Hamlet: Act 2, Scene 2

           Flourish. Enter KING and QUEEN,
          [and Attendants.]
  1   Welcome, dear Rosencrantz and Guildenstern!
2. Moreover that: besides the fact that.
  2   Moreover that we much did long to see you,
3. use: employ.
  3   The need we have to use you did provoke
4. hasty sending: sudden summons.
  4   Our hasty sending. Something have you heard
  5   Of Hamlet's transformation; so call it,
6. Sith: Since.
  6   Sith nor the exterior nor the inward man
  7   Resembles that it was. What it should be,
  8   More than his father's death, that thus hath put him
  9   So much from th' understanding of himself,
 10   I cannot dream of. I entreat you both,
11. of so young days: from early youth.
 11   That, being of so young days brought up with him,
12. sith so neighbor'd to his youth and havior: since you are so close to him in age and manners. 13. vouchsafe your rest: be pleased to stay. 14-15. so  . . .  pleasures: i.e., so that by your companionship [with him] you can lead him to some amusements. 16. So  . . .  glean: so much as you can pick up at any opportune moment. ...more 17. aught: anything. 18. open'd: revealed.
 12   And sith so neighbor'd to his youth and havior,
 13   That you vouchsafe your rest here in our court
 14   Some little time, so by your companies
 15   To draw him on to pleasures, and to gather,
 16   So much as from occasion you may glean,
 17   Whether aught, to us unknown, afflicts him thus,
 18   That, open'd, lies within our remedy.

 19   Good gentlemen, he hath much talk'd of you;
 20   And sure I am two men there are not living
21. more adheres: is more attached.
 21   To whom he more adheres. If it will please you
22. gentry: courtesy.
 22   To show us so much gentry and good will
 23   As to expend your time with us awhile,
24. For  . . .  hope: in order to support and bring to a successful outcome what I hope to accomplish [i.e., curing Hamlet of his ills]. 25-26. Your  . . .   remembrance: The king is promising a rich reward to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.
 24   For the supply and profit of our hope,
 25   Your visitation shall receive such thanks
 26   As fits a king's remembrance.

26-29.  Both  . . .  entreaty: i.e., because you are our king and queen, you could command us to do whatever you want, rather than ask us.
 26                                                Both your majesties
 27   Might, by the sovereign power you have of us,
 28   Put your dread pleasures more into command
 29   Than to entreaty.

 29                                But we both obey,
30. in the full bent: most willingly, and to our utmost capacity.
 30   And here give up ourselves, in the full bent
 31   To lay our service freely at your feet,
 32   To be commanded.

 33   Thanks, Rosencrantz and gentle Guildenstern.

 34   Thanks, Guildenstern and gentle Rosencrantz:
 35   And I beseech you instantly to visit
 36   My too much changed son. Go, some of you,
 37   And bring these gentlemen where Hamlet is.

38. our presence and our practises: our company and our efforts [to help Hamlet].
 38   Heavens make our presence and our practises
 39   Pleasant and helpful to him!

 39                                              Ay, amen!

           Exeunt ROSENCRANTZ
           and GUILDENSTERN,
           [and Attendants.]

           Enter POLONIUS.

 40   Th' ambassadors from Norway, my good lord,
 41   Are joyfully return'd.

42. still: always.

43. liege: sovereign.
 42   Thou still hast been the father of good news.

 43   Have I, my lord? I assure my good liege,
 44   I hold my duty, as I hold my soul,
 45   Both to my God and to my gracious king:
 46   And I do think, or else this brain of mine
47. Hunts not the trail of policy: i.e., doesn't smell out the trail of statecraft.
 47   Hunts not the trail of policy so sure
 48   As it hath used to do, that I have found
 49   The very cause of Hamlet's lunacy.

 50   O, speak of that; that do I long to hear.

 51   Give first admittance to the ambassadors;
52. fruit: dessert.
 52   My news shall be the fruit to that great feast.

 53   Thyself do grace to them, and bring them in.

           Exit POLONIUS.

 54   He tells me, my dear Gertrude, he hath found
55. head: i.e., primary cause.  distemper: [mental] illness.

56. doubt: suspect.  main: i.e., main cause.
 55   The head and source of all your son's distemper.

 56   I doubt it is no other but the main;
 57   His father's death, and our o'erhasty marriage.

58. sift him: i.e., thoroughly investigate the cause of his problem.
 58   Well, we shall sift him.

           Enter Ambassadors [VOLTEMAND
           and CORNELIUS, with POLONIUS].

 58                                          Welcome, my good friends!
59. our brother Norway: i.e., my fellow-king of Norway. However, the King of Norway may be a blood relation ...more
 59   Say, Voltemand, what from our brother Norway?

60. Most  . . .  desires: i.e., a very gracious reply to your greeting, and to what you requested. 61. Upon our first: i.e., as soon as we mentioned it ...more 62. His nephew's levies: i.e., Fortinbras' raising of a military force. 63. the Polack: the Poles; the Polish nation. ...more
 60   Most fair return of greetings and desires.
 61   Upon our first, he sent out to suppress
 62   His nephew's levies; which to him appear'd
 63   To be a preparation 'gainst the Polack;
 64   But, better look'd into, he truly found
65. griev'd: aggrieved, offended.
 65   It was against your highness: whereat grieved,
66. impotence: weakness.
 66   That so his sickness, age and impotence
67. falsely borne in hand: deceptively taken advantage of.  sends out arrests: issues cease and desist orders.
 67   Was falsely borne in hand, sends out arrests
 68   On Fortinbras; which he, in brief, obeys;
69. in fine: in the end.
 69   Receives rebuke from Norway, and in fine
 70   Makes vow before his uncle never more
71. give the assay of arms: i.e., attempt an armed action.
 71   To give the assay of arms against your majesty.
 72   Whereon old Norway, overcome with joy,
73. in annual fee: i.e., promised as an annual payment.
 73   Gives him three thousand crowns in annual fee,
74. commission: official permission.
 74   And his commission to employ those soldiers,
 75   So levied as before, against the Polack:
76. herein further shown: i.e., with the details spelled out in this document.
 76   With an entreaty, herein further shown,

           [Giving a paper.]

