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The lives of many. The cease of majesty
Dies not alone; but, like a gulf, doth draw
What's near it, with it: it is a massy wheel,
Fix'd on the summit of the highest mount,
To whose huge spokes ten thousand lesser things
Are mortis'd and adjoin'd; which, when it falls,
Each small annexment, petty consequence,
Attends the boist'rous ruin. Never alone
Did the king sigh, but with a general groan.
King. Arm you, I pray you, to this speedy voyage;
For we will fetters put upon 2 this fear,

Which now goes too free-footed.

Ros. Guil.

We will haste us. [Exeunt ROSENCRANTZ and GUIL.


Pol. My lord, he's going to his mother's closet. Behind the arras 3 I'll convey myself,

To hear the process; I'll warrant, she'll tax him home;

And, 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 5. Fare you well, my liege;
I'll call upon you ere you go to bed,
And tell you what I know.


Thanks, dear my lord.


O, my offence is rank, it smells to heaven;

Quarto-' about.'

3 See King Henry IV. Part 1. Act ii. Sc. 4.

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5 Warburton explains of vantage, by some opportunity of secret observation.' I incline to think that of vantage,' in Shakspeare's language, is for advantage, commodi causa.

It hath the primal eldest curse upon't,
A brother's murder!-Pray can I not,
Though 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 cursed hand
Were thicker than 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 offence?

And what's in prayer, but this two-fold force,-
To be forestalled, ere we come to fall,

Or pardon'd, being down? Then I'll look up;
My fault is past. But, O, what form of prayer
Can serve my turn? Forgive me my foul murder!-
That cannot be; since I am still possess'd
Of those effects for which I did the murder,
My crown, mine own ambition, and my queen.
May one be pardon'd, and retain the offence?
In the corrupted currents of this world,
Offence's gilded hand may shove by justice;
And 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 compell'd,
Even to the teeth and forehead of our faults,
To give in evidence. What then? what rests?
Try what repentance can: What can it not?
Yet what can it, when one can not repent?
O wretched state! O bosom, black as death!
O limed soul; that struggling to be free,
Art more engag'd! Help, angels, make assay!

i. e. though I was not only willing, but strongly inclined to pray, my guilt prevented me.'

7 i. e. caught as with birdlime.

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Bow, stubborn knees! and, heart, with strings of


Be soft as sinews of the new-born babe;

All may be well!

[Retires and kneels.


Ham. Now might I do it, pat, now he is praying;
And now I'll do't; and so he goes to heaven:
And so am I reveng'd? That would be scann'd 8:
A villain kills my father; and, for that,

I, his sole son, do this same villain send
To heaven.

Why, this is hire and salary 9, not revenge.
He 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,
"Tis heavy with him: And am I then reveng'd,
To take him in the purging of his soul,
When he is fit and season'd for his passage?

Up, sword; and know thou a more horrid hent 10:
When he is drunk, asleep, or in his rage;

Or in the incestuous pleasures of his bed;
At gaming, 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 damn'd, and black,
As hell, whereto it goes 11. My mother stays:
This physick but prolongs thy sickly days. [Exit.

8 That would be scann'd'-that requires consideration, or ought to be estimated.

9 The quarto reads, base and silly.

10 Shakspeare has used the verb to hent, to take, to lay hold -on, elsewhere; but the word is here used as a substantive, for hold or opportunity.

11 Johnson has justly exclaimed against the horrible nature

The King rises and advances.

King. My words fly up, my thoughts remain below:

Words, without thoughts, never to heaven go 12.


SCENE IV. Another Room in the same.

Enter Queen and POLONIUS.

Pol. He will come straight. Look, you lay home to him:

Tell him, his pranks have been too broad to bear with; And that your grace hath screen'd and stood be


Much heat and him. I'll silence me e'en here. 'Pray you, be round with him1.

Queen. I'll warrant you; Fear me not: withdraw, I hear him coming. [POLONIUS hides himself.

of this desperate revenge; but the quotations of the commentators from other plays cotemporary with and succeeding this, show that it could not have been so horrifying to the ears of our ancestors. In times of less civilisation, revenge was held almost a sacred duty; and the purpose of the appearance of the ghost in this play chiefly to excite Hamlet to it. The more fell and terrible the retributive act, the more meritorious it seems to have been held. The King himself in a future scene, when stimulating Laertes to kill Hamlet, says, Revenge should have no bounds.' Mason has observed that, horrid as this resolution of Hamlet's is, ' yet some moral may be extracted from it, as all his subsequent misfortunes were owing to this savage refinement of revenge.'

12 First quarto:—


'No king on earth is safe, if God's his foe.'

1 The folio here interposes the following speech:

'Ham. [Within.] Mother, mother, mother.'

The circumstance of Polonius hiding himself behind the arras and the manner of his death are found in the old black letter prose Hystory of Hamblett.

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Ham. Now, mother; what's the matter? Queen. Hamlet, thou hast thy father much offended.

Ham. Mother, you have my father much offended. Queen. Come, come, you answer with an idle tongue.

Ham. Go, go, you question with a wicked tongue. Queen. Why, how now, Hamlet?


What's the matter now?

Queen. Have you forgot me?

No, by the rood, not so: husband's brother's wife;

You are the queen, your
And, 'would it were not so!-you are my mother.
Queen. Nay, then I'll set those to you that can

Ham. Come, come, and sit you down; you shall not budge;

You go not, till I set you up a glass

Where you may see the inmost part of you.

Queen. What wilt thou do? thou wilt not mur

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Nay, I know not:

Queen. O me, what hast thou done?


Is it the king?

[Lifts up the Arras, and draws forth POLO


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