A line-by-line translation

Hamlet

Hamlet Translation Act 3, Scene 4

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GERTRUDE and POLONIUS enter.

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 even here. Pray you, be round with him.

POLONIUS

He’ll be here right away. Be sure to really yell at him. Tell him his pranks have been too big to ignore, and that you have protected him from feeling the full heat of their consequences. I’ll be silent, right here. Please, be tough with him.

HAMLET

[within] Mother, mother, mother!

HAMLET

[Offstage] Mother, mother, mother!

GERTRUDE

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

GERTRUDE

I’ll do as you say. Don’t worry. Hide, I hear him coming.

POLONIUS hides behind the tapestry.

HAMLET enters.

HAMLET

Now mother, what’s the matter?

HAMLET

Now, mother, what’s the matter?

GERTRUDE

Hamlet, thou hast thy father much offended.

GERTRUDE

Hamlet, you have insulted your father.

HAMLET

Mother, you have my father much offended.

HAMLET

Mother, you have insulted my father.

GERTRUDE

Come, come, you answer with an idle tongue.

GERTRUDE

Come now, you answer is foolish.

HAMLET

Go, go, you question with a wicked tongue.

HAMLET

Go on, your question is wicked.

GERTRUDE

Why, how now, Hamlet?

GERTRUDE

Hamlet, what, why?

HAMLET

What’s the matter now?

HAMLET

What’s the matter now?

GERTRUDE

Have you forgot me?

GERTRUDE

Have you forgotten who I am?

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.

HAMLET

By the Holy Cross, no. You are the queen, your husband’s brother’s wife, and—though I wish it wasn’t so—you are my mother.

GERTRUDE

Nay, then I’ll set those to you that can speak.

GERTRUDE

Well then, I’ll go get someone who will speak and make you listen.

HAMLET

Come, come, and sit you down. You shall not budge.You go not till I set you up a glassWhere you may see the inmost part of you.

HAMLET

Come now, sit down. Don't budge. You will not leave until I hold a mirror up to you, so that you can see the inner most part of yourself.

GERTRUDE

What wilt thou do? Thou wilt not murder me?Help, help, ho!

GERTRUDE

What are you going to do? Would you murder me? Help, help, hey!

POLONIUS

[from behind the arras] What, ho? Help, help, help!

POLONIUS

[From behind the tapestry] Hey! Help, help, help!

HAMLET

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

HAMLET

What’s this, a rat? I’ll bet a gold coin that he’s dead now.

HAMLET stabs his sword through the tapestry and kills POLONIUS

POLONIUS

[from behind the arras] Oh, I am slain.

POLONIUS

[From behind the tapestry] Oh, I’ve been killed!

GERTRUDE

O me, what hast thou done?

GERTRUDE

Oh my God, what have you done?

HAMLET

Nay, I know not. Is it the king?

HAMLET

I don’t know. Is it the king?

GERTRUDE

Oh, what a rash and bloody deed is this!

GERTRUDE

Oh, what a reckless, bloody act!

HAMLET

A bloody deed? Almost as bad, good mother,As kill a king and marry with his brother.

HAMLET

A bloody act? Almost as bad, my good mother, as killing a king and marrying his brother.

GERTRUDE

As kill a king?

GERTRUDE

Killing a king?

HAMLET

Ay, lady, ’twas my word.

HAMLET

Yes, lady, that’s what I said.

HAMLET pulls back the tapestry and discovers POLONIUS

HAMLET

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 damnèd custom have not brassed it so That it is proof and bulwark against sense.

HAMLET

You sad, silly, interfering fool, goodbye. I mistook you for your superior. You’ve gotten what you deserve, and found that meddling can be dangerous. 

[To GERTRUDE] Stop wringing your hands. Quiet. Sit down and let me wring your heart—if it’s still soft enough, and your evil behavior hasn’t made it too tough to be touched by feelings.

GERTRUDE

What have I done, that thou darest wag thy tongueIn noise so rude against me?

GERTRUDE

What have I done that you dare to talk to me so rudely?

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.

HAMLET

Something that corrupts modesty, turns virtue into hypocrisy, removes the blossom from the face of true love and replaces it with a blister, makes marriage vows as false as a gambler’s oath—oh, you’ve done such a thing that plucks the soul out of marriage, and turns religion into just a bunch of words. Heaven looks down on earth, its face glowing with anger as if it were Judgment Day now, and is sick because of what you’ve done.

