Home / Uncategorized / The Legally Annotated HAMLET – Act Five Scene 2

The Legally Annotated HAMLET – Act Five Scene 2

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by Mark Andre Alexander

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


Scene 1 | Scene 2

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Enter Hamlet and Horatio.

Ham. So much for this sir, now shall you see the other,

You doe remember all the circumstance.

Hora. Remember it my Lord.

Ham. Sir in my hart there was a kind of fighting

That would not let me sleepe, my thought I lay

Worse then the mutines in the bilbo, rashly,

And praysd be rashnes for it: let vs knowe,

Our indiscretion sometime serues vs well

When our deepe plots doe fall, & that should learne vs

Ther’s a diuinity that shapes our ends, [10]

Rough hew them how we will.

Hora.                                   That is most certaine.

Ham. Vp from my Cabin,

My sea-gowne scarft about me in the darke

Gropt I to find out them, had my desire,

Fingard their packet, and in fine with-drew

To mine owne roome againe, making so bold

My feares forgetting manners to vnfold

Their graund commission; where I found Horatio

A royall knauery, an exact command

Larded with many seuerall sorts of reasons, [20]

Importing Denmarkes health, and Englands to,

With hoe such bugges and goblines in my life,

That on the superuise no leasure bated,

No not to stay the grinding of the Axe,

My head should be strooke off.

Hora.                                      I’st possible?

Ham. Heeres the commission, read it at more leasure,

But wilt thou heare now how I did proceed.

Hora. I beseech you.

Ham. Being thus benetted round with villaines,

Or I could make a prologue to my braines, [30]

They had begunne the play, I sat me downe,

Deuisd a new commission, wrote it faire,

I once did hold it as our statists doe,

A basenesse to write faire, and labourd much

How to forget that learning, but sir now

It did me yemans seruice, wilt thou know

Th’effect of what I wrote?

Hora.                              I good my Lord.

Ham. An earnest coniuration from the King,

As England was his faithfull tributary,

As loue betweene them like the palme might florish, [40]

As peace should still her wheaten garland weare

And stand a Comma tweene their amities,

And many such like, as sir of great charge,

That on the view, and knowing of these contents,

Without debatement further more or lesse,

He should those bearers put to suddaine death,

Not shriuing time alow’d.

Hora.                            How was this seald?

Ham. Why euen in that was heauen ordinant,

I had my fathers signet in my purse

Which was the modill of that Danish seale, [50]

Folded the writ vp in the forme of th’other,

Subcribe it, gau’t th’impression, plac’d it safely,

The changling neuer knowne: now the next day

Was our Sea fight, and what to this was sequent

Thou knowest already.

Hora. So Guyldensterne and Rosencraus goe too’t.

Ham. [Why, man, they did make love to this employment.]

They are not neere my conscience, their defeat

Dooes by their owne insinnuation growe,

Tis dangerous when the baser nature comes [60]

Betweene the passe and fell incenced points

Of mighty opposits.

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Hora.                    Why what a King is this!

Ham. Dooes it not thinke thee stand me now vppon?

He that hath kild my King, and whor’d my mother,

Pop’t in betweene th’election and my hopes,

Throwne out his Angle for my proper life,

And with such cusnage, i’st not perfect conscience?

[To quit him with this arm? And is’t not to be damn’d

To let this canker of our nature come

In further evil? [70]

Hora. It must be shortly known to him from England

What is the issue of the business there.

Ham. It will be short. The interim is mine.

And a man’s life’s no more than to say ‘one’.

But I am very sorry, good Horatio,

That to Laertes I forgot myself;

For by the image of my cause I see

The portraiture of his. I’ll court his favours.

But sure the bravery of his grief did put me

Into a tow’ring passion.

Hora.                          Peace, who comes here?] [80]

Enter a Courtier.

Cour. Your Lordship is right welcome backe to Denmarke.

Ham. I humble thanke you sir.

Doost know this water fly?

Hora. No my good Lord.

