Il Testo

Hamlet A play by William Shakespeare






Act 1

scene ii

scene iii

scene iv

scene v

Scene 1

Elsinore. A platform before the castle.

FRANCISCO at his post. Enter to him BERNARDO

BERNARDO – Who’s there?

FRANCISCO – Nay, answer me: stand, and unfold yourself.

BERNARDO – Long live the king!

FRANCISCO – Bernardo?


FRANCISCO – You come most carefully upon your hour.

BERNARDO – ‘Tis now struck twelve; get thee to bed, Francisco.

FRANCISCO – For this relief much thanks: ‘tis bitter cold, And I am sick at heart.

BERNARDO – Have you had quiet guard?

FRANCISCO – Not a mouse stirring.

BERNARDO – Well, good night. If you do meet Horatio and Marcellus, The rivals of my watch, bid them make haste.

FRANCISCO – I think I hear them. Stand, ho! Who’s there?


HORATIO – Friends to this ground.

MARCELLUS – And liegemen to the Dane.

FRANCISCO – Give you good night.

MARCELLUS – O, farewell, honest soldier: Who hath relieved you?

FRANCISCO – Bernardo has my place. Give you good night.


MARCELLUS – Holla! Bernardo!

BERNARDO – Say, What, is Horatio there?

HORATIO – A piece of him.

BERNARDO – Welcome, Horatio: welcome, good Marcellus.

MARCELLUS – What, has this thing appear’d again to-night?

BERNARDO – I have seen nothing.

MARCELLUS – Horatio says ‘tis but our fantasy, And will not let belief take hold of him Touching this dreaded sight, twice seen of us: Therefore I have entreated him along With us to watch the minutes of this night; That if again this apparition come, He may approve our eyes and speak to it.

HORATIO – Tush, tush, ‘twill not appear.

BERNARDO – Sit down awhile; And let us once again assail your ears, That are so fortified against our story What we have two nights seen.

HORATIO – Well, sit we down, And let us hear Bernardo speak of this.

BERNARDO – Last night of all, When yond same star that’s westward from the pole Had made his course to illume that part of heaven Where now it burns, Marcellus and myself, The bell then beating one,–

Enter Ghost

MARCELLUS – Peace, break thee off; look, where it comes again!

BERNARDO – In the same figure, like the king that’s dead.

MARCELLUS – Thou art a scholar; speak to it, Horatio.

BERNARDO – Looks it not like the king? mark it, Horatio.

HORATIO – Most like: it harrows me with fear and wonder.

BERNARDO – It would be spoke to.

MARCELLUS – Question it, Horatio.

HORATIO – What art thou that usurp’st this time of night, Together with that fair and warlike form In which the majesty of buried Denmark Did sometimes march? by heaven I charge thee, speak!

MARCELLUS – It is offended.

BERNARDO – See, it stalks away!

HORATIO – Stay! speak, speak! I charge thee, speak!

Exit Ghost

MARCELLUS – ‘Tis gone, and will not answer.

BERNARDO – How now, Horatio! you tremble and look pale: Is not this something more than fantasy? What think you on’t?

HORATIO – Before my God, I might not this believe Without the sensible and true avouch Of mine own eyes.

MARCELLUS – Is it not like the king?

HORATIO – As thou art to thyself: Such was the very armour he had on When he the ambitious Norway combated; So frown’d he once, when, in an angry parle, He smote the sledded Polacks on the ice. ‘Tis strange.

MARCELLUS – Thus twice before, and jump at this dead hour, With martial stalk hath he gone by our watch.

HORATIO – In what particular thought to work I know not; But in the gross and scope of my opinion, This bodes some strange eruption to our state.

MARCELLUS – Good now, sit down, and tell me, he that knows, Why this same strict and most observant watch So nightly toils the subject of the land, And why such daily cast of brazen cannon, And foreign mart for implements of war; Why such impress of shipwrights, whose sore task Does not divide the Sunday from the week; What might be toward, that this sweaty haste Doth make the night joint-labourer with the day: Who is’t that can inform me?

HORATIO – That can I; At least, the whisper goes so. Our last king, Whose image even but now appear’d to us, Was, as you know, by Fortinbras of Norway, Thereto prick’d on by a most emulate pride, Dared to the combat; in which our valiant Hamlet– For so this side of our known world esteem’d him– Did slay this Fortinbras; who by a seal’d compact, Well ratified by law and heraldry, Did forfeit, with his life, all those his lands Which he stood seized of, to the conqueror: Against the which, a moiety competent Was gaged by our king; which had return’d To the inheritance of Fortinbras, Had he been vanquisher; as, by the same covenant, And carriage of the article design’d, His fell to Hamlet. Now, sir, young Fortinbras, Of unimproved mettle hot and full, Hath in the skirts of Norway here and there Shark’d up a list of lawless resolutes, For food and diet, to some enterprise That hath a stomach in’t; which is no other– As it doth well appear unto our state– But to recover of us, by strong hand And terms compulsatory, those foresaid lands So by his father lost: and this, I take it, Is the main motive of our preparations, The source of this our watch and the chief head Of this post-haste and romage in the land.

BERNARDO – I think it be no other but e’en so: Well may it sort that this portentous figure Comes armed through our watch; so like the king That was and is the question of these wars.

HORATIO – A mote it is to trouble the mind’s eye. In the most high and palmy state of Rome, A little ere the mightiest Julius fell, The graves stood tenantless and the sheeted dead Did squeak and gibber in the Roman streets: As stars with trains of fire and dews of blood, Disasters in the sun; and the moist star Upon whose influence Neptune’s empire stands Was sick almost to doomsday with eclipse: And even the like precurse of fierce events, As harbingers preceding still the fates And prologue to the omen coming on, Have heaven and earth together demonstrated Unto our climatures and countrymen.– But soft, behold! lo, where it comes again!

Re-enter Ghost

I’ll cross it, though it blast me. Stay, illusion! If thou hast any sound, or use of voice, Speak to me: If there be any good thing to be done, That may to thee do ease and grace to me, Speak to me:

Cock crows

If thou art privy to thy country’s fate, Which, happily, foreknowing may avoid, O, speak! Or if thou hast uphoarded in thy life Extorted treasure in the womb of earth, For which, they say, you spirits oft walk in death, Speak of it: stay, and speak! Stop it, Marcellus.

MARCELLUS – Shall I strike at it with my partisan?

HORATIO – Do, if it will not stand.

BERNARDO – ‘Tis here!

HORATIO – ‘Tis here!

MARCELLUS – ‘Tis gone!

Exit Ghost

We do it wrong, being so majestical, To offer it the show of violence; For it is, as the air, invulnerable, And our vain blows malicious mockery.

BERNARDO – It was about to speak, when the cock crew.

