‘Hamlet’ Quotes

Friday, August 12 by Travis Petersen

Because it is the only film running the entire length of the play and keeping all of the "Hamlet" quotes intact, Kenneth Branagh's 1996 version of the Shakespeare classic has become the definitive film version of the play. Branagh directed and plays the title character, delivering the "Hamlet" quotes lik the master Shakespearean actor he is, each speech building upon the last in an epic performance. Here are some of the most memorable and iconic "Hamlet" quotes, from the film and from the play that spawned it.

  1. "To be or not to be, that is the question." As Hamlet considers ending his own misery, whether or not to take any sort of action in his melancholy life, he delivers this most famous of all "Hamlet" quotes, perhaps one of the most famous single quotes in the history of Western literature. Branagh delivers the line, and the speech, with ease, doing justice to some of the most well-crafted verbiage in the literary canon.
  2. "The play is the thing wherein I'll catch the conscience of the king." Another of the most iconic "Hamlet" quotes comes as Hamlet arranges a play within the play (or film) to try and figure out if Claudius truly is guilty of murdering his father. It is one of the genius twists of the tragedy, and also a sly nod to Shakespeare's own power as a playwright.
  3. "The lady doth protest too much, methinks." Often misquoted, with the "methinks" portion of this famous "Hamlet" quote coming first, this line comes from Queen Gertrude, Hamlet's mother, as she watches the play that's "the thing" to "catch the conscience of the king." It is a humorous and ironic line, and can be read a number of ways, either that she was complicit in the death of her husband, Hamlet's father, or that she has no idea.
  4. "Something is rotten in the state of Denmark." This is another one of the "Hamlet" quotes that has been co-opted by the wider culture. This line, spoken by Marcellus (played in this version by Jack Lemmon), has come to mean that the state of things are bad anywhere, not just in the Denmark of the play and film. 

There are many more iconic "Hamlet" quotes, but simply reading them does not do them justice. If it's not possible to see the play live, Branagh's film is the next best thing, as the all-star cast of actors bring the "Hamlet" quotes to life.

 

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