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

  Ham.  So much for this, sir; now let me see the other.
You do remember all the circumstance?
  Hor.  Remember it, my lord!
  Ham.  Sir, in my heart there was a kind of fighting,        4
That would not let me sleep. Methought I lay
Worse than the mutines in the bilboes. 1 Rashly,—
And prais’d be rashness for it; let us know
Our indiscretion sometimes serves us well        8
When our deep plots do pall; 2 and that should teach us
There ’s a divinity that shapes our ends,
Rough-hew them how we will,—
  Hor.        That is most certain.        12
  Ham.  Up from my cabin,
My sea-gown scarf’d about me, in the dark
Grop’d I to find out them; had my desire;
Finger’d their packet; and, in fine, withdrew        16
To mine own room again, making so bold,
My fears forgetting manners, to unseal
Their grand commission; where I found, Horatio,—
O royal knavery!—an exact command,        20
Larded 3 with many several sorts of reason
Importing Denmark’s health and England’s too,
With, ho! such bugs 4 and goblins in my life,
That, on the supervise, 5 no leisure bated,        24
No, not to stay the grinding of the axe,
My head should be struck off.
  Hor.        Is ’t possible?
  Ham.  Here’s the commission; read it at more leisure.        28
But wilt thou hear me how I did proceed?
  Hor.  I beseech you.
  Ham.  Being thus be-netted round with villainies,—
Ere I could make a prologue to my brains,        32
They had begun the play,—I sat me down,
Devis’d a new commission, wrote it fair.
I once did hold it, as our statists 6 do,
A baseness to write fair, and labour’d much        36
How to forget that learning; but, sir, now
It did me yeoman’s service. Wilt thou know
The effect 7 of what I wrote?
  Hor.        Ay, good my lord.        40
  Ham.  An earnest conjuration from the King,
As England was his faithful tributary,
As love between them as the palm should flourish,
As Peace should still her wheaten garland wear        44
And stand a comma 8 ’tween their amities,
And many such-like as-es of great charge,
That, on the view and knowing of these contents,
Without debatement further, more or less,        48
He should the bearers put to sudden death,
Not shriving time allow’d.
  Hor.        How was this seal’d?
  Ham.  Why, even in that was Heaven ordinant. 9        52
I had my father’s signet in my purse,
Which was the model of that Danish seal;
Folded the writ up in form of the other,
Subscrib’d it, gave ’t the impression, 10 plac’d it safely,        56
The changeling never known. Now, the next day
Was our sea-fight; and what to this was sequent
Thou know’st already.
  Hor.  So Guildenstern and Rosencrantz go to ’t.        60
  Ham.  Why, man, they did make love to this employment;
They are not near my conscience. Their defeat
Doth by their own insinuation grow.
’Tis dangerous when the baser nature comes        64
Between the pass 11 and fell incensed points
Of mighty opposites. 12
  Hor.        Why, what a king is this!
  Ham.  Does it not, thinks’t thee, stand me now upon— 13        68
He that hath kill’d my king and whor’d my mother,
Popp’d in between the election and my hopes,
Thrown out his angle for my proper 14 life,
And with such cozenage 15—is ’t not perfect conscience,        72
To quit him with this arm? And is ’t not to be damn’d,
To let this canker of our nature come
In further evil?
  Hor.  It must be shortly known to him from England        76
What is the issue of the business there.
  Ham.  It will be short; the interim is mine,
And a man’s life’s no more than to say “One.”
But I am very sorry, good Horatio        80
That to Laertes I forgot myself;
For, by the image of my cause, I see
The portraiture of his. I’ll court his favours.
But, sure, the bravery 16 of his grief did put me        84
Into a tow’ring passion.
  Hor.        Peace! who comes here?
Enter Young OSRIC

  Osr.  Your lordship is right welcome back to Denmark.
  Ham.  I humbly thank you, sir.—Dost know this waterfly?        88
  Hor.  No, my good lord.
  Ham.  Thy state is the more gracious, for ’tis a vice to know him. He hath much land, and fertile; let a beast be lord of beasts, and his crib shall stand at the King’s mess. ’Tis a chough, 17 but, as I say, spacious in the possession of dirt.
  Osr.  Sweet lord, if your lordship were at leisure, I should impart a thing to you from his Majesty.
  Ham.  I will receive it with all diligence of spirit. Put your bonnet to his right use; ’tis for the head.        92
  Osr.  I thank your lordship, ’tis very hot.
