A line-by-line translation

Hamlet

Hamlet Translation Act 3, Scene 2

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HAMLET and the PLAYERS enter.

HAMLET

Speak the speech, I pray you, as I pronounced it to you, trippingly on the tongue. But if you mouth it, as many of our players do, I had as lief the town crier spoke my lines. Nor do not saw the air too much with your hand thus, but use all gently, for in the very torrent, tempest, and (as I may say) whirlwind of passion, you must acquire and beget a temperance that may give it smoothness. Oh, it offends me to the soul tohear a robustious periwig-pated fellow tear a passion to tatters, to very rags, to split the ears of the groundlings, who for the most part are capable of nothing but inexplicable dumb-shows and noise. I would have such a fellow whipped for o’erdoing Termagant. It out-Herods Herod. Pray you, avoid it.

HAMLET

Please repeat the speech just as I said it to you—smoothly and easily. If you exaggerate it in the way so many current actors do, I’d rather have the town crier say the lines. Don’t make huge gestures with yours hands, like this. Gesture just a bit—because to truly communicate a whirlwind of passion, you must present it in a way that’s smooth and real. Oh, I absolutely hate it when I hear some overexcited actor in a wig shout his “passionate” lines—splitting the audience’s eardrums in an effort to impress the unsophisticated watchers standing just in front of the stage, who for the most part can only appreciate loud noises and pantomime shows. I would whip a guy for overdoing the part of a tyrant. That’s worse than those old plays in which King Herod ranted. Please, don’t do that.

FIRST PLAYER

I warrant your honor.

FIRST PLAYER

I’ll do as you ask.

HAMLET

Be not too tame neither, but let your own discretion beyour tutor. Suit the action to the word, the word to the action, with this special observance that you o’erstep not the modesty of nature. For anything so overdone is from the purpose of playing, whose end, bothat the first and now, was and is to hold, as ’twere, the mirror up to nature, to show virtue her own feature,scorn her own image, and the very age and body of the time his form and pressure. Now this overdone or come tardy off, though it make the unskillful laugh, cannot but make the judicious grieve, the censure of the which one must in your allowance o’erweigh a whole theatre of others . Oh, there be players that I have seen play and heard others praise (and that highly), not to speak it profanely, that, neither having th’ accent of Christiansnor the gait of Christian, pagan, nor man, have so strutted and bellowed that I have thought some of nature’s journeymen had made men and not made them well,they imitated humanity so abominably.

HAMLET

Don’t be too tame, either. Instead, let your judgment guide you. Fit the action to the word and the word to the action. And never overact in a way that seems unnatural. Exaggerated overacting is the opposite of what acting should be. The purpose of acting—both when it began and until now—is to hold a mirror up to nature, virtue, vice, and to the spirit of the times. If you overact or have bad timing, it may make the unknowledgeable laugh, but will make those who know theater grieve. And you should care more about a single knowledgeable theater-lover than an entire theater of the uninformed. I’ve seen actors perform who are highly praised by others, but who—not to be rude—can’t perform a credible Christian, pagan, or even a man. They strut around and bellow like beasts that had been made by some apprentice to God—they imitate men, but extremely badly.

FIRST PLAYER

I hope we have reformed that indifferently with us, sir.

FIRST PLAYER

I hope we’ve removed that fault almost entirely from our acting company, sir.

HAMLET

O, reform it altogether! And let those that play your clowns speak no more than is set down for them, for there be of them that will themselves laugh to set on some quantity of barren spectators to laugh too, though in the meantime some necessary question of the play be then to be considered. That’s villainous, and shows a most pitiful ambition in the fool that uses it. Go, makeyou ready.

HAMLET

Oh, get rid of it completely. And make sure that the clowns speak exactly the lines written for them—because some of them will laugh in order to to get some stupid spectators to laugh, while in the meantime an important part of the plot is then unfolding. That’s villainous, and displays a pitiful ambition in the offending fool to get noticed at the expense of the play. Go, get ready.

The PLAYERS exit.

POLONIUS, GUILDENSTERN, and ROSENCRANTZ enter.

HAMLET

How now, my lord! Will the king hear this piece of work?

HAMLET

What’s the news, my lord? Will the king come to see the performance?

POLONIUS

And the queen too, and that presently.

POLONIUS

Yes, and the queen too, and soon.

HAMLET

Bid the players make haste.

HAMLET

Tell the actors to hurry.

POLONIUS exits.

HAMLET

Will you two help to hasten them?

