Plays  +  Sonnets  +  Poems  +  Concordance  +  Advanced Search  +  About OSS

The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark

print/save print/save view


Act III, Scene 2

Elsinore. hall in the Castle.


Enter Hamlet and three of the Players.

  • Hamlet. 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 our
    players do, I had as live the town crier spoke my lines. Nor do 1885
    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)
    whirlwind of your passion, you must acquire and beget a
    temperance that may give it smoothness. O, it offends me to the
    soul to hear a robustious periwig-pated fellow tear a passion to 1890
    tatters, to very rags, to split the cars of the groundlings, who
    (for the most part) are capable of nothing but inexplicable dumb
    shows and noise. I would have such a fellow whipp'd for o'erdoing
    Termagant. It out-herods Herod. Pray you avoid it.
  • Hamlet. 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 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 1900
    'twere, the mirror up to nature; to show Virtue her own feature,
    scorn her own image, and the very age and body of the time his
    form and pressure. Now this overdone, or come tardy off, though
    it make the unskilful laugh, cannot but make the judicious
    grieve; the censure of the which one must in your allowance 1905
    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 1910
    journeymen had made men, and not made them well, they imitated
    humanity so abominably.
  • First Player. I hope we have reform'd that indifferently with us, sir.
  • Hamlet. 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 1915
    that will themselves laugh, to set on some quantity of barren
    spectators to laugh too, though in the mean time some necessary
    question of the play be then to be considered. That's villanous
    and shows a most pitiful ambition in the fool that uses it. Go
    make you ready. 1920
    [Exeunt Players.]
    [Enter Polonius, Rosencrantz, and Guildenstern.]
    How now, my lord? Will the King hear this piece of work?
  • Polonius. And the Queen too, and that presently.
  • Hamlet. Bid the players make haste, [Exit Polonius.] Will you two 1925
    help to hasten them?

Exeunt they two.

Enter Horatio.

  • Horatio. Here, sweet lord, at your service.
  • Hamlet. Horatio, thou art e'en as just a man
    As e'er my conversation cop'd withal.
  • Hamlet. Nay, do not think I flatter; 1935
    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,
    And crook the pregnant hinges of the knee 1940
    Where thrift may follow fawning. Dost thou hear?
    Since my dear soul was mistress of her choice
    And could of men distinguish, her election
    Hath seal'd thee for herself. For thou hast been
    As one, in suff'ring all, that suffers nothing; 1945
    A man that Fortune's buffets and rewards
    Hast ta'en with equal thanks; and blest are those
    Whose blood and judgment are so well commingled
    That they are not a pipe for Fortune's finger
    To sound what stop she please. Give me that man 1950
    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 I
    There is a play to-night before the King.
    One scene of it comes near the circumstance, 1955
    Which I have told thee, of my father's death.
    I prithee, when thou seest that act afoot,
    Even with the very comment of thy soul
    Observe my uncle. If his occulted guilt
    Do not itself unkennel in one speech, 1960
    It is a damned ghost that we have seen,
    And my imaginations are as foul
    As Vulcan's stithy. Give him heedful note;
    For I mine eyes will rivet to his face,
    And after we will both our judgments join 1965
    In censure of his seeming.
  • Horatio. Well, my lord.
    If he steal aught the whilst this play is playing,
    And scape detecting, I will pay the theft.
    Sound a flourish. [Enter Trumpets and Kettledrums. Danish 1970
    march. [Enter King, Queen, Polonius, Ophelia, Rosencrantz, Guildenstern,
    and other Lords attendant, with the Guard carrying torches.]
  • Hamlet. They are coming to the play. I must be idle.
    Get you a place.
  • Claudius. How fares our cousin Hamlet? 1975
  • Hamlet. Excellent, i' faith; of the chameleon's dish. I eat the air,
    promise-cramm'd. You cannot feed capons so.
  • Claudius. I have nothing with this answer, Hamlet. These words are not
  • Hamlet. No, nor mine now. [To Polonius] My lord, you play'd once 1980
    i' th' university, you say?
  • Polonius. That did I, my lord, and was accounted a good actor.
  • Polonius. I did enact Julius Caesar; I was kill'd i' th' Capitol; Brutus
    kill'd me. 1985
  • Hamlet. It was a brute part of him to kill so capital a calf there. Be
    the players ready.
  • Rosencrantz. Ay, my lord. They stay upon your patience.
  • Gertrude. Come hither, my dear Hamlet, sit by me.
  • Hamlet. No, good mother. Here's metal more attractive. 1990
  • Polonius. [to the King] O, ho! do you mark that?
  • Hamlet. Lady, shall I lie in your lap?

[Sits down at Ophelia's feet.]

