1Clo. What is he that builds stronger than either the mason, the shipwright, or the carpenter?
2Clo. The gallows-maker, for that outlives a thousand tenants.
1Clo. I like thy wit well, in good faith. The gallows does well; but how does it well? It does well to those that do ill. Now thou dost ill to say the gallows is built stronger than the church; argal, the gallows may do well to thee. To't it again, come.
2Clo. Who builds stronger than a mason, a shipwright, or a carpenter?
1Clo. Ay, tell me that, and unyoke.
2Clo. Marry, now I can tell.
2Clo. Mass, I cannot tell.
Enter Hamlet and Horatio afar off.
1Clo. Cudgel thy brains no more about it, for your dull ass will not mend his pace with beating, and when you are ask'd this question next, say "a grave-maker": the houses he makes lasts till doomsday. Go get thee in, and fetch me a sup of liquor.
Exit Second Clown. First Clown digs.
"In youth when I did love, did love,
Methought it was very sweet,
To contractOthe time foramy behove,
O, methought thereawas nothingameet."
Ham. Has this fellow no feeling of his business? 'a sings in grave-making.
Hor. Custom hath made it in him a property of easiness.
Ham. 'Tis e'en so, the hand of little employment hath the daintier sense.
1Clo. "But age with his stealing steps
Hath clawed me in his clutch,
And hath shipped me into the land,
As if I had never been such."
Throws up a shovelful of earth with a skull in it.
Ham. That skull had a tongue in it, and could sing once. How the knave jowls it to the ground, as if 'twere Cain's jaw-bone, that did the first murder! This might be the pate of a politician, which this ass now o'erreaches, one that would circumvent God, might it not?
Hor. It might, my lord.
Ham. Or of a courtier, which could say, "Good morrow, sweet lord! How dost thou, sweet lord?" This might be my Lord Such-a-one, that prais'd my Lord Such-a-one's horse when 'a meant to beg it, might it not?
Hor. Ay, my lord.
Ham. Why, e'en so, and now my Lady Worm's, chopless, and knock'd about the mazzard with a sexton's spade. Here's fine revolution, and we had the trick to see't. Did these bones cost no more the breeding, but to play at loggats with them? Mine ache to think on't.
1Clo. "A pickaxe and a spade, a spade,
For and a shrouding sheet:
O, a pit of clay for to be made
For such a guest is meet."
Throws up another skull.
Ham. There's another. Why may not that be the skull of a lawyer? Where be his quiddities now, his quillities, his cases, his tenures, and his tricks? Why does he suffer this mad knave now to knock him about the sconce with a dirty shovel, and will not tell him of his action of battery? Hum! This fellow might be in's time a great buyer of land, with his statutes, his recognizances, his fines, his double vouchers, his recoveries. Is this the fine of his fines, and the recovery of his recoveries, to have his fine pate full of fine dirt? Will his vouchers vouch him no more of his purchases, and double ones too, than the length and breadth of a pair of indentures? The very conveyances of his lands will scarcely lie in this box, and must th' inheritor himself have no more, ha?
Hor. Not a jot more, my lord.
Ham. Is not parchment made of sheep-skin?
Hor. Ay, my lord, and of calves'-skins too.
Ham. They are sheep and calves which seek out assurance in that. I will speak to this fellow. Whose grave's this, sirrah?
1Col. Mine, sir.
"O, a pit of clay for to be made
For such a guest is meet."
Ham. I think it be thine indeed, for thou liest in't.
1Clo. You lie out on't, sir, and therefore 'tis not yours; for my part, I do not lie in't, yet it is mine.
Ham. Thou dost lie in't, to be in't and say it is thine. 'Tis for the dead, not for the quick' therefore thou liest.
1Clo. 'Tis a quick lie, sir, 'twill away again from me to you.
Ham. What man dost thou dig it for?
1Clo. For no man, sir.
Ham. For what woman then?
1Clo. For none neither.
Ham. Who is to be buried in't?
1Clo. One that was a woman sir, but, rest her soul, she's dead.
Ham. How absolute the knave is! we must speak by the card, or equivocation will undo us. By the Lord, Horatio, this three years I have took note of it: the age is grown so pick'd that the toe of the peasant comes so near the heel of the courtier, he galls his kibe. How long hast thou been grave-maker?
1Clo. Of all the days i' th' year, I came to't that day that our last king Hamlet overcame Fortinbras.
Ham. How long is that since?
1Clo. Cannot you tell that? Every fool can tell that. It was that very day that young Hamlet was bornhe that is mad, and sent into England.
1Clo. 'Twill not be seen in him there, there the men are as mad as he.
Ham. How came he mad?
1Clo. Very strangely, they say.
Ham. How strangely?
1Clo. Faith, e'en with losing his wits.
Ham. Upon what ground?
1Clo. Why, here in Denmark. I have been sexton here, man and boy, thirty years.
Ham. How long will a man lie i' th' earth ere he rot?
1Clo. Faith, if 'a be not rotten before 'a dieas we have many pocky corses, that will scarce hold the laying in'a will last you some eight year or nine year. A tanner will last you nine year.
Ham. Why he more than another?
1Clo. Why, sire, his hide is so tann'd with his trade that 'a will keep out water a great while, and your water is a sore decayer of your whoreson dead body. Here's a skull now hath lien you i' th' earth three and twenty years.
Ham. Whose was it?
1Clo. A whoreson mad fellow's it was. Whose do you think it was?
Ham. Nay, I know not.
1Clo. A pestilence on him for a mad rogue! 'a pour'd a flagon of Rhenish on my head once. This same skull, sir, was, sir, Yorick's skull, the King's jester.
Ham. This? Takes the skull.
1Clo. E'en that.
Ham. Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio, a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy. He hath bore me on his back a thousand times, and now how abhorr'd in my imagination it is! my gorge rises at it. Here hung those lips that I have kiss'd I know not how oft. Where be your gibes now, your gambols, your songs, your flashes of merriment, that were wont to set the table on a roar? Not one now to mock your own grinningquiet chop-fall'n. Now get you to my lady's chamber, and tell her, let her paint an inch thick, to this favor she must come; make her laugh at that. Prithee, Horatio, tell me one thing.
Hor. What's that, my lord?
Ham. Dost thou think Alexander look'd a' this fashion i' th' earth?
Hor. E'en so.
Ham. And smelt so? pah! Puts down the skull.
Hor. E'en so, my lord.
Ham. To what base uses we may return, Horatio! Why may not imagination trace the noble dust of Alexander, till 'a find it stopping a bunghole?
Hor. 'Twere to consider too curiously, to consider so.
Ham. No, faith, not a jot, but to follow him thither with modesty enough and likelihood to lead it: Alexander died, Alexander was buried, Alexander returneth to dust, the dust is earth, of earth we make loam, and why of that loam whereto he was converted might they not stop a beer-barrel?
Imperious Caesar, dead and turn'd to clay,
Might stop a hole to keep the wind away.
O that that earth which kept the world in awe
Should patch a wall t'expel the winter's flaw!
Hamlet: V, i, 41-216
William Shakespeare, from Hamlet.