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Hamlet

Hamlet Translation Act 3, Scene 3

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CLAUDIUS, ROSENCRANTZ, and GUILDENSTERN enter.

CLAUDIUS

I like him not, nor stands it safe with us To let his madness range. Therefore prepare you. I your commission will forthwith dispatch, And he to England shall along with you. The terms of our estate may not endure Hazard so dangerous as doth hourly grow Out of his lunacies.

CLAUDIUS

I don’t like it. It’s not safe to let his madness rage all over the place, so get ready. I’m sending you to England on a diplomatic mission, and Hamlet will go with you. My duty as a king does not allow me to let such a dangerous man as Hamlet to run loose, especially as he’s getting crazier each hour.

GUILDENSTERN

We will ourselves provide. Most holy and religious fear it is To keep those many, many bodies safe That live and feed upon your majesty.

GUILDENSTERN

We’ll get ourselves ready. It’s a sacred duty to protect all of those people whose lives depend on you, your Majesty.

ROSENCRANTZ

The single and peculiar life is bound With all the strength and armor of the mind To keep itself from noyance, but much more That spirit upon whose weal depend and rest The lives of many. The cease of majesty Dies not alone, but, like a gulf, doth draw What’s near it with it. It is a massy wheel Fixed on the summit of the highest mount, To whose huge spokes ten thousand lesser things Are mortised and adjoined, which, when it falls, Each small annexment, petty consequence, Attends the boisterous ruin. Never alone Did the king sigh, but with a general groan.

ROSENCRANTZ

Each person tries to avoid injury, with the full effort of his or her mind. But it is even more important to protect that person upon whose health the entire nation depends. A king does not die alone. Instead, like a whirlpool, he sucks down all that is near. A king is like a huge wheel on the top of the highest mountain, with a thousand smaller things attached to its spokes. When that wheel rolls down the mountain, everything attached goes down with it, spinning wildly into ruin. A king never sighs alone; everyone else always groans with him.

CLAUDIUS

Arm you, I pray you, to this speedy voyage.For we will fetters put upon this fear,Which now goes too free-footed.

CLAUDIUS

Please, prepare yourselves for this trip. We’ll put chains on this danger that’s now running free.

ROSENCRANTZ, GUILDENSTERN

We will haste us.

ROSENCRANTZ, GUILDENSTERN

We will hurry.

ROSENCRANTZ and GUILDENSTERN exit.

POLONIUS enters.

POLONIUS

My lord, he’s going to his mother’s closet. Behind the arras I’ll convey myself To hear the process. I’ll warrant she’ll tax him home. And, as you said (and wisely was it said) ‘Tis meet that some more audience than a mother— Since nature makes them partial—should o’erhear The speech, of vantage. Fare you well, my liege. I’ll call upon you ere you go to bed And tell you what I know.

POLONIUS

My lord, Hamlet’s going to his mother’s room. I’ll hide behind the tapestry to listen in. I bet she’ll let him have it. And as you said (and you said it wisely), it’s good to have someone other than a mother listening to what he says—since, as a mother, she naturally loves him. Goodbye, my lord. I’ll come to see you before you go to bed, and tell you what I’ve learned.

CLAUDIUS

Thanks, dear my lord.

CLAUDIUS

Thanks, my dear lord.

POLONIUS exits.

CLAUDIUS

Oh, my offence is rank. It smells to heaven. It hath the primal eldest curse upon ’t, A brother’s murder. Pray can I not. Though inclination be as sharp as will, My stronger guilt defeats my strong intent, And, like a man to double business bound, I stand in pause where I shall first begin, And both neglect. What if this cursèd hand Were thicker than itself with brother’s blood? Is there not rain enough in the sweet heavens To wash it white as snow? Whereto serves mercy But to confront the visage of offence? And what’s in prayer but this twofold force, To be forestallèd ere we come to fall Or pardoned being down? Then I’ll look up. My fault is past. But oh, what form of prayer Can serve my turn, “Forgive me my foul murder?” That cannot be, since I am still possessed Of those effects for which I did the murder: My crown, mine own ambition, and my queen. May one be pardoned and retain th’ offense? In the corrupted currents of this world Offense’s gilded hand may shove by justice, And oft ’tis seen the wicked prize itself Buys out the law. But ’tis not so above. There is no shuffling. There the action lies In his true nature, and we ourselves compelled, Even to the teeth and forehead of our faults, To give in evidence. What then? What rests? Try what repentance can. What can it not? Yet what can it when one can not repent? O wretched state! O bosom black as death! O limèd soul that, struggling to be free, Art more engaged! Help, angels. Make assay. Bow, stubborn knees, and, heart with strings of steel, Be soft as sinews of the newborn babe. All may be well. [kneels]

