Scene 6

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Synopsis

In Polonius's room in the Castle, the day after Laertes leaves for France, Polonius sends his servant Reynaldo to check up on Laertes in Paris. Polonius is suspicious of why Laertes was so insistent on returning to France, and he fears Laertes is involved in vice there, so he wants to find out about that right away. Polonius has waited only until the next day to send Reynaldo, merely so that Reynaldo won't be on the same ship as Laertes.

As Reynaldo exits, Ophelia enters, and tells Polonius that Hamlet rushed into her room, and stared at her without speaking. Polonius jumps to the conclusion that Hamlet is mad with love for Ophelia, and says they must go to the King.

Characters

The Scene 6 Characters are: Polonius, Reynaldo, Ophelia.

Passage Links

Ophelia entry: #077-SD2

Jump down to the Notes.


Dialogue

Scene 6      [ ~ Madness of Love ~ ]      (Act 2 Scene 1)

#06-Setting: Inside the Castle;
            In Polonius's room of his family's apartments;
            Daytime, mid-morning.

#06-000-SD  (Polonius, his servant Reynaldo, and an anonymous servant enter)

#06-001  Polonius:  Give him this money, and these notes, Reynaldo.
                        Give him this money, and these letters, Reynaldo.
#06-002  Reynaldo:  I will, my Lord.
                        I will, my Lord.
#06-003  Polonius:  You shall do marvelous wisely, good Reynaldo,
                        You will do a marvelously wise thing, Reynaldo, if
#06-004        Before you visit him, to make inquire
                        Before you see Laertes, you make inquiries
#06-005        Of his behavior.
                        About his behavior.
#06-006  Reynaldo:  My Lord, I did intend it.
                        My Lord, I did intend to do that.
#06-007  Polonius:  Marry, well said, very well said; look you, sir
                        Goodness, well said, very well said.  Now then, sir,
#06-008        Enquire me first what Danskers are in Paris,
                        First find out for me what persons of Danzig, Poland, are in Paris, [Yes, that's what he said!]
#06-009        And how, and who, what means, and where they keep,
                        And their worth, and their social standing, what their income source is, and where they reside,
#06-010        What company, at what expense, and finding
                        What staff of servants they employ, and at what expense - and when you find,
#06-011        By this encompassment, and drift of question,
                        Through this encirclement, and course of questioning,
#06-012        That they do know my son, come you more nearer
                        The people who know my son, approach the subject more closely, so
#06-013        Then your particular demands will touch it;
                        Then your specific questions will touch upon his behavior;
#06-014        Take you, as 'twere, some distant knowledge of him,
                        Assume the role, as it were, that you have some small knowledge of him,
#06-015        As thus: "I know his father, and his friends,
                        Such as by saying: "I know his father, and his friends,
#06-016        And in part, him;" do you mark this, Reynaldo?
                        And I know him a little."  Do you follow this, Reynaldo?
#06-017  Reynaldo:  Aye, very well, my Lord.
                        Yes, very well, my Lord.
#06-018  Polonius:  "And in part, him;" but you may say, "not well,
                        "And I know him a little."  But then you may add, "I don't know him very well
#06-019        But if't be he I mean, he's very wild,
                        But if he's the one I'm thinking of, he's very wild, and
#06-020        Addicted to..." so and so, and there put on him
                        Addicted to..." this or that, and then impute to Laertes
#06-021        What forgeries you please; marry, none so rank
                        Whatever fabrications you please - goodness, nothing so heinous
#06-022        As may dishonor him, take heed of that,
                        That it could ruin his reputation.  Take heed of that.
#06-023        But sir, such wanton, wild, and usual slips
                        But sir, cite such undisciplined, unrestrained, and typical offenses
#06-024        As are companions noted and most known
                        As are accompaniments recognized, and best known
#06-025        To youth and liberty.
                        To youthfulness and to liberty.
#06-026  Reynaldo:  As gaming, my Lord?
                        Such as gambling, my Lord?
#06-027  Polonius:  Aye, or drinking, fencing, swearing,
                        Yes, or drinking, dueling, swearing,
#06-028        Quarreling, drabbing; you may go so far.
                        Fighting, whoring - you may go as far as that.
#06-029  Reynaldo:  My Lord, that would dishonor him.
                        My Lord, that would dishonor him.
#06-030  Polonius:  Faith, no, as you may season it in the charge;
                        Goodness, no, because you can temper it in how you phrase the allegation.
#06-031        You must not put another scandal on him,
                        You must not put another scandal on him,
#06-032        That he is open to incontinency,
                        That he can't resist sinful sexual behavior.
#06-033        That's not my meaning, but breathe his faults so quaintly
                        I don't mean that.  But speak of his moral failings so cleverly,
#06-034        That they may seem the taints of liberty,
                        That they seem nothing more than a bad part of his freedom,
#06-035        The flash and outbreak of a fiery mind,
                        The brief flash and temporary outbreak from an overheated mind,
#06-036        A savageness in unreclaimed blood,
                        A primitiveness in unreformed passion, caused
#06-037        Of general assault.
                        By general temptation into vice.
#06-038  Reynaldo:  But, good my Lord . . .
                        But, my good Lord . . .
#06-039  Polonius:  Wherefore should you do this?
                        You're asking why you should do this?
#06-040  Reynaldo:  Aye, my Lord, I would know that.
                        Yes, my Lord, I'd like to know that.
#06-041  Polonius:  Marry, sir, here's my drift,
                        Goodness, sir, here's what I'm getting at,
#06-042        And I believe it is a fetch of wit:
                        And I think it's a great idea my brain has fetched up.  When
#06-043        You laying these slight sallies on my son,
                        You make these trivial attacks on my son's reputation,
#06-044        As 'twere a thing a little soiled with working,
                        As if he had gotten his hands a little dirty, as it were,
#06-045        Mark you, your party in converse, him you would sound,
                        Pay attention to who you're talking to, as you sound him out.  If he
#06-046        Having ever seen in the prenominate crimes
                        Has ever seen any of the aforementioned misbehavior
#06-047        The youth you breathe of guilty, be assured
                        So that the youth of which you speak is guilty, be assured
#06-048        He closes with you in this consequence:
                        He will agree with you in this continuation:
#06-049        "Good sir," (or so,) or "friend," or "gentleman,"
                        "Good sir," (or whatever,) or "friend," or "gentleman,"
#06-050        According to the phrase, and the addition
                        According to the style, and the title
#06-051        Of man and country . . .
                        The man has, and is used in that country . . .
#06-052  Reynaldo:  Very good, my Lord.
                        Very good, my Lord.
#06-053  Polonius:  And then, sir, does he this, he does, what was I about to say?
                         . . . And then, sir, he does this, he does . . . what was I about to say?
#06-054        By the mass, I was about to say something;
                        By God, I was about to say something.
#06-055        Where did I leave?
                        Where did I leave off?
#06-056  Reynaldo:  At "closes in the consequence."
                        At "He'll agree with you in this continuation"
#06-057  Polonius:  At "closes in the consequence," aye, marry,
                        At "He'll agree with you in this continuation," yes, gracious.
#06-058        He closes thus: "I know the gentleman,
                        He'll agree with you, thusly: "I know the gentleman, and
#06-059        I saw him yesterday," or "th'other day,"
                        I saw him yesterday," or "the other day,"
#06-060        Or then, or then, with such or such, "and as you say,
                        Or then, or another time, with such or such person, "and as you say,
#06-061        There was he gaming," "there, o'ertook in his rouse,"
                        There, he was gambling," or "there, he was overcome with drink," or
#06-062        "There falling out at tennis," or perchance,
                        "There, he was squabbling at a tennis game," or perhaps he'll say,
#06-063        "I saw him enter such a house of sale,"
                        "I saw him enter a house of ill repute,"
#06-064        Videlicet, a brothel, or so forth; see you now?
                        That is, a brothel, and so forth.  Do you see now?
#06-065        Your bait of falsehood takes this carp of truth;
                        You use a bait of lies to catch a fish of truth.
#06-066        And thus do we of wisdom and of reach,
                        And that is how we, who are wise, and who can grasp things,
#06-067        With windlasses and with assays of bias,
                        Can twist the truth out of people.  With a biased approach
#06-068        By indirections, find directions out;
                        We use misdirection to find out true direction.
#06-069        So, by my former lecture and advice,
                        So, by following my given instructions and my advice
#06-070        Shall you, my son; you have me, have you not?
                        You'll find out about my son.  You follow me, don't you?
#06-071  Reynaldo:  My Lord, I have.
                        My Lord, I have been able to follow you.
#06-072  Polonius:  God buy ye, fare ye well.
                        Then goodbye, farewell.
#06-073  Reynaldo:  Good my Lord.
                        Good my Lord.
#06-074  Polonius:  Observe his inclination in yourself.
                        Watch yourself not to misbehave like he must be.
#06-075  Reynaldo:  I shall, my Lord.
                        I will watch myself, my Lord.
#06-076  Polonius:  And let him ply his music.
                        And let him have his fun.
#06-077  Reynaldo:  Well, my Lord.         #06-077-SD1  (Reynaldo exits)
                        Well, my Lord.

