Hamlet Screenplay 2
2.0 INT. ELSINORE -- POLONIUS’S ROOM -- DAY
Enter NARRATOR, dressed as REYNALDO. She has her hair down, though. She is making minor adjustments to her costume, as if she had just changed it.
So, here we are. And haven’t things gone
well? Hamlet is in a marvellous melancholy,
Claudius is king, Gertruda his wife, and old
She sits down in Polonius’s chair. There are papers, stacks of coins, astrological charts, and paraphernalia all over the place.
And it’s pretty accurate compared to the
way it actually happened -- way back in the
year of our...
...excuse me, 932. Yes, more than
a thousand years ago. And since then the
story just won’t keep quiet, as it were. The
first record of it surviving in the west was
set down over 200 years afterward by one
Saxo Grammaticus, or, the “Saxon Writer.”
It was later published in ---
Murmuring from what must be an audience.
Yes, the History of the Danes. It’s a
somewhat garbled account and mixes elements
from more than one source -- but still, the
the main aspects of it weren’t all that
uncommon...in ancient times. Many of the key
scenes occurred, for instance, in Rome: as in the
story of Lucius Iunius Brutus.
So Saxo relates,
in his own way, certain essential facts. The
elimination of the old King by his brother --
he was a bastard, by the way -- the consequent
illicit marriage, the feigned madness on the
part of the Hamlet character (he was originally
called Amlethi) and the revenge motif; in this
case a long delayed revenge, but a revenge
She plays with the money on the desk.
Eventually the story reappeared in a French
version, and it was this version, the
Belleforest, that this Shakespeare got a
hold of and formed the source material for
Here I will not get into the convoluted history
of Q1, Q2, F, et cetera, as it is not to the
purpose. Shakespeare’s version, although in part
florid and overblown, and compressed as to time-
span, is accurate in all essential details.
She gets up.
And where it doesn’t accord with the facts it
actually makes the overall situation clearer.
Look at that: they’re still using the head of
Caesar on their coins. These Danish
mo... fancy themselves as inheritors of
the Roman tradition of “Gloria.” Well, let
them have their fun...for now. So, what’s
next? I do believe Polonius is due.
REVERSE TRACKING SHOT. Polonius marching down a corridor.
He’s coming this way. Can you zoom in a
Polonius turns a corner, and the camera stays where it is.
There, run that back again.
The Background Scene reverses, and then goes forward again, Polonius turning the corner again.
Right there. You see that?
That’s right, Polonius is a Jew. He wanted
to name himself “Polonicus” -- after the Roman
fashion, meaning: “Conqueror of Poland” --
but he didn’t have the guts. Here he comes now.
BACKGROUND SCENE OUT.
Enter Polonius. Polonius rummages and turns up a packet of letters and a purse. No matter what bizarre antics the Narrator performs, Polonius doesn’t react -- as if he didn’t even see them.
Hamlet hates him, of course, and thinks
he’s an idiot. But he’s actually a very
important person in the court: Minister of
Finance. And now Chief Advisor to Claudius.
But we can’t get into how that happened now.
Give him this money and these notes, Reynaldo.
I will, my lord.
Polonius turns to go, but then thinks better of it and returns with a new thought. When he says the word “marvellous,” the Narrator mouths it.
You shall do marvellous wisely, good Reynaldo,
Before you visit him, to make inquire
Of his behavior.
(looking aside first)
My lord, I did intend it.
Polonius looks at the Narrator, as if noticing her for the first time.
Marry, well said, very well said.
The Narrator removes a coin from the purse and puts it into her own pocket as a reward.
Look you, sir,
Inquire me first what Danskers are in Paris,
And how, and who, what means, and where they keep.
The Narrator produces a notebook and keeps track of these things, now hurrying to keep up.
What company, at what expense; and finding
By this strategem and drift of question
That they do know my son, come then you closer
To the real truth than what you seem to inquire.
The Narrator makes a face aside of mock surprise.
Take you as ‘twere some distant knowledge of him,
She makes an obscene gesture.
As thus, ‘I know his father, and his friends,
She makes another obscene gesture, this one worse than before.
And in part, him.’ Do you mark this, Reynaldo.
Ay, very well, my lord.
‘And in part him. But,’ you may say, ‘not well;
But if it be he in sooth, he’s very wild.’
She makes a face and an obscene gesture.
(continuing; waving arms)
‘Addicted so and so.’ And there put on him
What forgeries you please.
(turning to Narrator)
Marry, none so rank
As may dishonor him -- take heed of that.
She blows Polonius a kiss.
But, sir, such wanton, wild, and usual slips
As are companions noted and most known
To youth and liberty.
She looks Polonius up and down, while continuing to write.
As gaming, my lord?
The Narrator mouths the rest of the following elements as they appear from Polonius.
Ay, or drinking, fencing, swearing,
The Narrator then, while writing, mouths the word “whoring.”
Whoring. You may go so far.
(challenging the point)
My lord, that would dishonor him.
Faith, no, as you may season it in the charge.
You must not put such a scandal on him,
That he is open to incontinency --
That’s not my meaning; but breathe his faults
That they may seem the taints of liberty,
The flash and outbreak of a fiery mind,
The savageness of untamed blood, plaguing
Young men generally.
She writes this down, but then starts to object, as if this were too much.
