previous next

SCENE VII

Another room in the castle.
Enter KING and LAERTES.

King.
Now must your conscience my acquittance seal,

And you must put me in your heart for friend,

Sith you have heard, and with a knowing ear,

That he which hath your noble father slain

Pursued my life.

Laer.
It well appears: but tell me

Why you proceeded not against these feats,

So crimeful and so capital in nature,

As by your safety, wisdom, all things else,

You mainly were stirr'd up.

King.
O, for two special reasons; (10)

Which may to you, perhaps, seem much unsinew'd,

But yet to me they are strong. The queen his mother

Lives almost by his looks; and for myself—

My virtue or my plague, be it either which—

She's so conjunctive to my life and soul,

That, as the star moves not but in his sphere,

I could not but by her. The other motive,

Why to a public count I might not go,

Is the great love the general gender bear him;

Who, dipping all his faults in their affection, (20)

Would, like the spring that turneth wood to stone,

Convert his gyves to graces; so that my arrows,

Too slightly timber'd for so loud a wind,

Would have reverted to my bow again,

And not where I had aimed them.

Laer.
And so have I a noble father lost;

A sister driven into desperate terms,

Whose worth, if praises may go back again,

Stood challenger on mount of all the age

For her perfections: but my revenge will come. (30)

King.
Break not your sleeps for that: you must not think

That we are made of stuff so flat and dull

That we can let our beard be shook with danger

And think it pastime. You shortly shall hear more:

I loved your father, and we love ourself;

And that, I hope, will teach you to imagine— Enter a Messenger.


How now! what news?

Mess.
Letters, my lord, from Hamlet:

This to your majesty; this to the queen.

King.
From Hamlet! who brought them?

Mess.

Sailors, my lord, they say; I saw them not: (40)

They were given me by Claudio; he received them

Of him that brought them.

King.
Laertes, you shall hear them.

Leave us. [Exit Messenger.
[Reads]

'High and mighty, You shall know
I am set naked on your kingdom. To-morrow
shall I beg leave to see your kingly eyes: when
I shall, first asking your pardon thereunto, recount
the occasion of my sudden and more
strange return.

'HAMLET.'

(50)

What should this mean? Are all the rest come back?

Or is it some abuse and no such thing?

Laer.
Know you the hand?

King.
'Tis Hamlet's character. 'Naked!'

And in a postscript here, he says 'alone.'

Can you advise me?

Laer.
I'm lost in it, my lord. But let him come;

It warms the very sickness in my heart,

That I shall live and tell him to his teeth,

'Thus didest thou.'

King.
If it be so, Laertes—

As how should it be so? how otherwise?—

Will you be ruled by me? (60)

Laer.
Ay, my lord;

So you will not o'errule me to a peace.

King.
To thine own peace. If he be now return'd,

As checking at his voyage, and that he means

No more to undertake it, I will work him

To an exploit, now ripe in my device,

Under the which he shall not choose but fall:

And for his death no wind of blame shall breathe,

But even his mother shall uncharge the practice

And call it accident.

Laer.
My lord, I will be ruled; (70)

The rather, if you could devise it so

That I might be the organ.

King.
It falls right.

You have been talk'd of since your travel much,

And that in Hamlet's hearing, for a quality

Wherein, they say, you shine: your sum of parts

Did not together pluck such envy from him

As did that one, and that, in my regard,

Of the unworthiest siege.

Laer.
What part is that, my lord?

King.
A very riband in the cap of youth,

Yet needful too; for youth no less becomes (80)

The light and careless livery that it wears

Than settled age his sables and his weeds,

Importing health and graveness. Two months since,

Here was a gentleman of Normandy:—

I've seen myself, and served against, the French,

And they can well on horseback: but this gallant

Had witchcraft in't; he grew unto his seat;

And to such wondrous doing brought his horse,

As had he been incorpsed and demi-natured

With the brave beast: so far he topp'd my thought, (90)

That I, in forgery of shapes and tricks,

Come short of what he did.

Laer.
A Norman was't?

King.
A Norman.

Laer.
Upon my life, Lamond.

King.
The very same.

Laer.
I know him well: he is the brooch indeed

And gem of all the nation.

