Hamlet, Prince of Denmark
The following version of Hamlet is based on the text in the authoritative
1914 Oxford Edition of Shakespeare's works, edited by W. J. Craig. The
text numbers the lines, including those with stage directions such as
"Enter" and "Exit." The annotations (notes and definitions) by Michael J. Cummings appear in boldfaced type.
The character list includes descriptions and comments that did not appear in the original manuscript of the play.
Hamlet: Son of a murdered
Danish king (who was also named Hamlet) and
nephew and stepson of the present king, Claudius. Hamlet suffers great
anguish over the death of his father, the marriage of his mother to the
suspected murderer (Claudius, the brother of the dead king), and the
clash between his moral sense
and his desire for revenge against his father's murderer. To ensnare
the killer, Hamlet pretends madness. Some Shakespeare interpreters
contend that he really does suffer a mental breakdown. Hamlet is highly
intelligent and well liked by the citizens, although at times he can be
petty and cruel. Hamlet is the protagonist, or main character. The play
centers on him and his effort to avenge the murder of his father.
Claudius: The new king of Denmark, Hamlet's uncle and stepfather. He becomes king
after Hamlet's father, the previous king, is found dead in his orchard.
Hamlet suspects that Claudius murdered him.
Hamlet's mother and widow of the murdered king. She continues as queen
of Denmark after she marries Claudius. That the marriage took place
within two months after the late king's
funeral deeply disturbs Hamlet.
Ghost of Hamlet's Father: An apparition of old King Hamlet.
Polonius: Bootlicking lord chamberlain of King Claudius. A lord chamberlain managed a royal household.
Ophelia: Daughter of Polonius. She loves Hamlet, but his pretended
madness—during which he rejects her—and the death of her father trigger
a pathological reaction in her.
Horatio: Hamlet's best friend. Horatio never wavers in his loyalty to
Hamlet. At the end of the play, he recites immortal lines: "Good
night, sweet prince, / And flights of angels sing thee to thy
Son of Polonius and brother of Ophelia. Circumstances make him an
enemy of Hamlet, and they duel to the death in a fencing match near the
end the play. As a man who reacts to circumstances quickly, with
a minimum of reflection on the meaning and possible outcome of his
actions, Laertes contrasts sharply with the pensive and indecisive
Hamlet and, thus, serves as his foil.
Rosencrantz, Guildenstern: Courtiers and friends of Hamlet who attended
school with him. They turn against him to act as spies for Claudius and
agents in Claudius's scheme to have Hamlet murdered in England. Hamlet
quickly smells out their deception and treachery.
Marcellus, Bernardo: Officers who are the first to see the ghost of Hamlet's father.
Francisco: Another officer.
Voltimand, Cornelius, Osric: Courtiers who bear messages for the king.
Osric informs Hamlet of the fencing match arranged for him and Laertes. A courtier is an attendant at the court of a monarch.
Reynaldo: Servant of Polonius.
Fortinbras: Prince of Norway, who is on the march with an army. In
battlefield combat (referred to in the play but not taking place during
the play), old King Hamlet slew the father of Fortinbras and annexed
Norwegian territory. Fortinbras seeks revenge.
Players: Actors who arrive at Elsinore to offer an entertainment.
Hamlet directs one of them, referred to as the First Player, to stage a drama
called The Mouse-trap, about a throne-seeker who murders a king. Hamlet
hopes the play will cause Claudius to react in a way that reveals his
guilt as the murderer of old King Hamlet. As The Mouse-trap unfolds on a
stage at Elsinore, the actors are referred to as the following:
Prologue: Actor presenting a one-sentence prologue to the play.
Clowns (Gravediggers): Two peasants who dig Ophelia's grave. The word clown in Shakespeare's time often referred to a peasant or rustic.
Player King: Actor portraying a king (whom Hamlet refers to as Gonzago, the Duke of Vienna).
Player Queen: Actor portraying the queen (whom Hamlet refers to as Baptista, the Duchess of Vienna).
Lucianus: Actor portraying the king's nephew and his murderer.
Yorick: Court jester of old King Hamlet. He amused and looked after
the younger Hamlet when the latter was a child. Yorick is dead during the play, But
his skull, which one of the gravediggers exhumes in Act 5, Scene 1, arouses old
memories in Hamlet that provide a glimpse of his childhood. The skull
also feeds Hamlet's morbid preoccupation with death.
Claudio: Man who relays messages for the king and queen from Hamlet after he escapes from a ship carrying him to England.
Minor Characters: Ship captain, English ambassadors, lords, ladies, officers, soldiers, sailors, messengers, attendants.
Special Character Designations
Protagonist: Hamlet is the protagonist, or main character. The play centers on him and his effort to avenge the murder of his father.
is the flesh-and-blood antagonist (an opponent of the protagonist). He
spends much of his time plotting against Hamlet. Another antagonist is
an abstract one: Hamlet's indecisiveness in acting against Claudius.
Foil of Hamlet:
Laertes is the main foil of Hamlet. A foil is a character who contrasts
sharply with another character. Laertes is decisive and even headstrong
whereas Hamlet is indecisive and procrastinating.
Hamlet, Prince of Denmark
The Complete Text
Act 1, Scene 1: Elsinore. A platform before the castle. [The platform is a floor surrounded by battlements.]
Act 1, Scene 2: A room of state in the castle.
Act 1, Scene 3: A room in the house of Polonius.
Act 1, Scene 4: A platform before the castle.
Act 1, Scene 5: Another part of the platform.
Act 2, Scene 1: A room in the house of Polonius.
Act 2, Scene 2: A room in the castle.
Act 3, Scene 1: A room in the castle.
Act 3, Scene 2: A hall in the castle.
Act 3, Scene 3: A room in the castle.
Act 3, Scene 4: The queen's apartment.
Act 4, Scene 1: A room in the castle.
Act 4, Scene 2: Another room in the castle.
Act 4, Scene 3: Another room in the castle.
Act 4, Scene 4: A plain in Denmark.
Act 4, Scene 5: Elsinore. A room in the castle.
Act 4, Scene 6: Another room in the castle.
Act 4, Scene 7: Another room in the castle.
Act 5, Scene 1: A churchyard [cemetery]
Act 5, Scene 2: A hall in the castle.
Act 1, Scene 1
Elsinore. A platform before the castle.
Francisco at his post. Enter BERNARDO.
BERNARDO: Who’s there?
FRANCISCO: Nay, answer me; stand, and unfold [identify] yourself.
BERNARDO: Long live the king! 5
FRANCISCO: You come most carefully upon your hour.
BERNARDO: ’Tis now struck twelve; get thee to bed, Francisco.
FRANCISCO: For this relief much thanks; ’tis bitter
And I am sick at heart.
BERNARDO: Have you had quiet guard?
FRANCISCO: Not a mouse stirring.
BERNARDO: Well, good-night.
If you do meet Horatio and Marcellus, 15
The rivals [partners] of my watch, bid them make haste.
FRANCISCO: I think I hear them. Stand, ho! Who’s there?
Enter HORATIO and MARCELLUS.
HORATIO: Friends to this ground [Friends to Elsinore].
MARCELLUS: And liegemen to the Dane [loyal subjects of the
FRANCISCO: Give you good-night.
MARCELLUS: O! farewell, honest soldier:
Who hath reliev’d you?
FRANCISCO: Bernardo has my place.
Give you good-night. [Exit. 25
MARCELLUS: Holla! [Hello!] Bernardo!
What! is Horatio there?
HORATIO: A piece of him.
[piece of him: Horatio is only half-awake.]
BERNARDO: Welcome, Horatio; welcome, good Marcellus. 30
MARCELLUS: What! has this thing appear’d again to-night?
BERNARDO: I have seen nothing.
MARCELLUS: Horatio says ’tis but our fantasy,
And will not let belief take hold of him
Touching this dreaded sight twice seen of us: 35
Therefore I have entreated him along
With us to watch the minutes of this night;
That if again this apparition come,
He may approve our eyes and speak to it.
HORATIO: Tush, tush! ’twill not appear. 40
BERNARDO: Sit down a while,
And let us once again assail your ears,
[assail . . . ears: Tell you; fill your ears]
That are so fortified against our story,
What we two nights have seen.
HORATIO: Well, sit we down, 45
And let us hear Bernardo speak of this.
BERNARDO: Last night of all,
When yond same star that’s westward from the pole
[yond: Yonder; star: North Star, on the outer edge of the Little Dipper.]
Had made his course to illume that part of heaven
Where now it burns, Marcellus and myself, 50
The bell then beating one,—
MARCELLUS: Peace! break thee off; look, where it comes again!
BERNARDO: In the same figure, like the king that’s dead.
[the king: Old King Hamlet, who was murdered]
MARCELLUS: Thou art a scholar; speak to it, Horatio. 55
BERNARDO: Looks it not like the king? mark it, Horatio.
HORATIO: Most like: it harrows me with fear and wonder.
BERNARDO: It would be spoke to.
MARCELLUS: Question it, Horatio.
HORATIO: What art thou that usurp’st this time of
Together with that fair and war-like form
In which the majesty of buried Denmark
[buried Denmark: The buried king]
Did sometimes march? by heaven I charge thee, speak!
MARCELLUS: It is offended.
BERNARDO: See! it stalks away. 65
HORATIO: Stay! speak, speak! I charge thee, speak! [Exit Ghost.
MARCELLUS: ’Tis gone, and will not answer.
BERNARDO: How now, Horatio! you tremble and look pale:
Is not this something more than fantasy?
What think you on ’t? 70
HORATIO: Before my God, I might not this believe
Without the sensible and true avouch [testimony]
Of mine own eyes.
MARCELLUS: Is it not like the king?
HORATIO: As thou art to thyself: 75
Such was the very armour he had on
When he the ambitious Norway [king of Norway] combated;
So frown’d he once, when, in an angry parle [parley] ,
He smote the sledded Polacks on the ice.
[smote . . . ice: Struck his poleax (long-handled battle-axe) on the ice]
’Tis strange. 80
MARCELLUS: Thus twice before, and jump at this dead hour,
[jump . . . hour: At this very same hour]
With martial stalk hath he gone by our watch.
[martial stalk: The walk of a warrior]
HORATIO: In what particular thought to work I know not;
But in the gross and scope of my opinion,
[in . . . opinion: Overall I think]
This bodes some strange eruption to our state. 85
MARCELLUS: Good now, sit down, and tell me, he that knows,
Why this same strict and most observant watch
So nightly toils the subject of the land;
And why such daily cast of brazen cannon,
And foreign mart for implements of war; 90
Why such impress of shipwrights, whose sore task
Does not divide the Sunday from the week;
What might be toward, that this sweaty haste
Doth make the night joint-labourer with the day:
Who is ’t that can inform me? 95
[Why this . . . inform me: Why are we keeping this nightly watch up
here on the castle? Why are our artisans hard at
work every day making cannons, why is our country so busy buying
weapons of war, and why are we hiring so many men to build ships? Why
is everyone working in such a sweat, day and night. Who can tell me?]
HORATIO: That can I;
At least, the whisper goes so. Our last king [King Hamlet],
Whose image even but now appear’d to us,
Was, as you know, by Fortinbras of Norway,
Thereto prick’d on by a most emulate pride, 100
[prick'd . . . pride: Goaded on by a most ambitious pride]
Dar’d to the combat; in which our valiant Hamlet—
For so this side of our known world esteem’d him—
Did slay this Fortinbras; who, by a seal’d compact,
Well ratified by law and heraldry,
Did forfeit with his life all those his lands 105
Which he stood seiz’d of, to the conqueror;
Against the which, a moiety competent [reasonable portion]
Was gaged [pledged] by our king; which had return’d
To the inheritance of Fortinbras,
Had he been vanquisher; as, by the same covenant, 110
And carriage of the article design’d,
His fell to Hamlet. Now, sir, young Fortinbras,
Of unimproved mettle hot and full,
Hath in the skirts of Norway here and there
Shark’d up a list of lawless resolutes, 115
[Shark'd . . . resolutes: Recruited hoodlums]
For food and diet, to some enterprise
That hath a stomach in ’t; which is no other—
As it doth well appear unto our state—
But to recover of us, by strong hand
And terms compulsative, those foresaid lands 120
[terms compulsative: Terms forced on Elsinore]
So by his father lost. And this, I take it,
Is the main motive of our preparations,
The source of this our watch and the chief head
Of this post-haste and romage [heightened activity] in the land.
BERNARDO: I think it be no other but e’en so; 125
Well may it sort that this portentous figure [the ghost]
Comes armed through our watch, so like the king
That was and is the question of these wars.
HORATIO: A mote [speck] it is to trouble the mind’s eye.
In the most high and palmy state of Rome, 130
A little ere [before] the mightiest Julius [Julius Caesar] fell,
The graves stood tenantless and the sheeted dead
Did squeak and gibber in the Roman streets;
As stars with trains of fire and dews of blood,
Disasters in the sun; and the moist star [moon] 135
Upon whose influence Neptune’s empire stands
[Upon . . . stands: The seas make up the empire of Neptune, the god of
the sea in Roman mythology. The ebb and flow of the tides depend on the
gravitational pull of the moon.]
Was sick almost to doomsday with eclipse;
And even the like precurse of fierce events,
As harbingers preceding still the fates
And prologue to the omen coming on, 140
Have heaven and earth together demonstrated
Unto our climatures and countrymen.
[And even . . . countrymen: Denmark is experiencing the same kind of ill omens that preceded Caesar's assassination.]
But, soft! [soft: Pay attention; stand at attention; take note] behold! lo! where it comes again.
I’ll cross it, though it blast me. Stay, illusion! 145
If thou hast any sound, or use of voice,
Speak to me:
If there be any good thing to be done,
That may to thee do ease and grace to me,
Speak to me: 150
If thou art privy to thy country’s fate,
Which happily foreknowing may avoid,
Or if thou hast uphoarded [hoarded, stored up] in thy life
Extorted treasure in the womb of earth, 155
For which, they say, you spirits oft walk in death, [Cock crows.
Speak of it: stay, and speak! Stop it, Marcellus.
MARCELLUS: Shall I strike at it with my partisan [long-shafted weapon mounted with a blade]?
HORATIO: Do, if it will not stand.
BERNARDO: ’Tis here! 160
HORATIO: ’Tis here! [Exit Ghost.
MARCELLUS: ’Tis gone!
We do it wrong, being so majestical,
To offer it the show of violence;
For it is, as the air, invulnerable, 165
And our vain blows malicious mockery.
BERNARDO: It was about to speak when the cock crew [crowed].
HORATIO: And then it started like a guilty thing
Upon a fearful summons. I have heard,
The cock, that is the trumpet to the morn, 170
Doth with his lofty and shrill-sounding throat
Awake the god of day; and at his warning,
Whether in sea or fire, in earth or air,
The extravagant and erring spirit hies [runs off]
To his confine; and of the truth herein 175
This present object made probation [proof].
MARCELLUS: It faded on the crowing of the cock.
Some say that ever ’gainst that season comes
Wherein our Saviour’s birth is celebrated,
The bird of dawning [rooster] singeth all night long; 180
And then, they say, no spirit can walk abroad;
The nights are wholesome; then no planets strike,
No fairy takes, nor witch hath power to charm,
So hallow’d and so gracious is the time.
HORATIO: So have I heard and do in part believe it. 185
But, look, the morn in russet mantle clad,
Walks o’er the dew of yon high eastern hill;
Break we our watch up; and by my advice
Let us impart what we have seen to-night
Unto young Hamlet; for, upon my life, 190
This spirit, dumb to us, will speak to him.
Do you consent we shall acquaint him with it,
As needful in our loves, fitting our duty?
MARCELLUS: Let’s do ’t, I pray; and I this morning know
Where we shall find him most conveniently. [Exeunt. [Exeunt is a stage direction indicating the exit of several or all the characters onstage.]
Act 1, Scene 2
A room of state in the castle.
Enter the KING, QUEEN, HAMLET, POLONIUS, LAERTES, VOLTIMAND, CORNELIUS, Lords, and Attendants.
KING: Thought yet of Hamlet our dear brother’s death
The memory be green, and that it us befitted
To bear our hearts in grief and our whole kingdom 5
To be contracted in one brow of woe,
Yet so far hath discretion fought with nature
That we with wisest sorrow think on him,
Together with remembrance of ourselves.
Therefore our sometime sister, now our queen, 10
The imperial jointress of this war-like state,
Have we, as ’twere with a defeated joy,
With one auspicious and one dropping eye,
With mirth in funeral and with dirge in marriage,
In equal scale weighing delight and dole, 15
Taken to wife: nor have we herein barr’d
Your better wisdoms, which have freely gone
With this affair along: for all, our thanks.
Now follows, that you know, young Fortinbras,
Holding a weak supposal [supposition; assumption] of our
Or thinking by our late dear brother’s death
Our state to be disjoint and out of frame,
Colleagued [coupled; joined] with the dream of his advantage,
He hath not fail’d to pester us with message,
Importing the surrender of those lands 25
Lost by his father, with all bands of law,
To our most valiant brother. So much for him.
Now for ourself and for this time of meeting.
Thus much the business is: we have here writ
To Norway, uncle of young Fortinbras, 30
Who, impotent and bed-rid, scarcely hears
Of this his nephew’s purpose, to suppress
His further gait herein; in that the levies,
The lists and full proportions, are all made
Out of his subject; and we here dispatch 35
You, good Cornelius, and you, Voltimand,
For bearers of this greeting to old Norway,
Giving to you no further personal power
To business with the king more than the scope
Of these delated [outlined] articles allow. 40
Farewell and let your haste commend your duty.
CORNELIUS and VOLTIMAND: In that and all things will we show our duty.
KING: We doubt it nothing: heartily farewell. [Exeunt VOLTIMAND and CORNELIUS.
And now, Laertes, what’s the news with you?
You told us of some suit; what is ’t, Laertes? 45
You cannot speak of reason to the Dane,
And lose your voice; what wouldst thou beg, Laertes,
That shall not be my offer, not thy asking?
The head is not more native to the heart,
The hand more instrumental to the mouth, 50
Than is the throne of Denmark to thy father.
What wouldst thou have, Laertes?
LAERTES: Dread my lord,
[Dread my lord: Dreaded lord; esteemed lord; great lord]
Your leave and favour to return to France;
From whence though willingly I came to Denmark, 55
To show my duty in your coronation,
Yet now, I must confess, that duty done,
My thoughts and wishes bend again toward France
And bow them to your gracious leave and pardon.
KING: Have you your father’s leave? What says
POLONIUS: He hath, my lord, wrung from me my slow leave
By laboursome petition, and at last
Upon his will I seal’d my hard consent:
I do beseech you, give him leave to go.
KING: Take thy fair hour, Laertes; time be thine, 65
And thy best graces spend it at thy will.
But now, my cousin Hamlet, and my son,—
HAMLET: [Aside.] A little more than kin, and less than kind. [In an aside,
a character lowers his voice or whispers so that another
character (or other characters) onstage cannot hear him. Sometimes, the
speaker of an aside allows a friend or someone else near him to hear
KING: How is it that the clouds still hang on you?
HAMLET: Not so, my lord; I am too much i’ the sun. 70
[I am . . . sun: A pun. Hamlet is subtly intimating that he does not like being the son, or stepson, of Claudius.]
QUEEN: Good Hamlet, cast thy nighted colour off,
And let thine eye look like a friend on Denmark.
Do not for ever with thy vailed lids
Seek for thy noble father [old Hamlet] in the dust:
Thou know’st ’tis common; all that live must die, 75
Passing through nature to eternity.
HAMLET: Ay, madam, it is common.
QUEEN: If it be,
Why seems it so particular with thee?
HAMLET: Seems, madam! Nay, it is; I know not ‘seems.’ 80
’Tis not alone my inky cloak, good mother,
Nor customary suits of solemn black,
Nor windy suspiration of forc’d breath,
No, nor the fruitful river in the eye,
Nor the dejected haviour [appearance] of the visage, 85
Together with all forms, modes, shows of grief,
That can denote me truly; these indeed seem,
For they are actions that a man might play:
But I have that within which passeth show;
[But . . . show: No one can see what I am thinking or feeling.]
These but the trappings and the suits of woe. 90
KING: ’Tis sweet and commendable in your nature, Hamlet,
To give these mourning duties to your father:
But, you must know, your father lost a father;
That father lost, lost his; and the survivor bound
In filial obligation for some term 95
To do obsequious sorrow; but to persevere
In obstinate condolement [mourning] is a course
Of impious stubbornness; ’tis unmanly grief:
It shows a will most incorrect to heaven,
A heart unfortified, a mind impatient, 100
An understanding simple and unschool’d:
For what we know must be and is as common
As any the most vulgar thing to sense,
Why should we in our peevish opposition
Take it to heart? Fie! ’tis a fault to heaven, 105
A fault against the dead, a fault to nature,
To reason most absurd, whose common theme
Is death of fathers, and who still hath cried,
From the first corse [corpse] till he that died to-day,
‘This must be so.’ We pray you, throw to earth 110
This unprevailing woe, and think of us
As of a father; for let the world take note,
You are the most immediate to our throne;
And with no less nobility of love
Than that which dearest father bears his son 115
Do I impart toward you. For your intent
In going back to school in Wittenberg,
It is most retrograde [contrary] to our desire;
And we beseech you, bend you to remain
Here, in the cheer and comfort of our eye, 120
Our chiefest courtier, cousin, and our son.
QUEEN: Let not thy mother lose her prayers, Hamlet:
I pray thee, stay with us; go not to Wittenberg.
HAMLET: I shall in all my best obey you, madam.
KING: Why, ’tis a loving and a fair reply: 125
Be as ourself in Denmark. Madam, come;
This gentle and unforc’d accord of Hamlet
Sits smiling to my heart; in grace whereof,
No jocund health that Denmark drinks to-day,
But the great cannon to the clouds shall tell, 130
And the king’s rouse the heavens shall bruit again,
Re-speaking earthly thunder. Come away.
[ No jocund . . . thunder: The great cannon shall boom to the skies
while I drink a toast that heaven itself shall hear resound again and
again, echoing like earthly thunder.]
[Exeunt all except HAMLET.
HAMLET: O! that this too too solid flesh would melt,
Thaw and resolve itself into a dew;
Or that the Everlasting had not fix’d 135
His canon ’gainst self-slaughter! O God! O God!
[Or that . . . slaughter: Or that God had not forbade suicide.]
How weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable
Seem to me all the uses of this world.
Fie on ’t! O fie! ’tis an unweeded garden,
That grows to seed; things rank and gross in nature 140
Possess it merely. That it should come to this!
But two months dead: nay, not so much, not two:
So excellent a king; that was, to this,
Hyperion to a satyr; so loving to my mother
[Hyperion: Father of Helios, the sun god in Greek mythology; satyr: In Greek mythology, a lecherous, goatlike man]
That he might not beteem the winds of heaven 145
Visit her face too roughly. Heaven and earth!
Must I remember? why, she would hang on him,
As if increase of appetite had grown
By what it fed on; and yet, within a month,
Let me not think on ’t: Frailty, thy name is woman! 150
A little month; or ere those shoes were old
With which she follow’d my poor father’s body,
Like Niobe, all tears; why she, even she,—
O God! a beast, that wants discourse of reason,
Would have mourn’d longer,—married with mine uncle, 155
My father’s brother, but no more like my father
Than I to Hercules: within a month,
Ere yet the salt of most unrighteous tears
Had left the flushing in her galled eyes,
She married. O! most wicked speed, to post 160
With such dexterity to incestuous sheets.
It is not nor it cannot come to good;
But break, my heart, for I must hold my tongue!
Enter HORATIO, MARCELLUS, and BERNARDO.
HORATIO: Hail to your lordship! 165
HAMLET: I am glad to see you well:
Horatio, or I do forget myself.
HORATIO: The same, my lord, and your poor servant ever.
HAMLET: Sir, my good friend; I’ll change that name with you.
And what make you from Wittenberg, Horatio? Marcellus? 170
MARCELLUS: My good lord,—
HAMLET: I am very glad to see you. [To BERNARDO.] Good even, sir.
But what, in faith, make you from Wittenberg?
HORATIO: A truant [lazy; idle] disposition, good my lord [my good
HAMLET: I would not hear your enemy say so,
Nor shall you do mine ear that violence,
To make it truster of your own report
Against yourself; I know you are no truant.
But what is your affair in Elsinore? 180
We’ll teach you to drink deep ere you depart.
HORATIO: My lord, I came to see your father’s funeral.
HAMLET: I pray thee, do not mock me, fellow-student;
I think it was to see my mother’s wedding.
HORATIO: Indeed, my lord, it follow’d hard upon. 185
HAMLET: Thrift, thrift, Horatio! the funeral bak’d meats
Did coldly furnish forth the marriage tables.
[the funeral bak'd . . . tables: The marriage took place so soon after
the death of old Hamlet that food from the funeral was served at the
Would I had met my dearest foe in heaven
Ere [before] I had ever seen that day, Horatio!
My father, methinks I see my father. 190
HORATIO: O! where, my lord?
HAMLET: In my mind’s eye, Horatio.
HORATIO: I saw him once; he was a goodly king.
HAMLET: He was a man, take him for all in all,
I shall not look upon his like again. 195
HORATIO: My lord, I think I saw him yesternight.
HAMLET: Saw who?
HORATIO: My lord, the king your father.
HAMLET: The king, my father!
HORATIO: Season your admiration for a while 200
With an attent [attentive] ear, till I may deliver,
Upon the witness of these gentlemen,
This marvel to you.
HAMLET: For God’s love, let me hear.
HORATIO: Two nights together had these gentlemen, 205
Marcellus and Bernardo, on their watch,
In the dead vast and middle of the night,
Been thus encounter’d: a figure like your father,
Armed at points exactly, cap-a-pe [variant spelling of cap-a-pie, meaning from head to toe],
Appears before them, and with solemn march 210
Goes slow and stately by them: thrice he walk’d
By their oppress’d and fear-surprised eyes,
Within his truncheon’s length; whilst they, distill’d
[truncheon's length: The apparition was no farther from them than the
length of a truncheon, a staff symbolizing a king's authority.]
Almost to jelly with the act of fear,
Stand dumb and speak not to him. This to me 215
In dreadful secrecy impart they did,
And I with them the third night kept the watch;
Where, as they had deliver’d, both in time,
Form of the thing, each word made true and good,
The apparition comes. I knew your father; 220
These hands are not more like.
HAMLET: But where was this?
MARCELLUS: My lord, upon the platform [floor surrounded by battlements] where we watch’d.
HAMLET: Did you not speak to it?
HORATIO: My lord, I did; 225
But answer made it none; yet once methought
It lifted up its head and did address
Itself to motion, like as it would speak;
But even then the morning cock crew [crowed] loud,
And at the sound it shrunk in haste away 230
And vanish’d from our sight.
HAMLET: ’Tis very strange.
HORATIO: As I do live, my honour’d lord, ’tis true;
And we did think it writ down in our duty
To let you know of it. 235
HAMLET: Indeed, indeed, sirs, but this troubles me.
Hold you the watch to-night?
MARCELLUS and BERNARDO: We do, my lord.
HAMLET: Arm’d, say you?
MARCELLUS and BERNARDO: Arm’d, my lord. 240
HAMLET: From top to toe?
MARCELLUS and BERNARDO: My lord, from head to foot.
HAMLET: Then saw you not his face?
HORATIO: O yes! my lord; he wore his beaver up.
[beaver: Shield on the helmet of a suit of armor. The beaver protects the face. It can be raised on hinges.]
HAMLET: What! look’d he frowningly? 245
HORATIO: A countenance more in sorrow than in anger.
HAMLET: Pale or red?
HORATIO: Nay, very pale.
HAMLET: And fix’d his eyes upon you?
HORATIO: Most constantly. 250
HAMLET: I would I had been there.
HORATIO: It would have much amaz’d you.
HAMLET: Very like, very like. Stay’d it long?
HORATIO: While one with moderate haste might tell a hundred.
MARCELLUS and BERNARDO: Longer, longer. 255
HORATIO: Not when I saw it.
HAMLET: His beard was grizzled, no?
HORATIO: It was, as I have seen it in his life,
A sable silver’d [black beard with silver hairs].
HAMLET: I will watch to-night; 260
Perchance ’twill walk again.
HORATIO: I warrant it will.
HAMLET: If it assume my noble father’s person,
I’ll speak to it, though hell itself should gape
And bid me hold my peace. I pray you all, 265
If you have hitherto conceal’d this sight,
Let it be tenable in your silence still;
[Let . . . still: Don't tell anyone about it.]
