something is rotten in the state of Denmark

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A line spoken by Marcellus in William Shakespeare's Hamlet, Act I, scene iv.


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something is rotten in the state of Denmark

  1. (idiomatic) Something is not right, seriously amiss, especially when leading to suspicion of motive.
    If the authorities knew about the problems and chose not to prevent them, then clearly something is rotten in the state of Denmark.
    • 1992 November 18, Lord Mackie of Benshie, “World Food Situation”, in parliamentary debates (Lords Chamber)‎[1], volume 540, column 661:
      If divided roughly, two-thirds of them work in desk jobs while one-third are involved in field work. When one gets that sort of proportion one begins to think, “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark”.
    • 2016, Robin Morgan, editor, Sisterhood Is Global [] , Open Road Media, →ISBN:
      My belief that something is rotten in the State of Denmark is bred by recent developments, both political and cultural. I feel that the feminist movement is now more on the defensive than the offensive, []