Hamlet: Act 4, Scene 7
Enter KING and LAERTES.
1. my acquittance seal: ratify my acquittal; i.e., acknowledge my innocence in Polonius' death.
1Now must your conscience my acquittance seal,
2And you must put me in your heart for friend,
3. Sith: since. with a knowing ear: i.e., you have become convinced of the truth of what you have heard. 4. he which hath your noble father slain: i.e., Hamlet.
3Sith you have heard, and with a knowing ear,
4That he which hath your noble father slain
5Pursued my life.
5It well appears: but tell me
6. proceeded not against: didn't take legal action against. feats: acts. 7. capital: punishable by death.
6Why you proceeded not against these feats,
7So criminal and so capital in nature,
8-9. As . . . up: i.e., since you were powerfully motived to take action out of regard for your own safety, warned by your wisdom of the danger posed by Hamlet, and urged on by all the other circumstances of Hamlet's murder of Polonius.
8As by your safety, wisdom, all things else,
9You mainly were stirr'd up.
9O, for two special reasons;
10. unsinew'd: without strong sinews, weak.
10Which may to you, perhaps, seem much unsinew'd,
11But yet to me they are strong. The queen his mother
12Lives almost by his looks; and for myself
13. either which: one or the other.
13My virtue or my plague, be it either which
14. conjunctive: closely joined.
14She's so conjunctive to my life and soul,
15-16. as the star moves not but in his sphere, / I could not but by her: as a star moves only by virtue of the ...more
15That, as the star moves not but in his sphere,
16I could not but by her. The other motive,
17. count: account, reckoning.
17Why to a public count I might not go,
18. the general gender: the common people.
18Is the great love the general gender bear him;
19Who, dipping all his faults in their affection,
20. spring: i.e., a spring with such a high concentration of lime that it coats wood with limestone. 21. Convert . . . graces: i.e., convert his faults ...more 22. slightly timber'd: light. loud: strong. 23. Would have reverted to my bow again: i.e., would have reversed course and flown back to my bow. ...more
20Would, like the spring that turneth wood to stone,
21Convert his gyves to graces; so that my arrows,
22Too slightly timber'd for so loud a wind,
23Would have reverted to my bow again,
24And not where I had aim'd them.
25And so have I a noble father lost;
26. terms: condition.
26A sister driven into desperate terms,
27-29. Whose worth, if praises may go back again, / Stood challenger on mount of all the age / For her perfections: i.e., whose worth, if it is allowed to praise her as she was before she went mad, could rival, as from on high, all the perfections of the age.
27Whose worth, if praises may go back again,
28Stood challenger on mount of all the age
29For her perfections: but my revenge will come.
30. for that: i.e., for fear of failing to get revenge.
30Break not your sleeps for that: you must not think
31. flat: spiritless.
31That we are made of stuff so flat and dull
32. let our beard be shook: To shake (tweak or pluck) a man's beard was a deadly insult. with: by. 33. You shortly shall hear more: i.e., you will soon see how I will make good on my threats against Hamlet.
32That we can let our beard be shook with danger
33And think it pastime. You shortly shall hear more:
34I loved your father, and we love ourself;
35And that, I hope, will teach you to imagine
Enter a MESSENGER with letters.
36How now! what news?
36Letters, my lord, from Hamlet:
37. this to the queen: This is an intriguing loose end. Hamlet's letter to his mother is never mentioned again.
37This to your majesty; this to the queen.
38From Hamlet! who brought them?
39Sailors, my lord, they say; I saw them not:
40. Claudio: This is the only mention of Claudio. Apparently he is an intermediary between the messenger and the sailor/pirate who had the letters from Hamlet.
40They were given me by Claudio; he received them
41Of him that brought them.
41Laertes, you shall hear them.
43"High and mighty, You shall know I am
44. naked: without weapons or followers. The point is that Hamlet poses no physical threat to the king, as the king ...more 46. pardon thereunto: permission to do so.
44set naked on your kingdom. Tomorrow shall
45I beg leave to see your kingly eyes: when I shall, first
46asking your pardon thereunto, recount the occasion of
47my sudden and more strange return.
49What should this mean? Are all the rest come back?
50. abuse: deceit.
50Or is it some abuse, and no such thing?
51. hand, character: In this context, both words mean "handwriting."
51Know you the hand?
51'Tis Hamlet's character. "Naked!"
52And in a postscript here, he says "alone."
53. devise me: explain it to me.
53Can you devise me?
54I'm lost in it, my lord. But let him come;
55It warms the very sickness in my heart,
56That I shall live and tell him to his teeth,
57"Thus didst thou."
57If it be so, Laertes
58As how should it be so? how otherwise?
59. be ruled by me: take my advice, follow my lead.
59Will you be ruled by me?
59Ay, my lord;
60. So: provided that. o'errule me to a peace: i.e., overrule my desire to take revenge on Hamlet.
60So you will not o'errule me to a peace.
