Hamlet, Prince of Denmark
The following version of Hamlet
is based on the text in the authoritative 1914 Oxford Edition of
Shakespeare's works, edited by W. J. Craig. The text numbers the
lines, including those with stage directions such as "Enter" and
"Exit." Annotations (notes and definitions) in the text of the play
appear in brackets in boldfaced type.
Act 1, Scene 1: Elsinore. A platform
before the castle. [A floor
surrounded by battlements]
Act 1, Scene 2: A room of state in the
Act 1, Scene 3: A room in the house of
Act 1, Scene 4: A platform before the
Act 1, Scene 5: Another part of the
Act 2, Scene 1: A room in the house of
Act 2, Scene 2: A room in the castle.
Act 3, Scene 1: A room in the castle.
Act 3, Scene 2: A hall in the castle.
Act 3, Scene 3: A room in the castle.
Act 3, Scene 4: The queen's apartment.
Act 4, Scene 1: A room in the castle.
Act 4, Scene 2: Another room in the
Act 4, Scene 3: Another room in the
Act 4, Scene 4: A plain in Denmark.
Act 4, Scene 5: Elsinore. A room in the
Act 4, Scene 6: Another room in the
Act 4, Scene 7: Another room in the
Act 5, Scene 1: A churchyard [cemetery]
Act 5, Scene 2: A hall in the castle.
Act 1, Scene 1
Elsinore. A platform before the castle.
Francisco at his post. Enter BERNARDO.
BERNARDO: Who’s there?
FRANCISCO: Nay, answer me; stand, and unfold [identify]
BERNARDO: Long live the
FRANCISCO: You come most carefully upon your hour.
BERNARDO: ’Tis now struck twelve; get thee to bed,
FRANCISCO: For this relief much thanks; ’tis bitter
And I am sick at heart.
BERNARDO: Have you had quiet guard?
FRANCISCO: Not a mouse stirring.
BERNARDO: Well, good-night.
If you do meet Horatio and
The rivals [partners] of my watch, bid them make haste.
FRANCISCO: I think I hear them. Stand, ho! Who’s
Enter HORATIO and MARCELLUS.
HORATIO: Friends to this ground [Friends to Elsinore].
MARCELLUS: And liegemen to the Dane [loyal subjects of the king].
FRANCISCO: Give you good-night.
MARCELLUS: O! farewell, honest soldier:
Who hath reliev’d you?
FRANCISCO: Bernardo has my place.
Give you good-night.
MARCELLUS: Holla! [Hello!]
What! is Horatio there?
HORATIO: A piece of him.
[piece of him: Horatio is only
BERNARDO: Welcome, Horatio; welcome, good
MARCELLUS: What! has this thing appear’d again
BERNARDO: I have seen nothing.
MARCELLUS: Horatio says ’tis but our fantasy,
And will not let belief take hold of him
Touching this dreaded sight twice seen of
Therefore I have entreated him along
With us to watch the minutes of this night;
That if again this apparition come,
He may approve our eyes and speak to it.
HORATIO: Tush, tush! ’twill not
BERNARDO: Sit down a while,
And let us once again assail your ears,
[assail . . . ears: Tell you; fill
That are so fortified against our story,
What we two nights have seen.
HORATIO: Well, sit we
And let us hear Bernardo speak of this.
BERNARDO: Last night of all,
When yond same star that’s westward from the pole
[yond: Yonder; star: North Star,
on the outer edge of the Little Dipper.]
Had made his course to illume that part of heaven
Where now it burns, Marcellus and
The bell then beating one,—
MARCELLUS: Peace! break thee off; look, where it comes
BERNARDO: In the same figure, like the king that’s dead.
[the king: Old King Hamlet, who
MARCELLUS: Thou art a scholar; speak to it,
BERNARDO: Looks it not like the king? mark it,
HORATIO: Most like: it harrows me with fear and
BERNARDO: It would be spoke to.
MARCELLUS: Question it, Horatio.
HORATIO: What art thou that usurp’st this time of
Together with that fair and war-like form
In which the majesty of buried Denmark
[buried Denmark: The buried king]
Did sometimes march? by heaven I charge thee, speak!
MARCELLUS: It is offended.
BERNARDO: See! it stalks
HORATIO: Stay! speak, speak! I charge thee, speak! [Exit
MARCELLUS: ’Tis gone, and will not answer.
BERNARDO: How now, Horatio! you tremble and look
Is not this something more than fantasy?
What think you on
HORATIO: Before my God, I might not this believe
Without the sensible and true avouch [testimony]
Of mine own eyes.
MARCELLUS: Is it not like the king?
HORATIO: As thou art to
Such was the very armour he had on
When he the ambitious Norway [king
of Norway] combated;
So frown’d he once, when, in an angry parle [parley] ,
He smote the sledded Polacks on the ice.
[smote . . . ice: Struck his
poleax (long-handled battle-axe) on the ice]
MARCELLUS: Thus twice before, and jump at this dead hour,
[jump . . . hour: At this very
With martial stalk hath he gone by our watch.
[martial stalk: The walk of a
HORATIO: In what particular thought to work I know
But in the gross and scope of my opinion,
[in . . . opinion: Overall I
This bodes some strange eruption to our
MARCELLUS: Good now, sit down, and tell me, he that
Why this same strict and most observant watch
So nightly toils the subject of the land;
And why such daily cast of brazen cannon,
And foreign mart for implements of
Why such impress of shipwrights, whose sore task
Does not divide the Sunday from the week;
What might be toward, that this sweaty haste
Doth make the night joint-labourer with the day:
Who is ’t that can inform
[Why this . . . inform me: Why are
we keeping this nightly watch up here on the castle? Why are our
artisans hard at work every day making cannons, why is our country
so busy buying weapons of war, and why are we hiring so many men
to build ships? Why is everyone working in such a sweat, day and
night. Who can tell me?]
HORATIO: That can I;
At least, the whisper goes so. Our last king [King Hamlet],
Whose image even but now appear’d to us,
Was, as you know, by Fortinbras of Norway,
Thereto prick’d on by a most emulate
[prick'd . . . pride: Goaded on by
a most ambitious pride]
Dar’d to the combat; in which our valiant Hamlet—
For so this side of our known world esteem’d him—
Did slay this Fortinbras; who, by a seal’d compact,
Well ratified by law and heraldry,
Did forfeit with his life all those his
Which he stood seiz’d of, to the conqueror;
Against the which, a moiety competent [reasonable portion]
Was gaged [pledged] by our
king; which had return’d
To the inheritance of Fortinbras,
Had he been vanquisher; as, by the same
And carriage of the article design’d,
His fell to Hamlet. Now, sir, young Fortinbras,
Of unimproved mettle hot and full,
Hath in the skirts of Norway here and there
Shark’d up a list of lawless
[Shark'd . . . resolutes:
For food and diet, to some enterprise
That hath a stomach in ’t; which is no other—
As it doth well appear unto our state—
But to recover of us, by strong hand
And terms compulsative, those foresaid
[terms compulsative: Terms forced
So by his father lost. And this, I take it,
Is the main motive of our preparations,
The source of this our watch and the chief head
Of this post-haste and romage [heightened
activity] in the land.
BERNARDO: I think it be no other but e’en
Well may it sort that this portentous figure [the ghost]
Comes armed through our watch, so like the king
That was and is the question of these wars.
HORATIO: A mote [speck]
it is to trouble the mind’s eye.
In the most high and palmy state of
A little ere [before] the
mightiest Julius [Julius Caesar]
The graves stood tenantless and the sheeted dead
Did squeak and gibber in the Roman streets;
As stars with trains of fire and dews of blood,
Disasters in the sun; and the moist star [moon]
Upon whose influence Neptune’s empire stands
[Upon . . . stands: The seas make
up the empire of Neptune, the god of the sea in Roman mythology.
The ebb and flow of the tides depend on the gravitational pull of
Was sick almost to doomsday with eclipse;
And even the like precurse of fierce events,
As harbingers preceding still the fates
And prologue to the omen coming
Have heaven and earth together demonstrated
Unto our climatures and countrymen.
[And even . . . countrymen:
Denmark is experiencing the same kind of ill omens that preceded
But, soft! [soft: Pay attention;
stand at attention; take note] behold! lo! where it comes
I’ll cross it, though it blast me. Stay,
If thou hast any sound, or use of voice,
Speak to me:
If there be any good thing to be done,
That may to thee do ease and grace to me,
If thou art privy to thy country’s fate,
Which happily foreknowing may avoid,
Or if thou hast uphoarded [hoarded,
stored up] in thy life
Extorted treasure in the womb of
For which, they say, you spirits oft walk in death, [Cock
Speak of it: stay, and speak! Stop it, Marcellus.
MARCELLUS: Shall I strike at it with my partisan [long-shafted weapon mounted with a
HORATIO: Do, if it will not stand.
HORATIO: ’Tis here! [Exit Ghost.
MARCELLUS: ’Tis gone!
We do it wrong, being so majestical,
To offer it the show of violence;
For it is, as the air,
And our vain blows malicious mockery.
BERNARDO: It was about to speak when the cock crew [crowed].
HORATIO: And then it started like a guilty thing
Upon a fearful summons. I have heard,
The cock, that is the trumpet to the
Doth with his lofty and shrill-sounding throat
Awake the god of day; and at his warning,
Whether in sea or fire, in earth or air,
The extravagant and erring spirit hies [runs off]
To his confine; and of the truth
This present object made probation [proof].
MARCELLUS: It faded on the crowing of the cock.
Some say that ever ’gainst that season comes
Wherein our Saviour’s birth is celebrated,
The bird of dawning [rooster]
singeth all night
And then, they say, no spirit can walk abroad;
The nights are wholesome; then no planets strike,
No fairy takes, nor witch hath power to charm,
So hallow’d and so gracious is the time.
HORATIO: So have I heard and do in part believe
But, look, the morn in russet mantle clad,
Walks o’er the dew of yon high eastern hill;
Break we our watch up; and by my advice
Let us impart what we have seen to-night
Unto young Hamlet; for, upon my
This spirit, dumb to us, will speak to him.
Do you consent we shall acquaint him with it,
As needful in our loves, fitting our duty?
MARCELLUS: Let’s do ’t, I pray; and I this morning
Where we shall find him most conveniently. [Exeunt. [Exeunt is
a stage direction indicating
Act 1, Scene 2
A room of state in the castle.
Enter the KING, QUEEN, HAMLET, POLONIUS, LAERTES, VOLTIMAND,
CORNELIUS, Lords, and Attendants.
KING: Thought yet of Hamlet our dear brother’s death
The memory be green, and that it us befitted
To bear our hearts in grief and our whole
To be contracted in one brow of woe,
Yet so far hath discretion fought with nature
That we with wisest sorrow think on him,
Together with remembrance of ourselves.
Therefore our sometime sister, now our
The imperial jointress of this war-like state,
Have we, as ’twere with a defeated joy,
With one auspicious and one dropping eye,
With mirth in funeral and with dirge in marriage,
In equal scale weighing delight and
Taken to wife: nor have we herein barr’d
Your better wisdoms, which have freely gone
With this affair along: for all, our thanks.
Now follows, that you know, young Fortinbras,
Holding a weak supposal [supposition;
assumption] of our
Or thinking by our late dear brother’s death
Our state to be disjoint and out of frame,
Colleagued [coupled; joined]
with the dream of his advantage,
He hath not fail’d to pester us with message,
Importing the surrender of those
Lost by his father, with all bands of law,
To our most valiant brother. So much for him.
Now for ourself and for this time of meeting.
Thus much the business is: we have here writ
To Norway, uncle of young
Who, impotent and bed-rid, scarcely hears
Of this his nephew’s purpose, to suppress
His further gait herein; in that the levies,
The lists and full proportions, are all made
Out of his subject; and we here
You, good Cornelius, and you, Voltimand,
For bearers of this greeting to old Norway,
Giving to you no further personal power
To business with the king more than the scope
Of these delated [outlined]
Farewell and let your haste commend your duty.
CORNELIUS and VOLTIMAND: In that and all things will we show
KING: We doubt it nothing: heartily farewell. [Exeunt
VOLTIMAND and CORNELIUS.
And now, Laertes, what’s the news with you?
You told us of some suit; what is ’t,
You cannot speak of reason to the Dane,
And lose your voice; what wouldst thou beg, Laertes,
That shall not be my offer, not thy asking?
The head is not more native to the heart,
The hand more instrumental to the
Than is the throne of Denmark to thy father.
What wouldst thou have, Laertes?
LAERTES: Dread my lord,
[Dread my lord: Dreaded lord;
esteemed lord; great lord]
Your leave and favour to return to France;
From whence though willingly I came to
To show my duty in your coronation,
Yet now, I must confess, that duty done,
My thoughts and wishes bend again toward France
And bow them to your gracious leave and pardon.
KING: Have you your father’s leave? What says
POLONIUS: He hath, my lord, wrung from me my slow
By laboursome petition, and at last
Upon his will I seal’d my hard consent:
I do beseech you, give him leave to go.
KING: Take thy fair hour, Laertes; time be
And thy best graces spend it at thy will.
But now, my cousin Hamlet, and my son,—
HAMLET: [Aside.] A little more than kin, and less than kind. [In an aside, a character lowers his voice or whispers
so that another character (or other characters) onstage cannot
hear him. Sometimes, the speaker of an aside allows a friend or
someone else near him to hear the aside.]
KING: How is it that the clouds still hang on you?
HAMLET: Not so, my lord; I am too much i’ the
[I am . . . sun: A pun. Hamlet is
subtly intimating that he does not like being the son, or stepson,
QUEEN: Good Hamlet, cast thy nighted colour off,
And let thine eye look like a friend on Denmark.
Do not for ever with thy vailed lids
Seek for thy noble father [old
Hamlet] in the dust:
Thou know’st ’tis common; all that live must
Passing through nature to eternity.
HAMLET: Ay, madam, it is common.
QUEEN: If it be,
Why seems it so particular with thee?
HAMLET: Seems, madam! Nay, it is; I know not
’Tis not alone my inky cloak, good mother,
Nor customary suits of solemn black,
Nor windy suspiration of forc’d breath,
No, nor the fruitful river in the eye,
Nor the dejected haviour [appearance]
Together with all forms, modes, shows of grief,
That can denote me truly; these indeed seem,
For they are actions that a man might play:
But I have that within which passeth show;
[But . . . show: No one can see
what I am thinking or feeling.]
These but the trappings and the suits of
KING: ’Tis sweet and commendable in your nature,
To give these mourning duties to your father:
But, you must know, your father lost a father;
That father lost, lost his; and the survivor bound
In filial obligation for some
To do obsequious sorrow; but to persevere
In obstinate condolement [mourning]
is a course
Of impious stubbornness; ’tis unmanly grief:
It shows a will most incorrect to heaven,
A heart unfortified, a mind
An understanding simple and unschool’d:
For what we know must be and is as common
As any the most vulgar thing to sense,
Why should we in our peevish opposition
Take it to heart? Fie! ’tis a fault to
A fault against the dead, a fault to nature,
To reason most absurd, whose common theme
Is death of fathers, and who still hath cried,
From the first corse [corpse]
till he that died to-day,
‘This must be so.’ We pray you, throw to
This unprevailing woe, and think of us
As of a father; for let the world take note,
You are the most immediate to our throne;
And with no less nobility of love
Than that which dearest father bears his
Do I impart toward you. For your intent
In going back to school in Wittenberg,
It is most retrograde [contrary]
to our desire;
And we beseech you, bend you to remain
Here, in the cheer and comfort of our
Our chiefest courtier, cousin, and our son.
QUEEN: Let not thy mother lose her prayers,
I pray thee, stay with us; go not to Wittenberg.
HAMLET: I shall in all my best obey you, madam.
KING: Why, ’tis a loving and a fair
Be as ourself in Denmark. Madam, come;
This gentle and unforc’d accord of Hamlet
Sits smiling to my heart; in grace whereof,
No jocund health that Denmark drinks to-day,
But the great cannon to the clouds shall
And the king’s rouse the heavens shall bruit again,
Re-speaking earthly thunder. Come away.
[ No jocund . . . thunder: The
great cannon shall boom to the skies while I drink a toast that
heaven itself shall hear resound again and again, echoing like
[Exeunt all except HAMLET.
HAMLET: O! that this too too solid flesh would
Thaw and resolve itself into a dew;
Or that the Everlasting had not
His canon ’gainst self-slaughter! O God! O God!
[Or that . . . slaughter: Or that
God had not forbade suicide.]
How weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable
Seem to me all the uses of this world.
Fie on ’t! O fie! ’tis an unweeded garden,
That grows to seed; things rank and gross in
Possess it merely. That it should come to this!
But two months dead: nay, not so much, not two:
So excellent a king; that was, to this,
Hyperion to a satyr; so loving to my mother
[Hyperion: Father of Helios, the
sun god in Greek mythology; satyr: In Greek mythology, a
lecherous, goatlike man]
That he might not beteem the winds of
Visit her face too roughly. Heaven and earth!
Must I remember? why, she would hang on him,
As if increase of appetite had grown
By what it fed on; and yet, within a month,
Let me not think on ’t: Frailty, thy name is
A little month; or ere those shoes were old
With which she follow’d my poor father’s body,
Like Niobe, all tears; why she, even she,—
O God! a beast, that wants discourse of reason,
Would have mourn’d longer,—married with mine
My father’s brother, but no more like my father
Than I to Hercules: within a month,
Ere yet the salt of most unrighteous tears
Had left the flushing in her galled eyes,
She married. O! most wicked speed, to
With such dexterity to incestuous sheets.
It is not nor it cannot come to good;
But break, my heart, for I must hold my tongue!
Enter HORATIO, MARCELLUS, and BERNARDO.
HORATIO: Hail to your
HAMLET: I am glad to see you well:
Horatio, or I do forget myself.
HORATIO: The same, my lord, and your poor servant
HAMLET: Sir, my good friend; I’ll change that name with
And what make you from Wittenberg, Horatio?
MARCELLUS: My good lord,—
HAMLET: I am very glad to see you. [To BERNARDO.]
Good even, sir.
But what, in faith, make you from Wittenberg?
HORATIO: A truant [lazy;
idle] disposition, good my lord [my good lord].
HAMLET: I would not hear your enemy say so,
Nor shall you do mine ear that violence,
To make it truster of your own report
Against yourself; I know you are no truant.
But what is your affair in
We’ll teach you to drink deep ere you depart.
HORATIO: My lord, I came to see your father’s
HAMLET: I pray thee, do not mock me,
I think it was to see my mother’s wedding.
HORATIO: Indeed, my lord, it follow’d hard
HAMLET: Thrift, thrift, Horatio! the funeral bak’d
Did coldly furnish forth the marriage tables.
[the funeral bak'd . . . tables:
The marriage took place so soon after the death of old Hamlet that
food from the funeral was served at the wedding reception.]
Would I had met my dearest foe in heaven
Ere [before] I had ever
seen that day, Horatio!
My father, methinks I see my
HORATIO: O! where, my lord?
HAMLET: In my mind’s eye, Horatio.
HORATIO: I saw him once; he was a goodly king.
HAMLET: He was a man, take him for all in all,
I shall not look upon his like
HORATIO: My lord, I think I saw him yesternight.
HAMLET: Saw who?
HORATIO: My lord, the king your father.
HAMLET: The king, my father!
HORATIO: Season your admiration for a
With an attent [attentive]
ear, till I may deliver,
Upon the witness of these gentlemen,
This marvel to you.
HAMLET: For God’s love, let me hear.
HORATIO: Two nights together had these
Marcellus and Bernardo, on their watch,
In the dead vast and middle of the night,
Been thus encounter’d: a figure like your father,
Armed at points exactly, cap-a-pe [variant
spelling of cap-a-pie,
meaning from head to toe],
Appears before them, and with solemn
Goes slow and stately by them: thrice he walk’d
By their oppress’d and fear-surprised eyes,
Within his truncheon’s length; whilst they, distill’d
[truncheon's length: The
apparition was no farther from them than the length of a
truncheon, a staff symbolizing a king's authority.]
Almost to jelly with the act of fear,
Stand dumb and speak not to him. This to
In dreadful secrecy impart they did,
And I with them the third night kept the watch;
Where, as they had deliver’d, both in time,
Form of the thing, each word made true and good,
The apparition comes. I knew your
These hands are not more like.
HAMLET: But where was this?
MARCELLUS: My lord, upon the platform [floor surrounded by battlements]
where we watch’d.
HAMLET: Did you not speak to it?
HORATIO: My lord, I
But answer made it none; yet once methought
It lifted up its head and did address
Itself to motion, like as it would speak;
But even then the morning cock crew [crowed] loud,
And at the sound it shrunk in haste
And vanish’d from our sight.
HAMLET: ’Tis very strange.
HORATIO: As I do live, my honour’d lord, ’tis
And we did think it writ down in our duty
To let you know of
HAMLET: Indeed, indeed, sirs, but this troubles
Hold you the watch to-night?
MARCELLUS and BERNARDO: We do, my lord.
HAMLET: Arm’d, say you?
MARCELLUS and BERNARDO: Arm’d, my
HAMLET: From top to toe?
MARCELLUS and BERNARDO: My lord, from head to
HAMLET: Then saw you not his face?
HORATIO: O yes! my lord; he wore his beaver up.
[beaver: Shield on the helmet of a
suit of armor. The beaver protects the face. It can be raised on
HAMLET: What! look’d he
HORATIO: A countenance more in sorrow than in
HAMLET: Pale or red?
HORATIO: Nay, very pale.
HAMLET: And fix’d his eyes upon you?
HAMLET: I would I had been there.
HORATIO: It would have much amaz’d you.
HAMLET: Very like, very like. Stay’d it long?
HORATIO: While one with moderate haste might tell a
MARCELLUS and BERNARDO: Longer,
HORATIO: Not when I saw it.
HAMLET: His beard was grizzled, no?
HORATIO: It was, as I have seen it in his life,
A sable silver’d [black beard with
HAMLET: I will watch
Perchance ’twill walk again.
HORATIO: I warrant it will.
HAMLET: If it assume my noble father’s person,
I’ll speak to it, though hell itself should gape
And bid me hold my peace. I pray you
If you have hitherto conceal’d this sight,
Let it be tenable in your silence still;
[Let . . . still: Don't tell
anyone about it.]
And whatsoever else shall hap [happen]
Give it an understanding, but no tongue:
I will requite your loves. So, fare you
[requite . . . loves: Pay you
Upon the platform, ’twixt [between]
eleven and twelve,
I’ll visit you.
ALL: Our duty to your honour.
HAMLET: Your loves, as mine to you. Farewell. [Exeunt
HORATIO, MARCELLUS, and BERNARDO.
My father’s spirit in arms! all is not
I doubt some foul play: would the night were come!
Till then sit still, my soul: foul deeds will rise,
Though all the earth o’erwhelm them, to men’s eyes.
Act 1, Scene 3
A room in the house of Polonius.
Enter LAERTES and OPHELIA.
LAERTES: My necessaries [packed
belongings] are embark’d; farewell:
And, sister, as the winds give benefit
[as . . . benefit: As the winds
fill the sails of my ship]
And convoy is assistant, do not
[convoy . . . assistant: If
letter-carriers are available]
But let me hear from you.
OPHELIA: Do you doubt that?
LAERTES: For Hamlet, and the trifling of his
Hold it a fashion and a toy in blood,
[For . . . blood: Regard Hamlet as
a passing fancy.]
A violet in the youth of primy [in
Forward, not permanent, sweet, not lasting,
The perfume and suppliance [appeal]
of a minute;
OPHELIA: No more but so?
LAERTES: Think it no
For nature, crescent [growing],
does not grow alone
In thews [strength] and
bulk; but, as this temple waxes,
[temple waxes: Body grows]
The inward service of the mind and soul
Grows wide withal [in addition;
besides]. Perhaps he loves you now,
And now no soil nor cautel [deceit]
The virtue of his will; but you must fear,
His greatness weigh’d, his will is not his own,
For he himself is subject to his birth;
He may not, as unvalu’d persons do,
Carve for himself, for on his choice
The safety and the health of the whole state;
And therefore must his choice be circumscrib’d
Unto the voice and yielding of that body
Whereof he is the head. Then if he says he loves you,
It fits your wisdom so far to believe
As he in his particular act and place
May give his saying deed; which is no further
Than the main voice of Denmark goes withal.
Then weigh what loss your honour may sustain,
If with too credent [believing]
ear you list [listen to]
Or lose your heart, or your chaste treasure open
To his unmaster’d importunity.
Fear it, Ophelia, fear it, my dear sister;
And keep you in the rear of your affection,
[keep you . . . affection: Restrain
Out of the shot and danger of
The chariest [wariest; most
cautious] maid is prodigal enough
If she unmask her beauty to the moon;
Virtue herself ’scapes not calumnious strokes;
[Virtue . . . strokes: Even the
virtuous are victims of gossip.]
The canker [worm; disease]
galls the infants [plants]
of the spring
Too oft before their buttons [buds]
And in the morn and liquid dew of youth
Contagious blastments are most imminent.
[Contagious blastments: Sexual
Be wary then; best safety lies in fear:
Youth to itself rebels, though none else near.
[Youth . . . rebels: Young people
tend to succumb to temptation.]
OPHELIA: I shall th’ effect of this good lesson
As watchman to my heart. But, good my brother,
Do not, as some ungracious pastors do,
Show me the steep and thorny way to heaven,
Whiles, like a puff’d and reckless libertine,
Himself the primrose path of dalliance
And recks not his own rede.
[recks . . . rede: Takes not his
LAERTES: O! fear me not.
I stay too long; but here my father comes.
A double blessing is a double
Occasion smiles upon a second leave.
POLONIUS: Yet here, Laertes! aboard, aboard, for
The wind sits in the shoulder of your sail,
And you are stay’d [waited]
for. There, my blessing with thee!
And these few precepts in thy
Look thou character. Give thy thoughts no tongue,
[character: Used as a verb to mean
etch in your mind]
Nor any unproportion’d [bad;
ill-suited] thought his act.
Be thou familiar [friendly],
but by no means vulgar;
The friends thou hast, and their adoption tried [tested],
Grapple [hold; seize] them
to thy soul with hoops of
But do not dull thy palm with entertainment
Of each new-hatch’d, unfledg’d comrade. Beware
[do not . . . comrade: Do
not greet or shake hands with every untested person.]
Of entrance to a quarrel, but, being in,
Bear ’t that th’ opposed may beware of thee.
Give every man thine ear, but few thy
Take each man’s censure [opinion
or criticism], but reserve thy judgment.
Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy,
[Costly . . . buy: Thy dress should
be only as costly as you can afford.]
But not express’d in fancy; rich, not gaudy;
For the apparel oft proclaims the man,
And they in France of the best rank and
Are most select and generous, chief in that.
Neither a borrower, nor a lender be;
For loan oft loses both itself and friend,
And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry [management of money].
This above all: to thine own self be
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
Farewell; my blessing season this in thee!
LAERTES: Most humbly do I take my leave, my lord.
POLONIUS: The time invites you; go, your servants
LAERTES: Farewell, Ophelia; and remember well
What I have said to you.
OPHELIA: ’Tis in my memory lock’d,
And you yourself shall keep the key of it.
