ACT 2
Scene 2
Flourish. Enter King and Queen, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern and Attendants.

KING    
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 th’ 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 th’ understanding of himself
I cannot dream of. I entreat you both
That, being of so young days brought up with him
And sith so neighbored 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, opened, lies within our remedy.
QUEEN    
Good gentlemen, he hath much talked of you,
And sure I am two men there is not living
To whom he more adheres. If it will please you
To show us so much gentry and goodwill
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    
Thanks, Rosencrantz and gentle Guildenstern.
QUEEN    
Thanks, Guildenstern and gentle Rosencrantz.
And I beseech you instantly to visit
My too much changèd son.—Go, some of you,
And bring these gentlemen where Hamlet is.
GUILDENSTERN    
Heavens make our presence and our practices
Pleasant and helpful to him!
QUEEN    Ay, amen!
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern exit with some Attendants. Enter Guildenstern and Rosencrantz.

POLONIUS    You go to seek the Lord Hamlet. There he is.
ROSENCRANTZ , to Polonius    God save you, sir.
Polonius exits.
GUILDENSTERN    My honored lord.
ROSENCRANTZ    My most dear lord.
HAMLET    My excellent good friends! How dost thou,
Guildenstern? Ah, Rosencrantz! Good lads, how do
you both?
ROSENCRANTZ    
As the indifferent children of the earth.
GUILDENSTERN    
Happy in that we are not overhappy.
On Fortune’s cap, we are not the very button.
HAMLET    Nor the soles of her shoe?
ROSENCRANTZ    Neither, my lord.
HAMLET    Then you live about her waist, or in the
middle of her favors?
GUILDENSTERN    Faith, her privates we.
HAMLET    In the secret parts of Fortune? O, most true!
She is a strumpet. What news?
ROSENCRANTZ    None, my lord, but that the world’s
grown honest.
HAMLET    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?
GUILDENSTERN    Prison, my lord?
HAMLET    Denmark’s a prison.
ROSENCRANTZ    Then is the world one.
HAMLET    A goodly one, in which there are many confines,
wards, and dungeons, Denmark being one o’
th’ worst.
ROSENCRANTZ    We think not so, my lord.
HAMLET    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.
ROSENCRANTZ    Why, then, your ambition makes it one.
’Tis too narrow for your mind.
HAMLET    O God, I could be bounded in a nutshell and
count myself a king of infinite space, were it not
that I have bad dreams.
GUILDENSTERN    Which dreams, indeed, are ambition,
for the very substance of the ambitious is merely
the shadow of a dream.
HAMLET    A dream itself is but a shadow.
ROSENCRANTZ    Truly, and I hold ambition of so airy
and light a quality that it is but a shadow’s shadow.
HAMLET    Then are our beggars bodies, and our monarchs
and outstretched heroes the beggars’ shadows.
Shall we to th’ court? For, by my fay, I cannot
reason.
ROSENCRANTZ/GUILDENSTERN    We’ll wait upon you.
HAMLET    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?
ROSENCRANTZ    To visit you, my lord, no other occasion.
HAMLET    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, come, deal justly with me. Come, come; nay,
speak.
GUILDENSTERN    What should we say, my lord?
HAMLET    Anything but to th’ purpose. You were sent
for, and there is a kind of confession in your looks
which your modesties have not craft enough to
color. I know the good king and queen have sent for
you.
ROSENCRANTZ    To what end, my lord?
HAMLET    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 can charge you withal: be even and direct
with me whether you were sent for or no.
ROSENCRANTZ , to Guildenstern    What say you?
HAMLET , aside    Nay, then, I have an eye of you.—If
you love me, hold not off.
GUILDENSTERN    My lord, we were sent for.
HAMLET    I will tell you why; so shall my anticipation
prevent your discovery, and your secrecy to the
King and Queen molt 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 to me a sterile promontory; this most
excellent canopy, the air, look you, this brave o’erhanging
firmament, this majestical roof, fretted
with golden fire—why, it appeareth nothing to me
but a foul and pestilent congregation of vapors.
What a piece of work is a man, how noble in
reason, how infinite in faculties, in form and moving
how express and admirable; in action how like
an angel, in apprehension how like a god: the
beauty of the world, the paragon of animals—and
yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust? Man
delights not me, no, nor women neither, though by
your smiling you seem to say so.
ROSENCRANTZ    My lord, there was no such stuff in my
thoughts.
HAMLET    Why did you laugh, then, when I said “man
delights not me”?
ROSENCRANTZ    To think, my lord, if you delight not in
man, what Lenten entertainment the players shall
receive from you. We coted them on the way, and
hither are they coming to offer you service.
HAMLET    He that plays the king shall be welcome—his
Majesty shall have tribute on me. The adventurous
knight shall use his foil and target, the lover shall
not sigh gratis, the humorous man shall end his
part in peace, the clown shall make those laugh
whose lungs are tickle o’ th’ sear, and the lady
shall say her mind freely, or the blank verse shall
halt for ’t. What players are they?
ROSENCRANTZ    Even those you were wont to take such
delight in, the tragedians of the city.
HAMLET    How chances it they travel? Their residence,
both in reputation and profit, was better both ways.
ROSENCRANTZ    I think their inhibition comes by the
means of the late innovation.
HAMLET    Do they hold the same estimation they did
when I was in the city? Are they so followed?
ROSENCRANTZ    No, indeed are they not.
HAMLET    How comes it? Do they grow rusty?
ROSENCRANTZ    Nay, their endeavor keeps in the wonted
pace. But there is, sir, an aerie of children, little
eyases, that cry out on the top of question and are
most tyrannically clapped for ’t. These are now the
fashion and so berattle the common stages (so
they call them) that many wearing rapiers are afraid
of goose quills and dare scarce come thither.
HAMLET    What, are they children? Who maintains ’em?
How are they escoted? Will they pursue the quality
no longer than they can sing? Will they not say
afterwards, if they should grow themselves to common
players (as it is most like, if their means are
no better), their writers do them wrong to make
them exclaim against their own succession?
ROSENCRANTZ    Faith, there has been much to-do on
both sides, and the nation holds it no sin to tar
them to controversy. There was for a while no
money bid for argument unless the poet and the
player went to cuffs in the question.
HAMLET    Is ’t possible?
GUILDENSTERN    O, there has been much throwing
about of brains.
HAMLET    Do the boys carry it away?
ROSENCRANTZ    Ay, that they do, my lord—Hercules
and his load too.
HAMLET    It is not very strange; for my uncle is King of
Denmark, and those that would make mouths at
him while my father lived give twenty, forty, fifty,
a
hundred ducats apiece for his picture in little.
’Sblood, there is something in this more than natural,
if philosophy could find it out.
A flourish for the Players.
GUILDENSTERN    There are the players.
HAMLET    Gentlemen, you are welcome to Elsinore.
Your hands, come then. Th’ appurtenance of welcome
is fashion and ceremony. Let me comply
with you in this garb, lest my extent to the players,
which, I tell you, must show fairly outwards, should
more appear like entertainment than yours. You are
welcome. But my uncle-father and aunt-mother are
deceived.
GUILDENSTERN    In what, my dear lord?
HAMLET    I am but mad north-north-west. When the
wind is southerly, I know a hawk from a handsaw.

