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Hamlet

Hamlet Translation Act 5, Scene 2

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HAMLET and HORATIO enter.

HAMLET

So much for this, sir. Now shall you see the other.You do remember all the circumstances?

HAMLET

That’s everything about that, sir. Now I’ll tell you my other story. You do remember the circumstances of my situation, righ?

HORATIO

Remember it, my lord?

HORATIO

How could I not, my lord?

HAMLET

Sir, in my heart there was a kind of fighting That would not let me sleep. Methought I lay Worse than the mutines in the bilboes. Rashly— And praised be rashness for it: let us know Our indiscretion sometimes serves us well When our deep plots do pall, and that should teach us There’s a divinity that shapes our ends, Rough-hew them how we will—

HAMLET

Sir, there was a kind of war in my heart that wouldn’t let me sleep. It seemed to me that I was in worse shape even than captive rebels in chains. I impulsively—let me praise impulsiveness. Sometimes acting impulsively works even when our complicated plans don’t work out, showing us that a God who shapes our destiny—

HORATIO

That is most certain.

HORATIO

That is a certainty.

HAMLET

Up from my cabin, My sea-gown scarfed about me, in the dark Groped I to find out them, had my desire, Fingered their packet, and in fine withdrew To mine own room again, making so bold (My fears forgetting manners) to unseal Their grand commission, where I found, Horatio— O royal knavery!—an exact command, Larded with many several sorts of reasons Importing Denmark’s health, and England’s too, With—ho!—such bugs and goblins in my life That, on the supervise (no leisure bated, No, not to stay the grinding of the ax) My head should be struck off.

HAMLET

I came up from my cabin with my robe tied around me. In the dark, I groped around and found what I was looking for. I stole Rosencrantz and Guildenstern's packet of papers, and snuck back to my cabin again. My fears overcoming my manners, I was bold enough to open the letter they carried from Claudius to the English king. Horato, there I found—oh, royal mischief!—an explicit command, fattened up with blather about Denmark’s well-being and England’s too—listen!—that described all the terrors that would come from letting me live. The letter contained instructions to cut off my head, without even taking any time to sharpen the ax.

HORATIO

Is ’t possible?

HORATIO

Is it possible?

HAMLET

[shows HORATIO a document] Here’s the commission. Read it at more leisure.But wilt thou hear me how I did proceed?

HAMLET

[He shows HORATIO a document] Here’s the letter. Read it when you have a moment. But do you want to hear what I did next?

HORATIO

I beseech you.

HORATIO

Please.

HAMLET

Being thus benetted round with villainies— Ere I could make a prologue to my brains, They had begun the play—I sat me down, Devised a new commission, wrote it fair. I once did hold it, as our statists do, A baseness to write fair, and labored much How to forget that learning, but, sir, now It did me yeoman’s service. Wilt thou know Th’ effect of what I wrote?

HAMLET

Stuck as I was in their cruel net—before I could even fully think about the problem, my brain had already started playing with possible solutions—I sat down and wrote a new letter. I wrote it in a bureaucrat’s neat handwriting. I used to think, just as our politicians do, that having nice handwriting was for servants. So I had to really work to forget that bias. And, sir, it certainly helped me then. Would you like to know what I wrote?

HORATIO

Ay, good my lord.

HORATIO

Yes, my good lord.

HAMLET

An earnest conjuration from the king, As England was his faithful tributary, As love between them like the palm might flourish, As peace should stiff her wheaten garland wear And stand a comma ’tween their amities, And many suchlike “as’s” of great charge, That, on the view and knowing of these contents, Without debatement further, more or less, He should the bearers put to sudden death, Not shriving time allowed.

HAMLET

A sincere request from the King of Denmark, to the King of England—his faithful vassal subject—with hopes that the love between the two countries can flourish, and that peace can rise up and join them together in friendship, and some other important-sounding statements like that. I instructed the King of England that, after reading and reviewing the letter, without any further debate, he should immediately kill the men who delivered the letter, without even giving them time to confess to a priest.

HORATIO

How was this sealed?

HORATIO

How did you get an official seal on it?

HAMLET

Why, even in that was heaven ordinant. I had my father’s signet in my purse, Which was the model of that Danish seal. Folded the writ up in form of th’ other, Subscribed it, gave ’t th’ impression, placed it safely, The changeling never known. Now, the next day Was our sea fight, and what to this was sequent Thou know’st already.

HAMLET

Even there, heaven gave me a helping hand. I had my father’s signet ring in my pocket, which has a small version of the Danish royal seal on it. I folded up the letter, signed it, sealed it, and put it safely back without anyone noticing the change. The next day brought our fight at sea, and you already know what happened afterwards.

HORATIO

So Guildenstern and Rosencrantz go to ’t.

