62 Hamlet: Act 3

William Shakespeare

Hamlet (Modern, Editor’s Version). Internet Shakespeare Editions. University of Victoria. Editor: David Bevington. Adapted by James Sexton.

Scene 1

Enter[1] King, Queen, Polonius, Ophelia, Rosencrantz, Guildenstern, and Lords.

And can you by no drift of circumstance[2]
Get from him why he puts on this confusion,
1650Grating so harshly all his days of quiet
With turbulent and dangerous lunacy?

He does confess he feels himself distracted,
But from what cause, ‘a will by no means speak.

Nor do we find him forward[3] to be sounded,[4]
1655But with a crafty madness keeps aloof
When we would bring him on to some confession
Of his true state.

Did he receive you well?

Most like a gentleman.

But with much forcing of his disposition.[5]

Niggard of question,[6] but of our demands[7]
Most free in his reply.

Did you assay him to[8] any pastime?

Madam, it so fell out[9] that certain players
1665We o’erraught[10] 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,[11]
And, as I think, they have already order
This night to play before him.

‘Tis most true,
And he beseeched me to entreat your majesties
To hear and see the matter.

With all my heart,and it doth much content me
To hear him so inclined. Good gentlemen,
1675Give him a further edge,[12] and drive his purpose on
To these delights.

We shall, my lord.
Exeunt Rosencrantz and Guildenstern [and Lords].

Sweet Gertrude, leave us too,
For we have closely[13] sent for Hamlet hither,
1680That he, as ’twere by accident, may here
Affront[14] Ophelia.
Her father and myself, lawful espials,[15]
Will so bestow ourselves that, seeing unseen,
We may of their encounter frankly judge,
And gather by him, as he is behaved,[16]
1685If’t be th’affliction of his love or no
That thus he suffers for.

I shall obey you.
And for your part, Ophelia, I do wish
That your good beauties be the happy cause
1690Of Hamlet’s wildness. So shall I hope your virtues
Will bring him to his wonted[17] way again,
To both your honors.

Madam, I wish it may.
[Exit Queen.]

Ophelia, walk you here.–Gracious,[18] so please you,
1695We will bestow ourselves. [To Ophelia, as he gives her a book] Read on this book,[19]
That show of such an exercise[20] may color[21]
Your loneliness. We are oft to blame in this,
‘Tis too much proved,[22] that with devotion’s visage
And pious action we do sugar o’er
1700The devil himself.

[Aside] Oh, ’tis too true![23]
How smart[24] a lash that speech doth give my conscience!
The harlot’s cheek, beautied with plast’ring art,[25]
Is not more ugly to the thing that helps it[26]
1705Than is my deed to my most painted word.
Oh, heavy burden!
Enter Hamlet.

I hear him coming. Let’s withdraw, my lord.
[The King and Polonius conceal themselves.]

To be, or not to be, that is the question,
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings[27] and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them. To die, to sleep–
1715No more–and by a sleep to say we end
The heartache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to; ’tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wished. To die, to sleep;
To sleep, perchance to dream. Ay, there’s the rub,[28]
1720For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil[29]
Must give us pause. There’s the respect[30]
That makes calamity of so long life.[31]
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
1725Th’oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely,[32]
The pangs of disprized[33] love, the law’s delay,
The insolence of office,[34] and the spurns[35]
That patient merit of th’unworthy takes,[36]
When he himself might his quietus make[37]
1730With a bare bodkin?[38] Who would these fardels[39] bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscovered country from whose bourn[40]
No traveler returns, puzzles the will,
1735And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of.
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all,
And thus the native hue of resolution[41]
Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought,[42]
1740And enterprises of great pith[43] and moment[44]
With this regard[45] their currents[46] turn awry[47]
And lose the name of action. Soft you now,[48]
The fair Ophelia!–Nymph, in thy orisons
Be all my sins remembered.[49]

Good my lord,
How does your honor for this many a day?

I humbly thank you, well, well, well.

My lord, I have remembrances of yours
That I have longèd long to redeliver.
1750I pray you now receive them.

No, not I. I never gave you aught.[50]

My honored lord, you know right well you did,
And with them words of so sweet breath composed
As made these things more rich. Their perfume lost,
1755Take these again, for to the noble mind
Rich gifts wax[51] poor when givers prove unkind,
There, my lord. [She offers Hamlet the remembrances.]

Ha, ha! Are you honest?[52]

My lord?

Are you fair?[53]

What means your lordship?

That if you be honest and fair, your honesty should admit no discourse to
your beauty.[54]

1765Could beauty, my lord, have better commerce[55] than with honesty?

Ay, truly, for the power of beauty will sooner transform honesty from what it
is to a bawd than the force of honesty can translate beauty into his likeness.[56]
1770This was sometime a paradox,[57] but now the time gives it proof. I did love
you once.

Indeed, my lord, you made me believe so.

You should not have believed me, for virtue cannot so inoculate our old
stock but we shall relish of it.[58] I loved you not.

I was the more deceived.

Get thee to a nunnery.[59] Why wouldst thou be a breeder of sinners? I am
myself indifferent honest,[60] but yet I could accuse me[61] of such things that it
1780were better my mother had not borne me: I am very proud, revengeful,
ambitious, with more offenses at my beck[62] 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[63] knaves,
1785all; believe none of us. Go thy ways to a nunnery. Where’s your father?

At home, my lord.

Let the doors be shut upon him, that he may play the fool nowhere but in’s
own house. Farewell.

Oh, help him, you sweet heavens!

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.[64] Get thee to a
nunnery. Go, farewell. Or if thou wilt needs marry, marry a fool, for wise
1795men know well enough what monsters[65] you make[66] of them. To a nunnery go,
and quickly too. Farewell.

O heavenly powers, restore him!

I have heard of your paintings[67] too, well enough. God hath given you one face,
1800and you make yourselves another. You jig, you amble, and you lisp,[68] and
nickname God’s creatures,[69] and make your wantonness your ignorance.[70] Go
to,[71] I’ll no more on’t;[72] it hath made me mad. I say we will have no more
marriages. Those that are married already, all but one,[73] shall live; the rest
1805shall keep as they are. To a nunnery, go.

Oh, what a noble mind is here o’erthrown!
The courtier’s, soldier’s, scholar’s, eye, tongue, sword,[74]
Th’expectancy and rose[75] of the fair state,
The glass of fashion and the mold of form,[76]
1810Th’observed of all observers,[77] quite, quite down,
And I, of ladies most deject and wretched,
That sucked the honey of his music vows,
Now see that noble and most sovereign reason[78]
Like sweet bells jangled out of tune and harsh,
1815That unmatched form and feature of blown youth[79]
Blasted with ecstasy.[80] Oh, woe is me
T’have seen what I have seen, see what I see!
Enter King and Polonius [stepping forward from concealment].

Love? His affections[81] do not that way tend,
1820Nor what he spake, though it lacked form a little,
Was not like madness. There’s something in his soul
O’er which his melancholy sits on brood,[82]
And I do doubt the hatch and the disclose[83]
Will be some danger; which to prevent,
1825I have in quick determination
Thus set it down:[84] he shall with speed to England
For the demand of our neglected tribute.
Haply[85] the seas, and countries different,
With variable objects,[86] shall expel
1830This something-settled[87] matter in his heart,
Whereon his brains still[88] beating puts him thus
From fashion of himself.[89] What think you on’t?

It shall do well.But yet do I believe
The origin and commencement of his grief
1835Sprung 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
1840To show his grief. Let her be round[90] with him,
And I’ll be placed (so please you) in the ear
Of all their conference. If she find him not,[91]
To England send him, or confine him where
Your wisdom best shall think.

It shall be so;
Madness in great ones must not unwatched go.

Scene 2

Enter[92] Hamlet, and two or three of the Players.

1850Speak the speech, I pray you, as I pronounced it to you, trippingly on the
tongue; but if you mouth[93] it, as many of your players[94] do, I had as lief[95] the
town crier[96] had spoke my lines. Nor do not saw the air too much with your hand,
thus, but use all gently; for in the very torrent, tempest, and, as I may say,
1855whirlwind of your passion, you must acquire and beget[97] a temperance that may
give it smoothness. Oh, it offends me to the soul to hear a robustious[98] periwig-
pated[99] fellowtear a passion to tatters, to very rags, to split the ears of the
1860groundlings, who for the most part are capable of[100] nothing but inexplicable
dumb-shows and noise.[101] I would have such a fellow whipped for o’erdoing
Termagant.[102] It out-Herods Herod.[103] Pray you avoid it.

I warrant[104] your honor.

1865Be 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 o’erdone is from the
purpose[105] of playing, whose end, both at the first and now, was and is to hold
1870as ’twere the mirror up to nature, to show virtue her own feature, scorn her
own image,[106] and the very age and body of the time his form and pressure.[107]
Now this overdone, or come tardy off,[108] though it make the unskillful[109] laugh,
1875cannot but make the judicious grieve, the censure of the which one must in
your allowance o’erweigh a whole theater of others. Oh, there be players that
I have seen play, and heard others praise, and that highly, not to speak it
profanely,[110] that, neither having th’accent of Christians nor the gait of
1880Christian, pagan, nor no man, have so strutted and bellowed that I have
thought some of nature’s journeymen[111] had made men, and not made them
well, they imitated humanity so abominably.

