William Shakespeare's Hamlet the Bard's most famous play is the story of a young man's idealism utterly destroyed
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Act II. Scene II.

Scene II.—A Room in the Castle.

GUILDENSTERN, and Attendants.

King. Welcome, dear Rosencrantz and Guil-
Moreover that we much did long to see you,
The need we have to use you did provoke
Our hasty sending. Something have you heard
Of Hamlet's transformation; so I call it,
Since nor the exterior nor the inward man
Resembles that it was. What it should be
More than his father's death, that thus hath put
So much from the understanding of himself,
I cannot dream of: I entreat you both,
That, being of so young days brought up with
And since so neighboured to his youth and
That you vouchsafe your rest here in our court
Some little time; so by your companies
To draw him on to pleasures, and to gather,
So much as from occasion you may glean,
Whe'r aught to us unknown afflicts him thus,
That, open'd, lies within our remedy.
Queen. Good gentlemen, he hath much talk'd
of you;
And sure I am two men there are not living
To whom he more adheres. If it will please you
To show us so much gentry and good will
As to expend your time with us awhile,
For the supply and profit of our hope,
Your visitation shall receive such thanks
As fits a king's remembrance.
Ros. Both your majesties
Might, by the sovereign power you have of us,
Put your dread pleasures more into command
Than to entreaty.
Guil. But we both obey,
And here give up ourselves, in the full bent,
To lay our service freely at your feet,
To be commanded.
King. Thanks, Rosencrantz and gentle Guil-
Queen. Thanks, Guildenstern and gentle
And I beseech you instantly to visit
My too much changed son. Go, some of you,
And bring these gentlemen where Hamlet is.
Guil. Heavens make our presence, and our
Pleasant and helpful to him!
Queen. Ay, amen!
STERN, and some Attendants.

Pol. The ambassadors from Norway, my good
Are joyfully return'd.
King. Thou still hast been the father of good
Pol. Have I, my lord? Assure you, my good
I hold my duty, as I hold my soul,
Both to my God and to my gracious king;
And I do think—or else this brain of mine
Hunts not the trail of policy so sure
As it hath us'd to do—that I have found
The very cause of Hamlet's lunacy.
King. O! speak of that; that do I long to
Pol. Give first admittance to the ambassadors;
My news shall be the fruit to that great feast.
King. Thyself do grace to them, and bring
them in. [Exit POLONIUS.
He tells me, my sweet queen, that he hath found
The head and source of all your son's distemper.
Queen. I doubt it is no other but the main;
His father's death, and our o'erhasty marriage.
King. Well, we shall sift him.

Re-enter POLONIUS, with VOLTIMAND and
Welcome, my good friends!
Say, Voltimand, what from our brother Norway?
Volt. Most fair return of greetings, and de-
Upon our first, he sent out to suppress
His nephew's levies, which to him appear'd
To be a preparation 'gainst the Polack;
But, better look'd into, he truly found
It was against your highness: whereat griev'd,
That so his sickness, age, and impotence
Was falsdiy borne in hand, sends out arrests
On Fortinbras; which he, in brief, obeys,
Receives rebuke from Norway, and, in fine,
Makes vow before his uncle never more
To give the assay of arms against your majesty.
Whereon old Norway, overcome with joy,
Gives him three thousand crowns in annual fee,
And his commission to employ those soldiers,
So levied as before, against the Polack;
With an entreaty, herein further shown,
[Giving a paper.
That it might please you to give quiet pass
Through your dominions for this enterprise,
On such regards of safety and allowance
As therein are set down.
King. It likes us well;
And at our more consider'd time we'll read,
Answer, and think upon this business:
Meantime we thank you for your well-took
Go to your rest; at night we'll feast together:
Most welcome home.
Pol. This business is well ended.
My liege, and madam, to expostulate
What majesty should be, what duty is,
Why day is day, night night, and time is time,
Were nothing but to waste night, day, and time.
Therefore, since brevity is the soul of wit,
And tediousness the limbs and outward flourishes,
I will be brief. Your noble son is mad:
Mad call I it; for, to define true madness,
What is't but to be nothing else but mad?
But let that go.
Queen. More matter, with less art.
Pol. Madam, I swear I use no art at all.
