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Act 2, Scene 2


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Original Play

Modern Translation

Flourish. Enter King CLAUDIUS and Queen GERTRUDE, ROSENCRANTZ and GUILDENSTERN, and attendants

Trumpets sound. CLAUDIUS and GERTRUDE enter, with ROSENCRANTZ, GUILDENSTERN, and attendants.

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CLAUDIUS
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
Since 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
That, being of so young days brought up with him
And since so neighbored 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,
So much as from occasion you may glean,
Whether aught, to us unknown, afflicts him thus
That, opened, lies within our remedy.

CLAUDIUS
Welcome, dear Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Not only have I wanted to see you, but I also urgently need your help, which is why I sent for you. Yoy may have heard about Hamlet's recent "transformation" — that's the right word, since he's changed both inside and out from what he was before. Other than his father's death, I can't imagine what's made him so unlike himself. Since you both grew up with him and are so familiar with him, I ask you both to stay here at court a while. Spend time with Hamlet, get him to enjoy life again, and try to find out if there's anything we don't know abut that's bothering him, so we can try to fix it.

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GERTRUDE
Good gentlemen, he hath much talked 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.

GERTRUDE
Gentlemen, Hamlet's talked about you a lot. I'm certain that here are no two men alive to whom he's closer. If you'd be willing to show us the kindness of staying with us awhile to try to help us, we'll reward you in such a way as only a king can.

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

ROSENCRANTZ
Both your majesties, based on the power you have over us, your subjects, could have ordered us to follow your command, instead of asking us.

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

GUILDENSTERN
But we'll obey. We give ourselves to you, and lay our services at your command.

CLAUDIUS
Thanks, Rosencrantz and gentle Guildenstern.

CLAUDIUS
Thanks, Rosencrantz and worthy Guildenstern.

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GERTRUDE
Thanks, Guildenstern and gentle Rosencrantz.
And I beseech you instantly to visit
My too much changèd son. Go, some of you,
And bring these gentlemen where Hamlet is.

GERTRUDE
Thanks, Guildenstern and worthy Rosencrantz.
I beg you to immediately visit my son, who's changed too much. Go, servants, and bring these gentlemen to Hamlet.


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

GUILDENSTERN
I hope God makes us able to bring him help and happiness!

GERTRUDE
Ay, amen!

GERTRUDE
Yes, amen!

Exeunt ROSENCRANTZ and GUILDENSTERN, escorted by attendants

ROSENCRANTZ and GUILDENSTERN exit, escorted by attendants.

Enter POLONIUS

POLONIUS enters.

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POLONIUS
Th' ambassadors from Norway, my good lord,
Are joyfully returned.

POLONIUS
The ambassadors have returned from Norway in great spirits, my lord.

CLAUDIUS
Thou still hast been the father of good news.

CLAUDIUS
You once more have brought good news.

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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.
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.

POLONIUS
Have I, my lord? I assure you, my king, my duty is as important to me as my soul, and I give both to my God and my blessed king. And I believe—unless this brain of mine is not able to track the twists and turns of politics as it used to—that I've discovered the cause of Hamlet's madness.

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CLAUDIUS
Oh, speak of that. That do I long to hear.

CLAUDIUS
Oh, tell me! I'd love to hear it.

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

POLONIUS
First let the ambassadors come in. My news will be like the dessert to the feast that is their news.

CLAUDIUS
Thyself do grace to them, and bring them in.

CLAUDIUS
Please go to them yourself, and bring them in.

Exit POLONIUS

POLONIUS exits.

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He tells me, my dear Gertrude, he hath found
The head and source of all your son's distemper.
Gertrude, he says he's discovered the cause of your son's anger and moodiness.

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

GERTRUDE
I doubt it's anything other than the obvious reason: his father's death and our quick marriage.

Enter POLONIUS with ambassadors VOLTEMAND and CORNELIUS

POLONIUS enters with the ambassadors VOLTEMAND and CORNELIUS.

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

CLAUDIUS
Well, we'll investigate until we figure it out. Welcome, my good friends. So, Voltemand, what's the news from the king of Norway?

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VOLTEMAND
Most fair return of greetings and desires.
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—
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,
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. (gives CLAUDIUS a document

VOLTEMAND
And our greetings to you. The moment we spoke with the king, he moved to put a stop to his nephew's war preparations, which he had thought were directed against Poland but, when he looked closer, he saw were directed against you. He was upset that Fortinbras took advantage of his sickness and weakness to deceive him, and he arrested and rebuked Fortinbras, and forced Fortinbras to swear never again to lift arms against your majesty. The old Norwegian king was so overjoyed by this turn of events that he gave young Fortinbras an annual income of three thousand crowns as well as permission to lead the soldiers he had gathered against Poland. In this letter, the king officially asks you to let Fortinbras' troops pass quietly through your lands on their way to Poland, and assures you of your safety. (he gives CLAUDIUS a document)

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CLAUDIUS
It likes us well,
And at our more considered time we'll read,
Answer, and think upon this business.
Meantime we thank you for your well-took labor.
Go to your rest. At night we'll feast together.
Most welcome home!

