61 Hamlet: Act 2
Hamlet (Modern, Editor’s Version). Internet Shakespeare Editions. University of Victoria. Editor: David Bevington. Adapted by James Sexton.
Enter old Polonius, with his man [Reynaldo] or two.
Give him this money, and these notes, Reynaldo.
[He gives money and papers.]
I will, my lord.
You shall do marv’lous wisely, good Reynaldo,
Before you visit him, to make inquire
Of his behavior.
My lord, I did intend it.
Marry, well said, very well said. Look you, sir,
Inquire me first what Danskers are in Paris,
And how, and who, what means, and where they keep,
900What company, at what expense; and finding
By this encompassment and drift of question
That they do know my son, come you more nearer
Than your particular demands will touch it;
Take you, as ’twere, some distant knowledge of him,
905As thus: “I know his father, and his friends,
And in part him.” Do you mark this, Reynaldo?
Ay, very well, my lord.
“And in part him. But,” you may say, “not well,
But if’t be he I mean, he’s very wild,
910Addicted so and so,” and there put on him
What forgeries you please–marry, none so rank
As may dishonor him, take heed of that,
But, sir, such wanton, wild, and usual slips
As are companions noted and most known
915To youth and liberty.
As gaming, my lord?
My lord, that would dishonor him.
Faith, no, as you may season it in the charge.
You must not put another scandal on him
That he is open to incontinency;
That’s not my meaning. But breathe his faults so quaintly
That they may seem the taints of liberty,
925The flash and outbreak of a fiery mind,
A savageness in unreclaimèd blood,
Of general assault.
But, my good lord–
Wherefore should you do this?
Ay, my lord, I would know that.
Marry sir, here’s my drift,
And I believe it is a fetch of warrant.
You laying these slight sullies on my son
As ’twere a thing a little soiled i’th’ working,
Mark you, your party in converse, him you would sound,
935Having ever seen in the prenominate crimes
The youth you breathe of guilty, be assured
He closes with you in this consequence:
“Good sir” (or so), or “friend,” or “gentleman,”
According to the phrase and the addition
940Of man and country.
Very good, my lord.
And then, sir, does ‘a this, ‘a does–what was I about to say?
By the mass, I was about to say something.
Where did I leave?
At “closes in the consequence.”
At “friend,” or so, and “gentleman.”
At “closes in the consequence.” Ay, marry,
He closes with you thus: “I know the gentleman,
I saw him yesterday”–or t’other day,
950Or then, or then–“with such and such, and as you say,
There was ‘a gaming, there o’ertook in’s rouse,
There falling out at tennis,” or perchance
“I saw him enter such a house of sale,”
Videlicet, a brothel, or so forth. See you now,
955Your bait of falsehood takes this carp of truth,
And thus do we of wisdom and of reach,
With windlasses and with assays of bias,
By indirections find directions out;
So by my former lecture and advice
960Shall you my son. You have me, have you not?
My lord, I have.
God b’wi’ ye, fare ye well.
Good my lord.
Observe his inclination in yourself.
I shall, my lord.
And let him ply his music.
Well, my lord.
Farewell.–How now, Ophelia, what’s the matter?
Alas, my lord, I have been so affrighted!
With what, i’th’ name of God?
My lord, as I was sewing in my chamber,
Lord Hamlet, with his doublet all unbraced,
975No hat upon his head, his stockings fouled,
Ungartered, and down-gyvèd to his ankle,
Pale as his shirt, his knees knocking each other,
And with a look so piteous in purport
As if he had been loosèd out of hell
980To speak of horrors, he comes before me.
Mad for thy love?
My lord, I do not know,
But truly I do fear it.
What said he?
He took me by the wrist, and held me hard.
985Then goes he to the length of all his arm,
And with his other hand thus o’er his brow
He falls to such perusal of my face
As ‘a would draw it. Long stayed he so.
At last, a little shaking of mine arm,
990And thrice his head thus waving up and down,
He raised 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 turned
995He seemed to find his way without his eyes,
For out o’ doors he went without their help,
And to the last bended their light on me.
Come, go with me. I will go seek the King.
This is the very ecstasy of love,
1000Whose violent property fordoes itself
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?
No, my good lord, but as you did command
I did repel his letters, and denied
His access to me.
That hath made him mad.
I am sorry that with better heed and judgment
1010I had not quoted him. I feared he did but trifle
And meant to wrack 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
1015To lack discretion. Come, go we to the King.
This must be known, which, being kept close, might move
More grief to hide than hate to utter love.
1020Flourish. Enter King, Queen, Rosencrantz, and Guildenstern [with others].
Welcome, dear Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.
Moreover that we much did long to see you,
The need we have to use you did provoke
Our hasty sending. Something have you heard
1025Of Hamlet’s transformation–so I call it,
Since not th’exterior nor the inward man
Resembles that it was. What it should be,
More than his father’s death, that thus hath put him
So much from th’understanding of himself,
1030I cannot dream of. I entreat you both
That, being of so young days brought up with him,
And since so neighbored to his youth and humor,
That you vouchsafe your rest here in our court
Some little time, so by your companies
1035To draw him on to pleasures, and to gather
So much as from occasions you may glean,
1036.1Whether aught to us unknown afflicts him thus
That, opened, lies within our remedy.
Good gentlemen, he hath much talked of you,
And sure I am two men there is not living
1040To 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
For the supply and profit of our hope,
Your visitation shall receive such thanks
1045As fits a king’s remembrance.
But we both obey,
And here give up ourselves in the full bent
To lay our service freely at your feet
To be commanded.
Thanks, Rosencrantz, and gentle Guildenstern.
Thanks, Guildenstern, and gentle Rosencrantz.
And I beseech you instantly to visit
My too-much-changèd son.–Go, some of you,
And bring these gentlemen where Hamlet is.
Heavens make our presence and our practices
Pleasant and helpful to him!