HAMLET

Will you two help to speed the actors along?

ROSENCRANTZ

Ay, my lord.

ROSENCRANTZ

Yes, my lord.

ROSENCRANTZ and GUILDENSTERN exit.

HAMLET

What ho, Horatio!

HAMLET

Hello, Horatio!

HORATIO enters.

HORATIO

Here, sweet lord, at your service.

HORATIO

My dear lord, here I am at your service.

HAMLET

Horatio, thou art e’en as just a manAs e’er my conversation coped withal.

HAMLET

Horatio, you are as much what a man should be as any I have ever met.

HORATIO

O my dear lord—

HORATIO

Oh, my dear lord—

HAMLET

Nay, do not think I flatter. For what advancement may I hope from thee That no revenue hast but thy good spirits, To feed and clothe thee? Why should the poor be flattered? No, let the candied tongue lick absurd pomp, And crook the pregnant hinges of the knee Where thrift may follow fawning. Dost thou hear? Since my dear soul was mistress of her choice And could of men distinguish, her election Hath sealed thee for herself, for thou hast been— As one in suffering all that suffers nothing— A man that Fortune’s buffets and rewards Hast ta’en with equal thanks. And blessed are those Whose blood and judgment are so well commingled, That they are not a pipe for Fortune’s finger To sound what stop she please. Give me that man That is not passion’s slave, and I will wear him In my heart’s core, ay, in my heart of heart, As I do thee. —Something too much of this.— There is a play tonight before the king. One scene of it comes near the circumstance Which I have told thee of my father’s death. I prithee, when thou seest that act afoot, Even with the very comment of thy soul Observe mine uncle. If his occulted guilt Do not itself unkennel in one speech, It is a damnèd ghost that we have seen, And my imaginations are as foul As Vulcan’s stithy. Give him heedful note. For I mine eyes will rivet to his face, And after we will both our judgments join In censure of his seeming.

HAMLET

No, don’t think I’m flattering you. What could I hope to get from you, who has nothing other than your good graces to support you? Why would anyone flatter a poor person? No, only flatter the rich, or bow to those who might respond to your fawning with money or favors. Do you understand me? Since I have the power and ability to distinguish between men, my soul has chosen you for a friend because you are—as one who endures everything, and therefore allows nothing to make you suffer—a man who accepts all the twists and turns of fate, positive or negative, with the same calm thankfulness. Blessed are those who have a perfect balance of passion and reason, because they cannot be simply played by Fate any which way she chooses. Show me a man who is not a slave to his emotions, and I will keep him close to my heart—yes, in my heart of hearts, as I do you. But I’ve said too much. A play will be performed tonight in front of the king. One of the scenes in it comes close to showing the circumstances I told you about regarding my father’s death. During that scene, please watch my uncle with all of your care and attention. If his hidden guilt is not revealed during the scene, then that ghost was a demon—and my ideas about my uncle were dirty and wrong. Watch him carefully, as will I. Afterwards, we’ll meet and come to a joint conclusion about whether or not he is guilty.

HORATIO

Well, my lord.If he steal aught the whilst this play is playing,And ’scape detecting, I will pay the theft.

HORATIO

Very well, my lord. I’ll watch him so closely that if he manages to steal anything and I don’t notice it, I promise to pay the cost of the stolen item.

A Danish march plays. Trumpets play. CLAUDIUS enters with GERTRUDE, POLONIUS, OPHELIA, ROSENCRANTZ, GUILDENSTERN, and other lords attendant with CLAUDIUS ’s guard carrying torches.

HAMLET

They are coming to the play. I must be idle.Get you a place.

HAMLET

They’re coming. I must look like I’m doing nothing. Find a seat.

CLAUDIUS

How fares our cousin Hamlet?

CLAUDIUS

How do you fare, my nephew Hamlet?

HAMLET

Excellent, i’ faith, of the chameleon’s dish. I eat theair, promise-crammed. You cannot feed capons so.

HAMLET

Excellent! In fact, I eat the air—full as it is of promise—just as chameleons do. That’s no way to feed a chicken.

CLAUDIUS

I have nothing with this answer, Hamlet. These words are not mine.

CLAUDIUS

I don’t know what you’re saying, Hamlet. These words don’t answer my question.

HAMLET

No, nor mine now.

[to POLONIUS] My lord, you played once i’ th’ university, you say?

HAMLET

No, nor mine. 

[To POLONIUS] My lord, you were in plays during college, right?

POLONIUS

That did I, my lord, and was accounted a good actor.

