The Queen's closet.
Enter QUEEN GERTRUDE and POLONIUS
He will come straight. Look you lay home to him:
Tell him his pranks have been too broad to bear with,
And that your grace hath screen'd and stood between
Much heat and him. I'll sconce me even here.
Pray you, be round with him.
[Within] Mother, mother, mother!
I'll warrant you,
Fear me not: withdraw, I hear him coming.
POLONIUS hides behind the arras
Now, mother, what's the matter?
Hamlet, thou hast thy father much offended.
Mother, you have my father much offended.
Come, come, you answer with an idle tongue.
Go, go, you question with a wicked tongue.
Why, how now, Hamlet!
What's the matter now?
Have you forgot me?
No, by the rood, not so:
You are the queen, your husband's brother's wife;
And--would it were not so!--you are my mother.
Nay, then, I'll set those to you that can speak.
Come, come, and sit you down; you shall not budge;
You go not till I set you up a glass
Where you may see the inmost part of you.
What wilt thou do? thou wilt not murder me?
Help, help, ho!
[Behind] What, ho! help, help, help!
[Drawing] How now! a rat? Dead, for a ducat, dead!
Makes a pass through the arras
[Behind] O, I am slain!
Falls and dies
O me, what hast thou done?
Nay, I know not:
Is it the king?
O, what a rash and bloody deed is this!
A bloody deed! almost as bad, good mother,
As kill a king, and marry with his brother.
As kill a king!
Ay, lady, 'twas my word.
Lifts up the array and discovers POLONIUS
Thou wretched, rash, intruding fool, farewell!
I took thee for thy better: take thy fortune;
Thou find'st to be too busy is some danger.
Leave wringing of your hands: peace! sit you down,
And let me wring your heart; for so I shall,
If it be made of penetrable stuff,
If damned custom have not brass'd it so
That it is proof and bulwark against sense.
What have I done, that thou darest wag thy tongue
In noise so rude against me?
Such an act
That blurs the grace and blush of modesty,
Calls virtue hypocrite, takes off the rose
From the fair forehead of an innocent love
And sets a blister there, makes marriage-vows
As false as dicers' oaths: O, such a deed
As from the body of contraction plucks
The very soul, and sweet religion makes
A rhapsody of words: heaven's face doth glow:
Yea, this solidity and compound mass,
With tristful visage, as against the doom,
Is thought-sick at the act.
Ay me, what act,
That roars so loud, and thunders in the index?
Look here, upon this picture, and on this,
The counterfeit presentment of two brothers.
See, what a grace was seated on this brow;
Hyperion's curls; the front of Jove himself;
An eye like Mars, to threaten and command;
A station like the herald Mercury
New-lighted on a heaven-kissing hill;
A combination and a form indeed,
Where every god did seem to set his seal,
To give the world assurance of a man:
This was your husband. Look you now, what follows:
Here is your husband; like a mildew'd ear,
Blasting his wholesome brother. Have you eyes?
Could you on this fair mountain leave to feed,
And batten on this moor? Ha! have you eyes?
You cannot call it love; for at your age
The hey-day in the blood is tame, it's humble,
And waits upon the judgment: and what judgment
Would step from this to this? Sense, sure, you have,
Else could you not have motion; but sure, that sense
Is apoplex'd; for madness would not err,
Nor sense to ecstasy was ne'er so thrall'd
But it reserved some quantity of choice,
To serve in such a difference. What devil was't
That thus hath cozen'd you at hoodman-blind?
Eyes without feeling, feeling without sight,
Ears without hands or eyes, smelling sans all,
Or but a sickly part of one true sense
Could not so mope.
O shame! where is thy blush? Rebellious hell,
If thou canst mutine in a matron's bones,
To flaming youth let virtue be as wax,
And melt in her own fire: proclaim no shame
When the compulsive ardour gives the charge,
Since frost itself as actively doth burn
And reason panders will.
O Hamlet, speak no more:
Thou turn'st mine eyes into my very soul;
And there I see such black and grained spots
As will not leave their tinct.
Nay, but to live
In the rank sweat of an enseamed bed,
Stew'd in corruption, honeying and making love
Over the nasty sty,--
O, speak to me no more;
These words, like daggers, enter in mine ears;
No more, sweet Hamlet!
A murderer and a villain;
A slave that is not twentieth part the tithe
Of your precedent lord; a vice of kings;
A cutpurse of the empire and the rule,
That from a shelf the precious diadem stole,
And put it in his pocket!
