Hamlet: Act 3, Scene 1

           Enter KING, QUEEN, POLONIUS,            

1. drift of circumstance: direction of conversation.
  1   And can you, by no drift of circumstance,
2. puts on this confusion: shows this puzzling behavior. 3. Grating so harshly all his days of quiet: i.e., so opposite to his previous reasonable behavior.
  2   Get from him why he puts on this confusion,
  3   Grating so harshly all his days of quiet
  4   With turbulent and dangerous lunacy?

  5   He does confess he feels himself distracted;
  6   But from what cause 'a will by no means speak.

7. forward: readily willing.  sounded: plumbed; tested deeply. 8. crafty madness: i.e., the shrewdness that mad people sometimes exhibit.  keeps aloof: i.e., refuses to be pinned down. 10. his true state: his genuine state of mind.
  7   Nor do we find him forward to be sounded,
  8   But, with a crafty madness, keeps aloof,
  9   When we would bring him on to some confession
 10   Of his true state.

 10                                  Did he receive you well?

 11   Most like a gentleman.

12. disposition: inclination.
 12   But with much forcing of his disposition.

13. Niggard of question: Miserly in conversation; i.e., unwilling to engage in free and easy conversation.  demands: questions.
 13   Niggard of question; but, of our demands,
 14   Most free in his reply.

14. assay: attempt to win.
 14                                         Did you assay him
 15   To any pastime?

16. players: actors.
 16   Madam, it so fell out, that certain players
17. o'er-raught: overreached; i.e., passed.
 17   We o'er-raught on the way. Of these we told him;
 18   And there did seem in him a kind of joy
19. They are about the court: i.e., they are already here.
 19   To hear of it. They are about the court,
 20   And, as I think, they have already order
 21   This night to play before him.

 21                                            'Tis most true:
 22   And he beseech'd me to entreat your majesties
 23   To hear and see the matter.

 24   With all my heart; and it doth much content me
 25   To hear him so inclined.
26. edge: incitement.
 26   Good gentlemen, give him a further edge,
27. drive his purpose into these delights: i.e., strongly encourage him to focus on such entertainments.
 27   And drive his purpose into these delights.

 28   We shall, my lord.

           Exeunt Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.

 28                               Sweet Gertrude, leave us too;
29. closely: privately. To a reader of the play, this statement might raise questions, such as: "Who delivered the message to Hamlet that he was 'sent for'?" ...more 31. Affront: meet, confront, speak to. 32. espials: spies.
 29   For we have closely sent for Hamlet hither,
 30   That he, as 'twere by accident, may here
 31   Affront Ophelia:
 32   Her father and myself (lawful espials)
33. bestow ourselves: place ourselves.
 33   Will so bestow ourselves that, seeing, unseen,
34. frankly: freely, honestly, accurately.
 34   We may of their encounter frankly judge,
 35   And gather by him, as he is behaved,
 36   If 't be th' affliction of his love or no
 37   That thus he suffers for.

 37                                      I shall obey you.
 38   And for your part, Ophelia, I do wish
 39   That your good beauties be the happy cause
 40   Of Hamlet's wildness. So shall I hope your virtues
41. his wonted way: his accustomed mode of behavior.
 41   Will bring him to his wonted way again,
 42   To both your honors.

 42                                    Madam, I wish it may.

           [Exit Queen.]

43. Gracious: your Grace [i.e., the king].
 43   Ophelia, walk you here. —Gracious, so please you,
44. bestow ourselves: i.e., hide ourselves within earshot.
 44   We will bestow ourselves. [To Ophelia.] Read on this book;
45-46. exercise: i.e., religious exercise. This is made clear in the next sentence.  color / Your loneliness: give your being alone a natural appearance. 47. too much prov'd: too often proved to be true in practice. 48. action: behavior.
 45   That show of such an exercise may color
 46   Your loneliness. We are oft to blame in this—
 47   'Tis too much proved—that with devotion's visage
 48   And pious action we do sugar o'er
 49   The devil himself.

