Hamlet is one of the most famous and influential plays by William Shakespeare, the English poet and playwright.
The play tells the story of Prince Hamlet, who seeks revenge on his uncle Claudius for murdering his father, the king of Denmark, and marrying his mother, Gertrude.
Hamlet is a complex and tragic character, who struggles with his own doubts, fears, and moral dilemmas. He also expresses his thoughts and emotions through some of the most memorable and powerful quotes in literature.
Here are some of the best Hamlet quotes, along with their meanings and contexts. –
“To be, or not to be, that is the question.”(Hamlet, act 3 scene 1)
This is perhaps the most famous quote from Hamlet and one of the most quoted lines in English literature.
It is part of Hamlet’s soliloquy, a speech that he gives to himself, in which he contemplates the meaning and value of life, and whether it is better to live or to die.
He wonders if death is a peaceful sleep or a nightmare that he cannot escape. He also considers the hardships and sufferings that he faces in life, and whether he should endure them or end them by killing himself.
He concludes that the fear of the unknown after death prevents him from taking his own life.
– “There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so.”(Hamlet, act 2 scene 2)
This quote is part of Hamlet’s conversation with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, two of his childhood friends who are sent by Claudius to spy on him.
Hamlet tells them that he is not happy in Denmark and that he finds the country a prison. They reply that Denmark is a good and fair country and that Hamlet’s mind is the prison.
Hamlet then says this quote, implying that the perception of reality is subjective and that what is good or bad depends on how one thinks about it.
– “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.”(Gertrude, act 3 scene 2)
This quote is said by Gertrude, Hamlet’s mother, during the play-within-a-play that Hamlet arranges to expose Claudius’ guilt.
The play is a reenactment of the murder of Hamlet’s father, and Gertrude is watching the actress who plays the queen, who vows to remain faithful to her husband even after his death.
Gertrude comments that the actress is overdoing her emotions and that she is not sincere. This quote is ironic, because Gertrude herself has remarried quickly after her husband’s death, and has betrayed his memory by marrying his brother.
– “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.”(Marcellus, act 1 scene 4)
This quote is said by Marcellus, one of the guards who witnessed the ghost of Hamlet’s father. He says this after the ghost leaves, and before Hamlet follows it.
This quote suggests that there is something wrong and corrupt in Denmark and that the ghost is a sign of it. It also foreshadows the events that will unfold in the play, as Hamlet uncovers the truth about his father’s death and the consequences that follow.
– “This above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.”(Polonius, act 1 scene 3)
This quote is part of Polonius’ advice to his son Laertes, who is leaving for France. Polonius tells him to be careful, wise, and honest, and to avoid trouble. He also tells him to be true to himself and to follow his own conscience and principles.
He says that by doing so, he will also be true to others, and will not deceive or harm anyone. This quote is often seen as a universal and timeless moral lesson, but it is also ironic because Polonius himself is not a very honest or loyal person.
He is a manipulative and hypocritical courtier, who spies on Hamlet and lies to Claudius. He also does not respect his own children and uses them for his own purposes.