Hamlet: Act 4, Scene 7

           Enter KING and LAERTES.  Full Summary

      KING
  1   Now must your conscience my acquittance seal,
  2   And you must put me in your heart for friend,
  3   Sith you have heard, and with a knowing ear,
  4   That he which hath your noble father slain
  5   Pursued my life.

      LAERTES
  5                                 It well appears: but tell me
  6   Why you proceeded not against these feats,
  7   So criminal and so capital in nature,
  8   As by your safety, wisdom, all things else,
  9   You mainly were stirr'd up.

      KING
  9                                         O, for two special reasons;
 10   Which may to you, perhaps, seem much unsinew'd,
 11   But yet to me they are strong. The queen his mother
 12   Lives almost by his looks; and for myself—
 13   My virtue or my plague, be it either which—
 14   She's so conjunctive to my life and soul,
 15   That, as the star moves not but in his sphere,
 16   I could not but by her. The other motive,
 17   Why to a public count I might not go,
 18   Is the great love the general gender bear him;
 19   Who, dipping all his faults in their affection,
 20   Would, like the spring that turneth wood to stone,
 21   Convert his gyves to graces; so that my arrows,
 22   Too slightly timber'd for so loud a wind,
 23   Would have reverted to my bow again,
 24   And not where I had aim'd them.

      LAERTES
 25   And so have I a noble father lost;
 26   A sister driven into desperate terms,
 27   Whose worth, if praises may go back again,
 28   Stood challenger on mount of all the age
 29   For her perfections: but my revenge will come.

      KING
 30   Break not your sleeps for that: you must not think
 31   That we are made of stuff so flat and dull
 32   That we can let our beard be shook with danger
 33   And think it pastime. You shortly shall hear more:
 34   I loved your father, and we love ourself;
 35   And that, I hope, will teach you to imagine—

           Enter a MESSENGER with letters.
           Full Summary

 36   How now! what news?

      Messenger
 36                                Letters, my lord, from Hamlet:
 37   This to your majesty; this to the queen.

      KING
 38   From Hamlet! who brought them?

      Messenger
 39   Sailors, my lord, they say; I saw them not:
 40   They were given me by Claudio; he received them
 41   Of him that brought them.

      KING
 41                                      Laertes, you shall hear them.
 42   —Leave us.

           [Exit Messenger.]

           [Reads.]

 43   "High and mighty, You shall know I am
 44   set naked on your kingdom. Tomorrow shall
 45   I beg leave to see your kingly eyes: when I shall, first
 46   asking your pardon thereunto, recount the occasion of
 47   my sudden and more strange return.
 48                                    HAMLET."
 49   What should this mean? Are all the rest come back?
 50   Or is it some abuse, and no such thing?

      LAERTES
 51   Know you the hand?

      KING
 51                                'Tis Hamlet's character. "Naked!"
 52   And in a postscript here, he says "alone."
 53   Can you devise me?

      LAERTES
 54   I'm lost in it, my lord. But let him come;
 55   It warms the very sickness in my heart,
 56   That I shall live and tell him to his teeth,
 57   "Thus didst thou."

      KING
 57                                  If it be so, Laertes—
 58   As how should it be so? how otherwise?—
 59   Will you be ruled by me?

      LAERTES
 59                                      Ay, my lord;
 60   So you will not o'errule me to a peace.

      KING
 61   To thine own peace. If he be now return'd,
 62   As checking at his voyage, and that he means
 63   No more to undertake it, I will work him
 64   To an exploit, now ripe in my device,
 65   Under the which he shall not choose but fall:
 66   And for his death no wind of blame shall breathe,
 67   But even his mother shall uncharge the practise
 68   And call it accident.

      LAERTES
 68                                   My lord, I will be ruled;
 69   The rather, if you could devise it so
 70   That I might be the organ.

      KING
 70                                       It falls right.
 71   You have been talk'd of since your travel much,
 72   And that in Hamlet's hearing, for a quality
 73   Wherein, they say, you shine: your sum of parts
 74   Did not together pluck such envy from him
 75   As did that one, and that, in my regard,
 76   Of the unworthiest siege.

      LAERTES
 76                                     What part is that, my lord?

      KING
 77   A very riband in the cap of youth,
 78   Yet needful too; for youth no less becomes
 79   The light and careless livery that it wears
 80   Than settled age his sables and his weeds,
 81   Importing health and graveness. Two months since,
 82   Here was a gentleman of Normandy:—
 83   I've seen myself, and served against, the French,
 84   And they can well on horseback: but this gallant
 85   Had witchcraft in't; he grew unto his seat;
 86   And to such wondrous doing brought his horse,
 87   As he had been incorpsed and demi-natured
 88   With the brave beast: so far he topp'd my thought,
 89   That I, in forgery of shapes and tricks,
 90   Come short of what he did.

      LAERTES
 90                                       A Norman was't?

      KING
 91   A Norman.

      LAERTES
 92   Upon my life, Lamond.

      KING
 92                                       The very same.

