Thanks to Matt Hatton for pointing this out to me. Like Matt, I do wonder if this scene generated the same sort of laughter when it first debuted in 1609. Apparently, Matt did watch this scene being filmed, and on the set, there were a few quiet snickers.
*text in italic is the modern interpretation of the words
HAMLET – I do not well understand that. Will you play upon this pipe?
I don’t really understand what you mean. Will you play this recorder?
GUILDENSTERN – My lord, I cannot.
I can’t, my lord.
HAMLET – I pray you.
GUILDENSTERN – Believe me, I cannot.
I’m serious, I can’t.
HAMLET – I do beseech you.
I’m begging you.
GUILDENSTERN – I know no touch of it, my lord.
I have no idea how.
HAMLET – It is as easy as lying. Govern these ventages with your fingers and thumb, give it breath with your mouth, and it will discourse most eloquent music. Look you, these are the stops.
Oh, it’s as easy as lying. Just put your fingers and thumb over the holes and blow into it, and it’ll produce the most moving music. Here, the holes are here.
GUILDENSTERN – But these cannot I command to any utterance of harmony.
I have not the skill.
But I can’t play a melody. I don’t know how.
HAMLET – Why, look you now, how unworthy a thing you make of me! You would play upon me. You would seem to know my stops. You would pluck out the heart of my mystery. You would sound me from my lowest note to the top of my compass. And there is much music, excellent voice, in this little organ, yet cannot you make it speak? ‘Sblood, do you think I am easier to be played on than a pipe? Call me what instrument you will, though you can fret me, yet you cannot play upon me.
Well, look how you play me—as if you knew exactly where to put your fingers, to blow the mystery out of me, playing all the octaves of my range—and yet you can’t even produce music from this little instrument? My God, do you think I’m easier to manipulate than a pipe? You can push my buttons, but you can’t play me for a fool.