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

Act V. Scene II.

Hamlet, Prince of Denmark

A Hall in the Castle.


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

You do remember all the circumstance?

Hor.Remember it, my lord?

Ham.Sir, in my heart there was a kind of fighting

That would not let me sleep; methought I lay

Worse than the mutines in the bilboes. Rashly,—

And prais’d be rashness for it, let us know,

Our indiscretion sometimes serves us well

When our deep plots do pall; and that should teach us

There’s a divinty that shapes our ends,

Rough-hew them how we will.

Hor.That is most certain.

Ham.Up from my cabin,

My sea-gown scarf’d about me, in the dark

Grop’d I to find out them, had my desire,

Finger’d their packet, and in fine withdrew

To mine own room again; making so bold—

My fears forgetting manners—to unseal

Their grand commission; where I found, Horatio,

O royal knavery! an exact command,

Larded with many several sorts of reasons

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

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

That, on the supervise, no leisure bated,

No, not to stay the grinding of the axe,

My head should be struck off.

Hor.Is ’t possible?

Ham.Here’s the commission: read it at more leisure.

But wilt thou hear me how I did proceed?

Hor.I beseech you.

Ham.Being thus be-netted round with villanies,—

Ere I could make a prologue to my brains

They had begun the play,—I sat me down,

Devis’d a new commission, wrote it fair;

I once did hold it, as our statists do,

A baseness to write fair, and labour’d much

How to forget that learning; but, sir, now

It did me yeoman’s service. Wilt thou know

The effect of what I wrote?

Hor.Ay, good my lord.

Ham.An earnest conjuration from the king,

As England was his faithful tributary,

As love between them like the palm should flourish,

As peace should still her wheaten garland wear,

And stand a comma ’tween their amities,

And many such-like ‘As’es of great charge,

That, on the view and knowing of these contents,

Without debatement further, more or less,

He should the bearers put to sudden death,

Not shriving-time allow’d.

Hor.How was this seal’d?

Ham.Why, even in that was heaven ordinant.

I had my father’s signet in my purse,

Which was the model of that Danish seal;

Folded the writ up in form of the other,

Subscrib’d it, gave ’t th’ impression, plac’d it safely,

The changeling never known. Now, the next day

Was our sea-fight, and what to this was sequent

Thou know’st already.

Hor.So Guildenstern and Rosencrantz go to ’t.

Ham.Why, man, they did make love to this employment;

They are not near my conscience; their defeat

Does by their own insinuation grow.

’Tis dangerous when the baser nature comes

Between the pass and fell-incensed points

Of mighty opposites.

Hor.Why, what a king is this!

Ham.Does it not, thinks ’t thee, stand me now upon—

He that hath kill’d my king and whor’d my mother,

Popp’d in between the election and my hopes,

Thrown out his angle for my proper life,

And with such cozenage—is ’t not perfect conscience

To quit him with this arm? and is ’t not to be damn’d

To let this canker of our nature come

In further evil?

Hor.It must be shortly known to him from England

What is the issue of the business there.

Ham.It will be short: the interim is mine;

And a man’s life’s no more than to say ‘One.’

But I am very sorry, good Horatio,

That to Laertes I forgot myself;

For, by the image of my cause, I see

The portraiture of his: I’ll count his favours:

But, sure, the bravery of his grief did put me

Into a towering passion.

Hor.Peace! who comes here?

Enter OSRIC.

Osr.Your lordship is right welcome back to Denmark.

Ham.I humbly thank you, sir.[Aside to HORATIO.]Dost know this water-fly?

Hor.[Aside to HAMLET.]No, my good lord.

Ham.[Aside to HORATIO.]Thy state is the more gracious; for ’tis a vice to know him. He hath much land, and fertile: let a beast be lord of beasts, and his crib shall stand at the king’s mess: ’tis a chough; but, as I say, spacious in the possession of dirt.

Osr.Sweet lord, if your lordship were at leisure, I should impart a thing to you from his majesty.

Ham.I will receive it, sir, with all diligence of spirit. Your bonnet to his right use; ’tis for the head.

Osr.I thank your lordship, ’tis very hot.

Ham.No, believe me, ’tis very cold; the wind is northerly.

Osr.It is indifferent cold, my lord, indeed.

Ham.But yet methinks it is very sultry and hot for my complexion.

Osr.Exceedingly, my lord; it is very sultry, as ’twere, I cannot tell how. But, my lord, his majesty bade me signify to you that he has laid a great wager on your head. Sir, this is the matter,—

Ham.I beseech you, remember—[HAMLET moves him to put on his hat.

