Scene 18

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Synopsis

In the King's Room, Claudius mentions how he's explained his innocence in the death of Polonius, and asserts he has a claim on Laertes's friendship.

A messenger delivers the letters from Hamlet, to Claudius's astonishment. Laertes speaks of revenge against Hamlet. Claudius and Laertes conspire to kill Hamlet at a fencing match.

Gertrude enters, and announces that Ophelia is dead. Laertes departs, weeping, and Claudius and Gertrude follow him out.

Characters

The Scene 18 Characters are: Claudius, Laertes, messenger, Gertrude.

Passage Links

Messenger entry #037-SD, Gertrude entry #174-SD2

Jump down to the Notes.


Dialogue

Scene 18      [ ~ There Is a Willow ~ ]      (Act 4 Scene 7)

#18-Setting: Inside the Castle;
            The King's Room;
            Nightfall.

#18-000-SD  (Claudius and Laertes enter)

#18-001  Claudius:  Now must your conscience my acquittance seal,
                        Now your conscience must finally absolve me,
#18-002        And you must put me in your heart for friend,
                        And you must admit me into your heart as your friend,
#18-003        Sith you have heard and with a knowing ear,
                        Because you have heard, and with a perceptive ear,
#18-004        That he which hath your noble father slain
                        That he who has killed your noble father
#18-005        Pursued my life.
                        Was trying to kill me.
#18-006  Laertes:  It well appears: but tell me
                        It very well looks that way.  But tell me,
#18-007        Why you proceed not against these feats
                        Why you don't proceed legally against these deeds, that are
#18-008        So crimeful and so capital in nature,
                        So criminal and so murderous in their nature,
#18-009        As by your safety, greatness, wisdom, all things else
                        Since, because of your own safety, your rule, your judgment, and everything else,
#18-010        You mainly were stirred up.
                        You should have been strongly motivated.
#18-011  Claudius:  Oh, for two special reasons
                        Oh . . . for two especially important reasons,
#18-012        Which may to you perhaps seem much unsinewed,
                        Which, perhaps, may seem very feeble to you,
#18-013        But yet to me they're strong; the Queen, his mother
                        But yet, to me they're strong:  the Queen, his mother,
#18-014        Lives almost by his looks, and for myself,
                        Dotes on him, and in relation to myself -
#18-015        My virtue or my plague, be it either which,
                        Whether it's my blessing or my curse, whichever -
#18-016        She is so conjunctive to my life and soul,
                        She is so connected to my life and soul
#18-017        That as the star moves not but in his sphere
                        That, the way a planet has to move only in its orbit,
#18-018        I could not but by her; the other motive,
                        I could not get by without her.  The other reason,
#18-019        Why to a public count I might not go,
                        Why I can't plead my case to the people and win,
#18-020        Is the great love the general gender bear him,
                        Is the great love people in general have for him,
#18-021        Who, dipping all his faults in their affection,
                        Who, downplaying all his faults in their affection for him,
#18-022        Work like the spring that turneth wood to stone:
                        Work like the magic spring that turns wood to stone:
#18-023        Convert his gyves to graces, so that my arrows,
                        It would turn his shackles into favors, so that my arrows of accusation
#18-024        Too slightly timbered for so loved, armed,
                        Too lightly built to penetrate such an armor of love,
#18-025        Would have reverted to my bow again,
                        Would have ricocheted back on me again,
#18-026        But not where I have aimed them.
                        Instead of sticking where I aimed them.
#18-027  Laertes:  And so have I a noble father lost,
                        And so I've lost a noble father, and I have
#18-028        A sister driven into desperate terms,
                        A sister driven into hopeless extremities,
#18-029        Whose worth, if praises may go back again
                        Whose value - if I may praise the way she used to be -
#18-030        Stood challenger on mount of all the age
                        Stood, on a pedestal, to rival any of this era,
#18-031        For her perfections, but my revenge will come.
                        Because of her perfection.  But my revenge will come!
#18-032  Claudius:  Break not your sleeps for that, you must not think
                        Don't lose any sleep over that.  You mustn't think
#18-033        That we are made of stuff so flat and dull,
                        That I am made of stuff so insipid and stupid
#18-034        That we can let our beard be shook with danger,
                        That I can let my chin be trembled by fear of danger
#18-035        And think it pastime, you shortly shall hear more;
                        And think it's fun.  You will soon hear more from me.
#18-036        I loved your father, and we love our self,
                        I loved your father, and I love myself,
#18-037        And that I hope will teach you to imagine . . .         #18-037-SD (a messenger enters)
                        And that, I hope, will give you something to imagine . . .
#18-038        How now?  What news?
                        What is it?  What news?
#18-039  Messenger:  Letters, my Lord, from Hamlet.
                        Letters, my Lord, from Hamlet.
#18-040        These to your Majesty, this to the Queen.
                        These for your Majesty, and this one is to the Queen.
#18-041  Claudius:  From Hamlet, who brought them?
                        From Hamlet?  Who brought them?
#18-042  Messenger:  Sailors, my Lord, they say; I saw them not;
                        I was told it was sailors, my Lord, I didn't see them.
#18-043        They were given me by Claudio; he received them
                        They were given to me by Claudio. He received them
#18-044        Of him that brought them.
                        From the one who brought them.
#18-045  Claudius:  Laertes, you shall hear them. Leave us.        #18-045-SD (the messenger exits)
                        Laertes, I'll let you hear what these letters say.  Messenger, leave us.
#18-046    (reads): High and mighty,
                        High and mighty,
#18-047        you shall know I am set naked on your kingdom;
                        you shall know I am set naked on your kingdom.
#18-048        tomorrow shall I beg leave to see your kingly eyes, when I shall, first
                        Tomorrow I shall beg permission to look into your kingly eyes, when I shall, first
#18-049        asking you pardon, thereunto recount the occasion of my sudden
                        begging your pardon, relate, in your eyes, explain the reason for my sudden,
#18-050        and more strange return.
                        and even more strange, return.
#18-051  Claudius:  What should this mean, are all the rest come back,
                        What should I understand this to mean?  Are all the rest come back,
#18-052        Or is it some abuse, and no such thing?
                        Or is it some trick, and no such thing has happened?
#18-053  Laertes:  Know you the hand?
                        Do you recognize the handwriting?
#18-054  Claudius:  'Tis Hamlet's character.  "Naked?"
                        It's Hamlet's kind of writing.  "Naked?"
#18-055        And in a postscript here he says: "alone;"
                        And in a postscript here, he says: "alone."
#18-056        Can you devise me?
                        Can you tell me?
#18-057  Laertes:  I am lost in it, my Lord, but let him come;
                        I am at a loss, my Lord. But let him come.
#18-058        It warms the very sickness in my heart
                        It increases the choler in my heart
#18-059        That I shall live, and tell him to his teeth:
                        That I shall be here, and can tell him to his face:
#18-060        Thus didst thou!         #18-060-SD (Laertes imitates stabbing with a sword)
                        "This is what you did."
#18-061  Claudius:  If it be so Laertes,
                        If it is so, Laertes -
#18-062        As how should it be so, how otherwise,
                        As if it could be otherwise, than so -
#18-063        Will you be ruled by me?
                        Will you be led by me?
#18-064  Laertes:  If so you will not o'errule me to a peace.
                        As long as you don't order me to be peaceful.
#18-065  Claudius:  To thine own peace, if he be now returned
                        I'll lead you to your own peace, if Hamlet has returned.
#18-066        As the King at his voyage, and that he means
                        As the King who ordered his voyage to England - and since he intends
#18-067        No more to undertake it, I will work him
                        Not to undertake it further - I will manipulate him
#18-068        To an exploit, now ripe in my devise,
                        To an outcome, that I have ready now in my plan,
#18-069        Under the which he shall not choose but fall;
                        Under which he'll have no choice but to fall.
#18-070        And for his death no wind of blame shall breathe,
                        And, for his death, no whisper of blame will breathe on me,
#18-071        But even his mother shall uncharge the practice,
                        But even his mother will not take notice of the treachery,
#18-072        And call it accident.
                        And will call it an accident.
#18-073  Laertes:  My Lord, I will be ruled,
                        My Lord, I will be ruled by you,
#18-074        The rather if you could devise it so
                        I'd prefer if you could arrange it so
#18-075        That I might be the organ.
                        That I can be the instrument, of his death.
#18-076  Claudius:  It falls right;
                        It's all falling into place . . .
#18-077        You have been talked of since your travel much,
                        You have been much talked about, while you were gone,
#18-078        And that in Hamlet's hearing, for a quality
                        And where Hamlet could hear it, for a talent
#18-079        Wherein they say you shine; your sum of parts
                        Where they say you are outstanding.  All the rest of your abilities
#18-080        Did not together pluck such envy from him
                        Put together, didn't draw such jealousy from him
#18-081        As did that one, and that in my regard
                        As that one did, even though I see it as
#18-082        Of the unworthiest siege.
                        Among the least valuable attainments.
#18-083  Laertes:  What part is that, my Lord?
                        What ability is that, my Lord?
#18-084  Claudius:  A very ribbon in the cap of youth,
                        It's a highly admired hobby for a youth,
#18-085        Yet needful to, for youth no less becomes
