Hamlet: Act 3, Scene 3
Enter KING, ROSENCRANTZ,
1-2. I like . . . range: i.e., I don't trust him, and it's not safe for me to let him do or say whatever comes into his mad mind. 3. I your ... dispatch: I will have your commission drawn up immediately. ...more
1I like him not, nor stands it safe with us
2To let his madness range. Therefore prepare you;
3I your commission will forthwith dispatch,
4And he to England shall along with you:
5. The terms of our estate: i.e., my position as king. ...more
5The terms of our estate may not endure
6-7. Hazard so near's as doth hourly grow / Out of his brows: i.e., dangers that threaten me so nearly, which grow every hour from his (mad) moods. ...more
6Hazard so near's as doth hourly grow
7Out of his brows.
7. We will ourselves provide: we will get ourselves ready [for the trip to England]. 8. fear: care, concern [about dangers]. 9-10. many many bodies . . . / That live and feed upon your majesty: Guildenstern means all the people of the Kingdom of Denmark, as Rosencrantz makes clear in his following speech.
7We will ourselves provide.
8Most holy and religious fear it is
9To keep those many many bodies safe
10That live and feed upon your majesty.
11. single and peculiar: individual and private.
11The single and peculiar life is bound,
12With all the strength and armor of the mind,
13. noyance: injury.
13To keep itself from noyance; but much more
14. weal: wellness, health.
14That spirit upon whose weal depend and rest
15. cess of majesty: cessation, death of royal authority.
15The lives of many. The cess of majesty
16. gulf: whirlpool.
16Dies not alone; but, like a gulf, doth draw
17. massy: massive.
17What's near it with it: it is a massy wheel,
18Fix'd on the summit of the highest mount,
19To whose huge spokes ten thousand lesser things
20. mortised and adjoin'd: i.e., permanently attached to.
20Are mortised and adjoin'd; which, when it falls,
21-22. Each small annexment, petty consequence, / Attends the boisterous ruin: i.e., each little thing (or person) connected to or affected by a king, shares in the chaotic and terrifying fall (of a king).
21Each small annexment, petty consequence,
22Attends22> the boisterous ruin. Never alone
23Did the king sigh, but with a general groan.
24. Arm you . . . to: prepare yourselves for.
24Arm you, I pray you, to this speedy voyage;
25. fetters: shackles, restraints. fear: source of fear [i.e., Hamlet's "madness"].
25For we will fetters put upon this fear,
26Which now goes too free-footed.
26We will haste us.
[Rosencrantz and Guildenstern].
27. closet: private room [such as a study or sewing-room].
27My lord, he's going to his mother's closet:
28. arras: heavy tapestry screen or hanging. convey myself: i.e., hide myself. 29. process: course of the talk. and . . . home: i.e., and I guarantee that she will take him severely to task.
28Behind the arras I'll convey myself,
29To hear the process; and warrant she'll tax him home:
30And, as you said, and wisely was it said,
31'Tis meet that some more audience than a mother,
32Since nature makes them partial, should o'erhear
33. of vantage: from an advantageous position, or for better understanding.
33The speech, of vantage. Fare you well, my liege:
34I'll call upon you ere you go to bed,
35And tell you what I know.
35Thanks, dear my lord.
36O, my offence is rank, it smells to heaven;
37. primal eldest curse: i.e., God's curse on Cain, who also murdered his brother.
37It hath the primal eldest curse upon't,
38A brother's murder. Pray can I not,
39. Though inclination be as sharp as will: though my desire is as strong as my resolve [to pray].
39Though inclination be as sharp as will.
40My stronger guilt defeats my strong intent;
41. to double business bound: i.e., committed to two courses of action.
41And, like a man to double business bound,
42I stand in pause where I shall first begin,
43And both neglect. What if this cursed hand
44Were thicker than itself with brother's blood,
45Is there not rain enough in the sweet heavens
46-47.Whereto serves mercy / But to confront the visage of offence?: i.e., what function has mercy except to fight sin?
46To wash it white as snow? Whereto serves mercy
47But to confront the visage of offence?
48And what's in prayer but this two-fold force,
49. To be forestalled ere we come to fall: to be prevented [from sinning] before we sin. 50-51.Then I'll look up; / My fault is past: i.e., if I pray to God my sin will be forgiven.
49To be forestalled ere we come to fall,
50Or pardon'd being down? Then I'll look up;
51My fault is past. But, O, what form of prayer
52Can serve my turn? "Forgive me my foul murder"?
53That cannot be; since I am still possess'd
54. effects: prizes, motivations.
54Of those effects for which I did the murder,
55My crown, mine own ambition and my queen.
56. th' offense: i.e., the "effects" or fruits of the offense.
56May one be pardon'd and retain th' offence?
57. currents: courses.
57In the corrupted currents of this world
58. gilded hand: i.e., hand offering a bribe of gold.
58Offence's gilded hand may shove by justice,
59. wicked prize: prize won by wicked actions.
59And oft 'tis seen the wicked prize itself
60Buys out the law: but 'tis not so above;
61-62. There is no shuffling: There ["above," in heaven], there is no evasion. ...more
61There is no shuffling, there the action lies
62In his true nature; and we ourselves compell'd,
63. to the teeth and forehead: i.e., face to face, without hiding anything. 64. what rests?: what remains [for me to do]? 65. what repentance can: what repentance can do.
63Even to the teeth and forehead of our faults,
64To give in evidence. What then? what rests?
65Try what repentance can: what can it not?
66Yet what can it when one can not repent?
67O wretched state! O bosom black as death!
68. limed: caught (as with birdlime, a sticky substance used for catching birds). 69. engag'd: entangled. Make assay!: i.e., try hard!
68O limed soul, that, struggling to be free,
69Art more engaged! Help, angels! Make assay!
70Bow, stubborn knees; and, heart with strings of steel,
71Be soft as sinews of the newborn babe!
72All may be well.
73. pat: opportunely.
73Now might I do it pat, now he is praying;
74And now I'll do't. And so he goes to heaven;
75. would be scann'd: asks to be carefully considered.
75And so am I revenged. That would be scann'd:
76A villain kills my father; and for that,
77I, his sole son, do this same villain send
79O, this is hire and salary, not revenge.
80. grossly, full of bread: i.e., not spiritually prepared.
80He took my father grossly, full of bread;
81. crimes: sins. broad blown: in full bloom. flush: lusty, vigorous. ...more 82. audit: [spiritual] account.
81With all his crimes broad blown, as flush as May;
82And how his audit stands who knows save heaven?
83. in our circumstance and course of thought: i.e., to the best of our knowledge and belief. Our "circumstance," which limits our knowledge, is that we are creatures of earth, and do not know the mind of God.
83But in our circumstance and course of thought,
84'Tis heavy with him: and am I then revenged,
85To take him in the purging of his soul,
86When he is fit and season'd for his passage?
88. Up: into the sheath know thou a more horrid hent: be grasped [by me] at a more horrid occasion.
88Up, sword; and know thou a more horrid hent:
89When he is drunk asleep, or in his rage,
90Or in the incestuous pleasure of his bed;
91At gaming, swearing, or about some act
92. relish: trace.
92That has no relish of salvation in't;
93Then trip him, that his heels may kick at heaven,
94And that his soul may be as damn'd and black
92. stays: i.e., awaits me.
95As hell, whereto it goes. My mother stays:
96. physic: [spiritual] purging. thy: Hamlet is speaking under his breath to King Claudius.
96This physic but prolongs thy sickly days.
97My words fly up, my thoughts remain below:
98Words without thoughts never to heaven go.