Hamlet: Act 2, Scene 2
Flourish. Enter KING and QUEEN,
ROSENCRANTZ and GUILDENSTERN,
1Welcome, dear Rosencrantz and Guildenstern!
2. Moreover that: besides the fact that.
2Moreover that we much did long to see you,
3. use: employ.
3The need we have to use you did provoke
4. hasty sending: sudden summons.
4Our hasty sending. Something have you heard
5Of Hamlet's transformation; so call it,
6. Sith: Since.
6Sith nor the exterior nor the inward man
7Resembles that it was. What it should be,
8More than his father's death, that thus hath put him
9So much from th' understanding of himself,
10I cannot dream of. I entreat you both,
11. of so young days: from early youth.
11That, being of so young days brought up with him,
12. sith so neighbor'd to his youth and havior: since you are so close to him in age and manners. 13. vouchsafe your rest: be pleased to stay. 14-15. so . . . pleasures: i.e., so that by your companionship [with him] you can lead him to some amusements. 16. So . . . glean: so much as you can pick up at any opportune moment. ...more 17. aught: anything. 18. open'd: revealed.
12And sith so neighbor'd to his youth and havior,
13That you vouchsafe your rest here in our court
14Some little time, so by your companies
15To draw him on to pleasures, and to gather,
16So much as from occasion you may glean,
17Whether aught, to us unknown, afflicts him thus,
18That, open'd, lies within our remedy.
19Good gentlemen, he hath much talk'd of you;
20And sure I am two men there are not living
21. more adheres: is more attached.
21To whom he more adheres. If it will please you
22. gentry: courtesy.
22To show us so much gentry and good will
23As to expend your time with us awhile,
24. For . . . hope: in order to support and bring to a successful outcome what I hope to accomplish [i.e., curing Hamlet of his ills]. 25-26. Your . . . remembrance: The king is promising a rich reward to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.
24For the supply and profit of our hope,
25Your visitation shall receive such thanks
26As fits a king's remembrance.
26-29. Both . . . entreaty: i.e., because you are our king and queen, you could command us to do whatever you want, rather than ask us.
26Both your majesties
27Might, by the sovereign power you have of us,
28Put your dread pleasures more into command
29Than to entreaty.
29But we both obey,
30. in the full bent: most willingly, and to our utmost capacity.
30And here give up ourselves, in the full bent
31To lay our service freely at your feet,
32To be commanded.
33Thanks, Rosencrantz and gentle Guildenstern.
34Thanks, Guildenstern and gentle Rosencrantz:
35And I beseech you instantly to visit
36My too much changed son. Go, some of you,
37And bring these gentlemen where Hamlet is.
38. our presence and our practises: our company and our efforts [to help Hamlet].
38Heavens make our presence and our practises
39Pleasant and helpful to him!
40Th' ambassadors from Norway, my good lord,
41Are joyfully return'd.
42. still: always.
43. liege: sovereign.
43. liege: sovereign.
42Thou still hast been the father of good news.
43Have I, my lord? I assure my good liege,
44I hold my duty, as I hold my soul,
45Both to my God and to my gracious king:
46And I do think, or else this brain of mine
47. Hunts not the trail of policy: i.e., doesn't smell out the trail of statecraft.
47Hunts not the trail of policy so sure
48As it hath used to do, that I have found
49The very cause of Hamlet's lunacy.
50O, speak of that; that do I long to hear.
51Give first admittance to the ambassadors;
52. fruit: dessert.
52My news shall be the fruit to that great feast.
53Thyself do grace to them, and bring them in.
54He tells me, my dear Gertrude, he hath found
55. head: i.e., primary cause. distemper: [mental] illness.
56. doubt: suspect. main: i.e., main cause.
56. doubt: suspect. main: i.e., main cause.
55The head and source of all your son's distemper.
56I doubt it is no other but the main;
57His father's death, and our o'erhasty marriage.
58. sift him: i.e., thoroughly investigate the cause of his problem.
58Well, we shall sift him.
Enter Ambassadors [VOLTEMAND
and CORNELIUS, with POLONIUS].
58Welcome, my good friends!
59. our brother Norway: i.e., my fellow-king of Norway. However, the King of Norway may be a blood relation ...more
59Say, Voltemand, what from our brother Norway?
60. Most . . . desires: i.e., a very gracious reply to your greeting, and to what you requested. 61. Upon our first: i.e., as soon as we mentioned it ...more 62. His nephew's levies: i.e., Fortinbras' raising of a military force. 63. the Polack: the Poles; the Polish nation. ...more
60Most fair return of greetings and desires.
61Upon our first, he sent out to suppress
62His nephew's levies; which to him appear'd
63To be a preparation 'gainst the Polack;
64But, better look'd into, he truly found
65. griev'd: aggrieved, offended.
65It was against your highness: whereat grieved,
66. impotence: weakness.
66That so his sickness, age and impotence
67. falsely borne in hand: deceptively taken advantage of. sends out arrests: issues cease and desist orders.
67Was falsely borne in hand, sends out arrests
68On Fortinbras; which he, in brief, obeys;
69. in fine: in the end.
69Receives rebuke from Norway, and in fine
70Makes vow before his uncle never more
71. give the assay of arms: i.e., attempt an armed action.
71To give the assay of arms against your majesty.
72Whereon old Norway, overcome with joy,
73. in annual fee: i.e., promised as an annual payment.
73Gives him three thousand crowns in annual fee,
74. commission: official permission.
74And his commission to employ those soldiers,
75So levied as before, against the Polack:
76. herein further shown: i.e., with the details spelled out in this document.
