In the Throne Room, Claudius speaks to R & G, who admit they were unable to find out anything important about Hamlet. Claudius and Gertrude are informed that Hamlet has arranged for a play performance.
Claudius asks Gertrude to leave, because he and Polonius have arranged to eavesdrop on Hamlet when Hamlet thinks he's alone with Ophelia, to ascertain whether Hamlet truly loves Ophelia, as a test of whether Polonius is right. Gertrude tells Claudius she'll obey - since there's no time to argue the point - and then speaks briefly to Ophelia. Gertrude then pretends to leave, but hides behind an arras to listen, when the others aren't looking.
Polonius gives Ophelia a book, and tells her to walk near an arras (different from the one where Gertrude is hiding) pretending to read. The show of that familiar activity is supposed to reassure Hamlet, and lead him to approach Ophelia and speak to her. Polonius makes an offhand remark, which accidentally catches Claudius's conscience, proving that Claudius does have a conscience, and that Hamlet's idea about a play has a chance of success.
They hear Hamlet's approach, and Claudius and Polonius hide behind the arras near Ophelia. When Hamlet enters, he doesn't see Claudius, and he takes it, as anybody naturally would, that Claudius isn't there yet for their meeting. Hamlet sees Ophelia, but doesn't approach her, as he ponders whether he's going to get a chance to kill Claudius now, and whether he should. Hamlet wants Ophelia to leave, as he certainly can't kill Claudius with her as a witness against him. While Hamlet says the "to be or not to be" speech, he is both waiting for Claudius, and hoping Ophelia will finish what she's reading, and leave. To Ophelia, as Hamlet stays at a distance, it appears that Hamlet simply doesn't want to talk to her.
After waiting for some time, Hamlet decides that Claudius isn't going to arrive for their meeting, and he then approaches Ophelia. Ophelia greets Hamlet in a strangely formal way, as if they were in the midst of a crowd at a formal gathering. Her greeting informs Hamlet that somebody must be behind the arras, listening, since she would never greet him in such a formal way if they were alone together.
Hamlet easily guesses Polonius must be behind the arras, since Hamlet knows he's so snoopy, and domineering over his daughter. Hamlet further surmises that Claudius may be behind the arras, as well, since he's supposed to be in the room at this time, according to his summons. But Hamlet naturally asks himself, why would they be hiding behind the arras?
Ophelia proceeds as she was instructed to do by her father, and she offers Hamlet the return of the keepsakes he's given her. Hamlet isn't supposed to take them back. Polonius is so sure Hamlet loves Ophelia, he thinks Hamlet will refuse the return of the keepsakes while expressing his love for Ophelia, for Claudius to hear. That will then justify Polonius insisting that Claudius get involved to make Hamlet marry Ophelia. Polonius will then have arranged the best possible marriage for his daughter, and will then have royalty in the family, and can count himself brilliant.
Hamlet takes it all wrong, however, and draws the tragically mistaken conclusion that the same thing has happened with Ophelia as happened with his mother and his old friends R & G. He thinks he's just seeing the same thing again. He thinks Ophelia has gone over to Claudius. Now, why would a wealthy, older, immoral married man be interested in a pretty young girl? Hamlet draws that conclusion. He thinks Ophelia must have become Claudius's courtesan, and that's why she's dumping him. He thinks Claudius has set this up to listen to Ophelia dump him, and Claudius is behind the arras laughing at him.
Hamlet does take the keepsakes back, to Ophelia's intense disappointment. Hamlet then berates Ophelia extensively, while being extremely angry at Claudius and Polonius, and her as well. He barely manages to control himself enough, since Ophelia is present, not to kill Claudius and Polonius. Hamlet concludes by saying, with both Claudius and Gertrude hearing it, that a married person shall die, and he storms out.
- Intrascene 8: Hamlet, heartbroken, finds a niche where he can't be seen, pounds the wall with his fist, and weeps.
Ophelia, with no idea why Hamlet said what he said, or behaved as he did, thinks Hamlet has lost his mind, and also that he was only deceiving her, all along. She speaks her "noble mind" speech to express her despair, and saying she's seen enough, sinks to the floor, covering her eyes.
Gertrude exits, from behind her arras, unseen by the others. Claudius and Polonius emerge from behind their arras. Claudius says it didn't sound like love to him, the way Hamlet spoke, but he perceives the danger he's in from Hamlet. Inspired by the diplomatic mission to Norway, Claudius says he'll send Hamlet on a mission to England. Polonius has not given up yet, and he suggests that, after the play, he could eavesdrop on Hamlet talking to Gertrude, and Claudius says that's agreeable.
The Explication, Scene_8, offers more details.
Hamlet's entry for "To be or not to be" #061-SD2
Jump down to the Notes.
Scene 8 [ ~ Nunnery Scene ~ ] (Act 3 Scene 1)
#08-Setting: inside the Castle; the Throne Room; afternoon.
#08-000-SD (Claudius and Gertrude enter, with their entourage; Polonius and Ophelia enter; Rosencrantz and Guildenstern enter)
#08-001 Claudius: And can you by no drift of circumstance And can't you, by any guidance of circumstances, #08-002 Get from him why he puts on this confusion - Learn from him why he puts this confusion on - #08-003 Grating so harshly all his days of quiet - So harshly discordant with all his time of peace - #08-004 With turbulent and dangerous lunacy? With its stormy and dangerous lunacy? #08-005 Rosencrantz: He does confess he feels himself distracted, He does admit he feels distracted, himself, #08-006 But from what cause, he will by no means speak. But because of what, he won't, by any means, speak of it. #08-007 Guildenstern: Nor do we find him forward to be sounded, Nor do we find him inclined to be sounded out, #08-008 But with a crafty madness keeps aloof But, with a shrewd madness, he remains aloof #08-009 When we would bring him on to some confession When we try to lead him on to some admission #08-010 Of his true state. Of his true state of mind. #08-011 Gertrude: Did he receive you well? Did he receive you well? #08-012 Rosencrantz: Most like a gentleman. Yes, very much like a gentleman. #08-013 Guildenstern: But with much forcing of his disposition. But he had to force himself to be hospitable. #08-014 Rosencrantz: Niggard of question, but of our demands, Stingy with information on the basic question, but, to our inquiries, #08-015 Most free in his reply. Very free with his replies. #08-016 Gertrude: Did you assay him to any pastime? Did you find out if he's interested in any amusements? #08-017 Rosencrantz: Madam, it so fell out that certain players Madam, it so happened that there's a certain company of actors #08-018 We o'er-raught on the way, of these we told him, We overtook on our way here - we told him about them, #08-019 And there did seem in him a kind of joy And it did seem to produce a kind of joy in him #08-020 To hear of it: they are here about the Court, To hear about it. They are here somewhere around the Royal Court, #08-021 And as I think, they have already order And, if it's as I think, they have already been instructed #08-022 This night to play before him. To put on a play for him tonight. #08-023 Polonius: 'Tis most true, That's very true, #08-024 And he beseeched me to entreat your Majesties And he begged me to invite your Majesties #08-025 To hear and see the matter. To hear and see the play. #08-026 Claudius: With all my heart, With all my heart, I'll be glad to, #08-027 And it doth much content me And it contents me greatly #08-028 To hear him so inclined. To hear that he's so inclined. #08-029 Good gentlemen, give him a further edge, Good gentlemen, whet his appetite, #08-030 And drive his purpose into these delights. And encourage him to occupy himself with such delights. #08-031 Rosencrantz: We shall, my Lord. We shall, my Lord. #08-031-SD (Rosencrantz and Guildenstern exit; Claudius waves away the royal entourage, and they exit) #08-032 Claudius: Sweet Gertrude, leave us two, Sweet Gertrude, leave the two of us, #08-033 For we have closely sent for Hamlet hither, Because I have sent for Hamlet to come here soon, for a private meeting with me, #08-034 That he, as 'twere by accident, may there So that he, as if it were by accident, can here #08-035 Affront [sic] Ophelia; her father and myself - lawful espials - Insult [sic] Ophelia. Her father and I - lawful spies - #08-036 We'll so bestow ourselves, that seeing unseen, Will place ourselves so that, observing while unobserved, #08-037 We may of their encounter frankly judge, We can make an honest judgment about their meeting, #08-038 And gather by him as he is behaved, And gather from him according to how he behaves, #08-039 If it be the affliction of his love or no Whether it's the malady of his love for Ophelia, or not, #08-040 That thus he suffers for. That he suffers with, in such a way. #08-041 Gertrude: I shall obey you. I shall obey you. #08-042 And for your part, Ophelia, I do wish And for your sake, Ophelia, I do hope #08-043 That your good beauties be the happy cause That your attractive charms are the happy cause #08-044 Of Hamlet's wildness, so shall I hope your virtues, Of Hamlet's excitement, and also I shall hope that your moral qualities #08-045 Will bring him to his wonted way again, Will bring him back to his normal ways again, #08-046 To both your honors. To the honor of you both. #08-047 Ophelia: Madam, I wish it may. Madam, I hope it may be so. #08-047-SD (Gertrude starts toward the door, but when the others aren't looking, she hides behind an arras) #08-048 Polonius: Ophelia, walk you here; gracious, so please you; Ophelia, walk yourself along here, in a gracious way, if you please. #08-049 We will bestow ourselves; read on this book, The King and I will hide ourselves there. Read from this book so #08-050 That show of such an exercise may color That the show of such an activity will emphasize #08-051 Your loneliness; we are oft' to blame in this, Your solitude - People are often at fault in this way - #08-052 'Tis too much proved, that with devotion's visage And it is too often proven - that by putting on a facade of preoccupation #08-053 And pious action, we do sugar o'er And innocent activity, we can sugar coat #08-054 The Devil, himself. Something diabolical. #08-055 Claudius (aside): Oh, 'tis too true! Oh, it's too true. #08-056 How smart a lash that speech doth give my conscience; What a stinging lash that remark gives to my conscience! #08-057 The harlot's cheek beautied with plastering art, The harlot's actual cheek, beautified with her painted makeup, #08-058 Is not more ugly to the thing that helps it, Is no more ugly, beneath what hides it, #08-059 Than is my deed to my most-painted word; Than my deed is, behind my most artful words. #08-060 Oh, heavy burden. Oh, it's a heavy