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Hamlet

Hamlet Translation Act 4, Scene 5

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HORATIO, GERTRUDE, and a GENTLEMAN enter.

GERTRUDE

I will not speak with her.

GERTRUDE

I won’t speak to her.

GENTLEMAN

She is importunate,Indeed distract. Her mood will needs be pitied.

GENTLEMAN

She demands it. In fact, she’s crazed. Her bahavior will inspire your pity.

GERTRUDE

What would she have?

GERTRUDE

What does she want?

GENTLEMAN

She speaks much of her father, says she hears There’s tricks i’ th’ world, and hems, and beats her heart, Spurns enviously at straws, speaks things in doubt That carry but half sense. Her speech is nothing, Yet the unshaped use of it doth move The hearers to collection. They aim at it, And botch the words up fit to their own thoughts, Which, as her winks and nods and gestures yield them, Indeed would make one think there might be thought, Though nothing sure, yet much unhappily.

GENTLEMAN

She talks often of her father, and says she’s learned there are deceptions in the world, and coughs, and beats her chest, and takes offense at little things, and says things that don’t make sense. Her words are meaningless—yet those who hear her babbling attempt to understand its meaning. They patch up the gaps within her words, and end up hearing what they want to hear. And the winks and nods and gestures she makes while speaking imply—without being at all clear—that she’s hinting at some terrible deeper meaning.

HORATIO

‘Twere good she were spoken with, for she may strewDangerous conjectures in ill-breeding minds.

HORATIO

It would be good for someone to speak to her, because her words might make people think dangerous things.

GERTRUDE

Let her come in.

GERTRUDE

Bring her in.

The GENTLEMAN exits.

GERTRUDE

[aside] To my sick soul (as sin’s true nature is) Each toy seems prologue to some great amiss. So full of artless jealousy is guilt, It spills itself in fearing to be spilt.

GERTRUDE

[To herself] To my sick soul—since sin is actually sickness—each little detail seems like a sign of coming disaster. Guilt fills you up with suspicions that are so hard to hide, that you give yourself away by trying so hard not to reveal them.

OPHELIA enters, insane.

OPHELIA

Where is the beauteous majesty of Denmark?

OPHELIA

Where is the beautiful queen of Denmark?

GERTRUDE

How now, Ophelia?

GERTRUDE

How are you, Ophelia?

OPHELIA

[sings] How should I your true love know From another one? By his cockle hat and staff, And his sandal shoon.

OPHELIA

[Singing]
How can you tell
Your true love from some other?
By his pilgrim’s hat and staff
And the sandals on his feet.

GERTRUDE

Alas, sweet lady, what imports this song?

GERTRUDE

Oh no, sweet lady, what’s the meaning of this song?

OPHELIA

Say you? Nay, pray you, mark. [sings] He is dead and gone, lady, He is dead and gone, At his head a grass-green turf, At his heels a stone. Oh, ho!

OPHELIA

Did you say something? No, please, listen.
[Singing]
He is dead and gone, lady,
He is dead and gone.
At his head is green grass,
At his feet a tomb stone.
Oh, ho!

GERTRUDE

Nay, but, Ophelia—

GERTRUDE

No, listen, Ophelia—

OPHELIA

Pray you, mark. [sings]White his shroud as the mountain snow—

OPHELIA

Please, listen.
[Singing]
His death shroud was as white as snow—

CLAUDIUS enters.

GERTRUDE

Alas, look here, my lord.

GERTRUDE

Alas, look at this, my lord.

OPHELIA

[sings]Larded all with sweet flowers,Which bewept to the ground did not goWith true-love showers.

OPHELIA

[Singing]
Covered with sweet flowers
Which did not fall to the ground
In true-love showers.

CLAUDIUS

How do you, pretty lady?

CLAUDIUS

How are you, pretty lady?

OPHELIA

Well, God’ield you! They say the owl was a baker’s daughter. Lord, we know what we are, but know not what we may be. God be at your table.

OPHELIA

I’m well. May God reward you as you deserve. They say the baker’s daughter was turned into an owl for refusing to answer Jesus’ request for bread. My lord, we know what we are now, but not what we may become. May God be at your table.

CLAUDIUS

Conceit upon her father.

CLAUDIUS

She’s thinking about her dead father.

OPHELIA

Pray you, let’s have no words of this, but when they ask you what it means, say you this: [sings] Tomorrow is Saint Valentine’s day, All in the morning betime, And I a maid at your window, To be your Valentine. Then up he rose, and donned his clothes, And dupped the chamber door. Let in the maid that out a maid Never departed more.

OPHELIA

Please, let’s have no words about that, but when they ask you what it means, say this:
[Singing]
Tomorrow is St. Valentine’s Day
And early in the morning,
I’m a girl waiting at your window
Waiting to be your valentine.
Then he woke and put on his clothes
And opened his bedroom door.
He let in the girl, who when she left
Wasn’t a virgin anymore.

