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ACT IV SCENE V Elsinore. A room in the castle. 
 Enter QUEEN GERTRUDE, HORATIO, and a Gentleman. 
QUEEN GERTRUDE I will not speak with her. 
Gentleman She is importunate, indeed distract: 
 Her mood will needs be pitied. 
QUEEN GERTRUDE What would she have?
Gentleman She speaks much of her father; says she hears 
 There's tricks i' the world; and hems, and beats her heart; 
 Spurns enviously at straws; speaks things in doubt, 
 That carry but half sense: her speech is nothing, 
 Yet the unshaped use of it doth move
 The hearers to collection; they aim at it, 
 And botch the words up fit to their own thoughts; 10 
 Which, as her winks, and nods, and gestures 
 yield them, 
 Indeed would make one think there might be thought,
 Though nothing sure, yet much unhappily. 
HORATIO 'Twere good she were spoken with; for she may strew 
 Dangerous conjectures in ill-breeding minds. 
QUEEN GERTRUDE Let her come in. 
 Aside. To my sick soul, as sin's true nature is,
 Each toy seems prologue to some great amiss: 
 So full of artless jealousy is guilt, 
 It spills itself in fearing to be spilt. 20 
 Re-enter HORATIO, with OPHELIA. 
OPHELIA Where is the beauteous majesty of Denmark? 
QUEEN GERTRUDE How now, Ophelia!
 How should I your true love know 
 From another one? 
 By his cockle hat and staff, 
 And his sandal shoon. 
QUEEN GERTRUDE Alas, sweet lady, what imports this song?
OPHELIA Say you? nay, pray you, mark. 
 He is dead and gone, lady, 
 He is dead and gone; 30 
 At his head a grass-green turf, 
 At his heels a stone.
QUEEN GERTRUDE Nay, but, Ophelia,-- 
OPHELIA Pray you, mark. 
 White his shroud as the mountain snow,-- 
QUEEN GERTRUDE Alas, look here, my lord. 
 Larded with sweet flowers
 Which bewept to the grave did go 
 With true-love showers. 
KING CLAUDIUS How do you, pretty lady? 40 
OPHELIA Well, God 'ild you! They say the owl was a baker's 
 daughter. Lord, we know what we are, but know not

