Act II

Scene I. A room in Polonius's house.

[Enter Polonius and Reynaldo.]


Give him this money and these notes, Reynaldo.


I will, my lord.


You shall do marvellous wisely, good Reynaldo,

Before You visit him, to make inquiry

Of his behaviour.


My lord, I did intend it.


Marry, well said; very well said. Look you, sir,

Enquire me first what Danskers are in Paris;

And how, and who, what means, and where they keep,

What company, at what expense; and finding,

By this encompassment and drift of question,

That they do know my son, come you more nearer

Than your particular demands will touch it:

Take you, as 'twere, some distant knowledge of him;

As thus, 'I know his father and his friends,

And in part hi;m;--do you mark this, Reynaldo?


Ay, very well, my lord.


'And in part him;--but,' you may say, 'not well:

But if't be he I mean, he's very wild;

Addicted so and so;' and there put on him

What forgeries you please; marry, none so rank

As may dishonour him; take heed of that;

But, sir, such wanton, wild, and usual slips

As are companions noted and most known

To youth and liberty.


As gaming, my lord.


Ay, or drinking, fencing, swearing, quarrelling,

Drabbing:--you may go so far.


My lord, that would dishonour him.


Faith, no; as you may season it in the charge.

You must not put another scandal on him,

That he is open to incontinency;

That's not my meaning: but breathe his faults so quaintly

That they may seem the taints of liberty;

The flash and outbreak of a fiery mind;

A savageness in unreclaimed blood,

Of general assault.


But, my good lord,--


Wherefore should you do this?


Ay, my lord,

I would know that.


Marry, sir, here's my drift;

And I believe it is a fetch of warrant:

You laying these slight sullies on my son

As 'twere a thing a little soil'd i' the working,

Mark you,

Your party in converse, him you would sound,

Having ever seen in the prenominate crimes

The youth you breathe of guilty, be assur'd

He closes with you in this consequence;

'Good sir,' or so; or 'friend,' or 'gentleman'--

According to the phrase or the addition

Of man and country.


Very good, my lord.


And then, sir, does he this,--he does--What was I about to say?--

By the mass, I was about to say something:--Where did I leave?


At 'closes in the consequence,' at 'friend or so,' and



At--closes in the consequence'--ay, marry!

He closes with you thus:--'I know the gentleman;

I saw him yesterday, or t'other day,

Or then, or then; with such, or such; and, as you say,

There was he gaming; there o'ertook in's rouse;

There falling out at tennis': or perchance,

'I saw him enter such a house of sale,'--

Videlicet, a brothel,--or so forth.--

See you now;

Your bait of falsehood takes this carp of truth:

And thus do we of wisdom and of reach,

With windlaces, and with assays of bias,

By indirections find directions out:

So, by my former lecture and advice,

Shall you my son. You have me, have you not?


My lord, I have.


God b' wi' you, fare you well.


Good my lord!


Observe his inclination in yourself.


I shall, my lord.


And let him ply his music.


Well, my lord.



[Exit Reynaldo.]

[Enter Ophelia.]

How now, Ophelia! what's the matter?


Alas, my lord, I have been so affrighted!


With what, i' the name of God?


My lord, as I was sewing in my chamber,

Lord Hamlet,--with his doublet all unbrac'd;

No hat upon his head; his stockings foul'd,

Ungart'red, and down-gyved to his ankle;

Pale as his shirt; his knees knocking each other;

And with a look so piteous in purport

As if he had been loosed out of hell

To speak of horrors,--he comes before me.


Mad for thy love?


My lord, I do not know;

But truly I do fear it.


What said he?


He took me by the wrist, and held me hard;

Then goes he to the length of all his arm;

And with his other hand thus o'er his brow,

He falls to such perusal of my face

As he would draw it. Long stay'd he so;

At last,--a little shaking of mine arm,

And thrice his head thus waving up and down,--

He rais'd a sigh so piteous and profound

As it did seem to shatter all his bulk

And end his being: that done, he lets me go:

And, with his head over his shoulder turn'd

He seem'd to find his way without his eyes;

For out o' doors he went without their help,

And to the last bended their light on me.


Come, go with me: I will go seek the king.

This is the very ecstasy of love;

Whose violent property fordoes itself,

And leads the will to desperate undertakings,

As oft as any passion under heaven

That does afflict our natures. I am sorry,--

What, have you given him any hard words of late?


No, my good lord; but, as you did command,

I did repel his letters and denied

His access to me.


That hath made him mad.

I am sorry that with better heed and judgment

I had not quoted him: I fear'd he did but trifle,

And meant to wreck thee; but beshrew my jealousy!

It seems it as proper to our age

To cast beyond ourselves in our opinions

As it is common for the younger sort

To lack discretion. Come, go we to the king:

This must be known; which, being kept close, might move

More grief to hide than hate to utter love.