1885I hope we have reformed that indifferently[112] with us, sir.

Oh, 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
1890set on[113] some quantity of barren[114] spectators to laugh too, though in the
meantime some necessary question of the play be then to be considered.
That’s villainous, and shows a most pitiful ambition in the fool that uses it.
Go make you ready.
Exeunt Players.
Enter Polonius, Rosencrantz, and Guildenstern.
1895[To Polonius] How now, my lord,
will the King hear this piece of work?

And the Queen too, and that presently.[115]

Bid the players make haste.
Exit Polonius.
Will you two help to hasten them?

1900Rosencrantz and Guildenstern
We will, my lord.
Exeunt [Rosencrantz and Guildenstern].

What ho, Horatio!
Enter Horatio.

Here, sweet lord, at your service.

Horatio, thou art e’en[116] as just[117] a man
1905As e’er my conversation coped withal.[118]

Oh, my dear lord–

Nay, do not think I flatter,
For what advancement may I hope from thee
That no revenue hast but thy good spirits
1910To feed and clothe thee? Why should the poor be flattered?
No, let the candied[119] tongue lick absurd pomp
And crook the pregnant[120] hinges of the knee
Where thrift may follow fawning.[121] Dost thou hear?
Since my dear soul was mistress of her choice
1915And could of men distinguish her election,
Sh’hath sealed thee for herself,[122] for thou hast been
As one in suff’ring all that suffers nothing,
A man that Fortune’s buffets and rewards
Hast ta’en with equal thanks; and blest are those
1920Whose blood and judgment[123] are so well commingled
That they are not a pipe for Fortune’s finger
To sound what stop[124] she please. Give me that man
That is not passion’s slave, and I will wear him
In my heart’s core, ay, in my heart of heart,
1925As I do thee.–Something too much of this.–[125]
There is a play tonight before the King.
One scene of it comes near the circumstance
Which I have told thee of my father’s death.
I prithee, when thou see’st that act afoot,
1930Even with the very comment of thy soul[126]
Observe my uncle. If his occulted[127] guilt
Do not itself unkennel[128] in one speech,[129]
It is a damnèd ghost that we have seen,
And my imaginations are as foul
1935As Vulcan’s stithy.[130] Give him heedful note,
For I mine eyes will rivet to his face,
And after we will both our judgments join
In censure of his seeming.

Well, my lord,
1940If ‘a steal aught the whilst this play is playing
And scape detecting, I will pay the theft.[131]
Enter King, Queen, Polonius, Ophelia, Rosencrantz, Guildenstern, and
1945other lord attendant with his Guard carrying torches. Danish march.
Sound a flourish.

They are coming to the play. I must be idle.[132] Get you a place.

How fares our cousin Hamlet?[133]

1950Excellent, i’faith, of the chameleon’s dish; I eat the air, promise-crammed.[134]
You cannot feed capons[135] so.

I have nothing with[136] this answer, Hamlet. These words are not mine.[137]

No, nor mine now.[138] [To Polonius] My lord, you played once i’th’ university, you say?

That I did, my lord, and was accounted a good actor.

And what did you enact?

I did enact Julius Caesar. I was killed i’th’ Capitol. Brutus killed me.

It was a brute[139] part[140] of him to kill so capital a calf[141] there.–Be the players

Ay, my lord, they stay upon your patience.[142]

Come hither, my dear Hamlet, sit by me.

No, good mother, here’s mettle[143] more attractive.

[To the King] Oho, do you mark that?

[To Ophelia, as he lies at her feet] Lady, shall I lie in your lap?[144]

No, my lord.

I mean, my head upon your lap.

Ay, my lord.

Do you think I meant country matters?[145]

I think nothing, my lord.

That’s a fair thought to lie between maids’ legs.

What is, my lord?


You are merry, my lord.

Who, I?

Ay, my lord.

Oh, God, your only jig-maker.[147] What should a man do but be merry? For
1980look you how cheerfully my mother looks, and my father died within’s[148] two

Nay, ’tis twice two months, my lord.

So long? Nay, then, let the devil wear black, for I’ll have a suit of sables.[149] Oh,
1985heavens! 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, ‘a must
build churches then, or else shall ‘a suffer not thinking on, with the hobby-
horse,[150] whose epitaph is, “For oh, for oh, the hobby-horse is forgot.”
1990Hautboys play. The dumb-show enters. Enter [Players as] a King and
Queen very lovingly; the Queen embracing him. She kneels and makes show
of protestation unto him. He takes her up, and declines his head upon her
1995neck. Lays him down upon a bank of flowers. She, seeing him
asleep, leaves
him. Anon comes in a fellow, takes off his crown, kisses it, 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
2000in 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 [Players].

What means this, my lord?

2005Marry, this is miching mallico.[151] It means mischief.

Belike[152] this show imports the argument of the play.[153]
Enter [a Player as] Prologue.

We shall know by this fellow. The players cannot keep counsel;[154] they’ll tell

Will ‘a tell us what this show meant?

Ay, or any show that you will show him. Be not you[155] ashamed to show, he’ll not
shame to tell you what it means.

2015You are naught,[156] you are naught. I’ll mark[157] the play.

For us and for our tragedy,
Here stooping to your clemency,
We beg your hearing patiently.

Is this a prologue, or the posy of a ring?[158]

‘Tis brief, my lord.

As woman’s love.
Enter [two Players as] King and his Queen.

Full thirty times hath Phoebus’ cart[159] gone round
2025Neptune’s salt wash[160] and Tellus’ orbèd ground,[161]
And thirty dozen moons with borrowed sheen[162]
About the world have times twelve thirties[163] been
Since love our hearts and Hymen[164] did our hands
Unite commutual[165] in most sacred bands.[166]

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,
So far from cheer and from your former state,
That I distrust you.[167] Yet though I distrust,
2035Discomfort you, my lord, it nothing must.[168]
2035.1For women fear too much, even as they love,[169]
And women’s fear and love holds quantity:
In neither aught, or in extremity.[170]
Now what my love is, proof[171] hath made you know,
And as my love is sized, my fear is so.[172]
2039.1Where love is great, the littlest[173] doubts are fear;
Where little fears grow great, great love grows there.

Faith, I must leave thee, love, and shortly too;
My operant powers their functions leave to do.[174]
And thou shalt live in this fair world behind,[175]
Honored, beloved; and haply one as kind
For husband shalt thou–[176]

Oh, confound the rest!
Such love must needs be treason in my breast.
In second husband let me be accurst!
None[177] wed the second but who[178] killed the first.

Wormwood, wormwood.[179]

The instances[180] that second marriage move[181]
Are base respects of thrift,[182] but none of love.
A second time I kill my husband dead
When second husband kisses me in bed.

I do believe you think what now you speak,
2055But what we do determine, oft we break.
Purpose is but the slave to memory,[183]
Of violent birth, but poor validity,[184]
Which now like fruit unripe[185] sticks on the tree,
But fall unshaken when they mellow be.
2060Most necessary ’tis that we forget
To pay ourselves what to ourselves is debt.[186]
What to ourselves in passion we propose,
The passion ending, doth the purpose lose.
The violence of either grief or joy
2065Their own enactures[187] with themselves destroy.[188]
Where joy most revels, grief doth most lament;
Grief joys, joy grieves, on slender accident.[189]
This world is not for aye,[190] nor ’tis not strange
That even our loves should with our fortunes change;
2070For ’tis a question left us yet to prove
Whether love lead fortune, or else fortune love.[191]
The great man down,[192] you mark his favorites flies;[193]
The poor advanced makes friends of enemies;[194]
And hitherto[195] doth love on fortune tend,[196]
2075For who not needs[197] shall never lack a friend,
And who in want a hollow friend doth try[198]
Directly seasons him[199] his enemy.
But orderly to end where I begun,[200]
Our wills and fates do so contrary run[201]
2080That our devices still[202] are overthrown;
Our thoughts are ours, their ends none of our own.[203]
So, think[204] thou wilt no second husband wed,
But die thy thoughts[205] when thy first lord is dead.

Nor earth to me give[206] food, nor heaven light,
2085Sport and repose lock from me day and night,[207]
2085.1To desperation turn my trust and hope,
An anchor’s cheer in prison be my scope![208]
Each opposite that blanks the face of joy
Meet what I would have well, and it destroy![209]
Both here and hence pursue me lasting strife,[210]
If once a widow, ever I be wife!

If she should break it now![211]

‘Tis deeply sworn. Sweet, leave me here awhile.
My spirits grow dull, and fain[212] I would beguile
The tedious day with sleep.

Sleep rock thy brain,
And never come mischance between us twain!
[The Player King] sleeps. Exit [Player Queen].

Madam, how like you this play?

The lady doth protest too much,[213] methinks.

Oh, but she’ll keep her word.

Have you heard the argument?[214] Is there no offense in’t?

No, no, they do but jest,[215] poison in jest. No offense[216] i’th’ world.

What do you call the play?

