Online Texts for Craig White's Literature Courses

  • Not a critical or scholarly text but a reading text for a seminar

  • Gratefully adapted from various sources.

  • Changes may include paragraph divisions, highlights, spelling updates, bracketed annotations, &
    elisions (marked by ellipses . . . )

Selections from

William Shakespeare

 The Tragedy of Hamlet,
Prince of Denmark

Hamlet is perhaps the greatest tragic drama of all, but the play is also very long--too long for the time available in summer school. Since most students are at least familiar with Hamlet and may study it elsewhere, our course focuses on some scenes whose themes connect to other tragedies:

  • “The play within a play” incl. discussion of theatrical mimesis
  • Renaissance Tragedy’s integration of Judeo-Christian references (in contrast to Greek myths in classical tragedy)
  • The Oedipal Conflict
  • The expansion of spectacle in the final scenes

Backstory: Prince Hamlet’s father, King Hamlet, has died, and the King's brother Claudius has married Queen Gertrude, the prince's mother.

King Hamlet's ghost tells Prince Hamlet that Claudius murdered him (the King) by pouring poison in his ears. Hamlet swears vengeance but remains uncertain of the Ghost's reliability.

In Act 3 he tests the Ghost’s story and Claudius’s guilt by arranging a play in which Claudius will see his crime enacted.

Act 2, Scene 2 below shows him preparing a troupe of actors (or players) to perform this play. Hamlet's and the chief player's discussion involves mimesis or the relationship of art to reality.

From Hamlet, Act 2, Scene 2

 . . . [Flourish for the Players]

Guildenstern: There are the players.              [Players = actors, dramatists, thespians]

[Enter Polonius]

Polonius: Well be with you, gentlemen! . . . The actors are come hither, my lord. . . . 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. . . .  [Seneca the Younger, 4BCE-65CE, Roman tragic playwright; Plautus, 254-184BCE, Roman comic playwright]

[Enter four or five Players.]                                [Players = actors, dramatists, thespians]

Hamlet: You are welcome, masters; welcome, all.—I am glad to see thee well.—Welcome, good friends.—O, my old friend? . . .  We'll have a speech straight. Come, give us a taste of your quality. Come, a passionate speech.  [a brief “play within a play”]

First Player: What speech, my good lord? . . .

[the player or actor speaks a passionate story about Hecuba, queen of Troy, that concludes in the following passage, where the actor feels the part so powerfully that the reality of the moment is affected—though the reality in this case is another play]

. . .

First Player.  . . . But if the gods themselves did see her then,   [her = Hecuba, queen of Troy]
When she saw Pyrrhus make malicious sport        [Pyrrhus = Neoptolemus, son of Achilles]
In mincing with his sword her husband's limbs,      [husband = Priam, father of Hector]
The instant burst of clamour 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, whether he has not turned his color, and has tears in his 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. . . . [Hamlet warns Polonius that the poetry of plays outlives and defines history]

Polonius. Come, sirs.

Hamlet: Follow him, friends. We'll hear a play to-morrow.

[Exeunt Polonius and Players [except the First].]

Dost thou hear me, old friend? Can you play 'The Murder of Gonzago'?

First Player: Ay, my lord.

Hamlet: We'll have it to-morrow night. You could, for a need, study a speech of some dozen or sixteen lines which I would set down and insert in it, could you not?

First Player: Ay, my lord.

Hamlet: Very well. Follow that lord—and look you mock him not. [Exit First Player.] My good friends, I'll leave you till night. You are welcome to Elsinore. . . .

Now I am alone.
O what a rogue and peasant slave am I!
Is it not monstrous that this player here,
But in a fiction, in a dream of passion,
Could force his soul so to his own conceit
That, from her working, all his visage wanned,         [wann’d = lost color]
Tears in his eyes, distraction in his aspect,                 [aspect = expression]
A broken voice, and his whole function suiting
With forms to his conceit? And all for nothing!
For Hecuba!
What's Hecuba to him, or he to Hecuba,             [Hecuba = queen of Troy]
That he should weep for her?

                                                What would he do,             [he = the actor]
Had he the motive and the cue for passion
That I have? He would drown the stage with tears
And cleave the general ear with horrid speech;
Make mad the guilty and appall the free,
Confound the ignorant, and amaze indeed
The very faculties of eyes and ears.

Yet I . . . can say nothing! . . .

Why, what an ass am I!  . . .