CLAUDIUS

Pretty Ophelia—

CLAUDIUS

Pretty Ophelia—

OPHELIA

Indeed, without an oath I’ll make an end on ’t: [sings] By Gis and by Saint Charity, Alack, and fie, for shame! Young men will do ’t, if they come to ’t. By Cock, they are to blame. Quoth she, “Before you tumbled me, You promised me to wed.” He answers, “So would I ha’ done, by yonder sun, An thou hadst not come to my bed.”

OPHELIA

Yes, I’ll get to the end soon:
[Singing]
By Jesus and Saint Charity,
Alas, what a shame!
Young men will do it if they get a chance:
By God, they’re the ones to blame.
She said, “Before you took me to bed,
You promised to marry me.”
He answers:
“And by the sun, I would have done just that,
If you hadn’t gone to bed with me.”

CLAUDIUS

How long hath she been thus?

CLAUDIUS

How long has she been like this?

OPHELIA

I hope all will be well. We must be patient, but I cannot choose but weep, to think they should lay him i’ th’ cold ground. My brother shall know of it, and so I thank you for your good counsel. Come, my coach! Good night, ladies. Good night, sweet ladies. Good night, good night.

OPHELIA

I hope everything will be all right. We must be patient, but I can’t stop crying when I think of how they laid him in the cold ground. My brother will learn of this. And so I thank you for your good advice. Come, driver! Good night, ladies. Good night, sweet ladies. Good night, good night.

OPHELIA exits.

CLAUDIUS

Follow her close. Give her good watch, I pray you.

CLAUDIUS

Follow her. Watch her closely, please.

HORATIO exits.

CLAUDIUS

Oh, this is the poison of deep grief. It springs All from her father’s death, and now behold! O Gertrude, Gertrude, When sorrows come, they come not single spies But in battalions. First, her father slain. Next, your son gone, and he most violent author Of his own just remove. The people muddied, Thick, and unwholesome in their thoughts and whispers For good Polonius’ death, and we have done but greenly In hugger-mugger to inter him. Poor Ophelia Divided from herself and her fair judgment, Without the which we are pictures, or mere beasts. Last—and as much containing as all these— Her brother is in secret come from France, Feeds on his wonder, keeps himself in clouds, And wants not buzzers to infect his ear With pestilent speeches of his father’s death, Wherein necessity, of matter beggared, Will nothing stick our person to arraign In ear and ear. O my dear Gertrude, this, Like to a murdering piece, in many places Gives me superfluous death.

CLAUDIUS

Oh, her terrible grief has poisoned her mind. All a result of her father’s death—look at her! Oh, Gertrude, Gertrude, when troubles come, they don’t come one at time like spies, but all at once like an army. First her father was killed. Then your son had to leave because of the violent thing he did. The people are stirred up and confused—thinking up dark theories and whispering about Polonius’s death—while we recklessly buried him in secrecy, without an official state funeral. Poor Ophelia has been split from her sanity—without which we’re just pictures, or even beasts. Last, and as bad as all of the rest of these, her brother has secretly returned from France. His questions about his father’s death are answered by vicious gossipers who fill his ears with nasty stories, and who—without knowing what really happened—blame it all on me. Oh, my dear Gertrude, I feel as though I’m being murdered many times at once.

A noise offstage.

GERTRUDE

Alack, what noise is this?

GERTRUDE

Oh, what’s that noise?

CLAUDIUS

Where are my Switzers? Let them guard the door.

CLAUDIUS

Where are my Swiss guards? Let them guard the door.

A MESSENGER enters.

CLAUDIUS

What is the matter?

CLAUDIUS

What’s going on?

MESSENGER

Save yourself, my lord. The ocean, overpeering of his list, Eats not the flats with more impiteous haste Than young Laertes, in a riotous head, O’erbears your officers. The rabble call him “lord” And—as the world were now but to begin, Antiquity forgot, custom not known, The ratifiers and props of every word— They cry, “Choose we! Laertes shall be king!” Caps, hands, and tongues applaud it to the clouds: “Laertes shall be king, Laertes king!”

MESSENGER

Save yourself, my lord. Not even the ocean, when it floods and devours the lowlands, is as ferocious as Laertes. He now leads your officers in rebellion against you. The commoners call him “lord” and—as if they were starting the world from scratch and had forgotten all the traditions and customs that are the bedrock of what we are–they shout, “we choose Laertes to be king!” They throw their caps in the air, applaud, and shout, “Laertes will be king! King Laertes!”

GERTRUDE

How cheerfully on the false trail they cry.O, this is counter, you false Danish dogs!

GERTRUDE

How cheerfully they shout as they hunt the wrong prey! Oh, this is wrong, you disloyal Danish dogs!

A noise offstage.

