Not a critical or
scholarly text but a reading text for a seminar
Gratefully adapted from
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Tragedy of Hamlet,
Prince of Denmark
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
- “The play within a play” incl. discussion of theatrical
- Renaissance Tragedy’s integration of Judeo-Christian references
(in contrast to Greek myths in classical tragedy)
- The expansion of
spectacle in the final scenes
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
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
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.
Hamlet, Act 2, Scene 2
[Flourish for the Players]
There are the players.
= actors, dramatists, thespians]
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
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. . . .
the Younger, 4BCE-65CE, Roman tragic playwright; Plautus, 254-184BCE, Roman
[Enter four or five Players.]
[Players = actors, dramatists,
Hamlet: You are
welcome, masters; welcome, all.—I am glad to see thee well.—Welcome, good
friends.—O, my old friend? . . .
have a speech straight. Come, give us a taste of your quality. Come, a
[a brief “play within a play”]
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]
. . .
. . . But if the gods themselves did see her then,
[her = Hecuba, queen of Troy]
saw Pyrrhus make malicious sport
= 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.
Look, whether he has not turned his color, and has tears in his eyes. Prithee no
'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]
Follow him, friends. We'll hear a play to-morrow.
[Exeunt Polonius and Players [except the
Dost thou hear me, old friend? Can you play 'The Murder of
Ay, my lord.
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?
Ay, my lord.
Very well. Follow that lord—and look you mock him
[Exit First Player.]
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
Could force his soul so to his own conceit
That, from her
working, all his visage wanned,
= lost color]
Tears in his eyes, distraction in his aspect,
A broken voice, and his whole function suiting
forms to his conceit? And all for nothing!
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
That I have? He would drown the stage with tears
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
Yet I . . . can say nothing! . . .
Why, what an ass am I! . . .
Fie upon't! foh! About, my brain! Hum, I have heard
That guilty creatures, sitting at a play,
Have by the very cunning of the scene
Been struck so to the soul that
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
Before mine uncle. I'll observe his looks;
I'll tent him
to the quick. If he but blench,
= attend; blench = blanch]
I know my course. . . . The play's the
Wherein I'll catch the conscience of the King.
Hamlet, Act 3, Scene 2.
A hall in the castle.
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
[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,
scorn her own image, and the very age and body of the time
form and pressure. . . .
[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
Bid the players make haste.
Will you two help to hasten
We will, my lord.
ROSENCRANTZ and GUILDENSTERN]
HAMLET: What ho! Horatio!
Here, sweet lord, at your service. . . .
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,
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
In censure of his seeming.
Well, my lord:
If he steal aught
the whilst this play is playing,
aught = gets away with anything]
detecting, I will pay the theft.
They are coming to the play; I must be idle:
Get you a place.
[Danish march. A flourish. Enter KING CLAUDIUS, QUEEN GERTRUDE, POLONIUS,
OPHELIA, ROSENCRANTZ, GUILDENSTERN, and others]
How fares our cousin Hamlet?
Excellent, i' faith; of the
chameleon's dish: I eat
the air, promise-crammed: you
cannot feed capons so.
I have nothing with
this answer, Hamlet; these words are not mine.
No, nor mine now.
My lord, you played once i' the 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 killed i' the Capitol; Brutus killed 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. [as in metal to a magnet]
[To KING CLAUDIUS]
O, ho! do you mark that?
Lady, shall I lie in your
lap? [Lying down at OPHELIA's
No, my lord.
I mean, my head upon your
Ay, my lord.
Do you think I meant country
I think nothing, my lord.
That's a fair thought to lie
between maids' legs.
What is, my lord?
You are merry, my lord.
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
these two hours.
Nay, 'tis twice two months,
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
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
What means this, my lord?
Marry, this is miching
mallecho; it means mischief. [miching mallecho = sneaking mischief]
Belike this show imports
the argument of the play.
cf. Chorus Leader]
We shall know by this
fellow: the players cannot keep counsel; they'll tell all.
Will he tell us what this
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.
You are naught, you are
naught: I'll mark the play.
For us, and for our tragedy,
stooping to your clemency,
We beg your hearing
. . .
[Enter two Players, 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 commutual in most sacred bands.
So many journeys may the sun and moon
Make us again count over 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;
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.
'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—
O, confound the rest!
must needs be treason in my breast:
In second husband
let me be accurst!
None wed the second but who killed
[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. . . .
This world is not for aye, nor
'tis not strange
That even our loves should with our
For 'tis a question left us yet to
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.