HORATIO – And then it started like a guilty thing Upon a fearful summons. I have heard, The cock, that is the trumpet to the morn, Doth with his lofty and shrill-sounding throat Awake the god of day; and, at his warning, Whether in sea or fire, in earth or air, The extravagant and erring spirit hies To his confine: and of the truth herein This present object made probation.

MARCELLUS – It faded on the crowing of the cock. Some say that ever ‘gainst that season comes Wherein our Saviour’s birth is celebrated, The bird of dawning singeth all night long: And then, they say, no spirit dares stir abroad; The nights are wholesome; then no planets strike, No fairy takes, nor witch hath power to charm, So hallow’d and so gracious is the time.

HORATIO – So have I heard and do in part believe it. But, look, the morn, in russet mantle clad, Walks o’er the dew of yon high eastward hill: Break we our watch up; and by my advice, Let us impart what we have seen to-night Unto young Hamlet; for, upon my life, This spirit, dumb to us, will speak to him. Do you consent we shall acquaint him with it, As needful in our loves, fitting our duty?

MARCELLUS – Let’s do’t, I pray; and I this morning know Where we shall find him most conveniently.



Act 1, Scene 2

A room of state in the castle.


KING CLAUDIUS – Though yet of Hamlet our dear brother’s death The memory be green, and that it us befitted To bear our hearts in grief and our whole kingdom To be contracted in one brow of woe, Yet so far hath discretion fought with nature That we with wisest sorrow think on him, Together with remembrance of ourselves. Therefore our sometime sister, now our queen, The imperial jointress to this warlike state, Have we, as ‘twere with a defeated joy,– With an auspicious and a dropping eye, With mirth in funeral and with dirge in marriage, In equal scale weighing delight and dole,– Taken to wife: nor have we herein barr’d Your better wisdoms, which have freely gone With this affair along. For all, our thanks. Now follows, that you know, young Fortinbras, Holding a weak supposal of our worth, Or thinking by our late dear brother’s death Our state to be disjoint and out of frame, Colleagued with the dream of his advantage, He hath not fail’d to pester us with message, Importing the surrender of those lands Lost by his father, with all bonds of law, To our most valiant brother. So much for him. Now for ourself and for this time of meeting: Thus much the business is: we have here writ To Norway, uncle of young Fortinbras,– Who, impotent and bed-rid, scarcely hears Of this his nephew’s purpose,–to suppress His further gait herein; in that the levies, The lists and full proportions, are all made Out of his subject: and we here dispatch You, good Cornelius, and you, Voltimand, For bearers of this greeting to old Norway; Giving to you no further personal power To business with the king, more than the scope Of these delated articles allow. Farewell, and let your haste commend your duty.

CORNELIUS – | | In that and all things will we show our duty.


KING CLAUDIUS – We doubt it nothing: heartily farewell.


And now, Laertes, what’s the news with you? You told us of some suit; what is’t, Laertes? You cannot speak of reason to the Dane, And loose your voice: what wouldst thou beg, Laertes, That shall not be my offer, not thy asking? The head is not more native to the heart, The hand more instrumental to the mouth, Than is the throne of Denmark to thy father. What wouldst thou have, Laertes?

LAERTES – My dread lord, Your leave and favour to return to France; From whence though willingly I came to Denmark, To show my duty in your coronation, Yet now, I must confess, that duty done, My thoughts and wishes bend again toward France And bow them to your gracious leave and pardon.

KING CLAUDIUS – Have you your father’s leave? What says Polonius?

LORD POLONIUS – He hath, my lord, wrung from me my slow leave By laboursome petition, and at last Upon his will I seal’d my hard consent: I do beseech you, give him leave to go.

KING CLAUDIUS – Take thy fair hour, Laertes; time be thine, And thy best graces spend it at thy will! But now, my cousin Hamlet, and my son,–

HAMLET – [Aside] A little more than kin, and less than kind.

KING CLAUDIUS – How is it that the clouds still hang on you?

HAMLET – Not so, my lord; I am too much i’ the sun.

QUEEN GERTRUDE – Good Hamlet, cast thy nighted colour off, And let thine eye look like a friend on Denmark. Do not for ever with thy vailed lids Seek for thy noble father in the dust: Thou know’st ‘tis common; all that lives must die, Passing through nature to eternity.

HAMLET – Ay, madam, it is common.

QUEEN GERTRUDE – If it be, Why seems it so particular with thee?

HAMLET – Seems, madam! nay it is; I know not ‘seems.’ ‘Tis not alone my inky cloak, good mother, Nor customary suits of solemn black, Nor windy suspiration of forced breath, No, nor the fruitful river in the eye, Nor the dejected ‘havior of the visage, Together with all forms, moods, shapes of grief, That can denote me truly: these indeed seem, For they are actions that a man might play: But I have that within which passeth show; These but the trappings and the suits of woe.

KING CLAUDIUS – ‘Tis sweet and commendable in your nature, Hamlet, To give these mourning duties to your father: But, you must know, your father lost a father; That father lost, lost his, and the survivor bound In filial obligation for some term To do obsequious sorrow: but to persever In obstinate condolement is a course Of impious stubbornness; ‘tis unmanly grief; It shows a will most incorrect to heaven, A heart unfortified, a mind impatient, An understanding simple and unschool’d: For what we know must be and is as common As any the most vulgar thing to sense, Why should we in our peevish opposition Take it to heart? Fie! ‘tis a fault to heaven, A fault against the dead, a fault to nature, To reason most absurd: whose common theme Is death of fathers, and who still hath cried, From the first corse till he that died to-day, ‘This must be so.’ We pray you, throw to earth This unprevailing woe, and think of us As of a father: for let the world take note, You are the most immediate to our throne; And with no less nobility of love Than that which dearest father bears his son, Do I impart toward you. For your intent In going back to school in Wittenberg, It is most retrograde to our desire: And we beseech you, bend you to remain Here, in the cheer and comfort of our eye, Our chiefest courtier, cousin, and our son.

QUEEN GERTRUDE – Let not thy mother lose her prayers, Hamlet: I pray thee, stay with us; go not to Wittenberg.

HAMLET – I shall in all my best obey you, madam.

KING CLAUDIUS – Why, ‘tis a loving and a fair reply: Be as ourself in Denmark. Madam, come; This gentle and unforced accord of Hamlet Sits smiling to my heart: in grace whereof, No jocund health that Denmark drinks to-day, But the great cannon to the clouds shall tell, And the king’s rouse the heavens all bruit again, Re-speaking earthly thunder. Come away.

Exeunt all but HAMLET

HAMLET – O, that this too too solid flesh would melt Thaw and resolve itself into a dew! Or that the Everlasting had not fix’d His canon ‘gainst self-slaughter! O God! God! How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable, Seem to me all the uses of this world! Fie on’t! ah fie! ‘tis an unweeded garden, That grows to seed; things rank and gross in nature Possess it merely. That it should come to this! But two months dead: nay, not so much, not two: So excellent a king; that was, to this, Hyperion to a satyr; so loving to my mother That he might not beteem the winds of heaven Visit her face too roughly. Heaven and earth! Must I remember? why, she would hang on him, As if increase of appetite had grown By what it fed on: and yet, within a month– Let me not think on’t–Frailty, thy name is woman!– A little month, or ere those shoes were old With which she follow’d my poor father’s body, Like Niobe, all tears:–why she, even she– O, God! a beast, that wants discourse of reason, Would have mourn’d longer–married with my uncle, My father’s brother, but no more like my father Than I to Hercules: within a month: Ere yet the salt of most unrighteous tears Had left the flushing in her galled eyes, She married. O, most wicked speed, to post With such dexterity to incestuous sheets! It is not nor it cannot come to good: But break, my heart; for I must hold my tongue.


HORATIO – Hail to your lordship!

HAMLET – I am glad to see you well: Horatio,–or I do forget myself.

HORATIO – The same, my lord, and your poor servant ever.

HAMLET – Sir, my good friend; I’ll change that name with you: And what make you from Wittenberg, Horatio? Marcellus?

MARCELLUS – My good lord–

HAMLET – I am very glad to see you. Good even, sir. But what, in faith, make you from Wittenberg?

HORATIO – A truant disposition, good my lord.

HAMLET – I would not hear your enemy say so, Nor shall you do mine ear that violence, To make it truster of your own report Against yourself: I know you are no truant. But what is your affair in Elsinore? We’ll teach you to drink deep ere you depart.

HORATIO – My lord, I came to see your father’s funeral.

HAMLET – I pray thee, do not mock me, fellow-student; I think it was to see my mother’s wedding.

HORATIO – Indeed, my lord, it follow’d hard upon.

HAMLET – Thrift, thrift, Horatio! the funeral baked meats Did coldly furnish forth the marriage tables. Would I had met my dearest foe in heaven Or ever I had seen that day, Horatio! My father!–methinks I see my father.

HORATIO – Where, my lord?

HAMLET – In my mind’s eye, Horatio.

HORATIO – I saw him once; he was a goodly king.

HAMLET – He was a man, take him for all in all, I shall not look upon his like again.

HORATIO – My lord, I think I saw him yesternight.

HAMLET – Saw? who?

HORATIO – My lord, the king your father.

HAMLET – The king my father!

HORATIO – Season your admiration for awhile With an attent ear, till I may deliver, Upon the witness of these gentlemen, This marvel to you.

HAMLET – For God’s love, let me hear.

HORATIO – Two nights together had these gentlemen, Marcellus and Bernardo, on their watch, In the dead vast and middle of the night, Been thus encounter’d. A figure like your father, Armed at point exactly, cap-a-pe, Appears before them, and with solemn march Goes slow and stately by them: thrice he walk’d By their oppress’d and fear-surprised eyes, Within his truncheon’s length; whilst they, distilled Almost to jelly with the act of fear, Stand dumb and speak not to him. This to me In dreadful secrecy impart they did; And I with them the third night kept the watch; Where, as they had deliver’d, both in time, Form of the thing, each word made true and good, The apparition comes: I knew your father; These hands are not more like.

HAMLET – But where was this?

MARCELLUS – My lord, upon the platform where we watch’d.

HAMLET – Did you not speak to it?

HORATIO – My lord, I did; But answer made it none: yet once methought It lifted up its head and did address Itself to motion, like as it would speak; But even then the morning cock crew loud, And at the sound it shrunk in haste away, And vanish’d from our sight.

HAMLET – ‘Tis very strange.

HORATIO – As I do live, my honour’d lord, ‘tis true; And we did think it writ down in our duty To let you know of it.

HAMLET – Indeed, indeed, sirs, but this troubles me. Hold you the watch to-night?

MARCELLUS – | | We do, my lord.


HAMLET – Arm’d, say you?

MARCELLUS – | | Arm’d, my lord.


HAMLET – From top to toe?

MARCELLUS – | | My lord, from head to foot.


HAMLET – Then saw you not his face?

HORATIO – O, yes, my lord; he wore his beaver up.

HAMLET – What, look’d he frowningly?

HORATIO – A countenance more in sorrow than in anger.

HAMLET – Pale or red?

HORATIO – Nay, very pale.

HAMLET – And fix’d his eyes upon you?

HORATIO – Most constantly.

HAMLET – I would I had been there.

HORATIO – It would have much amazed you.

HAMLET – Very like, very like. Stay’d it long?

HORATIO – While one with moderate haste might tell a hundred.

MARCELLUS – | Longer, longer.


HORATIO – Not when I saw’t.

HAMLET – His beard was grizzled–no?

HORATIO – It was, as I have seen it in his life, A sable silver’d.

HAMLET – I will watch to-night; Perchance ‘twill walk again.

HORATIO – I warrant it will.

HAMLET – If it assume my noble father’s person, I’ll speak to it, though hell itself should gape And bid me hold my peace. I pray you all, If you have hitherto conceal’d this sight, Let it be tenable in your silence still; And whatsoever else shall hap to-night, Give it an understanding, but no tongue: I will requite your loves. So, fare you well: Upon the platform, ‘twixt eleven and twelve, I’ll visit you.

All – Our duty to your honour.

HAMLET – Your loves, as mine to you: farewell.

Exeunt all but HAMLET

My father’s spirit in arms! all is not well; I doubt some foul play: would the night were come! Till then sit still, my soul: foul deeds will rise, Though all the earth o’erwhelm them, to men’s eyes.



Act 1, Scene 3

A room in Polonius’ house.


LAERTES – My necessaries are embark’d: farewell: And, sister, as the winds give benefit And convoy is assistant, do not sleep, But let me hear from you.

OPHELIA – Do you doubt that?

LAERTES – For Hamlet and the trifling of his favour, Hold it a fashion and a toy in blood, A violet in the youth of primy nature, Forward, not permanent, sweet, not lasting, The perfume and suppliance of a minute; No more.

OPHELIA – No more but so?

LAERTES – Think it no more; For nature, crescent, does not grow alone In thews and bulk, but, as this temple waxes, The inward service of the mind and soul Grows wide withal. Perhaps he loves you now, And now no soil nor cautel doth besmirch The virtue of his will: but you must fear, His greatness weigh’d, his will is not his own; For he himself is subject to his birth: He may not, as unvalued persons do, Carve for himself; for on his choice depends The safety and health of this whole state; And therefore must his choice be circumscribed Unto the voice and yielding of that body Whereof he is the head. Then if he says he loves you, It fits your wisdom so far to believe it As he in his particular act and place May give his saying deed; which is no further Than the main voice of Denmark goes withal. Then weigh what loss your honour may sustain, If with too credent ear you list his songs, Or lose your heart, or your chaste treasure open To his unmaster’d importunity. Fear it, Ophelia, fear it, my dear sister, And keep you in the rear of your affection, Out of the shot and danger of desire. The chariest maid is prodigal enough, If she unmask her beauty to the moon: Virtue itself ‘scapes not calumnious strokes: The canker galls the infants of the spring, Too oft before their buttons be disclosed, And in the morn and liquid dew of youth Contagious blastments are most imminent. Be wary then; best safety lies in fear: Youth to itself rebels, though none else near.

