One of the reasons why Shakespeare’s plays are still with us and still relevant is because even the simplest lines relate to common human experiences. Take for example, something Hamlet says to his friend Horatio, who gapes in wonder at the ghost of Hamlet’s father.
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
Hamlet in The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, Act 1 Sc. 5
Until I looked it up, I was convinced that the quote ran “There are stranger things…” because in the moment and in context, that seems to be what Hamlet is saying. He seems to be chastising his friend for his lack of imagination.
But he actually says “more” not “stranger.” Hamlet is not criticizing Horatio; he’s stating a fact of the human condition.
There are more things in heaven and earth than in anyone’s understanding of them, because we cannot know and experience everything. Our world is bounded by what our senses perceive, what our minds can process, and what our philosophies will admit as truth.
As children, our world is often defined by our family’s understanding of it, because the questions we ask are answered from that specific point of view. As we grow and age, our experiences expand. We being to interpret things for ourselves and even question some of the things we’ve been taught. We become wiser and more compassionate as our interactions with the world around us grow broader and more complex.
When I was sixteen, I thought I knew everything. Perhaps I did given the little world I lived in at the time. But the older I get, the less I know. I continue to observe and study the world around me in hopes of learning more, but with every thing I experience comes the realization of how much more is out there, how I have barely scratched the surface with my understanding.
What about you? Do Hamlet’s words to Horatio resonate with you?