GUILDENSTERN: My honoured lord! 
ROSENCRANTZ: My most dear lord!
HAMLET: My excellent good friends! How dost thou,
Guildenstern? Ah, Rosencrantz! Good lads, how do
ROSENCRANTZ: As the indifferent children of the earth. 
GUILDENSTERN: Happy, in that we are not over-happy, on
Fortune's cap we are not the very button.
HAMLET: Nor the soles of her shoe?
ROSENCRANTZ: Neither, my lord.
HAMLET: Then you live about her waist, or in the 
middle of her favours?
GUILDENSTERN: Faith, her privates we.
HAMLET: In the secret parts of Fortune? O, most true,
she is a strumpet. What news?
ROSENCRANTZ: None, my lord, but the world's 
HAMLET: 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 hither? 
GUILDENSTERN: Prison, my lord?
HAMLET: Denmark's a prison.
ROSENCRANTZ: Then is the world one.
HAMLET: A goodly one, in which there are many
confines, wards, and dungeons, Denmark being one 
o' th' worst.
ROSENCRANTZ: We think not so, my lord.
HAMLET: 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. 
ROSENCRANTZ: Why then your ambition makes it
one. 'Tis too narrow for your mind.
HAMLET: 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. 
GUILDENSTERN: Which dreams indeed are ambition,
for the very substance of the ambitious is merely the
shadow of a dream.
HAMLET: A dream itself is but a shadow.
ROSENCRANTZ: Truly, and I hold ambition of so airy 
and light a quality that it is but a shadow's shadow.
HAMLET: Then are our beggars bodies, and our
monarchs and outstretched heroes the beggars'
shadows. Shall we to th' court? for, by my fay, I
cannot reason. 
BOTH ROSENCRANTZ and GUILDENSTERN: We'll wait upon you.
HAMLET: 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? 
ROSENCRANTZ: To visit you, my lord, no other
HAMLET: 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.
GUILDENSTERN: What should we say, my lord?
HAMLET: 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
colour. I know the good King and Queen have sent for
ROSENCRANTZ: To what end, my lord?
HAMLET: That you must teach me. But let me conjure 
you, by the rights of our fellowship, by the conso-
nancy of our youth, by the obligation of our ever-
preserved 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! 
ROSENCRANTZ: [Aside to Guildenstern.] What
HAMLET: [Aside.] Nay then I have an eye of you! -- If
you love me, hold not off.
GUILDENSTERN: My lord, we were sent for. 
HAMLET: 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 where-
fore 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 vapours. 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.
ROSENCRANTZ: My lord, there was no such stuff in
my thoughts. 
HAMLET: Why did ye laugh then, when I said, "Man
delights not me"?
ROSENCRANTZ: 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.
HAMLET: He that plays the king shall be welcome -- his
Majesty shall have tribute on me, the adventurous
knight shall use his foil and target, the lover shall not
sigh gratis, the humourous 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?
ROSENCRANTZ: Even those you were wont to take 
such delight in, the tragedians of the city.
HAMLET: How chances it they travel? Their residence,
both in reputation and profit, was better both ways.
ROSENCRANTZ: I think their inhibition comes by the
means of the late innovation. 
HAMLET: Do they hold the same estimation they did
when I was in the city? Are they so followed?
ROSENCRANTZ: No indeed are they not.
HAMLET: How comes it? do they grow rusty?
ROSENCRANTZ: 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.
HAMLET: 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?
ROSENCRANTZ: 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.
HAMLET: Is't possible?
GUILDENSTERN: O, there has been much throwing 
about of brains.
HAMLET: Do the boys carry it away?
ROSENCRANTZ: Ay, that they do, my lord -- Hercules
and his load too.
HAMLET: 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 philoso-
phy could find it out. 
GUILDENSTERN: There are the players.
HAMLET: 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 deceived.
GUILDENSTERN: In what, my dear lord?
HAMLET: I am but mad north-north-west. When the 
wind is southerly I know a hawk from a hand-saw. Enter POLONIUS.]