 what we may be. God be at your table! 
KING CLAUDIUS Conceit upon her father. 
OPHELIA Pray you, let's have no words of this; but when they 
 ask you what it means, say you this: 
 To-morrow is Saint Valentine's day,
 All in the morning betime, 
 And I a maid at your window, 
 To be your Valentine. 50 
 Then up he rose, and donn'd his clothes, 
 And dupp'd the chamber-door;
 Let in the maid, that out a maid 
 Never departed more. 
KING CLAUDIUS Pretty Ophelia! 
OPHELIA Indeed, la, without an oath, I'll make an end on't: 
 By Gis and by Saint Charity,
 Alack, and fie for shame! 
 Young men will do't, if they come to't; 
 By cock, they are to blame. 
 Quoth she, before you tumbled me, 
 You promised me to wed.
 So would I ha' done, by yonder sun, 
 An thou hadst not come to my bed. 
KING CLAUDIUS How long hath she been thus? 
OPHELIA I hope all will be well. We must be patient: but I 
 cannot choose but weep, to think they should lay him
 i' the cold ground. My brother shall know of it: 
 and so I thank you for your good counsel. Come, my 
 coach! Good night, ladies; good night, sweet ladies; 
 good night, good night. 
KING CLAUDIUS Follow her close; give her good watch,
 I pray you. 
 O, this is the poison of deep grief; it springs 
 All from her father's death. O Gertrude, Gertrude, 60 
 When sorrows come, they come not single spies 
 But in battalions. First, her father slain:
 Next, your son gone; and he most violent author 
 Of his own just remove: the people muddied, 
 Thick and unwholesome in their thoughts and whispers, 
 For good Polonius' death; and we have done but greenly, 
 In hugger-mugger to inter him: poor Ophelia
 Divided from herself and her fair judgment, 
 Without the which we are pictures, or mere beasts: 
 Last, and as much containing as all these, 70 
 Her brother is in secret come from France; 
 Feeds on his wonder, keeps himself in clouds,
 And wants not buzzers to infect his ear 
 With pestilent speeches of his father's death; 
 Wherein necessity, of matter beggar'd, 
 Will nothing stick our person to arraign 
 In ear and ear. O my dear Gertrude, this,
 Like to a murdering-piece, in many places 
 Gives me superfluous death. 
 A noise within. 
QUEEN GERTRUDE Alack, what noise is this? 
KING CLAUDIUS Where are my Switzers? Let them guard the door. 
 Enter a Messenger. 
 What is the matter?
Gentleman Save yourself, my lord: 81 
 The ocean, overpeering of his list, 
 Eats not the flats with more impetuous haste 
 Than young Laertes, in a riotous head, 
 O'erbears your officers. The rabble call him lord;
 And, as the world were now but to begin, 
 Antiquity forgot, custom not known, 
 The ratifiers and props of every word, 
 They cry 'Choose we: Laertes shall be king:' 
 Caps, hands, and tongues, applaud it to the clouds: 90
 'Laertes shall be king, Laertes king!' 
QUEEN GERTRUDE How cheerfully on the false trail they cry! 
 O, this is counter, you false Danish dogs! 
KING CLAUDIUS The doors are broke. 
 Noise within. 
 Enter LAERTES, armed; Danes following. 
LAERTES Where is this king? Sirs, stand you all without.
Danes No, let's come in. 
LAERTES I pray you, give me leave. 
Danes We will, we will. 
 They retire without the door. 
LAERTES I thank you: keep the door. O thou vile king, 
 Give me my father!
QUEEN GERTRUDE Calmly, good Laertes. 
LAERTES That drop of blood that's calm proclaims me bastard, 100 
 Cries cuckold to my father, brands the harlot 
 Even here, between the chaste unsmirched brow 
 Of my true mother.
KING CLAUDIUS What is the cause, Laertes, 
 That thy rebellion looks so giant-like? 
 Let him go, Gertrude; do not fear our person: 
 There's such divinity doth hedge a king, 
 That treason can but peep to what it would,
 Acts little of his will. Tell me, Laertes, 
 Why thou art thus incensed. Let him go, Gertrude. 
 Speak, man. 
LAERTES Where is my father? 
QUEEN GERTRUDE But not by him. 
KING CLAUDIUS Let him demand his fill. 110 
LAERTES How came he dead? I'll not be juggled with: 
 To hell, allegiance! vows, to the blackest devil! 
 Conscience and grace, to the profoundest pit!
 I dare damnation. To this point I stand, 
 That both the worlds I give to negligence, 
 Let come what comes; only I'll be revenged 
 Most thoroughly for my father. 
KING CLAUDIUS Who shall stay you?
LAERTES My will, not all the world: 
 And for my means, I'll husband them so well, 
 They shall go far with little. 
KING CLAUDIUS Good Laertes, 
 If you desire to know the certainty 121
 Of your dear father's death, is't writ in your revenge, 
 That, swoopstake, you will draw both friend and foe, 
 Winner and loser? 
LAERTES None but his enemies. 
KING CLAUDIUS Will you know them then?
LAERTES To his good friends thus wide I'll ope my arms; 
 And like the kind life-rendering pelican, 
 Repast them with my blood. 
KING CLAUDIUS Why, now you speak 
 Like a good child and a true gentleman.
 That I am guiltless of your father's death, 130 
 And am most sensible in grief for it, 
 It shall as level to your judgment pierce 
 As day does to your eye. 
Danes Within. Let her come in. 
LAERTES How now! what noise is that?
 Re-enter OPHELIA. 
 O heat, dry up my brains! tears seven times salt, 
 Burn out the sense and virtue of mine eye! 
 By heaven, thy madness shall be paid by weight, 
 Till our scale turn the beam. O rose of May! 
 Dear maid, kind sister, sweet Ophelia!
 O heavens! is't possible, a young maid's wits 140 
 Should be as moral as an old man's life? 
 Nature is fine in love, and where 'tis fine, 
 It sends some precious instance of itself 
 After the thing it loves.
 They bore him barefaced on the bier; 
 Hey non nonny, nonny, hey nonny; 
 And in his grave rain'd many a tear:-- 
 Fare you well, my dove! 
LAERTES Hadst thou thy wits, and didst persuade revenge,
 It could not move thus. 150 
 You must sing a-down a-down, 
 An you call him a-down-a. 
 O, how the wheel becomes it! It is the false 
 steward, that stole his master's daughter.
LAERTES This nothing's more than matter. 
OPHELIA There's rosemary, that's for remembrance; pray, 
 love, remember: and there is pansies. that's for thoughts. 
LAERTES A document in madness, thoughts and remembrance fitted. 159 
OPHELIA There's fennel for you, and columbines: there's rue
 for you; and here's some for me: we may call it 
 herb-grace o' Sundays: O you must wear your rue with 
 a difference. There's a daisy: I would give you 
 some violets, but they withered all when my father 
 died: they say he made a good end,--
 For bonny sweet Robin is all my joy. 
LAERTES Thought and affliction, passion, hell itself, 
 She turns to favour and to prettiness. 
 And will he not come again? 
 And will he not come again? 170
 No, no, he is dead: 
 Go to thy death-bed: 
 He never will come again. 
 His beard was as white as snow, 
 All flaxen was his poll:
 He is gone, he is gone, 
 And we cast away moan: 
 God ha' mercy on his soul! 
 And of all Christian souls, I pray God. God be wi' you. 
LAERTES Do you see this, O God?
KING CLAUDIUS Laertes, I must commune with your grief, 180 
 Or you deny me right. Go but apart, 
 Make choice of whom your wisest friends you will. 
 And they shall hear and judge 'twixt you and me: 
 If by direct or by collateral hand
 They find us touch'd, we will our kingdom give, 
 Our crown, our life, and all that we can ours, 
 To you in satisfaction; but if not, 
 Be you content to lend your patience to us, 
 And we shall jointly labour with your soul
 To give it due content. 
LAERTES Let this be so; 190 
 His means of death, his obscure funeral-- 
 No trophy, sword, nor hatchment o'er his bones, 
 No noble rite nor formal ostentation--
 Cry to be heard, as 'twere from heaven to earth, 
 That I must call't in question. 
KING CLAUDIUS So you shall; 
 And where the offence is, let the great axe fall. 
 I pray you, go with me.