Scene II. A room in the Castle.

[Enter King, Rosencrantz, Guildenstern, and Attendants.]


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 I call it,

Since nor the 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 the understanding of himself,

I cannot dream of: I entreat you both

That, being of so young days brought up with him,

And since so neighbour'd to his youth and humour,

That you vouchsafe 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 are 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 awhile,

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.


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!


Ay, amen!

[Exeunt Rosencrantz, Guildenstern, and some Attendants].

[Enter Polonius.]


Th' ambassadors from Norway, my good lord,

Are joyfully return'd.


Thou still hast been the father of good news.


Have I, my lord? Assure you, 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 the ambassadors;

My news shall be the fruit to that great feast.


Thyself do grace to them, and bring them in.

[Exit Polonius.]

He tells me, my sweet queen, 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.


Well, we shall sift him.

[Enter Polonius, with Voltimand and Cornelius.]

Welcome, my good friends!

Say, Voltimand, 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 three 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,

[Gives 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 consider'd time we'll read,

Answer, and think upon this business.

Meantime we thank you for your well-took labour:

Go to your rest; at night we'll feast together:

Most welcome home!

[Exeunt Voltimand and Cornelius.]


This business is well ended.--

My liege, and madam,--to expostulate

What majesty should be, what duty is,

Why day is day, night is 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 is 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 whilst she is mine,--

Who, in her duty and obedience, mark,

Hath given me this: now gather, and surmise.


'To the celestial, and my soul's idol, the most beautified


That's an ill phrase, a vile phrase; 'beautified' is a vile

phrase: but you shall hear. Thus:


'In her excellent white bosom, these, &c.'


Came this from Hamlet to her?


Good madam, stay awhile; I will be faithful.


'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,


This, in obedience, hath my daughter show'd 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 honourable.


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 sphere;

This must not be:' and then I precepts 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, repulsed,--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 wail for.


Do you think 'tis this?


It may be, very likely.


Hath there been such a time,--I'd fain know that--

That I have positively said ''Tis so,'

When it prov'd otherwise?


Not that I know.


Take this from this, if this be otherwise:

[Points to his head and shoulder.]

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 for 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 he 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.


But look where sadly the poor wretch comes reading.


Away, I do beseech you, both away

I'll board him presently:--O, give me leave.

[Exeunt King, Queen, and Attendants.]

[Enter Hamlet, reading.]

How does my good Lord Hamlet?


Well, God-a-mercy.


Do you know me, my lord?


Excellent well; you're 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

picked out of ten thousand.


That's very true, my lord.


For if the sun breed maggots in a dead dog, being a god-kissing

carrion,--Have you a daughter?


I have, my lord.


Let her not walk i' the sun: conception is a blessing, but not

as your daughter may conceive:--friend, look to't.


How say you by that?--[Aside.] Still harping on my daughter:--yet

he knew me not at first; he said I was a fishmonger: he is far

gone, far gone: and truly in my youth I suffered 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?


Between who?


I mean, the matter that you read, my lord.


Slanders, sir: for the satirical slave 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 you yourself, sir,

should be old as I am, if, like a crab, you could go backward.


[Aside.] Though this be madness, yet there is a method in't.--

Will you walk out of the air, my lord?


Into my grave?


Indeed, that is out o' the air. [Aside.] How pregnant sometimes

his replies are! a happiness that often madness hits on, which

reason and sanity could not so prosperously be delivered of. I

will leave him and suddenly contrive the means of meeting between

him and my daughter.--My honourable lord, I will most humbly take

my leave of you.


You cannot, sir, take from me anything that I will more

willingly part withal,--except my life, except my life, except my



Fare you well, my lord.


These tedious old fools!

[Enter Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.]


You go to seek the Lord Hamlet; there he is.


[To Polonius.] God save you, sir!

[Exit Polonius.]


My honoured lord!


My most dear lord!


My excellent good friends! How dost thou, Guildenstern? Ah,

Rosencrantz! Good lads, how do ye 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



Faith, her privates we.


In the secret parts of fortune? O, most true; she is a

strumpet. What's the news?


None, my lord, but that 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,

deserved at the hands of fortune, that she sends you to prison



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' the 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



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 the court? for, by my

fay, I cannot reason.

Ros. and Guild.

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, deal justly with me: come, come; nay, speak.


What should we say, my lord?


Why, anything--but to the purpose. You were sent for; and

there is a kind of confession in your looks, which your modesties

have not craft enough to colour: 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-preserved love, and by what more dear a

better proposer could charge you withal, be even and direct with

me, whether you were sent for or no.


[To Guildenstern.] What say you?


[Aside.] 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 appears no other thing

to me than a foul and pestilent congregation of vapours. What a

piece of work is 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; no, nor woman

neither, though by your smiling you seem to say so.


