Act 5, Scene 2

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[Enter Hamlet and Horatio in conversation.]

Hamlet

So much for this, sir. Now, let me see — the other
You do remember all the circumstance?    

Horatio   

Remember it, my lord?

Hamlet

Sir, in my heart there was a kind of fighting 
That would not let me sleep. Methought I lay
Worse than the mutines in the bilboes. Rashly —
And praised be rashness for it; let us know
Our indiscretion sometimes serves us well
When our dear plots do fall, and that should teach us
There's a divinity that shapes our ends,
Rough-hew them how we will — 

Horatio

That is most certain.

Hamlet

                                     Up from my cabin, 
My sea-gown scarfed about me, in the dark
Groped I to find out them, had my desire,
Fingered their packet, and in fine withdrew
To mine own room again, making so bold, 
My fears forgetting manners, to unseal
Their grand commission, where I found — Horatio,
Oh, royal knavery! — an exact command,
Larded with many several sorts of reason,
Importing Denmark's health and England's too 
With, ho, such bugs and goblins in my life,
That on the supervise, no leisure bated,
No, not to stay the grinding of the ax,
My head should be struck off.

Horatio

                                                     Is't possible? 

Hamlet   

[Showing him a document.] 
Here's the commission; read it at more leisure.
But wilt thou hear me how I did proceed?

Horatio   

I beseech you.

Hamlet

Being thus benetted round with villains,     
Ere I could make a prologue to my brains,
They had begun the play. I sat me down,    
Devised a new commission, wrote it fair.
I once did hold it, as our statists do, 
A baseness to write fair, and labored much
How to forget that learning. But, sir, now
It did me yeoman's service. Wilt thou know
Th' effects of what I wrote?

Horatio

                                                 Ay, good my lord.

Hamlet

An earnest conjuration from the king:
As England was his faithful tributary,
As love between them like the palm should flourish,
As peace should still her wheaten garland wear
And stand a comma 'tween their amities —
And many such like “as’s” of great charge —   
That on the view and know of these contents,
Without debatement further more or less,
He should the bearers put to sudden death,
Not shriving time allowed.

Horatio

                                                How was this sealed?

Hamlet

Why, even in that was heaven ordinate
I had my father's signet in my purse,
Which was the model of that Danish seal.
Folded the writ up in the form of the other,
Subscribed it, gave't th' impression, placed it safely —
The changeling never known. Now the next day
Was our sea fight, and what to this was sequent
Thou knowest already.

Horatio

So Guildenstern and Rosencrantz go to't.

Hamlet

Why, man, they did make love to this employment
They are not near my conscience. Their defeat
Doth by their own insinuation grow.
'Tis dangerous when the baser nature comes
Between the pass and fell incensèd points
Of mighty opposites.

Horatio 

                                       Why, what a king is this!    

Hamlet

Does it not, think'st thee, stand me now upon
He that hath killed my king and whored my mother,
Popped in between th' election and my hopes,
Thrown out his angle for my proper life,
And with such cozenage — is't not perfect conscience    
To quit him with this arm? And is't not to be damned 
To let this canker of our nature come
In further evil?

Horatio

It must be shortly known to him from England 
What is the issue of the business there.

Hamlet

It will be short. The interim is mine; 
And a man's life is no more than to say one. 
But I am very sorry, good Horatio,
That to Laertes I forgot myself,
For by the image of my cause I see
The portraiture of his. I'll court his favors.
But sure the bravery of his grief did put me
Into a towering passion.

Horatio

                                          Peace, who comes here? 
[Enter young Osric, a courtier.]

Osric

Your lordship is right welcome back to Denmark.

Hamlet

I humbly thank you, sir. 
[Aside to Horatio] Dost know this water-fly?

Horatio

                                                                          No, my good lord.

Hamlet 

Thy state is the more gracious, for 'tis a vice to
know him. He hath much land, and fertile. Let a beast
be lord of beasts, and his crib shall stand at the king's mess.
'Tis a chough, but, as I say, spacious in the possession of
dirt.

Osric   

[With his hat in his hand]
Sweet lord, if your lordship were at leisure, I should 
impart a thing to you from his majesty.

Hamlet

I will receive it, sir, with all diligence of spirit. Put
your bonnet to his right use. 'Tis for the head.

Osric   

I thank your lordship, 'tis very hot.

Hamlet

No, believe me, 'tis very cold; the wind is northerly.

Osric

It is indifferent cold, my lord, indeed.