      KING [Aside.]
 49                                   O, 'tis too true!
50. How smart a lash that speech doth give: what a stinging whipping that speech gives. 51. plastering art: the art of plastering on cosmetics.
 50   How smart a lash that speech doth give my conscience!
 51   The harlot's cheek, beautied with plastering art,
 52   Is not more ugly to the thing that helps it
53. painted: prettified with cosmetics.
 53   Than is my deed to my most painted word:
 54   O heavy burden!

 55   I hear him coming: let's withdraw, my lord.

           [Exeunt King and Polonius.]

           Enter HAMLET.

 56   To be, or not to be: that is the question:
57. suffer: endure patiently.
 57   Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
58. slings: i.e., projectiles launched from slings.
 58   The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
 59   Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
60. To die, to sleep— / No more—: This sequence puzzles me. "To sleep" seems to be a comforting way of ...more
 60   And by opposing end them? To die, to sleep—
 61   No more—and by a sleep to say we end
 62   The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
63. consummation: completion, end.
 63   That flesh is heir to, 'tis a consummation
 64   Devoutly to be wish'd. To die, to sleep;
65. rub: i.e., obstacle, catch. The term comes from the game Americans know as lawn bowling, in which ...more
 65   To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub;
 66   For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
67. shuffled off: sloughed, cast off. this mortal coil: the turmoil of this mortal life. 68. respect: consideration.
 67   When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
 68   Must give us pause: there's the respect
 69   That makes calamity of so long life;
70. bear  . . .  time: i.e., endure the punishments and insults that always come with the passage of time. 71. contumely: insolent abuse. 72. despised: rejected.
73. office: i.e., all those who hold official positions which give them power over others.  spurns: insults.
 70   For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
 71   The oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely,
 72   The pangs of despised love, the law's delay,
 73   The insolence of office and the spurns
 74   That patient merit of the unworthy takes,
75. his quietus make: settle all his debts.
 75   When he himself might his quietus make
76. With a bare bodkin: with nothing more than a dagger.  fardels: burdens.
 76   With a bare bodkin? Who would fardels bear,
 77   To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
 78   But that the dread of something after death,
79. undiscover'd: unknown, mysterious.  from whose bourn: from beyond the boundary of which. 80. puzzles: paralyzes.
 79   The undiscover'd country from whose bourn
 80   No traveller returns, puzzles the will
 81   And makes us rather bear those ills we have
 82   Than fly to others that we know not of?
83. conscience: consciousness, reflection.
 83   Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;
84. native hue of resolution: natural complexion of a resolution to take action. 85. pale cast: pallor. ...more
 84   And thus the native hue of resolution
 85   Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought,
86. pitch: height, urgency. ...more
 86   And enterprises of great pitch and moment
87. With this regard: because of this kind of consideration [of possibilities].  currents turn awry: turn off course. 88. Soft you now: This is an expression ...more 89. orisons: prayers. 90. Be all my sins remember'd: i.e., please pray over my sins.
 87   With this regard their currents turn awry,
 88   And lose the name of action.—Soft you now,
 89   The fair Ophelia! Nymph, in thy orisons
 90   Be all my sins remember'd.

 90                                       Good my lord,
 91   How does your honor for this many a day?

 92   I humbly thank you; well, well, well.

93. remembrances of yours: i.e., love tokens; things Hamlet gave Ophelia to remember him by.
 93   My lord, I have remembrances of yours,
 94   That I have longed long to re-deliver;
 95   I pray you, now receive them.

95. I pray you, now receive them: please take them back now. 96. aught: anything whatsoever. I think Hamlet means that he didn't give Ophelia anything that needs to be returned.
 95                               No, not I;
 96   I never gave you aught.

 97   My honor'd lord, you know right well you did;
 98   And, with them, words of so sweet breath composed
 99   As made the things more rich. Their perfume lost,
100   Take these again; for to the noble mind
101. unkind: unnatural; i.e., false.
101   Rich gifts wax poor when givers prove unkind.
102   There, my lord.

