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Navigate this workHamlet
Act 2, scene 2
Claudius and Gertrude set Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, two boyhood friends of Hamlet, to spy on him.
When Hamlet himself enters, he is confronted first by Polonius and then by Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, whom he quickly identifies as Claudius’s spies. As they talk, a company of touring actors enters. Hamlet persuades one of them to deliver a speech, and recognizes, to his shame, that he has shown less intensity in avenging his father’s murder than the actor has done in performance. Hamlet hopes that when the players stage The Murder of Gonzago for the court, he can determine whether Claudius is guilty of King Hamlet’s death.Flourish. Enter King and Queen, Rosencrantz and
Guildenstern ⌜and Attendants.⌝
1065 Welcome, dear Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.
1066 Moreover that we much did long to see you,
1067 The need we have to use you did provoke
1068 Our hasty sending. Something have you heard
1069 5 Of Hamlet’s transformation, so call it,
1070 Sith nor th’ exterior nor the inward man
1071 Resembles that it was. What it should be,
1072 More than his father’s death, that thus hath put him
1074 10 I cannot dream of. I entreat you both
1075 That, being of so young days brought up with him
1076 And sith so neighbored to his youth and havior,
1077 That you vouchsafe your rest here in our court
1078 Some little time, so by your companies
1079 15 To draw him on to pleasures, and to gather
1080 So much as from occasion you may glean,
1081 [Whether aught to us unknown afflicts him thus]
1082 That, opened, lies within our remedy.
1083 Good gentlemen, he hath much talked of you,
1084 20 And sure I am two men there is not living
1085 To whom he more adheres. If it will please you
1086 To show us so much gentry and goodwill
1087 As to expend your time with us awhile
1088 For the supply and profit of our hope,
1089 25 Your visitation shall receive such thanks
1090 As fits a king’s remembrance.
ROSENCRANTZ 1091 Both your Majesties
1092 Might, by the sovereign power you have of us,
1093 Put your dread pleasures more into command
1094 30 Than to entreaty.
GUILDENSTERN 1095 But we both obey,
1096 And here give up ourselves in the full bent
1097 To lay our service freely at your feet,
1098 To be commanded.
1099 35 Thanks, Rosencrantz and gentle Guildenstern.
1100 Thanks, Guildenstern and gentle Rosencrantz.
1101 And I beseech you instantly to visit
1102 My too much changèd son.—Go, some of you,
1103 And bring these gentlemen where Hamlet is.
1104 40 Heavens make our presence and our practices
1105 Pleasant and helpful to him!
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern exit
⌜with some Attendants.⌝
1107 Th’ ambassadors from Norway, my good lord,
1108 Are joyfully returned.
1109 45 Thou still hast been the father of good news.
1110 Have I, my lord? I assure my good liege
1111 I hold my duty as I hold my soul,
1112 Both to my God and to my gracious king,
1113 And I do think, or else this brain of mine
1114 50 Hunts not the trail of policy so sure
1115 As it hath used to do, that I have found
1116 The very cause of Hamlet’s lunacy.
1117 O, speak of that! That do I long to hear.
1118 Give first admittance to th’ ambassadors.
1119 55 My news shall be the fruit to that great feast.
1120 Thyself do grace to them and bring them in.
1121 He tells me, my dear Gertrude, he hath found
1122 The head and source of all your son’s distemper.
1123 I doubt it is no other but the main—
1124 60 His father’s death and our ⟨o’erhasty⟩ marriage.
1125 Well, we shall sift him.
Enter Ambassadors ⟨Voltemand and Cornelius ⌜with⌝
1127 Say, Voltemand, what from our brother Norway?
1128 Most fair return of greetings and desires.
1129 65 Upon our first, he sent out to suppress
1130 His nephew’s levies, which to him appeared
1131 To be a preparation ’gainst the Polack,
1132 But, better looked into, he truly found
1133 It was against your Highness. Whereat, grieved
1134 70 That so his sickness, age, and impotence
1135 Was falsely borne in hand, sends out arrests
1136 On Fortinbras, which he, in brief, obeys,
1137 Receives rebuke from Norway, and, in fine,
1138 Makes vow before his uncle never more
1139 75 To give th’ assay of arms against your Majesty.
