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ACT III SCENE I A room in the castle. 
KING CLAUDIUSAnd can you, by no drift of circumstance,
Get from him why he puts on this confusion,
Grating so harshly all his days of quiet
With turbulent and dangerous lunacy?
ROSENCRANTZHe does confess he feels himself distracted;
But from what cause he will by no means speak.
GUILDENSTERNNor do we find him forward to be sounded,
But, with a crafty madness, keeps aloof,
When we would bring him on to some confession
Of his true state.
QUEEN GERTRUDEDid he receive you well?10
ROSENCRANTZMost like a gentleman.
GUILDENSTERNBut with much forcing of his disposition.
ROSENCRANTZNiggard of question; but, of our demands,
Most free in his reply.
QUEEN GERTRUDEDid you assay him?
To any pastime?
ROSENCRANTZMadam, it so fell out, that certain players
We o'er-raught on the way: of these we told him;
And there did seem in him a kind of joy

To hear of it: they are about the court,
And, as I think, they have already order20
This night to play before him.
LORD POLONIUS'Tis most true:
And he beseech'd me to entreat your majesties
To hear and see the matter.
KING CLAUDIUSWith all my heart; and it doth much content me
To hear him so inclined.
Good gentlemen, give him a further edge,
And drive his purpose on to these delights.
ROSENCRANTZWe shall, my lord.
KING CLAUDIUSSweet Gertrude, leave us too;
For we have closely sent for Hamlet hither,
That he, as 'twere by accident, may here30
Affront Ophelia:
Her father and myself, lawful espials,
Will so bestow ourselves that, seeing, unseen,
We may of their encounter frankly judge,
And gather by him, as he is behaved,
If 't be the affliction of his love or no
That thus he suffers for.
QUEEN GERTRUDEI shall obey you.
And for your part, Ophelia, I do wish
That your good beauties be the happy cause
Of Hamlet's wildness: so shall I hope your virtues40
Will bring him to his wonted way again,
To both your honours.
OPHELIAMadam, I wish it may.
LORD POLONIUSOphelia, walk you here. Gracious, so please you,
We will bestow ourselves.
Read on this book;
That show of such an exercise may colour
Your loneliness. We are oft to blame in this,--
'Tis too much proved--that with devotion's visage
And pious action we do sugar o'er
The devil himself.
KING CLAUDIUS[Aside] O, 'tis too true!
How smart a lash that speech doth give my conscience!50
The harlot's cheek, beautied with plastering art,
Is not more ugly to the thing that helps it
Than is my deed to my most painted word:
O heavy burthen!
LORD POLONIUSI hear him coming: let's withdraw, my lord.
[Enter HAMLET]
HAMLETTo be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;60
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to, 'tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish'd. To die, to sleep;
To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause: there's the respect
That makes calamity of so long life;
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,70
The oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely,
The pangs of despised love, the law's delay,
The insolence of office and the spurns
That patient merit of the unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin? who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscover'd country from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will80
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pith and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry,
And lose the name of action.--Soft you now!
The fair Ophelia! Nymph, in thy orisons
Be all my sins remember'd.
OPHELIAGood my lord,90
How does your honour for this many a day?
HAMLETI humbly thank you; well, well, well.
OPHELIAMy lord, I have remembrances of yours,
That I have longed long to re-deliver;
I pray you, now receive them.
HAMLETNo, not I;
I never gave you aught.
OPHELIAMy honour'd lord, you know right well you did;
And, with them, words of so sweet breath composed
As made the things more rich: their perfume lost,
Take these again; for to the noble mind100