  • Hamlet. I mean, my head upon your lap? 1995
  • Hamlet. Do you think I meant country matters?
  • Ophelia. I think nothing, my lord.
  • Hamlet. That's a fair thought to lie between maids' legs.
  • Hamlet. O God, your only jig-maker! What should a man do but be merry? 2005
    For look you how cheerfully my mother looks, and my father died
    within 's two hours.
  • Ophelia. Nay 'tis twice two months, my lord.
  • Hamlet. So long? Nay then, let the devil wear black, for I'll have a
    suit of sables. O heavens! die two months ago, and not forgotten 2010
    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.] 2015
    Enter a King and a Queen very lovingly; the Queen embracing
    him and he her. She kneels, and makes show of protestation
    unto him. He takes her up, and declines his head upon her
    neck. He lays him down upon a bank of flowers. She, seeing
    him asleep, leaves him. Anon comes in a fellow, takes off his 2020
    crown, kisses it, pours poison in the sleeper's ears, and
    leaves him. The Queen returns, finds the King dead, and makes
    passionate action. The Poisoner with some three or four Mutes,
    comes in again, seem to condole with her. The dead body is
    carried away. The Poisoner wooes the Queen with gifts; she 2025
    seems harsh and unwilling awhile, but in the end accepts
    his love.


  • Ophelia. What means this, my lord?
  • Hamlet. Marry, this is miching malhecho; it means mischief. 2030
  • Ophelia. Belike this show imports the argument of the play.

Enter Prologue.

  • Hamlet. We shall know by this fellow. The players cannot keep counsel;
    they'll tell all.
  • Ophelia. Will he tell us what this show meant? 2035
  • Hamlet. 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.
  • Ophelia. You are naught, you are naught! I'll mark the play.
    Pro. For us, and for our tragedy,
    Here stooping to your clemency, 2040
    We beg your hearing patiently. [Exit.]
  • Hamlet. Is this a prologue, or the posy of a ring?

Enter [two Players as] King and Queen.

  • Player King. Full thirty times hath Phoebus' cart gone round
    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, 2050
    Unite comutual in most sacred bands.
  • Player 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. 2055
    That I distrust you. Yet, though I distrust,
    Discomfort you, my lord, it nothing must;
    For women's fear and love holds quantity,
    In neither aught, or in extremity.
    Now what my love is, proof hath made you know; 2060
    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.
  • Player King. Faith, I must leave thee, love, and shortly too;
    My operant powers their functions leave to do. 2065
    And thou shalt live in this fair world behind,
    Honour'd, belov'd, and haply one as kind
    For husband shalt thou-
  • Player Queen. O, confound the rest!
    Such love must needs be treason in my breast. 2070
    When second husband let me be accurst!
    None wed the second but who killed the first.
  • Hamlet. [aside] Wormwood, wormwood!
    Queen. The instances that second marriage move
    Are base respects of thrift, but none of love. 2075
    A second time I kill my husband dead
    When second husband kisses me in bed.
  • Player 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, 2080
    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. 2085
    What to ourselves in passion we propose,
    The passion ending, doth the purpose lose.
    The violence of either grief or joy
    Their own enactures with themselves destroy.
    Where joy most revels, grief doth most lament; 2090
    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. 2095
    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, 2100
    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. 2105
    So think thou wilt no second husband wed;
    But die thy thoughts when thy first lord is dead.
  • Player 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, 2110
    An anchor's cheer in prison be my scope,
    Each opposite that blanks the face of joy
    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! 2115
  • Hamlet. If she should break it now!
  • Player King. 'Tis deeply sworn. Sweet, leave me here awhile.
    My spirits grow dull, and fain I would beguile
    The tedious day with sleep.

He sleeps.]


  • Hamlet. Madam, how like you this play?
  • Gertrude. The lady doth protest too much, methinks. 2125
  • Hamlet. O, but she'll keep her word.
  • Claudius. Have you heard the argument? Is there no offence in't?
  • Hamlet. No, no! They do but jest, poison in jest; no offence i' th'
  • Claudius. What do you call the play? 2130
  • Hamlet. 'The Mousetrap.' Marry, how? Tropically. This play is the
    image of a murther 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 winch; our withers 2135
    are unwrung.

Enter Lucianus.This is one Lucianus, nephew to the King.

  • Ophelia. You are as good as a chorus, my lord.
  • Hamlet. I could interpret between you and your love, if I could see
    the puppets dallying. 2140
  • Ophelia. You are keen, my lord, you are keen.
  • Hamlet. It would cost you a groaning to take off my edge.
  • Hamlet. So you must take your husbands.- Begin, murtherer. Pox, leave
    thy damnable faces, and begin! Come, the croaking raven doth 2145
    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 his ears.