1140 Whereon old Norway, overcome with joy,
1141 Gives him three-score thousand crowns in annual
1143 And his commission to employ those soldiers,
1144 80 So levied as before, against the Polack,
1145 With an entreaty, herein further shown,
⌜He gives a paper.⌝
1146 That it might please you to give quiet pass
1147 Through your dominions for this enterprise,
1148 On such regards of safety and allowance
1149 85 As therein are set down.
KING 1150 It likes us well,
1151 And, at our more considered time, we’ll read,
1152 Answer, and think upon this business.
1153 Meantime, we thank you for your well-took labor.
1154 90 Go to your rest. At night we’ll feast together.
1155 Most welcome home!
⌜Voltemand and Cornelius⌝ exit.
POLONIUS 1156 This business is well ended.
1157 My liege, and madam, to expostulate
1158 What majesty should be, what duty is,
1160 Were nothing but to waste night, day, and time.
1161 Therefore, ⟨since⟩ brevity is the soul of wit,
1162 And tediousness the limbs and outward flourishes,
1163 I will be brief. Your noble son is mad.
1164 100 “Mad” call I it, for, to define true madness,
1165 What is ’t but to be nothing else but mad?
1166 But let that go.
QUEEN 1167 More matter with less art.
1168 Madam, I swear I use no art at all.
1169 105 That he’s mad, ’tis true; ’tis true ’tis pity,
1170 And pity ’tis ’tis true—a foolish figure,
1171 But farewell it, for I will use no art.
1172 Mad let us grant him then, and now remains
1173 That we find out the cause of this effect,
1174 110 Or, rather say, the cause of this defect,
1175 For this effect defective comes by cause.
1176 Thus it remains, and the remainder thus.
1178 I have a daughter (have while she is mine)
1179 115 Who, in her duty and obedience, mark,
1180 Hath given me this. Now gather and surmise.
1181 ⌜He reads.⌝ To the celestial, and my soul’s idol, the
1182 most beautified Ophelia—
1183 That’s an ill phrase, a vile phrase; “beautified” is a
1184 120 vile phrase. But you shall hear. Thus: ⌜He reads.⌝
1185 In her excellent white bosom, these, etc.—
QUEEN 1186 Came this from Hamlet to her?
1187 Good madam, stay awhile. I will be faithful.
⌜He reads the⌝ letter.
1188 Doubt thou the stars are fire,
1189 125 Doubt that the sun doth move,
1190 Doubt truth to be a liar,
1191 But never doubt I love.
1193 art to reckon my groans, but that I love thee best, O
1194 130 most best, believe it. Adieu.
1195 Thine evermore, most dear lady, whilst
1196 this machine is to him, Hamlet.
1197 This, in obedience, hath my daughter shown me,
1198 And more ⟨above,⟩ hath his solicitings,
1199 135 As they fell out by time, by means, and place,
1200 All given to mine ear.
KING 1201 But how hath she received his love?
POLONIUS 1202 What do you think of me?
1203 As of a man faithful and honorable.
1204 140 I would fain prove so. But what might you think,
1205 When I had seen this hot love on the wing
1206 (As I perceived it, I must tell you that,
1207 Before my daughter told me), what might you,
1208 Or my dear Majesty your queen here, think,
1209 145 If I had played the desk or table-book
1210 Or given my heart a ⟨winking,⟩ mute and dumb,
1211 Or looked upon this love with idle sight?
1212 What might you think? No, I went round to work,
1213 And my young mistress thus I did bespeak:
1214 150 “Lord Hamlet is a prince, out of thy star.
1215 This must not be.” And then I prescripts gave her,
1216 That she should lock herself from ⟨his⟩ resort,
1217 Admit no messengers, receive no tokens;
1218 Which done, she took the fruits of my advice,
1219 155 And he, repelled (a short tale to make),
1220 Fell into a sadness, then into a fast,
1221 Thence to a watch, thence into a weakness,
1222 Thence to ⟨a⟩ lightness, and, by this declension,
1223 Into the madness wherein now he raves
1224 160 And all we mourn for.
