|Edwin Booth as Hamlet|
William Shakespeare (1564–1616). The Tragedy of Hamlet Prince of Denmark.
Vol. 46, pp. 144-158 of The Harvard Classics
Hamlet pondered over which course contained the least unhappiness - whether to suffer here and not incur new dangers, or whether to end it all and chance the unknown terrors of the next world. See how Hamlet reasoned.
(Shakespeare makes his will, March 25, 1616.)
Ham. To be, or not to be: that is the question.
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them. To die; to sleep;
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to. ’Tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish’d. To die; to sleep;—
To sleep? Perchance to dream! Ay, there ’s the rub; 1
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come,
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 dispriz’d 3 love, the law’s delay,
The insolence of office and the spurns
That patient merit of the unworthy takes,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
No traveller returns, puzzles the will
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
And enterprises of great pith and moment
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 rememb’red
Oph. Good my Lord,
How does your honour for this many a day?
Ham. I humbly thank you, well, well, well.
Oph. My lord, I have remembrances of yours
That I have longed long to re-deliver.
I pray you, now receive them.
Ham. No, no;
I never gave you aught.
Oph. My honour’d lord, I know right well you did,
And, with them, words of so sweet breath compos’d
As made the things more rich. Their perfume lost,
Take these again; for to the noble mind
Rich gifts wax poor when givers prove unkind.
There, my lord.
Oph. My lord!
Ham. Are you fair?
Oph. What means your lordship?
Ham. That if you be honest and fair, your honesty should admit no discourse to your beauty.
Ham. Ay, truly; for the power of beauty will sooner transform honesty from what it is to a bawd than the force of honesty can translate beauty into his likeness. This was sometime a paradox, but now the time gives it proof. I did love you once.
Oph. Indeed, my lord you made me believe so.
Ham. You should not have believ’d me, for virtue cannot so inoculate 11 our old stock but we shall relish of it. I loved you not.
Oph. I was the more deceived.
Ham. Get thee to a nunnery; why wouldst 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. Iam very proud, revengeful, ambitious, with more offences at my beck 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 heaven and earth? We are arrant knaves all; believe none of us. Go thy ways to a nunnery. Where’s your father?
Oph. At home, my lord.
Ham. Let the doors be shut upon him, that he may play the fool nowhere but in ’s own house. Farewell!
Oph. O, help him, you sweet heavens!
Ham. If thou dost marry, I’ll give thee this plague for thy dowry: be though as chaste as ice, as pure as snow, thou shalt not escape calumny. Get thee to a nunnery, go. 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!
Oph. O heavenly powers, restore him!
Ham. I have heard of your paintings too, well enough. God has given you one face and you make yourselves another. You jig, you amble, and you lisp and nick-name God’s creatures and make your wantonness your ignorance. Go to, I’ll no more on ’t; it hath made me mad. I say, we will have no more marriages. Those that are married already, all but one, shall live; the rest shall keep as they are. To a nunnery, go. Exit.
Oph. O, 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,
The glass of fashion and the mould of form,
The observ’d of all observers, quite, quite down!
And I, of ladies most deject and wretched,
That suck’d the honey of his music vows,
Now see that noble and most sovereign reason,
Like sweet bells jangled out of tune and harsh;
To have seen what I have seen, see what I see!
Re-enter KING and POLONIUS
King. Love! his affections do not that way tend;
Nor what he spake, though it lack’d form a little,
Was not like madness. There’s something in his soul
O’er which his melancholy sits on brood,
Will be some danger; which for to prevent,
I have in quick determination
Thus set it down: he shall with speed to England
For the demand of our neglected tribute.
Haply 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’t?
Pol. It shall do well; 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
And I’ll be plac’d, so please you, in the ear
Of all their conference. If she find him not,
To England send him, or confine him where
Your wisdom best shall think.
King. It shall be so.
Madness in great ones must not unwatch’d go. Exeunt.
Note 1. Impediment.
Note 2. Turmoil of life.
Note 3. Undervalued.
Note 4. Acquittance.
Note 5. Dagger.
Note 6. Burdens.
Note 7. Boundary.
Note 8. Brooding, anxiety.
Note 9. Chaste.
Note 10. Intercourse.
Note 11. Graft.
Note 12. Full-blown.
Note 13. Madness.
Note 14. Breaking of the shell; outcome.
Note 15. Direct.
