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    Act 4. Scene VII

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    Chapter 18
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    SCENE VII. Another room in the castle.

    Enter KING CLAUDIUS and LAERTES
    KING CLAUDIUS
    Now must your conscience my acquaintance seal,
    And you must put me in your heart for friend,
    Sith you have heard, and with a knowing ear,
    That he which hath your noble father slain
    Pursued my life.

    LAERTES
    It well appears: but tell me
    Why you proceeded not against these feats,
    So crimeful and so capital in nature,
    As by your safety, wisdom, all things else,
    You mainly were stirr'd up.

    KING CLAUDIUS
    O, for two special reasons;
    Which may to you, perhaps, seem much unsinew'd,
    But yet to me they are strong. The queen his mother
    Lives almost by his looks; and for myself--
    My virtue or my plague, be it either which--
    She's so conjunctive to my life and soul,
    That, as the star moves not but in his sphere,
    I could not but by her. The other motive,
    Why to a public count I might not go,
    Is the great love the general gender bear him;
    Who, dipping all his faults in their affection,
    Would, like the spring that turneth wood to stone,
    Convert his gyves to graces; so that my arrows,
    Too slightly timber'd for so loud a wind,
    Would have reverted to my bow again,
    And not where I had aim'd them.

    LAERTES
    And so have I a noble father lost;
    A sister driven into desperate terms,
    Whose worth, if praises may go back again,
    Stood challenger on mount of all the age
    For her perfections: but my revenge will come.

    KING CLAUDIUS
    Break not your sleeps for that: you must not think
    That we are made of stuff so flat and dull
    That we can let our beard be shook with danger
    And think it pastime. You shortly shall hear more:
    I loved your father, and we love ourself;
    And that, I hope, will teach you to imagine--

    Enter a Messenger

    How now! what news?

    Messenger
    Letters, my lord, from Hamlet:
    This to your majesty; this to the queen.

    KING CLAUDIUS
    From Hamlet! who brought them?

    Messenger
    Sailors, my lord, they say; I saw them not:
    They were given me by Claudio; he received them
    Of him that brought them.

    KING CLAUDIUS
    Laertes, you shall hear them. Leave us.

    Exit Messenger

    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?

    LAERTES
    Know you the hand?

    KING CLAUDIUS
    'Tis Hamlets character. 'Naked!
    And in a postscript here, he says 'alone.'
    Can you advise me?

    LAERTES
    I'm 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 didest thou.'

    KING CLAUDIUS
    If it be so, Laertes--
    As how should it be so? how otherwise?--
    Will you be ruled by me?

    LAERTES
    Ay, my lord;
    So you will not o'errule me to a peace.

    KING CLAUDIUS
    To thine own peace. If he be now return'd,
    As checking at his voyage, and that he means
    No more to undertake it, I will work him
    To an exploit, now ripe in my device,
    Under the which he shall not choose but fall:
    And for his death no wind of blame shall breathe,
    But even his mother shall uncharge the practise
    And call it accident.

    LAERTES
    My lord, I will be ruled;
    The rather, if you could devise it so
    That I might be the organ.

    KING CLAUDIUS
    It falls right.
    You have been talk'd of since your travel much,
    And that in Hamlet's hearing, for a quality
    Wherein, they say, you shine: your sum of parts
    Did not together pluck such envy from him
    As did that one, and that, in my regard,
    Of the unworthiest siege.

    LAERTES
    What part is that, my lord?

    KING CLAUDIUS
    A very riband in the cap of youth,
    Yet needful too; for youth no less becomes
    The light and careless livery that it wears
    Than settled age his sables and his weeds,
    Importing health and graveness. Two months since,
    Here was a gentleman of Normandy:--
    I've seen myself, and served against, the French,
    And they can well on horseback: but this gallant
    Had witchcraft in't; he grew unto his seat;
    And to such wondrous doing brought his horse,
    As he had been incorpsed and demi-natured
    With the brave beast: so far he topp'd my thought,
    That I, in forgery of shapes and tricks,
    Come short of what he did.

    LAERTES
    A Norman was't?

    KING CLAUDIUS
    A Norman.

    LAERTES
    Upon my life, Lamond.

    KING CLAUDIUS
    The very same.

    LAERTES
    I know him well: he is the brooch indeed
    And gem of all the nation.

    KING CLAUDIUS
    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: the scrimers of their nation,
    He swore, had had neither motion, guard, nor eye,
    If you opposed them. Sir, 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 him.
    Now, out of this,--

    LAERTES
    What out of this, my lord?

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

    LAERTES
    Why ask you this?

    KING CLAUDIUS
    Not that I think you did not love your father;
    But that I know love is begun by time;
    And that I see, in passages of proof,
    Time qualifies the spark and fire of it.
    There lives within the very flame of love
    A kind of wick or snuff that will abate it;
    And nothing is at a like goodness still;
    For goodness, growing to a plurisy,
    Dies in his own too much: that we would do
    We should do when we would; for this 'would' changes
    And hath abatements and delays as many
    As there are tongues, are hands, are accidents;
    And then this 'should' is like a spendthrift sigh,
    That hurts by easing. But, to the quick o' the ulcer:--
    Hamlet comes back: what would you undertake,
    To show yourself your father's son in deed
    More than in words?

    LAERTES
    To cut his throat i' the church.

    KING CLAUDIUS
    No place, indeed, should murder sanctuarize;
    Revenge should have no bounds. But, good Laertes,
    Will you do this, keep close within your chamber.
    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 on 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 practise
    Requite him for your father.

    LAERTES
    I will do't:
    And, for that 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 CLAUDIUS
    Let's further think of this;
    Weigh what convenience both of time and means
    May fit us to our shape: if this should fail,
    And that our drift look through our bad performance,
    'Twere better not assay'd: therefore this project
    Should have a back or second, that might hold,
    If this should blast in proof. Soft! let me see:
    We'll make a solemn wager on your cunnings: I ha't.
    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.

    Enter QUEEN GERTRUDE

    How now, sweet queen!

    QUEEN GERTRUDE
    One woe doth tread upon another's heel,
    So fast they follow; your sister's drown'd, Laertes.

    LAERTES
    Drown'd! O, where?

    QUEEN GERTRUDE
    There is a willow grows aslant a brook,
    That shows his hoar leaves in the glassy stream;
    There with fantastic garlands did she come
    Of crow-flowers, nettles, daisies, and long purples
    That liberal shepherds give a grosser name,
    But our cold maids do dead men's fingers call them:
    There, on the pendent boughs her coronet weeds
    Clambering to hang, an envious sliver broke;
    When down her weedy trophies and herself
    Fell in the weeping brook. Her clothes spread wide;
    And, mermaid-like, awhile they bore her up:
    Which time she chanted snatches of old tunes;
    As one incapable of her own distress,
    Or like a creature native and indued
    Unto that element: but long it could not be
    Till that her garments, heavy with their drink,
    Pull'd the poor wretch from her melodious lay
    To muddy death.

    LAERTES
    Alas, then, she is drown'd?

    QUEEN GERTRUDE
    Drown'd, drown'd.

    LAERTES
    Too much of water hast thou, poor Ophelia,
    And therefore 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 douts it.

    Exit

    KING CLAUDIUS
    Let's follow, Gertrude:
    How much I had to do to calm his rage!
    Now fear I this will give it start again;
    Therefore let's follow.

    Exeunt
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