#06-077-SD2  (Ophelia enters)

#06-078  Polonius:  Farewell. How now, Ophelia, what's the matter?
                        Farewell. How now, Ophelia, what's the matter?
#06-079  Ophelia:  Oh, my Lord, my Lord, I have been so affrighted.
                        Oh, my Lord, my Lord, I have been so frightened!
#06-080  Polonius:  With what, i'the name of God?
                        By what, in the name of God?
#06-081  Ophelia:  My Lord, as I was sewing in my closet,
                        My Lord, as I was sewing in my room,
#06-082        Lord Hamlet, with his doublet all unbraced,
                        Lord Hamlet, with his doublet all unfastened,
#06-083        No hat upon his head, his stockings fouled,
                        No hat on his head, his stockings rumpled and twisted,
#06-084        Ungartered, and down-gyved to his ankle,
                        Ungartered, and fallen down around his ankles, like shackles, his face as
#06-085        Pale as his shirt, his knees knocking each other,
                        Pale as his shirt, his knees knocking together,
#06-086        And with a look so piteous in purport
                        And with a look on his face so wretched in expression,
#06-087        As if he had been loosed out of Hell
                        As if he had been released from Hell
#06-088        To speak of horrors, he comes before me.
                        So that he could tell people of its horrors, he appeared before me.
#06-089  Polonius:  Mad for thy love?
                        Mad for your love?
#06-090  Ophelia:  My Lord, I do not know,
                        My Lord, I don't know,
#06-091        But truly, I do fear it.
                        But, now that you mention it, I'm really afraid of that.
#06-092  Polonius:  What said he?
                        What did he say?
#06-093  Ophelia:  He took me by the wrist, and held me hard;
                        He took me by the wrist, and held it hard,
#06-094        Then goes he to the length of all his arm,
                        Then he held me at arm's length
#06-095        And with his other hand thus o'er his brow,
                        And with his other hand, like this, on his forehead
#06-096        He falls to such perusal of my face,
                        He began such a careful study of my face,
#06-097        As he would draw it; long stayed he so;
                        As if he intended to sketch it. He stayed that way a long time.
#06-098        At last, a little shaking of mine arm,
                        Then finally, he did a little shaking of my arm,
#06-099        And thrice his head thus waving up and down,
                        And he nodded his head three times, like this, while
#06-100        He raised a sigh so piteous and profound
                        He gave a sigh so pitifully and deep
#06-101        That it did seem to shatter all his bulk
                        That it seemed to collapse his entire chest
#06-102        And end his being; that done, he lets me go,
                        And end his life.  After that, he let go of my arm,
#06-103        And with his head over his shoulder turned,
                        And with his head turned to look back at me over his shoulder
#06-104        He seemed to find his way without his eyes,
                        He seemed to find his way without using his eyes,
#06-105        For out o'doors he went without their helps,
                        For, he went out through the door without looking ahead,
#06-106        And to the last bended their light on me.
                        And until he disappeared from my view he still had his eyes on me.
#06-107  Polonius:  Come, go with me! I will go seek the King;
                        Come, go with me! I will go find the King.
#06-108        This is the very ecstasy of love,
                        This is truly the madness of love,
#06-109        Whose violent property fordoes itself,
                        Whose intense power destroys itself,
#06-110        And leads the will to desperate undertakings
                        And leads the person's desires into desperate action
#06-111        As oft' as any passions under heaven
                        As often as any emotions on earth
#06-112        That does afflict our natures; I am sorry . . .
                        That do distress our human natures.  I am sorry . . .
#06-113        What, have you given him any hard words of late?
                        Tell me what, have you spoken any harsh words to him lately?
#06-114  Ophelia:  No, my good Lord, but as you did command,
                        No, my good Lord, but as you commanded,
#06-115        I did repel his letters, and denied
                        I refused his letters, and did not allow
#06-116        His access to me.
                        Him to see me.
#06-117  Polonius:  That hath made him mad;
                        That has driven him mad.
#06-118        I am sorry, that with better speed and judgment,
                        I am sorry, that with greater dispatch and better judgment
#06-119        I had not coted him; I feared he did but trifle,
                        I did not get ahead of him.  I was afraid he only trifled with you
#06-120        And meant to wrack thee; but beshrew my jealousy;
                        And meant to ruin you.  But curse my suspicion.
#06-121        By heaven, it is as proper to our age
                        By heavens, it is as respectable for older persons
#06-122        To cast beyond ourselves in our opinions,
                        To look beyond ourselves in our beliefs,
#06-123        As it is common for the younger sort
                        As it is deplorable for the younger kind of person
#06-124        To lack discretion; come, go we to the King;
                        To lack discernment.  Come, we'll go to the King.
#06-125        This must be known, which being kept close, might move
                        This must be made known - which, if kept to ourselves, might cause
#06-126        More grief to hide, than 'hate' to utter love;
                        More grief, to hide it, than cause hate to speak "love."
#06-127        Come.
                        Come along.

#06-127-SD    (they exit)

End of Scene 6

#Interscene 6-7

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.

06-Setting
  • Place - Polonius's office in the Castle.
  • Time of Day - Morning, no more than three hours after Scene 5. (You may have encountered the idea of a 2-month gap between Scenes 5 and 6. That is rubbish, a "vicious mole" in the editing and commentary of Hamlet, a flaw which has only undermined the correct presentation of the play.)
  • Calendar Time - Day 2 of the reign of King Claudius.

Return: #Setting

06-000-SD
the "man or two" entry in the Second Quarto

(Polonius, his servant Reynaldo, and an anonymous servant enter) - The anonymous servant is optional, as we see in the original Second Quarto stage direction. The reason Shakespeare made the second servant optional is that he requires a special costume, if he's present. Polonius has livery for his servants, livery being a special, distinctive uniform. If both Reynaldo and the anonymous extra are present, they must be in matching uniforms that look good, and that look expensive. Polonius spoke to that point about expensive-looking clothes when he was advising Laertes in Scene 3. (Scene 3#074): "Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy." Polonius will dress his servants expensively, since he knows the way they look reflects on him.

There is costume expense if the second servant is present, even though he says nothing. Is it worth it? Does it fit easily into the costume budget for the production? One does not know yet, at the time the playscript is being written.

