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Act 2, Scene 1


hamlet original play and modern translation
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Original Play

Modern Translation

Enter POLONIUS with his man REYNALDO

POLONIUS enters with his servant REYNALDO.

POLONIUS
Give him this money and these notes, Reynaldo.

POLONIUS
Give him this money and these letters, Reynaldo.

REYNALDO
I will, my lord.

REYNALDO
I will, my lord.

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POLONIUS
You shall do marvelous wisely, good Reynaldo,
Before you visit him, to make inquire
Of his behavior.

POLONIUS
It would be extremely wise of you, Reynaldo, to ask around about his behavior before you visit him.

REYNALDO
My lord, I did intend it.

REYNALDO
That was my plan, my lord.

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POLONIUS
Marry, well said, very well said. Look you, sir,
Inquire 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, him." Do you mark this, Reynaldo?

POLONIUS
Excellent, good, good. First find out what Danish people are in Paris—who they are, how much money they have, where they live, who their friends are and how much they spend. And if, through this roundabout and indirect questioning, that they happen to know my son, you'll end up finding out much more than if you asked specific questions about him. Talk as if you vaguely know Laertes, such as, "I know his father and his friends, and kind of know him." Do you understand all this, Reynaldo?

REYNALDO
Ay, very well, my lord.

REYNALDO
Yes, very well, my lord.

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POLONIUS
"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 dishonor him. Take heed of that.
But, sir, such wanton, wild, and usual slips
As are companions noted and most known
To youth and liberty.

POLONIUS
You should say, "I kind of know him, but not well. I think, from what I've heard, that he's very wild, and addicted to…" From there create whatever lies about him that you can think up. Of course, nothing so bad that it would shame him. Be careful about that. But feel free to make up stories about the wild and crazy things that young men who are on their own typically get into.

REYNALDO
As gaming, my lord?

REYNALDO
Like gambling, sir?

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POLONIUS
Ay, or drinking, fencing, swearing,
Quarreling, drabbing—you may go so far.

POLONIUS
Yes, or drinking, dueling, swearing, fighting, going to prostitutes—that sort of stuff.

REYNALDO
My lord, that would dishonor him!

REYNALDO
My lord, that would bring dishonor to him!

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POLONIUS
'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 unreclaimèd blood,
Of general assault.

POLONIUS
Oh no, not if you say it with the right spin. You shouldn't say that he's some kind of sex addict, that's not what I mean. Instead, just mention these faults lightly, as if you think them no more than the minor faults that sprout in someone new to freedom, like the products of a strong mind and untamed youth, and the kind of thing that occurs in lots of young men.

REYNALDO
But, my good lord—

REYNALDO
But, my lord—

POLONIUS
Wherefore should you do this?

POLONIUS
Why should you do this?

REYNALDO
Ay, my lord. I would know that.

REYNALDO
Yes, my lord. I would like to know that.

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POLONIUS
Marry, sir, here's my drift:
(And I believe it is a fetch of wit)
You, laying these slight sullies on my son
As 'twere a thing a little soiled i' th' 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 assured
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.

POLONIUS
Ok. Here's my idea. (And I do think it's a bit of genius.) As you casually mention these minor faults and small blemishes as if everyone has heard of them, watch the person with whom you're talking. If whoever you're talking to has ever seen Laertes do any of the things you mention, he'll mark his agreement by saying something like "Good sir" or "friend" or "gentleman" or something like that, depending on the person's background.

REYNALDO
Very good, my lord.

REYNALDO
I understand, sir.

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POLONIUS
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?

POLONIUS
And then he'll …after he does that … he'll … What was I about to say? By God, I was about to say something. What was I did I say last?

REYNALDO
At "closes in the consequence," at "'friend,'
Or so" and "'gentleman.'"

REYNALDO
At, "he'll mark his agreement by saying sir, or friend, or gentleman."

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POLONIUS
At "closes in the consequence." Ay, marry.
He closes 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 windlasses 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?