A hall in the castle]
Enter HAMLET and Players
Enter HAMLET and Players
Ham. Speak the speech, I pray you, as I pronounc’d it to you, trippingly on the tongue; but if you mouth it, as many of your players do, I had as lief the town-crier spoke my lines. Nor do not saw the air too much with your hand, thus, but use all gently; for in the very torrent, tempest, and, as I may say, the whirlwind of passion, you must acquire and beget a temperance that may give it smoothness. O, it offends me to the soul to see a robustious 1 periwig-pated fellow tear a passion to tatters, to very rags, to split the ears of the groundlings 2 who for the most part are capable of nothing but inexplicable dumb-shows and noise. I could have such a fellow whipp’d for o’erdoing Termagant. 3 It out-herods Herod. 4 Pray you, avoid it.
1. Play. I warrant your honour.
Ham. Be not too tame neither, but let your own discretion be your tutor. Suit the action to the word, the word to the action; with this special observance, that you o’erstep not the modesty 5 of nature. For anything so overdone is from the purpose of playing, whose end, both at the first and now, was and is, to hold, as ’twere, the mirror up to nature; to show virtue her own feature, scorn her own image, and the very age 6 and body of the time his form and pressure. 7 Now this overdone, or come tardy off, 8though it make the unskilful laugh, cannot but make the judicious grieve; the censure 9of the which one must, in your allowance, o’erweigh a whole theatre of others. O, there be players that I have seen play, and heard others praise, and that highly, not to speak it profanely, that, neither having the accent of Christians nor the gait of Christian, pagan, nor man, have so strutted and bellowed that I have thought some of Nature’s journeymen had made men and not made them well, they imitated humanity so abominably.
1. Play. I hope we have reform’d that indifferently with us, sir.
Ham. O, reform it altogether. And let those that play your clowns speak no more than is set down for them; for there be of them that will themselves laugh to set on some quantity of barren spectators to laugh too, though in the mean time some necessary question most pitiful ambition in the Fool that uses it. Go, make you ready. ExeuntPlayers.
Enter POLONIUS, ROSENCRANTZ, and GUILDENSTERN
How now, my lord! Will the King hear this piece of work?
Pol. And the Queen too, and that presently.
Ham. Bid the players make haste. Exit POLONIUS.
Will you two help to hasten them?
Ros. & Guil. We will, my lord. Exeunt ROSENCRANTZ and GUILDENSTERN.
Ham. What ho! Horatio.
Hor. Here, sweet lord, at your service.
Ham. Horatio, thou art e’en as just a man
Hor. O, my dear lord,—
Ham. Nay, do not think I flatter,
For what advancement may I hope from thee
That no revenue hast but thy good spirits
To feed and clothe thee? Why should the poor be flatter’d?
No, let the candied tongue lick absurd pomp,
Since my dear soul was mistress of my choice
And could of men distinguish, her election
Hath seal’d thee for herself; for thou hast been
As one, in suffering all, that suffers nothing,
A man that Fortune’s buffets and rewards
Hath ta’en with equal thanks; and blest are those
Whose blood and judgement are so well commingled,
That they are not a pipe for Fortune’s finger
To sound what stop she please. Give me that man
That is not passion’s slave, and I will wear him
In my heart’s core, ay, in my heart of heart,
As I do thee.—Something too much of this.—
There is a play to-night before the King.
One scene of it comes near the circumstance
Which I have told thee of my father’s death.
I prithee, when thou seest that act a-foot,
Even with the very comment of thy soul
Observe mine uncle. If his occulted guilt
Do not itself unkennel in one speech,
It is a damned ghost that we have seen,
And my imaginations are as foul
For I mine eyes will rivet to his face,
And after we will both our judgements join
Hor. Well, my lord.
If he steal aught the whilst this play is playing,
And scape detecting, I will pay the theft.
Danish march. A flourish. Enter KING, QUEEN, POLONIUS, OPHELIA, ROSENCRANTZ,GUILDENSTERN, and other Lords attendant, with the guard carrying torches
Ham. They are coming to the play; I must be idle. Get you a place.
King. How fares our cousin Hamlet?
Ham. Excellent, i’ faith,—of the chameleon’s dish. I eat the air, promise-cramm’d. You cannot feed capons so.
King. I have nothing with this answer, Hamlet; these words are not mine.
Ham. No, nor mine now. [To POLONIUS.] My lord, you play’d once i’ the university, you say?
Pol. That I did, my lord, and was accounted a good actor.
Ham. And what did you enact?
Pol. I did enact Julius CÆsar. I was kill’d i’ the Capitol; Brutus kill’d me.
