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The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark

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Act III, Scene 3

A room in the Castle.


Enter King, Rosencrantz, and Guildenstern.

  • Claudius. I like him not, nor stands it safe with us
    To let his madness range. Therefore prepare you;
    I your commission will forthwith dispatch,
    And he to England shall along with you. 2280
    The terms of our estate may not endure
    Hazard so near us as doth hourly grow
    Out of his lunacies.
  • Guildenstern. We will ourselves provide.
    Most holy and religious fear it is 2285
    To keep those many many bodies safe
    That live and feed upon your Majesty.
  • Rosencrantz. The single and peculiar life is bound
    With all the strength and armour of the mind
    To keep itself from noyance; but much more 2290
    That spirit upon whose weal depends and rests
    The lives of many. The cesse of majesty
    Dies not alone, but like a gulf doth draw
    What's near it with it. It is a massy wheel,
    Fix'd on the summit of the highest mount, 2295
    To whose huge spokes ten thousand lesser things
    Are mortis'd and adjoin'd; which when it falls,
    Each small annexment, petty consequence,
    Attends the boist'rous ruin. Never alone
    Did the king sigh, but with a general groan. 2300
  • Claudius. Arm you, I pray you, to this speedy voyage;
    For we will fetters put upon this fear,
    Which now goes too free-footed.

Exeunt Gentlemen.

Enter Polonius.

  • Polonius. My lord, he's going to his mother's closet.
    Behind the arras I'll convey myself
    To hear the process. I'll warrant she'll tax him home;
    And, as you said, and wisely was it said, 2310
    'Tis meet that some more audience than a mother,
    Since nature makes them partial, should o'erhear
    The speech, of vantage. Fare you well, my liege.
    I'll call upon you ere you go to bed
    And tell you what I know. 2315
  • Claudius. Thanks, dear my lord.
    [Exit [Polonius].]
    O, my offence is rank, it smells to heaven;
    It hath the primal eldest curse upon't,
    A brother's murther! Pray can I not, 2320
    Though inclination be as sharp as will.
    My stronger guilt defeats my strong intent,
    And, like a man to double business bound,
    I stand in pause where I shall first begin,
    And both neglect. What if this cursed hand 2325
    Were thicker than itself with brother's blood,
    Is there not rain enough in the sweet heavens
    To wash it white as snow? Whereto serves mercy
    But to confront the visage of offence?
    And what's in prayer but this twofold force, 2330
    To be forestalled ere we come to fall,
    Or pardon'd being down? Then I'll look up;
    My fault is past. But, O, what form of prayer
    Can serve my turn? 'Forgive me my foul murther'?
    That cannot be; since I am still possess'd 2335
    Of those effects for which I did the murther-
    My crown, mine own ambition, and my queen.
    May one be pardon'd and retain th' offence?
    In the corrupted currents of this world
    Offence's gilded hand may shove by justice, 2340
    And oft 'tis seen the wicked prize itself
    Buys out the law; but 'tis not so above.
    There is no shuffling; there the action lies
    In his true nature, and we ourselves compell'd,
    Even to the teeth and forehead of our faults, 2345
    To give in evidence. What then? What rests?
    Try what repentance can. What can it not?
    Yet what can it when one cannot repent?
    O wretched state! O bosom black as death!
    O limed soul, that, struggling to be free, 2350
    Art more engag'd! Help, angels! Make assay.
    Bow, stubborn knees; and heart with strings of steel,
    Be soft as sinews of the new-born babe!
    All may be well. He kneels.

Enter Hamlet.

  • Hamlet. Now might I do it pat, now he is praying;
    And now I'll do't. And so he goes to heaven,
    And so am I reveng'd. That would be scann'd.
    A villain kills my father; and for that,
    I, his sole son, do this same villain send 2360
    To heaven.
    Why, this is hire and salary, not revenge!
    He took my father grossly, full of bread,
    With all his crimes broad blown, as flush as May;
    And how his audit stands, who knows save heaven? 2365
    But in our circumstance and course of thought,
    'Tis heavy with him; and am I then reveng'd,
    To take him in the purging of his soul,
    When he is fit and seasoned for his passage?
    No. 2370
    Up, sword, and know thou a more horrid hent.
    When he is drunk asleep; or in his rage;
    Or in th' incestuous pleasure of his bed;
    At gaming, swearing, or about some act
    That has no relish of salvation in't- 2375
    Then trip him, that his heels may kick at heaven,
    And that his soul may be as damn'd and black
    As hell, whereto it goes. My mother stays.
    This physic but prolongs thy sickly days. Exit.
  • Claudius. [rises] My words fly up, my thoughts remain below. 2380
    Words without thoughts never to heaven go. Exit.