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Hamlet
Act 4, scene 7

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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 7
Enter King and Laertes.

KING 
 Now must your conscience my acquittance seal,
 And you must put me in your heart for friend,
 Sith you have heard, and with a knowing ear,
 That he which hath your noble father slain
5 Pursued my life.
LAERTES  It well appears. But tell me
 Why you proceeded not against these feats,
 So criminal and so capital in nature,
 As by your safety, greatness, wisdom, all things else,
10 You mainly were stirred up.
KING O, for two special reasons,
 Which may to you perhaps seem much unsinewed,
 But yet to me they’re strong. The Queen his mother
 Lives almost by his looks, and for myself
15 (My virtue or my plague, be it either which),
 She is so conjunctive to my life and soul
 That, as the star moves not but in his sphere,
 I could not but by her. The other motive
 Why to a public count I might not go
20 Is the great love the general gender bear him,
 Who, dipping all his faults in their affection,
 Work like the spring that turneth wood to stone,
 Convert his gyves to graces, so that my arrows,
 Too slightly timbered for so loud a wind,
25 Would have reverted to my bow again,
 But not where I have aimed them.
LAERTES 
 And so have I a noble father lost,

225
Hamlet
ACT 4. SC. 7

 A sister driven into desp’rate terms,
 Whose worth, if praises may go back again,
30 Stood challenger on mount of all the age
 For her perfections. But my revenge will come.
KING 
 Break not your sleeps for that. You must not think
 That we are made of stuff so flat and dull
 That we can let our beard be shook with danger
35 And think it pastime. You shortly shall hear more.
 I loved your father, and we love ourself,
 And that, I hope, will teach you to imagine—

Enter a Messenger with letters.

 How now? What news?
MESSENGER  Letters, my lord, from
40 Hamlet.
 These to your Majesty, this to the Queen.
KING From Hamlet? Who brought them?
MESSENGER 
 Sailors, my lord, they say. I saw them not.
 They were given me by Claudio. He received them
45 [Of him that brought them.]
KING  Laertes, you shall hear
 them.—
 Leave us.Messenger exits.
 Reads. High and mighty, you shall know I am set
50 naked on your kingdom. Tomorrow shall I beg leave to
 see your kingly eyes, when I shall (first asking your
 pardon) thereunto recount the occasion of my sudden
 and more strange return. Hamlet.

 What should this mean? Are all the rest come back?
55 Or is it some abuse and no such thing?
LAERTES Know you the hand?
KING ’Tis Hamlet’s character. “Naked”—
 And in a postscript here, he says “alone.”
 Can you advise me?

227
Hamlet
ACT 4. SC. 7

LAERTES 
60 I am lost in it, my lord. But let him come.
 It warms the very sickness in my heart
 That I shall live and tell him to his teeth
 “Thus didst thou.”
KING  If it be so, Laertes
65 (As how should it be so? how otherwise?),
 Will you be ruled by me?
LAERTES  Ay, my lord,
 So you will not o’errule me to a peace.
KING 
 To thine own peace. If he be now returned,
70 As checking at his voyage, and that he means
 No more to undertake it, I will work him
 To an exploit, now ripe in my device,
 Under the which he shall not choose but fall;
 And for his death no wind of blame shall breathe,
75 But even his mother shall uncharge the practice
 And call it accident.
[LAERTES My lord, I will be ruled,
 The rather if you could devise it so
 That I might be the organ.
KING 80 It falls right.
 You have been talked of since your travel much,
 And that in Hamlet’s hearing, for a quality
 Wherein they say you shine. Your sum of parts
 Did not together pluck such envy from him
85 As did that one, and that, in my regard,
 Of the unworthiest siege.
LAERTES What part is that, my lord?
KING 
 A very ribbon in the cap of youth—
 Yet needful too, for youth no less becomes
90 The light and careless livery that it wears
 Than settled age his sables and his weeds,
 Importing health and graveness.] Two months since

229
Hamlet
ACT 4. SC. 7

 Here was a gentleman of Normandy.
 I have seen myself, and served against, the French,
95 And they can well on horseback, but this gallant
 Had witchcraft in ’t. He grew unto his seat,
 And to such wondrous doing brought his horse
 As had he been encorpsed and demi-natured
 With the brave beast. So far he topped my thought
100 That I in forgery of shapes and tricks
 Come short of what he did.
LAERTES  A Norman was ’t?
KING A Norman.
LAERTES 
 Upon my life, Lamord.
KING 105 The very same.
LAERTES 
 I know him well. He is the brooch indeed
 And gem of all the nation.
KING He made confession of you
 And gave you such a masterly report
110 For art and exercise in your defense,
 And for your rapier most especial,
 That he cried out ’twould be a sight indeed
 If one could match you. [The ’scrimers of their
 nation
115 He swore had neither motion, guard, nor eye,
 If you opposed them.] Sir, this report of his
 Did Hamlet so envenom with his envy
 That he could nothing do but wish and beg
 Your sudden coming-o’er, to play with you.
120 Now out of this—
LAERTES  What out of this, my lord?
KING 
 Laertes, was your father dear to you?
 Or are you like the painting of a sorrow,
 A face without a heart?
LAERTES 125 Why ask you this?

231
Hamlet
ACT 4. SC. 7

KING 
 Not that I think you did not love your father,
 But that I know love is begun by time
 And that I see, in passages of proof,
 Time qualifies the spark and fire of it.
130 [There lives within the very flame of love
 A kind of wick or snuff that will abate it,
 And nothing is at a like goodness still;
 For goodness, growing to a pleurisy,
 Dies in his own too-much. That we would do
135 We should do when we would; for this “would”
 changes
 And hath abatements and delays as many
 As there are tongues, are hands, are accidents;
 And then this “should” is like a spendthrift sigh,
140 That hurts by easing. But to the quick of th’ ulcer:]
 Hamlet comes back; what would you undertake
 To show yourself indeed your father’s son
 More than in words?
LAERTES  To cut his throat i’ th’ church.
KING 
145 No place indeed should murder sanctuarize;
 Revenge should have no bounds. But, good Laertes,
 Will you do this? Keep close within your chamber.
 Hamlet, returned, shall know you are come home.
 We’ll put on those shall praise your excellence
150 And set a double varnish on the fame
 The Frenchman gave you; bring you, in fine,
 together
 And wager on your heads. He, being remiss,
 Most generous, and free from all contriving,
155 Will not peruse the foils, so that with ease,
 Or with a little shuffling, you may choose
 A sword unbated, and in a pass of practice
 Requite him for your father.

233
Hamlet
ACT 4. SC. 7

LAERTES  I will do ’t,
160 And for that purpose I’ll anoint my sword.
 I bought an unction of a mountebank
 So mortal that, but dip a knife in it,
 Where it draws blood no cataplasm so rare,
 Collected from all simples that have virtue
165 Under the moon, can save the thing from death
 That is but scratched withal. I’ll touch my point
 With this contagion, that, if I gall him slightly,
 It may be death.
KING  Let’s further think of this,
170 Weigh what convenience both of time and means
 May fit us to our shape. If this should fail,
 And that our drift look through our bad
 performance,
 ’Twere better not assayed. Therefore this project
175 Should have a back or second that might hold
 If this did blast in proof. Soft, let me see.
 We’ll make a solemn wager on your cunnings—
 I ha ’t!
 When in your motion you are hot and dry
180 (As make your bouts more violent to that end)
 And that he calls for drink, I’ll have prepared
 him
 A chalice for the nonce, whereon but sipping,
 If he by chance escape your venomed stuck,
185 Our purpose may hold there.—But stay, what
 noise?

Enter Queen.

QUEEN 
 One woe doth tread upon another’s heel,
 So fast they follow. Your sister’s drowned, Laertes.
LAERTES Drowned? O, where?
QUEEN 
190 There is a willow grows askant the brook

235
Hamlet
ACT 4. SC. 7

 That shows his hoar leaves in the glassy stream.
 Therewith fantastic garlands did she make
 Of crowflowers, nettles, daisies, and long purples,
 That liberal shepherds give a grosser name,
195 But our cold maids do “dead men’s fingers” call
 them.
 There on the pendant boughs her coronet weeds
 Clamb’ring to hang, an envious sliver broke,
 When down her weedy trophies and herself
200 Fell in the weeping brook. Her clothes spread wide,
 And mermaid-like awhile they bore her up,
 Which time she chanted snatches of old lauds,
 As one incapable of her own distress
 Or like a creature native and endued
205 Unto that element. But long it could not be
 Till that her garments, heavy with their drink,
 Pulled the poor wretch from her melodious lay
 To muddy death.
LAERTES  Alas, then she is drowned.
QUEEN 210Drowned, drowned.
LAERTES 
 Too much of water hast thou, poor Ophelia,
 And therefore I forbid my tears. But yet
 It is our trick; nature her custom holds,
 Let shame say what it will. When these are gone,
215 The woman will be out.—Adieu, my lord.
 I have a speech o’ fire that fain would blaze,
 But that this folly drowns it.He exits.
KING  Let’s follow, Gertrude.
 How much I had to do to calm his rage!
220 Now fear I this will give it start again.
 Therefore, let’s follow.
They exit.