POLONIUS: Well be with you, gentlemen!
HAMLET: 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. 
ROSENCRANTZ: Happily he is the second time come
to them, for they say an old man is twice a child.
HAMLET: I will prophesy, he comes to tell me of the
players, mark it. You say right, sir, a' Monday
morning, 'twas then indeed. 
POLONIUS: My lord, I have news to tell you.
HAMLET: My lord, I have news to tell you. When
Roscius was an actor in Rome --
POLONIUS: The actors are come hither, my lord.
HAMLET: Buzz, buzz! 
POLONIUS: Upon my honour --
HAMLET: "Then came each actor on his ass" --
POLONIUS: 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 un-
limited; Seneca cannot be too heavy, nor Plautus
too light, for the law of writ and the liberty: these are
the only men.
HAMLET: O Jephthah, judge of Israel, what a treasure 
POLONIUS: What a treasure had he, my lord?
HAMLET: Why --
"One fair daughter, and no more,
The which he loved passing well." 
POLONIUS: [Aside.] Still on my daughter.
HAMLET: Am I not i' th' right, old Jephthah?
POLONIUS: If you call me Jephthah, my lord, I have a
daughter that I love passing well.
HAMLET: Nay, that follows not. 
POLONIUS: What follows then, my lord?
HAMLET: Why --
"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 the PLAYERS.
You are welcome, masters, welcome all. I am glad to
see thee well. Welcome, good friends. O, old friend!
why, thy face is valanced 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 un-
current gold, be not cracked within the ring. 
Masters, you are all welcome. We'll e'en to't like
French falconers -- fly at any thing we see; we'll have a
speech straight. Come give us a taste of your quality;
come, a passionate speech.
FIRST PLAYER: What speech, my good lord? 
HAMLET: 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 caviary
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 savory, nor no matter in the phrase that might
indict the author of affection, but called it an honest 
method, as wholesome as sweet, and by very much
more handsome than fine. One speech in't I chiefly
loved, '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 
"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 smeared
With heraldy 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.
POLONIUS: 'Fore God, my lord, well spoken, with
good accent and good discretion.
FIRST PLAYER: "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 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!"
POLONIUS: This is too long. 
HAMLET: 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.
FIRST PLAYER: "But who, ah woe, had seen the mobled queen" --
HAMLET: "The mobled queen"? 
POLONIUS: That's good, "mobled queen" is good.
FIRST PLAYER: "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'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 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." 
POLONIUS: Look whether he has not turned his colour
and has tears in's eyes. Prithee no more.
HAMLET: '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 abstract and brief chronicles of the time.
After your death you were better have a bad epitaph
than their ill report while you live.
POLONIUS: My lord, I will use them according to their
HAMLET: God's bodkin, man, much better: use every
man after his desert, and who shall scape whipping?
Use them after your own honour and dignity -- the less
they deserve, the more merit is in your bounty. Take
them in. 
POLONIUS: Come, sirs.
HAMLET: Follow him, friends, we'll hear a play to-[Aside to First Player.] Dost thou hear me, old
friend? Can you play "The Murder of Gonzago"?
FIRST PLAYER: Ay, my lord. 
HAMLET: We'll ha't to-morrow night. You could; for
need study a speech of some dozen or sixteen lines,
which I would set down and insert in't, could you not?
FIRST PLAYER: Ay, my lord.
HAMLET: Very well. Follow that lord, and look you 
mock him not. My good friends, I'll leave you till
night. You are welcome to Elsinore.
Exeunt POLONIUS and Players.
ROSENCRANTZ: Good my lord!
HAMLET: 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 wanned,
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 appal the free,
Confound the ignorant, and amaze indeed 
The very faculties of eyes and ears.
A dull and muddy-mettled rascal, peak
Like John-a-dreams, unpregnant of my cause,
can say nothing; no, not for a king, 
Upon whose property and most dear life
A damned 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 ha' 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 struck so to the soul, that presently
They have proclaimed 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 devil, and the devil 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.