The Mousetrap.[217] Marry, how? Tropically.[218] This play is the image of a murder
done in Vienna. Gonzago is the Duke’s[219] name, his wife Baptista. You shall
see anon. ‘Tis a knavish piece of work, but what of that? Your majesty and
2110we that have free[220] souls, it touches[221] us not. Let the galled jade wince, our
withers are unwrung.[222]
Enter Lucianus.
This is one Lucianus, nephew to the King.

You are as good as a chorus,[223] my lord.

2115I could interpret between you and your love if I could see the puppets

You are keen,[225] my lord, you are keen.

It would cost you a groaning to take off mine edge.[226]

Still better and worse.[227]

So you mis-take your husbands.[228]–Begin, murderer. Pox, leave[229] thy damnable faces[230]
and begin. Come, the croaking raven doth bellow for revenge.

2125Thoughts black, hands apt, drugs fit, and time agreeing,
Confederate season, else no creature seeing,[231]
Thou mixture rank,[232] of midnight weeds collected,
With Hecate’s ban[233] thrice blasted,[234] thrice infected,
Thy natural magic and dire property[235]
2130On wholesome life usurp immediately.
Pours the poison in his ears. Exit.

‘A poisons him i’th’ garden for his estate.[236] His name’s Gonzago. The story is
extant, and written in very choice Italian. You shall see anon how the murderer gets
2135the love of Gonzago’s wife.

The King rises.

What, frighted with false fire?

How fares my lord?

Give o’er the play.

Give me some light. Away!

The Courtiers
Lights, lights, lights!
Exeunt all but Hamlet and Horatio.

“Why, let the strucken deer go weep,
The heart ungallèd[237] play,
2145For some must watch[238] while some must sleep;
Thus runs the world away.”[239][240]
Would not this,[241] sir, and a forest of feathers[242]–if the rest of my fortunes turn
Turk with me[243]–with two provincial roses[244] on my razed[245] shoes, get me a
2150fellowship in a cry of players, sir?

Half a share.

A whole one, I.
For thou dost know, O Damon[246] dear,
This realm dismantled was of Jove himself,
2155And now reigns here
A very, very pajock.[247][248]

You might have rhymed.

O good Horatio, I’ll take the Ghost’s word for a thousand pound. Didst

Very well, my lord.

Upon the talk of the poisoning?

I did very well note him.
Enter Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.

Aha, come, some music! Come, the recorders.[249]
2165For if the King like not the comedy,
Why, then belike[250] he likes it not, pardie.[251]
Come, some music.

Good my lord, vouchsafe me a word with you.

Sir a whole history.

The King, sir–

Ay, sir, what of him?

Is in his retirement[252] marvelous distempered.[253]

With drink,[254] sir?

No, my lord, rather with choler.[255]

Your wisdom should show itself more richer[256] to signify this to his doctor, for,
for me to put him to his purgation would perhaps plunge him into far more

2180Good my lord, put your discourse into some frame,[258] and start[259] not so wildly
from my affair.

I am tame sir. Pronounce.

The Queen your mother, in most great affliction of spirit, hath sent me to

You are welcome.

Nay, good my lord, this courtesy is not of the right breed.[260] If it shall please
you to make me a wholesome[261] answer, I will do your mother’s
commandment. If not, your pardon[262] and my return shall be the end of my

Sir, I cannot.

What, my lord?

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.[263] Therefore no
2195 more, but to the matter. My mother, you say.

Then thus she says: your behavior hath struck her into amazement and

Oh, wonderful son, that can so ‘stonish a mother! But is there no sequel at
2200the heels of this mother’s admiration?[264] Impart.[265]

She desires to speak with you in her closet[266] ere you go to bed.

We shall obey, were she ten times our mother. Have you any further trade
with us?

My lord, you once did love me.

So I do still, by these pickers and stealers.[267]

Good my lord, what is your cause of distemper?[268] You do surely bar the door
upon your own liberty if you deny your griefs to[269] your friend.

Sir, I lack advancement.

How can that be, when you have the voice of the King himself for your
succession in Denmark?
2215Enter the Players, with recorders.

Ay, sir, but “while the grass grows”[270]–the proverb is something[271] musty.
–Oh, the recorders. Let me see one. [He takes a recorder.] To withdraw with you,
why do you go about to recover the wind of me,[272] as if you would drive me
into a toil?

2220Oh, my lord, if my duty be too bold, my love is too unmannerly.[273]

I do not well understand that.[274] Will you play upon this pipe?

My lord, I cannot.

I pray you.

Believe me, I cannot.

I do beseech you.

I know no touch of it, my lord.

It is as easy as lying. Govern these ventages[275] with your fingers and thumb,
2230give it breath with your mouth, and it will discourse most eloquent music.
Look you, these are the stops.

But these cannot I command to any utt’rance of harmony. I have not the

2235Why, 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,[276] you would sound me[277] from my lowest note to the top of
my compass, and there is much music, excellent voice in this little organ,[278]
2240yet cannot you make it speak. ‘Sblood,[279] 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.[280]
Enter Polonius.
[To Polonius, as he enters] God bless you, sir.

My lord, the Queen would speak with you, and presently.[281]

Do you see yonder cloud that’s almost in shape of a camel?

By th’ mass, and ’tis like[282] a camel indeed.

Methinks it is like a weasel.

It is backed like a weasel.

Or like a whale.

Very like a whale.

2255Then I will come to my mother by and by.[283] [Aside] They fool me to the top
of my bent.[284]
[Aloud] I will come by and by.

I will say so.

“By and by” is easily said.–Leave me, friends.[285]
Exeunt Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.
‘Tis now the very witching time[286] of night,
2260When churchyards yawn, and hell itself breathes out
Contagion[287] to this world. Now could I drink hot blood,
And do such bitter business as the day
Would quake to look on. Soft, now to my mother.
O heart, lose not thy nature![288] Let not ever
2265The soul of Nero[289] enter this firm[290] bosom.
Let me be cruel, not unnatural;
I will speak daggers to her, but use none.
My tongue and soul in this be hypocrites:
How in my words somever she be shent,
2270To give them seals never my soul consent![291]

Scene 3

Enter[292] King, Rosencrantz, and Guildenstern.

I like him[293] not, nor stands it safe with us
To let his madness range.[294] Therefore prepare you.
I your commission will forthwith dispatch,[295]
2275And he to England shall along with you.
The terms of our estate may not endure
Hazard so dangerous as doth hourly grow
Out of his lunacies.[296]

We will ourselves provide.[297]
2280Most holy and religious fear[298] it is
To keep those many many bodies[299] safe
That live and feed upon your majesty.

The single and peculiar[300] life is bound
2285With all the strength and armor of the mind
To keep itself from noyance,[301] but much more
That spirit[302] upon whose weal[303] depends and rests
The lives of many. The cease[304] of majesty
Dies not alone, but like a gulf[305] doth draw
2290What’s near it with it. It is a massy[306] wheel
Fixed on the summit of the highest mount,
To whose huge spokes ten thousand lesser things
Are mortised and adjoined,[307] which, when it falls,[308]
Each small annexment, petty consequence,[309]
2295Attends[310] the boist’rous[311] ruin. Never alone
Did the king sigh, but with a general groan.

Arm you, I pray you, to[312] this speedy voyage,
For we will fetters put upon this fear
Which now goes too free-footed.

2300Rosencrantz and Guildenstern
We will haste us.
Exeunt gentlemen [Rosencrantz and Guildenstern].
Enter Polonius.

My lord, he’s going to his mother’s closet.[313]
Behind the arras[314] I’ll convey myself
To hear the process.[315] I’ll warrant[316] she’ll tax him home.[317]
2305And, as you said–and wisely was it said–
‘Tis meet[318] that some more audience than a mother,
Since nature makes them partial,[319] should o’erhear
The speech of vantage.[320] Fare you well, my liege.[321]
I’ll call upon you ere you go to bed,
2310And tell you what I know.

Thanks, dear my lord.
Exit [Polonius].
Oh, my offense is rank! It smells to heaven.
It hath the primal eldest curse[322] upon’t,
A brother’s murder. Pray can I not,
2315Though inclination be as sharp as will;[323]
My stronger guilt defeats my strong intent,
And like a man to double business bound[324]
I stand in pause where I shall first begin,
And both neglect. What if this cursèd hand
2320Were thicker than itself with brother’s blood,[325]
Is there not rain enough in the sweet heavens
To wash it white as snow?[326] Whereto serves mercy
But to confront the visage of offense?[327]
And what’s in prayer but this twofold force,
2325To be forestallèd[328] ere we come to fall,
Or pardoned being down? Then I’ll look up.
My fault is past.[329] But, oh, what form of prayer
Can serve my turn? “Forgive me my foul murder”?
That cannot be, since I am still possessed
2330Of those effects for which I did the murder:
My crown, mine own ambition, and my queen.
May one be pardoned and retain th’offense?[330]
In the corrupted currents of this world,[331]
Offense’s gilded hand[332] may shove by justice,
2335And oft ’tis seen the wicked prize[333] itself
Buys out the law. But ’tis not so above:
There is no shuffling,[334] there the action lies
In his[335] true nature,[336] and we ourselves compelled,
Even to the teeth and forehead of our faults,[337]
2340To give in evidence.[338] What then? What rests?[339]
Try what repentance can.[340] What can it not?
Yet what can it, when one cannot repent?
O wretched state, O bosom black as death,
O limèd[341] soul, that, struggling to be free,
2345Art more engaged![342] Help, angels! Make assay.[343]
Bow, stubborn knees, and heart with strings of steel,
Be soft as sinews of the newborn babe!
All may be well.
[He kneels.]
Enter Hamlet.