Shakespeare did want the anonymous servant present, to symbolize Polonius's wealth and status, and to underscore that Polonius will not be left without a man servant while Reynaldo is gone. However, practical considerations mean it has to be left as an option. So, it's "or two" in the stage direction.

It's important to understand this because it gives us a look at Shakespeare as a practical playwright, a facet of him that is seldom presented, at least not with any examples to prove it.

In the "theater of the mind" as we read Hamlet we suffer no expense, so we should picture the anonymous servant there, in the background or to the side, standing attentively, ready to take over for Reynaldo, and expensively dressed in the livery of Polonius.

Further, we see Reynaldo gets his entry, in the original publication, as "his man" and not by name. That is to insure it is understood Reynaldo is a servant. Since the errand is family business, an entry by name would give the impression Reynaldo is a family member, and that misapprehension would confuse the Scene.

One last thing, the phrase in the original, "old Polonius," is to imply that he is verging into his dotage, in connection with the foolishness of what he goes on to say and do.

Return: #000-SD

06-001

Polonius: Give him this money, and these notes, Reynaldo.

money - we know what the money is for, it's for Laertes to buy clothes. Polonius told Laertes, yesterday, to buy different clothes, but didn't give him any money for clothes at the time. Polonius has now realized that, so he's having Reynaldo take clothing money to Laertes.

notes - letters. We know what the letters are, also. There are two of them. One is the letter Ophelia promised Laertes she'd write to him, at his insistence, before she went to bed last night. She's kept her promise, and she has given her letter for Laertes to Polonius, to send along. The other is a letter from Polonius to Laertes. Polonius has thought of more advice for Laertes, and Polonius's letter probably also repeats the advice we heard him tell Laertes yesterday, or at least what Polonius can remember of it. The letter for Laertes from Polonius is thick. The letter from Ophelia is thin.

(Editors and commentators who have fantasized a time lapse in the play, that does not really exist, have of course destroyed their own ability to identify the money and the notes, although those follow directly from what was stated in the dialogue in Scene 3. See Scene 3#074 about the money for clothes, and Scene 3#004 about the notes, on the point of the letter from Ophelia, with, in addition, the letter from Polonius taken for granted because of the way he is.)

Return: #001

06-002

Reynaldo: I will, my Lord.

Indeed he will. He'll try his best, to do exactly as Polonius tells him. Good man, Reynaldo. Loyal, trustworthy, he's all of that.

Return: #002

06-003

Polonius: You shall do marvelous wisely, good Reynaldo,

marvelous wisely - marvelously wisely. So wisely it'll be a marvel.

good Reynaldo - The word good is a term of respect from employer to employee. Reynaldo is Polonius's best servant, the only one Polonius would trust on an international trip, carrying a large amount of money.

Return: #003

06-004

Before you visit him, to make inquire

inquire - an inquiry.

It is important to observe that Polonius is telling Reynaldo to do what he goes on to say, before Reynaldo presents himself to Laertes.

Return: #004

06-005

Of his behavior.

We'll see that Polonius has a whole flock of birds he wants to "kill with one stone," as long as he's sending Reynaldo to Paris. Polonius mainly wants to find out if Laertes is behaving himself, which Polonius strongly (and quite rightly) suspects not.

Return: #005

06-006

Reynaldo: My Lord, I did intend it.

I did intend it - Reynaldo says that to ingratiate himself with his employer. He didn't intend it, but of course he wants his employer to think he's "marvelous wise."

Return: #006

06-007

Polonius: Marry, well said, very well said; look you, sir

Polonius is well pleased to hear his faithful servant is so in sync with him, which actually Reynaldo was not, but be that as it may, as long as they're both happy.

Return: #007

06-008

Enquire me first what Danskers are in Paris,

Danskers - persons of Gdansk, which is Danzig, Poland. That is what Polonius said. That is not what Polonius meant. It's an amusing mistake by Polonius (literally "the Polish man,") that he refers to Poles while intending to speak of Danes. He was misled by how Danskers sounds. For more, see the Extended Note. Oh, whether Reynaldo understands that Polonius means "Danes" turns out to be irrelevant.

Return: #008 - or - Extended Note

06-009

And how, and who, what means, and where they keep,

In characterization, the vagueness and ambiguity is revelatory of Polonius's mental condition. However, Reynaldo knows him well enough to unravel it, or at least capture the gist of it.

Beyond characterization, there is deliberate ambiguity, to entertain with words.

how - what their financial value is, is the primary meaning. This usage of how is like that in King Henry IV, Part ii Act 3 scene 2:

Shallow: ... How a score of ewes now?

Shallow is asking, "what price?" or "what value?" With how, Polonius wants to know what the Danes in Paris are worth.

Second, how can be taken as asking how they got there.

and who - and whether any "who's," are among them, i.e. notable persons, as in the phrase "Who's Who."

Second, for and who, it can be taken as asking who's responsible for them being there, if anybody is. Parents? (That would be the case for Laertes.) Are some there because of the person they work for? (Like Reynaldo will be.) Etc.

what means - how they get by, that is, what they do for income. What their income-producing resources are. The word means is still used in this way sometimes, although it isn't heard often any more. (Mr. Ford's means were that he owned an automobile factory.)

Second, means can be taken as a question about money. In interpretation, this must be worked out with how so the idea of money is not repeated.

where they keep - where they keep themselves, i.e. where they reside.

Second, following upon the second interpretation of means, the phrase where they keep can be heard as asking where they keep their money. This makes it sound like Polonius wants Reynaldo to "case" the Danes in Paris, so that Polonius can sneak in, some dark night, and burglarize them. That impish implication is intentional from Shakespeare, of course.

The Extended Note runs through the two alternatives, or I should say, two of the alternatives, in a more systematic way.

Return: #009 - or - Extended Note

06-010

What company, at what expense, and finding

There's deliberate ambiguity. Not too bad this time.

First:

What company - what company of servants, household employees.

at what expense - at what cost. Polonius wants to know how much servants in Paris cost so that he can advise Laertes on that point. He's afraid Laertes may let servants in Paris overcharge him.

Reynaldo will understand this meaning easily, since he's a servant.

Second:

What company - what French friends and acquaintances.

at what expense - at what cost to entertain friends and acquaintances, in Paris.

Based on Polonius's suspicions about Laertes in Paris, one can add a third interpretation, where the company is female, and the expense is associated with that. This interpretation cannot be ignored, in the context.

Return: #010

06-011

By this encompassment, and drift of question,

encompassment - encirclement. Polonius is trying to refer to strategic questioning, as if encircling an enemy.

drift - course. Referring to the course of the questioning, toward it's objective.

We see that Polonius doesn't trust people to tell the truth if they're simply asked a question directly. He thinks he has to fool people to get the truth from them. One could go farther, that he thinks he has to virtually wring the truth out of people.

Recall how he browbeat his own young daughter in Scene 3.

Return: #011

06-012

That they do know my son, come you more nearer

come you more nearer - bring yourself, with your questions, more near (what you really want to know about.)

Return: #012

06-013

Then your particular demands will touch it; - at that point, you begin to ask specific questions that touch upon Laertes's behavior.

it - Laertes's behavior. Polonius is so verbose, one has to look all the way back to line 005 to find what it is.

Return: #013

06-014

Take you, as 'twere, some distant knowledge of him,

Take you - pretend. Put yourself in the role (of having...) Polonius is telling Reynaldo to play a part.

distant knowledge - as opposed to intimate knowledge. The knowledge that only a distant acquaintance would have.

Return: #014

06-015

As thus: "I know his father, and his friends,

As thus - As follows. Such as by saying the following.

his friends - his father's friends. Or, Laertes's friends in Denmark. The ambiguity is deliberate. Reynaldo is not, of course, supposed to present himself as knowing Laertes's friends in Paris.

