Drama

64 Hamlet: Act 5

William Shakespeare

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

Scene 1

Enter[1] two Clowns [with spades and mattocks].

3190Clown
Is she to be buried in Christian burial,[2] that willfully seeks her own
salvation?

Other
I tell thee she is, and therefore make her grave straight.[3] The crowner hath sat
3195on her, and finds it Christian burial.[4]

Clown
How can that be, unless she drowned herself in her own defense?[5]

Other
Why, ’tis found so.[6]

Clown
It must be se offendendo,[7] it cannot be else, for here lies the point: if I
3200drown myself wittingly, it argues an act, and an act hath three branches: it is
to act, to do, and to perform.[8] Argal,[9] she drowned herself wittingly.

Other
Nay, but hear you, Goodman Delver.[10]

Clown
3205Give me leave. Here lies the water; good. Here stands the man; good. If the
man go to this water and drown himself, it is, will he, nill he,[11] he goes. Mark
you that. But if the water come to him and drown him, he drowns not
himself. Argal, he that is not guilty of his own death shortens not his own
life.

3210Other
But is this law?

Clown
Ay, marry,[12] is’t, crowner’s quest[13] law.

Other
Will you ha’ the truth on’t?[14] If this had not been a gentlewoman, she should
have been buried out o’Christian burial.

3215Clown
Why, there thou say’st, and the more pity that great folk should have
countenance[15] in this world to drown or hang themselves more than their
even-Christian. Come, my spade. There is no ancient[16] gentlemen but
3220gardeners, ditchers, and gravemakers. They hold up[17] Adam’s profession.

Other
Was he a gentleman?

Clown
‘A was the first that ever bore arms.[18]

Other
Why, he had none.

Clown
3225What, art a heathen? How dost thou understand the Scripture? The Scripture
says Adam digged. Could he dig without arms? I’ll put another question to
thee. If thou answerest me not to the purpose, confess thyself–[19]

Other
Go to.[20]

3230Clown
What is he that builds stronger than either the mason,[21] the shipwright, or the
carpenter?

Other
The gallows-maker, for that frame[22] outlives a thousand tenants.

Clown
3235I like thy wit well, in good faith, the gallows does well. But how does it
well? It does well[23] to those that do ill. Now, thou dost ill to say the gallows is
built stronger than the church. Argal, the gallows may do well to thee.[24] To’t
again,[25] come.

Other
3240“Who builds stronger than a mason, a shipwright, or a carpenter?”

Clown
Ay, tell me that, and unyoke.[26]

Other
Marry, now I can tell.

Clown
To’t.

Other
Mass,[27] I cannot tell.
3245Enter Hamlet and Horatio afar off.

Clown
Cudgel thy brains no more about it, for your dull ass[28] will not mend[29] his pace
with beating; and when you are asked this question next, say “a grave-
3250maker.” The houses that he makes lasts till doomsday. Go get thee to
Johan.[30] Fetch me a stoup[31] of liquor.
[Exit Second Clown.]
[The First Clown digs.]
[Sings.]
In youth when I did love, did love,
Methought it was very sweet
To contract–oh–the time for—a–my behove,[32]
3255Oh, methought there–a–was nothing–a–meet.[33]

Hamlet
Has this fellow no feeling of his business, that ‘a sings at grave-making?

Horatio
Custom hath made it in him a property of easiness.[34]

3260Hamlet
‘Tis e’en so.[35] The hand of little employment hath the daintier sense.[36]

Clown
[Sings.]
But age with his stealing steps
Hath clawed me in his clutch,
3265And hath shipped me intil the land,[37]
As if I had never been such.[38]
[The Clown throws up a skull.]

Hamlet
That skull had a tongue in it and could sing once. How the knave jowls it to
3270the ground, as if ’twere Cain’s jawbone, that did the first murder![39] This might be
the pate of a politician,[40] which this ass now o’er-offices,[41] one that would circumvent
God, might it not?

Horatio
It might, my lord.

Hamlet
Or of a courtier, which could say, “Good morrow, sweet lord, how dost thou,
3275good lord?” This might be my Lord Such-a-one, that praised my Lord Such-
a-one’s horse when ‘a meant to beg it,[42] might it not?

Horatio
Ay, my lord.

Hamlet
Why, e’en so. And now my Lady Worm’s,[43] chapless,[44] and knocked about the
3280mazard[45] with a sexton’s spade. Here’s fine revolution,[46] an[47] we had the trick to
see’t. Did these bones cost no more the breeding but to play at loggets with
’em?[48] Mine ache to think on’t.

Clown
Sings.
3285A pickax and a spade, a spade,
For and[49] a shrouding sheet;
Oh, a pit of clay for to be made
For such a guest is meet.
[He throws up another skull.]

Hamlet
3290There’s another. Why might not that be the skull of a lawyer? Where be his
quiddities now, his quillets,[50] his cases, his tenures,[51] and his tricks? Why does
he suffer this rude[52] knave now to knock him about the sconce[53] with a dirty
shovel, and will not tell him of his action of battery?[54] H’m! This fellow
3295might be in’s time a great buyer of land, with his statutes, his recognizances,
his fines, his double vouchers, his recoveries.[55] Is this the fine of his fines, and
the recovery of his recoveries, to have his fine pate full of fine dirt?[56] Will his
3300vouchers vouch him no more of his purchases, and double ones too, than the
length and breadth of a pair of indentures?[57] The very conveyances of his
lands[58] will hardly lie in this box,[59] and must th’inheritor[60] himself have no
more, ha?

Horatio
Not a jot more, my lord.

3305Hamlet
Is not parchment made of sheepskins?

Horatio
Ay, my lord, and of calves’ skins too.

Hamlet
They are sheep and calves which seek out assurance in that. I will speak to this
fellow.–Whose grave’s this, sirrah?

3310Clown
Mine, sir.
[Sings.]
Oh, a pit of clay for to be made
For such a guest is meet.

Hamlet
I think it be thine indeed, for thou liest in’t.

Clown
3315You lie out on’t, sir, and therefore ’tis not yours. For my part, I do not lie
in’t, and yet it is mine.

Hamlet
Thou dost lie in’t, to be in’t and say ’tis thine. ‘Tis for the dead, not for the
quick;[61] therefore thou liest.

Clown
3320‘Tis a quick[62] lie, sir; ’twill away again from me to you.

Hamlet
What man dost thou dig it for?

Clown
For no man, sir.

Hamlet
What woman, then?

Clown
For none, neither.

3325Hamlet
Who is to be buried in’t?

Clown
One that was a woman, sir, but, rest her soul, she’s dead.

Hamlet
[To Horatio] How absolute[63] the knave is! We must speak by the card,[64] or equivocation[65] will
3330undo us. By the Lord, Horatio, these three years I have taken note of it, the
age is grown so picked that the toe of the peasant comes so near the heel of
the courtier he galls his kibe.[66]–How long hast thou been grave-maker?

Clown
3335Of all the days i’th’ year, I came to’t that day that our last King Hamlet
overcame Fortinbras.

