Scene II

[Elsinore. A room in the Castle.]

[Flourish. Enter King, Queen, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, and attendants.]

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
Of Hamlet's transformation—so call it,(5)
Sith nor the exterior nor the inward man
Resembles that it was. What it should be,
More than his father's death, that thus hath put him
So much from the understanding of himself,
I cannot dream of. I entreat you both(10)
That, being of so young days brought up with him,
And sith so neighbour'd to his youth and haviour,
That you vouchsafe your rest here in our court
Some little time; so by your companies
To draw him on to pleasures, and to gather(15)
So much as from occasion you may glean,
Whether aught to us unknown afflicts him thus
That open'd lies within our remedy.
Good gentlemen, he hath much talk'd of you,
And sure I am two men there are not living(20)
To whom he more adheres. If it will please you
To show us so much gentry and good will
As to expend your time with us awhile
For the supply and profit of our hope,
Your visitation shall receive such thanks(25)
As fits a king's remembrance.
Both your Majesties
Might, by the sovereign power you have of us,
Put your dread pleasures more into command
Than to entreaty.(30)
But we both obey,
And here give up ourselves, in the full bent,
To lay our service freely at your feet,
To be commanded.
Thanks, Rosencrantz and gentle Guildenstern.(35)
Thanks, Guildenstern and gentle Rosencrantz.
And I beseech you instantly to visit
My too much changed son. Go, some of you,
And bring these gentlemen where Hamlet is.
Heavens make our presence and our practices(40)
Pleasant and helpful to him!
Ay, amen!

Exeunt Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.

Enter Polonius.

The ambassadors from Norway, my good lord,
Are joyfully return'd.
Thou still hast been the father of good news.(45)
Have I, my lord? Assure you, 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
Hunts not the trail of policy so sure(50)
As it hath used to do, that I have found
The very cause of Hamlet's lunacy.
O, speak of that! That do I long to hear.
Give first admittance to the ambassadors.
My news shall be the fruit to that great feast.(55)
Thyself do grace to them, and bring them in.

[Exit Polonius.]

He tells me, my dear Gertrude, he hath found
The head and source of all your son's distemper.
I doubt it is no other but the main,
His father's death and our o'erhasty marriage.(60)
Well, we shall sift him.

Enter [Polonius, Voltimand, and Cornelius, Ambassadors.]

Welcome, my good friends.
Say, Voltimand, what from our brother Norway?
Most fair return of greetings and desires.
Upon our first, he sent out to suppress(65)
His nephew's levies; which to him appear'd
To be a preparation 'gainst the Polack,
But better look'd into, he truly found
It was against your Highness; whereat griev'd,
That so his sickness, age, and impotence(70)
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
To give the assay of arms against your Majesty.(75)
Whereon old Norway, overcome with joy,
Gives him three thousand crowns in annual fee
And his commission to employ those soldiers,
So levied as before, against the Polack;
With an entreaty, herein further shown,(80)
That it might please you to give quiet pass
Through your dominions for this enterprise,
On such regards of safety and allowance
As therein are set down.
It likes us well;(85)
And at our more consider'd time we'll read,
Answer, and think upon this business.
Meantime we thank you for your well-took labour.
Go to your rest; at night we'll feast together.
Most welcome home!(90)

Exeunt Ambassadors.

This business is well ended.
My liege, and madam, to expostulate
What majesty should be, what duty is,
Why day is day, night night, and time is time.
Were nothing but to waste night, day, and time.(95)
Therefore, since brevity is the soul of wit
And tediousness the limbs and outward flourishes,
I will be brief. Your noble son is mad.
Mad call I it; for, to define true madness,
What is't but to be nothing else but mad?(100)
But let that go.
More matter, with less art.
Madam, I swear I use no art at all.
That he is mad, 'tis true: 'tis true 'tis pity;
And pity 'tis 'tis true—a foolish figure!(105)
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
Or rather say, the cause of this defect,
For this effect defective comes by cause.(110)
Thus it remains, and the remainder thus.
I have a daughter—have while she is mine—
Who in her duty and obedience, mark,
Hath given me this. Now gather, and surmise.(115)

[The Letter.]