Ham. Thy state is the more gracious, for tis a vice to

know him, He hath much land and fertill: let a

beast be Lord of beasts, and his crib shall stand at the

Kings messe, tis a chough, but as I say, spacious in the

possession of durt.

Cour. Sweete Lord, if your Lordshippe were at leasure, I should [90]

impart a thing to you from his Maiestie.

Ham. I will receaue it sir withall dilligence of spirit,

your bonnet to his right vse, tis for the head.

Cour. I thanke your Lordship, it is very hot.

Ham. No belieue me, tis very cold, the wind is Northerly.

Cour. It is indefferent cold my Lord indeed.

Ham. But yet me thinkes it is very sully and hot, or my


Cour. Exceedingly my Lord, it is very soultery, as t’were

I cannot tell how: my Lord his Maiestie bade me [100]

signifie to you, that a has layed a great wager on your

head, sir this is the matter.

Ham. I beseech you remember.

Cour. Nay good my Lord for my ease in good faith,

sir here is newly come to Court Laertes, belieue

me an absolute gentlemen, ful of most excellent

differences, of very soft society, and great showing :

indeede to speake fellingly of him, hee is the card or

kalender of gentry: for you shall find in him the [110]

continent of what part a Gentleman would see.

Ham. Sir, his definement suffers no perdition in you,

though I know to deuide him inuentorially, would

dazzie th’arithmaticke of memory, and yet but raw

neither, in respect of his quick saile, but in the veritie

of extolment, I take him to be a soule of great article,

& his infusion of such dearth and rarenesse, as to

make true dixion of him, his semblable is his mirrour,

& who els would trace him, his vmbrage, nothing

more. [120]

Cour. Your Lordship speakes most infallibly of him.

Ham. The concernancy sir, why doe we wrap the

gentleman in our more rawer breath?

Cour. Sir.

Hora. Ist not possible to vnderstand in another tongue,

you will doo’t sir really.

Ham. What imports the nomination of this gentleman.

Cour. Of Laertes.

Hora. His purse is empty already, all’s golden words are

spent. [130]

Ham. Of him sir.

Cour. I know you are not ignorant.

Ham. I would you did sir, yet in faith if you did, it would not much approoue me, well sir.

Cour. You are not ignorant of what excellence Laertes is.

Ham. I dare not confesse that, least I should compare with

him in excellence, but to know a man wel, were to

knowe himselfe.

Cour. I meane sir for this weapon, but in the imputation

laide on him, by them in his meed, hee’s vnfellowed. [140]

Ham. What’s his weapon?

Cour. Rapier and Dagger.

Ham. That’s two of his weapons, but well.

Cour. The King sir hath wagerd with him six Barbary

horses, againgst the which hee has impaund as I

take it six French Rapiers and Poynards, with their

assignes, as girdle, hanger and so. Three of the

carriages in faith, are very deare to fancy, very

responsiue to the hilts, most delicate carriages, and of

very liberall conceit. [150]

Ham. What call you the carriages?

Hora. I knew you must be edified by the margent ere you

had done.

Cour. The carriage sir are the hangers.

Ham. The phrase would bee more Ierman to the matter

if wee could carry a cannon by our sides, I would it

be might hangers till then, but on, six Barbry

horses against six French swords their assignes, and

three liberall conceited carriages, that’s the French

bet against the Danish, why is this [impawned, as] [160]

all you call it?

Cour. The King sir, hath layd sir, that in a dozen passes

betweene your selfe and him, hee shall not exceede you

three hits, hee hath layd on twelue for nine, and it

would come to immediate triall, if your Lordshippe

would vouchsafe the answere.

Ham. How if I answere no?

Cour. I meane my Lord the opposition of your person in


Ham. Sir I will walke heere in the hall, if it please his [170]

Maiestie, it is the breathing time of day with me,

let the foiles be brought, the Gentleman willing, and

the King hold his purpose; I will winne for him and I

can, if not, I will gaine nothing but my shame, and

the odde hits.

Cour. Shall I deliuer you so?

Ham. To this effect sir, after what florish your nature


Cour. I commend my duty to your Lordshippe.

