In the Throne Room, Claudius and Gertrude speak to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern (often called R & G for short,) and instruct them to spend time with Hamlet. Claudius tells them he wants to find out anything that, unknown to him, might be bothering Hamlet. R & G exit to find Hamlet.
Polonius tells Claudius he has discovered the cause of Hamlet's lunacy, but advises Claudius to see the ambassadors before hearing about that. The ambassadors enter, and describe to Claudius an agreement they've reached with King Norway. Claudius says he likes it, but will read it later, and dismisses the ambassadors, who exit.
Polonius makes a long-winded speech during which he shows the love letters Hamlet has written to Ophelia, and he reads one of them. Claudius asks how the matter can be tested further, and Polonius recommends eavesdropping when Hamlet thinks he's alone with Ophelia.
Hamlet enters, because he has heard the ambassadors are back, and he expects Claudius to be talking to them. Hamlet is curious whether an agreement has been reached that will prevent a war which might kill thousands. Seeing Hamlet, Polonius panics and begs Claudius and Gertrude to leave, lest they speak with Hamlet, and Hamlet discover Polonius has his letters. Claudius and Gertrude, and everyone else at the court do leave, as Polonius approaches Hamlet to talk to him. Polonius hopes to make friends with Hamlet, since he sees the prospect of Hamlet becoming his son-in-law, and also so that if Hamlet does discover Polonius took his letters, Hamlet won't do something mad like stabbing him to death. Hamlet and Polonius have an odd conversation, during which Hamlet says obscure things, but he does refer to Ophelia, and he does call Polonius "friend." Polonius, satisfied with that much, exits as R & G enter.
Considering the time that has passed, R & G must have been all through the Castle, looking for Hamlet, and now they have finally found him in the Throne Room, which is where they originally left to look for him. (The "so it goes" amusement of that, provided by Shakespeare's subtle wit, has, unfortunately, apparently gone entirely unremarked in historical Hamlet commentary.) Hamlet greets R & G happily enough, but quickly discerns, from the course of the conversation, that they can't be there to visit him out of friendship, as purely their own idea, which leaves the alternative that Claudius and Gertrude sent for them, a fact which Guildenstern finally admits. R & G, during the course of the conversation, do try to query Hamlet on the subject of his ambition, but get no useful reply.
Rosencrantz tells Hamlet that Players are on the way to offer Hamlet their services. Hamlet asks why the Players are traveling, and Rosencrantz says he thinks it's because of the change of government (from King Hamlet to King Claudius. Apparently King Hamlet had sponsored the Players, as the King's Men, but Claudius did not renew that sponsorship, leaving the Players at loose ends. Thus the Players, some of whom are Hamlet's friends, have come to Elsinore to offer Hamlet their services, hoping to gain Hamlet's royal sponsorship and become the Prince's Men.) R also says the Players have lost business due to competition from a children's company.
The Players enter, to a fanfare of trumpets. Polonius reenters, having heard the fanfare. Hamlet greets the Players warmly, and requests a passionate (emotional) speech from the First Player, who performs it. The Player's performance is so good that Polonius reacts to it with alarm, as if it were real, giving Hamlet the idea that Claudius might react to a play, which could provide proof that what the Ghost said was true, about Claudius killing King Hamlet.
Hamlet asks the Lad of the Players if he knows a play about the murder of Gonzago, and if the Lad can learn a few lines Hamlet would add to it. The Lad assures Hamlet on both counts. Hamlet chooses the Gonzago play because he knows it includes a king being killed with poison in the ear. Hamlet gives no thought to where Claudius might have gotten the idea to use that method to kill his brother. All but Hamlet exit, and he bemoans the situation he is in, but expresses his hope that a play will "catch the conscience of the King."
|Polonius says the ambassadors are back #042-SD2||Polonius begins talking about Hamlet #091|
|Hamlet enters #182-SD||(Guildenstern and Rosencrantz enter) #227-SD|
|the Players arrive #361-SD||the recital begins #429||Hamlet's closing speech #521|
Jump down to the Notes.
Scene 7 [ ~ The Play's the Thing ~ ] (Act 2 Scene 2)
#07-Setting: inside the Castle; The Throne Room; Late morning.
#07-000-SD (a flourish of trumpets sounds; Claudius and Gertrude enter, with their entourage; Rosencrantz and Guildenstern enter)
#07-001 Claudius: Welcome, dear Rosencrantz and Guildenstern; Welcome, dear Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. #07-002 Moreover, that we much did long to see you, Further, that I yearned greatly to see you, #07-003 The need we have to use you, did provoke The need I have to employ you, prompted #07-004 Our hasty sending; something have you heard My speedy summons of you. You've heard something #07-005 Of Hamlet's transformation, so call it, About Hamlet's transformation, so to speak, #07-006 Sith nor the exterior, nor the inward man Because neither his outer appearance, nor his spirit, #07-007 Resembles that it was, what it should be; Is like what it used to be, or what it should be. #07-008 More than his father's death, that thus hath put him Anything beyond his father's death, that has put him, thusly, #07-009 So much from the understanding of himself, So far from the recognition of himself, #07-010 I cannot dream of; I entreat you both, I cannot imagine. I ask you both, #07-011 That being of so young days brought up with him, That, as you were raised with him from childhood, #07-012 And sith so neighbored to his youth and humor, And because you're so close to him, in age and youthful temperament, #07-013 That you vouchsafe your rest here in our court That you agree to reside here at my court #07-014 Some little time, so, by your companies, For a while, so, through your services #07-015 To draw him on to pleasures, and to gather To lead him to enjoy himself - and also, to gather #07-016 So much as from occasion you may glean As much from the opportunity as you can gather, #07-017 Whether aught to us unknown afflicts him thus, Whether anything unknown to me distresses him, as I've described, and #07-018 That opened, lies within our remedy. That when revealed, lies within my power to remedy. #07-019 Gertrude: Good gentlemen, he hath much talked of you, Good gentlemen, he has talked a lot about you, #07-020 And sure I am, two men there is not living And I am sure there are not two living men #07-021 To whom he more adheres; if it will please you To whom he is more attached. If it will please you #07-022 To show us so much gentry and good will To show us so much courtesy and good will #07-023 As to expend your time with us a while, As to spend your time with us for a while #07-024 For the supply and profit of our hope, For the aid and benefit of our hopes #07-025 Your visitation shall receive such thanks Your visit will receive such a reward #07-026 As fits a king's remembrance. As is fitting for a King's endowment. #07-027 Rosencrantz: Both your Majesties Both of your Majesties #07-028 Might, by the sovereign power you have of us, Might, because of the sovereign power you have over us, #07-029 Put your dread pleasures more into command Shape your revered desires more into the form of a command #07-030 Than to entreaty. Rather than a plea. #07-031 Guildenstern: But we both obey, But we both obey, #07-032 And here give up ourselves in the full bent, And we hereby surrender ourselves, bending fully to you, #07-033 To lay our service freely at your feet To place our services voluntarily at your feet, #07-034 To be commanded. #07-034-SD (Polonius arrives) To be commanded by you. #07-035 Claudius: Thanks, Rosencrantz, and gentle Guildenstern. Thanks, Rosencrantz, and gentle Guildenstern. #07-036 Gertrude: Thanks, Guildenstern, and gentle Rosencrantz, Thanks, Guildenstern, and gentle Rosencrantz. #07-037 And I beseech you instantly to visit And I implore you, right away, to see #07-038 My too-much-changed son; go, some of you, My too-much-changed son. Lead them, some of you attendants, #07-039 And bring these gentlemen where Hamlet is. And show these gentlemen where Hamlet is. #07-040 Guildenstern: Heavens make our presence and our practices May Heaven make our presence and our doings #07-041 Pleasant and helpful to him. Pleasant and helpful to him. #07-042 Gertrude: Aye, amen. Yes, amen. #07-042-SD1 (Rosencrantz and Guildenstern exit, led by servants) #07-042-SD2 (Polonius enters) #07-043 Polonius: The ambassadors from Norway, my good Lord, The ambassadors from Norway, my good Lord, #07-044 Are joyfully returned. Have returned, happily. #07-045 Claudius: Thou still hast been the father of good news. You have once again been the source of good news. #07-046 Polonius: Have I, my Lord? I assure my good Liege Have I, my Lord? I assure my good Lord #07-047 I hold my duty as I hold my soul, I pledge my duty to you the same as I pledge my soul, #07-048 Both to my God, and to my gracious King; Equally to my God and to my gracious King. #07-049 And I do think, or else this brain of mine And also, I do think - or else this brain of mine #07-050 Hunts not the trail of policy so sure Doesn't track the path of the public good as surely #07-051 As it hath used to do, that I have found As it always has done - that I have found #07-052 The very cause of Hamlet's lunacy. The true cause of Hamlet's lunacy. #07-053 Claudius: Oh, speak of that, that do I long to hear! Oh, tell me about that! I long to hear about that! #07-054 Polonius: Give first admittance to the ambassadors; First admit the ambassadors, and #07-055 My news shall be the fruit to that great feast. My news will be the dessert to that great feast. #07-056 Claudius: Thyself do grace to them, and bring them in; #07-056-SD (Polonius exits) Do the courtesy personally, and escort them in. #07-057 He tells me, my sweet Queen, that he hath found He tells me, my sweet Queen, that he has found #07-058 The head and source of all your son's distemper. The head and origin of your son's derangement. #07-059 Gertrude: I doubt it is no other but the main: I suspect it is nothing but the chief events: #07-060 His father's death, and our o'er-hasty marriage. His father's death, and our overly-hasty marriage. #07-061 Claudius: Well, we shall sift him; Well, we'll sort him out. #07-061-SD (the ambassadors Voltemand and Cornelius enter, escorted by Polonius) (Claudius continues): #07-062 Welcome, my good friends; Welcome, my good friends. #07-063 Say, Voltemand, what from our brother, Norway? Tell me, Voltemand, what do you bring from my brother king, Norway? #07-064 Voltemand: Most fair return of greetings and desires; The fairest return of greetings and wishes. #07-065 Upon our first, he sent out to suppress On our primary diplomatic issue, he sent out orders to put an end to #07-066 His nephew's levies, which to him appeared His nephew's enlistments of soldiers, which had appeared to him #07-067 To be a preparation 'gainst the Polack, To be war preparations against Poland, #07-068 But better looked into, he truly found But when looked into more closely, he found, in truth, #07-069 It was against Your Highness; whereat grieved, It was for action against Your Highness. He was so grieved by it, #07-070 That so his sickness, age, and impotence That he handled his sickness, old age, and weakness #07-071 Was falsely borne in hand; sends out arrests As though it was false he had such infirmities. He then sent orders of arrest #07-072 On Fortinbrasse, which he, in brief, obeys; Against Fortinbrasse, which - to keep it brief - he obeyed. #07-073 Receives rebuke from Norway, and in fine, Fortinbrasse received a rebuke from Norway, and in conclusion, #07-074 Makes vow before his uncle never more He made a vow before his uncle never again #07-075 To give the assay of arms against your Majesty; To try any test of armed force against your Majesty. #07-076 Whereon old Norway, overcome with joy, At hearing that, old King Norway was so overcome with joy that he #07-077 Gives him threescore thousand crowns in annual fee, Gave Fortinbrasse 60,000 crowns in annual land revenue, #07-078 And his commission to employ those soldiers And his official commission to employ the army #07-079 So levied, (as before,) against the Polack, Fortinbrasse already had recruited, against Poland, #07-080 With an entreaty herein further shown, Also, with a humble request, herein further shown, #07-081 That it might please you to give quiet pass That it might please you to allow the peaceful passage #07-082 Through your dominions for his enterprise, Through your dominions for his enterprise, #07-083 On such regards of safety and allowance Under such conditions of security and license, #07-084 As therein are set down. As are detailed in writing, therein. #07-084-SD (Voltemand offers the diplomatic agreement to Claudius, who waves it away) #07-085 Claudius: It likes us well, It pleases me well, #07-086 And at our more considered time we'll read, And when I have time to study it carefully, I'll read it, #07-087 Answer, and think upon this business; Answer it, and think about this business. #07-088 Meantime, we thank you for your well took labor; In the meantime, I thank you for your well-done work. #07-089 Go to your rest, at night we'll feast together; Go get some rest, and tonight we'll feast together. #07-090 Most welcome home! You're very welcome home! #07-090-SD (Claudius waves the Ambassadors toward the doorway to the Royal Apartments, and they exit that direction, to leave the agreement on Claudius's desk) #07-091 Polonius: This business is well ended; This business has ended well. #07-092 My Liege and Madam, to expostulate [sic!] My Liege, and Madam, to dispute vociferously #07-093 What majesty should be, what duty is, What majesty should be, what duty is, #07-094 Why day is day, night, night, and time is time, Why day is day, and night is night, and time is time, #07-095 Were nothing but to waste night, day, and time; Would be nothing but to waste night, day, and time. #07-096 Therefore, since brevity is the soul of wit, Therefore, since brevity is the soul of wit, #07-097 And tediousness the limns and outward flourishes; And tediousness is the portrayals and visible ornaments, #07-098 I will be brief; your noble son is mad; I will be brief: your noble son is mad. #07-099 Mad call I it, for to define true madness, Mad, I call it, for to define real madness, #07-100 What is it but to be nothing else but mad? What could it be, but to be nothing else but mad? #07-101 But let that go. But dismiss that. #07-102 Gertrude: More matter with less art. More of substance with less artfulness. #07-103 Polonius: Madam, I swear I use no art at all; Madam, I swear I use no artfulness at all. #07-104 That he's mad, 'tis true, 'tis pity That he's mad, it's true. It's a pity, #07-105 And pity 'tis, 'tis true, a foolish figure; And a pity it is, it's true: a foolish figure. #07-106 But farewell it, for I will use no art; But dismiss that, for I will use no artfulness. #07-107 Mad let us grant him, then, and now remains Let's grant he's mad, then. And now remains #07-108 That we find out the cause of this effect, That we find out the cause of this effect, #07-109 Or rather say, the cause of this defect, Or rather I should say, the cause of this defect #07-110 For this effect defective comes by cause; For this effect becomes defective by a cause. #07-111 Thus it remains, and the remainder thus: So that's established, and what's left to say is this: #07-112 Perpend, Weigh the following: #07-113 I have a daughter, have while she is mine, I have a daughter, (have her while she's mine,) #07-114 Who, in her duty and obedience, mark, Who in her duty and obedience, take note, #07-115 Hath given me this, now gather and surmise: #07-115-SD (Polonius displays a letter) Has given me this. Now take this in, and guess what: #07-116 To the celestial, and my soul's idol, #07-116-SD (Polonius reads the letter) "To the heavenly, and my soul's image, #07-117 the most beautified Ophelia . . . the most beautiful Ophelia . . ." #07-118 That's an ill phrase, a vile phrase, #07-118-SD (Polonius interrupts his own reading) That's a sick term, an evil term! #07-119 "Beautified" is a vile phrase, but you shall hear; "Beautified" is an evil term - but you shall have to hear. #07-120 Thus, in her excellent white bosom, these, etc. #07-120-SD (Polonius demonstrates Ophelia handing him Thusly, in her excellent white bosom, she had these, and etc. letters from her bodice, over her heart) #07-121 Gertrude: Came this from Hamlet to her? Did Hamlet send this letter to her? #07-122 Polonius: Good Madam, stay a while, I will be faithful; Good Madam, be patient, I will be loyal to you. #07-123 Doubt that the stars are fire, #07-123-SD (Polonius resumes reading the letter) #07-124 Doubt that the sun doth move, #07-125 Doubt truth to be a liar, #07-126 But never doubt I love. #07-127 Oh, dear Ophelia, I am ill at these numbers, Oh, dear Ophelia, I am not good at such poems, #07-128 I have not art to reckon my groans, I have not the skill to recount my love pangs, #07-129 But that I love thee best, oh, most best, But that I love you best, oh, extremely the best, #07-130 Believe it, adieu. Believe it, adieu. #07-131 Thine evermore, most dear Lady, Yours forever, most dear Lady, #07-132 Whilst this machine is to him, While my spirit lives in my body, #07-133 Hamlet (Polonius continues): #07-134 This, in obedience, hath my daughter shown me, This, in obedience, my daughter has shown me, #07-135 And more above, hath his solicitings, And more of his letters, that I hold above, have his entreaties, #07-136 As they fell out by time, by means, and place, As they fell into my hands over time, by various means, in various places, #07-137 All given to mine ear. All read by me. #07-138 Claudius: But how hath she received his love? But how has she taken his sentiments of love? #07-139 Polonius: What do you think of me? What do you think of me? #07-140 Claudius: As . . . of a man faithful and honorable. Ass...of a man faithful and honorable. #07-141 Polonius: I would fain prove so, but what might you think I would gladly prove so, but what might you have thought, #07-142 When I had seen this hot love on the wing, When I saw this passionate love in progress - #07-143 As I perceived it, (I must tell you that,) As I did observe it, (I must tell you that,) #07-144 Before my daughter told me; what might you, Before my daughter told me - what might you have thought, #07-145 Or my dear Majesty your Queen here think, Or my dear Majesty, your Queen here have thought, #07-146 If I had played the desk, or table book, If I had acted as unmoving as a desk, or a table book, #07-147 Or given my heart a winking, mute and dumb, Or had given my feelings a nap, speechless and silent, #07-148 Or looked upon this love with idle sight, Or looked upon this love affair with an uncaring view, #07-149 What might you think? No, I went round to work, What would you have thought? No, I went directly to work, #07-150 And my young Mistress thus I did bespeak: And I did order my young lady, thusly: #07-151 Lord Hamlet is a prince out of thy star; Lord Hamlet is a prince, beyond the reach of your social status, #07-152 This must not be; and then I precepts gave her, So such love must not be. And then I gave her rules #07-153 That she should lock herself from her resort, That she should lock herself away from her resort to him #07-154 Admit no messengers, receive no tokens; Admit no messengers with letters from him, receive no tokens of affection from him, #07-155 Which done, she took the fruits of my advice; And when she did that, she harvested the fruits of my advice, #07-156 And he, repulsed, a short tale to make, And then he, rejected by her - to keep the story short - #07-157 Fell into a sadness, then into a fast, He declined into sadness, then lost his appetite, #07-158 Thence to a watch, thence into a weakness Then suffered insomnia, then became weak, #07-159 Thence to a lightness, and by this declension, Then became witless, and by that decline, #07-160 Into the madness wherein now he raves, Fell into the madness in which he now raves, #07-161 And all we wail for. And all of us lament about. #07-162 Claudius: Do you think this? Do you think that's right? #07-163 Gertrude: It may be very like. It may be something very like that. #07-164 Polonius: Hath there been such a time, I would fain know that, Has there ever been a time, I would like to know that, #07-165 That I have positively said, 'tis so, That I have definitely said something is so, and #07-166 When it proved otherwise? It has turned out otherwise? #07-167 Claudius: Not that I know. Not that I know of. #07-168 Polonius: Take this, from this, if this be otherwise; Take my head from my body, if this isn't as I say. #07-169 If circumstances lead me, I will find If circumstances lead me, I will find #07-170 Where truth is hid, though it were hid indeed Where the truth is hidden, even though it's hidden deeply #07-171 Within the center. Within the heart. #07-172 Claudius: How may we try it further? How can we test the question further? #07-173 Polonius: You know sometimes he walks four hours together You know, sometimes Hamlet walks for hours at a stretch #07-174 Here in the Lobby. Here in the Lobby. #07-175 Gertrude: So he does, indeed. So he does, indeed. #07-176 Polonius: At such a time, I'll loose my daughter to him; At such a time, I'll unleash my daughter to him, and #07-177 Be you and I behind an arras then; You and I can hide behind an arras then, #07-178 Mark the encounter; if he love her not, To note their encounter. If he doesn't love her, #07-179 And be not from his reason fallen thereon, And that isn't the cause for why he's lost his reason, #07-180 Let me be no assistant for a state, Let me be no civil servant for the nation, #07-181 But keep a farm and carters. But instead be a market gardener and employ vegetable cart drivers. #07-182 Claudius: We will try it. We'll try it. #07-182-SD (Hamlet enters, with a book) #07-183 Gertrude: But look where, sadly, the poor wretch comes reading. But look where, sadly, the poor wretch comes reading. #07-184 Polonius: Away, I do beseech you both, away; #07-184-SD (Claudius and Gertrude exit, with their entourage) Away, I do implore you both, go away. #07-185 I'll board him presently . . . oh, give me leave . . . I'll accost him now . . . oh, with Your Majesties' permission . . . #07-186 How does my good Lord Hamlet? How do you do, my good Lord, Hamlet? #07-187 Hamlet: Well, God a mercy! Well, God have mercy! #07-188 Polonius: Do you know me, my Lord? Do you know me, my Lord? #07-189 Hamlet: Excellent well, you are a fishmonger. Excellently well, you are a fish dealer. #07-190 Polonius: Not I, my Lord. Not me, my Lord. #07-191 Hamlet: Then I would you were so honest a man. Then I wish you were that honest a man. #07-192 Polonius: Honest, my Lord? Honest, my Lord? #07-193 Hamlet: Aye, sir, to be honest, as this world goes, Yes, sir, for to be honest, with the way this world is, #07-194 Is to be one man picked out of ten thousand. Is to be one man chosen out of ten thousand. #07-195 Polonius: That's very true, my Lord. That's quite true, my Lord. #07-196 Hamlet: For, if the sun breed maggots in a dead dog, being a Because, if the sun breeds maggots in a dead dog . . . being a #07-197 good kissing carrion . . . Have you a daughter? good kissing body . . . Have you a daughter? #07-198 Polonius: I have, my Lord. Yes I have, my Lord. #07-199 Hamlet: Let her not walk i'th sun; conception is a blessing, Let her not walk with the son. Understanding is a blessing, #07-200 But as your daughter may conceive, friend, look to it. But, as your daughter may understand, friend, look to it. #07-201 Polonius (aside): How say you by that, still harping on my daughter; yet he What do you say to that, constantly meditating on my daughter. Yet, he #07-202 knew me not at first, and said I was a fishmonger; he is far gone, didn't know me at first, and said I was a fish dealer. His mind is far away, #07-203 and truly, in my youth, I suffered much extremity for love, very and indeed, in my youth, I suffered great distress over love, very much #07-204 near this; I'll speak to him again. like this. I'll speak to him again. #07-205 What do you read, my Lord? What are you reading, my Lord? #07-206 Hamlet: Words, words, words. Words, words, words. #07-207 Polonius: What is the matter, my Lord? What's the matter, my Lord? #07-208 Hamlet: Between who? Between whom? #07-209 Polonius: I mean the matter that you read, my Lord. I mean the subject that you're reading, my Lord. #07-210 Hamlet: Slanders, sir; for the satirical slave says here, that old Slanders, sir. Because, the satirical rogue says here, that old #07-211 men have gray beards, that their faces are wrinkled, their eyes men have gray beards, that their faces are wrinkled, their eyes #07-212 purging thick amber, and plumtree gum, and that they have a secrete thick amber, like tree sap, and that they have a #07-213 plentiful lack of wit, together with most weak hams; all which, sir, great lack of intelligence, and very weak hams, all of which, sir, #07-214 though I most powerfully and potently believe, yet I hold it not though I very firmly and strongly believe it, yet I don't think it's #07-215 honesty to have it thus set down, for yourself, sir, shall grow old fair to have it written down, because you, sir, would be as old #07-216 as I am, if like a crab, you could go backward. as I am, if you could go backward like a crab. #07-217 Polonius (aside): Though this be madness, yet there is method in't; Though this is madness, yet, there is order in it. #07-218 (to Hamlet): will you walk out of the air, my Lord? Will you walk in, out of the draft, my Lord? #07-219 Hamlet: Into my grave. Into my grave. #07-220 Polonius (aside): Indeed, that's out of the air; how pregnant sometimes Indeed, that would be out of the air. How occasionally apt #07-221 his replies are, a happiness that often madness hits on, which reason his replies are, a happy result madness often achieves, that reason #07-222 and sanctity could not so prosperously be delivered of; I will leave and righteousness could not so richly produce. I will leave #07-223 him and my daughter. him to his thoughts about my daughter. #07-224 (to Hamlet): My Lord, I will take my leave of you. My Lord, I will take my leave of you. #07-225 Hamlet: You cannot take from me anything that I You couldn't take from me anything that I #07-226 will more willingly part withal . . . except my life, would more willingly part with . . . except my life, #07-227 except my life, except my life. except my life, except my life. #07-227-SD (Guildenstern and Rosencrantz enter) #07-228 Polonius: Fare you well, my Lord. #07-228-SD (Polonius starts toward his exit) Farewell to you, my Lord. #07-229 Hamlet: These tedious old fools. These tedious old fools. #07-230 Polonius: You go to seek the Lord Hamlet, there he is. You've gone to look for Lord Hamlet - there he is. #07-231 Rosencrantz: God save you, sir. God bless you, sir. #07-231-SD (Polonius exits) #07-232 Guildenstern: My honored Lord. My honored Lord. #07-233 Rosencrantz: My most dear Lord. My most dear Lord. #07-234 Hamlet: My extent good friends; how dost thou, Guildenstern? #07-234-SD (G. shakes Hamlet's hand) My valued, good friends. How are you, Guildenstern? #07-235 Ah, Rosencrantz, good lads, how do you both? #07-235-SD (R. bows again, and does not Ah, Rosencrantz . . . good lads, how are you both doing? shake Hamlet's hand) #07-236 Rosencrantz: As the indifferent children of the earth. Like the ordinary children on the earth. #07-237 Guildenstern: Happy, in that we are not ever-happy; on Fortune's cap Happy, in that we are not in eternal bliss, although, on Fortune's cap, #07-238 We are not the very button. We are not the very ornament. #07-239 Hamlet: Nor the soles of Her shoe? You're not the soles of Her shoes, being trodden under foot? #07-240 Rosencrantz: Neither, my Lord. Not that either, my Lord. #07-241 Hamlet: Then you live about Her waist, or in the middle of Her favors. Then you live about Her waist, in the middling part of Her favors. #07-242 Guildenstern: Faith, Her privates, we. Truly, we are Her privates. #07-243 Hamlet: In the secret parts of Fortune; oh most true, She is a strumpet. You're in the secret parts of Fortune, oh it's true, Dame Fortune is a strumpet. #07-244 What news? What news do you know? #07-245 Rosencrantz: None, my Lord, but the world's grown honest. None, my Lord, except that the world's become honest. #07-246 Hamlet: Then is doomsday near, but your news is not true; Then doomsday must be near, but your news is not true. #07-247 Let me question more in particular: what have Let me ask you more specifically: what have #07-248 you, my good friends, deserved at the hands of Fortune, you, my good friends, suffered at the hands of Dame Fortune, #07-249 that She sends you to prison hither? that She sentences you to prison here? #07-250 Guildenstern: Prison, my Lord? Prison, my Lord? #07-251 Hamlet: Denmark's a prison. Denmark's a prison. #07-252 Rosencrantz: Then is the world one. Then the whole world must be one. #07-253 Hamlet: A goodly one, in which there are many confines, Yes, a grand one, in which there are many cells, #07-254 wards, and dungeons, Denmark being one o'the worst. wards, and dungeons, Denmark being one of the worst. #07-255 Rosencrantz: We think not so, my Lord. We don't think so, my Lord. #07-256 Hamlet: Why, then 'tis none to you, for there is nothing Why, then it's no prison to you, since there's nothing #07-257 either good or bad, but thinking makes it so; either good or bad, except when understanding identifies it as such. #07-258 To me it is a prison. To me, Denmark is a prison. #07-259 Rosencrantz: Why, then your ambition makes it one; Why then, your ambition makes it one. #07-260 It is too narrow for your mind. It's too confining for your mind. #07-261 Hamlet: Oh God, I could be bounded in a nutshell, Oh God, I could put it in a nutshell, #07-262 And count myself a king of infinite space, And reckon myself a king, as far as I can see, #07-263 Were it not that I have bad dreams. Except that I have bad dreams. #07-264 Guildenstern: Which dreams indeed are ambition, for the Such dreams are, indeed, ambition, because the #07-265 very substance of the ambitious is merely the shadow true substance of the ambitious is only the shadow #07-266 of a dream. of a dream. #07-267 Hamlet: A dream, itself, is but a shadow. A dream, itself, is only a shadow. #07-268 Rosencrantz: Truly, and I hold ambition of so airy and light Indeed, and I take ambition to be such an intangible and frivolous #07-269 A quality, that it is but a shadow's shadow. Attribute, that it is only a shadow's shadow. #07-270 Hamlet: Then are our beggars, bodies, and our monarchs Then our beggars are the material bodies, and our monarchs #07-271 and out-stretched heroes, the beggars' shadows; and out-stretched heroes are the beggar's shadows. #07-272 shall we to the court, for by my fay, I cannot reason. Shall we go to the tennis court? For, by my faith, I cannot figure it out. #07-273 (Both R. and G.): We'll wait upon you. We'll attend you! #07-274 Hamlet: No such matter; I will not sort you with the No such thing. I won't mix you with the #07-275 rest of my servants, for, to speak to you like an honest rest of my servants, because, to speak to you like an honest #07-276 man, I am most dreadfully attended; man, I am very dreadfully served. #07-277 But in the beaten way of friendship, what make you at Elsinore? But along the beaten path of friendship, what brings you to Elsinore? #07-278 Rosencrantz: To visit you, my Lord; no other occasion. To visit you, my Lord, that's all. #07-279 Hamlet: Beggar that I am, I am ever poor in thanks, but I thank I'm such a beggar, I'm always poor with thanks, but I thank #07-280 you, and sure dear friends, my thanks are too dear a halfpenny; you, and for sure, friends, my thanks are too costly by a halfpenny. #07-281 were you not sent for? Is it your own inclining? Is it a free visitation? Were you not sent for? Is it your own desire? Is it a voluntary visit? #07-282 Come, come, deal justly with me; come, come, nay, speak. Come come, deal fairly with me. Come come, don't remain silent, tell me. #07-283 Guildenstern: What should we say, my Lord? What are we supposed to say, my Lord? #07-284 Hamlet: Why anything but to the purpose; you were sent for, and there is Why, anything but what I want to know, I guess. You were sent for, and there's #07-285 a kind of confession in your looks, which your modesties have not a kind of confession