Fie upon't! foh! About, my brain! Hum, I have heard                [About = Attention!]
That guilty creatures, sitting at a play,
Have by the very cunning of the scene
Been struck so to the soul that presently
They have proclaimed their malefactions;
              [malefactions = wrongs]
For murder, though it have no tongue, will speak
With most miraculous organ.

                                              I'll have these Players
Play something like the murder of my father
Before mine uncle.
I'll observe his looks;
I'll tent him to the quick. If he but blench,                 [tent = attend; blench = blanch]
I know my course. . . . The play's the thing
Wherein I'll catch the conscience of the King. [Exit.]

From Hamlet, Act 3, Scene 2. A hall in the castle.

[Enter HAMLET and Players [actors]]

HAMLET: Speak the speech, I pray you, as I pronounced it to you,
trippingly on the tongue . . . .

First Player: I warrant your honour.

HAMLET: Be not too tame neither; but let your own discretion be your
tutor: suit the action to the word, the word to the action; with
this special observance, that you o'erstep not the modesty of             [o'erstep = overstep, surpass]
nature: for anything so overdone is from the purpose of playing,
whose end, both at the first and now, was and is, to hold, as
'twere, the mirror up to nature; to show virtue her own image,              [mimesis]
scorn her own image, and the very age and body of the time his
form and pressure. . . .


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.


Will you two help to hasten them?


HAMLET: What ho! Horatio!      [Enter HORATIO]

HORATIO: Here, sweet lord, at your service. . . .

HAMLET: There is a play to-night before the king;
One scene of it comes near the circumstance
Which I have told thee of my father's death:
I prithee, when thou seest that act afoot,
Even with the very comment of thy soul
Observe mine uncle: if his occulted guilt
Do not itself unkennel in one speech,                                  [unkennel = open, declare]
It is a damned ghost that we have seen, [a damned ghost: Old Hamlet’s ghost is a hellish illusion]
And my imaginations are as foul
As Vulcan's stithy. Give him heedful note;    [Vulcan = underworld god of blacksmithing; stithy = workshop]
For I mine eyes will rivet to his face,
And after we will both our judgments join
In censure of his seeming.

HORATIO: Well, my lord:
If he steal aught the whilst this play is playing,       [steal aught = gets away with anything]
And escape detecting, I will pay the theft.

HAMLET: They are coming to the play; I must be idle: Get you a place.


CLAUDIUS: 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 CLAUDIUS: 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' the university, you say?

LORD POLONIUS: That did I, my lord; and was accounted a good actor.

HAMLET: What did you enact?

LORD POLONIUS: I did enact Julius Caesar: I was killed i' the 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 GERTRUDE: Come hither, my dear Hamlet, sit by me.

HAMLET: No, good mother, here's metal more attractive.  [as in metal to a magnet]

LORD POLONIUS: [To KING CLAUDIUS] O, ho! do you mark that?

HAMLET: Lady, shall I lie in your lap? [Lying down at OPHELIA's feet]

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.


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 these 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? . . .

Hautboys play. The dumb-show enters                      [Hautboys = oboes]

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: lays him down upon a bank of flowers: she, seeing him asleep, leaves him.

Anon comes in a fellow, takes off his crown, kisses it, and pours poison in the King's ears, and exit. The Queen returns; finds the King dead, and makes passionate action. The Poisoner, with some two or three Mutes, comes in again, seeming to lament with her. The dead body is carried away.

The Poisoner wooes the Queen with gifts: she seems loath and unwilling awhile, but in the end accepts his love


OPHELIA: What means this, my lord?

HAMLET: Marry, this is miching mallecho; it means mischief. [miching mallecho = sneaking mischief] 

OPHELIA: Belike this show imports the argument of the play.

[Enter Prologue]                                                              [Prologue: cf. Chorus Leader]

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'll 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.    [Exit] . . .

[Enter two Players, King and Queen]

Player King: Full thirty times hath Phoebus' cart gone round
Neptune's salt wash and Tellus' orbed ground,                   [Tellus = Earth]
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 over ere love be done!         [ere = before]
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's fear and love holds 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 shalt 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: [Aside] Wormwood, wormwood.          [ = bitterness]

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, like 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. . . .

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! [Exit]

HAMLET: Madam, how like you this play?

GERTRUDE: The lady protests too much, methinks.

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

CLAUDIUS: Have you heard the argument? Is there no offence in 't?

HAMLET: No, no, they do but jest, poison in jest; no offence i' the world.

CLAUDIUS: What do you call the play? 

HAMLET: The Mouse-trap. 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 o' that? your majesty and we that have free souls, it
touches us not . .  . . [Enter LUCIANUS] This is one Lucianus, nephew to the king.

