Enter King, Queen, Rosencrantz, Guildenstern, and Attendants (R.H.)

King. (C.) Welcome, dear Rosencrantz and Guildenstern!

Moreover that we much did long to see you,

The need we have to use you did provoke

Our hasty sending. Something have you heard

Of Hamlet’s transformation. What it should be,

More than his father’s death, that thus hath put him

So much from the understanding of himself,

I cannot dream of: I entreat you both,

That you vouchsafe your rest here in our court

Some little time: so by your companies

To draw him on to pleasures, and to gather,

Whether aught, to us unknown, afflicts him thus,

That, open’d, lies within our remedy.

Queen. (R.C.) Good gentlemen, he hath much talk’d of you;

And sure I am two men there are not living

To whom he more adheres. If it will please you

So to expend your time with us a while,

Your visitation shall receive such thanks

As fits a king’s remembrance.

Ros. (R.)

Both your majesties

Might, by the sovereign power you have of us,

Put your dread pleasures more into command

Than to entreaty.

Guil. (R.)

But we both obey,

And here give up ourselves, in the full bent,

To lay our service freely at your feet.

King. Thanks, Rosencrantz and gentle Guildenstern.

Queen. I do beseech you instantly to visit

My too much changèd son. Go, some of you,

And bring these gentlemen where Hamlet is.

[Exeunt Rosencrantz, Guildenstern, and Attendants, R.H.]

Enter Polonius (L.H.)

Pol. Now do I think (or else this brain of mine

Hunts not the trail of policy so sure

As it hath us’d to do), that I have found

The very cause of Hamlet’s lunacy.

King. (C.) O, speak of that; that do I long to hear.

Pol. (L.C.) My liege, and madam, to expostulate

What majesty should be, what duty is,

Why day is day, night night, and time is time,

Were nothing but to waste night, day, and time;

Therefore, since brevity is the soul of wit,

And tediousness the limbs and outward flourishes,—

I will be brief:—Your noble son is mad:

Mad call I it; for, to define true madness,

What is’t, but to be nothing else but mad?

But let that go.

Queen. (R.C.) More matter, with less art.

Pol. Madam, I swear I use no art at all.

That he is mad, ‘tis true: ‘tis true ‘tis pity;

And pity ‘tis, ‘tis true: a foolish figure;

But farewell it, for I will use no art.

Mad let us grant him, then: and now remains

That we find out the cause of this effect,

Or, rather say, the cause of this defect,

For this effect defective comes by cause:

Thus it remains, and the remainder thus,


I have a daughter, have, while she is mine,

Who, in her duty and obedience, mark,

Hath given me this: Now gather, and surmise.

[Reads] To the celestial, and my soul’s idol, the most beautified Ophelia,—

That’s an ill phrase, a vile phrase, beautified is a vile phrase: but you shall hear. Thus:

In her excellent white bosom, these, &c.

Queen. Came this from Hamlet to her?

Pol. Good madam, stay awhile; I will be faithful.—


Doubt thou the stars are fire;

Doubt thou the sun doth move;

Doubt truth to be a liar;

But never doubt, I love.

O dear Ophelia, I am ill at these numbers; I have not art to reckon my groans: but that I love thee best, O most best, believe it. Adieu.

Thine evermore, most dear lady, whilst this machine is to him, Hamlet.

This, in obedience, hath my daughter shown me:

And more above, hath his solicitings,

As they fell out by time, by means, and place,

All given to my ear.


But how hath she

Receiv’d his love?

Pol. What do you think of me?

King. As of a man faithful and honourable.

Pol. I would fain prove so. But what might you think,

When I had seen this hot love on the wing

(As I perceived it, I must tell you that,

Before my daughter told me), what might you,

Or my dear majesty your queen here, think,

If I had play’d the desk or table book;

Or given my heart a winking, mute and dumb;

Or look’d upon this love with idle sight;

What might you think? No, I went round to work,

And my young mistress thus did I bespeak:

Lord Hamlet is a prince, out of thy sphere;

This must not be: and then I precepts gave her,

That she should lock herself from his resort,

Admit no messengers, receive no tokens.

Which done, she took the fruits of my advice;

And he, repuls’d (a short tale to make),

Fell into sadness; thence into a weakness;

Thence to a lightness; and, by this declension,

Into the madness wherein now he raves,

And all we mourn for.


Do you think ‘tis this?

Queen. It may be, very likely.

Pol. Hath there been such a time (I’d fain know that,)

That I have positively said, ‘tis so,

When it proved otherwise?


Not that I know.

Pol. Take this from this, if it be otherwise:

[Pointing to his head and shoulder.]

If circumstances lead me, I will find

Where truth is hid, though it were hid indeed

Within the centre.


How may we try it further?

