ACT IV SCENE VI

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Hamlet


ACT IV SCENE VIAnother room in the castle.
Enter HORATIO and a Servant.
HORATIOWhat are they that would speak with me?
ServantSailors, sir: they say they have letters for you.
HORATIOLet them come in.
Exit Servant.
I do not know from what part of the world
I should be greeted, if not from Lord Hamlet.
Enter Sailors.
First SailorGod bless you, sir.
HORATIOLet him bless thee too.
First SailorHe shall, sir, an’t please him. There’s a letter for
you, sir; it comes from the ambassador that was
bound for England; if your name be Horatio, as I am
let to know it is.  10
HORATIOReads
‘Horatio, when thou shalt have overlooked this, give these fellows some means to the king:
they have letters for him. Ere we were two days old
at sea, a pirate of very warlike appointment gave us
chase. Finding ourselves too slow of sail, we put on
a compelled valour, and in the grapple I boarded
them: on the instant they got clear of our ship; so
I alone became their prisoner. They have dealt with
me like thieves of mercy: but they knew what they  19
did; I am to do a good turn for them. Let the king
have the letters I have sent; and repair thou to me
with as much speed as thou wouldst fly death. I
have words to speak in thine ear will make thee
dumb; yet are they much too light for the bore of
the matter. These good fellows will bring thee
where I am. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern hold their
course for England: of them I have much to tell
thee. Farewell.
‘He that thou knowest thine, HAMLET.’
Come, I will make you way for these your letters;  28
And do’t the speedier, that you may direct me
To him from whom you brought them.
Exeunt

Next: Hamlet, Act 4, Scene 7

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Explanatory Notes for Act 4, Scene 6

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

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1. What are they, what manner of men; What, less definite than who.

5. I should be greeted, I am likely to receive a greeting.

7. Let him, may he.

9. bound, on his way for.

10. let to know, informed; we still say ‘let me know,’ i.e. tell me.

12. overlooked, read.

13. some … king, some means of access to, etc.

14. Ere we … sea, before we had been two days at sea.

15. of … appointment, fitted out in most warlike fashion, i.e. heavily armed.

16. we put on … valour, we made a virtue of necessity and assumed a warlike bearing.

16, 7. in the grapple, as we grappled, i.e. threw out our grappling-irons in order to hold their vessel fast to ours: boarded, leaped on board: on the instant, just as I did so.

19. thieves of mercy, merciful thieves; see note on i. 2. 4.

19, 20. but they … them, but their mercy was due to politic reasons, for they wanted me in return to do them a service with the king.

21. repair, make your way; in this sense from Lat. repatriare, to return to one’s own country.

22. as thou, as that with which you.

23. will make, i.e. which will make; for the omission of the relative, see Abb. § 244.

23, 4. yet are … matter, yet no words would describe the matter in sufficiently strong language; the metaphor is that of shot not heavy enough for the calibre of a gun.

28. I will … letters, I will give you the means, opportunity, of delivering these letters.

29. And do ‘t … me, and do it all the more quickly that by my doing so, etc.; the, ablative of demonstration, see Abb. § 94.

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