CLAUDIUS
This is good news, and when I have more time to concentrate I'll read this, think about it, and reply. Meanwhile, thank you for your work. Go now, and rest. Tonight we'll feast. And welcome home!

Exeunt VOLTEMAND and CORNELIUS

VOLTEMAND and CORNELIUS exit.

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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
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.

POLONIUS
That's a good outcome to this situation. My king and queen, to make grand speeches about what majesty is, what service is, or why day is day, night is night, and time is time, would be nothing more than a waste of day, night, and time. Therefore, since being concise is the essence of wisdom and nothing is so boring as endless verbal flourishes, I'll get to the point. Your son is crazy. "Crazy" I'm saying, because how can you define craziness other than to say that it's craziness? But that's a different issue.

GERTRUDE
More matter, with less art.

GERTRUDE
More substance, less style.

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POLONIUS
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. Perpend.
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 a letter) "To the celestial and my soul's idol, the most beautified Ophelia"That's an ill phrase, a vile phrase. "Beautified" is a vile phrase. But you shall hear. Thus: (reads the letter)"In her excellent white bosom, these," etc.—

POLONIUS
Madam, I swear I'm using no style at all. That he's crazy is true. It's true, it's a pity, and it's a pity that it's true—but now I'm talking like a fool, so I'll let that go and get to the point. We all agree that Hamlet's crazy. Now all we have to do is to figure out the cause behind the effect, or I guess I should say defect, since this defective effect must have a cause. That's what we have to do, and now I will continue with the rest of what I have to say. Consider this: I have a daughter—until she gets married—who in her obedience and duty to me has given me this letter. Now listen to this: (reads a letter) "To the heavenly idol of my soul, the most beautified Ophelia"—That's an ugly phrase, by the way. That "beautified" is a terrible use of the word. But I'll continue: (reads the letter) "In her excellent white bosom," et cetera—

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GERTRUDE
Came this from Hamlet to her?

GERTRUDE
This is from Hamlet to Ophelia?

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POLONIUS
Good madam, stay a while. I will be faithful.
(reads the letter)
"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, oh, 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,
And more above, hath his solicitings,
As they fell out by time, by means, and place,
All given to mine ear.

POLONIUS
Madam, please be patient. I'll read it as its written.
(reads the letter)
"You may doubt that the stars are fire,
Doubt that the sun moves across the sky,
Doubt if the truth is actually a liar,
But never doubt my love.
Oh, sweet Ophelia, I'm bad at poetry. I have no skill to put my feelings into words, but please believe I love you best, oh, best of all, believe it. Goodbye.
Yours forever, my dearest lady,
As long as this body is still mine
,
Hamlet."
In her obedience to me, my daughter showed me this letter and others like it, as well as how Hamlet has been courting her—time, place, and subject.

CLAUDIUS
But how hath she received his love?

CLAUDIUS
And how did she respond to his love?

POLONIUS
What do you think of me?

POLONIUS
What is your opinion of me?

CLAUDIUS
As of a man faithful and honorable.

CLAUDIUS
You are a loyal and honorable man.

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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,
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:
"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;
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
And all we mourn for.

POLONIUS
I would gladly prove that I am. But what would you have thought if I had learned of this hot affair—and I must tell you, I noticed it before my daughter told me of it—what would you have thought, my dear queen, if I had been silent in the face of what I say, or I had just allowed it to continue, or just ignored it? No, I had to do something. And so I said to my daughter: "Lord Hamlet is a prince and out of your league. You must end this." And then I ordered her to make it impossible for him to see her, to refuse all messages, and accept no gifts. She followed my advice. Hamlet, in short, faced with this rejection, became sad, stopped eating, stopped sleeping, got weak, got dizzy, and, moving step by step downward, eventually descended into the madness that now holds him. And all of us grieve for him.

CLAUDIUS
(to GERTRUDE ) Do you think 'tis this?

CLAUDIUS
(to GERTRUDE) Do you think this is the cause of Hamlet's behavior?

GERTRUDE
It may be, very like.

GERTRUDE
It may be, it very well may be.

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

POLONIUS
Has there ever been a time—I'd gladly like to know—when I've definitively said something was true, and it turned out not to be true?

CLAUDIUS
Not that I know.

CLAUDIUS
Not that I know of.

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POLONIUS
(points to his head and shoulders)
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 center.

POLONIUS
(pointing to his head and shoulders) Take my head from my body if I'm wrong. I'll follow the evidence and discover the truth, even if it's hidden at the center of the earth.

CLAUDIUS
How may we try it further?

CLAUDIUS
How can we test your theory?


POLONIUS
You know sometimes he walks four hours together
Here in the lobby.

POLONIUS
Well, you know he sometimes walks here in the lobby for four hours at a time.

GERTRUDE
So he does indeed.

GERTRUDE
Yes, he does indeed.