POLONIUS: What is ’t, Ophelia, he hath said to
OPHELIA: So please you, something touching the Lord
POLONIUS: Marry, well bethought:
’Tis told me, he hath very oft of late
Given private time to you; and you
Have of your audience [attention
to Hamlet] been most free and bounteous.
If it be so,—as so ’tis put on me,
And that in way of caution,—I must tell you,
You do not understand yourself so clearly
As it behoves [behooves] my
daughter and your
What is between you? give me up the truth.
OPHELIA: He hath, my lord, of late made many
Of his affection to me.
POLONIUS: Affection! pooh! you speak like a green [naive] girl,
Unsifted in such perilous
Do you believe his tenders, as you call them?
OPHELIA: I do not know, my lord, what I should
POLONIUS: Marry, I’ll teach you: think yourself a
That you have ta’en these tenders for true pay,
Which are not sterling. Tender yourself more
Or,—not to crack the wind of the poor phrase,
Running it thus,—you’ll tender me a fool.
OPHELIA: My lord, he hath importun’d me with love
In honourable fashion.
POLONIUS: Ay, fashion you may call it: go to, go
OPHELIA: And hath given countenance [good behavior] to his speech, my lord,
With almost all the holy vows of heaven.
POLONIUS: Ay, springes [traps]
to catch woodcocks. I do know,
When the blood burns, how prodigal the soul
Lends the tongue vows: these blazes,
Giving more light than heat, extinct [no longer active; no longer burning] in
Even in their promise, as it is a-making,
You must not take for fire. From this time
Be somewhat scanter of [unavailable
in] your maiden presence;
Set your entreatments at a higher
Than a command to parley. For Lord Hamlet,
Believe so much in him, that he is young,
And with a larger tether [larger
tether: more freedom] may he walk
Than may be given you: in few [a
few words], Ophelia,
Do not believe his vows, for they are
Not of that dye which their investments show,
But mere implorators of unholy suits,
Breathing like sanctified and pious bawds,
The better to beguile. This is for all:
I would not, in plain terms, from this time
Have you so slander any moment’s leisure,
As to give words or talk with the Lord Hamlet.
Look to ’t, I charge you; come your ways.
OPHELIA: I shall obey, my lord. [Exeunt.
Act 1, Scene 4
Enter HAMLET, HORATIO, and MARCELLUS.
HAMLET: The air bites shrewdly; it is very cold.
HORATIO: It is a nipping and an eager air.
HAMLET: What hour
HORATIO: I think it lacks of twelve.
MARCELLUS: No, it is struck.
HORATIO: Indeed? I heard it not: then it draws near the
Wherein the spirit held his wont to walk. [A flourish of
trumpets, and ordnance shot off, within.
What does this mean, my
HAMLET: The king doth wake to-night and takes his
[The king . . . rouse: The king
stays awake tonight and takes his liquor.]
Keeps wassail [a toast to good
health], and the swaggering up-spring reels [fast dances];
And, as he drains his draughts of Rhenish [German wine] down,
The kettle-drum and trumpet thus bray out
The triumph of his
HORATIO: Is it a custom?
HAMLET: Ay, marry, is ’t:
But to my mind,—though I am native here
And to the manner born,—it is a custom
More honour’d in the breach than the
This heavy-headed revel east and west
Makes us traduc’d [humiliated]
and tax’d of other nations;
They clepe [call] us
drunkards, and with swinish phrase
Soil our addition [honor;
reputation]; and indeed it takes
From our achievements, though perform’d at
The pith and marrow of our attribute.
So, oft it chances in particular men,
That for some vicious mole of nature in them,
As, in their birth,—wherein they are not guilty,
Since nature cannot choose his
By the o’ergrowth of some complexion
[characteristic or trait],
Oft breaking down the pales [boundaries]
and forts of reason,
Or by some habit that too much o’er-leavens
The form of plausive [reasonable;
acceptable; agreeable] manners; that these men,
Carrying, I say, the stamp of one
Being nature’s livery, or fortune’s star,
Their virtues else, be they as pure as grace,
As infinite as man may undergo,
Shall in the general censure [opinion]
From that particular fault: the dram of eale [ale or
Doth all the noble substance of a doubt,
To his own scandal.
HORATIO: Look, my lord, it comes.
HAMLET: Angels and ministers of grace defend
Be thou a spirit of health or goblin damn’d,
Bring with thee airs from heaven or blasts from hell,
Be thy intents wicked or charitable,
Thou com’st in such a questionable shape
That I will speak to thee: I’ll call thee
King, father; royal Dane, O! answer me:
Let me not burst in ignorance; but tell
Why thy canoniz’d [saintly; given
the approved burial rites] bones, hearsed in
Have burst their cerements [burial
garment or garments]; why the sepulchre,
Wherein we saw thee quietly
Hath op’d his ponderous and marble jaws,
To cast thee up again. What may this mean,
That thou, dead corse [corpse],
again in complete steel [armor]
Revisit’st thus the glimpses of the moon,
Making night hideous; and we fools of
So horridly to shake our disposition
With thoughts beyond the reaches of our souls?
Say, why is this? wherefore? what should we do? [The Ghost
HORATIO: It beckons you to go away with it,
As if it some impartment [message;
To you alone.
MARCELLUS: Look, with what courteous action
It waves you to a more removed ground:
But do not go with it.
HORATIO: No, by no
HAMLET: It will not speak; then, will I follow it.
HORATIO: Do not, my lord.
HAMLET: Why, what should be the fear?
I do not set my life at a pin’s fee [meager value];
And for my soul, what can it do to
Being a thing immortal as itself?
It waves me forth again; I’ll follow it.
HORATIO: What if it tempt you toward the flood, my
Or to the dreadful summit of the cliff
That beetles o’er [projects over]
his base into the
And there assume some other horrible form,
Which might deprive your sovereignty of reason
And draw you into madness? think of it;
The very place puts toys of desperation,
Without more motive, into every
That looks so many fathoms to the sea
And hears it roar beneath.
HAMLET: It waves me still. Go on, I’ll follow
MARCELLUS: You shall not go, my lord.
HAMLET: Hold off your
HORATIO: Be rul’d; you shall not go.
HAMLET: My fate cries out,
And makes each petty artery in this body
As hardy as the Nemean lion’s nerve. [Ghost beckons.
[Nemean lion: In Greek mythology,
an enormous lion strangled by Hercules]
Still am I call’d. Unhand me, gentlemen, [Breaking from
By heaven! I’ll make a ghost of him that lets me:
I say, away! Go on, I’ll follow thee. [Exeunt Ghost and
HORATIO: He waxes desperate with imagination.
MARCELLUS: Let’s follow; ’tis not fit thus to obey
HORATIO: Have after. To what issue will this
MARCELLUS: Something is rotten in the state of
HORATIO: Heaven will direct it.
MARCELLUS: Nay, let’s follow him. [Exeunt.
Act 1, Scene 5
Another part of the platform.
Enter GHOST and HAMLET.
HAMLET: Whither wilt thou lead me? speak; I’ll go no
GHOST: Mark me.
GHOST: My hour is almost come,
When I to sulphurous and tormenting flames
Must render up myself.
HAMLET: Alas! poor ghost.
GHOST: Pity me not, but lend thy serious
To what I shall unfold.
HAMLET: Speak; I am bound to hear.
GHOST: So art thou to revenge, when thou shalt
GHOST: I am thy father’s
Doom’d for a certain term to walk the night,
And for the day confin’d to fast in fires,
Till the foul crimes done in my days of nature
Are burnt and purg’d away. But that I am forbid
To tell the secrets of my
I could a tale unfold whose lightest word
Would harrow up thy soul, freeze thy young blood,
Make thy two eyes, like stars, start from their spheres,
Thy knotted and combined locks to part,
And each particular hair to stand on
Like quills upon the fretful porpentine [porcupine]:
But this eternal blazon must not be
To ears of flesh and blood. List [listen], list, O list!
If thou didst ever thy dear father love—
GHOST: Revenge his foul and most unnatural murder.
GHOST: Murder most foul, as in the best it is;
But this most foul, strange, and unnatural.
HAMLET: Haste me to know ’t, that I, with wings as
As meditation or the thoughts of love,
May sweep to my revenge.
GHOST: I find thee apt;
And duller shouldst thou be than the fat weed
That rots itself in ease on Lethe
[Lethe: In Greek mythology, the
river of forgetfulness in Hades]
Wouldst thou not stir in this. Now, Hamlet, hear:
’Tis given out that, sleeping in mine orchard,
A serpent stung me; so the whole ear of Denmark
Is by a forged process of my death
Rankly abus’d; but know, thou noble
The serpent that did sting thy father’s life
Now wears his crown.
HAMLET: O my prophetic soul!
GHOST: Ay, that incestuous, that adulterate
With witchcraft of his wit, with traitorous gifts,—
O wicked wit and gifts, that have the power
So to seduce!—won to his shameful lust
The will of my most seeming-virtuous queen.
O Hamlet! what a falling-off was
From me, whose love was of that dignity
That it went hand in hand even with the vow
I made to her in marriage; and to decline
Upon a wretch whose natural gifts were poor
To those of
But virtue, as it never will be mov’d,
Though lewdness court it in a shape of heaven,
[lewdness . . . heaven: The Ghost
says Claudius was lewd but pretended to be upright.]
So lust, though to a radiant angel link’d,
Will sate itself in a celestial bed,
And prey on
But, soft! [soft: Pay attention;
stand at attention; take note] methinks I scent the morning
Brief let me be. Sleeping within mine orchard,
My custom always in the afternoon,
Upon my secure hour [leisure time]
thy uncle stole,
With juice of cursed hebona [poisonous
plant] in a
And in the porches of mine ears did pour
The leperous distilment; whose effect
Holds such an enmity with blood of man
That swift as quicksilver it courses through
The natural gates and alleys of the
And with a sudden vigour it doth posset [curdle; coagulate]
And curd, like eager droppings into milk,
The thin and wholesome blood: so did it mine;
And a most instant tetter [skin
eruption] bark’d about,
Most lazar-like [leprous],
with vile and loathsome
All my smooth body.
Thus was I, sleeping, by a brother’s hand,
Of life, of crown, of queen, at once dispatch’d [robbed];
Cut off even in the blossoms of my sin,
[Unhousel'd . . . unanel'd:
Unhousel'd: not given the Holy Eucharist. Unanel'd: not given the
last rites of the Catholic Church]
No reckoning made, but sent to my account
With all my imperfections on my head:
O, horrible! O, horrible! most horrible!
If thou hast nature in thee, bear it not;
Let not the royal bed of Denmark
A couch for luxury and damned incest.
But, howsoever thou pursu’st this act,
Taint not thy mind, nor let thy soul contrive
Against thy mother aught; leave her to heaven,
And to those thorns that in her bosom
To prick and sting her. Fare thee well at once!
The glow-worm [beetle that glows
like a firefly] shows the matin [morning] to be near,
And ’gins to pale his uneffectual fire;
Adieu, adieu! Hamlet, remember me. [Exit.
HAMLET: O all you host of heaven! O earth! What
And shall I couple hell? O fie! Hold, hold, my heart!
And you, my sinews, grow not instant old,
But bear me stiffly up! Remember thee!
Ay, thou poor ghost, while memory holds a seat
In this distracted globe. Remember
Yea, from the table of my memory
I’ll wipe away all trivial fond records,
All saws [wise sayings] of books, all forms, all pressures
That youth and observation copied there;
And thy commandment all alone shall
Within the book and volume of my brain,
[thy . . . brain: My only thought
will be to gain revenge.]
Unmix’d with baser matter: yes, by heaven!
O most pernicious woman!
O villain, villain, smiling, damned villain!
My tables [notes],—meet it
is I set [write] it
That one may smile, and smile, and be a villain;
At least I’m sure it may be so in Denmark:
So, uncle, there you are. Now to my word;
It is, ‘Adieu, adieu! [French for
I have sworn
HORATIO: [Within.] My lord! my lord!
MARCELLUS: [Within.] Lord Hamlet!
HORATIO: [Within.] Heaven secure him!
MARCELLUS: [Within.] So be it!
HORATIO: [Within.] Hillo [hello; hey], ho, ho, my
HAMLET: Hillo, ho, ho, boy! come, bird, come.
Enter HORATIO and MARCELLUS.
MARCELLUS: How is ’t, my noble lord?
HORATIO: What news, my lord?
HORATIO: Good my lord, tell it.
HAMLET: No; you will reveal it.
HORATIO: Not I, my lord, by heaven!
MARCELLUS: Nor I, my lord.
HAMLET: How say you, then; would heart of man once think
But you’ll be secret?
HORATIO: and MARCELLUS: Ay, by heaven, my lord.
HAMLET: There’s ne’er a villain dwelling in all
But he’s an arrant [complete]
HORATIO: There needs no ghost, my lord, come from the
To tell us this.
HAMLET: Why, right; you are i’ the right;
And so, without more circumstance at all,
I hold it fit that we shake hands and part;
You, as your business and desire shall point
For every man hath business and desire,
Such as it is,—and, for mine own poor part,
Look you, I’ll go pray.
HORATIO: These are but wild and whirling words, my
HAMLET: I am sorry they offend you,
Yes, faith, heartily.
HORATIO: There’s no offence, my lord.
HAMLET: Yes, by Saint Patrick, but there is,
And much offence, too. Touching this vision here,
It is an honest ghost, that let me tell
For your desire to know what is between us,
O’ermaster ’t [control it; master
it] as you may. And now, good friends,
As you are friends, scholars, and soldiers,
Give me one poor request.
HORATIO: What is ’t, my lord? we
HAMLET: Never make known what you have seen
HORATIO: and MARCELLUS: My lord, we will not.
HAMLET: Nay, but swear ’t.
HORATIO: In faith,
My lord, not
MARCELLUS: Nor I, my lord, in faith.
HAMLET: Upon my sword.
MARCELLUS: We have sworn, my lord, already.
HAMLET: Indeed, upon my sword, indeed.
HAMLET: Ah, ha, boy! sayst thou so? art thou there, true-penny
Come on,—you hear this fellow in the cellar-age [below, in the cellar],—
Consent to swear.
HORATIO: Propose the oath, my lord.
HAMLET: Never to speak of this that you have
Swear by my sword.
GHOST: [Beneath.] Swear.
HAMLET: Hic et ubique? [Latin:
Here and everywhere] Then we’ll shift our
Come hither, gentlemen,
And lay your hands again upon my
Never to speak of this that you have heard,
Swear by my sword.
[Swearing on a sword was like
swearing on a cross. The handle, crossguard, and blade of a sword
are in the shape of a cross.]
GHOST: [Beneath.] Swear.
HAMLET: Well said, old mole! canst work i’ the earth so
A worthy pioner! [miner]
Once more remove, good
HORATIO: O day and night, but this is wondrous
HAMLET: And therefore as a stranger give it
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
Here, as before, never, so help you mercy,
How strange or odd soe’er [whatsoever] I bear myself,
As I perchance hereafter shall think meet
To put an antic disposition on,
[As I . . . on: Hereafter I think
I shall pretend to be odd, clownish, a bit crazy.]
That you, at such times seeing me, never
With arms encumber’d thus
, or this head-shake,
Or by pronouncing of some doubtful phrase,
As, ‘Well, well, we know,’ or, ‘We could, an if we
Or, ‘If we list to speak,’ or, ‘There be, an if they
Or such ambiguous giving out, to
That you know aught of me: this not to do,
So grace and mercy at your most need help you,
GHOST: [Beneath.] Swear. [They swear.
HAMLET: Rest, rest, perturbed spirit! So,
With all my love I do commend me to you:
And what so poor a man as Hamlet is
May do, to express his love and friending to you,
God willing, shall not lack. Let us go in together;
And still your fingers on your lips, I
The time is out of joint; O cursed spite,
That ever I was born to set it right!
Nay, come, let’s go together. [Exeunt.
Act 2, Scene 1
A room in the house of POLONIUS.
Enter POLONIUS and REYNALDO.
POLONIUS: Give him this money and these notes,
REYNALDO: I will, my lord.
POLONIUS: You shall do marvellous wisely, good
Before you visit him, to make inquiry
Of his behaviour.
REYNALDO: My lord, I did intend it.
POLONIUS: Marry, well said, very well said. Look you,
Inquire me first what Danskers [Danes]
And how, and who, what means, and where they keep,
What company, at what expense; and finding
By this encompassment and drift of question
[By . . . question: By this indirect way of finding out]
That they do know my son, come you more nearer
Than your particular demands will touch
Take you, as ’twere, some distant knowledge of him;
[Take . . . 'twere: Pretend to
have, as it were]
As thus, ‘I know his father, and his friends,
And, in part, him;’ do you mark this, Reynaldo?
REYNALDO: Ay, very well, my lord.
POLONIUS: ‘And, in part, him; but,’ you may say, ‘not
But if ’t be he I mean, he’s very wild,
Addicted so and so;’ and there put on him
What forgeries you please; marry, none so rank
As may dishonour him; take heed of that;
But, sir, such wanton, wild, and usual
As are companions noted and most known
To youth and liberty.
REYNALDO: As gaming, my lord?
POLONIUS: Ay, or drinking, fencing, swearing,
Drabbing [visiting prostitutes];
you may go so
REYNALDO: My lord, that would dishonour him.
POLONIUS: Faith, no; as you may season it in the
You must not put another scandal on him,
That he is open to incontinency [lack
of sexual restraint; lustfulness]
That’s not my meaning; but breathe his faults so quaintly [cleverly; skilfully]
That they may seem the taints of liberty,
The flash and outbreak of a fiery mind,
A savageness in unreclaimed blood,
Of general assault.
[they may seem . . . assault: They
may seem to be only minor infractions of the freedom a young man
has when he is on his own, especially if that young man has a
quick and fiery mind and may act on the spur of the moment.]
REYNALDO: But, my good
POLONIUS: Wherefore [why] should you do this?
REYNALDO: Ay, my lord,
I would know that.
POLONIUS: Marry, sir, here’s my drift;
And, I believe, it is a fetch of
[here's my drift . . . warrant:
Here's my idea, which is a stroke of genius.]
You laying these slight sullies [faults]
on my son,
As ’twere a thing a little soil’d i’ the working,
Your party in converse [the person
with whom you are speaking], him you would
Having ever seen in the prenominate
[him you . . . crimes: Ask
the person with whom you are conversing whether he has ever seen
Laertes engage in unlawful or immoral activities.]
The youth you breathe of guilty, be assur’d,
He closes with you in this consequence;
‘Good sir,’ or so; or ‘friend,’ or ‘gentleman,’
According to the phrase or the addition
Of man and
REYNALDO: Very good, my lord.
POLONIUS: And then, sir, does he this,—he does,—what was I
about to say? By the mass I was about to say something: where did I
[By the mass: Mild oath. The mass
is a Catholic worship rite.]
REYNALDO: At ‘closes in the consequence.’
At ‘friend or so,’ and ‘gentleman.’
POLONIUS: At ‘closes in the consequence,’ ay,
He closes with you thus: ‘I know the gentleman;
I saw him yesterday, or t’ other day,
Or then, or then; with such, or such; and, as you say,
There was a’ gaming; there o’ertook in ’s rouse;
There falling out at tennis;’ or
‘I saw him enter such a house of sale,’
Videlicet [Latin, namely, often written as an abbreviation: viz.],
a brothel, or so forth.
See you now;
Your bait of falsehood takes this carp of truth;
[Your bait . . . truth:
After baiting your hook with lies, you catch a fish (carp) of
And thus do we of wisdom and of
With windlasses [windlass:
horizontal cylinder which, when turned with a crank, draws rope
and raises an object] and with assays of bias,
[assays . . . bias: Roundabout or
By indirections find directions out:
[With windlasses . . . out: By
asking indirect questions, we can draw out (as a windlass draws
out rope) direct answers.]
So by my former lecture and advice
Shall you my son. You have me, have you not?
REYNALDO: My lord, I
POLONIUS: God be wi’ you; fare you well.
REYNALDO: Good my lord!
POLONIUS: Observe his inclination in yourself.
[Observe his activities yourself.]
REYNALDO: I shall, my lord.
POLONIUS: And let him ply his
REYNALDO: Well, my lord.
POLONIUS: Farewell! [Exit REYNALDO.
How now, Ophelia! what’s the matter?
OPHELIA: Alas! my lord, I have been so
POLONIUS: With what, in the name of God?
OPHELIA: My lord, as I was sewing in my closet,
Lord Hamlet, with his doublet [closefitting
sleeveless jacket] all unbrac’d;
No hat upon his head; his stockings foul’d,
Ungarter’d, and down-gyved [lowered
to a position like that of a legiron (gyve) on a prisoner]
Pale as his shirt; his knees knocking each other;
And with a look so piteous in purport
As if he had been loosed out of hell
To speak of horrors, he comes before me.
POLONIUS: Mad for thy
OPHELIA: My lord, I do not know;
But truly I do fear it.
POLONIUS: What said he?
OPHELIA: He took me by the wrist and held me hard,
Then goes he to the length of all his
And, with his other hand thus o’er his brow,
He falls to such perusal of my face
As he would draw it. Long stay’d he so;
At last, a little shaking of mine arm,
And thrice his head thus waving up and
He rais’d a sigh so piteous and profound
That it did seem to shatter all his bulk
And end his being. That done, he lets me go,
And, with his head over his shoulder turn’d,
He seem’d to find his way without his
For out o’ doors he went without their help,
And to the last bended their light on me.
POLONIUS: Come, go with me; I will go seek the
This is the very ecstasy of love,
Whose violent property fordoes
And leads the will to desperate undertakings
As oft as any passion under heaven
That does afflict our natures. I am sorry.
What! have you given him any hard words of late?
OPHELIA: No, my good lord; but, as you did
I did repel his letters and denied
His access to me.
POLONIUS: That hath made him mad.
I am sorry that with better heed and judgment
I had not quoted [studied closely]
him; I fear’d he did but
And meant to wrack [ruin, ravish]
thee; but, beshrew my jealousy!
By heaven, it is as proper to our age
To cast beyond ourselves in our opinions
As it is common for the younger sort
To lack discretion. Come, go we to the
This must be known; which, being kept close, might move
More grief to hide than hate to utter love.
Act 2, Scene 2
A room in the castle.
Enter KING, QUEEN, ROSENCRANTZ, GUILDENSTERN and Attendants.
KING: Welcome, dear Rosencrantz and Guildenstern!
Moreover that we much did long to see you,
The need we have to use you did
Our hasty sending. Something have you heard
Of Hamlet’s transformation; so I call it,
Since nor the exterior nor the inward man
Resembles that it was. What it should be
More than his father’s death, that thus hath put
So much from the understanding of himself,
I cannot dream of: I entreat you both,
That, being of so young days brought up with him,
And since so neighbour’d to his youth and humour,
That you vouchsafe [put, place]
your rest here in our
Some little time; so by your companies
To draw him on to pleasures, and to gather,
So much as from occasion you may glean,
Whe’r aught to us unknown afflicts him thus,
[Whe'r . . . him: Whether anything
unknown to us afflicts him]
That, open’d, lies within our
QUEEN: Good gentlemen, he hath much talk’d of you;
And sure I am two men there are not living
To whom he more adheres. If it will please you
To show us so much gentry and good will
As to expend your time with us
For the supply and profit of our hope,
Your visitation shall receive such thanks
As fits a king’s remembrance.
ROSENCRANTZ: Both your majesties
Might, by the sovereign power you have of
Put your dread pleasures more into command
Than to entreaty.
GUILDENSTERN: But we both obey,
And here give up ourselves, in the full bent,
To lay our service freely at your
To be commanded.
KING: Thanks, Rosencrantz and gentle Guildenstern.
QUEEN: Thanks, Guildenstern and gentle
And I beseech you instantly to visit
My too much changed son. Go, some of
And bring these gentlemen where Hamlet is.
GUILDENSTERN: Heavens make our presence, and our
Pleasant and helpful to him!
QUEEN: Ay, amen! [Exeunt ROSENCRANTZ, GUILDENSTERN, and
POLONIUS: The ambassadors from Norway, my good
Are joyfully return’d.
KING: Thou still hast been the father of good
POLONIUS: Have I, my lord? Assure you, my good
I hold my duty, as I hold my
Both to my God and to my gracious king;
And I do think—or else this brain of mine
Hunts not the trail of policy so sure
As it hath us’d to do—that I have found
The very cause of Hamlet’s
KING: O! speak of that; that do I long to hear.
POLONIUS: Give first admittance to the
My news shall be the fruit to that great feast.
KING: Thyself do grace to them, and bring them in. [Exit
He tells me, my sweet queen, that he hath
The head and source of all your son’s distemper.
QUEEN: I doubt it is no other but the main;
His father’s death, and our o’erhasty marriage.
KING: Well, we shall sift [watch,
Re-enter POLONIUS, with VOLTIMAND and
Welcome, my good friends!
Say, Voltimand, what from our brother Norway?
VOLTIMAND: Most fair return of greetings, and
Upon our first, he sent out to suppress
His nephew’s levies [recruitment
of men into the army], which to him
To be a preparation ’gainst the Polack [Pole];
But, better look’d into, he truly found
It was against your highness: whereat griev’d,
That so his sickness, age, and impotence
Was falsely borne in hand, sends out
On Fortinbras; which he, in brief, obeys,
Receives rebuke from Norway, and, in fine,
Makes vow before his uncle never more
To give the assay of arms against your majesty.
[To give . . . arms: To make war]
Whereon old Norway, overcome with
Gives him three thousand crowns in annual fee,
And his commission to employ those soldiers,
So levied as before, against the Polack [Pole];
With an entreaty, herein further shown, [Giving a
That it might please you to give quiet
Through your dominions for this enterprise,
On such regards of safety and allowance
As therein are set down.
KING: It likes us well;
And at our more consider’d time we’ll
Answer, and think upon this business:
Meantime we thank you for your well-took labour.
Go to your rest; at night we’ll feast together:
Most welcome home. [Exeunt VOLTIMAND and
POLONIUS: This business is well
My liege, and madam, to expostulate
What majesty should be, what duty is,
Why day is day, night night, and time is time,
Were nothing but to waste night, day, and time.
Therefore, since brevity is the soul of
And tediousness the limbs and outward flourishes,
I will be brief. Your noble son is mad:
Mad call I it; for, to define true madness,
What is ’t but to be nothing else but mad?
But let that
QUEEN: More matter, with less art.
[More . . . art: Give specific
details, but avoid being wordy.]
POLONIUS: Madam, I swear I use no art [embellishment;
wordiness] at all.
That he is mad, ’tis true; ’tis true ’tis pity;
And pity ’tis ’tis true: a foolish figure;
But farewell it, for I will use no
Mad let us grant him, then; and now remains
That we find out the cause of this effect,
Or rather say, the cause of this defect,
For this effect defective comes by cause;
Thus it remains, and the remainder
Perpend [be attentive; consider
carefully what I say].
I have a daughter, have while she is mine;
Who, in her duty and obedience, mark,
Hath given me this [letter, note]:
now, gather, and surmise [figure
out its meaning].
Polonius reads from the letter
"To the celestial, and my soul’s idol, the most beautified
That’s an ill phrase, a vile phrase; "beautified" is a vile phrase;
but you shall hear. Thus:
"In her excellent white bosom, these," &c. [etc.]—
QUEEN: Came this from Hamlet to her?
POLONIUS: Good madam, stay awhile; I will be
"Doubt thou the stars are
the sun doth move;
Doubt truth to be a
doubt I love.
"O dear Ophelia! I am ill at these numbers [verses, lines of poetry]:
I have not art to reckon [express]
my groans; but that I love thee best, O most best! believe it. Adieu
Thine evermore, most dear lady, whilst
this machine is to him [machine .
. . him: Body is mine], HAMLET."
This in obedience hath my daughter shown me;
And more above, hath his solicitings,
As they fell out by time, by means, and place,
All given to mine
KING: But how hath she
Receiv’d his love?
POLONIUS: What do you think of me?
KING: As of a man faithful and honourable.
POLONIUS: I would fain [willingly]
prove so. But what might you
When I had seen this hot love on the wing,—
As I perceiv’d it, I must tell you that,
Before my daughter told me,—what might you,
Or my dear majesty, your queen here, think,
If I had play’d the desk or
Or given my heart a winking, mute and dumb,
Or look’d upon this love with idle sight;
What might you think? No, I went round to work,
[I would fain . . . round to work:
I would willingly prove so. But what would you think—when I saw
their relationship developing— if I had helped them by leaving
love letters on a desk or placing them between the pages of a book
left on a table. What would you think If stood idly by without
taking action? The fact is, I did take action. I went to
work against allowing this relationship to continue.]
And my young mistress thus I did bespeak:
‘Lord Hamlet is a prince, out of thy
This must not be:’ and then I precepts gave her,
That she should lock herself from his resort,
Admit no messengers, receive no tokens.
Which done, she took the fruits of my advice;
And he, repulsed,—a short tale to
Fell into a sadness, then into a fast,
Thence to a watch, thence into a weakness,
Thence to a lightness; and by this declension
Into the madness wherein now he raves,
And all we wail
KING: Do you think ’tis this?
QUEEN: It may be, very likely.
POLONIUS: Hath there been such a time,—I’d fain [happily; gladly] know
That I have positively said, ‘’Tis so,’
When it prov’d
KING: Not that I know.
POLONIUS: Take this from this, if this be otherwise:
[Pointing to his head and shoulder.
If circumstances lead me, I will find
Where truth is hid, though it were hid indeed
Within the centre [center of the
KING: How may we try it further?
POLONIUS: You know sometimes he walks four hours
Here in the lobby.
QUEEN: So he does indeed.
POLONIUS: At such a time I’ll loose my daughter to
Be you and I behind an arras [curtain;
Mark the encounter; if he love her not,
And be not from his reason fallen thereon,
Let me be no assistant for a state,
But keep a farm, and carters [drivers
KING: We will try it.
QUEEN: But look, where sadly the poor wretch comes
POLONIUS: Away! I do beseech you, both away.
I’ll board [confront] him
presently. [Exeunt KING, QUEEN, and Attendants.
O! give me leave.
How does my good Lord Hamlet?
HAMLET: Well, God a-mercy.
POLONIUS: Do you know me, my lord?
HAMLET: Excellent well; you are a fishmonger [fish merchant].
POLONIUS: Not I, my lord.
HAMLET: Then I would you were so honest a man.
POLONIUS: Honest, my lord!
HAMLET: Ay, sir; to be honest, as this world goes, is to be
one man picked out of ten thousand.
POLONIUS: That’s very true, my
HAMLET: For if the sun breed maggots in a dead dog, being a
good kissing carrion,—Have you a daughter?
[Hamlet is now pretending to be
POLONIUS: I have, my lord.
HAMLET: Let her not walk i’ the sun: conception is a blessing;
but not as your daughter may conceive. Friend, look to
POLONIUS: [Aside.] How say you by that? Still harping on
my daughter: yet he knew me not at first; he said I was a
fishmonger: he is far gone, far gone: and truly in my youth I
suffered much extremity for love; very near this. I’ll speak to him
again. What do you read, my lord?
HAMLET: Words, words,
POLONIUS: What is the matter, my lord?
HAMLET: Between who?
POLONIUS: I mean the matter that you read, my
HAMLET: Slanders, sir: for the satirical rogue says here that
old men have grey beards, that their faces are wrinkled, their eyes
purging [oozing] thick
amber and plum-tree gum, and that they have a plentiful lack of wit,
together with most weak hams [knees]:
all which, sir, though I most powerfully and potently believe, yet I
hold it not honesty to have it thus set down; for you yourself, sir,
should be old as I am, if, like a crab, you could go
POLONIUS: [Aside.] Though this be madness, yet there is
method in ’t [end of aside].
Will you walk out of the air, my
[Though . . . method in 't: Though
he is mad, there is an intelligent design in his actions.]
HAMLET: Into my grave?
POLONIUS: Indeed, that is out o’ the air. [Aside.]
How pregnant [clever, meaningful]
sometimes his replies are! a happiness that often madness hits on,
which reason and sanity could not so prosperously be delivered of. I
will leave him, and suddenly contrive the means of meeting between
him and my daughter [end of aside].
My honourable lord, I will most humbly take my leave of
HAMLET: You cannot, sir, take from me any thing that I will
more willingly part withal; except my life, except my life, except
POLONIUS: Fare you well, my lord. [Going.
HAMLET: These tedious old
Enter ROSENCRANTZ and GUILDENSTERN.
POLONIUS: You go to seek the Lord Hamlet; there he
ROSENCRANTZ: [To POLONIUS.] God save you, sir!
GUILDENSTERN: Mine honoured lord!
ROSENCRANTZ: My most dear
HAMLET: My excellent good friends! How dost thou,
Guildenstern? Ah, Rosencrantz! Good lads, how do ye
ROSENCRANTZ: As the indifferent [moderately well] children of the earth.
GUILDENSTERN: Happy in that we are not over happy;
On Fortune’s cap we are not the very button.
HAMLET: Nor the soles of her
ROSENCRANTZ: Neither, my lord.
HAMLET: Then you live about her waist, or in the middle of her
GUILDENSTERN: Faith, her privates [genital organs] we.
HAMLET: In the secret parts of Fortune? O! most true; she is a
strumpet [promiscuous woman].
ROSENCRANTZ: None, my lord, but that the world’s grown
HAMLET: Then is doomsday near; but your news is not true. Let
me question more in particular: what have you, my good friends,
deserved at the hands of Fortune, that she sends you to prison
GUILDENSTERN: Prison, my lord!
HAMLET: Denmark’s a prison.
ROSENCRANTZ: Then is the world one.
HAMLET: A goodly one; in which there are many confines, wards,
and dungeons, Denmark being one o’ the
Ros We think not so, my lord.
HAMLET: Why, then, ’tis none to you; for there is nothing
either good or bad, but thinking makes it so: to me it is a
ROSENCRANTZ: Why, then your ambition makes it one; ’tis too
narrow for your mind.
HAMLET: O God! I could be bounded in a nutshell, and count
myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad
GUILDENSTERN: Which dreams, indeed, are ambition, for the very
substance of the ambitious is merely the shadow of a
HAMLET: A dream itself is but a shadow.
ROSENCRANTZ: Truly, and I hold ambition of so airy and light a
quality that it is but a shadow’s shadow.
HAMLET: Then are our beggars bodies, and our monarchs and
outstretched heroes the beggars’ shadows. Shall we to the court?
for, by my fay [faith], I
ROSENCRANTZ: and GUILDENSTERN: We’ll wait upon
HAMLET: No such matter; I will not [count] you with the rest of my servants, for, to
speak to you like an honest man, I am most dreadfully attended. But,
in the beaten way of friendship, what make you at
ROSENCRANTZ: To visit you, my lord; no other
HAMLET: Beggar that I am, I am even poor in thanks; but I
thank you: and sure, dear friends, my thanks are too dear a
halfpenny [English coin of small
value]. Were you not sent for? Is it your own inclining? Is
it a free visitation? Come, come, deal justly with me: come, come;
GUILDENSTERN: What should we say, my lord?
HAMLET: Why anything, but to the purpose. You were sent for;
and there is a kind of confession in your looks which your modesties
have not craft enough to colour: I know the good king and queen have
sent for you.
ROSENCRANTZ: To what end, my
HAMLET: That you must teach me. But let me conjure [appeal to] you, by the rights
of our fellowship, by the consonancy [agreeableness] of our youth, by the obligation of
our ever-preserved love, and by what more dear a better proposer
could charge you withal, be even and direct with me, whether you
were sent for or no!
ROSENCRANTZ: [Aside to GUILDENSTERN.] What say
HAMLET: [Aside.] Nay, then, I have an eye of you. If you
love me, hold not off.
GUILDENSTERN: My lord, we were sent for.
HAMLET: I will tell you why; so shall my anticipation prevent
your discovery, and your secrecy to the king and queen moult [shed] no feather. I have of
late,—but wherefore [why] I
know not,—lost all my mirth, forgone all custom of exercises; and
indeed it goes so heavily with my disposition that this goodly
frame, the earth, seems to me a sterile promontory; this most
excellent canopy, the air, look you, this brave o’erhanging
firmament [sky], this
majestical roof fretted with golden fire, why, it appears no other
thing to me but a foul and pestilent congregation of vapours. What a
piece of work is a man! How noble in reason! how infinite in
faculty! in form, in moving, how express and admirable! in action
how like an angel! in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the
world! the paragon of animals! And yet, to me, what is this
of dust? man delights not me; no, nor woman neither, though, by your
smiling, you seem to say
ROSENCRANTZ: My lord, there was no such stuff in my
HAMLET: Why did you laugh then, when I said, "man delights not
ROSENCRANTZ: To think, my lord, if you delight not in man,
what lenten entertainment the players shall receive from you: we
coted [passed] them on the
way; and hither are they coming, to offer you service.
HAMLET: He that plays the king shall be welcome; his majesty
shall have tribute of me; the adventurous knight shall use his foil
and target [rapier and shield];
the lover shall not sigh gratis; the humorous man [actor who can play different parts;
character actor] shall end his part in peace; the clown
shall make those laugh whose lungs are tickle o’ the sere [burst out laughing at the slightest
provocation; a sere is a hair trigger] and the lady shall
say her mind freely, or the blank verse [see the study guide
section on blank verse] shall halt for ’t. What players are
ROSENCRANTZ: Even those you were wont to take delight in,
tragedians of the
HAMLET: How chances it they travel? their residence, both in
reputation and profit, was better both ways.
[their . . . ways: They were
more popular and made more money when in residence in a city.]
ROSENCRANTZ: I think their inhibition comes by the means of
the late innovation.
[I think . . . innovation: I think
they were prohibited after a recent riot.]
HAMLET: Do they hold the same estimation they did when I was
in the city? Are they so followed?
ROSENCRANTZ: No, indeed they are not.
HAMLET: How comes it? Do they grow
ROSENCRANTZ: Nay, their endeavour keeps in the wonted [desired] pace: but there is,
sir, an aery [nest; group]
of children, little eyases [falcons
in training], that cry out on the top of the question [top of their voices], and are
most tyrannically clapped for ’t: these are now the fashion, and so
berattle the common stages,—so they call them,—that many wearing
rapiers are afraid of goose-quills, and dare scarce come thither.
HAMLET: What! are they children? who maintains ’em? how are
they escoted [paid]? Will
they pursue the quality no longer than they can sing? will they not
say afterwards, if they should grow themselves to common players,—as
it is most like, if their means are no better,—their writers do them
wrong, to make them exclaim against their own succession?
[if they . . . succession: If they
continue to act after they become adults, they will no longer be a
ROSENCRANTZ: Faith, there has been much to-do on both sides:
and the nation holds it no sin to tarre [goad] them to controversy: there was, for a while,
no money bid for the argument [plot
of a play], unless the poet and the player went to cuffs in
HAMLET: Is it possible?
GUILDENSTERN: O! there has been much throwing about of
HAMLET: Do the boys carry it away?
ROSENCRANTZ: Ay, that they do, my lord; Hercules and his load
[Hercules . . . too: The image of
the mythological hero Hercules bearing the world on his shoulders
was a symbol of the Globe Theatre.]
HAMLET: It is not very strange; for my uncle is King of
Denmark, and those that would make mows [frowns] at him while my father lived, give twenty,
forty, fifty, a hundred ducats a-piece for his picture in little [small image of the king].
’Sblood [by the blood of the
crucified Christ], there is something in this more than
natural, if philosophy could find it out. [Flourish of
GUILDENSTERN: There are the players.
HAMLET: Gentlemen, you are welcome to Elsinore. Your hands,
come then [let me shake your hands];
the appurtenance of welcome is fashion and ceremony: let me comply
with you in this garb [regard],
lest my extent [behavior]
to the players—which, I tell you, must show fairly outward—should
more appear like entertainment than yours. You are welcome; but my
uncle-father and aunt-mother are
GUILDENSTERN: In what, my dear lord?
HAMLET: I am but mad north-north-west: when the wind is
southerly I know a hawk from a handsaw [heronshaw, a type of wading bird].
[I know . . . handsaw: I know
POLONIUS: Well be with you, gentlemen!
HAMLET: Hark you, Guildenstern; and you too; at each ear a
hearer: that great baby you see there is not yet out of his
ROSENCRANTZ: Happily he’s the second time come [wearing] to
them; for they say an old man is twice a child.
HAMLET: I will prophesy he comes to tell me of the players;
mark it. [Hamlet turns his
attention to Polonius.] You say right, sir; o’ Monday
morning; ’twas so indeed.
POLONIUS: My lord, I have news to tell you.
HAMLET: My lord, I have news to tell you. When Roscius [renowned actor] was an actor in
POLONIUS: The actors are come hither, my
HAMLET: Buzz, buzz! [Buzz
means old news. It is also the equivalent of "zzzzzzz" to suggest
sleeping. In other words, Hamlet thinks he is about to be bored or
put to sleep, so to speak, by what Polonius says.]
POLONIUS: Upon my honour,—
HAMLET: Then came each actor on his ass,—
POLONIUS: The best actors in the world, either for tragedy,
comedy, history, pastoral, pastoral-comical, historical-pastoral,
tragical-historical, tragical-comical-historical-pastoral, scene
individable [scene that preserves the classical unities of time,
place, and action], or poem unlimited: Seneca [ancient Roman
tragedian] cannot be too heavy, nor Plautus [ancient Roman writer of comedies]
too light. For the law of writ and the liberty, these are the only
HAMLET: O Jephthah, judge of Israel, what a treasure hadst
POLONIUS: What a treasure had he, my lord?
One fair daughter and no
The which he loved
POLONIUS: [Aside.] Still on my
[Hamlet's reference to Jephthah's
daughter leads Polonius to conclude that Hamlet is thinking about
HAMLET: Am I not i’ the right, old Jephthah?
POLONIUS: If you call me Jephthah, my lord, I have a daughter
that I love passing well.
HAMLET: Nay, that follows not.
POLONIUS: What follows, then, my lord?
by lot, God wot [knew].
And then, you know,
It came to pass, as most
like it was.—
The first row of the pious chanson [pious
poem or song] will show you more; for look where my
[abridgement: This word may mean
entertainment. It may also mean that the players abridge—that is,
cut off or shorten—Hamlet's conversation with Polonius.]
Enter four or five
You are welcome, masters; welcome, all. I am glad to see thee well:
welcome, good friends. O, my old friend! Thy face is valanced [bearded] since I saw thee last:
comest thou to beard me in Denmark? What! my young lady and
mistress! By ’r lady [By the
Blessed Virgin Mary], your ladyship [boy who plays women's parts] is
nearer heaven than when I saw you last, by the altitude of a chopine
[shoe with a thick sole].
Pray God, your voice, like a piece of uncurrent gold [gold coin], be not cracked
within the ring. Masters, you are all welcome. We’ll e’en to ’t
[take to it] like French falconers, fly at anything we see: we’ll
have a speech straight. Come, give us a taste of your quality; come,
a passionate speech.
FIRST PLAYER: What speech, my good lord?
HAMLET: I heard thee speak me a speech once, but it was never
acted; or, if it was, not above [more
than] once; for the play, I remember, pleased not the
million; ’twas caviar to the general [the general public did not appreciate caviar]: but
it was—as I received it, and others, whose judgments in such matters
cried in the top of mine—an excellent play, well digested in the
scenes, set down with as much modesty as cunning. I remember one
said there were no sallets [salads
or delicious treats] in the lines to make the matter
savoury, nor no matter in the phrase that might indict the author of
affectation; but called it an honest method, as wholesome as sweet,
and by very much more handsome than fine. One speech in it I chiefly
loved; ’twas Aeneas’ tale to Dido; and
thereabout of it especially, where he speaks of Priam’s slaughter.
If it live in your memory, begin at this line: let me see, let me
The rugged Pyrrhus, like the Hyrcanian beast,—
’tis not so, it begins with
The rugged Pyrrhus, he, whose sable arm,
Black as his purpose, did the night resemble
When he lay couched in the ominous horse [Trojan
Hath now this dread and black complexion smear’d
With heraldry more dismal; head to
Now is he total gules [red];
With blood of fathers, mothers, daughters, sons,
Bak’d and impasted [encrusted with
the residue of the burning city of Troy] with the parching
That lend a tyrannous and damned light
To their vile murders: roasted in wrath and
And thus o’er-sized with coagulate gore,
With eyes like carbuncles [red
gems], the hellish Pyrrhus
Old grandsire Priam seeks.
So proceed you.
POLONIUS: ’Fore God, my lord, well spoken; with good accent
FIRST PLAYER: Anon [soon],
he finds him
Striking too short at Greeks; his antique sword,
Rebellious to his arm, lies where it falls,
Repugnant to command. Unequal match’d,
Pyrrhus at Priam drives; in rage strikes
But with the whiff and wind of his fell sword
The unnerved father falls. Then senseless Ilium [Troy],
Seeming to feel this blow, with flaming top
Stoops to his base, and with a hideous crash
Takes prisoner Pyrrhus’ ear: for lo! his
Which was declining on the milky head
Of reverend Priam, seem’d i’ the air to stick:
So, as a painted tyrant, Pyrrhus stood,
And like a neutral to his will and matter,
But, as we often see, against some storm,
A silence in the heavens, the rack [clouds]
The bold winds speechless and the orb below
As hush as death, anon the dreadful thunder
Doth rend the region; so, after Pyrrhus’
Aroused vengeance sets him new a-work;
And never did the Cyclops’ hammers
On Mars’s armour, forg’d for proof [impenetrability] eterne [eternal],
With less remorse than Pyrrhus’ bleeding sword
Now falls on
Out, out, thou strumpet, Fortune! All you gods,
In general synod, take away her power;
Break all the spokes and fellies [parts
of a rim] from her wheel,
And bowl the round nave [wheel
hub] down the hill of heaven,
As low as to the
POLONIUS: This is too long.
HAMLET: It shall to the barber’s, with your beard. Prithee [I pray you], say on: he’s for a
jig or a tale of bawdry [dirty
story], or he sleeps [becomes
bored]. Say on; come to Hecuba.
FIRST PLAYER: But who, O! who had seen the mobled [wrapped up, enshrouded]
HAMLET: "The mobled queen?"—
POLONIUS: That’s good; "mobled queen" is
FIRST PLAYER: Run barefoot up and down, threat’ning the
With bisson rheum; a clout upon that head
[bisson rheum: Blinding (bisson)
discharge (rheum) from the eyes caused by smoke]
Where late the diadem stood; and, for a robe,
About her lank and all o’er-teemed loins [loins overtaxed or worn out by bearing children]
A blanket, in the alarm of fear caught
Who this had seen, with tongue in venom steep’d,
’Gainst Fortune’s state would treason have pronounc’d:
[Who . . . pronounc'd: Anyone who
had seen Hecuba in this sorry state would have condemned Lady
Fortune for her cruelty.]
But if the gods themselves did see her then,
When she saw Pyrrhus make malicious sport
In mincing with his sword her husband’s
The instant burst of clamour that she made—
Unless things mortal move them not at all—
Would have made milch [teary]
the burning eyes of heaven,
And passion in the gods.
POLONIUS: Look! wh’er [whether]
he has not turned his colour and has tears in ’s eyes. Prithee, no
HAMLET: ’Tis well; I’ll have thee speak out the rest soon.
Good my lord, will you see the players well bestowed? Do you hear,
let them be well used; for they are the abstracts and brief
chronicles of the time: after your death you were better have a bad
epitaph than their ill report while you live.
POLONIUS: My lord, I will use them according to their
HAMLET: God’s bodikins [by the body of the Lord], man, much
better; use every man after his desert, and who should ’scape
whipping? Use them after your own honour and dignity: the less they
deserve, the more merit is in your bounty. Take them in.
POLONIUS: Come, sirs.
HAMLET: Follow him, friends: we’ll hear a play
to-morrow. [Exit POLONIUS, with all the Players but the
First.] Dost thou hear me, old friend; can you play the Murder
FIRST PLAYER: Ay, my lord.
HAMLET: We’ll ha ’t to-morrow night. You could, for a need,
study a speech of some dozen or sixteen lines, which I would set
down and insert in ’t, could you not?
FIRST PLAYER: Ay, my lord.
HAMLET: Very well. Follow that lord; and look you mock him
not. [Exit First Player.] [To ROSENCRANTZ and
GUILDENSTERN.] My good friends, I’ll leave you till night; you
are welcome to Elsinore.
ROSENCRANTZ: Good my lord! [Exeunt ROSENCRANTZ and
HAMLET: Ay, so, God be wi’ ye! Now I am alone.
O! what a rogue and peasant slave am I:
Is it not monstrous that this player here,
But in a fiction, in a dream of passion [imagination],
Could force his soul so to his own
That from her working all his visage wann’d,
[Could force . . . wann'd: Could
force his soul to make his face appear pale]
Tears in his eyes, distraction [wild
excitement] in his aspect [the
way he looks],
A broken voice, and his whole function suiting
With forms to his conceit? and all for nothing!
What’s Hecuba to him or he to Hecuba
That he should weep for her? What would he do
Had he the motive and the cue for passion
That I have? He would drown the stage with tears,
And cleave [pierce] the
general ear with horrid
Make mad the guilty and appal the free,
Confound the ignorant, and amaze indeed
The very faculties of eyes and ears.
A dull and muddy-mettled rascal,
[muddy . . . peak: Man of dubious
courage and character who broods]
Like John-a-dreams [sluggish
good-for-nothing], unpregnant of my cause [not full of desire to avenge my
And can say nothing; no, not for a king,
Upon whose property and most dear life
A damn’d defeat was made. Am I a coward?
Who calls me villain? breaks my pate [head]
Plucks off my beard and blows it in my face?
Tweaks me by the nose? gives me the lie i’ the throat,
As deep as to the lungs? Who does me this?
[gives me . . . lungs: Calls me a
liar with all the force his voice can muster]
'Swounds [by His wounds—that is,
the wounds of Christ], I should take it, for it cannot
But I am pigeon-liver’d, and lack gall
To make oppression bitter, or ere [before]
I should have fatted all the region kites
With this slave’s offal. Bloody, bawdy villain!
[But I . . . villain: But I lack
the boldness to go after Claudius. After all, by this time, I
should have fed his guts (offal) to kites (birds of prey). What a
bloody, bawdy villain is he!]
Remorseless, treacherous, lecherous, kindless
Why, what an ass am I! This is most brave
That I, the son of a dear father murder’d,
Prompted to my revenge by heaven and hell,
Must, like a whore, unpack my heart with
And fall a-cursing, like a very drab,
A scullion! [lowly kitchen
Fie upon ’t! foh! [Exclamation of
disgust] About, my brain! I have heard,
That guilty creatures sitting at a play
Have by the very cunning of the
Been struck so to the soul that presently
They have proclaim’d their malefactions [sins; misdeeds];
For murder, though it have no tongue, will speak
With most miraculous organ. I’ll have these players
Play something like the murder of my
Before mine uncle; I’ll observe his looks;
I’ll tent [probe] him to
the quick [raw flesh beneath the
skin]: if he but blench [flinch]
I know my course. The spirit that I have seen
May be the devil: and the devil hath power
To assume a pleasing shape; yea, and
Out of my weakness and my melancholy—
As he is very potent with such spirits—
Abuses me to damn me. I’ll have grounds
More relative than this: the play’s the thing
Wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king.
Act 3, Scene 1
A room in the castle.
Enter KING, QUEEN, POLONIUS, OPHELIA, ROSENCRANTZ, and GUILDENSTERN.
KING: And can you, by no drift of circumstance [clue, hint],
Get from him why he puts on this confusion,
Grating so harshly all his days of
With turbulent and dangerous lunacy?
ROSENCRANTZ: He does confess he feels himself
But from what cause he will by no means speak.
GUILDENSTERN: Nor do we find him forward [eager] to be sounded [questioned],
But, with a crafty madness, keeps
When we would bring him on to some confession
Of his true state.
QUEEN: Did he receive you well?
ROSENCRANTZ: Most like a gentleman.
GUILDENSTERN: But with much forcing of his
[forcing . . . disposition:
forcing himself to be polite and pleasant]
ROSENCRANTZ: Niggard [stingy;
spare] of question, but of our demands
Most free in his reply.
QUEEN: Did you assay him
To any pastime?
[assay . . . to: Ask him about]
ROSENCRANTZ: Madam, it so fell out that certain
We o’er-raught [overtook]
on the way; of these we told him,
And there did seem in him a kind of joy
To hear of it: they are about the court,
And, as I think, they have already order
This night to play before
POLONIUS: ’Tis most true;
And he beseech’d me to entreat your majesties
To hear and see the matter.
KING: With all my heart; and it doth much content
To hear him so
Good lemen [gentlemen],
give him a further edge.
And drive his purpose on to these delights.
ROSENCRANTZ: We shall, my lord. [Exeunt ROSENCRANTZ and
KING: Sweet Gertrude, leave us too;
For we have closely sent for Hamlet
That he, as ’twere by accident, may here
Her father and myself, lawful espials [concerned observers],
Will so bestow [hide]
ourselves, that, seeing, unseen,
We may of their encounter frankly
And gather by him, as he is behav’d,
If ’t be the affliction of his love or no
That thus he suffers for you [Ophelia].
QUEEN: I shall obey you.
And for your part, Ophelia, I do
That your good beauties be the happy cause
Of Hamlet’s wildness; so shall I hope your virtues
Will bring him to his wonted [desired;
normal] way again,
To both your honours.
OPHELIA: Madam, I wish it may. [Exit
POLONIUS: Ophelia, walk you here. Gracious, so please
We will bestow ourselves. [To OPHELIA.] Read on this
That show of such an exercise may colour
Your loneliness. We are oft to blame in this,
’Tis too much prov’d, that with devotion’s visage [pious appearance]
And pious action we do sugar o’er
The devil himself.
KING: [Aside.] O! ’tis too true;
How smart a lash that speech doth give my conscience!
The harlot’s cheek, beautied with plastering
Is not more ugly to the thing that helps it
Than is my deed to my most painted word:
[The harlot's . . . word: The
prostitute's cheek plastered with makeup is no more ugly than my
devious actions and false words.]
O heavy burden!
POLONIUS: I hear him coming; let’s withdraw, my lord.
[Exeunt KING and POLONIUS.
HAMLET: To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? To die: to
No more; and, by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to, ’tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish’d. To die, to sleep;
[To be, or not . . . wish'd: To go
on living or end my life: that is the question. Is it nobler to
suffer the pain of misfortune or to take action against this pain.
Death brings eternal sleep, which supposedly ends suffering. That
is an outcome to be wished for.]
To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there’s the rub [obstacle; problem];
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause. There’s the respect
That makes calamity of so long life;
For who would bear the whips and scorns of
The oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely,
The pangs of dispriz’d love, the law’s delay,
The insolence of office, and the spurns
That patient merit of the unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus
With a bare bodkin? who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscover’d country from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
[To sleep . . . not of: The
dreams we might have in the sleep of death—in fact, all that
happens in the afterlife—is a very intimidating subject. For this
reason, people generally choose to live on rather than ending
their lives in spite of the severity of the troubles they face. I
don't think any person would bear life's problems—scorn,
oppression, insolence, love gone wrong, injustice, the arrogance
of the high and mighty, rejection—if he could end his life without
fear of what would happen next, in the afterlife. But the
afterlife is an undiscovered country from whose boundaries no one
returns. So, rather than commit suicide and confront the unknown,
we choose to stay alive and bear our burdens.]
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of
And enterprises of great pith and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry,
And lose the name of action. Soft you now!
The fair Ophelia! Nymph, in thy orisons [prayers]
Be all my sins
OPHELIA: Good my lord,
How does your honour for this many a day?
HAMLET: I humbly thank you; well, well, well.
OPHELIA: My lord, I have remembrances of yours,
That I have longed long to
I pray you, now receive them.
HAMLET: No, not I;
I never gave you aught [anything].
OPHELIA: My honour’d lord, you know right well you
And, with them, words of so sweet breath
As made the things more rich: their perfume lost,
Take these again; for to the noble mind
Rich gifts wax poor when givers prove unkind.
There, my lord.
HAMLET: Ha, ha! are you honest [chaste]?
OPHELIA: My lord!
HAMLET: Are you fair?
OPHELIA: What means your lordship?
HAMLET: That if you be honest and fair, your honesty should
admit no discourse to your beauty.
OPHELIA: Could beauty, my lord, have better commerce than with
HAMLET: Ay, truly; for the power of beauty will sooner
transform honesty [chastity]
from what it is to a bawd [prostitute,
whore] than the force of honesty can translate beauty into
his likeness: this was sometime a paradox, but now the time gives it
proof. I did love thee once.
[for the power . . . likeness:
Beautiful women tend to give in to lust rather than remain
OPHELIA: Indeed, my lord, you made me believe so.
HAMLET: You should not have believed me; for virtue cannot so
inoculate our old stock but we shall relish of it: I loved you not.
[virtue . . . it: We may admire
virtue, but we ourselves are anything but virtuous.]
OPHELIA: I was the more deceived.
HAMLET: Get thee to a nunnery: why wouldst thou be a breeder
of sinners? I am myself indifferent [somewhat] honest; but yet I could accuse me of such
things that it were better my mother had not borne me. I am very
proud, revengeful, ambitious; with more offences at my beck than I
have thoughts to put them in, imagination to give them shape, or
time to act them in. What should such fellows as I do crawling
between heaven and earth? We are arrant [complete] knaves, all; believe none of us. Go thy
ways to a nunnery. Where’s your
OPHELIA: At home, my lord.
HAMLET: Let the doors be shut upon him, that he may play the
fool nowhere but in ’s own house. Farewell.
OPHELIA: O! help him, you sweet heavens!
HAMLET: If thou dost marry, I’ll give thee this plague for thy
dowry: be thou as chaste as ice, as pure as snow, thou shalt not
escape calumny. Get thee to a nunnery, go; farewell. Or, if thou
wilt needs marry, marry a fool; for wise men know well enough what
monsters [fools; cuckolds]
you make of them. To a nunnery, go; and quickly too.
OPHELIA: O heavenly powers, restore
HAMLET: I have heard of your paintings [applications of makeup to her face]
too, well enough; God hath given you one face, and you make
yourselves another: you jig [dance
suggestively], you amble, and you lisp [speak affectedly; speak in a way
designed to impress others], and nickname God’s creatures,
and make your wantonness your ignorance. Go to, I’ll no more on ’t;
it hath made me mad. I say, we will have no more marriages; those
that are married already, all but one, shall live; the rest shall
keep as they are. To a nunnery, go. [Exit.
[nickname . . . ignorance: You
give lewd names to God's creatures but pretend you don't know what
OPHELIA: O! what a noble mind is here o’erthrown:
The courtier’s, soldier’s, scholar’s, eye, tongue, sword; [He has been an example for courtiers,
soldiers, and scholars to imitate.]
The expectancy [hope] and
rose of the fair state,
The glass of fashion and the mould of
The observ’d of all observers, quite, quite down!
And I, of ladies most deject and wretched,
That suck’d the honey of his music vows [sweet words],
Now see that noble and most sovereign reason,
Like sweet bells jangled, out of tune and
That unmatch’d form and feature of blown youth
Blasted with ecstasy: O! woe is me,
To have seen what I have seen, see what I see!
Re-enter KING and POLONIUS.
KING: Love! his affections do not that way
Nor what he spake, though it lack’d form a little,
Was not like madness. There’s something in his soul
O’er which his melancholy sits on brood [sits on a scheme or plot, as a hen sits on eggs];
And, I do doubt, the hatch and the disclose
Will be some danger; which for to
I have in quick determination
Thus set it down: he shall with speed to England,
For the demand of our neglected tribute:
[he shall . . . tribute: I will
send him to England on the pretense that he is to collect money
owed to Denmark.]
Haply [perhaps] the seas
and countries different
With variable objects [sights]
This something-settled matter in his heart [the malady that has settled in his
Whereon his brains still beating puts him thus
From fashion of himself. What think you on ’t?
[puts him . . . of himself: Makes
him act abnormally]
POLONIUS: It shall do well: but yet do I believe
The origin and commencement of his
Sprung from neglected love. How now, Ophelia!
You need not tell us what Lord Hamlet said;
We heard it all. My lord, do as you please;
But, if you hold it fit, after the play,
Let his queen mother all alone entreat
To show his griefs: let her be round with him;
And I’ll be plac’d, so please you, in the ear
Of all their conference. If she find him not,
[And I'll . . . conference: And I
will hide, then eavesdrop on their conversation.]
To England send him, or confine him where
Your wisdom best shall
KING: It shall be so:
Madness in great ones must not unwatch’d go. [Exeunt.
Act 3, Scene 2
A hall in the castle.
Enter HAMLET and certain Players.
HAMLET: Speak the speech, I pray you, as I pronounced it to
you, trippingly on the tongue; but if you mouth it, as many of your
players do, I had as lief the town-crier spoke my lines. Nor do not
saw the air too much with your hand [do not overdo your gestures], thus; but use all
gently: for in the very torrent, tempest, and—as I may say—whirlwind
of passion, you must acquire and beget a temperance, that may give
it smoothness. O! it offends me to the soul to hear a robustious
periwig-pated fellow tear a passion to tatters, to very rags, to
split the ears of the groundlings [actor in a powdered wig who
shouts his lines to the uneducated commoners], who for the most part
are capable of nothing but inexplicable dumb-shows and noise: I
would have such a fellow whipped for o’er-doing Termagant [noisy, overbearing, shrewish woman];
it out-herods Herod: pray you, avoid it.
FIRST PLAYER: I warrant [promise]
HAMLET: Be not too tame neither, but let your own discretion
be your tutor: suit the action to the word, the word to the action;
with this special observance, that you o’erstep not the modesty of
nature; for anything so overdone is from the purpose of playing,
whose end, both at the first and now, was and is, to hold, as
’twere, the mirror up to nature; to show virtue her own feature,
scorn her own image, and the very age and body of the time his form
and pressure. Now, this overdone, or come tardy off, though it make
the unskilful laugh, cannot but make the judicious grieve; the
censure of which one must in your allowance o’erweigh a whole
theatre of others. O! there be players that I have seen play, and
heard others praise, and that highly, not to speak it profanely,
that, neither having the accent of Christians nor the gait of
Christian, pagan, nor man, have so strutted and bellowed that I have
thought some of nature’s journeymen had made men and not made them
well, they imitated humanity so
FIRST PLAYER: I hope we have reformed that indifferently [moderately] with
HAMLET: O! reform it altogether. And let those that play your
clowns speak no more than is set down for them; for there be of them
that will themselves laugh, to set on some quantity of barren
spectators to laugh too, though in the mean time some necessary
question of the play be then to be considered; that’s villanous, and
shows a most pitiful ambition in the fool that uses it. Go, make you
ready. [Exeunt Players.
Enter POLONIUS, ROSENCRANTZ, and GUILDENSTERN.
How now, my lord! will the king hear this piece of work?
POLONIUS: And the queen too, and that
HAMLET: Bid the players make haste. [Exit
Will you two help to hasten them?
ROSENCRANTZ: and GUILDENSTERN: We will, my lord. [Exeunt
ROSENCRANTZ and GUILDENSTERN.
HAMLET: What, ho! Horatio!
HORATIO: Here, sweet lord, at your service.
HAMLET: Horatio, thou art e’en as just a man
As e’er my conversation cop’d [encountered;
dealt with] withal.
HORATIO: O! my dear lord,—
HAMLET: Nay, do not think I
For what advancement may I hope from thee,
That no revenue hast but thy good spirits
To feed and clothe thee? Why should the poor be
No; let the candied tongue [flatterer]
lick absurd pomp,
And crook the pregnant hinges of the knee [bend the knee]
Where thrift may follow fawning. Dost thou hear?
[Where . . . fawning:
Whenever a gain follows his flattery]
Since my dear soul was mistress of her choice
And could of men distinguish, her election
Hath seal’d [chosen] thee
for herself; for thou hast been
As one, in suffering all, that suffers
[As . . . nothing: As one who has
suffered but does not complain]
A man that fortune’s buffets and rewards
Hast ta’en with equal thanks; and bless’d are those
Whose blood and judgment are so well comingled
That they are not a pipe for fortune’s finger
[not . . . finger: Not
controlled by fortune—literally,
not a musical instrument (flute) to be played by fortune]
To sound what stop [note]
she please. Give me that
That is not passion’s slave, and I will wear him
In my heart’s core, ay, in my heart of heart,
As I do thee. Something too much of this [I'm dwelling too much on this subject.].
There is a play to-night before the king;
One scene of it comes near the
Which I have told thee of my father’s death:
I prithee, when thou seest that act afoot,
Even with the very comment [eye]
of thy soul
Observe mine uncle; if his occulted [concealed] guilt
Do not itself unkennel [reveal
itself] in one
It is a damned ghost that we have seen,
And my imaginations are as foul
As Vulcan’s stithy [the smithy of
Vulcan, the blacksmith god in Roman mythology]. Give him
For I mine eyes will rivet to his face,
And after we will both our judgments
In censure [analysis] of
his seeming [reaction; behavior].
HORATIO: Well, my lord:
If he steal aught the whilst this play is playing,
And ’scape detecting, I will pay the theft.
[If . . . theft: I will watch him
as I would watch a known thief. If he escapes detection, the fault
HAMLET: They are coming to the play; I must be idle [pretend to be deranged]:
Get you a place.
Danish march. A Flourish. Enter KING, QUEEN, POLONIUS,
OPHELIA, ROSENCRANTZ, GUILDENSTERN, and Others.
KING: How fares our cousin Hamlet?
HAMLET: Excellent, i’ faith; of the chameleon’s dish: I eat
the air, promise-crammed; you cannot feed capons so.
[How fares . . . capons so:
Claudius asks how Hamlet is getting along. But Hamlet pretends
that he interprets "fares" to mean "eats." He then says he eats
what the chameleon eats: air. It was believed that chameleons fed
on air. However, because the air is fat with promise but empty of
actual benefit, says Hamlet, one cannot feed air to capons
(castrated male chickens). Hamlet is like a chameleon in that he
changes colors—that is, he becomes a different person in front of
Claudius. However, in his effort to nail Claudius as the murderer
of his father, Hamlet so far has come up only with air but no
KING: I have nothing with [I
do not understand] this answer, Hamlet; these words are not
HAMLET: No, nor mine now. [To POLONIUS.] My lord,
you played once i’ the university, you say?
POLONIUS: That did I, my lord, and was accounted a good
HAMLET: And what did you enact?
POLONIUS: I did enact Julius Cæsar: I was killed i’ the
Capitol; Brutus killed me.
HAMLET: It was a brute part of him to kill so capital a calf
there. Be the players
ROSENCRANTZ: Ay, my lord; they stay upon your
QUEEN: Come hither, my good Hamlet, sit by me.
HAMLET: No, good mother, here’s metal [a precious metal, Ophelia] more
POLONIUS: [To the king] O ho! do you mark
HAMLET: Lady, shall I lie in your lap? [Lying down at
OPHELIA: No, my lord.
HAMLET: I mean, my head upon your lap?
OPHELIA: Ay, my lord.
HAMLET: Do you think I meant country matters [something indecent]?
OPHELIA: I think nothing, my
HAMLET: That’s a fair thought to lie between maids’ legs.
[That's . . . legs: After Ophelia
says she thinks nothing, Hamlet interprets nothing to mean the numerical symbol 0. Because of its shape, this symbol was
sometimes used as a representation of the vulva, the external part
of the female sex organ.]
OPHELIA: What is, my lord?
OPHELIA: You are merry, my lord.
OPHELIA: Ay, my lord.
HAMLET: O God, your only jig-maker. [O God, who is the original merrymaker.] What should
a man do but be merry? for, look you, how cheerfully my mother
looks, and my father died within’s two hours.
OPHELIA: Nay, ’tis twice two months, my lord.
HAMLET: So long? Nay, then, let the devil wear black, for I’ll
have a suit of sables. [Since it
is so long since my father's death, I will not wear typical black
mourning clothes. Let the devil do that. Instead, I will wear a
suit of sables (sumptuous black furs) suitable for other
O heavens! die two months ago, and not forgotten yet? Then there’s
hope a great man’s memory may outlive his life half a year; but, by
’r lady [by the Blessed Virgin
Mary], he must build churches then [churches that are dedicated to his
memory], or else shall he suffer not thinking on, with the
hobby-horse, whose epitaph is, ‘For, O! for, O! the hobby-horse is
forgot.’ [A hobby horse is a
wooden figure of a horse. In a dance called the morris, a
participant wore a costume resembling a hobby horse. During the
dance the hobby horse died, then later rose again and continued
the dance. Like the hobby horse, old King Hamlet died but later
rose to appear to Hamlet. However, because Hamlet has not yet
avenged his father's death, the spirit of the dead king may feel
that he "is forgot."]
play. The dumb-show [part of
a play acted without words; pantomime. The next passage presents
the dumb show].
Enter a King and a Queen, very lovingly; the Queen embracing him,
and he her. She kneels, and makes show of protestation unto
him. He takes her up, and declines his head upon her neck;
lays him down upon a bank of flowers: she, seeing him asleep, leaves
him. Anon [soon]
comes in a fellow, takes off his crown, kisses it, and pours poison
in the King’s ears, and exits. The Queen returns, finds the
King dead, and makes passionate action. The Poisoner, with
some two or three Mutes, comes in again, seeming to lament with
her. The dead body is carried away. The Poisoner woos
the Queen with gifts; she seems loath and unwilling awhile, but in
the end accepts his love. [Exeunt.
OPHELIA: What means this, my lord?
HAMLET: Marry, this is miching mallecho [sneaky mischief]; it means
OPHELIA: Belike [probably]
this show imports the argument [plot]
of the play.
HAMLET: We shall know by this fellow: the players cannot keep
counsel; they’ll tell all.
OPHELIA: Will he tell us what this show meant?
HAMLET: Ay, or any show that you’ll show him; be not you
ashamed to show, he’ll not shame to tell you what it
OPHELIA: You are naught, you are naught. I’ll mark the
PROLOGUE: For us and for our
Here stooping to your
We beg your hearing
HAMLET: Is this a prologue, or the posy of a ring? [brief poetry inscribed on a ring]
OPHELIA: ’Tis brief, my lord.
HAMLET: As woman’s
Enter two Players, King and Queen.
PLAYER KING: Full thirty times hath Phoebus’
cart [the sun] gone
Neptune’s salt wash [ocean] and Tellus’ orbed
ground, [Tellus: earth goddess in
And thirty dozen moons with borrow’d sheen
About the world have times twelve thirties
Since love our hearts and Hymen [god
of marriage in Greek mythology] did our hands
Unite commutual [together]
in most sacred bands.
PLAYER QUEEN: So many journeys may the sun and
Make us again count o’er ere love be done!
But, woe is me! you are so sick of
So far from cheer and from your former state,
That I distrust [am worried about]
you. Yet, though I distrust,
Discomfort you, my lord, it nothing must [I must not discomfort you];
For women’s fear and love holds quantity,
In neither aught, or in
Now, what my love is, proof hath made you know;
And as my love is siz’d, my fear is so.
Where love is great, the littlest doubts are fear;
Where little fears grow great, great love grows there.
PLAYER KING: Faith, I must leave thee [I must die], love, and shortly
My operant powers [strength]
their functions leave to do:
And thou shalt live in this fair world behind,
Honour’d, belov’d; and haply [perhaps]
one as kind
For husband shalt thou—
PLAYER QUEEN: O! confound the
Such love must needs be treason in my breast: [It would be treasonous to remarry.]
In second husband let me be accurst;
None wed the second but who kill’d the first.
HAMLET: [Aside.] Wormwood, wormwood. [Extremely bitter herb used in making
absinthe and other alcoholic drinks.]
PLAYER QUEEN: The instances that second marriage move [the reasons to marry a second time],
Are base respects of thrift [financial
or social gain], but none of love;
A second time I kill my husband dead,
When second husband kisses me in bed.
PLAYER KING: I do believe you think what now you
But what we do determine oft we
[I do . . . break: I believe you
are sincere about what you vow to do. But people often change
their minds and break their vows.]
Purpose is but the slave to memory,
Of violent birth, but poor validity;
Which now, like fruit unripe, sticks on the tree,
But fall unshaken when they mellow be.
[Which . . . be: Unripe fruit
remains on the tree; ripe fruit falls.]
Most necessary ’tis that we
To pay ourselves what to ourselves is debt;
What to ourselves in passion we propose,
The passion ending, doth the purpose lose.
[What to . . . lose: In a
moment of passion, we promise to do such and such. But when the
passion subsides, we forget about our promise.]
The violence of either grief or joy
Their own enactures [actions]
Where joy most revels grief doth most lament,
Grief joys, joy grieves, on slender accident.
This world is not for aye [for
aye: forever], nor ’tis not strange,
That even our love should with our fortunes change;
For ’tis a question left us yet to
Whe’r [whether] love lead
fortune or else fortune [fortune
[Whether love leads to good luck or
good luck leads to love].
The great man down, you mark his favourite flies;
[The great . . . flies: When a
great man suffers a downfall, notice that his favorite friends
The poor advanc’d makes friends of enemies.
[The poor . . . enemies: When the
poor and downtrodden advance, they become friends with enemies.]
And hitherto doth love on fortune tend,
[And . . . tend: In the same
way, success or failure at love may depend on whether a person's
fortune is good or bad.]
For who not needs shall never lack a
And who in want a hollow friend doth try
Directly seasons him his enemy.
[For who . . . enemy:
Whoever has everything—whoever has no needs—will never lack a
friend. But whoever has needs and asks a friend for help will make
of that friend an enemy.]
But, orderly to end where I begun,
Our wills and fates do so contrary run
That our devices still are
Our thoughts are ours, their ends none of our own:
So think thou wilt no second husband wed;
But die thy thoughts when thy first lord is dead.
[But, orderly . . . dead: But let
me end where I began. What we say we want and what fate gives us
are often at odds. You think that you will not remarry after I
die, but that thought will die when I die.]
PLAYER QUEEN: Nor earth to me give food, nor heaven
Sport and repose lock from me day and
To desperation turn my trust and hope!
An anchor’s cheer in prison be my scope!
Each opposite that blanks the face of joy
Meet what I would have well, and it destroy!
Both here and hence pursue me lasting
If, once a widow, ever I be wife!
[Nor earth . . . wife: If I were
to remarry, I would deserve no food, no heavenly light, no rest.
All my trust and hope would dissolve into desperation. The only
fit place for me would be a prison with only a hermit monk's (an
anchor's) cheer to keep me company. I would want the opposite of
joy. I would wish for the destruction of joy!]
HAMLET: If she should break it now! [What if she breaks her promises?]
PLAYER KING: ’Tis deeply sworn. [I believe you are sincere.] Sweet, leave me here
My spirits grow dull, and fain [gladly]
I would beguile
The tedious day with sleep.
PLAYER QUEEN: Sleep rock thy brain;
And never come mischance between us twain! [Exit.
HAMLET: Madam, how like you this play?
QUEEN: The lady doth protest too much [is excessive in her pleas],
HAMLET: O! but she’ll keep her
KING: Have you heard the argument? Is there no offence in
HAMLET: No, no, they do but jest, poison in jest; no offence
i’ the world.
KING: What do you call the play?
HAMLET: The Mouse-trap.
[The title indicates that Hamlet
wishes to use the play to trap, or ensnare, Claudius.]
Marry, how? Tropically [Tropically,
pronounced with a long O,
is an adverb coined from trope,
meaning figure of speech. Tropically
thus means figuratively]. This play is the image of a murder done in
Vienna: Gonzago is the duke’s name; his wife, Baptista. You shall
see anon; ’tis a knavish [mediocre]
piece of work: but what of that? your majesty and we that have free
souls, it touches us not: let the galled jade wince [let the saddle-sore horse wince];
our withers [part of a horse
between the shoulders] are unwrung [not pinched; not sore].
[Hamlet is saying, in effect: "You
and I, King Claudius, are free of guilt." But he knows well that
the king does feel guilt and will soon wince.]
Enter Player as
This is one Lucianus, nephew to the king.
OPHELIA: You are a good chorus, my lord.
HAMLET: I could interpret between you and your love, if I
could see the puppets dallying.
[I could . . . dallying: I could
interpret a scene between you and your lover if I could see you
OPHELIA: You are keen, my lord, you are keen.
HAMLET: It would cost you a groaning to take off my
[It . . . edge: Because I am keen,
like a knife, it would pain you to dull my edge.]
OPHELIA: Still better, and worse. [Your wit gets better, but your behavior gets worse.]
HAMLET: So you must take your husbands. [That is how you take your husbands:
for better or worse.] Begin, murderer; pox, leave thy
damnable faces, and begin. Come; the croaking raven doth bellow for
LUCIANUS: Thoughts black, hands apt, drugs fit, and time
Confederate season, else no creature seeing [The night is dark, and no one can see
Thou mixture rank, of midnight weeds
With Hecate’s ban [curse] thrice
blasted, thrice infected,
Thy natural magic and dire property,
On wholesome life usurp immediately. [Pours the poison into
the Sleeper’s ears
[Thou . . . property: These
poisonous midnight weeds—which the Queen of Witchcraft herself has
infected with poison—will work their magic and properties to kill
this healthy man].
HAMLET: He poisons him i’ the garden for’s estate. His name’s
Gonzago; the story is extant [remains
current; still told], and writ in very choice Italian. You
shall see anon [soon] how
the murderer gets the love of Gonzago’s wife.
OPHELIA: The king
HAMLET: What! frighted with false fire? [Is he afraid? It's only a play.]
QUEEN: How fares my lord?
POLONIUS: Give o’er the play. [Stop the play.]
KING: Give me some light: away!
ALL: Lights, lights, lights! [Exeunt all except HAMLET
HAMLET: Why, let the stricken deer go weep,
The hart ungalled play;
[Why . . . play: Why, let the deer
wounded in a hunt go weep. But let the other deer (hart),
untouched by the hunter's arrow, frolic and play.]
For some must watch,
while some must sleep:
So runs the world away.
Would not this, sir, and a forest of feathers [feathers on the costumes of the
players], if the rest of my fortunes turn Turk with me,
with two Provincial roses [rosettes]
on my razed [etched with designs]
shoes, get me a fellowship in a cry of players,
[Would . . . sir?: If I get down
on my luck, I could get a job as an actor. Don't you think?]
HORATIO: Half a share.
HAMLET: A whole one, I.
For thou dost know, O
Of Jove himself; and now
very—pajock [strutting peacock].
[Damon: In ancient Greek legend, a
devoted friend of Pythias—in this case, Hamlet.]
[Dismantled . . . himself: Brought
to ruin by Jupiter himself, the king of the gods in ancient Roman
HORATIO: You might have rimed.
HAMLET: O good Horatio! I’ll take the ghost’s word for a
thousand pound. Didst perceive?
HORATIO: Very well, my lord.
HAMLET: Upon the talk of the
HORATIO: I did very well note him.
HAMLET: Ah, ha! Come, some music! come, the recorders! [flutes with eight finger holes].
For if the king like not the comedy,
Why then, belike he likes it not, perdy [surely; certainly].
Re-enter ROSENCRANTZ and GUILDENSTERN.
GUILDENSTERN: Good my lord, vouchsafe me a word with
HAMLET: Sir, a whole history.
GUILDENSTERN: The king, sir,—
HAMLET: Ay, sir, what of
GUILDENSTERN: Is in his retirement marvellous distempered [in a bad mood].
HAMLET: With drink, sir?
GUILDENSTERN: No, my lord, rather with choler.
[Choler: Anger. In the next line
(below), Hamlet pretends that Guildenstern means that the king is
HAMLET: Your wisdom should show itself more richer to signify
this to his doctor; for, for me to put him to his purgation would
perhaps plunge him into far more choler.
GUILDENSTERN: Good my lord, put your discourse into some
frame, and start not so wildly from my affair [Please, sir, you're not making sense.]
HAMLET: I am tame, sir; pronounce.
GUILDENSTERN: The queen, your mother, in most great affliction
of spirit, hath sent me to you.
HAMLET: You are welcome.
GUILDENSTERN: Nay, good my lord, this courtesy is not of the
right breed. If it shall please you to make me a wholesome answer [to make sense in your replies],
I will do your mother’s commandment; if not, your pardon and my
return shall be the end of my business.
HAMLET: Sir, I
GUILDENSTERN: What, my lord?
HAMLET: Make you a wholesome answer; my wit’s diseased; but,
sir, such answer as I can make, you shall command; or, rather, as
you say, my mother: therefore no more, but to the matter: my mother,
ROSENCRANTZ: Then, thus she says: your behaviour hath struck
her into amazement and admiration [wonder].
HAMLET: O wonderful son, that can so astonish a mother! But is
there no sequel at the heels of this mother’s admiration?
ROSENCRANTZ: She desires to speak with you in her closet [private chamber] ere [before] you go to
HAMLET: We shall obey, were she ten times our mother. Have you
any further trade with us?
ROSENCRANTZ: My lord, you once did love me.
HAMLET: So I do still, by these pickers and stealers.
[Pickers and stealers: Hands.
Moral guidebooks admonished against using the hands to pick
pockets or steal valuables.]
