For, who would bear the whips and scorns of time,

We all would, wouldn’t we? Or at least most of us do, most of the time. We bear the whips and scorn until we cannot bear them any more.
Time will have his way with all of us whether we like it or not.

And it suddenly strikes me why this speech is so famous. I mean, it’s good, there’s that. But it’s also very general. The whips and scorns of time hit everyone and all the subsequent phrases of this sentence manage to cover lots of unhappy bases. Hamlet has lots of reasons to be unhappy and he mentions NONE of those here. You could stretch “The law’s delay” to relate to Hamlet’s succession perhaps. . .but it’s a very vague reference if it is one.

Hamlet’s specific whips and scorns are DEATH, and death of a parent no less, his mother’s hasty marriage and his girlfriend’s returning of his letters and not getting to be king when really he should be. And yet he’s talking about proud man’s contumely?

I don’t know. It all adds weight to the idea that Hamlet is giving this speech for the benefit of Polonius and Claudius. I mean, if he were really about to off himself, I feel like he’d be ranting a little more specifically.

In any case, the whips and scorns of time get us all. It is interesting how some of them we feel more keenly as we age and some of them less. Some things cut deeper now than they did when I was an awkward adolescent but I felt every sting of the whip more acutely then.

Watching some middle school students in action today, I was struck by what open wounds they can be, how keenly they feel every tiny thing. Somehow being a pre-teen turns children into princesses, feeling many peas under their mattresses. It’s not so much the whips and scorns of time, with them, but those of their fellow young people.

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