Hamlet Glossary: O, what a rogue and peasant slave am I! (2.2)
Hecuba ] Trojan queen and heroine of classical mythology.
Earlier in this scene Hamlet asks the First Player to recite a monologue retelling Hecuba's response to the death of her husband, King Priam. The Player tells us that Hecuba's grief was profound and "Would have made milch the burning eyes of heaven/And passion in the gods." The contrast between Gertrude and Hecuba should be noted. To Hamlet, Hecuba has responded appropriately to her husband's death, while Gertrude has not.
To this well-painted piece is Lucrece come,
To find a face where all distress is stell'd.
Many she sees where cares have carved some,
But none where all distress and dolour dwell'd,
Till she despairing Hecuba beheld,
Staring on Priam's wounds with her old eyes,
Which bleeding under Pyrrhus' proud foot lies.
In her the painter had anatomized
Time's ruin, beauty's wreck, and grim care's reign:
Her cheeks with chaps and wrinkles were disguised;
Of what she was no semblance did remain:
Her blue blood changed to black in every vein,
Wanting the spring that those shrunk pipes had fed,
Show'd life imprison'd in a body dead. (1447-1460)