Scene 20

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Synopsis

In the Banquet Hall, Hamlet tells Horatio how uneasy he became during the voyage to England, so he contrived to look at the paperwork for the mission. Hamlet found that it was an order to kill him. Hamlet then substituted a forged order to have R & G killed instead.

A courtier enters and speaks to Hamlet. After considerable verbosity, some misunderstanding, and some jokes at his expense, the courtier manages to tell Hamlet about the fencing match. Hamlet agrees to participate.

The entries occur for the fencing match. Hamlet and Laertes choose their fencing foils. Claudius calls for the wine, and announces some basic rules of procedure, including the firing of cannons as a salute.

(Fortinbrasse is nearby outside with his army. That must be, since Fortinbrasse and some of his men will soon appear onstage. What are he and his army going to think when, suddenly and unexpectedly, the cannons at the Castle fire?)

Claudius announces a reward for Hamlet, for his participation, a gem, Claudius says, and he drops something into Hamlet's wine. Claudius, with his own cup of course, toasts Hamlet, and has the drums, trumpets and cannons sound to mark his toast.

The match begins, and Hamlet scores a hit on the first pass. Claudius says he's giving Hamlet a pearl, and he drops a pearl - and something else palmed, unseen - into Hamlet's wine. He encourages Hamlet to drink, but Hamlet defers.

On the second pass of the match, Hamlet again scores the hit. Laertes is taking it easy on Hamlet, to try to make the match look better. He wants a convincing "show."

Gertrude, pleased that Hamlet is doing so unexpectedly well, toasts him from his own cup, to show she's cheering for him. Claudius, seeing his enterprise suddenly go awry, remarks aside that Hamlet's wine is poisoned.

Hamlet chides Laertes for toying with him. Laertes, spurred by Hamlet's remarks, sticks him, with the poisoned sword, on the next pass.

Ostrick notices that Gertrude is weak and fainting, and Horatio remarks that both Hamlet and Laertes are bleeding. Laertes, shocked at the turn of events, speaks of his own treachery. Gertrude exclaims that the wine was poisoned, and she collapses, dying. Ostrick exits to summon the doctor for the Queen.

Laertes confesses his part in the plot, and says Claudius is to blame. Hamlet gives Claudius a jab with the poisoned foil. Claudius exclaims that he's only wounded, and calls for help.

Hamlet picks up the poisoned cup of wine, tells Claudius to "hear," grasps him by the ear to hold his head, and tilts the cup to his mouth. Claudius struggles against the overpowering urge of his alcoholism, but can't resist, and he swallows some of the poisoned wine.

Claudius dies. Laertes forgives Hamlet, asks forgiveness in return, and dies. Hamlet, dying, asks Horatio to tell people what really happened.

Ostrick enters (the anonymous doctor can be with him, as a silent extra) and says that Fortinbrasse is there, also, Fortinbrasse is saluting English ambassadors who have arrived at Elsinore Castle.

Hamlet speaks in Fortinbrasse's favor, and asks Horatio to inform Fortinbrasse of what happened at Elsinore. Hamlet adds "the rest is silence," and dies.

Fortinbrasse enters, with some of his men, and the English Ambassadors enter. The ambassadors announce that R & G are dead.

Fortinbrasse says that, with sorrow, he claims Elsinore. Fortinbrasse orders Hamlet to be borne to the stage, and he orders a salute fired, which concludes the play.

For greater detail: Explication#Scene 20.

Characters

The Scene 20 Characters are: Hamlet, Horatio, Ostrick, Lord, Claudius, Laertes, Gertrude, Fortinbrasse, English Ambassadors.

Passage Links

Courtier (Ostrick) entry #086-SD - - Anonymous Lord entry #179-SD - - Claudius, Gertrude, etc. entry #205-SD1
Fencing Match begins #263-SD - - Gertrude drinks #282 - - Hamlet wounds Claudius #320-SD
Fortinbrasse entry #361-SD

Jump down to the Notes.


Dialogue

Scene 20      [ ~ The Fencing Match ~ ]      (Act 5 Scene 2)

#20-Setting:  Inside the Castle;
            The Banquet Hall;
            Soon after the previous Scene.

#20-000-SD  (Hamlet and Horatio enter)

#20-001  Hamlet:  So much for this, sir, now shall you see the other;
                        So much for that, sir, now I'll tell you the rest.
#20-002      You do remember all the circumstance?
                        Do you remember all the circumstances?
#20-003  Horatio:  Remember it, my Lord?
                        Remember the circumstances of what, exactly, my Lord?
#20-004  Hamlet:  Sir, in my heart there was a kind of fighting
                        Sir, in my heart there was a kind of conflict
#20-005        That would not let me sleep; my thought: I lay
                        That would not let me get to sleep.  I felt, as I lay in bed
#20-006        Worse then the mutines in the bilbo.  Rashly,
                        More uncomfortable than a mutineer in irons.  On an impulse,
#20-007        (And praised be rashness for it) - let us know,
                        And impulsiveness be praised for it - be it known,
#20-008        Our indiscretion sometime serves us well
                        Our improvisation occasionally serves us well
#20-009        When our dear plots do fall, & that should teach us
                        When our fond schemes do fail, and that should teach us
#20-010        There's a divinity that shapes our ends,
                        There's a higher power that points us to our destinies,
#20-011        Rough hew them how we will.
                        No matter how we try to shape our lives, ourselves.
#20-012  Horatio:  That is most certain.
                        That is highly certain.
#20-013  Hamlet:  Up from my cabin,
                        I got up and left my cabin -
#20-014        My sea gown scarfed about me in the dark,
                        My raincoat sleeves tied around my neck - in the dark
#20-015        Groped I to find out them, had my desire,
                        I groped my way to find where they were, did so,
#20-016        Fingered their packet, and in fine, withdrew
                        Got my hands on their packet of documents, and in conclusion, withdrew
#20-017        To mine own room again, making so bold,
                        To my own room again, where I dared, since
#20-018        My fears forgetting manners, to unseal
                        My worry made me ignore protocol, to break the seal on
#20-019        Their grand commission, where I found, Horatio,
                        The King's order they'd carried, where I discovered, Horatio,
#20-020        A royal knavery, an exact command
                        A royal villainy: an unequivocal command
#20-021        Larded with many several sorts of reasons,
                        Embellished with numerous, varied kinds of justifications,
#20-022        Importing Denmark's health, and England's too,
                        Signifying the well being of Denmark, and also of England,
#20-023        With - ho - such bugs and goblins in my life,
                        (With ho! - such evil spirits in my life!)
#20-024        That on the supervise, no leisure bated,
                        That as soon as it was read, no delay allowed,
#20-025        No, not to stay the grinding of the axe,
                        None, not even to wait for sharpening of the axe,
#20-026        My head should be struck off.
                        My head was to be struck off.
#20-027  Horatio:  Is it possible?
                        Is that possible?
#20-028  Hamlet:  Here's the commission; read it at more leisure;
                        Here's the commission, itself.  Read it when you have time.
#20-029        But wilt thou hear, now, how I did proceed?
                        But do you want to hear, now, how I proceeded?
#20-030  Horatio:  I beseech you.
                        Yes, please!
#20-031  Hamlet:  Being thus benetted round with villains,
                        Being so ensnared among villains,
#20-032        Ere I could make a prologue to my brains,
                        Before I could properly introduce the subject to my brains,
#20-033        They had begun the play; I sat me down,
                        They had already gone into action.  I sat myself down,
#20-034        Devised a new commission, wrote it fair -
                        Forged a new commission, wrote it handsomely -
#20-035        I once did hold it as our statists do:
                        I used to hold the point of view that our political leaders do, that it's
#20-036        A baseness to write fair, and labored much
                        Something beneath their dignity to write attractively, and I tried hard,
#20-037        How to forget that learning, but sir, now
                        How to forget the penmanship I'd learned, but sir, this time
#20-038        It did me yeoman's service.  Wilt thou know
                        It did me faithful service.  Do you want to know
#20-039        The effects of what I wrote?
                        The essence of what I wrote?
#20-040  Horatio:  Aye, good my Lord.
                        Yes, good my Lord.
#20-041  Hamlet:  An earnest conjuration from the King,
                        A solemn entreaty from the King, that
#20-042        As England was his faithful tributary,
                        As England was his faithful dependency, and so
#20-043        As love between them as the palm should flourish,
                        As friendship between them could flourish, like the palm, and so
#20-044        As peace should still her wheaten garland wear,
                        As the wheaten garland of peace could continue to be worn,
#20-045        And stand a comma 'tween their amities,
                        And mark that their mutual amity speaks as one voice,
#20-046        And many such like as'es, of great charge,
                        And many similar "as'es" of great ponderousness,
#20-047        That on the view, and knowing of these contents,
                        That upon viewing the order, and knowing of its contents,
#20-048        Without debatement further, more or less,
                        Without any further debate, nothing more and nothing less,
#20-049        He should those bearers put to sudden death,
                        The King of England should immediately execute those who brought the document,
#20-050        Not shriving time allowed.
                        Not even allowing them time to confess their sins to a priest.
#20-051  Horatio:  How was this sealed?
                        How did you seal it?
#20-052  Hamlet:  Why, even in that was Heaven ordinant;
                        Why, even that was arranged by Heaven.
#20-053        I had my father's signet in my purse,
                        In my money pouch I had my father's signet ring,
#20-054        Which was the model of that Danish seal;
                        Which was a duplicate of the Danish seal on the original document.
#20-055        Folded the writ up in the form of the other,
                        I folded up the writ I composed, in the same way as the other,
#20-056        Subscribed it, gave it the impression, placed it safely,
                        Signed it, impressed the seal on it, and replaced it safely,
#20-057        The changeling never known.  Now, the next day
                        The substitution never discovered.  Then, the next day
#20-058        Was our sea fight, and what to this was cement
                        Was when the battle at sea happened, and what was appended to that,
#20-059        Thou knowest already.
                        You already know.
#20-060  Horatio:  So Guildenstern and Rosencrantz go to it.
                        So Guildenstern and Rosencrantz have had it.
#20-061  Hamlet:  Why man, they did make love to this employment;
                        Why man, they acted like they loved being used.
#20-062        They are not near my conscience; their defeat
                        They are not on my conscience.  Their downfall
#20-063        Does by their own insinuation grow;
                        Arose from their own desire to get involved.
#20-064        'Tis dangerous when the baser nature comes
                        It's dangerous when foolish people come
#20-065        Between the pass and fell incensed points
                        Between the close and deadly inflamed pricks
#20-066        Of mighty opposites.
                        Of powerful opponents.
#20-067  Horatio:  Why, what a king is this!
                        Why, what a "king" he is!
#20-068  Hamlet:  Does it not, think thee, stand me now upon?
                        Don't you think it's my duty to make a stand now?
#20-069        He that hath killed my King, and whored my mother,
                        He who has killed my King, and prostituted my mother,
#20-070        Popped in between the election and my hopes,
                        Intruded suddenly between my expectations and the election,
#20-071        Thrown out his angle for my proper life -
                        Gone "fishing" for my own life -
#20-072        And with such cozenage - is it not perfect conscience
                        And with such criminal deception - is it not, that with a perfectly clear conscience
#20-073        To quit him with this arm?  And is it not to be damned,
                        I should put an end to him with this arm?  And, is it not to be condemned
#20-074        To let this canker of our nature come
                        If I allow that "disease" in all our lives
#20-075        In further evil?
                        To do further evil?
#20-076  Horatio:  It must be shortly known to him from England,
                        It must be soon he'll be informed from England
#20-077        What is the issue of the business there.
                        How the business there turned out.
#20-078  Hamlet:  It will be short;
                        The time will be short, but
#20-079        The interim's mine, and a man's life's no more
                        The interim is mine, and anyway, a man's lifetime is hardly longer
#20-080        Than to say "one."  But I am very sorry, good Horatio,
                        Than the time is takes to say "one."  But I am very sorry, good Horatio,
#20-081        That to Laertes I forgot myself,
                        That I forgot myself with Laertes.
#20-082        For, by the image of my cause, I see
                        For, like a mirror reflection of what motivates me, I get
#20-083        The portraiture of his.  I'll count his favors.
                        The picture of what motivates him.  I'll remember his good points.
#20-084        But sure, the bravery of his grief did put me
                        But for sure, the boastfulness of his grief at the funeral did put me
#20-085        Into a towering passion.
                        Into a towering rage.
#20-086  Horatio:  Peace, who comes here?
                        Wait, who's approaching?

#20-086-SD  (a Courtier enters, fanning himself with his hat)

#20-087  Courtier:  Your Lordship is right welcome back to Denmark.
                        Your Lordship is very welcome back to Denmark.
#20-088  Hamlet:  I humble thank you, sir.
                        I thank you very little, sir.
#20-089    (aside to Horatio):  Dost know this water fly?
                        Do you know this pest?
#20-090  Horatio:  No, my good Lord.
                        No, my good Lord.
#20-091  Hamlet:  Thy state is the more gracious, for 'tis a vice to know him;
                        You're more blessed than I am, because it's like committing a sin just to know him.
#20-092        He hath much land, and fertile.  Let a beast be lord of beasts, and his
                        He owns a lot of fertile land.  Let a beast be a lord among beasts, and his
#20-093        crib shall stand at the king's mess; 'tis a chough, but as I say, spacious in the
                        plate will be on the King's table.  He's a birdbrain, but as I say, ample in his
#20-094        possession of dirt.
                        possession of dirt.
#20-095  Courtier:  Sweet Lord, if your friendship were at leisure, I should
                        Sweet Lord, if you have time for a friendly chat, I need to
#20-096        impart a thing to you from His Majesty.
                        Tell you something from His Majesty.
#20-097  Hamlet:  I will receive it, sir, with all diligence of spirit; your bonnet
                        I will receive the message, sir, with all the attention my spirit can muster.  Your hat
#20-098        to his right use, 'tis for the head.
                        should be used correctly, it's for your head.
#20-099  Courtier:  I thank your Lordship, it is very hot.
                        I thank your Lordship, it's very hot.
#20-100  Hamlet:  No, believe me, 'tis very cold, the wind is northerly.
                        No, believe me, it's very cold, the wind is northerly.

#20-100-SD  (the Courtier dons his hat, and becomes . . .)