But my good lord --
Why then, should you do this?
Ay, my lord, I would know that.
Marry, sir, here’s my drift,
The Narrator sticks her tongue out at him, but he’s turned the other way.
And I believe it justifiable:
Your laying these slight sullies on my son,
Though it might seem a dirty trick.
He stops and thinks. The Narrator makes a face at him and puts her hands to her ears, and waves them.
She writes this down.
Your party in converse, the one you would sound,
Having ever seen this youth you speak of
Engaging in any of these listed crimes,
Be certain he confesses it as follows:
(acting it out)
‘Good sir,’ or so: ‘Friend,’ or ‘Gentleman,’
According to the customary phrase,
In those parts --
While Polonius acts this out, the Narrator leers at him.
Very good, my lord.
She stops writing and puts her notebook away. This confuses Polonius, since he wasn’t finished.
And then, sir, does a this, a does...
What was I about to say?
Jesus Christ, I was about to say something.
Where did I leave?
(referring to notes)
At ‘Be certain he confesses it.’
Polonius really is afraid of Laertes consorting with prostitutes, but can’t get around to addressing the issue directly.
‘Be certain he confesses it,’ Ay, marry.
He says it so, ‘I know the gentleman,
I saw him yesterday,’ or, ‘the other day.’
Or then, or then, or some such, ‘And as you say,
There was a gaming.’ ‘There oertook in’s drink,’
‘There falling out at tennis,’ or, perchance
‘I saw him enter such a house of sale’ --
You know, a brothel, or so forth.
She just waits this time. Polonius broods on this a moment.
See you now,
Your bait of falsehood takes this prize of truth;
And thus do we of wisdom and of mind,
With subtleties and with assays devious,
By indirection find directions out.
She taunts him to his face, but he seems to see it not.
So by my former lecture and advice
Shall you my son. You have me, have you not?
My lord, I have.
She stashes her notebook, and gives Polonius the most aggressive and formal kiss you’ve ever seen.
God be with you, fare you well.
Good my lord.
Align yourself to his inclination.
She spreads her legs and pumps her hips.
I shall, my lord.
And let him ply his music.
Well, my lord.
She fusses with her breeches as she exits. Polonius sits down and ruminates.
Enter Ophelia, distressed.
How now, Ophelia, what’s the matter?
O my lord, my lord, I have been so affrighted!
EXT. RAMPARTS - NIGHT
Polonius and Claudius are alone on the ramparts, watching something off-screen that horrifies them. Their faces are illuminated by a strong white light coming from the same direction off-screen.
With what, i’th’name of God?
My lord, as I was sewing in my closet,
INT. ELSINORE -- OPHELIA’S CLOSET - DAY
Hamlet and Ophelia act out the scene as Ophelia describes it.
...with his doublet all unbrac’d,
No hat upon his head, his stockings foul’d,
Ungarter’d and down-gyved to his ankle,
Pale as his shirt, his knees knocking each other,
And with a look so piteous in purport
As if he had been loosed out of hell
To speak of horrors, he comes before me.
Mad for thy love?
My lord, I do not know,
But truly I do fear it.
What said he?
Ophelia now acts out the scene in semi-pantomime, although she narrates it also.
He took me by the wrist and held me hard.
Then goes he to the length of all his arm,
And with his other hand thus o’er his brow
He falls to such perusal of my face
As he would draw it.
FAST-MOTION: sketch being done of Ophelia. At the end, a blot of ink is thrown over it.
Long stayed he so.
At last, a little shaking of my arm,
And thrice his head thus waving up and down,
He raised a sigh so piteous and profound
As it did seem to shatter all his bulk
And end his being.
Ophelia/Hamlet collapses as if dead.
INT. ELSINORE -- OPHELIA’S CLOSET - DAY
Hamlet and Ophelia act out the scene as Ophelia describes it. Except the first thing Hamlet does is to kiss Ophelia very hard from his position right on top of her.
That done, he lets me go,
And with his head over his shoulder turned
He seem’d to find his way without his eyes,
For out o’doors he went without their helps,
And to the last bended their light on me.
Come, go with me, I will go seek the King.
This is the very ecstasy of love,
Whose violent property fordoes itself
And leads the will to desperate undertakings
As oft as any passion under heaven
That does afflict our natures.
I am sorry...
Ophelia is crying.
What, have you given him any hard words of late?
No, my good lord, but as you did command,
I did repel his letters and denied
His access to me.
That has made him mad.
I am sorry I did not think this through,
and discern his mind earlier. I feared he meant
but to trifle with you, and then soil your...
reputation. But beshrew my jealousy! By
heaven, it is as fitting for us old-timers
to delude ourselves in these matters, as it is
common for the younger sort to lack discretion.
He comforts her, as she continues to sob.
Come, go we to the King.
This must be known, which, being kept close,
More grief to hide than hate to utter love.
They walk off, slowly.
2.2 INT ELSINORE - HALLWAY - DAY
Closeup of a door. It opens, and we enter into the THRONE ROOM. Present are Claudius, Gertruda and courtiers. Both King and Queen are drinking. It is revealed that it is ROSENCRANTZ and GUILDENSTERN who have entered.
Welcome, dear Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.
