Elsinore. Another room in Elsinore castle.
(King; Laertes; Messenger; Queen)
Claudius has convinced Laertes that Hamlet is entirely to blame, and explains that he could not punish the prince because of Gertrude’s love for him, as well as the esteem of the populace. He proposes that Laertes undertake a private revenge, serving them both. Learning that Hamlet has returned, they come up with a plan based on Hamlet’s pride in his fencing abilities and Laertes’s fame in that exercise. They plan to arrange for a match between the two young men, and leave one of the sword points unprotected, so that Laertes can deal an actual wound. Laertes takes up the plot, explaining that he will poison the blade. To be absolutely certain of success, Claudius plans to have a poisoned drink nearby as well. Gertrude comes in with the news that Ophelia has drowned. Laertes leaves, refusing to cry; Claudius fears that he will have to start all over again with calming him. (208 lines)
Enter King and Laertes.
Now must your conscience my acquittance seal,
And you must put me in your heart for friend,
Sith you have heard, and with a knowing ear,
That he which hath your noble father slain
Pursued my life.
It well appears. But tell me
Why you proceeded not against these feats
So criminal and so capital in nature,
As by your safety, greatness, wisdom, all things else
You mainly were stirr’d up.
O, for two special reasons,
Which may to you perhaps seem much unsinow’d,
But yet to me th’ are strong. The Queen his mother
Lives almost by his looks, and for myself—
My virtue or my plague, be it either which—
She is so conjunctive to my life and soul,
That, as the star moves not but in his sphere,
I could not but by her. The other motive,
Why to a public count I might not go,
Is the great love the general gender bear him,
Who, dipping all his faults in their affection,
Work like the spring that turneth wood to stone,
Convert his gyves to graces, so that my arrows,
Too slightly timber’d for so loud a wind,
Would have reverted to my bow again,
But not where I have aim’d them.
And so have I a noble father lost,
A sister driven into desp’rate terms,
Whose worth, if praises may go back again,
Stood challenger on mount of all the age
For her perfections—but my revenge will come.
Break not your sleeps for that. You must not think
That we are made of stuff so flat and dull
That we can let our beard be shook with danger
And think it pastime. You shortly shall hear more.
I lov’d your father, and we love ourself,
And that, I hope, will teach you to imagine—
Enter a Messenger with letters.
How now? What news?
Letters, my lord, from Hamlet:
These to your Majesty, this to the queen.
From Hamlet? Who brought them?
Sailors, my lord, they say, I saw them not.
They were given me by Claudio. He receiv’d them
Of him that brought them.
Laertes, you shall hear them.
“High and mighty, You shall know I am set naked on your kingdom. Tomorrow shall I beg leave to see your kingly eyes, when I shall, first asking you pardon thereunto, recount the occasion of my sudden and more strange return. Hamlet.”
What should this mean? Are all the rest come back?
Or is it some abuse, and no such thing?
Know you the hand?
’Tis Hamlet’s character. “Naked”!
And in a postscript here he says “alone.”
Can you devise me?
I am lost in it, my lord. But let him come,
It warms the very sickness in my heart
That I shall live and tell him to his teeth,
“Thus didst thou.”
If it be so, Laertes—
As how should it be so? How otherwise?—
Will you be rul’d by me?
Ay, my lord,
So you will not o’errule me to a peace.
To thine own peace. If he be now returned
As checking at his voyage, and that he means
No more to undertake it, I will work him
To an exploit, now ripe in my device,
Under the which he shall not choose but fall;
And for his death no wind of blame shall breathe,
But even his mother shall uncharge the practice,
And call it accident.
My lord, I will be rul’d,
The rather if you could devise it so
That I might be the organ.
It falls right.
You have been talk’d of since your travel much,
And that in Hamlet’s hearing, for a quality
Wherein they say you shine. Your sum of parts
Did not together pluck such envy from him
As did that one, and that, in my regard,
Of the unworthiest siege.
What part is that, my lord?
A very riband in the cap of youth,
Yet needful too, for youth no less becomes
The light and careless livery that it wears
Than settled age his sables and his weeds,
Importing health and graveness. Two months since
Here was a gentleman of Normandy:
I have seen myself, and serv’d against, the French,
And they can well on horseback, but this gallant
Had witchcraft in’t, he grew unto his seat,
And to such wondrous doing brought his horse,
As had he been incorps’d and demi-natur’d
With the brave beast. So far he topp’d my thought,
That I in forgery of shapes and tricks
Come short of what he did.