#20-101  Hat on:  It is indifferent cold, my Lord, indeed.
                        It is somewhat cold, my Lord, yes.
#20-102  Hamlet:  But yet, methinks it is very 'soultry' and hot, or my
                        But yet, I think it's very sultry and hot, or
#20-103        complexion.
                        is it just me?
#20-104  Hat on:  Exceedingly, my Lord, it is very sultry, as t'were; I cannot
                        It is exceedingly hot, my Lord, it's very sultry, as it were, but I can't
#20-105        tell how.  My Lord, his Majesty bade me signify to you, that he
                        tell why that is.  My Lord, his Majesty asked me to tell you that he
#20-106        has laid a great wager on your head; sir, this is the matter . . .
                        has placed a large wager on you.  Sir, this is the matter . . .
#20-107  Hamlet:  I beseech you, remember!
                        I beg you, remember what you're supposed to say!
#20-108  Hat on:  Nay, good my Lord, for my ease, in good faith; sir, here is newly
                        No, good my Lord, please, take it easy.  Sir, there is newly
#20-109        come to court, Laertes; believe me, an absolute gentlemen, full of most
                        arrived here at court, Laertes, and believe me, he's an absolute gentleman, full of very
#20-110        excellent differences, of very soft society, and great showing.  Indeed
                        fine distinctions, of very high society, and great appearance.  Indeed,
#20-111        to speak fellingly of him, he is the card or calendar of gentry;
                        to speak on target about him, he is the definition or complete list of gentry,
#20-112        for, you shall find in him the continent of what part a gentleman
                        because, you shall find in him the greatest holding of whatever part a gentleman
#20-113        would see.
                        would wish to see.
#20-114  Hamlet:  Sir, his definement suffers no perdition in you, though I
                        Sir, praise from the likes of you is not enough to damn him.  Although I
#20-115        know to divide him inventorially, would dazzie the arithmetic of
                        know that doing an inventory of him would daze the arithmetic of the
#20-116        memory, and yet but raw neither, in respect of his quick sail; but
                        human mind, and would always be unfinished since he improves so fast, but
#20-117        in the verity of extolment, I take him to be a soul of great article,
                        in the truth of his praise, I take him to be a soul worthy of great articulation,
#20-118        & his infusion of such dearth and rareness, as to make true diction
                        filled with an essence of such scarcity and rareness, that to speak truly
#20-119        of him, his semblable is his mirror, & who else would trace him, his
                        of him, the only thing like him is his own reflection in the mirror, and his only imitator is his
#20-120        umbrage, nothing more.
                        own shadow, nothing more.
#20-121  Hat on:  Your Lordship speaks most infallibly of him.
                        Your Lordship speaks quite flawlessly of him.
#20-122  Hamlet:  The concernancy, sir; why do we wrap the gentleman in
                        The relevance, sir.  Why are we embracing the gentleman with
#20-123        our more rawer breath?
                        words that are so much less refined than he is?
#20-124  Hat on:  Sir?
                        Sir?
#20-125  Horatio (to Hat On):  Is it not possible to understand in another tongue?  You will
                        Is English a foreign tongue you can't understand?  You'll
#20-126        do it, sir, really.
                        figure it out, sir, really.
#20-127  Hamlet:  What imports the nomination of this gentleman?
                        Why has this gentleman's name been brought up?
#20-128  Hat on:  Of Laertes?
                        Laertes, you mean?
#20-129  Horatio:  His purse is empty already, all his golden words are spent.
                        His purse is empty already, all his golden words are spent.
#20-130  Hamlet:  Of him, sir.
                        Yes, him, sir.
#20-131  Hat on:  I know you are not ignorant.
                        I know you're not ignorant.
#20-132  Hamlet:  I would you did, sir, yet in faith if you did, it would not
                        I wish you did, sir, but goodness, if you knew me that well, it wouldn't
#20-133        much approve me.  Well, sir?
                        be much of a compliment to me for my choice of friends.  Well, sir?
#20-134  Hat on:  You are not ignorant of what excellence Laertes is at
                        You are not ignorant of how excellent Laertes is at
#20-135        his weapon.
                        his weapon.
#20-136  Hamlet:  I dare not confess that, lest I should compare with
                        I can't admit I know how excellent he is, lest I should compare to
#20-137        him in excellence; but, to know a man well, were to know himself.
                        him in excellence, since to know a man well is to know oneself.
#20-138  Hat on:  I mean, sir, for this weapon; but, in the imputation laid on
                        I mean, sir, for this weapon, but in the renown ascribed to
#20-139        him, by them in his meed, he's unfellowed.
                        him, by those in service to him, he's unequaled.
#20-140  Hamlet:  What's his weapon?
                        What's his weapon?
#20-141  Hat on:  Rapier and dagger.
                        Rapier and dagger.
#20-142  Hamlet:  That's two of his weapons, but well.
                        That's two of his weapons, but, anyway.
#20-143  Hat on:  The King, sir, hath wagered with him, six Barbary horses,
                        The King, sir, has wagered with him, six arabian horses,
#20-144        against the which, he has impawned, as I take it, six French rapiers
                        against which he has put at risk, as I understand it, six French rapiers
#20-145        and 'ponyards', with their assigns: as girdle, hanger and so.  Three
                        and poniards with their accessories, of belt, hanger, and so on.  Three
#20-146        of the carriages, in faith, are very dear to fancy, very responsive to
                        of the carriages, indeed, are very dear to one's heart, very well fitted to
#20-147        the hilts, most delicate carriages, and of very liberal conceit.
                        the hilts - most delightful carriages, of lewd depiction.
#20-148  Hamlet:  What call you the carriages?
                        What are you calling the "carriages?"
#20-149  Horatio (to Hamlet):  I knew you must be edified by the margin ere you had
                        I knew you'd insist he define his terms before you were
#20-150        done.
                        through with him.
#20-151  Hat on:  The carriages, sir, are the hangers.
                        The "carriages," sir, are the hangers.
#20-152  Hamlet:  The phrase would be more germane to the matter if we
                        The term would be more relevant to the subject we're discussing if we
#20-153        could carry a cannon by our sides; I would it be might "hangers" till
                        could carry a cannon at our sides, but I'd prefer to call them "hangers" until
#20-154        then; but on: six Barbary horses against six French swords, their assigns,
                        that day comes.  But go on, six arabian horses against six French swords and their accessories,
#20-155        and three liberal conceited "carriages" - that's the French
                        and three "carriages" of indecorous design, that's the French
#20-156        bet against the Danish.  Why is this all you call it?
                        bet against the Danish.  Why are you telling me all this?
#20-157  Hat on:  The King, sir, hath laid, sir, that in a dozen passes between
                        The King, sir, has bet, sir, that in a dozen passes between
#20-158        yourself and him, he shall not exceed you three hits; he hath
                        yourself and him, he will not do better than you by three hits; he has
#20-159        laid on twelve for nine, and it would come to immediate trial, if
                        made it twelve for nine, and it would come to immediate test, when
#20-160        your Lordship would vouchsafe the answer.
                        your Lordship gives the word.
#20-161  Hamlet:  How if I answer, "no?"
                        What does it cost me if I answer "no?"
#20-162  Hat on:  I mean, my Lord, the opposition of your person in trial.
                        I mean, my Lord, that if you agree to take part in the match.
#20-163  Hamlet:  Sir, I will walk here in the hall, if it please his Majesty; it
                        Sir, I will walk here in the hall, if it please his Majesty.  It
#20-164        is the breathing time of day with me; let the foils be brought, the
                        is the time of day when I take exercise.  If the foils are brought, the
#20-165        gentleman willing, and the King hold his purpose; I will win
                        gentleman willing, and the King true to his purpose, I will win
#20-166        for him if I can; if not, I will gain nothing but my shame, and
                        for him if I can.  If not, I will suffer only my own shame, and
#20-167        the odd hits.
                        the occasional touches.
#20-168  Hat on:  Shall I redeliver you even so?
                        Shall I report that you said so?
#20-169  Hamlet:  To this effect, sir, after what flourish your nature will.
                        Something to that effect, sir, however you're inclined to embellish it.
#20-170  Hat on:  I commend my duty to your lordship.
                        I commit my duty to your lordship.

#20-170-SD  ("Hat on" exits, with his hat on)

#20-171  Hamlet:  Yours, yours.  He does well to commend it himself, there are no
                        Yours, yours.  He does well to praise it himself, there is no
#20-172        tongues else for his turn.
                        one else who would.
#20-173  Horatio:  This lapwing runs away with the shell on his head.
                        He didn't take his hat off to you when he left.
#20-174  Hamlet:  He did so comply with his dug before he sucked it; thus has he - and
                        He didn't take his hat off to his own mother when he suckled.  So it is that he - and
#20-175        many more of the same bevy, that I know the drossy age dotes on -
                        many more of the same type, that I know our decadent age dotes on -
#20-176        only got the tune of the time, and out of an habit of encounter, a
                        only have the latest superficial fashion.  From habits they've picked up, they have a
#20-177        kind of histy collection, which carries them through, and through
                        kind of a "spiderweb" assortment of manners, that sees them through, and gets them by
#20-178        the most fond and winnowed opinions; and do but blow
                        as far as the most foolish and gossipy ideas go, but if you only puff
#20-179        them to their trial, the bubbles are out.
                        on them to test them, their reputations pop like bubbles.

#20-179-SD  (a Lord enters)

#20-180  Lord:  My Lord, his Majesty, commended him to you by young
                        My Lord, his Majesty, who sent his greeting to you via young
#20-181        Ostrick - who brings back to him that you attend him in the hall -
                        Ostrick, (who reports back to him that you await him in the hall,)
#20-182        he sends to know if your pleasure hold to play with Laertes, or that
                        he sends me to find out if you still want to compete with Laertes, or if
#20-183        you will take longer time?
                        you will need more time?
#20-184  Hamlet:  I am constant to my purposes, they follow the King's
                        I am faithful in my objectives, they follow the King's
#20-185        pleasure; if his fitness speaks, mine is ready; now or whensoever,
                        wishes.  If he says he is ready, so am I, now or whenever,
#20-186        provided I be so able as now.
                        as long as I'm as able as I am now.
#20-187  Lord:  The King, and Queen, and all are coming down.
                        The King, and Queen, and all, are coming down.
#20-188  Hamlet:  In happy time.
                        It should be a good time.
#20-189  Lord:  The Queen desires you to use some gentle entertainment
                        The Queen asks you to be courteous in greeting
#20-190        to Laertes, before you fall to play.
                        Laertes, before you begin the match.
#20-191  Hamlet:  She well instructs me.
                        She instructs me well.

#20-191-SD  (the Lord exits)

#20-192  Horatio:  You will lose my Lord.
                        You will lose, my Lord.
#20-193  Hamlet:  I do not think so; since he went into France, I have been
                        I don't think so.  Since he went to France I have been
#20-194        in continual practice; I shall win at the odds.  Thou wouldst not
                        practicing continually.  I'll win, with the handicap.  You wouldn't
#20-195        think how ill all's here about my heart, but it is no matter.
                        know how uneasy I feel about this, deep in my heart, but it doesn't matter.
#20-196  Horatio:  Nay, good my Lord?
                        You don't say, good my Lord?
#20-197  Hamlet:  It is but foolery, but it is such a kind of gamegiving, as
                        It's only foolishness on my part, but I feel a kind of misgiving as
#20-198        would perhaps trouble a woman.
                        would, perhaps, bother a woman.
#20-199  Horatio:  If your mind dislike anything, obey it. I will forestall their
                        If your intuition suspects anything, obey it.  I'll stop them
#20-200        repair hither, and say you are not fit.
                        coming here, and tell them you don't feel up to it.
#20-201  Hamlet:  Not a whit, we defy augury; there is special providence in
                        Not a bit.  Let's not pretend we're God.  There's a special providence even for
#20-202        the fall of a sparrow; if it be, 'tis not to come; if it be not to come,
                        the death of a sparrow.  If it is now, then it isn't to come.  Or, if it isn't to come,
#20-203        it will be now; if it be not now, yet it will come; the readiness is all,
                        it will be now.  If it isn't now, yet, it will happen.  Readiness is everything,
#20-204        since no man, {if} ought he leaves, knows what is it to leave betimes;
                        because no man, if he's leaving nothing behind, can know he's leaving too early.
#20-205        let be.
                        So let it be.

#20-205-SD1  (servants enter, and set a table for the King and Queen;
                   Claudius, Gertrude, and Laertes enter,
                   accompanied by the royal entourage;
                   Ostrick enters with the fencing equipment)

#20-205-SD2  (Claudius takes Laertes's arm,
                   and holds Laertes's hand out to Hamlet)

#20-206  Claudius:  Come, Hamlet, come and take this hand from me.
                        Come, Hamlet, come here and take this hand from me.
#20-207  Hamlet:  Give me your pardon, sir, I have done you wrong;       #20-207-SD (shakes Laertes's hand)
                        Give me your pardon, sir, I have done you wrong.
#20-208        But pardon it, as you are a gentleman.  This presence knows,
                        But pardon what I did, since I'm sure you're a gentleman.  The people here know,
#20-209        And you must needs have heard, how I am punished
                        And you must necessarily have heard, how I am suffering
#20-210        With a sore distraction; what I have done
                        From a grievous disturbance of mind.  What I have done
#20-211        That might your nature, honor, and exception
                        That might, your natural feelings, honor, and objection,
#20-212        Roughly awake, I here proclaim was madness.
                        Rudely awaken, I admit here, it was madness.
#20-213        Was it Hamlet, wronged Laertes?  Never Hamlet.
                        Was it Hamlet, as himself, who wronged Laertes?  No, not Hamlet.
#20-214        If Hamlet from himself be taken away,
                        If Hamlet is taken away from himself,
#20-215        And when he's not himself, does wrong Laertes,
                        And when he's not himself, does wrong to Laertes,
#20-216        Then Hamlet does it not, Hamlet denies it;
                        Then it isn't Hamlet, himself, who does it - Hamlet denies that.
#20-217        Who does it, then?  His madness.  If it be so,
                        Who does it, then?  His madness.  If it is so,
#20-218        Hamlet is of the faction that is wronged;
                        Hamlet, himself, is among those who have been wronged.
#20-219        His madness is poor Hamlet's enemy;
                        His own madness is poor Hamlet's enemy.
#20-220        Sir, in this audience,
                        Sir, in front of everyone in attendance,
#20-221        Let my disclaiming from a purposed evil,
                        Let my disavowal of any intentional evil
#20-222        Free me so far in your most generous thoughts:
                        Free me at least that much, in your most charitable thoughts:
#20-223        That I have shot my arrow o'er the house
                        That I have shot an arrow over the house,
#20-224        And hurt my brother.
                        And accidentally hurt my own brother.
#20-225  Laertes:  I am satisfied in nature,
                        I am satisfied according to my own feelings,
#20-226        Whose motive in this case should stir me most
                        (Whose imperative, in this case, should move me most
#20-227        To my revenge, but in my terms of honor
                        To have my revenge,) but according to my terms of honor
#20-228        I stand aloof, and will no reconcilement,
                        I stand unmoved, and will have no reconciliation,
#20-229        Till, by some elder masters of known honor,
                        Until, from some elder masters of traditional honor,
#20-230        I have a voice and precedent of peace
                        I receive a judgment, and precedent, putting the matter to rest,
#20-231        To keep my name ungored.  But till that time
                        To keep my reputation intact.  But in the meantime
#20-232        I do receive your offered love, like love,
                        I do receive your offer of friendship, as the friendly gesture it is,
#20-233        And will not wrong it.
                        And will not betray it.
#20-234  Hamlet:  I embrace it freely, and will this brother's wager
                        I receive your sentiment without reservation, and I will, in this brotherly venture,
#20-235        frankly play.
                        honestly participate.
#20-236        Give us the foils.  Come on.
                        Give us the foils.  Come on.
#20-237  Laertes:  Come, one for me.
                        Here, one for me.
#20-238  Hamlet:  I'll be your foil Laertes; in mine ignorance
                        I'll be your contrast, Laertes.  Against my lack of ability
#20-239        Your skill shall, like a star in the darkest night
                        Your skill will, like a star in the darkest night,
#20-240        Stick fiery off indeed.
                        Shine brightly indeed.
#20-241  Laertes:  You mock me, sir?
                        Do you mock me, sir?
#20-242  Hamlet:  No, by this hand.
                        No, I swear by my hand.
#20-243  Claudius:  Give them the foils, young Ostrick; cousin Hamlet,
                        Give them the foils, young Ostrick.  Cousin Hamlet,
#20-244        You know the wager.
                        You know the wager.
#20-245  Hamlet:  Very well, my Lord;
                        Very well, my Lord.
#20-246        Your grace has laid the odds on the weaker side.
                        Your Grace has placed his bet on the weaker competitor.
#20-247  Claudius:  I do not fear it, I have seen you both;
                        I'm not worried about it.  I've seen you both fence.
#20-248        But since he is better, we have therefore odds.
                        But since he's better than you, we therefore have the handicap.
#20-249  Laertes:  This is too heavy; let me see another.
                        This one is too heavy, let me see another one.
#20-250  Hamlet:  This likes me well; these foils have all a length?
                        This one suits me.  Are all the foils the same length?
#20-251  Ostrick:  Aye, my good Lord.
                        Yes, my good Lord.
#20-252  Claudius:  Set me the stoups of wine upon that table;
                        Set the cups of wine on that table for me.
#20-253        If Hamlet give the first or second hit,
                        If Hamlet makes the first or second hit,
#20-254        Or quit in answer of the third exchange,
                        Or if he concedes the match when called for the third round,
#20-255        Let all the battlements their ordnance fire.
                        Let all the cannons on the battlements be fired!
#20-256        The King shall drink to Hamlet's better breath,
                        The King shall drink to Hamlet's better life
#20-257        And in the cup an onyx shall he throw,
                        And in the cup he will drop an onyx,
#20-258        Richer than that which four successive kings
                        Worth more than that which four successive kings,
#20-259        In Denmark's crown have worn.  Give me the cups.
                        In Denmark's crown, have worn.  Give me the cups.

#20-259-SD    (Claudius drops something into Hamlet's wine)
    (Claudius continues):
#20-260        And let the kettle to the trumpet speak,
                        And now let the kettle drum speak to the trumpet,
#20-261        The trumpet to the cannoneer without,
                        The trumpet to the cannoneer outside,
#20-262        The cannons to the heavens, the heaven to earth:
                        The cannons to the heavens, the heavens back to the earth, to say
#20-263        Now the King drinks to Hamlet!
                        Now the King drinks to Hamlet!

#20-263-SD  (the drums are pounded, the trumpets blare, and the cannons fire;
                             the trumpets continue, as the match begins)
    (Claudius continues):
#20-264        Come, begin.
                        Now, begin.
#20-265        And you, the judges, bear a wary eye.
                        And you judges, keep your eyes open.
#20-266  Hamlet:  Come on, sir.
                        Come on, sir.
#20-267  Laertes:  Come on, sir.         #20-267-SD (the first pass begins)
                        Come on, sir.
#20-268  Hamlet:  One!
                        I scored!
#20-269  Laertes:  No.
                        I didn't feel it.
#20-270  Hamlet:  Judgment?
                        Judgment?
#20-271  Ostrick:  A hit, a very palpable hit.
                        A hit, a very clear touch.

