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ACT IV SCENE IIIAnother room in the castle.
Enter KING CLAUDIUS, attended.
KING CLAUDIUSI have sent to seek him, and to find the body.
How dangerous is it that this man goes loose!
Yet must not we put the strong law on him:
He’s loved 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. To bear all smooth and even,
This sudden sending him away must seem
Deliberate pause: diseases desperate grown
By desperate appliance are relieved, 10
Or not at all.
Enter ROSENCRANTZ and others.
How now! what hath befall’n?
ROSENCRANTZWhere the dead body is bestow’d, my lord,
We cannot get from him.
KING CLAUDIUSBut where is he?
ROSENCRANTZWithout, my lord; guarded, to know your pleasure.
KING CLAUDIUSBring him before us.
ROSENCRANTZHo, Guildenstern! bring in my lord.
KING CLAUDIUSNow, Hamlet, where’s Polonius?
HAMLETAt supper.
KING CLAUDIUSAt supper! where? 19
HAMLETNot where he eats, but where he is eaten: a certain
convocation of politic worms are e’en at him. Your
worm is your only emperor for diet: we fat all
creatures else to fat us, and we fat ourselves for
maggots: your fat king and your lean beggar is but
variable service, two dishes, but to one table:
that’s the end.
HAMLETA man may fish with the worm that hath eat of a
king, and cat of the fish that hath fed of that worm.
KING CLAUDIUSWhat dost you mean by this?
HAMLETNothing but to show you how a king may go a
progress through the guts of a beggar. 31
KING CLAUDIUSWhere is Polonius?
HAMLETIn heaven; send hither 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 CLAUDIUSGo seek him there.
To some Attendants.
HAMLETHe will stay till ye come.
Exeunt Attendants.
KING CLAUDIUSHamlet, this deed, for thine especial safety,–
Which we do tender, as we dearly grieve 40
For that which thou hast done,–must send thee hence
With fiery quickness: therefore prepare thyself;
The bark is ready, and the wind at help,
The associates tend, and every thing is bent
For England.
HAMLETFor England!
KING CLAUDIUSSo is it, if thou knew’st our purposes.
HAMLETI see a cherub that sees them. But, come; for
England! Farewell, dear mother.
KING CLAUDIUSThy loving father, Hamlet. 49
HAMLETMy mother: father and mother is man and wife; man
and wife is one flesh; and so, my mother. Come, for England!
KING CLAUDIUSFollow him at foot; tempt him with speed aboard;
Delay it not; I’ll have him hence to-night:
Away! for every thing is seal’d and done
That else leans on the affair: pray you, make haste.
And, England, if my love thou hold’st at aught–
As my great power thereof may give thee sense,
Since yet thy cicatrice looks raw and red
After the Danish sword, and thy free awe 60
Pays homage to us–thou mayst not coldly set
Our sovereign process; which imports at full,
By letters congruing to that effect,
The present death of Hamlet. Do it, England;
For like the hectic in my blood he rages,
And thou must cure me: till I know ’tis done,
Howe’er my haps, my joys were ne’er begun.

Next: Hamlet, Act 4, Scene 4


Explanatory Notes for Act 4, Scene 3

From Hamlet, prince of Denmark. Ed. K. Deighton. London: Macmillan.


1. him, Hamlet.

2. goes loose, is allowed his freedom.

3. Yet must … him, yet it will not do for me to employ the full force of the law against him…

4. of, by; distracted, weak-brained.

5. Who like … eyes, whose liking depends not upon the use of their judgement, but, etc.

6. the offender’s scourge, the provocation the offender has received; that by which he has been lashed into furious deeds.

7-9. To hear … pause, in order that things may go smoothly, not excite opposition, this sending him away so suddenly must be made to seem the result of deliberate calculation.

14. without, outside: guarded … pleasure, under a guard till it be known what it is your pleasure should be done.

20, 1. a certain … him, a certain assemblage of discriminating worms, worms that know what they like, are even now engaged upon him; an allusion to the Diet of Worms.

21, 2. Your worm … diet, the worm you and I know so well is the only real emperor as regards diet; for your, used in this colloquial sense, see Abb. § 220: fat, fatten.

24, 5. but … table, two dishes served in a different way, but placed before the same company; cp. Westward Ho! i. 2, “an excellent pickled goose, a new service,” i.e. dressed in a new way: for variable, cp. iii. 1. 172:the end, what it all comes to.

30. go a progress, an allusion to the royal ‘progresses,’ journeys of state, so common in England in former days.

33. send thither to see, Delius points out that the king would not be able himself to get to heaven to make the inquiry.

34. the other place, hell.

35. nose, smell; cp. Cor. v. 1. 28, “to nose the offence.”

38. He will … come, you need not be afraid of his running away, he ‘s fast enough there.

40. tender, hold precious; see note on i. 3. 107.

41. must … hence, will render it necessary for you to leave Denmark. The king pretends that it is no wish of his, but a necessary consequence of the deed, as though Hamlet would be seized by the very multitude who he had just before said loved him too much to allow any harm to be done to him.

42. with fiery quickness, “with hot haste” (Cl. Pr. Edd.).

43. the wind at help, the wind favourable; for at, in place of the prefix a-, as in asleep, afoot, etc., see Abb. § 143.

44. The associates tend, the companions I have chosen for your voyage are in readiness for you: bent, directed, in trim.

45. For England! in order that he may not be suspected of having made any plans of his own to baffle the king’s design, Hamlet pretends to be surprised at the information.

46. So it is … purposes, it is well, as you would allow if you knew, etc.

53. at foot, at his heels, closely; tempt … aboard, persuade him to go on board as quickly as you can.

54. I’ll have him hence, I am determined that he shall sail.

55, 6. for every … affair, for everything else that depends upon the management of this business is thoroughly complete.

57. if my love … aught, if you in the least value my love.

58. As my .. sense, and the greatness of my power may well teach you to do so.

59, 60. Since yet … sword, since the chastisement you received at our hands is still fresh in your memory; cicatrice, scar.

60. free awe, “awe still felt, though no longer enforced by the presence of Danish armies” (Cl. Pr. Edd.).

61. homage, i.e. the homage of being ready to carry out our injunctions.

61, 2. thou mayst … process, you may not treat with indifference our royal mandate; for process, cp. A. C. i. 1. 28, “Where’s Fulvia’s process?” The Cl. Pr. Edd. point out that set “would not have been thus used had it not been familiar in the phrases ‘set at nought,’ ‘set at a pin’s fee,’ etc.”

62-4. which imports … Hamlet, the full tenour of which as explained by letters sent with it, and enforcing it with adjurations of the same purport, is that Hamlet should at once be put to death; conjuring is the reading of the folios, the quartos giving congruing, the objection to which is its tautology.

65. For like … rages, for the effect which his existence has upon me is like that of a hectic fever on the blood, i.e. causing it to burn violently; hectic, properly an adjective = continual, habitual, and especially applied of old to fevers; now used only in the sense of consumptive…

66. And thou … me, and to you I must look for a cure for this disease of mine.

67. However … begun, whatever may happen to me, I can never feel that the happiness I long for has begun.


How to cite the explanatory notes:Shakespeare, William. Hamlet, prince of Denmark. Ed. K. Deighton. London: Macmillan, 1919.