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Hamlet

Hamlet Translation Act 3, Scene 1

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CLAUDIUS, GERTRUDE, POLONIUS, OPHELIA, ROSENCRANTZ, and GUILDENSTERN enter.

CLAUDIUS

And can you by no drift of conference Get from him why he puts on this confusion, Grating so harshly all his days of quiet With turbulent and dangerous lunacy?

CLAUDIUS

And the two of you haven’t been able to figure out why he’s acting so oddly, with a dangerous lunacy that’s such a huge shift from his earlier calm and quiet behavior?

ROSENCRANTZ

He does confess he feels himself distracted.But from what cause he will by no means speak.

ROSENCRANTZ

He admits he feels somewhat crazy, but won’t talk about the cause.

GUILDENSTERN

Nor do we find him forward to be sounded. But with a crafty madness keeps aloof When we would bring him on to some confession Of his true state.

GUILDENSTERN

And he’s not willing to be questioned. His insanity is sly and smart, and he slips away from our questions when we try to get him to tell us about how he’s feeling.

GERTRUDE

Did he receive you well?

GERTRUDE

Did he treat you well?

ROSENCRANTZ

Most like a gentleman.

ROSENCRANTZ

Yes, he treated us like a gentleman.

GUILDENSTERN

But with much forcing of his disposition.

GUILDENSTERN

But also as if he he had to force himself to act that way.

ROSENCRANTZ

Niggard of question, but of our demandsMost free in his reply.

ROSENCRANTZ

He didn’t ask many questions, but answered our questions extensively.

GERTRUDE

Did you assay him?To any pastime?

GERTRUDE

Did you try to get him to do something fun?

ROSENCRANTZ

Madam, it so fell out, that certain players We o’erraught on the way. Of these we told him, And there did seem in him a kind of joy To hear of it. They are about the court, And, as I think, they have already order This night to play before him.

ROSENCRANTZ

Madam, as it happened, we crossed paths with some actors on the way here. When we mentioned them to Hamlet, he seemed to feel a kind of joy. They are at the court now, and I think they’ve been told to perform for him tonight.

POLONIUS

‘Tis most true,And he beseeched me to entreat your MajestiesTo hear and see the matter.

POLONIUS

That’s true, and he asked me to beg both of you, your Majesties, to come and watch.

CLAUDIUS

With all my heart, and it doth much content me To hear him so inclined. Good gentlemen, give him a further edge, And drive his purpose on to these delights.

CLAUDIUS

With all my heart, I’m glad to hear of his interest. Gentlemen, try to nurture this interest of his, and keep him focused on these amusements.

ROSENCRANTZ

We shall, my lord.

ROSENCRANTZ

We will, my lord.

ROSENCRANTZ and GUILDENSTERN exit.

CLAUDIUS

Sweet Gertrude, leave us too, For we have closely sent for Hamlet hither, That he, as ’twere by accident, may here Affront Ophelia. Her father and myself (lawful espials) Will so bestow ourselves that, seeing unseen, We may of their encounter frankly judge, And gather by him, as he is behaved, If ’t be the affliction of his love or no That thus he suffers for.

CLAUDIUS

Dear Gertrude, please go as well. We’ve sent for Hamlet as a way for him to meet with Ophelia, seemingly by chance. Her father and I—spying for justifiable reasons—will place ourselves so that we can’t be seen, but can observe the encounter and judge from Hamlet’s behavior whether love is the cause of his madness.

GERTRUDE

I shall obey you . And for your part, Ophelia, I do wish That your good beauties be the happy cause Of Hamlet’s wildness. So shall I hope your virtues Will bring him to his wonted way again, To both your honors.

GERTRUDE

I’ll do as you ask. 

[To OPHELIA] As for you, Ophelia, I hope that your beauty is the reason for Hamlet’s insane behavior. I hope also that your virtues will get him to return to normality, for both of your benefits.

OPHELIA

Madam, I wish it may.

OPHELIA

I hope it too, madam.

GERTRUDE exits.

POLONIUS

Ophelia, walk you here. [to CLAUDIUS] Gracious, so please you, We will bestow ourselves. [to OPHELIA] Read on this book That show of such an exercise may color Your loneliness. —We are oft to blame in this, ‘Tis too much proved, that with devotion’s visage And pious action we do sugar o’er The devil himself.

