In Hamlet's soliloquy at the end of Act 3, scene 2 What does the line, "O heart, lose not thy nature" mean?

SparkNotes's No Fear Shakespeare interprets it to "Oh, heart, don’t grow weak."

shakespeare-online.com interprets it to "lose not the natural feelings between a son and his mother"

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    The interpretation "Oh heart, don't grow weak" seems to be contradicted by the following lines "let not ever the soul of Nero enter this firm bosom: Let me be cruel, not unnatural." – Peter Shor Jul 20 '15 at 22:07

I understand it to mean both of those things. Shakespeare managed to pack a lot of meaning into his words. He would have been aware of all the possible senses.

If you wish to answer the question for yourself, think about what the nature of heart is in metaphor.

If we set aside science and medicine, the word 'heart' is most often used in relation to love and to courage.

The following website archives many sayings about the heart.

Heart Quotes and Proverbs



The word 'courage' derives ultimately from the Latin 'cor' meaning 'heart'.

courage (n.) Look up courage at Dictionary.comc. 1300, from Old French corage (12c., Modern French courage) "heart, innermost feelings; temper," from Vulgar Latin *coraticum (source of Italian coraggio, Spanish coraje), from Latin cor "heart," from PIE root *kerd- (1) "heart" (see heart (n.)) which remains a common metaphor for inner strength. In Middle English, used broadly for "what is in one's mind or thoughts," hence "bravery," but also "wrath, pride, confidence, lustiness," or any sort of inclination. Replaced Old English ellen, which also meant "zeal, strength."

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