  Ham.  No, believe me, ’tis very cold; the wind is northerly.
  Osr.  It is indifferent cold, my lord, indeed.
  Ham.  Methinks it is very sultry and hot for my complexion.        96
  Osr.  Exceedingly, my lord; it is very sultry,—as ’twere,—I cannot tell how. But, my lord, his Majesty bade me signify to you that he has laid a great wager on your head. Sir, this is the matter,—
  Ham.  I beseech you, remember—  [HAMLET moves him to put on his hat.]
  Osr.  Nay, in good faith; for mine ease, in good faith. [Sir, here is newly come to court Laertes, believe me, an absolute gentleman, full of most excellent differences, 18 of very soft society and great showing; indeed, to speak feelingly of him, he is the card 19 or calendar 20 of gentry, for you shall find in him the continent 21 of what part a gentleman would see.
  Ham.  Sir, his definement 22 suffers no perdition 23 in you; though, I know, to divide him inventorially would dizzy the arithmetic of memory, and yet but yaw 24 neither, in respect of his quick sail. But, in the verity of extolment, I take him to be a soul of great article; 25 and his infusion of such dearth and rareness, as, to make true diction of him, his semblable 26 is his mirror; and who else would trace him, his umbrage, 27 nothing more.        100
  Osr.  Your lordship speaks most infallibly of him.
  Ham.  The concernancy, 28 sir? Why do we wrap the gentleman in our more rawer breath?
  Osr.  Sir?
  Hor.  Is ’t not possible to understand in another tongue? You will do ’t, sir, really.        104
  Ham.  What imports the nomination of this gentleman?
  Osr.  Of Laertes?
  Hor.  His purse is empty already. All ’s golden words are spent.
  Ham.  Of him, sir.        108
  Osr.  I know you are not ignorant—
  Ham.  I would you did, sir; yet, in faith, if you did, it would not much approve me. Well, sir?]
  Osr.  You are not ignorant of what excellence Laertes is—
  [Ham.  I dare not confess that, lest I should compare with him in excellence; but to know a man well were to know himself.        112
  Osr.  I mean, sir, for his weapon; but in the imputation laid on him by them, in his meed he’s unfellowed.]
  Ham.  What’s his weapon?
  Osr.  Rapier and dagger.
  Ham.  That’s two of his weapons; but well.        116
  Osr.  The King, sir, has wag’d with him six Barbary horses, against the which he has impon’d, 29 as I take it, six French rapiers and poniards, with their assigns, 30 as girdle, hanger, or so. Three of the carriages, in faith, are very dear to fancy, very responsive 31 to the hilts, most delicate carriages, and of very liberal conceit. 32
  Ham.  What call you the carriages?
  [Hor.  I knew you must be edified by the margent 33 ere you had done.]
  Osr.  The carriages, sir, are the hangers.        120
  Ham.  The phrase would be more germane to the matter, if we could carry cannon by our sides; I would it might be hangers till then. But, on: six Barbary horses against six French swords, their assigns, and three liberal-conceited carriages; that ’s the French bet against the Danish. Why is this “impon’d,” as you call it?
  Osr.  The King, sir, hath laid that in a dozen passes between you and him, he shall not exceed you three hits; he hath laid on twelve for nine; and that would come to immediate trial, if your lordship would vouchsafe the answer.
  Ham.  How if I answer no?
  Osr.  I mean, my lord, the opposition of your person in trial.        124
  Ham.  Sir, I will walk here in the hall; if it please his Majesty, ’tis the breathing 34 time of day with me. Let the foils be brought, the gentleman willing, and the King hold his purpose, I will win for him if I can; if not, I’ll gain nothing but my shame and the odd hits.
  Osr.  Shall I re-deliver you e’en so?
  Ham.  To this effect, sir; after what flourish your nature will.
  Osr.  I commend my duty to your lordship.        128
  Ham.  Yours, yours.  [Exit OSRIC.] He does well to commend it himself; there are no tongues else for ’s turn.
  Hor.  This lapwing runs away with the shell on his head.
  Ham.  He did comply 35 with his dug before he suck’d it. Thus has he, and many more of the same bevy that I know the drossy age dotes on, only got the tune of the time and outward habit of encounter; a kind of yesty collection, which carries them through and through the most fond and winnowed 36 opinions; and do but blow them to their trials, the bubbles are out.
