I do not set my life at a pin's fee,
And for my soul, what can it do to that,
Being a thing immortal as itself?
- Hamlet (1.4.65), Hamlet to Horatio
a pin's fee ] - i.e., worth a pin and therefore, worthless.
Shakespeare makes reference to pins many times in his plays as they were a fashionable product in Elizabethan England, and newly available in bulk at cheap prices.
In The Chamber's Journal of Popular Literature, Science and Arts (1870), William Chambers notes that "the pin, unpoetical trifle as it is, points the climax of one of Shakespeare's finest and most pathetic speeches" (681):
Within the hollow crown
That rounds the mortal temples of a king
Keeps Death his court and there the antic sits,
Scoffing his state and grinning at his pomp,
Allowing him a breath, a little scene,
To monarchize, be fear'd and kill with looks,
Infusing him with self and vain conceit,
As if this flesh which walls about our life,
Were brass impregnable, and humour'd thus
Comes at the last and with a little pin
Bores through his castle wall, and farewell king! (Richard II, 3.2)
Chambers, W. & R. The Chamber's Journal of Popular Literature, Science and Arts. London: William Chambers, 1870. [Free download on Google books.]
How to cite this article:
Mabillard, Amanda. Quick Quote: a pin's feeShakespeare Online. 20 Aug. 2000. (date when you accessed the information) < http://www.shakespeare-online.com/quickquote/quickquotehamletpinshtml >.