Moreover that we much did long to see you,
The need we have to use you did provoke
Our hasty sending. Something have you heard
Of Hamlet’s transformation -- so I call it,
Sith nor th’exterior nor the inward man
Resembles what it was. What it should be,
More than his father’s death, that thus hath put him
So much from th’understanding of himself
I cannot dream of. I entreat you both
That, being of so young days brought up with him,
And sith so neighbour’d to his youth and ‘haviour,
That you vouchsafe your rest here in our court
Some little time, so by your companies
To draw him on to pleasures and to gather,
So much as from occasion you may glean,
Whether aught to us unknown afflicts him thus
That, open’d, lies within our remedy.
Good gentlemen, he hath much talk’d of you,
To whom he more adheres. If it will please you
To show us so much gentry and good will
As to expend your time with us awhile
For the supply and profit of our hope,
Your visitation shall receive such thanks
As fits a king’s remembrance.
Both your majesties
Might, by the sovereign power you have of us,
Put your dread pleasures more into command
Than to entreaty.
But we both obey,
And here give up ourselves in the full bent
To lay our service freely at your feet
To be commanded.
(aside; confusing them)
Thanks, Rosencrantz and gentle Guildenstern.
Thanks, Guildenstern and gentle Rosencrantz.
And I beseech you instantly to visit
My too much changed son.
Go, some of you,
And bring these gentlemen where Hamlet is.
Heavens make our presence and our practices
Pleasant and helpful to him.
(aside; setting down cup)
We swivel around and head out the door, passing Polonius, hustling in the other way.
Polonius is about to speak of Hamlet and Ophelia, but decides against it.
Th’ambassadors from Norway, my good lord,
Are joyfully returned.
He means my boys. Yessir.
Thou still hast been the father of good news.
Have I, my lord? I assure my good liege
I hold my duty as I hold my soul,
Both to my God and to my gracious King;
(whispering to Claudius)
And I do think -- or else this brain of mine
Hunts not the trail of policy so sure
As it hath us’d to do -- that I have found
The very cause of Hamlet’s lunacy.
That’s what you think.
(putting down cup)
O speak of that: that do I long to hear.
Give first admittance to th’ambassadors.
My news shall be the fruit to that great feast.
Thyself do grace to them, and bring them in.
(continuing; to Gertruda)
He tells me, my dear Gertruda, he hath found
The head and source of all your son’s distemper.
I doubt it is none other but the main,
His father’s death, and our o’er-hasty marrriage.
Well, we shall sift him.
Enter Polonius, with Voltemand and Cornelius; they are now not only attired in the Viking fashion, but are tattoed heavily.
Welcome, my good friends.
Say, Voltemand, what from our brother Norway?
Most fair return of greetings and desires.
Upon our news, he sent out to suppress
His nephew’s levies, which to him appear’d
To be a preparation ‘gainst the Polack;
But better look’d into, he truly found
It was against your highness.
And then, being angered
That so his sickness, age, and impotence
Was falsely estimated, sends out arrests
On Fortinbras; which he, in brief, obeys,
The Narrator laughs softly over this.
INT. THE NORWEGIAN COURT - NIGHT
Fires burn brightly in a large HALL, the Norwegians are examining crude maps of the region.
Receives rebuke from Norway, and, in fine,
Makes vow before his uncle never more
To give th’assay of arms against your Majesty.
THE DANISH COURT
Whereon old Norway, overcome with joy,
Gives him three thousand crowns in annual fee
THE NORWEGIAN COURT
The Norwegians indicate a feint towards Poland, and then an attack on Denmark.
And his commission to employ those soldiers
So levied, as before, against the Polack,
With an entreaty, herein further shown,
THE DANISH COURT
(continuing; giving paper)
That it might please you to give quiet pass
Through your dominion for this enterprise
On such fair terms of safety and allowance
As therein are set down.
It likes us well.
And at our more consider’d time we’ll read,
Answer, and think upon this business.
Meantime, we thank you for your well-took labor.
He passes the paper off to an AID.
(taking a drink)
Go to your rest, at night we’ll feast together.
Most welcome home.
He toasts them, and Gertruda joins in. Voltemand and Cornelius exit, grinning at each other. Polonius then delivers a performance for the court, which has been expecting it.
This business is well ended.
My liege and madam, to expostulate
What majesty should be, what duty is,
Why day is day, night night, and time is time,
Were nothing but to waste night, day,and time.
Therefore, since brevity is the soul of wit,
And tediousness the limbs and outward flourishes,
I will be brief. Your noble son is mad.
Reaction from court.
Mad call I it, for to define true madness,
What is’t but to be nothing else but mad?
But let that go.
More matter with less art.
Madam, I swear I use no art at all.
That he is mad ‘tis true; ‘tis true ‘tis pity;
And pity ‘tis ‘tis true.
A foolish figure --
But farewell it, for I will use no art.
Mad let us grant him then. And now remains
That we find out the cause of this effect,
Or rather say the cause of this defect,
For this effect defective comes by cause.
Thus it remains; and the remainder thus:
(giving Ophelia her cue)
I have a daughter...
Ophelia, however, does not enter on cue.
...have while she is mine...
Ophelia at a window: morose.
Who in her duty and obedience, mark,
Hath given me this. Now gather and surmise.
To the celestial and my soul’s idol, the most
beautified Ophelia. That’s an ill phrase, a vile phrase,
‘beautified’ is a vile phrase. But you shall hear:
these; in her excellent white bosom, these, and et
Came this from Hamlet to her?
Good madam, stay awhile, I will be faithful.
(acting it out)
Doubt thou the stars are fire,
Doubt that the sun doth move,
Doubt truth to be a liar,
But never doubt I love.
(reading another; and
acting it out)
My dear Ophelia, I am ill at these numbers
I have no art to reckon my groans.
But that I love thee best, O most best,
Believe it. Adieu.
(reading another; and
acting it out)
Thine evermore, most dear lady whilst this
machine is to him, Hamlet.
The court applaudes. Then Polonius remembers to bow to them.
This in obedience hath my daughter shown me,
And, more above, hath his solicitings,
As they fell out by time, by means, and place,
All given mine ear.
But how hath she received his love?
What do you think of me?
As of a man faithful and honorable.
I hope to prove so. But what might you think,
If I had seen this hot love on the wing
As I Perceived it, I must tell you that,
Before my daughter told me,..
...what might you
Or my dear Majesty your queen here think,
If I had kept a bureaucratic silence,
Or closed my heart, holding it mute and dumb,
Or looked upon this ‘love’ with idle sight?
What might you think?
Groans from courtiers.
No, I went round to work,
And my young mistress thus did I bespeak:
Ophelia wanders in to the room, distrought.
‘Lord Hamlet is a prince out of thy star.
This must not be.’ And then I prescripts gave her,
That she should lock herself from his ‘converse,’
Admit no messengers, receive no tokens;
Which done, she took the fruits of my advice,
And he, repelled ---
Exclamations of approval from the courtiers.
...a short tale to make --
Fell into a sadness, then to a fast,
Thence to a watch, thence into a weakness,
Thence to a lightness, and, by this declension,
Into the madness wherein now he raves,
And we all mourn for.
Applause from the courtiers. Polonius holds up a hand, as if this were too much praise.
Do you think ‘tis this?
It may be; very like.
Hath there been such a time,..
...I would know,
That I have positively said, ’Tis so,’
When it proved otherwise?
Not that I know.
Polonius indicates his head and torso.
Take this from this if this be otherwise.
If circumstances lead me, I will find
Where truth is hid, though it were hid indeed
Within the center.
Applause. Claudius drinks their health, and indicates the feasting should begin again. More applause.
How may we try it further?
At such a time I’ll loose my daughter to him.
Be you and I behind a curtain then,
Mark the encounter. If he love her not,
And be not from his reason fallen thereon,
Let me be no assistant to your state,
But have me herding swine instead.
We will try it.
Gertruda is looking down into an open-to-below area.
But look where sadly the poor wretch comes reading.
Away, I do beseech you both, away.
I’ll board him presently.
He leads Gertruda back to Claudius.
O give me leave.
Claudius, after a brief moment, nods his agreement.
THE LOWER ROOM
Hamlet has a book, but is only pretending to read it. He’s scouting the location, and thinking. Enter Polonius, in a supercilious mood. Hamlet, however, is openly contemptuous of him.
How does my good lord Hamlet?
Well, God ‘a mercy.
Then he ignores him, pretending to read, and also looking about the room, as if for hidden enemies.
Do you know me, my lord?
Excellent well. You are a fishmonger.
Hold on there, just hold on there
one gosh darn minute.
The Action FREEZES.
That word ‘fishmonger’ sounds harmless
enough, but there’s more to it. Hamlet
is not accusing Polonius of being a mere
shopkeeper, as it were, an insult, but
Polonius is presiding over a booth selling fish caught from the North Sea.
a fairly mild one. The word ‘fish’ also
has a subsidiary meaning, current since the
fifteenth century, and originating slightly
earlier. So Shakespeare’s use of it is
slightly anachronistic, but we’ll let that
pass. It means ‘woman,’ specifically...
Another part of it: this time Polonius is presiding over the sale of NAKED SLAVE WOMEN from all over Europe. Included in the group, not at first revealed, is Ophelia.
...a woman used as a sexual object; that
is to say, a whore. So our boy Hamlet is
rolling three insults into one with his
apparently harmless little word. Nor is
A grossly fat RUSSIAN TRADER is performing a sexual act with the helpless whore-Ophelia.
Hamlet won’t let the allusion alone. He
goes on to be more specific about Ophelia,
implicating Polonius in deliberate abuse
of her person.
Polonius appears behind the curtains, surveys the scene, grins, and counts out a handful of gold coins.
Then, if that were not enough, he suggests old men, and therefore Polonius himself, as having ‘weak hams.’ Although the ham was known as part of the leg, it was used specifically in reference to swine.
Several pigs are rooting for food among the offal. One of them turns toward us and its face MORPHS INTO the face of Polonius.
Hamlet is thus equating Polonius, however
indirectly, with a pig, and the jewboy isn’t
going to like that, even if it takes him a
few moments to catch on.
THE LOWER ROOM
Back to the frozen action.
Polonius thinks he’s smart, and he goes in
there with an attitude, but let’s watch and
see how Hamlet, feigning madness, takes care
The action COMMENCES again, although we’ve rewound it a bit.
Do you know me, my lord?
Excellent well. You are a fishmonger.
Not I, my lord.
Then I would you were so honest a man.
Honest, my lord?
