60 Hamlet: Act 1

William Shakespeare

Hamlet (Modern, Editor’s Version). Internet Shakespeare Editions. University of Victoria. Editor: David Bevington. Adapted by James Sexton.

Scene 1

Enter Barnardo and Francisco, two sentinels.

Who’s there?

Nay, answer me. Stand and unfold yourself.[1]

Long live the King!



You come most carefully upon your hour.

‘Tis now struck twelve. Get thee to bed, Francisco.

For this relief much thanks. ‘Tis bitter cold,
And I am sick at heart.

Have you had quiet guard?

Not a mouse stirring.

Well, good night.
If you do meet Horatio and Marcellus,
The rivals of my watch, bid them make haste.
Enter Horatio and Marcellus.

I think I hear them.–Stand, ho! Who is there?

Friends to this ground.

And liegemen to the Dane.[2]

Give you good night.

Oh, farewell, honest soldier. Who hath relieved you?

Barnardo hath my place. Give you good night.
25Exit Francisco.

Holla, Barnardo!

Say, what, is Horatio there?

A piece of him.

Welcome, Horatio. Welcome, good Marcellus.

What, has this thing appeared again tonight?

I have seen nothing.

Horatio says ’tis but our fantasy,[3]
And will not let belief take hold of him,
Touching[4] this dreaded sight twice seen of us.
35Therefore I have entreated him along
With us[5] to watch the minutes of this night,[6]
That if again this apparition come
He may approve[7] our eyes and speak to it.

Tush, tush, ’twill not appear.

Sit down awhile,
And let us once again assail your ears,
That are so fortified against our story,
What we two nights have seen.

Well, sit we down,
45And let us hear Barnardo speak of this.

Last night of all,[8]
When yond same star that’s westward from the pole[9]
Had made his course t’illume[10] that part of heaven
Where now it burns, Marcellus and myself,
50The bell then beating one–
Enter the Ghost.

Peace, break thee off! Look where it comes again!

In the same figure like the King that’s dead.

Thou art a scholar. Speak to it, Horatio.

Looks it not like the King? Mark it, Horatio.

Most like. It harrows me with fear and wonder.

It would be spoke to.[11]

Question it, Horatio.

What art thou that usurp’st[12] this time of night,
60Together with that fair and warlike form
In which the majesty of buried Denmark[13]
Did sometimes[14] march? By heaven, I charge thee speak!

It is offended.

See, it stalks away.

Stay, speak, speak, I charge thee speak!
Exit the Ghost.

‘Tis gone, and will not answer.

How now, Horatio, you tremble and look pale.
Is not this something more than fantasy?
70What think you on’t?[15]

Before my God, I might not this believe
Without the sensible[16] and true avouch[17]
Of mine own eyes.

Is it not like the King?

As thou art to thyself.
Such was the very armor he had on
When he the ambitious Norway[18] combated.
So frowned he once, when in an angry parle[19]
He smote the sledded Polacks[20] on the ice.
80‘Tis strange.

Thus twice before, and jump[21] at this dead hour,
With martial stalk[22] hath he gone by our watch.

In what particular thought to work[23] I know not,
But in the gross and scope of mine opinion[24]
85This bodes[25] some strange eruption to our state.

Good now,[26] sit down, and tell me, he that knows,
Why this same strict and most observant watch
So nightly toils the subject[27] of the land,
And why such daily cast[28] of brazen[29] cannon
90And foreign mart[30] for implements of war,
Why such impress[31] of shipwrights, whose sore task
Does not divide the Sunday from the week:[32]
What might be toward,[33] that this sweaty haste
Doth make the night joint-laborer with the day?[34]
95Who is’t that can inform me?

