Hamlet: Act 4, Scene 5
Enter HORATIO, [QUEEN] GERTRUDE,
and a GENTLEMAN.
1I will not speak with her.
2She is importunate, indeed distract:
3Her mood will needs be pitied.
3What would she have?
4She speaks much of her father; says she hears
5. tricks: deceptions. heart: i.e., breast.
5There'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.
6Spurns enviously at straws; speaks things in doubt,
7That carry but half sense. Her speech is nothing,
8Yet the unshaped use of it doth move
9The hearers to collection; they yawn at it,
10And 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.
11Which, as her winks, and nods, and gestures yield them,
12Indeed would make one think there might be thought,
13Though 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.
15Dangerous conjectures in ill-breeding minds.
16Let 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.
17To my sick soul, as sin's true nature is,
18Each toy seems prologue to some great amiss:
19. artless jealousy: i.e., paranoia which cannot be concealed. ...more 20. It spills itself in fearing to be spilt: i.e., it reveals itself precisely because it fears to be revealed.
19So full of artless jealousy is guilt,
20It spills itself in fearing to be spilt.
Enter OPHELIA [and Horatio].
21Where is the beauteous majesty of Denmark?
22How now, Ophelia!
OPHELIA [She sings.]
23-26. "How ... shoon": These are probably lines from a traditional ballad. ...more 25. cockle hat: hat adorned with cockle shells, signifying that the person wearing the hat had made the famous pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela
"How should I your true love know
From another one?
By his cockle hat and staff,
And his sandal shoon."
27Alas, sweet lady, what imports this song?
28Say you? nay, pray you, mark.
"He is dead and gone, lady,
He is dead and gone;
At his head a grass-green turf,
At his heels a stone."
34Nay, but, Ophelia
35Pray you, mark.
"White his shroud as the mountain snow,"
37Alas, look here, my lord.
38. Larded: Adorned.
"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.
Which bewept to the grave did not go
With true-love showers."
41How 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.
42Well, God 'ild you! They say the owl was a baker's
43daughter. Lord, we know what we are, but know not
44what we may be. God be at your table!
45. Conceit upon her father: i.e., she is brooding about her father.
45Conceit upon her father.
46Pray you, let's have no words of this; but when they
47ask you what it means, say you this:
"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.
All in the morning betime,
And I a maid at your window,
To be your Valentine.
"Then up he rose, and donn'd his clothes,
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.
Let in the maid, that out a maid
Never departed more."
57Indeed, la, without an oath, I'll make an end on't:
58. Gis: Contraction of "Jesus."
"By Gis and by Saint Charity,
Alack, and fie for shame!
60. if they come to't: i.e., if they have an opportunity.
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.
By cock, they are to blame.
Quoth she, 'Before you tumbled me,
You promised me to wed.'
'So would I ha' done, by yonder sun,
66. An: if.
An thou hadst not come to my bed.'"
67How long hath she been thus?
68I hope all will be well. We must be patient: but I
69cannot choose but weep, to think they should lay him
70i' the cold ground. My brother shall know of it:
71and so I thank you for your good counsel. Come, my
72coach! Good night, ladies; good night, sweet ladies;
73good night, good night.
74Follow her close; give her good watch, I pray you.
75O, this is the poison of deep grief; it springs
76All from her father's deathand now behold!
77O Gertrude, Gertrude,
78. spies: i.e., scouts sent ahead of the main force.
78When sorrows come, they come not single spies
79But 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
80Next, your son gone; and he most violent author
81Of his own just remove: the people muddied,
82Thick 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.
83For good Polonius' death; and we have done but greenly,
84In hugger-mugger to inter him: poor Ophelia
85Divided from herself and her fair judgment,
86Without the which we are pictures, or mere beasts;
87Last, and as much containing as all these,
88Her brother is in secret come from France;
89. Feeds on his wonder: i.e., thinks of nothing but his suspicions. keeps himself in clouds: i.e., doesn't reveal what he's thinking? 90. wants no: lacks no. buzzers: gossiping busybodies. 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. 95. murd'ring-piece: cannon loaded with small shot, to kill as many as possible with one blast. 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."
89Feeds on his wonder, keeps himself in clouds,
90And wants not buzzers to infect his ear
91With pestilent speeches of his father's death;
92Wherein necessity, of matter beggar'd,
93Will nothing stick our person to arraign
94In ear and ear. O my dear Gertrude, this,
95Like to a murdering-piece, in many places
96Gives me superfluous death.
A noise within.
96Alack, what noise is this?
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.
98Where are my Switzers? Let them guard the door.
Enter a Messenger.
98What is the matter?
99Save yourself, my lord:
100. overpeering of his list: rising higher than its shores.
100The ocean, overpeering of his list,
101. flats: i.e., flatlands near shore.
101Eats not the flats with more impetuous haste
102. in a riotous head: i.e., leading a rowdy crowd of rebels.
102Than young Laertes, in a riotous head,
103O'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.
104And, as the world were now but to begin,
105Antiquity forgot, custom not known,
106The ratifiers and props of every word,
107They cry "Choose we: Laertes shall be king!"
108Caps, 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).
110How cheerfully on the false trail they cry!
111O, this is counter, you false Danish dogs!
112The doors are broke.
Enter LAERTES with others.
113Where is this king? Sirs, stand you all without.
114No, let's come in.
114I pray you, give me leave.
115We will, we will.
116I thank you: keep the door.
[Exeunt Laertes' followers.]
116O thou vile king,
117Give me my father!