CLAUDIUS

Oh, my crime is foul. It stinks all the way to heaven. It is the oldest, and worst, of all crimes: a brother’s murder. I can’t pray. Though I badly want to pray, my guilt is stronger than my hope to pray. And—like a person with two things he has to do at the same time—I stand paralyzed, unsure which to start first, and thus neglect them both. Even if this cursed hand of mine is covered with my brother’s blood, isn’t there enough rain in sweet heaven to wash it white as snow? What’s the purpose of God’s mercy if not to forgive the sinner? And doesn’t prayer have these two powers: to stop us from sinning before we do, and to offer forgiveness when we’ve sinned? So I’ll pray. My sin is in the past. But, oh, what prayer can possibly give me what I want:  “Forgive me for my awful murder?” That won’t work, since I still have all the things I gained by committing the murder: my crown—the object of my ambition—and my queen. Is it possible to be forgiven and keep what you got from the crime? In this corrupt world, criminals can use the wealth they get from their crime to shove justice aside by bribing officers of the law. But that’s not how it is heaven. You can’t hide from the law up there. There, every action is judged strictly on its merits, and everyone must confront their sins face-to-face. What then? What remains for me to do? Repent as best I can. That can’t hurt. But it can’t help much either, since I can’t really repent. Oh, what a wretched situation! Oh, my heart is as black as death. My soul is trapped in sin, and the more it struggles to be free, the more trapped it gets. Help me, angels! Make an effort. Now bend, my stubborn knees, and may my hard heart become soft as the muscle of a newborn baby. Perhaps all will be well. [He kneels]

HAMLET enters.

HAMLET

Now might I do it pat. Now he is a-praying. And now I’ll do ’t. And so he goes to heaven. And so am I revenged.—That would be scanned. A villain kills my father, and, for that, I, his sole son, do this same villain send To heaven. Oh, this is hire and salary, not revenge. He took my father grossly, full of bread, With all his crimes broad blown, as flush as May. And how his audit stands who knows save heaven? But in our circumstance and course of thought ‘Tis heavy with him. And am I then revenged To take him in the purging of his soul When he is fit and seasoned for his passage? No! Up, sword, and know thou a more horrid hent. When he is drunk asleep, or in his rage, Or in th’ incestuous pleasure of his bed, At game a-swearing, or about some act That has no relish of salvation in ’t— Then trip him, that his heels may kick at heaven, And that his soul may be as damned and black As hell, whereto it goes. My mother stays This physic but prolongs thy sickly days.

HAMLET

Now I could do it. Now as he’s praying. And now I’ll do it. [He draws his sword] And so he’ll go to heaven, and I’ll have my revenge. Wait, that needs more thought. A villain kills my father, and, in revenge, I—my father’s only son—send this same villain to heaven. Send him to heaven—oh, that’s doing him a service, not getting revenge. He killed my father before my father could pray and spiritually prepare himself, so that my father’s sins were in full bloom. Only God knows how many sins my father has standing against him. But as far as I can tell, it doesn’t look good for him. So do I get revenge if I kill Claudius while he’s praying and confessing his sins, so that he’s all set to go right up to heaven? No! Go away, sword, and wait for a more horrid moment to kill him. [He sheathes his sword] When he’s drunk and asleep, or partying, or having incestuous sex, or swearing and gambling, or doing some other thing that has no trace of heaven in it—then I’ll kill him, so that his heels kick up toward heaven while his damned, black soul falls straight down to hell. My mother’s waiting. Claudius, this attempt to cure yourself through prayer is only going to prolong your sickly life a little longer.

HAMLET exits.

CLAUDIUS

[rises] My words fly up, my thoughts remain below.Words without thoughts never to heaven go.

CLAUDIUS

[Standing up] My words fly up to the sky, but my thoughts remain down here. Words without thoughts will never get to heaven.

CLAUDIUS exits.

Hamlet
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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.