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Scene 2

Elsinore. A hall in Elsinore castle.

(Hamlet; Horatio; Osric; Lord; King; Queen; Laertes; Fortinbras; English Ambassadors; Attendants)

Hamlet tells Horatio how he rifled through Rosencrantz and Guildenstern’s luggage and found the orders for his execution, in which he substituted their names for his, with the result that if their ship has reached England, they are dead. He feels absolutely no remorse at this; he is much more regretful at having lost his temper at Laertes. The young courtier Osric comes in from the King to propose the duel with Laertes. Hamlet mocks him soundly, but accepts despite Horatio’s cautioning. Hamlet tells his friend that he is ready to die, and thus fears nothing. Before the whole court, Hamlet begs Laertes’s pardon, assuring him that any harms he may have done the other man were the fruits of madness. Laertes does not entirely accept the apology. They fight, and Hamlet lands the first two blows. The Queen drinks to his health from the poisoned cup, despite Claudius’s plea that she not drink. Laertes wounds Hamlet during what is supposed to be a pause in the fighting, and in the ensuing scuffle they exchange swords. They fight now in earnest, and Hamlet wounds Laertes. Gertrude dies. Realizing that he is caught in his own trap and about to die, Laertes confesses to poisoning the blade, and casts all the blame on Claudius. Hamlet stabs the King, and as the court calls out ‘Treason’, forces him to drink the dregs of the poisoned cup. Claudius dies. Laertes absolves Hamlet of his and Polonius’s deaths. Hamlet faces up to his own death. Horatio wishes to join him, but Hamlet prevents him from drinking from the poisoned cup, as he needs someone who knows to tell the story. He suggests that Fortinbras be chosen as the next king. The latter, passing by, salutes the ambassadors from England, who enter with him to confirm the deaths of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. The newcomers are aghast at the pile of bodies and ask for an explanation. As the royal family of Denmark has been wiped out, Fortinbras claims the throne. Horatio promises to tell the story, and Fortinbras orders that Hamlet be interred with military honors, as he is convinced that given a chance, Hamlet would have been a good soldier. (350 lines)

Enter Hamlet and Horatio.


So much for this, sir, now shall you see the other—

You do remember all the circumstance?


Remember it, my lord!


Sir, in my heart there was a kind of fighting

That would not let me sleep. Methought I lay

Worse than the mutines in the bilboes. Rashly—

And prais’d be rashness for it—let us know

Our indiscretion sometime serves us well

When our deep plots do pall, and that should learn us

There’s a divinity that shapes our ends,

Rough-hew them how we will—


That is most certain.


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

To mine own room again, making so bold,

My fears forgetting manners, to unseal

Their grand commission; where I found, Horatio—

Ah, royal knavery!—an exact command,

Larded with many several sorts of reasons,

Importing Denmark’s health and England’s too,

With, ho, such bugs and goblins in my life,

That, on the supervise, no leisure bated,

No, not to stay the grinding of the axe,

My head should be struck off.


Is’t possible?


Here’s the commission, read it at more leisure.

But wilt thou hear now how I did proceed?


I beseech you.


Being thus benetted round with villainies,

Or I could make a prologue to my brains,

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 do,

A baseness to write fair, and labor’d much

How to forget that learning, but, sir, now

It did me yeman’s service. Wilt thou know

Th’ effect of what I wrote?


Ay, good my lord.


An earnest conjuration from the King,

As England was his faithful tributary,

As love between them like the palm might flourish,

As peace should still her wheaten garland wear

And stand a comma ’tween their amities,

And many such-like as’s of great charge,

That on the view and knowing of these contents,

Without debatement further, more or less,

He should those bearers put to sudden death,

Not shriving time allow’d.


How was this seal’d?


Why, even in that was heaven ordinant.

I had my father’s signet in my purse,

Which was the model of that Danish seal;

Folded the writ up in the form of th’ other,

Subscrib’d it, gave’t th’ impression, plac’d it safely,

The changeling never known. Now the next day

Was our sea-fight, and what to this was sequent

Thou knowest already.


So Guildenstern and Rosencrantz go to’t.


Why, man, they did make love to this employment,

They are not near my conscience. Their defeat

Does by their own insinuation grow.

’Tis dangerous when the baser nature comes

Between the pass and fell incensed points

Of mighty opposites.