in your faces, that your manners are not #07-286 craft enough to color; I know the good King and Queen have clever enough to conceal. I know that our King and Queen have #07-287 sent for you. sent for you. #07-288 Rosencrantz: To what end, my Lord? Why would they do that, my Lord? #07-289 Hamlet: That you must teach me; but let me conjure you, by the That, you'll have to tell me. But let me "summon" you, by the #07-290 rites of our fellowship, by the consonancy of our youth, by the solemn ceremonies of our college fellowship, by the harmony of our youth, by the #07-291 obligation of our ever-preserved love, and by what more dear a obligations of our abiding friendship, and by anything more charming, that a #07-292 better proposer can charge you withal; be even and direct with better pleader could move you with: be on the level, and candid with #07-293 me whether you were sent for or no. me about whether you were sent for or not. #07-294 Rosencrantz (to Guildenstern): What say you? What do you say? #07-295 Hamlet: Nay then I have an eye of you? If you love me, hold not off. No, will you look at me, with at least one eye? If you're my friend, don't hold back. #07-296 Guildenstern: My Lord, we were sent for. My Lord, yes, we were sent for. #07-297 Hamlet: I will tell you why; so shall my anticipation prevent your discovery, I'll tell you why, and by doing that, my anticipation will preclude your disclosure to me, #07-298 and your secrecy to the King and Queen molt no feather: so your vow of secrecy to the King and Queen won't be lost, like a bird flying away. #07-299 I have, of late, but wherefore I know not, lost all my mirth, I have lately, but I don't know for what reason, lost all my sense of humor, #07-300 forgone all custom of exercises, and indeed, it goes so heavenly with given up all my habitual activities, and indeed, things are so dispirited with #07-301 my disposition, that this goodly frame, the earth, seems to me a my state of mind, that this grand structure, the earth, seems to me to be only a #07-302 sterile promontory; this most excellent canopy, the air - look lifeless promontory; and this very wonderful canopy, the sky - look #07-303 you - this brave o'erhanging firmament, this majestical roof fretted at it yourself - this splendid firmament hanging above us, this majestical roof inset #07-304 with golden fire, why, it appeareth no other thing to me than a foul with the golden sun, why, it looks to me like nothing else than a foul #07-305 and pestilent congregation of vapors. What piece of work is a and unhealthy condensation of vapors. What piece of work is a #07-306 man? How noble in reason, how infinite in faculties; in form and man? How noble his reason, how infinite his faculties. In form and #07-307 moving, how express and admirable in action; how like an angel motion, how expressly admirable in action! How like an angel, #07-308 in apprehension, how like a god! The beauty of the world, the in his apprehension, how like a god! The beauty of the world, the #07-309 paragon of animals . . . and yet to me, what is this quintessence of model of excellence, among animals. Yet to me, what is this quintessence of #07-310 dust? Man delights not me, nor woman neither, though by your dust? Man does not delight me, nor woman either - but judging by your #07-311 smiling, you seem to say so. smiles, you seem to think so. #07-312 Rosencrantz: My Lord, there was no such stuff in my thoughts. My Lord, there was no such thing in my thoughts. #07-313 Hamlet: Why did ye laugh then, when I said man delights not me? Then why did you laugh when I said man does not delight me? #07-314 Rosencrantz: To think, my Lord, if you delight not in man, what Lenten I was thinking, my Lord, if you don't delight in man, what a cheerless #07-315 entertainment the players shall receive from you; we coted them greeting the actors will receive from you. We passed them #07-316 on the way, and hither are they coming to offer you service. along the way, and they're coming here to offer you their services. #07-317 Hamlet: He that plays the King shall be welcome: his Majesty shall The actor who plays the King will be welcome, his Majesty shall #07-318 have tribute on me; the adventurous Knight shall use his foil and receive tribute from me. The adventurous Knight shall use his sword and #07-319 target; the Lover shall not sigh gratis; the Humorous Man shall end shield. The lover won't sigh for nothing. The sad man shall conclude #07-320 his part in peace; the clown shall make those laugh whose lungs his part in peace. The clown shall make those in the audience laugh, whose lungs #07-321 are tickled at the sere, and the Lady shall say her mind freely, or the are tickled at dry humor, and the Lady shall speak her mind freely, or I'll have the #07-322 black verse shall halt for it. What players are they? grievous verse halted, if she can't. Which actors are they? #07-323 Rosencrantz: Even those you were wont to take such delight in, Exactly those you were inclined to take such delight in, #07-324 the tragedians of the city. the tragedians of the city. #07-325 Hamlet: How chances it they travel? Their residence, How has it happened they travel? Their residency, #07-326 in reputation and profit was better, both ways. for their fame and their income, was better in the city, in both respects. #07-327 Rosencrantz: I think their inhibition comes by the means I think their prohibition, from playing in the city, is because #07-328 of the late innovation. of the recent change in government. #07-329 Hamlet: Do they hold the same estimation they did Do they have the same reputation they did #07-330 when I was in the city; are they so followed? when I was in the city? Are they so closely followed? #07-331 Rosencrantz: No, indeed are they not. No, indeed, they are not. #07-332 Hamlet: How comes it? Do they grow resty? How did it happen? Do the actors grow lazy? #07-333 Rosencrantz: Nay, their endeavor keeps in the wonted No, they still perform at their usual energetic #07-334 pace, but there is an aerie of children, little pace. But there is a company of children, little #07-335 eyases, that cry out on the top of question, and birds, who sing out beyond any doubt, and #07-336 are most tyrannically clapped for it; these are now the are very royally applauded for it. These children are now the #07-337 fashion, and so berattle the common stages, (so they fashion, and they have so shaken up the common stages (as people #07-338 call them,) that many wearing rapiers are afraid of call them,) it's as if many who wear swords are afraid of #07-339 goose quills, and dare scarce come thither. pens, so they'll hardly dare go there. #07-340 Hamlet: What, are they children? Who maintains them? So, they're children? Who supports them? #07-341 How are they escoted? Will they pursue the quality no How are their bills paid? Will they keep performing any #07-342 longer than they can sing? Will they not say afterwards, longer than they can sing? Won't they say later, #07-343 if they should grow themselves to common players, (as if they happen to grow up to be regular actors, (as #07-344 it is likemost if their means are no better,) their is most likely if they can't do better,) that their #07-345 writers do them wrong, to make them exclaim against their writers are doing them wrong, to have them compete against their #07-346 own succession? own future career? #07-347 Rosencrantz: Faith, there has been much to-do on both sides, Goodness, there has been much to-do on both sides of the issue, #07-348 and the nation holds it no sin to tar them to controversy; and the nation sees nothing wrong in inciting the sides into conflict. #07-349 there was, for a while, no money bid for argument, For a while, there was no money offered for play synopses #07-350 unless the poet and the player went to cuffs in except those in which the lyricist and the orator came to blows over #07-351 the question. the issue. #07-352 Hamlet: Is it possible? Is that possible? #07-353 Guildenstern: Oh, there has been much throwing about of Oh, there has been much tossing around of #07-354 brains. ideas. #07-355 Hamlet: Do the boys carry it away? Do the children prevail? #07-356 Rosencrantz: Aye, that they do, my Lord; Hercules and his load, too. Yes, indeed they do, my Lord, and like Hercules carrying the world. #07-357 Hamlet: It is not very strange, for my uncle is King of Denmark, and It doesn't surprise me, since my uncle is King of Denmark, and #07-358 those that would make mouths at him while my father lived, give people who would sneer at him, while my father was alive, now give #07-359 twenty, forty, fifty, a hundred ducats apiece for his picture twenty, forty, fifty, or a hundred ducats each for his image #07-360 in little; s'blood, there is something in this more than natural, if in miniature. Zounds, there is something in all this beyond what's natural - if only #07-361 philosophy could find it out. philosophy could find out what it is. #07-361-SD (trumpets sound a flourish, as the Players arrive) #07-362 Guildenstern: There are the players. There are the players. #07-363 Hamlet (to R. & G.): Gentlemen, you are welcome to Elsinore; Gentlemen, you are welcome to Elsinore - #07-364 your hands, come then, the appurtenance of welcome is fashion #07-364-SD (G. shakes Hamlet's hand; your hands, come now - the facade of welcome is style again, R. does not) #07-365 and ceremony; let me comply with you in this garb, lest my extent and ceremony. Let me fulfill the needs of courtesy, dressed up like this, lest my magnanimity #07-366 to the players, which I tell you must show fairly outwards, should more to the actors, which, I can tell you, must be a handsome show, outwardly, should more #07-367 appear like entertainment then yours; you are welcome, resemble hospitality than your welcome. You are welcome, #07-368 but my uncle-father, and aunt-mother, are deceived. but my uncle-father and my aunt-mother are misled. #07-369 Guildenstern: In what, my dear Lord? In what, my dear Lord? #07-370 Hamlet: I am but mad north-northwest; when the wind is southerly, I'm only mad when I'm dreaming. When the wind is southerly, #07-371 I know a hawk from a handsaw. I can tell a hawk from a handsaw. #07-371-SD (Polonius enters) #07-372 Polonius (to the Players): Well be with you, gentlemen. #07-372-SD (a Player hands Polonius a playbill) I hope all is well with you, gentlemen. #07-373 Hamlet: Hark you, Guildenstern, and you too, at each ear a hearer: Listen, Guildenstern, and you also, at each side of me, listen: #07-374 that great baby you see there is not yet out of his swaddling clouts. that huge infant you see there has not yet outgrown his baby clothes. #07-375 Rosencrantz: Happily, he is the second time come to them, for they say an Fortunately, he's wearing them for the second time, since they say an #07-376 old man is twice a child. old man is a child for the second time. #07-377 Hamlet: I will prophecy, he comes to tell me of the players; mark it . . . I will predict, he's approaching to tell me about the actors. Take notice . . . #07-378 You say right, sir, a Monday morning, t'was then indeed. You're right, sir, it was a Monday morning, yes, that's when it was, indeed. #07-379 Polonius: My Lord, I have news to tell you. My Lord, I have news to tell you. #07-380 Hamlet: My Lord, I have news to tell you: when Roscius was an actor My Lord, I have something brand new to tell you: when Roscius was an actor #07-381 in Rome . . . in ancient Rome hundreds of years ago . . . #07-382 Polonius: The actors are come hither, my Lord. The actors have come here, my Lord. #07-383 Hamlet: Buzz, buzz. Oh, that's only a buzz of gossip. #07-384 Polonius: Upon my honor! I swear they have, upon my honor! #07-385 Hamlet: Then came each actor on his ass. Then the actors arrived on a jackass. #07-386 Polonius: The best actors in the world, either for tragedy, comedy, #07-386-SD (Polonius reads from the playbill) The best actors in the world, whether for tragedy, comedy, #07-387 history, pastoral, pastoral-comical, historical-pastoral, history, pastoral, pastoral-comical, historical-pastoral, #07-388 tragical-historical, tragical-comical-historical-pastoral, tragical-historical, tragical-comical-historical-pastoral, #07-389 scene individable, or poem unlimited; Seneca cannot be too heavy, nor scene unclassifiable, or any poetic presentation. Seneca isn't too melodramatic, nor #07-390 Plautus too light . . . for the law of writ, and the liberty, these are the Plautus too silly, as they do it. Either in the city or outside it, these are the #07-391 only men. incomparable men. #07-392 Hamlet: Oh, Jephthah, Judge of Israel, what a treasure had'st thou? Oh, Jephthah, judge of Israel, what treasure did he have? #07-393 Polonius: What a treasure had he, my Lord? What treasure did he have, my Lord? #07-394 Hamlet: Why, one fair daughter and no more, the which he loved Why, one fair daughter, and no more, whom he loved #07-395 passing well. surpassingly well. #07-396 Polonius (aside): Still on my daughter. Always thinking about my daughter! #07-397 Hamlet: Am I not in the right, old Jephthah? Am I not right, old Jephthah? #07-398 Polonius: If you call me Jephthah, my Lord, I have a daughter that I love If you call me Jephthah, my Lord, I have a daughter that I love #07-399 passing well. surpassingly well. #07-400 Hamlet: Nay, that follows not. No, that isn't what follows. #07-401 Polonius: What follows then, my Lord? What does follow, then, my Lord? #07-402 Hamlet: Why, as by lot, God wot, and then you know, it came to Why, as by chance, God knew, and then you know, it came to #07-403 pass, as most like it was; the first row of the pious chanson will pass, as very like it was - the first verse of the religious song will #07-404 show you more, for look where my abridgment comes. show you more, just look where my abridgment comes. #07-404-SD (Hamlet beckons to the Players; the Players enter) #07-405 Hamlet: You are welcome, masters, welcome all; I am glad to see thee You are welcome, masters, welcome all. I'm glad to see you're #07-406 well; welcome good friends; oh, my old friend, why, thy face is valanced well. Welcome good friends. Oh, my old friend, why, your face is bearded #07-407 since I saw thee last, comest thou to beard me in Denmark? since I last saw you - do you come to beard me in Denmark? #07-408 What, my young lady and mistress, by lady, Your Ladyship is What's this, my young actor who plays the ladies and mistresses, by lady, your Ladyship is #07-409 nearer to heaven, then when I saw you last by the altitude of a taller than when I last saw you, by the height of a #07-410 chopine; pray God, your voice, like a piece of uncurrent gold, thick-soled shoe. I pray to God that your voice hasn't become like a bad coin, #07-411 be not cracked within the ring; masters, you are all welcome; and has no crack within its ringing. Masters, you're all welcome. #07-412 we'll into it like friendly falconers, fly at anything we see; We'll get into this acting like indiscriminate falconers, and fly at anything we see. #07-412-SD (dance routine) (Hamlet continues): #07-413 we'll have a speech straight, come, give us a taste of your quality, Let's have a speech right away, come, let's have a taste of your ability. #07-414 come, a passionate speech. Come, do an emotional speech. #07-415 First Player: What speech, my good Lord? What speech, my good Lord? #07-416 Hamlet: I heard thee speak me a speech once, but it was never acted, There's a speech I heard you recite for me once, but it was never staged - #07-417 or if it was, not above once, for the play, I remember, pleased not Or, if it was, not more than once, for I remember that the play did not please #07-418 the million; it was caviary to the general, but it was, as I received the masses. It was like caviar to the public. But it was, as I took #07-419 it, and others, whose judgements in such matters cried in the top it, and as some others did - whose judgments in such subjects harmonized #07-420 of mine, an excellent play, well digested in the scenes, set down with mine - an excellent play, well arranged in its scenes, written #07-421 with as much modesty as cunning; I remember one said there with as much naturalness as artfulness. I remember one person said there #07-422 were no salads in the lines, to make the matter savory, nor no were no "salads" in the lines, to make the substance spicy, and no #07-423 matter in the phrase that might indict the author of affection, material in the phrasing that might charge the author with pretense, #07-424 but called it an honest method, as wholesome as sweet, and by very but he called it a true approach, as healthy as it was pleasurable, and by a wide #07-425 much, more handsome than fine; one speech in it I chiefly loved, margin, more naturally attractive than fancified. There was one speech in it I mainly relished: #07-426 'twas Aeneas' talk to Dido, and there about of it especially, when he that was Aeneas' speech to Dido, and especially around the part of it where he #07-427 speaks of Priam's slaughter; if it live in your memory, begin at speaks of the slaughter of Priam. If it still lives in your memory, begin at #07-428 this line, let me see, let me see: this line - let me see . . . let me see . . . #07-429 The rugged Pyrrhus, like the Hyrcanian beast . . . #07-429-SD (Hamlet begins to recite) The rugged Pyrrhus, like the Caspian tiger . . . #07-430 'Tis not so . . . it begins with Pyrrhus: No, that isn't right . . . but it does begin with Pyrrhus: #07-431 The rugged Pyrrhus, he whose sable arms, The brutish Pyrrhus, he, whose sable armor, as #07-432 Black as his purpose, did the night resemble, Black as his intentions, did the black of night resemble, #07-433 When he lay couched in the ominous horse, When he lay hidden in the ominous Trojan Horse, #07-434 Hath now this dread and black complexion smeared, Has now smeared his dreadful and black colors #07-435 With heraldy more dismal, head to foot; With color even more dismal, from head to foot. #07-436 Now is he total gules horridly tricked Now he is totally and horridly dressed in red #07-437 With blood of fathers, mothers, daughters, sons, With the blood of fathers, mothers, daughters, sons, #07-438 Baked and empasted, with the parching streets - That is baked and stuck on by the hot, dry streets - #07-439 That lend a tyrannous and a damned light That shine a tyrannous and a damned light #07-440 To their vile murder - roasted in wrath and fire; Upon their vile murders - as the buildings are roasted in wrath and fire. #07-441 And thus o'er-sized with coagulate gore, And, thusly decorated and enlarged by coagulated gore, #07-442 With eyes like carbuncles, the hellish Pyrrhus, With eyes that glitter like red jewels, the hellish Pyrrhus #07-443 Old grandsire Priam seeks; Seeks old grandfather Priam. #07-444 So, proceed you. So, you take it from there. #07-445 Polonius: 'Foregod, my Lord, well spoken, with good accent [sic] and I'll say before God, my Lord, well spoken, with good pronunciation and #07-446 good discretion! [sic!] good tact! #07-447 First Player: Anon he finds him, Soon Pyrrhus finds Priam, #07-448 Striking too short at Greeks, his antique sword Trying to strike at Greeks and coming up short. His old sword, #07-449 Rebellious to his arm, lies where it falls, Rebellious against the control of his arm, falls and lies there, #07-450 Repugnant to command; unequal matched, In opposition to his command. Unequally matched, #07-451 Pyrrhus at Priam drives, in rage strikes wide, Pyrrhus lunges at Priam, and swings wide in his rage. #07-452 But with the whiff and wind of his fell sword, But from the breath and gust of his deadly sword #07-453 The unnerved father falls; then senseless Ilium, The enervated old man falls. Then the citadel of Ilium, though senseless, #07-454 Seeming to feel this blow, with flaming top, Seeming to feel this blow, with its top ablaze, #07-455 Stoops to his base; and with a hideous crash Dived to its foundations, and with a hideous crash, #07-456 Takes prisoner Pyrrhus' ear, for lo, his sword, Captured Pyrrhus' ear, for look! - his sword #07-457 Which was declining on the milky head Which was descending on the white-haired head #07-458 Of reverent Priam, seemed in the air to stick; Of kneeling Priam, seemed to stick in the air. #07-459 So, as a painted tyrant, Pyrrhus stood, Thusly, like a tyrant in a picture, Pyrrhus stood, #07-460 And like a neutral to his will and matter, As if his spirit were neutral to his own mind and body, and #07-461 Did nothing; Did nothing. #07-461-SD (the Players present a tableau) #07-462 But, as we often see against some storm, But as we often see against the backdrop of a storm, #07-463 A silence in the heavens, the rack stand still, A silence in the heavens, the clouds stand still, #07-464 The bold winds speechless, and the orb below The boisterous winds mute, and the world below #07-465 As hush as death, anon the dreadful thunder As silent as death - soon the dreadful thunder #07-466 Doth rend the region; so after Pyrrhus' pause, Does blast the air. So it was after Pyrrhus' pause. #07-467 A roused vengeance sets him new a' work, An awakened vengeance puts him to work once more. #07-468 And never did the Cyclops' hammers fall And never did the Cyclops' hammers fall #07-469 On Mars's armor, forged for proof etern, On the god Mars' armor, which was forged for everlasting invulnerability, #07-470 With less remorse than Pyrrhus' bleeding sword With less pity than Pyrrhus' bloody sword #07-471 Now falls on Priam. Now falls on Priam. #07-472 Out, out, thou strumpet Fortune! All you gods, Be gone, be gone, you strumpet Fortune! All you gods, #07-473 In general synod take away Her power! In general council take away Her power! #07-474 Break all the spokes, and follies from Her wheel, Break all the spokes and human follies from Her Wheel of Fortune. #07-475 And bowl the round nave down the hill of Heaven And roll the round hub of the wheel down from the height of Heaven #07-476 As low as to the fiends! All the way down to the fiends of Hell! #07-477 Polonius: This is too long. This is too long. #07-478 Hamlet: It shall to the barber's with your beard. We'll take it along to the barber for a trim, when he shaves off your beard. #07-479 (to the First Player): prithee say on, he's Please, continue, he likes #07-480 for a jig, or a tale of bawdry, or he sleeps; say on, come to Hecuba. a jig or bawdy story, or he falls asleep. Continue, get to Hecuba. #07-481 First Player: But who, ah woe, had seen the mabled Queen . . . But who, oh woe, had seen the disarrayed Queen . . . #07-482 Hamlet: The mobled Queen. The moved good Queen . . . #07-483 Polonius: That's good. That's good! #07-484 First Player: . . . Run barefoot up and down, threatening the flames . . . Run barefoot up and down, threatening to put out the fires #07-485 With bisson rheum, a clout about that head With the flow of her blinding tears, a rag upon her head #07-486 Where late the diadem stood, and for a robe, Where her crown so recently stood, and, for a royal robe, #07-487 About her lank and all o'er-teemed loins, Around her skinny and quite over-populated loins, #07-488 A blanket in the alarm of fear caught up; A blanket, grabbed up when the fearful alarm was raised. #07-489 Who this had seen, with tongue in venom steeped, Whoever had seen this, with venomous language #07-490 'Gainst Fortune's state, would treason have pronounced; Against the rule of Fortune, would have spoken for treason. #07-491 But if the gods, themselves, did see her then, Though if the gods, themselves, did look upon her then, #07-492 When she saw Pyrrhus make malicious sport When she watched Pyrrhus perform his malicious sport #07-493 In mincing with his sword her husband limbs, By slicing, with his sword, her companion limbs, #07-494 The instant burst of clamor that she made, The stand-in outburst of outcry that she made - #07-495 Unless things mortal move them not at all, Unless mortal happenings do not disturb the gods at all - #07-496 Would have made milk the burning eyes of heaven Would have made cry the shining eyes of heaven #07-497 And passion in the gods. And mortal agony among the gods, themselves. #07-498 Polonius: Look whether he has not turned his color, and has tears in his Look there, hasn't his face changed color, and he has tears in his #07-499 eyes; prithee, no more. eyes? I beg you, no more. #07-500 Hamlet (to the First Player): 'Tis well; I'll have thee speak out the rest of this soon; That's good, I'll have you recite the rest later. #07-501 (to Polonius): Good my Lord, will you see the players well bestowed? Do you My good Lord, will you see that the players are well housed? Do you #07-502 hear? Let them be well used, for they are the abstracts and brief hear? Treat them well, because they are, in an abstract and brief way, the #07-503 chronicles of the time; after your death you were better have a chroniclers of our time. After your death, you'd be better off with a #07-504 bad epitaph, than their ill report while you live. bad epitaph, than to have them do an unflattering portrayal of you during your life. #07-505 Polonius: My Lord, I will use them according to their desert. My Lord, I will treat them as they deserve. #07-506 Hamlet: God's bodkin, man, much better! Use every man after his desert, Goodness gracious, man, much better than that! If you treat every man as he deserves, #07-507 and who shall 'scape whipping? Use them after your own honor who's going to avoid a whipping? Instead, treat them so it reflects well on your own honor #07-508 and dignity; the less they deserve, the more merit is in your bounty; and dignity. The less they deserve, the more worth there is in your generosity. #07-509 Take them in. Take them in. #07-510 Polonius: Come, sirs. This way, gentlemen. #07-511 Hamlet: Follow him friends, we'll hear a play tomorrow - Go with him, my friends. We'll have a play tomorrow - #07-512 (to the Lad!): dost thou hear me "old" friend, can you play the murder of Gonzago? do you hear me, "old" friend, can you do the play, The Murder of Gonzago? #07-512-SD (Polonius and the Players stop) #07-513 Lad: Aye, my Lord. Yes, my Lord. #07-514 Hamlet: We'll 'hate' tomorrow night; you could, for need, study We'll have it tomorrow night. Could you, if needed, learn #07-515 a speech of some dozen lines, or sixteen lines, which I would set a speech of some dozen lines, or sixteen, lines, which I would write #07-516 down and insert in it, could you not? down and insert in it, couldn't you do that? #07-517 Lad: Aye, my Lord. Yes, my Lord. #07-518 Hamlet: Very well, follow that Lord, and look you mock him not. #07-518-SD (Hamlet winks at the Lad) Very well. Follow that Lord, and, see here! - Don't mock him! #07-519 My good friends, I'll leave you till night; You are welcome to Elsinore. My good friends, I'll let you go until tonight. Welcome to Elsinore! #07-519-SD (Polonius and the Players exit) #07-520 Rosencrantz: Good my Lord. My good Lord. #07-520-SD (Rosencrantz and Guildenstern exit) #07-521 Hamlet: Aye, so goodbye to you; now I am alone; Yes, so goodbye to you. Now I am alone. #07-522 Oh what a rogue and peasant slave am I; Oh, what an offender and a peasant slave I am. #07-523 Is it not monstrous that this player here, Isn't it unnatural that this actor, here, #07-524 But in a fiction, in a dream of passion, Acting only in fiction, in a fantasy of deep emotion, #07-525 Could force his soul so to his own conceit Could compel his soul in that way, under his own conception #07-526 That from her working all his visage waned - That from her labors his entire face grew pale - with #07-527 Tears in his eyes, distraction in his aspect, Tears in his eyes, horror in the way he looked, #07-528 A broken voice - and his whole function suiting His voice breaking, and his entire performance "costumed" #07-529 With forms to his conceit; and all for nothing, In the forms his role required - and all for nothing, #07-530 For Hecuba. For Hecuba. #07-531 What's Hecuba to him, or he to her, What's Hecuba to him, and what's he to her, #07-532 That he should weep for her? What would he do, That he should weep for her? What would the actor do #07-533 Had he the motive and that cue for passion If he had the motive and that prompting for a display of emotion #07-534 That I have? He would drown the stage with tears, That I have? He would flood the stage with tears, #07-535 And cleave the general ear with horrid speech, And transfix the public ear with hair-raising speech, to #07-536 Make mad the guilty, and appall the free, Provoke the guilty, and shock the innocent, #07-537 Confound the ignorant, and amaze indeed Dumbfound the ignorant, and utterly overwhelm #07-538 The very faculties of eyes and ears; The very senses of sight and hearing. #07-539 Yet I, a dull and muddy-mettled rascal, peak, Yet I, a dull and flawed wretch, languish, #07-540 Like John-a-dreams, unpregnant of my cause, Like an idle dreamer, unproductive toward my goal, #07-541 And can say nothing; no, not for a King, And I can't say anything. No, not even for a King #07-542 Upon whose property and most dear life Upon whose kingdom, and most dear life, #07-543 A damned defeat was made; am I a coward? A damned defeat was inflicted. Am I a coward? #07-544 Who calls me villain, breaks my pate across, Who calls me a villain, hits me over the head, #07-545 Plucks off my beard, and blows it in my face, Pulls out my beard and blows it in my face, #07-546 Tweaks me by the nose, gives me the lie i'th throat Tweaks me on the nose, says that I'm lying in my throat #07-547 As deep as to the lungs, who does me this? As deep as my lungs? Who does this to me? #07-548 Hah, zounds, I should take it! For it cannot be Hah, by God, I would probably tolerate it! For, it can't be anything #07-549 But I am pigeon livered, and lack gall But that I'm lily-livered, and don't have the brave character #07-550 To make oppression bitter, or ere this To feel the bitterness of oppression, or before this #07-551 I should ha' fatted all the region kites I would have fattened all the scavenger birds in the area #07-552 With this slave's offal; bloody, bawdy villain, By letting them feed on that scoundrel's guts - that murderous, crude villain. #07-553 Remorseless, treacherous, lecherous, kindless villain! Remorseless, treacherous, lecherous, kindless villain! #07-553-1 Oh vengeance! #07-554 Why, what an ass am I! This is most brave, Oh, what a jackass I am. This is all very brave, #07-555 That I, the son of he, dear murdered, That I, the son of a dear murdered one, #07-556 Prompted to my revenge by heaven and hell, Prompted to have my revenge by the forces of both Heaven and Hell, #07-557 Must, like a whore, unpack my heart with words, Must, like some whore, pour out my emotion in words, #07-558 And fall a-cursing like a very drab, And descend to cursing like a common harlot, or #07-559 A scullion; fie upon it, foh. The lowest class of woman. Shame one me! Shame. #07-560 About, my brains; hm, I have heard Turn in some other direction, my brains . . . hm, I have heard #07-561 That guilty creatures sitting at a play That guilty persons in attendance at a play #07-562 Have, by the very cunning of the scene, Have, by the very insightfulness of the show, #07-563 Been struck so to the soul, that presently Been struck so much to their consciences, that right away #07-564 They have proclaimed their malefactions; They have confessed their evil deeds. #07-565 For murder, though it have no tongue, will speak For although murder has no tongue, it will speak #07-566 With most miraculous organ; I'll have these players With some very miraculous voice. I'll have these actors #07-567 Play something like the murder of my father Perform something like the murder of my father #07-568 Before mine uncle; I'll observe his looks; Before my uncle. I'll observe his reactions, #07-569 I'll tent him to the quick; If he do blench I'll probe him down to his nerve. If he flinches #07-570 I know my course; the spirit that I have seen I'll know my course of action. The spirit that I saw #07-571 May be a devil, and the Devil hath power Might be a devil, since the Devil has power #07-572 To assume a pleasing shape; yea, and perhaps, To take on a congenial shape. Yes, and perhaps, #07-573 Out of my weakness and my melancholy, Working on my weakness, and my sadness - #07-574 As he is very potent with such spirits, Since he is very powerful at taking advantage of low spirits, #07-575 Abuses me to damn me; I'll have grounds He uses me wrong to damn my soul. I'll find grounds for judgment #07-576 More relative than this; the play's the thing More immediate than what the Ghost said: the play's the thing #07-577 Wherein I'll catch the conscience of the King. In which I'll catch the conscience of the King. #07-577-SD (Hamlet exits)
End of Scene 7
#07-Daily Break In the performances of Hamlet by Shakespeare's company at the Globe Theater, this point was the end of the first day of performance.
