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ACT V SCENE I A churchyard. 
 Enter two Clowns, with spades, &c. 
First Clown Is she to be buried in Christian burial that 
 wilfully seeks her own salvation? 
Second Clown I tell thee she is: and therefore make her grave 
 straight: the crowner hath sat on her, and finds it
 Christian burial. 
First Clown How can that be, unless she drowned herself in her 
 own defence? 
Second Clown Why, 'tis found so. 
First Clown It must be 'se offendendo;' it cannot be else. For
 here lies the point: if I drown myself wittingly, 
 it argues an act: and an act hath three branches: it 
 is, to act, to do, to perform: argal, she drowned 
 herself wittingly. 
Second Clown Nay, but hear you, goodman delver,--
First Clown Give me leave. Here lies the water; good: here 
 stands the man; good; if the man go to this water, 
 and drown himself, it is, will he, nill he, he 
 goes,--mark you that; but if the water come to him 
 and drown him, he drowns not himself: argal, he
 that is not guilty of his own death shortens not his own life. 
Second Clown But is this law? 20 
First Clown Ay, marry, is't; crowner's quest law. 
Second Clown Will you ha' the truth on't? If this had not been 
 a gentlewoman, she should have been buried out o'
 Christian burial. 
First Clown Why, there thou say'st: and the more pity that 
 great folk should have countenance in this world to 
 drown or hang themselves, more than their even 
 Christian. Come, my spade. There is no ancient
 gentleman but gardeners, ditchers, and grave-makers: 
 they hold up Adam's profession. 
Second Clown Was he a gentleman? 30 
First Clown He was the first that ever bore arms. 
Second Clown Why, he had none.
First Clown What, art a heathen? How dost thou understand the 
 Scripture? The Scripture says 'Adam digged:' 
 could he dig without arms? I'll put another