KING, ⌜to Queen⌝ 1225 Do you think ⟨’tis⟩ this?
1227 Hath there been such a time (I would fain know
1229 165 That I have positively said “’Tis so,”
1230 When it proved otherwise?
KING 1231 Not that I know.
1232 Take this from this, if this be otherwise.
1233 If circumstances lead me, I will find
1234 170 Where truth is hid, though it were hid, indeed,
1235 Within the center.
KING 1236 How may we try it further?
1237 You know sometimes he walks four hours together
1238 Here in the lobby.
QUEEN 1239 175 So he does indeed.
1240 At such a time I’ll loose my daughter to him.
1241 ⌜To the King.⌝ Be you and I behind an arras then.
1242 Mark the encounter. If he love her not,
1243 And be not from his reason fall’n thereon,
1244 180 Let me be no assistant for a state,
1245 But keep a farm and carters.
KING 1246 We will try it.
Enter Hamlet ⟨reading on a book.⟩
1247 But look where sadly the poor wretch comes
1249 185 Away, I do beseech you both, away.
1250 I’ll board him presently. O, give me leave.
King and Queen exit ⌜with Attendants.⌝
1251 How does my good Lord Hamlet?
HAMLET 1252 Well, God-a-mercy.
HAMLET 1254 190Excellent well. You are a fishmonger.
POLONIUS 1255 Not I, my lord.
HAMLET 1256 Then I would you were so honest a man.
POLONIUS 1257 Honest, my lord?
HAMLET 1258 Ay, sir. To be honest, as this world goes, is to
1259 195 be one man picked out of ten thousand.
POLONIUS 1260 That’s very true, my lord.
HAMLET 1261 For if the sun breed maggots in a dead
1262 dog, being a good kissing carrion—Have you a
POLONIUS 1264 200I have, my lord.
HAMLET 1265 Let her not walk i’ th’ sun. Conception is a
1266 blessing, but, as your daughter may conceive,
1267 friend, look to ’t.
POLONIUS, ⌜aside⌝ 1268 How say you by that? Still harping on
1269 205 my daughter. Yet he knew me not at first; he said I
1270 was a fishmonger. He is far gone. And truly, in my
1271 youth, I suffered much extremity for love, very near
1272 this. I’ll speak to him again.—What do you read, my
HAMLET 1274 210Words, words, words.
POLONIUS 1275 What is the matter, my lord?
HAMLET 1276 Between who?
POLONIUS 1277 I mean the matter that you read, my lord.
HAMLET 1278 Slanders, sir; for the satirical rogue says here
1279 215 that old men have gray beards, that their faces are
1280 wrinkled, their eyes purging thick amber and
1281 plum-tree gum, and that they have a plentiful lack of
1282 wit, together with most weak hams; all which, sir,
1283 though I most powerfully and potently believe, yet I
1284 220 hold it not honesty to have it thus set down; for
1285 yourself, sir, shall grow old as I am, if, like a crab,
1286 you could go backward.
POLONIUS, ⌜aside⌝ 1287 Though this be madness, yet there is
1288 method in ’t.—Will you walk out of the air, my lord?
POLONIUS 1290 Indeed, that’s out of the air. ⌜Aside.⌝ How
1291 pregnant sometimes his replies are! A happiness
1292 that often madness hits on, which reason and
1293 ⟨sanity⟩ could not so prosperously be delivered of. I
1294 230 will leave him ⟨and suddenly contrive the means of
1295 meeting between him⟩ and my daughter.—My lord,
1296 I will take my leave of you.
HAMLET 1297 You cannot, ⟨sir,⟩ take from me anything that I
1298 will more willingly part withal—except my life,
1299 235 except my life, except my life.
POLONIUS 1300 Fare you well, my lord.
HAMLET, ⌜aside⌝ 1301 These tedious old fools.
Enter Guildenstern and Rosencrantz.
POLONIUS 1302 You go to seek the Lord Hamlet. There he is.
ROSENCRANTZ, ⌜to Polonius⌝ 1303 God save you, sir.
GUILDENSTERN 1304 240My honored lord.