HORATIO

So Guildenstern and Rosencrantz go to their deaths.

HAMLET

Why, man, they did make love to this employment. They are not near my conscience. Their defeat Does by their own insinuation grow. ‘Tis dangerous when the baser nature comes Between the pass and fell incensèd points Of mighty opposites.

HAMLET

Well, man, they loved doing the king’s every bidding. I don’t feel any guilt. Their deaths grew out of their meddling. It’s dangerous when inferior people get in between the sword thrusts of mighty opponents.

HORATIO

Why, what a king is this!

HORATIO

Oh, what a king this Claudius is!

HAMLET

Does it not, think thee, stand me now upon— He that hath killed my king and whored my mother, Popped in between th’ election and my hopes, Thrown out his angle for my proper life (And with such cozenage!) —is ’t not perfect conscience To quit him with this arm? And is ’t not to be damned To let this canker of our nature come In further evil?

HAMLET

Don’t you think that it's now my duty to kill him? He killed my king, made my mother a whore, stole the throne that I wanted, and plotted against my life with shocking trickery. Wouldn’t killing him be completely justified? And, in fact, wouldn’t I be damned if I were to let this cancer live to do more harm?

HORATIO

It must be shortly known to him from EnglandWhat is the issue of the business there.

HORATIO

He’s going to get the news from England soon about what happened there.

HAMLET

It will be short. The interim’s mine. And a man’s life’s no more than to say “one.” But I am very sorry, good Horatio, That to Laertes I forgot myself, For by the image of my cause I see The portraiture of his. I’ll court his favors. But sure the bravery of his grief did put me Into a towering passion.

HAMLET

He will, soon. But I have time before the news arrives. And it only takes the time to count to one to kill a man. But I do feel very sorry, Horatio, that I lost control of myself with Laertes. I can see my own cause for revenge mirrored in his. I’ll try to win him over. But the melodramatic showiness of his grief pushed me into a fury.

HORATIO

Peace.—Who comes here?

HORATIO

Stop—who’s coming in here?

OSRIC, a young courtier, enters with his hat in his hand.

OSRIC

Your lordship is right welcome back to Denmark.

OSRIC

My lord, welcome back to Denmark.

HAMLET

I humbly thank you, sir. [aside to HORATIO] Dost know this water-fly?

HAMLET

I humbly thank you, sir. 

[To HORATIO so that only he can hear] Do you know this flitting little bug?

HORATIO

[aside to HAMLET] No, my good lord.

HORATIO

[To HAMLET so that only he can hear] No, my lord.

HAMLET

[aside to HORATIO] Thy state is the more gracious, for ’tis a vice to know him. He hath much land, and fertile. Let a beast be lord of beasts and his crib shall stand at the king’s mess. ‘Tis a chough, but, as I say, spacious in the possession of dirt.

HAMLET

[To HORATIO so that only he can hear] You're better off for that. It’s a curse to know him. He owns a lot of good, fertile land. Give a beast a lot of cattle, and his food trough will be welcome at the king’s table. He’s a fool who spouts nonsense, but, as I said, he owns a lot of dirt.

OSRIC

Sweet lord, if your lordship were at leisure, I should impart a thing to you from His Majesty.

OSRIC

Sweet lord, if you were to have a free moment, I would like to tell you a message from His Majesty.

HAMLET

I will receive it, sir, with all diligence of spirit. Put your bonnet to his right use. ‘Tis for the head.

HAMLET

Sir, I’ll listen, with all of my being. Now put your hat to its proper use. Put it on your head.

OSRIC

I thank your lordship. It is very hot.

OSRIC

Thank you for the advice, my lord. But it’s very hot.

HAMLET

No, believe me, ’tis very cold. The wind is northerly.

HAMLET

No, believe me, it’s very cold, with a northern wind.

OSRIC

It is indifferent cold, my lord, indeed.

OSRIC

My lord, it is quite cold, indeed.

HAMLET

But yet methinks it is very sultry and hot for my complexion.

HAMLET

But yet I think it’s too humid and hot for me.

OSRIC

Exceedingly, my lord. It is very sultry—as ’twere—I cannot tell how. My lord, his majesty bade me signify toyou that he has laid a great wager on your head. Sir, this is the matter—

OSRIC

Exceedingly hot, sir. It is very humid—so humid I can’t even describe it. My lord, His Majesty asked me to tell you that he’s placed a large bet on you. Sir, here’s what’s going on—

HAMLET

I beseech you, remember— [indicates that OSRIC should put on his hat]

HAMLET

I beg you, remember—[He gestures that OSRIC should put on his hat]

OSRIC

Nay, good my lord, for mine ease, in good faith. Sir, here is newly come to court Laertes, believe me, an absolute gentleman, full of most excellent differences, of very soft society and great showing. Indeed, to speakfeelingly of him, he is the card or calendar of gentry,for you shall find in him the continent of what part a gentleman would see.