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POLONIUS
At such a time I'll loose my daughter to him.
(to CLAUDIUS) 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,
Let me be no assistant for a state
But keep a farm and carters.

POLONIUS
During one such time, I'll send my daughter to see him. (to CLAUDIUS) You and I will hide behind the arras and observe their encounter. If he does not love her and lost his sense because of it, then I should not be your assistant in statecraft and should instead go work on a farm.

CLAUDIUS
We will try it.

CLAUDIUS
We'll try it.

Enter HAMLET, reading on a book

HAMLET enters, reading a book.

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GERTRUDE
But look where sadly the poor wretch comes reading.

GERTRUDE
Look how sadly he's coming in, reading.


POLONIUS
Away, I do beseech you, both away.
I'll board him presently. O, give me leave.

POLONIUS
Please go away, I beg you, both of you. I'll speak to him now. Oh, please let me.

Exeunt CLAUDIUS and GERTRUDE

CLAUDIUS and GERTRUDE exit.

How does my good Lord Hamlet? How do you do, Lord Hamlet?

HAMLET
Well, God-'a'-mercy.

HAMLET
Fine, thank you.

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POLONIUS
Do you know me, my lord?

POLONIUS
Do you know who I am?

HAMLET
Excellent well. You are a fishmonger.

HAMLET
Of course. You are a fish seller.

POLONIUS
Not I, my lord.

POLONIUS
No, not me, sir.

HAMLET
Then I would you were so honest a man.

HAMLET
Then I wish you were as good a man as a fish seller.

POLONIUS
Honest, my lord?

POLONIUS
Good, sir?

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

HAMLET
Yes, sir. In this world of ours, just one man in ten thousand is good.

POLONIUS
That's very true, my lord.

POLONIUS
That's very true, my lord.

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

HAMLET
Because if the sun breeds maggots on a dead dog, kissing the corpse with its rays — do you have a daughter?

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POLONIUS
I have, my lord.

POLONIUS
I do, my lord.

HAMLET
Let her not walk i' th' sun. Conception is a blessing, but, as your daughter may conceive—Friend, look to 't.

HAMLET
Don't let her walk out in the sun. Pregnancy is a blessing, but if your daughter gets pregnant –think about it, friend.

POLONIUS
(aside) How say you by that? 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.—(to HAMLET) What do you read, my lord?

POLONIUS
(to himself) What does that mean? Still focused on my daughter. But he didn't recognize me at first. He thought I was a fish seller. He's far gone, far gone. And yet it's true that when I was young I suffered terribly for love, almost as badly as Hamlet is. I'll talk to him again.—(to HAMLET) What are you reading, my lord?

HAMLET
Words, words, words.

HAMLET
Words, words, words.

POLONIUS
What is the matter, my lord?

POLONIUS
What is the subject?

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HAMLET
Between who?

HAMLET
Between whom?

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

POLONIUS
I mean, the subject of what you're reading?

HAMLET
Slanders, sir. For the satirical rogue says here that old men have gray 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 yourself, sir, should be old as I am, if like a crab you could go backward.

HAMLET
Oh, lies, sir. The joking rascal who wrote this says here that old men have gray beards, their faces are wrinkled, their eyes full of crust and gunk, and that they both lack wisdom and have weak thighs. And though I believe all of that is true, I still would argue that it's not good behavior to write it down. For instance, you yourself, sir, would be as old as I am, if you could just travel backward like a crab.

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POLONIUS
(aside) Though this be madness, yet there is method in 't.—(to HAMLET) Will you walk out of the air, my lord?

POLONIUS
(to himself) There's a method to his madness. (to HAMLET) Will you come in from outside, my lord?

HAMLET
Into my grave.

HAMLET
Into my grave.

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POLONIUS
Indeed, that is out of 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.—(to HAMLET) My honorable lord, I will most humbly take my leave of you.

POLONIUS
Well, that's certainly not outside. (to himself) His answers sometimes seem so full of meaning! That's a talent that many crazy people share, and that is less evident in people who are sane. I'll leave him now and arrange a way for him to run into my daughter. (to HAMLET) My honored lord, I'll now humbly take my leave of you.

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

HAMLET
There's nothing I would more willingly give up than that—except my life, except my life, except my life.

POLONIUS
Fare you well, my lord.

POLONIUS
Good-bye, my lord.

HAMLET
(aside) These tedious old fools!

HAMLET
(to himself) These boring old fools!

Enter ROSENCRANTZ and GUILDENSTERN

ROSENCRANTZ and GUILDENSTERN enter.

POLONIUS
You go to seek the Lord Hamlet. There he is.

POLONIUS
You're looking for Lord Hamlet. There he is.

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ROSENCRANTZ
God save you, sir!

ROSENCRANTZ
Thank you, sir.

Exit POLONIUS

POLONIUS exits.

GUILDENSTERN
My honored lord!

GUILDENSTERN
My honorable lord!

ROSENCRANTZ
My most dear lord!

ROSENCRANTZ
My most dear lord!