 question to thee: if thou answerest me not to the 
 purpose, confess thyself--
Second Clown Go to. 
First Clown What is he that builds stronger than either the 
 mason, the shipwright, or the carpenter? 
Second Clown The gallows-maker; for that frame outlives a 40 
 thousand tenants.
First Clown I like thy wit well, in good faith: the gallows 
 does well; but how does it well? it does well to 
 those that do in: now thou dost ill to say the 
 gallows is built stronger than the church: argal, 
 the gallows may do well to thee. To't again, come.
Second Clown 'Who builds stronger than a mason, a shipwright, or 
 a carpenter?' 
First Clown Ay, tell me that, and unyoke. 
Second Clown Marry, now I can tell. 50 
First Clown To't.
Second Clown Mass, I cannot tell. 
 Enter HAMLET and HORATIO, at a distance. 
First Clown Cudgel thy brains no more about it, for your dull 
 ass will not mend his pace with beating; and, when 
 you are asked this question next, say 'a 
 grave-maker: 'the houses that he makes last till
 doomsday. Go, get thee to Yaughan: fetch me a 
 stoup of liquor. 
 Exit Second Clown 
 He digs and sings 
 In youth, when I did love, did love, 
 Methought it was very sweet, 
 To contract, O, the time, for, ah, my behove,
 O, methought, there was nothing meet.  61 
HAMLET Has this fellow no feeling of his business, that he 
 sings at grave-making? 
HORATIO Custom hath made it in him a property of easiness. 
HAMLET 'Tis e'en so: the hand of little employment hath
 the daintier sense. 
First Clown Sings. 
 But age, with his stealing steps, 
 Hath claw'd me in his clutch, 
 And hath shipped me intil the land, 69 
 As if I had never been such.
 Throws up a skull. 
HAMLET That skull had a tongue in it, and could sing once: 
 how the knave jowls it to the ground, as if it were 
 Cain's jaw-bone, that did the first murder! It 
 might be the pate of a politician, which this ass 
 now o'er-reaches; one that would circumvent God,
 might it not? 
HORATIO It might, my lord. 
HAMLET Or of a courtier; which could say 'Good morrow, 
 sweet lord! How dost thou, good lord?' This might 
 be my lord such-a-one, that praised my lord
 such-a-one's horse, when he meant to beg it; might it not? 80 
HORATIO Ay, my lord. 
HAMLET Why, e'en so: and now my Lady Worm's; chapless, and 
 knocked about the mazzard with a sexton's spade: 
 here's fine revolution, an we had the trick to
 see't. Did these bones cost no more the breeding, 
 but to play at loggats with 'em? mine ache to think on't. 
First Clown: [Sings.A pick-axe, and a spade, a spade, 
 For and a shrouding sheet: 
 O, a pit of clay for to be made
 For such a guest is meet. 90 
 Throws up another skull. 
HAMLET There's another: why may not that be the skull of a 
 lawyer? Where be his quiddities now, his quillets, 
 his cases, his tenures, and his tricks? why does he 
 suffer this rude knave now to knock him about the
 sconce with a dirty shovel, and will not tell him of 
 his action of battery? Hum! This fellow might be 
 in's time a great buyer of land, with his statutes, 
 his recognizances, his fines, his double vouchers, 
 his recoveries: is this the fine of his fines, and
 the recovery of his recoveries, to have his fine 
 pate full of fine dirt? will his vouchers vouch him 
 no more of his purchases, and double ones too, than 
 the length and breadth of a pair of indentures? The 
 very conveyances of his lands will hardly lie in
 this box; and must the inheritor himself have no more, ha? 
HORATIO Not a jot more, my lord. 
HAMLET Is not parchment made of sheepskins? 
HORATIO Ay, my lord, and of calf-skins too. 
HAMLET They are sheep and calves which seek out assurance
 in that. I will speak to this fellow. Whose 
 grave's this, sirrah? 
First Clown Mine, sir. 115 
 O, a pit of clay for to be made 
 For such a guest is meet.
HAMLET I think it be thine, indeed; for thou liest in't. 
First Clown You lie out on't, sir, and therefore it is not 
 yours: for my part, I do not lie in't, and yet it is mine. 
HAMLET 'Thou dost lie in't, to be in't and say it is thine: 
 'tis for the dead, not for the quick; therefore thou liest.
First Clown 'Tis a quick lie, sir; 'twill away gain, from me to 
HAMLET What man dost thou dig it for? 120 
First Clown For no man, sir. 
HAMLET What woman, then?
First Clown For none, neither. 
HAMLET Who is to be buried in't? 
First Clown One that was a woman, sir; but, rest her soul, she's dead. 
HAMLET How absolute the knave is! we must speak by the 
 card, or equivocation will undo us. By the Lord,
 Horatio, these three years I have taken a note of 
 it; the age is grown so picked that the toe of the 
 peasant comes so near the heel of the courtier, he 
 gaffs his kibe. How long hast thou been a 
First Clown Of all the days i' the year, I came to't that day 
 that our last king Hamlet overcame Fortinbras. 
HAMLET How long is that since? 
First Clown Cannot you tell that? every fool can tell that: it 
 was the very day that young Hamlet was born; he that
 is mad, and sent into England. 
HAMLET Ay, marry, why was he sent into England? 
First Clown Why, because he was mad: he shall recover his wits 
 there; or, if he do not, it's no great matter there. 141 
First Clown 'Twill, a not be seen in him there; there the men 
 are as mad as he. 
HAMLET How came he mad? 
First Clown Very strangely, they say. 
HAMLET How strangely?
First Clown Faith, e'en with losing his wits. 
HAMLET Upon what ground? 
First Clown Why, here in Denmark: I have been sexton here, man 
 and boy, thirty years. 151 
HAMLET How long will a man lie i' the earth ere he rot?
First Clown I' faith, if he be not rotten before he die--as we 
 have many pocky corses now-a-days, that will scarce 
 hold the laying in--he will last you some eight year 
 or nine year: a tanner will last you nine year. 
HAMLET Why he more than another?
First Clown Why, sir, his hide is so tanned with his trade, that 
 he will keep out water a great while; and your water 
 is a sore decayer of your whoreson dead body. 
 Here's a skull now; this skull has lain in the earth 
 three and twenty years.