burden. #08-061 Polonius: I hear him coming! Withdraw, my Lord. I hear him coming! Let's withdraw, my Lord. #08-061-SD1 (Claudius and Polonius hide behind the nearest arras, that they'd already chosen) #08-061-SD2 (Hamlet enters; he maintains a distance from Ophelia) #08-062 Hamlet: To be, or not to be, that is the question, Is my revenge to be, or not to be, here and now - that is the question: #08-063 Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer Whether it is nobler, in my mind, to tolerate #08-064 The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, The wounds from my outrageous luck, by letting Claudius live, #08-065 Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, Or, to take up arms, against this world of troubles, #08-066 And by opposing, end them; to die, to sleep And by opposing them, put an end to them. To die, to sleep, #08-067 No more, and by a sleep, to say we end (No more than that,) and by a sleep, so to speak, we end #08-068 The heartache, and the thousand natural shocks The heartache of existence, and the thousand natural shocks #08-069 That flesh is heir to; 'tis a consummation That human flesh is in line to receive. Death is a consummation #08-070 Devoutly to be wished: to die, to sleep; Prayerfully to be desired, so, Claudius should want to die. To die, to sleep . . . #08-071 To sleep, perchance to dream; aye, there's the rub; To sleep, perhaps to dream - yes, there's the impediment, #08-072 For in that sleep of death, what dreams may come, Because, in that sleep of death, the question of the "dreams" that might occur, #08-073 When we haue shuffled off this mortal coil, After we have shed this mortal shell, #08-074 Must give us pause; there's the respect Must make us stop and think. There's the reflection #08-075 That makes calamity of so long life. That produces the distress of such a long life as Claudius has lived. #08-076 For who would bear the whips and scorns of time, Since, who would tolerate the insults to the flesh and the insults to the ego, over time - #08-077 The oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely, The oppressor's wrongdoing, the arrogant man's contempt, #08-078 The pangs of disprized love, the law's delay, The pangs of lost love, justice delayed, #08-079 The insolence of office, and the spurns The insolence of office holders, and the rejections #08-080 That patient merit of the unworthy takes, That patient persons of merit have to take from the unworthy, #08-081 When he, himself, might his quietus make When Claudius, himself, might settle his account #08-082 With a bare bodkin; who would fardels bear, With an unsheathed bodkin. Who would bear the burdens, #08-083 To grunt and sweat under a weary life, Grunting and sweating through a weary life, #08-084 But that the dread of something after death, Except that the fear of something after death - #08-085 The undiscovered country, from whose bourn The unknown country, from beyond whose boundary #08-086 No traveler returns, puzzles the will, No traveler returns - baffles the will, #08-087 And makes us rather bear those ills we have, And makes us prefer to tolerate those ills we know, rather #08-088 Than fly to others that we know not of. Than speed our way to others that we don't know. #08-089 Thus, conscience does make cowards of us all, In that way, conscience does turn all men into cowards, #08-090 And thus the native hue of resolution And, in that way, the inborn character of courage #08-091 Is sickled o'er with the pale cast of thought, Is cut down by the feeble fling of second thoughts. #08-092 And enterprises of great pitch and moment, And enterprises of great height and importance, #08-093 With this regard, their currents turn awry, Heeding this, their courses turn awry #08-094 And lose the name of action. Soft you now; And the word "action" no longer applies. Become softer now, my thoughts - #08-095 The fair Ophelia; nymph, in thy orisons, The fair Ophelia. Nymph, in your prayers, #08-096 Be all my sins remembered. I hope you'll remember to ask forgivenness for all my sins. #08-096-SD (Hamlet approaches Ophelia) #08-097 Ophelia: Good my Lord, Good my Lord, #08-098 How does Your Honor for this many a day? How has Your Honor been doing for this many days? #08-099 Hamlet: I humbly thank you, well. Well, well. I humbly thank you for asking - well . . . Well, well. #08-100 Ophelia: My Lord, I have remembrances of yours My Lord, I have keepsakes you gave me #08-101 That I have longed long to redeliver; That I have longed. . .long to return. #08-102 I pray you now receive them. I ask you to please take them back now. #08-103 Hamlet: No, not I, I never gave you ought. No, not me, I never gave you anything. #08-104 Ophelia: My honored Lord, I know right well you did, My honored Lord, I know full well you did. #08-105 And with them, words of so sweet breath composed, And when you gave me these, you spoke words made of such sweet sounds #08-106 As made these things more rich; their perfume left, To make these things more valuable. Their attraction left. #08-107 Take these again, for to the noble mind Take them back again. For, to the high minded #08-108 Rich gifts wax poor when givers prove unkind; Rich gifts become poor when the givers prove unkind. #08-109 There, my Lord. There, my Lord. #08-109-SD (Hamlet snatches the little parcel from Ophelia, and crushes it in his fist) #08-110 Hamlet: Ha, ha, are you honest? Ha ha . . . Are you honest? #08-111 Ophelia: My Lord? My Lord? #08-112 Hamlet: Are you fair? Are you fair? #08-113 Ophelia: What means your Lordship? What do you mean, your Lordship? #08-114 Hamlet: That if you be honest & fair, you should admit That if you want to be both honest and fair, you should allow #08-115 no discourse to your beauty. no speech praising your beauty. #08-116 Ophelia: Could beauty, my Lord, have better commerce Could beauty, my Lord, be dealt with better #08-117 Than with honesty? Than with honesty? #08-118 Hamlet: Aye, truly, for the power of beauty will sooner transform Yes indeed! For, the power of beauty will more easily #08-119 honesty, from what it is, to a bawd, than the force of honesty can prostitute honesty, than the force of honesty can #08-120 translate beauty into his likeness; this was sometime a paradox, but make beauty a faithful virtue. This was formerly an absurdity, but #08-121 now the time gives it proof; I did love you, once. now this instance, with you, has proven it right. I did love you once. #08-122 Ophelia: Indeed, my Lord, you made me believe so. Indeed, my Lord, you made me believe so. #08-123 Hamlet: You should not have believed me, for virtue cannot so You should not have believed me, since virtue cannot thusly #08-124 evocutate our old stock, but we shall relish of it; I loved you not. be called forth from our old male line, although men do hint of virtue. I loved you not. #08-125 Ophelia: I was the more deceived. I was that much more deceived. #08-126 Hamlet: Get thee a nunnery, why would'st thou be a breeder of sinners? Get yourself a nunnery! Why would you be a breeder of sinners? #08-127 I am myself indifferent honest, but yet I could accuse me of Myself, I'm as honorable as most men, but still, I could accuse myself of #08-128 such things, that it were better my mother had not borne me: I am such things that it would be better if I had never been born. I am #08-129 very proud, revengeful, ambitious, with more offenses at my beck, very proud, revengeful, ambitious, and with more sins I could commit #08-130 than I have thoughts to put them in, imagination to give them shape, than I have thoughts to express them, or that I can shape in my imagination, #08-131 or time to act them in; what should such fellows as I do, crawling or that I could find time to do. What should men like me do - struggling #08-132 between earth and heaven, we are arrant knaves, believe none of us; between earth and Heaven? Men are outright knaves, believe no man. #08-133 go thy ways to a nunnery. Where's your father? Find your way to a nunnery! Where's your father? #08-134 Ophelia: At home, my Lord. At home, my Lord. #08-135 Hamlet: Let the doors be shut upon him, Keep the door shut on him there, so #08-136 That he may play the fool nowhere but in his own house; That he can play the fool nowhere but in his own house. #08-137 Farewell. Farewell. #08-137-SD (Hamlet begins to draw his sword) #08-138 Ophelia: Oh help him, you sweet heavens. Oh help him, you sweet heavens! #08-139 Hamlet: If thou dost marry, I'll give thee this plague for thy dowry: If you do marry, I'll give you this curse to have as dowry for that marriage: #08-140 be thou as chaste as ice, as pure as snow, thou shalt not escape Although as a wife you are as chaste as ice, and as pure as snow, you won't escape #08-141 calumny; get thee to a nunnery, farewell. Or if thou wilt needs marry, slander. Get yourself to a nunnery, farewell. Or, if you absolutely must marry, #08-142 marry a fool, for wise men know well enough what monsters you marry a fool, since wise men know all too well what monsters your kind #08-143 make of them; to a nunnery go, and quickly too; farewell. make of them. Go to a nunnery, and quickly, too . . . farewell. #08-144 Ophelia: Heavenly powers restore him. Heavenly powers, restore him! #08-145 Hamlet: I have heard of your paintings well enough; God hath given I have heard, well enough to know about it, of your kind painting your face - God has given #08-146 you one face, and you make yourselves another; you gig & amble, you one face, but you make yourselves a different one. You wiggle your hips and promenade, #08-147 and you lisp; you nickname God's creatures, and make your and you lisp. You nickname men, and act #08-148 wantonness, ignorance; go to... I'll no more on it, it hath made me mad; innocent in your sexual promiscuity. Go to . . . I'll say no more about it, it has made me mad. #08-149 I say we will have no mo' marriage, those that are married already, all I declare we'll have no more marriage - those that are married already, all #08-150 but one shall live, the rest shall keep as they are: to a nunnery go! but one shall live, and the rest will stay as they are. To a nunnery, go! #08-150-SD (Hamlet exits) #08-151 Ophelia: Oh what a noble mind is here o'erthrown, Oh, what a noble mind is overthrown here. #08-152 The courtier's, soldier's, scholar's, eye, tongue, sword, The courtier's, soldier's, scholar's, eye, tongue, and sword! #08-153 The expectancy and rose of the fair state, The rosy outlook for this fair country, #08-154 The glass of fashion, and the mold of form, The mirror of fashion, and the pattern of proper form, #08-155 The observed of all observers, quite quite down, The one observed by all observers: quite, quite, down. #08-156 And I, of ladies, most deject and wretched, And I, of all ladies, am now the most dejected and wretched, #08-157 That sucked the honey of his musiced vows, Who tasted the honey of his musical vows, and #08-158 Now see what noble and most sovereign reason, Now hear that noble and most sovereign mind #08-159 Like sweet bells jangled out of time, and harsh, Sounding like sweet bells all jangled out of time and discordant. #08-160 