Enter Polonius.

POLONIUS    Well be with you, gentlemen.
HAMLET    Hark you, Guildenstern, and you too—at
each ear a hearer! That great baby you see there is
not yet out of his swaddling clouts.
ROSENCRANTZ    Haply he is the second time come to
them, for they say an old man is twice a child.
HAMLET    I will prophesy he comes to tell me of the
players; mark it.—You say right, sir, a Monday
morning, ’twas then indeed.
POLONIUS    My lord, I have news to tell you.
HAMLET    My lord, I have news to tell you: when Roscius
was an actor in Rome—
POLONIUS    The actors are come hither, my lord.
HAMLET    Buzz, buzz.
POLONIUS    Upon my honor—
HAMLET    Then came each actor on his ass.
POLONIUS    The best actors in the world, either for
tragedy, comedy, history, pastoral, pastoral-comical,
historical-pastoral, tragical-historical,
tragical-comical-historical-pastoral, scene individable, or
poem unlimited. Seneca cannot be too heavy, nor
Plautus too light. For the law of writ and the liberty,
these are the only men.
HAMLET    O Jephthah, judge of Israel, what a treasure
hadst thou!
POLONIUS    What a treasure had he, my lord?
HAMLET    Why,
One fair daughter, and no more,
The which he lovèd passing well.
POLONIUS , aside    Still on my daughter.
HAMLET    Am I not i’ th’ right, old Jephthah?
POLONIUS    If you call me “Jephthah,” my lord: I have a
daughter that I love passing well.
HAMLET    Nay, that follows not.
POLONIUS    What follows then, my lord?
HAMLET    Why,
As by lot, God wot
and then, you know,
It came to pass, as most like it was—
the first row of the pious chanson will show you
more, for look where my abridgment comes.