And whatsoever else shall hap [happen] to-night,
Give it an understanding, but no tongue:
I will requite your loves. So, fare you well. 270
[requite . . . loves: Pay you back.]
Upon the platform, ’twixt [between] eleven and twelve,
I’ll visit you.
ALL: Our duty to your honour.
HAMLET: Your loves, as mine to you. Farewell. [Exeunt HORATIO, MARCELLUS, and BERNARDO.
My father’s spirit in arms! all is not well; 275
I doubt some foul play: would the night were come!
Till then sit still, my soul: foul deeds will rise,
Though all the earth o’erwhelm them, to men’s eyes. [Exit.
Act 1, Scene 3
A room in the house of Polonius.
Enter LAERTES and OPHELIA.
LAERTES: My necessaries [packed belongings] are embark’d; farewell:
And, sister, as the winds give benefit
[as . . . benefit: As the winds fill the sails of my ship]
And convoy is assistant, do not sleep, 5
[convoy . . . assistant: If letter-carriers are available]
But let me hear from you.
OPHELIA: Do you doubt that?
LAERTES: For Hamlet, and the trifling of his favour,
Hold it a fashion and a toy in blood,
[For . . . blood: Regard Hamlet as a passing fancy.]
A violet in the youth of primy [in its prime] nature, 10
Forward, not permanent, sweet, not lasting,
The perfume and suppliance [appeal] of a minute;
OPHELIA: No more but so?
LAERTES: Think it no more: 15
For nature, crescent [growing], does not grow alone
In thews [strength] and bulk; but, as this temple waxes,
[temple waxes: Body grows]
The inward service of the mind and soul
Grows wide withal [in addition; besides]. Perhaps he loves you now,
And now no soil nor cautel [deceit] doth besmirch 20
The virtue of his will; but you must fear,
His greatness weigh’d, his will is not his own,
For he himself is subject to his birth;
He may not, as unvalu’d persons do,
Carve for himself, for on his choice depends 25
The safety and the health of the whole state;
And therefore must his choice be circumscrib’d
Unto the voice and yielding of that body
Whereof he is the head. Then if he says he loves you,
It fits your wisdom so far to believe it 30
As he in his particular act and place
May give his saying deed; which is no further
Than the main voice of Denmark goes withal.
Then weigh what loss your honour may sustain,
If with too credent [believing] ear you list [listen to] his
Or lose your heart, or your chaste treasure open
To his unmaster’d importunity.
Fear it, Ophelia, fear it, my dear sister;
And keep you in the rear of your affection,
[keep you . . . affection: Restrain yourself.]
Out of the shot and danger of desire. 40
The chariest [wariest; most cautious] maid is prodigal enough
If she unmask her beauty to the moon;
Virtue herself ’scapes not calumnious strokes;
[Virtue . . . strokes: Even the virtuous are victims of gossip.]
The canker [worm; disease] galls the infants [plants] of the spring
Too oft before their buttons [buds] be disclos’d, 45
And in the morn and liquid dew of youth
Contagious blastments are most imminent.
[Contagious blastments: Sexual advances]
Be wary then; best safety lies in fear:
Youth to itself rebels, though none else near.
[Youth . . . rebels: Young people tend to succumb to temptation.]
OPHELIA: I shall th’ effect of this good lesson keep, 50
As watchman to my heart. But, good my brother,
Do not, as some ungracious pastors do,
Show me the steep and thorny way to heaven,
Whiles, like a puff’d and reckless libertine,
Himself the primrose path of dalliance treads, 55
And recks not his own rede.
[recks . . . rede: Takes not his own advice.]
LAERTES: O! fear me not.
I stay too long; but here my father comes.
A double blessing is a double grace; 60
Occasion smiles upon a second leave.
POLONIUS: Yet here, Laertes! aboard, aboard, for shame!
The wind sits in the shoulder of your sail,
And you are stay’d [waited] for. There, my blessing with thee!
And these few precepts in thy memory 65
Look thou character. Give thy thoughts no tongue,
[character: Used as a verb to mean etch in your mind]
Nor any unproportion’d [bad; ill-suited] thought his act.
Be thou familiar [friendly], but by no means vulgar;
The friends thou hast, and their adoption tried [tested],
Grapple [hold; seize] them to thy soul with hoops of steel; 70
But do not dull thy palm with entertainment
Of each new-hatch’d, unfledg’d comrade. Beware
[do not . . . comrade: Do not greet or shake hands with every untested person.]
Of entrance to a quarrel, but, being in,
Bear ’t that th’ opposed may beware of thee.
Give every man thine ear, but few thy voice; 75
Take each man’s censure [opinion or criticism], but reserve thy judgment.
Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy,
[Costly . . . buy: Thy dress should be only as costly as you can afford.]
But not express’d in fancy; rich, not gaudy;
For the apparel oft proclaims the man,
And they in France of the best rank and station 80
Are most select and generous, chief in that.
Neither a borrower, nor a lender be;
For loan oft loses both itself and friend,
And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry [management of money].
This above all: to thine own self be true, 85
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
Farewell; my blessing season this in thee!
LAERTES: Most humbly do I take my leave, my lord.
POLONIUS: The time invites you; go, your servants
LAERTES: Farewell, Ophelia; and remember well
What I have said to you.
OPHELIA: ’Tis in my memory lock’d,
And you yourself shall keep the key of it.
LAERTES: Farewell. [Exit. 95
POLONIUS: What is ’t, Ophelia, he hath said to you?
OPHELIA: So please you, something touching the Lord Hamlet.
POLONIUS: Marry, well bethought:
’Tis told me, he hath very oft of late
Given private time to you; and you yourself 100
Have of your audience [attention to Hamlet] been most free and bounteous.
If it be so,—as so ’tis put on me,
And that in way of caution,—I must tell you,
You do not understand yourself so clearly
As it behoves [behooves] my daughter and your honour. 105
What is between you? give me up the truth.
OPHELIA: He hath, my lord, of late made many tenders
Of his affection to me.
POLONIUS: Affection! pooh! you speak like a green [naive] girl,
Unsifted in such perilous circumstance. 110
Do you believe his tenders, as you call them?
OPHELIA: I do not know, my lord, what I should think.
POLONIUS: Marry, I’ll teach you: think yourself a baby,
That you have ta’en these tenders for true pay,
Which are not sterling. Tender yourself more dearly; 115
Or,—not to crack the wind of the poor phrase,
Running it thus,—you’ll tender me a fool.
OPHELIA: My lord, he hath importun’d me with love
In honourable fashion.
POLONIUS: Ay, fashion you may call it: go to, go to. 120
OPHELIA: And hath given countenance [good behavior] to his speech, my lord,
With almost all the holy vows of heaven.
POLONIUS: Ay, springes [traps] to catch woodcocks. I do know,
When the blood burns, how prodigal the soul
Lends the tongue vows: these blazes, daughter, 125
Giving more light than heat, extinct [no longer active; no longer burning] in both,
Even in their promise, as it is a-making,
You must not take for fire. From this time
Be somewhat scanter of [unavailable in] your maiden presence;
Set your entreatments at a higher rate 130
Than a command to parley. For Lord Hamlet,
Believe so much in him, that he is young,
And with a larger tether [larger tether: more freedom] may he walk
Than may be given you: in few [a few words], Ophelia,
Do not believe his vows, for they are brokers, 135
Not of that dye which their investments show,
But mere implorators of unholy suits,
Breathing like sanctified and pious bawds,
The better to beguile. This is for all:
I would not, in plain terms, from this time forth, 140
Have you so slander any moment’s leisure,
As to give words or talk with the Lord Hamlet.
Look to ’t, I charge you; come your ways.
OPHELIA: I shall obey, my lord. [Exeunt.
Act 1, Scene 4
Enter HAMLET, HORATIO, and MARCELLUS.
HAMLET: The air bites shrewdly; it is very cold.
HORATIO: It is a nipping and an eager air.
HAMLET: What hour now? 5
HORATIO: I think it lacks of twelve.
MARCELLUS: No, it is struck.
HORATIO: Indeed? I heard it not: then it draws near the season
Wherein the spirit held his wont to walk. [A flourish of trumpets, and ordnance shot off, within.
What does this mean, my lord? 10
HAMLET: The king doth wake to-night and takes his rouse,
[The king . . . rouse: The king stays awake tonight and takes his liquor.]
Keeps wassail [a toast to good health], and the swaggering up-spring reels [fast dances];
And, as he drains his draughts of Rhenish [German wine] down,
The kettle-drum and trumpet thus bray out
The triumph of his pledge. 15
HORATIO: Is it a custom?
HAMLET: Ay, marry, is ’t:
But to my mind,—though I am native here
And to the manner born,—it is a custom
More honour’d in the breach than the observance. 20
This heavy-headed revel east and west
Makes us traduc’d [humiliated] and tax’d of other nations;
They clepe [call] us drunkards, and with swinish phrase
Soil our addition [honor; reputation]; and indeed it takes
From our achievements, though perform’d at height, 25
The pith and marrow of our attribute.
So, oft it chances in particular men,
That for some vicious mole of nature in them,
As, in their birth,—wherein they are not guilty,
Since nature cannot choose his origin,— 30
By the o’ergrowth of some complexion [characteristic or trait],
Oft breaking down the pales [boundaries] and forts of reason,
Or by some habit that too much o’er-leavens
The form of plausive [reasonable; acceptable; agreeable] manners; that these men,
Carrying, I say, the stamp of one defect, 35
Being nature’s livery, or fortune’s star,
Their virtues else, be they as pure as grace,
As infinite as man may undergo,
Shall in the general censure [opinion] take corruption
From that particular fault: the dram of eale [ale or evil] 40
Doth all the noble substance of a doubt,
To his own scandal.
HORATIO: Look, my lord, it comes.
HAMLET: Angels and ministers of grace defend us! 45
Be thou a spirit of health or goblin damn’d,
Bring with thee airs from heaven or blasts from hell,
Be thy intents wicked or charitable,
Thou com’st in such a questionable shape
That I will speak to thee: I’ll call thee Hamlet, 50
King, father; royal Dane, O! answer me:
Let me not burst in ignorance; but tell
Why thy canoniz’d [saintly; given the approved burial rites] bones, hearsed in death,
Have burst their cerements [burial garment or garments]; why the sepulchre,
Wherein we saw thee quietly inurn’d, 55
Hath op’d his ponderous and marble jaws,
To cast thee up again. What may this mean,
That thou, dead corse [corpse], again in complete steel [armor]
Revisit’st thus the glimpses of the moon,
Making night hideous; and we fools of nature 60
So horridly to shake our disposition
With thoughts beyond the reaches of our souls?
Say, why is this? wherefore? what should we do? [The Ghost beckons HAMLET.
HORATIO: It beckons you to go away with it,
As if it some impartment [message; secret] did desire 65
To you alone.
MARCELLUS: Look, with what courteous action
It waves you to a more removed ground:
But do not go with it.
HORATIO: No, by no means. 70
HAMLET: It will not speak; then, will I follow it.
HORATIO: Do not, my lord.
HAMLET: Why, what should be the fear?
I do not set my life at a pin’s fee [meager value];
And for my soul, what can it do to that, 75
Being a thing immortal as itself?
It waves me forth again; I’ll follow it.
HORATIO: What if it tempt you toward the flood, my lord,
Or to the dreadful summit of the cliff
That beetles o’er [projects over] his base into the sea, 80
And there assume some other horrible form,
Which might deprive your sovereignty of reason
And draw you into madness? think of it;
The very place puts toys of desperation,
Without more motive, into every brain 85
That looks so many fathoms to the sea
And hears it roar beneath.
HAMLET: It waves me still. Go on, I’ll follow thee.
MARCELLUS: You shall not go, my lord.
HAMLET: Hold off your hands! 90
HORATIO: Be rul’d; you shall not go.
HAMLET: My fate cries out,
And makes each petty artery in this body
As hardy as the Nemean lion’s nerve. [Ghost beckons.
[Nemean lion: In Greek mythology, an enormous lion strangled by Hercules]
Still am I call’d. Unhand me, gentlemen, [Breaking from
By heaven! I’ll make a ghost of him that lets me:
I say, away! Go on, I’ll follow thee. [Exeunt Ghost and HAMLET.
HORATIO: He waxes desperate with imagination.
MARCELLUS: Let’s follow; ’tis not fit thus to obey him.
HORATIO: Have after. To what issue will this come? 100
MARCELLUS: Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.
HORATIO: Heaven will direct it.
MARCELLUS: Nay, let’s follow him. [Exeunt.
Act 1, Scene 5
Another part of the platform.
Enter GHOST and HAMLET.
HAMLET: Whither wilt thou lead me? speak; I’ll go no further.
GHOST: Mark me.
HAMLET: I will. 5
GHOST: My hour is almost come,
When I to sulphurous and tormenting flames
Must render up myself.
HAMLET: Alas! poor ghost.
GHOST: Pity me not, but lend thy serious hearing 10
To what I shall unfold.
HAMLET: Speak; I am bound to hear.
GHOST: So art thou to revenge, when thou shalt hear.
GHOST: I am thy father’s spirit; 15
Doom’d for a certain term to walk the night,
And for the day confin’d to fast in fires,
Till the foul crimes done in my days of nature
Are burnt and purg’d away. But that I am forbid
To tell the secrets of my prison-house, 20
I could a tale unfold whose lightest word
Would harrow up thy soul, freeze thy young blood,
Make thy two eyes, like stars, start from their spheres,
Thy knotted and combined locks to part,
And each particular hair to stand on end, 25
Like quills upon the fretful porpentine [porcupine]:
But this eternal blazon must not be
To ears of flesh and blood. List [listen], list, O list!
If thou didst ever thy dear father love—
HAMLET: O God! 30
GHOST: Revenge his foul and most unnatural murder.
GHOST: Murder most foul, as in the best it is;
But this most foul, strange, and unnatural.
HAMLET: Haste me to know ’t, that I, with wings as
As meditation or the thoughts of love,
May sweep to my revenge.
GHOST: I find thee apt;
And duller shouldst thou be than the fat weed
That rots itself in ease on Lethe wharf, 40
[Lethe: In Greek mythology, the river of forgetfulness in Hades]
Wouldst thou not stir in this. Now, Hamlet, hear:
’Tis given out that, sleeping in mine orchard,
A serpent stung me; so the whole ear of Denmark
Is by a forged process of my death
Rankly abus’d; but know, thou noble youth, 45
The serpent that did sting thy father’s life
Now wears his crown.
HAMLET: O my prophetic soul!
GHOST: Ay, that incestuous, that adulterate beast, 50
With witchcraft of his wit, with traitorous gifts,—
O wicked wit and gifts, that have the power
So to seduce!—won to his shameful lust
The will of my most seeming-virtuous queen.
O Hamlet! what a falling-off was there; 55
From me, whose love was of that dignity
That it went hand in hand even with the vow
I made to her in marriage; and to decline
Upon a wretch whose natural gifts were poor
To those of mine! 60
But virtue, as it never will be mov’d,
Though lewdness court it in a shape of heaven,
[lewdness . . . heaven: The Ghost says Claudius was lewd but pretended to be upright.]
So lust, though to a radiant angel link’d,
Will sate itself in a celestial bed,
And prey on garbage. 65
But, soft! [soft: Pay attention; stand at attention; take note] methinks I scent the morning air;
Brief let me be. Sleeping within mine orchard,
My custom always in the afternoon,
Upon my secure hour [leisure time] thy uncle stole,
With juice of cursed hebona [poisonous plant] in a vial, 70
And in the porches of mine ears did pour
The leperous distilment; whose effect
Holds such an enmity with blood of man
That swift as quicksilver it courses through
The natural gates and alleys of the body, 75
And with a sudden vigour it doth posset [curdle; coagulate]
And curd, like eager droppings into milk,
The thin and wholesome blood: so did it mine;
And a most instant tetter [skin eruption] bark’d about,
Most lazar-like [leprous], with vile and loathsome crust, 80
All my smooth body.
Thus was I, sleeping, by a brother’s hand,
Of life, of crown, of queen, at once dispatch’d [robbed];
Cut off even in the blossoms of my sin,
Unhousel’d, disappointed, unanel’d, 85
[Unhousel'd . . . unanel'd: Unhousel'd: not given the Holy Eucharist. Unanel'd: not given the last rites of the Catholic Church]
No reckoning made, but sent to my account
With all my imperfections on my head:
O, horrible! O, horrible! most horrible!
If thou hast nature in thee, bear it not;
Let not the royal bed of Denmark be 90
A couch for luxury and damned incest.
But, howsoever thou pursu’st this act,
Taint not thy mind, nor let thy soul contrive
Against thy mother aught; leave her to heaven,
And to those thorns that in her bosom lodge, 95
To prick and sting her. Fare thee well at once!
The glow-worm [beetle that glows like a firefly] shows the matin [morning] to be near,
And ’gins to pale his uneffectual fire;
Adieu, adieu! Hamlet, remember me. [Exit.
HAMLET: O all you host of heaven! O earth! What
And shall I couple hell? O fie! Hold, hold, my heart!
And you, my sinews, grow not instant old,
But bear me stiffly up! Remember thee!
Ay, thou poor ghost, while memory holds a seat
In this distracted globe. Remember thee! 105
Yea, from the table of my memory
I’ll wipe away all trivial fond records,
All saws [wise sayings] of books, all forms, all pressures past,
That youth and observation copied there;
And thy commandment all alone shall live 110
Within the book and volume of my brain,
[thy . . . brain: My only thought will be to gain revenge.]
Unmix’d with baser matter: yes, by heaven!
O most pernicious woman!
O villain, villain, smiling, damned villain!
My tables [notes],—meet it is I set [write] it down, 115
That one may smile, and smile, and be a villain;
At least I’m sure it may be so in Denmark: [Writing.
So, uncle, there you are. Now to my word;
It is, ‘Adieu, adieu! [French for farewell] remember me.
I have sworn ’t. 120
HORATIO: [Within.] My lord! my lord!
MARCELLUS: [Within.] Lord Hamlet!
HORATIO: [Within.] Heaven secure him!
MARCELLUS: [Within.] So be it!
HORATIO: [Within.] Hillo [hello; hey], ho, ho, my
HAMLET: Hillo, ho, ho, boy! come, bird, come.
Enter HORATIO and MARCELLUS.
MARCELLUS: How is ’t, my noble lord?
HORATIO: What news, my lord?
HAMLET: O! wonderful. 130
HORATIO: Good my lord, tell it.
HAMLET: No; you will reveal it.
HORATIO: Not I, my lord, by heaven!
MARCELLUS: Nor I, my lord.
HAMLET: How say you, then; would heart of man once think
But you’ll be secret?
HORATIO: and MARCELLUS: Ay, by heaven, my lord.
HAMLET: There’s ne’er a villain dwelling in all Denmark,
But he’s an arrant [complete] knave.
HORATIO: There needs no ghost, my lord, come from the
To tell us this.
HAMLET: Why, right; you are i’ the right;
And so, without more circumstance at all,
I hold it fit that we shake hands and part;
You, as your business and desire shall point you,— 145
For every man hath business and desire,
Such as it is,—and, for mine own poor part,
Look you, I’ll go pray.
HORATIO: These are but wild and whirling words, my lord.
HAMLET: I am sorry they offend you, heartily; 150
Yes, faith, heartily.
HORATIO: There’s no offence, my lord.
HAMLET: Yes, by Saint Patrick, but there is, Horatio,
And much offence, too. Touching this vision here,
It is an honest ghost, that let me tell you; 155
For your desire to know what is between us,
O’ermaster ’t [control it; master it] as you may. And now, good friends,
As you are friends, scholars, and soldiers,
Give me one poor request.
HORATIO: What is ’t, my lord? we will. 160
HAMLET: Never make known what you have seen to-night.
HORATIO: and MARCELLUS: My lord, we will not.
HAMLET: Nay, but swear ’t.
HORATIO: In faith,
My lord, not I. 165
MARCELLUS: Nor I, my lord, in faith.
HAMLET: Upon my sword.
MARCELLUS: We have sworn, my lord, already.
HAMLET: Indeed, upon my sword, indeed.
GHOST: [Beneath.] Swear. 170
[Beneath: The voice of the ghost is coming from under the stage.]
HAMLET: Ah, ha, boy! sayst thou so? art thou there, true-penny [trustworthy person]?
Come on,—you hear this fellow in the cellar-age [below, in the cellar],—
Consent to swear.
HORATIO: Propose the oath, my lord.
HAMLET: Never to speak of this that you have seen, 175
Swear by my sword.
GHOST: [Beneath.] Swear.
HAMLET: Hic et ubique? [Latin: Here and everywhere] Then we’ll shift our ground.
Come hither, gentlemen,
And lay your hands again upon my sword: 180
Never to speak of this that you have heard,
Swear by my sword.
[Swearing on a sword was like swearing on a cross. The handle,
crossguard, and blade of a sword are in the shape of a cross.]
GHOST: [Beneath.] Swear.
HAMLET: Well said, old mole! canst work i’ the earth so fast?
A worthy pioner! [miner] Once more remove, good friends. 185
HORATIO: O day and night, but this is wondrous strange!
HAMLET: And therefore as a stranger give it welcome.
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
But come; 190
Here, as before, never, so help you mercy,
How strange or odd soe’er [whatsoever] I bear myself,
As I perchance hereafter shall think meet
To put an antic disposition on,
[As I . . . on: Hereafter I think I shall pretend to be odd, clownish, a bit crazy.]
That you, at such times seeing me, never shall, 195
With arms encumber’d thus, or this head-shake,
Or by pronouncing of some doubtful phrase,
As, ‘Well, well, we know,’ or, ‘We could, an if we would;’
Or, ‘If we list to speak,’ or, ‘There be, an if they might;’
Or such ambiguous giving out, to note 200
That you know aught of me: this not to do,
So grace and mercy at your most need help you,
GHOST: [Beneath.] Swear. [They swear.
HAMLET: Rest, rest, perturbed spirit! So, gentlemen, 205
With all my love I do commend me to you:
And what so poor a man as Hamlet is
May do, to express his love and friending to you,
God willing, shall not lack. Let us go in together;
And still your fingers on your lips, I pray. 210
The time is out of joint; O cursed spite,
That ever I was born to set it right!
Nay, come, let’s go together. [Exeunt.
Act 2, Scene 1
A room in the house of POLONIUS.
Enter POLONIUS and REYNALDO.
POLONIUS: Give him this money and these notes, Reynaldo.
REYNALDO: I will, my lord.
POLONIUS: You shall do marvellous wisely, good
Before you visit him, to make inquiry
Of his behaviour.
REYNALDO: My lord, I did intend it.
POLONIUS: Marry, well said, very well said. Look you, sir,
Inquire me first what Danskers [Danes] are in Paris; 10
And how, and who, what means, and where they keep,
What company, at what expense; and finding
By this encompassment and drift of question
[By . . . question: By this indirect way of finding out]
That they do know my son, come you more nearer
Than your particular demands will touch it: 15
Take you, as ’twere, some distant knowledge of him;
[Take . . . 'twere: Pretend to have, as it were]
As thus, ‘I know his father, and his friends,
And, in part, him;’ do you mark this, Reynaldo?
REYNALDO: Ay, very well, my lord.
POLONIUS: ‘And, in part, him; but,’ you may say, ‘not
But if ’t be he I mean, he’s very wild,
Addicted so and so;’ and there put on him
What forgeries you please; marry, none so rank
As may dishonour him; take heed of that;
But, sir, such wanton, wild, and usual slips 25
As are companions noted and most known
To youth and liberty.
REYNALDO: As gaming, my lord?
POLONIUS: Ay, or drinking, fencing, swearing, quarrelling,
Drabbing [visiting prostitutes]; you may go so far. 30
REYNALDO: My lord, that would dishonour him.
POLONIUS: Faith, no; as you may season it in the charge.
You must not put another scandal on him,
That he is open to incontinency [lack of sexual restraint; lustfulness]
That’s not my meaning; but breathe his faults so quaintly [cleverly; skilfully] 35
That they may seem the taints of liberty,
The flash and outbreak of a fiery mind,
A savageness in unreclaimed blood,
Of general assault.
[they may seem . . . assault: They may
seem to be only minor infractions of the freedom a young man has when
he is on his own, especially if that young man has a quick and fiery
mind and may act on the spur of the moment.]
REYNALDO: But, my good
POLONIUS: Wherefore [why] should you do this?
REYNALDO: Ay, my lord,
I would know that.
POLONIUS: Marry, sir, here’s my drift;
And, I believe, it is a fetch of warrant: 45
[here's my drift . . . warrant: Here's my idea, which is a stroke of genius.]
You laying these slight sullies [faults] on my son,
As ’twere a thing a little soil’d i’ the working,
Your party in converse [the person with whom you are speaking], him you would sound,
Having ever seen in the prenominate crimes 50
[him you . . . crimes: Ask the person with whom you are
conversing whether he has ever seen Laertes engage in unlawful or
The youth you breathe of guilty, be assur’d,
He closes with you in this consequence;
‘Good sir,’ or so; or ‘friend,’ or ‘gentleman,’
According to the phrase or the addition
Of man and country. 55
REYNALDO: Very good, my lord.
POLONIUS: And then, sir, does he this,—he does,—what was I about
to say? By the mass I was about to say something: where did I leave?
[By the mass: Mild oath. The mass is a Catholic worship rite.]
REYNALDO: At ‘closes in the consequence.’
At ‘friend or so,’ and ‘gentleman.’
POLONIUS: At ‘closes in the consequence,’ ay, marry; 60
He closes with you thus: ‘I know the gentleman;
I saw him yesterday, or t’ other day,
Or then, or then; with such, or such; and, as you say,
There was a’ gaming; there o’ertook in ’s rouse;
There falling out at tennis;’ or perchance, 65
‘I saw him enter such a house of sale,’
Videlicet [Latin, namely, often written as an abbreviation: viz.], a brothel, or so forth.
See you now;
Your bait of falsehood takes this carp of truth;
[Your bait . . . truth: After baiting your hook with lies, you catch a fish (carp) of truth.]
And thus do we of wisdom and of reach, 70
With windlasses [windlass: horizontal cylinder which, when turned with a crank, draws rope and raises an object] and with assays of bias,
[assays . . . bias: Roundabout or devious attempts]
By indirections find directions out:
[With windlasses . . . out: By asking indirect questions, we can draw out (as a windlass draws out rope) direct answers.]
So by my former lecture and advice
Shall you my son. You have me, have you not?
REYNALDO: My lord, I have. 75
POLONIUS: God be wi’ you; fare you well.
REYNALDO: Good my lord!
POLONIUS: Observe his inclination in yourself.
[Observe his activities yourself.]
REYNALDO: I shall, my lord.
POLONIUS: And let him ply his music. 80
REYNALDO: Well, my lord.
POLONIUS: Farewell! [Exit REYNALDO.
How now, Ophelia! what’s the matter?
OPHELIA: Alas! my lord, I have been so affrighted. 85
POLONIUS: With what, in the name of God?
OPHELIA: My lord, as I was sewing in my closet,
Lord Hamlet, with his doublet [closefitting sleeveless jacket] all unbrac’d;
No hat upon his head; his stockings foul’d,
Ungarter’d, and down-gyved [lowered to a position like that of a
legiron (gyve) on a prisoner] to his
Pale as his shirt; his knees knocking each other;
And with a look so piteous in purport
As if he had been loosed out of hell
To speak of horrors, he comes before me.
POLONIUS: Mad for thy love? 95
OPHELIA: My lord, I do not know;
But truly I do fear it.
POLONIUS: What said he?
OPHELIA: He took me by the wrist and held me hard,
Then goes he to the length of all his arm, 100
And, with his other hand thus o’er his brow,
He falls to such perusal of my face
As he would draw it. Long stay’d he so;
At last, a little shaking of mine arm,
And thrice his head thus waving up and down, 105
He rais’d a sigh so piteous and profound
That it did seem to shatter all his bulk
And end his being. That done, he lets me go,
And, with his head over his shoulder turn’d,
He seem’d to find his way without his eyes; 110
For out o’ doors he went without their help,
And to the last bended their light on me.
POLONIUS: Come, go with me; I will go seek the king.
This is the very ecstasy of love,
Whose violent property fordoes itself 115
And leads the will to desperate undertakings
As oft as any passion under heaven
That does afflict our natures. I am sorry.
What! have you given him any hard words of late?
OPHELIA: No, my good lord; but, as you did command, 120
I did repel his letters and denied
His access to me.
POLONIUS: That hath made him mad.
