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William Shakespeare (1564–1616). The Oxford Shakespeare. 1914.

Act V. Scene I.

Hamlet, Prince of Denmark

A Churchyard.

Enter two Clowns, with spades and mattock.

First Clo.Is she to be buried in Christian burial that wilfully seeks her own salvation?

Sec. Clo.I tell thee she is; and therefore make her grave straight: the crowner hath sat on her, and finds it Christian burial.

First Clo.How can that be, unless she drowned herself in her own defence?

Sec. Clo.Why, ’tis found so.

First Clo.It must be se offendendo; it cannot be else. For here lies the point: if I drown myself wittingly it argues an act; and an act hath three branches; it is, to act, to do, and to perform: argal, she drowned herself wittingly.

Sec. Clo.Nay, but hear you, goodman delver,—

First Clo.Give me leave. Here lies the water; good: here stands the man; good: if the man go to this water, and drown himself, it is, will he, nill he, he goes; mark you that? but if the water come to him, and drown him, he drowns not himself: argal, he that is not guilty of his own death shortens not his own life.

Sec. Clo.But is this law?

First Clo.Ay, marry, is ’t; crowner’s quest law.

Sec. Clo.Will you ha’ the truth on ’t? If this had not been a gentlewoman she should have been buried out o’ Christian burial.

First Clo.Why, there thou sayest; and the more pity that great folk should have countenance in this world to drown or hang themselves more than their even Christian. Come, my spade. There is no ancient gentlemen but gardeners, ditchers, and grave-makers; they hold up Adam’s profession.

Sec. Clo.Was he a gentleman?

First Clo.A’ was the first that ever bore arms.

Sec. Clo.Why, he had none.

First Clo.What! art a heathen? How dost thou understand the Scripture? The Scripture says, Adam digged; could he dig without arms? I’ll put another question to thee; if thou answerest me not to the purpose, confess thyself—

Sec. Clo.Go to.

First Clo.What is he that builds stronger than either the mason, the shipwright, or the carpenter?

Sec. Clo.The gallows-maker; for that frame outlives a thousand tenants.

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

Sec. Clo.Who builds stronger than a mason, a shipwright, or a carpenter?

First Clo.Ay, tell me that, and unyoke.

Sec. Clo.Marry, now I can tell.

First Clo.To ’t.

Sec. Clo.Mass, I cannot tell.

Enter HAMLET and HORATIO at a distance.

First Clo.Cudgel thy brains no more about it, for your dull ass will not mend his pace with beating; and, when you are asked this question next, say, ‘a grave-maker:’ the houses that he makes last till doomsday. Go, get thee to Yaughan; fetch me a stoup of liquor.[Exit Second Clown.

First Clown digs, and sings.

  • In youth, when I did love, did love,
  • Methought it was very sweet,
  • To contract, O! the time, for-a my behove,
  • O! methought there was nothing meet.
  • Ham.Has this fellow no feeling of his business, that he sings at grave-making?

    Hor.Custom hath made it in him a property of easiness.

    Ham.’Tis e’en so; the hand of little employment hath the daintier sense.

    First Clo.

  • But age, with his stealing steps,
  • Hath claw’d me in his clutch,
  • And hath shipped me intil the land,
  • As if I had never been such.
  • [Throws up a skull.

    Ham.That skull had a tongue in it, and could sing once; how the knave jowls it to the ground, as if it were Cain’s jaw-bone, that did the first murder! This might be the pate of a politician, which this ass now o’er-offices, one that would circumvent God, might it not?

    Hor.It might, my lord.

    Ham.Or of a courtier, which could say, ‘Good morrow, sweet lord! How dost thou, good lord?’ This might be my Lord Such-a-one, that praised my Lord Such-a-one’s horse, when he meant to beg it, might it not?

    Hor.Ay, my lord.

    Ham.Why, e’en so, and now my Lady Worm’s; chapless, and knocked about the mazzard with a sexton’s spade. Here’s fine revolution, an we had the trick to see ’t. Did these bones cost no more the breeding but to play at loggats with ’em? mine ache to think on ’t.

    First Clo.

  • A pick-axe, and a spade, a spade,
  • For and a shrouding sheet;
  • O! a pit of clay for to be made
  • For such a guest is meet.
  • [Throws up another skull.