ROSENCRANTZ: Good my lord, what is your cause of distemper?
you do surely bar the door upon your own liberty, if you deny your
griefs to your friend.
HAMLET: Sir, I lack
ROSENCRANTZ: How can that be when you have the voice of the
king himself for your succession in Denmark?
HAMLET: Ay, sir, but ‘While the grass grows,’—the proverb is
Enter Players, with recorders.
O! the recorders: let me see one. [Hamlet
holds a recorder, a flute with eight finger holes, then turns to
Guildenstern and Rosencrantz.] To withdraw with you: why do
you go about to recover the wind of me, as if you would drive me
into a toil? [Hamlet is annoyed
because Guildenstern and Rosencrantz are sticking so close to
GUILDENSTERN: O! my lord, if my duty be too bold, my love is
too unmannerly [I have been
staying by your side because I am concerned about you. Forgive me
if I seem unmannerly.].
HAMLET: I do not well understand that. Will you play upon this
GUILDENSTERN: My lord, I cannot.
HAMLET: I pray you.
GUILDENSTERN: Believe me, I cannot.
HAMLET: I do beseech
GUILDENSTERN: I know no touch of it, my lord.
HAMLET: ’Tis as easy as lying; govern these ventages [finger holes; stops] with your
finger and thumb, give it breath with your mouth, and it will
discourse most eloquent music. Look you, these are the
GUILDENSTERN: But these cannot I command to any utterance of
harmony; I have not the skill.
HAMLET: Why, look you now, how unworthy a thing you make of
me. You would play upon me; you would seem to know my stops; you
would pluck out the heart of my mystery; you would sound me from my
lowest note to the top of my compass [range]; and there is much music, excellent voice,
in this little organ, yet cannot you make it speak. ’Sblood [by the blood of the crucified Christ],
do you think I am easier to be played on than a pipe? Call me what
instrument you will, though you can fret me, you cannot play upon
[fret me: Double meaning: (1)
manipulate me, as a guitarist manipulates the strings of his
instrument; (2) vex or annoy me.]
God bless you, sir!
POLONIUS: My lord, the queen would speak with you, and
HAMLET: Do you see yonder cloud that’s almost in shape of a
POLONIUS: By the mass, and ’tis like a camel, indeed.
[By the mass: Mild oath. The mass
is a Catholic worship rite.]
HAMLET: Methinks it is like a
POLONIUS: It is backed like a weasel.
HAMLET: Or like a whale?
POLONIUS: Very like a whale.
[Obviously, the "mad" Hamlet is
playing games with Polonius. Polonius goes along with the game,
pretending to agree with him.]
HAMLET: Then I will come to my mother by and by.
[Aside.] They fool me to the top of my bent.
[Aloud.] I will come by and by.
POLONIUS: I will say so.
HAMLET: By and by is easily said. Leave me, friends.
[Exeunt all but HAMLET.
’Tis now the very witching time of night,
When churchyards yawn and hell itself breathes out
Contagion to this world: now could I drink hot blood,
And do such bitter business as the
Would quake to look on. Soft! [soft:
Pay attention; stand at attention; take note] now to my
O heart! lose not thy nature; let not ever
The soul of Nero [notorious Roman
emperor, AD 37-68, who murdered his mother] enter this firm
Let me be cruel, not unnatural;
I will speak daggers to her, but use
My tongue and soul in this be hypocrites;
How in my words soever she be shent [called to task; rebuked],
To give them seals [to back up my
words with action] never, my soul, consent!
Act 3, Scene 3
A room in the castle.
Enter KING, ROSENCRANTZ, and GUILDENSTERN
KING: I like him not [I
don't like his behavior], nor stands it safe with
To let his madness range. Therefore prepare you;
I your commission will forthwith
And he to England shall along with you.
The terms of our estate [my
kingship] may not endure
Hazard so dangerous as doth hourly grow
Out of his lunacies.
GUILDENSTERN: We will ourselves
Most holy and religious fear it is
To keep those many many bodies safe
That live and feed upon your majesty.
[We . . . majesty: We stand ready.
We believe we have a moral duty to protect everyone who depends on
ROSENCRANTZ: The single and peculiar life is bound
With all the strength and armour of the
To keep itself from noyance; but much more
That spirit upon whose weal depend and rest
The lives of many. The cease of majesty
Dies not alone, but, like a
gulf doth draw
What’s near it with it; it is a massy
Fix’d on the summit of the highest mount,
To whose huge spokes ten thousand lesser things
Are mortis’d and adjoin’d; which, when it falls,
Each small annexment, petty consequence,
Attends the boisterous ruin.
[The single . . . ruin: A person
fiercely protects himself from danger. But he is even more fierce
when it comes to protecting a ruler such as you, upon whom so many
lives depend. When a monarch falls to ruin, he draws down with
him, like a whirlpool, all that is around him. Another way of
putting it is to say that he is like a giant wheel to which is
attached his entire kingdom and its people. When it rolls down a
hill, the whole kingdom rolls with it.]
Did the king sigh, but with a general groan.
KING: Arm you, I pray you, to this speedy voyage;
For we will fetters put upon this fear,
Which now goes too free-footed.
ROSENCRANTZ and GUILDENSTERN: We will haste us. [Exeunt
POLONIUS: My lord, he’s going to his mother’s
Behind the arras [tapestry;
curtain] I’ll convey myself
To hear the process; I’ll warrant she’ll tax him home;
And, as you said, and wisely was it
’Tis meet that some more audience than a mother,
Since nature makes them partial, should o’er-hear
The speech, of vantage. Fare you well, my liege:
I’ll call upon you ere you go to bed
And tell you what I
KING: Thanks, dear my lord. [Exit POLONIUS.
O! my offence is rank, it smells to heaven;
It hath the primal eldest curse [the
curse on the biblical Cain for killing Abel] upon
A brother’s murder! Pray can I not,
Though inclination be as sharp as
My stronger guilt defeats my strong intent;
And, like a man to double business bound,
I stand in pause where I shall first begin,
And both neglect. What if this cursed hand
Were thicker than itself with brother’s
Is there not rain enough in the sweet heavens
To wash it white as snow? Whereto serves mercy
But to confront the visage of offence?
[Whereto . . . offence: Isn't
mercy supposed to bestow itself on the face of the offender?]
And what’s in prayer but this two-fold force,
To be forestalled, ere we come to
Or pardon’d, being down? Then, I’ll look up;
[And what's . . . down: Prayer has
a twofold purpose: (1) to prevent us from sinning and (2) to
pardon us when we do sin.]
My fault is past. But, O! what form of prayer
Can serve my turn? ‘Forgive me my foul murder?’
That cannot be; since I am still possess’d
Of those effects for which I did the
My crown, mine own ambition, and my queen.
May one be pardon’d and retain the offence?
In the corrupted currents of this world
Offence’s gilded hand may shove by justice,
And oft ’tis seen the wicked prize
Buys out the law; but ’tis not so above;
[In the . . . above: In this
corrupt world, a criminal can buy a pardon with his wicked prize
of gold. But he can't buy off heaven.]
There is no shuffling, there the action lies
In his true nature, and we ourselves compell’d
Even to the teeth and forehead of our faults
To give in evidence. What then? what
[There . . . rests: You cannot
bargain with heaven. You must face the true nature of your wicked
deeds. The evidence cannot be altered.]
Try what repentance can: what can it not?
Yet what can it, when one can not repent?
[Try . . . repent: I could repent.
But I cannot repent if I am to remain king and keep my gains.]
O wretched state! O bosom black as death!
O limed soul, that struggling to be free
Art more engaged! Help, angels! make
[limed . . . engaged: Limed
apparently refers to birdlime, a sticky preparation spread on tree
branches to catch birds. In Claudius's case, his "limed soul" is
stuck to his grave sin. The more his soul struggles to free
itself, the more it adheres to the sin.]
Bow, stubborn knees; and heart with strings of steel
Be soft as sinews of the new-born babe.
All may be well. [Retires and kneels.
HAMLET: Now might I do it [kill
him] pat, now he is
And now I’ll do ’t: and so he goes to heaven;
And so am I reveng’d. That would be scann’d [closely examined]:
A villain kills my father; and for that,
I, his sole son, do this same villain send
Why, this is hire and salary, not revenge.
He took my father grossly, full of bread,
With all his crimes broad blown, as flush as May;
And how his audit stands who knows save heaven?
[In lines 80-89, Hamlet speaks of a
new dilemma: if he kills Claudius, Claudius could go to heaven.
What kind of revenge would that be? Claudius, on the other hand,
killed King Hamlet when the latter had sin on his soul. The old
king ended up in purgatory. But why does Hamlet think
Claudius could merit heaven? Like all good Catholic boys, Hamlet
believed only God could judge the goodness or badness of a
person, as line 89 suggests.]
But in our circumstance and course of
’Tis heavy with him. And am I then reveng’d,
To take him in the purging of his soul,
When he is fit and season’d for his passage?
Up, sword, and know thou a more horrid hent [act of grasping or holding];
When he is drunk asleep, or in his rage,
Or in the incestuous pleasure of his bed,
At gaming, swearing, or about some act
That has no relish of salvation in ’t;
Then trip him, that his heels may kick at
And that his soul may be as damn’d and black
As hell, whereto it goes. My mother stays:
This physic but prolongs thy sickly days. [Exit.
[In lines 95-103, Hamlet says he
will wait until he is sure Claudius has sin on his soul before
The KING rises and advances.
KING: My words fly up, my thoughts remain
Words without thoughts never to heaven go. [Exit.
Act 3, Scene 4
The QUEEN'S apartment.
Enter QUEEN and POLONIUS.
POLONIUS: He will come straight. Look you lay home to [be firm with] him;
Tell him his pranks have been too broad [unbridled; unrestrained] to bear with,
And that your Grace hath screen’d and stood
Much heat and him. I’ll silence me e’en here.
Pray you, be round [strict]
HAMLET: [Within.] Mother, mother, mother!
QUEEN: I’ll warrant you [I'll
do as you say];
Fear me not. Withdraw, I hear him coming. [POLONIUS hides
behind the arras [tapestry;
HAMLET: Now, mother, what’s the matter?
QUEEN: Hamlet, thou hast thy father much offended.
HAMLET: Mother, you have my father much offended.
QUEEN: Come, come, you answer with an idle [foolish]
HAMLET: Go, go, you question with a wicked tongue.
QUEEN: Why, how now, Hamlet!
HAMLET: What’s the matter now?
QUEEN: Have you forgot me?
HAMLET: No, by the rood [cross
of Christ], not
You are the queen, your husband’s brother’s wife;
And,—would it were not so!—you are my mother.
QUEEN: Nay then, I’ll set those to you that can speak [Then I'll summon others to speak to
HAMLET: Come, come, and sit you down; you shall not
You go not, till I set you up a glass [mirror, used figuratively]
Where you may see the inmost part of you.
QUEEN: What wilt thou do? thou wilt not murder me?
Help, help, ho!
POLONIUS: [Behind.] What, ho! help! help!
HAMLET: [Draws.] How now! a rat? Dead, for a ducat,
dead! [Makes a pass through the
POLONIUS: [Behind.] O! I am slain.
QUEEN: O me! what hast thou done?
HAMLET: Nay, I know not: is it the king?
QUEEN: O! what a rash and bloody deed is this!
HAMLET: A bloody deed! almost as bad, good
As kill a king, and marry with his brother.
QUEEN: As kill a king!
HAMLET: Ay, lady, ’twas my word. [Lifts up the arras and
[To POLONIUS.] Thou wretched, rash, intruding fool,
I took thee for thy better [for
the king]; take thy fortune [take what you deserve];
Thou find’st to be too busy is some danger.
[Thou . . . danger: You found out
that being a snoop can be dangerous.]
Leave wringing of your hands: peace! sit you down,
And let me wring your heart; for so I shall
If it be made of penetrable stuff,
If damned custom have not brass’d it
That it is proof [metal]
and bulwark against sense
QUEEN: What have I done that thou dar’st wag thy
In noise so rude against me?
HAMLET: Such an act
That blurs the grace and blush of
Calls virtue hypocrite, takes off the rose
From the fair forehead of an innocent love
And sets a blister there, makes marriage vows
As false as dicers’ oaths; O! such a deed
As from the body of contraction [marriage
The very soul, and sweet religion makes
A rhapsody of words [insincere
words]; heaven’s face doth glow,
Yea, this solidity and compound mass,
[this . . . mass: The earth]
With tristful visage [sad face],
as against the doom,
Is thought-sick at the
QUEEN: Ay me! what act,
That roars so loud and thunders in the index?
[index: Table of contents.
The queen may be comparing herself to a stage drama. The horrible
"act" that she committed is one of the acts of the play. It is so
egregious that it stands out even in the table of contents.
She asks Hamlet to explain what is in the act.]
HAMLET: Look here, upon this picture, and on this;
The counterfeit presentment of two brothers.
See, what a grace was seated on this brow [that of old King Hamlet];
Hyperion’s curls, the front of Jove himself,
[Hyperion: In Greek mythology, the
father of the son god Helios. Jove: One of the Roman names for
Zeus, king of the Olympian gods in Greek mythology.]
An eye like Mars [Roman name for
Ares, the god of war in Greek mythology], to threaten and
A station [stature] like
the herald Mercury [Roman name for
Hermes, the messenger god in Greek mythology]
New-lighted [alighted] on a
A combination and a form
[combination . . . indeed:
Impressive physical specimen]
Where every god did seem to set his seal,
To give the world assurance of a man.
This was your husband: look you now, what follows.
Here is your husband [Claudius];
like a mildew’d ear,
Blasting his wholesome brother. Have you
Could you on this fair mountain [old
Hamlet] leave to feed,
And batten [get fat; gorge
yourself] on this moor? Ha! have you eyes?
You cannot call it love, for at your age
The hey-day [romantic passion]
in the blood is tame, it’s humble,
And waits upon the judgment; and what
Would step from this [old Hamlet]
to this [Claudius]? Sense,
sure, you have,
Else could you not have motion; but sure, that sense
Is apoplex’d [paralyzed];
for madness would not err,
Nor sense to ecstasy was ne’er so thrall’d
But it reserv’d some quantity of
To serve in such a difference. What devil was ’t
[for madness . . . difference:
Even an insane person would not make your mistake. His common
sense, though overtaken by a mad ecstasy, would still be able to
make better choices than you.]
That thus hath cozen’d [tricked]
you at hoodman-blind [blind man's
Eyes without feeling, feeling without sight,
Ears without hands or eyes, smelling sans all [smelling without the aid of the other
Or but a sickly part of one true
[Or . . sense: Or even a
sickly, partly malfunctioning sense]
Could not so mope [could not make
such a terrible mistake as you].
O shame! where is thy blush? Rebellious hell,
If thou canst mutine in [corrupt]
a matron’s bones,
To flaming youth let virtue be as wax,
And melt in her own fire: proclaim no
When the compulsive ardour [passion;
lust] gives the charge,
Since frost itself as actively doth burn,
And reason panders will.
[Rebellious . . . will: If hell
can so easily corrupt a woman of your age, passionate youth can
follow your example without shame. After all, aren't young people
supposed to follow the example of elders? Reason and good judgment
thus can become servants of a lustful will.]
QUEEN: O Hamlet! speak no more;
Thou turn’st mine eyes into my very
And there I see such black and grained spots
As will not leave their tinct
[As . . . tinct: As will not
HAMLET: Nay, but to live
In the rank sweat of an enseamed [polluted;
Stew’d in corruption, honeying and making
Over the nasty sty,—
QUEEN: O! speak to me no more;
These words like daggers enter in mine ears;
No more, sweet Hamlet!
HAMLET: A murderer, and a
A slave that is not twentieth part the tithe [a tenth]
Of your precedent lord; a vice of kings;
A cut-purse [thief; pickpocket]
of the empire and the rule,
That from a shelf the precious diadem stole,
And put it in his
QUEEN: No more!
HAMLET: A king of shreds and patches,—
Save me, and hover o’er me with your wings,
You heavenly guards! What would your gracious
QUEEN: Alas! he’s mad!
HAMLET: Do you not come your tardy son to chide,
That, laps’d in time and passion, lets go by
The important acting of your dread command?
GHOST: Do not forget: this visitation
Is but to whet thy almost blunted purpose.
But, look! amazement on thy mother sits;
O! step between her and her fighting soul;
Conceit [anxious thought]
in weakest bodies strongest
Speak to her, Hamlet.
HAMLET: How is it with you, lady?
QUEEN: Alas! how is ’t with you,
That you do bend your eye on vacancy [nothingness]
And with the incorporal air do hold
Forth at [from] your eyes
your spirits [thoughts]
And, as the sleeping soldiers in the alarm [awakened by a call to war],
Your bedded hair, like life in excrements [growth],
Starts up and stands an end. O gentle son!
Upon the heat and flame of thy
Sprinkle cool patience. Whereon do you look?
HAMLET: On him, on him! Look you, how pale he
His form and cause conjoin’d [the
ghost's bearing matches his grim purpose], preaching to
Would make them capable. Do not look upon me;
Lest with this piteous action you
My stern effects: then what I have to do
Will want true colour; tears perchance for blood.
[Do not . . . blood: Do not stare
at me lest the pitiful sight of you changes me from a bloodthirsty
avenger to a tearful mourner.]
QUEEN: To whom do you speak this?
HAMLET: Do you see nothing there?
QUEEN: Nothing at all; yet all that is I
HAMLET: Nor did you nothing hear?
QUEEN: No, nothing but ourselves.
HAMLET: Why, look you there! look, how it steals
My father, in his habit as he liv’d;
Look! where he goes, even now, out at the portal. [Exit
QUEEN: This is the very coinage of your brain:
This bodiless creation ecstasy
Is very cunning in.
[This is . . . cunning in: What
you think you see is the product of your vivid imagination.
Madness (ecstasy) can make you see things that don't exist.]
My pulse, as yours, doth temperately keep
And makes as healthful music. It is not madness
That I have utter’d: bring me to the test,
And I the matter will re-word, which madness
Would gambol from. Mother, for love of grace,
[bring me. . . gambol from: Test
me. I will repeat what I said word for word, a task that a madman
would run away from.]
Lay not that flattering unction [healing
salve] to your
That not your trespass but my madness speaks;
[Lay . . . speaks: Don't flatter
yourself that you are innocent of wrongdoing because my so-called
madness is to blame. That fact is, you are the trespasser; you
It will but skin and film the ulcerous place,
Whiles rank corruption, mining all within,
Infects unseen. Confess yourself to heaven;
[it will . . . heaven: The healing
unction will only cover over your wound (sin) while infection runs
wild beneath your skin.]
Repent what’s past; avoid what is to
And do not spread the compost on the weeds
To make them ranker. Forgive me this my virtue;
[do not . . . ranker: Do not
continue to nurture (spread compost on) your sinful relationship
(weeds) with Claudius. Your sin will only worsen.]
For in the fatness of these pursy times
Virtue itself of vice must pardon beg,
Yea, curb [bow] and woo for
leave to do him good [for
permission to do good].
[Forgive . . . good: Forgive me
for preaching to you. But in the this corrupt age, fat and
complacent, virtue must beg vice for permission to do good.]
QUEEN: O Hamlet! thou hast cleft my heart in twain [cut my heart in two].
HAMLET: O! throw away the worser part of it,
And live the purer with the other half.
Good night; but go not to mine uncle’s bed;
Assume a virtue [pretend to have a
virtue], if you have it
That monster, custom, who all sense doth eat,
Of habits devil, is angel yet in this,
That to the use of actions fair and good
He likewise gives a frock or livery,
That aptly is put on. Refrain
[That monster . . . put on: That
monster custom, or habit, feeds on devilish habits. But custom can
become an angel when it causes us to do good with the same ease as
putting on a suit of clothes.]
And that shall lend a kind of easiness
To the next abstinence: the next more easy;
For use [practicing good deeds]
almost can change the stamp of nature,
And master ev’n the devil or throw him out
With wondrous potency. Once more,
And when you are desirous to be bless’d,
I’ll blessing beg of you. For this same lord, [Pointing to
I do repent: but heaven hath pleas’d it so,
To punish me with this, and this with me,
That I must be their scourge and
[heaven . . . minister: Heaven has
made me a judge and executioner, punishing him with death
and me with the guilt of his death.]
I will bestow him [dispose of his
body], and will answer well
The death I gave him. So, again, good-night.
I must be cruel only to be kind:
Thus bad begins and worse remains behind.
One word more, good
QUEEN: What shall I do?
HAMLET: Not this, by no means, that I bid you do:
Let the bloat [bloated]
king tempt you again to bed;
Pinch wanton on your cheek; call you his mouse;
And let him, for a pair of reechy [dirty;
Or paddling in your neck with his damn’d fingers,
Make you to ravel all this matter out,
That I essentially am not in madness,
But mad in craft. ’Twere good you let him know;
For who that’s but a queen, fair, sober,
Would from a paddock, from a bat, a gib,
Such dear concernings hide? who would do so?
No, in despite of sense and secrecy,
Unpeg the basket on the house’s top,
Let the birds fly, and, like the famous
To try conclusions, in the basket creep,
And break your own neck down.
[Lines 202-217 (Not this . . .
neck down): After the king tempts you to bed, pinches your cheek,
calls you his mouse, gives you filthy kisses, and strokes your
neck, he will try to make you report our conversation. But DON'T
tell him that I am really not mad. Oh, yes, as queen you would be
expected to tell all to the king. He would say that it would be
good for you to let him know what's going on. He would have you
believe that you could even tell a toad, a bat, and a cat the
whole story. Moreover, like the ape in a famous story, you could
release the birds from their cage—that is, release the details of
our conversation. Remember, though, that in the story the ape
entered the cage out of curiousity, then later jumped out and
broke his neck.]
QUEEN: Be thou assur’d, if words be made of
And breath of life, I have no life to breathe
What thou hast said to
[Be though . . . me: Be assured
that I will not breathe a word of what you said to me.]
HAMLET: I must to England; you know that?
QUEEN: Alack! [Interjection
expressing regret or sorrow. Same as alas.]
I had forgot: ’tis so concluded on.
HAMLET: There’s letters seal’d; and my two
Whom I will trust as I will adders
They bear the mandate; they must sweep my way,
And marshal me to knavery. Let it work,
For ’tis the sport to have the enginer [engineer]
Hoist with his own petar [blown up
with his own land mine]: and it shall go hard
But I will delve one yard below their
And blow them at the moon. O! ’tis most sweet,
When in one line two crafts directly meet.
[When . . . meet: When with one
scheme I defeat two enemies.]
This man shall set me packing;
I’ll lug the guts [Polonius]
into the neighbour room.
Mother, good-night. Indeed this
Is now most still, most secret, and most grave,
Who was in life a foolish prating knave.
Come, sir, to draw toward an end with you.
Good-night, mother. [Exeunt severally; HAMLET dragging in the
body of POLONIUS.
Act 4, Scene 1
A room in the castle.
Enter KING, QUEEN, ROSENCRANTZ, and GUILDENSTERN.
KING: There’s matter in these sighs, these profound
You must translate; ’tis fit we understand them.
Where is your
QUEEN: [To ROSENCRANTZ and GUILDENSTERN.] Bestow this
place on us a little while. [Exeunt ROSENCRANTZ and
Ah! my good lord, what have I seen to-night.
KING: What, Gertrude? How does Hamlet?
QUEEN: Mad as the sea and wind, when both contend
Which is the mightier. In his lawless
Behind the arras [tapestry;
curtain] hearing something stir,
Whips out his rapier, cries, ‘A rat! a rat!’
And, in his brainish apprehension, kills
The unseen good old man.
KING: O heavy
It had been so with us had we been there.
His liberty is full of threats to all;
To you yourself, to us, to every one.
Alas! how shall this bloody deed be answer’d?
It will be laid to us, whose
Should have kept short, restrain’d, and out of haunt,
This mad young man: but so much was our love,
We would not understand what was most fit,
But, like the owner of a foul disease,
To keep it from divulging, let it
Even on the pith of life. Where is he gone?
QUEEN: To draw apart the body he hath kill’d;
O’er whom his very madness, like some ore
Among a mineral of metals base,
Shows itself pure: he weeps for what is
KING: O Gertrude! come away.
The sun no sooner shall the mountains touch
But we will ship him hence; and this vile deed
We must, with all our majesty and skill,
Both countenance and excuse. Ho!
Re-enter ROSENCRANTZ and GUILDENSTERN.
Friends both, go join you with some further aid:
[join . . . aid: Get help.]
Hamlet in madness hath Polonius slain,
And from his mother’s closet hath he dragg’d him:
Go seek him out; speak fair, and bring the
Into the chapel. I pray you, haste in this. [Exeunt
ROSENCRANTZ and GUILDENSTERN.
Come, Gertrude, we’ll call up our wisest friends;
And let them know both what we mean to do,
And what’s untimely done: so, haply [perhaps], slander,
Whose whisper o’er the world’s
As level as the cannon to his blank
Transports his poison’d shot, may miss our name,
And hit the woundless air. O! come away;
My soul is full of discord and dismay. [Exeunt.
Act 4, Scene 2
Another room in the castle.
HAMLET: Safely stowed.
ROSENCRANTZ: and GUILDENSTERN: [Within.] Hamlet! Lord
HAMLET: What noise? who calls on
O! here they come.
Enter ROSENCRANTZ and GUILDENSTERN.
ROSENCRANTZ: What have you done, my lord, with the dead
HAMLET: Compounded it with dust, whereto ’tis kin.
[It's in a dusty place. When we
die, we all return to dust.]
ROSENCRANTZ: Tell us where ’tis, that we may take it
And bear it to the chapel.
HAMLET: Do not believe it.
ROSENCRANTZ: Believe what?
HAMLET: That I can keep your counsel and not mine own.
Besides, to be demanded of a sponge! what replication should be made
by the son of a king?
[That . . . king: That I can
accept your advice instead of my own. Besides, I don't respond to
the demands of a sponge. What reply can I make to a sponge?]
ROSENCRANTZ: Take you me for a sponge, my
HAMLET: Ay, sir, that soaks up the king’s countenance [approval], his rewards, his
authorities. But such officers do the king best service in the end:
he keeps them, like an ape, in the corner of his jaw; first mouthed,
to be last swallowed: when he needs what you have gleaned, it is but
squeezing you, and, sponge, you shall be dry again.
[when . . . again: When he
needs the information you have learned, he just squeezes it out of
you. Then you'll be dry again.]
ROSENCRANTZ: I understand you not, my lord.
HAMLET: I am glad of it: a knavish speech sleeps in a foolish
[a knavish . . . ear: A clever
speech sleeps (becomes mute) in the ear of a fool like you.]
ROSENCRANTZ: My lord, you must tell us where the body is, and
go with us to the king.
HAMLET: The body is with the king, but the king is not with
the body. The king is a
[The body . . . thing: The
citizens of Denmark (the body politic) pledge allegiance to the
king. However, the king is not with his subjects. He is just a
thing, an empty thing, and thinks only of himself.]
GUILDENSTERN: A thing, my lord!
