Hamlet: Act 3, Scene 2
Enter HAMLET and three of the PLAYERS.
1Speak the speech, I pray you, as I pronounced it to
2. mouth it: i.e., deliver it melodramatically.
2you, trippingly on the tongue: but if you mouth it,
3. our players: i.e., the actors of this time. lief: willingly.
3as many of our players do, I had as lief the town-crier
4spoke my lines. Nor do not saw the air too much with
5your hand, thus, but use all gently; for in the very
6torrent, tempest, and, as I may say, the whirlwind of
7passion, you must acquire and beget a temperance
8that may give it smoothness. O, it offends me to the
9. robustious: boisterous. periwig-pated fellow: i.e., some guy with a fashionable wig on his head.
9soul to hear a robustious periwig-pated fellow tear
10a passion to tatters, to very rags, to split the ears of the
11. groundlings: those who paid just a penny and stood on the ground in the pit of the theater. 11-12. capable ... noise: i.e. respond to the play only by making faces and a lot of noise. 13-14. Termagant . . . Herod: Both of these were well-known as noisy, melodramatic characters in medieval drama.
11groundlings, who for the most part are capable of
12nothing but inexplicable dumbshows and noise: I would
13have such a fellow whipped for o'erdoing Termagant;
14it out-herods Herod: pray you, avoid it.
15. warrant: promise, assure. The player is promising Hamlet that all of his instructions will be faithfully followed.
15I warrant your honor.
16Be not too tame neither, but let your own discretion
17be your tutor: suit the action to the word, the word
18-19. with ... nature: i.e., always remembering to not go beyond the simple truth of nature.
18to the action; with this special observance, that you
19o'erstep not the modesty of nature: for any thing so
20. is from the purpose of playing: is contrary to the purpose of staging plays. end: goal. 21. both at the first and now: both when plays were first performed and now.
20overdone is from the purpose of playing, whose end,
21both at the first and now, was and is, to hold, as 'twere,
22the mirror up to nature; to show virtue her own feature,
23. scorn: i.e., that which is worthy of scorn.
23scorn her own image, and the very age and body of
24. his: its pressure: impression, exact image.
24the time his form and pressure. Now this overdone,
25. come tardy off: done lamely. This fault in acting is the opposite of the fault of being "overdone."
25or come tardy off, though it make the unskilful
26laugh, cannot but make the judicious grieve; the
27. censure: judgment. which one: [even] one of whom [i.e., "the judicious"]. allowance: estimation.
27censure of the which one must in your allowance
28o'erweigh a whole theatre of others. O, there be
29players that I have seen play, and heard others
30. not to speak it profanely: to speak without joking. 31. Christians: i.e., recognizable, believable human beings.
30praise, and that highly, not to speak it profanely,
31that, neither having the accent of Christians nor
32the gait of Christian, pagan, nor man, have so
33strutted and bellowed that I have thought some of
34. journeymen: day laborers, not masters of their craft.
34nature's journeymen had made men and not made
35them well, they imitated humanity so abominably.
36. we have reformed that indifferently with us: our company of actors have corrected that fault pretty well.
36I hope we have reformed that indifferently with us,
38O, reform it altogether. And let those that play
39your clowns speak no more than is set down for
40. of them: some of them.
40them; for there be of them that will themselves
41. barren: i.e., witless.
41laugh, to set on some quantity of barren spectators
42to laugh too; though, in the mean time, some
43necessary question of the play be then to be
44considered: that's villanous, and shows a most pitiful
45ambition in the fool that uses it. Go, make you ready.
Enter POLONIUS, GUILDENSTERN
46-47. piece of work: masterpiece. But Hamlet is being sarcastic.
46How now, my lord! Will the king hear this piece
48. presently: at once.
48And the queen too, and that presently.
49Bid the players make haste.
50Will you two help to hasten them?
ROSENCRANTZ and GUILDENSTERN
51Ay, my lord.