HAMLET Whose was it? 162 
First Clown A whoreson mad fellow's it was: whose do you think it was? 
HAMLET Nay, I know not. 
First Clown A pestilence on him for a mad rogue! a' poured a 
 flagon of Rhenish on my head once. This same skull,
 sir, was Yorick's skull, the king's jester. 
First Clown E'en that. 170 
HAMLET Let me see. 
 Takes the skull. 
 Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio: a fellow
 of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy: he hath 
 borne me on his back a thousand times; and now, how 
 abhorred in my imagination it is! my gorge rises at 
 it. Here hung those lips that I have kissed I know 
 not how oft. Where be your gibes now? your
 gambols? your songs? your flashes of merriment, 
 that were wont to set the table on a roar? Not one 
 now, to mock your own grinning? quite chap-fallen. 
 Now get you to my lady's chamber, and tell her, let 
 her paint an inch thick, to this favour she must
 come; make her laugh at that. Prithee, Horatio, tell 
 me one thing. 
HORATIO What's that, my lord? 
HAMLET Dost thou think Alexander looked o' this fashion i' 
 the earth?
HORATIO E'en so. 
HAMLET And smelt so? pah! 
 Puts down the skull. 
HORATIO E'en so, my lord. 
HAMLET To what base uses we may return, Horatio! Why may 
 not imagination trace the noble dust of Alexander,
 till he find it stopping a bung-hole? 191 
HORATIO 'Twere to consider too curiously, to consider so. 
HAMLET No, faith, not a jot; but to follow him thither with 
 modesty enough, and likelihood to lead it: as 
 thus: Alexander died, Alexander was buried,
 Alexander returneth into dust; the dust is earth; of 
 earth we make loam; and why of that loam, whereto he 
 was converted, might they not stop a beer-barrel? 
 Imperious Caesar, dead and turn'd to clay, 
 Might stop a hole to keep the wind away.
 O, that that earth, which kept the world in awe, 
 Should patch a wall to expel the winter flaw! 
 But soft! but soft! aside: here comes the king. 
 Enter Priest, the Corpse of OPHELIA, LAERTES and Mourners following; KING CLAUDIUS, QUEEN GERTRUDE, their trains, &c. 
 The queen, the courtiers: who is this they follow? 
 And with such maimed rites? This doth betoken
 The corse they follow did with desperate hand 
 Fordo its own life: 'twas of some estate. 
 Couch we awhile, and mark. 
 Retiring with HORATIO. 
LAERTES What ceremony else? 
HAMLET That is Laertes,
 A very noble youth: mark. 210 
LAERTES What ceremony else? 
First Priest Her obsequies have been as far enlarged 
 As we have warranty: her death was doubtful; 
 And, but that great command o'ersways the order,
 She should in ground unsanctified have lodg'd 
 Till the last trumpet: for charitable prayers, 
 Shards, flints and pebbles should be thrown on her; 
 Yet here she is allow'd her virgin crants, 
 Her maiden strewments and the bringing home
 Of bell and burial. 220 
LAERTES Must there no more be done? 
First Priest No more be done! 
 We should profane the service of the dead 
 To sing a requiem and such rest to her
 As to peace-parted souls. 
LAERTES Lay her i' the earth: 
 And from her fair and unpolluted flesh 
 May violets spring! I tell thee, churlish priest, 
 A ministering angel shall my sister be,
 When thou liest howling. 
HAMLET What, the fair Ophelia! 
QUEEN GERTRUDE Sweets to the sweet: farewell! 
 Scattering flowers. 
 I hoped thou shouldst have been my Hamlet's wife; 230 
 I thought thy bride-bed to have deck'd, sweet maid,
 And not have strew'd thy grave. 
LAERTES O, treble woe 
 Fall ten times treble on that cursed head, 
 Whose wicked deed thy most ingenious sense 
 Deprived thee of! Hold off the earth awhile,
 Till I have caught her once more in mine arms: 
 Leaps into the grave. 
 Now pile your dust upon the quick and dead, 
 Till of this flat a mountain you have made, 
 To o'ertop old Pelion, or the skyish head 
 Of blue Olympus.
HAMLET Advancing. What is he whose grief 
 Bears such an emphasis? whose phrase of sorrow 
 Conjures the wandering stars, and makes them stand 
 Like wonder-wounded hearers? This is I, 
 Hamlet the Dane. 
 Leaps into the grave. 
LAERTES The devil take thy soul!
 Grappling with him. 
HAMLET Thou pray'st not well. 
 I prithee, take thy fingers from my throat; 
 For, though I am not splenitive and rash, 
 Yet have I something in me dangerous, 
 Which let thy wiseness fear: hold off thy hand.
KING CLAUDIUS Pluck them asunder. 
QUEEN GERTRUDE Hamlet, Hamlet! 250 
All Gentlemen,-- 
HORATIO Good my lord, be quiet. 
 The Attendants part them, and they come out of the grave. 
HAMLET Why I will fight with him upon this theme
 Until my eyelids will no longer wag. 
QUEEN GERTRUDE O my son, what theme? 
HAMLET I loved Ophelia: forty thousand brothers 
 Could not, with all their quantity of love, 
 Make up my sum. What wilt thou do for her?
KING CLAUDIUS O, he is mad, Laertes. 
QUEEN GERTRUDE For love of God, forbear him. 
HAMLET 'Swounds, show me what thou'lt do: 260 
 Woo't weep? woo't fight? woo't fast? woo't tear thyself? 
 Woo't drink up eisel? eat a crocodile?
 I'll do't. Dost thou come here to whine? 
 To outface me with leaping in her grave? 
 Be buried quick with her, and so will I: 
 And, if thou prate of mountains, let them throw 
 Millions of acres on us, till our ground,
 Singeing his pate against the burning zone, 
 Make Ossa like a wart! Nay, an thou'lt mouth, 
 I'll rant as well as thou. 
QUEEN GERTRUDE This is mere madness: 270 
 And thus awhile the fit will work on him;
 Anon, as patient as the female dove, 
 When that her golden couplets are disclosed, 
 His silence will sit drooping. 
HAMLET Hear you, sir; 
 What is the reason that you use me thus?
 I loved you ever: but it is no matter; 
 Let Hercules himself do what he may, 
 The cat will mew and dog will have his day. 
KING CLAUDIUS I pray you, good Horatio, wait upon him. 
 Strengthen your patience in our last night's speech;
 We'll put the matter to the present push. 
 Good Gertrude, set some watch over your son. 
 This grave shall have a living monument: 
 An hour of quiet shortly shall we see; 
 Till then, in patience our proceeding be.