Exeunt Rosencrantz and Guildenstern [and other Courtiers].
Th’ambassadors from Norway, my good lord,
1065Are joyfully returned.
Thou still hast been the father of good news.
Have I, my lord? Assure you, my good liege,
I hold my duty as I hold my soul,
Both to my God and to my gracious king;
1070And I do think–or else this brain of mine
Hunts not the trail of policy so sure
As it hath used to do–that I have found
The very cause of Hamlet’s lunacy.
Oh, speak of that! That do I long to hear.
Give first admittance to th’ambassadors.
My news shall be the fruit to that great feast.
I doubt it is no other but the main:
His father’s death, and our o’erhasty marriage.
Enter Polonius, Voltemand, and Cornelius.
Well, we shall sift him.–Welcome, my good friends.
Say, Voltemand, what from our brother Norway?
Most fair return of greetings and desires.
Upon our first, he sent out to suppress
His nephew’s levies, which to him appeared
To be a preparation ‘gainst the Polack,
But, better looked into, he truly found
1090It was against your highness; whereat grieved
That so his sickness, age, and impotence
Was falsely borne in hand, sends out arrests
On Fortinbras, which he in brief obeys,
Receives rebuke from Norway, and, in fine,
1095Makes vow before his uncle never more
To give th’assay of arms against your majesty.
Whereon old Norway, overcome with joy,
Gives him three thousand crowns in annual fee
And his commission to employ those soldiers
1100So levied (as before) against the Polack,
With an entreaty herein further shown
[Giving a letter to the King]
That it might please you to give quiet pass
Through your dominions for his enterprise
On such regards of safety and allowance
1105As therein are set down.
It likes us well,
And at our more considered time we’ll read,
Answer, and think upon this business.
Meantime, we thank you for your well-took labor.
1110Go to your rest. At night we’ll feast together.
Most welcome home!
This business is well ended.
My liege and madam, to expostulate
What majesty should be, what duty is,
1115Why 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,
And tediousness the limbs and outward flourishes,
I will be brief. Your noble son is mad.
1120Mad call I it, for to define true madness,
What is’t but to be nothing else but mad?
But let that go.
More matter with less art.
Madam, I swear I use no art at all.
1125That 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.
Mad let us grant him, then. And now remains
That we find out the cause of this effect,
1130Or rather say the cause of this defect,
For this effect defective comes by cause.
Thus it remains, and the remainder thus.
I have a daughter–have whilst she is mine–
Who in her duty and obedience, mark,
1135Hath given me this. Now gather and surmise.
[He reads from] the letter.]
“To the celestial and my soul’s idol, the most beautified Ophelia.”
1140That’s an ill phrase, a vile phrase; “beautified” is a vile phrase. But
you shall hear. “These in her excellent white bosom, these,” etc.
Came this from Hamlet to her?
“O dear Ophelia, I am ill at these numbers. I have not art to reckon
my groans. But that I love thee best, oh, most best, believe it. Adieu.
Thine evermore, most dear lady, whilst this machine is to him,
This in obedience hath my daughter shown me,
And, more above, hath his solicitings,
1155As they fell out, by time, by means, and place,
All given to mine ear.
But how hath she received his love?
What do you think of me?
As of a man faithful and honorable.
I would fain prove so. But what might you think,
When I had seen this hot love on the wing–
As I perceived it (I must tell you that)
Before my daughter told me–what might you,
Or my dear majesty your queen here, think
1165If I had played the desk or table-book,
Or given my heart a winking, mute and dumb,
Or looked upon this love with idle sight,
What might you think? No, I went round to work,
And my young mistress thus I did bespeak:
1170“Lord Hamlet is a prince out of thy star.
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,
1175And he, repulsèd, a short tale to make,
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,
1180And all we mourn for.
[To Queen] Do you think ’tis this?
It may be, very like.
Hath there been such a time–I’d fain know that–
That I have positively said “‘Tis so”
1185When it proved otherwise?
Not that I know.
How may we try it further?
You know sometimes he walks four hours together
Here in the lobby.
So he does indeed.
At such a time, I’ll loose my daughter to him.
Be you and I behind an arras then;
Mark the encounter. If he love her not,
And be not from his reason fall’n thereon,
1200Let me be no assistant for a state
But keep a farm and carters.
We will try it.
Enter Hamlet reading on a book.
1205But look where sadly the poor wretch comes reading.
Do you know me, my lord?
Excellent, excellent well. You’re a fishmonger.
Not I, my lord.
Then I would you were so honest a man.
Honest, my lord?
Ay, sir, to be honest, as this world goes, is to be one man picked out of ten
That’s very true, my lord.
For if the sun breed maggots in a dead dog, being a good kissing carrion–
Have you a daughter?
I have, my lord.
[Aside] How say you by that? Still harping on my daughter. Yet he knew me
not at first. ‘A said I was a fishmonger. ‘A 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 lord?
Words, words, words.
What is the matter, my lord?
I mean the matter that you read, my lord.
1235Slanders sir; for the satirical rogue says here that old men have gray beards,
that their faces are wrinkled, their eyes purging thick amber and plumtree
gum, and that they have a plentiful lack of wit, together with most weak hams–all
1240which, sir, though I most powerfully and potently believe, yet I hold it not
honesty to have it thus set down; for you yourself, sir, shall grow old as I am,
if, like a crab, you could go backward.
1245[Aside] Though this be madness, yet there is method in’t.–Will you walk out
of the air, my lord?
Into my grave.
[Aside] Indeed, that’s out of the air. How pregnant sometimes his replies are!
1250A 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
1255means of meeting between him and my daughter.–My honorable lord, I will
most humbly take my leave of you.
You cannot, sir, take from me anything that I will more willingly part
1260withal–except my life, except my life, except my life.
Enter Guildenstern and Rosencrantz.
Fare you well, my lord.
These tedious old fools!
