You are merry, my lord.

Who, I?

Ay, my lord.

O God, your only jig-maker. What should a man do
but be merry? for, look you, how cheerfully my
mother looks, and my father died within these two hours.

Nay, 'tis twice two months, my lord.

So long? Nay then, let the devil wear black, for
I'll have a suit of sables. O heavens! die two
months ago, and not forgotten yet? Then there's
hope a great man's memory may outlive his life half
a year: but, by'r lady, he must build churches,
then; or else shall he suffer not thinking on, with
the hobby-horse, whose epitaph is 'For, O, for, O,
the hobby-horse is forgot.'

Hautboys play. The dumb-show enters

Enter a King and a Queen very lovingly; the Queen embracing him, and he her. She kneels, and makes show of protestation unto him. He takes her up, and declines his head upon her neck: lays him down upon a bank of flowers: she, seeing him asleep, leaves him. Anon comes in a fellow, takes off his crown, kisses it, and pours poison in the King's ears, and exit. The Queen returns; finds the King dead, and makes passionate action. The Poisoner, with some two or three Mutes, comes in again, seeming to lament with her. The dead body is carried away. The Poisoner wooes the Queen with gifts: she seems loath and unwilling awhile, but in the end accepts his love


What means this, my lord?

Marry, this is miching mallecho; it means mischief.

Belike this show imports the argument of the play.


This is another reference to Will Kemp, the great clown and dancer who had left Shakespeare’s company at the time of Hamlet’s composition. Since he was gone, there was nobody left to dance quite as well as Kemp, and so Hamlet (likely played by Burbage) would have had to cast himself as the jig-maker. It’s another cheeky reference from Shakespeare to his own real-life circumstances.

The hobbyhorse was integral to May Day celebrations in medieval Catholic England. Referring to it here as having been forgotten, Hamlet is drawing our minds back to the older world of his father’s reign - already being replaced by Claudius’ new regime.

Dumb Show
A dumb show was a popular feature of 16th century English drama. Most often it introduces, summarizes or comments on the play’s main action - as happens during the play-within-the-play. The device appears as far back as the 1561 play Gorboduc, the first known play in blank verse, all the way up to Thomas Kyd’s The Spanish Tragedy, which was a major influence on Hamlet. Shakespeare uses it here as a kind of a throwback, making the Players’ performance deliberately old-fashioned.