That he is mad, 'tis true; 'tis true 'tis pity;
And pity 'tis'tis true: a foolish figure;
But farewell it, for I will use no art.
Mad let us grant him, then; and now remains
That we find out the cause of this effect,
Or rather say, the cause of this defect,
For this effect defective comes by cause;
Thus it remains, and the remainder thus.
I have a daughter, have while she is mine;
Who, in her duty and obedience, mark,
Hath given me this: now, gather, and surmise.
To the celestial, and my soul's idol, the most
beautified Ophelia.—
That's an ill phrase, a vile phrase; 'beautified'
is a vile phrase; but you shall hear. Thus:
In her excellent white bosom, these, &c.—
Queen. Came this from Hamlet to her?
Pol. Good madam, stay awhile; I will be
Doubt thou the stars are fire;
Doubt that the sun doth move;
Doubt truth to be a liar;
But never doubt I love.
O dear Ophelia! I am ill at these numbers:
I have not art to reckon my groans; but that I
love thee best, O most best! believe it. Adieu.
Thine evermore, most dear lady, whilst
this machine is to him,
This in obedience hath my daughter shown me;
And more above, hath his solicitings,
As they fell out by time, by means, and place,
All given to mine ear.
King. But how hath she
Received his love?
Pol. What do you think of me?
King. As of a man faithful and honourable.
Pol, I would fain prove so. But what might
you think,
When I had seen this hot love on the wing,
As I perceived it, I must tell you that,
Before my daughter told me, what might you,
Or my dear majesty, your queen here, think,
If I had play'd the desk or table-book,
Or given my heart a winking, mute and dumb,
Or look'd upon this love with idle sight;
What might you think? No, I went round to work,
And my young mistress thus I did bespeak;
'Lord Hamlet is a prince, out of thy star;
This must not be:' and then I precepts gave her,
That she should lock herself from his resort,
Admit no messengers, receive no tokens.
Which done, she tools, the fruits of my advice;
And he, repulsed,—a short tale to make,—
Fell into a sadness, then into a fast,
Thence to a watch, thence into a weakness,
Thence to a lightness; and by this declension
Into the madness wherein now he raves,
And all we wail for.
King. Do you think 'tis this?
Queen. It may be, very likely.
Pol. Hath there been such a time,—I'd fain
know that,—
That I have positively said, ' 'Tis so,'
When it prov'd otherwise?
King. Not that I know.
Pol. Take this from this, if this be otherwise:
[Pointing to his head and shoulder.
If circumstances lead me, I will find
Where truth is hid, though it were hid indeed
Within the centre.
King. How may we try it further?
Pol. You know sometimes he walks for hours
Here in the lobby.
Queen. So he does indeed.
Pol. At such a time I'll loose my daughter
to him;
Be you and I behind an arras then;
Mark the encounter; if he love her not,
And be not from his reason fallen thereon,
Let me be no assistant for a state,
But keep a farm, and carters.
King. We will try it.
Queen. But look, where sadly the poor wretch
comes reading.
Pol. Away! I do beseech you, both away.
I'll board him presently.
[Exeunt KING, QUEEN, and Attendants.

Enter HAMLET, reading.
O! give me leave.
How does my good Lord Hamlet?
Ham. Well, God a-mercy.
Pol. Do you know me, my lord?
Ham. Excellent well; you are a fishmonger.
Pol. Not I, my lord.
Ham. Then I would you were so honest a
Pol. Honest, my lord!
Ham. Ay, sir; to be honest, as this world
goes, is to be one man picked out of ten thou-
Pol. That's very true, my lord.
Ham. For if the sun breed maggots in a dead
dog, being a god kissing carrion,—Have you a
Pol. I have, my lord.
Ham. Let her not walk i' the sun: conception
is a blessing; but not as your daughter may con-
ceive. Friend, look to't.
Pol. [Aside.] How say you by that? Still
harping on my daughter: yet he knew me not
at first; he said I was a fishmonger: he is far
gone, far gone: and truly in my youth I suffered
much extremity for love; very near this. I'll
speak to him again. What do you read, my lord?
Ham. Words, words, words.
Pol. What is the matter, my lord?
Ham. Between who?
