And thus the native hue of resolution is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought, And enterprises of great pitch and momentWith this regard their currents turn awryAnd lose the name of action.

There are a lot of ingredients in the stew of this sentence. There are these color metaphors (the hue, the pale cast) and the disease idea (sicklied). Also music (pitch). Or is it? By the way, what are pitch and moment doing together? I like them. But. . .

Pitch could also be a tar-like substance (don’t think that’s the idea here) or perhaps a high place? There are things that people stand on, with a little extra height. Or the pitch of a boat as it sails over water with a lot of movement in it.

I think that’s got to be the one because then we have more water images, with the current turning awry. If this were two sentences, as it may well be in other editions, this mixing of metaphors might be more logical. But – logical or not – the music of this line is undeniable and the drive of it and the thrust of it. It is a great exploration of how we can get off course (yet another metaphor) – even if the course he’s talking about seems to be suicide.
Except that it also doesn’t feel like that. It’s like – the real question for Hamlet isn’t so much To Be or Not to Be but To Kill or Not to Kill. To be Revenged or Not to Be Revenged. To Trust a Ghost or Not to Trust a Ghost. This speech is a beautiful mystery.


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