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The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark

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Act III, Scene 4

The Queen’s closet.


Enter Queen and Polonius.

  • Polonius. He will come straight. Look you lay home to him.
    Tell him his pranks have been too broad to bear with,
    And that your Grace hath screen'd and stood between 2385
    Much heat and him. I'll silence me even here.
    Pray you be round with him.
  • Hamlet. [within] Mother, mother, mother!
  • Gertrude. I'll warrant you; fear me not. Withdraw; I hear him coming.

[Polonius hides behind the arras.]

Enter Hamlet.

  • Hamlet. Now, mother, what's the matter?
  • Gertrude. Hamlet, thou hast thy father much offended.
  • Hamlet. Mother, you have my father much offended.
  • Gertrude. Come, come, you answer with an idle tongue. 2395
  • Hamlet. Go, go, you question with a wicked tongue.
  • Hamlet. What's the matter now?
  • Hamlet. No, by the rood, not so! 2400
    You are the Queen, your husband's brother's wife,
    And (would it were not so!) you are my mother.
  • Gertrude. Nay, then I'll set those to you that can speak.
  • Hamlet. Come, come, and sit you down. You shall not budge;
    You go not till I set you up a glass 2405
    Where you may see the inmost part of you.
  • Gertrude. What wilt thou do? Thou wilt not murther me?
    Help, help, ho!
  • Polonius. [behind] What, ho! help, help, help!
  • Hamlet. [draws] How now? a rat? Dead for a ducat, dead! 2410

[Makes a pass through the arras and] kills Polonius.

  • Hamlet. Nay, I know not. Is it the King?
  • Gertrude. O, what a rash and bloody deed is this! 2415
  • Hamlet. A bloody deed- almost as bad, good mother,
    As kill a king, and marry with his brother.
  • Hamlet. Ay, lady, it was my word.
    [Lifts up the arras and sees Polonius.] 2420
    Thou wretched, rash, intruding fool, farewell!
    I took thee for thy better. Take thy fortune.
    Thou find'st to be too busy is some danger.
    Leave wringing of your hands. Peace! sit you down
    And let me wring your heart; for so I shall 2425
    If it be made of penetrable stuff;
    If damned custom have not braz'd it so
    That it is proof and bulwark against sense.
  • Gertrude. What have I done that thou dar'st wag thy tongue
    In noise so rude against me? 2430
  • Hamlet. Such an act
    That blurs the grace and blush of modesty;
    Calls virtue hypocrite; takes off the rose
    From the fair forehead of an innocent love,
    And sets a blister there; makes marriage vows 2435
    As false as dicers' oaths. O, such a deed
    As from the body of contraction plucks
    The very soul, and sweet religion makes
    A rhapsody of words! Heaven's face doth glow;
    Yea, this solidity and compound mass, 2440
    With tristful visage, as against the doom,
    Is thought-sick at the act.
  • Gertrude. Ah me, what act,
    That roars so loud and thunders in the index?
  • Hamlet. Look here upon th's picture, and on this, 2445
    The counterfeit presentment of two brothers.
    See what a grace was seated on this brow;
    Hyperion's curls; the front of Jove himself;
    An eye like Mars, to threaten and command;
    A station like the herald Mercury 2450
    New lighted on a heaven-kissing hill:
    A combination and a form indeed
    Where every god did seem to set his seal
    To give the world assurance of a man.
    This was your husband. Look you now what follows. 2455
    Here is your husband, like a mildew'd ear
    Blasting his wholesome brother. Have you eyes?
    Could you on this fair mountain leave to feed,
    And batten on this moor? Ha! have you eyes
    You cannot call it love; for at your age 2460
    The heyday in the blood is tame, it's humble,
    And waits upon the judgment; and what judgment
    Would step from this to this? Sense sure you have,
    Else could you not have motion; but sure that sense
    Is apoplex'd; for madness would not err, 2465
    Nor sense to ecstacy was ne'er so thrall'd
    But it reserv'd some quantity of choice
    To serve in such a difference. What devil was't
    That thus hath cozen'd you at hoodman-blind?
    Eyes without feeling, feeling without sight, 2470
    Ears without hands or eyes, smelling sans all,
    Or but a sickly part of one true sense
    Could not so mope.
    O shame! where is thy blush? Rebellious hell,
    If thou canst mutine in a matron's bones, 2475
    To flaming youth let virtue be as wax
    And melt in her own fire. Proclaim no shame
    When the compulsive ardour gives the charge,
    Since frost itself as actively doth burn,
    And reason panders will. 2480
  • Gertrude. O Hamlet, speak no more!
    Thou turn'st mine eyes into my very soul,
    And there I see such black and grained spots
    As will not leave their tinct.
  • Hamlet. Nay, but to live 2485
    In the rank sweat of an enseamed bed,
    Stew'd in corruption, honeying and making love
    Over the nasty sty!
  • Gertrude. O, speak to me no more!
    These words like daggers enter in mine ears. 2490
    No more, sweet Hamlet!
  • Hamlet. A murtherer and a villain!
    A slave that is not twentieth part the tithe
    Of your precedent lord; a vice of kings;
    A cutpurse of the empire and the rule, 2495
    That from a shelf the precious diadem stole
    And put it in his pocket!

Enter the Ghost in his nightgown.

  • Hamlet. A king of shreds and patches!- 2500
    Save me and hover o'er me with your wings,
    You heavenly guards! What would your gracious figure?
  • Hamlet. Do you not come your tardy son to chide,
    That, laps'd in time and passion, lets go by 2505
    Th' important acting of your dread command?
    O, say!
  • Father's Ghost. Do not forget. This visitation
    Is but to whet thy almost blunted purpose.
    But look, amazement on thy mother sits. 2510
    O, step between her and her fighting soul
    Conceit in weakest bodies strongest works.
    Speak to her, Hamlet.
  • Hamlet. How is it with you, lady?
  • Gertrude. Alas, how is't with you, 2515
    That you do bend your eye on vacancy,
    And with th' encorporal air do hold discourse?
    Forth at your eyes your spirits wildly peep;
    And, as the sleeping soldiers in th' alarm,
    Your bedded hairs, like life in excrements, 2520
    Start up and stand an end. O gentle son,
    Upon the heat and flame of thy distemper
    Sprinkle cool patience! Whereon do you look?
  • Hamlet. On him, on him! Look you how pale he glares!
    His form and cause conjoin'd, preaching to stones, 2525
    Would make them capable.- Do not look upon me,
    Lest with this piteous action you convert
    My stern effects. Then what I have to do
    Will want true colour- tears perchance for blood.
  • Gertrude. To whom do you speak this? 2530
  • Hamlet. Do you see nothing there?
  • Gertrude. Nothing at all; yet all that is I see.
  • Hamlet. Nor did you nothing hear?
  • Hamlet. Why, look you there! Look how it steals away! 2535
    My father, in his habit as he liv'd!
    Look where he goes even now out at the portal!

Exit Ghost.

  • Gertrude. This is the very coinage of your brain.
    This bodiless creation ecstasy 2540
    Is very cunning in.
  • Hamlet. Ecstasy?
    My pulse as yours doth temperately keep time
    And makes as healthful music. It is not madness
    That I have utt'red. Bring me to the test, 2545
    And I the matter will reword; which madness
    Would gambol from. Mother, for love of grace,
    Lay not that flattering unction to your soul
    That not your trespass but my madness speaks.
    It will but skin and film the ulcerous place, 2550
    Whiles rank corruption, mining all within,
    Infects unseen. Confess yourself to heaven;
    Repent what's past; avoid what is to come;
    And do not spread the compost on the weeds
    To make them ranker. Forgive me this my virtue; 2555
    For in the fatness of these pursy times
    Virtue itself of vice must pardon beg-
    Yea, curb and woo for leave to do him good.
  • Gertrude. O Hamlet, thou hast cleft my heart in twain.
  • Hamlet. O, throw away the worser part of it, 2560
    And live the purer with the other half,
    Good night- but go not to my uncle's bed.
    Assume a virtue, if you have it not.
    That monster, custom, who all sense doth eat
    Of habits evil, is angel yet in this, 2565
    That to the use of actions fair and good
    He likewise gives a frock or livery,
    That aptly is put on. Refrain to-night,
    And that shall lend a kind of easiness
    To the next abstinence; the next more easy; 2570
    For use almost can change the stamp of nature,
    And either [master] the devil, or throw him out
    With wondrous potency. Once more, good night;
    And when you are desirous to be blest,
    I'll blessing beg of you.- For this same lord, 2575
    I do repent; but heaven hath pleas'd it so,
    To punish me with this, and this with me,
    That I must be their scourge and minister.
    I will bestow him, and will answer well
    The death I gave him. So again, good night. 2580
    I must be cruel, only to be kind;
    Thus bad begins, and worse remains behind.
    One word more, good lady.
  • Hamlet. Not this, by no means, that I bid you do: 2585
    Let the bloat King tempt you again to bed;
    Pinch wanton on your cheek; call you his mouse;
    And let him, for a pair of reechy kisses,
    Or paddling in your neck with his damn'd fingers,
    Make you to ravel all this matter out, 2590
    That I essentially am not in madness,
    But mad in craft. 'Twere good you let him know;
    For who that's but a queen, fair, sober, wise,
    Would from a paddock, from a bat, a gib
    Such dear concernings hide? Who would do so? 2595
    No, in despite of sense and secrecy,
    Unpeg the basket on the house's top,
    Let the birds fly, and like the famous ape,
    To try conclusions, in the basket creep
    And break your own neck down. 2600
  • Gertrude. Be thou assur'd, if words be made of breath,
    And breath of life, I have no life to breathe
    What thou hast said to me.
  • Hamlet. I must to England; you know that?
  • Gertrude. Alack, 2605
    I had forgot! 'Tis so concluded on.
  • Hamlet. There's letters seal'd; and my two schoolfellows,
    Whom I will trust as I will adders fang'd,
    They bear the mandate; they must sweep my way
    And marshal me to knavery. Let it work; 2610
    For 'tis the sport to have the enginer
    Hoist with his own petar; and 't shall go hard
    But I will delve one yard below their mines
    And blow them at the moon. O, 'tis most sweet
    When in one line two crafts directly meet. 2615
    This man shall set me packing.
    I'll lug the guts into the neighbour room.-
    Mother, good night.- Indeed, this counsellor
    Is now most still, most secret, and most grave,
    Who was in life a foolish peating knave. 2620
    Come, sir, to draw toward an end with you.
    Good night, mother.

[Exit the Queen. Then] Exit Hamlet, tugging in