List iconHamletList icon

Hamlet
Act 3, scene 4

Synopsis:

Contents

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…

Include links to:

Images
Glosses
Audio
Video
Essays
Quill icon
Scene 4
Enter Queen and Polonius.

POLONIUS 
 He will come straight. Look you lay home to him.
 Tell him his pranks have been too broad to bear
 with
 And that your Grace hath screened and stood
5 between
 Much heat and him. I’ll silence me even here.
 Pray you, be round with him.
HAMLET, within Mother, mother, mother!
QUEEN I’ll warrant you. Fear me not. Withdraw,
10 I hear him coming.
Polonius hides behind the arras.

Enter Hamlet.

HAMLET Now, mother, what’s the matter?
QUEEN 
 Hamlet, thou hast thy father much offended.
HAMLET 
 Mother, you have my father much offended.

171
Hamlet
ACT 3. SC. 4

QUEEN 
 Come, come, you answer with an idle tongue.
HAMLET 
15 Go, go, you question with a wicked tongue.
QUEEN 
 Why, how now, Hamlet?
HAMLET  What’s the matter now?
QUEEN 
 Have you forgot me?
HAMLET  No, by the rood, not so.
20 You are the Queen, your husband’s brother’s wife,
 And (would it were not so) you are my mother.
QUEEN 
 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
25 Where you may see the inmost part of you.
QUEEN 
 What wilt thou do? Thou wilt not murder me?
 Help, ho!
POLONIUS, behind the arras What ho! Help!
HAMLET 
 How now, a rat? Dead for a ducat, dead.
He kills Polonius by thrusting a rapier
through the arras.

POLONIUS, behind the arras 
30 O, I am slain!
QUEEN  O me, what hast thou done?
HAMLET Nay, I know not. Is it the King?
QUEEN 
 O, what a rash and bloody deed is this!
HAMLET 
 A bloody deed—almost as bad, good mother,
35 As kill a king and marry with his brother.
QUEEN 
 As kill a king?

173
Hamlet
ACT 3. SC. 4

HAMLET  Ay, lady, it was my word.
He pulls Polonius’ body from behind the arras.
 Thou wretched, rash, intruding fool, farewell.
 I took thee for thy better. Take thy fortune.
40 Thou find’st to be too busy is some danger.
 To Queen. Leave wringing of your hands. Peace, sit
 you down,
 And let me wring your heart; for so I shall
 If it be made of penetrable stuff,
45 If damnèd custom have not brazed it so
 That it be proof and bulwark against sense.
QUEEN 
 What have I done, that thou dar’st wag thy tongue
 In noise so rude against me?
HAMLET  Such an act
50 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 vows
 As false as dicers’ oaths—O, such a deed
55 As from the body of contraction plucks
 The very soul, and sweet religion makes
 A rhapsody of words! Heaven’s face does glow
 O’er this solidity and compound mass
 With heated visage, as against the doom,
60 Is thought-sick at the act.
QUEEN  Ay me, what act
 That roars so loud and thunders in the index?
HAMLET 
 Look here upon this picture and on this,
 The counterfeit presentment of two brothers.
65 See what a grace was seated on this brow,
 Hyperion’s curls, the front of Jove himself,
 An eye like Mars’ to threaten and command,
 A station like the herald Mercury
 New-lighted on a heaven-kissing hill,

175
Hamlet
ACT 3. SC. 4

70 A combination and a form indeed
 Where every god did seem to set his seal
 To give the world assurance of a man.
 This was your husband. Look you now what follows.
 Here is your husband, like a mildewed ear
75 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?
 You cannot call it love, for at your age
 The heyday in the blood is tame, it’s humble
80 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
 Is apoplexed; for madness would not err,
 Nor sense to ecstasy was ne’er so thralled,
85 But it reserved some quantity of choice
 To serve in such a difference.] What devil was ’t
 That thus hath cozened you at hoodman-blind?
 [Eyes without feeling, feeling without sight,
 Ears without hands or eyes, smelling sans all,
90 Or but a sickly part of one true sense
 Could not so mope.] O shame, where is thy blush?
 Rebellious hell,
 If thou canst mutine in a matron’s bones,
 To flaming youth let virtue be as wax
95 And melt in her own fire. Proclaim no shame
 When the compulsive ardor gives the charge,
 Since frost itself as actively doth burn,
 And reason panders will.
QUEEN O Hamlet, speak no more!
100 Thou turn’st my eyes into my very soul,
 And there I see such black and grainèd spots
 As will not leave their tinct.
HAMLET  Nay, but to live
 In the rank sweat of an enseamèd bed,
105 Stewed in corruption, honeying and making love
 Over the nasty sty!

177
Hamlet
ACT 3. SC. 4

QUEEN O, speak to me no more!
 These words like daggers enter in my ears.
 No more, sweet Hamlet!
HAMLET 110 A murderer and a villain,
 A slave that is not twentieth part the tithe
 Of your precedent lord; a vice of kings,
 A cutpurse of the empire and the rule,
 That from a shelf the precious diadem stole
115 And put it in his pocket—
QUEEN No more!
HAMLET A king of shreds and patches—

Enter Ghost.