ROSENCRANTZ 1305 My most dear lord.
HAMLET 1306 My ⟨excellent⟩ good friends! How dost thou,
1307 Guildenstern? Ah, Rosencrantz! Good lads, how do
1308 you both?
1309 245 As the indifferent children of the earth.
1310 Happy in that we are not ⟨overhappy.⟩
1311 On Fortune’s ⟨cap,⟩ we are not the very button.
HAMLET 1312 Nor the soles of her shoe?
ROSENCRANTZ 1313 Neither, my lord.
HAMLET 1314 250Then you live about her waist, or in the
1315 middle of her favors?
GUILDENSTERN 1316 Faith, her privates we.
HAMLET 1317 In the secret parts of Fortune? O, most true!
1318 She is a strumpet. What news?
ROSENCRANTZ 1319 255None, my lord, but ⟨that⟩ the world’s
1320 grown honest.
1322 true. ⟨Let me question more in particular. What
1323 have you, my good friends, deserved at the hands of
1324 260 Fortune that she sends you to prison hither?
GUILDENSTERN 1325 Prison, my lord?
HAMLET 1326 Denmark’s a prison.
ROSENCRANTZ 1327 Then is the world one.
HAMLET 1328 A goodly one, in which there are many confines,
1329 265 wards, and dungeons, Denmark being one o’
1330 th’ worst.
ROSENCRANTZ 1331 We think not so, my lord.
HAMLET 1332 Why, then, ’tis none to you, for there is
1333 nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it
1334 270 so. To me, it is a prison.
ROSENCRANTZ 1335 Why, then, your ambition makes it one.
1336 ’Tis too narrow for your mind.
HAMLET 1337 O God, I could be bounded in a nutshell and
1338 count myself a king of infinite space, were it not
1339 275 that I have bad dreams.
GUILDENSTERN 1340 Which dreams, indeed, are ambition,
1341 for the very substance of the ambitious is merely
1342 the shadow of a dream.
HAMLET 1343 A dream itself is but a shadow.
ROSENCRANTZ 1344 280Truly, and I hold ambition of so airy
1345 and light a quality that it is but a shadow’s shadow.
HAMLET 1346 Then are our beggars bodies, and our monarchs
1347 and outstretched heroes the beggars’ shadows.
1348 Shall we to th’ court? For, by my fay, I cannot
1349 285 reason.
ROSENCRANTZ/GUILDENSTERN 1350 We’ll wait upon you.
HAMLET 1351 No such matter. I will not sort you with the
1352 rest of my servants, for, to speak to you like an
1353 honest man, I am most dreadfully attended.⟩ But,
1354 290 in the beaten way of friendship, what make you at
ROSENCRANTZ 1356 To visit you, my lord, no other occasion.
1358 but I thank you, and sure, dear friends, my thanks
1359 295 are too dear a halfpenny. Were you not sent for?
1360 Is it your own inclining? Is it a free visitation?
1361 Come, come, deal justly with me. Come, come; nay,
GUILDENSTERN 1363 What should we say, my lord?
HAMLET 1364 300Anything but to th’ purpose. You were sent
1365 for, and there is a kind of confession in your looks
1366 which your modesties have not craft enough to
1367 color. I know the good king and queen have sent for
ROSENCRANTZ 1369 305To what end, my lord?
HAMLET 1370 That you must teach me. But let me conjure
1371 you by the rights of our fellowship, by the consonancy
1372 of our youth, by the obligation of our ever-preserved
1373 love, and by what more dear a better
1374 310 proposer can charge you withal: be even and direct
1375 with me whether you were sent for or no.
ROSENCRANTZ, ⌜to Guildenstern⌝ 1376 What say you?
HAMLET, ⌜aside⌝ 1377 Nay, then, I have an eye of you.—If
1378 you love me, hold not off.
GUILDENSTERN 1379 315My lord, we were sent for.