[To Rosencrantz and Guildenstern] You go to seek the Lord Hamlet? There he is.
[To Polonius] God save you, sir.
My honored lord!
My most dear lord!
1270My excellent good friends! How dost thou, Guildenstern? Ah, Rosencrantz! Good lads, how do ye both?
As the indifferent children of the earth.
Nor the soles of her shoe?
Neither, my lord.
Then you live about her waist, or in the middle of her favors.
In the secret parts of Fortune? Oh, most true, she is a strumpet. What’s the
None, my lord, but that the world’s grown honest.
1285Then 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 hither?
Prison, my lord?
Denmark’s a prison.
Then is the world one.
A goodly one, in which there are many confines, wards, and dungeons,
Denmark being one o’th’ worst.
We think not so, my lord.
Why, then ’tis none to you, for there is nothing either good or bad but
thinking makes it so. To me it is a prison.
Why, then your ambition makes it one. ‘Tis too narrow for your mind.
Oh, God, I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself a king of
infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams.
Which dreams indeed are ambition, for the very substance of the ambitious
1305is merely the shadow of a dream.
A dream itself is but a shadow.
Truly, and I hold ambition of so airy and light a quality that it is but a
We'll wait upon you.
1315No such matter. I will not sort 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 you at Elsinore?
To visit you, my lord, no other occasion.
1320Beggar that I am, I am even poor in thanks, but I thank you; and sure, dear
friends, my thanks are too dear a halfpenny. 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.
What should we say, my lord?
Why, anything--but to th' purpose. You were sent for, and there is a kind
of confession in your looks which your modesties have not craft enough to
color. I know the good King and Queen have sent for you.
To what end, my lord?
That you must teach me. But let me conjure you, by the rights of our
fellowship, by the consonancy of our youth, by the obligation of our ever-
preserved love, and by what more dear a better proposer could charge you
1335withal, be even and direct with me whether you were sent for or no.
[Aside to Guildenstern] What say you?
My lord, we were sent for.
I will tell you why; so shall my anticipation prevent your discovery, and
your secrecy to the King and Queen molt no feather. I have of late, but
wherefore I know not, lost all my mirth, forgone all custom of exercise; and
1345indeed 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, this majestical roof fretted with golden
fire, why, it appears no other thing to me than a foul and pestilent
1350congregation of vapors. What a piece of work is a man! How noble in
reason, how infinite in faculties, in form and moving how express and
admirable! In action, how like an angel! In apprehension, how like a god;
1355the beauty of the world; the paragon of animals. And yet to me what is this
quintessence of dust? Man delights not me, no, nor woman neither, though
by your smiling you seem to say so.
My lord, there was no such stuff in my thoughts.
Why did you laugh, then, when I said man delights not me?
To think, my lord, if you delight not in man, what lenten entertainment the
players shall receive from you. We coted them on the way, and hither are
they coming to offer you service.
He that plays the King shall be welcome; his majesty shall have tribute of
me. The Adventurous Knight shall use his foil and target, the Lover shall not
1370sigh gratis, the Humorous Man shall end his part in peace, the Clown shall
make those laugh whose lungs are tickled o'th' sear, and the Lady shall say
her mind freely, or the blank verse shall halt for't. What players are they?
1380I think their inhibition comes by the means of the late innovation.
Do they hold the same estimation they did when I was in the city? Are they
No, indeed, they are not.
How comes it? Do they grow rusty?
Nay, their endeavor keeps in the wonted pace. But there is, sir, an eyrie of
children, little eyases, that cry out on the top of question, and are most
tyrannically clapped for't. These are now the fashion, and so berattle the
1390common stages--so they call them--that many wearing rapiers are afraid of
goose quills and dare scarce come thither.
What, are they children? Who maintains 'em? How are they escoted? Will
they pursue the quality no longer than they can sing? Will they not say
1395afterwards, if they should grow themselves to common players--as it is most
like if their means are not better--their writers do them wrong to make them
exclaim against their own succession?
1400Faith, there has been much to-do on both sides, and the nation holds it no sin
to tarre them to controversy. There was for a while no money bid for
argument unless the poet and the player went to cuffs in the question.
Oh, there has been much throwing about of brains.
Do the boys carry it away?
Ay, that they do, my lord, Hercules and his load too.
1410It is not very strange, for my uncle is King of Denmark, and those that would
make mows at him while my father lived give twenty, forty, fifty, a hundred
ducats apiece for his picture in little. 'Sblood, there is something in this more than
natural, if philosophy could find it out.
1415Flourish for the players.
There are the players.
Gentlemen, you are welcome to Elsinore. Your hands, come.
Th'appurtenance of welcome is fashion and ceremony. Let me comply with you
1420in this garb, lest my extent 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 deceived.
In what, my dear lord?
Well be with you, gentlemen.
1430Hark you, Guildenstern, and you too, at each ear a hearer: that great baby
you see there is not yet out of his swaddling clouts.
Haply he is the second time come to them, for they say an old man is twice
1435I will prophesy he comes to tell me of the players. Mark it.-- You say right,
sir, o'Monday morning, 'twas then indeed.
My lord, I have news to tell you.
My lord, I have news to tell you. When Roscius was an actor in Rome--
The actors are come hither, my lord.
Upon my honor--
Then came each actor on his ass.
1445The best actors in the world, either for tragedy, comedy, history, pastoral,
pastoral-comical, historical-pastoral, tragical-historical, tragical-comical-
historical-pastoral, scene individable, or poem unlimited.Seneca cannot be
1450too heavy nor Plautus too light. For the law of writ and the liberty, these are
the only men.
O Jephthah, judge of Israel, what a treasure hadst thou?
What a treasure had he, my lord?
[Aside] Still on my daughter.
Am I not i'th' right, old Jephthah?
If you call me Jephthah, my lord, I have a daughter that I love passing well.
Nay, that follows not.
What follows then, my lord?
As by lot,
and then you know,
It came to pass,
As most like it was.
1465The first row of the pious chanson will show you more, for look where my
Enter four or five Players.
You are welcome, masters, welcome all.--I am glad to see thee well. Welcome,
good friends.--Oh, my old friend! Thy face is valanced since I saw thee last.
1470Com'st thou to beard me in Denmark?-- What, my young lady and mistress!
By'r Lady, your ladyship is nearer heaven than when I saw you last, by the
altitude of a chopine. Pray God your voice, like a piece of uncurrent gold, be
1475not cracked within the ring.--Masters, you are all welcome. We'll e'en to't,
like French falconers: fly at anything we see. We'll have a speech straight.
Come, give us a taste of your quality. Come, a passionate speech.
What speech, my good lord?
1480I heard thee speak me a speech once, but it was never acted, or, if it was, not
above once; for the play, I remember, pleased not the million, 'twas caviare
to the general. 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
1485scenes, set down with as much modesty as cunning. I remember one said
there were no sallets in the lines to make the matter savory, nor no matter in
1488.1the phrase that might indict the author of affectation, but called it an honest
1490method, as wholesome as sweet, and by very much more handsome than fine. One speech in't 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 th'Hyrcanian beast--
'Tis not so, it begins with Pyrrhus.
The rugged Pyrrhus, he whose sable arms,
1495Black as his purpose, did the night resemble
When he lay couchèd in the ominous horse,
Hath now this dread and black complexion smeared
With heraldry more dismal. Head to foot
Now is he total gules, horridly tricked
1500With blood of fathers, mothers, daughters, sons,
Baked and empasted with the parching streets
That lend a tyrannous and damnèd light
To their vile murders. Roasted in wrath and fire,
And thus o'ersizèd with coagulate gore,
1505With eyes like carbuncles, the hellish Phyrrhus
Old grandsire Priam seeks.
So proceed you.
'Fore God, my Lord, well spoken, with good accent and good discretion.
Anon he finds him,
1510Striking too short at Greeks. His antique sword,
Rebellious to his arm, lies where it falls,
Repugnant to command. Unequal matched,
Pyrrhus at Priam drives, in rage strikes wide,
But with the whiff and wind of his fell sword
1515Th'unnervèd father falls. Then senseless Ilium,
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,
Which was declining on the milky head
1520Of reverend Priam, seemed i'th' air to stick.
So as a painted tyrant Pyrrhus stood,
And, like a neutral to his will and matter,
But as we often see against some storm
A silence in the heavens, the rack stand still,
1525The bold winds speechless, and the orb below
As hush as death, anon the dreadful thunder
Doth rend the region, so, after Pyrrhus' pause,
A rousèd vengeance sets him new a-work,
And never did the Cyclops' hammers fall
1530On Mars his armor forged for proof eterne
With less remorse than Pyrrhus' bleeding sword
Now falls on Priam.
Out, out, thou strumpet Fortune! All you gods
In general synod take away her power,
1535Break all the spokes and fellies from her wheel,
And bowl the round nave down the hill of heaven
As low as to the fiends!
This is too long.
But who, oh, who, had seen the moblèd queen--.
The moblèd queen!
That's good. "Mobleèd queen" is good.
Run barefoot up and down, threat'ning the flames
With bisson rheum, a clout upon that head
Where late the diadem stood, and, for a robe,
About her lank and all-o'erteemèd loins
1550A blanket in th'alarm of fear caught up--
Who this had seen, with tongue in venom steeped
'Gainst Fortune's state would treason have pronounced;
But if the gods themselves did see her then,
When she saw Pyrrhus make malicious sport
1555In mincing with his sword her husband's limbs,
The instant burst of clamor that she made,
Unless things mortal move them not at all,
Would have made milch the burning eyes of heaven
And passion in the gods.
Look whe'er he has not turned his color, and has tears in's eyes.--Prithee,
'Tis well. I'll have thee speak out the rest of this soon. [To Polonius] Good my lord,
will you see the players well bestowed? Do ye hear, let them be well used,
1565for 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.
My lord, I will use them according to their desert.
God's bodykins, man, much better. Use every man after his desert and who should
scape whipping? Use them after your own honor and dignity; the less they
deserve, the more merit is in your bounty. Take them in.
Follow him, friends. We'll hear a play tomorrow. [Aside to the First Player]
Dost thou hear me, old friend, can you play "The Murder of Gonzago"?
Ay, my lord.
Ay, my lord.
1585Very well. Follow that lord, and look you mock him not.
My good friends, I'll leave you till night. You are welcome to Elsinore.
Good my lord.
Ay, so, God b'wi' you.
Exeunt [Rosencrantz and Guildenstern].
Now I am alone.
1590Oh, 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,
Could force his soul so to his whole conceit
That from her working all his visage waned,
1595Tears in his eyes, distraction in's aspect,
A broken voice, and his whole function suiting
With forms to his conceit? And all or nothing?
What's Hecuba to him, or he to Hecuba,
1600That 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 the general ear with horrid speech,
Make mad the guilty, and appal the free,
1605Confound the ignorant, and amaze indeed
The very faculties of eyes and ears. Yet I,
A dull and muddy-mettled rascal, peak
Like John-a-dreams, unpregnant of my cause,
And can say nothing; no, not for a king
1610Upon whose property and most dear life
A damned defeat was made. Am I a coward?
Who calls me villain? Breaks my pate across?
Plucks off my beard and blows it in my face?
Tweaks me by th' nose? Gives me the lie i'th' throat
1615As deep as to the lungs? Who does me this,
Ha? 'Swounds, I should take it; for it cannot be
But I am pigeon-livered, and lack gall
To make oppression bitter, or ere this
I should ha' fatted all the region kites
1620With this slave's offal. Bloody, bawdy villain!
Remorseless, treacherous, lecherous, kindless villain!