OPHELIA: You are as good as a chorus, my lord. . . .                    [chorus = commentary]

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,  [Hecate = Gk goddess later assoc. w/ witchcraft]
Thy natural magic and dire property,
On wholesome life usurp immediately.

[Pours the poison into the sleeper's ears]

HAMLET: He poisons him in the garden for his estate. His name's Gonzago: the story is extant, and writ in choice Italian: you shall see anon how the murderer gets the love of Gonzago's wife.  [poisons him in the garden = possible associations with Genesis story of serpent in garden]

OPHELIA: The king rises.

HAMLET: What, frighted with false fire!

QUEEN GERTRUDE: How fares my lord?

LORD POLONIUS: Give o'er the play.

KING CLAUDIUS: Give me some light: away!

All: Lights, lights, lights!

[Exeunt all but HAMLET and HORATIO]

HAMLET: Why, let the stricken deer go weep,
The hart ungalled play;          [hart = deer; ungalled = unwounded]
For some must watch, while some must sleep:
So runs the world away.
Would not this, sir, and a forest of feathers—if the rest of my fortunes turn Turk with me—with two Provincial roses on my razed shoes, get me a fellowship in a cry of players, sir?

HORATIO: Half a share. . . .

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

HORATIO: Very well, my lord.

HAMLET: Upon the talk of the poisoning?

HORATIO: I did very well note him.

HAMLET: Ah, ha! Come, some music! come, the recorders!
For if the king like not the comedy,
Why then, belike, he likes it not, perdy.
Come, some music!


GUILDENSTERN: The king, sir,--

HAMLET: Ay, sir, what of him?

GUILDENSTERN: Is in his retirement marvellous distempered.

HAMLET: With drink, sir?

GUILDENSTERN: No, my lord, rather with choler.                    [choler = rage]

HAMLET: Your wisdom should show itself more richer to signify this to his doctor; for, for me to put him to his purgation would perhaps plunge him into far 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. . .  . [T]hus she says; your behavior hath struck her into amazement and admiration.

HAMLET: O wonderful son, that can so astonish 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. [closet = private room, bedroom]

HAMLET: We shall obey, were she ten times our mother. . . . [Enter POLONIUS] God bless you, sir!

POLONIUS: My lord, the queen would speak with you, and presently. . . .

HAMLET: Then I will come to my mother by and by. 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.

[Exeunt all but HAMLET]

Tis now the very witching time of night,
When churchyards yawn and hell itself breathes out
Contagion to this world: now could I drink hot blood,
And do such bitter business as the day
Would quake to look on. Soft! now to my mother.
O heart, lose not thy nature; let not ever
The soul of Nero enter this firm bosom:
Let me be cruel, not unnatural:
I will speak daggers to her, but use none;
My tongue and soul in this be hypocrites;
How in my words soever she be shent,
To give them seals never, my soul, consent!


Act 3, Scene 3. A room in the castle. [Enter CLAUDIUS, ROSENCRANTZ, and GUILDENSTERN]

CLAUDIUS: 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 dangerous as doth hourly grow
Out of his lunacies. . . .

Arm you, I pray you, to this speedy voyage;
For we will fetters put upon this fear,
Which now goes too free-footed.


POLONIUS: My lord, he's going to his mother's closet:     [closet = private room, bedroom]
Behind the arras I'll convey myself,                       [arras = hanging tapestry]
To hear the process; and warrant she'll tax him home:
And, as you said, and wisely was it said,
'Tis meet that some more audience than a mother,
Since nature makes them partial, should o'erhear
The speech, of vantage. Fare you well, my liege:
I'll call upon you ere you go to bed,
And tell you what I know.

CLAUDIUS: Thanks, dear my lord. [Exit POLONIUS]

O, my offence is rank it smells to heaven;
It hath the primal eldest curse upon it,   [primal eldest curse = Cain’s murder of Abel, Genesis 4.1-16]
A brother's murder. Pray can I not,
Though inclination be as sharp as will:
My stronger guilt defeats my strong intent;
And, like a man to double business bound,
I stand in pause where I shall first begin,
And both neglect. What if this cursed hand
Were thicker than itself with brother's blood,
Is there not rain enough in the sweet heavens
To wash it white as snow? . . .

