Elsinore. A room in Elsinore castle.
(King; Queen; Hamlet; Rosencrantz; Guildenstern; Polonius; Voltemand; Cornelius; Attendants; First Player (Player King); Player Queen; Player Prologue; Player Lucianus)
Claudius and Gertrude welcome Hamlet’s childhood friends Guildenstern and Rosencrantz to the court, asking them to find out what lies behind Hamlet’s strange behavior. The crawling young men agree. The ambassadors from Norway return, reporting that Fortinbras has been pulled over the coals by his uncle and ordered to attack the Polacks instead. Norway seeks free passage for its army through Denmark. Polonius explains to the King and Queen about the relationship between his daughter and Hamlet, quoting from a letter the prince sent the girl, and expounds his belief that it is this unrequited love that has driven Hamlet mad. He suggests arranging a meeting between the two young people and spying on them with Claudius. Hamlet enters reading, and Polonius attempts to make him speak sense; the old man realizes that Hamlet’s talk is not entirely senseless. Rosencrantz and Guildernstern accost Hamlet, who is delighted to see them, but he soon realizes that they must have been summoned by the King and Queen, and is disappointed that they do not admit it outright. They two are confounded and do not know how to react, but mention that a troupe of travelling players will soon arrive at Elsinore. Hamlet, who loves theatre, is thrilled. Polonius announces the actors’ arrival. Hamlet welcomes them all by name, as he knows them well. He is so excited that he begins reciting one of his favorite speeches, asking the lead player to complete it. The tale, of a son avenging his father, moves him greatly. He arranges to have a play performed the next day and to add a few lines to it. Alone, he rails against his own procrastination in exacting revenge. Wanting to be certain that the ghost’s story is true, he decides that the players will act a play showing a very similar murder the next day; if Claudius shows signs of guilt, Hamlet will be convinced the ghost spoke true. (432 lines)
Flourish. Enter King and Queen, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern cum aliis.
Welcome, dear Rosencrantz and Guildenstern!
Moreover that we much did long to see you,
The need we have to use you did provoke
Our hasty sending. Something have you heard
Of Hamlet’s transformation; so call it,
Sith nor th’ exterior nor the inward man
Resembles that it was. What it should be,
More than his father’s death, that thus hath put him
So much from th’ understanding of himself,
I cannot dream of. I entreat you both
That, being of so young days brought up with him,
And sith so neighbored to his youth and havior,
That you voutsafe your rest here in our court
Some little time, so by your companies
To draw him on to pleasures, and to gather
So much as from occasion you may glean,
Whether aught to us unknown afflicts him thus,
That, open’d, lies within our remedy.
Good gentlemen, he hath much talk’d of you,
And sure I am two men there is not living
To whom he more adheres. If it will please you
To show us so much gentry and good will
As to expend your time with us a while
For the supply and profit of our hope,
Your visitation shall receive such thanks
As fits a king’s remembrance.
Both your Majesties
Might, by the sovereign power you have of us,
Put your dread pleasures more into command
Than to entreaty.
But we both obey,
And here give up ourselves, in the full bent,
To lay our service freely at your feet,
To be commanded.
Thanks, Rosencrantz and gentle Guildenstern.
Thanks, Guildenstern and gentle Rosencrantz.
And I beseech you instantly to visit
My too much changed son. Go some of you
And bring these gentlemen where Hamlet is.
Heavens make our presence and our practices
Pleasant and helpful to him!
Exeunt Rosencrantz and Guildenstern with some Attendants.
Th’ ambassadors from Norway, my good lord,
Are joyfully return’d.
Thou still hast been the father of good news.
Have I, my lord? I assure my good liege
I hold my duty as I hold my soul,
Both to my God and to my gracious king;
And I do think, or else this brain of mine
Hunts not the trail of policy so sure
As it hath us’d to do, that I have found
The very cause of Hamlet’s lunacy.
O, speak of that, that do I long to hear.
Give first admittance to th’ ambassadors;
My news shall be the fruit to that great feast.
Thyself do grace to them, and bring them in.
He tells me, my dear Gertrude, he hath found
The head and source of all your son’s distemper.
I doubt it is no other but the main,
His father’s death and our o’erhasty marriage.
Enter Polonius with Voltemand and Cornelius, the Ambassadors.
