Here is a list of words, and some phrases, found in the Hamlet dialogue that deserve special attention. In some cases the word, or phrase, has been misinterpreted, historically, in other cases the word has been missed completely, historically, and in still other cases, well, it's simply that the word or phrase is worth inclusion.
The words are presented in the order in which they appear in the dialogue. The line where the word appears is quoted. Links are provided, to the line as it appears in the course of the Scene, and to the regular Note for that line. The spelling will be modernized, if necessary, unless the original spelling appears to have significance. I usually include a brief comment.
Here is an alphabetic list of the words and phrases included on this page:
A: abate, answered, antique disposition, arture; B: beautified, bord, brainish, button;
C: caviary, chapes, charge, chief, Claudio, closely, clouds, Clown, coil, compound mass, confession, continent, cooled, courage;
D: Danskers, days, debate, defense, delated, delicate, detected, devise, dild, dintier, dove; E: eale, expostulate, extent;
F: flaxen, friendly; G: gig, greenly; H: heave, a kissing hill, hems, heyday;
I: idle, imagion, imports, Index, inform against, innovation, inseamed, invected; J, K, L: love;
M: mabled, main, malhechor, massen, Master's, mobled, moth, mount; N: naked, neighbor room, not, nothing; O,
P: pale, pansies, picked, picture, poll, precisely, prefared, pregnant, process; Q, R: relish, resty, replication, Robin, rosemary;
S: Saint Charity, sallied, satire, scand, sendal, sere, set, shroudly, siege, sith, sleaded pollax, solidity, Steward, sty;
T: thought, threescore thousand, toy, Truepenny, twenty thousand, twice; U: unanviled; V,
W: wanton, wary, wisest, wormwood; X,Y,Z.
- 1 Scene 1
- 2 Scene 2
- 3 Scene 3
- 4 Scene 4
- 5 Scene 5
- 6 Scene 6
- 7 Scene 7
- 8 Scene 8
- 9 Scene 9
- 10 Scene 10
- 11 Scene 11
- 12 Scene 12
- 13 Scene 13
- 14 Scene 14
- 15 Scene 15
- 16 Scene 16
- 17 Scene 17
- 18 Scene 18
- 19 Scene 19
- 20 Scene 20
The odd spelling of sleaded pollax provides multiplicity of meaning and a kind of word puzzle.
Scene 1#122 Horatio: A moth it is to trouble the mind's eye;
Horatio uses "moth" to mean "an unpredictable thing."
Claudius uses delated to mean "related" or perhaps "denunciatory."
Hamlet uses cooled to mean "insensitive."
Hamlet uses chapes to mean "coverings."
Sallied is from 'sally' ("to rush forth, as in making an attack.") Hamlet means he feels attacked by the rush of unhappy events.
In this case, wary is the adjective form of "ware." Hamlet uses wary to mean "for sale" / "mercenary," like wares for sale in a shop.
Hamlet uses satire to produce a combined meaning of both "satyr" and caricature / mockery.
By main voice Laertes means the voice of the King.
Polonius uses courage to mean "man of spirit," a high-spirited fellow. Courage is "spirit." "Spirit," then is "soul," and a soul is a person. It's a little word puzzle from Shakespeare.
Polonius uses chief to mean "lead" (the verb.) A chief is a leader, therefore "to chief" is "to lead."
Polonius's tongue slips when he thinks of the Biblical saying, "the love of money is etc." Shakespeare used this for a kind of "omen."
Shroudly is a Shakespeare coinage that means "like a shroud of death." Hamlet says the frigid air envelops him like a death shroud.
The word printed eale in the Second Quarto can be interpreted as meaning both "evil" and "ail," i.e "ailment," simultaneously.
Arture is a Shakespeare coinage meaning "joint."
The word imagion is a Shakespeare coinage from 'image' + '-ion,' and Horatio uses it to mean "the result, or consequence, of the image (of his father.)"
By unanviled the Ghost means his mettle was not properly "smithed" for him to go to Heaven.
It is important to know that Truepenny refers specifically to the character Tom Truepenny in the play Ralph Roister Doister.
Hamlet uses antique disposition to mean "old personality," the personality of an old man. He is saying that sometimes he likes to pretend to be old. That is, in fact, what the phrase "anticke disposition" means in the original Second Quarto publication, no matter what else you have ever heard or read about it.
The word Danskers means "persons of Danzig (Gdansk,) Poland." It is a mistake by Polonius, for amusement. Polonius, literally the "Polish man," who is a Dane, mistakenly refers to Poles as he's trying to speak of Danes.
Shakespeare used sith for its "snaky" sibilance as Claudius speaks.
It is important to know that threescore thousand is the correct number, because it helps lead to an important conclusion.
Polonius thinks that expostulate refers to presenting one's postulates.
Polonius idiotically thinks Hamlet has written that Ophelia is beautiful because she uses cosmetics.
By pregnant Polonius means "productive" (of meaning,) apropos.
Hamlet uses extent to mean "valued."
Guildenstern uses button to mean the emblem or ornament on the front of a cap.
The word sere means "dry" humor.
Innovation means the change in government from King Hamlet to Claudius.
Hamlet uses resty to mean lethargic.
By friendly Hamlet means excessively friendly, that is, indiscriminate, uncritical, or promiscuous.
Hamlet uses the adjective form of "caviar."
The Player uses mabled to mean "hurriedly dressed," or "hurriedly wrapped."
Hamlet mishears the Player's word as mobled, based on "moble," and meaning "moved good."