Hamlet
How long is that since?

Clown
Cannot you tell that? Every fool can tell that. It was the very day that young
Hamlet was born–he that is mad and sent into England.

3340Hamlet
Ay, marry, why was he sent into England?

Clown
Why, because ‘a was mad. ‘A shall recover his wits there, or if ‘a do not,
’tis no great matter there.

Hamlet
Why?

Clown
‘Twill not be seen in him there. There the men are as mad as he.

Hamlet
3345How came he mad?

Clown
Very strangely, they say.

Hamlet
How strangely?

Clown
Faith, e’en with losing his wits.

3350Hamlet
Upon what ground?[67]

Clown
Why, here in Denmark. I have been sexton[68] here, man and boy, thirty years.

Hamlet
How long will a man lie i’th’ earth ere he rot?

Clown
3355I’faith, if ‘a be not rotten before ‘a die–as we have many pocky corses[69]
nowadays that will scarce hold the laying in[70]–‘a will last you[71] some eight
year, or nine year. A tanner will last you nine year.

Hamlet
Why he more than another?

Clown
3360Why, sir, his hide is so tanned with his trade that ‘a will keep out water a
great while; and your water is a sore[72] decayer of your whoreson[73] dead body.
[He picks up a skull.] Here’s a skull now: this skull hath lain you i’th’ earth
three-and-twenty years.

Hamlet
Whose was it?

Clown
3365A whoreson mad fellow’s it was. Whose do you think it was?

Hamlet
Nay, I know not.

Clown
A pestilence on him for a mad rogue! ‘A poured a flagon of Rhenish[74] on my
head once. This same skull, sir, was Yorick’s skull, the
King’s jester.

3370Hamlet
This?

Clown
E’en that.

Hamlet
Let me see. [taking the skull] Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio, a
fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy. He hath borne[75] me on his back
3375a thousand times, and now how abhorred in my imagination it is! My gorge rises[76] at it.
Here hung those lips that I have kissed I know not how oft.–Where be your
gibes[77] now? Your gambols,[78] your songs, your flashes of merriment that were
3380wont to set the table on a roar? Not one now to mock your own grinning?
Quite chopfall’n?[79] Now get you to my lady’s chamber[80] and tell her, let her
paint an inch thick, to this favor she must come. Make her laugh at that.
Prithee, Horatio, tell me one thing.

Horatio
What’s that, my lord?

3385Hamlet
Dost thou think Alexander[81] looked o’this fashion i’th’ earth?

Horatio
E’en so.

Hamlet
And smelt so? Pah!
[He throws the skull down.]

Horatio
E’en so, my lord.

3390Hamlet
To what base uses we may return, Horatio! Why may not imagination trace
the noble dust of Alexander till ‘a find it stopping a bunghole?[82]

Horatio
‘Twere to consider too curiously[83] to consider so.

Hamlet
3395No, faith, not a jot. But to follow him thither with modesty enough, and
likelihood to lead it,[84] as thus: Alexander died, Alexander was buried,
Alexander returneth into dust,[85] the dust is earth, of earth we make loam,[86] and
why of that loam whereto he was converted might they not stop a beer-
barrel?

3400Imperial Caesar,[87] dead and turned to clay,
Might stop a hole to keep the wind away.
Oh, that that earth[88] which kept the world in awe
Should patch a wall t’expel the winter’s flaw![89]

3405Enter King, Queen, Laertes, and a coffin [containing the corpse of Ophelia, in funeral procession,
with the “Doctor” or Priest], with Lords attendant.

But soft,[90] but soft; aside! Here comes the King,
The Queen, the courtiers. Who is that they follow?
And with such maimèd rites?[91] This doth betoken
The corpse they follow did with desp’rate hand
3410Fordo it[92] own life. ‘Twas of some estate.[93]
Couch we[94] awhile and mark.
[Hamlet and Horatio conceal themselves. Ophelia’s body is taken to the
grave.]

Laertes
What ceremony else?

Hamlet
[Aside to Horatio] That is Laertes, a very noble youth. Mark.

Laertes
What ceremony else?

3415Priest
Her obsequies have been as far enlarged[95]
As we have warrantise. Her death was doubtful,
And, but that great command o’ersways the order,[96]
She should in ground unsanctified have lodged
Till the last trumpet.[97] For charitable prayers,
3420Shards, flints, and pebbles should be thrown on her;
Yet here she is allowed her virgin crants,[98]
Her maiden strewments,[99] and the bringing home
Of bell and burial.[100]

Laertes
Must there no more be done?

3425Priest
No more be done.
We should profane the service of the dead
To sing sage requiem[101] and such rest to her
As to peace-parted souls.[102]

Laertes
Lay her i’th’ earth,
3430And from her fair and unpolluted flesh
May violets[103] spring! I tell thee, churlish priest,
A minist’ring angel shall my sister be
When thou liest howling.[104]

Hamlet
[To Horatio] What, the fair Ophelia!

3435Queen
[Scattering flowers] Sweets to the sweet! Farewell.
I hoped thou shouldst have been my Hamlet’s wife.
I thought thy bride-bed to have decked, sweet maid,
And not t’have strewed thy grave.

Laertes
Oh, treble woe
3440Fall ten times treble on that cursèd head
Whose wicked deed thy most ingenious sense
Deprived thee of![105]–Hold off the earth awhile,
Till I have caught her once more in mine arms.
[He] leaps in the grave.
3445Now pile your dust upon the quick and dead,[106]
Till of this flat[107] a mountain you have made
T’o’ertop old Pelion, or the skyish head
Of blue Olympus.[108]

Hamlet
[Coming forward] What is he whose grief
3450Bears such an emphasis,[109] whose phrase of sorrow
Conjures the wand’ring stars,[110] and makes them stand[111]
Like wonder-wounded[112] hearers? This is I,
Hamlet the Dane.[113]

Laertes
[Grappling with Hamlet] The devil take thy soul!

3455Hamlet
Thou pray’st not well.
I prithee take thy fingers from my throat,
For, though I am not splenative and rash,[114]
Yet have I something in me dangerous,
Which let thy wiseness fear. Away thy hand!

3460King
Pluck them asunder.

Queen
Hamlet, Hamlet!

3461.1All
Gentlemen!

Horatio
Good my lord, be quiet.
[Hamlet and Laertes are parted.]

Hamlet
Why, I will fight with him upon this theme
Until my eyelids will no longer wag.[115]

3465Queen
Oh, my son, what theme?

Hamlet
I loved Ophelia. Forty thousand brothers
Could not with all their quantity of love
Make up my sum.–What wilt thou do for her?

King
Oh, he is mad, Laertes.

3470Queen
For love of God, forbear him.[116]

Hamlet
‘Swounds,[117] show me what thou’lt do.
Woo’t[118] weep? Woo’t fight? Woo’t fast? Woo’t tear thyself?
Woo’t drink up eisil?[119] Eat a crocodile?
I’ll do’t. Dost thou come here to whine?
3475To outface me with leaping in her grave?
Be buried quick[120] with her, and so will I.
And if thou prate of mountains, let them throw
Millions of acres on us, till our ground,
Singeing his pate against the burning zone,
3480Make Ossa like a wart.[121] Nay, an thou’lt mouth,[122]
I’ll rant as well as thou.