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,
come mischance between us twain!
Madam, how like you this
The lady protests too
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' the world.
What do you call the play?
The Mouse-trap. Marry, how?
Tropically. This play is the image of a murder done in
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.
You are as good as a
chorus, my lord. . . .
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,
= Gk goddess later assoc. w/ witchcraft]
magic and dire property,
On wholesome life usurp
[Pours the poison into the sleeper's ears]
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.
him in the garden = possible associations with Genesis story of serpent in
The king rises.
What, frighted with false
How fares my lord?
Give o'er the play.
Give me some light:
Lights, lights, lights!
[Exeunt all but HAMLET and HORATIO]
Why, let the stricken deer
The hart ungalled play;
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?
Half a share. . . .
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
I did very well note him.
Ah, ha! Come, some music!
come, the recorders!
For if the king like not the
Why then, belike, he likes it not, perdy.
Come, some music!
[Re-enter ROSENCRANTZ and GUILDENSTERN] . . .
The king, sir,--
Ay, sir, what of him?
Is in his retirement
With drink, sir?
No, my lord, rather
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.
Good my lord, put your
discourse into some frame and
start not so wildly from my
I am tame, sir: pronounce.
The queen, your
mother, in most great affliction of
spirit, hath sent me
to you. . .
[T]hus she says; your behavior hath struck her
amazement and admiration.
O wonderful son, that can so
astonish 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.
private room, bedroom]
We shall obey, were she ten
times our mother. . . . [Enter
POLONIUS] God bless you, sir!
My lord, the queen would
speak with you, and
presently. . . .
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.
I will say so.
By and by is easily said.
Leave me, friends.
[Exeunt all but HAMLET]
Tis now the very witching time
When churchyards yawn and hell itself
Contagion to this world: now could I drink
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:
will speak daggers to her, but use none;
My tongue and
soul in this be hypocrites;
How in my words soever she
To give them seals never, my soul, consent!
Act 3, Scene 3.
A room in the castle.
CLAUDIUS, ROSENCRANTZ, and GUILDENSTERN]
I like him not, nor stands
it safe with us
To let his madness range. Therefore
I your commission will forthwith dispatch,
And he to
shall along with you:
The terms of our estate may not
Hazard so dangerous as doth hourly grow
Out of his lunacies. . . .
Arm you, I pray you, to this
For we will fetters put upon this
Which now goes too free-footed.
We will haste us.
[Exeunt ROSENCRANTZ and GUILDENSTERN;
My lord, he's going to his
private room, bedroom]
Behind the arras I'll convey
[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.
Thanks, dear my lord.
O, my offence is rank it smells
It hath the primal eldest curse upon it,
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:
guilt defeats my strong intent;
And, like a man to
double business bound,
I stand in pause where I shall
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
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.
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]
villain kills my father; and for that,
I, his sole son,
do this same villain send
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]
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.
[physic = medicine, treatment]
CLAUDIUS: [Rising] My words fly up, my thoughts remain below:
Words without thoughts never to heaven go.
ACT 3, SCENE 4:
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]
GERTRUDE and POLONIUS.
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,
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]
Within Mother, Mother,
GERTRUDE: I'll warrant you, fear me
[warrant = listen and attest]
hear him coming. [Polonius hides
behind the arras.]
HAMLET: Now, mother, what's the
GERTRUDE: Hamlet, thou hast thy
father much offended. 
HAMLET: Mother, you have my father
GERTRUDE: Come, come, you answer
with an idle tongue.
HAMLET: Go, go, you question with a
GERTRUDE: Why, how now, Hamlet?
What's the matter now?
GERTRUDE: Have you forgot
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
Where you may see the inmost part of you.
GERTRUDE: What wilt thou do? Thou
wilt not murder me?
[Behind]. What ho, help!
[Drawing] How now? A rat?
Dead, for a ducat, dead! [ducat
= coin] 
through the arras.]
[arras = hanging
O, I am slain.
O me, what hast thou done?
HAMLET: Nay, I know not, is it the
GERTRUDE: O, what a rash and bloody
deed is this!
HAMLET: A bloody deed! almost as
bad, good mother,
kill a king, and marry with his brother.
GERTRUDE: As kill a king!
Ay, lady, it was my word.
[Parts the arras
and sees Polonius.]
Thou wretched, rash, intruding
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, 
And let me wring your heart, for so I shall
it be made of penetrable stuff,
damned custom have not brassed it so
That it be proof and bulwark against sense.
GERTRUDE: What have I done, that
thou dare wag thy tongue 
noise so rude against me?