Why, what a king is this!


Does it not, think thee, stand me now upon—

He that hath kill’d my king and whor’d my mother,

Popp’d in between th’ election and my hopes,

Thrown out his angle for my proper life,

And with such coz’nage—is’t not perfect conscience

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?


It must be shortly known to him from England

What is the issue of the business there.


It will be short; the interim’s mine,

And a man’s life’s no more than to say “one.”

But I am very sorry, good Horatio,

That to Laertes I forgot myself,

For by the image of my cause I see

The portraiture of his. I’ll court his favors.

But sure the bravery of his grief did put me

Into a tow’ring passion.


Peace, who comes here?

Enter young Osric, a courtier.


Your lordship is right welcome back to Denmark.


I humbly thank you, sir.—Dost know this water-fly?


No, my good lord.


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, but, as I say, spacious in the possession of dirt.


Sweet lord, if your lordship were at leisure, I should impart a thing to you from his Majesty.


I will receive it, sir, with all diligence of spirit. Put your bonnet to his right use, ’tis for the head.


I thank your lordship, it is very hot.


No, believe me, ’tis very cold, the wind is northerly.


It is indifferent cold, my lord, indeed.


But yet methinks it is very sultry and hot for my complexion.


Exceedingly, my lord, it is very sultry—as ’twere—I cannot tell how. My lord, his Majesty bade me signify to you that ’a has laid a great wager on your head. Sir, this is the matter—


I beseech you remember.

Hamlet moves him to put on his hat.


Nay, good my lord, for my ease, in good faith. Sir, here is newly come to court Laertes, believe me, an absolute gentleman, full of most excellent differences, of very soft society, and great showing; indeed, to speak sellingly of him, he is the card or calendar of gentry; for you shall find in him the continent of what part a gentleman would see.


Sir, his definement suffers no perdition in you, though I know to divide him inventorially would dozy th’ arithmetic of memory, and yet but yaw neither in respect of his quick sail; but in the verity of extolment, I take him to be a soul of great article, and his infusion of such dearth and rareness as, to make true diction of him, his semblable is his mirror, and who else would trace him, his umbrage, nothing more.


Your lordship speaks most infallibly of him.


The concernancy, sir? Why do we wrap the gentleman in our more rawer breath?




Is’t not possible to understand in another tongue? You will to’t, sir, really.


What imports the nomination of this gentleman?


Of Laertes?


His purse is empty already: all ’s golden words are spent.


Of him, sir.


I know you are not ignorant—


I would you did, sir, yet, in faith, if you did, it would not much approve me. Well, sir?


You are not ignorant of what excellence Laertes is—


I dare not confess that, lest I should compare with him in excellence, but to know a man well were to know himself.


I mean, sir, for his weapon, but in the imputation laid on him by them, in his meed he’s unfellow’d.


What’s his weapon?


Rapier and dagger.


That’s two of his weapons—but well.


The King, sir, hath wager’d with him six Barbary horses, against the which he has impawn’d, as I take it, six French rapiers and poniards, with their assigns, as girdle, hangers, and so. Three of the carriages, in faith, are very dear to fancy, very responsive to the hilts, most delicate carriages, and of very liberal conceit.


What call you the carriages?


I knew you must be edified by the margent ere you had done.


The carriages, sir, are the hangers.


The phrase would be more germane to the matter if we could carry a cannon by our sides; I would it might be hangers till then. But on: six Barb’ry horses against six French swords, their assigns, and three liberal-conceited carriages; that’s the French bet against the Danish. Why is this all impawn’d, as you call it?


The King, sir, hath laid, sir, that in a dozen passes between yourself and him, he shall not exceed you three hits; he hath laid on twelve for nine; and it would come to immediate trial, if your lordship would vouchsafe the answer.


How if I answer no?


I mean, my lord, the opposition of your person in trial.


Sir, I will walk here in the hall. If it please his Majesty, it is the breathing time of day with me. Let the foils be brought, the gentleman willing, and the King hold his purpose, I will win for him and I can; if not, I will gain nothing but my shame and the odd hits.


Shall I deliver you so?


To this effect, sir—after what flourish your nature will.


I commend my duty to your lordship.



Exit Osric.

’A does well to commend it himself, there are no tongues else for ’s turn.


This lapwing runs away with the shell on his head.


’A did comply, sir, with his dug before ’a suck’d it. Thus has he, and many more of the same breed that I know the drossy age dotes on, only got the tune of the time, and out of an habit of encounter, a kind of yesty collection, which carries them through and through the most profound and winnow’d opinions, and do but blow them to their trial, the bubbles are out.

Enter a 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.


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.


The King and Queen and all are coming down.


In happy time.


The Queen desires you to use some gentle entertainment to Laertes before you fall to play.


She well instructs me.

Exit Lord.


You will lose, my lord.


I do not think so; since he went into France I have been in continual practice. I shall win at the odds. Thou wouldst not think how ill all’s here about my heart—but it is no matter.


Nay, good my lord—


It is but foolery, but it is such a kind of gain-giving, as would perhaps trouble a woman.


If your mind dislike any thing, obey it. I will forestall their repair hither, and say you are not fit.


Not a whit, we defy augury. There is 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, of aught he leaves, knows what is’t to leave betimes, let be.

A table prepar’d, and flagons of wine on it.

Enter Trumpets, Drums, and Officers with cushions, foils, daggers; King, Queen, Laertes, Osric, and all the State.


Come, Hamlet, come, and take this hand from me.

The King puts Laertes’ hand into Hamlet’s.


Give me your pardon, sir. I have done you wrong,

But pardon’t as you are a gentleman.

This presence knows,

And you must needs have heard, how I am punish’d

With a sore distraction. What I have done

That might your nature, honor, and exception

Roughly awake, I here proclaim was madness.

Was’t Hamlet wrong’d Laertes? Never Hamlet!

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,

Hamlet is of the faction that is wronged,

His madness is poor Hamlet’s enemy.

Sir, in this audience,

Let my disclaiming from a purpos’d evil

Free me so far in your most generous thoughts,

That I have shot my arrow o’er the house

And hurt my brother.


I am satisfied in nature,

Whose motive in this case should stir me most

To my revenge, but in my terms of honor

I stand aloof, and will no reconcilement

Till by some elder masters of known honor

I have a voice and president of peace

To keep my name ungor’d. But till that time

I do receive your offer’d love like love,

And will not wrong it.


I embrace it freely,

And will this brothers’ wager frankly play.

Give us the foils. Come on.


Come, one for me.


I’ll be your foil, Laertes; in mine ignorance

Your skill shall like a star i’ th’ darkest night

Stick fiery off indeed.


You mock me, sir.


No, by this hand.


Give them the foils, young Osric. Cousin Hamlet,

You know the wager?


Very well, my lord.

Your Grace has laid the odds a’ th’ weaker side.


I do not fear it, I have seen you both;

But since he is better’d, we have therefore odds.


This is too heavy; let me see another.


This likes me well. These foils have all a length?

Prepare to play.


Ay, my good lord.


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,

Let all the battlements their ord’nance fire.

The King shall drink to Hamlet’s better breath,

And in the cup an union shall he throw,

Richer than that which four successive kings

In Denmark’s crown have worn. Give me the cups,

And let the kettle to the trumpet speak,

The trumpet to the cannoneer without,

The cannons to the heavens, the heaven to earth,

“Now the King drinks to Hamlet.” Come begin;

Trumpets the while.

And you, the judges, bear a wary eye.


Come on, sir.


Come, my lord.

They play and Hamlet scores a hit.








A hit, a very palpable hit.


Well, again.


Stay, give me drink. Hamlet, this pearl is thine,

Here’s to thy health! Give him the cup.

Drum, trumpets sound flourish. A piece goes off within.


I’ll play this bout first, set it by a while.


They play again.

Another hit; what say you?


A touch, a touch, I do confess’t.


Our son shall win.


He’s fat, and scant of breath.

Here, Hamlet, take my napkin, rub thy brows.

The Queen carouses to thy fortune, Hamlet.


Good madam!


Gertrude, do not drink.


I will, my lord, I pray you pardon me.



It is the pois’ned cup, it is too late.


I dare not drink yet, madam; by and by.


Come, let me wipe thy face.


My lord, I’ll hit him now.


I do not think’t.



And yet it is almost against my conscience.


Come, for the third, Laertes, you do but dally.

I pray you pass with your best violence;

I am sure you make a wanton of me.


Say you so? Come on.

They play.


Nothing, neither way.


Have at you now!

Laertes wounds Hamlet; then, in scuffling, they change rapiers.


Part them, they are incens’d.


Nay, come again.

Hamlet wounds Laertes.

The Queen falls.


Look to the Queen there ho!


They bleed on both sides. How is it, my lord?


How is’t, Laertes?


Why, as a woodcock to mine own springe, Osric:

I am justly kill’d with mine own treachery.


How does the Queen?


She swoons to see them bleed.


No, no, the drink, the drink—O my dear Hamlet—

The drink, the drink! I am pois’ned.



O villainy! Ho, let the door be lock’d!

Treachery! Seek it out.


It is here, Hamlet. Hamlet, thou art slain.

No med’cine in the world can do thee good;

In thee there is not half an hour’s life.

The treacherous instrument is in thy hand,

Unbated and envenom’d. The foul practice

Hath turn’d itself on me. Lo here I lie,

Never to rise again. Thy mother’s pois’ned.

I can no more—the King, the King’s to blame.


The point envenom’d too!

Then, venom, to thy work.

Hurts the King.


Treason! Treason!


O, yet defend me, friends, I am but hurt.


Here, thou incestuous, murd’rous, damned Dane,

Drink off this potion! Is thy union here?

Follow my mother!

King dies.


He is justly served,

It is a poison temper’d by himself.

Exchange forgiveness with me, noble Hamlet.

Mine and my father’s death come not upon thee,

Nor thine on me!



Heaven make thee free of it! I follow thee.

I am dead, Horatio. Wretched queen, adieu!

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—

But let it be. Horatio, I am dead,

Thou livest. Report me and my cause aright

To the unsatisfied.


Never believe it;

I am more an antique Roman than a Dane.

Here’s yet some liquor left.


As th’ art a man,

Give me the cup. Let go! By heaven, I’ll ha’t!

O God, Horatio, what a wounded name,

Things standing thus unknown, shall I leave behind me!

If thou didst ever hold me in thy heart,

Absent thee from felicity a while,

And in this harsh world draw thy breath in pain

To tell my story.

A march afar off and a shot within.

What warlike noise is this?

Osric goes to the door and returns.


Young Fortinbras, with conquest come from Poland,

To th’ ambassadors of England gives

This warlike volley.


O, I die, Horatio,

The potent poison quite o’er-crows my spirit.

I cannot live to hear the news from England,

But I do prophesy th’ election lights

On Fortinbras, he has my dying voice.

So tell him, with th’ occurrents more and less

Which have solicited—the rest is silence.



Now cracks a noble heart. Good night, sweet prince,

And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest!

March within.

Why does the drum come hither?

Enter Fortinbras with the English Ambassadors, with Drum, Colors, and Attendants.


Where is this sight?


What is it you would see?

If aught of woe or wonder, cease your search.


This quarry cries on havoc. O proud death,

What feast is toward in thine eternal cell,

That thou so many princes at a shot

So bloodily hast struck?

1. AMB.

The sight is dismal,

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.

Where should we have our thanks?


Not from his mouth,

Had it th’ ability of life to thank you.

He never gave commandment for their death.

But since so jump upon this bloody question,

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 th’ yet unknowing world

How these things came about. So shall you hear

Of carnal, bloody, and unnatural acts,

Of accidental judgments, casual slaughters,

Of deaths put on by cunning and forc’d cause,

And in this upshot, purposes mistook

Fall’n on th’ inventors’ heads: all this can I

Truly deliver.


Let us haste to hear it,

And call the noblest to the audience.

For me, with sorrow I embrace my fortune.

I have some rights, of memory in this kingdom,

Which now to claim my vantage doth invite me.


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 perform’d

Even while men’s minds are wild, lest more mischance

On plots and errors happen.


Let four captains

Bear Hamlet like a soldier to the stage,

For he was likely, had he been put on,

To have prov’d most royal; and for his passage,

The soldiers’ music and the rite of war

Speak loudly for him.

Take up the bodies. Such a sight as this

Becomes the field, but here shows much amiss.

Go bid the soldiers shoot.

Exeunt marching; after the which a peal of ordinance are shot off.


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