Elsinore. A room in Elsinore castle.
(Horatio; Queen Gertrude; Gentleman; Ophelia; King; Messenger; Laertes; Laertes’s Followers)
Gertrude tries to avoid seeing the distracted Ophelia, but is finally persuaded to let her in. She enters, speaking senselessly, singing snatches of old songs relating to her abandonment and her father’s death. Claudius witnesses this, and, moved, orders that a close watch be kept on her. He reveals that Laertes has returned to Denmark and that the people are muttering because of Polonius’s death. Suddenly there is a noise, and the monarchs are told that a mob led by Laertes is attacking the palace, and that the commoners are yelling that Laertes should be King. Laertes breaks in, demanding to know where his father is. The Queen tries to protect the King, but she is pushed away by Claudius, who faces Laertes fearlessly. Laertes swears he will have vengeance whatever the consequences, and the King approves him. Ophelia enters, still singing. Laertes’s rage turns to grief at the sight of his sister having lost her wits. Claudius insists on his own grief, and begs Laertes to listen to him. He offers to explain everything that has happened, and to offer any redress Laertes might call for. (218 lines)
Enter Horatio, Queen Gertrude, and a Gentleman.
I will not speak with her.
She is importunate, indeed distract.
Her mood will needs be pitied.
What would she have?
She speaks much of her father, says she hears
There’s tricks i’ th’ world, and hems, and beats her heart,
Spurns enviously at straws, speaks things in doubt
That carry but half sense. Her speech is nothing,
Yet the unshaped use of it doth move
The hearers to collection; they yawn at it,
And botch the words up fit to their own thoughts,
Which as her winks and nods and gestures yield them,
Indeed would make one think there might be thought,
Though nothing sure, yet much unhappily.
’Twere good she were spoken with, for she may strew
Dangerous conjectures in ill-breeding minds.
Let her come in.
To my sick soul, as sin’s true nature is,
Each toy seems prologue to some great amiss,
So full of artless jealousy is guilt,
It spills itself in fearing to be spilt.
Enter Ophelia distracted, with her hair down, playing on a lute.
Where is the beauteous majesty of Denmark?
How now, Ophelia?
“How should I your true-love know
From another one?
By his cockle hat and staff,
And his sandal shoon.”
Alas, sweet lady, what imports this song?
Say you? Nay, pray you mark.
“He is dead and gone, lady,
He is dead and gone,
At his head a grass-green turf,
At his heels a stone.”
Nay, but, Ophelia—
Pray you mark.
“White his shroud as the mountain snow”—
Alas, look here, my lord.
“Larded all with sweet flowers,
Which bewept to the ground did not go
With true-love showers.”
How do you, pretty lady?
Well, God dild you! They say the owl was a baker’s daughter. Lord, we know what we are, but know not what we may be. God be at your table!
Conceit upon her father.
Pray let’s have no words of this, but when they ask you what it means, say you this:
“Tomorrow is Saint Valentine’s day,
All in the morning betime,
And I a maid at your window,
To be your Valentine.
Then up he rose and donn’d his clo’es,
And dupp’d the chamber-door,
Let in the maid, that out a maid
Never departed more.”
Indeed without an oath I’ll make an end on’t.
“By Gis, and by Saint Charity,
Alack, and fie for shame!
Young men will do’t if they come to’t,
By Cock, they are to blame.
Quoth she, “Before you tumbled me,
You promis’d me to wed.’”
“‘So would I ’a’ done, by yonder sun,
And thou hadst not come to my bed.’”
How long hath she been thus?
I hope all will be well. We must be patient, but I cannot choose but weep to think they would lay him i’ th’ cold ground. My brother shall know of it, and so I thank you for your good counsel. Come, my coach! Good night, ladies, good night. Sweet ladies, good night, good night.
Follow her close, give her good watch, I pray you.
O, this is the poison of deep grief, it springs
All from her father’s death—and now behold!
O Gertrude, Gertrude,
When sorrows come, they come not single spies,
But in battalions: first, her father slain;
Next, your son gone, and he most violent author
Of his own just remove; the people muddied,
Thick and unwholesome in their thoughts and whispers
For good Polonius’ death; and we have done but greenly
In hugger-mugger to inter him; poor Ophelia
Divided from herself and her fair judgement,
Without the which we are pictures, or mere beasts;
Last, and as much containing as all these,
Her brother is in secret come from France,
Feeds on this wonder, keeps himself in clouds,
And wants not buzzers to infect his ear
With pestilent speeches of his father’s death,
Wherein necessity, of matter beggar’d,
Will nothing stick our person to arraign
In ear and ear. O my dear Gertrude, this,
Like to a murd’ring-piece, in many places
Gives me superfluous death.
A noise within.
Alack, what noise is this?
Where is my Swissers? Let them guard the door.
