A room in the castle.
Enter KING CLAUDIUS, QUEEN GERTRUDE, POLONIUS, OPHELIA, ROSENCRANTZ, and GUILDENSTERN
And can you, by no drift of circumstance,
Get from him why he puts on this confusion,
Grating so harshly all his days of quiet
With turbulent and dangerous lunacy?
He does confess he feels himself distracted;
But from what cause he will by no means speak.
Nor do we find him forward to be sounded,
But, with a crafty madness, keeps aloof,
When we would bring him on to some confession
Of his true state.
Did he receive you well?
Most like a gentleman.
But with much forcing of his disposition.
Niggard of question; but, of our demands,
Most free in his reply.
Did you assay him?
To any pastime?
Madam, it so fell out, that certain players
We o'er-raught on the way: of these we told him;
And there did seem in him a kind of joy
To hear of it: they are about the court,
And, as I think, they have already order
This night to play before him.
'Tis most true:
And he beseech'd me to entreat your majesties
To hear and see the matter.
With all my heart; and it doth much content me
To hear him so inclined.
Good gentlemen, give him a further edge,
And drive his purpose on to these delights.
We shall, my lord.
Exeunt ROSENCRANTZ and GUILDENSTERN
Sweet Gertrude, leave us too;
For we have closely sent for Hamlet hither,
That he, as 'twere by accident, may here
Her father and myself, lawful espials,
Will so bestow ourselves that, seeing, unseen,
We may of their encounter frankly judge,
And gather by him, as he is behaved,
If 't be the affliction of his love or no
That thus he suffers for.
I shall obey you.
And for your part, Ophelia, I do wish
That your good beauties be the happy cause
Of Hamlet's wildness: so shall I hope your virtues
Will bring him to his wonted way again,
To both your honours.
Madam, I wish it may.
Exit QUEEN GERTRUDE
Ophelia, walk you here. Gracious, so please you,
We will bestow ourselves.
Read on this book;
That show of such an exercise may colour
Your loneliness. We are oft to blame in this,--
'Tis too much proved--that with devotion's visage
And pious action we do sugar o'er
The devil himself.
[Aside] O, 'tis too true!
How smart a lash that speech doth give my conscience!
The harlot's cheek, beautied with plastering art,
Is not more ugly to the thing that helps it
Than is my deed to my most painted word:
O heavy burthen!
I hear him coming: let's withdraw, my lord.
Exeunt KING CLAUDIUS and POLONIUS
To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to, 'tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish'd. To die, to sleep;
To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause: there's the respect
That makes calamity of so long life;
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
The oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely,
The pangs of despised love, the law's delay,
The insolence of office and the spurns
That patient merit of the unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin? who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscover'd country from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pith and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry,
And lose the name of action.--Soft you now!
The fair Ophelia! Nymph, in thy orisons
Be all my sins remember'd.
Good my lord,
How does your honour for this many a day?
I humbly thank you; well, well, well.
My lord, I have remembrances of yours,
That I have longed long to re-deliver;
I pray you, now receive them.
No, not I;
I never gave you aught.
My honour'd lord, you know right well you did;
And, with them, words of so sweet breath composed
As made the things more rich: their perfume lost,
Take these again; for to the noble mind
Rich gifts wax poor when givers prove unkind.
There, my lord.
Ha, ha! are you honest?
Are you fair?
What means your lordship?
That if you be honest and fair, your honesty should
admit no discourse to your beauty.
Could beauty, my lord, have better commerce than
Ay, truly; for the power of beauty will sooner
transform honesty from what it is to a bawd than the
force of honesty can translate beauty into his
likeness: this was sometime a paradox, but now the
time gives it proof. I did love you once.
Indeed, my lord, you made me believe so.
You should not have believed me; for virtue cannot
so inoculate our old stock but we shall relish of
it: I loved you not.
I was the more deceived.
Get thee to a nunnery: why wouldst thou be a
breeder of sinners? I am myself indifferent honest;
but yet I could accuse me of such things that it
were better my mother had not borne me: I am very
proud, revengeful, ambitious, with more offences at
my beck than I have thoughts to put them in,
imagination to give them shape, or time to act them
in. What should such fellows as I do crawling
between earth and heaven? We are arrant knaves,
all; believe none of us. Go thy ways to a nunnery.
Where's your father?
At home, my lord.
Let the doors be shut upon him, that he may play the
fool no where but in's own house. Farewell.
O, help him, you sweet heavens!
If thou dost marry, I'll give thee this plague for
thy dowry: be thou as chaste as ice, as pure as
snow, thou shalt not escape calumny. Get thee to a
nunnery, go: farewell. Or, if thou wilt needs
marry, marry a fool; for wise men know well enough
what monsters you make of them. To a nunnery, go,
and quickly too. Farewell.
