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

Act I. Scene III.

Hamlet, Prince of Denmark

A Room in POLONIUS’ House.


Laer.My necessaries are embark’d; farewell:

And, sister, as the winds give benefit

And convoy is assistant, do not sleep,

But let me hear from you.

Oph.Do you doubt that?

Laer.For Hamlet, and the trifling of his favour,

Hold it a fashion and a toy in blood,

A violet in the youth of primy nature,

Forward, not permanent, sweet, not lasting,

The perfume and suppliance of a minute;

No more.

Oph.No more but so?

Laer.Think it no more:

For nature, crescent, does not grow alone

In thews and bulk; but, as this temple waxes,

The inward service of the mind and soul

Grows wide withal. Perhaps he loves you now,

And now no soil nor cautel doth besmirch

The virtue of his will; but you must fear,

His greatness weigh’d, his will is not his own,

For he himself is subject to his birth;

He may not, as unvalu’d persons do,

Carve for himself, for on his choice depends

The safety and the health of the whole state;

And therefore must his choice be circumscrib’d

Unto the voice and yielding of that body

Whereof he is the head. Then if he says he loves you,

It fits your wisdom so far to believe it

As he in his particular act and place

May give his saying deed; which is no further

Than the main voice of Denmark goes withal.

Then weigh what loss your honour may sustain,

If with too credent ear you list his songs,

Or lose your heart, or your chaste treasure open

To his unmaster’d importunity.

Fear it, Ophelia, fear it, my dear sister;

And keep you in the rear of your affection,

Out of the shot and danger of desire.

The chariest maid is prodigal enough

If she unmask her beauty to the moon;

Virtue herself ’scapes not calumnious strokes;

The canker galls the infants of the spring

Too oft before their buttons be disclos’d,

And in the morn and liquid dew of youth

Contagious blastments are most imminent.

Be wary then; best safety lies in fear:

Youth to itself rebels, though none else near.

Oph.I shall th’ effect of this good lesson keep,

As watchman to my heart. But, good my brother,

Do not, as some ungracious pastors do,

Show me the steep and thorny way to heaven,

Whiles, like a puff’d and reckless libertine,

Himself the primrose path of dalliance treads,

And recks not his own rede.

Laer.O! fear me not.

I stay too long; but here my father comes.


A double blessing is a double grace;

Occasion smiles upon a second leave.

Pol.Yet here, Laertes! aboard, aboard, for shame!

The wind sits in the shoulder of your sail,

And you are stay’d for. There, my blessing with thee!

And these few precepts in thy memory

Look thou character. Give thy thoughts no tongue,

Nor any unproportion’d thought his act.

Be thou familiar, but by no means vulgar;

The friends thou hast, and their adoption tried,

Grapple them to thy soul with hoops of steel;

But do not dull thy palm with entertainment

Of each new-hatch’d, unfledg’d comrade. Beware

Of entrance to a quarrel, but, being in,

Bear ’t that th’ opposed may beware of thee.

Give every man thine ear, but few thy voice;

Take each man’s censure, but reserve thy judgment.

Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy,

But not express’d in fancy; rich, not gaudy;

For the apparel oft proclaims the man,

And they in France of the best rank and station

Are most select and generous, chief in that.

Neither a borrower, nor a lender be;

For loan oft loses both itself and friend,

And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.

This above all: to thine own self be true,

And it must follow, as the night the day,

Thou canst not then be false to any man.

Farewell; my blessing season this in thee!

Laer.Most humbly do I take my leave, my lord.

Pol.The time invites you; go, your servants tend.

Laer.Farewell, Ophelia; and remember well

What I have said to you.

Oph.’Tis in my memory lock’d,

And you yourself shall keep the key of it.


Pol.What is ’t, Ophelia, he hath said to you?

Oph.So please you, something touching the Lord Hamlet.

Pol.Marry, well bethought:

’Tis told me, he hath very oft of late

Given private time to you; and you yourself

Have of your audience been most free and bounteous.

If it be so,—as so ’tis put on me,

And that in way of caution,—I must tell you,

You do not understand yourself so clearly

As it behoves my daughter and your honour.

What is between you? give me up the truth.

Oph.He hath, my lord, of late made many tenders

Of his affection to me.

Pol.Affection! pooh! you speak like a green girl,

Unsifted in such perilous circumstance.

Do you believe his tenders, as you call them?

Oph.I do not know, my lord, what I should think.

Pol.Marry, I’ll teach you: think yourself a baby,

That you have ta’en these tenders for true pay,

Which are not sterling. Tender yourself more dearly;

Or,—not to crack the wind of the poor phrase,

Running it thus,—you’ll tender me a fool.

Oph.My lord, he hath importun’d me with love

In honourable fashion.

Pol.Ay, fashion you may call it: go to, go to.

Oph.And hath given countenance to his speech, my lord,

With almost all the holy vows of heaven.

Pol.Ay, springes to catch woodcocks. I do know,

When the blood burns, how prodigal the soul

Lends the tongue vows: these blazes, daughter,

Giving more light than heat, extinct in both,

Even in their promise, as it is a-making,

You must not take for fire. From this time

Be somewhat scanter of your maiden presence;

Set your entreatments at a higher rate

Than a command to parley. For Lord Hamlet,

Believe so much in him, that he is young,

And with a larger tether may he walk

Than may be given you: in few, Ophelia,

Do not believe his vows, for they are brokers,

Not of that dye which their investments show,

But mere implorators of unholy suits,

Breathing like sanctified and pious bawds,

The better to beguile. This is for all:

I would not, in plain terms, from this time forth,

Have you so slander any moment’s leisure,

As to give words or talk with the Lord Hamlet.

Look to ’t, I charge you; come your ways.

Oph.I shall obey, my lord.[Exeunt.