Philip Weller caricature
Philip and Weller hugging

Welcome to my web site, now under development for more than twenty years.   
-- Philip Weller, November 13, 1941 - February 1, 2021
Dr. Weller, an Eastern Washington University professor of English and Shakespearean scholar for more than 50 years.

Hamlet: Act 3, Scene 4

           Enter [QUEEN] GERTRUDE
           and POLONIUS.

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:
  2   Tell him his pranks have been too broad to bear with,
  3   And 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.
  4   Much heat and him. I'll sconce me even here.
  5   Pray you, be round with him.

      HAMLET (Within.)
  5                                         Mother, mother, mother!

6. fear me not: i.e., have no fears about my handling of the situation.
  6   I'll warrant you, fear me not:
  7   Withdraw, I hear him coming.

           [Polonius hides behind the arras.]

           Enter Hamlet.

  8   Now, mother, what's the matter?

9. thy father: i.e., your step-father,the current king.
  9   Hamlet, thou hast thy father much offended.

10. my father: i.e., your late husband, King Hamlet.
 10   Mother, you have my father much offended.

11. idle: foolish.
 11   Come, come, you answer with an idle tongue.

 12   Go, go, you question with a wicked tongue.

 13   Why, how now, Hamlet!

 13                                       What'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.
 14   Have you forgot me?

14. rood: cross.
 14                                    No, by the rood, not so:
 15   You are the queen, your husband's brother's wife;
 16   And—would 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."
 17   Nay, then, I'll set those to you that can speak.

 18   Come, come, and sit you down; you shall not budge;
 19   You go not till I set you up a glass
 20   Where you may see the inmost part of you.

 21   What wilt thou do? thou wilt not murder me?
 22   Help, ho!

      POLONIUS [Behind.]
 23    What, ho! Help!

      HAMLET [Drawing his sword.]
24. for a ducat: I'll wager a ducat.
 24    How now! a rat? Dead, for a ducat, dead!

Image Source:  Wikimedia Commons
           [Stabs through the arras.]

      POLONIUS [Behind.]
 25   O, I am slain!

           [Falls and dies.]

 25                              O me, what hast thou done?

 26   Nay, I know not: Is it the king?

 27   O, what a rash and bloody deed is this!

 28   A bloody deed! almost as bad, good mother,
 29   As kill a king, and marry with his brother.

 30   As kill a king!

 30                               Ay, lady, 'twas my word.

           [Lifts up the arras and sees Polonius.]

 31   Thou 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.
 32   I took thee for thy better: take thy fortune;
 33   Thou find'st to be too busy is some danger.
 34   Leave wringing of your hands: peace! sit you down,
 35   And let me wring your heart; for so I shall,
 36   If 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.
 37   If damned custom have not braz'd it so
 38   That it is proof and bulwark against sense.

 39   What have I done, that thou darest wag thy tongue
 40   In noise so rude against me?

 40                                            Such an act
 41   That blurs the grace and blush of modesty,
42. rose: i.e., bloom.
 42   Calls virtue hypocrite, takes off the rose
 43   From the fair forehead of an innocent love
 44   And sets a blister there, makes marriage-vows
 45   As false as dicers' oaths: O, such a deed
46. contraction: the marriage contract.
 46   As from the body of contraction plucks
47. religion: i.e., sacred vows.
 47   The 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].
 48   A rhapsody of words. Heaven's face doth glow
 49   O'er this solidity and compound mass,
 50   With tristful visage, as against the doom,
 51   Is thought-sick at the act.

 51                                 Ay me, what act,
52. index: i.e., table of contents at the beginning of a book.
 52   That roars so loud, and thunders in the index?