That can I.
At least the whisper goes so: our last King,
Whose image even but now appeared to us,
Was as you know by Fortinbras of Norway,[35] by a most emulate[36] pride,
Dared to the combat;[37] in which our valiant Hamlet–
For so this side of our known world[38] esteemed him–
Did slay this Fortinbras, who by a sealed[39] compact
Well ratified by law and heraldry[40]
105Did forfeit, with his life, all those his lands
Which he stood seized of,[41] to the conqueror;
Against the which a moiety competent
Was gagèd by our King,[42] which had returned[43]
To the inheritance of Fortinbras
110Had he been vanquisher, as, by the same cov’nant[44]
And carriage of the article design[ed][45]
His fell to Hamlet.[46] Now, sir, young Fortinbras,
Of unimprovèd mettle hot and full,[47]
Hath in the skirts[48] of Norway here and there
115Sharked up a list of landless resolutes[49]
For food and diet to some enterprise
That hath a stomach in’t,[50] which is no other,
As it doth well appear unto our state,
But to recover of us[51] by strong hand
120And terms compulsative those foresaid lands
So by his father[52] lost. And this, I take it,
Is the main motive of our preparations,
The source[53] of this our watch, and the chief head
Of this post-haste and rummage[54] in the land.

I think it be no other but e’en so.
Well may it sort that[55] this portentous figure
Comes armèd through our watch so like the King
That was and is the question of these wars.

A mote[56] it is to trouble the mind’s eye.
In the most high and palmy[57] state of Rome,
A little ere[58] the mightiest Julius[59] fell,
The graves stood tenantless,[60] and the sheeted[61] dead
Did squeak and gibber in the Roman streets,
124.10As[62] stars with trains of fire and dews of blood,[63]
Disasters[64] in the sun; and the moist star,[65]
Upon whose influence Neptune’s empire stands,[66]
Was sick almost to doomsday with eclipse.[67]
And even the like precurse of feared events,
124.15As harbingers preceding still the fates
And prologue to the omen coming on,
Have heaven and earth together demonstrated
Unto our climatures and countrymen.[68]
125Enter Ghost again.
But soft,[69] behold, lo, where it comes again!
I’ll cross it[70] though it blast me.[71]–Stay, illusion!
It spreads his arms.
If thou hast any sound or use of voice,
Speak to me!
130If there be any good thing to be done
That may to thee do ease and grace to me,
Speak to me!
If thou art privy to[72] thy country’s fate,
Which happily[73] foreknowing may avoid,
Oh, speak!
Or if thou hast uphoarded in thy life
Extorted treasure in the womb of earth,
135For which, they say, you spirits oft walk in death,
Speak of it. Stay and speak!
The cock crows.
Stop it, Marcellus!

Shall I strike at it with my partisan[74]?

Do, if it will not stand.

‘Tis here.

‘Tis here.
Exit Ghost.

‘Tis gone.
We do it wrong, being so majestical,
To offer it the show of violence,
For it is as the air, invulnerable,
145And our vain blows malicious mockery.

It was about to speak when the cock crew.

And then it started[75] like a guilty thing
Upon a fearful summons. I have heard
The cock, that is the trumpet[76] to the morn,
150Doth with his lofty and shrill-sounding throat
Awake the god of day, and, at his warning,
Whether in sea or fire, in earth or air,
Th’extravagant and erring[77] spirit hies[78]
To his confine; and of the truth herein
155This present object made probation.[79]

It faded on the crowing of the cock.
Some say that ever ‘gainst[80] that season comes
Wherein our Savior’s birth is celebrated,
The bird of dawning[81] singeth all night long,
160And then they say no spirit can walk abroad;
The nights are wholesome, then no planets strike,[82]
No fairy takes, nor witch hath power to charm,[83]
So hallowed and so gracious[84] is that time.

So have I heard and do in part believe it.
165But look, the morn in russet[85] mantle clad
Walks o’er the dew of yon high eastward hill.
Break we our watch up, and by my advice
Let us impart what we have seen tonight
Unto young Hamlet, for, upon my life,
170This spirit, dumb to us, will speak to him.
Do you consent we shall acquaint him with it
As needful in our loves, fitting our duty?

Let’s do ‘t, I pray, and I this morning know
Where we shall find him most conveniently.

Scene 2

Flourish.[86] Enter Claudius, King of Denmark, Gertrude the Queen, Hamlet, Polonius, Laertes, and his sister Ophelia, Lords attendant [including Voltemand and Cornelius].

Though yet of Hamlet our[87] dear brother’s death
180The memory be green, and that it us befitted
To bear our hearts in grief, and our whole kingdom
To be contracted in one brow of woe,
Yet so far hath discretion fought with nature
That we with wisest sorrow think on him
185Together with remembrance of ourselves.
Therefore our sometime[88] sister, now our queen,
Th’imperial jointress[89] of this warlike state,
Have we as ’twere with a defeated joy,
With one auspicious and one dropping eye,[90]
190With mirth in funeral and with dirge in marriage,
In equal scale weighing delight and dole,[91]
Taken to wife. Nor have we herein barred
Your better wisdoms,[92] which have freely gone
With this affair along.[93] For all, our thanks.
195Now follows that you know: young Fortinbras,
Holding a weak supposal of our worth,
Or thinking by our late[94] dear brother’s death
Our state to be disjoint and out of frame,[95]
Co-leaguèd with this dream of his advantage,[96]
200He hath not failed to pester us with message
Importing[97] the surrender of those lands
Lost by his father, with all bonds of law,
To our most valiant brother. So much for him.
205Now for ourself, and for this time of meeting,
Thus much the business is: we have here writ
To Norway, uncle of young Fortinbras,
Who, impotent and bed-rid,[98] scarcely hears
Of this his nephew’s purpose, to suppress
210His further gait herein, in that the levies,
The lists, and full proportions are all made
Out of his subject;[99] and we here dispatch
You, good Cornelius, and you, Voltemand,
For bearers[100] of this greeting to old Norway,
215Giving to you no further personal power
To business with the King more than the scope
Of these dilated[101] articles allow.
Farewell, and let your haste commend your duty.[102]

Cornelius and Voltemand
In that and all things will we show our duty.

We doubt it nothing.[103] Heartily farewell.
Exeunt Voltemand and Cornelius.
And now, Laertes, what’s the news with you?
You told us of some suit. What is’t, Laertes?
You cannot speak of reason to the Dane[104]
225And lose your voice.[105] What wouldst thou beg, Laertes,
That shall not be my offer, not thy asking?[106]
The head is not more native[107] to the heart,
The hand more instrumental to the mouth,[108]
Than is the throne of Denmark to thy father.
230What wouldst thou have, Laertes?

Dread my lord,[109]
Your leave and favor[110] to return to France,
From whence though willingly I came to Denmark
To show my duty in your coronation,
235Yet now I must confess, that duty done,
My thoughts and wishes bend again toward France
And bow them to your gracious leave and pardon.[111]

Have you your father’s leave? What says Polonius?

H’ath,[112] my lord, wrung from me my slow leave
240.1By laborsome petition, and at last
Upon his will I sealed my hard consent.[113]
I do beseech you, give him leave to go.

Take thy fair hour,[114] Laertes. Time be thine,
And thy best graces spend it at thy will.[115]
But now, my cousin[116] Hamlet, and my son–

A little more than kin, and less than kind.[117]

How is it that the clouds still hang on you?

Not so, my lord, I am too much i’th’ sun.[118]

Good Hamlet, cast thy nighted color[119] off
And let thine eye look like a friend on Denmark.[120]
250Do not forever with thy vailèd lids[121]
Seek for thy noble father in the dust.
Thou know’st ’tis common:[122] all that lives must die,
Passing through nature to eternity.

Ay, madam, it is common.

If it be,
Why seems it so particular[123] with thee?

“Seems,” madam? Nay, it is, I know not “seems.”
‘Tis not alone my inky cloak, good mother,
Nor customary suits of solemn black,
260Nor windy suspiration[124] of forced breath,
No, nor the fruitful river[125] in the eye,
Nor the dejected havior[126] of the visage,
Together with all forms, moods,[127] shapes of grief
That can denote me truly. These indeed seem,
265For they are actions that a man might play.
But I have that within which passeth show;
These but the trappings[128] and the suits of woe.

‘Tis sweet and commendable in your nature, Hamlet,
270To give these mourning duties to your father.
But you must know your father lost a father;
That father lost,[129] lost his, and the survivor bound
In filial obligation for some term
To do obsequious[130] sorrow; but to persever
275In obstinate condolement is a course
Of impious stubbornness. ‘Tis unmanly grief.
It shows a will most incorrect to heaven,
A heart unfortified, a mind impatient,
An understanding simple and unschooled;
280For what we know must be and is as common
As any the most vulgar thing to sense,[131]
Why should we in our peevish opposition
Take it to heart? Fie, ’tis a fault to heaven,
A fault against the dead, a fault to nature,
285To reason most absurd, whose common theme
Is death of fathers, and who still[132] hath cried
From the first corpse[133] till he that died today
“This must be so.” We pray you throw to earth
This unprevailing[134] woe, and think of us
290As of a father; for let the world take note
You are the most immediate[135] to our throne,
And with no less nobility of love
Than that which dearest father bears his son
Do I impart toward you. For[136] your intent
295In going back to school in Wittenberg,[137]
It is most retrograde[138] to our desire,
And we beseech you bend you[139] to remain
Here in the cheer and comfort of our eye,
Our chiefest courtier, cousin, and our son.

Let not thy mother lose her prayers,[140] Hamlet.
I pray thee stay with us, go not to Wittenberg.

I shall in all my best obey you, madam.[141]

Why, ’tis a loving and a fair reply.
305Be as ourself[142] in Denmark.–Madam, come.
This gentle and unforced accord of Hamlet
Sits smiling to[143] my heart, in grace[144] whereof
No jocund[145] health that Denmark[146] drinks today
But the great cannon to the clouds shall tell,[147]
310And the King’s rouse[148] the heavens shall bruit again,[149]
Respeaking earthly thunder.[150] Come, away!
Flourish. Exeunt all but Hamlet.

Oh, that this too too solid flesh would melt,
Thaw, and resolve[151] itself into a dew!
315Or that the Everlasting[152] had not fixed
His canon[153] ‘gainst self-slaughter! Oh, God, God,
How weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable
Seem to me all the uses of this world!
Fie on’t, ah, fie! ‘Tis an unweeded garden
320That grows to seed; things rank and gross in nature[154]
Possess it merely.[155] That it should come to this!
But two months dead–nay, not so much, not two!
So excellent a king, that was to this[156]
Hyperion[157] to a satyr,[158] so loving to my mother
325That he might not beteem[159] the winds of heaven
Visit her face too roughly. Heaven and earth,
Must I remember? Why, she would hang on him
As if increase of appetite had grown
By what it fed on.[160] And yet within a month–
330Let me not think on’t; frailty, thy name is woman!
A little month,[161] or ere[162] those shoes were old
With which she followed my poor father’s body,
Like Niobe,[163] all tears, why, she, even she–
Oh, God, a beast that wants discourse of reason[164]
335Would have mourned longer!–married with my uncle,
My father’s brother, but no more like my father
Than I to Hercules.[165] Within a month,
Ere yet the salt of most unrighteous tears
Had left the flushing of her gallèd[166] eyes,
340She married. Oh, most wicked speed, to post[167]
With such dexterity to incestuous[168] sheets!
It is not, nor it cannot come to good,
But break, my heart, for I must hold my tongue.
Enter Horatio, Marcellus, and Barnardo.

Hail to your lordship!

I am glad to see you well.–
Horatio, or I do forget myself![169]

The same, my lord, and your poor servant ever.

Sir, my good friend, I’ll change that name with you.[170]
And what make you from[171] Wittenberg, Horatio?–

My good lord.

I am very glad to see you.[172] [To Barnardo.] Good even, sir.
[To Horatio] But what, in faith, make you from Wittenberg?

A truant disposition, good my lord.

I would not have your enemy say so,
Nor shall you do my ear that violence
360To make it truster of your own report
Against yourself.[173] I know you are no truant.
But what is your affair in Elsinore?
We’ll teach you to drink deep ere you depart.

My lord, I came to see your father’s funeral.

I prithee do not mock me, fellow student.
I think it was to see my mother’s wedding.

Indeed, my lord, it followed hard upon.[174]

Thrift, thrift, Horatio. The funeral baked meats
Did coldly furnish forth the marriage tables.[175]
370Would I had met my dearest[176] foe in heaven
Ere I had ever seen that day, Horatio!
My father–methinks I see my father.

Oh, where, my lord?

In my mind’s eye, Horatio.

I saw him once. ‘A[177] was a goodly king.

He was a man, take him for all in all,
I shall not look upon his like again.

My lord, I think I saw him yesternight.[178]

Saw? Who?

My lord, the King your father.

