The lady doth protest too much, methinks

14Jun

The lady doth protest too much, methinks

Wikipedia “The lady doth protest too much, methinks”

Original usage

The line, like most of Shakespeare’s works, is in iambic pentameter. It is found in Act III, Scene II of Hamlet, where it is spoken by Queen Gertrude, Hamlet’s mother.Gertrude uses the line in response to the insincere overacting of the Player Queen stating her love for her husband. The quotation comes from the Second Quarto edition of the play. Other versions contain the simpler line “The lady protests too much, methinks”.

Contemporary usage

The line is typically quoted (or misquoted, as in “methinks the lady doth protest too much”) to suggest that someone who is strongly denying something is hiding the truth, or to imply doubt in a person’s sincerity.The phrase can be used this way even when the subject is male

In rhetorical terms, the phrase can be thought of as indicating an unintentional apophasis—where the speaker who “protests too much” in favor of some assertion puts into others’ minds the idea that the assertion is false, something that they may not have considered before.

The quotation’s meaning has changed somewhat since it was first written: whereas in modern parlance “protest” in this context often means a denial, in Shakespeare’s time to “protest” meant “to make protestation or solemn affirmation”.