                        But necessary, too. For, youth is no less suited to
#18-086        The light and careless livery that it wears
                        The easy-going and carefree style that it has
#18-087        Than settled age, his sables, and his weeds
                        Than mature age suits its expensive coats, and its clothing that
#18-088        Importing health and graveness; some two months since,
                        Symbolizes soundness and seriousness. About two months ago,
#18-089        Here was a gentleman of Normandy;
                        A gentleman from Normandy was here.
#18-090        I have seen myself, and served against the French,
                        I have personally seen, in service against the French -
#18-091        And they ran well on horseback, but this gallant
                        And they galloped well on horseback - but this cavalier
#18-092        Had witchcraft in it; he grew unto his seat,
                        Rode like magic, as though he grew out of his saddle,
#18-093        And to such wondrous doing brought his horse,
                        And he made his horse do such wondrous things
#18-094        As had he been incorpsed, and deminatured
                        As if he were embodied with the horse, and combined his own nature
#18-095        With the brave beast, so far he topped, methought,
                        With that of the bold beast.  He so excelled, I thought,
#18-096        That I, in forgery of shapes and tricks,
                        That I, even in fantasy about form and tricks on horseback,
#18-097        Come short of what he did.
                        Come up short of what he really did.
#18-098  Laertes:  A Norman, was it?
                        He was a Norman, you say?
#18-099  Claudius:  A Norman.
                        Yes, a Norman.
#18-100  Laertes:  Upon my life, Lamord!
                        I'll swear, it must have been Lamord!
#18-101  Claudius:  The very same.
                        Yes, the very man.
#18-102  Laertes:  I know him well; he is the brooch indeed,
                        I know him well.  He's the jewel, indeed,
#18-103        And gem of all our nation.
                        And ornament of all our nation.
#18-104  Claudius:  He made confession of you,
                        He said he had to admit it about you,
#18-105        And gave you such a masterly report
                        And gave you such a glowing report,
#18-106        For art and exercise in your defense,
                        For skill and training, as your advocate -
#18-107        And for your rapier most especially,
                        And for your skill with a rapier, especially -
#18-108        That he cried out 'twould be a sight indeed
                        That he exclaimed it would be a sight to behold
#18-109        If one could match you; the scrimures of their nation,
                        If he saw anyone to equal you.  The fencers of their nation,
#18-110        He swore had neither motion, guard, nor eye,
                        He affirmed, did not have good enough quickness, defense, or accuracy
#18-111        If you opposed them; sir, this report of his
                        If you were the opponent.  Sir, this report from him
#18-112        Did Hamlet so envenom with his envy,
                        Made Hamlet so stung with jealousy,
#18-113        That he could nothing do but wish and beg
                        That he could do nothing but wish and solicit
#18-114        Your sudden coming o'er, to play with him.
                        Your prompt visit, to fence with him.
#18-115        Now, out of this . . .
                        Now, out of this . . .
#18-116  Laertes:  What out of this, my Lord?
                        What follows from this, my Lord?
#18-117  Claudius:  Laertes, was your father dear to you?
                        Laertes, was your father dear to you?
#18-118        Or are you like the painting of a sorrow,
                        Or are you like only a painting of sorrow,
#18-119        A face without a heart?
                        The appearance, without the heart?
#18-120  Laertes:  Why ask you this?
                        Why do you ask that?
#18-121  Claudius:  Not that I think you did not love your father,
                        It isn't that I think you didn't love your father,
#18-122        But that I know, love is begun by time,
                        It's only that I do know, love is begun at a certain time,
#18-123        And that I see in passages of proof,
                        And that I see proof, with the passage of time,
#18-124        Time qualifies the spark and fire of it;
                        Time diminishes the spark and fire of love.
#18-125        There lives within the very flame of love
                        There exists within the flame itself, of love,
#18-126        A kind of wick or snuff that will abate it,
                        A kind of wick or snuff that will bring love to an end,
#18-127        And nothing is at a like goodness still,
                        And nothing keeps its same quality, always.
#18-128        For goodness, growing to a 'pleurisy,'
                        Since goodness, increasing to a heartache,
#18-129        Dies in his own too much; that we would do,
                        Dies from its own excess.  What we want to do,
#18-130        We should do when we would.  For, this "would" changes,
                        We should do it when we first want.  Because, our desires change,
#18-131        And hath abatements and delays as many,
                        And face suspensions and delays in as much quantity
#18-132        As there are tongues, are hands, are accidents,
                        As there are tongues to dissuade us, hands to impede us, and accidents,
#18-133        And then this "should" is like a spendthrift's sigh,
                        And then that "should" becomes like a wastrel's sigh,
#18-134        That hurts by easing; but to the quick of the ulcer:
                        That hurts our resolve by easing our feelings.  But, now to the heart of the matter,
#18-135        Hamlet comes back; what would you undertake
                        Hamlet has come back. What action would you undertake
#18-136        To show yourself your father's son in deed
                        To prove that you are your father's son in action,
#18-137        More than in words?
                        Moreso than just in talk?
#18-138  Laertes:  To cut his throat in the church.
                        I'd cut his throat in church.
#18-139  Claudius:  No place, indeed, should murder sanctuarize;
                        Indeed, murder should not make any place a sanctuary.
#18-140        Revenge should have no bounds.  But good Laertes,
                        Revenge should have no limits.  But good Laertes,
#18-141        Will you do this: keep close within your chamber;
                        Will you do the following?  Stay secluded in your room;
#18-142        Hamlet, returned, shall know you are come home;
                        Hamlet, when he's returned here, will be informed you're back;
#18-143        We'll put on those shall praise your excellence,
                        We'll put someone up to praising your excellence,
#18-144        And set a double varnish on the fame
                        And put an extra shine on the renown
#18-145        The Frenchman gave you; bring you, in fine, together,
                        The Frenchman accorded you; bring you, ultimately, together,
#18-146        And wager o'er your heads; he, being remiss,
                        And bet on your respective abilities.  He, being unmindful,
#18-147        Most generous, and free from all contriving,
                        Very noble, and innocent of all scheming,
#18-148        Will not peruse the foils, so that with ease,
                        Will not scrutinize the foils, so that with ease,
#18-149        Or with a little shuffling, you may choose
                        Or with a little trickery, you can select
#18-150        A sword unbated, and in a pass of practice
                        A sword that's not blunted, and in an artful pass
#18-151        Requite him for your father.
                        Repay him for your father.
#18-152  Laertes:  I will do it,
                        I will do it,
#18-153        And for that purpose, I'll anoint my sword.
                        And to that end I'll oil my sword.
#18-154        I bought an unction of a mountebank
                        I bought an ointment from a mountebank
#18-155        So mortal, that but dip a knife in it,
                        So lethal that, if you only dip a knife in it,
#18-156        Where it draws blood, no cataplasm so rare,
                        When the knife draws blood, no poultice however rare,
#18-157        Collected from all simples that have virtue
                        Assembled from all the medicinal herbs that have healing power,
#18-158        Under the moon, can save the thing from death
                        Under the magic of the moonlight, can save the person from death
#18-159        That is but scratched withal; I'll touch my point
                        Who is only scratched with it.  I'll touch up my sword point
#18-160        With this contagion, that if I gall him slightly, it may be death.
                        With this toxin, so that if I injure him even slightly, it can be his death.
#18-161  Claudius:  Lets further think of this.
                        Let's think even further about this . . .
#18-162        Weigh what convenience, both of time and means,
                        Ponder what opportunity - taking into account both time and resources -
#18-163        May fit us to our shape, if this should fail;
                        May provide us, toward achieving our design if that idea should fail,
#18-164        And that our drift look through our bad performance,
                        And, should our plotted course of action not foresee possible failure,
#18-165        'Twere better not assayed; therefore, this project
                        It would be better not to try it.  Therefore, this joint effort
#18-166        Should have a back or second that might hold
                        Should include a backup, or secondary plan, that might succeed
#18-167        If this did blast in proof; soft, let me see . . .
                        If this idea fails when tried.  Hm, let me see . . .
#18-168        We'll make a solemn wager on your cunnings . . .
                        We'll make a serious wager on your cunning . . .
#18-169        I 'hate'; when, in your motion, you are hot and dry -
                        I have it: When your activity makes you hot and dry -
#18-170        As make your bouts more violent to that end -
                        So make your bouts more strenuous for that result -
#18-171        And that he calls for drink, I'll have 'prefared' him
                        And when he wants a drink, I'll have prearranged for him
#18-172        A chalice for the nonce, whereon but sipping,
                        A cup of wine for just this occasion, from which he need only sip;
#18-173        If he by chance escape your venomed stuck,
                        If he, by luck, avoids your poisoned jab
#18-174        Our purpose may hold there; but stay, what noise?          #18-174-SD1 (sounds of women lamenting)
                        Our goal can be achieved in that way.  But wait, what's that noise?

