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Re: The rest is silence

Posted by Victoria S Dennis on December 19, 2010 at 20:27

In Reply to: The rest is silence posted by Ray Eston Smith Jr on December 19, 2010 at 10:46:

: What does Hamlet mean by his last words, "The rest is silence." I'm going to cheat a little by answering my own question. Please respond with agreement, disagreement, or alternative explanations.
: Earlier in the play Laertes said of Hamlet: he...may give his saying further than the main voice of Denmark goes withal. He passed his dying voice (& Denmark) to Fortinbras.

I can't see any connection between the two passages. When Hamlet says that Fortinbras "has my dying voice", he means "I give him my vote"; that's all. And Laertes says to Ophelia:

"..if he [Hamlet] says he loves you,
It fits your wisdom so far to believe it
As he in his particular act and place
May give his saying deed; which is no further
Than the main voice of Denmark goes withal."

In other words, Hamlet cannot back up his vows of love with action unless [the monarch of] Denmark gives his consent. "Voice" is used in the first of these two passages to mean "an expression of choice or preference" and in the second to mean "expression of will or command". Both are standard senses of the word, in use well before Shakespeare's time, and precisely these are metaphorical senses, with no connotation of actual speech, neither has any necessary or obvious connection with Hamlet's dying reference to "silence".