To the celestial, and my soul's idol, the most beautified Ophelia—
That's an ill phrase, a vile phrase; ‘beautified’ is a vile
But you shall hear.


Thus in her excellent white bosom, these, &c.(120)
Came this from Hamlet to her?
Good madam, stay awhile. I will be faithful.

[Reads.] Letter.

Doubt thou the stars are fire;
Doubt that the sun doth move;
Doubt truth to be a liar;(125)
But never doubt I love.
O dear Ophelia, I am ill at these numbers; I have not art to reckon
my groans. But that I love thee best, O 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;(130)
And more above, hath his solicitings,
As they fell out by time, by means, and place,
All given to mine ear.
But how hath she
Receiv'd his love?(135)
What do you think of me?
As of a man faithful and honourable.
I would fain prove so. But what might you think,
When I had seen this hot love on the wing—
As I perceiv'd it, I must tell you that,(140)
Before my daughter told me—what might you,
Or my dear Majesty your queen here, think,
If I had play'd the desk or table-book,
Or given my heart a winking, mute and dumb,
Or look'd upon this love with idle sight?(145)
What might you think? No, I went round to work
And my young mistress thus I did bespeak:
‘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,(150)
Admit no messengers, receive no tokens.
Which done, she took the fruits of my advice,
And he, repellèd—a short tale to make—
Fell into a sadness, then into a fast,
Thence to a watch, thence into a weakness,(155)
Thence to a lightness, and, by this declension,
Into the madness wherein now he raves,
And all we mourn for.
Do you think 'tis this?
It may be, very like.(160)
Hath there been such a time—I would fain know
That I have positively said ‘'tis so,’
When it proved otherwise?
Not that I know.(165)
Take this from this, if this be otherwise.
If circumstances lead me, I will find
Where truth is hid, though it were hid indeed
Within the centre.
How may we try it further?(170)
You know, sometimes he walks four hours together
Here in the lobby.
So he does indeed.
At such a time I'll loose my daughter to him.
Be you and I behind an arras then;(175)
Mark the encounter. If he love her not,
And he not from his reason fall'n thereon
Let me be no assistant for a state,
But keep a farm and carters.
We will try it.(180)

Enter Hamlet [reading on a book.]

But look where sadly the poor wretch comes reading.
Away, I do beseech you both, away.

Exeunt King and Queen.

I'll board him presently. O, give me leave.
How does my good Lord Hamlet?
Well, God-a-mercy.(185)
Do you know me, my lord?
Excellent well. You are a fishmonger.
Not I, my lord.
Then I would you were so honest a man.
Honest, my lord?(190)
Ay, sir. To be honest, as this world goes, is to be one
man picked out of ten thousand.
That's very true, my lord.
For if the sun breed maggots in a dead dog, being a
good kissing carrion—Have you a daughter?(195)
I have, my lord.
Let her not walk i' th' sun. Conception is a blessing,
but not as your daughter may conceive. Friend, look to't.
How say you by that? Still harping on my daughter.
Yet he knew me not at first. He said I was a fishmonger.(200)
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?
Words, words, words.
What is the matter, my lord?(205)
Between who?
I mean, the matter that you read, my lord.
Slanders, sir; for the satirical rogue says here that old
men have grey beards; that their faces are wrinkled; their
eyes purging thick amber and plum-tree gum; and that they(210)
have a plentiful lack of wit, together with most weak hams.
All which, sir, though I most powerfully and potently
believe, yet I hold it not honesty to have it thus set down;
for you yourself, sir, shall grow old as I am if, if like a crab,
you could go backward.(215)
Though this be madness, yet there is a method
Will you walk out of the air, my lord?
Into my grave?
Indeed, that is out of the air. [Aside.] How pregnant(220)
sometimes his replies are! a happiness that often madness
hits on, which reason and sanity could not so prosperously
be delivered of. I will leave him and suddenly contrive the
means of meeting between him and my daughter.— My hon-
ourable lord, I will most humbly take my leave of you.(225)
You cannot, sir, take from me anything that I will
more willingly part withal—except my life, except my life,
except my life.