77. give quiet pass: i.e., give permission to travel without any trouble.
 77   That it might please you to give quiet pass
 78   Through your dominions for this enterprise,
79-80. On such regards of safety and allowance / As therein are set down: with such safeguards and provisos as are written down [in the diplomatic document from the King of Norway].
 79   On such regards of safety and allowance
 80   As therein are set down.

80. likes: pleases.
 80                                       It likes us well;
81. at our more consider'd time: i.e., at a time when I can consider [the matter] more carefully.
 81   And at our more consider'd time we'll read,
 82   Answer, and think upon this business.
 83   Meantime we thank you for your well-took labor.
 84   Go to your rest; at night we'll feast together.
 85   Most welcome home!

           Exeunt Ambassadors [VOLTEMAND
           and CORNELIUS].

 85                                    This business is well ended.
86. expostulate: expound upon.
 86   My liege, and madam, to expostulate
 87   What majesty should be, what duty is,
 88   Why day is day, night night, and time is time,
 89   Were nothing but to waste night, day and time.
90. wit: sound sense, eloquence.
 90   Therefore, since brevity is the soul of wit,
 91   And tediousness the limbs and outward flourishes,
 92   I will be brief. Your noble son is mad.
 93   Mad call I it; for, to define true madness,
 94   What is't but to be nothing else but mad?
 95   But let that go.

95. matter: substance.  art i.e., rhetorical art; empty flourishes.
 95                                 More matter, with less art.

 96   Madam, I swear I use no art at all.
 97   That he is mad, 'tis true: 'tis true 'tis pity;
98. figure: figure of speech. The figure of speech which Polonius uses throughout this speech (even after he has promised to use "no art") is antanaclasis, the use of the same word in different senses.
 98   And pity 'tis 'tis true: a foolish figure;
 99   But farewell it, for I will use no art.
100   Mad let us grant him, then: and now remains
101   That we find out the cause of this effect,
102   Or rather say, the cause of this defect,
103. For  . . .  cause: Polonius uses a lot of words to say that Hamlet's madness must have a cause. 104. Thus  . . .  thus: i.e., it remains ...more 105. Perpend: Consider.
103   For this effect defective comes by cause:
104   Thus it remains, and the remainder thus.
105   Perpend.
106   I have a daughter—have while she is mine—
107   Who, in her duty and obedience, mark,
108   Hath given me this. Now gather, and surmise.


109   "To the celestial and my soul's idol, the most
110. beautified: adorned with many beauties. "Beautify" was a fairly common word, and I don't know just why Polonius objects to it.
110   beautified Ophelia,"—
111   That's an ill phrase, a vile phrase; "beautified" is
112   a vile phrase: but you shall hear. Thus:


113   "In her excellent white bosom, these, etc."

114   Came this from Hamlet to her?

115   Good madam, stay awhile; I will be faithful.

           [Reads the] letter.

116        "Doubt thou the stars are fire;
117. the sun doth move:
117         Doubt that the sun doth move;
118. Doubt: In this instance, "doubt" is used in the sense of "suspect."
118         Doubt truth to be a liar;
119         But never doubt I love.
120. ill at these numbers: bad at versifying. ...more
120   O dear Ophelia, I am ill at these numbers;
121. reckon: (1) count; (2) number metrically, as when writing verse.  The "groans" to which Hamlet refers are expressions of the pain which the stereotypical love-lorn man was supposed to experience. 124. whilst this machine is to him: while his body belongs to him; i.e., my whole life.
121   I have not art to reckon my groans: but that
122   I love thee best, O most best, believe it. Adieu.
123      Thine evermore most dear lady,
124        whilst this machine is to him, Hamlet."
125   This, in obedience, hath my daughter shown me,
126. And more above, hath his solicitings, / As they fell out by time, by means and place, / All given to mine ear: i.e., and furthermore, Ophelia has told me all about Hamlet's pleas for her love—when they happened, how they were delivered, and in what place they happened.
126   And more above, hath his solicitings,
127   As they fell out by time, by means and place,
128   All given to mine ear.

128                                       But how hath she
129   Received his love?

129                                 What do you think of me?

130   As of a man faithful and honorable.

131. fain: willingly, gladly.
131   I would fain prove so. But what might you think,
132   When I had seen this hot love on the wing—
133   As I perceived it, I must tell you that,
134   Before my daughter told me—what might you,
135   Or my dear majesty your queen here, think,
136. play'd the desk or table-book: acted the part of a desk or notebook; ...more 137. winking: closing of the eyes.  mute and dumb: The two words mean ...more 138. with idle sight: i.e., without understanding or action. 139. round: straightforwardly. 140. bespeak: address.
136   If I had play'd the desk or table-book,
137   Or given my heart a winking, mute and dumb,
138   Or look'd upon this love with idle sight;
139   What might you think? No, I went round to work,
140   And my young mistress thus I did bespeak:
141. out of thy star: above your sphere; i.e., above your lot in life.
141   "Lord Hamlet is a prince, out of thy star;
142   This must not be." And then I precepts gave her,
143. his resort: visits from him.
143   That she should lock herself from his resort,
144. tokens: love tokens; keepsakes.
144   Admit no messengers, receive no tokens.
145. took the fruits of my advice: profited by my advice; i.e., followed my advice. 146. a short tale to make: to tell the story shortly. 147. fast: refusal to eat.
145   Which done, she took the fruits of my advice;
146   And he, repelled—a short tale to make—
147   Fell into a sadness, then into a fast,
148. watch: sleeplessness.
148   Thence to a watch, thence into a weakness,
149. lightness: lightheadedness.  declension: decline, deterioration.
149   Thence to a lightness, and, by this declension,
150   Into the madness wherein now he raves,
151   And all we mourn for.