[Enter a Lord

  Lord.  My lord, his Majesty commended him to you by young Osric, who brings back to him, that you attend him in the hall. He sends to know if your pleasure hold to play with Laertes, or that you will take longer time.
  Ham.  I am constant to my purposes; they follow the King’s pleasure. If his fitness speaks, mine is ready, now or whensoever, provided I be so able as now.
  Lord.  The King and Queen and all are coming down.
  Ham.  In happy time.
  Lord.  The Queen desires you to use some gentle entertainment to Laertes before you fall to play.        136
  Ham.  She well instructs me.]  [Exit Lord.]
  Hor.  You will lose this wager, my lord.
  Ham.  I do not think so; since he went into France, I have been in continual practice. I shall win at the odds. But thou wouldst not think how ill all’s here about my heart. But it is no matter.
  Hor.  Nay, good my lord,—        140
  Ham.  It is but foolery; but it is such a kind of gain-giving, 37 as would perhaps trouble a woman.
  Hor.  If your mind dislike anything, obey it. I will forestall their repair hither, and say you are not fit.
  Ham.  Not a whit; we defy augury. There’s a special providence in the fall of a sparrow. If it be now, ’tis not to come; if it be not to come, it will be now; if it be not now, yet it will come; the readiness is all. Since no man has aught of what he leaves, 38 what is ’t to leave betimes? [Let be.]
Enter KING, QUEEN, LAERTES, [OSRIC,] Lords, and other Attendants with foils and gauntlets; a table and flagons of wine on it

  King.  Come, Hamlet, come, and take this hand from me.  [The KING puts LAERTES’S hand into HAMLET’s.]
  Ham.  Give me your pardon, sir. I’ve done you wrong,
But pardon ’t, as you are a gentleman.
This presence 39 knows,
And you must needs have heard, how I am punish’d        148
With sore distraction. What I have done
That might your nature, honour, and exception 40
Roughly awake, I here proclaim was madness.
Was ’t Hamlet wrong’d Laertes? Never Hamlet!        152
If Hamlet from himself be ta’en away,
And when he’s not himself does wrong Laertes,
Then Hamlet does it not, Hamlet denies it.
Who does it, then? His madness. If’t be so,        156
Hamlet is of the faction that is wrong’d;
His madness is poor Hamlet’s enemy.
Sir, in this audience,
Let my disclaiming from a purpos’d evil        160
Free me so far in your most generous thoughts,
That I have shot mine arrow o’er the house
And hurt my brother.
  Laer.        I am satisfied in nature,        164
Whose motive, in this case, should stir me most
To my revenge; but in my terms of honour
I stand aloof, and will no reconcilement,
Till by some elder masters of known honour        168
I have a voice and precedent of peace,
To keep my name ungor’d. 41 But till that time,
I do receive your offer’d love like love,
And will not wrong it.        172
  Ham.        I embrace it freely,
And will this brother’s wager frankly play.
Give us the foils. Come on.
  Laer.        Come, one for me.        176
  Ham.  I’ll be your foil, Laertes; in mine ignorance
Your skill shall, like a star i’ the darkest night,
Stick fiery off 42 indeed.
  Laer.        You mock me, sir.        180
  Ham.  No, by this hand.
  King.  Give them the foils, young Osric. Cousin Hamlet, You know the wager?
  Ham.        Very well, my lord.
Your Grace hath laid the odds o’ the weaker side.        184
  King.  I do not fear it, I have seen you both;
But since he is better’d, we have therefore odds.
  Laer.  This is too heavy, let me see another.
  Ham.  This likes me well. These foils have all a length?  They prepare to play.        188
  Osr  Ay, my good lord.
  King.  Set me the stoups of wine upon that table.
If Hamlet give the first or second hit,
Or quit in answer of the third exchange,        192
Let all the battlements their ordnance fire.
The King shall drink to Hamlet’s better breath,
And in the cup an union 43 shall he throw,
Richer than that which four successive kings        196
In Denmark’s crown have worn. Give me the cups,
And let the kettle to the trumpets speak,
The trumpet to the cannoneer without,
The cannons to the heavens, the heaven to earth,        200
“Now the King drinks to Hamlet.” Come, begin;
And you, the judges, bear a wary eye.
  Ham.  Come on, sir.
  Laer.        Come, my lord.  They play.        204
  Ham.        One.
  Laer.        No.
  Ham.      Judgement.
  Osr  A hit, a very palpable hit.        208
  Laer.        Well; again.