Exeunt they two.
52What ho! Horatio!
53Here, sweet lord, at your service.
54-55. thou art e'en as just a man / As e'er my conversation coped withal: i.e., of all men that I have known, you are most like what a man should be.
54Horatio, thou art e'en as just a man
55As e'er my conversation coped withal.
56O, my dear lord
56Nay, do not think I flatter;
57. advancement: advantage.
57For what advancement may I hope from thee
58That no revenue hast but thy good spirits,
59To feed and clothe thee? Why should the poor be flatter'd?
60. candied: sugared; i.e., flattering.
60No, let the candied tongue lick absurd pomp,
61. crook the pregnant hinges of the knee: i.e., bend a knee in hopes of receiving a reward. 62. Where thrift may follow fawning: when profit may follow from fawning.
61And crook the pregnant hinges of the knee
62Where thrift may follow fawning. Dost thou hear?
63Since my dear soul was mistress of her choice
64. could . . . distinguish: i.e., could evaluate the differing worths of men. election: considered choice. 65. seal'd: chosen once and for all. 66. As one ... nothing: As one who, in enduring everything, doesn't allow anything to cause him suffering. 67. buffets: beatings.
64And could of men distinguish, her election
65Hath seal'd thee for herself; for thou hast been
66As one, in suffering all, that suffers nothing,
67A man that Fortune's buffets and rewards
68Hast ta'en with equal thanks: and blest are those
69. blood: i.e., passions.commeddled: blended; i.e., balanced. 70. pipe: musical instrument, such as a recorder or flute. 71. stop: i.e., note. A "stop" is a hole in a wind instrument for controlling the note played.
69Whose blood and judgment are so well commeddled,
70That they are not a pipe for Fortune's finger
71To sound what stop she please. Give me that man
72That is not passion's slave, and I will wear him
73In my heart's core, ay, in my heart of heart,
74. Something too much of this: Apparently Hamlet has either noticed that Horatio is embarrassed by this effusive praise, or Hamlet himself has become embarrassed.
74As I do thee.Something too much of this.
75There is a play tonight before the king;
76One scene of it comes near the circumstance
77Which I have told thee of my father's death:
78I prithee, when thou seest that act afoot,
79. Even with the very comment of thy soul: with the most wise and intuitive judgment of your soul. 80. occulted: hidden. 81. unkennel: bring into the open.
79Even with the very comment of thy soul
80Observe mine uncle. If his occulted guilt
81Do not itself unkennel in one speech,
82. damned ghost: evil spirit, devil.
82It is a damned ghost that we have seen,
83. imaginations: suspicions, mental images. foul: i.e., black, dirty, and dangerous. 84. Vulcan's stithy: Vulcan's smithy. ...more Give him heedful note: i.e., pay very close attention to him.
83And my imaginations are as foul
84As Vulcan's stithy. Give him heedful note;
85For I mine eyes will rivet to his face,
86And after we will both our judgments join
87. censure of his seeming: rendering a verdict on his behavior.
87In censure of his seeming.
87Well, my lord:
88. If a' steal aught: i.e., if he hide anything.
88If a' steal aught the whilst this play is playing,
89. scape: escape. pay: pay for. Horatio is promising that he will not miss any sign of King Claudius' guilt.
89And scape detecting, I will pay the theft.
90. be idle: i.e., pretend to be unconcerned.
90They are coming to the play; I must be idle.
91Get you a place.
Enter trumpets and kettledrums,
KING, QUEEN, POLONIUS,
GUILDENSTERN, and attendants].
92How fares our cousin Hamlet?
93. the chameleon's dish: i.e., air. ...more
93Excellent, i' faith; of the chameleon's dish:
94I eat the air, promise-crammed. You cannot
95feed capons so.
96-97. I have nothing with this answer, Hamlet; these words are not mine: i.e., I can't make sense of your answer, Hamlet; it's not responsive to the question I asked.