Return: #015

06-016

And in part, him;" do you mark this, Reynaldo?

in part - some. A little.

mark - follow. Understand. Polonius asks, because he is starting to lose track, himself. It won't be too long now until he does.

Return: #016

06-017

Reynaldo: Aye, very well, my Lord. - Reynaldo will of course say so whether he does or not. However, we can be certain he's telling the truth, and following Polonius well. The proof of that is in the fact we don't see him again after this Scene. If he did not understand Polonius he'd have a much higher probability of survival.

Return: #017

06-018

Polonius: "And in part, him;" but you may say, "not well,

Polonius picks up with the exact quote where he left off. This is tongue-in-cheek from Shakespeare, reflecting how an actor who has a momentary lapse will handle it, as least when there's another person, and the speech isn't a soliloquy.

Return: #018

06-019

But if't be he I mean, he's very wild,

very wild - quite unrestrained. Quite unruly.

Laertes will prove he is indeed very wild when he leads the townspeople to storm the Castle in Scene 16. Polonius has no inkling of that as he speaks. It is an unintentional "omen" spoken by Polonius.

Return: #019

06-020

Addicted to..." so and so, and there put on him

Addicted to - habitually involved in. Bound to do.

put on him - impute to him. Attribute to him. Basically, slander him.

Will Laertes like that?

Return: #020

06-021

What forgeries you please; marry, none so rank

forgeries - fabrications. Falsehoods. Lies.

rank - offensive. Immoral. Heinous.

Polonius is telling Reynaldo to slander Laertes in a mild, inoffensive way. As if it were possible.

Return: #021

06-022

As may dishonor him, take heed of that,

dishonor him - disgrace him. Subject him to scandal.

Laertes, himself, creating a scandal is what Polonius is worried about.

Return: #022

06-023

But sir, such wanton, wild, and usual slips

wanton - rebellious, is perhaps the best paraphrase because of what Laertes, himself, said in Scene 3: "youth to itself rebels..." Otherwise, "undisciplined."

usual - typical; common.

slips - sins. Moral failings. As if one slips and falls from a state of grace. To "slip" is to "go wrong," to "fall into error."

Polonius has doubts of his son's morality.

Return: #023

06-024

As are companions noted and most known

As are companions - as go along with. The undertone is that Polonius fears Laertes has fallen in with bad company. The outside observer can't help but be suspicious that Laertes, himself, is the bad company.

As are companions noted and most known - as are the best known and noted accompaniments. Is another way of saying it.

Return: #024

06-025

To youth and liberty - to youth at liberty. Is the simplest way of rephrasing it.

However, Polonius is a bossy old manipulator who distrusts both youth and liberty. It would not be correct to redo this phrase as hendiadys. The best paraphrase is only to formalize the grammar of it, as I have done.

Return: #025

06-026

Reynaldo: As gaming, my Lord?

gaming - gambling, in the sense of betting on games.

Return: #026

06-027

Polonius: Aye, or drinking, fencing, swearing,

drinking - getting drunk. Polonius isn't worried about consumption of a cup of wine a week.

fencing - dueling. Or, Laertes spending all his time fencing. Either way. Polonius is not worried about Laertes merely doing some regular fencing practice.

swearing - swearing coarsely, that is. In Scene 3 we heard Polonius tell Laertes not to be vulgar.

Return: #027

06-028

Quarreling, drabbing; you may go so far.

Quarreling - brawling.

drabbing - whoring. Patronizing prostitutes.

Return: #028

06-029

Reynaldo: My Lord, that would dishonor him.

Stress on would. Reynaldo thinks that's going too far.

Return: #029

06-030

Polonius: Faith, no, as you may season it in the charge;

season it - moderate it. Make it more palatable. As in seasoning food, to make it "easier to swallow."

the charge - the allegation. The legalistic term is appropriate, since Polonius is "prosecuting."

The false allegation, that is, unless Reynaldo had some proof, which he won't when he just makes things up. Any truth will be only by coincidence.

Return: #030

06-031

You must not put another scandal on him,

another - in addition to the scandals Laertes has already brought upon himself, Polonius means. However, Polonius has no knowledge of any scandalous behavior by his son. That's why he's sending Reynaldo, to find out. Polonius is assuming facts not in evidence.

We see Polonius is not the kind to withhold judgment, even though "reserve thy judgment" was part of his advice to Laertes in Scene 3. (Scene 3#073) Polonius is an old hypocrite (which we can take as how his son became one.)

Return: #031

06-032

That he is open to incontinency,

open to incontinency - susceptible to sexual promiscuity. Sexually indiscriminate. Licentious.

How Reynaldo is going to raise the allegation of Laertes patronizing prostitutes without implying that Laertes is licentious, Polonius leaves it to Reynaldo to figure out. A bit tricky, that. One might call it an impossible distinction. Be that as it may, Polonius has made it Reynaldo's problem.

But then, Polonius is making all this Reynaldo's problem. Lucky Reynaldo.

Return: #032

06-033

That's not my meaning, but breathe his faults so quaintly

That's not my meaning - We know now, that's exactly Polonius's meaning, in that Laertes's sexual behavior in Paris is what Polonius most wants to find out about. He informs us, that it's his main interest, by taking the trouble to deny it.

Polonius is worried Laertes will get some low-class woman pregnant, which will cause a scandal, and which will cost him a substantial amount of money, to settle the situation and make the woman go away.

breathe - speak, at low volume. Breath is voice, here. Nor is breath loud.

faults - offenses against morality. Moral failings.

quaintly - cleverly. Ingeniously; cunningly. In Middle English, the original sense of "quaint" was "clever" or "wise."

Return: #033

06-034

That they may seem the taints of liberty,

taints - touches; effects.

taints of liberty - effects of being at liberty. In other words, the blame for Laertes's offenses is to be ascribed to liberty, not Laertes, himself. Reynaldo will, once again, need luck with this one.

Return: #034

06-035

The flash and outbreak of a fiery mind,

flash - brief flare-up.

outbreak - outburst.

fiery - overheated, by passion. The expression provides an instance of the Fire Motif.

Return: #035

06-036

A savageness in unreclaimed blood,

savageness - primitiveness.

unreclaimed - unreformed. Uncivilized.

Polonius is using such dramatic terms, they would be certain to draw attention if Reynaldo uses them. This, after Polonius told Reynaldo to "breathe" Laertes's faults. It reveals that Polonius is a very poor "drama coach" for such a "show" as Reynaldo is supposed to put on in Paris.

All of this passage with Polonius telling Reynaldo to "play a part," as he checks on Laerties, is of the 'Putting on a Show' Theme. That is Reynaldo's assignment, to 'Put on a Show.'

It will have a very short run.

Return: #036

06-037

Of general assault.

general - that affects everyone.

assault - temptation, into vice. The assault on morality.

We see that Polonius tells Reynaldo to assign the blame for Laertes's transgressions to liberty, or primitiveness, or passion, or temptation, and everything except Laertes, himself. We are shown how Laertes got so spoiled. His father blames everything except him, for what he does.

Reynaldo is going to get a close, personal look at that savageness of a fiery mind, from Laertes, when Reynaldo tries doing what Polonius has ordered him to do.

Return: #037

06-038

Reynaldo: But, good my Lord . . .

Reynaldo wonders about all this. So should anyone.

Return: #038

06-039

Polonius: Wherefore should you do this?

Wherefore - for what reason. To what end.

Return: #039

06-040

Reynaldo: Aye, my Lord, I would know that.

Since Reynaldo is to improvise, he wants to know the objective.

