Act III - Scene II

 

[Elsinore. A hall in the Castle.]

Enter Hamlet, and three of the Players.

HAMLET:
Speak the speech, I pray you, as I pronounced it to
you, trippingly on the tongue. But if you mouth it, as many
of our players do, I had as lief the town-crier spoke my
lines. Nor do not saw the air too much with your hand,
thus, but use all gently; for in the very torrent, tempest,(5)
and, as I may say, whirlwind of your passion, you must
acquire and beget a temperance that may give it smoothness.
O, it offends me to the soul to hear a robustious
periwig-pated fellow tear a passion to tatters, to very rags,
to split the ears of the groundlings, who, for the most part,(10)
are capable of nothing but inexplicable dumb-shows and
noise. I would have such a fellow whipped for o'erdoing
Termagant. It out-Herods Herod. Pray you avoid it.
FIRST PLAYER:
I warrant your honour.
HAMLET:
Be not too tame neither; but let your own discretion be(15)
your tutor. Suit the action to the word, the word to the
action; with this special observance, that you o'erstep not the
modesty of nature: for anything so overdone is from the
purpose of playing, whose end, both at the first and now, was
and is, to hold, as 'twere, the mirror up to nature; to show(20)
virtue her own feature, scorn her own image, and the very
age and body of the time his form and pressure. Now this
overdone, or come tardy off, though it make the unskilful
laugh, cannot but make the judicious grieve; the censure of
the which one must in your allowance o'erweigh a whole(25)
theatre of others. O, there be players that I have seen play,
and heard others praise, and that highly, not to speak it
profanely, that, neither having the accent of Christians, nor the
gait of Christian, pagan, nor man, have so strutted and bellowed
that I have thought some of Nature's journeymen(30)
had made men, and not made them well, they imitated
humanity so abominably.
FIRST PLAYER:
I hope we have reformed that indifferently with
us, sir.
HAMLET:
O, reform it altogether! And let those that play your(35)
clowns speak no more than is set down for them. For there
be of them that will themselves laugh, to set on some quantity
of barren spectators to laugh too, though in the meantime
some necessary question of the play be then to be
considered. That's villainous and shows a most pitiful ambition(40)
in the fool that uses it. Go make you ready.

[Exit Players.]

Enter Polonius, Guildenstern, and Rosencrantz.

How now, my lord? Will the King hear this piece of work?
POLONIUS:
And the Queen too, and that presently.
HAMLET:
Bid the players make haste,

[Exit Polonius.]

Will you two help to hasten them?(45)
ROSENCRANTZ AND GUILDENSTERN:
We will, my lord.

Exeunt they two.

HAMLET:
What, ho, Horatio!

Enter Horatio.

HORATIO:
Here, sweet lord, at your service.
HAMLET:
Horatio, thou art e'en as just a man
As e'er my conversation cop'd withal.(50)
 
HORATIO:
O, my dear lord!
HAMLET:
Nay, do not think I flatter;
For what advancement may I hope from thee,
That no revenue hast but thy good spirits
To feed and clothe thee? Why should the poor be flatter'd?(55)
No, let the candied tongue lick absurd pomp,
And crook the pregnant hinges of the knee
Where thrift may follow fawning. Dost thou hear?
Since my dear soul was mistress of her choice,
And could of men distinguish her election,(60)
Sh'hath seal'd thee for herself. For thou hast been
As one, in suff'ring all, that suffers nothing;
A man that Fortune's buffets and rewards
Hast ta'en with equal thanks; and blest are those
Whose blood and judgment are so well commeddled(65)
That they are not a pipe for Fortune's finger
To sound what stop she please. Give me that man
That is not passion's slave, and I will wear him
In my heart's core, ay, in my heart of heart,
As I do thee. Something too much of this.(70)
There is a play tonight before the King.
One scene of it comes near the circumstance,
Which I have told thee, of my father's death.
I prithee, when thou seest that act afoot,
Even with the very comment of thy soul(75)
Observe my uncle. If his occulted guilt
Do not itself unkennel in one speech,
It is a damned ghost that we have seen,
And my imaginations are as foul
As Vulcan's stithy. Give him heedful note;(80)
For I mine eyes will rivet to his face,
And after we will both our judgments join
In censure of his seeming.
HORATIO:
Well, my lord.
If he steal aught the whilst this play is playing,(85)
And 'scape detecting, I will pay the theft.

[Sound a flourish.]

HAMLET:
They are coming to the play. I must be idle.
Get you a place.

[Danish march. Enter Trumpets and Kettle Drums. Enter King, Queen, Polonius, Ophelia, Rosencrantz, Guildenstern, and other Lords attendant, with the Guard carrying torches.]

KING:
How fares our cousin Hamlet?
HAMLET:
Excellent, i' faith; of the chameleon's dish. I eat(90)
the air, promise-cramm'd. You cannot feed capons so.
KING:
I have nothing with this answer, Hamlet. These words are
not mine.
HAMLET:
No, nor mine now. My lord, you play'd once i' th'
university, you say?(95)
POLONIUS:
That did I, my lord, and was accounted a good actor.
HAMLET:
What did you enact?
POLONIUS:
I did enact Julius Caesar; I was killed i' the Capitol;
Brutus killed me.
HAMLET:
It was a brute part of him to kill so capital a calf there.(100)
Be the players ready.
ROSENCRANTZ:
Ay, my lord. They stay upon your patience.
QUEEN:
Come hither, my dear Hamlet, sit by me.
HAMLET:
No, good mother. Here's metal more attractive.
POLONIUS:
O, ho! do you mark that?(105)
HAMLET:
Lady, shall I lie in your lap?
OPHELIA:
No, my lord.
HAMLET:
I mean, my head upon your lap?
OPHELIA:
Ay, my lord.
HAMLET:
Do you think I meant country matters?(110)
OPHELIA:
I think nothing, my lord.
 