96I have nothing with this answer, Hamlet; these
97words are not mine.
98No, nor mine now. [To Polonius.] My lord,
99you played once i' the university, you say?
100That did I, my lord; and was accounted a
102What did you enact?
103I did enact Julius Caesar: I was killed i' the
104Capitol; Brutus killed me.
105. part: action, role.
105It was a brute part of him to kill so capital a
106calf there. Be the players ready?
107Ay, my lord; they stay upon your patience.
108Come hither, my dear Hamlet, sit by me.
109No, good mother, here's metal more
POLONIUS [To the King.]
111O, ho! do you mark that?
112. lie: In Shakespeare's time, the phrase "lie with" had the same sexual meaning as "sleep with" does now (C.E. 2015).
112Lady, shall I lie in your lap?
113No, my lord.
114I mean, my head upon your lap?
115Ay, my lord.
116. Do you think I meant country matters?: Do you think I meant to be rude and indecent? Hamlet's use of the word "country" is probably a rude and indecent pun.
116Do you think I meant country matters?
117I think nothing, my lord.
118That's a fair thought to lie between
120What is, my lord?
122. You are merry: i.e., you're just joking. Poor Ophelia! If she took Hamlet's sarcastic remarks at all seriously, she would have to think that he was grossly insulting her, so she decides to believe that he is just making witticisms.
122You are merry, my lord.
124Ay, my lord.
125. your only jig-maker: the very best composer of jigs, farcical song-and-dance entertainments that followed plays. 127. within's: within this.
125O God, your only jig-maker. What should a man do
126but be merry? for, look you, how cheerfully my mother
127looks, and my father died within's two hours.
128Nay, 'tis twice two months, my lord.
129-130. let . . . sables: Devils were usually depicted as black and naked. Sable is a luxurious fur and also, in heraldry, the color black.
129So long? Nay then, let the devil wear black, for I'll
130have a suit of sables. O heavens! die two months ago,
131and not forgotten yet? Then there's hope a great man's
132memory may outlive his life half a year: but, by'r lady,
133-134. suffer not thinking on: i.e., endure the insult of being forgotten.
133he must build churches, then; or else shall he suffer
134not thinking on, with the hobby-horse, whose epitaph
135. "For, O, for, O, the hobby-horse is forgot": This is a quotation from a popular ballad.
135is "For, O, for, O, the hobby-horse is forgot."
The trumpets sounds. Dumb show follows.
Enter a King and a Queen [very lovingly]; the
Queen embracing him, and he her. [She kneels,
makes show of protestation unto him: i.e., demonstrates her devotion to him.
and makes show of protestation unto him.] He
takes her up, and declines his head upon her neck.
He lies him down upon a bank of flowers. She,
seeing him asleep, leaves him. Anon comes in
another man, takes off his crown, kisses it, pours
poison in the sleeper's ears, and leaves him.
The Queen returns; finds the King dead, makes
makes passionate action: i.e., demonstrates her grief.
passionate action. The Poisoner, with some three
or four, comes in again, seems to condole with her.
The dead body is carried away. The Poisoner
woos the Queen with gifts; she seems harsh awhile,
but in the end accepts his love.
136What means this, my lord?
137. this' miching mallecho: this is sneaking mischief.
137Marry, this' miching mallecho; it means
139-140. Belike this show imports the argument of the play: it seems likely that this dumb show tells the plot of the play.
139Belike this show imports the argument of
141We shall know by this fellow: the players
142. keep counsel: keep secrets.
142cannot keep counsel; they'll tell all.
143Will he tell us what this show meant?
144-145. be not you: if you are not.
144Ay, or any show that you'll show him: be
145not you ashamed to show, he'll not shame
146to tell you what it means.
147. naught: naughty, indecent.; mark: pay attention to. Ophelia means that she will learn more from watching the play than she will from listening to Hamlet.