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
false as dicers' oaths, O, such a deed
[dicers’ = gamblers’]
from the body of contraction plucks
[contraction = betrothal]
The very soul, and sweet religion makes
rhapsody of words. Heaven's face does glow
O'er this solidity and compound mass [this
. . . mass = the earth] 
With heated visage, as against the doom;
[the doom = Judgment Day]
thought-sick at the act.
Ay me, what act,
That roars so loud and thunders in the index?
[In the following speech, Hamlet typically shows
Gertrude two pictures, one of old King Hamlet, the other of his brother
HAMLET: Look here upon this picture,
and on this,
The counterfeit presentment of two
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]
eye like Mars, to threaten and command,
= god of war]
station like the herald Mercury
[station = bearing; Mercury = messenger of gods]
New lighted on a heaven-kissing
combination and a form indeed,
Where every god did seem to set his seal
give the world assurance of a man.
This was your husband.
Look you now what follows:
Here is your husband, like a mildewed
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
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
apoplexed, for madness would not err,
[apoplexed = paralyzed]
Nor sense to ecstasy was ne'er so thralled
[thralled = captive] 
But it reserved some quantity of choice
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
but a sickly part of one true sense
Could not so mope. O shame, where is thy blush?
thou canst mutine in a matron's bones,
[mutine = mutiny]
flaming youth let virtue be as
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.
O Hamlet, speak no more!
Thou turnest my eyes into my very
And there I see such black and grained spots
will not leave their tinct.
tinct = give up stain]
Nay, but to live
the rank sweat of an enseamed bed,
[enseamed = greasy]
Stewed in corruption, honeying and making love
Over the nasty sty!
[sty = pig pen] 
speak to me no more!
These words like daggers enter in my ears.
more, sweet Hamlet!
A murderer and a villain!
slave that is not twentieth part the tithe
[tithe = tenth]
your precedent lord, a Vice of kings,
cutpurse of the empire and the
That from a shelf the precious diadem stole,
And put it in his pocket --
[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? 
GERTRUDE: Alas, he's mad!
= 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?
GHOST: Do not forget! This
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
Speak to her, 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
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?] 
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
Will want true colour -- tears perchance for blood.
GERTRUDE: To whom do you speak this?
Do you see nothing there?
GERTRUDE: Nothing at all, yet all
that is I see.
HAMLET: Nor did you nothing hear?
No, nothing but ourselves.
HAMLET: Why, look you there, look
how it steals away! 
My father, in his habit as he lived!
Look where he goes, even now, out at the portal.
GERTRUDE: This is the very coinage
of your brain,
[coinage = hallucination]
This bodiless creation ecstasy
[ecstasy = madness]
Is very cunning
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] 
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
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
Yea, curb and woo for leave to do him good.
GERTRUDE: O Hamlet, thou hast cleft
my heart in twain.
. . . 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
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
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
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]
do repent; but heaven hath pleased it so
To punish me with this, and this with
That I must be their scourge and minister.
will bestow him, and will answer well
The death I gave him. So again good night.
must be cruel only to be kind.
This bad begins and worse remains
One word more, good lady.
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] 
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,
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
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
HAMLET: I must to
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 
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
But I will delve one yard below their mines,
[mines = land mines]
And blow them at the moon. O, 'tis most
When in one line two crafts directly meet.
This man shall set me packing;
I'll lug the guts into the neighboring room.
the guts = drag Polonius’s corpse]
Mother, good night indeed. This counselor
counselor = Polonius]
Is now most still, most secret, and most
Who was in life a foolish prating knave.
Come, sir to draw toward an end with you.
Good night, mother.
severally. Hamlet tugging in Polonius.]
from Act V, scene 2
[Enter King, Queen, Laertes, Lords,
Osric, and Attendants with
Come, Hamlet, come, and take this hand from me.
[The King puts Laertes' hand into
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.
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
him the cup.
I'll play this bout first;
set it by awhile.--
hit; what say you?
touch, a touch, I do confess.
He's fat, and scant of
Here, Hamlet, take my
napkin, rub thy brows:
carouses to thy fortune, Hamlet.
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.
Nothing, neither way.
Have at you now!
[Laertes wounds Hamlet; then, in
and Hamlet wounds Laertes.]
them; they are incens'd.
[The Queen falls.]
the queen there, ho!
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.
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.
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.
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?
[Enter Fortinbras, the English
Ambassadors, and others.]
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?
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
haste to hear it,
And call the
noblest to the audience.
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
is shot off.]