Enter the Players.

You are welcome, masters; welcome all.—I am glad
to see thee well.—Welcome, good friends.—O my
old friend! Why, thy face is valanced since I saw thee
last. Com’st thou to beard me in Denmark?—What,
my young lady and mistress! By ’r Lady, your Ladyship
is nearer to heaven than when I saw you last, by
the altitude of a chopine. Pray God your voice, like a
piece of uncurrent gold, be not cracked within the
ring. Masters, you are all welcome. We’ll e’en to ’t
like French falconers, fly at anything we see. We’ll
have a speech straight. Come, give us a taste of your
quality. Come, a passionate speech.
FIRST PLAYER    What speech, my good lord?
HAMLET    I heard thee speak me a speech once, but it
was never acted, or, if it was, not above once; for
the play, I remember, pleased not the million:
’twas caviary to the general. But it was (as I
received it, and others whose judgments in such
matters cried in the top of mine) an excellent play,
well digested in the scenes, set down with as much
modesty as cunning. I remember one said there
were no sallets in the lines to make the matter
savory, nor no matter in the phrase that might indict
the author of affection, but called it an honest
method, as wholesome as sweet and, by very much,
more handsome than fine. One speech in ’t I
chiefly loved. ’Twas Aeneas’ tale to Dido, and
thereabout of it especially when he speaks of
Priam’s slaughter. If it live in your memory, begin at
this line—let me see, let me see:
The rugged Pyrrhus, like th’ Hyrcanian beast—
’tis not so; it begins with Pyrrhus:
The rugged Pyrrhus, he whose sable arms,
Black as his purpose, did the night resemble
When he lay couchèd in th’ ominous horse,
Hath now this dread and black complexion smeared
With heraldry more dismal. Head to foot,
Now is he total gules, horridly tricked
With blood of fathers, mothers, daughters, sons,
Baked and impasted with the parching streets,
That lend a tyrannous and a damnèd light
To their lord’s murder. Roasted in wrath and fire,
And thus o’ersizèd with coagulate gore,
With eyes like carbuncles, the hellish Pyrrhus
Old grandsire Priam seeks.
So, proceed you.
POLONIUS    ’Fore God, my lord, well spoken, with good
accent and good discretion.
FIRST PLAYER    Anon he finds him
Striking too short at Greeks. His antique sword,
Rebellious to his arm, lies where it falls,
Repugnant to command. Unequal matched,
Pyrrhus at Priam drives, in rage strikes wide;
But with the whiff and wind of his fell sword
Th’ unnervèd father falls. Then senseless Ilium,
Seeming to feel this blow, with flaming top
Stoops to his base, and with a hideous crash
Takes prisoner Pyrrhus’ ear. For lo, his sword,
Which was declining on the milky head
Of reverend Priam, seemed i’ th’ air to stick.
So as a painted tyrant Pyrrhus stood
And, like a neutral to his will and matter,
Did nothing.
But as we often see against some storm
A silence in the heavens, the rack stand still,
The bold winds speechless, and the orb below
As hush as death, anon the dreadful thunder
Doth rend the region; so, after Pyrrhus’ pause,
Arousèd vengeance sets him new a-work,
And never did the Cyclops’ hammers fall
On Mars’s armor, forged for proof eterne,
With less remorse than Pyrrhus’ bleeding sword
Now falls on Priam.
Out, out, thou strumpet Fortune! All you gods
In general synod take away her power,
Break all the spokes and fellies from her wheel,
And bowl the round nave down the hill of heaven
As low as to the fiends!
POLONIUS    This is too long.
HAMLET    It shall to the barber’s with your beard.—
Prithee say on. He’s for a jig or a tale of bawdry, or
he sleeps. Say on; come to Hecuba.
FIRST PLAYER    
But who, ah woe, had seen the moblèd queen—
HAMLET    “The moblèd queen”?
POLONIUS    That’s good. “Moblèd queen” is good.
FIRST PLAYER    
Run barefoot up and down, threat’ning the flames
With bisson rheum, a clout upon that head
Where late the diadem stood, and for a robe,
About her lank and all o’erteemèd loins
A blanket, in the alarm of fear caught up—
Who this had seen, with tongue in venom steeped,
’Gainst Fortune’s state would treason have
pronounced.
But if the gods themselves did see her then
When she saw Pyrrhus make malicious sport
In mincing with his sword her husband’s limbs,
The instant burst of clamor that she made
(Unless things mortal move them not at all)
Would have made milch the burning eyes of heaven
And passion in the gods.
POLONIUS    Look whe’er he has not turned his color and
has tears in ’s eyes. Prithee, no more.
HAMLET    ’Tis well. I’ll have thee speak out the rest of
this soon.—Good my lord, will you see the players
well bestowed? Do you hear, let them be well used,
for they are the abstract and brief chronicles of the
time. After your death you were better have a bad
epitaph than their ill report while you live.
POLONIUS    My lord, I will use them according to their
desert.
HAMLET    God’s bodykins, man, much better! Use every
man after his desert and who shall ’scape
whipping? Use them after your own honor and
dignity. The less they deserve, the more merit is in
your bounty. Take them in.
POLONIUS    Come, sirs.
HAMLET    Follow him, friends. We’ll hear a play
tomorrow. As Polonius and Players exit, Hamlet speaks to the First Player. Dost thou hear me, old friend? Can
you play The Murder of Gonzago?
FIRST PLAYER    Ay, my lord.
HAMLET    We’ll ha ’t tomorrow night. You could, for a
need, study a speech of some dozen or sixteen
lines, which I would set down and insert in ’t,
could you not?
FIRST PLAYER    Ay, my lord.
HAMLET    Very well. Follow that lord—and look you
mock him not. First Player exits. My good friends,
I’ll leave you till night. You are welcome to Elsinore.
ROSENCRANTZ    Good my lord.
HAMLET    
Ay, so, good-bye to you.
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern exit.
ACT 3
Scene 1
Enter King, Queen, Polonius, Ophelia, Rosencrantz, Guildenstern, and Lords.

