Fiction > Harvard Classics > William Shakespeare > Hamlet
William Shakespeare (1564–1616).  The Tragedy of Hamlet Prince of Denmark.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
Scene II
[A hall in the castle]
Enter HAMLET and Players

  Ham.  Speak the speech, I pray you, as I pronounc’d 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, thus, but use all gently; for in the very torrent, tempest, and, as I may say, the whirlwind of passion, you must acquire and beget a temperance that may give it smoothness. O, it offends me to the soul to see a robustious 1 periwig-pated fellow tear a passion to tatters, to very rags, to split the ears of the groundlings 2 who for the most part are capable of nothing but inexplicable dumb-shows and noise. I could have such a fellow whipp’d for o’erdoing Termagant. 3 It out-herods Herod. 4 Pray you, avoid it.
  1. Play.  I warrant your honour.
  Ham.  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 5 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 6 and body of the time his form and pressure. 7 Now this overdone, or come tardy off, 8 though it make the unskilful laugh, cannot but make the judicious grieve; the censure 9 of the 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 abominably.
  1. Play.  I hope we have reform’d that indifferently with us, sir.        4
  Ham.  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 most pitiful ambition in the Fool that uses it. Go, make you ready.  Exeunt Players.

How now, my lord! Will the King hear this piece of work?
  Pol.  And the Queen too, and that presently.
  Ham.  Bid the players make haste.  Exit POLONIUS.
Will you two help to hasten them?        8
  Ros. & Guil.  We will, my lord.  Exeunt ROSENCRANTZ and GUILDENSTERN.
  Ham.  What ho! Horatio.

  Hor.  Here, sweet lord, at your service.
  Ham.  Horatio, thou art e’en as just a man        12
As e’er my conversation cop’d 10 withal.
  Hor.  O, my dear lord,—
  Ham.        Nay, do not think I flatter,
For what advancement may I hope from thee        16
That no revenue hast but thy good spirits
To feed and clothe thee? Why should the poor be flatter’d?
No, let the candied tongue lick absurd pomp,
And crook the pregnant 11 hinges of the knee        20
Where thrift 12 may follow fawning. Dost thou hear?
Since my dear soul was mistress of my choice
And could of men distinguish, her election
Hath seal’d thee for herself; for thou hast been        24
As one, in suffering all, that suffers nothing,
A man that Fortune’s buffets and rewards
Hath ta’en with equal thanks; and blest are those
Whose blood and judgement are so well commingled,        28
That they are not a pipe for Fortune’s finger
To sound what stop she please. Give me that man
That is not passion’s slave, and I will wear him
In my heart’s core, ay, in my heart of heart,        32
As I do thee.—Something too much of this.—
There is a play to-night before the King.
One scene of it comes near the circumstance
Which I have told thee of my father’s death.        36
I prithee, when thou seest that act a-foot,
Even with the very comment of thy soul
Observe mine uncle. If his occulted guilt
Do not itself unkennel in one speech,        40
It is a damned ghost that we have seen,
And my imaginations are as foul
As Vulcan’s stithy. 13 Give him heedful note;
For I mine eyes will rivet to his face,        44
And after we will both our judgements join
To censure 14 of his seeming.
  Hor.        Well, my lord.
If he steal aught the whilst this play is playing,        48
And scape detecting, I will pay the theft.
Danish march. A flourish. Enter KING, QUEEN, POLONIUS, OPHELIA, ROSENCRANTZ, GUILDENSTERN, and other Lords attendant, with the guard carrying torches

  Ham.  They are coming to the play; I must be idle. Get you a place.
  King.  How fares our cousin Hamlet?
  Ham.  Excellent, i’ faith,—of the chameleon’s dish. I eat the air, promise-cramm’d. You cannot feed capons so.        52
  King.  I have nothing with this answer, Hamlet; these words are not mine.
  Ham.  No, nor mine now. [To POLONIUS.] My lord, you play’d once i’ the university, you say?
  Pol.  That I did, my lord, and was accounted a good actor.
  Ham.  And what did you enact?        56
  Pol.  I did enact Julius CÆsar. I was kill’d i’ the Capitol; Brutus kill’d me.
  Ham.  It was a brute part of him to kill so capital a calf there.—Be the players ready?
  Ros.  Ay, my lord, they stay upon your patience.
  Queen.  Come hither, my good Hamlet, sit by me.        60
  Ham.  No, good mother, here’s metal more attractive.  [Lying down at OPHELIA’S feet.]
  Pol.  [To the King.]  O, ho! do you mark that?
  Ham.  Lady, shall I lie in your lap?
  Oph.  No, my lord.        64
  Ham.  I mean, my head upon your lap?
  Oph.  Ay, my lord.
  Ham.  Do you think I meant country matters?
  Oph.  I think nothing, my lord.        68
  Ham.  That’s a fair thought to lie between maid’s legs.
  Oph.  What is, my lord?
  Ham.  Nothing.
  Oph.  You are merry, my lord.        72
  Ham.  Who, I?
  Oph.  Ay, my lord.
  Ham.  O God, your only jig-maker. What should a man do but be merry? For, look you, how cheerfully my mother looks, and my father died within ’s two hours.
  Oph.  Nay, ’tis twice two months, my lord.        76
  Ham.  So long? Nay then, let the devil wear black, for I’ll have a suit of sables. 15 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, he must build churches then, or else shall he suffer not thinking on, with the hobby-horse, whose epitaph is, “For, O, for, O, the hobby-horse is forgot.”
Hautboys play. The dumb-show enters.

