Journal on Hamlet's quote "Why, then, 'tis none to you; for there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so: to me it is a prison." (Shakespeare, Hamlet, II, ii, 249)

Essay by Serena_DangCollege, UndergraduateA, June 2009

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Hamlet is one of Shakespeare’s most discussed plays. The drama has a lot of figurative language to be interpreted in various meanings. Among the famous quotes taken from Hamlet, perhaps the one bringing a wide range of different opinions is the line Hamlet said to his friends Rosencrantz and Guildenstern “Why, then, ‘tis none to you; for there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so: to me it is a prison.” (Shakespeare, Hamlet, II, ii, 249.) There is a deep concept in this saying, which perfectly represents the reality and the values of right and wrong.

In the context, despite Hamlet saying this line does not refer to the moral values in the society; it does reflect the theme of the play. In this scene when Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, his old friends directed by King Claudius to come and check on his “madness”, Hamlet simply is mocking his fake friend’s naiveness.

However, this quote does not only have this joking effect, but also foretells the theme of the play. “Hamlet” is the play of revenge, of finding the truth, of defining what is right and what is wrong. The way the prince thinks about life is going to help him deciding on his actions. “. . . for there is nothing either good or bad” implies in this world, nothing being is given a low or high value, a righteous or foul reason to exist. The way people look at it, react to it, and perceive it make it “good, or “bad”. For instance, killing is always considered a horrible crime, but in the play Hamlet has to decide to murder his own uncle. However in that situation it is not completely a crime. It may either be right or wrong, depends on each person’s view on what is more meaningful, a life, or the elimination of bad deeds. The decision to defy something as right or wrong also depends on a lot of different background like historical, cultural and other aspects. Hamlet considers the marriage between his mom and his uncle two months after King Hamlet’s death is unethical. The truth is in other nations, relatives do get royal marriage right after death of a family member to remain the stability within the royal clan, which is considered great wisdom and of great moral. In each person’s view, an event has various personal relations to his belief and moral conception; therefore the definitions of right and wrong, good and bad vary among people.

The argument of “right” and “wrong”, or “good” and “bad”, perhaps is the main theme of the play. Is revenge a good excuse for murder? Is Hamlet not doing the same thing as Claudius did to his father? The answers lay upon each audience and his own opinion, as the truth lays in “thinking makes it so”Work CitedShakespeare, William. Hamlet. Rpt. in Compact Literature Reading Reacting Writing. By Kirszner and Mandell. 6th ed. 2007.