Why, what an ass am I! This is most brave,
That I, the son of a dear father murdered,
1625Prompted to my revenge by heaven and hell,
Must like a whore unpack my heart with words,
And fall a-cursing like a very drab,
A scullion. Fie upon't, foh! About, my brain!
Hum, I have heard
That guilty creatures sitting at a play
1630Have by the very cunning of the scene
Been struck so to the soul that presently
They have proclaimed their malefactions;
For murder, though it have no tongue, will speak
With most miraculous organ. I'll have these players
1635Play something like the murder of my father
Before mine uncle. I'll observe his looks;
I'll tent him to the quick. If 'a but blench
I know my course. The spirit that I have seen
May be the devil, and the devil hath power
1640T'assume a pleasing shape; yea, and perhaps,
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
1645Wherein I'll catch the conscience of the King.
- Location: Polonius's apartment in the castle, as in 1.3. ↵
- Laertes (as confirmed in lines 6 ff.). ↵
- To inquire. ↵
- i.e., By the Virgin Mary. (A mild oath.) As at 1.3.91 (TLN 556) and 1.4.15 (TLN 618) above. ↵
- Inquire on my behalf. ↵
- Danes. ↵
- How they live. ↵
- What wealth they have. ↵
- Dwell, frequent. ↵
- By this roundabout way of asking questions. ↵
- You will find out more this way than you would by making pointed inquiries. "More nearer" is an emphatic double negative, an acceptable usage in Elizabethan English. ↵
- Assume, pretend. ↵
- Impute to him. ↵
- Invented tales. ↵
- Gross. ↵
- Unrestrained. ↵
- Gambling. ↵
- Picking a quarrel with someone became an obsession with many young men intent on establishing themselves as persons of chivalric honor. ↵
- Whoring. ↵
- Chronic sexual overindulgence. ↵
- Name, utter. ↵
- Artfully, subtly. ↵
- Faults arising from too much free living. ↵
- A wildness in untamed youth that afflicts most young men. ↵
- A justifiable stratagem. ↵
- Stains, blemishes. ↵
- In the handling. ↵
- The person you are conversing with. ↵
- Sound out. ↵
- If he has ever detected the young man you are asking about to be guilty of the offenses we have just enumerated. ↵
- He takes you into his confidence in the following way. ↵
- Leave off. ↵
- Quarreling. ↵
- Whorehouse. ↵
- Namely (Latin). ↵
- A fish. ↵
- i.e., circuitous paths. (Literally, a hunter's roundabout circuit to head off pursued animals.) ↵
- Indirect courses (resembling the curved path or "bias" of the bowling ball that is weighted to one side). ↵
- The way things are going. ↵
- The set of instructions I've just given you. ↵
- Understand me. ↵
- i.e., God be with you; farewell. ↵
- Take a personal interest in observing his habits; judge his behavior from the perspective of your knowledge of your own inclinations. ↵
- Man's close-fitting jacket all unfastened. ↵
- Hats were customarily worn indoors in the Elizabethan period. ↵
- Dirty and untidy. ↵
- Hamlet's stockings, no longer held up by garters tied around the knees, have fallen down around his ankles, like a prisoner's "gyves" or shackles. ↵
- In what it expressed. ↵
- Body. ↵
- Madness. ↵
- Whose violent nature is self-destructive. ↵
- Polonius points to the possibility of suicide. ↵
- Attentiveness, care. ↵
- Observed. ↵
- Ruin, seduce. ↵
- A plague on my suspicious nature! ↵
- I swear, it is as characteristic for old men to overreach and read too much into the things we see. ↵
- Made known to the King. ↵
- Concealed. ↵
- Might ultimately cause even more unhappiness than would be the result of my well-intended but unwelcome announcing of bad news (about Hamlet's mad love of Ophelia). ↵
- Location: The castle. ↵
- Besides the fact that. ↵
- Sending for you. ↵
- What. ↵
- From. ↵
- Consent to stay. ↵
- The company of you both. ↵
- Opportunities you may gather or infer. ↵
- Being revealed. ↵
- Courtesy. ↵
- In order to aid us in furthering what we hope for. ↵
- As would be a fitting gift of a king in rewarding your service. ↵
- Over us. ↵
- The wishes of you who inspire awe and fear. ↵
- To the utmost extent of which we are capable. (A metaphor from drawing the bow in archery.) ↵
- Doings. ↵
- Always. ↵
- Statecraft. ↵
- The dessert. ↵
- Ceremonious honor. (With a suggestion of a "grace" said before a meal, continuing the metaphor of the previous line.) ↵
- Source. ↵
- Fear, suspect. ↵
- Question Polonius. ↵
- Reciprocation. ↵
- Good wishes. ↵
- At our first presentation of our mission. ↵
- Young Fortinbras's raising of troops. ↵
- He found that it in fact was. ↵
- Weakness. ↵
- Taken advantage of. ↵
- Orders to desist. ↵
- In conclusion. ↵
- Make trial of military might. ↵
- Income, payment. ↵
- Safe and uninterrupted passage. ↵
- With such consideration for Denmark's safety and for the permission granted to Fortinbras. ↵
- in the document we have just delivered to you. ↵
- Pleases. ↵
- Suitable for deliberation. ↵
- One who is entitled to feudal allegiance or service. ↵
- Expound, debate. ↵
- And since long-windedness can add nothing but decorative rhetorical flourishes. ↵
- Give us more substance with less artfulness. ↵
- Figure of speech. ↵
- For this defective behavior in Hamlet must have a cause. ↵
- That pretty much sums up the situation, and leaves us to figure out what to make of it, what to do. ↵
- Consider. ↵
- Think about this and draw your own conclusions. ("Gather" may also suggest "gather around me.") ↵
- i.e., These words are addressed to the spotlessly white bosom of the one I love. (Young ladies would often keep such love letters in their blouses, next to their hearts.) The "etc." could be a part of the letter, or, more plausibly, Polonius's way of summarizing what he chooses not to read. ↵