152   Do you think 'tis this?

152                                       It may be, very likely.

153. fain: gladly.
153   Hath there been such a time—I'd fain know that—
154   That I have positively said "'Tis so,"
155   When it proved otherwise?

155                                        Not that I know.

      POLONIUS [Pointing to his head and shoulder.]
156   Take this from this, if this be otherwise:
157. circumstances: circumstantial evidence.
157   If circumstances lead me, I will find
158   Where truth is hid, though it were hid indeed
159. center: center of the earth; i.e., the most hidden place.
159   Within the center.

159. try it: test it [i.e., Polonius' theory about Hamlet's madness].
159                                How may we try it further?

160   You know, sometimes he walks four hours together
161   Here in the lobby.

161                                  So he does indeed.

162   At such a time I'll loose my daughter to him:
163. arras: hanging tapestry.
163   Be you and I behind an arras then;
164   Mark the encounter. If he love her not
165. thereon: because of that.
165   And be not from his reason fall'n thereon,
166. Let  . . .  carters: i.e., let me not be an important counselor in matters of state, but run a farm and employ common laborers.
166   Let me be no assistant for a state,
167   But keep a farm and carters.

167. try it: test it. King Claudius is agreeing to Polonius' plan to hide behind an arras and observe an encounter between Hamlet and Ophelia.
167                                            We will try it.

           Enter HAMLET, [reading a book].

168   But, look, where sadly the poor wretch comes reading.

169   Away, I do beseech you, both away:
170. board: accost. presently: at once.
170   I'll board him presently.

           Exeunt King and Queen.

170                                        O, give me leave.
171   How does my good Lord Hamlet?

172. God-a-mercy: i.e., thank you.
172   Well, God-a-mercy.

173   Do you know me, my lord?

174. fishmonger: seller of fish. Editors often explain this as slang for a pimp, but there is no evidence for that meaning in Shakespeare's day.
174   Excellent well; you are a fishmonger.

175   Not I, my lord.

176   Then I would you were so honest a man.

177   Honest, my lord!

178   Ay, sir; to be honest, as this world goes, is to be
179   one man picked out of ten thousand.

180   That's very true, my lord.

181   For if the sun breed maggots in a dead dog, being a
182. good kissing carrion: flesh good enough for the sun to kiss.
182   good kissing carrion—Have you a daughter?

183   I have, my lord.

184. Conception: (1) understanding; (2) conceiving a child. Hamlet is mocking both Polonius' lack of understanding and his over-protective attitude towards Ophelia.
184   Let her not walk i' th' sun. Conception is a
185   blessing: but not as your daughter may conceive.
186   Friend, look to 't.

      POLONIUS [Aside.]
187    How say you by that? Still harping on my daughter:
188   yet he knew me not at first; 'a said I was a fishmonger.
189   'A is far gone, far gone: and truly in my youth I
190   suffered much extremity for love—very near this. I'll
191   speak to him again.—What do you read, my lord?

192   Words, words, words.

193. What is the matter, my lord?: Polonius asks about the subject matter of Hamlet's book, but Hamlet deliberately takes the word "matter" to mean "cause for a quarrel."
193   What is the matter, my lord?

194   Between who?

195   I mean, the matter that you read, my lord.

196   Slanders, sir: for the satirical rogue says here
197   that old men have grey beards, that their faces are
198. purging: discharging.
198   wrinkled, their eyes purging thick amber and
199   plum-tree gum, and that they have a plentiful lack of
200   wit, together with most weak hams: all which, sir,
201   though I most powerfully and potently believe, yet
202. honesty: decency, a fitting thing.
202   I hold it not honesty to have it thus set down, for
203   yourself, sir, should be old as I am, if like a crab
204   you could go backward.

      POLONIUS [Aside.]
205. method: sense; a connection among the ideas; sequence of ideas. 206. Will you walk out of the air, my lord?: Polonius is inviting Hamlet to come inside, because fresh air was thought to be bad for an invalid, such as Hamlet, who is (in Polonius' opinion) mad. Shakespeare has apparently forgotten that the scene started inside, in the "lobby."
205   Though this be madness, yet there is method
206   in 't. Will you walk out of the air, my lord?

207   Into my grave.

      POLONIUS [Aside.]
208   Indeed, that is out o' the air.
209. pregnant: full of meaning.  happiness: a lucky expressiveness.
209   How pregnant sometimes his replies are! a happiness
210   that often madness hits on, which reason and sanity
211. prosperously be delivered of: successfully express. 212. suddenly: at once.
211   could not so prosperously be delivered of. I will
212   leave him, and suddenly contrive the means of
213   meeting between him and my daughter.—My honorable
214   lord, I will most humbly take my leave of you.

215   You cannot, sir, take from me any thing that I will
216   more willingly part withal: except my life, except
217   my life, except my life.

218   Fare you well, my lord.

219   These tedious old fools!

           Enter GUILDENSTERN
           and ROSENCRANTZ.

220   You go to seek the Lord Hamlet; there he is.

      ROSENCRANTZ  [To Polonius.]
221   God save you, sir!

           [Exit POLONIUS.]

222   My honored lord!

223   My most dear lord!

224   My excellent good friends! How dost thou,
225   Guildenstern? Ah, Rosencrantz! Good lads,
226   how do ye both?

227. indifferent: average, ordinary.
227   As the indifferent children of the earth.

228   Happy, in that we are not over-happy, on
229   Fortune's cap we are not the very button.

230   Nor the soles of her shoe?

231   Neither, my lord.

232   Then you live about her waist, or in the middle of
233   her favors?

234. privates: (1) intimate friends; (2) private parts.
234   'Faith, her privates we.