147You are naught, you are naught: I'll mark
149For us, and for our tragedy,
150-151. Here stooping to your clemency, / We beg your hearing patiently: Here bowing to your forgiving nature, we beg that you will hear us patiently.
150Here stooping to your clemency,
151We beg your hearing patiently.
152. Is this a prologue, or the posy of a ring?: A "posy of a ring" is a scrap of verse inscribed on a ring, such as "my love for you will always be new." Hamlet is complaining that the prologue didn't really say anything.
152Is this a prologue, or the posy of a ring?
153'Tis brief, my lord.
154As woman's love.
Enter [two Players,] KING and QUEEN.
155. Phoebus' cart: the sun-god's chariot.
155Full thirty times hath Phoebus' cart gone round
156. Neptune's . . . ground: i.e., the whole round ["orbed"] world. ...more 157. borrow'd sheen: reflected brightness. The people of Shakespeare's time knew that the light of the moon is reflected from the sun. 159. Hymen: god of marriage. 160. commutual: mutually. bands: bonds, pledges of faith.
156Neptune's salt wash and Tellus' orbed ground,
157And thirty dozen moons with borrow'd sheen
158About the world have times twelve thirties been,
159Since love our hearts and Hymen did our hands
160Unite commutual in most sacred bands.
161So many journeys may the sun and moon
162Make us again count o'er ere love be done!
163But, woe is me, you are so sick of late,
164So far from cheer and from your former state,
165-168. distrust: fear for. Yet, though ... in extremity: Yet, though I am seriously worried about you, that should give you no discomfort, because women's love and worry go together; either women don't worry because they don't love, or they worry too much because they sincerely love. 169. proof: experience. 170. as my love is sized, my fear is so: i.e., because my love is of great size, so is my fear for your health. The Player Queen repeats this idea in the next two lines.
165That I distrust you. Yet, though I distrust,
166Discomfort you, my lord, it nothing must,
167For women's fear and love holds quantity;
168In neither aught, or in extremity.
169Now, what my love is, proof hath made you know;
170And as my love is sized, my fear is so:
171Where love is great, the littlest doubts are fear;
172Where little fears grow great, great love grows there.
173. 'Faith, I must leave thee: i.e., certainly, I must die. 174. operant: active, vital. leave to do: cease to perform. 175. behind: i.e., after I die.
173'Faith, I must leave thee, love, and shortly too;
174My operant powers their functions leave to do:
175And thou shalt live in this fair world behind,
176. haply: by good fortune.
176Honor'd, beloved; and haply one as kind
177For husband shalt thou
177. the rest: i.e., what you are about to say next: that I will take a second husband.
177O, confound the rest!
178Such love must needs be treason in my breast:
179In second husband let me be accurst!
180None wed the second but who kill'd the first.
181. Wormwood, wormwood: i.e., that's bitter! The extract of the plant wormwood is very bitter. and so the word "wormwood" also means anything that is harsh or embittering. 182. instances: motives. move: motivate.
182The instances that second marriage move
183. base respects of thrift: dishonorable considerations of monetary or other material advantages.
183Are base respects of thrift, but none of love:
184A second time I kill my husband dead,
185When second husband kisses me in bed.
186I do believe you think what now you speak;
187. what we do determine oft we break: i.e., often, we don't follow through on a course of action that we have decided upon. 188. Purpose: determination, resolution. ...more 189. validity: strength, power to last.
187But what we do determine oft we break.
188Purpose is but the slave to memory,
189Of violent birth, but poor validity;
190Which now, like fruit unripe, sticks on the tree;
191But fall, unshaken, when they mellow be.
192-193. Most necessary ... debt: Of necessity, we forget to pay the obligations that we have imposed on ourselves. 194. passion: violent emotion.
192Most necessary 'tis that we forget
193To pay ourselves what to ourselves is debt:
194What to ourselves in passion we propose,
195The passion ending, doth the purpose lose.