HAMLET 1380 I will tell you why; so shall my anticipation
1381 prevent your discovery, and your secrecy to the
1382 King and Queen molt no feather. I have of late, but
1383 wherefore I know not, lost all my mirth, forgone all
1384 320 custom of exercises, and, indeed, it goes so heavily
1385 with my disposition that this goodly frame, the
1386 Earth, seems to me a sterile promontory; this most
1387 excellent canopy, the air, look you, this brave o’erhanging
1388 firmament, this majestical roof, fretted
1389 325 with golden fire—why, it appeareth nothing to me
1390 but a foul and pestilent congregation of vapors.
1391 What ⟨a⟩ piece of work is a man, how noble in
1392 reason, how infinite in faculties, in form and moving
1394 330 an angel, in apprehension how like a god: the
1395 beauty of the world, the paragon of animals—and
1396 yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust? Man
1397 delights not me, ⟨no,⟩ nor women neither, though by
1398 your smiling you seem to say so.
ROSENCRANTZ 1399 335My lord, there was no such stuff in my
HAMLET 1401 Why did you laugh, then, when I said “man
1402 delights not me”?
ROSENCRANTZ 1403 To think, my lord, if you delight not in
1404 340 man, what Lenten entertainment the players shall
1405 receive from you. We coted them on the way, and
1406 hither are they coming to offer you service.
HAMLET 1407 He that plays the king shall be welcome—his
1408 Majesty shall have tribute on me. The adventurous
1409 345 knight shall use his foil and target, the lover shall
1410 not sigh gratis, the humorous man shall end his
1411 part in peace, ⟨the clown shall make those laugh
1412 whose lungs are ⌜tickle⌝ o’ th’ sear,⟩ and the lady
1413 shall say her mind freely, or the ⟨blank⟩ verse shall
1414 350 halt for ’t. What players are they?
ROSENCRANTZ 1415 Even those you were wont to take such
1416 delight in, the tragedians of the city.
HAMLET 1417 How chances it they travel? Their residence,
1418 both in reputation and profit, was better both ways.
ROSENCRANTZ 1419 355I think their inhibition comes by the
1420 means of the late innovation.
HAMLET 1421 Do they hold the same estimation they did
1422 when I was in the city? Are they so followed?
ROSENCRANTZ 1423 No, indeed are they not.
⟨HAMLET 1424 360How comes it? Do they grow rusty?
ROSENCRANTZ 1425 Nay, their endeavor keeps in the wonted
1426 pace. But there is, sir, an aerie of children, little
1427 eyases, that cry out on the top of question and are
1428 most tyrannically clapped for ’t. These are now the
1430 they call them) that many wearing rapiers are afraid
1431 of goose quills and dare scarce come thither.
HAMLET 1432 What, are they children? Who maintains ’em?
1433 How are they escoted? Will they pursue the quality
1434 370 no longer than they can sing? Will they not say
1435 afterwards, if they should grow themselves to common
1436 players (as it is ⌜most like,⌝ if their means are
1437 no better), their writers do them wrong to make
1438 them exclaim against their own succession?
ROSENCRANTZ 1439 375Faith, there has been much ⌜to-do⌝ on
1440 both sides, and the nation holds it no sin to tar
1441 them to controversy. There was for a while no
1442 money bid for argument unless the poet and the
1443 player went to cuffs in the question.
HAMLET 1444 380Is ’t possible?
GUILDENSTERN 1445 O, there has been much throwing
1446 about of brains.
HAMLET 1447 Do the boys carry it away?
ROSENCRANTZ 1448 Ay, that they do, my lord—Hercules
1449 385 and his load too.⟩
HAMLET 1450 It is not very strange; for my uncle is King of
1451 Denmark, and those that would make mouths at
1452 him while my father lived give twenty, forty, fifty,
1453 a hundred ducats apiece for his picture in little.
1454 390 ’Sblood, there is something in this more than natural,
1455 if philosophy could find it out.
A flourish ⟨for the Players.⟩
GUILDENSTERN 1456 There are the players.
HAMLET 1457 Gentlemen, you are welcome to Elsinore.
1458 Your hands, come then. Th’ appurtenance of welcome
1459 395 is fashion and ceremony. Let me comply
1460 with you in this garb, ⟨lest my⟩ extent to the players,
1461 which, I tell you, must show fairly outwards, should
1462 more appear like entertainment than yours. You are
1463 welcome. But my uncle-father and aunt-mother are
1464 400 deceived.
