Fiction > Harvard Classics > William Shakespeare > Hamlet
William Shakespeare (1564–1616).  The Tragedy of Hamlet Prince of Denmark.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
Scene IV
[The Queen’s closet]

  Pol.  He will come straight. Look you lay home to him.
Tell him his pranks have been too broad to bear with,
And that your Grace hath screen’d and stood between
Much heat and him. I’ll silence me e’en here.        4
Pray you, be round with him.
  Ham.  (Within.)  Mother, mother, mother!
  Queen.  I’ll warrant you, fear me out. Withdraw, I hear him coming.  [POLONIUS hides behind the arras.]

  Ham.  Now, mother, what’s the matter?
  Queen.  Hamlet, thou hast thy father mush offended.
  Ham.  Mother, you have my father much offended.
  Queen.  Come, come, you answer with an idle tongue.
  Ham.  Go, go, you question with a wicked tongue.        12
  Queen.  Why, how now, Hamlet!
  Ham.        What’s the matter now?
  Queen.  Have you forgot me?
  Ham.        No, by the rood, not so.        16
You are the Queen, your husband’s brother’s wife;
But would you were not so! You are my mother.
  Queen.  Nay, then, I’ll set those to you that can speak.
  Ham.  Come, come, and sit you down. You shall not budge.        20
You go not till I set you up a glass
Where you may see the inmost part of you.
  Queen.  What wilt thou do? Thou wilt not murder me?
Help, help, ho!        24
  Pol.  [Behind.]  What, ho! help, help, help!
  Ham.  [Drawing.]  How now! A rat? Dead, for a ducat, dead!  Kills POLONIUS [through the arras].
  Pol.  [Behind.]  O, I am slain!
  Queen.  O me, what hast thou done?        28
  Ham.        Nay, I know not.
Is it the King?
  Queen.  O, what a rash and bloody deed is this!
  Ham.  A bloody deed! Almost as bad, good mother,        32
As kill a king, and marry with his brother.
  Queen.  As kill a king!
  Ham.        Ay, lady, ’twas my word.  [Lifts up the arras and discovers POLONIUS.]
Thou wretched, rash, intruding fool, farewell!        36
I took thee for thy better. Take thy fortune.
Thou find’st to be too busy is some danger.
—Leave wringing of your hands. Peace! Sit you down,
And let me wring your heart; for so I shall,        40
If it be made of penetrable stuff,
If damned custom have not braz’d it so
That it is proof and bulwark against sense. 1
  Queen.  What have I done, that thou dar’st wag thy tongue        44
In noise so rude against me?
  Ham.        Such an act
That blurs the grace and blush of modesty,
Calls virtue hypocrite, takes off the rose        48
From the fair forehead of an innocent love
And sets a blister there, makes marriage-vows
As false as dicers’ oaths; O, such a deed
As from the body of contraction 2 plucks        52
The very soul, and sweet religion makes
A rhapsody of words. Heaven’s face doth glow,
Yea, this solidity and compound mass,
With tristful 3 visage, as against the doom, 4        56
Is thought-sick at the act.
  Queen.        Ay me, what act,
That roars so loud and thunders in the index? 5
  Ham.  Look here, upon this picture, and on this,        60
The counterfeit presentment 6 of two brothers.
See, what a grace was seated on this brow:
Hyperion’s curls, the front of Jove himself,
An eye like Mars, to threaten or command,        64
A station like the herald Mercury
New-lighted on a heaven-kissing hill,
A combination and a form indeed,
Where every god did seem to set his seal,        68
To give the world assurance of a man.
This was your husband. Look you now what follows:
Here is your husband, like a mildew’d ear,
Blasting his wholesome brother. Have you eyes?        72
Could you on this fair mountain leave to feed,
And batten 7 on this moor? Ha! have you eyes?
You cannot call it love, for at your age
The hey-day in the blood is tame, it’s humble,        76
And waits upon the judgement; and what judgement
Would step from this to this? [Sense sure you have,
Else could you not have motion; but sure, that sense
Is apoplex’d; for madness would not err,        80
Nor sense to ecstasy was ne’er so thrall’d
But it reserv’d some quantity 8 of choice,
To serve in such a difference.] What devil was ’t
That thus hath cozen’d you at hoodman-blind? 9        84
[Eyes without feeling, feeling without sight,
Ears without hands or eyes, smelling sans all,
Or but a sickly part of one true sense
Could not so mope. 10]        88
O shame! where is thy blush? Rebellious hell,
If thou canst mutine in a matron’s bones,
To flaming youth let virtue be as wax,
And melt in her own fire. Proclaim no shame        92
When the compulsive ardour gives the charge,
Since frost itself as actively doth burn
And reason panders will.
  Queen.        O Hamlet, speak no more!        96
Thou turn’st mine eyes into my very soul,
And there I see such black and grained 11 spots
As will not leave their tinct. 12
  Ham.        Nay, but to live        100
In the rank sweat of an enseamed 13 bed,
Stew’d in corruption, honeying and making love
Over the nasty sty,—
  Queen.        O, speak to me no more!        104
These words like daggers enter in mine ears.
No more, sweet Hamlet!
  Ham.        A murderer and a villain!
A slave that is not twentieth part the tithe        108
Of your precedent lord! A vice 14 of kings!
A cutpurse of the empire and the rule,
That from a shelf the precious diadem stole,
And put it in his pocket!        112
  Queen.        No more!
Enter Ghost

  Ham.  A king of shreds and patches,—
Save me, and hover o’er me with your wings,
You heavenly guards! What would your gracious figure?        116
  Queen.  Alas, he’s mad!
  Ham.  Do you not come your tardy son to chide,
That, laps’d in time and passion, 15 lets go by
The important acting of your dread command?        120
O, say!
  Ghost.  Do not forget! This visitation
Is but to whet thy almost blunted purpose.
But, look, amazement on thy mother sits.        124
O, step between her and her fighting soul.
Conceit 16 in weakest bodies strongest works.
Speak to her, Hamlet.
  Ham.        How is it with you, lady?        128
  Queen.  Alas, how is ’t with you,
That you do bend your eye on vacancy
And with the incorporal air do hold discourse?
Forth at your eyes your spirits wildly peep,        132
And, as the sleeping soldiers in the alarm,
Your bedded hair, like life in excrements, 17
Start up and stand on end. O gentle son,
Upon the heat and flame of thy distemper        136
Sprinkle cool patience. Whereon do you look?
  Ham.  On him, on him! Look you, how pale he glares!
His form and cause conjoin’d, preaching to stones,
Would make them capable. 18 Do not look upon me,        140
Lest with this piteous action you convert
My stern effects; 19 then what I have to do
Will want true colour, tears perchance for blood.
  Queen.  To whom do you speak this?        144
  Ham.        Do you see nothing there?
  Queen.  Nothing at all, yet all that is I see.
  Ham.  Nor did you nothing hear?
  Queen.        No, nothing but ourselves.        148
  Ham.  Why, look you there! Look, how it steals away!
My father, in his habit as he lived!
Look, where he goes, even now, out at the portal!  Exit Ghost.
  Queen.  This is the very coinage of your brain.        152
This bodiless creation ecstasy 20
Is very cunning in.
  Ham.        Ecstasy!
My pulse, as yours, doth temperately keep time,        156
And makes as healthful music. It is not madness
That I have uttered. Bring me to the test,
And I the matter will re-word, which madness
Would gambol from. Mother, for love of grace,        160
Lay not that flattering unction to your soul,
That not your trespass, but my madness speaks.
It will but skin and film the ulcerous place,
Whilst rank corruption, mining all within,        164
Infects unseen. Confess yourself to Heaven;
Repent what’s past, avoid what is to come,
And do not spread the compost on the weeds,
To make them rank. Forgive me this my virtue,        168
For in the fatness of these pursy 21 times
Virtue itself of vice must pardon beg,
Yea, curb and woo for leave to do him good.