Queen
This is mere[123] madness,
And thus awhile the fit will work on him;
Anon, as patient as the female dove
3485When that her golden couplets[124] are disclosed,[125]
His silence will sit drooping.

Hamlet
[To Laertes] Hear you, sir,
What is the reason that you use me thus?
I loved you ever. But it is no matter.
3490Let Hercules himself do what he may,
The cat will mew, and dog will have his day.
Exit Hamlet.

King
I pray you, good Horatio, wait upon[126] him.
And Horatio [exits too].
[Aside to Laertes] Strengthen your patience in[127] our last night’s speech;
We’ll put the matter to the present push.–[128]
3495Good Gertrude, set some watch over your son.–
This grave shall have a living monument.
An hour of quiet shortly shall we see;
Till then, in patience our proceeding be.
Exeunt.

Scene 2

Enter[129] Hamlet and Horatio.

3500Hamlet
So much for this, sir. Now let me see, the other.
You do remember all the circumstance?

Horatio
Remember it, my lord![130]

Hamlet
Sir, in my heart there was a kind of fighting
That would not let me sleep. Methought I lay
3505Worse than the mutines in the bilboes.[131] Rashly,
And praised be rashness for it: let us know,[132]
Our indiscretion[133] sometime serves us well
When our deep[134] plots do pall,[135] and that should learn[136] us
There’s a divinity that shapes our ends,
3510Rough-hew[137] them how we will.

Horatio
That is most certain.

Hamlet
Up from my cabin,
My sea-gown[138] scarfed[139] about me, in the dark
Groped I to find out them,[140] had my desire,
3515Fingered[141] their packet, and in fine[142] withdrew
To mine own room again, making so bold,
My fears forgetting manners, to unseal
Their grand commission; where I found, Horatio–
Oh, royal knavery!–an exact command,
3520Larded[143] with many several[144] sorts of reasons
Importing[145] Denmark’s health, and England’s too,
With, ho! such bugs and goblins in my life,[146]
That on the supervise, no leisure bated,[147]
No, not to stay[148] the grinding[149] of the ax,
3525My head should be struck off.

Horatio
Is’t possible?

Hamlet
[Showing a document] Here’s the commission. Read it at more leisure.
But wilt thou hear me how I did proceed?

Horatio
I beseech you.

3530Hamlet
Being thus benetted round with villainies–
Ere I could make a prologue to my brains,
They had begun the play–I sat me[150] down,
Devised a new commission, wrote it fair.[151]
I once did hold[152] it, as our statists[153] do,
3535A baseness[154] to write fair, and labored much
How to forget that learning, but, sir, now
It did me yeoman’s service.[155] Wilt thou know
Th’effect of what I wrote?

Horatio
Ay, good my lord.

3540Hamlet
An earnest conjuration[156] from the King,
As England was his faithful tributary,[157]
As love between them like the palm should flourish,[158]
As peace should still[159] her wheaten garland[160] wear
And stand a comma[161] ‘tween their amities,
3545And many suchlike “as”es of great charge,[162]
That on the view and knowing[163] of these contents,
Without debatement further more or less,[164]
He should the bearers put to sudden death,
Not shriving time allowed.

3550Horatio
How was this sealed?

Hamlet
Why, even in that was heaven ordinant.[165]
I had my father’s signet[166] in my purse,
Which was the model[167] of that Danish seal;
Folded the writ up in the form of th’other,[168]
3555Subscribed[169] it, gave’t th’impression,[170] placed it safely,
The changeling[171] never known. Now the next day
Was our sea fight, and what to this was sequent[172]
Thou know’st already.

Horatio
So Guildenstern and Rosencrantz go to’t.

3560Hamlet
Why, man, they did make love to this employment.
They are not near my conscience. Their defeat[173]
Does by their own insinuation[174] grow.
‘Tis dangerous when the baser nature comes
Between the pass and fell incensèd points
3565Of mighty opposites.[175]

Horatio
Why, what a King is this!

Hamlet
Does it not, think’st thee, stand me now upon–[176]
He that hath killed my King and whored my mother,
Popped in between th’election and my hopes,[177]
3570Thrown out his angle[178] for my proper life,[179]
And with such coz’nage[180]–is’t not perfect conscience
To quit him with this arm? And is’t not to be damned
To let this canker of our nature come
In further evil?[181]

3575Horatio
It must be shortly known to him from England
What is the issue of the business there.

Hamlet
It will be short.
The interim’s mine, and a man’s life’s no more
Than to say one.[182] But I am very sorry, good Horatio,
3580That to Laertes I forgot myself,
For by the image of my cause I see
The portraiture of his. I’ll court his favors.[183]
But sure the bravery[184] of his grief did put me
Into a tow’ring passion.

3585Horatio
Peace, who comes here?
Enter young Osric, a courtier.

Osric
Your lordship is right welcome back to Denmark.

Hamlet
I humbly thank you, sir. [Aside to Horatio] Dost know this water-fly?[185]

Horatio
[Aside to Hamlet] No, my good lord.

3590Hamlet
[Aside to Horatio] Thy state is the more gracious,[186] for ’tis a vice to know
him. He hath much land, and fertile. Let a beast be lord of beasts, and his
crib shall stand at the King’s mess.[187] ‘Tis a chuff,[188] but, as I say, spacious in
the possession of dirt.[189]

3595Osric
Sweet lord, if your lordship were at leisure,[190] I should impart a thing to you
from his majesty.

Hamlet
I will receive it, sir, with all diligence of spirit. Put your bonnet[191] to his right use.
‘Tis for the head.

Osric
I thank your lordship, it is very hot.

3600Hamlet
No, believe me, ’tis very cold. The wind is northerly.

Osric
It is indifferent[192] cold, my lord, indeed.

Hamlet
But yet methinks it is very sultry and hot for my complexion.[193]

3605Osric
Exceedingly, my lord, it is very sultry, as ’twere–I cannot tell how. But, my
lord, his majesty bade me signify to you that ‘a has laid a great wager on
your head. Sir, this is the matter–

Hamlet
[Reminding Osric once more about his hat] I beseech you, remember.

3610Osric
Nay, good my lord, for my ease, in good faith.[194] Sir,
3610.1here is newly come to court Laertes–believe me, an
absolute[195] gentlemen, full of most excellent differences,[196]
of very soft society[197] and great showing.[198] Indeed, to speak
feelingly[199] of him, he is the card or calendar of gentry,[200] for
you shall find in him the continent of what part a
3610.5gentleman would see.[201]

Hamlet
Sir, his definement suffers no perdition in you,
though I know to divide him inventorially would dazzle
th’arithmetic of memory, and yet but yaw neither, in
respect of his quick sail.[202] But in the verity of extolment,
3610.10I take him to be a soul of great article, and his infusion
of such dearth and rareness as, to make true diction of
him, his semblable is his mirror, and who else would
trace him, his umbrage, nothing more.[203]

Osric
Your lordship speaks most infallibly of him.

