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Hamlet
Act 1, scene 3

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Characters in the Play

Entire Play

Events before the start of Hamlet set the stage for tragedy. When the king of Denmark, Prince Hamlet’s father, suddenly dies, Hamlet’s…

Act 1, scene 1

On the guards’ platform at Elsinore, Horatio waits with Barnardo and Marcellus to question a ghost that has twice before…

Act 1, scene 2

In an audience chamber in Elsinore, Claudius, the new king of Denmark, holds court. After thanking his courtiers for their…

Act 1, scene 3

In Polonius’s chambers, Laertes says good-bye to his sister, Ophelia, and tells her not to trust Hamlet’s promises of love….

Act 1, scene 4

While Claudius drinks away the night, Hamlet, Horatio, and Marcellus are visited by the Ghost. It signals to Hamlet. Hamlet’s…

Act 1, scene 5

The Ghost tells Hamlet a tale of horror. Saying that he is the spirit of Hamlet’s father, he demands that…

Act 2, scene 1

Polonius sends his servant Reynaldo to Paris to question Laertes’s acquaintances. Ophelia enters, deeply disturbed about a visit she has…

Act 2, scene 2

Claudius and Gertrude set Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, two boyhood friends of Hamlet, to spy on him. When Hamlet himself enters,…

Act 3, scene 1

After Rosencrantz and Guildenstern report their failure to find the cause of Hamlet’s madness, Polonius places Ophelia where he and…

Act 3, scene 2

Hamlet gives direction to the actors and asks Horatio to help him observe Claudius’s reaction to the play. When the…

Act 3, scene 3

Claudius orders Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to take Hamlet to England. Polonius tells Claudius of his plans to spy on Hamlet’s…

Act 3, scene 4

In Gertrude’s room, Polonius hides behind a tapestry. Hamlet’s entrance so alarms Gertrude that she cries out for help. Polonius…

Act 4, scene 1

Gertrude reports Polonius’s death to Claudius, who sends Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to find Hamlet and recover the body.

Act 4, scene 2

Hamlet refuses to tell Rosencrantz and Guildenstern where he has put Polonius’s body.

Act 4, scene 3

Hamlet is brought to Claudius, who tells him that he is to leave immediately for England. Alone, Claudius reveals that…

Act 4, scene 4

Fortinbras and his army cross Hamlet’s path on their way to Poland. Hamlet finds in Fortinbras’s vigorous activity a model…

Act 4, scene 5

Reports reach Gertrude that Ophelia is mad. Ophelia enters singing about death and betrayal. After Ophelia has gone, Claudius agonizes…

Act 4, scene 6

Horatio is given a letter from Hamlet telling of the prince’s boarding of a pirate ship and his subsequent return…

Act 4, scene 7

Claudius gets a letter from Hamlet announcing the prince’s return. Claudius enlists Laertes’s willing help in devising another plot against…

Act 5, scene 1

Hamlet, returned from his journey, comes upon a gravedigger singing as he digs. Hamlet tries to find out who the…

Act 5, scene 2

In the hall of the castle, Hamlet tells Horatio how he discovered the king’s plot against him and how he…

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Scene 3
Enter Laertes and Ophelia, his sister.

LAERTES 
 My necessaries are embarked. Farewell.
 And, sister, as the winds give benefit
 And convey is assistant, do not sleep,
 But let me hear from you.
OPHELIA 5 Do you doubt that?
LAERTES 
 For Hamlet, and the trifling of his favor,
 Hold it a fashion and a toy in blood,
 A violet in the youth of primy nature,
 Forward, not permanent, sweet, not lasting,
10 The perfume and suppliance of a minute,
 No more.
OPHELIA  No more but so?
LAERTES  Think it no more.

41
Hamlet
ACT 1. SC. 3

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

43
Hamlet
ACT 1. SC. 3

50 As watchman to my heart. But, good my brother,
 Do not, as some ungracious pastors do,
 Show me the steep and thorny way to heaven,
 Whiles, like a puffed and reckless libertine,
 Himself the primrose path of dalliance treads
55 And recks not his own rede.
LAERTES  O, fear me not.

