A hall in the castle.
Enter HAMLET and Players
HAMLET
Speak the speech, I pray you, as I pronounced it to
you, trippingly on the tongue: but if you mouth it,
as many of your players do, I had as lief the
town-crier spoke my lines. Nor do not saw the air
too much with your hand, thus, but use all gently;
for in the very torrent, tempest, and, as I may say,
the whirlwind of passion, you must acquire and beget
a temperance that may give it smoothness. O, it
offends me to the soul to hear a robustious
periwig-pated fellow tear a passion to tatters, to
very rags, to split the ears of the groundlings, who
for the most part are capable of nothing but
inexplicable dumbshows and noise: I would have such
a fellow whipped for o'erdoing Termagant; it
out-herods Herod: pray you, avoid it.
First Player
I warrant your honour.
HAMLET
Be not too tame neither, but let your own discretion
be your tutor: suit the action to the word, the
word to the action; with this special o'erstep not
the modesty of nature: for any thing so overdone is
from the purpose of playing, whose end, both at the
first and now, was and is, to hold, as 'twere, the
mirror up to nature; to show virtue her own feature,
scorn her own image, and the very age and body of
the time his form and pressure. Now this overdone,
or come tardy off, though it make the unskilful
laugh, cannot but make the judicious grieve; the
censure of the which one must in your allowance
o'erweigh a whole theatre of others. O, there be
players that I have seen play, and heard others
praise, and that highly, not to speak it profanely,
that, neither having the accent of Christians nor
the gait of Christian, pagan, nor man, have so
strutted and bellowed that I have thought some of
nature's journeymen had made men and not made them
well, they imitated humanity so abominably.
First Player
I hope we have reformed that indifferently with us,
sir.
HAMLET
O, reform it altogether. And let those that play
your clowns speak no more than is set down for them;
for there be of them that will themselves laugh, to
set on some quantity of barren spectators to laugh
too; though, in the mean time, some necessary
question of the play be then to be considered:
that's villanous, and shows a most pitiful ambition
in the fool that uses it. Go, make you ready.
Exeunt Players
Enter POLONIUS, ROSENCRANTZ, and GUILDENSTERN
How now, my lord! I will the king hear this piece of work?
LORD POLONIUS
And the queen too, and that presently.
HAMLET
Bid the players make haste.
Exit POLONIUS
Will you two help to hasten them?
ROSENCRANTZ GUILDENSTERN
We will, my lord.
Exeunt ROSENCRANTZ and GUILDENSTERN
HAMLET
What ho! Horatio!
Enter HORATIO
HORATIO
Here, sweet lord, at your service.
HAMLET
Horatio, thou art e'en as just a man
As e'er my conversation coped withal.
HORATIO
O, my dear lord,--
HAMLET
Nay, do not think I flatter;
For what advancement may I hope from thee
That no revenue hast but thy good spirits,
To feed and clothe thee? Why should the poor be flatter'd?
No, let the candied tongue lick absurd pomp,
And crook the pregnant hinges of the knee
Where thrift may follow fawning. Dost thou hear?
Since my dear soul was mistress of her choice
And could of men distinguish, her election
Hath seal'd thee for herself; for thou hast been
As one, in suffering all, that suffers nothing,
A man that fortune's buffets and rewards
Hast ta'en with equal thanks: and blest are those
Whose blood and judgment are so well commingled,
That they are not a pipe for fortune's finger
To sound what stop she please. Give me that man
That is not passion's slave, and I will wear him
In my heart's core, ay, in my heart of heart,
As I do thee.--Something too much of this.--
There is a play to-night before the king;
One scene of it comes near the circumstance
Which I have told thee of my father's death:
I prithee, when thou seest that act afoot,
Even with the very comment of thy soul
Observe mine uncle: if his occulted guilt
Do not itself unkennel in one speech,
It is a damned ghost that we have seen,
And my imaginations are as foul
As Vulcan's stithy. Give him heedful note;
For I mine eyes will rivet to his face,
And after we will both our judgments join
In censure of his seeming.
HORATIO
Well, my lord:
If he steal aught the whilst this play is playing,
And 'scape detecting, I will pay the theft.
HAMLET
They are coming to the play; I must be idle:
Get you a place.
Danish march. A flourish. Enter KING CLAUDIUS, QUEEN GERTRUDE, POLONIUS, OPHELIA, ROSENCRANTZ, GUILDENSTERN, and others
KING CLAUDIUS
How fares our cousin Hamlet?
HAMLET
Excellent, i' faith; of the chameleon's dish: I eat
the air, promise-crammed: you cannot feed capons so.
KING CLAUDIUS
I have nothing with this answer, Hamlet; these words
are not mine.
HAMLET
No, nor mine now.
To POLONIUS
My lord, you played once i' the university, you say?
LORD POLONIUS
That did I, my lord; and was accounted a good actor.
HAMLET
What did you enact?
LORD POLONIUS
I did enact Julius Caesar: I was killed i' the
Capitol; Brutus killed me.
HAMLET
It was a brute part of him to kill so capital a calf
there. Be the players ready?
ROSENCRANTZ
Ay, my lord; they stay upon your patience.
QUEEN GERTRUDE
Come hither, my dear Hamlet, sit by me.
HAMLET
No, good mother, here's metal more attractive.
LORD POLONIUS
[To KING CLAUDIUS] O, ho! do you mark that?
HAMLET
Lady, shall I lie in your lap?
Lying down at OPHELIA's feet
OPHELIA
No, my lord.
HAMLET
I mean, my head upon your lap?
OPHELIA
Ay, my lord.
HAMLET
Do you think I meant country matters?
OPHELIA
I think nothing, my lord.
HAMLET
That's a fair thought to lie between maids' legs.
OPHELIA
What is, my lord?
HAMLET
Nothing.
OPHELIA
You are merry, my lord.
HAMLET
Who, I?
OPHELIA
Ay, my lord.
HAMLET
O God, your only jig-maker. What should a man do
but be merry? for, look you, how cheerfully my
mother looks, and my father died within these two hours.
OPHELIA
Nay, 'tis twice two months, my lord.
HAMLET
So long? Nay then, let the devil wear black, for
I'll have a suit of sables. O heavens! die two
months ago, and not forgotten yet? Then there's
hope a great man's memory may outlive his life half
a year: but, by'r lady, he must build churches,
then; or else shall he suffer not thinking on, with
the hobby-horse, whose epitaph is 'For, O, for, O,
the hobby-horse is forgot.'
Hautboys play. The dumb-show enters
Enter a King and a Queen very lovingly; the Queen embracing him, and he her. She kneels, and makes show of protestation unto him. He takes her up, and declines his head upon her neck: lays him down upon a bank of flowers: she, seeing him asleep, leaves him. Anon comes in a fellow, takes off his crown, kisses it, and pours poison in the King's ears, and exit. The Queen returns; finds the King dead, and makes passionate action. The Poisoner, with some two or three Mutes, comes in again, seeming to lament with her. The dead body is carried away. The Poisoner wooes the Queen with gifts: she seems loath and unwilling awhile, but in the end accepts his love
Exeunt
OPHELIA
What means this, my lord?
HAMLET
Marry, this is miching mallecho; it means mischief.
OPHELIA
Belike this show imports the argument of the play.
Enter Prologue
HAMLET
We shall know by this fellow: the players cannot
keep counsel; they'll tell all.
OPHELIA
Will he tell us what this show meant?
HAMLET
Ay, or any show that you'll show him: be not you
ashamed to show, he'll not shame to tell you what it means.
OPHELIA
You are naught, you are naught: I'll mark the play.
Prologue
For us, and for our tragedy,
Here stooping to your clemency,
We beg your hearing patiently.
Exit
HAMLET
Is this a prologue, or the posy of a ring?
OPHELIA
'Tis brief, my lord.
HAMLET
As woman's love.
Enter two Players, King and Queen
Player King
Full thirty times hath Phoebus' cart gone round
Neptune's salt wash and Tellus' orbed ground,
And thirty dozen moons with borrow'd sheen
About the world have times twelve thirties been,
Since love our hearts and Hymen did our hands
Unite commutual in most sacred bands.
Player Queen
So many journeys may the sun and moon
Make us again count o'er ere love be done!
But, woe is me, you are so sick of late,
So far from cheer and from your former state,
That I distrust you. Yet, though I distrust,
Discomfort you, my lord, it nothing must:
For women's fear and love holds quantity;
In neither aught, or in extremity.
Now, what my love is, proof hath made you know;
And as my love is sized, my fear is so:
Where love is great, the littlest doubts are fear;
Where little fears grow great, great love grows there.
Player King
'Faith, I must leave thee, love, and shortly too;
My operant powers their functions leave to do:
And thou shalt live in this fair world behind,
Honour'd, beloved; and haply one as kind
For husband shalt thou--
Player Queen
O, confound the rest!
Such love must needs be treason in my breast:
In second husband let me be accurst!
None wed the second but who kill'd the first.
HAMLET
[Aside] Wormwood, wormwood.
Player Queen
The instances that second marriage move
Are base respects of thrift, but none of love:
A second time I kill my husband dead,
When second husband kisses me in bed.
Player King
I do believe you think what now you speak;
But what we do determine oft we break.
Purpose is but the slave to memory,
Of violent birth, but poor validity;
Which now, like fruit unripe, sticks on the tree;
But fall, unshaken, when they mellow be.
Most necessary 'tis that we forget
To pay ourselves what to ourselves is debt:
What to ourselves in passion we propose,
The passion ending, doth the purpose lose.
The violence of either grief or joy
Their own enactures with themselves destroy:
Where joy most revels, grief doth most lament;
Grief joys, joy grieves, on slender accident.
This world is not for aye, nor 'tis not strange
That even our loves should with our fortunes change;
For 'tis a question left us yet to prove,
Whether love lead fortune, or else fortune love.
The great man down, you mark his favourite flies;
The poor advanced makes friends of enemies.
And hitherto doth love on fortune tend;
For who not needs shall never lack a friend,
And who in want a hollow friend doth try,
Directly seasons him his enemy.
But, orderly to end where I begun,
Our wills and fates do so contrary run
That our devices still are overthrown;
Our thoughts are ours, their ends none of our own:
So think thou wilt no second husband wed;
But die thy thoughts when thy first lord is dead.
Player Queen
Nor earth to me give food, nor heaven light!
Sport and repose lock from me day and night!
To desperation turn my trust and hope!
An anchor's cheer in prison be my scope!
Each opposite that blanks the face of joy
Meet what I would have well and it destroy!
Both here and hence pursue me lasting strife,
If, once a widow, ever I be wife!
HAMLET
If she should break it now!
Player King
'Tis deeply sworn. Sweet, leave me here awhile;
My spirits grow dull, and fain I would beguile
The tedious day with sleep.
Sleeps
Player Queen
Sleep rock thy brain,
And never come mischance between us twain!
Exit
HAMLET
Madam, how like you this play?
QUEEN GERTRUDE
The lady protests too much, methinks.
HAMLET
O, but she'll keep her word.
KING CLAUDIUS
Have you heard the argument? Is there no offence in 't?
HAMLET
No, no, they do but jest, poison in jest; no offence
i' the world.
KING CLAUDIUS
What do you call the play?
HAMLET
The Mouse-trap. Marry, how? Tropically. This play
is the image of a murder done in Vienna: Gonzago is
the duke's name; his wife, Baptista: you shall see
anon; 'tis a knavish piece of work: but what o'
that? your majesty and we that have free souls, it
touches us not: let the galled jade wince, our
withers are unwrung.
Enter LUCIANUS
This is one Lucianus, nephew to the king.
OPHELIA
You are as good as a chorus, my lord.
HAMLET
I could interpret between you and your love, if I
could see the puppets dallying.
OPHELIA
You are keen, my lord, you are keen.
HAMLET
It would cost you a groaning to take off my edge.
OPHELIA
Still better, and worse.
HAMLET
So you must take your husbands. Begin, murderer;
pox, leave thy damnable faces, and begin. Come:
'the croaking raven doth bellow for revenge.'
LUCIANUS
Thoughts black, hands apt, drugs fit, and time agreeing;
Confederate season, else no creature seeing;
Thou mixture rank, of midnight weeds collected,
With Hecate's ban thrice blasted, thrice infected,
Thy natural magic and dire property,
On wholesome life usurp immediately.
Pours the poison into the sleeper's ears
HAMLET
He poisons him i' the garden for's estate. His
name's Gonzago: the story is extant, and writ in
choice Italian: you shall see anon how the murderer
gets the love of Gonzago's wife.
OPHELIA
The king rises.
HAMLET
What, frighted with false fire!
QUEEN GERTRUDE
How fares my lord?
LORD POLONIUS
Give o'er the play.
KING CLAUDIUS
Give me some light: away!
All
Lights, lights, lights!
Exeunt all but HAMLET and HORATIO
HAMLET
Why, let the stricken deer go weep,
The hart ungalled play;
For some must watch, while some must sleep:
So runs the world away.
Would not this, sir, and a forest of feathers-- if
the rest of my fortunes turn Turk with me--with two
Provincial roses on my razed shoes, get me a
fellowship in a cry of players, sir?
HORATIO
Half a share.
HAMLET
A whole one, I.
For thou dost know, O Damon dear,
This realm dismantled was
Of Jove himself; and now reigns here
A very, very--pajock.
HORATIO
You might have rhymed.
HAMLET
O good Horatio, I'll take the ghost's word for a
thousand pound. Didst perceive?
HORATIO
Very well, my lord.
HAMLET
Upon the talk of the poisoning?
HORATIO
I did very well note him.
HAMLET
Ah, ha! Come, some music! come, the recorders!
For if the king like not the comedy,
Why then, belike, he likes it not, perdy.
Come, some music!
Re-enter ROSENCRANTZ and GUILDENSTERN
GUILDENSTERN
Good my lord, vouchsafe me a word with you.
HAMLET
Sir, a whole history.
GUILDENSTERN
The king, sir,--
HAMLET
Ay, sir, what of him?
GUILDENSTERN
Is in his retirement marvellous distempered.
HAMLET
With drink, sir?
GUILDENSTERN
No, my lord, rather with choler.
HAMLET
Your wisdom should show itself more richer to
signify this to his doctor; for, for me to put him
to his purgation would perhaps plunge him into far
more choler.
GUILDENSTERN
Good my lord, put your discourse into some frame and
start not so wildly from my affair.
HAMLET
I am tame, sir: pronounce.
GUILDENSTERN
The queen, your mother, in most great affliction of
spirit, hath sent me to you.
HAMLET
You are welcome.
GUILDENSTERN
Nay, good my lord, this courtesy is not of the right
breed. If it shall please you to make me a
wholesome answer, I will do your mother's
commandment: if not, your pardon and my return
shall be the end of my business.
HAMLET
Sir, I cannot.
GUILDENSTERN
What, my lord?
HAMLET
Make you a wholesome answer; my wit's diseased: but,
sir, such answer as I can make, you shall command;
or, rather, as you say, my mother: therefore no
more, but to the matter: my mother, you say,--
ROSENCRANTZ
Then thus she says; your behavior hath struck her
into amazement and admiration.
HAMLET
O wonderful son, that can so astonish a mother! But
is there no sequel at the heels of this mother's
admiration? Impart.
ROSENCRANTZ
She desires to speak with you in her closet, ere you
go to bed.
HAMLET
We shall obey, were she ten times our mother. Have
you any further trade with us?
ROSENCRANTZ
My lord, you once did love me.
HAMLET
So I do still, by these pickers and stealers.
ROSENCRANTZ
Good my lord, what is your cause of distemper? you
do, surely, bar the door upon your own liberty, if
you deny your griefs to your friend.
HAMLET
Sir, I lack advancement.
ROSENCRANTZ
How can that be, when you have the voice of the king
himself for your succession in Denmark?
HAMLET
Ay, but sir, 'While the grass grows,'--the proverb
is something musty.
Re-enter Players with recorders
O, the recorders! let me see one. To withdraw with
you:--why do you go about to recover the wind of me,
as if you would drive me into a toil?
GUILDENSTERN
O, my lord, if my duty be too bold, my love is too
unmannerly.
HAMLET
I do not well understand that. Will you play upon
this pipe?
GUILDENSTERN
My lord, I cannot.
HAMLET
I pray you.
GUILDENSTERN
Believe me, I cannot.
HAMLET
I do beseech you.
GUILDENSTERN
I know no touch of it, my lord.
HAMLET
'Tis as easy as lying: govern these ventages with
your lingers and thumb, give it breath with your
mouth, and it will discourse most eloquent music.
Look you, these are the stops.
GUILDENSTERN
But these cannot I command to any utterance of
harmony; I have not the skill.
HAMLET
Why, look you now, how unworthy a thing you make of
me! You would play upon me; you would seem to know
my stops; you would pluck out the heart of my
mystery; you would sound me from my lowest note to
the top of my compass: and there is much music,
excellent voice, in this little organ; yet cannot
you make it speak. 'Sblood, do you think I am
easier to be played on than a pipe? Call me what
instrument you will, though you can fret me, yet you
cannot play upon me.
Enter POLONIUS
God bless you, sir!
LORD POLONIUS
My lord, the queen would speak with you, and
presently.
HAMLET
Do you see yonder cloud that's almost in shape of a camel?
LORD POLONIUS
By the mass, and 'tis like a camel, indeed.
HAMLET
Methinks it is like a weasel.
LORD POLONIUS
It is backed like a weasel.
HAMLET
Or like a whale?
LORD POLONIUS
Very like a whale.
HAMLET
Then I will come to my mother by and by. They fool
me to the top of my bent. I will come by and by.
LORD POLONIUS
I will say so.
HAMLET
By and by is easily said.
Exit POLONIUS
Leave me, friends.
Exeunt all but HAMLET
Tis now the very witching time of night,
When churchyards yawn and hell itself breathes out
Contagion to this world: now could I drink hot blood,
And do such bitter business as the day
Would quake to look on. Soft! now to my mother.
O heart, lose not thy nature; let not ever
The soul of Nero enter this firm bosom:
Let me be cruel, not unnatural:
I will speak daggers to her, but use none;
My tongue and soul in this be hypocrites;
How in my words soever she be shent,
To give them seals never, my soul, consent!

Exit

Hamlet was preparing several of the players for the performance. He had presented the leading actor with his specially-written insert.
"Let the speech trip lightly off the tongue, the way I read it to you," Hamlet said to the player. "If you don't I might as well have the town-crier reciting it. Don't throw your hands around too much, either, but gesture gently. When your passion reaches tempest pitch, whirlwind-like, I want you to be smooth - the eye of the storm, so to speak. It annoys me to hear some ham destroy a passionate passage with squawks that play to the gallery, where they appreciate only mime and puppets. I would have such an actor horsewhipped for overdoing the thug's part. That kind of thing out-Herods Herod. Avoid that effect, please!"
"Yes, sir," said the player.
"But don't be too tame, either. Let discretion be your tutor. Ensure that action suits the word, and the word suits the action. But heed this: don't overact! Things like that only detract from the purpose of acting, which from its inception has been to hold a mirror to reality. To show the moral side of man, to scorn what deserves to be scorned and to illustrate faithfully the condition of man. Acting overdone, or indeed undercooked, may make the ignorant chuckle, but it makes the judicious theatregoer wince, and his verdict, I'm sure you'll agree, is more valid than a house full of gigglers. Oh, I've seen actors who could neither speak nor move their bodies in a way becoming to actors, yet they were praised to the heavens. They strutted and bellowed so incessantly that I thought man must be one of Nature's errors, so abominably did humanity appear."
"I hope control is among our acting skills, sir."
"Oh, control it all the way through. Ensure that your comedians only do what the script tells them to do. Some are inclined to laugh, simply to get simpletons in the audience laughing too, resulting in vital parts of the plot losing momentum. It's a cheap trick and it betrays pitiful ambition in the clown who uses it. Now, go and get ready."
The leading man and the other actors left but Polonius, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern joined Hamlet.
"Well, now, Polonius, will the King be attending tonight's performance?" Hamlet asked.
"And the Queen, too. They are on their way," Polonius replied.
"The actors must hurry. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, will you hurry the cast along?" Hamlet asked.
"Of course, my lord," said Rosencrantz.
Polonius went to wait for the King and Queen, while Rosencrantz and Guildenstern encouraged the actors.
"Horatio!" Hamlet yelled on seeing his friend.
"Here, my lord. At your service."
"Horatio, you are as well balanced and as fair a man as any I've known."
"Oh, my dear lord!"
"No, don't mistake this for flattery. What favours can I hope for from you, you have no assets other than your good spirits? Why court favour with the poor? Let the sweet talkers keep adjectives for the absurd and their pomp. Let them fall to their knees when fawning is profitable. Are you listening? As soon as I was able to distinguish between men, I marked you out. You've suffered so much, you'll suffer nothing. You accept Fortune's rewards and rebuffs with equal thanks. And blessed are those whose blood and judgement are so well balanced that they are not at the beck and call of Fortune. Give me a man who is not at the mercy of his passions and I'll take him to my heart, the very heart of my heart, as I do you. I'm embarrassing you! I've arranged for a play to be performed here before the King. One scene is similar to the circumstances of my father's death. When that scene is on-stage I ask you to watch my uncle with the fullest concentration of your soul. If his guilty secrets don't reveal themselves as he watches then I will know that the ghost we've seen is an instrument of the devil. Pay close attention to him. My eyes will be on him, too. Afterwards we will swap opinions on his behaviour."
"Agreed, my lord. If he manages to get away with anything when I've got my eye on him I'll take full responsibility."
A servant from the royal household came in to announce the approach of the King and the Queen.
"They're on their way for the performance. I must start my acting. Grab a seat, Horatio."
As soon as the King appeared he smiled smugly at Hamlet.