Ham. It was a brute part of him to kill so capital a calf there.—Be the players ready?
Ros. Ay, my lord, they stay upon your patience.
Queen. Come hither, my good Hamlet, sit by me.
Ham. No, good mother, here’s metal more attractive. [Lying down at OPHELIA’S feet.]
Pol. [To the King.] O, ho! do you mark that?
Ham. Lady, shall I lie in your lap?
Oph. No, my lord.
Ham. I mean, my head upon your lap?
Oph. Ay, my lord.
Ham. Do you think I meant country matters?
Oph. I think nothing, my lord.
Ham. That’s a fair thought to lie between maid’s legs.
Oph. What is, my lord?
Oph. You are merry, my lord.
Ham. Who, I?
Oph. Ay, my lord.
Ham. O God, your only jig-maker. What should a man do but be merry? For, look you, how cheerfully my mother looks, and my father died within ’s two hours.
Oph. Nay, ’tis twice two months, my lord.
15 O heavens! die two months ago, and not forgotten yet? Then there’s hope a great man’s memory may outlive his life half a year; but, by ’r lady, he must build churches then, or else shall he suffer not thinking on, with the hobby-horse, whose epitaph is, “For, O, for, O, the hobby-horse is forgot.”
Hautboys play. The dumb-show enters.
Enter a King and Queen very lovingly, the Queen embracing him. She kneels and makes show of protestation unto him. He takes her up and declines his head upon her neck; lays him down upon a bank of flowers. She, seeing him asleep, leaves him. Anon comes in a fellow, takes off his crown, kisses it, and pours poison in the King’s ears, and exit. The Queen returns, finds the King dead, and makes passionate action. Thepoisoner, with some two or three Mutes, comes in again, seeming to lament with her. The dead body is carried away. The poisoner woos the Queen with gifts; she seems loath and unwilling a while, but in the end accepts his love. Exeunt.
Oph. What means this, my lord?
Oph. Belike this show imports the argument of the play?
Ham. We shall know by this fellow. The players cannot keep counsel, they’ll tell all.
Oph. Will they tell us what this show meant?
Ham. Ay, or any show that you’ll show him. Be not you asham’d to show, he’ll not shame to tell you what it means.
Why, let the strucken deer go weep,
The hart ungalled play;
For some must watch, while some must sleep,—
So runs the world away.
Ham. Is this a prologue, or the posy of a ring?
Oph. ’Tis brief, my lord.
Ham. As woman’s love.
Enter [two Players,] a King and his Queen
Neptune’s salt wash and Tellus’ orbed ground,
And thirty dozen moons with borrowed sheen
About the world have times twelve thirties been,
Since love our hearts and Hymen did our hands
Unite commutual in most sacred bands.
P. Queen. So many journeys may the sun and moon
Make us again count o’er ere love be done!
But, woe is me, you are so sick of late,
So far from cheer and from your former state,
That I distrust you. Yet, though I distrust,
Discomfort you, my lord, it nothing must;
In neither aught, or in extremity.
Now, what my love is, proof hath made you know;
And as my love is siz’d, my fear is so.
[Where love is great, the littlest doubts are fear;
Where little fears grow great, great love grows there.]
P. King. Faith, I must leave thee, love, and shortly too.
My operant powers their functions leave to do;
And thou shalt live in this fair world behind,
Honour’d, belov’d; and haply one as kind.
For husband shalt thou—
P. Queen. O, confound the rest!
Such love must needs be treason in my breast!
In second husband let me be accurst!
None wed the second but who kill’d the first.
Ham. [Aside.] Wormwood, wormwood!
P. Queen. The instances that second marriage move
Are base respects of thrift, but none of love.
A second time I kill my husband dead,
When second husband kisses me in bed.
P. King. I do believe you think what now you speak,
But what we do determine oft we break.
Purpose is but the slave to memory,
Of violent birth, but poor validity;
Which now, like fruit unripe, sticks on the tree,
But fall unshaken when they mellow be.
Most necessary ’tis that we forget
To pay ourselves what to ourselves is debt.
What to ourselves in passion we propose,
The passion ending, doth the purpose lose.
The violence of either grief or joy
Where joy most revels, grief doth most lament;
Grief joys, joy grieves, on slender accident.
This world is not for aye, nor ’tis not strange
That even our loves should with our fortunes change,
For ’tis a question left us yet to prove,
Whether love lead fortune, or else fortune love.
The great man down, you mark his favourite flies;
The poor advanc’d makes friends of enemies.