Return: #040

06-041

Polonius: Marry, sir, here's my drift,

my drift - what I'm getting at. What my intention is. What my course is.

Return: #041

06-042

And I believe it is a fetch of wit:

From Shakespeare it's a fetch of wit, absolutely. From Polonius, it is insane.

Return: #042 - or - Folio Difference

06-043

You laying these slight sallies on my son,

laying - making.

slight sallies - small attacks (on Laertes's character.)

But will Laertes consider them slight?

Return: #043

06-044

As 'twere a thing a little soiled with working,

The thing that gets soiled when you're working is your hand.

Polonius means, "as if Laertes has gotten his hands a little dirty, so to speak." While Polonius is very suspicious that Laertes is involved in all sorts of vice, he is at the same time downplaying whatever Laertes is up to. "Boys will be boys," and of course you're not surprised to see a boy has dirty hands. Polonius does say working instead of "playing," at least.

Whether Shakespeare intended some allusion to the "dirty hands" doctrine in law, or in ethics, I can't tell. It's possible. The dirty hands doctrine goes back to the late Middle Ages.

Return: #044

06-045

Mark you, your party in converse, him you would sound,

Mark you - is deliberately ambiguous. It can refer to the previous line, about how Reynaldo is supposed to characterize Laertes. It can be an interjection of Polonius saying, "pay attention." It can lead to what he goes on to say, about Reynaldo observing the person he's talking to in Paris.

converse - conversation, but phrased as if the other person is in the opposition, as if he's an opponent to be overcome. The converse, generally speaking, is the reverse, or the opposite, something opposed. Polonius sees his scheme as a contest between opposing parties. Polonius takes it that friends of Laertes, if asked about him directly, would try to hide the truth about him. This gives more insight into Polonius's characterization.

sound - plumb, as in plumbing the depths. Polonius is speaking of "plumbing the depths" of the other person's knowledge of Laertes's behavior. It's a nautical figure of speech. For plain reading, the word sound can be understood as "sound out."

Return: #045

06-046

Having ever seen in the prenominate crimes

prenominate crimes - aforementioned offenses. The kinds of misbehavior he's already mentioned.

Polonius is blowing hot and cold as he thinks about Laertes's activities in Paris. He's gone from "faults" to crimes. He doesn't know what to think.

Polonius doesn't know his son well enough to know what to think.

Return: #046

06-047

The youth you breathe of guilty, be assured

The youth - is a highly impersonal way to speak of one's own son.

breathe of - speak of, quietly. Polonius continues to make the point to Reynaldo that he shouldn't be loud about all this.

guilty - of any number of "crimes" Polonius can only imagine.

be assured - you can be sure.

Return: #047

06-048

He closes with you in this consequence:

He closes - he will engage (in conversation.) To "close" with an opponent is to engage him. Polonius continues to see it as a contest between opposing parties, as he tries to "strategize" it all.

consequence - continuation. Literally, a consequence is what follows in sequence.

Return: #048

06-049

"Good sir," (or so,) or "friend," or "gentleman,"

Polonius is now trying to imagine actual dialogue. He's gotten so much into the "show" of it, he's trying to write the "script" for the "show."

It does not occur to Polonius that the French would say, "Monsieur." Shakespeare knew they would, of course. We are amused at Polonius, as he tries to compose a "script" for what a Frenchman would say, that he doesn't think of "Monsieur."

Return: #049

06-050

According to the phrase, and the addition

the phrase - the style of address, as used in France. Polonius doesn't know what the French call each other during casual conversation.

the addition - the title, of whoever Reynaldo is addressing, which will vary from one person to another.

Return: #050

06-051

Of man and country . . . - (the title) of the man, and (the term used in that) country.

Polonius pauses, as he tries to mentally "write the script" of what the "dialogue" will be, for the "show" he wants Reynaldo to put on for the people Reynaldo meets. The Putting on a Show Theme runs throughout what Polonius is asking Reynaldo to do.

Return: #051

06-052

Reynaldo: Very good, my Lord.

The pause makes Reynaldo think he's expected to speak, to say he understands, so far. However, the pause was only because Polonius was trying to think, and the interruption causes him to lose his train of thought.

Return: #052

06-053

Polonius: And then, sir, does he this, he does, what was I about to say?

what was I about to say? - spoken to himself.

Return: #053

06-054

By the mass, I was about to say something;

By the mass - a milder way of saying "by god." Milder, because it's indirect, referring to religious procedure rather than the deity, himself.

Return: #054

06-055

Where did I leave?

leave - leave the trail. Like accidentally wandering from a trail one is following.

Reynaldo hears it as "leave off," i.e. referring to the last thing Polonius said.

Return: #055

06-056

Reynaldo: At "closes in the consequence."

Reynaldo recalls what Polonius said, almost exactly. This assures us that Reynaldo will remember what Polonius has told him to do, and that Reynaldo will try to do it, in Paris.

Return: #056

06-057

Polonius: At "closes in the consequence," aye, marry,

Return: #057

06-058

He closes thus: "I know the gentleman,

He closes thus - he engages you in further conversation, thusly.

Return: #058

06-059

I saw him yesterday," or "th'other day,"

Return: #059

06-060

Or then, or then, with such or such, "and as you say,

with such or such - with person A, or with person B. Polonius takes it that the person to whom Reynaldo is speaking will mention other companions of Laertes.

Return: #060

06-061

There was he gaming," "there, o'ertook in his rouse,"

o'ertook in his rouse - with the idea in the play of a "take" being a spell, this can be understood as him being "under the spell" of alcohol. Literally, however, it's read as the alcohol taking him over. O'ertook = taken over. When one is drunk, the alcohol "takes over."

Return: #061

06-062

"There falling out at tennis," or perchance,

There falling out at tennis - There (in that place, or on that occasion,) he got into an altercation while playing tennis. The worry about this is, it could lead to a duel in which a person could get killed. The kind of tennis meant is royal court tennis (not modern lawn tennis) which was a popular sport in France.

Return: #062 - or - Extended Note

06-063

"I saw him enter such a house of sale,"

house of sale - euphemistic for a house of ill repute, a phrase which is itself somewhat euphemistic.

Return: #063

06-064

Videlicet, a brothel, or so forth; see you now?

Videlicet - in other words; namely; that is to say; to wit. Latin from 'videre' ("to see") + 'licet' ("it is permissible.") Literally, then, the meaning is, you "may see" it as... etc. The idea of "see" provides an instance on the Vision Motif of the play.

Return: #064

06-065

Your bait of falsehood takes this carp of truth;

bait of falsehood - "bait" which is an imitation of the real thing (as if Reynaldo really knew what he was talking about, as he makes things up.)

carp of truth - a real fish, that is, the real truth about Laertes (Polonius supposes.)

Polonius imagines he is very clever to think of how to use falsehood to catch truth.

The carp was a more favored fish at that time than it is now. The word is well chosen by Shakespeare, since there is another word "carp," which means "to find fault," and the meaning of which was influenced by Latin 'carpere' ("slander.") Thus carp is a word which conforms well with the context. Polonius just means "a good fish."

We will hear Hamlet call Polonius a "fishmonger" later, in Scene 7.

On a side note, say you were a diabolical power that wanted to catch the soul of a Prince. You might fashion a "bait of falsehood," i.e. the exact likeness of someone he cared about, to lure him to destruction, just as a good imitation of a worm, or of a minnow, will lure a fish to its death. It's a stratagem that might work. Polonius knows nothing of any of that kind of "fishing" going on.

Return: #065

06-066

And thus do we of wisdom and of reach,

we of wisdom - Polonius is pleased that he's such a wise man, to think of this.

reach - the idea of being able to reach to Paris. It refers to influence, the ability to affect events at a distance. That's the primary meaning, as Polonius "reaches out" his "hand," Reynaldo, to Paris.

