Hamlet: Act 3, Scene 2

           Enter HAMLET and three of the PLAYERS.

      HAMLET
  1   Speak the speech, I pray you, as I pronounced it to
2. mouth it: i.e., deliver it melodramatically.
  2   you, trippingly on the tongue: but if you mouth it,
3. our players: i.e., the actors of this time.  lief: willingly.
  3   as many of our players do, I had as lief the town-crier
  4   spoke my lines. Nor do not saw the air too much with
  5   your hand, thus, but use all gently; for in the very
  6   torrent, tempest, and, as I may say, the whirlwind of
  7   passion, you must acquire and beget a temperance
  8   that 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.
  9   soul to hear a robustious periwig-pated fellow tear
 10   a 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.
 11   groundlings, who for the most part are capable of
 12   nothing but inexplicable dumbshows and noise: I would
 13   have such a fellow whipped for o'erdoing Termagant;
 14   it out-herods Herod: pray you, avoid it.

      First Player
15. warrant: promise, assure.  The player is promising Hamlet that all of his instructions will be faithfully followed.
 15   I warrant your honor.

      HAMLET
 16   Be not too tame neither, but let your own discretion
 17   be 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.
 18   to the action; with this special observance, that you
 19   o'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.
 20   overdone is from the purpose of playing, whose end,
 21   both at the first and now, was and is, to hold, as 'twere,
 22   the mirror up to nature; to show virtue her own feature,
23. scorn: i.e., that which is worthy of scorn.
 23   scorn her own image, and the very age and body of
24. his: its  pressure: impression, exact image.
 24   the 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."
 25   or come tardy off, though it make the unskilful
 26   laugh, cannot but make the judicious grieve; the
27. censure: judgment.  which one: [even] one of whom [i.e., "the judicious"].  allowance: estimation.
 27   censure of the which one must in your allowance
 28   o'erweigh a whole theatre of others. O, there be
 29   players 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.
 30   praise, and that highly, not to speak it profanely,
 31   that, neither having the accent of Christians nor
 32   the gait of Christian, pagan, nor man, have so
 33   strutted and bellowed that I have thought some of
34. journeymen: day laborers, not masters of their craft.
 34   nature's journeymen had made men and not made
 35   them well, they imitated humanity so abominably.

      First Player
36. we have reformed that indifferently with us: our company of actors have corrected that fault pretty well.
 36   I hope we have reformed that indifferently with us,
 37   sir.

      HAMLET
 38   O, reform it altogether. And let those that play
 39   your clowns speak no more than is set down for
40. of them: some of them.
 40   them; for there be of them that will themselves
41. barren: i.e., witless.
 41   laugh, to set on some quantity of barren spectators
 42   to laugh too; though, in the mean time, some
 43   necessary question of the play be then to be
 44   considered: that's villanous, and shows a most pitiful
 45   ambition in the fool that uses it. Go, make you ready.

           [Exeunt Players.]

           Enter POLONIUS, GUILDENSTERN
           and ROSENCRANTZ.

46-47. piece of work: masterpiece. But Hamlet is being sarcastic.
 46   How now, my lord! Will the king hear this piece
 47   of work?

      POLONIUS
48. presently: at once.
 48   And the queen too, and that presently.

      HAMLET
 49   Bid the players make haste.

           [Exit Polonius.]

 50   Will you two help to hasten them?

      ROSENCRANTZ and GUILDENSTERN
 51   Ay, my lord.

           Exeunt they two.

      HAMLET
 52   What ho! Horatio!

           Enter HORATIO.

      HORATIO
 53   Here, sweet lord, at your service.

      HAMLET
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.
 54   Horatio, thou art e'en as just a man
 55   As e'er my conversation coped withal.

