"this most excellent canopy the air, look you, this brave o-erhanging firmament, this majestical roof fretted with golden fire, why it appeareth nothing to me but a foul and pestilent congregation of vapours...what is this quintessence of dust?"Hamlet, Act 2, Scene 2 Hamlet here talks to Rosencratz and Guildenstern whilst in his 'antic disposition'.
I am studying Hamlet this year, and am ashamed to say I have relatively little to say about this passage except for the fact that whilst re-reading the play tonight whilst writing an essay for it I found it particularly brilliant in describing teenage angst and apathy.
Next time I quote from Hamlet I would like to give a much more prominent quotation which relates to some of the core ideas of the text.
Here the 'foul and pestilent congregation of vapours' refers back to the key idea of promiscuity between his mother and Claudius, her husband(who is her previous husband's brother and who murdered his brother to become king)
It also deals with the notions of perception; Hamlet here despite acting in his 'antic disposition' seems to be voicing his own views (this speech reminds me particularly of his first soliloquy, and the line "oh, that this too too sallied flesh would melt" which I will need to do a whole separate blog post on)
Obviously another theme is the corruption of the court and the idea of surveillance, being able to see through everything that happens at the court so that there is no possibility of privacy.
The 'quintessence of dust', which is a beautiful phrase, asks questions about the nature of death. In context, it shows how Hamlet goes from the knowledge and capabilities of mankind and life to discussing death.
The entire section from which this quotation is taken shows the mix of idealism and pessimism that Hamlet battles with; his father is constantly idealised as a god-like figure, however here Hamlet voices the pessimistic ideas linking both with the corrupt court and Claudius. He also voices the pessimistic ideas associated with the end of the Renaissance period contrasted with the optimism of the Early Renaissance(voiced in the line "What piece of work is a man"
I hope to quote a lot more from Hamlet in the future,