Enter Guildenstern and Rosencrantz.

Fare you well, my lord.
These tedious old fools!(230)
You go to seek the Lord Hamlet. There he is.
God save you, sir!

[Exit Polonius.]

My honoured lord!
My most dear lord!
My excellent good friends! How dost thou,
Guildenstern? Ah, Rosencrantz! Good lads, how do ye
As the indifferent children of the earth.(235)
Happy, in that we are not over-happy.
On Fortune's cap we are not the very button.
Nor the soles of her shoe?
Neither, my lord.
Then you live about her waist, or in the middle of her(240)
Faith, her privates we.
In the secret parts of Fortune? O! most true! she is a
strumpet. What news?
None, my lord, but that the world's grown(245)
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 Fortune that she sends you
to prison hither?(250)
Prison, my lord?
Denmark's a prison.
Then is the world one.
A goodly one; in which there are many confines,
wards, and dungeons, Denmark being one o' the worst.(255)
We think not so, my lord.
Why, then 'tis none to you; for there is nothing either
good or bad but thinking makes it so. To me it is a prison.
Why, then your ambition makes it one. 'tis too
narrow for your mind.(260)
O God, I could be bounded in a nutshell and count
myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad
Which dreams indeed are ambition; for the
very substance of the ambitious is merely the shadow of a(265)
A dream itself is but a shadow.
Truly, and I hold ambition of so airy and light
a quality that it is but a shadow's shadow.
Then are our beggars bodies, and our monarchs and(270)
outstretched heroes the beggars' shadows. Shall we to the
court? For, by my fay, I cannot reason.
We'll wait upon you.
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(275)
most dreadfully attended. But in the beaten way of friend-
ship, what make you at Elsinore?
To visit you, my lord; no other occasion.
Beggar that I am, I am even poor in thanks; but I
thank you; And sure, dear friends, my thanks are too dear(280)
a halfpenny. Were you not sent for? Is it your own inclin-
ing? Is it a free visitation? Come, deal justly with me.
Come, come! Nay, speak.
What should we say, my lord?
Why, anything, but to the purpose. You were sent(285)
for; and there is a kind of confession in your looks, which
your modesties have not craft enough to colour. I know the
good King and Queen have sent for you.
To what end, my lord?
That you must teach me. But let me conjure you by the(290)
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 proposer could charge you withal, be even and
direct with me, whether you were sent for or no.
What say you?(295)
Nay then, I have an eye of you.—If you love me, hold
not off.
My lord, we were sent for.
I will tell you why. So shall my anticipation prevent
your discovery, and your secrecy to the King and Queen(300)
moult no feather. I have of late—but wherefore I know not—
lost all my mirth, forgone all 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(305)
firmament, this majestical roof fretted with golden fire,
why, it appears no other thing to me than a foul and pestilent
congregation of vapours. What a piece of work is a man! how
noble in reason! how infinite in faculty! in form and moving
how express and admirable! in action how like an angel! in(310)
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 woman nei-
ther, though by your smiling you seem to say so.
My lord, there was no such stuff in my thoughts.(315)
Why did you laugh then, when I said man delights not
To think, my lord, if you delight not in man,
what lenten entertainment the players shall receive from
you. We coted them on the way, and hither are they com-(320)
ing to offer you service.
He that plays the king shall be welcome; his Majesty
shall have tribute of me. The adventurous 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(325)
make those laugh whose lungs are tickle o' the sere; and the
lady shall say her mind freely, or the blank verse shall halt
for't. What players are they?
Even those you were wont to take such delight
in, the tragedians of the city.(330)
How chances it they travel? Their residence, both in
reputation and profit, was better both ways.
I think their inhibition comes by the means of
the late innovation.
Do they hold the same estimation they did when I(335)
was in the city? Are they so followed?
No, indeed, are they not.
How comes it? Do they grow rusty?
Nay, their endeavour keeps in the wonted pace;
but there is, sir, an eyrie of children, little eyases, that(340)
cry out on the top of question and are most tyrannically
clapped for't. These are now the fashion, and so berattle the
common stages—so they call them—that many wearing
rapiers are afraid of goose-quills and dare scarce come
What, are they children? Who maintains 'em? How
are they escoted? Will they pursue the quality 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(350)
wrong to make them exclaim against their own succession?
Faith, there has been much to do on both sides;
and the nation holds it no sin to tarre them to controver-
sy. There was, for a while, no money bid for argument
unless the poet and the player went to cuffs in the question.(355)
Is't possible?
O, there has been much throwing about of
Do the boys carry it away?
Ay, that they do, my lord, Hercules and his load(360)
It is not very strange; for my uncle is King of
Denmark, and those that would make mows at him while
my father lived give twenty, forty, fifty, a hundred ducats
apiece for his picture in little. 'Sblood, there is something(365)
in this more than natural, if philosophy could find it out.

Flourish [for the Players.]

There are the players.
Gentlemen, you are welcome to Elsinore. Your
hands, come! Then appurtenance of welcome is fashion
and ceremony. Let me comply with you in this garb, lest my(370)
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 deceived.
In what, my dear lord?(375)
I am but mad north-north-west. When the wind is
southerly I know a hawk from a handsaw.

Enter Polonius.

Well be with you, gentlemen!
Hark you, Guildenstern, and you too—at each ear a
That great baby you see there is not yet out of his swaddling
Happily he's the second time come to them; for
they say an old man is twice a child.
I will prophesy he comes to tell me of the players.(385)
Mark it. You say right, sir; o' Monday morning; 'twas so
My lord, I have news to tell you.
My lord, I have news to tell you. When Roscius was
an actor in Rome—(390)
The actors are come hither, my lord.
Buzz, buzz!
Upon my honour—
Then came each actor on his ass—
The best actors in the world, either for tragedy, comedy,(395)
history, pastoral, pastoral-comical, historical-pastoral,
tragical-historical, tragical-comical-historical-pastoral; scene
individable, or poem unlimited. Seneca cannot be too
heavy, nor Plautus too light. For the law of writ and the liberty,
these are the only men.(400)
O Jephthah, judge of Israel, what a treasure hadst
What treasure had he, my lord?
‘One fair daughter, and no more,(405)
The which he loved passing well.’
Still on my daughter.
Am I not i' the right, old Jephthah?
If you call me Jephthah, my lord, I have a daughter
that I love passing well.
Nay, that follows not.(410)
What follows then, my lord?
As by lot, God wot,
and then, you know,
It came to pass, as most like it was.—(415)
The first row of the pious chanson will show you more;
for look where my abridgment comes.

Enter [four or five] Players.