Rich gifts wax poor when givers prove unkind.
There, my lord.
HAMLETHa, ha! are you honest?
HAMLETAre you fair?
OPHELIAWhat means your lordship?
HAMLETThat if you be honest and fair, your honesty should
admit no discourse to your beauty.
OPHELIACould beauty, my lord, have better commerce than
with honesty?110
HAMLETAy, truly; for the power of beauty will sooner
transform honesty from what it is to a bawd than the
force of honesty can translate beauty into his
likeness: this was sometime a paradox, but now the
time gives it proof. I did love you once.
OPHELIAIndeed, my lord, you made me believe so.
HAMLETYou should not have believed me; for virtue cannot
so inoculate our old stock but we shall relish of
it: I loved you not.
OPHELIAI was the more deceived.120
HAMLETGet thee to a nunnery: why wouldst thou be a
breeder of sinners? I am myself indifferent honest;
but yet I could accuse me of such things that it
were better my mother had not borne me: I am very
proud, revengeful, ambitious, with more offences at
my beck than I have thoughts to put them in,
imagination to give them shape, or time to act them
in. What should such fellows as I do crawling
between earth and heaven? We are arrant knaves,
all; believe none of us. Go thy ways to a nunnery.
Where's your father?130
OPHELIAAt home, my lord.
HAMLETLet the doors be shut upon him, that he may play the
fool no where but in's own house. Farewell.
OPHELIAO, help him, you sweet heavens!
HAMLETIf thou dost marry, I'll give thee this plague for
thy dowry: be thou as chaste as ice, as pure as
snow, thou shalt not escape calumny. Get thee to a
nunnery, go: farewell. Or, if thou wilt needs
marry, marry a fool; for wise men know well enough
what monsters you make of them. To a nunnery, go,
and quickly too. Farewell.140
OPHELIAO heavenly powers, restore him!
HAMLETI have heard of your paintings too, well enough; God
has given you one face, and you make yourselves
another: you jig, you amble, and you lisp, and
nick-name God's creatures, and make your wantonness
your ignorance. Go to, I'll no more on't; it hath
made me mad. I say, we will have no more marriages:
those that are married already, all but one, shall
live; the rest shall keep as they are. To a
nunnery, go.
OPHELIAO, what a noble mind is here o'erthrown!150
The courtier's, soldier's, scholar's, eye, tongue, sword;
The expectancy and rose of the fair state,
The glass of fashion and the mould of form,
The observed of all observers, quite, quite down!
And I, of ladies most deject and wretched,
That suck'd the honey of his music vows,
Now see that noble and most sovereign reason,
Like sweet bells jangled out of tune, and harsh;
That unmatch'd form and feature of blown youth
Blasted with ecstasy: O, woe is me,160
To have seen what I have seen, see what I see!
KING CLAUDIUSLove! his affections do not that way tend;
Nor what he spake, though it lack'd form a little,
Was not like madness. There's something in his soul,
O'er which his melancholy sits on brood;
And I do doubt the hatch and the disclose
Will be some danger: which for to prevent,
I have in quick determination
Thus set it down: he shall with speed to England,
For the demand of our neglected tribute170
Haply the seas and countries different
With variable objects shall expel
This something-settled matter in his heart,
Whereon his brains still beating puts him thus
From fashion of himself. What think you on't?
LORD POLONIUSIt shall do well: but yet do I believe
The origin and commencement of his grief
Sprung from neglected love. How now, Ophelia!
You need not tell us what Lord Hamlet said;
We heard it all. My lord, do as you please;180
But, if you hold it fit, after the play
Let his queen mother all alone entreat him
To show his grief: let her be round with him;
And I'll be placed, so please you, in the ear
Of all their conference. If she find him not,
To England send him, or confine him where
Your wisdom best shall think.
KING CLAUDIUSIt shall be so:
Madness in great ones must not unwatch'd go.