Next: Hamlet, Act 4, Scene 6


Explanatory Notes for Act 4, Scene 5
From Hamlet, prince of Denmark. Ed. K. Deighton. London: Macmillan.


2. indeed distract, not merely importunate, but quite out of her senses; for distract, cp. i. 2. 20, "disjoint and out of frame."

3. Her mood ... pitied, it is impossible not to pity her condition; for will, see Abb. § 319.

5. There's tricks i' the world, there are strange doings going on in the world; cp. K. J. i. 1. 232, "There's toys abroad": heart, breast.

6. Spurns ... straws, kicks impatiently at straws in her path; is angry at the merest trifles; cp. A. C. iii. 5. 17, 8, where it is said of Antony in a bad temper that he "spurns The rush that lies before him": in doubt, in dubious language.

7-13. her speech ... unhappily, her words in themselves convey no distinct meaning, yet, used as they are in such disorder, they provoked their hearers to try to gather some meaning from them, to piece them together, so that they may give a coherent sense; they (sc. the hearers) make a guess at that sense, and clumsily endeavour to suit the words to the interpretation they put upon them; and those words, as they are eked out by her winks, nods, and gestures, would certainly lead one to suppose that they possibly contain the thought of some great misfortune of which she is conscious, though conscious only in a dim, confused way.

14. strew, unintentionally suggest.

15. ill-breeding minds, minds always ready to conceive evil, to put the worst construction upon anything said.

17. To my ... is, to my soul, ill at ease with itself, as is always the case when guilt is present to it; cp. above, iii. 1. 83, "Thus conscience does make cowards of us all. "

18. toy, trifle: amiss, disaster; for the word used as a substantive, cp. Sonn. xxxv. 7, "Myself corrupting, salving thy amiss"; and cli. 3.