"How are you?" asked the King.
"Excellent, my lord. Like chameleons, I eat the fresh air, flavoured with promises. But you can't feed capons on that."
"Your answer, Hamlet, doesn't reflect my question."
"No, I don't understand my answer either. Polonius, didn't you tell me you were an amateur actor when you were a student?"
"Yes, I did, my lord, and they said I was very good."
"What did you play?"
"I played Julius Caesar. I was killed in the Capitol- Brutus killed me."
"It was brutal of him to kill so capital a clown there! Are the players ready?"
"Yes, my lord. They're just waiting for your signal," said Rosencrantz.
"Come here, my dear Hamlet," said the Queen, "and sit by me."
"No, good mother, I'm pulled by something yet more attractive," Hamlet said gazing at Ophelia, playing up to the royal suspicions.
"Did you see that?" Polonius whispered to the King.
Hamlet fell at Ophelia's feet. "Lady, shall I lie in your lap?"
"No, my lord."
"Do you think I mean something untoward?"
"I think nothing of the kind, my lord."
"That's a fair thought, to lie between maiden's legs."
"What is, my lord?"
"Nothing."
"You are merry my lord."
"Who, I?"
"Yes, my lord."
"Oh, God, quite the comedian! What should man do but be merry? Look how cheerful my mother looks, and my father is dead barely two months."
"No, it's four months, my lord."
"So long? Then let the devil wear hum-drum black and I'll get luxurious mourning clothes. Heavens, dead two months and not yet forgotten! Then there is hope that a great man's memory may live beyond him, some six months, say. But by Our Lady, he must build churches or, like the origins of games, he will be forgotten..."
Trumpeting announcing the commencement of the performance interrupted Hamlet's line of thought. The audience hushed instantly and the King signalled that the candles should be extinguished.
The room selected as the venue was large and spacious. The actors covered the floor with black and white chequerboard fabric. Screens illustrating gardens and the sky were used to add a sense of location and statues of classical heroes suggested a palatial residence. A huge candle illuminated the small performance area.
The performance began with a mime. A King and a Queen entered the stage and embraced lovingly. The Queen knelt, to express her devotion to the King. The King accepted her devotion and then lay down on a bed of flowers to sleep dreamily in her company. When the Queen saw that the King was sound asleep she kissed his forehead and left him alone. Almost immediately another man came on to the stage. He sat beside the sleeping King and carefully removed the monarch's crown. The man kissed the crown and then poured a vial of poison into the sleeping King's ear. The man left.
The screen was changed to show a sunset in the garden.
The Queen returned and found the King dead. The Queen grieved wildly. The Poisoner and several attendants rushed to the Queen's aid. They too grieved, assuming the King was a victim of some natural catastrophe. The corpse was carried away. Later the Poisoner wooed the Queen with gifts. For a while she resisted his flattery, but in the end she could resist no longer and accepted his love.
"What does this mean, my lord?" Ophelia asked Hamlet at the end of the mime.
"Miching mallecho, dirty work. It means mischief."
"I suppose this mime suggests the plot of the play."
The grieving court left the stage and the player cast as Prologue entered to say his piece.
"This fellow will tell us. The players like to tell everything," Hamlet whispered to Ophelia.
"Will he explain the mime?"
"Yes, and anything else you care to show him. If you are not ashamed to show, he won't be ashamed to tell you."
"You are naughty, very naughty. I'll pay attention."
The prologue reader stood in the midst of the room.
"For us, and for our tragedy, we stoop for your clemency, we beg your hearing patiently."
"Is this a prologue or something engraved on a ring?" asked Hamlet.
"It's brief, my lord," Ophelia said.
"As a woman's love."
The actors cast as the King and Queen in the mime reappeared. The King spoke first.
"A full thirty times the chariots of Apollo have circled Neptune's salty waves and the earth itself. And thirty dozen moons and their sheen have lit the skies twelve times thirty times since love filled our hearts and our hands were united with sacred bands."
The Queen spoke.
"And so many more journeys may the sun and moon make together before our love has tired of itself. But woe is me, you've been unwell lately. So far from your witty and happy normal self that I distrust you. Though I am distressed, please don't allow it to upset you. In a woman fear and love are inseparable. Either they are non-existent or excessive. What my love is, you have seen. My fears are as great as my love. When there is great love, little doubts lead to fears. Where little fears flourish, great love grows, too."
The King continued his speech.
