Read ACT IV. of Hamlet, free online book, by William Shakespeare, on ReadCentral.com.

SCENE I. ­A ROOM IN THE CASTLE.

    Enter KING and QUEEN, from (R.H.) centre.

  King. There’s matter in these sighs, these profound heaves: 
  You must translate: ’tis fit we understand them. 
  How does Hamlet?

Queen. Mad as the sea and wind, when both contend Which is the mightier:  In his lawless fit, Behind the arras hearing something stir, Whips out his rapier, cries A rat, a rat! And, in this brainish apprehension, kills The unseen good old man.

  King. O heavy deed! 
  It had been so with us, had we been there: 
  Where is he gone?

  Queen. To draw apart the body he hath kill’d.

King. The sun no sooner shall the mountains touch, But we will ship him hence:  and this vile deed We must, with all our majesty and skill, Both countenance and excuse. ­Ho, Guildenstern!

    Enter ROSENCRANTZ and GUILDENSTERN (L.H.)

  Friends both, go join you with some further aid: 
  Hamlet in madness hath Polonius slain,
  And from his mother’s closet hath he dragg’d him: 
  Go seek him out; speak fair, and bring the body
  Into the chapel.

    [ROSENCRANTZ and GUILDENSTERN cross to R.]

  I pray you, haste in this.

    [Exeunt ROSENCRANTZ and GUILDENSTERN, R.H.]

  Go, Gertrude, we’ll call up our wisest friends;
  And let them know, both what we mean to do,
  And what’s untimely done.

    [Exit QUEEN, R.C.]

  How dangerous is it that this man goes loose! 
  Yet must not we put the strong law on him: 
  He’s lov’d of the distracted multitude,
  Who like not in their judgment, but their eyes;
  And where ’tis so, the offender’s scourge is weigh’d,
  But never the offence.

    Enter ROSENCRANTZ (R.)

  How now! what hath befallen?

  Ros. Where the dead body is bestowed, my lord,
  We cannot get from him.

  King. But where is he?

  Ros. Without, my lord; guarded, to know your pleasure.

  King. Bring him before us.

  Ros. Ho, Guildenstern! bring in my lord.

    Enter HAMLET, GUILDENSTERN, and Attendants (R.H.)

  King. (C.) Now, Hamlet, where’s Polonius?

  Ham. (R.) At supper.

  King. At supper?  Where?

  Ham. Not where he eats, but where he is eaten:  a
  certain convocation of politick worms are e’en at him.

  King. Where’s Polonius?

Ham. In Heaven; send thither to see:  if your messenger find him not there, seek him i’the other place yourself.  But, indeed, if you find him not within this month, you shall nose him as you go up the stairs into the lobby.

  King. Go seek him there.

    [To GUILDENSTERN.]

  Ham. He will stay till you come.

    [Exit GUILDENSTERN, R.H.]

King. Hamlet, this deed, for thine especial safety, Must send thee hence:  Therefore prepare thyself; The bark is ready, and the wind at help, For England.

  Ham. For England!

  King. Ay, Hamlet.

  Ham. Good.

  King. So is it, if thou knew’st our purposes.

  Ham. I see a cherub that sees them.  But, come; for
  England! ­Farewell, dear mother.

  King. Thy loving father, Hamlet.

Ham. My mother:  Father and mother is man and wife; man and wife is one flesh; and so, my mother.  Come, for England.

    [Exit, R.H.]

  King. Follow him at foot; tempt him with speed aboard;
  Away! for everything is seal’d and done.

    [Exeunt ROSENCRANTZ and Attendants, R.H.]

  And, England, if my love thou hold’st at aught,
  Thou may’st not coldly set
  Our sovereign process; which imports at full,
  By letters conjuring to that effect,
  The present death of Hamlet.  Do it, England;
  For thou must cure me:  ’Till I know ’tis done,
  Howe’er my haps, my joys will ne’er begin.

    [Exit KING, L.H.]

    Enter QUEEN and HORATIO (R. centre.)

  Queen. ­I will not speak with her.

  Hor. She is importunate; indeed, distract: 
  ’Twere good she were spoken with; for she may strew
  Dangerous conjectures in ill-breeding minds.

  Queen. Let her come in.

    [Exit HORATIO, R.C.]

    Re-enter HORATIO, with OPHELIA (R. centre.)

  Oph. Where is the beauteous majesty of Denmark?

  Queen. How now, Ophelia!

  Oph. (C.)

    [Singing.]