#20-271-SD  (the drums and trumpets sound, and the cannons fire)

#20-272  Laertes:  Well, again.
                        All right, let's go again.
#20-273  Claudius:  Stay, give me drink; Hamlet, this pearl is thine.         #20-273-SD (drops a pearl, and a palmed onyx,
                        Wait, I want a drink.  Hamlet, this pearl is for you!             into Hamlet's wine)
#20-274        Here's to thy health!         #20-274-SD (raises his own cup)
                        Here's to your health!
#20-275        Give him the cup.
                        Give him his cup.
#20-276  Hamlet:  I'll play this bout first, set it by a while.         #20-276-SD (the second pass begins)
                        I'll play this next pass first, set it aside a while.
#20-277        Come . . . another hit.  What say you?
                        Come on . . . Another hit.  What do you say?
#20-278  Laertes:  A touch, a touch, I do confess it.
                        A touch, yes, a touch, I'll admit it.
#20-279  Claudius:  Our son shall win.
                        Our son will win.
#20-280  Gertrude:  He's fat and scant of breath.
                        He's flabby and out of shape.
#20-281        Here, Hamlet, take my napkin, rub thy brows;
                        Here, Hamlet, take my table napkin and dry the sweat from your brow.
#20-282        The Queen carouses to thy fortune, Hamlet.
                        The Queen drinks to your good luck, Hamlet.
#20-283  Hamlet:  Good Madam.
                        I'm honored, good Madam.
#20-284  Claudius:  Gertrude, do not drink.
                        Gertrude, don't drink that.
#20-285  Gertrude:  I will, my Lord, I pray you pardon me.
                        I will, my Lord, please pardon me.
#20-286  Claudius (aside):  It is the poisoned cup; it is too late!
                        It's the poisoned cup . . . it's too late!
#20-287  Hamlet:  I dare not drink yet, Madam.
                        I dare not drink now, Madam.
#20-288        By and by.
                        Soon.
#20-289  Gertrude:  Come, let me wipe thy face.
                        Come here, let me wipe the sweat from your face.
#20-290  Laertes:  My Lord, I'll hit him now.
                        My Lord, I'll jab him now.
#20-291  Claudius:  I do not think it.
                        I can't believe it.
#20-292  Laertes:  And yet, it is almost against my conscience.
                        And yet, it's almost against my conscience.
#20-293  Hamlet:  Come for the third, Laertes, you do but dally.
                        Come on for the third pass, Laertes, you're wasting time.
#20-294        I pray you, pass with your best violence;
                        Please, try with your best effort.
#20-295        I am afeared you make a wanton of me.
                        I'm afraid you're only toying with me.
#20-296  Laertes:  Say you so?  Come on.         #20-296-SD (the third pass begins)
                        You think so?  Come on.
#20-297  Ostrick:  Nothing, neither way.
                        Nothing, either way.
#20-298  Laertes:  Have at you, now.        #20-298-SD1 (wounds Hamlet with the poisoned foil, but
                        Try this, now!                   not with a hit in the scoring area)

#20-298-SD2  (the third pass continues, since there's been no scoring hit yet;
                   they grapple, and trap each other's foils;
                   in breaking away, they exchange foils;
                   Hamlet wounds Laertes with the poisoned foil;
                   both feeling a sting, they step close and glare at each other,
                   about ready to forget the foils and fistfight)

#20-299  Claudius:  Part them, they are incensed.
                        Separate them, they're enraged.
#20-300  Hamlet:  Nay, come again.
                        No, come on, again.
#20-301  Ostrick:  Look to the Queen there, ho!        #20-301-SD (Ostrick steps between Hamlet and Laertes)
                        Look to the Queen, there!  Stop!
#20-302  Horatio:  They bleed on both sides.  How is it, my Lord?
                        Both of them are bleeding.  How bad is it my Lord?
#20-303  Ostrick:  How is it, Laertes?
                        How bad is it, Laertes?
#20-304  Laertes:  Why, as a woodcock to mine own spring, Ostrick;
                        Why, it's like a woodcock caught in its own trap, Ostrick.
#20-305        I am justly killed with mine own treachery.
                        I've been killed, justly, by my own treachery.
#20-306  Hamlet:  How does the Queen?
                        How is the Queen?
#20-307  Claudius:  She sounds to see them bleed.
                        She faints to see them bleeding.
#20-308  Gertrude:  No, no, the drink, the drink, oh my dear Hamlet . . .
                        No, no, the drink, it's the drink!  Oh, my dear Hamlet . . .
#20-309        The drink, the drink . . . I am poisoned.
                        The drink, the drink . . . I am poisoned!

#20-309-SD  (Gertrude slumps at the table, dying;
                   Hamlet drops the foil and hurries to her;
                   Ostrick exits, running, to get the doctor)

#20-310  Hamlet:  Oh villainy, ho!  Let the door be locked!
                        Oh, villainy, stop!  Lock the doors!
#20-311        Treachery, seek it out.
                        There's treachery, find it.
#20-312  Laertes:  It is here, Hamlet; thou art slain;        #20-312-SD (Laertes picks up the foil Hamlet dropped)
                        Here it is, Hamlet.  You've been slain.
#20-313        No medicine in the world can do thee good;
                        No remedy in the world can do you any good.
#20-314        In thee there is not half an hour's life;
                        You have less than half an hour to live.
#20-315        The treacherous instrument is in my hand,
                        The instrument of treachery is here, in my hand,
#20-316        Unbated and envenomed; the foul practice
                        Sharp and poisoned.  The evil scheme
#20-317        Hath turned itself on me; lo, here I lie
                        Has turned itself back against me.  Look, here I lie
#20-318        Never to rise again; thy mother's poisoned;
                        Never to rise again.  Your mother is poisoned.
#20-319        I can no more; the King, the King's to blame!
                        I can't continue - the King, the King's to blame!
#20-320  Hamlet:  The point envenomed too?  Then venom, to thy work!
                        The point is poisoned, too?  Then venom, do your work!

#20-320-SD  (Hamlet takes the foil Laertes is holding up to him, and
                    slashes Claudius on the side of the head with it, cutting his ear)

#20-321  (From the audience):  Treason, treason!
                        Treason!  Treason!

#20-321-SD  (Claudius's bodyguards start forward to attack Hamlet;
               Horatio quickly kills them both, then turns with a weapon taken
               from one of them, and faces down the approaching audience members, who
               stop and retreat)

#20-322  Claudius:  Oh, yet defend me, friends, I am but hurt.
                        Oh, keep defending me, my friends, I'm only hurt.
#20-323  Hamlet:  Hear, thou incestuous, murderous, damned Dane!
                        Hear this, you incestuous, murderous, damned Dane,
#20-324        Drink of this potion!  Is the "onyx" here?
                        Take a drink of this potion.  Is that "onyx" here?
#20-325        Follow my mother.
                        Follow my mother!

#20-325-SD  (Hamlet grasps Claudius's ear to hold his head, and
               tilts the cup to Claudius's mouth;
               Claudius swallows some: he can't resist wine;
               Claudius dies)

#20-326  Laertes:  He is justly served, it is a poison tempered by himself;
                        He is justly served, it is a poison concocted by himself.
#20-327        Exchange forgiveness with me, noble Hamlet;
                        Exchange forgiveness with me, noble Hamlet.
#20-328        Mine and my father's death come not upon thee,
                        Let my death and my father's death not weigh upon you,
#20-329        Nor thine on me.
                        Nor your death on me.

#20-329-SD  (Laertes dies)

#20-330  Hamlet:  Heaven make thee free of it; I follow thee;
                        May Heaven forgive you for my death!  I follow you.
#20-331        I am dead, Horatio; wretched Queen, adieu.
                        I am the same as dead, Horatio!  Poor Queen, goodbye.
#20-332        You that look pale, and tremble at this chance,
                        You who have turned pale, and tremble at this turn of events,
#20-333        That are but mutes, or audience to this act,
                        Who are only silent, or the audience to this event . . .
#20-334        Had I but time - as this fell sergeant, death
                        If I only had time - but this fatal officer, Death,
#20-335        Is strict in his arrest - oh I could tell you . . .
                        Is strict in making his arrest - Oh, I could tell you . . .
#20-336        But let it be; Horatio I am dead;
                        But let it be.  Horatio, I am the same as dead.
#20-337        Thou livest, report me and my cause aright
                        You survive, so give a just account of me, and my motive,
#20-338        To the unsatisfied.
                        To those who hunger to know.
#20-339  Horatio:  Never believe it;
                        You mustn't believe that.
#20-340        I am more an antique Roman than a Dane;
                        In this, I'm more like an ancient Roman than a Dane.
#20-341        Here's yet some liquor left.
                        There's still some poisoned wine left.
#20-342  Hamlet:  As th'art a man,
                        Be a man,
#20-343        Give me the cup, let go, by Heaven I'll have it;
                        Give me the cup, let go of it.  By Heaven I'll have it!
#20-344        Oh good Horatio, what a wounded name,
                        Oh dear Horatio, what a maligned reputation,
#20-345        Things standing thus unknown, shall I leave behind me?
                        Things left unknown like this, will I leave behind?
#20-346        If thou didst ever hold me in thy heart,
                        If you ever did hold me in your heart, then
#20-347        Absent thee from felicity a while,
                        Absent yourself from the state of eternal bliss for a while
#20-348        And, in this harsh world, draw thy breath in pain         #20-348-SD (the sound of drums and cannon fire)
                        And continue to live a life of grief, in this harsh world,
#20-349        To tell my story.  What warlike noise is this?
                        To tell my story.  What's that warlike noise?

#20-349-SD  (Ostrick enters)

#20-350  Ostrick:  Young Fortinbrasse, with conquest come from Poland,
                        Young Fortinbrasse has arrived, after victory in Poland, and
#20-351        To the ambassadors of England gives this warlike volley.
                        To honor ambassadors from England, he's ordered a cannon salute fired.
#20-352  Hamlet:  Oh, I die, Horatio;
                        Oh, I die, Horatio.
#20-353        The potent poison quite o'er-crows my spirit;
                        The powerful poison quite overcomes my spirit.
#20-354        I cannot live to hear the news from England;
                        I will not live to hear the news from England.
#20-355        But I do prophecy the election lights
                        However, I do foresee the choice for the new King will
#20-356        On Fortinbrasse; he has my dying voice;
                        Be Fortinbrasse.  My dying voice speaks in his favor.
#20-357        So tell him, with the occurrents, more and less,
                        So tell him that, and also about the events, greater and smaller,
#20-358        Which have solicited . . . the rest is silence.
                        Which have lured me . . . the rest is silence.

#20-358-SD  (Hamlet dies)

#20-359  Horatio:  Now cracks a noble heart!  Good night, sweet Prince,
                        Now Hamlet's noble heart fails.  Good night, sweet Prince,
#20-360        And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.
                        And may flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.
#20-361        Why does the drum come hither?
                        Why does that march of drums approach?

#20-361-SD  (Fortinbrasse enters, with his military entourage;
                   the English Ambassadors enter)

#20-362  Fortinbrasse:  Where is this sight?
                        Where is this sight?
#20-363  Horatio:  What is it you would see?
                        What is it you want to see?
#20-364        If aught of woe, or wonder, cease your search.
                        If it's anything of sorrow, or amazement, your search ends here.
#20-365  Fortinbrasse:  This quarry cries on havoc!  O proved death,
                        This carnage cries out, "havoc!"  Oh proven Death,
#20-366        What feast is toward in thine eternal cell,
                        What feast have you scheduled, in your eternal dungeon,
#20-367        That thou, so many princes at a shot,
                        That you, so many nobles at one time,
#20-368        So bloodily hast struck?
                        Have so murderously struck down?
#20-369  English Ambassador:  The sight is dismal,
                        This is a dismal sight,
#20-370        And our affairs from England come too late;
                        And we have arrived too late with our business from England.
#20-371        The ears are senseless that should give us hearing,
                        The ears are lifeless that should give us a hearing,
#20-372        To tell him his commandment is fulfilled,
                        To tell him that his command has been carried out,
#20-373        That Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead.
                        That Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead.
#20-374        Where should we have our thanks?
                        Where are we to receive our thanks?
#20-375  Horatio:  Not from his mouth,         #20-375-SD (points to Claudius)
                        Not from his mouth,
#20-376        Had it the ability of life to thank you;
                        Even if he were alive to say a thanks,
#20-377        He never gave commandment for their death;
                        He did not give the order for their deaths.
#20-378        But since, so jump upon this bloody question,
                        But since, so quickly after this murderous mystery,
#20-379        You from the Polack wars, and you from England,
                        You, from the Polish wars, and you, from England,
#20-380        Are here arrived, give order that these bodies
                        Have arrived here, give the order that these bodies
#20-381        High on a stage be placed to the view,
                        Be placed, for public view, high on a stage,
#20-382        And let me speak, to the yet unknowing world,
                        And let me speak, to the yet uninformed world,
#20-383        How these things came about; so shall you hear
                        How these things happened.  Then you will hear
#20-384        Of carnal, bloody and unnatural acts,
                        Of lustful, murderous and inhuman actions,
#20-385        Of accidental judgments, casual slaughters,
                        Of unlucky judgments, incidental killings,
#20-386        Of deaths put on by cunning, and forced cause,
                        Of killings produced by slyness, and in a compelled cause,
#20-387        And in this upshot, purposes mistook,
                        And in this outcome, intentions gone awry,
#20-388        Fallen on the inventors' heads; all this,
                        Fallen on the schemers' own heads.  All this,
#20-389        Can I truly deliver.
                        I can tell you truly.
#20-390  Fortinbrasse:  Let us haste to hear it,
                        Let us hear it soon,
#20-391        And call the noblest to the audience;
                        And call everyone influential to be listeners.
#20-392        For me, with sorrow I embrace my fortune;
                        As for me, it is with sorrow I embrace my fortune.
#20-393        I have some rights of memory in this kingdom,
                        I have some rights of ancestry in this kingdom,
#20-394        Which now to claim, my vantage doth invite me.
                        Which my advantageous position now invites me to claim.
#20-395  Horatio:  Of that I shall have also cause to speak,
                        I will also have reason to speak about that,
#20-396        And from his mouth, whose voice will draw no more;
                        And they'll be words from his mouth, whose voice can draw no more breath to speak for himself.
#20-397        But let this same be presently performed,
                        But let my account of events be presented soon,
#20-398        Even while men's minds are wild, lest more mischance
                        Even while people's opinions are unsettled, lest more misfortune
#20-399        On plots and errors happen.
                        Happen because of further plots and blunders.
#20-400  Fortinbrasse:  Let four captains
                        Have four captains
#20-401        Bear Hamlet, like a soldier, to the stage,
                        Carry Hamlet, like a soldier, to the stage,
#20-402        For he was likely, had he been put on,
                        Because he would probably, had he become King,
#20-403        To have proved most royal; and for his passage,
                        Have shown himself very royal, and for his departure from this life,
#20-404        The soldier's music and the rite of war
                        The soldier's music and the rites of the warrior
#20-405        Speak loudly for him;
                        Should sound loudly for him.
#20-406        Take up the bodies, such a sight as this
                        Bear away the bodies.  A sight such as this
#20-407        Becomes the field, but here shows much amiss;
                        Suits the battlefield, but here, it's much amiss.
#20-408        Go, bid the soldiers shoot.
                        Go, bid the honor guard to fire the salute.

#20-408-SD    (all exit, and a peal of ordnance is heard, as . . .
                   ~ the final curtain falls.)

End of Scene 20

The End

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.

20-Setting
  • Place - The Banquet Hall.
  • Time of Day -
  • Calendar Time -

Return: #Setting

20-000-SD

(Hamlet and Horatio enter)

Hamlet has changed into his own clothes, his black outfit for mourning. His mourning clothes are now doubly appropriate. Hamlet can, and should, now be seen as mourning both King Hamlet and Ophelia.

Return: #000-SD

20-001

Hamlet: So much for this, sir, now shall you see the other;

the other - the rest. What Hamlet hasn't told Horatio yet.

Return: #001

20-002

You do remember all the circumstance?

the circumstance - what led up to that which Hamlet will proceed to tell, as Hamlet continues in this passage.

Hamlet has been filling Horatio in on the events following the Gonzago/'Mousetrap' play, when Horatio wasn't present. Those events include Hamlet's opportunity to kill Claudius, which he passed up; his accidental killing of Polonius; his success (Hamlet thinks) with an improvised show to catch Gertrude's conscience about her and Claudius; Hamlet's idea of using Polonius's body in connection with killing Claudius, which didn't work out; and Claudius's persistence in sending him to England.

There's also some authorial tongue in cheek in this line. It has not been two hours since the play began, it has been two days. Whether one remembers all the circumstance, that led up to this point in the play, is a good question.

Return: #002

20-003

Horatio: Remember it, my Lord?

Horatio is teasing Hamlet. The line should be spoken with some stress on remember. Horatio is asking, "you expected me to remember all that stuff you were talking about? I thought you were just talking to be talking, so I was ignoring you." Joke.

Return: #003

20-004

Hamlet: Sir, in my heart there was a kind of fighting

Hamlet felt "conflicted" as some would put it in current English.

Hamlet thumps his chest, over his heart. All of the "heart" statements and actions in the play are important.

Return: #004

20-005

That would not let me sleep; my thought: I lay

It's easy to understand Hamlet's uneasiness. Claudius knew Hamlet had killed Polonius, but still sent Hamlet on the trip, instead of ordering him locked up. It's too suspicious.

Return: #001

20-006

Worse then the mutines in the bilbo. Rashly,

mutines - mutineers. Mutine is an old term, now obsolete.

bilbo - a long iron bar with shackles attached, used to fetter the ankles of prisoners. The word derives from the town of Bilboa, Spain, where articles of iron and steel were manufactured. Mutineers shackled to the bilbo would sleep poorly because any movement of one would jostle the others, with them all being attached to the same bar. (A sword from Bilboa could also be called a "bilbo," which is worth noting because of the importance of swords in this Scene. A "bilbo-man" was a swordsman.)

It's left unstated whether the pirates may have shackled Hamlet to the bilbo, on their ship, while they decided what to do with him. If so, that would account for the bilbo being on Hamlet's mind.

Rashly - impulsively, with a distinct implication of "hastily." In Hamlet's vocabulary, he means without "meditation," which is without planning.

Return: #006 - or - Folio Difference

20-007

(And praised be rashness for it) - let us know,

praised - Because in this case his impulsive actions turned out well for him.

let us know - let it be known. Take note.

Return: #007

20-008

Our indiscretion sometime serves us well

indiscretion - lack of circumspection. Leaping before one looks.

sometime - sometimes, with the terminal 's' dropped since it would run into the initial 's' of "serves" and be lost anyway in performance. One keeps in mind the dialogue was written to be spoken. Be that it may, Shakespeare did use sometime instead of "sometimes" rather casually in his various writings.

Return: #008

20-009

When our dear plots do fall, & that should teach us

dear plots - plots that are dear in that one has put a lot of time and effort into them. Something in which one has invested a lot is dear.

The idea of something dear falling has an undertone of allusion to Ophelia.

teach - goes back to Old English 'tæcan' ("to show,") so it provides an allusion to the Show Theme, albeit an obscure one.

Return: #009 - or - Folio Difference

20-010

There's a divinity that shapes our ends,

Return: #010

20-011

Rough hew them how we will.

Return: #011

20-012

Horatio: That is most certain.

Return: #012

20-013

Hamlet: Up from my cabin,

Hamlet means he got up and left his cabin.

Return: #013

20-014

My sea gown scarfed about me in the dark,

sea gown - water-resistant outer garment. Raincoat; mackintosh. It's a garment used to protect the clothes from water, whether rain or sea spray.

scarfed - worn like a cloak, with the sleeves tied around his neck to hold it on. Here's Hamlet "cloaked" again.

Return: #014

20-015

Groped I to find out them, had my desire,

Groped - made his way mostly by feel.

them - Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Their cabin, with them in it.

had my desire - found what I wanted.

