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Hamlet

by William Shakespeare

Act 3, Scene 4 Easiest-to-Read Edition

 

 

 



Hamlet Act 3, Scene 4



The Queen's Closet

Enter GERTRUDE and POLONIUS

Enter GERTRUDE and POLONIUS

POLONIUS

He will come straight. Look you lay home to him.

straight=straightaway (at once)

lay home to=scold

Tell him his pranks have been too broad to bear with

And that your grace hath screened and stood between

Much heat and him. I’ll silence me e’en here.

Pray you, be round with him.

round=blunt

 

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 screened and stood between

Much heat and him. I’ll silence me e’en here.

Pray you, be round with him.

 

HAMLET

(within) Mother, mother, mother!

 

HAMLET

(within) Mother, mother, mother!

 

GERTRUDE

I’ll warrant (promise) you. Fear me not (fear not). Withdraw, I hear him coming.

 

GERTRUDE

I’ll warrant you. Fear me not. Withdraw, I hear him coming.

 

POLONIUS hides behind the arras

POLONIUS hides behind the arras

Enter HAMLET

Enter HAMLET

HAMLET

Now mother, what’s the matter?

 

HAMLET

Now mother, what’s the matter?

 

GERTRUDE

Hamlet, thou hast thy father much offended.

 

GERTRUDE

Hamlet, thou hast thy father much offended.

 

HAMLET

Mother, you have my father much offended.

 

HAMLET

Mother, you have my father much offended.

 

GERTRUDE

Come, come, you answer with an idle tongue.

 

GERTRUDE

Come, come, you answer with an idle tongue.

 

HAMLET

Go, go, you question with a wicked tongue.

 

HAMLET

Go, go, you question with a wicked tongue.

 

GERTRUDE

Why, how now, Hamlet?

 

GERTRUDE

Why, how now, Hamlet?

 

HAMLET

    What’s the matter now?

 

HAMLET

    What’s the matter now?

 

GERTRUDE

Have you forgot me (forgotten who I am)?

 

GERTRUDE

Have you forgot me?

 

HAMLET

  No, by the rood (cross), not so.

You are the queen, your husband’s brother’s wife,

And—would it were not so!—you are my mother.

 

HAMLET

  No, by the rood, not so.

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.

 

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 (mirror)

Where you may see the inmost part of you.

 

HAMLET

Come, come, and sit you down. You shall not budge.

You go not till I set you up a glass

Where you may see the inmost part of you.

-

GERTRUDE

What wilt thou do? Thou wilt not murder me?

Help, help, ho!

 

GERTRUDE

What wilt thou do? Thou wilt not murder me?

Help, help, ho!

 

POLONIUS

(from behind the arras) What, ho? Help, help, 

help!

 

POLONIUS

(from behind the arras) What, ho? Help, help, 

help!

 

HAMLET

How now, a rat? Dead for a ducat (a coin), dead!

 

HAMLET

How now, a rat? Dead for a ducat, dead!

 

(stabs his sword through the arras and kills POLONIUS)

(stabs his sword through the arras and kills POLONIUS)

POLONIUS

(from behind the arras) Oh, I am slain.

 

POLONIUS

(from behind the arras) Oh, I am slain.

 

GERTRUDE

O me, what hast thou done?

 

GERTRUDE

O me, what hast thou done?

 

HAMLET

Nay, I know not. Is it the king?

 

HAMLET

Nay, I know not. Is it the king?

 

GERTRUDE

Oh, what a rash and bloody deed is this!

 

GERTRUDE

Oh, what a rash and bloody deed is this!

 

HAMLET

A bloody deed? Almost as bad, good mother,

As kill a king and marry with his brother.

 

HAMLET

A bloody deed? Almost as bad, good mother,

As kill a king and marry with his brother.

 

GERTRUDE

As kill a king?

 

GERTRUDE

As kill a king?

 

HAMLET

  Ay, lady, ’twas my word.

‘twas my word=that’s what I said

 

HAMLET

  Ay, lady, ’twas my word.

 

(draws back the arras and discovers POLONIUS)

(draws back the arras and discovers POLONIUS)

Thou wretched, rash, intruding fool, farewell.

I took thee for thy better. Take thy fortune.

thy better=the king

Thou find’st to be too busy is some danger.

(to GERTRUDE) Leave wringing of your hands. Peace. Sit you down

And let me wring your heart. For so I shall

If it be made of penetrable stuff,

If damnčd custom have not brassed it so

custom=your evil lifestyle

That it is proof and bulwark against sense.

sense=natural sensitivity

 

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.

(to GERTRUDE) Leave wringing of your hands. Peace. Sit you down

And let me wring your heart. For so I shall

If it be made of penetrable stuff,

If damnčd custom have not brassed it so

That it is proof and bulwark against sense.

 

GERTRUDE

What have I done, that thou darest wag thy tongue

In noise so rude against me?

 

GERTRUDE

What have I done, that thou darest wag thy tongue

In noise so rude against me?

 

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

As false as dicers' oaths—oh, such a deed

As from the body of contraction plucks

body of contraction=marriage contract

The very soul, and sweet religion makes

A rhapsody of words. Heaven’s face doth glow

doth glow=is red, as just before Judgment Day

O'er this solidity and compound mass

solidity and compound mass=the earth

With tristful visage, as against the doom,

tristful visage=sad face

against the doom=just before Judgment Day

Is thought-sick at the act.

is=and is

 

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

As false as dicers' oaths—oh, 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

O'er this solidity and compound mass

With tristful visage, as against the doom,

Is thought-sick at the act.

 

GERTRUDE

    Ay me, what act

That roars so loud and thunders in the index (prologue)?

 

GERTRUDE

    Ay me, what act

That roars so loud and thunders in the index?

 

HAMLET

Look here upon this picture and on this,

The counterfeit presentment of two brothers.

See, what a grace was seated on this brow?

Hyperion’s curls, the front of Jove himself,

(Hyperion was god of manly beauty)

front=face

An eye like Mars to threaten and command,

A station like the herald Mercury

station=bearing

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.

Here is your husband, like a mildewed ear

ear=ear of corn

Blasting his wholesome brother. Have you eyes?

brother=adjoining kernals

Could you on this fair mountain leave to feed

And batten on this moor? Ha, have you eyes?

batten=gorge yourself

You cannot call it love, for at your age

The heyday in the blood is tame, it’s humble,

heyday=high spirits

And waits upon the Judgment. And what judgment

Judgment=God’s decision determining one’s final destiny

Would step from this to this? Sense sure you have,

sense=physical faculties

Else could you not have motion. But sure that sense

Is apoplexed, for madness would not err,

apoplexed=paralyzed

Nor sense to ecstasy was ne'er so thralled,

thralled=enslaved

But it reserved some quantity of choice

To serve in such a difference. What devil was ’t

That thus hath cozened you at hoodman-blind?

cozened=deceived

hoodman-blind=blindman’s buff

Eyes without feeling, feeling without sight,

Ears without hands or eyes, smelling sans all,

Or but a sickly part of one true sense

but=even

Could not so mope.

mope=err

O shame, where is thy blush? Rebellious hell,

If thou canst mutine in a matron’s bones,

(if evil can overtake a matron, then there is no hope for youth)

To flaming youth let virtue be as wax

let virtue be=resign yourself to virtue’s being

And melt in her own fire. Proclaim no shame

When the compulsive ardor gives the charge,

charge=a rushing violently forward

Since frost itself as actively doth burn,

frost=age

And reason panders will.

 

HAMLET

Look here upon this picture and on this,

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

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.

Here is your husband, like a mildewed 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

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 apoplexed, for madness would not err,

Nor sense to ecstasy was ne'er so thralled,

But it reserved some quantity of choice

To serve in such a difference. What devil was ’t

That thus hath cozened you at hoodman-blind?

Eyes without feeling, feeling without sight,

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,

To flaming youth let virtue be as wax

And melt in her own fire. Proclaim no shame

When the compulsive ardor gives the charge,

Since frost itself as actively doth burn,

And reason panders will.

 

 

GERTRUDE

    O Hamlet, speak no more!

Thou turn’st mine eyes into my very soul,

And there I see such black and grainčd spots

grained=ingrained

As will not leave their tinct.

leave=part with

 

GERTRUDE

    O Hamlet, speak no more!

Thou turn’st mine eyes into my very soul,

And there I see such black and grainčd spots

As will not leave their tinct.

 

HAMLET

    Nay, but to live

In the rank sweat of an enseamčd bed,

enseamed=slimy

Stewed in corruption, honeying and making love

Over the nasty sty—

sty=pigpen

HAMLET

    Nay, but to live

In the rank sweat of an enseamčd bed,

Stewed in corruption, honeying and making love

Over the nasty sty—

 

GERTRUDE

  O, speak to me no more!

These words like daggers enter in my ears.

No more, sweet Hamlet.

 

GERTRUDE

  O, speak to me no more!

These words like daggers enter in my ears.

No more, sweet Hamlet.

 

HAMLET

    A murderer and a villain,

A slave that is not twentieth part the tithe

tithe=value

Of your precedent lord, a Vice of kings,

precedent lord=first husband

vice=a comic character in the old morality plays

A cutpurse of the empire and the rule,

cutpurse=thief

That from a shelf the precious diadem stole,

diadem=gem, the crown

And put it in his pocket—

 

HAMLET

    A murderer 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,

That from a shelf the precious diadem stole,

And put it in his pocket—

 

GERTRUDE

No more!

 

GERTRUDE

No more!

 

HAMLET

A king of shreds and patches—

shreds and patches=comical costume

 

HAMLET

A king of shreds and patches—

 

Enter GHOST

Enter GHOST

Save me and hover o'er me with your wings,

You heavenly guards!—What would your gracious figure?

 

Save me and hover o'er me with your wings,

You heavenly guards!—What would your gracious figure?

 

GERTRUDE

Alas, he’s mad (insane).!

 

GERTRUDE

Alas, he’s mad!

 

HAMLET

Do you not come your tardy son to chide,

That, lapsed in time and passion, lets go by

The important acting of your dread command?

O, say!

 

HAMLET

Do you not come your tardy son to chide,

That, lapsed in time and passion, lets go by

The important acting of your dread command?

O, say!

 

GHOST

Do not forget. This visitation

Is but to whet thy almost blunted purpose.

But look, amazement on thy mother sits.

O, step between her and her fighting soul.

Conceit in weakest bodies strongest works.

conceit=imagination

Speak to her, Hamlet.

 

GHOST

Do not forget. This visitation

Is but to whet thy almost blunted purpose.

But look, amazement on thy mother sits.

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?

 

HAMLET

How is it with you, lady?

 

GERTRUDE

    Alas, how is ’t with you,

That you do bend your eye on vacancy

And with th' incorporal air do hold discourse?

incorporal=incorporeal

Forth at your eyes your spirits wildly peep,

at your eyes=from your eyes

And, as the sleeping soldiers in th' alarm,

as the sleeping soldiers in=like sleeping soldiers at

Your bedded hairs, like life in excrements,

bedded=smoothed

excrements=hair and fingernails, which were thought to be lifeless

Start up and stand on end. O gentle son,

Upon the heat and flame of thy distemper

Sprinkle cool patience. Whereon do you look?

 

GERTRUDE

    Alas, how is ’t with you,

That you do bend your eye on vacancy

And with th' incorporal air do hold discourse?

Forth at your eyes your spirits wildly peep,

And, as the sleeping soldiers in th' alarm,

Your bedded hair, like life in excrements,

Starts up and stands on 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 conjoined, preaching to stones,

Would make them capable (able to act).

(to GHOST) Do not look upon me,

Lest with this piteous action you convert

this piteous action=your compassionate look

you convert=you change

My stern effects. Then what I have to do

effects=intentions

Will want true color—tears perchance for blood.

(I will cry instead of murder)

 

HAMLET

On him, on him! Look you, how, pale, he glares!

His form and cause conjoined, preaching to stones,

Would make them capable.

(to GHOST) Do not look upon me,

Lest with this piteous action you convert

My stern effects. Then what I have to do

Will want true color—tears perchance for blood.

 

GERTRUDE

To whom do you speak this?

 

GERTRUDE

To whom do you speak this?

 

HAMLET

    Do you see nothing there?

 

HAMLET

    Do you see nothing there?

 

GERTRUDE

Nothing at all, yet -all that is- I see.

 

GERTRUDE

Nothing at all, yet all that is I see.

 

HAMLET

Nor did you nothing hear?

 

HAMLET

Nor did you nothing hear?

 

GERTRUDE

    No, nothing but ourselves.

 

GERTRUDE

    No, nothing but ourselves.

 

HAMLET

Why, look you there! Look how it steals away—

My father, in his habit as he lived—

habit=apparel

Look where he goes, even now, out at the portal!

 

HAMLET

Why, look you there! Look how it steals away—

My father, in his habit as he lived—

Look where he goes, even now, out at the portal!

 

Exit GHOST

Exit GHOST

GERTRUDE

This the very coinage of your brain.

this the=this is the

This bodiless creation ecstasy

creation ecstasy=creation (that) madness

Is very cunning in.

 

GERTRUDE

This the very coinage of your brain.

This bodiless creation ecstasy

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 uttered. Bring me to the test,

And I the matter will reword, which madness

Would gambol from. Mother, for love of grace,

gambol=skip away

Lay not that flattering unction to your soul

unction=salve

That not your trespass but my madness speaks.

It will but skin and film the ulcerous place

Whilst rank corruption, mining all within,

Infects unseen. Confess yourself to heaven.

Repent what’s past. Avoid what is to come.

what is to come=damnation

And do not spread the compost on the weeds

To make them ranker. Forgive me this my virtue,

For in the fatness of these pursy times

pursy times=times swollen with luxury

Virtue itself of vice must pardon beg,

Yea, curb and woo for leave to do him good.

curb and woo=bow and beg

leave=permission

to do him good=to benefit virtue

 

HAMLET

  Ecstasy?

My pulse as yours doth temperately keep time

And makes as healthful music. It is not madness

That I have uttered. Bring me to the test,

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

Whilst 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,

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.

cleft my heart in twain=split my heart in two

 

GERTRUDE

O Hamlet, thou hast cleft my heart in twain.

 

HAMLET

Oh, throw away the worser part of it,

And live the purer with the other half.

Good night—but go not to mine uncle’s bed.

Assume a virtue if you have it not.

That monster, custom, who all sense doth eat,

custom, who all sense doth eat=habits, who eats all common sense

Of habits devil, is angel yet in this:

of habits devil – custom is a devil when it comes to habits

That to the use of actions fair and good

He likewise gives a frock or livery

livery=uniform

That aptly is put on. Refrain tonight,

And that shall lend a kind of easiness

To the next abstinence, the next more easy.

For use almost can change the stamp of nature,

And either rein the devil or throw him out

With wondrous potency. Once more, good night,

And when you are desirous to be blessed,

I’ll blessing beg of you. (points to POLONIUS)

For this same lord,

I do repent. But heaven hath pleased it so,

To punish me with this and this with me,

(Polonius is Hamlet’s punishment and vice-versa)

That I must be their scourge and minister.

their scourge and minister=heaven’s executioner and minister of justice

I will bestow him and will answer well

bestow=stow away, dispose of

answer well=give recompense for

The death I gave him. So, again, good night.

I must be cruel only to be kind.

Thus bad begins and worse remains behind.

behind=yet to come

One word more, good lady—

 

 

HAMLET

Oh, throw away the worser part of it,

And live the purer with the other half.

Good night—but go not to mine uncle’s bed.