19. 20. So full ... spilt, so full of clumsy suspicion is guilt that it betrays itself in the very fear of being discovered; for jealousy, = suspicion, cp. M. A. ii. 2. 49, "There shall appear such seeming truth of Hero's disloyalty that jealousy shall be called assurance." The metaphor is that of a man who, carrying a liquid, is so excited by his fear of spilling it that the nervous feeling causes his hand to tremble and the liquid to run over.

23, 4. know from, distinguish from.

25, 6. By his ... shoon, by his wearing the habit of a pilgrim; cockle-shells were worn by pilgrims in their hats as emblematical of their crossing the sea to visit the Holy Land; sandal shoon, shoes formed of sandals worn under, and attached by straps to, the feet; shoon, an archaic plural.

28. Say you? what is it you say?

31, 2. At his ... stone, graves of the poorer classes, especially in village churchyards, are generally covered with grass with a slab of stone at the foot having the date of birth, death, etc., engraved upon it.

35. shroud, grave-clothes, winding-sheet.

37. Larded, thickly covered; cp. M. W. iv. 6. 14, "The mirth so larded with my matter"; the word in this sense is generally used by Shakespeare in a figurative sense.

38, 9. Which ... showers, the shroud of him who went to his grave bewept with showers of tears by his faithful lover.

41. 'ild, yield, in the sense of reward.

41, 2. They say ... daughter, an allusion to a story, told by Douce, of Christ paying a visit to a baker's shop and asking for a piece of bread, when the daughter rebuked her mother for giving Him too large a piece, and as a punishment for her niggard behaviour was transformed into an owl.

43. God ... table, be present with you when you eat.

44. Conceit ... father, her fancy dwells upon her father's death.

45. let's have ... this, let us have no dispute about this.

47. Saint Valentine's day, On the feast of St. Valentine, birds, according to an old tradition, chose their mates for the year. "From this notion," says Dyer, p. 280, "it has been suggested, arose the once popular practice of choosing valentines, and also the common belief that the first two single persons who meet in the morning of St. Valentine's day have a great chance of becoming married to each other." Douce traces the custom of choosing lovers on this day to the Lupercalia of Rome, a festival held about the same date, and during which a similar custom prevailed.

48. All ... betime, at the earliest dawn of day; all, merely intensive.

49. at your window, greeting you at your window.

53. cannot ... weep, cannot help weeping; cannot choose to do anything but weep; to think, at the thought that; the infinitive used indefinitely.

57. give ... watch, watch her carefully.

6l, 2. they come ... battalions, they do not come like single spies sent to discover the strength of the enemy, but in full force to attack his position.

63, 4. and he ... remove, and he by his violence the cause of his richly-deserved banishment; for remove, = removal, cp. Lear, ii. 4. 4, "This night before there was no purpose in them Of this remove"; muddied, like a stream made muddy by heavy rain. Delius points out that this word and unwholesome refer primarily to the blood, and then to the mood of the people.

65. Thick ... whispers, their thoughts and their language, so far as they dare let it be heard, are polluted with unwholesome matter, i.e. dangerous ideas.

66. For, on account of; greenly, without ripe judgement; cp. Oth. ii. 1. 251, "the knave ... hath all those requisites in him that folly and green minds look after"; A. C. i. 5. 74, "My salad days, When I was green in judgement."

67. In hugger-mugger, in this secret and hasty way; a reduplication like hotch-potch, hocus-pocus, mingle-mangle. Malone quotes Florio's Dictionary, "Dinascoso, secretly, hiddenly, in hugger-mugger."

68. Divided ... judgement, estranged from her own sane judgement; out of her senses; cp. v. 2. 219.

69. the which, see Abb. § 270: are pictures, are no better than pictures.

70. and as ... these, and a circumstance as full of import as all these put together.

72. Feeds on his wonder, broods over the amazement caused by his father's death: keeps ... clouds, shuts himself up in gloomy reserve.