My lord, there was no such stuff in my thoughts.


Why did you 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 of me; the adventurous 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 o' the sere; and the lady shall say her mind

freely, or the blank verse shall halt for't. What players are



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



Do they hold the same estimation they did when I was in the

city? Are they so followed?


No, indeed, are they not.


How comes it? do they grow rusty?


Nay, their endeavour 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 clapped 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

awhile, no money bid for argument unless the poet and the player

went to cuffs in the question.


Is't possible?


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 lived, 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.

[Flourish of trumpets within.]


There are the players.


Gentlemen, you are welcome to Elsinore. Your hands, come: the

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 outward, should more appear like

entertainment than yours. You are welcome: but my uncle-father

and aunt-mother are deceived.


In what, my dear lord?


I am but mad north-north-west: when the wind is southerly I

know a hawk from a handsaw.

[Enter Polonius.]


Well be with you, gentlemen!


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's 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: o' Monday morning; 'twas so indeed.


My lord, I have news to tell you.


My lord, I have news to tell you. When Roscius was an actor in



The actors are come hither, my lord.


Buzz, buzz!


Upon my honour,--


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 treasure had he, my lord?



'One fair daughter, and no more,

The which he loved passing well.'


[Aside.] Still on my daughter.


Am I not i' the 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 abridgment comes.

[Enter four or five Players.]

You are welcome, masters; welcome, all:--I am glad to see thee

well.--welcome, good friends.--O, my old friend! Thy face is

valanc'd since I saw thee last; comest thou to beard me in

Denmark?--What, my young lady and mistress! By'r 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 cracked within the ring.--Masters, you are

all welcome. We'll e'en to't like French falconers, fly at

anything we see: we'll have a speech straight: come, give us a

taste of your quality: come, a passionate speech.

I Play.

What speech, my 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, pleased

not the million, 'twas caviare to the general; but it was,--as I

received 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 savoury,

nor no matter in the phrase that might indite the author of

affectation; but called it an honest method, as wholesome as

sweet, and by very much more handsome than fine. One speech in it

I chiefly loved: 'twas AEneas' tale to Dido, and thereabout of it

especially where 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,--

it is 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 the ominous horse,--

Hath now this dread and black complexion smear'd

With heraldry more dismal; head to foot

Now is be 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 vile murders: roasted in wrath and fire,

And thus o'ersized 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


I Play.

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

The 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 reverend Priam, seem'd i' the air to stick:

So, as a painted tyrant, Pyrrhus stood;

And, like a neutral to his will and matter,

Did nothing.

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 armour, 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.--Pr'ythee say on.--

He's for a jig or a tale of bawdry, or he sleeps:--say on; come

to Hecuba.

I Play.

But who, O who, had seen the mobled queen,--


'The mobled queen'?


That's good! 'Mobled queen' is good.

I Play.

Run barefoot up and down, threatening 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'erteemed 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 clamour 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, whether he has not turn'd his colour, and has tears in's

eyes.--Pray you, no more!


'Tis well. I'll have thee speak out the rest of this soon.--

Good my lord, will you see the players well bestowed? Do you

hear? Let them be well used; for they are the abstracts 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.


Odd's bodikin, man, better: use every man after his

desert, and who should scape whipping? Use them after your own

honour and dignity: the less they deserve, the more merit is in

your bounty. Take them in.


Come, sirs.


Follow him, friends. we'll hear a play to-morrow.

[Exeunt Polonius with all the Players but the First.]

Dost thou hear me, old friend? Can you play 'The Murder of


I Play.

Ay, my lord.


We'll ha't to-morrow night. You could, for a need, study a

speech of some dozen or sixteen lines which I would set down and

insert in't? could you not?

I Play.

Ay, my lord.


Very well.--Follow that lord; and look you mock him not.

[Exit First Player.]

--My good friends [to Ros. and Guild.], I'll leave you till

night: you are welcome to Elsinore.


Good my lord!

[Exeunt Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.]


Ay, so, God b' wi' ye!

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 his visage wan'd;

Tears in his eyes, distraction in's aspect,

A broken voice, and his whole function suiting

With forms to his conceit? And all for nothing!

For Hecuba?

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 appal 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' the throat

As deep as to the lungs? who does me this, ha?

'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 have fatted all the region kites

With this slave's offal: bloody, bawdy villain!

Remorseless, treacherous, lecherous, kindless villain!

O, vengeance!

Why, what an ass am I! This is most brave,

That I, the son of a dear father murder'd,

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 scullion!

Fie upon't! foh!--About, my brain! I have heard

That guilty creatures, sitting at a play,

Have by the very cunning of the scene

Been struck 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 he but blench,

I know my course. The spirit that I have seen

May be the devil: and the devil hath power

To 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.