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Hamlet
Act 2, scene 2

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


KING 
 Welcome, dear Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.
 Moreover that we much did long to see you,
 The need we have to use you did provoke
 Our hasty sending. Something have you heard
5 Of Hamlet’s transformation, so call it,
 Sith nor th’ exterior nor the inward man
 Resembles that it was. What it should be,
 More than his father’s death, that thus hath put him

83
Hamlet
ACT 2. SC. 2

 So much from th’ understanding of himself
10 I cannot dream of. I entreat you both
 That, being of so young days brought up with him
 And sith so neighbored to his youth and havior,
 That you vouchsafe your rest here in our court
 Some little time, so by your companies
15 To draw him on to pleasures, and to gather
 So much as from occasion you may glean,
 [Whether aught to us unknown afflicts him thus]
 That, opened, lies within our remedy.
QUEEN 
 Good gentlemen, he hath much talked of you,
20 And sure I am two men there is not living
 To whom he more adheres. If it will please you
 To show us so much gentry and goodwill
 As to expend your time with us awhile
 For the supply and profit of our hope,
25 Your visitation shall receive such thanks
 As fits a king’s remembrance.
ROSENCRANTZ  Both your Majesties
 Might, by the sovereign power you have of us,
 Put your dread pleasures more into command
30 Than to entreaty.
GUILDENSTERN  But we both obey,
 And here give up ourselves in the full bent
 To lay our service freely at your feet,
 To be commanded.
KING 
35 Thanks, Rosencrantz and gentle Guildenstern.
QUEEN 
 Thanks, Guildenstern and gentle Rosencrantz.
 And I beseech you instantly to visit
 My too much changèd son.—Go, some of you,
 And bring these gentlemen where Hamlet is.
GUILDENSTERN 
40 Heavens make our presence and our practices
 Pleasant and helpful to him!

85
Hamlet
ACT 2. SC. 2

QUEEN  Ay, amen!
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern exit
with some Attendants.


Enter Polonius.

POLONIUS 
 Th’ ambassadors from Norway, my good lord,
 Are joyfully returned.
KING 
45 Thou still hast been the father of good news.
POLONIUS 
 Have I, my lord? I assure my good liege
 I hold my duty as I hold my soul,
 Both to my God and to my gracious king,
 And I do think, or else this brain of mine
50 Hunts not the trail of policy so sure
 As it hath used to do, that I have found
 The very cause of Hamlet’s lunacy.
KING 
 O, speak of that! That do I long to hear.
POLONIUS 
 Give first admittance to th’ ambassadors.
55 My news shall be the fruit to that great feast.
KING 
 Thyself do grace to them and bring them in.
Polonius exits.
 He tells me, my dear Gertrude, he hath found
 The head and source of all your son’s distemper.
QUEEN 
 I doubt it is no other but the main—
60 His father’s death and our o’erhasty marriage.
KING 
 Well, we shall sift him.

Enter Ambassadors Voltemand and Cornelius with
Polonius.



87
Hamlet
ACT 2. SC. 2

 Welcome, my good friends.
 Say, Voltemand, what from our brother Norway?
VOLTEMAND 
 Most fair return of greetings and desires.
65 Upon our first, he sent out to suppress
 His nephew’s levies, which to him appeared
 To be a preparation ’gainst the Polack,
 But, better looked into, he truly found
 It was against your Highness. Whereat, grieved
70 That so his sickness, age, and impotence
 Was falsely borne in hand, sends out arrests
 On Fortinbras, which he, in brief, obeys,
 Receives rebuke from Norway, and, in fine,
 Makes vow before his uncle never more
75 To give th’ assay of arms against your Majesty.
 Whereon old Norway, overcome with joy,
 Gives him three-score thousand crowns in annual
 fee
 And his commission to employ those soldiers,
80 So levied as before, against the Polack,
 With an entreaty, herein further shown,
He gives a paper.
 That it might please you to give quiet pass
 Through your dominions for this enterprise,
 On such regards of safety and allowance
85 As therein are set down.
KING  It likes us well,
 And, at our more considered time, we’ll read,
 Answer, and think upon this business.
 Meantime, we thank you for your well-took labor.
90 Go to your rest. At night we’ll feast together.
 Most welcome home!
Voltemand and Cornelius exit.
POLONIUS  This business is well ended.
 My liege, and madam, to expostulate
 What majesty should be, what duty is,

89
Hamlet
ACT 2. SC. 2

95 Why day is day, night night, and time is time
 Were nothing but to waste night, day, and time.
 Therefore, since brevity is the soul of wit,
 And tediousness the limbs and outward flourishes,
 I will be brief. Your noble son is mad.
100 “Mad” call I it, for, to define true madness,
 What is ’t but to be nothing else but mad?
 But let that go.
QUEEN  More matter with less art.
POLONIUS 
 Madam, I swear I use no art at all.
105 That he’s mad, ’tis true; ’tis true ’tis pity,
 And pity ’tis ’tis true—a foolish figure,
 But farewell it, for I will use no art.
 Mad let us grant him then, and now remains
 That we find out the cause of this effect,
110 Or, rather say, the cause of this defect,
 For this effect defective comes by cause.
 Thus it remains, and the remainder thus.
 Perpend.
 I have a daughter (have while she is mine)
115 Who, in her duty and obedience, mark,
 Hath given me this. Now gather and surmise.
 He reads. To the celestial, and my soul’s idol, the
 most beautified Ophelia—

 That’s an ill phrase, a vile phrase; “beautified” is a
120 vile phrase. But you shall hear. Thus: He reads.
 In her excellent white bosom, these, etc.—

QUEEN Came this from Hamlet to her?
POLONIUS 
 Good madam, stay awhile. I will be faithful.
He reads the letter.
 Doubt thou the stars are fire,
125  Doubt that the sun doth move,
 Doubt truth to be a liar,
  But never doubt I love.


91
Hamlet
ACT 2. SC. 2

 O dear Ophelia, I am ill at these numbers. I have not
 art to reckon my groans, but that I love thee best, O
130 most best, believe it. Adieu.
 Thine evermore, most dear lady, whilst
 this machine is to him, Hamlet.

 This, in obedience, hath my daughter shown me,
 And more above, hath his solicitings,
135 As they fell out by time, by means, and place,
 All given to mine ear.
KING But how hath she received his love?
POLONIUS What do you think of me?
KING 
 As of a man faithful and honorable.
POLONIUS 
140 I would fain prove so. But what might you think,
 When I had seen this hot love on the wing
 (As I perceived it, I must tell you that,
 Before my daughter told me), what might you,
 Or my dear Majesty your queen here, think,
145 If I had played the desk or table-book
 Or given my heart a winking, mute and dumb,
 Or looked upon this love with idle sight?
 What might you think? No, I went round to work,
 And my young mistress thus I did bespeak:
150 “Lord Hamlet is a prince, out of thy star.
 This must not be.” And then I prescripts gave her,
 That she should lock herself from his resort,
 Admit no messengers, receive no tokens;
 Which done, she took the fruits of my advice,
155 And he, repelled (a short tale to make),
 Fell into a sadness, then into a fast,
 Thence to a watch, thence into a weakness,
 Thence to a lightness, and, by this declension,
 Into the madness wherein now he raves
160 And all we mourn for.
KING, to Queen  Do you think ’tis this?

93
Hamlet
ACT 2. SC. 2

QUEEN It may be, very like.
POLONIUS 
 Hath there been such a time (I would fain know
 that)
165 That I have positively said “’Tis so,”
 When it proved otherwise?
KING  Not that I know.
POLONIUS 
 Take this from this, if this be otherwise.
 If circumstances lead me, I will find
170 Where truth is hid, though it were hid, indeed,
 Within the center.
KING  How may we try it further?
POLONIUS 
 You know sometimes he walks four hours together
 Here in the lobby.
QUEEN 175 So he does indeed.
POLONIUS 
 At such a time I’ll loose my daughter to him.
 To the King. Be you and I behind an arras then.
 Mark the encounter. If he love her not,
 And be not from his reason fall’n thereon,
180 Let me be no assistant for a state,
 But keep a farm and carters.
KING  We will try it.

