Hamlet: Act 4, Scene 3

           Enter KING and two or three.

  1   I have sent to seek him, and to find the body.
  2   How dangerous is it that this man goes loose!
  3   Yet must not we put the strong law on him:
4. distracted: unstable.
  4   He's loved of the distracted multitude,
5. Who  . . .  eyes: i.e., who judge only by appearances. ...more  6. scourge: i.e., punishment. weigh'd: taken into consideration.  7. bear all: manage everything.
  5   Who like not in their judgment, but their eyes;
  6   And where 'tis so, the offender's scourge is weigh'd,
  7   But never the offence. To bear all smooth and even,
8-9. must seem / Deliberate pause: i.e., must seem to be the result of a long deliberation.  9-11. diseases  . . .  all: diseases that are so far advanced that there seems little hope of a cure are cured by desperate means or not at all.
  8   This sudden sending him away must seem
  9   Deliberate pause: diseases desperate grown
 10   By desperate appliance are relieved,
 11   Or not at all.

           Enter ROSENCRANTZ.

 11                               How now! what hath befall'n?

 12   Where the dead body is bestow'd, my lord,
 13   We cannot get from him.

 13                                      But where is he?

14. without: i.e., just outside the door.
 14   Without, my lord; guarded, to know your pleasure.

 15   Bring him before us.

 15                                    Ho, bring in the lord.

           They [HAMLET, GUILDENSTERN,
           and the Guards] enter.

 16   Now, Hamlet, where's Polonius?

 17   At supper.

 18   At supper! where?

 19   Not where he eats, but where he is eaten: a certain
20-21. politic: crafty, prying. Ironically, Polonius himself might be described as a "politic worm."  e'en: even now.  Your worm is your only emperor for diet: i.e., the common worm has the best diet of any creature in the world. ...more
 20   convocation of politic worms are e'en at him. Your
 21   worm is your only emperor for diet: we fat all
 22   creatures else to fat us, and we fat ourselves for
 23   maggots: your fat king and your lean beggar is but
24. variable service: different courses of the same meal.
 24   variable service, two dishes, but to one table:
25. that's the end: 1) that's the goal (i.e., we all eat only so the worms can eat); 2) that's all there is to say about that.
 25   that's the end.

 26   Alas, alas!

 27   A man may fish with the worm that hath eat of a
 28   king, and eat of the fish that hath fed of that worm.

 29   What dost thou mean by this?

 30   Nothing but to show you how a king may go a
31. progress: royal journey of state. A royal progress was an important ceremonial occasion; local officials and noblemen conducted celebrations and arranged for elaborate entertainments. Hamlet insults the King by turning all of this upside down and saying that "a king may go a progress through the guts of a beggar."
 31   progress through the guts of a beggar.

 32   Where is Polonius?

 33   In heaven; send thither to see: if your messenger
34-35. seek him i' the other place yourself: This is a humorous way of saying "You are going to hell!"
 34   find him not there, seek him i' the other place
 35   yourself. But indeed, if you find him not within
36. nose him: smell him.
 36   this month, you shall nose him as you go up the
 37   stairs into the lobby.

      KING  [To some Attendants.]
 38   Go seek him there.

39. 'A will stay till you come: he will remain where he is until you arrive. I think that the attendants who are sent to find the body of Polonius are hurrying, and that Hamlet jokingly reminds them that there is no need to hurry, because Polonius is dead and will therefore wait patiently for them.
 39   'A will stay till you come.

           [Exeunt Attendants.]

 40   Hamlet, this deed, for thine especial safety—
41. tender: hold dear.  dearly grieve: grieve sincerely and intensely.
 41   Which we do tender, as we dearly grieve
 42   For that which thou hast done—must send thee hence
 43   With fiery quickness: therefore prepare thyself;
44. bark: sailing vessel.  at help: favorable.
 44   The bark is ready, and the wind at help,
45. Th' associates tend: your traveling companions [Rosencrantz and Guildenstern] await you.  is bent: is eager and ready [for the journey].
 45   Th' associates tend, and everything is bent
 46   For England.

 46                            For England!

 46                                              Ay, Hamlet.

 46                                                                 Good.

 47   So is it, if thou knew'st our purposes.

48. I see a cherub that sees them: i.e., heaven sees them. Cherubs are angels.
 48   I see a cherub that sees them. But, come; for
 49   England! Farewell, dear mother.

 50   Thy loving father, Hamlet.

 51   My mother: father and mother is man and wife;
 52   man and wife is one flesh; and so, my mother.
 53   Come, for England!


54. at foot: at his heels, close behind.  tempt him with speed aboard: encourage him to board quickly.
 54   Follow him at foot; tempt him with speed aboard;
 55   Delay it not; I'll have him hence tonight:
 56   Away! for every thing is seal'd and done
57. leans on: relates to.
 57   That else leans on the affair: pray you, make haste.

           [Exeunt ROSENCRANTZ and GUILDENSTERN.]

58-59. England: i.e., King of England.  if  . . .  sense: i.e., if my good will is worth anything to you, as my power over you should make you sense that it is. 60. cicatrice: scar.  ...more
 58   And, England, if my love thou hold'st at aught—
 59   As my great power thereof may give thee sense,
 60   Since yet thy cicatrice looks raw and red
61. free awe: unforced respect.
 61   After the Danish sword, and thy free awe
62-63. thou  . . .  process: you are not permitted to coldly disregard my royal command. 63. which imports at full: which clearly demands. 64. congruing to: in accord with.  effect: outcome. 65. present: immediate.
 62   Pays homage to us—thou mayst not coldly set
 63   Our sovereign process; which imports at full,
 64   By letters congruing to that effect,
 65   The present death of Hamlet. Do it, England;
66. hectic: continuous fever.
 66   For like the hectic in my blood he rages,
67-68. till I know 'tis done, / Howe'er my haps, my joys were ne'er begun: i.e., until I know it has been done, no matter what else may happen to me, I will never be happy.
 67   And thou must cure me: till I know 'tis done,
 68   Howe'er my haps, my joys were ne'er begun.