  Queen.  O Hamlet, thou hast cleft my heart in twain.        172
  Ham.  O, throw away the worser part of it,
And live the purer with the other half.
Good-night; but go not to mine uncle’s bed.
Assume a virtue, if you have it not.        176
[That monster, custom, who all sense 22 doth eat,
Of habits devil, is angel yet in this,
That to the use of actions fair and good
He likewise gives a frock or livery,        180
That aptly is put on.] Refrain to-night,
And that shall lend a kind of easiness
To the next abstinence; [the next more easy;
For use almost can change the stamp of nature,        184
And either master the devil or throw him out,
With wondrous potency.] Once more, good-night;
And when you are desirous to be blest,
I’ll blessing beg of you. For this same lord,  [Pointing to POLONIUS.]        188
I do repent; but Heaven hath pleas’d it so,
To punish me with this and this with me,
That I must be their scourge and minister.
I will bestow him, and will answer well        192
The death I gave him. So, again, good-night.
I must be cruel, only to be kind.
Thus bad begins and worse remains behind.
[One word more, good lady.]        196
  Queen.        What shall I do?
  Ham.  Not this, by no means, that I bid you do:
Let the bloat king tempt you again to bed,
Pinch wanton on your cheek, call you his mouse,        200
And let him, for a pair of reechy 23 kisses,
Or paddling in your neck with his damn’d fingers,
Make you to ravel all this matter out,
That I essentially am not in madness,        204
But mad in craft. ’Twere good you let him know;
For who, that’s but a queen, fair, sober, wise,
Would from a paddock, from a bat, a gib, 24
Such dear concernings hide? Who would do so?        208
No, in despite of sense and secrecy,
Unpeg the basket on the house’s top,
Let the birds fly, and like the famous ape,
To try conclusions 25 in the basket creep,        212
And break your own neck down.
  Queen.  Be thou assur’d, if words be made of breath,
And breath of life, I have no life to breathe
What thou hast said to me.        216
  Ham.  I must to England; you know that?
  Queen.        Alack,
I had forgot. ’Tis so concluded on.
  Ham.  [There’s letters sealed, and my two school-fellows,        220
Whom I will trust as I will adders fang’d,
They bear the mandate. They must sweep my way,
And marshal me to knavery. Let it work;
For ’tis the sport to have the enginer        224
Hoist with his own petar; 26 and ’t shall go hard
But I will delve one yard below their mines,
And blow them at the moon. O, ’tis most sweet,
When in one line two crafts directly meet.]        228
This man shall set me packing.
I’ll lug the guts into the neighbour room.
Mother, good-night. Indeed this counsellor
Is now most still, most secret, and most grave,        232
Who was in life a foolish prating knave.
Come, sir, to draw toward an end with you.
Good-night, mother.  Exeunt [severally,] HAMLET tugging in POLONIUS.
Note 1. Feeling. [back]
Note 2. The marriage contract. [back]
Note 3. Sorrowful. [back]
Note 4. Judgment day. [back]
Note 5. Prelude. [back]
Note 6. Portrait. [back]
Note 7. Feed. [back]
Note 8. Portion. [back]
Note 9. Blind-man’s buff. [back]
Note 10. Be stupid. [back]
Note 11. Ingrained. [back]
Note 12. Abandon their stain. [back]
Note 13. Filthy, greasy. [back]
Note 14. The roguish buffoon of the old plays. [back]
Note 15. Having allowed time and passion to go past. [back]
Note 16. Imagination. [back]
Note 17. Any outgrowth; here, hair. [back]
Note 18. Susceptible. [back]
Note 19. Actions. [back]
Note 20. Madness. [back]
Note 21. Overfed. [back]
Note 22. Sensibility. [back]
Note 23. Smoky, stinking. [back]
Note 24. Tom-cat. [back]
Note 25. Experiments. [back]
Note 26. Bomb. [back]


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