Now might I do it pat, now[344] ‘a[345] is a-praying,
And now I’ll do’t. [He draws his sword.] And so ‘a goes to heaven,
And so am I revenged. That would be scanned:[346]
A villain kills my father, and for that,
I, his sole son, do this same villain send
2355To heaven.
Why, this is hire and salary, not revenge.
‘A took my father grossly, full of bread,[347]
With all his crimes broad blown,[348] as flush[349] as May,
And how his audit[350] stands, who knows save[351] heaven?
But in our circumstance and course of thought[352]
2360‘Tis heavy with him. And am I then revenged
To take him[353] in the purging of his soul,
When he is fit and seasoned[354] for his passage? No.
[He sheathes his sword.]
Up, sword, and know thou a more horrid hent.[355]
When he is drunk asleep,[356] or in his rage,[357]
2365Or in th’incestuous pleasure of his bed,
At gaming, swearing,[358] or about some act
That has no relish[359] of salvation in’t,
Then trip him, that his heels may kick at heaven,[360]
And that his soul may be as damned and black
2370As hell, whereto it goes. My mother stays.[361]
This physic[362] but prolongs thy sickly days.

My words fly up, my thoughts remain below.
Words without thoughts never to heaven go.

Scene 4

Enter[363] Queen [Gertrude] and Polonius.

‘A will come straight. Look you lay home to him.[364]
Tell him his pranks have been too broad[365] to bear with,
And that your grace hath screened and stood between
Much heat and him. I’ll silence me e’en here.
2380Pray you, be round with him.[366]

Mother, mother, mother!

I’ll warrant you. Fear me not.[367]
Withdraw; I hear him coming.
[Polonius conceals himself behind the arras.]
Enter Hamlet.

Now mother, what’s the matter?

Hamlet, thou hast thy father[368] much offended.

Mother, you[369] have my father[370] much offended.

Come, come, you answer with an idle[371] tongue.

Go, go, you question with a wicked tongue.

Why, how now,[372] Hamlet?

What’s the matter now?

Have you forgot me?[373]

No, by the rood,[374] not so.
You are the queen, your husband’s brother’s wife,
2395And–would it were not so!–you are my mother.

Nay, then, I’ll set those to you that can speak.[375]

Come, come, and sit you down. You shall not budge.
You go not till I set you up a glass[376]
2400Where you may see the inmost part of you.

What wilt thou do? Thou wilt not murder me?
Help, help, ho!

[Behind the arras] What ho! Help, help, help!

How now, a rat? Dead for a ducat, dead![377]
[Hamlet thrusts through the arras with his sword.][378]

[Behind the arras] Oh, I am slain!
[Polonius falls onto the stage floor, dead].

Oh, me, what hast thou done?

Nay I know not. Is it the King?

Oh, what a rash and bloody deed is this!

A bloody deed–almost as bad, good mother,
2410As kill[379] a king, and marry with his brother.

As kill a king?

Ay, lady, it was my word.
[He parts the arras and discovers the dead Polonius.]
Thou wretched, rash, intruding fool, farewell!
I took thee for thy better.[380] Take thy fortune.
2415Thou find’st to be too busy[381] is some danger.
[To the Queen] 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,[382]
If damnèd custom[383] have not brazed[384] it so
2420That it is proof and bulwark against sense.[385]

What have I done, that thou dar’st wag thy tongue
In noise so rude against me?

Such an act
That blurs the grace and blush of modesty,
2425Calls virtue hypocrite, takes off the rose
From the fair forehead of an innocent love
And sets a blister[386] there, makes marriage vows
As false as dicers’ oaths–oh, such a deed
As from the body of contraction[387] plucks
2430The very soul, and sweet religion makes
A rhapsody of words.[388] Heaven’s face doth glow
O’er this solidity and compound mass
With tristful visage, as against the doom,
Is thought-sick at the act.[389]

Ay me, what act,
That roars so loud and thunders in the index?[390]

[Showing her two likenesses, of Hamlet senior and Claudius]
Look here upon this picture, and on this,
The counterfeit presentment[391] of two brothers.
See what a grace was seated on this brow:
2440Hyperion’s[392] curls, the front[393] of Jove himself,
An eye like Mars[394] to threaten and command,
A station[395] like the herald Mercury[396]
New lighted[397] on a heaven-kissing[398] hill,
A combination and a form indeed
2445Where every god did seem to set his seal[399]
To give the world assurance of a man.
This was your husband. Look you now what follows:
Here is your husband, like a mildewed ear,[400]
Blasting[401] his wholesome brother. Have you eyes?
2450Could you on this fair mountain leave[402] to feed
And batten on this moor?[403] Ha, have you eyes?
You cannot call it love, for at your age
The heyday in the blood[404] is tame, it’s humble,
And waits upon[405] the judgment, and what judgment
2455Would step from this to this? Sense,[406] sure, you have,
2455.1Else could you not have motion, but sure that sense
Is apoplexed,[407] for madness would not err,[408]
Nor sense to ecstasy was ne’er so thralled
But it reserved some quantity of choice
2455.5To serve in such a difference.[409] What devil was’t
That thus hath cozened you at hoodman-blind?[410]
2456.1Eyes without feeling, feeling without sight,
Ears without hands or eyes, smelling sans[411] all,
Or but a sickly part of one true sense
Could not so mope. O shame, where is thy blush?
Rebellious hell,
If thou canst mutine[412] in a matron’s bones,
To flaming youth let virtue be as wax
2460And melt in her own fire.[413] Proclaim no shame
When the compulsive ardor gives the charge,
Since frost itself as actively doth burn,
And reason panders will.[414][415]

Oh, Hamlet speak no more!
2465Thou turn’st mine eyes into my very soul,
And there I see such black and grainèd[416] spots
As will not leave their tinct.[417]

Nay, but to live
In the rank sweat of an enseamèd[418] bed
2470Stewed[419] in corruption, honeying[420] and making love
Over the nasty sty![421]

Oh, speak to me no more!
These words like daggers enter in my ears.
No more, sweet Hamlet.

A murderer and a villain,
A slave that is not twentieth part the tithe[422]
Of your precedent lord,[423] a vice of kings,[424]
A cutpurse[425] of the empire and the rule,[426]
That from a shelf the precious diadem[427] stole
2480And put it in his pocket–

No more!
Enter Ghost [in his nightgown].

A king of shreds and patches–[428]
[Seeing the Ghost] Save me and hover o’er me with your wings,
2485You heavenly guards! What would you, gracious figure?

Alas, he’s mad!

Do you not come your tardy son to chide,
That, lapsed in time and passion,[429] lets go by
Th’important[430] acting of your dread command?
Oh, say!

Do not forget. This visitation
Is but to whet thy almost blunted purpose.
But look, amazement on thy mother sits.
Oh, step between her and her fighting soul!
Conceit[431] in weakest bodies strongest works.
2495Speak to her, Hamlet.

How is it with you, lady?

Alas, how is’t with you,
That you do bend your eye on vacancy,
And with th’incorporal[432] air do hold discourse?
2500Forth at your eyes your spirits wildly peep,
And, as the sleeping soldiers in th’alarm,[433]
Your bedded[434] hair, like life in excrements,[435]
Start up and stand on end. O gentle[436] son,
Upon the heat and flame of thy distemper[437]
2505Sprinkle cool patience. Whereon do you look?

On him, on him! Look you how pale he glares!
His form and cause conjoined,[438] preaching to stones,[439]
Would make them capable.[440] [To the Ghost] Do not look upon me,
Lest with this piteous action you convert
2510My stern effects.[441] Then what I have to do
Will want true color, tears perchance for blood.

To whom do you speak this?

Do you see nothing there?

Nothing at all, yet all that is I see.

Nor did you nothing hear?

No, nothing but ourselves.

Why, look you there, look how it steals away!
My father in his habit[442] as he lived.
Look where he goes, even now out at the portal![443]
Exit Ghost.

