Hamlet

by: William Shakespeare

Original Text

Modern Text

CLAUDIUS

    He made confession of you,
And gave you such a masterly report
For art and exercise in your defense,
95And for your rapier most especially,
That he cried out ’twould be a sight indeed
If one could match you. The ’scrimers of their nation,
He swore, had had neither motion, guard, nor eye,
If you opposed them. Sir, this report of his
100Did Hamlet so envenom with his envy
That he could nothing do but wish and beg
Your sudden coming o'er, to play with him.
Now, out of this—

CLAUDIUS

He mentioned you to me, giving you such high marks in fencing that he exclaimed it would be a miracle if someone could match you. French fencers wouldn’t be good enough for you, he said, since they don’t have the right moves or skills. Hamlet was so jealous when he heard Lamond’s report that he talked about nothing else but having you come over and play against him. Now, the point is …

LAERTES

  What out of this, my lord?

LAERTES

What’s the point, my lord?

CLAUDIUS

Laertes, was your father dear to you?
105Or are you like the painting of a sorrow,
A face without a heart?

CLAUDIUS

Laertes, did you love your father? Or is your grief just an illusion—a mere painting of sorrow?

LAERTES

    Why ask you this?

LAERTES

How could you ask?

CLAUDIUS

Not that I think you did not love your father
But that I know love is begun by time,
And that I see, in passages of proof,
110Time qualifies the spark and fire of it.
There lives within the very flame of love
A kind of wick or snuff that will abate it.
And nothing is at a like goodness still.
For goodness, growing to a pleurisy,
115Dies in his own too-much. That we would do,
We should do when we would, for this “would” changes
And hath abatements and delays as many
As there are tongues, are hands, are accidents.
And then this “should” is like a spendthrift sigh
120That hurts by easing.—But to the quick of th' ulcer:
Hamlet comes back. What would you undertake
To show yourself in deed your father’s son
More than in words?

CLAUDIUS

Not that I suspect you didn’t love your father, but I’ve seen it happen that, as the days go by, time dampens the flame of love. The fire of love always burns itself out, and nothing stays the way it began. Even a good thing can grow too big and die from its own excess. We should do what we intend to do right when we intend it, since our intentions are subject to as many weakenings and delays as there are words in the dictionary and accidents in life. And then all our “woulds” and “shoulds” are nothing but hot air. But back to my point:
Hamlet’s coming back. What proof will you offer—in action, not just words—that you’re your father’s son?