Next: Hamlet, Act 5, Scene 2


Explanatory Notes for Act 5, Scene 1

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


2. salvation, the clown's blunder for damnation, as in M. A. iii. 3. 3.

4, 5. straight, forthwith, without delay: crowner, coroner, literally merely an officer of the crown, but used specially of one appointed to hold inquests into the cause of death. Skeat says that crowner, which has been generally regarded as a corruption of 'coroner,' is a correct form, 'coroner' being from the base coron - of the M.E. verb coronen, to crown, with the suffix -er, and thus = crown-er; finds ... burial, decides that Christian burial may be granted, she not having committed the felony of suicide; finds, the technical term for the decision of the coroner; cp. A. Y. L. iv. 1. 101, "the foolish coroners of that age found it was 'Hero of Sestos.'"

9. 'se offendendo,' another blunder of the Clown's for se defendendo, in self defence, "a finding of the jury in justifiable homicide" (Caldecott).

11. three branches, "ridicule on scholastic divisions without distinction and of distinctions without diiference" (Warburton).

12. argal, a corruption of Lat. ergo, therefore.

13. goodman, a familiar appellation, frequent in Shakespeare, = old fellow; delver, digger, i.e.. grave-digger.

14. Give me leave, allow me to interrupt you.

16. will he, nill he, he goes whether his intention is to do so or not; nill, = ne will, not will; frequent in old English.

21. quest, inquest. This is supposed to be an allusion to an inquest in a case of forfeiture of a lease to the crown in consequence of the suicide by drowning of Sir John Hales, a case which Shakespeare may have heard talked about.

22. Will ... on't, do you wish to know the whole truth of the matter? If so, I will tell you that, etc.

23, 4. out ... burial, i.e. as suicides are buried, sc. in the cross roads with a stake driven through the heart; cp. M. N. D. iii. 2. 383, "damned spirits all, That in crossways and floods have burial."

25. there thou say'st, there you tell the truth, speak to the purpose.

26. should have ... to, should be countenanced in drowning, etc., by being allowed Christian burial.

27. even Christian, fellow Christian: Come, my spade, come, let me take my spade, and get to my work.

28. 9. There is ... profession, there are no gentlemen that can claim anything like old descent except gardeners, etc., and they alone still keep up the profession of the first of all ancestors, Adam.

30. a gentleman, one entitled to the term 'gentle,' as opposed to 'simple.'

31. bore arms, used a double sense, (1) carrying arms - in Adam's case a spade, and (2) having a coat of arms, a symbol of gentle birth.

36. arms, again in a double sense, (1) the arms of the body, (2) implements.

36. to the purpose, in a rational way; confess thyself — an ass, he was going to add.

37. Go to, pooh.

38. What is he, what kind of person is he.

41. tenants, occupants; as though a man when hanged took a lease of the gallows.

42, 3. the gallows does well, the gallows, as you well say, do well, though not in the way you say, that of lasting a long time. Dogberry-like, he patronizingly commends his comrade's good sense in citing the gallows as doing well, but with his superior wisdom points out in what their doing well consists.

43, 4. it does ... ill, sc. by putting them out of the way.

46. To't again, come, make another effort to answer my question.

40. Ay, ... unyoke, yes, answer that, and you may then give over your work; metaphorically unharness the oxen with which he is ploughing.

51 To't, go at it, let me hear you answer.

52. Mass, i.e. by the mass; see note on ii. 1. 50.

53, 4. your dull ass, a dull ass like you; for this colloquial use of your, see Abb. § 220.

56. Yaughan, probalbly the best explanation of this word, about which there have been so many conjectures, is that suggested by Nicholson, that it was the name of an ale-house keeper in the neighbourhood of the Globe Theatre.

57. stoup, flagon; A.S. steap, a cup.

58-61. In youth ... meet, the Clown's version of part of a ballad in Tottel's Miscellany, Arber's Reprints, p. 173.

60. To contract ... behove, these words probably have no meaning; the original runs "I lothe that I did love, In youth that I thought swete; As time requires for my behove Methinkes they are not mete." Jennens points out that the oh! and the ah! form no part of the song, but are "only the breath forced out by the strokes of the mattock. "

61. meet, fitting, suitable.

62. feeling of his business, no sense of the sadness of the task on which he is engaged.

64. Custom ... easiness, from long habit, his occupation, as being his own (proper to him) has lost all unpleasant association; has made him callous to the fact of its being of a sad nature.

65, 6. the hand ... sense, the hand which is least employed (i.e. in any rough work) is always the most delicately sensitive.

69. shipped, carted, as we might say: intil, into; to and til (till) are equivalent in sense. The original runs, "For age with steyling steppes, Hath clawed me with his cowche, And lusty life away she leapes, As there had bene none such."

70. such, as I am; the words being made doubly ludicrous by his throwing up a skull as he utters them.

72. jowls, dashes; jowl, substantive, is the jaw, and here the idea is of the skull crashing against the ground as the jaws crash together if suddenly closed, more especially by a blow; cp. A. W. i. 3. 59, "they may jowl horns together, like any deer i' the herd."

74. politician, plotter, schemer; cp. T. N. iii. 2. 34, "I had as lief be a Brownist as a politician"; but as the Cl. Pr. Edd. remark, the word is always used by Shakespeare in a bad sense: over-reaches, used in a double sense of overtaking, getting hold of, with his spade, and of getting the better of by cunning.