Pol. You know, sometimes he walks for hours together

Here in the lobby.


So he does, indeed.

Pol. At such a time I’ll loose my daughter to him:

Mark the encounter: if he love her not,

And be not from his reason fallen thereon,

Let me be no assistant for a state,

But keep a farm, and carters.


We will try it.

Queen. But, look, where sadly the poor wretch comes reading.

Pol. Away, I do beseech you both, away:

I’ll board him presently.

[Exeunt King and Queen, R.H.]

Enter Hamlet, reading (L.C.)

Pol. How does my good lord Hamlet?

Ham. (C.) Excellent well.

Pol. (R.) Do you know me, my lord?

Ham. Excellent well; you are a fishmonger.

Pol. Not I, my lord.

Ham. Then I would you were so honest a man.

Pol. Honest, my lord!

Ham. Ay, sir; to be honest, as this world goes, is to be one man picked out of ten thousand.

Pol. That’s very true, my lord.

Ham. For if the sun breed maggots in a dead dog, being a god, kissing carrion,——Have you a daughter?

Pol. I have, my lord.

Ham. Let her not walk i’the sun: conception is a blessing; but as your daughter may conceive,—friend, look to’t, look to’t, look to’t.

[Goes up stage.]

Pol. (Aside.) Still harping on my daughter:—yet he knew me not at first; he said I was a fishmonger. [Crosses to L.] I’ll speak to him again.—What do you read, my lord?

Ham. (C.) Words, words, words.

Pol. (L.) What is the matter, my lord?

Ham. Between who?

Pol. I mean, the matter that you read, my lord.

Ham. Slanders, sir: for the satirical rogue says here that old men have grey beards; that their faces are 39wrinkled; their eyes purging thick amber and plum-tree gum; and that they have a plentiful lack of wit, together with most weak hams: All of which, sir, though I most powerfully and potently believe, yet I hold it not honesty to have it thus set down; for yourself, sir, shall be as old as I am, if, like a crab, you could go backward.

[Crosses, L.]

Pol. (Aside.) Though this be madness, yet there’s method in it. Will you walk out of the air, my lord?

Ham. Into my grave?

[Crosses R.]

Pol. (L.) Indeed, that is out o’ the air.—How pregnant sometimes his replies are! a happiness that often madness hits on, which reason and sanity could not so prosperously be delivered of. I will leave him, and suddenly contrive the means of meeting between him and my daughter.—My honourable lord, I will most humbly take my leave of you.

Ham. (C.) You cannot, sir, take from me any thing that I will more willingly part withall, except my life, except my life, except my life.

Pol. Fare you well, my lord.

[Exit Polonius, L.H.]

Ham. These tedious old fools!

Pol. (Without.) You go to seek the lord Hamlet; there he is.

Ros. Heaven save you, sir!

Enter Rosencrantz and Guildenstern (L.H.)

Guil. My honor’d lord!—

Ros. My most dear lord!—

Ham. My excellent good friends! How dost thou, Guildenstern? [Crosses to Rosencrantz.] Ah, Rosencrantz! Good lads, how do ye both? What news?

Ros. (L.) None, my lord, but that the world’s grown honest.

Ham. (C.) Then is dooms-day near: but your news is not true. In the beaten way of friendship, what make you at Elsinore?

Ros. To visit you, my lord; no other occasion.

Ham. Beggar that I am, I am even poor in thanks; but I thank you. Were you not sent for? Is it your own inclining? Is it a free visitation? Come, come, deal justly with me: come, come; nay, speak.

Guil. (R.) What should we say, my lord?

Ham. Any thing—but to the purpose. You were sent for; and there is a kind of confession in your looks, which your modesties have not craft enough to colour: I know the good king and queen have sent for you.

Ros. To what end, my lord?

Ham. That you must teach me. But let me conjure you, by the rights of our fellowship, [taking their hands,] by the consonancy of our youth, by the obligation of our ever-preserved love, and by what more dear a better proposer could charge you withal, be even and direct with me, whether you were sent for, or no?

Ros. What say you?

[To Guildenstern.]

Ham. Nay, then, I have an eye of you.34

[Crosses R.]


—if you love me, hold not off.

Guil. My lord, we were sent for.

Ham. (Returning C.) I will tell you why; so shall my anticipation prevent your discovery, and your secrecy to the king and queen moult no feather. I have of late (but wherefore I know not) lost all my mirth, forgone all custom of exercises; and, indeed, it goes so heavily with my disposition, that this goodly frame, the earth, seems to me a steril promontory; this most excellent canopy, the air, look you, this brave o’erhanging firmament, this majestical roof fretted with golden fire, why, it appears no other thing to me than a foul and pestilent congregation of vapours. What a piece of work is man! How noble in reason! how infinite in faculties! in form and moving how express and admirable! in action how like an angel! in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the world! the paragon of animals! And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust? man delights not me,—nor woman neither, though by your smiling you seem to say so.