Ham. Yours [180]

doo’s well to commend it himselfe, there are no

tongues els for’s turne.

Hora. This Lapwing runnes away with the shell on his head.

Ham. A did so sir with his dugge before a suckt it, thus

has he and many more of the same breede that I

know the drossy age dotes on, only got the tune of

the time, and out of an habit of incounter, a kind of

histy colection, which carries them through and

through the most prophane and trennowed opinions,

and doe but blowe them to their triall, the bubbles are [190]



Enter a Lord.

Lord. My Lord, his Maiestie commended him to you by

young Ostricke, who brings backe to him that you

attend him in the hall, he sends to know if your

pleasure hold to play with Laertes, or that you will

take longer time?

Ham. I am constant to my purposes, they followe the

Kings pleasure, if his fitnes speakes, mine is ready:

now or whensoeuer, prouided I be so able as now.

Lord. The King, and Queene, and all are comming downe. [200]

Ham. In happy time.

Lord. The Queene desires you to vse some gentle entertainment

to Laertes, before you fall to play.

Ham. Shee well instructs me.

Hora. You will loose my Lord.

Ham. I doe not thinke so, since he went into France, I haue

bene in continuall practise, I shall winne at the ods;

thou would’st not thinke how ill all’s heere about my

hart, but it is no matter.

Hora. Nay good my Lord. [210]

Ham. It is but foolery, but it is such a kinde of gamgiuing,

as would perhapes trouble a woman.

Hora. If your minde dislike any thing, obay it. I will forstal

their repaire hether, and say you are not fit.

Ham. Not a whit, we defie augury, there is speciall prouidence,

in the fall of a Sparrowe, if it be, tis not to

come, if it be not to come, it will be now, if it be not

now, yet it well come, the readines is all, since no

man of ought he leaues, knowes what ist to

leaue betimes, let be. [220]

A table prepard, Trumpets, Drums and officers with Cushions, King, Queene, and all the state, Foiles, daggers, and Laertes.

King. Come Hamlet, come and take this hand from me.

Ham. Giue me your pardon sir, I haue done you wrong,

But pardon’t as you are a gentleman,

this presence knowes,

And you must needs haue heard, how I am punnisht

With a sore distraction, what I haue done

That might your nature, honor, and exception

Roughly awake, I heare proclame was madnesse,

Wast Hamlet wronged Laertes? neuer Hamlet.

If Hamlet from himselfe be tane away, [230]

And when hee’s not himselfe, dooes wrong Laertes,

Then Hamlet dooes it not, Hamlet denies it,

Who dooes it then? his madnesse. Ift be so,

Hamlet is of the faction that is wronged,

His madnesse is poore Hamlets enimie,

Let my disclaiming from a purpos’d euill,

Free me so farre in your most generous thoughts

That I haue shot my arrowe ore the house

And hurt my brother.

Laer.                       I am satisfied in nature, [240]

Whose motiue in this case should stirre me most

To my reuendge, but in my tearmes of honor

I stand a loofe, and will no reconcilement,

Till by some elder Maisters of knowne honor

I haue a voyce and president of peace

To my name vngord: but all that time

I doe receaue your offerd loue, like loue,

And will not wrong it.

Ham.                      I embrace it freely,

and will this brothers wager franckly play.

Giue vs the foiles. [250]

Laer. Come, one for me.

Ham. Ile be your foile Laertes, in mine ignorance

Your skill shall like a starre i’th darkest night

Stick fiery of indeed.

Laer.                      You mocke me sir.

Ham. No by this hand.

King. Giue them the foiles young Ostricke, cosin Hamlet,

You knowe the wager.

Ham.                          Very well my Lord.

Your grace has layed the ods a’th weeker side.

King. I doe not feare it, I haue seene you both,

But since he is better, we haue therefore ods. [260]

Laer. This is to heauy: let me see another.

Ham. This likes me well, these foiles haue all a length.

Ostr. I my good Lord.

King. Set me the stoopes of wine vpon that table,

If Hamlet giue the first or second hit,

Or quit in answere of the third exchange,

Let all the battlements their ordnance fire.

The King shall drinke to Hamlets better breath,

And in the cup an Onixe shall he throwe,

Richer then that which foure successiue Kings [270]

In Denmarkes Crowne haue worne: giue me the cups,

And let the kettle to the trumpet speake,

The trumpet to the Cannoneere without,

The Cannons to the heauens, the heauen to earth,

Trumpets the while.

Now the King drinkes to Hamlet, come beginne.

And you the Iudges beare a wary eye.

Ham. Come on sir.

Laer. Come my Lord.

Ham. One.

Laer. No. [280]

Ham. Iudgement.

Ostrick. A hit, a very palpable hit.               Drum, trumpets and shot.

Laer. Well, againe.               Florish, a peece goes off.

King. Stay, giue me drinke, Hamlet this pearle is thine.

Heeres to thy health: giue him the cup.

Ham. Ile play this bout first, set it by a while

Come, another hit.               What say you?

Laer. I doe confest.

King. Our sonne shall winne.

Quee. Hee’s fat and scant of breath. [290]

Heere Hamlet take my napkin rub thy browes,

The Queene carowses to thy fortune Hamlet.

Ham. Good Madam.

King. Gertrard doe not drinke.

Quee. I will my Lord, I pray you pardon me.

King. It is the poysned cup, it is too late.

Ham. I dare not drinke yet Madam, by and by.

Quee. Come, let me wipe thy face.

Laer. My Lord, Ile hit him now.

King. I doe not think’t.

Laer. And yet it is almost against my conscience. [300]

Ham. Come for the third Laertes, you doe but dally.

I pray you passe with your best violence

I am sure you make a wanton of me.

Laer. Say you so, come on.

Ostr. Nothing neither way.

Laer. Haue at you now.

King. Part them, they are incenst.

Ham. Nay come againe.

Ostr. Looke to the Queene there howe.

Hora. They bleed on both sides, how is it my Lord? [310]

Ostr. How ist Laertes?

Laer. Why as a woodcock to mine owne sprindge Ostrick,

I am iustly kild with mine owne treachery.

Ham. How dooes the Queene?

King.                                      Shee sounds to see them bleed.

Quee. No, no, the drinke, the drinke, o my deare Hamlet,

The drinke the drinke, I am poysned.

Ham. O villanie, how let the doore be lock’t,

Treachery, seeke it out.

Laer. It is heere Hamlet, thou art slaine,

No medcin in the world can doe thee good, [320]

In thee there is not halfe an houres life,

The treacherous instrument is in my hand

Vnbated and enuenom’d, the foule practise

Hath turn’d it selfe on me, loe heere I lie

Neuer to rise againe, thy mother’s poysned,

I can no more, the King, the Kings too blame.

Ham. The point inuenom’d to, then venome to thy worke.

All. Treason, treason.

King. O yet defend me friends, I am but hurt.

Ham. Heare thou incestious damned Dane, [330]

Drinke of this potion, is the Onixe heere?

Follow my mother.

Laer. He is iustly serued, it is a poyson temperd by himselfe,

Exchange forgiuenesse with me noble Hamlet,

Mine and my fathers death come not vppon thee,

Nor thine on me.

Ham. Heauen make thee free of it, I follow thee;

I am dead Horatio, wretched Queene adiew.

You that looke pale, and tremble at this chance,

That are but mutes, or audience to this act, [340]

Had I but time, as this fell sergeant Death

Is strict in his arrest, o I could tell you,

But let it be; Horatio I am dead,

Thou liuest, report me and my cause a right

To the vnsatisfied.

Hora.                 Neuer belieue it;

I am more an anticke Romaine then a Dane,

Heere’s yet some liquer left.

Ham.                                As th’art a man

Giue me the cup, let goe, by heauen Ile hate,

O god Horatio, what a wounded name

Things standing thus vnknowne, shall I leaue behind me? [350]

If thou did’st euer hold me in thy hart,

Absent thee from felicity a while,

And in this harsh world drawe thy breath in paine

A march a   farre off.