      HORATIO
 56   O, my dear lord—

      HAMLET
 56                             Nay, do not think I flatter;
57. advancement: advantage.
 57   For what advancement may I hope from thee
 58   That no revenue hast but thy good spirits,
 59   To feed and clothe thee? Why should the poor be flatter'd?
60. candied: sugared; i.e., flattering. 
 60   No, 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.
 61   And crook the pregnant hinges of the knee
 62   Where thrift may follow fawning. Dost thou hear?
 63   Since 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.
 64   And could of men distinguish, her election
 65   Hath seal'd thee for herself; for thou hast been
 66   As one, in suffering all, that suffers nothing,
 67   A man that Fortune's buffets and rewards
 68   Hast 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.
 69   Whose blood and judgment are so well commeddled,
 70   That they are not a pipe for Fortune's finger
 71   To sound what stop she please. Give me that man
 72   That is not passion's slave, and I will wear him
 73   In 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.
 74   As I do thee.—Something too much of this.—
 75   There is a play tonight before the king;
 76   One scene of it comes near the circumstance
 77   Which I have told thee of my father's death:
 78   I 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.
 79   Even with the very comment of thy soul
 80   Observe mine uncle. If his occulted guilt
 81   Do not itself unkennel in one speech,
82. damned ghost: evil spirit, devil.
 82   It 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.
 83   And my imaginations are as foul
 84   As Vulcan's stithy. Give him heedful note;
 85   For I mine eyes will rivet to his face,
 86   And after we will both our judgments join
87. censure of his seeming: rendering a verdict on his behavior.
 87   In censure of his seeming.

      HORATIO
 87                                          Well, my lord:
88. If a' steal aught: i.e., if he hide anything.
 88   If 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.
 89   And scape detecting, I will pay the theft.

      HAMLET
90. be idle: i.e., pretend to be unconcerned.
 90   They are coming to the play; I must be idle.
 91   Get you a place.

           Enter trumpets and kettledrums,
           KING, QUEEN, POLONIUS,
           OPHELIA, [ROSENCRANTZ,
           GUILDENSTERN, and attendants].

      KING
 92   How fares our cousin Hamlet?

      HAMLET
93. the chameleon's dish: i.e., air. ...more
 93   Excellent, i' faith; of the chameleon's dish:
 94   I eat the air, promise-crammed. You cannot
 95   feed capons so.

      KING
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.
 96   I have nothing with this answer, Hamlet; these
 97   words are not mine.

      HAMLET
 98   No, nor mine now. [To Polonius.] My lord,
 99   you played once i' the university, you say?

      POLONIUS
100   That did I, my lord; and was accounted a
101   good actor.

      HAMLET
102   What did you enact?

      POLONIUS
103   I did enact Julius Caesar: I was killed i' the
104   Capitol; Brutus killed me.

      HAMLET
105. part: action, role.
105   It was a brute part of him to kill so capital a
106   calf there. Be the players ready?

      ROSENCRANTZ
107   Ay, my lord; they stay upon your patience.

      QUEEN
108   Come hither, my dear Hamlet, sit by me.

      HAMLET
109   No, good mother, here's metal more
110   attractive.

      POLONIUS [To the King.]
111    O, ho! do you mark that?

      HAMLET
112. lie: In Shakespeare's time, the phrase "lie with" had the same sexual meaning as "sleep with" does now (C.E. 2015).
112   Lady, shall I lie in your lap?

      OPHELIA
113   No, my lord.

      HAMLET
114   I mean, my head upon your lap?

      OPHELIA
115   Ay, my lord.

      HAMLET
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.
116   Do you think I meant country matters?

      OPHELIA
117   I think nothing, my lord.

      HAMLET
118   That's a fair thought to lie between
119   maids' legs.

      OPHELIA
120   What is, my lord?

      HAMLET
121   Nothing.

      OPHELIA
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.
122   You are merry, my lord.

      HAMLET
123   Who, I?

      OPHELIA
124   Ay, my lord.

      HAMLET
125. your only jig-maker: the very best composer of jigs, farcical song-and-dance entertainments that followed plays. 127. within's: within this.
125   O God, your only jig-maker. What should a man do
126   but be merry? for, look you, how cheerfully my mother
127   looks, and my father died within's two hours.