Return: #015

20-016

Fingered their packet, and in fine, withdrew

Fingered their packet - identified the packet of paperwork by feel. Got his hands on the packet.

in fine - in conclusion, of that much of the account. Can also be read as "in short," as Hamlet skips minor details.

withdrew - stole away, as it were.

Return: #016

20-017

To mine own room again, making so bold,

making so bold - daring.

Return: #017

20-018

My fears forgetting manners, to unseal

My fears - my worry. My uneasiness.

forgetting - ignoring.

manners - propriety. Or more to the point for an ambassador's mission, protocol.

My fears forgetting manners - In my worry, ignoring propriety.

The phrasing is synecdoche. Hamlet uses my fears, the dominant part of his existence at that moment, to mean himself, entirely.

Return: #018 - or - Folio Difference

20-019

Their grand commission, where I found, Horatio,

grand commission - King Claudius's order to England, which he gave to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to keep it away from Hamlet. Having lower-level persons handle the paperwork is normal, however. There was nothing suspicious in the mere fact of R & G having the mission paperwork. Hamlet will go on to mention how higher-ranking persons consider paperwork to be beneath them.

Return: #019

20-020

A royal knavery, an exact command

knavery - villainy.

BOOKMARK (recall knave-goblin)

exact - specific; clear; unequivocal. Leaving no doubt as to what it meant. There is amusing wordplay in that one can see exact as 'ex-' ("out") + "act", so one can then take "an exact command" as "a command to act out."

Return: #020

20-021

Larded with many several sorts of reasons,

Larded - garnished; embellished. Lard is from swine, and swine are sent to the slaughter, so the word has some suitability for what Claudius intended.

many several sorts - many and various kinds.

Return: #021

20-022

Importing Denmark's health, and England's too,

Importing - pertaining to; relating to. "Bringing up." To "import" is to bring, in some way. Bring up, bring in, bring out. One can take importing as "portending" and get an instance of the Omen Motif.

health - welfare. However, taking "Denmark" to mean King Claudius, it is true he was concerned for his personal health, in the face of the threat from Hamlet, but Claudius did not write, in his order to England, that he was personally afraid. He wouldn't admit that.

Return: #022

20-023

With - ho - such bugs and goblins in my life,

BOOKMARK for me

ho - we'd now probably write "oh."

bugs - bugbears; bugaboos.

bugs and goblins - nonsense. Hamlet means he's never, in his life, read such nonsense as Claudius wrote.

Return: #023

20-024

That on the supervise, no leisure bated,

on - directly upon; as soon as.

supervise - looking over; inspecting (of the order.) Used in the literal sense of the Latin super- ("over") + -vise ("see.") The word choice provides an instance of the Vision Motif.

"That as soon as the order was perused," is what Hamlet means.

no leisure bated - offers wordplay in anticipation of the fencing match. A fencing match would normally be a leisure activity, using bated foils, but this one will be different. The plain meaning is that the English must not let any time go by to "blunt" the intent of the order. "Let there be no leisure time taken to abate, or blunt, the order's intent."

BOOKMARK no time escaped

Return: #024

20-025

No, not to stay the grinding of the axe,

stay - from Latin 'stare' ("to stand,") here meaning "stand still" (for); "wait" (for); await. The word choice is deliberately ambiguous, since not to stay could also be read as "not to stop" (the grinding...) which is the opposite meaning.

Hamlet apparently means, the order said not even to take time to put a new edge on the axe. This is another implicit instance of the play's Edge Motif.

Return: #025

20-026

My head should be struck off.

Return: #026

20-027

Horatio: Is it possible?

Return: #027

20-028

Hamlet: Here's the commission; read it at more leisure;

the commission - the official document. The phrasing also implies proof of the commission of a crime.

at more leisure - when you have more time to examine it at leisure.

Horatio now holds tangible proof of Claudius's villainy.

Return: #028

20-029

But wilt thou hear, now, how I did proceed?

Hamlet is asking whether Horatio wants to read Claudiius's commission now, or hear what Hamlet did about it. In hear we have, again, the Ear Motif.

Return: #029 - or - Folio Difference

20-030

Horatio: I beseech you.

Horatio is quite curious to know what Hamlet did about the deadly question he faced.

Return: #030

20-031

Hamlet: Being thus benetted round with villains,

benetted - ensnared; enmeshed; entangled.

benetted round - surrounded, as if inside a net.

with - by; amongst.

Hamlet takes it that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern knew that his death was the object of the mission to England. His old friends betrayed him to gain royal favor, Hamlet believes.

However, we can be certain that R & G thought the mission was what Claudius pictured it to be, and the goal was to collect the tribute.

Return: #031

20-032

Ere I could make a prologue to my brains,

prologue - is used in the theatrical sense of "a formal introduction" (to a performance.) One may more simply, and literally, take prologue as "preface."

We keep in mind Hamlet has been a university student (as has Horatio, alongside him.) We can be sure that when Hamlet (and Horatio) did a composition in school, his professors would insist it begin with a suitable introduction to the subject.

So, Hamlet's thought process has been trained that way, to include a prologue, when he composes. This is why Hamlet mentions it (and why Shakespeare, doing perfect characterization, had him mention it.)

With its idea of a prologue to a play the line provides an instance of the Putting on a Show Theme.

Return: #032

20-033

They had begun the play; I sat me down,

begun the play - begun to act. Hamlet means his mind had already decided on a course of action.

He surprised himself with how quickly he thought of the idea he proceeded to act upon.

Return: #033

20-034

Devised a new commission, wrote it fair -

Devised - composed. Invented. That is to say, forged.

fair - handsomely. In the flowery script which characterizes such documents. Hamlet wrote it so that the appearance of the writing Put on a Show of it being a genuine King's order.

It should be noted that the English do not yet know Claudius's handwriting, or at least there is no reason to suppose they do, nor would the English be sure King Claudius would write the commission himself, rather than having an aide write it, so Hamlet had no need to try to imitate Claudius's handwriting.

Return: #034

20-035

I once did hold it as our statists do:

statists - statesmen. The high-ranking political leadership, such as the King's councilors. Hamlet uses the word statists in a rather pejorative sense here, although the word itself was ordinary in those days.

Return: #035

20-036

A baseness to write fair, and labored much

A baseness - a low activity. Something beneath them (the statists.) The reason statists deprecated good handwriting is because of being proud that they had high enough status to employ secretaries and clerks to do their writing for them.

Hamlet, the Prince, certainly a personage of high status, is in the process of saying he used to believe the same as the statists, about good handwriting being a low accomplishment, but after seeing what he could accomplish with his own good writing, he's changed his mind.

labored much - tried hard.

Return: #036

20-037

How to forget that learning, but sir, now

Hamlet tells us he "labored much" to forget the penmanship he was taught, after he undoubtedly labored much to learn it in the first place. There is irony in that.

that learning - Hamlet's education in penmanship. In elementary school, his teachers, or tutors, must have insisted on him learning good penmanship, as indeed they should have. He has not been able to forgot those lessons. One does not forget merely because of an inclination to forget.

We see again the Memory Motif.

Return: #037

20-038

It did me yeoman's service. Wilt thou know

yeoman's service - good, dutiful labor, on Hamlet's behalf. Hamlet means his education in penmanship turned out to be his faithful servant.

Return: #038

20-039

The effects of what I wrote?

We still use the phrase, "words to that effect."

Throughout the passage, Hamlet talks and Horatio listens, with Hamlet occasionally asking a question to be sure he has Horatio's full attention and understanding. This is not anything against Horatio.

Hamlet is, very seriously, trying to communicate as much factual information to Horatio as he can. Hamlet is planning for Horatio to be his witness when push comes to shove, against Claudius, and Horatio understands that. These are matters of life and death, and the crown of the nation.

Return: #039

20-040

Horatio: Aye, good my Lord.

Horatio means he has no questions to pose about what Hamlet has already said, and he's ready for Hamlet to proceed. Hamlet's question to Horatio gave Horatio the opportunity to raise questions, or offer comments, if he had any.

Return: #040

20-041

Hamlet: An earnest conjuration from the King,

earnest conjuration - solemn entreaty. However, there is the undertone of Claudius trying to "conjure" Hamlet's spirit, by having him killed. Recall the line near the end of Scene 14 (Scene 14#068) where Claudius spoke of "letters conjuring to that effect...." The Wheel of Fortune spins, and Hamlet unintentionally repeats that same idea.

Return: #041

20-042

As England was his faithful tributary,

tributary - subordinate; dependent; vassal. There is irony that in terms of what Claudius purported the diplomatic mission to be, the meaning is virtually literal: "tribute payer." Hamlet learned that the "tribute" Claudius demanded from England was something other than the money, however.

Return: #042

20-043

As love between them as the palm should flourish,

The palm ... flourish line reflects the Psalms in the Bible, Psalm 92, paragraph 12.

...
11 My eyes have seen the defeat of my adversaries;
   my ears have heard the rout of my wicked foes.
12 The righteous will flourish like a palm tree,
   they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon;
13 planted in the house of the Lord,
   they will flourish in the courts of our God.
14 They will still bear fruit in old age,
   they will stay fresh and green,
...

Psalm 92 is "a Psalm (or song) for the Sabbath day," and the Sabbath, in Christian timekeeping, is Sunday. The Sabbath being "Sunday" gives another implicit sun/son pun, with the "son" being Hamlet. Hamlet changed the commission to make it his "son day," to rise again, like the sun, from among those Claudius wanted dead. Hamlet's use of an idea from a Psalm for the Sabbath is an apt choice.

Return: #043

20-044

As peace should still her wheaten garland wear,

Return: #044

20-045

And stand a comma 'tween their amities,

A comma is a mark used to separate phrases spoken by the same voice. With comma, then, Hamlet means Denmark and England "speaking as one." When parties agree, they "speak with the same voice," so to speak. They speak as one. The concept is that of unity, despite England and Denmark being different countries. (A period would mark a separation.)

The original Second Quarto publication of Hamlet shows mostly commas within a speech by one character.

Return: #045

20-046

And many such like as'es, of great charge,

Return: #046

20-047

That on the view, and knowing of these contents,

Return: #047

20-048

Without debatement further, more or less,

Return: #048

20-049

He should those bearers put to sudden death,

Return: #049

20-050

Not shriving time allowed.

Return: #050

20-051

Horatio: How was this sealed?

Return: #051

20-052

Hamlet: Why, even in that was Heaven ordinant;

Return: #052

20-053

I had my father's signet in my purse,

Return: #053

20-054

Which was the model of that Danish seal;

Return: #054

20-055

Folded the writ up in the form of the other,

Return: #055

20-056

Subscribed it, gave it the impression, placed it safely,

Subscribed it - signed it (as the King of Denmark.)

gave it the impression - affixed the seal.

placed it safely - where he had found the original.

Return: #056

20-057

The changeling never known. Now, the next day

changeling - In folklore, fairies would sometimes steal an infant, and leave a strange infant in its place. The concept is that of an imposter, a substitute.

never known - R & G said nothing about it the next morning. They did not notice anything amiss.

Return: #057

20-058
The First Folio word "sement"

Was our sea fight, and what to this was cement

cement - cemented; "stuck on" afterwards; appended. It's a figure of speech based on a book being cemented together so that the pages are one after another.

The phrase what to this was cement is an "adhesive" way of saying "what followed this." The phrasing provides an instance of the Adhesion Motif, the idea of "stuck."

Return: #058 - or - Folio Difference

20-059

Thou knowest already.

Return: #059

20-060

Horatio: So Guildenstern and Rosencrantz go to it.

It is worth noting that Horatio mentions Guildenstern first.

Return: #060

20-061

Hamlet: Why man, they did make love to this employment;

Return: #061

20-062

They are not near my conscience; their defeat

Return: #062

20-063

Does by their own insinuation grow;

Return: #063

20-064

'Tis dangerous when the baser nature comes

Return: #064

20-065

Between the pass and fell incensed points

Return: #065

20-066

Of mighty opposites.

Return: #066

20-067

Horatio: Why, what a king is this!

Return: #067

20-068

Hamlet: Does it not, think thee, stand me now upon?

Return: #068

20-069

He that hath killed my King, and whored my mother,

Return: #069

20-070

Popped in between the election and my hopes,

Popped in - appears to mean the same as it does today: paid an unexpected visit.

election - Hamlet's Denmark has an elective monarchy, as the real Denmark did, historically. In actual practice, in Danish history, the eldest son of the previous king was normally chosen, that is, primogeniture was the rule.

hopes - of succeeding his father.

Return: #070

20-071

Thrown out his angle for my proper life -

angle - fishhook. Hamlet means Claudius was trying to hook him, like catching a carp. Compare Polonius's line, Scene 6#065, "Your bait of falsehood takes this carp of truth."

proper - own personal. Proper is used here in its literal Latin sense, from 'proprius' ("one's own,") and beyond that, from 'pro privo' ("for the individual, in particular.") Hamlet's life is his own, not something for Claudius to treat as if he owned it.

There is some hypocrisy in what Hamlet says, because, what about R & G? However, Hamlet believes R & G were conspiring with Claudius to kill him, thus making their lives forfeit. Hamlet believes R & G must have known what the mission paperwork said.

But then, isn't Hamlet still intending to kill Claudius, and doesn't Claudius's life belong to himself? The logic is intractable, and the moral dilemma is sharp.

Return: #071

20-072

And with such cozenage - is it not perfect conscience

cozenage - dishonesty. A pun with "cousin-age" can be heard. Such behavior is no way to be one's cousin.

perfect conscience - fitting moral judgment; excellent moral judgment.

Return: #072

20-073

To quit him with this arm? And is it not to be damned,

quit - several senses of quit are relevant. In Shakespeare's time quit could mean "repay," and could also mean, specifically, taking revenge, and it could mean "silence," (we will hear Hamlet say, later in the Scene, "the rest is silence,") and quit can even further be understood by going back to the root, Latin 'quiētare' ("to put to rest,") as in resting in peace.

So, quit - repay, and take revenge against, and silence, and put to rest.

damned - morally condemned.

Return: #073

20-074

To let this canker of our nature come

Return: #074

20-075

In further evil?

Return: #075

20-076

Horatio: It must be shortly known to him from England,

Return: #076

20-077

What is the issue of the business there.

issue - result; outcome. Reference to how events turned out, with the deaths of R & G, probably, instead of Hamlet. The word issue is from Latin 'exire' = 'ex-' ("out") + 'ire' ("to go.") Instead of "outgo" we take it as "outcome."

Return: #077

20-078

Hamlet: It will be short;

It - the time.

Return: #078

20-079

The interim's mine, and a man's life's no more

The interim - the time until Claudius hears from England.

mine - Hamlet supposes he has the advantage, since he knows more about the business with England than Claudius does. However, there is other business afoot about which Claudius knows more.

Return: #079

20-080

Than to say "one." But I am very sorry, good Horatio,

Return: #080

20-081

That to Laertes I forgot myself,

Return: #081

20-082

For, by the image of my cause, I see

Return: #082

20-083

The portraiture of his. I'll count his favors.

Return: #083

20-084

But sure, the bravery of his grief did put me

Return: #084

20-085

Into a towering passion.

Return: #085

20-086

Horatio: Peace, who comes here?

Return: #086

20-086-SD

(a Courtier enters, fanning himself with his hat)

As the Courtier will mention, it's hot. He has taken his hat off to fan himself with it.

Return: #086-SD

20-087

Courtier: Your Lordship is right welcome back to Denmark.

It is not the place of this Courtier to welcome the Prince of Denmark back to his own country. The Courtier is an imbecile.

Return: #087

20-088

Hamlet: I humble thank you, sir.

humble - is the correct word, exactly as printed in the Second Quarto. A "humble thanks" is very little thanks. The Courtier does not understand he has been given essentially no thanks; He deserves none, because of the inappropriateness of his behavior.

Return: #088

20-089

(aside to Horatio): Dost know this water fly?

Return: #089

20-090

Horatio: No, my good Lord.

Return: #090

20-091

Hamlet: Thy state is the more gracious, for 'tis a vice to know him;

Return: #091

20-092

He hath much land, and fertile. Let a beast be lord of beasts, and his

land, and fertile - is a hendiadys: "fertile land."

Return: #092

20-093

crib shall stand at the king's mess; 'tis a chough, but as I say, spacious in the

crib - food trough. Hamlet is speaking of how a beast is fed. From Old English 'cribbe' ("fodder bin.")

mess - table. Place where food is served. This meaning has been preserved in the military, especially the Navy. From Old French 'mes' ("dish of food.")

chough - jackdaw. The jackdaw is noisy, and a busybody, so to speak, and it has an instinct to take and hoard objects, especially shiny ones. It can be taught to make the sounds of human words. There is an Aesop's Fable, The Bird in Borrowed Feathers, also known as The Vain Jackdaw, where a jackdaw dresses itself up in peacock feathers, but gets into trouble. There is of course the concept of Putting on a Show in that fable. The jackdaw fable is mentioned by Horace. Hamlet means the courtier is vain and unworthy of his position, and that he uses human words in a birdbrain kind of way, as we shall see. The courtier is very much about "show," as best he can do.

Return: #093

20-094

possession of dirt.

Return: #094

20-095

Courtier: Sweet Lord, if your friendship were at leisure, I should

Sweet lord - is a blunder. That is not how the Prince is correctly addressed.

friendship - is insolence and presumption.

Return: #095

20-096

impart a thing to you from His Majesty.

Return: #096

20-097

Hamlet: I will receive it, sir, with all diligence of spirit; your bonnet

Return: #097

20-098

to his right use, 'tis for the head.

(bonnet) 'tis for the head - the Courtier is waving his hat in Hamlet's face as he fans himself, and Hamlet doesn't like it, nor should Hamlet tolerate such rudeness.

Return: #098

20-099

Courtier: I thank your Lordship, it is very hot.

it is very hot - is the factual statement of why the Courtier is not wearing his hat.

