William Shakespeare (1564–1616). The Tragedy of Hamlet Prince of Denmark.
Vol. 46, pp. 107-120 of The Harvard Classics
Before his son, Laertes, departs for a foreign country, Polonius advises him as to his conduct and dress, while Hamlet, the king's son, has to learn by experience.
(Shakespeare's twins - Hamnet and Judith - baptized Feb. 2, 1585.)
[A room in Polonius’s house]
Enter LAERTES and OPHELIA
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 favours,
Hold it a fashion and a toy in blood,
A violet in the youth of primy 1 nature,
Forward, not permanent, sweet, not lasting,
The [perfume and] suppliance 2 of a minute;
Oph. No more but so?
Laer. Think it no more:
For nature crescent does not grow alone
In thews 3 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 4 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 unvalued persons do,
Carve for himself, for on his choice depends
The sanity and health of the whole state;
And therefore must his choice be circumscrib’d
Unto the voice and yielding 5 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 6 ear you list his songs,
Or lose your heart, or your chaste treasure open
To his unmast’red 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 itself scapes not calumnious strokes.
The canker 7 galls the infants of the spring
Too oft before the buttons 8 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 the 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,
Whilst, like a puff’d and reckless libertine,
Himself the primrose path of dalliance treads,
And recks not his own rede. 9
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 you!
And these few precepts in thy memory
See 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 the opposed may beware of thee.
Give every man thine ear, but few thy voice;
Take each man’s censure, 10 but reserve thy judgement.
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 in that.
Neither a borrower nor a lender be;
For loan oft loses both itself and friend,
And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry. 11
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.
Laer. Farewell. Exit.
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 12
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 his 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 13 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, daughter,
Be somewhat scanter of your maiden presence.
Set your entreatments 14 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 15 show,
But mere implorators 16 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 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.
Note 1. In the spring, lusty.
Note 2. What fills in.
Note 3. Muscles.
Note 4. Deceit.
Note 5. Consent.
Note 6. Credulous.
Note 7. Canker-worm.
Note 8. Buds.
Note 9. Advice.
Note 10. Opinion.
Note 11. Thrift.
Note 12. Offers.
Note 13. Snares.
Note 14. Invitations.
Note 15. Garments.
Note 16. Pleaders.
Enter HAMLET, HORATIO, and MARCELLUS
Ham. The air bites shrewdly; it is very cold.
Hor. It is a nipping and an eager air.
Ham. What hour now?
Hor. I think it lacks of twelve.
Mar. No, it is struck.
Hor. Indeed? I heard it not. Then it draws near the season
Wherein the spirit held his wont to walk. A flourish of trumpets, and two pieces go off[within].
What does this mean, my lord?
Ham. The King doth wake to-night and takes his rouse,
Keeps wassail, and the swaggering up-spring 1 reels;
And, as he drains his draughts of Rhenish down,
The kettle-drum and trumpet thus bray out
The triumph of his pledge.
Hor. Is it a custom?
Ham. Ay, marry, is ’t,
But to my mind, though I am native here
And to the manner born, it is a custom
More honour’d in the breach than the observance.
[This heavy-headed revel east and west
Makes us traduc’d and tax’d 2 of other nations.
They clepe 3 us drunkards, and with swinish phrase
Soil our addition; 4and indeed it takes
From our achievements, though perform’d at height,
The pith and marrow of our attribute.
So, oft it chances in particular men,
That for some vicious mole 5 of nature in them,
As, in their birth—wherein they are not guilty,
Since nature cannot choose his origin—
By their o’ergrowth of some complexion 6
Oft breaking down the pales and forts of reason,
Or by some habit that too much o’er-leavens
The form of plausive 7 manners, that these men,
Carrying, I say, the stamp of one defect,
Being nature’s livery, or fortune’s star, 8—
His virtues else—be they as pure as grace,
As infinite as man may undergo—
Shall in the general censure 9 take corruption
From that particular fault. The dram of eale 10
Doth all the noble substance often dout 11
To his own scandal.]
Hor. Look, my lord, it comes!
