In the competition for Angstiest Dane, Prince Hamlet ranks way up there alongside Kierkegaard in the “off the charts” division, giving “The Tragedy of Hamlet” a reputation for being exhausting and unapproachable. Hamlet spends four of the play’s five acts in an ever-deepening existential funk. And rightly so, considering the fact that a) his dad died two months ago, b) his girlfriend won’t talk to him, c) his mom has already remarried, d) his new “dad” was once his uncle, meaning mom is bumping uglies with her own brother-in-law, e) stepdad also happens to be the guy who killed dad, and of course, the small matter of f) the court *literally* conspiring against Hamlet.
In light of these and other circumstances, the fact that the play still manages to make us laugh out loud is pretty remarkable. That is, when we don’t get so caught up in the drama that we overlook the mind games, double/triple entendres, and overall absurdity characteristic of lesser-known Hamlet quotes. Moody though he may be, Hamlet is not without a sense of humor – and Shakespeare even less so.
Take, for example, the argument between King Claudius and Hamlet after Hamlet murders Polonius.
King: Now, Hamlet, where’s Polonius?
(Where’s the corpse, you brat?)
Hamlet: At supper.
(Wouldn’t you like to know?)
King: At supper! Where?
(Watch it, kid!)
Hamlet: Not where he eats, but where he is eaten…
(Guess how many worms he’s feeding!)
King: Alas, alas!
(The guy was an idiot, but what can you do?)
Hamlet: A man may fish with the worm that hath eat of a king, and eat of the fish that hath fed of that worm.
(King becomes worm food, worm becomes fish food, fish becomes fisherman food. Ergo, fisherman chows down on royalty. Circle of life, sucker.)
King: What dost thou mean by this?
Hamlet: Nothing but to show you how a king may go a progress through the guts of a beggar.
(Nuthin, just wondering if you’ve guessed what’ll happen *after* you pass through a beggar’s guts.)
King: Where is Polonius?
(This is your last chance.)
Hamlet: In heaven: send thither to see: if your messenger find him not there, seek him i’ the other place yourself.
(Go to hell!)
Or what about the passive-aggressive exchange between Hamlet and Ophelia during the play (within the play). Keep in mind that this all happens publicly.
Hamlet: Lady, shall I lie in your lap?
(How’s about I get between your legs?)
Ophelia: No, my lord.
(No, ya d-bag.)
Hamlet: I mean, my head upon your lap?
(All I wanted was to rest my head on your knees!)
Ophelia: Ay, my lord.
Hamlet: Do you think I meant country matters?
(Psh, you thought I meant sex! Just because the first syllable of “country” happens to rhyme with…)
Ophelia: I think nothing, my lord.
(I’m not playing this game anymore.)
Hamlet: That’s a fair thought to lie between maids’ legs.
(Did you really just say “nothing”? Because that’s slang for female genitalia.)
Ophelia: What is, my lord?
(What are you, twelve?!)
(You heard me, sweetcheeks.)
The fact that Hamlet is ten times smarter than everyone else – not to mention pretending to be crazy so that he can say whatever he wants – makes for a truly amusing read, even amidst all the weeping, brooding, and putting-off-regicide-ing.