- Hold on, wait. ↵
- I will do as I said I would. ↵
- Suspect or question the undoubted truth that the stars are fire (sooner than doubt my love for you). ↵
- (This "undoubted truth" seems postulated on the traditional Ptolemaic cosmology with the earth at the center of the universe and the sun one celestial body that moves about it.) ↵
- Lacking the skill needed to write verses like these, and too lovesick to do so. ↵
- (1) count, enumerate; (2) number metrically, scan. ↵
- Body belongs. ↵
- And moreover she has let me know when, by what means, and where his solicitings occurred ("fell out”). ↵
- Gladly, willingly. ↵
- i.e., If I had noted all this in my memory-book but had done nothing about it; or, if I had acted as go-between. ↵
- Or if I had deliberately shut my eyes to what my heart suspected. ↵
- Complacently or uncomprehendingly. ↵
- Directly, energetically. ↵
- Address. ↵
- Above your sphere or social station. ↵
- Orders. ↵
- His having access to her. ↵
- Sleepless state. ↵
- To lightheadedness. ↵
- Decline, deterioration. (Playing also with a grammatical metaphor.) ↵
- I would gladly. ↵
- The actor's various options here include the gesture of miming the severing of his head from his body, or removing the chain of office from around his neck or his staff of office from his hands. ↵
- Center of the earth, traditionally regarded as wholly inaccessible. ↵
- Test. ↵
- Corridor or waiting-room. ↵
- Let loose (as if she were a caged animal about to be mated). ↵
- Wall-hanging, tapestry. ↵
- On that account. ↵
- Cart drivers. ↵
- Accost him immediately. ↵
- Leave this to me; leave me alone to handle this. ↵
- God have mercy, i.e., thank you. ↵
- Fish merchant. ↵
- Compare the proverb, "A man (one) among a thousand". ↵
- A good piece of flesh for kissing. Hamlet, in his mad guise, obliquely warns Polonius that Ophelia may respond to the heat of sexual desire by becoming pregnant, just as the sun presumably breeds maggots in rotting flesh--perhaps with a pun on "sun" and "son," i.e., Hamlet himself, as son of the dead king. ↵
- (1) In public; (2) into the sunshine of Hamlet's princely favors (continuing the pun on sun/son in the previous lines). ↵
- (1) Understanding; (2) Conceiving a child. ↵
- Take care, be wary. ↵
- Dwelling obsessively on. ↵
- What is the substance of what you are reading? (But Hamlet deliberately misunderstands, answering as if Polonius had asked, "What is the quarrel between the people you are talking about?") ↵
- Are dropping thick, moist discharges like the sticky resins from various trees. ↵
- Understanding. ↵
- Decency, honorable behavior. ↵
- The air outdoors was thought to be noxious, especially for the sick and old. ↵
- Cogent, full of meaning. ↵
- Aptness, felicity of expression. ↵
- Successfully, effectively. ↵
- With. ↵
- Ordinary, neither extremely fortunate nor unfortunate. ↵
- Fortunate. ↵
- Presumably, Fortune's cap has a button at its highest point. ↵
- In her genital area. ↵
- In good faith. (A mild oath.) ↵
- (1) sexual members; (2) ordinary foot-soldiers; (3) informal friends and counselors, without official title. ↵
- Whore. (Fortune was proverbially fickle in bestowing her favors.) ↵
- The idea of the world growing honest is so radical as to be apocalyptic, a sure sign that the end is near. ↵
- Enclosures, places of confinement. ↵
- The goal of ambition is without substance, being nothing more than the unreal image of something that is itself mere illusion. (Rosencrantz repeats this idea in line 213.) ↵
- In that case, ordinary beggars must be more substantial, in that they lack ambition, whereas our monarchs and others, whom we make to seem greater than they really are by our adulation of them, are in fact only the unsubstantial shadows cast by our beggars. ↵
- Faith. ↵
- Accompany, attend. ↵
- Certainly not. (Hamlet interprets their "wait upon" as meaning "provide menial service." He will not treat his boyhood friends this way.) ↵
- Class, categorize. ↵
- Well-trodden path, tried-and-true course. ↵
- What are you doing. ↵
- Too expensive at even a mere halfpenny, a coin of little value; or, too expensive by a halfpenny for me to give in return for such worthless kindness. ↵
- Voluntary. ↵
- Say anything you like, but let's get to the main point. ↵
- Disguise. ↵
- Solemnly entreat. ↵
- The close friendship of our younger days and of our ages. ↵
- By whatever more earnest entreaty a more skillful proposer might urge. ↵
- On the level, straightforward. ↵
- On you. ↵
- Don't hold back. ↵
- i.e., lose none of its attractive appearance. ↵
- exercise (Such as tennis or fencing.) ↵
- It weighs so heavily on my spirits. ↵
- Structure. ↵
- Splendid heavenly canopy hanging over us. ↵
- Mass, assemblage. ↵
- In shape and motion. ↵
- Well framed; expressive. ↵
- Understanding, power of comprehending. ↵
- Very essence. ↵
- Meager reception (appropriate to Lent, the forty days of penitence and fasting from Ash Wednesday to Easter). During Lent, the public theaters were not allowed to perform plays. ↵
- Payment; homage, praise from me. ↵
- In vain, for nothing. ↵
- The eccentric character, displaying the dominance in him of a particular "humor" (obsession, whim, fancy), will have full license to speak without interruption. ↵
- i.e., the Clown will make those laugh who are predisposed to laugh easily. (Only those spectators who are thus inclined will laugh at the Clown's stale jokes.) ↵
- Were accustomed to take such delight in. ↵
- Actors (of comedy or tragedy). ↵
- i.e., tour the provinces. ↵
- Remaining in the city, not on tour. ↵