I am sorry that with better heed and judgment
I had not quoted [studied closely] him; I fear’d he did but
And meant to wrack [ruin, ravish] thee; but, beshrew my jealousy!
By heaven, it is as proper to our age
To cast beyond ourselves in our opinions
As it is common for the younger sort
To lack discretion. Come, go we to the king: 130
This must be known; which, being kept close, might move
More grief to hide than hate to utter love.
Act 2, Scene 2
A room in the castle.
Enter KING, QUEEN, ROSENCRANTZ, GUILDENSTERN and Attendants.
KING: Welcome, dear Rosencrantz and Guildenstern!
Moreover that we much did long to see you,
The need we have to use you did provoke 5
Our hasty sending. Something have you heard
Of Hamlet’s transformation; so I call it,
Since nor the exterior nor the inward man
Resembles that it was. What it should be
More than his father’s death, that thus hath put him 10
So much from the understanding of himself,
I cannot dream of: I entreat you both,
That, being of so young days brought up with him,
And since so neighbour’d to his youth and humour,
That you vouchsafe [put, place] your rest here in our court 15
Some little time; so by your companies
To draw him on to pleasures, and to gather,
So much as from occasion you may glean,
Whe’r aught to us unknown afflicts him thus,
[Whe'r . . . him: Whether anything unknown to us afflicts him]
That, open’d, lies within our remedy. 20
QUEEN: Good gentlemen, he hath much talk’d of you;
And sure I am two men there are not living
To whom he more adheres. If it will please you
To show us so much gentry and good will
As to expend your time with us awhile, 25
For the supply and profit of our hope,
Your visitation shall receive such thanks
As fits a king’s remembrance.
ROSENCRANTZ: Both your majesties
Might, by the sovereign power you have of us, 30
Put your dread pleasures more into command
Than to entreaty.
GUILDENSTERN: But we both obey,
And here give up ourselves, in the full bent,
To lay our service freely at your feet, 35
To be commanded.
KING: Thanks, Rosencrantz and gentle Guildenstern.
QUEEN: Thanks, Guildenstern and gentle Rosencrantz;
And I beseech you instantly to visit
My too much changed son. Go, some of you, 40
And bring these gentlemen where Hamlet is.
GUILDENSTERN: Heavens make our presence, and our practices
Pleasant and helpful to him!
QUEEN: Ay, amen! [Exeunt ROSENCRANTZ, GUILDENSTERN, and some Attendants.
Enter POLONIUS. 45
POLONIUS: The ambassadors from Norway, my good lord,
Are joyfully return’d.
KING: Thou still hast been the father of good news.
POLONIUS: Have I, my lord? Assure you, my good liege,
I hold my duty, as I hold my soul, 50
Both to my God and to my gracious king;
And I do think—or else this brain of mine
Hunts not the trail of policy so sure
As it hath us’d to do—that I have found
The very cause of Hamlet’s lunacy. 55
KING: O! speak of that; that do I long to hear.
POLONIUS: Give first admittance to the ambassadors;
My news shall be the fruit to that great feast.
KING: Thyself do grace to them, and bring them in. [Exit POLONIUS.
He tells me, my sweet queen, that he hath found 60
The head and source of all your son’s distemper.
QUEEN: I doubt it is no other but the main;
His father’s death, and our o’erhasty marriage.
KING: Well, we shall sift [watch, observe] him.
Re-enter POLONIUS, with VOLTIMAND and CORNELIUS. 65
Welcome, my good friends!
Say, Voltimand, what from our brother Norway?
VOLTIMAND: Most fair return of greetings, and desires.
Upon our first, he sent out to suppress
His nephew’s levies [recruitment of men into the army], which to him appear’d 70
To be a preparation ’gainst the Polack [Pole];
But, better look’d into, he truly found
It was against your highness: whereat griev’d,
That so his sickness, age, and impotence
Was falsely borne in hand, sends out arrests 75
On Fortinbras; which he, in brief, obeys,
Receives rebuke from Norway, and, in fine,
Makes vow before his uncle never more
To give the assay of arms against your majesty.
[To give . . . arms: To make war]
Whereon old Norway, overcome with joy, 80
Gives him three thousand crowns in annual fee,
And his commission to employ those soldiers,
So levied as before, against the Polack [Pole];
With an entreaty, herein further shown, [Giving a paper.
That it might please you to give quiet pass 85
Through your dominions for this enterprise,
On such regards of safety and allowance
As therein are set down.
KING: It likes us well;
And at our more consider’d time we’ll read, 90
Answer, and think upon this business:
Meantime we thank you for your well-took labour.
Go to your rest; at night we’ll feast together:
Most welcome home. [Exeunt VOLTIMAND and CORNELIUS.
POLONIUS: This business is well ended. 95
My liege, and madam, to expostulate
What majesty should be, what duty is,
Why day is day, night night, and time is time,
Were nothing but to waste night, day, and time.
Therefore, since brevity is the soul of wit, 100
And tediousness the limbs and outward flourishes,
I will be brief. Your noble son is mad:
Mad call I it; for, to define true madness,
What is ’t but to be nothing else but mad?
But let that go. 105
QUEEN: More matter, with less art.
[More . . . art: Give specific details, but avoid being wordy.]
POLONIUS: Madam, I swear I use no art [embellishment; wordiness] at all.
That he is mad, ’tis true; ’tis true ’tis pity;
And pity ’tis ’tis true: a foolish figure;
But farewell it, for I will use no art. 110
Mad let us grant him, then; and now remains
That we find out the cause of this effect,
Or rather say, the cause of this defect,
For this effect defective comes by cause;
Thus it remains, and the remainder thus. 115
Perpend [be attentive; consider carefully what I say].
I have a daughter, have while she is mine;
Who, in her duty and obedience, mark,
Hath given me this [letter, note]: now, gather, and surmise [figure out its meaning].
Polonius reads from the letter
"To the celestial, and my soul’s idol, the most beautified
That’s an ill phrase, a vile phrase; "beautified" is a vile phrase; but you shall hear. Thus:
"In her excellent white bosom, these," &c. [etc.]—
QUEEN: Came this from Hamlet to her?
POLONIUS: Good madam, stay awhile; I will be faithful.
"Doubt thou the stars are
Doubt that the sun doth move;
Doubt truth to be a liar;
But never doubt I love.
"O dear Ophelia! I am ill at these numbers [verses, lines of poetry]:
I have not art to reckon [express] my groans; but that I love thee
best, O most best! believe it.
Thine evermore, most dear lady, whilst
this machine is to him [machine . . . him: Body is mine], HAMLET."
This in obedience hath my daughter shown me;
And more above, hath his solicitings,
As they fell out by time, by means, and place,
All given to mine ear. 135
KING: But how hath she
Receiv’d his love?
POLONIUS: What do you think of me?
KING: As of a man faithful and honourable.
POLONIUS: I would fain [willingly] prove so. But what might you
When I had seen this hot love on the wing,—
As I perceiv’d it, I must tell you that,
Before my daughter told me,—what might you,
Or my dear majesty, your queen here, think,
If I had play’d the desk or table-book, 145
Or given my heart a winking, mute and dumb,
Or look’d upon this love with idle sight;
What might you think? No, I went round to work,
would fain . . . round to work: I would willingly prove so. But what
would you think—when I saw their relationship developing— if I had
helped them by leaving love letters on a desk or placing them between
the pages of a book left on a table. What would you think If stood idly
by without taking action? The fact is, I did take action. I went
to work against allowing this relationship to continue.]
And my young mistress thus I did bespeak:
‘Lord Hamlet is a prince, out of thy star; 150
This must not be:’ and then I precepts gave her,
That she should lock herself from his resort,
Admit no messengers, receive no tokens.
Which done, she took the fruits of my advice;
And he, repulsed,—a short tale to make,— 155
Fell into a sadness, then into a fast,
Thence to a watch, thence into a weakness,
Thence to a lightness; and by this declension
Into the madness wherein now he raves,
And all we wail for. 160
KING: Do you think ’tis this?
QUEEN: It may be, very likely.
POLONIUS: Hath there been such a time,—I’d fain [happily; gladly] know that,—
That I have positively said, ‘’Tis so,’
When it prov’d otherwise? 165
KING: Not that I know.
POLONIUS: Take this from this, if this be otherwise: [Pointing to his head and shoulder.
If circumstances lead me, I will find
Where truth is hid, though it were hid indeed
Within the centre [center of the earth]. 170
KING: How may we try it further?
POLONIUS: You know sometimes he walks four hours together
Here in the lobby.
QUEEN: So he does indeed.
POLONIUS: At such a time I’ll loose my daughter to
Be you and I behind an arras [curtain; tapestry] then;
Mark the encounter; if he love her not,
And be not from his reason fallen thereon,
Let me be no assistant for a state,
But keep a farm, and carters [drivers of carts]. 180
KING: We will try it.
QUEEN: But look, where sadly the poor wretch comes reading.
POLONIUS: Away! I do beseech you, both away.
I’ll board [confront] him presently. [Exeunt KING, QUEEN, and Attendants.
Enter HAMLET, reading. 185
O! give me leave.
How does my good Lord Hamlet?
HAMLET: Well, God a-mercy.
POLONIUS: Do you know me, my lord?
HAMLET: Excellent well; you are a fishmonger [fish
POLONIUS: Not I, my lord.
HAMLET: Then I would you were so honest a man.
POLONIUS: Honest, my lord!
HAMLET: Ay, sir; to be honest, as this world goes, is to be one man picked out of ten thousand.
POLONIUS: That’s very true, my lord. 195
HAMLET: For if the sun breed maggots in a dead dog, being a good kissing carrion,—Have you a daughter?
[Hamlet is now pretending to be mad.]
POLONIUS: I have, my lord.
HAMLET: Let her not walk i’ the sun: conception is a blessing;
but not as your daughter may conceive. Friend, look to ’t.
POLONIUS: [Aside.] How say you by that? Still harping on my
daughter: yet he knew me not at first; he said I was a fishmonger: he
is far gone, far gone: and truly in my youth I suffered much extremity
for love; very near this. I’ll speak to him again. What do you read, my
HAMLET: Words, words, words. 200
POLONIUS: What is the matter, my lord?
HAMLET: Between who?
POLONIUS: I mean the matter that you read, my lord.
HAMLET: Slanders, sir: for the satirical rogue says here that old
men have grey beards, that their faces are wrinkled, their eyes purging
[oozing] thick amber and plum-tree gum, and that they have a plentiful
lack of wit, together with most weak hams [knees]: all which, sir,
though I most powerfully and potently believe, yet I hold it not
honesty to have it thus set down; for you yourself, sir, should be old
as I am, if, like a crab, you could go backward.
POLONIUS: [Aside.] Though this be madness, yet there is
method in ’t [end of aside]. Will you walk out of the air, my
[Though . . . method in 't: Though he is mad, there is an intelligent design in his actions.]
HAMLET: Into my grave?
POLONIUS: Indeed, that is out o’ the air. [Aside.]
How pregnant [clever, meaningful] sometimes his replies are! a
happiness that often madness hits on, which reason and sanity could not
so prosperously be delivered of. I will leave him, and suddenly
contrive the means of meeting between him and my daughter [end of
aside]. My honourable lord, I will most humbly take my leave of
HAMLET: You cannot, sir, take from me any thing that I will more
willingly part withal; except my life, except my life, except my
POLONIUS: Fare you well, my lord. [Going.
HAMLET: These tedious old fools! 210
Enter ROSENCRANTZ and GUILDENSTERN.
POLONIUS: You go to seek the Lord Hamlet; there he is.
ROSENCRANTZ: [To POLONIUS.] God save you, sir! [Exit POLONIUS.
GUILDENSTERN: Mine honoured lord!
ROSENCRANTZ: My most dear lord! 215
HAMLET: My excellent good friends! How dost thou, Guildenstern? Ah, Rosencrantz! Good lads, how do ye both?
ROSENCRANTZ: As the indifferent [moderately well] children of the earth.
GUILDENSTERN: Happy in that we are not over happy;
On Fortune’s cap we are not the very button.
HAMLET: Nor the soles of her shoe? 220
ROSENCRANTZ: Neither, my lord.
HAMLET: Then you live about her waist, or in the middle of her favours?
GUILDENSTERN: Faith, her privates [genital organs] we.
HAMLET: In the secret parts of Fortune? O! most true; she is a strumpet [promiscuous woman]. What news?
ROSENCRANTZ: None, my lord, but that the world’s grown
HAMLET: Then is doomsday near; but your news is not true. Let me
question more in particular: what have you, my good friends, deserved
at the hands of Fortune, that she sends you to prison
GUILDENSTERN: Prison, my lord!
HAMLET: Denmark’s a prison.
ROSENCRANTZ: Then is the world one.
HAMLET: A goodly one; in which there are many confines, wards,
and dungeons, Denmark being one o’ the
Ros We think not so, my lord.
HAMLET: Why, then, ’tis none to you; for there is nothing either
good or bad, but thinking makes it so: to me it is a
ROSENCRANTZ: Why, then your ambition makes it one; ’tis too narrow for your mind.
HAMLET: O God! I could be bounded in a nutshell, and count myself
a king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad
GUILDENSTERN: Which dreams, indeed, are ambition, for the very
substance of the ambitious is merely the shadow of a
HAMLET: A dream itself is but a shadow.
ROSENCRANTZ: Truly, and I hold ambition of so airy and light a quality that it is but a shadow’s shadow.
HAMLET: Then are our beggars bodies, and our monarchs and
outstretched heroes the beggars’ shadows. Shall we to the court? for,
by my fay [faith], I cannot reason.
ROSENCRANTZ: and GUILDENSTERN: We’ll wait upon you.
HAMLET: No such matter; I will not [count] you with the rest of
my servants, for, to speak to you like an honest man, I am most
dreadfully attended. But, in the beaten way of friendship, what make
ROSENCRANTZ: To visit you, my lord; no other occasion.
HAMLET: Beggar that I am, I am even poor in thanks; but I thank
you: and sure, dear friends, my thanks are too dear a halfpenny [English coin of small value]. Were
you not sent for? Is it your own inclining? Is it a free visitation?
Come, come, deal justly with me: come, come; nay, speak.
GUILDENSTERN: What should we say, my lord?
HAMLET: Why anything, but to the purpose. You were sent for; and
there is a kind of confession in your looks which your modesties have
not craft enough to colour: I know the good king and queen have sent
ROSENCRANTZ: To what end, my lord? 245
HAMLET: That you must teach me. But let me conjure [appeal to]
you, by the rights of our fellowship, by the consonancy [agreeableness]
of our youth, by the obligation of our ever-preserved love, and by what
more dear a better proposer could charge you withal, be even and direct
with me, whether you were sent for or no!
ROSENCRANTZ: [Aside to GUILDENSTERN.] What say you?
HAMLET: [Aside.] Nay, then, I have an eye of you. If you love me, hold not off.
GUILDENSTERN: My lord, we were sent for.
HAMLET: I will tell you why; so shall my anticipation prevent
your discovery, and your secrecy to the king and queen moult [shed] no
feather. I have of late,—but wherefore [why] I know not,—lost all my
mirth, forgone all custom of exercises; and indeed it goes so heavily
with my disposition that this goodly frame, the earth, seems to me a
sterile promontory; this most excellent canopy, the air, look you, this
brave o’erhanging firmament [sky], this majestical roof fretted with
golden fire, why, it appears no other thing to me but a foul and
pestilent congregation of vapours. What a piece of work is a man! How
noble in reason! how infinite in faculty! in form, in moving, how
express and admirable! in action how like an angel! in apprehension how
like a god! the beauty of the world! the paragon of animals! And yet,
to me, what is this quintessence [perfection] of dust? man delights not
me; no, nor woman neither, though, by your smiling, you seem to say
ROSENCRANTZ: My lord, there was no such stuff in my thoughts.
HAMLET: Why did you laugh then, when I said, "man delights not me?"
ROSENCRANTZ: To think, my lord, if you delight not in man, what
lenten entertainment the players shall receive from you: we coted
[passed] them on the way; and hither are they coming, to offer you
HAMLET: He that plays the king shall be welcome; his majesty
shall have tribute of me; the adventurous knight shall use his foil and
target [rapier and shield]; the lover shall not sigh gratis; the
humorous man [actor who can play different parts; character actor]
shall end his part in peace; the clown shall make those laugh whose
lungs are tickle o’ the sere [burst out laughing at the slightest
provocation; a sere is a hair trigger] and the lady shall say her mind
freely, or the blank verse [see the study guide section on blank verse]
shall halt for ’t. What players are they?
ROSENCRANTZ: Even those you were wont to take delight in,
tragedians of the
HAMLET: How chances it they travel? their residence, both in reputation and profit, was better both ways.
[their . . . ways: They were more popular and made more money when in residence in a city.]
ROSENCRANTZ: I think their inhibition comes by the means of the late innovation.
[I think . . . innovation: I think they were prohibited after a recent riot.]
HAMLET: Do they hold the same estimation they did when I was in the city? Are they so followed?
ROSENCRANTZ: No, indeed they are not.
HAMLET: How comes it? Do they grow rusty? 260
ROSENCRANTZ: Nay, their endeavour keeps in the wonted [desired] pace: but
there is, sir, an aery [nest; group] of children, little eyases [falcons in
training], that cry out on the top of the question [top of their
voices], and are most tyrannically clapped for ’t: these are now the
fashion, and so berattle the common stages,—so they call them,—that
many wearing rapiers are afraid of goose-quills, and dare scarce come
HAMLET: What! are they children? who maintains ’em? how are they
escoted [paid]? Will they pursue the quality no longer than they can
sing? will they not say afterwards, if they should grow themselves to
common players,—as it is most like, if their means are no better,—their
writers do them wrong, to make them exclaim against their own
[if they . . . succession: If they continue to act after they become adults, they will no longer be a
ROSENCRANTZ: Faith, there has been much to-do on both sides: and
the nation holds it no sin to tarre [goad] them to controversy: there
was, for a while, no money bid for the argument [plot of a play],
unless the poet and the player went to cuffs in the
HAMLET: Is it possible?
GUILDENSTERN: O! there has been much throwing about of
HAMLET: Do the boys carry it away?
ROSENCRANTZ: Ay, that they do, my lord; Hercules and his load too.
. . . too: The image of the mythological hero Hercules bearing the
world on his shoulders was a symbol of the Globe Theatre.]
HAMLET: It is not very strange; for my uncle is King of Denmark,
and those that would make mows [frowns] at him while my father lived,
give twenty, forty, fifty, a hundred ducats a-piece for his picture in
little [small image of the king]. ’Sblood [by the blood of the
crucified Christ], there is something in this more than natural, if
philosophy could find it out. [Flourish of trumpets
GUILDENSTERN: There are the players.
HAMLET: Gentlemen, you are welcome to Elsinore. Your hands, come
then [let me shake your hands]; the appurtenance of welcome is fashion
and ceremony: let me comply with you in this garb [regard], lest my
extent [behavior] to the players—which, I tell you, must show fairly
outward—should more appear like entertainment than yours. You are
welcome; but my uncle-father and aunt-mother are
GUILDENSTERN: In what, my dear lord?
HAMLET: I am but mad north-north-west: when the wind is southerly
I know a hawk from a handsaw [heronshaw, a type of wading bird].
[I know . . . handsaw: I know what's what].
POLONIUS: Well be with you, gentlemen!
HAMLET: Hark you, Guildenstern; and you too; at each ear a
hearer: that great baby you see there is not yet out of his
ROSENCRANTZ: Happily he’s the second time come [wearing] to them; for they say an old man is twice a child.
HAMLET: I will prophesy he comes to tell me of the players; mark
it. [Hamlet turns his attention to Polonius.] You say right, sir; o’
Monday morning; ’twas so indeed.
POLONIUS: My lord, I have news to tell you.
HAMLET: My lord, I have news to tell you. When Roscius [renowned actor] was an actor in Rome,—
POLONIUS: The actors are come hither, my lord. 280
HAMLET: Buzz, buzz! [Buzz means old news. It is also the
equivalent of "zzzzzzz" to suggest sleeping. In other words, Hamlet
thinks he is about to be bored or put to sleep, so to speak, by what
POLONIUS: Upon my honour,—
HAMLET: Then came each actor on his ass,—
POLONIUS: The best actors in the world, either for tragedy,
comedy, history, pastoral, pastoral-comical, historical-pastoral,
tragical-historical, tragical-comical-historical-pastoral, scene
individable [scene that preserves the classical unities of time, place,
and action], or poem unlimited: Seneca [ancient Roman tragedian] cannot
be too heavy, nor Plautus [ancient Roman writer of comedies] too light.
For the law of writ and the liberty, these are the only
HAMLET: O Jephthah, judge of Israel, what a treasure hadst
POLONIUS: What a treasure had he, my lord?
One fair daughter and no more,
The which he loved passing well.
POLONIUS: [Aside.] Still on my daughter. 290
[Hamlet's reference to Jephthah's daughter leads Polonius to conclude that Hamlet is thinking about Ophelia.]
HAMLET: Am I not i’ the right, old Jephthah?
POLONIUS: If you call me Jephthah, my lord, I have a daughter that I love passing well.
HAMLET: Nay, that follows not.
POLONIUS: What follows, then, my lord?
HAMLET: Why, 295
As by lot, God wot [knew].
And then, you know,
It came to pass, as most like it was.—
The first row of the pious chanson [pious poem or song] will show you more; for look where my abridgment comes.
[abridgement: This word may mean entertainment. It may also mean that
the players abridge—that is, cut off or shorten—Hamlet's conversation
Enter four or five Players. 300
You are welcome, masters; welcome, all. I am glad to see thee well:
welcome, good friends. O, my old friend! Thy face is valanced [bearded]
since I saw thee last: comest thou to beard me in Denmark? What! my
young lady and mistress! By ’r lady [By the Blessed Virgin Mary], your
ladyship [boy who plays women's parts] is nearer heaven than when I saw
you last, by the altitude of a chopine [shoe with a thick sole]. Pray
God, your voice, like a piece of uncurrent gold [gold coin], be not
cracked within the ring. Masters, you are all welcome. We’ll e’en to ’t
[take to it] like French falconers, fly at anything we see: we’ll have
a speech straight. Come, give us a taste of your quality; come, a
FIRST PLAYER: What speech, my good lord?
HAMLET: I heard thee speak me a speech once, but it was never
acted; or, if it was, not above [more than] once; for the play, I
remember, pleased not the million; ’twas caviar to the general [the
general public did not appreciate caviar]: but it was—as I received it,
and others, whose judgments in such matters cried in the top of mine—an
excellent play, well digested in the scenes, set down with as much
modesty as cunning. I remember one said there were no sallets [salads
or delicious treats] in the lines to make the matter savoury, nor no
matter in the phrase that might indict the author of affectation; but
called it an honest method, as wholesome as sweet, and by very much
more handsome than fine. One speech in it I chiefly loved; ’twas
Aeneas’ tale to Dido; and thereabout of it especially, where he speaks
of Priam’s slaughter. If it live in your memory, begin at this line:
let me see, let me see:—
The rugged Pyrrhus, like the Hyrcanian beast,—
’tis not so, it begins with Pyrrhus:— 305
The rugged Pyrrhus, he, whose sable arm,
Black as his purpose, did the night resemble
When he lay couched in the ominous horse [Trojan horse],
Hath now this dread and black complexion smear’d
With heraldry more dismal; head to foot 310
Now is he total gules [red]; horridly trick’d
With blood of fathers, mothers, daughters, sons,
Bak’d and impasted [encrusted with the residue of the burning city of Troy] with the parching streets,
That lend a tyrannous and damned light
To their vile murders: roasted in wrath and fire, 315
And thus o’er-sized with coagulate gore,
With eyes like carbuncles [red gems], the hellish Pyrrhus
Old grandsire Priam seeks.
So proceed you.
POLONIUS: ’Fore God, my lord, well spoken; with good accent and
FIRST PLAYER: Anon [soon], he finds him
Striking too short at Greeks; his antique sword,
Rebellious to his arm, lies where it falls,
Repugnant to command. Unequal match’d,
Pyrrhus at Priam drives; in rage strikes wide; 325
But with the whiff and wind of his fell sword
The unnerved father falls. Then senseless Ilium [Troy],
Seeming to feel this blow, with flaming top
Stoops to his base, and with a hideous crash
Takes prisoner Pyrrhus’ ear: for lo! his sword, 330
Which was declining on the milky head
Of reverend Priam, seem’d i’ the air to stick:
So, as a painted tyrant, Pyrrhus stood,
And like a neutral to his will and matter,
Did nothing. 335
But, as we often see, against some storm,
A silence in the heavens, the rack [clouds] stand still,
The bold winds speechless and the orb below
As hush as death, anon the dreadful thunder
Doth rend the region; so, after Pyrrhus’ pause, 340
Aroused vengeance sets him new a-work;
And never did the Cyclops’ hammers fall
On Mars’s armour, forg’d for proof [impenetrability] eterne [eternal],
With less remorse than Pyrrhus’ bleeding sword
Now falls on Priam. 345
Out, out, thou strumpet, Fortune! All you gods,
In general synod, take away her power;
Break all the spokes and fellies [parts of a rim] from her wheel,
And bowl the round nave [wheel hub] down the hill of heaven,
As low as to the fiends! 350
POLONIUS: This is too long.
HAMLET: It shall to the barber’s, with your beard. Prithee [I
pray you], say on: he’s for a jig or a tale of bawdry [dirty story], or
he sleeps [becomes bored]. Say on; come to Hecuba.
FIRST PLAYER: But who, O! who had seen the mobled [wrapped up, enshrouded] queen—
HAMLET: "The mobled queen?"—
POLONIUS: That’s good; "mobled queen" is good. 355
FIRST PLAYER: Run barefoot up and down, threat’ning the flames
With bisson rheum; a clout upon that head
[bisson rheum: Blinding (bisson) discharge (rheum) from the eyes caused by smoke]
Where late the diadem stood; and, for a robe,
About her lank and all o’er-teemed loins [loins overtaxed or worn out by bearing children]
A blanket, in the alarm of fear caught up; 360
Who this had seen, with tongue in venom steep’d,
’Gainst Fortune’s state would treason have pronounc’d:
[Who . . . pronounc'd: Anyone who had seen Hecuba in this sorry state would have condemned Lady Fortune for her cruelty.]
But if the gods themselves did see her then,
When she saw Pyrrhus make malicious sport
In mincing with his sword her husband’s limbs, 365
The instant burst of clamour that she made—
Unless things mortal move them not at all—
Would have made milch [teary] the burning eyes of heaven,
And passion in the gods.
POLONIUS: Look! wh’er [whether] he has not turned his colour and
has tears in ’s eyes. Prithee, no
HAMLET: ’Tis well; I’ll have thee speak out the rest soon. Good
my lord, will you see the players well bestowed? Do you hear, let them
be well used; for they are the abstracts and brief chronicles of the
time: after your death you were better have a bad epitaph than their
ill report while you live.
POLONIUS: My lord, I will use them according to their desert.
HAMLET: God’s bodikins [by the body of the Lord], man, much
better; use every man after his desert, and who should ’scape whipping?
Use them after your own honour and dignity: the less they deserve, the
more merit is in your bounty. Take them in.
POLONIUS: Come, sirs.
HAMLET: Follow him, friends: we’ll hear a play to-morrow.
[Exit POLONIUS, with all the Players but the First.] Dost thou
hear me, old friend; can you play the Murder of
FIRST PLAYER: Ay, my lord.
HAMLET: We’ll ha ’t to-morrow night. You could, for a need, study
a speech of some dozen or sixteen lines, which I would set down and
insert in ’t, could you not?
FIRST PLAYER: Ay, my lord.
HAMLET: Very well. Follow that lord; and look you mock him
not. [Exit First Player.] [To ROSENCRANTZ and
GUILDENSTERN.] My good friends, I’ll leave you till night; you
are welcome to Elsinore.
ROSENCRANTZ: Good my lord! [Exeunt ROSENCRANTZ and
HAMLET: Ay, so, God be wi’ ye! Now I am alone.
O! what a rogue and peasant slave am I:
Is it not monstrous that this player here,
But in a fiction, in a dream of passion [imagination],
Could force his soul so to his own conceit 385
That from her working all his visage wann’d,
[Could force . . . wann'd: Could force his soul to make his face appear pale]
Tears in his eyes, distraction [wild excitement] in his aspect [the way he looks],
A broken voice, and his whole function suiting
With forms to his conceit? and all for nothing!
For Hecuba! 390
What’s Hecuba to him or he to Hecuba
That he should weep for her? What would he do
Had he the motive and the cue for passion
That I have? He would drown the stage with tears,
And cleave [pierce] the general ear with horrid speech, 395
Make mad the guilty and appal the free,
Confound the ignorant, and amaze indeed
The very faculties of eyes and ears.
A dull and muddy-mettled rascal, peak, 400
[muddy . . . peak: Man of dubious courage and character who broods]
Like John-a-dreams [sluggish good-for-nothing], unpregnant of my cause
[not full of desire to avenge my father's death],
And can say nothing; no, not for a king,
Upon whose property and most dear life
A damn’d defeat was made. Am I a coward?
Who calls me villain? breaks my pate [head] across? 405
Plucks off my beard and blows it in my face?
Tweaks me by the nose? gives me the lie i’ the throat,
As deep as to the lungs? Who does me this?
[gives me . . . lungs: Calls me a liar with all the force his voice can muster]
'Swounds [by His wounds—that is, the wounds of Christ], I should take
it, for it cannot
But I am pigeon-liver’d, and lack gall
To make oppression bitter, or ere [before] this
I should have fatted all the region kites
With this slave’s offal. Bloody, bawdy villain!
[But I . . . villain: But I lack the boldness to go after Claudius.
After all, by this time, I should have fed his guts (offal) to kites (birds of
prey). What a bloody, bawdy villain is he!]
Remorseless, treacherous, lecherous, kindless villain! 415
Why, what an ass am I! This is most brave
That I, the son of a dear father murder’d,
Prompted to my revenge by heaven and hell,
Must, like a whore, unpack my heart with words, 420
And fall a-cursing, like a very drab,
A scullion! [lowly kitchen servant]
Fie upon ’t! foh! [Exclamation of disgust] About, my brain! I have heard,
That guilty creatures sitting at a play
Have by the very cunning of the scene 425
Been struck so to the soul that presently
They have proclaim’d their malefactions [sins; misdeeds];
For murder, though it have no tongue, will speak
With most miraculous organ. I’ll have these players
Play something like the murder of my father 430
Before mine uncle; I’ll observe his looks;
I’ll tent [probe] him to the quick [raw flesh beneath the skin]: if he but blench [flinch]
I know my course. The spirit that I have seen
May be the devil: and the devil hath power
To assume a pleasing shape; yea, and perhaps 435
Out of my weakness and my melancholy—
As he is very potent with such spirits—
Abuses me to damn me. I’ll have grounds
More relative than this: the play’s the thing
Wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king.
Act 3, Scene 1
A room in the castle.
Enter KING, QUEEN, POLONIUS, OPHELIA, ROSENCRANTZ, and GUILDENSTERN.
KING: And can you, by no drift of circumstance [clue, hint],
Get from him why he puts on this confusion,
Grating so harshly all his days of quiet 5
With turbulent and dangerous lunacy?
ROSENCRANTZ: He does confess he feels himself distracted;
But from what cause he will by no means speak.
GUILDENSTERN: Nor do we find him forward [eager] to be sounded [questioned],
But, with a crafty madness, keeps aloof, 10
When we would bring him on to some confession
Of his true state.
QUEEN: Did he receive you well?
ROSENCRANTZ: Most like a gentleman.
GUILDENSTERN: But with much forcing of his
[forcing . . . disposition: forcing himself to be polite and pleasant]
ROSENCRANTZ: Niggard [stingy; spare] of question, but of our demands
Most free in his reply.
QUEEN: Did you assay him
To any pastime?
[assay . . . to: Ask him about]
ROSENCRANTZ: Madam, it so fell out that certain
We o’er-raught [overtook] on the way; of these we told him,
And there did seem in him a kind of joy
To hear of it: they are about the court,
And, as I think, they have already order
This night to play before him. 25
POLONIUS: ’Tis most true;
And he beseech’d me to entreat your majesties
To hear and see the matter.
KING: With all my heart; and it doth much content me
To hear him so inclin’d. 30
Good lemen [gentlemen], give him a further edge.
And drive his purpose on to these delights.
ROSENCRANTZ: We shall, my lord. [Exeunt ROSENCRANTZ and GUILDENSTERN.
KING: Sweet Gertrude, leave us too;
For we have closely sent for Hamlet hither, 35
That he, as ’twere by accident, may here
Affront [confront] Ophelia.
Her father and myself, lawful espials [concerned observers],
Will so bestow [hide] ourselves, that, seeing, unseen,
We may of their encounter frankly judge, 40
And gather by him, as he is behav’d,
If ’t be the affliction of his love or no
That thus he suffers for you [Ophelia].
QUEEN: I shall obey you.
And for your part, Ophelia, I do wish 45
That your good beauties be the happy cause
Of Hamlet’s wildness; so shall I hope your virtues
Will bring him to his wonted [desired; normal] way again,
To both your honours.
OPHELIA: Madam, I wish it may. [Exit QUEEN. 50
POLONIUS: Ophelia, walk you here. Gracious, so please you,
We will bestow ourselves. [To OPHELIA.] Read on this book;
That show of such an exercise may colour
Your loneliness. We are oft to blame in this,
’Tis too much prov’d, that with devotion’s visage [pious
And pious action we do sugar o’er
The devil himself.
KING: [Aside.] O! ’tis too true;
How smart a lash that speech doth give my conscience!
The harlot’s cheek, beautied with plastering art, 60
Is not more ugly to the thing that helps it
Than is my deed to my most painted word:
[The harlot's . . . word: The prostitute's cheek plastered with makeup is no more ugly than my devious actions and false words.]
O heavy burden!
POLONIUS: I hear him coming; let’s withdraw, my lord. [Exeunt KING and POLONIUS.
Enter HAMLET. 65
HAMLET: To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep; 70
No more; and, by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to, ’tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish’d. To die, to sleep;
[To be, or not . . . wish'd: To go on living or end my life: that is
the question. Is it nobler to suffer the pain of misfortune or to take
action against this pain. Death brings eternal sleep, which supposedly
ends suffering. That is an outcome to be wished for.]
To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there’s the rub [obstacle;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause. There’s the respect
That makes calamity of so long life;
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time, 80
The oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely,
The pangs of dispriz’d love, the law’s delay,
The insolence of office, and the spurns
That patient merit of the unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make 85
With a bare bodkin? who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscover’d country from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will, 90
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
[To sleep . . . not of: The dreams we might have in the sleep of
death—in fact, all that happens in the afterlife—is a very
intimidating subject. For this reason, people generally choose to live
on rather than ending their lives in spite of the severity of the
troubles they face. I don't think any person would bear life's
problems—scorn, oppression, insolence, love gone wrong, injustice, the
arrogance of the high and mighty, rejection—if he could end his life
without fear of what would happen next, in the afterlife. But the
afterlife is an undiscovered country from whose boundaries no one
returns. So, rather than commit suicide and confront the unknown, we
choose to stay alive and bear our burdens.]
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought, 95
And enterprises of great pith and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry,
And lose the name of action. Soft you now!
The fair Ophelia! Nymph, in thy orisons [prayers]
Be all my sins remember’d. 100
OPHELIA: Good my lord,
How does your honour for this many a day?
HAMLET: I humbly thank you; well, well, well.
OPHELIA: My lord, I have remembrances of yours,
That I have longed long to re-deliver; 105
I pray you, now receive them.
HAMLET: No, not I;
I never gave you aught [anything].
OPHELIA: My honour’d lord, you know right well you did;
And, with them, words of so sweet breath compos’d 110
As made the things more rich: their perfume lost,
Take these again; for to the noble mind
Rich gifts wax poor when givers prove unkind.
There, my lord.
HAMLET: Ha, ha! are you honest [chaste]? 115
OPHELIA: My lord!
HAMLET: Are you fair?
OPHELIA: What means your lordship?
HAMLET: That if you be honest and fair, your honesty should admit no discourse to your beauty.
OPHELIA: Could beauty, my lord, have better commerce than with
HAMLET: Ay, truly; for the power of beauty will sooner transform
honesty [chastity] from what it is to a bawd [prostitute, whore] than
the force of honesty can translate beauty into his likeness: this was sometime a paradox, but now the
time gives it proof. I did love thee once.
[for the power . . . likeness: Beautiful
women tend to give in to lust rather than remain chaste.]
OPHELIA: Indeed, my lord, you made me believe so.
HAMLET: You should not have believed me; for virtue cannot so
inoculate our old stock but we shall relish of it: I loved you not.
[virtue . . . it: We may admire virtue, but we ourselves are anything but virtuous.]
OPHELIA: I was the more deceived.
HAMLET: Get thee to a nunnery: why wouldst thou be a breeder of
sinners? [See Madness: Pretended or Real.] I am myself indifferent
[somewhat] honest; but yet I could accuse me of such things that it
were better my mother had not borne me. I am very proud, revengeful,
ambitious; with more offences at my beck than I have thoughts to put
them in, imagination to give them shape, or time to act them in. What
should such fellows as I do crawling between heaven and earth? We are
arrant [complete] knaves, all; believe none of us. Go thy ways to a
nunnery. Where’s your
OPHELIA: At home, my lord.
HAMLET: Let the doors be shut upon him, that he may play the fool nowhere but in ’s own house. Farewell.
OPHELIA: O! help him, you sweet heavens!
HAMLET: If thou dost marry, I’ll give thee this plague for thy
dowry: be thou as chaste as ice, as pure as snow, thou shalt not escape
calumny. Get thee to a nunnery, go; farewell. Or, if thou wilt needs
marry, marry a fool; for wise men know well enough what monsters
[fools; cuckolds] you make of them. To a nunnery, go; and quickly too.
OPHELIA: O heavenly powers, restore him! 130
HAMLET: I have heard of your paintings [applications of makeup to
her face] too, well enough; God hath given you one face, and you make
yourselves another: you jig [dance suggestively], you amble, and you
lisp [speak affectedly; speak in a way designed to impress others], and
nickname God’s creatures, and make your wantonness your ignorance. Go
to, I’ll no more on ’t; it hath made me mad. I say, we will have no
more marriages; those that are married already, all but one, shall
live; the rest shall keep as they are. To a nunnery, go. [Exit.
[nickname . . . ignorance: You give lewd names to God's creatures but pretend you don't know what they mean.]
OPHELIA: O! what a noble mind is here o’erthrown:
The courtier’s, soldier’s, scholar’s, eye, tongue, sword; [He has been
an example for courtiers, soldiers, and scholars to imitate.]
The expectancy [hope] and rose of the fair state,
The glass of fashion and the mould of form, 135
The observ’d of all observers, quite, quite down!
And I, of ladies most deject and wretched,
That suck’d the honey of his music vows [sweet words],
Now see that noble and most sovereign reason,
Like sweet bells jangled, out of tune and harsh; 140
That unmatch’d form and feature of blown youth
Blasted with ecstasy: O! woe is me,
To have seen what I have seen, see what I see!
Re-enter KING and POLONIUS.
KING: Love! his affections do not that way tend; 145
Nor what he spake, though it lack’d form a little,
Was not like madness. There’s something in his soul
O’er which his melancholy sits on brood [sits on a scheme or plot, as a hen sits on eggs];
And, I do doubt, the hatch and the disclose
Will be some danger; which for to prevent, 150
I have in quick determination
Thus set it down: he shall with speed to England,
For the demand of our neglected tribute:
[he shall . . . tribute: I will send him to England on the pretense that he is to collect money owed to Denmark.]
Haply [perhaps] the seas and countries different
With variable objects [sights] shall expel 155
This something-settled matter in his heart [the malady that has settled in his heart],
Whereon his brains still beating puts him thus
From fashion of himself. What think you on ’t?
[puts him . . . of himself: Makes him act abnormally]
POLONIUS: It shall do well: but yet do I believe
The origin and commencement of his grief 160
Sprung from neglected love. How now, Ophelia!
You need not tell us what Lord Hamlet said;
We heard it all. My lord, do as you please;
But, if you hold it fit, after the play,
Let his queen mother all alone entreat him 165
To show his griefs: let her be round with him;
And I’ll be plac’d, so please you, in the ear
Of all their conference. If she find him not,
[And I'll . . . conference: And I will hide, then eavesdrop on their conversation.]
To England send him, or confine him where
Your wisdom best shall think. 170
KING: It shall be so:
Madness in great ones must not unwatch’d go. [Exeunt.
Act 3, Scene 2
A hall in the castle.
Enter HAMLET and certain Players.
HAMLET: Speak the speech, I pray you, as I pronounced it to you,
trippingly on the tongue; but if you mouth it, as many of your players
do, I had as lief the town-crier spoke my lines. Nor do not saw the air
too much with your hand [do not overdo your gestures], thus; but use
all gently: for in the very torrent, tempest, and—as I may
say—whirlwind of passion, you must acquire and beget a temperance, that
may give it smoothness. O! it offends me to the soul to hear a
robustious periwig-pated fellow tear a passion to tatters, to very
rags, to split the ears of the groundlings [actor in a powdered wig who
shouts his lines to the uneducated commoners], who for the most part
are capable of nothing but inexplicable dumb-shows and noise: I would
have such a fellow whipped for o’er-doing Termagant [noisy,
overbearing, shrewish woman]; it out-herods Herod: pray you, avoid it.
FIRST PLAYER: I warrant [promise] your honour.
HAMLET: Be not too tame neither, but let your own discretion be
your tutor: suit the action to the word, the word to the action; with
this special observance, that you o’erstep not the modesty of nature;
for anything so overdone is from the purpose of playing, whose end,
both at the first and now, was and is, to hold, as ’twere, the mirror
up to nature; to show virtue her own feature, scorn her own image, and
the very age and body of the time his form and pressure. Now, this
overdone, or come tardy off, though it make the unskilful laugh, cannot
but make the judicious grieve; the censure of which one must in your
allowance o’erweigh a whole theatre of others. O! there be players that
I have seen play, and heard others praise, and that highly, not to
speak it profanely, that, neither having the accent of Christians nor
the gait of Christian, pagan, nor man, have so strutted and bellowed
that I have thought some of nature’s journeymen had made men and not
made them well, they imitated humanity so
FIRST PLAYER: I hope we have reformed that indifferently [moderately] with us.
HAMLET: O! reform it altogether. And let those that play your
clowns speak no more than is set down for them; for there be of them
that will themselves laugh, to set on some quantity of barren
spectators to laugh too, though in the mean time some necessary
question of the play be then to be considered; that’s villanous, and
shows a most pitiful ambition in the fool that uses it. Go, make you
ready. [Exeunt Players.
Enter POLONIUS, ROSENCRANTZ, and GUILDENSTERN.
How now, my lord! will the king hear this piece of work?
POLONIUS: And the queen too, and that presently. 10
HAMLET: Bid the players make haste. [Exit POLONIUS.
Will you two help to hasten them?
ROSENCRANTZ: and GUILDENSTERN: We will, my lord. [Exeunt ROSENCRANTZ and GUILDENSTERN.
HAMLET: What, ho! Horatio!
Enter HORATIO. 15
HORATIO: Here, sweet lord, at your service.
HAMLET: Horatio, thou art e’en as just a man
As e’er my conversation cop’d [encountered; dealt with] withal.
HORATIO: O! my dear lord,—
HAMLET: Nay, do not think I flatter; 20
For what advancement may I hope from thee,
That no revenue hast but thy good spirits
To feed and clothe thee? Why should the poor be flatter’d?
No; let the candied tongue [flatterer] lick absurd pomp,
And crook the pregnant hinges of the knee [bend the knee] 25
Where thrift may follow fawning. Dost thou hear?
[Where . . . fawning: Whenever a gain follows his flattery]
Since my dear soul was mistress of her choice
And could of men distinguish, her election
Hath seal’d [chosen] thee for herself; for thou hast been
As one, in suffering all, that suffers nothing, 30
[As . . . nothing: As one who has suffered but does not complain]
A man that fortune’s buffets and rewards
Hast ta’en with equal thanks; and bless’d are those
Whose blood and judgment are so well comingled
That they are not a pipe for fortune’s finger
[not . . . finger: Not controlled by fortune—literally, not a musical instrument (flute) to be played by fortune]
To sound what stop [note] she please. Give me that man 35
That is not passion’s slave, and I will wear him
In my heart’s core, ay, in my heart of heart,
As I do thee. Something too much of this [I'm dwelling too much on this subject.].
There is a play to-night before the king;
One scene of it comes near the circumstance 40
Which I have told thee of my father’s death:
I prithee, when thou seest that act afoot,
Even with the very comment [eye] of thy soul
Observe mine uncle; if his occulted [concealed] guilt
Do not itself unkennel [reveal itself] in one speech, 45
It is a damned ghost that we have seen,
And my imaginations are as foul
As Vulcan’s stithy [the smithy of Vulcan, the blacksmith god in Roman mythology]. Give him heedful note;
For I mine eyes will rivet to his face,
And after we will both our judgments join 50
In censure [analysis] of his seeming [reaction; behavior].
HORATIO: Well, my lord:
If he steal aught the whilst this play is playing,
And ’scape detecting, I will pay the theft.
[If . . . theft: I will watch him as I would watch a known thief. If he escapes detection, the fault is mine.]
HAMLET: They are coming to the play; I must be idle [pretend to
Get you a place.
Danish march. A Flourish. Enter KING, QUEEN, POLONIUS, OPHELIA, ROSENCRANTZ, GUILDENSTERN, and Others.
KING: How fares our cousin Hamlet?
HAMLET: Excellent, i’ faith; of the chameleon’s dish: I eat the air, promise-crammed; you cannot feed capons so.
[How fares . . . capons so: Claudius asks how Hamlet is getting along.
But Hamlet pretends that he interprets "fares" to mean "eats." He then
says he eats what the chameleon eats: air. It was believed that
chameleons fed on air. However, because the air is fat with promise but empty of actual
benefit, says Hamlet, one cannot feed air to capons (castrated male
chickens). Hamlet is like a chameleon in that he changes colors—that
is, he becomes a different person in front of Claudius. However, in his
effort to nail Claudius as the murderer of his father, Hamlet so far
has come up only with air but no substance.]
KING: I have nothing with [I do not understand] this answer,
Hamlet; these words are not
HAMLET: No, nor mine now. [To POLONIUS.] My lord, you played once i’ the university, you say?
POLONIUS: That did I, my lord, and was accounted a good actor.
HAMLET: And what did you enact?
POLONIUS: I did enact Julius Cæsar: I was killed i’ the Capitol; Brutus killed me.
HAMLET: It was a brute part of him to kill so capital a calf
there. Be the players
ROSENCRANTZ: Ay, my lord; they stay upon your patience.
QUEEN: Come hither, my good Hamlet, sit by me.
HAMLET: No, good mother, here’s metal [a precious metal, Ophelia] more attractive.
POLONIUS: [To the king] O ho! do you mark that?
HAMLET: Lady, shall I lie in your lap? [Lying down at
OPHELIA: No, my lord.
HAMLET: I mean, my head upon your lap?
OPHELIA: Ay, my lord.
HAMLET: Do you think I meant country matters [something indecent]?
OPHELIA: I think nothing, my lord. 75
HAMLET: That’s a fair thought to lie between maids’ legs.
[That's . . . legs: After Ophelia says she thinks nothing, Hamlet interprets nothing to mean the numerical symbol 0.
Because of its shape, this symbol was sometimes used as a
representation of the vulva, the external part of the female sex
OPHELIA: What is, my lord?
OPHELIA: You are merry, my lord.
HAMLET: Who, I? 80
OPHELIA: Ay, my lord.
HAMLET: O God, your only jig-maker. [O God, who is the original
merrymaker.] What should a man do but be merry? for, look you, how
cheerfully my mother looks, and my father died within’s two
OPHELIA: Nay, ’tis twice two months, my lord.
HAMLET: So long? Nay, then, let the devil wear black, for I’ll
have a suit of sables. [Since it is so long since my father's death, I
will not wear typical black mourning clothes. Let the devil do that.
Instead, I will wear a suit of sables (sumptuous black furs) suitable
for other occasions.]
O heavens! die two months ago, and not forgotten yet? Then there’s hope
a great man’s memory may outlive his life half a year; but, by ’r lady
[by the Blessed Virgin Mary], he must build churches then [churches
that are dedicated to his memory], or else shall he suffer not thinking
on, with the hobby-horse, whose epitaph is, ‘For, O! for, O! the
hobby-horse is forgot.’ [A hobby horse is a wooden figure of a horse.
In a dance called the morris, a participant wore a costume resembling a
hobby horse. During the dance the hobby horse died, then later rose
again and continued the dance. Like the hobby horse, old King Hamlet
died but later rose to appear to Hamlet. However, because Hamlet has
not yet avenged his father's death, the spirit of the dead king may
feel that he "is forgot."]
Hautboys [oboes] play. The dumb-show [part of a play acted
without words; pantomime. The next passage presents the dumb
Enter a King and a Queen, very lovingly; the Queen embracing him, and
he her. She kneels, and makes show of protestation unto
him. He takes her up, and declines his head upon her neck; lays
him down upon a bank of flowers: she, seeing him asleep, leaves
him. Anon [soon] comes in a fellow, takes off his crown, kisses
it, and pours poison in the King’s ears, and exits. The Queen
returns, finds the King dead, and makes passionate action. The
Poisoner, with some two or three Mutes, comes in again, seeming to
lament with her. The dead body is carried away. The
Poisoner woos the Queen with gifts; she seems loath and unwilling
awhile, but in the end accepts his love. [Exeunt.
OPHELIA: What means this, my lord?
HAMLET: Marry, this is miching mallecho [sneaky mischief]; it means mischief.
OPHELIA: Belike [probably] this show imports the argument [plot] of the play.
Enter Prologue. 90
HAMLET: We shall know by this fellow: the players cannot keep counsel; they’ll tell all.
OPHELIA: Will he tell us what this show meant?
HAMLET: Ay, or any show that you’ll show him; be not you ashamed
to show, he’ll not shame to tell you what it means.
OPHELIA: You are naught, you are naught. I’ll mark the play.
PROLOGUE: For us and for our tragedy, 95
Here stooping to your clemency,
We beg your hearing patiently.
HAMLET: Is this a prologue, or the posy of a ring? [brief poetry inscribed on a ring]
OPHELIA: ’Tis brief, my lord.
HAMLET: As woman’s love. 100
Enter two Players, King and Queen.
PLAYER KING: Full thirty times hath Phoebus’ cart [the sun] gone round
Neptune’s salt wash [ocean] and Tellus’ orbed ground, [Tellus: earth goddess in Roman mythology]
And thirty dozen moons with borrow’d sheen
About the world have times twelve thirties been, 105
Since love our hearts and Hymen [god of marriage in Greek mythology] did our hands
Unite commutual [together] in most sacred bands.
PLAYER QUEEN: So many journeys may the sun and moon
Make us again count o’er ere love be done!
But, woe is me! you are so sick of late, 110
So far from cheer and from your former state,
That I distrust [am worried about] you. Yet, though I distrust,
Discomfort you, my lord, it nothing must [I must not discomfort you];
For women’s fear and love holds quantity,
In neither aught, or in extremity. 115
Now, what my love is, proof hath made you know;
And as my love is siz’d, my fear is so.
Where love is great, the littlest doubts are fear;
Where little fears grow great, great love grows there.
PLAYER KING: Faith, I must leave thee [I must die], love, and
My operant powers [strength] their functions leave to do:
And thou shalt live in this fair world behind,
Honour’d, belov’d; and haply [perhaps] one as kind
For husband shalt thou—
PLAYER QUEEN: O! confound the rest; 125
Such love must needs be treason in my breast: [It would be treasonous to remarry.]
In second husband let me be accurst;
None wed the second but who kill’d the first.
HAMLET: [Aside.] Wormwood, wormwood. [Extremely bitter herb used in making absinthe and other alcoholic drinks.]
PLAYER QUEEN: The instances that second marriage move [the
reasons to marry a second
Are base respects of thrift [financial or social gain], but none of love;
A second time I kill my husband dead,
When second husband kisses me in bed.
PLAYER KING: I do believe you think what now you speak;
But what we do determine oft we break. 135
[I do . . . break: I believe you are sincere about what you vow to do.
But people often change their minds and break their vows.]
Purpose is but the slave to memory,
Of violent birth, but poor validity;
Which now, like fruit unripe, sticks on the tree,
But fall unshaken when they mellow be.
[Which . . . be: Unripe fruit remains on the tree; ripe fruit falls.]
Most necessary ’tis that we forget 140
To pay ourselves what to ourselves is debt;
What to ourselves in passion we propose,
The passion ending, doth the purpose lose.
[What to . . . lose: In a moment of passion, we promise to do
such and such. But when the passion subsides, we forget about our
The violence of either grief or joy
Their own enactures [actions] with themselves destroy; 145
Where joy most revels grief doth most lament,
Grief joys, joy grieves, on slender accident.
This world is not for aye [for aye: forever], nor ’tis not strange,
That even our love should with our fortunes change;
For ’tis a question left us yet to prove 150
Whe’r [whether] love lead fortune or else fortune [fortune lead] love
[Whether love leads to good luck or good luck leads to
The great man down, you mark his favourite flies;
[The great . . . flies: When a great man suffers a downfall, notice that his favorite friends abandon him.]
The poor advanc’d makes friends of enemies.
[The poor . . . enemies: When the poor and downtrodden advance, they become friends with enemies.]
And hitherto doth love on fortune tend,
[And . . . tend: In the same way, success or failure at love may depend on whether a person's fortune is good or bad.]
For who not needs shall never lack a friend; 155
And who in want a hollow friend doth try
Directly seasons him his enemy.
[For who . . . enemy: Whoever has everything—whoever has no
needs—will never lack a friend. But whoever has needs and asks a
friend for help will make of that friend an enemy.]
But, orderly to end where I begun,
Our wills and fates do so contrary run
That our devices still are overthrown, 160
Our thoughts are ours, their ends none of our own:
So think thou wilt no second husband wed;
But die thy thoughts when thy first lord is dead.
[But, orderly . . . dead: But let me end where I began. What we say we
want and what fate gives us are often at odds. You think that you will
not remarry after I die, but that thought will die when I die.]
PLAYER QUEEN: Nor earth to me give food, nor heaven light!
Sport and repose lock from me day and night! 165
To desperation turn my trust and hope!
An anchor’s cheer in prison be my scope!
Each opposite that blanks the face of joy
Meet what I would have well, and it destroy!
Both here and hence pursue me lasting strife, 170
If, once a widow, ever I be wife!
[Nor earth . . . wife: If I were to remarry, I would deserve no food,
no heavenly light, no rest. All my trust and hope would dissolve into
desperation. The only fit place for me would be a prison with only a
hermit monk's (an anchor's) cheer to keep me company. I would want the
opposite of joy. I would wish for the destruction of joy!]
HAMLET: If she should break it now! [What if she breaks her promises?]
PLAYER KING: ’Tis deeply sworn. [I believe you are sincere.] Sweet, leave me here awhile;
My spirits grow dull, and fain [gladly] I would beguile
The tedious day with sleep. [Sleeps. 175
PLAYER QUEEN: Sleep rock thy brain;
And never come mischance between us twain! [Exit.
HAMLET: Madam, how like you this play?
QUEEN: The lady doth protest too much [is excessive in her pleas], methinks.
HAMLET: O! but she’ll keep her word. 180
KING: Have you heard the argument? Is there no offence in ’t?
HAMLET: No, no, they do but jest, poison in jest; no offence i’ the world.
KING: What do you call the play?
HAMLET: The Mouse-trap. [The title indicates that Hamlet wishes
to use the play to trap, or ensnare, Claudius.] Marry, how? Tropically
[Tropically, pronounced with a long O, is an adverb coined from trope, meaning figure of speech. Tropically thus means figuratively]. This play is the image of a murder done in Vienna:
Gonzago is the duke’s name; his wife, Baptista. You shall see anon;
’tis a knavish [mediocre] piece of work: but what of that? your majesty
and we that have free souls, it touches us not: let the galled jade
wince [let the saddle-sore horse wince]; our withers [part of a horse
between the shoulders] are unwrung [not pinched; not sore].
[Hamlet is saying, in effect: "You and I, King Claudius, are free of
guilt." But he knows well that the king does feel guilt and will soon
Enter Player as Lucianus. 185
This is one Lucianus, nephew to the king.
OPHELIA: You are a good chorus, my lord.
HAMLET: I could interpret between you and your love, if I could see the puppets dallying.
[I could . . . dallying: I could interpret a scene between you and your lover if I could see you two dallying.]
OPHELIA: You are keen, my lord, you are keen.
HAMLET: It would cost you a groaning to take off my
[It . . . edge: Because I am keen, like a knife, it would pain you to dull my edge.]