HAMLET: Of nothing: bring me to him. Hide fox, and all
[Hide . . . after: What these
words mean is open to interpretation. Hide fox may be an allusion to the game of
hide-and-seek. Hamlet may be announcing that he will hide his
sane, crafty self (fox) and all of his strange behavior up to this
Act 4, Scene 3
Another room in the castle.
Enter KING, attended.
KING: I have sent to seek him, and to find the
How dangerous is it that this man goes loose!
Yet must not we put the strong law on
He’s lov’d of the distracted [confused;
experiencing conflicting feelings] multitude,
Who like not in their judgment, but their eyes;
[Who . . . eyes: Who judge by what
And where ’tis so, the offender’s scourge [punishment] is weigh’d,
But never the offence [gravity of
the crime]. To bear all smooth and even,
This sudden sending him away must
Deliberate pause: diseases desperate grown
By desperate appliance are reliev’d,
Or not at all.
[To bear . . . all: To appear calm
and reasonable, I must make it seem as if sending him away is a
fair and thoughtfully considered action. But the desperate state
of mind of Hamlet requires desperate action, or none at all.]
How now! what hath
ROSENCRANTZ: Where the dead body is bestow’d, my
We cannot get from him.
KING: But where is he?
ROSENCRANTZ: Without, my lord; guarded, to know your
KING: Bring him before
ROSENCRANTZ: Ho, Guildenstern! bring in my lord.
Enter HAMLET and GUILDENSTERN.
KING: Now, Hamlet, where’s Polonius?
HAMLET: At supper.
KING: At supper!
HAMLET: Not where he eats, but where he is eaten: a certain
convocation of politic [experienced;
shrewd] worms are e’en at him. Your worm is your only
emperor for diet: we fat all creatures else to fat us, and we fat
ourselves for maggots: your fat king and your lean beggar is but
variable service; two dishes, but to one table: that’s the end.
[we fat . . . end: We raise and
fatten animals that feed us. Meanwhile, we ourselves grow fat and,
after we die, are eaten by maggots. A king and a beggar are equals
in death: the worms dine on both of them.]
KING: Alas, alas!
HAMLET: A man may fish with the worm that hath eat of a king,
and eat of the fish that hath fed of that worm.
KING: What dost thou mean by this?
HAMLET: Nothing, but to show you how a king may go a progress
through the guts of a
KING: Where is Polonius?
HAMLET: In heaven; send thither to see: if your messenger find
him not there, seek him i’ the other place yourself. But, indeed, if
you find him not within this month, you shall nose [smell] him as you go up the
stairs into the lobby.
KING: [To some Attendants.] Go seek him
HAMLET: He will stay till you come. [Exeunt
KING: Hamlet, this deed, for thine especial
Which we do tender, as we dearly grieve
For that which thou hast done, must send thee hence
With fiery quickness: therefore prepare thyself;
The bark [ship] is ready, and the wind at help,
The associates tend, and every thing is
HAMLET: For England!
KING: Ay, Hamlet.
KING: So is it, if thou knew’st our
HAMLET: I see a cherub that sees them. But, come, for England!
Farewell, dear mother.
KING: Thy loving father, Hamlet.
HAMLET: My mother: father and mother is man and wife, man and
wife is one flesh, and so, my mother. Come, for England!
[My . . . England: You're my
mother. A man and a woman become one flesh when they are married.
Therefore, you are my mother. Now I will go to England.]
KING: Follow him at [on]
foot; tempt him with speed aboard:
[tempt . . . aboard: Get him
Delay it not, I’ll have him hence [gone]
Away! for every thing is seal’d and done
That else leans on the affair: pray you, make haste. [Exeunt
ROSENCRANTZ and GUILDENSTERN.
[Every . . . affair: Everything
you need for the journey is prepared.]
And, England [you, king of
England], if my love thou hold’st at aught,—
As my great power thereof may give thee sense,
Since yet thy cicatrice [scar]
looks raw and
After the Danish sword, and thy free awe
Pays homage to us,—thou mayst not coldly set
Our sovereign process, which imports at full,
By letters conjuring to that effect,
The present death of Hamlet. Do it,
[if my love . . . England: If you
love and respect me—which my military power should make you do,
considering that you still have a red scar (cicatrice) from a
Danish sword and willingly acknowledge and pay homage to my
might—you will not hesitate to carry out the orders conveyed in
the letters of my messengers: namely, to kill Hamlet. Do it,
For like the hectic in my blood he rages,
And thou must cure me. Till I know ’tis done,
Howe’er my haps, my joys were ne’er begun. [Exit.
[For . . . begun: He is a fever in
my blood. You must cure me. I will not be happy until the deed is
Act 4, Scene 4
A plain in Denmark.
Enter FORTINBRAS, a captain, and soldiers, marching.
FORTINBRAS: Go, captain, from me greet the Danish
Tell him that, by his licence, Fortinbras
Claims the conveyance of a promis’d
Over his kingdom. You know the rendezvous.
[by his . . . rendezvous: With the
king's permission, I will march my army through his country. You
know where to go to convey my message.]
If that his majesty would aught with us,
We shall express our duty in his eye,
And let him know so.
[If that . . . so: If the king
wants us to do anything for him, let him know that we are ready
CAPTAIN: I will do ’t, my
FORTINBRAS: Go softly on. [Exeunt FORTINBRAS and
Enter HAMLET, ROSENCRANTZ, GUILDENSTERN, &c.
HAMLET: Good sir, whose powers [soldiers] are these?
CAPTAIN: They are of Norway, sir.
HAMLET: How purpos’d [how
are they directed], sir, I pray
CAPTAIN: Against some part of Poland.
HAMLET: Who commands them, sir?
CAPTAIN: The nephew to old Norway [Norwegian king], Fortinbras.
HAMLET: Goes it against the main [major cities] of Poland, sir,
Or for some
CAPTAIN: Truly to speak, and with no addition,
We go to gain a little patch of ground
That hath in it no profit but the name.
To pay five ducats, five, I would not farm it;
Nor will it yield to Norway or the
A ranker [higher] rate,
should it be sold in fee.
HAMLET: Why, then the Polack never will defend it.
CAPTAIN: Yes, ’tis already garrison’d. [Yes, they will. Troops are in place to
make a stand.]
HAMLET: Two thousand souls and twenty thousand
Will not debate the question of this
This is the imposthume of much wealth and peace,
That inward breaks, and shows no cause without
Why the man dies. I humbly thank you, sir.
[Two . . . dies: It would take
more than two thousand men and twenty thousand ducats to wage this
war. This situation, the result of great wealth and a period of
peace, is like an inflamed swelling inside the body that bursts
and kills a man but gives no outward sign of the cause of death.]
CAPTAIN: God be wi’ [with]
you, sir. [Exit.
ROSENCRANTZ: Will ’t please you go, my
HAMLET: I’ll be with you straight. Go a little before.
[Exeunt all except HAMLET.
How all occasions do inform against me,
And spur my dull revenge! What is a man,
If his chief good and market of his time
Be but to sleep and feed? a beast, no
Sure he that made us with such large discourse,
Looking before and after, gave us not
That capability and god-like reason
To fust in us unus’d. Now, whe’r it be
Bestial oblivion, or some craven
Of thinking too precisely on the event,
A thought, which, quarter’d, hath but one part wisdom,
And ever three parts coward, I do not know
Why yet I live to say ‘This thing’s to do;’
Sith I have cause and will and strength and
To do ’t. Examples gross as earth exhort me:
[How . . . exhort me: Everything I
encounter seems to accuse me of delaying my revenge. What good is
a man if all he does is sleep and eat? Surely the God that made us
into beings with great intelligence, enabling us to learn from the
past and consider the future judiciously, did not intend us to
allow our God-given reason to grow moldy with disuse. Now, whether
I am just a dumb animal or a coward afraid to act, I do not know.
Yet I cling to the thought of gaining revenge; and I have the
motive, will, strength, and means to do it. The examples of others
urge me on.]
Witness this army of such mass and charge
Led by a delicate and tender prince,
Whose spirit with divine ambition puff’d
Makes mouths at the invisible
Exposing what is mortal and unsure
To all that fortune, death and danger dare,
Even for an egg-shell. Rightly to be great
Is not to stir without great argument,
But greatly to find quarrel in a
When honour’s at the stake. How stand I then,
[Witness . . . at the stake: The
delicate prince who leads this huge army is not delaying his
mission. He is ready to risk his life even over a paltry matter.
True greatness in a man is not measured by whether he will fight
over a major issue but by whether he will fight over a minor issue
when his honor is at stake.]
That have a father kill’d, a mother stain’d,
Excitements of my reason and my blood,
And let all sleep, while, to my shame, I see
The imminent death of twenty thousand
[That have . . . sleep: That have
a father who has been murdered, a mother who has been defiled,
disturbances in my intellect and my blood, and a propensity to
allow my plans for revenge to sleep.]
That, for a fantasy and trick [illusion]
Go to their graves like beds, fight for a plot
Whereon the numbers cannot try the cause,
[Whereon . . . cause: In which the
number of men is insufficient to gain victory]
Which is not tomb enough and continent
To hide [bury] the slain?
O! from this time
My thoughts be bloody, or be nothing worth! [Exit.
Act 4, Scene 5
Elsinore. A room in the castle.
Enter QUEEN, HORATIO, and a GENTLEMAN.
QUEEN: I will not speak with her.
GENTLEMAN: She is importunate, indeed distract [mentally
Her mood will needs be
QUEEN: What would she have?
GENTLEMAN: She speaks much of her father; says she
There’s tricks [trickery; deceit]
i’ the world; and hems [hems and
haws], and beats [strikes]
her heart [chest];
Spurns enviously at straws [kicks
things around]; speaks things in doubt,
That carry but half sense: her speech is
Yet the unshaped use of it doth move
The hearers to collection [attempt
to discover the meaning of what she says]; they aim at
And botch the words up [interpret
it to] fit to their own thoughts;
Which, as her winks, and nods, and gestures yield them,
Indeed would make one think there might be
Though nothing sure, yet much unhappily [unhappily does she brood].
HORATIO: ’Twere good she were spoken with, for she may
Dangerous conjectures in ill-breeding minds.
QUEEN: Let her come in. [Exit Gentleman.
To my sick soul, as sin’s true nature
[To . . . is: Sin so sickens my
Each toy [trifle] seems
prologue to some great amiss [tragedy]:
So full of artless jealousy is guilt,
It spills itself in fearing to be spilt.
[So . . . spilt: My guilty
thoughts reveal themselves simply because I worry that they will.]
Re-enter Gentleman, with OPHELIA.
OPHELIA: Where is the beauteous majesty of
QUEEN: How now, Ophelia!
How should I your true love know
From another one?
By his cockle hat and staff,
And his sandal shoon.
[How . . . shoon: Ophelia sings a
little song. It says that a woman can tell her true love from
another suitor by his attire. The true love is dressed as a
pilgrim traveling to the shrine of St. James of Compostela, Spain.
Such a pilgrim wore a hat adorned with a cockleshell, a symbol of
religious devotion. Apparently, he also carried a staff and wore
sandals. Shoon is an
archaic plural of shoe.]
QUEEN: Alas! sweet lady, what imports this song?
OPHELIA: Say you? nay, pray you, mark. [What did you say? Oh, forget it. Just
He is dead and gone, lady,
He is dead and gone;
At his head a grass-green turf;
At his heels a stone [tombstone].
QUEEN: Nay, but Ophelia,—
OPHELIA: Pray you, mark.
White his shroud as the mountain snow,—
QUEEN: Alas! look here, my lord.
Larded with ’sweet flower;
Which bewept to the grave did go
[Larded . . . showers: Covered
with sweet flowers, (he) went to the grave with his true love's
shower of tears.]
KING: How do you, pretty lady?
OPHELIA: Well, God ’ild you! [God
yield you—that is, God yield a reward to you]. They say the
owl was a baker’s daughter. Lord! we know what we are, but know not
what we may be. God be at your table!
[They . . . may be: According to a
legend, Christ asked a baker for bread. When the baker's wife gave
Him a large portion, the baker's daughter complained that her
mother was too generous. The daughter was turned into an owl. This
story taught Ophelia that "we know what we are, but know not what
we may be."]
KING: Conceit upon her father [reference (conceit) to her deceased father].
OPHELIA: Pray you, let’s have no words of this; but when they
ask you what it means, say you this:
To-morrow is Saint Valentine’s day,
All in the morning betime,
And I a maid at your window,
To be your Valentine:
Then up he rose, and donn’d his clothes,
And dupp’d the chamber door;
Let in the maid, that out a maid
Never departed more.
[All in . . . more: In the
morning, I stood before the window of his house, seeking to be his
Valentine. He opened (dupp'd) the door and let me in. I was a
virgin when I entered—but not when I left.]
OPHELIA: Indeed, la! without an oath, I’ll make an end on ’t:
By Gis [Jesus]
and by Saint Charity,
Alack, and fie for shame!
[Alack: Interjection expressing
regret or sorrow (same as alas);
fie: interjection expression disapproval.]
Young men will do ’t, if they come to ’t;
[Young men will take advantage of
young women if they get an opportunity.]
By Cock [the Lord] they are to blame.
Quoth she, before you tumbled [bedded] me,
You promis’d me to wed:
So would I ha’ [have]
done, by yonder sun,
thou hadst not come to my bed.
KING: How long hath she been thus?
OPHELIA: I hope all will be well. We must be patient: but I
cannot choose but weep, to think they should lay him i’ the cold
ground. My brother shall know of it: and so I thank you for your
good counsel. Come, my coach [coach
driver]! Good-night, ladies; good-night, sweet ladies;
good-night, good-night. [Exit.
KING: Follow her close; give her good watch, I pray you.
O! this is the poison of deep grief; it
All from her father’s death. O Gertrude, Gertrude!
When sorrows come, they come not single spies,
But in battalions. First, her father slain;
Next, your son gone; but he most violent author
Of his own just remove: the people
Thick and unwholesome in their thoughts and whispers,
For good Polonius’ death; and we have done but greenly,
In hugger-mugger to inter him: poor Ophelia
[Next . . . inter him: Next, your
son, Hamlet, is gone as a result of his own violent actions. The
people are confused and thick with unwholesome thoughts and
whispers about the death of Polonius. We were wrong to bury
him in secret rather than in a public ceremony.]
Divided from herself and her fair judgment
[Divided . . . judgment: Stricken
Without the which we are pictures, or mere
[Without . . . beasts: Her
insanity makes her think we are just pictures or beasts.]
Last, and as much containing [as
important] as all these,
Her brother is in secret come from France,
Feeds on his wonder, keeps himself in clouds,
And wants not buzzers [gossips]
to infect his ear
With pestilent speeches of his father’s
Wherein necessity, of matter beggar’d,
Will nothing stick our person to arraign
In ear and ear. O my dear Gertrude! this,
Like to a murdering-piece [loaded
cannon], in many
Gives me superfluous death. [A noise
[Wherein . . . death: In his
attempt to find out exactly what happened—an urgent necessity for
him—Laertes won't find incriminating evidence but will end up
blaming me for his father's death. Dear Gertrude, I feel as if I
am the target of a cannon which, when it fires, will kill me in
QUEEN: Alack! what noise is this?
Enter a Gentleman.
KING: Where are my Switzers [Swiss
bodyguards]? Let them guard the door.
What is the matter?
GENTLEMAN: Save yourself, my
The ocean, overpeering of [rising
above] his list [normal
Eats not the flats [floods not the
shore and lowlands] with more impetuous haste
Than young Laertes, in a riotous head,
O’erbears your officers. The rabble call him lord;
And, as the world were now but to
Antiquity forgot, custom not known,
The ratifiers and props of every word,
They cry, ‘Choose we; Laertes shall be king!’
Caps, hands, and tongues, applaud it to the clouds,
‘Laertes shall be king, Laertes
QUEEN: How cheerfully on the false trail they cry!
O! this is counter [treasonous],
you false Danish dogs!
KING: The doors are broke. [Noise within.
Enter LAERTES, armed; Danes following.
LAERTES: Where is the king? Sirs, stand you all
DANES: No, let’s come in.
LAERTES: I pray you, give me leave.
DANES: We will, we will. [They retire without the
LAERTES: I thank you: keep the door. O thou vile
Give me my
QUEEN: Calmly, good Laertes.
LAERTES: That drop of blood that’s calm proclaims me
Cries cuckold to my father, brands the harlot
Even here, between the chaste unsmirched brow
Of my true
[That drop . . . mother: I am as
calm as if someone called me a bastard, said my father was cheated
on, and branded my mother a whore with a hot iron.]
KING: What is the cause, Laertes,
That thy rebellion looks so giant-like?
Let him go, Gertrude; do not fear our person:
There’s such divinity doth hedge a king,
That treason can but peep to what it
Acts little of his will. Tell me, Laertes,
[Let . . . will: Let him have his
say, Gertrude. Don't worry about me. God protects kings so that
treason cannot act against them.]
Why thou art thus incens’d. Let him go, Gertrude.
LAERTES: Where is my father?
QUEEN: But not by him.
KING: Let him demand his fill.
LAERTES: How came he dead? I’ll not be juggled
To hell, allegiance! vows, to the blackest devil!
Conscience and grace, to the profoundest
I dare damnation. To this point I stand,
That both the worlds I give to negligence,
[That . . . negligence: I don'
care whether I go to hell or heaven.]
Let come what comes; only I’ll be reveng’d
Most throughly [thoroughly]
for my father.
KING: Who shall stay [stop]
LAERTES: My will, not all the world:
And, for my means, I’ll husband them so well,
They shall go far with little.
[My will . . . little: Only my own
will can stop me. But all the world cannot stand against me.
Whatever support I have, I will manage it well. I'll go far with
KING: Good Laertes,
If you desire to know the
Of your dear father’s death, is ’t writ in your revenge,
That, swoopstake [summarily;
immediately; indiscriminately], you will draw [draw your sword against] both
friend and foe,
Winner and loser?
LAERTES: None but his enemies.
KING: Will you know them
LAERTES: To his good friends thus wide I’ll ope my
And like the kind life-rendering pelican,
Repast them with my blood.
[And . . . blood: And like the
life-giving pelican mother, which feeds its own blood to its
young, I'll give my blood to my friends.]
KING: Why, now you speak
Like a good child and a true
That I am guiltless of your father’s death,
And am most sensibly in grief for it,
It shall as level to your judgment pierce
As day does to your eye.
DANES: [Within.] Let her come
LAERTES: How now! what noise is that?
O heat, dry up my brains! tears seven times salt,
Burn out the sense and virtue of mine eye!
By heaven, thy madness shall be paid by
Till our scale turn the beam. O rose of May!
Dear maid, kind sister, sweet Ophelia!
O heavens! is ’t possible a young maid’s wits
Should be as mortal as an old man’s life?
Nature is fine in love, and where ’tis
It sends some precious instance of itself
After the thing it loves.
[Nature . . . loves: Human nature
is generous in its love. Apparently, Ophelia has sent a precious
part of herself, her sanity, to her dead father.]
They bore him barefac’d [uncovered]
on the bier [conveyance that
carries a body (with or without a coffin) before burial];
Hey non nonny, nonny, hey nonny;
And in his grave rain’d many a tear;—
Fare you well, my dove!
LAERTES: Hadst thou thy wits, and didst persuade
It could not move thus.
[If you had your wits, you couldn't speak more eloquent words to
urge me to gain revenge than you are speaking now.]
You must sing, a-down a-down,
And you call him a-down-a.
O how the wheel becomes it! It is the false steward [manager of a household] that
stole his master’s daughter.
LAERTES: This nothing’s more than matter. [These mad words mean more than we can
OPHELIA: There’s rosemary [for
you, Laertes], that’s for remembrance; pray, love,
remember: and there is pansies, that’s for
LAERTES: A document [study]
in madness, thoughts and remembrance fitted.
[thoughts . . . fitted: Joining
thoughts and remembrance.]
OPHELIA: There’s fennel for you [King Claudius], and columbines; there’s rue for you
[Queen Gertrude]; and here’s
some for me; we may call it herb of grace o’ Sundays. O! you must
wear your rue with a difference. There’s a daisy; I would give you
some violets, but they withered all when my father died. They say he
made a good end,—
For bonny sweet Robin is all my joy.
[The plants as symbols: (1)
Fennel: flattery or praiseworthiness. (2) Columbine: lovemaking
and lust. It was believed that columbine had the power to arouse
sexual desire. (3) Rue: repentance and sorrow. Gertrude receives
rue for repentance; Ophelia gives it to herself for her grief over
the death of her father and perhaps for the loss of Hamlet. Rue
was also called herb of grace because priests used it in religious
ceremonies. (4) Daisy: innocence, simplicity, and gentleness. (5)
Violet: peace, harmony.]
LAERTES: Thought and affliction, passion, hell
She turns to favour and to prettiness.
And will he not come again?
And will he not come again?
No, no, he is dead;
Go to thy death-bed,
He never will come again.
His beard was as white as snow
All flaxen [white]
was his poll [head of hair],
He is gone, he is gone,
And we cast away moan:
God ha’ mercy on his
And of all Christian souls! I pray God. God be wi’ ye!
LAERTES: Do you see this, O God?
KING: Laertes, I must common [sympathize]
with your grief,
Or you deny me right. Go but apart,
Make choice of whom your wisest friends you
And they shall hear and judge ’twixt [between] you and me.
If by direct or by collateral hand
They find us touch’d [guilty;
implicated], we will our kingdom give,
Our crown, our life, and all that we call ours,
To you in satisfaction; but if
Be you content to lend your patience to us,
And we shall jointly labour with your soul
To give it due content.
LAERTES: Let this be so:
His means of death, his obscure
No trophy, sword, nor hatchment [coat
of arms] o’er his bones,
No noble rite nor formal ostentation [public ceremony],
Cry to be heard, as ’twere from heaven to earth,
That I must call ’t in question.
KING: So you
And where the offence is let the great axe fall.
I pray you go with me. [Exeunt.
Act 4, Scene 6
Another room in the castle.
Enter HORATIO and a Servant.
HORATIO: What are they that would speak with me?
SERVANT: Sailors, sir: they say, they have letters for
HORATIO: Let them come in. [Exit
I do not know from what part of the world
I should be greeted, if not from Lord Hamlet.
FIRST SAILOR: God bless you, sir.
HORATIO: Let him bless thee
SECOND SAILOR: He shall, sir, an ’t please him. There’s a
letter for you, sir;—it comes from the ambassador that was bound for
England;—if your name be Horatio, as I am let to know it
HORATIO [Reading the letter]. "Horatio, when thou shalt have
over-looked [perused; read]
this, give these fellows some means to the king: they have letters
for him. Ere [before] we
were two days old at sea, a pirate of very war-like appointment [appearance] gave us chase.
Finding ourselves too slow of sail, we put on a compelled valour; in
the grapple I boarded them: on the instant they got clear of our
ship, so I alone became their prisoner. They have dealt with me like
thieves of mercy, but they knew what they did; I am to do a good
turn for them. Let the king have the letters I have sent; and repair
thou [return] to me with as
much haste as thou wouldst fly death. I have words to speak in thine
ear will make thee dumb; yet are they much too light for the bore of
the matter. These good fellows will bring thee where I am.
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern hold their course for England: of them
I have much to tell thee. Farewell.
He that thou knowest thine,
[yet are . . . matter: Yet they
are nothing compared to the main issue at hand. Here, Hamlet uses
a metaphor, comparing his words to mere pea-sized projectiles shot
from the bore of a canon.]
Come, I will give you way for these your letters;
And do ’t the speedier, that you may direct
To him from whom you brought them. [Exeunt.
Act 4, Scene 7
Another room in the castle.
Enter KING and LAERTES.
KING: Now must your conscience my acquittance seal,
[Now . . . seal: Now your
conscience must find me innocent in the death of your father.]
And you must put me in your heart for friend,
Sith [Since] you have
heard, and with a knowing
That he which hath your noble father slain
Pursu’d my life.
LAERTES: It well appears: but tell me
Why you proceeded not against these feats,
[Why . . . feats: Why you did not
punish Hamlet for his actions]
So crimeful and so capital in
As by your safety, wisdom, all things else,
You mainly were stirr’d up.
KING: O! for two special reasons;
Which may to you, perhaps, seem much unsinew’d [weak],
But yet to me they are strong. The queen his
Lives almost by his looks, and for myself,—
My virtue or my plague, be it either which,—
She’s so conjunctive [attached]
to my life and soul,
That, as the star moves not but in his sphere,
I could not but by her. The other
Why to a public count [trial]
I might not go,
Is the great love the general gender [citizens] bear him;
Who, dipping all his faults in their affection,
Would, like the spring that turneth wood to stone,
Convert his gyves [shackles]
to graces; so that my
Too slightly timber’d for so loud a wind,
Would have reverted to my bow again,
And not where I had aim’d them.
LAERTES: And so have I a noble father lost;
A sister driven into desperate
Whose worth, if praises may go back again,
Stood challenger on mount of all the age
For her perfections. But my revenge will come.
[Whose . . . revenge: Whose worth,
if I may look back to it in better times, challenged anyone to
find a woman who was as perfect as she was. But I will have my
KING: Break not your sleeps for that; you must not
That we are made of stuff so flat and
That we can let our beard be shook with danger
And think it pastime. You shortly shall hear more;
[Break . . . pastime: Don't lose
any sleep over how to deal with Hamlet. I am not so passive that I
can pass off danger as a game. You'll hear more about this later.]
I lov’d your father, and we love ourself,
And that, I hope, will teach you to imagine,—
How now! what news?
MESSENGER: Letters, my lord, from Hamlet:
This to your majesty; this to the queen.
KING: From Hamlet! who brought them?
MESSENGER: Sailors, my lord, they say; I saw them
They were given me by Claudio, he receiv’d them
Of him that brought them.
KING: Laertes, you shall hear them.
Leave us. [Exit Messenger.
[The king reads.] "High and mighty, you shall know I am set naked on
your kingdom. To-morrow shall I beg leave to see your kingly eyes;
when I shall, first asking your pardon thereunto, recount the
occasions of my sudden and more strange return.
What should this mean? Are all the rest come back?
Or is it some abuse and no such thing?
LAERTES: Know you the hand?
KING: ’Tis Hamlet’s character [handwriting]. ‘Naked,’
And in a postscript here, he says,
Can you advise me?
LAERTES: I’m lost in it, my lord. But let him
It warms the very sickness in my heart,
That I shall live and tell him to his teeth,
‘Thus diddest thou.’ [You
committed this terrible crime.]
KING: If it be so, Laertes,
As how should it be so? how otherwise?
Will you be rul’d by me?
[As . . . me: And why shouldn't it
be so? Will you take my advice?]
LAERTES: Ay, my lord;
So you will not o’er-rule me to a
[So . . . peace: As long as you
don't advise me to make peace.]
KING: To thine own peace. If he be now return’d,
As . . . checking at his voyage, and that he means
[As . . . voyage: Deciding to end
No more to undertake it, I will work [maneuver] him
To an exploit, now ripe in my device [ready to execute],
Under the which he shall not choose but
And for his death no wind of blame shall breathe,
But even his mother shall uncharge the practice
[uncharge the practice: see no
And call it accident.
LAERTES: My lord, I will be rul’d;
The rather, if you could devise it
That I might be the organ.
[I will . . . organ: I will go
along with your plan, especially if you make me the instrument of
KING: It falls right.