Enter a King and Queen very lovingly, the Queen embracing him. 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 comes in a fellow, takes off his crown, kisses it, and pours poison in the King’s ears, and exit. 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 a while, but in the end accepts his love.  Exeunt.
  Oph.  What means this, my lord?
  Ham.  Marry, this is miching mallecho; 16 that means mischief.        80
  Oph.  Belike this show imports the argument of the play?

  Ham.  We shall know by this fellow. The players cannot keep counsel, they’ll tell all.
  Oph.  Will they tell us what this show meant?
  Ham.  Ay, or any show that you’ll show him. Be not you asham’d to show, he’ll not shame to tell you what it means.        84
  Oph.  You are naught, 17 you are naught. I’ll mark the play.
        For us, and for our tragedy,
Here stooping to your clemency,
We beg your hearing patiently.
  Ham.  Is this a prologue, or the posy of a ring?
  Oph.  ’Tis brief, my lord.        88
  Ham.  As woman’s love.
Enter [two Players,] a King and his Queen

  P. King.  Full thirty times hath Phœbus’ cart 18 gone round
Neptune’s salt wash and Tellus’ orbed ground,
And thirty dozen moons with borrowed sheen        92
About the world have times twelve thirties been,
Since love our hearts and Hymen did our hands
Unite commutual in most sacred bands.
  P. Queen.  So many journeys may the sun and moon        96
Make us again count o’er ere love be done!
But, woe is me, you are so sick of late,
So far from cheer and from your former state,
That I distrust you. Yet, though I distrust,        100
Discomfort you, my lord, it nothing must;
For women’s fear and love holds quantity, 19
In neither aught, or in extremity.
Now, what my love is, proof hath made you know;        104
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.]
  P. King.  Faith, I must leave thee, love, and shortly too.        108
My operant powers their functions leave to do;
And thou shalt live in this fair world behind,
Honour’d, belov’d; and haply one as kind.
For husband shalt thou—        112
  P. Queen.        O, confound the rest!
Such love must needs be treason in my breast!
In second husband let me be accurst!
None wed the second but who kill’d the first.        116
  Ham.  [Aside.]  Wormwood, wormwood!
  P. Queen.  The instances that second marriage move
Are base respects of thrift, but none of love.
A second time I kill my husband dead,        120
When second husband kisses me in bed.
  P. King.  I do believe you think what now you speak,
But what we do determine oft we break.
Purpose is but the slave to memory,        124
Of violent birth, but poor validity;
Which now, like fruit unripe, sticks on the tree,
But fall unshaken when they mellow be.
Most necessary ’tis that we forget        128
To pay ourselves what to ourselves is debt.
What to ourselves in passion we propose,
The passion ending, doth the purpose lose.
The violence of either grief or joy        132
Their own enactures 20 with themselves destroy.
Where joy most revels, grief doth most lament;
Grief joys, joy grieves, on slender accident.
This world is not for aye, nor ’tis not strange        136
That even our loves should with our fortunes change,
For ’tis a question left us yet to prove,
Whether love lead fortune, or else fortune love.
The great man down, you mark his favourite flies;        140
The poor advanc’d makes friends of enemies.
And hitherto doth love on fortune tend,
For who not needs shall never lack a friend;
And who in want a hollow friend doth try,        144
Directly seasons him his enemy.
But, orderly to end where I begun,
Our wills and fates do so contrary run
That our devices still are overthrown;        148
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.
  P. Queen.  Nor earth to me give food, nor heaven light!        152
Sport and repose lock from me day and night!
[To desperation turn my trust and hope!
An anchor’s cheer 21 in prison be my scope!]
Each opposite 22 that blanks 23 the face of joy        156
Meet what I would have well and it destroy!
Both here and hence pursue me lasting strife,
If, once a widow, ever I be wife!
  Ham.  If she should break it now!        160
  P. King.  ’Tis deeply sworn. Sweet, leave me here a while.
My spirits grow dull, and fain I would beguile
The tedious day with sleep.  Sleeps.
  P. Queen.        Sleep rock thy brain,        164
And never come mischance between us twain!  Exit.
  Ham.  Madam, how like you this play?
  Queen.  The lady protests too much, methinks.
  Ham.  O, but she’ll keep her word.        168
  King.  Have you heard the argument? Is there no offence in ’t?
  Ham.  No, no, they do but jest, poison in jest.
No offence i’ the world.
  King.  What do you call the play?        172
  Ham.  The Mouse-trap. Marry, how? Tropically. 24 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 piece of work, but what o’ that? Your Majesty and we that have free souls, it touches us not. Let the gall’d jade wince, our withers are unwrung.