#18-174-SD2  (Gertrude enters, distraught)

#18-175  Claudius:  How now, sweet Queen?
                        What's the matter, sweet Queen?
#18-176  Gertrude:  One woe doth tread upon another's heel,
                        One woeful event steps on the heels of another,
#18-177        So fast they'll follow; your sister's drowned, Laertes.
                        So closely they seem to follow.  Your sister's drowned, Laertes.
#18-178  Laertes:  Drowned?  O where?
                        Drowned?!  Oh, tell me where?
#18-179  Gertrude:  There is a willow grows askant the brook,
                        There is a willow tree which grows beside the brook,
#18-180        That shows his hoary leaves in the glassy stream,
                        That shows its white leaves in the mirror-like water.
#18-181        Therewith fantastic garlands did she make
                        With the willow twigs she did make fantastic garlands
#18-182        Of crowflowers, nettles, daisies, and long purples
                        Of crowflowers, nettles, daisies, and long purples
#18-183        That liberal shepherds give a grosser name,
                        That licentious shepherds give a coarser name
#18-184        But our cull-cold maids do dead-men's-fingers call them.
                        But our modest sort of maids do call them "dead-men's-fingers;"
#18-185        There on the pendant boughs, her crownet weeds
                        There, on the drooping branches, with her crown wreaths of flowers,
#18-186        Clambering to hang, an envious sliver broke;
                        Clambering to find places to hang them, a malicious small branch broke,
#18-187        When down her weedy trophies and herself
                        Then down her floral prizes and herself
#18-188        Fell in the weeping brook; her clothes spread wide,
                        Fell into the watery brook.  Her clothes spread wide,
#18-189        And mermaid-like, awhile they bore her up,
                        And for a while they buoyed her up, as if she were a mermaid, during
#18-190        Which time she chanted snatches of old lauds,
                        Which time she sang parts of traditional religious morning songs,
#18-191        As one incapable of her own distress,
                        As if she was unaware of her own distressing situation,
#18-192        Or like a creature native and endued
                        Or, as if she was like a creature natural to, and outfitted
#18-193        Unto that element, but long it could not be
                        For life in water, but it could not be long, and wasn't,
#18-194        Till that her garments, heavy with their drink,
                        Until it happened that her clothing, heavy from soaking up water,
#18-195        Pulled the poor wretch from her melodious lay
                        Dragged the poor, pitiful girl down from her melodious singing
#18-196        To muddy death.
                        To a muddy death.
#18-197  Laertes:  Alas, then she is drowned.
                        Alas, then she is drowned.
#18-198  Gertrude:  Drowned. Drowned.
                        Drowned . . . drowned.
#18-199  Laertes:  Too much of water hast thou, poor Ophelia,
                        You have too much of water, poor Ophelia,
#18-200        And therefore I forbid my tears; but yet
                        And therefore I forbid myself to shed tears.  But yet,
#18-201        It is our trick; nature her custom holds;
                        It's a trick men play on themselves, to pretend we don't cry.  Nature enforces her ritual.
#18-202        Let shame say what it will, when these are gone,
                        Let those say "shame" who want to, when these tears are gone,
#18-203        The woman will be out.  Adieu, my Lord;
                        I'll no more act like a woman.  Adieu, my Lord.
#18-204        I have a speech afire that fain would blaze,
                        I have a fiery speech ready that I would blaze away with,
#18-205        But that this folly douts it.
                        Except that this misfortune extinguishes it.

#18-205-SD  (Laertes exits, weeping)

#18-206  Claudius:  Let's follow, Gertrude;
                        Let's follow him, Gertrude.
#18-207        How much I had to do, to calm his rage;
                        There was so much I had to do to calm his rage,
#18-208        Now fear I, this will give it start again;
                        And now I'm afraid this will get him going, again.
#18-209        Therefore lets follow.
                        So, let's follow him.

#18-209-SD    (Claudius and Gertrude exit)

End of Scene 18

Scene Links

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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.

18-Setting
  • Place - Claudius's room, the King's Room.
  • Time of Day - Early morning.
  • Calendar Time -

Return: #Setting

18-000-SD

(Claudius and Laertes enter)

Return: #000-SD

18-001

Claudius: Now must your conscience my acquittance seal,

conscience - Claudius is sure he has caught Laertes's conscience, so to speak.

my acquittance seal - reach an official verdict of "not guilty" for me.

Return: #001

18-002

And you must put me in your heart for friend,

Poetically and figuratively, friends are "housed in one's heart," in the language of the play.

Return: #002

18-003

Sith you have heard and with a knowing ear,

Sith - because; since. Shakespeare used sith, instead of "since," from Claudius because it sounds more like a serpent's hiss.

knowing - intelligent; perceptive. Shrewd / sharp. Claudius is flattering Laertes as "sharp," which Laertes is not, however.

Return: #003

18-004

That he which hath your noble father slain

noble - distinguished, is how Laertes hears it. But Claudius could call Polonius noble without meaning anything more than that he was a Lord. Thus, this is ambiguous, as to precisely what Claudius means. Certainly, Claudius is trying to be congenial to Laertes.

Return: #004

18-005

Pursued my life.

Hamlet did indeed pursue Claudius's life, but was not doing so at the time he killed Polonius. Claudius thinks Hamlet was trying to kill him when he killed Poloius, but that is mistaken.

Return: #005

18-006

Laertes: It well appears: but tell me

Return: #006

18-007

Why you proceed not against these feats

proceed - legally. Legal proceedings.

feats - deeds, in a pejorative sense. In the most general paraphrase, actions.

Return: #007

18-008

So crimeful and so capital in nature,

crimeful - Laertes probably means morally wrong, full of sin. In the history of English, it appears "crime" meant sinfulness before it meant something punishable by law. We might take it Laertes uses crimeful meaning something both sinful and a crime.

Shakespeare used many '-ful' words in the play: fearful, needful, fruitful, dreadful, shameful, wonderful, doubtful, helpful, etc. It is not so very surprising to see crimeful. Shakespeare had used the word one other time, earlier, in The Rape of Lucrece."

capital - as in "capital offense," punishable by death. It is ironic that capital can also mean "excellent," "first-rate." We do not suppose that is what Laertes means.

Return: #008 - or - Folio Difference

18-009

As by your safety, greatness, wisdom, all things else

Return: #009

18-010

You mainly were stirred up.

mainly - strongly. As in "might and main."

stirred up - spurred into action. Motivated.

Return: #010

18-011

Claudius: Oh, for two special reasons

special - personal, as opposed to general. Also, especially significant. Both can be understood, with Claudius meaning the reasons are especially significant to him, personally.

Return: #011

18-012

Which may to you perhaps seem much unsinewed,

much unsinewed - very weak. Claudius spoke of sinew in Scene 10, "soft as sinews of the newborn babe." (Scene 10#074)

Return: #012

18-013

But yet to me they're strong; the Queen, his mother

Return: #013

18-014

Lives almost by his looks, and for myself

Return: #014

18-015

My virtue or my plague, be it either which,

either which - whichever.

Return: #015

18-016

She is so conjunctive to my life and soul,

conjunctive - connective. Conjunctions are conjunctive. The word "and" which is between the words life and soul is a conjunction in the line. Without the conjunction, life and soul would lack connection. If a man's soul were disconnected from his life, he would be dead. By this, Claudius credits Gertrude with keeping his life and soul together.

Claudius's line is ominous, though he does not know it. We know, if we have read ahead, that at the Fencing Match Claudius will die, after Gertrude dies and Claudius thereby loses his life + soul connective, as he expresses it.

Return: #016 - or - Folio Difference

18-017

That as the star moves not but in his sphere

Return: #017

18-018

I could not but by her; the other motive,

Return: #018

18-019

Why to a public count I might not go,

Return: #019

18-020

Is the great love the general gender bear him,

general gender - general kind (of people.) Gender goes back to Latin 'genus' ("kind.") thus it is a "kind" word. Claudius means Hamlet is popular with the masses. Second, gender can be understood, in context, as a reference to women in particular. By that, Claudius means Hamlet has the affection of women in general. While women do not have the vote in Claudius's Denmark, still, their views cannot be ignored.

However, Claudius is making excuses with all this. We know he intends that Hamlet should be executed in England. Claudius is just offering Laertes some plausible reasons for not imprisoning Hamlet.

Return: #020

18-021

Who, dipping all his faults in their affection,

One may be reminded of the infant Achilles being dipped into the river Styx by his mother. One will recall that while the treatment made Achilles invulnerable in general, it did leave him with an Achilles' heel, a point of vulnerability.

Return: #021

18-022

Work like the spring that turneth wood to stone:

Return: #022 - or - Folio Difference

18-023

Convert his gyves to graces, so that my arrows,

gyves - fetters; shackles. We recall Claudius speaking in Scene 10 to R & G about putting fetters on his fear. (Scene 10#026)

graces - favors. As if Claudius had, in the process of trying to punish Hamlet, done him a favor instead.

arrows - accusations. A figurative usage.

Return: #023

18-024

Too slightly timbered for so loved, armed,

slightly - slenderly; weakly; lightly.

timbered - constructed; built. Arrows are of wood (in those days,) and one could say that wood is "timber." In Old English, the verb 'timbran' was the main word used for "to build."

loved, armed - so loved and so armored. The "and so" is implicit. Carries through on what Claudius said in lines 021 and 022.

Return: #024 - or - Folio Difference

18-025

Would have reverted to my bow again,

reverted - ricocheted. Revert is from Latin 'revertere' ("to turn back.")

my bow - synecdoche for "me." The bow being the relevant item when an arrow is shot.

Return: #025

18-026

But not where I have aimed them.

Return: #026

18-027

Laertes: And so have I a noble father lost,

Return: #027

18-028

A sister driven into desperate terms,

desperate - hopeless. Latin 'desperare' ("to be without hope.") Laertes has no idea what to do about Ophelia.

into desperate terms - into hopeless extremities. Terms -> Latin 'terminus' ("limit,") the limit being the extremity. See Polonius's line in Scene 7, "... in my youth, I suffered much extremity for love." (Scene 7#203) Also see the Play Queen's line in the 'Mousetrap'/Gonzago play, "In neither ought, or in extremity." (Scene 9#151)

Return: #028

18-029

Whose worth, if praises may go back again

worth - "value," if one is uncharitable to Laertes, or "merit," if one cuts him some slack.

Return: #029

18-030

Stood challenger on mount of all the age

challenger - Oddly, the word "challenge" traces back to Latin 'calumnia' ("calumny.") Hamlet told Ophelia, in Scene 8, that she would not escape calumny, and there it is, lurking so unexpectedly.

mount - pedestal, for mounting a statue. Laertes is invoking the stereotype of "putting a woman on a pedestal." The mount is a raised place to stand, like the stage in a theater.

of all the age - of all our era.

Picturing Ophelia as a statue, Laertes is talking about how she would "show."

Return: #030

18-031

For her perfections, but my revenge will come.

Return: #031

18-032

Claudius: Break not your sleeps for that, you must not think

Break - interrupt. Claudius is telling Laertes not to lose sleep over it.

Return: #032

18-033

That we are made of stuff so flat and dull,

Return: #033

18-034

That we can let our beard be shook with danger,

The idea is that the beard is shaking because the chin is trembling from fear.

Return: #034

18-035

And think it pastime, you shortly shall hear more;

pastime - amusement; fun.

Return: #035

18-036

I loved your father, and we love our self,

Return: #036

18-037

And that I hope will teach you to imagine . . .

Return: #037

18-037-SD

(a messenger enters)

Return: #037-SD

18-038

How now? What news?

Return: #038

18-039

Messenger: Letters, my Lord, from Hamlet.

Return: #039

18-040

These to your Majesty, this to the Queen.

Return: #040

18-041

Claudius: From Hamlet, who brought them?

Return: #041

18-042

Messenger: Sailors, my Lord, they say; I saw them not;

Return: #042

18-043

They were given me by Claudio; he received them

Claudio - the name similarity, Claudius/Claudio, is because Claudio acted as Claudius's stand-in to receive the letters.

Horatio wasn't able to have the letters delivered to Claudius directly because Claudius was in conference with Laertes at that time, and Horatio did not want to wait to depart, nor did the pirates want to linger at the Castle. So, Shakespeare provided an intermediary, Claudio.

Return: #043

18-044

Of him that brought them.

Return: #044

18-045

Claudius: Laertes, you shall hear them. Leave us

Return: #045

18-045-SD

(the messenger exits)

Return: #045-SD

18-046

(reads): High and mighty,

Return: #046

18-047
Sir Christopher Hatton by Hilliard c. 1590

you shall know I am set naked on your kingdom;

naked - like a newborn baby. Hamlet now knows Claudius intended him to die in England. Hamlet is playing with that. He means that after being "dead" in England, he is "reborn" in Denmark. To be reborn is to be like a newborn baby, and newborn babies are, of course, naked. Hamlet knows Claudius won't understand that, nor does he want Claudius to. Hamlet is giving Claudius a hard time, again.

More meaning can be found, as is usual in the way Shakespeare wrote Hamlet. We know that pirates are thieves. We also know that Hamlet was supposed to be the Danish ambassador to England, according to how Claudius set it up. Hamlet didn't yet know that Claudius's appointment of him was only a ruse, when Hamlet packed and dressed for the trip. When the pirates captured him, Hamlet was dressed for the role of ambassador, wearing some of his most fancy clothing. Fancy clothing in those days was amazing. It had embroidery with gold and silver thread, inlaid gems, and heaven knows what else. Certainly the pirates stole his clothing. They didn't really leave him naked, but we can be sure they then gave him some clothes to wear that none of the pirates particularly wanted. It would be old, worn, patched-together items. (In the Closet Scene, Scene 11, Hamlet spoke of "shreds and patches," and he himself is now dressed like that, "courtesy" of the pirates. Therefore, by naked Hamlet also means"without (my) clothes." Claudius won't figure that out, either, since he doesn't know what happened.

So, in the altogether, naked means both "like a newborn baby" and also, "without my clothing."

The image shows how fancy men's clothing could be in that era, and the clothing of a Prince acting as an ambassador would be even fancier than that.

This is an important thing to know, about Hamlet's clothing, in advance of the Graveyard Scene, Scene 19, where Hamlet talks with the Clown Sexton. Hamlet will be dressed in "shreds and patches" in that passage, and knowing that helps greatly in understanding why the Clown Sexton doesn't know, or guess, that Hamlet is the Prince. The Clown would never imagine that a man wearing raggedy clothing could be the Prince.

Return: #047 - or - Extended Note

18-048

tomorrow shall I beg leave to see your kingly eyes, when I shall, first

Return: #048

18-049

asking you pardon, thereunto recount the occasion of my sudden

Return: #049

18-050

and more strange return.

Return: #050

18-051

Claudius: What should this mean, are all the rest come back,

Return: #051

18-052

Or is it some abuse, and no such thing?

abuse - deceit; trick; an abuse of one's credulity.