OPHELIA – I shall the effect of this good lesson keep, As watchman to my heart. But, good my brother, Do not, as some ungracious pastors do, Show me the steep and thorny way to heaven; Whiles, like a puff’d and reckless libertine, Himself the primrose path of dalliance treads, And recks not his own rede.

LAERTES – O, fear me not. I stay too long: but here my father comes.


A double blessing is a double grace, Occasion smiles upon a second leave.

LORD POLONIUS – Yet here, Laertes! aboard, aboard, for shame! The wind sits in the shoulder of your sail, And you are stay’d for. There; my blessing with thee! And these few precepts in thy memory See thou character. Give thy thoughts no tongue, Nor any unproportioned thought his act. Be thou familiar, but by no means vulgar. Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried, Grapple them to thy soul with hoops of steel; But do not dull thy palm with entertainment Of each new-hatch’d, unfledged comrade. Beware Of entrance to a quarrel, but being in, Bear’t that the opposed may beware of thee. Give every man thy ear, but few thy voice; Take each man’s censure, but reserve thy judgment. Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy, But not express’d in fancy; rich, not gaudy; For the apparel oft proclaims the man, And they in France of the best rank and station Are of a most select and generous chief in that. Neither a borrower nor a lender be; For loan oft loses both itself and friend, And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry. This above all: to thine ownself be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man. Farewell: my blessing season this in thee!

LAERTES – Most humbly do I take my leave, my lord.

LORD POLONIUS – The time invites you; go; your servants tend.

LAERTES – Farewell, Ophelia; and remember well What I have said to you.

OPHELIA – ‘Tis in my memory lock’d, And you yourself shall keep the key of it.

LAERTES – Farewell.


LORD POLONIUS – What is’t, Ophelia, be hath said to you?

OPHELIA – So please you, something touching the Lord Hamlet.

LORD POLONIUS – Marry, well bethought: ‘Tis told me, he hath very oft of late Given private time to you; and you yourself Have of your audience been most free and bounteous: If it be so, as so ‘tis put on me, And that in way of caution, I must tell you, You do not understand yourself so clearly As it behoves my daughter and your honour. What is between you? give me up the truth.

OPHELIA – He hath, my lord, of late made many tenders Of his affection to me.

LORD POLONIUS – Affection! pooh! you speak like a green girl, Unsifted in such perilous circumstance. Do you believe his tenders, as you call them?

OPHELIA – I do not know, my lord, what I should think.

LORD POLONIUS – Marry, I’ll teach you: think yourself a baby; That you have ta’en these tenders for true pay, Which are not sterling. Tender yourself more dearly; Or–not to crack the wind of the poor phrase, Running it thus–you’ll tender me a fool.

OPHELIA – My lord, he hath importuned me with love In honourable fashion.

LORD POLONIUS – Ay, fashion you may call it; go to, go to.

OPHELIA – And hath given countenance to his speech, my lord, With almost all the holy vows of heaven.

LORD POLONIUS – Ay, springes to catch woodcocks. I do know, When the blood burns, how prodigal the soul Lends the tongue vows: these blazes, daughter, Giving more light than heat, extinct in both, Even in their promise, as it is a-making, You must not take for fire. From this time Be somewhat scanter of your maiden presence; Set your entreatments at a higher rate Than a command to parley. For Lord Hamlet, Believe so much in him, that he is young And with a larger tether may he walk Than may be given you: in few, Ophelia, Do not believe his vows; for they are brokers, Not of that dye which their investments show, But mere impl’orators of unholy suits, Breathing like sanctified and pious bawds, The better to beguile. This is for all: I would not, in plain terms, from this time forth, Have you so slander any moment leisure, As to give words or talk with the Lord Hamlet. Look to’t, I charge you: come your ways.

OPHELIA – I shall obey, my lord.



Act 1, Scene 4

The platform.


HAMLET – The air bites shrewdly; it is very cold.

HORATIO – It is a nipping and an eager air.

HAMLET – What hour now?

HORATIO – I think it lacks of twelve.

HAMLET – No, it is struck.

HORATIO – Indeed? I heard it not: then it draws near the season Wherein the spirit held his wont to walk.

A flourish of trumpets, and ordnance shot off, within

What does this mean, my lord?

HAMLET – The king doth wake to-night and takes his rouse, Keeps wassail, and the swaggering up-spring reels; And, as he drains his draughts of Rhenish down, The kettle-drum and trumpet thus bray out The triumph of his pledge.

HORATIO – Is it a custom?

HAMLET – Ay, marry, is’t: But to my mind, though I am native here And to the manner born, it is a custom More honour’d in the breach than the observance. This heavy-headed revel east and west Makes us traduced and tax’d of other nations: They clepe us drunkards, and with swinish phrase Soil our addition; and indeed it takes From our achievements, though perform’d at height, The pith and marrow of our attribute. So, oft it chances in particular men, That for some vicious mole of nature in them, As, in their birth–wherein they are not guilty, Since nature cannot choose his origin– By the o’ergrowth of some complexion, Oft breaking down the pales and forts of reason, Or by some habit that too much o’er-leavens The form of plausive manners, that these men, Carrying, I say, the stamp of one defect, Being nature’s livery, or fortune’s star,– Their virtues else–be they as pure as grace, As infinite as man may undergo– Shall in the general censure take corruption From that particular fault: the dram of eale Doth all the noble substance of a doubt To his own scandal.

HORATIO – Look, my lord, it comes!

Enter Ghost

HAMLET – Angels and ministers of grace defend us! Be thou a spirit of health or goblin damn’d, Bring with thee airs from heaven or blasts from hell, Be thy intents wicked or charitable, Thou comest in such a questionable shape That I will speak to thee: I’ll call thee Hamlet, King, father, royal Dane: O, answer me! Let me not burst in ignorance; but tell Why thy canonized bones, hearsed in death, Have burst their cerements; why the sepulchre, Wherein we saw thee quietly inurn’d, Hath oped his ponderous and marble jaws, To cast thee up again. What may this mean, That thou, dead corse, again in complete steel Revisit’st thus the glimpses of the moon, Making night hideous; and we fools of nature So horridly to shake our disposition With thoughts beyond the reaches of our souls? Say, why is this? wherefore? what should we do?

Ghost beckons HAMLET

HORATIO – It beckons you to go away with it, As if it some impartment did desire To you alone.

MARCELLUS – Look, with what courteous action It waves you to a more removed ground: But do not go with it.

HORATIO – No, by no means.

HAMLET – It will not speak; then I will follow it.

HORATIO – Do not, my lord.

HAMLET – Why, what should be the fear? I do not set my life in a pin’s fee; And for my soul, what can it do to that, Being a thing immortal as itself? It waves me forth again: I’ll follow it.

HORATIO – What if it tempt you toward the flood, my lord, Or to the dreadful summit of the cliff That beetles o’er his base into the sea, And there assume some other horrible form, Which might deprive your sovereignty of reason And draw you into madness? think of it: The very place puts toys of desperation, Without more motive, into every brain That looks so many fathoms to the sea And hears it roar beneath.

HAMLET – It waves me still. Go on; I’ll follow thee.

MARCELLUS – You shall not go, my lord.

HAMLET – Hold off your hands.

HORATIO – Be ruled; you shall not go.

HAMLET – My fate cries out, And makes each petty artery in this body As hardy as the Nemean l’ion’s nerve. Still am I call’d. Unhand me, gentlemen. By heaven, I’ll make a ghost of him that lets me! I say, away! Go on; I’ll follow thee.

Exeunt Ghost and HAMLET

HORATIO – He waxes desperate with imagination.

MARCELLUS – Let’s follow; ‘tis not fit thus to obey him.

HORATIO – Have after. To what issue will this come?

MARCELLUS – Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.

HORATIO – Heaven will direct it.

MARCELLUS – Nay, let’s follow him.



Act 1, Scene 5

Another part of the platform.


HAMLET – Where wilt thou lead me? speak; I’ll go no further.

Ghost – Mark me.

HAMLET – I will.

Ghost – My hour is almost come, When I to sulphurous and tormenting flames Must render up myself.

HAMLET – Alas, poor ghost!

Ghost – Pity me not, but lend thy serious hearing To what I shall unfold.

HAMLET – Speak; I am bound to hear.

Ghost – So art thou to revenge, when thou shalt hear.

HAMLET – What?

Ghost – I am thy father’s spirit, Doom’d for a certain term to walk the night, And for the day confined to fast in fires, Till the foul crimes done in my days of nature Are burnt and purged away. But that I am forbid To tell the secrets of my prison-house, I could a tale unfold whose lightest word Would harrow up thy soul, freeze thy young blood, Make thy two eyes, like stars, start from their spheres, Thy knotted and combined locks to part And each particular hair to stand on end, Like quills upon the fretful porpentine: But this eternal blazon must not be To ears of flesh and blood. List, list, O, list! If thou didst ever thy dear father love–


Ghost – Revenge his foul and most unnatural murder.

HAMLET – Murder!

Ghost – Murder most foul, as in the best it is; But this most foul, strange and unnatural.

HAMLET – Haste me to know’t, that I, with wings as swift As meditation or the thoughts of love, May sweep to my revenge.

Ghost – I find thee apt; And duller shouldst thou be than the fat weed That roots itself in ease on Lethe wharf, Wouldst thou not stir in this. Now, Hamlet, hear: ‘Tis given out that, sleeping in my orchard, A serpent stung me; so the whole ear of Denmark Is by a forged process of my death Rankly abused: but know, thou noble youth, The serpent that did sting thy father’s life Now wears his crown.

HAMLET – O my prophetic soul! My uncle!

Ghost – Ay, that incestuous, that adulterate beast, With witchcraft of his wit, with traitorous gifts,– O wicked wit and gifts, that have the power So to seduce!–won to his shameful lust The will of my most seeming-virtuous queen: O Hamlet, what a falling-off was there! From me, whose love was of that dignity That it went hand in hand even with the vow I made to her in marriage, and to decline Upon a wretch whose natural gifts were poor To those of mine! But virtue, as it never will be moved, Though lewdness court it in a shape of heaven, So lust, though to a radiant angel link’d, Will sate itself in a celestial bed, And prey on garbage. But, soft! methinks I scent the morning air; Brief let me be. Sleeping within my orchard, My custom always of the afternoon, Upon my secure hour thy uncle stole, With juice of cursed hebenon in a vial, And in the porches of my ears did pour The leperous distilment; whose effect Holds such an enmity with blood of man That swift as quicksilver it courses through The natural gates and alleys of the body, And with a sudden vigour doth posset And curd, like eager droppings into milk, The thin and wholesome blood: so did it mine; And a most instant tetter bark’d about, Most lazar-like, with vile and loathsome crust, All my smooth body. Thus was I, sleeping, by a brother’s hand Of life, of crown, of queen, at once dispatch’d: Cut off even in the blossoms of my sin, Unhousel’d, disappointed, unanel’d, No reckoning made, but sent to my account With all my imperfections on my head: O, horrible! O, horrible! most horrible! If thou hast nature in thee, bear it not; Let not the royal bed of Denmark be A couch for luxury and damned incest. But, howsoever thou pursuest this act, Taint not thy mind, nor let thy soul contrive Against thy mother aught: leave her to heaven And to those thorns that in her bosom lodge, To prick and sting her. Fare thee well at once! The glow-worm shows the matin to be near, And ‘gins to pale his uneffectual fire: Adieu, adieu! Hamlet, remember me.


HAMLET – O all you host of heaven! O earth! what else? And shall I couple hell? O, fie! Hold, hold, my heart; And you, my sinews, grow not instant old, But bear me stiffly up. Remember thee! Ay, thou poor ghost, while memory holds a seat In this distracted globe. Remember thee! Yea, from the table of my memory I’ll wipe away all trivial fond records, All saws of books, all forms, all pressures past, That youth and observation copied there; And thy commandment all alone shall live Within the book and volume of my brain, Unmix’d with baser matter: yes, by heaven! O most pernicious woman! O villain, villain, smiling, damned villain! My tables,–meet it is I set it down, That one may smile, and smile, and be a villain; At least I’m sure it may be so in Denmark:


So, uncle, there you are. Now to my word; It is ‘Adieu, adieu! remember me.’ I have sworn ‘t.

MARCELLUS – [Within] My lord, my lord,–



Lord Hamlet,–

HORATIO [Within] – Heaven secure him!

HAMLET – So be it!

HORATIO – [Within] Hillo, ho, ho, my lord!

HAMLET – Hillo, ho, ho, boy! come, bird, come.


MARCELLUS – How is’t, my noble lord?

HORATIO – What news, my lord?

HAMLET – O, wonderful!

HORATIO – Good my lord, tell it.

HAMLET – No; you’ll reveal it.

HORATIO – Not I, my lord, by heaven.

MARCELLUS – Nor I, my lord.

HAMLET – How say you, then; would heart of man once think it? But you’ll be secret?

HORATIO – | | Ay, by heaven, my lord.


HAMLET – There’s ne’er a villain dwelling in all Denmark But he’s an arrant knave.

HORATIO – There needs no ghost, my lord, come from the grave To tell us this.

HAMLET – Why, right; you are i’ the right; And so, without more circumstance at all, I hold it fit that we shake hands and part: You, as your business and desire shall point you; For every man has business and desire, Such as it is; and for mine own poor part, Look you, I’ll go pray.

HORATIO – These are but wild and whirling words, my lord.

HAMLET – I’m sorry they offend you, heartily; Yes, ‘faith heartily.

HORATIO – There’s no offence, my lord.

HAMLET – Yes, by Saint Patrick, but there is, Horatio, And much offence too. Touching this vision here, It is an honest ghost, that let me tell you: For your desire to know what is between us, O’ermaster ‘t as you may. And now, good friends, As you are friends, scholars and soldiers, Give me one poor request.

HORATIO – What is’t, my lord? we will.

HAMLET – Never make known what you have seen to-night.

HORATIO – | | My lord, we will not.


HAMLET – Nay, but swear’t.

HORATIO – In faith, My lord, not I.

MARCELLUS – Nor I, my lord, in faith.

HAMLET – Upon my sword.

MARCELLUS – We have sworn, my lord, already.

HAMLET – Indeed, upon my sword, indeed.

Ghost – [Beneath] Swear.

HAMLET – Ah, ha, boy! say’st thou so? art thou there, truepenny? Come on–you hear this fellow in the cellarage– Consent to swear.

HORATIO – Propose the oath, my lord.

HAMLET – Never to speak of this that you have seen, Swear by my sword.

Ghost – [Beneath] Swear.

HAMLET – Hic et ubique? then we’ll shift our ground. Come hither, gentlemen, And lay your hands again upon my sword: Never to speak of this that you have heard, Swear by my sword.

Ghost – [Beneath] Swear.

HAMLET – Well said, old mole! canst work i’ the earth so fast? A worthy pioner! Once more remove, good friends.

HORATIO- O day and night, but this is wondrous strange!

HAMLET – And therefore as a stranger give it welcome. There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy. But come; Here, as before, never, so help you mercy, How strange or odd soe’er I bear myself, As I perchance hereafter shall think meet To put an antic disposition on, That you, at such times seeing me, never shall, With arms encumber’d thus, or this headshake, Or by pronouncing of some doubtful phrase, As ‘Well, well, we know,’ or ‘We could, an if we would,’ Or ‘If we list to speak,’ or ‘There be, an if they might,’ Or such ambiguous giving out, to note That you know aught of me: this not to do, So grace and mercy at your most need help you, Swear.

Ghost – [Beneath] Swear.

HAMLET – Rest, rest, perturbed spirit!

They swear

So, gentlemen, With all my love I do commend me to you: And what so poor a man as Hamlet is May do, to express his love and friending to you, God willing, shall not lack. Let us go in together; And still your fingers on your lips, I pray. The time is out of joint: O cursed spite, That ever I was born to set it right! Nay, come, let’s go together.



Act 2

scene ii

Scene 1

A room in POLONIUS’ house.


LORD POLONIUS – Give him this money and these notes, Reynaldo.

REYNALDO – I will, my lord.

LORD POLONIUS – You shall do marvellous wisely, good Reynaldo, Before you visit him, to make inquire Of his behavior.

REYNALDO – My lord, I did intend it.

LORD POLONIUS – Marry, well said; very well said. Look you, sir, Inquire me first what Danskers are in Paris; And how, and who, what means, and where they keep, What company, at what expense; and finding By this encompassment and drift of question That they do know my son, come you more nearer Than your particular demands will touch it: Take you, as ‘twere, some distant knowledge of him; As thus, ‘I know his father and his friends, And in part him: ‘ do you mark this, Reynaldo?

REYNALDO – Ay, very well, my lord.

LORD POLONIUS – ‘And in part him; but’ you may say ‘not well: But, if’t be he I mean, he’s very wild; Addicted so and so:’ and there put on him What forgeries you please; marry, none so rank As may dishonour him; take heed of that; But, sir, such wanton, wild and usual slips As are companions noted and most known To youth and liberty.

REYNALDO – As gaming, my lord.

LORD POLONIUS – Ay, or drinking, fencing, swearing, quarrelling, Drabbing: you may go so far.

REYNALDO – My lord, that would dishonour him.

LORD POLONIUS – ‘Faith, no; as you may season it in the charge You must not put another scandal on him, That he is open to incontinency; That’s not my meaning: but breathe his faults so quaintly That they may seem the taints of liberty, The flash and outbreak of a fiery mind, A savageness in unreclaimed blood, Of general assault.

REYNALDO – But, my good lord,–

LORD POLONIUS – Wherefore should you do this?

REYNALDO – Ay, my lord, I would know that.

LORD POLONIUS – Marry, sir, here’s my drift; And I believe, it is a fetch of wit: You laying these slight sullies on my son, As ‘twere a thing a little soil’d i’ the working, Mark you, Your party in converse, him you would sound, Having ever seen in the prenominate crimes The youth you breathe of guilty, be assured He closes with you in this consequence; ‘Good sir,’ or so, or ‘friend,’ or ‘gentleman,’ According to the phrase or the addition Of man and country.

REYNALDO – Very good, my lord.

LORD POLONIUS – And then, sir, does he this–he does–what was I about to say? By the mass, I was about to say something: where did I leave?

REYNALDO – At ‘closes in the consequence,’ at ‘friend or so,’ and ‘gentleman.’

LORD POLONIUS – At ‘closes in the consequence,’ ay, marry; He closes thus: ‘I know the gentleman; I saw him yesterday, or t’ other day, Or then, or then; with such, or such; and, as you say, There was a’ gaming; there o’ertook in’s rouse; There falling out at tennis:’ or perchance, ‘I saw him enter such a house of sale,’ Videlicet, a brothel, or so forth. See you now; Your bait of falsehood takes this carp of truth: And thus do we of wisdom and of reach, With windlasses and with assays of bias, By indirections find directions out: So by my former lecture and advice, Shall you my son. You have me, have you not?

REYNALDO – My lord, I have.

LORD POLONIUS – God be wi’ you; fare you well.

REYNALDO – Good my lord!

LORD POLONIUS – Observe his inclination in yourself.

REYNALDO – I shall, my lord.

LORD POLONIUS – And let him ply his music.

REYNALDO – Well, my lord.




How now, Ophelia! what’s the matter?

OPHELIA – O, my lord, my lord, I have been so affrighted!

LORD POLONIUS – With what, i’ the name of God?

OPHELIA – My lord, as I was sewing in my closet, Lord Hamlet, with his doublet all unbraced; No hat upon his head; his stockings foul’d, Ungarter’d, and down-gyved to his ancle; Pale as his shirt; his knees knocking each other; And with a look so piteous in purport As if he had been loosed out of hell To speak of horrors,–he comes before me.

LORD POLONIUS – Mad for thy love?

OPHELIA – My lord, I do not know; But truly, I do fear it.

LORD POLONIUS – What said he?

