Episode 96 - Pickers and Stealers


Sir, I cannot.

What, my lord?

Make you a wholesome answer; my wit's diseased: but,
sir, such answer as I can make, you shall command;
or, rather, as you say, my mother: therefore no
more, but to the matter: my mother, you say?

Then thus she says; your behavior hath struck her
into amazement and admiration.

O wonderful son, that can so astonish a mother! But
is there no sequel at the heels of this mother's
admiration? Impart.

She desires to speak with you in her closet, ere you
go to bed.

We shall obey, were she ten times our mother. Have
you any further trade with us?

My lord, you once did love me.

So I do still, by these pickers and stealers.

Good my lord, what is your cause of distemper? you
do, surely, bar the door upon your own liberty, if
you deny your griefs to your friend.

Sir, I lack advancement.

How can that be, when you have the voice of the king
himself for your succession in Denmark?

Ay, but sir, 'While the grass grows…' - the proverb
is something musty.


The Book of Common Prayer
Originally published in 1549 , The Book of Common Prayer was a major project of the English Reformation - the first publication ever to include all of the prayers and offices of religious service in English. It is still a key part of Protestant worship all over the world. Within it was a catechism, which is an introduction of the terms of religious doctrine. The catechism would be learned by rote, and was written as a series of questions. The segment that Hamlet is quoting is an explanation of the meaning of the 8th Commandent, “thou shalt not steal”. After the explanation of each commandment’s teaching, there came a sequence of questions and specific quotations from the Bible that were used to back up each text. For our segment the question is “How do you prove it your duty to keep your hands from picking and stealing?” The answers come from Ephesians iv. 28 “Let him that stole steal no more”, and Thessalonians iv. 6 “That no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter”. Horatio probably understands all of this but it seems that the reference is utterly lost on Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.