Pol. I mean the matter that you read, my
Ham. Slanders, sir: for the satirical rogue
says here that old men have grey beards, that
their faces are wrinkled, their eyes purging thick
amber and plum-tree gum, and that they have a
plentiful lack of wit, together with most weak
hams: all which, sir, though I most powerfully
and potently believe, yet I hold it not honesty to
have it thus set down; for you yourself, sir,
should be old as I am, if, like a crab, you could
go backward.
Pol. [Aside:] Though this be madness, yet
there is method in't. Will you walk out of the
air, my lord?
Ham. Into my grave?
Pol. Indeed, that is out o' the air. [Aside.]
How pregnant sometimes his replies are! a
happiness that often madness hits on, which
reason and sanity could not so prosperously be
delivered of. I will leave him, and suddenly
contrive the means of meeting between him and
my daughter. My honourable lord, I will most
humbly take my leave of you.
Ham. You cannot, sir, take from me any
thing that I will more willingly part withal;
except my life, except my life, except my life.
Pol. Fare you well, my lord. [Going.
Ham. These tedious old fools!

Pol. You go to seek the Lord Hamlet; there
he is.
Ros. [To POLONIUS.] God save you, sir!
Guil. Mine honour'd lord!
Ros. My most dear lord!
Ham. My excellent good friends! How dost
thou, Guildenstern? Ah, Rosencrantz! Good
lads, how do ye both?
Ros. As the indifferent children of the earth.
Guil.. Happy in that we are not over happy;
On Fortune's cap we are not the very button.
Ham. Nor the soles of her shoe?
Ras. Neither, my lord.
Ham. Then you live about her waist, or in
the middle of her favours?
Guil. Faith, her privates we.
Ham. In the secret parts of Fortune? O!
most true; she is a strumpet. What news?
Ros. None, my lord, but that the world's
grown honest.
Ham. Then is doomsday near; but your news
is not true. Let me question mpre in particular:
what have you, my good friends, deserved at the
hands of Fortune, that she sends you to prison
Guil. Prison, my lord!
Ham. Denmark's a prison.
Ros. Then is the world one.
Ham. A goodly one; in which there are
many confines, wards, and dungeons, Denmark
being one o' the worst
Ros. We think not so, my lord.
Ham. Why, then, 'tis none to you; for there
is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes
it so: to me it is a prison.
Ros. Why, then your ambition makes it one;
'tis too narrow for your mind.
Ham. O God! I could be bounded in a nut-
shell, and count myself a king of infinite space,
were it not that I have bad dreams.
Guil. Which dreams indeed, are ambition,
for the very substance of the ambitious is merely
the shadow of a dream.
Ham. A dream itself Is but a shadow.
Ros. Truly, and I hold ambition of so airy
and light a quality that it is but a shadow's
Ham. Then are our beggars bodies, and our
monarchs and outstretched heroes the beggars'
shadows. Shall we to the court? for, by my fay,
I cannot reason.
Ros. & Guil.} We'll wait upon you.
Ham. No such matter; I will not sort you
with the rest of my servants, for, to speak to you
like an honest man, I am most dreadfully at-
tended. But, in the beaten way of friendship,
what make you at EIsinore?
Ros. To visit you, my lord; no other occa-
Ham. Beggar that I am, I am even poor in
thanks; but I thank you: and sure, dear friends,
my thanks are too dear a halfpenny. Were you
not sent for? Is It your own inclining? Is it
a free visitation? Come, come, deal justly with
me: come, come; nay, speak.
Guil. What should we say, my lord?
Ham. Why anything, but to the purpose.
You were sent for; and there is a kind of con-
fession in your looks which your modesties have
not craft enough to colour: I know the good
king and queen have sent for you.
Ros. To what end, my lord?
Ham. That yon must teach me. But let me
conjure you, by the rights of our fellowship,
by the consonancy of our youth, by the obli-
gation of our ever-preserved love, and by what
more dear a better proposer could charge you
withal, be even and direct with me, whether you
were sent for or no!
Ros. [Aside to GUILDENSTERN.] What say
Ham. [Aside.] Nay, then, I have an eye of
you. If you love me, hold not off.
Guil. My lord, we were sent for.
Ham. I will tell you why; so shall my antici-
pation prevent your discovery, and your secrecy
to the king and queen moult no feather. I have
of late,—but wherefore I know not,—lost all my
mirth, forgone all custom of exercises; and
indeed it goes so heavily with my disposition
that this goodly frame, the earth, seems to me a
sterile promontory; this most excellent canopy,
the air, look you, this brave o'erhanging firma-
ment, this majestical roof fretted with golden
fire, why, it appears no other thing to me but
a foul and pestilent congregation of vapours.
