Here's from Hamlet, Act 1, Scene 2.

and yet, within a month,—
Let me not think on't,—Frailty, thy name is woman!—
A little month; or ere those shoes were old
With which she followed my poor father's body
Like Niobe, all tears;—why she, even she,—
O God! a beast that wants discourse of reason,
Would have mourn'd longer,—married with mine uncle,
My father's brother; but no more like my father
Than I to Hercules:

I think "a beast that wants discourse of reason, Would have mourn'd longer," is an apodosis of a conditional sentence whose protasis is omitted. Right? I wonder what the protasis is. Is it "if she(= Hamlet's mother) had been a beast that wants discourse of reason"?

2 Answers 2


I don't think it's an apodosis. I think it's an aside, a comment so complete that it is a sentence.

O God! A beast that wants discourse of reason would have mourn'd longer.

  • I think "would have mourned" suggests that it is hypothetical, which means that it has a hidden condition. Oct 14, 2014 at 21:08
  • @ivanhoescott - might be. Oct 14, 2014 at 21:15
  • I'm asking about what the hidden condition is. Oct 14, 2014 at 21:22
  • "than she did"... Oct 14, 2014 at 21:23
  • 3
    @ivanhoescott Verbal forms traditionally labelled conditional do not necessarily imply any particular condition to be met. In this case, there is no particular condition. The meaning is: “Less than a month after my father died, she married my uncle. A month! Even a lowly animal that doesn’t possess the faculty of rational thought would have waited longer than that!”. If you wish, you can say that the condition is “if it had been in her position”, but it is not really necessary. Oct 14, 2014 at 21:52

I agree with @medica, this is a simple structure and not a conditional one. It's capable of standing as a sentence on its own, though in fact it is interjected in the middle of another clause.

The argument is that Hamlet's mother has not mourned for a long enough time after the death of her husband. Thus:

[Even] a beast that wants [lacks] discourse of reason would have mourned longer [than she has].

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