76With an entreaty, herein further shown,
[Giving a paper.]
77. give quiet pass: i.e., give permission to travel without any trouble.
77That it might please you to give quiet pass
78Through your dominions for this enterprise,
79-80. On such regards of safety and allowance / As therein are set down: with such safeguards and provisos as are written down [in the diplomatic document from the King of Norway].
79On such regards of safety and allowance
80As therein are set down.
80. likes: pleases.
80It likes us well;
81. at our more consider'd time: i.e., at a time when I can consider [the matter] more carefully.
81And at our more consider'd time we'll read,
82Answer, and think upon this business.
83Meantime we thank you for your well-took labor.
84Go to your rest; at night we'll feast together.
85Most welcome home!
Exeunt Ambassadors [VOLTEMAND
85This business is well ended.
86. expostulate: expound upon.
86My liege, and madam, to expostulate
87What majesty should be, what duty is,
88Why day is day, night night, and time is time,
89Were nothing but to waste night, day and time.
90. wit: sound sense, eloquence.
90Therefore, since brevity is the soul of wit,
91And tediousness the limbs and outward flourishes,
92I will be brief. Your noble son is mad.
93Mad call I it; for, to define true madness,
94What is't but to be nothing else but mad?
95But let that go.
95. matter: substance. art i.e., rhetorical art; empty flourishes.
95More matter, with less art.
96Madam, I swear I use no art at all.
97That he is mad, 'tis true: 'tis true 'tis pity;
98. figure: figure of speech. The figure of speech which Polonius uses throughout this speech (even after he has promised to use "no art") is antanaclasis, the use of the same word in different senses.
98And pity 'tis 'tis true: a foolish figure;
99But farewell it, for I will use no art.
100Mad let us grant him, then: and now remains
101That we find out the cause of this effect,
102Or rather say, the cause of this defect,
103. For . . . cause: Polonius uses a lot of words to say that Hamlet's madness must have a cause. 104. Thus . . . thus: i.e., it remains ...more 105. Perpend: Consider.
103For this effect defective comes by cause:
104Thus it remains, and the remainder thus.
106I have a daughterhave while she is mine
107Who, in her duty and obedience, mark,
108Hath given me this. Now gather, and surmise.
109"To the celestial and my soul's idol, the most
110. beautified: adorned with many beauties. "Beautify" was a fairly common word, and I don't know just why Polonius objects to it. ...more
111That's an ill phrase, a vile phrase; "beautified" is
112a vile phrase: but you shall hear. Thus:
113"In her excellent white bosom, these, etc."
114Came this from Hamlet to her?
115Good madam, stay awhile; I will be faithful.
[Reads the] letter.
"Doubt thou the stars are fire;
117. the sun doth move:
Doubt that the sun doth move;
118. Doubt: In this instance, "doubt" is used in the sense of "suspect."
Doubt truth to be a liar;
But never doubt I love.
120. ill at these numbers: bad at versifying. ...more
120O dear Ophelia, I am ill at these numbers;
121. reckon: (1) count; (2) number metrically, as when writing verse. The "groans" to which Hamlet refers are expressions of the pain which the stereotypical love-lorn man was supposed to experience. 124. whilst this machine is to him: while his body belongs to him; i.e., my whole life.
121I have not art to reckon my groans: but that
122I love thee best, O most best, believe it. Adieu.
Thine evermore most dear lady,
whilst this machine is to him, Hamlet."
125This, in obedience, hath my daughter shown me,
126. And more above, hath his solicitings, / As they fell out by time, by means and place, / All given to mine ear: i.e., and furthermore, Ophelia has told me all about Hamlet's pleas for her lovewhen they happened, how they were delivered, and in what place they happened.
126And more above, hath his solicitings,
127As they fell out by time, by means and place,
128All given to mine ear.
128But how hath she
129Received his love?
129What do you think of me?
130As of a man faithful and honorable.
131. fain: willingly, gladly.
131I would fain prove so. But what might you think,
132When I had seen this hot love on the wing
133As I perceived it, I must tell you that,
134Before my daughter told mewhat might you,
135Or my dear majesty your queen here, think,
136. play'd the desk or table-book: acted the part of a desk or notebook; ...more 137. winking: closing of the eyes. mute and dumb: The two words mean ...more 138. with idle sight: i.e., without understanding or action. 139. round: straightforwardly. 140. bespeak: address.
136If I had play'd the desk or table-book,
137Or given my heart a winking, mute and dumb,
138Or look'd upon this love with idle sight;
139What might you think? No, I went round to work,
140And my young mistress thus I did bespeak:
141. out of thy star: above your sphere; i.e., above your lot in life.
141"Lord Hamlet is a prince, out of thy star;
142This must not be." And then I precepts gave her,
143. his resort: visits from him.
143That she should lock herself from his resort,
144. tokens: love tokens; keepsakes.
144Admit no messengers, receive no tokens.
145. took the fruits of my advice: profited by my advice; i.e., followed my advice. 146. a short tale to make: to tell the story shortly. 147. fast: refusal to eat.
145Which done, she took the fruits of my advice;
146And he, repelleda short tale to make
147Fell into a sadness, then into a fast,
148. watch: sleeplessness.
148Thence to a watch, thence into a weakness,
149. lightness: lightheadedness. declension: decline, deterioration.
149Thence to a lightness, and, by this declension,
150Into the madness wherein now he raves,
151And all we mourn for.
152Do you think 'tis this?
152It may be, very likely.