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
Jump up to the start of the Dialogue.
- Place - The Throne Room. There is no question of the Throne Room setting, because Claudius is doing official state business when he welcomes his ambassadors and receives their report of how the mission went. Were he not already in the Throne Room, he would go there to receive them.
- Time of Day - Morning, certainly, and we take it as late morning to allow the events of Scene 6.
- Calendar Time - Day 2 of the administration of King Claudius.
(a flourish of trumpets sounds; Claudius and Gertrude enter, with their entourage; Rosencrantz and Guildenstern enter)
This is an official Royal entry into the Throne Room, so it is done with all the trimmings. The entry is from stage right (presuming we're using the right -> Royal / left -> Lobby mnemonic.) Rosencrantz and Guildenstern enter from stage right, also, following Claudius, which tells us they have been meeting with him in private before the Scene begins. Had they not been in private with Claudius, they would enter from the Lobby, stage left, since they are not royalty and are not part of the royal entourage.
Claudius: Welcome, dear Rosencrantz and Guildenstern;
It is correct in performance that when Claudius says "Rosencrantz" he nods to Guildenstern, and when he says "Guildenstern" he nods to Rosencrantz. He never paid attention to Hamlet's childhood friends.
This welcome is a formal, public acknowledgment of their presence, in response to a King's summons. Claudius has already greeted them personally, in private. Claudius is now being "the King," doing public formalities.
Moreover, that we much did long to see you,
Moreover - is a word of continuation. We are thereby informed that Claudius has already spoken to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern in private. That will be confirmed further as the Scene continues.
In terms of protocol, it is correct that he should have spoken to them in private first, since they ought to have presented themselves to him as soon as they could upon their arrival. When the King summons you, you inform him you are there as soon as you arrive.
Not that it's Claudius's intention to say that he's spoken to R & G in private. Claudius, himself, is using moreover to mean "in addition" (to what he goes on to say.)
did long to see you - is not true. He has no interest in R & G for themselves. Claudius is being polite to them, of course, because of what he wants them to do.
The need we have to use you, did provoke
to use you - there is the truth of it.
provoke - "stir," in the terms of the language of the play. Motivate. Provoke is from Latin 'provocare' ("call forth,") so there is a little hint in the word of the notion of calling forth a spirit, an idea which is "atmospheric" for the play, and in fact, is relevant at a later point.
Our hasty sending; something have you heard
hasty sending - is tongue in cheek from Shakespeare. He knew a trip from Wittenberg to Elsinore could not be made, in reality, in the time that has passed during the play so far. It does not matter. "The play's the thing." Offstage events are merely in support of the onstage action. Besides, R & G could have been summoned before the play begins.
The Claudius character, himself, can be understood as meaning he sent for them right away, when he observed, or allegedly observed, what he goes on to mention.
Claudius knows R & G have heard something about Hamlet, because Claudius, himself, told them a few things in private. What Claudius told them was, of course, to Hamlet's detriment, and to Claudius's own advantage.
Of Hamlet's transformation, so call it,
transformation - can be interpreted as "metamorphosis," since Shakespeare was familiar with Ovid's Metamorphoses. Claudius, himself, means Hamlet seems reshaped.
Sith nor the exterior, nor the inward man
Sith - because. Shakespeare made little use of sith in his writings, but he did so here, probably because of the "snaky" sibilance of the word. Claudius is being "snaky" in his use of R & G. The Ghost called Claudius a serpent, we recall.
About Hamlet's exterior, all that's happened there is that Hamlet is continuing to wear his mourning clothes in disobedience to Claudius's wishes. Hamlet has been depressed, certainly.
inward man - can be understood as "spirit."
Claudius is claiming knowledge of Hamlet's "inner man." He does not know that, instead, it's exactly what he wants R & G to find out. Claudius wants to know Hamlet's inner ideas about him, especially whether Hamlet has any violent intentions against him.
Resembles that it was, what it should be;
that it was - what it used to be. Well, it must be true that before King Hamlet died, Hamlet didn't wear mourning clothes, and he wasn't depressed like he is now. Claudius's remarks are highly disingenuous.
More than his father's death, that thus hath put him
The fact on Claudius's mind, more than his father's death, is the fact of Claudius becoming King instead of Hamlet. What does Hamlet really think about that, Claudius wonders.
So much from the understanding of himself,
It isn't that Hamlet doesn't understand himself, it's that Claudius doesn't understand Hamlet, particularly Hamlet's intentions toward him. Claudius expresses it in a way to put the onus on Hamlet. That's dishonest, and no surprise that it is, from a man like Claudius. This is reminiscent of Polonius saying Ophelia didn't understand herself, in Scene 3, when in fact it was Polonius who didn't understand.
I cannot dream of; I entreat you both,
cannot dream of - Well, Claudius may not be able to dream of it, but he can have nightmares about it. Claudius is worried that Hamlet might be enough like himself that Hamlet would try to kill the King to get the Crown. An instance of the Sleep/Dream Motif.
That being of so young days brought up with him,
of so young days - since childhood.
And sith so neighbored to his youth and humor,
sith - because. Shakespeare used sith instead of "since" to give Claudius a "snaky" hiss, again.
neighbored to - close to. Therefore, familiar with.
humor - mood. We'd now say "moods."
That you vouchsafe your rest here in our court
vouchsafe - assure, is one possible paraphrase. Claudius is asking R & G for their personal assurance that they will stay a while.
rest - so, the court will now be where R & G will sleep, and where they will dream.
Some little time, so, by your companies,
Some little time - for a while.
companies - we'd say "company" even for more than one person. Claudius wants R & G to be company for Hamlet. Claudius's use of the plural is ostentatious.
To draw him on to pleasures, and to gather
draw him on to pleasures - lead him to enjoy himself. A perfectly normal idea for friends.
gather - collect, if a different word is demanded. Otherwise, leave it.
So much as from occasion you may glean
occasion - opportunity. Not to imply R & G have to leave it to chance. They can try leading their conversations with Hamlet.
glean - gather. "Harvest," figuratively speaking. There is a Cain and Abel analogy between Claudius and King Hamlet. Cain was a "tiller of the ground." (Genesis 4:2.) It is therefore appropriate for Claudius, Cain's analogue, to use the word glean, since it's a word associated with agriculture. Glean provides an instance of the Gardening Motif in the play.
Whether aught to us unknown afflicts him thus,
This is Claudius's major concern. In particular, would Hamlet like to kill Claudius, to get the crown?
aught - anything. Claudius is not concerned about just anything, however.
afflicts - distresses. A fine word choice by Shakespeare, since afflict goes back to Latin 'affligere' which could mean "to overthrow," and that is precisely what Claudius is worried about, being overthrown by Hamlet.
thus - to cause the "transformation" he mentioned, Claudius means.
That opened, lies within our remedy.
opened - revealed. "Unfolded," as the dialogue sometimes expresses the idea. Claudius can act this by holding his hands together, and then opening them like opening a book. When you "suit the action to the word," the word opened goes along exactly with an "opening" action of the hands.
Claudius speaks as if he is a compassionate physician searching for a cure for whatever ails Hamlet, but the remedy Claudius has in mind is to get rid of Hamlet if he's a threat. Claudius has not told R & G that.
Gertrude: Good gentlemen, he hath much talked of you,
much talked of you - spoken often of you. But one wonders, always in a complimentary way?
And sure I am, two men there is not living
But after earlier events, one inevitably thinks of a man who is now dead.
To whom he more adheres; if it will please you
To whom he more adheres - can be read, for amusement, as "with whom he is more stuck." The possibility for amusement is deliberate in Shakespeare's phrasing. The Gertrude character, herself, means "is more attached."
Hamlet is now more attached to Horatio, but their friendship developed at the University of Wittenberg, and Gertrude was not there to observe Horatio become Hamlet's best friend.
To show us so much gentry and good will
gentry - gentility. Gentlemanly conduct. This language anticipates the exchange between Gertrude and Rosencrantz in the next Scene, Scene 8: "Gertrude: Did he receive you well? Rosencrantz: Most like a gentleman." (Scene 8#011 and 012)
Gentry further implies "kindness" in both senses: sympathetic, and also "our kind" of people. The root is Latin 'gens' ("clan.")
Gertrude is asking R & G to "show" like Gentlemen. We may suppose she knows that when they were children they did not always "show" like gentlemen. What children do?
As to expend your time with us a while,
expend - spend. However, expend can also mean "use up." Indeed, R & G will use up nearly the entire remainder of their earthly existences at Elsinore. Gertrude is not intending to be so ominous as she speaks.
For the supply and profit of our hope,
supply - fulfillment, is probably the closest literal equivalent. Latin 'supplere' ("to fill up.")
profit - benefit; gain. Since profit is so well known as a financial word, this usage is compatible with the Money Motif, although it is not directly an instance. Shakespeare tended to use compatible language even when he did not directly provide an instance of a motif.
hope - is a "desire" word.
Gertrude's hope is simply that R & G will be good company for Hamlet, for a while, to help tide Hamlet over during this difficult time. There is no reason to doubt her sincerity. She has no ulterior motive, where R & G are concerned. Her ulterior motives lie elsewhere.
Your visitation shall receive such thanks
visitation - a courtly, that is, grandiose way of saying "visit." Gertrude is not entirely immune to the contagious influence of the courtly manner of speech.
Although Gertrude just means "visit," visitation is a word also used for 1) the arrival of a disaster; 2) the appearance of a supernatural spirit; and 3) a visit by ecclesiastical authority to examine the condition of a parish, all of which are worth considering in looking at Shakespeare's choice of word.
Number 2, the appearance of a spirit, is clearly the most notable facet, especially with the line to follow.
Number 1, the arrival of a disaster, earns a chuckle at R & G.
Number 3, the ecclesiastical examination, is clever in advance of the religious turn the passage takes, when Guildenstern prays at line 040.
So, several of the definitions of visitation have some relevance to the play beyond what Gertrude herself means to say. There are many cases in the play dialogue where Shakespeare chose a word not only for its immediately-pertinent definition, but also for its general "aura" of meaning, so to speak.
As fits a king's remembrance.
a king's remembrance - reminds us of King Hamlet, especially following the word "visitation" in the previous line. It is no accident in Shakespeare's phrasing that "visitation ... as fits a King's remembrance" sounds like the Ghost. It is accidental from Gertrude, who knows nothing of the Ghost.
Gertrude, herself, is promising R & G a "kingly" reward if they fulfill the role of being good company for Hamlet. By remembrance she means "gift," although to maintain the courtly, overblown style one could paraphrase as "endowment" or "largess."
Rosencrantz: Both your Majesties
Rosencrantz should be addressing himself to the King. Per Court protocol, the King is the head honcho, in this patriarchal society, and when the Queen spoke, she was speaking in the name of the king (which is why she said "king's remembrance.") The Queen is privileged, certainly, but the King is "the man" in this Royal Court. So, the correct form is that one addresses the King (even if behind the scenes, the Queen is the most powerful political force in the nation.) There is not the equal consideration we find in some modern democracies.
R is obviously new around here, and has not been clued in, on fine points of procedure.
Might, by the sovereign power you have of us,
of us - over us. However, it is intentional in the phrasing that R makes it sound as if the King and Queen of Denmark got their power from R & G. One is amused.
Put your dread pleasures more into command
dread - awe-inspiring. Revered.
pleasures - wishes; desires. There is irony that King Claudius's pleasures are indeed something to be dreaded, in the sense of feared, since following the King's pleasures will ultimately lead R & G to their doom, but R, himself, knows nothing of that now, and is not trying to say that.
command - actually, what R heard was a command. He's too much the dunce to realize it.
Than to entreaty.
Rosencrantz is an imbecile. What he heard from the King and Queen was a command, but expressed in the courtly style, where orders are made to sound like a plea for a favor. There is, however, at all times, no matter how nice it sounds, the iron fist inside that velvet glove.
Rosencrantz has not been given a "heads up" about the courtly style of expression. Even so, he most certainly should not be trying to correct the King and Queen on the subject of how they choose to express themselves. He is not a bright fellow. We might suppose that at the university he is on his way to becoming a pedant, if he isn't there already.
Guildenstern: But we both obey,
Guildenstern is more aware, and he quickly speaks up.
And here give up ourselves in the full bent,
in the full bent - to our full inclination. To the best of our ability. With nothing held back.
G. kneels. At bent he "bends the knee." The word bent is an embedded stage direction, for correct action. R also kneels.
To lay our service freely at your feet
freely - voluntarily. Guildenstern certainly doesn't mean they'd do this for free. After hearing "profit" and getting an implicit promise from the Queen of payment ("king's remembrance"=royal gift,) G. feels safe saying freely and sounding noble.
To be commanded.
Guildenstern got it, that they have been commanded.
The word "command" goes back to a Latin root of 'manus' which means "hand." G is, in that way, saying that he and R will be the "hands" of the royalty, Claudius and Gertrude, to do as they wish.
Going back to the previous line, the phrasing (at your feet) to be commanded carries the strange idea, taking the Latin root 'manus' into account, of R and G being Claudius and Gertrude's "hands at their feet." Now, Guildenstern, himself, isn't trying to say, "we volunteer to be your hands at your feet," but Shakespeare's choice of phrasing implies that amusingly "mad" notion.
R & G have knelt, after "bent" at the end of line 032, and they now bow low while kneeling, placing the backs of their hands on the floor, at foot level to go along with "at your feet" in line 033, so they are now in the posture of the most humble supplicant.
The obvious action, clearly visible from a distance, signals the Polonius actor to step onstage.
Polonius gets his "enter" instruction later, after line 042. However, that is a playscript entry, to ensure the Polonius actor is in correct position to participate in the dialogue. To be in correct position at that point, Polonius must arrive on stage earlier. Polonius's "stage arrival" is earlier than his playscript entry.
Shakespeare wrote the playscript in a way to ensure it would work for the dialogue, to put characters in the right position for the speeches. The exact timing of a character's presence onstage is a somewhat different issue, although dialogue presence does require stage presence (with the rare, peculiar exception such as the Ghost underneath the stage.)
The timing of a character's stage presence is something for the director's notes, which we unfortunately do not have for Hamlet. Fortunately, knowing that Shakespeare included visual cueing lines in Hamlet, the timing of physical stage presence can be inferred. One looks for lines that go along with an obvious action, an action which can be seen from a distance, in the area of the dialogue that is shortly before the playscript entry is printed. One also takes into account what a character must hear, to justify any line he says later.
We can be sure Polonius arrives on stage earlier than his Second Quarto entry printed in the course of the dialogue, because of a line Polonius speaks later. At line 230 Polonius will say to R and G, "You go to seek the Lord Hamlet." Polonius must therefore hear Gertrude give them that instruction, which she will do beginning at line 037. If Polonius doesn't hear that line 037, he will be left with no basis for what he later says. It confirms that Polonius must be present onstage now, or in this close vicinity in the dialogue.
I place Polonius's arrival here, where it is visually cued by the kneeling and bowing of R & G. This timing works for Polonius to hear enough to support what he later says, at line 230. Arriving now, Polonius will hear Gertrude's next speech, so he will know R & G are supposed to visit Hamlet.
In the overall flow of the play, Polonius is a little late to arrive for this session of the royal court because of the events involving Ophelia, and also, as we'll hear, he encountered Cornelius and Voltemand, the ambassadors who have returned from Noway, and it's safe to assume Polonius talked with them for a bit. He must have spoken to C. and V. at least for a moment, to know they have "joyfully" returned, which Polonius will tell Claudius.
Claudius: Thanks, Rosencrantz, and gentle Guildenstern.
Claudius got them wrong, again. R & G don't care that he did, as long as they get that reward they've been promised.
Gertrude: Thanks, Guildenstern, and gentle Rosencrantz,
Gertrude addresses them correctly. She's the one who knows them, from Hamlet's childhood friendship with them. Claudius only shrugs, if he makes any reaction at all. He doesn't care which is which, as long as they both follow his orders.
And I beseech you instantly to visit
beseech - beg, but one understands this is mere courtly rhetoric. Gertrude is not really begging R & G, she is ordering them.
instantly - immediately. Now. R & G are being told to do this now, as quickly as their feet can go pitapat.
My too-much-changed son; go, some of you,
Gertrude is not going to call Hamlet "mad," which she does not think he is, but she is bothered that events have produced more of a change in him than she would have wished.
some of you - any of you (servants.) This is spoken to the servants who are available to the Court. There are several present: one or more messengers, one or more pages, etc.
And bring these gentlemen where Hamlet is.
bring - escort. Show.
Gertrude motions stage left, the Lobby direction. It will soon be stated that Hamlet spends hours in the Lobby, line 174, and Gertrude will voice her awareness of that. (Lines 174 & 175)
Guildenstern: Heavens make our presence and our practices
Guildenstern offers a brief prayer. One may take it that at the University of Wittenberg he was devoted to the theological side of the studies (whereas we have heard Hamlet more inclined to the philosophical side.) R & G were probably trained at the University to pray before every significant activity.
Pleasant and helpful to him.
helpful to him - Guildenstern sincerely means that. Hamlet will come to see them as nothing but tools of the King, as the Scene continues, but they intend no such thing. It's that they're such clueless dunces, they can't come anywhere close to handling the situation in which they find themselves.
Gertrude: Aye, amen.
Said a bit impatiently, with a wave of the hand: "enough talk, get going." When the Queen said "instantly" she didn't mean "keep talking," not even for a brief prayer.
Ironically, as it will turn out, if R and G had just stood here and spent the next hour in prayer, they'd find Hamlet quicker than they end up doing.
(Rosencrantz and Guildenstern exit, led by servants)
The exit is stage left -> Lobby. Later in this Scene Polonius will say that Hamlet spends hours in the Lobby, line 174, and Gertrude will agree, so that means it's general knowledge. Or, at least, Gertrude knows it. We are safe to conclude, then, when Gertrude said "go" she waved stage left, toward the Lobby.
As described earlier, at the line 034-SD, this is Polonius's playscript entry, or dialogue entry, to ensure the Polonius actor is now in his correct position for his participation in the dialogue. Polonius has been physically present on stage for some time. Polonius's action here is only to step forward to take his position to speak.
Polonius: The ambassadors from Norway, my good Lord,
Polonius's manner here is very happy. He thinks everything is going his way.
Are joyfully returned.
Their return is remarkably quick. Ordinarily that would imply failure, the quick return being because the ambassadors encountered a refusal to receive them. This case must have turned out otherwise, for Polonius to say joyfully.
Claudius: Thou still hast been the father of good news.
still - continually. Once again, as before.
father - "parent" -> source. The father of good news = the source of good news. The word father from Claudius is unintentionally prophetic, because Polonius is going to go on to speak of his daughter, and Hamlet.
The earlier good news from Polonius, for which Claudius was grateful, was the "news" that King Norway was out of touch with what his nephew was doing, thus an informative appeal to King Norway should be effective, to give Claudius a way out of the challenge to single combat. Claudius credits Polonius's advice with saving his reputation, if not his life. However, was that true, about King Norway? Who has been paying for Fortinbrasse to raise an army?
Polonius: Have I, my Lord? I assure my good Liege
Have I - is to be spoken in the manner of, "I'm so pleased to hear you say that!"
Liege - Polonius's use of the term is exaggerated humility, in the courtly style. He is not really a "liegeman to the Dane," as Marcellus in fact was. While Polonius is a servant of the King insofar as he is the King's councilor, he is not a vassal, strictly speaking.
I hold my duty as I hold my soul,
hold - pledge.
Polonius heard Claudius's word "father" in line 45 as "minister," so he replies in religious terms. Polonius is a minister in the government, but not a minister in the religious sense. It's miscommunication.
Polonius says hold twice, and hold is a "grasp" word, but grasping Claudius's meaning is something Polonius did not quite do.
Both to my God, and to my gracious King;
Polonius has made it sound as if he equates Claudius to God, and he pledges his soul to Claudius. It's a hint, for us, of why Hamlet will call Polonius "Jephthah" later in this Scene (line 392.) Hamlet is not hearing this, his remark follows from his bad dream before Scene 6. Jephthah sacrificed his daughter as a burnt offering to demonstrate his commitment to his Lord.
Polonius did not mean exactly what he said in these lines. He is trying to say that he pledges his duty to the King as much as he pledges his soul to God.
And I do think, or else this brain of mine
Polonius taps the side of his head, and puts on a crafty facial expression, as best he can.
Hunts not the trail of policy so sure
policy - good government. The public good.
Polonius's figure of speech is that of a dog hunting a trail, using its sense of smell.
He says that his brain is his dog.
As it hath used to do, that I have found
hath used to do - "always has done," is the intended sentiment from Polonius. Literally however, "as it once did" which carries the implication of "no longer does."
The very cause of Hamlet's lunacy.
very - true.
Polonius thinks that Hamlet is mad for Ophelia, as the explanation for what Ophelia told him. His word lunacy is not well chosen to designate love madness, but people have always been pretty free with words that mean "crazy."
Claudius: Oh, speak of that, that do I long to hear!
Claudius has been trying to advance the idea that Hamlet is mad, to try to suppress Hamlet as a political rival, so Claudius would like nothing better than some real evidence that Hamlet is a mad man. Real evidence would give Claudius a reason to lock Hamlet up, despite his mother being the Queen, and thereby eliminate the danger Claudius feels from Hamlet.
Claudius is now deeply distracted with wondering what Polonius has learned, and how it will benefit Claudius. Claudius has credited Polonius with saving his life once, in the face of the single combat challenge, and he wonders if Polonius has done it again, by giving Claudius a way to remove Hamlet as a potentially deadly threat.
Claudius is, of course, worried that Hamlet might kill to get the Crown. Claudius, himself, would.
Anyway, Claudius is now fully occupied with wondering what Polonius has found out. One's mind would be well occupied, if he heard something implying that he was about to receive life-saving information.
Polonius: Give first admittance to the ambassadors;
Since the diplomatic mission was based on Polonius's advice, and the mission has been a great success (so Polonius believes,) he wants Claudius to hear the ambassadors first. Claudius should take what Polonius says about Hamlet even more seriously when Polonius's track record is even further enhanced, in Claudius's eyes.
My news shall be the fruit to that great feast.
fruit - dessert.
feast - implies celebration. Polonius is hinting repeatedly that the ambassadors have been successful. He's as happy as can be, because the diplomatic mission was his idea.
Claudius: Thyself do grace to them, and bring them in;
do grace to them - do them the favor. Claudius uses phrasing that goes along with the "feast" idea. One thinks of the ritual of saying grace before a meal.
As lightly as his old legs can move. He's happy.
His exit is stage left, the Lobby side. Coming directly in from the Elsinore town harbor, the ambassadors have followed the same route the public uses when they enter the Castle. This is confirmed by later events.
He tells me, my sweet Queen, that he hath found
Claudius is in hopes Polonius has found out something about Hamlet that will justify Claudius locking Hamlet up, despite the Queen's opposition. Feeling himself in a stronger position, Claudius presumes to speak to Gertrude in a way he would not have done earlier.
The head and source of all your son's distemper.
head - means the same as now, for plain reading. Chief cause. Can be taken as "center" based on the language of the passage. The head is the center of the intellect. Polonius will later claim, line 169 ff, that he can find truth even if it's hidden in the center.
source - origin. First cause. From Old French 'sourse. ("fountainhead.")
distemper - derangement. In Middle English distemper referred to an upset or derangement. The root is Latin 'distemperare' ("mix in the wrong proportions,") so it carries the idea of the "humors" (under the four humors theory) being in the wrong proportions.
The word distemper appears in the Satires of Horace, in translation; Book II Satire 3 says, "... what it is to be mad: and, if this distemper be in you..." Several words, phrases, and lines in this Scene are reminiscent of the Satires of Horace, which implies the book Hamlet is carrying when he enters, later, is the Satires of Horace, with Hamlet turned in particular to that Satire (Book II S 3) which argues "most men are mad."
your son's - There's none of Claudius calling Hamlet "my son" here. Claudius thinks, or at least hopes, Polonius has found evidence Hamlet wants to kill him, and perhaps even evidence Hamlet intends to kill him, which will justify Claudius taking strong action against Hamlet, and leaving Gertrude with no power to save Hamlet.
Gertrude: I doubt it is no other but the main:
doubt - suspect, but here the meaning tends more toward "surmise."
main - the main causes they already know about.
Gertrude observes Claudius's smirking attitude toward her, and she doesn't like it.
His father's death, and our o'er-hasty marriage.
our o'er-hasty marriage - Gertrude is implying that she was too hasty in marrying a man who would speak to her in such a manner. She accompanies the phrase with a sharp, cold look toward Claudius.
Claudius: Well, we shall sift him;
sift him - examine him, in detail. Sort him out. Sift is acted by lowering the hand slowly while wiggling the fingers, to indicate fine powder falling slowly. Claudius is referring to "sorting it all out."
him - is ambiguous. It can be taken to refer to either Polonius or Hamlet. It is intended to be that way.
Claudius backs off, in his behavior toward Gertrude, since he doesn't yet know what Polonius has found out, but still, Claudius is happier than he was.
(the ambassadors Voltemand and Cornelius enter, escorted by Polonius)
All are cheerful, with a spring in their step. Voltemand carries an official-looking document.
Welcome, my good friends;
good friends - One can't say it's anything but a fine greeting, but is it literally true? Are Cornelius and Voltemand Claudius's personal friends, that is, are they a couple of his old drinking buddies? If that's what they are, and all they basically are, one wouldn't expect much from them as diplomats.
If they are a couple of Claudius's old drinking buddies, did King Norway begin the negotiations by offering them a glass of wine? Or two? Or three...
Say, Voltemand, what from our brother, Norway?
brother - We know how Claudius feels about brothers. It sounds nice for Claudius to call King Norway his brother, but behind that term, when Claudius speaks it, is the sentiment he wishes King Norway was dead.
Voltemand: Most fair return of greetings and desires;
return - This statement from Voltemand also sounds nice, but following the above, the idea of "the same back at you" implies King Norway wishes Claudius was dead, too. None of them is actually going to say that.
Upon our first, he sent out to suppress
first - the main point. The primary issue to be negotiated. That being, we recall, the military activities of Fortinbrasse.
suppress - quash. Prohibit. End.
His nephew's levies, which to him appeared
levies - army enlistments.
appeared - had appeared. Appeared to be, until he was informed otherwise.
To be a preparation 'gainst the Polack,
the Polack - the King of Poland. That is, against the state of Poland.
What grievance does Fortinbrasse have against Poland? It was Denmark which gained the land his father lost.
But better looked into, he truly found
truly - in truth.
It was against Your Highness; whereat grieved,
against Your Highness - against Denmark, that is.
grieved - instead of pleased? The land the Elder Fortinbrasse lost was Norwegian land. That land was King Norway's land, earlier. It makes no sense he would be grieved by an attempt to regain it for Norway.
That so his sickness, age, and impotence
Which Claudius told them about in Scene 2. How did Claudius know the state of King Norway's health? Since the diplomatic mission was Polonius's advice, he probably also passed along the word about King Norway's health, which Polonius had picked up somewhere, as rumor going around. Rumor / talk / gossip is a Motif of the play. Who started that particular rumor?
Was falsely borne in hand; sends out arrests
borne in hand - controlled. Taken in hand.
falsely borne in hand - controlled so well it seemed false that he had such ailments.
King Norway carried himself so well you wouldn't think he was sick, is what Voltemand is saying. Voltemand phrases it so it doesn't challenge what Claudius said earlier. Voltemand isn't going to tell the King he was wrong. Indeed, Voltemand takes the word of his King, Claudius, as he truth, therefore, when King Norway seemed hale and hearty it must have been, he was being deceptive.