235   In the secret parts of Fortune? O, most true; she
236. strumpet: slut. Fortune (i.e., chance, luck) was often called a strumpet, because she grants favors to all men, without regard to their worthiness.  What news?: i.e., what's up?; what's happening?
236   is a strumpet. What news?

237   None, my lord, but that the world's grown honest.

238   Then is doomsday near. But your news is not true.
239   Let me question more in particular: what have you,
240   my good friends, deserved at the hands of Fortune,
241   that she sends you to prison hither?

242   Prison, my lord!

243   Denmark's a prison.

244   Then is the world one.

245. confines: places of confinement.
246. wards: cells.
245   A goodly one, in which there are many confines,
246   wards and dungeons, Denmark being one o' the
247   worst.

248   We think not so, my lord.

249   Why, then, 'tis none to you; for there is nothing
250   either good or bad, but thinking makes it so. To
251   me it is a prison.

252   Why then, your ambition makes it one; 'tis too
253   narrow for your mind.

254   O God, I could be bounded in a nutshell and count
255   myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I
256   have bad dreams.

257   Which dreams indeed are ambition, for the very
258   substance of the ambitious is merely the shadow
259   of a dream.

260   A dream itself is but a shadow.

261   Truly, and I hold ambition of so airy and light a
262   quality that it is but a shadow's shadow.

263-264. Then  . . .  shadows:
263   Then are our beggars bodies, and our monarchs and
264   outstretched heroes the beggars' shadows. Shall we
265. by my fay: A casual way of saying "by my faith."  I cannot reason: i.e., I can't keep up this exchange of witty remarks.
265   to the court? for, by my fay, I cannot reason.

266. We'll wait upon you: we'll accompany you and be your attendants.
266   We'll wait upon you.

267. sort you with: consider you to be in the same class as.
267   No such matter: I will not sort you with the rest
268   of my servants, for, to speak to you like an honest
269. dreadfully attended: execrably waited upon.
269   man, I am most dreadfully attended. But, in the
270. beaten way: familiar path.  what make you at Elsinore?: what are you doing at Elsinore?
270   beaten way of friendship, what make you at Elsinore?

271   To visit you, my lord; no other occasion.

272   Beggar that I am, I am even poor in thanks; but I
273-274. are too dear a halfpenny: too expensive at the price of a halfpenny; i.e., not worth much.
273   thank you: and sure, dear friends, my thanks are
274   too dear a halfpenny. Were you not sent for? Is it
275   your own inclining? Is it a free visitation? Come,
276. justly: honestly.
276   deal justly with me: come, come; nay, speak.

277   What should we say, my lord?

278. Why, anything, but to th' purpose: i.e., get to the point. ...more
278   Why, anything, but to th' purpose. You were sent
279   for; and there is a kind of confession in your looks
280. your modesties have not craft enough to color: i.e., your sense of shame prevents you from covering up.
280   which your modesties have not craft enough to color:
281   I know the good king and queen have sent for you.

282   To what end, my lord?

283. conjure: entreat. —Hamlet uses high-flown language to mock the hypocrisy of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. 284-285. consonancy of our youth: similarity of our ages.
286-287. by  . . .   withal: i.e., by whatever is more precious that a more eloquent person could come up with.  even: frank, honest.
283   That you must teach me. But let me conjure you, by
284   the rights of our fellowship, by the consonancy of
285   our youth, by the obligation of our ever-preserved
286   love, and by what more dear a better proposer could
287   charge you withal, be even and direct with me,
288   whether you were sent for, or no?

      ROSENCRANTZ [Aside to Guildenstern.]
289   What say you?

      HAMLET [Aside.]
290. an eye of you: an eye on you.
290   Nay, then, I have an eye of you.—If you
291   love me, hold not off.

292   My lord, we were sent for.

293-294. so  . . .  discovery: i.e., by telling you what you want to know before you ask, I will make it unnecessary for you to be revealed as spies. 295. moult no feather: i.e., not be impaired in the least. 296-297. custom of exercises: usual athletic exercises.
293   I will tell you why; so shall my anticipation prevent
294   your discovery, and your secrecy to the king and
295   queen moult no feather. I have of late—but wherefore
296   I know not—lost all my mirth, forgone all custom of
297   exercises; and indeed it goes so heavily with my
298   disposition that this goodly frame, the earth, seems to
299   me a sterile promontory, this most excellent canopy,
300. brave: splendid.
301. fretted: ornamented as with fretwork. ...more
300   the air, look you, this brave o'erhanging firmament,
301   this majestical roof fretted with golden fire, why,
302   it appears no other thing to me than a foul and pestilent
303. piece of work: masterpiece.
303   congregation of vapors. What a piece of work is a man!
304. faculties: abilities.
304   How noble in reason, how infinite in faculties,
305. express: exact.
305   in form and moving how express and admirable,
306   in action how like an angel, in apprehension how like
307   a god! The beauty of the world, the paragon of animals!
308. quintessence: purest essence. In ancient philosophy, the "quintessence" (fifth essence) is superior to the four essences (air, fire, earth, water) of this world; it the essence of all essences. Hamlet's phrase, "quintessence of dust" is very ironic.
308   And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust? Man
309   delights not me—no, nor woman neither, though by
310   your smiling you seem to say so.

311   My lord, there was no such stuff in my
312   thoughts.

313   Why did you laugh then, when I said "man delights
314   not me"?

315   To think, my lord, if you delight not in man, what
316. lenten entertainment: meager reception. Lent is a period of fasting. 317. coted: overtook and passed.
316   lenten entertainment the players shall receive from
317   you. We coted them on the way; and hither are they
318   coming, to offer you service.

319   He that plays the king shall be welcome; his majesty
320   shall have tribute of me; the adventurous knight
321. foil and target: light fencing sword and small shield. 322. gratis: without reward.  humorous man: eccentric character, expressing only one trait ("humor").
321   shall use his foil and target; the lover shall not
322   sigh gratis; the humorous man shall end his part
323   in peace; the clown shall make those laugh whose
324. tickle o' th' sere: i.e., easily made to laugh. ...more 325. halt: limp. Maybe the idea is that if the lady has to omit certain offensive words, the blank verse wouldn't sound right.
324   lungs are tickle o' th' sere; and the lady shall
325   say her mind freely, or the blank verse shall halt
326   for't. What players are they?

327   Even those you were wont to take delight in,
328   the tragedians of the city.

329. residence: i.e., staying at home in the city.
329   How chances it they travel? their residence,
330   both in reputation and profit, was better both
331   ways.

332-333. inhibition: hindrance [to playing in the city].  late: recent ...more
332   I think their inhibition comes by the means of the
333   late innovation.

334   Do they hold the same estimation they did when I was
335. the city: Although Hamlet is set in Elsinore, castle of the Danish king, Shakespeare seems to be thinking of England, where "the city" always referred to London, the center of all political and cultural activity.  are they so followed? i.e., do people still talk about them and attend their performances as they used to?
335   in the city? are they so followed?

336   No, indeed, are they not.

337   How comes it? do they grow rusty?

338. their endeavour keeps in the wonted pace: i.e., they perform as well as they ever did. 339. aery: nest.  eyases: unfledged hawks. 340. cry out on the top of question: cry shrilly, dominating the controversy. 341. tyrannically clapp'd: domineeringly applauded. 342. berattle: berate, satirize.  common stages: i.e., public theatres [such as Shakespeare's Globe]. ...more 344. goose-quills: pens [of satirical playwrights].
338   Nay, their endeavour keeps in the wonted pace: but
339   there is, sir, an aery of children, little eyases,
340   that cry out on the top of question, and are most
341   tyrannically clapp'd for't: these are now the
342   fashion, and so berattle the common stages—so they
343   call them—that many wearing rapiers are afraid of
344   goose-quills and dare scarce come thither.

345   What, are they children? who maintains 'em? how are
346. escoted: maintained, supported.
346   they escoted? Will they pursue the quality no
347-348. quality: profession [of acting].  no longer than they can sing?: i.e., only until their voices change. 348-349. grow themselves to common players: themselves become regular actors.
347   longer than they can sing? will they not say
348   afterwards, if they should grow themselves to common
349   players—as it is most like, if their means are no
350   better—their writers do them wrong, to make them
351. exclaim against their own succession: denounce their own future profession.
351   exclaim against their own succession?

352. to do: ado.
352   'Faith, there has been much to do on both sides; and
353. tarre: incite, urge on. The verb "tarre" was usually used in connection with dog fights. 354-356. there was ... in the question: i.e., for a while it was not possible to sell a proposal for a play, unless the action contained a scene in which a poet and an actor ("player") had a fistfight. "argument": plot outline. "in the question": in the action.
353   the nation holds it no sin to tarre them to
354   controversy: there was, for a while, no money bid
355   for argument, unless the poet and the player went to
356   cuffs in the question.

357   Is't possible?

358   O, there has been much throwing about of
359   brains.

360. carry it away: win the day.
360   Do the boys carry it away?

361-362. Hercules and his load too: One of Hercules' twelve labors was to hold up the world in the place of Atlas. Also, the sign of the Globe theater was probably the figure of Hercules holding up the world. These two allusions say that the boy players have taken the world by storm and have taken away customers from the adult actors. 364. mouths: derisive faces.
361   Ay, that they do, my lord; Hercules and his
362   load too.

363   It is not very strange; for mine uncle is king of
364   Denmark, and those that would make mouths at
365   him while my father lived, give twenty, forty,
366. ducats: gold coins.
366   fifty, an hundred ducats apiece for his picture
367. in little: in miniature. 'Sblood: by his [Christ's] blood. 368. philosophy: i.e., natural philosophy, science.
367   in little. 'Sblood, there is something in this more
368   than natural, if philosophy could find it out.

flourish: trumpet fanfare.
        A flourish [for the Players].

369   There are the players.

370. Your hands: i.e., shake hands.
370   Gentlemen, you are welcome to Elsinore. Your hands,
371-375. come then: i.e., come on [shake hands].  Th' appurtenance  . . .  yours: i.e., the formalities of giving a welcome are determined by current fashion and ceremony. So, let me observe the usual formalities, lest my more enthusiastic welcome to the players—which, I have to tell you, must appear very warm—should appear more sincere than my welcome to you. (Thus Hamlet bids Rosencrantz and Guildenstern welcome, while at the same time telling them that the actors will be more welcome.)
371   come then. Th' appurtenance of welcome is fashion
372   and ceremony. Let me comply with you in this garb,
373   lest my extent to the players, which, I tell you,
374   must show fairly outward, should more appear like
375   entertainment than yours. You are welcome. But my
376   uncle-father and aunt-mother are deceived.

377   In what, my dear lord?

378. I am but mad north-north-west: i.e., I am only a mad under rare conditions. ...more 379. I know a hawk from a handsaw: "Hawk" is the name of both a bird and a plasterer's tool. Also, it's possible that "handsaw" is a pun on "hernshaw," a heron. In any case, Hamlet is wittily warning Rosencrantz and Guildenstern (and via them, the King and Queen) that he is not easily deceived.
378   I am but mad north-north-west: when the wind is
379   southerly I know a hawk from a handsaw.

           Enter POLONIUS.

380   Well be with you, gentlemen!

381   Hark you, Guildenstern; and you too: at each ear a
382   hearer: that great baby you see there is not yet
383   out of his swaddling-clouts.

384. Happily: Haply, perhaps.
384   Happily he's the second time come to them; for they
385. twice: i.e., for the second time.
385   say an old man is twice a child.

386   I will prophesy he comes to tell me of the players;
387-388. You say right, sir: o' Monday morning; 'twas so indeed: Hamlet pretends to be deeply involved in a conversation, and is expecting that Polonius will interrupt, because Polonius is so full of the importance of his news, and full of himself.
387   mark it.—You say right, sir: o' Monday morning;
388   'twas so indeed.

389   My lord, I have news to tell you.

390   My lord, I have news to tell you.
391. Roscius: Roscius (d. 62 B.C.E.) was a famous Roman actor. Hamlet is mocking Polonius. Polonius' news is old news, and Hamlet offers to tell him even older news.
391   When Roscius was an actor in Rome—

392   The actors are come hither, my lord.

393. Buzz: "Buzz" is still (C.E. 2015) a word for the newest rumor, gossip, or fad. But Hamlet is being sarcastic; Polonius' "buzz" is not really new; it is more like the idle buzzing of a fly.
393   Buzz, buzz!

394   Upon mine honor—

395. ass: donkey.
395   Then came each actor on his ass—

396   The best actors in the world, either for tragedy,
397. pastoral: a literary work which idealizes the simplicity and wisdom of shepherds and other rural types.
397   comedy, history, pastoral, pastoral-comical,
398   historical-pastoral, tragical-historical, tragical-
399. scene individable: play observing the unity of place.
399   comical-historical-pastoral, scene individable, or
400-401. poem unlimited: i.e., play which is not bound by the limits of neo-classical rules. ...more  401-402. For the law of writ and the liberty: i.e., for drama which follows the neo-classical rules, and for drama which is free.
400   poem unlimited: Seneca cannot be too heavy, nor
401   Plautus too light. For the law of writ and the
402   liberty, these are the only men.

403. Jephthah, judge of Israel: This is the title of a ballad of Shakespeare's time, from which Hamlet goes on to quote. ...more
403   O Jephthah, judge of Israel, what a treasure
404   hadst thou!

405   What a treasure had he, my lord?

406   Why,
407   "One fair daughter and no more,
408. passing: surpassingly.
408   The which he loved passing well."

      POLONIUS [Aside.]
409    Still on my daughter.

410   Am I not i' the right, old Jephthah?

411   If you call me Jephthah, my lord, I have a daughter
412   that I love passing well.

413. Nay, that follows not: Literally, Hamlet means, "That's not the next verse"; figuratively, he means, "you do not understand the implications of what follows."
413   Nay, that follows not.

414   What follows, then, my lord?

415   Why,
416. lot: chance. wot: knows.    Here is the text of the ballad.
416         "As by lot, God wot,"
417   and then, you know,
418. It came to pass, as most like it was: it happened to happen, as was most likely. 419. row: stanza. chanson: song, ballad. 420. abridgment: (1) interruption; something that cuts short something else. (2) diversion, entertainment.
418         "It came to pass, as most like it was,"—
419   the first row of the pious chanson will show you
420   more; for look, where my abridgement comes.

           Enter the PLAYERS [four or five].

421   You are welcome, masters; welcome, all. I am glad
422   to see thee well. Welcome, good friends. O, my old
423. valanc'd: i.e., fringed with a beard. ...more
423   friend! thy face is valenc'd since I saw thee last:
424. beard: confront boldly, pick a quarrel. young lady and mistress: Hamlet is speaking to an actor who plays, or used to play, women's parts.
424   comest thou to beard me in Denmark? What, my young
425   lady and mistress! By'r lady, your ladyship is
426   nearer to heaven than when I saw you last, by the
427. chopine: Chopines were extreme platform shoes worn by women. ...more 428-429. a piece of uncurrent gold: a gold coin that is not lawful currency. ...more
427   altitude of a chopine. Pray God, your voice, like
428   a piece of uncurrent gold, be not cracked within the
429   ring. Masters, you are all welcome. We'll e'en
430. like French falconers: i.e., freely, without being too choosy. 431. straight: straightway, at once.
430   to't like French falconers, fly at any thing we see:
431   we'll have a speech straight: come, give us a taste
432. quality: professional skill.
432   of your quality; come, a passionate speech.

      First Player
433   What speech, my lord?

434   I heard thee speak me a speech once, but it was never
435   acted; or, if it was, not above once; for the play, I
436-437. caviary to the general: caviare to the multitude, i.e., a dish too elegant for ordinary people.
436   remember, pleased not the million; 'twas caviary to
437   the general: but it was—as I received it, and others,
438-439. whose  . . .  mine: i.e., whose judgments in such matters carried more authority than mine did. 439. well digested in the scenes: i.e., well arranged, so that one scene leads naturally to the next. 440. set  . . .  cunning: written with as much discretion as skill. 441. sallets: salads, i.e., spicy jokes. 442. savory: zesty.  phrase: mode of expression. 443. indict: convict.
438   whose judgments in such matters cried in the top
439   of mine—an excellent play, well digested in the scenes,
440   set down with as much modesty as cunning.
441   I remember, one said there were no sallets in the lines
442   to make the matter savory, nor no matter in the phrase
443   that might indict the author of affectation; but called it an
444   honest method, as wholesome as sweet, and by
445. handsome: fitting.  fine: flashy.
445   very much more handsome than fine. One speech
446. 'twas Aeneas' tale to Dido: it was the story that Aeneas told to Dido. 447. and thereabout of it especially: and specially that part of it. 448. Priam's slaughter: the slaying of Priam, the elderly King of Troy. 450. Pyrrhus: cruel son of Achilles Hyrcanian beast: i.e., a ferocious tiger. 452. sable: black. The Greeks hiding in the Trojan horse blackened their skin to camouflage themselves.
446   in it I chiefly loved: 'twas Aeneas' tale to Dido;
447   and thereabout of it especially, where he speaks of
448   Priam's slaughter: if it live in your memory, begin
449   at this line—let me see, let me see:
450   "The rugged Pyrrhus, like the Hyrcanian beast—"
451   'Tis not so: it begins with Pyrrhus:
452   "The rugged Pyrrhus, he whose sable arms,
453   Black as his purpose, did the night resemble
454. lay couched: i.e., hidden, waiting in ambush. 
the ominous horse: i.e., the Trojan horse.
454   When he lay couched in the ominous horse,
455   Hath now this dread and black complexion smear'd
456. heraldry  | dismal: ill-boding.
With heraldry more dismal; head to foot
457. gules: This is heraldic term for "red."  trick'd: adorned.
457   Now is he total gules; horridly trick'd
458   With blood of fathers, mothers, daughters, sons,
459. Bak'd: caked.  impasted: crusted.  with the parching streets: i.e., by the heat from the burning streets.
459   Bak'd and impasted with the parching streets,
460   That lend a tyrannous and damned light
461. their lord: Priam
461   To their lord's murder. Roasted in wrath and fire,
462. o'er-sized: covered over as with a coat of sizing or glue.  coagulate gore: i.e., clotted blood. 463. carbuncles: deep-red jewels which shine in the dark.
462   And thus o'er-sized with coagulate gore,
463   With eyes like carbuncles, the hellish Pyrrhus
464   Old grandsire Priam seeks."
465. So, proceed you: i.e., pick up where I left off.
465   So, proceed you.

