

In general synod ‘take away her power;

Break all the spokes and fellies from her wheel,

And bowl the round nave down the hill of heaven,

As low as to the fiends!

But who, O, who had seen the mobled queen

Run barefoot up and down, threatening the flames

With bisson rheum; a clout upon that head

Where late the diadem stood, and for a robe,

About her lank and all o’er-teemed loins,

A blanket, in the alarm of fear caught up;

Who this had seen, with tongue in venom steep’d,

‘Gainst Fortune’s state would treason have

pronounced:

But if the gods themselves did see her then

When she saw Pyrrhus make malicious sport

In mincing with his sword her husband’s limbs,

The instant burst of clamour that she made,

Unless things mortal move them not at all,

Would have made milch the burning eyes of heaven,

And passion in the gods.

Use every man after his own desert and who shall scape whipping? Use them after your own honor and dignity. The less they deserve, the more merit is in your bounty.

O what a rogue and peasant slave am I!

About my brains!

Murder, though it have not tongue, will speak with most miraculous organ.

The play’s the thing wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king.

The most memorable and beautiful part of Act 2 was the player’s rendition of Priam’s slaughter. Several themes are evident in that beautiful passage – love and revenge being two. Shakespeare once again tells a story of a young man seeking to avenge his father’s death. Pyrrhus was the son of Achilles. Achilles was slain in the Trojan War, and Pyrrhus ruthlessly slaughters the Trojan King Priam before his wife, the Queen Hecuba. Pyrrhus’ hesitation just before he slaughters Priam corresponds to Hamlet’s hesitation to exact his own revenge. Shakespeare foreshadows the impending wrath that Hamlet will unleash upon Claudius by describing in beautiful language that evokes the calm before a storm.

I also enjoy Hamlet’s clever verbal jabs at the ignorant Polonius. Although most of the insults are subtle and comical, one insult directed at women and mankind in general is particularly arresting. Hamlet speaks of the sun as capable of breeding maggots in a dead dog, and then tells Polonius to not allow his daughter to walk in the sun because although conception is a blessing, it is not a blessing as his daughter may conceive. Hamlet uses this metaphor to liken women to dead dogs; indeed Ophelia behaves like an obedient dog throughout the play, dutifully following the commands of her father. Polonius even uses language associated with dogs when speaking of his daughter – “I will loose my daughter to him.” Furthermore, Hamlet likens mankind to maggots, the offspring generated by women and dead dogs. This is a very pessimistic and gloomy perspective of mankind, and reinforces the depth of Hamlet depression.

The Oxford Shakespeare: The Complete Works 2nd Edition

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