                                           O, what form of prayer
Can serve my turn? “Forgive me my foul murder?
That cannot be; since I am still possessed
Of those effects for which I did the murder,
My crown, mine own ambition and my queen.
May one be pardoned and retain the offence? . . .
                                       What then? what rests?
Try what repentance can: what can it not?
Yet what can it when one can not repent?
O wretched state! O bosom black as death!
O limed soul, that, struggling to be free,
Art more engaged! Help, angels! Make assay!
Bow, stubborn knees; and, heart with strings of steel,
Be soft as sinews of the newborn babe!
All may be well. [Retires and kneels]

[Enter HAMLET]

HAMLET: Now might I do it pat, now he is praying;
And now I'll do it. And so he goes to heaven;
And so am I revenged. That would be scanned: [scanned = studied]
A villain kills my father; and for that,
I, his sole son, do this same villain send
To heaven.
O, this is hire and salary, not revenge.
He took my father grossly, full of bread;
With all his crimes broad blown, as flush as May . . . ;
                             and am I then revenged,
To take him in the purging of his soul,               [him = Claudius]
When he is fit and seasoned for his passage?
Up, sword; and know thou a more horrid hent:   [hent = handling]
When he is drunk asleep, or in his rage,
Or in the incestuous pleasure of his bed;
At gaming, swearing, or about some act
That has no relish of salvation in it;
Then trip him, that his heels may kick at heaven,
And that his soul may be as damned and black
As hell, whereto it goes. My mother stays:
This physic but prolongs thy sickly days. [Exit]   [physic = medicine, treatment]

CLAUDIUS: [Rising] My words fly up, my thoughts remain below:
Words without thoughts never to heaven go. [Exit]


Instructor’s comment: Hamlet is rich with Oedipal potential. At the center of the play is a scene of particular interest for a mother-son conversation on incest interrupted by the ghost of Gertrude’s (first) husband and Hamlet’s father, the murdered king—in his nightgown!

Modern directors and producers, who know Freud’s Oedipus Conflict, often heighten the sexual possibilities that earlier productions of the play may have ignored.

ACT 3, SCENE 4: The Queen's closet.                     [“closet” = private room, maybe bedroom]


POLONIUS: 'A will come straight. Look you lay home to him.  [‘A = all; lay home = be direct]

Tell him his pranks have been too broad to bear with,

And that your Grace hath screened and stood between

Much heat and him. I'll silence me even here;

Pray you be round with him.                      [be round = don’t go easy]               [5]

HAMLET: Within Mother, Mother, Mother!

GERTRUDE: I'll warrant you, fear me not. Withdraw,                [warrant = listen and attest]

I hear him coming. [Polonius hides behind the arras.]           [arras = tapestry]

[Enter HAMLET. ]

HAMLET: Now, mother, what's the matter?

GERTRUDE: Hamlet, thou hast thy father much offended.                                 [10]

HAMLET: Mother, you have my father much offended.

GERTRUDE: Come, come, you answer with an idle tongue.

HAMLET: Go, go, you question with a wicked tongue.

GERTRUDE: Why, how now, Hamlet?

HAMLET:                           What's the matter now?

GERTRUDE: Have you forgot me?                                                                             [15]

HAMLET:                           No, by the rood, not so:                 [rood = cross]

You are the Queen, your husband's brother's wife,

And would it were not so, you are my mother.

GERTRUDE: Nay, then I'll set those to you that can speak.

HAMLET: Come, come, and sit you down, you shall not budge;

You go not till I set you up a glass          [glass = mirror]                                       [20]

Where you may see the inmost part of you.

GERTRUDE: What wilt thou do? Thou wilt not murder me?

Help ho!

POLONIUS: [Behind]. What ho, help!

HAMLET: [Drawing] How now? A rat? Dead, for a ducat, dead!  [ducat = coin]        [25]

[Kills Polonius through the arras.]                      [arras = hanging tapestry]

POLONIUS: [Behind] O, I am slain.

GERTRUDE:                           O me, what hast thou done?

HAMLET: Nay, I know not, is it the King?

GERTRUDE: O, what a rash and bloody deed is this!

HAMLET: A bloody deed! almost as bad, good mother,

As kill a king, and marry with his brother.                                                           [30]

GERTRUDE: As kill a king!

HAMLET:                           Ay, lady, it was my word.

[Parts the arras and sees Polonius.]

Thou wretched, rash, intruding fool, farewell!

I took thee for thy better. Take thy fortune;

Thou findest to be too busy is some danger. --

Leave wringing of your hands. Peace, sit you down,                         [35]

And let me wring your heart, for so I shall

If it be made of penetrable stuff,

If damned custom have not brassed it so                      [brassed = hardened]

That it be proof and bulwark against sense.                      [bulwark = fortified]

GERTRUDE: What have I done, that thou dare wag thy tongue                       [40]

In noise so rude against me?

HAMLET:                           Such an act

That blurs the grace and blush of modesty,

Calls virtue hypocrite, takes off the rose

From the fair forehead of an innocent love

And sets a blister there, makes marriage vows                                   [45]

As false as dicers' oaths, O, such a deed              [dicers’ = gamblers’]

As from the body of contraction plucks                  [contraction = betrothal]

The very soul, and sweet religion makes

A rhapsody of words. Heaven's face does glow

O'er this solidity and compound mass            [this . . . mass = the earth]     [50]

With heated visage, as against the doom;     [the doom = Judgment Day]

Is thought-sick at the act.

GERTRUDE:                           Ay me, what act,

That roars so loud and thunders in the index?      [index = prologue]

[In the following speech, Hamlet typically shows Gertrude two pictures, one of old King Hamlet, the other of his brother Claudius.]

HAMLET: Look here upon this picture, and on this,  

The counterfeit presentment of two brothers.                                    [55]

See what a grace was seated on this brow:              [old King Hamlet, H’s father]

Hyperion's curls, the front of Jove himself,       [Hyperion = Apollo; Jove = king of gods]

An eye like Mars, to threaten and command,                 [Mars = god of war]

A station like the herald Mercury            [station = bearing; Mercury = messenger of gods]

New lighted on a heaven-kissing hill;                                                  [60]

A combination and a form indeed,

Where every god did seem to set his seal

To give the world assurance of a man.

This was your husband.

                                            Look you now what follows:

Here is your husband, like a mildewed ear,                                         [65]

Blasting his wholesome brother. Have you eyes?

Could you on this fair mountain leave to feed,

And batten on this moor? Ha, have you eyes?           [batten =gorge; moor = hill]

You cannot call it love, for at your age

The heyday in the blood is tame, it's humble,                                     [70]

And waits upon the judgment, and what judgment

Would step from this to this?

                                                    Sense sure you have,

Else could you not have motion, but sure that sense

Is apoplexed, for madness would not err,                          [apoplexed = paralyzed]

Nor sense to ecstasy was ne'er so thralled                   [thralled = captive]            [75]

But it reserved some quantity of choice

To serve in such a difference. What devil was't

That thus hath cozened you at hoodman-blind?  [cozen’d = cheated at blind man’s bluff]


Eyes without feeling, feeling without sight,

Ears without hands or eyes, smelling sans all;                                    [80]

Or but a sickly part of one true sense

Could not so mope. O shame, where is thy blush?


Rebellious hell,

If thou canst mutine in a matron's bones,                          [mutine = mutiny]

To flaming youth let virtue be as wax                                                   [85]

And melt in her own fire. Proclaim no shame

When the compulsive ardour gives the charge,   [ardor = sexual heat]

Since frost itself as actively doth burn,

And reason panders will.                                    [will = lust]


GERTRUDE:                           O Hamlet, speak no more!

Thou turnest my eyes into my very soul,                                             [90]

And there I see such black and grained spots

As will not leave their tinct.                                     [leave tinct = give up stain]


HAMLET:                           Nay, but to live

In the rank sweat of an enseamed bed,             [enseamed = greasy]

Stewed in corruption, honeying and making love

Over the nasty sty!                                          [sty = pig pen]                         [95]


GERTRUDE:                          O, speak to me no more!

These words like daggers enter in my ears.

No more, sweet Hamlet!


HAMLET:                           A murderer and a villain!

A slave that is not twentieth part the tithe          [tithe = tenth]

Of your precedent lord, a Vice of kings,

A cutpurse of the empire and the rule,                                                 [100]

That from a shelf the precious diadem stole,

And put it in his pocket --

GERTRUDE:                           No more!

[Enter GHOST in his night-gown] [ghost = Old King Hamlet, H’s father, Gertrude’s 1st husband]

HAMLET: A king of shreds and patches --

Save me, and hover o'er me with your wings,

You heavenly guards! What would your gracious figure?              [105]

GERTRUDE: Alas, he's mad!         [he = Hamlet; mad = crazy]

HAMLET: Do you not come your tardy son to chide,

That, lapsed in time and passion, lets go by

Th' important acting of your dread command?

O, say!                                                                                                            [110]

GHOST: Do not forget! This visitation

Is but to whet thy almost blunted purpose.              [whet = sharpen; blunted = dulled]

But look, amazement on thy mother sits,

O, step between her and her fighting soul.

Conceit in weakest bodies strongest works,                                         [115]

Speak to her, Hamlet.

HAMLET:                           How is it with you, lady?

GERTRUDE: Alas, how is't with you,

That you do bend your eye on vacancy,

And with the incorporeal air do hold discourse?                      [incorporeal = empty]

Forth at your eyes your spirits wildly peep,                                         [120]

And as the sleeping soldiers in th' alarm,

Your bedded hair, like life in excrements,                         [excrements = growths]

Start up and stand an end. O gentle son,

Upon the heat and flame of thy distemper

Sprinkle cool patience. Whereon do you look?       [What do you see?]        [125]

HAMLET: On him, on him! look you how pale he glares!

His form and cause conjoined, preaching to stones,

Would make them capable. -- Do not look upon me,

Lest with this piteous action you convert

My stern effects, then what I have to do                                               [130]

Will want true colour -- tears perchance for blood.

GERTRUDE: To whom do you speak this?

HAMLET:                           Do you see nothing there?

GERTRUDE: Nothing at all, yet all that is I see.

HAMLET: Nor did you nothing hear?

GERTRUDE:                           No, nothing but ourselves.

HAMLET: Why, look you there, look how it steals away!                            [135]

My father, in his habit as he lived!

Look where he goes, even now, out at the portal.    [Exit GHOST]

GERTRUDE: This is the very coinage of your brain,         [coinage = hallucination]

This bodiless creation ecstasy                          [ecstasy = madness]

Is very cunning in.                                                                                     [140]

HAMLET:                           Ecstasy?

My pulse as yours doth temperately keep time,

And makes as healthful music. It is not madness

That I have uttered. Bring me to the test,

And I the matter will reword, which madness

Would gambol from. Mother, for love of grace,      [gambol = run freely]                [145]

Lay not that flattering unction to your soul,            [unction = comfort]

That not your trespass but my madness speaks;

It will but skin and film the ulcerous place,

Whiles rank corruption, mining all within,             [whiles = while]

Infects unseen. Confess yourself to heaven,                                        [150]

Repent what's past, avoid what is to come;

And do not spread the compost on the weeds

To make them ranker. Forgive me this my virtue,

For in the fatness of these pursy times

Virtue itself of vice must pardon beg,                                                   [155]

Yea, curb and woo for leave to do him good.

GERTRUDE: O Hamlet, thou hast cleft my heart in twain.   [cleft . . . in twain = divided in two]

HAMLET: O, throw away the worser part of it,

And live the purer with the other half.

Good night, but go not to my uncle's bed --                                        [160]

Assume a virtue, if you have it not.

That monster custom, who all sense doth eat,

Of habits evil, is angel yet in this,

That to the use of actions fair and good

He likewise gives a frock or livery                                                         [165]

That aptly is put on. Refrain to-night,

And that shall lend a kind of easiness

To the next abstinence, the next more easy;

For use almost can change the stamp of nature,

And either [ . . . ] the devil or throw him out                                      [170]

With wondrous potency.

                                             Once more good night,

And when you are desirous to be blest,

I'll blessing beg of you. --For this same lord,         [this . . . lord = Polonius]

I do repent; but heaven hath pleased it so

To punish me with this, and this with me,                                         [175]

That I must be their scourge and minister.

I will bestow him, and will answer well

The death I gave him. So again good night.

I must be cruel only to be kind.

This bad begins and worse remains behind.                                        [180]

One word more, good lady.

GERTRUDE:                           What shall I do?

HAMLET: Not this, by no means, that I bid you do:

Let the bloat king tempt you again to bed,              [bloat king = Claudius]

Pinch wanton on your cheek, call you his mouse,

And let him, for a pair of reechy kisses,                      [reechy = foul]                 [185]

Or paddling in your neck with his damned fingers,

Make you to ravel all this matter out,

That I essentially am not in madness,

But mad in craft.

                              'Twere good you let him know,

For who that's but a queen, fair, sober, wise,                                       [190]

Would from a paddock, from a bat, a gib,           [paddock = toad; gib = tom-cat]

Such dear concernings hide? Who would do so?

No, in despite of sense and secrecy,

Unpeg the basket on the house's top,

Let the birds fly, and like the famous ape,                                            [195]

To try conclusions in the basket creep,

And break your own neck down.

GERTRUDE: Be thou assured, if words be made of breath,

And breath of life, I have no life to breathe

What thou hast said to me.                                                                     [200]

HAMLET: I must to England, you know that?

GERTRUDE:                           Alack,

I had forgot. 'Tis so concluded on.

