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ACT IV. - William Shakespeare, Hamlet Prince of Denmark 
The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (The Oxford Shakespeare), ed. with a glossary by W.J. Craig M.A. (Oxford University Press, 1916).
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A Room in the Castle.
EnterKing, Queen, Rosencrantz,andGuildenstern.
There’s matter in these sighs, these profound heaves:
You must translate; ’tis fit we understand them.
Where is your son?
[ToRosencrantzandGuildenstern.] Bestow this place on us a little while.
Ah! my good lord, what have I seen to-night.
What, Gertrude? How does Hamlet?
Mad as the sea and wind, when both contend
Which is the mightier. In his lawless fit,
Behind the arras hearing something stir,
Whips out his rapier, cries, ‘A rat! a rat!’
And, in his brainish apprehension, kills
The unseen good old man.
O heavy deed!
It had been so with us had we been there.
His liberty is full of threats to all;
To you yourself, to us, to every one.
Alas! how shall this bloody deed be answer’d?
It will be laid to us, whose providence
Should have kept short, restrain’d, and out of haunt,
This mad young man: but so much was our love,
We would not understand what was most fit,
But, like the owner of a foul disease,
To keep it from divulging, let it feed
Even on the pith of life. Where is he gone?
To draw apart the body he hath kill’d;
O’er whom his very madness, like some ore
Among a mineral of metals base,
Shows itself pure: he weeps for what is done.
O Gertrude! come away.
The sun no sooner shall the mountains touch
But we will ship him hence; and this vile deed
We must, with all our majesty and skill,
Both countenance and excuse. Ho! Guildenstern!
Friends both, go join you with some further aid:
Hamlet in madness hath Polonius slain,
And from his mother’s closet hath he dragg’d him:
Go seek him out; speak fair, and bring the body
Into the chapel. I pray you, haste in this.
Come, Gertrude, we’ll call up our wisest friends;
And let them know both what we mean to do,
And what’s untimely done: so, haply, slander,
Whose whisper o’er the world’s diameter,
As level as the cannon to his blank
Transports his poison’d shot, may miss our name,
And hit the woundless air. O! come away;
My soul is full of discord and dismay.
Another Room in the Same.
[Within.] Hamlet! Lord Hamlet!
[Within.] Hamlet! Lord Hamlet!
What noise? who calls on Hamlet?
O! here they come.
What have you done, my lord, with the dead body?
Compounded it with dust, whereto ’tis kin.
Tell us where ’tis, that we may take it thence
And bear it to the chapel.
Do not believe it.
That I can keep your counsel and not mine own. Besides, to be demanded of a sponge! what replication should be made by the son of a king?
Take you me for a sponge, my lord?
Ay, sir, that soaks up the king’s countenance, his rewards, his authorities. But such officers do the king best service in the end: he keeps them, like an ape, in the corner of his jaw; first mouthed, to be last swallowed: when he needs what you have gleaned, it is but squeezing you, and, sponge, you shall be dry again.
I understand you not, my lord.
I am glad of it: a knavish speech sleeps in a foolish ear.
My lord, you must tell us where the body is, and go with us to the king.
The body is with the king, but the king is not with the body. The king is a thing—
A thing, my lord!
Of nothing: bring me to him. Hide fox, and all after.
Another Room in the Same.
I have sent to seek him, and to find the body.
How dangerous is it that this man goes loose!
Yet must not we put the strong law on him:
He’s lov’d of the distracted multitude,
Who like not in their judgment, but their eyes;
And where ’tis so, the offender’s scourge is weigh’d,
But never the offence. To bear all smooth and even,
This sudden sending him away must seem
Deliberate pause: diseases desperate grown
By desperate appliance are reliev’d,
Or not at all.
How now! what hath befall’n?
Where the dead body is bestow’d, my lord,
We cannot get from him.
But where is he?
Without, my lord; guarded, to know your pleasure.
Bring him before us.
Ho, Guildenstern! bring in my lord.
Now, Hamlet, where’s Polonius?
At supper! Where?
Not where he eats, but where he is eaten: a certain convocation of politic worms are e’en at him. Your worm is your only emperor for diet: we fat all creatures else to fat us, and we fat ourselves for maggots: your fat king and your lean beggar is but variable service; two dishes, but to one table: that’s the end.
A man may fish with the worm that hath eat of a king, and eat of the fish that hath fed of that worm.
What dost thou mean by this?
Nothing, but to show you how a king may go a progress through the guts of a beggar.
Where is Polonius?