POLONIUS

That I was, my lord. And I was considered to be a good actor.

HAMLET

What did you enact?

HAMLET

What role did you play?

POLONIUS

I did enact Julius Caesar. I was killed i’ th’ Capitol.Brutus killed me.

POLONIUS

I played Julius Caesar. I was killed in the Capitol. Brutus killed me.

HAMLET

It was a brute part of him to kill so capital a calf there.—Be the players ready?

HAMLET

That was brutish of him to kill so capital a man. Are the actors ready?

ROSENCRANTZ

Ay, my lord. They stay upon your patience.

ROSENCRANTZ

Yes, my lord. They wait only for you to call them.

GERTRUDE

Come hither, my dear Hamlet, sit by me.

GERTRUDE

Come here, my dear Hamlet. Sit by me.

HAMLET

No, good mother. Here’s metal more attractive. [sits next to OPHELIA]

HAMLET

No thanks, my good mother. Here’s something more attractive. [He sits down near OPHELIA]

POLONIUS

[to CLAUDIUS] Oh, ho, do you mark that?

POLONIUS

[To CLAUDIUS] Aha! Did you hear that?

HAMLET

Lady, shall I lie in your lap?

HAMLET

My lady, should I lie in your lap?

OPHELIA

No, my lord.

OPHELIA

No, my lord.

HAMLET

I mean, my head upon your lap?

HAMLET

I mean, put my head in your lap?

OPHELIA

Ay, my lord.

OPHELIA

Yes, my lord.

HAMLET

Do you think I meant country matters?

HAMLET

Did you think I was talking about sex?

OPHELIA

I think nothing, my lord.

OPHELIA

I think nothing, my lord.

HAMLET

That’s a fair thought to lie between maids’ legs.

HAMLET

That’s a nice thought to lie between a girl’s legs.

OPHELIA

What is, my lord?

OPHELIA

What is, my lord?

HAMLET

Nothing.

HAMLET

Nothing.

OPHELIA

You are merry, my lord.

OPHELIA

You’re happy tonight, my lord.

HAMLET

Who, I?

HAMLET

Who, me?

OPHELIA

Ay, my lord.

OPHELIA

Yes, my lord.

HAMLET

O God, your only jig-maker. What should a man do but bemerry? For, look you, how cheerfully my mother looks, and my father died within these two hours.

HAMLET

Oh, God—the ultimate puppeteer. What else can a man do but be happy? For example, look how cheerful my mother is—and my father’s been dead for just two hours.

OPHELIA

Nay, ’tis twice two months, my lord.

OPHELIA

No, my lord, it’s been four months.

HAMLET

So long? Nay then, let the devil wear black, for I’ll have a suit of sables. O heavens! Die two months ago andnot forgotten yet? Then there’s hope a great man’s memory may outlive his life half a year. But, by ‘r Lady, he must build churches then, or else shall he suffer not thinking on, with the hobby-horse, whose epitaph is “For, oh, for, oh, the hobby-horse is forgot.”

HAMLET

That long? Well, then may the devil wear black mourning clothes, while I go about in a suit of fine fur. Heaven forbid! He’s been dead for two months already and hasn’t been forgotten yet? I guess there’s hope that memories of a great man may outlive him by six months. But, by God, he must build churches for that to happen, or else he’ll have to put up with being forgotten, like the hobby-horse in the popular song: “Hey-ho, hey-ho, the hobby-horse is forgotten.”

Trumpets play. The pantomime begins. A king and queen enter and embrace each other lovingly. She kneels before him and makes a show of her devotion to him. He lifts her up and rests his head on her neck, then lies down on a bank of flowers. She sees he is asleep, and leaves. Soon another man enters, takes the crown off the sleeping king’s head and kisses it, then pours poison in the king’s ear, and exits. The queen returns and finds the king dead. She weeps passionately. The killer returns, along with three others, and pretends to grieve with the queen. The dead body is carried away. The killer woos the queen with gifts. For a while she is cold and unwilling, but eventually accepts his advances.

The PLAYERS exit.

OPHELIA

What means this, my lord?

OPHELIA

What does this mean, my lord?

HAMLET

Marry, this is miching mallecho. It means mischief.

HAMLET

This means we’re having some mischievous fun.

OPHELIA

Belike this show imports the argument of the play.

OPHELIA

This pantomime most likely gives a sense of the plot of the play.

The actor who will introduce the play enters.

HAMLET

We shall know by this fellow. The players cannot keep counsel. They’ll tell all.

HAMLET

We’ll learn the truth from this fellow. Actors can’t keep secrets. They’ll tell all.

OPHELIA

Will he tell us what this show meant?

OPHELIA

Will he tell us what that pantomime meant?

HAMLET

Ay, or any show that you will show him. Be not you ashamed to show, he’ll not shame to tell you what it means.

HAMLET

Yes, or anything else you show him. If you’re not ashamed to show it, he won’t be ashamed to tell you what it means.

OPHELIA

You are naught, you are naught. I’ll mark the play.

OPHELIA

You’re just naughty, naughty. I’m watching the play.

PROLOGUE

For us and for our tragedy,Here stooping to your clemency,We beg your hearing patiently.

PROLOGUE

Appealing to your forgiving nature, we beg you patiently to watch us perform our tragedy.

The PROLOGUE exits.

HAMLET

Is this a prologue or the posy of a ring?

HAMLET

Was that a prologue or the inscription on a ring?

OPHELIA

‘Tis brief, my lord.

OPHELIA

It was short, my lord.

HAMLET

As woman’s love.

HAMLET

As short as a woman’s love.

Actors playing the roles of KING and QUEEN enter.

PLAYER KING

Full thirty times hath Phoebus’ cart gone round Neptune’s salt wash and Tellus’ orbèd ground, And thirty dozen moons with borrowed sheen About the world have times twelve thirties been, Since love our hearts and Hymen did our hands Unite commutual in most sacred bands.

PLAYER KING

The earth circled the sun thirty times; and the moon has waxed and waned over the ocean; and the earth for thirty times twelve months, since love joined our hearts and Hymen joined our hands in the sacred bonds of marriage.

PLAYER QUEEN

So many journeys may the sun and moon Make us again count o’er ere love be done. But woe is me! You are so sick of late, So far from cheer and from your former state, That I distrust you. Yet though I distrust, Discomfort you, my lord, it nothing must. For women fear too much, even as they love, And women’s fear and love hold quantity, In neither aught, or in extremity. Now what my love is, proof hath made you know, And as my love is sized, my fear is so: Where love is great, the littlest doubts are fear. Where little fears grow great, great love grows there.

PLAYER QUEEN

May we continue to love each other for another thirty years. But I am sad. You’ve been so sick recently—so different from your former cheerful self—that I worry about you. But though I worry, don’t let it upset you, my lord. Women in love are always afraid. For women, love and fear go hand in hand—whether or not there is reason to worry. I’ve proven the quality of my love. And as my love is deep, so too is my fear. When someone’s love is great, little worries become big. Little fears grown big are a sign of great love.

PLAYER KING

Faith, I must leave thee, love, and shortly too. My operant powers their functions leave to do. And thou shalt live in this fair world behind, Honored, beloved, and haply one as kind For husband shalt thou—

PLAYER KING

In truth, I will soon have to leave you, love. My body is growing weak, ceasing to function. I will leave you behind in this beautiful world, my honorable beloved. Perhaps you’ll find another husband—

PLAYER QUEEN

Oh, confound the rest! Such love must needs be treason in my breast. In second husband let me be accursed! None wed the second but who killed the first.

PLAYER QUEEN

Oh, curse everyone else! Loving another would be treason in my heart. May I be cursed if I take a second husband. Only a woman who killed her first husband would marry a second.

HAMLET

[aside] Wormwood, wormwood.

HAMLET

[To himself] That’s bitter!

PLAYER QUEEN

The instances that second marriage move Are base respects of thrift, but none of love. A second time I kill my husband dead When second husband kisses me in bed.

PLAYER QUEEN

The reasons for a second marriage might be money, but never love. When my second husband kissed me in bed, it would be like killing my first husband again.

PLAYER KING

I do believe you think what now you speak, But what we do determine oft we break. Purpose is but the slave to memory, Of violent birth, but poor validity, Which now, like fruit unripe, sticks on the tree, But fall, unshaken, when they mellow be. Most necessary ’tis that we forget To pay ourselves what to ourselves is debt. What to ourselves in passion we propose, The passion ending, doth the purpose lose. The violence of either grief or joy Their own enactures with themselves destroy. Where joy most revels, grief doth most lament. Grief joys, joy grieves on slender accident. This world is not for aye, nor ’tis not strange That even our loves should with our fortunes change. For ’tis a question left us yet to prove, Whether love lead fortune, or else fortune love. The great man down, you mark his favorite flies. The poor advanced makes friends of enemies. And hitherto doth love on fortune tend, For who not needs shall never lack a friend, And who in want a hollow friend doth try, Directly seasons him his enemy. But, orderly to end where I begun, Our wills and fates do so contrary run That our devices still are overthrown. Our thoughts are ours, their ends none of our own. So think thou wilt no second husband wed, But die thy thoughts when thy first lord is dead.

PLAYER KING

I believe that’s what you think now. But what we swear we’ll do we often don’t. Intentions are driven by memory. They are strong at first, but fade over time—like an unripe apple that sticks to the tree, but falls on its own to the ground when ripe. It’s necessary for us to forget to meet the obligation we impose on ourselves. We forget to do what we promise to do in moments of passion once that passion fades. Grief or joy might spur us to action, but that call to action fades along with the grief or joy. Grief becomes joy, and joy turns to grief, based on little twists of fate. The world won’t last forever, so it’s not odd that even love can change as our fate changes. It remains an open question whether love propels your fate, or your fate propels love. When the great man falls, he is deserted. When a poor man rises, enemies become friends. Love is similarly dependent on fortune. A person with money will never lack friends, while a friend who asks another for money will make that friend an enemy. Back to the point on which I began: our desires and our fates will never match. So our plans never end up as we hope. What we want to happen, and what happens, will never be the same. So you think you’ll never marry again, but those thoughts will die when I do.

PLAYER QUEEN

Nor earth to me give food, nor heaven light. Sport and repose lock from me day and night. To desperation turn my trust and hope. An anchor’s cheer in prison be my scope. Each opposite that blanks the face of joy Meet what I would have well and it destroy. Both here and hence pursue me lasting strife If, once a widow, ever I be wife!

PLAYER QUEEN

May the earth give me no food and the sky no light; may I have no rest or leisure, day or night; may my trust and hope turn to despair; may cheap prison food be all the comfort I can hope for; may all the forces that turn joy to sadness destroy all of my desires. For now and forever may I know no peace if, after becoming a widow, I ever again become a wife.

HAMLET

If she should break it now!

HAMLET

What if she breaks that vow?

PLAYER KING

‘Tis deeply sworn. Sweet, leave me here awhile.My spirits grow dull, and fain I would beguileThe tedious day with sleep.

PLAYER KING

You swear sincerely. Sweetheart, leave me alone a while. I’m getting sleepy, and I would like to escape this tiresome day by going to sleep.

The PLAYER KING sleeps.

PLAYER QUEEN

Sleep rock thy brain,And never come mischance between us twain.

PLAYER QUEEN

May you sleep well, and may no twist of fate ever come between us.

The PLAYER QUEEN exits.

HAMLET

Madam, how like you this play?

HAMLET

Madam, how do you like this play?

GERTRUDE

The lady protests too much, methinks.

GERTRUDE

The lady’s promising a bit much, I think.

HAMLET

Oh, but she’ll keep her word.

HAMLET

Oh, but she’ll keep her word.

CLAUDIUS

Have you heard the argument? Is there no offense in ’t?

CLAUDIUS

Do you know the plot? Is there anything offensive in it?

HAMLET

No, no, they do but jest. Poison in jest. No offense i’th’ world.

HAMLET

No, no, it’s just pretend. Just a little joke. Not offensive at all.

CLAUDIUS

What do you call the play?

CLAUDIUS

What’s the title of the play?

HAMLET

The Mousetrap. Marry, how? Tropically. This play is theimage of a murder done in Vienna. Gonzago is the duke’sname, his wife Baptista. You shall see anon. ‘Tis a knavish piece of work, but what o’ that? Your majesty and we that have free souls, it touches us not. Let the galled jade wince, our withers are unwrung.

HAMLET

The Mousetrap. Indeed, why? It’s a metaphor. This play re-enacts a murder committed in Vienna. Gonzago is the duke’s name, and his wife is Baptista. You’ll see soon. It’s really a mischievous piece of work, but who cares? You and I have clear consciences, so it doesn’t concern us. Let the guilty flinch. We can watch without being bothered.

LUCIANUS enters.

HAMLET

This is one Lucianus, nephew to the king.

HAMLET

This is Lucianus, the king’s nephew.

OPHELIA

You are as good as a chorus, my lord.

OPHELIA

You’re as good as a play-by-play announcer, my lord.

HAMLET

I could interpret between you and your love, if I couldsee the puppets dallying.

HAMLET

I could do a play-by-play between you and your lover, if you put on a little puppet show for me.