Hamlet
The concernancy,[204] sir? Why do we wrap the gentleman in
3610.15our more rawer breath?[205]

Osric
Sir?

Horatio
[To Hamlet] Is’t not possible to understand in another tongue? You will do’t, sir, really.[206]

Hamlet
[To Osric] What imports the nomination[207] of this gentleman?

3610.20Osric
Of Laertes?

Horatio
[To Hamlet] His purse is empty already; all’s golden words are spent.

Hamlet
[To Osric] Of him, sir.

Osric
I know you are not ignorant–

Hamlet
I would you did, sir. Yet in faith if you did, it would not
3610.25much approve me.[208] Well, sir?

Osric
Sir, you are not ignorant of what excellence Laertes is–

3612.1Hamlet
I dare not confess that, lest I should compare with him in excellence. But to know a man well were to know himself.[209]

Osric
I mean, sir, for his weapon. But in the imputation laid on him by them, in his meed he’s unfellowed.[210] You are not ignorant of what excellence Laertes is at his weapon.

Hamlet
What’s his weapon?

Osric
Rapier and dagger.[211]

3615Hamlet
That’s two of his weapons–but well.[212]

Osric
The King, sir, hath wagered with him six Barbary horses,[213] against the which he
has impawned,[214] as I take it, six French rapiers and poniards,[215] with their assigns, as
3620girdle,[216] hangers, or so.[217] Three of the carriages,[218] in faith, are very dear to fancy,
very responsive to the hilts, most delicate carriages, and of very liberal
conceit.[219]

Hamlet
What call you the carriages?

3622.1Horatio
[To Hamlet] I knew you must be edified by the margin ere you had done.[220]

Osric
The carriages, sir, are the hangers.

Hamlet
3625The phrase would be more germane to the matter if we could carry cannon
by our sides; I would it might be “hangers” till then.[221] But on. Six Barbary
horses against six French swords, their assigns, and three liberal-conceited
carriages: that’s the French bet against the Danish. Why is this “impawned,”
as you call it?

3630Osric
The King, sir, hath laid, sir, that in a dozen passes between yourself and him, he shall
not exceed you three hits. He hath laid on’t twelve for nine,[222] and it would come
to immediate trial, if your lordship would vouchsafe the answer.[223]

3635Hamlet
How if I answer no?[224]

Osric
I mean, my lord, the opposition of your person in trial.

Hamlet
Sir, I will walk here in the hall. If it please his majesty, it is the breathing
3640time of day[225] with me. Let[226] the foils be brought, the gentleman willing, and the
King hold his purpose, I will win for him an I can; if not, I will gain nothing but
my shame and the odd hits.

Osric
Shall I re-deliver you e’en so?

Hamlet
3645To this effect, sir, after what flourish your nature will.

Osric
I commend my duty[227] to your lordship.

Hamlet
Yours, yours.
[Exit Osric.]
‘A does well to commend it himself; there are no tongues else for’s turn.[228]

Horatio
3650This lapwing[229] runs away with the shell on his head.

Hamlet
‘A did comply with his dug[230] before ‘a sucked it. Thus has he, and many
more of the same bevy that I know the drossy age dotes on, only got the tune
3655of the time and outward habit of encounter, a kind of yeasty collection,
which carries them through and through the most fanned and winnowed
opinions; and do but blow them to their trial, the bubbles are out.[231]
3657.1Enter a Lord.

Lord
My lord, his majesty commended him[232] to you by young Osric, who brings back to him that you attend him in the hall. He sends to know if your pleasure hold to play[233] with Laertes, or that[234]
3657.5you will take longer time?

Hamlet
I am constant to my purposes; they follow the King’s pleasure. If his fitness speaks, mine is ready:[235] now or whensoever, provided I be so able as now.

Lord
The King and Queen and all are coming down.

3657.10Hamlet
In happy time.[236]

Lord
The Queen desires you to use some gentle entertainment[237] to Laertes before you fall to play.[238]

Hamlet
She well instructs me.
[Exit Lord.]

Horatio
You will lose this wager, my lord.

Hamlet
3660I do not think so. Since he went into France, I have been in continual
practice; I shall win at the odds.[239] But thou wouldst not think how ill all’s here
about my heart, but it is no matter.

Horatio
Nay, good my lord–

Hamlet
3665It is but foolery, but it is such a kind of gaingiving as would perhaps trouble
a woman.

Horatio
If your mind dislike anything, obey it. I will forestall their repair[240] hither and
say you are not fit.

Hamlet
Not a whit,[241] we defy augury.[242] There’s a special providence[243] in the fall of a
sparrow. If it be now, ’tis not to come; if it be not to come, 3670it will be now; if
it be not now, yet it will come. The readiness is all. Since no man has aught
of what he leaves, what is’t to leave betimes?[244]
3673.1Let be.[245]
3675Trumpets, drums, and officers with cushions. Enter King, Queen, and Lords [including Laertes and Osric, and all the state], with other Attendants with foils and gauntlets, a table, and flagons of wine on it.

King
Come, Hamlet, come, and take this hand from me.
[The King puts Laertes’s hand into Hamlet’s.]

Hamlet
[To Laertes] Give me your pardon, sir. I’ve done you wrong,
But pardon’t as you are a gentleman.
3680This presence[246] knows,
And you must needs have heard, how I am punished
With a sore distraction.[247] What I have done
That might your nature, honor, and exception[248]
Roughly awake, I hear proclaim was madness.
3685Was’t Hamlet wronged Laertes? Never Hamlet.
If Hamlet from himself be ta’en away,
And when he’s not himself does wrong Laertes,
Then Hamlet does it not; Hamlet denies it.
Who does it, then? His madness. If’t be so,
3690Hamlet is of the faction[249] that is wronged;
His madness is poor Hamlet’s enemy.
Sir, in this audience
Let my disclaiming from a purposed evil[250]
Free me so far in your most generous thoughts
3695That I have shot my arrow o’er the house
And hurt my brother.[251]

Laertes
I am satisfied in nature,[252]
Whose motive[253] in this case should stir me most
To my revenge. But in my terms of honor
3700I stand aloof, and will[254] no reconcilement,
Till by some elder masters of known honor
I have a voice and precedent of peace
To keep my name ungored.[255] But till that time
I do receive your offered love like love,
3705And will not wrong it.

Hamlet
I do embrace it freely,[256]
And will this brother’s wager frankly play.–
Give us the foils. Come on.

Laertes
Come, one for me.

3710Hamlet
I’ll be your foil,[257] Laertes. In mine ignorance[258]
Your skill shall like a star i’th’ darkest night
Stick fiery off[259] indeed.

Laertes
You mock me, sir.

Hamlet
No, by this hand.

