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The Legally Annotated HAMLET – Act Three Scenes 3 & 4

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by Mark Andre Alexander

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


ACT THREE

Scenes 1 & 2 | Scenes 3 & 4

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Scene 3

Enter King, Rosencraus, and Guyldensterne.

King. I like him not, nor stands it safe with vs

To let his madnes range, therefore prepare you,

I your commission will forth-with dispatch,

And he to England shall along with you,

The termes of our estate may not endure

Hazerd so neer’s as doth hourely grow

Out of his browes.

Guyl.                   We will our selues prouide,

Most holy and religious feare it is

To keepe those many many bodies safe

That liue and feede vpon your Maiestie. [10]

Ros. The single and peculier life is bound

With all the strength and armour of the mind

To keepe it selfe from noyance, but much more

That spirit, vpon whose weale depends and rests

The liues of many, the cesse of Maiestie

Dies not alone; but like a gulfe doth draw

What’s neere it, with it, or it is a massie wheele

Fixt on the somnet of the highest mount,

To whose hough spokes, tenne thousand lesser things

Are morteist and adioynd, which when it falls, [20]

Each small annexment petty consequence

Attends the boystrous raine, neuer alone

Did the King sigh, but a generall grone.

King. Arme you I pray you to this speedy viage,

For we will fetters put about this feare

Which now goes too free-footed.

Ros.                                           We will hast vs.     Exeunt Gent.

Enter Polonius.

Pol. My Lord, hee’s going to his mothers closet,

Behind the Arras I’le conuay my selfe

To heare the processe, I’le warrant shee’letax him home,

And as you sayd, and wisely was it sayd, [30]

Tis meete that some more audience then a mother,

Since nature makes them parciall, should ore-heare

The speech of vantage; farre you well my Leige,

I’le call vpon you ere you goe to bed.

And tell you what I knowe.               Exit.

King.                                Thankes deere my Lord.

O my offence is ranck, it smels to heauen,

It hath the primall eldest curse vppont,

A brothers murther, pray can I not,

Though inclination be as sharp as will,

My stronger guilt defeats my strong entent, [40]

And like a man to double bussines bound,

I stand in pause where I shall first beginne,

And both neglect, what if this cursed hand

Were thicker then it selfe with brothers blood,

Is there not raine enough in the sweete Heauens

To wash it white as snowe, whereto serues mercy

But to confront the visage of offence?

And what’s in prayer but this two fold force,

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To be forestalled ere we come to fall,

Or pardon being downe, then I’le looke vp. [50]

My fault is past, but oh what forme of prayer

Can serue my turne, forgiue me my foule murther,

That cannot be since I am still possest

Of those effects for which I did the murther;

My Crowne, mine owne ambition, and my Queene;

May one be pardond and retaine th’offence?

In the corrupted currents of this world,

Offences guilded hand may showe by justice,

And oft tis seene the wicked prize it selfe

Buyes out the lawe, but tis not so aboue, [60]

There is no shufling, there the action lies

In his true nature, and we our selues compeld

Euen to the teeth and forhead of our faults

To giue in euidence, what then, what rests,

Try what repentance can, what can it not,

Yet what can it, when one cannot repent?

O wretched state, o bosome blacke as death,

O limed soule, that struggling to be free,

Art more ingaged; helpe Angels make assay,

Bowe stubborne knees, and hart with strings of steale, [70]

Be soft as sinnewes of the new borne babe,

All may be well.

Enter Hamlet.

Ham. Now might I doe it, but now a is a praying,

And now Ile doo’t, and so a goes to heauen,

And so am I reuendge, that would be scand

A villaine kills my father, and for that,

I his sole sonne, doe this same villaine send

To heauen.

