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Act 2 Scene 2


ORIGINAL TEXT MODERN TEXT
Flourish. Enter
King CLAUDIUS and
Queen GERTRUDE, ROSENCRAN Trumpets play. CLAUDIUS and GERTRUDE en
TZ and GUILDENSTERN, and with ROSENCRANTZ, GUILDENSTERN,
attendants and attendants.

CLAUDIUS CLAUDIUS
Welcome, dear Rosencrantz and Welcome, dear Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.
Guildenstern. I’ve wanted to see you for a long time now,
Moreover that we much did long to but I sent for you so hastily because I need your
see you, help
The need we have to use you did right away. You’ve probably heard about the
provoke “change”
Our hasty sending. Something have that’s come over Hamlet—that’s the only word f
you heard it,
5Of Hamlet’s “transformation”—so since inside and out he’s different from what he
call it was
Since nor th' exterior nor the before. I can’t imagine what’s made him so unlik
inward man himself,
Resembles that it was. What it other than his father’s death. Since you both gr
should be, up with
More than his father’s death, that him and are so familiar with his personality and
thus hath put him behavior,
So much from th' understanding of I’m asking you to stay a while at court and spen
himself, some
10I cannot dream of. I entreat you time with him. See if you can get Hamlet to hav
both some
That, being of so young days fun, and find out if there’s anything in particular
brought up with him that’s bothering him, so we can set about trying
And since so neighbored to his fix it.
youth and 'havior,
That you vouchsafe your rest here
in our court
Some little time so by your
companies
15To draw him on to pleasures and
to gather,
So much as from occasion you may
glean,
Whether aught, to us unknown,
afflicts him thus
That, opened, lies within our
remedy.

GERTRUDE
Good gentlemen, he hath much
talked of you.
20And sure I am two men there are
not living
To whom he more adheres. If it will
please you
To show us so much gentry and
good will
As to expend your time with us GERTRUDE
awhile Gentlemen, Hamlet’s talked a lot about you,
For the supply and profit of our and I know there are no two men alive he’s fond
hope, of.
25Your visitation shall receive such If you’ll be so good as to spend some time with
thanks and
As fits a king’s remembrance. help us out, you’ll be thanked on a royal scale.

ORIGINAL TEXT MODERN TEXT


ROSENCRANTZ
    Both your majesties
Might, by the sovereign power you have of
us,
Put your dread pleasures more into ROSENCRANTZ
Both you and the king might have ordered
command
us to execute your command, instead of
Than to entreaty. asking us so politely.

GUILDENSTERN
  But we both obey
30And here give up ourselves, in the full
bent,
To lay our service freely at your feet GUILDENSTERN
But we’ll obey. Our services are entirely at
To be commanded. your command.

CLAUDIUS CLAUDIUS
Thanks, Rosencrantz and gentle Thanks, Rosencrantz and worthy
Guildenstern. Guildenstern.

GERTRUDE
Thanks, Guildenstern and gentle GERTRUDE
Rosencrantz. Thanks, Guildenstern and worthy
Rosencrantz.
35And I beseech you instantly to visit
I beg you to pay a visit right away to my
My too much changèd son. Go, some of you,
son, who’s changed too much. Servants,
And bring these gentlemen where Hamlet is. take these gentlemen to see Hamlet.

GUILDENSTERN
Heavens make our presence and our
practices GUILDENSTERN
I hope to God we can make him happy and
Pleasant and helpful to him! do him some good!

GERTRUDE GERTRUDE
    Ay, amen! Amen to that!

Exeunt  ROSENCRANTZ and  GUILDENSTER ROSENCRANTZ and  GUILDENSTERN  exit,


N, escorted by attendants escorted by attendants.

Enter POLONIUS POLONIUS  enters.

POLONIUS
40Th' ambassadors from Norway, my good
lord,
POLONIUS
Are joyfully returned. The ambassadors are back from Norway, sir.

CLAUDIUS CLAUDIUS
Thou still hast been the father of good news. Once again you bring good news.

POLONIUS
Have I, my lord? I assure my good liege, POLONIUS
Do I, sir? I assure your majesty I’m only
I hold my duty as I hold my soul,
doing my duty both to my God and my good
45Both to my God and to my gracious king. king.
ORIGINAL TEXT MODERN TEXT

And I do think—or else this brain of


mine

Hunts not the trail of policy so sure

As it hath used to do—that I have And I believe—unless this brain of


found mine is not so politically cunning as
it used to be—that I’ve found out
The very cause of Hamlet’s lunacy. why Hamlet’s gone crazy.

CLAUDIUS CLAUDIUS

50Oh, speak of that. That do I long Tell me! I want very much to find
to hear. out.

POLONIUS

Give first admittance to th' POLONIUS


ambassadors.
All right, but first let the
My news shall be the fruit to that ambassadors speak. Then you can
great feast. hear my news, as dessert.

CLAUDIUS
CLAUDIUS
Thyself do grace to them, and bring
them in. Then be so kind as to show them in.

Exit POLONIUS POLONIUS exits.

He tells me, my dear Gertrude, he


hath found

55The head and source of all your Gertrude, he says he’s found out
son’s distemper. the reason for your son’s insanity.

GERTRUDE
GERTRUDE
I doubt it is no other but the main:
I doubt it’s anything but the obvious
His father’s death and our o'erhasty reason: his father’s dying and our
marriage. quick marriage.
Enter POLONIUS with POLONIUS enters with the
ambassadors VOLTEMAND and CORN ambassadors VOLTEMAND and COR
ELIUS NELIUS.

CLAUDIUS
CLAUDIUS
Well, we shall sift him.—Welcome,
my good friends! Well, we’ll get to the bottom of it.
Welcome, my good friends. Tell me,
Say, Voltemand, what from our Voltemand, what’s the news from
brother Norway? the king of Norway?

VOLTEMAND VOLTEMAND

60Most fair return of greetings and Greetings to you too, your


desires. Highness. As soon as we raised the
matter, the king sent out
Upon our first, he sent out to messengers to stop his nephew’s
suppress war preparations, which he
originally thought were directed
His nephew’s levies, which to him against Poland but learned on
appeared closer examination were directed
against you. He was very upset that
To be a preparation 'gainst the Fortinbras had taken advantage of
Polack, his being old and sick to deceive
him, and he ordered Fortinbras’s
But, better looked into, he truly arrest. Fortinbras swore never to
found threaten Denmark again.

65It was against your highness.


Whereat grieved—

That so his sickness, age, and


impotence

Was falsely borne in hand—sends


out arrests

On Fortinbras, which he, in brief,


obeys,

Receives rebuke from Norway, and


in fine

70Makes vow before his uncle never


more

To give th' assay of arms against


your majesty.

Whereon old Norway, overcome with


joy,

ORIGINAL TEXT MODERN TEXT

Gives him three thousand crowns in


annual fee

75And his commission to employ


those soldiers,

So levied as before, against the


Polack,

With an entreaty, herein further


shown,

That it might please you to give The old king was so overjoyed by
quiet pass this promise that he gave young
Fortinbras an annual income of
Through your dominions for this three thousand crowns and
enterprise, permission to lead his soldiers into
Poland, asking you officially in this
80On such regards of safety and letter to allow his troops to pass
allowance through your kingdom on their way
to Poland. He’s assuring you of your
As therein are set safety. (he gives CLAUDIUS a
down. (gives CLAUDIUS a document document

CLAUDIUS CLAUDIUS

    It likes us well, I like this news, and when I have


time I’ll read this and think about
And at our more considered time how to reply. Meanwhile, thank you
we’ll read, for your efforts. Go relax now.
Tonight we’ll have dinner. Welcome
Answer, and think upon this back!
business.
Meantime we thank you for your
well-took labor.

85Go to your rest. At night we’ll


feast together.

Most welcome home!

Exeunt VOLTEMAND and CORNELIUS VOLTEMAND and CORNELIUS exit.

POLONIUS

This business is well ended.

My liege and madam, to expostulate

What majesty should be, what duty


is,

90Why day is day, night night, and


time is time,

Were nothing but to waste night,


day, and time.
POLONIUS
Therefore, since brevity is the soul
of wit Well, that turned out well in the
end. Sir and madam, to make grand
And tediousness the limbs and speeches about what majesty is,
outward flourishes, what service is, or why day is day,
night is night, and time is time is
I will be brief: your noble son is mad. just a waste of a lot of day, night,
and time. Therefore, since the
95Mad call I it, for, to define true essence of wisdom is not talking too
madness, much, I’ll get right to the point
here. Your son is crazy. “Crazy” I’m
What is ’t but to be nothing else but calling it, since how can you say
mad? what craziness is except to say that
it’s craziness? But that’s another
But let that go. story.

GERTRUDE GERTRUDE

More matter, with less art. Please, stick to the point.


POLONIUS

Madam, I swear I use no art at all.

100That he is mad, ’tis true. Tis


true, ’tis pity,
POLONIUS
And pity ’tis ’tis true—a foolish
figure, Madam, I’m doing nothing but
sticking to the point. It’s true he’s
But farewell it, for I will use no art. crazy, and it’s a shame it’s true, and
it’s truly a shame he’s crazy—but
Mad let us grant him then. And now now I sound foolish, so I’ll get right
remains to the point.

ORIGINAL TEXT MODERN TEXT

That we find out the cause of this


effect,

105Or rather say, the cause of this


defect,

For this effect defective comes by Now, if we agree Hamlet’s crazy,


cause. then the next step is to figure out
the cause of this effect of craziness,
Thus it remains, and the remainder or I suppose I should say the cause
thus. Perpend. of this defect, since this defective
effect is caused by something. This
I have a daughter—have while she is is what we must do, and that’s
mine— exactly what needs to be done.
Think about it. I have a daughter (I
Who in her duty and obedience, have her until she gets married)
mark, who’s given me this letter,
considering it her duty. Listen and
110Hath given me this. Now gather think about this: (he reads a
and surmise. letter) “To the heavenly idol of my
soul, the most beautified Ophelia”—
(reads a letter) “To the celestial and By the way, “beautified” sounds
my soul’s idol, the most beautified bad, it sounds awful, it sounds
Ophelia”—That’s an ill phrase, a vile crude, it’s a terrible use of the
phrase. “Beautified” is a vile phrase. word. But I’ll go on: (he reads the
But you shall hear. Thus: (reads the letter) “In her excellent white
letter)“In her excellent white bosom, bosom,” et cetera, et cetera—you
these,” etc.— don’t need to hear all this stuff—
GERTRUDE GERTRUDE

Came this from Hamlet to her? Hamlet wrote this letter to Ophelia?

POLONIUS
POLONIUS
Madam, please be patient. I’ll read
Good madam, stay a while. I will be it to you.
faithful.
(he reads the letter)
(reads the letter)
 “You may wonder if the stars are
  “Doubt thou the stars are fire, fire,

  Doubt that the sun doth move,  You may wonder if the sun moves
across the sky.
  Doubt truth to be a liar,
 You may wonder if the truth is a
  But never doubt I love. liar,

 O dear Ophelia, I am ill at these  But never wonder if I love.


numbers. I have not art to reckon my
groans, but that I love thee best, oh, Oh, Ophelia, I’m bad at poetry. I
most best, believe it. Adieu. can’t put my feelings into verse, but
please believe I love you best, oh,
  Thine evermore, most dear lady, best of all. Believe it.

  whilst this machine is to him,  Yours forever, my dearest one,

    Hamlet.”  as long as I live—still chugging


along,
115This in obedience hath my
daughter shown me,     Hamlet.”

And more above, hath his solicitings, Dutifully and obediently my


daughter showed me this letter, and
As they fell out by time, by means, more like it. She’s told me all about
and place, how Hamlet has been courting her—
all the details of where, and what
All given to mine ear. he said, and when.

CLAUDIUS CLAUDIUS

But how hath she received his love? And how did she react to all this?
POLONIUS POLONIUS

120What do you think of me? Sir, what is your opinion of me?

ORIGINAL TEXT MODERN TEXT

CLAUDIUS CLAUDIUS

As of a man faithful and honorable. I know you are loyal and honorable.

POLONIUS POLONIUS

I would fain prove so. But what I would like to prove to you that I
might you think, am. But what would you have
thought of me if I had kept quiet
When I had seen this hot love on the when I found out about this hot
wing— little love (which I noticed even
before my daughter told me about
As I perceived it, I must tell you that, it)? My dear queen, what would you
have thought of me if I had turned a
125Before my daughter told me— blind eye to what was happening
what might you, between Hamlet and my daughter?
No, I had to do something. And so I
Or my dear majesty your queen said to my daughter: “Lord Hamlet
here, think, is a prince, he’s out of your league.
You have to end this.” And then I
If I had played the desk or table- gave her orders to stay away from
book, him, and not to accept any
messages or little gifts from him.
Or given my heart a winking, mute She did what I said. When she
and dumb, rejected Hamlet, he became sad,
and stopped eating, stopped
Or looked upon this love with idle sleeping, got weak, got dizzy, and
sight? as a result lost his mind. And that’s
why he’s crazy now, and all of us
130What might you think? No, I went feel sorry for him.
round to work,

And my young mistress thus I did


bespeak:

“Lord Hamlet is a prince out of thy


star.

This must not be.” And then I


prescripts gave her,

That she should lock herself from his


resort,

135Admit no messengers, receive no


tokens.

Which done, she took the fruits of


my advice;

And he, repelled—a short tale to


make—

Fell into a sadness, then into a fast,

Thence to a watch, thence into a


weakness,

140Thence to a lightness, and, by


this declension,

Into the madness wherein now he


raves

And all we mourn for.

CLAUDIUS CLAUDIUS

(to GERTRUDE ) Do you think ’tis (to GERTRUDE) Do you think that’s


this? why Hamlet’s crazy?

GERTRUDE GERTRUDE

    It may be, very like. It may be, it certainly may be.

POLONIUS POLONIUS

Hath there been such a time—I Has there ever been a time—I’d
would fain know that— really like to know—when I’ve
definitely said something was true,
145That I have positively said, “'Tis and it turned out not to be true?
so,”
When it proved otherwise?

CLAUDIUS CLAUDIUS

    Not that I know. Not that I know of.

ORIGINAL TEXT MODERN TEXT

POLONIUS

(points to his head and shoulders)

Take this from this if this be


otherwise.
POLONIUS
If circumstances lead me, I will find
(pointing to his head and
150Where truth is hid, though it shoulders) Chop my head off if I’m
were hid indeed wrong. I’ll follow the clues and
uncover the truth, even if it’s at the
Within the center. very center of the earth.

CLAUDIUS
CLAUDIUS
What can we do to find out if it’s
  How may we try it further? true?

POLONIUS
POLONIUS
You know sometimes he walks four
hours together Well, you know he sometimes walks
here in the lobby for four hours at a
Here in the lobby. time.

GERTRUDE GERTRUDE

  So he does indeed. Yes, he does.

POLONIUS POLONIUS

At such a time I’ll loose my daughter When he’s there next time, I’ll send
to him. my daughter to see him. (to
CLAUDIUS) You and I will hide
155(to CLAUDIUS) Be you and I
behind an arras then,

Mark the encounter. If he love her


not

And be not from his reason fall'n behind the arras and watch what
thereon, happens. If it turns out that
Hamlet’s not in love after all, and
Let me be no assistant for a state hasn’t gone mad from love, then
you can fire me from my court job
But keep a farm and carters. and I’ll go work on a farm.

CLAUDIUS CLAUDIUS

    We will try it. We’ll try what you suggest.

Enter HAMLET, reading on a book HAMLET enters, reading a book.

GERTRUDE GERTRUDE

160But look where sadly the poor Look how sadly he’s coming in,
wretch comes reading. reading his book.

POLONIUS
POLONIUS
Away, I do beseech you, both away.
Please go away, both of you. I’ll
I’ll board him presently. O, give me speak to him now. Oh, please let
leave. me.

Exeunt CLAUDIUS and GERTRUDE CLAUDIUS and GERTRUDE exit.

How does my good Lord Hamlet? How are you, Hamlet?

HAMLET HAMLET

Well, God-'a'-mercy. Fine, thank you.

POLONIUS POLONIUS

165Do you know me, my lord? Do you know who I am?


ORIGINAL TEXT MODERN TEXT

HAMLET HAMLET

Excellent well. You are a fishmonger. Of course. You sell fish.

POLONIUS POLONIUS

Not I, my lord. No, not me, sir.

HAMLET HAMLET

Then I would you were so honest a In that case I wish you were as good
man. a man as a fish seller.

POLONIUS POLONIUS

Honest, my lord? Good, sir?

HAMLET
HAMLET
170Ay, sir. To be honest, as this
world goes, is to be one man picked Yes, sir. Only one man in ten
out of ten thousand. thousand is good in this world.

POLONIUS POLONIUS

That’s very true, my lord. That’s definitely true, my lord.

HAMLET HAMLET

For if the sun breed maggots in a Since if the sun breeds maggots on
dead dog, being a good kissing a dead dog, kissing the corpse—by
carrion— Have you a daughter? the way, do you have a daughter?

POLONIUS POLONIUS

175I have, my lord. I do indeed, my lord.

HAMLET HAMLET

Let her not walk i' th' sun. Then by all means never let her
Conception is a blessing, but, as walk in public. Procreation is a good
your daughter may conceive—Friend, thing, but if your daughter gets
look to ’t. pregnant … look out, friend.

POLONIUS POLONIUS

(aside) How say you by that? Still (to himself) Now, what does he


harping on my daughter. Yet he mean by that? Still harping on my
knew me not at first. He said I was a daughter. But he didn’t recognize
fishmonger. He is far gone, far gone. me at first. He mistook me for a fish
And truly in my youth I suffered seller. He’s far gone. But when I
much extremity for love, very near was young I went crazy for love too,
this. I’ll speak to him again.— almost as bad as this. I’ll talk to him
(to HAMLET) What do you read, my again.—(to HAMLET) What are you
lord? reading, your highness?

HAMLET HAMLET

Words, words, words. A lot of words.

POLONIUS POLONIUS

What is the matter, my lord? And what is the subject?

HAMLET HAMLET

185Between who? Between whom?

ORIGINAL TEXT MODERN TEXT

POLONIUS
POLONIUS
I mean, the matter that you read, my
lord. I mean, what do the words say?

HAMLET HAMLET

Slanders, sir. For the satirical rogue Oh, just lies, sir. The sly writer says
says here that old men have gray here that old men have gray beards,
beards, that their faces are their faces are wrinkled, their eyes
wrinkled, their eyes purging thick full of gunk, and that they have no
amber and plum-tree gum, and that wisdom and weak thighs. Of course
they have a plentiful lack of wit, I believe it all, but I don’t think it’s
together with most weak hams—all good manners to write it down,
which, sir, though I most powerfully since you yourself, sir, would grow
and potently believe, yet I hold it not
honesty to have it thus set down; for
yourself, sir, should be old as I am, if as old as I am, if you could only
like a crab you could go backward. travel backward like a crab.

POLONIUS
POLONIUS
195(aside) Though this be madness,
yet there is method in ’t.— (to himself) There’s a method to his
(to HAMLET) Will you walk out of the madness. (to HAMLET) Will you step
air, my lord? outside, my lord?

HAMLET HAMLET

Into my grave. Into my grave.

POLONIUS
POLONIUS
Indeed, that is out of the
air. (aside) How pregnant sometimes Well, that’s certainly out of this
his replies are. A happiness that world, all right. (to himself) His
often madness hits on, which reason answers are so full of meaning
and sanity could not so prosperously sometimes! He has a way with
be delivered of. I will leave him and words, as crazy people often do,
suddenly contrive the means of and that sane people don’t have a
meeting between him and my talent for. I’ll leave him now and
daughter.—(to HAMLET) My arrange a meeting between him and
honorable lord, I will most humbly my daughter. (to HAMLET) My lord,
take my leave of you. I’ll take my leave of you now.

HAMLET
HAMLET
205You cannot, sir, take from me
any thing that I will more willingly You can’t take anything from me
part withal—except my life, except that I care less about—except my
my life, except my life. life, except my life, except my life.

POLONIUS POLONIUS

Fare you well, my lord. Good-bye, my lord.

HAMLET HAMLET
(aside) These tedious old fools! (to himself) These boring old fools!

Enter ROSENCRANTZ and GUILDENST ROSENCRANTZ and GUILDENSTERN 
ERN enter.

POLONIUS POLONIUS

210You go to seek the Lord Hamlet. You’re looking for Lord Hamlet. He’s
There he is. right over there.

ORIGINAL TEXT MODERN TEXT

ROSENCRANTZ ROSENCRANTZ

God save you, sir! Thank you, sir.

Exit POLONIUS POLONIUS exits.

GUILDENSTERN GUILDENSTERN

My honored lord! My lord!

ROSENCRANTZ ROSENCRANTZ

My most dear lord! My dear sir!

HAMLET HAMLET

My excellent good friends! How dost Ah, my good old friends! How are
thou, Guildenstern? you, Guildenstern?

215Ah, Rosencrantz! Good lads, how And Rosencrantz! Boys, how are you
do you both? both doing?

ROSENCRANTZ
ROSENCRANTZ
As the indifferent children of the
earth. Oh, as well as anybody.

GUILDENSTERN GUILDENSTERN

Happy, in that we are not Happy that we’re not too happy,
overhappy. lucky in being not too lucky. We’re
On Fortune’s cap we are not the very
button. not exactly at the top of our luck.

HAMLET
HAMLET
But you’re not down and out, either,
Nor the soles of her shoes? are you?

ROSENCRANTZ
ROSENCRANTZ
No, we’re just somewhere in the
220Neither, my lord. middle, my lord.

HAMLET
HAMLET
Then you live about her waist, or in
the middle of her favors? So you’re around Lady Luck’s waist?

GUILDENSTERN GUILDENSTERN

Faith, her privates we. Yes, we’re the privates in her army.

HAMLET HAMLET

In the secret parts of Fortune? Oh, Ha, ha, so you’ve gotten into her
most true. She is a strumpet. What private parts? Of course—Lady Luck
news? is such a slut. Anyway, what’s up?

ROSENCRANTZ ROSENCRANTZ

None, my lord, but that the world’s Not much, my lord. Just that the
grown honest. world’s become honest.

HAMLET
HAMLET
Then is doomsday near. But your
news is not true. Let me question In that case, the end of the world is
more in particular. What have you, approaching. But you’re wrong. Let
my good friends, deserved at the me ask you a particular question.
hands of fortune that she sends you What crimes have you committed to
to prison hither? be sent here to this prison?

ORIGINAL TEXT MODERN TEXT


GUILDENSTERN GUILDENSTERN

Prison, my lord? Prison, my lord?

HAMLET HAMLET

Denmark’s a prison. Denmark’s a prison.

ROSENCRANTZ ROSENCRANTZ

Then is the world one. Then I guess the whole world is one.

HAMLET
HAMLET
A goodly one, in which there are
many confines, wards, and Yes, quite a large one, with many
dungeons, Denmark being one o' th' cells and dungeons, Denmark being
worst. one of the worst.

ROSENCRANTZ ROSENCRANTZ

We think not so, my lord. We don’t think so, my lord.

HAMLET
HAMLET
Well, then it isn’t one to you, since
Why, then, ’tis none to you, for there nothing is really good or bad in
is nothing either good or bad, but itself—it’s all what a person thinks
thinking makes it so. To me it is a about it. And to me, Denmark is a
prison. prison.

ROSENCRANTZ
ROSENCRANTZ
That must be because you’re so
Why then, your ambition makes it ambitious. It’s too small for your
one. 'Tis too narrow for your mind. large mind.

HAMLET HAMLET

O God, I could be bounded in a Small? No, I could live in a walnut


nutshell and count myself a king of shell and feel like the king of the
infinite space, were it not that I have universe. The real problem is that I
bad dreams. have bad dreams.
GUILDENSTERN
GUILDENSTERN
Which dreams indeed are ambition,
for the very substance of the Dreams are a sign of ambition, since
ambitious is merely the shadow of a ambition is nothing more than the
dream. shadow of a dream.

HAMLET HAMLET

245A dream itself is but a shadow. But a dream itself is just a shadow.

ROSENCRANTZ ROSENCRANTZ

Truly, and I hold ambition of so airy Exactly. In fact, I consider ambition


and light a quality that it is but a to be so light and airy that it’s only
shadow’s shadow. the shadow of a shadow.

HAMLET HAMLET

Then are our beggars bodies, and Then I guess beggars are the ones
our monarchs and outstretched with bodies, while ambitious kings
heroes the beggars' shadows. Shall and heroes are just the shadows of
we to th' court? For by my fay, I beggars. Should we go inside? I
cannot reason. seem to be losing my mind a bit.

ROSENCRANTZ, GUILDENSTERN
ROSENCRANTZ, GUILDENSTERN
We’re at your service, whatever you
We’ll wait upon you. say.

ORIGINAL TEXT MODERN TEXT

HAMLET
HAMLET
No such matter. I will not sort you
with the rest of my servants, for, to No, no, I won’t class you with my
speak to you like an honest man, I servants, since—to be frank with
am most dreadfully attended. But in you—my servants are terrible. But
the beaten way of friendship, what tell me as my friends, what are you
make you at Elsinore? doing here at Elsinore?

ROSENCRANTZ ROSENCRANTZ

To visit you, my lord, no other Visiting you, my lord. There’s no


occasion. other reason.

HAMLET
HAMLET
Beggar that I am, I am even poor in
thanks; but I thank you, and sure, Well, then, I thank you, though I’m
dear friends, my thanks are too dear such a beggar that even my thanks
a halfpenny. Were you not sent for? are not worth much. Did someone
Is it your own inclining? Is it a free tell you to visit me? Or was it just
visitation? Come, come, deal justly your whim, on your own initiative?
with me. Come, come. Nay, speak. Come on, tell me the truth.

GUILDENSTERN GUILDENSTERN

What should we say, my lord? What should we say, my lord?

HAMLET HAMLET

Why, any thing, but to th' purpose. Anything you like, as long as it
You were sent for, and there is a answers my question. You were
kind of confession in your looks sent for. You’ve got a guilty look on
which your modesties have not craft your faces, which you’re too honest
enough to color. I know the good to disguise. I know the king and
king and queen have sent for you. queen sent for you.

ROSENCRANTZ ROSENCRANTZ

To what end, my lord? Why would they do that, my lord?

HAMLET

That you must teach me. But let me HAMLET


conjure you, by the rights of our
fellowship, by the consonancy of our That’s what I want you to tell me.
youth, by the obligation of our ever- Let me remind you of our old
preserved love, and by what more friendship, our youth spent
dear a better proposer could charge together, the duties of our love for
you withal: be even and direct with each other, and whatever else will
me whether you were sent for or no. make you answer me straight.

ROSENCRANTZ ROSENCRANTZ

(to GUILDENSTERN) What say you? (to GUILDENSTERN) What do you


think?

HAMLET
HAMLET
(to himself) I’ve got my eye on
(aside) Nay, then, I have an eye of you. (to GUILDENSTERN) If you care
you—If you love me, hold not off. about me, you’ll be honest with me.

GUILDENSTERN GUILDENSTERN

My lord, we were sent for. My lord, we were sent for.

ORIGINAL TEXT MODERN TEXT

HAMLET

I will tell you why. So shall my


anticipation prevent your discovery,
and your secrecy to the king and HAMLET
queen moult no feather. I have of
late—but wherefore I know not—lost I’ll tell you why—so you won’t have
all my mirth, forgone all custom of to tell me and give away any
exercises, and indeed it goes so secrets you have with the king and
heavily with my disposition that this queen. Recently, though I don’t
goodly frame, the earth, seems to know why, I’ve lost all sense of fun,
me a sterile promontory; this most stopped exercising—the whole
excellent canopy, the air—look you, world feels sterile and empty. This
this brave o'erhanging firmament, beautiful canopy we call the sky—
this majestical roof fretted with this majestic roof decorated with
golden fire—why, it appears no other golden sunlight—why, it’s nothing
thing to me than a foul and pestilent more to me than disease-filled air.
congregation of vapors. What a What a perfect invention a human
piece of work is a man! How noble in is, how noble in his capacity to
reason, how infinite in faculty! In reason, how unlimited in thinking,
form and moving how express and how admirable in his shape and
admirable! In action how like an movement, how angelic in action,
angel, in apprehension how like a how godlike in understanding!
god! The beauty of the world. The There’s nothing more beautiful. We
paragon of animals. And yet, to me, surpass all other animals. And yet
what is this quintessence of dust? to me, what are we but dust? Men
Man delights not me. No, nor woman don’t interest me. No—women
neither, though by your smiling you neither, but you’re smiling, so you
seem to say so. must think they do.
ROSENCRANTZ ROSENCRANTZ

My lord, there was no such stuff in My lord, I wasn’t thinking anything


my thoughts. like that.

HAMLET HAMLET

Why did you laugh then, when I said So why did you laugh when I said
“man delights not me”? that men don’t interest me?

ROSENCRANTZ
ROSENCRANTZ
I was just thinking that if people
To think, my lord, if you delight not don’t interest you, you’ll be pretty
in man, what Lenten entertainment bored by the actors on their way
the players shall receive from you. here. We crossed paths with a
We coted them on the way, and drama company just a while ago,
hither are they coming to offer you and they’re coming to entertain
service. you.

HAMLET
HAMLET
The one who plays the part of the
300He that plays the king shall be king will be particularly welcome.
welcome. His majesty shall have I’ll treat him like a real king. The
tribute of me. The adventurous adventurous knight will wave
knight shall use his foil and target, around his sword and shield, the
the lover shall not sigh gratis, the lover will be rewarded for his sighs,
humorous man shall end his part in the crazy character can rant all he
peace, the clown shall make those wants, the clown will make
laugh whose lungs are tickle o' th' everybody laugh, and the lady
sear, and the lady shall say her mind character can say whatever’s on her
freely, or the blank verse shall halt mind, or I’ll stop the play. Which
for ’t. What players are they? troupe is it?

ORIGINAL TEXT MODERN TEXT

ROSENCRANTZ ROSENCRANTZ

Even those you were wont to take The tragic actors from the city, the
delight in, the tragedians of the city. ones you used to enjoy so much.

HAMLET HAMLET
How chances it they travel? Their What are they doing on the road?
residence, both in reputation and They made more money and got
profit, was better both ways. more attention in the city.

ROSENCRANTZ
ROSENCRANTZ
But things have changed there, and
I think their inhibition comes by the it’s easier for them on the road
means of the late innovation. now.

HAMLET HAMLET

Do they hold the same estimation Are they as popular as they used to
they did when I was in the city? Are be when I lived in the city? Do they
they so followed? attract big audiences?

ROSENCRANTZ ROSENCRANTZ

315No, indeed are they not. No, not like before.

HAMLET HAMLET

How comes it? Do they grow rusty? Why? Are they getting rusty?

ROSENCRANTZ
ROSENCRANTZ
No, they’re busy and as excellent as
Nay, their endeavor keeps in the ever. The problem is that they have
wonted pace. But there is, sir, an to compete with a group of children
eyrie of children, little eyases, that who yell out their lines and receive
cry out on the top of question and outrageous applause for it. These
are most tyrannically clapped for ’t. child actors are now in fashion, and
These are now the fashion, and so they’ve so overtaken the public
berattle the common stages—so theaters that society types hardly
they call them—that many wearing come at all, they’re so afraid of
rapiers are afraid of goose quills and being mocked by the playwrights
dare scarce come thither. who write for the boys.

ORIGINAL TEXT MODERN TEXT

HAMLET HAMLET

What, are they children? Who What, you mean kid actors? Who
maintains 'em? How are they
escoted? Will they pursue the
quality no longer than they can sing? takes care of them? Who pays their
Will they not say afterwards, if they way? Will they stop working when
should grow themselves to common their voices mature? Aren’t the
players (as it is most like if their playwrights hurting them by making
means are no better), their writers them upstage adult actors, which
do them wrong to make them they are going to grow up and
exclaim against their own become? (Unless, of course, they
succession? have trust funds.)

ROSENCRANTZ

Faith, there has been much to do on ROSENCRANTZ


both sides, and the nation holds it
no sin to tar them to controversy. There’s been a whole debate on the
There was, for a while, no money bid topic. For a while, no play was sold
for argument unless the poet and to the theaters without a big fight
the player went to cuffs in the between the children’s playwright
question. and the actors playing adult roles.

HAMLET HAMLET

Is ’t possible? Are you kidding?

GUILDENSTERN
GUILDENSTERN
Oh, there has been much throwing
about of brains. Oh, there’s been a lot of quarreling.

HAMLET HAMLET

335Do the boys carry it away? And the boys are winning so far?

ROSENCRANTZ

ROSENCRANTZ Yes, they are, my lord—little boys


are carrying the whole theater on
Ay, that they do, my lord. Hercules their backs, like Hercules carried
and his load too. the world.

HAMLET HAMLET
Actually, it’s not so unusual when
you think about it. My uncle is king
of Denmark, and the same people
It is not very strange. For my uncle who made fun of him while my
is King of Denmark, and those that father was still alive are now
would make mouths at him while my rushing to pay twenty, forty, fifty, a
father lived give twenty, forty, fifty, hundred ducats apiece for miniature
a hundred ducats apiece for his portraits of him. There’s something
picture in little. 'Sblood, there is downright unnatural about it, if a
something in this more than natural, philosopher stopped to think about
if philosophy could find it out. it.

Trumpets play offstage, announcing


Flourish for the PLAYERS within the arrival of the PLAYERS .

GUILDENSTERN GUILDENSTERN

There are the players. The actors are here.

HAMLET HAMLET

Gentlemen, you are welcome to Gentlemen, welcome to Elsinore.


Elsinore. Your hands, come then. Th' Don’t be shy—shake hands with me.
appurtenance of welcome is fashion If I’m going to welcome you I have
and ceremony. Let me comply with to go through all these polite
you in this garb—lest my extent to customs, don’t I? And if we don’t
the players, which, I tell you, must shake hands, when I act all nice to
show fairly outwards, should more the players it will seem like I’m
appear like entertainment than happier to see them than you. You
yours. You are welcome. But my are very welcome here. But still, my
uncle-father and aunt-mother are uncle-father and aunt-mother have
deceived. got the wrong idea.

