Scene 12

From Hamlet OnLine
Jump to: navigation, search

Synopsis

In the King's Room, Claudius is giving R & G the paperwork for the trip to England when Gertrude runs in.

Claudius asks how Hamlet is. Gertrude reveals the death of Polonius, and defends Hamlet as mad (which means he's not legally responsible.) Claudius says he'll ship Hamlet away, to England, as soon as possible, and he tells R & G to find Hamlet and Polonius's body.

Characters

The Scene 12 Characters are: Claudius, Rosencrantz, Guildenstern, Gertrude.

Passage Links

Jump down to the Notes.

Dialogue

Scene 12      [ ~ Mad as the Sea and Wind ~ ]      (Act 4 Scene 1)

#12-Setting: Inside the Castle;
            The King's Room;
            Immediately after the previous Scene.

#12-000-SD  (Claudius, Rosencrantz, and Guildenstern enter;
            Gertrude enters)

#12-001  Claudius:  There's matter in these sighs, these profound heaves,
                        There's trouble associated with these gasps, these deep waves of breathing.
#12-002        You must translate; 'tis fit we understand them;
                        You must explain to me.  It's proper that I understand it.
#12-003        Where is your son?
                        Where is your son?
#12-004  Gertrude (to R. & G.):  Bestow this place on us a little while.
                        Leave us alone here for a while.

#12-004-SD  (Rosencrantz and Guildenstern exit)
   (Gertrude continues):
#12-005        Ah mine own Lord, what have I seen tonight?!
                        Oh my good Lord, what have I seen tonight?!
#12-006  Claudius:  What, Gertrude?  How does Hamlet?
                        What, Gertrude?  How is Hamlet?
#12-007  Gertrude:  Mad as the sea and wind when both contend
                        He's mad as a windstorm at sea, when both the sea and wind battle to decide
#12-008        Which is the mightier; in his lawless fit,
                        Which one is stronger.  In his unruly fit, and
#12-009        Behind the arras, hearing something stir,
                        Hearing something stir behind the arras, he
#12-010        Whips out his rapier, cries "a rat, a rat,"
                        Whipped out his rapier, cried "a rat, a rat,"
#12-011        And in this brainish apprehension kills
                        And under that hallucinatory misapprehension killed
#12-012        The unseen, good old man.
                        The concealed, good old man.
#12-013  Claudius:  Oh, heavy deed!
                        Oh, what a burdensome deed!
#12-014        It had been so with us, had we been there;
                        He would have killed me, if I was there.
#12-015        His liberty is full of threats to all,
                        His being at liberty poses a menace to us all:
#12-016        To you, yourself, to us, to everyone;
                        To you, yourself, to me, to everyone.
#12-017        Alas, how shall this bloody deed be answered?
                        Alas, how can I respond to this murderous deed?
#12-018        It will be laid to us, whose providence
                        It will be blamed on me, whose foresight
#12-019        Should have kept short, restrained, and out of haunt
                        Should have kept on a short leash, restrained, and out of circulation
#12-020        This mad young man; but so much was our love,
                        That mad young man, but my love for him was so great,
#12-021        We would not understand what was most fit,
                        I did not recognize what was the most fitting thing to do.
#12-022        But like the owner of a foul disease,
                        Instead, like the carrier of a foul disease -
#12-023        To keep it from divulging, let it feed
                        To keep it from being known - lets it spread
#12-024        Even on the pith of life.  Where is he gone?
                        Even into the vital organs of his body.  Where has he gone?
#12-025  Gertrude:  To draw apart the body he hath killed,
                        To take away the body of the man he has killed,
#12-026        O'er whom, his very madness, like some ore
                        Over whom, his madness - like some gold found
#12-027        Among a mineral of metals base,
                        Among a mineral deposit of less noble metals -
#12-028        Shows itself pure; he weeps for what is done.
                        Shows itself blameless; he weeps for what he has done.
#12-029  Claudius:  Oh, Gertrude, come away;
                        Oh, Gertrude, come away.
#12-030        The sun no sooner shall the mountains touch,
                        The sunlight will no sooner touch the mountaintops, this morning,
#12-031        But we will ship him hence, and this vile deed
                        But I will ship him away, and concerning his worthless deed,
#12-032        We must with all our majesty and skill           #12-032-SD1 (Claudius beckons to R. & G.,
                        I must, with all my kingly power and ability . . .     who are peeking in at the doorway)