GERTRUDE

Ay me, what actThat roars so loud and thunders in the index?

GERTRUDE

Oh no, what have I done that sounds so terrible—even though I don’t yet know what it is?

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.

HAMLET

Look at this picture here and at that one there, the painted portraits of two brothers. See the saintly goodness in this face? He has curls like those of Hyperion, a forehead like that of Jove, eyes that command like those of Mars, and a stance as light as Mercury’s when that god lands on the peak of a hill. He was such a combination of good qualities that it seemed like he was put together by all the gods to be the perfect man. That was your husband. Now look at what came after: this is your husband, like a rotten ear of corn infecting the one next to it. Do you have eyes? How could you leave the beautiful heights of this man and descend down to this dank swamp of this one? Ha! Do you have eyes? You can’t say it was love—because at at your age romantic passions have been tamed with humility and reason. But there must be something wrong with your reason, because why else would you go from this to that? Your senses must still work, or else you wouldn’t be able to move. But those senses seem paralyzed, because madness would not make this mistake. And even senses overcome by desire would still be able to distinguish the huge difference between your former and current husband. What devil was it that tricked and blindfolded you? Even if you had eyes without feeling, feeling without sight, ears without hands or eyes, smell without any other senses, or the use of just one impaired sense, you would not make a mistake like this. Oh, for shame, why aren’t you blushing? If a rebellion can rage even in a mother’s bones, then in the fire of youth all virtue must burn away. There’s no longer any shame in acting on impulse when old people burn to act on impulse, and reason acts as a servant to desire.

GERTRUDE

O Hamlet, speak no more! Thou turn’st mine eyes into my very soul, And there I see such black and grainèd spots As will not leave their tinct.

GERTRUDE

Oh, Hamlet, no more! You’re forcing me to look into my very soul, where the marks of sin are so black they’ll never be cleaned away.

HAMLET

Nay, but to live In the rank sweat of an enseamèd bed, Stewed in corruption, honeying and making love Over the nasty sty—

HAMLET

Yes, and how could you lie in the rank sweat of your dirty sheets, wet with corruption, making love in this gross pigpen—

GERTRUDE

O, speak to me no more!These words like daggers enter in my ears.No more, sweet Hamlet.

GERTRUDE

Oh, please, stop speaking to me! Your words are like daggers stabbing my ears. No more, sweet Hamlet.

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—

HAMLET

A murderer and a villain; a scoundrel who’s not worth even a twentieth of ten percent of your previous husband; an awful king; a thief of the throne and the kingdom, who stole the precious crown from a shelf and put it in his pocket—

GERTRUDE

No more!

GERTRUDE

No more!

HAMLET

A king of shreds and patches—

HAMLET

A patched-up king—

The GHOST enters.

HAMLET

Save me and hover o’er me with your wings,You heavenly guards!—What would your gracious figure?

HAMLET

Heavenly angels, protect me with your wings!

[To the GHOST] What do you want me to do, my gracious lord?

GERTRUDE

Alas, he’s mad!

GERTRUDE

Oh no! He’s crazy!

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

Have you come to scold your tardy son for delaying and losing his passion, and failing to carry out your deadly command? Tell me!

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.

GHOST

Don’t forget. I’ve come to sharpen your almost dulled sense of revenge. But look, your mother is astonished. Oh, protect her from her struggling soul. The imagination works strongest in those with the weakest bodies. Speak to her, Hamlet.

HAMLET

How is it with you, lady?

HAMLET

How are you doing, madam?

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?

GERTRUDE

Oh, how are you doing, since you stare into empty space and talk to the air? The wildness of your thoughts is visible in your eyes, and your hair is standing upright. Oh, my noble son, sprinkle some cooling patience on the hot fury of your anger! What are you staring at?

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.

HAMLET

At him, at him! Look how pale he is and how he glares at me. With the way he looks and the power of his cause, he could preach to stones and get them to act. 

[To the GHOST] Don’t look at me like that, unless you want to break down my strength. Then you’ll end up with the wrong color liquid—tears instead of blood.

GERTRUDE

To whom do you speak this?

GERTRUDE

Who are you talking to?

HAMLET

Do you see nothing there?

HAMLET

You don’t see anything there?

GERTRUDE

Nothing at all, yet all that is I see.

GERTRUDE

Nothing at all, other than what’s there.

HAMLET

Nor did you nothing hear?

HAMLET

And you don’t hear anything?

GERTRUDE

No, nothing but ourselves.

GERTRUDE

No, nothing but us.

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!

HAMLET

See, look there! Look how it sneaks away! My father, dressed just as he was when he was alive! Look, now he’s going out the door!

The GHOST exits.

GERTRUDE

This the very coinage of your brain.This bodiless creation ecstasyIs very cunning in.

GERTRUDE

This is all in your mind. Madness is good at creating hallucinations.

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.

HAMLET

Madness? My heart beats just as evenly, and is in the same good health, as yours. I’ve said nothing crazy. Ask me to, and I’ll rephrase what I’ve said, which a crazy person wouldn’t be able to do. Mother, for the love of God, don’t soothe your soul by saying that the problem is my madness and not your crime. That would just be putting a bandage on the open sore of your crime, and failing to see how its bad effects are spreading like an infection inside of you. Confess your sins to heaven. Repent what you’ve done, and avoid damnation. Refusing to repent would be like spreading manure over the weeds, making them even dirtier. Forgive me for having the virtue to speak to you honestly, but in the grossness of these spoiled times, the virtuous must be willing to intervene with sinners, and beg them for the chance to help them.

GERTRUDE

O Hamlet, thou hast cleft my heart in twain.

GERTRUDE

Oh, Hamlet, you’ve broken my heart in two!

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—

HAMLET

Oh, then throw away the worse part, and live a purer life with the other half. Good night—but don’t sleep with my uncle tonight. Pretend to be virtuous, even if you’re not. Habit can be a devil or an angel: it can get you used to doing either good or evil without thinking about it. Refrain from sleeping with Claudius tonight, and that will make it easier to say no the next time, and even easier each time after that. How you act can change your nature, and either keep the devil inside or kick him out. Once more, good night, and when you want me to bless you for following this advice, I’ll beg you to forgive me for being so harsh. [He points to POLONIUS] I apologize for what happened to this lord. But God decided to punish me by making me commit this murder—and to punish this man by having me kill him—so that I’m both Heaven’s judge and executioner. I will deal with the body, and suffer the consequences of the death I gave him. So, again, good night. I have been cruel only in order to perform a greater act of kindness. This is bad, and there are even worse things to come. One more thing, madam.

GERTRUDE

What shall I do?

GERTRUDE

What should 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, 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.

HAMLET

By no means should you do this: let the bloated king seduce you into bed, pinch your cheek, call you his pet, or with smelly kisses and caresses of your neck with his damned fingers get you to reveal that I am not crazy, but am just pretending to be. What a good thing it would be if you told him that, because why would a queen who’s fair, sober, and wise hide such important things from a toad, a pig, a tom-cat like him? Who would do such a thing? No, forget about good sense and secrecy, and open the door of the cage and let the birds fly out, and—like that ape in the famous story who tried to imitate birds and try to fly—break your neck in the process.

GERTRUDE

Be thou assured, if words be made of breathAnd breath of life, I have no life to breatheWhat thou hast said to me.

GERTRUDE

Trust me: as words are made of breath, and breath is a necessity of life, I will give up my life rather than breathe a word of what you’ve said to me.

HAMLET

I must to England, you know that?

HAMLET

I must go to England, did you know that?

GERTRUDE

Alack,I had forgot. ‘Tis so concluded on.

GERTRUDE

Oh no, I’d forgotten. It’s been decided.

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.

HAMLET

The documents are signed and sealed, and my two schoolmates—whom I’ll trust like I would a poisonous snake—are the messengers. They’re the ones who’ll lead me on to whatever trickery I’m going to face. Let it come, because it’s fun to fix things so the engineer gets blow up by his own bombs. It’s going to be tough on them. I’m going to dig down below their bombs and blow them up to the moon. Oh, it’s sweet when you can kill two birds with one stone. [He points to POLONIUS] Killing this man is going to make me have to leave even sooner. I’ll drag his guts into the next room. Mother, good night. This adviser—who was in life a foolish, moralizing liar—is now so quiet, secretive, and serious. 

[To POLONIUS' corpse] Come on, sir, let me drag you toward your end. 

[To GERTRUDE] Good night, mother.

They exit, HAMLET dragging POLONIUS.

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.