What a piece of work is a man! How noble in
reason! how infinite in faculty! in form, in
moving, how express and admirable! in action
how like an angel! in apprehension how like a
god! the beauty of the world! the paragon of
animals! And yet, to me, what is this quintes-
sence of dust? man delights not me; no, nor
woman neither, though, by your smiling you
seem to say so.
Ros. My lord, there was no such stuff in my
Ham. Why did you laugh then, when I said,
'man delights not me?'
Ros. To think, my lord, if you delight not
in man, what lenten entertainment the players
shall receive from you: we coted them on the
way; and hither are they coming, to offer you
Ham. He that plays the king shall be wel-
come; his majesty shall have tribute of me; the
adventurous knight shall use his foil and target;
the lover shall not sigh gratis; the humorous
man shall end his part in peace; the clown shall
make those laugh whose lungs are tickle o' the
sere; and the lady shall say her mind freely,
or the blank verse shall halt for 't. What players
are they?
Ros. Even those you were wont to take delight
in, the tragedians of the city.
Ham. How chances it they travel? their
residence, both in reputation and profit, was
better both ways.
Ros. I think their inhibition comes by the
means of the late innovation.
Ham. Do they hold the same estimation they
did when I was in the city? Are they so followed?
Ros. No, indeed they are not.
Ham. How comes it? Do they grow rusty?
Ros. Nay, their endeavour keeps in the wonted
pace: but there is, sir, an aery of children, little
eyases, that cry out on the top of question, and
are most tyrannically clapped for 't: these arc
now the fashion, and so berattle the common
stages,—so they call them,—that many wealing
rapiers are afraid of goose-quills, and dare scarce
come thither.
Ham. What! are they children? who main-
tains 'em? how are they escoted? Will they
pursue the quality no longer than they can
sing? will they not say afterwards, if they should
grow themselves to common players,—as it is
most like, if their means are no better,—their
writers do them wrong, to make them exclaim
against their own succession?
Ros. Faith, there has been much to-do on
both sides: and the nation holds it no sin to
tarre them to controversy: there was, for a while,
no money bid for argument, unless the poet and
the player went to cuffs in the question.
Ham. Is it possible?
Guil. O! there has been much throwing about
of brains.
Ham. Do the boys carry it away?
Ros. Ay, that they do, my lord; Hercules and
his load too.
Ham. It is not very strange; for my uncle is
King of Denmark, and those that would make
mows at him while my father lived, give twenty,
forty, fifty, a hundred ducats a-piece for his
picture in little. 'Sblood, there is something in
this more than natural, if philosophy could find
it out. [Flourish of trumpets within.
Guil. There are the players.
Ham. Gentlemen, you are welcome to EIsi-
nore. Your hands, come then; the appurtenance
of welcome is fashion and ceremony: let me
comply with you in this garb, lest my extent to
the players—which, I tell you, must show fairly
outward—should more appear like entertain-
ment than yours. You are welcome; but my
uncle-father and aunt-mother are deceived.
Guil. In what, my dear lord?
Ham. I am but mad north-north-west: when
the wind is southerly I know a hawk from a

Pol. Well be with you, gentlemen!
Ham. Hark you, Guildenstern; and you too;
at each ear a hearer: that great baby you see
there is not yet out of his swaddling-clouts.
Ros. Happily he's the second time come to
them; for they say an old man is twice a child.
Ham. I will prophesy he comes to tell me
of the players; mark it. You say right, sir; o'
Monday morning; 'twas so indeed.
Pol. My lord, I have news to tell you.
Ham. My lord, I have news to tell you. When
Roscius was an actor in Rome,—
Pol. The actors are come hither, my lord.
Ham. Buzz, buzz!
Pol. Upon my honour,—
Ham. Then came each actor on his ass,—
Pol. The best actors in the world, either for
tragedy, comedy, history, pastoral, pastoral-
comical, historical-pastoral, tragical-historical,
tragical-comical-historical-pastoral, scene indi-
vidable, or poem unlimited: Seneca cannot be
too heavy, nor Plautus too light. For the law
of writ and the liberty, these are the only men.