      OPHELIA
128   Nay, 'tis twice two months, my lord.

      HAMLET
129-130. let  . . .  sables: Devils were usually depicted as black and naked. Sable is a luxurious fur and also, in heraldry, the color black.
129   So long? Nay then, let the devil wear black, for I'll
130   have a suit of sables. O heavens! die two months ago,
131   and not forgotten yet? Then there's hope a great man's
132   memory 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.
133   he must build churches, then; or else shall he suffer
134   not 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.
135   is "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.

           Exeunt.


      OPHELIA
136   What means this, my lord?

      HAMLET
137. this' miching mallecho: this is sneaking mischief.
137   Marry, this' miching mallecho; it means
138   mischief.

      OPHELIA
139-140. Belike this show imports the argument of the play: it seems likely that this dumb show tells the plot of the play.
139   Belike this show imports the argument of
140   the play.

           Enter PROLOGUE.

      HAMLET
141   We shall know by this fellow: the players
142. keep counsel: keep secrets.
142   cannot keep counsel; they'll tell all.

      OPHELIA
143   Will he tell us what this show meant?

      HAMLET
144-145.  be not you: if you are not.
144   Ay, or any show that you'll show him: be
145   not you ashamed to show, he'll not shame
146   to tell you what it means.

      OPHELIA
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.
147   You are naught, you are naught: I'll mark
148   the play.

      Prologue
149   For 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.
150   Here stooping to your clemency,
151   We beg your hearing patiently.

           [Exit.]

      HAMLET
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.
152   Is this a prologue, or the posy of a ring?

      OPHELIA
153   'Tis brief, my lord.

      HAMLET
154   As woman's love.

           Enter [two Players,] KING and QUEEN.

      Player King
155. Phoebus' cart: the sun-god's chariot.
155   Full 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.
156   Neptune's salt wash and Tellus' orbed ground,
157   And thirty dozen moons with borrow'd sheen
158   About the world have times twelve thirties been,
159   Since love our hearts and Hymen did our hands
160   Unite commutual in most sacred bands.

      Player Queen
161   So many journeys may the sun and moon
162   Make us again count o'er ere love be done!
163   But, woe is me, you are so sick of late,
164   So 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.
165   That I distrust you. Yet, though I distrust,
166   Discomfort you, my lord, it nothing must,
167   For women's fear and love holds quantity;
168   In neither aught, or in extremity.
169   Now, what my love is, proof hath made you know;
170   And as my love is sized, my fear is so:
171   Where love is great, the littlest doubts are fear;
172   Where little fears grow great, great love grows there.

      Player King
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;
174   My operant powers their functions leave to do:
175   And thou shalt live in this fair world behind,
176. haply: by good fortune.
176   Honor'd, beloved; and haply one as kind
177   For husband shalt thou—

      Player Queen
177. the rest: i.e., what you are about to say next: that I will take a second husband.
177                                        O, confound the rest!
178   Such love must needs be treason in my breast:
179   In second husband let me be accurst!
180   None wed the second but who kill'd the first.

      HAMLET [Aside.]
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.
181   Wormwood, wormwood.

      Player Queen
182   The instances that second marriage move
183. base respects of thrift: dishonorable considerations of monetary or other material advantages.
183   Are base respects of thrift, but none of love:
184   A second time I kill my husband dead,
185   When second husband kisses me in bed.

