Act IV - Scene VI

[Elsinore.]

Enter Horatio and others.

HORATIO:
What are they that would speak with me?
SERVANT:
Seafaring men, sir. They say they have letters for you.
HORATIO:
Let them come in.

[Exit Servant.]

I do not know from what part of the world
I should be greeted, if not from Lord Hamlet.(5)

Enter Sailors.

SAILOR:
God bless you, sir.
HORATIO:
Let him bless thee too.
SAILOR:
He shall, sir, an't please him. There's a letter for you, sir.
It comes from the ambassador that was bound for England—
if your name be Horatio, as I am let to know it is.(10)
HORATIO:

[Reads the letter]

'Horatio, when thou shalt have overlook'd
this, give these fellows some means to the King. They have letters for
him. Ere we were two days old at sea, a pirate of very warlike appointment
gave us chase. Finding ourselves too slow of sail, we put on a
compelled valour, and in the grapple I boarded them. On the instant(15)
they got clear of our ship; so I alone became their prisoner. They have
dealt with me like thieves of mercy; but they knew what they did: I am
to do a good turn for them. Let the King have the letters I have sent,
and repair thou to me with as much speed as thou wouldst fly death. I
have words to speak in thine ear will make thee dumb; yet are they(20)
much too light for the bore of the matter. These good fellows will bring
thee where I am. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern hold their course for
England. Of them I have much to tell thee. Farewell.
'He that thou knowest thine, Hamlet.'
Come, I will give you way for these your letters,(25)
And do't the speedier that you may direct me
To him from whom you brought them.

Exeunt.

Footnotes

  1. That is, they knew who Hamlet was and thought it would be prudent to take care of the prince and ransom him for a hefty sum. No doubt the "letters" these men carry are in fact ransom demands that Hamlet has forged in order to confuse Horatio and lay the foundation for his early return.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  2. Notice how Shakespeare's use of meter breaks down in this passage and allows Hamlet to write in longer, less poetic lines. We know, from his love letter to Ophelia, that Hamlet is perfectly capable of writing in metrical feet, but he elects not to here for expediency's sake (and also, we assume, to maintain the lie that he's in a harried situation).

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  3. Notice how this construction figures Hamlet as a "part of the world," like Denmark. Horatio means that he can't think of anyone who would write to him except Hamlet and that, because Hamlet is on his way to England, the letter must come from that part of the world, but equating Hamlet with a place has the (perhaps unintended) effect of enhancing his isolation.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor