by William Shakespeare

Previous Chapter Next Chapter

ACT III - Scene II

Elsinore. hall in the Castle.

Enter Hamlet and three of the Players.

Speak the speech, I pray you, as I pronounc'd it to you,
trippingly on the tongue. But if you mouth it, as many of our
players do, I had as live the town crier spoke my lines. Nor do
not saw the air too much with your hand, thus, but use all
gently; for in the very torrent, tempest, and (as I may say)
whirlwind of your passion, you must acquire and beget a
temperance that may give it smoothness. O, it offends me to the
soul to hear a robustious periwig-pated fellow tear a passion to
tatters, to very rags, to split the cars of the groundlings, who
(for the most part) are capable of nothing but inexplicable dumb
shows and noise. I would have such a fellow whipp'd for o'erdoing
Termagant. It out-herods Herod. Pray you avoid it.

I warrant your honour.

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
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 feature,
scorn her own image, and the very age and body of the time his
form and pressure. Now this overdone, or come tardy off, though
it make the unskilful laugh, cannot but make the judicious
grieve; the censure of the which one must in your allowance
o'erweigh a whole theatre of others. O, there be players that I
have seen play, and heard others praise, and that highly (not to
speak it profanely), that, neither having the accent of
Christians, nor the gait of Christian, pagan, nor man, have so
strutted and bellowed that I have thought some of Nature's
journeymen had made men, and not made them well, they imitated
humanity so abominably.

I hope we have reform'd that indifferently with us, sir.

O, reform it altogether! And let those that play your clowns
speak no more than is set down for them. For there be of them
that will themselves laugh, to set on some quantity of barren
spectators to laugh too, though in the mean time some necessary
question of the play be then to be considered. That's villanous
and shows a most pitiful ambition in the fool that uses it. Go
make you ready.

Exeunt Players.

Enter Polonius, Rosencrantz, and Guildenstern.

How now, my lord? Will the King hear this piece of work?

And the Queen too, and that presently.

Bid the players make haste, [Exit Polonius.] Will you two
help to hasten them?

We will, my lord.

Exeunt they two.

What, ho, Horatio!

Enter Horatio.

Here, sweet lord, at your service.

Horatio, thou art e'en as just a man
As e'er my conversation cop'd withal.

O, my dear lord!

Nay, do not think I flatter;
For what advancement may I hope from thee,
That no revenue hast but thy good spirits
To feed and clothe thee? Why should the poor be flatter'd?
No, let the candied tongue lick absurd pomp,
And crook the pregnant hinges of the knee
Where thrift may follow fawning. Dost thou hear?
Since my dear soul was mistress of her choice
And could of men distinguish, her election
Hath seal'd thee for herself. For thou hast been
As one, in suff'ring all, that suffers nothing;
A man that Fortune's buffets and rewards
Hast ta'en with equal thanks; and blest are those
Whose blood and judgment are so well commingled
That they are not a pipe for Fortune's finger
To sound what stop she please. Give me that man
That is not passion's slave, and I will wear him
In my heart's core, ay, in my heart of heart,
As I do thee. Something too much of this I
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 my uncle. If his occulted guilt
Do not itself unkennel in one speech,
It is a damned ghost that we have seen,
And my imaginations are as foul
As Vulcan's stithy. Give him heedful note;
For I mine eyes will rivet to his face,
And after we will both our judgments join
In censure of his seeming.

Well, my lord.
If he steal aught the whilst this play is playing,
And scape detecting, I will pay the theft.

Sound a flourish. [Enter Trumpets and Kettledrums. Danish march. [Enter King, Queen, Polonius, Ophelia, Rosencrantz, Guildenstern, and other Lords attendant, with the Guard carrying torches.

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

How fares our cousin Hamlet?

Excellent, i' faith; of the chameleon's dish. I eat the air,
promise-cramm'd. You cannot feed capons so.

I have nothing with this answer, Hamlet. These words are not

No, nor mine now. [To Polonius] My lord, you play'd once
i' th' university, you say?

That did I, my lord, and was accounted a good actor.

What did you enact?

I did enact Julius Caesar; I was kill'd i' th' Capitol; Brutus
kill'd me.

It was a brute part of him to kill so capital a calf there. Be
the players ready.

Ay, my lord. They stay upon your patience.

Come hither, my dear Hamlet, sit by me.

No, good mother. Here's metal more attractive.


[to the King] O, ho! do you mark that?

Lady, shall I lie in your lap?

[Sits down at Ophelia's feet.]

No, my lord.

I mean, my head upon your lap?

Ay, my lord.

Do you think I meant country matters?

I think nothing, my lord.

That's a fair thought to lie between maids' legs.

What is, my lord?


You are merry, my lord.

Who, I?

Ay, my lord.

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.

Nay 'tis twice two months, my lord.

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 O, for O, the hobby-horse is forgot!'

Hautboys play. The dumb show enters.

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 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, pours poison in the sleeper's ears, and
leaves him. The Queen returns, finds the King dead, and makes
passionate action. The Poisoner with some three or four Mutes,
comes in again, seem to condole with her. The dead body is
carried away. The Poisoner wooes the Queen with gifts; she
seems harsh and unwilling awhile, but in the end accepts
his love.


What means this, my lord?

Marry, this is miching malhecho; it means mischief.

Belike this show imports the argument of the play.

Enter Prologue.

We shall know by this fellow. The players cannot keep counsel;
they'll tell all.

Will he tell us what this show meant?

Ay, or any show that you'll show him. Be not you asham'd to
show, he'll not shame to tell you what it means.

You are naught, you are naught! I'll mark the play.

For us, and for our tragedy,
Here stooping to your clemency,
We beg your hearing patiently.


Is this a prologue, or the posy of a ring?

'Tis brief, my lord.

As woman's love.

Enter [two Players as] King and Queen.

Full thirty times hath Phoebus' cart gone round
Neptune's salt wash and Tellus' orbed 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 comutual in most sacred bands.

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'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 siz'd, my fear is so.
Where love is great, the littlest doubts are fear;
Where little fears grow great, great love grows there.

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,
Honour'd, belov'd, and haply one as kind
For husband shalt thou-

O, confound the rest!
Such love must needs be treason in my breast.
When second husband let me be accurst!
None wed the second but who killed the first.


[aside] Wormwood, wormwood!

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.

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.
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 favourite flies,
The poor advanc'd 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.

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!

If she should break it now!

'Tis deeply sworn. Sweet, leave me here awhile.
My spirits grow dull, and fain I would beguile
The tedious day with sleep.

Sleep rock thy brain,

[He] sleeps.

And never come mischance between us twain!


Madam, how like you this play?

The lady doth protest too much, methinks.

O, but she'll keep her word.

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

No, no! They do but jest, poison in jest; no offence i' th'

What do you call the play?

'The Mousetrap.' Marry, how? Tropically. This play is the
image of a murther 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. Let the gall'd jade winch; our withers
are unwrung.

Enter Lucianus.

This is one Lucianus, nephew to the King.

You are as good as a chorus, my lord.

I could interpret between you and your love, if I could see
the puppets dallying.

You are keen, my lord, you are keen.

It would cost you a groaning to take off my edge.

Still better, and worse.

So you must take your husbands.- Begin, murtherer. Pox, leave
thy damnable faces, and begin! Come, the croaking raven doth
bellow for revenge.

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.

He poisons him i' th' garden for's estate. His name's Gonzago.
The story is extant, and written in very choice Italian. You
shall see anon how the murtherer gets the love of Gonzago's wife.

The King rises.

What, frighted with false fire?

How fares my lord?

Give o'er the play.

Give me some light! Away!

Lights, lights, lights!

Exeunt all but Hamlet and Horatio.

Why, let the strucken deer go weep,
The hart ungalled play;
For some must watch, while some must sleep:
Thus 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 raz'd
shoes, get me a fellowship in a cry of players, sir?

Half a share.

A whole one I!
For thou dost know, O Damon dear,
This realm dismantled was
Of Jove himself; and now reigns here
A very, very- pajock.

You might have rhym'd.

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

Very well, my lord.

Upon the talk of the poisoning?

I did very well note him.

Aha! 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!

Enter Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.

Good my lord, vouchsafe me a word with you.

Sir, a whole history.

The King, sir-

Ay, sir, what of him?

Is in his retirement, marvellous distemper'd.

With drink, sir?

No, my lord; rather with choler.

Your wisdom should show itself more richer to signify this to
the doctor; for me to put him to his purgation would perhaps
plunge him into far more choler.

Good my lord, put your discourse into some frame, and start
not so wildly from my affair.

I am tame, sir; pronounce.

The Queen, your mother, in most great affliction of spirit
hath sent me to you.

You are welcome.

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.

Sir, I cannot.

What, my lord?

Make you a wholesome answer; my wit's diseas'd. 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

Then thus she says: your behaviour hath struck her into
amazement and admiration.

O wonderful son, that can so stonish a mother! But is there no
sequel at the heels of this mother's admiration? Impart.

She desires to speak with you in her closet ere you go to bed.

We shall obey, were she ten times our mother. Have you any
further trade with us?

My lord, you once did love me.

And do still, by these pickers and stealers!

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.

Sir, I lack advancement.

How can that be, when you have the voice of the King himself
for your succession in Denmark?

Ay, sir, but 'while the grass grows'- the proverb is something

Enter the Players with recorders.

O, the recorders! Let me see one. To withdraw with you- why do
you go about to recover the wind of me, as if you would drive me
into a toil?

O my lord, if my duty be too bold, my love is too unmannerly.

I do not well understand that. Will you play upon this pipe?

My lord, I cannot.

I pray you.

Believe me, I cannot.

I do beseech you.

I know, no touch of it, my lord.

It is as easy as lying. Govern these ventages with your
fingers and thumbs, give it breath with your mouth, and it will
discourse most eloquent music. Look you, these are the stops.

But these cannot I command to any utt'rance of harmony. I
have not the skill.

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 play'd 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!

My lord, the Queen would speak with you, and presently.

Do you see yonder cloud that's almost in shape of a camel?

By th' mass, and 'tis like a camel indeed.

Methinks it is like a weasel.

It is back'd like a weasel.

Or like a whale.

Very like a whale.

Then will I come to my mother by-and-by.- They fool me to the
top of my bent.- I will come by-and-by.

I will say so.


'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 somever she be shent,
To give them seals never, my soul, consent!


Return to the Hamlet Summary Return to the William Shakespeare Library

Anton Chekhov
Nathaniel Hawthorne
Susan Glaspell
Mark Twain
Edgar Allan Poe
Mary E. Wilkins Freeman
Herman Melville
Stephen Leacock
Kate Chopin
Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson