Flourish. [Enter King and Queen, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern,
- 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 I call it,
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
That, being of so young days brought up with him,
And since so neighbour'd to his youth and haviour,
That you vouchsafe your rest here in our court
Some little time; so by your companies
To draw him on to pleasures, and to gather
So much as from occasion you may glean,
Whether aught to us unknown afflicts him thus
That, open'd, lies within our remedy.
- Gertrude. Good gentlemen, he hath much talk'd of you,
And sure I am two men there are not living
To whom he more adheres. If it will please you
To show us so much gentry and good will
As to expend your time with us awhile
For the supply and profit of our hope,
Your visitation shall receive such thanks
As fits a king's remembrance.
- 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,
To lay our service freely at your feet,
To be commanded.
- Claudius. Thanks, Rosencrantz and gentle Guildenstern.
- Gertrude. Thanks, Guildenstern and gentle Rosencrantz.
And I beseech you instantly to visit
My too much changed son.- Go, some of you,
And bring these gentlemen where Hamlet is.
- Guildenstern. Heavens make our presence and our practices
Pleasant and helpful to him!
Exeunt Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, [with some Attendants].
- Polonius. Th' ambassadors from Norway, my good lord,
Are joyfully return'd.
- Claudius. Thou still hast been the father of good news.
- Polonius. Have I, my lord? Assure you, my good liege,
I hold my duty as I hold my soul,
Both to my God and to my gracious king;
And I do think- or else this brain of mine
Hunts not the trail of policy so sure
As it hath us'd to do- that I have found
The very cause of Hamlet's lunacy.
- Claudius. O, speak of that! That do I long to hear.
- Polonius. Give first admittance to th' ambassadors.
My news shall be the fruit to that great feast.
- Claudius. 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.
- Gertrude. I doubt it is no other but the main,
His father's death and our o'erhasty marriage.
- Claudius. Well, we shall sift him.
[Enter Polonius, Voltemand, and Cornelius.]
Welcome, my good friends.
Say, Voltemand, what from our brother Norway?
- Voltemand. Most fair return of greetings and desires.
Upon our first, he sent out to suppress
His nephew's levies; which to him appear'd
To be a preparation 'gainst the Polack,
But better look'd into, he truly found
It was against your Highness; whereat griev'd,
That so his sickness, age, and impotence
Was falsely borne in hand, sends out arrests
On Fortinbras; which he, in brief, obeys,
Receives rebuke from Norway, and, in fine,
Makes vow before his uncle never more
To give th' assay of arms against your Majesty.
Whereon old Norway, overcome with joy,
Gives him three thousand crowns in annual fee
And his commission to employ those soldiers,
So levied as before, against the Polack;
With an entreaty, herein further shown,
[Gives a paper.]
That it might please you to give quiet pass
Through your dominions for this enterprise,
On such regards of safety and allowance
As therein are set down.
- Claudius. It likes us well;
And at our more consider'd time we'll read,
Answer, and think upon this business.
Meantime we thank you for your well-took labour.
Go to your rest; at night we'll feast together.
Most welcome home! Exeunt Ambassadors.
- Polonius. This business is well ended.
My liege, and madam, to expostulate
What majesty should be, what duty is,
Why day is day, night is night, and time is time.
Were nothing but to waste night, day, and time.
Therefore, since brevity is the soul of wit,
And tediousness the limbs and outward flourishes,
I will be brief. Your noble son is mad.
Mad call I it; for, to define true madness,
What is't but to be nothing else but mad?
But let that go.
- Gertrude. More matter, with less art.
- 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.
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,'-
That's an ill phrase, a vile phrase; 'beautified' is a vile phrase.
But you shall hear. Thus:
'In her excellent white bosom, these, &c.'
- Gertrude. Came this from Hamlet to her?
- Polonius. Good madam, stay awhile. I will be faithful. [Reads.]
'Doubt thou the stars are fire;
Doubt that the sun doth move;
Doubt truth to be a liar;
But never doubt I love.
'O dear Ophelia, I am ill at these numbers; I have not art to
reckon my groans; but that I love thee best, O most best, believe
'Thine evermore, most dear lady, whilst this machine is to
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.
- Claudius. But how hath she
Receiv'd his love?
- Claudius. As of a man faithful and honourable.
- Polonius. I would fain prove so. But what might you think,
When I had seen this hot love on the wing
(As I perceiv'd it, I must tell you that,
Before my daughter told me), what might you,
Or my dear Majesty your queen here, think,
If I had play'd the desk or table book,
Or given my heart a winking, mute and dumb,
Or look'd upon this love with idle sight?
What might you think? No, I went round to work
And my young mistress thus I did bespeak:
'Lord Hamlet is a prince, out of thy 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, repulsed, a short tale to make,
Fell into a sadness, then into a fast,
Thence to a watch, thence into a weakness,
Thence to a lightness, and, by this declension,
Into the madness wherein now he raves,
And all we mourn for.
- Polonius. Hath there been such a time- I would fain know that-
That I have Positively said 'Tis so,'
When it prov'd otherwise.?
- Polonius. [points 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.
- Claudius. How may we try it further?
- Polonius. You know sometimes he walks for hours together
Here in the lobby.
- 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 he not from his reason fall'n thereon
Let me be no assistant for a state,
But keep a farm and carters.
Enter Hamlet, reading on a book.
- Gertrude. But look where sadly the poor wretch comes reading.
- Polonius. Away, I do beseech you, both away
I'll board him presently. O, give me leave.
[Exeunt King and Queen, [with Attendants].]
How does my good Lord Hamlet?
- Hamlet. Excellent well. You are a fishmonger.
- Hamlet. Then I would you were so honest a man.
- Hamlet. Ay, sir. To be honest, as this world goes, is to be one man
pick'd out of ten thousand.
- Polonius. That's very true, my lord.
- Hamlet. For if the sun breed maggots in a dead dog, being a god
kissing carrion- Have you a daughter?
- Hamlet. Let her not walk i' th' sun. Conception is a blessing, but not
as your daughter may conceive. Friend, look to't.
- 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 suff'red much extremity
for love- very near this. I'll speak to him again.- What do you
read, my lord?
- 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, together with most weak hams. All which,
sir, though I most powerfully and potently believe, yet I hold it
not honesty to have it thus set down; for you yourself, sir,
should be old as I am if, like a crab, you could go backward.
- Polonius. [aside] Though this be madness, yet there is a method in't.-
Will You walk out of the air, my lord?
- Polonius. Indeed, that is out o' th' air. [Aside] How pregnant sometimes
his replies are! a happiness that often madness hits on, which
reason and sanity could not so prosperously be delivered of. I
will leave him and suddenly contrive the means of meeting between
him and my daughter.- My honourable lord, I will most humbly take
my leave of you.
- Hamlet. You cannot, sir, take from me anything that I will more
willingly part withal- except my life, except my life, except my
Enter Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.
- Hamlet. These tedious old fools!
- Polonius. You go to seek the Lord Hamlet. There he is.
- Hamlet. My excellent good friends! How dost thou, Guildenstern? Ah,
Rosencrantz! Good lads, how do ye both?
- 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?
- Hamlet. Then you live about her waist, or in the middle of her
- Hamlet. In the secret parts of Fortune? O! most true! she is a
strumpet. What news ?
- Rosencrantz. None, my lord, but that the world's 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
- Hamlet. Denmark's a prison.
- Hamlet. A goodly one; in which there are many confines, wards, and
dungeons, Denmark being one o' th' worst.
- Hamlet. Why, then 'tis none to you; for there is nothing either good
or bad but thinking makes it so. To me it is a prison.
- Rosencrantz. Why, then your ambition makes it one. 'Tis too narrow for your
- Hamlet. O God, I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself a
king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams.
- Guildenstern. Which dreams indeed are ambition; for the very substance of
the ambitious is merely the shadow of a dream.
- Hamlet. A dream itself is but a shadow.
- Rosencrantz. Truly, and I hold ambition of so airy and light a quality that
it is but a shadow's shadow.
- Hamlet. Then are our beggars bodies, and our monarchs and outstretch'd
heroes the beggars' shadows. Shall we to th' court? for, by my
fay, I cannot reason.
- 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. Beggar that I am, I am even poor in thanks; but I thank you;
and sure, dear friends, my thanks are too dear a halfpenny. Were
you not sent for? Is it your own inclining? Is it a free
visitation? Come, deal justly with me. Come, come! Nay, speak.
- Hamlet. Why, anything- but to th' purpose. You were sent for; and
there is a kind of confession in your looks, which your modesties
have not craft enough to colour. I know the good King and Queen
have sent for you.
- 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.
- Rosencrantz. [aside to Guildenstern] What say you?
- Hamlet. [aside] Nay then, I have an eye of you.- If you love me, hold
- 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 appeareth no other thing
to me than a foul and pestilent congregation of vapours. What a
piece of work is a man! how noble in reason! how infinite in
faculties! in form and moving how express and admirable! in
action how like an angel! in apprehension how like a god! the
beauty of the world, the paragon of animals! And yet to me what
is this quintessence of dust? Man delights not me- no, nor woman
neither, though by your smiling you seem to say so.
- Rosencrantz. My lord, there was no such stuff in my thoughts.
- Hamlet. Why did you laugh then, when I said 'Man delights not me'?