73. wants not, is not without: buzzers, chattering fellows; fellows who go buzzing ahout him like noxious insects.

74. of his father's death, as to the manner in which his father met his death.

75-7. Wherein ... ear, in which suggestions the speaker, driven by necessity to substantiate his story, and having no actual circumstances to bring as proof, will not hesitate to accuse me from one person to another.

78. a murdering-piece, or murderer, was a cannon which discharged case-shot, i.e. shot confined in a case which burst in the discharge and scattered the shot widely; hence the superfluous death in the next line, any one of the missiles being sufficient to cause death.

80. my Switzers, Swiss mercenaries were frequently employed as personal guards of the king in continental countries and even now form the Pope's bodyguard.

82. overpeering of his list, when it raises its head above the boundary which usually confines it; the idea is that of the great billows raising their crests as they dash over the shore; list, limit, literally a stripe or border of cloth; for the verbal followed by of, see Abb. § 178.

83. Eats not the flats, does not swallow up the level stretches of country; cp. K. J. v. 6. 40, "half my power this night Passing these flats are taken by the tide."

84. in a riotous head, with an armed force of riotous citizens; for head, cp. i. H. IV. iv. 4. 25, "a head Of gallant warriors."

85. call him lord, acknowledge his supremacy.

86. as the world ... begin, as though the world had only now to be started on its career.

87. Antiquity ... known, antiquity being treated by them as something that never had any existence, and custom as something which needed no recognition.

88, 9. The ratifiers ... king', they, as though it rested with them to ratify or annul, to support or overturn, every proposition, cry, etc.

90. Caps ... clouds, throwing up their caps, clapping their hands, and shouting at the top of their voices, they applaud their own decision to the very skies.

92. How cheerfully ...cry! with what "gallant chiding'" (M. N. D. iv. 1. 120) these hounds hunt the false scent which they have so eagerly taken up! for cry, cp. T. S. Ind. i. 23, "He cried upon it at the merest loss," said of a hound.

93. this is counter, to hunt counter was to hunt the wrong way of the scent, to trace the scent backwards; and here two ideas are combined, that of being on the wrong scent, and that of being on the right scent, but hunting back in the direction from which the game started instead of in the direction in which it had gone.

96. give me leave, allow me to enter alone.

98. keep the door, guard the door to prevent any aid being sent to the king.

102. That thy ... giant-like? that you have broken out into a rebellion which has assumed such terrible proportions?

103. Let him go, do not try to hold him back.

104. hedge, protect as with a hedge which cannot be passed or overleaped.

105. 6. That treason ... will, that treason is unable to do more than look over the hedge which separates it from the object of its vengeance, without being able to strike home.

110. Let him ... fill, let him state his demands in full.

111. How ... dead? how came he to die?

113. grace, religious feeling; cp. R. J. ii. 3. 28, "Two such opposed kings encamp them still In man as well as herbs, grace and rude will."

114. I dare damnation, in such a cause as this I am ready to risk eternal damnation: To this ... stand, here I firmly take my stand; this decision I am prepared to abide by.

115-7. That both ... father, that, come what may, I will give up all my hopes of happiness here and hereafter, rather than not pursue my vengeance for my father. The Cl. Pr. Edd. compare Macb. iii. 2. 16, "But let the frame of things disjoint, both the worlds suffer."

118. My will ... world, nothing in the world but my own free will.

119, 20. And for ... little, and as regards the means at my command, I will make such prudent use of them that, though small, they shall go far.

122. is't writ in your revenge, is it a part of the revenge you have prescribed to yourself?

123, 4. That, ... loser, "are you going to vent your rage on both friend and foe; like a gambler who insists on sweeping the stakes [off the table], whether the point is in his favour or not?" (Moberly).

127. life-rendering pelican, from allowing its young to take fish of its pouch, the pelican was popularly believed to nourish them on its life-blood; cp. R. II. ii. 1. 126, "That blood already, like the pelican, Hast thou tapp'd out and drunkenly caroused."

128. Repast, feed, nourish. Milton, Aeropagitica, p. 18, ed. Hales, uses the word figuratively, "repasting of our minds."