This is one Lucianus, nephew to the king.
  Oph.  You are a good chorus, my lord.
  Ham.  I could interpret between you and your love, 25 if I could see the puppets dallying. 26
  Oph.  You are keen, my lord, you are keen.        176
  Ham.  It would cost you a groaning to take off my edge.
  Oph.  Still better, and worse.
  Ham.  So you mistake 27 your husbands. Begin, murderer; pox, leave thy damnable faces and begin. Come, “the croaking raven doth bellow for revenge.”
  Luc.  Thoughts black, hands apt, drugs fit, and time agreeing;        180
Confederate season, else no creature seeing.
Thou mixture rank, of midnight weeds collected,
With Hecate’s ban thrice blasted, thrice infected,
Thy natural magic and dire property        184
On wholesome life usurp immediately.  Pours the poison in [to the sleeper’s] ears.
  Ham.  He poisons him i’ the garden for ’s estate. His name’s Gonzago; the story is extant, and writ in choice Italian. You shall see anon how the murderer gets the love of Gonzago’s wife.
  Oph.  The King rises.
  Ham.  What, frighted with false fire? 28        188
  Queen.  How fares my lord?
  Pol.  Give o’er the play.
  King.  Give me some light. Away!
  All.  Lights, lights, lights!  Exeunt all but HAMLET and HORATIO.        192
        Why, let the strucken deer go weep,
  The hart ungalled play;
For some must watch, while some must sleep,—
  So runs the world away.
Would not this, sir, and a forest of feathers 29—if the rest of my fortunes turn Turk with me—with two Provincial roses 30 on my raz’d 31 shoes, get me a fellowship in a cry of players, sir?
  Hor.  Half a share.
  Ham.  A whole one, I.
        For thou dost know, O Damon dear,
  This realm dismantled was
Of Jove himself; and now reigns here
  A very, very—pajock.
  Hor.  You might have rhym’d.        196
  Ham.  O good Horatio, I’ll take the ghost’s word for a thousand pound. Didst perceive?
  Hor.  Very well, my lord.
  Ham.  Upon the talk of the poisoning?
  Hor.  I did very well note him.        200

        Ah, ha! Come, some music! Come, the recorders!
For if the king like not the comedy,
Why, then, belike, he likes it not, perdy.
Come, some music!
  Guil.  Good my lord, vouchsafe me a word with you.
  Ham.  Sir, a whole history.
  Guil.  The King, sir,—        204
  Ham.  Ay, sir, what of him?
  Guil.  Is in his retirement marvellous distemper’d. 32
  Ham.  With drink, sir?
  Guil.  No, my lord, rather with choler. 33        208
  Ham.  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.
  Guil.  Good my lord, put your discourse into some frame, and start not so wildly from my affair.
  Ham.  I am tame, sir; pronounce.
  Guil.  The Queen, your mother, in most great affliction of spirit, hath sent me to you.        212
  Ham.  You are welcome.
  Guil.  Nay, good my lord, this courtesy is not of the right breed. If it shall please you to make me a wholesome answer I will do your mother’s commandment; if not, your pardon and my return shall be the end of my business.
  Ham.  Sir, I cannot.
  Guil.  What, my lord?        216
  Ham.  Make you a wholesome answer. My wit ’s diseas’d. But, sir, such answers as I can make, you shall command, or, rather, as you say, my mother. Therefore no more, but to the matter. My mother, you say,—
  Ros.  Then thus she says: your behaviour hath struck her into amazement and admiration. 34
  Ham.  O wonderful son, that can so astonish a mother! But is there no sequel at the heels of this mother’s admiration? [Impart.]
  Ros.  She desires to speak with you in her closet ere you go to bed.        220
  Ham.  We shall obey, were she ten times our mother. Have you any further trade with us?
  Ros.  My lord, you once did love me.
  Ham.  So I do still, by these pickers and stealers. 35
  Ros.  Good my lord, what is your cause of distemper?        224
You do surely bar the door upon your own liberty if you deny your griefs to your friend.
  Ham.  Sir, I lack advancement.
  Ros.  How can that be, when you have the voice of the King himself for your succession in Denmark?
  Ham.  Ay, but “While the grass grows,”— 36 the proverb is something musty.        228
Re-enter one with a recorder