Enter a Messenger.
What is the matter?
Save yourself, my lord!
The ocean, overpeering of his list,
Eats not the flats with more impetuous haste
Than young Laertes, in a riotous head,
O’erbears your officers. The rabble call him lord,
And as the world were now but to begin,
Antiquity forgot, custom not known,
The ratifiers and props of every word,
They cry, “Choose we, Laertes shall be king!”
Caps, hands, and tongues applaud it to the clouds,
“Laertes shall be king, Laertes king!”
A noise within.
How cheerfully on the false trail they cry!
O, this is counter, you false Danish dogs!
Enter Laertes with others.
The doors are broke.
Where is this king? Sirs, stand you all without.
No, let ’s come in.
I pray you give me leave.
We will, we will.
I thank you, keep the door.
Exeunt Laertes’ followers.
O thou vile king,
Give me my father!
Calmly, good Laertes.
That drop of blood that’s calm proclaims me bastard,
Cries cuckold to my father, brands the harlot
Even here between the chaste unsmirched brow
Of my true mother.
What is the cause, Laertes,
That thy rebellion looks so giant-like?
Let him go, Gertrude, do not fear our person:
There’s such divinity doth hedge a king
That treason can but peep to what it would,
Acts little of his will. Tell me, Laertes,
Why thou art thus incens’d. Let him go, Gertrude.
Where is my father?
But not by him.
Let him demand his fill.
How came he dead? I’ll not be juggled with.
To hell, allegiance! Vows, to the blackest devil!
Conscience and grace, to the profoundest pit!
I dare damnation. To this point I stand,
That both the worlds I give to negligence,
Let come what comes, only I’ll be reveng’d
Most throughly for my father.
Who shall stay you?
My will, not all the world’s:
And for my means, I’ll husband them so well,
They shall go far with little.
If you desire to know the certainty
Of your dear father, is’t writ in your revenge
That, swoopstake, you will draw both friend and foe,
Winner and loser?
None but his enemies.
Will you know them then?
To his good friends thus wide I’ll ope my arms,
And like the kind life-rend’ring pelican,
Repast them with my blood.
Why, now you speak
Like a good child and a true gentleman.
That I am guiltless of your father’s death,
And am most sensibly in grief for it,
It shall as level to your judgment ’pear
As day does to your eye.
A noise within:
“Let her come in!”
How now, what noise is that?
O heat, dry up my brains! Tears seven times salt
Burn out the sense and virtue of mine eye!
By heaven, thy madness shall be paid with weight
Till our scale turn the beam. O rose of May!
Dear maid, kind sister, sweet Ophelia!
O heavens, is’t possible a young maid’s wits
Should be as mortal as an old man’s life?
Nature is fine in love, and where ’tis fine,
It sends some precious instance of itself
After the thing it loves.
“They bore him barefac’d on the bier,
Hey non nonny, nonny, hey nonny,
And in his grave rain’d many a tear”—
Fare you well, my dove!
Hadst thou thy wits and didst persuade revenge,
It could not move thus.
You must sing, “A-down, a-down,”
And you call him a-down-a.
O how the wheel becomes it! It is the false steward, that stole his master’s daughter.
This nothing’s more than matter.
There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance; pray you, love, remember. And there is pansies, that’s for thoughts.
A document in madness, thoughts and remembrance fitted.
There’s fennel for you, and columbines.
There’s rue for you, and here’s some for me; we may call it herb of grace a’ Sundays. You may wear your rue with a difference. There’s a daisy. I would give you some violets, but they wither’d all when my father died. They say ’a made a good end—
“For bonny sweet Robin is all my joy.”
Thought and afflictions, passion, hell itself,
She turns to favor and to prettiness.
“And will ’a not come again?
And will ’a not come again?
No, no, he is dead,
Go to thy death-bed,
He never will come again.
His beard was as white as snow,
All flaxen was his pole,
He is gone, he is gone,
And we cast away moan,
God ’a’ mercy on his soul!”
And of all Christians’ souls, I pray God. God buy you.
Do you see this, O God?
Laertes, I must commune with your grief,
Or you deny me right. Go but apart,
Make choice of whom your wisest friends you will,
And they shall hear and judge ’twixt you and me.
If by direct or by collateral hand
They find us touch’d, we will our kingdom give,
Our crown, our life, and all that we call ours,
To you in satisfaction; but if not,
Be you content to lend your patience to us,
And we shall jointly labor with your soul
To give it due content.
Let this be so.
His means of death, his obscure funeral—
No trophy, sword, nor hatchment o’er his bones,
No noble rite nor formal ostentation—
Cry to be heard, as ’twere from heaven to earth,
That I must call’t in question.
So you shall,
And where th’ offense is, let the great axe fall.
I pray you go with me.