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ACT II SCENE I A room in POLONIUS' house. 
LORD POLONIUSGive him this money and these notes, Reynaldo.
REYNALDOI will, my lord.
LORD POLONIUSYou shall do marvellous wisely, good Reynaldo,
Before you visit him, to make inquire
Of his behavior.
REYNALDOMy lord, I did intend it.
LORD POLONIUSMarry, well said; very well said. Look you, sir,
Inquire me first what Danskers are in Paris;
And how, and who, what means, and where they keep,
What company, at what expense; and finding
By this encompassment and drift of question10
That they do know my son, come you more nearer
Than your particular demands will touch it:
Take you, as 'twere, some distant knowledge of him;
As thus, 'I know his father and his friends,
And in part him: ' do you mark this, Reynaldo?
REYNALDOAy, very well, my lord.
LORD POLONIUS'And in part him; but' you may say 'not well:
But, if't be he I mean, he's very wild;
Addicted so and so:' and there put on him
What forgeries you please; marry, none so rank20
As may dishonour him; take heed of that;
But, sir, such wanton, wild and usual slips
As are companions noted and most known
To youth and liberty.
REYNALDOAs gaming, my lord.
LORD POLONIUSAy, or drinking, fencing, swearing, quarrelling,
Drabbing: you may go so far.
REYNALDOMy lord, that would dishonour him.
LORD POLONIUS'Faith, no; as you may season it in the charge
You must not put another scandal on him,
That he is open to incontinency;30
That's not my meaning: but breathe his faults so quaintly
That they may seem the taints of liberty,
The flash and outbreak of a fiery mind,
A savageness in unreclaimed blood,
Of general assault.
REYNALDOBut, my good lord,--
LORD POLONIUSWherefore should you do this?
REYNALDOAy, my lord,
I would know that.
LORD POLONIUSMarry, sir, here's my drift;
And I believe, it is a fetch of wit:
You laying these slight sullies on my son,
As 'twere a thing a little soil'd i' the working, Mark you,40
Your party in converse, him you would sound,
Having ever seen in the prenominate crimes
The youth you breathe of guilty, be assured
He closes with you in this consequence;
'Good sir,' or so, or 'friend,' or 'gentleman,'
According to the phrase or the addition
Of man and country.
REYNALDOVery good, my lord.
LORD POLONIUSAnd then, sir, does he this--he does--what was I
about to say? By the mass, I was about to say
something: where did I leave?51
REYNALDOAt 'closes in the consequence,' at 'friend or so,'
and 'gentleman.'
LORD POLONIUSAt 'closes in the consequence,' ay, marry;
He closes thus: 'I know the gentleman;
I saw him yesterday, or t' other day,
Or then, or then; with such, or such; and, as you say,
There was a' gaming; there o'ertook in's rouse;
There falling out at tennis:' or perchance,
'I saw him enter such a house of sale,'
Videlicet, a brothel, or so forth.
See you now;60
Your bait of falsehood takes this carp of truth:
And thus do we of wisdom and of reach,

With windlasses and with assays of bias,
By indirections find directions out:
So by my former lecture and advice,
Shall you my son. You have me, have you not?
REYNALDOMy lord, I have.
LORD POLONIUSGod be wi' you; fare you well.
REYNALDOGood my lord!
LORD POLONIUSObserve his inclination in yourself.
REYNALDOI shall, my lord.70
LORD POLONIUSAnd let him ply his music.
REYNALDOWell, my lord.
How now, Ophelia! what's the matter?
OPHELIAO, my lord, my lord, I have been so affrighted!
LORD POLONIUSWith what, i' the name of God?
OPHELIAMy lord, as I was sewing in my closet,
Lord Hamlet, with his doublet all unbraced;
No hat upon his head; his stockings foul'd,
Ungarter'd, and down-gyved to his ancle;
Pale as his shirt; his knees knocking each other;
And with a look so piteous in purport80
As if he had been loosed out of hell
To speak of horrors,--he comes before me.
LORD POLONIUSMad for thy love?
OPHELIAMy lord, I do not know;
But truly, I do fear it.
LORD POLONIUSWhat said he?
OPHELIAHe 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. Long stay'd he so;
At last, a little shaking of mine arm90
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: that done, he lets me go:
And, with his head over his shoulder turn'd,
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.
LORD POLONIUSCome, go with me: I will go seek the king.
This is the very ecstasy of love,100
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.
What, have you given him any hard words of late?
OPHELIANo, my good lord, but, as you did command,
I did repel his fetters and denied
His access to me.
LORD POLONIUSThat hath made him mad.
I am sorry that with better heed and judgment
I had not quoted him: I fear'd he did but trifle,110
And meant to wreck thee; but, beshrew my jealousy!
By heaven, it is as proper to our age
To cast beyond ourselves in our opinions
As it is common for the younger sort
To lack discretion. Come, go we to the king:
This must be known; which, being kept close, might
More grief to hide than hate to utter love.

