Hamlet

by: William Shakespeare

  Act 1 Scene 2

page Act 1 Scene 2 Page 2

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Thus much the business is: we have here writ
To Norway, uncle of young Fortinbras—
Who, impotent and bedrid, scarcely hears
30Of this his nephew’s purpose—to suppress
His further gait herein, in that the levies,
The lists, and full proportions are all made
Out of his subject; and we here dispatch
You, good Cornelius, and you, Voltemand,
35For bearers of this greeting to old Norway,
Giving to you no further personal power
To business with the king more than the scope
Of these dilated articles allow. (gives them a paper)
Farewell, and let your haste commend your duty.
I’ve written to Fortinbras’s uncle, the present head of Norway, an old bedridden man who knows next to nothing about his nephew’s plans. I’ve told the uncle to stop those plans, which he has the power to do, since all the troops assembled by young Fortinbras are Norwegian, and thus under the uncle’s control. I’m giving the job of delivering this letter to you, good Cornelius, and you, Voltemand. Your business in Norway will be limited to this task. (he gives them a paper) Now good-bye. Show your loyalty by leaving quickly, rather than with elaborate speeches.

CORNELIUS, VOLTEMAND

40In that and all things will we show our duty.

CORNELIUS, VOLTEMAND

We’ll do our duty to you in that and everything else.

CLAUDIUS

We doubt it nothing. Heartily farewell.

CLAUDIUS

I have no doubt you will. Good-bye.
Exeunt VOLTEMAND and CORNELIUS
CORNELIUS and VOLTEMAND exit.
And now, Laertes, what’s the news with you?
You told us of some suit. What is ’t, Laertes?
You cannot speak of reason to the Dane
45And lose your voice. What wouldst thou beg, Laertes,
That shall not be my offer, not thy asking?
The head is not more native to the heart,
The hand more instrumental to the mouth,
Than is the throne of Denmark to thy father.
50What wouldst thou have, Laertes?
And now, Laertes, what do you have to tell me? You have a favor you to ask of me. What is it, Laertes? You’ll never waste your words when talking to the king of Denmark. What could you ever ask for that I wouldn’t give you? Your father and the Danish throne are as close as the mind and the heart, or the hand and the mouth. What would you like, Laertes?

LAERTES

    My dread lord,
Your leave and favor to return to France,
From whence though willingly I came to Denmark
To show my duty in your coronation,
Yet now, I must confess, that duty done,
55My thoughts and wishes bend again toward France
And bow them to your gracious leave and pardon.

LAERTES

My lord, I want your permission to go back to France, which I left to come to Denmark for your coronation. I confess, my thoughts are on France, now that my duty is done. Please, let me go.