HAMLET:
That's a fair thought to lie between maids' legs.
OPHELIA:
What is, my lord?
HAMLET:
Nothing.
OPHELIA:
You are merry, my lord.(115)
HAMLET:
Who, I?
OPHELIA:
Ay, my lord.
HAMLET:
O God, your only jig-maker! What should a man
do but be merry? For, look you, how cheerfully my mother
looks, and my father died within's two hours.(120)
OPHELIA:
Nay 'tis twice two months, my lord.
HAMLET:
So long? Nay then, let the devil wear black, for I'll
have a suit of sables. O heavens! die two months ago, and
not forgotten yet? Then there's hope a great man's memory
may outlive his life half a year. But, by'r lady, he must build(125)
churches then; or else shall he suffer not thinking on, with
the hobby-horse, whose epitaph is, 'For, O, for O, the
hobby-horse is forgot!'

[Hautboys play. The dumb-show enters. Enter a King and a Queen very lovingly; the Queen embracing him and he her. She kneels, and makes show of protestation unto him. He takes her up, and declines his head upon her neck. He lays him down upon a bank of flowers. She, seeing him asleep, leaves him. Anon comes in a fellow, takes off his crown, kisses it, pours poison in the King's ears, and leaves him. The Queen returns, finds the King dead, and makes passionate action. The Poisoner with some three or four Mutes, comes in again, seeming to lament with her. The dead body is carried away. The Poisoner woos the Queen with gifts; she seems loath and unwilling a while, but in the end accepts his love. Exeunt.]

OPHELIA:
What means this, my lord?
HAMLET:
Marry, this is miching mallecho; it means mischief.(130)
OPHELIA:
Belike this show imports the argument of the play.

Enter Prologue.

HAMLET:
We shall know by this fellow. The players cannot
keep counsel; they'll tell all.
OPHELIA:
Will he tell us what this show meant?
HAMLET:
Ay, or any show that you'll show him. Be not you(135)
ashamed to show, he'll not shame to tell you what it means.
OPHELIA:
You are naught, you are naught! I'll mark the play.
PROLOGUE:
For us, and for our tragedy,
Here stooping to your clemency,
We beg your hearing patiently.(140)
HAMLET:
Is this a prologue, or the posy of a ring?
OPHELIA:
'tis brief, my lord.
HAMLET:
As woman's love.

Enter [two Players as] King and Queen

P. KING:
Full thirty times hath Phoebus' cart gone round
Neptune's salt wash and Tellus' orbed ground,(145)
And thirty dozen moons with borrowed sheen
About the world have times twelve thirties been,
Since love our hearts, and Hymen did our hands,
Unite commutual in most sacred bands.
P. QUEEN:
So many journeys may the sun and moon(150)
Make us again count o'er ere love be done!
But woe is me! you are so sick of late,
So far from cheer and from your former state.
That I distrust you. Yet, though I distrust,
Discomfort you, my lord, it nothing must;(155)
For women's fear and love hold quantity,
In neither aught, or in extremity.
Now, what my love is, proof hath made you know;
And as my love is sized, my fear is so.
Where love is great, the littlest doubts are fear;(160)
Where little fears grow great, great love grows there.
 
P. KING:
Faith, I must leave thee, love, and shortly too;
My operant powers their functions leave to do.
And thou shalt live in this fair world behind,
Honour'd, belov'd, and haply one as kind(165)
For husband shalt thou—
P. QUEEN:
O, confound the rest!
Such love must needs be treason in my breast.
In second husband let me be accurst!
None wed the second but who killed the first.(170)
HAMLET:
That's wormwood!
P. QUEEN:
The instances that second marriage move
Are base respects of thrift, but none of love.
A second time I kill my husband dead
When second husband kisses me in bed.(175)
P. KING:
I do believe you think what now you speak;
But what we do determine oft we break.
Purpose is but the slave to memory,
Of violent birth, but poor validity;
Which now, like fruit unripe, sticks on the tree,(180)
But fall unshaken when they mellow be.
Most necessary 'tis that we forget
To pay ourselves what to ourselves is debt.
What to ourselves in passion we propose,
The passion ending, doth the purpose lose.(185)
The violence of either grief or joy
Their own enactures with themselves destroy.
Where joy most revels, grief doth most lament;
Grief joys, joy grieves, on slender accident.
This world is not for aye, nor 'tis not strange(190)
That even our loves should with our fortunes change;
For 'tis a question left us yet to prove,
Whether love lead fortune, or else fortune love.
The great man down, you mark his favorite flies,
The poor advanced makes friends of enemies;(195)
And hitherto doth love on fortune tend,
For who not needs shall never lack a friend,
And who in want a hollow friend doth try,
Directly seasons him his enemy.
But, orderly to end where I begun,(200)
Our wills and fates do so contrary run
That our devices still are overthrown;
Our thoughts are ours, their ends none of our own.
So think thou wilt no second husband wed;
But die thy thoughts when thy first lord is dead.(205)
P. QUEEN:
Nor earth to me give food, nor heaven light,
Sport and repose lock from me day and night,
To desperation turn my trust and hope,
An anchor's cheer in prison be my scope,
Each opposite, that blanks the face of joy,(210)
Meet what I would have well, and it destroy,
Both here and hence pursue me lasting strife,
If, once a widow, ever I be wife!
HAMLET:
If she should break it now!
P. KING:
'tis deeply sworn. Sweet, leave me here awhile.(215)
My spirits grow dull, and fain I would beguile
The tedious day with sleep.