    Ham.There’s another; why may not that be the skull of a lawyer? Where be his quiddities now, his quillets, his cases, his tenures, and his tricks? why does he suffer this rude knave now to knock him about the sconce with a dirty shovel, and will not tell him of his action of battery? Hum! This fellow might be in ’s time a great buyer of land, with his statutes, his recognizances, his fines, his double vouchers, his recoveries; is this the fine of his fines, and the recovery of his recoveries, to have his fine pate full of fine dirt? will his vouchers vouch him no more of his purchases, and double ones too, than the length and breadth of a pair of indentures? The very conveyance of his lands will hardly lie in this box, and must the inheritor himself have no more, ha?

    Hor.Not a jot more, my lord.

    Ham.Is not parchment made of sheep-skins?

    Hor.Ay, my lord, and of calf-skins too.

    Ham.They are sheep and calves which seek out assurance in that. I will speak to this fellow. Whose grave’s this, sir?

    First Clo.Mine, sir,

  • O! a pit of clay for to be made
  • For such a guest is meet.
  • Ham.I think it be thine, indeed; for thou liest in ’t.

    First Clo.You lie out on ’t, sir, and therefore it is not yours; for my part, I do not lie in ’t, and yet it is mine.

    Ham.Thou dost lie in ’t, to be in ’t and say it is thine: ’tis for the dead, not for the quick; therefore thou liest.

    First Clo.’Tis a quick lie, sir; ’twill away again, from me to you.

    Ham.What man dost thou dig it for?

    First Clo.For no man, sir.

    Ham.What woman, then?

    First Clo.For none, neither.

    Ham.Who is to be buried in ’t?

    First Clo.One that was a woman, sir; but, rest her soul, she’s dead.

    Ham.How absolute the knave is! we must speak by the card, or equivocation will undo us. By the Lord, Horatio, these three years I have taken note of it; the age is grown so picked that the toe of the peasant comes so near the heel of the courtier, he galls his kibe. How long hast thou been a grave-maker?

    First Clo.Of all the days i’ the year, I came to ’t that day that our last King Hamlet overcame Fortinbras.

    Ham.How long is that since?

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

    Ham.Ay, marry; why was he sent into England?

    First Clo.Why, because he was mad: he shall recover his wits there; or, if he do not, ’tis no great matter there,


    First Clo.’Twill not be seen in him there; there the men are as mad as he.

    Ham.How came he mad?

    First Clo.Very strangely, they say.

    Ham.How strangely?

    First Clo.Faith, e’en with losing his wits.

    Ham.Upon what ground?

    First Clo.Why, here in Denmark; I have been sexton here, man and boy, thirty years.

    Ham.How long will a man lie i’ the earth ere he rot?

    First Clo.Faith, if he be not rotten before he die,—as we have many pocky corses now-a-days, that will scarce hold the laying in,—he will last you some eight year or nine year; a tanner will last you nine year.

    Ham.Why he more than another?

    First Clo.Why, sir, his hide is so tanned with his trade that he will keep out water a great while, and your water is a sore decayer of your whoreson dead body. Here’s a skull now; this skull hath lain you i’ the earth three-and-twenty years.

    Ham.Whose was it?

    First Clo.A whoreson mad fellow’s it was: whose do you think it was?

    Ham.Nay, I know not.

    First Clo.A pestilence on him for a mad rogue! a’ poured a flagon of Rhenish on my head once. This same skull, sir, was Yorick’s skull, the king’s jester.


    First Clo.E’en that.

    Ham.Let me see.—[Takes the skull.]—Alas! poor Yorick. I knew him, Horatio; a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy; he hath borne me on his back a thousand times; and now, how abhorred in my imagination it is! my gorge rises at it. Here hung those lips that I have kissed I know not how oft. Where be your gibes now? your gambols? your songs? your flashes of merriment, that were wont to set the table on a roar? Not one now, to mock your own grinning? quite chapfallen? Now get you to my lady’s chamber, and tell her, let her paint an inch thick, to this favour she must come; make her laugh at that. Prithee, Horatio, tell me one thing.

    Hor.What’s that, my lord?

    Ham.Dost thou think Alexander looked o’ this fashion i’ the earth?

    Hor.E’en so.

    Ham.And smelt so? pah![Puts down the skull.

    Hor.E’en so, my lord.

    Ham.To what base uses we may return, Horatio! Why may not imagination trace the noble dust of Alexander, till he find it stopping a bung-hole?

    Hor.’Twere to consider too curiously, to consider so.

    Ham.No, faith, not a jot; but to follow him thither with modesty enough, and likelihood to lead it; as thus: Alexander died, Alexander was buried, Alexander returneth into dust; the dust is earth; of earth we make loam, and why of that loam, whereto he was converted, might they not stop a beer-barrel?