79. lord Such-a-one, some lord or other whose name is not specified; Steevens compares Tim. i. 2. 216-8, "you gave Good words the other day of a bay courser I rode on: it is yours, because you liked it."

82. my lady Worm's, i.e. the property, perquisite of, etc.: chapless, with its jaws no longer adhering to the rest of the skull.

83. mazzard, a burlesque word for the head; supposed to be derived from mazer, or maser, a bowl.

84. revolution, used in a double sense of change, and of being rolled about: and ... see't, supposing we had the knack to understand it; for and, see Abb. § 93.

85. cost ... breeding, gave no more trouble to breed; for the, preceding a verbal, see Abb. § 93.

85, 6. but to ... 'em, than that they should be used for playing at loggats; the Cl. Pr. Edd., abridging a description of the game sent them by the Revd. G. Gould, say that the game resembled bowls, but with notable differences. First, it is played not on a green, but on a floor strewed with ashes. The Jack is a wheel made of some hard wood, the loggat, of which each player has three, is a truncated cone, held lightly at the thin end, and the object, as at bowls, is to pitch them so as to lie as nearly as possible to the Jack.

88. For and, Byce points out that these words answer to And eke in the original version.

89. for to, see note on iii. 1. 167.

92. quiddities, "Mid. Lat. quiditas, the whatness or distinctive nature of a thing, brought into a by-word by the nice distinction of the schools" (Wedgwood, Dict.): quillets, frivolous distinctions; probably from Lat. quidlibet, what do you choose?

93. tricks, legal chicaneries.

94. sconce, properly a small fort, in which sense it is used in H. V. iii, 6. 76; in C. E. ii. 2. 37, for a helmet; and i. 2. 75, for a head, as here.

95. of his action of battery, of the action for battery (assault) which, if he chose, he might bring against him.

97. 8. his statutes ... recoveries, "A recovery with a double voucher is the one usually suffered, and is so denominated from two persons (the latter of whom is always the common crier, or some such inferior person) being successively vouched, or called upon, to warrant the tenant's title. Both 'fines' and 'recoveries' are fictions of law, used to convert an estate tail into a fee simple. 'Statutes' are (not acts of parliament, but) statutesmerchant and staple, particular modes of recognizance or acknowledgment for securing debts, which thereby become a charge upon the party's land. 'Statutes' and 'recognizances' are constantly mentioned together in the covenants of a purchase deed" (Ritson).

98. fine of his fines, the end of all his legal practice; all that comes of his long practising as a lawyer.

98, 9. the recovery of his recoveries, all that he recovers, gets in return for the recoveries in which, when alive, he was engaged: fine dirt, Rushton (Shakespeare as a Lawyer, p. 10) explains fine here, as in 1. 98, in the sense of last. "His fine pate is filled, not with fine dirt, but with the last dirt which will ever occupy it, leaving a satirical inference to be drawn, that even in his life-time his head was filled with dirt"; but if this be the primary sense, there must also be play upon the word in its ordinary sense.

100. vouch ... purchases, give him no better title to his purchases, even though those vouchers were double ones.

101. than the ... indentures, than the mere parchment on which indentures are written. "Indentures were agreements made out in duplicate, of which each party kept one. Both were written on the same sheet, which was cut in two in a crooked or indented line (whence the name), in order that the fitting of the two parts might prove the genuineness of both in case of dispute" (Cl. Pr. Edd.). Cp. The Knight of the Burning Pestle, iv. 2. 18,9, "prentice to a grocer in the Strand By deed indent, of which I have one part"; this part was called the 'counterpane.'

102. The very ... lands, the very title-deed by which his lands were conveyed (in a legal sense), transferred: box, coffin, with a reference to the boxes in which lawyers keep deeds, etc.

103. inheritor, possessor, owner; cp. L. L. L. ii. 1. 5, "To parley with the sole inheritor of all perfections"; R. III. iv. 3. 34, "Meantime, but think how I may do thee good, And be inheritor of thy desire. "

103. and of ... too, accurately speaking, it is vellum that is made of calf skins, parchment of sheep or goat skins.

107, 8. They are ... that, those who trust to parchment are but dolts; "an 'assurance' is the legal evidence of the transfer of property" (Heard, Shakespeare as a Lawyer).

109. sirrah, sir; a term used more generally to inferiors, or with disrespect or unbecoming familiarity to superiors; occasionally applied to women.

113. liest, with a play upon the word in its two senses.

114. on 't, of it.

117. the quick, the living.

123. For none, neither, for neither the one nor the other, either.

127. absolute, precise, punctilious about accuracy.

127, 8. by the card, with precision; according to some the reference is to the mariners' chart; according to others to the card on which the points of the compass were marked; according to others again to the card and calendar of etiquette, or book of manners, of which, says Staunton, several were published in Shakespeare's time.

129. these three years, i.e. for a considerable time past.

130. picked, smart, spruce; cp. K. J. i. 1. 193, "My picked man of countries."

131. kibe, chilblain; a sore on the hands or feet due to great cold.