HAMLET: There's letters sealed, and my two schoolfellows,

Whom I will trust as I will adders fanged,                     [adders = snakes]

They bear the mandate, they must sweep my way                             [205]

And marshal me to knavery. Let it work,

For 'tis the sport to have the engineer                      [enginer = engineer, sapper]

Hoist with his own petard, an't shall go hard          [petard = bomb; the one who set the bomb is blown up]

But I will delve one yard below their mines,         [mines = land mines]

And blow them at the moon. O, 'tis most sweet                                 [210]

When in one line two crafts directly meet.

This man shall set me packing;

I'll lug the guts into the neighboring room.                   [lug the guts = drag Polonius’s corpse]

Mother, good night indeed. This counselor                        [This counselor = Polonius]

Is now most still, most secret, and most grave,                                   [215]

Who was in life a foolish prating knave.

Come, sir to draw toward an end with you.

Good night, mother.

[Exeunt severally. Hamlet tugging in Polonius.]



from Act V, scene 2


[Enter King, Queen, Laertes, Lords, Osric, and Attendants with
foils &c.]

Come, Hamlet, come, and take this hand from me.

[The King puts Laertes' hand into Hamlet's.]

Give me your pardon, sir: I have done you wrong:
But pardon't, as you are a gentleman.
This presence knows, and you must needs have heard,
How I am punish'd with sore distraction.
What I have done
That might your nature, honour, and exception
Roughly awake, I here proclaim was madness.
Was't Hamlet wrong'd Laertes? Never Hamlet:
If Hamlet from himself be ta'en away,
And when he's not himself does wrong Laertes,
Then Hamlet does it not, Hamlet denies it.
Who does it, then? His madness: if't be so,
Hamlet is of the faction that is wrong'd;
His madness is poor Hamlet's enemy.
Sir, in this audience,
Let my disclaiming from a purpos'd evil
Free me so far in your most generous thoughts
That I have shot my arrow o'er the house
And hurt my brother.

I am satisfied in nature,
Whose motive, in this case, should stir me most
To my revenge. But in my terms of honour
I stand aloof; and will no reconcilement
Till by some elder masters of known honour
I have a voice and precedent of peace
To keep my name ungor'd. But till that time
I do receive your offer'd love like love,
And will not wrong it.

I embrace it freely;
And will this brother's wager frankly play.--
Give us the foils; come on.

Come, one for me.

I'll be your foil, Laertes; in mine ignorance
Your skill shall, like a star in the darkest night,
Stick fiery off indeed.

You mock me, sir.

No, by this hand.

Give them the foils, young Osric. Cousin Hamlet,
You know the wager?

Very well, my lord;
Your grace has laid the odds o' the weaker side.

I do not fear it; I have seen you both;
But since he's better'd, we have therefore odds.

This is too heavy, let me see another.

This likes me well. These foils have all a length?

[They prepare to play.]

Ay, my good lord.

Set me the stoups of wine upon that table,--
If Hamlet give the first or second hit,
Or quit in answer of the third exchange,
Let all the battlements their ordnance fire;
The king shall drink to Hamlet's better breath;
And in the cup an union shall he throw,
Richer than that which four successive kings
In Denmark's crown have worn. Give me the cups;
And let the kettle to the trumpet speak,
The trumpet to the cannoneer without,
The cannons to the heavens, the heavens to earth,
'Now the king drinks to Hamlet.'--Come, begin:--
And you, the judges, bear a wary eye.

Come on, sir.

Come, my lord.

[They play.]




A hit, a very palpable hit.


Stay, give me drink.--Hamlet, this pearl is thine;
Here's to thy health.--

[Trumpets sound, and cannon shot off within.]

Give him the cup.

I'll play this bout first; set it by awhile.--
Come.--Another hit; what say you?

[They play.]

A touch, a touch, I do confess.

Our son shall win.

He's fat, and scant of breath.--
Here, Hamlet, take my napkin, rub thy brows:
The queen carouses to thy fortune, Hamlet.

Good madam!

Gertrude, do not drink.

I will, my lord; I pray you pardon me.

[Aside.] It is the poison'd cup; it is too late.

I dare not drink yet, madam; by-and-by.

Come, let me wipe thy face.

My lord, I'll hit him now.

I do not think't.

[Aside.] And yet 'tis almost 'gainst my conscience.

Come, for the third, Laertes: you but dally;
I pray you pass with your best violence:
I am afeard you make a wanton of me.

Say you so? come on.

[They play.]

Nothing, neither way.

Have at you now!

[Laertes wounds Hamlet; then, in scuffling, they
change rapiers, and Hamlet wounds Laertes.]