Ham. Angels and ministers of grace defend us!
Be thou a spirit of health or goblin damn’d,
Bring with thee airs from heaven or blasts from hell,
Be thy intents wicked or charitable,
Thou com’st in such a questionable 12 shape
That I will speak to thee. I’ll call thee Hamlet,
King, father; royal Dane, O, answer me!
Let me not burst in ignorance, but tell
Why thy canoniz’d bones, hearsed in death,
Have burst their cerements; 13 why the sepulchre,
Wherein we saw thee quietly inurn’d,
Hath op’d his ponderous and marble jaws,
To cast thee up again. What may this mean,
That thou, dead corse, again in complete steel
Revisits thus the glimpses of the moon,
Making night hideous, and we fools of nature
So horridly to shake our disposition
With thoughts beyond the reaches of our souls?
Say, why is this? Wherefore? What should we do? Ghost beckons HAMLET.
Hor. It beckons you to go away with it,
As if it some impartment did desire
To you alone.
Mar. Look, with what courteous action
It wafts you to a more removed ground.
But do not go with it.
Hor. No, by no means.
Ham. It will not speak; then will I follow it.
Hor. Do not, my lord.
Ham. Why, what should be the fear?
I do not set my life at a pin’s fee,
And for my soul, what can it do to that,
Being a thing immortal as itself?
It waves me forth again. I’ll follow it.
Hor. What if it tempt you toward the flood, my lord,
Or to the dreadful summit of the cliff
That beetles o’er his base into the sea,
And there assume some other horrible form,
Which might deprive your sovereignty of reason
And draw you into madness? Think of it.
[The very place puts toys of desperation,
Without more motive, into every brain
That looks so many fathoms to the sea
And hears it roar beneath.]
Ham. It wafts me still.
Go on, I’ll follow thee.
Mar. You shall not go, my lord.
Ham. Hold off your hand.
Hor. Be rul’d; you shall not go.
Ham. My fate cries out,
And makes each petty artery in this body
As hardly as the Nemean lion’s nerve.
Still am I call’d. Unhand me, gentlemen.
By heaven, I’ll make a ghost of him that lets 14 me!
I say, away!—Go on, I’ll follow thee. Exeunt Ghost and HAMLET.
Hor. He waxes desperate with imagination.
Mar. Let’s follow. ’Tis not fit thus to obey him.
Hor. Have after. To what issue will this come?
Mar. Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.
Hor. Heaven will direct it.
Mar. Nay, let’s follow him. Exeunt.
Note 1. A wild dance.
Note 2. Accused.
Note 3. Call.
Note 4. Title.
Note 5. Flaw.
Note 6. Disposition.
Note 7. Pleasing.
Note 8. Whether due to nature or fortune.
Note 9. Opinion.
Note 10. Small quantity of evil (?).
Note 11. Drive out, efface (?). The passage is probably corrupt.
Note 12. Inviting discussion.
Note 13. Waxed shroud.
Note 14. Hinders.
[Another part of the platform]
Enter Ghost and HAMLET
Ham. Where wilt thou lead me? Speak, I’ll go no further.
Ghost. Mark me.
Ham. I will.
Ghost. My hour is almost come,
When I to sulphurous and tormenting flames
Must render up myself.
Ham. Alas, poor ghost!
Ghost. Pity me not, but lend thy serious hearing
To what I shall unfold.
Ham. Speak; I am bound to hear.
Ghost. So art thou to revenge, when thou shalt hear.
Ghost. I am thy father’s spirit,
Doom’d for a certain term to walk the night,
And for the day confin’d to fast in fires,
Till the foul crimes done in my days of nature
Are burnt and purg’d away. But that I am forbid
To tell the secrets of my prison-house,
I could a tale unfold whose lightest word
Would harrow up thy soul, freeze thy young blood,
Make thy two eyes, like stars, start from their spheres,
Thy knotty and combined locks to part
And each particular hair to stand on end,
Like quills upon the fretful porpentine. 1
But this eternal blazon 2 must not be
To ears of flesh and blood. List, Hamlet, O, list!
