63 Hamlet: Act 4
Hamlet (Modern, Editor’s Version). Internet Shakespeare Editions. University of Victoria. Editor: David Bevington. Adapted by James Sexton.
Enter King, with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.
[To Rosencrantz and Guildenstern] Bestow this place on us a little while.
[Exeunt Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.]
Ah, my good lord, what have I seen tonight!
What, Gertrude? How does Hamlet?
Mad as the sea and wind when both contend
Which is the mightier. In his lawless fit,
2595Behind the arras hearing something stir,
Whips out his rapier, cries, “A rat, a rat!”
And in this brainish apprehension kills
The unseen good old man.
Oh, heavy deed!
2600It had been so with us had we been there.
His liberty is full of threats to all–
To you yourself, to us, to everyone.
Alas, how shall this bloody deed be answered?
It will be laid to us, whose providence
2605Should have kept short, restrained, and out of haunt
This mad young man. But so much was our love,
We would not understand what was most fit,
But like the owner of a foul disease,
To keep it from divulging, let it feed
2610Even on the pith of life. Where is he gone?
Oh, Gertrude, come away!
The sun no sooner shall the mountains touch
But we will ship him hence, and this vile deed
We must with all our majesty and skill
Both countenance and excuse.–Ho, Guildenstern!
2520Enter Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.
Friends both, go join you with some further aid.
Hamlet in madness hath Polonius slain,
And from his mother’s closet hath he dragged him.
Go seek him out, speak fair, and bring the body
2625Into the chapel. I pray you haste in this.
Exit Gentlemen [Rosencrantz and Guildenstern].
Come, Gertrude, we’ll call up our wisest friends
To let them know both what we mean to do
And what’s untimely done. So envious slander,
2628.1Whose whisper o’er the world’s diameter,
As level as the cannon to his blank,
Transports his poisoned shot, may miss our name
And hit the woundless air. Oh, come away!
My soul is full of discord and dismay.
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern
[within] Hamlet! Lord Hamlet!
But soft, what noise? Who calls on Hamlet? Oh, here they come.
Enter Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.
What have you done, my lord, with the dead body?
Compounded it with dust, whereto ’tis kin.
Tell us where ’tis, that we may take it thence
And bear it to the chapel.
Do not believe it.
Take you me for a sponge, my lord?
Ay, sir, that soaks up the King’s countenance, his rewards, his authorities.
But such officers do the King best service in the end: he keeps them, like an
ape in the corner of his jaw, first mouthed to be last swallowed. When he
2650needs what you have gleaned, it is but squeezing you, and, sponge, you shall
be dry again.
I understand you not, my lord.
I am glad of it. A knavish speech sleeps in a foolish ear.
2655My lord, you must tell us where the body is, and go with us to the King.
The body is with the King, but the King is not with the body. The King is a thing–
A thing, my lord?
2660Of nothing. Bring me to him. Hide fox, and all after!
Enter King, and two or three.
I have sent to seek him and to find the body.
How dangerous is it that this man goes loose!
Yet must not we put the strong law on him;
2665He’s loved of the distracted multitude,
Who like not in their judgment but their eyes,
And where ’tis so, th’offender’s scourge is weighed,
But ne’er the offense. To bear all smooth and even,
This sudden sending him away must seem
2670Deliberate pause. Diseases desperate grown
By desperate appliance are relieved,
Or not at all.
How now, what hath befall’n?
Where the dead body is bestowed, my lord,
2675We cannot get from him.
But where is he?
Without, my lord, guarded, to know your pleasure.
Bring him before us.
[Calling] Ho, Guildenstern! Bring in my lord.
Enter Hamlet and Guildenstern [with Guards].
Now Hamlet, where’s Polonius?
At supper? Where?
Not where he eats, but where ‘a is eaten. A certain convocation of politic worms
are e’en at him. Your worm is your only emperor for diet. We fat all
creatures else to fat us, and we fat ourselves for maggots. Your fat king and
2690your lean beggar is but variable service: two dishes but to one table. That’s the
A man may fish with the worm that hath eat of a king, and eat of the fish that hath fed of that worm.
What dost thou mean by this?
Nothing but to show you how a king may go a progress through the guts of a beggar.
Where is Polonius?
In heaven. Send thither to see. If your messenger find him not there, seek
him i’th’ other place yourself. But if indeed you find him not within this month, you
shall nose him as you go up the stairs into the lobby.
[To some attendants] Go seek him there.
‘A will stay till you come.
Hamlet, this deed of thine, for thine especial safety–
Which we do tender, as we dearly grieve
For that which thou hast done–must send thee hence
With fiery quickness. Therefore prepare thyself.
2705The bark is ready, and the wind at help,
Th’associates tend, and everything is bent
So is it if thou knew’st our purposes.
I see a cherub that sees them. But come, for England! Farewell, dear mother.
Thy loving father, Hamlet.
My mother. Father and mother is man and wife, man and wife is one flesh,
and so, my mother. Come, for England!
Follow him at foot. Tempt him with speed aboard.
2720Delay it not. I’ll have him hence tonight.
Away! For everything is sealed and done
That else leans on th’affair. Pray you, make haste.
Exeunt all but the King.
And England, if my love thou hold’st at aught,
As my great power thereof may give thee sense,
2725Since yet thy cicatrice looks raw and red
After the Danish sword, and thy free awe
Pays homage to us, thou mayst not coldly set
Our sovereign process, which imports at full
By letters congruing to that effect
2730The present death of Hamlet. Do it, England,
For like the hectic in my blood he rages,
And thou must cure me. Till I know ’tis done,
Howe’er my haps, my joys were ne’er begun.
Go, captain, from me greet the Danish King.
Tell him that by his license Fortinbras
Craves the conveyance of a promised march
Over his kingdom. You know the rendezvous.
If that his majesty would aught with us,
2740We shall express our duty in his eye;
And let him know so.
I will do’t, my lord.
[To his soldiers] Go softly on.
[Exeunt all but the Captain.]
