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The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark

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Act IV, Scene 7

Elsinore. Another room in the Castle.


Enter King and Laertes.

  • Claudius. Now must your conscience my acquittance seal,
    And You must put me in your heart for friend,
    Sith you have heard, and with a knowing ear,
    That he which hath your noble father slain
    Pursued my life. 3135
  • Laertes. It well appears. But tell me
    Why you proceeded not against these feats
    So crimeful and so capital in nature,
    As by your safety, wisdom, all things else,
    You mainly were stirr'd up. 3140
  • Claudius. O, for two special reasons,
    Which may to you, perhaps, seem much unsinew'd,
    But yet to me they are strong. The Queen his mother
    Lives almost by his looks; and for myself,-
    My virtue or my plague, be it either which,- 3145
    She's so conjunctive to my life and soul
    That, as the star moves not but in his sphere,
    I could not but by her. The other motive
    Why to a public count I might not go
    Is the great love the general gender bear him, 3150
    Who, dipping all his faults in their affection,
    Would, like the spring that turneth wood to stone,
    Convert his gives to graces; so that my arrows,
    Too slightly timber'd for so loud a wind,
    Would have reverted to my bow again, 3155
    And not where I had aim'd them.
  • Laertes. And so have I a noble father lost;
    A sister driven into desp'rate terms,
    Whose worth, if praises may go back again,
    Stood challenger on mount of all the age 3160
    For her perfections. But my revenge will come.
  • Claudius. Break not your sleeps for that. You must not think
    That we are made of stuff so flat and dull
    That we can let our beard be shook with danger,
    And think it pastime. You shortly shall hear more. 3165
    I lov'd your father, and we love ourself,
    And that, I hope, will teach you to imagine-
    [Enter a Messenger with letters.]
    How now? What news?
  • Messenger. Letters, my lord, from Hamlet: 3170
    This to your Majesty; this to the Queen.
  • Claudius. From Hamlet? Who brought them?
  • Messenger. Sailors, my lord, they say; I saw them not.
    They were given me by Claudio; he receiv'd them
    Of him that brought them. 3175
  • Claudius. Laertes, you shall hear them.
    Leave us.
    [Exit Messenger.]
    [Reads]'High and Mighty,-You shall know I am set naked on your
    kingdom. To-morrow shall I beg leave to see your kingly eyes; 3180
    when I shall (first asking your pardon thereunto) recount the
    occasion of my sudden and more strange return. 'HAMLET.'
    What should this mean? Are all the rest come back?
    Or is it some abuse, and no such thing?
  • Claudius. 'Tis Hamlet's character. 'Naked!'
    And in a postscript here, he says 'alone.'
    Can you advise me?
  • Laertes. I am lost in it, my lord. But let him come!
    It warms the very sickness in my heart 3190
    That I shall live and tell him to his teeth,
    'Thus didest thou.'
  • Claudius. If it be so, Laertes
    (As how should it be so? how otherwise?),
    Will you be rul'd by me? 3195
  • Laertes. Ay my lord,
    So you will not o'errule me to a peace.
  • Claudius. To thine own peace. If he be now return'd
    As checking at his voyage, and that he means
    No more to undertake it, I will work him 3200
    To exploit now ripe in my device,
    Under the which he shall not choose but fall;
    And for his death no wind shall breathe
    But even his mother shall uncharge the practice
    And call it accident. 3205
  • Laertes. My lord, I will be rul'd;
    The rather, if you could devise it so
    That I might be the organ.
  • Claudius. It falls right.
    You have been talk'd of since your travel much, 3210
    And that in Hamlet's hearing, for a quality
    Wherein they say you shine, Your sum of parts
    Did not together pluck such envy from him
    As did that one; and that, in my regard,
    Of the unworthiest siege. 3215
  • Laertes. What part is that, my lord?
  • Claudius. A very riband in the cap of youth-
    Yet needfull too; for youth no less becomes
    The light and careless livery that it wears
    Than settled age his sables and his weeds, 3220
    Importing health and graveness. Two months since
    Here was a gentleman of Normandy.
    I have seen myself, and serv'd against, the French,
    And they can well on horseback; but this gallant
    Had witchcraft in't. He grew unto his seat, 3225
    And to such wondrous doing brought his horse
    As had he been incorps'd and demi-natur'd
    With the brave beast. So far he topp'd my thought
    That I, in forgery of shapes and tricks,
    Come short of what he did. 3230
  • Laertes. I know him well. He is the broach indeed 3235
    And gem of all the nation.
  • Claudius. He made confession of you;
    And gave you such a masterly report
    For art and exercise in your defence,
    And for your rapier most especially, 3240
    That he cried out 'twould be a sight indeed
    If one could match you. The scrimers of their nation
    He swore had neither motion, guard, nor eye,
    If you oppos'd them. Sir, this report of his
    Did Hamlet so envenom with his envy 3245
    That he could nothing do but wish and beg
    Your sudden coming o'er to play with you.
    Now, out of this-
  • Laertes. What out of this, my lord?
  • Claudius. Laertes, was your father dear to you? 3250
    Or are you like the painting of a sorrow,
    A face without a heart,'
  • Claudius. Not that I think you did not love your father;
    But that I know love is begun by time, 3255
    And that I see, in passages of proof,
    Time qualifies the spark and fire of it.
    There lives within the very flame of love
    A kind of wick or snuff that will abate it;
    And nothing is at a like goodness still; 3260
    For goodness, growing to a plurisy,
    Dies in his own too-much. That we would do,
    We should do when we would; for this 'would' changes,
    And hath abatements and delays as many
    As there are tongues, are hands, are accidents; 3265
    And then this 'should' is like a spendthrift sigh,
    That hurts by easing. But to the quick o' th' ulcer!
    Hamlet comes back. What would you undertake
    To show yourself your father's son in deed
    More than in words? 3270
  • Laertes. To cut his throat i' th' church!
  • Claudius. No place indeed should murther sanctuarize;
    Revenge should have no bounds. But, good Laertes,
    Will you do this? Keep close within your chamber.
    Hamlet return'd shall know you are come home. 3275
    We'll put on those shall praise your excellence
    And set a double varnish on the fame
    The Frenchman gave you; bring you in fine together
    And wager on your heads. He, being remiss,
    Most generous, and free from all contriving, 3280
    Will not peruse the foils; so that with ease,
    Or with a little shuffling, you may choose
    A sword unbated, and, in a pass of practice,
    Requite him for your father.
  • Laertes. I will do't! 3285
    And for that purpose I'll anoint my sword.
    I bought an unction of a mountebank,
    So mortal that, but dip a knife in it,
    Where it draws blood no cataplasm so rare,
    Collected from all simples that have virtue 3290
    Under the moon, can save the thing from death
    This is but scratch'd withal. I'll touch my point
    With this contagion, that, if I gall him slightly,
    It may be death.
  • Claudius. Let's further think of this, 3295
    Weigh what convenience both of time and means
    May fit us to our shape. If this should fall,
    And that our drift look through our bad performance.
    'Twere better not assay'd. Therefore this project
    Should have a back or second, that might hold 3300
    If this did blast in proof. Soft! let me see.
    We'll make a solemn wager on your cunnings-
    I ha't!
    When in your motion you are hot and dry-
    As make your bouts more violent to that end- 3305
    And that he calls for drink, I'll have prepar'd him
    A chalice for the nonce; whereon but sipping,
    If he by chance escape your venom'd stuck,
    Our purpose may hold there.- But stay, what noise,
    [Enter Queen.] 3310
    How now, sweet queen?
  • Gertrude. One woe doth tread upon another's heel,
    So fast they follow. Your sister's drown'd, Laertes.
  • Gertrude. There is a willow grows aslant a brook, 3315
    That shows his hoar leaves in the glassy stream.
    There with fantastic garlands did she come
    Of crowflowers, nettles, daisies, and long purples,
    That liberal shepherds give a grosser name,
    But our cold maids do dead men's fingers call them. 3320
    There on the pendant boughs her coronet weeds
    Clamb'ring to hang, an envious sliver broke,
    When down her weedy trophies and herself
    Fell in the weeping brook. Her clothes spread wide
    And, mermaid-like, awhile they bore her up; 3325
    Which time she chaunted snatches of old tunes,
    As one incapable of her own distress,
    Or like a creature native and indued
    Unto that element; but long it could not be
    Till that her garments, heavy with their drink, 3330
    Pull'd the poor wretch from her melodious lay
    To muddy death.
  • Laertes. Alas, then she is drown'd?
  • Laertes. Too much of water hast thou, poor Ophelia, 3335
    And therefore I forbid my tears; but yet
    It is our trick; nature her custom holds,
    Let shame say what it will. When these are gone,
    The woman will be out. Adieu, my lord.
    I have a speech of fire, that fain would blaze 3340
    But that this folly douts it. Exit.
  • Claudius. Let's follow, Gertrude.
    How much I had to do to calm his rage I
    Now fear I this will give it start again;
    Therefore let's follow. 3345