Sleeps.

P. QUEEN:
Sleep rock thy brain,
And never come mischance between us twain!

Exeunt.

HAMLET:
Madam, how like you this play?(220)
QUEEN:
The lady doth protest too much, methinks.
HAMLET:
O, but she'll keep her word.
KING:
Have you heard the argument? Is there no offence in't?
HAMLET:
No, no! They do but jest, poison in jest; no offence i'
the world.(225)
 
KING:
What do you call the play?
HAMLET:
The Mousetrap. Marry, how? Tropically. This play is
the image of a murder done in Vienna. Gonzago is the Duke's
name; his wife, Baptista. You shall see anon. 'tis a knavish
piece of work; but what o' that? Your Majesty, and we that(230)
have free souls, it touches us not. Let the galled jade
winch; our withers are unwrung.
This is one Lucianus, nephew to the King.

Enter Lucianus.

OPHELIA:
You are as good as a chorus, my lord.
HAMLET:
I could interpret between you and your love, if I could(235)
see the puppets dallying.
OPHELIA:
You are keen, my lord, you are keen.
HAMLET:
It would cost you a groaning to take off my edge.
OPHELIA:
Still better, and worse.
HAMLET:
So you must take your husbands. Begin, murderer.(240)
Pox, leave thy damnable faces, and begin! Come, the croaking
raven doth bellow for revenge.
LUCIANUS:
Thoughts black, hands apt, drugs fit, and time
agreeing;
Confederate season, else no creature seeing;(245)
Thou mixture rank, of midnight weeds collected,
With Hecate's ban thrice blasted, thrice infected,
Thy natural magic and dire property
On wholesome life usurp immediately.

[Pours the poison in his ears.]

HAMLET:
He poisons him i' the garden for his estate. His name's(250)
Gonzago. The story is extant, and written in very choice
Italian. You shall see anon how the murderer gets the love of
Gonzago's wife.
OPHELIA:
The King rises.
HAMLET:
What, frighted with false fire?(255)
QUEEN:
How fares my lord?
POLONIUS:
Give o'er the play.
KING:
Give me some light. Away!
ALL:
Lights, lights, lights!

Exeunt all but Hamlet and Horatio.

HAMLET:
Why, let the strucken deer go weep,(260)
The hart ungalled play;
For some must watch, while some must sleep:
Thus runs the world away.
Would not this, sir, and a forest of feathers—if the rest of
my fortunes turn Turk with me—with two Provincial(265)
roses on my razed shoes, get me a fellowship in a
cry of players, sir?
HORATIO:
Half a share.
HAMLET:
A whole one, I!
For thou dost know, O Damon dear,(270)
This realm dismantled was
Of Jove himself; and now reigns here
A very, very—pajock.
HORATIO:
You might have rhymed.
HAMLET:
O good Horatio, I'll take the ghost's word for a(275)
thousand pound!
Didst perceive?
HORATIO:
Very well, my lord.
HAMLET:
Upon the talk of the poisoning?
HORATIO:
I did very well note him.(280)
HAMLET:
Ah, ha! Come, some music! Come, the recorders!
For if the King like not the comedy,
Why then, belike, he likes it not, perdy.
Come, some music!

Enter Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.

GUILDENSTERN:
Good my lord, vouchsafe me a word with you.(285)
HAMLET:
Sir, a whole history.
GUILDENSTERN:
The King, sir—
HAMLET:
Ay, sir, what of him?
GUILDENSTERN:
Is in his retirement, marvellous distempered.
HAMLET:
With drink, sir?(290)
GUILDENSTERN:
No, my lord; rather with choler.
HAMLET:
Your wisdom should show itself more richer to signify
this to the doctor; for, me to put him to his purgation
would perhaps plunge him into far more choler.
 
GUILDENSTERN:
Good my lord, put your discourse into some(295)
frame, and start not so wildly from my affair.
HAMLET:
I am tame, sir. Pronounce.
GUILDENSTERN:
The Queen, your mother, in most great affliction
of spirit hath sent me to you.
HAMLET:
You are welcome.(300)
GUILDENSTERN:
Nay, good my lord, this courtesy is not of the
right breed. If it shall please you to make me a wholesome
answer, I will do your mother's commandment; if not, your
pardon and my return shall be the end of my business.
HAMLET:
Sir, I cannot.(305)
GUILDENSTERN:
What, my lord?
HAMLET:
Make you a wholesome answer. My wit's diseased. But,
sir, such answer as I can make, you shall command; or rather,
as you say, my mother. Therefore no more, but to the matter!
My mother, you say—(310)
ROSENCRANTZ:
Then thus she says: your behaviour hath struck
her into amazement and admiration.
HAMLET:
O wonderful son, that can so astonish a mother! But is
there no sequel at the heels of this mother's admiration?
Impart.(315)
ROSENCRANTZ:
She desires to speak with you in her closet, ere
you go to bed.
HAMLET:
We shall obey, were she ten times our mother. Have
you any further trade with us?
ROSENCRANTZ:
My lord, you once did love me.(320)
HAMLET:
So I do still, by these pickers and stealers!
ROSENCRANTZ:
Good my lord, what is your cause of distemper?
You do surely bar the door upon your own liberty, if you deny
your griefs to your friend.
HAMLET:
Sir, I lack advancement.(325)
ROSENCRANTZ:
How can that be, when you have the voice of the
King himself for your succession in Denmark?

Enter the Players with recorders.

HAMLET:
Ay, sir, but 'while the grass grows'—the proverb is
something musty.
O, the recorders! Let me see one. To withdraw with you—(330)
why do you go about to recover the wind of me, as if you
would drive me into a toil?
GUILDENSTERN:
O, my lord, if my duty be too bold, my love is
too unmannerly.
HAMLET:
I do not well understand that. Will you play upon(335)
this pipe?
GUILDENSTERN:
My lord, I cannot.
HAMLET:
I pray you.
GUILDENSTERN:
Believe me, I cannot.
HAMLET:
I do beseech you.(340)
GUILDENSTERN:
I know no touch of it, my lord.
HAMLET:
It is as easy as lying. Govern these ventages with
your fingers and thumbs, give it breath with your mouth,
and it will discourse most eloquent music. Look you, these
are the stops.(345)
GUILDENSTERN:
But these cannot I command to any utterance
of harmony. I have not the skill.
HAMLET:
Why, look you now, how unworthy a thing you make
of me! You would play upon me; you would seem to know
my stops; you would pluck out the heart of my mystery;(350)
you would sound me from my lowest note to the top of my
compass; and there is much music, excellent voice, in
this little organ, yet cannot you make it speak. 'Sblood,
do you think I am easier to be played on than a pipe? Call
me what instrument you will, though you can fret me, you(355)
cannot play upon me.
God bless you, sir!

Enter Polonius.

 
POLONIUS:
My lord, the Queen would speak with you, and
presently.
HAMLET:
Do you see yonder cloud that's almost in shape of a(360)
camel?
POLONIUS:
By the mass, and 'tis like a camel, indeed.
HAMLET:
Methinks it is like a weasel.
POLONIUS:
It is backed like a weasel.
HAMLET:
Or like a whale.(365)
POLONIUS:
Very like a whale.
HAMLET:
Then will I come to my mother by and by. They fool
me to the top of my bent.—I will come by and by.
POLONIUS:
I will say so.

[Exit.]

HAMLET:
'By and by' is easily said. Leave me, friends.(370)

[Exeunt all but Hamlet.]

'tis now the very witching time of night,
When churchyards yawn, and hell itself breathes out
Contagion to this world. Now could I drink hot blood,
And do such bitter business as the day
Would quake to look on. Soft! now to my mother!(375)
O heart, lose not thy nature; let not ever
The soul of Nero enter this firm bosom.
Let me be cruel, not unnatural;
I will speak daggers to her, but use none.
My tongue and soul in this be hypocrites(380)
How in my words soever she be shent,
To give them seals never, my soul, consent!

Exit.

 
 

Footnotes

  1. "Trippingly" here means to speak liltingly or nimbly, with the tongue instead of the throat. Hamlet directs his actors to speak "trippingly" because it will be more like real speech.

    — Sarah St. Albin, Owl Eyes Staff
  2. Hamlet tells Horatio that he will hold any man who is "not passion's slave"—meaning a man who isn't easily overcome by strong emotions—not just in his heart, but the heart of his heart. Hamlet might value emotional constancy because he tends to get carried away by strong emotions.

    — Sarah St. Albin, Owl Eyes Staff
  3. Note that Hamlet earlier claimed that his soul had "sealed" itself off from other people. Here, he asks his soul, which knows so well how to seal itself, not to restrict his words, while at the same time making sure that his words don't become actions. It's a delicate balance, and he wants to make sure he gets it right.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  4. "Shent" meaning to be disgraced or ruined, in this case perhaps also to be stupefied. Hamlet doesn't intend to speak kindly to his mother, but also won't hurt her, despite his desire to, and these conflicting passions make both his tongue and soul hypocrites (because their thoughts and actions are inverted).

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  5. Hamlet doesn't want to hurt his mother. Shakespeare can't stress this enough. In Act I, Scene V, the Ghost explicitly told Hamlet not to hurt his mother, telling her that she's not his real enemy. Here, Hamlet keeps his word to the Ghost, but can't promise that his mother won't think, because his words are so sharp ("daggers"), that he wants to hurt her.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  6. Nero was a Roman Emperor well- known for both his corruption and debauchery. It's believed that Nero himself caused the Great Fire of Rome in order to clear land for his palace and that he poisoned his own stepbrother. Here, Hamlet compares himself to Nero because the emperor purportedly ordered the execution of his own mother (an act Hamlet wants to avoid, despite his feelings for his mother).

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  7. Hamlet puns on the word "fret," referring both its verb form (to "fret" or worry) and to one of its noun forms (as a ridge or bar built into the fingerboard to help regulate the musician's playing, as with the "fret" of a guitar). Hamlet says Rosencrantz and Guildenstern can worry or bother him, but can't play him.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  8. Hamlet likens himself to the recorder, using the language of music ("stops," "note," "pluck," "sound") to indicate that he knows very well that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are trying to play on his affections as their former friend to more effectively spy on him. He asks Guildenstern to play on the recorder to prove to him that he's no good at "playing" people or instruments.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  9. "Ventages" are holes or "stops" in the recorder that correspond with notes that the musician can play (or "govern") by covering them with his fingers as he breathes into the mouthpiece. Of all the wind instruments, the recorder is perhaps the simplest, and it would be very easy for Guildenstern to pick it up if he tried to.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  10. Here we discover the true meaning of Hamlet misunderstanding Guildenstern's love and duty: he knows Guildenstern has been lying and doesn't understand why he's trying to be friends when Hamlet's treating him (rightfully) like an enemy. Hamlet thinks that playing the recorder should be as easy as lying for Guildenstern. That is, it should come naturally.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  11. A "toil" in this case refers to a net or a snare and not to a struggle or a bit of hard work. "Recover the wind," then, is another hunting term, meaning to recover or catch the scent of the hunter. Hamlet figures his former friends as hunters and himself as prey to indicate that he thinks of them as his enemies now because of their spying.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  12. Hamlet uses the noise of the players with recorders to hide what he's talking about with Guildenstern. He wants to know why they've been spying on him and pressing him not to joke around when it's clear he doesn't want to be their friend anymore. Essentially, Hamlet's asking Guildenstern what his problem is.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  13. "While the grass grows, the horse starves." Hamlet likens himself to a horse who, in waiting for the grass to grow (waiting to become king), starves or dies because he wasn't able to eat (or, in this case, take his rightful position on the throne). Hamlet might think the proverb's a bit musty, but he nevertheless feels that it's an accurate description of his situation.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  14. Hamlet feels stifled in his position as prince, uncertain that he will in fact ascend to the crown. Claudius has assured him that he's next in the line of succession, but that can change. For instance, if Gertrude has a son with Claudius, or if Gertrude dies and Claudius remarries and has a son with his new wife, that son would be the heir. There are many scenarios in which Hamlet doesn't become king, and few in which he does.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  15. Rosencrantz thinks that by closing himself off to people, Hamlet has made it impossible for him speak at liberty with anyone (and also, it seems, to move freely around the castle without being watched). This line directly relates to Hamlet's line about how his soul "sealed thee for herself" and to the theme of imprisonment built throughout the play.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  16. Hamlet would obey Gertrude "were she ten times" the person she is, that is, if she were worth obeying. Hamlet makes clear that he thinks very little of his mother now and that he wishes she were someone else and better. To be clear: he still intends to go; he's just not happy about it.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  17. In modern parlance, Hamlet is saying that he can feel a "but" coming. Hamlet knows very well that he has surprised Gertrude, and that her "admiration" here means wonder or amazement, not respect or love. He feels a kind of bitter glee at having provoked such a response in his mother, which just goes to show how far their relationship has deteriorated.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  18. Hamlet has shown Guildenstern only the minimal amount of courtesy required for the situation. Were they still in Wittenberg, Hamlet would treat him like a friend and not like the butt of a joke. In that sense, for Hamlet's courtesy to be "not of the right breed" means both that it isn't based on friendship and that it doesn't suit someone of Hamlet's breeding.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  19. Recall that in Act II, Scene II Gertrude told Polonius "More matter, with less art." Both that line and this one mean to get to the point. Hamlet unwittingly echoes his mother, revealing how much closer they are in intelligence and temperament than either will ever know.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  20. Guildenstern asks Hamlet to put some things into perspective and to reconsider his responses to Guildenstern. In doing this, Guildenstern cautions Hamlet to behave more like a prince should in this situation while also revealing how hurt he is by Hamlet's behavior.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  21. In other words, to exonerate him of any crime, or to put him through a kind of purgatory where he will answer for his sins. Hamlet suggests that telling Claudius he's being choleric (or even suggesting this to a doctor) would only anger him further and that Guildenstern should be careful (rely on "[his] wisdom") when he tells anyone about this.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  22. Short for "choleric," meaning in this case angry or easily angered. The term "choleric" stems from a theory of medicine known as Humorism, which states that the body is governed by four humours: blood, black bile, yellow bile, and phlegm. Being choleric means having too much yellow bile, which makes one ambition, restless, and angry, just like Claudius.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  23. Shakespeare interrupts Guildenstern here to give his words a sense of urgency. He and Rosencrantz have just come from Claudius' side, worried about what effect the king's distemper will have on Hamlet. Guildenstern rushes to tell him because he still thinks of Hamlet as a friend and wants to warn him of the danger. Hamlet's interruption, then, is very rude.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  24. In this line, delivered with amused disdain, we see how much Hamlet has changed in the course of the play. Now that he knows Claudius is guilty, he isn't brooding or indecisive but rather sure of himself and of his own power: he's made Claudius afraid; he'll probably keep doing it; why not? When he asks, "What of him?" he appears to be gloating.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  25. Jove, the Roman epithet for Zeus, the king of the gods, likened here to King Hamlet, who used to reign over this realm until a peacock (a "pajock") dismantled it. Claudius then becomes the peacock, a term that criticizes him for his ostentatious lifestyle and his fashion choices.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  26. From an ancient Greek legend. After Pythias was arrested for plotting against his king, he was allowed to settle his affairs on the condition that he leave his best friend Damon behind as collateral, so that if he never returned, Damon would be executed. Pythias returned, and in honor of their friendship, both were set free. Hamlet likens Horatio to Damon because Hamlet's put his friend in danger, but doesn't intend for him to be hurt.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  27. "Turning Turk" was a derogatory phrase used to man that someone had either converted to Islam or become extremely obstinate. In this case, it means that Hamlet's fortunes could turn against him, but if they do, his performance that night could get him a "fellowship" or a position in an acting troupe.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  28. Hamlet mockingly suggests that someone in the audience has falsely shouted, "Fire!" (as was common in Elizabethan times). That Claudius appears frightened suggests to Hamlet that he is in fact guilty, while the other characters in the play, who don't know about the murder, draw an uncomfortable parallel between his marriage to Gertrude and the marriage in the show.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  29. Hecate is the Greek goddess of magic, witchcraft, the moon, and certain poisonous plants, like the one that Lucianus (a character in the play within the play) has used to extract his poison. Hecate's "ban" in this context means a curse or spell that's given the poison its potency.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  30. Hamlet puns on Ophelia's words, taking them to mean "for better or worse" or "in sickness and in health," as in a marriage vow. He uses the plural of "husbands" to imply that Ophelia, like Gertrude, will have multiple husbands. This may also imply that he's disappointed in her response and has decided that he doesn't care if she takes husbands or if she's the kind of woman who would.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  31. Ophelia seems amused with Hamlet's antics, having been shushing him unsuccessfully throughout the show. "Still better" means that his puns are getting sharper, and "and worse" means that they're getting even more inappropriate. Even so, she seems to enjoy this banter, in so far as she knows she's never going to give in to his advances.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  32. Notice that Hamlet excluded Claudius from the category of people who have free souls. Instead, he says that Claudius isn't touched (or affected) by the content of the play because he doesn't have any reason to feel guilty. Hamlet of course knows the reverse to be true, but says this to mollify Claudius so that the king doesn't suspect that Hamlet was the one who set up this play.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  33. Gertrude thinks that the Player Queen has been laying it on too thick and that the actress is being melodramatic. More specifically, though, she's judging the performance based on her own experiences as a widow and a remarried woman and saying that the Player Queen is being unrealistic; she's going to have to swallow her own words when she ends up remarrying.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  34. The Player Queen vows that if she ever remarries, she shouldn't be allowed food, light, entertainment ("sport and repose"), or even her freedom, but should instead by locked away as in a prison, where she can't feel joy or love without its opposite "blanking" or erasing that joy immediately. It's a powerful oath that Gertrude clearly didn't make.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  35. While the Player King's still alive, it's easy for the Player Queen to say that she won't marry again, because she doesn't know what it's like to be a widow. Once he dies, however, she'll probably reconsider. Hamlet might suspect that this is what happened to Gertrude: that she never intended to remarry, but was tricked into it by Claudius.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  36. In other words, when you try to make friends for the sake of making a friend (or with some secret purpose), it's obvious that you don't really want to be friends with that person, and that's more than likely to turn that "friend" into an enemy with good reason not to like you. Hence, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern became Hamlet's enemies, though he still uses them to his advantage.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  37. To "mark" in those context means to note the dead man's favorite "flies," or people who seems most to hover around his dead body (presumably with the purpose of stealing away some of his wealth). This speaks uncomfortably to the funeral proceedings and marriage that followed King Hamlet's death, wherein Claudius and the nobles alike took advantage of the king's death.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  38. When we forget the decisions we've made or change our minds, it's important that we don't regret this forgetting or think that we owe it to ourselves (or "pay ourselves" that debt) to follow through with our original plans. Instead, we should let sleeping dogs lie.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  39. In this context, "what we do determine" refers to our personal beliefs, which we might break or lose confidence in as we start to question or second-guess ourselves, as Hamlet does. It also reminds us of Hamlet's situation and the vow to kill Claudius that he's "breaking" by being indecisive instead of taking action.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  40. The Player Queen thinks that second marriages are never made out of love, but rather as a means of reestablishing financial security after the first husband's death. She says that marrying again would be like killing her husband twice, because it would be an insult to their love and his memory.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  41. Wormwood is a colloquial name for a kind of plant known for its bitter taste and medicinal properties. Hamlet thinks the previous line (about women who remarry) is very bitter, but may also be suggesting that it has certain healing properties, in that it reveals a truth about Gertrude's situation that they all need to hear.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  42. In other words, the Player King's bodily functions ("operant powers") have started shutting down, and he's going to die soon. He wants to tell his wife before he dies that she should be happy and remarry so that she won't be sad and afraid anymore. It's clear that the Player King and the Player Queen are still deeply in love after thirty years.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  43. The Player Queen's husband has told her to remarry after he dies so she can be happy and beloved. The Player Queen refuses, saying that only women who kill their first husbands marry again. This line directly condemns Gertrude for remarrying and suggests that she may have had something to do with the murder plot.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  44. Hymen in this context refers to the ancient Greek god of marriages, who would've blessed their union and joined or united their hands at the ceremony (figuratively speaking). There's a subset of Greek poetry called hymenaios that's sung during the procession of the bride to the groom's house.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  45. Neptune is the Roman god of the sea (the "salt wash," or ocean), and Tellus (or Terra) is the Roman god of the earth, where "orbed ground" refers to the shape of the planet. Phoebus' cart has gone around the entire globe, flying over all the seas, for thirty years (and presumably also for all eternity).