2743.1Enter Hamlet, Rosencrantz, [Guildenstern,] etc.
[To the Captain] Good sir, whose powers are these?
They are of Norway, sir.
How purposed, sir, I pray you?
Against some part of Poland.
Who commands them, sir?
The nephew to old Norway, Fortinbras.
Truly to speak, and with no addition,
We go to gain a little patch of ground
That hath in it no profit but the name.
To pay five ducats, five, I would not farm it,
Nor will it yield to Norway or the Pole
2743.15A ranker rate, should it be sold in fee.
Why then the Polack never will defend it.
Yes, it is already garrisoned.
Two thousand souls and twenty thousand ducats
Will not debate the question of this straw.
2743.20This is th’impostume of much wealth and peace,
That inward breaks, and shows no cause without
Why the man dies. I humbly thank you, sir.
God b’wi’ you, sir.
Will’t please you go, my lord?
I’ll be with you straight. Go a little before.
[Exeunt all but Hamlet.]
How all occasions do inform against me,
And spur my dull revenge! What is a man
If his chief good and market of his time
Be but to sleep and feed? A beast, no more.
2743.30Sure he that made us with such large discourse,
Looking before and after, gave us not
That capability and godlike reason
To fust in us unused. Now, whether it be
Bestial oblivion, or some craven scruple
2743.35Of thinking too precisely on th’event–
A thought which, quartered, hath but one part wisdom
And ever three parts coward–I do not know
Why yet I live to say this thing’s to do,
Sith I have cause, and will, and strength, and means
2743.40To do’t. Examples gross as earth exhort me.
Witness this army of such mass and charge,
Led by a delicate and tender prince,
Whose spirit with divine ambition puffed
Makes mouths at the invisible event,
2743.45Exposing what is mortal and unsure
To all that fortune, death, and danger dare,
Even for an eggshell. Rightly to be great
Is not to stir without great argument,
But greatly to find quarrel in a straw
2743.50When honor’s at the stake. How stand I, then,
That have a father killed, a mother stained,
Excitements of my reason and my blood,
And let all sleep, while to my shame I see
The imminent death of twenty thousand men
2743.55That for a fantasy and trick of fame
Go to their graves like beds, fight for a plot
Whereon the numbers cannot try the cause,
Which is not tomb enough and continent
To hide the slain? Oh, from this time forth,
2743.60My thoughts be bloody, or be nothing worth!
Enter Queen and Horatio.
I will not speak with her.
She is importunate,
Indeed, distract. Her mood will needs be pitied.
What would she have?
She speaks much of her father, says she hears
2750There’s tricks i’th’ world, and hems, and beats her heart,
Spurns enviously at straws, speaks things in doubt
That carry but half sense. Her speech is nothing,
Yet the unshapèd use of it doth move
The hearers to collection; they yawn at it,
2755And botch the words up fit to their own thoughts,
Which, as her winks and nods and gestures yield them,
Indeed would make one think there might be thought,
Though nothing sure, yet much unhappily.
‘Twere good she were spoken with,
2760For she may strew dangerous conjectures
In ill-breeding minds. Let her come in.
[Horatio withdraws to admit Ophelia.]
[Aside] To my sick soul, as sin’s true nature is,
Each toy seems prologue to some great amiss.
So full of artless jealousy is guilt,
2765It spills itself in fearing to be spilt.
Enter Ophelia distracted, playing on a lute, and her hair down, singing.
Where is the beauteous majesty of Denmark?
How now, Ophelia?
Alas, sweet lady, what imports this song?
Nay, but Ophelia–
Pray you, mark.
White his shroud as the mountain snow–
Alas, look here, my lord.
How do you, pretty lady?
Conceit upon her father.
Pray you, let’s have no words of this, but when they ask you what it means,
say you this:
Tomorrow is Saint Valentine’s Day,
All in the morning betime,
And I a maid at your window
To be your Valentine.
Then up he rose, and donned his clothes
And dupped the chamber door,
Let in the maid, that out a maid
Never departed more.
Indeed, la? Without an oath I’ll make an end on’t.
By Gis and by Saint Charity,
Alack, and fie for shame!
Young men will do’t if they come to’t;
By Cock, they are to blame.
2800Quoth she, “Before you tumbled me,
You promised me to wed.”
“So would I ha’ done, by yonder sun,
An thou hadst not come to my bed.”
How long hath she been thus?
I hope all will be well. We must be patient. But I cannot choose but weep to
think they would lay him i’th’ cold ground. My brother shall know of it. And
so I thank you for your good counsel. Come, my coach! Good night, ladies,
2810good night, sweet ladies, good night, good night.
[To Horatio.] Follow her close. Give her good watch, I pray you.
Oh, this is the poison of deep grief! It springs
All from her father’s
death, and now behold!
Oh, Gertrude, Gertrude,
2815When sorrows come, they come not single spies
But in battalions. First, her father slain;
Next, your son gone, and he most violent author
Of his own just remove; the people muddied,
Thick and unwholesome in their thoughts and whispers
2820For good Polonius’ death, and we have done but greenly
In hugger-mugger to inter him; poor Ophelia
Divided from herself and her fair judgment,
Without the which we are pictures or mere beasts;
Last, and as much containing as all these,
2825Her brother is in secret come from France,
Feeds on this wonder, keeps himself in clouds,
And wants not buzzers to infect his ear
With pestilent speeches of his father’s death,
Wherein necessity, of matter beggared,
2830Will nothing stick our person to arraign
In ear and ear. O my dear Gertrude, this,
Like to a murd’ring piece, in many places
Gives me superfluous death.
A noise within.
Enter a Messenger.
Alack, what noise is this?
Where are my Switzers? Let them guard the door.
What is the matter?
Save yourself, my lord!
The ocean, overpeering of his list,
2840Eats not the flats with more impiteous haste
Than young Laertes, in a riotous head,
O’erbears your officers. The rabble call him lord,
And, as the world were now but to begin,
Antiquity forgot, custom not known,
2845The ratifiers and props of every word,
They cry, “Choose we! Laertes shall be king!”