"Faith, I must leave you love, and shortly too. My vital abilities are not what they were. You shall remain in this fair world, alone, but honoured and cherished by your subjects. With luck you will meet a man suitable to be your husband-"
The Queen was appalled at what she heard.
"-No, don't say another word! A love like that would be treason in my breast! Let any second husband be a curse to me. Only those who have killed the first marry the second."
"Ah, a bitter taste!" Hamlet whispered.
The Queen continued her speech: "The motive for a second marriage is always money, never love. A second time I would kill you again with every kiss from a second husband."
The King listened to his Queen, but persisted: "It is plain that you believe what you are saying, but on what we promise we often renege. Good intentions need a good memory. They are strong at birth but wither with time. Like unripe fruit they are firm on the tree but drop without any provocation when they are ready. It is inevitable that we forget to fulfil our promises, especially the ones we make to ourselves. A hot-head needs hot-blood, when the head cools so too does the passion. These extreme emotions interact and dilute each other. Grief and joy exchange places at even the slenderest quirk of fate. The world is not forever, there is nothing strange in our love changing as often as our luck. This is the question we must answer: Does love lead fortune, or fortune lead love? A great man in decline will be deserted by his friends but the poor man in advance will be befriended by his foes. Fortune does tend those who are not in need, they shall never lack friends. Those who need friends discover they only ever had enemies-in-waiting. But to get back to what I was saying, our will runs so contrary to fate's plans that our plans are invariably overthrown. Our thoughts are ours but their end is always out of our control. So you say no second husband will you wed, your promise will die when your first lord if dead."
The Queen continued to implore the King.
"May earth leave me hungry and may heaven leave me in the dark, may my days be restless, may my nights be sleepless! When I think of joy, give me the opposite, make what I have the source of my destruction. Both here and beyond pursue me with a lasting strife if, once a widow, I again become a wife."
"A promise she can't break," Hamlet whispered to himself.
The King considered what his Queen had said.
"That was deeply sworn. My love, leave my here alone for a while. My spirits are tired and I would like see off the tedium of the day with some rest."
The Queen stroked the King's hair.
"Sleep serenades your mind. And never can a mischance separate us."
The Queen left the stage and the King once more played the sleep scene of the mime.
"Madam, how do you like the play?" Hamlet asked the Queen.
"I think the lady is protesting too much."
"Oh, but she'll keep her word."
"Have you seen this play before?" the King asked Hamlet. "Is it offensive?'
"No, no, it's make believe. Even the poison. No offence at all"
"What's the play called?" the King asked.
"The Mousetrap. Catchy title! It is based on a real murder that took place in Vienna. Gonzago is the name of the victim, his wife is called Baptista. You'll see. It's controversial, but then why not? Your Majesty, and those of us who have untainted souls, can enjoy it. Let the guilty wince. We are not affected. Here comes the character Lucianus, he's the King's nephew."
"You are a good master of ceremonies, my lord," said Ophelia.
"I could comment on you and your lover's antics if you let me see the show."
"You are biting, my lord. You are biting."
"It would exhaust you trying to take the edge off me!"
"Sharper still. You are pandering to your baser instincts."
"Sounds like a marriage!"
Hamlet yelled to the actor playing Lucianus: "Begin, murderer. Forget about funny faces and get on with it."
The actor took his position on the stage and began to recite his lines: "Evil thoughts, violent hands, poison, the right time. The world is on my side, nothing is about. A rank mixture of poisonous weeds, with a witch's curse three times over. Your natural magic and deadly properties will supplant a good life."
Lucianus knelt beside the sleeping King and poured the potion into his ear.
"He poisons him in his garden so he can get his estate," Hamlet whispered to Ophelia. "The play is contemporary and written in very fine Italian. Now you shall see how the murderer woos Gonzago's wife."
"Look, King Claudius is on his feet," Ophelia said.
"What, frightened by false fire?" Hamlet said.
"How is my lord?" the Queen asked the King.
"Stop, at once!" Polonius shouted to the players.
"Give me some light!" the King bellowed. "Let's leave!"
"Lights, lights, lights!" Polonius shouted in a panic.
The audience and attendants frantically followed protocol as the royal guests left. The actors, fearing the recriminations of offending the King, had already fled the stage. Only Hamlet and Horatio were left. Hamlet was reminded of the lines he had written for the performance and began to speak them: "Why, let the stricken deer go weep; the heart, uninjured, play. For some must watch, while some can sleep, that is the way of the world. If my luck turns sour wouldn't those words get me a job on stage?"
"At least half a part!"