You have been talk’d of since your travel much,
And that in Hamlet’s hearing, for a quality
Wherein, they say, you shine; your sum of
Did not together pluck such envy from him
As did that one, and that, in my regard,
Of the unworthiest siege.
[You have . . . siege: You have
been much talked about, within the hearing of Hamlet, for an
excellent quality of yours. In Hamlet's eyes, that quality
overshadows all of your other qualities. He envies it. I myself
think that quality is not your best.]
LAERTES: What part [quality]
is that, my lord?
KING: A very riband in the cap of
[riband: ribbon used as a
decoration or displayed as a reward of achievement]
Yet needful too; for youth no less becomes
The light and careless livery that it wears
Than settled age his sables and his weeds,
Importing health and graveness.
[for . . . graveness: Light and
careless clothes are just as appropriate on youth as dignified
sables and other dark clothes are on aged persons to reflect their
health and graveness.]
Two months since
Here was a gentleman of Normandy [part
I’ve seen myself, and serv’d against, the French,
And they can well [can do well]
on horseback; but this gallant [Norman]
Had witchcraft in ’t [in his
horsemanship], he grew unto his seat,
And to such wondrous doing brought his horse,
As he had been incorps’d and
With the brave beast; so far he topp’d my thought,
That I, in forgery of shapes and tricks,
Come short of what he did.
[As he . . . did: As if he had
become part of the brave beast. He performed on that horse far
beyond my expectations for him, and I could never duplicate his
LAERTES: A Norman was ’t?
LAERTES: Upon my life, Lamond.
KING: The very same.
LAERTES: I know him well; he is the brooch indeed
And gem of all the nation.
KING: He made confession of
And gave you such a masterly report
For art and exercise in your defence,
And for your rapier most especially,
That he cried out, ’twould be a sight indeed
If one could match you; the scrimers [fencers; swordsmen] of their
He swore, had neither motion, guard, nor eye,
If you oppos’d them. Sir, this report of his
Did Hamlet so envenom with his envy
That he could nothing do but wish and beg
Your sudden coming o’er, to play with
Now, out of this,—
LAERTES: What out of this, my lord?
KING: Laertes, was your father dear to you?
Or are you like the painting of a sorrow,
A face without a
LAERTES: Why ask you this?
KING: Not that I think you did not love your
But that I know love is begun by time,
And that I see, in passages of proof,
Time qualifies the spark and fire of
There lives within the very flame of love
A kind of wick or snuff that will abate it,
And nothing is at a like goodness still,
For goodness, growing to a plurisy,
Dies in his own too-much. That we would
We should do when we would, for this ‘would’ changes,
And hath abatements and delays as many
As there are tongues, are hands, are accidents;
And then this ‘should’ is like a spendthrift sigh,
That hurts by easing. But, to the quick o’ the
[But . . . ulcer: But, to get to
the point of what's eating at you]
Hamlet comes back; what would you undertake
To show yourself your father’s son in deed
More than in words?
LAERTES: To cut his throat i’ the church.
KING: No place, indeed, should murder
[No . . . sanctuarize: Indeed, a
murderer such as Hamlet should be fair game even in the sanctuary
of a church.]
Revenge should have no bounds. But, good Laertes,
Will you do this, keep close within your chamber.
Hamlet return’d shall know you are come home;
We’ll put on those shall praise your excellence,
[We'll . . . excellence:
We'll have people praise your excellent swordsmanship]
And set a double varnish on the
The Frenchman gave you, bring you, in fine [short], together,
And wager on your heads: he, being remiss,
Most generous and free from all contriving,
Will not peruse [examine]
the foils [practice swords blunted
on the end]; so that, with ease
Or with a little shuffling, you may
A sword unbated [sharp, not
blunted], and, in a pass of practice [practice lunge]
Requite [kill] him for your
LAERTES: I will do ’t;
And, for that purpose, I’ll anoint [poison
the tip of] my sword.
I bought an unction of a
So mortal that, but dip a knife in it,
Where it draws blood no cataplasm [remedy;
poultice] so rare,
Collected from all simples [medicines]
that have virtue
Under the moon, can save the thing from death
That is but scratch’d withal; I’ll touch my
With this contagion, that, if I gall him slightly,
It may be death.
KING: Let’s further think of this;
Weigh what convenience both of time and means
May fit us to our shape. If this should
And that our drift look through our bad performance
[our . . . performance: Our
purpose—to kill Hamlet—casts suspicion on us]
’Twere better not assay’d [tried];
therefore this project
Should have a back [backup plan]
or second, that might hold,
If this should blast in proof [fail].
Soft! [Pay attention; stand at
attention; take note] let me see;
We’ll make a solemn wager on your
[We'll have bets on the outcome of
the fencing match.]
I ha ’t:
When in your motion you are hot and dry,—
As make your bouts more violent to that end,—
And that he calls for drink, I’ll have prepar’d him
A chalice for the nonce, whereon but
If he by chance escape your venom’d stuck,
Our purpose may hold there. But stay! what noise?
[When in . . . there: During the
match, dance around so that Hamlet does the same. When both of you
become sweaty and thirsty, I will have a chalice with a poisoned
drink ready to give him. If he escapes unscathed from the fencing,
the drink will kill him.]
How now, sweet queen!
QUEEN: One woe doth tread upon another’s
So fast they follow: your sister’s drown’d, Laertes.
LAERTES: Drown’d! O, where?
QUEEN: There is a willow grows aslant [slanting over] a
That shows his hoar [white]
leaves in the glassy stream;
There with fantastic garlands did she
Of crow-flowers, nettles, daisies, and long purples,
That liberal [foul-mouthed]
shepherds give a grosser name,
But our cold maids [modest young
women] do dead men’s fingers call them:
There, on the pendent boughs [branches
hanging over the water] her coronet weeds
Clambering to hang, an envious sliver
[her coronet . . . broke: She
climbed the tree to hang the crown of wildflowers she had woven.
When a spiteful limb broke, she and her flowery trophies fell into
When down her weedy trophies and herself
Fell in the weeping brook. Her clothes spread wide,
And, mermaid-like, awhile they bore her up;
Which time she chanted snatches of old tunes,
As one incapable of her own
Or like a creature native and indu’d
Unto that element; but long it could not be
[indu'd . . . element: indued or
endued: naturally empowered to deal with danger]
Till that her garments, heavy with their drink,
Pull’d the poor wretch from her melodious lay
LAERTES: Alas! then, she is drown’d?
QUEEN: Drown’d, drown’d.
LAERTES: Too much of water hast thou, poor
And therefore I forbid my tears; but yet
It is our trick, nature her custom
Let shame say what it will; when these are gone
The woman will be out. Adieu [farewell],
[I forbid . . . out: Although I
forbid myself to cry, I am crying just the same. It is natural for
humans to cry when they confront great sorrow. I don't care if
people try to shame me for crying. When my tears stop, I will no
longer be a woman and will become a man again.]
I have a speech of fire, that fain would blaze,
But that this folly douts it. [Exit.
[I have . . it: I have a fiery
speech that I'd like to make. But my crying extinguishes (douts)
KING: Let’s follow,
How much I had to do to calm his rage!
Now fear I this will give it start again;
Therefore let’s follow. [Exeunt.
[How . . . follow: I worked very
hard to calm his rage. Now I fear that Ophelia's death will
reignite his anger. Let's follow him.]
Act 5, Scene 1
Enter two clowns [peasants or
rustics] who are gravediggers
FIRST CLOWN: Is she to be buried in Christian burial that
wilfully seeks her own salvation?
[wilfully . . . salvation:
wilfully killed herself]
SECOND CLOWN: I tell thee she is; and therefore make her grave
straight [straightaway; right now]:
the crowner [coroner] hath
sat on [sat in judgment of]
her, and finds it Christian burial.
FIRST CLOWN: How can that be, unless she drowned herself in
SECOND CLOWN: Why, ’tis found so.
FIRST CLOWN: It must be se offendendo; it cannot be else. For
here lies the point: if I drown myself wittingly [willingly] it argues an act;
and an act hath three branches; it is, to act, to do, and to
perform: argal, she drowned herself wittingly.
[se offendendo: Corruption of se defendendo, Latin legal
term for in self-defense.
The feminine form is se defendenda, which one would use in reference to Ophelia.]
[argal: Corruption of ergo, Latin for therefore]
SECOND CLOWN: Nay, but hear you, goodman delver,—
FIRST CLOWN: Give me leave. Here lies the water; good: here
stands the man; good: if the man go to this water, and drown
himself, it is, will he, nill he [willy-nilly:
whether willed or not; whether desired or not], he goes;
mark you that? but if the water come to him, and drown him, he
drowns not himself: argal [therefore],
he that is not guilty of his own death shortens not his own
SECOND CLOWN: But is this
FIRST CLOWN: Ay, marry, is ’t; crowner’s [coroner's] quest [inquest] law.
SECOND CLOWN: Will you ha’ the truth on ’t? If this had not
been a gentlewoman she should have been buried out o’ Christian
FIRST CLOWN: Why, there thou sayest; and the more pity that
great folk should have countenance [the
right] in this world to drown or hang themselves more than
their even [fellow] Christian.
Come, my spade. There is no ancient gentlemen but gardeners,
ditchers, and grave-makers; they hold up Adam’s profession. [Genesis 3:2 of the Bible says that the
fallen Adam had to till the soil after leaving the Garden of
SECOND CLOWN: Was he a gentleman?
FIRST CLOWN: A’ was the first that ever bore
SECOND CLOWN: Why, he had none.
FIRST CLOWN: What! art a heathen? How dost thou understand the
Scripture? The Scripture says, Adam digged; could he dig without
arms? I’ll put another question to thee; if thou answerest me not to
the purpose, confess thyself—
SECOND CLOWN: Go to.
FIRST CLOWN: What is he that builds stronger than either the
mason, the shipwright, or the carpenter?
SECOND CLOWN: The gallows-maker; for that frame outlives a
FIRST CLOWN: I like thy wit well, in good faith; the gallows
does well, but how does it well? it does well to those that do ill;
now thou dost ill to say the gallows is built stronger than the
church: argal [therefore],
the gallows may do well to thee. To ’t again; come.
SECOND CLOWN: Who builds stronger than a mason, a shipwright,
or a carpenter?
FIRST CLOWN: Ay, tell me that, and unyoke [complete your work].
SECOND CLOWN: Marry, now I can tell.
FIRST CLOWN: To
SECOND CLOWN: Mass, I cannot tell.
[By the mass: Mild oath. The mass
is a Catholic worship rite.]
Enter HAMLET and HORATIO at a distance.
FIRST CLOWN: Cudgel thy brains no more about it, for your dull
ass will not mend his pace with beating; and, when you are asked
this question next, say, ‘a grave-maker:’ the houses that he makes
last till doomsday. Go, get thee to Yaughan [probably a tavern keeper];
fetch me a stoup [pot] of
liquor. [Exit Second Clown.
[First Clown digs, and sings.]
In youth, when I did love, did love,
Methought it was very sweet,
To contract [marry],
O! the time, for-a my behove [benefit
O! methought there was nothing meet [suitable, fitting, right].
[In youth . . . meet: The song is
based on (but misquotes) a poem by Thomas Vaux (1509-1556) of
Harrowden, England, published in Tottel's Miscellany in 1557.]
HAMLET: Has this fellow no feeling of his business, that he
HORATIO: Custom hath made it in him a property of easiness [habit].
HAMLET: ’Tis e’en so; the hand of little employment hath the
[the hand . . . sense: Those
without a steady job have plenty of time on their hands and thus
tend to develop a greater sensitivity than others.]
But age, with his stealing steps,
Hath claw’d me in his clutch,
And hath shipped me intil [into] the land [ground],
As if I had never been such.
[Throws up a skull.
HAMLET: That skull had a tongue in it, and could sing once;
how the knave jowls [holding the
skull by the jaw (jowls), the gravedigger tosses it] it to
the ground, as if it were Cain’s jaw-bone, that did the first
murder! This might be the pate [head]
of a politician, which this ass now o’er-offices [gets the better of; outranks],
one that would circumvent God, might it not?
HORATIO: It might, my
HAMLET: Or of a courtier, which could say, ‘Good morrow [morning], sweet lord! How dost
thou, good lord?’ This might be my Lord Such-a-one, that praised my
Lord Such-a-one’s horse, when he meant to beg [borrow] it, might it
HORATIO: Ay, my lord.
HAMLET: Why, e’en so, and now [it is] my Lady Worm’s [it belongs to the worms]; chapless [its jaw knocked off], and
knocked about the mazzard [struck
about the head] with a sexton’s [gravedigger's] spade. Here’s fine revolution [turnabout], an [if] we had the trick to see ’t.
Did these bones cost no more the breeding but to play at loggats
with ’em? mine [my bones]
ache to think on ’t.
[loggats: Game in which
participants stood bones in the ground and tried to knock them
down by tossing other bones at them.]
A pick-axe, and a spade, a spade,
For and a shrouding sheet;
O! a pit of clay for to be made
For such a guest is meet.
[Throws up another skull.
[A pick-axe . . . skull: The First
Clown says that all he needs to accommodate a dead guest are a
pickax, a shovel, a shroud, and a grave, or "pit of clay."]
HAMLET: There’s another; why may not that be the skull of a
lawyer? Where be his quiddities [sly
questions] now, his quillets [weak arguments that circumvent the truth with petty
reasoning and nitpicking], his cases, his tenures [property titles], and his
tricks [deceitful tactics]?
why does he suffer this rude knave now to knock him about the sconce
with a dirty shovel, and will not tell him of his action of battery
[legal term for beating or striking
someone]? Hum! This fellow might be in ’s time a great
buyer of land, with his statutes [binding
agreements], his recognizances [pledges to pay money or to perform a certain act],
his fines, his double vouchers, his recoveries; is this the fine of
his fines, and the recovery of his recoveries, to have his fine pate
full of fine dirt? will his vouchers vouch him no more of his
purchases [does he get to keep no
more of his land], and double ones too, than the length and
breadth of a pair of indentures [agreements;
deeds]? The very conveyance [deeds] of his lands will hardly lie in this box [coffin; grave], and must the
inheritor himself have no more,
HORATIO: Not a jot more, my lord.
HAMLET: Is not parchment [material
on which legal agreements are written] made of
HORATIO: Ay, my lord, and of calf-skins too.
HAMLET: They are sheep and calves which seek out assurance in
that. I will speak to this fellow. Whose grave’s this,
FIRST CLOWN: Mine, sir,
O! a pit of clay for to be made
For such a guest is
HAMLET: I think it be thine, indeed; for thou liest in
FIRST CLOWN: You lie out on ’t [outside of it], sir, and therefore it is not yours;
for my part, I do not lie [I am
not telling a lie] in ’t, and yet it is mine.
HAMLET: Thou dost lie in ’t [You
are telling a lie], to be in ’t and say it is thine: ’tis
for the dead, not for the quick [living];
therefore thou liest.
FIRST CLOWN: ’Tis a quick lie, sir; ’twill away again, from me
['Tis . . . you: It's a quick lie,
sir, the way it jumps back and forth between me and you.]
HAMLET: What man dost thou dig it
FIRST CLOWN: For no man, sir.
HAMLET: What woman, then?
FIRST CLOWN: For none, neither.
HAMLET: Who is to be buried in ’t?
FIRST CLOWN: One that was a woman, sir; but, rest her soul,
HAMLET: How absolute [precise]
the knave is! we must speak by the card [exact rules], or equivocation will undo us. By the
Lord, Horatio, these three years I have taken note of it; the age is
grown so picked [bold] that
the toe of the peasant comes so near the heel of the courtier, he
galls his kibe [inflamed or
sensitive area on the heal of the foot]. How long hast thou
been a grave-maker?
FIRST CLOWN: Of all the days i’ the year, I came to ’t
that day that our last King Hamlet overcame Fortinbras.
[My first day just happened to be
the day that our late King Hamlet defeated the late King
Fortinbras of Norway.]
HAMLET: How long is that since?
FIRST CLOWN: Cannot you tell that? every fool can tell that;
it was the very day that young Hamlet was born; he that is mad, and
sent into England.
HAMLET: Ay, marry; why was he sent into
FIRST CLOWN: Why, because he was mad: he shall recover his
wits there; or, if he do not, ’tis no great matter there [in England].
FIRST CLOWN: ’Twill not be seen in him there; there the men
are as mad as he.
HAMLET: How came he mad?
FIRST CLOWN: Very strangely, they
HAMLET: How strangely?
FIRST CLOWN: Faith, e’en with losing his wits.
HAMLET: Upon what ground [The
gravedigger takes this word to mean country]?
FIRST CLOWN: Why, here in Denmark; I have been sexton here,
man and boy, thirty years.
HAMLET: How long will a man lie i’ the earth ere [before] he
FIRST CLOWN: Faith, if he be not rotten before he die,—as we
have many pocky corses [corpses]
now-a-days, that will scarce hold the laying in,—he will last you
some eight year or nine year; a tanner [one who makes leather out of hides] will last you
HAMLET: Why he more than another?
FIRST CLOWN: Why, sir, his hide is so tanned with his trade
that he will keep out water a great while, and your water is a sore
decayer of your whoreson dead body. Here’s a skull now; this skull
hath lain you i’ the earth three-and-twenty years.
HAMLET: Whose was it?
FIRST CLOWN: A whoreson mad fellow’s it was: whose do you
HAMLET: Nay, I know not.
FIRST CLOWN: A pestilence on him for a mad rogue! a’ poured a
flagon of Rhenish on my head once. This same skull, sir, was
Yorick’s skull, the king’s jester.
FIRST CLOWN: E’en that.
HAMLET: Let me see.—[Takes the skull.]—Alas! poor Yorick. I
knew him, Horatio; a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent
fancy; he hath borne me on his back a thousand times; and now, how
abhorred in my imagination it is! my gorge [throat; gullet; esophagus]
rises at it. Here hung those lips that I have kissed I know not how
oft. Where be your gibes [pranks;
tricks; taunts] now? your gambols? [antics; frolics] your songs?
your flashes of merriment, that were wont to set the table on a
roar? Not one now, to mock your own grinning? quite chapfallen [downhearted; dejected]? Now get
you to my lady’s chamber, and tell her, let her paint an inch thick
[of makeup], to this favour
she must come [she will end up
looking like you]; make her laugh at that. Prithee,
Horatio, tell me one
HORATIO: What’s that, my lord?
HAMLET: Dost thou think Alexander [Alexander the Great (356-323 BC), conquerer of the Persian
Empire] looked o’ this fashion i’ the earth?
HORATIO: E’en so.
HAMLET: And smelt so? pah! [Puts down the
HORATIO: E’en so, my
HAMLET: To what base uses we may return, Horatio! Why may not
imagination trace the noble dust of Alexander, till he find it
stopping a bung-hole?
[To what . . . bung-hole:
Consider what humiliating and degrading uses the
bodies of human beings are subjected to after death. One can
imagine that the ashes of Alexander ended up as a stopper in the
hole of a cask or a barrel.]
HORATIO: ’Twere to consider too curiously, to consider so. [You're being cynical.]
HAMLET: No, faith, not a jot; but to follow him thither with
modesty enough [without
exaggerating], and likelihood to lead it; as thus:
Alexander died, Alexander was buried, Alexander returneth into dust;
the dust is earth; of earth we make loam, and why of that loam,
whereto he was converted, might they not stop a
Imperious Cæsar, dead and turn’d to clay,
Might stop a hole to keep the wind
O! that that earth, which kept the world in awe,
Should patch a wall to expel the winter’s flaw.
But soft! but soft! aside: here comes the king.
Enter Priests, &c., in procession: the Corpse of OPHELIA,
LAERTES and Mourners following; KING, QUEEN, their Trains, &c.
The queen, the courtiers: who is that they
And with such maimed [subdued; not
glorious] rites? This doth betoken [indicate]
The corse [corpse] they
follow did with desperate hand
Fordo [destroy; kill] its
own life; ’twas of some estate [high
Couch we awhile, and mark. [Let's
step back and observe.] [Retiring with HORATIO.
LAERTES: What ceremony
HAMLET: That is Laertes,
A very noble youth: mark.
LAERTES: What ceremony else?
FIRST PRIEST: Her obsequies [funeral
rites] have been as far enlarg’d
As we have warrantise [authority]:
her death was doubtful [she
apparently killed herself],
And, but that great command o’ersways the order,
[but . . . order: but for the fact
that a royal command overruled me]
She should in ground unsanctified have lodg’d
Till the last trumpet; for charitable prayers,
Shards, flints, and pebbles should be thrown on her;
Yet here she is allow’d her virgin
Her maiden strewments, and the bringing home
Of bell and burial.
[She . . . burial: She should be
buried in unsanctified ground elsewhere till the end of time;
instead of praying for her, people should throw pieces of broken
pottery, flint (quartz), and pebbles on her body. However, she is
allowed flowers and wreaths (crants) indicating she died a virgin,
as well as the tolling of a bell and burial in sanctified ground.]
LAERTES: Must there no more be done?
FIRST PRIEST:. No more be done:
We should profane the service of the
To sing a requiem, and such rest to her
As to peace-parted souls.
[such . . . souls: Other rites
normally carried out for those deserving burial in consecrated
LAERTES: Lay her i’ the earth;
And from her fair and unpolluted flesh
May violets spring! I tell thee, churlish
A ministering angel shall my sister be,
When thou liest howling [in hell].
HAMLET: What! the fair Ophelia?
QUEEN: Sweets to the sweet: farewell! [Scattering
I hop’d thou shouldst have been my Hamlet’s
I thought thy bride-bed to have deck’d, sweet maid,
And not have strew’d thy grave.
LAERTES: O! treble woe
Fall ten times treble on that cursed head [Hamlet's]
Whose wicked deed thy most ingenious sense [sanity]
Depriv’d thee of. Hold off the earth awhile,
Till I have caught her once more in mine arms. [Leaps into the
Now pile your dust upon the quick [living
person] and dead,
Till of this flat a mountain you have made,
To o’er-top old Pelion or the skyish
Of blue Olympus .
[Pelion and Olympus: Mountains in
HAMLET: [Advancing.] What is he whose grief
Bears such an emphasis? whose phrase of sorrow
Conjures the wandering stars, and makes them stand
Like wonder-wounded hearers? this is
Hamlet the Dane. [Leaps into the grave.
[What is . . . hearers: Who is it
that grieves with such emphasis that his words attract the
attention of the stars and fill them with wonder? I am the one,
Hamlet the Dane.]
LAERTES: The devil take thy soul! [Grapples with
HAMLET: Thou pray’st not well.
I prithee, take thy fingers from my throat;
For though I am not splenetive [quick-tempered]
Yet have I in me something dangerous,
Which let thy wisdom fear. Away thy hand!
KING: Pluck them asunder. [Separate them.]
QUEEN: Hamlet! Hamlet!
HORATIO: Good my lord, be quiet. [The Attendants part
them, and they come out of the grave.
HAMLET: Why, I will fight with him upon this theme
Until my eyelids will no longer wag.
QUEEN: O my son! what theme?
HAMLET: I lov’d Ophelia: forty thousand
Could not, with all their quantity of love,
Make up my sum. What wilt thou do for her?
KING: O! he is mad, Laertes.
QUEEN: For love of God, forbear him.
HAMLET: ’Swounds [By
Christ's wounds], show me what thou’lt do [thou wilt do for Ophelia]:
Woo ’t weep? woo ’t fight? woo ’t fast? woo ’t tear
Woo ’t drink up eisel? eat a crocodile?
[Woo 't . . . crocodile: Would you
weep for her? Fight? Go without food? Injure yourself? Drink
vinegar? Eat a crocodile?]
I’ll do ’t. Dost thou come here to whine;
To outface me with leaping in her grave?
Be buried quick [alive]
with her, and so will
And, if thou prate of mountains, let them throw
Millions of acres on us, till our ground,
Singeing his pate against the burning zone,
Make Ossa like a wart! Nay, an thou’lt mouth,
I’ll rant as well as
[And, if . . . as thou: And, if
you speak of mountains filling the grave (lines 134-136), let them
throw tons of earth on us until the top of the pile reaches the
sun and makes Mount Ossa (a peak in northern Greece) look like a
wart. Nay, when you mouth off, I'll mouth off too, as well as
QUEEN: This is mere madness:
And thus a while the fit [outburst
of emotion; seizure] will work on him;
Anon [soon], as patient as
the female dove,
When that her golden couplets [two
eggs] are disclos’d [hatched],
His silence will sit
HAMLET: Hear you, sir;
What is the reason that you use me thus?
I lov’d you ever: but it is no matter;
Let Hercules himself do what he may,
The cat will mew and dog will have his day.
[Let . . . day: Let Laertes,
ranting as if he were Hercules, do what he will. After he mews
like a cat to lodge his complaints, I will bark like a dog and
have my way.]
KING: I pray you, good Horatio, wait upon him. [Exit
[To LAERTES.] Strengthen your patience in our last night’s
We’ll put the matter to the present push.
[Strengthen . . . push: Be
patient. Take heart in what we talked about last night. It won't
be long before we put our plan into action.]
Good Gertrude, set some watch over your son.
This grave shall have a living [lasting]
An hour of quiet shortly shall we see;
Till then, in patience our proceeding be. [Exeunt.
Act 5, Scene 2
A hall in the castle.
Enter HAMLET and HORATIO.
HAMLET: So much for this, sir: now shall you see the
You do remember all the circumstance?
HORATIO: Remember it, my
HAMLET: Sir, in my heart there was a kind of
That would not let me sleep; methought I lay
Worse than the mutines [mutineers]
in the bilboes. Rashly,—
[bilboes: A bilbo is a bar with
fetters that are attached to the feet of prisoner.]
And prais’d be rashness for it, let us know,
Our indiscretion sometimes serves us
When our deep plots do pall [fail];
and that should teach us
There’s a divinty that shapes [God
shapes] our ends,
Rough-hew them how we will.
HORATIO: That is most certain.
HAMLET: Up from my
My sea-gown [heavy coat with a
high collar] scarf’d [wrapped]
about me, in the dark
Grop’d I to find out them, had my desire,
Finger’d their packet, and in fine withdrew
[Grop'd . . . packet: I groped
around and found the packet containing the message to the king of
To mine own room again; making so bold—
My fears forgetting manners—to
Their grand commission; where I found, Horatio,
O royal knavery! an exact command,
Larded with many several sorts of reasons
Importing Denmark’s health, and England’s too,
With, ho! such bugs and goblins in my
That, on the supervise, no leisure bated,
No, not to stay the grinding of the axe,
My head should be struck off.
[an exact . . . struck off: An
exact command, interspersed with niceties and greetings from our
king to the English king, that I was to be beheaded without delay
upon my arrival in England.]
HORATIO: Is ’t possible?
HAMLET: Here’s the commission: read it at more
But wilt thou hear me how I did proceed?
HORATIO: I beseech you.
HAMLET: Being thus be-netted [ensnared]
round with villanies [villainies],—
Ere I could make a prologue to my brains
[Ere . . . brains: Before I could
think over what to do next]
They had begun the play,—I sat me
Devis’d a new commission, wrote it fair;
I once did hold it, as our statists [statesmen] do,
A baseness to write fair, and labour’d much
How to forget that learning; but, sir, now
It did me yeoman’s service. Wilt thou
The effect of what I wrote?