      Player King
186   I 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.
187   But what we do determine oft we break.
188   Purpose is but the slave to memory,
189   Of violent birth, but poor validity;
190   Which now, like fruit unripe, sticks on the tree;
191   But 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.
192   Most necessary 'tis that we forget
193   To pay ourselves what to ourselves is debt:
194   What to ourselves in passion we propose,
195   The 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.
196   The violence of either grief or joy
197   Their own enactures with themselves destroy:
198   Where joy most revels, grief doth most lament;
199   Grief joys, joy grieves, on slender accident.
200   This world is not for aye, nor 'tis not strange
201   That 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.
202   For 'tis a question left us yet to prove,
203   Whether love lead fortune, or else fortune love.
204   The great man down, you mark his favorite flies;
205   The poor advanced makes friends of enemies.
206   And hitherto doth love on fortune tend;
207   For who not needs shall never lack a friend,
208   And who in want a hollow friend doth try,
209   Directly seasons him his enemy.
210   But, orderly to end where I begun,
211   Our 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."
212   That our devices still are overthrown;
213   Our thoughts are ours, their ends none of our own:
214   So think thou wilt no second husband wed;
215   But die thy thoughts when thy first lord is dead.

      Player Queen
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.
216   Nor earth to me give food, nor heaven light!
217   Sport and repose lock from me day and night!
218   To desperation turn my trust and hope!
219   An anchor's cheer in prison be my scope!
220   Each opposite that blanks the face of joy
221   Meet what I would have well and it destroy!
222   Both here and hence pursue me lasting strife,
223   If, once a widow, ever I be wife!

      HAMLET
224   If she should break it now!

      Player King
225   'Tis deeply sworn. Sweet, leave me here awhile;
226. fain: gladly.  beguile: pass the time of.
226   My spirits grow dull, and fain I would beguile
227   The tedious day with sleep.

           [Sleeps.]

      Player Queen
227                                           Sleep rock thy brain,
228   And never come mischance between us twain!

           Exit.

      HAMLET
229   Madam, how like you this play?

      QUEEN
230. protests: vows, promises.
230   The lady protests too much, methinks.

      HAMLET
231   O, but she'll keep her word.

      KING
232-233. Have you heard the argument?: Do you know the plot?  Is there no offense in't?: Is it free of offensive matter?
232   Have you heard the argument? Is there no
233   offense in't?

      HAMLET
234. jest: i.e., pretend (because they are just actors in a play).
234   No, no, they do but jest, poison in jest—
235   no offense i' the world.

      KING
236   What do you call the play?

      HAMLET
237. Tropically: Figuratively. ...more
237   The Mouse-trap. Marry, how? Tropically. This play
238. image: representation.
238   is the image of a murder done in Vienna: Gonzago is
239   the duke's name; his wife, Baptista. You shall see
240. anon: very soon.
240   anon. 'Tis a knavish piece of work, but what of
241. free souls: i.e., clear consciences.
241   that? 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 wrung—rubbed sore.
242   touches us not. Let the galled jade winch, our
243   withers are unwrung.

           Enter LUCIANUS.

244   This is one Lucianus, nephew to the king.

      OPHELIA
245. chorus: Many plays of Shakespeare's time had a chorus—an 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
245   You are as good as a chorus, my lord.

      HAMLET
246   I could interpret between you and your
247   love, if I could see the puppets dallying.

      OPHELIA
248. keen: witty, sharp.
248   You are keen, my lord, you are keen.

      HAMLET
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.
249   It would cost you a groaning to take off my
250   edge.

      OPHELIA
251. Still better, and worse: i.e., you're always more witty, and always more indecent.
251   Still better, and worse.

      HAMLET
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.
252   So you mistake your husbands. Begin, murderer;
253   leave thy damnable faces, and begin. Come,
254   the croaking raven doth bellow for revenge.

      LUCIANUS
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.
255   Thoughts black, hands apt, drugs fit, and time agreeing,
256   Confederate season, else no creature seeing;
257   Thou mixture rank, of midnight weeds collected,
258   With Hecate's ban thrice blasted, thrice infected,
259   Thy natural magic and dire property,
260. usurp: take the place of.
260   On wholesome life usurp immediately.

           [Pours the poison into the sleeper's ears.]

      HAMLET
261   He poisons him i' the garden for's estate. His
262   name's Gonzago: the story is extant, and writ in
263   choice Italian: you shall see anon how the murderer
264   gets the love of Gonzago's wife.

           [King rises.]