3715King
Give them the foils, young Osric.
[Foils are handed to Hamlet and Laertes.]
Cousin Hamlet,
You know the wager.

Hamlet
Very well, my lord.
Your grace has laid the odds o’th’weaker side.[260]

King
3720I do not fear it; I have seen you both.
But since he is bettered, we have therefore odds.[261]

Laertes
This is too heavy. Let me see another.
[He exchanges his foil for another.]

Hamlet
3725This likes[262] me well. These foils have all a length?[263]

Osric
Ay, my good lord.
[They] prepare to play.

King
Set me the stoups[264] of wine upon that table.
If Hamlet give the first or second hit,
Or quit in answer of the third exchange,[265]
3730Let all the battlements their ordnance fire.[266]
The King shall drink to Hamlet’s better breath,[267]
And in the cup an union[268] shall he throw
Richer then that which four successive kings
3735In Denmark’s crown have worn. Give me the cups,
And let the kettle to the trumpet speak,
The trumpet to the cannoneer[269] without,
The cannons to the heavens, the heaven to earth,
“Now the King drinks to Hamlet.” Come, begin.
Trumpets the while.[270]
3740And you, the judges, bear a wary eye.

Hamlet
Come on, sir.

Laertes
Come, my lord.
They play. [Hamlet scores a hit.]

Hamlet
One.

Laertes
No.

3745Hamlet
[To Osric] Judgment.

Osric
A hit, a very palpable hit.

Laertes
Well, again.

King
Stay.[271] Give me drink. Hamlet this pearl is thine.
[He drinks, and throws a pearl in Hamlet’s cup.]
3750Here’s to thy health.–Give him the cup.
Trumpets sound, and shot goes off.

Hamlet
I’ll play this bout first. Set it by awhile.
Come. [They fence.] Another hit. What say you?

Laertes
A touch, a touch, I do confess.

3755King
[To the Queen] Our son shall win.

Queen
He’s fat[272] and scant of breath.–
Here, Hamlet, take my napkin,[273] rub thy brows.
[The Queen takes a cup of wine to offer a toast to Hamlet.]
The Queen carouses to thy fortune, Hamlet.

Hamlet
Good madam.

3760King
Gertrude, do not drink.

Queen
I will, my lord, I pray you pardon me.
[She drinks.]

King
[Aside] It is the poisoned cup. It is too late.

Hamlet
3765I dare not drink yet, madam; by and by.

Queen
Come, let me wipe thy face.

Laertes
[Aside to the King] My lord, I’ll hit him now.

King
[Aside to Laertes] I do not think’t.

Laertes
[Aside] And yet ’tis almost ‘gainst my conscience.

3770Hamlet
Come for the third, Laertes, you do but dally.
I pray you, pass[274] with your best violence;
I am afeard you make a wanton of me.[275]

Laertes
Say you so? Come on.
[They] play.

3775Osric
Nothing neither way.

Laertes
Have at you now!
[Laertes wounds Hamlet with his unbated rapier.] In scuffling they change
rapiers. [Hamlet wounds Laertes.]
[276]

King
Part them! They are incensed.

Hamlet
Nay, come again.
[Laertes falls down. The Queen falls down.]

3780Osric
Look to the Queen there, ho!

Horatio
They bleed on both sides. [To Hamlet] How is it, my lord?

Osric
How is’t, Laertes?

Laertes
Why, as a woodcock to mine own springe,[277] Osric;
3785I am justly killed with mine own treachery.

Hamlet
How does the Queen?

King
She swoons to see them bleed.

Queen
No, no, the drink, the drink,
O my dear Hamlet, the drink, the drink!
I am poisoned.
[She dies.]

Hamlet
Oh, villainy! Ho! Let the door be locked.
Treachery! Seek it out.
[Exit Osric.]

Laertes
It is here, Hamlet. Hamlet, thou art slain.
3795No med’cine in the world can do thee good;
In thee there is not half an hour of life.
The treacherous instrument is in thy hand,
Unbated[278] and envenomed. The foul practice[279]
Hath turned itself on me. Lo, here I lie
3800Never to rise again. Thy mother’s poisoned.
I can no more. The King, the King’s to blame.

Hamlet
The point envenomed too? Then, venom, to thy work.
[He] hurts the King.

3805All
Treason, treason!

King
Oh, yet defend me, friends, I am but hurt.

Hamlet
[Forcing the King to drink] Here, thou incestuous, murd’rous,
damnèd Dane,
Drink off this potion. Is thy union here?
3810Follow my mother.
The King dies.

Laertes
He is justly served.
It is a poison tempered[280] by himself.
Exchange forgiveness with me, noble Hamlet.
Mine and my father’s death come not upon thee,
3815Nor thine on me!
[He] dies.

Hamlet
Heaven make thee free of it! I follow thee.
I am dead, Horatio. Wretched Queen, adieu.
You that look pale and tremble at this chance,
That are but mutes or audience to this act,
3820Had I but time, as this fell sergeant Death
Is strict in his arrest, oh, I could tell you–
But let it be. Horatio, I am dead,
Thou liv’st. Report me and my cause aright
To the unsatisfied.

3825Horatio
Never believe it.
I am more an antique Roman[281] than a Dane.
Here’s yet some liquor left.
[He attempts to drink from the poisoned cup, but is prevented by Hamlet.]

Hamlet
As thou’rt a man,
Give me the cup! Let go! By heaven I’ll ha’t.
3830Oh, God, Horatio, what a wounded name,
Things standing thus unknown, shall live behind me!
If thou didst ever hold me in thy heart,
Absent thee from felicity awhile,
And in this harsh world draw thy breath in pain
3835To tell my story.
March afar off, and shout within.
What warlike noise is this?
Enter Osric.

Osric
Young Fortinbras, with conquest come from Poland,
3840To th’ambassadors of England gives this warlike volley.[282]

Hamlet
Oh, I die, Horatio.
The potent poison quite o’ercrows[283] my spirit.
I cannot live to hear the news from England,
But I do prophesy th’election lights
3845On Fortinbras. He has my dying voice.[284]
So tell him, with th’occurrents[285] more and less
Which have solicited.[286] The rest is silence.
Oh, oh, oh, oh!
[He] dies.

Horatio
Now cracks a noble heart. Good night, sweet prince,
3850And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest!
[March within.]
Why does the drum come hither?
Enter Fortinbras and the English Ambassadors, with Drum, Colors, and
Attendants.

Fortinbras
Where is this sight?

3855Horatio
What is it ye would see?
If aught of woe or wonder, cease your search.

Fortinbras
This quarry cries on havoc.[287] O proud Death,
What feast is toward in thine eternal cell,[288]
That thou so many princes at a shot
3860So bloodily hast struck?

Ambassador
The sight is dismal,
And our affairs from England come too late.
The ears are senseless that should give us hearing,
To tell him his commandment is fulfilled,
3865That Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead.
Where should we have our thanks?