O, the recorder! Let me see.—To withdraw 37 with you:—why do you go about to recover the wind of me, as if you would drive me into a toil?
  Guil.  O, my lord, if my duty be too bold, my love is too unmannerly.
  Ham.  I do not well understand that. Will you play upon this pipe?
  Guil.  My lord, I cannot.        232
  Ham.  I pray you.
  Guil.  Believe me, I cannot.
  Ham.  I do beseech you.
  Guil.  I know no touch of it, my lord.        236
  Ham.  ’Tis as easy as lying. Govern these ventages  38 with your finger and thumb, give it breath with your mouth, and it will discourse most excellent music. Look you, these are the stops.
  Guil.  But these cannot I command to any utterance of harmony. I have not the skill.
  Ham.  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; and there is much music, excellent voice, in this little organ, yet cannot you make it [speak. ’Sblood,] do you think that I am easier to be play’d on than a pipe? Call me what instrument you will, though you can fret  39 me, you cannot play upon me.

God bless you, sir.
  Pol.  My lord, the Queen would speak with you, and presently.
  Ham.  Do you see that cloud that’s almost in shape like a camel?
  Pol.  By the mass, and it’s like a camel, indeed.
  Ham.  Methinks it is like a weasel.
  Pol.  It is back’d like a weasel.        244
  Ham.  Or like a whale?
  Pol.  Very like a whale.
  Ham.  Then will I come to my mother by and by.  [Aside.]
They fool me to the top of my bent.—I will come by and by.        248
  Pol.  I will say so.  Exit.
  Ham.  “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        252
Contagion to this world. Now could I drink hot blood,
And do such bitter business as the day
Would quake to look on. Soft! now to my mother,
O heart, lose not thy nature! Let not ever        256
The soul of Nero enter this firm bosom;
Let me be cruel, not unnatural.
I will speak daggers to her, but use none.
My tongue and soul in this be hypocrites;        260
How in my words soever she be shent 40
To give them seals never, my soul, consent!  Exit.
Note 1. Sturdy. [back]
Note 2. Spectators standing in the pit, then the cheapest part of the theatre. [back]
Note 3. Believed to be the god of the Saracens. A figure in the old plays and romances. [back]
Note 4. The raging Herod of the miracle-plays. [back]
Note 5. Moderation. [back]
Note 6. Generation. [back]
Note 7. Impress. [back]
Note 8. Hanging fire. [back]
Note 9. Opinion. [back]
Note 10. As I ever encountered in my intercourse with men. [back]
Note 11. Ready (to bend). [back]
Note 12. Profit. [back]
Note 13. Forge, anvil. [back]
Note 14. Judge. [back]
Note 15. Furs, or black garments. Probably intentionally ambiguous. [back]
Note 16. Skulking mischief. [back]
Note 17. Improper. [back]
Note 18. Chariot. [back]
Note 19. Keep proportion. [back]
Note 20. Acts. [back]
Note 21. Hermit’s fare. [back]
Note 22. Contrary thing. [back]
Note 23. Makes pale. [back]
Note 24. Figuratively. [back]
Note 25. Lover. [back]
Note 26. Referring to the interpreter who explains the action in a puppet show. [back]
Note 27. Implying that wives, having promised to take their husbands for better, for worse, break their word. [back]
Note 28. Fire-works. [back]
Note 29. Feather head-dresses were much worn by actors. [back]
Note 30. Rosettes of ribbon. [back]
Note 31. Slashed. [back]
Note 32. Perturbed. [back]
Note 33. Anger. [back]
Note 34. Wonder. [back]
Note 35. Hands. [back]
Note 36. “—the steed starves.” [back]
Note 37. Talk apart. [back]
Note 38. Wind-holes. [back]
Note 39. A pun on fret, to irritate and fret, a bar on a stringed instrument to guide the fingers. [back]
Note 40. Rebuked. [back]


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