A line-by-line translation

Hamlet

Hamlet Translation Act 4, Scene 7

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CLAUDIUS and LAERTES enter.

CLAUDIUS

Now must your conscience my acquaintance seal, And you must put me in your heart for friend, Sith you have heard, and with a knowing ear, That he which hath your noble father slain Pursued my life.

CLAUDIUS

Now you must admit that I’m innocent, and accept me as a friend, since you’ve heard and been convinced that that the man who killed your father was actually trying to kill me.

LAERTES

It well appears. But tell me Why you proceeded not against these feats, So criminal and so capital in nature, As by your safety, wisdom, all things else, You mainly were stirred up.

LAERTES

It looks that way. But explain to me why you didn't take legal action against Hamlet for his capital crimes—when both your wisdom and your own safety must have demanded that you should?

CLAUDIUS

Oh, for two special reasons, Which may to you perhaps seem much unsinewed, But yet to me they are strong. The queen his mother Lives almost by his looks, and for myself— My virtue or my plague, be it either which— She’s so conjunctive to my life and soul, That, as the star moves not but in his sphere, I could not but by her. The other motive Why to a public count I might not go, Is the great love the general gender bear him, Who, dipping all his faults in their affection, Would, like the spring that turneth wood to stone, Convert his gyves to graces —so that my arrows, Too slightly timbered for so loud a wind, Would have reverted to my bow again, And not where I had aimed them.

CLAUDIUS

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LAERTES

And so have I a noble father lost, A sister driven into desperate terms, Whose worth, if praises may go back again, Stood challenger on mount of all the age For her perfections. But my revenge will come.

LAERTES

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CLAUDIUS

Break not your sleeps for that. You must not think That we are made of stuff so flat and dull That we can let our beard be shook with danger And think it pastime. You shortly shall hear more. I loved your father, and we love ourself. And that, I hope, will teach you to imagine—

CLAUDIUS

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A MESSENGER enters with letters.

CLAUDIUS

How now, what news?

CLAUDIUS

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MESSENGER

Letters, my lord, from Hamlet.This to your majesty, this to the queen. [gives CLAUDIUS letters]

MESSENGER

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CLAUDIUS

From Hamlet? Who brought them?

CLAUDIUS

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MESSENGER

Sailors, my lord, they say. I saw them not.They were given me by Claudio. He received themOf him that brought them.

MESSENGER

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CLAUDIUS

Laertes, you shall hear them.—Leave us.

CLAUDIUS

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The MESSENGER exits.

CLAUDIUS

[reads] “High and mighty, You shall know I am set naked on your kingdom. Tomorrowshall I beg leave to see your kingly eyes, when I shall, first asking your pardon thereunto, recount the occasion of my sudden and more strange return. Hamlet.” What should this mean? Are all the rest come back? Or is it some abuse, and no such thing?

CLAUDIUS

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LAERTES

Know you the hand?

LAERTES

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CLAUDIUS

‘Tis Hamlet’s character. “Naked”?And in a postscript here, he says “alone.”Can you advise me?

CLAUDIUS

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LAERTES

I’m lost in it, my lord. But let him come. It warms the very sickness in my heart That I shall live and tell him to his teeth, “Thus diddest thou.”

LAERTES

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CLAUDIUS

If it be so, Laertes—As how should it be so? How otherwise?—Will you be ruled by me?

CLAUDIUS

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LAERTES

Ay, my lord—So you will not o’errule me to a peace.

LAERTES

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CLAUDIUS

To thine own peace. If he be now returned, As checking at his voyage, and that he means No more to undertake it, I will work him To an exploit, now ripe in my devise, Under the which he shall not choose but fall. And for his death no wind of blame shall breathe, But even his mother shall uncharge the practice And call it accident.

CLAUDIUS

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LAERTES

My lord, I will be ruledThe rather if you could devise it soThat I might be the organ.

LAERTES

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CLAUDIUS

It falls right. You have been talked of since your travel much— And that in Hamlet’s hearing—for a quality Wherein, they say, you shine. Your sum of parts Did not together pluck such envy from him As did that one, and that, in my regard, Of the unworthiest siege.

CLAUDIUS

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LAERTES

What part is that, my lord?

LAERTES

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CLAUDIUS

A very ribbon in the cap of youth, Yet needful too, for youth no less becomes The light and careless livery that it wears Than settled age his sables and his weeds, Importing health and graveness. Two months since, Here was a gentleman of Normandy. I’ve seen myself, and served against, the French, And they can well on horseback. But this gallant Had witchcraft in ’t. He grew unto his seat, And to such wondrous doing brought his horse As he had been encorpsed and demi-natured With the brave beast. So far he topped my thought, That I, in forgery of shapes and tricks, Come short of what he did.

CLAUDIUS

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LAERTES

A Norman was ’t?

LAERTES

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CLAUDIUS

A Norman.

CLAUDIUS

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LAERTES

Upon my life, Lamond!

LAERTES

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CLAUDIUS

The very same.

CLAUDIUS

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LAERTES

I know him well. He is the brooch indeedAnd gem of all the nation.

LAERTES

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CLAUDIUS

He made confession of you, And gave you such a masterly report For art and exercise in your defense, And for your rapier most especially, That he cried out ’twould be a sight indeed If one could match you. The ’scrimers of their nation, He swore, had had neither motion, guard, nor eye, If you opposed them. Sir, this report of his Did Hamlet so envenom with his envy That he could nothing do but wish and beg Your sudden coming o’er, to play with him. Now, out of this—

CLAUDIUS

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LAERTES

What out of this, my lord?

LAERTES

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CLAUDIUS

Laertes, was your father dear to you?Or are you like the painting of a sorrow,A face without a heart?

CLAUDIUS

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LAERTES

Why ask you this?

LAERTES

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CLAUDIUS

Not that I think you did not love your father But that I know love is begun by time, And that I see, in passages of proof, Time qualifies the spark and fire of it. There lives within the very flame of love A kind of wick or snuff that will abate it. And nothing is at a like goodness still. For goodness, growing to a pleurisy, Dies in his own too-much. That we would do, We should do when we would, for this “would” changes And hath abatements and delays as many As there are tongues, are hands, are accidents. And then this “should” is like a spendthrift sigh That hurts by easing. —But to the quick of th’ ulcer: Hamlet comes back. What would you undertake To show yourself in deed your father’s son More than in words?

CLAUDIUS

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LAERTES

To cut his throat i’ th’ church.

LAERTES

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CLAUDIUS

No place, indeed, should murder sanctuarize. Revenge should have no bounds. But, good Laertes, Will you do this, keep close within your chamber. Hamlet returned shall know you are come home. We’ll put on those shall praise your excellence And set a double varnish on the fame The Frenchman gave you, bring you in fine together And wager on your heads. He, being remiss, Most generous and free from all contriving, Will not peruse the foils; so that, with ease, Or with a little shuffling, you may choose A sword unbated, and in a pass of practice Requite him for your father.

CLAUDIUS

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LAERTES

I will do ’t. And for that purpose I’ll anoint my sword. I bought an unction of a mountebank, So mortal that, but dip a knife in it, Where it draws blood no cataplasm so rare, Collected from all simples that have virtue Under the moon, can save the thing from death That is but scratched withal. I’ll touch my point With this contagion, that if I gall him slightly It may be death.

LAERTES

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CLAUDIUS

Let’s further think of this, Weigh what convenience both of time and means May fit us to our shape. If this should fail, And that our drift look through our bad performance, ‘Twere better not assayed. Therefore this project Should have a back or second that might hold If this should blast in proof.—Soft, let me see.— We’ll make a solemn wager on your cunnings.— I ha ’t! When in your motion you are hot and dry, As make your bouts more violent to that end, And that he calls for drink, I’ll have prepared him A chalice for the nonce, whereon but sipping, If he by chance escape your venomed stuck, Our purpose may hold there. —But stay, what noise?

CLAUDIUS

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GERTRUDE enters.

GERTRUDE

One woe doth tread upon another’s heel,So fast they follow.—Your sister’s drowned, Laertes.

GERTRUDE

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LAERTES

Drowned? Oh, where?

LAERTES

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GERTRUDE

There is a willow grows aslant a brook That shows his hoar leaves in the glassy stream. There with fantastic garlands did she come Of crowflowers, nettles, daisies, and long purples, That liberal shepherds give a grosser name, But our cold maids do “dead men’s fingers” call them. There, on the pendant boughs her coronet weeds Clambering to hang, an envious sliver broke, When down her weedy trophies and herself Fell in the weeping brook. Her clothes spread wide, And mermaid-like a while they bore her up, Which time she chanted snatches of old lauds As one incapable of her own distress, Or like a creature native and indued Unto that element. But long it could not be Till that her garments, heavy with their drink, Pulled the poor wretch from her melodious lay To muddy death.

GERTRUDE

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LAERTES

Alas, then she is drowned.

LAERTES

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GERTRUDE

Drowned, drowned.

GERTRUDE

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LAERTES

Too much of water hast thou, poor Ophelia, And therefore I forbid my tears. But yet It is our trick. Nature her custom holds, Let shame say what it will. When these are gone, The woman will be out. —Adieu, my lord. I have a speech of fire that fain would blaze, But that this folly doubts it.

LAERTES

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LAERTES exits.

CLAUDIUS

Let’s follow, Gertrude. How much I had to do to calm his rage! Now fear I this will give it start again. Therefore let’s follow.

CLAUDIUS

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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.