Five Lines from Hamlet

Shakespeare’s Hamlet has something for everyone. For the men- everyone dies. For the women- there’s a ghost. That’s right, ladies, a flippin’ ghost.

Here are five of my favorite passages from Hamlet.

1. Act II, Scene II, Lines 242-254.

I like this bit because the oft-neglected word ‘strumpet’ is used.

HAMLET
My excellent good friends! How dost thou, Guildenstern?
Ah, Rosencrantz! Good lads, how do ye both?

ROSENCRANTZ
As the indifferent children of the earth.

GUILDENSTERN
Happy, in that we are not over-happy;
On fortune’s cap we are not the very button.

HAMLET
Nor the soles of her shoe?

ROSENCRANTZ
Neither, my lord.

HAMLET
Then you live about her waist, or in the middle of
her favours?

GUILDENSTERN
‘Faith, her privates we.

HAMLET
In the secret parts of fortune? O, most true; she is a strumpet.

2. Act III, Scene I, Lines 64- 97.

This is Hamlet’s famous soliloquy, a speech that not everyone appreciates. Charles Lamb, for instance, wrote, “I confess myself unable to appreciate that celebrated speech… or to tell whether it be good, bad, or indifferent; it has been so handled and pawed about by declamatory boys and men, and torn so inhumanly from its living place and principle of continuity in the play, till it has become to me a perfect dead member.” This performance by David Tennant would perhaps change Lamb’s mind.

3. Act IV, Scene 1, Lines 6-8.

This is right after Hamlet stabbed Polonius. I like that Shakespeare gave the Queen such poetic lines, because it makes me feel that Hamlet inherited his poetic sensibilities from his mom.

King
What Gertrude? How does Hamlet?

Queen
Mad as the sea and the wind when both contend
Which is the mightier.

4. Act IV, Scene 5, Lines 3065-3075

Ophelia’s descent into madness.

Ophelia (sings)
And will he not come again?
And will he not come again?
No, no, he is dead;
Go to thy deathbed;
He never will come again.
His beard was as white as snow,
All flaxen was his poll.
He is gone, he is gone,
And we cast away moan.
God ‘a’mercy on his soul!
And of all Christian souls, I pray God. God b’ wi’ you.

5. Act V, Scene I, Lines 190-194

The jester’s skull seems to me the death of any potential comedy. Hamlet’s tone has shifted from wit and playful absurdity to a somber acceptance of his fate, his duty to his avenge his father’s death.

HAMLET

Let me see. Takes the skull

Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio: a fellow

Of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy: he hath

Borne me on his back a thousand times; and now, how

Abhorred in my imagination it is!

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