That unmatched form, and stature of blown youth That unmatched form, and height of youth in bloom - #08-161 Blasted with ecstacy; oh, woe is me, Destroyed with madness! Oh, woe is me, #08-162 To have seen what I have seen, see what I see. To have seen what I have seen, and see what I see. #08-162-SD1 (Gertrude exits) #08-162-SD2 (Claudius and Polonius emerge from behind their arras) #08-163 Claudius: Love? His affections do not that way tend, Love? His affections do not incline toward Ophelia. #08-164 Nor what he spoke, though it lacked form a little, And what he spoke, although it lacked form, a little, #08-165 Was not like madness; there's something in his soul Was not like insanity. There's something in his soul #08-166 O'er which his melancholy sits on brood, That his sadness is brooding on, #08-167 And I do doubt, the hatch and the disclose And I do suspect, the hatching and disclosure of it #08-168 Will be some danger, which for to prevent, Will pose some danger to me. To prevent that danger, #08-169 I have in quick determination I have quickly determined #08-170 Thus set it down: he shall with speed to England, To order this: he shall with dispatch go to England, #08-171 For the demand of our neglected tribute; To demand the tribute they've neglected to pay us. #08-172 Hap'ly the seas, and countries different, With any luck, the ocean, and with the countries being different, #08-173 With variable objects, shall expel With changes of scenery, will get rid of #08-174 This something, settled matter in his heart, Whatever is bothering him, this matter that has found a place in his heart, #08-175 Whereon, his brains still beating, Upon which, he's always beating his brains #08-176 Puts him thus from fashion of himself. So it puts him beside himself. #08-177 What think you on it? What do you think about that? #08-178 Polonius: It shall do well; The trip should do well. #08-179 But yet do I believe the origin and commencement of this grief, But I still think the origin and beginning of this misery #08-180 Sprung from neglected love. How now Ophelia? Sprang from neglected love. How now, Ophelia? #08-181 You need not tell us what Lord Hamlet said, You don't need to tell us what Lord Hamlet said, #08-182 We heard it all; my Lord, do as you please, We heard it all. My Lord, do as you please #08-183 But if you hold it fit, after the play, But if you think it proper, after the play, #08-184 Let his Queen-mother, all alone, entreat him Let his mother the Queen privately ask him #08-185 To show his grief; let her be round with him, To reveal his grievance. Let her be direct with him #08-186 And I'll be placed (so please you) in the ear And I'll hide (if it please you) to overhear #08-187 Of all their conference; if she find him not, Their entire conversation. If she can't understand him, #08-188 To England send him: or confine him where Send him to England, or confine him where, #08-189 Your wisdom best shall think. In your wisdom, you think best. #08-190 Claudius: It shall be so; It shall be so. #08-191 Madness in great ones must not unmatched go. Madness in great ones must not go unmet. #08-191-SD (all exit)
End of Scene 8
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.
- Time of Day -
- Calendar Time - Day three of the administration of King Claudius.
(Claudius and Gertrude enter, with their entourage; Polonius and Ophelia enter; Rosencrantz and Guildenstern enter)
At the start, this is a session of the Royal Court, with councilors, courtiers, ladies-in-waiting, pages, etc. present. As events proceed, Claudius will dismiss the Royal Entourage before Hamlet arrives.
Claudius: And can you by no drift of circumstance
drift - here has its root meaning, "drive" or "lead." Drift is a derivative of Old English 'drīfan' ("to drive.") To drive, can be understood as "to lead," especially when the leader of the nation is speaking. We can draw this conclusion about the meaning of drift by taking the word circumstance into consideration, as follows.
circumstance - Claudius must be following up on what Polonius said in Scene 7: "If circumstances lead me, I will find | Where truth is hid," when Polonius was talking about Hamlet. (Scene 7#169) Claudius is, essentially, asking if R & G have achieved what Polonius claimed he could do.
So, when Claudius says drift of circumstance here, he must be referring to the idea of being led by circumstances. I use "guidance" in the paraphrase because the concept is that of what we now call being guided by circumstances.
Get from him why he puts on this confusion -
puts on - Claudius is sure Hamlet must be misleading him, somehow or other. But how, precisely? What does Hamlet's "show" mean?
confusion - The confusion is in Claudius's mind, as he can't be sure, and can't get proof, of Hamlet being a threat to him. Without evidence, he can't do anything.
The earliest sense of confusion, from the late 13th century, could mean "overthrow," and that is Claudius's primary worry about Hamlet, so it appears Shakespeare may have been well versed in the history of this word.
Grating so harshly all his days of quiet -
It's grating on Claudius, that he doesn't know, and can't find out.
his days of quiet - Claudius is projecting. The days of quiet that are being disturbed are his own, as fear of Hamlet preys on his mind.
With turbulent and dangerous lunacy?
turbulent - restless. We can take it that Claudius is having trouble sleeping, because of worry about Hamlet. Turbulent can be understood as "violent," but not because of anything Hamlet has done. Claudius keeps imagining Hamlet being violent, toward him.
turbulent - Also, refers to a "stir," that is, it's another word on the idea of a "stirring."
lunacy - It's driving Claudius crazy. He puts the onus on Hamlet, but Claudius has not seen Hamlet do anything that accounts for what Claudius says (except what Claudius has seen in his mind's eye.)
Rosencrantz: He does confess he feels himself distracted,
confess - admit. The word confess has a religious aura, or a legalistic aura, as if Hamlet is involved in something sinful, or criminal. Rosencrantz knows nothing of any of that, but he is using language which goes along with Claudius's suspicions. Rosencrantz is a good "yes man," he is not going to disagree with his King.
distracted - pulled in different directions, is the literal meaning. Or, "pulled apart." Latin 'dis-' ("away") + 'trahere' ("to draw.") The sense of "being in a mental dilemma" is from the 1580s, so that was a current meaning when Shakespeare wrote.
But from what cause, he will by no means speak.
Not true. At least, that isn't true to what Hamlet did say. Hamlet said, "but wherefore I know not." (Scene 7#299.) So Hamlet did speak of the cause, but said he didn't know it.
Hamlet was putting R & G on, as he stood there in front of them in his mourning garb, with all that implied, and which they did not acknowledge at all.
Guildenstern: Nor do we find him forward to be sounded,
forward - forthcoming. Or, more mildly, "inclined."
sounded - texted; examined; investigated. Sounded out. The phrase "sound out" is still current, and that's what G. means.
Why on earth the Prince of the nation would be inclined to permit a couple of rude yokels, who used to be his friends, to sound him out, is a mystery. From being in service to the King, R & G are getting awfully pompous, and above themselves, and one could already predict that some kind of misfortune for them may be in the offing.
But with a crafty madness keeps aloof
crafty madness - G. did not see the "turbulent and dangerous lunacy" that Claudius mentioned, but G. certainly isn't going to contradict his King, so G. takes it that Hamlet must have been crafty in hiding his condition.
aloof - distant; disdainful. "Lofty," is an archaic sense.
G. is complaining that the Prince of the nation stayed "above" them. Yes, in fact the Prince is above the commoners in such a society, and further, Hamlet is above R & G by the King's proclamation from Claudius, the very King that G. is talking to and trying to serve. It's a crazy complaint.
When we would bring him on to some confession
bring him on - drive him (following Claudius's use of "drift.")
confession - G. picks up the "confess" idea now, following R. It's as if R & G think they're the Spanish Inquisition. They are not.
Of his true state.
true state - real condition; real state of mind. Presumes that Hamlet's surface is merely a show, with a different reality beneath the surface. That much is correct, but G. doesn't actually know it.
Gertrude: Did he receive you well?
Gertrude means what she says. She wants to know if Hamlet was glad to see them, so that they can be good company for him. If not, she would dismiss them.
Rosencrantz: Most like a gentleman.
R. dishonestly gives Hamlet short shrift. Hamlet welcomed them not only like a gentleman, but like a friend. R & G didn't take long to ruin that.
Hamlet's conduct reflects on his upbringing by his mother, and R. is at least bright enough to realize that. In fact, Hamlet behaved much more as a gentleman than R & G did.
In action, it is correct that R. bows to Gertrude for this line, and G., seeing that, immediately follows suit.
Guildenstern: But with much forcing of his disposition.
forcing - compulsion.
disposition - temperament.
G. is claiming that Hamlet had to force himself to be gentlemanly toward them. That is not true of when Hamlet first greeted them, but it became true later on, because of their behavior.
Rosencrantz: Niggard of question, but of our demands,
niggard - stingy. In the case of words, unresponsive.
question - the question Claudius wanted answered, that being whether Hamlet was ambitious to become King. Rosencrantz is discreet enough not to specify the question in front of others, since Claudius discussed it privately with R and G.
demands - inquiries. However, the only pertinent inquiry from R & G, pertinent to what Claudius wanted to know, that is, was the exchange:
Hamlet: . . . my uncle-father, and aunt-mother, are deceived. Guildenstern: In what, my dear Lord?
That was followed by Hamlet's "mad north-northwest" line, which R & G did not understand at all. So, when R. speaks of their demands he is grossly exaggerating how their encounter with Hamlet went. R. is being a typical bureaucratic flunky, implying to his boss that he did better than he really did.
Most free in his reply.
Yes, Hamlet said whatever he wanted to.
Gertrude: Did you assay him to any pastime?
assay - test.
pastime - recreation. "Something to do." Gertrude's view is a mother's view, that a child needs "something to do." The meaning of pastime here is literal: something to pass the time.
Gertrude wants to know, Did you test him about any pastime he might like?
Assay was not as well distinguished from "essay" in Shakespeare's time as it is now. So, assay can also be understood as "attempt" or "try." It is also possible to read Gertrude's question as meaning, "Did you try him to any recreation?" That is, Did you try any recreation with him? The answer to that would be "no," except for R & G's foolish, oblivious talk, if that qualifies as a pastime. R & G didn't even understand Hamlet's suggestion of tennis.