Ros. My lord, there was no such stuff in my thoughts.

Ham. Why did you laugh, then, when I said, Man delights not me?

Ros. To think, my lord, if you delight not in man, what lenten entertainment the players shall receive from you: we coted them on the way; and hither are they coming, to offer you service.

Ham. He that plays the king shall be welcome, his majesty shall have tribute of me; the adventurous knight shall use his foil and target; the lover shall not sigh gratis; the humorous man shall end his part in peace; and the lady shall say her mind freely, or the blank verse shall halt for’t.—What players are they?

Ros. Even those you were wont to take such delight in, the tragedians of the city.

Ham. How chances it, they travel? their residence, both in reputation and profit, was better both ways. Do they hold the same estimation they did when I was in the city? Are they so followed?

Ros. No, indeed, they are not.

Ham. It is not very strange; for my uncle is king of Denmark, and those that would make mouths at himwhile my father lived, give twenty, forty, fifty, an hundred ducats a-piece for his picture in little. There is something in this more than natural, if philosophy could find it out.

[Flourish of trumpets without.]

Guil. There are the players.

Ham. Gentlemen, you are welcome to Elsinore. Your hands. You are welcome: but my uncle-father and aunt-mother are deceived.

Guil. In what, my dear lord?

Ham. I am but mad north-north west: when the wind is southerly I know a hawk from a hern-shaw.

[Crosses R.]

Pol. (Without, L.H.) Well be with you, gentlemen!

Ham. (Crosses C.) Hark you, Guildenstern;—and Rosencrantz: that great baby you see there is not yet out of his swaddling-clouts.

Ros. (R.) Haply he’s the second time come to them; for they say an old man is twice a child.

Ham. I will prophesy he comes to tell me of the players; mark it.—You say right, sir: o’Monday morning; ‘twas then, indeed.

Enter Polonius L.H.

Pol. My lord, I have news to tell you.

Ham. My lord, I have news to tell you. When Roscius was an actor in Rome,——

Pol. The actors are come hither, my lord.

Ham. Buz, buz!

Pol. Upon my honour,——

Ham. Then came each actor on his ass.

Pol. The best actors in the world, either for tragedy, comedy, history, pastoral, pastorical-comical, historical-pastoral, scene indivisible, or poem unlimited: Seneca cannot be too heavy, nor Plautus too light. For the law of writ and the liberty, these are the only men.

Ham. O, Jephthah, judge of Israel,—what a treasure hadst thou!

Pol. What a treasure had he, my lord?

Ham. Why,—

One fair daughter, and no more,

The which he loved passing well.

Pol. Still harping on my daughter.


Ham. Am I not i’the right, old Jephthah?

Pol. If you call me Jephthah, my lord, I have a daughter that I love passing well.

Ham. Nay, that follows not.

Pol. What follows, then, my lord?

Ham. Why, As by lot, God wot, and then, you know, It came to pass, As most like it was,—The first row of the pious Chanson will show you more; for look, my abridgment comes.

Enter Four or Five Players (L.H.)—Polonius crosses behind Hamlet to R.H.

You are welcome, masters; welcome, all: O, old friend! Why, thy face is valanced since I saw thee last; Com’st thou to beard me in Denmark?—What, my young lady and mistress. By-’r-lady, your ladyship is nearer to heaven than when I saw you last, by the altitude of a chopine. You are welcome. We’ll e’en to’t like French falconers, fly at anything we see: We’ll have a speech straight: Come, give us a taste of your quality; come, a passionate speech.

1st Play. (L.H.) What speech, my lord?

Ham. I heard thee speak me a speech once,—but it was never acted; or, if it was, not above once; for the play, I remember, pleased not the million; ‘twas caviare to the general:but it was an excellent play, well digested in the scenes, set down with as much modesty as cunning. One speech in it I chiefly loved; ‘twas Æneas’ tale to Dido; and thereabout of it especially, where he speaks of Priam’s slaughter: If it live in your memory, begin at this line; let me see, let me see;—

The rugged Pyrrhus, like the Hyrcanian beast,—’tis not so: it begins with Pyrrhus:

The rugged Pyrrhus,—he, whose sable arms,

Black as his purpose, did the night resemble,

Old grandsire Priam seeks.

Pol. (R.) ‘Fore Heaven, my lord, well spoken, with good accent and good discretion.

Ham. (C.) So proceed you.

1st Play. (L.) Anon he finds him

Striking too short at Greeks; his antique sword,

Rebellious to his arm, lies where it falls,

Repugnant to command: Unequal match’d,

Pyrrhus at Priam drives; in rage strikes wide;

But with the whiff and wind of his fell sword

The unnerved father falls.

But, as we often see, against some storm,

A silence in the heavens, the rack stand still,

The bold wind speechless, and the orb below

As hush as death; anon the dreadful thunder

Doth rend the region; So, after Pyrrhus’ pause,

A roused vengeance sets him new a work;

And never did the Cyclops’ hammers fall

On Mars’s armour, forg’d for proof eterne,

With less remorse than Pyrrhus’ bleeding sword

Now falls on Priam.—

Out, out, thou fickle Fortune!

Pol. (R.) This is too long.

Ham. It shall to the barber’s, with your beard.— Say on;—come to Hecuba.

1st Play. But who, ah woe, had seen the mobled queen—

Ham. The mobled queen?

Pol. That’s good; mobled queen is good.

1st Play. Run barefoot up and down, threatening the flames;

A clout upon that head

Where late the diadem stood; and, for a robe,

A blanket, in the alarm of fear caught up;

Who this had seen, with tongue in venom steep’d,

‘Gainst fortune’s state would treason have pronounced.

Pol. Look, whether he has not turned his colour, and has tears in’s eyes.—Prithee, no more.

Ham. (C.) ‘Tis well; I’ll have thee speak out the rest of this soon.—Good, my lord, will you see the players well bestowed? Do you hear, let them be well used; for they are the abstract and brief chronicles of the time: After your death you were better have a bad epitaph than their ill report while you live.

Pol. (R.) My lord, I will use them according to their desert.

Ham. Much better: Use every man after his desert, and who shall ‘scape whipping? Use them after your own honour and dignity: The less they deserve, the more merit is in your bounty. Take them in.

[Crosses to R.H.]

Pol. Come, sirs.

Ham. Follow him, friends: we’ll hear a play to-morrow.

[Exit Polonius with some of the Players, L.H.]

Old friend [Crosses to C.] —My good friends [To Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.] I’ll leave you till night: you are welcome to Elsinore—can you play the murder of Gonzago?

[Exeunt Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, R.H.]

1st Play. Ay, my lord.

Ham. We’ll have it to-morrow night. You could, for a need, study a speech of some dozen or sixteen lines, which I would insert in’t—could you not?

1st Play. Ay, my lord.

Ham. Very well.—Follow that lord; and look you mock him not.

[Exit Player, L.H.]

Now I am alone.

O, what a rogue and peasant slave am I!

Is it not monstrous, that this player here,

But in a fiction, in a dream of passion,

Could force his soul so to his own conceit,

That, from her working, all his visage wann’d;

Tears in his eyes, distraction in’s aspect,

A broken voice, and his whole function suiting

With forms to his conceit? And all for nothing!

For Hecuba?

What’s Hecuba to him, or he to Hecuba,

That he should weep for her? What would he do,

Had he the motive and the cue for passion

That I have? He would drown the stage with tears,

And cleave the general ear with horrid speech;

Make mad the guilty, and appal the free;

Confound the ignorant, and amaze, indeed,

The very faculties of eyes and ears.

Yet I,

A dull and muddy-mettled rascal, peak,

Like John a-dreams, unpregnant of my cause,

And can say nothing; no, not for a king,

Upon whose property and most dear life

A damn’d defeat was made. Am I a coward?

Who calls me villain? breaks my pate across?

Plucks off my beard, and blows it in my face?

Tweaks me by the nose? gives me the lie i’the throat,

As deep as to the lungs? Who does me this,


Why, I should take it: for it cannot be

But I am pigeon-liver’d, and lack gall

To make oppression bitter; or, ere this,

I should have fatted all the region kites

With this slave’s offal: Bloody, bawdy villain!

Remorseless, treacherous, lecherous, kindless villain!

O, vengeance!

Why, what an ass am I! This is most brave,

That I, the son of a dear father murder’d,

Prompted to my revenge by heaven and hell,

Must, like a scold, unpack my heart with words,

And fall a cursing, like a very drab,

A scullion!

Fye upon’t! fye! About, my brains! I have heard

That guilty creatures, sitting at a play,

Have by the very cunning of the scene

Been struck so to the soul, that presently

They have proclaim’d their malefactions;

For murder, though it have no tongue, will speak

With most miraculous organ. I’ll have these players

Play something like the murder of my father

Before mine uncle: I’ll observe his looks;

I’ll tent him to the quick: if he do blench,

I know my course. The spirit that I have seen

May be the devil: and the devil hath power

To assume a pleasing shape; yea, and, perhaps

Out of my weakness and my melancholy

(As he is very potent with such spirits),

Abuses me to damn me: I’ll have good grounds

More relative than this: The play’s the thing

Wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king.

[Exit, R.H.]