Ay sir. To be honest, as this world goes,
Is to be one man picked out of ten thousand.
That’s very true, my lord.
For if the sun breed maggots in a dead dog,
(rumpling Polonius’s hair)
Being a good kissing carrion...
Then he thinks better of kissing Polonius, and moves away a few steps. Then he turns back, thinking of something.
Have you a daughter?
I have, my lord.
Let her not walk in the sun.
Polonius moves to intercept Hamlet, requiring an explanation of this supposed insult, along with the others.
Conception is a blessing, but as your
daugher may conceive, friend, look to it.
Hamlet again moves away, and Polonius follows him again, very angry now.
How say you by that?
Hamlet ignores him and reads his book. Polonius thinks about what has transpired, coming to an erroneous conclusion.
Still harping on my daughter.
Yet he knew me not at first; he said
I was a fishmonger.
He’s far gone.
And truly, in my youth, I suffered for love,
Very near this. I’ll speak to him again.
(to Hamlet; challenging)
What do you read, my lord?
(makes obscene gesture)
Words, words, words.
(smirks aside, then:)
What is the matter, my lord?
I mean the matter that you read, my lord.
Slanders, sir. For the satirical rogue says here that old men have gray beards, that their faces are wrinkled, their eyes purging thick amber and plumtree gum, and that they have a plentiful lack of wit, and most weak hams.
Polonius is now fuming; as he is about to say something, Hamlet interrupts him.
(continuing; placating him)
All which, sir, though I most powerfully and
potently believe, yet I hold it not honesty to
have it set down. For yourself, sir,...
shall grow old as I am, if like a crab...
...you could go backward.
Though this be madnesss, yet there’s method
Will you walk out of the air, my lord?
Into my grave?
Indeed, that’s out of the air.
How pregnant sometimes his replies are.
A relevance that often madness hits on, which
reason and sanity could not so prosperously
be delivered of. I will leave him and
suddenly contrive the means of meeting between
him and my daughter.
My lord, I will take my leave.
You cannot, sir, take from me anything that
I would rather part withal. Except my life.
Except my life.
Fare you well, my lord.
These tedious old fools.
Polonius striding one way, encounters Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, going the other.
You go to seek the Lord Hamlet.
There he is.
God save you, sir.
My honored lord.
THE LOWER ROOM
This scene is shot with what might be termed a lurking camera: odd angles, locations from the floor, and from overhead, as if the three were being observed by an invisible watcher. The first shot is a TRAVELLING SHOT, at floor level, following Rosencrantz and Guildenstern as they come into the Lower Room. Then they stop, and find nothing to say. They both have a nice new wardrobe. Once again, the armor of Old Hamlet seems to dominate the room, and its
My excellent good friends. How are you,
Guildenstern? Ah, Rosencrantz. Good lads,
How do you, both?
As the indifferent children of the earth.
Happy in that we are not over-happy: on
Fortune’s cap we are not the very button.
Nor the soles of her shoe?
Neither, my lord.
Then you live about her waist, or in the
middle of her favors?
Faith, her privates, we.
In the secret parts of fortune? O most
true, she is a strumpet.
They have an honest laugh, but then another awkward pause.
None, my lord, but the world’s grown honest.
Then is doomsday near. But your news is not true.
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern try to think of a rejoinder to that, but can find none.
Let me question more in particular. What have
you, my good friends, deserved at the hands of
Fortune that she sends you to prison hither?
(thinks he’s on to
something, at last)
Prison, my lord?
Denmark’s a prison.
Then is the world one.
A goodly one, in which there are many
confines, wards, and dungeons,...
(to the boys)
Denmark being one of the worst.
Guildenstern, the thoughtful one, tries to decipher this.
We think not so, my lord.
Why, then ‘tis none to you; for there is
nothing either good or bad but thinking
makes it so. To me it is a prison.
Rosencrantz, observing Hamlet looking
around, and pondering the armor, now comes
to the conclusion Hamlet is disappointed over
Claudius having been elected king, instead of
Why, then your ambition makes it one:
‘tis too narrow for your mind.
O God, I could be bounded in a nutshell and
count myself king of infinite space, were it
not I have bad dreams.
Those dreams are indeed ambition; for the
very substance of the ambitious is merely
the shadow of a dream.
Hamlet awakening from a nightmare. M.O.S.
A dream itself is but a shadow.
Truly, and I hold ambition of so airy and light
a quality that it is but a shadow’s shadow.
In that case, a very pagan peasant is
truly alive in his own body, but our
monarchs, and our outstretched and
bygone heroes, are but the shadows
of real men.
That stumps them. Sounds of another revel reverberate throughout the hall.
Shall we to the court? For the life of me,
I cannot reason.
ROSENCRANTZ + GUILDENSTERN
We’ll wait upon you.
No such matter. I will not sort you with
the rest of my servants; for, to speak you
like an honest man,...
...I am most dreadfully
But in the beaten way of friendship, what
make you at Elsinore?
To visit you, my lord, no other occasion.
Peasant that I am, I am even poor in thanks,
but I thank you. And sure, dear friends,
my thanks are too great, even if merely a
Now they’re really confused.
Were you not sent for? Is it your own
inclining? Is it a free visitation?
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are surprised, and try to decide whether to confess by looking strangely at each other.
