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William Shakespeare (1564–1616). The Tragedy of Hamlet Prince of Denmark.
The Harvard Classics. 1909–14.

Scene VII

Act IV

[Another room in the castle]

King.Now must your conscience my acquittance seal;And you must put me in your heart for friend,Sith you have heard, and with a knowing ear,That he which hath your noble father slainPursued my life.Laer.It well appears. But tell meWhy you proceeded not against these feats,So crimeful and so capital in nature,As by your safety, wisdom, all things else,You mainly were stirr’d up.King.O, for two special reasons,Which may to you, perhaps, seem much unsinew’d,And yet to me they are strong. The Queen his motherLives almost by his looks; and for myself—My virtue or my plague, be it either which—She’s so conjunctive to my life and soul,That, as the star moves not but in his sphere,I could not but by her. The other motiveWhy to a public count I might not go,Is the great love the general gender bear him;Who, dipping all his faults in their affection,Would, like the spring that turneth wood to stone,Convert his gyves to graces; so that my arrows,Too slightly timb’red for so loud a wind,Would have reverted to my bow again,And not where I had aim’d them.Laer.And so have I a noble father lost,A sister driven into desperate terms,Whose worth, if praises may go back again,Stood challenger on mount of all the ageFor her perfections. But my revenge will come.King.Break not your sleeps for that. You must not thinkThat we are made of stuff so flat and dullThat we can let our beard be shook with dangerAnd think it pastime. You shortly shall hear more.I lov’d your father, and we love ourself,And that, I hope, will teach you to imagine—
Enter a Messenger with letters

