Friday, April 25, 2008


"Hamlet: The Prince Of Denmark" is one of my all-time favourite plays. I studied Hamlet as a part of my English syllabus at the ISC level (my love for "Great Expectations" also arises similarly). Of the many fond recollections that I have of the play, the one that strikes me the most is when I argued with my English tuition teacher.

He was of the opinion that some of Hamlet's 'madness' were mere projections to throw the likes of Claudius, Polonius and Rosencrantz & Guildenstern off-guard; the rest of the time he had perhaps actually lost his mental balance owing to

a) his father's unfortunate (and perhaps untimely) death; and
b) his mother's little hesitation in getting married to his uncle, Claudius.

I argued with Sir (my English tuition teacher) that why put the blame on Hamlet, when such an accusation can be made towards most 'normal' human beings. Don't we all act most practical at times, only to act stupid and emotional at other times and not see things as they really exist?

Anyway, Hamlet's "To be or not to be" is one of the most famous soliloquies ever; it has every right to be so. However, I personally liked his first soliloquy more than his second. The following is Hamlet's first soliloquy from Act I Scene II:


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.

[link courtesy:]

But the one speech which I came to like the most in the whole play comes from a very surprising source: the foolish old man Polonius. His advise to his son Laertes, who is leaving for foreign shores for higher education, is something which I greatly liked. Here it goes:


Yet here, Laertes! aboard, aboard, for shame!
The wind sits in the shoulder of your sail,
And you are stay'd for. There; my blessing with thee!
And these few precepts in thy memory
See thou character. 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.
Farewell: my blessing season this in thee!

[link courtesy:]


Ridhi :) said...

Speaking of Shakespeare- I personally like the passage from "As You Like it".
"All the world's a stage..."

Though I regret not having read Hamlet, macbeth and Julius Ceasar. We had As you Like it, Merchant of venice and Othello :)

Shekhar said...

ridhi: Yeah, I had "Merchant of Venice" for ICSE. That is one nice play too. :)

Remember Portia's 'Mercy Speech' ?? ;)

Anonymous said...

I think you and your teacher are mad! Hamlet only feigned his madness. Unless you and your teacher make any other meaning out of the words of Shakespeare. I think you need a closer read to your favorite play! What a pity!

Shekhar said...

anon: :)

To each his/her own point of view... you to yours, me to mine.

And yeah, I'll use just about any excuse to revisit my favorite play. What a joy!! :))