Next: Hamlet, Act 3, Scene 2


Explanatory Notes for Act 3, Scene 1

From Hamlet, prince of Denmark. Ed. K. Deighton. London: Macmillan.


1. drift of circumstance, "roundabout method. 'Drift' occurs in ii. 1. 10, and 'circumstance' in this same sense, in i. 5. 127, and the two words in T. C. iii. 3. 113, 4, 'I do not strain at the position, — ... but at the author's drift; Who in his circumstance expressly proves,'" etc. (Cl. Pr. Edd.). Cp. also iii. 3. 83, below.

2. Get from him ... confusion, find out from him what has led him to behave in this excited manner; cp. T. C. ii. 3. 135, "the savage strangeness he puts on': J. C. i. 3. 60, "And put on fear and cast yourself in wonder"; in neither passage is there any idea of making a pretence. Schmidt takes puts on as = incite, instigate, but the two next lines show that the confusion refers to Hamlet himself only.

3,4. Grating ... lunacy, thus disturbing his peaceful life with outbursts of dangerous madness; the figurative sense of grating is from the literal sense of two bodies roughly rubbing against each other, as in i. H. IV. iii. 1. 132, "Or a dry wheel grate on the axle-tree."

6. he will .... speak, he cannot by any method be persuaded to say.

7. forward to be sounded, inclined to let us find out what is at the bottom of his mind.

8. But, with ... aloof, but with a cunning such as is seen in mad people holds us at a distance.

11. Most like a gentleman, with the greatest courtesy.

12. But with ... disposition, though he was evidently very ill [he] inclined to have much to do with us.

13, 4. Niggard ... reply, if question is used in its ordinary sense, this statement is not true, for Hamlet had plied them well with questions of various kinds, whereas they can scarcely be said to have made any demands of him. Warburton therefore would transpose Niggard and Most free. Against this it may be urged that Hamlet could not be said to be niggard of his answers when none were required of him. Malone and others take question as = conversation, discourse, a sense which it often bears in Shakespeare. But here again we are as far from the fact as ever, for Hamlet conversed with them freely on a variety of subjects. The real explanation seems to me that suggested by the Cl. Pr. Edd., that "perhaps they did not intend to give a correct account of the interview." Possibly after Hamlet's generous forbearance in not forcing them to a confession as to the reason of their coming, they may have felt some scruples of delicacy in betraying what they knew; probably they felt that if they reported much of the conversation it would be discovered how completely Hamlet had seen through them, what poor diplomatists they had shown themselves; of our demands, as regarded our demands; see Abb. § 173.

14, 5. Did you pastime? did you test him as regards to his inclination to take part in any amusement? Cp. M. M. i. 2. 186, "bid herself assay him." The substantive assay, which is merely another spelling of essay, from Lat. exagium, a weighing, is now used only in the literal sense of the testing of metal or weights.

17. o'er-raught, passed; literally over-reached.

20. as I think. I believe; they ... order, they have already received orders.

23. matter, in this word, according to Delius, there is a tinge of contempt.

24. doth much content me, is a great satisfaction to me.

26. give him ... edge, it seems doubtful whether this means 'sharpen his inclination,' or 'push him towards,' in which sense we commonly use the verb to 'egg.' The next line seems to indicate the latter meaning.

29. closely, privately, secretly.

31. Affront, meet face to face, confront; the only sense of the word in Shakespeare. whereas its only meaning now is to 'insult,' from the idea of meeting with too bold a face.

32. lawful espials, who may justifiably act as spies in such a matter; used again in this concrete sense in i. H. VI. i. 4. 8, iv. 3. 6. Cp. "intelligence," K. J. iv. 2. 116; "speculations," Lear. iii. 1. 24.

33. bestow ourselves, station ourselves.

34. encounter, meeting, interview: frankly, freely; F. franc, free.

35. And gather ... behaved, and infer from his behaviour.

36. affliction of his love, the passionate love he feels.

37. That thus ... for, which causes him to suffer in this way.

38. for your part, as regards you.

39. your good beauties, the fascinations of your great beauty; be the happy cause, may happily prove to be the cause.

40-2. so shall I ... honours, for in that case I shall be able to cherish the hope that your various virtues will restore him to his usual healthy state of mind, with a result honourable alike to him and to you.

43. Gracious, addressed to the king; cp. "High and mighty," iv. 7. 43; so please you, provided it is agreeable to you.

44. bestow ourselves, place ourselves where we shall be unseen; cp. 1. 33, above; Read on, fix your eyes on as though reading.

45, 6. That show ... loneliness, the appearance of your being occupied in that way will account for you being here all alone.

46-9. We are ... himself, we are often guilty, — as only too common experience shows, — of coating over our intentions, vile as the devil himself, with looks of sanctity and pious acts; for sugar o'er, cp. i. H. IV. i. 3. 251, "Why, what a candy deal of courtesy The fawning greyhound then did proffer me!" and below, iii. 1. 156, iii. 2. 65.

51. beautified ... art, which owes its beauty to rouge, etc., cp. Cymb. iii. 4. 51, 2, "Some jay of Italy Whose mother was her painting."

52. Is not ... it, is not more ugly in comparison with the thing to which it owes its beauty; cp. Macb. iii. 4. 64, "0, these flaws and starts Impostors to true fear."