A Norman was’t?
Upon my life, Lamord.
The very same.
I know him well. He is the brooch indeed
And gem of all the nation.
He made confession of you,
And gave you such a masterly report
For art and exercise in your defense,
And for your rapier most especial,
That he cried out ’twould be a sight indeed
If one could match you. The scrimers of their nation
He swore had neither motion, guard, nor eye,
If you oppos’d them. Sir, this report of his
Did Hamlet so envenom with his envy
That he could nothing do but wish and beg
Your sudden coming o’er to play with you.
Now, out of this—
What out of this, my lord?
Laertes, was your father dear to you?
Or are you like the painting of a sorrow,
A face without a heart?
Why ask you this?
Not that I think you did not love your father,
But that I know love is begun by time,
And that I see, in passages of proof,
Time qualifies the spark and fire of it.
There lives within the very flame of love
A kind of week or snuff that will abate it,
And nothing is at a like goodness still,
For goodness, growing to a plurisy,
Dies in his own too much. That we would do,
We should do when we would; for this “would” changes,
And hath abatements and delays as many
As there are tongues, are hands, are accidents,
And then this ’should’ is like a spendthrift’s sigh,
That hurts by easing. But to the quick of th’ ulcer:
Hamlet comes back. What would you undertake
To show yourself indeed your father’s son
More than in words?
To cut his throat i’ th’ church.
No place indeed should murder sanctuarize,
Revenge should have no bounds. But, good Laertes,
Will you do this, keep close within your chamber.
Hamlet return’d shall know you are come home.
We’ll put on those shall praise your excellence,
And set a double varnish on the fame
The Frenchman gave you, bring you in fine together,
And wager o’er your heads. He, being remiss,
Most generous, and free from all contriving,
Will not peruse the foils, so that with ease,
Or with a little shuffling, you may choose
A sword unbated, and in a pass of practice
Requite him for your father.
I will do’t,
And for that purpose I’ll anoint my sword.
I bought an unction of a mountebank,
So mortal that, but dip a knife in it,
Where it draws blood, no cataplasm so rare,
Collected from all simples that have virtue
Under the moon, can save the thing from death
That is but scratch’d withal. I’ll touch my point
With this contagion, that if I gall him slightly,
It may be death.
Let’s further think of this,
Weigh what convenience both of time and means
May fit us to our shape. If this should fail,
And that our drift look through our bad performance,
’Twere better not assay’d; therefore this project
Should have a back or second, that might hold
If this did blast in proof. Soft, let me see.
We’ll make a solemn wager on your cunnings—
When in your motion you are hot and dry—
As make your bouts more violent to that end—
And that he calls for drink, I’ll have preferr’d him
A chalice for the nonce, whereon but sipping,
If he by chance escape your venom’d stuck,
Our purpose may hold there. But stay, what noise?
One woe doth tread upon another’s heel,
So fast they follow. Your sister’s drown’d, Laertes.
Drown’d! O, where?
There is a willow grows askaunt the brook,
That shows his hoary leaves in the glassy stream,
Therewith fantastic garlands did she make
Of crow-flowers, nettles, daisies, and long purples
That liberal shepherds give a grosser name,
But our cull-cold maids do dead men’s fingers call them.
There on the pendant boughs her crownet weeds
Clamb’ring to hang, an envious sliver broke,
When down her weedy trophies and herself
Fell in the weeping brook. Her clothes spread wide,
And mermaid-like awhile they bore her up,
Which time she chaunted snatches of old lauds,
As one incapable of her own distress,
Or like a creature native and indued
Unto that element. But long it could not be
Till that her garments, heavy with their drink,
Pull’d the poor wretch from her melodious lay
To muddy death.
Alas, then she is drown’d?
Too much of water hast thou, poor Ophelia,
And therefore I forbid my tears; but yet
It is our trick, Nature her custom holds,
Let shame say what it will; when these are gone,
The woman will be out. Adieu, my lord,
I have a speech a’ fire that fain would blaze,
But that this folly drowns it.
Let’s follow, Gertrude.
How much I had to do to calm his rage!
Now fear I this will give it start again,
Therefore let’s follow.