Hamlet without the Prince

Also:
Hamlet without the prince of Denmark
Hamlet without Hamlet

Meaning of Idiom ‘Hamlet Without the Prince’

Hamlet without the prince refers to a performance or event taking place without the most important performer or central figure, such as the lead speaker. 1Ayto, John. Oxford Dictionary of English Idioms. Oxford: Oxford U, 2010. ,2Knowles, Elizabeth. What They Didn’t Say: a Book of Misquotations. Oxford University Press, 2006.

Examples Of Use

“The 2005 ceremony for the Nobel Prize for literature drew many distinguished people, with one notable exception. Without Harold Pinter, to whom the award had been given, it was Hamlet without the Prince.” 3Knowles, Elizabeth. What They Didn’t Say: a Book of Misquotations. Oxford University Press, 2006.

“We can’t do our school play until we find someone else to play the main character. Our teacher says it’s Hamlet without the Prince. I thought we were doing Our Town.”

Origin

According to the Oxford Dictionary Of English Idioms, and other sources, the expression comes from a story given in the Morning Post of September 1775. A traveling theatrical troupe had announced a performance of Hamlet, but before the play began, the actor meant to play Hamlet ran off with an innkeeper’s daughter. Before beginning the play, the actors told the audience that the part of Hamlet was to be left out for that night, and they hoped the audience would forgive the omission. The “prince” in Hamlet is the central character, namely Hamlet himself, and without him, there is not much left of the play! 4Ayto, John. Oxford Dictionary of English Idioms. Oxford: Oxford U, 2010. ,5Knowles, Elizabeth. What They Didn’t Say: a Book of Misquotations. Oxford University Press, 2006.

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Sources   [ + ]

1, 4. Ayto, John. Oxford Dictionary of English Idioms. Oxford: Oxford U, 2010.
2, 3, 5. Knowles, Elizabeth. What They Didn’t Say: a Book of Misquotations. Oxford University Press, 2006.