#12-032-SD2  (Rosencrantz and Guildenstern enter)
   (Claudius continues):
#12-033        Both countenance and excuse.
                        Both put a good face on it, and pardon it.
#12-034    (to Rosencrantz):  Ho, Guildenstern,
                        Here, Guildenstern -
#12-035        Friends both; go join you with some further aid;
                        Both my friends - go and get some more help.
#12-036        Hamlet, in madness, hath Polonius slain,
                        Hamlet, in an act of madness, has slain Polonius,
#12-037        And from his mother's closet hath he 'dreg'd' him;
                        And has dragged the body out of his mother's parlor.
#12-038        Go seek him out, speak fair, and bring the body
                        Go and find Hamlet, speak pleasantly, and bring the body
#12-039        Into the Chapel; I pray you, haste in this;         #12-039-SD (R. and G. exit)
                        To me in the Chapel. Please act quickly in doing this.
#12-040        Come, Gertrude, we'll call up our wisest friends,
                        Come, Gertrude, we'll call upon our wisest friends,
#12-041        And let them know both what we mean to do
                        And inform them both of what I intend to do,
#12-042        And what's untimely done;
                        And about what's been unfortunately done -
#12-043        Whose whisper o'er the world's diameter,
                        So that gossip about it all around, (which could be
#12-044        As level as the cannon to his blank,
                        Leveled at me like a cannon fired point blank,
#12-045        Transports his poisoned shot, may miss our name,
                        Shooting deadly shot,) will miss my good name,
#12-046        And hit the woundless air; o come away,
                        And hit only the uninjured air.  Oh, come away;
#12-047        My soul is full of discord and dismay.
                        My soul is full of conflict and dismay.

#12-047-SD    (Claudius and Gertrude exit)

End of Scene 12

Scene Links

Go to: Scene 1 - Scene 2 - Scene 3 - Scene 4 - Scene 5 - Scene 6 - Scene 7 - Scene 8 - Scene 9 - Scene 10
Scene 11 - Scene 12 - Scene 13 - Scene 14 - Scene 15 - Scene 16 - Scene 17 - Scene 18 - Scene 19 - Scene 20


Notes

Jump up to the start of the Dialogue.

12-Setting
  • Place - The King's Room. We know this is the King's Room because of what Hamlet said in the previous Scene, what Claudius says in this Scene, and the fact of Claudius and R & G being here. The King's Room is the "neighbor room" to the Queen's Room.
  • Time of Day - No more than two minutes after Hamlet's exit at the end of the previous Scene.
  • Calendar Time -

Return: #Setting

12-000-SD

(Claudius, Rosencrantz, and Guildenstern enter; Gertrude enters)

Gertrude runs in, full tilt, expecting to find Hamlet here, with Polonius's body and under arrest. Instead, she finds Claudius at his desk, handing paperwork to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, but no Hamlet.

Return: #000-SD

12-001

Claudius: There's matter in these sighs, these profound heaves,

Return: #001

12-002

You must translate; 'tis fit we understand them;

Return: #002

12-003

Where is your son?

Return: #003

12-004

Gertrude (to R. & G.): Bestow this place on us a little while.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern have returned to the King's Room after packing for the trip to England as ordered by Claudius in Scene 10. (Scene 10#004) They are here to receive the paperwork for the trip, that Claudius also mentioned in Scene 10. (Scene 10#003) Their presence has stopped Hamlet from entering the King's Room with Polonius's body, and killing Claudius, but only Hamlet knows that.

Gertrude doesn't want R & G to hear what she has to say to Claudius.

Return: #004

12-004-SD

(Rosencrantz and Guildenstern exit) - but they don't go far. They're too curious. They obey the Queen, technically, but they stop just outside the door, so they can listen, and as the Scene proceeds they peek in occasionally while trying not to get caught doing it.

Return: #004-SD

12-005

Ah mine own Lord, what have I seen tonight?!

A rhetorical question. Gertrude, looking around and not seeing Hamlet, says this to herself.

Return: #005

12-006

Claudius: What, Gertrude? How does Hamlet?

Claudius easily concludes that Gertrude's behavior must have something to do with Hamlet.

Return: #006

12-007

Gertrude: Mad as the sea and wind when both contend

Return: #007

12-008

Which is the mightier; in his lawless fit,

lawless - wild; unruly.

fit - spell; outburst; paroxysm.

Return: #008

12-009

Behind the arras, hearing something stir,

Return: #009

12-010

Whips out his rapier, cries "a rat, a rat,"

Return: #010

12-011

And in this brainish apprehension kills

brainish - from within his brain; belonging to his brain. Hallucinatory. From 'brain' + '-ish' ("belonging to.") Gertrude means Hamlet reacted to something from within his brain, rather than in the real world. In other words, she means he hallucinated.

apprehension - actually a misapprehension, is what Gertrude means. Apprehension goes back to Latin 'apprehendere' ("to lay hold of," "to grasp," "to seize,") so it's another "seize" word in the play.

Gertrude believes Hamlet is so crazy he really did think he was killing a talking rat. After what she experienced in the previous Scene, she truly believes that about Hamlet. She is serious.

Return: #011

12-012

The unseen, good old man.

unseen - concealed (behind the arras, we know.)

Return: #012

12-013

Claudius: Oh, heavy deed!

In action, Claudius sags, as if a heavy weight has dropped on his back.

Return: #013

12-014

It had been so with us, had we been there;

Return: #014

12-015

His liberty is full of threats to all,

Return: #015

12-016

To you, yourself, to us, to everyone;

Return: #016

12-017

Alas, how shall this bloody deed be answered?

bloody deed - murder (Claudius supposes; actually it was an accident, and would probably be classed as involuntary manslaughter.)

answered - defended; legally rebutted. "Answer" goes back to Old English 'andswaru' = 'and-' ("against," as with 'ante') + '-swaru' ("affirmation,") from 'swerian' ("to swear,") so literally, "to swear against," implying that the original sense of "answer" had to do with making an affirmation against a charge. Whether Shakespeare knew the derivation or not, he used answered in the legal sense here, from Claudius.

Claudius is intent on sending Hamlet to England, so he is going to have to come up with some kind of defense for Hamlet, to get away with not imprisoning Hamlet in Denmark. Claudius makes it sound as if he is concerned with defending his adopted son, but the truth is quite otherwise. As events proceed, we will see that Claudius never does come up with a legal defense for Hamlet, but he does find a political excuse that he will express later to Laertes, in Scene 18.

Return: #017

12-018

It will be laid to us, whose providence

Return: #018

12-019

Should have kept short, restrained, and out of haunt

Return: #019

12-020

This mad young man; but so much was our love,

Return: #020

12-021

We would not understand what was most fit,

Return: #021

12-022

But like the owner of a foul disease,

Return: #022

12-023

To keep it from divulging, let it feed

Return: #023

12-024

Even on the pith of life. Where is he gone?

pith - essential part; core; heart. Essence. Old English 'pitha' ("essential part.") The Old English word was used figuratively, as well as literally.

Claudius feels that Hamlet is eating away at the essence of his life, that Hamlet is sapping his vitality. Claudius should probably play this with a hand over his heart, as if clutching at his heart.

Where is he gone? - Gertrude doesn't know, she thought Hamlet would be here.

Return: #024

12-025

Gertrude: To draw apart the body he hath killed,

draw apart - take away. All she can now say is that Hamlet has taken the body away. She doesn't realize she was right that Hamlet intended to bring Polonius here.

In the story of "Amleth" by Saxo Grammaticus, Amleth did, factually, "draw apart" the eavesdropper he slew. Amleth chopped up the body and fed it to the pigs. So there is a bit of waggishness in Shakespeare's draw apart phrasing.