  • Hamlet. He poisons him i' th' garden for's estate. His name's Gonzago.
    The story is extant, and written in very choice Italian. You 2150
    shall see anon how the murtherer gets the love of Gonzago's wife.
  • Hamlet. What, frighted with false fire?
  • All. Lights, lights, lights!

Exeunt all but Hamlet and Horatio.

  • Hamlet. Why, let the strucken deer go weep,
    The hart ungalled play; 2160
    For some must watch, while some must sleep:
    Thus runs the world away.
    Would not this, sir, and a forest of feathers- if the rest of my
    fortunes turn Turk with me-with two Provincial roses on my raz'd
    shoes, get me a fellowship in a cry of players, sir? 2165
  • Hamlet. A whole one I!
    For thou dost know, O Damon dear,
    This realm dismantled was
    Of Jove himself; and now reigns here 2170
    A very, very- pajock.
  • Hamlet. O good Horatio, I'll take the ghost's word for a thousand
    pound! Didst perceive?
  • Hamlet. Upon the talk of the poisoning?
  • Horatio. I did very well note him.
  • Hamlet. Aha! Come, some music! Come, the recorders!
    For if the King like not the comedy,
    Why then, belike he likes it not, perdy. 2180
    Come, some music!
    Enter Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.
  • Hamlet. Sir, a whole history.
  • Hamlet. Ay, sir, what of him?
  • Guildenstern. Is in his retirement, marvellous distemper'd.
  • Hamlet. Your wisdom should show itself more richer to signify this to 2190
    the doctor; for me to put him to his purgation would perhaps
    plunge him into far more choler.
  • Guildenstern. Good my lord, put your discourse into some frame, and start
    not so wildly from my affair.
  • Hamlet. I am tame, sir; pronounce. 2195
  • Guildenstern. The Queen, your mother, in most great affliction of spirit
    hath sent me to you.
  • Guildenstern. 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 2200
    your mother's commandment; if not, your pardon and my return
    shall be the end of my business.
  • Hamlet. Make you a wholesome answer; my wit's diseas'd. But, sir, such 2205
    answer as I can make, you shall command; or rather, as you say,
    my mother. Therefore no more, but to the matter! My mother, you
  • Rosencrantz. Then thus she says: your behaviour hath struck her into
    amazement and admiration. 2210
  • Hamlet. O wonderful son, that can so stonish a mother! But is there no
    sequel at the heels of this mother's admiration? Impart.
  • Rosencrantz. She desires to speak with you in her closet ere you go to bed.
  • Hamlet. We shall obey, were she ten times our mother. Have you any
    further trade with us? 2215
  • Hamlet. And do still, by these pickers and stealers!
  • Rosencrantz. 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. 2220
  • Hamlet. Sir, I lack advancement.
  • Rosencrantz. How can that be, when you have the voice of the King himself
    for your succession in Denmark?
  • Hamlet. Ay, sir, but 'while the grass grows'- the proverb is something
    musty. 2225
    [Enter the Players with recorders. ]
    O, the recorders! Let me see one. To withdraw with you- why do
    you go about to recover the wind of me, as if you would drive me
    into a toil?
  • Guildenstern. O my lord, if my duty be too bold, my love is too unmannerly. 2230
  • Hamlet. I do not well understand that. Will you play upon this pipe?
  • Hamlet. I do beseech you. 2235
  • Hamlet. It is as easy as lying. Govern these ventages with your
    fingers and thumbs, give it breath with your mouth, and it will
    discourse most eloquent music. Look you, these are the stops.
  • Guildenstern. But these cannot I command to any utt'rance of harmony. I 2240
    have not the skill.
  • Hamlet. 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, 2245
    excellent voice, in this little organ, yet cannot you make it
    speak. 'Sblood, do you think I am easier to be play'd on than a
    pipe? Call me what instrument you will, though you can fret me,
    you cannot play upon me.
    [Enter Polonius.] 2250
    God bless you, sir!
  • Polonius. My lord, the Queen would speak with you, and presently.
  • Hamlet. Do you see yonder cloud that's almost in shape of a camel?
  • Polonius. By th' mass, and 'tis like a camel indeed.
  • Hamlet. Methinks it is like a weasel. 2255
  • Hamlet. Then will I come to my mother by-and-by.- They fool me to the
    top of my bent.- I will come by-and-by. 2260
  • Hamlet. '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 2265
    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. 2270
    Let me be cruel, not unnatural;
    I will speak daggers to her, but use none.
    My tongue and soul in this be hypocrites-
    How in my words somever she be shent,
    To give them seals never, my soul, consent! Exit. 2275