The King my father?

Season your admiration[179] for a while
With an attent[180] ear till I may deliver,
Upon the witness of these gentlemen,
385This marvel to you.

For God’s love, let me hear!

Two nights together had these gentlemen,
Marcellus and Barnardo, on their watch
In the dead waste[181] and middle of the night
390Been thus encountered: a figure like your father
Armed at all points,[182] exactly, cap-à-pie,[183]
Appears before them, and with solemn march
Goes slow[184] and stately by them. Thrice he walked
By their oppressed and fear-surprisèd eyes[185]
395Within his truncheon’s[186] length, whilst they, distilled
Almost to jelly with the act[187] of fear,
Stand dumb and speak not to him. This to me
In dreadful[188] secrecy impart they did,
And I with them the third night kept the watch,
400Where, as they had delivered, both in time,
Form of the thing, each word made true and good,
The apparition comes. I knew your father.
These hands are not more like.[189]

But where was this?

My lord, upon the platform[190] where we watched.

Did you not speak to it?

My lord, I did,
But answer made it none. Yet once methought
It lifted up it head[191] and did address
410Itself to motion, like as it would speak;[192]
But even[193] then the morning cock crew loud,
And at the sound it shrunk in haste away
And vanished from our sight.

‘Tis very strange.

As I do live, my honored lord, ’tis true,
And we did think it writ down in our duty[194]
To let you know of it.

Indeed, indeed, sirs, but this troubles me.
Hold you the watch tonight?

We do, my lord.

Armed, say you?

Armed, my lord.

From top to toe?

My lord, from head to foot.

Then saw you not his face?

Oh, yes, my lord, he wore his beaver[196] up.

What looked he, frowningly?[197]

A countenance[198] more in sorrow than in anger.

Pale, or red?

Nay, very pale.

And fixed his eyes upon you?

Most constantly.

I would[199] I had been there.

It would have much amazed you.

Very like, very like.[200] Stayed it long?

While one with moderate haste might tell a hundred.

Longer, longer.

Not when I saw’t.

His beard was grizzled, no?[202]

It was as I have seen it in his life,
A sable silvered.[203]

I will watch[204] tonight.
Perchance ’twill walk again.

I warr’nt[205] it will.

If it assume my noble father’s person,
445I’ll speak to it, though hell itself should gape
And bid me hold my peace.[206] I pray you all,
If you have hitherto concealed this sight
Let it be tenable[207] in your silence still,
And whatsomever else shall hap tonight,
450Give it an understanding but no tongue;
I will requite[208] your loves. So, fare you well.
Upon the platform ‘twixt eleven and twelve
I’ll visit you.

Our duty to your honor.
Exeunt [all but Hamlet].

Your loves, as mine to you.[209] Farewell.
My father’s spirit–in arms! All is not well.
I doubt some foul play. Would the night were come!
Till then, sit still, my soul. Foul deeds will rise,
Though all the earth o’erwhelm them, to men’s eyes.

Scene 3

Enter[210] Laertes, and Ophelia his sister.

My necessaries are embarked.[211] Farewell.
And sister, as[212] the winds give benefit
And convoy is assistant, do[213] not sleep
465But let[214] me hear from you.

Do you doubt that?

For Hamlet, and the trifling of his favor,[215]
Hold it a fashion and a toy in blood,[216]
A violet in the youth of primy nature,[217]
470Forward,[218] not permanent, sweet, not lasting,
The perfume and suppliance of a minute,[219]
No more.

No more but so?