Return: #052

18-053

Laertes: Know you the hand?

Return: #053

18-054

Claudius: 'Tis Hamlet's character. "Naked?"

Return: #054

18-055

And in a postscript here he says: "alone;"

Return: #055

18-056

Can you devise me?

devise - tell. It's a meaning found in, for example, Chaucer, Monk's Tale, the line "The world was his - what sholde I moore devyse?" Chaucer means, "what more should I tell?" (By the way, that line in Chaucer is followed rather closely by "De Julio Cesare" which means "Concerning Julius Caesar." Hercules and Nero also get mention in the Monk's Tale. Chaucer is readily available online, including here: http://sites.fas.harvard.edu/~chaucer/teachslf/mkt-par.htm)

Because of the Putting on a Show Theme in Hamlet, it is of interest that devise can mean "show." For example see, James Shirley, (or John Fletcher?) The Coronation, 1634, Act 3 scene 2: "Masques and devices welcome, I salute you." So, Claudius could also be understood as asking Laertes, "Can you show me (what this means?)"

Return: #056 - or - Folio Difference

18-057

Laertes: I am lost in it, my Lord, but let him come;

Return: #057

18-058

It warms the very sickness in my heart

Return: #058

18-059

That I shall live, and tell him to his teeth:

Return: #059

18-060

Thus didst thou!

Return: #060

18-060-SD

(Laertes imitates stabbing with a sword)

Or, Laertes can draw his sword, make a lunging stab with it, then sheath it again. The actual drawing of the sword is more dramatic.

Return: #060-SD

18-061

Claudius: If it be so Laertes,

Return: #061

18-062

As how should it be so, how otherwise,

Return: #062

18-063

Will you be ruled by me?

Return: #063

18-064

Laertes: If so you will not o'errule me to a peace.

Return: #064

18-065

Claudius: To thine own peace, if he be now returned

Return: #065

18-066

As the King at his voyage, and that he means

Return: #066 - or - Folio Difference

18-067

No more to undertake it, I will work him

Return: #067

18-068

To an exploit, now ripe in my devise,

Return: #068

18-069

Under the which he shall not choose but fall;

Return: #069

18-070

And for his death no wind of blame shall breathe,

Return: #070

18-071

But even his mother shall uncharge the practice,

Return: #071

18-072

And call it accident.

Return: #072

18-073

Laertes: My Lord, I will be ruled,

Return: #073

18-074

The rather if you could devise it so

Return: #074

18-075

That I might be the organ.

Return: #075

18-076

Claudius: It falls right;

Return: #076

18-077

You have been talked of since your travel much,

Return: #077

18-078

And that in Hamlet's hearing, for a quality

Return: #078

18-079

Wherein they say you shine; your sum of parts

shine - excel. Shine like a star. In Scene 20 we'll hear Hamlet compliment Laertes's skill with a sword in "stellar" terms: "Your skill shall, like a star in the darkest night..." (Scene 20#239)

your sum of parts - your total abilities; your total distinctions; all your good characteristics. Everything good about you. A "part" here is a distinction, a feature that sets a person apart, from the average.

Return: #079

18-080

Did not together pluck such envy from him

envy - jealousy. BOOKMARK for me

Return: #080

18-081

As did that one, and that in my regard

Return: #081

18-082

Of the unworthiest siege.

unworthiest - least valuable.

siege - throne. From Old French 'sege' ("seat" / "throne") then back to Latin 'sedere' ("to sit.") King Claudius speaks figuratively of a "throne." He speaks of it (ability with a sword, we'll learn,) as not valuable, because being a great swordsman is not one of his fantasies. Claudius admires horsemanship (we'll also learn.) Claudius doesn't think being "the king of swordplay" is a very valuable attainment. One could see it as jealousy about something he isn't good at.

Claudius also downplays swordplay in connection with asserting dominance over Laertes, so that Laertes will do what he's told. There's more than one psychological factor at work.

Return: #082

18-083

Laertes. What part is that, my Lord?

Return: #083

18-084

Claudius: A very ribbon in the cap of youth,

Return: #084

18-085

Yet needful to, for youth no less becomes

Return: #085

18-086

The light and careless livery that it wears

Return: #086

18-087

Than settled age, his sables, and his weeds

Return: #087

18-088

Importing health and graveness; some two months since,

health - soundness; or, prosperity.

graveness - seriousness; somberness.

two months since - would have been at the time of the state funeral for King Hamlet.

Return: #088 - or - Folio Difference

18-089

Here was a gentleman of Normandy;

Return: #089

18-090

I have seen myself, and served against the French,

Return: #090

18-091

And they ran well on horseback, but this gallant

Return: #091 - or - Folio Difference

18-092

Had witchcraft in it; he grew unto his seat,

Return: #092

18-093

And to such wondrous doing brought his horse,

Return: #093

18-094

As had he been incorpsed, and deminatured

Return: #094

18-095

With the brave beast, so far he topped, methought,

Return: #095 - or - Folio Difference

18-096

That I, in forgery of shapes and tricks,

Return: #096

18-097

Come short of what he did.

Return: #097

18-098

Laertes: A Norman, was it?

Return: #098

18-099

Claudius: A Norman.

Return: #099

18-100

Laertes: Upon my life, Lamord!

BOOKMARK for me, check root of "remorse" in addition to all the rest

Return: #100 - or - Folio Difference

18-101

Claudius: The very same.

Return: #101

18-102

Laertes: I know him well; he is the brooch indeed,

brooch - ornament; jewel.

Return: #102

18-103

And gem of all our nation.

gem - exactly what it says; or, more generally, adornment. With his phrase (brooch) and gem" Laertes means "jewel and gem," or in more general terms, "ornament and adornment." He is speaking of Lamord as a "treasure."

our nation - is a slip of the tongue by Laertes. Laertes is Danish, but Lamord is French. Laertes has spent enough time in France, and likes it so well, that he now reacts as if France is his home.

Return: #103 - or - Folio Difference

18-104

Claudius: He made confession of you,

made confession - admitted. That is, Lamord said something like, "I do have to admit..."

The religious tone of confession is irony, as Claudius plots to commit the mortal sin of murder.

Return: #104

18-105

And gave you such a masterly report

Return: #105

18-106

For art and exercise in your defense,

art - skill.

exercise - training. From Latin 'exercitium' ("training.")

in your defense - in defense of your ability. Claudius means Lamord spoke as Laertes's advocate, defending Laertes against any question about his swordsmanship. A second meaning is that of Laertes's defensive ability. Shakespeare once again used wording with a deliberate double meaning.

Return: #106

18-107

And for your rapier most especially,

Return: #107

18-108

That he cried out 'twould be a sight indeed

Return: #108

18-109

If one could match you; the scrimures of their nation,

Return: #109

18-110

He swore had neither motion, guard, nor eye,

Return: #110

18-111

If you opposed them; sir, this report of his

Return: #111

18-112

Did Hamlet so envenom with his envy,

Return: #112

18-113

That he could nothing do but wish and beg

Return: #113

18-114

Your sudden coming o'er, to play with him.

Return: #114 - or - Folio Difference

18-115

Now, out of this . . .

Return: #115

18-116

Laertes: What out of this, my Lord?

Return: #116 - or - Folio Difference

18-117

Claudius: Laertes, was your father dear to you?

Return: #117

18-118

Or are you like the painting of a sorrow,

Return: #118

18-119

A face without a heart?

Return: #119

18-120

Laertes: Why ask you this?

Return: #120

18-121

Claudius: Not that I think you did not love your father,

Return: #121

18-122

But that I know, love is begun by time,

love is begun by time - a person falls in love at a certain time, in his life. The actual figure of speech is as if time is a decision-making ruler, who decrees, "you shall now fall in love," so that time, itself, is responsible for the beginning of love. Claudius, the ruler of Denmark, is speaking of time as a kind of ruler, of love. We could deduce that Claudius wishes he could dictate his feelings, the way he can dictate executive orders, but that power is beyond him. As far as his feelings go, Claudius is subject to greater powers, including time, the same way we all are.

