My lord, he hath importuned me with love
In honourable fashion.

Ay, fashion you may call it; go to, go to.

And hath given countenance to his speech, my lord,
With almost all the holy vows of heaven.

Ay, springes to catch woodcocks. I do know,
When the blood burns, how prodigal the soul
Lends the tongue vows: these blazes, daughter,
Giving more light than heat, extinct in both,
Even in their promise, as it is a-making,
You must not take for fire. From this time
Be somewhat scanter of your maiden presence;
Set your entreatments at a higher rate
Than a command to parley. For Lord Hamlet,
Believe so much in him, that he is young
And with a larger tether may he walk
Than may be given you: in few, Ophelia,
Do not believe his vows; for they are brokers,
Not of that dye which their investments show,
But mere implorators of unholy suits,
Breathing like sanctified and pious bawds,
The better to beguile. This is for all:
I would not, in plain terms, from this time forth,
Have you so slander any moment leisure,
As to give words or talk with the Lord Hamlet.
Look to't, I charge you: come your ways.

I shall obey, my lord.




The woodcock, or snipe (with the fabulous Latin family name Scolopax) is a family of birds notorious for being easy to catch - primarily because they aren't particularly sharp. Shakespeare uses the bird as an example of being easily had in several of the plays, particularly when characters play an elaborate prank on someone. Notable examples are Malvolio in Twelfth Night, and Parolles in All's Well That Ends Well. The term crops in similar fashion in a good few other plays, too. There's a neat little flourish from our dear author in Hamlet - Polonius advises Ophelia not to be caught up in Hamlet's traps (or springes), and then towards the end of the play Laertes laments the fact that he gets caught in the one he sets for Hamlet - using the same metaphor of the poor, unwitting woodcock.