- Their being restrained from public performance is the result of recent disturbances. Hamlet may be referring to the recent revival in 1599-1600 of performances by the juvenile acting companies, whose marked tendency toward potentially libelous political satire had led to their being suppressed throughout the 1590s. ↵
- Esteem. ↵
- Continues at the usual pace. ↵
- Nest, and the brood of chicks in it. ↵
- Young hawks, here signifying the boy actors. ↵
- Shout more shrilly than their competitors. ↵
- Vehemently, outrageously. ↵
- Make noisy clamor against the adult acting companies. ↵
- That many gentlemen fear being satirized in the juvenile companies' plays. "Goose quills" are the pens of the dramatists writing for the boys' companies. ↵
- Maintained, provided for. ↵
- The acting profession. ↵
- i.e., only until their voices break at adolescence. ↵
- Into adult actors for the "public" stage. ↵
- If they can find no better way to support themselves. ↵
- i.e., future careers. ↵
- In good faith. (A mild oath.) ↵
- Ado. ↵
- Populace. ↵
- Goad, incite (as in inciting dogs to attack a chained bear). ↵
- For a while, no money was offered to a playwright unless his play took part in the sharp controversy between the satirical writers for the juvenile companies and the dramatists who wrote for the adult companies. ↵
- Lively exchanges in the battle of wits. ↵
- Win the day. ↵
- Seemingly an allusion to the sign of the Globe Theater, which may have shown Hercules bearing the world on his shoulders in a "Herculean" labor. ↵
- Faces, grimaces. ↵
- Gold coins. ↵
- Portrait in miniature. ↵
- By God's (Christ's) blood. (An oath.) ↵
- A fanfare, usually on trumpets, for important entrances, here announcing the arrival of the actors at Elsinore Castle. ↵
- Ceremonious actions and gestures are the proper accompaniment to a welcome. ↵
- Let me comply with ceremonious custom in the proper manner by shaking hands with you. ↵
- Lest my extending a welcome to the actors. ↵
- Must necessarily display all the customary signs of a courteous welcome. ↵
- Reception, welcome. ↵
- Than the welcome I have extended to you. ↵
- Both uncle and stepfather. ↵
- Both mother and now aunt (by the marriage which Hamlet considers incestuous). ↵
- Mad only a small degree from true north, i.e., not very mad; or, mad only when the wind blows from that direction. ↵
- i.e., Only a mad person would be unable to distinguish a hawk from a handsaw, and I have no trouble distinguishing them. ↵
- May all be well. (A conventional greeting.) ↵
- Clothes in which a baby is wrapped to keep it safe and still. ↵
- Perhaps. ↵
- Quintus Roscius Gallus, the famous Roman actor, lived c. 126-62 BC. ↵
- An interjection, here conveying Hamlet's contempt for Polonius's telling the already stale news of the actors' arrival. ↵
- i.e., plays without scene breaks and unrestrained by rules, hence all-inclusive or unclassifiable--an absurdly catchall conclusion to Polonius's list of dramatic categories. Shakespeare was already well known for writing plays that ignored the classical "unities" of time, place, and action. ↵
- Seneca Lucius Annaeus, known as Seneca the Younger (c. 3 BC-65 AD), the most widely read of Latin writers of tragedy. ↵
- Plautus Titus Maccius (c. 254-184 BC), the most popular of Latin writers of comedy. ↵
- For plays written according to the classical rules as well as for those that disregard these conventions. ↵
- i.e., the actors, or possibly Seneca and Plautus. ↵
- The old-Testament patriarch (Judges 11:30-40) who vowed that he would sacrifice the first living thing he saw if God granted him the defeat of the Ammonites in battle; the first thing he saw turned out to be his daughter and only child. ↵
- Surpassingly, extremely. ↵
- Hamlet quotes from a ballad about Jephthah and his daughter. ↵
- i.e., (1) Just because you resemble Jephthah in having a daughter does not logically demonstrate that you love her; (2) You haven't quoted the next line of the ballad. ↵
- Polonius asks, what does follow logically? But Hamlet answers as if Polonius had asked, what is the next line of the ballad? ↵
- By chance. ↵
- God knows. ↵
- As was most likely. ↵
- The first line or stanza of this pious ballad will tell you more. ↵
- Actors are coming who will cut short what I was about to say, or who will make short my entertainment or diversion. ↵
- Good sirs. (Said to social inferiors.) ↵
- i.e., fringed with beard. ↵
- Confront, challenge, defy. (With obvious pun on the player's beard.) ↵
- The boy actor, to whom the female roles are assigned. ↵
- Hamlet addresses the boy actor with playful and courtly hyperbole as if he/she, now coming to age as a young adult, were a woman to be admired and courted. ↵
- By Our Lady (the Virgin Mary). A mild oath. ↵
- (1) taller; (2) older, and thus nearer death. ↵
- High platform shoe of Italian fashion. ↵
- Gold coin not legal because it is cracked or chipped inside the ring enclosing the image of the sovereign. Shaving or chipping gold coins was a common form of cheating. ↵
- i.e., the young male's voice having lost its soprano range suitable for acting female parts. ↵
- We'll go at it like the French (who are presumed here to be avid falconers, not discriminating as to what they loose their birds to fly at). ↵
- At once. ↵
- Skill in acting. ↵
- Speak for me or to me. ↵
- But the play containing this speech was. ↵
- i.e., a delicacy not generally appreciated by unsophisticated tastes. ↵
- Spoke with greater authority than mine. ↵
- Arranged in orderly fashion into scenes. ↵
- Moderation, restraint. ↵
- Skill. ↵