- Rosencrantz. To think, my lord, if you delight not in man, what lenten
entertainment the players shall receive from you. We coted them
on the way, and hither are they coming to offer you service.
- Hamlet. He that plays the king shall be welcome- his Majesty shall
have tribute 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' sere; and the lady shall say her mind
freely, or the blank verse shall halt for't. What players are
- Rosencrantz. Even those you were wont to take such delight in, the
tragedians of the city.
- Hamlet. How chances it they travel? Their residence, both in
reputation and profit, was better both ways.
- Rosencrantz. I think their inhibition comes by the means of the late
- Hamlet. Do they hold the same estimation they did when I was in the
city? Are they so follow'd?
- Hamlet. How comes it? Do they grow rusty?
- Rosencrantz. Nay, their endeavour 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 clapp'd for't. These are now
the fashion, and so berattle the common stages (so they call
them) that many wearing rapiers are afraid of goosequills and
dare scarce come thither.
- Hamlet. What, are they children? Who maintains 'em? How are they
escoted? Will they pursue the quality no longer than they can
sing? Will they not say afterwards, if they should grow
themselves to common players (as it is most like, if their means
are no better), their writers do them wrong to make them exclaim
against their own succession.
- Rosencrantz. Faith, there has been much to do on both sides; and the nation
holds it no sin to tarre them to controversy. There was, for a
while, no money bid for argument unless the poet and the player
went to cuffs in the question.
- Guildenstern. O, there has been much throwing about of brains.
- Hamlet. Do the boys carry it away?
- Rosencrantz. Ay, that they do, my lord- Hercules and his load too.
- Hamlet. It is not very strange; for my uncle is King of Denmark, and
those that would make mows 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.
Flourish for the Players.
- Hamlet. Gentlemen, you are welcome to Elsinore. Your hands, come! 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 deceiv'd.
- Hamlet. I am but mad north-north-west. When the wind is southerly I
know a hawk from a handsaw.
- 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
- Rosencrantz. Happily he's 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 so indeed.
- Polonius. My lord, I have news to tell you.
- Hamlet. My lord, I have news to tell you. When Roscius was an actor in Rome-
- Polonius. The actors are come hither, my lord.
- Hamlet. Then came each actor on his ass-
- Polonius. The best actors in the world, either for tragedy, comedy,
history, pastoral, pastoral-comical, historical-pastoral,
tragical-historical, tragical-comical-historical-pastoral; scene
individable, or poem unlimited. 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 hadst thou!
- Polonius. What treasure had he, my lord?
- Hamlet. Why,
'One fair daughter, and no more,
The which he loved passing well.'
- 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.
- Hamlet. Why,
'As by lot, God wot,'
and then, you know,
'It came to pass, as most like it was.'
The first row of the pious chanson will show you more; for look
where my abridgment comes.
[Enter four or five Players.]
You are welcome, masters; welcome, all.- I am glad to see thee
well.- Welcome, good friends.- O, my old friend? Why, thy face is
valanc'd since I saw thee last. Com'st' 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 crack'd within the ring.- Masters, you are
all welcome. We'll e'en to't like French falconers, fly at
anything we see. We'll have a speech straight. Come, give us a
taste of your quality. Come, a passionate speech.
- 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, pleas'd
not the million, 'twas caviary to the general; but it was (as I
receiv'd it, and others, whose judgments in such matters cried in
the top of mine) an excellent play, well digested in the scenes,
set down with as much modesty as cunning. I remember one said
there were no sallets in the lines to make the matter savoury,
nor no matter in the phrase that might indict the author of
affectation; but call'd it an honest method, as wholesome as
sweet, and by very much more handsome than fine. One speech in't
I chiefly lov'd. '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-'
'Tis not so; it begins with Pyrrhus:
'The rugged Pyrrhus, he whose sable arms,
Black as his purpose, did the night resemble
When he lay couched in the ominous horse,
Hath now this dread and black complexion smear'd
With heraldry more dismal. Head to foot
Now is be total gules, horridly trick'd
With blood of fathers, mothers, daughters, sons,
Bak'd and impasted with the parching streets,
That lend a tyrannous and a damned light
To their lord's murther. Roasted in wrath and fire,
And thus o'ersized with coagulate gore,
With eyes like carbuncles, the hellish Pyrrhus
Old grandsire Priam seeks.'
So, proceed you.
- Polonius. Fore God, my lord, well spoken, with good accent and good discretion.