Osr.Nay, good my lord; for mine ease, in good faith. Sir, here is newly come to court Laertes; believe me, an absolute gentleman, full of most excellent differences, of very soft society and great showing; indeed, to speak feelingly of him, he is the card or calendar of gentry, for you shall find in him the continent of what part a gentleman would see.

Ham.Sir, his definement suffers no perdition in you; though, I know, to divide him inventorially would dizzy the arithmetic of memory, and yet but yaw neither, in respect of his quick sail. But, in the verity of extolment, I take him to be a soul of great article; and his infusion of such dearth and rareness, as, to make true diction of him, his semblable is his mirror; and who else would trace him, his umbrage, nothing more.

Osr.Your lordship speaks most infallibly of him.

Ham.The concernancy, sir? why do we wrap the gentleman in our more rawer breath?


Hor.Is ’t not possible to understand in another tongue? You will do ’t, sir, really.

Ham.What imports the nomination of this gentleman?

Osr.Of Laertes?

Hor.His purse is empty already; all ’s golden words are spent.

Ham.Of him, sir.

Osr.I know you are not ignorant—

Ham.I would you did, sir; in faith, if you did, it would not much approve me. Well, sir.

Osr.You are not ignorant of what excellence Laertes is—

Ham.I dare not confess that, lest I should compare with him in excellence; but, to know a man well, were to know himself.

Osr.I mean, sir, for his weapon; but in the imputation laid on him by them, in his meed he’s unfellowed.

Ham.What’s his weapon?

Osr.Rapier and dagger.

Ham.That’s two of his weapons; but, well.

Osr.The king, sir, hath wagered with him six Barbary horses; against the which he has imponed, as I take it, six French rapiers and poniards, with their assigns, as girdle, hangers, and so: three of the carriages, in faith, are very dear to fancy, very responsive to the hilts, most delicate carriages, and of very liberal conceit.

Ham.What call you the carriages?

Hor.I knew you must be edified by the margent, ere you had done.

Osr.The carriages, sir, are the hangers.

Ham.The phrase would be more german to the matter, if we could carry cannon by our sides; I would it might be hangers till then. But, on; six Barbary horses against six French swords, their assigns, and three liberal-conceited carriages; that’s the French bet against the Danish. Why is this ‘imponed,’ as you call it?

Osr.The king, sir, hath laid, that in a dozen passes between yourself and him, he shall not exceed you three hits; he hath laid on twelve for nine, and it would come to immediate trial, if your lordship would vouchsafe the answer.

Ham.How if I answer no?

Osr.I mean, my lord, the opposition of your person in trial.

Ham.Sir, I will walk here in the hall; if it please his majesty, ’tis the breathing time of day with me; let the foils be brought, the gentleman willing, and the king hold his purpose, I will win for him an I can; if not, I will gain nothing but my shame and the odd hits.

Osr.Shall I re-deliver you so?

Ham.To this effect, sir; after what flourish your nature will.

Osr.I commend my duty to your lordship.

Ham.Yours, yours.[Exit OSRIC.]He does well to commend it himself; there are no tongues else for ’s turn.

Hor.This lapwing runs away with the shell on his head.

Ham.He did comply with his dug before he sucked it. Thus has he—and many more of the same bevy, that I know the drossy age dotes on—only got the tune of the time and outward habit of encounter, a kind of yesty collection which carries them through and through the most fond and winnowed opinions; and do but blow them to their trial, the bubbles are out.

Enter a Lord.

Lord.My lord, his majesty commended him to you by young Osric, who brings back to him, that you attend him in the hall; he sends to know if your pleasure hold to play with Laertes, or that you will take longer time.

Ham.I am constant to my purposes; they follow the king’s pleasure: if his fitness speaks, mine is ready; now, or whensoever, provided I be so able as now.

Lord.The king, and queen, and all are coming down.

Ham.In happy time.

Lord.The queen desires you to use some gentle entertainment to Laertes before you fail to play.

Ham.She well instructs me.[Exit Lord.

Hor.You will lose this wager, my lord.

Ham.I do not think so; since he went into France, I have been in continual practice; I shall win at the odds. But thou wouldst not think how ill all’s here about my heart; but it is no matter.

Hor.Nay, good my lord,—

Ham.It is but foolery; but it is such a kind of gain-giving as would perhaps trouble a woman.