Enter Polonius.

 I stay too long. But here my father comes.
 A double blessing is a double grace.
 Occasion smiles upon a second leave.
POLONIUS 
60 Yet here, Laertes? Aboard, aboard, for shame!
 The wind sits in the shoulder of your sail,
 And you are stayed for. There, my blessing with
 thee.
 And these few precepts in thy memory
65 Look thou character. Give thy thoughts no tongue,
 Nor any unproportioned thought his act.
 Be thou familiar, but by no means vulgar.
 Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried,
 Grapple them unto thy soul with hoops of steel,
70 But do not dull thy palm with entertainment
 Of each new-hatched, unfledged courage. Beware
 Of entrance to a quarrel, but, being in,
 Bear ’t that th’ opposèd may beware of thee.
 Give every man thy ear, but few thy voice.
75 Take each man’s censure, but reserve thy judgment.
 Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy,
 But not expressed in fancy (rich, not gaudy),
 For the apparel oft proclaims the man,
 And they in France of the best rank and station
80 Are of a most select and generous chief in that.
 Neither a borrower nor a lender be,
 For loan oft loses both itself and friend,

45
Hamlet
ACT 1. SC. 3

 And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.
 This above all: to thine own self be true,
85 And it must follow, as the night the day,
 Thou canst not then be false to any man.
 Farewell. My blessing season this in thee.
LAERTES 
 Most humbly do I take my leave, my lord.
POLONIUS 
 The time invests you. Go, your servants tend.
LAERTES 
90 Farewell, Ophelia, and remember well
 What I have said to you.
OPHELIA ’Tis in my memory locked,
 And you yourself shall keep the key of it.
LAERTES Farewell.Laertes exits.
POLONIUS 
95 What is ’t, Ophelia, he hath said to you?
OPHELIA 
 So please you, something touching the Lord
 Hamlet.
POLONIUS Marry, well bethought.
 ’Tis told me he hath very oft of late
100 Given private time to you, and you yourself
 Have of your audience been most free and
 bounteous.
 If it be so (as so ’tis put on me,
 And that in way of caution), I must tell you
105 You do not understand yourself so clearly
 As it behooves my daughter and your honor.
 What is between you? Give me up the truth.
OPHELIA 
 He hath, my lord, of late made many tenders
 Of his affection to me.
POLONIUS 
110 Affection, puh! You speak like a green girl
 Unsifted in such perilous circumstance.
 Do you believe his “tenders,” as you call them?

47
Hamlet
ACT 1. SC. 3

OPHELIA 
 I do not know, my lord, what I should think.
POLONIUS 
 Marry, I will teach you. Think yourself a baby
115 That you have ta’en these tenders for true pay,
 Which are not sterling. Tender yourself more dearly,
 Or (not to crack the wind of the poor phrase,
 Running it thus) you’ll tender me a fool.
OPHELIA 
 My lord, he hath importuned me with love
120 In honorable fashion—
POLONIUS 
 Ay, “fashion” you may call it. Go to, go to!
OPHELIA 
 And hath given countenance to his speech, my lord,
 With almost all the holy vows of heaven.
POLONIUS 
 Ay, springes to catch woodcocks. I do know,
125 When the blood burns, how prodigal the soul
 Lends the tongue vows. These blazes, daughter,
 Giving more light than heat, extinct in both
 Even in their promise as it is a-making,
 You must not take for fire. From this time
130 Be something scanter of your maiden presence.
 Set your entreatments at a higher rate
 Than a command to parle. For Lord Hamlet,
 Believe so much in him that he is young,
 And with a larger tether may he walk
135 Than may be given you. In few, Ophelia,
 Do not believe his vows, for they are brokers,
 Not of that dye which their investments show,
 But mere implorators of unholy suits,
 Breathing like sanctified and pious bawds
140 The better to beguile. This is for all:
 I would not, in plain terms, from this time forth
 Have you so slander any moment leisure

49
Hamlet
ACT 1. SC. 4

 As to give words or talk with the Lord Hamlet.
 Look to ’t, I charge you. Come your ways.
OPHELIA 145I shall obey, my lord.
They exit.