Read Shakespeare’s ‘O That This Too Solid Flesh Would Melt’ soliloquy from Hamlet below with modern English translation and analysis, plus a video performance.

‘O That This Too Solid Flesh Would Melt’, Spoken by Hamlet, Act 1 Scene 2

O, that this too too solid flesh would melt
Thaw and resolve itself into a dew!
Or that the Everlasting had not fix’d
His canon ‘gainst self-slaughter! O God! God!
How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable,
Seem to me all the uses of this world!
Fie on’t! ah fie! ’tis an unweeded garden,
That grows to seed; things rank and gross in nature
Possess it merely. That it should come to this!
But two months dead: nay, not so much, not two:
So excellent a king; that was, to this,
Hyperion to a satyr; so loving to my mother
That he might not beteem the winds of heaven
Visit her face too roughly. Heaven and earth!
Must I remember? why, she would hang on him,
As if increase of appetite had grown
By what it fed on: and yet, within a month–
Let me not think on’t–Frailty, thy name is woman!–
A little month, or ere those shoes were old
With which she follow’d my poor father’s body,
Like Niobe, all tears:–why she, even she–
O, God! a beast, that wants discourse of reason,
Would have mourn’d longer–married with my uncle,
My father’s brother, but no more like my father
Than I to Hercules: within a month:
Ere yet the salt of most unrighteous tears
Had left the flushing in her galled eyes,
She married. O, most wicked speed, to post
With such dexterity to incestuous sheets!
It is not nor it cannot come to good:
But break, my heart; for I must hold my tongue.

‘O That This Too Solid Flesh Would Melt’ Soliloquy Translation

He wished that his body would just melt, turn to water and become like the dew. Or that the Almighty hadn’t made a law forbidding suicide. Oh God! God! How weary, stale, flat and useless everything about life seemed! He moaned. It was terrible. The whole world was like an unweeded garden that had gone to seed – only ugly disgusting things thrived. He couldn’t believe what had happened. Only two months dead; no, not even two. Such an excellent king he had been, compared with this one. It was like Hyperion, the sun god, compared to a lecherous satyr. He’d been so loving to his mother that he wouldn’t even allow the gentle breeze of heaven to blow too roughly on her face. He lifted his hands and blocked his ears as though to shut his father’s memory out. She had loved him so much, adored him, as though the more she had of him the more she wanted him. And yet, within a month! He couldn’t bear to think about it. Women were so inconsistent! Only a month, even before the shoes with which she had followed his father’s body were old, all flowing with tears, she, even she… Oh God! Even an animal that doesn’t have reason, would have mourned longer – ..she married his uncle! His father’s brother, but no more like his father than he was like Hercules. Even before the salt of those hypocritical tears had left her swollen eyes, she married. Oh, most wicked speed, to hurry so enthusiastically to incestuous sheets! It couldn’t end happily. But he would just have to break his heart, because he had to hold his tongue.

Watch ‘O That This Too Solid Flesh Would Melt’ Soliloquy Performed

See other Shakespeare soliloquies >>

Cartoon strip showing 3 boxes of Hamlet in different stages of his the first Act, including saying

Hamlet vs himself, an opponent, and fate. Courtesy of Storyboardthat

14 replies
  1. jozaud
    jozaud says:

    I don’t understand why the soliloquy is in the present tense but the translation is all in the past. “But break, my heart; for I must hold my tongue” becomes “But he would just have to break his heart, because he had to hold his tongue.” This doesn’t make any sense.

    • JC
      JC says:

      Well it should be obvious that the soliloquy itself is being spoken by Hamlet in the first person. Considering he is talking about himself. The translation is in third person, and is discussing not only what Hamlet is doing but what he is thinking and feeling. It’d be difficult to just put in modern terms the soliloquy without explaining the meaning behind it.

      • Jordan
        Jordan says:

        “It’d be difficult to just put in modern terms the soliloquy without explaining the meaning behind it.”
        Actually, it’s not.
        Read this:
        While I acknowledge that this a cringe-inducing oversimplification that’s likely designed for grade-schoolers, it does prove that no, it is not difficult to just rewrite Shakespeare with a modern syntax and no, there is no logical reason this “translation” should be in third person. If you still don’t believe me, go to any Shakespeare production aimed at children. If the author felt the need to explain him or herself, he or she could have just written an analysis and tacked it on to the end.