      OPHELIA
265   The king rises.

      HAMLET
266. false fire: the discharge of a gun loaded with gunpowder, but no shot.
266   What, frighted with false fire!

      QUEEN
267   How fares my lord?

      POLONIUS
268   Give o'er the play.

      KING
269   Give me some light: away!

      All
270   Lights, lights, lights!

           Exeunt all but Hamlet and Horatio.

      HAMLET
271. strucken: struck, i.e., wounded. ...more
271      "Why, let the strucken deer go weep,
272. hart: deer.  ungalled: unwounded.
272        The 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.
273      For some must watch, while some must sleep:
274        So runs the world away."
275   Would not this, sir, and a forest of feathers— if
276   the rest of my fortunes turn Turk with me—with two
277. Provincial roses: decorative rosettes. raz'd: with decorative slashing.  fellowship: partnership. 278. cry: company.
277   Provincial roses on my razed shoes, get me a
278   fellowship in a cry of players, sir?

      HORATIO
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

279   Half a share.

      HAMLET
280. A whole one, I: i.e., I'm sure I deserve a whole share.
280   A 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,
282        This realm dismantled was
283      Of Jove himself; and now reigns here
pajock: peacock, a bird with a bad reputation for vanity and foolishness.
284        A very, very—pajock.

      HORATIO
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."
285   You might have rhymed.

      HAMLET
286   O good Horatio, I'll take the ghost's word for
287   a thousand pound. Didst perceive?

      HORATIO
288   Very well, my lord.

      HAMLET
289   Upon the talk of the poisoning?

      HORATIO
290   I did very well note him.

      HAMLET
291-292. Come ... the recorders!: Hamlet is calling out to the actors of "The Murder of Gonzago." ...more
291   Ah, ha! Come, some music! come, the
292   recorders!
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").
293      For if the king like not the comedy,
294      Why then, belike, he likes it not, perdy.
295   Come, some music!

           Enter ROSENCRANTZ
           and GUILDENSTERN.

      GUILDENSTERN
296. vouchsafe me: kindly grant me.
296   Good my lord, vouchsafe me a word with
297   you.

      HAMLET
298   Sir, a whole history.

      GUILDENSTERN
299   The king, sir—

      HAMLET
300   Ay, sir, what of him?

      GUILDENSTERN
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.
301   Is in his retirement marvellous distempered.

      HAMLET
302   With drink, sir?

      GUILDENSTERN
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.
303   No, my lord, rather with choler.

      HAMLET
304   Your 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.
305   signify this to his doctor; for, for me to put him
306   to his purgation would perhaps plunge him into
307   far more choler.

      GUILDENSTERN
308   Good my lord, put your discourse into some frame
309. start: skip away.  my affair: my business, the subject I am trying to discuss.
309   and start not so wildly from my affair.

      HAMLET
310   I am tame, sir: pronounce.

      GUILDENSTERN
311   The queen, your mother, in most great affliction
312   of spirit, hath sent me to you.

      HAMLET
313   You are welcome.

      GUILDENSTERN
314-315. this courtesy is not of the right breed: i.e., your polite reply ("You are welcome") is inappropriate.
314   Nay, good my lord, this courtesy is not of the
315   right 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.
316   a wholesome answer, I will do your mother's
317   commandment: if not, your pardon and my
318   return shall be the end of my business.

      HAMLET
319   Sir, I cannot.

      GUILDENSTERN
320   What, my lord?

      HAMLET
321   Make you a wholesome answer; my wit's diseased:
322   but, sir, such answer as I can make, you shall
323   command; or, rather, as you say, my mother:
324   therefore no more, but to the matter: my mother,
325   you say—

      ROSENCRANTZ
326   Then thus she says; your behavior hath struck her
327. amazement and admiration: bewilderment and wonder.
327   into amazement and admiration.

      HAMLET
328. stonish: astound.
328   O wonderful son, that can so stonish a mother! But
329   is there no sequel at the heels of this mother's
330   admiration? Impart.