Assume a virtue if you have it not.

That monster, custom, who all sense doth eat,

Of habits devil, is angel yet in this:

That to the use of actions fair and good

He likewise gives a frock or livery

That aptly is put on. Refrain tonight,

And that shall lend a kind of easiness

To the next abstinence, the next more easy.

For use almost can change the stamp of nature,

And either rein the devil or throw him out

With wondrous potency. Once more, good night,

And when you are desirous to be blessed,

I’ll blessing beg of you. (points to POLONIUS)

For this same lord,

I do repent. But heaven hath pleased 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.

I must be cruel only to be kind.

Thus bad begins and worse remains behind.

One word more, good lady—

 

GERTRUDE

What shall I do?

 

GERTRUDE

What shall I do?

 

HAMLET

Not this, by no means, that I bid you do—

Let the bloat king tempt you again to bed,

Pinch wanton on your cheek, call you his mouse,

wanton=lewdly

And let him, for a pair of reechy kisses

reechy=dirty

Or paddling in your neck with his damned fingers,

Make you to ravel all this matter out:

That I essentially am not in madness

But mad in craft. 'Twere good you let him know,

craft=plotting

For who that’s but a queen, fair, sober, wise,

Would from a paddock, from a bat, a gib,

paddock . . . =toad, bat, cat

Such dear concernings hide? Who would do so?

dear concernings=important matters

No, in despite of sense and secrecy,

Unpeg the basket on the house’s top.

basket=birdcage

top=attic

Let the birds fly, and like the famous ape,

(famous ape – a contemporary allusion not understood today)

To try conclusions, in the basket creep

And break your own neck down.

break your own neck down=break (down) your own neck

 

HAMLET

Not this, by no means, that I bid you do—

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 damned fingers,

Make you to ravel all this matter out:

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?

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.

 

GERTRUDE

Be thou assured, if words be made of breath

And breath of life, I have no life to breathe

What thou hast said to me.

(she will keep the secret)

 

GERTRUDE

Be thou assured, 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?

 

HAMLET

I must to England, you know that?

 

GERTRUDE

Alack,

I had forgot. 'Tis so concluded on.

 

GERTRUDE

Alack,

I had forgot. 'Tis so concluded on.

 

HAMLET

There’s letters sealed, and my two schoolfellows,

Whom I will trust as I will adders fanged,

They bear the mandate. They must sweep my way

And marshal me to knavery. Let it work,

marshal me to knavery=lead me on to mischief

For ’tis the sport to have the engineer

Hoist with his own petard. And ’t shall go hard,

hoist with his own petard=blown up by his own explosive

But I will delve one yard below their mines,

mine=excavated passage beneath a fortress wall

And blow them at the moon. Oh, ’tis most sweet

When in one line two crafts directly meet.

in one line=head on

two crafts=two (opposing) designs

(indicates POLONIUS )

This man shall set me packing.

packing – shall hurry me away and start me packing my bags

I’ll lug the guts into the neighbor room.

Mother, good night. Indeed this counselor

Is now most still, most secret, and most grave

Who was in life a foolish prating knave.—

Come, sir, to draw toward an end with you.—

with you=of you

Good night, mother.

 

HAMLET

There’s letters sealed, and my two schoolfellows,

Whom I will trust as I will adders fanged,

They bear the mandate. They must sweep my way

And marshal me to knavery. Let it work,

For ’tis the sport to have the engineer

Hoist with his own petard. And ’t shall go hard,

But I will delve one yard below their mines,

And blow them at the moon. Oh, ’tis most sweet

When in one line two crafts directly meet.

(indicates POLONIUS )

This man shall set me packing.

I’ll lug the guts into the neighbor room.

Mother, good night. Indeed this counselor

Is now most still, most secret, and most grave

Who was in life a foolish prating knave.—

Come, sir, to draw toward an end with you.—

Good night, mother.

 

Exeunt, HAMLET tugging on POLONIUS

Exeunt, HAMLET tugging on POLONIUS

 

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