    How should I your true love know
      From another one?
    By his cockle hat and staff,
      And his sandal shoon.

  Queen. (L.C.) Alas, sweet lady, what imports this song?

  Oph. Say you? nay, pray you, mark.

    [Sings.]

    He is dead and gone, lady,
      He is dead and gone;
    At his head a grass-green turf,
      At his heels a stone.

  Enter the KING (L.H.)

  Queen. Nay, but, Ophelia, ­

  Oph. Pray you, mark.

    [Sings.]

    White his shroud as the mountain-snow,
      Larded all with sweet flowers;
    Which bewept to the grave did go
      With true-love showers.

  King. How do you, pretty lady?

  Oph. Well, Heaven ’ield you!

    (Crosses to the KING.)

  They say the owl was a baker’s daughter. We know
  what we are, but know not what we may be.

  King. Conceit upon her father.

  Oph. Pray, you, let us 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:

  King. Pretty Ophelia!

  Oph. Indeed, without an oath, I’ll make an end on’t: 

    Then up he rose, and don’d his clothes,
      And dupp’d the chamber door;
    Let in the maid, that out a maid
      Never departed more.

    [Crosses to R.H.]

  King. (L.) How long hath she been thus?

Oph. (R.) 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.

    [Exit, R.C.]

  King. Follow her close; give her good watch, I pray you.

    [Exit HORATIO, through centre R.]

  O! this is the poison of deep grief; it springs
  All from her father’s death. 
  O, Gertrude, Gertrude,
  When sorrows come, they come not single spies,
  But in battalions!

    Enter MARCELLUS (R. centre.)

  King. What is the matter?

Mar. Save yourself, my lord:  The young Laertes, in a riotous head, O’erbears your officers.  The rabble call him lord; They cry, Choose we:  Laertes shall be king! Caps, hands, and tongues, applaud it to the clouds, Laertes shall be king, Laertes king!

    [Noise within, R.C.]

    Enter LAERTES, armed; Danes following (R. centre.)

  Laer. Where is this king? ­Sirs, stand you all without.

  Dan. No, let’s come in.

  Laer. I pray you, give me leave.

  Dan. We will, we will.

    [They retire without, R.H.]

  Laer. O, thou vile king,
  Give me my father.

  Queen

    (Interposing.)

  Calmly, good Laertes.

Laer. (R.) That drop of blood that’s calm proclaims me bastard; Cries cuckold to my father; brands the harlot Even here, between the chaste unsmirched brow Of my true mother.

King. (L.) 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.  Let him go, Gertrude.

    [QUEEN obeys.]

  Laer. Where is my father?

  King. Dead.

  Queen. But not by him.

  King. Let him demand his fill.

Laer. How came he dead?  I’ll not be juggled with:  To hell, allegiance!  To this point I stand, That both the worlds I give to negligence, Let come what comes; only I’ll be reveng’d Most throughly for my father.

  King. Who shall stay you!

  Laer. My will, not all the world’s:
  And, for my means, I’ll husband them so well,
  They shall go far with little.

King. Good Laertes, That I am guiltless of your father’s death, And am most sensible in grief for it, It shall as level to your judgment ’pear As day does to your eye.

  Hor.

    (Without.)

  Oh, poor Ophelia!

  King. Let her come in.

    Enter OPHELIA (R.C.), fantastically dressed with Straws
    and Flowers.

  Laer.

    (Goes up L.C.)

                         O rose of May! 
  Dear maid, kind sister, sweet Ophelia! 
  O heavens! is’t possible, a young maid’s wits
  Should be as mortal as an old man’s life?

  Oph. (R.C.)

    They bore him barefac’d on the bier;
      And on his grave rain many a tear, ­

  Fare you well, my dove!

  Laer.

    (Coming down R.)

  Hadst thou thy wits, and didst persuade revenge,
  It could not move thus.

Oph. You must sing, Down-a-down, an you call him a-down-a. O, how well the wheel becomes it! It is the false steward, that stole his master’s daughter.

Laer. This nothing’s more than matter.

Oph. There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance; pray you, love, remember:  and there is pansies, that’s for thoughts.

Laer. A document in madness; thoughts and remembrance fitted.

Oph. There’s fennel for you,

  (crosses to the KING on L.H.)

and columbines: there’s rue for you;

  (turns to the QUEEN, who is R.C.)

and here’s some for me: ­we may call it herb of grace o’Sundays: ­you may 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 ­

  Laer. (R.) Thought and affliction, passion, hell itself,
  She turns to favour and to prettiness.