    Imperious Cæsar, dead and turn’d to clay,

    Might stop a hole to keep the wind away:

    O! that that earth, which kept the world in awe,

    Should patch a wall to expel the winter’s flaw.

    But soft! but soft! aside: here comes the king.

    Enter Priests, &c., in procession: the Corpse of OPHELIA, LAERTES and Mourners following; KING, QUEEN, their Trains, &c.

    The queen, the courtiers: who is that they follow?

    And with such maimed rites? This doth betoken

    The corse they follow did with desperate hand

    Fordo its own life; ’twas of some estate.

    Couch we awhile, and mark.[Retiring with HORATIO.

    Laer.What ceremony else?

    Ham.That is Laertes,

    A very noble youth: mark.

    Laer.What ceremony else?

    First Priest.Her obsequies have been as far enlarg’d

    As we have warrantise: her death was doubtful,

    And, but that great command o’ersways the order,

    She should in ground unsanctified have lodg’d

    Till the last trumpet; for charitable prayers,

    Shards, flints, and pebbles should be thrown on her;

    Yet here she is allow’d her virgin crants,

    Her maiden strewments, and the bringing home

    Of bell and burial.

    Laer.Must there no more be done?

    First Priest.No more be done:

    We should profane the service of the dead,

    To sing a requiem, and such rest to her

    As to peace-parted souls.

    Laer.Lay her i’ the earth;

    And from her fair and unpolluted flesh

    May violets spring! I tell thee, churlish priest,

    A ministering angel shall my sister be,

    When thou liest howling.

    Ham.What! the fair Ophelia?

    Queen.Sweets to the sweet: farewell![Scattering flowers.

    I hop’d thou shouldst have been my Hamlet’s wife;

    I thought thy bride-bed to have deck’d, sweet maid,

    And not have strew’d thy grave.

    Laer.O! treble woe

    Fall ten times treble on that cursed head

    Whose wicked deed thy most ingenious sense

    Depriv’d thee of. Hold off the earth awhile,

    Till I have caught her once more in mine arms.[Leaps into the grave.

    Now pile your dust upon the quick and dead,

    Till of this flat a mountain you have made,

    To o’er-top old Pelion or the skyish head

    Of blue Olympus.

    Ham.[Advancing.]What is he whose grief

    Bears such an emphasis? whose phrase of sorrow

    Conjures the wandering stars, and makes them stand

    Like wonder-wounded hearers? this is I,

    Hamlet the Dane.[Leaps into the grave.

    Laer.The devil take thy soul![Grapples with him.

    Ham.Thou pray’st not well.

    I prithee, take thy fingers from my throat;

    For though I am not splenetive and rash

    Yet have I in me something dangerous,

    Which let thy wisdom fear. Away thy hand!

    King.Pluck them asunder.

    Queen.Hamlet! Hamlet!


    Hor.Good my lord, be quiet.[The Attendants part them, and they come out of the grave.

    Ham.Why, I will fight with him upon this theme

    Until my eyelids will no longer wag.

    Queen.O my son! what theme?

    Ham.I lov’d Ophelia: forty thousand brothers

    Could not, with all their quantity of love,

    Make up my sum. What wilt thou do for her?

    King.O! he is mad, Laertes.

    Queen.For love of God, forbear him.

    Ham.’Swounds, show me what thou’lt do:

    Woo ’t weep? woo ’t fight? woo ’t fast? woo ’t tear thyself?

    Woo ’t drink up eisel? eat a crocodile?

    I’ll do ’t. Dost thou come here to whine;

    To outface me with leaping in her grave?

    Be buried quick with her, and so will I:

    And, if thou prate of mountains, let them throw

    Millions of acres on us, till our ground,

    Singeing his pate against the burning zone,

    Make Ossa like a wart! Nay, an thou’lt mouth,

    I’ll rant as well as thou.

    Queen.This is mere madness:

    And thus a while the fit will work on him;

    Anon, as patient as the female dove,

    When that her golden couplets are disclos’d,

    His silence will sit drooping.

    Ham.Hear you, sir;

    What is the reason that you use me thus?

    I lov’d you ever: but it is no matter;

    Let Hercules himself do what he may,

    The cat will mew and dog will have his day.[Exit.

    King.I pray you, good Horatio, wait upon him.[Exit HORATIO.

    [To LAERTES.]Strengthen your patience in our last night’s speech;

    We’ll put the matter to the present push.

    Good Gertrude, set some watch over your son.

    This grave shall have a living monument:

    An hour of quiet shortly shall we see;

    Till then, in patience our proceeding be.[Exeunt.