King Norway didn't look sick when they saw him. Hm. Somebody hath been kidding somebody.
arrests - orders to arrest.
On Fortinbrasse, which he, in brief, obeys;
Should it be that easy to arrest a man who commands an army, if he doesn't want to be arrested? One can't help but wonder. One might think it should be extremely difficult, or even impossible, to arrest a man who commands an army. No difficulty arose in this case, however, for some reason.
Receives rebuke from Norway, and in fine,
So Fortinbrasse was there. He wasn't somewhere out in the wilds of Norway, the "skirts of Norway" as Horatio termed it in Scene 1, (Scene 1#107,) where it could take weeks just to find him. Fortinbrasse was already present, close to King Norway.
Like Fortinbrasse was waiting in the next room for his cue to enter.
Makes vow before his uncle never more
Makes vow - Did they look behind him to see if he had his fingers crossed?
To give the assay of arms against your Majesty;
assay - trial. Test.
To give the assay of arms - to put (an issue) to the test of war.
Whereon old Norway, overcome with joy,
So happy that the poor, sick old man danced a jig and clicked his heels. It sounds like.
Gives him threescore thousand crowns in annual fee,
threescore thousand crowns - is the correct number. It is quite a large amount of money. It is such a large amount that it is the approximate annual revenue that Denmark receives through duties and taxes collected at Elsinore Castle.
in annual fee - in annual income from land value, that is, from the proceeds of land ownership. In the case of a government installation, that would be government revenue.
See the dictionary definition. The service Norway wants from Fortinbrasse, for him to earn that fee, is the restoration of the land to Norwegian sovereignty.
Claudius doesn't know that the land Norway means, for that fee, is the land Claudius is currently occupying. Claudius hasn't been King a year yet, far from it, and he hasn't "done his homework" to find out how much annual revenue Elsinore Castle produces.
Claudius is distracted by what Polonius said about Hamlet, so he isn't paying attention to any of this, anyway.
Gertrude recognizes the number, and the scheme, but says nothing. It doesn't surprise her. Oh, it isn't that Gertrude wants to lose Elsinore, far from it, but it's an outcome that seems inevitable under the circumstances, and she has therefore adjusted her priorities.
And his commission to employ those soldiers
commission - a royal commission, as in "commissioned officer." King Norway has named Fortinbrasse a general of the Norwegian Army.
So levied, (as before,) against the Polack,
Ok, so, first he was only pretending he was going to attack Poland, but the army was really for use against Denmark, but now he's not pretending, really he's not, and he's going to employ the army, that he really raised against Denmark, to really really attack Poland, and he really means it this time. And he can't pretend twice that he's going to attack Poland, because it's a rule that if you're going to pretend to attack Poland, you can only do it once.
So now, whew, it's a relief to know that he's really going to attack Poland, and not Denmark, with the army he raised against Denmark, and not Poland. Now we're all safe.
With an entreaty herein further shown,
entreaty - request. A nicely chosen word, in that it's a provision in the treaty. It's literally "in treaty."
That it might please you to give quiet pass
quiet pass - peaceful passage. Would now be called "safe passage," perhaps. Whatever call it, it's guaranteed in writing to be peaceful. Says it right there in ink, in fancy handwriting.
Through your dominions for his enterprise,
his - one supposes "Fortinbrasse's" but tracing back through the dialogue, one discovers it connects back to Old Norway.
Voltemand, himself, is attempting to speak this of Fortinbrasse. However, he has run on, and gotten a bit tangled in his phrasing, so that he has accidentally spoken the truth behind the facade. It is Old Norway's enterprise. Neither Voltemand, nor any of the other characters, catches what he actually said.
On such regards of safety and allowance
On such regards - under such conditions. Under such terms.
safety - security. The presumption is advanced that words on paper can create security.
allowance - (official) approval; license. Means license from Claudius is required, as a separate document, when the occasion arises. We'll see Fortinbrasse's Captain sent to get the license in Scene 15.
As therein are set down.
set down - written. Set down in writing; specified in writing.
(Voltemand offers the diplomatic agreement to Claudius, who waves it away)
We know Claudius refuses to take the agreement now, from what he goes on to say. He wants to hear about Hamlet, rather than deal with paperwork.
Claudius: It likes us well,
likes - pleases. Claudius phrases statements as if it's up to everyone, and everything, else to respond to him.
It's a happy agreement, as Claudius sees it, thus, being a happy agreement, it smiles, so to speak, and from the smile he can see it likes him, and he says so.
Recall in Scene 2 Claudius saying Hamlet's agreement to stay at Elsinore, "sits smiling to my heart." When Claudius gets his way, as he believes, he pictures things smiling at him, and liking him. Not that Claudius is crazy, you understand. Which he is.
And at our more considered time we'll read,
more considered can be understood as "less hurried." Claudius wants to hurry on to whatever Polonius has found out about Hamlet. Claudius doesn't want to take time now to consider the diplomatic agreement.
The word "consider" is from Latin 'com-' ("with") + 'sidus' ("star,") so Claudius could be heard as saying this isn't the right time "with the stars" for him to examine the treaty. It's an astrological statement, at root. However, Claudius is expressing his personal desire. The fault is not in his stars, but in himself, as 'twere.
Answer, and think upon this business;
(read,) Answer, and think - Claudius, distracted by what Polonius said about Hamlet, is paying no attention to his phrasing. He has inadvertently revealed the truth, that he will glance at the proposed treaty, reply favorably to it, and think about it, oh, someday. As in "never."
Meantime, we thank you for your well took labor;
took - "take" is from late Old English 'tacan' ("to grasp.") The idea of "grasp" appears again.
Claudius is complimenting Cornelius and Voltemand for how well they grasped what they were supposed to do. In fact, they did not. They were misled by what Claudius said when he sent them on the mission, and they have done the wrong thing. Claudius doesn't remember, and he isn't paying attention anyway. He wants to hear about Hamlet.
Go to your rest, at night we'll feast together;
at night - tonight. Although, just the phrase at night sounds rather like "any and every night." There's the suggestion that Cornelius and Voltemand are his drinking buddies at night every night.
feast - which, for Claudius, will include consumption of a large quantity of wine.
Now, Claudius has both Hamlet and feasting on his mind. How much attention is he going to devote to that proposed treaty?
Most welcome home!
Smiles all around! What a great success!
Gertrude can't help but smile, too, but her smile is of a different kind.
(Claudius waves the Ambassadors toward the doorway to the Royal Apartments, and they exit that direction, to leave the agreement on Claudius's desk)
We know this both because of what Claudius said, and because of Hamlet's later entry after line 182.
Hamlet will enter stage left (the Lobby side,) so the ambassadors must exit stage right (the Royal doorway side,) so that Hamlet does not see them leave the Throne Room. If Hamlet saw the ambassadors leave the Throne Room, he would not enter.
The reason Hamlet will enter later is because he expects to find Claudius talking to the ambassadors, and Hamlet wants to find out whether his country is going to war.
Polonius: This business is well ended;
So they believe. It is hardly the end of the business for Fortinbrasse and wily old King Norway. They have managed to get an agreement under which the Norwegian army will enter Denmark unopposed.
My Liege and Madam, to expostulate [sic!]
Liege - Polonius's term is once again incorrect, and highfalutin, but he thinks it sounds appropriate.
expostulate - Polonius is trying to say that he accepts what he goes on to mention as postulates, as things to be taken for granted because they are self evident. He thinks expostulate has to do with stating postulates. He's trying to say that he won't bother with things that are self evident, as he goes on to state those very "self evident" things.
to expostulate - What Polonius means by that is "to state as postulates." But instead he has actually said, "to dispute vociferously," which makes it sound like, when there's time, he'd like to have a verbal donnybrook with Claudius over what "majesty" should be, why day is day, etc. Polonius does not mean that.
What majesty should be, what duty is,
majesty - Polonius gestures toward the King, and bows.
duty - Polonius places a hand over his heart, and assumes his most respectful, sober expression, as he plays "the dutiful man."
Why day is day, night, night, and time is time,
Polonius mentions more things he thinks aren't worth mentioning, for what he wants to talk about.
Were nothing but to waste night, day, and time;
Well, he hasn't wasted any night yet, but day and time are going by.
Therefore, since brevity is the soul of wit,
Polonius is inordinately fond of sayings, whether he appreciates what they mean, or not.
And tediousness the limns and outward flourishes;
limns - portrayals. The definition of "portrayals" or "depictions" is from the 1590s. The paraphrase here is guided by the meaning most pertinent to acting.
outward - external; visible. The part that shows.
flourishes - ornaments. Flourish is ultimately from Latin 'flos' ("flower.") We can be guided here by Shakespeare's overall vocabulary. See Sonnet 1.
... beauty's rose ... ... Thou that art now the world's fresh ornament, And only herald to the gaudy spring, Within thine own bud buriest thy content, ...
We see "flower" called "ornament," and ornamentation, in verbiage, is what Polonius is talking about. So we can understand flourishes as "ornaments."
The limns and outward flourishes can be called the "show" (of wit) according to what Polonius said. It's a subtle instance of the Putting on a Show Theme.
The structure of Polonius's argument, so far, is idiotic. He has recited the saying, brevity is the soul of wit, and followed up by saying tediousness is the "show" of wit. Per that, to show that you're witty, be tedious.
Polonius has argued, accidentally, that the reason he's boring is because he's smart. He isn't really trying to argue that, but that's the way the words came out as he tossed them around, trying to be rhetorically impressive.
I will be brief; your noble son is mad;
I will be brief - by which he means, following the above, that he will now display wit. In other words, he is now going to start saying smart things.
your noble son is mad; - So, immediately, he smartly says something that will offend the Queen.
Mad call I it, for to define true madness,
to define true madness - "to define real madness" or "to specify madness truly." Can be read either way.
What is it but to be nothing else but mad?
"For in the first place, I will inquire, what it is to be mad" - Horace, Book II, Satire 3.
Polonius has stated he calls it madness, because madness is being mad.
But let that go.
Some may not like it, but in an authentic performance of Hamlet, this line is immediately followed by a loud noise of flatulence from Polonius. Hamlet was written for the common stage.
Gertrude: More matter with less art.
Gertrude is telling Polonius to get to the point.
Correctly performed, when Gertrude speaks this line, she is waving her hand for air circulation. Polonius is a polluter.
Polonius: Madam, I swear I use no art at all;
art - artfulness. Trickery. That's what Polonius means, but art also has a definition of "skill," by which one may be amused at Polonius saying he uses no skill at all.
That he's mad, 'tis true, 'tis pity
Polonius has no actual evidence of it being true that Hamlet is mad. Polonius does firmly believe it, because he wants to believe it, in his own interest. He is, however, correct that Hamlet is mad, but it's luck that he's correct.
And pity 'tis, 'tis true, a foolish figure;
figure - There is indeed a figure, of rhetoric, in these last two lines, namely anadiplosis. That is not what Polonius is trying to say. He is unaware that he used any kind of figure of speech. Polonius is trying to say that Hamlet is a foolish figure, because of his madness, as Polonius, himself, babbles pointlessly like a fool.
But farewell it, for I will use no art;
This line is, again, followed by the flatulence noise.
farewell it - dismiss that; wave it away. One waves farewell. An embedded stage direction is implicit, when one does what Shakespeare said to do: "suit the action to the word." Most of those in the room are now waving, to try to dissipate Polonius's air pollution. Polonius, himself, waves here, not because he is sensitive to his own pollution, but to act farewell.
Mad let us grant him, then, and now remains
and now remains - everything. Polonius has spoken fifteen lines, and he still hasn't gotten to his point, or anywhere near it.
That we find out the cause of this effect,
This line is followed by a loud noise of flatulence.
effect - result. From Old French 'efet,' which became Modern French 'effet' ("result.")
Polonius is intending to speak of the cause that resulted in Hamlet's madness.
Or rather say, the cause of this defect,
Followed by flatulence from Polonius, again.
defect - From Latin 'defectus' ("failure.") Polonius is trying to speak of a failing of Hamlet's, namely his madness, of course.
For this effect defective comes by cause;
"Since this result was caused, to become a failing." Words to that effect.
Thus it remains, and the remainder thus:
Thus it remains - so it stands. That much is established. That much is behind us (as I continue.) Relevant root and meaning is Latin 'remanere' "be left behind."
the remainder thus - what's left (for me to speak of) is the following. Here the relevant root is more Old French 'remain-', the stressed stem of 'remanoir' ("be left.")
Polonius has used the same word, remain, to point in opposite directions: "left behind," and "left ahead."
perpend - literally "weigh thoroughly." From Latin 'per-' ("thoroughly") + 'pendere' ("to weigh.")
Actable by holding the hands out, palms upward, and moving them up and down in imitation of the pans of a scale coming into balance. One can use a scale to measure a weight, and beam-and-balance scales are of great antiquity.
I have a daughter, have while she is mine,
Yes, they all know he has a daughter. Polonius makes it sound as if he's giving Ophelia up for adoption.
Who, in her duty and obedience, mark,
Polonius is trying to emphasize how dutiful and obedient he is, to the King, and his family is, to him. Ergo, they are all dutiful, and obedient, to the King.
Hath given me this, now gather and surmise:
given me this - Polonius is lying. Ophelia certainly did not just give her father her love letter. Do we not know people at all? We know better than that.
(Polonius displays a letter)
Prominently, for all to see. Polonius wanted tangible proof of Hamlet expressing love for Ophelia, because, after Hamlet's behavior as Ophelia described it, Polonius does not know what Hamlet might say now if questioned directly. Would he say anything? Ophelia said he remained silent the last time she saw him.
To the celestial, and my soul's idol,
celestial - heavenly. In other words, an angel. Hamlet chose a poetic way to call Ophelia his angel.
idol - an idol is an image. Ophelia's image is "graven" in Hamlet' soul, one might say. Impressed in his soul, that is. It's a bit reminiscent of the Second Commandment:
Thou shalt make thee no graven image, neither any similitude of things that are in heaven above, neither that are in the earth beneath, nor that are in the waters under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down to them, neither serve them: for I am the Lord thy God, a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, ... [Geneva wording]
Hamlet's soul's idol way of expressing himself is iffy for a student of Wittenberg, or any Christian, but he is being poetic in love, in the most high-flown language at his command.
(Polonius reads the letter)
Polonius wants tangible proof, on the record, that Hamlet has expressed love to Ophelia.
the most beautified Ophelia . . .
Hamlet means beautified by nature. She is naturally lovely.
Hamlet may also be making an allusion to the Homily on the State of Matrimony which speaks of how a woman can be beautified before God:
[II:18.1-187] ... O woman, doe thou the like, and so shalt thou [II:18.1-188] be most excellently beautified before GOD and all his Angels & Saints, [II:18.1-189] and thou needest not to seeke further for doing any better workes. (http://www.library.utoronto.ca/utel/ret/homilies/bk2hom18.html checked 05/27/2015)
The Homily on the State of Matrimony is in "The Books of Homilies" which provided sermons to be read in English churches. There were two books, both fully in print by AD 1571. (Another homily, or sermon that is, deals with idolatry, by the way.)
Going by the Homily, Hamlet would be referring to the prospect of Ophelia - to whom he has proposed marriage - being "most excellently beautified before God."
Which Polonius indignantly calls vile, as he proceeds. This is known as a misunderstanding.
That's an ill phrase, a vile phrase,
an ill phrase - a bad phrase. The word ill is From Old Norse 'illr' ("bad.")
vile - cheap. From Latin 'vīlis' ("cheap.")
Polonius has misunderstood. He thinks Hamlet meant Ophelia is beautified by cosmetics, that she is a painted woman, which implies a woman of negotiable virtue. Polonius deeply resents such a statement about his daughter. However, if the old fool would pause and think, on the point of whether Ophelia paints her face, he would realize the answer is "no," so Hamlet must mean something else. Polonius is reacting without thinking, again.
It is a nature v. art misunderstanding by Polonius. Hamlet meant Ophelia is beautified naturally, while Polonius thinks he meant she is beautified artificially. The Show concept underlies it. Show versus reality. Hamlet meant reality, but Polonius thought he meant "show," to express it in terms of the fundamental Show Theme of the play.
Polonius missed the actual ill phrase, or at least dubious phrase, which was "soul's idol."
(Polonius interrupts his own reading)
For a reason that has nothing to do with what he's trying to argue.
"Beautified" is a vile phrase, but you shall hear;
Polonius is deeply offended that Hamlet has called his daughter a painted woman. Polonius thinks. Hamlet has done no such thing, of course.
No, Polonius, Hamlet has not slandered Ophelia as a painted woman.
Thus, in her excellent white bosom, these, etc.
excellent white bosom - The play Frogs by Aristophanes contains the following lines.
A sweet pretty girl I observed in the show, Her robe had been torn in the scuffle, and lo, There peeped through the tatters a bosom of snow.
Polonius is unintentionally revealing that when he fought with Ophelia to take her love letters away from her, he tore her clothing in the scuffle.
Polonius phrases the line the way he does to try to include a compliment and recommendation of Ophelia's wifely characteristics. This is all about Polonius trying to get Ophelia married to Hamlet. Unfortunately, Polonius's remark is as maladroit as any one might encounter. It sounds perverted, to suddenly hear a father talking about his daughter's excellent bosom.
these - these words of love Hamlet wrote to Ophelia.
(Polonius demonstrates Ophelia handing him letters from her bodice, over her heart)
In action, for line 120, when Polonius says Thus he holds the letter to his heart, showing how Ophelia had it in her bodice. At these he taps the letter as he holds it to his chest, then at etc. he acts giving the letter to someone, as Ophelia giving it to him.
It's a lie. He had to fight her to get that letter.
How did Polonius know Ophelia had that letter over her heart? He didn't, but, sadly, she "told" him, via a natural human reaction. Think about how it would go, and you'll see.
Polonius held out his hand, and ordered, in a stern voice, "Ophelia, give me any love letters you've gotten from Hamlet!" Ophelia, dismayed, answered "No!" and put her hands protectively over her heart, where she kept her favorite letter, the one with the poem. It's a natural reflex. When Ophelia continued to refuse, and try to protect her possession of Hamlet's letter, Polonius took it away from her by main force, even tearing her clothing.
Polonius doesn't see himself as a mean man. He's arranging a marriage for Ophelia to Hamlet, which he's sure will make everyone happy, when it all works out. Ophelia will understand, and appreciate what he's accomplished, later. He's sure.
Gertrude: Came this from Hamlet to her?
Gertrude doesn't like the sound of what she's hearing. Does Polonius have her son's private correspondence?
Over the span of her three decades as Queen, Gertrude has had offenders flogged for less than the theft of a royal family member's correspondence. However, Gertrude is human, and she is also curious to hear what the letter says.
Polonius: Good Madam, stay a while, I will be faithful;
be faithful - keep faith. Be true.
Polonius is not being true as he evades the question. He does not want to admit to the Queen that he has misappropriated her son's love letters, and especially not before he gets them "on the record."
We are treated to the sight of a government official saying, "I'll be honest . . . later."
Doubt that the stars are fire,
"The man is either mad, or making verses." - Horace, Book II, Satire VII, Line 117.
Doubt that the sun doth move,
Pertains to competing astronomical theories of whether the earth is the center of the universe, or not. Essentially, Ptolemy versus Copernicus. This line suits a university student of the time.
Doubt truth to be a liar,
Reminiscent of Sonnet 138:
When my love swears that she is made of truth, I do believe her, though I know she lies, ...
But never doubt I love.
Hamlet, himself, will make her doubt, later, in Scene 8, the Nunnery Scene.
Oh, dear Ophelia, I am ill at these numbers,
ill - unwell; unable to do well; bad.
these numbers - verses like this. However, Hamlet is too modest, in this case. That sweet little verse is superb, it is obviously an inspired effort. We see the fact that Ophelia inspires Hamlet, with all that that implies.
It expresses Hamlet's feelings for Ophelia that he doesn't see his writing as good enough for her.
I have not art to reckon my groans,
art - skill. Expressive ability.
reckon - recount; express. With a verse being a "number," the word "recount" is perhaps the better paraphrase.
groans - inarticulate sounds that express emotions, including love. Groans is not literal. Hamlet is using it to mean "love pangs."
But that I love thee best, oh, most best,
most - is simply used as an intensifier.
Believe it, adieu.
In the next Scene, when he is lying to her, Hamlet will assert that Ophelia should not have believed him.
Thine evermore, most dear Lady,
Whilst this machine is to him,
machine - body. Machine goes back to a meaning of "device" or "contrivance," and was originally a broader term than it is now. Hamlet casts himself as the spirit, or soul, within the machine of his body (while he lives.)
Observe that Hamlet promises himself to Ophelia while he lives, but we know, from what Hamlet has stated, that Hamlet expected Gertrude to be faithful to King Hamlet after King Hamlet was dead. The discrepancy, or one might say hypocrisy, does not seem to occur to Hamlet.
Polonius speaks the name with stress, and a tapping of the paper. He now has it on the record, in the Royal Court, that Hamlet has written an expression of love to Ophelia.
This, in obedience, hath my daughter shown me,
Polonius is still lying, of course. He is attempting to impress upon Claudius how dutiful and obedient he and his entire family are, in any way that might serve the King. However, there is no chance Ophelia said to her father, "oh yes, father, please do take my love letters, and read them all, and show them to the King, and wave them around in public, because I am your own obedient daughter, fully aware of my duty, thus I gladly surrender my most precious love letter to you for this high and noble purpose."
And more above, hath his solicitings,
above - Polonius is holding the letters high, to display them. The word above is an embedded stage direction.
solicitings - entreaties. Wooings.
As they fell out by time, by means, and place,
Polonius basically means, as he chanced to get hold of the letters, now and then, by hook or by crook, and here or there. So he claims. But he must have found all of them, except the one he read, by searching Ophelia's room. Polonius isn't going to admit that. He's concerned it would sound too autocratic, and not like something a loving father would do. Yeah.
All given to mine ear.
given - ironic, since Polonius stole the letters.
ear - actually "eye." Polonius means he read them. Perhaps he read them out loud, and heard himself.
The reason Polonius wanted the love letters is that they are tangible proof that Hamlet has expressed love for Ophelia. Polonius does not trust what Hamlet might say if asked directly. Polonius is trying to get Claudius involved, both as the King and as Hamlet's adoptive father, to make Hamlet marry Ophelia.
Polonius is doing this without knowledge that Ophelia and Hamlet are engaged to be married, a fact Ophelia hinted to Polonius in Scene 3, but which he missed because of his attitude. (See Scene 3#119 and its Note.)
Yes, Polonius is using subterfuge to try to force a marriage between two persons... who are engaged to be married. It's insane.
Claudius: But how hath she received his love?
A perfectly reasonable question. The answer is that she was thrilled, and happier than she has ever been.
Will Polonius say that in his reply?
Polonius: What do you think of me?
He did not answer the question. Why not?
Again, Polonius is on the verge of getting exactly what he wanted, which is the King's involvement to require Hamlet to marry Ophelia, and Polonius didn't answer Claudius's question, with the reply which would likely have set the whole business in motion, down the aisle and toward the altar.
The reason why not is because of how touchy Polonius thinks this situation is, politically. Hamlet was the clear favorite to become the next King, after his father died. It was astonishing that Claudius was chosen instead. Many might have preferred Hamlet.
If Polonius promotes his daughter's marriage to Hamlet, which will give Polonius himself a tie to Hamlet via the marriage, will Claudius see that as disloyal? Will Claudius see it that Polonius would have preferred Hamlet had become the King? Polonius worries.
Polonius asks what Claudius thinks of him because he is now worried that Claudius might think his loyalty to Claudius is in doubt.
There's even more. Polonius is also worried that Claudius, or anyone, might think he pushed his daughter toward Hamlet, hoping to entice Hamlet and trap him into marrying her. Polonius is worried that some, even the King and Queen, might think he's no better than a pimp. This is the issue, in particular, he goes on to address and try to quash. He speaks at such length on the issue, to try to defend himself against an accusation (that no one has made) of pimping his daughter, it raises suspicion about his state of mind. It almost sounds like he wishes he'd thought of it and tried it.
Then, if you really want to know, in authentic performance, before the common crowd, this line is correctly followed by a loud noise of flatulence from Polonius.
Claudius: As . . . of a man faithful and honorable.
Correctly spoken, there is a noticeable pause after As, as Claudius thinks what to say. In Shakespeare's day, the word "as" was pronounced as it is spelled. Ass. Claudius's immediate response is to the flatulence.
However, Claudius does want to hear what Polonius has to say about Hamlet, so Claudius promptly compliments Polonius to get him to continue.
faithful - Claudius credits Polonius with what Polonius said in line 122 above about being faithful.
Polonius: I would fain prove so, but what might you think
fain - gladly.
what might you think - Polonius is so worried that Claudius might think he acted improperly, he's getting badly sidetracked.
When I had seen this hot love on the wing,
hot - passionate.
on the wing - on the rise. Taking flight. Burgeoning. The wing figure of speech provides an instance of the Bird Motif.
As I perceived it, (I must tell you that,)
I must tell you that - even though I blush to mention that I did, because I am so humble, but my unfailing pursuit of the unvarnished truth demands that I inform you of how perceptive I have been, and therefore how invaluable I am to you. Says the government bureaucrat. As he lies.
Before my daughter told me; what might you,
Before my daughter told me - Polonius is lying. As we have seen, Polonius did not think it was love, he thought it was only Hamlet trying to seduce Ophelia.
Or my dear Majesty your Queen here think,
Polonius is patronizing the Queen. Not a wise move.
In correct performance, Polonius bows to Gertrude, emitting flatus as he does so.
If I had played the desk, or table book,
played - acted; acted like.
desk and table book - are inanimate objects, which merely stay as they are, and do nothing. Polonius has chosen an odd way to speak of doing nothing.
Or given my heart a winking, mute and dumb,
a winking - a nap. We still speak of a nap as "forty winks." Polonius means, what if he had let his feelings sleep, and so, not felt any motivation to do anything. It's also an embedded stage direction. Polonius closes his eyes.
mute and dumb - silent and speechless. It's on Polonius's mind that Ophelia told him Hamlet said nothing to her when Hamlet rushed to her room. Polonius is thinking about how he might have to overcome Hamlet's silence.
Mute and dumb is also an embedded stage direction. Polonius has a habit of acting what he says. After speaking the line, Polonius puts both hands, one after the other, over his mouth. Two words for not speaking, because of the desired action of two hands over the mouth.
Or looked upon this love with idle sight,
idle - puns with "idol," a word Hamlet used in his letter. Hamlet wrote that he looked upon his love, Ophelia, with "idol" sight, as 'twere.
However, Polonius means "vain." Idle is from Old English 'idel' ("empty;" "vain;" "worthless.") Can be heard as "indifferent," "uncaring."
BOOKMARK not done here
What might you think? No, I went round to work,
round - directly, is what he means in this context, with an additional implication of "briskly," "vigorously.". Polonius uses a "circular" word to express doing something.
It is characteristic that Polonius does things in a roundabout way. Observe that nowhere in all this does he even raise any hint of speaking directly to Hamlet.
The word round goes back to Latin 'rota' ("wheel,") so it's one of the "wheel" words in the play, which is worth noting because of the Wheel of Fortune Theme.
And my young Mistress thus I did bespeak:
Mistress - perhaps not the best choice of word after Polonius has spoken of Ophelia's excellent bosom. The word "mistress" could mean "kept woman" in Shakespeare's time. One is amused at Polonius.
thus - thusly.
bespeak - address. However, bespeak has an archaic definition of "engage," and if a person did happen to hear it that way, he would hear Polonius say he engaged his daughter. Given the strict theological view of Gertrude marrying Claudius as being incestuous, Shakespeare then tossed in some hints of incest here and there in the particular choice of words in the dialogue. It is for amusement, not to be taken seriously. Polonius is trying to get Claudius involved to make Hamlet marry Ophelia, but in Polonius's speech Shakespeare gave him wording to sound a little like Polonius, himself, is engaged to Ophelia. Polonius has accidentally made it sound, a little, as if, when he saw the "hot love" of Hamlet for Ophelia, he "went round to work," and became engaged to his daughter, himself.
Lord Hamlet is a prince out of thy star;
out of thy star - outside the path where your guiding star can lead you. Out of your star's path. There is the astrological notion that a person has a guiding star. The idea of a person existing in a certain "social sphere" is essentially the same.
BOOKMARK consider ambiguity
This must not be; and then I precepts gave her,
This must not be - makes it sound like Polonius is against Ophelia marrying Hamlet. Sounds like Polonius is going to ask Claudius to keep Hamlet away from Ophelia, which is precisely the opposite of Polonius's desire.
In trying, so dishonestly, to present how forthright he has been, Polonius is in danger of totally misleading Claudius about what he wants done.
precepts - orders. However, precepts can also mean "maxims," and we have seen Polonius's propensity for sayings.
That she should lock herself from her resort,
lock - Informs us of why Ophelia is not present. Polonius has left her locked in her room. The reason why, is because of something she said when Polonius was fighting her to take away her love letters.
We know what Ophelia said, while trying to defend her possession of her love letters: "Father, if you take my letters, I'll tell Hamlet!" Of course she said that.