129. good, duteous.

131. And am ... it, and am deeply pained by it.

132, 3. It shall ... eye, it shall force its way as directly to your judgement as the daylight; It, the nominative repeated owing to the parenthesis of 1. 131.

135. heat, i.e. the heat burning in his head: seven times, i.e. many times: cp. the heating of Nebuchadnezzar's furnace.

136. the sense ... eye, that sensibility and property by which the eye is enabled to see; cp. L. L. L. v. 2. 348, "The virtue of your eye must break my oath."

137,8. thy madness ... scale, I will exact such retribution as shall be more than adequate to the deed which has driven you mad; turn the beam, cause the beam of the balance to bow owing to the greater weight in our scale.

138. of May! i.e. in the bloom of life's spring-time.

141. mortal, subject to destruction.

142-4. Nature ... loves, where love is concerned, nature shows herself in her tenderest form, and in such cases it sends some precious proof of itself (here Ophelia's soundness of mind) as a tribute of affection to follow to the grave that which was so dear to it (here her father); for instance, see note on iii. 2. 176.

145. barefaced; with his face uncovered.

140. Hey non ... nonny, "Such unmeaning burdens are common in ballads of most languages" (Nares).

149, 50. Hadst thou ... thus, no words of persuasion that you could urge, if you were in your senses, could stir me to revenge as these disjointed, incoherent, utterances do.

152. An, if; see Abb. § 101.

153. the wheel, according to Steevens, the refrain; but the quotation by which he supports his explanation is generally regarded as mythical. Malone is inclined to think that the allusion is to the occupation of the girl whose song Ophelia quotes. Among other passages in some way bearing out his view he quotes T. N. ii. 4. 45-7, "The spinsters and the knitters in the sun ... Do use to chant it"; he further suggests as possible that the allusion may be to an instrument called by Chaucer a rote, which was played upon by the friction of a wheel.

153, 4. It is ... daughter, the ballad is on the subject of the false steward who, etc. No such ballad has yet been discovered.

155. This nothing's ... matter, these incoherent words stir my soul more than sensible ones would.

156. rosemary, from Lat. ros marinus, or ros maris, as Ovid calls it, the plant which delights in the sea spray. It was an emblem of faithful remembrance, and, according to Staunton, is here presented to Laertes, whom Ophelia in her distraction probably confounds with her lover; for, appropriate to, emblematical of.

157. pansies, from F. pensees, thoughts, of which the flower is supposed to be symbolical.

158. document, a writer in the Ed. Rev. for July 1869 shows that the word is here used "in its earlier and etymological, sense of instruction, lesson, teaching."

159. fitted, each with its fitting emblem.

160. fennel ... columbines, presented to the king as emblems of cajolery and ingratitude: there's rue for you, said to the queen.

161. 2. we may ... Sundays, "Ophelia only means, I think, that the queen may with peculiar propriety on Sundays, when she solicits pardon for the crime which she has so much occasion to rue and repent of, call her 'rue' herb of grace "... (Malone).

162. with a difference, according to the writer in the Ed. Rev. already quoted, one of the properties of rue was that of checking immodest thoughts, — a herb therefore appropriate to the queen.

163. a daisy, it does not appear to whom the daisy is given; according to Greene, quoted by Henley, it was a "dissembling" flower, and was used as a warning to young girls not to trust the fair promises of men: violets, emblematical of fidelity.

164. made a good end, died as a good man should die, at peace with all men and trusting to God's mercy; cp. H. V. ii. 3. 13, "A' made a finer end and went away an it had been any christom child."

166. Thought, melancholy; cp A. C. iv. 6. 35. "If swift thought break it not (sc. his heart), a swifter mean Shall outstrike thought; but thought will do 't, I feel": passion, suffering: hell itself, the most terrible thoughts.

167. She turns ... prettiness, she lends a grace and attractiveness by the words in which she clothes them.

172. Go ... deathbed, i.e. you need never hope to see him again however long you may live; corresponding with 1. 177.

175. All flaxen, as white as flax; all, intensive.

177. And we ... moan, and we but waste our moans.

179. And of ... souls, "Many epitaphs closed with such a pious prayer as this" (Cl. Pr. Edd.). For instances of of, used for on, see Abb. §§ 175, 181.