KING    
And can you by no drift of conference
Get from him why he puts on this confusion,
Grating so harshly all his days of quiet
With turbulent and dangerous lunacy?
ROSENCRANTZ    
He does confess he feels himself distracted,
But from what cause he will by no means speak.
GUILDENSTERN    
Nor do we find him forward to be sounded,
But with a crafty madness keeps aloof
When we would bring him on to some confession
Of his true state.
QUEEN    Did he receive you well?
ROSENCRANTZ    Most like a gentleman.
GUILDENSTERN    
But with much forcing of his disposition.
ROSENCRANTZ    
Niggard of question, but of our demands
Most free in his reply.
QUEEN    Did you assay him to any pastime?
ROSENCRANTZ    
Madam, it so fell out that certain players
We o’erraught on the way. Of these we told him,
And there did seem in him a kind of joy
To hear of it. They are here about the court,
And, as I think, they have already order
This night to play before him.
POLONIUS    ’Tis most true,
And he beseeched me to entreat your Majesties
To hear and see the matter.
KING    
With all my heart, and it doth much content me
To hear him so inclined.
Good gentlemen, give him a further edge
And drive his purpose into these delights.
ROSENCRANTZ    
We shall, my lord.Rosencrantz and Guildenstern and Lords exit.
Scene 2
Enter Polonius, Guildenstern, and Rosencrantz.

How now, my lord, will the King hear this piece of
work?
POLONIUS    And the Queen too, and that presently.
HAMLET    Bid the players make haste.Polonius exits.
Will you two help to hasten them?
ROSENCRANTZ    Ay, my lord.They exit. Enter Trumpets and Kettle Drums. Enter King, Queen, Polonius, Ophelia, Rosencrantz, Guildenstern, and other Lords attendant with the King’s guard carrying torches.

KING    How fares our cousin Hamlet?
HAMLET    Excellent, i’ faith, of the chameleon’s dish. I
eat the air, promise-crammed. You cannot feed
capons so.
KING    I have nothing with this answer, Hamlet. These
words are not mine.
HAMLET    No, nor mine now. To Polonius. My lord, you
played once i’ th’ university, you say?
POLONIUS    That did I, my lord, and was accounted a
good actor.
HAMLET    What did you enact?
POLONIUS    I did enact Julius Caesar. I was killed i’ th’
Capitol. Brutus killed me.
HAMLET    It was a brute part of him to kill so capital a
calf there.—Be the players ready?
ROSENCRANTZ    Ay, my lord. They stay upon your
patience.
QUEEN    Come hither, my dear Hamlet, sit by me.
HAMLET    No, good mother. Here’s metal more
attractive.Hamlet takes a place near Ophelia.
POLONIUS , to the King    Oh, ho! Do you mark that?
HAMLET    Lady, shall I lie in your lap?
OPHELIA    No, my lord.
HAMLET    I mean, my head upon your lap?
OPHELIA    Ay, my lord.
HAMLET    Do you think I meant country matters?
OPHELIA    I think nothing, my lord.
HAMLET    That’s a fair thought to lie between maids’
legs.
OPHELIA    What is, my lord?
HAMLET    Nothing.
OPHELIA    You are merry, my lord.
HAMLET    Who, I?
OPHELIA    Ay, my lord.
HAMLET    O God, your only jig-maker. What should a
man do but be merry? For look you how cheerfully
my mother looks, and my father died within ’s two
hours.
OPHELIA    Nay, ’tis twice two months, my lord.
HAMLET    So long? Nay, then, let the devil wear black,
for I’ll have a suit of sables. O heavens, die two
months ago, and not forgotten yet? Then there’s
hope a great man’s memory may outlive his life half
a year. But, by ’r Lady, he must build churches, then,
or else shall he suffer not thinking on, with the
hobby-horse, whose epitaph is “For oh, for oh, 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 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 passionate action. The poisoner with some three or four come in again, seem 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.
Players exit.
OPHELIA    What means this, my lord?
HAMLET    Marry, this is miching mallecho. It means
mischief.
OPHELIA    Belike this show imports the argument of the
play.

Enter Prologue.

HAMLET    We shall know by this fellow. The players
cannot keep counsel; they’ll tell all.
OPHELIA    Will he tell us what this show meant?
HAMLET    Ay, or any show that you will show him. Be
not you ashamed to show, he’ll not shame to tell you
what it means.
OPHELIA    You are naught, you are naught. I’ll mark the
play.
PROLOGUE    
For us and for our tragedy,
Here stooping to your clemency,
We beg your hearing patiently.He exits.
HAMLET    Is this a prologue or the posy of a ring?
OPHELIA    ’Tis brief, my lord.
HAMLET    As woman’s love.

Enter the Player King and Queen.

PLAYER KING    
Full thirty times hath Phoebus’ cart gone round
Neptune’s salt wash and Tellus’ orbèd ground,
And thirty dozen moons with borrowed sheen
About the world have times twelve thirties been
Since love our hearts and Hymen did our hands
Unite commutual in most sacred bands.
PLAYER QUEEN    
So many journeys may the sun and moon
Make us again count o’er ere love be done!
But woe is me! You are so sick of late,
So far from cheer and from your former state,
That I distrust you. Yet, though I distrust,
Discomfort you, my lord, it nothing must.
For women fear too much, even as they love,
And women’s fear and love hold quantity,
In neither aught, or in extremity.
Now what my love is, proof hath made you know,
And, as my love is sized, my fear is so:
Where love is great, the littlest doubts are fear;
Where little fears grow great, great love grows there.
PLAYER KING    
Faith, I must leave thee, love, and shortly too.
My operant powers their functions leave to do.
And thou shall live in this fair world behind,
Honored, beloved; and haply one as kind
For husband shalt thou—
PLAYER QUEEN    O, confound the rest!
Such love must needs be treason in my breast.
In second husband let me be accurst.
None wed the second but who killed the first.
HAMLET    That’s wormwood!
PLAYER QUEEN    
The instances that second marriage move
Are base respects of thrift, but none of love.
A second time I kill my husband dead
When second husband kisses me in bed.
PLAYER KING    
I do believe you think what now you speak,
But what we do determine oft we break.
Purpose is but the slave to memory,
Of violent birth, but poor validity,
Which now, the fruit unripe, sticks on the tree
But fall unshaken when they mellow be.
Most necessary ’tis that we forget
To pay ourselves what to ourselves is debt.
What to ourselves in passion we propose,
The passion ending, doth the purpose lose.
The violence of either grief or joy
Their own enactures with themselves destroy.
Where joy most revels, grief doth most lament;
Grief joys, joy grieves, on slender accident.
This world is not for aye, nor ’tis not strange
That even our loves should with our fortunes change;
For ’tis a question left us yet to prove
Whether love lead fortune or else fortune love.
The great man down, you mark his favorite flies;
The poor, advanced, makes friends of enemies.
And hitherto doth love on fortune tend,
For who not needs shall never lack a friend,
And who in want a hollow friend doth try
Directly seasons him his enemy.
But, orderly to end where I begun:
Our wills and fates do so contrary run
That our devices still are overthrown;
Our thoughts are ours, their ends none of our own.
So think thou wilt no second husband wed,
But die thy thoughts when thy first lord is dead.
PLAYER QUEEN    
Nor Earth to me give food, nor heaven light,
Sport and repose lock from me day and night,
To desperation turn my trust and hope,
An anchor’s cheer in prison be my scope.
Each opposite that blanks the face of joy
Meet what I would have well and it destroy.
Both here and hence pursue me lasting strife,
If, once a widow, ever I be wife.
HAMLET    If she should break it now!
PLAYER KING    
’Tis deeply sworn. Sweet, leave me here awhile.
My spirits grow dull, and fain I would beguile
The tedious day with sleep.Sleeps.
PLAYER QUEEN    Sleep rock thy brain,
And never come mischance between us twain.
Player Queen exits.
HAMLET    Madam, how like you this play?
QUEEN    The lady doth protest too much, methinks.
HAMLET    O, but she’ll keep her word.
KING    Have you heard the argument? Is there no
offense in ’t?
HAMLET    No, no, they do but jest, poison in jest. No
offense i’ th’ world.
KING    What do you call the play?
HAMLET    The Mousetrap. Marry, how? Tropically.
This play is the image of a murder done in Vienna.
Gonzago is the duke’s name, his wife Baptista. You
shall see anon. ’Tis a knavish piece of work, but
what of that? Your Majesty and we that have free
souls, it touches us not. Let the galled jade wince;
our withers are unwrung.