In heaven; send thither to see: if your messenger find him not there, seek him i’ the other place yourself. But, indeed, if you find him not within this month, you shall nose him as you go up the stairs into the lobby.
[To some Attendants.] Go seek him there.
He will stay till you come.
Hamlet, this deed, for thine especial safety,
Which we do tender, as we dearly grieve
For that which thou hast done, must send thee hence
With fiery quickness: therefore prepare thyself;
The bark is ready, and the wind at help,
The associates tend, and every thing is bent
So is it, if thou knew’st our purposes.
I see a cherub that sees them. But, come; for England! Farewell, dear mother.
Thy loving father, Hamlet.
My mother: father and mother is man and wife, man and wife is one flesh, and so, my mother. Come, for England!
Follow him at foot; tempt him with speed aboard:
Delay it not, I’ll have him hence to-night.
Away! for every thing is seal’d and done
That else leans on the affair: pray you, make haste.
And, England, if my love thou hold’st at aught,—
As my great power thereof may give thee sense,
Since yet thy cicatrice looks raw and red
After the Danish sword, and thy free awe
Pays homage to us,—thou mayst not coldly set
Our sovereign process, which imports at full,
By letters conjuring to that effect,
The present death of Hamlet. Do it, England;
For like the hectic in my blood he rages,
And thou must cure me. Till I know ’tis done,
Howe’er my haps, my joys were ne’er begun.
A Plain in Denmark.
EnterFortinbras,a Captain, and Soldiers, marching.
Go, captain, from me greet the Danish king;
Tell him that, by his licence, Fortinbras
Claims the conveyance of a promis’d march
Over his kingdom. You know the rendezvous.
If that his majesty would aught with us,
We shall express our duty in his eye,
And let him know so.
I will do ’t, my lord.
Go softly on.
EnterHamlet, Rosencrantz, Guildenstern,&c.
Good sir, whose powers are these?
They are of Norway, sir.
How purpos’d, sir, I pray you?
Against some part of Poland.
Who commands them, sir?
The nephew to old Norway, Fortinbras.
Goes it against the main of Poland, sir,
Or for some frontier?
Truly to speak, and with no addition,
We go to gain a little patch of ground
That hath in it no profit but the name.
To pay five ducats, five, I would not farm it;
Nor will it yield to Norway or the Pole
A ranker rate, should it be sold in fee.
Why, then the Polack never will defend it.
Yes, ’tis already garrison’d.
Two thousand souls and twenty thousand ducats
Will not debate the question of this straw:
This is the imposthume of much wealth and peace,
That inward breaks, and shows no cause without
Why the man dies. I humbly thank you, sir.
God be wi’ you, sir.
Will ’t please you go, my lord?
I’ll be with you straight. Go a little before.
[Exeunt all exceptHamlet.
How all occasions do inform against me,
And spur my dull revenge! What is a man,
If his chief good and market of his time
Be but to sleep and feed? a beast, no more.
Sure he that made us with such large discourse,
Looking before and after, gave us not
That capability and god-like reason
To fust in us unus’d. Now, whe’r it be
Bestial oblivion, or some craven scruple
Of thinking too precisely on the event,
A thought, which, quarter’d, hath but one part wisdom,
And ever three parts coward, I do not know
Why yet I live to say ‘This thing’s to do;’
Sith I have cause and will and strength and means
To do ’t. Examples gross as earth exhort me:
Witness this army of such mass and charge
Led by a delicate and tender prince,
Whose spirit with divine ambition puff’d
Makes mouths at the invisible event,
Exposing what is mortal and unsure
To all that fortune, death and danger dare,
Even for an egg-shell. Rightly to be great
Is not to stir without great argument,
But greatly to find quarrel in a straw
When honour’s at the stake. How stand I then,
That have a father kill’d, a mother stain’d,
Excitements of my reason and my blood,
And let all sleep, while, to my shame, I see
The imminent death of twenty thousand men,
That, for a fantasy and trick of fame,
Go to their graves like beds, fight for a plot
Whereon the numbers cannot try the cause,
Which is not tomb enough and continent
To hide the slaim? O! from this time forth,
My thoughts be bloody, or be nothing worth!
Elsinore. A Room in the Castle.
EnterQueen, Horatio,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’ the 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 aim 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.
Re-enter Gentleman, withOphelia.
Where is the beauteous majesty of Denmark?
How now, Ophelia!
Alas! sweet lady, what imports this song?
Say you? nay, pray you, mark.
Nay, but Ophelia,—
Pray you, mark.
White his shroud as the mountain snow,—
Alas! look here, my lord.
How do you, pretty lady?
Well, God ’ild 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 you, let’s have no words of this; but when they ask you what it means, say you this:
Indeed, la! without an oath, I’ll make an end on ’t:
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 should lay him i’ the 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. O Gertrude, Gertrude!
When sorrows come, they come not single spies,
But in battalions. First, her father slain;
Next, your son gone; but 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 judgment,
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 his 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 murdering-piece, in many places
Gives me superfluous death.
[A noise within.
Alack! what noise is this?
Enter a Gentleman.
Where are my Switzers? Let them guard the door.
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!’
How cheerfully on the false trail they cry!
O! this is counter, you false Danish dogs!
The doors are broke.
EnterLaertes,armed; Danes following.
Where is the king? Sirs, stand you all without.
No, let’s come in.
I pray you, give me leave.
We will, we will.
[They retire without the door.
I thank you: keep the door. 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:
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’s death, 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-rendering 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 pierce
As day does to your eye.
[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 by 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.
Fare you well, my dove!
Hadst thou thy wits, and didst persuade revenge,
It could not move thus.
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; brance; pray, 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 o’ Sundays. O! you must wear your rue with a difference. There’s a daisy; I would give you some violets, but they withered all when my father died. They say he made a good end,—
Thought and affliction, passion, hell itself,
She turns to favour and to prettiness.
And of all Christian souls! I pray God. God be wi’ ye!
Do you see this, O God?
Laertes, I must common 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 labour with your soul
To give it due content.
Let this be so:
His means of death, his obscure burial,
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 the offence is let the great axe fall.
I pray you go with me.
Another Room in the Same.
EnterHoratioand a Servant.
What are they that would speak with me?
Sailors, sir: they say, they have letters for you.
Let them come in.
I do not know from what part of the world
I should be greeted, if not from Lord Hamlet.
God bless you, sir.
Let him bless thee too.
He shall, sir, an’t please him. There’s a letter for you, sir;—it comes from the ambassador that was bound for England;—if your name be Horatio, as I am let to know it is.
Horatio, when thou shalt have overlooked this, give these fellows some means to the king: they have letters for him. Ere we were two days old at sea, a pirate of very war-like appointment gave us chase. Finding ourselves too slow of sail, we put on a compelled valour; in the grapple I boarded them: on the instant they got clear of our ship, so I alone became their prisoner. They have dealt with me like thieves of mercy, but they knew what they did; I am to do a good turn for them. Let the king have the letters I have sent; and repair thou to me with as much haste as thou wouldst fly death. I have words to speak in thine ear will make thee dumb; yet are they much too light for the bore of the matter. These good fellows will bring thee where I am. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern hold their course for England: of them I have much to tell thee. Farewell.
He that thou knowest thine,
Come, I will give you way for these your letters;
And do ’t the speedier, that you may direct me
To him from whom you brought them.
Another Room in the Same.
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
Pursu’d my life.
It well appears: but tell me
Why you proceeded not against these feats,
So crimeful and so capital in nature,
As by your safety, wisdom, all things else,
You mainly were stirr’d up.
O! for two special reasons;
Which may to you, perhaps, seem much unsinew’d,
But yet to me they are strong. The queen his mother
Lives almost by his looks, and for myself,—
My virtue or my plague, be it either which,—
She’s 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,
Would, 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,
And not where I had aim’d them.
And so have I a noble father lost;
A sister driven into desperate 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.
How now! what news?
Letters, my lord, from Hamlet:
This 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. To-morrow shall I beg leave to see your kingly eyes; when I shall, first asking your pardon thereunto, recount the occasions of my sudden and more strange return
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 advise me?
I’m 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 diddest 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’er-rule me to a peace.
To thine own peace. If he be now return’d,
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’ve 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 he had 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 defence,
And for your rapier most especially,
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 him.
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 wick 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 sigh,
That hurts by easing. But, to the quick o’ the ulcer;
Hamlet comes back; what would you undertake
To show yourself your father’s son in deed
More than in words?
To cut his throat i’ the 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 on your heads: he, being remise,
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 should 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 prepar’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?
How now, sweet queen!
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 aslant a brook,
That shows his hoar leaves in the glassy stream;
There with fantastic garlands did she come,
Of crow-flowers, nettles, daisies, and long purples,
That liberal shepherds give a grosser name,
But our cold maids do dead men’s fingers call them:
There, on the pendent boughs her coronet weeds
Clambering 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 chanted snatches of old tunes,
As one incapable of her own distress,
Or like a creature native and indu’d
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 Ophelis,
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 of fire, that fain would blaze,
But that this folly douts 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.