If thou didst ever thy dear father love—
Ham. O God!
Ghost. Revenge his foul and most unnatural murder.
Ghost. Murder most foul, as in the best it is,
But this most foul, strange, and unnatural.
Ham. Haste me to know ’t, that I, with wings as swift
As meditation or the thoughts of love,
May sweep to my revenge.
Ghost. I find thee apt;
And duller shouldst thou be than the fat weed
That roots itself in ease on Lethe wharf, 3
Wouldst thou not stir in this. Now, Hamlet, hear.
It’s given out that, sleeping in mine orchard,
A serpent stung me; so the whole ear of Denmark
Is by a forged process 4 of my death
Rankly abus’d; 5 but know, thou noble youth,
The serpent that did sting thy father’s life
Now wears his crown.
Ham. O my prophetic soul!
Ghost. Ay, that incestuous, that adulterate beast,
With witchcraft of his wit, with traitorous gifts,—
O wicked wit and gifts, that have the power
So to seduce!—won to his shameful lust
The will of my most seeming-virtuous queen.
O Hamlet, what a falling-off was there!
From me, whose love was of that dignity
That it went hand in hand even with the vow
I made to her in marriage, and to decline
Upon a wretch whose natural gifts were poor
To those of mine!
But virtue, as it never will be moved,
Though lewdness court it in a shape of heaven,
So lust, though to a radiant angel link’d,
Will sate itself in a celestial bed
And prey on garbage.
But, soft! methinks I scent the morning’s air.
Brief let me be. Sleeping within mine orchard,
My custom always in the afternoon,
Upon my secure hour thy uncle stole,
With juice of cursed hebenon 6 in a vial,
And in the porches of mine ears did pour
The leperous distilment; whose effect
Holds such an enmity with blood of man
That swift as quicksilver it courses through
The natural gates and alleys of the body,
And with a sudden vigour it doth posset 7
And curd, like eager 8 droppings into milk,
The thin and wholesome blood. So did it mine,
And a most instant tetter 9 bark’d about,
Most lazar-like, with vile and loathsome crust,
All my smooth body.
Thus was I, sleeping, by a brother’s hand
Of life, of crown, and queen, at once dispatch’d;
Cut off even in the blossoms of my sin,
Unhousel’d, 10 disappointed, 11 unanel’d, 12
No reckoning made, but sent to my account
With all my imperfections on my head.
O, horrible! O, horrible! most horrible!
If thou hast nature in thee, bear it not;
Let not the royal bed of Denmark be
A couch for luxury and damned incest.
But, howsoever thou pursuest this act,
Taint not thy mind, nor let thy soul contrive
Against thy mother aught. Leave her to heaven
And to those thorns that in her bosom lodge,
To prick and sting her. Fare thee well at once!
The glow-worm shows the matin to be near,
And ’gins to pale his uneffectual fire.
Adieu, adieu! Hamlet, remember me. Exit.
Ham. O all you host of heaven! O earth! What else?
And shall I couple hell? O, fie! Hold, my heart,
And you, my sinews, grow not instant old,
But bear me stiffly up. Remember thee!
Ay, thou poor ghost, while memory holds a seat
In this distracted globe. Remember thee!
Yea, from the table of my memory
I’ll wipe away all trivial fond 13 records,
All saws 14 of books, all forms, all pressures past,
That youth and observation copied there,
And thy commandment all alone shall live
Within the book and volume of my brain,
Unmix’d with baser matter. Yes, yes, by heaven!
O most pernicious woman!
O villain, villain, smiling, damned villain!
My tables, my tables,—meet it is I set it down!
That one may smile, and smile, and be a villain!
At least I’m sure it may be so in Denmark.
So, uncle, there you are. Now to my word;
It is “Adieu, adieu! remember me.”
I have sworn ’t.
Mar. & Hor. (Within.) My lord, my lord!
Mar. [Within.] Lord Hamlet!
Hor. [Within.] Heaven secure him!
Ham. So be it!
Mar. [Within.] Illo, ho, ho, my lord!