How now! What news?Mess.Letters, my lord, from Hamlet.This to your Majesty; this to the Queen.King.From Hamlet! Who brought them?Mess.Sailors, my lord, they say; I saw them not.They were given me by Claudio. He receiv’d them[Of him that brought them].King.Laertes, you shall hear them.Leave us.Exit Messenger.[Reads.]“High and mighty, You shall know I am set naked on your kingdom. To-morrow shall I beg leave to see your kingly eyes, when I shall, first asking your pardon thereunto, recount the occasions of my sudden and more strange return.
What should this mean? Are all the rest come back?Or is it some abuse, or no such thing?Laer.Know you the hand?King.’Tis Hamlet’s character. “Naked!”And in a postscript here, he says, “alone.”Can you advise me?Laer.I’m lost in it, my lord. But let him come.It warms the very sickness in my heartThat I shall live and tell him to his teeth,“Thus didest thou.”King.If it be so, Laertes,—As how should it be so? How otherwise?—Will you be rul’d by me?Laer.[Ay, my lord,]If so you’ll not o’errule me to a peace.King.To thine own peace. If he be now return’d,As checking at his voyage, and that he meansNo more to undertake it, I will work himTo an exploit, now ripe in my device,Under the which he shall not choose but fall;And for his death no wind of blame shall breathe,But even his mother shall uncharge the practiceAnd call it accident.[Laer.My lord, I will be rul’d;The rather, if you could devise it soThat I might be the organ.King.It falls right.You have been talk’d of since your travel much,And that in Hamlet’s hearing, for a qualityWherein, they say, you shine. Your sum of partsDid not together pluck such envy from himAs did that one, and that, in my regard,Of the unworthiest siege.Laer.What part is that, my lord?King.A very riband in the cap of youth,Yet needful too; for youth no less becomesThe light and careless livery that it wearsThan settled age his sables and his weeds,Importing health and graveness.] Two months since,Here was a gentleman of Normandy;—I’ve seen myself, and serv’d against, the French,And they can well on horseback; but this gallantHad witchcraft in ’t. He grew unto his seat,And to such wondrous doing brought his horse,As had he been incorps’d and demi-natur’dWith the brave beast. So far he pass’d my thought,That I, in forgery of shapes and tricks,Come short of what he did.Laer.A Norman, was ’t?King.A Norman.Laer.Upon my life, Lamound.King.The very same.Laer.I know him well. He is the brooch indeedAnd gem of all the nation.King.He made confession of you,And gave you such a masterly reportFor art and exercise in your defence,And for your rapier most especially,That he cried out, ’twould be a sight indeedIf one could match you. [The scrimers of their nation,He swore, had neither motion, guard, nor eye,If you oppos’d them.] Sir, this report of hisDid Hamlet so envenom with his envyThat he could nothing do but wish and begYour sudden coming o’er to play with him.Now, out of this—Laer.What out of this, my lord?King.Laertes, was your father dear to you?Or are you like the painting of a sorrow,A face without a heart?Laer.Why ask you this?King.Not that I think you did not love your father,But that I know love is begun by time,And that I see, in passages of proof,Time qualifies the spark and fire of it.[There lives within the very flame of loveA kind of wick or snuff that will abate it,And nothing is at a like goodness still;For goodness, growing to a plurisy,Dies in his own too much. That we would do,We should do when we would; for this “would” changes,And hath abatements and delays as manyAs there are tongues, are hands, are accidents;And then this “should” is like a spendthrift sigh,That hurts by easing. But, to the quick o’ the ulcer:—]Hamlet comes back. What would you undertake,To show yourself your father’s son in deedMore than in words?Laer.To cut his throat i’ the church.King.No place, indeed, should murder sanctuarize;Revenge should have no bounds. But, good Laertes,Will you do this, keep close within your chamber?Hamlet return’d shall know you are come home.We’ll put on those shall praise your excellenceAnd set a double varnish on the fameThe Frenchman gave you, bring you, in fine, togetherAnd wager on your heads. He, being remiss,Most generous and free from all contriving,Will not peruse the foils, so that, with ease,Or with a little shuffling, you may chooseA sword unbated, and in a pass of practiceRequite him for your father.Laer.I will do ’t;And, for that purpose, I’ll anoint my sword.I bought an unction of a mountebank,So mortal that, but dip a knife in it,Where it draws blood no cataplasm so rare,Collected from all simples that have virtueUnder the moon, can save the thing from deathThat is but scratch’d withal. I’ll touch my pointWith this contagion, that, if I gall him slightly,It may be death.King.Let’s further think of this,Weigh what convenience both of time and meansMay fit us to our shape. If this should fail,And that our drift look through our bad performance,’Twere better not assay’d; therefore this projectShould have a back or second, that might holdIf this should blast in proof. Soft! let me see.We’ll make a solemn wager on your cunnings,—I ha ’t!When in your motion you are hot and dry—As make your bouts more violent to that end—And that he calls for drink, I’ll have prepar’d himA chalice for the nonce, whereon but sipping,If he by chance escape your venom’d stuck,Our purpose may hold there. But stay, what noise?

How, sweet queen!Queen.One woe doth tread upon another’s heel,So fast they follow. Your sister’s drown’d, Laertes.Laer.Drown’d! O, where?Queen.There is a willow grows aslant a brook,That shows his hoar leaves in the glassy stream.There with fantastic garlands did she comeOf crow-flowers, nettles, daisies, and long purplesThat liberal shepherds give a grosser name,But our cold maids do dead men’s fingers call them;There, on the pendent boughs her coronet weedsClamb’ring to hang, an envious silver broke,When down her weedy trophies and herselfFell in the weeping brook. Her clothes spread wide,And, mermaid-like, awhile they bore her up;Which time she chanted snatches of old tunes,As one incapable of her own distress,Or like a creature native and induedUnto that element. But long it could not beTill that her garments, heavy with their drink,Pull’d the poor wretch from her melodious layTo muddy death.Laer.Alas, then, is she drown’d?Queen.Drown’d, drown’d.Laer.Too much of water hast thou, poor Ophelia,And therefore I forbid my tears. But yetIt is our trick. Nature her custom holds,Let shame say what it will; when these are gone,The woman will be out. Adieu, my lord;I have a speech of fire that fain would blaze,But that this folly douts it.Exit.King.Let’s follow, Gertrude.How much I had to do to calm his rage!Now fear I this will give it start again,Therefore let’s follow.Exeunt.