Well, we shall sift him.—Welcome, my good friends!
Say, Voltemand, what from our brother Norway?
Most fair return of greetings and desires.
Upon our first, he sent out to suppress
His nephew’s levies, which to him appear’d
To be a preparation ’gainst the Polack;
But better look’d into, he truly found
It was against your Highness. Whereat griev’d,
That so his sickness, age, and impotence
Was falsely borne in hand, sends out arrests
On Fortinbras, which he, in brief, obeys,
Receives rebuke from Norway, and in fine,
Makes vow before his uncle never more
To give th’ assay of arms against your Majesty.
Whereon old Norway, overcome with joy,
Gives him threescore thousand crowns in annual fee,
And his commission to employ those soldiers,
So levied, as before, against the Polack,
With an entreaty, herein further shown,
Giving a paper.
That it might please you to give quiet pass
Through your dominions for this enterprise,
On such regards of safety and allowance
As therein are set down.
It likes us well,
And at our more considered time we’ll read,
Answer, and think upon this business.
Mean time, we thank you for your well-took labor.
Go to your rest, at night we’ll feast together.
Most welcome home!
Exeunt Ambassadors and Attendants.
This business is well ended.
My liege, and madam, to expostulate
What majesty should be, what duty is,
Why day is day, night night, and time is time,
Were nothing but to waste night, day, and time;
Therefore, since brevity is the soul of wit,
And tediousness the limbs and outward flourishes,
I will be brief. Your noble son is mad:
Mad call I it, for to define true madness,
What is’t but to be nothing else but mad?
But let that go.
More matter with less art.
Madam, I swear I use no art at all.
That he’s mad, ’tis true, ’tis true ’tis pity,
And pity ’tis ’tis true—a foolish figure,
But farewell it, for I will use no art.
Mad let us grant him then, and now remains
That we find out the cause of this effect,
Or rather say, the cause of this defect,
For this effect defective comes by cause:
Thus it remains, and the remainder thus.
I have a daughter—have while she is mine—
Who in her duty and obedience, mark,
Hath given me this. Now gather, and surmise.
Reads the salutation of the letter.
“To the celestial and my soul’s idol, the most beautified Ophelia”—
That’s an ill phrase, a vile phrase, “beautified” is a vile phrase. But you shall hear. Thus:
“In her excellent white bosom, these, etc.”
Came this from Hamlet to her?
Good madam, stay awhile. I will be faithful.
Reads the letter.
“Doubt thou the stars are fire,
Doubt that the sun doth move,
Doubt truth to be a liar,
But never doubt I love.
O dear Ophelia, I am ill at these numbers. I have not art to reckon my groans, but that I love thee best, O most best, believe it. Adieu.
Thine evermore, most dear lady,
whilst this machine is to him, Hamlet.”
This in obedience hath my daughter shown me,
And more above, hath his solicitings,
As they fell out by time, by means, and place,
All given to mine ear.
But how hath she
Receiv’d his love?
What do you think of me?
As of a man faithful and honorable.
I would fain prove so. But what might you think,
When I had seen this hot love on the wing—
As I perceiv’d it (I must tell you that)
Before my daughter told me—what might you,
Or my dear Majesty your queen here, think,
If I had play’d the desk or table-book,
Or given my heart a winking, mute and dumb,
Or look’d upon this love with idle sight,
What might you think? No, I went round to work,
And my young mistress thus I did bespeak:
“Lord Hamlet is a prince out of thy star;
This must not be”; and then I prescripts gave her,
That she should lock herself from his resort,
Admit no messengers, receive no tokens.
Which done, she took the fruits of my advice;
And he repell’d, a short tale to make,
Fell into a sadness, then into a fast,
Thence to a watch, thence into a weakness,
Thence to a lightness, and by this declension,
Into the madness wherein now he raves,
And all we mourn for.
Do you think ’tis this?
It may be, very like.
Hath there been such a time—I would fain know that—
That I have positively said, “’Tis so,”
When it prov’d otherwise?
Not that I know.
Points to his head and shoulder.
Take this from this, if this be otherwise.
If circumstances lead me, I will find
Where truth is hid, though it were hid indeed
Within the centre.
How may we try it further?
You know sometimes he walks four hours together
Here in the lobby.