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

HAMLET
Ah, my good old friends! How are you, Guildenstern?
And Rosencrantz! Buddies, how are you both doing?

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ROSENCRANTZ
As the indifferent children of the earth.

ROSENCRANTZ
As well as any old average guy.


GUILDENSTERN
Happy, in that we are not overhappy.
On Fortune's cap we are not the very button.

GUILDENSTERN
Happy that we're not too happy. We're not exactly the luckiest guys in the world.

HAMLET
Nor the soles of her shoes?

HAMLET
But not the unluckiest either, right?

ROSENCRANTZ
Neither, my lord.

ROSENCRANTZ
Neither, my lord.

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HAMLET
Then you live about her waist, or in the middle of her favors?

HAMLET
So you're hanging around Lady Luck's waist, right in the middle of her favors?

GUILDENSTERN
Faith, her privates we.

GUILDENSTERN
Yup, we're like privates in her army.

HAMLET
In the secret parts of Fortune? Oh, most true. She is a strumpet. What news?

HAMLET
You're in Lady Luck's private parts? Ah, it's true. She is a slut. So what's the news?

ROSENCRANTZ
None, my lord, but that the world's grown honest.

ROSENCRANTZ
Nothing, my lord, other than that the world's become honest.

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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?

HAMLET
Then the end of the world must be coming. But you're wrong. Let me ask you one question in particular. My good friends, what have you done to anger the fates that they have sent you here to this prison?

GUILDENSTERN
Prison, my lord?

GUILDENSTERN
Prison, my lord?

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HAMLET
Denmark's a prison.

HAMLET
Denmark's a prison.

ROSENCRANTZ
Then is the world one.

ROSENCRANTZ
Then the whole world is one as well.

HAMLET
A goodly one, in which there are many confines, wards, and dungeons, Denmark being one o' th' worst.

HAMLET
A big one, with lots of cells and dungeons, Denmark being one of the worst.

ROSENCRANTZ
We think not so, my lord.

ROSENCRANTZ
We don't think so, my lord.

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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.

HAMLET
Well, then it isn't one to you, since nothing is inherently good or bad—it's what you think of it that makes it so. To me, Denmark is a prison.

ROSENCRANTZ
Why then, your ambition makes it one. 'Tis too narrow for your mind.

ROSENCRANTZ
It must be your ambition that makes it one. It's too small for your big ideas.

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.

HAMLET
God no, I could be trapped inside a nutshell and consider myself a king of infinite space, if only I didn't have bad dreams.

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GUILDENSTERN
Which dreams indeed are ambition, for the very substance of the ambitious is merely the shadow of a dream.

GUILDENSTERN
Dreams are a mark of ambition. After all, ambition is just the shadow of a dream.

HAMLET
A dream itself is but a shadow.

HAMLET
A dream is itself just a shadow.

ROSENCRANTZ
Truly, and I hold ambition of so airy and light a quality that it is but a shadow's shadow.

ROSENCRANTZ
Right and I'd argue that ambition is so light and airy that it's just a shadow of a shadow.

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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.

HAMLET
Then ambitionless beggars must be the ones with substance, while ambitious kings and heroes are just the shadows of those beggars. Should we go inside the court? I swear, I can't think straight any longer.

ROSENCRANTZ, GUILDENSTERN
We'll wait upon you.

ROSENCRANTZ, GUILDENSTERN
We're at your service.

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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?

HAMLET
Not at all. I won't treat you like my servants, because, to be honest with you, my servants are pretty dreadful. Now, as my friends, tell me why you've returned here to Elsinore?

ROSENCRANTZ
To visit you, my lord, no other occasion.

ROSENCRANTZ
To visit you, my lord. No other reason.

*
*
255

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.

HAMLET
Though I'm such a beggar that my thanks aren't worth much, I still thank you. But did someone ask you to come? Or was it an idea you had all on your own? Come on, be honest with me. Come now. Tell me.

GUILDENSTERN
What should we say, my lord?

GUILDENSTERN
What should we say, my lord?

*
260

HAMLET
Why, 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 color. I know the good king and queen have sent for you.

HAMLET
Anything, as long as it answers my question. You were sent for. I can see it in your faces. You're not good enough liars to hide your thoughts. I know the king and queen sent for you.

ROSENCRANTZ
To what end, my lord?

ROSENCRANTZ
Why would they do that, my lord?

*
265
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*
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270

HAMLET
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.

HAMLET
That you have to tell me. But first let me remind you of our longstanding friendship, the childhood we spent together, the duties of our love for each other, and everything else that a person more eloquent than I would describe. Now: answer me honestly and directly whether or not you were sent for.

ROSENCRANTZ
(to GUILDENSTERN) What say you?

ROSENCRANTZ
(to GUILDENSTERN) What do you think?

HAMLET
(aside) Nay, then, I have an eye of you—If you love me, hold not off.

HAMLET
(to himself) Ah, I've got my eye on you. (to ROSENCRANTZ and GUILDENSTERN) If you care about me, you'll tell me.

