Analysis Pages

Facts in Hamlet

Facts Examples in Hamlet:

Act I - Scene I

🔒 3

"Long live the King!..."   (Act I - Scene I)

This well-known exclamation originated in 1422 in France, following the death of Charles VI and the ascension of Charles VII. The original expression was "The king is dead, long live the king!" ("Le roi est mort; vive le roi!") In England, to avoid civil war over the order of succession, the Royal Council declared that "[t]he throne shall never be empty; the country shall never be without a monarch." Thus, "long live the king!" became an English cry as well. In this case, it's less a sign of patriotism and more of a signal that Bernardo is a friend and not a foe.

"A platform..."   (Act I - Scene I)

According to Alec Guinness, the famed Shakespearean actor, London's Globe Theater, where Shakespeare's tragedy was originally performed, was built with plaster mixed with goat hair. This hair is said to give the human voice resonance in the theater, allowing the actors to be heard with little effort. This raised platform would've been built directly on the stage, allowing the actors to benefit from the goat hair.

"struck twelve..."   (Act I - Scene I)

Midnight has long been associated with ghosts and other supernatural entities like witches and demons. It is thought to be the time when magic is at its most powerful. Because of these associations with the supernatural, midnight later became known as the "witching hour," a term first used in print by the American author Washington Irving in "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" in 1820. 

"With juice of cursed hebenon..."   (Act I - Scene V)

Hebenon is a poison of unknown origin. Shakespeare's scholars suggest that it could either be hemlock, the poison that killed Socrates, henbane, a kind of nightshade, ebony, sometimes spelled with an "h," or yew, a common poison extracted from the tree. Other scholars argue that Shakespeare's knowledge of botany was insufficient for him to know what poison, exactly, Claudius would've used; so he made one up.

"unreclaimed blood,..."   (Act II - Scene I)

"Unreclaimed blood" refers to somebody having too much blood in the body. Blood is one of Hippocrates’ four bodily humors (the others being black bile, yellow bile, and phlegm), and it is associated with the emotion of sanguinity, or excessive passion and lust. ‘Hot-blooded’ is a modern term with similar meaning.

"bounded in a nutshell..."   (Act II - Scene II)

That is, Hamlet could be confined in a nutshell and it wouldn't bother him, suggesting that it's not the size of the prison that matters. Though Shakespeare brought this phrase into popular use, it originated in ancient Greece, where Cicero purportedly said that Homer's Iliad had been written on a sheet of parchment that fit into the shell of a walnut.

"There's fennel for you, and columbines..."   (Act IV - Scene V)

Ophelia has begun throwing flowers, each of which have symbolic meanings: fennel means flattery, columbines mean cuckoldry, rue means pity, daisies mean false love, and violets mean faithfulness. From this, we can assume that Opehlia has been walking around with a bouquet of flowers, both like a woman in mourning and a bride to be.

Analysis Pages