So, this line offers the usual multiplicity of meaning, or ambiguity, that we've come to expect throughout Hamlet.
Rosencrantz: Madam, it so fell out that certain players
it so fell out - it so happened. This line provides an instance of the Fortune Theme.
certain players - R. is vague when speaking of the Players to Gertrude, but he was precise enough when speaking to Hamlet. R identified them as "the tragedians of the city" in which Hamlet took "such delight." (Scene 7#323) Thus, we must again suspect that the Queen is sponsoring the child actors, who are the competition for these Players. That would explain R. being vague to Gertrude about who the Players are.
We o'er-raught on the way, of these we told him,
raught - an obsolete past tense of "reach." So, o'er-raught is literally "over-reached." Then, to reach for something implies taking it. In all, o'er-raught amounts to saying "overtook."
And there did seem in him a kind of joy
In fact, Hamlet was delighted to hear of the Players. Rosencrantz isn't admitting Hamlet was happier to see the Players than R & G.
To hear of it: they are here about the Court,
hear - a subtle instance of the Ear Motif.
here about - Rosencrantz means the Players are "hereabouts," that is, in the vicinity.
It is also possible to read Shakespeare's phrasing to mean "there are here concerning the Court." It's the Court of King Claudius now, and indeed Hamlet now wants the Players here about Claudius, but R. knows nothing of all that. For R, the additional meaning goes unrecognized by him, and is accidental from him.
And as I think, they have already order
as I think - Rosencrantz heard Hamlet say "we'll hear a play tomorrow." R was standing right there, nearby. There is not honestly any think about it. He knows it for a fact.
R knows he won't be contradicted about what he "thinks," since it was actually a stated fact. He is trying to impress Claudius that he can discern things which are not obvious. R, trying to become an able bureaucrat, wants to develop a reputation for being right about what he thinks. Thus the pretense.
order - in modern English we would say "orders."
This night to play before him.
This night - confirms that this is the following day, after Scene 7.
Polonius: 'Tis most true,
Polonius verifies what R said, and in action R should adopt a smirky "I was right" smile.
And he beseeched me to entreat your Majesties
Polonius is not telling the truth. Hamlet didn't beg Polonius to request the attendance of the King and Queen at the play, he downright ordered Polonius to do it, perhaps even with another little lecture about whipping. But one wouldn't expect Polonius to speak the unvarnished truth to the royalty.
To hear and see the matter.
hear and see - one ordinarily speaks of either hearing a play, or seeing a play. Polonius's verbosity leads him to speak of both. This is a nice touch of characterization by Shakespeare, not at all as simple as it looks.
the matter - the subject (that we're talking about, i.e. a play.)
Claudius: With all my heart,
Claudius means he'll be glad to, that his heart will be in it. Phrased to provide an instance of the important Heart Motif. Played with a smiling face and a hand to the heart. The hand to the heart is mandatory.
And it doth much content me
Claudius does feel better, hearing this.
To hear him so inclined.
Inclined to sit and watch plays, Claudius means, instead of coming after me with a sword, trying to get the Throne.
Good gentlemen, give him a further edge,
a further edge - more keenness = more of an appetite. More of a desire. Edge implies keenness, a concept which, in turn, is understood to apply to appetite. (The phrase must be glossed, not just the word edge.) The meaning is simply the same as Claudius saying "encourage him," but phrased to provide an instance of the Edge Motif. The reason is that a second meaning can be found, by reading edge differently.
The word edge can apply to a sword, and how sharp it is. We know what is ultimately going to happen in the play. Taking the edge phrasing to apply to a sword, it gives the amusing idea of Claudius saying to R & G, give him a further edge (to make sure he stabs me with a sharp sword.) Claudius doesn't know how ominous, for him, his edge phrasing is.
And drive his purpose into these delights.
drive - lead. Or "push." "Move" in a certain direction.
purpose - goal. Intention. Design. What Hamlet wants to do, is the idea.
delights - theatrical performances and such. Idle amusements. From Old French 'delit' ("pleasure.")
Following what can be read from edge in the line preceding, a knowing reader can see this as Claudius telling R & G to drive Hamlet's purpose into the delights of stabbing Claudius. That is not what Claudius is trying to say.
Claudius wants Hamlet involved in idle amusements instead of Hamlet fixated on how he could get the Crown. Claudius knows nothing of any revenge motive, he's worried that Hamlet may try to get the Crown by regicide.
Rosencrantz: We shall, my Lord.
R & G bow their way out.
(Rosencrantz and Guildenstern exit; Claudius waves away the royal entourage, and they exit)
royal entourage - the persons who have been in attendance at this session of the Royal Court.
Claudius: Sweet Gertrude, leave us two,
two - puns with "too," giving a multiple meaning.
In point of fact, there are three: Claudius, Polonius, and Ophelia. Claudius means Polonius and him. It bodes ill for the outcome of their scheme that Claudius overlooks Ophelia, who is to be the "star" of their "show" for Hamlet. Neglecting Ophelia, and what she needs to do, is highly unwise, and offending her is plain stupid. Success depends on her.
Then, is Claudius thinking at all? He imagines Gertrude will simply walk away, while Claudius and Polonius stay and listen to what her son says, in what may be a very revealing conversation. Will Gertrude really just walk away?
For we have closely sent for Hamlet hither,
we - this we is "royal," it is the voice of the King, speaking for the nation of Denmark. It absolutely does not mean just "I."
Claudius is saying that his sending for Hamlet was an official summons. Claudius did it that way to insure Hamlet will appear. Anything less would be a voluntary invitation, which Hamlet could accept, or reject, according to his own wishes. Claudius does not want to find himself standing behind the arras for an hour, humming to himself, waiting for a Hamlet who never shows up. So Claudius has done his best to be certain Hamlet will be here, by sending a King's Summons to Hamlet.
closely - privately. That is, Claudius's summons ordered Hamlet to appear for a private audience with the King. Claudius phrased it that way to be sure Hamlet won't bring somebody else with him, such as Horatio.
Everybody knows conversation can change, and probably will, when a third party is standing there listening, as compared to when two people are talking by themselves. This is especially true of sweethearts. Claudius didn't want Hamlet bringing somebody else along, whose presence would inhibit Hamlet's conversation when he encounters Ophelia and speaks to her. After knowing that, the word closely can then be seen with a further meaning, simply that it's close to the time when Hamlet should be here. (So, closely has a multiplicity of meaning, as seen so often in the way Shakespeare wrote Hamlet.)
That he, as 'twere by accident, may there
there - Claudius points toward the arras, which is some distance toward stage right. They are all standing at center stage. We know Hamlet will enter from stage left, since the Lobby was explicitly mentioned in Scene 7, so from that, the arras behind which Claudius and Polonius hide should be some little distance stage right. It would obviously be wrong to have Hamlet enter behind them.
Affront [sic] Ophelia; her father and myself - lawful espials! -
Affront - Claudius simply means "front" in the sense of "meet." He has slightly misspoken because of trying to use "kingly," high flown language. In the process he has been unintentionally ominous, and has predicted the nature of what will happen.
lawful espials - It occurs to Claudius that he doesn't know whether what they're doing is legal. He therefore takes a moment to make it legal, by King's proclamation in the Throne Room. The Claudius actor must stress lawful, and should raise an index finger in the manner of making a pronouncement.
We'll so bestow ourselves, that seeing unseen,
bestow - place. Prefix 'be-' + Middle English 'stowen' ("to place.") There is also a second meaning of "house" which can be discerned from the dialogue that follows. The "house" meaning foreshadows Ophelia saying Polonius is "at home" in line 134. To be housed is to be at home.
seeing unseen - is not strictly correct. From behind the arras, Claudius and Polonius will not be able to see Hamlet and Ophelia. Claudius means "eavesdropping, unobserved," or "observing, unobserved." Compare Ophelia's later line 155 in this Scene, "The observed of all observers."
We may of their encounter frankly judge,
frankly - sincerely; truly. A wickedly ironic word usage, considering the subterfuge. Claudius is saying they'll use a sneaky trick to judge Hamlet honestly.
judge - decide; pass judgment. From Latin 'judicare' ("to pass judgment.")
And gather by him as he is behaved,
gather - In the play, Claudius is compared to Cain, who was a tiller of the ground. A farmer "gathers" his crops. The word gather here is subtly characteristic for Claudius.
Further, yes, Ophelia, Polonius, and Claudius, (and also Gertrude,) will "gather" by Hamlet, that is, near to Hamlet, although only Ophelia will be visible to him. The phrasing gather by him is amusing in that way.
If it be the affliction of his love or no
It is curious that Claudius speaks of love as if it were a malady. What reason does he have, personally, to see it that way? (He will talk about love to Laertes in Scene 18, Scene 18#122 ff.)
affliction - distress, or trouble, is the plain and simple meaning for what Claudius is trying to say. The history of affliction goes back to Latin words which can mean "to overthrow" (an idea that worries Claudius,) and "to strike," (as in a person being lovestruck,) so it was a nice choice of word by Shakespeare for this context.
That thus he suffers for.
suffers - The word "suffer" goes back to Latin 'sub-' ("under") + 'ferre' ("to carry") so it has the literal meaning of being under a burden. We'll soon hear Hamlet speak of exactly that, when he asks "who would fardels bear," later in the dialogue in this Scene. Claudius is more correct than he knows, if only in his choice of word. Claudius actually knows little of the burdens Hamlet is bearing.
Gertrude: I shall obey you.
I shall obey you - But when? Not now, that's for sure. They're going to eavesdrop on what her son says, and Gertrude is going to simply walk away? Not a chance. We know more about human behavior than that, and so did Shakespeare, beyond any question.
Gertrude means, "I shall obey you, oh, maybe next week sometime. We'll have lunch, we'll chat, we'll do the 'obey' thing. But not now." She's not leaving.
There's no time to argue the point, with Hamlet supposed to be here any minute, so she just says that to Claudius.
