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Navigate this workHamlet
Act 4, scene 7
Claudius gets a letter from Hamlet announcing the prince’s return. Claudius enlists Laertes’s willing help in devising another plot against Hamlet’s life. Laertes agrees to kill Hamlet with a poisoned rapier in a fencing match. If he fails, Claudius will give Hamlet a poisoned cup of wine. Gertrude interrupts their plotting to announce that Ophelia has drowned.Enter King and Laertes.
3179 Now must your conscience my acquittance seal,
3180 And you must put me in your heart for friend,
3181 Sith you have heard, and with a knowing ear,
3182 That he which hath your noble father slain
3183 5 Pursued my life.
LAERTES 3184 It well appears. But tell me
3185 Why you ⟨proceeded⟩ not against these feats,
3186 So criminal and so capital in nature,
3187 As by your safety, greatness, wisdom, all things else,
3188 10 You mainly were stirred up.
KING 3189 O, for two special reasons,
3190 Which may to you perhaps seem much unsinewed,
3191 But yet to me they’re strong. The Queen his mother
3192 Lives almost by his looks, and for myself
3193 15 (My virtue or my plague, be it either which),
3194 She is so ⟨conjunctive⟩ to my life and soul
3195 That, as the star moves not but in his sphere,
3196 I could not but by her. The other motive
3197 Why to a public count I might not go
3198 20 Is the great love the general gender bear him,
3199 Who, dipping all his faults in their affection,
3200 Work like the spring that turneth wood to stone,
3201 Convert his gyves to graces, so that my arrows,
3202 Too slightly timbered for so ⟨loud a wind,⟩
3203 25 Would have reverted to my bow again,
3204 But not where I have aimed them.
3205 And so have I a noble father lost,
p. 2253206 A sister driven into desp’rate terms,
3207 Whose worth, if praises may go back again,
3208 30 Stood challenger on mount of all the age
3209 For her perfections. But my revenge will come.
3210 Break not your sleeps for that. You must not think
3211 That we are made of stuff so flat and dull
3212 That we can let our beard be shook with danger
3213 35 And think it pastime. You shortly shall hear more.
3214 I loved your father, and we love ourself,
3215 And that, I hope, will teach you to imagine—
Enter a Messenger with letters.
3216 ⟨How now? What news?
MESSENGER 3217 Letters, my lord, from
3218 40 Hamlet.⟩
3219 These to your Majesty, this to the Queen.
KING 3220 From Hamlet? Who brought them?
3221 Sailors, my lord, they say. I saw them not.
3222 They were given me by Claudio. He received them
3223 45 [Of him that brought them.]
KING 3224 Laertes, you shall hear
3226 Leave us.⟨Messenger exits.⟩
3227 ⌜Reads.⌝ High and mighty, you shall know I am set
3228 50 naked on your kingdom. Tomorrow shall I beg leave to
3229 see your kingly eyes, when I shall (first asking ⟨your⟩
3230 pardon) thereunto recount the occasion of my sudden
3231 ⟨and more strange⟩ return. ⟨Hamlet.⟩
3232 What should this mean? Are all the rest come back?
3233 55 Or is it some abuse and no such thing?
LAERTES 3234 Know you the hand?
KING 3235 ’Tis Hamlet’s character. “Naked”—
3236 And in a postscript here, he says “alone.”
3237 Can you ⟨advise⟩ me?
3238 60 I am lost in it, my lord. But let him come.
3239 It warms the very sickness in my heart
3240 That I ⟨shall⟩ live and tell him to his teeth
3241 “Thus didst thou.”
KING 3242 If it be so, Laertes
3243 65 (As how should it be so? how otherwise?),
3244 Will you be ruled by me?
LAERTES 3245 Ay, my lord,
3246 So you will not o’errule me to a peace.
3247 To thine own peace. If he be now returned,
3248 70 As ⟨checking⟩ at his voyage, and that he means
3249 No more to undertake it, I will work him
3250 To an exploit, now ripe in my device,
3251 Under the which he shall not choose but fall;
3252 And for his death no wind of blame shall breathe,
3253 75 But even his mother shall uncharge the practice
3254 And call it accident.
[LAERTES 3255 My lord, I will be ruled,
3256 The rather if you could devise it so
3257 That I might be the organ.
KING 3258 80 It falls right.
3259 You have been talked of since your travel much,
3260 And that in Hamlet’s hearing, for a quality
3261 Wherein they say you shine. Your sum of parts
3262 Did not together pluck such envy from him
3263 85 As did that one, and that, in my regard,
3264 Of the unworthiest siege.
LAERTES 3265 What part is that, my lord?
3266 A very ribbon in the cap of youth—
3267 Yet needful too, for youth no less becomes
3268 90 The light and careless livery that it wears
3269 Than settled age his sables and his weeds,
3270 Importing health and graveness.] Two months since
p. 2293271 Here was a gentleman of Normandy.
3272 I have seen myself, and served against, the French,
3273 95 And they can well on horseback, but this gallant
3274 Had witchcraft in ’t. He grew unto his seat,
3275 And to such wondrous doing brought his horse
3276 As had he been encorpsed and demi-natured
3277 With the brave beast. So far he topped ⟨my⟩ thought
3278 100 That I in forgery of shapes and tricks
3279 Come short of what he did.
LAERTES 3280 A Norman was ’t?
