The lady doth protest too much Examples
This line "the lady doth protest too much, methinks," is spoken by Queen Gertrude in William Shakespeare's Hamlet. In Hamlet, Gertrude remarries after the death of Hamlet's father, the king. During the play, the royal family watches a play, "Moustrap," in which the actress who plays a queen vows that she will never remarry if something happens to the king. Here are the lines from Act III, Scene 2 of Hamlet:
Nor earth to me give food, nor heaven light!
Sport and repose lock from me day and night!
To desperation turn my trust and hope!
An anchor's cheer in prison be my scope!
Each opposite that blanks the face of joy
Meet what I would have well and it destroy!
Both here and hence pursue me lasting strife,
If, once a widow, ever I be wife!
If she should break it now!
'Tis deeply sworn. Sweet, leave me here awhile;
My spirits grow dull, and fain I would beguile
The tedious day with sleep.
Sleep rock thy brain,
And never come mischance between us twain!
Madam, how like you this play?
The lady protests too much, methinks.
O, but she'll keep her word.
The player queen vows that she will never be a wife again. When Hamlet asks his mother what she thinks, she replies, "The lady protests too much, methinks." In essence, Queen Gertrude is saying that the queen in the play is vowing too strongly, and calls into question whether she will keep her vow. Her over-dramatic vow leads Queen Gertrude to question whether or not she is sincere.
When this phrase is used today, it has a somewhat different meaning. Instead of being used to refer to someone who is vowing too strongly or who is seemingly insincere in their devotion, the phrase is used when someone is "protesting" too strongly. For example, if someone claims repeatedly not to like another person, the response may be "you protest too much."
Literary Terms Examples