And hitherto doth love on fortune tend,
For who not needs shall never lack a friend;
And who in want a hollow friend doth try,
Directly seasons him his enemy.
But, orderly to end where I begun,
Our wills and fates do so contrary run
That our devices still are overthrown;
Our thoughts are ours, their ends none of our own.
So think thou wilt no second husband wed;
But die thy thoughts when thy first lord is dead.
P. Queen. Nor earth to me give food, nor heaven light!
Sport and repose lock from me day and night!
[To desperation turn my trust and hope!
Meet what I would have well and it destroy!
Both here and hence pursue me lasting strife,
If, once a widow, ever I be wife!
Ham. If she should break it now!
P. King. ’Tis deeply sworn. Sweet, leave me here a while.
My spirits grow dull, and fain I would beguile
The tedious day with sleep. Sleeps.
P. Queen. Sleep rock thy brain,
And never come mischance between us twain! Exit.
Ham. Madam, how like you this play?
Queen. The lady protests too much, methinks.
Ham. O, but she’ll keep her word.
King. Have you heard the argument? Is there no offence in ’t?
Ham. No, no, they do but jest, poison in jest.
No offence i’ the world.
King. What do you call the play?
Ham. The Mouse-trap. Marry, how? Tropically. 24 This play is the image of a murder done in Vienna. Gonzago is the duke’s name; his wife, Baptista. You shall see anon. ’Tis a knavish piece of work, but what o’ that? Your Majesty and we that have free souls, it touches us not. Let the gall’d jade wince, our withers are unwrung.
This is one Lucianus, nephew to the king.
Oph. You are a good chorus, my lord.
Oph. You are keen, my lord, you are keen.
Ham. It would cost you a groaning to take off my edge.
Oph. Still better, and worse.
Ham. So you mistake 27 your husbands. Begin, murderer; pox, leave thy damnable faces and begin. Come, “the croaking raven doth bellow for revenge.”
Luc. Thoughts black, hands apt, drugs fit, and time agreeing;
Confederate season, else no creature seeing.
Thou mixture rank, of midnight weeds collected,
With Hecate’s ban thrice blasted, thrice infected,
Thy natural magic and dire property
On wholesome life usurp immediately. Pours the poison in [to the sleeper’s] ears.
Ham. He poisons him i’ the garden for ’s estate. His name’s Gonzago; the story is extant, and writ in choice Italian. You shall see anon how the murderer gets the love of Gonzago’s wife.
Oph. The King rises.
Queen. How fares my lord?
Pol. Give o’er the play.
King. Give me some light. Away!
All. Lights, lights, lights! Exeunt all but HAMLET and HORATIO.
Why, let the strucken deer go weep,
The hart ungalled play;
For some must watch, while some must sleep,—
So runs the world away.
Would not this, sir, and a forest of feathers 29—if the rest of my fortunes turn Turk with me—with two Provincial roses 30 on my raz’d 31 shoes, get me a fellowship in a cry of players, sir?
Hor. Half a share.
Ham. A whole one, I.
For thou dost know, O Damon dear,
This realm dismantled was
Of Jove himself; and now reigns here
A very, very—pajock.
Hor. You might have rhym’d.
Ham. O good Horatio, I’ll take the ghost’s word for a thousand pound. Didst perceive?
Hor. Very well, my lord.
Ham. Upon the talk of the poisoning?
Hor. I did very well note him.
Re-enter ROSENCRANTZ and GUILDENSTERN
Ah, ha! Come, some music! Come, the recorders!
For if the king like not the comedy,
Why, then, belike, he likes it not, perdy.
Come, some music!
Guil. Good my lord, vouchsafe me a word with you.
Ham. Sir, a whole history.
Guil. The King, sir,—
Ham. Ay, sir, what of him?
Ham. With drink, sir?
Ham. Your wisdom should show itself more richer to signify this to his doctor; for, for me to put him to his purgation would perhaps plunge him into far more choler.
Guil. Good my lord, put your discourse into some frame, and start not so wildly from my affair.
Ham. I am tame, sir; pronounce.
Guil. The Queen, your mother, in most great affliction of spirit, hath sent me to you.
Ham. You are welcome.
Guil. Nay, good my lord, this courtesy is not of the right breed. If it shall please you to make me a wholesome answer I will do your mother’s commandment; if not, your pardon and my return shall be the end of my business.
Ham. Sir, I cannot.
Guil. What, my lord?