Enter Lucianus.

This is one Lucianus, nephew to the king.
OPHELIA    You are as good as a chorus, my lord.
HAMLET    I could interpret between you and your love,
if I could see the puppets dallying.
OPHELIA    You are keen, my lord, you are keen.
HAMLET    It would cost you a groaning to take off mine
edge.
OPHELIA    Still better and worse.
HAMLET    So you mis-take your husbands.—Begin,
murderer. Pox, leave thy damnable faces and
begin. Come, the croaking raven doth bellow for
revenge.
LUCIANUS    
Thoughts black, hands apt, drugs fit, and time
agreeing,
Confederate season, else no creature seeing,
Thou mixture rank, of midnight weeds collected,
With Hecate’s ban thrice blasted, thrice infected,
Thy natural magic and dire property
On wholesome life usurp immediately.
Pours the poison in his ears.
HAMLET    He poisons him i’ th’ garden for his estate. His
name’s Gonzago. The story is extant and written in
very choice Italian. You shall see anon how the
murderer gets the love of Gonzago’s wife.
Claudius rises.
OPHELIA    The King rises.
HAMLET    What, frighted with false fire?
QUEEN    How fares my lord?
POLONIUS    Give o’er the play.
KING    Give me some light. Away!
POLONIUS    Lights, lights, lights!
All but Hamlet and Horatio exit. Enter Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.

GUILDENSTERN    Good my lord, vouchsafe me a word
with you.
HAMLET    Sir, a whole history.
GUILDENSTERN    The King, sir—
HAMLET    Ay, sir, what of him?
GUILDENSTERN    Is in his retirement marvelous
distempered.
HAMLET    With drink, sir?
GUILDENSTERN    No, my lord, with choler.
HAMLET    Your wisdom should show itself more richer
to signify this to the doctor, for for me to put him to
his purgation would perhaps plunge him into more
choler.
GUILDENSTERN    Good my lord, put your discourse into
some frame and start not so wildly from my
affair.
HAMLET    I am tame, sir. Pronounce.
GUILDENSTERN    The Queen your mother, in most great
affliction of spirit, hath sent me to you.
HAMLET    You are welcome.
GUILDENSTERN    Nay, good my lord, this courtesy is not
of the right breed. If it shall please you to make me
a wholesome answer, I will do your mother’s
commandment. If not, your pardon and my return
shall be the end of my business.
HAMLET    Sir, I cannot.
ROSENCRANTZ    What, my lord?
HAMLET    Make you a wholesome answer. My wit’s
diseased. But, sir, such answer as I can make, you
shall command—or, rather, as you say, my mother.
Therefore no more but to the matter. My mother,
you say—
ROSENCRANTZ    Then thus she says: your behavior hath
struck her into amazement and admiration.
HAMLET    O wonderful son that can so ’stonish a mother!
But is there no sequel at the heels of this
mother’s admiration? Impart.
ROSENCRANTZ    She desires to speak with you in her
closet ere you go to bed.
HAMLET    We shall obey, were she ten times our mother.
Have you any further trade with us?
ROSENCRANTZ    My lord, you once did love me.
HAMLET    And do still, by these pickers and stealers.
ROSENCRANTZ    Good my lord, what is your cause of
distemper? You do surely bar the door upon your
own liberty if you deny your griefs to your friend.
HAMLET    Sir, I lack advancement.
ROSENCRANTZ    How can that be, when you have the
voice of the King himself for your succession in
Denmark?
HAMLET    Ay, sir, but “While the grass grows”—the
proverb is something musty.