CLAUDIUS

The doors are broke.

CLAUDIUS

They've broken down the doors.

LAERTES enters with others.

LAERTES

Where is this king?—Sirs, stand you all without.

LAERTES

Where’s this king? 

[To his FOLLOWERS] Gentlemen, wait outside.

ALL

No, let’s come in!

ALL

No, let us in!

LAERTES

I pray you, give me leave.

LAERTES

I beg you, give me a moment.

ALL

We will, we will.

ALL

We will, we will.

LAERTES’ FOLLOWERS exit.

LAERTES

I thank you. Keep the door.—O thou vile king,Give me my father!

LAERTES

Thank you. Guard the door. 

[To CLAUDIUS] Oh, you vile king, give me my father!

GERTRUDE

Calmly, good Laertes.

GERTRUDE

Be calm, good Laertes.

LAERTES

That drop of blood that’s calm proclaims me bastard, Cries “Cuckold!” to my father, brands the “harlot” Even here between the chaste unsmirchèd brow Of my true mother.

LAERTES

Any calm drop of blood in my body would mark me as my father’s bastard son, and stamp the label “whore” on the pure, unstained forehead of my true and devoted mother.

CLAUDIUS

What is the cause, Laertes, That thy rebellion looks so giant-like?— Let him go, Gertrude. Do not fear our person. There’s such divinity doth hedge a king That treason can but peep to what it would, Acts little of his will. —Tell me, Laertes, Why thou art thus incensed. —Let him go, Gertrude.— Speak, man.

CLAUDIUS

[To LAERTES] What is the cause of this rebellion, Laertes? 

[To GERTRUDE] Let him go, Gertrude. Don’t worry that I’ll be hurt. God protects the king, so that while traitors can see what they want to do, they cannot make it happen.

[To LAERTES] Tell me, Laertes, why you are so angry?

[To GERTRUDE] Gertrude, let him go.

[To LAERTES] Tell me, man.

LAERTES

Where is my father?

LAERTES

Where is my father?

CLAUDIUS

Dead.

CLAUDIUS

Dead.

GERTRUDE

But not by him.

GERTRUDE

But the king didn’t kill him.

CLAUDIUS

Let him demand his fill.

CLAUDIUS

Let him ask his questions.

LAERTES

How came he dead? I’ll not be juggled with. To hell, allegiance! Vows, to the blackest devil! Conscience and grace, to the profoundest pit! I dare damnation. To this point I stand That both the worlds I give to negligence. Let come what comes, only I’ll be revenged Most thoroughly for my father.

LAERTES

How did he die? I won’t be lied to. To hell with my oaths of allegiance! Vows can go to hell! Conscience, too! I don’t care if I’m damned. I swear that I don’t care about what happens to me in this world or the next. No matter what happens, I’ll get revenge for my father’s murder.

CLAUDIUS

Who shall stay you?

CLAUDIUS

Who could stop you?

LAERTES

My will, not all the world.And for my means, I’ll husband them so well,They shall go far with little.

LAERTES

My own will, and nothing else in all the world. I’ll gather up the little means I have, and use them so well that they’ll take me a long way.

CLAUDIUS

Good Laertes, If you desire to know the certainty Of your dear father’s death, is ’t writ in your revenge, That, swoopstake, you will draw both friend and foe, Winner and loser?

CLAUDIUS

Good Laertes, if you wish to know the truth about your dear father’s death, answer me this: are you so angry that in your search for revenge you are willing to hurt both your father’s enemies and his friends?

LAERTES

None but his enemies.

LAERTES

Only his enemies.

CLAUDIUS

Will you know them then?

CLAUDIUS

Do you want to know who they are, then?

LAERTES

To his good friends thus wide I’ll ope my armsAnd, like the kind life-rendering pelican,Repast them with my blood.

LAERTES

I’ll open my arms wide to his friends, and like a mother pelican with her chicks, I’ll give my own heart's blood for them.

CLAUDIUS

Why, now you speak Like a good child and a true gentleman. That I am guiltless of your father’s death And am most sensible in grief for it, It shall as level to your judgment pierce As day does to your eye.

CLAUDIUS

Why, now you’re talking like a faithful son and a true gentleman. I will prove to you as plain as day that I am innocent of your father’s death, and feel great grief over it.

A voice offstage, “Let her in!”

LAERTES

How now? What noise is that?

LAERTES

What’s going on? What’s that noise?

OPHELIA enters.

LAERTES

O heat, dry up my brains! Tears seven times salt, Burn out the sense and virtue of mine eye! By heaven, thy madness shall be paid by weight, Till our scale turn the beam. O rose of May, Dear maid, kind sister, sweet Ophelia! O heavens, is ’t possible a young maid’s wits Should be as mortal as an old man’s life? Nature is fine in love, and where ’tis fine, It sends some precious instance of itself After the thing it loves.

