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 5, Scene 1

CLOWNS: rustics, simpletons.
          Enter two CLOWNS.

      First Clown
  1   Is she to be buried in Christian burial that
2. salvation: malapropism for "damnation" or "destruction."
  2   willfully seeks her own salvation?

      Second Clown
  3   I tell thee she is: and therefore make her grave
4. straight: immediately. crowner: malapropism for "coroner." sat on her: i.e., had an official hearing concerning her case.  —The phrase "sat on her" is an accurate representation of how lawyers wrote, but when the Clown says it, absurd images rise in the mind.
  4   straight: the crowner hath sat on her, and finds it
  5   Christian burial.

      First Clown
  6   How can that be, unless she drowned herself in her
  7   own defence?

      Second Clown
  8   Why, 'tis found so.

      First Clown
9. se offendendo: i.e., criminally.  —First Clown is responding to his partner's absurd idea that "she drowned herself in her own defence." ...more
  9   It must be "se offendendo"; it cannot be else.
 10   For here lies the point: if I drown myself wittingly,
 11   it argues an act: and an act hath three branches: it
12. argal: malapropism for "ergo," which is Latin for "therefore."
 12   is, to act, to do, to perform: argal, she drowned
 13   herself wittingly.

      Second Clown
 14   Nay, but hear you, goodman delver—

      First Clown
 15   Give me leave. Here lies the water; good: here
 16   stands the man; good; if the man go to this water,
17. will he, nill he: i.e., whether he wants to or not.  —This phrase is the ancestor of "willy-nilly."
 17   and drown himself, it is, will he, nill he, he goes
 18   —mark you that; but if the water come to him and
 19   drown him, he drowns not himself: argal, he that is
 20   not guilty of his own death shortens not his own life.

      Second Clown
 21   But is this law?

      First Clown
22. crowner's quest: coroner's inquest. ...more
 22   Ay, marry, is't; crowner's quest law.

      Second Clown
 23   Will you ha' the truth on't? If this had not been
 24   a gentlewoman, she should have been buried out o'
 25   Christian burial.

      First Clown
26. there thou say'st: i.e., that's right.
 26   Why, there thou say'st: and the more pity that great
27. countenance: privilege.
 27   folk should have countenance in this world to drown
28. even-Christian: fellow-Christians.
 28   or hang themselves, more than their even-Christian.
 29   Come, my spade. There is no ancient gentleman
 30   but gardeners, ditchers, and grave-makers: they
 31   hold up Adam's profession.

      Second Clown
 32   Was he a gentleman?

      First Clown
 33   He was the first that ever bore arms.

      Second Clown
34. none: i.e., no coat of arms.
 34   Why, he had none.

      First Clown
 35   What, art a heathen? How dost thou understand the
 36   Scripture? The Scripture says Adam digged:
 37   could he dig without arms? I'll put another
 38   question to thee: if thou answerest me not to the
39. confess thyself: This is probably half of the phrase "Confess thyself and be hanged." ...more
 39   purpose, confess thyself—

      Second Clown
40. Go to: This is an all-purpose riposte, which can, depending on the tone of voice, mean anything from "please stop" to "go to hell."
 40   Go to.

      First Clown
 41   What is he that builds stronger than either the
 42   mason, the shipwright, or the carpenter?

      Second Clown
 43   The gallows-maker; for that frame outlives a
 44   thousand tenants.

      First Clown
 45   I like thy wit well, in good faith: the gallows
 46   does well; but how does it well? it does well to
 47   those that do ill: now thou dost ill to say the
 48   gallows is built stronger than the church: argal,
 49   the gallows may do well to thee. To't again, come.

      Second Clown
 50   Who builds stronger than a mason, a shipwright, or
 51   a carpenter?

      First Clown
52. unyoke: i.e., call it a day.  — Unyoking the oxen was a signal that the day's work was done, and it was time to relax.
 52   Ay, tell me that, and unyoke.

      Second Clown
 53   Marry, now I can tell.

      First Clown
 54   To't.

      Second Clown
55. Mass: i.e., by the mass. —This was a common expression of surprise or frustration.
 55   Mass, I cannot tell.