GUILDENSTERN
My lord, we were sent for.

GUILDENSTERN
My lord, we were sent for.

*
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285
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290

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 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 vapors. What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason, how infinite in faculty! 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.

HAMLET
I'll tell you why. That way you won't have to reveal anything, and you can preserve the secrecy you promised to the king and queen. Lately, for reasons I don't now, I've lost all my joy, stopped exercising, and feel so depressed that the entire world seems to me to be empty. This beautiful canopy, the sky—look at it, this splendid overarching sky, a majestic roof adorned with golden sunlight—why, to me it seems like nothing more than a foul collection of diseased air. What a masterpiece each human is! How noble in his ability to think, how unlimited in abilities, how attractive in his body and movement, how angelic in action, how godlike in understanding! The most beautiful thing in the world. The perfect ideal, standing above all other animals. And yet, to me, humans seem like nothing but dust? Men don't delight me. No, women neither, though your smiles seem to suggest that's what you were thinking.

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

ROSENCRANTZ
My lord, I wasn't thinking that at all.

*
295

HAMLET
Why did you laugh then, when I said "man delights not me"?

HAMLET
Why did you laugh, then, when I said that men don't delight 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.

ROSENCRANTZ
I was thinking, my lord, that if men don't delight you, what a poor welcome you'll give the coming troupe of actors. We crossed paths with them as we were on our way here, and they're coming to entertain you.

*
300
*
*
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305

HAMLET
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' th' sear, and the lady shall say her mind freely, or the blank verse shall halt for 't. What players are they?

HAMLET
The one who plays the part of the king will be particularly welcome. He will be treated like a true king. The adventurous knight will get to use his sword and shield, the lover's sighs will not go unrewarded, the crazy one will be allowed to finish without interruption, the clown will make everybody who laughs easily laugh, and the lady will get to speak her mind completely, or I'll stop the play. Which troupe is it?

ROSENCRANTZ
Even those you were wont to take delight in, the tragedians of the city.

ROSENCRANTZ
Those who you used to love so much, the actors of tragedies from the city.

*
*
310

HAMLET
How chances it they travel? Their residence, both in reputation and profit, was better both ways.

HAMLET
Why are they traveling? They're better known in the city and make more money there.

ROSENCRANTZ
I think their inhibition comes by the means of the late innovation.

ROSENCRANTZ
New fads in theatre in the city have made it more difficult for them to do well there.

HAMLET
Do they hold the same estimation they did when I was in the city? Are they so followed?

HAMLET
Are they as popular as they were when I was in the city? Do they still draw crowds?

ROSENCRANTZ
No, indeed are they not.

ROSENCRANTZ
No, they don't.

*
315

HAMLET
How comes it? Do they grow rusty?

HAMLET
Why not? Are they getting rusty?

*
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*
*
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320

ROSENCRANTZ
Nay, their endeavor keeps in the wonted pace. But there is, sir, an eyrie 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.

ROSENCRANTZ
No, they're as good as they always were. But they now have to compete with troupes of child actors who shout out their lines and get unbelievable applause for it. These child actors are now in fashion, and they so dominate the public theaters that high-society types are afraid to come because they fear getting made fun of by the satirical playwrights who write for the boys.

*
*
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325

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?

HAMLET
What, they're actually children? Who takes care of them? Who supports them financially? Will they stop working once their voices change in puberty? Won't these kids complain, once they've grown to be adult actors (as is likely), that their former playwrights have done them wrong by causing harm to profession of acting?

*
330

ROSENCRANTZ
Faith, there has been much to do on both sides, and the nation holds it no sin to tar 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.

ROSENCRANTZ
I swear, there's been a big debate on the topic, with strong opinions on both sides. For a while, no one could even sell a play unless the play contained a scene in which a poet and an actor had a fistfight.

HAMLET
Is 't possible?

HAMLET
Can that be possible?

*
335

GUILDENSTERN
Oh, there has been much throwing about of brains.

GUILDENSTERN
Oh, there's been a lot of arguing.

HAMLET
Do the boys carry it away?

HAMLET
The boys are winning?

ROSENCRANTZ
Ay, that they do, my lord. Hercules and his load too.

ROSENCRANTZ
Yes, they are, my lord. The boys carry all of theater on their shoulders, just as Hercules carried the world.

*
*
*
340

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 apiece for his picture in little. 'Sblood, there is something in this more than natural, if philosophy could find it out.

HAMLET
Actually, it's not so strange. My uncle is king of Denmark, and the same people who made fun of him when my father was alive now pay twenty, forty, fifty, a hundred dollars apiece for a little painting of him. God's blood! There's something unnatural about it, if you think about it.

Flourish for the PLAYERS within

Trumpets sound offstage for the PLAYERS' arrival.

GUILDENSTERN
There are the players.

GUILDENSTERN
There are the actors.

*
345
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350

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.