It wouldn't do, because Polonius is trying to arrange for Claudius to get involved, to make Hamlet marry Ophelia, before Hamlet finds out, and can say anything against it. So Polonius has left Ophelia locked in her room, locked from her resort to Hamlet, to tell Hamlet that Polonius has stolen her love letters from him.
We now know that Ophelia is locked in her room, weeping.
Admit no messengers, receive no tokens;
messengers - bringing letters from Hamlet.
tokens - tokens of affection. This anticipates the "remembrances" Ophelia will speak of in Scene 8.
Which done, she took the fruits of my advice;
Which done - yes, Ophelia did obey her father, though with a heavy heart.
fruits - gains; profits.
took the fruits of my advice - Polonius means, enjoyed the fruits, i.e. enjoyed the profits, from my (good) advice. Polonius says this with a smile. As a King's advisor, Polonius is assuring Claudius that he, too, will profit by Polonius's advice.
The truth is that for Ophelia it was a bitter harvest.
Polonius acts this line. He acts nearly all of them. At the conclusion of the line, Polonius looks a bit to the side, as if looking at an apple on a tree. He reaches out, and does a small tugging motion, as if picking the apple. He polishes the apple on his sleeve. He takes a big bite of the apple. He shows a delighted smile, and pats his stomach, to express how wonderfully good the "fruits of his advice" is. As he pats his stomach, with a big smile on his face, he emits a loud noise of flatulence (which Polonius, himself, does not notice.)
And he, repulsed, a short tale to make,
repulsed - repelled. Refused; denied. Repulsed contains within it the word "pulse," which makes it apt while discussing affairs of the heart.
tale - has a connotation of fiction. Polonius is, from here, going to just make things up, as he tries to provide a big conclusion to his presentation.
Fell into a sadness, then into a fast,
Fell - declined, from normal.
fast - Polonius acts this. Fasting means hunger pangs, which can be painful. Polonius adopts a pained facial expression, and he clutches at his stomach. While appearing to be in pain, and clutching his stomach, he emits a loud noise of flatulence.
Since the play is set in springtime, and Lent is a springtime observance, for Hamlet to fast would not necessarily imply love sickness, it would more likely imply he was observing Lent. But Polonius is just talking. (See Time of Year about Hamlet being set in the spring.)
Thence to a watch, thence into a weakness
Hamlet did indeed go to a watch, with Horatio and Marcellus, but Polonius knows nothing of that.
After his encounter with the Ghost, Hamlet did experience a great weakness, but again, Polonius knows nothing of it.
The Wheel of Fortune spins, and Polonius gets it right twice, in a way, purely by accident, without knowing a bit of what he's talking about.
Thence to a lightness, and by this declension,
lightness - witlessness. Foolishness, of the witless kind. Brainlessness. Compare how the phrase "light of brain" is used in Othello, Act 4 scene 1:
Othello: ... Sir, she can turn, and turn, and yet go on, And turn again; and she can weep, sir, weep; And she's obedient, as you say, obedient, Very obedient. Proceed you in your tears. Concerning this, sir — O well-painted passion! — I am commanded home. Get you away; I'll send for you anon. Sir, I obey the mandate, And will return to Venice. Hence, avaunt! ... You are welcome, sir, to Cyprus. Goats and monkeys! ... Lodovico. Are his wits safe? is he not light of brain?
Essentially, Polonius is once again calling Hamlet a foolish figure, as Polonius himself, once again, presents the figure of a babbling fool.
declension - deterioration, is what Polonius is trying to say. Mental decline.
Into the madness wherein now he raves,
Polonius is Putting on a Show to try to persuade Claudius, but the truth is that he has not seen any raving from Hamlet, nor heard of any.
And all we wail for.
Polonius reaches the conclusion of his presentation without ever stating what he is advocating, namely, the marriage of Hamlet and Ophelia.
Claudius: Do you think this?
Gertrude: It may be very like.
Polonius: Hath there been such a time, I would fain know that,
That I have positively said, 'tis so,
When it proved otherwise?
Claudius: Not that I know.
Polonius: Take this, from this, if this be otherwise;
The first this - his head, indicated by pointing, placing the tip of his index finger to the side of his head.
The second this - his body, indicated by placing his hand over his heart.
The third this - his contention that Hamlet loves Ophelia.
However, Claudius takes Polonius's meaning rather differently, because of something that happens, namely, Polonius's flatulence. BOOKMARK for me
If circumstances lead me, I will find
circumstances - goes back to Latin 'circumstare' ("stand around.") The circumstances are the facts or conditions that "stand around" the central issue. We see again how Polonius's methods are circuitous.
Where truth is hid, though it were hid indeed
hid indeed - hidden very much; hidden well. Deeply hidden.
Within the center.
center - Hamlet's heart, the center of his love. Polonius is claiming he can find the truth hidden in Hamlet's heart.
(You may elsewhere see an editor, or commentator, misinterpret this as referring to the center of the earth, which is a patently bizarre notion. What the center of the earth has to do with Hamlet loving Ophelia is, of course, nothing. Polonius is referring to the state of Hamlet's heart, as he attempts to argue that Hamlet loves his daughter. However, see the extended note.)
Claudius: How may we try it further?
Claudius is dissatisfied because he doesn't see Polonius's argument as pertaining to whether Hamlet is a threat to Claudius. That is still Claudius's overriding concern, the question of whether Hamlet is a deadly threat to him. Again, Claudius's worry about Hamlet stems from his own plot against his brother. How far would Hamlet go, to get the Crown?
So, Claudius wonders if Polonius can think of some further action, that might incriminate Hamlet. Claudius doesn't state what his true aim is. He's far less interested in whether Hamlet loves Ophelia than in whether Hamlet might try to kill him.
Polonius: You know sometimes he walks four hours together
four hours together - the entire length of a morning, or afternoon, session of the royal court. Polonius has noticed that Hamlet will be in the Lobby, sometimes, when a session of the court begins, and then, Hamlet will be there when the royal court session is adjourned. However, when he's in the Throne Room with the door closed, Polonius does not see whether Hamlet is constantly in the Lobby, or if he goes someplace else, and returns.
In any event, Polonius is referring to the entire length of a session of the royal court. It's a length of time corresponding to an ordinary workday afternoon, from 1 to 5 pm.
Here in the Lobby.
Lobby - the room where petitioners wait before seeing the King. It's a room accessible to the public. For the mnemonic, make it stage left from the Throne Room.
Gertrude: So he does, indeed.
Gertrude has observed the same about Hamlet, that he will be in the Lobby when a court session begins, and there when it adjourns (although she will not see whether he's there when the Throne Room door is closed.) As mentioned earlier, this confirms that when Gertrude orders R & G escorted to find Hamlet she waves in the direction of the Lobby.
Polonius: At such a time, I'll loose my daughter to him;
As opposed to keeping Ophelia "tethered." Recall what Polonius said to Ophelia in Scene 3 line 130-1:
And with a larger tether may he walk Than may be given you;
BOOKMARK address "loose" as "lose" as in give, in marriage. Spelling "loose" / "lose" was ambiguous
Be you and I behind an arras then;
Polonius is saying you to Claudius, but observe in the flow of the dialogue that the pronoun you actually points to Gertrude. It is a hint of the correct action in the Nunnery Scene, the next Scene. Polonius has inadvertently voiced an omen: Gertrude will be behind an arras. That is correct for the action in Scene 8, yes, she will be behind an arras, although not the same arras as Polonius.
Mark the encounter; if he love her not,
Mark - observe carefully; pay heed to. However, the ability to observe Hamlet and Ophelia will be severely diminished because Claudius and Polonius, behind the arras, will not be able to see them.
encounter - casual, unexpected meeting, is what Polonius means. However, encounter goes back, historically, to the meaning of a confrontation between adversaries, a hostile confrontation. That subtlety of the word is ominous for how the encounter between Hamlet and Ophelia will turn out, as we'll see in the next Scene.
love - It is vital to keep in mind what the eavesdropping setup is intended to prove. As Polonius plans it, the scheme is simply to prove Hamlet "madly" loves Ophelia.
Hamlet will talk to Ophelia, and in the course of his speech, he will say he loves Ophelia, with Claudius listening. After Claudius hears that, Polonius will be justified in urging Claudius to act as both the King, and as Hamlet's adoptive father, and make Hamlet marry Ophelia. That is what Polonius expects to happen.
And be not from his reason fallen thereon,
fallen - man's capacity to reason is by the grace of God. So, loss of reason is a "fall" from grace. Reason is a "high" quality; madness is a "low" state.
Let me be no assistant for a state,
assistant for a state - councilor to a king. Statesman.
But keep a farm and carters.
Polonius is speaking of being what Americans call a truck farmer, and what the British call a market gardener. The carters would be employed to haul the vegetables to market. This line provides an instance of the Gardening Motif.
Claudius: We will try it.
Claudius has had enough, in more ways than one, and wishes to conclude this.
(Hamlet enters, with a book)
Hamlet enters because he has heard the big news of the day. We all know what that news is: the ambassadors are back from Norway. News of their return has swept through the Castle. Hamlet expects that Claudius will be debriefing the ambassadors for an extensive length of time, as any worthy king would do. Hamlet has come to the Throne Room to listen, and find out if his country is going to war.
The quick return of the ambassadors implies diplomatic failure, a refusal by Norway to negotiate, leaving the ambassadors nothing to do but turn around and come back. Hamlet is expecting to hear of a diplomatic failure, and a continuation of the threat of war.
Hamlet was reading when he heard the news, and he has come directly to the Throne Room, still carrying the book.
By the way, a reasonable guess can be made as to what the book is. It is probably the Satires of Horace, and Hamlet is probably turned in particular to the third satire in the second book, the satire which argues that most men are mad.
In action, Hamlet steps a short distance into the room, say three steps, and stops, looking ahead, wondering why the ambassadors are not present. Hamlet was intending to stay to the side and just listen, anyway, but now he is wondering if he was misinformed about the ambassadors' return, or what. Hamlet is positioned very much toward stage left when he stops.
Gertrude: But look where, sadly, the poor wretch comes reading.
wretch - unlucky man. The meaning is a subtle instance of the Fortune Theme.
Gertrude feels sorry for Hamlet, but she does not think this situation will last very long.
In action, when Gertrude says this line, everyone looks toward Hamlet. Gertrude does not speak the line loud enough for Hamlet, well toward stage left, to hear her.
Polonius: Away, I do beseech you both, away;
Polonius panics at the sight of Hamlet. He recognizes instantly that if Claudius and Gertrude talk to Hamlet, one of them will inevitably ask Hamlet about the letters. One of them will say, "Hamlet, is it true what you wrote in those letters?" Hamlet will reply, "What letters?" Hamlet will then be told, "Your love letters to Ophelia that Polonius has. He read one to us, and showed us more. Is it true, what you wrote?" Hamlet will look at Polonius, and say, in a very displeased tone, "You have my love letters to Ophelia?"
Uh-oh. The jig will be up. But Polonius has not yet persuaded Claudius to get involved to make Hamlet marry Ophelia. Also, Polonius is sure Hamlet is mad, but he doesn't know how mad. Is Hamlet so mad, at that point he would exclaim, "You rat! Dead, dead for a ducat!" and then draw his sword and kill Polonius? If Hamlet is that mad, Polonius doesn't want to find it out, here and now. So, Polonius panics, and he begs Claudius and Gertrude to leave.
Polonius speaks this line in a low voice, and with his back turned to Hamlet, to prevent Hamlet hearing him, and wondering why Polonius says it. (There is staging information in this, in that Polonius must be able to turn his back toward stage left while speaking to the King and Queen.)
(Claudius and Gertrude exit, with their entourage)
This exit is, of course, impossible under any ordinary conditions. A servant asks a King to leave his Throne Room, and the King immediately gets up and does leave? Think about it. From the point of view of a King, other persons of his court, including his highest counselor, are still merely his servants.
I know this exit is impossible, and you know it is impossible (if you do think about it.) It absolutely will not happen under any ordinary conditions.
Shakespeare knew full well it was impossible . . . under ordinary conditions!
There is something very wrong in that room, after Polonius has been so gassy for so long.
One keeps in mind, amusement of the common crowd was one of Shakespeare's objectives in writing Hamlet. He had to do that to make a living. He achieved that objective, of common crowd amusement, much better than the historical Hamlet commentary has recognized.
Kindly pardon me for pointing out that the common crowd is amused by flatulence. Which produces air pollution, that is, an unpleasant smell. Should the atmospheric unpleasantness become bad enough, it is enough to make a person want to leave a room.
Claudius is not, of course, leaving just because a servant asked him to. A king would not do that. Claudius is leaving because he is finding the air in the room too polluted, by Polonius, to tolerate any longer. When Polonius said "away" it sounded to Claudius like the best idea he had heard all day. Claudius is exiting to go out to the courtyard and get some fresh air. Claudius does want very much to learn everything he can about Hamlet, but he has decided that being able to breathe is a higher priority at the moment.
In action, Claudius rises immediately after Polonius's "away" line, and walks briskly toward the Royal Doorway, stage right. Gertrude is close behind Claudius, and the rest of the court is close behind them. The departure is very brisk. Given the chance now, they are all eager to escape Polonius's air pollution.
Picture how all this looks to Hamlet. The Throne Room is large, and Hamlet is well to the side, stage left, and not in the center area where Polonius's air pollution is so overpowering.
Hamlet stepped into the room, intending to keep to the side and listen to Claudius debriefing the ambassadors. Hamlet stopped, just a short distance into the room, when he observed the ambassadors were not present, and he wondered why not.
Everyone in the room looked at Hamlet (when Gertrude said "look" and spoke of him.)
Now, everyone in the room rushes out the opposite doorway (except Polonius.)
Consider . . . you step into a room . . . everybody in the room looks at you . . . and they all quickly leave through the opposite doorway.
Hamlet of course thinks everyone is leaving because of him. That's how it looks to Hamlet. It appears to Hamlet that no one else, not even his mother, wants to so much as be in the same room with him. Except, good heavens, Polonius.
There's an old expression about an experience like that: "what's the matter with me, do I smell bad?" No, Hamlet, it isn't you, it's Polonius. But Hamlet doesn't know that.
I'll board him presently . . . oh, give me leave . . .
board him - address him; greet him. Accost him. From the nautical term board which means one ship coming alongside another. Board is a word on the ship concept in the play.
presently - at this present time. Now.
Polonius is now intent on having a friendly chat with Hamlet. Since Polonius now views Hamlet as his prospective son in law, he wants to be sure he's friendly to Hamlet. Also, Polonius wants to be friends with Hamlet so that if Hamlet does find out Polonius purloined his love letters, Hamlet won't kill him.
Doubly motivated, Polonius approaches Hamlet with a big smile, intending to have a nice, friendly chat with Hamlet. Polonius is not intending to speak of Ophelia to Hamlet, since Polonius has already made the eavesdropping arrangement with Claudius about that. This is to be simply a friendly chat.
give me leave - spoken to Claudius. However, Polonius's approach to Hamlet has taken long enough that Claudius has already left the room when Polonius says this. This is spoken after a passage of time, several seconds, following Polonius's word presently, as old Polonius has made his slow approach to Hamlet, who is still standing stage left.
Knowledge of the action is vital to understanding this. That is true of this entire passage. If you don't know the correct action, you won't fathom any of this.
So, again, Polonius approaches Hamlet to have a friendly chat with him. Just as Polonius gets within speaking distance of Hamlet, it suddenly strikes Polonius that he should not have spoken as he did to the King. It was improper for him to tell the King to leave.
Hoping to make up for what he did, Polonius exclaims oh, give me leave as he turns away from Hamlet toward the royal doorway, and bows. Polonius is afraid he's too late, but hopes to catch Claudius at the doorway, and show Claudius that he does know how to address the King properly, and bow properly.
When Polonius bows, he emits a blast of gas at Hamlet, while Polonius is bent over, about three feet from Hamlet, facing away from him.
Polonius doesn't have eyes in the back of his head, so that he could see Claudius was already gone. However, Hamlet can see beyond Polonius that Claudius has left, as have the others. It's only the two of them, Hamlet and Polonius, in the room now.
Therefore, Hamlet thinks Polonius was speaking to him, asking him for leave. Leave to do what? From Hamlet's point of view, Polonius was asking for leave to do what he proceeds to do: turn around, bend over, and gas him.
Hamlet thinks Polonius has walked up to him, with a big smile, and said to him, "oh, give me leave . . . to fart at you!" Taking leave for granted, Polonius proceeds to turn around, bend over, and do so.
That is what Hamlet thinks Polonius has done.
All Polonius knows he has done, is that he has tried to bow to Claudius, and speak more respectfully to the King. Polonius then sees that, as he feared, he is too late. Claudius has already left.
As Polonius stands again, he consoles himself with the thought that he did try. He tried to show his respect for the royalty.
Polonius then turns again to Hamlet, smiling, to have that friendly chat with him.
How does my good Lord Hamlet?
Spoken with the biggest, friendliest smile Polonius can muster.
Hamlet: Well, God a mercy!
God a mercy! - Lord have mercy! This means exactly what it says. The historical Hamlet commentary which will try to tell you that this is some kind of normal greeting is just plain foolishness. It is no such thing. Hamlet is exclaiming "Good God!" He is doing so for good reason, explained in the Note for line 185.
Polonius: Do you know me, my Lord?
Polonius did not hear the "good day, your lordship," or a similar phrase, he was expecting Hamlet to speak. Also, Polonius observes that Hamlet is staring at him strangely. Polonius wonders why. There must be a reason.
Polonius takes it for granted that Hamlet is mad. He has heard of cases where mad people do not recognize their own family, friends, and neighbors. Polonius hopes that's not the case with Hamlet, but he decides to check. He very very much wants his future son-in-law and good friend to recognize him.
The tone of Polonius's line is solicitous and a bit plaintive.
Hamlet: Excellent well, you are a fishmonger.
"... an order that the fishmonger, the fruiterer ..." - Horace, Book II, Satire 3.
fishmonger - merchants in Shakespeare's time did not have refrigerators and freezers to preserve their perishable merchandise. That includes the fishmonger. He could not freeze or refrigerate his fish. It is well known about fish that they go bad rather quickly, and also, that it is all too obvious when fish go bad.
The fishmonger, in Shakespeare's time, spent all day close to fish that were going bad. Did ordinary people bathe every day in Shakespeare's time? No, they did not. Did they do laundry every day? No, they did not. The "bad fish" smell permeated. It permeated the fishmonger's clothing, his hair, his very person. The fishmonger was a person you could recognize without seeing him, when he was upwind.
Hamlet is saying that Polonius is the source of a bad smell.
There's more. BOOKMARK for me
Polonius: Not I, my Lord.
Polonius does not understand what Hamlet meant, since people so quickly become accustomed to their own odor.
Hamlet: Then I would you were so honest a man.
Polonius: Honest, my Lord?
We are treated to the sight of a high government official saying honest as if he's wondering what that has to do with anything.
Hamlet: Aye, sir, to be honest, as this world goes,
Is to be one man picked out of ten thousand.
Polonius: That's very true, my Lord.
Hamlet: For, if the sun breed maggots in a dead dog, being a
a dead dog - Hamlet means, "which is what you smell like."
good kissing carrion . . . Have you a daughter?
Have you a daughter? - can be interpreted multiple ways, at least two of which are jokes.
One - 'You mean to tell me there was once a woman who let you get close enough to her that you have a daughter? Hm, it's now a proven fact that there was once a woman in Denmark who had absolutely no sense of smell.'
Polonius: I have, my Lord.
Polonius is delighted that Hamlet has spontaneously spoken of his daughter. He takes it as further proof that the Prince loves Ophelia and would marry her.
Hamlet: Let her not walk i'th sun; conception is a blessing,
But as your daughter may conceive, friend, look to it.
Polonius (aside): How say you by that, still harping on my daughter; yet he
still harping - always dwelling; constantly meditating. The latter goes along with what Hamlet said in Scene 5, (Scene 5#033,) "...with wings as swift | As meditation, or the thoughts of love ..."
It is true that Ophelia is very much on Hamlet's mind.
Associates "harp" with Ophelia. Angels in Heaven play harps, in the stereotype of Christian theology. However, to go to Heaven is to die.
knew me not at first, and said I was a fishmonger; he is far gone,
and truly, in my youth, I suffered much extremity for love, very
extremity - extreme emotion; intensity of emotion.
Much extremity - great or frequent distress, emotionally.
near this; I'll speak to him again.
near this - like this.
What do you read, my Lord?
Polonius is trying to make friendly chitchat.
Hamlet: Words, words, words.
Hamlet is not so inclined.
Polonius: What is the matter, my Lord?
Hamlet: Between who?
Polonius: I mean the matter that you read, my Lord.
matter - subject matter.
Hamlet: Slanders, sir; for the satirical slave says here, that old
satirical slave - probably Horace, Quintus Horatius Flaccus.
A theatrical reference to Horace is found in Poetaster, (acted 1601 by the Children of the Chapel,) by Ben Jonson, Act IV, scene III,
Dem. Alas, Sir, Horace! he is a meer Spunge; nothing but Humours and Observation; he goes up and down sucking from every Society, and when he comes home squeezes himself dry again. I know him, I. Tuc. Thou saist true, my poor poetical Fury, he will pen all he knows. A sharp Thorny-tooth'd Satyrical Rascal, fly him; he carries Hey in his Horn: he will sooner lose his best Friend, than his least Jest. What he once drops upon Paper, against a Man, lives eternal- ly to upbraid him in the Mouth of every Slave, Tankard- bearer, or Water-man; not a Bawd, or a Boy that comes from the Bake-house, but shall point at him: 'tis all Dog, and Scorpion; he carries Poyson in his Teeth, and a Sting in his Tail. Fough, Body of Jove! I'll have the Slave whipt one of these days for his Sa- tyrs and his Humours, by one casheer'd Clark or ano- ther.
Observe Horace called "satyrical" and a "slave." We need not take it that Hamlet is engaged in objective historical interpretation as opposed to contemporary theatrical interpretation, contemporary with Hamlet in Shakespeare's time, that is.
men have gray beards, that their faces are wrinkled, their eyes
purging thick amber, and plumtree gum, and that they have a
plentiful lack of wit, together with most weak hams; all which, sir,
weak hams - In action, Hamlet makes as if to kick Polonius in the backside.
though I most powerfully and potently believe, yet I hold it not
Hamlet called it "slander" although he believes it to be true. This reveals that Shakespeare was aware of a little-known subtlety of the law, which is that truth can be slanderous. The test of whether a slander has been committed is whether harm has been done (which is the same as the test for any offense. No harm no foul.) If a truth is told, not primarily to inform, but primarily to cause harm, it could indeed be slanderous. Such a case would be difficult to pursue, one expects.
honesty to have it thus set down, for yourself, sir, shall grow old
honesty - fairness. It is not fair to criticize one for what one cannot help, Hamlet is saying.
as I am, if like a crab, you could go backward.
(old) as I am - Polonius gets lost in what Hamlet is saying, and takes it that Hamlet means he believes he is older than Polonius.
Following this, Polonius thinks Hamlet madly believes young people are old. Polonius thinks age confusion is one of the symptoms of Hamlet's madness. We know this because of what happens at the entry of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, soon to come.
Polonius (aside): Though this be madness, yet there is method in't;
(to Hamlet): will you walk out of the air, my Lord?
air - draft. The Throne Room is large and drafty. Polonius has the conventional view that a person who is not feeling well should be in a warm, closed room, and kept out of drafts.
This line is, once again, followed immediately by a loud noise of flatulence from Polonius.
Hamlet: Into my grave.
'If I keep breathing this air, close to you! It's a killer!' Hamlet means.
Polonius (aside): Indeed, that's out of the air; how pregnant sometimes
pregnant - fruitful = productive, of meaning = meaningful. Recall Polonius's earlier claim about Ophelia, line 155, "she took the fruits of my advice." Polonius thinks his conversation with Hamlet is bearing fruit, so to speak.
Polonius is trying to be friends with Hamlet, and he hears Hamlet joking with him, he thinks. It's working! Polonius thought Hamlet's "grave" reply was a friendly witticism, the kind of reply a friend might make.
Pregnancy is on Polonius's mind because should his daughter marry the Prince, as hoped, and Prince Hamlet succeed to the throne as expected, their child, Polonius's grandchild, would be in line to become the King of Denmark.
Polonius, the least ambitious man alive, who asks nothing beyond the opportunity to be the King's most humble and dutiful servant, ha ha, is dreaming of being the founder of a line of Danish kings, who will owe their existence to the brilliance of their humble ancestor, the plain, simple, diligent, honest Polonius. If his eavesdropping scheme works out with Hamlet, that is. Ah, dreams.
his replies are, a happiness that often madness hits on, which reason
happiness - felicity. Cheerful, fruitful luck.
BOOKMARK for me, relocate this appropriately -- ["Felicity" is from Old French 'felicite' ("happiness,") and goes back to Latin 'felix' ("happy," "fortunate," "fruitful.")]
often - is an odd notion. Madness, by definition, is unproductive of meaning, and productive of quite the opposite, which is why it's called madness. But Polonius is counting himself lucky that Hamlet's madness is because of his daughter (so Polonius has firmly concluded, convinced primarily by the potential benefit.)
and sanctity could not so prosperously be delivered of; I will leave
'(reason) and sanctity - reason and righteousness.
prosperously - greater wealth is on Polonius's mind as he contemplates his daughter married to the future King. He is intending to speak of richness of meaning, but his thoughts are going beyond that.
be delivered of - his choice of phrasing reflects Polonius's hope for that future grandchild who will be born to inherit the Crown.
him and my daughter.
Polonius means he'll leave Hamlet with his thoughts of Ophelia. Polonius is sure Ophelia is on Hamlet's mind.
Also, Polonius, in his mind's eye, is picturing Ophelia standing beside Hamlet at the altar as they're married, and Polonius becomes the father in law of the future King. It's a dream so real, and so close, he can almost touch it, Polonius thinks.
So, Polonius speaks of Ophelia as if she is really there, which she is not. He sounds a bit mad (which is Shakespeare's intention for him, of course.)
(The difference that exists in the First Folio, as compared to the Second Quarto, in this immediate area of the dialogue should be disregarded. The Folio has an editorial blunder, resulting from a bad misinterpretation of what Polonius says in the Second Quarto, which the Folio editor felt needed correction. The Folio editor was wrong.)
(to Hamlet): My Lord, I will take my leave of you.
Polonius bows to Hamlet . . . and emits gas.
Hamlet: You cannot take from me anything that I
will more willingly part withal . . . except my life,
except my life, except my life.
(Guildenstern and Rosencrantz enter)
In that order. Rosencrantz is hanging back, because Claudius (in private) has told them Hamlet is mad, over the death of his father, and it worries R. to approach a mad person. He has the superstition that it's dangerous to be near a mad person, and certainly dangerous to touch a mad person, because the madness might be contagious. Guildenstern does not share that superstition, and he is walking toward Hamlet in a normal way, with a smile.
That is why the Second Quarto prints the entries of R. and G. out of the usual order. Generally, R. is named first.
This entry is from stage right, after they exited stage left, earlier. They have made an entire circuit of the Castle, looking for Hamlet. It's one of those situations where they just missed him. He was going out a door as they were coming in another door, or some such. So they have spent all this time searching, all around the Castle, and where do they find him? They find him standing right there in the Throne Room where they were when they left to look for him. They would have found him sooner if they had not looked for him, but had only stood where they were.
Brilliant work by Shakespeare. Isn't that just the way it goes, sometimes?
By the way, it's verified that R and G enter stage right, because they pass Polonius, as the dialogue reveals, and Polonius will assuredly exit through the Royal doorway, to stay as near as he can to Claudius. We can be confident of that.
Polonius: Fare you well, my Lord.
(Polonius starts toward his exit)
Hamlet: These tedious old fools.
Polonius concluded above, in his misunderstanding of what Hamlet said, that Hamlet had madly confused young and old. So here, when Hamlet says tedious old fools, Polonius thinks he means R & G, who are young men Hamlet's age, and who are now approaching, just in front of Polonius.
Hearing Hamlet, Polonius doesn't hesitate, or look back, he continues to look toward R & G, and he decides to speak to them.
Polonius: You go to seek the Lord Hamlet, there he is.
To know what he says in this line, Polonius must have been present on stage before Gertrude's line 037 above, even though that is before Polonius's entry as printed for the dialogue. As I explained in the note at the #07-034-SD stage direction, the dialogue entries are not directly marks of stage presence.
R & G are already walking toward Hamlet, who is standing there in plain sight ahead of them. Polonius supposes that since Hamlet just said they are fools, they may still need a little help. It does appear they're fools, since it has taken them so long to find Hamlet.
R & G give Polonius a look, as if to say, 'thanks a lot, except, where were you an hour ago when we needed you?'
Seeing Polonius speak to R & G after he said "tedious old fools," Hamlet is amused, realizes how he confused Polonius, and remembers it.
Rosencrantz: God save you, sir.
God save you - God bless you. Gesundheit, that is.
Rosencrantz heard a noise, as Polonius went by, and Rosencrantz thought Polonius sneezed. So, Rosencrantz said, "bless you." Yes, Polonius did make a noise, however, it was not a sneeze.
And the "air quality" forecast for the Throne Room becomes much more optimistic.
Guildenstern: My honored Lord.
G. speaks first because he arrives within conversational distance of Hamlet first, confirming the order of their entry as originally printed in the Second Quarto.
G. bows to Hamlet.
Rosencrantz: My most dear Lord.
R maintains a greater distance from Hamlet than G does.
R. also bows to Hamlet.
Hamlet: My extent good friends; how dost thou, Guildenstern?
extent - valued. Worthy, as in being worth an amount. The usage is legalistic, as in the phrase "writ of extent." It has a financial connotation, which implies that R and G can be bought. We've seen that Gertrude has promised them a reward. The Hamlet character, himself, doesn't mean anything as complicated as extent can be read to imply. We can take it he simply means "worthy" or "valued."
Shakespeare used the "valuation" meaning of extent in As You Like It Act 3 scene 1.
Duke Frederick: ... Well, push him out of doors; And let my officers of such a nature Make an extent upon his house and lands:
Observe in the dictionary definition, a "writ of extent" has to do with the Crown. Thus, the word extent has a subtle implication of R and G being in service to the Crown, King Claudius. It's another superb word choice by Shakespeare, wonderfully compatible with the situation. Hamlet doesn't yet suspect that about R and G.
In action, extent implies extending the hand. After R and G have done the formality of bowing to the Prince, Hamlet transitions to the personal level, as he extends his hand for a handshake.
It's another case where Shakespeare used a word which is profound in the dialogue, while at the same time being suggestive for the action.
(G. shakes Hamlet's hand)
G shakes Hamlet's hand with a smile. He has no hesitation about it.
Ah, Rosencrantz, good lads, how do you both?
Ah, Rosencrantz - Spoken with some surprise at R's behavior. R extends his hand, as if to shake, but then pulls it back. He then does the same again. He tries, but he can't bring himself to touch Hamlet.
R does a sort of "sawing" action with his hand, toward Hamlet, and then back again. This action by R leads to Hamlet saying "handsaw" later in this Scene, and then later, speaking of an actor who "saws the air" with his hands, when Hamlet is coaching the actors at the start of Scene 9.
Hamlet's a bit puzzled by R's behavior, for the moment, but he shrugs it off, and asks how they are.
(R. bows again, and does not shake Hamlet's hand)
This action is actually in the midst of the line above, just after Hamlet says "Rosencrantz." When R finds he can't bring himself to touch Hamlet, he does a proper bow, again. R is not trying to be rude. He can't help it.
Rosencrantz: As the indifferent children of the earth.
indifferent - ordinary. Typical.
R's word implies that there's nothing different going on with them, but there is, as we have seen. It is quite new that they should be summoned to serve a king.
children of the earth - Has a literal reference to natural persons, "in the flesh," as opposed to supernatural entities. They are neither cherubs nor imps from Hell. From the theological point of view the human body is "clay," of the earth, and in that way we are all children of the earth.
In mythology, the children of Tellus, the earth goddess, include Janus and Saturn. Tellus is mentioned in the 'Mousetrap' play dialogue, in Scene 9. The symbolisms, of Janus and Saturn, need more study in relation to Hamlet, especially in how well R & G might match up with Janus and Saturn, in some way or other. I do not yet know whether there's anything to that, or not.
Guildenstern: Happy, in that we are not ever-happy; on Fortune's cap
ever-happy - "eternally happy," which implies being in Heaven, which implies being dead. Guildenstern has chosen an interesting way of saying he and Rosencrantz are happy to be alive. It provides a subtle, roundabout instance of the Death Theme.
A difference in characterization is revealed. R said "indifferent" but G says happy. Shakespeare drew R and G with different personalities. G is more casual, and happy. R is more formal, and prim.
We are not the very button.
button - does not mean a button at the peak of the cap, like on a beanie. It means a decoration, or a badge, on the front of a cap.
An ornament, or badge, is sometimes still called a "button." A common example, in the U.S., is the political campaign "button" which is actually a pin-on badge.
With the idea of a button on a cap, Shakespeare is talking about an ornament, or a badge, on the front of the cap. The image, showing detail from the portrait of Sir Christopher Hatton, provides an example. Indeed, it provides more than one example, if we count the jeweled "buttons" that circle the cap. The singular "button" is the one at the front.
Likening oneself to such a button, on Fortune's cap, would be to describe oneself as "Fortune's ornament." In what Guildenstern says, he means that he and Rosencrantz are "not the very ornament of Fortune."
It was also sometimes the fashion in those days to wear emblems on the fronts of caps. That would be exactly analogous to a person wearing a campaign button on the front of a hat these days. If we take it that's what Guildenstern means, he is saying that he and R. are "not the very emblem of Fortune."
So, that's the idea. G. means that he and R. are not the very ornament of Fortune, or not the very emblem of Fortune, that She would display on the front of Her cap. (By the way, an interpretation you might find elsewhere, about a button on the top of a cap, is incorrect.)
Hamlet: Nor the soles of Her shoe?
There's an implicit pun. Hamlet feels like a "soul" that Dame Fortune is treading under foot, like the soles of her shoes.
Rosencrantz: Neither, my Lord.
Neither - not that, either.
Hamlet: Then you live about Her waist, or in the middle of Her favors.
Guildenstern: Faith, Her privates, we.
Hamlet: In the secret parts of Fortune; oh most true, She is a strumpet.
strumpet - Hamlet casts Lady Fortune as a strumpet because she bestows her favors first on one man, then another, indiscriminately. Lady Fortune is not faithful to one man, at least not for long.
Luck occurs at random, by definition.
There is an implication, which is not unintended by Hamlet, that the kind of fellows R and G are, they would have to purchase the favor of a woman. R & G do not catch that implication.
Same as the modern phrase, "what's new?"
Rosencrantz: None, my Lord, but the world's grown honest.
None - is not true. In addition to everything we already know about, later in this passage we will hear the news, from Rosencrantz, that a company of Players is on their way to Elsinore Castle to offer Hamlet their services. No news? R is such a dunce he cannot think to mention that offhand. It will be a while until it occurs to him.
the world's grown honest - is an abominable foot-in-mouth remark. Part of the news is, of course, that King Hamlet has died. R has made it sound like, the world's grown honest since your father died.
R is trying to express that he feels the world is treating him better, but the way he says it is a shocking faux pas. R is off to an almost hopelessly bad start with Hamlet.
Hamlet: Then is doomsday near, but your news is not true;
doomsday - Hamlet raises a fist in front of Rosencrantz's face, because of how R's remark sounded. Hamlet is sure R didn't really mean anything by it, but still.
Philosophically, and sociologically, the concept is that it would take the threat of imminent death, and Almighty Judgment, to make the world honest.
not true - In action, at this point Hamlet gives a backhanded wave of dismissal toward R, dismissing that "news," and Hamlet turns more toward Guildenstern.
Let me question more in particular: what have
question - inquire. Or just "ask."
more in particular - more specifically.
you, my good friends, deserved at the hands of Fortune,
deserved - earned; merited. However, in this case "suffered" is more to the point, since Hamlet takes it they have "earned" a punishment.
The paradoxical notion is presented that Fortune has done something to R & G intentionally. There are deep waters here, since events that look like luck in Hamlet are intentional from the author, but then, by what chance did Shakespeare come to write Hamlet, and by what chance did he elect to include certain concepts in the play, including the concept of Fortune, and by what chance did England, and the English language come to exist, and so how much of what does appear in Hamlet can truly be called intentional, since it could be viewed as one of the literary culminations of a billion years of undirected evolution by vertebrates on earth, and... down into those deep, murky waters we go. Best to avoid all that.
that She sends you to prison hither?
prison - Hamlet is informing R and G that he would be willing to talk about how confined he feels at Elsinore. Friends talk with friends about how they're doing, and how they feel. Elsinore Castle does have some resemblance to a prison, with the big stone walls, and the guards, and we know Hamlet's stay there is not voluntary, or at least it was not his idea to be there now.
Also, prison is on Hamlet's mind after the Ghost spoke of his "prison house" in Scene 5. (Scene 5#018)
Guildenstern: Prison, my Lord?
Guildenstern is curious about Hamlet's use of the word, and he inquires. That's normal.
Hamlet: Denmark's a prison.
Rosencrantz: Then is the world one.
Hamlet: A goodly one, in which there are many confines,
wards, and dungeons, Denmark being one o'the worst.
wards - In this sense, "ward" means a section of a prison. Goes back to Old English 'weard' which meant either a man who guards, or the act of guarding.
Kronborg Castle does, indeed, have a torturous dungeon. Shakespeare did not have to know that, to write these lines. It's a fact that he could have known, however.
It is not that Hamlet so dislikes the nation of Denmark, rather, he considers Denmark one of the worst "prisons" because its ruler murdered his father, according to the Ghost. Something like that would taint anybody's view of a place.
Rosencrantz: We think not so, my Lord.
Hamlet: Why, then 'tis none to you, for there is nothing
either good or bad, but thinking makes it so;
To me it is a prison.
Rosencrantz: Why, then your ambition makes it one;
ambition - out of the clear blue, for no apparent reason, R raises an accusation of ambition against Hamlet, or so it sounds. That cannot be R's own idea. We are learning some of what Claudius said to R & G in private.
Hamlet is surprised to hear such a statement from R. Where could that have come from?
BOOKMARK for me, examine Polonius and Reynaldo, versus Claudius and R & G, on the point of saying something and looking for a reaction. This, same as the Reynaldo strategy, basically.
It is too narrow for your mind.
Hamlet: Oh God, I could be bounded in a nutshell,
A person bounded in a nutshell would have to express himself in a nutshell. He would have to "put it in a nutshell," as the saying goes. Hamlet means, "If I were bound to put it in a nutshell..."
There is additionally the point that Elsinore Castle is sort of a "nutshell world," being a relatively small area with a hard shell in the form of the Castle walls.
The skull is a sort of nutshell, in a way. Hamlet can act this by putting his hands to his head.
And count myself a king of infinite space,
count - reckon.
Infinite space is as far as a person can see. With that phrase, Hamlet can be understood to mean, "as far as I can see."
More possibilities exist for interpretation.
Were it not that I have bad dreams.
Except I had that bad dream, which gave me a setback. The bad dream on Hamlet's mind is the nightmare he had between Scene 5 and Scene 6.
There is further the point that when persons you thought were your friends behave in an oblivious and unfriendly way, as if they don't care about you at all, it's like a bad dream.
Guildenstern: Which dreams indeed are ambition, for the
very substance of the ambitious is merely the shadow
of a dream.
Hamlet: A dream, itself, is but a shadow.
Rosencrantz: Truly, and I hold ambition of so airy and light
A quality, that it is but a shadow's shadow.
Hamlet: Then are our beggars, bodies, and our monarchs
and out-stretched heroes, the beggars' shadows;
shall we to the court, for by my fay, I cannot reason.
the court - the tennis court. Hamlet means, "instead of going back and forth with you like this, with words, we might as well go to the tennis court, and hit a ball back and forth."
I cannot reason - I cannot figure you out. Hamlet is wondering why R and G came up with "ambition" out of the blue, and are going back and forth with him about it.
(Both R. and G.): We'll wait upon you.
But Hamlet meant playing against them, at tennis. They have misunderstood. They somehow thought he meant going to the Royal Court, which is an idiotic blunder, because they already happen to be standing in the Throne Room. Where do they think the Royal Court is??
R & G are not bright.
Hamlet hears R & G volunteer to wait upon him, and he understands they must mean at the Royal Court. And that is what they are already doing now. This earns R & G a look from Hamlet, even a bit of a double take.
Hamlet: No such matter; I will not sort you with the
No such matter - no such thing; "I wouldn't hear of it."
sort - mix, in this case. Sort is one of those odd words in English which can have opposite meanings. Sometimes sort means "separate," and at other times it means "mix." Here, it means the latter.
rest of my servants, for, to speak to you like an honest
man, I am most dreadfully attended;
Hamlet means, 'by you two, here, at this time.' He's made it sound like he's criticizing his regular servants.
But in the beaten way of friendship, what make you at Elsinore?
Rosencrantz: To visit you, my Lord; no other occasion.
Hamlet: Beggar that I am, I am ever poor in thanks, but I thank
you, and sure dear friends, my thanks are too dear a halfpenny;
were you not sent for? Is it your own inclining? Is it a free visitation?
Come, come, deal justly with me; come, come, nay, speak.
Guildenstern: What should we say, my Lord?
Hamlet: Why anything but to the purpose; you were sent for, and there is
a kind of confession in your looks, which your modesties have not
craft enough to color; I know the good King and Queen have
sent for you.
Rosencrantz: To what end, my Lord?
Hamlet: That you must teach me; but let me conjure you, by the
rites of our fellowship, by the consonancy of our youth, by the
obligation of our ever-preserved love, and by what more dear a
better proposer can charge you withal; be even and direct with
me whether you were sent for or no.
Rosencrantz (to Guildenstern): What say you?
Hamlet: Nay then I have an eye of you? If you love me, hold not off.
Guildenstern: My Lord, we were sent for.
Hamlet: I will tell you why; so shall my anticipation prevent your discovery,
and your secrecy to the King and Queen molt no feather:
secrecy to the King and Queen - It's only the King, but R & G don't correct Hamlet. Gertrude wanted R & G to be company for Hamlet. She had no ulterior motive.
molt no feather - Young birds molt when they grow wing feathers to fly. Hamlet means, "so that your secrecy won't fly away, like a bird." It's on the concept of birds representing secrets, or carrying secrets. You're familiar with the saying, "a little bird told me." This is a clear instance of the Bird Motif.
I have, of late, but wherefore I know not, lost all my mirth,
forgone all custom of exercises, and indeed, it goes so heavenly with
my disposition, that this goodly frame, the earth, seems to me a
sterile promontory; this most excellent canopy, the air - look
you - this brave o'erhanging firmament, this majestical roof fretted
with golden fire, why, it appeareth no other thing to me than a foul
and pestilent congregation of vapors. What piece of work is a
man? How noble in reason, how infinite in faculties; in form and
moving, how express and admirable in action; how like an angel
in apprehension, how like a god! The beauty of the world, the
paragon of animals . . . and yet to me, what is this quintessence of
dust? Man delights not me, nor woman neither, though by your
smiling, you seem to say so.
Rosencrantz: My Lord, there was no such stuff in my thoughts.
Hamlet: Why did ye laugh then, when I said man delights not me?
Rosencrantz: To think, my Lord, if you delight not in man, what Lenten
entertainment the players shall receive from you; we coted them
on the way, and hither are they coming to offer you service.
Hamlet: He that plays the King shall be welcome: his Majesty shall
have tribute on me; the adventurous Knight shall use his foil and
target; the Lover shall not sigh gratis; the Humorous Man shall end
gratis - for nothing.
Humorous Man -
his part in peace; the clown shall make those laugh whose lungs
are tickled at the sere, and the Lady shall say her mind freely, or the
sere - dry; dryness. This is a reference to dry humor. The idea of dryness in humor goes back to Middle English. The notion probably derives from the Four Humors, since the melancholy temperament is the one associated with dryness. (See Wikipedia "Humorism.") Dry humor is delivered in a deadpan, or melancholy, way, as if the person is too melancholy to smile or laugh, himself.
black verse shall halt for it. What players are they?
Rosencrantz: Even those you were wont to take such delight in,
the tragedians of the city.
Hamlet: How chances it they travel? Their residence,
in reputation and profit was better, both ways.
reputation - fame; popularity. Repute.
profit - income.
Rosencrantz: I think their inhibition comes by the means
inhibition - prohibition. The word inhibition as used here is stronger than the mere idea of an obstacle.
by the means (of) - because (of.)
of the late innovation.
innovation - change in government, from King Hamlet to Claudius. The implication is that these Players were "The King's Men" under King Hamlet, but Claudius did not renew that patronage when he became the King. It's not surprising, since we've seen that Claudius's preference in amusement is for carousing while the cannons fire, and not for plays.
That directly explains why the Players are traveling to Elsinore to "offer [Hamlet] service," as Rosencrantz stated in line 316. The Players are in need of patronage, and wish to become "The Prince's Men." (Had Hamlet been chosen King, as everyone expected at first, the Players would be seeking to have Hamlet renew their status as "The King's Men.")
This is as close as R and G get to any reference to the death of King Hamlet, as Hamlet stands there in front of them wearing his mourning clothes.
Hamlet: Do they hold the same estimation they did
Hamlet is asking whether the public holds the Players in such high esteem as it once did.
estimation - valuation, by the public. The word estimation is rooted in Latin 'aestimare' ("to value.")
when I was in the city; are they so followed?
the city - Copenhagen.
Rosencrantz: No, indeed are they not.
Hamlet: How comes it? Do they grow resty?
resty - lethargic. Lacking in energy and motivation. Slothful.
This is a case where I use a word from the First Quarto. See the Folio Difference note for my explanation.
About resty as "slothful" consult this quote from Cymbeline Act 3 scene 6:
Belarius: ... Come; our stomachs Will make what's homely savoury: weariness Can snore upon the flint, when resty sloth Finds the down pillow hard. ...
That speech in Cymbeline particularly associates resty with "sloth." It's worth noting because sloth is one of the Seven Deadly Sins, all of which appear in the dialogue either expressly or by allusion. This understanding of "sloth" is by allusion, with special reference to Shakespeare's vocabulary.
The word resty also appears in Shakespeare Sonnet 100. See the Extended Note on that.
When resty is understood as "sleepy" it gives an instance of the Sleep Motif. Hamlet feels that he is a resty revenger, and he is wondering if the Players are somehow having the same problem with what they're supposed to be doing. Maybe slothfulness and sleepiness are going around.
Rosencrantz: Nay, their endeavor keeps in the wonted
endeavor - effort. At root, endeavor is a thematic word, on the Duty Theme, since it goes back to Old French 'dever' ("duty.")
keeps - continues.
wonted - accustomed. Usual. Customary. Wont goes back to Old English 'wunian' ("to be accustomed to.")
pace, but there is an aerie of children, little
pace - rate. We suppose that their wonted pace must be a lively, energetic rate of action.
an aerie - a lofty brood. A "high company," of children. Factually, an aerie is an eagle's nest, which is typically constructed in a high, inaccessible location. Social elevation of the children is implied. The children enjoy a high, protected status, for some reason.
eyases, that cry out on the top of question, and
eyases - nestlings (literally.) Youngsters. We were just told they're children, and Rosencrantz now casts them as the offspring of a hawk or an eagle. The eagle is often a symbol of the Crown.
cry out - sing.
on the top of - over and above. Beyond.
question - doubt.
Rosencrantz means that the youngsters can sing, beyond any doubt about it.
are most tyrannically clapped for it; these are now the
tyranically - oppressively, that is, in a way to oppress the competition. Can be understood as "favorably," in the sense of royal favoritism. Tyrants are oppressive, but they reward their favorites.
clapped - applauded. Approved. Implies "rewarded."
The figure of speech is "eyases." Observe that the mother falcon is a predatory "tyrant" of the air, who rewards her nestlings, with food, when they cry out. That should help with understanding these lines.
There is more than one hint that the children have royal sponsorship.
BOOKMARK incorporate this: . The boys, who were renamed Children of Queen Anne’s Revels, or just Children of the Queen's Revels, after the accession of James I in 1603,
fashion, and so berattle the common stages, (so they
fashion - latest fad. Fashion means what it still means to us, in ordinary language. Style, trend, "the latest thing."
berattle - loudly agitate; shake up, in a noisy way. Think of the child actors toying with the common stage the way a child plays with a rattle. The child actors treat the common stages as their plaything.
Shakespeare included mention of a child's rattle in Merry Wives of Windsor, Act 4 scene 4:
Mistress Page: Nan Page my daughter and my little son And three or four more of their growth we'll dress Like urchins, ouphes and fairies, green and white, With rounds of waxen tapers on their heads, And rattles in their hands...
call them,) that many wearing rapiers are afraid of
goose quills, and dare scarce come thither.
Hamlet: What, are they children? Who maintains them?
What - is merely a word used to introduce the question. It's idiom.
maintains them - provides the necessities for them. Clothing, food, etc. Apparently Hamlet supposes the children are not living with their parents.
BOOKMARK, Henry Evans, Henry Clifton, Children of the Chapel, Star Chamber, 1601, censure of Giles, etc.
How are they escoted? Will they pursue the quality no
longer than they can sing? Will they not say afterwards,
if they should grow themselves to common players, (as
it is likemost if their means are no better,) their
writers do them wrong, to make them exclaim against their
Rosencrantz: Faith, there has been much to-do on both sides,
and the nation holds it no sin to tar them to controversy;
there was, for a while, no money bid for argument,
unless the poet and the player went to cuffs in
Hamlet: Is it possible?
Guildenstern: Oh, there has been much throwing about of
Hamlet: Do the boys carry it away?
Do the boys carry it away? - Hamlet is asking whether the boy actors are "carrying the day" in the theatrical competition.
The line is quite interesting in relation to a tarot card picture that was available in Shakespeare's time. The image shows the World card of the Visconti-Sforza tarot deck, which was created in the middle to late 1400s.
The World card does show two "boys," cherubs, and they are indeed carrying "it" away, the "it" being the world. The world, on that card, is a castle by the sea, on an island. Elsinore Castle, the world of Hamlet, is a castle by the sea, on an island, since it's based on Kronborg Castle, which is exactly so. Further, notice that the "boys," the cherubs, have wings. One could see them as "little eyases," so to speak.
That card picture provides an intriguingly apt illustration for this line and the next, in the context of the fictional world of Hamlet. One might go so far as to conclude that Shakespeare had that picture in mind when he wrote these two lines. It is not impossible, since cards of that design did exist in Shakespeare's time, and had for over a hundred years. (Tarot was not used for fortune telling in Shakespeare's day. The fortune telling aspect arose later, in France, in the 1700s. Tarot was originally a card game, and was the direct ancestor of bridge. The bridge term "trump" comes from the tarot term "triumph.") Perhaps Shakespeare played tarot. If he did not, some of his wealthy patrons probably did.
It is also possible, since Shakespeare was such a brilliant writer, he could have "keyed" certain lines or speeches to certain tarot pictures which his patrons had, so that, when he told them about it, they would have illustrations, of a kind, for the play as they read it. Shakespeare had the skill with words to do precisely that, if he wished to. His wealthy patrons would presumably show their appreciation.
(It is, by the way, an absolute certainty that Shakespeare knew the Second Quarto was going to be published, and he provided a special manuscript for that purpose. That isn't even hard to prove beyond any reasonable doubt. It's an easy one.)
Rosencrantz: Aye, that they do, my Lord; Hercules and his load, too.
Hercules and his load - reference to the myth of Hercules carrying the world when he temporarily relieved the titan Atlas of that task.
Hamlet: It is not very strange, for my uncle is King of Denmark, and
those that would make mouths at him while my father lived, give
make mouths - make disrespectful faces. Sneer.
twenty, forty, fifty, a hundred ducats apiece for his picture
his picture (in little) - probably refers to the image of Claudius on a coin. As soon as Claudius became King, the mint began producing coins with a likeness of Claudius on them. That's only as expected. The image at right is of a groat with a depiction of King Henry VII.
twenty, forty, fifty, a hundred ducats apiece - is probably a statement that coins with Claudius on them are being traded for many multiples of face value.
In action, Hamlet can take a coin from his pocket, look at it, flip it, then put it away, as he says these lines.
in little; s'blood, there is something in this more than natural, if
s'blood - short for "God's blood," which is a mild bit of swearing. I paraphrase it as "zounds" which is not an exact equivalent, since "zounds" is short for "God's wounds," but "zounds" is a word that might be recognized these days. Oaths like "God's blood" are hardly ever heard these days.
something in this more than natural - it's probably natural enough, in the case of the "picture in little."
(if) philosophy could find it out
The implication of what Hamlet says is not a philosophical matter, however. It's a "market" phenomenon.
Apparently, buyers are bidding up the price of Claudius coins. When that happens, it implies scarcity, either current scarcity, or scarcity in prospect. The modern economic laws of supply and demand, and price points, were not formulated in Shakespeare's day. However, people of that era certainly knew that when there was scarcity, of an item people wanted, the price went up. Shakespeare knew that much, no doubt.
Hamlet has no "market experience," of the kind Shakespeare himself had, and of the kind ordinary people have. Hamlet is still a youth, and his academic studies haven't dealt with this issue, of scarcity and prices.
The implication is that there are persons who are paying huge multiples over "par" for Claudius coins, expecting scarcity of them in the future. How could that happen? Well, it could happen if few Claudius coins are minted, because Claudius isn't King for a very long time. What Hamlet says is "ominous" for Claudius, but Hamlet doesn't realize it.
The "smart money" in Denmark is betting that Claudius won't be King for very long.
(trumpets sound a flourish, as the Players arrive)
The Players do not get their playscript entry yet, because they are not yet supposed to move into position to participate in the dialogue. That is why the Second Quarto of Hamlet gives the Players only a "flourish" here, and not an entry. However, the Players are now onstage. They enter from stage left, the Lobby side.
Claudius and the court departed abruptly stage right, out the Royal doorway, immediately after line 184. There was no fanfare when Claudius left. The doorman and the guards outside the Lobby door did not know the King had left the Throne Room. Nobody told the doorman, and there was no sound to signify the King's departure.
The Players are entering under the impression the King is here in the Throne Room. The doorman has allowed them in as a special treat. They were hoping to give the King a pleasant surprise.
So, the Players enter in grand style . . . and discover King Claudius is not there. Hm. It is they who are surprised.
They do see Hamlet, of course. It will shortly be explicit in the dialogue that at least some of the Players know who Hamlet is. However, there is a protocol difficulty. Should they present themselves to the Prince before they have presented themselves to the King? Would that cause offense? The last thing they want is to cause immediate offense as soon as they arrive. The doorman thought the King was there. Has the King only stepped out for a moment? They don't know.
The Players don't know what to do. Therefore, they wait for guidance, looking mostly toward Hamlet.
Guildenstern: There are the players.
Informs the audience that it was not the royal flourish for Claudius, in case the audience did not already realize that. In the Throne Room, if one hears a flourish, one's first thought is that the King is entering.
Hamlet (to R. & G.): Gentlemen, you are welcome to Elsinore;
Recalling what Hamlet said a bit earlier, this is like him saying, "welcome to prison." R and G won't catch that implication.
your hands, come then, the appurtenance of welcome is fashion
appurtenance - a precise synonym might be "accessory," but I make it "facade" because Hamlet is speaking of Putting on a Show of welcome.
(G. shakes Hamlet's hand; again, R. does not)
Once again, Rosencrantz cannot bring himself to touch Hamlet. He cannot overcome his superstition, that Hamlet's madness might be contagious.
Rosencrantz holds his hand in the handshake position, and starts to extend his hand to Hamlet, but then pulls back before he touches Hamlet. He does that, oh, twice. This should be done quickly, not dragged out. Finding he cannot bring himself to touch Hamlet, Rosencrantz bows, again. R. is not intending to be rude; he can't help it, it's the way he is.
and ceremony; let me comply with you in this garb, lest my extent
to the players, which I tell you must show fairly outwards, should more
appear like entertainment then yours; you are welcome,
appear - another reference to the Show Theme. Hamlet is Putting on a Show for R & G, at the same time he's telling them that's what he's doing. They don't understand how Hamlet is putting them on, but they smile and nod, and do their best to react appropriately.
but my uncle-father, and aunt-mother, are deceived.
Guildenstern: In what, my dear Lord?
Hamlet: I am but mad north-northwest; when the wind is southerly,
I am but mad north-northwest - probably adapted from Chaucer, Parliament of Fowls.
In Parliament of Fowls, there is a vision in a dream, and the writing contains a curious line: As wisely as I saw thee north-north-west, when the poet is speaking of Venus. The planet Venus is not seen in the NNW from England - while one is awake. A person who, when he was awake, thought he saw Venus in the NNW, would be mad.
Shakespeare took Chaucer's line and changed the idea of "wisely" to "madly." Now, observe the dream element. It is the madness of dreams. So, what Hamlet's mad north-northwest line boils down to is...
Hamlet means, "I'm only mad when I'm dreaming."
There isn't a prayer R & G will understand that. Hamlet knows it. But if they want to run tell Claudius that Hamlet is "mad north-northwest" that's fine with Hamlet.
However, is Hamlet right about himself? Um... not exactly. It's a fact he's "touched," but he doesn't know that.
when the wind is southerly - Wittenberg is nearly straight south of Helsingor, as the image shows. This line of Hamlet's refers to R & G, in that they "blew in on a southerly wind," as the saying goes, when they came to Elsinore from Wittenberg.
I know a hawk from a handsaw - is an action line. (As are they all, but this is special.) Knowledge of the correct action is mandatory to understand this, so I'll describe the correct action here in the regular Note. (The Extended Note has some literary and topical discussion.)
The action begins in the previous line. When Hamlet says north-northwest he extends one arm to the side, and looks that direction, as if pointing at something in that direction (the actual compass direction does not matter.) He leaves that arm extended.
At southerly Hamlet extends his other arm, to point the opposite direction, and looks that way. He then has both arms spread, like a bird's wings. (It's also a "cross" body position, just by the way, like both Horatio and the Ghost did in Scene 1.)
Further, it is prerequisite to know that Rosencrantz did not shake Hamlet's hand, either when they entered, or when Hamlet gave him another chance. However, Guildenstern did shake Hamlet's hand, with a smile, both times.