A king of shreds and patches,--
Save me, and hover o'er me with your wings,
You heavenly guards! What would your gracious figure?
Alas, he's mad!
Do you not come your tardy son to chide,
That, lapsed in time and passion, lets go by
The important acting of your dread command? O, say!
Do not forget: this visitation
Is but to whet thy almost blunted purpose.
But, look, amazement on thy mother sits:
O, step between her and her fighting soul:
Conceit in weakest bodies strongest works:
Speak to her, Hamlet.
How is it with you, lady?
Alas, how is't with you,
That you do bend your eye on vacancy
And with the incorporal air do hold discourse?
Forth at your eyes your spirits wildly peep;
And, as the sleeping soldiers in the alarm,
Your bedded hair, like life in excrements,
Starts up, and stands on end. O gentle son,
Upon the heat and flame of thy distemper
Sprinkle cool patience. Whereon do you look?
On him, on him! Look you, how pale he glares!
His form and cause conjoin'd, preaching to stones,
Would make them capable. Do not look upon me;
Lest with this piteous action you convert
My stern effects: then what I have to do
Will want true colour; tears perchance for blood.
To whom do you speak this?
Do you see nothing there?
Nothing at all; yet all that is I see.
Nor did you nothing hear?
No, nothing but ourselves.
Why, look you there! look, how it steals away!
My father, in his habit as he lived!
Look, where he goes, even now, out at the portal!
This the very coinage of your brain:
This bodiless creation ecstasy
Is very cunning in.
My pulse, as yours, doth temperately keep time,
And makes as healthful music: it is not madness
That I have utter'd: bring me to the test,
And I the matter will re-word; which madness
Would gambol from. Mother, for love of grace,
Lay not that mattering unction to your soul,
That not your trespass, but my madness speaks:
It will but skin and film the ulcerous place,
Whilst rank corruption, mining all within,
Infects unseen. Confess yourself to heaven;
Repent what's past; avoid what is to come;
And do not spread the compost on the weeds,
To make them ranker. Forgive me this my virtue;
For in the fatness of these pursy times
Virtue itself of vice must pardon beg,
Yea, curb and woo for leave to do him good.
O Hamlet, thou hast cleft my heart in twain.
O, throw away the worser part of it,
And live the purer with the other half.
Good night: but go not to mine uncle's bed;
Assume a virtue, if you have it not.
That monster, custom, who all sense doth eat,
Of habits devil, is angel yet in this,
That to the use of actions fair and good
He likewise gives a frock or livery,
That aptly is put on. Refrain to-night,
And that shall lend a kind of easiness
To the next abstinence: the next more easy;
For use almost can change the stamp of nature,
And either [ ] the devil, or throw him out
With wondrous potency. Once more, good night:
And when you are desirous to be bless'd,
I'll blessing beg of you. For this same lord,
Pointing to POLONIUS
I do repent: but heaven hath pleased it so,
To punish me with this and this with me,
That I must be their scourge and minister.
I will bestow him, and will answer well
The death I gave him. So, again, good night.
I must be cruel, only to be kind:
Thus bad begins and worse remains behind.
One word more, good lady.
What shall I do?
Not this, by no means, that I bid you do:
Let the bloat king tempt you again to bed;
Pinch wanton on your cheek; call you his mouse;
And let him, for a pair of reechy kisses,
Or paddling in your neck with his damn'd fingers,
Make you to ravel all this matter out,
That I essentially am not in madness,
But mad in craft. 'Twere good you let him know;
For who, that's but a queen, fair, sober, wise,
Would from a paddock, from a bat, a gib,
Such dear concernings hide? who would do so?
No, in despite of sense and secrecy,
Unpeg the basket on the house's top.
Let the birds fly, and, like the famous ape,
To try conclusions, in the basket creep,
And break your own neck down.
Be thou assured, if words be made of breath,
And breath of life, I have no life to breathe
What thou hast said to me.
I must to England; you know that?
I had forgot: 'tis so concluded on.
There's letters seal'd: and my two schoolfellows,
Whom I will trust as I will adders fang'd,
They bear the mandate; they must sweep my way,
And marshal me to knavery. Let it work;
For 'tis the sport to have the engineer
Hoist with his own petard: and 't shall go hard
But I will delve one yard below their mines,
And blow them at the moon: O, 'tis most sweet,
When in one line two crafts directly meet.
This man shall set me packing:
I'll lug the guts into the neighbour room.
