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Hamlet
Act 3, 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 King, Rosencrantz, and Guildenstern.

KING 
 I like him not, nor stands it safe with us
 To let his madness range. Therefore prepare you.
 I your commission will forthwith dispatch,
 And he to England shall along with you.
5 The terms of our estate may not endure
 Hazard so near ’s as doth hourly grow
 Out of his brows.
GUILDENSTERN  We will ourselves provide.
 Most holy and religious fear it is
10 To keep those many many bodies safe
 That live and feed upon your Majesty.
ROSENCRANTZ 
 The single and peculiar life is bound
 With all the strength and armor of the mind
 To keep itself from noyance, but much more
15 That spirit upon whose weal depends and rests
 The lives of many. The cess of majesty
 Dies not alone, but like a gulf doth draw
 What’s near it with it; or it is a massy wheel
 Fixed on the summit of the highest mount,
20 To whose huge spokes ten thousand lesser things
 Are mortised and adjoined, which, when it falls,
 Each small annexment, petty consequence,
 Attends the boist’rous ruin. Never alone
 Did the king sigh, but with a general groan.
KING 
25 Arm you, I pray you, to this speedy voyage,
 For we will fetters put about this fear,
 Which now goes too free-footed.
ROSENCRANTZ  We will haste us.
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern exit.

Enter Polonius.


165
Hamlet
ACT 3. SC. 3

POLONIUS 
 My lord, he’s going to his mother’s closet.
30 Behind the arras I’ll convey myself
 To hear the process. I’ll warrant she’ll tax him
 home;
 And, as you said (and wisely was it said),
 ’Tis meet that some more audience than a mother,
35 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.
KING  Thanks, dear my lord.
Polonius exits.
40 O, my offense is rank, it smells to heaven;
 It hath the primal eldest curse upon ’t,
 A brother’s murder. Pray can I not,
 Though inclination be as sharp as will.
 My stronger guilt defeats my strong intent,
45 And, like a man to double business bound,
 I stand in pause where I shall first begin
 And both neglect. What if this cursèd hand
 Were thicker than itself with brother’s blood?
 Is there not rain enough in the sweet heavens
50 To wash it white as snow? Whereto serves mercy
 But to confront the visage of offense?
 And what’s in prayer but this twofold force,
 To be forestallèd ere we come to fall,
 Or pardoned being down? Then I’ll look up.
55 My fault is past. But, 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.
60 May one be pardoned and retain th’ offense?
 In the corrupted currents of this world,
 Offense’s gilded hand may shove by justice,

167
Hamlet
ACT 3. SC. 3

 And oft ’tis seen the wicked prize itself
 Buys out the law. But ’tis not so above:
65 There is no shuffling; there the action lies
 In his true nature, and we ourselves compelled,
 Even to the teeth and forehead of our faults,
 To give in evidence. What then? What rests?
 Try what repentance can. What can it not?
70 Yet what can it, when one cannot repent?
 O wretched state! O bosom black as death!
 O limèd soul, that, struggling to be free,
 Art more engaged! Help, angels! Make assay.
 Bow, stubborn knees, and heart with strings of steel
75 Be soft as sinews of the newborn babe.
 All may be well.He kneels.

Enter Hamlet.

HAMLET 
 Now might I do it pat, now he is a-praying,
 And now I’ll do ’t.He draws his sword.
 And so he goes to heaven,
80 And so am I revenged. That would be scanned:
 A villain kills my father, and for that,
 I, his sole son, do this same villain send
 To heaven.
 Why, this is hire and salary, not revenge.
85 He took my father grossly, full of bread,
 With all his crimes broad blown, as flush as May;
 And how his audit stands who knows save heaven.
 But in our circumstance and course of thought
 ’Tis heavy with him. And am I then revenged
90 To take him in the purging of his soul,
 When he is fit and seasoned for his passage?
 No.
 Up sword, and know thou a more horrid hent.
He sheathes his sword.
 When he is drunk asleep, or in his rage,

169
Hamlet
ACT 3. SC. 4

95 Or in th’ incestuous pleasure of his bed,
 At game, a-swearing, or about some act
 That has no relish of salvation in ’t—
 Then trip him, that his heels may kick at heaven,
 And that his soul may be as damned and black
100 As hell, whereto it goes. My mother stays.
 This physic but prolongs thy sickly days.
Hamlet exits.
KING, rising 
 My words fly up, my thoughts remain below;
 Words without thoughts never to heaven go.
He exits.