Part them; they are incens'd.

Nay, come again!

[The Queen falls.]

Look to the queen there, ho!

They bleed on both sides.--How is it, my lord?

How is't, Laertes?

Why, as a woodcock to my own springe, Osric;
I am justly kill'd with mine own treachery.

How does the Queen?

She swoons to see them bleed.

No, no! the drink, the drink!--O my dear Hamlet!--
The drink, the drink!--I am poison'd.


O villany!--Ho! let the door be lock'd:
Treachery! seek it out.

[Laertes falls.]

It is here, Hamlet: Hamlet, thou art slain;
No medicine in the world can do thee good;
In thee there is not half an hour of life;
The treacherous instrument is in thy hand,
Unbated and envenom'd: the foul practice
Hath turn'd itself on me; lo, here I lie,
Never to rise again: thy mother's poison'd:
I can no more:--the king, the king's to blame.

The point envenom'd too!--
Then, venom, to thy work.

[Stabs the King.]

Osric and Lords.
Treason! treason!

O, yet defend me, friends! I am but hurt.

Here, thou incestuous, murderous, damned Dane,
Drink off this potion.--Is thy union here?
Follow my mother.

[King dies.]

He is justly serv'd;
It is a poison temper'd by himself.--
Exchange forgiveness with me, noble Hamlet:
Mine and my father's death come not upon thee,
Nor thine on me!


Heaven make thee free of it! I follow thee.--
I am dead, Horatio.--Wretched queen, adieu!--
You that look pale and tremble at this chance,
That are but mutes or audience to this act,
Had I but time,--as this fell sergeant, death,
Is strict in his arrest,--O, I could tell you,--
But let it be.--Horatio, I am dead;
Thou liv'st; report me and my cause aright
To the unsatisfied.

Never believe it:
I am more an antique Roman than a Dane.--
Here's yet some liquor left.

As thou'rt a man,
Give me the cup; let go; by heaven, I'll have't.--
O good Horatio, what a wounded name,
Things standing thus unknown, shall live behind me!
If thou didst ever hold me in thy heart,
Absent thee from felicity awhile,
And in this harsh world draw thy breath in pain,
To tell my story.--

[March afar off, and shot within.]

What warlike noise is this?

Young Fortinbras, with conquest come from Poland,
To the ambassadors of England gives
This warlike volley.

O, I die, Horatio;
The potent poison quite o'er-crows my spirit:
I cannot live to hear the news from England;
But I do prophesy the election lights
On Fortinbras: he has my dying voice;
So tell him, with the occurrents, more and less,
Which have solicited.--the rest is silence.


Now cracks a noble heart.--Good night, sweet prince,
And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest!
Why does the drum come hither?

[March within.]

[Enter Fortinbras, the English Ambassadors, and others.]

Where is this sight?

What is it you will see?
If aught of woe or wonder, cease your search.

This quarry cries on havoc.--O proud death,
What feast is toward in thine eternal cell,
That thou so many princes at a shot
So bloodily hast struck?

1 Ambassador.
The sight is dismal;
And our affairs from England come too late:
The ears are senseless that should give us hearing,
To tell him his commandment is fulfill'd
That Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead:
Where should we have our thanks?

Not from his mouth,
Had it the ability of life to thank you:
He never gave commandment for their death.
But since, so jump upon this bloody question,
You from the Polack wars, and you from England,
Are here arriv'd, give order that these bodies
High on a stage be placed to the view;
And let me speak to the yet unknowing world
How these things came about: so shall you hear
Of carnal, bloody and unnatural acts;
Of accidental judgments, casual slaughters;
Of deaths put on by cunning and forc'd cause;
And, in this upshot, purposes mistook
Fall'n on the inventors' heads: all this can I
Truly deliver.

Let us haste to hear it,
And call the noblest to the audience.
For me, with sorrow I embrace my fortune:
I have some rights of memory in this kingdom,
Which now, to claim my vantage doth invite me.

Of that I shall have also cause to speak,
And from his mouth whose voice will draw on more:
But let this same be presently perform'd,
Even while men's minds are wild: lest more mischance
On plots and errors happen.

Let four captains
Bear Hamlet like a soldier to the stage;
For he was likely, had he been put on,
To have prov'd most royally: and, for his passage,
The soldiers' music and the rites of war
Speak loudly for him.--
Take up the bodies.--Such a sight as this
Becomes the field, but here shows much amiss.
Go, bid the soldiers shoot.

[A dead march.]

[Exeunt, bearing off the dead bodies; after the which a peal of
ordnance is shot off.]







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