A room in POLONIUS' house.
Enter POLONIUS and REYNALDO
Give him this money and these notes, Reynaldo.
I will, my lord.
You shall do marvellous wisely, good Reynaldo,
Before you visit him, to make inquire
Of his behavior.
My lord, I did intend it.
Marry, well said; very well said. Look you, sir,
Inquire me first what Danskers are in Paris;
And how, and who, what means, and where they keep,
What company, at what expense; and finding
By this encompassment and drift of question
That they do know my son, come you more nearer
Than your particular demands will touch it:
Take you, as 'twere, some distant knowledge of him;
As thus, 'I know his father and his friends,
And in part him: ' do you mark this, Reynaldo?
Ay, very well, my lord.
'And in part him; but' you may say 'not well:
But, if't be he I mean, he's very wild;
Addicted so and so:' and there put on him
What forgeries you please; marry, none so rank
As may dishonour him; take heed of that;
But, sir, such wanton, wild and usual slips
As are companions noted and most known
To youth and liberty.
As gaming, my lord.
Ay, or drinking, fencing, swearing, quarrelling,
Drabbing: you may go so far.
My lord, that would dishonour him.
'Faith, no; as you may season it in the charge
You must not put another scandal on him,
That he is open to incontinency;
That's not my meaning: but breathe his faults so quaintly
That they may seem the taints of liberty,
The flash and outbreak of a fiery mind,
A savageness in unreclaimed blood,
Of general assault.
But, my good lord,--
Wherefore should you do this?
Ay, my lord,
I would know that.
Marry, sir, here's my drift;
And I believe, it is a fetch of wit:
You laying these slight sullies on my son,
As 'twere a thing a little soil'd i' the working, Mark you,
Your party in converse, him you would sound,
Having ever seen in the prenominate crimes
The youth you breathe of guilty, be assured
He closes with you in this consequence;
'Good sir,' or so, or 'friend,' or 'gentleman,'
According to the phrase or the addition
Of man and country.
Very good, my lord.
And then, sir, does he this--he does--what was I
about to say? By the mass, I was about to say
something: where did I leave?
At 'closes in the consequence,' at 'friend or so,'
At 'closes in the consequence,' ay, marry;
He closes thus: 'I know the gentleman;
I saw him yesterday, or t' other day,
Or then, or then; with such, or such; and, as you say,
There was a' gaming; there o'ertook in's rouse;
There falling out at tennis:' or perchance,
'I saw him enter such a house of sale,'
Videlicet, a brothel, or so forth.
See you now;
Your bait of falsehood takes this carp of truth:
And thus do we of wisdom and of reach,
With windlasses and with assays of bias,
By indirections find directions out:
So by my former lecture and advice,
Shall you my son. You have me, have you not?
My lord, I have.
God be wi' you; fare you well.
Good my lord!
Observe his inclination in yourself.
I shall, my lord.
And let him ply his music.
Well, my lord.
How now, Ophelia! what's the matter?
O, my lord, my lord, I have been so affrighted!
With what, i' the name of God?
My lord, as I was sewing in my closet,
Lord Hamlet, with his doublet all unbraced;
No hat upon his head; his stockings foul'd,
Ungarter'd, and down-gyved to his ancle;
Pale as his shirt; his knees knocking each other;
And with a look so piteous in purport
As if he had been loosed out of hell
To speak of horrors,--he comes before me.
Mad for thy love?
My lord, I do not know;
But truly, I do fear it.
What said he?
He took me by the wrist and held me hard;
Then goes he to the length of all his arm;
And, with his other hand thus o'er his brow,
He falls to such perusal of my face
As he would draw it. Long stay'd he so;
At last, a little shaking of mine arm
And thrice his head thus waving up and down,
He raised a sigh so piteous and profound
As it did seem to shatter all his bulk
And end his being: that done, he lets me go:
And, with his head over his shoulder turn'd,
He seem'd to find his way without his eyes;
For out o' doors he went without their helps,
And, to the last, bended their light on me.
Come, go with me: I will go seek the king.
This is the very ecstasy of love,
Whose violent property fordoes itself
And leads the will to desperate undertakings
As oft as any passion under heaven
That does afflict our natures. I am sorry.
What, have you given him any hard words of late?
No, my good lord, but, as you did command,
I did repel his fetters and denied
His access to me.
That hath made him mad.
I am sorry that with better heed and judgment
I had not quoted him: I fear'd he did but trifle,
And meant to wreck thee; but, beshrew my jealousy!
By heaven, it is as proper to our age
To cast beyond ourselves in our opinions
As it is common for the younger sort
To lack discretion. Come, go we to the king:
This must be known; which, being kept close, might
More grief to hide than hate to utter love.
Some weeks later Polonius and his servant, Reynaldo, were discussing the latter’s imminent journey to Paris to visit Laertes, who had been away over a month and, his father thought, should have settled in.
"Give him this money and these notes, Reynaldo," said Polonius.
"I will, my lord," replied Reynaldo.
"Before you visit him, Reynaldo, it would be judicious to inquire what he has been up to."
"My lord, I intended to."
"Indeed, well said, very well said. And while you're at it try to find out about the other Danes in Paris. Oh, their reasons for being there; who they are; how they support themselves; where they stay; the company they keep; their spending habits. If you question them in a vague pedantic way you'll be able to establish if they know Laertes and you'll get more out of them than by asking anything categorically. Just say you know his father, his family, something like that. Are you taking all this in, Reynaldo?"
Reynaldo having been in service with Polonius for many years was well aware of the well-meaning but long-winded nature of his master's conversation.
"Yes, very closely, my lord."
"You can also add that you know Laertes, but only through a brief casual meeting, or through a third party. But establish if it is the right person then add: Oh, he's very wild... Tar him with vices of your choice. But only the minor, expected indulgences, certainly nothing that would dishonour him. Be careful of that. Remember, stick to predictable frivolity."
"Like gambling, my lord?"
"Yes, drinking, too. Fencing, swearing, quarrelling and whoring. You can go that far."
"My lord, that would be dishonouring him!"
"No, it will be up to you to spice up and tone down the banter as the situation dictates. Don't go so far as to say he is insatiable. That's not my intention. Discuss his faults so cleverly that they may appear to be the mere blemishes of youth. The rash indulgences of the free spirit, nothing more. These things are common to most men."
"But, my good lord -"
"Why am I putting you up to this?"
"Yes, my lord. I would like to know that?"
"Well, sir, here's my thinking, quite a trick, if you don't mind me saying so. You gently smear Laertes with these little foibles and as you are telling some man in a tavern, say, in the course of your investigations the other fellow says, Ah, good sir or Friend or Gentleman or whatever address is the custom of his country."
"Very good, my lord."
"And then, Reynaldo, he does this. He…where was I again?"
"He speaks to me privately..."
"Ah, yes. So he speaks to you privately: I know that gentleman, I saw him yesterday or I saw him the other day. Or such and such a time - Reynaldo, you follow? And the fellow agrees. He was drunk. He was gambling. He was going into a brothel. And so on. You see, Reynaldo, how the bait of falsehood catches the carp of truth! This is how the wise man uses his brain to employ roundabout methods to get to the truth. So this little lesson will help you in pursuit of my son. You have followed me, have you not?"
"My lord, I have."
"God be with you. A safe journey."
"Thank you, my lord."
"Keep your eye on him."
"I shall my lord."
"But let him sow his wild oats!"
"I will, my lord."
As Reynaldo was leaving, Ophelia ran into the room distressed. As he waved Reynaldo off Polonius heard the muted sobs of his daughter.
"Ophelia, what's the matter?"
"Oh, my lord, my lord, I've had such a fright!"
"In the name of God, what caused it?"
"My lord, I was sewing in my room, when Hamlet entered my chamber with his shirt unbuttoned, his stockings dirty and hanging around his ankles. His complexion was whiter than his shirt and his knees seemed to knock in fright. He looked as if he had seen hell and was here to speak of its horrors."
"Mad for love of you?" Polonius asked.
"My lord, I do not know. But honestly, I fear so."
"What did he say?"
"He took me by the wrist and held me tightly. He stretched out an arm and put his other hand across his brow as if he was composing a portrait of me. He stood like that for a long time. At last, he shook my arm and nodded his head three times and he sighed so piteously and deeply that it was like a death sigh. After that, he let me go but as he left he continued staring at me over his shoulder even as he went out the door."
"Come with me. I will ask to see the King. This is a love whose violent nature could lead to desperate undertakings. Have you quarrelled lately?"
Ophelia looked at her father in dismay.
"No, my good lord, as you instructed I have returned his letters and denied him any chance of meeting me"
"It must have made him mad. I am sorry I have misread the gravity of the situation. I feared he was being frivolous, and that he would lead you to ruin. Curse, my suspicions! The older generations are as suspicious as the younger ones naive. Come, let us go to the King. This business could cause more trouble if we tried to hide it rather than inform the King. Come."