Historically Speaking

Making sense of it all!

Sweets To The Sweet

Posted by Elyse Bruce on July 6, 2010

The phrase “sweets to the sweet” certainly gets around whether it’s in horror movies or in candy boxes on Valentine’s Day.  It can have a sinister bent; it can be the most romantic of sayings.  So who originally coined this phrase?  Shakespeare, of course.

Hamlet’s mother, Queen Gertrude says this in Act 5, scene 1 of Hamlet at Ophelia’s funeral.  Ophelia is a young noblewoman of Denmark in the play — the daughter of Polonius, sister of Laertes, and Hamlet’s potential wife — who commits suicide.

QUEEN GERTRUDE:
Sweets to the sweet: farewell!

[Scattering flowers]

I hoped thou shouldst have been my Hamlet’s wife;
I thought thy bride-bed to have deck’d, sweet maid,
And not have strew’d thy grave.

Ophelia is surrounded by flowers throughout the play to illustrate her naiveté and innocence.  Being naive and innocent, of course, she sees no flaws in the people she loves and so, she is truly a “sweet maid.”

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