133. Of all ... year, if you wish me to be precise as to the exact day, why, etc. The Cl. Pr. Edd. quote R. J. i. 3. 16, "Even or odd, of all the days in the year, Come Lammas-eve at night shall she be fourteen," where the speaker is an illiterate old nurse with the same passion for being precise.

141. it's ... there, it does not much matter.

143, 4. there ... he, here again Marston, The Malcontent, iii. I. 400, 1, seems to have followed Shakespeare, "Your lordship shall ever find ... amongst an hundred Englishmen, four-score and ten madmen."

149. Upon what ground? owing to what cause? The clown in the next line takes ground in its literal sense.

154. pocky corses, bodies of those who have died of the smallpox.

154, 5. will scarce ... in, will scarcely keep from decomposition till the funeral: you, thc colloquial dative.

166. A pestilence ... rogue! curses on him, as such a mad rogue deserves!

167. Rhenish, Rhine wine.

168. Yorick, said to be the German and Danish Georg, Jorg, our George, the English y representing the foreign j, and having the same sound.

172. a fellow ... jest, a fellow of inexhaustible wit.

174. it, "used in reference to the idea of having been borne on the back of him whose skeleton remains are thus suddenly presented to the speaker's gaze, the idea of having caressed and been fondled by one whose mouldering fleshless skull is now held in the speaker's hand" (Clarke).

175. my gorge rises at it, I feel sick at the very idea; the gorge is the throat, and the 'rising' is that feeling in the throat which accompanies the inclination to vomit.

178. on a roar, we should now say 'in a roar.'

179. quite chap-fallen, utterly downcast, without so much as a smile on your face: my lady's, not a particular lady, but any one to whom the title was applicable.

180. let her paint, even if she should lay on the paint.

181. favour, appearance; used especially of the features.

185. i' the earth, when buried.

189. return, sc. in returning to the dust of which we are made.

192. 'Twere ... so, to follow out the idea would be but idle speculation, a mere waste of ingenuity.

193, 4. with modesty, without any exaggeration.

196. loam, a mixture of clay and sand.

199. Imperious, imperial; though Shakespeare frequently uses Imperious, for imperial, he rarely, if ever, uses 'imperial' for imperious, in its modern sense of dictatorial.

202. flaw, sudden gust of wind.

203. aside, let us stand aside.

205. such maimed rites, such incomplete rites.

207. Fordo, destroy; cp. ii. 1. 103: for it = its, see note on i. 2. 216: estate, rank, position.

208. Couch we, let us lie close so as not to be seen; cp. A. W. iv. 1. 24, "But couch, ho! here he comes."

209. What ceremony else? what further ceremonies have to be performed? i.e. surely this does not complete the usual rites.

212, 3. Her obsequies ... warranty, we have gone as far in the matter of ritual observance as we have authority for doing: her death, the manner of her death.

214. but that ... order, if it were not that the king's command, which we dure not disobey, over-rules us as regards the proceedings usual in such a case.

216. for, in the place of.

217. Shards, potsherds, pieces of broken crockery.

218. crants, a coronet, or tire for the head; worn by maidens till they were married; a singular noun, from Ger. krantz. A writer in the Ed. Rer. for July, 1869, has shown by extracts from Weber's introduction to the ballad of Child Axe Wold, that "the burial of a northern maiden is still appropriately marked, as in the case of Ophelia, by the presence of her virgin crants, and maiden strewments."

219. Her maiden strewments, the strewing of flowers upon the bier, such as was common at the funeral of a maid or wife, or on her grave after burial; cp. H. VIII. iv. 2. 168-70, 'strew me over With maiden flowers, that all the world may know I was a chaste wife to my grave": and Cymb. iv. 2. 218-20.

219, 20. and the ... burial, "In these words, reference is still made to the marriage rites, which in the case of maidens are sadly parodied in the funeral rites. See R. J. iv. 5. 85-90. As the bride was brought home to her husband's house with bell and wedding festivity, so the dead maiden is brought to her last home with 'bell and burial'" (Cl. Pr. Edd.).

221. Must ... done? is it forbidden to perform any further rites? In modern English the words would mean 'is it not necessary to,' etc.: No more be done! I have followed Staunton and Knight in putting a note of admiration after done, instead of a semi-colon. The priest seems to be indignantly repeating Laertes' words, with a special emphasis on more, not to be confirming them.

223. To sing, by singing; if we were to sing; the indefinite infinitive: requiem, a mass for the repose of the dead, so called from beginning with the words Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine, grant eternal peace to them, O Lord; cp. dirge i. 2. 12.

224. peace-parted souls, souls which have departed the body in peace.

226. May violets spring! cp. Tennyson, In Memoriam, xviii. 3, 4, "And from his ashes may be made The violet of his native land": churlish, in refusing her the full rites of burial.

228. howling, i.e. in the torments of hell.

230. I hoped ... been ... "in the Elizabethan, as in early English authors, after verbs of hoping, intending, or verbs signifying that something ought to have been done, but was not, the complete present infinitive is used" (Abb. § 360).

