|678 Mar. Something is rotten in the state of Denmarke.||1.4.90|
678 Werder (1859, trans. 1907, p. 110): That the whole court is “sunk into an abnormal condition of degradation” is evident from “simple” Marcellus’s expression [quotes 678]. “When a man like Claudius sits upon the throne and reigns with the consent of all the realm, the state is in decadence . . . .”
678 state] Kittredge (ed. 1939): "government, administration."
678 White (1993, p.92): “since it enables him to pinpoint state corruption: ’There must be something rotten in the very core of a social system which increases its wealth without diminishing its misery, and increases crimes even more rapidly in numbers.’ ”
Ed. note: Marx extracts what has become an adage and detaches it from its meaning in the play.
678 Kliman (1997): By having Marcellus say this line, as well as the decision of Marcellus and Bernardo to approach Horatio rather than someone close to the king, Sh. suggests that the rottenness has to do with the new regime."
678 King (2000, 59): “ . . . two allusions to rot . . . bookend the play: in act one a frightened Marcellus states, ’something is rotten in the state of Denmark’ . This first allusion to rot occurs in the homosocial all-male world of the guards and seemingly fixes the play’s conception of it: if something is rotten, it stands to reason that other things are not rotten. Indeed, much of the stage business of act one seems geared to make it appear that--on the surface level at least--the Danish court is running smoothly.”
678 state] Thompson & Taylor (ed. 2006): “polity, kingdom (as opposed to ’condition’)”
Wilson: Mallin +
678 Wilson (2007, p. 237) asserts that this line would have had, if indeed Hamlet were the Christmas play for 1603, a chilling effect on the Danish relatives of the queen who were present. He likens the rule of the Stuarts to a rule by Fortinbras had he won the single combat against King Hamlet. "In fact, images of disease in Hamlet may reflect the plague which ’accompanied James to the throne and augured ill for his reign.’ " [quoted from Mallin, Eric. p. 107 in "Succession, Revenge, and History: The Political Hamlet." In Inscribing the Time: Shakepeare and the End of Elizabethan England. Berkeley: U of California P, 1995.]