Next: Hamlet, Act 2, Scene 2


Explanatory Notes for Act 2, Scene 1

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


1. notes, memorandums of advice; cp. Cymb. i. 1. 171, "left these notes Of what commands I should be subject to."

3. You shall ... wisely, the vain old man compliments himself in complimenting Reynaldo; shall, you will certainly; see Abb. § 315; marvellous, used adverbially.

4, 5. to make ... behaviour, to make inquiries as to how he has borne himself since he arrived in Paris; the folios give inquiry, but in Per. iii. Pr. 22. we have inquire as a substantive, necessary to the rhyme, and though that Prologue is by Gower it is authority for the existence of the word.

6. well said, you are quite right; a frequent expression of approval of deeds as well as words.

7. Inquire me, inquire on my account; on the old dative = for me, by me, see Abb. § 220: Danskers, " Danske, for Denmark, occurs often in Warner's Albion's England" (Capell).

8. And how ... keep, and what their manner of life is, who they are, what their resources, income, and in what part of the city they live; keep, dwell; a term still in use in the Universities.

9. What company ... expense, what company they keep, whom they entertain, and how much they spend in such hospitality; inquiries by means of which it may be indirectly ascertained whether they are companions of Laertes.

10. By this ... question, by this roundabout way in which your questioning drives at its purpose; cp. iii. 1. 1, "drift of circumstance"; and iii. 3. 83, "in our circumstance and course of thought."

11. know, are acquainted with.

11,2. come you ... it, approach more nearly to the subject than these demands regarding particulars will bring you; for it, used indefinitely, see Abb. § 226.

13. Take ... him, pretend that you have some distant acquaintance with him.

14. As thus, saying for instance.

17. but ... well, adding 'but only slightly.'

19. Addicted so and so, with such and such propensities.

19, 20. and there ... please, and at this point, when you have got so far in your conversation, you may put upon him any imputations you think fit: rank, gross.

22-4. But ... liberty, but imputations of such wildness and extravagances as are commonly found to be the accompaniments of youth when not kept in too strait-laced control; of young fellows when not tied, as we say, to their mother's apron-strings; for slips, cp. Oth. iv. 1. 9, "So they do nothing, 'tis a venial slip."

25. fencing, "I suppose it means piquing himself on his skill in the use of the sword, and consequently quarrelling and brawling. 'The cunning of Fencers applied to quarrelling.' Gosson, Schoole of Abuse" (Malone).

26. you may go so far, you may venture to bring these charges against him.

28. 'Faith, i.e. in faith, indeed: as you ... charge, if you qualify the accusation, as you may do by plausible excuses.

29. another scandal, the further reproach.

30. open to, liable to the charge of incontinency.

31. breathe, utter, give voice to: quaintly, with such ingenious reservations.

32. the taints of liberty, the faults which naturally arise from a young man being so completely his own master.

33. fiery, high-spirited, impetuous.

34. A savageness ... blood, a wildness such as is found in hot-blooded young men not yet tamed by the stern discipline of life; the language is from falconry, in which pursuit to 'reclaim' (i.e. to call back) a hawk was to bring it to obedience in stooping to the lure; thus Cotgrave, "Reclame, a loud calling, whooting, whooping, to make a Hawk stoop unto the lure."

35. Of general assault, to the attack of which all are liable.

36. Wherefore ... this? you would ask me why I make these suggestions to you.

37. would, should like to; drift, that at which I am driving; my secret object.

38. a fetch of [wit] warrant, a well-approved design; a stratagem which will be justified by its success; cp. Lear, ii. 4. 90, "Mere fetches" i.e. pretexts; the quartos read 'a fetch of wit' i.e. a cunning stratagem.

