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ACT IV SCENE VI Another room in the castle. 
 Enter HORATIO and a Servant. 
HORATIO What are they that would speak with me? 
Servant Sailors, sir: they say they have letters for you. 
HORATIO Let them come in. 
 Exit Servant. 
 I do not know from what part of the world
 I should be greeted, if not from Lord Hamlet. 
 Enter Sailors. 
First Sailor God bless you, sir. 
HORATIO Let him bless thee too. 
First Sailor He shall, sir, an't please him. There's a letter for 
 you, sir; it comes from the ambassador that was
 bound for England; if your name be Horatio, as I am 
 let to know it is.  10
 'Horatio, when thou shalt have overlooked this,
 give these fellows some means to the king: 
 they have letters for him. Ere we were two days old 
 at sea, a pirate of very warlike appointment gave us
 chase. Finding ourselves too slow of sail, we put on 
 a compelled valour, and in the grapple I boarded 
 them: on the instant they got clear of our ship; so 
 I alone became their prisoner. They have dealt with 
 me like thieves of mercy, but they knew what they  19
 did; I am to do a good turn for them. Let the king 
 have the letters I have sent; and repair thou to me 
 with as much speed as thou wouldst fly death. I 
 have words to speak in thine ear will make thee 
 dumb; yet are they much too light for the bore of
 the matter. These good fellows will bring thee 
 where I am. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern hold their 
 course for England: of them I have much to tell 
 thee. Farewell. 
 'He that thou knowest thine, Hamlet.'
 Come, I will make you way for these your letters;  28
 And do't the speedier, that you may direct me 
 To him from whom you brought them. 

Next: Hamlet, Act 4, Scene 7


Explanatory Notes for Act 4, Scene 6
From Hamlet, prince of Denmark. Ed. K. Deighton. London: Macmillan.


1. What are they, what manner of men; What, less definite than who.

5. I should be greeted, I am likely to receive a greeting.

7. Let him, may he.

9. bound, on his way for.

10. let to know, informed; we still say 'let me know,' i.e. tell me.

12. overlooked, read.

13. some ... king, some means of access to, etc.

14. Ere we ... sea, before we had been two days at sea.

15. of ... appointment, fitted out in most warlike fashion, i.e. heavily armed.

16. we put on ... valour, we made a virtue of necessity and assumed a warlike bearing.

16, 7. in the grapple, as we grappled, i.e. threw out our grappling-irons in order to hold their vessel fast to ours: boarded, leaped on board: on the instant, just as I did so.

19. thieves of mercy, merciful thieves; see note on i. 2. 4.

19, 20. but they ... them, but their mercy was due to politic reasons, for they wanted me in return to do them a service with the king.

21. repair, make your way; in this sense from Lat. repatriare, to return to one's own country.

22. as thou, as that with which you.

23. will make, i.e. which will make; for the omission of the relative, see Abb. 244.

23, 4. yet are ... matter, yet no words would describe the matter in sufficiently strong language; the metaphor is that of shot not heavy enough for the calibre of a gun.

28. I will ... letters, I will give you the means, opportunity, of delivering these letters.

29. And do 't ... me, and do it all the more quickly that by my doing so, etc.; the, ablative of demonstration, see Abb. 94.

How to cite the explanatory notes:
Shakespeare, William. Hamlet, prince of Denmark. Ed. K. Deighton. London: Macmillan, 1919. Shakespeare Online. 20 Feb. 2010. < >.
How to cite the scene review questions:
Mabillard, Amanda. Hamlet: Scene Questions for Review. Shakespeare Online. 27 Dec. 2013. < >.

Scene Questions for Review

microsoft images 1. Was Hamlet's capture truly a coincidence? Is it plausible that this encounter with the pirate ship was part of the counter plot Hamlet alludes to earlier when talking with Gertrude in her closet? There he says of Claudius' plan to send him to England,
Let it work;
For 'tis the sport to have the engineer
Hoist with his own petar: and 't shall go hard
But I will delve one yard below their mines,
And blow them at the moon: O, 'tis most sweet,
When in one line two crafts directly meet. (3.4.198-203)
2. If Hamlet did have a counter plot ready, why would he not reveal it to Horatio? Is it possible Hamlet believed the letters would fall into the wrong hands?

3. If we discount the counter plot theory and assume the events at sea are completely unforeseen to Hamlet, then Divine Providence becomes a very significant component of the drama. If we place such importance on Divine Will, as Hamlet does later in the play when he says, "There's a Divinity that shapes our ends" (5.2.10), how does it change our modern conception of the play? How would an Elizabethan audience view this aspect of the play? For more on Divine Providence in Hamlet, please click here.

4. We have noticed a change in Hamlet since his pivotal soliloquy, "How all occasions do inform against me" (4.4.33-66). Do Hamlet's actions on the pirate ship highlight this change?


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