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  46. Phoebus was the Roman epithet for the Greek god Apollo, the god of the sun, music, truth, healing, and poetry, among other things. He's said to have driven a chariot ("cart") that pulled the sun behind him across the sky, creating the dawn and the sunset. If Phoebus' cart has gone around thirty times, thirty years have passed.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  47. In these lines, we can see that Ophelia has grown tired of Hamlet's innuendos and unnecessary jokes and wants him to be quiet so that she can watch ("mark") the play. When she tells him that the prologue is brief, what she's really saying is that it shouldn't bother him because it's short and essentially meaningless.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  48. Hamlet turns Ophelia's innocent question about the play's meaning into another sexual innuendo, suggesting that the player will gladly tell Ophelia the meaning of any show, including any suggestive show they might want to engage in together. Ophelia, of course, doesn't like this suggestion and calls Hamlet "naughty" because of it.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  49. "Miching" derives from the Middle English "michen," meaning to hide or skulk. "Mallecho" was borrowed from the Spanish "mal hecho," meaning a bad or wrongful act. Together, these words mean "hiding a wrongful act" (in this case, King Hamlet's murder). Hamlet pretends not to know who added this to the play by calling it "mischief," or the work of someone who wants to stir up trouble.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  50. Recall that when the players were first introduced, Hamlet recited for them a piece of a play about Pyrrhus, Achilles' son, whose arms were black as sable (or fur). By likening himself to Pyrrhus, Hamlet implies that he's a fearsome warrior and that he'll soon be covered, as Pyrrhus was, in the blood of his enemies.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  51. Hamlet suggests that Ophelia's religious devotions makes God the only man who can incite her passion or cause her to dance (do a jig). This is yet another sexual innuendo. He's decrying her chastity, saying that it's unnatural and pointing out that his mother seems perfectly happy not to be chaste.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  52. Hamlet's original question was far more suggestive in nature and was taken as a sexual overture. His second question, though more polite, builds on this rudeness, making us wonder why Hamlet has decided to treat her so badly. It's possible he's still mad at her for helping her father spy on him, or perhaps he's decided to make her stop loving him to save her from what's going to happen.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  53. Hamlet likens himself to a magnet attracted to certain metals. In this case, his mother doesn't hold a strong pull over him, but Ophelia does, and he makes a very blatant and embarrassing ploy for her affections in front of everyone (probably to throw them off).