OSRIC

No, my lord, I’m more comfortable like this, I swear. Sir, a recent arrival to the royal court named Laertes is an absolute gentleman, believe me. He is full of the most excellent qualities, with agreeable manners and good looks. In fact, if I were to reveal my true feelings about him, he is like a checklist of what a gentleman should be. You’ll find that he’s the embodiment of a perfect gentleman.

HAMLET

Sir, his definement suffers no perdition in you, thoughI know to divide him inventorially would dizzy th’ arithmetic of memory, and yet but yaw neither, in respect of his quick sail. But in the verity of extolment, I take him to be a soul of great article, andhis infusion of such dearth and rareness as, to make true diction of him, his semblable is his mirror. And who else would trace him? His umbrage, nothing more.

HAMLET

Sir, your description of him suffers no loss of accuracy, though I know that to try to describe all of his good qualities would dizzy the mind. And even trying to do so, you still would not be able to capture them all. But in true and sincere praise, I can say that he has a soul of great nobility, and that he is so unique—to be honest about him—that his equal can only be found when he looks in a mirror. Anyone else is just a shadow of him.

OSRIC

Your lordship speaks most infallibly of him.

OSRIC

Your lordship describes him perfectly.

HAMLET

The concernancy, sir? Why do we wrap the gentleman in our more rawer breath?

HAMLET

What’s the relevance? Why do we wrap him up in our breathless words?

OSRIC

Sir?

OSRIC

Sir?

HORATIO

[aside to HAMLET] Is ’t not possible to understand in another tongue? You will do ’t, sir, really.

HORATIO

[To HAMLET so that only he can hear] You must speak in a different style for him to understand you? You can do it, sir.

HAMLET

What imports the nomination of this gentleman?

HAMLET

What is the significance of our discussion of this gentleman?

OSRIC

Of Laertes?

OSRIC

Of Laertes?

HORATIO

[aside to HAMLET] His purse is empty already. All ’s golden words are spent.

HORATIO

[To HAMLET so that only he can hear] His purse is already empty. He has spent all of his golden words. 

HAMLET

Of him, sir.

HAMLET

Yes, of him. Of Laertes, sir.

OSRIC

I know you are not ignorant—

OSRIC

I know you are not ignorant—

HAMLET

I would you did, sir. Yet in faith, if you did, it would not much approve me. Well, sir?

HAMLET

I wish you did, sir. But in truth, if you did, it would not be much to my credit. Well, sir?

OSRIC

You are not ignorant of what excellence Laertes is—

OSRIC

I know you’re not ignorant about how excellent Laertes is—

HAMLET

I dare not confess that lest I should compare with him in excellence, but to know a man well were to know himself.

HAMLET

I don’t dare to admit it, because you might compare his excellence to mine. But to know excellence in another you must know it in yourself.

OSRIC

I mean, sir, for his weapon. But in the imputation laidon him by them, in his meed he’s unfellowed.

OSRIC

I mean, sir, he’s known for his weapon. Popular opinion holds him to be unrivaled.

HAMLET

What’s his weapon?

HAMLET

What kind of weapon does he use?

OSRIC

Rapier and dagger.

OSRIC

The light sword and the dagger.

HAMLET

That’s two of his weapons. But well.

HAMLET

Those are just two of his weapons. But no matter.

OSRIC

The king, sir, hath wagered with him six Barbary horses, against the which he has impawned, as I take it,six French rapiers and poniards with their assigns—as girdle, hangers, and so. Three of the carriages, in faith, are very dear to fancy, very responsive to the hilts, most delicate carriages, and of very liberal conceit.

OSRIC

Sir, the king has gambled with Laertes, betting six Barbary horses against—as I understand it—six French light swords and daggers with all their accessories. Three of the carriages, in fact, are very beautifully designed, and match the fencing accessories. Very imaginative carriages.

HAMLET

What call you the carriages?

HAMLET

What are you calling “carriages?"

HORATIO

[aside to HAMLET] I knew you must be edified by the margin ere you had done.

HORATIO

[To HAMLET so that only he can hear] I knew you’d have to look a word up before we were finished with him.

OSRIC

The carriages, sir, are the hangers.

OSRIC

The carriages, sir, are the hangers on which we hang swords.

HAMLET

The phrase would be more germane to the matter if we could carry cannon by our sides. I would it might be hangers till then. But, on: six Barbary horses against six French swords, their assigns, and three liberal-conceited carriages—that’s the French bet against the Danish. Why is this “impawned,” as you call it?

HAMLET

That word would make more sense if it were describing something that pulled a cannon. I’d prefer to call it a “hanger.” But, still. Six Barbary horses against six French swords with accessories, and three imaginatively designed carriages—sounds like a French bet against the Danish. Why has all this been “gambled,” as you put it?