Enter Hamlet reading on a book.

QUEEN 
 But look where sadly the poor wretch comes
 reading.
POLONIUS 
185 Away, I do beseech you both, away.
 I’ll board him presently. O, give me leave.
King and Queen exit with Attendants.
 How does my good Lord Hamlet?
HAMLET Well, God-a-mercy.

95
Hamlet
ACT 2. SC. 2

POLONIUS Do you know me, my lord?
HAMLET 190Excellent well. You are a fishmonger.
POLONIUS Not I, my lord.
HAMLET Then I would you were so honest a man.
POLONIUS Honest, my lord?
HAMLET Ay, sir. To be honest, as this world goes, is to
195 be one man picked out of ten thousand.
POLONIUS That’s very true, my lord.
HAMLET For if the sun breed maggots in a dead
 dog, being a good kissing carrion—Have you a
 daughter?
POLONIUS 200I have, my lord.
HAMLET Let her not walk i’ th’ sun. Conception is a
 blessing, but, as your daughter may conceive,
 friend, look to ’t.
POLONIUS, aside How say you by that? Still harping on
205 my daughter. Yet he knew me not at first; he said I
 was a fishmonger. He is far gone. And truly, in my
 youth, I suffered much extremity for love, very near
 this. I’ll speak to him again.—What do you read, my
 lord?
HAMLET 210Words, words, words.
POLONIUS What is the matter, my lord?
HAMLET Between who?
POLONIUS I mean the matter that you read, my lord.
HAMLET Slanders, sir; for the satirical rogue says here
215 that old men have gray beards, that their faces are
 wrinkled, their eyes purging thick amber and
 plum-tree gum, and that they have a plentiful lack of
 wit, together with most weak hams; all which, sir,
 though I most powerfully and potently believe, yet I
220 hold it not honesty to have it thus set down; for
 yourself, sir, shall grow old as I am, if, like a crab,
 you could go backward.
POLONIUS, aside Though this be madness, yet there is
 method in ’t.—Will you walk out of the air, my lord?

97
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ACT 2. SC. 2

HAMLET 225Into my grave?
POLONIUS Indeed, that’s out of the air. Aside. How
 pregnant sometimes his replies are! A happiness
 that often madness hits on, which reason and
 sanity could not so prosperously be delivered of. I
230 will leave him and suddenly contrive the means of
 meeting between him and my daughter.—My lord,
 I will take my leave of you.
HAMLET You cannot, sir, take from me anything that I
 will more willingly part withal—except my life,
235 except my life, except my life.
POLONIUS Fare you well, my lord.
HAMLET, aside These tedious old fools.

Enter Guildenstern and Rosencrantz.

POLONIUS You go to seek the Lord Hamlet. There he is.
ROSENCRANTZ, to Polonius God save you, sir.
Polonius exits.
GUILDENSTERN 240My honored lord.
ROSENCRANTZ My most dear lord.
HAMLET My excellent good friends! How dost thou,
 Guildenstern? Ah, Rosencrantz! Good lads, how do
 you both?
ROSENCRANTZ 
245 As the indifferent children of the earth.
GUILDENSTERN 
 Happy in that we are not overhappy.
 On Fortune’s cap, we are not the very button.
HAMLET Nor the soles of her shoe?
ROSENCRANTZ Neither, my lord.
HAMLET 250Then you live about her waist, or in the
 middle of her favors?
GUILDENSTERN Faith, her privates we.
HAMLET In the secret parts of Fortune? O, most true!
 She is a strumpet. What news?
ROSENCRANTZ 255None, my lord, but that the world’s
 grown honest.