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  54. Notice that Polonius related only the most obvious pieces of the plot, the parts that Hamlet's likely to already know. This suggests that, while Polonius attended university, he wasn't a particularly good student (and probably not a very good actor, despite his claims). More likely, he was there for the political connections, and we can see what's come of those.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  55. A castrated cock, or rooster; in some cases also a eunuch. Hamlet says that you can't feed castrated roosters or eunuchs air, implying that because he can eat air, he's neither one of those things. In other words, he's saying that he's not powerless (castrated) and should be feared.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  56. Hamlet puns on Claudius' use of the word "fare," responding to both its verb form, meaning "to feel," and one of its noun forms, meaning "food." That he's "of the chameleon's dish" means that he hasn't been eating much (that "food" might mean literal food or food for thought) and that his feelings are constantly changing, like a chameleon's skin.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  57. If Claudius manages to hide (or "steal" away) his guilt, Horatio will pay for it ("the theft"). In other words, watching the King during the play is very dangerous, and if they aren't right, then Horatio's going to be in trouble. He's willing to do so for Hamlet, but isn't so foolish as to think it's without risk.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  58. "Unkennel" means to unleash (as if from a kennel) and derives from a hunting term for driving a fox out of its hole. Hamlet suspects that if Claudius truly is guilty, then whatever he's hiding will be evident on his face, and he'll know for sure whether the Ghost was really his father or was just a demon trying to lead him astray.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  59. "Commeddled" means "commingled" or mixed. Hamlet says Horatio's life has been pretty even-keeled, blessed with neither great hardship nor great wealth, in part because his breeding ("blood") and manners ("judgment") have made him into a wise, honest man whom Fortune has decided to overlook or not make an example of for others.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  60. Hamlet has made the choice not to trust anyone and to "seal" himself off or make himself emotionally unavailable to everyone. He decided to engage (or "elect" to interact) with only the most righteous of men, but, finding none, withdrew into himself. He's telling Horatio this because he's one of the few honest men that Hamlet's met.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  61. "Thrift" means prosperity or good fortune, whereas "fawning" means to lavish with praise or adoration. This line then means, "Where (or in a condition where) fawning over something will lead to good fortune." In the previous line, Hamlet spoke of someone crooking or bending their knees to kneel before someone, so what he's really talking about here is a display of respect.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  62. In other words, let a pompous or pretentious person sugarcoat whatever they want. Recall that Polonius expressed much the same sentiment in Act III, Scene I, when he said that words could "sugar o'er" the Devil himself. This repetition draws an uncomfortable parallel between Hamlet and Polonius, who are each, after all, trying to maneuver against the other.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  63. In this context, "revenue" refers to wealth or income. Hamlet implies that Horatio, despite being an officer, has no money, and as a poor man has nothing to his name but his good spirits. In an earlier scene, Hamlet equated poor men with honest men, so even though Hamlet seems critical, he's actually praising Horatio.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  64. Notice that Hamlet forgoes referring to ambitions as "dreams" here in favor of speaking plainly about the actor's intentions (to laugh or fill a silence where a character like Hamlet would otherwise be contemplating something serious). This is one of the only times that Hamlet equates people who don't act like him as villains and tells us a lot about how he views the other characters, particularly Claudius.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  65. In general, a journeyman is someone who learns a trade and is now qualified to earn wages from it. In this context, it refers to someone who works for someone else (in this case, Nature) and doesn't do a very good job of it, having not made these men (the bad actors) very good at their jobs.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  66. Think of these words as an aside: that he really thinks (and isn't trying to be profane about it) that some actors don't deserve the praise they get and that they don't "act" so much as strut around the stage, making themselves look ridiculous. Hamlet's not only showing his preference for a restrained style of acting but judging those who act this way.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  67. Hamlet claims that the whole point of acting or putting on a show is to reveal something about human nature (or to hold it up to a mirror). This emphasizes the complexity of human interactions and the psychological depth of Shakespeare's characters, who can be held up to a mirror without appearing flat or one-dimensional.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  68. This line doubles as Shakespeare's own thoughts about acting and playwriting: that the words are more important, and that the actions should be suited to them, not the other way around. This gives precedence to what the writer intended rather than to the actor's interpretation, which suggests that everything you need to understand the play is right here on the page.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  69. Termagant was a god that people in medieval Europe confused with Allah, the god in Islam. Similarly, Herod is a character from the Bible, a king in Judea who plotted to kill Jesus Christ when he was born, because Christ was supposed to become king of the Jews (and thus dethrone Herod). Both were violent rulers, and as characters on the stage would've been wildly overdone.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  70. The "groundlings" or members of the pit were a notoriously rowdy bunch, prone to violent and ridiculous outbursts ("dumb-shows") that were often crude and sexual in nature. Some even went so far as to jump up on the stage. To subdue them, Shakespeare had to keep the action tight, but that didn't keep him from poking fun at the pit a little.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  71. A "periwig" is a stylized wig of the king worn by British nobility in the Renaissance, as well as by lawyers and judges. The use of this word is anachronistic, as Danish nobility weren't known to where periwigs and Hamlet wasn't likely to have seen many British actors either at the castle or at school.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  72. We can assume from these lines that Hamlet isn't just speaking about the actor's performance, but also about his own, and that he believes that his acting has the temperance and the smoothness he demands here. This may be arrogance on his part, or it may be his survival mechanism.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  73. Recall that at the end of Act II, Scene II, Hamlet recited to one of the players a brief passage from a play and that he did so very seriously, following the natural rhythm of the words, without gesticulating wildly or becoming melodramatic, as he warns the players not to do here. It may be arrogance on Hamlet's part to believe he's a better performer than these actors. Then again, maybe he is.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  74. When graves open and the spirits of the dead are released into the night air. Notice the alliteration of "Y" sounds in "churchyards yawn." This emphasizes the "yawning" or opening of the churchyards so that they seem to yawn even wider.