OPHELIA: Still better, and worse. [Your wit gets better, but your behavior gets worse.]
HAMLET: So you must take your husbands. [That is how you take
your husbands: for better or worse.] Begin, murderer; pox, leave thy
damnable faces, and begin. Come; the croaking raven doth bellow for
LUCIANUS: Thoughts black, hands apt, drugs fit, and time agreeing;
Confederate season, else no creature seeing [The night is dark, and no one can see me];
Thou mixture rank, of midnight weeds collected, 195
With Hecate’s ban [curse] thrice blasted, thrice infected,
Thy natural magic and dire property,
On wholesome life usurp immediately. [Pours the poison into the Sleeper’s ears
[Thou . . . property: These poisonous midnight weeds—which the Queen
of Witchcraft herself has infected with poison—will work their magic and
properties to kill this healthy man].
HAMLET: He poisons him i’ the garden for’s estate. His name’s
Gonzago; the story is extant [remains current; still told], and writ in very choice Italian. You
shall see anon [soon] how the murderer gets the love of Gonzago’s
OPHELIA: The king rises. 200
HAMLET: What! frighted with false fire? [Is he afraid? It's only a play.]
QUEEN: How fares my lord?
POLONIUS: Give o’er the play. [Stop the play.]
KING: Give me some light: away!
ALL: Lights, lights, lights! [Exeunt all except HAMLET and
HAMLET: Why, let the stricken deer go weep,
The hart ungalled play;
[Why . . . play: Why, let the deer
wounded in a hunt go weep. But let the other deer (hart), untouched by
the hunter's arrow, frolic and play.]
For some must watch, while some must sleep:
So runs the world away.
Would not this, sir, and a forest of feathers [feathers on the costumes
of the players], if the rest of my fortunes turn Turk with me, with two
Provincial roses [rosettes] on my razed [etched with designs] shoes,
get me a fellowship in a cry of players,
[Would . . . sir?: If I get down on my luck, I could get a job as an actor. Don't you think?]
HORATIO: Half a share.
HAMLET: A whole one, I.
For thou dost know, O Damon dear,
This realm dismantled was
Of Jove himself; and now
A very, very—pajock [strutting peacock].
[Damon: In ancient Greek legend, a devoted friend of Pythias—in this
[Dismantled . . . himself: Brought to ruin by
Jupiter himself, the king of the gods in ancient Roman mythology.]
HORATIO: You might have rimed.
HAMLET: O good Horatio! I’ll take the ghost’s word for a thousand pound. Didst perceive?
HORATIO: Very well, my lord.
HAMLET: Upon the talk of the poisoning? 220
HORATIO: I did very well note him.
HAMLET: Ah, ha! Come, some music! come, the recorders! [flutes with eight finger holes].
For if the king like not the comedy,
Why then, belike he likes it not, perdy [surely; certainly].
Come, some music! 225
Re-enter ROSENCRANTZ and GUILDENSTERN.
GUILDENSTERN: Good my lord, vouchsafe me a word with you.
HAMLET: Sir, a whole history.
GUILDENSTERN: The king, sir,—
HAMLET: Ay, sir, what of him? 230
GUILDENSTERN: Is in his retirement marvellous distempered [in a bad mood].
HAMLET: With drink, sir?
GUILDENSTERN: No, my lord, rather with choler.
[Choler: Anger. In the next line (below), Hamlet pretends that Guildenstern means that the king is drunk.]
HAMLET: Your wisdom should show itself more richer to signify
this to his doctor; for, for me to put him to his purgation would
perhaps plunge him into far more choler.
GUILDENSTERN: Good my lord, put your discourse into some frame,
and start not so wildly from my affair [Please, sir, you're not making
HAMLET: I am tame, sir; pronounce.
GUILDENSTERN: The queen, your mother, in most great affliction of spirit, hath sent me to you.
HAMLET: You are welcome.
GUILDENSTERN: Nay, good my lord, this courtesy is not of the
right breed. If it shall please you to make me a wholesome answer [to
make sense in your replies], I will do your mother’s commandment; if
not, your pardon and my return shall be the end of my
HAMLET: Sir, I cannot. 240
GUILDENSTERN: What, my lord?
HAMLET: Make you a wholesome answer; my wit’s diseased; but, sir,
such answer as I can make, you shall command; or, rather, as you say,
my mother: therefore no more, but to the matter: my mother, you
ROSENCRANTZ: Then, thus she says: your behaviour hath struck her into amazement and admiration [wonder].
HAMLET: O wonderful son, that can so astonish a mother! But is
there no sequel at the heels of this mother’s admiration?
ROSENCRANTZ: She desires to speak with you in her closet [private
chamber] ere [before] you go to
HAMLET: We shall obey, were she ten times our mother. Have you any further trade with us?
ROSENCRANTZ: My lord, you once did love me.
HAMLET: So I do still, by these pickers and stealers.
[Pickers and stealers: Hands. Moral guidebooks admonished against using the hands to pick pockets or steal valuables.]
ROSENCRANTZ: Good my lord, what is your cause of distemper? you
do surely bar the door upon your own liberty, if you deny your griefs
to your friend.
HAMLET: Sir, I lack advancement. 250
ROSENCRANTZ: How can that be when you have the voice of the king himself for your succession in Denmark?
HAMLET: Ay, sir, but ‘While the grass grows,’—the proverb is something musty.
Enter Players, with recorders.
O! the recorders: let me see one. [Hamlet holds a recorder, a flute with eight finger holes, then turns
to Guildenstern and Rosencrantz.] To withdraw with you: why do you go
about to recover the wind of me, as if you would drive me into a toil?
[Hamlet is annoyed because Guildenstern and Rosencrantz are sticking so
close to him.]
GUILDENSTERN: O! my lord, if my duty be too bold, my love is too
unmannerly [I have been staying by your side because I am concerned
about you. Forgive me if I seem
HAMLET: I do not well understand that. Will you play upon this pipe?
GUILDENSTERN: My lord, I cannot.
HAMLET: I pray you.
GUILDENSTERN: Believe me, I cannot.
HAMLET: I do beseech you. 260
GUILDENSTERN: I know no touch of it, my lord.
HAMLET: ’Tis as easy as lying; govern these ventages [finger
holes; stops] with your finger and thumb, give it breath with your
mouth, and it will discourse most eloquent music. Look you, these are
GUILDENSTERN: But these cannot I command to any utterance of harmony; I have not the skill.
HAMLET: Why, look you now, how unworthy a thing you make of me.
You would play upon me; you would seem to know my stops; you would
pluck out the heart of my mystery; you would sound me from my lowest
note to the top of my compass [range]; and there is much music,
excellent voice, in this little organ, yet cannot you make it speak.
’Sblood [by the blood of the crucified Christ], do you think I am
easier to be played on than a pipe? Call me what instrument you will,
though you can fret me, you cannot play upon me.
[fret me: Double meaning: (1) manipulate me, as a guitarist manipulates the strings of his instrument; (2) vex or annoy me.]
Enter POLONIUS. 265
God bless you, sir!
POLONIUS: My lord, the queen would speak with you, and presently.
HAMLET: Do you see yonder cloud that’s almost in shape of a camel?
POLONIUS: By the mass, and ’tis like a camel, indeed.
[By the mass: Mild oath. The mass is a Catholic worship rite.]
HAMLET: Methinks it is like a weasel. 270
POLONIUS: It is backed like a weasel.
HAMLET: Or like a whale?
POLONIUS: Very like a whale.
[Obviously, the "mad" Hamlet is playing games with Polonius. Polonius
goes along with the game, pretending to agree with him.]
HAMLET: Then I will come to my mother by and by.
[Aside.] They fool me to the top of my bent.
[Aloud.] I will come by and by.
POLONIUS: I will say so. [Exit. 275
HAMLET: By and by is easily said. Leave me, friends. [Exeunt all but HAMLET.
’Tis now the very witching time of night,
When churchyards yawn and hell itself breathes out
Contagion to this world: now could I drink hot blood,
And do such bitter business as the day 280
Would quake to look on. Soft! [soft: Pay attention; stand at attention; take note] now to my mother.
O heart! lose not thy nature; let not ever
The soul of Nero [notorious Roman emperor, AD 37-68, who murdered his mother] enter this firm bosom;
Let me be cruel, not unnatural;
I will speak daggers to her, but use none; 285
My tongue and soul in this be hypocrites;
How in my words soever she be shent [called to task; rebuked],
To give them seals [to back up my words with action] never, my soul, consent! [Exit.
Act 3, Scene 3
A room in the castle.
Enter KING, ROSENCRANTZ, and GUILDENSTERN
KING: I like him not [I don't like his behavior], nor stands it safe with us
To let his madness range. Therefore prepare you;
I your commission will forthwith dispatch, 5
And he to England shall along with you.
The terms of our estate [my kingship] may not endure
Hazard so dangerous as doth hourly grow
Out of his lunacies.
GUILDENSTERN: We will ourselves provide. 10
Most holy and religious fear it is
To keep those many many bodies safe
That live and feed upon your majesty.
[We . . . majesty: We stand ready. We believe we have a moral duty to protect everyone who depends on you.]
ROSENCRANTZ: The single and peculiar life is bound
With all the strength and armour of the mind 15
To keep itself from noyance; but much more
That spirit upon whose weal depend and rest
The lives of many. The cease of majesty
Dies not alone, but, like a gulf doth draw
What’s near it with it; it is a massy wheel, 20
Fix’d on the summit of the highest mount,
To whose huge spokes ten thousand lesser things
Are mortis’d and adjoin’d; which, when it falls,
Each small annexment, petty consequence,
Attends the boisterous ruin.
[The single . . . ruin: A person fiercely protects himself from
danger. But he is even more fierce when it comes to protecting a ruler
such as you, upon whom so many lives depend. When a monarch falls to ruin, he draws down with
him, like a whirlpool, all that is around him. Another way of putting
it is to say that he is like a giant wheel to which is attached his
entire kingdom and its people. When it rolls down a hill, the whole
kingdom rolls with it.]
Never alone 25
Did the king sigh, but with a general groan.
KING: Arm you, I pray you, to this speedy voyage;
For we will fetters put upon this fear,
Which now goes too free-footed.
ROSENCRANTZ and GUILDENSTERN: We will haste us. [Exeunt
POLONIUS: My lord, he’s going to his mother’s closet:
Behind the arras [tapestry; curtain] I’ll convey myself
To hear the process; I’ll warrant she’ll tax him home;
And, as you said, and wisely was it said, 35
’Tis meet that some more audience than a mother,
Since nature makes them partial, should o’er-hear
The speech, of vantage. Fare you well, my liege:
I’ll call upon you ere you go to bed
And tell you what I know. 40
KING: Thanks, dear my lord. [Exit POLONIUS.
O! my offence is rank, it smells to heaven;
It hath the primal eldest curse [the curse on the biblical Cain for killing Abel] upon ’t;
A brother’s murder! Pray can I not,
Though inclination be as sharp as will: 45
My stronger guilt defeats my strong intent;
And, like a man to double business bound,
I stand in pause where I shall first begin,
And both neglect. What if this cursed hand
Were thicker than itself with brother’s blood, 50
Is there not rain enough in the sweet heavens
To wash it white as snow? Whereto serves mercy
But to confront the visage of offence?
[Whereto . . . offence: Isn't mercy supposed to bestow itself on the face of the offender?]
And what’s in prayer but this two-fold force,
To be forestalled, ere we come to fall, 55
Or pardon’d, being down? Then, I’ll look up;
[And what's . . . down: Prayer has a twofold purpose: (1) to prevent us
from sinning and (2) to pardon us when we do sin.]
My fault is past. But, O! what form of prayer
Can serve my turn? ‘Forgive me my foul murder?’
That cannot be; since I am still possess’d
Of those effects for which I did the murder, 60
My crown, mine own ambition, and my queen.
May one be pardon’d and retain the offence?
In the corrupted currents of this world
Offence’s gilded hand may shove by justice,
And oft ’tis seen the wicked prize itself 65
Buys out the law; but ’tis not so above;
[In the . . . above: In this corrupt world, a criminal can buy a pardon
with his wicked prize of gold. But he can't buy off
There is no shuffling, there the action lies
In his true nature, and we ourselves compell’d
Even to the teeth and forehead of our faults
To give in evidence. What then? what rests? 70
[There . . . rests: You cannot bargain with heaven. You must face the
true nature of your wicked deeds. The evidence cannot be altered.]
Try what repentance can: what can it not?
Yet what can it, when one can not repent?
[Try . . . repent: I could repent. But I cannot repent if I am to remain king and keep my gains.]
O wretched state! O bosom black as death!
O limed soul, that struggling to be free
Art more engaged! Help, angels! make assay; 75
[limed . . . engaged: Limed apparently refers to birdlime, a sticky
preparation spread on tree branches to catch birds. In Claudius's case,
his "limed soul" is stuck to his grave sin. The more his soul struggles
to free itself, the more it adheres to the sin.]
Bow, stubborn knees; and heart with strings of steel
Be soft as sinews of the new-born babe.
All may be well. [Retires and kneels.
HAMLET: Now might I do it [kill him] pat, now he is
And now I’ll do ’t: and so he goes to heaven;
And so am I reveng’d. That would be scann’d [closely examined]:
A villain kills my father; and for that,
I, his sole son, do this same villain send
To heaven. 85
Why, this is hire and salary, not revenge.
He took my father grossly, full of bread,
With all his crimes broad blown, as flush as May;
And how his audit stands who knows save heaven?
[In lines 80-89, Hamlet speaks of a new dilemma: if he kills Claudius,
Claudius could go to heaven. What kind of revenge would that be?
Claudius, on the other hand, killed King Hamlet when the latter had sin
on his soul. The old king ended up in purgatory. But why does
Hamlet think Claudius could merit heaven? Like all good Catholic boys,
Hamlet believed only God could judge the goodness or badness of a
person, as line 89 suggests.]
But in our circumstance and course of thought 90
’Tis heavy with him. And am I then reveng’d,
To take him in the purging of his soul,
When he is fit and season’d for his passage?
Up, sword, and know thou a more horrid hent [act of grasping or holding]; 95
When he is drunk asleep, or in his rage,
Or in the incestuous pleasure of his bed,
At gaming, swearing, or about some act
That has no relish of salvation in ’t;
Then trip him, that his heels may kick at heaven, 100
And that his soul may be as damn’d and black
As hell, whereto it goes. My mother stays:
This physic but prolongs thy sickly days. [Exit.
[In lines 95-103, Hamlet says he will wait until he is sure Claudius has sin on his soul before killing him.]
The KING rises and advances.
KING: My words fly up, my thoughts remain below: 105
Words without thoughts never to heaven go. [Exit.
Act 3, Scene 4
The QUEEN'S apartment.
Enter QUEEN and POLONIUS.
POLONIUS: He will come straight. Look you lay home to [be firm with] him;
Tell him his pranks have been too broad [unbridled; unrestrained] to bear with,
And that your Grace hath screen’d and stood between 5
Much heat and him. I’ll silence me e’en here.
Pray you, be round [strict] with him.
HAMLET: [Within.] Mother, mother, mother!
QUEEN: I’ll warrant you [I'll do as you say];
Fear me not. Withdraw, I hear him coming. [POLONIUS hides behind
the arras [tapestry;
HAMLET: Now, mother, what’s the matter?
QUEEN: Hamlet, thou hast thy father much offended.
HAMLET: Mother, you have my father much offended.
QUEEN: Come, come, you answer with an idle [foolish]
HAMLET: Go, go, you question with a wicked tongue.
QUEEN: Why, how now, Hamlet!
HAMLET: What’s the matter now?
QUEEN: Have you forgot me?
HAMLET: No, by the rood [cross of Christ], not so: 20
You are the queen, your husband’s brother’s wife;
And,—would it were not so!—you are my mother.
QUEEN: Nay then, I’ll set those to you that can speak [Then I'll summon others to speak to you.]
HAMLET: Come, come, and sit you down; you shall not budge;
You go not, till I set you up a glass [mirror, used
Where you may see the inmost part of you.
QUEEN: What wilt thou do? thou wilt not murder me?
Help, help, ho!
POLONIUS: [Behind.] What, ho! help! help! help!
HAMLET: [Draws.] How now! a rat? Dead, for a ducat,
dead! [Makes a pass through the
POLONIUS: [Behind.] O! I am slain.
QUEEN: O me! what hast thou done?
HAMLET: Nay, I know not: is it the king?
QUEEN: O! what a rash and bloody deed is this!
HAMLET: A bloody deed! almost as bad, good mother, 35
As kill a king, and marry with his brother.
QUEEN: As kill a king!
HAMLET: Ay, lady, ’twas my word. [Lifts up the arras and discovers POLONIUS.
[To POLONIUS.] Thou wretched, rash, intruding fool, farewell!
I took thee for thy better [for the king]; take thy fortune [take what
Thou find’st to be too busy is some danger.
[Thou . . . danger: You found out that being a snoop can be dangerous.]
Leave wringing of your hands: peace! sit you down,
And let me wring your heart; for so I shall
If it be made of penetrable stuff,
If damned custom have not brass’d it so 45
That it is proof [metal] and bulwark against sense
QUEEN: What have I done that thou dar’st wag thy tongue
In noise so rude against me?
HAMLET: Such an act
That blurs the grace and blush of modesty, 50
Calls virtue hypocrite, takes off the rose
From the fair forehead of an innocent love
And sets a blister there, makes marriage vows
As false as dicers’ oaths; O! such a deed
As from the body of contraction [marriage contract] plucks 55
The very soul, and sweet religion makes
A rhapsody of words [insincere words]; heaven’s face doth glow,
Yea, this solidity and compound mass,
[this . . . mass: The earth]
With tristful visage [sad face], as against the doom,
Is thought-sick at the act. 60
QUEEN: Ay me! what act,
That roars so loud and thunders in the index?
[index: Table of contents. The queen may be comparing herself to
a stage drama. The horrible "act" that she committed is one of the acts
of the play. It is so egregious that it stands out even in the table of
contents. She asks Hamlet to explain what is in the act.]
HAMLET: Look here, upon this picture, and on this;
The counterfeit presentment of two brothers.
See, what a grace was seated on this brow [that of old King
Hyperion’s curls, the front of Jove himself,
[Hyperion: In Greek mythology, the father of the son god Helios. Jove:
One of the Roman names for Zeus, king of the Olympian gods in Greek
An eye like Mars [Roman name for Ares, the god of war in Greek mythology], to threaten and command,
A station [stature] like the herald Mercury [Roman name for Hermes, the messenger god in Greek mythology]
New-lighted [alighted] on a heaven-kissing hill,
A combination and a form indeed, 70
[combination . . . indeed: Impressive physical specimen]
Where every god did seem to set his seal,
To give the world assurance of a man.
This was your husband: look you now, what follows.
Here is your husband [Claudius]; like a mildew’d ear,
Blasting his wholesome brother. Have you eyes? 75
Could you on this fair mountain [old Hamlet] leave to feed,
And batten [get fat; gorge yourself] on this moor? Ha! have you eyes?
You cannot call it love, for at your age
The hey-day [romantic passion] in the blood is tame, it’s humble,
And waits upon the judgment; and what judgment 80
Would step from this [old Hamlet] to this [Claudius]? Sense, sure, you have,
Else could you not have motion; but sure, that sense
Is apoplex’d [paralyzed]; for madness would not err,
Nor sense to ecstasy was ne’er so thrall’d
But it reserv’d some quantity of choice, 85
To serve in such a difference. What devil was ’t
[for madness . . . difference: Even an insane person would not make
your mistake. His common sense, though overtaken by a mad ecstasy,
would still be able to make better choices than you.]
That thus hath cozen’d [tricked] you at hoodman-blind [blind man's bluff]?
Eyes without feeling, feeling without sight,
Ears without hands or eyes, smelling sans all [smelling without the aid of the other senses],
Or but a sickly part of one true sense 90
[Or . . sense: Or even a sickly, partly malfunctioning sense]
Could not so mope [could not make such a terrible mistake as you].
O shame! where is thy blush? Rebellious hell,
If thou canst mutine in [corrupt] a matron’s bones,
To flaming youth let virtue be as wax,
And melt in her own fire: proclaim no shame 95
When the compulsive ardour [passion; lust] gives the charge,
Since frost itself as actively doth burn,
And reason panders will.
[Rebellious . . . will: If hell can so easily corrupt a woman of your
age, passionate youth can follow your example without shame. After all,
aren't young people supposed to follow the example of elders? Reason
and good judgment thus can become servants of a lustful will.]
QUEEN: O Hamlet! speak no more;
Thou turn’st mine eyes into my very soul; 100
And there I see such black and grained spots
As will not leave their tinct
[As . . . tinct: As will not disappear].
HAMLET: Nay, but to live
In the rank sweat of an enseamed [polluted; greasy] bed,
Stew’d in corruption, honeying and making love 105
Over the nasty sty,—
QUEEN: O! speak to me no more;
These words like daggers enter in mine ears;
No more, sweet Hamlet!
HAMLET: A murderer, and a villain; 110
A slave that is not twentieth part the tithe [a tenth]
Of your precedent lord; a vice of kings;
A cut-purse [thief; pickpocket] of the empire and the rule,
That from a shelf the precious diadem stole,
And put it in his pocket! 115
QUEEN: No more!
HAMLET: A king of shreds and patches,—
Save me, and hover o’er me with your wings,
You heavenly guards! What would your gracious figure? 120
QUEEN: Alas! he’s mad!
HAMLET: Do you not come your tardy son to chide,
That, laps’d in time and passion, lets go by
The important acting of your dread command?
O! say. 125
GHOST: Do not forget: this visitation
Is but to whet thy almost blunted purpose.
But, look! amazement on thy mother sits;
O! step between her and her fighting soul;
Conceit [anxious thought] in weakest bodies strongest
Speak to her, Hamlet.
HAMLET: How is it with you, lady?
QUEEN: Alas! how is ’t with you,
That you do bend your eye on vacancy [nothingness]
And with the incorporal air do hold discourse? 135
Forth at [from] your eyes your spirits [thoughts] wildly peep;
And, as the sleeping soldiers in the alarm [awakened by a call to war],
Your bedded hair, like life in excrements [growth],
Starts up and stands an end. O gentle son!
Upon the heat and flame of thy distemper 140
Sprinkle cool patience. Whereon do you look?
HAMLET: On him, on him! Look you, how pale he glares!
His form and cause conjoin’d [the ghost's bearing matches his grim purpose], preaching to stones,
Would make them capable. Do not look upon me;
Lest with this piteous action you convert 145
My stern effects: then what I have to do
Will want true colour; tears perchance for blood.
[Do not . . . blood: Do not stare at me lest the pitiful sight of you
changes me from a bloodthirsty avenger to a tearful mourner.]
QUEEN: To whom do you speak this?
HAMLET: Do you see nothing there?
QUEEN: Nothing at all; yet all that is I see. 150
HAMLET: Nor did you nothing hear?
QUEEN: No, nothing but ourselves.
HAMLET: Why, look you there! look, how it steals away;
My father, in his habit as he liv’d;
Look! where he goes, even now, out at the portal. [Exit
QUEEN: This is the very coinage of your brain:
This bodiless creation ecstasy
Is very cunning in.
[This is . . . cunning in: What you think you see is the product of
your vivid imagination. Madness (ecstasy) can make you see things that
My pulse, as yours, doth temperately keep time, 160
And makes as healthful music. It is not madness
That I have utter’d: bring me to the test,
And I the matter will re-word, which madness
Would gambol from. Mother, for love of grace,
[bring me. . . gambol from: Test me. I will repeat what I said word for word, a task that a madman would run away from.]
Lay not that flattering unction [healing salve] to your
That not your trespass but my madness speaks;
[Lay . . . speaks: Don't flatter yourself that you are innocent of
wrongdoing because my so-called madness is to blame. That fact is, you
are the trespasser; you committed sin.]
It will but skin and film the ulcerous place,
Whiles rank corruption, mining all within,
Infects unseen. Confess yourself to heaven;
[it will . . . heaven: The healing unction will only cover over your
wound (sin) while infection runs wild beneath your skin.]
Repent what’s past; avoid what is to come; 170
And do not spread the compost on the weeds
To make them ranker. Forgive me this my virtue;
[do not . . . ranker: Do not continue to nurture (spread compost on)
your sinful relationship (weeds) with Claudius. Your sin will only
For in the fatness of these pursy times
Virtue itself of vice must pardon beg,
Yea, curb [bow] and woo for leave to do him good [for permission to do
[Forgive . . . good: Forgive me for preaching to you. But in the this
corrupt age, fat and complacent, virtue must beg vice for permission to
QUEEN: O Hamlet! thou hast cleft my heart in twain [cut my heart in two].
HAMLET: O! throw away the worser part of it,
And live the purer with the other half.
Good night; but go not to mine uncle’s bed;
Assume a virtue [pretend to have a virtue], if you have it
That monster, custom, who all sense doth eat,
Of habits devil, is angel yet in this,
That to the use of actions fair and good
He likewise gives a frock or livery,
That aptly is put on. Refrain to-night; 185
[That monster . . . put on: That monster custom, or habit, feeds on
devilish habits. But custom can become an angel when it causes us to do
good with the same ease as putting on a suit of clothes.]
And that shall lend a kind of easiness
To the next abstinence: the next more easy;
For use [practicing good deeds] almost can change the stamp of nature,
And master ev’n the devil or throw him out
With wondrous potency. Once more, goodnight: 190
And when you are desirous to be bless’d,
I’ll blessing beg of you. For this same lord, [Pointing to POLONIUS.
I do repent: but heaven hath pleas’d it so,
To punish me with this, and this with me,
That I must be their scourge and minister. 195
[heaven . . . minister: Heaven has made me a judge and
executioner, punishing him with death and me with the guilt of
I will bestow him [dispose of his body], and will answer well
The death I gave him. So, again, good-night.
I must be cruel only to be kind:
Thus bad begins and worse remains behind.
One word more, good lady. 200
QUEEN: What shall I do?
HAMLET: Not this, by no means, that I bid you do:
Let the bloat [bloated] king tempt you again to bed;
Pinch wanton on your cheek; call you his mouse;
And let him, for a pair of reechy [dirty; vile] kisses, 205
Or paddling in your neck with his damn’d fingers,
Make you to ravel all this matter out,
That I essentially am not in madness,
But mad in craft. ’Twere good you let him know;
For who that’s but a queen, fair, sober, wise, 210
Would from a paddock, from a bat, a gib,
Such dear concernings hide? who would do so?
No, in despite of sense and secrecy,
Unpeg the basket on the house’s top,
Let the birds fly, and, like the famous ape, 215
To try conclusions, in the basket creep,
And break your own neck down.
[Lines 202-217 (Not this . . . neck down): After the king tempts you to
bed, pinches your cheek, calls you his mouse, gives you filthy kisses,
and strokes your neck, he will try to make you report our conversation.
But DON'T tell him that I am really not mad. Oh, yes, as queen you
would be expected to tell all to the king. He would say that it would
be good for you to let him know what's going on. He would have you believe that you could even
tell a toad, a bat, and a cat the whole story. Moreover, like the ape in a famous
story, you could release the birds from their cage—that is, release
the details of our conversation. Remember, though, that in the story
the ape entered the cage out of curiousity, then later jumped out and
broke his neck.]
QUEEN: Be thou assur’d, if words be made of breath,
And breath of life, I have no life to breathe
What thou hast said to me. 220
[Be though . . . me: Be assured that I will not breathe a word of what you said to me.]
HAMLET: I must to England; you know that?
QUEEN: Alack! [Interjection expressing regret or sorrow. Same as alas.]
I had forgot: ’tis so concluded on.
HAMLET: There’s letters seal’d; and my two schoolfellows,
Whom I will trust as I will adders fang’d, 225
They bear the mandate; they must sweep my way,
And marshal me to knavery. Let it work,
For ’tis the sport to have the enginer [engineer]
Hoist with his own petar [blown up with his own land mine]: and it shall go hard
But I will delve one yard below their mines, 230
And blow them at the moon. O! ’tis most sweet,
When in one line two crafts directly meet.
[When . . . meet: When with one scheme I defeat two enemies.]
This man shall set me packing;
I’ll lug the guts [Polonius] into the neighbour room.
Mother, good-night. Indeed this counsellor 235
Is now most still, most secret, and most grave,
Who was in life a foolish prating knave.
Come, sir, to draw toward an end with you.
Good-night, mother. [Exeunt severally; HAMLET dragging in the body of POLONIUS.
Act 4, Scene 1
A room in the castle.