Caps, hands, and tongues applaud it to the clouds:
“Laertes shall be king, Laertes king!”
The doors are broke.
Enter Laertes with others.
No, let’s come in.
I pray you, give me leave.
We will, we will.
I thank you. Keep the door.
O thou vile king,
Give me my father!
Calmly, good Laertes.
That drop of blood that’s calm proclaims me bastard,
Cries “Cuckold!” to my father, brands the harlot
Even here between the chaste unsmirchèd brow
Of my true mother.
What is the cause, Laertes,
That thy rebellion looks so giant-like?–
Let him go, Gertrude. Do not fear our person.
There’s such divinity doth hedge a king
That treason can but peep to what it would,
2870Acts little of his will.–Tell me, Laertes,
Why thou art thus incensed?–Let him go, Gertrude.–
Where is my father?
But not by him.
Let him demand his fill.
How came he dead? I’ll not be juggled with.
To hell, allegiance! Vows, to the blackest devil!
Conscience and grace, to the profoundest pit!
2880I dare damnation. To this point I stand,
That both the worlds I give to negligence,
Let come what comes, only I’ll be revenged
Most throughly for my father.
Who shall stay you?
If you desire to know the certainty
2890Of your dear father’s death, is’t writ in your revenge
That, swoopstake, you will draw both friend and foe,
Winner and loser?
None but his enemies,
Will you know them, then?
To his good friends thus wide I’ll ope my arms,
And, like the kind life-rend’ring pelican,
Repast them with my blood.
Why, now you speak
Like a good child and a true gentleman.
2900That I am guiltless of your father’s death,
And am most sensibly in grief for it,
It shall as level to your judgment ‘pear
As day does to your eye.
A noise within.
Let her come in!
How now, what noise is that?
2905Enter Ophelia, as before.
O heat, dry up my brains! Tears seven times salt
Burn out the sense and virtue of mine eye!
By heaven, thy madness shall be paid by weight
2910Till our scale turns the beam. O rose of May,
Dear maid, kind sister, sweet Ophelia!
O heavens, is’t possible a young maid’s wits
Should be as mortal as an old man’s life?
Nature is fine in love, and where ’tis fine
2915It sends some precious instance of itself
After the thing it loves.
Hadst thou thy wits, and didst persuade revenge,
It could not move thus.
This nothing’s more than matter.
There’s rosemary; that’s for remembrance. Pray you, love, remember. And there
is pansies; that’s for thoughts.
A document in madness, thoughts and remembrance fitted.
There’s fennel for you, and columbines. There’s rue for you, and here’s some
2935for me; we may call it herb of grace o’Sundays. You may wear your rue
with a difference. There’s a daisy. I would give you some violets, but they
withered all when my father died. They say ‘a made a good end.
[She sings.] For bonny sweet Robin is all my joy.
And will ‘a not come again?
And will ‘a not come again?
No, no, he is dead,
Go to thy deathbed,
He never will come again.
2945His beard was as white as snow,
All flaxen was his poll.
He is gone, he is gone,
And we cast away moan.
God ‘a’ mercy on his soul!
And of all Christian souls, I pray God.
2950God b’wi’ you!
Exeunt Ophelia [and the Queen, following her.]
Do you see this, O God?
Laertes, I must commune with your grief,
Or you deny me right. Go but apart,
Make choice of whom your wisest friends you will,
2955And they shall hear and judge ‘twixt you and me.
If by direct or by collateral hand
They find us touched, we will our kingdom give,
Our crown, our life, and all that we call ours
To you in satisfaction; but if not,
2960Be you content to lend your patience to us,
And we shall jointly labor with your soul
To give it due content.
Let this be so.
His means of death, his obscure burial–
2965No trophy, sword, nor hatchment o’er his bones,
No noble rite, nor formal ostentation–
Cry to be heard as ’twere from heaven to earth,
That I must call’t in question.
So you shall,
2970And where th’offense is, let the great ax fall.
I pray you go with me.
Enter Horatio, with an Attendant [i.e., Servingman].
What are they that would speak with me?
Sailors, sir. They say they have letters for you.
Let them come in.
I do not know from what part of the world I should be greeted, if not from Lord Hamlet.
God bless you, sir.
Let him bless thee too.
‘A shall, sir, an’t please him. There’s a letter for you, sir. It comes from
th’ambassador that was bound for England, if your name be Horatio, as I
am let to know it is.
[He gives a letter.]
Reads the letter.
Horatio, when thou shalt have overlooked this, give these fellows some
means to the King; they have letters for him. Ere we were two days old
at sea, a pirate of very warlike appointment gave us chase. Finding
2990ourselves too slow of sail, we put on a compelled valor, and in the grapple
I boarded them. On the instant they got clear of our ship, so I alone
became their prisoner. They have dealt with me like thieves of mercy,
but they knew what they did: I am to do a good turn for them. Let the
2995King have the letters I have sent, and repair thou to me with as much
haste as thou wouldest fly death. I have words to speak in thine ear will
make thee dumb, yet are they much too light for the bore of the matter.
These good fellows will bring thee where I am. Rosencrantz and
3000Guildenstern hold their course for England. Of them I have much to tell
thee. Farewell. He that thou knowest thine, Hamlet.
Come, I will give you way for these your letters,
And do’t the speedier that you may direct me
3005To him from whom you brought them.
Enter King and Laertes.
Now must your conscience my acquittance seal,
And you must put me in your heart for friend,
Sith you have heard, and with a knowing ear,
3010That he which hath your noble father slain
Pursued my life.
It well appears. But tell me
Why you proceeded not against these feats
So crimeful and so capital in nature,
3015As by your safety, greatness, wisdom, all things else,
You mainly were stirred up.