153. fain: gladly.
153Hath there been such a timeI'd fain know that
154That I have positively said "'Tis so,"
155When it proved otherwise?
155Not that I know.
POLONIUS [Pointing to his head and shoulder.]
156Take this from this, if this be otherwise:
157. circumstances: circumstantial evidence.
157If circumstances lead me, I will find
158Where truth is hid, though it were hid indeed
159. center: center of the earth; i.e., the most hidden place.
159Within the center.
159. try it: test it [i.e., Polonius' theory about Hamlet's madness].
159How may we try it further?
160You know, sometimes he walks four hours together
161Here in the lobby.
161So he does indeed.
162At such a time I'll loose my daughter to him:
163. arras: hanging tapestry.
163Be you and I behind an arras then;
164Mark the encounter. If he love her not
165. thereon: because of that.
165And be not from his reason fall'n thereon,
166. Let . . . carters: i.e., let me not be an important counselor in matters of state, but run a farm and employ common laborers.
166Let me be no assistant for a state,
167But keep a farm and carters.
167. try it: test it. King Claudius is agreeing to Polonius' plan to hide behind an arras and observe an encounter between Hamlet and Ophelia.
167We will try it.
Enter HAMLET, [reading a book].
168But, look, where sadly the poor wretch comes reading.
169Away, I do beseech you, both away:
170. board: accost. presently: at once.
170I'll board him presently.
Exeunt King and Queen.
170O, give me leave.
171How does my good Lord Hamlet?
172. God-a-mercy: i.e., thank you.
173Do you know me, my lord?
174. fishmonger: seller of fish. Editors often explain this as slang for a pimp, but there is no evidence for that meaning in Shakespeare's day.
174Excellent well; you are a fishmonger.
175Not I, my lord.
176Then I would you were so honest a man.
177Honest, my lord!
178Ay, sir; to be honest, as this world goes, is to be
179one man picked out of ten thousand.
180That's very true, my lord.
181For if the sun breed maggots in a dead dog, being a
182. good kissing carrion: flesh good enough for the sun to kiss.
182good kissing carrionHave you a daughter?
183I have, my lord.
184. Conception: (1) understanding; (2) conceiving a child. Hamlet is mocking both Polonius' lack of understanding and his over-protective attitude towards Ophelia.
184Let her not walk i' th' sun. Conception is a
185blessing: but not as your daughter may conceive.
186Friend, look to 't.
187How say you by that? Still harping on my daughter:
188yet he knew me not at first; 'a said I was a fishmonger.
189'A is far gone, far gone: and truly in my youth I
190suffered much extremity for lovevery near this. I'll
191speak to him again.What do you read, my lord?
192Words, words, words.
193. What is the matter, my lord?: Polonius asks about the subject matter of Hamlet's book, but Hamlet deliberately takes the word "matter" to mean "cause for a quarrel."
193What is the matter, my lord?
195I mean, the matter that you read, my lord.
196Slanders, sir: for the satirical rogue says here
197that old men have grey beards, that their faces are
198. purging: discharging.
198wrinkled, their eyes purging thick amber and
199plum-tree gum, and that they have a plentiful lack of
200wit, together with most weak hams: all which, sir,
201though I most powerfully and potently believe, yet
202. honesty: decency, a fitting thing.
202I hold it not honesty to have it thus set down, for
203yourself, sir, should be old as I am, if like a crab
204you could go backward.
205. method: sense; a connection among the ideas; sequence of ideas. 206. Will you walk out of the air, my lord?: Polonius is inviting Hamlet to come inside, because fresh air was thought to be bad for an invalid, such as Hamlet, who is (in Polonius' opinion) mad. Shakespeare has apparently forgotten that the scene started inside, in the "lobby."
205Though this be madness, yet there is method
206in 't. Will you walk out of the air, my lord?
207Into my grave.
208Indeed, that is out o' the air.
209. pregnant: full of meaning. happiness: a lucky expressiveness.
209How pregnant sometimes his replies are! a happiness
210that often madness hits on, which reason and sanity
211. prosperously be delivered of: successfully express. 212. suddenly: at once.
211could not so prosperously be delivered of. I will
212leave him, and suddenly contrive the means of
213meeting between him and my daughter.My honorable
214lord, I will most humbly take my leave of you.
215You cannot, sir, take from me any thing that I will
216more willingly part withal: except my life, except
217my life, except my life.
218Fare you well, my lord.
219These tedious old fools!
220You go to seek the Lord Hamlet; there he is.
ROSENCRANTZ [To Polonius.]
221God save you, sir!
222My honored lord!
223My most dear lord!
224My excellent good friends! How dost thou,
225Guildenstern? Ah, Rosencrantz! Good lads,
226how do ye both?
227. indifferent: average, ordinary.
227As the indifferent children of the earth.
228Happy, in that we are not over-happy, on
229Fortune's cap we are not the very button.
230Nor the soles of her shoe?
231Neither, my lord.
232Then you live about her waist, or in the middle of
234. privates: (1) intimate friends; (2) private parts.
234'Faith, her privates we.
235In the secret parts of Fortune? O, most true; she
236. strumpet: slut. Fortune (i.e., chance, luck) was often called a strumpet, because she grants favors to all men, without regard to their worthiness. What news?: i.e., what's up?; what's happening?
236is a strumpet. What news?
237None, my lord, but that the world's grown honest.
238Then is doomsday near. But your news is not true.
239Let me question more in particular: what have you,
240my good friends, deserved at the hands of Fortune,
241that she sends you to prison hither?