Enter KING, QUEEN, ROSENCRANTZ, and GUILDENSTERN.
KING: There’s matter in these sighs, these profound heaves:
You must translate; ’tis fit we understand them.
Where is your son? 5
QUEEN: [To ROSENCRANTZ and GUILDENSTERN.] Bestow this place
on us a little while. [Exeunt ROSENCRANTZ and
Ah! my good lord, what have I seen to-night.
KING: What, Gertrude? How does Hamlet?
QUEEN: Mad as the sea and wind, when both contend
Which is the mightier. In his lawless fit, 10
Behind the arras [tapestry; curtain] hearing something stir,
Whips out his rapier, cries, ‘A rat! a rat!’
And, in his brainish apprehension, kills
The unseen good old man.
KING: O heavy deed! 15
It had been so with us had we been there.
His liberty is full of threats to all;
To you yourself, to us, to every one.
Alas! how shall this bloody deed be answer’d?
It will be laid to us, whose providence 20
Should have kept short, restrain’d, and out of haunt,
This mad young man: but so much was our love,
We would not understand what was most fit,
But, like the owner of a foul disease,
To keep it from divulging, let it feed 25
Even on the pith of life. Where is he gone?
QUEEN: To draw apart the body he hath kill’d;
O’er whom his very madness, like some ore
Among a mineral of metals base,
Shows itself pure: he weeps for what is done. 30
KING: O Gertrude! come away.
The sun no sooner shall the mountains touch
But we will ship him hence; and this vile deed
We must, with all our majesty and skill,
Both countenance and excuse. Ho! Guildenstern! 35
Re-enter ROSENCRANTZ and GUILDENSTERN.
Friends both, go join you with some further aid:
[join . . . aid: Get help.]
Hamlet in madness hath Polonius slain,
And from his mother’s closet hath he dragg’d him:
Go seek him out; speak fair, and bring the body 40
Into the chapel. I pray you, haste in this. [Exeunt ROSENCRANTZ and GUILDENSTERN.
Come, Gertrude, we’ll call up our wisest friends;
And let them know both what we mean to do,
And what’s untimely done: so, haply [perhaps], slander,
Whose whisper o’er the world’s diameter, 45
As level as the cannon to his blank
Transports his poison’d shot, may miss our name,
And hit the woundless air. O! come away;
My soul is full of discord and dismay. [Exeunt.
Act 4, Scene 2
Another room in the castle.
HAMLET: Safely stowed.
ROSENCRANTZ: and GUILDENSTERN: [Within.] Hamlet! Lord Hamlet!
HAMLET: What noise? who calls on Hamlet? 5
O! here they come.
Enter ROSENCRANTZ and GUILDENSTERN.
ROSENCRANTZ: What have you done, my lord, with the dead body?
HAMLET: Compounded it with dust, whereto ’tis kin.
[It's in a dusty place. When we die, we all return to dust.]
ROSENCRANTZ: Tell us where ’tis, that we may take it
And bear it to the chapel.
HAMLET: Do not believe it.
ROSENCRANTZ: Believe what?
HAMLET: That I can keep your counsel and not mine own. Besides,
to be demanded of a sponge! what replication should be made by the son
of a king?
[That . . . king: That I can accept your advice instead of my own.
Besides, I don't respond to the demands of a sponge. What reply can I
make to a sponge?]
ROSENCRANTZ: Take you me for a sponge, my lord? 15
HAMLET: Ay, sir, that soaks up the king’s countenance [approval],
his rewards, his authorities. But such officers do the king best
service in the end: he keeps them, like an ape, in the corner of his
jaw; first mouthed, to be last swallowed: when he needs what you have
gleaned, it is but squeezing you, and, sponge, you shall be dry
[when . . . again: When he needs the information you have
learned, he just squeezes it out of you. Then you'll be dry again.]
ROSENCRANTZ: I understand you not, my lord.
HAMLET: I am glad of it: a knavish speech sleeps in a foolish ear.
[a knavish . . . ear: A clever speech sleeps (becomes mute) in the ear of a fool like you.]
ROSENCRANTZ: My lord, you must tell us where the body is, and go with us to the king.
HAMLET: The body is with the king, but the king is not with the
body. The king is a
[The body . . . thing: The citizens of Denmark (the body politic)
pledge allegiance to the king. However, the king is not with his
subjects. He is just a thing, an empty thing, and thinks only of
GUILDENSTERN: A thing, my lord!
HAMLET: Of nothing: bring me to him. Hide fox, and all after. [Exeunt.
[Hide . . . after: What these words mean is open to interpretation. Hide fox may be an allusion to the game of
hide-and-seek. Hamlet may be announcing that he will hide his sane,
crafty self (fox) and all of his strange behavior up to this point.]
Act 4, Scene 3
Another room in the castle.
Enter KING, attended.
KING: I have sent to seek him, and to find the body.
How dangerous is it that this man goes loose!
Yet must not we put the strong law on him: 5
He’s lov’d of the distracted [confused; experiencing conflicting feelings] multitude,
Who like not in their judgment, but their eyes;
[Who . . . eyes: Who judge by what they see]
And where ’tis so, the offender’s scourge [punishment] is weigh’d,
But never the offence [gravity of the crime]. To bear all smooth and even,
This sudden sending him away must seem 10
Deliberate pause: diseases desperate grown
By desperate appliance are reliev’d,
Or not at all.
[To bear . . . all: To appear calm and reasonable, I
must make it seem as if sending him away is a fair and thoughtfully
considered action. But the desperate state of mind of Hamlet requires
desperate action, or none at all.]
How now! what hath befall’n? 15
ROSENCRANTZ: Where the dead body is bestow’d, my lord,
We cannot get from him.
KING: But where is he?
ROSENCRANTZ: Without, my lord; guarded, to know your pleasure.
KING: Bring him before us. 20
ROSENCRANTZ: Ho, Guildenstern! bring in my lord.
Enter HAMLET and GUILDENSTERN.
KING: Now, Hamlet, where’s Polonius?
HAMLET: At supper.
KING: At supper! Where? 25
HAMLET: Not where he eats, but where he is eaten: a certain
convocation of politic [experienced; shrewd] worms are e’en at him.
Your worm is your only emperor for diet: we fat all creatures else to
fat us, and we fat ourselves for maggots: your fat king and your lean
beggar is but variable service; two dishes, but to one table: that’s
[we fat . . . end: We raise and fatten animals that feed us. Meanwhile,
we ourselves grow fat and, after we die, are eaten by maggots. A
king and a beggar are equals in death: the worms dine on both of them.]
KING: Alas, alas!
HAMLET: A man may fish with the worm that hath eat of a king, and eat of the fish that hath fed of that worm.
KING: What dost thou mean by this?
HAMLET: Nothing, but to show you how a king may go a progress
through the guts of a
KING: Where is Polonius?
HAMLET: In heaven; send thither to see: if your messenger find
him not there, seek him i’ the other place yourself. But, indeed, if
you find him not within this month, you shall nose [smell] him as you
go up the stairs into the lobby.
KING: [To some Attendants.] Go seek him there.
HAMLET: He will stay till you come. [Exeunt Attendants.
KING: Hamlet, this deed, for thine especial safety, 35
Which we do tender, as we dearly grieve
For that which thou hast done, must send thee hence
With fiery quickness: therefore prepare thyself;
The bark [ship] is ready, and the wind at help,
The associates tend, and every thing is bent 40
HAMLET: For England!
KING: Ay, Hamlet.
KING: So is it, if thou knew’st our purposes. 45
HAMLET: I see a cherub that sees them. But, come, for England! Farewell, dear mother.
KING: Thy loving father, Hamlet.
HAMLET: My mother: father and mother is man and wife, man and
wife is one flesh, and so, my mother. Come, for England! [Exit.
[My . . . England: You're my mother. A man and a woman become one flesh
when they are married. Therefore, you are my mother. Now I will go to
KING: Follow him at [on] foot; tempt him with speed aboard:
[tempt . . . aboard: Get him aboard immediately.]
Delay it not, I’ll have him hence [gone] to-night. 50
Away! for every thing is seal’d and done
That else leans on the affair: pray you, make haste. [Exeunt ROSENCRANTZ and GUILDENSTERN.
[Every . . . affair: Everything you need for the journey is prepared.]
And, England [you, king of England], if my love thou hold’st at aught,—
As my great power thereof may give thee sense,
Since yet thy cicatrice [scar] looks raw and red 55
After the Danish sword, and thy free awe
Pays homage to us,—thou mayst not coldly set
Our sovereign process, which imports at full,
By letters conjuring to that effect,
The present death of Hamlet. Do it, England; 60
[if my love . . . England: If you love and respect me—which my
military power should make you do, considering that you still have a
red scar (cicatrice) from a Danish sword and willingly acknowledge and
pay homage to my might—you will not hesitate to carry out the orders
conveyed in the letters of my messengers: namely, to kill Hamlet. Do
For like the hectic in my blood he rages,
And thou must cure me. Till I know ’tis done,
Howe’er my haps, my joys were ne’er begun. [Exit.
[For . . . begun: He is a fever in my blood. You must cure me. I will not be happy until the deed is done.]
Act 4, Scene 4
A plain in Denmark.
Enter FORTINBRAS, a captain, and soldiers, marching.
FORTINBRAS: Go, captain, from me greet the Danish king;
Tell him that, by his licence, Fortinbras
Claims the conveyance of a promis’d march 5
Over his kingdom. You know the rendezvous.
[by his . . . rendezvous: With the king's permission, I will march my
army through his country. You know where to go to convey my message.]
If that his majesty would aught with us,
We shall express our duty in his eye,
And let him know so.
[If that . . . so: If the king wants us to do anything for him, let him know that we are ready and willing.]
CAPTAIN: I will do ’t, my lord. 10
FORTINBRAS: Go softly on. [Exeunt FORTINBRAS and Soldiers.
Enter HAMLET, ROSENCRANTZ, GUILDENSTERN, &c.
HAMLET: Good sir, whose powers [soldiers] are these?
CAPTAIN: They are of Norway, sir.
HAMLET: How purpos’d [how are they directed], sir, I pray
CAPTAIN: Against some part of Poland.
HAMLET: Who commands them, sir?
CAPTAIN: The nephew to old Norway [Norwegian king], Fortinbras.
HAMLET: Goes it against the main [major cities] of Poland, sir,
Or for some frontier? 20
CAPTAIN: Truly to speak, and with no addition,
We go to gain a little patch of ground
That hath in it no profit but the name.
To pay five ducats, five, I would not farm it;
Nor will it yield to Norway or the Pole 25
A ranker [higher] rate, should it be sold in fee.
HAMLET: Why, then the Polack never will defend it.
CAPTAIN: Yes, ’tis already garrison’d. [Yes, they will. Troops are in place to make a stand.]
HAMLET: Two thousand souls and twenty thousand ducats
Will not debate the question of this straw: 30
This is the imposthume of much wealth and peace,
That inward breaks, and shows no cause without
Why the man dies. I humbly thank you, sir.
[Two . . . dies: It would take more than two thousand men and twenty
thousand ducats to wage this war. This situation, the result of great
wealth and a period of peace, is like an inflamed swelling inside the
body that bursts and kills a man but gives no outward sign of the cause
CAPTAIN: God be wi’ [with] you, sir. [Exit.
ROSENCRANTZ: Will ’t please you go, my lord? 35
HAMLET: I’ll be with you straight. Go a little before. [Exeunt all except HAMLET.
How all occasions do inform against me,
And spur my dull revenge! What is a man,
If his chief good and market of his time
Be but to sleep and feed? a beast, no more. 40
Sure he that made us with such large discourse,
Looking before and after, gave us not
That capability and god-like reason
To fust in us unus’d. Now, whe’r it be
Bestial oblivion, or some craven scruple 45
Of thinking too precisely on the event,
A thought, which, quarter’d, hath but one part wisdom,
And ever three parts coward, I do not know
Why yet I live to say ‘This thing’s to do;’
Sith I have cause and will and strength and means 50
To do ’t. Examples gross as earth exhort me:
[How . . . exhort me: Everything I encounter seems to accuse me of
delaying my revenge. What good is a man if all he does is sleep and
eat? Surely the God that made us into beings with great intelligence,
enabling us to learn from the past and consider the future judiciously,
did not intend us to allow our God-given reason to grow moldy with
disuse. Now, whether I am just a dumb animal or a coward afraid to act,
I do not know. Yet I cling to the thought of gaining revenge; and I
have the motive, will, strength, and means to do it. The examples of
others urge me on.]
Witness this army of such mass and charge
Led by a delicate and tender prince,
Whose spirit with divine ambition puff’d
Makes mouths at the invisible event, 55
Exposing what is mortal and unsure
To all that fortune, death and danger dare,
Even for an egg-shell. Rightly to be great
Is not to stir without great argument,
But greatly to find quarrel in a straw 60
When honour’s at the stake. How stand I then,
[Witness . . . at the stake: The delicate prince who leads this huge
army is not delaying his mission. He is ready to risk his life even
over a paltry matter. True greatness in a man is not measured by
whether he will fight over a major issue but by whether he will fight
over a minor issue when his honor is at stake.]
That have a father kill’d, a mother stain’d,
Excitements of my reason and my blood,
And let all sleep, while, to my shame, I see
The imminent death of twenty thousand men, 65
[That have . . . sleep: That have a father who has been murdered, a
mother who has been defiled, disturbances in my intellect and my blood,
and a propensity to allow my plans for revenge to sleep.]
That, for a fantasy and trick [illusion] of fame,
Go to their graves like beds, fight for a plot
Whereon the numbers cannot try the cause,
[Whereon . . . cause: In which the number of men is insufficient to gain victory]
Which is not tomb enough and continent
To hide [bury] the slain? O! from this time forth, 70
My thoughts be bloody, or be nothing worth! [Exit.
Act 4, Scene 5
Elsinore. A room in the castle.
Enter QUEEN, HORATIO, and a GENTLEMAN.
QUEEN: I will not speak with her.
GENTLEMAN: She is importunate, indeed distract [mentally disturbed]:
Her mood will needs be pitied. 5
QUEEN: What would she have?
GENTLEMAN: She speaks much of her father; says she hears
There’s tricks [trickery; deceit] i’ the world; and hems [hems and haws], and beats [strikes] her heart [chest];
Spurns enviously at straws [kicks things around]; speaks things in doubt,
That carry but half sense: her speech is nothing, 10
Yet the unshaped use of it doth move
The hearers to collection [attempt to discover the meaning of what she says]; they aim at it,
And botch the words up [interpret it to] fit to their own thoughts;
Which, as her winks, and nods, and gestures yield them,
Indeed would make one think there might be thought, 15
Though nothing sure, yet much unhappily [unhappily does she brood].
HORATIO: ’Twere good she were spoken with, for she may strew
Dangerous conjectures in ill-breeding minds.
QUEEN: Let her come in. [Exit Gentleman.
To my sick soul, as sin’s true nature is, 20
[To . . . is: Sin so sickens my soul that]
Each toy [trifle] seems prologue to some great amiss [tragedy]:
So full of artless jealousy is guilt,
It spills itself in fearing to be spilt.
[So . . . spilt: My guilty thoughts reveal themselves simply because I worry that they will.]
Re-enter Gentleman, with OPHELIA.
OPHELIA: Where is the beauteous majesty of Denmark? 25
QUEEN: How now, Ophelia!
How should I your true love know
From another one?
By his cockle hat and staff,
And his sandal shoon.
[How . . . shoon: Ophelia sings a little song. It says that a woman can
tell her true love from another suitor by his attire. The true love is
dressed as a pilgrim traveling to the shrine of St. James of
Compostela, Spain. Such a pilgrim wore a hat adorned with a
cockleshell, a symbol of religious devotion. Apparently, he also
carried a staff and wore sandals. Shoon is an archaic plural of shoe.]
QUEEN: Alas! sweet lady, what imports this song?
OPHELIA: Say you? nay, pray you, mark. [What did you say? Oh, forget it. Just listen.]
He is dead and gone, lady,
He is dead and gone;
At his head a grass-green turf;
At his heels a stone [tombstone].
O, ho! 30
QUEEN: Nay, but Ophelia,—
OPHELIA: Pray you, mark.
White his shroud as the mountain snow,—
QUEEN: Alas! look here, my lord.
Larded with ’sweet flower;
Which bewept to the grave did go
[Larded . . . showers: Covered with sweet flowers, (he) went to the grave with his true love's shower of tears.]
KING: How do you, pretty lady?
OPHELIA: Well, God ’ild you! [God yield you—that is, God yield a
reward to you]. They say the owl was a baker’s daughter. Lord! we know
what we are, but know not what we may be. God be at your table!
[They . . . may be: According to a legend, Christ asked a baker for
bread. When the baker's wife gave Him a large portion, the baker's
daughter complained that her mother was too generous. The daughter was
turned into an owl. This story taught Ophelia that "we know what we
are, but know not what we may be."]
KING: Conceit upon her father [reference (conceit) to her deceased father].
OPHELIA: Pray you, let’s have no words of this; but when they ask you what it means, say you this:
To-morrow is Saint Valentine’s day,
All in the morning betime,
And I a maid at your window,
To be your Valentine:
Then up he rose, and donn’d his clothes,
And dupp’d the chamber door;
Let in the maid, that out a maid
Never departed more.
[All in . . . more: In the morning, I stood before the window of his
house, seeking to be his Valentine. He opened (dupp'd) the door and let
me in. I was a virgin when I entered—but not when I left.]
KING: Pretty Ophelia! 40
OPHELIA: Indeed, la! without an oath, I’ll make an end on ’t:
By Gis [Jesus] and by Saint Charity,
Alack, and fie for shame!
[Alack: Interjection expressing regret or sorrow (same as alas); fie: interjection expression disapproval.]
Young men will do ’t, if they come to ’t;
[Young men will take advantage of young women if they get an opportunity.]
By Cock [the Lord] they are to blame.
Quoth she, before you tumbled [bedded] me,
You promis’d me to wed:
So would I ha’ [have] done, by yonder sun,
An [If] thou hadst not come to my bed.
KING: How long hath she been thus?
OPHELIA: I hope all will be well. We must be patient: but I
cannot choose but weep, to think they should lay him i’ the cold
ground. My brother shall know of it: and so I thank you for your good
counsel. Come, my coach [coach driver]! Good-night, ladies; good-night,
sweet ladies; good-night, good-night. [Exit.
KING: Follow her close; give her good watch, I pray you. [Exit HORATIO.
O! this is the poison of deep grief; it springs 45
All from her father’s death. O Gertrude, Gertrude!
When sorrows come, they come not single spies,
But in battalions. First, her father slain;
Next, your son gone; but he most violent author
Of his own just remove: the people muddied, 50
Thick and unwholesome in their thoughts and whispers,
For good Polonius’ death; and we have done but greenly,
In hugger-mugger to inter him: poor Ophelia
[Next . . . inter him: Next, your son, Hamlet, is gone as a result of
his own violent actions. The people are confused and thick with
unwholesome thoughts and whispers about the death of Polonius. We
were wrong to bury him in secret rather than in a public ceremony.]
Divided from herself and her fair judgment
[Divided . . . judgment: Stricken with insanity],
Without the which we are pictures, or mere beasts: 55
[Without . . . beasts: Her insanity makes her think we are just pictures or beasts.]
Last, and as much containing [as important] as all these,
Her brother is in secret come from France,
Feeds on his wonder, keeps himself in clouds,
And wants not buzzers [gossips] to infect his ear
With pestilent speeches of his father’s death; 60
Wherein necessity, of matter beggar’d,
Will nothing stick our person to arraign
In ear and ear. O my dear Gertrude! this,
Like to a murdering-piece [loaded cannon], in many places
Gives me superfluous death. [A noise within. 65
[Wherein . . . death: In his attempt to find out exactly what
happened—an urgent necessity for him—Laertes won't find incriminating
evidence but will end up blaming me for his father's death. Dear
Gertrude, I feel as if I am the target of a cannon which, when it
fires, will kill me in many places.]
QUEEN: Alack! what noise is this?
Enter a Gentleman.
KING: Where are my Switzers [Swiss bodyguards]? Let them guard the door.
What is the matter?
GENTLEMAN: Save yourself, my lord; 70
The ocean, overpeering of [rising above] his list [normal level],
Eats not the flats [floods not the shore and lowlands] with more impetuous haste
Than young Laertes, in a riotous head,
O’erbears your officers. The rabble call him lord;
And, as the world were now but to begin, 75
Antiquity forgot, custom not known,
The ratifiers and props of every word,
They cry, ‘Choose we; Laertes shall be king!’
Caps, hands, and tongues, applaud it to the clouds,
‘Laertes shall be king, Laertes king!’ 80
QUEEN: How cheerfully on the false trail they cry!
O! this is counter [treasonous], you false Danish dogs!
KING: The doors are broke. [Noise within.
Enter LAERTES, armed; Danes following.
LAERTES: Where is the king? Sirs, stand you all
DANES: No, let’s come in.
LAERTES: I pray you, give me leave.
DANES: We will, we will. [They retire without the door.
LAERTES: I thank you: keep the door. O thou vile king!
Give me my father. 90
QUEEN: Calmly, good Laertes.
LAERTES: That drop of blood that’s calm proclaims me bastard,
Cries cuckold to my father, brands the harlot
Even here, between the chaste unsmirched brow
Of my true mother. 95
[That drop . . . mother: I am as calm as if someone called me a
bastard, said my father was cheated on, and branded my mother a whore
with a hot iron.]
KING: What is the cause, Laertes,
That thy rebellion looks so giant-like?
Let him go, Gertrude; do not fear our person:
There’s such divinity doth hedge a king,
That treason can but peep to what it would, 100
Acts little of his will. Tell me, Laertes,
[Let . . . will: Let him have his say, Gertrude. Don't worry about me.
God protects kings so that treason cannot act against them.]
Why thou art thus incens’d. Let him go, Gertrude.
LAERTES: Where is my father?
KING: Dead. 105
QUEEN: But not by him.
KING: Let him demand his fill.
LAERTES: How came he dead? I’ll not be juggled with.
To hell, allegiance! vows, to the blackest devil!
Conscience and grace, to the profoundest pit! 110
I dare damnation. To this point I stand,
That both the worlds I give to negligence,
[That . . . negligence: I don't care whether I go to hell or heaven.]
Let come what comes; only I’ll be reveng’d
Most throughly [thoroughly] for my father.
KING: Who shall stay [stop] you? 115
LAERTES: My will, not all the world:
And, for my means, I’ll husband them so well,
They shall go far with little.
[My will . . . little: Only my own will can stop me. But all the world
cannot stand against me. Whatever support I have, I will manage it
well. I'll go far with little.]
KING: Good Laertes,
If you desire to know the certainty 120
Of your dear father’s death, is ’t writ in your revenge,
That, swoopstake [summarily; immediately; indiscriminately], you will
draw [draw your sword against] both friend and foe,
Winner and loser?
LAERTES: None but his enemies.
KING: Will you know them then? 125
LAERTES: To his good friends thus wide I’ll ope my arms;
And like the kind life-rendering pelican,
Repast them with my blood.
[And . . . blood: And like the life-giving pelican mother, which feeds
its own blood to its young, I'll give my blood to my friends.]
KING: Why, now you speak
Like a good child and a true gentleman. 130
That I am guiltless of your father’s death,
And am most sensibly in grief for it,
It shall as level to your judgment pierce
As day does to your eye.
DANES: [Within.] Let her come in. 135
LAERTES: How now! what noise is that?
O heat, dry up my brains! tears seven times salt,
Burn out the sense and virtue of mine eye!
By heaven, thy madness shall be paid by weight, 140
Till our scale turn the beam. O rose of May!
Dear maid, kind sister, sweet Ophelia!
O heavens! is ’t possible a young maid’s wits
Should be as mortal as an old man’s life?
Nature is fine in love, and where ’tis fine 145
It sends some precious instance of itself
After the thing it loves.
[Nature . . . loves: Human nature is generous in its love. Apparently,
Ophelia has sent a precious part of herself, her sanity, to her dead
They bore him barefac’d [uncovered] on the bier [conveyance that
carries a body (with or without a coffin) before burial];
Hey non nonny, nonny, hey nonny;
And in his grave rain’d many a tear;—
Fare you well, my dove!
LAERTES: Hadst thou thy wits, and didst persuade
It could not move thus.
[If you had your wits, you couldn't speak more eloquent words to urge me to gain revenge than you are speaking now.]
You must sing, a-down a-down,
And you call him a-down-a.
O how the wheel becomes it! It is the false steward [manager of a household] that stole his master’s daughter.
LAERTES: This nothing’s more than matter. [These mad words mean more than we can perceive.]
OPHELIA: There’s rosemary [for you, Laertes], that’s for
remembrance; pray, love, remember: and there is pansies, that’s for
LAERTES: A document [study] in madness, thoughts and remembrance fitted.
[thoughts . . . fitted: Joining thoughts and remembrance.]
OPHELIA: There’s fennel for you [King Claudius], and columbines;
there’s rue for you [Queen Gertrude]; and here’s some for me; we may
call it herb of grace o’ Sundays. O! you must wear your rue with a
difference. There’s a daisy; I would give you some violets, but they
withered all when my father died. They say he made a good end,—
For bonny sweet Robin is all my joy.
[The plants as symbols: (1) Fennel: flattery or praiseworthiness. (2)
Columbine: lovemaking and lust. It was believed that columbine had the
power to arouse sexual desire. (3) Rue: repentance and sorrow. Gertrude
receives rue for repentance; Ophelia gives it to herself for her grief
over the death of her father and perhaps for the loss of Hamlet. Rue
was also called herb of grace because priests used it in religious
ceremonies. (4) Daisy: innocence, simplicity, and gentleness. (5)
Violet: peace, harmony.]
LAERTES: Thought and affliction, passion, hell itself,
She turns to favour and to prettiness.
And will he not come again?
And will he not come again?
No, no, he is dead;
Go to thy death-bed,
He never will come again.
His beard was as white as snow
All flaxen [white] was his poll [head of hair],
He is gone, he is gone,
And we cast away moan:
God ha’ mercy on his soul! 160
And of all Christian souls! I pray God. God be wi’ ye! [Exit.
LAERTES: Do you see this, O God?
KING: Laertes, I must common [sympathize] with your grief,
Or you deny me right. Go but apart,
Make choice of whom your wisest friends you will, 165
And they shall hear and judge ’twixt [between] you and me.
If by direct or by collateral hand
They find us touch’d [guilty; implicated], we will our kingdom give,
Our crown, our life, and all that we call ours,
To you in satisfaction; but if not, 170
Be you content to lend your patience to us,
And we shall jointly labour with your soul
To give it due content.
LAERTES: Let this be so:
His means of death, his obscure burial, 175
No trophy, sword, nor hatchment [coat of arms] o’er his bones,
No noble rite nor formal ostentation [public ceremony],
Cry to be heard, as ’twere from heaven to earth,
That I must call ’t in question.
KING: So you shall; 180
And where the offence is let the great axe fall.
I pray you go with me. [Exeunt.
Act 4, Scene 6
Another room in the castle.
Enter HORATIO and a Servant.
HORATIO: What are they that would speak with me?
SERVANT: Sailors, sir: they say, they have letters for you.
HORATIO: Let them come in. [Exit Servant. 5
I do not know from what part of the world
I should be greeted, if not from Lord Hamlet.
FIRST SAILOR: God bless you, sir.
HORATIO: Let him bless thee too. 10
SECOND SAILOR: He shall, sir, an ’t please him. There’s a letter
for you, sir;—it comes from the ambassador that was bound for
England;—if your name be Horatio, as I am let to know it
HORATIO [Reading the letter]. "Horatio, when thou shalt have
over-looked [perused; read] this, give these fellows some means to the
king: they have letters for him. Ere [before] we were two days old at
sea, a pirate of very war-like appointment [appearance] gave us chase.
Finding ourselves too slow of sail, we put on a compelled valour; in
the grapple I boarded them: on the instant they got clear of our ship,
so I alone became their prisoner. They have dealt with me like thieves
of mercy, but they knew what they did; I am to do a good turn for them.
Let the king have the letters I have sent; and repair thou [return] to
me with as much haste as thou wouldst fly death. I have words to speak
in thine ear will make thee dumb; yet are they much too light for the
bore of the matter. These good fellows will bring thee where I am.
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern hold their course for England: of them I
have much to tell thee. Farewell.
He that thou knowest thine,
[yet are . . . matter: Yet they are nothing compared to the main issue
at hand. Here, Hamlet uses a metaphor, comparing his words to mere
pea-sized projectiles shot from the bore of a canon.]