Ham. Hillo, ho, ho, boy! Come, bird, come.
Enter HORATIO and MARCELLUS
Mar. How is ’t, my noble lord?
Hor. What news, my lord?
Ham. O, wonderful!
Hor. Good my lord, tell it.
Ham. No, you’ll reveal it.
Hor. Not I, my lord, by heaven.
Mar. Nor I, my lord.
Ham. How say you, then, would heart of man once think it?—
But you’ll be secret?
Hor. & Mar. Ay, by heaven, my lord.
Ham. There’s ne’er a villain dwelling in all Denmark—
But he’s an arrant knave.
Hor. There needs no ghost, my lord, come from the grave
To tell us this.
Ham. Why, right, you are i’ the right.
And so, without more circumstance at all,
I hold it fit that we shake hands and part;
You, as your business and desires shall point you,
For every man has business and desire,
Such as it is; and for mine own poor part,
Look you, I’ll go pray.
Hor. These are but wild and whirling words, my lord.
Ham. I’m sorry they offend you, heartily;
Yes, faith, heartily.
Hor. There’s no offence, my lord.
Ham. Yes, by Saint Patrick, but there is, Horatio,
And much offence too. Touching this vision here,
It is an honest ghost, that let me tell you.
For your desire to know what is between us,
O’ermaster ’t as you may. And now, good friends,
As you are friends, scholars, and soldiers,
Give me one poor request.
Hor. What is ’t, my lord? We will.
Ham. Never make known what you have seen to-night.
Hor. & Mar. My lord, we will not.
Ham. Nay, but swear ’t.
Hor. In faith,
My lord, not I.
Mar. Nor I, my lord, in faith.
Ham. Upon my sword.
Mar. We have sworn, my lord, already.
Ham. Indeed, upon my sword, indeed.
Ghost. Swear! Ghost cries under the stage.
Ham. Ah, ha, boy! say’st thou so? Art thou there, truepenny?
Come on; you hear this fellow in the cellarage.
Consent to swear.
Hor. Propose the oath, my lord.
Ham. Never to speak of this that you have seen.
Swear by my sword.
Ghost. [Beneath.] Swear.
Ham. Hic et ubique? 15 Then we’ll shift our ground.
Come thither, gentlemen,
And lay your hands again upon my sword.
Never to speak of this that you have heard,
Swear by my sword.
Ghost. [Beneath.] Swear.
Ham. Well said, old mole! Canst work i’ the earth so fast?
A worthy pioner! 16 Once more remove, good friends.
Hor. O day and night, but this is wondrous strange!
Ham. And therefore as a stranger give it welcome.
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
Here, as before, never, so help you mercy,
How strange or odd soe’er I bear myself,—
As I perchance hereafter shall think meet
To put an antic disposition on—
That you, at such time seeing me, never shall,
With arms encumb’red thus, or this headshake,
Or by pronouncing of some doubtful phrase,
As “Well, we know,” or “We could, an if we would,”
Or “If we list to speak,” or “There be, an if they might,”
Or such ambiguous giving out, to note
That you know aught of me,—this not to do,
So grace and mercy at your most need help you,
Ghost. [Beneath.] Swear.
Ham. Rest, rest, perturbed spirit! [They swear.] So, gentlemen,
With all my love I do commend me to you.
And what so poor a man as Hamlet is
May do, to express his love and friending to you,
God willing, shall not lack. Let us go in together;
And still your fingers on your lips, I pray.
The time is out of joint;—O cursed spite,
That ever I was born to set it right!
Nay, come, let’s go together. Exeunt.
Note 1. Porcupine.
Note 2. Declaration about the eternal world.
Note 3. Bank.
Note 4. Account.
Note 5. Deceived.
Note 6. An unknown poison.
Note 7. Thicken.
Note 8. Sour.
Note 9. Scurf.
Note 10. Without the sacrament.
Note 11. Unprepared.
Note 12. Without extreme unction.
Note 13. Foolish.
Note 14. Sayings.
Note 15. Lat. Here and everywhere.
Note 16. Pioneer.