103. Ha, ha!: I believe that Hamlet is expressing surprise because Ophelia has just spoken as if he were the one who broke off the relationship.  honest: 1) truthful; 2) chaste.
103   Ha, ha! are you honest?

104   My lord?

105. fair: 1) beautiful; 2) honorable.
105   Are you fair?

106   What means your lordship?

107-108. your honesty should admit no discourse to your beauty: your honesty should have no dealings with your beauty.
107   That if you be honest and fair, your honesty should
108   admit no discourse to your beauty.

109-110. Could beauty . . . have better commerce than with honesty?: could beauty have any better dealings than those with honesty?
109   Could beauty, my lord, have better commerce than
110   with honesty?

111   Ay, truly; for the power of beauty will sooner
112. bawd: 1) prostitute; 2) madame of a whorehouse. 113. translate: transform.
112   transform honesty from what it is to a bawd than the
113   force of honesty can translate beauty into his
114-115. sometime: formerly.  paradox: a view contrary to accepted belief.  the time gives it proof: the present age proves that it is true. I believe that Hamlet is thinking that it is his mother's case which proves his point. His mother was beautiful and honest, but her beauty attracted the attentions of Claudius, who seduced her into adultery, so her beauty corrupted her honesty.
114   likeness. This was sometime a paradox, but now the
115   time gives it proof. I did love you once.

116   Indeed, my lord, you made me believe so.

117-119. virtue cannot so inoculate our old stock but we shall relish of it: i.e., no matter how hard we try to be virtuous, our naturally sinful nature will come through in some way.  Hamlet here uses a metaphor from gardening; "inoculate" means "to graft," and in grafting, the "stock" is the hardy root and stem on which the desired plant is grafted.
117   You should not have believ'd me, for virtue cannot
118   so inoculate our old stock but we shall relish of
119   it. I lov'd you not.

120   I was the more deceived.

121   Get thee to a nunnery: why wouldst thou be a breeder
122. indifferent honest: i.e., as virtuous as most people are.
122   of sinners? I am myself indifferent honest; but yet I
123   could accuse me of such things that it were better my
124   mother had not borne me: I am very proud, revengeful,
125-126. more offences at my beck than I have thoughts to put them in: I believe that Hamlet is saying that he has more crimes that he could call to mind—and which tempt him—than he has reasons to justify such crimes. 128. arrant knaves: thoroughgoing rascals.
125   ambitious, with more offences at my beck than I have
126   thoughts to put them in, imagination to give them shape,
127   or time to act them in. What should such fellows as I do
128   crawling between earth and heaven? We are arrant knaves,
129   all; believe none of us. Go thy ways to a nunnery.
130   Where's your father?

131   At home, my lord.

132   Let the doors be shut upon him, that he may play the
133   fool no where but in's own house. Farewell.

134   O, help him, you sweet heavens!

135   If thou dost marry, I'll give thee this plague for thy
136   dowry: be thou as chaste as ice, as pure as snow, thou
137. calumny: slander.
137   shalt not escape calumny. Get thee to a nunnery, go:
138   farewell. Or, if thou wilt needs marry, marry a fool; for
139. monsters: This alludes to ...more you: i.e., you women.  ...more 140. nunnery: Here, and at his next use of the word "nunnery," Hamlet may be punning on the slang meaning of the word, which is "whorehouse."
139   wise men know well enough what monsters you make
140   of them. To a nunnery, go, and quickly too. Farewell.

141. restore him: restore him [to sanity].  Ophelia believes that Hamlet has gone mad before her eyes, but ...more
141   O heavenly powers, restore him!