And for your part, Ophelia, I do wish
part - indeed, Ophelia is to play a part, the starring role, in this "show" for Hamlet. Gertrude is not trying to say that. It was Shakespeare choosing words to provide another instance of his Putting on a Show Theme. When Gertrude says for your part she means merely, "for you."
We see that Gertrude likes Ophelia, and approves of her. Ironically, Gertrude, a person of the highest social status, does not have the social status concerns of the lower-status Polonius.
That your good beauties be the happy cause
good beauties - attractive features; female charms. Good female qualities, physically.
happy - simultaneously carries the meanings of both "fortunate" and "cheerful."
We know Shakespeare wrote the plural beauties. There is no question of that. The plural instructs the Gertrude actor to use both hands when gesturing toward Ophelia, as Gertrude speaks.
The boys who played the female parts in Shakespeare's day were generously padded, to emphasize that, indeed, they were supposed to be females. Gertrude's gesture toward Ophelia is with open hands, palms upward, and at the level of Ophelia's chest.
Taking that two-handed gesture, that the plural beauties prescribes, along with the wording, it implies that the particular good beauties that Gertrude means are Ophelia's breasts. With the action, it becomes possible to hear Gertrude saying to Ophelia, in this line and the next, "I'll be happy if your fine boobs are the cause of Hamlet going wild."
Please note, that is not really what the Gertrude character is trying to say. It's a bit of amusing mischief in Shakespeare's choice of wording. Shakespeare was a scamp, at times, and he had a bit of fun there. So, again, we know for sure that the plural, beauties, is correct in the original Hamlet Second Quarto printing.
Of Hamlet's wildness, so shall I hope your virtues,
wildness - Gertrude does not mean "madness." She doesn't think Hamlet is mad, nor does she want to think of her son being mad, or to hear of it. She means something like "incivility." To be "uncivilized" is to be "wild."
In current terms, Gertrude can be understood as saying she hopes Hamlet is "wild about" Ophelia.
virtues - moral qualities. With "beauties" in the previous line Gertrude addressed physical qualities, and now with virtues she addresses moral qualities.
Will bring him to his wonted way again,
bring him - back to his senses, is what Gertrude can't bring herself to say, or to think about.
wonted - usual; accustomed. Normal.
To both your honors.
honors - credits. "To the credit of you both."
Ophelia: Madam, I wish it may.
Ophelia very much wants this scheme to work, since it's supposed to result in Hamlet marrying her.
Ophelia curtsies to the Queen.
(Gertrude starts toward the door, but when the others aren't looking, she hides behind an arras)
(Gertrude ... hides) - Of course. Her eventual exit is at line 162.
After speaking to Ophelia, Gertrude starts toward the door, glancing back over her shoulder. When Claudius and Polonius turn to Ophelia, and Ophelia looks at them, Gertrude steps behind another arras, unnoticed. When Claudius told her to leave, he just wasn't thinking.
Polonius: Ophelia, walk you here; gracious, so please you;
walk - means exactly what it says. Ophelia walks back and forth, slowly, near the arras, as the Scene continues. Anything else would be illiterately stupid. To do Shakespeare right, you do what he wrote.
gracious - pleasing; friendly. Gracious is from Old French 'gracios' which meant "courteous, pleasing, kind, friendly." That category of ideas. Polonius is just essentially telling Ophelia to behave in a way that Hamlet will see as welcoming for his approach.
so please you - an empty figure of speech, since Polonius doesn't care whether it pleases Ophelia or not.
We will bestow ourselves; read on this book,
bestow - place. Polonius repeats what Claudius said in line 036 as if Ophelia didn't know it, even though she was standing right there when Claudius said it. Polonius has no appreciation of the point of view of others. That fact is crucial to the events of this Scene. How is all this going to look to Hamlet?
The repetition of bestow, which can mean "house," again contributes to Ophelia later saying Polonius is "at home."
book - Polonius provides Ophelia with the book as a conversation starter. (The book is obviously not a prayer book or a Bible. Polonius has probably gotten hold of the same book Hamlet had earlier, sure that Hamlet will be able to talk about that one.)
Polonius remembers what Ophelia told him in Scene 6 about Hamlet's behavior. Ophelia told Polonius that Hamlet stared at her and said nothing.
Such behavior certainly will not do here. If Hamlet only stares at Ophelia here, saying nothing, there won't be anything for Claudius to hear from Hamlet, and the entire effort will be for naught. Polonius knows that.
In Scene 7, Polonius asked Hamlet what he was reading, when Hamlet had a book. So, we know that Polonius is aware of books as items of conversation. Polonius is banking on the book to get conversation started, between Hamlet and Ophelia, if their conversation doesn't proceed spontaneously.
Walking by the arras, being "gracious," and pretending to read the book, are all of the "acting instruction" that "director Polonius" provides to his star performer, Ophelia, about doing this important show for Hamlet. Compare is to the extensive and preposterously detailed instruction Polonius gave Reynaldo in Scene 6, where Polonius even tried to provide imagined snippets of dialogue.
There is one more thing, we'll find out about later, involving gifts from Hamlet to Ophelia.
In this show for Hamlet, what is Ophelia supposed to say? It's been left entirely up to her, so she'll have to ad lib all her dialogue. Improvising dialogue, toward achieving a certain pre-planned result, is an extremely hard thing to do.
That show of such an exercise may color
show - all of this is, of course, an instance of the Putting on a Show Theme. We're seeing a show, staged by Polonius, to try to get a certain reaction from Hamlet. We learned in Scene 7 that Hamlet is going to stage a show for Claudius, to try to get a certain reaction from him. Here, Hamlet is the target of the show.
Is Polonius a good "show producer?" One can't help but doubt it.
exercise - activity. In addition to the note above about the book, Polonius knows that Hamlet is very familiar with the activity of reading. Hamlet should be reassured by seeing Ophelia engaged in reading, Polonius supposes.
Your loneliness; we are oft' to blame in this,
loneliness - solitude; aloneness, is what Polonius is meaning to say. He has said more than he intended, as happens so often in the play. Ophelia is, indeed, lonely at Elsinore Castle.
to blame - at fault.
'Tis too much proved, that with devotion's visage
devotion - innocence.
visage - "face;" appearance; facade.
Devotion's visage - a show of devotion. The Show Theme again. "Show of innocence."
Ophelia is supposed to appear to be engaged in the innocent activity of reading.
And pious action, we do sugar o'er
pious - dutiful; devoted. Can be read as "innocent" again. Thus, in these two lines we have reference to both an innocent appearance, and innocent activity.
sugar o'er - tempt over. Draw to oneself. Like using sugar to train a horse to come to you.
Claudius hears it as "sugar coat." He takes it to mean something being covered up, which gets to him.
Polonius's attempt at a saying is not very apt. He's trying to say that by appearing to be engaged in the innocent activity of reading the book, Ophelia can induce Hamlet to approach and talk to her. Polonius's terms are quite high flown for what he's trying to say.
The Devil, himself.
With his figure of speech, Polonius has just unintentionally cast Hamlet as "The Devil, himself." Hamlet is the one they're trying to lead over, of course. Polonius does not really mean Hamlet is the Devil. It's Polonius's attempt at expressing himself in the form of a saying.
However, it's ominous. As events proceed, Ophelia may wonder if she's facing the Devil, himself.
Claudius hears this line as figurative for "something diabolical." So, he hears these last two lines as referring to sugar coating something evil. That's what he's been doing, and it now strikes him.
Further, the idea of sugar coating the Devil goes along with what Hamlet said in Scene 7 about the Ghost (Scene 7#571,) "the Devil hath power | To assume a pleasing shape," and provides a hint of what the Ghost really is.
Claudius (aside): Oh, 'tis too true!
The idea of the Devil, evil that is, being sugar coated has struck Claudius. Apparently he never gave any thought to his actions from that perspective.
How smart a lash that speech doth give my conscience;
The dramatic purpose of Claudius's aside is to show that he has a conscience. Recall the end of Scene 7, where Hamlet proposed a play to "catch the conscience of the King."
However, what if Claudius were a sociopath, with no conscience? In that case, Hamlet's plan would be a foreordained failure. Recall that in his speech in Scene 7, Hamlet condemned Claudius as "remorseless." Was that true? Is Claudius a man with no remorse, no conscience? If so, we could ignore Hamlet's play, knowing it won't work.
Here, Shakespeare addressed that point, lest some dramatic tension be lost. Yes, we see that Claudius does have a conscience, therefore, Hamlet's play does have a chance to work, and it can't be ignored.
smart - stinging. Like a serpent's fang.
lash - strike. However, a different understanding of lash can also mean "bind," and in that sense it ultimately goes back to Latin 'laqueare' ("to ensnare.") Thus the word lash, viewed comprehensively, raises the idea of being caught, which is what has just happened to Claudius's conscience. The harmony of concepts suggests Shakespeare knew the Latin origin of lash as in "bind."
The harlot's cheek beautied with plastering art,
cheek - synecdoche for face.
beautied - beautified. Prettified. Compare the line in Hamlet's letter in Scene 7 (Scene 7#07-117): "the most beautified Ophelia . . ." and see the Notes there about the misunderstanding of it.
plastering art - cosmetic art. To plaster is to cover up.
Is not more ugly to the thing that helps it,
not more - we would now say "no more."
to - compared to.
the thing that helps it, - the cosmetic cover up, which helps the ugly face by hiding it.
Than is my deed to my most-painted word;
An analogy is drawn between an ugly face beneath cosmetics, and an ugly deed behind attractive (but deceitful) words.
Claudius's show of sorrow over his brother's death, and his show of caring for Hamlet, are all a sham, we know. Claudius is talking about how difficult it is to maintain the pretense, how hard it is to constantly cover up.
Oh, heavy burden.
We'll soon hear Hamlet ask, line 082, "who would fardels bear?" Claudius and Hamlet both express how burdened they feel.
Claudius means the unrelenting need for him to Put on a Show is a heavy burden to bear. It would be such a relief if he could yell out that he's glad his brother is dead, and he hates Hamlet, but he cannot do that.
