Hamlet is Pregnant – Post #13

The word “pregnant,” of Latin and French origins, conventionally means to have a “bun in the oven,” to be “expecting.” According to the Oxford English Dictionary, this seemingly mono-defined and biologically-centered word can entail something completely different; “Destined to produce a great many results or consequences, full of significance, momentous,” or “Of a person or the mind: full of ideas; imaginative, inventive; resourceful.” The word was coined in the 14th century, being used as a rich descriptive term with the latter of the above definitions.

“Pregnant” shows up a total of three times in the play:

“Polonius: Indeed, that’s out of the air. How pregnant sometimes his replies are! A happiness that often madness hits on, which reason and sanity could not so prosperously be delivered of.”

“Yet I, A dull and muddy-mettled rascal, peak
Like John-a-dreams, unpregnant of my cause,
And can say nothing—no, not for a king
Upon whose property and most dear life
A damned defeat was made. Am I a coward?”

“No, let the candied tongue lick absurd pomp
And crook the pregnant hinges of the knee
Where thrift may follow fawning. Dost thou hear?”

Interestingly enough, the first instance (and most significant of the inclusions) of the word closely follows the famous line in Hamlet, “Words, words, words,” as Polonius converses with Hamlet. He questions what the prince had been reading just moments before, and Hamlet, as per, responds with a word heavy and drawn out response. Polonius, by introducing “pregnant” as an adjective for Hamlet’s novel-worthy statements, perfectly describes his complex diction and pondering personality as a whole. Throughout the play, the prince is the character whose wit, intelligence, and knack for contemplation outshines all other characters’ (debatably). Hamlet is also ever-changing; He changes his mind constantly and he always makes sure to analyze every possible outcomes of a situation, giving intense thought to each all in real-time. The prince is essentially a textbook example of the original meaning of “pregnant”, that which has a multitude of outcomes or possibilities. He is filled to the brim with blooming and branching thoughts, “mad” hypotheses and explanations of the unknown, and a plethora of notions in general. The introduction of the word acts as a point where the viewer or reader of the play can come to fruition of the developed and whirlwind nature of the character Hamlet.

Also, the fact that someone takes the time to directly point out that Hamlet’s mind embodies this “pregnancy” is almost ironic, because Hamlet would never make such a blunt assertion.

About Regina Gagnon

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3 Responses to Hamlet is Pregnant – Post #13

  1. Prof Kolb says:

    Great word to choose!

  2. d.gorelik says:

    Hi Regina,
    I really loved your post! Your exploration of the word pregnant, outside of its usual definition and in the context of Hamlet, was brilliant. It is very interesting how the word pregnant evolved to be defined as “destined to produce a great many results or consequences, full of significance, momentous.” A childbirth is typically described as ‘momentous’ and ‘full of significance’, I can see how ‘pregnant’ can come to mean the same for one’s actions.
    Your post reminded me of an expression which I always thought to be rather peculiar, ‘pregnant pause.’

  3. Hi Regina,

    I admire your choice of ‘pregnant’. You make an appropriate connection between the word’s original meanings of being ‘imaginative’ and ‘momentous’ to Hamlet’s creativity and proneness to give long speeches full of significance.
    Finally, you conclude the post with an amusing comment about the irony of the matter. Great post!

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