OPHELIA – He took me by the wrist and held me hard; Then goes he to the length of all his arm; And, with his other hand thus o’er his brow, He falls to such perusal of my face As he would draw it. Long stay’d he so; At last, a little shaking of mine arm And thrice his head thus waving up and down, He raised a sigh so piteous and profound As it did seem to shatter all his bulk And end his being: that done, he lets me go: And, with his head over his shoulder turn’d, He seem’d to find his way without his eyes; For out o’ doors he went without their helps, And, to the last, bended their light on me.

LORD POLONIUS – Come, go with me: I will go seek the king. This is the very ecstasy of love, Whose violent property fordoes itself And leads the will to desperate undertakings As oft as any passion under heaven That does afflict our natures. I am sorry. What, have you given him any hard words of late?

OPHELIA – No, my good lord, but, as you did command, I did repel his fetters and denied His access to me.

LORD POLONIUS – That hath made him mad. I am sorry that with better heed and judgment I had not quoted him: I fear’d he did but trifle, And meant to wreck thee; but, beshrew my jealousy! By heaven, it is as proper to our age To cast beyond ourselves in our opinions As it is common for the younger sort To lack discretion. Come, go we to the king: This must be known; which, being kept close, might move More grief to hide than hate to utter love.



Act 2, Scene 2

A room in the castle.


KING CLAUDIUS – Welcome, dear Rosencrantz and Guildenstern! Moreover that we much did long to see you, The need we have to use you did provoke Our hasty sending. Something have you heard Of Hamlet’s transformation; so call it, Sith nor the exterior nor the inward man Resembles that it was. What it should be, More than his father’s death, that thus hath put him So much from the understanding of himself, I cannot dream of: I entreat you both, That, being of so young days brought up with him, And sith so neighbour’d to his youth and havior, That you vouchsafe your rest here in our court Some little time: so by your companies To draw him on to pleasures, and to gather, So much as from occasion you may glean, Whether aught, to us unknown, afflicts him thus, That, open’d, lies within our remedy.

QUEEN GERTRUDE – Good gentlemen, he hath much talk’d of you; And sure I am two men there are not living To whom he more adheres. If it will please you To show us so much gentry and good will As to expend your time with us awhile, For the supply and profit of our hope, Your visitation shall receive such thanks As fits a king’s remembrance.

ROSENCRANTZ – Both your majesties Might, by the sovereign power you have of us, Put your dread pleasures more into command Than to entreaty.

GUILDENSTERN – But we both obey, And here give up ourselves, in the full bent To lay our service freely at your feet, To be commanded.

KING CLAUDIUS – Thanks, Rosencrantz and gentle Guildenstern.

QUEEN GERTRUDE – Thanks, Guildenstern and gentle Rosencrantz: And I beseech you instantly to visit My too much changed son. Go, some of you, And bring these gentlemen where Hamlet is.

GUILDENSTERN – Heavens make our presence and our practises Pleasant and helpful to him!


Exeunt ROSENCRANTZ, GUILDENSTERN, and some Attendants


LORD POLONIUS – The ambassadors from Norway, my good lord, Are joyfully return’d.

KING CLAUDIUS – Thou still hast been the father of good news.

LORD POLONIUS – Have I, my lord? I assure my good liege, I hold my duty, as I hold my soul, Both to my God and to my gracious king: And I do think, or else this brain of mine Hunts not the trail of policy so sure As it hath used to do, that I have found The very cause of Hamlet’s l’unacy.

KING CLAUDIUS – O, speak of that; that do I long to hear.

LORD POLONIUS – Give first admittance to the ambassadors; My news shall be the fruit to that great feast.

KING CLAUDIUS – Thyself do grace to them, and bring them in.


He tells me, my dear Gertrude, he hath found The head and source of all your son’s distemper.

QUEEN GERTRUDE – I doubt it is no other but the main; His father’s death, and our o’erhasty marriage.

KING CLAUDIUS – Well, we shall sift him.


Welcome, my good friends! Say, Voltimand, what from our brother Norway?

VOLTIMAND – Most fair return of greetings and desires. Upon our first, he sent out to suppress His nephew’s levies; which to him appear’d To be a preparation ‘gainst the Polack; But, better look’d into, he truly found It was against your highness: whereat grieved, That so his sickness, age and impotence Was falsely borne in hand, sends out arrests On Fortinbras; which he, in brief, obeys; Receives rebuke from Norway, and in fine Makes vow before his uncle never more To give the assay of arms against your majesty. Whereon old Norway, overcome with joy, Gives him three thousand crowns in annual fee, And his commission to employ those soldiers, So levied as before, against the Polack: With an entreaty, herein further shown,

Giving a paper

That it might please you to give quiet pass Through your dominions for this enterprise, On such regards of safety and allowance As therein are set down.

KING CLAUDIUS – It likes us well; And at our more consider’d time well read, Answer, and think upon this business. Meantime we thank you for your well-took labour: Go to your rest; at night we’ll feast together: Most welcome home!


LORD POLONIUS – This business is well ended. My liege, and madam, to expostulate What majesty should be, what duty is, Why day is day, night night, and time is time, Were nothing but to waste night, day and time. Therefore, since brevity is the soul of wit, And tediousness the limbs and outward flourishes, I will be brief: your noble son is mad: Mad call I it; for, to define true madness, What is’t but to be nothing else but mad? But let that go.

QUEEN GERTRUDE – More matter, with less art.

LORD POLONIUS – Madam, I swear I use no art at all. That he is mad, ‘tis true: ‘tis true ‘tis pity; And pity ‘tis ‘tis true: a foolish figure; But farewell it, for I will use no art. Mad let us grant him, then: and now remains That we find out the cause of this effect, Or rather say, the cause of this defect, For this effect defective comes by cause: Thus it remains, and the remainder thus. Perpend. I have a daughter–have while she is mine– Who, in her duty and obedience, mark, Hath given me this: now gather, and surmise.


‘To the celestial and my soul’s idol, the most beautified Ophelia,’– That’s an ill phrase, a vile phrase; ‘beautified’ is a vile phrase: but you shall hear. Thus:


‘In her excellent white bosom, these, &c.’

QUEEN GERTRUDE – Came this from Hamlet to her?

LORD POLONIUS – Good madam, stay awhile; I will be faithful.


‘Doubt thou the stars are fire; Doubt that the sun doth move; Doubt truth to be a liar; But never doubt I love. ‘O dear Ophelia, I am ill at these numbers; I have not art to reckon my groans: but that I love thee best, O most best, believe it. Adieu. ‘Thine evermore most dear lady, whilst this machine is to him, HAMLET.’ This, in obedience, hath my daughter shown me, And more above, hath his solicitings, As they fell out by time, by means and place, All given to mine ear.

KING CLAUDIUS – But how hath she Received his love?

LORD POLONIUS – What do you think of me?

KING CLAUDIUS – As of a man faithful and honourable.