39. You laying ... son, you having imputed these trivial blemishes to my son.

40. As 'twere ... working, comparing him in that way to something that by being used has lost somewhat of its first gloss.

42. Your ... converse, the person with whom you are talking; him you would sound, he, I mean, to the bottom of whose thoughts you wish to get; the figure is that of taking soundings at sea; on him, put for he by attraction to whom understood, see Abb. § 208.

43-5. Having ever ... consequence, if he has ever seen the youth you speak of guilty of the sins already mentioned, he will be sure to endorse your remarks with, show his agreement by, some such words as these; for consequence, = that which follows, cp. Oth. ii. 3. 65, "If consequence do but approve my dream."

46. or so, or something of the sort.

47, 8. According ... country, using such phraseology as is customary in his country or such title as is generally applied to men; phrase going with country, addition with man; cp. W. T. iii. 2. 164, 5, "though I with death and with Reward did threaten and encourage him"; for addition, see note on i. 4. 20.

50. mass, the sacrament of the Eucharist in the Catholic Church.

51. leave, break off.

55. He closes with you thus, he agrees with you in these words.

57. Or then, or then, or at some time or other; with such, or such, accompanied by such and such persons.

58. o'ertook, overpowered by drink; an euphemism for 'drunk'; 's, his; rouse, see note on i. 2. 127.

59. falling out, wrangling; with the French, tennis was a particularly favourite game, and it was from that country that it was brought to England. In the Scornful Lady, 1. 1, Beaumont and Fletcher speak of being in France and playing tennis as almost synonymous; "And after your whole year spent in tennis and broken speech," Loveless being about to visit France.

61. Your bait of falsehood, this falsehood which I suggested to you to use as a bait; takes ... truth, catches this fish, viz. the truth of the matter; cp. M. V. i. 1. 101, 2, "But fish not, with this melancholy bait, For this fool gudgeon, this opinion"; bait of, bait made of, consisting in.

62. we of ... reach, we men of wisdom and far-reaching intellect; the Cl. Pr. Edd. compare L. L. L. iv. 2. 30, "we of taste and feeling."

63. assays of bias, indirect attempts; the bias was the weight put into the bowl, at the game of bowls, to make it travel in a curved path so as to avoid other bowls in its way, or to counteract the lie of the ground; cp. K. J. ii. 1. 574-8, "Commodity, the bias of the world ... this vile-drawing bias. This sway of motion."

64. indirections, oblique courses; cp. K. J. iii. 1. 276, "though indirect, Yet indirection thereby grows direct."

65. So by ... advice, so by following out the lesson of advice I just now gave you; lecture and advice, a hendiadys.

66. You have me, you understand me, take me.

69. in yourself, for yourself; not being content with what you hear of his conduct, but using your own observation also as to his tendencies.

71. And let ... music, probably, as it is generally taken, let him follow his own bent, strike what note he pleases; though the first quarto reads "And bid him ply his musicke," which seems to be intended literally; Well, very good.

75. sewing in my closet, occupied with needle-work in my own room; for closet, cp. J. C. ii. 1. 35, "The taper burneth in your closet."

76. doublet, an inner garment, a double to the outer one, but used also for a coat generally; unbraced, with the 'points' not tied.

77. foul'd, stained with dirt, muddy.

78. Ungarter'd, with no garters to his hose, or with his garters not fastened: down-gyved to his ancle, allowed to fall down to his ankle, and so looking like the fetters around the ankles of a malefactor.

79. knocking each other, knocking together in his agitation.

80. so piteous in purport, so expressive of misery.

82. To speak of horrors, only in order that he might tell of its horrors.

83. Mad for thy love? distracted by his intense love for you?

85. held me hard, grasped my wrist tightly.

86. Then goes ... arm, then stands back from me at the full length of his arm.

87. thus o'er his brow, holding his forehead and shading his eyes so that he might fix his look more intently upon me.

88. perusal, earnest study.

89. As he would draw it, as though he wished to paint it; literally as he would do if he wished to paint it; see Abb. § 178.

90. a little ... arm, slightly shaking my arm; on the verbal noun followed by of, see Abb. § 178.