Mother, good night. Indeed this counsellor
Is now most still, most secret and most grave,
Who was in life a foolish prating knave.
Come, sir, to draw toward an end with you.
Good night, mother.
Exeunt severally; HAMLET dragging in POLONIUS
Polonius had gone to Queen Gertrude as soon as he had the King's agreement that he should hide in her chambers during her discussion with Hamlet. They were expecting Hamlet but they did not know he had been spying on the King.
"He will be coming shortly," Polonius told the Queen. "Now you must lay down the law to him. Tell him his pranks have become too insolent to be tolerated, and that you have protected him in the face of heated criticism. I will hide in silence. Give it to him forcefully."
"Trust me, have no doubt that I will."
"Mother, mother, mother!" Hamlet was yelling in the corridor.
"Hide! He's coming."
Hamlet sauntered in.
"Now, mother, what's the matter?"
"Hamlet, you have deeply offended your father."
"Mother, you have deeply offended my father."
"Come, come, you answer me mischievously."
"Go, go, you answer me wickedly."
"What's wrong now?"
"Do you forget who I am?'
"No, by the cross, no! You are the Queen. Your husband's brother's wife. And- who can change it? - you are my mother."
"Right! I will send people who can speak to you."
The Queen was furious. She headed for the door. But Hamlet leapt in front of her to prevent her from leaving.
"Come, come, you shall sit down again. You are not going anywhere. You will stay here until I get a mirror that will allow you to gaze into your own soul."
Hamlet pushed the Queen back into a chair. She began to panic.
"What are you going to do to me? Are you going to murder me? Help! Help!"
Polonius was panicking too, but he was tangled behind the weighty curtains.
"What's happening? Help! Oh, help!" Polonius yelled.
"What now?" Hamlet asked, pointing his sword into the curtain. "Just, a rat, I bet. I'll kill it."
Hamlet plunged his sword into the confused form panicking in the folds of the curtain. The voice became muffled and the shape fell to the floor.
Gertrude screamed. But Hamlet, for all his sensitivity, was curiously indifferent.
"Oh, goodness, what have you done?"
"I don't know. Is it the King?"
Hamlet lifted the curtain and saw the bloody corpse of Polonius.
"Oh, what rash and violent behaviour!" Gertrude yelled.
The Queen turned away.
"Violent, indeed. Almost as bad as killing a king and marrying his brother."
"Killing a king?"
"Yes, lady. You know! Polonius, you wretched, rash, nosey fool, I thought you were the King. Take your lot! You've found that being a busybody is a dangerous game."
As Hamlet spoke these words his fury at the corpse was uncontained. He then turned back to his mother: "Stop wringing your hands and just sit down quietly. Let me wring your heart! For so I shall if it responds at all to human feeling, so brazenly does it defend itself against compassion."
"What have I done, that you dare to subject me to this verbal abuse?"
"Things that obscure grace and modesty, that deflower innocence, that make marriage vows as fleeting as a gambler's oath. Things that turn the sacrament of marriage into a side-show! Even the face of heaven blushes at your behaviour, which befits only doomsday."
"Me? What have I done that is so monstrous?"
"Look here at this picture."
Hamlet pulled a necklace from under his tunic and showed the Queen a miniature painting of the late King Hamlet.
"And look at this!"
He pulled a similar necklace from the Queen which had a portrait of King Claudius.
"Portraits of two brothers. Look at mine. See that grace that began at his forehead, the curls of the sun-god Hyperion, the forehead of Jove, a military man's eye like Mars, the god of war, the posture of Mercury. Contributions from all the gods, stamped and sealed to form the epitome of man. That was your husband. But look what happened. Here is your husband."
Hamlet clutched the Queen's necklace aggressively.
"Bacteria, infecting his pure brother. Have you eyes? Could you desert a beautiful mountain for a swamp? Well, do you have eyes? You cannot call it passion! At your age, the blood is tame, it is answerable only to your judgement. What sort of woman would lose this brother and crave the other? What devil roped you into playing blind man's bluff? Sight without touch, touch without sight, hearing with neither touch nor sight, smell alone: even with a modicum of these skills, you should have known what you were doing. Where are your blushes? If musty rebellions flourish in the bones of a matron, then hot-blooded youth will burst into flames! Don't scold the young, when their elders are up to all kind of tricks."
"Oh, Hamlet. Don't say another word. You make me look inward and I can see the stains of guilt."
"No, you live in the rank odour of a greasy bed, seething with corruption, making love in that sty of a bed!"