Horatio
Not from his mouth,
Had it th’ability of life to thank you;
He never gave commandment for their death.
3870But since so jump upon this bloody question[289]
You from the Polack wars and you from England
Are here arrived, give order that these bodies
High on a stage be placèd the view,
And let me speak to th’yet unknowing world
3875How these things came about. So shall you hear
Of carnal, bloody, and unnatural acts,
Of accidental judgments,[290] casual[291] slaughters,
Of deaths put on by cunning and forced cause,[292]
And in this upshot, purposes mistook
3880Fall’n on th’inventors’ heads. All this can I
Truly deliver.[293]

Fortinbras
Let us haste to hear it,
And call the noblest to the audience.
For me, with sorrow I embrace my fortune.
3885I have some rights of memory[294] in this kingdom,
Which now to claim my vantage doth invite me.[295]

Horatio
Of that I shall have also cause to speak,
3890And from his mouth whose voice will draw on more.
But let this same be presently[296] performed,
Even while men’s minds are wild, lest more mischance
On plots[297] and errors happen.

3895Fortinbras
Let four captains
Bear Hamlet like a soldier to the stage,
For he was likely, had he been put on,[298]
To have proved most royal; and for his passage,
3900The soldiers’ music and the rites of war
Speak[299] loudly for him.
Take up the body. Such a sight as this
Becomes the field, but here shows much amiss.
Go bid the soldiers shoot.
3905Exeunt marching, after the which a peal of ordnance are shot off.
FINIS