Oh for two special reasons,
Which may to you perhaps seem much unsinewed,
And yet to me they’re strong. The Queen his mother
3020Lives almost by his looks, and for myself–
My virtue or my plague, be it either which–
She’s so conjunctive to my life and soul
That, as the star moves not but in his sphere,
I could not but by her. The other motive
3025Why to a public count I might not go
Is the great love the general gender bear him,
Who, dipping all his faults in their affection,
Would, like the spring that turneth wood to stone,
Convert his gyves to graces, so that my arrows,
3030Too slightly timbered for so loud a wind,
Would have reverted to my bow again,
And not where I had aimed them.
And so have I a noble father lost,
A sister driven into desp’rate terms,
3035Whose worth, if praises may go back again,
Stood challenger on mount of all the age
For her perfections. But my revenge will come.
Break not your sleeps for that. You must not think
3040That we are made of stuff so flat and dull
That we can let our beard be shook with danger
And think it pastime. You shortly shall hear more.
I loved your father, and we love ourself,
And that, I hope, will teach you to imagine–
3045Enter a Messenger with letters.
How now? What news?
Letters, my lord, from Hamlet.
This to your majesty, this to the Queen.
[He gives letters.]
From Hamlet! Who brought them?
Sailors, my lord, they say. I saw them not.
They were given me by Claudio. He received them.
Laertes, you shall hear them. [To the Messenger] Leave us.
3055High and mighty, you shall know I am set naked on your
kingdom. Tomorrow shall I beg leave to see your kingly eyes, when I
shall first, asking your pardon thereunto, recount the occasion of my
sudden and more strange return. Hamlet.
What should this mean? Are all the rest come back?
3060Or is it some abuse, and no such thing?
Know you the hand?
I am lost in it, my lord. But let him come.
3065It warms the very sickness in my heart
That I shall live and tell him to his teeth
“Thus diddest thou.”
If it be so, Laertes–
As how should it be so, how otherwise?–
Will you be ruled by me?
Ay, my lord,
If so you’ll not o’errule me to a peace.
To thine own peace. If he be now returned
As checking at his voyage, and that he means
No more to undertake it, I will work him
To an exploit, now ripe in my device,
3075Under the which he shall not choose but fall;
And for his death no wind of blame shall breathe,
But even his mother shall uncharge the practice
And call it accident.
My lord, I will be ruled,
The rather if you could devise it so
That I might be the organ.
It falls right.
3078.5You have been talked of since your travel much,
And that in Hamlet’s hearing, for a quality
Wherein they say you shine. Your sum of parts
Did not together pluck such envy from him
As did that one, and that, in my regard,
3078.10Of the unworthiest siege.
What part is that, my lord?
A very ribbon in the cap of youth,
Yet needful too, for youth no less becomes
The light and careless livery that it wears
3078.15Than settled age his sables and his weeds
Importing health and graveness. Two months since
Here was a gentleman of Normandy.
3080I have seen myself, and served against, the French,
And they can well on horseback, but this gallant
Had witchcraft in’t; he grew into his seat,
And to such wondrous doing brought his horse
As had he been incorpsed and demi-natured
3085With the brave beast. So far he passed my thought
That I in forgery of shapes and tricks
Come short of what he did.
A Norman was’t?
Upon my life, Lamord.
The very same.
I know him well. He is the brooch indeed
And gem of all the nation.
He made confession of you,
3095And gave you such a masterly report
For art and exercise in your defense,
And for your rapier most especially,
That he cried out ‘twould be a sight indeed
If one could match you. Th’escrimers of their nation,
3099.1He swore, had neither motion, guard, nor eye
If you opposed them. Sir, this report of his
3100Did Hamlet so envenom with his envy
That he could nothing do but wish and beg
Your sudden coming o’er to play with him.
Now, out of this–
What out of this, my lord?
Laertes, was your father dear to you?
Or are you like the painting of a sorrow,
A face without a heart?
Why ask you this?
Not that I think you did not love your father,
3110But that I know love is begun by time,
And that I see, in passages of proof,
Time qualifies the spark and fire of it.
3112.1There lives within the very flame of love
A kind of wick or snuff that will abate it,
And nothing is at a like goodness still,
For goodness, growing to a pleurisy,
3112.5Dies in his own too much. That we would do
We should do when we would, for this “would” changes
And hath abatements and delays as many
As there are tongues, are hands, are accidents,
And then this “should” is like a spendthrift’s sigh,
3112.10That hurts by easing. But to the quick of th’ulcer:
Hamlet comes back. What would you undertake
To show yourself your father’s son in deed
3115More than in words?
To cut his throat i’th’ church.
No place, indeed, should murder sanctuarize.
Revenge should have no bounds. But, good Laertes,
Will you do this: keep close within your chamber.
3120Hamlet returned shall know you are come home.
We’ll put on those shall praise your excellence
And set a double varnish on the fame
The Frenchman gave you, bring you in fine together,
And wager on your heads. He being remiss,
3125Most generous, and free from all contriving,
Will not peruse the foils, so that with ease,
Or with a little shuffling, you may choose
A sword unbated, and in a pass of practice
Requite him for your father.
I will do’t,
And for that purpose I’ll anoint my sword.
I bought an unction of a mountebank
So mortal that, but dip a knife in it,
Where it draws blood no cataplasm so rare,
3135Collected from all simples that have virtue
Under the moon, can save the thing from death
That is but scratched withal. I’ll touch my point
With this contagion, that if I gall him slightly,
It may be death.
Lets further think of this,
Weigh what convenience both of time and means
May fit us to our shape. If this should fail,
And that our drift look through our bad performance,
‘Twere better not essayed. Therefore this project
3145Should have a back or second, that might hold
If this should blast in proof. Soft, let me see.
We’ll make a solemn wager on your cunnings–
When in your motion you are hot and dry–
As make your bouts more violent to that end–
3150And that he calls for drink, I’ll have prepared him
A chalice for the nonce, whereon but sipping,
If he by chance escape your venomed stuck,
Our purpose may hold there.
How [now], sweet queen?
One woe doth tread upon another’s heel,
So fast they follow. Your sister’s drowned, Laertes.
Drowned! Oh, where?
There is a willow grows aslant a brook
That shows his hoar leaves in the glassy stream.