I know a hawk - Hamlet, with his arms spread, flaps his arms like a hawk flapping its wings, and he smiles at Guildenstern. Hamlet is saying with his body language, "you are a good hawk. You saw my hand, and you came to it and shook it, like a well-trained hawk will 'shake hands' with his master." Guildenstern doesn't understand that, but he's amused at Hamlet's flapping, and he smiles back, and even flaps his own arms a bit in imitation.
from a handsaw - Hamlet abruptly drops his arms, looks at Rosencrantz, holds his hand in a handshake position, thumb straight up, fingers together, and does a jabbing motion toward R. like a worker using a handsaw to cut lumber. His jabbing action is fast, and far enough that he almost touches R. Hamlet is saying, with his body language, "I know you saw my hand, but you didn't shake it. You are therefore not a handshake, you are only a handsaw." Rosencrantz doesn't understand it, and he abruptly takes a step back, puts his hands to his midsection defensively, with a startled look on his face, thinking, "Gosh, he really is mad! He's trying to jab me!"
When Polonius heard the trumpets, he thought it was the usual fanfare for Claudius, and that the royal court was back in session. So, Polonius has rushed to the Throne Room, to serve the King.
Polonius (to the Players): Well be with you, gentlemen.
(a Player hands Polonius a playbill)
We know this because of what Polonius says later. When Polonius rattles off what the Players can do, while he's talking to Hamlet, the reasonable interpretation is that he's reading from a playbill.
Hamlet: Hark you, Guildenstern, and you too, at each ear a hearer:
that great baby you see there is not yet out of his swaddling clouts.
Rosencrantz: Happily, he is the second time come to them, for they say an
old man is twice a child.
twice - for the second time.
Hamlet: I will prophecy, he comes to tell me of the players; mark it . . .
prophecy - an instance of the Omen Motif.
You say right, sir, a Monday morning, t'was then indeed.
As Polonius gets close enough to hear, Hamlet pretends they were talking about something other than him.
Polonius: My Lord, I have news to tell you.
Hamlet: My Lord, I have news to tell you: when Roscius was an actor
in Rome . . .
Polonius: The actors are come hither, my Lord.
Hamlet: Buzz, buzz.
Polonius: Upon my honor!
Hamlet: Then came each actor on his ass.
Polonius: The best actors in the world, either for tragedy, comedy,
(Polonius reads from the playbill)
history, pastoral, pastoral-comical, historical-pastoral,
scene individable, or poem unlimited; Seneca cannot be too heavy, nor
Plautus too light . . . for the law of writ, and the liberty, these are the
Hamlet: Oh, Jephthah, Judge of Israel, what a treasure had'st thou?
Polonius: What a treasure had he, my Lord?
Hamlet: Why, one fair daughter and no more, the which he loved
Polonius (aside): Still on my daughter.
Hamlet: Am I not in the right, old Jephthah?
Polonius: If you call me Jephthah, my Lord, I have a daughter that I love
Hamlet: Nay, that follows not.
Polonius: What follows then, my Lord?
Hamlet: Why, as by lot, God wot, and then you know, it came to
pass, as most like it was; the first row of the pious chanson will
row - verse. This is roundabout, and takes several steps to understand. First, the word row is defined as "a number of items in a line," so, dropping the prepositional phrases gives row = "number." Second, we saw earlier in this Scene, in Hamlet's poem, line 127, that "number" can mean "verse." By that, we get row = "number" = "verse." Thus, when Hamlet says row here, he means "verse," through the intermediary of his own word "number" earlier. It is perhaps an intentional little word puzzle from Shakespeare, for how to get from row to "verse."
pious chanson - religious song. Chanson is related to the word "chant" and is from French 'chanson' ("song.")
BOOKMARK for me, do I want "pons" here?? Dear Reader, please see the Folio Difference note.
show you more, for look where my abridgment comes.
(Hamlet beckons to the Players; the Players enter)
Hamlet: You are welcome, masters, welcome all; I am glad to see thee
well; welcome good friends; oh, my old friend, why, thy face is valanced
since I saw thee last, comest thou to beard me in Denmark?
What, my young lady and mistress, by lady, Your Ladyship is
nearer to heaven, then when I saw you last by the altitude of a
chopine; pray God, your voice, like a piece of uncurrent gold,
be not cracked within the ring; masters, you are all welcome;
we'll into it like friendly falconers, fly at anything we see;
friendly - gregarious; indiscriminate; promiscuous. Overly-friendly, a meaning which we know from the phrase that follows, "fly at anything." (The word "French" which appears in the First Folio version of Hamlet is probably a joke on the stereotype of French promiscuity.)
fly at anything we see - is a cue for a dance routine. "Suit the action to the word," as Hamlet will tell the Players, about how to perform a play. A correct performance of Hamlet is required to do exactly that, at this point.
Upon saying this line, Hamlet turns to the audience and spreads his arms, like a bird spreading its wings. The Players hurry to line up with him, three on each side of Hamlet, and they also spread their arms. (We can estimate a total of seven performers from the amount of space required. Seven people, allowing six feet for each, is just over forty feet, which was about the width of the Globe Theater stage, as best we can tell now.)
When lined up, with their arms spread, the performers all look slightly upward, as if seeing something in the sky. They then flap their arms as if flying. The flapping is done in a graceful, timed way, in unison.
It is a color display "chorus line" type of routine, which relies heavily on the colorful costumes. In addition to being colorful, Elizabethan costuming had big, bloused sleeves, which show well when the arms are flapped. Further, there is mention in the play of Hamlet's cloak, and the Players' costumes can include cloaks. Grasping the edges of the cloaks, and spreading the cloaks while flapping the arms, gives an even larger display.
Try it yourself. You will find that the basic moves are very simple and easy. Stand straight and spread your arms. Look slightly upward. Flap. Now turn about 45 degrees left, as if seeing something else to fly at. Flap again. Turn 45 degrees more to the left, so that you're side-on to the audience, and flap again. Turn back to the right 45 degrees again, and flap again. Etc. Turning to 90 deg. left, and then to 90 deg. right, and then back to center takes eight flaps, which does not take very much time. (I say "45 degrees" because I believe most people will find that angle easy to do. Professional performers can, of course, work out a sophisticated routine.)
So, Hamlet and the Players flap and turn, first one way and then the other, in unison, like a flight of exotic birds. Again, costuming is very much "the thing" here, as the routine shows off their bright, fancy garb. Hamlet, in the center, is in black, but the Players can be in red, green, blue, yellow, or whatever looks good. Make it colorful and flashy. Since this routine is basically simple arm work, the flapping of the arms, with no intricate footwork, it can be done by extras who are not professional dancers (and who therefore are much less expensive than professional dancers would be. By the way.)
According to the dialogue, there are trumpets, drums, and recorders available to accompany the routine.
Shakespeare was a showman. He did not just write playscripts, he did shows. One must keep that in mind to understand Hamlet.
Having done the "fly at anything" routine enough, which may be just a minute, (leave them wanting more,) the Players rush back into their dialogue positions, and Hamlet continues speaking.
As just described.
we'll have a speech straight, come, give us a taste of your quality,
Observe that Hamlet uses "royal" pronouns: we and us. Hamlet is speaking in "kingly" style, as he "commands" a performance. As mentioned earlier, the Players entered the Throne Room expecting to present themselves to the King. Hamlet knows that.
straight - straightaway; at once. Now.
taste - sample. The figure of speech is based on the idea of a performance being a feast for the senses.
quality - (high) ability. Distinction. "High status" as an actor. A person of quality is a person of high status.
Keep in mind that the Players have come to Elsinore to offer Hamlet their services, as Rosencrantz mentioned. So, Hamlet is asking for an audition.
This is quite a serious moment for the Players. We have been told of the difficulties that playing company is facing. If Hamlet doesn't like what they do, and doesn't agree to sponsor them, they're going to be out of luck. Failure here will probably mean the end of their company.
come, a passionate speech.
passionate - tragic and strongly emotional.
First Player: What speech, my good Lord?
Hamlet: I heard thee speak me a speech once, but it was never acted,
or if it was, not above once, for the play, I remember, pleased not
the million; it was caviary to the general, but it was, as I received
the million - the masses of people, humanity in general. In Shakespeare's day human populations were not yet thought of in billions.
caviary - like caviar. This is the adjective form of the word "caviar."
the general - the general public; people in general. It's another way of referring to the masses of common people.
caviary to the general - beyond the tastes of the public.
it, and others, whose judgements in such matters cried in the top
cried - sang.
cried in the top (of mine) - sang in the top vocal range, in other words, in harmony. Hamlet means others "sang in harmony" with him, when he "sang the praises" of the play.
of mine, an excellent play, well digested in the scenes, set down
digested - divided; arranged. The play had good scene divisions, that is, a good arrangement of distinct scenes. Digest is from Latin 'dīgerere' ("to divide.") Since digest is well known also to apply to food, this word helps cast a play as a feast for the senses.
set down - written. Recall Hamlet's line in Scene 5, "meet it is I set it down," where he meant he would write something down.
with as much modesty as cunning; I remember one said there
modesty - moderation; restraint; naturalness. From Latin 'modestus' ("moderate.") In Scene 9 when he will be coaching the Players, Hamlet will speak of "the modesty of nature," so we see he considers a restrained type of performance as the natural kind, which he prefers. By that, this word might be best paraphrased as "naturalness."
cunning - might be best paraphrased as "artfulness." In mentioning modesty and cunning Hamlet is talking about both nature and art, the natural versus the artful. Cunning connotes skill, as well.
were no salads in the lines, to make the matter savory, nor no
no salads - apparently means the play was "all meat." We understand why the play did not gain popularity. It offered "too much to chew on" for the average person.
savory - spicy. Hamlet will soon, later in this Scene, say of Polonius, "he's for a jig, or a tale of bawdry, or he sleeps." (Line 480.) The play had nothing to "spice it up," to hold the attention of those who weren't particularly interested in the subject matter.
matter in the phrase that might indict the author of affection,
phrase - phrasing; mode of expression; style. From Greek 'phrasis' ("style" or "speech.") Reference is to the style of expression. This, in context, offers a subtle instance of the Fashion Motif.
indict - charge; accuse. The style of the writing was not such that the author could be accused of . . .
affection - being affected. Pretension. Being false to his subject. This meaning is established by the word "honest" (true) which follows in the next line. The idea is that of being false versus being true.
There was nothing in the style of the writing such that the author of the play could be accused of being false to his subject matter.
but called it an honest method, as wholesome as sweet, and by very
honest - true. By contrast with the idea, in the preceding line, of affectation, which is a kind of falsity.
wholesome - healthy.
sweet - pleasant; delightful. Pleasurable. In the next Scene, Scene 8, Claudius will tell R & G to "drive [Hamlet's] purpose into these delights," meaning plays. So one could use the gloss of "delight" here.
much, more handsome than fine; one speech in it I chiefly loved,
handsome - naturally attractive.
fine - dressed up; fancified. Artificially attractive. We again get a contrast between the natural and the artificial.
chiefly - primarily. Hamlet loved that one speech the best, oh, the most best.
What is on Hamlet's mind to generate such phrasing as he has used in these last few lines? Look at his terms: "affection," "honest," "wholesome," "sweet," "handsome," and then "I chiefly loved."
Hamlet is wishing Ophelia was here. He's sure she would enjoy the Players, and he could introduce her to them, and have them do something for her. Hamlet is sure she would enjoy that. He's right, she would. But Ophelia isn't here. Sigh.
That's what produced Hamlet's phrasing. Ophelia is on his mind.
'twas Aeneas' talk to Dido, and there about of it especially, when he
Aeneas - a mythological figure, protagonist of the Aeneid of Virgil. Aeneas survived the fall of Troy, traveled to Italy with a stopover in Carthage, where Queen Dido fell in love with him with tragic results, and in Italy became the ancestor of the Romans.
Dido - Queen of Carthage. We are to hear the playwright's interpretation of Aeneas telling Dido about the Fall of Troy.
speaks of Priam's slaughter; if it live in your memory, begin at
Priam - the elderly last King of Troy, who was killed when Troy fell.
Priam's slaughter - Hamlet wants to hear about the killing of a king. That is, of course, a subject very much on Hamlet's mind, in more than one way: the death of King Hamlet, and Hamlet's desire to kill King Claudius.
live in your memory - the phrasing is a result of Hamlet's thoughts of his father, of course, thus Hamlet's phrasing as he wonders if the Player remembers the speech.
this line, let me see, let me see:
The question arising whether it lives in Hamlet's memory.
The rugged Pyrrhus, like the Hyrcanian beast . . .
Pyrrhus - also known as Neoptolemus, in Greek mythology, was a son of Achilles who killed the Trojan king Priam during the fall of Troy.
Hyrcanian beast - the Caspian tiger, now extinct. Hamlet likens Pyrrhus to a predatory beast. "Hyrcania" (or perhaps more properly "Hyrkania") is the ancient Greek name for the area southeast of the Caspian Sea, which the Greeks called the "Hyrcanian Sea."
The Hyrcanian tiger is used for simile in Vergil's Aeneid. We take it that Hamlet, the university student, recalls the Hyrcanian tiger from his study of classic literature, namely Vergil. See the Extended Note.
(Hamlet begins to recite)
In action, when Hamlet speaks of the tiger, he "claws" his hands, bares his teeth, and advances on Polonius to back Polonius up. Polonius, so intent on being friendly with Hamlet, was too close, and in the way.
'Tis not so . . . it begins with Pyrrhus:
'Tis not so - Hamlet did not really make a mistake. Hamlet acted "tiger" to move Polonius back.
Pyrrhus - a son of Achilles. He slew King Priam when Troy fell.
The rugged Pyrrhus, he whose sable arms,
rugged - bestial; brutish. The word rugged is at root related to "ragged" and was originally used to speak of an animal that was not domesticated, or was not well cared for, so that it was rough and shaggy. The general category of meaning is therefore "animal." It means Pyrrhus was a "rough beast," a brute, so I use "brutish" in the paraphrase.
Compare Macbeth Act 3 scene 4:
Macbeth: What man dare, I dare: Approach thou like the rugged Russian bear, The arm'd rhinoceros, or the Hyrcan tiger;
Since "Hyrcan tiger" in that Macbeth quote apparently means the Caspian tiger, which is mentioned in this speech by Hamlet, Macbeth's phrase "rugged Russian bear" should be a good guide for the meaning of rugged in this line: a rough, aggressive beast, a brute.
sable arms - black armor. Also, the sable is a member of the weasel family, and weasels are nocturnal predators, generally speaking. The idea arises of a nighttime predator.
Black as his purpose, did the night resemble,
purpose - intent.
did the night resemble, - resembled the night. Pyrrhus, in his armor, was as black as night.
When he lay couched in the ominous horse,
couched - hidden. Or, "lurking" would be suitable as a synonym in this case. Couch is from Old French 'couche' which could mean "lair," and a lair is a place to lurk, or a place to hide. Compare Hamlet's line to Horatio in Scene 19: (Scene 19#188) "Couch we a while, and mark," when Hamlet wants to hide and watch.
ominous - foreboding, although the Trojans did not realize that.
horse - the Trojan Horse.
Hath now this dread and black complexion smeared,
complexion - coloration. Appearance. Character.
With heraldry more dismal, head to foot;
heraldry - a "coat" one might say. It's reference to how Pyrrhus was "coated," now, over his armor.
Indeed, historically, the "coat of arms" was once factually a coat, in that it was a tunic, or surcoat, embroidered with a knight's heraldic devices, and which the knight wore over his armor. The coat of arms was a coat for armor.
head to foot - one might be reminded of the Ghost's armor "cap-a-pe" that Horatio mentioned in Scene 2. (Scene 2#205)
Now is he total gules horridly tricked
total gules - (in) all red. Gules is the heraldic term for "red." We know in this case it's blood red. Heraldry has to do with ancestry, so the heraldic terminology is appropriate to who Pyrrhus is.
tricked - dressed. The word trick has been used to refer to dress since c. 1500.
The word, trick, that can mean "dress" can also mean "adorn." It may be that Shakespeare wanted tricked to be understood in a "contrary" way here, using the idea of "adorned," since "adorn" normally implies added beauty, but in this case the word tricked means added horror. Shakespeare often showed he liked the "contrariness" that the English language permits (such as being able to use "leave" in a statement about something remaining, etc.) So it could be the preferred synonym for tricked should be adorned in this case.
With blood of fathers, mothers, daughters, sons,
All of which will die, from among the characters, during the course of Hamlet. By the way.
Baked and empasted, with the parching streets -
Baked - either exactly as it says, or "scorched," "singed."
empasted - stuck on. Glued, glued on.
parching - very hot and very dry. The word "parch" is often used of thirst, and one might take it the streets were thirsty, in that the blood of the victims soaking into the ground made it look that way.
That lend a tyrannous and a damned light
To their vile murder - roasted in wrath and fire;
murder - slaughter.
roasted in wrath and fire - roasted factually by the fire, and figuratively by the wrath of Pyrrhus and the Greeks. Treated as hendiadys the phrase itself becomes entirely figurative: "roasted in fiery wrath." For that, we understand the city is ablaze because of the fiery wrath of the Greeks.
Wrath is one of the Seven Deadly Sins, all of which get mention in the dialogue, either expressly or by allusion.
And thus o'er-sized with coagulate gore,
o'er-sized - covered with sizing, that is, coated with size, which is a substance used to glaze cloth or paper. The idea expressed in the line is that of being glazed. Pyrrhus was glazed over with gore. (Sizing is applied to paper to control moisture absorption, for one thing.)
Sizing applied to paper before it's gilded is called "mordant," by the way, deriving from French 'mordre' ("to bite.") I note this offshoot because there's a Bite Motif in the play.
O'er-sized can also be understood as "enlarged." Viciously swinging his sword, killing anyone he comes upon, covered in gore, and backlit by the burning buildings, Pyrrhus looks larger than life. So the full meaning is both "glazed over" and "larger than life."
coagulate - coagulated. Clotted; curdled. One may recall the Ghost saying the poison, Hebona, caused his blood to curd. (Scene 5#073)
With eyes like carbuncles, the hellish Pyrrhus,
carbuncles - red gems. "Fiery" gems. Carbuncle is from Latin 'carbo' ("coal") + the diminutive suffix '-cule.' The literal meaning is "small (burning) coal." Historically, the word was applied mostly to garnets and rubies. Pyrrhus's eyes are reflecting the firelight from the burning buildings, so it appears his eyes, themselves, are fiery gems.
hellish - like a sight from Hell, and we may take it, with hellish thoughts of slaughter on his mind.
The name Pyrrhus can be taken to mean "flame-colored," based on the Greek prefix 'pyro-' ("fire".) Shakespeare followed through fully on the name in this passage.
Old grandsire Priam seeks;
Priam - King Priam of Troy, an old man at that time. He was the last King of Troy.
So, proceed you.
Polonius: 'Foregod, my Lord, well spoken, with good accent [sic] and
good accent - Polonius has just credited Hamlet with "good pronunciation." Well, he's trying to be friendly and complimentary.
good discretion! [sic!]
discretion - prudence. Decorum. Tact. Polonius meant "expression" or some such. He's doing his best to compliment Hamlet, to be as friendly as he can. He also uses what he supposes to be theatrical technical jargon, but it's just the wrong word. Polonius has complimented the "good decorum" of an enraged killer covered in blood.
Observing the subject of the speech, Polonius has called it "good discretion" where Pyrrhus is seeking to kill the king. Polonius doesn't realize the implication of what he said, that it's "very tactful" for Hamlet to want to slaughter Claudius.
First Player: Anon he finds him,
Soon Pyrrhus finds Priam.
Striking too short at Greeks, his antique sword
Striking too short - the idea is, swinging but missing. Old Priam was not able to move fast enough or swing his sword far enough, to hit the Greek attackers. Thus, Priam made only a Show of an attack. This is a subtle instance of the Show Theme (within the show the Player is doing for Hamlet, within the show of Hamlet itself. Wheels within wheels.) This is reminiscent of the sentinels in Scene 1 trying to hit the Ghost, but being unable to.
antique - old. Very old, like an item from a bygone era. For Priam, the time when he was a warrior is long in the past. His sword is from a "bygone era" in his life.
Rebellious to his arm, lies where it falls,
Rebellious - defiant. Based on Latin 'bellum' ("war.") It's as if Priam's old sword was at "civil war" against his arm.
lies where it falls - i.e. as we watch, he drops it.
Repugnant to command; unequal matched,
Repugnant - resistant, a meaning that is now archaic. From Latin 'repugnare' ("fight against, resist.") Can be taken as "in opposition." Old Priam's antique sword has betrayed him, one might say.
Pyrrhus at Priam drives, in rage strikes wide,
drives - rushes against. From Old English 'drifan' ("to rush against.")
rage - what it says, or "fury."
strikes wide - Age caused Priam to miss those he was trying to attack, but Pyrrhus missed because he was too furious.
But with the whiff and wind of his fell sword,
whiff and wind - perhaps best seen as hendiadys: windy whiff = gusty breath. One speaks of a breath of wind. Also, wind blows. This is a "blow" from a sword that missed.
fell - deadly. Ultimately goes back to the same origin as "felon."
The unnerved father falls; then senseless Ilium,
unnerved - both "discouraged" and "debilitated," by age. Merely to use a different word, "enervated."
senseless - lacking sense organs. The adjective is significant in advance of the next line.
Ilium - the Tower of Ilium. The keep. The last defensive stronghold of Troy. We take it to be a structure analogous to "The Core" of Helsingborg Castle, shown in the image.
Seeming to feel this blow, with flaming top,
Seeming - by chance, the coincidence is such that the tower appears to feel Pyrrhus's swing.
with flaming top - the tower is on fire, with flames shooting up at the top.
Stoops to his base; and with a hideous crash
Stoops - descends from its heights. Collapses.
his - its. The masculine pronoun serves for the neuter.
base - foundation. Street level.
The Tower card in some historical tarot decks, perhaps especially the Tarot of Marseilles, shows a tower on fire with its top falling. The Tarot of Marseilles design probably originated in northern Italy in the 15th century. It's one of the tarot designs that would have been available to Shakespeare, or his patrons. (Tarot cards were not used for fortune telling in Shakespeare's time. The tarot card game is the ancestor of bridge.)
hideous - shocking. Startling; frightful.
Takes prisoner Pyrrhus' ear, for lo, his sword,
Takes prisoner Pyrrhus' ear - captures his ear, thereby "arresting" him. By the way, this hints of how the resolution between Hamlet and Claudius is to be acted, in Scene 20. There, Hamlet must "capture" Claudius by the ear, and "arrest" him, that is, hold him in position.
Which was declining on the milky head
milky - white. Further, we may take it Priam's hair is long and, under the circumstances, unkempt, so it hangs down the sides of his head, like milk running down.
Of reverent Priam, seemed in the air to stick;
reverent - Priam is on his knees, as if praying. This anticipates Hamlet with Claudius in the Prayer Scene, Scene 10.
seemed in the air to stick - an odd sight, since the air is "woundless," as Claudius will observe in Scene 12.
So, as a painted tyrant, Pyrrhus stood,
The Players now begin to pose, as if for a painting.
And like a neutral to his will and matter,
a neutral - one who is uninvolved; one who is only an observer.
his will and matter - his mind and body; or, alternatively, his intention and its object. The phrase is deliberately ambiguous, for multiple meanings. Pyrrhus has stopped as if, oh, his spirit had stepped outside his body, leaving his mind and body unmoved, and unmoving. Or, one could see it as if Pyrrhus stopped as if, abruptly, he was uncaring about his own desire and the object he pursued.
Stopped entirely. Froze in position.
(the Players present a tableau)
When Hamlet is correctly performed, Hamlet and the players now present a tableau: "The Death of Priam." Pyrrhus stands over Priam, ferociously intent, sword raised. Priam kneels, hands clasped, eyes toward Heaven. Hecuba stands, hands to her head, mouth open, screaming (although the actor is silent for the duration of this tableau.) The other players are strewn around the stage, representing dead victims.
But, as we often see against some storm,
see - observe.
against - against the backdrop of. Or, "as a counterpoint to." Either meaning can apply, or both simultaneously.
A silence in the heavens, the rack stand still,
rack - clouds. Particularly, wind-driven clouds. Here, stopped because of the sudden calm.
The bold winds speechless, and the orb below
bold - boisterous, is probably a good equivalent.
speechless - mute, is the correct synonym, which we know because "mute" is a theatrical term we find in the play.
the orb - the world.
As hush as death, anon the dreadful thunder
hush as death - silent as death. The phrasing is ominous.
anon - in a short time. Soon. In this context, "quite soon."
dreadful - fearsome; awesome.
Doth rend the region; so after Pyrrhus' pause,
rend - crack. A crack of thunder. Or, "split." The thunder was ear splitting.
region - the "airy region," the atmosphere, where storms happen and birds fly. Compare Romeo and Juliet Act 2 scene 2:
Romeo: ... her eyes in heaven Would through the airy region stream so bright That birds would sing and think it were not night.
A roused vengeance sets him new a' work,
And never did the Cyclops' hammers fall
Cyclops - In Greek mythology, then later in Roman mythology, ancient giants who among other activities forged magical items for the gods. Hamlet seems to be original in crediting them with forging Mars's armor.
hammers - blacksmith's hammers; forging hammers.
fall - strike.
On Mars's armor, forged for proof etern,
Mars - the ancient Roman god of war.
armor - classically, depictions of Mars do not show him in armor, except a helmet. Immortal gods don't have a mortal's need for protection. The idea of Mars in armor seems again to be original with Hamlet. There is a point in relation to the play.
armor, forged - the notable armor is that of the Ghost, and "forged" can mean false, or counterfeit. It can be read as a hint of the Ghost not being the real thing. That is not what the Hamlet character is trying to say, and he does not realize the implication of his own words.
for proof etern - to pass the test of eternity, is one way to read it.
With less remorse than Pyrrhus' bleeding sword
remorse - restraint; pity. Remorse is from Latin 're-' ("back") + 'mordēre' ("to bite.") The notion is that of one's offenses "biting back" at one's conscience. As we see from the root, remorse is one of the "bite" words in the play.
bleeding sword - bloody sword, but so covered in blood that it drips, to look like the sword itself is bleeding.
Now falls on Priam.
Out, out, thou strumpet Fortune! All you gods,
strumpet - unfaithful creature.
In general synod take away Her power!
synod - assembly; council. From Greek 'synodos' ("assembly,") which could also mean a conjunction of planets. Since the mythological gods were associated with planets, the word synod is a perfect word choice by Shakespeare, correct in both plain meaning and root meaning.
Break all the spokes, and follies from Her wheel,
follies - is the right word. Removing the follies from Fortune's Wheel would prevent folly from afflicting mankind because of luck.
The word follies was obviously intended to suggest "fellies," which is the technical term for the arc-shaped pieces that make up the rim of a spoked wheel, as the dictionary definition says. However, Shakespeare was dealing with human concepts, he was not writing a technical manual for wheel design. The human concern is "folly." There is wordplay with "fellies," but follies is the correct word in the Hamlet playscript.
And bowl the round nave down the hill of Heaven
bowl - roll.
round nave - circular center. Makes Hamlet think of "round knave" = fat Claudius. We'll later hear Hamlet speak of sending Claudius to Hell.
hill - can give a picture of Heaven on a hill, or can be understood as "height." A hill is a height. There's a hint of the fall of Lucifer. The power of Fortune is cast as a devilish sort of power, which can destroy men, so, the call is for Fortune to be treated in a way similar to Lucifer.
As low as to the fiends!
fiends - demons, in Hell. Thus, the sentiment is, "to hell with Fortune."
Polonius: This is too long.
At least, it's too long for Polonius unless he's the one who's talking. Earlier, we heard him talk at greater length. In the earlier passage in this Scene, Polonius did most of the talking over the course of some ninety lines. The Player is just short of thirty lines here. It always makes a difference whether you're the one who's talking.
Hamlet: It shall to the barber's with your beard.
to the barber's with your beard - Hamlet is calling Polonius a child, who should be "seen and not heard." Children don't have beards. Thus, Polonius's beard should be removed, for him to be a proper child.
Polonius doesn't understand he's being told to "be seen and not heard," but it gives him something to think about. He's quiet while he does.
Being "seen and not heard" is the case with a "dumb show." Hamlet wants only a dumb show from the "child" Polonius, no dialogue from him. On the 'Putting on a Show' Theme, this line by Hamlet is a "dumb show" instance.
Polonius will not figure this out, except as far as Hamlet saying his beard needs a trim. An alert production of Hamlet will have Polonius with a shorter, neater beard the next time he appears.
(to the First Player): prithee say on, he's
for a jig, or a tale of bawdry, or he sleeps; say on, come to Hecuba.
jig - lively dance; or, musical number.
tale of bawdry - sexy story; naughty story.
sleeps - falls asleep, from boredom. Hamlet is saying that Polonius's tastes in entertainment are common.
Hecuba - Priam's wife, and the Queen of Troy. Hamlet wants to hear about the Queen. He will inevitably think also of Gertrude.
First Player: But who, ah woe, had seen the mabled Queen . . .
mabled - hurriedly dressed, as the Player will go on to describe in lines 485-488.
I paraphrase it as "disarrayed," to go along with the Queen being in disarray, and also being without her usual fine array of clothing.