466-467. with good accent and good discretion: i.e., intelligently, meaningfully.
466   'Fore God, my lord, well spoken, with good accent
467   and good discretion.

      First Player
468. Anon: quickly.
468   "Anon he finds him
469   Striking too short at Greeks; his antique sword,
470   Rebellious to his arm, lies where it falls,
471. Repugnant to command: disobedient to [Priam's attempt to] control [it].  Unequal match'd: i.e., facing a foe not equal to him. 472. strikes wide: misses. 473. fell: cruel, deadly. 474. unnerved: drained of strength.  senseless: insensible.  Ilium: the central tower of Troy.
471   Repugnant to command. Unequal match'd,
472   Pyrrhus at Priam drives; in rage strikes wide;
473   But with the whiff and wind of his fell sword
474   The unnerved father falls. Then senseless Ilium,
475   Seeming to feel this blow, with flaming top
476. Stoops to his base: falls to its foundation.
476   Stoops to his base, and with a hideous crash
477   Takes prisoner Pyrrhus' ear: for, lo! his sword,
478. declining on: coming down on.
478   Which was declining on the milky head
479   Of reverend Priam, seem'd i' the air to stick:
480. painted: i.e., painted in a picture.
480   So, as a painted tyrant, Pyrrhus stood,
481. like a neutral to his will and matter: i.e., poised midway between intention and action.
481   And like a neutral to his will and matter,
482   Did nothing.
483. against: just before.
483   But, as we often see, against some storm,
484. rack: mass of clouds.
484   A silence in the heavens, the rack stand still,
485   The bold winds speechless and the orb below
486   As hush as death, anon the dreadful thunder
487. region: sky.
487   Doth rend the region, so, after Pyrrhus' pause,
488   Aroused vengeance sets him new a-work;
489. Cyclops: giants who worked in Vulcan's smithy, where armor was made for the gods. 490. proof eterne: eternal invincibility. 491. remorse: pity.  bleeding: dripping blood.
489   And never did the Cyclops' hammers fall
490   On Mars's armor forged for proof eterne
491   With less remorse than Pyrrhus' bleeding sword
492   Now falls on Priam.
493. strumpet: slut. ...more
493   Out, out, thou strumpet, Fortune! All you gods,
494. In general synod: in a general assembly; i.e., by unanimous consent. 495. fellies: rims.  her wheel: Fortune's wheel. ...more 496. nave: hub.
494   In general synod take away her power;
495   Break all the spokes and fellies from her wheel,
496   And bowl the round nave down the hill of heaven,
497   As low as to the fiends!"

498   This is too long.

499   It shall to the barber's, with your beard. Prithee,
500. jig: comic song and dance performed after a play.  tale of bawdry: raunchy story.
500   say on: he's for a jig or a tale of bawdry, or he
501   sleeps: say on: come to Hecuba.

      First Player
502. mobled: muffled, hastily wrapped up.
502   "But who, O, who had seen the mobled queen—"

503   "The mobled queen?"

504   That's good; "mobled queen" is good.

      First Player
505-506. threatening  . . .   rheum: i.e., weeping so much that it seemed she would extinguish the flames with her blinding tears.  clout: cloth.
505   "Run barefoot up and down, threatening the flames
506   With bisson rheum; a clout upon that head
507   Where late the diadem stood, and for a robe,
508. o'er-teemed: worn out by childbearing. Hecuba bore most of Priam's 50 sons.
508   About her lank and all o'er-teemed loins,
509   A blanket, in the alarm of fear caught up;
510   Who this had seen, with tongue in venom steep'd,
511. state: rule, government.
511   'Gainst Fortune's state would treason have pronounced.
512   But if the gods themselves did see her then
513   When she saw Pyrrhus make malicious sport
514. mincing with his sword her husband's limbs: Marlowe, in Dido, Queen of Carthage, writes that Pyrrhus cut off Priam's hands before killing him.
514   In mincing with his sword her husband's limbs,
515   The instant burst of clamor that she made,
516   Unless things mortal move them not at all,
517. made milch the burning eyes of heaven: i.e., made the blazing stars weep milky tears. 518. passion: grief.
517   Would have made milch the burning eyes of heaven,
518   And passion in the gods."

519. Look, whether he has not turned his color: i.e., note how he has gone pale.
519   Look, whether he has not turned his color and has
520   tears in's eyes. Prithee no more.

521   'Tis well: I'll have thee speak out the rest soon.
522   Good my lord, will you see the players well
523. bestow'd: lodged.  us'd: treated.
523   bestow'd? Do you hear, let them be well us'd; for
524. abstract: summary account.
524   they are the abstract and brief chronicles of the
525   time: after your death you were better have a bad
526   epitaph than their ill report while you live.

