|ACT IV SCENE II||Another room in the castle.|
|GUILDENSTERN||[Within] Hamlet! Lord Hamlet!|
|HAMLET||But soft, what noise? who calls on Hamlet?|
|O, here they come.|
|[Enter ROSENCRANTZ and GUILDENSTERN]|
|ROSENCRANTZ||What have you done, my lord, with the dead body?|
|HAMLET||Compounded it with dust, whereto ’tis kin.|
|ROSENCRANTZ||Tell us where ’tis, that we may take it thence|
|And bear it to the chapel.|
|HAMLET||Do not believe it.|
|HAMLET||That I can keep your counsel and not mine own.|
|Besides, to be demanded of a sponge! what|
|replication should be made by the son of a king?|
|ROSENCRANTZ||Take you me for a sponge, my lord?|
|HAMLET||Ay, sir, that soaks up the king’s countenance, his|
|rewards, his authorities. But such officers do the|
|king best service in the end: he keeps them, like|
|an ape, in the corner of his jaw; first mouthed, to|
|be last swallowed: when he needs what you have|
|gleaned, it is but squeezing you, and, sponge, you|
|shall be dry again.||20|
|ROSENCRANTZ||I understand you not, my lord.|
|HAMLET||I am glad of it: a knavish speech sleeps in a|
|ROSENCRANTZ||My lord, you must tell us where the body is, and go|
|with us to the king.|
|HAMLET||The body is with the king, but the king is not with|
|the body. The king is a thing–|
|GUILDENSTERN||A thing, my lord!|
|HAMLET||Of nothing: bring me to him. Hide fox, and all after.|
Next: Hamlet, Act 4, Scene 3
Explanatory Notes for Act 4, Scene 2
From Hamlet, prince of Denmark. Ed. K. Deighton. London: Macmillan.
1. stowed, put away.
6. Compounded … kin, mixed with the earth of which it was originally formed; cp. the Burial Service, “earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust.” Cp. ii. H. IV. iv. 5. 116, “Only compound me with forgotten dust.”
11. Keep your counsel, keep your secret; referring perhaps to his discovery, in ii. 2. 284, 5, that they had been sent to sound him.
12. Besides … sponge! besides, to think of my being questioned by a fellow like you, who would get everything out of me, suck me dry, with the same insidiousness that a sponge sucks up water! Some editors follow the quartos and folios in putting a connna, instead of a note of admiration, after sponge; with that punctuation the meaning will be, ‘in the case of one’s being questioned,’ etc.
12, 3. what … king? what sort of answer do you expect to receive from one, like me, of royal birth? do you expect that such a one would submit to be sucked dry by a fellow like you? Rushton says that replication is “an exception of the second degree made by the plaintiff upon the answer of a defendant.” In the jargon of Holofernes, L. L. L. iv. 2. 15, the word is used, as here, for ‘reply’; in J. C. i. 1. 51, for ‘echo.’
15. countenance, favour.
16. authorities, the several attributes of power; cp. Lear, i. 3. 17.
17. like an … nuts, as an ape does nuts; the later quartos read “like an apple,” for which Farmer conjectured ‘like an ape, an apple’; the reading in the text is that of the first quarto, and is adopted by Staunton and Furness.
18. mouthed, taken into his mouth.
19. gleaned, picked up in the way of information: it is but squeezing you, all he needs to do is to squeeze you like a sponge.
22. a knavish … ear, I am glad you should not understand it, as that shows you are only a fool, fools never seeing the point of knavish words.
25, 6. The body … thing, various subtle meanings have been read into these words, but they were probably used for no other purpose than that of mystifying Guildenstern — and commentators.
28, 9. Hide fox, and all after, an allusion to the game of hide and seek, in which one of the players, called the fox, hides, and all the rest have to go after him and find out his hiding-place. Here, of course, merely a continuation of Hamlet’s feigned madness.
How to cite the explanatory notes:Shakespeare, William. Hamlet, prince of Denmark. Ed. K. Deighton. London: Macmillan, 1919.