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William Shakespeare (1564–1616). The Oxford Shakespeare. 1914.

Act III. Scene IV.

Hamlet, Prince of Denmark

The QUEEN’S Apartment.


Pol.He will come straight. Look you lay home to him;

Tell him his pranks have been too broad to bear with,

And that your Grace hath screen’d and stood between

Much heat and him. I’ll silence me e’en here.

Pray you, be round with him.

Ham.[Within.]Mother, mother, mother!

Queen.I’ll warrant you;

Fear me not. Withdraw, I hear him coming.[POLONIUS hides behind the arras.


Ham.Now, mother, what’s the matter?

QueenHamlet, thou hast thy father much offended.

Ham.Mother, you have my father much offended.

Queen.Come, come, you answer with an idle tongue.

Ham.Go, go, you question with a wicked tongue.

Queen.Why, how now, Hamlet!

Ham.What’s the matter now?

Queen.Have you forgot me?

Ham.No, by the rood, not so:

You are the queen, your husband’s brother’s wife;

And,—would it were not so!—you are my mother.

Queen.Nay then, I’ll set those to you that can speak.

Ham.Come, come, and sit you down; you shall not budge;

You go not, till I set you up a glass

Where you may see the inmost part of you.

Queen.What wilt thou do? thou wilt not murder me?

Help, help, ho!

Pol.[Behind.]What, ho! help! help! help!

Ham.[Draws.]How now! a rat? Dead, for a ducat, dead![Makes a pass through the arras.

Pol.[Behind.]O! I am slain.

QueenO me! what hast thou done?

Ham.Nay, I know not: is it the king?

Queen.O! what a rash and bloody deed is this!

Ham.A bloody deed! almost as bad, good mother,

As kill a king, and marry with his brother.

Queen.As kill a king!

Ham.Ay, lady, ’twas my word.[Lifts up the arras and discovers POLONIUS.

[To POLONIUS.]Thou wretched, rash, intruding fool, farewell!

I took thee for thy better; take thy fortune;

Thou find’st to be too busy is some danger.

Leave wringing of your hands: peace! sit you down,

And let me wring your heart; for so I shall

If it be made of penetrable stuff,

If damned custom have not brass’d it so

That it is proof and bulwark against sense

Queen.What have I done that thou dar’st wag thy tongue

In noise so rude against me?

Ham.Such an act

That blurs the grace and blush of modesty,

Calls virtue hypocrite, takes off the rose

From the fair forehead of an innocent love

And sets a blister there, makes marriage vows

As false as dicers’ oaths; O! such a deed

As from the body of contraction plucks

The very soul, and sweet religion makes

A rhapsody of words; heaven’s face doth glow,

Yea, this solidity and compound mass,

With tristful visage, as against the doom,

Is thought-sick at the act.

Queen.Ay me! what act,

That roars so loud and thunders in the index?

Ham.Look here, upon this picture, and on this;

The counterfeit presentment of two brothers.

See, what a grace was seated on this brow;

Hyperion’s curls, the front of Jove himself,

An eye like Mars, to threaten and command,

A station like the herald Mercury

New-lighted on a heaven-kissing hill,

A combination and a form indeed,

Where every god did seem to set his seal,

To give the world assurance of a man.

This was your husband: look you now, what follows.

Here is your husband; like a mildew’d ear,

Blasting his wholesome brother. Have you eyes?

Could you on this fair mountain leave to feed,

And batten on this moor? Ha! have you eyes?

You cannot call it love, for at your age

The hey-day in the blood is tame, it’s humble,

And waits upon the judgment; and what judgment

Would step from this to this? Sense, sure, you have,

Else could you not have motion; but sure, that sense

Is apoplex’d; for madness would not err,

Nor sense to ecstasy was ne’er so thrall’d

But it reserv’d some quantity of choice,

To serve in such a difference. What devil was ’t

That thus hath cozen’d you at hoodman-blind?

Eyes without feeling, feeling without sight,

Ears without hands or eyes, smelling sans all,

Or but a sickly part of one true sense

Could not so mope.

O shame! where is thy blush? Rebellious hell,

If thou canst mutine in a matron’s bones,

To flaming youth let virtue be as wax,

And melt in her own fire: proclaim no shame

When the compulsive ardour gives the charge,

Since frost itself as actively doth burn,

And reason panders will.

Queen.O Hamlet! speak no more;

Thou turn’st mine eyes into my very soul;

And there I see such black and grained spots

As will not leave their tinct.

Ham.Nay, but to live

In the rank sweat of an enseamed bed,

Stew’d in corruption, honeying and making love

Over the nasty sty,—

Queen.O! speak to me no more;

These words like daggers enter in mine ears;

No more, sweet Hamlet!

Ham.A murderer, and a villain;

A slave that is not twentieth part the tithe

Of your precedent lord; a vice of kings;

A cut-purse of the empire and the rule,

That from a shelf the precious diadem stole,

And put it in his pocket!

Queen.No more!

Ham.A king of shreds and patches,—

Enter Ghost.

Save me, and hover o’er me with your wings,

You heavenly guards! What would your gracious figure?

Queen.Alas! he’s mad!

Ham.Do you not come your tardy son to chide,

That, laps’d in time and passion, lets go by

The important acting of your dread command?

O! say.

Ghost.Do not forget: this visitation

Is but to whet thy almost blunted purpose.

But, look! amazement on thy mother sits;

O! step between her and her fighting soul;

Conceit in weakest bodies strongest works:

Speak to her, Hamlet.

Ham.How is it with you, lady?

Queen.Alas! how is ’t with you,

That you do bend your eye on vacancy

And with the incorporal air do hold discourse?

Forth at your eyes your spirits wildly peep;

And, as the sleeping soldiers in the alarm,

Your bedded hair, like life in excrements,

Starts up and stands an end. O gentle son!

Upon the heat and flame of thy distemper

Sprinkle cool patience. Whereon do you look?

Ham.On him, on him! Look you, how pale he glares!

His form and cause conjoin’d, preaching to stones,

Would make them capable. Do not look upon me;

Lest with this piteous action you convert

My stern effects: then what I have to do

Will want true colour; tears perchance for blood.

Queen.To whom do you speak this?

Ham.Do you see nothing there?

Queen.Nothing at all; yet all that is I see.

Ham.Nor did you nothing hear?

Queen.No, nothing but ourselves.

Ham.Why, look you there! look, how it steals away;

My father, in his habit as he liv’d;

Look! where he goes, even now, out at the portal.[Exit Ghost.

Queen.This is the very coinage of your brain:

This bodiless creation ecstasy

Is very cunning in.


My pulse, as yours, doth temperately keep time,

And makes as healthful music. It is not madness

That I have utter’d: bring me to the test,

And I the matter will re-word, which madness

Would gambol from. Mother, for love of grace,

Lay not that flattering unction to your soul,

That not your trespass but my madness speaks;

It will but skin and film the ulcerous place,

Whiles rank corruption, mining all within,

Infects unseen. Confess yourself to heaven;

Repent what’s past; avoid what is to come;

And do not spread the compost on the weeds

To make them ranker. Forgive me this my virtue;

For in the fatness of these pursy times

Virtue itself of vice must pardon beg,

Yea, curb and woo for leave to do him good.

Queen.O Hamlet! thou hast cleft my heart in twain.

Ham.O! throw away the worser part of it,

And live the purer with the other half.

Good night; but go not to mine uncle’s bed;

Assume a virtue, if you have it not.

That monster, custom, who all sense doth eat,

Of habits devil, is angel yet in this,

That to the use of actions fair and good

He likewise gives a frock or livery,

That aptly is put on. Refrain to-night;

And that shall lend a kind of easiness

To the next abstinence: the next more easy;

For use almost can change the stamp of nature,

And master ev’n the devil or throw him out

With wondrous potency. Once more, goodnight:

And when you are desirous to be bless’d,

I’ll blessing beg of you. For this same lord,[Pointing to POLONIUS.

I do repent: but heaven hath pleas’d it so,

To punish me with this, and this with me,

That I must be their scourge and minister.

I will bestow him, and will answer well

The death I gave him. So, again, good-night.

I must be cruel only to be kind:

Thus bad begins and worse remains behind.

One word more, good lady.

Queen.What shall I do?

Ham.Not this, by no means, that I bid you do:

Let the bloat king tempt you again to bed;

Pinch wanton on your cheek; call you his mouse;

And let him, for a pair of reechy kisses,

Or paddling in your neck with his damn’d fingers,

Make you to ravel all this matter out,

That I essentially am not in madness,

But mad in craft. ’Twere good you let him know;

For who that’s but a queen, fair, sober, wise,

Would from a paddock, from a bat, a gib,

Such dear concernings hide? who would do so?

No, in despite of sense and secrecy,

Unpeg the basket on the house’s top,

Let the birds fly, and, like the famous ape,

To try conclusions, in the basket creep,

And break your own neck down.

Queen.Be thou assur’d, if words be made of breath,

And breath of life, I have no life to breathe

What thou hast said to me.

Ham.I must to England; you know that?


I had forgot: ’tis so concluded on.

Ham.There’s letters seal’d; and my two schoolfellows,

Whom I will trust as I will adders fang’d,

They bear the mandate; they must sweep my way,

And marshal me to knavery. Let it work,

For ’tis the sport to have the enginer

Hoist with his own petar: and it shall go hard

But I will delve one yard below their mines,

And blow them at the moon. O! ’tis most sweet,

When in one line two crafts directly meet.

This man shall set me packing;

I’ll lug the guts into the neighbour room.

Mother, good-night. Indeed this counsellor

Is now most still, most secret, and most grave,

Who was in life a foolish prating knave.

Come, sir, to draw toward an end with you.

Good-night, mother.[Exeunt severally; HAMLET dragging in the body of POLONIUS.