Come, I will give you way for these your letters;
And do ’t the speedier, that you may direct me 15
To him from whom you brought them. [Exeunt.
Act 4, Scene 7
Another room in the castle.
Enter KING and LAERTES.
KING: Now must your conscience my acquittance seal,
[Now . . . seal: Now your conscience must find me innocent in the death of your father.]
And you must put me in your heart for friend,
Sith [Since] you have heard, and with a knowing ear, 5
That he which hath your noble father slain
Pursu’d my life.
LAERTES: It well appears: but tell me
Why you proceeded not against these feats,
[Why . . . feats: Why you did not punish Hamlet for his actions]
So crimeful and so capital in nature, 10
As by your safety, wisdom, all things else,
You mainly were stirr’d up.
KING: O! for two special reasons;
Which may to you, perhaps, seem much unsinew’d [weak],
But yet to me they are strong. The queen his mother 15
Lives almost by his looks, and for myself,—
My virtue or my plague, be it either which,—
She’s so conjunctive [attached] to my life and soul,
That, as the star moves not but in his sphere,
I could not but by her. The other motive, 20
Why to a public count [trial] I might not go,
Is the great love the general gender [citizens] bear him;
Who, dipping all his faults in their affection,
Would, like the spring that turneth wood to stone,
Convert his gyves [shackles] to graces; so that my arrows, 25
Too slightly timber’d for so loud a wind,
Would have reverted to my bow again,
And not where I had aim’d them.
LAERTES: And so have I a noble father lost;
A sister driven into desperate terms, 30
Whose worth, if praises may go back again,
Stood challenger on mount of all the age
For her perfections. But my revenge will come.
[Whose . . . revenge: Whose worth, if I may look back to it in better
times, challenged anyone to find a woman who was as perfect as she was.
But I will have my revenge.]
KING: Break not your sleeps for that; you must not think
That we are made of stuff so flat and dull 35
That we can let our beard be shook with danger
And think it pastime. You shortly shall hear more;
[Break . . . pastime: Don't lose any sleep over how to deal with
Hamlet. I am not so passive that I can pass off danger as a game.
You'll hear more about this later.]
I lov’d your father, and we love ourself,
And that, I hope, will teach you to imagine,—
Enter a Messenger. 40
How now! what news?
MESSENGER: Letters, my lord, from Hamlet:
This to your majesty; this to the queen.
KING: From Hamlet! who brought them?
MESSENGER: Sailors, my lord, they say; I saw them
They were given me by Claudio, he receiv’d them
Of him that brought them.
KING: Laertes, you shall hear them.
Leave us. [Exit Messenger.
[The king reads.] "High and mighty, you shall know I am set naked on
your kingdom. To-morrow shall I beg leave to see your kingly eyes; when
I shall, first asking your pardon thereunto, recount the occasions of
my sudden and more strange return.
What should this mean? Are all the rest come back?
Or is it some abuse and no such thing?
LAERTES: Know you the hand?
KING: ’Tis Hamlet’s character [handwriting]. ‘Naked,’
And in a postscript here, he says, ‘alone.’ 55
Can you advise me?
LAERTES: I’m lost in it, my lord. But let him come:
It warms the very sickness in my heart,
That I shall live and tell him to his teeth,
‘Thus diddest thou.’ [You committed this terrible crime.] 60
KING: If it be so, Laertes,
As how should it be so? how otherwise?
Will you be rul’d by me?
[As . . . me: And why shouldn't it be so? Will you take my advice?]
LAERTES: Ay, my lord;
So you will not o’er-rule me to a peace. 65
[So . . . peace: As long as you don't advise me to make peace.]
KING: To thine own peace. If he be now return’d,
As . . . checking at his voyage, and that he means
[As . . . voyage: Deciding to end his voyage]
No more to undertake it, I will work [maneuver] him
To an exploit, now ripe in my device [ready to execute],
Under the which he shall not choose but fall; 70
And for his death no wind of blame shall breathe,
But even his mother shall uncharge the practice
[uncharge the practice: see no foul play]
And call it accident.
LAERTES: My lord, I will be rul’d;
The rather, if you could devise it so 75
That I might be the organ.
[I will . . . organ: I will go along with your plan, especially if you make me the instrument of Hamlet's death.]
KING: It falls right.
You have been talk’d of since your travel much,
And that in Hamlet’s hearing, for a quality
Wherein, they say, you shine; your sum of parts 80
Did not together pluck such envy from him
As did that one, and that, in my regard,
Of the unworthiest siege.
[You have . . . siege: You have been much talked about, within the
hearing of Hamlet, for an excellent quality of yours. In Hamlet's eyes,
that quality overshadows all of your other qualities. He envies it. I
myself think that quality is not your best.]
LAERTES: What part [quality] is that, my lord?
KING: A very riband in the cap of youth, 85
[riband: ribbon used as a decoration or displayed as a reward of achievement]
Yet needful too; for youth no less becomes
The light and careless livery that it wears
Than settled age his sables and his weeds,
Importing health and graveness.
[for . . . graveness: Light and careless clothes are just as
appropriate on youth as dignified sables and other dark clothes are on
aged persons to reflect their health and graveness.]
Two months since
Here was a gentleman of Normandy [part of France]: 90
I’ve seen myself, and serv’d against, the French,
And they can well [can do well] on horseback; but this gallant [Norman]
Had witchcraft in ’t [in his horsemanship], he grew unto his seat,
And to such wondrous doing brought his horse,
As he had been incorps’d and demi-natur’d 95
With the brave beast; so far he topp’d my thought,
That I, in forgery of shapes and tricks,
Come short of what he did.
[As he . . . did: As if he had become part of the brave beast. He
performed on that horse far beyond my expectations for him, and I could
never duplicate his feats.]
LAERTES: A Norman was ’t?
KING: A Norman. 100
LAERTES: Upon my life, Lamond.
KING: The very same.
LAERTES: I know him well; he is the brooch indeed
And gem of all the nation.
KING: He made confession of you, 105
And gave you such a masterly report
For art and exercise in your defence,
And for your rapier most especially,
That he cried out, ’twould be a sight indeed
If one could match you; the scrimers [fencers; swordsmen] of their
He swore, had neither motion, guard, nor eye,
If you oppos’d them. Sir, this report of his
Did Hamlet so envenom with his envy
That he could nothing do but wish and beg
Your sudden coming o’er, to play with him. 115
Now, out of this,—
LAERTES: What out of this, my lord?
KING: Laertes, was your father dear to you?
Or are you like the painting of a sorrow,
A face without a heart? 120
LAERTES: Why ask you this?
KING: Not that I think you did not love your father,
But that I know love is begun by time,
And that I see, in passages of proof,
Time qualifies the spark and fire of it. 125
There lives within the very flame of love
A kind of wick or snuff that will abate it,
And nothing is at a like goodness still,
For goodness, growing to a plurisy,
Dies in his own too-much. That we would do, 130
We should do when we would, for this ‘would’ changes,
And hath abatements and delays as many
As there are tongues, are hands, are accidents;
And then this ‘should’ is like a spendthrift sigh,
That hurts by easing. But, to the quick o’ the ulcer; 135
[But . . . ulcer: But, to get to the point of what's eating at you]
Hamlet comes back; what would you undertake
To show yourself your father’s son in deed
More than in words?
LAERTES: To cut his throat i’ the church.
KING: No place, indeed, should murder sanctuarize; 140
[No . . . sanctuarize: Indeed, a murderer such as Hamlet should be fair game even in the sanctuary of a church.]
Revenge should have no bounds. But, good Laertes,
Will you do this, keep close within your chamber.
Hamlet return’d shall know you are come home;
We’ll put on those shall praise your excellence,
[We'll . . . excellence: We'll have people praise your excellent swordsmanship]
And set a double varnish on the fame 145
The Frenchman gave you, bring you, in fine [short], together,
And wager on your heads: he, being remiss,
Most generous and free from all contriving,
Will not peruse [examine] the foils [practice swords blunted on the end]; so that, with ease
Or with a little shuffling, you may choose 150
A sword unbated [sharp, not blunted], and, in a pass of practice [practice lunge]
Requite [kill] him for your father.
LAERTES: I will do ’t;
And, for that purpose, I’ll anoint [poison the tip of] my sword.
I bought an unction of a mountebank, 155
So mortal that, but dip a knife in it,
Where it draws blood no cataplasm [remedy; poultice] so rare,
Collected from all simples [medicines] that have virtue
Under the moon, can save the thing from death
That is but scratch’d withal; I’ll touch my point 160
With this contagion, that, if I gall him slightly,
It may be death.
KING: Let’s further think of this;
Weigh what convenience both of time and means
May fit us to our shape. If this should fail, 165
And that our drift look through our bad performance
[our . . . performance: Our purpose—to kill Hamlet—casts suspicion on us]
’Twere better not assay’d [tried]; therefore this project
Should have a back [backup plan] or second, that might hold,
If this should blast in proof [fail]. Soft! [Pay attention; stand at attention; take note] let me see;
We’ll make a solemn wager on your cunnings: 170
[We'll have bets on the outcome of the fencing match.]
I ha ’t:
When in your motion you are hot and dry,—
As make your bouts more violent to that end,—
And that he calls for drink, I’ll have prepar’d him
A chalice for the nonce, whereon but sipping, 175
If he by chance escape your venom’d stuck,
Our purpose may hold there. But stay! what noise?
[When in . . . there: During the match, dance around so that Hamlet does the same. When both
of you become sweaty and thirsty, I will have a chalice with a poisoned
drink ready to give him. If he escapes unscathed from the fencing, the
drink will kill him.]
How now, sweet queen!
QUEEN: One woe doth tread upon another’s heel, 180
So fast they follow: your sister’s drown’d, Laertes.
LAERTES: Drown’d! O, where?
QUEEN: There is a willow grows aslant [slanting over] a brook,
That shows his hoar [white] leaves in the glassy stream;
There with fantastic garlands did she come, 185
Of crow-flowers, nettles, daisies, and long purples,
That liberal [foul-mouthed] shepherds give a grosser name,
But our cold maids [modest young women] do dead men’s fingers call them:
There, on the pendent boughs [branches hanging over the water] her coronet weeds
Clambering to hang, an envious sliver broke, 190
[her coronet . . . broke: She climbed the tree to hang the crown of
wildflowers she had woven. When a spiteful limb broke, she and her
flowery trophies fell into the brook.]
When down her weedy trophies and herself
Fell in the weeping brook. Her clothes spread wide,
And, mermaid-like, awhile they bore her up;
Which time she chanted snatches of old tunes,
As one incapable of her own distress, 195
Or like a creature native and indu’d
Unto that element; but long it could not be
[indu'd . . . element: indued or endued: naturally empowered to deal with danger]
Till that her garments, heavy with their drink,
Pull’d the poor wretch from her melodious lay
To muddy death. 200
LAERTES: Alas! then, she is drown’d?
QUEEN: Drown’d, drown’d.
LAERTES: Too much of water hast thou, poor Ophelia,
And therefore I forbid my tears; but yet
It is our trick, nature her custom holds, 205
Let shame say what it will; when these are gone
The woman will be out. Adieu [farewell], my lord!
[I forbid . . . out: Although I forbid myself to cry, I am crying just
the same. It is natural for humans to cry when they confront great
sorrow. I don't care if people try to shame me for crying. When my
tears stop, I will no longer be a woman and will become a man again.]
I have a speech of fire, that fain would blaze,
But that this folly douts it. [Exit.
[I have . . it: I have a fiery speech that I'd like to make. But my crying extinguishes (douts) the fire.]
KING: Let’s follow, Gertrude. 210
How much I had to do to calm his rage!
Now fear I this will give it start again;
Therefore let’s follow. [Exeunt.
[How . . . follow: I worked very hard to calm his rage. Now I fear that
Ophelia's death will reignite his anger. Let's follow him.]
Act 5, Scene 1
Enter two clowns [peasants or rustics] who are gravediggers
FIRST CLOWN: Is she to be buried in Christian burial that wilfully seeks her own salvation?
[wilfully . . . salvation: wilfully killed herself]
SECOND CLOWN: I tell thee she is; and therefore make her grave
straight [straightaway; right now]: the crowner [coroner] hath sat on
[sat in judgment of] her, and finds it Christian burial.
FIRST CLOWN: How can that be, unless she drowned herself in her
SECOND CLOWN: Why, ’tis found so.
FIRST CLOWN: It must be se offendendo; it cannot be else. For
here lies the point: if I drown myself wittingly [willingly] it argues
an act; and an act hath three branches; it is, to act, to do, and to
perform: argal, she drowned herself wittingly.
[se offendendo: Corruption of se defendendo, Latin legal term for in
self-defense. The feminine form is se defendenda, which one would use
in reference to Ophelia.]
[argal: Corruption of ergo, Latin for therefore]
SECOND CLOWN: Nay, but hear you, goodman delver,—
FIRST CLOWN: Give me leave. Here lies the water; good: here
stands the man; good: if the man go to this water, and drown himself,
it is, will he, nill he [willy-nilly: whether willed or not; whether
desired or not], he goes; mark you that? but if the water come to him,
and drown him, he drowns not himself: argal [therefore], he that is not
guilty of his own death shortens not his own life.
SECOND CLOWN: But is this law? 10
FIRST CLOWN: Ay, marry, is ’t; crowner’s [coroner's] quest [inquest] law.
SECOND CLOWN: Will you ha’ the truth on ’t? If this had not been
a gentlewoman she should have been buried out o’ Christian
FIRST CLOWN: Why, there thou sayest; and the more pity that great
folk should have countenance [the right] in this world to drown or hang
themselves more than their even [fellow] Christian. Come, my spade.
There is no ancient gentlemen but gardeners, ditchers, and
grave-makers; they hold up Adam’s profession. [Genesis 3:2 of the Bible
says that the fallen Adam had to till the soil after leaving the Garden
SECOND CLOWN: Was he a gentleman?
FIRST CLOWN: A’ was the first that ever bore arms. 15
SECOND CLOWN: Why, he had none.
FIRST CLOWN: What! art a heathen? How dost thou understand the
Scripture? The Scripture says, Adam digged; could he dig without arms?
I’ll put another question to thee; if thou answerest me not to the
purpose, confess thyself—
SECOND CLOWN: Go to.
FIRST CLOWN: What is he that builds stronger than either the mason, the shipwright, or the carpenter?
SECOND CLOWN: The gallows-maker; for that frame outlives a
FIRST CLOWN: I like thy wit well, in good faith; the gallows does
well, but how does it well? it does well to those that do ill; now thou
dost ill to say the gallows is built stronger than the church: argal [therefore],
the gallows may do well to thee. To ’t again; come.
SECOND CLOWN: Who builds stronger than a mason, a shipwright, or a carpenter?
FIRST CLOWN: Ay, tell me that, and unyoke [complete your work].
SECOND CLOWN: Marry, now I can tell.
FIRST CLOWN: To ’t. 25
SECOND CLOWN: Mass, I cannot tell.
[By the mass: Mild oath. The mass is a Catholic worship rite.]
Enter HAMLET and HORATIO at a distance.
FIRST CLOWN: Cudgel thy brains no more about it, for your dull
ass will not mend his pace with beating; and, when you are asked this
question next, say, ‘a grave-maker:’ the houses that he makes last till
doomsday. Go, get thee to Yaughan [probably a tavern keeper]; fetch me a
stoup [pot] of liquor. [Exit Second Clown.
[First Clown digs, and sings.]
In youth, when I did love, did love,
Methought it was very sweet,
To contract [marry], O! the time, for-a my behove [benefit or duty],
O! methought there was nothing meet [suitable, fitting, right].
[In youth . . . meet: The song is based on (but misquotes) a poem by
Thomas Vaux (1509-1556) of Harrowden, England, published in Tottel's
Miscellany in 1557.]
HAMLET: Has this fellow no feeling of his business, that he sings
HORATIO: Custom hath made it in him a property of easiness [habit].
HAMLET: ’Tis e’en so; the hand of little employment hath the daintier sense.
[the hand . . . sense: Those without a steady job have plenty of
time on their hands and thus tend to develop a greater sensitivity than others.]
But age, with his stealing steps,
Hath claw’d me in his clutch,
And hath shipped me intil [into] the land [ground],
As if I had never been such.
[Throws up a skull.
HAMLET: That skull had a tongue in it, and could sing once; how
the knave jowls [holding the skull by the jaw (jowls), the gravedigger
tosses it] it to the ground, as if it were Cain’s jaw-bone, that did
the first murder! This might be the pate [head] of a politician, which
this ass now o’er-offices [gets the better of; outranks], one that
would circumvent God, might it not?
HORATIO: It might, my lord. 35
HAMLET: Or of a courtier, which could say, ‘Good morrow
[morning], sweet lord! How dost thou, good lord?’ This might be my Lord
Such-a-one, that praised my Lord Such-a-one’s horse, when he meant to
beg [borrow] it, might it not?
HORATIO: Ay, my lord.
HAMLET: Why, e’en so, and now [it is] my Lady Worm’s [it belongs
to the worms]; chapless [its jaw knocked off], and knocked about the
mazzard [struck about the head] with a sexton’s [gravedigger's] spade.
Here’s fine revolution [turnabout], an [if] we had the trick to see ’t.
Did these bones cost no more the breeding but to play at loggats with
’em? mine [my bones] ache to think on ’t.
[loggats: Game in which participants stood bones in the ground and tried to knock them down by tossing other bones at them.]
A pick-axe, and a spade, a spade,
For and a shrouding sheet;
O! a pit of clay for to be made
For such a guest is meet.
[Throws up another skull.
[A pick-axe . . . skull: The First Clown says that all he needs to
accommodate a dead guest are a pickax, a shovel, a shroud, and a grave,
or "pit of clay."]
HAMLET: There’s another; why may not that be the skull of a
lawyer? Where be his quiddities [sly questions] now, his quillets [weak
arguments that circumvent the truth with petty reasoning and
nitpicking], his cases, his tenures [property titles], and his tricks
[deceitful tactics]? why does he suffer this rude knave now to knock
him about the sconce with a dirty shovel, and will not tell him of his
action of battery [legal term for beating or striking someone]? Hum!
This fellow might be in ’s time a great buyer of land, with his
statutes [binding agreements], his recognizances [pledges to pay money
or to perform a certain act], his fines, his double vouchers, his
recoveries; is this the fine of his fines, and the recovery of his
recoveries, to have his fine pate full of fine dirt? will his vouchers
vouch him no more of his purchases [does he get to keep no more of his
land], and double ones too, than the length and breadth of a pair of
indentures [agreements; deeds]? The very conveyance [deeds] of his
lands will hardly lie in this box [coffin; grave], and must the
inheritor himself have no more,
HORATIO: Not a jot more, my lord.
HAMLET: Is not parchment [material on which legal agreements are written] made of sheep-skins?
HORATIO: Ay, my lord, and of calf-skins too.
HAMLET: They are sheep and calves which seek out assurance in
that. I will speak to this fellow. Whose grave’s this, sir?
FIRST CLOWN: Mine, sir,
O! a pit of clay for to be made
For such a guest is
HAMLET: I think it be thine, indeed; for thou liest in ’t.
FIRST CLOWN: You lie out on ’t [outside of it], sir, and
therefore it is not yours; for my part, I do not lie [I am not telling
a lie] in ’t, and yet it is mine.
HAMLET: Thou dost lie in ’t [You are telling a lie], to be in ’t
and say it is thine: ’tis for the dead, not for the quick [living];
therefore thou liest.
FIRST CLOWN: ’Tis a quick lie, sir; ’twill away again, from me to you.
['Tis . . . you: It's a quick lie, sir, the way it jumps back and forth between me and you.]
HAMLET: What man dost thou dig it for? 50
FIRST CLOWN: For no man, sir.
HAMLET: What woman, then?
FIRST CLOWN: For none, neither.
HAMLET: Who is to be buried in ’t?
FIRST CLOWN: One that was a woman, sir; but, rest her soul, she’s
HAMLET: How absolute [precise] the knave is! we must speak by the
card [exact rules], or equivocation will undo us. By the Lord, Horatio,
these three years I have taken note of it; the age is grown so picked
[bold] that the toe of the peasant comes so near the heel of the
courtier, he galls his kibe [inflamed or sensitive area on the heal of
the foot]. How long hast thou been a grave-maker?
FIRST CLOWN: Of all the days i’ the year, I came to ’t that
day that our last King Hamlet overcame Fortinbras.
[My first day just happened to be the day that our late King Hamlet defeated the late King Fortinbras of Norway.]
HAMLET: How long is that since?
FIRST CLOWN: Cannot you tell that? every fool can tell that; it
was the very day that young Hamlet was born; he that is mad, and sent
HAMLET: Ay, marry; why was he sent into England? 60
FIRST CLOWN: Why, because he was mad: he shall recover his wits
there; or, if he do not, ’tis no great matter there [in England].
FIRST CLOWN: ’Twill not be seen in him there; there the men are as mad as he.
HAMLET: How came he mad?
FIRST CLOWN: Very strangely, they say. 65
HAMLET: How strangely?
FIRST CLOWN: Faith, e’en with losing his wits.
HAMLET: Upon what ground [The gravedigger takes this word to mean country]?
FIRST CLOWN: Why, here in Denmark; I have been sexton here, man and boy, thirty years.
HAMLET: How long will a man lie i’ the earth ere [before] he
FIRST CLOWN: Faith, if he be not rotten before he die,—as we have
many pocky corses [corpses] now-a-days, that will scarce hold the
laying in,—he will last you some eight year or nine year; a tanner [one
who makes leather out of hides] will last you nine year.
HAMLET: Why he more than another?
FIRST CLOWN: Why, sir, his hide is so tanned with his trade that
he will keep out water a great while, and your water is a sore decayer
of your whoreson dead body. Here’s a skull now; this skull hath lain
you i’ the earth three-and-twenty years.
HAMLET: Whose was it?
FIRST CLOWN: A whoreson mad fellow’s it was: whose do you think
HAMLET: Nay, I know not.
FIRST CLOWN: A pestilence on him for a mad rogue! a’ poured a
flagon of Rhenish on my head once. This same skull, sir, was Yorick’s
skull, the king’s jester.
FIRST CLOWN: E’en that.
HAMLET: Let me see.—[Takes the skull.]—Alas! poor Yorick. I knew
him, Horatio; a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy; he
hath borne me on his back a thousand times; and now, how abhorred in my
imagination it is! my gorge [throat; gullet; esophagus] rises at it.
Here hung those lips that I have kissed I know not how oft. Where be
your gibes [pranks; tricks; taunts] now? your gambols? [antics;
frolics] your songs? your flashes of merriment, that were wont to set
the table on a roar? Not one now, to mock your own grinning? quite
chapfallen [downhearted; dejected]? Now get you to my lady’s chamber,
and tell her, let her paint an inch thick [of makeup], to this favour
she must come [she will end up looking like you]; make her laugh at
that. Prithee, Horatio, tell me one
HORATIO: What’s that, my lord?
HAMLET: Dost thou think Alexander [Alexander the Great (356-323
BC), conquerer of the Persian Empire] looked o’ this fashion i’ the
HORATIO: E’en so.
HAMLET: And smelt so? pah! [Puts down the skull.
HORATIO: E’en so, my lord. 85
HAMLET: To what base uses we may return, Horatio! Why may not
imagination trace the noble dust of Alexander, till he find it stopping
[To what . . . bung-hole: Consider what humiliating and
degrading uses the bodies of human beings are subjected to
after death. One can imagine that the ashes of Alexander ended up as a
stopper in the hole of a cask or a barrel.]
HORATIO: ’Twere to consider too curiously, to consider so. [You're being cynical.]
HAMLET: No, faith, not a jot; but to follow him thither with
modesty enough [without exaggerating], and likelihood to lead it; as
thus: Alexander died, Alexander was buried, Alexander returneth into
dust; the dust is earth; of earth we make loam, and why of that loam,
whereto he was converted, might they not stop a
Imperious Cæsar, dead and turn’d to clay,
Might stop a hole to keep the wind away: 90
O! that that earth, which kept the world in awe,
Should patch a wall to expel the winter’s flaw.
But soft! but soft! aside: here comes the king.
Enter Priests, &c., in procession: the Corpse of OPHELIA, LAERTES and Mourners following; KING, QUEEN, their Trains, &c.
The queen, the courtiers: who is that they follow? 95
And with such maimed [subdued; not glorious] rites? This doth betoken [indicate]
The corse [corpse] they follow did with desperate hand
Fordo [destroy; kill] its own life; ’twas of some estate [high rank; nobility].
Couch we awhile, and mark. [Let's step back and observe.] [Retiring with HORATIO.
LAERTES: What ceremony else? 100
HAMLET: That is Laertes,
A very noble youth: mark.
LAERTES: What ceremony else?
FIRST PRIEST: Her obsequies [funeral rites] have been as far enlarg’d
As we have warrantise [authority]: her death was doubtful [she
And, but that great command o’ersways the order,
[but . . . order: but for the fact that a royal command overruled me]
She should in ground unsanctified have lodg’d
Till the last trumpet; for charitable prayers,
Shards, flints, and pebbles should be thrown on her;
Yet here she is allow’d her virgin crants, 110
Her maiden strewments, and the bringing home
Of bell and burial.
[She . . . burial: She should be buried in unsanctified ground
elsewhere till the end of time; instead of praying for her, people
should throw pieces of broken pottery, flint (quartz), and pebbles on
her body. However, she is allowed flowers and wreaths (crants)
indicating she died a virgin, as well as the tolling of a bell and
burial in sanctified ground.]
LAERTES: Must there no more be done?
FIRST PRIEST:. No more be done:
We should profane the service of the dead, 115
To sing a requiem, and such rest to her
As to peace-parted souls.
[such . . . souls: Other rites normally carried out for those deserving burial in consecrated ground.]
LAERTES: Lay her i’ the earth;
And from her fair and unpolluted flesh
May violets spring! I tell thee, churlish priest, 120
A ministering angel shall my sister be,
When thou liest howling [in hell].
HAMLET: What! the fair Ophelia?
QUEEN: Sweets to the sweet: farewell! [Scattering flowers.
I hop’d thou shouldst have been my Hamlet’s wife; 125
I thought thy bride-bed to have deck’d, sweet maid,
And not have strew’d thy grave.
LAERTES: O! treble woe
Fall ten times treble on that cursed head [Hamlet's]
Whose wicked deed thy most ingenious sense [sanity] 130
Depriv’d thee of. Hold off the earth awhile,
Till I have caught her once more in mine arms. [Leaps into the grave.
Now pile your dust upon the quick [living person] and dead,
Till of this flat a mountain you have made,
To o’er-top old Pelion or the skyish head 135
Of blue Olympus .
[Pelion and Olympus: Mountains in Greece.]
HAMLET: [Advancing.] What is he whose grief
Bears such an emphasis? whose phrase of sorrow
Conjures the wandering stars, and makes them stand
Like wonder-wounded hearers? this is I, 140
Hamlet the Dane. [Leaps into the grave.
[What is . . . hearers: Who is it that grieves with such emphasis that
his words attract the attention of the stars and fill them with wonder?
I am the one, Hamlet the Dane.]
LAERTES: The devil take thy soul! [Grapples with him.
HAMLET: Thou pray’st not well.
I prithee, take thy fingers from my throat;
For though I am not splenetive [quick-tempered] and rash 145
Yet have I in me something dangerous,
Which let thy wisdom fear. Away thy hand!
KING: Pluck them asunder. [Separate them.]
QUEEN: Hamlet! Hamlet!
ALL: Gentlemen,— 150
HORATIO: Good my lord, be quiet. [The Attendants part them, and they come out of the grave.
HAMLET: Why, I will fight with him upon this theme
Until my eyelids will no longer wag.
QUEEN: O my son! what theme?
HAMLET: I lov’d Ophelia: forty thousand brothers 155
Could not, with all their quantity of love,
Make up my sum. What wilt thou do for her?
KING: O! he is mad, Laertes.
QUEEN: For love of God, forbear him.
HAMLET: ’Swounds [By Christ's wounds], show me what thou’lt do
[thou wilt do for
Woo ’t weep? woo ’t fight? woo ’t fast? woo ’t tear thyself?
Woo ’t drink up eisel? eat a crocodile?
[Woo 't . . . crocodile: Would you weep for her? Fight? Go without food? Injure yourself? Drink vinegar? Eat a crocodile?]
I’ll do ’t. Dost thou come here to whine;
To outface me with leaping in her grave?