HAMLET
Gentlemen, welcome to Elsinore. Now come, shake my hand. Giving a proper welcome is a matter of following the current customs. Let's follow the customs, then, so that my exuberant welcome to the players doesn't make it seem like I'm happier to see them than I am to see you. You are welcome here. Even so, my uncle-father and aunt-mother are confused.

GUILDENSTERN
In what, my dear lord?

GUILDENSTERN
In what way, my lord?

HAMLET
I am but mad north-north-west. When the wind is southerly, I know a hawk from a handsaw.

HAMLET
I'm only crazy at certain times. At others, I know exactly what's happening.

Enter POLONIUS

POLONIUS enters.

*
355

POLONIUS
Well be with you, gentlemen.

POLONIUS
Gentlemen, I hope you're well.

HAMLET
Hark you, Guildenstern, and you too—at each ear a hearer. (indicates POLONIUS )That great baby you see there is not yet out of his swaddling-clouts

HAMLET
Now listen, Guildenstern, and you too, Rosencrantz—each of you listen close. (gestures toward POLONIUS) This big baby is still wearing diapers.

*
*
360

ROSENCRANTZ
Happily he's the second time come to them, for they say an old man is twice a child.

ROSENCRANTZ
It's his second time around, as they say, since an old man is like a child again.

HAMLET
(aside to ROSENCRANTZ and GUILDENSTERN ) I will prophesy he comes to tell me of the players. Mark it. (to POLONIUS)— You say right, sir. O' Monday morning, 'twas so indeed.

HAMLET
(whispers to ROSENCRANTZ and GUILDENSTERN) I predict he's coming to tell me about the actors. Watch. (to POLONIUS) You're correct, sir. On Monday morning, that was it.

*
365

POLONIUS
My lord, I have news to tell you.

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—

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

POLONIUS
The actors are come hither, my lord.

POLONIUS
The actors have arrived, my lord.

HAMLET
Buzz, buzz.

HAMLET
Gossip, gossip.

POLONIUS
Upon my honor—

POLONIUS
I swear—

HAMLET
Then came each actor on his ass—

HAMLET
Then each actor came in on his ass.

*
370
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375

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 unlimited. Seneca cannot be too heavy, nor Plautus too light. For the law of writ and the liberty, these are the only men.

POLONIUS
They're the best actors in the world, including for tragedy, comedy, history, pastoral, pastoral-comical, historical-pastoral, tragical-historical, tragical-comical-historical, one-act plays, or epic poems. The tragic playwright Seneca is not too serious for them, nor is the comic writer Plautus too silly. For both formal plays and freer dramas, these are the actors you want.

HAMLET
O Jephthah, judge of Israel, what a treasure hadst thou!

HAMLET
Oh, Jephthah, judge of ancient Israel, what a treasure you had!

POLONIUS
What a treasure had he, my lord?

POLONIUS
What treasure did he have, my lord?

*
*
*
380

HAMLET
Why,
One fair daughter and no more,
The which he lovèd passing well
.

HAMLET
Well, (sings)
One fine daughter, and no more,
Whom he loved beyond all others
—.

POLONIUS
(aside) Still on my daughter.

POLONIUS
(to himself) Still focused on my daughter.

HAMLET
Am I not i' th' right, old Jephthah?

HAMLET
Aren't I right, old man Jephthah?

POLONIUS
If you call me Jephthah, my lord, I have a daughter that I love passing well.

POLONIUS
If you're calling me Jephthah, my lord, I do have a daughter I love beyond all other things.

HAMLET
Nay, that follows not.

HAMLET
No, you don't understand.

*
385

POLONIUS
What follows, then, my lord?

POLONIUS
What should I understand, 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 abridgement comes.

HAMLET
Why,
As if by chance, God knows,
and then, you know,
It happened, as was most likely expect

You can learn more by looking at the first verse of the popular song, because I'm stopping now.

Enter the PLAYERS

The PLAYERS enter.

390
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400

You are welcome, masters, welcome, all!—I am glad to see thee well.—Welcome, good friends.—O old friend? Why, thy face is valenced 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 any thing we see. We'll have a speech straight. Come, give us a taste of your quality. Come, a passionate speech.

You are welcome. Welcome to all of you! (to an actor)— I'm glad to see you doing well. (to the entire company)—Welcome, my good friends. (to an actor)—Oh, it's you, old friend! You've grown a beard since I last saw you. Have you come to put a beard on me? (to an actor dressed as a woman) — My young lady. By Our Lady, you've grown taller by the height of a pair of platform shoes! I pray to God that your voice, like a gold coin, has not yet cracked. (to the entire company)—You are all welcome here. Let's see something, and like a French falconer I won't be choosy. Show us a speech. Come on, show us a taste of your skill. Come on, a passionate speech.

FIRST PLAYER
What speech, my good lord?

FIRST PLAYER
Which speech, my lord?