King.
He made confession of you,

And gave you such a masterly report

For art and exercise in your defence

And for your rapier most especial,

That he cried out, 'twould be a sight indeed, (101)

If one could match you: the scrimers of their nation,

He swore, had neither motion, guard, nor eye,

If you opposed them. Sir, this report of his

Did Hamlet so envenom with his envy

That he could nothing do but wish and beg

Your sudden coming o'er, to play with him.

Now, out of this,—

Laer.
What out of this, my lord?

King.
Laertes, was your father dear to you?

Or are you like the painting of a sorrow,

A face without a heart? (110)

Laer.
Why ask you this?

King.
Not that I think you did not love your father;

But that I know love is begun by time;

And that I see, in passages of proof,

Time qualifies the spark and fire of it.

There lives within the very flame of love

A kind of wick or snuff that will abate it;

And nothing is at a like goodness still;

For goodness, growing to a plurisy,

Dies in his own too much: that we would do, (120)

We should do when we would; for this 'would' changes

And hath abatements and delays as many

As there are tongues, are hands, are accidents;

And then this 'should' is like a spendthrift sigh,

That hurts by easing. But, to the quick o' the ulcer:—

Hamlet comes back: what would you undertake,

To show yourself your father's son in deed

More than in words?

Laer.
To cut his throat i' the church.

King.
No place, indeed, should murder sanctuarize;

Revenge should have no bounds. But, good Laertes, (130)

Will you do this, keep close within your chamber.

Hamlet return'd shall know you are come home:

We'll put on those shall praise your excellence

And set a double varnish on the fame

The Frenchman gave you, bring you in fine together

And wager on your heads: he, being remiss,

Most generous and free from all contriving,

Will not peruse the foils; so that, with ease,

Or with a little shuffling, you may choose

A sword unbated, and in a pass of practice

Requite him for your father. (140)

Laer.
I will do't:

And, for that purpose, I'll anoint my sword.

I bought an unction of a mountebank,

So mortal that, but dip a knife in it,

Where it draws blood no cataplasm so rare,

Collected from all simples that have virtue

Under the moon, can save the thing from death

That is but scratch'd withal: I'll touch my point

With this contagion, that, if I gall him slightly,

It may be death.

King.
Let's further think of this; (150)

Weigh what convenience both of time and means

May fit us to our shape: if this should fail,

And that our drift look through our bad performance,

'Twere better not assay'd: therefore this project

Should have a back or second, that might hold,

If this should blast in proof. Soft! let me see:

We'll make a solemn wager on your cunnings:

I ha't:

When in your motion you are hot and dry—

And make your bouts more violent to that end— (160)

And that he calls for drink, I'll have prepared him

A chalice for the nonce, whereon but sipping,

If he by chance escape your venom'd stuck,

Our purpose may hold there. Enter QUEEN.

How now, sweet queen!

Queen.
One woe doth tread upon another's heel,

So fast they follow: your sister's drowned, Laertes.

Laer.
Drown'd! O, where?

Queen.
There is a willow grows aslant a brook,

That shows his hoar leaves in the glassy stream;

There with fantastic garlands did she come (170)

Of crow-flowers, nettles, daisies, and long purples

That liberal shepherds give a grosser name,

But our cold maids do dead men's fingers call them:

There, on the pendent boughs her coronet weeds

Clambering to hang, an envious sliver broke:

When down her weedy trophies and herself

Fell in the weeping brook. Her clothes spread wide;

And, mermaid-like, awhile they bore her up:

Which time she chanted snatches of old tunes;

As one incapable of her own distress, (180)

Or like a creature native and indued

Unto that element: but long it could not be

Till that her garments, heavy with their drink,

Pull'd the poor wretch from her melodious lay

To muddy death.

Laer.
Alas, then, she is drown'd?

Queen.
Drown'd, drown'd.

Laer.
Too much of water hast thou, poor Ophelia,

And therefore I forbid my tears: but yet

It is our trick; nature her custom holds,

Let shame say what it will: when these are gone,

The woman will be out. Adieu, my lord:

I have a speech of fire, that fain would blaze,

But that this folly douts it. Exit.


King.
Let's follow, Gertrude:

How much I had to do to calm his rage!

Now fear I this will give it start again;

Therefore let's follow. [Exeunt.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide References (66 total)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: