ACT 2, SCENE 2: The Castle.

Flourish. Enter KING and QUEEN, ROSENCRANTZ and
GUILDENSTERN [and others].

KING: 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,                                                  [5]
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                                                    [10]
That, being of so young days brought up with him,
And sith so neighboured to his youth and havior,
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                                        [15]
So much as from occasion you may glean,
Whether aught to us unknown afflicts him thus,
That, opened, lies within our remedy.

QUEEN: Good gentlemen, he hath much talked of you,
And sure I am two men there is not living                                         [20]
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                                            [25]
As fits a king's remembrance.

ROSENCRANTZ:                           Both your Majesties
Might, by the sovereign power you have of us,
Put your dread pleasures more into command
Than to entreaty.

GUILDENSTERN:              But we both obey,
And here give up ourselves, in the full bent,                                     [30]
To lay our service freely at your feet,
To be commanded.

KING: Thanks, Rosencrantz and gentle Guildenstern.

QUEEN: Thanks, Guildenstern and gentle Rosencrantz.
And I beseech you instantly to visit                                                       [35]
My too much changed son. Go some of you
And bring these gentlemen where Hamlet is.

GUILDENSTERN: Heavens make our presence and our practices
Pleasant and helpful to him!

QUEEN:                           Ay, amen!

Exeunt Rosencrantz and Guildenstern [with some Attendants].

POLONIUS: Th' ambassadors from Norway, my good lord,                         [40]
Are joyfully returned.

KING: Thou still hast been the father of good news.

POLONIUS: 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;                                            [45]
And I do think, or else this brain of mine
Hunts not the trail of policy so sure
As it hath used to do, that I have found
The very cause of Hamlet's lunacy.

KING: O, speak of that, that do I long to hear.                                                  [50]

POLONIUS: Give first admittance to th' ambassadors;
My news shall be the fruit to that great feast.

KING: 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.                              [55]

QUEEN: I doubt it is no other but the main,
His father's death and our o'erhasty marriage.


KING: Well, we shall sift him. -- Welcome, my good friends!
Say, Voltemand, what from our brother Norway?

VOLTEMAND: Most fair return of greetings and desires.                            [60]
Upon our first, he sent out to suppress
His nephew's levies, which to him appeared
To be a preparation 'gainst the Polack;
But better looked into, he truly found
It was against your Highness. Whereat grieved,                                 [65]
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                                             [70]
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,                                                [75]
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.                                                                           [80]

KING:                           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 labour.
Go to your rest, at night we'll feast together.
Most welcome home!                                                                               [85]

Exeunt Ambassadors [VOLTEMAND and CORNELIUS].

POLONIUS:                           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,                                           [90]
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.                                                                                             [95]

QUEEN:              More matter with less art.

POLONIUS: 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                                    [100]
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.
Perpend.                                                                                                       [105]
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 letter.

"To the celestial and my soul's idol, the most
beautified Ophelia" --                                                                              [110]
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.

QUEEN: Came this from Hamlet to her?

POLONIUS: Good madam, stay awhile. I will be faithful. [Reads.]              [115]
"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                       [120]
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,                               [125]
And more above, hath his solicitings,
As they fell out by time, by means, and place,
All given to mine ear.

KING:                          But how hath she
Received his love?

POLONIUS:              What do you think of me?

KING: As of a man faithful and honourable.                                                  [130]

POLONIUS: I would fain prove so. But what might you think,
When I had seen this hot love on the wing --
As I perceived it (I must tell you that)
Before my daughter told me -- what might you,
Or my dear Majesty your queen here, think,                                       [135]
If I had played the desk or table-book,
Or given my heart a winking, mute and dumb,
Or looked upon this love with idle sight,
What might you think? No, I went round to work,
And my young mistress thus I did bespeak:                                        [140]
"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;                                   [145]
And he repelled, 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,                                            [150]
And all we mourn for.

KING:                           Do you think 'tis this?

QUEEN: It may be, very like.

POLONIUS: Hath there been such a time -- I would fain know that --
That I have positively said, " 'Tis so,"
When it proved otherwise?                                                                    [155]

KING:                           Not that I know.

POLONIUS: [Pointing 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.

KING:              How may we try it further?

POLONIUS: You know sometimes he walks four hours together              [160]
Here in the lobby.

QUEEN:              So he does indeed.

POLONIUS: 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,                                         [165]
Let me be no assistant for a state,
But keep a farm and carters.

KING:                           We will try it.

Enter HAMLET reading on a book.

QUEEN: But look where sadly the poor wretch comes reading.

POLONIUS: Away, I do beseech you, both away.
I'll board him presently.                                                                           [170]

Exeunt King and Queen.

                           O, give me leave,
How does my good Lord Hamlet?

HAMLET: Well, God-a-mercy.

POLONIUS: Do you know me, my lord?

HAMLET: Excellent well, you are a fishmonger.

POLONIUS: Not I, my lord.                                                                                 [175]

HAMLET: Then I would you were so honest a man.

POLONIUS: Honest, my lord?

HAMLET: Ay, sir, to be honest, as this world goes, is to
be one man picked out of ten thousand.

POLONIUS: That's very true, my lord.                                                             [180]

HAMLET: For if the sun breed maggots in a dead dog,
being a good kissing carrion -- Have you a daughter?

POLONIUS: I have, my lord.

HAMLET: Let her not walk i' th' sun. Conception is a
blessing, but as your daughter may conceive, friend,                        [185]
look to't.

POLONIUS: [Aside.] 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 suffered much extremity for love -- very                 [190]
near this. I'll speak to him again. -- What do you read,
my lord?

HAMLET: Words, words, words.

POLONIUS: What is the matter, my lord?

HAMLET: Between who?                                                                                     [195]

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

HAMLET: 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,                         [200]
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.                                                                                                     [205]

POLONIUS: [Aside.] Though this be madness, yet
there is method in't. -- Will you walk out of the air, my

HAMLET: Into my grave.

POLONIUS: Indeed that's out of the air. [Aside.] How                                   [210]
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 lord, I will take my leave                   [215]
of you.

HAMLET: You cannot take from me any thing that I
will not more willingly part withal -- except
my life, except my life, except my life.

POLONIUS: Fare you well, my lord.                                                                   [220]

HAMLET: These tedious old fools!


POLONIUS: You go to seek the Lord Hamlet, there
he is.

ROSENCRANTZ: [To Polonius.] God save you, sir!

[Exit Polonius.]

GUILDENSTERN: My honoured lord!                                                              [225]

ROSENCRANTZ: My most dear lord!

HAMLET: My excellent good friends! How dost thou,
Guildenstern? Ah, Rosencrantz! Good lads, how do
you both?

ROSENCRANTZ: As the indifferent children of the earth.                         [230]

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                                       [235]
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                                         [240]
grown honest.

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?                                    [245]

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                        [250]
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.                                                                                   [255]

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.                                                                                     [260]

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                               [265]
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.                                                                                            [270]


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?                                  [275]

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                          [280]
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                   [285]
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                               [290]
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!                                         [295]

ROSENCRANTZ: [Aside to Guildenstern.] What
say you?

HAMLET: [Aside.] Nay then I have an eye of you! -- If
you love me, hold not off.

GUILDENSTERN: My lord, we were sent for.                                                  [300]

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                           [305]
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                              [310]
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;                      [315]
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.                                                                                               [320]

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                           [325]
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                      [330]
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                                    [335]
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.                                                                 [340]

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                                   [345]
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               [350]
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                             [355]
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                   [360]
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                                    [365]
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                               [370]
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.                                                                                 [375]

A flourish.

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                           [380]
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                                  [385]
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.                                                              [390]

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.                                                                   [395]

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!                                                                                           [400]

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-                    [405]
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                                 [410]
hadst thou!

POLONIUS: What a treasure had he, my lord?

HAMLET: Why --
"One fair daughter, and no more,
The which he loved passing well."                                                        [415]

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.                                                                         [420]

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"                                                     [425]
-- 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                       [430]
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.                                       [435]
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?                                                 [440]

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                       [445]
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                        [450]
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                  [455]
"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                                       [460]
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;                               [465]
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                                   [470]
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                                                                [475]
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                                    [480]
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                                             [485]
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,
Did nothing.
But as we often see, against some storm,                                              [490]
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,                                         [495]
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,                                 [500]
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.                                                                                [505]

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"?                                                                        [510]

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,                                           [515]
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                                    [520]
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."                                                                        [525]

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                            [530]
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
desert.                                                                                                            [535]

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.                                                                                                        [540]

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.                                                                               [545]

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                                    [550]
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.


                           Now I am alone.
O, what a rogue and peasant slave am I!                                              [555]
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,                                           [560]
A broken voice, an' 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                             [565]
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                                         [570]
The very faculties of eyes and ears.
Yet I,
A dull and muddy-mettled rascal, peak
Like John-a-dreams, unpregnant of my cause,
can say nothing; no, not for a king,                                                        [575]
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                        [580]
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                                                   [585]
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 murdered,                                            [590]
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                                              [595]
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                            [600]
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                                    [605]
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                                          [610]
More relative than this -- the play's the thing
Wherein I'll catch the conscience of the King.


Go to the next scene.
Go to the previous scene.
Return to the list of scenes