~ Horatio ~
The arrival of our fellow students
of Wittenberg, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern,
fills me with no joy;
they circle Prince Hamlet
with the likely aspect of sharks.
Ever were they ones to smile,
and readily take one’s hand,
speaking as if boon comrades for life;
then, when gone on their way,
something would be most mysteriously gone:
a thought plagiarized,
a comfort borrowed;
if in the company of ladies,
then virtue might be found
to have been mislaid.
I would trust them
as I would an adder with fangs bared.
But with them have come characters
of another kind entire:
The Players of Wittenberg,
whom I know Hamlet to have loved.
The best actors in the world,
either for tragedy, comedy, history,
pastoral, pastoral-comical, historical-pastoral,
scene individable, or poem unlimited:
Seneca cannot be too heavy,
nor Plautus too light.
for the law of writ and the liberty,
these are the only men.
My Lord Hamlet upon seeing them
showed the brightest countenance
I have seen upon him
since all light went from him
the night we stood together upon the walls;
It cheered me mightily to see him smile so.
And not seeming only for their fellowship,
for his mind waxed sharp in their company.
“You are welcome, masters,” said he, “welcome, all.
I am glad to see thee well. Welcome, good friends.
We'll to it like French falconers,
fly at any thing we see:
we'll have a speech straight:
come, give us a taste of your quality;
come, a passionate speech.”
When the First Player asked him
what speech would please his ear,
Lord Hamlet’s answer did turn wheels indeed
within my own mind.
“One speech I chiefly love,” he said.
“Aeneas' tale to Dido; and especially,
where he speaks of Priam's slaughter:
if it live in your memory,
begin at this line: let me see, let me see--
'The rugged Pyrrhus, 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 dark complexion smeared
with heraldry more dismal;
head to foot horridly tricked
with blood of fathers, mothers, daughters, sons,
baked and impasted with the parching streets,
that lend a tyrannous and damned light
to their lord's murder: roasted in wrath and fire,
and thus over-sized with coagulate gore,
with eyes like carbuncles, the hellish Pyrrhus
old grandsire Priam seeks.'”
My Lord Hamlet is nothing near mad in these words.
For I hear him speak of deaths in family,
and the untimely slaughter of a house’s Lord.
He implores the players to perform this scene…
not for him only, but before Claudius.
Thus may murder, though it have no tongue, speak.
I wonder indeed, as surely Hamlet does,
if the play 's the thing
wherein he might catch the conscience of the king.