Come, come, deal justly with me. Come,
come. Nay, speak.
What should we say, my lord?
Why, anything, but to the purpose. You were
sent for, and there is a kind of confession
in your looks, which your modesties have
not craft enough to color. I know the good
King and Queen have sent for you.
You’re damn right they were.
To what end, my lord?
That you must teach me.
No response from the boys.
Let me conjure you, by the rights of our
fellowship, by the consonancy of our youth,
by the obligation of our ever-preserved
love, and by whatever more dear a better
proposer than I could charge you withal,
be even and direct with me whether you
were sent for or no.
What say you?
They huddle apart.
Nay, I have an eye on you. If you love
me, hold not off.
My lord, we were sent for.
The sunbeams slanting through the windows have become striking. The timbers have inlaid gold in them, catching the sunlight.
I will tell you why; so shall my
anticipation prevent your discovery,
and your secrecy to the King and Queen
shall lose no gloss.
I have of late, but for what reason I know
not, lost all my mirth, forgone all custom
of exercise; and indeed it goes so heavily
with my disposition that this goodly frame
the earth seems a sterile promontory.
(aside/to the boys)
This most excellent canopy the air, look
you, this brave o’ranging firmament, this
majestical roof fretted with golden fire,
why, it appears nothing to me but a foul
and pestilent congregation of vapors.
What a piece of work is man, how noble in
reason, how infinite...
We’ll see about that.
...in faculties, in form
and moving how express and admirable, in
action how like a god: the beauty of the
world the paragon of animals...
(to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern)
...and yet, to me, what is this quintessence
Man delights not me.
(to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern)
Nor woman neither, though by your smiling you
seem to say so.
My lord, there was no such stuff in my thoughts.
Why did you laugh then, when I said man delights
To think, my lord if you delight not in man,
what an empty welcome the players shall receive
from you. We passed them on the way.
And hither they are coming to offer you service.
Hamlet describes the actors, but alludes to the roles Rosencrantz and Guildenstern may be playing with him.
He that plays the king shall be welcome. His
majesty shall have tribute from me, the
adventurous knight shall use his foil and
target, the lover shall not sigh gratis, the
humorous man shall end his part in peace, the
clown shall make those laugh whose lungs are
ever ready for it, and the lady shall say her
mind freely, else...the blank verse shall halt
He gets no definite reaction, but again discomfits the boys.
What players are they?
Even those you were wont to take such delight
in, the tragedians of the city.
First, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern appear
out of nowhere, and now the players. Hamlet
wonders if this is a coincidence.
How chances it they travel?
The boys are flustered by the veiled accusation.
Their residence in the city, both in
reputation and in profit, was better
Guildenstern is becoming very cautious, and keeps glancing at Rosencrantz, hoping the latter won’t give anything away. Hamlet notices this.
I think their travelling comes by means of
He indicates the sound of the revels, thus signifying the accession of Claudius as the reason.
Do they command the same estimation they
did when I was in the city?
Nobody says anything.
Are they so followed?
Rosencrantz feels a pang of guilt.
No, indeed they are not.
How comes it?
The music of the revels booms through the castle. Hamlet moves closer to Rosencrantz.
Do they grow rusty?
No, my good lord, no insufficiency
Of their own mars them.
What is it then?
With no strings.
Puppets with no strings?
Shot of two rod puppets performing a Commedia del Art routine.
Not a single one.
Is it possible?
Indeed my lord, I would not thought it possible
had I not observed it with my own eyes and sense: puppets holding forth in the most ludicrous fashion amid the cheering throngs,...
Do the stringless ones carry it away?
...indeed my lord, and this continues in
such a fashion that the normal players are shunted quite out of the way. Hence, in order to carve out what remains of the action of the day, they are here arrived, to fulfill the very picture of your pleasure, as it were.
Ha, ha, ha.
Ha, ha, ha.
It is not very strange; for my uncle is King of
Denmark, and those that would make mouths at him
while my father lived now give twenty, forty,
fifty, a hundred ducats apiece for his picture in little.
Hamlet looks at his own cameo, of Old Hamlet, and then to the armor.
‘Sblood, there is something in this more than
natural, if philosophy could find it out.
Then we HEAR MUSIC. It is the players arriving. Saved by the bell.
There are the players.
Gentlemen, you are welcome to Elsinore. Your
hands, come then. Th’appurtenance of welcome is
fashion and ceremony. Let me comply with you in
this garb, lest my extent to the players, which
I tell you must show fairly outwards should more
appear like entertainment than yours.
Finally they shake hands.
You are welcome. But my uncle-father and
aunt-mother are deceived.
In what, my dear lord?
I am but mad north-north-west. When the wind
is southerly, I know a hawk from a handsaw.
(trying to be expansive)
Well be with you, Gentlemen.
Hark you, Guildenstern, and you too. At each
ear a hearer.
They huddle together.
That great baby you see there is not yet out
of his swaddling-clouts.
Happily he is the second time come to them, for they say an old man is twice a child.
I will prophecy he comes to tell me of the players. Mark it.
You say right, sir, a Monday morning, ‘twas then
My lord, I have news to tell you.
My lord, I have news to tell you. When Roscius was an actor in Rome --
The actors are come hither, my lord.
Upon my honour...
‘Then came each actor on his ass.’