Be buried quick [alive] with her, and so will I: 165
And, if thou prate of mountains, let them throw
Millions of acres on us, till our ground,
Singeing his pate against the burning zone,
Make Ossa like a wart! Nay, an thou’lt mouth,
I’ll rant as well as thou. 170
[And, if . . . as thou: And, if you speak of mountains filling the
grave (lines 134-136), let them throw tons of earth on us until the top
of the pile reaches the sun and makes Mount Ossa (a peak in northern
Greece) look like a wart. Nay, when you mouth off, I'll mouth off too,
as well as you.]
QUEEN: This is mere madness:
And thus a while the fit [outburst of emotion; seizure] will work on him;
Anon [soon], as patient as the female dove,
When that her golden couplets [two eggs] are disclos’d [hatched],
His silence will sit drooping. 175
HAMLET: Hear you, sir;
What is the reason that you use me thus?
I lov’d you ever: but it is no matter;
Let Hercules himself do what he may,
The cat will mew and dog will have his day. [Exit. 180
[Let . . . day: Let Laertes, ranting as if he were Hercules, do
what he will. After he mews like a cat to lodge his complaints, I will
bark like a dog and have my way.]
KING: I pray you, good Horatio, wait upon him. [Exit HORATIO.
[To LAERTES.] Strengthen your patience in our last night’s speech;
We’ll put the matter to the present push.
[Strengthen . . . push: Be patient. Take heart in what we talked about
last night. It won't be long before we put our plan into action.]
Good Gertrude, set some watch over your son.
This grave shall have a living [lasting] monument: 185
An hour of quiet shortly shall we see;
Till then, in patience our proceeding be. [Exeunt.
Act 5, Scene 2
A hall in the castle.
Enter HAMLET and HORATIO.
HAMLET: So much for this, sir: now shall you see the other;
You do remember all the circumstance?
HORATIO: Remember it, my lord? 5
HAMLET: Sir, in my heart there was a kind of fighting
That would not let me sleep; methought I lay
Worse than the mutines [mutineers] in the bilboes. Rashly,—
[bilboes: A bilbo is a bar with fetters that are attached to the feet of prisoner.]
And prais’d be rashness for it, let us know,
Our indiscretion sometimes serves us well 10
When our deep plots do pall [fail]; and that should teach us
There’s a divinty that shapes [God shapes] our ends,
Rough-hew them how we will.
HORATIO: That is most certain.
HAMLET: Up from my cabin, 15
My sea-gown [heavy coat with a high collar] scarf’d [wrapped] about me, in the dark
Grop’d I to find out them, had my desire,
Finger’d their packet, and in fine withdrew
[Grop'd . . . packet: I groped around and found the packet containing the message to the king of England]
To mine own room again; making so bold—
My fears forgetting manners—to unseal 20
Their grand commission; where I found, Horatio,
O royal knavery! an exact command,
Larded with many several sorts of reasons
Importing Denmark’s health, and England’s too,
With, ho! such bugs and goblins in my life, 25
That, on the supervise, no leisure bated,
No, not to stay the grinding of the axe,
My head should be struck off.
[an exact . . . struck off: An exact command, interspersed with
niceties and greetings from our king to the English king, that I was to
be beheaded without delay upon my arrival in England.]
HORATIO: Is ’t possible?
HAMLET: Here’s the commission: read it at more
But wilt thou hear me how I did proceed?
HORATIO: I beseech you.
HAMLET: Being thus be-netted [ensnared] round with villanies [villainies],—
Ere I could make a prologue to my brains
[Ere . . . brains: Before I could think over what to do next]
They had begun the play,—I sat me down, 35
Devis’d a new commission, wrote it fair;
I once did hold it, as our statists [statesmen] do,
A baseness to write fair, and labour’d much
How to forget that learning; but, sir, now
It did me yeoman’s service. Wilt thou know 40
The effect of what I wrote?
HORATIO: Ay, good my lord.
HAMLET: An earnest conjuration from the king,
As England was his faithful tributary,
As love between them like the palm should flourish, 45
As peace should still her wheaten garland wear,
And stand a comma ’tween their amities,
And many such-like ‘As’es [plural of as] of great charge,
That, on the view and knowing of these contents,
Without debatement further, more or less, 50
He should the bearers put to sudden death,
Not shriving-time allow’d.
[An earnest . . . allow'd: I started with a statement from Claudius
that England was faithful to Denmark and that love between the two
countries should further flourish in a peaceful relationship, with
peace joining the two countries as a comma joins clauses and phrases.
Then I added many other other sentences and clauses beginning with "as"
and ended with a command to put the bearers of the message to death
immediately, even before they had time to confess their sins to God
through a priest.]
HORATIO: How was this seal’d?
HAMLET: Why, even in that was heaven ordinant [helpful; giving me guidance].
I had my father’s signet [ring with a seal used as a stamp to endorse
or authenticate documents] in my
Which was the model of that Danish seal;
Folded the writ up in form of the other,
Subscrib’d it, gave ’t th’ impression [stamp], plac’d it safely,
The changeling [substituted document] never known. Now, the next day
Was our sea-fight, and what to this was sequent 60
[what . . . sequent: what followed]
Thou know’st already.
HORATIO: So Guildenstern and Rosencrantz go to ’t [go to their death].
HAMLET: Why, man, they did make love to this employment;
[they . . . employment: They relished the idea of taking me to England to die.]
They are not near my conscience; their defeat
Does by their own insinuation grow. 65
’Tis dangerous when the baser nature comes
Between the pass and fell-incensed points
Of mighty opposites.
[They are . . . opposites: Their fate does not bother my conscience.
Their downfall resulted from their own wilfull interference in my
affairs. It's dangerous for lesser mortals like them to become involved
in conflicts between opponents holding high positions in the realm.]
HORATIO: Why, what a king [Claudius] is this! [Horatio is really saying, "Why what an evil king is this!"]
HAMLET: Does it not, thinks ’t thee, stand me now
He that hath kill’d my king and whor’d my mother,
Popp’d in between the election and my hopes [deprived me of being elected king],
Thrown out his angle for my proper life [hath given the order to kill me],
And with such cozenage [deceit]—is ’t not perfect conscience
To quit him with this arm? and is ’t not to be damn’d 75
To let this canker of our nature come
In further evil?
[is 't not . . . evil: Is it not perfectly justified to kill him with
this sword? And would I not be damned for allowing this evil man to
live to commit more evil?]
HORATIO: It must be shortly known to him from England
What is the issue of the business there.
[It must . . . there: He will soon find out what happened in England.]
HAMLET: It will be short: the interim is mine; 80
And a man’s life’s no more than to say ‘One.’
But I am very sorry, good Horatio,
That to Laertes I forgot myself;
For, by the image of my cause, I see
The portraiture of his: I’ll count his favours: 85
But, sure, the bravery of his grief did put me
Into a towering passion.
[It will . . . passion: It won't be long before he finds out. But I'll
have time to act in the interim. I must say, Horatio, that
I am sorry I lost my temper when I confronted Laertes at the grave
site. He, too, suffered great loss. I'll try to be cordial with him. It
was just that his outward display of grief rankled me.]
HORATIO: Peace! who comes here?
Enter OSRIC. [Osric is a courtier, one who is a fixture at the court of
a monarch. A typical courtier was at the service of the ruler and often
flattered him to gain favors and improve his standing at court.]
OSRIC: Your lordship is right welcome back to
HAMLET: I humbly thank you, sir. [Aside to HORATIO.]
Dost know this water-fly [insignificant creature]?
HORATIO: [Aside to HAMLET.] No, my good lord.
HAMLET: [Aside to HORATIO.] Thy state [of not knowing
Osric] is the more gracious; for ’tis a vice to know him. He hath much
land, and fertile: let a beast be lord of beasts, and his crib shall
stand at the king’s mess: ’tis a chough; but, as I say, spacious in the
possession of dirt.
[let a beast . . . dirt: When a man—regardless of his human
worth—becomes lord of something, he gains favor at court and dines
with the king. He's nothing but a crow (chough). But, as I say, he has
lots of dirt (land)].
OSRIC: Sweet lord, if your lordship were at leisure, I should impart a thing to you from his majesty.
HAMLET: I will receive it, sir, with all diligence of spirit.
Your bonnet to his right use; ’tis for the
[Your . . . head: Put your hat on. It's for the head. Osric had removed
his hat to show his respect (probably insincere) for Prince Hamlet.]
OSRIC: I thank your lordship, ’tis very hot.
HAMLET: No, believe me, ’tis very cold; the wind is northerly.
OSRIC: It is indifferent [somewhat] cold, my lord, indeed.
HAMLET: But yet methinks it is very sultry and hot for my complexion.
OSRIC: Exceedingly, my lord; it is very sultry, as ’twere, I
cannot tell how. But, my lord, his majesty bade me signify to you that
he has laid a great wager on your head. Sir, this is the
HAMLET: I beseech you, remember— [HAMLET moves him to put on his hat.
OSRIC: Nay, good my lord; for mine ease, in good faith. Sir, here
is newly come to court Laertes; believe me, an absolute gentleman, full
of most excellent differences [qualities that set him apart from
others], of very soft society [gentle upbringing] and great showing
[impressive appearance]; indeed, to speak feelingly of him, he is the
card [standard] or calendar [example] of gentry, for you shall find in
him the continent [complete package] of what part a gentleman would see
[of what a gentleman should be].
HAMLET: Sir, his definement suffers no perdition in you; though,
I know, to divide him inventorially would dizzy the arithmetic of
memory, and yet but yaw neither, in respect of his quick sail. But, in
the verity of extolment, I take him to be a soul of great article; and
his infusion of such dearth and rareness, as, to make true diction of
him, his semblable is his mirror; and who else would trace him, his
umbrage, nothing more.
[Sir . . . nothing more: Sir, your description of him is glowing. And I
realize that trying to present an inventory of all of his good
qualities would make you dizzy. If he were the captain of a ship, we
couldn't catch him no matter how much we yawed (swerved) this way or
that. Truly, in praising him, I must say he is a great soul. He is
unique. When he looks into a mirror, he sees the only one who can equal
him. Everyone else who would follow him walks in his shadow (umbrage).]
OSRIC: Your lordship speaks most infallibly of him.
HAMLET: The concernancy, sir? why do we wrap the gentleman in our
[The concernancy . . . breath: Why are we talking about this man?]
HORATIO: Is ’t not possible to understand in another tongue?
[Can't you talk to him in plainer language?] You will do ’t, sir,
HAMLET: What imports the nomination of this gentleman? [What is the purpose of bringing up this subject?]
OSRIC: Of Laertes?
HORATIO: His purse is empty already; all ’s golden words are
HAMLET: Of him, sir.
OSRIC: I know you are not ignorant—
HAMLET: I would you did, sir; in faith, if you did, it would not much approve me. Well, sir.
[I would . . . me: I'm glad you know that, sir. But I'm not satisfied.]
OSRIC: You are not ignorant of what excellence Laertes is—
HAMLET: I dare not confess that, lest I should compare with him
in excellence; but, to know a man well, were to know
OSRIC: I mean, sir, for his weapon [fencing skill]; but in the
imputation [reputation] laid on him by them, in his meed [ability] he’s
HAMLET: What’s his weapon?
OSRIC: Rapier and dagger.
HAMLET: That’s two of his weapons; but, well.
OSRIC: The king, sir, hath wagered with him six Barbary [north
African] horses; against the which he has imponed [pledged; staked], as
I take it, six French rapiers and poniards [daggers], with their
assigns [accessories], as girdle [belt], hangers [straps attached to
the belt to hold up a scabbard], and so: three of the carriages, in
faith, are very dear to fancy, very responsive to the hilts, most
delicate carriages, and of very liberal
HAMLET: What call you the carriages?
HORATIO: I knew you must be edified by the margent [be curious
about the meaning of some words], ere you had done.
OSRIC: The carriages, sir, are the hangers.
HAMLET: The phrase would be more german [germane; pertinent] to
the matter, if we could carry cannon by our sides [if you were talking
about cannons instead of swords]; I would it might be hangers till
then. But, on; six Barbary horses against six French swords, their
assigns, and three liberal-conceited carriages; that’s the French bet
against the Danish. Why is this ‘imponed,’ as you call it?
OSRIC: The king, sir, hath laid [wagered], that in a dozen passes
between yourself and him [Laertes], he shall not exceed you three hits
[shall not defeat you by no more than three hits; in other words, the
king supposedly is betting on Hamlet if Laertes spots the prince three
hits]; he hath laid on twelve for nine [twelve hits for Laertes to nine
hits for Hamlet], and it would come to immediate trial [a match held
right now], if your lordship would vouchsafe the
HAMLET: How if I answer no?
OSRIC: I mean, my lord, the opposition of your person in trial.
[Let me be clear, my lord. I'm talking about testing yourself in a
competition against Laertes.]
HAMLET: Sir, I will walk here in the hall; if it please his
majesty, ’tis the breathing time of day with me; let the foils be
brought, the gentleman willing, and the king hold his purpose, I will
win for him an I can; if not, I will gain nothing but my shame and the
[Sir, I will . . . odd hits: Sir, I will walk here in the hall. It's
the time of day when I like to get exercise. Meanwhile, let the
preparation begin for the fencing match. I will try to fight to make
the king win his bet. If I fail, I will suffer only a little shame and
some hits from Laertes' sword.]
OSRIC: Shall I re-deliver you so? [Shall I quote you on that?]
HAMLET: To this effect, sir; after what flourish your nature
[To . . . will: You may tell him the gist of what I said with whatever fancy words you'd like to add.]
OSRIC: I commend my duty to your lordship.
HAMLET: Yours, yours. [Exit OSRIC.] He does well to commend it himself; there are no tongues else for ’s turn.
[He does . . . turn: He does well to commend his duty. No one else will commend him for anything.]
HORATIO: This lapwing runs away with the shell on his head.
. . . head: The lapwing,
a small bird, can move around moments after it hatches. It may run off
even when pieces of its shell are still attached to its body.]
HAMLET: He did comply with his dug before he sucked it. [He used
to praise the nipple of his mother (or wet nurse) before he sucked it.]
Thus has he—and many more of the same bevy [kind], that I know the
drossy [worthless; trivial] age dotes on—only got the tune of the time
and outward habit of encounter, a kind of yesty collection which
carries them through and through the most fond and winnowed opinions;
and do but blow them to their trial, the bubbles are out.
[only got . . . out: His only talent is to act like everyone else and
speak the same words (yesty collection) that carry his kind through
their conversations and opinions, winnowed of substance. They try to attach great meaning to their words; but the words are full of air, like bubbles.]
Enter a Lord. 135
Lord. My lord, his majesty commended him to you by young Osric,
who brings back to him, that you attend him in the hall; he sends to
know if your pleasure hold to play [fence] with Laertes, or that you
will take longer time.
[his majesty . . . time: After the king sent Osric to deliver his
message to you, Osric reported back to the king and now asks you to
meet him in the hall. He wishes to know whether you want to have the
fencing match now or later.]
HAMLET: I am constant to my purposes; they follow the king’s
pleasure: if his fitness speaks, mine is ready; now, or whensoever,
provided I be so able as now.
Lord. The king, and queen, and all are coming down.
HAMLET: In happy time. [That suits me well.]
Lord. The queen desires you to use some gentle entertainment
[gentle words or treatment] to Laertes before you fall to
HAMLET: She well instructs me. [Exit Lord.
HORATIO: You will lose this wager, my lord.
HAMLET: I do not think so; since he went into France, I have been
in continual practice; I shall win at the odds. But thou wouldst not
think how ill all’s here about my heart; but it is no
[But . . . heart: But be aware that I feel a bit uneasy in my heart.]
HORATIO: Nay, good my lord,—
HAMLET: It is but foolery; but it is such a kind of gain-giving
as would perhaps trouble a
[It is . . . woman: It's really nothing—rather like a misgiving that would perhaps trouble a woman.]
HORATIO: If your mind dislike any thing, obey it; I will
forestall their repair hither [stop them from coming], and say you are
HAMLET: Not a whit, we defy augury; there’s a special providence
in the fall of a sparrow. If it be now, ’tis not to come; if it be not
to come, it will be now; if it be not now, yet it will come: the
readiness is all. Since no man has aught of what he leaves, what is ’t
to leave betimes? Let be.
[Not a . . . let be: No, don't do that. I defy omens or foreboding
feelings. After all, it is God who oversees our destiny. If a sparrow
dies now, it was meant by heaven to die now and not later. If the
sparrow does not die now, it was meant by heaven to die later. (See
Matthew 10:29 in the New Testament of the Bible.) What is important is
to be prepared for whatever happens to you. No man retains anything of
what he leaves behind when he dies. So what does it matter if a man
dies an early death? Let things stand as they are.]
Enter KING, QUEEN, LAERTES, Lords, OSRIC, and Attendants with foils, &c.
KING: Come, Hamlet, come, and take this hand from me. [The
KING puts the hand of LAERTES into that of HAMLET.
HAMLET: Give me your pardon, sir; I’ve done you
But pardon ’t, as you are a gentleman.
This presence knows,
And you must needs have heard, how I am punish’d
With sore distraction [mental anguish]. What I have done,
That might your nature, honour and exception 155
Roughly awake, I here proclaim was madness.
Was ’t Hamlet wrong’d Laertes? Never Hamlet:
If Hamlet from himself be ta’en away,
And when he’s not himself does wrong Laertes,
Then Hamlet does it not; Hamlet denies it. 160
Who does it then? His madness. If ’t be so,
Hamlet is of the faction that is wrong’d;
His madness is poor Hamlet’s enemy.
Sir, in this audience,
Let my disclaiming from a purpos’d evil 165
Free me so far in your most generous thoughts,
That I have shot mine arrow o’er the house,
And hurt my brother.
[That I . . . brother: That I shot an arrow over a house, unaware that
my brother was on the other side, and unintentionally hit and injured
LAERTES: I am satisfied in nature [temperament; feelings],
Whose motive, in this case, should stir me most 170
To my revenge; but in my terms of honour
I stand aloof, and will no reconcilement,
[I stand . . . reconcilement: I am not satisfied and will not reconcile with you.]
Till by some elder masters [old wise men], of known honour,
I have a voice and precedent of peace,
To keep my name ungor’d. But till that time, 175
I do receive your offer’d love like love,
And will not wrong it.
HAMLET: I embrace it freely;
And will this brother’s wager frankly play.
Give us the foils [thin, flexible swords with blunted tips]. Come
LAERTES: Come, one for me.
HAMLET: I’ll be your foil, Laertes; in mine ignorance
Your skill shall, like a star i’ the darkest night,
Stick fiery off indeed.
[I'll be . . . indeed: I'll be a poor comparison to you, Laertes. Since
I lack the talents that you have acquired, your skill will shine like a
fiery star in a dark sky.]
LAERTES: You mock me, sir. [Laertes thinks Hamlet is
HAMLET: No, by this hand.
KING: Give them the foils, young Osric. Cousin Hamlet,
You know the wager?
HAMLET: Very well, my lord;
Your Grace hath laid the odds o’ the weaker side. 190
KING: I do not fear it; I have seen you both;
But since he is better’d [he has the greater skill], we have therefore odds.
LAERTES: This is too heavy; let me see another.
HAMLET: This likes me well. These foils have all a length?
OSRIC: Ay, my good lord. [They prepare to
KING: Set me the stoups [pots] of wine upon that table.
If Hamlet give the first or second hit,
Or quit [strikes back] in answer of the third exchange,
Let all the battlements their ordnance [cannons] fire;
The king shall drink to Hamlet’s better breath [health]; 200
And in the cup [that Hamlet drinks from] an union [pearl] shall he throw,
Richer than that which four successive kings
In Denmark’s crown have worn. Give me the cups;
And let the kettle to the trumpet speak,
The trumpet to the cannoneer without, 205
The cannons to the heavens, the heavens to earth,
‘Now the king drinks to Hamlet!’ Come, begin;
And you, the judges, bear a wary eye.
HAMLET: Come on, sir.
LAERTES: Come, my lord. [They play. 210
OSRIC: A hit, a very palpable hit.
LAERTES: Well; again. 215
KING: Stay; give me drink. Hamlet, this pearl is thine;
Here’s to thy health. Give him the cup. [Trumpets sound; and cannon shot off within.
HAMLET: I’ll play this bout first; set it by a while.
Come.—[They play.] Another hit; what say you?
LAERTES: A touch, a touch, I do confess. 220
KING: Our son shall win.
QUEEN: He’s fat, and scant of breath.
Here, Hamlet, take my napkin, rub thy brows;
The queen carouses to thy fortune, Hamlet. [She picks up the poisoned
cup, the one with the pearl, that the king intended for Hamlet.]
HAMLET: Good madam! 225
KING: Gertrude, do not drink.
QUEEN: I will, my lord; I pray you, pardon me. [Drinks.
KING: [Aside.] It is the poison’d cup! it is too late.
HAMLET: I dare not drink yet, madam; by and by.
QUEEN: Come, let me wipe thy face. 230
LAERTES: My lord, I’ll hit him now.
KING: I do not think ’t.
LAERTES: [Aside.] And yet ’tis almost ’gainst my conscience.
HAMLET: Come, for the third, Laertes. You but dally;
I pray you, pass with your best violence. 235
I am afeard you make a wanton of me [you are toying with me].
LAERTES: Say you so? come on. [They play.
OSRIC: Nothing, neither way.
LAERTES: Have at you now. [LAERTES wounds HAMLET; then, in
scuffling, they change rapiers, and HAMLET wounds LAERTES.
KING: Part them! they are incens’d [going too far]. 240
HAMLET: Nay, come, again. [The QUEEN falls.
OSRIC: Look to the queen there, ho!
HORATIO: They bleed on both sides. How is it, my lord?
OSRIC: How is it, Laertes?
LAERTES: Why, as a woodcock to mine own springe [as a man snared
by his own trap],
I am justly kill’d with mine own treachery.
HAMLET: How does the queen?
KING: She swounds [faints, swoons] to see them bleed.
QUEEN: No, no, the drink, the drink,—O my dear Hamlet!
The drink, the drink; I am poison’d. [Dies. 250
HAMLET: O villany! Ho! let the door be lock’d:
Treachery! seek it out. [LAERTES falls.
LAERTES: It is here, Hamlet. Hamlet, thou art slain;
No medicine in the world can do thee good;
In thee there is not half an hour of life; 255
The treacherous instrument is in thy hand,
Unbated [not capped or blunted] and envenom’d. The foul practice
Hath turn’d itself on me; lo! here I lie,
Never to rise again. Thy mother’s poison’d.
I can no more. The king, the king’s to blame. 260
HAMLET: The point envenom’d too!—
Then, venom, to thy work. [Stabs the KING.
ALL: Treason! treason!
KING: O! yet defend me, friends; I am but hurt [only wounded].
HAMLET: Here, thou incestuous, murderous, damned
Drink off this potion;—is thy union [pearl] here?
Follow my mother. [KING dies.
LAERTES: He [the king] is justly serv’d;
It is a poison temper’d by himself.
Exchange forgiveness with me, noble Hamlet: 270
Mine and my father’s death come not upon thee,
Nor thine on me! [Dies.
HAMLET: Heaven make thee free of it! I follow thee.
I am dead, Horatio. Wretched queen, adieu!
You that look pale and tremble at this chance, 275
That are but mutes or audience to this act,
Had I but time,—as this fell sergeant, death,
Is strict in his arrest,—O! I could tell you—
But let it be. Horatio, I am dead;
Thou liv’st; report me and my cause aright 280
To the unsatisfied.
HORATIO: Never believe it;
I am more an antique Roman [Romans were famous for committing suicide after a reversal of fortune] than a Dane:
Here’s yet some liquor left.
HAMLET: As thou’rt a man, 285
Give me the cup: let go; by heaven, I’ll have ’t.
O God! Horatio, what a wounded name,
Things standing thus unknown, shall live behind me.
If thou didst ever hold me in thy heart,
Absent thee from felicity awhile, 290
[Absent . . . awhile: Absent (pronounced ab SENT) thee from sweet death awhile.]
And in this harsh world draw thy breath in pain,
To tell my story. [March afar off, and shot within.
What war-like noise is this?
OSRIC: Young Fortinbras, with conquest come from Poland,
To the ambassadors of England gives 295
This war-like volley [salute].
HAMLET: O! I die, Horatio;
The potent poison quite o’er-crows [overcomes] my spirit:
I cannot live to hear the news from England,
But I do prophesy the election [to choose the new Danish king]
On Fortinbras: he has my dying voice;
So tell him, with the occurrents, more and less,
Which have solicited—The rest is silence. [Dies.
[So tell . . . solicited: So tell him about the recent events, whether
of greater or lesser importance, that influenced my actions.]
HORATIO: Now cracks a noble heart. Good-night, sweet prince,
And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest! 305
Why does the drum come hither? [March within.
Enter FORTINBRAS, the English Ambassadors, and Others.
FORTINBRAS: Where is this sight?
HORATIO: What is it ye would see?
If aught [anything] of woe or wonder, cease your search. 310
[If aught . . . search]: If you mean anything tragic or terrible to behold, this is the place.]
FORTINBRAS: This quarry [harvest of animals hunted down, killed,
and piled in a heap] cries on havoc [disorder; chaos; destruction]. O
What feast is toward in thine eternal cell,
That thou so many princes at a shot
So bloodily hast struck?
[O proud . . . struck: O death! You must be planning a great banquet in
your eternal abode, considering that you took the lives of so many
royal persons in a single moment.]
FIRST AMBASSADOR: The sight is dismal; 315
And our affairs from England come too late:
The ears are senseless that should give us hearing,
To tell him [King Claudius] his commandment is fulfill’d,
That Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead.
Where should we have our thanks? 320
[Where . . . thanks: Since the king is dead, he cannot thank us for delivering our message.]
HORATIO: Not from his mouth,
Had it the ability of life to thank you:
He never gave commandment for their death.
But since, so jump upon this bloody question,
[But . . . question: But since you wonder what happened here that spilled so much blood]
You from the Polack wars, and you from England, 325
Are here arriv’d, give order that these bodies
High on a stage be placed to the view;
And let me speak to the yet unknowing world
How these things came about: so shall you hear
Of carnal, bloody, and unnatural acts, 330
Of accidental judgments, casual slaughters;
Of deaths put on by cunning and forc’d cause,
And, in this upshot, purposes mistook
Fall’n on the inventors’ heads; all this can I
Truly deliver. 335
[And in . . . deliver: And, ironically, murderous plots that went awry
and killed the very persons who hatched them. I can tell you the whole
FORTINBRAS: Let us haste to hear it,
And call the noblest to the audience [call the noblemen hereabouts to listen].
For me, with sorrow I embrace my fortune;
I have some rights of memory [entitlements] in this kingdom,
Which now to claim my vantage doth invite me. 340
[Which . . . me: Which I now plan to claim]
HORATIO: Of that I shall have also cause to speak,
And from his mouth whose voice will draw on more:
But let this same be presently perform’d,
Even while men’s minds are wild, lest more mischance
On plots and errors happen. 345
[Of that . . . happen: On this matter I'd like to disclose to you
Hamlet's last wishes, even at this upsetting time, so that we can avoid
further plots and upheavals.]
FORTINBRAS: Let four captains
Bear Hamlet, like a soldier, to the stage;
For he was likely, had he been put on,
To have prov’d most royally: and, for his passage,
[For he . . . royally: For he was likely, had he lived, to have been a great ruler.]
The soldiers’ music and the rites of war 350
Speak loudly for him.
Take up the bodies: such a sight as this
Becomes the field, but here shows much amiss.
[Such a sight . . . amiss: This site is appropriate for a battlefield, but not for a hall in a king's castle.]
Go, bid the soldiers shoot. [A dead march. Exeunt, bearing
off the bodies; after which a peal of ordnance is shot off.
About Michael J. Cummings
Michael J. Cummings taught English and literature at the Pennsylvania
College of Technology in Williamsport, Pa., and at public schools in
Pennsylvania and New York. He also worked as a journalist for seventeen
years, five of which he was managing editor of the national publication
GRIT when it had a circulation of more than one million. He earned a
bachelor's degree in English at King's College in Wilkes-Barre, Pa.,
and pursued further studies at Lycoming College in Williamsport and at
Elmira College in Elmira, N.Y. In addition, he attended two training
workshops at the American Press Institute. He served for a time as a
member of the board of directors of the Pennsylvania Associated Press
Managing Editors. Cummings is the author of more than one thousand
freelance articles and several books. He has written more than one
hundred Internet literature guides for students and teachers. His
Internet site on Shakespeare has been recommended by The New York Times
and the BBC.