HAMLET 1466 I am but mad north-north-west. When the
1467 wind is southerly, I know a hawk from a handsaw.
POLONIUS 1468 Well be with you, gentlemen.
HAMLET 1469 405Hark you, Guildenstern, and you too—at
1470 each ear a hearer! That great baby you see there is
1471 not yet out of his swaddling clouts.
ROSENCRANTZ 1472 Haply he is the second time come to
1473 them, for they say an old man is twice a child.
HAMLET 1474 410I will prophesy he comes to tell me of the
1475 players; mark it.—You say right, sir, a Monday
1476 morning, ’twas then indeed.
POLONIUS 1477 My lord, I have news to tell you.
HAMLET 1478 My lord, I have news to tell you: when Roscius
1479 415 was an actor in Rome—
POLONIUS 1480 The actors are come hither, my lord.
HAMLET 1481 Buzz, buzz.
POLONIUS 1482 Upon my honor—
HAMLET 1483 Then came each actor on his ass.
POLONIUS 1484 420The best actors in the world, either for
1485 tragedy, comedy, history, pastoral, pastoral-comical,
1486 historical-pastoral, ⟨tragical-historical,
1487 tragical-comical-historical-pastoral,⟩ scene individable, or
1488 poem unlimited. Seneca cannot be too heavy, nor
1489 425 Plautus too light. For the law of writ and the liberty,
1490 these are the only men.
HAMLET 1491 O Jephthah, judge of Israel, what a treasure
1492 hadst thou!
POLONIUS 1493 What a treasure had he, my lord?
HAMLET 1494 430Why,
1495 One fair daughter, and no more,
1496 The which he lovèd passing well.
POLONIUS, ⌜aside⌝ 1497 Still on my daughter.
HAMLET 1498 Am I not i’ th’ right, old Jephthah?
1500 daughter that I love passing well.
HAMLET 1501 Nay, that follows not.
POLONIUS 1502 What follows then, my lord?
HAMLET 1503 Why,
1504 440 As by lot, God wot
1505 and then, you know,
1506 It came to pass, as most like it was—
1507 the first row of the pious chanson will show you
1508 more, for look where my abridgment comes.
Enter the Players.
1509 445 You are welcome, masters; welcome all.—I am glad
1510 to see thee well.—Welcome, good friends.—O ⟨my⟩
1511 old friend! Why, thy face is valanced since I saw thee
1512 last. Com’st thou to beard me in Denmark?—What,
1513 my young lady and mistress! ⟨By ’r⟩ Lady, your Ladyship
1514 450 is nearer to heaven than when I saw you last, by
1515 the altitude of a chopine. Pray God your voice, like a
1516 piece of uncurrent gold, be not cracked within the
1517 ring. Masters, you are all welcome. We’ll e’en to ’t
1518 like ⟨French⟩ falconers, fly at anything we see. We’ll
1519 455 have a speech straight. Come, give us a taste of your
1520 quality. Come, a passionate speech.
⟨FIRST⟩ PLAYER 1521 What speech, my good lord?
HAMLET 1522 I heard thee speak me a speech once, but it
1523 was never acted, or, if it was, not above once; for
1524 460 the play, I remember, pleased not the million:
1525 ’twas caviary to the general. But it was (as I
1526 received it, and others whose judgments in such
1527 matters cried in the top of mine) an excellent play,
1528 well digested in the scenes, set down with as much
1529 465 modesty as cunning. I remember one said there
1530 were no sallets in the lines to make the matter
1531 savory, nor no matter in the phrase that might indict
1532 the author of affection, but called it an honest
1534 470 more handsome than fine.] One speech in ’t I
1535 chiefly loved. ’Twas Aeneas’ ⟨tale⟩ to Dido, and
1536 thereabout of it especially when he speaks of
1537 Priam’s slaughter. If it live in your memory, begin at
1538 this line—let me see, let me see:
1539 475 The rugged Pyrrhus, like th’ Hyrcanian beast—
1540 ’tis not so; it begins with Pyrrhus:
1541 The rugged Pyrrhus, he whose sable arms,
1542 Black as his purpose, did the night resemble
1543 When he lay couchèd in th’ ominous horse,
1544 480 Hath now this dread and black complexion smeared
1545 With heraldry more dismal. Head to foot,
1546 Now is he total gules, horridly tricked
1547 With blood of fathers, mothers, daughters, sons,
1548 Baked and impasted with the parching streets,
1549 485 That lend a tyrannous and a damnèd light
1550 To their lord’s murder. Roasted in wrath and fire,
1551 And thus o’ersizèd with coagulate gore,
1552 With eyes like carbuncles, the hellish Pyrrhus
1553 Old grandsire Priam seeks.
1554 490 So, proceed you.
POLONIUS 1555 ’Fore God, my lord, well spoken, with good
1556 accent and good discretion.
⟨FIRST⟩ PLAYER 1557 Anon he finds him
1558 Striking too short at Greeks. His antique sword,
1559 495 Rebellious to his arm, lies where it falls,
1560 Repugnant to command. Unequal matched,
1561 Pyrrhus at Priam drives, in rage strikes wide;
1562 But with the whiff and wind of his fell sword
1563 Th’ unnervèd father falls. ⟨Then senseless Ilium,⟩
1564 500 Seeming to feel this blow, with flaming top
1565 Stoops to his base, and with a hideous crash
1566 Takes prisoner Pyrrhus’ ear. For lo, his sword,
1567 Which was declining on the milky head
1568 Of reverend Priam, seemed i’ th’ air to stick.
1570 ⟨And,⟩ like a neutral to his will and matter,
1571 Did nothing.
1572 But as we often see against some storm
1573 A silence in the heavens, the rack stand still,
1574 510 The bold winds speechless, and the orb below
1575 As hush as death, anon the dreadful thunder
1576 Doth rend the region; so, after Pyrrhus’ pause,
1577 Arousèd vengeance sets him new a-work,
1578 And never did the Cyclops’ hammers fall
1579 515 On Mars’s armor, forged for proof eterne,
1580 With less remorse than Pyrrhus’ bleeding sword
1581 Now falls on Priam.
1582 Out, out, thou strumpet Fortune! All you gods
1583 In general synod take away her power,
1584 520 Break all the spokes and ⌜fellies⌝ from her wheel,
1585 And bowl the round nave down the hill of heaven
1586 As low as to the fiends!
POLONIUS 1587 This is too long.
HAMLET 1588 It shall to the barber’s with your beard.—
1589 525 Prithee say on. He’s for a jig or a tale of bawdry, or
1590 he sleeps. Say on; come to Hecuba.
1591 But who, ah woe, had seen the moblèd queen—
HAMLET 1592 “The moblèd queen”?
POLONIUS 1593 That’s good. ⟨“⌜Moblèd⌝ queen” is good.⟩
1594 530 Run barefoot up and down, threat’ning the flames
1595 With ⟨bisson rheum,⟩ a clout upon that head
1596 Where late the diadem stood, and for a robe,
1597 About her lank and all o’erteemèd loins
1598 A blanket, in the alarm of fear caught up—
1599 535 Who this had seen, with tongue in venom steeped,
1600 ’Gainst Fortune’s state would treason have
1602 But if the gods themselves did see her then
1604 540 In mincing with his sword her ⟨husband’s⟩ limbs,
1605 The instant burst of clamor that she made
1606 (Unless things mortal move them not at all)
1607 Would have made milch the burning eyes of heaven
1608 And passion in the gods.
POLONIUS 1609 545Look whe’er he has not turned his color and
1610 has tears in ’s eyes. Prithee, no more.
HAMLET 1611 ’Tis well. I’ll have thee speak out the rest of
1612 this soon.—Good my lord, will you see the players
1613 well bestowed? Do you hear, let them be well used,
1614 550 for they are the abstract and brief chronicles of the
1615 time. After your death you were better have a bad
1616 epitaph than their ill report while you live.