242Prison, my lord!
243Denmark's a prison.
244Then is the world one.
245. confines: places of confinement.
246. wards: cells.
246. wards: cells.
245A goodly one, in which there are many confines,
246wards and dungeons, Denmark being one o' the
248We think not so, my lord.
249Why, then, 'tis none to you; for there is nothing
250either good or bad, but thinking makes it so. To
251me it is a prison.
252Why then, your ambition makes it one; 'tis too
253narrow for your mind.
254O God, I could be bounded in a nutshell and count
255myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I
256have bad dreams.
257Which dreams indeed are ambition, for the very
258substance of the ambitious is merely the shadow
259of a dream.
260A dream itself is but a shadow.
261Truly, and I hold ambition of so airy and light a
262quality that it is but a shadow's shadow.
263-264. Then . . . shadows:
263Then are our beggars bodies, and our monarchs and
264outstretched heroes the beggars' shadows. Shall we
265. by my fay: A casual way of saying "by my faith." I cannot reason: i.e., I can't keep up this exchange of witty remarks.
265to the court? for, by my fay, I cannot reason.
ROSENCRANTZ and GUILDENSTERN
266. We'll wait upon you: we'll accompany you and be your attendants.
266We'll wait upon you.
267. sort you with: consider you to be in the same class as.
267No such matter: I will not sort you with the rest
268of my servants, for, to speak to you like an honest
269. dreadfully attended: execrably waited upon.
269man, I am most dreadfully attended. But, in the
270. beaten way: familiar path. what make you at Elsinore?: what are you doing at Elsinore?
270beaten way of friendship, what make you at Elsinore?
271To visit you, my lord; no other occasion.
272Beggar that I am, I am even poor in thanks; but I
273-274. are too dear a halfpenny: too expensive at the price of a halfpenny; i.e., not worth much.
273thank you: and sure, dear friends, my thanks are
274too dear a halfpenny. Were you not sent for? Is it
275your own inclining? Is it a free visitation? Come,
276. justly: honestly.
276deal justly with me: come, come; nay, speak.
277What should we say, my lord?
278. Why, anything, but to th' purpose: i.e., get to the point. ...more
278Why, anything, but to th' purpose. You were sent
279for; and there is a kind of confession in your looks
280. your modesties have not craft enough to color: i.e., your sense of shame prevents you from covering up.
280which your modesties have not craft enough to color:
281I know the good king and queen have sent for you.
282To what end, my lord?
283. conjure: entreat. Hamlet uses high-flown language to mock the hypocrisy of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. 284-285. consonancy of our youth: similarity of our ages.
286-287. by . . . withal: i.e., by whatever is more precious that a more eloquent person could come up with. even: frank, honest.
286-287. by . . . withal: i.e., by whatever is more precious that a more eloquent person could come up with. even: frank, honest.
283That you must teach me. But let me conjure you, by
284the rights of our fellowship, by the consonancy of
285our youth, by the obligation of our ever-preserved
286love, and by what more dear a better proposer could
287charge you withal, be even and direct with me,
288whether you were sent for, or no?
ROSENCRANTZ [Aside to Guildenstern.]
289What say you?
290. an eye of you: an eye on you.
290Nay, then, I have an eye of you.If you
291love me, hold not off.
292My lord, we were sent for.
293-294. so . . . discovery: i.e., by telling you what you want to know before you ask, I will make it unnecessary for you to be revealed as spies. 295. moult no feather: i.e., not be impaired in the least. 296-297. custom of exercises: usual athletic exercises.
293I will tell you why; so shall my anticipation prevent
294your discovery, and your secrecy to the king and
295queen moult no feather. I have of latebut wherefore
296I know notlost all my mirth, forgone all custom of
297exercises; and indeed it goes so heavily with my
298disposition that this goodly frame, the earth, seems to
299me a sterile promontory, this most excellent canopy,
300. brave: splendid.
301. fretted: ornamented as with fretwork. ...more
301. fretted: ornamented as with fretwork. ...more
300the air, look you, this brave o'erhanging firmament,
301this majestical roof fretted with golden fire, why,
302it appears no other thing to me than a foul and pestilent
303. piece of work: masterpiece.
303congregation of vapors. What a piece of work is a man!
304. faculties: abilities.
304How noble in reason, how infinite in faculties,
305. express: exact.
305in form and moving how express and admirable,
306in action how like an angel, in apprehension how like
307a god! The beauty of the world, the paragon of animals!
308. quintessence: purest essence. In ancient philosophy, the "quintessence" (fifth essence) is superior to the four essences (air, fire, earth, water) of this world; it the essence of all essences. Hamlet's phrase, "quintessence of dust" is very ironic.
308And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust? Man
309delights not meno, nor woman neither, though by
310your smiling you seem to say so.
311My lord, there was no such stuff in my
313Why did you laugh then, when I said "man delights
315To think, my lord, if you delight not in man, what
316. lenten entertainment: meager reception. Lent is a period of fasting. 317. coted: overtook and passed.
316lenten entertainment the players shall receive from
317you. We coted them on the way; and hither are they
318coming, to offer you service.
319He that plays the king shall be welcome; his majesty
320shall have tribute of me; the adventurous knight
321. foil and target: light fencing sword and small shield. 322. gratis: without reward. humorous man: eccentric character, expressing only one trait ("humor").
321shall use his foil and target; the lover shall not
322sigh gratis; the humorous man shall end his part
323in peace; the clown shall make those laugh whose
324. tickle o' th' sere: i.e., easily made to laugh. ...more 325. halt: limp. Maybe the idea is that if the lady has to omit certain offensive words, the blank verse wouldn't sound right.
324lungs are tickle o' th' sere; and the lady shall
325say her mind freely, or the blank verse shall halt
326for't. What players are they?
327Even those you were wont to take delight in,
328the tragedians of the city.
329. residence: i.e., staying at home in the city.
329How chances it they travel? their residence,
330both in reputation and profit, was better both
332-333. inhibition: hindrance [to playing in the city]. late: recent ...more
332I think their inhibition comes by the means of the
334Do they hold the same estimation they did when I was
335. the city: Although Hamlet is set in Elsinore, castle of the Danish king, Shakespeare seems to be thinking of England, where "the city" always referred to London, the center of all political and cultural activity. are they so followed? i.e., do people still talk about them and attend their performances as they used to?
335in the city? are they so followed?
336No, indeed, are they not.
337How comes it? do they grow rusty?
338. their endeavour keeps in the wonted pace: i.e., they perform as well as they ever did. 339. aery: nest. eyases: unfledged hawks. 340. cry out on the top of question: cry shrilly, dominating the controversy. 341. tyrannically clapp'd: domineeringly applauded. 342. berattle: berate, satirize. common stages: i.e., public theatres [such as Shakespeare's Globe]. ...more 344. goose-quills: pens [of satirical playwrights].
338Nay, their endeavour keeps in the wonted pace: but
339there is, sir, an aery of children, little eyases,
340that cry out on the top of question, and are most
341tyrannically clapp'd for't: these are now the
342fashion, and so berattle the common stagesso they
343call themthat many wearing rapiers are afraid of
344goose-quills and dare scarce come thither.
345What, are they children? who maintains 'em? how are
346. escoted: maintained, supported.
346they escoted? Will they pursue the quality no
347-348. quality: profession [of acting]. no longer than they can sing?: i.e., only until their voices change. 348-349. grow themselves to common players: themselves become regular actors.
347longer than they can sing? will they not say
348afterwards, if they should grow themselves to common
349playersas it is most like, if their means are no
350bettertheir writers do them wrong, to make them
351. exclaim against their own succession: denounce their own future profession.
351exclaim against their own succession?
352. to do: ado.
352'Faith, there has been much to do on both sides; and
353. tarre: incite, urge on. The verb "tarre" was usually used in connection with dog fights. 354-356. there was ... in the question: i.e., for a while it was not possible to sell a proposal for a play, unless the action contained a scene in which a poet and an actor ("player") had a fistfight. "argument": plot outline. "in the question": in the action.
353the nation holds it no sin to tarre them to
354controversy: there was, for a while, no money bid
355for argument, unless the poet and the player went to
356cuffs in the question.
358O, there has been much throwing about of
360. carry it away: win the day.
360Do the boys carry it away?
361-362. Hercules and his load too: One of Hercules' twelve labors was to hold up the world in the place of Atlas. Also, the sign of the Globe theater was probably the figure of Hercules holding up the world. These two allusions say that the boy players have taken the world by storm and have taken away customers from the adult actors. 364. mouths: derisive faces.
361Ay, that they do, my lord; Hercules and his
363It is not very strange; for mine uncle is king of
364Denmark, and those that would make mouths at
365him while my father lived, give twenty, forty,
366. ducats: gold coins.
366fifty, an hundred ducats apiece for his picture
367. in little: in miniature. 'Sblood: by his [Christ's] blood. 368. philosophy: i.e., natural philosophy, science.
367in little. 'Sblood, there is something in this more
368than natural, if philosophy could find it out.
flourish: trumpet fanfare.
A flourish [for the Players].
369There are the players.
370. Your hands: i.e., shake hands.
370Gentlemen, you are welcome to Elsinore. Your hands,
371-375. come then: i.e., come on [shake hands]. Th' appurtenance . . . yours: i.e., the formalities of giving a welcome are determined by current fashion and ceremony. So, let me observe the usual formalities, lest my more enthusiastic welcome to the playerswhich, I have to tell you, must appear very warmshould appear more sincere than my welcome to you. (Thus Hamlet bids Rosencrantz and Guildenstern welcome, while at the same time telling them that the actors will be more welcome.)
371come then. Th' appurtenance of welcome is fashion
372and ceremony. Let me comply with you in this garb,
373lest my extent to the players, which, I tell you,
374must show fairly outward, should more appear like
375entertainment than yours. You are welcome. But my
376uncle-father and aunt-mother are deceived.
377In what, my dear lord?
378. I am but mad north-north-west: i.e., I am only a mad under rare conditions. ...more 379. I know a hawk from a handsaw: "Hawk" is the name of both a bird and a plasterer's tool. Also, it's possible that "handsaw" is a pun on "hernshaw," a heron. In any case, Hamlet is wittily warning Rosencrantz and Guildenstern (and via them, the King and Queen) that he is not easily deceived.
378I am but mad north-north-west: when the wind is
379southerly I know a hawk from a handsaw.
380Well be with you, gentlemen!
381Hark you, Guildenstern; and you too: at each ear a
382hearer: that great baby you see there is not yet
383out of his swaddling-clouts.
384. Happily: Haply, perhaps.
384Happily he's the second time come to them; for they
385. twice: i.e., for the second time.
385say an old man is twice a child.
386I will prophesy he comes to tell me of the players;
387-388. You say right, sir: o' Monday morning; 'twas so indeed: Hamlet pretends to be deeply involved in a conversation, and is expecting that Polonius will interrupt, because Polonius is so full of the importance of his news, and full of himself.
387mark it.You say right, sir: o' Monday morning;
388'twas so indeed.
389My lord, I have news to tell you.
390My lord, I have news to tell you.
391. Roscius: Roscius (d. 62 B.C.E.) was a famous Roman actor. Hamlet is mocking Polonius. Polonius' news is old news, and Hamlet offers to tell him even older news.
391When Roscius was an actor in Rome
392The actors are come hither, my lord.
393. Buzz: "Buzz" is still (C.E. 2015) a word for the newest rumor, gossip, or fad. But Hamlet is being sarcastic; Polonius' "buzz" is not really new; it is more like the idle buzzing of a fly.
394Upon mine honor
395. ass: donkey.
395Then came each actor on his ass
396The best actors in the world, either for tragedy,
397. pastoral: a literary work which idealizes the simplicity and wisdom of shepherds and other rural types.
397comedy, history, pastoral, pastoral-comical,
398historical-pastoral, tragical-historical, tragical-
399. scene individable: play observing the unity of place.
399comical-historical-pastoral, scene individable, or
400-401. poem unlimited: i.e., play which is not bound by the limits of neo-classical rules. ...more 401-402. For the law of writ and the liberty: i.e., for drama which follows the neo-classical rules, and for drama which is free.
400poem unlimited: Seneca cannot be too heavy, nor
401Plautus too light. For the law of writ and the
402liberty, these are the only men.
403. Jephthah, judge of Israel: This is the title of a ballad of Shakespeare's time, from which Hamlet goes on to quote. ...more
403O Jephthah, judge of Israel, what a treasure
405What a treasure had he, my lord?
407"One fair daughter and no more,
408. passing: surpassingly.
408The which he loved passing well."
409Still on my daughter.
410Am I not i' the right, old Jephthah?
411If you call me Jephthah, my lord, I have a daughter
412that I love passing well.
413. Nay, that follows not: Literally, Hamlet means, "That's not the next verse"; figuratively, he means, "you do not understand the implications of what follows."
413Nay, that follows not.
414What follows, then, my lord?
416. lot: chance. wot: knows. Here is the text of the ballad.
"As by lot, God wot,"
417and then, you know,
418. It came to pass, as most like it was: it happened to happen, as was most likely. 419. row: stanza. chanson: song, ballad. 420. abridgment: (1) interruption; something that cuts short something else. (2) diversion, entertainment.
"It came to pass, as most like it was,"
419the first row of the pious chanson will show you
420more; for look, where my abridgement comes.
Enter the PLAYERS [four or five].
421You are welcome, masters; welcome, all. I am glad
422to see thee well. Welcome, good friends. O, my old
423. valanc'd: i.e., fringed with a beard. ...more
423friend! thy face is valenc'd since I saw thee last:
424. beard: confront boldly, pick a quarrel. young lady and mistress: Hamlet is speaking to an actor who plays, or used to play, women's parts.
424comest thou to beard me in Denmark? What, my young
425lady and mistress! By'r lady, your ladyship is
426nearer to heaven than when I saw you last, by the
427. chopine: Chopines were extreme platform shoes worn by women. ...more 428-429. a piece of uncurrent gold: a gold coin that is not lawful currency. ...more
427altitude of a chopine. Pray God, your voice, like
428a piece of uncurrent gold, be not cracked within the
429ring. Masters, you are all welcome. We'll e'en
430. like French falconers: i.e., freely, without being too choosy. 431. straight: straightway, at once.
430to't like French falconers, fly at any thing we see:
431we'll have a speech straight: come, give us a taste
432. quality: professional skill.
432of your quality; come, a passionate speech.
433What speech, my lord?
434I heard thee speak me a speech once, but it was never
435acted; or, if it was, not above once; for the play, I
436-437. caviary to the general: caviare to the multitude, i.e., a dish too elegant for ordinary people.
436remember, pleased not the million; 'twas caviary to
437the general: but it wasas I received it, and others,
438-439. whose . . . mine: i.e., whose judgments in such matters carried more authority than mine did. 439. well digested in the scenes: i.e., well arranged, so that one scene leads naturally to the next. 440. set . . . cunning: written with as much discretion as skill. 441. sallets: salads, i.e., spicy jokes. 442. savory: zesty. phrase: mode of expression. 443. indict: convict.
438whose judgments in such matters cried in the top
439of minean excellent play, well digested in the scenes,
440set down with as much modesty as cunning.
441I remember, one said there were no sallets in the lines
442to make the matter savory, nor no matter in the phrase
443that might indict the author of affectation; but called it an
444honest method, as wholesome as sweet, and by
445. handsome: fitting. fine: flashy.
445very much more handsome than fine. One speech
446. 'twas Aeneas' tale to Dido: it was the story that Aeneas told to Dido. 447. and thereabout of it especially: and specially that part of it. 448. Priam's slaughter: the slaying of Priam, the elderly King of Troy. 450. Pyrrhus: cruel son of Achilles Hyrcanian beast: i.e., a ferocious tiger. 452. sable: black. The Greeks hiding in the Trojan horse blackened their skin to camouflage themselves.
446in it I chiefly loved: 'twas Aeneas' tale to Dido;
447and thereabout of it especially, where he speaks of
448Priam's slaughter: if it live in your memory, begin
449at this linelet me see, let me see:
450"The rugged Pyrrhus, like the Hyrcanian beast"
451'Tis not so: it begins with Pyrrhus:
452"The rugged Pyrrhus, he whose sable arms,
453Black as his purpose, did the night resemble
454. lay couched: i.e., hidden, waiting in ambush.
the ominous horse: i.e., the Trojan horse.
the ominous horse: i.e., the Trojan horse.
454When he lay couched in the ominous horse,
455Hath now this dread and black complexion smear'd
With heraldry more dismal; head to foot456. heraldry | dismal: ill-boding.456
457. gules: This is heraldic term for "red." trick'd: adorned.
457Now is he total gules; horridly trick'd
458With blood of fathers, mothers, daughters, sons,
459. Bak'd: caked. impasted: crusted. with the parching streets: i.e., by the heat from the burning streets.
459Bak'd and impasted with the parching streets,
460That lend a tyrannous and damned light
461. their lord: Priam
461To their lord's murder. Roasted in wrath and fire,
462. o'er-sized: covered over as with a coat of sizing or glue. coagulate gore: i.e., clotted blood. 463. carbuncles: deep-red jewels which shine in the dark.
462And thus o'er-sized with coagulate gore,
463With eyes like carbuncles, the hellish Pyrrhus
464Old grandsire Priam seeks."
465. So, proceed you: i.e., pick up where I left off.
465So, proceed you.
466-467. with good accent and good discretion: i.e., intelligently, meaningfully.
466'Fore God, my lord, well spoken, with good accent
467and good discretion.
468. Anon: quickly.
468"Anon he finds him
469Striking too short at Greeks; his antique sword,
470Rebellious to his arm, lies where it falls,
471. Repugnant to command: disobedient to [Priam's attempt to] control [it]. Unequal match'd: i.e., facing a foe not equal to him. 472. strikes wide: misses. 473. fell: cruel, deadly. 474. unnerved: drained of strength. senseless: insensible. Ilium: the central tower of Troy.
471Repugnant to command. Unequal match'd,
472Pyrrhus at Priam drives; in rage strikes wide;
473But with the whiff and wind of his fell sword
474The unnerved father falls. Then senseless Ilium,
475Seeming to feel this blow, with flaming top
476. Stoops to his base: falls to its foundation.
476Stoops to his base, and with a hideous crash
477Takes prisoner Pyrrhus' ear: for, lo! his sword,
478. declining on: coming down on.
478Which was declining on the milky head
479Of reverend Priam, seem'd i' the air to stick:
480. painted: i.e., painted in a picture.
480So, as a painted tyrant, Pyrrhus stood,
481. like a neutral to his will and matter: i.e., poised midway between intention and action.
481And like a neutral to his will and matter,
483. against: just before.
483But, as we often see, against some storm,
484. rack: mass of clouds.
484A silence in the heavens, the rack stand still,
485The bold winds speechless and the orb below
486As hush as death, anon the dreadful thunder
487. region: sky.
487Doth rend the region, so, after Pyrrhus' pause,
488Aroused vengeance sets him new a-work;
489. Cyclops: giants who worked in Vulcan's smithy, where armor was made for the gods. 490. proof eterne: eternal invincibility. 491. remorse: pity. bleeding: dripping blood.
489And never did the Cyclops' hammers fall
490On Mars's armor forged for proof eterne
491With less remorse than Pyrrhus' bleeding sword
492Now falls on Priam.
493. strumpet: slut. ...more
493Out, out, thou strumpet, Fortune! All you gods,
494. In general synod: in a general assembly; i.e., by unanimous consent. 495. fellies: rims. her wheel: Fortune's wheel. ...more 496. nave: hub.
494In general synod take away her power;
495Break all the spokes and fellies from her wheel,
496And bowl the round nave down the hill of heaven,
497As low as to the fiends!"
498This is too long.
499It shall to the barber's, with your beard. Prithee,
500. jig: comic song and dance performed after a play. tale of bawdry: raunchy story.
500say on: he's for a jig or a tale of bawdry, or he
501sleeps: say on: come to Hecuba.
502. mobled: muffled, hastily wrapped up.
502"But who, O, who had seen the mobled queen"
503"The mobled queen?"
504That's good; "mobled queen" is good.
505-506. threatening . . . rheum: i.e., weeping so much that it seemed she would extinguish the flames with her blinding tears. clout: cloth.
505"Run barefoot up and down, threatening the flames
506With bisson rheum; a clout upon that head
507Where late the diadem stood, and for a robe,
508. o'er-teemed: worn out by childbearing. Hecuba bore most of Priam's 50 sons.
508About her lank and all o'er-teemed loins,
509A blanket, in the alarm of fear caught up;
510Who this had seen, with tongue in venom steep'd,
511. state: rule, government.
511'Gainst Fortune's state would treason have pronounced.
512But if the gods themselves did see her then
513When she saw Pyrrhus make malicious sport
514. mincing with his sword her husband's limbs: Marlowe, in Dido, Queen of Carthage, writes that Pyrrhus cut off Priam's hands before killing him.
514In mincing with his sword her husband's limbs,
515The instant burst of clamor that she made,
516Unless things mortal move them not at all,
517. made milch the burning eyes of heaven: i.e., made the blazing stars weep milky tears. 518. passion: grief.
517Would have made milch the burning eyes of heaven,
518And passion in the gods."
519. Look, whether he has not turned his color: i.e., note how he has gone pale.
519Look, whether he has not turned his color and has
520tears in's eyes. Prithee no more.
521'Tis well: I'll have thee speak out the rest soon.
522Good my lord, will you see the players well
523. bestow'd: lodged. us'd: treated.
523bestow'd? Do you hear, let them be well us'd; for
524. abstract: summary account.
524they are the abstract and brief chronicles of the
525time: after your death you were better have a bad
526epitaph than their ill report while you live.
527My lord, I will use them according to their
529. God's bodykin: by God's (Christ's) little body. This is a humorous oath.
529God's bodykin, man, much better: use every
530man after his desert, and who should 'scape
531. after: according to.
531whipping? Use them after your own honor
532and dignity: the less they deserve, the more
533merit is in your bounty. Take them in.
535Follow him, friends: we'll hear a play
[Exit POLONIUS with all the Players
but the First.]
537Dost thou hear me, old friend; can you
538play the Murder of Gonzago?
539Ay, my lord.
540. ha't: have it; see it.
540We'll ha't tomorrow night. You could,
541. for need: if necessary. study: memorize.
541for a need, study a speech of some dozen
542or sixteen lines, which I would set down
543and insert in't, could you not?
544Ay, my lord.
545Very well. Follow that lord; and look you mock him not.
[Exit First Player.]
546My good friends, I'll leave you till night: you are
547welcome to Elsinore.
548Good my lord!
549. God buy to you: God be with you; goodbye.
549Ay, so, God buy to you.
Exeunt [ROSENCRANTZ and
549Now I am alone.
550O, what a rogue and peasant slave am I!
551Is it not monstrous that this player here,
552But in a fiction, in a dream of passion,
553. conceit: imaginative conception.
553Could force his soul so to his own conceit
554. from her working all his visage wann'd: i.e., as a result of the soul's efforts his whole face grew pale.
554That from her working all his visage wann'd,
555Tears in his eyes, distraction in his aspect,
556-557. his whole function suiting / With forms to his conceit: i.e., his whole being responding with actions and expressions corresponding to his imaginative conception.
556A broken voice, and his whole function suiting
557With forms to his conceit? and all for nothing!
559What's Hecuba to him, or he to Hecuba,
560That he should weep for her? What would he do,
561Had he the motive and the cue for passion
562That I have? He would drown the stage with tears
563. cleave the general ear: split the ears of all who heard him. 564. free: innocent.
563And cleave the general ear with horrid speech,
564Make mad the guilty and appall the free,
565Confound the ignorant, and amaze indeed
566. The very faculties of eyes and ears: i.e., sight and hearing. 567. muddy-mettled: dull-spirited. peak: mope. 568. John-a-dreams: a sleepy, dreaming slacker. unpregnant of my cause: not brought to life by my mission.
566The very faculties of eyes and ears. Yet I,
567A dull and muddy-mettled rascal, peak,
568Like John-a-dreams, unpregnant of my cause,
569And can say nothing; no, not for a king,
570. property: i.e., the crown of Denmark.
570Upon whose property and most dear life
571. defeat: destruction.
571A damn'd defeat was made. Am I a coward?
572Who calls me villain? breaks my pate across?
573Plucks off my beard, and blows it in my face?
574-575. gives me ... lungs: i.e., calls me a pathological liar.
574Tweaks me by the nose? gives me the lie i' the throat,
575As deep as to the lungs? who does me this?
576. 'swounds: by God's (Christ's) wounds. I should take it: i.e., I should accept all these insults [because I deserve them]. 577-578. I . . . bitter: i.e., I have a nature that is not capable of resenting wrongs. ...more 579-580. fatted all the region kites / With this slave's offal
576Ha! 'Swounds, I should take it: for it cannot be
577But I am pigeon-liver'd and lack gall
578To make oppression bitter, or ere this
579I should have fatted all the region kites
580With this slave's offal. Bloody, bawdy villain!
581. kindless: unnatural.
581Remorseless, treacherous, lecherous, kindless villain!
583. most brave: i.e., ridiculous and cowardly. "Brave" meant both brave and handsome, but Hamlet is being sarcastic.
583Why, what an ass am I! This is most brave,
584That I, the son of a dear father murder'd,
585Prompted to my revenge by heaven and hell,
586Must, like a whore, unpack my heart with words,
587. drab: female whore.
587And fall a-cursing, like a very drab,
588. scullion: i.e., a foul-mouthed dishwasher.
589. About, my brain!: i.e., turn about, my brain, and get to work.
589. About, my brain!: i.e., turn about, my brain, and get to work.
588A scullion! Fie upon't! foh!
589About, my brain! Hum I have heard
590That guilty creatures sitting at a play
591. cunning of the scene: skillful performance of a scene. 592. presently: at once; then and there.
591Have by the very cunning of the scene
592Been struck so to the soul that presently
593. proclaim'd their malefactions: revealed their misdeeds [via their spontaneous reactions].
593They have proclaim'd their malefactions;
594For murder, though it have no tongue, will speak
595. organ: means of communication.
595With most miraculous organ. I'll have these players
596Play something like the murder of my father
597Before mine uncle. I'll observe his looks;
598. tent him to the quick: probe him to his vital core. blench: flinch.
598I'll tent him to the quick. If he but blench,
599I know my course. The spirit that I have seen
600May be the devil, and the devil hath power
601To assume a pleasing shape; yea, and perhaps
602Out of my weakness and my melancholy,
603. As . . . spirits: i.e., because he has great influence on those who have a temperament such as mine. 604. Abuses: deludes. If the Ghost is deceiving Hamlet about King Claudius' guilt, and Hamlet kills him, Hamlet would be a murderer, and therefore damned.
603As he is very potent with such spirits,
604Abuses me to damn me. I'll have grounds
605More relative than this: the play's the thing
606Wherein I'll catch the conscience of the king.