3160Therewith fantastic garlands did she make
Of crowflowers, nettles, daisies, and long purples,
That liberal shepherds give a grosser name,
But our cold maids do dead men’s fingers call them.
There on the pendent boughs her crownet weeds
3165Clamb’ring to hang, an envious sliver broke,
When down her weedy trophies and herself
Fell in the weeping brook. Her clothes spread wide,
And mermaid-like awhile they bore her up,
Which time she chanted snatches of old lauds,
3170As one incapable of her own distress,
Or like a creature native and endued
Unto that element. But long it could not be
Till that her garments, heavy with their drink,
Pulled the poor wretch from her melodious lay
3175To muddy death.
Alas, then she is drowned.
Too much of water hast thou, poor Ophelia,
And therefore I forbid my tears. But yet
3180It is our trick; nature her custom holds,
Let shame say what it will. [He weeps.] When these are gone,
The woman will be out. Adieu, my lord.
I have a speech of fire that fain would blaze,
But that this folly douts it.
Let’s follow, Gertrude.
How much I had to do to calm his rage!
Now fear I this will give it start again;
Therefore let’s follow.
- Location: The castle. ↵
- Significance, meaning. ↵
- Heaving of the breast and shoulders as the Queen sobs. ↵
- i.e., explain why you are weeping. ↵
- This brainsick misapprehension. ↵
- Grievous. ↵
- The royal plural. ↵
- Explained, responded to, accounted for. ↵
- Laid at our (my) doorstep, blamed on me. ↵
- Foresight. ↵
- Kept on a short leash. ↵
- Secluded, away from public gatherings. ↵
- Sufferer. ↵
- From being made publicly known. ↵
- We let. ↵
- The Queen argues that Hamlet's weeping over Polonius's dead body shows his madness to be like a vein of pure gold amidst a mine of baser metals, i.e., revealing his finer nature even though he has madly done this deed. The Queen is doing as she promised to Hamlet: keeping from her husband the knowledge that Hamlet's "madness" is only a cover. ↵
- He. ↵
- Put the best face on and justify as well as we can. ↵
- Take with you some others to help. ↵
- Mother's private chamber. ↵
- Speak gently and courteously to him. ↵
- In that way, envious slander, spreading far and wide its poisonous whisper as if shot from a cannon at point-blank range, may be deflected from me as its target and expend itself harmlessly on the invulnerable air. ↵
- Location: The castle. ↵
- Mixed. Compare the Anglican "Order for the Burial of the Dead" in The Book of Common Prayer: "we commit his body to the ground; earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust." ↵
- i.e., Don't expect me to do as you bid me and not follow my own counsel. ↵
- Interrogated by. ↵
- Reply. ↵
- Favor. ↵
- Influence. ↵
- i.e., Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are kept in reserve by the King, always there but to be used only when it serves the King's purposes, not theirs. ↵
- i.e., the King will squeeze you dry, taking back the benefits he seemingly bestowed on you. ↵
- A crafty insult is not understood as such by a fool to whom the insult is directed. ↵
- A chiasmic riddle, perhaps suggesting that although Claudius's body is necessarily a part of him, the essence of true kingship is not to be found there. Claudius can order the body of Polonius to be brought to him, but that also will not make him any more a true king than he really is. A reference to the doctrine of "the King's two bodies," one political and one natural, thus differentiating the high office of kingship from any individual holder of the title, whose claim to true authority may be far less. ↵
- This cry from the children's game of fox-and-hounds, similar to hide-and-seek, here signals Hamlet's running away from Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. ↵
- Location: The castle. ↵
- By the irrationally unstable commoners. ↵
- Who choose not rationally but by appearances. ↵
- And in such cases people are likely to censure the severity of the punishment without sufficiently considering the gravity of the offense. ↵
- In order to manage the business without arousing suspicion. ↵
- The result of careful planning, or of a careful postponing of judgment. ↵
- Applying of remedies. ↵
- Now, what has happened? ↵
- Outside (the door). ↵
- Even now, just now. ↵
- Worms are emperors in their diet in that they devour emperors and commoners alike. Compare the proverbial phrase, "Food for worms." ↵
- Often taken to refer to the Imperial Diet of Worms, a famous "convocation" or assembly of the Holy Roman Empire convened in Worms, Germany on 28 January 1521, on the authority of the Emperor Charles V, for the purpose of requiring Martin Luther to renounce or recant his heretical views. Pope Leo X had condemned 41 of Luther's 95 theses or propositions in June 1520, and, after a delay affording Luther time to recant, had excommunicated him on 3 January 1521. The Edict of Worms, issued on 25 May 1521, forbade all loyal Christians to offer any support to Luther, declaring him to be an obstinate heretic. In the light of this seeming allusion, "Not where 'a eats, but where 'a is eaten" (TLN 2685) could refer to the ceremony of the Mass in which the eating of bread signifies the eating of Christ's body. "Politic worms" are crafty worms, such as might deal with a crafty spy like Polonius. ↵
- Various dishes or courses served at table. (Worms feed on kings and beggars alike.) ↵
- i.e., rich and poor alike come at last to serve as food for one grisly emperor, the worm. ↵
- Has eaten. ↵
- Royal state journey. ↵
- Smell. ↵
- The persons addressed here could include Rosencrantz or Guildenstern together with one or more unnamed attendants, but in any case, at least one of those two gentlemen must remain to keep guard on Hamlet and exit with him at line 45.1. ↵
- Value, hold dear. ↵
- Intensely. ↵
- Sailing vessel. ↵
- Companions are waiting. ↵
- Is in readiness. ↵
