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

Act II. Scene I.

Hamlet, Prince of Denmark

A Room in POLONIUS’ House.


Pol.Give him this money and these notes, Reynaldo.

Rey.I will, my lord.

Pol.You shall do marvellous wisely, good Reynaldo,

Before you visit him, to make inquiry

Of his behaviour.

Rey.My lord, I did intend it.

Pol.Marry, well said, very well said. Look you, sir,

Inquire me first what Danskers are in Paris;

And how, and who, what means, and where they keep,

What company, at what expense; and finding

By this encompassment and drift of question

That they do know my son, come you more nearer

Than you particular demands will touch it:

Take you, as ’twere, some distant knowledge of him;

As thus, ‘I know his father, and his friends,

And, in part, him;’ do you mark this, Reynaldo?

Rey.Ay, very well, my lord.

Pol.‘And, in part, him; but,’ you may say, ‘not well:

But if ’t be he I mean, he’s very wild,

Addicted so and so;’ and there put on him

What forgeries you please; marry, none so rank

As may dishonour him; take heed of that;

But, sir, such wanton, wild, and usual slips

As are companions noted and most known

To youth and liberty.

Rey.As gaming, my lord?

Pol.Ay, or drinking, fencing, swearing, quarrelling,

Drabbing; you may go so far.

Rey.My lord, that would dishonour him.

Pol.Faith, no; as you may season it in the charge.

You must not put another scandal on him,

That he is open to incontinency;

That’s not my meaning; but breathe his faults so quaintly

That they may seem the taints of liberty,

The flash and outbreak of a fiery mind,

A savageness in unreclaimed blood,

Of general assault.

Rey.But, my good lord,—

Pol.Wherefore should you do this?

Rey.Ay, my lord,

I would know that.

Pol.Marry, sir, here’s my drift;

And, I believe, it is a fetch of warrant:

You laying these slight sullies on my son,

As ’twere a thing a little soil’d i’ the working,

Mark you,

Your party in converse, him you would sound,

Having ever seen in the prenominate crimes

The youth you breathe of guilty, be assur’d,

He closes with you in this consequence;

‘Good sir,’ or so; or ‘friend,’ or ‘gentleman,’

According to the phrase or the addition

Of man and country.

Rey.Very good, my lord.

Pol.And then, sir, does he this,—he does,—what was I about to say? By the mass I was about to say something: where did I leave?

Rey.At ‘closes in the consequence.’

At ‘friend or so,’ and ‘gentleman.’

Pol.At ‘closes in the consequence,’ ay, marry;

He closes with you thus: ‘I know the gentleman;

I saw him yesterday, or t’ other day,

Or then, or then; with such, or such; and, as you say,

There was a’ gaming; there o’ertook in ’s rouse;

There falling out at tennis;’ or perchance,

‘I saw him enter such a house of sale,’

Videlicet, a brothel, or so forth.

See you now;

Your bait of falsehood takes this carp of truth;

And thus do we of wisdom and of reach,

With windlasses, and with assays of bias,

By indirections find directions out:

So by my former lecture and advice

Shall you my son. You have me, have you not?

Rey.My lord, I have.

Pol.God be wi’ you; fare you well.

Rey.Good my lord!

Pol.Observe his inclination in yourself.

Rey.I shall, my lord.

Pol.And let him ply his music.

Rey.Well, my lord.

Pol.Farewell![Exit REYNALDO.


How now, Ophelia! what’s the matter?

Oph.Alas! my lord, I have been so affrighted.

Pol.With what, in the name of God?

Oph.My lord, as I was sewing in my closet,

Lord Hamlet, with his doublet all unbrac’d;

No hat upon his head; his stockings foul’d,

Ungarter’d, and down-gyved to his ancle;

Pale as his shirt; his knees knocking each other;

And with a look so piteous in purport

As if he had been loosed out of hell

To speak of horrors, he comes before me.

Pol.Mad for thy love?

Oph.My lord, I do not know;

But truly I do fear it.

Pol.What said he?

Oph.He took me by the wrist and held me hard,

Then goes he to the length of all his arm,

And, with his other hand thus o’er his brow,

He falls to such perusal of my face

As he would draw it. Long stay’d he so;

At last, a little shaking of mine arm,

And thrice his head thus waving up and down,

He rais’d a sigh so piteous and profound

That it did seem to shatter all his bulk

And end his being. That done, he lets me go,

And, with his head over his shoulder turn’d,

He seem’d to find his way without his eyes;

For out o’ doors he went without their help,

And to the last bended their light on me.

Pol.Come, go with me; I will go seek the king.

This is the very ecstasy of love,

Whose violent property fordoes itself

And leads the will to desperate undertakings

As oft as any passion under heaven

That does afflict our natures. I am sorry.

What! have you given him any hard words of late?

Oph.No, my good lord; but, as you did command,

I did repel his letters and denied

His access to me.

Pol.That hath made him mad.

I am sorry that with better heed and judgment

I had not quoted him; I fear’d he did but trifle,

And meant to wrack thee; but, beshrew my jealousy!

By heaven, it is as proper to our age

To cast beyond ourselves in our opinions

As it is common for the younger sort

To lack discretion. Come, go we to the king:

This must be known; which, being kept close, might move

More grief to hide than hate to utter love.