180, 1. I must ... right, you do me the wrong unless you allow me to commune with you in your grief, i.e. unless you tell me what your wishes are in regard to your father's death, and allow me to counsel you in the matter.

181. 2. Go but ... will, do but go aside and choose out from your friends those who are likely to give you the best advice.

184, 5. If by ... touch'd, if their verdict is that I am implicated in this crime directly or indirectly; find, used in the technical sense of the finding of a jury; cp. v. 1. 4.

188. Be you ... us, allow yourself patiently to listen to what I have to say.

189, 90. And we ... content, and you will find that I shall endeavour as earnestly as yourself to give peace to your mind: labour ... soul, labour with you heart and soid.

191. His means of death, the manner of his death.

192. No trophy, in which there was no memorial erected to him; properly a monument to mark the spot at which the enemy turned and fled: hatchment, "not only the sword, but the helmet, gauntlets, spurs, and tabard (i.e. a coat whereon the armorial ensigns were anciently depicted ...) are hung over the grave of every knight" (Sir J. Hawkins).

193. No noble ... ostentation, no such rites as his rank demanded, none of the funeral pomp which he might justly claim.

194. 5. Cry, ... question, call so loudly, as it were with his voice from heaven, that I am bound in all filial love to inquire into the circumstances and find out the meaning of them; cp. J. C. iv. 3. 165, "Now sit we close about this taper here And call in question our necessities."

196. And where ... fall, and let the fullest vengeance fall upon him who deserves it; axe, as the implement used in the execution of criminals.


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. < >.

Textual Notes

The first twenty lines of Act 4, Scene 5 have been subject to much editing. The First Folio (1623) omits the role of the Gentleman completely, and gives his lines to Horatio. In Q2 (the 1604 text based on Shakespeare's own manuscript) Ophelia enters before Gertrude speaks lines 17-20 and in the Folio she enters after. In Q2 line 9 reads "they yawne at it" but in the Folio it changes to "ayme (aim) at it." None of Gertrude's lines are spoken in an aside in either edition (which was added by Edward Capell in the 18th century), and most significantly, in the Folio, Horatio's lines 14-15 -- as found in Q2 -- are spoken by Gertrude. In the Great Performances production of the play starring David Tennant (2009), they follow the Folio by omitting the role of the Gentlemen and giving Horatio's lines to Gertrude. In Kenneth Branagh's version of Hamlet (1996), they divide the Gentleman's opening lines between Horatio and a Gentlewoman, and Horatio speaks lines 14-15. Giving the lines to Gertrude certainly colors her with more cunning than she normally is given credit for. If you were producing the play who would you have speak lines 14-15?


Scene Questions for Review

microsoft images 1. Does the Gentleman's description of Ophelia remind you of Ophelia's description of Hamlet in 2.1?

2. Is the death of Polonius the only reason for Ophelia's insanity, as Claudius believes? To what extent do you think her betrayal of Hamlet weighs on her mind?

3. The fear of Polonius and Laertes has prevented Ophelia from sharing her true feelings throughout the play; however, in her insanity, she speaks freely. Do Ophelia's explicit songs give us a better sense of her relationship with Hamlet? (Please see the note on Goethe below for more on this topic.)

4. Can you elaborate on the sorrows Claudius lists in lines 61-78? Is there any sincerity in Claudius' speech?

5. Why is Claudius' admission that they have not buried Polonius properly important later in the scene? (See lines 66-67 and lines 191-195.)

6. Much has been written on Laertes and his role as a foil to Hamlet. Hamlet is a cautious and noble philosopher, at home in the library of Wittenberg; Laertes is an impulsive and worldly fighter, at home on the streets of Paris. However, Laertes is often credited with being Hamlet's superior in his instant and decisive reaction to his father's death, even though the circumstances of Polonius' death were entirely different from those of Hamlet's father. Which lines provide the most striking contrast between Laertes' feverish resolve and Hamlet's inaction?

