Over the years No Sweat Shakespeare users have asked us to translate many quotes from Hamlet into plain English. The list below links to the most popular Hamlet quotes and their modern English translation, whilst underneath those is a selection of other, shorted Hamlet quotes translated.

Shakespeare’s Hamlet Quote

bawdy

Plain English Hamlet Quote

That’s an interesting request -a ‘bawd’ is a pimp – that is someone who procures a woman for the purposes of prostitution. Adding a ‘y’ to it and calling someone that is a swearword, like calling someone a ‘bastard’.

Shakespeare’s Hamlet Quote

Like a villaine with a smiling cheek a goodly apple rotten at the heart.

Plain English Hamlet Quote

It’s about hypocrisy. a person can smile but have an evil heart just
like an apple can look beautiful but be rotten at its core.

Shakespeare’s Hamlet Quote

To be, or not to be, that is the question.

Plain English Hamlet Quote

Hamlet is contemplating the idea of killing himself. He starts by
saying, ‘to exist or not to exist, that’s the question for me. Read the full “To be or not to be” translation here.

Shakespeare’s Hamlet Quote

those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried
grapple them unto thy soul with hoops of steel…

Plain English Hamlet Quote

Bind the friends that you have already got and can trust to you with bands of steel.

 

Shakespeare’s Hamlet Quote

Hey I was wondering if you could help me understand Hamlets speech. alas, poor Yorick. i knew him, Horatio; a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy; he hath borne me on his back a thousand times; and now, how abhorred in my imagination it is! my gorge rises at it. here hung those lips that i have kissed i know not how oft. where be your gibes now? your gambols? your songs? your flashes of merriment, that were wont to set the table on a roar? not one now, to mock your own grinning? quite cahp-fallen? now get you to my lady’s chamber, and tell her, let her paint an inch thick, to this favour she must come; make her laugh at that. Thanks

Plain English Hamlet quote

Hi there. You can read an explanation here of the full “Alas poor Yorick, I knew him well” soliloquy.

Shakespeare’s Hamlet Quote

Hamlet Act II Scene 2
HAM: “You cannot, sir, take from me anything that I will more
willingly part
withal, –except my life, except my life, except my life.”
Sorry to ask another favor, but please help.

Plain English Hamlet Quote

Polonius has been talking to Hamlet. He says he would like to take his leave of him ( to go) . Hamlet says: you can’t take anything from me that I would rather lose. Then he says to himself, except my life because he’s feeling very down.

Shakespeare’s Hamlet Quote

Hamlet Act II Scene 2
“I have of late,–but wherefore I know not–lost all my mirth, forgone
all custom of exercises;…”
I am lost in these words, what is this in modern english? Please help. Thanks a million.

Plain English Hamlet Quote

I don’t know why it is but I have recently lost my good humour and ignored my pastimes and exercises.

Shakespeare’s Hamlet Quote

Hamlet Act II Scene 2
HAM: “You cannot, sir, take from me anything that I will more
willingly part
withal, –except my life, except my life, except my life.”
Sorry to ask another favor, but please help.

Plain English Hamlet Quote

Polonius has been talking to Hamlet. He says he would like to take his leave of him (to go) . Hamlet says: you can’t take anything from me that I would rather lose. Then he says to himself, except my life because he’s feeling very down.

Shakespeare’s Hamlet Quote

Neither a borrower nor a lender be; For loan oft loses both itself and friend, and borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry. (Hamlet Act I, Scene III)

Plain English Hamlet Quote

Don’t borrow or lend money because the lender often loses both the money and the friend, and the borrower becomes wasteful.

Shakespeare’s Hamlet Quote

This above all: to thine own self be true. (Hamlet Act I, Scene III)

Plain English Hamlet Quote

Above all, be true to yourself.

Shakespeare’s Hamlet Quote

Though this be madness, yet there is method in ‘t. (Hamlet Act II, Scene II)

Plain English Hamlet Quote

Although this is madness it seems to have some sense in it.

Shakespeare’s Hamlet Quote

That it should come to this! (Hamlet Act I, Scene II)

Plain English Hamlet Quote

That it should have turned out like this!

Shakespeare’s Hamlet Quote

There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so. (Hamlet Act II, Scene II)

Plain English Hamlet Quote

Nothing is either good or bad: it only appears so in our own minds.

Shakespeare’s Hamlet Quote

The lady doth protest too much, methinks. (Hamlet Act III, Scene II)

Plain English Hamlet Quote

I think the lady is overdoing her protestations. She can’t mean them.

 

Shakespeare’s Hamlet Quote

In my mind’s eye. (Hamlet Act I, Scene II)

Plain English Hamlet Quote

In my imagination.

 

Shakespeare’s Hamlet Quote

A little more than kin, and less than kind. (Hamlet Act I, Scene II)

Plain English Hamlet Quote

Not very closely related and even less affection.

 

Shakespeare’s Hamlet Quote

The play ‘s the thing wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king. (Hamlet Act II, Scene II)

Plain English Hamlet Quote

The plays the thing that’s going to reveal the king’s guilt.

 

Shakespeare’s Hamlet Quote

And it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man. (Hamlet Act I, Scene III)

Plain English Hamlet Quote

And it must follow as the night follows the day that you can’t be untrue to anyone.

 

Shakespeare’s Hamlet Quote

This is the very ecstasy of love. (Hamlet Act II, Scene I)

Plain English Hamlet Quote

This is the great passion of love.

 

Shakespeare’s Hamlet Quote

Brevity is the soul of wit. (Hamlet Act II, Scene II)

Plain English Hamlet Quote

Keeping your comments short is the essence of intelligence.

 

Shakespeare’s Hamlet Quote

Doubt that the sun doth move, doubt truth to be a liar, but never doubt I love. (Hamlet Act II, Scene II)

Plain English Hamlet Quote

Doubt that the sun moves, doubt that truth lies, but never doubt that I love you.

 

Shakespeare’s Hamlet Quote

Rich gifts wax poor when givers prove unkind. (Hamlet Act III, Scene I)

Plain English Hamlet Quote

Treasured gifts become worthless when the giver becomes unloving.

 

Shakespeare’s Hamlet Quote

Do you think I am easier to be played on than a pipe? (Hamlet Act III, Scene II)

Plain English Hamlet Quote

Do you think that I can be more easily played than a musical instrument?

 

Shakespeare’s Hamlet Quote

I will speak daggers to her, but use none. (Hamlet Act III, Scene II)

Plain English Hamlet Quote

My words will be as sharp as daggers but I won’t use violence.

 

Shakespeare’s Hamlet Quote

When sorrows come, they come not single spies, but in battalions. (Hamlet Act IV, Scene V)

Plain English Hamlet Quote

When misfortunes come they don’t come one at a time, but all together.

Shakespeare’s Hamlet Quote

give thy thoughts no tongue,
nor any unproportioned thought his act.

Plain English Hamlet Quote

Don’t say what you’re thinking nor do the first thing that comes into
your mind.

 

Read Hamlet in modern English >>

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