      LAERTES
 93   I know him well: he is the brooch indeed
 94   And gem of all the nation.

      KING
 95   He made confession of you,
 96   And gave you such a masterly report
 97   For art and exercise in your defence
 98   And for your rapier most especial,
 99   That he cried out, 'twould be a sight indeed,
100   If one could match you: the scrimers of their nation,
101   He swore, had had neither motion, guard, nor eye,
102   If you opposed them. Sir, this report of his
103   Did Hamlet so envenom with his envy
104   That he could nothing do but wish and beg
105   Your sudden coming o'er, to play with him.
106   Now, out of this—

      LAERTES
106                                What out of this, my lord?

      KING
107   Laertes, was your father dear to you?
108   Or are you like the painting of a sorrow,
109   A face without a heart?

      LAERTES
109                                  Why ask you this?

      KING
110   Not that I think you did not love your father;
111   But that I know love is begun by time;
112   And that I see, in passages of proof,
113   Time qualifies the spark and fire of it.
114   There lives within the very flame of love
115   A kind of wick or snuff that will abate it;
116   And nothing is at a like goodness still;
117   For goodness, growing to a plurisy,
118   Dies in his own too much. That we would do
119   We should do when we would; for this "would" changes
120   And hath abatements and delays as many
121   As there are tongues, are hands, are accidents;
122   And then this "should" is like a spendthrift sigh,
123   That hurts by easing. But, to the quick o' the ulcer:—
124   Hamlet comes back: what would you undertake,
125   To show yourself your father's son in deed
126   More than in words?

      LAERTES
126                                  To cut his throat i' the church.

      KING
127   No place, indeed, should murder sanctuarize;
128   Revenge should have no bounds. But, good Laertes,
129   Will you do this, keep close within your chamber.
130   Hamlet return'd shall know you are come home:
131   We'll put on those shall praise your excellence
132   And set a double varnish on the fame
133   The Frenchman gave you, bring you in fine together
134   And wager on your heads. He, being remiss,
135   Most generous and free from all contriving,
136   Will not peruse the foils; so that, with ease,
137   Or with a little shuffling, you may choose
138   A sword unbated, and in a pass of practise
139   Requite him for your father.

      LAERTES
139                                            I will do't:
140   And, for that purpose, I'll anoint my sword.
141   I bought an unction of a mountebank,
142   So mortal that, but dip a knife in it,
143   Where it draws blood no cataplasm so rare,
144   Collected from all simples that have virtue
145   Under the moon, can save the thing from death
146   That is but scratch'd withal: I'll touch my point
147   With this contagion, that, if I gall him slightly,
148   It may be death.

      KING
148                              Let's further think of this;
149   Weigh what convenience both of time and means
150   May fit us to our shape: if this should fail,
151   And that our drift look through our bad performance,
152   'Twere better not assay'd: therefore this project
153   Should have a back or second, that might hold,
154   If this should blast in proof. Soft! let me see:
155   We'll make a solemn wager on your cunnings—
156   I ha't.
157   When in your motion you are hot and dry—
158   As make your bouts more violent to that end—
159   And that he calls for drink, I'll have prepar'd him
160   A chalice for the nonce, whereon but sipping,
161   If he by chance escape your venom'd stuck,
162   Our purpose may hold there. But stay, what noise?

           Enter QUEEN.  Full Summary

      QUEEN
163   One woe doth tread upon another's heel,
164   So fast they follow; your sister's drown'd, Laertes.

      LAERTES
165   Drown'd! O, where?

      QUEEN
166   There is a willow grows aslant a brook,
167   That shows his hoar leaves in the glassy stream;
168   Therewith fantastic garlands did she make
169   Of crow-flowers, nettles, daisies, and long purples
170   That liberal shepherds give a grosser name,
171   But our cold maids do dead men's fingers call them:
172   There, on the pendent boughs her coronet weeds
173   Clambering to hang, an envious sliver broke;
174   When down her weedy trophies and herself
175   Fell in the weeping brook. Her clothes spread wide;
176   And, mermaid-like, awhile they bore her up:
177   Which time she chanted snatches of old lauds;
178   As one incapable of her own distress,
179   Or like a creature native and indued
180   Unto that element: but long it could not be
181   Till that her garments, heavy with their drink,
182   Pull'd the poor wretch from her melodious lay
183   To muddy death.

      LAERTES
183                              Alas, then, she is drown'd?

      QUEEN
184   Drown'd, drown'd.

      LAERTES
185   Too much of water hast thou, poor Ophelia,
186   And therefore I forbid my tears: but yet
187   It is our trick; nature her custom holds,
188   Let shame say what it will: when these are gone,
189   The woman will be out. Adieu, my lord:
190   I have a speech of fire, that fain would blaze,
191   But that this folly drowns it.

           Exit.

      KING
192                                           Let's follow, Gertrude:
193   How much I had to do to calm his rage!
194   Now fear I this will give it start again;
195   Therefore let's follow.

           Exeunt.