7. If you were producing the play, how would you stage Ophelia giving out her imaginary flowers? For more on this topic please see Ophelia's End - A Document in Madness.

8. Can you explain the dramatic irony in Claudius' line, "And where the offence is, let the great axe fall" (line 197)?


More to Explore

 Hamlet: The Complete Play with Explanatory Notes
 Analysis of Uncle Claudius
 Claudius and the Condition of Denmark

 Gertrude's Account of Ophelia's Death
 Ophelia's Burial and Christian Rituals
 The Baker's Daughter: Ophelia's Nursery Rhymes
 Hamlet as National Hero

 Analysis of the Characters in Hamlet
 Introduction to Hamlet
 The Hamlet and Ophelia Subplot
 The Norway (Fortinbras) Subplot
 Deception in Hamlet


Points to Ponder ... "Should not the poet have furnished Ophelia, the insane maiden, with another sort of songs? Could not one select out of melancholy ballads? What have double meanings and lascivious insipidities to do in the mouth of this noble maiden? In these singularities, in this apparent impropriety, there lies a deep sense. Do we not know from the very first what the mind of the good child was busy with? Silently she lived within herself, scarcely concealing, however, her longing, her wishes. Secretly the tones of desire were ringing in her soul, and how often may she have endeavored, like an unwise nurse, to sing her senses to sleep with songs which only kept them more wide awake? At last, when all command of herself is taken from her, when her heart hovers upon her tongue, her tongue turns traitress, and in the innocence of insanity she solaces herself, before king and queen, with the echo of beloved, loose songs." (Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Quoted in Hamlet Ed. Horace Howard Furness. p. 274)


 Hamlet: Problem Play and Revenge Tragedy
 Plot Summary of Hamlet
 The Elder Hamlet: The Kingship of Hamlet's Father
 Hamlet's Relationship with the Ghost

 O Jephthah - Toying with Polonius
 The Death of Polonius and its Impact on Hamlet's Character
 Blank Verse and Diction in Shakespeare's Hamlet

 Philological Examination Questions on Hamlet
 Quotations from Hamlet (with commentary)
 Hamlet Study Quiz (with detailed answers)
 Analysis of I am sick at heart (1.1)
 Hamlet: Q & A


Did You Know? ... Patrick Stewart played the role of King Claudius in the 1980 BBC production of the play, as part of the famed BBC Shakespeare series for television. He then reprised the role in the film adaptation for PBS Great Performances. You can find his soliloquy (3.3) for the BBC production here (found at 3:34:22) and for Great Performances here (found at 7:33).


 Soliloquy Analysis: O this too too... (1.2)
 Soliloquy Analysis: O, what a rogue and peasant slave am I!... (2.2)
 Soliloquy Analysis: To be, or not to be... (3.1)
 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)

 Claudius and the Dumb-Show: Why Does he Stay?
 Claudius and the Mousetrap
 In Secret Conference: The Meeting Between Claudius and Laertes
 Defending Claudius - The Charges Against the King

 Hamlet's Silence
 An Excuse for Doing Nothing: Hamlet's Delay
 Foul Deeds Will Rise: Hamlet and Divine Justice
 Shakespeare's Fools: The Grave-Diggers in Hamlet

 Hamlet's Humor: The Wit of Shakespeare's Prince of Denmark
 All About Yorick
 Hamlet's Melancholy: The Transformation of the Prince
 Hamlet's Antic Disposition: Is Hamlet's Madness Real?

 The Significance of Ophelia's Flowers
 Ophelia and Laertes
 Mistrusted Love: Ophelia and Polonius
 The Significance of the Ghost in Armor
 Shakespeare's View of the Child Actors Through Hamlet

 Divine Providence in Hamlet
 What is Tragic Irony?
 Seneca's Tragedies and the Elizabethan Drama
 Shakespeare's Sources for Hamlet

 Characteristics of Elizabethan Tragedy
 Why Shakespeare is so Important
 Shakespeare's Language
 Shakespeare's Influence on Other Writers