*
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405
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415
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430
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435

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 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 couchèd in the ominous horse,
Hath now this dread and black complexion smeared
With heraldry more dismal. Head to foot
Now is he total gules, horridly tricked
With blood of fathers, mothers, daughters, sons,
Baked and impasted with the parching streets,
That lend a tyrannous and damnèd light
To their lord's murder. Roasted in wrath and fire,
And thus o'ersizèd with coagulate gore,
With eyes like carbuncles, the hellish Pyrrhus
Old grandsire Priam seeks
.
So, proceed you.

HAMLET
I heard you recite a speech for me once that was never acted on stage. Or, if it was, not more than once, because the play I remember, didn't please the masses. It was like caviar for the masses, too sophisticated for them. But I, along with the better-informed critics, thought that it was excellent, with scenes that flowed one to the next and written in language that was clever and yet not overdone. I remember one critic commented that the play lacked spicy jokes to liven it up and did not display any fancy language, but that it was well-done, and beautiful rather than showy. There was one speech in it that I loved the most. It was the story Aeneas told Dido, particularly the part about Priam's murder. If you remember it, begin at line—let me see, let me see—
The rugged Pyrrhus, fierce as a tiger—
No, that's not it; it begins like this:
Rugged Pyrrhus, whose armor was
As black as his desire, resembled the night
When he crouched inside the Trojan Horse,
Has now smeared his terrible black armor
With a more awful coat of arms. Head to foot
He's now all red, decorated horribly
With the blood of fathers, mothers, daughters, sons.
The blood baked solid by fires in the streets,
Fires that lend a terrible, damned light
To his murders. Roasted by anger and fire,
And covered with hardened gore,
With eyes like rubies, the hellish Pyrrhus
Goes looking for grandfather Priam
.
Continue from there.

*
440

POLONIUS
'Fore God, my lord, well spoken, with good accent and good discretion.

POLONIUS
By God, my lord, well done, with the right accent and capturing all the meaning.

*
*
*
*
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445
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450
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455
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460
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465
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470

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 matched,
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, seemed 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
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,
Arousèd vengeance sets him new a-work.
And never did the Cyclops' hammers fall
On Mars's armor forged 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!

FIRST PLAYER
Soon he finds Priam
Vainly fighting off the Greeks. His old sword,
Too heavy for him to wield, lies where it fell,
Refusing his commands. An unfair opponent,
Pyrrhus rushes Priam, in a rage strikes and misses;
But the wind made by his dreadful sword
Knocks the old man down. Then the city of Troy,

Seeming to feel this fatal blow to its ruler,
Collapses in flames, and the hideous crash
Arrests Pyrrhus's attention. Now his sword,
Which was lowering on the white-haired head
Of old, revered Priam, seemed stuck in the air.
Pyrrhus stood like a tyrant in a painting,
And, caught between act and intention,
Did nothing
.
But just as a storm is often
Broken by a sudden silence, the clouds stilled
The bold winds quieted, and the earth below
As quiet as death, and then soon the thunder once more splits the sky. So did Pyrrhus' pause

Renew his fury and set him back to work.
Not even when the Cyclopses worked to make
the unbreakable armor of the god of war,
their hammers did not fall as cruelly as Pyrrhus's bloody sword

Now falls on Priam.
Be gone, goddess of Fortune, you whore! All you gods
Should join together to take away her power,
Break all the spokes on her wheel of fortune,
And roll it down the hill of heaven
Into hell
.

POLONIUS
This is too long.

POLONIUS
This speech 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.

HAMLET
We'll trim it later, along with your beard. Please, continue with your speech. If it's not a comic dance or sex scene, this guy here falls to sleep. Go on, get to the part about Hecuba.

*
475

FIRST PLAYER
But who, ah woe, who had seen the moblèd queen

FIRST PLAYER
But who—ah sadness—had seen the muffled queen—

HAMLET
"The moblèd queen"?

HAMLET
"The muffled queen"?

POLONIUS
That's good. "Moblèd queen" is good.

POLONIUS
That's good. "The muffled queen" is good.

*
*
*
480
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485
*
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490

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'erteemèd loins,
A blanket, in the alarm of fear caught up
Who this had seen, with tongue in venom steeped,
'Gainst fortune's state would treason have pronounced.
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 clamor 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
.

FIRST PLAYER
Run barefoot back and forth, dousing the flames
With her tears, a cloth on the head
Where just before a crown had sat, and instead of a robe
wrapped around her withered body, she wore
A blanket, lifted in alarm.
Anyone seeing her this way, would in anger,
Have screamed out against the goddess Fortune.
If the gods themselves had seen her
While she watched Pyrrhus make a game
Of cutting her husbands limbs to bits
The awful cry she made
(Unless the gods don't care about mortals)
Would have made the blazing stars of heaven weep hot tears,
And bring passion to the gods.

POLONIUS
Look whe'e he has not turned his color and has tears in 's eyes.—Prithee, no more.

POLONIUS
Look how he's gone pale, and has tears in his eyes. Please, no more.

*
*
*
495

HAMLET
(to FIRST PLAYER) 'Tis well. I'll have thee speak out the rest soon. (to POLONIUS) 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.