  1. Location: A churchyard.
  2. Burial in consecrated ground--something that the Church would deny to any who had committed mortal sin, such as suicide.
  3. Right away.
  4. The coroner, the official charged with conducting an inquest into cases of accidental or violent death, has done so in this case, and has judged the deceased worthy of burial in sanctified ground.
  5. Self-defense could constitute a legitimate defense against a charge of murder, but the speaker here is ludicrous to wonder if suicide could be self-defense.
  6. Determined to be thus in the coroner's verdict.
  7. Presumably an attempt at se defendendo, killing in self-defense.
  8. Legal arguments put forward regarding the disposition of property.
  9. Ergo, therefore.
  10. Master Digger; worthy digger.
  11. Willy-nilly, whether he is willing or not.
  12. Indeed.
  13. Coroner's inquest.
  14. Of it.
  15. Privilege, authority.
  16. Venerable, going back to ancient times.
  17. Uphold, practice, keep up.
  18. (1) was entitled to display the coat of arms of a gentleman; (2) had arms on his body.
  19. i.e., prepare yourself spiritually for death.
  20. An expression of impatience.
  21. Stonemason.
  22. Since that frame, the gallows (used for hanging criminals).
  23. (1) It provides a good answer; (2) The gallows serves well as an instrument of execution.
  24. May serve your turn when it comes time for you to be hanged.
  25. Try again.
  26. i.e., unharness your wit, like a tired team of plow animals; put an end to your mental efforts.
  27. By the Mass. (A common oath.)
  28. Any ordinary plodding ass.
  29. Improve.
  30. i.e., to a tavern in the vicinity whose proprietor is named "Johan" or John.
  31. Flagon, tankard.
  32. To shorten the time for my own benefit.
  33. Suitable, more appropriate.
  34. A thing he can do easily, without distress.
  35. Exactly.
  36. One who seldom does such things is apt to be more squeamish.
  37. i.e., sent me on my way toward death.
  38. i.e., alive and in love.
  39. Though not mentioned in the account in Genesis (4.8) of Cain's murder of his brother Abel, the jawbone was often assumed in medieval representations to be the murder weapon.
  40. The skull of a scheming manipulator intent on gaining political advantage.
  41. Triumphs over by means of political or social advantage.
  42. i.e., who praised that lord's horse with the intent of suggesting that the horse be presented to the praiser as a gift.
  43. i.e., a skull belonging to one who now dances attendance on Lady Worm, in whose court worms feast on dead bodies.
  44. Lacking the lower jaw.
  45. Literally a drinking vessel, here applied to the head.
  46. Reversal of destiny, by the turning of Fortune's wheel.
  47. If.
  48. Was so little care taken in bringing up the owner of these bones that we can now play a game like skittles or horse-shoes with the bones.
  49. And also.
  50. His subtleties and legal niceties.
  51. Property titles.
  52. Foolish.
  53. Head.
  54. Legal action charging physical assault.
  55. His securities acknowledging obligation of a debt, his bonds undertaken to repay debts, his procedures for converting entailed estates into "fee simple" or freehold, his vouchers signed by two signatories guaranteeing the validity of titles to land, (and) his suits to obtain possession of land.
  56. To have the skull of his once elegant head filled with minutely sifted dirt.
  57. Will his vouchers, no matter how carefully duplicated, guarantee him no more land than is needed to bury him in?
  58. Legal documents pertaining to the purchases of his lands.
  59. (1) this coffin; (2) this deed box.
  60. The purchaser, owner.
  61. The living.
  62. Nimble. (Punning on "quick," living, in the previous speech.)
  63. Precise.
  64. i.e., precisely. Literally, by marks indicated on a compass-card showing the points of the compass for navigational use.
  65. Quibbling.
  66. i.e., the world today has become so fastidious and refined that the lower classes ape their social betters, following so closely at their heels as to chafe their "kibes" or chilblains.
  67. Cause, reason. (But the Gravedigger answers in the sense of "land," "country.")
  68. A minor official who tends to church property, ringing bells, digging graves, etc.
  69. Diseased, rotten corpses; literally, riddled with the pox or syphilis.
  70. Hold together long enough to be buried.
  71. He (or "it") will last.
  72. Keen, veritable.
  73. Son-of-a-bitch.
  74. Rhenish wine.
  75. Borne, carried.
  76. I feel nauseated. The gorge is literally the throat or stomach.
  77. Taunts.
  78. Skipping or leaping about in play.
  79. (1) lacking the lower jaw; (2) downcast, dejected.
  80. Dressing table.
  81. Alexander the Great.
  82. Hole in a cask or barrel for filling or emptying.
  83. Consider too minutely, over-subtly.
  84. With moderation and plausibility.
  85. Compare the Anglican burial service, "Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust."
  86. A mixture of moistened sandy clay and straw used to make bricks, plaster, or (in this case) bungs for a beer barrel.
  87. The term can apply to Julius Caesar, or to the emperors starting with Augustus Caesar.
  88. i.e., Caesar's body.
  89. Winter's squalls and destructive force.
  90. Gently, wait a moment.
  91. Truncated ceremonies.
  92. Destroy its.
  93. Of considerable social rank.
  94. Let's conceal ourselves, lie low.
  95. Extended to the full ritual.
  96. Were it not that royal command overrules the customary practice (as prescribed too by our monastic order) of denying sacred burial to suicides.
  97. She should have been buried in unsanctified ground awaiting the Day of Judgment, when all souls will be condemned or saved for all eternity by divine decree.
  98. Garlands betokening maidenhood.
  99. Flowers strewn on a coffin.
  100. Laying the body to rest, to the tolling of the church bell and the recitation of the burial ceremony.
  101. A solemn mass for the dead and other rituals beseeching heaven to grant rest to those who have died at peace with God.
  102. The souls of those who have died at peace with God.
  103. Compare 4.5.172-4 (TLN 2927-37) and note, where violets are associated with fidelity to a lost love.
  104. i.e., are lodged in hell.
  105. Deprived you of your fine, quick intelligence.
  106. The living and the dead.
  107. Level place.
  108. i.e., To tower above Greece's highest mountains, including Olympus, the reputed home of the Olympian gods.
  109. Is conveyed so forcefully.
  110. Whose sorrowful speech invokes the planets to come to his aid.
  111. Remain stationary in their heavenly paths.
  112. Struck with amazement.
  113. A customary form of title for the King of Denmark.
  114. Hot-tempered.
  115. Move, flutter (as a sign that the person is still living).
  116. Let him alone.
  117. By His (Christ's) wounds. (A strong oath.)
  118. Wilt thou, wouldst thou.
  119. Vinegar.
  120. Alive.
  121. Until the vast acres of land that have been thrown on top of us, scorching the very top of this huge mound by its nearness to the burning sun, make Mount Ossa seem comparatively as small as a wart. Ossa is the mountain piled on top of Mount Pelion by the Giants in their rebellious attempt to scale Mount Olympus, home of the Olympian gods.
  122. If you want to rant.
  123. Utter.
  124. Baby pigeons clad in golden-colored down. Pigeons are traditionally though to be gentle and patient.
  125. Hatched.
  126. Attend.
  127. i.e., by recalling.
  128. Immediate test.
  129. Location: The castle.
  130. i.e., How could I ever forget such a thing?
  131. Mutineers in shackles. The word "bilboes" is from Bilbao in Spain, famed for its excellent swords and presumably also for high-quality iron instruments of confinement that could be used to restrain English prisoners aboard Spanish war vessels.
  132. Acknowledge.
  133. An action that is not premeditated.
  134. Secret, obscure.
  135. Lose strength, falter, fade away.
  136. Teach.
  137. Shape roughly.
  138. Seaman's coat.
  139. Loosely wrapped, as with a scarf.
  140. Find out Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, uncover their villainy.
  141. Pilfered, lifted.
  142. Finally, in conclusion.
  143. Garnished.
  144. Different, separate.
  145. Concerning, relating to.
  146. i.e., With all sorts of imagined fanciful terrors if I were allowed to remain alive. ("Bugs" are bugbears, hobgoblins.)
  147. That on the reading of this commission, no delay being permitted.
  148. Await.
  149. Sharpening.
  150. Myself.
  151. In the formal handwriting used in official documents.
  152. Regard.
  153. Statesmen.
  154. As something beneath my dignity.
  155. i.e., It stood me in good stead, by providing me with secretarial handwriting skills.
  156. Entreaty.
  157. Country obligated to pay tribute money, usually as a result of having been subjugated militarily.
  158. The palm branch was traditionally a symbol of festive triumph and flourishing; cf. Psalms, 92:12, "The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree."
  159. Always.
  160. A symbol of peace and fruitful plenty.
  161. i.e., And stand as a link uniting two entities that, though separate, are closely integrated. A period or semicolon would signify a greater break.
  162. And many similarly weighty clauses, each introduced (as in formal legal documents or proclamations) by "As" or "Whereas." (With wordplay on "'as'es" and "asses.")
  163. Knowledge.
  164. Without any further discussion.
  165. Directing, ordaining.
  166. Small seal.
  167. Duplicate, likeness.
  168. Folded the written document just as its predecessor had been folded.
  169. Signed (forging the King's name).
  170. Sealed it by stamping the official seal into the wax.
  171. i.e., The substituted document.
  172. Followed.
  173. Their destruction.
  174. Intrusive intervention, ingratiating themselves with the King by doing his dirty business.
  175. i.e., when persons of lower social station and capability come between the deadly and enraged weapon-thrusts of two such mighty opponents such as the King and Hamlet.
  176. Become incumbent on me now.
  177. i.e., between me and my hopeful expectation of being "elected" to the Danish kingship after the death of my father. Succession to the Danish throne is assumed in this play to have been the choice of a small body of noble electors, like those of the Hapsburg empire or of the papacy. Polonius is presumably such an elector. See lines 274-5 (TLN 3844-5) below, where Hamlet, with his "dying voice," predicts that "th'election" will light on Fortinbras, and 1.2.109 (TLN 291), where Claudius proclaims Hamlet "the most immediate to our throne."
  178. Fishing hook and line.
  179. My own life.
  180. Deception.