- Cherubim, in the second order of angels, were possessors of a special wisdom and knowledge that would enable them, in Hamlet's view, to perceive the full extent of Claudius's treachery. ↵
- Other editions cite Genesis 2:24, Matthew 19:5-6, and Mark 10:8. ↵
- Close at his heels. ↵
- Entice, persuade. ↵
- Everything else that relates to this business is taken care of. ↵
- Scar. ↵
- Unconstrained show of respect and obedience. ↵
- Regard with indifference, ignore. ↵
- Royal command. ↵
- Conveys in full detail its message. ↵
- Agreeing, conforming. ↵
- Immediate. ↵
- Fluctuating but persistent fever. ↵
- Whatever else my fortunes might be, I cannot begin to be happy. ↵
- The Danish coast. ↵
- With his army, marching across the stage (and then exiting at line 9). ↵
- Permission. ↵
- Unhindered and escorted passage; or, fulfillment of a promise made. ↵
- If. ↵
- Wishes to confer with me for any reason. ↵
- I will pay my respects in person. ↵
- Quietly, without creating a disturbance. ↵
- Soldiers, armed forces. ↵
- The army. ↵
- Major part, heart. ↵
- Exaggeration. ↵
- i.e., reputation to be gained by conquering it. ↵
- i.e., I would not take a lease on it as tenant farmer even for a mere five ducats a year. (The ducat is a gold coin.) ↵
- The King of Norway or of Poland. ↵
- Higher. ↵
- Sold outright as a freehold, in "fee simple." ↵
- The King of Poland (and his army). ↵
- Appear to be insufficient stakes in a quarrel about such a trifling matter. ↵
- The abscess. ↵
- Festers within. ↵
- Externally. ↵
- Right away. ↵
- Accuse, denounce. ↵
- Profit, advantage. ↵
- Wide-ranging capacity for reasoning. ↵
- Able to recall past events and anticipate the future. ↵
- Grow moldy. ↵
- Forgetfulness and heedlessness of the sort one sees in animals. ↵
- Cowardly. ↵
- Caused by thinking too scrupulously about what might happen as a consequence of one's actions. ↵
- Not yet accomplished, still to be done. ↵
- Since. ↵
- Obvious. ↵
- Size and cost. ↵
- Refined and youthful. ↵
- Inspired. ↵
- Presents a scornful face to unforeseeable outcomes. ↵
- Can threaten him with. ↵
- A thing proverbially of no value. ↵
- True greatness is not to be measured solely in terms of being moved to action by a great cause; rather, it is to respond stirringly even to an apparently trivial cause when honor is at stake. The metaphor is from bearbaiting. ↵
- Enough cause to awaken a keen response in me that is both reasonable and passionate. ↵
- And yet I let. ↵
- The illusory and trifling business of striving to gain a reputation for bravery. ↵
- Plot of ground. ↵
- Containing insufficient room for the bodies of the soldiers who are fighting over it. ↵
- Receptacle, container. ↵
- Location: The castle. ↵
- Distraught. ↵
- Deceptions. ↵
- Clears her throat with a "hem" sound. ↵
- Breast. ↵
- Kicks bitterly, i.e., takes offense and reacts suspiciously, at trifles. ↵
- Obscurely. ↵
- Incoherent manner. ↵
- Inference, guessing at some sort of meaning. ↵
- Gape in wonderment; grasp. ↵
- Patch. ↵
- In such a way as to match. ↵
- Which words. ↵
- Deliver, represent. ↵
- Maliciously inclined, prone to suspect the worst. ↵
- As is the case in sin's true nature. ↵
- Trifle. ↵
- Calamity. ↵
- Guilt is so burdened with a self-incriminating fear of detection that it betrays itself by the very fear of being detected. ↵
- What's this. ↵
- As editors have noted, this is a version of a popular song about a woman whose lover has died. ↵
- Hat with cockleshell (a mollusk scallop-like shell) stuck in it as a sign (along with a walking staff and sandals) that the wearer has been a pilgrim to the shrine of Saint James of Compostella in Spain (often associated with forlorn lovers). ↵
- Shoes. (An archaic plural.) ↵
- Signifies. ↵
- Listen, pay attention. ↵
- Gravestone. ↵
- Evidently, a sigh. ↵
- Strewn, bedecked. ↵
- i.e., tears. ↵
- God yield (i.e., reward) you. ↵
- This refers to a folktale about a baker's daughter who, when Jesus entered a baker's shop in disguise asking for something to eat, insisted on letting the visitor have only half of the loaf that the shopkeeper's wife (or the baker himself in some versions) had intended to give in full. When the dough nonetheless swelled to enormous size, the daughter cried "Heugh! heugh!" and was transformed into an owl for her lack of charity. ↵
- Fantasy, brooding. ↵
- No source is known for this song. ↵
- A feast day (February 14) in honor of Saint Valentine; traditionally a day on which the first person one meets is destined to be one's lovemate. ↵
- Early. ↵
- Did up, unlatched. ↵
- Who, when she departed, was no longer a virgin. ↵
- Of it. ↵
- By Jesus and in the name of Christian love and fellow feeling (a mild oath). ↵
- A euphemism for "By God"; with verbal play on the slang term for "penis." ↵
- If. ↵
- When sorrows come, they come not one at a time but in swarms, or (militarily) battalions. ("Spies" are scouts sent in advance of the main army.) Compare the proverb, "Misfortune (Evil) never (seldom) comes alone." ↵
- Justly deserved removal (to England). ↵
- Stirred up, confused. ↵
- Bewildered, muddled. ↵
- Foolishly, naively. ↵
- Secret haste. ↵
- As serious. ↵
- Feeds his feeling of resentment about this whole shocking turn of events. ↵
- Behaves suspiciously and in ways that are hard to interpret or predict, arousing uncertainty and suspicion. ↵
- Is not lacking in gossipers and scandal mongers. ↵
- Polonius's. ↵
- In which business, since they are unprovided with accurate information and yet long for some plausible explanation, they will not hesitate to whisper insinuations about me, their king. ↵
- Kills me over and over. ↵
- Where are my Swiss guards, mercenaries. Swiss mercenaries were often employed as personal guards in the courts of Europe, as today, ceremonially, at the Vatican in Rome. ↵
- Overflowing (literally, rising above and looking over) its shore or boundary. ↵
- Low-lying lands near shore. ↵
- Violent, unrelenting, merciless. ↵