So he does indeed.
At such a time I’ll loose my daughter to him.
Be you and I behind an arras then,
Mark the encounter: if he love her not,
And be not from his reason fall’n thereon,
Let me be no assistant for a state,
But keep a farm and carters.
We will try it.
Enter Hamlet reading on a book.
But look where sadly the poor wretch comes reading.
Away, I do beseech you, both away.
I’ll board him presently.
Exeunt King and Queen.
O, give me leave,
How does my good Lord Hamlet?
Do you know me, my lord?
Excellent well, you are a fishmonger.
Not I, my lord.
Then I would you were so honest a man.
Honest, my lord?
Ay, sir, to be honest, as this world goes, is to be one man pick’d out of ten thousand.
That’s very true, my lord.
For if the sun breed maggots in a dead dog, being a good kissing carrion—Have you a daughter?
I have, my lord.
Let her not walk i’ th’ sun. Conception is a blessing, but as your daughter may conceive, friend, look to’t.
How say you by that? Still harping on my daughter. Yet he knew me not at first, ’a said I was a fishmonger. ’A is far gone. And truly in my youth I suff’red much extremity for love—very near this. I’ll speak to him again.—What do you read, my lord?
Words, words, words.
What is the matter, my lord?
I mean, the matter that you read, my lord.
Slanders, sir; for the satirical rogue says here that old men have grey beards, that their faces are wrinkled, their eyes purging thick amber and plum-tree gum, and that they have a plentiful lack of wit, together with most weak hams; all which, sir, though I most powerfully and potently believe, yet I hold it not honesty to have it thus set down, for yourself, sir, shall grow old as I am, if like a crab you could go backward.
Though this be madness, yet there is method in’t.—Will you walk out of the air, my lord?
Into my grave.
Indeed that’s out of the air.
How pregnant sometimes his replies are! A happiness that often madness hits on, which reason and sanity could not so prosperously be deliver’d of. I will leave him, and suddenly contrive the means of meeting between him and my daughter.—My lord, I will take my leave of you.
You cannot take from me any thing that I will not more willingly part withal—except my life, except my life, except my life.
Fare you well, my lord.
These tedious old fools!
Enter Guildenstern and Rosencrantz.
You go to seek the Lord Hamlet, there he is.
God save you, sir!
My honor’d lord!
My most dear lord!
My excellent good friends! How dost thou, Guildenstern? Ah, Rosencrantz! Good lads, how do you both?
As the indifferent children of the earth.
Happy, in that we are not over-happy, on Fortune’s cap we are not the very button.
Nor the soles of her shoe?
Neither, my lord.
Then you live about her waist, or in the middle of her favors?
Faith, her privates we.
In the secret parts of Fortune? O, most true, she is a strumpet. What news?
None, my lord, but the world’s grown honest.
Then is doomsday near. But your news is not true. Let me question more in particular. What have you, my good friends, deserv’d at the hands of Fortune, that she sends you to prison hither?
Prison, my lord?
Denmark’s a prison.
Then is the world one.
A goodly one, in which there are many confines, wards, and dungeons, Denmark being one o’ th’ worst.
We think not so, my lord.
Why then ’tis none to you; for there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so. To me it is a prison.
Why then your ambition makes it one. ’Tis too narrow for your mind.
O God, I could be bounded in a nutshell, and count myself a king of infinite space—were it not that I have bad dreams.
Which dreams indeed are ambition, for the very substance of the ambitious is merely the shadow of a dream.
A dream itself is but a shadow.
Truly, and I hold ambition of so airy and light a quality that it is but a shadow’s shadow.
Then are our beggars bodies, and our monarchs and outstretch’d heroes the beggars’ shadows. Shall we to th’ court? For, by my fay, I cannot reason.
We’ll wait upon you.
No such matter. I will not sort you with the rest of my servants; for to speak to you like an honest man, I am most dreadfully attended. But in the beaten way of friendship, what make you at Elsinore?
To visit you, my lord, no other occasion.
Beggar that I am, I am even poor in thanks—but I thank you, and sure, dear friends, my thanks are too dear a halfpenny. Were you not sent for? Is it your own inclining? Is it a free visitation? Come, come, deal justly with me. Come, come—nay, speak.
What should we say, my lord?