Return: #099

20-100

Hamlet: No, believe me, 'tis very cold, the wind is northerly.

cold - Hamlet means, "no, you're cold since you're not wearing your hat. Hamlet is playing "hot and cold" with the Courtier.

Return: #100

20-100-SD

(the Courtier dons his hat, and becomes . . .)

Return: #100-SD

20-101

Hat on: It is indifferent cold, my Lord, indeed.

To the extent the Courtier represents any particular person, he is a satire of Sir Christopher Hatton.

Return: #101

20-102

Hamlet: But yet, methinks it is very 'soultry' and hot, or my

soultry -

hot - informs us as a fact that the Courtier, Hat On, is now wearing his hat. So, Hamlet says he is "hot." The Courtier will not understand it, as Hamlet knows.

Return: #102

20-103

complexion.

(...hot, or my) complexion - Means what we would nowadays express by saying, "it's hot in here, or is it just me?"

Return: #103

20-104

Hat on: Exceedingly, my Lord, it is very sultry, as t'were; I cannot

Return: #104

20-105

tell how. My Lord, his Majesty bade me signify to you, that he

Return: #105

20-106

has laid a great wager on your head; sir, this is the matter . . .

on your head - can be heard as "on your life," and indeed Claudius is betting on Hamlet's life with his scheme to kill Hamlet. Hat On knows nothing of that, he has just chosen a foolishly wordy way of saying "on you."

Further, Claudius did bet a lot on Hamlet's head on the trip to England, Hamlet losing his head that is, a bet Claudius lost, but Hat On knows nothing of that, either.

sir - is an ignorant blunder. The Prince is not a "sir" to this courtier in this situation.

Return: #106

20-107

Hamlet: I beseech you, remember!

Hamlet is playing it that Hat On is such a dunce that the "matter" is, he can't remember what he's supposed to say.

Nor is Hamlet far wrong, because a little later Hat On will forget.

Return: #107

20-108

Hat on: Nay, good my lord, for my ease, in good faith; sir, here is newly

sir - is another blunder. "Hat on" is such a dunce that he has called Hamlet both "my lord" and "sir" in the same utterance. "My lord" is correct, but "sir" is not.

Return: #108

20-109

come to court, Laertes; believe me, an absolute gentlemen, full of most

We know for a fact that Hat On is not doing what he's supposed to do. He is supposed to be praising Laertes's swordsmanship, not Laertes in general. We heard Claudius explicitly plan that, in Scene 18.

Hat On has gotten it wrong, about what he's supposed to be doing.

Return: #109

20-110

excellent differences, of very soft society, and great showing. Indeed

soft society - high society; the social class of "gentle" people. Hat On means that Laertes is very upper class. As if the Prince, who is royalty, should be impressed by that.

Return: #110

20-111

to speak fellingly of him, he is the card or calendar of gentry;

Return: #111

20-112

for, you shall find in him the continent of what part a gentleman

Return: #112

20-113

would see.

Return: #113

20-114

Hamlet: Sir, his definement suffers no perdition in you, though I

"Sir, for you to be the one defining him is not enough to damn him."

Return: #114

20-115

know to divide him inventorially, would dazzie the arithmetic of

Return: #115

20-116

memory, and yet but raw neither, in respect of his quick sail; but

Return: #116

20-117

in the verity of extolment, I take him to be a soul of great article,

Return: #117

20-118

& his infusion of such dearth and rareness, as to make true diction

Return: #118

20-119

of him, his semblable is his mirror, & who else would trace him, his

Return: #119

20-120

umbrage, nothing more.

Return: #120

20-121

Hat on: Your Lordship speaks most infallibly of him.

The "Hat on" Courtier couldn't follow what Hamlet just said, but it sounded impressive, so he won't argue with it.

Return: #121

20-122

Hamlet: The concernancy, sir; why do we wrap the gentleman in

Return: #122

20-123

our more rawer breath?

Our breath that is not as "well done" as he is. Or, not as sweet as he is.

Basically, rawer - not as well done.

Return: #123

20-124

Hat on: Sir?

Sir - is improper from this Courtier to the Prince. "Hat on" has blundered again.

Also, Hamlet has lost him completely.

Return: #124

20-125

Horatio (to Hat On): Is it not possible to understand in another tongue? You will

another tongue - foreign language, i.e. English. Horatio is sarcastically casting English as a foreign language for "Hat on."

Also, in another tongue - from another person. Sarcastic again, by this, Horatio means, "can't you understand your own drivel when someone else speaks it back to you?" This is again a case where Shakespeare provided two meanings in his choice of wording, with both meanings pertinent.

This instance of the word tongue is also thematic.

In action, it would be correct for Horatio, upon saying tongue, to stick his tongue out at Hat On, and point to it, meaning, "See? Tongue." This further disconcerts Hat On.

Return: #125

20-126

do it, sir, really.

Return: #126

20-127

Hamlet: What imports the nomination of this gentleman?

"What brings up the name of this Gentleman?"

Return: #127

20-128

Hat on: Of Laertes?

"Hat on" is now well befuddled.

Return: #128

20-129

Horatio: His purse is empty already, all his golden words are spent.

"He sure spent his 'wealth of words' quickly."

Return: #129

20-130

Hamlet: Of him, sir.

Hamlet confirms he meant Laertes.

Return: #130

20-131

Hat on: I know you are not ignorant.

Well, Hamlet is ignorant of why the Courtier is talking to him about Laertes, because the dunce hasn't said.

Return: #131

20-132

Hamlet: I would you did, sir, yet in faith if you did, it would not

Return: #132

20-133

much approve me. Well, sir?

(not) much approve me - Hamlet means it wouldn't win him any approval if he were closely enough acquainted with the courtier so that the courtier was well familiar with where Hamlet was ignorant, or not.

Return: #133

20-134

Hat on: You are not ignorant of what excellence Laertes is at

Return: #134

20-135

his weapon.

Return: #135

20-136

Hamlet: I dare not confess that, lest I should compare with

Return: #136

20-137

him in excellence; but, to know a man well, were to know himself.

In action, Hamlet is playing this as if "Hat on" meant he has intimate familiarity with how large Laertes's penis is, and "Hat on" is praising the excellence of that. The Hamlet actor should do the correspondingly expressive hand gestures.

Return: #137

20-138

Hat on: I mean, sir, for this weapon; but, in the imputation laid on

Correctly played with stress on this as "Hat on" takes half a step back, with a shocked expression, and pats his sword.

Return: #138

20-139

him, by them in his meed, he's unfellowed.

Return: #139

20-140

Hamlet: What's his weapon?

Confirms the earlier interpretation. Hamlet was playing it earlier as if "Hat on" meant a highly personal "weapon."

Return: #140

20-141

Hat on: Rapier and dagger.

Return: #141

20-142

Hamlet: That's two of his weapons, but well.

Return: #142

20-143

Hat on: The King, sir, hath wagered with him, six Barbary horses,

sir - is wrong, again.

Barbary horses - probably the breed of horse now called "barb," originally imported from the Barbary Coast of northern Africa.

Return: #143

20-144

against the which, he has impawned, as I take it, six French rapiers

impawned - put at risk; wagered.

Return: #144

20-145

and 'ponyards', with their assigns: as girdle, hanger and so. Three

ponyards - poniards, however, the exact original Second Quarto spelling of ponyards gives "pony" within the word, so in the passage that gives a bet of "horse" versus "pony-." The wordplay is probably intentional, and I therefore retain the original spelling.

The size of the bet is madness. Six horses against six fancy swords might be a bet expected among high rollers at a world championship match. It's vastly out of proportion for a casual fencing match like this is supposed to be.

We know the bet isn't real. Claudius and Laertes have fixed the match. The bet is a "show." Knowing the bet is only a show, Claudius and Laertes have grossly overdone it, to try to be impressive.

However, Hamlet is sensitive to shows that are overdone. He mentioned the point explicitly when coaching the Players at the beginning of Scene 9. (Scene 9 #021: "Now this overdone...)

Hamlet will later mention he has doubts, beginning at line 194, and we begin to see why.

Return: #145

20-146

of the carriages, in faith, are very dear to fancy, very responsive to

Return: #146

20-147

the hilts, most delicate carriages, and of very liberal conceit.

liberal - lewd.

conceit - "take"; idea/concept.

So, liberal conceit - lewd idea = nude women, or scantily clad women. Those French swords are, shall we say, "artistic," and "Hat on" is highly impressed.

Return: #147

20-148

Hamlet: What call you the carriages?

Return: #148

20-149

Horatio (to Hamlet): I knew you must be edified by the margin ere you had

Return: #149

20-150

done.

Return: #150

20-151

Hat on: The carriages, sir, are the hangers.

sir - wrong again.

Return: #151

20-152

Hamlet: The phrase would be more germane to the matter if we

germane - in the original spelling, "german" (actually "Ierman" = Jerman,) meaning "akin." The concept of "kin" is therefore implicit in this choice of word by Shakespeare, making it thematic. Recall Hamlet's first line in the play, "A little more than kin and less than kind."

Return: #152

20-153

could carry a cannon by our sides; I would it be might "hangers" till

Return: #153

20-154

then; but on: six Barbary horses against six French swords, their assigns,

In discussion between themselves, deciding what the supposed bet should be, Claudius and Laertes have chosen characteristic items. In Scene 18 we heard Claudius reveal his fantasy of being a great horseman. (Scene 18#093 ff) So Claudius decides to pretend to bet horses. In the same passage, Claudius spoke of Laertes's skill with a sword. (Scene 18#107 ff) Laertes decides to pretend to bet swords. That they are French swords in particular reflects Laertes's fondness for things French.

assigns - appointments; accouterments. "Furnishings." The Courtier's word choice is poor. Assign can mean "appoint" or "furnish," but the sense is wrong.

Return: #154

20-155

and three liberal conceited "carriages" - that's the French

Return: #155

20-156

bet against the Danish. Why is this all you call it?

Return: #156 - or - Folio Difference

20-157

Hat on: The King, sir, hath laid, sir, that in a dozen passes between

sir . . . sir - wrong twice.

laid - placed (the bet.)

Return: #157

20-158

yourself and him, he shall not exceed you three hits; he hath

him - Laertes, although the Courtier has made it sound like Claudius. The Courtier's vagueness does provide an insight. The true "match" is still between Hamlet and Claudius.

Return: #158

20-159

laid on twelve for nine, and it would come to immediate trial, if

twelve for nine - is wrong. A win by Laertes would be Laertes, 8, to Hamlet, 4, or more by Laertes. A win by Hamlet would be Laertes, 7, to Hamlet, 5, or more by Hamlet. Laertes must get a margin of 3 hits, or more, over Hamlet to win.

"Hat on" is a dunce who cannot calculate the match correctly. He knows there are twelve passes, and he knows the necessary margin is 3, so he has simply subtracted 3 from 12 and gotten 9. He thinks, by doing that, he has it. He does not.

This is, of course, how a dunce is characterized, by giving him simple mistakes of the kind a dunce would make. Shakespeare, himself, knew better, obviously.

Return: #159

20-160

your Lordship would vouchsafe the answer.

vouchsafe the answer - bestow the answer, as a favor. Condescend to answer.

Return: #160

20-161

Hamlet: How if I answer, "no?"

How - is a reference to price / value / cost.

Compare Henry IV Part II Act III Scene 2:

Robert Shallow: ... How a score of ewes now?
Silence: ... a score of good ewes may be ten pounds.

Hamlet is asking how much it will cost him not to participate in the match. Hamlet supposes that with such an expensive bet, Claudius must be offering him something valuable to participate. Anyone would think so.

Return: #161

20-162

Hat on: I mean, my Lord, the opposition of your person in trial.

"Hat on" doesn't understand the question. It is notable he doesn't have anything to tell Hamlet about an incentive for Hamlet's participation.

The lack of any offer to Hamlet, for his participation, gives Hamlet a perfect "out." Hamlet could now decline, honorably, on the basis of being slighted.

Claudius didn't think of that. Since Claudius doesn't expect Hamlet to be alive at the end of the match, to collect any reward, he didn't think of offering Hamlet anything at the beginning. It's a simple blunder, in the scheming, that could spoil the whole thing. Claudius's scheme is already showing serious weaknesses, and the match hasn't even started yet.

Return: #162

20-163

Hamlet: Sir, I will walk here in the hall, if it please his Majesty; it

hall - the Banquet Hall (it doesn't mean a hallway.) Hamlet is already in the room where the fencing match will be held, since the Banquet Hall is the room for entertainments.

Return: #163

20-164

is the breathing time of day with me; let the foils be brought, the

Return: #164

20-165

gentleman willing, and the King hold his purpose; I will win

Return: #165

20-166

for him if I can; if not, I will gain nothing but my shame, and

gain - suffer. This is one of Shakespeare's "contrary" word usages, a word used with a meaning opposite to its usual sense.

Return: #166

20-167

the odd hits.

Return: #167

20-168

Hat on: Shall I redeliver you even so?

Return: #168

20-169

Hamlet: To this effect, sir, after what flourish your nature will.

Return: #169

20-170

Hat on: I commend my duty to your lordship.

commend - can be used to mean "praise" although "Hat on" doesn't mean that here.

your lordship - amazingly, he got this right.

Return: #170

20-170-SD

("Hat on" exits, with his hat on)

Return: #170-SD

20-171

Hamlet: Yours, yours. He does well to commend it himself, there are no

Return: #171

20-172

tongues else for his turn.

Return: #172

20-173

Horatio: This lapwing runs away with the shell on his head.

Return: #173

20-174

Hamlet: He did so comply with his dug before he sucked it; thus has he - and

Return: #174

20-175

many more of the same bevy, that I know the drossy age dotes on -

bevy - is a "bird" word, and thus thematic.

drossy - superficial, in a scummy way. This is "dross" in the sense of the scum that forms on the surface of molten metal; the use is figurative here, of course. Hamlet means the tastes of the age run to the superficial, and it's the kind of superficiality he doesn't like.

Return: #175

20-176

only got the tune of the time, and out of an habit of encounter, a

Return: #176

20-177

kind of histy collection, which carries them through, and through

Return: #177

20-178

the most fond and winnowed opinions; and do but blow

Return: #178

20-179

them to their trial, the bubbles are out.

Return: #179

20-179-SD

(a Lord enters)

Return: #179-SD

20-180

Lord: My Lord, his Majesty, commended him to you by young

Return: #180

20-181

Ostrick - who brings back to him that you attend him in the hall -

Ostrick - we now learn the "Hat on" courtier's name. It is the word "ostrich" slightly recast in the form of a Danish name.

Return: #181

20-182

he sends to know if your pleasure hold to play with Laertes, or that

Return: #182

20-183

you will take longer time?

Return: #183

20-184

Hamlet: I am constant to my purposes, they follow the King's

Return: #184

20-185

pleasure; if his fitness speaks, mine is ready; now or whensoever,

Return: #185

20-186

provided I be so able as now.

Return: #186

20-187

Lord: The King, and Queen, and all are coming down.

Return: #187

20-188

Hamlet: In happy time.

Return: #188

20-189

Lord: The Queen desires you to use some gentle entertainment

Gertrude is worried about another scene between Hamlet and Laertes.

Return: #189

20-190

to Laertes, before you fall to play.

Return: #190

20-191

Hamlet: She well instructs me.

Return: #191

20-191-SD

(the Lord exits)

Return: #191-SD

20-192

Horatio: You will lose my Lord.

Return: #192

20-193

Hamlet: I do not think so; since he went into France, I have been

Return: #193

20-194

in continual practice; I shall win at the odds. Thou wouldst not

at the odds - with the handicap.

Return: #194

20-195

think how ill all's here about my heart, but it is no matter.

Hamlet inevitably feels uneasy. Look at what he's been told.

1) There's a huge bet, all out of proportion for a casual match. Why?

2) Hamlet was offered nothing to induce him to participate. Why not?

3) Claudius is uncharacteristically impatient and eager for the match. Why?

It's enough to make anyone wonder.

Return: #195

20-196

Horatio: Nay, good my Lord?

Return: #196

20-197

Hamlet: It is but foolery, but it is such a kind of gamegiving, as

Return: #197

20-198

would perhaps trouble a woman.

trouble a woman - Gertrude is going to be more than troubled at the match. Hamlet has said a mouthful, but he has no idea how ominous his phrase is.

Return: #198

20-199

Horatio: If your mind dislike anything, obey it. I will forestall their

Return: #199

20-200

repair hither, and say you are not fit.

Return: #200

20-201

Hamlet: Not a whit, we defy augury; there is special providence in

Return: #201

20-202

the fall of a sparrow; if it be, 'tis not to come; if it be not to come,

Return: #202

20-203

it will be now; if it be not now, yet it will come; the readiness is all,

Return: #203

20-204

since no man, {if} ought he leaves, knows what is it to leave betimes;

{if} - is an editorial judgment about the phrasing.

Return: #204

20-205

let be.

Return: #205

20-205-SD1

(servants enter, and set a table for the King and Queen; Claudius, Gertrude, and Laertes enter, accompanied by the royal entourage; Ostrick enters with the fencing equipment)

Return: #205-SD1

20-205-SD2

(Claudius takes Laertes's arm, and holds Laertes's hand out to Hamlet)

Return: #205-SD2

20-206

Claudius: Come, Hamlet, come and take this hand from me.

Return: #206

20-207

Hamlet: Give me your pardon, sir, I have done you wrong;

Return: #207

20-207-SD

(shakes Laertes's hand)

Return: #207-SD

20-208

But pardon it, as you are a gentleman. This presence knows,

Return: #208

20-209

And you must needs have heard, how I am punished

Return: #209

20-210

With a sore distraction; what I have done

Return: #210

20-211

That might your nature, honor, and exception

Return: #211

20-212

Roughly awake, I here proclaim was madness.

Return: #212

20-213

Was it Hamlet, wronged Laertes? Never Hamlet.