Return: #025

12-026

O'er whom, his very madness, like some ore

like some ore - like a nugget of gold ore, is the idea. Gertrude is putting forward Hamlet's madness as a "golden defense" for him, like a nugget of gold found where you wouldn't expect it.

Return: #026

12-027

Among a mineral of metals base,

a mineral of metals base - a mineral deposit of base metals. Here, base means any metal other than gold or silver. (Platinum was yet to be identified in Shakespeare's time.)

With the metaphor, Gertrude is saying that in the "baseness" of Hamlet's act of killing Polonius, his madness, of which Gertrude is now certain, is a "golden" defense. She has spotted gold amongst the baseness. The mad, who know not what they do, are not culpable. Gertrude is presenting a legal defense for Hamlet.

Return: #027

12-028

Shows itself pure; he weeps for what is done.

pure - innocent; blameless. Not guilty. Gertrude is being Hamlet's lawyer, pleading him "not guilty" by reason of insanity.

he weeps - yes, Hamlet did weep, but not over the death of Polonius. He wept because of the Ghost, that Hamlet believes to be his father's spirit. Gertrude is telling the truth, as best she can figure it out. She did not see the Ghost, we know, so she accounts for Hamlet's behavior in other ways.

When Gertrude says Hamlet wept, she is arguing remorse, which is a significant legal point. Gertrude is a capable defense lawyer. Pleading insanity, and presenting evidence of remorse, should be a sound legal strategy in such a case.

Shows - Gertrude speaking of the "show" of Hamlet's madness is expressly an instance of the Putting on a Show Theme.

Return: #028

12-029

Claudius: Oh, Gertrude, come away;

Return: #029

12-030

The sun no sooner shall the mountains touch

mountains - mountain peaks. This is rhetorical, there are no mountain ranges nearby.

touch - with the first sunbeams of the dawn.

Claudius is speaking of a time no later than sunrise.

Return: #030

12-031

But we will ship him hence, and this vile deed

ship him - send him, by ship.

hence - from this place; away from here.

Return: #031

12-032

We must with all our majesty and skill

Return: #032

12-032-SD1

(Claudius beckons to R. & G., who are peeking in at the doorway)

Return: #032-SD1

12-032-SD2

(Rosencrantz and Guildenstern enter)

Return: #032-SD2

12-033

Both countenance and excuse.

Claudius means, "both face it, and pardon it," with reference to Hamlet's killing of Polonius.

However, with R. and G. having entered, and approaching, the line can be read as a reference to them. Countenance has an obsolete definition of "pretend," so a person of such countenance would be a pretender, and excuse can be understood as "sorry" (person,) that is, a person in need of an excuse. Shakespeare wrote this so that one can take it, facetiously, as Claudius saying, "here come a pretender and a sorry person."

Return: #033

12-034

(to Rosencrantz): Ho, Guildenstern,

Claudius still has them mixed up.

Return: #034

12-035

Friends both; go join you with some further aid;

further aid - whatever guards or servants they can scrounge at this time of night.

Return: #035

12-036

Hamlet, in madness, hath Polonius slain,

in madness - true only to the extent that rashness is mad. Hamlet was trying to scare Polonius, not kill him. Claudius doesn't know that. Claudius does not miss the opportunity to disparage Hamlet as mad.

Return: #036

12-037

And from his mother's closet hath he dreg'd him;

dred'd - dragged. I preserve the original spelling because it suggests "dregs," which can mean "remains," so that spelling may be intentional from Shakespeare, for a little wordplay in a line about Polonius's remains.

Return: #037

12-038

Go seek him out, speak fair, and bring the body

fair - in a moral way; in an unbiased way; in a suitable way.

Those definitions of fair were all available in Shakespeare's time, and any could apply here. Essentially, Claudius wants R. and G. to speak to Hamlet in a way that will persuade him, and that won't cause more trouble.