"A whole part! Listen, there’s more: By now you know, my country fellow, this kingdom has been deprived of Jove, and now its ruler is a peacock!"
"You should have rhymed!"
"Oh, good Horatio, I'll believe that ghost to the tune of a thousand ducats. Did you notice the King?"
"Clearly, my lord."
"During the poisonings?"
"I paid particular attention."
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern entered the chamber.
"Ah, ha. Come, some music! Bring on the flautists! For if the King doesn't like the comedy. Then he likes it, he likes it not, by God! Music! Music!"
Guildenstern approached Hamlet.
"Good my lord, may I have a word with you?"
"Sir, a whole history!"
"The King, sir -"
"Yes, sir, what about him?"
"He has withdrawn to his private quarters in quite a temper."
"Due to drink, sir?"
"No, my lord. Due to anger."
"Your wisdom would be more enriched if you conveyed this news to his doctor. Indeed, if it were up to me to administer treatment I would perhaps plunge him into a more serious condition."
"Good my lord, make your comments logical and relevant."
"I've tamed my tongue, sir. Chat away."
"The Queen, your mother, has in her distress sent me to you."
"You are welcome."
"Really, sir, this kind of mock-courtesy is inappropriate. If you would speak to me sensibly, I will do as your mother has asked. If not, with your pardon, I shall end my business here and return to her."
"Sir, I cannot."
"What, my lord?" Rosencrantz piped in.
"Speak to you sensibly. My brain is diseased. But sir, any answer I can give you is yours, or rather, is yours to give to my mother. But back to the answer. My mother, you say..."
"Her message is this: your behaviour has her amazed and dismayed," said Rosencrantz.
"What a wonderful son, to astonish his mother! Surely there is a sequel to this mother's astonishment. Do tell."
"She wishes to speak with you in her quarters before you go to bed". Rosencrantz said.
"I shall obey, even if she was ten times my mother. Have you any other errands here?"
"My lord, once you liked me," said Rosencrantz.
"And still do, by these hands!"
"Good my lord, what is the cause of your disturbance. You surely bar the door to any cure if you can't accept the assistance of your friends," said Rosencrantz.
"Sir, I can't fulfil my plans."
"How can that be, when the King has named you his successor to the throne of Denmark?" Rosencrantz asked.
"Yes, sir, but you know that stale old proverb, while the grass grows the horse goes hungry."
As Rosencrantz and Guildenstern were contemplating Hamlet's responses, the actors appeared with their flutes.
"Ah, the recorders. Let me see one."
Hamlet took a flute from one of the actors and then turned to Guildenstern and asked: "Privately, tell me why you are so keen to trap me?"
"Oh, my lord. If my duty makes me bold, remember that it is love that inspires me."
"I don't quite understand that."
Hamlet offered Guildenstern the recorder: "Will you play a tune?"
"My lord, I can't."
"Please?"
"Believe me, I can't."
"I beg you."
"I haven't the faintest idea of how to play it, sir."
"It's as easy as lying. Cover these holes with your fingers and thumb, blow through it with your mouth, and it will make eloquent music. Look, these are the stops."
"But I can't make the sounds into a harmony. I don't have the skill."
"Why, look how unworthy you make me feel! You jump at the chance to play me. You know where my stops are. You would like to get at my secrets. You sound me from lowest note to the highest. There's plenty of music in this little recorder but you cannot make it speak. You think I'm easier to play than a recorder. Call me what instrument you will, but you cannot play it. God bless you, sir."
Polonius entered, stiff and irate.
"My lord, the Queen would like to speak with you and speak with you now."
"Do you see that cloud, Polonius, yonder, it's almost shaped like a camel?"
"By heaven, it is indeed like a camel."
"I think it's like a weasel."
"It has the back of a weasel."
"Or like a whale."
"Very like a whale."
"Then I will go to my mother, soon. Soon, Polonius."
“They mock me beyond my games,” Hamlet said to himself.
"I will tell your mother," Polonius said as he left.
"Soon is easily said. Leave me friends."
Horatio, Rosencrantz, Guildenstern and the actors shuffled out.
"Now it is the witching hour, when graves open and hell itself blows its contagion into the world. Now I could drink hot blood and do such vile things that would make the day hesitate to dawn. But, now to my mother. Heart, don't lose your nature. Keep the mother-killing instinct out. Let me be cruel, but not unnatural. I will speak daggers to her, but I will use none. Let my tongue be more vicious than my soul. However wildly my words rebuke her I will not harm her."