Fiction > Harvard Classics > William Shakespeare > Hamlet
William Shakespeare (1564–1616).  The Tragedy of Hamlet Prince of Denmark.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
Act I
Scene III
[A room in Polonius’s house]

  Laer.  My necessaries are embark’d, farewell;
And, sister, as the winds give benefit
And convoy is assistant, do not sleep,
But let me hear from you.        4
  Oph.        Do you doubt that?
  Laer.  For Hamlet and the trifling of his favours,
Hold it a fashion and a toy in blood,
A violet in the youth of primy 1 nature,        8
Forward, not permanent, sweet, not lasting,
The [perfume and] suppliance 2 of a minute;
No more.
  Oph.    No more but so?        12
  Laer.        Think it no more:
For nature crescent does not grow alone
In thews 3 and bulk, but, as this temple waxes,
The inward service of the mind and soul        16
Grows wide withal. Perhaps he loves you now,
And now no soil nor cautel 4 doth besmirch
The virtue of his will; but you must fear,
His greatness weigh’d, his will is not his own;        20
For he himself is subject to his birth.
He may not, as unvalued persons do,
Carve for himself, for on his choice depends
The sanity and health of the whole state;        24
And therefore must his choice be circumscrib’d
Unto the voice and yielding 5 of that body
Whereof he is the head. Then, if he says he loves you,
It fits your wisdom so far to believe it        28
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        32
If with too credent 6 ear you list his songs,
Or lose your heart, or your chaste treasure open
To his unmast’red importunity.
Fear it, Ophelia, fear it, my dear sister,        36
And keep you in the rear of your affection,
Out of the shot and danger of desire.
The chariest maid is prodigal enough,
If she unmask her beauty to the moon.        40
Virtue itself scapes not calumnious strokes.
The canker 7 galls the infants of the spring
Too oft before the buttons 8 be disclos’d,
And in the morn and liquid dew of youth        44
Contagious blastments are most imminent.
Be wary then, best safety lies in fear;
Youth to itself rebels, though none else near.
  Oph.  I shall the effect of this good lesson keep,        48
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,
Whilst, like a puff’d and reckless libertine,        52
Himself the primrose path of dalliance treads,
And recks not his own rede. 9
  Laer.        O, fear me not.

I stay too long: but here my father comes.
A double blessing is a double grace;
Occasion smiles upon a second leave.
  Pol.  Yet here, Laertes? Aboard, aboard, for shame!
The wind sits in the shoulder of your sail,        60
And you are stay’d for. There; my blessing with you!
And these few precepts in thy memory
See thou character. Give thy thoughts no tongue,
Nor any unproportion’d thought his act.        64
Be thou familiar, but by no means vulgar.
The friends thou hast, and their adoption tried,
Grapple them to thy soul with hoops of steel;
But do not dull thy palm with entertainment        68
Of each new-hatch’d, unfledg’d comrade. Beware
Of entrance to a quarrel; but being in,
Bear’t that the opposed may beware of thee.
Give every man thine ear, but few thy voice;        72
Take each man’s censure, 10 but reserve thy judgement.
Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy,
But not express’d in fancy; rich, not gaudy;
For the apparel oft proclaims the man,        76
And they in France of the best rank and station
Are most select and generous in that.
Neither a borrower nor a lender be;
For loan oft loses both itself and friend,        80
And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry. 11
This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.        84
Farewell; my blessing season this in thee!
  Laer.  Most humbly do I take my leave, my lord.
  Pol.  The time invites you; go, your servants tend.
  Laer.  Farewell, Ophelia, and remember well        88
What I have said to you.
  Oph.        ’Tis in my memory lock’d,
And you yourself shall keep the key of it.
  Laer.  Farewell.  Exit.        92
  Pol.  What is ’t, Ophelia, he hath said to you?
  Oph.  So please you, something touching the Lord Hamlet.
  Pol.  Marry, well bethought.
’Tis told me, he hath very oft of late        96
Given private time to you, and you yourself
Have of your audience 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,        100
You do not understand yourself so clearly
As it behoves my daughter and your honour.
What is between you? Give me up the truth.
  Oph.  He hath, my lord, of late made many tenders 12        104
Of his affection to me.
  Pol.  Affection! pooh! You speak like a green girl,
Unsifted in such perilous circumstance.
Do you believe his tenders, as you call them?        108
  Oph.  I do not know, my lord, what I should think.
  Pol.  Marry, I’ll teach you: think yourself a baby
That you have ta’en his tenders for true pay,
Which are not sterling. Tender yourself more dearly,        112
Or—not to crack the wind of the poor phrase,
Running it thus—you’ll tender me a fool.
  Oph.  My lord, he hath importun’d me with love
In honourable fashion.        116
  Pol.  Ay, fashion you may call it. Go to, go to.
  Oph.  And hath given countenance to his speech, my lord,
With almost all the holy vows of heaven.
  Pol.  Ay, springes 13 to catch woodcocks. I do know,        120
When the blood burns, how prodigal the soul
Lends the tongue vows. These blazes, daughter,
Giving more light than heat, extinct in both
Even in their promise, as it is a-making,        124
You must not take for fire. From this time, daughter,
Be somewhat scanter of your maiden presence.
Set your entreatments 14 at a higher rate
Than a command to parley. For Lord Hamlet,        128
Believe so much in him, that he is young,
And with a larger tether may he walk
Than may be given you. In few, Ophelia,
Do not believe his vows; for they are brokers,        132
Not of that dye which their investments 15 show,
But mere implorators 16 of unholy suits,
Breathing like sanctified and pious bawds,
The better to beguile. This is for all:        136
I would not, in plain terms, from this time forth,
Have you so slander any moment leisure
As to give words or talk with the Lord Hamlet.
Look to ’t, I charge you. Come your ways.        140
  Oph.  I shall obey, my lord.  Exeunt.
Note 1. In the spring, lusty. [back]
Note 2. What fills in. [back]
Note 3. Muscles. [back]
Note 4. Deceit. [back]
Note 5. Consent. [back]
Note 6. Credulous. [back]
Note 7. Canker-worm. [back]
Note 8. Buds. [back]
Note 9. Advice. [back]
Note 10. Opinion. [back]
Note 11. Thrift. [back]
Note 12. Offers. [back]
Note 13. Snares. [back]
Note 14. Invitations. [back]
Note 15. Garments. [back]
Note 16. Pleaders. [back]


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