Ham. O Jephthah, judge of Israel, what a
treasure hadst thou!
Pol. What a treasure had he, my lord?
Ham. Why
One fair daughter and no more,
The which he loved passing well.
Pol. [Aside.] Still on my daughter.
Ham. Am I not i' the right, old Jephthah?
Pol. If you call me Jephthah, my lord, I have
a daughter that I love passing well.
Ham. Nay, that follows not
Pol. What follows, then, my lord?
Ham. Why,
As by lot, God wot.
And then, you know,
It came to pass, as most like it was—
The first row of the pious chanson will show you
more; for look where my abridgment comes.

Enter four or five Players.
You are welcome, masters; welcome, all. I am
glad to see thee well: welcome, good friends.
O, my old friend! Thy face is valanced since I
saw thee last: com'st thou to beard me in
Denmark? What! my young lady and mistress!
By'r lady, your ladyship is nearer heaven than
when I saw you last, by the altitude of a chopine.
Pray God, your voice, like a piece of uncurrent
gold, be not cracked within the ring. Masters,
you are all welcome. We'll e'en to't like French
falconers, fly at anything we see: we'll have a
speech straight. Come, give us a taste of your
quality; come, a passionate speech.
First Play. What speech, my good lord?
Ham. I heard thee speak me a speech once,
but it was never acted; or, if it was, not above
once; for the play, I remember, pleased not the
million; 'twas caviare to the general: but it was—
as I received it, and others, whose judgments in
such matters cried in the top of mine—an ex-
cellent play, well digested in the scenes, set down
with as much modesty as cunning. I remember
one said there were no sallets in the lines to
make the matter savoury, nor no matter In the
phrase that might Indict the author of affecta-
tion; but called it an honest method, as whole-
some as sweet, and by very much more handsome
than fine. One speech in it I chiefly loved; 'twas
Æneas' tale to Dido; and thereabout of it espe-
cially, where he speaks of Priam's slaughter.
If it live in your memory, begin at this line:
let me see, let me see:—
The rugged Pyrrhus, like the Hyrcanian beast—
'tis not so, it begins with Pyrrhus:—
The rugged Pyrrhus, he, whose sable arm,
Black as his purpose, did the night resemble
When he lay couched in the ominous horse,
Hath now this dread and black complexion
With heraldry more dismal; head to foot
Now is he total gules; horridly trick'd
With blood of fathers, mothers, daughters, sons,
Bak'd and impasted with the parching streets,
That lend a tyrannous and damned light
To their vile murders: roasted in wrath and
And thus o 'er-sized with coagulate gore,
With eyes Iike carbuncles, the hellish Pyrrhus
Old grandsire Priam seeks.
So proceed you.
Pol. 'Fore God, my lord, well spoken; with
good accent and good discretion.
First Play. Anon, he finds him
Striking too short at Greeks; his antique sword,
Rebellious to his arm, lies where it falls,
Repugnant to command. Unequal match'd,
Pyrrhus at Priam drives; in rage strikes wide;
But with the whiff and wind of his fell sword
The unnerved father falls. Then senseless
Seeming to feel this blow, with flaming top
Stoops to his base, and with a hideous crash
Takes prisoner Pyrrhus' ear: for lo! his sword,
Which was declining on the milky head
Of reverend Priam, seem'd i' the air to stick:
So, as a painted tyrant, Pyrrhus stood,
And like a neutral to his will and matter,
Did nothing.
But, as we often see, against some storm,
A silence in the heavens, the rack stand still,
The bold winds speechless and the orb below
As hush as death, anon the dreadful thunder
Doth rend the region; so, after Pyrrhus' pause,
Aroused vengeance sets him new a-work;
And never did the Cyclops' hammers fall
On Mars's armour, forg'd for proof eterne,
With less remorse than Pyrrhus1 bleeding sword
Now falls on Priam.
Out, out, thou strumpet. Fortune! All you gods.
In general synod, take away her power;
Break all the spokes and fellies from her wheel,
And bowl the round nave down the hill of
As low as to the fiends!
Pol. This is too long.
Ham. It shall to the barber's, with your
beard. Prithee, say on: he's for a jig or a
tale of bawdry, or he sleeps. Say on; come to
First Play. But who, O! who had seen the
mobled queen—
Ham. 'The mobled queen?'—
Pol. That's good; ' mobled queen' is good.