231. thought, fondly expected: deck'd, sc. with flowers.

232. t' have, this is the reading of the folios; the quartos omit the sign of the infinitive.

234. thy most ingenious sense, thy sense, that most cunningly-devised creation of God: most shows, I think, that ingenious here is to be compared rather with its literal sense in Cymb, iv. 2. 186. "My ingenious instrument!" i.e. of curious construction, said of his harp rather than with Lear, iv. 6, 287, "how stiff is my vile sense That I stand up and have ingenious feeling Of my huge sorrows."

235. Hold awhile, do not yet fill up the grave.

238. this flat, this level surface.

239. Pelion, a lofty range of mountains in Thessaly. In their war with the gods, the giants are said to have attempted to heap Ossa and Olympus on Pelion, or Pelion and Ossa on Olympus, in order to scale heaven: skyish, reaching ahnost to the sky, Olympus being the loftiest of the mountains in Greece.

240. What is he? what manner of man is he?

241. Bears such an emphasis, so mighty a stress laid upon it.

241. 2. whose phrase ... stand, whose utterance of sorrow has such magic power over the planets as to arrest their motion; an allusion to the charms of witches who were supposed by them to be able to arrest the course of the moon and stars.

243. wonder-wounded, paralysed by wonder.

247. splenitive, given to sudden anger; the spleen was of old supposed to be the seat of anger, hatred, malice.

249. Which ... fear, which it will be prudent in you to fear.

252. theme, subject.

253. wag, "the word had not the grotesque signification which it now has, and might be used without incongruity in the most serious passages" ... (Cl. Pr. Edd.).

255. forty thousand, used for an indefinite number.

256, 7, Could not ... sum, could not, however great their love, vie with me in loving her.

259. forbear him, do not attempt to touch him, for fear of the consequences.

260. 'Swounds, see note on ii. 2. 549: do, emphatic; by what acts are you prepared to show that love which you have professed in such boastful words?

261. Woo 't, according to Singer, a common contraction in the northern counties for wouldst thou; used, says Halliwell, in the western counties for will thee.

262. eisel, the two most probable of the many explanations given of this word are (1) vinegar, (2) the name of some river; eisel, or eysell, for vinegar, occurs in Sonn. cxi. 10, and was a word of no unconnnon occurrence in Elizabethan literature; if it be Shakespeare's word here, drink up will mean 'greedily quaff.' The advocates of the name of a river cite the Yssel in Flanders, the Oesil in Denmark, and the Weisel or Vistula, or consider it identical with Ousel, the diminutive of Ouse, a common name of rivers in England, and signifying a river or water: eat a crocodile, the advocates for the name of a river claim that their view is supported by this expression, which looks as if Hamlet were challenging Laertes to impossible feats.

264. To outface me, to outdare me; to put me to shame by the extravagant professions of your love.

266. prate, rant.

268. pate, used in a ridiculous sense.

269. Ossa, see note on 1. 239: like a wart, no bigger than a wart: mouth, talk big.

271. awhile ... him, for a time his fit of madness will exercise its power over him.

273. golden couplets, the dove generally sits upon two eggs, and the young birds when hatched are covered with a yellow down: disclosed, by the breaking of the eggs; see note on iii. 1 . 166.

274. His ... drooping, he will hang down his head in abashed silence.

277, 8. Let ... day, i.e. nature will take her own course whatever mighty obstacles we may put in its way; it is no use my cavilling at this behaviour of Laertes; 'a dog hath his day' was a proverbial phrase meaning that every dog will at one time or another have its good time.

279. wait upon him, attend him to see that he does himself no injury.

280. Strengthen ... speech, let what we talked about last night encourage you to be patient awhile; in, in the thought of; see Abb. § 162.

281. We'll put ... push, we will without delay give the matter a decisive impulse, one that will bring things to a definite issue.

283. This ... monument, i.e. Hamlet's life offered up by Laertes to his sister's memory shall be a more lasting monument in men's minds than any material one that could be built.

285. in patience ... be, let us act with patience and control.


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. < >.

Brooke, Stopford Augustus. Ten More Plays of Shakespeare. New York: H. Holt and company, 1913.
Marshall, Frank A. A Study of Hamlet. London: Longmans, 1875.
White, Richard Grant. Studies in Shakespeare. Boston : Houghton-Mifflin, 1887.

Scene Questions for Review

microsoft images 1. The dramatic significance of the Clowns (or Grave-diggers) is three-fold:

(a) to provide comic relief. The humor springs from the fact that the Clowns are unaware of their own errors. The First Clown, clearly the smarter of the two, tries his best to argue his point in all earnest, oblivious to the ridiculous mistakes he is making. Can you find specific examples of his blunders? Shakespeare enjoyed utilizing this type of comic relief and the character of Dogberry in Much Ado About Nothing is one of his greatest comic creations. How many similarities can you find between Dogberry and the First Clown?