One can then examine reach for additional meaning, as usual. The idea of "grasp" arises, which I use in the paraphrase, since there is a "hold" or "seize" concept in play, as we've seen earlier.

In action, Polonius stretches out his hand and acts as if grasping something.

Return: #066

06-067
a rack

With windlasses and with assays of bias - a fancy way of saying "with twists and with turns."

A windlass is a twisting device, or turning device, for reeling rope. It's also used to operate a rack, for torture.

A "reeling" idea can be inferred, as Polonius wants to "reel in" the truth of Laertes's behavior.

assays - tests. Especially, in Middle English, tests of merit.

A bias is a kind of turning. In bowling, to put bias on the ball is to put "english" on it, so it follows an arcing, or turning, course. Polonius, in everything he's saying, is speaking of not going directly to the point, but rather using an angled approach.

assays of bias - can be read as hendiadys, "biased assays," that is "indirect tests." In context, the phrasing implies "twisting and turning" tests, suggestive of a tortuous approach. The words "torturous" and "tortuous" both come from Latin 'torquere' ("to twist.")

Shakespeare intended the implications of Polonius's language to be disturbing.

Return: #067

06-068

By indirections, find directions out;

indirections - deceit, is the blunt meaning. Dishonesty. But Polonius is trying to speak of going at something indirectly.

directions - in context, the "true course" Laertes is following.

Polonius is additionally pleased with himself that he has managed to conclude in the form of an epigram, or something that could pass for one. He's unduly fond of sayings.

Return: #068

06-069

So, by my former lecture and advice,

former lecture - foregoing instruction.

advice - advice about how to proceed, that is. What Polonius has said is actually an order to Reynaldo.

Return: #069

06-070

Shall you, my son; you have me, have you not?

have me - grasp me; follow my meaning.

Return: #070

06-071

Reynaldo: My Lord, I have.

More's the pity. Reynaldo might live longer had he not understood.

Return: #071

06-072

Polonius: God buy ye, fare ye well.

God buy ye - the etymology of this phrasing is obscured by the vagaries of spelling in earlier times. At one time, "by" and "bye" and "buy" could all be spelled "buy" (or "buye.")

So, dealing with the exact spelling Shakespeare gave Polonius, we can take it as meaning, "(I pray) God will possess you." To buy is to possess. That's a fine sentiment. It's as opposed to, say, if a person encountered an evil spirit, a manifestation of the Devil, that touched him, and possessed his spirit, causing him to think seriously about committing the mortal sin of premeditated murder. For example.

Polonius follows the line with a wave of dismissal, and turns to the work on his desk.

Return: #072

06-073

Reynaldo: Good my Lord.

Said with a bow. Reynaldo turns and starts for the door.

Return: #073

06-074

Polonius: Observe his inclination in yourself.

Observe - watch out for; be careful of.

inclination - inclination to vice. Polonius, making assumptions, cautions Reynaldo not to misbehave the way Laertes must be doing.

Return: #074

06-075

Reynaldo: I shall, my Lord.

Reynaldo stops, and promises to behave himself in Paris. He then again walks toward the door.

Return: #075

06-076

Polonius: And let him ply his music.

ply his music - have his fun (until I find out about it.) Music is figurative, a reference to pleasurable activity. The term can be further specified as referring to Laertes's sweet promises to women (which Laertes won't keep.) That is, "and let him ply the girls with his musiced vows (until I find out about it.)"

In Scene 8 we'll hear Ophelia mention Hamlet's "musiced vowes," which is of course reference to his sweet words to her. Scene 8#157

Return: #076

06-077

Reynaldo: Well, my Lord.

Said merely to signify he heard Polonius. Reynaldo proceeds on out.

Return: #077

06-077-SD1

(Reynaldo exits)

We will not see Reynaldo again. The reason why not, is that Laertes is going to kill him. The Reynaldo character page goes into that.

Return: #077-SD1

06-077-SD2

(Ophelia enters)

It is incorrect to play it that Ophelia is crying. She hurries in, looking worried and frightened.

Return: #077-SD2

06-078
entry timing for Ophelia

Polonius: Farewell. How now, Ophelia, what's the matter?

Farewell - when Polonius hears the noise at the door, he takes it that Reynaldo is still there, waiting to hear if he has more to say. Polonius's farewell signifies that, no, Reyaldo, that's all he had to say. Polonius glances toward the door.

The "madness" of Polonius appearing to say farewell as his greeting to Ophelia is intentional from Shakespeare, of course. The exact timing shown in the Second Quarto is required.

How now - expresses surprise. Polonius is surprised to see Ophelia. She never comes to his office. Something must be the matter, so he inquires.

Return: #078

06-079

Ophelia: Oh, my Lord, my Lord, I have been so affrighted.

Ophelia curtseys to her father. She wrings her hands.

Polonius and Ophelia have never been close. To Ophelia, her father has always been a distant, stern, authority figure. That is as one would expect in a patriarchal Renaissance society, and even more so with the way Polonius is. They do not touch each other in this Scene.

Return: #079

06-080

Polonius: With what, i'the name of God?

With what - phrased as if the complaint is an internal malady, a disease.

Return: #080

06-081

Ophelia: My Lord, as I was sewing in my closet,

closet - private room; parlor or sitting room. (A closet is not a bedroom, a bedroom is a "chamber.") In this sense, a closet is a room that's ordinarily closed to anybody who lacks an invitation from the owner or occupant. It is not a public room, such as the Castle Lobby.

Return: #081

06-082
illustration of English noblemen c. 1600

Lord Hamlet, with his doublet all unbraced,

doublet - a sort of vest, worn as a sleeveless jacket over the shirt, the fashion during the Renaissance.

unbraced - unfastened down the front. Unbuttoned. In the illustration, the figure on the left wears a doublet that shows the buttons rather well.

Return: #082

06-083

No hat upon his head, his stockings fouled,

No hat - a gentleman ordinarily wears his hat inside the Castle.

fouled - twisted and tangled, like a fouled rope, due to them being ungartered, as Ophelia goes on to mention. When Hamlet ran to Ophelia's room with his stockings loose they got quite disheveled.

One may further take it Hamlet's stockings were dirty, after he walked a considerable distance last night in going out to the platform and then following the Ghost. Double meaning.

Ophelia had never seen Hamlet other than very neat and well groomed, correctly dressed "at all points, cap-a-pe" one might say.

Return: #083

06-084
woodcut of a falconer in 1575

Ungartered, and down-gyved to his ankle,

Ungartered - not supported by garters. The falconer in the woodcut has showy garters.

down-gyved - downfallen like shackles around his ankles. Implies that Ophelia saw Hamlet stumble over them, by stepping on a downfallen stocking with the other foot, as a shackled man might stumble.

The idea of being shackled goes along with Hamlet later saying, to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern in Scene 7, "Denmark's a prison."

Return: #084

06-085

Pale as his shirt, his knees knocking each other,

Pale as his shirt - informs us that Hamlet was not wearing his black mourning clothes last night. His shirt was white. Horatio probably suggested that a lighter color would be advisable in the darkness, and Hamlet agreed. This is a costume note for Hamlet in Scenes 4 and 5.

knees knocking - is a symptom of fright, not love. Polonius will not take note of that to interpret it correctly.

Return: #085

06-086

And with a look so piteous in purport

look - on his face.

piteous - wretched; miserable.

purport - expression. The Middle English sense of purport was "to express."

Return: #086

06-087

As if he had been loosed out of Hell

She's close to the truth. That nightmare Hamlet had was a hellish one.

Return: #087

06-088

To speak of horrors, he comes before me.

The Ghost said to Hamlet, "I could a tale unfold..."