  King.  Stay, give me drink. Hamlet, this pearl is thine;
Here’s to thy health! Give him the cup.  [Trumpets sound, and shot goes off within.]
  Ham.  I’ll play this bout first; set it by a while.        212
Come. [They play.] Another hit; what say you?
  Laer.  A touch, a touch, I do confess.
  King.  Our son shall win.
  Queen.        He’s fat, and scant of breath.        216
Here, Hamlet, take my napkin, rub thy brows.
The Queen carouses to thy fortune, Hamlet.
  Ham.  Good madam!
  King.        Gertrude, do not drink.        220
  Queen.  I will, my lord; I pray you, pardon me.
  King.  [Aside.] It is the poison’d cup; it is too late.
  Ham.  I dare not drink yet, madam; by and by.
  Queen.  Come, let me wipe thy face.        224
  Laer.  My lord, I’ll hit him now.
  King.        I do not think ’t.
  Laer.  [Aside.] And yet ’tis almost ’gainst my conscience.
  Ham.  Come, for the third, Laertes; you but dally.        228
I pray you, pass with your best violence.
I am afeard you make a wanton of me.
  Laer.  Say you so? Come on.  They play.
  Osr  Nothing, neither way.        232
  Laer.  Have at you now!  [LAERTES wounds HAMLET; then,] in scuffling, they change rapiers.
  King.        Part them; they are incens’d.
  Ham.  Nay, come, again.  [HAMLET wounds LAERTES. The QUEEN falls.]
  Osr.        Look to the Queen there! Ho!        236
  Hor.  They bleed on both sides. How is ’t, my lord!
  Osr.  How is ’t, Laertes?
  Laer.  Why, as a woodcock to mine own springe, 44 Osric;
I am justly kill’d with mine own treachery.        240
  Ham.  How does the Queen?
  King.        She swounds to see them bleed.
  Queen.  No, no, the drink, the drink,—O my dear Hamlet,—
The drink, the drink! I am poison’d.  [Dies.]        244
  Ham.  O villainy! Ho! let the door be lock’d:
Treachery! Seek it out.
  Laer.  It is here, Hamlet. Hamlet, thou art slain.
No medicine in the world can do thee good;        248
In thee there is not half an hour of life.
The treacherous instrument is in thy hand,
Unbated and envenom’d. The foul practice 45
Hath turn’d itself on me. Lo, here I lie,        252
Never to rise again. Thy mother’s poison’d.
I can no more:—the King, the King’s to blame.
  Ham.  The point envenom’d too!
Then, venom, to thy work.  Hurts the KING.        256
  All.  Treason! treason!
  King.  O, yet defend me, friends; I am but hurt.
  Ham.  Here, thou incestuous, murderous, damned Dane,
Drink off this potion! Is thy union here?        260
Follow my mother!  KING dies.
  Laer.        He is justly serv’d;
It is a poison temp’red 46 by himself.
Exchange forgiveness with me, noble Hamlet,        264
Mine and my father’s death come not upon thee,
Nor thine on me!  [Dies.]
  Ham.  Heaven make thee free of it! I follow thee.
I am dead, Horatio. Wretched queen, adieu!        268
You that look pale and tremble at this chance,
That are but mutes or audience to this act,
Had I but time—as this fell sergeant, Death,
Is strict in his arrest—O, I could tell you—        272
But let it be. Horatio, I am dead;
Thou liv’st. Report me and my cause aright
To the unsatisfied.
  Hor.        Never believe it.        276
I am more an antique Roman than a Dane;
Here’s yet some liquor left.
  Ham.        As thou ’rt a man,
Give me the cup. Let go! By heaven, I’ll have’t!        280
O good Horatio, what a wounded name,
Things standing thus unknown, shall live behind me!
If thou didst ever hold me in thy heart,
Absent thee from felicity a while        284
And in this harsh world draw thy breath in pain
To tell my story.  [March afar off, and shot within.
      What warlike noise is this?
  Osr.  Young Fortinbras, with conquest come from Poland,        288
To the ambassadors of England gives
This warlike volley.
  Ham.        O, I die, Horatio;
The potent poison quite o’er-crows 47 my spirit.        292
I cannot live to hear the news from England,
But I do prophesy the election lights
On Fortinbras; he has my dying voice.
So tell him, with the occurrents, more and less,        296
Which have solicited 48—The rest is silence.  Dies.
  Hor.  Now cracks a noble heart. Good-night, sweet prince,
And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest!