POLONIUS 1617 My lord, I will use them according to their
HAMLET 1619 555God’s ⟨bodykins,⟩ man, much better! Use every
1620 man after his desert and who shall ’scape
1621 whipping? Use them after your own honor and
1622 dignity. The less they deserve, the more merit is in
1623 your bounty. Take them in.
POLONIUS 1624 560Come, sirs.
HAMLET 1625 Follow him, friends. We’ll hear a play
1626 tomorrow. ⌜As Polonius and Players exit, Hamlet speaks to
the First Player.⌝ 1627 Dost thou hear me, old friend? Can
1628 you play “The Murder of Gonzago”?
⌜FIRST⌝ PLAYER 1629 565Ay, my lord.
HAMLET 1630 We’ll ha ’t tomorrow night. You could, for ⟨a⟩
1631 need, study a speech of some dozen or sixteen
1632 lines, which I would set down and insert in ’t,
1633 could you not?
⌜FIRST⌝ PLAYER 1634 570Ay, my lord.
HAMLET 1635 Very well. Follow that lord—and look you
1636 mock him not. ⌜First Player exits.⌝ My good friends,
1637 I’ll leave you till night. You are welcome to Elsinore.
ROSENCRANTZ 1638 Good my lord.
1639 575 Ay, so, good-bye to you.
⌜Rosencrantz and Guildenstern⌝ exit.
1640 Now I am alone.
1641 O, what a rogue and peasant slave am I!
1642 Is it not monstrous that this player here,
1643 But in a fiction, in a dream of passion,
1644 580 Could force his soul so to his own conceit
1645 That from her working all ⟨his⟩ visage wanned,
1646 Tears in his eyes, distraction in his aspect,
1647 A broken voice, and his whole function suiting
1648 With forms to his conceit—and all for nothing!
1649 585 For Hecuba!
1650 What’s Hecuba to him, or he to ⟨Hecuba,⟩
1651 That he should weep for her? What would he do
1652 Had he the motive and ⟨the cue⟩ for passion
1653 That I have? He would drown the stage with tears
1654 590 And cleave the general ear with horrid speech,
1655 Make mad the guilty and appall the free,
1656 Confound the ignorant and amaze indeed
1657 The very faculties of eyes and ears. Yet I,
1658 A dull and muddy-mettled rascal, peak
1659 595 Like John-a-dreams, unpregnant of my cause,
1660 And can say nothing—no, not for a king
1661 Upon whose property and most dear life
1662 A damned defeat was made. Am I a coward?
1663 Who calls me “villain”? breaks my pate across?
1664 600 Plucks off my beard and blows it in my face?
1665 Tweaks me by the nose? gives me the lie i’ th’ throat
1666 As deep as to the lungs? Who does me this?
1667 Ha! ’Swounds, I should take it! For it cannot be
1668 But I am pigeon-livered and lack gall
1669 605 To make oppression bitter, or ere this
1670 I should ⟨have⟩ fatted all the region kites
1671 With this slave’s offal. Bloody, bawdy villain!
1672 Remorseless, treacherous, lecherous, kindless
1675 Why, what an ass am I! This is most brave,
1676 That I, the son of a dear ⌜father⌝ murdered,
1677 Prompted to my revenge by heaven and hell,
1678 Must, like a whore, unpack my heart with words
1679 615 And fall a-cursing like a very drab,
1680 A stallion! Fie upon ’t! Foh!
1681 About, my brains!—Hum, I have heard
1682 That guilty creatures sitting at a play
1683 Have, by the very cunning of the scene,
1684 620 Been struck so to the soul that presently
1685 They have proclaimed their malefactions;
1686 For murder, though it have no tongue, will speak
1687 With most miraculous organ. I’ll have these players
1688 Play something like the murder of my father
1689 625 Before mine uncle. I’ll observe his looks;
1690 I’ll tent him to the quick. If he do blench,
1691 I know my course. The spirit that I have seen
1692 May be a ⟨devil,⟩ and the ⟨devil⟩ hath power
1693 T’ assume a pleasing shape; yea, and perhaps,
1694 630 Out of my weakness and my melancholy,
1695 As he is very potent with such spirits,
1696 Abuses me to damn me. I’ll have grounds
1697 More relative than this. The play’s the thing
1698 Wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the King.