"What a piece of work is man!"


Edwin Booth as Hamlet, c 1870
Public DomainEdwin Booth as Hamlet, c 1870 - Credit: US Library of Congress

A quote from Shakespeare's Hamlet, the third of his tragedies to be referenced within ten pages, casting an ominous shadow over the fate of the outcasts from the circus.

Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, becomes slowly mad as he seeks revenge for his father's death.  Speaking to his friend Rosencrantz, he describes the wonders of man: 

'How noble in reason, how infinite in faculties, in form and moving how express and admirable, in action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a god!' (Act 2, scene 2)

Despite this excellence, Hamlet says that he can find no joy in either man or woman, in earth or sky.  The low spirits which hang over him can find no release except, perhaps, in the achievement of his revenge.