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ment; if not, your pardon, and my return shall be the end of my business.
Ham. Sir, I cannot.
Guil. What, my lord?
Ham. Make you a wholesome answer; my wit's diseased. But, sir, such answer as I can make, you shall command; or, rather, as you say, my mother: therefore no more, but to the matter. My mother,
Ros. Then thus she says: Your behavior hath struck her into amazement and admiration.
Ham. O wonderful son, that can so astonish a mother!-But is there no sequel at the heels of this mother's admiration? Impart.
Ros. She desires to speak with you in her closet, ere you go to bed.
Ham. We shall obey, were she ten times our mother. Have you any you any further trade with us?
Ros. My lord, you once did love me.
Ham. And do still, by these pickers and stealers.1 Ros. Good my lord, what is your cause of distemper? You do, surely, but bar the door upon your own liberty, if you deny your griefs to your friend.
Ham. Sir, I lack advancement.
Ros. How can that be, when you have the voice of the king himself for your succession in Denmark? Ham. Ay, sir, but While the grass grows,-the proverb is something musty.
Enter the Players, with recorders.
O, the recorders;-let me see one. To withd:aw with you. Why do you go about to recover the wind of me,3 as if you would drive me into a toil?
1 By these hands.
2 "To withdraw with you." Malone added here a stage direction. [Taking Guild. aside.] Steevens thinks it an answer to a motion Guildenstern had used, for Hamlet to withdraw with him. Perhaps it means no more than "to draw back with you," to leave that scent or trail. It is a hunting term, like that which follows.
3 This term is borrowed from hunting, and means, to take advantage of the animal pursued, by getting to the windward of it, that it may not scent its pursuers.
Guil. O my lord, if my duty be too bold, my love is too unmannerly.'
Ham. I do not well understand that. Will you play upon this pipe?
Guil. My lord, I cannot.
Ham. I pray you.
Guil. Believe me, I cannot.
Ham. I do beseech you.
Guil. I know no touch of it, my lord.
Ham. 'Tis as easy as lying: govern these ventages with your fingers and thumb, give it breath with your mouth, and it will discourse most eloquent music. Look you, these are the stops.
Guil. But these cannot I command to any utterance of harmony; I have not the skill.
Ham. Why, look you now, how unworthy a thing you make of me! You would play upon me; you would seem to know my stops; you would pluck out the heart of my mystery; you would sound me from my lowest note to the top of my compass: and there is much music, excellent voice, in this little organ; yet cannot you make it speak. 'Sblood, do you think I am easier to be played on than a pipe? Call me what instrument you will, though you can fret me, you cannot play upon me.
God bless you, sir!
Pol. My lord, the queen would speak with you, and presently.
Ham. Do you see yonder cloud, that's almost in shape of a camel?
Pol. By the mass, and 'tis like a camel, indeed.
1 Hamlet may say, with propriety, "I do not well understand that." Perhaps Guildenstern means, "If my duty to the king makes me too bold, my love to you makes me importunate even to rudeness."
2 The ventages are the holes of the pipe. The stops means the mode of stopping those ventages to produce notes.
Pol. It is backed like a weasel.
Ham. Or, like a whale?
Pol. Very like a whale.
Ham. Then will I come to my mother by and by. -They fool me to the top of my bent.'-I will come by and by.
Pol. I will say so. [Exit POLONIUS. Ham. By and by is easily said.-Leave me, friends. [Exeunt Ros., GUIL., HOR., &c.
'Tis now the very witching time of night;
When church-yards yawn, and hell itself breathes out Contagion to this world. Now could I drink hot blood, And do such bitter business as the day 2
Would quake to look on.
Soft; now to my mother,
O heart, lose not thy nature; let not ever
I will speak daggers to her, but use none;
SCENE III. A Room in the same.
Enter King, ROSENCRANTZ, and GUILDENSTERN.
King. I like him not; nor stands it safe with us, To let his madness range. Therefore, prepare you;
your commission will forthwith despatch,
And he to England shall along with you.
1 As far as the bow will admit of being bent without breaking.
2 The quarto reads:
“And do such business as the bitter day," &c.
3 To shend is to injure, whether by reproof, blows, or otherwise. Shakspeare generally uses shent for reproved, threatened with angry words. "To give his words seals" is therefore to carry his punishment beyond reproof. The allusion is to the sealing a deed to render it effective. The quarto of 1603 :
"I will speak daggers; those sharp words being spent,
The terms of our estate may not endure
Out of his lunacies.
We will ourselves provide.
Most holy and religious fear it is,
To keep those many many bodies safe,
Ros. The single and peculiar life is bound,
King. Arm you, I pray you, to this speedy voyage; For we will fetters put upon this fear,
Which now goes too free-footed.
Ros. Guil. We will haste us.
[Exeunt Ros. and GUIL.
Pol. My lord, he's going to his mother's closet. Behind the arras3 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. Fare you well, my liege;
1 Folio reads "spirits."
3 See King Henry IV. Part I. Act ii. Sc. 4.
4 Warburton explains of vantage, "by some opportunity of secret observation." Perhaps "of vantage." in Shakspeare's language, is for advantage, commodi causa.
I'll call upon you ere you go to bed,
my lord. [Exit POLONIUS
O, my offence is rank, it smells to heaven;
And what's in prayer, but this twofold force,
To be forestalled, ere we come to fall,
Or pardoned, being down? Then I'll look up;
1 i. e. "though I am not only willing, but strongly inclined to pray
my guilt prevents me.'
2 i. e. caught as with birdlime.