53. Than is ... word, than are my actions in comparison with the specious language in which I dress them up; most painted, thickly plastered over with specious words; deed does not refer to the particular deed of murdering his brother, but to his base actions generally.

56. To be ... question, whether to continue to live or not, that is the doubt I have to solve.

57. whether ... mind, whether it shows a nobler mind.

58. slings, properly that which casts a stone, here the missile itself; outrageous, violent, cruel. For more on this please click here.

59. a sea of troubles, many pages have been written upon the incongruity of taking arms against a sea, but a sea of troubles is a common expression in other languages besides English for a host, immensity, of troubles, and the mixture of metaphors is not greater than in many passages of Shakespeare; not much greater, for instance, than the "music of his honey vows," 1. 156 below.

61. No more, i.e. for death is nothing more than a sleep; to say we end, to assure ourselves that we thus put an end to, etc.

63, 4. 'tis a ... wish'd, that is a conclusion for which we may well pray.

65. there's the rub, there is the difficulty; if we could be quite sure that death was a dreamless sleep, we should not need to have any hesitation about encountering it; rub, obstacle; a metaphor from the game of bowls; cp. K. J. iii. iv. 128, "the breath of what I mean to speak Shall blow each dust, each straw, each little rub Out of the path": H. V. ii. 2. 188, "For every rub is smoothed on our way."

66-8. For in ... pause, for the doubt as to what dreams may come in that sleep of death, when we have put off this encumbrance of the body ("this muddy vesture of decay," M. V. v. 1. 64), must compel us to hesitate when considering the question of suicide; though coil is elsewhere used by Shakespeare as = turmoil, tumult, and may here include that meaning also, the words shuffled off seem to show that the primary idea was that of a garment impeding freedom of action.

68, 9. there's the respect ... life, in that lies the consideration which makes misfortune so long-lived; if it were not for that consideration, we should quickly put an end to calamity by ending our lives.

70. the whips ... time, the blows and flouts to which one is exposed in this life; here time seems to be opposed to eternity, as in Macb. i. 7. 6, "If ... that but this blow Might be the be-all and the end-all here. But here upon this bank and shoal of time We'ld jump the world to come"; and the whips and scorns to be a general expression for the particulars in the next four lines, "the oppressor's wrong," "'the law's delay," "the insolence of office," coming under the head of whips, and "the proud man's contumely," "the pangs of despised love," and "the spurns that patient merit of the unworthy takes," under that of scorns. It is, however, possible that of time may be equivalent to "of the times," as e.g. in K. J. v. 2. 12, "I am not glad that such a sore of time Should seek a plaster by contemn'd revolt."

73. The insolence of office, the insolent behaviour with which men in office treat those who have to sue to them; cp. the term "Jack in office," and i. H. VI. i. 1. 175, "But long I will not be Jack out of office."

74. That patient ... takes, that men of merit have patiently to endure at the hands of those who have no claim to respect. Furness remarks, "In the enumeration of these ills, is it not evident that Shakespeare is speaking in his own person? As Johnson says, these are not the evils that would particularly strike a prince."

75. his quietus, his release, acquittance; quietus was the technical term for acquittance of all debts at the audit of accounts in the Exchequer, and is used as late as Burke, Speech on Economical Reform. Cp. Sonn. cxxvi. 12, "Her audit, though delay'd, answer'd must be, And her quietus is to render thee."

76. With a bare bodkin, with a mere dagger. Though Shakespeare probably had in his mind the idea also of an unsheathed dagger, his primary idea seems to be the easiness with which the release could be obtained, and the word bodkin, a diminutive, = small dagger, goes to confirm this notion. Among other passages in which the word occurs, Steevens quotes Beaumont and Fletcher, The Custom of the Country, ii. 3. 87, "Out with your bodkin, Your pocket-dagger, your stiletto": fardels, burdens; "a diminutive of F. farde, a burden, still in use in the sense of 'bale of coffee'" ... (Skeat, Ety. Dict.).

77. grunt, groan; the word, though now having a ludicrous association, had none to the ears of our forefathers. Steevens gives several instances of its use, and Staunton one from Armin's Nest of Ninnies, which is particularly apt; "how the fat fooles of this age will gronte and sweat under their massie burden."