OPHELIA

You are keen, my lord, you are keen.

OPHELIA

You are witty, my lord, and sharp.

HAMLET

It would cost you a groaning to take off mine edge.

HAMLET

You could take my edge off, but doing it might make you moan.

OPHELIA

Still better and worse.

OPHELIA

Your jokes get better, even as your manners get worse.

HAMLET

So you must take your husbands.—Begin, murderer. Pox, leave thy damnable faces, and begin. Come, “The croakingraven doth bellow for revenge—”

HAMLET

“For better, for worse”—that’s the vow you take when you take a husband. 

[To LUCIANUS] Get moving, murderer! Curses, stop making those stupid faces and begin. Come on, we’re all waiting for the revenge!

LUCIANUS

Thoughts black, hands apt, drugs fit, and time agreeing, Confederate season, else no creature seeing, Thou mixture rank, of midnight weeds collected, With Hecate’s ban thrice blasted, thrice infected, Thy natural magic and dire property On wholesome life usurp immediately. [pours poison into PLAYER KING ’s ears]

LUCIANUS

Evil thoughts, willing hands, the perfect poison, and the opportunity to act. The darkness of the night protects me: no one can see me. You foul mixture of deadly weeds, which Hecate has cursed and infected, use your deadly properties to steal away health and life. [He pours the poison into the PLAYER KING ’s ears]

HAMLET

He poisons him i’ th’ garden for ’s estate. His name’s Gonzago. The story is extant, and writ in choice Italian. You shall see anon how the murderer gets the love of Gonzago’s wife.

HAMLET

He poisons the king in the garden to get the kingdom. The king’s name is Gonzago. The original story was written in Italian. You’ll see shortly how the murderer wins the love of Gonzago’s wife.

CLAUDIUS stands up.

OPHELIA

The king rises.

OPHELIA

The king is standing up.

HAMLET

What, frighted with false fire?

HAMLET

What—is he scared of a gun firing a blank?

GERTRUDE

How fares my lord?

GERTRUDE

My lord, how are you feeling?

POLONIUS

Give o’er the play.

POLONIUS

Stop the play.

CLAUDIUS

Give me some light, away!

CLAUDIUS

Turn on the lights. I’m leaving!

POLONIUS

Lights, lights, lights!

POLONIUS

Lights, lights, lights!

Everyone except HAMLET and HORATIO exits.

HAMLET

Why, let the stricken deer go weep, The hart ungallèd play. For some must watch while some must sleep. So runs the world away. Would not this, sir, and a forest of feathers—if the rest of my fortunes turn Turk with me—with two Provincial roses on my razed shoes, get me a fellowship in a cry of players?

HAMLET

[Reciting like an actor] Let the deer that’s been shot go weep alone, while the uninjured deer plays. For some must watch while others must sleep—that’s the way of the world. 

[To HORATIO] Don’t you think that with my acting skill—if I wore some plumes of feathers and had decorative flowers on my shoes—I could get a job in a troupe of actors, if things went wrong in the rest of my life?

HORATIO

Half a share.

HORATIO

They’d probably give you half a share of the company.

HAMLET

A whole one, I. For thou dost know, O Damon dear, This realm dismantled was Of Jove himself. And now reigns here A very, very—pajock.

HAMLET

A whole share for me. [Reciting like an actor] For you know, my dearest Damon, that this kingdom lost Its Jove-like king. And now who rules? A big, big—peacock.

HORATIO

You might have rhymed.

HORATIO

You could have at least rhymed.

HAMLET

O good Horatio, I’ll take the ghost’s word for a thousand pound. Didst perceive?

HAMLET

Oh, Horatio. I’d wager a thousand dollars the ghost spoke the truth. Did you see?

HORATIO

Very well, my lord.

HORATIO

Very well, my lord.

HAMLET

Upon the talk of the poisoning?

HAMLET

When the actors mentioned the poison?

HORATIO

I did very well note him.

HORATIO

I watched him closely.

HAMLET

Ah ha! Come, some music! Come, the recorders! For if the king like not the comedy, Why then, belike, he likes it not, perdy. Come, some music!

HAMLET

Aha! Hey, some music please! Play your flutes! For if the king does not like the play, then, that’s it—he does not like it, I say. Come on now, music!

ROSENCRANTZ and GUILDENSTERN enter.

GUILDENSTERN

Good my lord, vouchsafe me a word with you.

GUILDENSTERN

My lord, might I have a word with you?