LAERTES

Oh, heat, dry up my brains! Oh, salt in my tears, burn the vision out of my eyes! By heaven, I’ll get revenge equal to the depth of your madness! Oh, you rose of May, dear maiden, kind sister, sweet Ophelia! Oh God, is it possible that a young woman’s mind could die as easily as an old man’s life? Human nature is made spiritual by love. And when it is spiritual, it gives itself to the one it loves—just as Ophelia has given her sanity to her father, whom she loved.

OPHELIA

[sings] They bore him barefaced on the bier, Hey, non nonny, nonny, hey, nonny, And in his grave rained many a tear. Fare you well, my dove.

OPHELIA

[Singing]
They carried him uncovered in the coffin,
Hey non nonny, nonny, hey nonny.
And tears poured down into his grave.
Goodbye, my dove.

LAERTES

Hadst thou thy wits, and didst persuade revenge,It could not move thus.

LAERTES

Even if you were sane and urged me to take revenge, you couldn’t be more persuasive than this.

OPHELIA

You must sing A-down a-down—And you, Call him a- down-a—Oh, how the wheel becomes it! It is the false steward that stole his master’s daughter.

OPHELIA

You have to sing, “A down a-down,” and you, “Call him a-down-a.” Oh, how it turns around like a wheel! Like the lying worker who stole his boss’ daughter.

LAERTES

This nothing’s more than matter.

LAERTES

This apparent nonsense has more meaning than rational speech.

OPHELIA

There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance. Pray you, love, remember. And there is pansies, that’s for thoughts.

OPHELIA

Here’s some rosemary, that’s for remembering. Please remember, love. And here are pansies, they’re for thoughts.

LAERTES

A document in madness. Thoughts and remembrance fitted.

LAERTES

In her madness, she gives us a lesson: memory and thought belong together.

OPHELIA

There’s fennel for you, and columbines.—There’s rue foryou, and here’s some for me. We may call it “herb of grace” o’ Sundays.—Oh, you must wear your rue with a difference.— There’s a daisy. I would give you some violets, but they withered all when my father died. Theysay he made a good end [sings] For bonny sweet Robin isall my joy—

OPHELIA

Here’s fennel for you, and columbines . And here’s rue for you, and some for me. We call it the merciful Sunday flower, though you should wear it for a different reason. Here’s a daisy. I’d give you some violets, but they all dried up when my father died. They say he had a good death. [Singing] For good sweet Robin is all my joy.

LAERTES

Thought and affliction, passion, hell itself,She turns to favor and to prettiness.

LAERTES

Sad thoughts, terrible suffering, hell itself—she makes them almost graceful and pretty.

OPHELIA

[sings] And will he not come again? And will he not come again? No, no, he is dead, Go to thy deathbed. He never will come again. His beard was as white as snow, All flaxen was his poll. He is gone, he is gone, And we cast away moan, God ha’ mercy on his soul. And of all Christian souls, I pray God. God be wi’ ye.

OPHELIA

[Singing]
And won’t he come again?
And won’t he come again?
No, no, he’s dead.
Go to your deathbed.
He’ll never come again.
His beard was white as snow,
His hair was all white too.
He’s gone, he’s gone,
And we moan our useless grief.
God have mercy on his soul.

And on the souls of all good Christians, I pray to God. God be with you.

OPHELIA exits.

LAERTES

Do you see this, O God?

LAERTES

Oh, God: did you see this?

CLAUDIUS

Laertes, I must commune with your grief, Or you deny me right. Go but apart, Make choice of whom your wisest friends you will. And they shall hear and judge ’twixt you and me. If by direct or by collateral hand They find us touched, we will our kingdom give, Our crown, our life, and all that we call ours, To you in satisfaction. But if not, Be you content to lend your patience to us, And we shall jointly labor with your soul To give it due content.

CLAUDIUS

Laertes, let me share in your grief, or else you deny me my right. Go and choose your wisest friends, and they will sit in judgment of us. If they find me at all responsible for your father’s murder, directly or indirectly, then I’ll give up my kingdom, my crown, my life, and everything I call my own to you. But if they find me innocent, then be patient, and I’ll work with you to ensure that your soul gets what it desires.

LAERTES

Let this be so. His means of death, his obscure funeral— No trophy, sword, nor hatchment o’er his bones, No noble rite nor formal ostentation— Cry to be heard as ’twere from heaven to earth, That I must call ’t in question.

LAERTES

That’s what we’ll do. The way he died, and his hushed-up funeral without military display, noble rites, or formal ceremony—all these things shout out as if heaven and earth themselves are demanding that I question the way he died.

CLAUDIUS

So you shall.And where the offense is, let the great ax fall.I pray you, go with me.

CLAUDIUS

As you should. And may the great ax of justice fall on the guilty. Please, come with me.

They 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.