I use pleasantly in the paraphrase, which is another possibility. The adjective form of fair comes from Old English 'fæger' ("beautiful, lovely, pleasant.") Shakespeare's ambiguity, and multiplicity of meaning, should surprise nobody by this point in Hamlet.

Return: #038

12-039

Into the Chapel; I pray you, haste in this;

Into the Chapel - informs us that the next time we see Claudius he'll be in the Chapel.

Claudius will go to the Chapel to help receive Polonius's body, in proper religious style, and so he can "put on a show" of grief over Polonius with the other people there watching him.

Return: #039

12-039-SD

(R. and G. exit)

Full of self-importance, as they carry out this crucial task for the King.

Return: #039-SD

12-040

Come, Gertrude, we'll call up our wisest friends,

wisest - most inventive; most creative. Claudius hopes someone they know is inventive enough to find a way to make the death of Polonius seem irrelevant, or trivial, or unimportant, and thus not a problem for Claudius. (As we'll see later, Claudius will have no such luck.)

Claudius does not mean they're going to go calling on people immediately. It's the middle of the night, and Claudius has other things to do first. Claudius means they will, or at least he will, make it the first order of business tomorrow to try to get advice.

Return: #040

12-041

And let them know both what we mean to do

Which is to send Hamlet to England, as he already said. But how are people going to take that? Killers are always arrested, when they can be caught.

Return: #041

12-042

And what's untimely done;

untimely - Claudius makes it sound like he's speaking the cliche about a person's untimely death. But we can be sure his thoughts are on what bad timing it is in relation to him sending Hamlet to England. How is Claudius going to account for not imprisoning Hamlet, to stand trial for murder, but sending him out of the country instead? How is that going to look?

Return: #042

12-043

Whose whisper o'er the world's diameter,

whisper - refers to gossip, rumor. Same word Horatio used in Scene 1 when talking of what he'd heard about Fortinbrasse. (Scene 1#090)

o'er the world's diameter - across the whole community. The world is the human world, the people.

Return: #043

12-044

As level as the cannon to his blank,

blank - target. A cannon which is level when pointed at the target is at what we call "point blank" range. The target is close enough that no trajectory adjustment is needed, one simply points the cannon at the blank. "point blank" = just point at the blank.

Return: #044

12-045

Transports his poisoned shot, may miss our name,

Transports - literally, carries across. Shoots.

his - its.

poisoned - deadly. Lethal. When Claudius looks for a word meaning "deadly" he thinks of "poisoned." That is unusual, it is not the psychology of a normal person.

miss our name - not harm my good name; not harm my reputation. Our - King Claudius uses the "royal" plural pronoun.

Return: #045

12-046

And hit the woundless air; o come away,

woundless - never showing a wound; unable to be wounded; invulnerable.

Return: #046

12-047

My soul is full of discord and dismay.

discord - strife; conflict. Fighting. From the Latin, 'dis-' + 'cord-,' stem of 'cors' ("heart.") Could be paraphrased literally as "disheartenment."

dismay - agitation; perturbation; consternation. Means about what it does now, except perhaps with a bit more emphasis on fear. From Old French 'des-' + 'esmayer' ("to frighten.")

Return: #047

12-047-SD

(Claudius and Gertrude exit)

Gertrude is going back to her room to try to get some sleep. She needs it. She isn't going to the Chapel with Claudius. She's already done what she can do for Hamlet, and she doesn't want to look any more at a dead Polonius, after he lay there on the floor of her room for what seemed like a year.

Claudius is going to the Chapel, and making sure there's at least one armed guard with him. Hamlet is still on the loose, and he's killed somebody.

Return: #047-SD


Scene Links

Go to: Scene 1 - Scene 2 - Scene 3 - Scene 4 - Scene 5 - Scene 6 - Scene 7 - Scene 8 - Scene 9 - Scene 10
Scene 11 - Scene 12 - Scene 13 - Scene 14 - Scene 15 - Scene 16 - Scene 17 - Scene 18 - Scene 19 - Scene 20


© 2014 Jeffrey Paul Jordan

All rights reserved. See the Copyright page for further information.