Hamlet couldn't find the words to speak to Ophelia of the horrors he saw in that nightmare.

Return: #088

06-089

Polonius: Mad for thy love?

Polonius jumps to the most self-serving conclusion. If Hamlet is mad with love for Ophelia, well lo and behold, there's a chance Polonius could arrange a marriage between them. Earlier, Polonius never took that possibility seriously. He was sure Hamlet was only trifling with Ophelia.

Return: #089

06-090

Ophelia: My Lord, I do not know,

Ophelia does not immediately agree.

Return: #090

06-091

But truly, I do fear it.

When Ophelia thinks about it a moment, in response to Polonius, it seems like a possibility to her. Since Hamlet has proposed to her (and she's accepted,) she does suppose Hamlet might love her enough that his love could motivate a dramatic reaction after she refused to communicate with him, under Polonius's orders.

Return: #091

06-092

Polonius: What said he?

After his idea of using speech to have Reynaldo find out about Laertes in Paris, Polonius still has speech on his mind, so of course he promptly asks. It's a reasonable question.

Return: #092

06-093

Ophelia: He took me by the wrist, and held me hard;

Ophelia may shake her head, meaning Hamlet said nothing, as she goes on to describe his actions. As her speech continues, Ophelia 'Puts on a Show' of what Hamlet did. It proves to be a "dumb show," without dialogue from Hamlet, but she narrates it.

Hamlet was making absolutely certain Ophelia was alive. One can check the pulse at the wrist.

The Ghost looks exactly like King Hamlet, so you can't tell if it's a living person just by looking, as Hamlet knows. Hamlet was verifying that the Ophelia he was seeing was not a similar kind of apparition.

Ophelia has no idea of that motivation for Hamlet, nor does Polonius.

Return: #093

06-094

Then goes he to the length of all his arm,

He stepped back to arm's length, to get a better look at her, still holding her wrist.

Return: #094

06-095

And with his other hand thus o'er his brow,

thus o'er - covering, thusly. Place your hand to your brow, with the palm flat against the forehead. (Not shading his eyes, by the way. That interpretation, that you may find elsewhere, is wrong. O'er means "covering," it does not mean "above," and brow means "forehead," not "eyebrows.")

Return: #095

06-096

He falls to such perusal of my face,

falls to - devotes himself to.

perusal - careful, thorough examination. From, or related to, Anglo-Norman French 'peruser' ("examine.")

Hamlet was trying to think of what he could possibly say, and he found no words.

Return: #096

06-097

As he would draw it; long stayed he so;

As - as though.

draw - sketch. Ophelia's remark suggests that Hamlet has sketched her. His behavior on this occasion reminded her of that, so it would seem.

Return: #097

06-098

At last, a little shaking of mine arm,

As Hamlet reached a decision.

Return: #098

06-099

And thrice his head thus waving up and down,

As, yes, he reached a decision. That's why he gave that thoughtful nod. He's going to have to separate from her, keep away from her, and keep her away from him. It's too dangerous for her to be associated with him, as he's contemplating regicide. If he blunders badly, trying to kill Claudius, both he and everyone associated with him would be in mortal danger.

Tell her? Out of the question. The knowledge would make her culpable, besides the fact that telling her his "ghost story," and that he intended to act on it seriously, could make the woman he loves think he's lost his mind, a conclusion he doesn't want her to reach.

Return: #099

06-100

He raised a sigh so piteous and profound

It was a hard and painful decision.

Return: #100

06-101

That it did seem to shatter all his bulk

shatter - crush.

bulk - chest. He sighed so deeply it seemed his chest collapsed.

Return: #101

06-102

And end his being; that done, he lets me go,

end his being - The belief in folklore is that a person's last breath is an especially deep one.

Yes, Hamlet concluded he had to "let her go."

Return: #102

06-103

And with his head over his shoulder turned,

Looking back at her as he left.

Return: #103

06-104

He seemed to find his way without his eyes,

He didn't bump into anything.

Return: #104

06-105

For out o'doors he went without their helps,

out o'doors - out the door. Out at the door. It doesn't mean he went outdoors the way we now say it.

helps - two eyes, so two helps. Thus the plural.

Return: #105

06-106

And to the last bended their light on me.

bended - turned.

their light - Ophelia is speaking from the theory of the eyes as a source of light. That theory of vision goes back to Empedocles, c. 495–435 BC, and was still known in Shakespeare's time. Shakespeare made excellent poetic use of it.

Return: #106

06-107

Polonius: Come, go with me! I will go seek the King;

Come, go - Polonius is so excited by this turn of events, as he misinterprets it, that he's "coming and going at the same time," as the saying has it.

This is most certainly not what Ophelia wanted. When she came to Polonius, she was hoping to persuade him to change his mind, and let her communicate with Hamlet, to find out from him why he acted that way. That is extremely easy to guess.

As the Scene proceeds, Ophelia doesn't even get a chance to ask. Polonius takes off with his notion of going to the King. Claudius stated to Laertes, in Scene 2, that the throne was "instrumental" to Polonius, and he plans now to take advantage of that, to try to get his daughter married to the Prince.

This is happening while Polonius is in ignorance that Ophelia and Hamlet are already engaged. Yep, Polonius is now going to run to the King, to try to get him involved to force a marriage between . . . two persons who are engaged to be married. Crazy? It's madness.

All Ophelia wanted was permission to talk to Hamlet.

Return: #107

06-108

This is the very ecstasy of love,

very - true.

very ecstasy - true distraction. Ecstasy goes back to Greek meaning to be "beside oneself." Distraction goes back to Latin 'distract-' ("drawn apart,") so it's the correct paraphrase when a different word is wanted. A synonym of "madness," for ecstasy, as the word is used here, would be only a crude equivalent.

Polonius is saying that Hamlet is "beside himself," while Polonius, himself, is now "beside himself" at the possibility of having the Prince in the family.

Polonius concludes Hamlet's behavior expresses love for Ophelia because of the stereotype of the distracted lover, as described by Rosalind in As You Like It Act 3 scene 2:

Rosalind:	... then your hose should be ungartered, your
            bonnet unbanded, your sleeve unbuttoned, your shoe
            untied and every thing about you demonstrating a
            careless desolation; ...

Hamlet's appearance, as described by Ophelia, does seem to match that, but the similarity is coincidental. Hamlet was so alarmed by his nightmare he simply didn't take time to dress. Oddly enough, it does show that Hamlet loves Ophelia, but it doesn't show that in the way Polonius thinks. Shakespeare was not having Hamlet conform to a stereotype.

Return: #108

06-109

Whose violent property fordoes itself,

violent property - intense power; intense quality. Intensity.

fordoes - destroys. Polonius is saying that intense infatuation can destroy itself simply by being so intense it exhausts a person, so he gets fed up with it.

Polonius is now talking to himself, as he tries to think how to proceed. However, his dramatic language is alarming Ophelia. She doesn't like hearing that about violence and destruction. Polonius has gotten carried away with his verbiage here, the same as he did when coaching Reynaldo with phrases like "fiery mind" and "savageness."

Return: #109

06-110

And leads the will to desperate undertakings

desperate - can imply self destruction. Recall Horatio, when he was trying to dissuade Hamlet from following the Ghost in Scene 4, speaking of "toys of desperation." Polonius, himself, is only speaking his concern that Hamlet's love for Ophelia won't last. That's what Polonius is worried about.

But still, Polonius's language is scaring Ophelia.

Return: #110

06-111

As oft' as any passions under heaven

passions - strongly felt emotions, or, strongly expressed emotions, especially painful ones.