61To thine own peace. If he be now return'd,
62. checking at: turning away from. ...more
62As checking at his voyage, and that he means
63-64. I will work him / To an exploit, now ripe in my device: i.e., I will con him into walking into an ambush which is now taking final shape in my imagination.
63No more to undertake it, I will work him
64To an exploit, now ripe in my device,
65Under the which he shall not choose but fall:
66And for his death no wind of blame shall breathe,
67. uncharge the practise: hold (me) innocent (of) plot, deception.
67But even his mother shall uncharge the practise
68And call it accident.
68My lord, I will be ruled;
69The rather, if you could devise it so
70. organ: instrument, agent (of Hamlet's death).
70That I might be the organ.
70It falls right.
71You have been talk'd of since your travel much,
72. quality: skill.
72And that in Hamlet's hearing, for a quality
73. Your sum of parts: all your (other) accomplishments put together.
73Wherein, they say, you shine: your sum of parts
74Did not together pluck such envy from him
75As did that one, and that, in my regard,
76. Of the unworthiest siege: i.e., least important. ...more
76Of the unworthiest siege.
76What part is that, my lord?
77. riband: decorative ribbon.
77A very riband in the cap of youth,
78-79. youth . . . wears: youth looks becoming in the light and carefree clothes that it wears. ...more
78Yet needful too; for youth no less becomes
79The light and careless livery that it wears
80. his sables and his weeds i.e., its characteristic garments. ...more 81. Importing health and graveness: signifying prosperity and dignity.
80Than settled age his sables and his weeds,
81Importing health and graveness. Two months since,
82Here was a gentleman of Normandy:
83I've seen myself, and served against, the French,
84. can well on horseback: are excellent riders.
84And they can well on horseback: but this gallant
85Had witchcraft in't; he grew unto his seat;
86And to such wondrous doing brought his horse,
87-88. As . . . beast: as if he had been joined with the body of, and shared the nature of ...more 88. topp'd my thought: surpassed my imagination (of what was possible). 89. in forgery of shapes and tricks: in imagining feats and tricks (of horsemanship).
87As he had been incorpsed and demi-natured
88With the brave beast: so far he topp'd my thought,
89That I, in forgery of shapes and tricks,
90Come short of what he did.
90A Norman was't?
92Upon my life, Lamond.
92The very same.
93. brooch: ornament.
93I know him well: he is the brooch indeed
94And gem of all the nation.
95. made confession of you: acknowledged your superiority.
95He made confession of you,
96And gave you such a masterly report
97For art and exercise in your defence
98And for your rapier most especial,
99That he cried out, 'twould be a sight indeed,
100-102. the scrimers of their nation, / He swore, had had neither motion, guard, nor eye, / If you opposed them: the fencers of France would have been clumsy, defenseless, and blind if Laertes were fighting against them.
100If one could match you: the scrimers of their nation,
101He swore, had had neither motion, guard, nor eye,
102If you opposed them. Sir, this report of his
103Did Hamlet so envenom with his envy
104That he could nothing do but wish and beg
105. sudden: speedy. play: fence.
105Your sudden coming o'er, to play with him.
106Now, out of this
106What out of this, my lord?
107Laertes, was your father dear to you?
108Or are you like the painting of a sorrow,
109A face without a heart?
109Why ask you this?
110Not that I think you did not love your father;
111. begun by time: i.e., born from a particular set of circumstances. 112. in passages of proof: i.e., by examples of situations in which love is tested. 113. qualifies: dilutes, weakens.
111But that I know love is begun by time;
112And that I see, in passages of proof,
113Time qualifies the spark and fire of it.
114There lives within the very flame of love
115. snuff: the charred part of a candlewick.
115A kind of wick or snuff that will abate it;
116. nothing is at a like goodness still: nothing remains at the same perfection forever. 117. plurisy: excess, plethora.
116And nothing is at a like goodness still;
117For goodness, growing to a plurisy,
118. too much: excess. that: that which.
118Dies in his own too much. That we would do
119We should do when we would; for this "would" changes
120. abatements: diminutions.
120And hath abatements and delays as many
121. accidents: random occurrences.
121As there are tongues, are hands, are accidents;
122-123. a spendthrift sigh, / That hurts by easing: A sigh was supposed to draw blood ...more 123. quick o' the ulcer: i.e., the heart of the problem. The kind of ulcer referred to is external. A modern (C.E. 2015) example of such an ulcer is a bedsore. They were treated by draining the pus from the center, the "quick."
122And then this "should" is like a spendthrift sigh,
123That hurts by easing. But, to the quick o' the ulcer:
124Hamlet comes back: what would you undertake,
125To show yourself your father's son in deed
126More than in words?
126To cut his throat i' the church.