Why does the drum come hither?  [March within.]        300
Enter FORTINBRAS and the English Ambassador, with drum, colours. and Attendants

  Fort.  Where is this sight?
  Hor.        What is it ye would see?
If aught of woe or wonder, cease your search.
  Fort.  This quarry 49 cries on havoc. O proud Death,        304
What feast is toward in thine eternal cell,
That thou so many princes at a shot
So bloodily hast struck?
  Amb.        The sight is dismal,        308
And our affairs from England come too late.
The ears are senseless that should give us hearing,
To tell him his commandment is fulfill’d,
That Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead.        312
Where should we have our thanks?
  Hor.        Not from his mouth,
He never gave commandment for their death.
But since, so jump 50 upon this bloody question,        316
You from the Polack wars, and you from England,
Are here arrived, give order that these bodies
High on a stage be placed to the view;
And let me speak to the yet unknowing world        320
How these things came about. So shall you hear
Of carnal, bloody, and unnatural acts,
Of accidental judgements, casual slaughters,
Of deaths put on by cunning and forc’d cause,        324
And, in this upshot, purposes mistook
Fallen on the inventors’ heads: all this can I
Truly deliver.
  Fort.        Let us haste to hear it,        328
And call the noblest to the audience.
For me, with sorrow I embrace my fortune.
I have some rights of memory 51 in this kingdom,
Which now to claim, my vantage doth invite me.        332
  Hor.  Of that I shall have also cause to speak,
And from his mouth whose voice will draw on more.
But let this same be presently 52 perform’d
Even while men’s minds are wild, lest more mischance,        336
On plots and errors, happen.
  Fort.        Let four captains
Bear Hamlet, like a soldier, to the stage,
For he was likely, had he been put on, 53        340
To have prov’d most royally; and, for his passage, 54
The soldiers’ music and the rites of war
Speak loudly for him.
Take up the bodies. Such a sight as this        344
Becomes the field, but here shows much amiss.
Go, bid the soldiers shoot.  Exeunt marching, [bearing off the dead bodies;] after which a peal of ordnance are shot off.
Note 1. Mutineers in fetters. [back]
Note 2. Weaken. [back]
Note 3. Garnished. [back]
Note 4. Bugbears. [back]
Note 5. First reading. [back]
Note 6. Statesmen. [back]
Note 7. Substance. [back]
Note 8. A phrase occuring in the midst of a sentence (?). A link (?). [back]
Note 9. Controlling. [back]
Note 10. I. e. of the seal. [back]
Note 11. Thrust. [back]
Note 12. Opponents. [back]
Note 13. Is it not my duty? [back]
Note 14. Own. [back]
Note 15. Deceit. [back]
Note 16. Ostentation. [back]
Note 17. Jackdaw. [back]
Note 18. Distinctions, characteristics. [back]
Note 19. Chart, for guidance. [back]
Note 20. Example. [back]
Note 21. Abstract, summary. [back]
Note 22. Description. [back]
Note 23. Loss. [back]
Note 24. Move unsteadily. [back]
Note 25. Importance. [back]
Note 26. Like. [back]
Note 27. Shadow. [back]
Note 28. Import. [back]
Note 29. Wagered. [back]
Note 30. Appendages. [back]
Note 31. Corresponding. [back]
Note 32. Ornamental design. [back]
Note 33. Instructed by the marginal comment. [back]
Note 34. For relaxation. [back]
Note 35. Use ceremony. [back]
Note 36. Foolish and over-refined. [back]
Note 37. Misgiving. [back]
Note 38. Carries anything beyond the grave. [back]
Note 39. The court. [back]
Note 40. Disapproval. [back]
Note 41. Uninjured. [back]
Note 42. Stand out in brilliant contrast. [back]
Note 43. Pearl. [back]
Note 44. Snare. [back]
Note 45. Plot. [back]
Note 46. Mixed. [back]
Note 47. Triumphs over. [back]
Note 48. Prompted. [back]
Note 49. Pile of corpses. [back]
Note 50. Precisely. [back]
Note 51. Traditional. [back]
Note 52. Immediately. [back]
Note 53. Tested (as king). [back]
Note 54. Carrying off the body. [back]


Shakespeare · Bible · Strunk · Anatomy · Nonfiction · Quotations · Reference · Fiction · Poetry
© 1993–2020 · [Top 150] · Subjects · Titles · Authors · World Lit · Free Essays