    — William Delaney
  75. This line must be intended to be spoken as a kind of aside. Hamlet is telling himself that he's tired of people trying to manipulate him and that he's had enough of it (which doesn't bode well for Gertrude, as she's the next one he's going to speak to). Alternatively, he could be saying it right in front of Polonius, which would play into his performance of madness.

    — William Delaney
  76. The "hart," or male deer, here refers to Claudius, who "plays" when he abandons his wife, Gertrude, the deer who weeps at his departure. In this case, "galled" doesn't mean to be irritated or vexed but sore from chafing (presumably during intercourse). To be ungalled then means that the king and queen won't be chafing that night.

    — William Delaney
  77. This shows the extent of Hamlet's education. For him to know that it's written in "choice" Italian, he'd have to be discriminating about the language. He'd also have to know Latin to get into a good university, German to make his way at Wittenberg, English to be an ambassador, and Danish of course at home. Without having to explicitly state it, Shakespeare characterizes Hamlet as a polyglot and true scholar.

    — William Delaney
  78. Here Polonius realizes that Hamlet has been making a fool of him, as well as reminding him of the difference in their social ranks. So when he says, "Very like a whale," he does it in a subdued tone of voice (in contrast to his initial reproachful and authoritarian tone). In his words and body language Polonius conveys that he's subject to the prince and must agree with everything he says, whether or not he likes it.

    — William Delaney
  79. Using the words "and presently" here equates to ordering the prince to report to his mother immediately. Polonius acts like a servant or a gofer for Gertrude, but presents himself with an authority that Hamlet immediately dislikes. What follows is an uncomfortable exchange that puts Polonius in his place.

    — William Delaney
  80. Perhaps even more telling than the actual content of the play is this title, The Mousetrap, which perfectly describes Hamlet's plan: he's going to catch Claudius, the mouse, with this play, the trap he set to make the king feel guilty. However, like a mousetrap, it can backfire, and Hamlet must be careful that it doesn't catch the wrong person.

    — Noelle Thompson
  81. Hamlet puns on Ophelia's accusation that he's being "keen" (sharp), suggesting that his "edge" is a result of his pent-up sexual frustration and that to relieve it would require that they have sex. He turns the verb "groaning" into a noun that refers to the act of intercourse itself, but doesn't guarantee that it's pleasurable ("groaning" certainly suggests otherwise).

    — Katie Rounds
  82. In ancient Greek plays, a chorus was a group of characters who told the audience what was going to happen in the play. By likening him to a chorus, Ophelia isn't praising him so much as politely telling him that he's talking too much and spoiling the show.

    — Katie Rounds