Champion, Larry S. “A springe to catch woodcocks”: Proverbs, Characterization, and Political Ideology in Hamlet.” Studies 15 (1993): 24-39.


This article analyzes Shakespeare’s conscious use of proverbs “to develop and enhance characterization and also to lend emotional and intellectual credibility to an ideological leitmotif that foregrounds political issues of concern to the Elizabethan spectator” (26). The proverbs spoken by Polonius, Laertes, and Ophelia “reflect an intellectual shallowness”; Claudius’ proverbs “suggest something sinister and Machiavellian” about his character; and Hamlet’s proverbs (as well as the ones others use to describe the Prince) “reveal something of the complexity of the man” (28). Aside from helping to develop characters, Shakespeare’s application of proverbs also “forces the spectators’ attention to political issues that underlie the major action” (32), such as the struggle for power and concern for legitimacy. Given the political climate of the Elizabethan period, Shakespeare’s audience was interested in these political matters. The playwright uses proverbs “to generate a high degree of interest in oppositional politics by depicting diverse ideologies that compete on stage in recreated Denmark and in the minds of the English spectators” (34).

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Hassel, R. Chris, Jr. “Mouse and Mousetrap in Hamlet.” Shakespeare-Jahrbuch 135 (1999): 77- 92.


Expanding on John Doebler’s work, this essay explores the plethora of connotations of mouse and mousetrap. In relation to Gertrude, the mouse reference in the closet scene could be “a term of endearment” or a pejorative reference to a lustful person (79). Historically, mouse is also connected with “the devil’s entrapment of human lust with the mousetrap” (80); hence, Hamlet’s diction suggests that he perceives Gertrude “at once as the snare that catches the devil Claudius (and the son Hamlet?) in lust, and snared herself in the same devil’s mousetrap” (82). With Claudius, the mouse implies “destructive and lascivious impulses” (84). Hamlet also is associated with the mouse in his role as mouser or metaphorical cat. For example, the “cat-like, teasing method in Hamlet’s madness” appears in his dialogue with Claudius immediately prior to the start of The Mousetrap (88). The mousetrap trope becomes “part of a pattern of images in Hamlet that poises the clarity of poetic justice against a universe of dark of unknowing,” as “the trapper must himself die to purify a diseased kingdom” (91).

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