  2. William Hopkins
    William Hopkins says:

    This must be from the First Folio or there’s a mistake…Shakespeare swapped the word “sullied” for “solid” in the final.

    • jpl2132
      jpl2132 says:

      Actually, “sullied” was first ‘swapped-in’ by a modern editor. The Folio reads “solid,” and the first quarto “sallied” (which doesn’t make sense). If you’re going by 17th century editions, those are the only two options.

      • Peter Pegnall
        Peter Pegnall says:

        It’s actually the second quarto; the first is a delightful memorial mish mush, fraudulently presented as Shakespeare’s approved text. It’s almost certainly why he rushed out the second quarto. it’s also an astonishing testament to the listening skills of the contemporary audiences, who may have been illiterate, but were marvellously attuned to language
        Incidentally, i loathe spurious scholarship, but this is fascinating..

  3. Jordan
    Jordan says:

    This “translation” is more like a line-by-line explanation. If it were truly a translation it would preserve the original viewpoint of the source work. When you read a translated book or watch a subtitled movie, do the words therein try to explain to you what happened? Of course not. Because that’s not how a translation is supposed to work. Besides, you can’t actually “translate” Shakespeare. It’s written in Early Modern English, which we quite obviously still speak. And the idea that Shakespeare is just too difficult to read is not only patronizing, it’s just flat-out wrong.
    But, let’s suppose for a second that this could actually be an analysis instead of a translation and was simply mislabeled. In that case, not only is this NOT how an analytical paragraph should read (at least not one your high school English teacher wouldn’t fail you on), it’s also incredible misleading. “He moaned. It was terrible.”? Not supported by the text.”He lifted his hands and blocked his ears as though to shut his father’s memory out.”? What part of “Heaven and earth! Must I remember?” says he covered his ears?
    Needless to say, this just seems like shoddy work and should not be considered a viable resource. It does appear that the author has a good grasp on the material, so why is this such as mess? It feels like the author is talking down to his or her readers, which would be more than a little irritating IF that were the case. But personally, I’d rather think they were just pressed for time, or having a bad day.
    This is also the first thing I’ve read on this website. Hopefully the rest isn’t this…unhelpful.

    • Aaron
      Aaron says:

      Oh please. Nobody speaks like this anymore, and Shakespeare is hard to understand for a modern audience… which is why sites like this exist… to help people actually understand the outdated sentence structure and references that people just do not understand anymore. Language evolves and changes, yet the things like this that we force down the throats of high school students are stuck in the past!

      • Melissa
        Melissa says:

        Wow. Okay. Someone seems a bit salty. Regarding “the things like this that…are stuck in the past”

        Shakespeare plays are written in an elevated language. It’s not a matter of it being outdated but rather a matter of looking at it with an educated mind.

        I’d further explain this subject, however, I believe my explanation would fall on deaf ears (figuratively speaking).

        Jordan is correct in many aspects on his/her comment here. Shakespeare needs no translation (so long as the party in question speaks english) and this hardly qualifies as an analysis. This is more a personal explanation/ interpretation of Hamlet’s Soliloquy by the author.

  4. DENIS
    DENIS says:

    my first visit to this site…and my last…what a load of pompous contributers ..each trying to out do each other in pseudo intellect

  5. William Shakespeare
    William Shakespeare says:

    A most notable coward, an infinite and endless liar, an hourly promise breaker, the owner of no one good quality

  6. Uberpanda
    Uberpanda says:

    The one ironic thing about these toxic replies is that you see the true extent of how useful an English degree is: The only time you use it is to prove or argue a non existent point on some website made to help millions of people with understanding something someone wrote almost 420 years ago. Good going guys :)

  7. lazarbeam
    lazarbeam says:

    i think its sad that you are ranting about shackespear and yes i deliberalty made my grammer bad just two annoy u


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