127. No place . . . should murder sanctuarize: i.e., no place should offer asylum to a murderer.
127No place, indeed, should murder sanctuarize;
128Revenge should have no bounds. But, good Laertes,
129. Will you do this, keep close within your chamber: If you are willing to do this (i.e., take revenge on Hamlet), keep out of sight in your room. 131. We'll . . . excellence: I will urge on those who will praise your excellence. 132. double varnish: second coat of varnish. 133. in fine: finally.
129Will you do this, keep close within your chamber.
130Hamlet return'd shall know you are come home:
131We'll put on those shall praise your excellence
132And set a double varnish on the fame
133The Frenchman gave you, bring you in fine together
134. remiss: careless; i.e., overly trusting.
134And wager on your heads. He, being remiss,
135. generous: noble-minded. free from contriving: free from the inclination to lay plots. 136. peruse: examine.
135Most generous and free from all contriving,
136Will not peruse the foils; so that, with ease,
137Or with a little shuffling, you may choose
138. unbated: having no button, sharp. Foils used in a fencing match were (and still are) fitted with buttons on the tips, so that no one would get seriously hurt. pass of practise: treacherous thrust.
138A sword unbated, and in a pass of practise
139Requite him for your father.
139I will do't:
140And, for that purpose, I'll anoint my sword.
141. unction: ointment. mountebank: i.e., snake-oil salesman. 142. mortal: deadly.
141I bought an unction of a mountebank,
142So mortal that, but dip a knife in it,
143. cataplasm: poultice.
143Where it draws blood no cataplasm so rare,
144. simples: medicinal herbs. virtue: curative power.
144Collected from all simples that have virtue
145Under the moon, can save the thing from death
146That is but scratch'd withal: I'll touch my point
147. that: so that. gall: graze, wound.
147With this contagion, that, if I gall him slightly,
148It may be death.
148Let's further think of this;
149Weigh what convenience both of time and means
150. fit us to our shape: i.e., suit our purposes best.
150May fit us to our shape: if this should fail,
151. our drift look through our bad performance: our (evil) intention becomes visible because of our bad execution (of our plot). 153. back or second: i.e., a back-up plan. hold: be effective, not fail. 154. blast in proof: blow up while being tested. Soft! i.e., wait a minute, let me think. ...more
151And that our drift look through our bad performance,
152'Twere better not assay'd: therefore this project
153Should have a back or second, that might hold,
154If this should blast in proof. Soft! let me see:
155We'll make a solemn wager on your cunnings
157When in your motion you are hot and dry
158. As . . . end: i.e., and you should make your bouts of fencing more active to achieve that goal. 159. And . . . drink: and when, as he is hot and dry, he calls for drink. 160. nonce: occasion. 161. venom'd stuck: poisoned thrust.
158As make your bouts more violent to that end
159And that he calls for drink, I'll have prepar'd him
160A chalice for the nonce, whereon but sipping,
161If he by chance escape your venom'd stuck,
162Our purpose may hold there. But stay, what noise?
163One woe doth tread upon another's heel,
164So fast they follow; your sister's drown'd, Laertes.
165Drown'd! O, where?
166. willow: The willow is ...more aslant: sideways over.
166There is a willow grows aslant a brook,
167. hoar: grey-white.
167That shows his hoar leaves in the glassy stream;
168. Therewith: i.e., with willow branches.
168Therewith fantastic garlands did she make
169. long purples: wild orchids.
169Of crow-flowers, nettles, daisies, and long purples
170. liberal: free-spoken. a grosser name: Orchis mascula, the wild orchid ...more 171. cold: chaste.
170That liberal shepherds give a grosser name,
171But our cold maids do dead men's fingers call them:
172. coronet weeds: i.e., weeds woven into a coronet. ...more 173. envious sliver: malicious branch.
172There, on the pendent boughs her coronet weeds
173Clambering to hang, an envious sliver broke;
174When down her weedy trophies and herself
175Fell in the weeping brook. Her clothes spread wide;
176And, mermaid-like, awhile they bore her up:
177. lauds: hymns.
177Which time she chanted snatches of old lauds;
178. incapable: not capable of understanding.
178As one incapable of her own distress,
179. indued: adapted by nature.
179Or like a creature native and indued
180. that element: i.e., water.
180Unto that element: but long it could not be
181Till that her garments, heavy with their drink,
182Pull'd the poor wretch from her melodious lay
183To muddy death.
183Alas, then, she is drown'd?
185Too much of water hast thou, poor Ophelia,
186And therefore I forbid my tears: but yet
187-188. It is our trick: i.e., weeping is a natural human response ...more 188. these: these tears.
187It is our trick; nature her custom holds,
188Let shame say what it will: when these are gone,
189. The woman will be out: i.e., I will be done acting like a woman. 190. fain would: urgently desires to.
189The woman will be out. Adieu, my lord:
190I have a speech of fire, that fain would blaze,
191. this folly: i.e., my own foolish tears.
191But that this folly drowns it.
192Let's follow, Gertrude:
193How much I had to do to calm his rage!
194Now fear I this will give it start again;
195Therefore let's follow.