Sc. 2, Lines 298–316

Sc. 2, Lines 298–316: What contrasts are there in the images Hamlet uses to develop this passage? Explain. What is the theme of this speech?

Hamlet. I will tell you why; so shall my anticipation prevent your discovery, and your secrecy to the King and Queen molt no feather. 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’er-hanging firmament, this majestical roof, fretted with golden fire—why, it appeareth nothing to me but a foul and pestilent congregation of vapors. What a piece of work is a 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? Man delights not me, no, nor women neither, though by your smiling you seem to say so.

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In talking to his friends, Hamlet takes on an air of sarcasm..... he's playing with the two. Hamlet creates contrasting images and sends mixed messages, as he knows why the two have come to see him and isn't happy they're spying for the king. The theme of the speech has to do with man's purpose..... something he alludes to having no interest in. He claims to have interest in nothing...... the comaraderie of men, or the companionship of women.