Return: #213

20-214

If Hamlet from himself be taken away,

Return: #214

20-215

And when he's not himself, does wrong Laertes,

Return: #215

20-216

Then Hamlet does it not, Hamlet denies it;

Return: #216

20-217

Who does it, then? His madness. If it be so,

Return: #217

20-218

Hamlet is of the faction that is wronged;

Return: #218

20-219

His madness is poor Hamlet's enemy;

Return: #219

20-220

Sir, in this audience,

Return: #220

20-221

Let my disclaiming from a purposed evil,

Return: #221

20-222

Free me so far in your most generous thoughts:

Return: #222

20-223

That I have shot my arrow o'er the house

Return: #223

20-224

And hurt my brother.

Return: #224

20-225

Laertes: I am satisfied in nature,

Return: #225

20-226

Whose motive in this case should stir me most

Return: #226

20-227

To my revenge, but in my terms of honor

Return: #227

20-228

I stand aloof, and will no reconcilement,

Return: #228

20-229

Till, by some elder masters of known honor,

Return: #229

20-230

I have a voice and precedent of peace

Return: #230

20-231

To keep my name ungored. But till that time

Return: #231

20-232

I do receive your offered love, like love,

Return: #232

20-233

And will not wrong it.

Return: #233

20-234

Hamlet: I embrace it freely, and will this brother's wager

Return: #234

20-235

frankly play.

Return: #235

20-236

Give us the foils. Come on.

Return: #236

20-237

Laertes: Come, one for me.

Return: #237

20-238

Hamlet: I'll be your foil Laertes; in mine ignorance

Hamlet can't resist some wordplay with foil.

Return: #238

20-239

Your skill shall, like a star in the darkest night

Return: #239

20-240

Stick fiery off indeed.

Return: #240

20-241

Laertes: You mock me, sir?

Laertes's use of sir is not a faux pas in this situation. The participants compete as equals, regardless of social class outside the match. Both the participants are "sir" for the duration of the match.

Return: #241

20-242

Hamlet: No, by this hand.

Return: #242

20-243

Claudius: Give them the foils, young Ostrick; cousin Hamlet,

cousin - Claudius doesn't try the "son" bit here, even though he made it legally valid. He doesn't want to offend Hamlet and give him an excuse to walk out.

Return: #243

20-244

You know the wager.

Return: #244

20-245

Hamlet: Very well, my Lord;

Return: #245

20-246

Your grace has laid the odds on the weaker side.

laid - put down; placed. Modern English still speaks of "putting down" a bet, or placing one.

laid the odds - placed his favoritism. Treating the participants equally would be "evens," favoring one over another is "odds," the plural being used simply because there is more than one participant.

Equality is "evens;" favor is "odds."

Hamlet means Claudius has gone odd in favor of the weaker competitor. Indeed it is odd for Claudius to favor Hamlet.

Return: #246

20-247

Claudius: I do not fear it, I have seen you both;

I do not fear it - I'm not worried about it. No reason he should be, since the bets and handicap are all phony, just for show.

Return: #247

20-248

But since he is better, we have therefore odds.

he is better - puns with "he is bettor," which indeed Laertes is, in the "show" of the match. It's a simple pun for a touch of amusement.

odds - a handicap. The word odds is used in a general way here to mean a requirement is not "even." The word odds in modern usage is usually specific to the money bet, versus the money paid out, not being "even." Claudius is using it to mean the required number of hits, to win the match, is not even (equal.)

Return: #248 - or - Folio Difference

20-249

Laertes: This is too heavy; let me see another.

Laertes is Putting on a Show of examining all the foils, but we know there's one in particular he wants.

Return: #249

20-250

Hamlet: This likes me well; these foils have all a length?

a length - one length, that is, the same length.

Return: #250

20-251

Ostrick: Aye, my good Lord.

Return: #251

20-252

Claudius: Set me the stoups of wine upon that table;

stoups - cups, but as in the joke in Scene 19, stoup can mean "holy water basin." The religious tone is not out of place as Claudius prays (but "not well") that his scheme will work.

Return: #252

20-253

If Hamlet give the first or second hit,

give - make (on Laertes.) Giving the first, or second, hit amounts to winning the first, or second, pass.

Return: #253

20-254

Or quit in answer of the third exchange,

exchange - pass.

quit in answer of the third exchange - resign, and decline to answer the call for the third pass.

Claudius is stating a sportsmanship rule for Hamlet. If Hamlet loses the first two passes badly, he is supposed to realize it's "no contest," and bow out like a gentleman. That's what Claudius means. Of course Claudius knows that what he's saying is irrelevant. It is not going to happen that way. Laertes will allow Hamlet to score, and keep the match going as long as necessary. Claudius is trying to make everything sound legitimate.

It is colossal nerve for Claudius to be announcing a sportsmanship rule.

Return: #254

20-255

Let all the battlements their ordnance fire.

battlements - Kronborg Castle does not have battlements, but that says nothing about Elsinore Castle not having them. Shakespeare's castle in the play is more in the classical, Medieval mold, we see.

ordnance - artillery. The cannons, of course. Ordnance is a variant of "ordinance," which in earlier times could mean "warlike equipment."

Return: #255

20-256

The King shall drink to Hamlet's better breath,

better breath - sounds like "happier life," but Claudius's view is that it's better, for him, if Hamlet isn't breathing.

Return: #256

20-257
sardonyx

And in the cup an onyx shall he throw,

onyx - is correct. The word onyx comes from the Greek and means "nail," with reference to the human fingernail. Some onyxes are the color of the human fingernail, including the changes in color characteristic of the fingernail, with bands of lighter color, corresponding to the lighter fingernail color toward the cuticle and at the end.

(I do not think Shakespeare was using the word "onyx" to rule out sardonyx. That is, I think what Claudius shows is a sardonyx. It seems excessive to think Shakespeare had concern for exact mineralogy, or gemology, in this passage. Also, I don't know how fussy the Elizabethans were, in general, when it came to using the term onyx versus "sardonyx," but I suspect they weren't all that finicky about it, no more than a modern person would be, in general conversation.)

The word "union" appears in the First Folio, instead of onyx. I explain that in the Folio Difference note.

This "onyx" is a poison pill. Claudius has made it to look like an onyx, in advance of an action he will do later. He has planned this scheme carefully.

No one suspects Claudius would make a public announcement, and a public display, as he poisons Hamlet's wine. It's a clever "show." Claudius holds the "onyx" high, between his forefinger and thumb, showing it to everyone.

Return: #257 - or - Folio Difference

20-258
Elizabeth I sardonyx cameo

Richer than that which four successive kings

Richer - implies that the "onyx" is in imitation of a sardonyx of gem quality, perhaps a carved cameo.

Onyx, and sardonyx, are not especially valuable, themselves, but they can be very valuable when carved. They are workable minerals, and the bands of different colors make them popular for bas-relief cameos. Many sardonyx cameos have survived from Roman times, and from Elizabethan times as well, some of them exquisitely carved. This does not prove that the object Claudius shows is in imitation of a carved cameo, only that their use in making cameos is a reason that onyx, and sardonyx, have been well known since ancient times.

There is an old story about Queen Elizabeth I and the Earl of Essex, which involves a cameo of herself, in carved sardonyx, set in a ring that the Queen gave Essex. The ring was a pledge of friendship. The story goes that when Essex had been sentenced to die, he sent the ring to his cousin, Lady Scroop, to redeliver to the Queen, as a token by which he hoped to gain the Queen's forgiveness. Unfortunately, the messenger gave the ring to Lady Scroop's sister, the Countess Nottingham, who was an enemy of Essex. The Countess did not deliver the ring to the Queen, so her Highness did not intervene, and the execution of Essex proceeded. Not long after, on her deathbed, the Countess Nottingham confessed to the Queen what she had done. The Queen was infuriated, and said, "God may forgive you, but I cannot." The story has elements of romantic fiction, which makes it dubious as a factual account, and the details change in different accounts about who was involved, but the story does draw attention to onyx, or sardonyx. There seems to have been a workshop, in the time of Elizabeth I, which was busy producing cameos of her, either to sell, or for the Queen to give as gifts.

The "onyx" of which Claudius speaks is especially valuable to him since he believes it will dispose of Hamlet, and secure Claudius's place on the Throne of Denmark. Claudius thinks it's worth his life. As events turn out, he is right that it's worth his life, but in a way opposite to what Claudius intends.

Return: #258 - or - Extended Note

20-259
the Royal Crown of Denmark as of 1596

In Denmark's crown have worn. Give me the cups.

The Crown of Denmark has carved stones, not that Shakespeare had to know that in particular, since carvings done in valuable materials are typical of royal jewelry, and fancy jewelry in general. One could take carved stones for granted when speaking of a royal crown.

On the Danish website devoted to Rosenborg Castle, the description of the crown of Christian IV says:

... In the front of the crown you see a pelican pecking
itself in order to feed its offspring with the blood,
symbolizing the need for every king to sacrifice his
own blood in order to protect his subjects, as well as
being a traditional representation of the devotion of
Christs’ sacrificial death.  ...

(http://www.kongernessamling.dk/en/rosenborg/object/christian-ivs-crown/ checked 05/20/2015)

That's the same symbolic pelican behavior Laertes mentioned in Scene 16. (Scene 16#151-2)

the cups - Claudius is asking for both his cup of wine, and for Hamlet's.

Return: #259

20-259-SD

(Claudius drops something into Hamlet's wine)

Hamlet's wine is now poisoned, by the "onyx," which Claudius knows will dissolve and disappear.

Return: #259-SD

20-260

And let the kettle to the trumpet speak,

Return: #260

20-261

The trumpet to the cannoneer without,

Return: #261

20-262

The cannons to the heavens, the heaven to earth:

Return: #262

20-263

Now the King drinks to Hamlet!

Claudius is putting on a big show of supporting Hamlet. Too big, if you think about it. Suspiciously big.

Return: #263

20-263-SD

(the drums are pounded, the trumpets blare, and the cannons fire; the trumpets continue, as the match begins)

Fortinbrasse will appear near the end of this Scene, which means he and his army are nearby now. It will be clear later that Fortinbrasse doesn't know about the fencing match, and how could he? What will Fortinbrasse and his army think when the cannons suddenly and unexpectedly fire?

They will think the Danes are shooting at them.

Will they just stand there? Will they run away?

No, they will charge. They will attack the Castle. Claudius, with his intemperate use of the cannons, has just started the Battle of Elsinore. And he does not know it, nor do any of the others at the fencing match.

Return: #263-SD

20-264

Come, begin.

Return: #264

20-265

And you, the judges, bear a wary eye.

Return: #265

20-266

Hamlet: Come on, sir.

Conveys the meaning of "I'm ready."

Return: #266

20-267

Laertes: Come on, sir.

Return: #267

20-267-SD

(the first pass begins)

Return: #267-SD

20-268

Hamlet: One!

Return: #268

20-269

Laertes: No.

Laertes knows Hamlet scored a hit. He deliberately allowed Hamlet to do it. But Laertes argues it because he thinks he should, for a better show.

Return: #269

20-270

Hamlet: Judgment?

Return: #270

20-271

Ostrick: A hit, a very palpable hit.

Return: #271

20-271-SD

(the drums and trumpets sound, and the cannons fire)

Return: #271-SD

20-272

Laertes: Well, again.

Return: #272

20-273

Claudius: Stay, give me drink; Hamlet, this pearl is thine.

Return: #273

20-273-SD
Hercules and Nemean Lion cameo done with sardonyx

(drops a pearl, and a palmed onyx, into Hamlet's wine)

I've added the image of the Hercules vs Nemean Lion cameo in sardonyx, as long as we're here. Recall the mentions of Hercules and the Nemean Lion earlier in the play.

By dropping the palmed onyx into Hamlet's wine, Claudius has covered up for the poison pill which dissolved. Both a pearl and an onyx are now in the cup, to go along with what Claudius has said.

By the way, this does not mean Hamlet is supposed to drink the pearl!

Return: #273-SD

20-274

Here's to thy health!

Return: #274

20-274-SD

(raises his own cup)

Return: #274-SD

20-275

Give him the cup.

Return: #275

20-276

Hamlet: I'll play this bout first, set it by a while.

Return: #276

20-276-SD

(the second pass begins)

Return: #276-SD

20-277

Come . . . another hit. What say you?

Return: #277

20-278

Laertes: A touch, a touch, I do confess it.

Return: #278

20-279

Claudius: Our son shall win.

Return: #279

20-280

Gertrude: He's fat and scant of breath.

As Gertrude already knew, at the time she read that challenge to single combat from Fortinbrasse.

Return: #280

20-281

Here, Hamlet, take my napkin, rub thy brows;

napkin - table napkin; serviette. Food and drink have been served to the royalty. It is probably not correct to interpret this as "handkerchief," because the Queen's handkerchief is probably a filmy, lacy piece of cloth, for show, and not an item that would be of real use.

rub - dab.

Return: #281

20-282

The Queen carouses to thy fortune, Hamlet.

The Queen - not as Hamlet's mother. This is an official gesture, a royal salute.

carouses - drinks a toast.

fortune - good luck.

Return: #282

20-283

Hamlet: Good Madam.

Replied in acknowledgment of the honor. Hamlet bows to the Queen.

Return: #283

20-284

Claudius: Gertrude, do not drink.

Return: #284

20-285

Gertrude: I will, my Lord, I pray you pardon me.

Return: #285

20-286

Claudius (aside): It is the poisoned cup; it is too late!

Return: #286

20-287

Hamlet: I dare not drink yet, Madam.

Drinking alcohol during physical exertion can make dehydration worse, and can cause nausea and dizziness. It's clear Hamlet knows that.

Return: #287

20-288

By and by.

Is easily said. But Hamlet is never going to share the toast.

Return: #288

20-289

Gertrude: Come, let me wipe thy face.

Gertrude already lent Hamlet her napkin, but she is unsatisfied with the job he did of wiping the sweat from his face. So she will help him. This marks how his mother dotes on Hamlet, which Claudius mentioned in Scene 18#013 - 14: "... the Queen, his mother | Lives almost by his looks."

Return: #289

20-290

Laertes: My Lord, I'll hit him now.

Laertes has decided he's put on enough of a show, and it's time to proceed to the real objective.

Return: #290

20-291

Claudius: I do not think it.

Return: #291

20-292

Laertes: And yet, it is almost against my conscience.

Laertes's conscience is nagging at him, and he is having second thoughts. He is on the verge of abandoning the scheme.

Laertes says this to himself as he goes back to his starting position for the next pass.

Return: #292

20-293

Hamlet: Come for the third, Laertes, you do but dally.

dally - dawdle. Waste time. From Anglo-French 'dalier' ("to gossip,") which demands mention since there is a Gossip Motif in the play.

Little does Hamlet know, Laertes was not wasting time, he was starting to talk himself out of killing Hamlet.

Return: #293

20-294

I pray you, pass with your best violence;

violence - vehemence. Verve. Violence is from Latin 'violentia' ("vehemence.") Shakespeare worked from the Latin root here. Could be taken as "force" or "power" but that doesn't catch it as well.

Hamlet is thinking too highly of himself. Does one say to a professional boxer, "c'mon, show me how hard you can really hit?" Not unless one is crazy.

Return: #294

20-295

I am afeared you make a wanton of me.

wanton - plaything. A wanton - an object of sport.

Hamlet is right. Laertes was, indeed, toying with him, to make the match last longer, and increase the plausibility of the outcome. It would have been too suspicious had Laertes jabbed or scratched Hamlet on the first pass (which Laertes could have done.)

But Hamlet does not realize that he is right, and why. He says this because he's pleased with himself.

But it irritates Laertes.

Return: #295

20-296

Laertes: Say you so? Come on.

Laertes had nearly decided to abandon the scheme when Hamlet made those cocky remarks. Now Laertes's resolve is renewed.

Return: #296

20-296-SD

(the third pass begins)

Return: #296-SD

20-297

Ostrick: Nothing, neither way.

The first exchange in the third bout produced no hit. They take their positions to try again. The third bout continues, and will continue, until one or the other makes a scoring hit.

Return: #297

20-298

Laertes: Have at you, now.

Laertes has decided, enough, he will wound Hamlet with the poisoned foil.

Return: #298

20-298-SD1

(wounds Hamlet with the poisoned foil, but not with a hit in the scoring area)

We know there is no scoring hit because Hamlet says "come again" just below.

Return: #298-SD1

20-298-SD2

(the third pass continues, since there's been no scoring hit yet; they grapple, and trap each other's foils; in breaking away, they exchange foils; Hamlet wounds Laertes with the poisoned foil; both feeling a sting, they step close and glare at each other, about ready to forget the foils and fistfight)

Return: #298-SD2

20-299

Claudius: Part them, they are incensed.

incensed - wrathful; enraged. From Latin 'incensus' ("set on fire.") Anger is a fiery emotion.

Return: #299

20-300

Hamlet: Nay, come again.

Hamlet is ready to continue the pass.

Return: #300

20-301

Ostrick: Look to the Queen there, ho!

Gertrude has risen, and appears to be in some difficulty.

Return: #301

20-301-SD

(Ostrick steps between Hamlet and Laertes)

In the manner of a boxing referee halting the action.

Return: #301-SD

20-302

Horatio: They bleed on both sides. How is it, my Lord?

They bleed on both sides - Both competitors are bleeding.

Return: #302

20-303

Ostrick: How is it, Laertes?

Return: #303

20-304
a Eurasian woodcock

Laertes: Why, as a woodcock to mine own spring, Ostrick;

woodcock - a ground-feeding gamebird which can be caught with spring traps. Laertes means he set a trap for another, but caught himself, as if he were a woodcock.

The woodcock has a long, swordlike bill, which goes along with Laertes being a swordsman. Further, the woodcock is a predator in that it feeds on invertibrates.

Return: #304 - or - Extended Note

20-305

I am justly killed with mine own treachery.