This is the very coinage of your brain.
This bodiless creation ecstasy is very cunning in.[444]

My pulse as yours doth temperately keep time,
And makes as healthful music. It is not madness
2525That I have uttered. Bring me to the test,
And I the matter will reword,[445] which madness
Would gambol from.[446] Mother, for love of grace,
Lay not that flattering unction[447] to your soul
That not your trespass but my madness speaks.
2530It will but skin and film[448] the ulcerous place,
Whiles rank corruption, mining[449] all within,
Infects unseen. Confess yourself to heaven,
Repent what’s past, avoid what is to come,
And do not spread the compost on the weeds
2535To make them ranker. Forgive me this my virtue,[450]
For in the fatness[451] of these pursy times[452]
Virtue itself of vice must pardon beg,
Yea, curb and woo for leave to do him good.[453]

2540Oh, Hamlet, thou hast cleft my heart in twain.[454]

Oh, throw away the worser part of it,
And live the purer with the other half.
Good night. But go not to my uncle’s bed;
Assume[455] a virtue if you have it not.
2544.1That monster custom, who all sense doth eat,[456]
Of habits devil,[457] is angel yet in this,
That to the use of actions fair and good
He likewise gives a frock or livery[458]
2544.5That aptly[459] is put on. Refrain tonight,
2545And that shall lend a kind of easiness
To the next abstinence; the next more easy:
2546.1For use almost can change the stamp of nature,[460]
And either [in] the devil,[461] or throw him out
With wondrous potency. Once more good night,
And when you are desirous to be blest,
I’ll blessing beg of you.[462] For[463] this same lord,
I do repent; but heaven hath pleased it so
2550To punish me with this, and this with me,[464]
That I must be their scourge and minister.[465]
I will bestow him,[466] and will answer well[467]
The death I gave him. So, again, good night.
I must be cruel only to be kind.
2555Thus bad begins, and worse remains behind.[468]
2555.1One word more, good lady.

What shall I do?

Not this, by no means, that I bid you do:
Let the bloat[469] King tempt you again to bed,
Pinch wanton on your cheek,[470] call you his mouse,[471]
2560And let him, for a pair of reechy[472] kisses,
Or paddling[473] in your neck[474] with his damned fingers,
Make you to ravel all this matter out[475]
That I essentially am not in madness,
But mad in craft.[476] ‘Twere good[477] you let him know,
2565For who that’s but a queen, fair, sober, wise,
Would from a paddock, from a bat, a gib,
Such dear concernings hide?[478] Who would do so?
No, in dispite of sense and secrecy,[479]
Unpeg the basket on the house’s top,
2570Let the birds fly, and like the famous ape,
To try conclusions, in the basket creep,
And break your own neck down.[480][481]

Be thou assured, if words be made of breath
And breath of life, I have no life to breathe[482]
2575What thou hast said to me.

I must to England. You know that?

Alack, I had forgot. ‘Tis so concluded on.

There’s letters sealed, and my two schoolfellows,
Whom I will trust as I will adders fanged,
They bear the mandate; they must sweep my way[483]
And marshal me to knavery.[484] Let it work,[485]
2577.5For ’tis the sport[486] to have the enginer[487]
Hoised with his own petard,[488] and’t shall go hard
But I will delve one yard below their mines,[489]
And blow them at the moon.[490] Oh ’tis most sweet
When in one line two crafts directly meet.[491]
This man shall set me packing.[492]
I’ll lug the guts into the neighbor room.
2580Mother, good night indeed. This counselor
Is now most still, most secret, and most grave,[493]
Who was in life a foolish prating knave.–[494]
Come, sir, to draw toward an end with you.–[495]
Good night, mother.
2585Exit Hamlet, tugging in Polonius.

