there is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so
 William Shakespeare, Hamlet (1623). copy citation

Author William Shakespeare
Source Hamlet
Topic bad good prison thinking
Date 1623
Language English
Reference The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, Act II, Scene 2
Note Written between 1599 and 1602 Hamlet line


“Denmark's a prison. ROSENCRANTZ. Then is the world one. HAMLET. A goodly one; in which there are many confines, wards, and dungeons, Denmark being one o' th' worst. ROSENCRANTZ. We think not so, my lord. HAMLET. 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.
ROSENCRANTZ. Why, then your ambition makes it one; 'tis too narrow for your mind. HAMLET. O God, I could be bounded in a nutshell, and count myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams.” source

Meaning and analysis

Kwize Master While Hamlet welcomes his old friends Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, he asks them what crime they may have committed to be sentenced to prison, explaining that Denmark is a prison in his opinion. The two friends reply that they do not think Denmark is a prison, and Hamlet retorts that things are not good or bad in themselves but that moral judgments are the result of one's own subjectivity.
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