117Calmly, good Laertes.
118-121. That drop . . . mother: i.e., being calm would prove me a bastard. ...more
118That drop of blood that's calm proclaims me bastard,
119Cries cuckold to my father, brands the harlot
120Even here, between the chaste unsmirched brows
121Of my true mother.
121What is the cause, Laertes,
122That thy rebellion looks so giant-like?
123. do not fear our person: don't be afraid that I will be harmed. 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.
123Let him go, Gertrude; do not fear our person:
124There's such divinity doth hedge a king,
125That treason can but peep to what it would,
126Acts little of his will. Tell me, Laertes,
127Why thou art thus incensed. Let him go, Gertrude.
Bendict Wong as Laertes
Sally Dexter as Gertrude
Image Source: Young Vic
129Where is my father?
129But not by him.
130. Let him demand his fill: i.e., let him ask as many questions as he wants.
130Let him demand his fill.
131How came he dead? I'll not be juggled with:
132To hell, allegiance! vows, to the blackest devil!
133Conscience and grace, to the profoundest pit!
134. I dare damnation: I dare to risk damnation. ...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.
134I dare damnation. To this point I stand,
135That both the worlds I give to negligence,
136Let come what comes; only I'll be revenged
137Most 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.
137Who 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.
138My will, not all the world's.
139And for my means, I'll husband them so well,
140They shall go far with little.
141If you desire to know the certainty
142Of 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.
143That, swoopstake, you will draw both friend and foe,
144Winner and loser?
145None but his enemies.
145Will 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 to feed its young with its heart's blood. ...more 148. Repast: feed.
146To his good friends thus wide I'll ope my arms;
147And like the kind life-rendering pelican,
148Repast them with my blood.
148Why, now you speak
149. good child: faithful son.
149Like a good child and a true gentleman.
150That I am guiltless of your father's death,
151. sensibly: feelingly.
151And am most sensibly in grief for it,
152. level: plain.
152It shall as level to your judgment pierce
153As day does to your eye.
A noise within.
153Let her come in!
154How now! what noise is that?
155O 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
156Burn out the sense and virtue of mine eye!
157By heaven, thy madness shall be paid by weight,
158Till our scale turn the beam. O rose of May!
159Dear maid, kind sister, sweet Ophelia!
160O heavens! is't possible, a young maid's wits
161Should be as mortal as an old man's life?
162. fine in: refined or spiritualized by.
162Nature 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 dead father.
163It sends some precious instance of itself
164After the thing it loves.
"They bore him barefaced on the bier;
Hey non nonny, nonny, hey nonny;
And in his grave rain'd many a tear"
168Fare 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).
169Hadst thou thy wits, and didst persuade revenge,
170It 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 (??).
171You must sing "a-down a-down," and you call him
172a-down-a. O, how the wheel becomes it! It is the
173. false steward: Ophelia seems to be referring to some ballad or tale.
173false steward, that stole his master's daughter.
174. This nothing's more than matter: this nonsense is more moving than rational speech.
174This nothing's more than matter.
175. rosemary: Rosemary was used as a symbol of remembrance at both weddings and funerals. ...more about Ophelia's flowers.
175There's rosemary, that's for remembrance; pray,
176love, remember. And there is pansies; that's for
178-179. A document in madness, thoughts and remembrance fitted: A "document" was an instruction, admonition, or warning. ...more
178A document in madness, thoughts and remembrance
180. [To King.] ... [To Queen.]: None of the original texts have these stage directions; editors often insert them because they 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
182for me: we may call it herb of grace a' Sundays.
183. rue: emblem of sorrow and repentance. 184. daisy, violets: Daisies were emblematic of false appearances; violets were emblematic of faithfulness.
183You may wear your rue with a difference. There's
184a daisy. I would give you some violets, but they
185withered all when my father died. They say he
186made a good end
"For bonny sweet Robin is all my joy."
188Thought and affliction, passion, hell itself,
189. favour: grace, charm.
189She turns to favour and to prettiness.
"And will he not come again?
And will he not come again?
No, no, he is dead:
Go to thy death-bed:
He never will come again.
"His beard was as white as snow,
196. flaxen: white. poll: head.
All flaxen was his poll:
He is gone, he is gone,
198. we cast away moan: i.e., we moan in grief, but it's useless.
And we cast away moan:
God ha' mercy on his soul!"
200-201. God buy you: goodbye; God be with you.
200And of all Christian souls, I pray God. God buy
202Do you see this, O God?
203. I must commune with your grief: i.e., you must allow me to share your grief.
203Laertes, I must commune with your grief,
204Or you deny me right. Go but apart,
205Make choice of whom your wisest friends you will,
206And they shall hear and judge 'twixt you and me:
207. collateral: i.e., indirect.
207If by direct or by collateral hand
208. find us touch'd: find me (even a little) guilty.
208They find us touch'd, we will our kingdom give,
209Our 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).
210To you in satisfaction; but if not,
211Be you content to lend your patience to us,
212And we shall jointly labour with your soul
213To give it due content.
213Let this be so;
214His means of death, his obscure funeral
215. trophy: memorial. hatchment: heraldic memorial tablet. ...more 216. formal ostentation: customary ceremony.
215No trophy, sword, nor hatchment o'er his bones,
216No noble rite nor formal ostentation
217Cry to be heard, as 'twere from heaven to earth,
218. That I must call't in question: so that I must call all these matters into question.
218That I must call't in question.
218So you shall;
219And where the offence is let the great axe fall.
220I pray you, go with me.