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Hamlet - Act 3, scene 3
Last updated: Tue, Jun 02, 2020
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Navigate this workHamlet - Act 3, scene 3
Act 3, scene 3
Claudius orders Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to take Hamlet to England. Polonius tells Claudius of his plans to spy on Hamlet’s conversation with Gertrude. Left alone, Claudius reveals his remorse for killing his brother, and he tries to pray. Hamlet comes upon him kneeling and draws his sword, but then stops to think that if he kills Claudius at prayer, Claudius will go to heaven. Hamlet decides to kill Claudius when the king is committing a sin so that Claudius will instead go to hell. After Hamlet leaves, Claudius rises, saying that he has been unable to pray.Enter King, Rosencrantz, and Guildenstern.
2334 I like him not, nor stands it safe with us
2335 To let his madness range. Therefore prepare you.
2336 I your commission will forthwith dispatch,
2337 And he to England shall along with you.
2338 5 The terms of our estate may not endure
2339 Hazard so near ’s as doth hourly grow
2340 Out of his brows.
GUILDENSTERN 2341 We will ourselves provide.
2342 Most holy and religious fear it is
2343 10 To keep those many many bodies safe
2344 That live and feed upon your Majesty.
2345 The single and peculiar life is bound
2346 With all the strength and armor of the mind
2347 To keep itself from noyance, but much more
2348 15 That spirit upon whose weal depends and rests
2349 The lives of many. The cess of majesty
2350 Dies not alone, but like a gulf doth draw
2351 What’s near it with it; or it is a massy wheel
2352 Fixed on the summit of the highest mount,
2353 20 To whose ⟨huge⟩ spokes ten thousand lesser things
2354 Are mortised and adjoined, which, when it falls,
2355 Each small annexment, petty consequence,
2356 Attends the boist’rous ⟨ruin.⟩ Never alone
2357 Did the king sigh, but ⟨with⟩ a general groan.
2358 25 Arm you, I pray you, to this speedy voyage,
2359 For we will fetters put about this fear,
2360 Which now goes too free-footed.
ROSENCRANTZ 2361 We will haste us.
⌜Rosencrantz and Guildenstern⌝ exit.
2362 My lord, he’s going to his mother’s closet.
2363 30 Behind the arras I’ll convey myself
2364 To hear the process. I’ll warrant she’ll tax him
2366 And, as you said (and wisely was it said),
2367 ’Tis meet that some more audience than a mother,
2368 35 Since nature makes them partial, should o’erhear
2369 The speech of vantage. Fare you well, my liege.
2370 I’ll call upon you ere you go to bed
2371 And tell you what I know.
KING 2372 Thanks, dear my lord.
2373 40 O, my offense is rank, it smells to heaven;
2374 It hath the primal eldest curse upon ’t,
2375 A brother’s murder. Pray can I not,
2376 Though inclination be as sharp as will.
2377 My stronger guilt defeats my strong intent,
2378 45 And, like a man to double business bound,
2379 I stand in pause where I shall first begin
2380 And both neglect. What if this cursèd hand
2381 Were thicker than itself with brother’s blood?
2382 Is there not rain enough in the sweet heavens
2383 50 To wash it white as snow? Whereto serves mercy
2384 But to confront the visage of offense?
2385 And what’s in prayer but this twofold force,
2386 To be forestallèd ere we come to fall,
2387 Or ⟨pardoned⟩ being down? Then I’ll look up.
2388 55 My fault is past. But, O, what form of prayer
2389 Can serve my turn? “Forgive me my foul murder”?
2390 That cannot be, since I am still possessed
2391 Of those effects for which I did the murder:
2392 My crown, mine own ambition, and my queen.
2393 60 May one be pardoned and retain th’ offense?
2394 In the corrupted currents of this world,
2395 Offense’s gilded hand may ⟨shove⟩ by justice,
p. 1672396 And oft ’tis seen the wicked prize itself
2397 Buys out the law. But ’tis not so above:
2398 65 There is no shuffling; there the action lies
2399 In his true nature, and we ourselves compelled,
2400 Even to the teeth and forehead of our faults,
2401 To give in evidence. What then? What rests?
2402 Try what repentance can. What can it not?
2403 70 Yet what can it, when one cannot repent?
2404 O wretched state! O bosom black as death!
2405 O limèd soul, that, struggling to be free,
2406 Art more engaged! Help, angels! Make assay.
2407 Bow, stubborn knees, and heart with strings of steel
2408 75 Be soft as sinews of the newborn babe.
2409 All may be well.⌜He kneels.⌝
2410 Now might I do it ⟨pat,⟩ now he is a-praying,
2411 And now I’ll do ’t.⌜He draws his sword.⌝
2412 And so he goes to heaven,
2413 80 And so am I ⟨revenged.⟩ That would be scanned:
2414 A villain kills my father, and for that,
2415 I, his sole son, do this same villain send
2416 To heaven.
2417 Why, this is ⟨hire⟩ and ⟨salary,⟩ not revenge.
2418 85 He took my father grossly, full of bread,
2419 With all his crimes broad blown, as flush as May;
2420 And how his audit stands who knows save heaven.
2421 But in our circumstance and course of thought
2422 ’Tis heavy with him. And am I then revenged
2423 90 To take him in the purging of his soul,
2424 When he is fit and seasoned for his passage?
2426 Up sword, and know thou a more horrid hent.
⌜He sheathes his sword.⌝
2427 When he is drunk asleep, or in his rage,
p. 1692428 95 Or in th’ incestuous pleasure of his bed,
2429 At game, a-swearing, or about some act
2430 That has no relish of salvation in ’t—
2431 Then trip him, that his heels may kick at heaven,
2432 And that his soul may be as damned and black
2433 100 As hell, whereto it goes. My mother stays.
2434 This physic but prolongs thy sickly days.
2435 My words fly up, my thoughts remain below;
2436 Words without thoughts never to heaven go.