There Is Nothing Either Good Or Bad, But Thinking Makes It So.
I have a new favourite Shakespeare quote.I took some analysis from the internet to save me typing it up.
What's the news?
None, my lord, but that the world's grown honest.
Then is doomsday near: but your news is not true.
Let me question more in particular: what have you,
my good friends, deserved at the hands of fortune,
that she sends you to prison hither?
Prison, my lord!
Denmark's a prison.
Then is the world one.
A goodly one; in which there are many confines,
wards and dungeons, Denmark being one o' the worst.
We think not so, my lord.
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.
Why then, your ambition makes it one; 'tis too
narrow for your mind.
O God, I could be bounded in a nut shell and count
myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I
have bad dreams.
Which dreams indeed are ambition, for the very
substance of the ambitious is merely the shadow of a dream.
A dream itself is but a shadow.
Truly, and I hold ambition of so airy and light a
quality that it is but a shadow's shadow.
Then are our beggars bodies, and our monarchs and
outstretched heroes the beggars' shadows. Shall we
to the court? for, by my fay, I cannot reason.
According to enotes, 'what brings Rosencrantz and Guildenstern�two of Hamlet's acquaintances from the university�to Denmark isn't Lady Fortune but, as Hamlet suspects, King Claudius. Claudius is worried about Hamlet's seeming distraction, thinking it might be a threat to the state and to the king himself. Claudius coerces Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, who aren't too bright, into service as spies, hoping they can lull the prince into revealing the true cause of his "antic disposition" [see p. 2].
When Hamlet calls Denmark a prison, therefore, the metaphor is apt. He is mentally and physically confined by the gaze of the king and his agents, and he feels trapped in the court's general degradation�"Something is rotten in the state of Denmark," as Marcellus had said [see p. 135].
Hamlet is a prisoner of his own thinking, and of his knowledge that his stepfather is a fratricide and his mother incestuous. When he states that "there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so," he's not indulging in ethical relativism as much as wishing for blissful ignorance. He's also implicitly damning the na�vet� of the king's new yes-men.'
I haven't studied Hamlet yet, but personally I think this quote is better if instead you take all the possible meanings on board. It's a great example of the power of ambiguity imho. All the meanings add up to make you "think" more about the issue. It can mean so many things, for example:
- Morality is relative?
- Morality is not relative, if only you think?
- Ignorance is bliss?
- If you're not suicidal, like Hamlet, perhaps you're not thinking enough?
- The king's men are stupid
At first I thought the phrase meant "there's nothing good or bad, we just think there is". But then, after "thinking" some more, I thought perhaps it means you ought to realise there's good and bad by thinking more about things!