(b) to address public opinion regarding Ophelia's death and Hamlet's madness. The Clowns express the sentiment of the common people that Ophelia has committed suicide, although the audience has only Gertrude's poetic account of the drowning, which she says was accidental. Later in this scene we see that the Priest also doubts Ophelia's death was an accident (line 213). Do you believe Gertrude was lying? Moreover, through the First Clown's conversation with Hamlet (whom the Clown does not recognize) we learn that the common people believe Hamlet has gone mad and has been sent to England to "recover his wits there" (line 140). The fact that all of Denmark is unaware of the truth is the reason the play does not end immediately upon the death of Hamlet, for Hamlet needs Horatio to make his people aware of the facts: "And in this harsh world draw thy breath in pain/To tell my story" (5.2.333-334).

(c) to stand in contrast to Hamlet's world-view. The Clowns are practical men. They discuss topical matters, they throw in their two cents and are sure of every word, and, most importantly, they accept what they cannot control. How very different from our philosopher prince do the Clowns' view life. The thought that we "cease to be" -- that all we are can be erased in a moment -- torments Hamlet, and the sight of Yorick's skull rekindles his sorrow and resentment. Do you think Shakespeare finds merit in the Clowns' outlook? Why do you think Shakespeare has the First Clown banter with Hamlet (lines 118-125)? How does Hamlet feel about the First Clown?

2. In 3.1 Hamlet, speaking to Ophelia, says, "I have heard of your paintings too, well enough; God has given you one face, and you make yourselves another" (line 142). Do you think he is referring specifically to Ophelia in this scene when he says, "Now get you to my lady's chamber, and tell her, let her paint an inch thick to this favour she must come; make her laugh at that. (lines 182-183)? Why do you think Horatio has not yet told Hamlet Ophelia is dead?

3. It is clear from a thorough reading of the plays and sonnets that Shakespeare himself felt as Hamlet does, as least for a time. His personal sonnets, not intended for publication, reveal a poet consumed with thoughts of "devouring Time" and "that churl Death." Compare this scene of Hamlet with Sonnets 19, 65, and, in particular, 146 and elaborate on the similarities.

4. Laertes may be unscrupulous, but his love for Ophelia is deep and sincere. How does his passionate display of grief illustrate his temperament as seen elsewhere in the play?

5. There is ample textual evidence to illustrate Hamlet's great love for Ophelia (see 1.3.99-100, 109-110; 2.1.75-98 and study questions; 2.2.116-124, etc.), although some critics share a different view. Would you agree that Hamlet's reaction to finding out Ophelia is dead (particularly his poignant cry, "What! the fair Ophelia!" (line 228)) is further proof of his love, or is it just a gut reaction to Laertes' expression of grief.

6. Critics have spent a considerable amount of time debating Hamlet's age. Hamlet here is thirty years old, as the First Clown makes clear (lines 133-151). However, "young Hamlet", as he is referred to earlier in the play is still attending university and courting Ophelia. Laertes says that Hamlet's love is like "a violet in the youth of primy nature" (1.3.6). The noted scholar Grant White was so annoyed by this dilemma that he, defying logic, concluded that Hamlet was twenty when the play started and thirty at its close. (See Studies in Shakespeare, p. 79 ff.). How important is Hamlet's age to our understanding or enjoyment of the play? Would Hamlet's age have been an issue for play-goers at Shakespeare's Globe? For more on this topic, please click here.

More to Explore

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 Claudius and the Condition of Denmark

 Philological Examination Questions on Hamlet
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Thoughts on the Grave-diggers ... "The fifth Act begins with the humorous talk of the two grave-diggers who are delving Ophelia's grave, and who discuss whether she ought, or ought not, to have Christian burial. What to them is all this misery? what matter Kings and Queens, murders and adulteries to them? Shakespeare has made their apartness from the terror and pity of the circumstance around them almost shocking; yet this apartness of theirs seems to enhance the tragic elements." (Stopford A. Brooke. Ten more plays of Shakespeare. p. 131)


 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

 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

 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?

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


On Hamlet's Reaction to Laertes ... "When Hamlet sees and hears all this; he who loved this fair and sweet maiden with a love which was all the fiercer because it had to be crushed; he who had sacrificed this love and its object on the altar of a great purpose which was not, for all that cruel sacrifice, a whit nearer fulfilment; he who had torn the tender strings of his own heart, had broken hers, and shook her reason from its throne, and had done all this in vain; — what wonder is it that his soul is filled with bitterness, that the sight and sound of this brother's outrageous grief maddens him, and that he too leaps into the grave with the cry —
This is I,
Hamlet the Dane.
In these few words Hamlet would seem to say: "This is I whom you execrate as the wretch who has killed your father and driven your sister into madness. I confess I did this, but I did it unwittingly. Eevile me, curse me, use me as you will. I can bear anything but the mockery of your pretending that your grief is greater than mine." Surely in this case the circumstances would excuse in any man, even in one who, unlike Hamlet, was, by habit and nature, endowed with the utmost self-command, an outburst of furious passion." (Frank A. Marshall. A Study of Hamlet. p. 97)


 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

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

 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