HORATIO: Ay, good my lord.
HAMLET: An earnest conjuration from the king,
As England was his faithful tributary,
As love between them like the palm should
As peace should still her wheaten garland wear,
And stand a comma ’tween their amities,
And many such-like ‘As’es [plural
of as] of great charge,
That, on the view and knowing of these contents,
Without debatement further, more or
He should the bearers put to sudden death,
Not shriving-time allow’d.
[An earnest . . . allow'd: I
started with a statement from Claudius that England was faithful
to Denmark and that love between the two countries should further
flourish in a peaceful relationship, with peace joining the two
countries as a comma joins clauses and phrases. Then I added many
other other sentences and clauses beginning with "as" and ended
with a command to put the bearers of the message to death
immediately, even before they had time to confess their sins to
God through a priest.]
HORATIO: How was this seal’d?
HAMLET: Why, even in that was heaven ordinant [helpful; giving me guidance].
I had my father’s signet [ring
with a seal used as a stamp to endorse or authenticate documents]
Which was the model of that Danish seal;
Folded the writ up in form of the other,
Subscrib’d it, gave ’t th’ impression [stamp], plac’d it safely,
The changeling [substituted
document] never known. Now, the next day
Was our sea-fight, and what to this was
[what . . . sequent: what
Thou know’st already.
HORATIO: So Guildenstern and Rosencrantz go to ’t [go to their death].
HAMLET: Why, man, they did make love to this employment;
[they . . . employment: They
relished the idea of taking me to England to die.]
They are not near my conscience; their defeat
Does by their own insinuation
’Tis dangerous when the baser nature comes
Between the pass and fell-incensed points
Of mighty opposites.
[They are . . . opposites: Their
fate does not bother my conscience. Their downfall resulted from
their own wilfull interference in my affairs. It's dangerous for
lesser mortals like them to become involved in conflicts between
opponents holding high positions in the realm.]
HORATIO: Why, what a king [Claudius]
is this! [Horatio is really
saying, "Why what an evil king is this!"]
HAMLET: Does it not, thinks ’t thee, stand me now
He that hath kill’d my king and whor’d my mother,
Popp’d in between the election and my hopes [deprived me of being elected king],
Thrown out his angle for my proper life [hath given the order to kill me],
And with such cozenage [deceit]—is
’t not perfect conscience
To quit him with this arm? and is ’t not to be
To let this canker of our nature come
In further evil?
[is 't not . . . evil: Is it not
perfectly justified to kill him with this sword? And would I not
be damned for allowing this evil man to live to commit more evil?]
HORATIO: It must be shortly known to him from
What is the issue of the business there.
[It must . . . there: He will soon
find out what happened in England.]
HAMLET: It will be short: the interim is
And a man’s life’s no more than to say ‘One.’
But I am very sorry, good Horatio,
That to Laertes I forgot myself;
For, by the image of my cause, I see
The portraiture of his: I’ll count his
But, sure, the bravery of his grief did put me
Into a towering passion.
[It will . . . passion: It won't
be long before he finds out. But I'll have time to act
in the interim. I must say, Horatio, that I am sorry I lost my
temper when I confronted Laertes at the grave site. He, too,
suffered great loss. I'll try to be cordial with him. It was just
that his outward display of grief rankled me.]
HORATIO: Peace! who comes here?
Enter OSRIC. [Osric is a courtier,
one who is a fixture at the court of a monarch. A typical courtier
was at the service of the ruler and often flattered him to gain
favors and improve his standing at court.]
OSRIC: Your lordship is right welcome back to
HAMLET: I humbly thank you, sir. [Aside to
HORATIO.] Dost know this water-fly [insignificant creature]?
HORATIO: [Aside to HAMLET.] No, my good
HAMLET: [Aside to HORATIO.] Thy state [of not knowing Osric] is the
more gracious; for ’tis a vice to know him. He hath much land, and
fertile: let a beast be lord of beasts, and his crib shall stand at
the king’s mess: ’tis a chough; but, as I say, spacious in the
possession of dirt.
[let a beast . . . dirt: When a
man—regardless of his human worth—becomes lord of something, he
gains favor at court and dines with the king. He's nothing but a
crow (chough). But, as I say, he has lots of dirt (land)].
OSRIC: Sweet lord, if your lordship were at leisure, I should
impart a thing to you from his majesty.
HAMLET: I will receive it, sir, with all diligence of spirit.
Your bonnet to his right use; ’tis for the
[Your . . . head: Put your hat on.
It's for the head. Osric had removed his hat to show his respect
(probably insincere) for Prince Hamlet.]
OSRIC: I thank your lordship, ’tis very hot.
HAMLET: No, believe me, ’tis very cold; the wind is
OSRIC: It is indifferent [somewhat]
cold, my lord, indeed.
HAMLET: But yet methinks it is very sultry and hot for my
OSRIC: Exceedingly, my lord; it is very sultry, as ’twere, I
cannot tell how. But, my lord, his majesty bade me signify to you
that he has laid a great wager on your head. Sir, this is the
HAMLET: I beseech you, remember— [HAMLET moves him to
put on his hat.
OSRIC: Nay, good my lord; for mine ease, in good faith. Sir,
here is newly come to court Laertes; believe me, an absolute
gentleman, full of most excellent differences [qualities that set him apart from
others], of very soft society [gentle upbringing] and great showing [impressive appearance]; indeed,
to speak feelingly of him, he is the card [standard] or calendar [example] of gentry, for you shall find in him the
continent [complete package]
of what part a gentleman would see [of
what a gentleman should be].
HAMLET: Sir, his definement suffers no perdition in you;
though, I know, to divide him inventorially would dizzy the
arithmetic of memory, and yet but yaw neither, in respect of his
quick sail. But, in the verity of extolment, I take him to be a soul
of great article; and his infusion of such dearth and rareness, as,
to make true diction of him, his semblable is his mirror; and who
else would trace him, his umbrage, nothing more.
[Sir . . . nothing more: Sir, your
description of him is glowing. And I realize that trying to
present an inventory of all of his good qualities would make you
dizzy. If he were the captain of a ship, we couldn't catch him no
matter how much we yawed (swerved) this way or that. Truly, in
praising him, I must say he is a great soul. He is unique. When he
looks into a mirror, he sees the only one who can equal him.
Everyone else who would follow him walks in his shadow (umbrage).]
OSRIC: Your lordship speaks most infallibly of
HAMLET: The concernancy, sir? why do we wrap the gentleman in
our more rawer
[The concernancy . . . breath: Why
are we talking about this man?]
HORATIO: Is ’t not possible to understand in another tongue? [Can't you talk to him in plainer
language?] You will do ’t, sir, really.
HAMLET: What imports the nomination of this gentleman? [What is the purpose of bringing up
OSRIC: Of Laertes?
HORATIO: His purse is empty already; all ’s golden words are
HAMLET: Of him, sir.
OSRIC: I know you are not ignorant—
HAMLET: I would you did, sir; in faith, if you did, it would
not much approve me. Well, sir.
[I would . . . me: I'm glad you
know that, sir. But I'm not satisfied.]
OSRIC: You are not ignorant of what excellence Laertes
HAMLET: I dare not confess that, lest I should compare with
him in excellence; but, to know a man well, were to know
OSRIC: I mean, sir, for his weapon [fencing skill]; but in the imputation [reputation] laid on him by
them, in his meed [ability]
he’s unfellowed [unrivaled].
HAMLET: What’s his weapon?
OSRIC: Rapier and dagger.
HAMLET: That’s two of his weapons; but, well.
OSRIC: The king, sir, hath wagered with him six Barbary [north African] horses; against
the which he has imponed [pledged;
staked], as I take it, six French rapiers and poniards [daggers], with their assigns [accessories], as girdle [belt], hangers [straps attached to the belt to hold up
a scabbard], and so: three of the carriages, in faith, are
very dear to fancy, very responsive to the hilts, most delicate
carriages, and of very liberal
HAMLET: What call you the carriages?
HORATIO: I knew you must be edified by the margent [be curious about the meaning of some
words], ere you had done.
OSRIC: The carriages, sir, are the hangers.
HAMLET: The phrase would be more german [germane; pertinent] to the
matter, if we could carry cannon by our sides [if you were talking about cannons
instead of swords]; I would it might be hangers till then.
But, on; six Barbary horses against six French swords, their
assigns, and three liberal-conceited carriages; that’s the French
bet against the Danish. Why is this ‘imponed,’ as you call
OSRIC: The king, sir, hath laid [wagered], that in a dozen passes between yourself
and him [Laertes], he shall
not exceed you three hits [shall
not defeat you by no more than three hits; in other words, the
king supposedly is betting on Hamlet if Laertes spots the prince
three hits]; he hath laid on twelve for nine [twelve hits for Laertes to nine hits
for Hamlet], and it would come to immediate trial [a match held right now], if
your lordship would vouchsafe the
HAMLET: How if I answer no?
OSRIC: I mean, my lord, the opposition of your person in
trial. [Let me be clear, my lord.
I'm talking about testing yourself in a competition against
HAMLET: Sir, I will walk here in the hall; if it please his
majesty, ’tis the breathing time of day with me; let the foils be
brought, the gentleman willing, and the king hold his purpose, I
will win for him an I can; if not, I will gain nothing but my shame
and the odd hits.
[Sir, I will . . . odd hits: Sir,
I will walk here in the hall. It's the time of day when I like to
get exercise. Meanwhile, let the preparation begin for the fencing
match. I will try to fight to make the king win his bet. If I
fail, I will suffer only a little shame and some hits from
OSRIC: Shall I re-deliver you so? [Shall I quote you on that?]
HAMLET: To this effect, sir; after what flourish your nature
[To . . . will: You may tell him
the gist of what I said with whatever fancy words you'd like to
OSRIC: I commend my duty to your lordship.
HAMLET: Yours, yours. [Exit OSRIC.] He does well
to commend it himself; there are no tongues else for ’s turn.
[He does . . . turn: He does well
to commend his duty. No one else will commend him for anything.]
HORATIO: This lapwing runs away with the shell on his head.
[This . . . head: The lapwing, a
small bird, can move around moments after it hatches. It may run
off even when pieces of its shell are still attached to its body.]
HAMLET: He did comply with his dug before he sucked it. [He used to praise the nipple of his
mother (or wet nurse) before he sucked it.] Thus has he—and
many more of the same bevy [kind],
that I know the drossy [worthless;
trivial] age dotes on—only got the tune of the time and
outward habit of encounter, a kind of yesty collection which carries
them through and through the most fond and winnowed opinions; and do
but blow them to their trial, the bubbles are out.
[only got . . . out: His only
talent is to act like everyone else and speak the same words
(yesty collection) that carry his kind through their conversations
and opinions, winnowed of substance. They try to attach great meaning to
their words; but the words are full of air, like bubbles.]
Lord. My lord, his majesty commended him to you by young
Osric, who brings back to him, that you attend him in the hall; he
sends to know if your pleasure hold to play [fence] with Laertes, or that
you will take longer time.
[his majesty . . . time: After the
king sent Osric to deliver his message to you, Osric reported back
to the king and now asks you to meet him in the hall. He wishes to
know whether you want to have the fencing match now or later.]
HAMLET: I am constant to my purposes; they follow the king’s
pleasure: if his fitness speaks, mine is ready; now, or whensoever,
provided I be so able as now.
Lord. The king, and queen, and all are coming
HAMLET: In happy time. [That
suits me well.]
Lord. The queen desires you to use some gentle entertainment [gentle words or treatment] to
Laertes before you fall to
HAMLET: She well instructs me. [Exit Lord.
HORATIO: You will lose this wager, my lord.
HAMLET: I do not think so; since he went into France, I have
been in continual practice; I shall win at the odds. But thou
wouldst not think how ill all’s here about my heart; but it is no
[But . . . heart: But be aware
that I feel a bit uneasy in my heart.]
HORATIO: Nay, good my lord,—
HAMLET: It is but foolery; but it is such a kind of
gain-giving as would perhaps trouble a
[It is . . . woman: It's really
nothing—rather like a misgiving that would perhaps trouble a
HORATIO: If your mind dislike any thing, obey it; I will
forestall their repair hither [stop
them from coming], and say you are not fit.
HAMLET: Not a whit, we defy augury; there’s a special
providence in the fall of a sparrow. If it be now, ’tis not to come;
if it be not to come, it will be now; if it be not now, yet it will
come: the readiness is all. Since no man has aught of what he
leaves, what is ’t to leave betimes? Let be.
[Not a . . . let be: No, don't do
that. I defy omens or foreboding feelings. After all, it is God
who oversees our destiny. If a sparrow dies now, it was meant by
heaven to die now and not later. If the sparrow does not die now,
it was meant by heaven to die later. (See Matthew 10:29 in the New
Testament of the Bible.) What is important is to be prepared for
whatever happens to you. No man retains anything of what he leaves
behind when he dies. So what does it matter if a man dies an early
death? Let things stand as they are.]
Enter KING, QUEEN, LAERTES, Lords, OSRIC, and Attendants with foils,
KING: Come, Hamlet, come, and take this hand from me.
[The KING puts the hand of LAERTES into that of HAMLET.
HAMLET: Give me your pardon, sir; I’ve done you
But pardon ’t, as you are a gentleman.
This presence knows,
And you must needs have heard, how I am punish’d
With sore distraction [mental anguish]. What I have
That might your nature, honour and
Roughly awake, I here proclaim was madness.
Was ’t Hamlet wrong’d Laertes? Never Hamlet:
If Hamlet from himself be ta’en away,
And when he’s not himself does wrong Laertes,
Then Hamlet does it not; Hamlet denies
Who does it then? His madness. If ’t be so,
Hamlet is of the faction that is wrong’d;
His madness is poor Hamlet’s enemy.
Sir, in this audience,
Let my disclaiming from a purpos’d
Free me so far in your most generous thoughts,
That I have shot mine arrow o’er the house,
And hurt my brother.
[That I . . . brother: That I shot
an arrow over a house, unaware that my brother was on the other
side, and unintentionally hit and injured him.]
LAERTES: I am satisfied in nature [temperament; feelings],
Whose motive, in this case, should stir me
To my revenge; but in my terms of honour
I stand aloof, and will no reconcilement,
[I stand . . . reconcilement: I am
not satisfied and will not reconcile with you.]
Till by some elder masters [old
wise men], of known honour,
I have a voice and precedent of peace,
To keep my name ungor’d. But till that
I do receive your offer’d love like love,
And will not wrong it.
HAMLET: I embrace it
And will this brother’s wager frankly play.
Give us the foils [thin, flexible
swords with blunted tips]. Come
LAERTES: Come, one for me.
HAMLET: I’ll be your foil, Laertes; in mine
Your skill shall, like a star i’ the darkest night,
Stick fiery off indeed.
[I'll be . . . indeed: I'll be a
poor comparison to you, Laertes. Since I lack the talents that you
have acquired, your skill will shine like a fiery star in a dark
LAERTES: You mock me, sir. [Laertes
thinks Hamlet is insincere.]
HAMLET: No, by this hand.
KING: Give them the foils, young Osric. Cousin
You know the wager?
HAMLET: Very well, my lord;
Your Grace hath laid the odds o’ the weaker
KING: I do not fear it; I have seen you both;
But since he is better’d [he has
the greater skill], we have therefore odds.
LAERTES: This is too heavy; let me see another.
HAMLET: This likes me well. These foils have all a
OSRIC: Ay, my good lord. [They prepare to
KING: Set me the stoups [pots]
of wine upon that table.
If Hamlet give the first or second hit,
Or quit [strikes back] in
answer of the third exchange,
Let all the battlements their ordnance [cannons] fire;
The king shall drink to Hamlet’s better breath [health];
And in the cup [that Hamlet drinks
from] an union [pearl]
shall he throw,
Richer than that which four successive kings
In Denmark’s crown have worn. Give me the cups;
And let the kettle to the trumpet speak,
The trumpet to the cannoneer
The cannons to the heavens, the heavens to earth,
‘Now the king drinks to Hamlet!’ Come, begin;
And you, the judges, bear a wary eye.
HAMLET: Come on, sir.
LAERTES: Come, my lord. [They
OSRIC: A hit, a very palpable hit.
KING: Stay; give me drink. Hamlet, this pearl is
Here’s to thy health. Give him the cup. [Trumpets sound; and
cannon shot off within.
HAMLET: I’ll play this bout first; set it by a
Come.—[They play.] Another hit; what say you?
LAERTES: A touch, a touch, I do
KING: Our son shall win.
QUEEN: He’s fat, and scant of breath.
Here, Hamlet, take my napkin, rub thy brows;
The queen carouses to thy fortune, Hamlet. [She picks up the poisoned cup, the one
with the pearl, that the king intended for Hamlet.]
KING: Gertrude, do not drink.
QUEEN: I will, my lord; I pray you, pardon me. [Drinks.
KING: [Aside.] It is the poison’d cup! it is too
HAMLET: I dare not drink yet, madam; by and by.
QUEEN: Come, let me wipe thy
LAERTES: My lord, I’ll hit him now.
KING: I do not think ’t.
LAERTES: [Aside.] And yet ’tis almost ’gainst my
HAMLET: Come, for the third, Laertes. You but
I pray you, pass with your best
I am afeard you make a wanton of me [you are toying with me].
LAERTES: Say you so? come on. [They play.
OSRIC: Nothing, neither way.
LAERTES: Have at you now. [LAERTES wounds HAMLET; then,
in scuffling, they change rapiers, and HAMLET wounds
KING: Part them! they are incens’d [going too far].
HAMLET: Nay, come, again. [The QUEEN falls.
OSRIC: Look to the queen there, ho!
HORATIO: They bleed on both sides. How is it, my
OSRIC: How is it, Laertes?
LAERTES: Why, as a woodcock to mine own springe [as a man snared by his own trap],
I am justly kill’d with mine own treachery.
HAMLET: How does the queen?
KING: She swounds [faints,
swoons] to see them bleed.
QUEEN: No, no, the drink, the drink,—O my dear
The drink, the drink; I am poison’d.
HAMLET: O villany! Ho! let the door be lock’d:
Treachery! seek it out. [LAERTES falls.
LAERTES: It is here, Hamlet. Hamlet, thou art
No medicine in the world can do thee good;
In thee there is not half an hour of
The treacherous instrument is in thy hand,
Unbated [not capped or blunted]
and envenom’d. The foul practice
Hath turn’d itself on me; lo! here I lie,
Never to rise again. Thy mother’s poison’d.
I can no more. The king, the king’s to
HAMLET: The point envenom’d too!—
Then, venom, to thy work. [Stabs the KING.
ALL: Treason! treason!
KING: O! yet defend me, friends; I am but hurt [only wounded].
HAMLET: Here, thou incestuous, murderous, damned
Drink off this potion;—is thy union [pearl] here?
Follow my mother. [KING dies.
LAERTES: He [the king]
is justly serv’d;
It is a poison temper’d by himself.
Exchange forgiveness with me, noble
Mine and my father’s death come not upon thee,
Nor thine on me! [Dies.
HAMLET: Heaven make thee free of it! I follow
I am dead, Horatio. Wretched queen, adieu!
You that look pale and tremble at this
That are but mutes or audience to this act,
Had I but time,—as this fell sergeant, death,
Is strict in his arrest,—O! I could tell you—
But let it be. Horatio, I am dead;
Thou liv’st; report me and my cause
To the unsatisfied.
HORATIO: Never believe it;
I am more an antique Roman [Romans
were famous for committing suicide after a reversal of fortune]
than a Dane:
Here’s yet some liquor left.
HAMLET: As thou’rt a
Give me the cup: let go; by heaven, I’ll have ’t.
O God! Horatio, what a wounded name,
Things standing thus unknown, shall live behind me.
If thou didst ever hold me in thy heart,
Absent thee from felicity
[Absent . . . awhile: Absent
(pronounced ab SENT) thee from sweet death awhile.]
And in this harsh world draw thy breath in pain,
To tell my story. [March afar off, and shot
What war-like noise is
OSRIC: Young Fortinbras, with conquest come from Poland,
To the ambassadors of England
This war-like volley [salute].
HAMLET: O! I die, Horatio;
The potent poison quite o’er-crows [overcomes]
I cannot live to hear the news from England,
But I do prophesy the election [to
choose the new Danish king]
On Fortinbras: he has my dying voice;
So tell him, with the occurrents, more and less,
Which have solicited—The rest is silence. [Dies.
[So tell . . . solicited: So tell
him about the recent events, whether of greater or lesser
importance, that influenced my actions.]
HORATIO: Now cracks a noble heart. Good-night, sweet
And flights of angels sing thee to thy
Why does the drum come hither? [March within.
Enter FORTINBRAS, the English Ambassadors, and Others.
FORTINBRAS: Where is this sight?
HORATIO: What is it ye would see?
If aught [anything] of woe
or wonder, cease your
[If aught . . . search]: If you mean anything tragic or terrible to
behold, this is the place.]
FORTINBRAS: This quarry [harvest
of animals hunted down, killed, and piled in a heap] cries
on havoc [disorder; chaos;
destruction]. O proud death!
What feast is toward in thine eternal cell,
That thou so many princes at a shot
So bloodily hast struck?
[O proud . . . struck: O death!
You must be planning a great banquet in your eternal abode,
considering that you took the lives of so many royal persons in a
FIRST AMBASSADOR: The sight is
And our affairs from England come too late:
The ears are senseless that should give us hearing,
To tell him [King Claudius]
his commandment is fulfill’d,
That Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead.
Where should we have our
[Where . . . thanks: Since the
king is dead, he cannot thank us for delivering our message.]
HORATIO: Not from his mouth,
Had it the ability of life to thank you:
He never gave commandment for their death.
But since, so jump upon this bloody question,
[But . . . question: But since you
wonder what happened here that spilled so much blood]
You from the Polack wars, and you from
Are here arriv’d, give order that these bodies
High on a stage be placed to the view;
And let me speak to the yet unknowing world
How these things came about: so shall you hear
Of carnal, bloody, and unnatural
Of accidental judgments, casual slaughters;
Of deaths put on by cunning and forc’d cause,
And, in this upshot, purposes mistook
Fall’n on the inventors’ heads; all this can I
[And in . . . deliver: And,
ironically, murderous plots that went awry and killed the very
persons who hatched them. I can tell you the whole story.]
FORTINBRAS: Let us haste to hear it,
And call the noblest to the audience [call the noblemen hereabouts to listen].
For me, with sorrow I embrace my fortune;
I have some rights of memory [entitlements]
in this kingdom,
Which now to claim my vantage doth invite
[Which . . . me: Which I now plan
HORATIO: Of that I shall have also cause to speak,
And from his mouth whose voice will draw on more:
But let this same be presently perform’d,
Even while men’s minds are wild, lest more mischance
On plots and errors
[Of that . . . happen: On this
matter I'd like to disclose to you Hamlet's last wishes, even at
this upsetting time, so that we can avoid further plots and
FORTINBRAS: Let four captains
Bear Hamlet, like a soldier, to the stage;
For he was likely, had he been put on,
To have prov’d most royally: and, for his passage,
[For he . . . royally: For he was
likely, had he lived, to have been a great ruler.]
The soldiers’ music and the rites of
Speak loudly for him.
Take up the bodies: such a sight as this
Becomes the field, but here shows much amiss.
[Such a sight . . . amiss: This
site is appropriate for a battlefield, but not for a hall in a
Go, bid the soldiers shoot. [A dead march. Exeunt,
bearing off the bodies; after which a peal of ordnance is shot off.
References to Ancient Mythology
Shakespeare often alluded or referred directly to figures in Greek
and Roman mythology, usually to make a description or comparison
clear or vivid. For example, when Shakespeare compared a man to
Hercules, he was suggesting that the man had great strength and
fortitude. Following are examples of references to mythology in Hamlet.
Trojan soldier who fought against the Greeks in the Trojan War, a
conflict that is the source of myths, legends, and some historical
accounts. It is said to have taken place in the twelfth or
thirteenth century BC. After the Greeks captured Troy, Aeneas and
other Trojans escaped on a ship. When the ship stopped at Carthage
in North Africa, Aeneas had a love affair with its queen, Dido, and
told her what happened at Troy. He abandoned her and sailed on to
Italy, where he was a pioneer in the development of ancient Rome.
Heartbroken, Dido killed herself.
Cyclops: One-eyed giant in
Dido: See Aeneas.
Hecate (3.2.196): A goddess
of the moon, earth, and underworld who became associated with
witchcraft and magic.
Hecuba: Wife of Priam, king
of Troy during the Trojan War.
(1.2.157): Roman name of the Greek hero Heracles, known for his
great strength. He was the son of Zeus and Alcmene, a mortal.
Hercules was famous for his his completion of twelve seemingly
impossible labors, including slaying a lion and killing a
Hymen (3.2.102): God of
Hyperion (1.2.144): Father
of the Titan sun god, Helios.
Hyrcanian beast (2.2.304):
Tiger known for great ferocity.
Jove: Another name for
Jupiter. Jupiter was the Roman name for Zeus, the king of the gods
in Greek mythology.
In Greek mythology, the river of forgetfulness in Hades.
Mars: Roman name for the
Greek god of war, Ares.
Nemean lion: Lion killed by
Neptune: Roman name for the
Greek god of the sea, Poseidon.
Niobe: Woman who
bragged to the goddess Leto that she had six sons and six daughters.
Leto had only two children, the god Apollo and the goddess Artemis,
known as Diana in Roman mythology. Because of Niobe's boastfulness,
Apollo killed her sons, Diana killed her daughters, and Jupiter
(Zeus) turned her into a mass of stone on Mount Sipylus (in
present-day Turkey). The block of stone cried tears ceaselessly as
Niobe wept for her dead children.
Phoebus (3.2.102): Apollo,
god of medicine, music, prophecy, poetry, and the sun. When spoken
of as the sun god, he is usually referred to as Phoebus or Phoebus
Priam (2.2.303): King of
Troy during the Trojan War.
Pyrrhus (2.2.304): Son of
the Greek soldier Achilles, the greatest warrior in the Trojan War
and the most complete and terrifying warrior in all of ancient
mythology. Pyrrhus was among the soldiers hiding in the belly of the
satyr (1.2.144): Minor
deity that inhabited forests. It had horns and pointed ears, the
head and trunk of a man, and the legs of a goat. It was a follower
of the god of wine, Dionysus (Roman name: Bacchus), and engaged in
merrymaking and lechery.
Tellus (3.2.103): Roman
name for Gaea, the Greek goddess of the earth.
Horse: Gigantic wooden horse constructed by the Greeks
during the Trojan War and left before the gates of Troy. The Greeks
presented it as a gift to the Trojans after pretending to abandon
the battlefield. After the Trojans pulled the trophy inside the city
walls, Greek warriors concealed in the belly of the horse descended
during the night and opened the gates to Greeks hiding outside.
Surprising the sleeping Trojans, the Greeks easily captured and
burned Troy, slaughtering many of its inhabitants.
Vulcan (3.2.48 ): Roman
name for Hephaestus, the god of fire and the forge who made armor in
his smithy on Mount Olympus.