Claudius uses closely to mean "privately," that is, he has summoned Hamlet for a private audience.
Hamlet uses coil to mean "shell," casting the human body as a "shell" for the soul.
Hamlet uses evocutate as an antonym of "inoculate."
BOOKMARK here, reexamine this
By 'scape detected Horatio means Claudius escaping even though his guilt has been detected.
By idle Hamlet means he must appear to be unoccupied, not busy.
Ophelia lisped the word "two," making the sound of twice, which she immediately corrects.
Hamlet uses malhechor to mean "bad actor" = wrongdoer.
By wormwood Hamlet probably means "an antidote to a poisoning."
Lucianus uses invected to mean abused with words, evil magic words that is, thus "cursed."
The word "scand" is Old English, and in this context it means "a shame" or "a disgrace." It is correctly printed in the Second Quarto.
Hamlet's word relish is best understood from its root meaning of "aftertaste."
Hamlet uses solidity to refer to the state of Gertrude's heart. He is calling her hard-hearted, as opposed to tender-hearted. Contrary to what you might see elsewhere, it is not a reference to the earth.
By compound mass Hamlet means the heaviness of Gertrude's compounded sins in her soul. So, with the phrase "solidity and compound mass" Hamlet refers to Gertrude's heart and soul.
The word Index means the Index Librorum Prohibitorum, which is the Roman Catholic list of forbidden books. Hamlet uses Index figuratively to mean "forbidden acts" that he supposes Gertrude has done.
It is important to understand that when Hamlet says picture he is pointing to a pictorial arras hanging in Gertrude's room.
heave, a kissing hill
Hamlet does say a heave, a kissing hill. That is not a misprint in the Second Quarto.
By heyday (in the blood) Hamlet means the "high spirits" (of passion,) which of course occur in youth, and diminish as one ages.
Hamlet uses inseamed in the sense of pieces of cloth sewn together. He means Gertrude's bed being inseamed to Claudius's, to make one bed from two.
Hamlet uses sty as a euphemism for Hell.
Hamlet uses pale to mean "wide-eyed." Pale eyes are wide eyes, that show the whites well.
By wanton Hamlet means playfully.
It is vitally important in following the action of the play to understand that by neighbor room Hamlet means the King's Room.
By brainish Gertrude means that Hamlet hallucinated, that he reacted to something from within his brain, rather than from the real, external world.
Claudius uses answered to mean "legally defended."
Clausius uses wisest to mean "most creative," or "most inventive."
Hamlet uses replication to mean "retaliation."
Claudius uses tender to mean "offer."
Claudius uses set to mean "serve," as in setting a dish on a dinner table.
Claudius uses process to mean "writ."
Hamlet uses debate to mean "only talk about."
Hamlet uses the phrase inform against to mean "shame."
By precisely Hamlet means "analytically."
Hamlet uses charge to refer to the "weight" of the military force.
Hamlet uses delicate to mean "mortal," i.e. subject to being hurt or killed. (Shakespeare tells us this with the word "mortal" three lines later.)
Hamlet uses twenty thousand as a figure of speech to mean "a great many."
By continent Hamlet means "land area."
The Gentleman uses hems to mean "equivocates."
Nothing is "naught," so the Gentleman means her speech is naughty.
The Gentleman uses thought to mean "grief."
Gertrude uses toy to mean "idea," something the mind plays with.
Sendal is a kind of silk. Ophelia uses sendal shoon to mean "silk slippers."
By imports Gertrude means "brings out."
The word not is aside.
Ophelia's word is actually "dildo."
Saint Charity was one of the daughters of Saint Sophia.
Claudius uses greenly to mean "recently."
With the phrase in clouds Claudius means Laertes has stayed out of his sight, instead of presenting himself to Claudius upon his return, as Laertes should have done. There is an implicit son/sun pun. A sun in clouds is out of sight.
Ophelia acts releasing a dove. The sight of a dove in flight is a good omen.
By false Steward Ophelia means "lying Hamlet."
By Master's daughter Ophelia means "Jesus's daughter."
Ophelia saved the rosemary from Polonius's funeral to give to Laertes since he wasn't there.
Ophelia also saved the pansies from Polonius's funeral to give to Laertes since he wasn't there.
Robin is Ophelia's pet name for Hamlet. Shakespeare adapted the line from Greensleeves.
Flaxen is yellowish, pale yellow. Yellowing of the skin is common in death, and can even be an indicator that death has occurred.
Poll means "head," and in this case, particularly the skin color of the head.
The word bord means "the side of a ship."
Laertes uses mount to mean a pedestal, for mounting a statue.
The name similarity is because Claudio is an offstage stand-in for Claudius, to handle the letters. The name Claudio derives from the Latin gens name "Claudius."
By naked Hamlet means "without my clothing." The pirates stole his fancy ambassadorial garments.
Claudius uses devise to mean "tell."
King Claudius uses siege to mean "throne."
Claudius's line means, "He said he had to admit about you..."
Claudius primarily means that Lamord spoke in defense of Laertes, that is, as Laertes's advocate.
Claudius uses abate to mean "extinguish."
Claudius uses prefared to mean "prearranged as fare for."
By cull-cold maids, Gertrude means the "modest kind" of maids.
The second Clown is a deputy of the coroner's court.
Dintier is the correct word, meaning "more sensitive," "more easily impressed."
The word massen means the "house," of the dead.
Hamlet means "socially mixed up" when he says picked, like layers of soil becoming jumbled together when a pick is used for digging.
When the Clown Sexton says days in the year he means calendar dates, such as July 4.
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