93. As it .. bulk, that it seemed to shatter his whole trunk; for bulk, = breast, bust, Dyce quotes Cotgrave and Florio, and Singer Baret's Alvearie, "The Bulke or breast of a man."

94. that done, after that.

95. with his ... turn'd, looking all the while over his shoulder.

98. And to the last ... me, and until he disappeared in the doorway, kept them fixed upon me.

99. go seek, for the omission of to, see Abb. § 349.

100. ecstasy, madness; literally a standing out of oneself; applied by Shakespeare to any violent emotion.

101. Whose violent ... itself, whose violent nature destroys itself; property, that which specially belongs to it; Lat. proprius, own; for fordoes, cp. below, v. 1. 207, Lear, v. 3. 291, "Your eldest daughters have fordone themselves."

105. hard words, harsh answers to his entreaties.

106. as ... command, in obedience to your commands.

107. repel, reject, decline to receive; cp. below, ii. 2. 146.

107, 8. denied ... me, refused him permission to visit me.

109, 10. I am sorry ... him, I am sorry that I did not observe him with greater care and judgment; "'Quoter, To quote, or marke in the margent, to note by the way,' Cotgrave" (Malone). Cp. T. C. iv. 5. 233; R. J. i. 4. 31.

111. wreck, ruin; beshrew, a mild form of imprecation; literally 'curse.'

112. as proper ... age, as much a characteristic of old men like myself.

113. To cast ... opinions, to over-reach ourselves by a belief in our far-sightedness.

114. sort, class.

115. discretion, discernment; the old look too far ahead, the young do not look ahead at all.

116. This must be known, the king has a right to know this.

116, 7. which, being ... love, for if we kept this secret, the hiding of it might be more productive of grief than the aversion to utter it would be productive of love; i.e. the concealment of what has happened would be attended by more danger to us (if that concealment were discovered) than the good motive which actuated us would be attended by the love of those from whom we concealed it, even if, on its discovery, that good motive were credited. Polonius's sentiments are purely selfish, and he thinks nothing of the consequences to anyone else. The Cl. Pr. Edd. think the sense is, "Hamlet's mad conduct might cause more grief if it were hidden than the revelation of his love for Ophelia would cause hatred, i.e. on the part of the King and Queen"; but they admit that the Queen afterwards, iii. 1. 38, and v. 1. 230-2, expresses her approval of the match.

How to cite the explanatory notes:
Shakespeare, William. Hamlet, prince of Denmark. Ed. K. Deighton. London: Macmillan, 1919. Shakespeare Online. 20 Feb. 2010. < >.
How to cite the scene review questions:
Mabillard, Amanda. Hamlet: Scene Questions for Review. Shakespeare Online. 27 Nov. 2013. < >.

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Scene Questions for Review

microsoft images 1. It is clear that some time has passed since the end of Act 1, likely a month or more. How does the conversation between Reynaldo and Polonius establish a time frame?

2. Polonius pays Reynaldo to spy on Laertes in Paris, and gives him the unappealing task of finding out every bit of Laertes' business, even if he has to concoct stories of his bad behavior (the 'bait of falsehood) to get the information. How does this action show Polonius' hypocrisy, when compared to his advice to Laertes (1.3.80)?

3. What is Polonius' motivation for this deception? Mere curiosity? Worry?

4. Is it probable that Hamlet's appearance and behavior toward Ophelia is part of his plan to feign madness, or is this an unguarded moment between two lovers? What parallel can be drawn to Rosalind's assertion that a man truly in love must look the part:
"then your hose should be ungartered, your bonnet unbanded, your sleeve unbuttoned, your shoe untied and every thing about you demonstrating a careless desolation." (As You Like It, 3.2.331-344)

5. Shakespeare gives us a poignant image of Hamlet alone with Ophelia, particularly in lines 88-89. Does his behavior prove to you his love for Ophelia is genuine?

6. What do think Hamlet hoped would come of his visit to Ophelia?

7. Was Ophelia more concerned for or disturbed by Hamlet?

8. Do you think Hamlet found what he was looking for as he gazed upon Ophelia's face?

9. Does his strange exit -- walking away, yet eyes fixed on Ophelia -- indicate disappointment in Ophelia? How does he treat her during their next encounter (3.1.87)?


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