Think it no more.
For nature crescent does not grow alone
475In thews and bulk, but as this temple[220] waxes
The inward service of the mind and soul
Grows wide withal.[221] Perhaps he loves you now,
And now no soil nor cautel[222] doth besmirch
The virtue of his will;[223] but you must fear,
480His greatness weighed,[224] his will is not his own,
For he himself is subject to his birth.
He may not, as unvalued persons[225] do,
Carve for himself,[226] for on his choice depends
The safety and health of the whole state,
485And therefore must his choice be circumscribed
Unto the voice and yielding[227] of that body[228]
Whereof he is the head. Then if he says he loves you,
It fits your wisdom so far to believe it
As he in his particular act and place[229]
490May give his saying deed, which is no further
Than the main voice of Denmark goes withal.[230]
Then weigh what loss your honor may sustain
If with too credent[231] ear you list[232] his songs,
Or lose your heart, or your chaste treasure open
495To his unmastered importunity.[233]
Fear it, Ophelia, fear it, my dear sister,
And keep within the rear of your affection,
Out of the shot and danger of desire.[234]
The chariest[235] maid is prodigal enough
500If she unmask her beauty to the moon.[236]
Virtue itself scapes not calumnious[237] strokes.
The canker galls the infants of the spring[238]
Too oft before their buttons be disclosed,[239]
And in the morn and liquid dew of youth[240]
505Contagious blastments[241] are most imminent.
Be wary, then; best safety lies in fear.
Youth to itself rebels, though none else near.[242]

I shall the effect of this good lesson keep
As watchman to my heart.[243] But, good my brother,
510Do not, as some ungracious[244] pastors do,
Show me the steep and thorny way to heaven
Whilst, like a puffed[245] and reckless libertine,
Himself the primrose path of dalliance treads,
And recks not his own rede.[246]
Enter Polonius

Oh, fear me not.[247]
I stay too long. But here my father comes.
A double blessing is a double grace;
Occasion smiles upon a second leave.[248]

Yet here, Laertes? Aboard, aboard, for shame!
The wind sits in the shoulder of your sail,[249]
And you are stayed for. There, my blessing[250] with thee,
And these few precepts in thy memory
See thou character.[251] Give thy thoughts no tongue,
525Nor any unproportioned thought his act.[252]
Be thou familiar, but by no means vulgar.[253]
Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried,
Grapple them to thy soul with hoops of steel,[254]
But do not dull thy palm[255] with entertainment[256]
530Of each new-hatched, unfledged[257] comrade. Beware
Of entrance to a quarrel, but, being in,
Bear’t that th’opposèd[258] may beware of thee.
Give every man thine ear, but few thy voice.
Take each man’s censure,[259] but reserve thy judgment.[260]
535Costly thy habit[261] as thy purse can buy,
But not expressed in fancy[262]–rich, not gaudy,
For the apparel oft proclaims the man,[263]
And they in France of the best rank and station
Are of all most select and generous, chief in that.[264]
540Neither a borrower nor a lender be,
For loan oft loses both itself and friend,
And borrowing dulleth edge of husbandry.[265]
This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow as the night the day
545Thou canst not then be false to any man.
Farewell. My blessing season this in thee![266]

Most humbly do I take my leave, my lord.

The time invites you. Go. Your servants tend.[267]

Farewell, Ophelia, and remember well
550What I have said to you.

‘Tis in my memory locked,
And you yourself shall keep the key of it.

Exit Laertes.

What is’t, Ophelia, he hath said to you?

So please you, something touching[268] the Lord Hamlet.

Marry,[269] well bethought.[270]
‘Tis told me he hath very oft of late
Given private time to you, and you yourself
Have of your audience[271] been most free and bounteous.
560If it be so–as so ’tis put on me,[272]
And that in way of caution–I must tell you
You do not understand yourself[273] so clearly
As it behooves[274] my daughter and your honor.[275]
What is between you? Give me up the truth.

He hath, my lord, of late made many tenders[276]
Of his affection to me.

Affection? Pooh, you speak like a green[277] girl,
Unsifted[278] in such perilous circumstance.
Do you believe his “tenders,” as you call them?

I do not know, my lord, what I should think.

Marry, I’ll teach you. Think yourself a baby
That you have ta’en his tenders for true pay
Which are not sterling.[279] Tender yourself more dearly,[280]
Or–not to crack the wind of the poor phrase
575Running it thus[281]–you’ll tender me a fool.[282]

My lord, he hath importuned me with love
In honorable fashion.

Ay, fashion[283] you may call it. Go to, go to.[284]

And hath given countenance to his speech, my lord,
580With almost all the holy vows of heaven.

