Hamlet: Act 4, Scene 5

           Enter HORATIO, [QUEEN] GERTRUDE,
           and a GENTLEMAN.

  1   I will not speak with her.

  2   She is importunate, indeed distract:
  3   Her mood will needs be pitied.

  3                                            What would she have?

  4   She speaks much of her father; says she hears
5. tricks: deceptions.  heart: i.e., breast.
  5   There's tricks i' the world; and hems, and beats her heart;
6. Spurns  . . .  straws: i.e., spitefully takes offense at trifles. —Literally, "spurn" means "kick."  in doubt: obscurely. 7. Her speech: What she says. 8. unshaped use: distracted manner. 9. collection: attempts to gather the meaning. yawn at: gape at, wonder at. 10. botch: patch.
  6   Spurns enviously at straws; speaks things in doubt,
  7   That carry but half sense. Her speech is nothing,
  8   Yet the unshaped use of it doth move
  9   The hearers to collection; they yawn at it,
 10   And botch the words up fit to their own thoughts;
11-13. Which,  . . .  unhappily: i.e., her words — as she delivers them with winks, nods, and odd gestures — would indeed make one think that one could infer — though without being sure — much shocking meaning.
 11   Which, as her winks, and nods, and gestures yield them,
 12   Indeed would make one think there might be thought,
 13   Though nothing sure, yet much unhappily.

 14   'Twere good she were spoken with; for she may strew
15. ill-breeding minds: minds which conceive ill thoughts; i.e., people who are prone to think the worst.
 15   Dangerous conjectures in ill-breeding minds.

 16   Let her come in.

           [Exit Horatio and Gentleman.]

17. as sin's true nature is: i.e., as is natural to a guilty conscience. 18. toy: trifle.  amiss: calamity.
 17   To my sick soul, as sin's true nature is,
 18   Each toy seems prologue to some great amiss:
19. artless jealousy: —"Jealousy" means "suspicion"; in this case the guilty person ...more 20. It spills itself in fearing to be spilt: i.e., it reveals itself precisely because it fears to be revealed.
 19   So full of artless jealousy is guilt,
 20   It spills itself in fearing to be spilt.

           Enter OPHELIA [and Horatio].

 21   Where is the beauteous majesty of Denmark?

 22   How now, Ophelia!

      OPHELIA   [She sings.]
23-26. "How should I your true love know / From another one? / By his cockle hat and staff, / And his sandal shoon": —These lines ...more 25. cockle hat: hat adorned with cockle shells. ...more 26. shoon: shoes —The word was archaic in Shakespeare's time, but his audience would have known what it meant and understood that Ophelia was singing a verse from an old ballad.
 23          "How should I your true love know
 24             From another one?
 25          By his cockle hat and staff,
 26             And his sandal shoon."

 27   Alas, sweet lady, what imports this song?

 28   Say you? nay, pray you, mark.


 29          "He is dead and gone, lady,
 30             He is dead and gone;
 31          At his head a grass-green turf,
 32             At his heels a stone."
 33   O ho!

 34   Nay, but, Ophelia—

 35   Pray you, mark.


 36          "White his shroud as the mountain snow,"—

           Enter KING.

 37   Alas, look here, my lord.



38. Larded: Adorned.
 38             "Larded with sweet flowers
39. Which bewept to the grave did not go: —Because her father was buried in a "hugger-mugger" (see line 84) fashion, it seems likely that Ophelia added the word "not" to this line of the old ballad.
 39          Which bewept to the grave did not go
 40             With true-love showers."

 41   How do you, pretty lady?

42. 'ild: yield, reward. owl: —Ophelia is alluding to a legend of a baker's daughter whom Jesus turned into an owl because she did not respond generously to his request for bread.
 42   Well, God 'ild you! They say the owl was a baker's
 43   daughter. Lord, we know what we are, but know not
 44   what we may be. God be at your table!

45. Conceit upon her father: i.e., she is brooding about her father.
 45   Conceit upon her father.

 46   Pray you, let's have no words of this; but when they
 47   ask you what it means, say you this:


 48          "Tomorrow is Saint Valentine's day.
49-51. All in the morning betime, / And I a maid at your window, / To be your Valentine: —The girl in the song gets up early in the morning ("betime") on Valentine's day and goes to the man's window because folklore said that the first girl seen by a man on the morning of Valentine's day would be his valentine, his true love. The girl wants to be the first one the man sees. 53. dupp'd: opened.
 49             All in the morning betime,
 50          And I a maid at your window,
 51             To be your Valentine.

 52          "Then up he rose, and donn'd his clothes,
 53             And dupp'd the chamber-door;
54-55. Let in the maid, that out a maid / Never departed more: —The man who the girl wanted for a valentine takes advantage of her. When he lets her into his room she's a "maid" (a virgin), but when she leaves she is no longer a virgin.
 54          Let in the maid, that out a maid
 55             Never departed more."

 56   Pretty Ophelia!

 57   Indeed, la, without an oath, I'll make an end on't:


58. Gis: —Contraction of "Jesus."
 58          "By Gis and by Saint Charity,
 59             Alack, and fie for shame!
60. if they come to't: i.e., if they have an opportunity.
 60          Young men will do't, if they come to't;
61. cock: —Slang for "God." Given the context, "cock" is a rather nasty pun; the girl in the song has been just screwed in two ways: 1) she's had sex; 2) her partner has cynically taken advantage of her love for him.
 61             By cock, they are to blame.

 62          Quoth she, 'Before you tumbled me,
 63             You promised me to wed.'

 64   He answers:

 65          'So would I ha' done, by yonder sun,
66. An: if.
 66             An thou hadst not come to my bed.'"

 67   How long hath she been thus?

 68   I hope all will be well. We must be patient: but I
 69   cannot choose but weep, to think they should lay him
 70   i' the cold ground. My brother shall know of it:
 71   and so I thank you for your good counsel. Come, my
 72   coach! Good night, ladies; good night, sweet ladies;
 73   good night, good night.


 74   Follow her close; give her good watch, I pray you.

           [Exit Horatio.]

 75   O, this is the poison of deep grief; it springs
 76   All from her father's death—and now behold!
 77   O Gertrude, Gertrude,
78. spies: i.e., scouts sent ahead of the main force.
 78   When sorrows come, they come not single spies
 79   But in battalions. First, her father slain:
80-81. he  . . .  remove: i.e., he (Hamlet), by his own violence, caused his own justified exile. 81. muddied: confused and stirred up. ...more
 80   Next, your son gone; and he most violent author
 81   Of his own just remove: the people muddied,
 82   Thick and unwholesome in their thoughts and whispers,
83. greenly: i.e., like someone who is "green" in the sense of being inexperienced and thoughtless. 84. In hugger-mugger: in secret haste.
 83   For good Polonius' death; and we have done but greenly,
 84   In hugger-mugger to inter him: poor Ophelia
 85   Divided from herself and her fair judgment,
 86   Without the which we are pictures, or mere beasts;
 87   Last, and as much containing as all these,
 88   Her brother is in secret come from France;
89. Feeds on his wonder: i.e., thinks of nothing but his suspicions ...more 90. wants no: lacks no. buzzers: gossiping busybodies.
 89   Feeds on his wonder, keeps himself in clouds,
 90   And wants not buzzers to infect his ear
 91   With pestilent speeches of his father's death;
92-94. Wherein  . . .  ear: i.e., in delivering their "pestilent speeches," the "buzzers," out of necessity, because they have no facts, will think nothing of slandering me to everyone.
 92   Wherein necessity, of matter beggar'd,
 93   Will nothing stick our person to arraign
 94   In ear and ear. O my dear Gertrude, this,
95. murd'ring-piece: cannon loaded with small shot, so that when fired it will kill ...more 96. Gives me superfluous death: —The King's idea is that any one of his woes would be enough to kill him, so that all together they give him more death than he needs, "superfluous death."
 95   Like to a murdering-piece, in many places
 96   Gives me superfluous death.

           A noise within.

 96                                         Alack, what noise is this?

 97   Attend!
98. Switzers: Swiss guards. —In Shakespeare's time Swiss guards, who had a strong reputation for discipline and loyalty, were employed as palace guards in various European courts. For a king, one of the advantages of having a Swiss guard was that the Swiss were unlikely to be influenced by local politics, and so unlikely to turn on the king who employed them.
 98   Where are my Switzers? Let them guard the door.

           Enter a Messenger.

 98                                        What is the matter?

 99   Save yourself, my lord:
100. overpeering of his list: rising higher than its shores.
100   The ocean, overpeering of his list,
101. flats: i.e., flatlands near shore.
101   Eats not the flats with more impetuous haste
102. in a riotous head: i.e., leading a rowdy crowd of rebels.
102   Than young Laertes, in a riotous head,
103   O'erbears your officers. The rabble call him lord;
104-106. as the world were now but to begin, / Antiquity forgot, custom not known, / The ratifiers and props of every word: i.e., as if the world were just begun, as if all history were forgotten and traditional practices were unknown, as if history and tradition were not what validates and supports every oath and pledge. —The Messenger is shocked that Laertes and his riotous followers ignore all traditional values, especially respect for a king.
104   And, as the world were now but to begin,
105   Antiquity forgot, custom not known,
106   The ratifiers and props of every word,
107   They cry "Choose we: Laertes shall be king!"
108   Caps, hands, and tongues, applaud it to the clouds:
109   "Laertes shall be king, Laertes king!"