POLONIUS

Ophelia, walk over here.

[To CLAUDIUS] Your Majesty, if you agree, let’s go hide. 

[To OPHELIA] Read this prayer book, to make you’re being alone seem natural. You know, this is actually something people can be blamed for doing all the time—acting as if they’re religious and devoted to God as a way to hide their bad deeds.

CLAUDIUS

[aside] Oh, ’tis too true! How smart a lash that speech doth give my conscience! The harlot’s cheek, beautied with plastering art, Is not more ugly to the thing that helps it Than is my deed to my most painted word. O heavy burden!

CLAUDIUS

[To himself] Oh, that's all too true! His words are like a whip against my conscience! The whore’s ugly cheek—only made beautiful with make-up—is no more terrible than the things I’ve done and hidden with fine words. Oh, what guilt!

POLONIUS

I hear him coming. Let’s withdraw, my lord.

POLONIUS

I hear him coming. Quick, let’s hide, my lord.

CLAUDIUS and POLONIUS hide.

HAMLET enters.

HAMLET

To be, or not to be? That is the question— Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, And, by opposing, end them? To die, to sleep— No more—and by a sleep to say we end The heartache and the thousand natural shocks That flesh is heir to—’tis a consummation Devoutly to be wished! To die, to sleep. To sleep, perchance to dream—ay, there’s the rub, For in that sleep of death what dreams may come When we have shuffled off this mortal coil, Must give us pause. There’s the respect That makes calamity of so long life. For who would bear the whips and scorns of time, Th’ oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely, The pangs of despised love, the law’s delay, The insolence of office, and the spurns That patient merit of th’ unworthy takes, When he himself might his quietus make With a bare bodkin? Who would fardels bear, To grunt and sweat under a weary life, But that the dread of something after death, The undiscovered country from whose bourn No traveler returns, puzzles the will And makes us rather bear those ills we have Than fly to others that we know not of? Thus conscience does make cowards of us all, And thus the native hue of resolution Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought, And enterprises of great pitch and moment With this regard their currents turn awry, And lose the name of action. —Soft you now, The fair Ophelia! —Nymph, in thy orisons Be all my sins remembered.

HAMLET

To live, or to die? That is the question. Is it nobler to suffer through all the terrible things fate throws at you, or to fight off your troubles, and, in doing so, end them completely? To die, to sleep—because that’s all dying is—and by a sleep I mean an end to all the heartache and the thousand injuries that we are vulnerable to—that’s an end to be wished for! To die, to sleep. To sleep, perhaps to dream—yes, but there’s there’s the catch. Because the kinds of dreams that might come in that sleep of death—after you have left behind your mortal body—are something to make you anxious. That’s the consideration that makes us suffer the calamities of life for so long. Because who would bear all the trials and tribulations of time—the oppression of the powerful, the insults from arrogant men, the pangs of unrequited love, the slowness of justice, the disrespect of people in office, and the general abuse of good people by bad—when you could just settle all your debts using nothing more than an unsheathed dagger? Who would bear his burdens, and grunt and sweat through a tiring life, if they weren’t frightened of what might happen after death—that undiscovered country from which no visitor returns, which we wonder about and which makes us prefer the troubles we know rather than fly off to face the ones we don’t? Thus, the fear of death makes us all cowards, and our natural willingness to act is made weak by too much thinking. Actions of great urgency and importance get thrown off course because of this sort of thinking, and they cease to be actions at all. But wait, here is the beautiful Ophelia!

[To OPHELIA] Beauty, may you forgive all my sins in your prayers.

OPHELIA

Good my lord,How does your honor for this many a day?

OPHELIA

My good lord, how have you been doing these last few days?

HAMLET

I humbly thank you. Well, well, well.

HAMLET

Thank you for asking. Well, well, well.

OPHELIA

My lord, I have remembrances of yoursThat I have longèd long to redeliver.I pray you now receive them.

OPHELIA

My lord, I have some mementos of yours that I’ve been wanting to return to you for a while. Please take them back.

HAMLET

No, not I. I never gave you aught.

HAMLET

No, it wasn’t me. I never gave you anything.

OPHELIA

My honored lord, you know right well you did, And with them, words of so sweet breath composed As made the things more rich. Their perfume lost, Take these again, for to the noble mind Rich gifts wax poor when givers prove unkind. There, my lord.

OPHELIA

My honorable lord, you know very well that you did. And along with these gifts, you wrote letters with words so sweet that they made the gifts seem even more valuable. But now the joy they brought me is gone, so please take them back. Beautiful gifts lose their value when the givers turn out to be unkind. There, my lord.

HAMLET

Ha, ha, are you honest?

HAMLET

Ha ha, are you pure?

OPHELIA

My lord?

OPHELIA

Excuse me?

HAMLET

Are you fair?

HAMLET

Are you beautiful?

OPHELIA

What means your lordship?

OPHELIA

What do you mean?

HAMLET

That if you be honest and fair, your honesty should admit no discourse to your beauty.

HAMLET

That if you’re pure and beautiful, your purity should be unconnected to your beauty.

OPHELIA

Could beauty, my lord, have better commerce than with honesty?

OPHELIA

But, my lord, could beauty be related to anything better than purity?

HAMLET

Ay, truly, for the power of beauty will sooner transform honesty from what it is to a bawd than the force of honesty can translate beauty into his likeness. This was sometime a paradox, but now the time gives it proof. I did love you once.

HAMLET

Yes, definitely, because the power of beauty is more likely to change a good girl into a whore than the power of purity is likely to change a beautiful girl into a virgin. This used to be a great puzzle, but now I’ve solved it. I used to love you.

OPHELIA

Indeed, my lord, you made me believe so.

OPHELIA

Yes, my lord, you made me believe you did.

HAMLET

You should not have believed me, for virtue cannot so inoculate our old stock but we shall relish of it. I loved you not.

HAMLET

You shouldn’t have believed me. No matter how hard we try to be virtuous, our natural sinfulness will always come out in the end. I didn’t love you.

OPHELIA

I was the more deceived.

OPHELIA

I fell for your trick, then.

HAMLET

Get thee to a nunnery. Why wouldst thou be a breeder ofsinners? I am myself indifferent honest, but yet I could accuse me of such things that it were better my mother had not borne me. I am very proud, revengeful, ambitious, with more offences at my beck than I have thoughts to put them in,imagination to give them shape, or time to act them in. What should such fellows as I do crawling between earthand heaven? We are arrant knaves, all. Believe none of us. Go thy ways to a nunnery. Where’s your father?

HAMLET

Go to a convent. Why would you want to give birth to sinners? I’m as good as the next man, and yet I could accuse myself of such horrible crimes that it would’ve been better if my mother had never given birth to me. I’m arrogant, vengeful, ambitious, and have more criminal desires than I have thoughts or imagination to fit them in—or time in which to commit them. Why should people like me be allowed to crawl between heaven and earth? We’re all absolute criminals. Don’t believe any of us. Get yourself to to a convent. Where’s your father?

OPHELIA

At home, my lord.

OPHELIA

He’s at home, my lord.

HAMLET

Let the doors be shut upon him, that he may play the fool no where but in ’s own house. Farewell.

HAMLET

May he get locked in, so he can play the fool in his own home only. Goodbye.

OPHELIA

O, help him, you sweet heavens!

OPHELIA

Oh, dear God, please help him!

HAMLET

If thou dost marry, I’ll give thee this plague for thy dowry. Be thou as chaste as ice, as pure as snow, thou shalt not escape calumny. Get thee to a nunnery, go. Farewell. Or, if thou wilt needs marry, marry a fool, for wise men know well enough what monsters you make of them. To a nunnery, go, and quickly too. Farewell.

HAMLET

If you marry, I’ll give you this curse as your wedding present—even if you are as clean as ice, as pure as snow, you’ll still get a bad reputation. Get yourself to a convent, now. Goodbye. Or if you must get married, marry a fool, because wise men know that women will eventually cheat on them. Goodbye.

OPHELIA

Heavenly powers, restore him!

OPHELIA

Dear God, make him sane again!

HAMLET

I have heard of your paintings too, well enough. God has given you one face and you make yourselves another. You jig and amble, and you lisp, you nickname God’s creatures and make your wantonness your ignorance. Go to, I’ll no more on ’t. It hath made me mad. I say, we will have no more marriages. Those that are married already, all but one, shall live. The rest shall keep asthey are. To a nunnery, go.

HAMLET

And I know all about you women and your make-up. God gives you one face, but you use make-up to give yourself another. You dance and sway as you walk, and talk in a cutesy way. You call God’s creations by pet names, and claim you don’t realize you’re being seductive. No more. I won’t allow it anymore. It has made me angry. I proclaim: we will have no more marriages. Of those who are married already—all but one person—will live on as couples. Everyone else will have to stay single. Go to a convent.

HAMLET exits.

OPHELIA

Oh, what a noble mind is here o’erthrown!— The courtier’s, soldier’s, scholar’s, eye, tongue, sword, Th’ expectancy and rose of the fair state, The glass of fashion and the mould of form, Th’ observed of all observers, quite, quite down! And I, of ladies most deject and wretched, That sucked the honey of his music vows, Now see that noble and most sovereign reason Like sweet bells jangled, out of tune and harsh; That unmatched form and feature of blown youth Blasted with ecstasy. Oh, woe is me, T’ have seen what I have seen, see what I see!

OPHELIA

Oh, his great mind has been overcome by insanity! He had a courtier’s persuasiveness, a soldier’s courage, a scholar’s wisdom. He was the perfect rose and great hope of our country—the model of good manners, the trendsetter, the center of attention. Now he’s fallen so low! I am the most miserable of all the women who once enjoyed hearing his sweet words. A once noble and disciplined mind that sang sweetly is now harsh and out of tune. The unmatched beauty he had in the full bloom of his youth has been destroyed by madness. Oh, poor me, to have seen Hamlet as he was, and now to see him in this way!

CLAUDIUS and POLONIUS come forward.

CLAUDIUS

Love? His affections do not that way tend. Nor what he spake, though it lacked form a little, Was not like madness. There’s something in his soul O’er which his melancholy sits on brood, And I do doubt the hatch and the disclose Will be some danger —which for to prevent, I have in quick determination Thus set it down: he shall with speed to England For the demand of our neglected tribute. Haply the seas and countries different With variable objects shall expel This something-settled matter in his heart, Whereon his brains still beating puts him thus From fashion of himself. What think you on ’t?

CLAUDIUS

Love? His feelings don’t move in that direction. And his words—although they were a bit all over the place—weren’t crazy. No, his sadness is like a bird sitting on an egg. And I think that whatever hatches is going to be dangerous. To prevent that danger, I’ve made a quick decision: he’ll be sent to England to try to get back the tribute money they owe to us. Hopefully the sea and all the new things to see in a different country will push out these thoughts that have somehow taken root in his mind, making him a stranger to his former self. What do you think?

POLONIUS

It shall do well. But yet do I believe The origin and commencement of his grief Sprung from neglected love. —How now, Ophelia? You need not tell us what Lord Hamlet said. We heard it all. —My lord, do as you please. But, if you hold it fit, after the play Let his queen mother all alone entreat him To show his grief. Let her be round with him, And I’ll be placed, so please you, in the ear Of all their conference. If she find him not, To England send him or confine him where Your wisdom best shall think.

POLONIUS

It should work. But I still think that the cause of his madness was unrequited love.

[To OPHELIA] Hello, Ophelia. You don’t have to tell us what Lord Hamlet said. We heard it all.

[To CLAUDIUS] My lord, do whatever you like. But, if you think it’s a good idea, after the play let his mother the queen get him alone and beg him to share the source of his grief. She should be blunt with him. Meanwhile, if you think it’s all right, I’ll hide and listen to what they say. If she can’t find the source of his madness, send him to England or confine him wherever you think best.

CLAUDIUS

It shall be so.Madness in great ones must not unwatched go.

CLAUDIUS

That’s what we’ll do. Madness in important people must be closely watched.

They all exit.

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Ben florman
About the Translator: Ben Florman

Ben is a co-founder of LitCharts. He holds a BA in English Literature from Harvard University, where as an undergraduate he won the Winthrop Sargent prize for best undergraduate paper on a topic related to Shakespeare.