Home / Uncategorized / The Legally Annotated HAMLET – Act Four Scenes 6 & 7

The Legally Annotated HAMLET – Act Four Scenes 6 & 7

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by Mark Andre Alexander

Act One | Act Two | Act Three | Act Four | Act Five


Scenes 1 to 5 | Scenes 6 & 7

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Scene 6

Enter Horatio and others.

Hora. VVhat are they that would speake with me?

Gent. Sea-faring men sir, they say they haue Letters for you.

Hor. Let them come in.

I doe not know from what part of the world

I should be greeted. If not from Lord Hamlet.

Enter Saylers.

Say. God blesse you sir.

Hora. Let him blesse thee to.

Say. A shall sir and please him, there’s a Letter for

you sir, it came from th’Embassador that was bound

for England, if your name be Horatio, as I am let [10]

to know it is.

Hor. Horatio, when thou shalt haue ouer-lookt

this, giue these fellowes some meanes to the King, they haue

Letters for him: Ere wee were two daies old at Sea, a Pyrat of

very warlike appointment gaue vs chase, finding our selues

too slow of saile, wee put on a compelled valour, and in the

grapple I boorded them, on the instant they got cleere of our

shyp, so I alone became theyr prisoner, they haue dealt

with me like thieues of mercie, but they knew what they did,

I am to doe a turne for them, let the King haue the Letters I [20]

haue sent, and repayre thou to me with as much speede as thou

wouldest flie death, I haue wordes to speake in thine eare will

make thee dumbe, yet are they much too light for the bord of

the matter, these good fellowes will bring thee where I am,

Rosencraus and Guyldensterne hold theyr course for England,

of them I haue much to tell thee, farewell.

So that thou knowest thine Hamlet.

Hor. Come I will you way for these your letters,

And doo’t the speedier that you may direct me [30]

To him from whom you brought them.


Scene 7

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Enter King and Laertes.

King. Now must your conscience my acquittance seale,

And you must put me in your hart for friend,

Sith you haue heard and with a knowing eare,

That he which hath your noble father slaine

Pursued my life.

Laer.               It well appeares: but tell mee

Why you proceede not against these feates

So criminall and so capitall in nature,

As by your safetie, greatnes, wisdome, all things els

You mainely were stirr’d vp.

King.                                 O for two speciall reasons

Which may to you perhaps seeme much vnsinnow’d, [10]

But yet to mee tha’r strong, the Queene his mother

Liues almost by his lookes, and for my selfe,

My vertue or my plague, be it eyther which,

She is so concliue to my life and soule,

That as the starre mooues not but in his sphere

I could not but by her, the other motiue,

Why to a publique count I might not goe,

Is the great loue the generall gender beare him,

Who dipping all his faults in theyr affection,

Worke like the spring that turneth wood to stone, [20]

Conuert his Giues to graces, so that my arrowes

Too slightly tymberd for so loued Arm’d,

Would haue reuerted to my bowe againe,

But not where I haue aym’d them.

Laer. And so haue I a noble father lost,

A sister driuen into desprat termes,

Whose worth, if prayses may goe backe againe

Stood challenger on mount of all the age

For her perfections, but my reuenge will come.

King. Breake not your sleepes for that, you must not thinke [30]

That we are made of stuffe so flat and dull,

That we can let our beard be shooke with danger,

And thinke it pastime, you shortly shall heare more,

I loued your father, and we loue our selfe,

And that I hope will teach you to imagine.

Enter a Messenger with Letters.

Messen. These to your Maiestie, this to the Queene.

King. From Hamlet, who brought them?

Mess. Saylers my Lord they say, I saw them not,

They were giuen me by Claudio, he receiued them

Of him that brought them.

King.                           Laertes you shall heare them: [40]

leaue vs.

High and mighty, you shall know I am set naked on

your kingdom, to morrow shall I begge leaue to see your kingly

eyes, when I shal first asking you pardon, there-vnto recount

the occasion of my suddaine returne.


King. What should this meane, are all the rest come backe,

Or is it some abuse, and no such thing?

Laer. Know you the hand?

King.                                Tis Hamlets caracter.

Naked, [50]

And in a postscript heere he sayes alone,

Can you deuise me?

Laer. I am lost in it my Lord, but let him come,

It warmes the very sicknes in my hart

That I liue and tell him to his teeth

Thus didst thou.

King.               If it be so Laertes,

As how should it be so, how otherwise,

Will you be rul’d by me?

Laer.                            I my Lord,

so you will not ore-rule me to a peace.

King. To thine owne peace, if he be now returned [60]

As the King at his voyage, and that he meanes

No more to vndertake it, I will worke him

To an exployt, now ripe in my deuise,

Vnder the which he shall not choose but fall:

And for his death no wind of blame shall breathe,

But euen his Mother shall vncharge the practise,

And call it accedent.

Laer.                      My Lord I will be rul’d,

The rather if you could deuise it so

That I might be the organ.

King.                             It falls right,

You haue beene talkt of since your trauaile much, [70]

And that in Hamlets hearing, for a qualitie

Wherein they say you shine, your summe of parts

Did not together plucke such enuie from him

As did that one, and that in my regard

Of the vnworthiest siedge.

Laer.                              What part is that my Lord?

King. A very ribaud in the cap of youth,

Yet needfull to, for youth no lesse becomes

The light and carelesse liuery that it weares

Then setled age, his sables, and his weedes

Importing health and grauenes; two months since [80]

Heere was a gentleman of Normandy,

I haue seene my selfe, and seru’d against the French,

And they can well on horsebacke, but this gallant

Had witch-craft in’t, he grew vnto his seate,

And to such wondrous dooing brought his horse,

As had he beene incorp’st, and demy natur’d

With the braue beast, so farre he topt me thought,

That I in forgerie of shapes and tricks

Come short of what he did.

Laer.                                A Norman wast?

King. A Norman. [90]

Laer. Vppon my life Lamord.

King.                                    The very same.

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

And Iem of all the Nation.

King. He made confession of you,

And gaue you such a masterly report

For art and exercise in your defence,

And for your Rapier most especiall,

That he cride out t’would be a sight indeed

If one could match you; the Scrimures of their nation

He swore had neither motion, guard, nor eye, [100]

If you opposd them; sir this report of his

Did Hamlet so enuenom with his enuy,

That he could nothing doe but wish and beg

Your sodaine comming ore to play with you.

Now out of this.

Laer.                What out of this my Lord?

King. Laertes was your father deare to you?

Or are you like the painting of a sorrowe,

A face without a hart?

Laer.                        Why aske you this?

King. Not that I thinke you did not loue your father,

But that I knowe, loue is begunne by time, [110]

And that I see in passages of proofe,

Time qualifies the sparke and fire of it,

There liues within the very flame of loue

A kind of weeke or snufe that will abate it,

And nothing is at a like goodnes still,

For goodnes growing to a plurisie,

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An acquittance is a discharge in writing of a sum of money or a debt due. A seal is necessary to constitute a bond. Here, both legal terms are used metaphorically.

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Dies in his owne too much, that we would doe

We should doe when we would: for this would changes,

And hath abatements and delayes as many,

As there are tongues, are hands, are accidents, [120]

And then this should is like a spend thirfts sigh,

That hurts by easing; but to the quick of th’vlcer,

Hamlet comes back, what would you vndertake

To showe your selfe indeede your fathers sonne

More then in words?

Laer.                      To cut his thraot i’th Church.

King. No place indeede should murther sanctuarise,

Reuendge should haue no bounds: but good Laertes

Will you doe this, keepe close within your chamber,

Hamlet return’d, shall knowe you are come home,

Weele put on those shall praise your excellence, [130]

And set a double varnish on the fame

The french man gaue you, bring you in fine together

And wager ore your heads; he being remisse,

Most generous, and free from all contriuing,

Will not peruse the foyles, so that with ease,

Or with a little shuffling, you may choose

A sword vnbated, and in a pace of practise

Requite him for your Father.

Laer.                                  I will doo’t,

And for purpose, Ile annoynt my sword.

I bought an vnction of a Mountibanck [140]

So mortall, that but dippe a knife in it,

Where it drawes blood, no Cataplasme so rare,

Collected from all simples that haue vertue

Vnder the Moone, can saue the thing from death

That is but scratcht withall, Ile tutch my point

With this contagion, that if I gall him slightly, it may be death.

King. Lets further thinke of this.

Wey what conuenience both of time and meanes

May fit vs to our shape if this should fayle,

And that our drift looke through our bad performance, [150]

Twere better not assayd, therefore this proiect,

Should haue a back or second that might hold

If this did blast in proofe; soft let me see,

Wee’le make a solemne wager on your cunnings,

I ha’te,

when in your motion you are hote and dry,

As make your bouts more violent to that end,

And that he calls for drinke, Ile haue prefard him

A Challice for the nonce, whereon but sipping,

If he by chaunce escape your venom’d stuck, [160]

Our purpose may hold there; but stay, what noyse?

Enter Queene.

Quee. One woe doth tread vpon anothers heele,

So fast they follow; your Sisters drownd Laertes.

Laer. Drown’d, o where?

Quee. There is a Willow growes ascaunt the Brooke

That showes his horry leaues in the glassy streame,

Therewith fantastique garlands did she make

Of Crowflowers, Nettles, Daises, and long Purples

That liberall Shepheards giue a grosser name,

But our cull-cold maydes doe dead mens fingers call them. [170]

There on the pendant boughes her cronet weedes

Clambring to hang, an enuious sliuer broke,

When downe her weedy trophies and her selfe

Fell in the weeping Brooke, her clothes spred wide,

And Marmaide like awhile they bore her vp,

Which time she chaunted snatches of old laudes,

As one incapable of her owne distresse,

Or like a creature natiue and indewed

Vnto that elament, but long it could not be

Till that her garments heauy with theyr drinke, [180]

Puld the poore wretch from her melodious lay

To muddy death.

Laer.                 Alas, then she is drownd.

Quee. Drownd, drownd.

Laer. Too much of water hast thou poore Ophelia,

And therefore I forbid my teares; but yet

It is our tricke, nature her custome holds,

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

The woman will be out. Adiew my Lord,

I haue a speech a fire that faine would blase,

But that this folly drownes it.               Exit.

King.                                 Let’s follow Gertrard, [190]

How much I had to doe to calme his rage,

Now feare I this will giue it start againe,

Therefore lets follow.               Exeunt.

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“This verse refers to the common custom of filing pleas in abatement in the common law practice, which were pleas filed by a defendent in a civil or criminal case, by means of which, on some formal or technical ground, he sought to abate or quash the action. Such pleas are to be distinguished from pleas to the merits or pleas in bar, which affected the right, rather than the remedy, that the former pleas was addressed to generally. As the effect of such pleas, if successful, was to bring about a new action and hence a consequent delay, the Poet, as elsewhere, condemns such practice.” Edward J. White, The Law in Shakespeare, 2nd edition, p. 477.

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