A Library of literary InterestingnessMonday, October 25, 2021

In the step in question, plot 3 step 2, the players or actors visiting the castle of Elsinore in Denmark put on a play for the imperial court. In ~ Hamlet’s request, castle agree to do a play he himself has given them, The murder of Gonzago, return Hamlet speak Claudius (the King, and also Hamlet’s own uncle) the it’s referred to as ‘The Mousetrap’. Agatha Christie, of course, borrowed that different title for she play which started running in 1952 and is still gift performed in London to this day, making the the longest-running play in theatre history.

You are watching: He who doth protest too much

Anyway, Hamlet – that suspects the his uncle murdered his father, Old Hamlet, by putting poison right into his ear if he was asleep – wishes that by staging a pat which recreates his father’s killing he will awaken Claudius’ guilt, and also the King will certainly reveal, v his response, the he is guilty of murdering Old Hamlet. Hamlet’s mother, Gertrude, who has hastily remarried to Claudius complying with Old Hamlet’s death, is likewise in the audience too.


One of the factors the line may have become so renowned – albeit through the word-order often slightly transformed – is that the actor playing Gertrude have the right to ‘read’ the line in a number of different ways. As Ann Thompson and also Neil Taylor observe in their note to this heat in Hamlet: revised Edition (The Arden Shakespeare 3rd Series)

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, ‘The lady doth protest too much, methinks’ can be uttered in together a method as come highlight, variously, Gertrude’s discomfort (she senses that the play she watching has reduced too close to the bone), her self-control (she is identified to defend her very own actions in remarrying to Claudius so quickly after Old Hamlet’s death), or she innocence (she hasn’t also noticed the parallel her child is trying to draw in between the Queen ~ above the stage and also herself).

But yes sir something much more here. For, together the editor of another edition that the play, the new Penguin edition supplied by the RSC, has highlighted, the word ‘protest’ her doesn’t just mean ‘deny’. It way to promise publicly. So, in various other words, Gertrude is berating the Player Queen on stage for do a rash promise around something she may well finish up law if she discovered herself a widow one day.

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Oliver Tearle is the writer of The mystery Library: A Book-Lovers’ Journey v Curiosities the History

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, available now native Michael O’Mara Books.