First Play. Run barefoot up and down,
threat'ning the flames
With bisson rheum; a clout upon that head
Where late the diadem stood; and, for a robe,
About her lank and all over-teemed loins,
A blanket, in the alarm of fear caught up;
Who this had seen, with tongue in venom
'Gainst Fortune's state would treason have
But if the gods themselves did see her then,
When she saw Pyrrhus make malicious sport
In mincing with his sword her husband's
The instant burst of clamour that she made—
Unless things mortal move them not at all—
Would have made milch the burning eyes of
And passion in the gods.
Pol. Look! wh'er he has not turned his colour
and has tears in's eyes. Prithee, no more.
Ham. 'Tis well; I'll have thee speak out the
rest soon. Good my lord, will you see the players
well bestowed? Do you hear, let them be well
used; for they are the abstracts and brief chroni-
cles of the time: after your death you were bet-
ter have a bad epitaph than their ill report while
you live.
Pol. My lord, I will use them according to
their desert.
Ham. God's bodikins, man, much better; use
every man after his desert, and who should 'scape
whipping? Use them after your own honour and
dignity: the less they deserve, the more merit is
in your bounty. Take them in.
Pol. Come, sirs.
Ham. Follow him, Mends: we'll hear a play
to-morrow. [Exit POLONIUS, with all the Players
but the First.] Dost thou hear me, old friend;
can you play the Murder of Gonzago?
First Play. Ay, my lord.
Sam. We'll ha't to-morrow night. You could,
for a need, study a speech of some dozen or six-
teen lines, which I would set down and insert
in't, could you not?
First Play. Ay, my lord.
Ham. Very well. Follow that lord; and look
you mock him not. [Exit First Player.] [To RO-
good friends, I'll leave you till night; you are
welcome to Elsinore.
Ros. Good my lord!
Ham. Ay, so, God be wi' ye! Now I am alone.
O! what a rogue and peasant slave am I:
Is it not monstrous that this player here,
But in a fiction, in a dream of passion,
Could force his soul so to his own conceit
That from her working all his visage wann'd,
Tears in his eyes, distraction in's aspect,
A broken voice, and his whole function suiting
With forms to his conceit? and all for nothing!
For Hecuba!
What's Hecuba to him or he to Hecuba
That he should weep for her? What would he do
Had he the motive and the cue for passion
That I have? He would drown the stage with
And cleave the general ear with horrid speech,
Make mad the guilty and appal the free,
Confound the ignorant, and amaze indeed
The very faculties of eyes and ears.
Yet I,
A dull and muddy-mettled rascal, peak,
Like John-a-dreams, unpregnant of my cause,
And can say nothing; no, not for a king,
Upon whose property and most dear life
A damn'd defeat was made. Am I a coward?
Who calls me villain? breaks my pate across?
Plucks off my beard and blows it in my face?
Tweaks me by the nose? gives me the lie i' the
As deep as to the lungs? Who does me this?
Swounds, I should take it, for it cannot be
But I am pigeon-liver'd, and lack gall
To make oppression bitter, or ere this
I should have fatted all the region kites
With this slave's offal. Bloody, bawdy villain!
Remorseless, treacherous, lecherous, landless vil-
O! vengeance!
Why, what an ass am I! This is most brave
That I, the son of a dear father murder'd,
Prompted to my revenge by heaven and hell,
Must, like a whore, unpack my heart with. words,
And fall a-cursing, like a very drab,
A scullion!
Fie upon't: foh! About, my brain! I have heard,
That guilty creatures sitting at a play
Have by the very cunning of the scene
Been struck so to the soul that presently
They have proclaim'd their malefactions;
For murder, though it have no tongue, will speak
With most miraculous organ. I'll have these
Play something like the murder of my father
Before mine uncle; I'll observe his looks;
I'll tent him to the quick: if he but blench
I know my course. The spirit that I have seen
May be the devil: and the devil hath power
To assume a pleasing shape; yea, and perhaps
Out of my weakness and my melancholy—
As he is very potent with such spirits—
Abuses me to damn me. I'll have grounds
More relative than this: the play's the thing
Wherein I'll catch the conscience of the king.
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