  1. Location: The castle.
  2. Can you not, by means of roundabout inquiry.
  3. Willing.
  4. Probed, questioned.
  5. Inclination, mood.
  6. Laconic, reluctant to initiate talk.
  7. In response to our questions.
  8. Endeavor to persuade him to try.
  9. Happened.
  10. Overtook, passed
  11. Have arrived and are present here in the court.
  12. Incitement.
  13. Privately.
  14. Confront, encounter.
  15. Justifiable spies.
  16. By his behavior.
  17. Customary.
  18. Your Grace (addressed to the King).
  19. Presumably, a book of devotion.
  20. Religious exercise.
  21. Give a plausible appearance to, justify.
  22. It is too often shown to be the case and too often practiced.
  23. These words need not be said aside; they could be the King's way of agreeing with what Polonius has just said, before the King pursues in tortured soliloquy the dark consequences of the idea. Conversely, the whole speech can be read as expressive of a guilty conscience.
  24. Stinging.
  25. Beautified by means of cosmetics.
  26. / In comparison with or in response to the cosmetic that gives the cheek its false beauty.
  27. Devices for propelling several kinds of missiles toward an enemy.
  28. Impediment, difficulty. (Literally, an obstacle in the path of the ball in the game of bowls.)
  29. Cast off our mortal flesh and the turmoil of existence.
  30. Consideration.
  31. (1) That allows calamity to last so long; (2) that makes long life a calamity in itself.
  32. The insolent abuse meted out by those of superior social rank.
  33. Scorned, undervalued.
  34. Officialdom.
  35. Insults; literally, kicks.
  36. That patient, deserving people must endure at the hands of unworthy persons.
  37. Might settle his accounts (at the end of his life). A quietus was an affirmation that a bill had been paid, marked "Quietus est," laid to rest.
  38. With nothing more elaborate than an unsheathed dagger.
  39. Such burdens.
  40. Boundary, border.
  41. The natural color of one's complexion (i.e., ruddiness) that signals manly courage.
  42. The white-faced pallor that accompanies too much introspection.
  43. High seriousness, profound importance.
  44. Momentousness, significance.
  45. Consideration.
  46. Courses.
  47. Askew, off the expected course.
  48. i.e., Wait a minute. (Said as Hamlet sees Ophelia.)
  49. Remember me in your prayers, sinner that I am. Christian theology in medieval and Renaissance times dwelt on the innate sinfulness of all humans since the fall of Adam and Eve.
  50. Anything.
  51. Grow.
  52. (1) chaste; (2) truthful.
  53. Beautiful.
  54. You should be chastely wary of any dealings with your beauty (since a beautiful woman is too often in danger of being seduced).
  55. Dealings.
  56. Its (honesty's) likeness.
  57. Formerly a seeming absurdity, a conundrum.
  58. Virtue cannot be grafted onto our inherently sinful nature without our retaining some taste or trace of the old stock, i.e., Adam's Original Sin.
  59. Convent (perhaps too with the suggestion of a brothel, since Hamlet is openly skeptical of the idea that beauty and chastity can coexist in women).
  60. Reasonably virtuous.
  61. Accuse myself.
  62. Command.
  63. Downright.
  64. Slander.
  65. Cuckolded men were popularly supposed to have monster-like horns on their foreheads as a sign of their being cheated on by their wives.
  66. You women make.
  67. Use of cosmetics.
  68. You dance about, you swing your hips suggestively when you walk, you speak with an affected voice.
  69. i.e., and you impose new names and false appearances on the creatures of this world instead of accepting them as God made them. In the Book of Genesis God gives names to his first creations, as when he "called the dry land earth, and the gathering together of the waters called the Seas," and then ordained the abundance of moving creatures (1.10-25), but when he had created Adam, he turned the naming of the beasts and fowl over to him: "he brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them," and so "Adam gave names to all the cattle, and to the fowl of the air" (2.19-20).
  70. And you excuse your bad behavior on the grounds that you didn't know any better.
  71. An expression of impatience.
  72. I won't have any more of this.
  73. Presumably, all but the King. (Whether Hamlet says this in the knowledge that the King is listening is a matter of interpretation.)
  74. The three attributes are not listed in the same order as that used for the three types of persons; the pattern is more rhetorical than strictly logical. "Sword" clearly goes with the soldier; "eye" and "tongue" could indicate scholar and courtier, or the reverse.
  75. The hope and ornament.
  76. The mirror of true self-fashioning and the model of courtly behavior.
  77. The admired center of attention in the court.
  78. i.e., reason as properly the sovereign or ruler over the emotions and the senses.
  79. Youth in its full blossoming.
  80. Blighted with madness.
  81. Emotions, feelings.
  82. Sits like a bird on a nest, about to "hatch" mischief (in the next line).
  83. And I do fear that the fulfillment and the discovery (like the hatching of a chick as it emerges from its shell).
  84. Determined, resolved the matter; put it in writing.
  85. Perhaps.
  86. Various sights and surroundings to divert him.
  87. Somewhat fixated.
  88. Continually.
  89. Out of his normal mode of behavior.
  90. Blunt.
  91. Is unable to discover what is troubling him.
  92. Location: A room of state in the castle.
  93. Declaim, speak exaggeratedly.
  94. Actors nowadays, the actors that people talk about.
  95. I'd just as soon, be just as willing.
  96. Person assigned the responsibility of loudly proclaiming public announcements in the streets.
  97. Cultivate and nurture.
  98. Boisterous, bombastic.
  99. Wig-wearing. The term "groundlings," seemingly Shakespeare's invention, has condescending connotations of low taste and gullibility in the spectators.
  100. Able to understand.
  101. Noisy spectacles (as differentiated from complex and intellectually demanding drama).
  102. A supposed Mohammedan deity who, though not actually found in extant English medieval drama, had become a byword for tyrannical bluster, like Herod (see next note).
  103. King of Judea who ordered the massacre of all male children in his kingdom as a means of destroying the child that, wise men told him, was "born King of the Jews" (Matthew 2:2)--namely, Christ.
  104. Assure.
  105. Contrary to the purpose.
  106. To show human nature an image of itself and scornful persons a picture of what they look like.
  107. And the present state of affairs a likeness of itself as if impressed in wax. ("His form" means "its form.")
  108. Done lamely.
  109. Make those who lack critical discernment; the opposite of "the judicious."
  110. i.e., I hope I will not be speaking profanely if I venture so far as to damn such bad actors as neither Christian, pagan, or any other part of the human race (as Hamlet says in the words that follow here).
  111. i.e., not Nature herself but merely one of her hired assistants.
  112. Tolerably, moderately well.
  113. Incite.
  114. Devoid of wit or judgment.
  115. At once.
  116. Even, absolutely.
  117. Judicious, honorable, trustworthy.
  118. As I have ever encountered in my experience with people.
  119. Sugary, flattering.
  120. Compliant.
  121. Wherever profit may accrue from abject flattery.
  122. And could make discriminating choices among men, she (my soul) has marked you as her own, as though putting a legal seal on you to ensure possession.
  123. Passion and reason.
  124. Hole in a recorder or similar wind instrument for controlling pitch. This observation about the "stop" on a recorder anticipates Hamlet's caustic exchange with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern later in this present scene (lines 227, TLN 2221, and following).
  125. i.e., I've already said too much on this subject. (Hamlet obliquely apologizes to Horatio for having expressed so deeply and personally his affection and admiration.)
  126. With your utmost powers of concentration.
  127. Hidden.
  128. Reveal itself (as a fox might be flushed from its lair).
  129. Presumably Hamlet here refers to the speech that he has asked the First Player to memorize and insert into the upcoming performance of "The Murder of Gongazo." See 3.1.331, TLN 1581-2, above.
  130. The stithy or workshop of Vulcan, blacksmith-god of fire (and husband of Venus). Stiths are anvils.
  131. Pay for what has been stolen, i.e., make amends for my inadequate observation of the King.
  132. (1) be unoccupied; (2) resume my mad guise.
  133. How are things with you, my kinsman Hamlet? (But Hamlet, in his reply, plays on "fares" in the sense of "dines.")
  134. (1) I am feeding on air, like the chameleon (which was fabled to feed thus); (2) I am feeding myself with thoughts about succeeding to the Danish crown, having been given nothing but empty promises of succession. (Hamlet is "heir" apparent; the word sounds like "air.")
  135. (1) castrated roosters, often crammed with feed to make them succulent for the dinner table; (2) fools.
  136. I can make nothing of, can learn nothing from.
  137. Do not respond to what I asked and thus are meaningless to me.
  138. These words are so longer mine, since I have uttered them and sent them forth into the air.
  139. The word plays on "Brutus," the name of one of the chief conspirators against Caesar and also a synonym in Latin for "stupid." According to historical legend, Marcus Brutus's great ancestor in the founding of the Roman republic, Lucius Junius Brutus, pretended to be stupid (much as Hamlet assumes a guise of madness) to throw off his tyrannical enemies; hence, his name "Brutus," stupid.
  140. (1) action; (2) role in a play.
  141. i.e., so outstanding a fool. With satirical wordplay on "capital/Capitol"; see the previous line.
  142. Await instructions from you as to when to begin.
  143. (1) mettle, disposition, temperament. (2) metal, an attractive quality (much as a magnet attracts iron).
  144. On stage, Hamlet often reclines at Ophelia's feet.
  145. Rustic goings-on. (The obscene punning here on "cunt" continues in "nothing."
  146. (1) The oval figure of zero, suggesting a woman's vagina; (2) No "thing," no penis. ("Thing" is a common euphemism in this sense.)
  147. i.e., if you talk of being merry, let me tell you that I'm very best singer and dancer of jigs (that is, of pointless vulgar merriment) you could hope to find. (Said sardonically.) Jigs were often tacked on gratuitously at the ends of dramatic performances, for the diversion of the audience.
  148. Within these.
  149. i.e., if mourning for my dead father has ceased after only two months, then the devil can wear mourning black for all I care, while I shift to the dark fur of the sable, outwardly suitable for remembrance of the dead but in fact quite soft and luxurious.
  150. A costuming device used in Morris dances and May-game sports in which the dancer is made up to resemble a horse and its rider by strapping the shape of a horse's body around his waist. Hamlet quotes from a lost ballad, occurring in Love's Labor's Lost , 3.1.27-8, lamenting the disappearance of Morris dancing and such folk customs under pressure from zealous Puritan reformers.
  151. This is stealthy mischief.
  152. Probably, perhaps.
  153. Signifies the plot.
  154. Keep a secret.
  155. Provided you are not.
  156. Naughty, indecent. (Ophelia sees all too clearly the offensive thrust of Hamlet's talk about her not being ashamed to show all.)
  157. Pay attention to.
  158. Brief verse motto inscribed inside a ring.
  159. The sun-god's chariot, i.e., the sun itself.
  160. The sea, the realm of the god Neptune.
  161. The round earth, the realm of the goddess Tellus, Earth.
  162. Light reflected from the sun.
  163. The King reckons that he and his queen have been married thirty years, each year comprising a span of twelve lunar cycles.
  164. God of marriage.
  165. Mutually, reciprocally.
  166. Bonds.
  167. Am anxious about you.
  168. It must not distress you at all, my lord.
  169. Women are apt to be extreme in their loving and are fearful to the same excessive extent.