142. your paintings: i.e., women's use of cosmetics.
142   I have heard of your paintings too, well enough; God
143   has given you one face, and you make yourselves
144-146. you jig, you amble, and you lisp, and nick-name / God's creatures, and make your wantonness your / ignorance: i.e., you walk and talk affectedly; you make up cute ...more 147-148. moe: more.  those that are married already, all but one, shall live: This may be a threat against King Claudius.
144   another: you jig, you amble, and you lisp, and nick-name
145   God's creatures, and make your wantonness your
146   ignorance. Go to, I'll no more on't; it hath made me mad.
147   I say, we will have no moe marriages: those that are
148   married already, all but one, shall live; the rest shall
149   keep as they are. To a nunnery, go.


150. o'erthrown: overthrown, destroyed.
150   O, what a noble mind is here o'erthrown!
151. The courtier's  . . .  sword: i.e., the courtier's tongue (persuasiveness, charisma); the soldier's ...more 152. expectation: hope.  rose: ornament.  the fair state: i.e., the ...more 153. glass of fashion and mold of form: mirror (model) ...more 154. The observed of all observers: i.e., the center of attention and honor. The word "observe" meant both "pay attention to" and "pay honor to."
151   The courtier's, soldier's, scholar's, eye, tongue, sword;
152   The expectancy and rose of the fair state,
153   The glass of fashion and the mold of form,
154   The observed of all observers, quite, quite down!
155   And I, of ladies most deject and wretched,
156   That suck'd the honey of his music vows,
157   Now see that noble and most sovereign reason,
158   Like sweet bells jangled, out of tune and harsh;
159. blown: in full bloom.
160. Blasted: withered.  ecstasy: madness.
159   That unmatch'd form and feature of blown youth
160   Blasted with ecstasy: O, woe is me,
161   To have seen what I have seen, see what I see!

           Enter KING CLAUDIUS and POLONIUS.

162. affections: inclinations, feelings.
162   Love! his affections do not that way tend;
163   Nor what he spake, though it lack'd form a little,
164   Was not like madness. There's something in his soul,
165. sits on brood: i.e., prepares to hatch.  A hen ...more 166. doubt: suspect, fear.  disclose: disclosure, hatching.
165   O'er which his melancholy sits on brood;
166   And I do doubt the hatch and the disclose
167   Will be some danger: which for to prevent,
168-169. I have in quick determination / Thus set it down: i.e., I have quickly and firmly decided as follows.
168   I have in quick determination
169   Thus set it down: he shall with speed to England,
170. For  . . .  tribute: to demand the tribute (money payment) due to Denmark, which has not been paid. 171. Haply: perchance, happily. 172. variable objects: i.e., a variety of things to see.
170   For the demand of our neglected tribute.
171   Haply the seas and countries different
172   With variable objects shall expel
173   This something-settled matter in his heart,
174-175. puts him thus / From fashion of himself: estranges him [as we have just seen] from his natural manner of acting.
174   Whereon his brains still beating puts him thus
175   From fashion of himself. What think you on't?

176   It shall do well: but yet do I believe
177. grief: problem, what is troubling him.
177   The origin and commencement of his grief
178. neglected love: i.e., Hamlet's love for Ophelia, which Ophelia, on her father's orders, has refused.  How now, Ophelia!: There seems to be some implied stage direction here, but I don't know just what it is. Did Ophelia, when her father said "neglected love," give her father a significant look?
178   Sprung from neglected love. How now, Ophelia!
179   You need not tell us what Lord Hamlet said;
180   We heard it all. My lord, do as you please;
181   But, if you hold it fit, after the play
182   Let his queen mother all alone entreat him
183. his grief: what is troubling him.  round: blunt, outspoken. 184-185. in the ear / Of all their conference: within earshot of everything they say. 185. find him: learn the truth about him. 186. confine him: Confinement in a dark room was a common treatment for madness.
183   To show his grief: let her be round with him;
184   And I'll be placed, so please you, in the ear
185   Of all their conference. If she find him not,
186   To England send him, or confine him where
187   Your wisdom best shall think.

187                                                    It shall be so:
188   Madness in great ones must not unwatch'd go.