Hamlet

Methinks it is very sultry and hot for my complexion. 

Osric

Exceedingly, my lord, it is very sultry, as 'twere ... I
cannot tell how. But, my lord, his majesty bade me signify
to you that he has laid a great wager on your head. Sir,
this is the matter ...

Hamlet   

I beseech you, remember.
[Motioning for Osric to put on his hat.] 

Osric

Nay, good my lord, for mine ease, in good faith. Sir, you are
not ignorant of what excellence Laertes is at his weapon.

Hamlet   

What's his weapon?

Osric   

Rapier and dagger.

Hamlet   

That's two of his weapons — but well.

Osric

The king, sir, hath waged with him six Barbary 
horses, against the which he has imponed, as I take it, six
French rapiers and poniards with their assigns, as girdle,
hangers, and so. Three of the carriages, in faith, are very
dear to fancy, very responsive to the hilts, most delicate
carriages, and of very liberal conceit.

Hamlet   

What call you the carriages?

Horatio

[To Hamlet] I knew you must be edified by the margin ere
you had done.

Osric   

The carriage, sir, are the hangers.

Hamlet

The phrase would be more germane to the matter 
if we could carry cannon by our sides; I would it might be
hangers till then. But on. Six Barbary horses against six
French swords, their assigns, and three liberal-conceited
“carriages” — that's the French bet against the Danish.
Why is this "imponed", as you call it?    

Osric

The king, sir, hath laid that in a dozen passes
between you and him, he shall not exceed you three hits —
he hath laid on twelve for nine. And that would come to    
immediate trial if your lordship would vouchsafe the answer.

Hamlet   

How, if I answer no?

Osric

I mean, my lord, the opposition of your person in trial.

Hamlet

Sir, I will walk here in the hall. If it please his majesty, 
'tis the breathing time of day with me. Let the foils
be brought, the gentleman willing and the king hold
his purpose, I will win for him if I can. If not, I'll gain
nothing but my shame and the odd hits.

Osric   

Shall I re-deliver you e'en so?

Hamlet

To this effect, sir, after what flourish your 
nature will.

Osric   

I commend my duty to your lordship.

Hamlet   

Yours, yours. 
[Exit Osric.] 
He does well to commend it himself; there are no
tongues else for's turn.    

Horatio

This lapwing runs away with the shell on his head.    

Hamlet

He did comply with his dug before he sucked it.
Thus has he — and many more of the same bevy that I
know the drossy age dotes on — only got the tune of the time
and outward habit of encounter, a kind of yeasty
collection, which carries them through and through
the most fanned and winnowed opinions.
And do but blow them to their trials, the bubbles are out.

Horatio   

You will lose this wager, my lord. 

Hamlet

I do not think so. Since he went into France, I have
been in continual practice. I shall win at the odds. But
thou wouldest not think how ill all's here about my heart —
but it is no matter.

Horatio   

Nay, good my lord ... 

Hamlet

It is but foolery; but it is such a kind of gain-giving
as would perhaps trouble a woman.

Horatio

If your mind dislike anything, obey it. I will forestall 
their repair hither and say you are not fit.

Hamlet

Not a whit, we defy augury. There's special
providence in the fall of a sparrow. If it be now, 'tis not to
come; if it be not to come, it will be now; if it be not now,
yet it will come. The readiness is all. Since no man knows
aught of what he leaves, what is't to leave betimes?
[Enter Claudius, Gertrude, Lords, and attendants with exercise swords and gloves.]

Claudius

Come, Hamlet, come and take this hand from me. 
[He puts Laertes's hand into Hamlet's.]

Hamlet   

[To Laertes] Give me your pardon, sir. I've done you wrong;
But pardon't as you are a gentleman.
This presence knows — and you must needs have heard —
How I am punished with a sore distraction
What I have done
That might your nature, honor, and exception
Roughly awake, I here proclaim was madness.
Was't Hamlet wronged Laertes? Never Hamlet. 
If Hamlet from himself be ta'en away,
And when he's not himself does wrong Laertes,
Then Hamlet does it not. Hamlet denies it.
Who does it then? His madness. If't be so,
Hamlet is of the faction that is wronged.
His madness is poor Hamlet's enemy. 
Sir, in this audience,
Let my disclaiming from a purposed evil
Free me so far in your most generous thoughts —
That I have shot my arrow o'er the house
And hurt my brother.

Laertes 

                                    I am satisfied in nature
Whose motive in this case should stir me most
To my revenge. But in my terms of honor,
I stand aloof and will no reconcilement
Till, by some elder masters of known honor,
I have a voice and precedent of peace
To keep my name ungored. But all that time
I do receive your offered love like love,
And will not wrong it.

Hamlet

                                       I embrace it freely,
And will this brother's wager frankly play.     
Give us the foils. Come on.

Laertes

                                               Come, one for me.

Hamlet

I'll be your foil, Laertes. In mine ignorance    
Your skill shall, like a star i'th' darkest night,
Stick fiery off indeed.

Laertes

                                       You mock me, sir.

Hamlet   

No, by this hand.

Claudius

Give them the foils, young Osric. Cousin Hamlet, 
You know the wager?

Hamlet

                                      Very well, my lord.
Your grace has laid the odds o'th' weaker side.

Claudius

I do not fear it: I have seen you both.
But since he is bettered, we have therefore odds.
[Foils are handed to Hamlet and Laertes.]

Laertes

This is too heavy, let me see another.
[He exchanges his foil for another.]

Hamlet

This likes me well. These foils have all a length?

Osric   

Ay, my good lord.
[Hamlet and Laertes prepare to play.]

Claudius

Set me the stoups of wine upon that table.     
If Hamlet give the first or second hit,
Or quit in answer of the third exchange,
Let all the battlements their ordnance fire.
The king shall drink to Hamlet's better breath,
And in the cup an union shall he throw,
Richer than that which four successive kings
In Denmark's crown have worn. Give me the cups; 
And let the kettle to the trumpet speak,
The trumpet to the cannoneer without,
The cannons to the heavens, the heaven to earth,
"Now the king drinks to Hamlet." Come, begin.
And you, the judges, bear a wary eye.

Hamlet   

Come on, sir. 

Laertes

Come on, sir.  
[They play. Hamlet scores a hit.]

Hamlet

One.

Laertes

No.

Hamlet

Judgment.

Osric   

A hit, a very palpable hit.

Laertes 

Well, again.

Claudius

Stay. Give me drink. Hamlet this pearl is thine.
[He drinks, and drops a pearl in Hamlet's cup.]    
Here's to thy health. Give him the cup.
[Trumpets sound, and a shot goes off.]

Hamlet

I'll play this bout first. Set it by awhile. 
Come. 
[Hamlet scores a second hit.]
Another hit. What say you?

Laertes   

A touch, a touch, I do confess.

Claudius

[To Gertrude] Our son shall win.

Gertrude

                                                        He's fat and scant of breath.
Here Hamlet, take my napkin, rub thy brows.
The queen carouses to thy fortune, Hamlet.

Hamlet   

Good madam.

Claudius

Gertrude, do not drink.

Gertrude

I will, my lord, I pray you pardon me.     
[She drinks, then offers the cup to Hamlet.]

Claudius    

[Aside]  It is the poisoned cup. It is too late.

Hamlet

I dare not drink yet, madam, by and by.

Gertrude   

Come, let me wipe thy face.

Laertes   

[Aside to Claudius] My lord, I'll hit him now.

Claudius

                                                                           I do not think't.

Laertes    

And yet 'tis almost 'gainst my conscience.

Hamlet

Come, for the third, Laertes. You do but dally. 
I pray you, pass with your best violence.    
I am afeard you make a wanton of me.

Laertes   

Say you so? Come on.
[They play.]

Osric 

                                     Nothing neither way.

Laertes   

Have at you now!
[Laertes wounds Hamlet with his poisoned rapier. In scuffling they change rapiers.
Hamlet wounds Laertes with the poisoned rapier.]

Claudius   

                             Part them! They are incensed.

Hamlet   

Nay, come again.
[Gertrude falls down.]

Osric   

                              Look to the Queen there, ho!

Horatio

They bleed on both sides. [To Hamlet] How is't, my lord?

Osric   

How is't, Laertes? 

Laertes

Why, as a woodcock to mine own springe, Osric.
I am justly killed with mine own treachery.

Hamlet   

How does the queen?

Claudius 

                                    She swoons to see them bleed.    

Gertrude

No, no, the drink, the drink — Oh my dear Hamlet —
The drink, the drink! I am poisoned.
[She dies.]

Hamlet

Oh, villainy! Ho, let the door be locked.
Treachery! Seek it out.
[Exit Osric.]

