Internet Shakespeare Editions

Author: William Shakespeare
Editor: David Bevington
Not Peer Reviewed

Hamlet (Modern, Quarto 2)


[3.3]
Enter King, Rosencrantz, and Guildenstern.
King I like him not, nor stands it safe with us
To let his madness range. Therefore prepare you.
I your commission will forthwith dispatch,
2275And he to England shall along with you.
The terms of our estate may not endure
Hazard so near's as doth hourly grow
Out of his brows.
Guildenstern
We will ourselves provide.
2280Most holy and religious fear it is
To keep those many many bodies safe
That live and feed upon your majesty.
Rosencrantz The single and peculiar life is bound
2285With all the strength and armor of the mind
To keep itself from noyance, but much more
That spirit upon whose weal depends and rests
The lives of many. The cess of majesty
Dies not alone, but like a gulf doth draw
2290What's near it with it; or it is a massy wheel
Fixed on the summit of the highest mount,
To whose huge spokes ten thousand lesser things
Are mortised and adjoined, which, when it falls,
Each small annexment, petty consequence,
2295Attends the boist'rous rain. Never alone
Did the king sigh, but a general groan.
King Arm you, I pray you, to this speedy voyage,
For we will fetters put about this fear
Which now goes too free-footed.
2300Rosencrantz
We will haste us.
Exeunt gentlemen [Rosencrantz and Guildenstern].
Enter Polonius.
Polonius My lord, he's going to his mother's closet.
Behind the arras I'll convey myself
To hear the process. I'll warrant she'll tax him home.
2305And, as you said--and wisely was it said--
'Tis meet that some more audience than a mother,
Since nature makes them partial, should o'erhear
The speech of vantage. Fare you well, my liege.
I'll call upon you ere you go to bed,
2310And tell you what I know.
Oh, my offense is rank! It smells to heaven.
It hath the primal eldest curse upon't,
A brother's murder. Pray can I not,
2315Though inclination be as sharp as will;
My stronger guilt defeats my strong intent,
And like a man to double business bound
I stand in pause where I shall first begin,
And both neglect. What if this cursèd hand
2320Were thicker then itself with brother's blood,
Is there not rain enough in the sweet heavens
To wash it white as snow? Whereto serves mercy
But to confront the visage of offense?
And what's in prayer but this twofold force,
2325To be forestallèd ere we come to fall,
Or pardon being down? Then I'll look up.
My fault is past. But, oh, what form of prayer
Can serve my turn? "Forgive me my foul murder"?
That cannot be, since I am still possessed
2330Of those effects for which I did the murder:
My crown, mine own ambition, and my queen.
May one be pardoned and retain th'offense?
In the corrupted currents of this world,
Offense's gilded hand may shove by justice,
2335And oft 'tis seen the wicked prize itself
Buys out the law. But 'tis not so above:
There is no shuffling, there the action lies
In his true nature, and we ourselves compelled,
Even to the teeth and forehead of our faults,
2340To give in evidence. What then? What rests?
Try what repentance can. What can it not?
Yet what can it, when one cannot repent?
O wretched state, O bosom black as death,
O limèd soul, that, struggling to be free,
2345Art more engaged! Help, angels! Make assay.
Bow, stubborn knees, and heart with strings of steel,
Be soft as sinews of the newborn babe!
All may be well.
[He kneels.]
Enter Hamlet.
2350Hamlet Now might I do it. But now 'a is a-praying,
And now I'll do't.
[He draws his sword.]
And so 'a goes to heaven,
And so am I revenged. That would be scanned:
A villain kills my father, and for that,
I, his sole son, do this same villain send
2355To heaven.
Why, this is base and silly, not revenge.
'A took my father grossly full of bread,
With all his crimes broad blown, as flush as May,
And how his audit stands, who knows save heaven?
But in our circumstance and course of thought
2360 'Tis heavy with him. And am I then revenged
To take him in the purging of his soul,
When he is fit and seasoned for his passage?
No.
[He sheathes his sword.]
Up, sword, and know thou a more horrid hent.
When he is drunk, asleep, or in his rage,
2365Or in th'incestuous pleasure of his bed,
At game a-swearing, or about some act
That has no relish of salvation in't,
Then trip him, that his heels may kick at heaven,
And that his soul may be as damned and black
2370As hell, whereto it goes. My mother stays.
This physic but prolongs thy sickly days.
Exit.
King My words fly up, my thoughts remain below.
Words without thoughts never to heaven go.
Exit.