Ham. Make you a wholesome answer. My wit ’s diseas’d. But, sir, such answers as I can make, you shall command, or, rather, as you say, my mother. Therefore no more, but to the matter. My mother, you say,—
Ham. O wonderful son, that can so astonish a mother! But is there no sequel at the heels of this mother’s admiration? [Impart.]
Ros. She desires to speak with you in her closet ere you go to bed.
Ham. We shall obey, were she ten times our mother. Have you any further trade with us?
Ros. My lord, you once did love me.
Ros. Good my lord, what is your cause of distemper?
You do surely bar the door upon your own liberty if you deny your griefs to your friend.
Ham. Sir, I lack advancement.
Ros. How can that be, when you have the voice of the King himself for your succession in Denmark?
Re-enter one with a recorder
O, the recorder! Let me see.—To withdraw 37 with you:—why do you go about to recover the wind of me, as if you would drive me into a toil?
Guil. O, my lord, if my duty be too bold, my love is too unmannerly.
Ham. I do not well understand that. Will you play upon this pipe?
Guil. My lord, I cannot.
Ham. I pray you.
Guil. Believe me, I cannot.
Ham. I do beseech you.
Guil. I know no touch of it, my lord.
Ham. ’Tis as easy as lying. Govern these ventages 38 with your finger and thumb, give it breath with your mouth, and it will discourse most excellent music. Look you, these are the stops.
Guil. But these cannot I command to any utterance of harmony. I have not the skill.
Ham. Why, look you now, how unworthy a thing you make of me! You would play upon me, you would seem to know my stops, you would pluck out the heart of my mystery, you would sound me from my lowest note to the top of my compass; and there is much music, excellent voice, in this little organ, yet cannot you make it [speak. ’Sblood,] do you think that I am easier to be play’d on than a pipe? Call me what instrument you will, though you can fret 39 me, you cannot play upon me.
God bless you, sir.
Pol. My lord, the Queen would speak with you, and presently.
Ham. Do you see that cloud that’s almost in shape like a camel?
Pol. By the mass, and it’s like a camel, indeed.
Ham. Methinks it is like a weasel.
Pol. It is back’d like a weasel.
Ham. Or like a whale?
Pol. Very like a whale.
Ham. Then will I come to my mother by and by. [Aside.]
They fool me to the top of my bent.—I will come by and by.
Pol. I will say so. Exit.
Ham. “By and by” is easily said. Leave me, friends. [Exeunt all but HAMLET.]
’Tis now the very witching time of night
When churchyards yawn and hell itself breathes out
Contagion to this world. Now could I drink hot blood,
And do such bitter business as the day
Would quake to look on. Soft! now to my mother,
O heart, lose not thy nature! Let not ever
The soul of Nero enter this firm bosom;
Let me be cruel, not unnatural.
I will speak daggers to her, but use none.
My tongue and soul in this be hypocrites;
To give them seals never, my soul, consent! Exit.
Note 1. Sturdy.
Note 2. Spectators standing in the pit, then the cheapest part of the theatre.
Note 3. Believed to be the god of the Saracens. A figure in the old plays and romances.
Note 4. The raging Herod of the miracle-plays.
Note 5. Moderation.
Note 6. Generation.
Note 7. Impress.
Note 8. Hanging fire.
Note 9. Opinion.
Note 10. As I ever encountered in my intercourse with men.
Note 11. Ready (to bend).
Note 12. Profit.
Note 13. Forge, anvil.
Note 14. Judge.
Note 15. Furs, or black garments. Probably intentionally ambiguous.
Note 16. Skulking mischief.
Note 17. Improper.
Note 18. Chariot.
Note 19. Keep proportion.
Note 20. Acts.
Note 21. Hermit’s fare.
Note 22. Contrary thing.
Note 23. Makes pale.
Note 24. Figuratively.
Note 25. Lover.
Note 26. Referring to the interpreter who explains the action in a puppet show.
Note 27. Implying that wives, having promised to take their husbands for better, for worse, break their word.
Note 28. Fire-works.
Note 29. Feather head-dresses were much worn by actors.
Note 30. Rosettes of ribbon.
Note 31. Slashed.
Note 32. Perturbed.
Note 33. Anger.
Note 34. Wonder.
Note 35. Hands.
Note 36. “—the steed starves.”
Note 37. Talk apart.
Note 38. Wind-holes.
Note 39. A pun on fret, to irritate and fret, a bar on a stringed instrument to guide the fingers.
Note 40. Rebuked.