The lady doth protest too much, methinks
The quotation "The lady doth protest too much, methinks." comes from Shakespeare's Hamlet, Act III, scene II, where it is spoken by Queen Gertrude, Hamlet's mother. The phrase has come to mean that one can "insist so passionately about something not being true that people suspect the opposite of what one is saying." This usage of the phrase is based on a misunderstanding of the meaning of the word "protest" as it was used in Shakespeare's day, as the "protest" of the lady is not a protest in the modern sense of the word, but an affirmation or avowal.
The phrase's actual meaning is, "I think the lady is promising too much." In the play, Hamlet's father has died, and his father's ghost has told Hamlet that he has been murdered (by Claudius). Hamlet has arranged the play for his mother Gertude and his uncle/stepfather King Claudius to watch: "The play's the thing, wherein I'll catch the conscience of the king." Hamlet wants to see if Claudius squirms or sweats at the point in the play where the woman's husband is murdered by her lover (or future lover). If so, he'll have some decent evidence that Claudius killed his father. Hamlet arranged for the woman in the play to promise ("protest") to her husband that if he dies she will never remarry. At this point, Hamlet asks his mother how she likes the play so far, and Gertude famously replies, "The lady protests too much, methinks." In other words, she's promising too much. Gertude is protecting her own conscience about having married Hamlet's uncle after his father died. Hamlet replies, "O, but she'll keep her word." He's rubbing it in that his mother hasn't lived up to the standard of the woman in the play.
The phrase is used frequently today. For example, a 2000 episode of the television program Moesha was titled "He Doth Protest Too Much". An unaired episode of the television program Out of Practice was titled "The Lady Doth Protest Too Much". Andrew Klavan wrote an article for the Los Angeles Times in 2006 called "Clinton Doth Protest Too Much." Alanis Morissette wrote a song named "Doth I Protest Too Much", for her album So-Called Chaos. In Venus in Fur, the Tony Award nominated play by David Ives, the mysterious Vanda proclaims "Methinks the lady doth protest too much!" as she pries for information regarding Thomas' defensiveness about his sexual past. In the recent block buster The Iron Lady documenting the life of British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher an opposition MP uses the phrase "Me thinks the lady doth screech too loud," reflecting anti feminist tendencies in the House of Commons in the 1970s. The phrase was also spoken by the robot Calculon in the Futurama film "A Beast With A Billion Backs"
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