HAMLET

Sir, a whole history.

HAMLET

You can have a whole story.

GUILDENSTERN

The king, sir—

GUILDENSTERN

The king, sir—

HAMLET

Ay, sir, what of him?

HAMLET

Yes, what about him?

GUILDENSTERN

Is in his retirement marvelous distempered.

GUILDENSTERN

He’s in his chambers now, and very upset.

HAMLET

With drink, sir?

HAMLET

He has an upset stomach from drinking too much?

GUILDENSTERN

No, my lord, with choler.

GUILDENSTERN

No, my lord, he’s angry.

HAMLET

Your wisdom should show itself more richer to signify this to the doctor. For, for me to put him to his purgation would perhaps plunge him into far more choler.

HAMLET

You’d be a lot smarter if you told this to a doctor. If I were to treat him, he would only end up angrier.

GUILDENSTERN

Good my lord, put your discourse into some frame and start not so wildly from my affair.

GUILDENSTERN

My lord, please try to make sense and not to veer on such wild tangents from the point of my question.

HAMLET

I am tame, sir. Pronounce.

HAMLET

I’ll behave, sir. Speak.

GUILDENSTERN

The queen your mother, in most great affliction of spirit, hath sent me to you.

GUILDENSTERN

The queen your mother, who is extremely unhappy, has sent me to you.

HAMLET

You are welcome.

HAMLET

You are very welcome here.

GUILDENSTERN

Nay, good my lord, this courtesy is not of the right breed. If it shall please you to make me a wholesome answer, I will do your mother’s commandment. If not, your pardon and my return shall be the end of my business.

GUILDENSTERN

No, my lord, your polite words don’t make any sense in this situation. If you’d be so kind as to give me a real answer, I’ll carry out your mother’s request. If not, I’ll say goodbye and that’ll be the end of my business.

HAMLET

Sir, I cannot.

HAMLET

Sir, I can’t.

GUILDENSTERN

What, my lord?

GUILDENSTERN

Can’t what, my lord?

HAMLET

Make you a wholesome answer. My wit’s diseased. But, sir, such answer as I can make, you shall command. Or, rather, as you say, my mother. Therefore no more but to the matter. My mother, you say—

HAMLET

Give you a real answer. My mind is not right. But I’ll try to give the best answer I can to you—or rather, to my mother. Therefore, let’s get to the point. My mother, you say—

ROSENCRANTZ

Then thus she says: your behavior hath struck her into amazement and admiration.

ROSENCRANTZ

She says that your behavior has shocked astonished her.

HAMLET

O wonderful son that can so ’stonish a mother! But is there no sequel at the heels of this mother’s admiration? Impart.

HAMLET

Oh, what a wonderful son I am to be able to impress my mother! But what are the details of my mother’s admiration? Explain.

ROSENCRANTZ

She desires to speak with you in her closet ere you go to bed.

ROSENCRANTZ

She wants to speak with you in her bedroom before you go to bed.

HAMLET

We shall obey, were she ten times our mother. Have you any further trade with us?

HAMLET

I will obey, as if she were ten times my mother. Have you any other business with me?

ROSENCRANTZ

My lord, you once did love me.

ROSENCRANTZ

My lord, you once liked me.

HAMLET

And do still, by these pickers and stealers.

HAMLET

And I still do, I swear by my hands.

ROSENCRANTZ

Good my lord, what is your cause of distemper? You do surely bar the door upon your own liberty if you deny your griefs to your friend.

ROSENCRANTZ

My lord, what’s the cause of your anger? You’re locking yourself into a prison by refusing to reveal your problems to your friends.

HAMLET

Sir, I lack advancement.

HAMLET

Sir, I have no future prospects.

ROSENCRANTZ

How can that be, when you have the voice of the king himself for your succession in Denmark?

ROSENCRANTZ

How can that be, when the king himself has proclaimed you the heir to the Danish throne?

The PLAYERS enter with recorders.

HAMLET

Ay, sir, but “While the grass grows—” The proverb is something musty—Oh, the recorders! Let me see one. [takes a recorder] [aside to ROSENCRANTZ and GUILDENSTERN] To withdraw with you, why do you go about to recover the wind of me as if you would drive me into a toil?

HAMLET

Yes, but as the proverb goes, “While the grass grows…” Though that is an old, stale proverb. Oh, the recorders! Let me see one. [He takes a recorder]

[To ROSENKRANTZ and GUILDENSTERN so that only they can hear] Step back. Why are you moving around me, as if to ambush me into a trap?