99
Hamlet
ACT 2. SC. 2

HAMLET Then is doomsday near. But your news is not
 true. Let me question more in particular. What
 have you, my good friends, deserved at the hands of
260 Fortune that she sends you to prison hither?
GUILDENSTERN Prison, my lord?
HAMLET Denmark’s a prison.
ROSENCRANTZ Then is the world one.
HAMLET A goodly one, in which there are many confines,
265 wards, and dungeons, Denmark being one o’
 th’ worst.
ROSENCRANTZ We think not so, my lord.
HAMLET Why, then, ’tis none to you, for there is
 nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it
270 so. To me, it is a prison.
ROSENCRANTZ Why, then, your ambition makes it one.
 ’Tis too narrow for your mind.
HAMLET O God, I could be bounded in a nutshell and
 count myself a king of infinite space, were it not
275 that I have bad dreams.
GUILDENSTERN Which dreams, indeed, are ambition,
 for the very substance of the ambitious is merely
 the shadow of a dream.
HAMLET A dream itself is but a shadow.
ROSENCRANTZ 280Truly, and I hold ambition of so airy
 and light a quality that it is but a shadow’s shadow.
HAMLET Then are our beggars bodies, and our monarchs
 and outstretched heroes the beggars’ shadows.
 Shall we to th’ court? For, by my fay, I cannot
285 reason.
ROSENCRANTZ/GUILDENSTERN We’ll wait upon you.
HAMLET No such matter. I will not sort you with the
 rest of my servants, for, to speak to you like an
 honest man, I am most dreadfully attended. But,
290 in the beaten way of friendship, what make you at
 Elsinore?
ROSENCRANTZ To visit you, my lord, no other occasion.

101
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ACT 2. SC. 2

HAMLET Beggar that I am, I am even poor in thanks;
 but I thank you, and sure, dear friends, my thanks
295 are too dear a halfpenny. Were you not sent for?
 Is it your own inclining? Is it a free visitation?
 Come, come, deal justly with me. Come, come; nay,
 speak.
GUILDENSTERN What should we say, my lord?
HAMLET 300Anything but to th’ purpose. You were sent
 for, and there is a kind of confession in your looks
 which your modesties have not craft enough to
 color. I know the good king and queen have sent for
 you.
ROSENCRANTZ 305To what end, my lord?
HAMLET That you must teach me. But let me conjure
 you by the rights of our fellowship, by the consonancy
 of our youth, by the obligation of our ever-preserved
 love, and by what more dear a better
310 proposer can charge you withal: be even and direct
 with me whether you were sent for or no.
ROSENCRANTZ, to Guildenstern What say you?
HAMLET, aside Nay, then, I have an eye of you.—If
 you love me, hold not off.
GUILDENSTERN 315My lord, we were sent for.
HAMLET I will tell you why; so shall my anticipation
 prevent your discovery, and your secrecy to the
 King and Queen molt no feather. I have of late, but
 wherefore I know not, lost all my mirth, forgone all
320 custom of exercises, and, indeed, it goes so heavily
 with my disposition that this goodly frame, the
 Earth, seems to me a sterile promontory; this most
 excellent canopy, the air, look you, this brave o’erhanging
 firmament, this majestical roof, fretted
325 with golden fire—why, it appeareth nothing to me
 but a foul and pestilent congregation of vapors.
 What a piece of work is a man, how noble in
 reason, how infinite in faculties, in form and moving

103
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ACT 2. SC. 2

 how express and admirable; in action how like
330 an angel, in apprehension how like a god: the
 beauty of the world, the paragon of animals—and
 yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust? Man
 delights not me, no, nor women neither, though by
 your smiling you seem to say so.
ROSENCRANTZ 335My lord, there was no such stuff in my
 thoughts.
HAMLET Why did you laugh, then, when I said “man
 delights not me”?
ROSENCRANTZ To think, my lord, if you delight not in
340 man, what Lenten entertainment the players shall
 receive from you. We coted them on the way, and
 hither are they coming to offer you service.
HAMLET He that plays the king shall be welcome—his
 Majesty shall have tribute on me. The adventurous
345 knight shall use his foil and target, the lover shall
 not sigh gratis, the humorous man shall end his
 part in peace, the clown shall make those laugh
 whose lungs are tickle o’ th’ sear, and the lady
 shall say her mind freely, or the blank verse shall
350 halt for ’t. What players are they?
ROSENCRANTZ Even those you were wont to take such
 delight in, the tragedians of the city.
HAMLET How chances it they travel? Their residence,
 both in reputation and profit, was better both ways.
ROSENCRANTZ 355I think their inhibition comes by the
 means of the late innovation.
HAMLET Do they hold the same estimation they did
 when I was in the city? Are they so followed?
ROSENCRANTZ No, indeed are they not.
HAMLET 360How comes it? Do they grow rusty?
ROSENCRANTZ Nay, their endeavor keeps in the wonted
 pace. But there is, sir, an aerie of children, little
 eyases, that cry out on the top of question and are
 most tyrannically clapped for ’t. These are now the