  170. Either women feel no anxiety if they do not love at all, or, if they love extremely, they are prone to extreme anxiety.
  171. Experience.
  172. And just as my love is great in quantity, my fear of losing you is proportionately huge.
  173. Even the littlest.
  174. My vital faculties are ceasing to perform their functions.
  175. After I am gone.
  176. i.e., shalt thou find (to complete the couplet by rhyming "find" with "kind." (The Player King is interrupted by his consort.)
  177. (1) Let no wife; (2) No wife does.
  178. Except she who.
  179. i.e., How bitter! (Wormwood is a bitter-tasting plant.)
  180. Motives, reasons.
  181. Prompt, motivate.
  182. Ignoble considerations of financial prudence.
  183. Our good intentions are too often subject to forgetfulness.
  184. Energetically conceived at first but lacking in staying power.
  185. Which purposeful intent, being immature and poorly thought through.
  186. It's necessary and inevitable that in time we neglect to fulfill the obligations that we have imposed on ourselves.
  187. Fulfillments, enactments.
  188. Violent extremes of both grief and joy engender their own destruction in the very act of manifesting themselves.
  189. Grief turns to joy and joy to grief on the slightest occasion.
  190. For ever.
  191. Whether Fortune or Love prevailed more mightily in the world's affairs was a favorite debating topic in the Renaissance.
  192. Fallen in fortune.
  193. His most favored supporter abandons him.
  194. When one of humble station is promoted, you'll see his former enemies now becoming his friends.
  195. Up to this point in the argument, or, to this extent.
  196. Attend, play a subservient role.
  197. Anyone who has no need (of wealth or a friend).
  198. And anyone who, being in need, tests the generosity of an insincere friend.
  199. Immediately turns him into.
  200. Began.
  201. What we wish for ourselves and what in fact happens to us are so opposite to each other.
  202. Intentions continually.
  203. No matter what we intend, the results go astray.
  204. i.e., (1) So, go ahead and think, or, (2) So, even if you think now that.
  205. Either (1) your thoughts will die, or (2) let them die.
  206. Neither let earth give me.
  207. May day bar me from recreation and night from repose.
  208. May an anchorite's or hermit's fare be the extent of my portion of food and drink.
  209. May every adverse thing that causes the face of joy to turn blank or pale encounter and destroy everything that I wish to see prosper!
  210. May eternal punishment pursue me in this life and the next.
  211. i.e., after the vows that she has sworn.
  212. Willingly.
  213. Offers too many promises and protestations.
  214. Plot.
  215. Make believe.
  216. Something that offends one's sensibilities . . . crime.
  217. Hamlet's nickname here for "The Murder of Gonzago" hints to the audience at his plan to use the play to "catch the conscience of the King" (2.2.391, TLN 1645).
  218. / How, indeed? Figuratively, as a "trope" or figure of speech, playing on words.
  219. i.e., the King's.
  220. Guiltless, unfettered.
  221. Concerns; injures.
  222. Let the chafed horse wince and kick at being galled by its saddle or harness; our horse is not rubbed sore between its shoulder blades/ (i.e., only the guilty will be made uncomfortable by this story of a duke who murders in order to win the wife of his victim).
  223. You serve as well as the actor whose function is to introduce forthcoming action on stage.
  224. Hamlet imagines for himself the role of interpreter or chorus for a puppet show, with the suggestion too of being a go-between in an affair. "Dallying" continues the sexual suggestion, as do Hamlet's quips in the following lines.
  225. Sharp, bitterly satirical (but see next note for Hamlet's wordplay).
  226. It would cost you a pregnancy to satiate the keenness of my sexual appetite.
  227. i.e., Witty as always, albeit incorrigibly smutty. (These exchanges are said as playful banter, not as overt barbs.)
  228. i.e., That's just the way you women take other men into your beds instead of your husbands. Hamlet plays on the language of the Form of Solemnization of Matrimony in the Book of Common Prayer bidding bride and groom to take their new partners "for better, for worse."
  229. "Pox" or "Poxe" is an exclamation of impatience, referring literally to the pock-marks caused by syphilis and other diseases.
  230. Deplorable and devilish grimaces.
  231. A complicit or conspiring time, providing darkness so that no one will discover the crime.
  232. Foul, offensive.
  233. The curse invoked by Hecate, goddess of witchcraft.
  234. Blighted.
  235. Baleful power or quality.
  236. Property, i.e., the kingship.
  237. Unafflicted.
  238. Stay awake.
  239. That is the way of the world.
  240. Seemingly from an unknown ballad, alluding to the folk tradition of the wounded deer that retires from company to weep in solitude as it dies.
  241. i.e., the play I have just presented and contributed some lines to.
  242. i.e., extravagantly plumed headgear worn by the actors.
  243. Even if good fortune should desert me. (To "turn Turk" is to renounce Christianity in favor of the Muslim religion.) Hamlet jestingly asks if his newly proven skill in theatrical matters might offer him a mean of livelihood if his fortunes turn otherwise against him.
  244. Two large rosettes of ribbon, worn decoratively over shoelaces and named for the region of Provence in southern France.
  245. Decoratively slashed.
  246. The steadfast friend of Pythias in the story as dramatized in Richard Edwards's Damon and Pythias, here appropriate to the friendship of Hamlet and Horatio.
  247. This realm has been divested of its greatness by Jove himself, leaving the kingdom in the charge of a vain pretender to virtue and authority. ("Pajock", meaning "peacock" or "patchcock," provides a ludicrous substitution for the word that would rhyme with "was" in line 198, presumably "ass.")
  248. This stanza appears to be adapted from some unknown ballad.
  249. Wind instruments characterized by a conical tube, a whistle mouthpiece, and eight finger holes; related to the flute.
  250. Perhaps.
  251. A version of the French "par dieu.”
  252. His withdrawal to his private chambers.
  253. Out of temper.
  254. Hamlet deliberately takes Guildenstern's "out of temper" to mean "drunk," supposing the four "humors" in the King's body to have been thrown out of balance by excessive drinking.
  255. Instead of that, with anger.
  256. More rich in wisdom. The double comparative is allowable in early modern usage.
  257. Hamlet's sarcastic reply interprets "choler" in terms of humors theory, which saw "choler" as an excess of yellow bile producing indigestion as well as anger, and requiring purgation, usually bloodletting--with the ominous suggestion of Hamlet's letting out some of the King's blood. "Purgation" also suggests the spiritual cleaning through confession that the King is greatly in need of, with also the legal sense of clearing of guilt for a crime committed.
  258. Coherent order.
  259. Shy away like a nervous horse.
  260. (1) kind; (2) breeding, manners. (Guildenstern's point is that Hamlet's "You are welcome," while seemingly polite, sounds sarcastic and not addressed to the issue at hand.)
  261. Healthy, sane.
  262. Permission for me to depart.
  263. Instead, it is my mother's command you are uttering, not your own.
  264. Bewilderment.
  265. Speak, say something.
  266. Private chamber.
  267. i.e., hands. In the Catechism in the Anglican Book of Common Prayer, the person who is being prepared for Confirmation must vow "to keep my hands from picking and stealing."
  268. The cause of your disorder.
  269. Refuse to share your unhappiness with.
  270. The whole proverb reads "While the grass grows, the horse (steed) starves." Hamlet implies that his hopes of succeeding to the throne are distant at best, despite the King's having named him "most immediate to our throne" at 1.2.109 (TLN 291).
  271. Somewhat.
  272. Get to my windward side (just as a hunter would position himself in such a way that the hunted game, scenting danger, would then be driven in the opposite direction and thus into the "toil" or net).
  273. If I am being bold in an unmannerly fashion, it is my affection for you that prompts me to be so.
  274. Hamlet sounds skeptical of Guildenstern's protestations of love.
  275. Finger holes, the "stops" (TLN 2231) on the recorder.
  276. (1) secret; (2) skill in one of the craft guilds, as practiced for example by musicians.
  277. (1) fathom me to the depths of my mystery; (2) cause me to emit a sound.
  278. (1) fathom me to the depths of my mystery; (2) cause me to emit a sound.
  279. By God's blood. (A strong oath.)
  280. i.e., get me to play or dance to your tune.
  281. i.e., and she means right now.
  282. "By th' mass" is a familiar oath, invoking the Holy Sacrament.
  283. At once.
  284. They humor my odd behavior to the limit of my endurance. Literally, "to . . . bent" means "to the extent to which a bow may be bent."
  285. "By and by" is easily said" is Hamlet's acerbic riposte to what Polonius has just said, uttered to him as he is leaving or to anyone who will listen, including the audience.
  286. A time for witchcraft, when spells are cast and evil is abroad.
  287. Spreads its poisonous contagion.
  288. Natural feeling.
  289. Despotic and emotionally unbalanced Roman emperor (37-68 AD) who had his mother Agrippina put to death.
  290. Resolved.
  291. However much my words may rebuke her, let not my soul ever consent to ratify those words with violence.
  292. Location: The castle.
  293. i.e., his behavior.
  294. Roam freely.
  295. Prepare, cause to be drawn up.
  296. A person in my exalted position should not have to put up with such hazardous threats as seem hourly to be erupting out of Hamlet's feverish brain.
  297. We will prepare ourselves.
  298. Sacred concern and wise caution.
  299. i.e., subjects, the members of the "body politic." The King's life must be protected because he is the embodiment of the body politic.
  300. Individual and private.
  301. Harm.
  302. The monarch.
  303. Well-being
  304. Cessation.
  305. Whirlpool.
  306. Massive.
  307. Fastened by inserting a tenon, or projecting member at the end of a timber, into a groove or slot in an adjoining timber called the mortise.
  308. Descends, like the wheel of Fortune.
  309. i.e., Each lesser person serving and dependent on the King.
  310. Takes part in, accompanies.
  311. Tumultuous.
  312. Prepare yourselves . . . for.
  313. Private chamber.
  314. Tapestry hangings, as at 2.2.157, TLN 1197. On the Elizabethan stage, the arras was presumably hung over a door or aperture such as the "discovery space" in the façade of the tiring-house.
  315. Proceedings.
  316. Promise, assure.
  317. Reprove him severely.
  318. Fitting.
  319. Since their nearness of blood might render them less likely to see the business objectively.
  320. (1) from an advantageous position, or, (2) in addition.
  321. Liege lord, feudal superior to whom allegiance is due.
  322. The curse of Cain, whose murder of his brother Abel was the first such crime after the Fall of Man from the Garden of Eden (Genesis 4).
  323. Even though my desire (to seek forgiveness in prayer) is as strong as my determination to do so.
  324. Simultaneously obliged to undertake two tasks that are mutually incompatible. (The King wishes he could seek forgiveness while still holding on to the guilty rewards of his crime.)
  325. Were covered with a layer of a brother's blood thicker than the hand itself.
  326. The King alludes to three proverbial ideas, which contradict one another: (1) To wash one's hands of a thing, All the water in the sea cannot wash out this stain; and (3) As white as (the driven) snow. The Norton Shakespeare quotes Isaiah 1:15-18: "I will not hear: your hands are full of blood. / Wash ye, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes . . . though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow."
  327. What function does mercy serve other than to confront sin face to face?
  328. Prevented (from sinning).
  329. i.e., already committed, but susceptible to pardon.
  330. The thing for which one committed the crime.
  331. Ways of the world.
  332. The hand of the offender offering gold as a bribe.
  333. The prize wickedly desired and achieved.
  334. Evasion, trickery.
  335. Its.
  336. There, in heaven, each deed is seen for what it truly is, in its true form, like a rigorously conducted case at law.
  337. Face to face with our crimes.
  338. To testify against ourselves. (In heaven, an accused can be compelled to do this, not because heaven is tyrannical but because no guiltiness can be evaded at the heavenly bar of justice.)
  339. Remains to be said or done.
  340. Repentance can do.
  341. Caught as if with birdlime, a sticky substance smeared on twigs to snare birds.
  342. Entangled.
  343. Make some attempt. (Said by the King to himself, or possibly to the angels he hopes can hear him.)
  344. Do it opportunely and neatly, now that.
  345. He.
  346. Needs to be looked into.
  347. i.e., satiated with the pleasures of this world, rather than fasting and repenting. Hamlet seems to be talking about his father's spiritual unpreparedness for death when he was murdered; he died without being absolved of the normal but hazardous involvement in sinful appetite to which all mortals are prone.
  348. With all of Hamlet Senior's sins in full bloom. The male personal pronouns are not perfectly clear in lines 80-5, but presumably Hamlet refers to his father's ghost in lines 80-1, suffering the pangs of Purgatory for the sins not atoned for through Last Rites, so that (in lines 82-4) Hamlet cannot be sure about his father's present spiritual welfare.
  349. Vigorously thriving.
  350. Hamlet Senior's spiritual reckoning.
  351. Except for.
  352. As seen from our mortal and necessarily limited perspective.
  353. Claudius.
  354. Prepared, made ready.
  355. i.e., occasion to be grasped.
  356. i.e., dead drunk.
  357. Perhaps "in a fit of sexual passion," though being in an uncontrollable rage would also put Claudius in danger of hellfire.
  358. Gambling, and swearing profusely.
  359. Trace, hint.
  360. Kick upwards as the body falls downward, suggesting also a spurning of heavenly reward and ineffectual kicking at the gates of heaven.
  361. Is waiting.
  362. Medicine (both the King's being at prayer, and Hamlet's consequent decision to postpone the killing).
  363. Location: The castle.
  364. He will be here any moment. Be sure to reprove him soundly.
  365. Unrestrained, outrageous.
  366. Be blunt, forthright with him.
  367. I assure you on that score. Don't worry about me.
  368. Your stepfather, Claudius.
  369. Throughout most of the scene, except for lines 11, 14, 17, 126, 133, and 141, the Queen uses the familiar "thou" in addressing her son, as was customary; he addresses her as "you," the required respectful form.
  370. The dead King Hamlet.
  371. A foolish.
  372. What's this?
  373. Forgotten that I am your mother, whom you must respect. (But Hamlet answers in the sense of "How could I forget that, in view of what you have done?")
  374. Cross of Christ.
  375. i.e., talk sense into you.
  376. Mirror.
  377. i.e., I bet a ducat he's dead; or, a ducat as the price for his life. (A ducat is a gold coin, as at 2.2.244, TLN 1410.)
  378. Presumably, Hamlet stabs Polonius here as he says "Dead for a ducat, dead!" Polonius actually dies a line later, after crying out that he is mortally wounded.
  379. As to kill. The Queen's response seems to register shock and surprise at Hamlet's suggestion of killing a king. Some commentators see the fact that Hamlet now drops this line of inquiry as evidence that he is satisfied on that score.
  380. i.e., the King, your social and moral superior.
  381. Nosy.
  382. If your heart still has any sensitivity to feeling and emotion.
  383. Sinful habit.
  384. Brazened, hardened.
  385. Armored and thus made impenetrable against natural feeling.
  386. i.e., affixes there the brand of a prostitute.
  387. The marriage contract.
  388. And turns sweet religion into a mere senseless jumble of words.
  389. Heaven's face blushes with shame at this solid earth, compounded as it is of the four elements, with sorrowful face as though the day of doom were at hand, and is sick with thinking of this horrid deed--i.e., Gertrude's second marriage.
  390. Table of contents; prologue or preface.
  391. Painted representation.
  392. The sun-god's.
  393. Forehead, brow.
  394. The god of war.
  395. Stance.
  396. Winged messenger of the gods.
  397. Newly alighted.
  398. Reaching to the sky where it is kissed by the light of the sun.
  399. Affix his seal of approval.
  400. Ear of grain.
  401. Blighting.
  402. Leave off, cease.
  403. And gorge yourself on this barren, unfertile land. The images of mountain and moor offer contrasts of high and low, handsome and barren.
  404. Sexual arousal.
  405. Is subservient to.
  406. Sensation and perception and through the five senses.
  407. Paralyzed.
  408. Err in this fashion, as you have done.
  409. Nor could your physical senses ever have been so enslaved to ecstasy (i.e., lunacy) as to have been unable to perceive the difference between Hamlet Senior and Claudius.
  410. Cheated you at blindman's bluff. (Hamlet imagines a diabolical trick in which the devil, having covered the eyes of Gertrude with a scarf in the children's game of blindman's bluff, has steered her in such a way that she gropingly encountered Claudius.)
  411. Without. (French.)
  412. Mutiny.
  413. Chastity among the young will melt like wax held over a candle flame. (We cannot hope for self-restraint in young people when older women set such a bad example.)
  414. And reason forgives or makes excuses for sexual passion.
  415. Call it no shameful business when the compelling ardor of youth gives the signal for attack by committing lechery, since the frost of old age burns with as active a fire of lust and mature reason perverts its proper function by making excuses for lust rather than restraining it.
  416. Ingrained, indelible.
  417. Not leave off their dark indelible stain.
  418. Saturated with the greasy filth of lust.
  419. Steeped. (Suggesting also "stew," brothel.)
  420. Indulging in lovey-dovey romantic behavior.
  421. Pigsty.
  422. Tenth part. (To be a twentieth part of a tenth part would be to embody a mere 0.5 percent of something, i.e., virtually none at all.)
  423. Former husband.
  424. A nonpareil of evil kings; with an allusion to the "Vice," the gloating and insidious tempter to vice of many a late-medieval and sixteenth-century morality play.
  425. Pickpocket.
  426. The kingdom.
  427. Crown.
  428. Of ragged patchwork, appropriate for a monarch (Claudius) who is a sham, in Hamlet's view; suitable also for a fool or jester attired in motley.
  429. Having let time and passionate commitment (to revenge) slip away; with a suggestion too that Hamlet has allowed himself to be distracted from his duty by a passionate berating of his mother.
  430. Importunate, urgent.
  431. Imagination.
  432. The immaterial, bodiless.
  433. Like sleeping soldiers awakened by the call to arms.
  434. (previously) lying flat.
  435. As if the hair, an outgrowth of the body, could take on a life of its own. Because hair was assumed to be lifeless, its standing on end would suggest the presence of something ominous and unnatural. "Excrement" is derived from the Latin ex-crescere, to grow out of. Compare 1.5.16-21, where the Ghost tells Hamlet how even the "lighest word" describing the horror of Purgatory would cause Hamlet's hairs "to stand on end / Like quills upon the fretful porpentine." The famous eighteenth-century actor David Garrick employed a trick wig that would enable him to make his hair stand on end.
  436. Nobly born; chivalrous; honorable; kind.
  437. Disorder, imbalance of mind.
  438. His appearance joined to his cause for appearing and speaking.
  439. Even to stones.
  440. Would make the stones capable of feeling and responding.
  441. Lest your pitiful looks divert me from accomplishing what I have to do, prompting me to weep when I should be shedding blood.
  442. Garments.
  443. Doorway.
  444. Madness (ecstasy) is very skillful in creating this kind of hallucination.
  445. Repeat word for word.
  446. Skip away from.
  447. An ointment that comforts without healing.
  448. Cover with a thin layer of skin.
  449. Undermining.
  450. My urging you to a virtuous course.
  451. Grossness.
  452. This corpulent, swollen, short-winded era. ("Pursy" is often said of a horse.)
  453. Bow obsequiously and beg for permission to serve vice.
  454. Cut in two.
  455. Give outward conformity to.
  456. Our monstrous proclivity for habit-forming behavior, which can so easily consume and overwhelm the physical senses.
  457. Being all too inclined toward evil habits.
  458. A garb, an outward appearance. (One can incline one's soul, Hamlet says, toward virtue by willing oneself to adopt a virtuous stance; the outward behavior can then begin to shape the inner self.)
  459. Readily.
  460. For by rigorously adopting a custom or habit we can come close to changing our very inborn nature.
  461. i.e., And custom or habit can either admit the devil into our hearts or throw him out.
  462. i.e., And when you are penitently ready to seek God's blessing, I will ask your blessing as a dutiful son should.
  463. As for.
  464. i.e., it is (evidently) heaven's pleasure that I am to be punished for having killed Polonius, just as he has been fatally punished at my hands for his snooping into other people's business.
  465. i.e., the heavens' agent of just retribution.
  466. Dispose of.
  467. Offer a suitable account of, pay for, atone for.
  468. i.e., Thus we can begin to face difficulties, but at least the worst is over; or, worse calamities are still to come.
  469. Bloated, puffy.
  470. Leave his sensual love pinches on your cheeks.
  471. A term of endearment.
  472. Reeking of filth.
  473. Fingering amorously.
  474. neck (including the breasts).
  475. Unravel, disclose.
  476. Only seemingly mad as a cunning device.
  477. Said with a sardonic irony that continues in the following eight lines.
  478. For why would any attractive, temperate, and wise queen wish to hide such important matters from a toad, a bat, a tom-cat? (Said sardonically; of course, such a woman would choose not to divulge Hamlet's secret to a repulsive villain.)
  479. The secrecy that common sense would seem to require.
  480. In the fall; or, utterly.
  481. In this Aesop-like beast fable, for which no source has been found, an ape releases some birds from a basket-like birdcage on a roof and then, mindlessly wishing to imitate them as an experiment ("To try conclusions"), gets into the cage himself and, attempting to fly, falls to the ground and breaks his neck. Presumably Hamlet is warning the Queen against coming too quickly to conclusions and rashly telling her husband that Hamlet's madness is only pretense.
  482. To utter.
  483. Prepare a path before me.
  484. Conduct me to where some treachery lies in wait for me.
  485. Proceed.
  486. It's a fine ironic joke.
  487. Deviser of "engines" of war, such as bombs.
  488. Blown skyward by his own explosive devices, such as were used to make a breach in fortifications.
  489. And it will be bad luck for me if I do not dig my tunnels underneath theirs. (Tunnels were used to attack enemy fortifications in siege warfare by undermining them and blowing them up from below.) Hamlet vows to outmaneuver Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.
  490. Moon-high, way up into the air.
  491. When two cunning plots are on a collision course, as when mines and countermines confront each other.
  492. The dead Polonius will set me to cooking up schemes; set me to lugging off the corpse; pack me off to England.
  493. Playing on the "grave" where Polonius will now be buried.
  494. An egregiously chattering rascal.
  495. (1) finish up with you; (2) drag you to the place of burial, where you will continue to be "most still, most secret, and most grave" (line 220).


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