  Oph.

      And will he not come again?
      And will he not come again?
        No, no, he is dead,
        Gone to his death-bed,
      He never will come again.

      His beard was white as snow,
      All flaxen was his poll:
        He is gone, he is gone,
        And we cast away moan:
      Heaven ’a mercy on his soul!

  And of all christian souls, I pray Heaven.  Heaven be wi’ you.

    [Exit OPHELIA, R.C., QUEEN following.]

  Laer. Do you see this, O Heaven?

King. (L.C.) Laertes, I must commune with your grief, Or you deny me right.  Be you content to lend your patience to us, And we shall jointly labour with your soul To give it due content.

Laer. (R.C.) Let this be so; 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. So you shall;
  And where the offence is let the great axe fall.
  How now! what news?

    Enter BERNARDO (R.H.C.)

  Ber. (C.) Letters, my lord, from Hamlet: 
  This to your majesty; this to the Queen.

  King. From Hamlet! who brought them?

  Ber. Sailors, my lord, they say; I saw them not.

  King. Laertes, you shall hear them. ­
  Leave us.

    [Exit, L.H.C.]
    [Reads.]

High and mighty, You shall know I am set naked on your kingdom. To morrow shall I beg leave to see your kingly eyes:  when I shall, first asking your pardon thereunto, recount the occasion of my sudden and more strange return. HAMLET.

  What should this mean?  Are all the rest come back? 
  Or is it some abuse, and no such thing?

  Laer. (R.) Know you the hand?

  King. (L.) ’Tis Hamlet’s character: Naked, ­

  And in a postscript here, he says, alone
  Can you advise me?

Laer. I am lost in it, my lord.  But let him come; It warms the very sickness in my heart, That I shall live and tell him to his teeth, Thus diddest thou.

  King. If it be so, Laertes,
  Will you be rul’d by me?

  Laer. Ay, my lord;
  So you will not o’er-rule me to a peace.

King. To thine own peace.  Some two months since, Here was a gentleman of Normandy, He made confession of you; And gave you such a masterly report, For art and exercise in your defence, And for your rapier most especially, That he cried out, ’twould be a sight indeed, If one could match you:  this report of his Did Hamlet so envenom with his envy, That he could nothing do but wish and beg Your sudden coming o’er, to play with you.  Now, out of this, ­

  Laer. What out of this, my lord?

  King. Laertes, was your father dear to you? 
  Or are you like the painting of a sorrow,
  A face without a heart?

  Laer. Why ask you this?

King. Hamlet return’d shall know you are come home:  We’ll put on those shall praise your excellence, And set a double varnish on the fame The Frenchman gave you; bring you, in fine, together, And wager o’er your heads; he, being remiss, Most generous, and free from all contriving, Will not peruse the foils: so that, with ease, Or with a little shuffling, you may choose A sword unbated, and, in a pass of practice, Requite him for your father.

Laer. I will do’t:  And, for the purpose, I’ll anoint my sword.  I bought an unction of a mountebank, So mortal, that but dip a knife in it, Where it draws blood no cataplasm so rare, Collected from all simples that have virtue Under the moon, can save the thing from death That is but scratch’d withal:  I’ll touch my point With this contagion, that, if I gall him slightly, It may be death.

King. (L.) Let’s further think of this; We’ll make a solemn wager on your cunnings, When in your motion you are hot and dry, (As make your bouts more violent to that end,) And that he calls for drink, I’ll have prepared him A chalice for the nonce; whereon but sipping, If he by chance escape your venom’d stuck, Our purpose may hold there.  But stay, what noise?

    Enter QUEEN (R.C.)

  Queen. (C.) One woe doth tread upon another’s heel,
  So fast they follow:  Your sister’s drown’d, Laertes.

  Laer. (R.) Drown’d!  O, where?

Queen. There is a willow grows aslant a brook, That shows his hoar leaves in the glassy stream; Therewith fantastick garlands did she make Of crow-flowers, nettles, daisies, and long purples; There, on the pendent boughs her cornet weeds Clambering to hang, an envious sliver broke; When down her weedy trophies, and herself, Fell in the weeping brook.

Laer. I forbid my tears:  But yet It is our trick: nature her custom holds, Let shame say what it will:  when these are gone, The woman will be out. Adieu, my lord:  I have a speech of fire, that fain would blaze, But that this folly drowns it.

    [Exeunt. C.]