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'(420)
beard me in Denmark? What, my young lady and mistress?
By'r lady, your ladyship 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.(425)
We'll e'en to't like French falconers, fly at any thing we see.
We'll have a speech straight. Come, give us a taste of your
quality. Come, a passionate speech.
What speech, my good lord?
I heard thee speak me a speech once, but it was never(430)
acted; or if it was, not above once; for 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 mod-(435)
esty as cunning. I remember one said there were no sal-
lets in the lines to make the matter savoury, nor no mat-
ter in the phrase that might indict the author of affecta-
tion; but called it an honest method, as wholesome as
sweet, and by very much more handsome than fine. One(440)
speech in't I chiefly loved; 'twas Æneas' tale to Dido, and
thereabout of it especially where he speaks of Priam's
slaughter. If it live in your memory, begin at this line—let
me see, let me see—
The rugged Pyrrhus, like th' Hyrcanian beast—(445)
'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 couched in the ominous horse,
Hath now this dread and black complexion smear'd(450)
With heraldry more dismal. Head to foot
Now is he total gules, horridly trick'd
With blood of fathers, mothers, daughters, sons.
Baked and impasted with the parching streets,
That lend a tyrannous and a damned light(455)
To their lord's murder. Roasted in wrath and fire,
And thus o'er-sized with coagulate gore,
With eyes like carbuncles, the hellish Pyrrhus
Old grandsire Priam seeks.
So, proceed you.(460)
'Fore God, my lord, well spoken, with good accent
and good discretion.
'Anon he finds him,
Striking too short at Greeks. His antique sword,
Rebellious to his arm, lies where it falls,(465)
Repugnant to command. Unequal match'd,
Pyrrhus at Priam drives, in rage strikes wide;
But with the whiff and wind of his fell sword
The unnerved father falls. Then senseless Ilium,
Seeming to feel this blow, with flaming top(470)
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, seem'd i' the air to stick.
So, as a painted tyrant, Pyrrhus stood,(475)
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,
The bold winds speechless, and the orb below(480)
As hush as death—anon the dreadful thunder
Doth rend the region; so, after Pyrrhus' pause,
Aroused vengeance sets him new a-work;
And never did the Cyclops' hammers fall
On Mars's armour, forged for proof eterne,(485)
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;
Break all the spokes and fellies from her wheel,(490)
And bowl the round nave down the hill of heaven,
As low as to the fiends!
This is too long.
It shall to the barber's, with your beard. Prithee say
on. He's for a jig or a tale of bawdry, or he sleeps. Say on;(495)
come to Hecuba.
But who, O who, had seen the mobled queen—
‘The mobled queen’?
That's good! ‘mobled queen’ is good.
Run barefoot up and down, threatening the flames(500)
With bisson rheum; a clout upon that head
Where late the diadem stood, and for a robe,
About her lank and all o'erteemed loins,
A blanket, in the alarm of fear caught up—
Who this had seen, with tongue in venom steep'd(505)
'Gainst Fortune's state would treason have pronounced.
But if the gods themselves did see her then,
When she saw Pyrrhus make malicious sport
In mincing with his sword her husband's limbs,
The instant burst of clamour that she made(510)
Unless things mortal move them not at all
Would have made milch the burning eyes of heaven
And passion in the gods.
Look, whether he has not turned his colour, and
has tears in's eyes. Prithee no more!(515)
'tis well. I'll have thee speak out the rest of this
soon. Good my lord, will you see the players well
bestow'd? Do you hear? Let them be well used; for they
are the abstract and brief chronicles of the time. After
your death you were better have a bad epitaph than their(520)
ill report while you live.
My lord, I will use them according to their
God's bodykins, man, much better! Use every
man after his desert, and who shall 'scape whipping? Use(525)
them after your own honour and dignity. The less they
deserve, the more merit is in your bounty. Take them in.
Come, sirs.
Follow him, friends. We'll hear a play to-morrow.

Exeunt Polonius and all the Players.

Dost thou hear me, old friend? Can you play ‘The Murder of(530)
Ay, my lord.
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?(535)
Ay, my lord.
Very well. Follow that lord, and look you mock him
not. My good friends, I'll leave you till night. You are wel-
come to Elsinore.
Good my lord!(540)

Exeunt [Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.]

Ay, so, God be wi' ye!
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,(545)
Could force his soul so to his own conceit
That from her working all his visage wann'd,
Tears in his eyes, distraction in's aspect,
A broken voice, and his whole function suiting
With forms to his conceit? And all for nothing!(550)
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(555)
And cleave the general ear with horrid speech;
Make mad the guilty and appal the free,
Confound the ignorant, and amaze indeed
The very faculties of eyes and ears.
Yet I,(560)
A dull and muddy-mettled rascal, peak
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 damn'd defeat was made. Am I a coward?(565)
Who calls me villain? breaks my pate across?
Plucks off my beard and blows it in my face?
Tweaks me by the nose? gives me the lie i' the throat,
As deep as to the lungs? Who does me this? Ha!
Ha! 'Swounds, I should take it! for it cannot be(570)
But I am pigeon-liver'd and lack gall
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!(575)
O, vengeance!
Why, what an ass am I! This is most brave,
That I, the son of a dear father murder'd,
Prompted to my revenge by heaven and hell,
Must, like a whore, unpack my heart with words(580)
And fall a-cursing like a very drab,
A scullion! Fie upon't! Foh!
About, my brain! Hum, I have heard
That guilty creatures, sitting at a play,
Have by the very cunning of the scene(585)
Been struck so to the soul that presently
They have proclaim'd 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(590)
Before mine uncle. I'll observe his looks;
I'll tent him to the quick. If he but 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(595)
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.(600)



Scene I


Scene I