KING 3281 A Norman.
3282 Upon my life, Lamord.
KING 3283 105 The very same.
3284 I know him well. He is the brooch indeed
3285 And gem of all the nation.
KING 3286 He made confession of you
3287 And gave you such a masterly report
3288 110 For art and exercise in your defense,
3289 And for your rapier most especial,
3290 That he cried out ’twould be a sight indeed
3291 If one could match you. [The ’scrimers of their
3293 115 He swore had neither motion, guard, nor eye,
3294 If you opposed them.] Sir, this report of his
3295 Did Hamlet so envenom with his envy
3296 That he could nothing do but wish and beg
3297 Your sudden coming-o’er, to play with you.
3298 120 Now out of this—
LAERTES 3299 What out of this, my lord?
3300 Laertes, was your father dear to you?
3301 Or are you like the painting of a sorrow,
3302 A face without a heart?
LAERTES 3303 125 Why ask you this?
3304 Not that I think you did not love your father,
3305 But that I know love is begun by time
3306 And that I see, in passages of proof,
3307 Time qualifies the spark and fire of it.
3308 130 [There lives within the very flame of love
3309 A kind of wick or snuff that will abate it,
3310 And nothing is at a like goodness still;
3311 For goodness, growing to a pleurisy,
3312 Dies in his own too-much. That we would do
3313 135 We should do when we would; for this “would”
3315 And hath abatements and delays as many
3316 As there are tongues, are hands, are accidents;
3317 And then this “should” is like a ⌜spendthrift⌝ sigh,
3318 140 That hurts by easing. But to the quick of th’ ulcer:]
3319 Hamlet comes back; what would you undertake
3320 To show yourself indeed your father’s son
3321 More than in words?
LAERTES 3322 To cut his throat i’ th’ church.
3323 145 No place indeed should murder sanctuarize;
3324 Revenge should have no bounds. But, good Laertes,
3325 Will you do this? Keep close within your chamber.
3326 Hamlet, returned, shall know you are come home.
3327 We’ll put on those shall praise your excellence
3328 150 And set a double varnish on the fame
3329 The Frenchman gave you; bring you, in fine,
3331 And wager ⟨on⟩ your heads. He, being remiss,
3332 Most generous, and free from all contriving,
3333 155 Will not peruse the foils, so that with ease,
3334 Or with a little shuffling, you may choose
3335 A sword unbated, and in a ⟨pass⟩ of practice
3336 Requite him for your father.
p. 233LAERTES 3337 I will do ’t,
3338 160 And for ⟨that⟩ purpose I’ll anoint my sword.
3339 I bought an unction of a mountebank
3340 So mortal that, but dip a knife in it,
3341 Where it draws blood no cataplasm so rare,
3342 Collected from all simples that have virtue
3343 165 Under the moon, can save the thing from death
3344 That is but scratched withal. I’ll touch my point
3345 With this contagion, that, if I gall him slightly,
3346 It may be death.
KING 3347 Let’s further think of this,
3348 170 Weigh what convenience both of time and means
3349 May fit us to our shape. If this should fail,
3350 And that our drift look through our bad
3352 ’Twere better not assayed. Therefore this project
3353 175 Should have a back or second that might hold
3354 If this did blast in proof. Soft, let me see.
3355 We’ll make a solemn wager on your cunnings—
3356 I ha ’t!
3357 When in your motion you are hot and dry
3358 180 (As make your bouts more violent to that end)
3359 And that he calls for drink, I’ll have prepared
3361 A chalice for the nonce, whereon but sipping,
3362 If he by chance escape your venomed stuck,
3363 185 Our purpose may hold there.—But stay, what
3365 One woe doth tread upon another’s heel,
3366 So fast they follow. Your sister’s drowned, Laertes.
LAERTES 3367 Drowned? O, where?
3368 190 There is a willow grows askant the brook
p. 2353369 That shows his ⟨hoar⟩ leaves in the glassy stream.
3370 Therewith fantastic garlands did she make
3371 Of crowflowers, nettles, daisies, and long purples,
3372 That liberal shepherds give a grosser name,
3373 195 But our cold maids do “dead men’s fingers” call
3375 There on the pendant boughs her coronet weeds
3376 Clamb’ring to hang, an envious sliver broke,
3377 When down her weedy trophies and herself
3378 200 Fell in the weeping brook. Her clothes spread wide,
3379 And mermaid-like awhile they bore her up,
3380 Which time she chanted snatches of old lauds,
3381 As one incapable of her own distress
3382 Or like a creature native and endued
3383 205 Unto that element. But long it could not be
3384 Till that her garments, heavy with their drink,
3385 Pulled the poor wretch from her melodious lay
3386 To muddy death.
LAERTES 3387 Alas, then she is drowned.
QUEEN 3388 210Drowned, drowned.
3389 Too much of water hast thou, poor Ophelia,
3390 And therefore I forbid my tears. But yet
3391 It is our trick; nature her custom holds,
3392 Let shame say what it will. When these are gone,
3393 215 The woman will be out.—Adieu, my lord.
3394 I have a speech o’ fire that fain would blaze,
3395 But that this folly drowns it.He exits.
KING 3396 Let’s follow, Gertrude.
3397 How much I had to do to calm his rage!
3398 220 Now fear I this will give it start again.
3399 Therefore, let’s follow.