OSRIC

The king, sir, hath laid that in a dozen passes betweenyourself and him, he shall not exceed you three hits. He hath laid on twelve for nine, and it would come to immediate trial if your lordship would vouchsafe the answer.

OSRIC

Sir, the king has bet that in a dozen rounds between you and Laertes, he won’t beat you by more than three hits. We could start the match immediately if you’ll do me the honor of giving me your answer.

HAMLET

How if I answer “No”?

HAMLET

What if my answer is "no?"

OSRIC

I mean, my lord, the opposition of your person in trial.

OSRIC

I mean, my lord, if you’d agree to compete in the wager.

HAMLET

Sir, I will walk here in the hall. If it please His Majesty, ’tis the breathing time of day with me. Let thefoils be brought, the gentleman willing, and the king hold his purpose. I will win for him an I can. If not, Iwill gain nothing but my shame and the odd hits.

HAMLET

Sir, I’m going to take a walk in the hall. Tell the king that it is my time to exercise. If the king still wants to do this, and if Laertes is willing, tell them to bring in the swords. I’ll win the king’s bet for him if I can. If not, I’ll have suffered just a bit of shame for losing, and a few sword hits.

OSRIC

Shall I redeliver you e’en so?

OSRIC

Shall I quote you with those precise words?

HAMLET

To this effect, sir, after what flourish your nature will.

HAMLET

Just get the meaning across, sir. And be as flowery as you want in doing it.

OSRIC

I commend my duty to your lordship.

OSRIC

I am at your service, your lordship.

HAMLET

Yours, yours.

HAMLET

Thank you.

OSRIC exits.

HAMLET

He does well to commend it himself. There are no tongues else for ’s turn.

HAMLET

He’s smart to recommend himself. There’s no one else who’d do it for him.

HORATIO

This lapwing runs away with the shell on his head.

HORATIO

That fool looks like a newly hatched bird running around with its egg still on its head.

HAMLET

He did comply, sir, with his dug before he sucked it. Thus has he—and many more of the same bevy that I know the drossy age dotes on—only got the tune of the time and outward habit of encounter, a kind of yeasty collection, which carries them through and through the most fond and winnowed opinions; and do but blow them totheir trial, the bubbles are out.

HAMLET

He used to shower flowery praise on his mother’s nipple before he sucked it. In that way he—and so many others in this frivolous age—follow the fashionable way of talking. It's a kind of wispy collection of words through which he can express the most trendy opinions. But blow a little on these ideas to test them, and they’ll burst.

A LORD enters.

LORD

My lord, his majesty commended him to you by young Osric, who brings back to him that you attend him in thehall. He sends to know if your pleasure hold to play with Laertes, or that you will take longer time.

LORD

My lord, His Majesty has learned from Osric that you will soon come to the main hall. The king would like to know if you would like to duel against Laertes now, or if you’d like a little more time.

HAMLET

I am constant to my purpose. They follow the king’s pleasure. If his fitness speaks, mine is ready, now or whensoever, provided I be so able as now.

HAMLET

I’ll do as I said before: whatever the king wants. If he’s ready now, so am I. If he prefers some other time, I’ll do it then, so long as I’m able.

LORD

The king and queen and all are coming down.

LORD

The king and queen are coming down with everyone else to watch.

HAMLET

In happy time.

HAMLET

And right on time, too.

LORD

The queen desires you to use some gentle entertainment toLaertes before you fall to play.

LORD

The queen would like you to speak a few polite words to Laertes before the match begins.

The LORD exits.

HAMLET

She well instructs me.

HAMLET

Her advice is good.

HORATIO

You will lose this wager, my lord.

HORATIO

You’re going to lose this bet, my lord.

HAMLET

I do not think so. Since he went into France, I have been in continual practice. I shall win at the odds. Butthou wouldst not think how ill all’s here about my heart. But it is no matter.

HAMLET

I don’t think so. Since Laertes left, I’ve been practicing fencing constantly. With the odds they’ve given me, I’m going to win. But even so, I have a bad feeling in my heart. But forget about that.

HORATIO

Nay, good my lord—

HORATIO

No, my lord—

HAMLET

It is but foolery, but it is such a kind of gain-givingas would perhaps trouble a woman.

HAMLET

It’s just foolishness, but I have the kind of misgiving that might bother a woman.

HORATIO

If your mind dislike anything, obey it. I will forestall their repair hither and say you are not fit.

HORATIO

If your conscience is telling you not to do this, obey it. I’ll go and stop them and say you’re not feeling well.

HAMLET

Not a whit. We defy augury. There’s a special providence in the fall of a sparrow. If it be now, ’tis not to come. If it be not to come, it will be now. If itbe not now, yet it will come—the readiness is all. Since no man of aught he leaves knows, what is ’t to leave betimes? Let be.

HAMLET

You will not. I ignore omens. God controls everything—even the death of a sparrow. If I am to die now, then it will not be later. If I am to die later, then it will not be now. All that matters is being ready for it when it does happen. Since no man knows about what he leaves behind when he dies, then what's it to him if he leaves early? Let it be.

CLAUDIUS enters with GERTRUDE, LAERTES, OSRIC, lords, and other attendants with trumpets, drums, fencing swords, a table, and pitchers of wine.

CLAUDIUS

Come, Hamlet, come, and take this hand from me. [puts LAERTES’ hand into HAMLET’s]

CLAUDIUS

Come, Hamlet, shake hands with Laertes. [CLAUDIUS places LAERTES’ and HAMLET’s hands together]

HAMLET

Give me your pardon, sir. I’ve done you wrong. But pardon ’t, as you are a gentleman. This presence knows, And you must needs have heard, how I am punished With sore distraction. What I have done, That might your nature, honor, and exception Roughly awake, I here proclaim was madness. Was ’t Hamlet wronged Laertes? Never Hamlet. If Hamlet from himself be ta’en away, And when he’s not himself does wrong Laertes, Then Hamlet does it not. Hamlet denies it. Who does it, then? His madness. If’t be so, Hamlet is of the faction that is wronged. His madness is poor Hamlet’s enemy. Sir, in this audience, Let my disclaiming from a purposed evil Free me so far in your most generous thoughts That I have shot mine arrow o’er the house And hurt my brother.

HAMLET

I ask your forgiveness, sir. I’ve done you wrong. Forgive me, as a gentleman. Everyone here knows—and you must have heard it too—that I’m suffering from insanity. What I did to insult your nature and your honor, I did only out of madness. Was it Hamlet who insulted Laertes? Not Hamlet. If Hamlet has had his mind stolen, and insults Laertes when he’s not himself, then it is not Hamlet who did it. Who did it, then? Hamlet’s madness. If that’s true, then it’s Hamlet who was the victim. His madness is his enemy. Sir, with this audience as my witness, let me declare that I intended no harm and am as innocent as a man who shoots an arrow over his house and accidentally hits his brother.

LAERTES

I am satisfied in nature, Whose motive in this case should stir me most To my revenge. But in my terms of honor I stand aloof, and will no reconcilement Till by some elder masters, of known honor, I have a voice and precedent of peace To keep my name ungored. But till that time I do receive your offered love like love And will not wrong it.

LAERTES

My personal feelings are satisfied—even though what you’ve done should stir them to seek revenge. Yet, as a man who values honor, I must for now hold off and will not accept an apology—until some experts in matters of honor show me that accepting your apology will not stain my reputation. Until then, I accept the love you offer as love, and won't do anything to offend it.

HAMLET

I embrace it freely,And will this brother’s wager frankly play.—Give us the foils. Come on.

HAMLET

I accept it gladly, and will engage in this friendly match without reservations. Come on, give me a sword.

LAERTES

Come, one for me.

LAERTES

And one for me.

HAMLET

I’ll be your foil, Laertes. In mine ignoranceYour skill shall, like a star i’ th’ darkest night,Stick fiery off indeed.

HAMLET

I’m going to make you look good, Laertes. My lack of skill will make yours blaze like the brightest star in the darkest night.

LAERTES

You mock me, sir.

LAERTES

You’re making fun of me, sir.

HAMLET

No, by this hand.

HAMLET

No, I swear by my hand.

CLAUDIUS

Give them the foils, young Osric.—Cousin Hamlet,You know the wager?

CLAUDIUS

Give them the swords, Osric. Hamlet, you know the bet?

HAMLET

Very well, my lord.Your grace hath laid the odds o’ th’ weaker side.

HAMLET

Very well, my lord. You’ve placed your bet on the weaker side.

CLAUDIUS

I do not fear it. I have seen you both.But since he is better we have therefore odds.

CLAUDIUS

I’m not worried. I’ve seen both of you fence. But since Laertes is better, we’ve given him a handicap.

LAERTES

[tests a rapier] This is too heavy. Let me see another.

LAERTES

[He tests a sword] This sword’s too heavy. Give me another one.

HAMLET

[tests a rapier] This likes me well. These foils have all a length?

HAMLET

[He tests a sword] This one is good for me. Are they all the same length?

OSRIC

Ay, my good lord.

OSRIC

Yes, my good lord.

HAMLET and LAERTES prepare to fence.

CLAUDIUS

Set me the stoups of wine upon that table. If Hamlet give the first or second hit Or quit in answer of the third exchange, Let all the battlements their ordnance fire! The king shall drink to Hamlet’s better breath, And in the cup an union shall he throw Richer than that which four successive kings In Denmark’s crown have worn. Give me the cups. And let the kettle to the trumpet speak, The trumpet to the cannoneer without, The cannons to the heavens, the heavens to earth, “Now the king dunks to Hamlet.” Come, begin.— And you, the judges, bear a wary eye.

CLAUDIUS

Put the cups of wine on that table. If Hamlet gets the first or second hit, or even responds to Laertes challenge by just making the third hit, then we will fire the cannons in his honor! I’ll then drink to Hamlet’s health, and into his cup I’ll drop a pearl more valuable than those the last four Danish kings worn in their crowns. Give me the cups. Play the drum to signal the trumpeter, so the trumpet will signal the cannons outside, and the cannons will signal the heavens, and the heavens will echo the sound in order to tell all the world that the king now drinks to Hamlet’s health. Come on, begin. And you, judges, watch carefully.

Trumpets

HAMLET

Come on, sir.

HAMLET

Come on, sir.

LAERTES

Come, my lord.

LAERTES

Come on, my lord.

HAMLET and LAERTES fence.

HAMLET

One.

HAMLET

That was one hit.

LAERTES

No.

LAERTES

No.

HAMLET

Judgment?

HAMLET

Referee?

OSRIC

A hit, a very palpable hit.

OSRIC

It was a hit, a clear hit.

LAERTES

Well, again.

LAERTES

Well, another round.

CLAUDIUS

Stay, give me drink.—Hamlet, this pearl is thine.Here’s to thy health.

CLAUDIUS

Give me some wine.

[To HAMLET] Hamlet, this pearl is yours. Here’s to your health.

CLAUDIUS drops the pearl into a cup.

Drums, trumpets sound, shot goes off

CLAUDIUS

Give him the cup.

CLAUDIUS

Give him the cup.

HAMLET

I’ll play this bout first. Set it by a while.Come.

HAMLET

I’ll finish this round first. Set the cup down for a while. Let’s go.

HAMLET and LAERTES fence.

HAMLET

Another hit. What say you?

HAMLET

Another hit. What do you say?

LAERTES

A touch, a touch, I do confess ’t.

LAERTES

It was a small hit, a small hit, I admit it.

CLAUDIUS

Our son shall win.

CLAUDIUS

My son will win.

GERTRUDE

He’s fat, and scant of breath.—Here, Hamlet, take my napkin, rub thy brows.The queen carouses to thy fortune, Hamlet. [picks up the cup with the pearl]

GERTRUDE

He’s fat and out of breath.

[To HAMLET] Here, Hamlet, take my handkerchief and wipe the sweat from your forehead. The queen drinks to your good luck, Hamlet. [She lifts the cup with the pearl]

HAMLET

Good madam.

HAMLET

Thank you, madam.

CLAUDIUS

Gertrude, do not drink.

CLAUDIUS

Gertrude, don’t drink.

GERTRUDE

I will, my lord. I pray you, pardon me. [drinks]

GERTRUDE

I will drink, my lord. Please excuse me. [She drinks]

CLAUDIUS

[aside] It is the poisoned cup. It is too late.

CLAUDIUS

[To himself] That was the poisoned drink. It’s too late.

HAMLET

I dare not drink yet, madam. By and by.

HAMLET

I can’t afford to drink now, madam. Soon.

GERTRUDE

Come, let me wipe thy face.

GERTRUDE

Come on, let me wipe your face.

LAERTES

[aside to CLAUDIUS] My lord, I’ll hit him now.

LAERTES

[To CLAUDIUS so that only he can hear] I’ll hit him now.

CLAUDIUS

I do not think ’t.

CLAUDIUS

I doubt it.

LAERTES

[aside] And yet it is almost ‘gainst my conscience.

LAERTES

[To himself] And yet, it almost makes me feel guilty.

HAMLET

Come, for the third, Laertes. You do but dally.I pray you, pass with your best violence.I am afeard you make a wanton of me.

HAMLET

Come for the third round, Laertes. You’re just playing. Come on, try your hardest. I fear that you’re treating me like a spoiled child.

LAERTES

Say you so? Come on.

LAERTES

You believe so? Come on.

HAMLET and LAERTES fence.

OSRIC

Nothing, neither way.

OSRIC

There’s little difference between them.

LAERTES

Have at you now!

LAERTES

Take this!

LAERTES wounds HAMLET. They scuffle and end up with each other’s swords. HAMLET wounds LAERTES.

CLAUDIUS

Part them! They are incensed.

CLAUDIUS

Separate them. They’re too angry.

HAMLET

Nay, come, again.

HAMLET

No, come on, again.

GERTRUDE collapses.

OSRIC

Look to the queen there, ho!

OSRIC

Hey! Take care of the queen!

HORATIO

They bleed on both sides.—How is it, my lord?

HORATIO

Both fencers are bleeding.

[To HAMLET] How are you, my lord?

OSRIC

How is ’t, Laertes?

OSRIC

How are you, Laertes?

LAERTES

Why, as a woodcock to mine own springe, Osric. I am justly killed with mine own treachery. [falls]

LAERTES

Why, I'm like a bird caught in my own trap, Osric. [He collapses] I’ve been killed by my own betrayal, as I deserve.

HAMLET

How does the queen?

HAMLET

How is the queen doing?

CLAUDIUS

She swoons to see them bleed.

CLAUDIUS

She fainted at the sight of them bleeding.

GERTRUDE

No, no, the drink, the drink!—O my dear Hamlet!The drink, the drink! I am poisoned. [dies]

GERTRUDE

No, no! The drink, the drink! Oh, my dear Hamlet! The drink, the drink! I’ve been poisoned. [She dies]

HAMLET

O villainy! Ho, let the door be locked.

HAMLET

Oh, what evil! Hey, lock the door!

OSRIC exits

HAMLET

Treachery! Seek it out.

HAMLET

We’ve been betrayed! Find the traitor.

LAERTES

It is here, Hamlet. Hamlet, thou art slain. No medicine in the world can do thee good. In thee there is not half an hour of life. The treacherous instrument is in thy hand, Unbated and envenomed. The foul practice Hath turned itself on me. Lo, here I lie, Never to rise again. Thy mother’s poisoned. I can no more. The king, the king’s to blame.

LAERTES

It’s me, Hamlet. Hamlet, you’re dead. No medicine in the world can cure you. You don’t have more than a half hour left to live. The treacherous weapon is in your hand, sharpened and dipped in poison. The dirty plan backfired on me. And so, here I lie, never to rise again. Your mother’s been poisoned. I can’t say anymore. The king, the king’s to blame.

HAMLET

The point envenomed too!—Then, venom, to thy work.

HAMLET

The sword is poisoned! Then, poison, do your job!

HAMLET wounds CLAUDIUS.

ALL

Treason! Treason!

ALL

Treason! Treason!

CLAUDIUS

O, yet defend me, friends. I am but hurt.

CLAUDIUS

Oh, defend me, my friends. I’ve only been hurt.

HAMLET

Here, thou incestuous, murderous, damnèd Dane,Drink off this potion. Is thy union here?Follow my mother.

HAMLET

Here, you incestuous, murderous, damned Dane! Drink this poisoned wine. Is your pearl in there? Follow my mother.

HAMLET forces CLAUDIUS to drink. CLAUDIUS dies.

LAERTES

He is justly served. It is a poison tempered by himself. Exchange forgiveness with me, noble Hamlet. Mine and my father’s death come not upon thee, Nor thine on me. [dies]

LAERTES

He got what he deserved. He made that poison himself. Forgive me as I forgive you, noble Hamlet. My death and my father’s death are not your fault, and my death is not yours. [He dies]

HAMLET

Heaven make thee free of it. I follow thee.— I am dead, Horatio. —Wretched queen, adieu!— You that look pale and tremble at this chance, That are but mutes or audience to this act, Had I but time (as this fell sergeant, Death, Is strict in his arrest), O, I could tell you— But let it be. —Horatio, I am dead. Thou livest. Report me and my cause aright To the unsatisfied.

HAMLET

God frees you from blame. I’ll follow you.

[To HORATIO] I’m dead, Horatio.

[To GERTRUDE] Unlucky queen, goodbye.

[To the others] You who watch, pale and trembling—a speechless audience to this show—if I had just a little time, I could tell you things. But this dread officer, Death, allows no mercy or extra time. Let it be.

[To HORATIO] Horatio, I’m dying. You live on. Tell my story and my cause to everyone.

HORATIO

Never believe it.I am more an antique Roman than a Dane.Here’s yet some liquor left. [lifts the poisoned cup]

HORATIO

Don’t believe it. I’m more like an ancient Roman than a Dane. There’s still some of this wine. [He picks up the poisoned cup]

HAMLET

As thou’rt a man, Give me the cup. Let go! By heaven, I’ll have ’t. [takes cup from HORATIO] O God, Horatio, what a wounded name, Things standing thus unknown, shall live behind me! If thou didst ever hold me in thy heart Absent thee from felicity a while, And in this harsh world draw thy breath in pain To tell my story.

HAMLET

On your manhood, give me that cup. Let it go! By heaven, give it to me. [He takes the cup from HORATIO] Oh God, Horatio, what a bad reputation I’m leaving behind—because no one knows what happened. If you ever loved me, then avoid the sweet relief of death for a while, and stay in this harsh world long enough to draw painful breaths and tell my story.

A military march plays offstage.

HAMLET

What warlike noise is this?

HAMLET

What are these sounds of war?

OSRIC enters.

OSRIC

Young Fortinbras, with conquest come from Poland,To th’ ambassadors of England givesThis warlike volley.

OSRIC

Young Fortinbras returns triumphantly from Poland, and fires his cannons to greet the English ambassadors.

HAMLET

O, I die, Horatio. The potent poison quite o’ercrows my spirit. I cannot live to hear the news from England. But I do prophesy the election lights On Fortinbras. He has my dying voice. So tell him, with th’ occurrents, more and less, Which have solicited. The rest is silence. O, O, O, O. [dies]

HAMLET

Oh, I’m dying, Horatio! This powerful poison is too much for me. I won’t live to hear the news from England. But I predict that Fortinbras will win the election for the Danish crown. I give him my dying vote. So tell him what has happened here. The rest is silence. Oh, oh, oh, oh. [He dies]

HORATIO

Now cracks a noble heart.—Good night, sweet prince,And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest!—Why does the drum come hither?

HORATIO

Now a noble heart breaks. Good night, sweet prince. May hosts of angels sing you to your sleep. Why are those drums coming near?

FORTINBRAS and the English AMBASSADOR enter, with a drummer and attendants.

FORTINBRAS

Where is this sight?

FORTINBRAS

What am I seeing?

HORATIO

What is it ye would see?If aught of woe or wonder, cease your search.

HORATIO

What would you like to see? If it’s a tragedy or other astonishment, you’ve found it.

FORTINBRAS

This quarry cries on havoc. O proud death, What feast is toward in thine eternal cell, That thou so many princes at a shot So bloodily hast struck?

FORTINBRAS

These corpses suggest a massacre. Oh, proud Death, what banquet are you preparing that you’ve struck down so many princes at once?

AMBASSADOR

The sight is dismal, And our affairs from England come too late. The ears are senseless that should give us hearing, To tell him his commandment is fulfilled, That Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead. Where should we have our thanks?

AMBASSADOR

This is an awful sight. Our news arrives from England too late. The people who were meant to hear it are all dead. We came to tell the king his orders have been followed: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead. Who will thank us now?

HORATIO

[indicates CLAUDIUS] Not from his mouth, Had it th’ ability of life to thank you. He never gave commandment for their death. But since so jump upon this bloody question, You from the Polack wars, and you from England, Are here arrived, give order that these bodies High on a stage be placèd to the view, And let me speak to th’ yet-unknowing world How these things came about. So shall you hear Of carnal, bloody, and unnatural acts, Of accidental judgments, casual slaughters, Of deaths put on by cunning and forced cause, And, in this upshot, purposes mistook Fall’n on th’ inventors’ heads. All this can I Truly deliver.

HORATIO

[He points to CLAUDIUS] Not him, even if he were still alive to thank you. He never ordered their deaths. But since you’ve arrived to see this bloody scene—you from the war in Poland and you from England—then order that these bodies be displayed on a high platform to be viewed, and let me tell the world how all this happened. You’ll hear of violent, bloody, and unnatural acts; accidental revenge; casual murders; deaths caused by trickery and by threat; and plans that backfired on their inventors. All this I will tell you truthfully.

FORTINBRAS

Let us haste to hear it, And call the noblest to the audience. For me, with sorrow I embrace my fortune. I have some rights of memory in this kingdom, Which now to claim my vantage doth invite me.

FORTINBRAS

Let us hurry to listen to it now, and call in all the noblemen as audience. As for me, I accept my good fortune with sadness. I have some rights to claim the throne of this kingdom, and now I have the chance to make that claim.

HORATIO

Of that I shall have also cause to speak, And from his mouth whose voice will draw on more. But let this same be presently performed, Even while men’s minds are wild, lest more mischance On plots and errors happen.

HORATIO

I also have much to say about that, from the mouth of one who only added to your claim. Let’s do this now, even though everyone’s minds are racing, to make sure no further mistakes, plots, or errors occur.

FORTINBRAS

Let four captains Bear Hamlet like a soldier to the stage, For he was likely, had he been put on, To have proved most royally. And, for his passage, The soldiers’ music and the rites of war Speak loudly for him. Take up the bodies. Such a sight as this Becomes the field, but here shows much amiss. Go, bid the soldiers shoot.

FORTINBRAS

Let four captains carry Hamlet like a soldier to the viewing platform. If he only had the chance, it’s likely he would have been a great king. Military music and military rites shall proclaim his greatness. Lift up the bodies. A sight like this looks right on a battlefield, but here shows that much has gone wrong. Go, tell the soldiers to fire their cannons.

They exit marching, carrying the bodies, as cannons fire.

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.