LORD POLONIUS – I would fain prove so. But what might you think, When I had seen this hot love on the wing– As I perceived it, I must tell you that, Before my daughter told me–what might you, Or my dear majesty your queen here, think, If I had play’d the desk or table-book, Or given my heart a winking, mute and dumb, Or look’d upon this love with idle sight; What might you think? No, I went round to work, And my young mistress thus I did bespeak: ‘Lord Hamlet is a prince, out of thy star; This must not be:’ and then I precepts gave her, That she should lock herself from his resort, Admit no messengers, receive no tokens. Which done, she took the fruits of my advice; And he, repulsed–a short tale to make– Fell into a sadness, then into a fast, Thence to a watch, thence into a weakness, Thence to a lightness, and, by this declension, Into the madness wherein now he raves, And all we mourn for.

KING CLAUDIUS – Do you think ‘tis this?

QUEEN GERTRUDE – It may be, very likely.

LORD POLONIUS – Hath there been such a time–I’d fain know that– That I have positively said ‘Tis so,’ When it proved otherwise?

KING CLAUDIUS – Not that I know.

LORD POLONIUS – [Pointing to his head and shoulder] Take this from this, if this be otherwise: If circumstances lead me, I will find Where truth is hid, though it were hid indeed Within the centre.

KING CLAUDIUS – How may we try it further?

LORD POLONIUS – You know, sometimes he walks four hours together Here in the lobby.

QUEEN GERTRUDE – So he does indeed.

LORD POLONIUS – At such a time I’ll loose my daughter to him: Be you and I behind an arras then; Mark the encounter: if he love her not And be not from his reason fall’n thereon, Let me be no assistant for a state, But keep a farm and carters.

KING CLAUDIUS – We will try it.

QUEEN GERTRUDE – But, look, where sadly the poor wretch comes reading.

LORD POLONIUS – Away, I do beseech you, both away: I’ll board him presently.


Enter HAMLET, reading

O, give me leave: How does my good Lord Hamlet?

HAMLET – Well, God-a-mercy.

LORD POLONIUS – Do you know me, my lord?

HAMLET – Excellent well; you are a fishmonger.

LORD POLONIUS – Not I, my lord.

HAMLET – Then I would you were so honest a man.

LORD POLONIUS – Honest, my lord!

HAMLET – Ay, sir; to be honest, as this world goes, is to be one man picked out of ten thousand.

LORD POLONIUS – That’s very true, my lord.

HAMLET – For if the sun breed maggots in a dead dog, being a god kissing carrion,–Have you a daughter?

LORD POLONIUS – I have, my lord.

HAMLET – Let her not walk i’ the sun: conception is a blessing: but not as your daughter may conceive. Friend, look to ‘t.

LORD POLONIUS – [Aside] How say you by that? Still harping on my daughter: yet he knew me not at first; he said I was a fishmonger: he is far gone, far gone: and truly in my youth I suffered much extremity for love; very near this. I’ll speak to him again. What do you read, my lord?

HAMLET – Words, words, words.

LORD POLONIUS – What is the matter, my lord?

HAMLET – Between who?

LORD POLONIUS – I mean, the matter that you read, my lord.

HAMLET – Slanders, sir: for the satirical rogue says here that old men have grey beards, that their faces are wrinkled, their eyes purging thick amber and plum-tree gum and that they have a plentiful lack of wit, together with most weak hams: all which, sir, though I most powerfully and potently believe, yet I hold it not honesty to have it thus set down, for yourself, sir, should be old as I am, if like a crab you could go backward.

LORD POLONIUS – [Aside] Though this be madness, yet there is method in ‘t. Will you walk out of the air, my lord?

HAMLET – Into my grave.

LORD POLONIUS – Indeed, that is out o’ the air.


How pregnant sometimes his replies are! a happiness that often madness hits on, which reason and sanity could not so prosperously be delivered of. I will leave him, and suddenly contrive the means of meeting between him and my daughter.–My honourable lord, I will most humbly take my leave of you.

HAMLET – You cannot, sir, take from me any thing that I will more willingly part withal: except my life, except my life, except my life.

LORD POLONIUS – Fare you well, my lord.

HAMLET – These tedious old fools!


LORD POLONIUS – You go to seek the Lord Hamlet; there he is.


[To POLONIUS] God save you, sir!



My honoured lord!


My most dear lord!


My excellent good friends! How dost thou, Guildenstern? Ah, Rosencrantz! Good lads, how do ye both?


As the indifferent children of the earth.


Happy, in that we are not over-happy; On fortune’s cap we are not the very button.


Nor the soles of her shoe?


Neither, my lord.


Then you live about her waist, or in the middle of her favours?


‘Faith, her privates we.


In the secret parts of fortune? O, most true; she is a strumpet. What’s the news?


None, my lord, but that the world’s grown honest.


Then is doomsday near: but your news is not true. Let me question more in particular: what have you, my good friends, deserved at the hands of fortune, that she sends you to prison hither?


Prison, my lord!


Denmark’s a prison.


Then is the world one.


A goodly one; in which there are many confines, wards and dungeons, Denmark being one o’ the worst.


We think not so, my lord.


Why, then, ‘tis none to you; for there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so: to me it is a prison.


Why then, your ambition makes it one; ‘tis too narrow for your mind.


O God, I could be bounded in a nut shell and count myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams.


Which dreams indeed are ambition, for the very substance of the ambitious is merely the shadow of a dream.


A dream itself is but a shadow.


Truly, and I hold ambition of so airy and light a quality that it is but a shadow’s shadow.


Then are our beggars bodies, and our monarchs and outstretched heroes the beggars’ shadows. Shall we to the court? for, by my fay, I cannot reason.


| | We’ll wait upon you.




No such matter: I will not sort you with the rest of my servants, for, to speak to you like an honest man, I am most dreadfully attended. But, in the beaten way of friendship, what make you at Elsinore?


To visit you, my lord; no other occasion.


Beggar that I am, I am even poor in thanks; but I thank you: and sure, dear friends, my thanks are too dear a halfpenny. Were you not sent for? Is it your own inclining? Is it a free visitation? Come, deal justly with me: come, come; nay, speak.


What should we say, my lord?


Why, any thing, but to the purpose. You were sent for; and there is a kind of confession in your looks which your modesties have not craft enough to colour: I know the good king and queen have sent for you.


To what end, my lord?


That you must teach me. But let me conjure you, by the rights of our fellowship, by the consonancy of our youth, by the obligation of our ever-preserved love, and by what more dear a better proposer could charge you withal, be even and direct with me, whether you were sent for, or no?


[Aside to GUILDENSTERN] What say you?


[Aside] Nay, then, I have an eye of you.–If you love me, hold not off.


My lord, we were sent for.


I will tell you why; so shall my anticipation prevent your discovery, and your secrecy to the king and queen moult no feather. I have of late–but wherefore I know not–lost all my mirth, forgone all custom of exercises; and indeed it goes so heavily with my disposition that this goodly frame, the earth, seems t