Hor.If your mind dislike any thing, obey it; I will forestal their repair hither, and say you are not fit.

Ham.Not a whit, we defy augury; there’s a special providence in the fall of a sparrow. If it be now, ’tis not to come; if it be not to come, it will be now; if it be not now, yet it will come: the readiness is all. Since no man has aught of what he leaves, what is ’t to leave betimes? Let be.

Enter KING, QUEEN, LAERTES, Lords, OSRIC, and Attendants with foils, &c.

King.Come, Hamlet, come, and take this hand from me.[The KING puts the hand of LAERTES into that of HAMLET.

Ham.Give me your pardon, sir; I’ve done you wrong;

But pardon ’t, as you are a gentleman.

This presence knows,

And you must needs have heard, how I am punish’d

With sore distraction. What I have done,

That might your nature, honour and exception

Roughly awake, I here proclaim was madness.

Was ’t Hamlet wrong’d Laertes? Never Hamlet:

If Hamlet from himself be ta’en away,

And when he’s not himself does wrong Laertes,

Then Hamlet does it not; Hamlet denies it.

Who does it then? His madness. If ’t be so,

Hamlet is of the faction that is wrong’d;

His madness is poor Hamlet’s enemy.

Sir, in this audience,

Let my disclaiming from a purpos’d evil

Free me so far in your most generous thoughts,

That I have shot mine arrow o’er the house,

And hurt my brother.

Laer.I am satisfied in nature,

Whose motive, in this case, should stir me most

To my revenge; but in my terms of honour

I stand aloof, and will no reconcilement,

Till by some elder masters, of known honour,

I have a voice and precedent of peace,

To keep my name ungor’d. But till that time,

I do receive your offer’d love like love,

And will not wrong it.

Ham.I embrace it freely;

And will this brother’s wager frankly play.

Give us the foils. Come on.

Laer.Come, one for me.

Ham.I’ll be your foil, Laertes; in mine ignorance

Your skill shall, like a star i’ the darkest night,

Stick fiery off indeed.

Laer.You mock me, sir.

Ham.No, by this hand.

King.Give them the foils, young Osric. Cousin Hamlet,

You know the wager?

Ham.Very well, my lord;

Your Grace hath laid the odds o’ the weaker side.

King.I do not fear it; I have seen you both;

But since he is better’d, we have therefore odds.

Laer.This is too heavy; let me see another.

Ham.This likes me well. These foils have all a length?

Osr.Ay, my good lord.[They prepare to play.

King.Set me the stoups of wine upon that table.

If Hamlet give the first or second hit,

Or quit in answer of the third exchange,

Let all the battlements their ordnance fire;

The king shall drink to Hamlet’s better breath;

And in the cup an union shall he throw,

Richer than that which four successive kings

In Denmark’s crown have worn. Give me the cups;

And let the kettle to the trumpet speak,

The trumpet to the cannoneer without,

The cannons to the heavens, the heavens to earth,

‘Now the king drinks to Hamlet!’ Come, begin;

And you, the judges, bear a wary eye.

Ham.Come on, sir.

Laer.Come, my lord.[They play.




Osr.A hit, a very palpable hit.

Laer.Well; again.

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

Here’s to thy health. Give him the cup.[Trumpets sound; and cannon shot off within.

Ham.I’ll play this bout first; set it by a while.

Come.—[They play.]Another hit; what say you?

Laer.A touch, a touch, I do confess.

King.Our son shall win.

Queen.He’s fat, and scant of breath.

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

The queen carouses to thy fortune, Hamlet.

Ham.Good madam!

King.Gertrude, do not drink.

Queen.I will, my lord; I pray you, pardon me.

King.[Aside.]It is the poison’d cup! it is too late.

Ham.I dare not drink yet, madam; by and by.

Queen.Come, let me wipe thy face.

Laer.My lord, I’ll hit him now.

King.I do not think ’t.

Laer.[Aside.]And yet ’tis almost ’gainst my conscience.

Ham.Come, for the third, Laertes. You but dally;

I pray you, pass with your best violence.

I am afeard you make a wanton of me.

Laer.Say you so? come on.[They play.

Osr.Nothing, neither way.

Laer.Have at you now.[LAERTES wounds HAMLET; then, in scuffling, they change rapiers, and HAMLET wounds LAERTES.

King.Part them! they are incens’d.

Ham.Nay, come, again.[The QUEEN falls.

Osr.Look to the queen there, ho!

Hor.They bleed on both sides. How is it, my lord?