Return: #122

18-123

And that I see in passages of proof,

Return: #123

18-124

Time qualifies the spark and fire of it;

Return: #124

18-125

There lives within the very flame of love

Return: #125

18-126

A kind of wick or snuff that will abate it,

abate - extinguish. Terminate. "Kill." Used here in the legal sense, as in an abatement of action. ("At common law, a suit, when it abates, is absolutely dead." - http://definitions.uslegal.com/a/abatement-of-action/ )

Return: #126

18-127

And nothing is at a like goodness still,

Return: #127

18-128

For goodness, growing to a 'pleurisy,

Return: #128

18-129

Dies in his own too much; that we would do,

Return: #129

18-130

We should do when we would. For, this "would" changes,

Return: #130

18-131

And hath abatements and delays as many,

abatements - suspensions. Used in the legal sense. ("... in courts of equity, abatement signifies only a present suspension of all proceedings... - http://definitions.uslegal.com/a/abatement-of-action/ )

Some difference can be found between a plan being suspended, and it being delayed. Delay is more a matter of an unexpected obstacle, while suspension is more a matter of choice. The ideas of "suspension" and "delay" are close to synonymous.

Return: #131

18-132

As there are tongues, are hands, are accidents,

Return: #132

18-133

And then this "should" is like a spendthrift's sigh,

Return: #133

18-134

That hurts by easing; but to the quick of the ulcer:

Return: #134

18-135

Hamlet comes back; what would you undertake

Return: #135

18-136

To show yourself your father's son in deed

Return: #136

18-137

More than in words?

Return: #137

18-138

Laertes: To cut his throat in the church.

Return: #138

18-139

Claudius: No place, indeed, should murder sanctuarize;

Return: #139

18-140

Revenge should have no bounds. But good Laertes,

Return: #140

18-141

Will you do this: keep close within your chamber;

Return: #141

18-142

Hamlet, returned, shall know you are come home;

Return: #142

18-143

We'll put on those shall praise your excellence,

Return: #143

18-144

And set a double varnish on the fame

Return: #144

18-145

The Frenchman gave you; bring you, in fine, together,

together - at fencing, that is. Claudius is speaking of a fencing match.

Return: #145

18-146

And wager o'er your heads; he, being remiss,

remiss - casual, or another word to that effect. Of course Hamlet will be supposed to think it's only a casual fencing match.

Return: #146

18-147

Most generous, and free from all contriving,

Return: #147

18-148

Will not peruse the foils, so that with ease,

Return: #148

18-149

Or with a little shuffling, you may choose

Return: #149

18-150

A sword unbated, and in a pass of practice

Return: #150

18-151

Requite him for your father.

requite - repay.

Return: #151

18-152

Laertes: I will do it,

So, Laertes seals his own doom, without knowing it.

Return: #152

18-153

And for that purpose, I'll anoint my sword.

anoint - oil. Fencers always oil their swords. However, Laertes is talking about a special oil, as he will go on to say.

The word choice is wicked. In Biblical tradition, anointing is an act of consecration of an item. In Scene 16 we heard Laertes say, "I dare damnation," Scene 16#136, and now what he says could be taken as "consecrating" his sword, to commit murder.

Return: #153

18-154

I bought an unction of a mountebank

unction - salve; ointment. The word unction originally referred to the use of a grease or oil for medicinal purposes, and later came to mean religious anointment, including anointment as a last rite.

mountebank - quack doctor. A purveyor of supposed remedies and potions. Laertes is a sucker. The Laertes character, himself, means "peddler of potions." It's clear that he is not clear on what a "mountebank" is.

However, there is the logical point that just because an item comes from a mountebank that doesn't necessarily mean it won't work as claimed.

Return: #154

18-155

So mortal, that but dip a knife in it,

mortal - deadly; lethal.

Return: #155

18-156

Where it draws blood, no cataplasm so rare,

draws blood - breaks the skin.

cataplasm - poultice, applied to a wound to draw out poison, and promote healing.

so rare - however rare.

Return: #156

18-157

Collected from all simples that have virtue

Collected - assembled. Gathered. From Latin 'com-' ("together") + 'legere' ("to gather.")

simples - medicinal herbs, considered individually. Called "simple" before they are compounded into a mixture of ingredients. Goes back to Latin simplex in the sense of "uncompounded."

virtue - goodness. More specifically in this context, "healing power."

Return: #157

18-158

Under the moon, can save the thing from death

Return: #158

18-159

That is but scratched withal; I'll touch my point

withal - with it. BOOKMARK for me

Return: #159

18-160

With this contagion, that if I gall him slightly, it may be death.

Return: #160

18-161

Claudius: Lets further think of this.

Return: #161

18-162

Weigh what convenience, both of time and means,

Return: #162

18-163

May fit us to our shape, if this should fail;

Return: #163

18-164

And that our drift look through our bad performance,

Return: #164

18-165

'Twere better not assayed; therefore, this project

Return: #165

18-166

Should have a back or second that might hold

Return: #166

18-167

If this did blast in proof; soft, let me see . . .

blast in proof - fail when put to the test. It's understandable that Claudius would not fully trust a product bought from a mountebank.

However, Claudius seems not to realize he had Laertes set up perfectly.

BOOKMARK

Return: #167

18-168

We'll make a solemn wager on your cunnings . . .

Return: #168

18-169

I 'hate'; when, in your motion, you are hot and dry -

Return: #169

18-170

As make your bouts more violent to that end -

Return: #170

18-171

And that he calls for drink, I'll have 'prefared' him

prefared - is the correct word, it means "prearranged as fare," for Hamlet.

Return: #171

18-172

A chalice for the nonce, whereon but sipping,

chalice - cup. It's a wicked term in this context, however, since chalice can mean in particular the cup used for sacramental wine. We infer that Claudius is praying this will rid him of Hamlet. In Scene 19 we will hear Hamlet say to Laertes, "Thou prayest not well," (Scene 19#231,) and the same can be said about Claudius.

for the nonce - for the occasion.

Return: #172

18-173

If he by chance escape your venomed stuck,

by chance - An instance of the Wheel of Fortune Theme.

venomed - poisoned.

stuck - jab; stab. The ungrammatical-looking form is apparently because it is fencing jargon, a term shortened and anglicized either from Old French 'estocade' or from Italian 'stoccata.' The English "stuck" is of course the past tense of "stick," which is from Old English 'stician' ("to pierce;" "to thrust,") related to German 'stechen' ("to sting.") So the phrase venomed stuck carries the concept of a poisonous sting. We recall the Ghost telling Hamlet, in Scene 5, about Claudius being "the serpent that stung." (Scene 5#044: "The "serpent" that did sting thy father's life...")

Return: #173

18-174

Our purpose may hold there; but stay, what noise?

Return: #174

18-174-SD1

(sounds of women lamenting)

Return: #174-SD1

18-174-SD2

(Gertrude enters, distraught)

Return: #174-SD2

18-175

Claudius: How now, sweet Queen?

Return: #175

18-176

Gertrude: One woe doth tread upon another's heel,

Return: #176

18-177

So fast they'll follow; your sister's drowned, Laertes.

Return: #177

18-178

Laertes: Drowned? O where?

Elsinore Castle is a castle by the sea, like Kronborg Castle upon which Elsinore is based. So, when one hears of a drowning, one's first thought is that it happened in the sea. However, Laertes is skeptical that Ophelia could have been allowed to wander to the sea, so he questions where, (and rightly so, it turns out.)

Further, Laertes's question is supposed to lead the audience to think about the "wheres" of the play. An attentive person may remember the cliff Horatio mentioned to Hamlet, in Scene 4, the cliff that "beetles o'er his base into the sea." (Scene 4#076 ff) If one wanted to die by drowning, that cliff would be the very place. It's a perfect "Suicide Cliff." If Horatio, who has been at Elsinore only a short time, knows of the cliff, Ophelia must have known of it, too. However, did Ophelia die at Suicide Cliff?

No.

Shakespeare is telling us something, if we're paying attention.

Return: #178

18-179
willow growing "askant" water

Gertrude: There is a willow grows askant the brook,

askant - aslant; leaning. As the image shows, and as willows often do. The willow was growing directly beside the brook, and leaning over it.

brook - this introduction of the brook might seem to be an ad hoc contrivance, but further reflection indicates it is only common sense applied to any human settlement. People cannot drink salt water. For a settlement to exist at Elsinore there must be fresh water available. We may take it that the brook, carrying fresh water, is what made Elsinore Town and Elsinore Castle possible. The brook would have been flowing there, already, when the very first human wanderers happened by, and discovered that location as a place where they could live.

Return: #179

18-180

That shows his hoary leaves in the glassy stream,

hoary - white, but literally, hoary means white with age. So we're told it's an old tree, not a young one. This is significant information, because old trees are more likely to have diseases or damage that can cause branch breakage. Gertrude, herself, is saying in a poetic way that it's as if the tree, with the whiteness of its leaves, is like a person whose hair is going white with age. In actually, in the case of a tree the color is a species characteristic. Anyway, Shakespeare did use Gertrude's poetic expression to tell us the tree is an old one, and that knowledge is relevant to Ophelia's fall.

Hoary is from Old English 'har' which could mean any of "hoary" (as now understood,) "gray," "venerable," or "old."

hoary leaves - identifies the tree as probably white willow, Salix alba. The twigs of the white willow are said to be still used for basket making, because they are long and can be bent rather sharply without damage.

glassy - reflective, like a mirror. There's a Mirror Motif in the play.

Return: #180

18-181

Therewith fantastic garlands did she make

Therewith - by means of, that is, Ophelia was using long, supple willow twigs to make the frames for her floral wreaths.

fantastic - fanciful. Gertrude does not know Ophelia's symbolism with the floral wreaths, so she takes them as being merely products of a wild imagination.

garlands - wreaths of flowers. Namely, chaplets.

make - construct.

Return: #181

18-182

Of crowflowers, nettles, daisies, and long purples

The mere variety of flowers implies madness, in Shakespeare's theatrical universe. Compare King Lear, Act 4 scene 4, Cordelia speaking:

As mad as the vex'd sea, singing aloud,
Crown'd with rank fumiter and furrow weeds,
With harlocks, hemlock, nettles, cuckoo flow'rs,
Darnel, and all the idle weeds that grow...

Here in Hamlet, the colors of the flowers are purple and white. Shakespeare associated a flower color of purple and white with the death of Adonis in Venus and Adonis, at line 1190:

...the boy that by her side lay kill'd
Was melted like a vapour from her sight,
And in his blood that on the ground lay spill'd,
A purple flower sprung up, chequer'd with white     1190
...

By using the same colors, purple and white, for Ophelia's death flowers, Shakespeare honored her at the high status of immortal myth, and more specifically, a mythical loved one, like Adonis. Per Shakespeare's symbolism, established in Venus and Adonis, the purple and white flower colors express an especially tragic death.

crowflower a.k.a. ragged robin

crowflowers - a.k.a. Ragged Robins, Lychnis flos-cuculi. The blossoms are purple. It is also called the cuckoo-flower because it blooms around the same time the cuckoo is heard in spring. The Latin "flos-cuculi" means "cuckoo flower." Madness has long been associated with the cuckoo. From that well-known association, it provides an instance of the Madness Theme.

During the course of the play it is subtly revealed that "Robin" is Ophelia's pet name for Hamlet, (namely in Ophelia's "bonny sweet Robin" line in Scene 16. (Scene 16#188) When we next see Hamlet, he will be "ragged," wearing "shreds and patches," in Scene 19 (because of the pirates stealing his clothing.) The alternative name of this flower, "ragged robin," points directly toward Hamlet, and is implicitly an instance of the Love Theme, from Ophelia having the pet name for Hamlet.

In the "language of flowers" the ragged robin expresses ardor. "Ardor" meant lust, the heat of desire, in Middle English. The word "ardor" goes back to Latin 'ardere' ("to burn.") Thus, in the crowflower/ragged robin one can also find an implicit instance of the Fire Motif.

In folklore, a crowflower under the pillow at night will produce a dream of one's future mate. By that, the crowflower informs us that Ophelia went to her "sleep" of death dreaming of her Robin, Hamlet. The crowflower is therefore also thematic on the concepts of sleep and dreams.

(Incidentally, in the Latin name Lychnis flos-cuculi, 'Lychnis' means "lamp," from the use of the leaves of such plants as makeshift lamp wicks, which makes them "lamp plants.")

In sum, the crowflower expresses instances of the Madness, Love, Fire, Sleep, and Dream themes and motifs, and it symbolizes Ophelia's loving desire for Hamlet. It's easy to see why Shakespeare chose the crowflower.

white dead nettle, Lamium album

nettle - This can be understood as white dead nettle (dead = does not sting,) Lamium album, or perhaps as purple dead nettle, Lamium purpureum. Either the white or the purple variety will work here, or even a mixture of the two. The flower colors are purple and white, as mentioned above, and the nettle can provide either.

In the "language of flowers," nettle expresses slander and, especially for a woman, bad luck. Thus, we are told that Ophelia's fall from the tree was bad luck. It's also clear Ophelia has bad luck throughout the play, when various events go against her, through no fault of her own. Being the most innocent victim, she is the most sympathetic character. The nettle is thematic, since part of its meaning provides an instance of the Fortune Theme of the play, bad fortune in this case.

Further, the nettle cautions us about the later slander of Ophelia as a suicide, which we'll see in Scene 19. The "slander" that the nettle expresses supports what Hamlet said to Ophelia in Scene 8, "thou shalt not escape calumny." (Scene 8#141) The nettle provides an instance of the Talk Motif, which, as I categorize the play concepts, includes gossip and slander.

The name of the white dead nettle is "dovenetel" in Dutch. The English speaker sees "dove" in that name. I do not know if Shakespeare would have taken that into account, but it is intriguing. Recall Ophelia's flowers and her speech in Scene 16, which included the columbine and her saying "dove."

Herbals recommend ingestion of nettle seeds to treat venomous stings, and as an antidote for poison. So, nettle connects to play concepts of "sting" and "poison," as well.

(I will add, in this context it would be unwise to be fussy about exactly what is a nettle versus a dead nettle, and whether nettle meanings apply to the dead nettle. Shakespeare was doing theater, not a herbal. It's the theatrical, or literary, concepts that count, not scientific distinctions of species and variety.)

In sum, the nettle expresses the play concepts of the Talk Motif (specifically slander,) bad luck (the Fortune Theme,) perhaps "dove," and the highly pertinent ideas of "sting" and "poison." It is clearly another superb choice by Shakespeare.

the English daisy, Bellis perennis

daisies - Bellis perennis, the English or common daisy. Bellis = "beautiful;" perennis = "everlasting." However, there is some possibility that the oxeye daisy is meant, which is Leucanthemum vulgare ("common white flower.")

The daisy is a subject of numerous legends.

The daisy expresses innocence, and loyalty in love.

The daisy is a "sun" flower, in that it has long been especially associated with the sun.

Per Gerard's Herbal, daisy juice applied to the eyes will clear them.

Traditionally, if a fellow asked a lady for her hand, she would symbolize affirmation by wearing a crown wreath of daisies. Ophelia's crown wreath of daisies was especially for Hamlet, her Robin, meaning that if given the chance, she would marry him. In that way, the daisy confirms the crowflower meaning.

BOOKMARK

early purple orchid

long purples - early purple orchids. Orchis mascula. The blossoms are, as stated, purple. Like the crowflower, this flower has also been called the cuckoo flower.

Return: #182

18-183

That liberal shepherds give a grosser name,

liberal - indecent; unrestrained in their speech. Ill-mannered in their speech. Rude, in the sense of primitive, in their speech. There is a Manner/Manners Motif in the play. "Immodest" would be another paraphrase.

grosser - coarser; less decent. From Old French 'gros' ("coarse, rude.") The botanical term Orchis is from the Greek and means "testicle." The name comes from many varieties having paired, globular tubers in their root systems, which in appearance can be likened to testicles. In John Gerard's Herbal, various of the orchids have the common names "dog's stones," "goat's stones," etc. ("stone" meaning "testicle.")

Return: #183

18-184
orchid tuber "hand" with "fingers" as illustrated in Gerard's Herbal

But our cull-cold maids do dead-men's-fingers call them.

The phrase cull-cold is a little word puzzle Shakespeare composed for us.

cull - to cull is to sort, and to sort is to separate into kinds. Gertrude is clearly talking about a certain kind of maids. It's an instance of the "kind" idea that appears occasionally in the play.

cold - unimpassioned, that is, not inclined to use sexual terms which don't really apply. Not feeling the "heat" of passion to incline them to see, and describe, things in sexual terms. The simplest paraphrase would probably be "modest." At the time Shakespeare was writing, the word "modest" when applied to women meant "not improper or lewd." The use of a term for the flowers other than that which the liberal shepherds use, is explained by such maids being shy about using sexual terms.