...the best actors in the world, either for
tragedy, comedy, history, pastoral, pastoral-
comical, historical-pastoral, tragical-
pastoral, scene individable, or poem unlimited.
Polonius finally has their attention. And he pauses.
Seneca cannot be too heavy, nor Plautus too
light. For the law of writ, and the liberty,
these are the only men.
O Jephthah, judge of Israel, what a treasure hadst thou.
All right, Jephthah, as you know, was a judge in
Israel, and Hamlet here refers to the Book of
Judges, where it is described...
What treasure had he, my lord?
...how this old Jephthah sacrificed his daughter.
Hamlet is going to sing part of a song, known
as ‘Jephthah, Judge of Israel.’
One fair daughter and no more,
The which he loved passing well.
Still on my daughter.
Am I not in the right, Old Jephthah?
(trying to reason to Hamlet)
If you call me Jephthah, my lord, I have a
daughter that I love passing well.
Nay, that follows not.
Just because you have a daughter doesn’t
mean you love her, you old bastard.
What follows then, my lord?
As by lot God wot,
and then, you know,
It came to pass, as most like it was...
He acts out the part of a woman becoming ever more pregnant.
The first verse of the pious hymn will inform
...for look where my abridgement comes.
Enter the PLAYERS.
They are singing a bawdy song and having a good time.
You are welcome masters. Welcome, all. I am
glad to see thee well. Welcome, good friends.
O, old friend, why, thy face is valanced since
I saw thee last. Com’st thou to beard me in
Denmark? What, my young lady and mistress? By’r lady, your ladyship is nearer to heaven than when I saw you last by the altitude of a chopine. Pray God, your voice, like a piece of uncurrent gold, be not cracked within the ring. Masters, you are all welcome. We’ll even to it like French falconers, fly at anything we see. We’ll have a speech straight. Come, give us a taste of your quality. Come, a passionate speech.
What speech, my good lord?
I heard thee speak me a speech once, but it
was never acted, or if it was, not above once,
for the play, I remember, pleased not the
million, ‘twas caviare to the general. But it was, as I received it, and others, whose
judgments in such matters cried out on top of
mine, an excellent play, well digested in the
scenes, set down with as much modesty as
cunning. I remember one said there were
no sallets in the lines to make the matter
savoury, nor no matter in the phrase that might
indict the author of affectation, but called it
an honest method, as wholesome as sweet, and by
very much more handsome than fine. One speech
in’t I chiefly loved -- ‘twas Aeneas’ tale to
Dido -- and therabout of it especailly when he
speaks of Priam’s slaughter. If it live in your
memory, begin at this line, let me see, let me
The rugged Pyrrhus, like th’Hyrcanian beast --
‘Tis not so...it begins with Pyrrhus --
The rugged Pyurrhus, he whose sable arms,
Black as his purpose, did the night resemble
When he lay couched in the ominous horse,
Hath now this dread and black complexion smear’d
With heraldry more dismal. Head to foot
Now is he drenched in red, horridly trick’d
With blood of fathers, mothers, daughters, sons,
Bak’d and impasted with the parching streets,
That lend a tyrannous and a damned light
To their lord’s murder. Roasted in wrath and fire, And thus o’ersized with coagulate gore,
With eyes like carbuncles, the hellish Pyrrhus
Old grandsire Priam seeks.
So proceed you.
TROY. Hamlet is Pyrrhus. Player 1 is Priam. Pyrrhus approaches an INNER ROOM IN THE PALACE silhouetted by flames. Note: these flashback scenes are not quite M.O.S., they have reduced sound.
‘Fore God, my lord, well spoken, with good accent
and good discretion.
PLAYER 1 (V.O.)
Anon he finds him.
Priam backs away and drops his sword.
PLAYER 1 (V.O.)
Striking too short at Greeks. His antique sword,
Rebellious to his arm, lies where it falls,
Repugnant to command. Unequal match’d,
Pyrrhus at Priam drives, in rage strikes wide;
But with the whiff and wind of his fell sword
Th’ unnerved father falls. Then senseless Ilium,
Seeming to feel this blow, with flaming top
Stoops to his base, and with a hideous crash
Takes prisoner Pyrrhus’s ear. For lo, his sword,
Which was declining on the milky head
Of reverend Priam, seem’d i’th’air to stick;
So, as a painted tyrant, Pyrrhus stood,
And like a neutral to his will and matter,
PLAYER 1 (V.O.)
But as we often see amid some storm,
A silence in the heavens, the rack standing still,
The bold winds speechless, and the orb below
As hush as death,...anon the dreadful thunder
Doth rend the region; so after Pyrrhus’s pause
Aroused vengeance sets him new awork
And never did the Cyclops’ hammers fall
On Mars’s armour, forg’d for proof eterne,
With less remorse than Pyrrhus’s bleeding sword
Now falls on Priam.
Pyrrhus strikes at Priam.
Player 1 is cowering before Hamlet.
This is too long.
Hamlet goes over to Polonius and tugs at his beard.
It shall be to the barbers with your beard.
(to Player 1)
Prithee say on. He’s for a jig or a tale of
bawdry, or he sleeps. Say on. Come to
But who -- ah woe! -- had seen...
TROY. Gertruda is Hecuba, but with raven hair. She is fleeing inside the palace; her shift is torn, and she is clutching a blanket around her.