HAMLET
(to FIRST PLAYER) Very good. I'll have you perform the rest of it soon. (to POLONIUS) My lord, please make sure the actors are given comfortable rooms. Do you hear? Make sure they're treated well, because they are the chroniclers of our time. You'd be better off with a bad epitaph on your grave than to have their ill will while we're alive.

POLONIUS
My lord, I will use them according to their desert.

POLONIUS
My lord, I will give them all they deserve.

*
500

HAMLET
God's bodykins, man, much better. Use every man after his desert, and who should 'scape whipping? Use them after your own honor and dignity. The less they deserve, the more merit is in your bounty. Take them in.

HAMLET
By God, man, give them more than that! If you gave everyone just what they deserved, would anyone ever escape a whipping? How you treat them speaks to your honor and dignity. The less they deserve, the more merit you'll earn through your generosity. Bring them inside.

POLONIUS
Come, sirs.

POLONIUS
Come, everyone.

*
505

HAMLET
Follow him, friends. We'll hear a play tomorrow. (to FIRST PLAYER)— Dost thou hear me, old friend? Can you play The Murder of Gonzago?

HAMLET
Follow him, friends. We'll watch a play tomorrow. (to FIRST PLAYER) My old friend, do you know The Murder of Gonzago?

FIRST PLAYER
Ay, my lord.

FIRST PLAYER
Yes, my lord.

*
*
510

HAMLET
We'll ha 't tomorrow 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?

HAMLET
We'll see that tomorrow night. If I were to write a speech of twelve to sixteen lines and inserted it into the play, you could, if necessary learn it for tomorrow's performance, right?

FIRST PLAYER
Ay, my lord.

FIRST PLAYER
Yes, my lord.

HAMLET
Very well. Follow that lord, and look you mock him not.

HAMLET
Very well. Follow that gentleman, and please don't make fun of him.

Exeunt POLONIUS and the PLAYERS

POLONIUS and the PLAYERS exit.

My good friends, I'll leave you till night. You are welcome to Elsinore. My good friends, I'll see you tonight. Welcome to Elsinore.

ROSENCRANTZ
Good my lord.

ROSENCRANTZ
Yes, my lord.

HAMLET
Ay, so. Good-bye to you.

HAMLET
Good-bye to you both.

Exeunt ROSENCRANTZ and GUILDENSTERN

ROSENCRANTZ and GUILDENSTERN exit.

515
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520
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*
*
*
525
*
*
*
*
530
*
*
*
*
535
*
*
*
*
540
*
*
*
*
545
*
*
*
*
550
*
*
*
*
555
*
*
*
*
560
*
*
*
*
565
*
*
*
*
570

Now I am alone.
Oh, 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 wanned,
Tears in his eyes, distraction in his 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 appall 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 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?
Ha!
'Swounds, I should take it, for it cannot be
But I am pigeon-livered 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 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 brain.—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 he do blench,
I know my course. The spirit that I have seen
May be the 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.

Now I'm alone. Oh, what a low-life scoundrel I am! Isn't it terrible that this actor, reciting a work of fiction, could force his soul to feel the passion so completely that he grew pale, tears welled in his eyes. he got overwhelmed, his voice broke, and the entirety of his being matched the emotions he was supposed to be playing. And all for nothing—for Hecuba! What is Hecuba to him, or he to Hecuba, that he would weep for her? What would he do if he had the motive or reason for passion that I have? He would drown the stage with tears and split the ears of all who heard him with angry words, drive the guilty mad with shame, horrify the innocent, confuse the ignorant,and shock anyone with eyes and ears. Meanwhile I, a dull fool, mope like a slacker, don't have a plan, and have nothing, nothing, to say for a king whose throne and life were brought to destruction. Am I a coward? Who will stand up and call me a villain, or slap me across the face? Pluck hairs from my beard and blow them in my face? Tweak my nose? Call me a liar? Who does any of those things? Ha! By God's wounds, I'd accept it, because I must have a nature that doesn't respond to wrongs by making life for the evildoer bitter. Otherwise, I would have long ago fattened up the local birds with the intestines of this scoundrel king. Bloody, vulgar villain! Remorseless, treacherous, lustful, unnatural villain! Oh revenge! Why, what an ass I am. Look how brave I am, the son of a beloved murdered father, told to take revenge by heaven and hell, and yet all I can do is talk about my problems and curse like a whore in the street. I'm a male whore! Damn it! Now think, brain—Hmm…. I've heard that guilty people watching a play have been so affected by the performance that they have confessed their crimes. Though murder has no tongue, it still miraculously finds other ways to speak. I'll have these actors perform something like my father's murder in front of my uncle. Meanwhile, I'll watch my uncle and probe him to his very core. If he flinches, I'll know what to do. The ghost I saw may be the devil, who has the power to appear in a pleasing manner. Perhaps he has taken advantage of my sadness—because he has great influence over the melancholy—to trick me into damnation. I need more solid evidence. The play's the thing I'll use to reveal the conscience of the king.

Exit

HAMLET exits.

 

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