Any thing but to th’ purpose. You were sent for, and there is a kind of confession in your looks, which your modesties have not craft enough to color. I know the good King and Queen have sent for you.
To what end, my lord?
That you must teach me. But let me conjure you, by the rights of our fellowship, by the consonancy of our youth, by the obligation of our ever-preserv’d love, and by what more dear a better proposer can charge you withal, be even and direct with me, whether you were sent for or no!
Aside to Guildenstern.
What say you?
Nay then I have an eye of you!—If you love me, hold not off.
My lord, we were sent for.
I will tell you why, so shall my anticipation prevent your discovery, and your secrecy to the King and Queen moult no feather. I have of late—but wherefore I know not—lost all my mirth, forgone all custom of exercises; and indeed it goes so heavily with my disposition, that this goodly frame, the earth, seems to me a sterile promontory; this most excellent canopy, the air, look you, this brave o’erhanging firmament, this majestical roof fretted with golden fire, why, it appeareth nothing to me but a foul and pestilent congregation of vapors. What a piece of work is a man, how noble in reason, how infinite in faculties, in form and moving, how express and admirable in action, how like an angel in apprehension, how like a god! The beauty of the world; the paragon of animals; and yet to me what is this quintessence of dust? Man delights not me—nor women neither, though by your smiling you seem to say so.
My lord, there was no such stuff in my thoughts.
Why did ye laugh then, when I said, “Man delights not me”?
To think, my lord, if you delight not in man, what lenten entertainment the players shall receive from you. We coted them on the way, and hither are they coming to offer you service.
He that plays the king shall be welcome—his Majesty shall have tribute on me, the adventerous knight shall use his foil and target, the lover shall not sigh gratis, the humorous man shall end his part in peace, the clown shall make those laugh whose lungs are tickle a’ th’ sere, and the lady shall say her mind freely, or the blank verse shall halt for’t. What players are they?
Even those you were wont to take such delight in, the tragedians of the city.
How chances it they travel? Their residence, both in reputation and profit, was better both ways.
I think their inhibition comes by the means of the late innovation.
Do they hold the same estimation they did when I was in the city? Are they so follow’d?
No indeed are they not.
How comes it? Do they grow rusty?
Ay, their endeavor keeps in the wonted pace; but there is, sir, an aery of children, little eyases, that cry out on the top of question, and are most tyrannically clapp’d for’t. These are now the fashion, and so berattle the common stages—so they call them—that many wearing rapiers are afraid of goose-quills and dare scarce come thither.
What, are they children? Who maintains ’em? How are they escoted? Will they pursue the quality no longer than they can sing? Will they not say afterwards, if they should grow themselves to common players (as it is most like, if their means are no better), their writers do them wrong, to make them exclaim against their own succession?
Faith, there has been much to do on both sides, and the nation holds it no sin to tarre them to controversy. There was for a while no money bid for argument, unless the poet and the player went to cuffs in the question.
O, there has been much throwing about of brains.
Do the boys carry it away?
Ay, that they do, my lord—Hercules and his load too.
It is not very strange, for my uncle is King of Denmark, and those that would make mouths at him while my father liv’d, give twenty, forty, fifty, a hundred ducats a-piece for his picture in little. ’Sblood, there is something in this more than natural, if philosophy could find it out.
A flourish for the Players.
There are the players.
Gentlemen, you are welcome to Elsinore. Your hands, come then: th’ appurtenance of welcome is fashion and ceremony. Let me comply with you in this garb, lest my extent to the players, which, I tell you, must show fairly outwards, should more appear like entertainment than yours. You are welcome; but my uncle-father and aunt-mother are deceiv’d.
In what, my dear lord?
I am but mad north-north-west. When the wind is southerly I know a hawk from a hand-saw.
Well be with you, gentlemen!
Aside to them.
Hark you, Guildenstern, and you too—at each ear a hearer—that great baby you see there is not yet out of his swaddling-clouts.
Happily he is the second time come to them, for they say an old man is twice a child.
I will prophesy, he comes to tell me of the players, mark it.
You say right, sir, a’ Monday morning, ’twas then indeed.
My lord, I have news to tell you.
My lord, I have news to tell you. When Roscius was an actor in Rome—
The actors are come hither, my lord.