Polonius: I hear him coming! Withdraw, my Lord.
hear - it's significant that Polonius has good hearing, despite his age.
Withdraw, my Lord - we see again that bossiness is one of Polonius's character flaws. It is certainly not his place to speak like that to the King. Claudius does nothing about it now. No time.
(Claudius and Polonius hide behind the nearest arras, that they'd already chosen)
They are not seen by Hamlet. Hamlet does not have to see them to know they are there.
Ophelia will inform Hamlet somebody is behind the arras. She loves Hamlet, she is on his side. Polonius and Claudius have not taken that into account.
Is it agreeable to Ophelia that her father and the King should listen to her and Hamlet in intimate conversation? Absolutely not! How she and Hamlet talk to each other in private is none of their business.
(Hamlet enters; he maintains a distance from Ophelia)
Hamlet glances around the room and concludes what anybody would conclude: Claudius isn't here yet.
Hamlet sees Ophelia, of course. He does not approach her because he wants her to leave. Hamlet is thinking about killing Claudius here, when Claudius arrives, but Hamlet is not going to commit regicide with Ophelia, of all people, as a witness against him. We know Ophelia isn't leaving, but Hamlet doesn't know that yet.
Hamlet has arranged for the play performance to test Claudius, but if he can talk himself into killing Claudius here, if the opportunity does indeed arise, the play won't be necessary.
Hamlet is surprised to see Ophelia in the Throne Room. She wouldn't usually be found here. However, the Throne Room is not in use now, and she's reading, so it appears she's simply found it to be a quiet place to read. Hamlet thinks no more of it than that, at first.
As Hamlet maintains his distance, it appears to Ophelia that Hamlet doesn't want to talk to her or be close to her. That is not correct. It's that Hamlet wants Ophelia to leave, so he might get a chance at Claudius. Hamlet cannot explain that to Ophelia.
Hamlet: To be, or not to be, that is the question,
To be, or not to be - means, is Hamlet's revenge to be, or not to be, when Claudius arrives alone in a few minutes? That's what it means, regardless of anything else you've heard, or been told.
Hamlet is expecting to meet Claudius here soon, with just the two of them present, and he's thinking of killing himself?? Don't be an idiot.
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
nobler - more kingly. Hamlet knows, of course, that if he can kill Claudius, and get away with it, he will become King, almost certainly. Being kingly is on Hamlet's mind. What is the more noble course, the more kingly course, for him to follow? Most assuredly, Hamlet does not want, in any way, to be as ignoble as Claudius. But then, should be follow Claudius's path, by killing the reigning King (according to what the Ghost said,) does that make Hamlet equally as ignoble?
in the mind - to my mind.
suffer - tolerate.
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
slings and arrows - are weapons, thus there is reference to being attacked by Fortune. Hamlet is, again, speaking of his "too too sallied flesh." And weapons cause wounds. Is it nobler to tolerate all that?
Act sling. You will do a "wheeling" motion of the arm. In words plus action, this is a "Wheel of Fortune" instance. The Hamlet actor must act sling when he says it.
Act arrow. Ophelia is in the room. So, this is Cupid's arrow. Hamlet, playing Cupid, shoots an arrow, the arrow of love, at Ophelia.
Hamlet's words and actions are all aside. Ophelia sees Hamlet standing over there, looking occasionally at the Royal Entryway (as he waits for Claudius, but she doesn't know that,) otherwise looking at nothing in particular, although it seems he might glance quickly at her once or twice. She does not watch Hamlet very much. She is pretending to read.
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
take arms against - battle against.
sea of troubles - what we now might call a "host of troubles." The word sea could mean "large quantity" even in Middle English.
And by opposing, end them; to die, to sleep
No more, and by a sleep, to say we end
The heartache, and the thousand natural shocks
thousand - multitude of. Many.
natural - occurring in the natural world, the world of the living.
shocks - traumatic incidents. Clashes, like armed clashes. Attacks. Recall "too too sallied flesh," as Hamlet goes on to say "flesh" again in the next line.
In the mid-1500s, shock could refer to an armed clash between a pair of warriors, which recalls the single combat between King Hamlet and the Elder Fortinbrasse. Indeed, "shock" can still refer to a military encounter; the term "shock troops" was prominent in WWII and is in current vocabulary.
That flesh is heir to; 'tis a consummation
flesh - the mortal human body.
is heir to - "inherits," by being human.
'tis - the sleep of death is.
consummation - completion; climax.
Devoutly to be wished: to die, to sleep;
To sleep, perchance to dream; aye, there's the rub;
rub - impediment; deflection. That which prevents a direct course of action. Hamlet is thinking of the direct course of action that he originally intended, against Claudius, and how it was deflected, or forestalled, by the nightmare he had between Scenes 5 and 6. That bad dream was a rub in his course of action.
Hell would be an endless "bad dream." That's something for a thoughtful man to consider.
For in that sleep of death, what dreams may come,
When we haue shuffled off this mortal coil,
shuffled off - shucked off; shed. Like a snake shedding its skin, or more in context, like a shelled creature leaving its shell behind when it dies.
coil - shell. The body, as a "shell" around the soul. This usage follows from Hamlet's mention of the "sea of troubles." Some sea creatures have a shell that is in the form of a "coil," a spiral. Also, a snail has a "coiled" shell, spiral shaped, and Hamlet keenly feels the time that's going by as he tries to find what he can do about Claudius. Hamlet feels "snaily."
Notice in the image how many of the shells have a "coiled" spiral shape. It's more frequent than not. The shell at upper right is a land snail, the others are aquatic or marine.
Then, more meaning can be found in the line, as usual.
Must give us pause; there's the respect
That makes calamity of so long life.
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
The oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely,
The pangs of disprized love, the law's delay,
The insolence of office, and the spurns
That patient merit of the unworthy takes,
When he, himself, might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin; who would fardels bear,
bare - naked; unsheathed, in the case of a dagger. In the most general way there's a "show" concept. One must show a dagger to use it.
bodkin - dagger. However, see the Extended Note.
fardels - burdens; loads. In ultimate origin, fardel is apparently from Arabic 'fardah' referring to a pack such as would be borne by a camel. The word camel appears in the play dialogue, in Scene 9.
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
life - burden of life. Casts life as a burden.
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscovered country, from whose bourn
No traveler returns, puzzles the will,
No traveler returns - the Ghost is no contradiction to this. Hamlet is talking about a person returning to life, and the Ghost has not done that.
It is shocking, however, that Hamlet overlooks the signal exception in human history to what Hamlet says, and certainly an exception that any member of Shakespeare's audience would have noticed, or easily could have identified, with even the least thought. The exception, per Christian theology, is Jesus Christ. How could Hamlet, having been a student at Wittenberg, forget Jesus? Hamlet is not himself.
And makes us rather bear those ills we have,
Than fly to others that we know not of.
Thus, conscience does make cowards of us all,
And thus the native hue of resolution
native - natural; innate; inborn.
native hue - natural characteristic; natural quality.
Is sickled o'er with the pale cast of thought,
sickled o'er - cut down, as with the sickle of the Grim Reaper. Killed.
And enterprises of great pitch and moment,
enterprises - initiatives; plans; schemes. The modern word "enterprise" can have virtually the same meaning.
pitch - height, as in speaking of the pitch of a roof. Height represents importance.
With this regard, their currents turn awry,
And lose the name of action. Soft you now;
The fair Ophelia; nymph, in thy orisons,
Be all my sins remembered.
(Hamlet approaches Ophelia)
Hamlet has concluded that Claudius isn't going to keep the appointment. So, he decides to talk to Ophelia.
Hamlet is planning to start distancing himself from Ophelia. He does not want her associated with him as he plans regicide.
As Hamlet approaches Ophelia, there is something she will do, to a certainty. So will glance at the arras where Polonius and Claudius are hiding. Her thought: "Here he comes." The "show" is about to start.
It would take a disciplined awareness not to glance at the arras, but Ophelia has no training, or experience, which would discipline her for this kind of situation. Glancing at the arras, as Hamlet approaches, is the normal, natural thing to do, and Ophelia will do it.
Hamlet notices Ophelia glanced at that arras. Her action means nothing to him at the moment. He merely observes that she did so. Perhaps she likes the pattern.
When Hamlet is within conversational distance of Ophelia, he opens his mouth to say, "hi honey," (or whatever he would say to greet her in private,) but she quickly speaks first.
She says . . .
Ophelia: Good my Lord,
Is that how Ophelia addresses Hamlet in private? Can't be.
How does Your Honor for this many a day?
It is impossible. It is just plain flatly impossible.
Let's say, you are a businessman working in your office. You notice you're out of paper clips. It's a nice day, so you decide you'll just walk down the block to the store, and buy some more. You do walk to the store, and you stroll over to the aisle where you know the paper clips are. As you turn the corner into the aisle, you find yourself face to face with your sweetheart, much to your delighted surprise. She's there, too, doing some shopping. How wonderfully nice. As you just begin to open your mouth to say, "Hi honey!" she quickly speaks up, interrupting you, and she says, "How do you do, sir, and please allow me to say, good sir, without seeming too inquisitive, I hope you have been well during the time since I saw you last."
What the hell??!! You would look at your sweetheart like either she's gone crazy, or you have. Sweethearts do not greet each other like that. Never. Not a chance. At least, not unless they have a compelling reason to.
Ophelia has not greeted Hamlet like they're in private. She has greeted him as if they are standing in the midst of a crowd at a formal gathering. In other words, she has greeted him as if people are hearing what she says.
Ophelia has done it on purpose. She is giving Hamlet a "heads up" that they are not alone, and that somebody is listening, so he needs to be careful what he says.
Ophelia is on Hamlet's side in this. Polonius and Claudius were foolish not to think about that.
Ophelia has cleverly done this in a way that will escape her father's notice. Polonius, behind the arras, will hear what she says, and think, "very good, Ophelia, that is a perfectly proper way to greet the Prince." However, she is not supposed to be greeting "the Prince" here, she is supposed to be greeting her fiance in private, and for that, what she says is preposterous.
Ophelia looks at the arras, and then looks intently at Hamlet, thinking, "did you get it, that we're being overheard? So be careful what you say."
In performance, Ophelia can toss in a curtsy, for good measure, to emphasize her point. It is correct that she should overplay her part, as she tries to improvise in this difficult situation.
Hamlet: I humbly thank you, well. Well, well.
Of course Hamlet understood that there's something going on, and somebody is behind the arras. He couldn't miss it. But who is behind the arras, listening, and what is going on?
Hamlet plays along, in the formal style Ophelia set. He bows to Ophelia.
Well, well - Hamlet says this as he looks at the arras. He's pondering who's there, and why.
Ophelia has achieved part of her goal. She has protected Hamlet to some extent. Now that he knows somebody is listening, he won't say anything treasonous against Claudius that's clear enough to justify formal charges.
Well done, Ophelia, so far.
Ophelia: My Lord, I have remembrances of yours
of yours - from you.
remembrances - keepsakes; tokens of affection. These are not items like valuable jewelry. They are items like, oh, a seashell.
Elsinore Castle is directly by the sea. One day Hamlet found some time for himself and took a stroll along the shore. He saw a pretty little seashell he thought Ophelia might like. He picked it up, and later gave it to her, with a few sweet words. She kept the seashell.
Ophelia is speaking of that kind of item. Their value is sentimental, and indeed, they are the kinds of items that money cannot buy, because money can't buy sweet memories.
We do know there's a perfumed item Hamlet probably did buy for Ophelia. Her line 106 tells us this. She needs a reason, in connection with the remembrances, to speak of "perfume." This could be an actual small bottle, vial sized, of perfume, or perhaps a small sachet.
The remembrances include a daisy. A bit of a story goes with that. Much later in the play we will hear, "there's a daisy."
So, the remembrances are four or five little items, in a paper-wrapped parcel, tied with a ribbon, and small enough to be held easily in the palm of the hand.
In performance, the parcel must break, or be torn, in Hamlet's fist while he holds it. He is going to throw the items to the floor when he storms out. They need to scatter across the floor, for dramatic purposes. This is perfectly predictable. How does an enraged person act? We know this.
That I have longed long to redeliver;
longed long - is a stumble in Ophelia's speech, as she ad libs. Unfortunately, she makes it sound as if she's wanted to return the items for some time. That is not true, she doesn't want to return them at all. However, Hamlet, hearing that, takes her at her word.
redeliver - return, but a pompous way of saying it. Compare this to the Courtier's line in Scene 20: "Shall I redeliver you even so?" (Scene 20#168) The Courtier is a pompous dunce. Ophelia is neither of those, but she has encountered an insurmountable difficulty here, as she has to improvise all her dialogue for this "show," and try to make it impressive and persuasive. That's more than you could reasonably expect a person to do. She is having trouble with trying to Put on a Show with her speech, of course.
That is especially true, that difficulties arise, when her part requires her to speak a falsehood. She absolutely does not want to give the keepsakes back.
Nor is Hamlet supposed to take them back.
I pray you now receive them.
You can lead a horse to water . . . and we are now at the point where the horse is supposed to drink.
Polonius is so sure Hamlet loves Ophelia, that he was sure, at this point, when Hamlet is confronted with the proffer of the keepsakes, Hamlet will say, "oh dear no, I beseech you to keep those tokens of affection I gave you, because I love you."
We heard in Scene 6, when Polonius was coaching Reynaldo, that Polonius thinks he can predict what people will say, when Polonius tries to arrange a certain situation. (Scene 6#048 ff.)
Claudius will hear that, Hamlet saying from his own lips that he loves Ophelia. Polonius will then be justified in insisting Claudius get involved, as the King, and as Hamlet's adoptive father, to make Hamlet marry Ophelia.
Since Hamlet is mad for Ophelia, Polonius believes, Hamlet's madness will be cured when he's married to her. Ophelia will be happy, married to the Prince. Claudius will be duly impressed by Polonius's insight and wisdom. Polonius will have the Prince, and future King, in the family. It will be perfect, and they will all live happily ever after.
That is what Polonius expected to happen. That is why he proposed this eavesdropping plan. That is why Ophelia willingly went along with it. That is why Polonius had Ophelia gather her keepsakes from Hamlet into a little parcel to offer to Hamlet now.
So, now, will Hamlet say what he's supposed to? Will he refuse the return of the items, with a declaration of love for Ophelia? Will the horse drink?
Hamlet: No, not I, I never gave you ought.
Hamlet is stalling while he tries to figure out what's going on.
Further, Hamlet is now trying to distance himself from Ophelia, in case his regicide intention goes bad, to avoid as best he can anyone thinking she might be involved, so that no suspicion will fall on her. The particular way Hamlet chooses to stall is to pretend Ophelia means so little to him he can't even remember ever giving her anything. That is not true, but he's in a bind.
Ophelia: My honored Lord, I know right well you did,
Since this is supposed to get her married to Hamlet, Ophelia persists.
And with them, words of so sweet breath composed,
Words that she longs for Hamlet to speak now. Oh, please, please let this work. Then they can be married, with the full approval of her father, and the King, and everything will be wonderful.
words of so sweet breath - Ophelia is trying to prompt Hamlet for the dialogue he's supposed to say, to play his part as he's supposed to, in this show. But Hamlet doesn't know it's a show being staged for him.
As made these things more rich; their perfume left,
rich - precious, to Ophelia. However, rich is a touchy subject for Hamlet. Hamlet feels it keenly that he's dependent on Claudius, his worst enemy. It makes Hamlet feel very poor. The word rich gets an emotional reaction from Hamlet, as a practical matter.
Now Hamlet thinks he has heard Ophelia express a desire to be rich. The figurative sense is not the first to occur to Hamlet for that particular word.
their perfume left - It has occurred to Ophelia that she has no reason to be returning Hamlet's gifts. Polonius did not supply any reason, since Hamlet isn't supposed to take them back. No reason to give them back is supposed to arise. But when Hamlet balks, and Ophelia has to scramble for more to say, it crosses her mind. Conceptually, for what reason would she be doing this, if she actually meant it?
So, she says the attraction of the keepsakes has faded. The word left is intentionally ambiguous. It can mean either "remains" or " has gone."
For Ophelia, the attraction of the gifts does remain. She does not really want to give them back. However, in the words she chooses, Hamlet can hear the meaning that the attraction of his gifts has gone.
For lack of anything else to say, Ophelia has gotten into offering an explanation for what she's doing. She should not be going into that, since it's convincing Hamlet that she means it, when in fact she does not.
Improvising in a situation like this, with the aim of getting a certain, specific result, is more than a person should be asked to do. It's getting hopeless.
Take these again, for to the noble mind
Rich gifts wax poor when givers prove unkind;
There, my Lord.
Ophelia extends the little parcel toward Hamlet. According to the plan, he is now supposed to refuse to accept the return of the keepsakes, with a vow of love for her, and Claudius will hear it. Then she and Hamlet will be married.
Ophelia's hand is trembling. She is looking intently at Hamlet with a sort of, oh, desperate woefulness, if that's the way to describe it. She so very very much wants this to work that it hurts.
(Hamlet snatches the little parcel from Ophelia, and crushes it in his fist)
Hamlet: Ha, ha, are you honest?
Ha, ha - I've got it! Hamlet says this as he thinks he has figured out what is going on.
BOOKMARK for me
Hamlet now thinks Ophelia is not honest. He thinks Ophelia was only leading him on, all the time, because she thought he was going to become King. She was pretending to love him only because she wanted to become the Queen. Since Hamlet didn't become King, Ophelia has no further use for him, and is therefore dumping him. That is what Hamlet now believes. It is not true.
Ophelia: My Lord?
Ophelia hasn't the slightest why the situation has taken this turn.
Hamlet: Are you fair?
Ophelia: What means your Lordship?
That if you be honest & fair, you should admit
no discourse to your beauty.
Ophelia: Could beauty, my Lord, have better commerce
Than with honesty?
Hamlet: Aye, truly, for the power of beauty will sooner transform
honesty, from what it is, to a bawd, than the force of honesty can
what it is - what honesty is, is a true virtue.
translate beauty into his likeness; this was sometime a paradox, but
now the time gives it proof; I did love you, once.
once - is an ambiguous word. It can mean "formerly," or it can mean "one time."
For true love, once is all it takes.
Ophelia: Indeed, my Lord, you made me believe so.
Hamlet: You should not have believed me, for virtue cannot so
There is a point here that if Hamlet is not believable, Ophelia shouldn't believe him now. Hamlet is effectively saying, "don't believe me." It implies he is going to lie.
evocutate our old stock, but we shall relish of it; I loved you not.
evocutate - is the correct word. It means "be evoked from;" "be summoned from," "be called from." Be obtained from. It is Shakespeare's coinage of an antonym for "inoculate." It is based on "evoke," and related to "evocation." "Evoke" is from Latin 'evocare' ("to call forth.") Around Shakespeare's time, "evoke" was often used with a sense of calling spirits.
our old stock - the male scions of the human race. Men.
relish of it - have the flavor of it, savor of it; imply that it's there.
Hamlet is saying that virtue cannot be "summoned forth" from "the spirit" of men, although men will "savor" of virtue, as if it's there to be called forth. He means that the virtue of men is only a show, a false appearance. He asserts that when men appear to be virtuous, they are Putting on a Show.
I loved you not - there's the lie Hamlet was setting up. ("You should not have believed me," he just said. I.e. "don't believe me.")
Hamlet is both distancing himself from Ophelia, as he believes he has to do because of circumstances, and he is salving his hurt feelings. He is now trying to convince himself that he never really loved her. Believing that Ophelia really wants to dump him, he is in denial about loving her.
Ophelia: I was the more deceived.
Strictly speaking, that is not correct. They are now equally deceived. Each now thinks the other was lying about loving them, and they are both wrong.
Ophelia is extremely crestfallen now. She had such high hopes.
Hamlet: Get thee a nunnery, why would'st thou be a breeder of sinners?
I am myself indifferent honest, but yet I could accuse me of
such things, that it were better my mother had not borne me: I am
very proud, revengeful, ambitious, with more offenses at my beck,
proud - Pride is one of the Seven Deadly Sins, all of which appear in the dialogue either expressly or by allusion.