GUILDENSTERN

O my lord, if my duty be too bold, my love is too unmannerly.

GUILDENSTERN

Oh, my lord, if I’m being too bold, it’s only because I care about you too much to show good manners.

HAMLET

I do not well understand that. Will you play upon this pipe?

HAMLET

I don’t understand you. Will you play this recorder?

GUILDENSTERN

My lord, I cannot.

GUILDENSTERN

My lord, I can’t.

HAMLET

I pray you.

HAMLET

Please.

GUILDENSTERN

Believe me, I cannot.

GUILDENSTERN

Believe me, I can’t.

HAMLET

I do beseech you.

HAMLET

I beg you.

GUILDENSTERN

I know no touch of it, my lord.

GUILDENSTERN

I don’t know how, my lord.

HAMLET

It is as easy as lying. Govern these ventages with yourfingers and thumb, give it breath with your mouth, and it will discourse most eloquent music. Look you, these are the stops.

HAMLET

It’s as easy as lying. Cover these holes with your fingers and thumb and blow into it, and it will produce the most beautiful music. See, here are the holes.

GUILDENSTERN

But these cannot I command to any utterance of harmony.I have not the skill.

GUILDENSTERN

But I can’t play any kind of song or melody. I don’t have the skill.

HAMLET

Why, look you now, how unworthy a thing you make of me!You would play upon me. You would seem to know my stops. You would pluck out the heart of my mystery. You would sound me from my lowest note to the top of my compass. And there is much music, excellent voice, in this little organ, yet cannot you make it speak? ‘Sblood, do you think I am easier to be played on than apipe? Call me what instrument you will, though you can fret me, yet you cannot play upon me.

HAMLET

Well, look at that, how you treat me like such a fool. You keep trying to play me—as if you knew exactly where to put your fingers—to tease out my mystery—playing the full scale of all my notes. There is so much music in this little instrument, and yet you can’t make it speak? By God, do you think I’m easier to play than a recorder? Call me whatever instrument you want—even though you try to push my buttons, you can’t play me.

POLONIUS enters.

HAMLET

God bless you, sir.

HAMLET

God bless you, sir.

POLONIUS

My lord, the queen would speak with you, and presently.

POLONIUS

My lord, the queen would like to speak with you right away.

HAMLET

Do you see yonder cloud that’s almost in shape of a camel?

HAMLET

Do you see the cloud over there that looks almost like a camel?

POLONIUS

By th’ mass, and ’tis like a camel indeed.

POLONIUS

By God, it does look like a camel.

HAMLET

Methinks it is like a weasel.

HAMLET

To me it looks like a weasel.

POLONIUS

It is backed like a weasel.

POLONIUS

Its back is like a weasel’s.

HAMLET

Or like a whale.

HAMLET

Or like a whale.

POLONIUS

Very like a whale.

POLONIUS

Very much like a whale.

HAMLET

Then I will come to my mother by and by. [aside] They fool me to the top of my bent.—I will come by and by.

HAMLET

I’ll come to see my mother soon. 

[To himself] They’re trying to play me as a fool, and now I’m almost to my breaking point 

[To POLONIUS] I’ll come soon.

POLONIUS

I will say so.

POLONIUS

I’ll tell her that.

HAMLET

“By and by” is easily said.

HAMLET

It’s easy enough to say “soon.”

POLONIUS exits.

HAMLET

Leave me, friends.

HAMLET

Leave me alone, my friends.

Everyone except HAMLET exits.

HAMLET

‘Tis now the very witching time of night, When churchyards yawn and hell itself breathes out Contagion to this world. Now could I drink hot blood And do such bitter business as the bitter day Would quake to look on. Soft, now to my mother.— O heart, lose not thy nature, let not ever The soul of Nero enter this firm bosom. Let me be cruel, not unnatural. I will speak daggers to her but use none. My tongue and soul in this be hypocrites. How in my words somever she be shent, To give them seals never, my soul, consent!

HAMLET

It’s now the time of night when witches roam, when graveyards open and the stench of hell breathes sickness into the world. Now I could drink hot blood and do things so terrible it would make people tremble the next day. But wait, I must now go to see my mother. Oh, my heart, do not lose your humanity, don’t let yourself become like Nero. Let me be cruel, but not inhuman. I’ll speak to her as sharply as a dagger, but not use a dagger. Though my words will condemn her to hell, my soul must never make that condemnation into reality by letting me kill her.

HAMLET exits.

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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.