  181. To allow this ulcerous sore that afflicts human nature commit further evil?
  182. Than it takes to count to one.
  183. Try to ingratiate myself with Laertes.
  184. Extravagance.
  185. i.e., a giddy, superficial person.
  186. Blessed.
  187. Provided a man, no matter how beastlike, is rich in livestock and possessions (as Osric appears to be), he may eat at the King's meal-table. (A crib is a manger or trough for feeding livestock.)
  188. (1) boor, churl; (2) chatterer, jackdaw.
  189. A large landowner.
  190. i.e., if you have the time, if I'm not interrupting.
  191. Put your hat. Presumably Osric has doffed his hat as a token of respect. Gentleman normally wore hats indoors.
  192. Somewhat, rather.
  193. Constitution.
  194. A polite declining of Hamlet's adjuration to Osric that he put on his hat.
  195. Perfect, complete.
  196. Superior and distinctive qualities.
  197. Agreeable manners.
  198. Distinguished appearance.
  199. With just perception, appreciatively.
  200. The model or paradigm (literally, the map or directory) of good breeding.
  201. One who contains in himself all the attributes a gentleman might wish to see. A "continent" is "that which contains."
  202. Your characterizing of Laertes's qualities in no way diminishes his excellence, though I know that to enumerate all his graces would stupify one's powers of reckoning, and even so could do no more than veer unsteadily off-course (yaw) in a vain attempt to track the brilliance of his accomplishments. Hamlet words this speech in such a way as to mock Osric's vapid and trendy jargon.
  203. But to speak truthful praise of him, I take him to be a person of remarkable substance, one whose essence is of such rarity and excellence that, to speak truly of him, no one can be compared with him other than his own likeness; anyone else attempting to emulate him can only hope to attain the shadow of his substance, not the real thing. More parody on Hamlet's part of Osric's officious flattering mannerisms.
  204. Import, relevance.
  205. i.e., inelegant speech, more so than can hope to succeed in praising Laertes worthily enough.
  206. i.e., (to Hamlet),/ You will truly have your joke at Osric's expense; or (to Osric), You can speak plainly if you just try hard enough.
  207. Naming, mention.
  208. i.e., I wish you would admit me to be knowledgeable ("not ignorant") in these matters, though, even if you did allow that, it would not be much of a commendation, coming from you.
  209. i.e., I dare not claim to know that Laertes is an excellent young man lest I seem to imply a comparable excellence in myself.
  210. i.e., I mean his excellence with his rapier, not his general excellence. But in the reputation he enjoys among knowledgeable people for use of his weapon, in his merit he is unrivalled.
  211. Gentlemanly duellists in the early modern period often fought with a rapier (a straight two-edged fencing weapon with a narrow pointed blade) in one hand and a dagger in the other.
  212. But never mind that.
  213. Arabian horses, originally from the Barbary region of northern Africa, especially (today) Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia.
  214. Laertes has staked, wagered.
  215. Daggers.
  216. Sword belt.
  217. Strap on the girdle or sword belt from which the sword hung, and so on.
  218. Another term for "hangers," straps.
  219. Are very appealing to the "fancy" or imagination, decoratively matched as they are with the hilts or the cases for the swords, finely wrought in workmanship, and elaborately designed.
  220. I knew you'd need to have the matter explained to you more clearly, as if by an explanatory note (often printed in the margins of books), before you're finished asking about "carriages."
  221. Hamlet's satirical point is that the term "carriages" is best reserved for gun carriages on which cannon are mounted, rather than pretentiously applied to mere straps used to hold rapiers and their hilts.
  222. Seemingly, the King has "laid" or wagered that, in a dozen "passes" or bouts of fencing, the total number of hits scored by Laertes will not exceed Hamlet's total by three; to win, Laertes would have to win at least eight to Hamlet's four, two to one odds.
  223. Be so good as to accept the challenge.
  224. By replying in pretended ignorance as though he has been asked for a simple "yes" or "no" answer, Hamlet mischievously refuses to acknowledge that the polite formula in which the challenge has been delivered to him requires that he acquiesce.
  225. Time for exercise.
  226. i.e., If.
  227. I dedicate my service. (A conventionally polite phrase of departure.)
  228. i.e., He needs to commend his own virtues; no one else will do it for him.
  229. Plover, a wading bird known to flap its wings and scurry about in a wily fashion calculated to draw intruders away from the nest. According to legend, a newly hatched bird was thought to run around with the shell still on its head. Horatio satirically alludes to Osric's fatuous mannerisms and to his confusion about wearing or not wearing his hat.
  230. He bowed ceremoniously to his mother's or nurse's breast.
  231. Thus has he--and many more of the same sort that our frivolous age dotes on--acquired the trendy manner of speech of the time and formulaic conversation with courtiers of their own kind: a kind of frothy repertoire of current phrases which enables such gallants to pass themselves off as persons of the most select and well-sifted views; and yet do but test these creatures by merely blowing on them, and their bubbles burst.
  232. Has sent his commendations, his greetings.
  233. Fence.
  234. Or if.
  235. If this suits his convenience, it suits me as well.
  236. i.e., They come at an opportune time.
  237. Courteous greeting.
  238. Begin fencing.
  239. According to the wager as defined by the King at line 116 (TLN 3630-2) above, which have given Hamlet favorable odds.
  240. Coming.
  241. Not at all.
  242. i.e., superstition, or hunches. Literally, divination from auspices or omens, such as the flight of birds.
  243. Providential direction oversees even the smallest details of human history. Calvinist preachers especially were fond of quoting Christ's teaching in Matthew 10:29: "Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father." See also Matthew 6:28-30: "Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin . . . Wherefore, if God so clothe the grasses of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?"
  244. Being in readiness is the crucially important thing, since no one can truly be said to possess the worldly goods and physicality that must be left behind at the moment of death. Why then should it matter if one must leave those things "betimes," i.e., earlier rather than later?
  245. Enough; say no more. Leave things as they are.
  246. Royal assembly.
  247. Afflicted by a serious mental disturbance.
  248. Disapproval, dissatisfaction.
  249. Party.
  250. Let my denial of having had any evil intention.
  251. i.e., comrade, fellow gentleman.
  252. i.e, as to my personal feelings.
  253. The promptings of which.
  254. Desire, will allow.
  255. Until by the official judgment of those gentlemen of the court who preside over the duel I can obtain an authoritative pronouncement and previous instance of a similar reconciliation to clear my reputation of any injury. Laertes declares himself ready to let the outcome of the duel determine whether Hamlet has wronged him or not, following the medieval custom of trial by combat.
  256. Voluntarily and without ill feeling.
  257. Hamlet puns on the term. Literally, a foil is a thin metal background used to set off and enhance the brilliance of a jewel. Hamlet modestly suggests that he will make Laertes look good in fencing by means of a contrasting comparison of the two.
  258. i.e., comparative inexperience in fencing. Hamlet's modesty here is polite and tactical.
  259. Stand out brilliantly.
  260. Bet on the weaker side.
  261. i.e., since Laertes is the favored contestant, we have settled on odds according to which Laertes will have to win at least eight of the twelve bouts of fencing to your four (as announced by Osric at line 116 (TLN 3630-2) above.
  262. Pleases.
  263. Are equal in length.
  264. Flagons.
  265. Or shows himself a worthy opponent of Laertes by winning on the third exchange.
  266. Let the soldiers stationed on the battlements or parapets fire their cannon.
  267. Better energy and performance.
  268. i.e., pearl.
  269. The soldier(s) firing the cannon.
  270. The trumpeters sound their trumpets while the King drinks.
  271. Stop.
  272. Not physically fit, out of training.
  273. Here's a handkerchief.
  274. Thrust.
  275. I fear you are trifling with me, treating me as if I were a spoiled child.
  276. Though Hamlet presumably does not know that Laertes's sword is also tipped with poison, the poison does its work on Laertes, who realizes that he is "justly killed" with his own treachery (line 227, TLN 3785).
  277. I am like that proverbially stupid bird, the woodcock, caught in my own trap.
  278. Not blunted with a button.
  279. Plot, stratagem.
  280. Mixed.
  281. i.e., one who embraces death, if necessary by suicide, before dishonor.
  282. Simultaneous firing of weapons in a military salute.
  283. Proclaims triumph over (like the winner of a cockfight).
  284. Vote (in "th'election" referred to in the previous line). As crown prince and one who was named successor to the throne by Claudius, Hamlet has a presumed right to be one of the electors of the royal succession.
  285. The events of greater or lesser importance.
  286. Moved, urged (me in what I have done or attempted, and in my wish to support the succession of Fortinbras to the throne).
  287. This heap of corpses (literally, slaughtered game) loudly proclaims a general slaughter. "Cry havoc" in battle is the signal for pillage, slaughter, and a total laying waste.
  288. O thou insolent and mighty Death, what feasting on the slain is being prepared in your everlasting dwelling place.
  289. So hard on the heels of this bloody business.
  290. Retributive acts brought about by accident (such as the death of Polonius).
  291. Chance.
  292. Of deaths gratuitously instigated by cunning stratagems and contrivances.
  293. Report.
  294. Claims that must not be forgotten.
  295. Which my favorable position and opportunity now invite met to claim.
  296. Immediately.
  297. On top of plots.
  298. Invested in royal office and thereby given the opportunity to prove what sort of ruler he would be.
  299. (Let the beating drums) speak.

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Hamlet: Act 5 by William Shakespeare is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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