BOOKMARK more to do here
than I have thoughts to put them in, imagination to give them shape,
or time to act them in; what should such fellows as I do, crawling
between earth and heaven, we are arrant knaves, believe none of us;
go thy ways to a nunnery. Where's your father?
go thy ways - find your way.
nunnery - Hamlet does want Ophelia to go to a nunnery. He means it.
Hamlet knows perfectly well where Polonius is. Ophelia the same as told Hamlet that Polonius is behind the arras.
Hamlet is asking Ophelia as a test of her honesty, but he is doing it totally without regard to the fact that Polonius will hear whatever Ophelia says. It is quite unkind of Hamlet to put Ophelia in such a bind.
Ophelia: At home, my Lord.
Says Ophelia, as she looks at the arras, and then back at Hamlet. That is, of course, the correct action.
Ophelia is telling the truth, and indeed, she is telling the truth in more ways than one.
Polonius and his family have apartments in the Castle. Polonius is inside the Castle, so he is therefore "at home."
Both Claudius and Polonius said they would "bestow" themselves behind the arras. One definition of "bestow" is "house." A person who is "housed" is "at home."
Ophelia has done to Hamlet what Hamlet is so fond of doing to others. She has tossed wordplay at him. Serves him right, but will Hamlet appreciate it in this situation? Nope.
BOOKMARK for me, issue of Polonius blaming Ophelia
Hamlet: Let the doors be shut upon him,
That he may play the fool nowhere but in his own house;
house - at this time, the house Hamlet has in mind for Polonius is his 'maison mortuaire,' his "house of the dead." His grave.
Hamlet does not mean he is leaving. He is trying to tell Ophelia to leave the room. If she does leave, Hamlet is going to kill both Claudius and Polonius.
Ophelia does not know that, or understand this.
(Hamlet begins to draw his sword)
Ophelia misunderstands. She thinks Hamlet is drawing his sword to kill her.
Ophelia: Oh help him, you sweet heavens.
Hamlet: If thou dost marry, I'll give thee this plague for thy dowry:
plague - affliction; pestilence. Figurative. In this case, perhaps best understood as "curse." Plague is from Late Latin 'plaga,' the term used in the Vulgate Bible for "pestilence."
be thou as chaste as ice, as pure as snow, thou shalt not escape
Hamlet believes Ophelia has prostituted herself for Claudius. In this line, Hamlet is saying that, if she does someday get married, no matter how faithful and true (chaste and pure) she may be to her future husband in that marriage, she will never escape slander (calumny in the next line,) because she will be a former prostitute.
Ophelia understands none of this, since she has no involvement with Claudius, and hasn't the slightest what Hamlet is thinking.
calumny; get thee to a nunnery, farewell. Or if thou wilt needs marry,
marry a fool, for wise men know well enough what monsters you
make of them; to a nunnery go, and quickly too; farewell.
Ophelia: Heavenly powers restore him.
Hamlet: I have heard of your paintings well enough; God hath given
you one face, and you make yourselves another; you gig & amble,
and you lisp; you nickname God's creatures, and make your
wantonness, ignorance; go to... I'll no more on it, it hath made me mad;
I say we will have no mo' marriage, those that are married already, all
Incidentally, Roman emperor Claudius II, "Claudius the Cruel," in about AD 270 supposedly banned marriage, which led to the execution of St Valentine. Hamlet says this line within the hearing of Claudius, of course.
but one shall live, the rest shall keep as they are: to a nunnery go!
(all) but one shall live - is too strong a hint for Claudius to miss. Claudius hears this as a death threat against himself (which it is.) Claudius can't act directly on the basis of this speech by Hamlet, however, because it's too vague, and the speech overall sounds irrational. Hamlet's speech is not good evidence against him. Nevertheless, it's enough to motivate Claudius to take such action as he can.
the rest shall keep as they are - the rest (those who are not already married) include Hamlet and Ophelia. Hamlet has just declared that if he can't marry Ophelia, he will not marry at all; he will stay as he is, which is single. He doesn't express it in a way that the others can follow.
to a nunnery go - Hamlet means it. He does want Ophelia to do that.
He takes a stride or two, notices he still has the parcel of remembrances in his fist, hurls it to the floor where the items scatter, and he strides on out.
Ophelia: Oh what a noble mind is here o'erthrown,
The courtier's, soldier's, scholar's, eye, tongue, sword,
The expectancy and rose of the fair state,
expectancy and rose - can be read as hendiadys: rosy expectation.
the fair state - is intentionally ambiguous between "the fair state of Denmark," and "the fair state of holy matrimony" with Ophelia. To Ophelia, Hamlet was her "rosy expectation" in both ways, for the nation and for herself.
The glass of fashion, and the mold of form,
The observed of all observers, quite quite down,
And I, of ladies, most deject and wretched,
That sucked the honey of his musiced vows,
Now see what noble and most sovereign reason,
Like sweet bells jangled out of time, and harsh,
That unmatched form, and stature of blown youth
Blasted with ecstacy; oh, woe is me,
To have seen what I have seen, see what I see.
Hamlet has stormed out, Ophelia has her head down and her eyes covered, crying, and Claudius and Polonius have not yet emerged from behind their arras. Gertrude steps quickly from behind the arras where she was hiding, and goes out the door. None of the other characters knows she was there. She heard everything Hamlet said. In particular, she heard Hamlet say that a married person shall die.
Gertrude is of course married, to Claudius, and she knows Hamlet strongly dislikes that. Gertrude does not, at this time, interpret Hamlet's words as a threat to herself, but she heard what he said, and she will remember it.
The images show Gertrude's exit printed in three of the surviving copies of the Second Quarto.
(Claudius and Polonius emerge from behind their arras)
Claudius: Love? His affections do not that way tend,
Love - was the question in all this, whether Hamlet loved Ophelia.
that way - toward Ophelia.
Claudius is mistaken. He did hear Hamlet express love for Ophelia in a way, but it was not in the way that people ordinarily recognize. Hamlet did not say a simple "I love you" to Ophelia, obviously.
Nor what he spoke, though it lacked form a little,
Was not like madness; there's something in his soul
O'er which his melancholy sits on brood,
And I do doubt, the hatch and the disclose
I do doubt - I do suspect = I believe.
the disclose - the unfolding. One thinks of the expression, "hatching a plot." So, with his phrase the hatch and the disclose Claudius is expressing concern about Hamlet hatching a plot against him, which Claudius does not want to see unfold.
Further, hatch is a "bird" term, as is "brood" in the previous line, and in heraldry the term "disclosed" refers to a bird, usually an eagle, with its wings spread. So, Claudius's terms can be seen as an instance of the Bird Motif. Additionally, an eagle is a predatory bird, and by that, we can understand that Claudius fears Hamlet, like a predatory bird, may swoop down on him.
Will be some danger, which for to prevent,
Danger to himself, Claudius fears.
I have in quick determination
Thus set it down: he shall with speed to England,
set it down - decided it. For the King, a decision is the same as an order. Nothing is in writing yet, but if the King has decided, it's the same as.
with speed - go promptly; go soon.
Claudius thinks the diplomatic mission to Norway was a great success, so he has thought of another diplomatic mission as a way to handle the problem of Hamlet.
For the demand of our neglected tribute;
Hap'ly the seas, and countries different,
With variable objects, shall expel
This something, settled matter in his heart,
Whereon, his brains still beating,
Puts him thus from fashion of himself.
What think you on it?
It was Polonius who advised the diplomatic mission to Norway, so Claudius seeks his thoughts about the mission to England, also. Claudius wonders if Polonius sees any significant difficulty with sending Hamlet to England.
Polonius: It shall do well;
Offhand, Polonius knows of no reason not to send Hamlet on the diplomatic mission.
But yet do I believe the origin and commencement of this grief,
Sprung from neglected love. How now Ophelia?
You need not tell us what Lord Hamlet said,
We heard it all; my Lord, do as you please,
But if you hold it fit, after the play,
Let his Queen-mother, all alone, entreat him
Queen-mother - is a preposterous phrase to use to Claudius, who is well aware that Queen Gertrude is Hamlet's mother. Further, Polonius is incorrect. Hamlet does not have a Queen-mother.
The "queen mother" is both the mother of the reigning monarch, and also the widow of a king. Polonius has spoken as if Hamlet is the King. Claudius, if he knows what the phrase does mean, could be deeply offended by it. Polonius is certainly not trying to offend Claudius. Polonius has picked up the term somewhere, but he hasn't grasped it.
all alone - by herself (apparently.) Per Polonius's plan, she will hardly be all alone, since both Hamlet and Polonius will also be present. It is significant that, this time, Polonius is not proposing to include Claudius in the eavesdropping. That's sneaky. If the eavesdropping scheme fails again, Polonius doesn't want Claudius to hear the failure. Then, if it does fail, perhaps Polonius can figure out a way to "spin" it as a success. Basically, this time Polonius wants to do it in a way so that he might get away with lying to his monarch, if necessary.
To show his grief; let her be round with him,
grief - cause of dissatisfaction. This is ironic in that Hamlet has been showing his grief, over his father's death, and thereby displeasing Claudius.
round - direct; blunt. Understood as "blunt," it provides an instance of the Edge Motif.
And I'll be placed (so please you) in the ear
in the ear - "where I can hear." Expressed to provide an instance of the Ear Motif.
Of all their conference; if she find him not,
conference - conversation. A conference is an act of conferring, and "confer" is from Middle French 'conferer' ("to converse.")
find - perceive, i.e. understand.
To England send him: or confine him where
Your wisdom best shall think.
Claudius: It shall be so;
Madness in great ones must not unmatched go.
great ones - royalty. Claudius isn't pausing to think that "madness in great ones" could be taken as a reference to himself.
unmatched - unmet. Claudius is going to meet Hamlet's "madness" as Claudius characterizes it, with a plan of his own. The "match" idea anticipates the mad Fencing Match in the last Scene. Claudius, himself, is not intending to be so prophetic.
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