53. Look here, upon this picture, and on this:
 53   Look here, upon this picture, and on this,
54. counterfeit presentment: painted likenesses.
 54   The counterfeit presentment of two brothers.
 55   See, what a grace was seated on this brow;
56. Hyperion's: the sun-god's. front: forehead.
 56   Hyperion's curls; the front of Jove himself;
 57   An eye like Mars, to threaten and command;
58. station: bearing or manner of standing.
 58   A station like the herald Mercury
 59   New-lighted on a heaven-kissing hill;
 60   A combination and a form indeed,
 61   Where every god did seem to set his seal,
 62   To give the world assurance of a man:
 63   This was your husband. Look you now, what follows:
64. ear: ear of grain.
 64   Here is your husband; like a mildew'd ear,
65. blasting: infecting, sickening.
 65   Blasting his wholesome brother. Have you eyes?
 66   Could you on this fair mountain leave to feed,
67. batten: gorge. moor: barren upland.
 67   And batten on this moor? Ha! have you eyes?
 68   You cannot call it love; for at your age
69. heyday: excitement.
 69   The heyday in the blood is tame, it's humble,
 70   And waits upon the judgment: and what judgment
71. Sense: sense perception, the five senses.
 71   Would step from this to this? Sense, sure, you have,
 72   Else 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
 73   Is apoplex'd; for madness would not err,
 74   Nor sense to ecstasy was ne'er so thrall'd
 75   But it reserved some quantity of choice,
 76   To serve in such a difference. What devil was't
77. cozen'd: cheated. hoodman-blind: blindman's bluff.
 77   That thus hath cozen'd you at hoodman-blind?
 78   Eyes without feeling, feeling without sight,
79. sans: without.
 79   Ears without hands or eyes, smelling sans all,
 80   Or but a sickly part of one true sense
81. mope: be dazed, act aimlessly.
 81   Could not so mope.
 82   O shame! where is thy blush? Rebellious hell,
83. mutine: mutiny, rebel.
 83   If thou canst mutine in a matron's bones,
 84   To 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
 85   And melt in her own fire: proclaim no shame
 86   When the compulsive ardor gives the charge,
 87   Since frost itself as actively doth burn
 88   And reason panders will.

 88                                     O Hamlet, speak no more:
 89   Thou turn'st mine eyes into my very soul;
90. grained: fast-dyed in grain, indelible.
 90   And there I see such black and grained spots
91. leave their tinct: give up their stain [of shame].
 91   As will not leave their tinct.

 91                                            Nay, but to live
92. enseamed: greasy.
 92   In the rank sweat of an enseamed bed,
 93   Stew'd in corruption, honeying and making love
 94   Over the nasty sty—

 94                               O, speak to me no more;
 95   These words, like daggers, enter in mine ears;
 96   No more, sweet Hamlet!

 96                                   A murderer and a villain;
97. tithe: tenth part.
 97   A 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.
 98   Of your precedent lord, a vice of kings,
 99   A cutpurse of the empire and the rule,
100   That from a shelf the precious diadem stole,
101   And put it in his pocket!

101                                       No more!

102. of shreds and patches: clownish, patched-up.
102   A king of shreds and patches—

           Enter GHOST.

103   Save me, and hover o'er me with your wings,
104   You heavenly guards! What would your gracious figure?

105   Alas, he's mad!

106   Do you not come your tardy son to chide,
107   That, lapsed in time and passion, lets go by
108. important: urgent.
108   The important acting of your dread command?
109   O, say!

110   Do not forget: this visitation
111   Is but to whet thy almost blunted purpose.
112. amazement: utter bewilderment or distraction.
112   But, look, amazement on thy mother sits:
113   O, step between her and her fighting soul:
114. conceit: i.e., conjecture, mental image.
114   Conceit in weakest bodies strongest works:
115   Speak to her, Hamlet.

115                                   How is it with you, lady?

116   Alas, how is't with you,
117   That you do bend your eye on vacancy
118. incorporal: immaterial, insubstantial.
118   And with the incorporal air do hold discourse?
119   Forth at your eyes your spirits wildly peep;
120. in th' alarm: when the call to arms is sounded.
120   And, as the sleeping soldiers in the alarm,
121. bedded: laid in smooth layers. excrements: outgrowths [such as hair or fingernails].
121   Your bedded hair, like life in excrements,
122   Starts up, and stands on end. O gentle son,
123   Upon the heat and flame of thy distemper
124. patience: self-control.
124   Sprinkle cool patience. Whereon do you look?

125. glares: shines. ...more
125   On 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.
126   His form and cause conjoin'd, preaching to stones,
127   Would make them capable. —Do not look upon me;
128   Lest with this piteous action you convert
129   My stern effects: then what I have to do
130   Will want true color; tears perchance for blood.

131   To whom do you speak this?

131                                        Do you see nothing there?

132   Nothing at all; yet all that is I see.

133   Nor did you nothing hear?

133                                         No, nothing but ourselves.

134   Why, look you there! look, how it steals away!
135. habit: dress.
135   My father, in his habit as he lived!
136   Look, where he goes, even now, out at the portal!

