Hamlet Act IV


Hamlet Act IV - Things Fall Apart



Today in class we reviewed Hamlet Act IV.

We also introduced the different types of corruption presented. Corruption is similar to the idea of entropy, which means that something that is corrupt is by nature internally flawed. Remember one of the class questions about corruptions was, "What are the different types of corruption?" I organized what I believe to be the major categories that Hamlet deals with thematically, and we have used four of the major soliloquies from Acts 1-4 to find examples of these types of corruption.

Again, by corruption I am meaning a brokenness and a tendency towards wrongness that means it cannot be trusted. There is a sense of fading or going bad in the nature of it. In Hamlet, our bodies are described as corrupt because they are slowly decaying; our souls are corrupt because they are naturally sinful. The world is corrupt because it is by nature unfair and unjust, and our minds are corrupt because we are myopic and subjective in our perspective and can't see things clearly.

1. Physical Corruption - we are all decaying and moving towards death. Life and our bodies are moving towards dust.

2. Mental Corruption - we are all myopic and unable to see/understand things clearly

3. Moral/Spiritual Corruption - we are all fallen, sinful, and broken

4. Natural/World Corruption - the world is not just, fair, or right

We then began the process of looking over some of the major monologues to discover instances of this theme of corruption.


  1. 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! O God!
    How weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable
    Seem to me all the uses of this world!
    Fie on’t! O 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 followed 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 mine 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.Act 1. Scene 2 – Hamlet Monologue Video

Examples of corruption -
1. Moral - his mother morality is compared to an "unweeded garden" which means that if not kept, it is naturally corrupted.
2. Natural - the analogy of the garden "unweeded garden" shows that nature will go to ruin if it is not kept in check because it tends towards corruption.




  1. Give thy thoughts no tongue,
    Nor any unproportion’d thought his act.
    Be thou familiar, but by no means vulgar.
    Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried,
    Grapple them unto thy soul with hoops of steel;
    But do not dull thy palm with entertainment
    Of each new-hatch’d, unfledg’d comrade. Beware
    Of entrance to a quarrel; but, being in,
    Bear’t that the opposed may beware of thee.
    Give every man thine 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 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 own self be true;
    And it must follow, as the night the day,
    Thou canst not then be false to any man.Act 1 Scene 3 - Polonius to Laertes Monologue Video

1. Moral - People are by nature corrupt and dishonest, so don't lend them money: "Neither a borrower or a lender be for loan oft loses both itself and friend".
2. Mental - Take each man's censure, but reserve they judgment". Don't assume what you're hearing is true, but take it with a grain of salt.

  1. I have of late,—but wherefore I know not,—lost all my mirth, forgone all custom of exercises; and indeed, it goes so heavily with my disposition that this goodly frame, the earth, seems to me a sterile promontory; this most excellent canopy, the air, look you, this brave o’erhanging firmament, this majestical roof fretted with golden fire,—why, it appears no other thing to me than a foul and pestilent congregation of vapours. What a piece of work is man! How noble in reason! how infinite in faculties! in form and moving, how express and admirable! in action how like an angel! in apprehension, how like a god! the beauty of the world! the paragon of animals! And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust? Act 2 Scene 2 Hamlet to R&G Monologue Video

Examples of Corruption -
Natural - earth is sterile promontory (piece of land) , sky is "foul and pestilent" - World appears decayed
Mental - I have of late, lost all my mirth - Depression perspective
Moral - "How like an angel... and yet what is this quintessence of dust" - What we could accomplish based on our abilities, but we do nothing, are nothing".
Physical - "Quintessence of dust" - We are not like angels in we are mortal and are going to dust.



4.To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them?—To die,—to sleep,—
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heartache, and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to,—’tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish’d. To die,—to sleep;—
To sleep: perchance to dream:—ay, there’s the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come,
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause: there’s the respect
That makes calamity of so long life;
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
The oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely,
The pangs of despis’d love, the law’s delay,
The insolence of office, and the spurns
That patient merit of the unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin? who would these fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,—
The undiscover’d country, from whose bourn
No traveller returns,—puzzles the will,
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought;
And enterprises of great pith and moment,
With this regard, their currents turn awry,
And lose the name of action.
Act 3 Scene 1 – Hamlet Monologue Video

Mental -Our understanding of death is flawed because it is "the undiscover'd country" and beyond our knowing.
Moral - We are turned cowards by our superstition and lack of knowledge which we excuse as conscience: "thus conscience does make coward of us all".
Natural - The world is by nature unjust and unfair "Who would bear the whips and scorns of time, the oppressors wrong..."