"Oh, no! Stop it! Your words are like daggers in my ears. No more, sweet Hamlet!"
"A murderer and a villain. A lowlife now worth a fraction of your late husband. A vice among kings, a usurper who stole the crown from a shelf and slipped it into his pocket-"
"-A rag tag King."
Hamlet froze, but not because he was obeying his mother. The ghost of his father had reappeared, wearing a night-shirt.
"Angels save me and hover over me. What does you gracious figure wish me to do?"
The Queen stopped sobbing and looked up at her son, dismayed at his behaviour. Unlike the guards on the ramparts, she could not see the ghost.
"Alas, he's mad!"
"Have you come to chastise your son, who has not yet followed your dreadful command, and has squandered chances? Speak to me."
The Ghost moved closer to Hamlet.
"Do not forget,” the ghost of King Hamlet said. “This visit is to stiffen your resolve. But look, your mother is astounded. Assist her in controlling herself. Morbid thoughts thrive in weak bodies. Speak to her, Hamlet."
"How are you, madam?"
The Queen pressed herself against the wall in terror, as if looking into a void.
"Alas, how are you? What makes you stare and converse with air? Your eyes peer, like a wild spirit. Like a soldier caught dozing through an alert, your hair stands on end. Oh, gentle son, try to pull these impulses under control. What are you looking at?"
"At him, at him! Look at his pale glare. Stones would move at a glimpse of his agony!"
Hamlet turned back to the ghost.
"Don't look at me, your awful state will make my stern goals be done out of sympathy rather than vengeance."
"To whom are you speaking?" the Queen asked.
"Can you not see?"
"Nothing. Everything that is there I can see."
"Did you not hear?"
"I heard us."
"Why, look there! Look how he slips away! My father, dressed in the night-clothes that were his favourites. Look, he's going through the door!"
The ghost had left.
"That was all a figment of your imagination. Lunacy is very adept at creating such illusions."
"Lunacy? My pulse is as healthy as yours. I'm not talking rubbish. Put me to the test and I shall repeat it, something the mad won’t do. Mother, for the love of god, don't soothe your soul, by pretending your sins are actually my madness. That will cover the ulcer, but the poison will fester inwards, unseen, burrowing all the way to the soul. Confess, repent and avoid your fate. Don't aggravate your sins by committing more. Forgive this advice. But in these selfish times even virtue must pardon itself when it meets vice. Indeed, it has to beg and plead to offer a helping hand."
"Oh, Hamlet, you have split my heart in two!"
"Then discard the infected part and live purely with the half that's left. Goodnight. But don't go to my uncle's bed. Assume virtue, even if you are not virtuous. That monster, custom, which eats one's sense of evil, is an angel in this respect: it can eventually make a habit of good deeds. Restrain yourself from that bed tonight and tomorrow's abstinence will seem so much easier, and so on. Once again, goodnight. When you beg a blessing for yourself, I'll beg a blessing from you. As for Polonius, I'm sorry. But heaven choose to punish me, and through me him. I must be heaven's scourge and minister. I will have him buried and offer prayers. So again, good night. I must be cruel to be kind. The beginning is bad, worse awaits us. One word more, good lady."
"Do not, under any circumstances, do any of the following: don't let the fat pig tempt you into his bed; pinch your cheeks; call you his mouse; let him in for a couple of kisses; or touch your neck; or allow him to unravel my plans. Essentially, I am not mad but mad in motive. If you were good you would let him know but only a queen -fair, sober, wise- could withhold such information from a frog, a bat, a cat? Who could do such a thing? No, despite sense and secrecy, let the cat out of the bag and leap about until you break your neck."
"Be assured if words are made of breath, and breath is vital for life, I don't have enough life in me to repeat what you've said."
"I must go to England. Did you know?"
"Alas, I had forgotten. I believe that's final."
"The orders have been written, and my two school friends, whom I trust as one would trust snakes, will escort me. Polonius' corpse will ensure my departure is hasty. I'll drag the body into the next room. Mother goodnight, again. Polonius is now still, secret and grave. In life he was a prattling fool. Come sir, my business with you is coming to a close. Goodnight, mother."
Hamlet dragged the corpse of Polonius out of the room while Gertrude stood shaking.
The Ghost had gone, returned to Purgatory. The Ghost had wanted to protect Gertrude even if she had married a murderer. The Ghost also knew what Hamlet never grasped. Despite idolising his father, in almost every aspect of character Hamlet was his mother's son.