- First Player. 'Anon he finds him,
Striking too short at Greeks. His antique sword,
Rebellious to his arm, lies where it falls,
Repugnant to command. Unequal match'd,
Pyrrhus at Priam drives, in rage strikes wide;
But with the whiff and wind of his fell sword
Th' unnerved father falls. Then senseless Ilium,
Seeming to feel this blow, with flaming top
Stoops to his base, and with a hideous crash
Takes prisoner Pyrrhus' ear. For lo! his sword,
Which was declining on the milky head
Of reverend Priam, seem'd i' th' air to stick.
So, as a painted tyrant, Pyrrhus stood,
And, like a neutral to his will and matter,
But, as we often see, against some storm,
A silence in the heavens, the rack stand still,
The bold winds speechless, and the orb below
As hush as death- anon the dreadful thunder
Doth rend the region; so, after Pyrrhus' pause,
Aroused vengeance sets him new awork;
And never did the Cyclops' hammers fall
On Mars's armour, forg'd for proof eterne,
With less remorse than Pyrrhus' bleeding sword
Now falls on Priam.
Out, out, thou strumpet Fortune! All you gods,
In general synod take away her power;
Break all the spokes and fellies from her wheel,
And bowl the round nave down the hill of heaven,
As low as to the fiends!
- 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
- Polonius. That's good! 'Mobled queen' is good.
- First Player. 'Run barefoot up and down, threat'ning the flames
With bisson rheum; a clout upon that head
Where late the diadem stood, and for a robe,
About her lank and all o'erteemed loins,
A blanket, in the alarm of fear caught up-
Who this had seen, with tongue in venom steep'd
'Gainst Fortune's state would treason have pronounc'd.
But if the gods themselves did see her then,
When she saw Pyrrhus make malicious sport
In Mincing with his sword her husband's limbs,
The instant burst of clamour that she made
(Unless things mortal move them not at all)
Would have made milch the burning eyes of heaven
And passion in the gods.'
- Polonius. Look, whe'r he has not turn'd 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 bestow'd? Do you
hear? Let them be well us'd; for they are the abstract and brief
chronicles of the time. After your death you were better have a
bad epitaph than their ill report while you live.
- Polonius. My lord, I will use them according to their desert.
- Hamlet. God's bodykins, man, much better! Use every man after his
desert, and who should scape whipping? Use them after your own
honour and dignity. The less they deserve, the more merit is in
your bounty. Take them in.
- Hamlet. Follow him, friends. We'll hear a play to-morrow.
[Exeunt Polonius and Players [except the First].]
Dost thou hear me, old friend? Can you play 'The Murther of
- Hamlet. We'll ha't to-morrow night. You could, for a need, study a
speech of some dozen or sixteen lines which I would set down and
insert in't, could you not?
- Hamlet. Very well. Follow that lord- and look you mock him not.
[Exit First Player.]
My good friends, I'll leave you till night. You are welcome to
- Hamlet. Ay, so, God b' wi' ye!
[Exeunt Rosencrantz and Guildenstern]
Now I am alone.
O what a rogue and peasant slave am I!
Is it not monstrous that this player here,
But in a fiction, in a dream of passion,
Could force his soul so to his own conceit
That, from her working, all his visage wann'd,
Tears in his eyes, distraction in's aspect,
A broken voice, and his whole function suiting
With forms to his conceit? And all for nothing!
What's Hecuba to him, or he to Hecuba,
That he should weep for her? What would he do,
Had he the motive and the cue for passion
That I have? He would drown the stage with tears
And cleave the general ear with horrid speech;
Make mad the guilty and appal the free,
Confound the ignorant, and amaze indeed
The very faculties of eyes and ears.
A dull and muddy-mettled rascal, peak
Like John-a-dreams, unpregnant of my cause,
And can say nothing! No, not for a king,
Upon whose property and most dear life
A damn'd defeat was made. Am I a coward?
Who calls me villain? breaks my pate across?
Plucks off my beard and blows it in my face?
Tweaks me by th' 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-liver'd and lack gall
To make oppression bitter, or ere this
I should have fatted all the region kites
With this slave's offal. Bloody bawdy villain!
Remorseless, treacherous, lecherous, kindless villain!
Why, what an ass am I! This is most brave,
That I, the son of a dear father murther'd,
Prompted to my revenge by heaven and hell,
Must (like a whore) unpack my heart with words
And fall a-cursing like a very drab,
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 proclaim'd their malefactions;
For murther, though it have no tongue, will speak
With most miraculous organ, I'll have these Players
Play something like the murther of my father
Before mine uncle. I'll observe his looks;
I'll tent him to the quick. If he but blench,
I know my course. The spirit that I have seen
May be a devil; and the devil hath power
T' assume a pleasing shape; yea, and perhaps
Out of my weakness and my melancholy,
As he is very potent with such spirits,
Abuses me to damn me. I'll have grounds
More relative than this. The play's the thing
Wherein I'll catch the conscience of the King. Exit.