So, the cull-cold are literally the "sort modest," and in normal phrasing that's the "modest sort" or the "modest kind."

dead-men's-fingers - as listed in Gerard's herbal, (first published in 1597,) and judging from the pictures, this is likely a reference to one of the "Serapia's stones," as Gerard has them, in particular what Gerard calls "Sweet-smelling Satyrion." See the image at left, which shows the roots of that plant with its "hand" and "fingers." It has purple blooms and would qualify as a "long purple."

However, the sweet-smelling Satyrion does not appear to be the same flower as the early purple orchid. That's of no matter. As with the nettle, it would be a mistake to be too strict with plant identification. Shakespeare was providing symbolism and conceptual expression for his play. It would be unwise to suppose that the shepherds, the maids, the Gertrude character, and Shakespeare himself were engaged in botanical classification.

BOOKMARK

Return: #184

18-185

There on the pendant boughs, her crownet weeds

pendant - curving downward at the ends; drooping; sagging. From Latin 'pendere' ("to hang.") This is a fact of the willow, that there is a tendency of some of the branches to curve downward.

boughs - branches; limbs. From Old English 'bog' ("arm,") then, the arm being a limb, the meaning extended, in Old English, to "branch," a limb of a tree.

weeds - plants. In this case flowering plants, we see.

crownet weeds - plants for crowns; plants to use in making floral crowns. Ophelia was making chaplets, i.e. floral wreaths to wear on the head.

Return: #185

18-186

Clambering to hang, an envious sliver broke;

Clambering - climbing awkwardly, with difficulty. The difficulty was in carrying the flowers, and also, it's extremely doubtful Ophelia was an experienced tree climber. We've seen how Polonius was, so even when Ophelia was much younger, if Polonius had caught Ophelia climbing a tree, or heard of her doing such a thing, we can predict he would have scolded her severely, and punished her in some way, for such unladylike behavior. This could be the first time in her life she climbed a tree.

hang - as it says; hang up, so they wouldn't fall. Ophelia was hanging the chaplets in the tree as she made them. The easiest way to hang such things in a tree is to use stubs of twigs or stubs of small branches that have broken off. However, the limb with the most broken-off twigs, or the most broken-off small branches, is a limb that's dead or dying, and thus dangerous to climb on.

Shakespeare described all this perfectly. The tree being old, a willow, that splits, hanging chaplets in it, easiest to do on stubs, of course, implying a dead or dying limb... this is absolutely authentic. The poetry is superb, but the "natural history" of it is equally so. It could happen in reality, exactly as described.

envious - malicious; full of ill will. The word "envy" derives from Latin 'invidere' ("look at (with malice)," "cast the evil eye upon.") At root "envy" is a "see" word, going along with the play concept of eyes and vision, under the Vision Motif.

Gertrude's word envious can be read as that exactly, the "hoary" tree being envious of Ophelia's youth and beauty, and her innocence, and therefore acting maliciously toward her. That's if we anthropomorphize the tree, as an old, broken-down woman, who has the bad temper which goes along with its old age and ill health, and consider then how the tree would view Ophelia, with envy, and react to her, with malice.

sliver - a limb that was split from the trunk, or, a smaller branch that had split off from a larger one. The noun sliver derives from the obsolete verb 'sliven' ("to split.") This is a fact of willow trees, that they tend to split at a fork. Gertrude is saying that Ophelia climbed onto a limb that was already splitting off (thus a sliver,) and Ophelia's weight caused it to split away completely.

Return: #186

18-187

When down her weedy trophies and herself

trophies - prizes. We may take it that Gertrude speaks of the flowers as prizes because it was clear Ophelia prized them. An alternative paraphrase would be "bounty," since the "bounty of nature" is a well-known idea.

However, "trophy" can mean "memorial" and it does appear in that sense earlier in the dialogue, in Scene 16. (Scene 16#214: "No trophy sword...") By that, the flowers are memorials for Ophelia.

The word "trophy" goes back to Greek 'tropos' ("turn.") There is, of course, a "turn" concept in the play, associated with the Fortune Theme. One has to suspect Shakespeare knew the derivation of the word "trophy" to use trophies in describing this bad turn of events for Ophelia.

Return: #187

18-188

Fell in the weeping brook; her clothes spread wide,

weeping - tears are running water, thus, the running water of the brook is cast as weeping, for Ophelia.

Return: #188

18-189

And mermaid-like, awhile they bore her up,

Return: #189

18-190

Which time she chanted snatches of old lauds,

chanted - sang. "Chant" is from Latin 'cantus' ("song;" "bird-song.") The play characters are associated with birds, so one suspects Shakespeare used chanted with knowledge of its derivation.

snatches - brief excerpts; a few lines. In the history of the word "snatch," an earlier meaning of the verb was "to make a sudden bite" (at something,) and the noun could mean "a trap," or "a sudden grab," all of which is of interest because concepts of "bite," "trap," and "grab/seize" are repeated with some prominence in the play.

lauds - songs of praise to God. Additionally, "Lauds" with a capital-L refers to a religious service, the hour of morning prayer, traditionally at daybreak. So we may see these lauds as morning songs, which brings in an implicit pun with "mourning." We are to understand "mourning songs" for Ophelia's death. (Ophelia, herself, did not mean that, the idea comes from her creator's choice of wording.) Lauds as the name for the canonical hour comes from Latin 'laudate' ("praise ye",) which begins psalms 148 and 150.

Return: #190

18-191

As one incapable of her own distress,

incapable - unaware. Not capable of perception. Literally, incapable of = not able to grasp. The word "capable" is from Latin 'capabilis' ("able to grasp or hold,") so it's another use in the play of a "grasp / grab / seize" word.

Return: #191

18-192

Or like a creature native and endued

native - born to. Gertrude means like a creature born to live in water.

endued - equipped; outfitted. "Dressed." The "clothe" meaning of "endue" applies here, but in figurative use. "Endue" goes back to Latin 'inducere' ("to cover,") which is where the "clothe" meaning comes form. In the sound, one hears "dew," of which Hamlet has spoken in Scene 2 (Scene 2#132,) and we know that dew rises. Endued is therefore a word compatible with Ophelia rising to Heaven, as (from "lauds" above,) her new day dawns.

Return: #192

18-193

Unto that element, but long it could not be

that element - water.

Return: #193

18-194

Till that her garments, heavy with their drink,

Return: #194

18-195

Pulled the poor wretch from her melodious lay

Pulled - pulled down.

lay - "brief song," but also, from the phrasing it's possible to understand this as meaning Ophelia lying on the surface. The ambiguity is undoubtedly deliberate.

Return: #195

18-196

To muddy death.

Death in the mud, at the bottom of the brook. In the 1580s, muddy could mean "low," so we can also understand this as a "low death." Ophelia has fallen from the heights, in the tree, to the depths, in the brook.

Return: #196

18-197

Laertes: Alas, then she is drowned.

Spoken with stress on is. Laertes believes it now.

Return: #197

18-198

Gertrude: Drowned. Drowned.

Return: #198

18-199

Laertes: Too much of water hast thou, poor Ophelia,

Return: #199

18-200

And therefore I forbid my tears; but yet

Return: #200

18-201

It is our trick; nature her custom holds;

Return: #201

18-202

Let shame say what it will, when these are gone,

Return: #202

18-203

The woman will be out. Adieu, my Lord;

Return: #203

18-204

I have a speech afire that fain would blaze,

Return: #204

18-205

But that this folly douts it.

folly - BOOKMARK "bad turn" of the Wheel of Fortune.

douts - literally "does out." Douses; extinguishes. Dout is simply "do" + "out."

Return: #205

18-205-SD

(Laertes exits, weeping)

Return: #205-SD

18-206

Claudius: Let's follow, Gertrude;

Return: #206

18-207

How much I had to do, to calm his rage;

Return: #207

18-208

Now fear I, this will give it start again;

Return: #208

18-209

Therefore lets follow.

Return: #209

18-209-SD

(Claudius and Gertrude exit)

Return: #209-SD


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