O heavenly powers, restore him!
I have heard of your paintings too, well enough; God
has given you one face, and you make yourselves
another: you jig, you amble, and you lisp, and
nick-name God's creatures, and make your wantonness
your ignorance. Go to, I'll no more on't; it hath
made me mad. I say, we will have no more marriages:
those that are married already, all but one, shall
live; the rest shall keep as they are. To a
O, what a noble mind is here o'erthrown!
The courtier's, soldier's, scholar's, eye, tongue, sword;
The expectancy and rose of the fair state,
The glass of fashion and the mould of form,
The observed of all observers, quite, quite down!
And I, of ladies most deject and wretched,
That suck'd the honey of his music vows,
Now see that noble and most sovereign reason,
Like sweet bells jangled, out of tune and harsh;
That unmatch'd form and feature of blown youth
Blasted with ecstasy: O, woe is me,
To have seen what I have seen, see what I see!
Re-enter KING CLAUDIUS and POLONIUS
Love! his affections do not that way tend;
Nor what he spake, though it lack'd form a little,
Was not like madness. There's something in his soul,
O'er which his melancholy sits on brood;
And I do doubt the hatch and the disclose
Will be some danger: which for to prevent,
I have in quick determination
Thus set it down: he shall with speed to England,
For the demand of our neglected tribute
Haply the seas and countries different
With variable objects shall expel
This something-settled matter in his heart,
Whereon his brains still beating puts him thus
From fashion of himself. What think you on't?
It shall do well: but yet do I believe
The origin and commencement of his grief
Sprung from neglected love. How now, Ophelia!
You need not tell us what Lord Hamlet said;
We heard it all. My lord, do as you please;
But, if you hold it fit, after the play
Let his queen mother all alone entreat him
To show his grief: let her be round with him;
And I'll be placed, so please you, in the ear
Of all their conference. If she find him not,
To England send him, or confine him where
Your wisdom best shall think.
It shall be so:
Madness in great ones must not unwatch'd go.
Meanwhile in the King's apartments at Elsinore, the King, the Queen, Polonius, Ophelia, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, were discussing Hamlet's erratic behaviour. The King turned to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern: "And you cannot establish through conversation what exactly it is that troubles him and causes him to assume such a rebellious and dangerously lunatic stance?"
"He does confess that he feels distracted, but the cause he will not disclose," said Rosencrantz.
"We have found that he is not inclined to be quizzed. The craftiness in his madness enables him to circumvent all our soundings," added Guildenstern.
"Did he receive you warmly?" asked the Queen.
"With the manners of a gentleman," said Rosencrantz.
"But also with quite a bit of effort," said Guildenstern.
"He was not very talkative but he freely answered our questions," Rosencrantz said.
"Did you try to involve him in any hobbies?" asked the Queen.
Rosencrantz beamed at this question: "Madam, by chance we overtook a troupe of actors bound for Elsinore. When we told Hamlet about them there did seem to be a flicker of joy. They are here and I think they are already preparing to perform tonight."
"Oh, this is most true," said Polonius. "And he asked me to ensure Your Majesties attend the performance."
"With all my heart I'm glad he is showing an interest in something. Good gentlemen, you must go and encourage him in other pursuits," said the King.
"We will, my lord," said Rosencrantz, as he and Guildenstern bowed to leave.
When they had left the King knowingly glanced at Polonius.
"Sweet Gertrude, leave us too. Polonius and I have privately sent for Hamlet so that he can meet Ophelia here by accident, as it were. Polonius and I, as lawful spies, will hide and observe their encounter to frankly judge if it is love, or not, which inspires Hamlet to behave in this way," said the King.
"I shall do so. As for you, Ophelia, I do hope it is your beauty that is the happy cause of Hamlet's distress, and hope your virtues will soothe him again, for both your sakes," Gertrude said as she left.
"Madam, I wish that, too."
Polonius surveyed the room, establishing the positions for the scheme.
"Ophelia, you walk over here. Lord, if you please, we should hide now. Ophelia, take this bible, reading it is a sound excuse for your solitude. Lord, we are often to blame in these matters, experience tells us that we sugar the devil's works to disguise them as piety."
“That is too true,” the King said to himself, lost now in his guilty thoughts: “How those words lash my conscience! The harlot's cosmetic face is not uglier in falseness than my deeds are regardless of my cosmetic words. Oh, heavy burden!”
"Oh, I hear Hamlet coming! Let's hide, my lord," said Polonius excitedly.
The King and Polonius hid behind a large wall-hung tapestry. Hamlet entered, giving them only seconds to conceal themselves. Hamlet was talking to himself, aloud.
"To be, or not to be. That is the question. Is it noble to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or take arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing them, defeat them? To die - to sleep: nothing more. And if by sleep we could end the heartaches and the thousand natural troubles that attack the flesh, it would be an end everyone would wish for. To die, to sleep: To sleep, perhaps to dream. Yes, and there's the rub. The dreams found in the sleep of death, after we have let go of this mortal coil, will make us pause. The content of these dreams may be the reason why the living tolerate the calamity of life for so long. For who would bear the whips and scorns of life - the tyrant's brutality, the arrogant man's arrogance, the agony of rejected love, the law's delay, the insolence of authority, and the insults hurled daily at the downtrodden - when man could quietly free himself of all of this with a mere dagger? Who would bear life's burdens, grunting and sweating with exhaustion, if it were not for the dread of what lies beyond death? That undiscovered land from whose oceans no traveller returns, bewilders us. We would bear the ill we have rather than embrace things we know nothing about. Our conscience makes us cowards, our natural colour is drained by the prospect of it. Things of gravity and importance lose their momentum. Ah, it's the beautiful Ophelia. Nymph, remember to pray for my sins."
King Claudius listened to all of this very carefully. It didn't sound like the rantings of a mad man to him.
"My lord, have you been keeping well?" Ophelia asked.
"Well, I thank you for your interest."
"My lord, I have a remembrance of yours that I have been meaning to return to you for a long time. I pray that now you will take it."
"No, not I. I never gave you anything."
"My lord, you know very well that you did, and you did do so with words perfumed by sentiment. But now the fragrance is lost, take the gifts back. Rich gifts are poor if the giver is insincere."
"Ha, ha! Are you a virgin?"
"Are you beautiful?"
"What does Your Lordship mean?"
"If you are virginal and beautiful then your beauty should protect your virginity."
"Could beauty, my lord, be any safer than in the custody of virginity?"
"Yes, truly. Beauty will sooner transform chastity into a bawd than chastity can turn beauty into its likeness. In the past that was absurd, but now it is a truth. I loved you, once."
"Indeed, my lord, that is what you made me believe."
"You shouldn't have believed me. Virtue can never compete against the sins of Adam. My love wasn't true."
"I was deceived."
"Go to a nunnery! Why would you like to breed sinners? I am fairly moral yet I could admit to such sins that it would have been better that my mother never bore me. I'm very proud, revengeful, ambitious, and with more vices at my call than my thoughts and imagination can keep up with. What is someone like me doing in this existence, crawling between heaven and earth? We are all shysters. Don't believe any of us. Take the first road to a nunnery. Where's your father?"
Ophelia didn't realise Hamlet knew he was being watched and his conversation was outrageous for that reason.
"At home, my lord."
"Lock him in, that way he can play the fool only in the privacy of his own home. Farewell."
"Oh, help him, sweet heaven."
"If you do marry, I'll give you this stain on your dowry: even if you are as chaste as ice, as pure as snow, you will not escape calamity. Go to a convent. Farewell. Or if you really do need to marry, marry a fool. Smart men know what cuckolds women make of them. To a convent, go, and quickly, too. Farewell."
"Heavenly powers, restore his sanity!"
"I know all your skill with cosmetics. God gives women one face, but they make themselves another. You dance and flirt, use cooing voices, make up fancy names and then pretend all this is natural. I've had enough of it! It has made me mad! I say no more marriages! Those who are married already, with one exception, can get on with it. Everyone else shall stay single. You go to a convent."
Hamlet left hurriedly. Ophelia was astounded.
"Oh, a noble mind has been defeated! Hamlet the courtier, the scholar, the soldier, his potential as a future king, the inspiration for other men and revered by the most loyal of courtiers, this Hamlet is lost, lost! I, the most dejected and wretched woman, who tasted his honeyed words, now see that his noble and brilliant reason harshly chimes, like bells out of tune. A rare example of physical and intellectual genius in youth, destroyed in its prime. Woe is me to have seen what I have seen, and see what I see."
King Claudius and Polonius joined Ophelia.
"Love?" the King asked. "Hamlet doesn't have the inclination to love. What he said, although it rambled, didn't seem like madness. His brooding comes from a melancholy soul. Doubtless the cause will lead to violence. To prevent this I have, on impulse, decided he shall be sent to England to collect the duties we expect. The journey, the scenery and the opportunities of England will, with luck, rid him of the disturbance which leads him to act so unpredictably. What do you think, Polonius?"
"I think it might work. But my instincts tell me that this problem stems from rejected love. Ophelia, you needn't bother telling us what Hamlet said, we heard it all. My lord, do as you see fit, but why not wait until after the play, then give his mother the chance to persuade him to explain his grief. Let her be direct, and with your permission, I will conceal myself again, and listen to his explanation. If she can't get to the bottom of it, then send him to England - or imprison him, whatever you think is the best course."
"Absolutely. Madness in the royal family cannot be ignored," King Claudius said firmly.