Reference > William Shakespeare > The Oxford Shakespeare > Hamlet, Prince of Denmark
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William Shakespeare (1564–1616).  The Oxford Shakespeare.  1914.
 
Hamlet, Prince of Denmark
 
Act III. Scene III.
 
A Room in the Castle.
 
Enter KING, ROSENCRANTZ, and GUILDENSTERN.
  King.  I like him not, nor stands it safe with us
To let his madness range. Therefore prepare you;
I your commission will forthwith dispatch,        5
And he to England shall along with you.
The terms of our estate may not endure
Hazard so dangerous as doth hourly grow
Out of his lunacies.
  Guil.        We will ourselves provide.        10
Most holy and religious fear it is
To keep those many many bodies safe
That live and feed upon your majesty.
  Ros.  The single and peculiar life is bound
With all the strength and armour of the mind        15
To keep itself from noyance; but much more
That spirit upon whose weal depend and rest
The lives of many. The cease of majesty
Dies not alone, but, like a gulf doth draw
What’s near it with it; it is a massy wheel,        20
Fix’d on the summit of the highest mount,
To whose huge spokes ten thousand lesser things
Are mortis’d and adjoin’d; which, when it falls,
Each small annexment, petty consequence,
Attends the boisterous ruin. Never alone        25
Did the king sigh, but with a general groan.
  King.  Arm you, I pray you, to this speedy voyage;
For we will fetters put upon this fear,
Which now goes too free-footed.
  Ros. & Guil        We will haste us.  [Exeunt ROSENCRANTZ and GUILDENSTERN.        30
 
Enter POLONIUS.
  Pol.  My lord, he’s going to his mother’s closet:
Behind the arras I’ll convey myself
To hear the process; I’ll warrant she’ll tax him home;
And, as you said, and wisely was it said,        35
’Tis meet that some more audience than a mother,
Since nature makes them partial, should o’er-hear
The speech, of vantage. Fare you well, my liege:
I’ll call upon you ere you go to bed
And tell you what I know.        40
  King.        Thanks, dear my lord.  [Exit POLONIUS.
O! my offence is rank, it smells to heaven;
It hath the primal eldest curse upon ’t;
A brother’s murder! Pray can I not,
Though inclination be as sharp as will:        45
My stronger guilt defeats my strong intent;
And, like a man to double business bound,
I stand in pause where I shall first begin,
And both neglect. What if this cursed hand
Were thicker than itself with brother’s blood,        50
Is there not rain enough in the sweet heavens
To wash it white as snow? Whereto serves mercy
But to confront the visage of offence?
And what’s in prayer but this two-fold force,
To be forestalled, ere we come to fall,        55
Or pardon’d, being down? Then, I’ll look up;
My fault is past. But, O! what form of prayer
Can serve my turn? ‘Forgive me my foul murder?’
That cannot be; since I am still possess’d
Of those effects for which I did the murder,        60
My crown, mine own ambition, and my queen.
May one be pardon’d and retain the offence?
In the corrupted currents of this world
Offence’s gilded hand may shove by justice,
And oft ’tis seen the wicked prize itself        65
Buys out the law; but ’tis not so above;
There is no shuffling, there the action lies
In his true nature, and we ourselves compell’d
Even to the teeth and forehead of our faults
To give in evidence. What then? what rests?        70
Try what repentance can: what can it not?
Yet what can it, when one can not repent?
O wretched state! O bosom black as death!
O limed soul, that struggling to be free
Art more engaged! Help, angels! make assay;        75
Bow, stubborn knees; and heart with strings of steel
Be soft as sinews of the new-born babe.
All may be well.  [Retires and kneels.
 
Enter HAMLET.
  Ham.  Now might I do it pat, now he is praying;        80
And now I’ll do ’t: and so he goes to heaven;
And so am I reveng’d. That would be scann’d:
A villain kills my father; and for that,
I, his sole son, do this same villain send
To heaven.        85
Why, this is hire and salary, not revenge.
He took my father grossly, full of bread,
With all his crimes broad blown, as flush as May;
And how his audit stands who knows save heaven?
But in our circumstance and course of thought        90
’Tis heavy with him. And am I then reveng’d,
To take him in the purging of his soul,
When he is fit and season’d for his passage?
No.
Up, sword, and know thou a more horrid hent;        95
When he is drunk asleep, or in his rage,
Or in the incestuous pleasure of his bed,
At gaming, swearing, or about some act
That has no relish of salvation in ’t;
Then trip him, that his heels may kick at heaven,        100
And that his soul may be as damn’d and black
As hell, whereto it goes. My mother stays:
This physic but prolongs thy sickly days.  [Exit.
 
The KING rises and advances.
  King.  My words fly up, my thoughts remain below:        105
Words without thoughts never to heaven go.  [Exit.
 
 
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