Upon my honor—
“Then came each actor on his ass”—
The best actors in the world, either for tragedy, comedy, history, pastoral, pastoral-comical, historical-pastoral, tragical-historical, tragical-comical-historical-pastoral scene individable, or poem unlimited; Seneca cannot be too heavy, nor Plautus too light, for the law of writ and the liberty: these are the only men.
O Jephthah, judge of Israel, what a treasure hadst thou!
What a treasure had he, my lord?
“One fair daughter, and no more,
The which he loved passing well.”
Still on my daughter.
Am I not i’ th’ right, old Jephthah?
If you call me Jephthah, my lord, I have a daughter that I love passing well.
Nay, that follows not.
What follows then, my lord?
“As by lot, God wot,“
And then, you know,
“It came to pass, as most like it was”—
The first row of the pious chanson will show you more, for look where my abridgement comes.
Enter the Players, four or five.
You are welcome, masters, welcome all. I am glad to see thee well. Welcome, good friends. O, old friend! Why, thy face is valanc’d since I saw thee last; com’st thou to beard me in Denmark? What, my young lady and mistress! By’ lady, your ladyship is nearer to heaven than when I saw you last, by the altitude of a chopine. Pray God your voice, like a piece of uncurrent gold, be not crack’d within the ring. Masters, you are all welcome. We’ll e’en to’t like French falc’ners—fly at any thing we see; we’ll have a speech straight. Come give us a taste of your quality, come, a passionate speech.
What speech, my good lord?
I heard thee speak me a speech once, but it was never acted, or if it was, not above once; for the play, I remember, pleas’d not the million, ’twas caviary to the general, but it was—as I receiv’d it, and others, whose judgments in such matters cried in the top of mine—an excellent play, well digested in the scenes, set down with as much modesty as cunning. I remember one said there were no sallets in the lines to make the matter savory, nor no matter in the phrase that might indict the author of affection, but call’d it an honest method, as wholesome as sweet, and by very much more handsome than fine. One speech in’t I chiefly lov’d, ’twas Aeneas’ tale to Dido, and thereabout of it especially when he speaks of Priam’s slaughter. If it live in your memory, begin at this line—let me see, let me see:
“The rugged Pyrrhus, like th’ Hyrcanian beast—”
’Tis not so, it begins with Pyrrhus:
“The rugged Pyrrhus, he whose sable arms,
Black as his purpose, did the night resemble
When he lay couched in th’ ominous horse,
Hath now this dread and black complexion smear’d
With heraldry more dismal: head to foot
Now is he total gules, horridly trick’d
With blood of fathers, mothers, daughters, sons,
Bak’d and impasted with the parching streets,
That lend a tyrannous and a damned light
To their lord’s murder. Roasted in wrath and fire,
And thus o’er-sized with coagulate gore,
With eyes like carbuncles, the hellish Pyrrhus
Old grandsire Priam seeks.”
So proceed you.
’Fore God, my lord, well spoken, with good accent and good discretion.
“Anon he finds him
Striking too short at Greeks. His antique sword,
Rebellious to his arm, lies where it falls,
Repugnant to command. Unequal match’d,
Pyrrhus at Priam drives, in rage strikes wide,
But with the whiff and wind of his fell sword
Th’ unnerved father falls. Then senseless Ilium,
Seeming to feel this blow, with flaming top
Stoops to his base, and with a hideous crash
Takes prisoner Pyrrhus’ ear; for lo his sword,
Which was declining on the milky head
Of reverent Priam, seem’d i’ th’ air to stick.
So as a painted tyrant Pyrrhus stood
And, like a neutral to his will and matter,
But as we often see, against some storm,
A silence in the heavens, the rack stand still,
The bold winds speechless, and the orb below
As hush as death, anon the dreadful thunder
Doth rend the region; so after Pyrrhus’ pause,
A roused vengeance sets him new a-work,
And never did the Cyclops’ hammers fall
On Mars’s armor forg’d for proof eterne
With less remorse than Pyrrhus’ bleeding sword
Now falls on Priam.
Out, out, thou strumpet Fortune! All you gods,
In general synod take away her power!
Break all the spokes and fellies from her wheel,
And bowl the round nave down the hill of heaven
As low as to the fiends!”
This is too long.