...the mobbled queen --
‘The mobbled queen.’
PLAYER 1 (V.O.)
The mobbled queen
Run up and down, threat’ning the flames
With bisson rheum...
PLAYER 1 (V.O.)
...a shroud upon that head
Where late the diadem stood, and, for a robe,
About her lank, and all o’erteemed loins
A blanket, in th’alarm of fear caught up --
Who this had seen, with tongue in venom steep’d,
‘Gainst Fortunes’ state would treason have pronounc’d.
But if the gods themselves did see her then,
When she saw Pyrrhus make malicious sport
In mincing with his sword her husband’s limbs,
Hecuba arrives just in time to see Pyrrhus strike her husband down.
PLAYER 1 (V.O.)
The instant burst of clamour that she made,
Unless things mortal move them not at all,
Would have made milch the burning eyes of heaven
And passion of the gods.
Hecuba screams, and covers her eyes with her hands.
Look we’er he has not turned his colour and has
tears in’s eyes. Prithee, no more.
Player 1 has the same posture as did Hecuba.
‘Tis well. I’ll have thee speak out the rest of this soon.
He goes to Player 1 and comforts him by touching him lightly on the arm. His mood is softened, even to Polonius.
(continuing; to Polonius)
Good my lord, will you see the players well
Polonius moves to shepherd the players off -- to the stables.
(continuing; turning back)
Do you hear, let them be well used, for
they are the abstract and brief chronicles of
the time. After your death you were better have
a bad epitaph than their ill report while you live.
My lord, I will use them according to their deserts.
God’s bodkin, man, much better. Use every man
according to his desert, and who shall scape
whipping? Use them after your own honour and
dignity: the less they deserve, the more merit is
in your bounty. Take them in.
He indicates the castle. Polonius turns around and leads them toward the castle reluctantly, looking at them as if they were pigs.
Follow him, friends. We’ll hear a play
(to Player 1)
Dost thou hear me, old friend?
Can you play The Murder of Gonzago?
Ay, my lord.
We’ll ha’it tomorrow night. You could for
a need study a speech of some dozen or
sixteen lines, which I would set down and
insert in’t, could you not?
Ay, my lord.
Follow that lord, and look you, mock him not.
Polonius and the players go inside the castle.
(continuing; to Rosencrantz
My good friends, I’ll leave you till night.
They move to embrace him, but he shakes their hands instead.
You are welcome to Elsinore.
Good my lord.
Ay, so, God buy you.
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern also exit into the castle.
Hamlet is walking along, looking out over the sea, and then back to us.
Now I am alone.
O what a rogue and peasant slave am I.
Is it not monstrous that this player here,
But in a fiction, in a dream of passion,
Could force his soul so to his own conceit
That from her working all his visage wann’d,
Tears in his eyes, distraction in his aspect,
A broken voice, and his whole function suiting
With forms to his conceit? And all for nothing.
What’s Hecuba to him, or he to her,
That he should weep for her? And what would he do
Had he the motive and the cue for passion
That I have? He would drown the stage with tears,
And cleave the general ear with horrid speech,
Make mad the guilty and appal the free,
Confound the ignorant, and amaze indeed
The very faculties of eyes and ears.
A dull and muddy-mettled rascal, peak
Like a John-a-dreams, unpregnant of my cause,
And can say nothing -- no, not for a king,
Upon whose property and most dear life
A damn’d defeat was made.
He walks awhile.
Am I a coward?
Who calls me ‘villain’, knocks me on a’head,
Plucks off my beard, and blows it in my face,
Tweaks me by the nose, gives me the lie i’th’throat
As deep as to the lungs -- who does me this?
‘Swounds, I should take it: for it cannot be
But I am pigeon-liver’d and lack gall
To make oppression bitter, or ere this
I should ha’fatted all the region’s kites
With this slave’s offal.
He draws his sword, and swings it around, as if he were fighting Claudius.
Bloody, bawdy villian!
Remorseless, treacherous, lecherous, kindless villain!
He runs the imaginary Claudius through.
Now you’re talking.
Why, what an ass am I! This is most brave,
That I, the son of a dear father murder’d,
Prompted to my revenge by heaven and hell,
Well, I wouldn’t say that.
Must like a whore unpack my heart with words
And fall a-cursing like a very drab?
You’ve never heard a whore curse.
A scullion! Fie upon’t! Foh!
He reaches the upper platform, where the Ghost has been observed. He looks out over the beautiful scene. The breathing of the Narrator is heard faintly.
About, my brains. Humph.
I have heard
That guilty creatures sitting at a play
Have, by the very cunning of the scene,
Been struck so to the soul that forthwith
They have proclaimed their malefactions.
For murder, though it have no tongue, will speak
With most miraculous organ.
I’ll have these players
Play something like the murder of my father
Before mine uncle.
I’ll observe his looks;
I’ll tent him to the quick. If a do blench,
I know my course.
He looks all around, into the evening sky. The Narrator breathes more quickly and more shallowly.
The spirit that I have seen
May be a devil, and the devil hath power
T’assume a pleasing shape, yea, and perhaps,
Out of my weakness and my melancholy,
As he is very potent with such spirits,
Abuses me to damn me.
(pause; waves to the sky
I’ll have grounds
More relative than this. The play’s the thing
Wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king.