79. bourn, boundary, confines; cp. Lear. iv. 6. 57, "From the dread summit of this chalky bourn."

80. No traveller returns, to the cavil that this is in opposition to the fact of the ghost of the king having re-visited the earth, Coleridge conclusively replies, "If it be necessary to remove the apparent contradiction, — if it be not rather a great beauty, — surely it were easy to say that no traveller returns to this world as to his home or abiding-place": will, resolution. For more on this line, please click here.

84, 5. And thus ... thought, and thus over the natural colour of determination there is thrown the pale and sickly tinge of anxious reflection.

86. of great pitch and moment, of soaring character and mighty impulse. The folios give pith for pitch, a word we have already had in i. 4. 22, in a different context. With Staunton, I take pitch in the sense of the highest point of a falcon's flight, as in R. II. i. 1. 109, "How high a pitch his resolution soars!" J. C. i. 1. 78, "Will make him fly an ordinary pitch"; but moment seems to me to be used here for 'momentum,' 'impulse,' the sense which the word appears to have in A. C. i. 2. 147, "I have seen her die twenty times upon far poorer moment."

87,8. With this ... action, influenced by this consideration, divert their course, turn themselves from the path along which they were going, and no longer can be said to be active.

88. Soft you now! said to himself, 'but let me pause!'

89. Nymph, literally bride, was a title given to female deities of lower rank; orisons, prayers; through F. from Lat. orare, to pray.

90. Be all ... remember'd! may you remember to ask pardon for all my sins! - to intercede for me.

91. How does... day? how have you fared for these many days during which I have not seen you? for many a day, see Abb. § 87.

93. remembrances, tokens of love given to ensure being remembered.

94. longed long, long been most desirous.

97. you know ... did, you know well enough, if you choose to remember, that you did give them to me, trifles though they may now seem, not worth remembering.

99, 100. their perfume ... again, now that you no longer have kind words to give me, take back the remembrances which those words made so dear to me.

100, 1. for to ... unkind, to a mind of any nobility, gifts, however costly, lose all their value when their givers change from what they were when they bestowed them.

102. There, my lord, said as she offers to return his gifts.

103. honest, virtuous, modest.

107, 8 That if ... beauty, that if you be virtuous and fair, your virtue should not allow itself any intercourse with your beauty.

109, 10. Could beauty ... honesty? Ophelia, with a woman's wit, inverts the terms of the proposition by asking whether beauty could associate with anything more profitably than with virtue.

111. Ay, truly, yes, assuredly it could, so far as the interests of virtue are concerned.

113, 4. this was ... proof, this was at one time considered a strange idea, but the present time have shown that it is a mere truism; paradox, literally that which is contrary to (received) opinion.

117, 8. for virtue ... it, for virtue cannot so graft herself upon human nature but it shall smack of its original depravity; inoculate, Lat. in, in, and oculus, an eye, the technical term for the bud which is grafted on to another tree. Cp. W. T. iv. 4. 92-5.

120. I was the more deceived, then my mistake was all the greater.

121. why wouldst thou, why should you desire.

122. indifferent honest, fairly honourable as men go; indifferent, used adverbially.

123. it were better, it would be better.

125. at my back, ready to come at my summons, whenever I choose to beckon them; thoughts ... in, thoughts in which to clothe them.

127, 8. What should ... heaven? what business have such wretched fellows as myself to be crawling, like noxious reptiles, on earth and aspiring to heaven? arrant, through, utter; "a variant of errant, wandering, vagrant, vagabond, which from its frequent use in such expressions as arrant thief, became an intensive, 'thorough, notorious, downright,' especially from its original associations, with opprobrious names" (Murray, Eng. Dict.). Though generally used in a bad sense, we find it occasionally in a good one, e.g. Ford, The Fancies, Chaste and Noble, iii. 2, "true and arrant ladies"; also Fold, Love's Sacrifice, ii. 2, and Beaumont and Fletcher, The Loyal Subject, iii. 5, and The Little French Lawyer, iv. 4. 4.

129. thy ways, see note on i. 3. 135.

132. shut upon him, shut against his going out.

136, 7. be thou ... calumny, see quotation from W. T. ii. 1. 71-4, on i. 1. 38, above.

138. needs, of necessity; the old genitive used adverbially.