It shall to the barber’s with your beard. Prithee say on, he’s for a jig or a tale of bawdry, or he sleeps. Say on, come to Hecuba.
“But who, ah woe, had seen the mobled queen“—
“The mobled queen“?
That’s good, “mobled queen” is good.
“Run barefoot up and down, threat’ning the flames
With bisson rheum, a clout upon that head
Where late the diadem stood, and for a robe,
About her lank and all o’er-teemed loins,
A blanket, in the alarm of fear caught up—
Who this had seen, with tongue in venom steep’d,
’Gainst Fortune’s state would treason have pronounc’d.
But if the gods themselves did see her then,
When she saw Pyrrhus make malicious sport
In mincing with his sword her husband’s limbs,
The instant burst of clamor that she made,
Unless things mortal move them not at all,
Would have made milch the burning eyes of heaven,
And passion in the gods.”
Look whe’er he has not turn’d his color and has tears in ’s eyes. Prithee no more.
’Tis well, I’ll have thee speak out the rest of this soon. Good my lord, will you see the players well bestow’d? Do you hear, let them be well us’d, for they are the abstract and brief chronicles of the time. After your death you were better have a bad epitaph than their ill report while you live.
My lord, I will use them according to their desert.
God’s bodkin, man, much better: use every man after his desert, and who shall scape whipping? Use them after your own honor and dignity—the less they deserve, the more merit is in your bounty. Take them in.
Follow him, friends, we’ll hear a play tomorrow.
Exeunt all the Players but the First.
Dost thou hear me, old friend? Can you play “The Murder of Gonzago”?
Ay, my lord.
We’ll ha’t tomorrow night. You could for need study a speech of some dozen lines, or sixteen lines, which I would set down and insert in’t, could you not?
Ay, my lord.
Very well. Follow that lord, and look you mock him not.
Exit First Player.
My good friends, I’ll leave you till night. You are welcome to Elsinore.
Good my lord!
Ay so, God buy to you.
Exeunt Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.
Now I am alone.
O, what a rogue and peasant slave am I!
Is it not monstrous that this player here,
But in a fiction, in a dream of passion,
Could force his soul so to his own conceit
That from her working all the visage wann’d,
Tears in his eyes, distraction in his aspect,
A broken voice, an’ his whole function suiting
With forms to his conceit? And all for nothing,
What’s Hecuba to him, or he to Hecuba,
That he should weep for her? What would he do
Had he the motive and the cue for passion
That I have? He would drown the stage with tears,
And cleave the general ear with horrid speech,
Make mad the guilty, and appall the free,
Confound the ignorant, and amaze indeed
The very faculties of eyes and ears. Yet I,
A dull and muddy-mettled rascal, peak
Like John-a-dreams, unpregnant of my cause,
And can say nothing; no, not for a king,
Upon whose property and most dear life
A damn’d defeat was made. Am I a coward?
Who calls me villain, breaks my pate across,
Plucks off my beard and blows it in my face,
Tweaks me by the nose, gives me the lie i’ th’ throat
As deep as to the lungs? Who does me this?
Hah, ’swounds, I should take it; for it cannot be
But I am pigeon-liver’d, and lack gall
To make oppression bitter, or ere this
I should ’a’ fatted all the region kites
With this slave’s offal. Bloody, bawdy villain!
Remorseless, treacherous, lecherous, kindless villain!
Why, what an ass am I! This is most brave,
That I, the son of a dear father murdered,
Prompted to my revenge by heaven and hell,
Must like a whore unpack my heart with words,
And fall a-cursing like a very drab,
A stallion. Fie upon’t, foh!
About, my brains! Hum—I have heard
That guilty creatures sitting at a play
Have by the very cunning of the scene
Been strook so to the soul, that presently
They have proclaim’d their malefactions:
For murder, though it have no tongue, will speak
With most miraculous organ. I’ll have these players
Play something like the murder of my father
Before mine uncle. I’ll observe his looks,
I’ll tent him to the quick. If ’a do blench,
I know my course. The spirit that I have seen
May be a dev’l, and the dev’l hath power
T’ assume a pleasing shape, yea, and perhaps,
Out of my weakness and my melancholy,
As he is very potent with such spirits,
Abuses me to damn me. I’ll have grounds
More relative than this—the play’s the thing
Wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king.