527   My lord, I will use them according to their
528   desert.

529. God's bodykin: by God's (Christ's) little body. This is a humorous oath.
529   God's bodykin, man, much better: use every
530   man after his desert, and who should 'scape
531. after: according to.
531   whipping? Use them after your own honor
532   and dignity: the less they deserve, the more
533   merit is in your bounty. Take them in.

534   Come, sirs.

535   Follow him, friends: we'll hear a play
536   tomorrow.

           [Exit POLONIUS with all the Players
            but the First.]

537   Dost thou hear me, old friend; can you
538   play the Murder of Gonzago?

      First Player
539   Ay, my lord.

540. ha't: have it; see it.
540   We'll ha't tomorrow night. You could,
541. for need: if necessary.  study: memorize.
541   for a need, study a speech of some dozen
542   or sixteen lines, which I would set down
543   and insert in't, could you not?

      First Player
544   Ay, my lord.

545   Very well. Follow that lord; and look you mock him not.

           [Exit First Player.]

546   My good friends, I'll leave you till night: you are
547   welcome to Elsinore.

548   Good my lord!

549. God buy to you: God be with you; goodbye.
549   Ay, so, God buy to you.

           Exeunt [ROSENCRANTZ and

549                                      Now I am alone.
550   O, what a rogue and peasant slave am I!
551   Is it not monstrous that this player here,
552   But in a fiction, in a dream of passion,
553. conceit: imaginative conception.
553   Could force his soul so to his own conceit
554. from her working all his visage wann'd: i.e., as a result of the soul's efforts his whole face grew pale.
554   That from her working all his visage wann'd,
555   Tears in his eyes, distraction in his aspect,
556-557. his whole function suiting / With forms to his conceit: i.e., his whole being responding with actions and expressions corresponding to his imaginative conception.
556   A broken voice, and his whole function suiting
557   With forms to his conceit? and all for nothing!
558   For Hecuba!
559   What's Hecuba to him, or he to Hecuba,
560   That he should weep for her? What would he do,
561   Had he the motive and the cue for passion
562   That I have? He would drown the stage with tears
563. cleave the general ear: split the ears of all who heard him. 564. free: innocent.
563   And cleave the general ear with horrid speech,
564   Make mad the guilty and appall the free,
565   Confound the ignorant, and amaze indeed
566. The very faculties of eyes and ears: i.e., sight and hearing. 567. muddy-mettled: dull-spirited.  peak: mope. 568. John-a-dreams: a sleepy, dreaming slacker.  unpregnant of my cause: not brought to life by my mission.
566   The very faculties of eyes and ears. Yet I,
567   A dull and muddy-mettled rascal, peak,
568   Like John-a-dreams, unpregnant of my cause,
569   And can say nothing; no, not for a king,
570. property: i.e., the crown of Denmark.
570   Upon whose property and most dear life
571. defeat: destruction.
571   A damn'd defeat was made. Am I a coward?
572   Who calls me villain? breaks my pate across?
573   Plucks off my beard, and blows it in my face?
574-575. gives me ... lungs: i.e., calls me a pathological liar.
574   Tweaks me by the nose? gives me the lie i' the throat,
575   As deep as to the lungs? who does me this?
576. 'swounds: by God's (Christ's) wounds.  I should take it: i.e., I should accept all these insults [because I deserve them]. 577-578. I  . . .  bitter: i.e., I have a nature that is not capable of resenting wrongs. ...more 579-580. fatted all the region kites / With this slave's offal
576   Ha! 'Swounds, I should take it: for it cannot be
577   But I am pigeon-liver'd and lack gall
578   To make oppression bitter, or ere this
579   I should have fatted all the region kites
580   With this slave's offal. Bloody, bawdy villain!
581. kindless: unnatural.
581   Remorseless, treacherous, lecherous, kindless villain!
582   O, vengeance!
583. most brave: i.e., ridiculous and cowardly.  "Brave" meant both brave and handsome, but Hamlet is being sarcastic.
583   Why, what an ass am I! This is most brave,
584   That I, the son of a dear father murder'd,
585   Prompted to my revenge by heaven and hell,
586   Must, like a whore, unpack my heart with words,
587. drab: female whore.
587   And fall a-cursing, like a very drab,
588. scullion: i.e., a foul-mouthed dishwasher.
589. About, my brain!: i.e., turn about, my brain, and get to work.
588   A scullion! Fie upon't! foh!
589   About, my brain! Hum — I have heard
590   That guilty creatures sitting at a play
591. cunning of the scene: skillful performance of a scene. 592. presently: at once; then and there.
591   Have by the very cunning of the scene
592   Been struck so to the soul that presently
593. proclaim'd their malefactions: revealed their misdeeds [via their spontaneous reactions].
593   They have proclaim'd their malefactions;
594   For murder, though it have no tongue, will speak
595. organ: means of communication.
595   With most miraculous organ. I'll have these players
596   Play something like the murder of my father
597   Before mine uncle. I'll observe his looks;
598. tent him to the quick: probe him to his vital core.  blench: flinch.
598   I'll tent him to the quick. If he but blench,
599   I know my course. The spirit that I have seen
600   May be the devil, and the devil hath power
601   To assume a pleasing shape; yea, and perhaps
602   Out of my weakness and my melancholy,
603. As  . . .  spirits: i.e., because he has great influence on those who have a temperament such as mine. 604. Abuses: deludes.  If the Ghost is deceiving Hamlet about King Claudius' guilt, and Hamlet kills him, Hamlet would be a murderer, and therefore damned.
603   As he is very potent with such spirits,
604   Abuses me to damn me. I'll have grounds
605   More relative than this: the play's the thing
606   Wherein I'll catch the conscience of the king.