Osr.How is it, Laertes?

Laer.Why, as a woodcock to mine own springe, Osric;

I am justly kill’d with mine own treachery.

Ham.How does the queen?

King.She swounds to see them bleed.

Queen.No, no, the drink, the drink,—O my dear Hamlet!

The drink, the drink; I am poison’d.[Dies.

Ham.O villany! Ho! let the door be lock’d:

Treachery! seek it out.[LAERTES falls.

Laer.It is here, Hamlet. Hamlet, thou art slain;

No medicine in the world can do thee good;

In thee there is not half an hour of life;

The treacherous instrument is in thy hand,

Unbated and envenom’d. The foul practice

Hath turn’d itself on me; lo! here I lie,

Never to rise again. Thy mother’s poison’d.

I can no more. The king, the king’s to blame.

Ham.The point envenom’d too!—

Then, venom, to thy work.[Stabs the KING.

All.Treason! treason!

King.O! yet defend me, friends; I am but hurt.

Ham.Here, thou incestuous, murderous, damned Danes,

Drink off this potion;—is thy union here?

Follow my mother.[KING dies.

Laer.He is justly serv’d;

It is a poison temper’d by himself.

Exchange forgiveness with me, noble Hamlet:

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

Nor thine on me![Dies.

Ham.Heaven make thee free of it! I follow thee.

I am dead, Horatio. Wretched queen, adieu!

You that look pale and tremble at this chance,

That are but mutes or audience to this act,

Had I but time,—as this fell sergeant, death,

Is strict in his arrest,—O! I could tell you—

But let it be. Horatio, I am dead;

Thou liv’st; report me and my cause aright

To the unsatisfied.

Hor.Never believe it;

I am more an antique Roman than a Dane:

Here’s yet some liquor left.

Ham.As thou’rt a man,

Give me the cup: let go; by heaven, I’ll have ’t.

O God! Horatio, what a wounded name,

Things standing thus unknown, shall live behind me.

If thou didst ever hold me in thy heart,

Absent thee from felicity awhile,

And in this harsh world draw thy breath in pain,

To tell my story.[March afar off, and shot within.

What war-like noise is this?

Osr.Young Fortinbras, with conquest come from Poland,

To the ambassadors of England gives

This war-like volley.

Ham.O! I die, Horatio;

The potent poison quite o’er-crows my spirit:

I cannot live to hear the news from England,

But I do prophesy the election lights

On Fortinbras: he has my dying voice;

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

Which have solicited—The rest is silence.[Dies.

Hor.Now cracks a noble heart. Good-night, sweet prince,

And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest!

Why does the drum come hither?[March within.

Enter FORTINBRAS, the English Ambassadors, and Others.

Fort.Where is this sight?

Hor.What is it ye would see?

If aught of woe or wonder, cease your search.

Fort.This quarry cries on havoc. O proud death!

What feast is toward in thine eternal cell,

That thou so many princes at a shot

So bloodily hast struck?

First Amb.The sight is dismal;

And our affairs from England come too late:

The cars are senseless that should give us hearing,

To tell him his commandment is fulfill’d,

That Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead.

Where should we have our thanks?

Hor.Not from his mouth,

Had it the ability of life to thank you:

He never gave commandment for their death.

But since, so jump upon this bloody question,

You from the Polack wars, and you from England,

Are here arriv’d, give order that these bodies

High on a stage be placed to the view;

And let me speak to the yet unknowing world

How these things came about: so shall you hear

Of carnal, bloody, and unnatural acts,

Of accidental judgments, casual slaughters;

Of deaths put on by cunning and forc’d cause,

And, in this upshot, purposes mistook

Fall’n on the inventors’ heads; all this can I

Truly deliver.

Fort.Let us haste to hear it,

And call the noblest to the audience.

For me, with sorrow I embrace my fortune;

I have some rights of memory in this kingdom,

Which now to claim my vantage doth invite me.

Hor.Of that I shall have also cause to speak,

And from his mouth whose voice will draw on more:

But let this same be presently perform’d,

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

On plots and errors happen.

Fort.Let four captains

Bear Hamlet, like a soldier, to the stage;

For he was likely, had he been put on,

To have prov’d most royally: and, for his passage,

The soldiers’ music and the rites of war

Speak loudly for him.

Take up the bodies: such a sight as this

Becomes the field, but here shows much amiss.

Go, bid the soldiers shoot.[A dead march.Exeunt, bearing off the bodies; after which a peal of ordnance is shot off.