Return: #305

20-306

Hamlet: How does the Queen?

Gertrude is leaning, forward, across the table, with her hand over her heart.

Return: #306

20-307

Claudius: She sounds to see them bleed.

sounds - faints; collapses. However, the word "sounds" is typically used to describe a whale submerging. (The word "whale" does appear in the dialogue, Scene 9.) Claudius speaks of Gertrude's collapse in terms of a whale submerging. Perhaps not the most polite way to put it.

Further, sounds can be understood as "gasps," the making of sounds as Gertrude gasps for breath. Sounds which are not speech do not appear in the original playscript. Shakespeare included only the speech, with hardly any exception.

This is another deliberate multiplicity of meaning, where both "faints" and "makes sounds" are intended to be understood from the word sounds, simultaneously.

Claudius is trying to explain away the Queen's behavior as nothing serious.

Return: #307

20-308

Gertrude: No, no, the drink, the drink, oh my dear Hamlet . . .

Return: #308

20-309

The drink, the drink . . . I am poisoned.

Gertrude keeps repeating the drink to be certain she has warned Hamlet about it.

After what the Ghost told Hamlet about King Hamlet's death, the word poisoned spurs Hamlet to action like few other words would.

Return: #309

20-309-SD

(Gertrude slumps at the table, dying; Hamlet drops the foil and hurries to her; Ostrick exits, running, to get the doctor)

One must be sure to note that Hamlet casts aside the foil he's holding, as he hurries to Gertrude. Knowledge of that is necessary to make sense of the later dialogue.

Return: #309-SD

20-310

Hamlet: Oh villainy, ho! Let the door be locked!

The door can't be locked. Laertes's rabble broke the Castle doors. Claudius told us in Scene 16: "Claudius: The doors are broke." (Scene 16#109)

Hamlet was absent, so he isn't well aware, about the door. Ordinarily, any Castle door could certainly be closed and locked securely, and guarded.

Hamlet didn't want Ostrick to leave, since Hamlet doesn't yet know who might be involved in whatever is going on. However, Ostrick runs on out of the room.

Return: #310

20-311

Treachery, seek it out.

Hamlet is pointing toward various high-ranking persons who are present for the fencing match, trying to appoint them to investigate.

Return: #311

20-312

Laertes: It is here, Hamlet; thou art slain;

It - the treachery.

The Queen's death has shocked Laertes into a confession of the entire scheme.

Return: #312

20-312-SD

(Laertes picks up the foil Hamlet dropped)

Laertes holds the poisoned foil aloft, to show it to everyone.

Return: #312-SD

20-313

No medicine in the world can do thee good;

medicine - medical remedy. The meaning here is a little different from the modern idea of medicine, since we first think of pills or liquids, or perhaps a shot or IV, but poultices were in frequent use in those days, and are hardly known today. The treatment they would attempt would probably include a poultice applied to the wound, in addition to something taken by mouth.

Return: #313

20-314

In thee there is not half an hour's life;

Return: #314 - or - Folio Difference

20-315

The treacherous instrument is in my hand,

treacherous instrument - both "instrument of treachery" and "traitorous instrument" in that it turned against Laertes.

Laertes has retrieved the poisoned foil from where Hamlet cast it aside, and is holding it up to show to Hamlet.

Return: #315 - or - Folio Difference

20-316

Unbated and envenomed; the foul practice

unbated - not blunted. Not abated, not lessened (in dangerousness.)

foul - offensive. Also "unfair." Shakespeare famously treated "fair" and foul as opposites. Macbeth Act 1 scene 1, "The Three Witches: Fair is foul, and foul is fair." Then, going back to "woodcock" one might find a pun with "fowl."

Return: #316

20-317

Hath turned itself on me; lo, here I lie

Return: #317

20-318

Never to rise again; thy mother's poisoned;

Return: #318

20-319

I can no more; the King, the King's to blame!

Laertes's exclamation is tantamount to a deathbed statement, the kind of statement that is looked upon with special seriousness.

Return: #319

20-320

Hamlet: The point envenomed too? Then venom, to thy work!

Learning that his mother has been poisoned, and Claudius is to blame, Hamlet acts immediately.

venom - poison, but one recalls the snakebite story about King Hamlet's death. (Scene 5#041)

Return: #320

20-320-SD

(Hamlet takes the foil Laertes is holding up to him, and slashes Claudius on the side of the head with it, cutting his ear)

We can be confident of this action because of the power of the "poison to the ear" concept in the play. Claudius now suffers "poison to the ear," himself.

Return: #320-SD

20-321

(From the audience): Treason, treason!

One supposes it would be too silly to have the entire fencing match audience chant treason in unison, but if you want to try that, see how it plays. The play is not supposed to be grimly serious, relentlessly.

Return: #321

20-321-SD

(Claudius's bodyguards start forward to attack Hamlet; Horatio quickly kills them both, then turns with a weapon taken from one of them, and faces down the approaching audience members, who stop and retreat)

Claudius's bodyguards, his Swissers, should be present, and what is one to do about them, if not have Horatio kill them? Hamlet should not be burdened with fighting the guards, since he needs to focus on Claudius, as the deadly conflict between Hamlet and Claudius now arrives at its resolution.

Return: #321-SD

20-322

Claudius: Oh, yet defend me, friends, I am but hurt.

hurt - this is a vitally important line in the play, since it frees Hamlet from any accusation he inflicted a fatal wound with the foil, alone.

If it were mistaken that Hamlet stabbed Claudius through the heart, the poison would be irrelevant, and the entire blame for Claudius's death would fall on Hamlet. That would not be morally acceptable, nor would it be acceptable to the plot, since it would render the entire poisoning scheme irrelevant to Claudius's death. Claudius must die from the poison.

As to why Claudius says it, he is in denial.

Return: #322

20-323

Hamlet: Hear, thou incestuous, murderous, damned Dane!

Hear - Hamlet grabs Claudius by the ear, the unwounded one.

Dane - King. Hamlet is not damning Danes in general.

Return: #323

20-324

Drink of this potion! Is the "onyx" here?

Hamlet has figured out that the original "onyx" that Claudius held aloft was poison. However, Hamlet missed Claudius's palming move. Hamlet thinks there is no onyx in the cup.

In action, one must not have Hamlet put his fingers into the wine, looking for the onyx. The trouble is, Hamlet would indeed find an onyx, and he would be baffled at how it could be there.

Return: #324

20-325

Follow my mother.

This must be emphasized and understood. Hamlet does not act to get revenge for his father's death. He acts forcibly against Claudius in retaliation for his mother's death.

Return: #325

20-325-SD

(Hamlet grasps Claudius's ear to hold his head, and tilts the cup to Claudius's mouth; Claudius swallows some: he can't resist wine; Claudius dies)

Claudius is done in by his "vicious mole of nature," the serious flaw in his character. When wine is at his mouth, he cannot stop himself from drinking.

It is vital to get this right, and to understand it correctly. Hamlet does not force Claudius to drink, he only gives Claudius the opportunity to drink. It's Claudius, himself, who drinks the poisoned wine. The moral imperative tells us this has to be the case.

Hamlet does not murder Claudius. Claudius kills himself. Hamlet's soul is left free, with no mortal sin.

Return: #325-SD

20-326

Laertes: He is justly served, it is a poison tempered by himself;

served - treated, but also as in serving a person a drink.

tempered - prepared; concocted; mixed. Latin 'temperāre' ("to mix.")

Return: #326

20-327

Exchange forgiveness with me, noble Hamlet;

noble Hamlet - Laertes is bestowing a high compliment on Hamlet.

Return: #327

20-328

Mine and my father's death come not upon thee,

Both were accidental by Hamlet, so he ought to escape the ultimate blame.

Return: #328

20-329

Nor thine on me.

Laertes hopes and prays. Whether God would look kindly upon a person who carries through with a premeditated murder plot seems a bit doubtful.

Return: #329

20-329-SD

(Laertes dies)

In performance, perhaps with one last big sigh to punctuate his decease. See the Note on Hamlet's death below at 358-SD.

Return: #329-SD

20-330

Hamlet: Heaven make thee free of it; I follow thee;

Hamlet offers a prayer to Heaven for Laertes, which is the best he can do.

Return: #330

20-331

I am dead, Horatio; wretched Queen, adieu.

wretched Queen - Expresses sadness and pity. Reminiscent of Gertrude saying of Hamlet, in Scene 7, "look where, sadly, the poor wretch comes reading." (Scene 7#183)

adieu - literally "to God." We recall the Ghost said, "leave her to Heaven." There she goes. One might ponder, or debate, whether the souls of the characters go to Heaven or to Hell, but it's in the case of Gertrude that we have a clear statement. Her soul has gone to Heaven.

Return: #331

20-332

You that look pale, and tremble at this chance,

pale - can be understood as pale of skin, due to being shocked, or as wide-eyed, and perhaps it might be best to understand both at once. Both "white as a ghost," and wide-eyed.

tremble - shiver; shudder. Due to shock and fear, and not just at the sight of dead bodies strewn around. The entire royal family is dead, and dying. What is going to happen in this political power vacuum? Will it be anarchy? A civil war? Foreign conquest? Who is going to take power? Is everyone currently at the royal court going to end up being killed, or having to flee the country? The situation has suddenly turned scary, at a personal level, for everyone in the room. These are all "government people" at the royal court.

chance - turn of events. Turn of the Wheel of Fortune, one might picture it.

Return: #332

20-333

That are but mutes, or audience to this act,

mutes - silent participants. Some, such as the servant who poured the wine, have participated in the fencing match activities, while others on stage have portrayed non-participating spectators.

audience - the spectators at the fencing match.

act - a pun on the theatrical term, but here literally synonymous with "scene," referring to the spectacle on stage.

Return: #333

20-334

Had I but time - as this fell sergeant, Death

fell - choleric, implying impatient. From Latin 'fel', prefix 'fell-' ("gall.") The play concepts indicate the likelihood of this derivation, based on the four humors. For an example of fell used in this way, although as a noun, see The Faerie Queene, Edmund Spenser, Book 3 Canto XI second stanza.

O let him far be banished away,
  And in his stead let Loue for euer dwell,
  Sweet Loue, that doth his golding wings embay
  In blessed Nectar, and pure Pleasures well,
  Vntroubled of vile feare, or bitter fell.

There "fell" - "choler." Then, compare Hamlet's lines in Scene 7, "... lack gall | To make oppression bitter." (Scene 7#549-50)

The Faerie Queene quote can be found in many places on the web, including here:
http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/eng/fq/fq37.htm (checked 06/04/2015)
By the way, the "him" to be banished, in the above quote, is "the Snake."

sergeant - officer, understood as one who carries out, executes, a law or decision. There is an implicit pun in the concept of "execute." Hamlet evaded the execution of Claudius's order to England for his execution, but he can't escape this time.

Return: #334

20-335

Is strict in his arrest - oh I could tell you . . .

strict - exacting, stringent. Same as it means today. Latin 'strictus' ("rigid,") so, literally "stiff," unbending, as in a "stiff," a dead body, showing rigor mortis. A deceptively simple word choice by Shakespeare, with hidden depth of meaning below the surface. The fell sergeant Death is strict, rigid/stiff, like a "stiff" in death. Well, I suppose he would be.

arrest - Philosophically, the word raises the unusual view that life is an offense for which one is ultimately arrested. One does not encounter that point of view every day. The main point has to do with the characterization of Hamlet. He is essentially a good young man, and as he dies he is feeling guilty about various things he did, or did not do. He can't help feeling he ought to be arrested. One cannot help but sympathize.

Return: #335

20-336

But let it be; Horatio I am dead;

let it be - echoes Hamlet saying "let be" in line 205, when he decided to participate in the fencing match despite his misgivings.

dead - the same as dead. Sure to die.

Return: #336

20-337

Thou livest, report me and my cause aright

cause - motive, for killing Claudius.

aright - justly. From Old English 'ariht' = 'a-' ("of") + 'riht' ("just," "fair," "proper.") Recall Hamlet saying in Scene 9, "Horatio, thou art e'en as just a man..." (Scene 9#044)

Return: #337

20-338

To the unsatisfied.

the unsatisfied - those who hunger to know. Considering the various concepts which run through the play, this is probably best understood as referring to "appetite," for information. I suppose nowadays we'd say, to those who are curious.

Can also be understood to mean those who hunger for justice.

Return: #338

20-339

Horatio: Never believe it;

Hamlet should act surprised that Horatio declines. Horatio has been so agreeable, to Hamlet, Hamlet probably expected to hear a prompt "very well."

Return: #339

20-340

I am more an antique Roman than a Dane;

an antique Roman - an ancient Roman. Shakespeare presented the suicidal behavior of Brutus (Marcus Junius Brutus, the most noted assassin of Julius Caesar) in the play Julius Caesar, which was apparently just before Hamlet in the chronology of the Shakespeare plays. See Julius Caesar Act 5 scene 5.

Brutus:  ...
       I prithee, Strato, stay thou by thy lord:
       ...
       Hold then my sword, and turn away thy face,
       While I do run upon it.  Wilt thou, Strato?
Strato:  Give me your hand first.  Fare you well, my lord.
Brutus:  Farewell, good Strato.
        (Runs on his sword)
Caesar, now be still:
I kill'd not thee with half so good a will.
        (Dies)

Also in Julius Caesar, Cassius dies as an "assisted suicide." History offers numerous examples of notable Romans dying by suicide. The Romans made themselves rather notorious for taking their own lives when faced with a hopeless or unacceptable situation.

Return: #340

20-341

Here's yet some liquor left.

liquor - the poisoned wine. Horatio takes the cup from the table, near Claudius, where Hamlet set it down after the tussle with Claudius at 325-SD.

Return: #341

20-342

Hamlet: As th'art a man,

Hamlet is trying to dissuade Horatio by asserting that suicide is the coward's way out.

Recall Hamlet's expression of the opposite view in Scene 8, where he concluded it was cowardice that keep men from taking their own lives. (Scene 8#089)

“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Reams have been written about the Hamlet character over the years, but I doubt it has ever been said he was given a little mind by his author.

Return: #342

20-343

Give me the cup, let go, by Heaven I'll have it;

Hamlet does take the cup, either after this line, or at any time during the next five lines.

Return: #343

20-344

Oh good Horatio, what a wounded name,

wounded name - damaged reputation; maligned reputation. Hamlet is concerned that history will slander his good name.

Return: #344

20-345

Things standing thus unknown, shall I leave behind me?

Hamlet fears that those who learn only the basic fact that he killed Claudius, which itself is not quite right, will think he did so to get the Crown, that the Throne was his motivation, and he was nothing but an ambitious regicide. Hamlet doesn't want to be remembered like that.

Return: #345

20-346

If thou didst ever hold me in thy heart,

Compare what Hamlet said in Scene 9 about wearing Horatio "In my heart's core, aye, in my heart of heart." (Scene 9#063 ff)

Also, the phrase If thou didst ever appeared in the same type of sentiment earlier, in Scene 5, in the Ghost's line to Hamlet, "If thou didst ever thy dear father love." ((Scene 5#27)

So, Hamlet means, "if you ever loved me."

Return: #346

20-347

Absent thee from felicity a while,

felicity - happiness, here in the sense of eternal bliss.

Return: #347

20-348

And, in this harsh world, draw thy breath in pain

harsh - cruel. Unkind. Less than kind.

Return: #348

20-348-SD

(the sound of drums and cannon fire)

Return: #348-SD

20-349

To tell my story. What warlike noise is this?

With Claudius dead, who's ordering the cannons fired? Is there somehow a war?

Return: #349

20-349-SD

(Ostrick enters)

The doctor should accompany Ostrick as a silent extra, since Ostrick exited to fetch the doctor. We know there's a doctor, Hamlet mentioned him in Scene 9 (Scene 9#281.)

Since the doctor is an extra, with no lines, he needs no dialogue entry to be present. His entry is an event for the director's notes.

Return: #349-SD

20-350

Ostrick: Young Fortinbrasse, with conquest come from Poland,

come from Poland - actually not.

Return: #350

20-351

To the ambassadors of England gives this warlike volley.

(Fortinbrasse) . . . gives this warlike volley - the salute to the English ambassadors arriving at the Castle must be with the Castle cannons, which means that Fortinbrasse now controls those cannons. He couldn't order the cannons fired if they weren't his. Fortinbrasse has taken Elsinore Castle.

Return: #351

20-352

Hamlet: Oh, I die, Horatio;

Return: #352

20-353

The potent poison quite o'er-crows my spirit;

o'er-crows - vanquishes. Overthrows, like a king being overthrown.

o'er-crows my spirit - in Scene 1 we learned that a spirit departs when the rooster crows. Hamlet means he can feel his spirit leaving his body.

Return: #353

20-354

I cannot live to hear the news from England;

Hamlet can't help wondering if the English really did execute R & G.

Return: #354

20-355

But I do prophecy the election lights

prophecy - predict; it's an obvious instance of the Omen Motif.

lights - alights; lands. As if the election were a moth alighting on some person.

Return: #355

20-356

On Fortinbrasse; he has my dying voice;

It's a generous sentiment from Hamlet, but his voice is irrelevant, and there isn't going to be an election, other than, perhaps, a rubber stamp. Fortinbrasse is now in command, through conquest.

Be that as it may, it is commonly accepted, and even in some cases legally accepted, that the last words from a person who knows he is dying have special significance.

Return: #356

20-357

So tell him, with the occurrents, more and less,

the word "occurrents" in the Second Quarto

occurrents - events; occurrences. The suggestion of the word "current" implies being swept along.

Return: #357

20-358

Which have solicited . . . the rest is silence.

solicitied - lured; tempted (Hamlet to his fate.)

Return: #358

20-358-SD

(Hamlet dies)

The First Folio version of Hamlet follows the immediately preceding dialogue line with "O, o, o, o. Dies." It appears the o's indicate dying sighs, or one particularly long, drawn out, deep sigh. Recall Ophelia's lines in Scene 6, "He raised a sigh so piteous and profound | That it did seem to shatter all his bulk." (Scene 6#100) Then, Hamlet, in Scene 2, spoke of "suspiration of forced breath," (Scene 2#081,) which refers to a kind of sighing. In Scene 18 Claudius spoke of the "spendthrift's sigh." The notion of sighing is well enough established in the play.

If the Folio o's are from Shakespeare's hand, which they well may be, he probably wanted Hamlet to produce a sigh as Ophelia described. That would express the belief in folklore that a person's last breath is an especially deep one.

The actor could play it, following "the rest is silence," with two or three shallow, lightly voiced sighs, followed by the last, big, deep sigh. I do not think the Folio o's are intended to express moans or groans of pain, I believe sighs, based on what Ophelia said, are far more likely what was intended.

Return: #358-SD

20-359

Horatio: Now cracks a noble heart! Good night, sweet Prince,

cracks - fails. Horatio is speaking of Hamlet, but in action he puts his hand to his own chest, so a secondary meaning of "breaks" can be understood. Hamlet's death, as his heart fails, has broken Horatio's heart.

noble - illustrious. Not just "aristocratic" or "royal," but "highly praiseworthy."

night - the time of sleep.

Return: #359

20-360

And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.

flights of angels - choruses of angels, called flights here because of the angels' wings.

Return: #360

20-361

Why does the drum come hither?

The beating of a drum is heard, in a martial cadence.

Return: #361

20-361-SD

(Fortinbrasse enters, with his military entourage; the English Ambassadors enter)

Fortinbrasse should be accompanied by the Captain he assigned to get the license from Claudius in Scene 15.

Return: #361-SD

20-362

Fortinbrasse: Where is this sight?

Of which he has been told.

Return: #362

20-363

Horatio: What is it you would see?

Return: #363

20-364

If aught of woe, or wonder, cease your search.

aught - anything.

Return: #364

20-365

Fortinbrasse: This quarry cries on havoc! O proved death,

quarry - game, in the sense of kills. Creatures killed in hunting.

havoc - devastation. From Anglo-French 'havok' in the phrase 'crier havok' ("cry havoc," late 14th century,) which was a signal to soldiers that they could pillage and loot. It was, in other words, a signal of victory over the enemy forces, so the enemy civilians were at the mercy of the attackers.

Also, havoc - is related to French 'haver' ("to seize, grasp,") so for goodness sakes, it's another "seize" word in the play, of which we've seen so many. Shakespeare found and used many such words.

proved - when Fortinbrasse was told that the King and Queen, and others, were dead at a fencing match, he did not believe it. Now the deaths are proved to him, as he views the tragic scene with his own eyes.

Return: #365

20-366

What feast is toward in thine eternal cell,

feast - implies more than one diner. A feast is a social event. So much "game" killed suggests that Death must be hosting a feast.

toward - coming. In prospect. In view, ahead.

What feast is toward - (Tell me, Mr. Death,) what's the upcoming social occasion, for which you needed all this "game" to furnish forth your banquet table?

cell - lair, is one good possibility for paraphrase, as is "den." The idea is that Death keeps hidden in his den, or lair, until he emerges, from time to time, to feast on the living. Cell is from Latin 'cella' ("small room," or "store room,") and is related to Latin 'celare' ("to hide" or "to conceal.") So, for cell as used here, a word for a small place, where the occupant is concealed, is indicated.

Return: #366

20-367

That thou, so many princes at a shot,

princes - principal persons. Members of the royal family.

at a shot - at one time. One may recall Claudius's mention of a "murdering piece" in Scene 16. (Scene 16#091) What Fortinbrasse sees is as if a murdering piece had been fired at the Danish royal family.

Claudius said, in Scene 16, "Like to a murdering piece, ... Gives me superfluous death." The deaths in this Scene are "superfluous" indeed, compared to the single death, that of Hamlet, that Claudius wanted to be given.

Return: #367

20-368

So bloodily hast struck?

bloodily - murderously. Or, fatally; lethally.

Return: #368

20-369

English Ambassador: The sight is dismal,

dismal - unlucky. An instance of the Fortune Theme.

Dismal is from Medieval Latin 'dies mali' ("unlucky days.") Calendars in the Middle Ages were marked with two unlucky days per month, based on astrological calculation.

The unlucky springtime days were March 1 & 28, April 10 & 20, May 3 & 25, and June 10 & 16, depending on what one considers to be springtime. I mention this since the play is set in spring, and the Ambassador has referred to dies mali. One need hardly take the Ambassador as speaking literally, of a particular unlucky day, of course.

Return: #369

20-370

And our affairs from England come too late;

affairs - business. Doings. "Affair" is from French 'à faire' ("to do.")

Return: #370

20-371

The ears are senseless that should give us hearing,

senseless - deaf. Shakespeare chose the word for an instance of his Sense Motif.

give us hearing - is intentionally ambiguous, between "hear us" and "give us an audience."

There is nice wordplay in the English ambassador saying that Claudius's ears should give hearing to them.

Return: #371

20-372

To tell him his commandment is fulfilled,

commandment - order from high authority. The religious "aura" (i.e. the implication of "divine command") is intentional in Shakespeare's choice of word. Aristocratic language and religious language sometimes merged in Shakespeare's day, and he made good use of that ambiguity, on occasion.

fulfilled - carried out. Executed. Exactly that: "executed."

Return: #372

20-373

That Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead.

Which is insane. The English actually believed that ambassadors would bring them a letter which essentially said:

"I am the King of Denmark. The men who have brought you this letter are my ambassadors. Cut their heads off right now."

Distilled to its essence, that's what Hamlet wrote in his forgery. Who on earth would do that, without at least double checking that some grievous error had not occurred in the writing of that letter?

The Clown Sexton said in Scene 19 that the men in England were all mad. I guess so.

Return: #373

20-374

Where should we have our thanks?

The English are expecting thanks for doing something that was crazy, when you think about it. They're disappointed in their expectations. People don't usually get thanked for doing something mad.

Return: #374

20-375

Horatio: Not from his mouth,

mouth - voice.

The phrasing provides an instance of the Mouth Motif.

Return: #375

20-375-SD

(points to Claudius)

Return: #375-SD

20-376

Had it the ability of life to thank you;

ability of life - in this case the peculiarly human ability of speech.

Return: #376

20-377

He never gave commandment for their death;

commandment - a word compatible with the idea of "the divinity of kings."

death - execution.

Return: #377

20-378

But since, so jump upon this bloody question,

jump upon - coincident with.

bloody question - murder mystery (mystery to Fortinbrasse, that is.)

Return: #378

20-379

You from the Polack wars, and you from England,

You from the Polack wars - actually, not. Fortinbrasse has not been to Poland. Horatio is a good man, and true, but that does not make him perfect. Like anyone else, Hortio only knows what he's seen for himself, or what he's been told. He can be deceived.

Return: #379

20-380

Are here arrived, give order that these bodies

bodies - the mortal remains of Hamlet, Gertrude, Claudius, and Laertes.

Return: #380

20-381

High on a stage be placed to the view,

A stage is available, the Gonzago/'Mousetrap' play temporary stage which has not yet been disassembled and removed.

Horatio is calling for a "show" of the bodies.

Return: #381

20-382

And let me speak, to the yet unknowing world,

unknowing - uninformed.

world - public. People in general.

Return: #382

20-383

How these things came about; so shall you hear

so - in that way.

Return: #383

20-384

Of carnal, bloody and unnatural acts,

carnal - sensual. Fleshy. Might be best taken as meaning acts due to "appetite." Can be read as "lustful" in the large sense, not primarily focused on sex. Greedy.

bloody - murderous.

unnatural - contrary to (human) nature. Inhuman. "Unkind," i.e. contrary to human kind.

Return: #384

20-385

Of accidental judgments, casual slaughters,

accidental judgments - unlucky fates, is one way it can be read. The concept of the Last Judgment, one's ultimate fate, was culturally stronger in those days.

casual - occurring by chance; unfortunate. A Wheel of Fortune idea. Casual is from Late Latin 'casualis' ("by chance.")

slaughters - killings by violence.

Return: #385

20-386

Of deaths put on by cunning, and forced cause,

put on - produced. As when "to produce" a show is called "to put on" a show.

forced - compelled. Compare Hamlet speaking of "compelled valor" in his letter to Horatio in Scene 17. (Scene 17#016 ff)

Return: #386 - or - Folio Difference

20-387

And in this upshot, purposes mistook,

upshot - outcome. Finale. In an archery match, the upshot is the final shot. The "arrow" idea occurs again, implicitly (as when Hamlet said "That I have shot my arrow o'er the house," line 223 above.) The "up-" prefix in upshot indicates finality, as in the phrases "burned up," "used up," "settled up," etc.

purposes - desired ends. Intentions.

mistook - mistaken; gone awry. Compare the sentiment of Hamlet in Scene 8, line 092 ff: "And enterprises of great pitch and moment, ... their currents turn awry." (Scene 8#092)

Also, mistook - not grasped. The word "take" is from late Old English 'tacan' ("to grasp;" "to touch.") So, mistook is not only another "grasp"/"seize" word in the play, it's also a "touch" word, befitting this Scene. ("A touch, a touch, I do confess it.")

Return: #387

20-388

Fallen on the inventors' heads; all this,

Fallen on the inventors' heads - like an executioner's axe.

On occasion, Shakespeare used the idea of inventing to refer to creative writing, to authorship, that is. For example, Sonnet 103, lines 5 to 8:

O, blame me not, if I no more can write;
Look in your glass, and there appears a face
That over-goes my blunt invention quite,
Dulling my lines and doing me disgrace.

"blunt invention" - he means his ability as an author is not keen enough for the subject.

With "invention" viewed as authoring / authorship, we find the idea, in fallen on the inventors' heads, of persons being "the authors of their own destruction." The "author" concept is certainly worth noting in, well, a written play.

Return: #388

20-389

Can I truly deliver.

deliver - present; utter.

Deliver goes back to Latin 'liberare' ("to free.") That root meaning has some pertinence here, since the truth about Claudius was, to some extent, a secret held between Hamlet and Horatio, and Horatio is now the only one who knows certain details, particularly what Claudius's letter to England says. In order to share that information, Horatio must "free" it, to fly like a bird, poetically speaking.

truly deliver - deliver in truth; speak the truth about.

Return: #389

20-390

Fortinbrasse: Let us haste to hear it,

He's eager for the story. Everyone likes a dramatic story.

Return: #390

20-391

And call the noblest to the audience;

the noblest - the highest Danish aristocracy, at least those at Elsinore Castle and in its area. Fortinbrasse wants to insure that the wealthiest and most influential Danes are apprised of the events, and the current situation.

Return: #391

20-392

For me, with sorrow I embrace my fortune;

sorrow - he isn't really all that sorry the Danish royal family is dead. He's sad about how it must have happened. There's no glory in it, no honor, that he can see. It isn't "noble," in his mind.

embrace - grasp; seize. It's another of those "seize" words.

fortune - both "luck" and "wealth." Fortinbrasse now has the fortune he always thought he should have inherited.

Return: #392

20-393

I have some rights of memory in this kingdom,

The Elder Fortinbrasse ruled from Elsinore Castle as a duke of Norway. That is well remembered by the people. Memory is history is tradition is legitimacy. Fortinbrasse is looking upon his inheritance now, at last.

Return: #393 - or - Folio Difference

20-394

Which now to claim, my vantage doth invite me.

vantage - superior position; but perhaps best paraphrased in Modern English as "prospect." The idea of a prospect being inviting is common expression.

Return: #394 - or - Folio Difference

20-395

Horatio: Of that I shall have also cause to speak,

Horatio means Hamlet's endorsement of Fortinbrasse as the successor at Elsinore Castle, line 356 above.

Return: #395 - or - Folio Difference

20-396

And from his mouth, whose voice will draw no more;

from his mouth - to speak Hamlet's words is to speak from his mouth. So to speak.

draw no more - draw no more breath, to speak for himself.

Return: #396 - or - Folio Difference

20-397

But let this same be presently performed,

this same - what Horatio mentioned above, i.e. what he has to say about events in Denmark that led to this tragic conclusion.

performed - is a "show" word. Horatio wants to 'Put on a Show' at once, a show he'll improvise, based on the facts as best he knows them, thereby informing Fortinbrasse, and everyone, how all this tragedy transpired.

Horatio doesn't know all the facts, but he knows enough to salvage the reputation, in history, of his late, best friend. We keep in mind that Horatio has Claudius's secret order to England for Hamlet's execution, so there is tangible evidence of Claudius's dishonesty and treachery, with Hamlet as the intended victim.

Return: #397

20-398

Even while men's minds are wild, lest more mischance

wild - running wild. Speculating wildly, in the absence of factual information. Jumping to conclusions.

If people hear only "Hamlet killed Claudius" what will they think? They could easily conclude Hamlet killed Claudius out of ambition to get the Crown. Hamlet didn't want to be remembered as nothing better than an ambitious regicide, nor does Horatio want that. Horatio wants to present the facts before people arrive at erroneous conclusions based on uninformed rumor.

Return: #398

20-399

On plots and errors happen.

On - because of; following from.

errors - The word error is from Latin 'errare' ("to wander.") That which wanders goes astray.

The phrase plots and errors can be read as hendiadys: wandering plots = plots that go astray.

Plot can mean the story line of a play. Whether Shakespeare intended a tongue in cheek idea of the play plot going astray is anybody's guess, but I wouldn't be surprised. Events went astray for the characters.

Return: #399

20-400

Fortinbrasse: Let four captains

One at each corner of the bier.

Return: #400

20-401

Bear Hamlet, like a soldier, to the stage,

the stage - is literal. There is a stage here in the Banquet Hall. It's the temporary stage erected for the Gonzago / 'Mousetrap' play. That temporary stage has not been disassembled and removed yet.

In action, the four captains proceed immediately to do as ordered.

Return: #401

20-402

For he was likely, had he been put on,

put on - put on the Throne, made King. When Fortinbrasse issued his challenge to single combat to the King of Denmark, which was the "message" referred to by Claudius in Scene 2, Fortinbrasse thought he was challenging Hamlet.

Return: #402

20-403

To have proved most royal; and for his passage,

proved - showed. Demonstrated that he was. It's an implicit Show Theme instance, once again.

royal - kingly. King Hamlet II was the one Fortinbrasse wanted to battle, but it was not to be.

passage - passing, from the world of the living. Death. Hamlet's passage is the one from earth to Heaven.

Shakespeare probably used the word passage here because it can also mean a section of a play. He did use "passing" elsewhere in the play: "... all that lives must die, | Passing through nature to eternity." (Scene 2#073) It's "Hamlet's passage" in more ways than one.

Return: #403 - or - Folio Difference

20-404

The soldier's music and the rite of war

soldier's music - drums and trumpets, in this setting.

rite of war - the traditions accorded a warrior for a military funeral. The funeral rite befitting a warrior.

Return: #404 - or - Folio Difference

20-405

Speak loudly for him;

Claudius made casual use of the cannons, because he liked the feeling of power they gave him, but this is different. It is not every day a Prince dies (not to mention a king and queen, as well.)

Further, Fortinbrasse is responding to a warrior fantasy he had. We can be certain he dreamed of defeating Hamlet in single combat, to avenge his father's death, and reclaim the land he believed he should have inherited. It was always Hamlet, on Fortinbrasse's mind. Fortinbrasse has the land now, but no revenge. It will have to do, as the reality.

In honoring Hamlet the way he does, Fortinbrasse is carrying through on his dream of victory over Hamlet. He's treating Hamlet as the mighty warrior he fought, in a legendary battle, and by the grace of God, and the strength of his arm, he ultimately overcame. No such event happened, what he's ordering now gives us a glimpse of the show in Fortinbrasse's mind, his great "show" of glorious battle, and famous victory, which now will never be any more than a dream.

Return: #405

20-406

Take up the bodies, such a sight as this

the bodies - the bodies of the King, the Queen, and Laertes. Fortinbrasse has already ordered Hamlet borne to the stage, and he is now ordering that the others also be placed on the stage. Refer back to Horatio's request, lines 380-1 above, "give order that these bodies | High on a stage be placed to the view."

If the play is done so that Horatio kills Claudius's Swissers, which it should be, those bodies are moved to the side. They are not nobility, but common "casualties of war," and we are in the Renaissance in the play, not a modern democracy.

Return: #406 - or - Folio Difference

20-407

Becomes the field, but here shows much amiss;

Becomes - suits. Befits. Does credit to. There is a "looks attractive" connotation which is understandable from Fortinbrasse's point of view. He views the Danish royalty as trespassers, interlopers, and enemies. He cannot say it looks so bad to him that his enemies are dead.

the field - of battle.

amiss - gone wrong. Also, shows much amiss = doesn't look right. Both meanings apply.

here shows much amiss - both "shows that much has gone wrong here, in Denmark," and also "looks very much out of place, in this Hall."

shows - as events conclude, we see that Fortinbrasse is concerned about "putting on the proper kind of show."

Return: #407

20-408

Go, bid the soldiers shoot.

Spoken to Fortinbrasse's Captain.

Return: #408

20-408-SD

(all exit, and a peal of ordnance is heard, as . . . ~ the final curtain falls.)

Since the word "peal" usually means the ringing of a bell, we should recall how the play began, with the ringing of a bell.

So, the play began with one kind of peal, and ends with a different kind, and in a way we have come full circle, to a new beginning, as the Wheel of Fortune has spun, and Fortinbrasse has come out on top, for now.

Return: #408-SD - or - Folio Difference

/ - ~ - | ~ - ~ | - ~ - | ~ - ~ | - ~ - | ~ - ~ | - ~ - \

The End . . . of The Tragical History of Hamlet, the greatest play in the world, and one of the world's great shows.


Scene Links

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