           Exit Ghost.

137   This 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.
138   This bodiless creation ecstasy
139   Is very cunning in.

139                               Ecstasy!
140   My pulse, as yours, doth temperately keep time,
141   And makes as healthful music: it is not madness
142   That I have utter'd: bring me to the test,
143   And I the matter will re-word; which madness
144. gambol: start, jerk away.
144   Would gambol from. Mother, for love of grace,
145. flattering unction: soothing ointment.
145   Lay not that flattering unction to your soul,
146   That not your trespass, but my madness speaks:
145. ulcerous place: i.e., skin ulcer.
147   It will but skin and film the ulcerous place,
148. mining: working under the surface.
148   Whilst rank corruption, mining all within,
149   Infects unseen. Confess yourself to heaven;
150   Repent what's past; avoid what is to come;
151. compost: manure.
151   And 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.
152   To make them ranker. Forgive me this my virtue;
153   For in the fatness of these pursy times
154   Virtue itself of vice must pardon beg,
155   Yea, curb and woo for leave to do him good.

156   O Hamlet, thou hast cleft my heart in twain.

157   O, throw away the worser part of it,
158   And live the purer with the other half.
159   Good night: but go not to mine uncle's bed;
160   Assume a virtue, if you have it not.
161. all sense doth eat: wears away all natural feeling.
161   That monster, custom, who all sense doth eat,
162. Of habits devil: i.e., though it acts like a devil in establishing bad habits.
162   Of habits devil, is angel yet in this,
163   That 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.
164   He likewise gives a frock or livery,
165   That aptly is put on. Refrain tonight,
166   And that shall lend a kind of easiness
167   To the next abstinence: the next more easy;
168. use: habit.
168   For use almost can change the stamp of nature,
169   And either master the devil, or throw him out
170   With 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).
171   And when you are desirous to be bless'd,
172   I'll blessing beg of you. For this same lord,

           [Pointing to Polonius.]

173   I do repent: but heaven hath pleased it so,
174   To 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.
175   That I must be their scourge and minister.
176   I will bestow him, and will answer well
177   The death I gave him. So, again, good night.
178   I must be cruel, only to be kind:
179. remains behind: i.e., is yet to come.
179   Thus bad begins and worse remains behind.
180   One word more, good lady.

180                                       What shall I do?

181   Not this, by no means, that I bid you do:
182. bloat: bloated.
182   Let the bloat king tempt you again to bed;
183   Pinch wanton on your cheek; call you his mouse;
184. reechy: filthy, smelly.
184   And let him, for a pair of reechy kisses,
185   Or paddling in your neck with his damn'd fingers,
186   Make you to ravel all this matter out,
187   That I essentially am not in madness,
188. good: — Hamlet is being sarcastic.
188   But mad in craft. 'Twere good you let him know;
189   For who, that's but a queen, fair, sober, wise,
190. paddock: toad. gib: tom-cat.
190   Would from a paddock, from a bat, a gib,
191. dear concernings: matters of intense concern.
191   Such dear concernings hide? who would do so?
192   No, 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
193   Unpeg the basket on the house's top.
194   Let the birds fly, and, like the famous ape,
195   To try conclusions, in the basket creep,
196. down: by the fall.
196   And break your own neck down.

197   Be thou assured, if words be made of breath,
198   And breath of life, I have no life to breathe
199   What thou hast said to me.

200   I must to England; you know that?

200                                                       Alack,
201   I had forgot: 'tis so concluded on.

202   There's letters seal'd: and my two schoolfellows,
203   Whom 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.
204   They bear the mandate; they must sweep my way,
205   And marshal me to knavery. Let it work;
206   For 'tis the sport to have the engineer
207   Hoist with his own petard: and 't shall go hard
208   But I will delve one yard below their mines,
209   And blow them at the moon: O, 'tis most sweet,
210   When in one line two crafts directly meet.
211   This man shall set me packing:
212   I'll lug the guts into the neighbour room.
213   Mother, good night. Indeed this counsellor
214   Is now most still, most secret and most grave,
215   Who 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.
216   Come, sir, to draw toward an end with you.
217   Good night, mother.

           Exeunt [severally; Hamlet dragging in Polonius].