…if his occulted guilt
Do not itself unkennel in one speech,
It is a damned ghost that we have seen,
And my imaginations are as foul
As Vulcan's stithy. Give him heedful note;
For I mine eyes will rivet to his face,
And after we will both our judgments join
In censure of his seeming.
Well, my lord:
If he steal aught the whilst this play is playing,
And 'scape detecting, I will pay the theft.
They are coming to the play; I must be idle:
Get you a place.
Danish march. A flourish. Enter KING CLAUDIUS, QUEEN GERTRUDE, POLONIUS, OPHELIA, ROSENCRANTZ, GUILDENSTERN, and others
How fares our cousin Hamlet?
Excellent, i' faith; of the chameleon's dish: I eat
the air, promise-crammed: you cannot feed capons so.
I have nothing with this answer, Hamlet; these words
are not mine.
No, nor mine now.
Vulcan was the Roman god of fire, blacksmiths, volcanoes and the like. The Romans believed that his forge - or stithy - was underneath the volcano Mt. Etna in Sicily. His Greek equivalent was Hephaistos.
Shakespeare refers to chameleons in only two other plays - Henry VI.3 and The Two Gentlemen of Verona, as mentioned in the episode. In the latter play both of the references are to how the chameleon was believed to live on air alone - just as Hamlet also suggests. Unfortunately I haven’t managed to find any English images of the marvellous lizard, but this is an illustration from a French book from the 1570s with the marvellous name Des Monstres et Prodiges (Of Monsters and Prodigies) - fascinating to think that the drawing is a quarter of a century older than Hamlet.