- .e., were no spicy bits, improprieties. (Literally, salads.) ↵
- Accuse. ↵
- Graceful and natural in proportion rather than artfully ornamented. ↵
- The story of the fall of Troy, as told by Aeneas to Dido in Book I of Virgil's Aeneid. The story, not told in Homer's Iliad, had been dramatized by Christopher Marlowe and Thomas Nashe in Dido Queen of Carthage (c. 1585). The slaying of Priam, King of Troy, by Pyrrhus, as Troy fell to the Greeks. ↵
- Shaggy, savage. ↵
- Pyrrhus, also known as Neoptolemus, was the son of Achilles, and was thus another son (like Hamlet or Laertes or Fortinbras) seeking to avenge his father's death. ↵
- A tiger from Hyrcania, on the Caspian Sea, famed for its wild beasts. ↵
- Black armor. ↵
- Concealed. ↵
- The fateful wooden Trojan horse, hidden inside of which thirty Greek warriors deceitfully gained access to the citadel of Troy. ↵
- i.e., the blood that Pyrrhus has smeared on his already dark and terrifying appearance. ↵
- Totally red, as if in heraldic colors. ↵
- Smeared, decorated. ↵
- Roasted and encrusted into a thick paste by the parching heat of the streets and burning houses. ↵
- Cruel, fierce. ↵
- i.e., To the vile murders of "fathers, mothers, daughters, sons" mentioned three lines earlier. ↵
- Covered with size (a glutinous substance applied to canvases to make them ready for painting); also suggesting "larger than life size." ↵
- Congealed. ↵
- Large, fiery-red gems, thought to emit their own light. ↵
- Soon. ↵
- Ancient, long-used. ↵
- Resistant to Priam's bidding. ↵
- Cruel, fierce. ↵
- The strengthless old man (and father of many sons). ↵
- Then the citadel of Troy, lacking the strength to defend itself. ↵
- Its base. ↵
- Descending. ↵
- White-haired. ↵
- Motionless, as in a painting. ↵
- And, as though suspended between intent and fulfillment. ↵
- Just before. ↵
- Mass of clouds. ↵
- Globe, earth. ↵
- Sky. ↵
- The Cyclopes were primordial one-eyed giants of Greek mythology who served as armor-makers in Vulcan's smithy. The next line here presumes that they were the makers of armor for Mars, the god of war. ↵
- Mars's. ↵
- To provide eternal protection against assault. ↵
- Pity. ↵
- i.e., covered with the blood of previous assaults, and anticipating the blood that is about to be shed by old Priam. ↵
- An expression of outrage, fury, etc. ↵
- Fortune. The whorish goddess of Chance. ↵
- Assembly. ↵
- The curved pieces of wood forming the exterior rim of a wheel, to which the spokes are attached. Because "Fortune's wheel is ever turning" (a proverbial expression), a person who is at the top of Fortune's wheel one day may find himself or herself at the bottom the next. ↵
- Wheel hub (all that would be left on a wheel if its spokes and fellies were broken). ↵
- Mount Olympus, home of the gods in Greek mythology. ↵
- Comic entertainment with dance, often performed irrelevantly at the end of a play. ↵
- Wife of Priam and Queen of Troy. ↵
- Veiled, muffled. ↵
- i.e., weeping so with blinding tears that she seemed almost capable of extinguishing the flames of burning Troy. ↵
- Lately. ↵
- Crown. ↵
- Withered loins, utterly worn out with child-bearing. ↵
- Whoever had seen this. ↵
- Would have protested treasonously against Fortune's fickle rule. ↵
- But even if. ↵
- Would have caused the sun and other heavenly bodies to weep. ("Milch" means "milky, moist with tears.") ↵
- And would have provoked compassionate pity. ↵
- Lodged. ↵
- Well treated. ↵
- Actors give us a concise epitome of the age in which we live. ↵
- i.e., you would do better to have been judged a bad person. ↵
- By God's (Christ's) dear little body. (An oath.) ↵
- According to. ↵
- Have it performed. ↵
- As required and necessary. ↵
- Learn, memorize. ↵
- Rosencrantz politely bids Hamlet farewell, understanding that he has asked them to leave. ↵
- Bring his innermost being so entirely into accord with his conception of the role he is playing. ↵
- As a result of, or in response to, his soul's activity. ↵
- His face. ↵
- Turned pale. ↵
- In his look. ↵
- And all his bodily gestures perfectly suited to what he was imagining. ↵
- Everybody's ear. ↵
- Horror-causing. ↵
- Horrify the innocent. ("Appal" conveys the literal sense of "make pale.") ↵
- Dumbfound those who know nothing of the crime that has been committed. ↵
- Stun, bewilder. ↵
- Dull-spirited. ↵
- Mope. ↵
- Like an idle dreamer, not quickened into action by my cause. ↵
- Person and identity as king. ↵
- A murderous act deserving damnation. ↵
- Slaps me across the face. (A profound insult.) "Pate" means head. To break someone's head in Elizabethan English is not to break it in two but to deliver a blow. ↵
- Yanks at my beard. Another deep insult, questioning the manliness of the one thus insulted. ↵
- Calls me an out-and-out liar. (Again, an especially insulting gesture.) ↵
- Does this to me. ↵
- By his (Christ's) wounds. (A strong oath.) ↵
- i.e., take it lying down, offering no response. ↵
- But It cannot be otherwise than that. ↵
- Pigeons' livers were thought to secrete no gall, thus making them mild and disinclined to anger. ↵
- To make my oppression bitter to me, and thus make me dangerous to my enemy. ↵
- Before. ↵
- All the kites (birds of prey) of the air. ↵
- This wretch's entrails. ↵
- Lewd, immoral. ↵
- Unnatural, lacking in affection for one's kind. ↵
- Fine, admirable. (Said sarcastically.) ↵
- Whore. ↵
- i.e., menial, kitchen servant. ↵
- Go about it, get to work. ↵
- Artfulness, skill. ↵
- At once. ↵
- Evil deeds, crimes. ↵
- Probe his wound (i.e., his conscience) to its core. ↵
- If he flinches or turns pale. ↵
- Deludes, deceives. ↵
- Relevant, convincing. ↵