105
Hamlet
ACT 2. SC. 2

365 fashion and so berattle the common stages (so
 they call them) that many wearing rapiers are afraid
 of goose quills and dare scarce come thither.
HAMLET What, are they children? Who maintains ’em?
 How are they escoted? Will they pursue the quality
370 no longer than they can sing? Will they not say
 afterwards, if they should grow themselves to common
 players (as it is most like, if their means are
 no better), their writers do them wrong to make
 them exclaim against their own succession?
ROSENCRANTZ 375Faith, there has been much to-do on
 both sides, and the nation holds it no sin to tar
 them to controversy. There was for a while no
 money bid for argument unless the poet and the
 player went to cuffs in the question.
HAMLET 380Is ’t possible?
GUILDENSTERN O, there has been much throwing
 about of brains.
HAMLET Do the boys carry it away?
ROSENCRANTZ Ay, that they do, my lord—Hercules
385 and his load too.
HAMLET It is not very strange; for my uncle is King of
 Denmark, and those that would make mouths at
 him while my father lived give twenty, forty, fifty,
 a hundred ducats apiece for his picture in little.
390 ’Sblood, there is something in this more than natural,
 if philosophy could find it out.
A flourish for the Players.
GUILDENSTERN There are the players.
HAMLET Gentlemen, you are welcome to Elsinore.
 Your hands, come then. Th’ appurtenance of welcome
395 is fashion and ceremony. Let me comply
 with you in this garb, lest my extent to the players,
 which, I tell you, must show fairly outwards, should
 more appear like entertainment than yours. You are
 welcome. But my uncle-father and aunt-mother are
400 deceived.

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Hamlet
ACT 2. SC. 2

GUILDENSTERN In what, my dear lord?
HAMLET I am but mad north-north-west. When the
 wind is southerly, I know a hawk from a handsaw.

Enter Polonius.

POLONIUS Well be with you, gentlemen.
HAMLET 405Hark you, Guildenstern, and you too—at
 each ear a hearer! That great baby you see there is
 not yet out of his swaddling clouts.
ROSENCRANTZ Haply he is the second time come to
 them, for they say an old man is twice a child.
HAMLET 410I will prophesy he comes to tell me of the
 players; mark it.—You say right, sir, a Monday
 morning, ’twas then indeed.
POLONIUS My lord, I have news to tell you.
HAMLET My lord, I have news to tell you: when Roscius
415 was an actor in Rome—
POLONIUS The actors are come hither, my lord.
HAMLET Buzz, buzz.
POLONIUS Upon my honor—
HAMLET Then came each actor on his ass.
POLONIUS 420The 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
425 Plautus too light. For the law of writ and the liberty,
 these are the only men.
HAMLET O Jephthah, judge of Israel, what a treasure
 hadst thou!
POLONIUS What a treasure had he, my lord?
HAMLET 430Why,
 One fair daughter, and no more,
 The which he lovèd passing well.

POLONIUS, aside Still on my daughter.
HAMLET Am I not i’ th’ right, old Jephthah?

109
Hamlet
ACT 2. SC. 2

POLONIUS 435If you call me “Jephthah,” my lord: I have a
 daughter that I love passing well.
HAMLET Nay, that follows not.
POLONIUS What follows then, my lord?
HAMLET Why,
440 As by lot, God wot

 and then, you know,
 It came to pass, as most like it was—

 the first row of the pious chanson will show you
 more, for look where my abridgment comes.

Enter the Players.