Why, this is base and silly, not reuendge,

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From Edward J. White’s The Law in Shakespeare, 2nd edition: “The Poet’s voice is always raised against the class of crimes known as offenses against the enforcement of justice and he aptly draws the terrible example of a corrupted judiciary, as compared to the even handed justice above— according to our conceptions—where ‘there can be no shuffling’ but ‘the action lies, in its true nature,’ and according to infallible standards, the right alone prevails. This is a beautiful picture for one who fully appreciates the beauty of the virtue which we call justice. But these lines do more than this, and also present the injustices of the common law rule regarding the testimony of interested persons and those accused of crime. At common law a party to the record, or one directly interested in the result of the suit was not a competent witness [Greenleaf on Evidence, 14th ed.], and even under the rule of evidence obtaining in England and the United States today, one accused of a crime accont be compelled to give testimony against himself, nor can a witness be compelled to answer questions that tend to incriminate himself. This rule of evidence was evidently known to Shakespeare and it impressed him as not in keeping with the realization of justice, for while premising that such evidence could not be extorted by the laws of man, he compared this rule with the ideal rule that ought to obtain—according to his judgment—where ‘we ourselves’ could be ‘compell’d, even to the teeth and forehead of our faults, to give in evidence.” (475-6)

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A tooke my father grosly full of bread, [80]

Withall his crimes braod blowne, as flush as May,

And how his audit stands who knowes saue heauen,

But in our circumstance and course of thought,

Tis heauy with him: and am I then reuendged

To take him in the purging of his soule,

When he is fit and seasond for his passage?

No.

Vp sword, and knowe thou a more horrid hent,

When he is drunke, a sleepe, or in his rage,

Or in th’incestious pleasure of his bed, [90]

At game a swearing, or about some act

That has no relish of saluation in’t,

Then trip him that his heels may kick at heauen,

And that his soule may be as damnd and black

As hell whereto it goes; my mother staies,

This phisick but prolongs thy sickly daies.               Exit.

King. My words fly vp, my thoughts remaine belowe

Words without thoughts neuer to heauen goe.               Exit.

 

Scene 4

Enter Gertrard and Polonius.

Pol. A will come strait, looke you lay home to him,

Tell him his prancks haue beene too braod to beare with,

And that your grace hath screend and stood betweene

Much heate and him, Ile silence me euen heere,

Pray you be round.

Enter Hamlet.

Ger.                      Ile wait you, feare me not,

With-drawe, I heare him comming.

Ham. Now mother, what’s the matter?

Ger. Hamlet, thou hast thy father much offended.

Ham. Mother, you haue my father much offended.

Ger. Come, come, you answere with an idle tongue. [10]

Ham. Goe, goe, you question with a wicked tongue.

Ger. Why how now Hamlet?

Ham.                                    What’s the matter now?

Ger. Haue you forgot me?

Ham.                               No by the rood not so,

You are the Queene, your husbands brothers wife,

And would it were not so, you are my mother.

Ger. Nay, then Ile set those to you that can speake.

Ham. Come, come, and sit you downe, you shall not boudge,

You goe not till I set you vp a glasse

Where you may see the most part of you.

Ger. What wilt thou doe, thou wilt not murther me, [20]

Helpe how.

Pol. What how helpe.

Ham. How now, a Rat, dead for a Duckat, dead.

Pol. O I am slaine.

Ger. O me, what hast thou done?

Ham. Nay I knowe not, is it the King?

Ger. O what a rash and bloody deede is this.

Ham. A bloody deede, almost as bad, good mother

As kill a King, and marry with his brother.

Ger. As kill a King.

Ham.                    I Lady, it was my word. [30]

Thou wretched, rash, intruding foole farwell,

I tooke thee for thy better, take thy fortune,

Thou find’st to be too busie is some danger,

Leaue wringing of your hands, peace sit you downe,

And let me wring your hart, for so I shall

If it be made of penitrable stuffe,

If damned custome haue not brasd it so,

That it be proofe and bulwark against sence.

Ger. What haue I done, that thou dar’st wagge thy tongue

In noise so rude against me?

Ham.                                  Such an act [40]

That blurres the grace and blush of modesty,

Cals vertue hippocrit, takes of the Rose

From the faire forhead of an innocent loue,

And sets a blister there, makes marriage vowes

As false as dicers oathes, o such a deede,

As from the body of contraction plucks

The very soule, and sweet religion makes

A rapsedy of words; heauens face dooes glowe

Ore this solidity and compound masse

With heated visage, as against the doome [50]

Is thought sick at the act.

Quee.                            Ay me, what act?

Ham. That roares so low’d, and thunders in the Index,

Looke heere vpon this Picture, and on this,

The counterfeit presentment of two brothers,

See what a grace was seated on this browe,

Hiperions curles, the front of Ioue himselfe,

An eye like Mars, to threaten and command,

A station like the herald Mercury,

New lighted on a heaue, a kissing hill,

A combination, and a forme indeede, [60]

Where euery God did seeme to set his seale

To giue the world assurance of a man,

This was your husband, looke you now what followes,

Heere is your husband like a mildewed eare,

Blasting his wholsome brother, haue you eyes,

Could you on this faire mountaine leaue to feede,

And batten on this Moore; ha, haue you eyes?

You cannot call it loue, for at your age

The heyday in the blood is tame, it’s humble,

And waits vppon the iudgement, and what iudgement [70]

Would step from this to this, sence sure youe haue

Els could you not haue motion, but sure that sence

Is appoplext, for madnesse would not erre

Nor sence to extacie was nere so thral’d

But it reseru’d some quantity of choise

To serue in such a difference, what deuill wast

That thus hath cosund you at hodman blind;

Eyes without feeling, feeling without sight,

Eares without hands, or eyes, smelling sance all,

Or but a sickly part of one true sence [80]

Could not so mope: o shame where is thy blush?

Rebellious hell,

If thou canst mutine in a Matrons bones,

To flaming youth let vertue be as wax

And melt in her owne fire, proclaime no shame

When the compulsiue ardure giues the charge,

Since frost it selfe as actiuely doth burne,

And reason pardons will.

Ger.                              O Hamlet speake no more,

Thou turnst my very eyes into my soule,

And there I see such blacke and greeued spots [90]

As will leaue there their tin’ct.

Ham.                                  Nay but to liue

In the ranck sweat of an inseemed bed

Stewed in corruption, honying, and making loue

Ouer the nasty stie.

Ger.                     O speake to me no more,

These words like daggers enter in my eares,

No more sweete Hamlet.

Ham.                             A murtherer and a villaine,

A slaue that is not twentith part the kyth

Of your precedent Lord, a vice of Kings,

A cut-purse of the Empire and the rule,

That from a shelfe the precious Diadem stole [100]

And put it in his pocket.

Ger. No more.

Enter Ghost.

Ham. A King of shreds and patches,

Saue me and houer ore me with your wings

You heauenly gards: what would your gracious figure?

Ger. Alas hee’s mad.

Ham. Doe you not come your tardy sonne to chide,

That lap’st in time and passion lets goe by

Th’important acting of your dread command, o say.

Ghost. Doe not forget, this visitation [110]

Is but to whet thy almost blunted purpose,

But looke, amazement on thy mother sits,

O step betweene her, and her fighting soule,

Conceit in weakest bodies strongest workes,

Speake to her Hamlet.

Ham. How is it with you Lady?

Ger.                                        Alas how i’st with you?

That you doe bend your eye on vacancie,

And with th’incorporall ayre doe hold discourse,

Foorth at your eyes your spirits wildly peep,

And as the sleeping souldiers in th’alarme, [120]

Your bedded haire like life in excrements

Start vp and stand an end, o gentle sonne

Vpon the heat and flame of thy distemper

Sprinckle coole patience, whereon doe you looke?

Ham. On him, on him, looke you how pale he glares,

His forme and cause conioynd, preaching to stones

Would make them capable, doe not looke vpon me,

Least with this pittious action you conuert

My stearne effects, then what I haue to doe

Will want true cullour, teares perchance for blood. [130]

Ger. To whom doe you speake this?

Ham. Doe you see nothing there?

Ger. Nothing at all, yet all that is I see.

Ham. Nor did you nothing heare?

Ger. No nothing but our selues.

Ham. Why looke you there, looke how it steales away,

My father in his habit as he liued,

Looke where he goes, euen now out at the portall.    Exit Ghost.

Ger. This is the very coynage of your braine,

This bodilesse creation extacie [140]

is very cunning in.

Ham. My pulse as yours doth temperatly keepe time,

And makes as healthfull musicke, it is not madnesse

That I haue vttred, bring me to the test,

And the matter will reword, which madnesse

Would gambole from, mother for loue of grace,

Lay not that flattering vnction to your soule

That not your trespasse but my madnesse speakes,

It will but skin and filme the vlcerous place

Whiles ranck corruption mining all within [150]

Infects vnseene, confesse your selfe to heauen,

Repent what’s past, auoyd what is to come,

And doe not spread the compost on the weedes

To make them rancker, forgiue me this my vertue,

For in the fatnesse of these pursie times

Vertue it selfe of vice must pardon beg,

Yea curbe and wooe for leaue to doe him good.

Ger. O Hamlet thou hast cleft my hart in twaine.

Ham. O throwe away the worser part of it,

And leaue the purer with the other halfe, [160]

Good night, but goe not to my Vncles bed,

Assune a vertue if you haue it not,

That monster custome, who all sence doth eate

Of habits deuill, is angell yet in this

That to the vse of actions faire and good,

He likewise giues a frock or Liuery

That aptly is put on to refraine night,

And that shall lend a kind of easines

To the next abstinence, the next more easie:

For vse almost can change the stamp of nature, [170]

And either the deuill, or throwe him out

With wonderous potency: once more good night,

And when you are desirous to be blest,

Ile blessing beg of you, for this same Lord

I doe repent; but heauen hath pleasd it so

To punish me with this, and this with me,

That I must be their scourge and minister,

I will bestowe him and will answere well

The death I gaue him; so againe good night

I must be cruell only to be kinde, [180]

This bad beginnes, and worse remaines behind.

One word more good Lady.

Ger.                                   What shall I doe?

Ham. Not this by no meanes that I bid you doe,

Let the blowt King temp’t you againe to bed,

Pinch wanton on your cheeke, call you his Mouse,

And let him for a paire of reechie kisses,

Or padling in your necke with his damn’d fingers.

Make you to rouell all this matter out

That I essentially am not in madnesse,

But mad in craft, t’were good you let him knowe, [190]

For who that’s but a Queene, faire, sober, wise,

Would from a paddack, from a bat, a gib,

Such deare concernings hide, who would doe so,

No, in dispight of sence and secrecy,

Vnpeg the basket on the houses top,

Let the birds fly, and like the famous Ape,

To try conclusions in the basket creepe,

And breake your owne necke downe.

Ger. Be thou assur’d, if words be made of breath

And breath of life, I haue no life to breath [200]

What thou hast sayd to me.

Ham. I must to England, you knowe that.

Ger.                                                       Alack

I had forgot. Tis so concluded on.

Ham. Ther’s letters seald, and my two Schoolefellowes,

Whom I will trust as I will Adders fang’d,

They beare the mandat, they must sweep my way

And marshall me to knauery: let it worke,

For tis the sport to haue the enginer

Hoist with his owne petar, an’t shall goe hard

But I will delue one yard belowe their mines, [210]

And blowe them at the Moone: o tis most sweete

When in one line two crafts directly meete,

This man shall set me packing,

Ile lugge the guts into the neighbour roome;

Mother good night indeed, this Counsayler

Is now most still, most secret, and most graue,

Who was in life a most foolish prating knaue.

Come sir, to draw toward an end with you.

Good night mother.               Exit.

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From Sokal and Sokal, Shakespeare’s Legal Language: A Dictionary: “Accounts are also often mentioned figuratively in relation to a final justifying of one’s life to heaven…Hamlet muses that the ‘audit‘ of old King Hamlet’s lifetime and sins is known only to heaven.” (19, 20)

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