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Sc. II

HAM. [aside.] Nay, then, I have an eye of you. If you love me, hold not off.

GUILD. My Lord, we were sent for.


HAM. I will tell you why; so shall my anticipation
prevent1 your discovery, and your secrecy to the King
and Queen moult no feather. I have of late (but
wherefore I know not) lost all my mirth, forgone all
custom of exercises; and indeed it goes so heavily with
my disposition, that this goodly frame, the Earth, seems
to me a sterile promontory; this most excellent canopy,
the air, look you, this brave o'erhanging firmament,
this majestical roof fretted with golden fire-why, it
appears no other thing to me than a foul and pestilent
congregation of vapours. What a piece of work is a
man! how noble in reason! how infinite in faculty!
in form and moving how express and admirable! in
action how like an Angel! in apprehension how like
a God! the beauty of the World! the paragon of
animals! And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of
dust? man delights not me; no, nor woman neither,
though by your smiling you seem to say so.
ROSEN. My Lord, there was no such stuff in my thoughts.
HAM. Why did you laugh, then, when I said man delights
not me?

ROSEN. To think, my Lord, if you delight not in man, what lenten3 entertainment the players shall receive from you: we coted them on the way, and hither are they coming to offer you service.


HAM. He that plays the King shall be welcome; his Majesty shall have tribute of me; the adventurous Knight shall use his foil and target; the Lover shall not sigh gratis; the humorous man shall end his part in peace; the Clown shall make those laugh whose lungs are tickle o' the sere; and the Lady shall say her mind freely, or the blank-verse shall halt for 't. What players are they?

ROSEN. Even those you were wont to take delight in, the tragedians of the City.

HAM. How chances it they travel? their residence, both in reputation and profit, was better both ways.


2 disclosure.

3 meagre. • passed by. 5 light on the trigger.


go before.


ROSEN. I think their inhibition comes by the means of ACT II the late innovation.

Sc. II

HAM. Do they hold the same estimation they did when

I was in the City? are they so follow'd?

ROSEN. No, indeed, they are not.
HAM. How comes it? do they grow rusty?

ROSEN. Nay; their endeavour keeps in the wonted pace;
but there is, Sir, an eyrie of children, little eyases,1 that
cry out on the top of question,' and are most tyranni-
cally clapp'd for 't; these are now the fashion; and so
berattle the common stages (so they call them) that
many wearing rapiers are afraid of goose-quills, and
dare scarce come thither.


HAM. What, are they children? who maintains 'em? how are they escoted? Will they pursue the quality no longer than they can sing? will they not say afterwards, if they should grow themselves to common players (as it is most like, if their means are no better) their writers do them wrong, to make them exclaim against their own succession ?


ROSEN. 'Faith, there has been much to-do on both sides; and the nation holds it no sin to tarre them to controversy: there was for a while no money bid for argument, unless the poet and the player went to cuffs in the question.

HAM. Is't possible?

GUILD. O, there has been much throwing about of brains.
HAM. Do the boys carry it away?

ROSEN. Ay, that they do, my Lord; Hercules and his
load too."


HAM. It is not very strange; for mine uncle is King of Denmark, and those that would make mows at him while my father liv'd, give twenty, forty, fifty, an hundred ducats a-piece for his picture in little. 'Sblood, there is something in this more than natural, if philosophy could find it out. [Flourish of trumpets within. GUILD. There are the players.

HAM. Gentlemen, you are welcome to Elsinore. Your hands, come; the appurtenance of welcome is fashion and ceremony: let me comply with you in the garb;

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Sc. II

lest my extent1 to the players, which, I tell
you, must
shew fairly outward, should more appear like entertain-
ment than your's. You are welcome; but my uncle-
father and aunt-mother are deceiv'd.

GUILD. In what, my dear Lord?

HAM. I am but mad north-north-west; when the wind is southerly I know a hawk from a handsaw.

Re-enter POLONIUS.

POLO. Well be with you, Gentlemen!

HAM. Hark you, Guildenstern; and you too; at each ear a hearer: That great baby you see there is not yet out of his swaddling-clouts.


ROSEN. Happily he's the second time come to them; for they say an old man is twice a child.

HAM. I will prophesy he comes to tell me of the players; mark it. You say right, Sir: o' Monday morning; 'twas so, indeed.

POLO. My Lord, I have news to tell you.

HAM. My Lord, I have news to tell you. When Roscius was an actor in Rome

POLO. The actors are come hither, my Lord.

HAM. Buz, buz!

POLO. Upon mine honour

HAM. Then came each actor on his ass


POLO. What a treasure had he, my Lord?
HAM. Why,

POLO. The best actors in the world, either for tragedy, comedy, history, pastoral, pastoral-comical, historicalpastoral, tragical-historical, tragical-comical-historicalpastoral, scene individable, or poem unlimited; Seneca cannot be too heavy, nor Plautus too light. For the law of writ and the liberty, these are the only men.

HAM. O Jephthah, Judge of Israel, what a treasure hadst thou!


One fair daughter, and no more,
The which he loved passing well.

POLO. [aside.] Still on my daughter.

HAM. Am I not i' the right, old Jephthah?

1 advances.


Sc. II

POLO. If you call me Jephthah, my Lord, I have a ACT II
daughter that I love passing well.
HAM. Nay, that follows not.
POLO. What follows, then, my Lord?
HAM. Why,

As by lot, God wot;

and then, you know,


It came to pass, as most like it was

the first row of the pious chanson will shew you more; for look, where my abridgements come.

• excelled. ♦ piquancies.


Enter four or five Players.

You are welcome, Masters; welcome, all. I am glad to see thee well. Welcome, good Friends. O, my old Friend! thy face is valanc'd1 since I saw thee last: comest thou to beard me in Denmark? What, my young Lady and Mistress! By'r Lady, your Ladyship is nearer to Heaven than when I saw you last, by the altitude of a chopine. Pray God, your voice, like a piece of uncurrent gold, be not crack'd within the ring. Masters, you are all welcome. We'll e'en to't like French falconers, fly at any thing we see: we'll have a speech straight. Come, give us a taste of your quality; come, a passionate speech.



FIRST PLAY. What speech, my Lord?
HAM. I heard thee speak me a speech once-but it was
never acted; or, if it was, not above once, for the play,
I remember, pleas'd not the million; 'twas caviare to
the general: but it was (as I receiv'd it, and others,
whose judgments in such matters cried in the top of3
mine) an excellent play, well digested in the scenes, set
down with as much modesty as cunning. I remember,
one said there were no sallets in the lines to make the
matter savoury, nor no matter in the phrase that might
indict the author of affectation; but call'd it an honest
method, as wholesome as sweet, and by very much
more handsome than fine. One speech in it I chiefly
lov'd: 'twas Æneas' tale to Dido; and thereabout of
it especially where he speaks of Priam's slaughter. If

1 fringed.

2 Venetian high wooden shoe.

Sc. II

it live in your memory, begin at this line: let me see, let me see

The rugged Pyrrhus, like the Hyrcanian beast

it is not so; it begins with Pyrrhus :

The rugged Pyrrhus-he whose sable arms,
Black as his purpose, did the night resemble
When he lay couched in the ominous horse-
Hath now this dread and black complexion smear'd
With heraldry more dismal: head to foot
Now is he total gules; horridly trick'd
With blood of fathers, mothers, daughters, sons,
Bak'd and impasted with the parching streets,
That lend a tyrannous and damned light

To their vile murders. Roasted in wrath and fire,
And thus o'ersized with coagulate gore,

With eyes like carbuncles, the hellish Pyrrhus
Old grandsire Priam seeks.

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So, proceed you.

POLO. 'Fore God, my Lord, well spoken, with good accent and good discretion.

Takes prisoner Pyrrhus' ear: for, lo! his sword,
Which was declining on the milky head

Of reverend Priam, seem'd i' the air to stick:
So, as a painted tyrant, Pyrrhus stood;
And, like a neutral to his will and matter,
Did nothing.

But, as we often see, against some storm,

A silence in the Heavens, the rack1 stand still,
The bold winds speechless, and the orb below

1 mass of clouds.


Anon he finds him
Striking too short at Greeks; his antique sword,
Rebellious to his arm, lies where it falls,
Repugnant to command: unequal match'd,
Pyrrhus at Priam drives; in rage strikes wide;
But with the whiff and wind of his fell sword
The unnerved father falls. Then senseless Ilium, 470
Seeming to feel this blow, with flaming top
Stoops to his base; and with a hideous crash


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