To tell my story: what warlike noise is this?

Enter Osrick.

Osr. Young Fortenbrasse with conquest come from Poland,

To th’embassadors of England giues this warlike volly.

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“The subject of inheritance is the principal idea behind several important scenes, and explains a good deal else besides, including the nature of the disappointed ‘hopes’ Hamlet includes, along with murder, incest, and attempted murder, in his list of justifications for killing Claudius….The only thing Claudius did after his election to the Danish kingship that might be said to have ‘popp’d in’ between that event and anything else was to make Gertrude his wife and jointress. Indeed, Hamlet treats the matter of kingship as less important to him than his desire to return to school at Wittenberg.” (Burton 71) 

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Ham. O I die Horatio,

The potent poyson quite ore-crowes my spirit,

I cannot liue to heare the newes from England,

But I doe prophecie th’ellection lights [360]

On Fortinbrasse, he has my dying voyce,

So tell him, with th’occurrants more and lesse

Which haue solicited, the rest is silence.

Hora. Now cracks a noble hart, good night sweete Prince,

And flights of Angels sing thee to thy rest.

Why dooes the drum come hether?

Enter Fortenbrasse, with the Embassadors.

For. Where is this sight?

Hora.                           What is it you would see?

If ought of woe, or wonder, cease your search.

For. This quarry cries on hauock, o prou’d death

What feast is toward in thine eternall cell, [370]

That thou so many Princes at a shot

So bloudily hast strook?

Embas.                        The sight is dismall

And our affaires from England come too late,

The eares are sencelesse that should giue vs hearing,

To tell him his commandment is fulfild,

That Rosencraus and Guyldensterne are dead,

Where should we haue our thankes?

Hora.                                              Not from his mouth

Had it th’ability of life to thanke you;

He neuer gaue commandement for their death;

But since so iump vpon this bloody question [380]

You from the Pollack warres, and you from England

Are heere arriued, giue order that these bodies

High on a stage be placed to the view,

And let me speake, to yet vnknowing world

How these things came about; so shall you heare

Of carnall, bloody and vnnaturall acts,

Of accidentall iudgements, casuall slaughters,

Of deaths put on by cunning, and for no cause

And in this vpshot, purposes mistooke,

Falne on th’inuenters heads all this can I [390]

Truly deliuer.

For. Let vs hast to heare it,

And call the noblest to the audience,

For me, with sorrowe I embrace my fortune,

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“It is passing strange, that amid the stirring scenes of this last act in the tragedy, even at the deathbed of his mother, Hamlet would remember to dispose of the crown, in a purely legal manner and that the Poet would remember to have him survive the King, so that the crown, in law, would first devolve upon him. As if remembering that the crown must be looked after and the law providing that there could be no inter-reghum, the Poet first killed the king and then the crown descended to Hamlet, and he, in turn, attempted to dispose of it in favor of Fortinbras….In other words, amid the tragic scenes of this last act, the Poet remembers the legal status of the crown and the necessity of disposing of it in a proper and lawful manner and he does not sacrifice this purely legal question, even for the more stirring scenes of the closing act.” (Edward J. White, Commentaries on the Law in Shakespeare, pp.481-2.)

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I haue some rights, of memory in this kingdome,

Which now to clame my vantage doth inuite me.

Hora. Of that I shall haue also cause to speake,

And from his mouth, whose voyce will drawe no more,

But let this same be presently perform’d

Euen while mens mindes are wilde, least more mischance

On plots and errores happen.

For.                                     Let foure Captaines [400]

Beare Hamlet like a souldier to the stage,

For he was likely, had he beene put on,

To haue prooued most royall; and for his passage,

The souldiers musicke and the right of warre

Speake loudly for him:

Take vp the bodies, such a sight as this,

Becomes the field, but heere showes much amisse.

Goe bid the souldiers shoote.               Exeunt.

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“The inheritance motif comes full circle in the last scene, when Fortinbras reclaims his birthright…. Upon the extinction of Hamlet’s line, title to his real property would ordinarily revert to the owner from which it was obtained.” (Burton 76)

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