Jenny Pang ENG3U Mr. Sarno January 24, 2018 An Analysis of the Shakespeare’s QuoteWilliam Shakespeare is regarded as the most outstanding dramatist in the history of English literature, and he is hailed as “not of an age, but for all time” by Ben Jonson. One of his plays, Hamlet, is widely considered to be his greatest play. There are many famous sayings throughout the play. A well-known saying by Ophelia is, “We know what we are, but know not what we may be.”(Shakespeare 3) It is said when Ophelia is experiencing a mental breakdown.
What she means to say is we can only know what we are in the present in our lives because we cannot predict what we are going to experience later. Since we will never know what we are going to experience later, we have no way of knowing ourselves in the unknown future. Ophelia, a character of Hamlet, makes this good point when she is in a mental collapse. At first, she and Hamlet are lovers who love each other very much. Afterwards, “she is confused by Hamlet’s ambiguous words and actions, and is admonished by both her father and brother about pursuing relations with him”(eNotes Editors).
Then, she soon learns that Hamlet kills her father, and she is devastated by this shocking truth. It is certain that she never thinks that she will go through such a terrible thing, and “lose her sanity, or later commit suicide” (eNotes Editors). Hence, she illustrates her saying with her own experience, which is an accurate evaluation of ourselves. We live in the present, so what we know is what we know now; however, we do not know what we may become because we cannot predict what we are going to experience later. We live in the present, so we know what we are now.
In contrast, we may guess what we may experience, but we cannot be quite sure. This statement is exemplified by a highly legendary life experience of an influential Chinese artist Qi Baishi. Qi Baishi is from a needy family in Hunan Province. He only studies before he is twelve. Then, he learns carpentry at the age of fourteen.
He doesn’t start to learn painting until he is twenty-five years old. At this time, everyone, including himself, has not imagined that he will become a master of painting in the future. Until he is fifty-five, he changes his painting style due to the advice of the distinguished artist Chen Shizeng. From then on, he becomes famous. To be sure, he has never thought that he will change his painting style at the age of fifty-five, and becomes well-known.
Like the legendary life experience of Qi Baishi, life is always full of unknown because we can never predict the future. In conclusion, the life experience of Qi Baishi is a case in point to illustrate the saying, which means we will never know what we are going to experience, so we cannot know ourselves in the unknown future.To sum it all up, we know what we currently are, but have no idea of what we could become because we cannot predict what we are going to experience later. In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Ophelia says “We know what we are, but know not what we may be.”(Shakespeare 3) The saying is proved in play and in real life. We cannot predict what we are going to experience,so we can only know ourselves in the present. Works Cited MaudlinStreet.
;What does it mean when Ophelia says, “Lord, we know what we are, but not what we may be." How do these ideas relate to theme? In what ways does Hamlet struggle with this very idea?" eNotes, 21 Dec. 2009, HYPERLINK "https://www.enotes.com/homework-help/ophelia-says-lord-we-know-what-we-are-hamlet-125045" https://www.enotes.com/homework-help/ophelia-says-lord-we-know-what-we-are-hamlet-125045. Accessed 20 Jan. 2018.