Laertes

It is here, Hamlet. Hamlet, thou art slain. 
No medicine in the world can do thee good.
In thee, there is not half an hour of life.
The treacherous instrument is in thy hand,
Unbated and envenomed. The foul practice
Hath turned itself on me. Lo, here I lie
Never to rise again. Thy mother's poisoned;
I can no more. The king, the king's to blame.

Hamlet

The point envenomed too? Then, venom, to thy work.
[He stabs Claudius.] 

All   

Treason, treason!

Claudius

Oh, yet defend me friends, I am but hurt.

Hamlet 

Here, thou incestuous, murderous, damnèd Dane, 
Drink off this potion. Is thy union here?
[He forces Claudius to drink.]    
Follow my mother.
[Claudius dies.]

Laertes 

                               He is justly served;
It is a poison tempered by himself.
Exchange forgiveness with me, noble Hamlet.
Mine and my father's death come not upon thee,
Nor thine on me!
[Laertes Dies.]

Hamlet

Heaven make thee free of it! I follow thee. 
I am dead, Horatio. Wretched queen, adieu.
You, that look pale and tremble at this chance,
That are but mutes or audience to this act,    
Had I but time — as this fell sergeant, Death,
Is strict in his arrest — oh, I could tell you ... 
But let it be. Horatio, I am dead.
Thou livest; report me and my causes right
To the unsatisfied.

Horatio

                                 Never believe it.
I am more an antique Roman than a Dane.
Here's yet some liquor left.
[He attempts to drink from the poisoned cup, but is prevented by Hamlet.]

Hamlet

                                             As th' art a man, 
Give me the cup! Let go! By heaven I'll have't.
Oh good Horatio, what a wounded name,
Things standing thus unknown, shall I leave behind me.
If thou didst ever hold me in thy heart,
Absent thee from felicity awhile,
And in this harsh world draw thy breath in pain
To tell my story.
[Military drums far off and a canon shot within.]
                           What warlike noise is this?
[Enter Osric.]

Osric

Young Fortinbras, with conquest come from Poland, 
To th' ambassadors of England gives 
This warlike volley.

Hamlet

                                    Oh, I die, Horatio.
The potent poison quite o'ercrows my spirit.
I cannot live to hear the news from England,
But I do prophesy th' election lights
On Fortinbras. He has my dying voice.
So tell him, with the occurrents more and less
Which have solicited — the rest is silence.
[Hamlet sighs and dies.]

Horatio

Now cracks a noble heart! Good night, sweet prince,
And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest!
[Military music offstage.]
Why does the drum come hither?
[Enter Fortinbras, English Ambassadors, soldiers with drums and flags.]

Fortinbras   

Where is this sight?

Horatio

                                      What is it you would see? 
If aught of woe or wonder, cease your search.

Fortinbras

This quarry cries on havoc. Oh proud Death,
What feast is toward in thine eternal cell,
That thou so many princes, at a shoot,
So bloodily hast struck?

Ambassador

                                        The sight is dismal.
And our affairs from England come too late —
The ears are senseless that should give us hearing —
To tell him his commandment is fulfilled,
That Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead.
Where should we have our thanks?

Horatio 

                                                            Not from his mouth, 
Had it th' ability of life to thank you.
He never gave commandment for their death.
But since so jump upon this bloody question —
You from the Polack wars, and you from England,
Are here arrived — give order that these bodies
High on a stage be placèd to the view.
And let me speak to th' yet unknowing world     
How these things came about. So shall you hear
Of carnal, bloody, and unnatural acts;
Of accidental judgments, casual slaughters;
Of deaths put on by cunning and forced cause
And in this upshot, purposes mistook
Fall'n on the inventors' heads. All this can I
Truly deliver.

Fortinbras

                       Let us haste to hear it, 
And call the noblest to the audience.
For me, with sorrow I embrace my fortune.
I have some rights of memory in this kingdom,
Which now to claim, my vantage doth invite me.

Horatio

Of that I shall have also cause to speak,
And from his mouth, whose voice will draw on more.
But let this same be presently performed,
Even while men's minds are wild, lest more mischance,
On plots and errors, happen.

Fortinbras

                                                  Let four captains 
Bear Hamlet like a soldier to the stage,
For he was likely, had he been put on,
To have proved most royally; and for his passage,
The soldiers' music and the rites of war
Speak loudly for him.
Take up the body. Such a sight as this
Becomes the field, but here shows much amiss.
Go, bid the soldiers shoot.    
[Exit marching, after which a peal of cannons are shot off.]