POLONIUS
"He'll mark his agreement by saying…." Yes, right. He'll respond like this: "I know the gentleman. I just saw him yesterday,"–or "the other day," or whenever, and with whom—"and, as you said, there he was gambling," or "there he was, completely drunk," or "getting into a fight over a tennis match," or, possibly, "I saw him going into a house of ill repute"—that means a whorehouse—or some such thing. In this way, make sure your little lie is like bait that lures into the open the larger truth. And that's how we get wisdom and knowledge, by gradually drawing others in, by indirectly finding out what we want to know. Follow my advice and you'll learn about my son. You understand me, right?

REYNALDO
My lord, I have.

REYNALDO
I do, my lord.

POLONIUS
God be wi' you. Fare you well.

POLONIUS
God bless you. Goodbye.

REYNALDO
Good my lord.

REYNALDO
Thank you, my lord.

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POLONIUS
Observe his inclination in yourself.

POLONIUS
Make sure to observe him also with your own eyes.

REYNALDO
I shall, my lord.

REYNALDO
I will, sir.

POLONIUS
And let him ply his music.

POLONIUS
I hope he's studying his music as he's supposed to.

REYNALDO
Well, my lord.

REYNALDO
I understand, my lord.

POLONIUS
Farewell.

POLONIUS
Good-bye.

Exit REYNALDO

REYNALDO exits.

Enter OPHELIA

OPHELIA enters.

How now, Ophelia? What's the matter? What's going on, Ophelia, what's the matter?

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OPHELIA
O my lord, my lord, I have been so affrighted!

OPHELIA
Oh, father, father, I've had a terrible scare!

POLONIUS
With what, i' th' name of God?

POLONIUS
From what, in God's name?

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OPHELIA
My lord, as I was sewing in my closet,
Lord Hamlet, with his doublet all unbraced;
No hat upon his head; his stockings fouled,
Ungartered, and down-gyvèd 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 loosèd out of hell
To speak of horrors—he comes before me.

OPHELIA
Father, as I was sewing in my room, Lord Hamlet came in with his shirt unbuttoned, no hat on his head, his stockings dirty, undone, and hanging around his ankles. He was pale as his white undershirt, and his knees were knocking together. He looked so awful, as if he'd just escaped from hell.

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POLONIUS
Mad for thy love?

POLONIUS
Is he madly in love with you?

OPHELIA
My lord, I do not know.
But truly, I do fear it.

OPHELIA
Father, I don't know. But to be honest, I think he might be.

POLONIUS
What said he?

POLONIUS
What did he say?

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OPHELIA
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 stayed he so.
At last, a little shaking of mine arm
And thrice his head thus waving up and down,
He raised 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 turned,
He seemed to find his way without his eyes,
For out o' doors he went without their helps,
And to the last bended their light on me.

OPHELIA
He grabbed me by the wrist and held me tightly, then backed a full arm's length away and, standing with his other arm raised over his forehead, he stared at my face as if studying it in order to draw it. He stood like that for a long while. Then, he gently shook my arm and glancing up and down three times and sighed so sadly it seemed like he would collapse in on himself and die. Then he let me go, and walked away while staring back at me. He found his way out without looking away from me the entire time.

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POLONIUS
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?

POLONIUS
Come with me to see the king. This is clearly the madness of love, which is an emotion so violently powerful that it can destroy itself, leading people to act as desperately and insanely as often as any other emotion known to man. I'm so sorry. Have you said anything tough or unfriendly recently?

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OPHELIA
No, my good lord. But as you did command
I did repel his fetters and denied
His access to me.

OPHELIA
No, father. But I followed your commands and sent back his letters and refused to let him see me.

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POLONIUS
That hath made him mad.
I am sorry that with better heed and judgment
I had not quoted him. I feared he did but trifle
And meant to wreck thee. But beshrew my jealousy!
By heaven, it is 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.
Come.

POLONIUS
That made him crazy. I'm sorry that I didn't observe him more closely. I feared that he was just playing with you and did not care if he wrecked your reputation. A curse on my suspicions! By God, it's as common for us old people to think too much as it is for young people to think too little. Come, let's go see the king. We've got to make this matter known. Keeping it secret could cause more sadness than revealing because of good motives will inspire anger. Come.

Exeunt

They exit.

 

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