196-197. The violence . . . destroy: i.e., violent grief and joy don't lead to action because both emotions burn themselves out by their very violence. 198-199. Where joy . . . accident: i.e., the smallest accident can turn grief to joy, and vice versa. ...more 200. for aye: for ever; everlasting.
196The violence of either grief or joy
197Their own enactures with themselves destroy:
198Where joy most revels, grief doth most lament;
199Grief joys, joy grieves, on slender accident.
200This world is not for aye, nor 'tis not strange
201That even our loves should with our fortunes change;
202. 'tis a question left us yet to prove: it's a question that we haven't yet answered. However, in what follows, the Player King shows that fortune controls love. 205. The poor advanced: the poor man raised to a higher position. 206. And . . . tend: i.e., And these examples show that love depends on fortune. 207. who . . . friend: the person who doesn't need a friend will always have one. 208-209. who . . . enemy: i.e., a person in want who appeals for help from a hollow friend immediately makes that friend his enemy.
202For 'tis a question left us yet to prove,
203Whether love lead fortune, or else fortune love.
204The great man down, you mark his favorite flies;
205The poor advanced makes friends of enemies.
206And hitherto doth love on fortune tend;
207For who not needs shall never lack a friend,
208And who in want a hollow friend doth try,
209Directly seasons him his enemy.
210But, orderly to end where I begun,
211Our wills and fates do so contrary run
212. devices: devisings; i.e., intentions, plans, and efforts. still: always. 213. ends: results. This line, "Our thoughts are ours, their ends none of our own," foreshadows Hamlet's famous lines: "There's a divinity that shapes our ends, / Rough-hew them how we will."
212That our devices still are overthrown;
213Our thoughts are ours, their ends none of our own:
214So think thou wilt no second husband wed;
215But die thy thoughts when thy first lord is dead.
216-223. Nor earth . . . I be wife!: This long speech is a list of all the horrible punishments that the Player Queen says should be inflicted upon her if she re-marries after her husband's death. 217. Sport and repose lock from me: deny me both recreation and rest. 219. An anchor's . . . scope: let a hermit's food in prison be all the comfort I ever have or can hope for. 220-221. Each . . . destroy: i.e., let every opposing force that makes the face of joy go white with grief attack and destroy my every desire. 222. Both here and hence pursue me lasting strife: both in life and in the hereafter let everlasting agony follow me.
216Nor earth to me give food, nor heaven light!
217Sport and repose lock from me day and night!
218To desperation turn my trust and hope!
219An anchor's cheer in prison be my scope!
220Each opposite that blanks the face of joy
221Meet what I would have well and it destroy!
222Both here and hence pursue me lasting strife,
223If, once a widow, ever I be wife!
224If she should break it now!
225'Tis deeply sworn. Sweet, leave me here awhile;
226. fain: gladly. beguile: pass the time of.
226My spirits grow dull, and fain I would beguile
227The tedious day with sleep.
227Sleep rock thy brain,
228And never come mischance between us twain!
229Madam, how like you this play?
230. protests: vows, promises.
230The lady protests too much, methinks.
231O, but she'll keep her word.
232-233. Have you heard the argument?: Do you know the plot? Is there no offense in't?: Is it free of offensive matter?
232Have you heard the argument? Is there no
234. jest: i.e., pretend (because they are just actors in a play).
234No, no, they do but jest, poison in jest
235no offense i' the world.
236What do you call the play?
237. Tropically: Figuratively. ...more
237The Mouse-trap. Marry, how? Tropically. This play
238. image: representation.
238is the image of a murder done in Vienna: Gonzago is
239the duke's name; his wife, Baptista. You shall see
240. anon: very soon.
240anon. 'Tis a knavish piece of work, but what of
241. free souls: i.e., clear consciences.
