doth protest too much, methinks

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gatoran

Senior Member
Farsi
Feynman, in his book "Classic Feynman" takes his girlfriend to a dance where his two other friends were also there and the say "Now listen, Feynman, we want you to understand that we understand that Arline is your girl tonight, and we're not gonna bother you with her and she is out of bounds for us" but before long, there was cutting in and competition coming from precisely these guys and I learned the meaning of Shakespear's phrase "[He] doth protest too much, methinks."

Now please what does the phrase "[He] doth protest too much, methinks" mean in this context.
 
  • PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    "[He] doth protest too much, methinks. = "I consider that [He] is complaining too much.

    Feynman finds himself complaining too much about not having Arline to himself: he is referring to his own behaviour.
     

    se16teddy

    Senior Member
    English - England
    "[He] doth protest too much, methinks. = "I consider that [He] is complaining too much.
    I think the expression means more than this and says that he is making his point so vehemently that it makes me doubt his truthfulness. In the example of #1 Feyman's friends conspicuously assure him that they won't sniff around his girlfriend, and then they do so.

    There is more about the sense of the quotation here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_lady_doth_protest_too_much,_methinks
     
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    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    I agree with teddy: the "doth protest too much" only makes sense in this context if it's a reference to the friends rather than Feynman himself.
     

    Biffo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I disagree with PaulQ and agree pretty much with se16teddy.

    When Shakespeare used the word "protest" it did not mean "to complain". At that time and in that context it meant approximately "to assert". In the Feynman context it means approximately "to promise".

    The other guys promised solemnly, and without being asked, that they would keep out of Feynman's way. They then proceeded to break their promises. When, in Shakespeare's time, people boast about what they will do or make exaggerated promises they are "protesting too much".

    ___________________________________________________________
    Notes

    1. The nearest meaning that we retain in modern English is,
    protest
    to assert or affirm in a formal or solemn manner
    http://www.wordreference.com/definition/protest

    2. "too much" is not adverbial. It does not mean that the protestations are protracted. It is the direct object of "protest". The guys promised too much; they made too great a promise - more than they were prepared to keep.

    3. In the Shakespearian context, "Methinks she doth protest too much" is roughly equivalent to the modern "She is talking too much for her own good."
     
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