139. what monsters ... them, an allusion to the old belief that horns grew out of the forehead of men whose wives had been unfaithful to them.

142. your paintings, the rouging of the complexion so common among your sex; your, used generally.

144. jig, are given to loose dances; amble, walk with a mincing gait.

144, 5. nick-name God's creatures, are not content with calling God's creatures by their right names, but must invent foolish and ribald ones for them: a, nick-name is an eke-name, a name given to eke out another name, an additional name; creatures, both animate and inanimate, as in K. J. iv. 1. 121, "fire and iron ... creatures of note for mercy-lacking uses." So, Bacon, Essay of Truth, "The first creature of God, in the works of the days, was the light of the sense"; also Temp. iii. 3. 74; and make ... ignorance, and when charged with immodest behaviour plead ingenuous simplicity as your excuse.

146. I'll no more on 't, I will allow no more of such goings on; on't, of it, sc. your behaviour.

148. one, sc. the king. "This exception would be quite unintelligible to Ophelia, but the audience, who are in on Hamlet's secret, see its purport" (Cl. Pr. Edd.); keep as they are, remain unmarried.

151. The courtier's ... sword, i.e. the eye of the courtier, the tongue of the scholar, the sword of the soldier; Hamlet, according to Ophelia, being endowed with the sprightly look of the courtier, the learning of the scholar, and the skill in arms of the soldier.

152. The expectancy ... state, the hope and chief ornament of the state, thus beautified by him; fair is used proleptically, which was made fair by wearing him (as a rose in a dress, coat, etc.).

153. The glass of fashion, in whom was reflected all that was in the highest fashion, the most perfect good taste; the mould of form, "the model by whom all endeavoured to form themselves" (Johnson).

154. The observed of all observers, he whose conduct and carriage was closely observed by every one as an example to be followed; quite, quite down, now utterly overthrown; cp. iii. 2. 198.

155. deject, dejected, broken-spirited; for the omission of the participial termination, see Abb. § 342.

156. That sucked ... vows, who so greedily drank in his honeyed words of love; Ophelia combines what is sweet to the taste and sweet to the ear.

157. sovereign, the supreme power in the state of man: cp. J. C. ii. 1. 68, "the state of man, Like to a little kingdom, suffers then The nature of an insurrection."

158. Like sweet ... harsh, like bells naturally of a sweet tone, rung in such a way as to be out of tune with each other, and so harsh-sounding. It seems better to follow the folios in placing the comma after tune and not after jangled, as most editors follow Capell in doing.

159, 60. That unmatch'd ... ecstasy, that peerless form and feature of youth in its full bloom now cruelly marred by madness (as a flower in bloom is blasted by a storm); feature is used by Shakespeare for the person in general (and especially of dignified appearance, e.g. R. II. i. 1. 19, Cymb. v. 5. 163, as featureless in Sonn. xi. 10, for 'ugly'), and rarely, if ever, in the restricted modern sense of the particular parts of the face; so that form and feature is almost redundant; woe is me, woe is to me; see Abb. § 230.

161. To have ... see, that I should have known him as he once was, and should know him as he now is.

162. Love! ... tend, you say that love is the cause of his madness! nonsense! the bent of his mind is not in that direction.

163. though it ... little, though it was somewhat incoherent, unmethodical.

164. Was not, for the emphatic double negative, see Abb. § 406.

165. on brood, a-brooding; cp. i. 5. 19.

166. 7. And I do ... danger, and I suspect that when the outcome of it is seen, we shall find it something dangerous; disclose "'is when the young just peeps through the shell.' It is also taken for laying, hatching, or bringing forth young; as 'She disclosed three birds.' R. Holme's Academy of Armory and Blazon ... Cp. also v. 1. 275 [273]" (Steevens).

167. which for to prevent, in order to anticipate which; for to, now a vulgarism, occurs, among the undoubted and wholly Shakespearean plays, in W. T. i. 2. 427, A. W. v. 3. 181, and below v. 1. 89.

108, 9. I have ... down, I have with prompt determination decided; he shall, sc. be sent, go; the verb of motion omitted, as frequently.

170. For the ... tribute, to demand the tribute of money due to us, which they have neglected to pay; cp. Cymb. iii. 1. 8-10.