      ROSENCRANTZ
331. closet: private room.
331   She desires to speak with you in her closet, ere you
332   go to bed.

      HAMLET
333   We shall obey, were she ten times our mother. Have
334   you any further trade with us?

      ROSENCRANTZ
335   My lord, you once did love me.

      HAMLET
336. pickers and stealers: hands; which, as the Catechism says, we must keep "from picking and stealing."
336   So I do still, by these pickers and stealers.

      ROSENCRANTZ
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.
337   Good my lord, what is your cause of distemper? you
338   do, surely, bar the door upon your own liberty, if
339   you deny your griefs to your friend.

      HAMLET
340   Sir, I lack advancement.

      ROSENCRANTZ
341   How can that be, when you have the voice of the king
342   himself for your succession in Denmark?

      HAMLET
343. proverb: i.e., "While the grass grows, the steed starves." ...more 344. something musty: somewhat stale.
343   Ay, but sir, "While the grass grows,"—the proverb
344   is 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
345   O, the recorders! let me see one. To withdraw with
346   you:—why do you go about to recover the wind of me,
347   as if you would drive me into a toil?

      GUILDENSTERN
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
348   O, my lord, if my duty be too bold, my love is too
349   unmannerly.

      HAMLET
350   I do not well understand that. Will you play upon
351. this pipe: i.e., the recorder that Hamlet has in his hand.
351   this pipe?

      GUILDENSTERN
352   My lord, I cannot.

      HAMLET
353   I pray you.

      GUILDENSTERN
354   Believe me, I cannot.

      HAMLET
355   I do beseech you.

      GUILDENSTERN
356   I know no touch of it, my lord.

      HAMLET
357. govern: control  ventages: stops.
357   'Tis as easy as lying: govern these ventages with
358   your fingers and thumb, give it breath with your
359. discourse: speak, play.
359   mouth, and it will discourse most eloquent music.
360   Look you, these are the stops.

      GUILDENSTERN
361   But these cannot I command to any utterance of
362   harmony; I have not the skill.

      HAMLET
363   Why, look you now, how unworthy a thing you make of
364   me! You would play upon me; you would seem to know
365   my stops; you would pluck out the heart of my
366   mystery; you would sound me from my lowest note to
367. compass: range (in singing).
367   the top of my compass: and there is much music,
368. organ: instrument.
368   excellent voice, in this little organ; yet cannot
369   you make it speak. 'Sblood, do you think I am
370   easier to be played on than a pipe? Call me what
371. fret: (1) finger (an instrument); (2) annoy.
371   instrument you will, though you can fret me, yet you
372   cannot play upon me.

           Enter POLONIUS.

373   God bless you, sir!

      POLONIUS
374   My lord, the queen would speak with you, and
375. presently: at once.
375   presently.

      HAMLET

376   Do you see yonder cloud that's almost in shape
377   of a camel?

      POLONIUS
378   By the mass, and 'tis like a camel, indeed.

      HAMLET
379   Methinks it is like a weasel.

      POLONIUS
380   It is backed like a weasel.

      HAMLET
381   Or like a whale?

      POLONIUS
382   Very like a whale.

      HAMLET
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 meaning—to "pretty soon," or "when I get around to it." 384. fool me: play me for a fool.
383   Then I will come to my mother by and by.
384   [Aside.] They fool me to the top of my bent.
385   I will come by and by.

      POLONIUS
386   I will say so.

           [Exit POLONIUS.]

      HAMLET
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,
389   When churchyards yawn and hell itself breathes out
390   Contagion to this world: now could I drink hot blood,
391   And do such bitter business as the day
392   Would 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.
393   O heart, lose not thy nature; let not ever
394   The soul of Nero enter this firm bosom:
395   Let me be cruel, not unnatural:
396   I 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].
397   My tongue and soul in this be hypocrites;
398   How in my words soever she be shent,
399   To give them seals never, my soul, consent!

            Exit.