 Save me and hover o’er me with your wings,
 You heavenly guards!—What would your gracious
120 figure?
QUEEN Alas, he’s mad.
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?
125 O, say!
GHOST  Do not forget. This visitation
 Is but to whet thy almost blunted purpose.
 But look, amazement on thy mother sits.
 O, step between her and her fighting soul.
130 Conceit in weakest bodies strongest works.
 Speak to her, Hamlet.
HAMLET  How is it with you, lady?
QUEEN Alas, how is ’t with you,
 That you do bend your eye on vacancy
135 And with th’ incorporal air do hold discourse?
 Forth at your eyes your spirits wildly peep,
 And, as the sleeping soldiers in th’ alarm,
 Your bedded hair, like life in excrements,
 Start up and stand an end. O gentle son,

179
Hamlet
ACT 3. SC. 4

140 Upon the heat and flame of thy distemper
 Sprinkle cool patience! Whereon do you look?
HAMLET 
 On him, on him! Look you how pale he glares.
 His form and cause conjoined, preaching to stones,
 Would make them capable. To the Ghost. Do not
145 look upon me,
 Lest with this piteous action you convert
 My stern effects. Then what I have to do
 Will want true color—tears perchance for blood.
QUEEN To whom do you speak this?
HAMLET 150Do you see nothing there?
QUEEN 
 Nothing at all; yet all that is I see.
HAMLET Nor did you nothing hear?
QUEEN No, nothing but ourselves.
HAMLET 
 Why, look you there, look how it steals away!
155 My father, in his habit as he lived!
 Look where he goes even now out at the portal!
Ghost exits.
QUEEN 
 This is the very coinage of your brain.
 This bodiless creation ecstasy
 Is very cunning in.
HAMLET 160 Ecstasy?
 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
165 Would gambol from. Mother, for love of grace,
 Lay not that flattering unction to your soul
 That not your trespass but my madness speaks.
 It will but skin and film the ulcerous place,
 Whiles rank corruption, mining all within,
170 Infects unseen. Confess yourself to heaven,

181
Hamlet
ACT 3. SC. 4

 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,
175 Virtue itself of vice must pardon beg,
 Yea, curb and woo for leave to do him good.
QUEEN 
 O Hamlet, thou hast cleft my heart in twain!
HAMLET 
 O, throw away the worser part of it,
 And live the purer with the other half!
180 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 devil, is angel yet in this,
 That to the use of actions fair and good
185 He likewise gives a frock or livery
 That aptly is put on.] Refrain tonight,
 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
190 And either  the devil or throw him out
 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
Pointing to Polonius.
 I do repent; but heaven hath pleased it so
195 To punish me with this and this with me,
 That I must be their scourge and minister.
 I will bestow him and will answer well
 The death I gave him. So, again, good night.
 I must be cruel only to be kind.
200 This bad begins, and worse remains behind.
 [One word more, good lady.]
QUEEN  What shall I do?

183
Hamlet
ACT 3. SC. 4

HAMLET 
 Not this by no means that I bid you do:
 Let the bloat king tempt you again to bed,
205 Pinch wanton on your cheek, call you his mouse,
 And let him, for a pair of reechy kisses
 Or paddling in your neck with his damned fingers,
 Make you to ravel all this matter out
 That I essentially am not in madness,
210 But mad in craft. ’Twere good you let him know,
 For who that’s but a queen, fair, sober, wise,
 Would from a paddock, from a bat, a gib,
 Such dear concernings hide? Who would do so?
 No, in despite of sense and secrecy,
215 Unpeg the basket on the house’s top,
 Let the birds fly, and like the famous ape,
 To try conclusions, in the basket creep
 And break your own neck down.
QUEEN 
 Be thou assured, if words be made of breath
220 And breath of life, I have no life to breathe
 What thou hast said to me.
HAMLET 
 I must to England, you know that.
QUEEN  Alack,
 I had forgot! ’Tis so concluded on.
HAMLET 
225 [There’s letters sealed; and my two schoolfellows,
 Whom I will trust as I will adders fanged,
 They bear the mandate; they must sweep my way
 And marshal me to knavery. Let it work,
 For ’tis the sport to have the enginer
230 Hoist with his own petard; and ’t shall go hard
 But I will delve one yard below their mines
 And blow them at the moon. O, ’tis most sweet
 When in one line two crafts directly meet.]
 This man shall set me packing.

185
Hamlet
ACT 3. SC. 4

235 I’ll lug the guts into the neighbor room.
 Mother, good night indeed. This counselor
 Is now most still, most secret, and most grave,
 Who was in life a foolish prating knave.—
 Come, sir, to draw toward an end with you.—
240 Good night, mother.
They exit, Hamlet tugging in Polonius.