171-5. Haply ... himself, possibly the variety of novel sights which in his voyage and travels he will behold will drive out this matter which has to some extent settled in his heart, and which by his brains constantly beating on it, has changed him from his usual self; the grammatical construction is 'the beating of his brains on which'; cp. Cymb. i. 6. 8, "blest be those ... that have their honest wills, which (sc. the having their wills) seasons comfort;" and see Abb. § 337.

176. It shall do well, the plan is certain to answer; yet, still (in time), not, notwithstanding what you say.

177,8. The origin ... love, a redundancy for 'the origin and commencement are from,' etc., or 'his grief sprung from'; How now, Ophelia! what brings you here?

181. if you ... fit, if you agree with me as to the propriety of doing so.

183. grief, some editors prefer the reading of the folios, griefs, but we have the singular in 1. 177, and the idea of a burden, which here seems wanted, is better expressed by the singular than the plural; round, peremptory, plain spoken; see note on ii. 2. 139.

184, 5. in the ear ... conference, where I can hear all that passes between them. Polonius insinuates that from maternal affection the queen may not faithfully report the interview, and also perhaps that his wisdom is necessary to judge of the real meaning of what Hamlet may say with an accuracy that could not be expected of a woman; find him, discover his secret; cp. Lear. iv. 6. 104, "there I found 'em, there I smelt 'em out."

187. Your wisdom, you in your wisdom.


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 Nov. 2013. < >.

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Scene Questions for Review

microsoft images 1. Clearly Claudius knows Hamlet is feigning madness (see line 2) and likely believes the reason is thwarted ambition (2.2.244). Why then does he bother eavesdropping on Hamlet and Ophelia? Do his feelings for Gertrude play a role in his decision?

2. Explain the dramatic irony in lines 25-28.

3. Why does Ophelia agree to betray Hamlet's trust?

4. How does Shakespeare craft a more sympathetic Claudius in this scene?

5. A. C. Bradley notes that "The present position of the 'To be or not to be' soliloquy, and of the interview with Ophelia, appears to have been due to an after-thought of Shakespeare's; for in the First Quarto they precede, instead of following, the arrival of the players, and consequently the arrangement for the play-scene." Does the position of Hamlet's soliloquy make a difference? More on this topic...

6. In writing Hamlet, Shakespeare is said to have been influenced by the work of French essayist, Michael de Montaigne, translated by an acquaintance of Shakespeare named John Florio. Montagine's essays on moral philosophy might have shaped many passages in Hamlet, including Hamlet's most famous soliloquy. Could Montaigne be the reason the first and second quartos of the play are so different, especially regarding Hamlet's propensity to delay? More on this topic...

7. Do you think Hamlet knows where Polonius is before he asks Ophelia in line 30? Although it is not specifically addressed in the play, can we assume that Hamlet has known about Polonius using Ophelia for some time?

8. Is Hamlet's behavior toward Ophelia all an act to fool the Court? If Hamlet had found Ophelia to be loyal and trustworthy would he still have been able to treat her so harshly, simply to further his plan? How do his feelings in this scene relate to his last encounter with Ophelia (2.1.75-82) and to his mother, Gertrude?

9. Describe the kind of person Ophelia thinks Hamlet had once been, before his father's death (lines 152-56).

10. Claudius is now, more than ever, disturbed by Hamlet's behavior and believes he is in imminent danger. What plan does Claudius hatch to protect himself? What reason does he give to Polonius for such a plan?

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Points to Ponder ... "Horatio, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern seem to be of about the same age as Hamlet. How then do they come to be at Wittenberg? I had thought that this question might be answered in the following way. If 'the city' is Wittenberg, Shakespeare would regard it as a place like London, and we might suppose that Horatio, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern were living there, though they had ceased to be students. But this can hardly be true of Horatio, who, when he (to spare Hamlet's feelings) talks of being 'a truant,' must mean a truant from his University." A. C. Bradley. Read on...


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Soliloquy Analysis: O, what a rogue and peasant slave am I!... (2.2)
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Soliloquy Analysis: Tis now the very witching time of night... (3.2)
Soliloquy Analysis: Now might I do it pat... (3.3)
Soliloquy Analysis: How all occasions do inform against me... (4.4)

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