- And, as if the world were to begin all over again, utterly neglecting all ancient traditional customs that should confirm and underprop everything that we say and promise. ↵
- Bay loudly. (Said of hunting dogs.) ↵
- Following a contrary or false scent. (The metaphor is from hunting game.) ↵
- "Sirs" is a standard form of address to commoners. ↵
- Outside. ↵
- Laertes's followers. ↵
- i.e., leave matters to me, let me converse with the King alone. ↵
- Guard. ↵
- Claudius may be thinking of the unsuccessful rebellion of the Giants against Zeus and the Olympian gods in Greek mythology. ↵
- Fear for my personal safety. ↵
- That protects, surrounds defensively. ↵
- Can only peep furtively, as though a barrier, at what it wishes to accomplish. ↵
- But performs little of what it intends. ↵
- Deceived, played with. ↵
- I am resolved in this. ↵
- That I disregard the consequences of my actions both in this world and in the life to come. ↵
- Thoroughly. ↵
- Prevent, hinder. ↵
- I will cease when my will is accomplished, not for anyone else's. ↵
- Manage prudently and economically. ↵
- i.e., is it set down in and required by your need for revenge that you will sweep up friend and foe indiscriminately, like a gambler in a sweepstake, winning all the stakes on the gambling table. ↵
- The female pelican was popularly imagined to feed its young with its own blood. ("Repast" means "feed.") ↵
- Grief-stricken. ↵
- Straightforward, plain. ↵
- Appear. ↵
- Function, power. ↵
- Avenged with equal gravity. ↵
- Until our cause of justice outweighs, as in a balance scales, the wrongful deed of the offender. A Senecan commonplace, that revenge must outdo the original offense. ↵
- Human nature's sensitivity in matters of love is such that it sends some precious part of itself after a lost object of that love. (In this case, Ophelia's sanity has deserted her under the burden of grief for her dead father.) ↵
- In an open coffin. ↵
- A litter on which a corpse or coffin is carried. ↵
- Argue for, urge. ↵
- If. ↵
- Ophelia madly assigns to those present the singing of the refrain to her song. ↵
- Perhaps Ophelia imagines a spinning wheel, where women might sit and work as they sang; or Fortune's wheel. ↵
- The story is unknown, but false stewards do sometimes steal their masters' daughters in romance tales. Perhaps Ophelia is madly fantasizing about her father's uneasy fear that Hamlet might in effect steal her away by seducing her. ↵
- Ophelia's ravings are more eloquent than ordinary sane utterance. ↵
- Object lesson. ↵
- Rosemary, used as a symbol of remembrance at weddings and funerals, is aptly suited to Laertes and to Ophelia herself as wedded offspring of Polonius; pansies for thoughts (compare the French pensées) are appropriate to courtship and love, or to remembering a dead father; fennel, associated with dissembling flattery, and columbines with marital infidelity and ingratitude, may apply to Claudius and Gertrude, though also to Ophelia's own sad story; rue, a bitter-tasting medicinal plant, betokens remorse and repentance, as indicated by its popular name, "herb of grace"; the daisy is conversely the flower of love and of amorous dissembling; and violets signify fidelity, the opposite of columbines. Ophelia may distribute these herbs to her listeners in a symbolically appropriate way. The text is unclear in most instances as to how Ophelia distributes the flowers to those who are with her, but one possibility is that Rosemary and pansies are for Laertes, fennel and columbine for the Queen, rue for Ophelia herself, the daisy and violets for the King. ↵
- This appears to be from a song that is now lost. ↵
- Melancholy, sad thoughts. ↵
- Suffering. ↵
- Grace, beauty. ↵
- His head of hair was as white as flax. ↵
- We loudly but unavailingly proclaim our grief. ↵
- God have mercy. ↵
- Withdraw with me to some other place where we can talk privately. ↵
- Of whichever of. ↵
- Indirect agency. ↵
- Me implicated. ↵
- Recompense. ↵
- Memorial display, sword betokening knightly prowess, or tablet displaying the coat of arms of the deceased. ↵
- Ceremony. ↵
- So that I must demand an explanation for that. ↵
- Location: The castle, or possibly in Horatio's lodgings. ↵
- What sort of men; who. ↵
- A letter. ↵
- If it. ↵
- i.e., comes from Hamlet. ↵
- Led or permitted to believe. ↵
- Looked over, read. ↵
- Means of access. ↵
- Had been at sea for two days. ↵
- Pirate ship. ↵
- Equipment. ↵
- And during the action in which the pirate ship bound us, its intended victim, to the attacking vessel by means of grappling irons to facilitate close combat. ↵
- Merciful thieves. ↵
- i.e., they understood that I would be able to help them in return for their assisting me. ↵
- Come. ↵
- Calibre, size, importance. ↵
- Means of access for delivery. ↵
- Location: The King's private apartments in the castle. ↵
- Confirm my release from a suspicion of having been guilty of Polonius's death. ↵
- Since. ↵
- Acts. ↵
- Punishable by death. ↵
- Greatly. ↵
- Weak, lacking sinew. ↵
- Whichever it may be. Claudius sees his passionate attachment to Gertrude as either an admirable thing or a sign of weakness. ↵
- She is so closely united. (A metaphor from astronomy; two or more celestial bodies meeting or passing in the same degree of the zodiac are said to be in conjunction.) ↵
- Its. (The Ptolemaic astronomical concept here is of the planets revolving around the earth in concentric spheres or transparent globes.) ↵
- Accounting, indictment. ↵
- Common people. ↵
- i.e., Who, testing all his faults by the forgiving standard of their affection for him. ↵
- Like a spring water with such a heavy concentration of lime that it can in effect petrify a piece of wood and thus make it more perfect and unflawed. ↵
- Fetters; here signifying "crimes," "faults." ↵
- Provided with too slight a shaft of wood to be able to cope with so mighty a gust of popular opposition. ↵
- Condition, circumstances. ↵
- Can recall what she once was. ↵
- Stood like a supreme challenger daring the world to match her perfections. ↵
- That I would allow anyone to threaten and insult me with shaking or plucking my beard. Plucking or disparaging a beard was considered a grave insult. ↵
- Unarmed; without possessions or followers. ↵
- i.e., your pardon for having returned without permission. Hamlet writes sardonically, with mock politeness. ↵
- Or is it a deception, and not at all what the letter says. ↵
- Handwriting, style. ↵
- Explain this to me. ↵
- i.e., How could it be true that Hamlet has returned, and yet could it be otherwise than true since we have this letter from him? ↵
- Yes, my lord, so long as you will. ↵
- As one who has been diverted from his journey (like a falcon turning away from its intended quarry to fly at a chance bird). ↵
- And if it is the case that. ↵
- Devising. ↵
- From which he cannot possibly escape. ↵
- Agent, instrument. ↵
- All your other admirable qualities. ↵
- Least worthy in rank of importance. ↵
- i.e., decorative touch (one that is suitable to young men, flashy and handsome). ↵
- Youth and stylishly informal dress suit each other admirably, just as rich fur-lined robes and other sober garments are well suited to the concern for good health and the grave dignity of men in advancing years. ↵
- Are skillful riders. ↵
- Dashing young man. ↵
- In horsemanship. ↵
- As if he had become one body with the horse (like the fabled centaur, with the torso and legs of a horse and the head and arms of a man). ↵
- Surpassed my expectation. ↵
- In my imagining what devices and feats might be possible (in horsemanship). ↵
- One who hails from Normandy. ↵
- Ornament. ↵
- He testified to and conceded your superior ability. ↵
- With respect to your skill and practice in the art of self-defense. ↵
- Movement, defensive strategy, or visual acuity. ↵
- The fencers (French: escrimeurs) of Normandy, he swore, would be seen as having no grace or skill in fencing if compared with you as a fencing opponent. ↵
- Embitter, poison. ↵
- That you would quickly come from France and fence with him. ↵
- Why are you saying "out of this"? ↵
- Comes into being at the right moment (and is subject to change). ↵
- Circumstances that have tested that love. ↵
- Weakens, moderates. ↵
- The charred end of the candlewick that needs occasional trimming to improve the light and reduce smoke. (Love is like a candle in that it consumes itself in its own ardor.) ↵
- Nothing remains always at a constant level of goodness. ↵
- Excess, plethora. (Literally, an inflammation of the chest.) Pleurisy, occasionally spelled "plurisy," was sometimes erroneously supposed to be derived from the Latin plus, pluris, "more," thus suggesting here an excess of humors, one of the four bodily fluids. ↵
- Of its own excess. ↵
- That which. ↵
- Diminutions. ↵
- As there are tongues to dissuade, hands to prevent, and chance events to intervene. ↵
- The regretful sigh of one who has squandered his wealth. Alludes to the common belief that a sigh cost the heart a drop of blood. ↵
- i.e., That costs the heart a drop of blood even while it affords emotional relief. ↵
- i.e., heart of the disease. ↵
- Shield from punishment, by offering the shelter of the church. By custom, churches could provide offer sanctuary for those in need of shelter from the law for many criminal offenses. The King here argues that the demands of revenge should trump such a customary privilege; Laertes should be licensed to kill Hamlet, even inside a church. ↵
- If you will do this. ↵
- Remain out of sight. ↵
- I will arrange for some people to. ↵
- And enhance the lustrous reputation. ↵
- Finally, in conclusion. ↵
- Carelessly unwary. ↵
- Noble-minded. ↵
- Fencing weapons, normally buttoned at the tip to prevent stabbing. ↵
- Not blunted by a button at its tip. ↵
- Treacherous thrust instead of what should have been a conventional fencing move. ↵
- Ointment. ↵
- Quack, charlatan. ↵
- So deadly that if one were merely to dip. ↵
- Medicinal plaster or poultice. ↵
- Excellent, distinctive; uncommon, seldom found. ↵
- Composed of herbs with potent healing properties. ↵
- i.e., Anywhere on earth in the sublunary sphere beneath the moon. ↵
- Graze, wound. ↵
- To the roles we propose to act. ↵
- And if our intentions should be betrayed by our inept performance. ↵
- Attempted. ↵
- If this plot should come to grief (literally, blow up in our faces) when put to the test. ↵
- Gently, wait a minute. ↵
- Your respective skills. ↵
- I have it, I have a plan. ↵
- Offered. ↵
- A drinking cup just for this occasion. ↵
- Sword thrust. Compare the fencing term stoccado. ↵
- Obliquely, across the. ↵
- Leaves with grey-white undersides. Willows were traditionally associated with mourning or unrequited love. ↵
- Wild buttercups, bluebells, or ragged robins. ↵
- Early purple wild orchids. These flowers were often associated with fertility. ↵
- Free-speaking, hedonistic. ↵
- A more indecent name (such as "dogstones" or "cullions," in reference to the testicle-shaped tubers of some of these flowers). "Orchis" also means "testicle" in Greek. ↵
- Chaste. ↵
- Overhanging. ↵
- Coronet-like garland of wild flowers. A coronet is literally a smaller or lesser crown, usually signifying a noble rank below that of royal majesty. ↵
- Persons forsaken in love traditionally hung garlands of this sort on willow trees. ↵
- Malicious branch. Literally, a sliver is a twig. ↵
- Her garland of wild flowers. ↵
- The brook, with its gently flowing water, is personified as weeping for Ophelia's distress. ↵
- During which time. ↵
- Hymns. ↵
- Lacking the ability to comprehend or do anything about. ↵
- Naturally adapted to a watery existence. ↵
- Until. ↵
- Here, as often, a term of endearment and pity. ↵
- Song. ↵
- Weeping is the natural and characteristic way for us humans to express grief; nature holds to her customary course. ↵
- When my tears are all shed, this womanly weakness in me will have run its course. ↵
- Willingly, eagerly. ↵
- Douses, extinguishes. ↵