445 You are welcome, masters; welcome all.—I am glad
 to see thee well.—Welcome, good friends.—O my
 old friend! Why, thy face is valanced since I saw thee
 last. Com’st thou to beard me in Denmark?—What,
 my young lady and mistress! By ’r Lady, your Ladyship
450 is nearer to heaven than when I saw you last, by
 the altitude of a chopine. Pray God your voice, like a
 piece of uncurrent gold, be not cracked within the
 ring. Masters, you are all welcome. We’ll e’en to ’t
 like French falconers, fly at anything we see. We’ll
455 have a speech straight. Come, give us a taste of your
 quality. Come, a passionate speech.
FIRST PLAYER What speech, my good lord?
HAMLET I heard thee speak me a speech once, but it
 was never acted, or, if it was, not above once; for
460 the play, I remember, pleased not the million:
 ’twas caviary to the general. But it was (as I
 received it, and others whose judgments in such
 matters cried in the top of mine) an excellent play,
 well digested in the scenes, set down with as much
465 modesty as cunning. I remember one said there
 were no sallets in the lines to make the matter
 savory, nor no matter in the phrase that might indict
 the author of affection, but called it an honest

111
Hamlet
ACT 2. SC. 2

 method, [as wholesome as sweet and, by very much,
470 more handsome than fine.] One speech in ’t I
 chiefly loved. ’Twas Aeneas’ tale to Dido, and
 thereabout of it especially when he speaks of
 Priam’s slaughter. If it live in your memory, begin at
 this line—let me see, let me see:
475 The rugged Pyrrhus, like th’ Hyrcanian beast—

 ’tis not so; it begins with Pyrrhus:
 The rugged Pyrrhus, he whose sable arms,
 Black as his purpose, did the night resemble
 When he lay couchèd in th’ ominous horse,
480 Hath now this dread and black complexion smeared
 With heraldry more dismal. Head to foot,
 Now is he total gules, horridly tricked
 With blood of fathers, mothers, daughters, sons,
 Baked and impasted with the parching streets,
485 That lend a tyrannous and a damnèd light
 To their lord’s murder. Roasted in wrath and fire,
 And thus o’ersizèd with coagulate gore,
 With eyes like carbuncles, the hellish Pyrrhus
 Old grandsire Priam seeks.

490 So, proceed you.
POLONIUS ’Fore God, my lord, well spoken, with good
 accent and good discretion.
FIRST PLAYER  Anon he finds him
 Striking too short at Greeks. His antique sword,
495 Rebellious to his arm, lies where it falls,
 Repugnant to command. Unequal matched,
 Pyrrhus at Priam drives, in rage strikes wide;
 But with the whiff and wind of his fell sword
 Th’ unnervèd father falls. Then senseless Ilium,
500 Seeming to feel this blow, with flaming top
 Stoops to his base, and with a hideous crash
 Takes prisoner Pyrrhus’ ear. For lo, his sword,
 Which was declining on the milky head
 Of reverend Priam, seemed i’ th’ air to stick.

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505 So as a painted tyrant Pyrrhus stood
 And, like a neutral to his will and matter,
 Did nothing.
 But as we often see against some storm
 A silence in the heavens, the rack stand still,
510 The bold winds speechless, and the orb below
 As hush as death, anon the dreadful thunder
 Doth rend the region; so, after Pyrrhus’ pause,
 Arousèd vengeance sets him new a-work,
 And never did the Cyclops’ hammers fall
515 On Mars’s armor, forged for proof eterne,
 With less remorse than Pyrrhus’ bleeding sword
 Now falls on Priam.
 Out, out, thou strumpet Fortune! All you gods
 In general synod take away her power,
520 Break all the spokes and fellies from her wheel,
 And bowl the round nave down the hill of heaven
 As low as to the fiends!

POLONIUS This is too long.
HAMLET It shall to the barber’s with your beard.—
525 Prithee say on. He’s for a jig or a tale of bawdry, or
 he sleeps. Say on; come to Hecuba.
FIRST PLAYER 
 But who, ah woe, had seen the moblèd queen—

HAMLET “The moblèd queen”?
POLONIUS That’s good. Moblèd queen” is good.
FIRST PLAYER 
530 Run barefoot up and down, threat’ning the flames
 With bisson rheum, a clout upon that head
 Where late the diadem stood, and for a robe,
 About her lank and all o’erteemèd loins
 A blanket, in the alarm of fear caught up—
535 Who this had seen, with tongue in venom steeped,
 ’Gainst Fortune’s state would treason have
 pronounced.
 But if the gods themselves did see her then

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 When she saw Pyrrhus make malicious sport
540 In mincing with his sword her husband’s limbs,
 The instant burst of clamor that she made
 (Unless things mortal move them not at all)
 Would have made milch the burning eyes of heaven
 And passion in the gods.

POLONIUS 545Look whe’er he has not turned his color and
 has tears in ’s eyes. Prithee, no more.
HAMLET ’Tis well. I’ll have thee speak out the rest of
 this soon.—Good my lord, will you see the players
 well bestowed? Do you hear, let them be well used,
550 for they are the abstract and brief chronicles of the
 time. After your death you were better have a bad
 epitaph than their ill report while you live.
POLONIUS My lord, I will use them according to their
 desert.
HAMLET 555God’s bodykins, man, much better! Use every
 man after his desert and who shall ’scape
 whipping? Use them after your own honor and
 dignity. The less they deserve, the more merit is in
 your bounty. Take them in.
POLONIUS 560Come, sirs.
HAMLET Follow him, friends. We’ll hear a play
 tomorrow. As Polonius and Players exit, Hamlet speaks to
 the First Player.
 
Dost thou hear me, old friend? Can
 you play The Murder of Gonzago?
FIRST PLAYER 565Ay, my lord.
HAMLET We’ll ha ’t tomorrow night. You could, for a
 need, study a speech of some dozen or sixteen
 lines, which I would set down and insert in ’t,
 could you not?
FIRST PLAYER 570Ay, my lord.
HAMLET Very well. Follow that lord—and look you
 mock him not. First Player exits. My good friends,
 I’ll leave you till night. You are welcome to Elsinore.
ROSENCRANTZ Good my lord.

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HAMLET 
575 Ay, so, good-bye to you.
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern exit.
 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,
580 Could force his soul so to his own conceit
 That from her working all his visage wanned,
 Tears in his eyes, distraction in his aspect,
 A broken voice, and his whole function suiting
 With forms to his conceit—and all for nothing!
585 For Hecuba!
 What’s Hecuba to him, or he to Hecuba,
 That he should weep for her? What would he do
 Had he the motive and the cue for passion
 That I have? He would drown the stage with tears
590 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,
 A dull and muddy-mettled rascal, peak
595 Like John-a-dreams, unpregnant of my cause,
 And can say nothing—no, not for a king
 Upon whose property and most dear life
 A damned defeat was made. Am I a coward?
 Who calls me “villain”? breaks my pate across?
600 Plucks off my beard and blows it in my face?
 Tweaks me by the nose? gives me the lie i’ th’ throat
 As deep as to the lungs? Who does me this?
 Ha! ’Swounds, I should take it! For it cannot be
 But I am pigeon-livered and lack gall
605 To make oppression bitter, or ere this
 I should have fatted all the region kites
 With this slave’s offal. Bloody, bawdy villain!
 Remorseless, treacherous, lecherous, kindless
 villain!

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610 O vengeance!
 Why, what an ass am I! This is most brave,
 That I, the son of a dear father murdered,
 Prompted to my revenge by heaven and hell,
 Must, like a whore, unpack my heart with words
615 And fall a-cursing like a very drab,
 A stallion! Fie upon ’t! Foh!
 About, my brains!—Hum, I have heard
 That guilty creatures sitting at a play
 Have, by the very cunning of the scene,
620 Been struck so to the soul that presently
 They have proclaimed their malefactions;
 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
625 Before mine uncle. I’ll observe his looks;
 I’ll tent him to the quick. If he do blench,
 I know my course. The spirit that I have seen
 May be a devil, and the devil hath power
 T’ assume a pleasing shape; yea, and perhaps,
630 Out of my weakness and my melancholy,
 As he is very potent with such spirits,
 Abuses me to damn me. I’ll have grounds
 More relative than this. The play’s the thing
 Wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the King.
He exits.