241that? Your Majesty and we that have free souls, it
242-243. Let the galled jade winch, our withers are unwrung: i.e., let the one who has a guilty conscience wince; not us, who don't have guilty consciences. A "jade" is a bad horse, one that is hard to control. A horse that is galled has a sore, caused by the chafing of its saddle or other tack. If the sore is on the withers (the ridge between a horse's shoulders), the withers are wrungrubbed sore.
242touches us not. Let the galled jade winch, our
243withers are unwrung.
244This is one Lucianus, nephew to the king.
245. chorus: Many plays of Shakespeare's time had a chorusan actor who would appear at the beginning of an act to explain the forthcoming action. For an example, see Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. 246-247. I could interpret ... dallying: i.e., If I saw you with your lover, I know exactly what you would be saying to each other. ...more
245You are as good as a chorus, my lord.
246I could interpret between you and your
247love, if I could see the puppets dallying.
248. keen: witty, sharp.
248You are keen, my lord, you are keen.
249-250. It would cost you a groaning to take off my edge: Hamlet takes the word "keen" to mean "eager for sex." The groaning could allude either to noisy love-making or to the groaning of a woman in labor.
249It would cost you a groaning to take off my
251. Still better, and worse: i.e., you're always more witty, and always more indecent.
251Still better, and worse.
252. So you mistake your husbands: with those words you women wrongly take husbands. ...more. 253. leave ... faces: i.e., quit making those melodramatic facial expressions. 254. the croaking raven doth bellow for revenge: Hamlet is mocking the melodramatic language of old revenge tragedies.
252So you mistake your husbands. Begin, murderer;
253leave thy damnable faces, and begin. Come,
254the croaking raven doth bellow for revenge.
255-256. Thoughts black, hands apt, drugs fit, and time agreeing, / Confederate season, else no creature seeing: 257. Thou mixture rank: Lucianus speaks to his vial of poison. 258. Hecat's ban: the curse of Hecate, goddess of witchcraft. 259. dire property: deadly power.
255Thoughts black, hands apt, drugs fit, and time agreeing,
256Confederate season, else no creature seeing;
257Thou mixture rank, of midnight weeds collected,
258With Hecate's ban thrice blasted, thrice infected,
259Thy natural magic and dire property,
260. usurp: take the place of.
260On wholesome life usurp immediately.
[Pours the poison into the sleeper's ears.]
261He poisons him i' the garden for's estate. His
262name's Gonzago: the story is extant, and writ in
263choice Italian: you shall see anon how the murderer
264gets the love of Gonzago's wife.
265The king rises.
266. false fire: the discharge of a gun loaded with gunpowder, but no shot.
266What, frighted with false fire!
267How fares my lord?
268Give o'er the play.
269Give me some light: away!
270Lights, lights, lights!
Exeunt all but Hamlet and Horatio.
271. strucken: struck, i.e., wounded. ...more
271"Why, let the strucken deer go weep,
272. hart: deer. ungalled: unwounded.
272The hart ungalled play;
273. watch: stay awake. Metaphorically, the line means "Some must live, while some must die." 274. So ... away: i.e., it's the way of the world to run away from those who are suffering. 275. feathers: the plumes worn by tragic actors.
273For some must watch, while some must sleep:
274So runs the world away."
275Would not this, sir, and a forest of feathers if
276the rest of my fortunes turn Turk with mewith two
277. Provincial roses: decorative rosettes. raz'd: with decorative slashing. fellowship: partnership. 278. cry: company.
277Provincial roses on my razed shoes, get me a
278fellowship in a cry of players, sir?
279. Half a share: Shakespeare's company shared in the profits of their theatrical enterprise according to the number of shares each member was allotted. ...more
279Half a share.
280. A whole one, I: i.e., I'm sure I deserve a whole share.
280A whole one, I.
281-284. "For thou ... pajock": This may be a quotation from another ballad. ...more
281"For thou dost know, O Damon dear,
282This realm dismantled was
283Of Jove himself; and now reigns here
pajock: peacock, a bird with a bad reputation for vanity and foolishness.
284A very, verypajock.
285. You might have rhymed: i.e., you could have made a rhyme. If Hamlet had completed his song with a rhyme, he could have said "ass," rather than "pajock."
285You might have rhymed.
286O good Horatio, I'll take the ghost's word for
287a thousand pound. Didst perceive?
288Very well, my lord.
289Upon the talk of the poisoning?
290I did very well note him.
291-292. Come ... the recorders!: Hamlet is calling out to the actors of "The Murder of Gonzago." ...more
291Ah, ha! Come, some music! come, the
293-294. For . . . perdy: Editors often put these two lines in quotation marks. ...more 294. belike: it's likely perdy: assuredly (from the French pardieu, "by God").
293For if the king like not the comedy,
294Why then, belike, he likes it not, perdy.
295Come, some music!
296. vouchsafe me: kindly grant me.
296Good my lord, vouchsafe me a word with
298Sir, a whole history.
299The king, sir
300Ay, sir, what of him?
301. Is in his retirement marvellous distempered: i.e., is keeping to himself because he is greatly sickened. A "distemper" could be of the mind or body; in his next line, Hamlet mocks both Guildenstern and King Claudius by saying that the cause of the king's distemper is that he has been drinking too much.
301Is in his retirement marvellous distempered.
302With drink, sir?
303. choler: anger. "Choler" could also mean "biliousness," and in his next line, Hamlet makes a bitter joke by playing with the two senses of the word.
303No, my lord, rather with choler.
304Your wisdom should show itself more richer to
305-306. put him to his purgation: i.e., give him the treatment for what's wrong with him. Much of the medical treatment of Shakespeare's time consisted of purgation of one kind or another, for example, purging bad blood by bleeding, or purging bile by inducing vomiting or bowel movements. 308. frame: logical order.
305signify this to his doctor; for, for me to put him
306to his purgation would perhaps plunge him into
307far more choler.
308Good my lord, put your discourse into some frame
309. start: skip away. my affair: my business, the subject I am trying to discuss.
309and start not so wildly from my affair.
310I am tame, sir: pronounce.
311The queen, your mother, in most great affliction
312of spirit, hath sent me to you.
313You are welcome.
314-315. this courtesy is not of the right breed: i.e., your polite reply ("You are welcome") is inappropriate.
314Nay, good my lord, this courtesy is not of the
315right breed. If it shall please you to make me
316. wholesome: sensible, rational. But Hamlet takes the word to mean "healthy." 317. pardon: permission for departure. 318. return: i.e., return to where he came from. Guildenstern seems to be hinting that if Hamlet doesn't give them a straight answer, he'll go back and "tell" on Hamlet to Hamlet's mother.
316a wholesome answer, I will do your mother's
317commandment: if not, your pardon and my
318return shall be the end of my business.
319Sir, I cannot.
320What, my lord?
321Make you a wholesome answer; my wit's diseased:
322but, sir, such answer as I can make, you shall
323command; or, rather, as you say, my mother:
324therefore no more, but to the matter: my mother,
326Then thus she says; your behavior hath struck her
327. amazement and admiration: bewilderment and wonder.
327into amazement and admiration.
328. stonish: astound.
328O wonderful son, that can so stonish a mother! But
329is there no sequel at the heels of this mother's
331. closet: private room.
331She desires to speak with you in her closet, ere you
332go to bed.
333We shall obey, were she ten times our mother. Have
334you any further trade with us?
335My lord, you once did love me.
336. pickers and stealers: hands; which, as the Catechism says, we must keep "from picking and stealing."
336So I do still, by these pickers and stealers.
337-339. you do, surely, bar the door upon your own liberty, if you deny your griefs to your friend.: i.e., surely, you will never be free of your problems if you refuse to discuss your troubles with a friend.
337Good my lord, what is your cause of distemper? you
338do, surely, bar the door upon your own liberty, if
339you deny your griefs to your friend.
340Sir, I lack advancement.
341How can that be, when you have the voice of the king
342himself for your succession in Denmark?
343. proverb: i.e., "While the grass grows, the steed starves." ...more 344. something musty: somewhat stale.
343Ay, but sir, "While the grass grows,"the proverb
344is something musty.
Enter PLAYERS with recorders.
345-346. To withdraw with you: This is said to the player who hands him a recorder. ...more 346-347. why . . . toil?: I believe that this indicates that Guildenstern has scurried about to get in Hamlet's way. ...more
345O, the recorders! let me see one. To withdraw with
346you:why do you go about to recover the wind of me,
347as if you would drive me into a toil?
348-349. if my duty be too bold, my love is too unmannerly: i.e., if my duty to convey your mother's message is carried out in a way that is too bold, it's only because my love for you has caused me to forget my manners. ...more
348O, my lord, if my duty be too bold, my love is too
350I do not well understand that. Will you play upon
351. this pipe: i.e., the recorder that Hamlet has in his hand.
352My lord, I cannot.
353I pray you.
354Believe me, I cannot.
355I do beseech you.
356I know no touch of it, my lord.
357. govern: control ventages: stops.
357'Tis as easy as lying: govern these ventages with
358your fingers and thumb, give it breath with your
359. discourse: speak, play.
359mouth, and it will discourse most eloquent music.
360Look you, these are the stops.
361But these cannot I command to any utterance of
362harmony; I have not the skill.
363Why, look you now, how unworthy a thing you make of
364me! You would play upon me; you would seem to know
365my stops; you would pluck out the heart of my
366mystery; you would sound me from my lowest note to
367. compass: range (in singing).
367the top of my compass: and there is much music,
368. organ: instrument.
368excellent voice, in this little organ; yet cannot
369you make it speak. 'Sblood, do you think I am
370easier to be played on than a pipe? Call me what
371. fret: (1) finger (an instrument); (2) annoy.
371instrument you will, though you can fret me, yet you
372cannot play upon me.
373God bless you, sir!
374My lord, the queen would speak with you, and
375. presently: at once.
376Do you see yonder cloud that's almost in shape
377of a camel?
378By the mass, and 'tis like a camel, indeed.
379Methinks it is like a weasel.
380It is backed like a weasel.
381Or like a whale?
382Very like a whale.
383. by and by: This phrase was supposed to mean "immediately," but, like almost any word that means "right now," it was undergoing a change in meaningto "pretty soon," or "when I get around to it." 384. fool me: play me for a fool.
383Then I will come to my mother by and by.
384[Aside.] They fool me to the top of my bent.
385I will come by and by.
386I will say so.
387"By and by" is easily said. Leave me, friends.
[Exeunt all but Hamlet.]
388. witching time: i.e., when the powers of evil are at large, and spells are cast. 389. When churchyards yawn: i.e., when the coffins in churchyards open of their own accord.
388'Tis now the very witching time of night,
389When churchyards yawn and hell itself breathes out
390Contagion to this world: now could I drink hot blood,
391And do such bitter business as the day
392Would quake to look on. Soft! now to my mother.
393. nature: natural condition. To harm one's mother would be unnatural. 394. Nero: Roman emperor who had his mother executed.
393O heart, lose not thy nature; let not ever
394The soul of Nero enter this firm bosom:
395Let me be cruel, not unnatural:
396I will speak daggers to her, but use none;
397. My tongue and soul in this be hypocrites: i.e., may I never say what I'm feeling. ...more 398-399. How . . . consent!: however much my words condemn her, may my soul never consent to confirm those words [by putting them into action and killing her].
397My tongue and soul in this be hypocrites;
398How in my words soever she be shent,
399To give them seals never, my soul, consent!