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HAMLET
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Quotes on Hamlet
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Story, Dates, Sources, Texts, Cuts
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George Dillon as Hamlet, photo by Charlie Baker Denise Evans as Gertrude and George Dillon as Hamlet, photo by Charlie Baker Simon Merrells as Horatio, Ross Gurney-Randall as Marcellus and George Dillon as Hamlet, photo by David Usill Beth Fitzgerald as Ophelia and George Dillon as Hamlet, photo by Charlie Baker Colin Fisher as Polonius and George Dillon as Hamlet, photo by David Usill
 

QUOTES ON HAMLET

'If some man haue committed murder, hee that will combate with him, must not doe it to this ende, onely to wreake the death of him that is murdered, in respect that he was his freend or kinsman, but he ought to call to minde what a noble and excellent creature man is, who being taken away and brought to naught by murder or slaughter, the fairest and noblest worke which almightie God hath framed, is marred, and spoiled.... And for that God in his sacred law hath ordeined, that manslayers should be carryed from his alter and put to death, the partie that will combate.... ought not to undertake the combate because he would kill him, but because hee might be as it were, the minister to execute Gods ... most holy commaundement.'

Vincentio Saviolo, Practise, 1595

 

'What should we account of death to be resembled to anything better than sleep... Most assured it is that such sleeps be most sweet as be most sound, for those are best wherein like unto dead men we dream nothing... there is nothing that doth better or more truly prophesy the end of life, than when a man dreameth that he doth travel and wander into far countries... and that he traveleth in countries unknown without hope of return... We are assured not only to sleep, but also to die... only a cowardly and corrupt conscience do cause thine unhappiness.'

Cardan, De Consolatione, translated in 1573.

 

'To be, or not to be, I there's the point, To Die, to sleepe, is that all? I all: No, to sleepe to dreame, I mary there it goes, For in that dreame of death, when wee awake, And borne before an everlasting judge, From whence no passenger euer retur'nd, The vndiscouered country, at whose sight The happy smile, and the accursed damn'd.'

First Quarto, 1603.

 

'To the man of action, life frequently appears as a circle to be completed by the addition of one last point. In contrast, the life of an artist or philosopher appears as an accumulation of gradually widening concentric circles around himself. But when death finally arrives, who will have the greater sense of fulfilment, the man of action, or the artist? I should think that a death which in an instant completes one's world by the addition of a single point would afford a more intense feeling of fulfilment by far. The greatest calamity for the man of action is that he fail to die even after that last unmistakable point has been added.'

Mishima, On Hagakure, 1967.

 

'The Dionysian man resembles Hamlet; both have once looked truly into the essence of things, they have gained knowledge and knowledge inhibits action; for their action could not change anything in the eternal nature of things; they feel it to be ridiculous or humiliating that they should be asked to set right a world that is out of joint. Knowledge kills action; action requires the veils of illusion: that is the doctrine of Hamlet, not that cheap wisdom of jack the Dreamer who reflects too much, and, as it were, from excess of possibilities, does not get around to action. Not reflection no - true knowledge, an insight into the horrible truth, outweighs any motive for action.'

Friedrich Nietzsche, 1872.

 

'... the most successful Hamlet of my day was Barry Sullivan, an actor of superb physical vigour, who excelled in the impersonation of proud, noble and violent characters, All the sentimental Hamlets have been bores.'

George Bernard Shaw, 1918.

 

'...a miserable and mighty Poet of the human Heart. The middle age of Shakespeare was all clouded over; his days were not more happy than Hamlet's who is perhaps more like Shakespeare himself in his common every day Life that any other of his Characters... Hamlet's heart was full of such Misery as mine is when he said to Ophelia 'go to a Nunnery, go, go!' Indeed I should like to give up the matter at once - I should like to die, I am sickened at the brute world which you are smiling with. I hate men and women more.'

John Keats, 1819.

 

'I had always felt an aversion from Hamlet: a creeping, unclean thing he seems, on stage.... his nasty poking and sniffing at his mother, his setting traps for the king, his conceited perversion with Ophelia make him always intolerable. The character is repulsive in its conception, based on a self-dislike and a spirit of disintegration.'

D H Lawrence, Twilight in Italy, 1913.

 

'May one not consider the tragedy of Hamlet as a play in which the tears are glimpsed through a series of traditional theatrical pranks? Should we not forget once and for all the arguments of scholars about the strength or weakness of Hamlet's will, ignore all the various intentions which are attributed willy-nilly to the author? The same may be said of Shakespeare's age as of the theatre which preceded him: 'The whole gamut of artistic expression was played on two notes - the merry and the sad; moreover, the sad was frequently intermingled with the horrific and the merry with the caricatured; the intermediate notes expressing the more refined emotions were of little significance. Of music, singing, plays, etc. the public demanded that it be either deeply moved or made to laugh until it cried; if one and the same song or play achieved both ends, so much the better.'

Meyerhold, 1915.

 

'Situation is the mechanism that grabs the attention of the audience and keeps them on the edge of their seats. Blasetti used a more colourful expression when he said; 'It is the nail sticking out of the stool which keeps the spectator's bottom in the right place.' In Hamlet there are at least fifteen situations, one after the other... it continues in a satanic crescendo: corpses, sudden shifts in direction and the situation right up to the final slaughter, which represents the point of conciliation of all the coordinates and of all the twists and turns of the situations. From these the closing catharsis is released, It is a proof of the sheer genius of the complex of situations which is Hamlet that I once sat through a performance of this tragedy given by a bunch of the worst kind of hams, and yet I realised that I was still gripped by the story. Even though I knew the script by heart, the situations held me and were more than enough to overcome the vexation of that amateurism.'

Dario Fo, Tricks of the Trade, 1989.

 

'For our decade, I think the play will be about the disillusionment which produces an apathy of the will so deep that commitment to politics, to religion or to life is impossible; there is a sense of what-the-hell anyway, over us looms the Mushroom Cloud.'

Peter Hall, Programme Note, 1963.

 

'Hamlet is the posturing, self-pitying egotistical baby-cum-adolescent in us all, and the play is the prototype of western literature's most deplorable and most formless form, autobiographical fiction.'

Brigid Brophy, 1968.

This article first appeared in the programme for George Dillon's production of Hamlet in 1995. Other pages from that programme are also available:

Interpretation of Hamlet
Hamlet's Stage History
Hamlet - Story, Dates, Sources, Texts, Cuts
William Shakespeare

George Dillon's Tour Dates

(as of Wednesday, 13 December 2017)

Show              Date                     TOWN, Venue               

DECEMBER

Workshop Wednesday
13th Dec 2017
RUGBY,
Rugby School

Black Curtain Friday
15th Dec 2017
LONDON,
Soho Theatre

2018

FEBRUARY

Graft - Tales of an Actor Sunday
11th Feb 2018
RUGBY,
Rugby School

Workshop Monday
12th Feb 2018
RUGBY,
Rugby School

 
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Hamlet - Programme - Quotes on Hamlet
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[Updated - 19 March 2006]
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