110-111. How cheerfully on the false trail they cry! / O, this is counter, you false Danish dogs!: —A pack of hunting dogs, barking and baying as they follow a scent, are said to be "crying on a trail." The Queen knows that Laertes's followers believe that her husband, the King, is responsible for the death of Polonius, Laertes' father. She speaks of them as dogs, and is furious with them because they are "counter" (literally, backward), and because they are "false" (treacherous to their king).
110   How cheerfully on the false trail they cry!
111   O, this is counter, you false Danish dogs!

112   The doors are broke.

           Enter LAERTES with others.

113   Where is this king? Sirs, stand you all without.

114   No, let's come in.

114                                   I pray you, give me leave.

115   We will, we will.

116   I thank you: keep the door.

           [Exeunt Laertes' followers.]

116                                         O thou vile king,
117   Give me my father!

117                                 Calmly, good Laertes.

118-121. That drop  . . .  mother: — The general idea of this speech is clear: The King has just told Laertes to calm down and Laertes replies ...more
118   That drop of blood that's calm proclaims me bastard,
119   Cries cuckold to my father, brands the harlot
120   Even here, between the chaste unsmirched brows
121   Of my true mother.

121                                 What is the cause, Laertes,
122   That thy rebellion looks so giant-like?
123. Let him go, Gertrude: —This is one of many implied stage directions in Shakespeare's plays. ...more 124. hedge: enclose, protect. 125. can but peep to what it would: can only catch a glimpse of what it would like to do. 126. Acts little of his will: performs little of what it ["treason"] wants to do.
123   Let him go, Gertrude; do not fear our person:
124   There's such divinity doth hedge a king,
125   That treason can but peep to what it would,
126   Acts little of his will. Tell me, Laertes,
127   Why thou art thus incensed. Let him go, Gertrude.
128   Speak, man.

129   Where is my father?

129                                    Dead.

129                                               But not by him.

130. Let him demand his fill: i.e., let him ask as many questions as he wants.
130   Let him demand his fill.

131   How came he dead? I'll not be juggled with:
132   To hell, allegiance! vows, to the blackest devil!
133   Conscience and grace, to the profoundest pit!
134. I dare damnation: I dare to risk damnation.  —A few seconds ago the King ...more 135. both the worlds I give to negligence: i.e., I don't care what the consequences are in this world or in the next.
134   I dare damnation. To this point I stand,
135   That both the worlds I give to negligence,
136   Let come what comes; only I'll be revenged
137   Most thoroughly for my father.

137. Who shall stay you?: who's going to stop you?  —The King means that he certainly won't stand in Laertes' way.
137                                             Who shall stay you?

138. My will, not all the world's: i.e., I'll stop only when my will is accomplished, not when the rest of the world tells me to.
138   My will, not all the world's.
139   And for my means, I'll husband them so well,
140   They shall go far with little.

140                                               Good Laertes,
141   If you desire to know the certainty
142   Of your dear father's death, is't writ in your revenge,
143. That, swoopstake, you will draw both friend and foe: i.e., that you will destroy friend and foe indiscriminately.  —Both "swoopstake" and "draw" are gambling terms. The big winner in a game swoops down on the table and draws everyone's stakes.
143   That, swoopstake, you will draw both friend and foe,
144   Winner and loser?

145   None but his enemies.

145                                     Will you know them then?

146. thus wide I'll ope my arms: this wide I will open my arms. ...more 147. the kind life-rendering pelican: —The pelican was thought ...more 148. Repast: feed.
146   To his good friends thus wide I'll ope my arms;
147   And like the kind life-rendering pelican,
148   Repast them with my blood.

148                                          Why, now you speak
149. good child: faithful son.
149   Like a good child and a true gentleman.
150   That I am guiltless of your father's death,
151. sensibly: feelingly.
151   And am most sensibly in grief for it,
152. level: plain.
152   It shall as level to your judgment pierce
153   As day does to your eye.

           A noise within.

153                                        Let her come in!

154   How now! what noise is that?

           Enter OPHELIA.

155   O heat, dry up my brains! tears seven times salt,
156. virtue: faculty, power.  —Laertes is asking to be struck blind rather than see the pitiful madness of his sister. 157. thy madness shall be paid by weight, / Till our scale turn the beam: i.e., your madness shall be paid for (revenged) to such an extent that our revenge shall outweigh the wrong done to you. ...more
156   Burn out the sense and virtue of mine eye!
157   By heaven, thy madness shall be paid by weight,
158   Till our scale turn the beam. O rose of May!
159   Dear maid, kind sister, sweet Ophelia!
160   O heavens! is't possible, a young maid's wits
161   Should be as mortal as an old man's life?
162. fine in: refined or spiritualized by.
162   Nature is fine in love, and where 'tis fine,
163. instance: proof, token. Laertes means that Ophelia's sanity is the love-token that she has sent after her beloved father.
163   It sends some precious instance of itself
164   After the thing it loves.



165          "They bore him barefaced on the bier;
166          Hey non nonny, nonny, hey nonny;
167          And in his grave rain'd many a tear"—
168   Fare you well, my dove!

169-170. Hadst  . . .  thus: If you had your wits and were arguing for revenge (for Polonius' death), it could not move me (to seek revenge for Polonius' death) as much as I am now moved (by the spectacle of your insanity).
169   Hadst thou thy wits, and didst persuade revenge,
170   It could not move thus.

171-172. You  . . .  a-down-a: you must sing "a-down a-down" if you believe he is dead (??). 172. wheel: refrain (??).
171   You must sing "a-down a-down," and you call him
172   a-down-a. O, how the wheel becomes it! It is the
173. false steward: Ophelia seems to be referring to some ballad or tale.
173   false steward, that stole his master's daughter.

174. This nothing's more than matter: this nonsense is more moving than rational speech.
174   This nothing's more than matter.

175. rosemary: —Rosemary was used as a symbol of remembrance at both weddings and funerals. 176-177. And there is pansies; that's for thoughts: —Ophelia is speaking of the wildflower which is the ancestor of the garden flower developed in the nineteenth century. ...more
175   There's rosemary, that's for remembrance; pray,
176   love, remember. And there is pansies; that's for
177   thoughts.

178-179. A document in madness, thoughts and remembrance fitted: —A "document" was an instruction, admonition, or warning. ...more
178   A document in madness, thoughts and remembrance
179   fitted.

180. [To King.]: —None of the original texts have this stage direction; editors often put it in because it seems appropriate ...more
180   [To King.] There's fennel for you, and columbines.
181   [To Queen.] There's rue for you; and here's some
182   for me: we may call it herb of grace a' Sundays.
183. You may wear your rue with a difference: —In heraldry, a coat of arms ...more 184. daisy, violets: —Daisies were emblematic of false appearances; violets were emblematic of faithfulness.
183   You may wear your rue with a difference. There's
184   a daisy. I would give you some violets, but they
185   withered all when my father died. They say he
186   made a good end—


187          "For bonny sweet Robin is all my joy."

188   Thought and affliction, passion, hell itself,
189. favour: grace, charm.
189   She turns to favour and to prettiness.



190          "And will he not come again?
191          And will he not come again?
192            No, no, he is dead:
193            Go to thy death-bed:
194          He never will come again.

195          "His beard was as white as snow,
196. flaxen: white. poll: head.
196          All flaxen was his poll:
197            He is gone, he is gone,
198. we cast away moan: i.e., we moan in grief, but it's useless.
198            And we cast away moan:
199          God ha' mercy on his soul!"
200-201. God buy you: goodbye; God be with you.
200   And of all Christian souls, I pray God. God buy
201   you.


202   Do you see this, O God?

203. I must commune with your grief: i.e., you must allow me to share your grief.
203   Laertes, I must commune with your grief,
204   Or you deny me right. Go but apart,
205   Make choice of whom your wisest friends you will,
206   And they shall hear and judge 'twixt you and me:
207. collateral: i.e., indirect.
207   If by direct or by collateral hand
208. find us touch'd: find me (even a little) guilty.
208   They find us touch'd, we will our kingdom give,
209   Our crown, our life, and all that we call ours,
210. in satisfaction: in payment (of the debt owed to you for the death of your father).
210   To you in satisfaction; but if not,
211   Be you content to lend your patience to us,
212   And we shall jointly labour with your soul
213   To give it due content.

213                                       Let this be so;
214   His means of death, his obscure funeral—
215. trophy: memorial. hatchment: heraldic ...more
215   No trophy, sword, nor hatchment o'er his bones,
216. formal ostentation: customary ceremony.
216   No noble rite nor formal ostentation—
217   Cry to be heard, as 'twere from heaven to earth,
218. That I must call't in question: so that I must call it all into question.
218   That I must call't in question.

218                                                 So you shall;
219   And where the offence is let the great axe fall.
220   I pray you, go with me.