Enter the Players with recorders.

O, the recorders! Let me see one. He takes a recorder and turns to Guildenstern. To withdraw
with you: why do you go about to recover the wind
of me, as if you would drive me into a toil?
GUILDENSTERN    O, my lord, if my duty be too bold, my
love is too unmannerly.
HAMLET    I do not well understand that. Will you play
upon this pipe?
GUILDENSTERN    My lord, I cannot.
HAMLET    I pray you.
GUILDENSTERN    Believe me, I cannot.
HAMLET    I do beseech you.
GUILDENSTERN    I know no touch of it, my lord.
HAMLET    It is as easy as lying. Govern these ventages
with your fingers and thumb, give it breath with
your mouth, and it will discourse most eloquent
music. Look you, these are the stops.
GUILDENSTERN    But these cannot I command to any
utt’rance of harmony. I have not the skill.
HAMLET    Why, look you now, how unworthy a thing
you make of me! You would play upon me, you
would seem to know my stops, you would pluck
out the heart of my mystery, you would sound me
from my lowest note to the top of my compass;
and there is much music, excellent voice, in this
little organ, yet cannot you make it speak. ’Sblood,
do you think I am easier to be played on than a pipe?
Call me what instrument you will, though you can
fret me, you cannot play upon me.

Enter Polonius.

God bless you, sir.
POLONIUS    My lord, the Queen would speak with you,
and presently.
HAMLET    Do you see yonder cloud that’s almost in
shape of a camel?
POLONIUS    By th’ Mass, and ’tis like a camel indeed.
HAMLET    Methinks it is like a weasel.
POLONIUS    It is backed like a weasel.
HAMLET    Or like a whale.
POLONIUS    Very like a whale.
HAMLET    Then I will come to my mother by and by.
Aside. They fool me to the top of my bent.—I will
come by and by.
POLONIUS    I will say so.
HAMLET    “By and by” is easily said. Leave me,
friends.
All but Hamlet exit.
Scene 3
Enter King, Rosencrantz, and Guildenstern.

KING    
I like him not, nor stands it safe with us
To let his madness range. Therefore prepare you.
I your commission will forthwith dispatch,
And he to England shall along with you.
The terms of our estate may not endure
Hazard so near ’s as doth hourly grow
Out of his brows.
GUILDENSTERN    We will ourselves provide.
Most holy and religious fear it is
To keep those many many bodies safe
That live and feed upon your Majesty.
ROSENCRANTZ    
The single and peculiar life is bound
With all the strength and armor of the mind
To keep itself from noyance, but much more
That spirit upon whose weal depends and rests
The lives of many. The cess of majesty
Dies not alone, but like a gulf doth draw
What’s near it with it; or it is a massy wheel
Fixed on the summit of the highest mount,
To whose huge spokes ten thousand lesser things
Are mortised and adjoined, which, when it falls,
Each small annexment, petty consequence,
Attends the boist’rous ruin. Never alone
Did the king sigh, but with a general groan.
KING    
Arm you, I pray you, to this speedy voyage,
For we will fetters put about this fear,
Which now goes too free-footed.
ROSENCRANTZ    We will haste us.
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern exit.
ACT 4
Scene 1
Enter King and Queen, with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.

KING    
There’s matter in these sighs; these profound heaves
You must translate; ’tis fit we understand them.
Where is your son?
QUEEN    
Bestow this place on us a little while.
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern exit. Enter Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.

Friends both, go join you with some further aid.
Hamlet in madness hath Polonius slain,
And from his mother’s closet hath he dragged him.
Go seek him out, speak fair, and bring the body
Into the chapel. I pray you, haste in this.
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern exit.
Scene 2
Enter Rosencrantz, Guildenstern, and others.

ROSENCRANTZ    
What have you done, my lord, with the dead body?
HAMLET    
Compounded it with dust, whereto ’tis kin.
ROSENCRANTZ    
Tell us where ’tis, that we may take it thence
And bear it to the chapel.
HAMLET    Do not believe it.
ROSENCRANTZ    Believe what?
HAMLET    That I can keep your counsel and not mine
own. Besides, to be demanded of a sponge, what
replication should be made by the son of a king?
ROSENCRANTZ    Take you me for a sponge, my lord?
HAMLET    Ay, sir, that soaks up the King’s countenance,
his rewards, his authorities. But such officers do the
King best service in the end. He keeps them like an
ape an apple in the corner of his jaw, first mouthed,
to be last swallowed. When he needs what you have
gleaned, it is but squeezing you, and, sponge, you
shall be dry again.
ROSENCRANTZ    I understand you not, my lord.
HAMLET    I am glad of it. A knavish speech sleeps in a
foolish ear.
ROSENCRANTZ    My lord, you must tell us where the
body is and go with us to the King.
HAMLET    The body is with the King, but the King is not
with the body. The King is a thing—
GUILDENSTERN    A “thing,” my lord?
HAMLET    Of nothing. Bring me to him. Hide fox, and
all after!
They exit.
Scene 3
Enter Rosencrantz.

How now, what hath befallen?
ROSENCRANTZ    
Where the dead body is bestowed, my lord,
We cannot get from him.
KING    But where is he?
ROSENCRANTZ    
Without, my lord; guarded, to know your pleasure.
KING    
Bring him before us.
ROSENCRANTZ    Ho! Bring in the lord.

They enter with Hamlet.

KING    Now, Hamlet, where’s Polonius?
HAMLET    At supper.
KING    At supper where?
HAMLET    Not where he eats, but where he is eaten. A
certain convocation of politic worms are e’en at
him. Your worm is your only emperor for diet. We
fat all creatures else to fat us, and we fat ourselves
for maggots. Your fat king and your lean beggar is
but variable service—two dishes but to one table.
That’s the end.
KING    Alas, alas!
HAMLET    A man may fish with the worm that hath eat
of a king and eat of the fish that hath fed of that
worm.
KING    What dost thou mean by this?
HAMLET    Nothing but to show you how a king may go a
progress through the guts of a beggar.
KING    Where is Polonius?
HAMLET    In heaven. Send thither to see. If your messenger
find him not there, seek him i’ th’ other
place yourself. But if, indeed, you find him not
within this month, you shall nose him as you go up
the stairs into the lobby.
KING , to Attendants.    Go, seek him there.
HAMLET    He will stay till you come.Attendants exit.
KING    
Hamlet, this deed, for thine especial safety
(Which we do tender, as we dearly grieve
For that which thou hast done) must send thee
hence
With fiery quickness. Therefore prepare thyself.
The bark is ready, and the wind at help,
Th’ associates tend, and everything is bent
For England.
HAMLET    For England?
KING    Ay, Hamlet.
HAMLET    Good.
KING    
So is it, if thou knew’st our purposes.
HAMLET    
I see a cherub that sees them. But come, for
England.
Farewell, dear mother.
KING    Thy loving father, Hamlet.
HAMLET    
My mother. Father and mother is man and wife,
Man and wife is one flesh, and so, my mother.—
Come, for England.He exits.
KING    
Follow him at foot; tempt him with speed aboard.
Delay it not. I’ll have him hence tonight.
Away, for everything is sealed and done
That else leans on th’ affair. Pray you, make haste.
All but the King exit.
Scene 4
Enter Hamlet, Rosencrantz, Guildenstern, and others.

HAMLET    Good sir, whose powers are these?
CAPTAIN    They are of Norway, sir.
HAMLET    How purposed, sir, I pray you?
CAPTAIN    Against some part of Poland.
HAMLET    Who commands them, sir?
CAPTAIN    
The nephew to old Norway, Fortinbras.
HAMLET    
Goes it against the main of Poland, sir,
Or for some frontier?
CAPTAIN    
Truly to speak, and with no addition,
We go to gain a little patch of ground
That hath in it no profit but the name.
To pay five ducats, five, I would not farm it;
Nor will it yield to Norway or the Pole
A ranker rate, should it be sold in fee.
HAMLET    
Why, then, the Polack never will defend it.
CAPTAIN    
Yes, it is already garrisoned.
HAMLET    
Two thousand souls and twenty thousand ducats
Will not debate the question of this straw.
This is th’ impostume of much wealth and peace,
That inward breaks and shows no cause without
Why the man dies.—I humbly thank you, sir.
CAPTAIN    God be wi’ you, sir.He exits.
ROSENCRANTZ    Will ’t please you go, my lord?
HAMLET    
I’ll be with you straight. Go a little before.
All but Hamlet exit.