ORIGINAL TEXT MODERN TEXT

GUILDENSTERN GUILDENSTERN

350In what, my dear lord? In what sense, my lord?

HAMLET HAMLET

I am but mad north-north-west. I’m only crazy sometimes. At other


When the wind is southerly, I know a times, I know what’s what.
hawk from a handsaw.

Enter POLONIUS POLONIUS enters.

POLONIUS POLONIUS

Well be with you, gentlemen. Gentlemen, I hope you are well.

HAMLET HAMLET

Hark you, Guildenstern, and you too Listen, Guildenstern, and you too,
—at each ear a Rosencrantz—listen as close as you
hearer. (indicates POLONIUS )That can! (he gestures
great baby you see there is not yet toward POLONIUS )This big baby is
out of his swaddling-clouts still in diapers.

ROSENCRANTZ ROSENCRANTZ

Happily he’s the second time come Yes, the second time around, since,
to them, for they say an old man is as they say, old people become
twice a child. children again.

HAMLET
HAMLET
(aside
to ROSENCRANTZ and GUILDENSTER (whispering
N ) I will prophesy he comes to tell to ROSENCRANTZ and GUILDENSTER
me of the players. Mark N) I bet he’s coming to tell me
it. (to POLONIUS)— You say right, about the actors; just watch.
sir. O' Monday morning, ’twas so (to POLONIUS) You’re right, sir, that
indeed. happened on Monday morning.

POLONIUS POLONIUS

My lord, I have news to tell you. My lord, I have news for you.

HAMLET HAMLET

My lord, I have news to tell you. My lord, I have news for you. When
When Roscius was an actor in Rome Roscius was an actor in ancient
— Rome —

POLONIUS POLONIUS
365The actors are come hither, my
lord. The actors have arrived, my lord.

HAMLET HAMLET

Buzz, buzz. Yawn, snore.

POLONIUS POLONIUS

Upon my honor— I swear—

HAMLET HAMLET

Then came each actor on his ass— —each actor arrived on his ass.

ORIGINAL TEXT MODERN TEXT

POLONIUS
POLONIUS
They are the best actors in the
The best actors in the world, either world, either for tragedy, comedy,
for tragedy, comedy, history, history, pastoral, pastoral-comical,
pastoral, pastoral-comical, historical-pastoral, tragical-
historical-pastoral, tragical- historical, tragical-comical-
historical, tragical-comical- historical, one-act plays, or long
historical-pastoral, scene poems . The tragic playwright
individable, or poem unlimited. Seneca is not too heavy for them to
Seneca cannot be too heavy, nor handle nor is the comic writer
Plautus too light. For the law of writ Plautus too light. For formal plays
and the liberty, these are the only or freer dramas, these are the best
men. actors around.

HAMLET HAMLET

375O Jephthah, judge of Israel, what Oh, Jephthah , judge of ancient


a treasure hadst thou! Israel, what a treasure you had!

POLONIUS POLONIUS

What a treasure had he, my lord? What treasure did he have, my lord?

HAMLET HAMLET
Well, (sings)
Why,
 One fine daughter, and no more,
 One fair daughter and no more,
 Whom he loved more than
 The which he lovèd passing well. anything—.

POLONIUS
POLONIUS
(to himself) Still talking about my
(aside) Still on my daughter. daughter, I see.

HAMLET HAMLET

Am I not i' th' right, old Jephthah? Aren’t I right, Jephthah, old man?

POLONIUS POLONIUS

If you call me Jephthah, my lord, I If you’re calling me Jephthah, my


have a daughter that I love passing lord, I do have a daughter I love
well. more than anything, yes.

HAMLET HAMLET

Nay, that follows not. No, that’s not logical.

POLONIUS POLONIUS

What follows, then, my lord? What is logical, then, my lord?

HAMLET HAMLET

Why, Why,

ORIGINAL TEXT MODERN TEXT

 As by lot, God wot, and then, you  As if by chance, God knows,
know,  It came to pass, as most like
it was— The first row of the pious and then, you know,
chanson will show you more, for look
where my abridgement comes.  It happened, as you’d expect—

If you want to know more, you can


refer to the popular song, because
now I have to stop.

Enter the PLAYERS The PLAYERS enter.

Welcome, welcome to all of you. (he


You are welcome, masters, welcome, turns to one of the actors)—Oh, you,
all!—I am glad to see thee well.— I’m glad to see you. (turns back to
Welcome, good friends.—O old all of them)—Welcome, my good
friend? Why, thy face is valenced friends. (turns to another actor)—
since I saw thee last. Comest thou to Oh, it’s you! You’ve grown a beard
beard me in Denmark?—What, my since I saw you last. Are you going
young lady and mistress! By 'r Lady, to put a beard on me too? (turns to
your ladyship is nearer to heaven an actor dressed as a woman) —
than when I saw you last, by the Well hello, my young lady friend.
altitude of a chopine. Pray God, your You’ve grown as much as the height
voice, like a piece of uncurrent gold, of a pair of platform shoes at least!
be not cracked within the ring.— I hope your voice hasn’t changed
Masters, you are all welcome. We’ll yet. (to the whole company)—All of
e'en to ’t like French falconers, fly at you are most welcome here. We’ll
any thing we see. We’ll have a get right to business. First, a
speech straight. Come, give us a speech. Come on, give us a little
taste of your quality. Come, a speech to whet our appetites. A
passionate speech. passionate speech, please.

FIRST PLAYER FIRST PLAYER

What speech, my good lord? Which speech, my lord?

HAMLET

I heard thee speak me a speech HAMLET


once, but it was never acted. Or, if it
was, not above once, for the play, I I heard you recite a speech for me
remember, pleased not the million. once that was never acted out, or if
'Twas caviary to the general. But it it was, it was performed only once,
was—as I received it, and others, since the play was not popular—like
whose judgments in such matters caviar for a slob who couldn’t
cried in the top of mine—an appreciate it. But the critics and I
excellent play, well digested in the found it to be an excellent play,
scenes, set down with as much with well-ordered scenes that were
modesty as cunning. clever but not fancy.
ORIGINAL TEXT MODERN TEXT

405I remember, one said there were I remember one critic said there
no sallets in the lines to make the was no vulgar language to spice up
matter savory, nor no matter in the the dialogue, and showing off on
phrase that might indict the author playwright’s part. That critic called
of affectation, but called it an honest it an excellent play, containing
method, as wholesome as sweet, things to reflect upon as well as
and by very much more handsome sweet music to enjoy. I loved one
than fine. One speech in it I chiefly speech in particular. It was
loved. 'Twas Aeneas' tale to Dido when Aeneas told Dido about
and thereabout of it, especially Priam’s murder. If you happen to
where he speaks of Priam’s remember this scene, begin at line—
slaughter. If it live in your >memory, let me see, how does it go?
begin at this line—Let me see, let me
see—  The rugged Pyrrhus , strong as a
tiger—
The rugged Pyrrhus, like th'
Hyrcanian beast— No, that’s wrong; it begins like this:

415It is not so. It begins with  Savage Pyrrhus, whose black


Pyrrhus— armor was

The rugged Pyrrhus, he whose sable  As dark plans, and was like the
arms, night

Black as his purpose, did the night  When he crouched inside the
resemble Trojan Horse,

When he lay couchèd in the ominous  Has now smeared his dark armor
horse,
 With something worse. From head
Hath now this dread and black to foot
complexion smeared
 He’s now covered in red,
420With heraldry more dismal. Head decorated horribly
to foot
 With the blood of fathers,
Now is he total gules, horridly mothers, daughters, sons.
tricked
 The blood is baked to a paste by
With blood of fathers, mothers, fires he set in the streets,
daughters, sons,
 Fires that lend a terrible light to
Baked and impasted with the
parching streets,

That lend a tyrannous and damnèd


light his horrible murders.

425To their lord’s murder. Roasted  Boiling with anger and fire,
in wrath and fire,
 And coated thick with hard-baked
And thus o'ersizèd with coagulate blood,
gore,
 His eyes glowing like rubies, the
With eyes like carbuncles, the hellish Pyrrhus
hellish Pyrrhus
 Goes looking for grandfather
Old grandsire Priam seeks. Priam.

So, proceed you. Sir, take it from there.

POLONIUS
POLONIUS
My God, that was well done, my
'Fore God, my lord, well spoken, with lord, with the right accent and a
good accent and good discretion. good ear.

FIRST PLAYER FIRST PLAYER

    Anon he finds him       Soon he finds Priam

Striking too short at Greeks. His Failing in his battle against the
antique sword, Greeks. His old sword,

Rebellious to his arm, lies where it Which Priam cannot wield anymore,
falls, lies where it fell.

Repugnant to command. Unequal An unfair opponent,


matched,
Pyrrhus rushes at Priam, and in his
435Pyrrhus at Priam drives, in rage rage he misses;
strikes wide,

But with the whiff and wind of his


fell sword

The unnerved father falls. Then


senseless Ilium,

Seeming to feel this blow, with


flaming top

Stoops to his base, and with a


hideous crash

440Takes prisoner Pyrrhus' ear. For,


lo, his sword,

Which was declining on the milky


head

Of reverend Priam, seemed i' th' air


to stick.

So as a painted tyrant Pyrrhus


stood,

ORIGINAL TEXT MODERN TEXT

And, like a neutral to his will and But the wind created by his sword is
matter, enough to make

445Did nothing. The weakened old man fall. Just


then the city of Ilium,
But as we often see against some
storm As if feeling this fatal blow to its
ruler,
A silence in the heavens, the rack
stand still, Collapses in flames, and the crash

The bold winds speechless, and the Captures Pyrrhus’s attention. His
orb below sword,

As hush as death, anon the dreadful Which was falling onto Priam’s
thunder white-haired head

450Doth rend the region. So, after Seemed to hang in the air.
Pyrrhus' pause,
Pyrrhus stood there like a man in a
Arousèd vengeance sets him new a- painting,
work.
Doing nothing.

But just as a raging thunderstorm

Is often interrupted by a moment’s


silence,

And then soon after the region is


split apart by dreadful
thunderclaps,

In the same way, after Pyrrhus


paused,

His newly awakened fury set him to


work again.

And never did the Cyclops' hammers When the Cyclopses were making
fall unbreakable armor

On Mars’s armor forged for proof For the god of war, their hammers
eterne never fell

With less remorse than Pyrrhus' So mercilessly as Pyrrhus’s bloody


bleeding sword sword

455Now falls on Priam. Now falls on Priam.

Out, out, thou strumpet Fortune! All Get out of here, Lady Luck, you
you gods whore! All you gods

In general synod take away her Should come together to rob her of
power, her powers,

Break all the spokes and fellies from Break all the spokes on her wheel of
her wheel, fortune,

And bowl the round nave down the And send it rolling down the hills of
hill of heaven, heaven

460As low as to the fiends! Into the depths of hell.

POLONIUS POLONIUS
This is too long. This speech is going on too long.

HAMLET

HAMLET We’ll have the barber trim it later,


along with your beard. Please,
It shall to the barber’s, with your continue, players. This old man only
beard.—Prithee, say on. He’s for a likes the dancing or the sex scenes;
jig or a tale of bawdry, or he sleeps. he sleeps through all the rest. Go
Say on. Come to Hecuba. on, come to the part about Hecuba.

FIRST PLAYER FIRST PLAYER

465But who, ah woe, who had seen But who—ah, the sadness—had seen
the moblèd queen— the muffled queen—

HAMLET HAMLET

“The moblèd queen”? “The muffled queen”?

ORIGINAL TEXT MODERN TEXT

POLONIUS POLONIUS

That’s good. “Moblèd queen” is That’s good. “The muffled queen” is


good. good.

FIRST PLAYER FIRST PLAYER

Run barefoot up and down, Running back and forth, spraying


threatening the flames the flames with her tears, a cloth on
that head where a crown had
With bisson rheum, a clout upon that recently sat and a blanket instead
head of a robe wrapped around her body,
which has withered from
470Where late the diadem stood, childbearing: anyone seeing her in
and for a robe, such a state, no matter how spiteful
he was, would have cursed Lady
About her lank and all o'erteemèd Luck for bringing her down like
loins, that. If the gods had seen her while
she watched Pyrrhus chopping her
A blanket, in the alarm of fear husband into bits, the terrible cry
caught up— she uttered would have made all
Who this had seen, with tongue in
venom steeped,

'Gainst fortune’s state would


treason have pronounced.

475But if the gods themselves did


see her then

When she saw Pyrrhus make


malicious sport

In mincing with his sword her


husband’s limbs,

The instant burst of clamor that she


made,

(Unless things mortal move them not


at all)

480Would have made milch the


burning eyes of heaven, the eyes in heaven burn with hot
tears—unless the gods don’t care at
And passion in the gods. all about human affairs.

POLONIUS POLONIUS

Look whe'e he has not turned his Look how flushed the actor is, with
color and has tears in ’s eyes.— tears in his eyes. All right, that’s
Prithee, no more. enough, please.

HAMLET HAMLET

(to FIRST PLAYER) 'Tis well. I’ll have (to FIRST PLAYER) Very fine. I’ll


thee speak out the rest have you perform the rest of it
soon. (to POLONIUS) Good my lord, soon. (to POLONIUS)—My lord, will
will you see the players well you make sure the actors are made
bestowed? Do you hear, let them be comfortable? Make sure you’re good
well used, for they are the abstract to them, since what they say about
and brief chronicles of the time. us later will go down in history. It’d
After your death you were better be better to have a bad epitaph on
have a bad epitaph than their ill our graves than to have their ill will
report while you live. while we’re alive.
POLONIUS POLONIUS

490My lord, I will use them My lord, I will give them all they
according to their desert. deserve.

HAMLET

HAMLET Good heavens, man, give them


more than that! If you pay everyone
God’s bodykins, man, much better. what they deserve, would anyone
Use every man after his desert, and ever escape a whipping? Treat them
who should ’scape whipping? Use with honor and dignity.
them after your own honor and
dignity. The less they deserve, the The less they deserve, the more
more merit is in your bounty. Take your generosity is worth. Lead them
them in. inside.

ORIGINAL TEXT MODERN TEXT

POLONIUS POLONIUS

495Come, sirs. Come, everyone.

HAMLET HAMLET

Follow him, friends. We’ll hear a play Follow him, friends. We’ll watch a
tomorrow. (to FIRST PLAYER)— Dost whole play tomorrow. (to FIRST
thou hear me, old friend? Can you PLAYER) My friend, can you
play The Murder of Gonzago? perform The Murder of Gonzago?

FIRST PLAYER FIRST PLAYER

Ay, my lord. Yes, my lord.

HAMLET
HAMLET
Then we’ll see that tomorrow night.
We’ll ha ’t tomorrow night. You By the way, if I were to compose an
could, for a need, study a speech of extra speech of twelve to sixteen
some dozen or sixteen lines which I lines and stick it into the play, you
would set down and insert in ’t, could learn it by heart for
could you not? tomorrow, right?

FIRST PLAYER FIRST PLAYER


Ay, my lord. Yes, my lord.

HAMLET
HAMLET
Very well. Follow that gentleman
Very well. Follow that lord, and look now, and be careful not to make fun
you mock him not. of him.

Exeunt POLONIUS and the PLAYERS POLONIUS and the PLAYERS exit.

My good friends, I’ll leave you till My good friends, I’ll see you
night. You are welcome to Elsinore. tomorrow. Welcome to Elsinore.

ROSENCRANTZ ROSENCRANTZ

Good my lord. Yes, my lord.

HAMLET HAMLET

Ay, so. Good-bye to you. Ah yes, good-bye to you both.

Exeunt ROSENCRANTZ and GUILDEN ROSENCRANTZ and GUILDENSTERN 
STERN exit.

    Now I am alone. Now I’m alone. Oh, what a mean


low-life I am! It’s awful that this
Oh, what a rogue and peasant slave actor could force his soul to feel
am I! made-up feelings in a work of make-
believe. He grew pale, shed real
510Is it not monstrous that this tears, became overwhelmed, his
player here, voice breaking with feeling and his
whole being, even, meeting the
But in a fiction, in a dream of needs of his act—and all for
passion, nothing. For Hecuba!

Could force his soul so to his own


conceit

That from her working all his visage


wanned,

Tears in his eyes, distraction in his


aspect,

515A broken voice, and his whole


function suiting

With forms to his conceit? And all for


nothing—

For Hecuba!

What’s Hecuba to him or he to


Hecuba

That he should weep for her? What


would he do

520Had he the motive and the cue


for passion

That I have? He would drown the


stage with tears

And cleave the general ear with


horrid speech,

Make mad the guilty and appall the


free,

ORIGINAL TEXT MODERN TEXT

Confound the ignorant, and amaze What is Hecuba to him, or he to


indeed Hecuba, that he would weep for
her? Just imagine what he would do
525The very faculties of eyes and if he had the cause for feeling that I
ears. Yet I, do. He would drown the stage with
his tears and burst the audience’s
A dull and muddy-mettled rascal, ears with his terrible words, drive
peak the guilty spectators crazy, terrify
the innocent ones, confuse the
Like John-a-dreams, unpregnant of ignorant ones, and astound
my cause, absolutely everyone’s eyes and
ears. But what do I, a grim and
And can say nothing—no, not for a uncourageous rascal, do? Mope
king, around like a dreamer, not even
bothering with plans for revenge,
Upon whose property and most dear and I can say nothing—nothing at all
life —on behalf of a king whose dear life
was stolen. Am I a coward? Is there
530A damned defeat was made. Am I anyone out there who’ll call me
a coward? “villain” and slap me hard? Pull off
my beard? Pinch my nose? Call me
Who calls me “villain”? Breaks my the worst liar? By God, if someone
pate across? would do that to me, I’d take it,
because I’m a lily-livered man—
Plucks off my beard and blows it in otherwise, I would’ve fattened up
my face? the local vultures with the
intestines of that low-life king a
Tweaks me by the nose? Gives me long time ago. Bloody, inhuman
the lie i' th' throat villain! Remorseless, treacherous,
sex-obsessed, unnatural villain! Ah,
As deep as to the lungs? Who does revenge! What an ass I am. I’m so
me this? damn brave. My dear father’s been
murdered, and I’ve been urged to
535Ha! seek revenge by heaven and hell,
and yet all I can do is stand around
'Swounds, I should take it, for it cursing like a whore in the streets.
cannot be Damn it! I need to get myself
together here! Hmm…. I’ve heard
But I am pigeon-livered and lack gall that guilty people watching a play
have been so affected by the
To make oppression bitter, or ere artistry of the scene that they are
this driven to confess their crimes out
loud.
I should have fatted all the region
kites

540With this slave’s offal. Bloody,


bawdy villain!

Remorseless, treacherous,
lecherous, kindless villain!

O vengeance!

Why, what an ass am I! This is most


brave,

545That I, the son of a dear father


murdered,

Prompted to my revenge by heaven


and hell,

Must, like a whore, unpack my heart


with words

And fall a-cursing like a very drab,

A scullion! Fie upon ’t, foh!

550About, my brain.—Hum, I have


heard

That guilty creatures sitting at a


play

Have, by the very cunning of the


scene,

Been struck so to the soul that


presently

They have proclaimed their


malefactions.

555For murder, though it have no


tongue, will speak

With most miraculous organ. I’ll


have these players

Play something like the murder of


my father

Before mine uncle. I’ll observe his


looks.

I’ll tent him to the quick. If he do


blench,

560I know my course. The spirit that


I have seen
ORIGINAL TEXT MODERN TEXT

May be the devil, and the devil hath


power

T' assume a pleasing shape. Yea, Murder has no tongue, but


and perhaps miraculously it still finds a way to
speak. I’ll have these actors
Out of my weakness and my perform something like my father’s
melancholy, murder in front of my uncle. I’ll
watch my uncle. I’ll probe his
As he is very potent with such conscience and see if he flinches. If
spirits, he becomes pale, I know what to do.
The ghost I saw may be the devil,
565Abuses me to damn me. I’ll have and the devil has the power to
grounds assume a pleasing disguise, and so
he may be taking advantage of my
More relative than this. The play’s weakness and sadness to bring
the thing about my damnation. I need better
evidence than the ghost to work
Wherein I’ll catch the conscience of with. The play’s the thing to
the king. uncover the conscience of the king.

Exit HAMLET exits.