           Enter HAMLET and HORATIO
           [at a distance].
 

      First Clown
 56   Cudgel thy brains no more about it, for your dull
 57   ass will not mend his pace with beating; and, when
 58   you are asked this question next, say "a grave-maker":
 59   the houses that he makes last till doomsday. Go, get
60. stoup of liquor: two quarts of a beverage. —The most popular beverage of the time was ale.
 60   thee in, and fetch me a stoup of liquor.

           Exit Second Clown.

           [First Clown digs and sings.]

61-64. In  . . .  meet: —This appears to be a garbled version of the first stanza of a well-known poem entitled, "The Aged Lover Renounceth Love." In the second two lines, the "O," "ah," and "O" apparently represent the grunts the Clown makes as he throws up shovelfuls of dirt.
 61   In youth, when I did love, did love,
 62   Methought it was very sweet,
 63   To contract, O, the time, for, ah, my behove,
 64   O, methought, there was nothing meet.

      HAMLET
 65   Has this fellow no feeling of his business, that he
 66   sings at grave-making?

      HORATIO
67. Custom: habit. 67-68. a property of easiness: i.e., a thing he can do with complete ease of mind.
 67   Custom hath made it in him a property of
 68   easiness.

      HAMLET
69-70. 'Tis e'en so: that's exactly right.  the hand of little employment hath the daintier sense: i.e., the person who isn't used to such work has a more delicate sensitivity.
 69   'Tis e'en so: the hand of little employment hath
 70   the daintier sense.

      First Clown

           Song.

71-74. But age . . . / As if I had never been such: This is a mash-up of two more stanzas of "The Aged Lover Renounceth Love." 73. shipped me into the land: — in "The Aged Lover Renounceth Love," the phrase "hath shipped me into the land / From whence I first was brought," means "has returned me to the dust from which I was created."
 71          But age, with his stealing steps,
 72             Hath claw'd me in his clutch,
 73          And hath shipped me into the land,
 74             As if I had never been such.

           [Shovels up a skull.]

      HAMLET
 75   That skull had a tongue in it, and could sing once:
76. jowls: dashes.
 76   how the knave jowls it to the ground, as if it were
 77   Cain's jaw-bone, that did the first murder! It
78-79. politician: schemer.  which this ass now o'er-reaches: —Hamlet is making a joke. The aim of a "politician" is to "o'er-reach" (over-reach, snatch the prize away from, outwit) his victims. Now the over-reacher has been over-reached by the gravedigger ("this ass"), who reaches into the grave and throws out the politician's skull.
 78   might be the pate of a politician, which this ass
 79   now o'er-reaches; one that would circumvent God,
 80   might it not?

      HORATIO
 81   It might, my lord.

      HAMLET
 82   Or of a courtier; which could say "Good
 83   morrow, sweet lord! How dost thou, good
 84   lord?" This might be my lord such-a-one,
 85   that praised my lord such-a-one's horse,
 86   when he meant to beg it; might it not?

      HORATIO
 87   Ay, my lord.

      HAMLET
 88   Why, e'en so: and now my Lady Worm's;
89. chapless: lacking the lower jaw. mazzard: i.e., head. —Slang. Literally, a "mazzard" is a kind of cherry. 90. revolution: change.  and: if.  91. trick: knack. ...more  91‑93. Did  . . .  'em?: Didn't the nurturing of these bones make them worth more than to be pieces in a game? —Loggats is a game in which blocks of wood are thrown at a stake. 93. mine: i.e., my bones.
 89   chapless, and knocked about the mazzard
 90   with a sexton's spade. Here's fine revolution,
 91   and we had the trick to see't. Did these bones
 92   cost no more the breeding, but to play at loggats
 93   with 'em? mine ache to think on't.

      First Clown

           Song.

94-97. A pick-axe . . . is meet: This is a paraphrase of another stanza from "The Aged Lover Renounceth Love." 95. For and: and moreover.
 94          "A pick-axe, and a spade, a spade,
 95             For and a shrouding sheet:
 96          O, a pit of clay for to be made
 97             For such a guest is meet."

           [Throws up another skull.]

      HAMLET
 98   There's another: why may not that be the skull of
99. quiddities: quibbles.  quillities: quiddities. ...more
 99   a lawyer? Where be his quiddities now, his quillities,
100. tenures: titles to real estate.
100   his cases, his tenures, and his tricks? Why does he
101   suffer this rude knave now to knock him about the
102. sconce: head. —Slang.
102   sconce with a dirty shovel, and will not tell him of
103. action of battery: i.e., lawsuit to recover damages for assault and battery. 104-105. statutes, recognizances: bonds securing debts by attaching land and property.  105. double vouchers: documents guaranteeing title to real estate, signed by two persons.  106-107. recoveries, fines: legal maneuvers for clearing an estate of financial obligations. ...more  fine of his fines: outcome of his legal actions.
103   his action of battery? Hum! This fellow might be
104   in's time a great buyer of land, with his statutes,
105   his recognizances, his fines, his double vouchers,
106   his recoveries: is this the fine of his fines, and
107   the recovery of his recoveries, to have his fine pate
108   full of fine dirt? will his vouchers vouch him no more
109   of his purchases, and double ones too, than the length
110. pair of indentures: two copies of a contract. ...more conveyances: documents relating to transfer of property.  111. this box: —It looks like Hamlet is referring to a casket, but the two persons whose skulls have been dug up don't seem to have been buried in caskets. In any case, it seems clear that Hamlet means that the lawyer's paperwork takes up more room than his grave.  inheritor: possessor.
110   and breadth of a pair of indentures? The very convey-
111   ances of his lands will hardly lie in this box; and must
112   the inheritor himself have no more, ha?

      HORATIO
113   Not a jot more, my lord.

      HAMLET
114   Is not parchment made of sheepskins?

      HORATIO
115   Ay, my lord, and of calf-skins too.

      HAMLET
116   They are sheep and calves which seek out
117. assurance in that: i.e., a feeling of safety based on the fact that the parchment for legal documents is made of leather. 118. sirrah: —This was a term of address to inferiors, which could be insulting, though I don't think Hamlet means it to be in this case.
117   assurance in that. I will speak to this fellow.
118   Whose grave's this, sirrah?

      First Clown
119   Mine, sir.

           [Sings.]

120          "O, a pit of clay for to be made
121          For such a guest is meet."

      HAMLET
122   I think it be thine, indeed; for thou liest in't.

      First Clown
123. You lie out on't: you are outside of it.
123   You lie out on't, sir, and therefore it is not yours:
124   for my part, I do not lie in't, and yet it is mine.

      HAMLET
125   Thou dost lie in't, to be in't and say it is thine:
126. quick: living.
126   'tis for the dead, not for the quick; therefore thou
127   liest.

      First Clown
128   'Tis a quick lie, sir; 'twill away gain, from me to
129   you.

      HAMLET
130   What man dost thou dig it for?

      First Clown
131   For no man, sir.

      HAMLET
132   What woman, then?

      First Clown
133   For none, neither.

      HAMLET
134   Who is to be buried in't?

      First Clown
135   One that was a woman, sir; but, rest her soul,
136   she's dead.

      HAMLET
137. absolute: i.e., wittily precise. ...more by the card: i.e., precisely. ...more 138. equivocation: punning, use of words in more than one sense. 139. these ... years: i.e., for quite a while now. 140. pick'd: refined, sophisticated.
137   How absolute the knave is! we must speak by the card,
138   or equivocation will undo us. By the Lord, Horatio,
139   these three years I have taken a note of it; the age is
140   grown so pick'd that the toe of the peasant comes so
141. galls: chafes.  kibe: chilblain on the heel. ...more
141   near the heel of the courtier, he galls his kibe. How long
142   hast thou been a grave-maker?

      First Clown
143   Of all the days i' the year, I came to't that day
144   that our last king Hamlet overcame Fortinbras.

      HAMLET
145   How long is that since?

      First Clown
146   Cannot you tell that? every fool can tell that: it
147   was the very day that young Hamlet was born;
148   he that is mad, and sent into England.

      HAMLET
149   Ay, marry, why was he sent into England?

      First Clown
150   Why, because he was mad: he shall recover his
151   wits there; or, if he do not, it's no great matter
152   there.

      HAMLET
153   Why?

      First Clown
154   'Twill, a not be seen in him there; there the men
155   are as mad as he.

      HAMLET
156   How came he mad?

      First Clown
157   Very strangely, they say.

      HAMLET
158   How strangely?

      First Clown
159   Faith, e'en with losing his wits.

      HAMLET
160   Upon what ground?

      First Clown
161-162. I have been sexton here, man and boy, thirty years: —A sexton is a kind of janitor and handyman, responsible for the upkeep of his church, and sometimes for the digging of graves in the churchyard. ...more
161   Why, here in Denmark: I have been sexton
162   here, man and boy, thirty years.

      HAMLET
163   How long will a man lie i' the earth ere he
164   rot?

      First Clown
165   I' faith, if he be not rotten before he die—as we
166. pocky: rotten with venereal disease.
166   have many pocky corses now-a-days, that will scarce
167. hold the laying in: last out the burial.
167   hold the laying in—he will last you some eight year
168   or nine year: a tanner will last you nine year.

      HAMLET
169   Why he more than another?

      First Clown
170   Why, sir, his hide is so tanned with his trade, that
171-172. your . . . your: —This use of "your" is a slangy way of indicating that what is being said is, or should be, common knowledge.  whoreson: son-of-a-bitchin'.
171   he will keep out water a great while; and your water
172   is a sore decayer of your whoreson dead body.
173   Here's a skull now; this skull has lain in the earth
174   three and twenty years.

      HAMLET
175   Whose was it?

      First Clown
176   A whoreson mad fellow's it was: whose do you think
177   it was?

      HAMLET
178   Nay, I know not.

      First Clown
179   A pestilence on him for a mad rogue! a' poured a
180. flagon: pitcher used to serve wine.  Rhenish: Rhine wine.
180   flagon of Rhenish on my head once. This same skull,
181   sir, was Yorick's skull, the king's jester.

      HAMLET
182   This?
David Tennant
as Hamlet

Image Source:
crossroads and currents

      First Clown
183   E'en that.

      HAMLET
184   Let me see.

           [Takes the skull.]

185   Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio: a fellow of
186-187. he hath borne me on his back: i.e., he has given me piggy-back rides. —Yorick has been dead for twenty-three years, and Hamlet is probably thirty years old, which means that Hamlet was about six or seven when Yorick gave him piggy-back rides.
186   infinite jest, of most excellent fancy: he hath borne me
187   on his back a thousand times; and now, how abhorred
188   in my imagination it is! my gorge rises at it. Here hung
189   those lips that I have kissed I know not how oft. Where
190   be your gibes now? your gambols? your songs? your
191   flashes of merriment, that were wont to set the table on
192   a roar? Not one now, to mock your own grinning? quite
193. chop-fall'n: dejected. —Hamlet is punning; Yorick is so "chop-fall'n" that his chops (jaws) have fallen entirely off. 194. paint: i.e., apply make-up.  favour: appearance.
193   chop-fallen? Now get you to my lady's chamber, and tell
194   her, let her paint an inch thick, to this favour she must come;
195   make her laugh at that. Prithee, Horatio, tell me one thing.

      HORATIO
196   What's that, my lord?

      HAMLET
Alexander: Alexander the Great.
197   Dost thou think Alexander looked o' this fashion i'
198   the earth?

      HORATIO
199   E'en so.

      HAMLET
200   And smelt so? pah!

           [Puts down the skull].

      HORATIO
201   E'en so, my lord.

      HAMLET
202   To what base uses we may return, Horatio!
203   Why may not imagination trace the noble dust
stopping a bunghole: The bung (stopper) of a bunghole could be made of clay.
204   of Alexander, till he find it stopping a bunghole?

      HORATIO
205. curiously: closely.
205   'Twere to consider too curiously, to consider
206   so.

      HAMLET
207   No, faith, not a jot; but to follow him thither with
208. modesty: reasonableness.
208   modesty enough, and likelihood to lead it: as
209   thus: Alexander died, Alexander was buried,
210   Alexander returneth into dust; the dust is earth; of
211. loam: moistened clay mixed with stiffeners such as straw. —It was used to make bricks, wall plaster, etc.
211   earth we make loam; and why of that loam, whereto he
212   was converted, might they not stop a beer-barrel?
213   Imperious Caesar, dead and turn'd to clay,
214   Might stop a hole to keep the wind away:
215   O, that that earth, which kept the world in awe,
216. flaw: gust of wind.
216   Should patch a wall to expel the winter flaw!
217   But soft! but soft awhile: here comes the king.

           Enter KING, QUEEN, LAERTES,
corse: corpse, dead body.
        [a Priest, courtiers,] and the corse.

218   The queen, the courtiers. Who is this they follow?
219. maimed rites: lack of the usual rites accorded to someone deceased.
219   And with such maimed rites? This doth betoken
220   The corse they follow did with desperate hand
221. Fordo its: destroy its  of some estate: of high rank.
221   Fordo its own life: 'twas of some estate.
222. Couch we: let us conceal ourselves.  mark: observe carefully.
222   Couch we awhile, and mark.

           [Hamlet and Horatio step aside and observe.]

      LAERTES
223   What ceremony else?

      HAMLET
224   That is Laertes, a very noble youth: mark.

      LAERTES
225   What ceremony else?

      Priest
226. obsequies: funeral rites.
226   Her obsequies have been as far enlarged
227. doubtful: i.e., suspected to be suicide.
227   As we have warranty: her death was doubtful;
228. but  . . .  order: but for the fact that a great command overrules the customary procedure. ...more  229. should: would certainly. 230. for: instead of.
228   And, but that great command o'ersways the order,
229   She should in ground unsanctified have lodged
230   Till the last trumpet: for charitable prayers,
231. Shards: broken bits of pottery.
231   Shards, flints and pebbles should be thrown on her;
232. allow'd: permitted to have.  virgin crants: garland signifying that the deceased was a virgin. 233-234. maiden strewments: flowers scattered on the grave of an unmarried girl.  bringing home / Of bell and burial: i.e., burial in consecrated ground, with the bell tolling.
232   Yet here she is allow'd her virgin crants,
233   Her maiden strewments and the bringing home
234   Of bell and burial.

      LAERTES
235   Must there no more be done?

      Priest
235                                              No more be done!
236   We should profane the service of the dead
237. requiem: dirge.
237   To sing a requiem and such rest to her
238   As to peace-parted souls.

      LAERTES
238                                        Lay her i' the earth:
239   And from her fair and unpolluted flesh
240   May violets spring! I tell thee, churlish priest,
241   A ministering angel shall my sister be,
242   When thou liest howling.

      HAMLET
242                                          What, the fair Ophelia!

      QUEEN
243. Sweets to the sweet: i.e., sweet flowers to sweet Ophelia.
243   Sweets to the sweet: farewell!
244   I hop'd thou shouldst have been my Hamlet's wife.
245. deck'd: strewn with flowers.
245   I thought thy bride-bed to have deck'd, sweet maid,
246   And not have strew'd thy grave.

      LAERTES
246                                                      O, treble woe
247. that cursed head: i.e., Hamlet's head.
247   Fall ten times treble on that cursed head,
248-249. wicked deed: i.e., Hamlet's killing of Ophelia's father, Polonius.  most ingenious sense: brilliant intelligence. 249. Hold off the earth: i.e., don't shovel dirt into this grave.
248   Whose wicked deed thy most ingenious sense
249   Deprived thee of! Hold off the earth awhile,
250   Till I have caught her once more in mine arms:

           [Leaps into the grave.]

251   Now pile your dust upon the quick and dead,
252   Till of this flat a mountain you have made,
253-254. Pelion, Olympus: famous mountains in Greece.
253   To o'ertop old Pelion, or the skyish head
254   Of blue Olympus.

      HAMLET [Coming forward.]
254                                What is he whose grief
255. Bears  . . .  emphasis: i.e., is proclaimed so melodramatically.  phrase of sorrow: expression of sorrow. 256. Conjures: puts a spell upon.  stand: stand still.
255   Bears such an emphasis? whose phrase of sorrow
256   Conjures the wand'ring stars, and makes them stand
257   Like wonder-wounded hearers? This is I,
258. the Dane: —This normally signifies the King, and King Claudius uses it to refer to himself in Act 1, Scene 2, line 44.
258   Hamlet the Dane.

           [Leaps into the grave.]

      LAERTES
259   The devil take thy soul!

           [Grappling with him.]

      HAMLET
259                                       Thou pray'st not well.
260   I prithee, take thy fingers from my throat;
261. splenitive: full of spleen, quick-tempered.
261   For, though I am not splenitive and rash,
262   Yet have I something in me dangerous,
263   Which let thy wisdom fear: hold off thy hand.

      KING
264   Pluck them asunder.

      QUEEN
264                                   Hamlet, Hamlet!

      All
264                                                         Gentlemen—

      HORATIO
265. be quiet: calm down.
265   Good my lord, be quiet.

           [They are parted and come out of the grave.]

      HAMLET
266   Why, I will fight with him upon this theme
267   Until my eyelids will no longer wag.

      QUEEN
268   O my son, what theme?

      HAMLET
269   I loved Ophelia. Forty thousand brothers
270   Could not, with all their quantity of love,
271   Make up my sum. What wilt thou do for her?

      KING
272   O, he is mad, Laertes.

      QUEEN
273. forbear him: leave him [Hamlet] alone. —I believe that Laertes is being held back, but is still trying to fight Hamlet.
273   For love of God, forbear him.

      HAMLET
274. 'Swounds: This was a common exclamation originally meaning "by His [Christ's] wounds."  thou'lt: thou wilt, you will. 275. Woo't: wilt thou, will you.  276. eisel: vinegar.
274   'Swounds, show me what thou'lt do:
275   Woo't weep? woo't fight? woo't fast? woo't tear thyself?
276   Woo't drink up eisel? eat a crocodile?
277   I'll do't. Dost thou come here to whine?
278   To outface me with leaping in her grave?
279. quick: alive.
279   Be buried quick with her, and so will I:
280. if thou prate of mountains: if you babble on about mountains.
280   And, if thou prate of mountains, let them throw
281   Millions of acres on us, till our ground,
282. his pate: its head, i.e., top.  burning zone: sphere of the sun; the sun's orbit. 283. Ossa: another mountain in Greece, near Pelion and Olympus. an thoul't mouth: if you will talk bombastically.
282   Singeing his pate against the burning zone,
283   Make Ossa like a wart! Nay, an thou'lt mouth,
284   I'll rant as well as thou.

      QUEEN
284                                          This is mere madness:
285   And thus awhile the fit will work on him;
286. patient: calm.
286   Anon, as patient as the female dove,
287. golden couplets: pair of chicks, covered with yellow down. disclosed: hatched.
287   When that her golden couplets are disclosed,
288   His silence will sit drooping.

      HAMLET
288                                              Hear you, sir;
289   What is the reason that you use me thus?
290   I loved you ever: but it is no matter;
291-292. Let Hercules himself do what he may, / The cat will mew and dog will have his day: i.e., no matter what a hero does, foolish people will insist on calling attention to themselves.
291   Let Hercules himself do what he may,
292   The cat will mew and dog will have his day.

           Exit.

      KING
293   I pray you, good Horatio, wait upon him.

           [Exit] Horatio.

           [To Laertes.]

294. Strengthen  . . .  speech: i.e., get control of yourself by recalling the conversation we had last night. 295. the matter: i.e., the plot to kill Hamlet in a fencing match.  present push: immediate test. 297.  living monument: enduring memorial; i.e., the death of Hamlet.  298-299. An hour ... proceeding be: i.e., Hamlet will soon calm down (and so can be talked into taking part in the fencing match); until then, we just need to be patient.
294   Strengthen your patience in our last night's speech;
295   We'll put the matter to the present push.
296   Good Gertrude, set some watch over your son.
297   This grave shall have a living monument:
298   An hour of quiet shortly shall we see;
299   Till then, in patience our proceeding be.

           Exeunt.