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“Goodnight Sweet Prince” is a phrase and series of image macros that originally appeared on 4Chan approximately around 2006. Many assume the phrase was taken from the Shakespearean play “Hamlet”, although it is also quite possible /b/ also got the line from the either The Big Lebowski or Robocop; both taking it from Hamlet. It’s one of /b/’s many ways to troll people.
It is believed to have originated from 4chan. THe phrase can be also found in Shakespeare’s Hamlet:
Now cracks a noble heart. Good-night, sweet prince;
And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.
-Hamlet, Act V
“Goodnight Sweet Prince” images can be found on YTMND. Urban Dictionary has a couple of entries briefly explaining the meme and InterNature Blog provides a very brief description.
Although, as said above, the term is usually used for living celebrities, some have created (sometimes satirical, sometimes not) memorial pictures and videos of real dead people, usually of infamous dictators such as Hitler and Stalin but sometimes of celebrities such as Michael Jackson and Billy Mays. Others, because of it’s sincere and touching tone, use the phrase for pictures and video memorials of loved ones who have really passed on. Fictional characters may also be used for the lulz.
The use of the phrase is simple: take an image of a popular celebrity (preferably a living one) and slap the year of their birth and the year of their supposed “death” onto it. Then, post it on 4Chan and title it “Goodnight Sweet Prince”, grab yourself a beer, sit back, and watch the reactions (eg. OMG NICK JONAS IZ DED!!!!!!!!!! NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!11111).
Nowadays, most people recognize the meme, so they aren’t as naive and the reactions aren’t quite as amusing as they used to be. Occasionally, the odd n00b who has been living under a rock for the last few years who will buy whatever Anon says will fall for it. More often, another poster, going along with the joke, will reply claiming that it is true and to have heard about it on CNN.
Sometimes, the picture isn’t even of the said celebrity (for example, an Eddie Murphy memorial video with pictures of Dave Chappelle or a picture of Jackie Chan with a Micheal Jordon RIP).