NOTICE: The Player is not saying the same word Hamlet will say in the next line, although, given the lack of standardization in Shakespeare's time, the two words could be spelled the same.
Hamlet: The mobled Queen.
mobled - "moved good." Hamlet is not speaking the same word the Player spoke, he is speaking a homonym.
Hamlet heard the Player's word as a word based on moble = movable good. The past tense makes it "moved good." He thinks the Player said, in effect, "moved good Queen." That phrase, moved good Queen, makes sense. It describes good Queen Hecuba as emotionally moved.
(Moble is a Middle English word that refers to an item of personal property which is transportable. It's found in Chaucer and elsewhere, as cited in the Extended Note. In plural, mobles, it basically means a person's "movables," the items of various kinds that a man might take along when he moves.)
In relation to a queen, Hamlet is pondering the idea of his mother, Queen Gertrude, as a "moved good," a "good" that has moved from King Hamlet to Claudius. It's as though Gertrude is personal property to be traded from man to man. It's the idea of a woman as a chattel.
Hamlet mulls the word because he doesn't like what it implies. He doesn't like it that his mother has been treated, or has allowed herself to be treated, as a movable good, a chattel. (However, Hamlet doesn't know everything that's going on, and his point of view is subjective.)
Polonius: That's good.
That's good - Polonius is trying to be agreeable, to be friendly with Hamlet. He thinks Hamlet remarked "mobled" because he thought it was good. That's often why listeners remark things in a show. However, what Hamlet took from it was not good, viewed as an allusion to Queen Gertrude. In action, Hamlet will momentarily look askance at Polonius.
While giving Polonius a characteristic line, Shakespeare simultaneously provided us with a hint of what he used mobled to mean in Hamlet's speech. The word "good," in a sense, is indeed a part of how Hamlet took it.
First Player: . . . Run barefoot up and down, threatening the flames
up and down - back and forth, in panic.
threatening the flames - she was weeping so copiously you'd almost think the tears would drown the flames.
With bisson rheum, a clout about that head
bisson - blind, blinding. A reference to not seeing, not being able to see. Apparently goes back to Old English 'bisene' ("blind.") Shakespeare also used bisson twice in Coriolanus.
bisson rheum - blinding tears. Copious tears. As Hamlet called it in Scene 2, when speaking of himself, "the fruitful river in the eye" (Scene 2#082.) Rheum goes back to Greek 'rheuma' ("that which flows.")
a clout - a piece of cloth; a scarf. We may take it that the Queen wore a scarf tied around her head to keep her hair from getting tangled while she slept, and she is still wearing it. The point is the commonness of the ordinary scarf in contrast to how she is usually seen in public, wearing her royal crown. The humiliation of the Queen is a sad and tragic show.
Where late the diadem stood, and for a robe,
late - earlier. This is another of Shakespeare's clever "contrary" word usages, where he took advantage of the peculiarities of English to use late for essentially the opposite of the impression it gives, just seeing the word.
diadem - crown. Royal headdress. From Greek 'diadema.' Goes back to the term for the headband worn by Alexander the Great. Since Alexander gets mention in the play, in Scene 19, one suspects Shakespeare knew the history of this word.
for a robe - instead of her usual royal robe.
About her lank and all o'er-teemed loins,
lank - skinny, or bony, because of her age. Lank goes back to Old English 'hlanc' which could be understood as "empty," thus contrasting with the phrase o'er-teemed which follows it. "Lankness" is a kind of emptiness, while "teeming" is a kind of fullness. The line makes sense overall despite its internal conflict of concepts. English can be that way.
all - very; quite.
o'er-teemed - over populated. According to Homer's Iliad, Hecuba had 19 sons. By comparison with Hamlet's situation, we may take it that the question bothering Hamlet is whether Gertrude's loins were "over populated" in having only him. We did hear Hamlet at the end of Scene 5 complaining "that ever I was born," albeit his line there is better understood as an expression of disgust or irritation rather than actual regret about his birth.
loins - does not necessarily mean only the lower body, since, according to the Online Etymology Dictionary, "In Biblical translations, often used for "that part of the body that should be covered and about which the clothes are bound" (1520s)." Following the phrase "for a robe" in the previous line, the word loins here is probably best interpreted in the way of those Biblical translations. A queen's robe does cover the entire part of the body which is usually clothed. It appears Shakespeare knew the Biblical usage versus the common usage.
Royal robes are plush, and are worn with undergarments that add fullness to the appearance of the monarch. A blanket over a simple night dress would make her look much thinner.
A blanket in the alarm of fear caught up;
alarm of fear - fearful alarm; fearful outcry. The noise of people screaming in panic. This is probably best interpreted through hendiadys: alarm of fear -> "fearful alarm," even though the "of" is a preposition and not a conjunction as hendiadys generally requires.
caught up - grabbed.
Who this had seen, with tongue in venom steeped,
tongue in venom steeped - means "poisonous" speech. Viperous speech; malicious speech. Venomous language. There was a belief in folklore that vipers poisoned with their sharp, forked, flicking tongues. So, the idea of a tongue steeped in venom suggests a viper.
'Gainst Fortune's state, would treason have pronounced;
state - rule. Reference to how Fortune rules human events. Further, state suggests "state of things," which refers to the outcome brought about by Fortune, in the fall of Troy.
would treason have pronounced - would have advocated in favor of treason, against the rule of Fortune.
In Scene 20, when the turn of events results in Hamlet wounding Claudius, Hamlet will hear a cry of "treason" from the spectators, voiced against himself.
But if the gods, themselves, did see her then,
gods - the Greek gods, we take it, since the events recounted are in the time of the ancient Greeks.
When she saw Pyrrhus make malicious sport
In mincing with his sword her husband limbs,
mincing - chopping to pieces; hacking to pieces.
husband limbs - "husband's limbs," however, the phrase can be read in the singular, as it stands, as "companion limbs," since a husband is a companion.
The instant burst of clamor that she made,
instant - immediate, is the simple reading. However, instant is from Latin 'in-' + 'stāre' ("to stand,") so a playful writer could go by the Latin root to obtain a meaning of "stand in," which is a theatrical term. When Hecuba screamed, she did so on her husband's behalf, ergo she was "standing in" for him. I do not think Shakespeare was using only the simple, ordinary meaning here. Hecuba's burst of clamor was a "stand in" performance for Priam, who was dead and therefore unable to "go on." One might say.
burst of clamor - outburst of screaming.
Unless things mortal move them not at all,
things mortal - mortal events. Earthly goings on.
move - disturb.
Would have made milk the burning eyes of heaven
made milk - made weep; made cry. The word milk is probably used because of the Milky Way. We are to see the Milky Way as the tears of the stars weeping for Hecuba. Shakespeare did his own bit of myth creation here, it appears.
burning eyes - shining eyes. The shining stars. The stars are cast as the eyes of the heavens. Here, we take heaven as meaning "the heavens."
And passion in the gods.
And passion - And (would have made) passion. The phrase at the start of the previous line carries through. "And would have caused passion..."
passion - suffering. Same sense as in the phrase, "the passion of Christ." "Mortal agony." The phrasing is paradoxical, since the immortal gods cannot experience mortal agony, by definition, however, one supposes they could appreciate it through empathy. There is irony in that these gods would be the gods of the Greek pantheon, or perhaps, since history is written by the winners, the Trojans were children of lesser gods, now unknown.
Hamlet, in his desire to kill Claudius, might think of sneaking into Claudius's room when Claudius is asleep, and killing him. However, what Hamlet has heard here will dissuade him from trying that. Gertrude might be present, Hamlet fears, and might behave as Hecuba is described. Oh dear. That simply would not do. So, Hamlet scratches the possibility off his list. Hamlet will not try sneaking into Claudius's room at night to kill him while he sleeps. (With respect to plotting the play, Shakespeare used this passage to remove a possibility for Hamlet to kill Claudius. There is fine irony that the possibility of Gertrude being in bed with Claudius does not exist, but Hamlet doesn't know that.)
Polonius: Look whether he has not turned his color, and has tears in his
eyes; prithee, no more.
Hamlet (to the First Player): 'Tis well; I'll have thee speak out the rest of this soon;
(to Polonius): Good my Lord, will you see the players well bestowed? Do you
bestowed - lodged; housed. Based on Old English 'stōw' ("place.") The "house" meaning of "bestow" will appear again in the dialogue later.
hear? Let them be well used, for they are the abstracts and brief
chronicles of the time; after your death you were better have a
bad epitaph, than their ill report while you live.
Polonius: My Lord, I will use them according to their desert.
use - treat.
their desert - what they deserve. We now use the plural, "deserts."
Hamlet: God's bodkin, man, much better! Use every man after his desert,
Use - treat.
after his desert - according to what he deserves. We now use the plural, "deserts."
and who shall 'scape whipping? Use them after your own honor
scape - based on "escape," was a word in its own right, earlier in the history of English. It now requires the initial apostrophe, however, since it is now back where it was, as just an apostrophized form of "escape."
The word "escape" is probably from Vulgar Latin 'excappare,' which literally means "leave a pursuer with just one's cape." The idea is that an officer grabs a villain by his cape, but the villain slips off the cape and runs away, leaving the officer with nothing but the cape in his hand. This is worth noting since, with proper costuming, both Hamlet and the Players are wearing capes, or cloaks, as Hamlet speaks. Nothing major, just a little trivia on comformance of language to appearance.
after - according to; in accordance with.
and dignity; the less they deserve, the more merit is in your bounty;
Take them in.
Polonius: Come, sirs.
Hamlet: Follow him friends, we'll hear a play tomorrow -
Hamlet suddenly thinks, what play?
(to the Lad!): dost thou hear me "old" friend, can you play the murder of Gonzago?
Hamlet, calling to the Lad, says old to tease Polonius. This follows from Hamlet observing Polonius speak to R & G after Hamlet said "tedious old fools" in line 229. Hamlet couldn't care less if Polonius runs to Claudius and tells him Hamlet thinks young people are old. Indeed, that might be amusing.
There is also the point that an old friend is not necessarily an old person. Someone you've known since your first day of school could be called an "old friend" when you're both twelve.
The first part of this line, up to friend, is spoken loudly, when the Players, led by Polonius, have taken a few steps away. Hamlet thought of this at the last moment, just as they were leaving.
Hamlet beckons the Lad, who returns to him. The comma in the line marks the pause for that.
The second part of the line is spoken in the way normal for close conversation, or even quieter. Hamlet doesn't want Polonius to hear what he says to the Lad.
(Polonius and the Players stop)
They wait for the Lad, of course. Polonius will certainly not go off and leave the Lad after Hamlet just threatened him with a whipping if the Players are not well treated. Nor will the Players leave behind one of their own.
They've stopped far enough away that Polonius can't hear what Hamlet says to the Lad.
Lad: Aye, my Lord.
The Lad assures Hamlet that he is familiar with the Gonzago play, and can perform in it.
Hamlet: We'll 'hate' tomorrow night; you could, for need, study
hate - is exactly as spelled in the original Second Quarto publication. For plain reading, it is an abbreviation of "have it," done on the same pattern as changing "over" to "ore." However, "hate" is also a word in its own right, and Shakespeare probably intended that to be observed. The idea of "hating" tomorrow night is not auspicious. For that reason, I leave the original spelling in the dialogue.
All the Hamlet character means is "we'll have it (the play) tomorrow night."
a speech of some dozen lines, or sixteen lines, which I would set
This verifies that Hamlet is speaking to the Lad. A veteran actor would be insulted by such a question. Of course a veteran actor can learn a few lines on short notice, and Hamlet knows it. Hamlet would never ask such a question of someone like the First Player. Look back at how the First Player recited a long speech from a play that, as Hamlet said, was performed only once, if that, before the public.
In the case of the Lad, Hamlet is not certain, so he checks.
some dozen lines, or sixteen lines - this turns out to be two speeches of eight lines each, a fact which can be determined in Scene 9 simply by counting the lines in the Gonzago / 'Mousetrap' play, and looking for stanza. The Gonzago play was originally written in sestets, but two of the play queen's speeches are eight lines each. This further verifies that Hamlet is speaking to the Lad, since the Lad will play the queen in the Gonzago play.
down and insert in it, could you not?
(set) down - note down; compose. Make up.
Lad: Aye, my Lord.
The Lad verifies that he can learn a few lines on short notice.
Hamlet: Very well, follow that Lord, and look you mock him not.
Hamlet points at Polonius, and says this to the Lad in an overly stern, put-on way, but with a twinkle in his eye. Hamlet is cautioning the Lad about Polonius, as Hamlet, himself, mocks Polonius, in a way Polonius won't understand.
Hamlet knows Polonius will ask the Lad what Hamlet said to him, so Hamlet is giving the Lad permission to deflect Polonius's question. When Polonius inqures, the Lad will tell him, oh, something like, "the Prince was telling me to pay attention to what you say, because you're so wise." Or whatever the Lad wants to say.
To mock can be to imitate, so the further meaning can be found of Hamlet telling the Lad not to act like Polonius.
(Hamlet winks at the Lad)
My good friends, I'll leave you till night; You are welcome to Elsinore.
My good friends - is spoken to the Players, of course. I mention this explicitly because one may find the strange interpretation elsewhere that it's spoken to someone else.
(Polonius and the Players exit)
Rosencrantz: Good my Lord.
Rosencrantz speaks to get Hamlet's attention as he and Guildenstern bow to Hamlet, before leaving. With his attention on the Players, and his pleasure from their company, Hamlet forgot R & G were there.
(Rosencrantz and Guildenstern exit)
Strictly, this follows the word "you" in Hamlet's following line. However, one does not interrupt a line of dialogue by plopping a stage direction in the middle of it. The exit is forced to appear in print before Hamlet's line.
Hamlet: Aye, so goodbye to you; now I am alone;
Aye, so goodbye to you - spoken to R & G.
The comma after you marks a pause lengthy enough to accommodate the exit of R & G. Hamlet need not wait until R & G are completely out of the room before proceeding, but he shouldn't continue until they're at enough distance so we understand they don't hear him.
Oh what a rogue and peasant slave am I;
Is it not monstrous that this player here,
monstrous - unnatural. Monsters are unnatural, or, at least, are not typical of nature. From Latin 'monstrum' which could mean a portent, so, implicitly, this is an instance of the Omen Motif. If a creature had birth defects, and was a monstrosity, superstition took that as a bad omen.
Hamlet means "unnatural," in that it seems unnatural to Hamlet that a person could appear more worked up over fiction, as the Player appeared in his performance, than Hamlet can manage in reality. Isn't it more natural that reality ought to produce a greater reaction than fiction does?
But in a fiction, in a dream of passion,
a fiction - what it says. The Player's suffering was not real.
a dream of passion - a fantasy of suffering. Phrased as an instance of the Dream Motif.
Could force his soul so to his own conceit
force - fashion, voluntarily. Adjust.
his soul - his feelings. Were it love, Hamlet would speak of the heart, but for the full range of emotions, including terror, shock, etc., he speaks of the soul. The soul, or spirit, encompasses and expresses every emotion a person can know, in this cultural model.
so - so much.
his own conceit - his own imagination. His "take," on how to play the role. Conceit is a "take" word. Traces back to Latin 'capere' ("to take.") Acting jargon speaks of an actor's take.
That from her working all his visage waned -
her - Hamlet casts the soul as female since he is ascribing emotions to it, and in stereotype emotional displays are a characteristic of the female. Shakespeare clearly knew the stereotype is dubious at best, but it's a stereotype that does have its dramatic uses.
Tears in his eyes, distraction in his aspect,
distraction - mental distress. More specifically, in context, his look was that of horror, at the slaughter of Priam, and the terrified panic of Hecuba.
his aspect - his look; the way he looked. Also, his gaze. Both apply, the way he looked, and the way he was looking.
A broken voice - and his whole function suiting
A broken voice - a wavering, cracking voice.
whole function - entire performance. From Latin 'functionem' ("performance.")
suiting - "dressed," figuratively speaking. Reference to how the Player "dressed" himself in postures and actions. In theatrical terminology, how he "costumed" himself with moves and poses.
With forms to his conceit; and all for nothing,
forms - impressions, in the sense of doing an impression, in acting. Reference to posture or pose, style of moving, facial expressions, tone of voice, etc.
conceit - "take," in the acting sense. Conceit derives ultimately from Latin 'capere' ("to take.") His conceit = his take; the way he played his role.
nothing - nothing personal, no personal connection or involvement. Nothing that truly affected him.
What's Hecuba to him, or he to her,
That he should weep for her? What would he do,
Had he the motive and that cue for passion
motive - in context, "reason to be moved." There is reference to a moving performance. Further, "cause." Hamlet means both his cause, and his reason to make a moving speech. Hamlet feels he ought to be moved to get moving.
cue - prompting. Urging. Spur.
passion - great emotion, or in this case the display thereof. Derived from Latin 'pati' ("to suffer.")
That I have? He would drown the stage with tears,
Undoubtedly the Player, in Hamlet's shoes, could put on a moving performance, but the Player would still face the same fundamental difficulty Hamlet faces. Hamlet's cause is based on a ghost story. That is quite different from basing a performance on known history or great literature.
drown - flood.
And cleave the general ear with horrid speech,
cleave - literally "split," but here, more like "cleave through," meaning penetrate, get through, like an arrow cleaving the air. By comparison, in Scene 9 Hamlet will coach the Players to show restraint, and not speak in a way "to split the ears of the groundlings."
general ear - public ear. From Latin 'generalis' ("relating to all,") as opposed to 'specialis.' The general ear is the ear of all.
horrid speech - speech that would make the hair stand on end. Goes back to Latin 'horrēre' ("to stand on end," "to bristle.") Compare what the Ghost said to Hamlet in Scene 5, "I could a tale unfold whose lightest word | Would ... Make ... Thy knotty and combined locks to part, | And each particular hair to stand on end." (Scene 5#019 ff)
Make mad the guilty, and appall the free,
Make mad - excite; make frantic; provoke. In advance of what Hamlet decides to do, the last, provoke, is probably the best paraphrase. He will put on a play in hopes of provoking Claudius. Further, we have seen "stir" used in the dialogue, and "provoke" can mean "stir up." So when Hamlet speaks of making mad the guilty, we can take it he means provoking the guilty, stirring them up.
appall the free - shock the innocent. Appall -> Old French 'apalir' ("to turn pale.") Appall can mean "shock" because paleness is a symptom of shock.
Confound the ignorant, and amaze indeed
Confound - astound; dumbfound.
amaze indeed - utterly overwhelm, is what Hamlet means. However, amaze can also mean "perplex." How will it be for the audience when the Gonzago play is performed? Will they end up overwhelmed, or perplexed? Has Hamlet said more than he intended?
The very faculties of eyes and ears;
Yet I, a dull and muddy-mettled rascal, peak,
dull - not sharp; not keen. With no "edge." A word on the Edge Motif.
muddy-mettled - having an impure character or nature, tainted, like muddy water. Or, think of steel contaminated by slag. Earthy ("muddy") steel is not good steel.
rascal - Hamlet insults himself as a "low" kind of person.
peak - languish. Compare Macbeth Act 1 scene 3:
First Witch: ... I will drain him dry as hay: Sleep shall neither night nor day Hang upon his pent-house lid; He shall live a man forbid: Weary seven-nights nine times nine Shall he dwindle, peak and pine: ...
Like John-a-dreams, unpregnant of my cause,
John-a-dreams - "John who dreams," as opposed to taking action. "John" is merely the stock name for a male, and the character type is a daydreamer. Hamlet is speaking of a character type who daydreams instead of doing something productive.
unpregnant - unproductive. Not fruitful. There is also the idea of "not carrying." Hamlet feels he is not carrying the burden of revenge the way he should.
And can say nothing; no, not for a King,
And can say nothing - and can't bring myself to say anything.
not for a King - not even for a King.
Upon whose property and most dear life
property - the Kingdom. King Hamlet was the "proprietor," so to speak, of Denmark.
dear - both beloved and precious.
A damned defeat was made; am I a coward?
A damned defeat - as opposed to an honorable defeat, in a fair competition. A damnable defeat.
made - imposed; inflicted.
am I a coward - not entirely rhetorical. Hamlet proceeds to mull the possibility.
Who calls me villain, breaks my pate across,
breaks my pate across - breaks an object over the top of my head. A classic action in comedy theater.
Plucks off my beard, and blows it in my face,
Tweaks me by the nose, gives me the lie i'th throat
Tweaks me by the nose - a typical way of giving offense intentionally.
gives me the lie i'th throat - accuses me, to my face, of telling a malicious lie. Such behavior could lead to a duel.
As deep as to the lungs, who does me this?
The figurative "depth" of a lie was a measure of how serious it was. A lie from the lips was less significant than a lie from the tongue, and a lie from the tongue was less serious than a lie from the throat. Saying that a man had lied "from the lungs" was about as serious as an accusation could be, and a fight would result, for any man of honor.
who does me this? - Hamlet has suffered no such accusation, or such abuse, from Claudius, to justify Hamlet to take hostile, violent action. Hamlet is thinking how much easier it would be if Claudius would insult him to his face, in a manner that would justify a duel.
Hah, zounds, I should take it! For it cannot be
I should take it - both "I would probably take it" and "the way I am I ought to take it."
But I am pigeon livered, and lack gall
The gallbladder is an organ just beneath the liver, which stores and concentrates bile produced by the liver. "Gall" is another word for bile. Bile aids in the digestion of fats. Pigeons do not have a gallbladder, (nor do horses, or some other animals.)
In the ancient Four Humors theory of personality, gall (a.k.a. yellow bile) is associated with boldness. The gentleness and timidity of pigeons was ascribed to them having no gallbladder, thus no gall.
So pigeon livered - timid; not bold; not brave. A figure of speech based on the Four Humors theory, and on the anatomical fact of pigeons having no gallbladder.
To make oppression bitter, or ere this
to make oppression bitter - to feel oppression as a bitter situation. "Gall," in the previous line, can refer to "bitterness of spirit," which is a state of deep resentment. Hamlet is castigating himself, that he has not felt enough resentment to have dealt with the situation already.
However, the Geneva Bible says, in Acts 8:23, "For I see that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and the bond of iniquity." It implies that if, indeed, Hamlet were deep in bitterness, he would also be deep into sin.
Further, bitterness is associated with wormwood, a word Hamlet will use later, at the 'Mousetrap' play. I mention that merely as part of observing how concepts interconnect, and persist, or echo, through the Hamlet dialogue.
Bitter is related to the word "bite," a concept prominent in Scene 4, when Hamlet went to see the Ghost.
I should ha' fatted all the region kites
fatted - made fat; fattened.
kites - carnivorous birds; small members of the hawk family.
all the region kites - all the kites of the airy region; all the kites in the air. Region in this case can also be interpreted in a more down-to-earth way, referring to the realm of Denmark. All the region kites = all the kites in Denmark.
With this slave's offal; bloody, bawdy villain,
slave - Hamlet insults Claudius as the lowest class of person. It may be worth noting that in Shakespeare's time, the idea of being a slave to habit, or a slave to vice, did exist. Claudius is a slave to his drinking habit.
offal - carrion or viscera.
bloody - murderous. Murder is a "blood" crime even in cases of poisoning where blood is not shed. We recall the Ghost speaking of the effect of the poison, Hebona, on the blood. (Scene 5#069 ff)
bawdy - based on what the Ghost said about Claudius in Scene 5, from Scene 5#047 onward: incestuous, adulterate, lust, and lewdness are words the Ghost uses. But is it true?
Remorseless, treacherous, lecherous, kindless villain!
Remorseless - feeling no remorse, which is the same as having no conscience. This is a word to keep in mind, especially through the end of the Scene and Hamlet's decision about what he will try. Hamlet has just insulted Claudius as having no conscience. A play designed to catch the conscience would not work against such a villain.
treacherous - deceitful, and in this case with the implication of treason, since Claudius's brother was the King. BOOKMARK for me
This line is found in the First Folio version of Hamlet, but not in the Second Quarto, which has raised a question of whether it is authorial, or an actor's interjection. So, I address that point.
It is the 24th line after the short line "For Hecuba," line 530, and there are 24 lines after it to the end of the speech, at line 577. Such precise placement implies it is authorial, because one would not think an actor would take such care in locating his interjection. Shakespeare probably added this line, at some time after the Second Quarto manuscript went to the printer, to give the Hamlet actor an opportunity to pause and refocus, in the midst of a long speech, as the tenor of the speech changes.
In action, the Hamlet actor, upon saying this line, can pause with his fists raised, turn sharply and pace, or whatever he wants to do, that goes with the tone and occupies a little time, as he gathers himself to continue.
Why, what an ass am I! This is most brave,
That I, the son of he, dear murdered,
Prompted to my revenge by heaven and hell,
Must, like a whore, unpack my heart with words,
like a whore - like a low-class person inclined to verbal outbursts. There is a stereotype of whores that they tend to voice obnoxious, angry outbursts.
unpack - unburden, like removing the load from a pack horse. Middle English 'packe' meant "bundle." There is a connotation of "unbind." The concept is that of relieving the pressure, or the weight, on his heart, by "venting" with words.
And fall a-cursing like a very drab,
a very drab - nothing but a drab; nothing but a harlot.
A scullion; fie upon it, foh.
scullion - literally, a scullery maid, who would have been in those days one of the lowest class of workers. It implies a person who is uneducated, quite common, and not noted for intellect. In stereotype, such persons curse and complain in a nonproductive way.
In the original publications, both the Second Quarto and First Folio, in the Graveyard Scene, Scene 19, the word "skull" is spelled mostly with a 'k' but also with a 'c,' that is, "scull." Shakespeare probably chose to use the word scullion here because it can be understood to contain an embedded stage direction. ("Suit the word to the action.") Hamlet puts his hands to his head, his "scull." The action flows perfectly into the next line.
fie - for shame; phooey. It expresses disapproval.
foh - faugh. (That helped, didn't it?) It means phooey. Same as above, with a different word.
About, my brains; hm, I have heard
About - come about; turn a different direction; follow a different course. The original publications do not have a comma after About, allowing the interpretation of Hamlet asking himself about his brains, i.e. if his brain is working correctly. The idea is not irrelevant.
That guilty creatures sitting at a play
creatures - of God. Persons.
Have, by the very cunning of the scene,
very cunning - sheer craft. Sheer skill. One could say "insightfulness," since the idea Hamlet goes on to express is that of looking into a malefactor's soul, although that might be too leading.
Been struck so to the soul, that presently
struck so - attacked so much, figuratively speaking. Attacked so tellingly.
the soul - Here, same as the conscience, in that moral knowledge of right and wrong is credited to the soul.
presently - at that present time; immediately; at once; right away.
They have proclaimed their malefactions;
proclaimed - declared, publicly. Confessed, publicly. "Proclaim" is Latin 'prōclāmāre' ("to shout aloud," / "to cry out.")
malefactions - evil deeds. From Latin 'mal-' ("badly") + 'facere' ("to perform.") It's an "act" word.
For murder, though it have no tongue, will speak
For - Because.
With most miraculous organ; I'll have these players
Play something like the murder of my father
Before mine uncle; I'll observe his looks;
I'll observe his looks - I'll see how he looks; I'll observe his reactions.
I'll tent him to the quick; If he do blench
blench - cringe; recoil. Show that it hit a nerve, as more recent expression puts it.
I know my course; the spirit that I have seen
May be a devil, and the Devil hath power
May be a devil - yep, may be. (And jolly damn well is.)
devil - from Greek 'diabolos' which is literally "slanderer." Coincidentally (or not?) there is a Talk/Gossip/Slander Motif in the play. For instance, in the next Scene Hamlet will say to Ophelia, "thou shalt not escape calumny." Scene 8 #08-140
To assume a pleasing shape; yea, and perhaps,
assume - take on. One of the "take" words in the play. From Latin 'ad-' ("to" / "up") + 'sumere' ("to take.") The sense is that of misappropriation.
pleasing - agreeable; acceptable. Congenial. From Latin 'placēre' ("seem good.")
Out of my weakness and my melancholy,
Out of - working on; taking advantage of.
As he is very potent with such spirits,
potent - powerful. Reference to having great ability.
such spirits - Is deliberately ambiguous. Can be read either to mean spirits like the Ghost, or low spirits like Hamlet's state of mind. Hamlet is speaking of his state of mind, but Shakespeare phrased it so that we can find a reference to the Ghost, as well.
Abuses me to damn me; I'll have grounds
Abuses - misuses; misleads, in a wicked way.
grounds - a basis; a foundation, for belief. Something solid to work from.
More relative than this; the play's the thing
more relative - more related (to Claudius, himself, rather than hearsay.) More direct; more immediate (to Claudius, himself.) To use a figure of speech, "closer to home." Claudius being Hamlet's relative, Shakespeare's word choice is apt.
Wherein I'll catch the conscience of the King.
However, in line 553 above, Hamlet called Claudius "remorseless." Hamlet was engaged in insulting Claudius, obviously, but nevertheless, could that be true? Could Hamlet be right that Claudius does not feel remorse?
If Claudius is not a man who has a conscience, Hamlet's idea about the play is doomed to failure before it's even tried. One cannot catch a conscience that does not exist.
We must keep our eyes open for signs that Claudius does, or does not, have a conscience.
Feeling much better now that he has something to do.
In the performances of Hamlet by Shakespeare's company at the Globe Theater, this point was the end of the first day of performance.
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