Return: #111

06-112

That does afflict our natures; I am sorry . . .

afflict - distress, for a mild synonym; plague, for a stronger one. Afflict is from an ultimate root meaning of "strike." It can be understood as "strike" in the sense of a powerful influence (as in "thunderstruck.")

natures - human natures.

I am sorry . . . - Polonius starts to say he's sorry, then stops, and frowns at Ophelia. He's wondering if Hamlet's behavior is her fault, from something she did, so Polonius, himself, doesn't have to take the blame. This is the old bureaucrat in Polonius showing, from long years of "office politics." When some untoward event happens, always look for someone else to blame. It's virtually instinctive with him. (There's a later incident in the play, in the Prayer Scene, Scene 10, when Polonius will play that "office politics" with the King himself.)

Return: #112

06-113

What, have you given him any hard words of late?

hard words - The notion of Ophelia giving anyone hard words is absurd (until she goes mad.) We see that Polonius barely knows his daughter.

Return: #113

06-114

Ophelia: No, my good Lord, but as you did command,

Ophelia did, indeed, obey her father. She knew of nothing else she could possibly do, living in that household, in that society, in that era.

Return: #114

06-115

I did repel his letters, and denied

repel - refuse; send back. From Latin 're-' ("back") + 'pellere' ("to drive.") To "drive back" a letter is to send it back.

denied - forbade. Goes back to Latin 'nec' ("not,") so the basic meaning of "deny" is "to say 'no'."

letters - The plural tells us Hamlet tried sending her more than one note yesterday.

Return: #115

06-116

His access to me.

access - approach, is a synonym for this usage.

Tells us Hamlet tried to see her yesterday evening.

Return: #116

06-117

Polonius: That hath made him mad;

Actually not. Although when Ophelia refused Hamlet's notes yesterday, and wouldn't see him, later, to explain why she refused them, it probably bothered him, and made him wonder. However, Hamlet mostly had what he was told about the Ghost on his mind.

Return: #117

06-118

I am sorry, that with better speed and judgment,

better speed - better haste. Polonius now sees that he was hasty in forbidding Ophelia to see Hamlet, and he's wishing he had had haste of a better kind. The phrase better speed as he uses it is virtually one word. The phrase "greater dispatch" will do for paraphrase.

A better speed as Polonius sees it now is to go speedily to the King.

Observe throughout this passage that Polonius gives not a thought to approaching Hamlet, himself. It doesn't occur to him. Polonius doesn't do things by a direct approach.

Return: #118 - or - Folio Difference

06-119
"coted" in the Second Quarto

I had not coted him; I feared he did but trifle,

coted - is a deliberately ambiguous word. Primarily, it means "pass," as the definition. The usage from Polonius is figurative, by which coted means "gotten ahead of."

"cote" in the Century Dictionary

Second, coted means "quoted" (which is the word in the First Folio Hamlet, but see the Folio Difference note about that.) To quote somebody is to credit him. By this, Polonius is regretting he did not give Hamlet credit, for truly loving Ophelia.

Both interpretations of coted are relevant, and meaningful. Shakespeare could do that with words, use them for two relevant meanings in one word, he was that good. He did it over and over in Hamlet.

trifle - both as it looks to the modern eye ("not take seriously,") and also "deceive." The English word trifle derives from Old French 'truffler' ("deceive.")

Return: #119 - or - Folio Difference

06-120

And meant to wrack thee; but beshrew my jealousy;

wrack thee - in spoken performance, sounds like "rack thee." It sounds like torture, applied to Ophelia. That sound is deliberate. Polonius means "wreck" or "ruin," but Polonius didn't compose his own lines. Wrack is still a variant spelling of "rack" for some definitions.

After Polonius spoke of "windlasses" earlier in this Scene, we now hear "rack."

"rack thee" -> rack Ophelia, is an element of Hamlet's nightmare, that caused him to rush to her. Shakespeare scattered the elements of Hamlet's nightmare throughout the play dialogue, here and there.

Hamlet, in his bad dream, saw Ophelia being tortured on the rack. Polonius has said something relevant to Hamlet's behavior, without the slightest that he has done so.

beshrew my jealousy - curse my suspicion. Curse my protectiveness.

Return: #120

06-121

By heaven, it is as proper to our age

proper - respectable.

our age - advanced age.

As Polonius is on the verge of going to the King about this, he is convincing himself it's respectable to do so. Observe that Polonius is using plural, "royal" pronouns as he readies himself to go to see King Claudius.

There is deliberate ambiguity in this passage. Two meanings can be found, both relevant.

BOOKMARK for me, more here

Return: #121

06-122

To cast beyond ourselves in our opinions,

More "royal" pronouns.

cast - fish. Goes back to the mention of "carp" to Reynaldo. Polonius is going to "fish" to get Claudius involved.

Second, cast - "look." Cast one's eyes, is the figure of speech. For this, Polonius speaks of looking beyond himself. Two relevant meanings can be found, as happens so often.

opinions - is a less-than-honest word choice by Polonius. An opinion is a belief, it's an idea which is less than a certainty. However, as we saw earlier, Polonius was quite certain Hamlet was not serious about Ophelia, thus his strict orders to Ophelia to avoid Hamlet. Now Polonius is downplaying his earlier certainty, saying it was only an "opinion" he had. Polonius is pretending, to himself and in front of Ophelia, that he is smarter than he is. It is not honest, and certainly not a good sign.

Return: #122

06-123

As it is common for the younger sort

common - an opposite to "proper" is required, therefore, "deplorable" (or a synonymous word.)

Return: #123

06-124

To lack discretion; come, go we to the King;

discretion - discernment. Polonius thinks he has now discerned why Hamlet behaved as he did, while Ophelia, a young person, did not discern it, but Polonius is wrong.

His idea of the younger sort lacking discretion, or discernment, relates to his suspicions about Laertes, which are still on his mind.

So now, it's definite, Polonius is going to the King. Again, it's notable that even the slightest thought of approaching Hamlet directly never crosses Polonius's mind. The simple, honest approach never occurs to him, at all.

Ophelia is dismayed by all this. She was hoping for permission to talk to Hamlet. She had no idea of making a national incident out of it.

Return: #124

06-125

This must be known, which being kept close, might move

Having concluded he'll go to the King, he's still persuading himself it's the right course.

close - private. Just between them. He's going public, to the King.

move - cause. Provoke. Stir up.

There is more deliberate ambiguity in these lines. It's another word puzzle. BOOKMARK for me.

Return: #125

06-126
"hate" in the Second Quarto

More grief to hide, than 'hate' to utter love;

The grief Polonius means is the grief in his own heart if he misses the chance to have the Prince in the family. It also has a second meaning.

hate - BOOKMARK, again. This has a double meaning.

utter - has a double meaning.

Return: #126

06-127

Come.

Return: #127

06-127-SD

(they exit)

Return: #127-SD

Interscene 6-7

Reynaldo has gone to the harbor and has boarded the ship for France.

The Danish ambassadors to Norway, Cornelius and Voltemand, returning from their diplomatic mission, have just docked at the harbor.

A company of Players traveling to Elsinore have nearly arrived at the Castle.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, long-time friends of Hamlet, have arrived this morning in response to a King's summons from Claudius, and have presented themselves to Claudius, who has spoken with them in private about something he wants them to do.

Polonius has decided he doesn't want to go empty-handed to the King. He has gone with Ophelia to her room, and has demanded that Ophelia hand over her love letters from Hamlet. Polonius wants the letters as tangible proof of Hamlet expressing love for Ophelia.

When Ophelia resisted handing over her love letters, she and Polonius fought. During the fight, Ophelia threatened to tell Hamlet if Polonius took the letters. To prevent that, Polonius has left Ophelia locked in her room as he goes by himself to the King.

Return: End of the Scene Dialogue


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


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