Hamlet: Act 3, Scene 1 (2023)

Scene 1

Elsinore. A room in Elsinore castle.

(King; Queen; Polonius; Ophelia; Rosencrantz; Guildenstern; Lords; Hamlet)

Guildenstern and Rosencrantz report on their activity to the King and Queen and Polonius, but cannot give them an explanation for his behavior. The King and Polonius have sent for Hamlet, and they hide behind a tapestry while leaving Ophelia supposedly reading a prayer-book, to observe the encounter. The King is hiding an uneasy conscience. Hamlet enters, thinking on death, suicide and the afterlife. He fears that conscience turns people into cowards. Seeing Ophelia, he approaches her. She tries to give him back all the letters and gifts he sent her. He turns cold and begins questioning her honesty, and soon whips himself into a rage, insulting her dreadfully, accusing her of hypocrisy, and telling her that he never loved her. He rails against marriage. Ophelia is distraught. Polonius still thinks that love is at the root of his behavior, but Claudies spies something darker, and resolves to send him to England as an ambassador to collect tribute, in the hopes that the change will do him good. Polonius suggests that Hamlet should have a talk with his mother, in the hopes that he may tell her what is troubling; Polonius offers to spy on that meeting, too. (169 lines)

Enter King, Queen, Polonius, Ophelia, Rosencrantz, Guildenstern, Lords.


And can you by no drift of conference

Get from him why he puts on this confusion,

Grating so harshly all his days of quiet

With turbulent and dangerous lunacy?


He does confess he feels himself distracted,

But from what cause ’a will by no means speak.


Nor do we find him forward to be sounded,

But with a crafty madness keeps aloof

When we would bring him on to some confession

Of his true state.


Did he receive you well?


Most like a gentleman.


But with much forcing of his disposition.


Niggard of question, but of our demands

Most free in his reply.


Did you assay him

To any pastime?


Madam, it so fell out that certain players

We o’erraught on the way; of these we told him,

And there did seem in him a kind of joy

To hear of it. They are here about the court,

And as I think, they have already order

This night to play before him.


’Tis most true,

And he beseech’d me to entreat your Majesties

To hear and see the matter.


With all my heart, and it doth much content me

To hear him so inclin’d.

Good gentlemen, give him a further edge,

And drive his purpose into these delights.


We shall, my lord.

Exeunt Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.


Sweet Gertrude, leave us two,

For we have closely sent for Hamlet hither,

That he, as ’twere by accident, may here

Affront Ophelia. Her father and myself,

We’ll so bestow ourselves that, seeing unseen,

We may of their encounter frankly judge,

And gather by him, as he is behav’d,

If’t be th’ affliction of his love or no

That thus he suffers for.


I shall obey you.

And for your part, Ophelia, I do wish

That your good beauties be the happy cause

Of Hamlet’s wildness. So shall I hope your virtues

Will bring him to his wonted way again,

To both your honors.


Madam, I wish it may.

Exit Queen.


Ophelia, walk you here.—Gracious, so please you,

We will bestow ourselves.

To Ophelia.

Read on this book,

That show of such an exercise may color

Your loneliness. We are oft to blame in this—

’Tis too much prov’d—that with devotion’s visage

And pious action we do sugar o’er

The devil himself.



O, ’tis too true!

How smart a lash that speech doth give my conscience!

The harlot’s cheek, beautied with plast’ring art,

Is not more ugly to the thing that helps it

Than is my deed to my most painted word.

O heavy burden!


I hear him coming. Withdraw, my lord.

Exeunt King and Polonius.

Enter Hamlet.


To be, or not to be, that is the question:

Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer

The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,

Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,

And by opposing, end them. To die, to sleep—

No more, and by a sleep to say we end

The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks

That flesh is heir to; ’tis a consummation

Devoutly to be wish’d. To die, to sleep—

To sleep, perchance to dream—ay, there’s the rub,

For in that sleep of death what dreams may come,

When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,

Must give us pause; there’s the respect

That makes calamity of so long life:

For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,

Th’ oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely,

The pangs of despis’d love, the law’s delay,

The insolence of office, and the spurns

That patient merit of th’ unworthy takes,

When he himself might his quietus make

With a bare bodkin; who would fardels bear,

To grunt and sweat under a weary life,

But that the dread of something after death,

The undiscover’d country, from whose bourn

No traveler returns, puzzles the will,

And makes us rather bear those ills we have,

Than fly to others that we know not of?

Thus conscience does make cowards of us all,

And thus the native hue of resolution

Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought,

And enterprises of great pitch and moment

With this regard their currents turn awry,

And lose the name of action.—Soft you now,

The fair Ophelia. Nymph, in thy orisons

Be all my sins rememb’red.


Good my lord,

How does your honor for this many a day?


I humbly thank you, well, well, well.


My lord, I have remembrances of yours

That I have longed long to redeliver.

I pray you now receive them.


No, not I,

I never gave you aught.


My honor’d lord, you know right well you did,

And with them words of so sweet breath compos’d

As made these things more rich. Their perfume lost,

Take these again, for to the noble mind

Rich gifts wax poor when givers prove unkind.

There, my lord.


Ha, ha! Are you honest?


My lord?


Are you fair?


What means your lordship?


That if you be honest and fair, your honesty should admit no discourse to your beauty.


Could beauty, my lord, have better commerce than with honesty?


Ay, truly, for the power of beauty will sooner transform honesty from what it is to a bawd than the force of honesty can translate beauty into his likeness. This was sometime a paradox, but now the time gives it proof. I did love you once.


Indeed, my lord, you made me believe so.


You should not have believ’d me, for virtue cannot so inoculate our old stock but we shall relish of it. I lov’d you not.


I was the more deceiv’d.


Get thee to a nunn’ry, why wouldst thou be a breeder of sinners? I am myself indifferent honest, but yet I could accuse me of such things that it were better my mother had not borne me: I am very proud, revengeful, ambitious, with more offenses at my beck than I have thoughts to put them in, imagination to give them shape, or time to act them in. What should such fellows as I do crawling between earth and heaven? We are arrant knaves, believe none of us. Go thy ways to a nunn’ry. Where’s your father?


At home, my lord.


Let the doors be shut upon him, that he may play the fool no where but in ’s own house. Farewell.


O, help him, you sweet heavens!


If thou dost marry, I’ll give thee this plague for thy dowry: be thou as chaste as ice, as pure as snow, thou shalt not escape calumny. Get thee to a nunn’ry, farewell. Or if thou wilt needs marry, marry a fool, for wise men know well enough what monsters you make of them. To a nunn’ry, go, and quickly too. Farewell.


Heavenly powers, restore him!


I have heard of your paintings, well enough. God hath given you one face, and you make yourselves another. You jig and amble, and you lisp, you nickname God’s creatures and make your wantonness your ignorance. Go to, I’ll no more on’t, it hath made me mad. I say we will have no more marriage. Those that are married already (all but one) shall live, the rest shall keep as they are. To a nunn’ry, go.



O, what a noble mind is here o’erthrown!

The courtier’s, soldier’s, scholar’s, eye, tongue, sword,

Th’ expectation and rose of the fair state,

The glass of fashion and the mould of form,

Th’ observ’d of all observers, quite, quite down!

And I, of ladies most deject and wretched,

That suck’d the honey of his music vows,

Now see that noble and most sovereign reason

Like sweet bells jangled out of time, and harsh;

That unmatch’d form and stature of blown youth

Blasted with ecstasy. O, woe is me

T’ have seen what I have seen, see what I see!

Ophelia withdraws.

Enter King and Polonius.


Love? His affections do not that way tend,

Nor what he spake, though it lack’d form a little,

Was not like madness. There’s something in his soul

O’er which his melancholy sits on brood,

And I do doubt the hatch and the disclose

Will be some danger; which for to prevent,

I have in quick determination

Thus set it down: he shall with speed to England

For the demand of our neglected tribute.

Haply the seas, and countries different,

With variable objects, shall expel

This something-settled matter in his heart,

Whereon his brains still beating puts him thus

From fashion of himself. What think you on’t?


It shall do well; but yet do I believe

The origin and commencement of his grief

Sprung from neglected love.

Ophelia comes forward.

How now, Ophelia?

You need not tell us what Lord Hamlet said,

We heard it all. My lord, do as you please,

But if you hold it fit, after the play

Let his queen-mother all alone entreat him

To show his grief. Let her be round with him,

And I’ll be plac’d (so please you) in the ear

Of all their conference. If she find him not,

To England send him, or confine him where

Your wisdom best shall think.


It shall be so.

Madness in great ones must not unwatch’d go.



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