Hamlet: Act 3, Scene 4
Enter [QUEEN] GERTRUDE
1. straight: immediately Look you lay home to him: be sure to give him a telling blow [i.e., reprove him soundly]. 2. broad: offensive, unrestrained.
1'A will come straight. Look you lay home to him:
2Tell him his pranks have been too broad to bear with,
3And that your grace hath screen'd and stood between
4. Much heat: i.e., the King's anger. sconce: ensconce, hide. 5. round: plain-spoken, blunt.
4Much heat and him. I'll sconce me even here.
5Pray you, be round with him.
5Mother, mother, mother!
6. fear me not: i.e., have no fears about my handling of the situation.
6I'll warrant you, fear me not:
7Withdraw, I hear him coming.
[Polonius hides behind the arras.]
8Now, mother, what's the matter?
9. thy father: i.e., your step-father,the current king.
9Hamlet, thou hast thy father much offended.
10. my father: i.e., your late husband, King Hamlet.
10Mother, you have my father much offended.
11. idle: foolish.
11Come, come, you answer with an idle tongue.
12Go, go, you question with a wicked tongue.
13Why, how now, Hamlet!
13What's the matter now?
14. Have you forgot me?: i.e., have you forgotten who I am? The Queen is indignant at Hamlet's lack of respect for her.
14Have you forgot me?
14. rood: cross.
14No, by the rood, not so:
15You are the queen, your husband's brother's wife;
16Andwould it were not so!you are my mother.
17. I'll set those to you that can speak: i.e., I'll bring some who will speak and make you listen. It's hard to imagine just who the Queen has in mind, but the next line appears to indicate that she walks toward the door, as if to go and get those people who will "speak."
17Nay, then, I'll set those to you that can speak.
18Come, come, and sit you down; you shall not budge;
19You go not till I set you up a glass
20Where you may see the inmost part of you.
21What wilt thou do? thou wilt not murder me?
23What, ho! Help!
HAMLET [Drawing his sword.]
24. for a ducat: I'll wager a ducat.
24How now! a rat? Dead, for a ducat, dead!
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
[Stabs through the arras.]
25O, I am slain!
[Falls and dies.]
25O me, what hast thou done?
26Nay, I know not: Is it the king?
27O, what a rash and bloody deed is this!
28A bloody deed! almost as bad, good mother,
29As kill a king, and marry with his brother.
30As kill a king!
30Ay, lady, 'twas my word.
[Lifts up the arras and sees Polonius.]
31Thou wretched, rash, intruding fool, farewell!
32. I took thee for thy better: i.e., I mistook you for the king. 33. busy: officious, meddlesome, nosy. is some danger: is a bit dangerous. Hamlet is being sarcastic.
32I took thee for thy better: take thy fortune;
33Thou find'st to be too busy is some danger.
34Leave wringing of your hands: peace! sit you down,
35And let me wring your heart; for so I shall,
36If it be made of penetrable stuff,
37. damned custom: i.e., the habit of ill-doing, habitual wickedness. braz'd: brazened, hardened. 38. proof and bulwark: armor and fortification. sense: sensibility, feeling.
37If damned custom have not braz'd it so
38That it is proof and bulwark against sense.
39What have I done, that thou darest wag thy tongue
40In noise so rude against me?
40Such an act
41That blurs the grace and blush of modesty,
42. rose: i.e., bloom.
42Calls virtue hypocrite, takes off the rose
43From the fair forehead of an innocent love
44And sets a blister there, makes marriage-vows
45As false as dicers' oaths: O, such a deed
46. contraction: the marriage contract.
46As from the body of contraction plucks
47. religion: i.e., sacred vows.
47The very soul, and sweet religion makes
48-51. rhapsody: senseless collection, jumble. Heaven's face . . the act: heaven's face flushes with anger to look down upon this solid world and everything of which it is composed, with sorrowful visage as though the day of doom were near, [and] is thought-sick at the deed [i.e., Gertrude's marriage].
48A rhapsody of words. Heaven's face doth glow
49O'er this solidity and compound mass,
50With tristful visage, as against the doom,
51Is thought-sick at the act.
51Ay me, what act,
52. index: i.e., table of contents at the beginning of a book.
52That roars so loud, and thunders in the index?
53Look here, upon this picture, and on this,
54. counterfeit presentment: painted likenesses.
54The counterfeit presentment of two brothers.
55See, what a grace was seated on this brow;
56. Hyperion's: the sun-god's. front: forehead.
56Hyperion's curls; the front of Jove himself;
57An eye like Mars, to threaten and command;
58. station: bearing or manner of standing.
58A station like the herald Mercury
59New-lighted on a heaven-kissing hill;
60A combination and a form indeed,
61Where every god did seem to set his seal,
62To give the world assurance of a man:
63This was your husband. Look you now, what follows:
64. ear: ear of grain.
64Here is your husband; like a mildew'd ear,
65. blasting: infecting, sickening.
65Blasting his wholesome brother. Have you eyes?
66Could you on this fair mountain leave to feed,
67. batten: gorge. moor: barren upland.
67And batten on this moor? Ha! have you eyes?
68You cannot call it love; for at your age
69. heyday: excitement.
69The heyday in the blood is tame, it's humble,
70And waits upon the judgment: and what judgment
71. Sense: sense perception, the five senses.
71Would step from this to this? Sense, sure, you have,
72Else could you not have motion; but sure, that sense
73-76. apoplex'd: paralyzed. madness . . . difference: i.e., even madness itself could see the difference between the good King Hamlet and the vile King Claudius. ...more
73Is apoplex'd; for madness would not err,
74Nor sense to ecstasy was ne'er so thrall'd
75But it reserved some quantity of choice,
76To serve in such a difference. What devil was't
77. cozen'd: cheated. hoodman-blind: blindman's bluff.
77That thus hath cozen'd you at hoodman-blind?
78Eyes without feeling, feeling without sight,
79. sans: without.
79Ears without hands or eyes, smelling sans all,
80Or but a sickly part of one true sense
81. mope: be dazed, act aimlessly.
81Could not so mope.
82O shame! where is thy blush? Rebellious hell,
83. mutine: mutiny, rebel.
83If thou canst mutine in a matron's bones,
84To flaming youth let virtue be as wax,
85-88. proclaim . . . will: i.e., do not call it shameful when the irresistible desires (of the young) send them charging into lustful action, since frost itself burns just as actively, and reason acts as a pander for the will. ...more
85And melt in her own fire: proclaim no shame
86When the compulsive ardor gives the charge,
87Since frost itself as actively doth burn
88And reason panders will.
88O Hamlet, speak no more:
89Thou turn'st mine eyes into my very soul;
90. grained: fast-dyed in grain, indelible.
90And there I see such black and grained spots
91. leave their tinct: give up their stain [of shame].
91As will not leave their tinct.
91Nay, but to live
92. enseamed: greasy.
92In the rank sweat of an enseamed bed,
93Stew'd in corruption, honeying and making love
94Over the nasty sty
94O, speak to me no more;
95These words, like daggers, enter in mine ears;
96No more, sweet Hamlet!
96A murderer and a villain;
97. tithe: tenth part.
97A slave that is not twentieth part the tithe
98. precedent: former (i.e., the elder Hamlet.) vice: buffoon. In the medieval morality plays the Vice was a popular character who ran about shooting off firecrackers and making mischief.
98Of your precedent lord, a vice of kings,
99A cutpurse of the empire and the rule,
100That from a shelf the precious diadem stole,
101And put it in his pocket!
102. of shreds and patches: clownish, patched-up.
102A king of shreds and patches
103Save me, and hover o'er me with your wings,
104You heavenly guards! What would your gracious figure?
105Alas, he's mad!
106Do you not come your tardy son to chide,
107That, lapsed in time and passion, lets go by
108. important: urgent.
108The important acting of your dread command?
110Do not forget: this visitation
111Is but to whet thy almost blunted purpose.
112. amazement: utter bewilderment or distraction.
112But, look, amazement on thy mother sits:
113O, step between her and her fighting soul:
114. conceit: i.e., conjecture, mental image.
114Conceit in weakest bodies strongest works:
115Speak to her, Hamlet.
115How is it with you, lady?
116Alas, how is't with you,
117That you do bend your eye on vacancy
118. incorporal: immaterial, insubstantial.
118And with the incorporal air do hold discourse?
119Forth at your eyes your spirits wildly peep;
120. in th' alarm: when the call to arms is sounded.
120And, as the sleeping soldiers in the alarm,
121. bedded: laid in smooth layers. excrements: outgrowths [such as hair or fingernails].
121Your bedded hair, like life in excrements,
122Starts up, and stands on end. O gentle son,
123Upon the heat and flame of thy distemper
124. patience: self-control.
124Sprinkle cool patience. Whereon do you look?
125. glares: shines. ...more
125On him, on him! Look you, how pale he glares!
126. His form and cause: i.e., his ghostly appearance and the wrong done to him. 127. would make them capable: i.e., would make the stones sympathize with the Ghost. 128-129. Lest . . . effects: i.e., Lest your look fill me with pity and make me change my stern purpose. 129-130. then what I have to do / Will want true color; tears perchance for blood: i.e., then what I am going to do will lack its proper appearance; I may shed tears rather than the blood of King Claudius.
126His form and cause conjoin'd, preaching to stones,
127Would make them capable. Do not look upon me;
128Lest with this piteous action you convert
129My stern effects: then what I have to do
130Will want true color; tears perchance for blood.
131To whom do you speak this?
131Do you see nothing there?
132Nothing at all; yet all that is I see.
133Nor did you nothing hear?
133No, nothing but ourselves.
134Why, look you there! look, how it steals away!
135. habit: dress.
135My father, in his habit as he lived!
136Look, where he goes, even now, out at the portal!
137This the very coinage of your brain:
138-139. This bodiless creation ecstasy / Is very cunning in: i.e., madness is very good at creating such illusions.
138This bodiless creation ecstasy
139Is very cunning in.
140My pulse, as yours, doth temperately keep time,
141And makes as healthful music: it is not madness
142That I have utter'd: bring me to the test,
143And I the matter will re-word; which madness
144. gambol: start, jerk away.
144Would gambol from. Mother, for love of grace,
145. flattering unction: soothing ointment.
145Lay not that flattering unction to your soul,
146That not your trespass, but my madness speaks:
145. ulcerous place: i.e., skin ulcer.
147It will but skin and film the ulcerous place,
148. mining: working under the surface.
148Whilst rank corruption, mining all within,
149Infects unseen. Confess yourself to heaven;
150Repent what's past; avoid what is to come;
151. compost: manure.
151And do not spread the compost on the weeds,
152. Forgive me this my virtue: i.e., forgive me for having enough virtue to tell you honestly what's wrong with you. 153. fatness: grossness. pursy: puffy, out of condition or short-winded and corpulent. 155. curb and woo: bow and entreat. leave: permission.
152To make them ranker. Forgive me this my virtue;
153For in the fatness of these pursy times
154Virtue itself of vice must pardon beg,
155Yea, curb and woo for leave to do him good.
156O Hamlet, thou hast cleft my heart in twain.
157O, throw away the worser part of it,
158And live the purer with the other half.
159Good night: but go not to mine uncle's bed;
160Assume a virtue, if you have it not.
161. all sense doth eat: wears away all natural feeling.
161That monster, custom, who all sense doth eat,
162. Of habits devil: i.e., though it acts like a devil in establishing bad habits.
162Of habits devil, is angel yet in this,
163That to the use of actions fair and good
164. frock or livery: i.e., a kind of habit or uniform. One meaning of "frock" was a monk's habit. A "livery" is a uniform worn by servants of a household. Both indicate a loyalty to certain group and its standards.
164He likewise gives a frock or livery,
165That aptly is put on. Refrain tonight,
166And that shall lend a kind of easiness
167To the next abstinence: the next more easy;
168. use: habit.
168For use almost can change the stamp of nature,
169And either master the devil, or throw him out
170With wondrous potency. Once more, good night:
171-172. when you are desirous to be bless'd, / I'll blessing beg of you: i.e., when you want me to bless you (for having followed my advice and refused sex with King Claudius), I'll beg your blessing (and forgiveness, for being so harsh).
171And when you are desirous to be bless'd,
172I'll blessing beg of you. For this same lord,
[Pointing to Polonius.]
173I do repent: but heaven hath pleased it so,
174To punish me with this and this with me,
175. scourge and minister: i.e., the agent of heavenly punishment. 176. bestow: dispose of. answer: answer for, suffer the consequences of.
175That I must be their scourge and minister.
176I will bestow him, and will answer well
177The death I gave him. So, again, good night.
178I must be cruel, only to be kind:
179. remains behind: i.e., is yet to come.
179Thus bad begins and worse remains behind.
180One word more, good lady.
180What shall I do?
181Not this, by no means, that I bid you do:
182. bloat: bloated.
182Let the bloat king tempt you again to bed;
183Pinch wanton on your cheek; call you his mouse;
184. reechy: filthy, smelly.
184And let him, for a pair of reechy kisses,
185Or paddling in your neck with his damn'd fingers,
186Make you to ravel all this matter out,
187That I essentially am not in madness,
188. good: Hamlet is being sarcastic.
188But mad in craft. 'Twere good you let him know;
189For who, that's but a queen, fair, sober, wise,
190. paddock: toad. gib: tom-cat.
190Would from a paddock, from a bat, a gib,
191. dear concernings: matters of intense concern.
191Such dear concernings hide? who would do so?
192No, in despite of sense and secrecy,
193. Unpeg the basket: open the door of the cage; i.e., let out the secret. 194. famous ape: The actual story has been lost. 195. conclusions: experiments ...more
193Unpeg the basket on the house's top.
194Let the birds fly, and, like the famous ape,
195To try conclusions, in the basket creep,
196. down: by the fall.
196And break your own neck down.
197Be thou assured, if words be made of breath,
198And breath of life, I have no life to breathe
199What thou hast said to me.
200I must to England; you know that?
201I had forgot: 'tis so concluded on.
202There's letters seal'd: and my two schoolfellows,
203Whom I will trust as I will adders fang'd,
204. mandate: the message from King Claudius to the English. sweep my way: prepare my way. 205. marshal me to knavery: ceremoniously usher me into a trap. 206. enginer: deviser of military "engines" or contrivances. 207. Hoist with: blown up by. petard: bomb, used to blow a hole in a wall. 208. mines: tunnels used in warfare to undermine the enemy's walls; Hamlet will countermine by going under their mines. 210. crafts: plots.
211. packing: (1) taking on a load; (2) leaving in a hurry.
211. packing: (1) taking on a load; (2) leaving in a hurry.
204They bear the mandate; they must sweep my way,
205And marshal me to knavery. Let it work;
206For 'tis the sport to have the engineer
207Hoist with his own petard: and 't shall go hard
208But I will delve one yard below their mines,
209And blow them at the moon: O, 'tis most sweet,
210When in one line two crafts directly meet.
211This man shall set me packing:
212I'll lug the guts into the neighbour room.
213Mother, good night. Indeed this counsellor
214Is now most still, most secret and most grave,
215Who was in life a foolish prating knave.
216. draw toward an end with you: (1) bring my conversation with you to a close; (2) drag you to your resting-place.
216Come, sir, to draw toward an end with you.
217Good night, mother.
Exeunt [severally; Hamlet dragging in Polonius].