Ay, springes to catch woodcocks.[285] I do know
When the blood burns, how prodigal the soul
Lends the tongue vows.[286] These blazes, daughter,
Giving more light than heat, extinct in both
585Even in their promise as it is a-making,[287]
You must not take[288] for fire. From this time, daughter,
Be something[289] scanter of your maiden presence.
Set your entreatments at a higher rate
Than a command to parley.[290] For[291] Lord Hamlet,
590Believe so much in him[292] that he is young,
And with a larger tether may he walk
Than may be given you. In few,[293] Ophelia,
Do not believe his vows, for they are brokers[294]
Not of that dye which their investments show,[295]
595But mere implorators of unholy suits,
Breathing[296] like sanctified and pious bawds
The better to beguile. This is for all:[297]
I would not, in plain terms, from this time forth
Have you so slander any moment leisure[298]
600As to give words or talk with the Lord Hamlet.
Look to’t, I charge you. Come your ways.[299]

I shall obey, my lord.

Scene 4

Enter[300] Hamlet, Horatio, and Marcellus.

The air bites shrewdly;[301] it is very cold.

It is a nipping and an eager[302] air.

What hour now?

I think it lacks of[303] twelve.

No, it is struck.

Indeed? I heard it not. It then draws near the season[304]
610Wherein the spirit held his wont[305] to walk.
A flourish of trumpets, and two pieces[306] goes off.
What does this mean, my lord?

The King doth wake[307] tonight and takes his rouse,[308]
Keeps wassail, and the swagg’ring upspring reels;[309]
And as he drains his drafts of Rhenish[310] down
615The kettledrum and trumpet thus bray out
The triumph of his pledge.[311]

Is it a custom?

Ay, marry,[312] is’t,
But to my mind, though I am native here
620And to the manner born,[313] it is a custom
More honored in the breach than the observance.[314]
621.1This heavy-headed revel east and west
Makes us traduced and taxed of other nations.[315]
They clepe[316] us drunkards, and with swinish phrase
Soil our addition,[317] and indeed it takes
621.5From our achievements, though performed at height,[318]
The pith and marrow of our attribute.[319]
So, oft it chances in particular men,
That, for some vicious mole of nature in them,[320]
As in their birth,[321] wherein they are not guilty,
621.10Since nature cannot choose his[322] origin,
By the o’ergrowth of some complexion,[323]
Oft breaking down the pales[324] and forts of reason,
Or by some habit that too much o’erleavens
The form of plausive manners,[325] that these men,
621.15Carrying, I say, the stamp of one defect,
Being Nature’s livery, or Fortune’s star,[326]
His virtues else,[327] be they as pure as grace,
As infinite as man may undergo,[328]
Shall in the general censure take corruption[329]
621.20From that particular fault. The dram of evil
Doth all the noble substance often dout
To his own scandal.[330]
Enter Ghost.

Look, my lord, it comes!

Angels and ministers of grace defend us![331]
625Be thou a spirit of health or goblin damned,[332]
Bring with thee airs from heaven or blasts[333] from hell,
Be thy intents[334] wicked or charitable,
Thou com’st in such a questionable shape
That I will speak to thee. I’ll call thee Hamlet,
630King, father, royal Dane. Oh, answer me!
Let me not burst in ignorance, but tell
Why thy canonized[335] bones, hearsèd[336] in death,
Have burst their cerements?[337] Why the sepulcher
Wherein we saw thee quietly inurned[338]
635Hath oped his ponderous and marble jaws
To cast thee up again? What may this mean
That thou, dead corpse, again in complete steel[339]
Revisits thus the glimpses of the moon,[340]
Making night hideous, and we fools of nature[341]
640So horridly to shake our disposition[342]
With thoughts beyond the reaches[343] of our souls?
Say, why is this? Wherefore? What should we do?
[The] Ghost beckons Hamlet.

It beckons you to go away with it,
645As if it some impartment did desire
To you alone.

Look with what courteous action
It wafts you to a more removèd ground.
But do not go with it.

No, by no means.

It will not speak. Then I will follow it.

Do not, my lord.

Why, what should be the fear?
I do not set my life at a pin’s fee,[344]
655And for[345] my soul, what can it do to that,
Being a thing immortal as itself?
[The Ghost beckons Hamlet.]
It waves me forth again. I’ll follow it.

What if it tempt you toward the flood,[346] my lord,
Or to the dreadful summit of the cliff
660That beetles o’er his base[347] into the sea,
And there assume some other horrible form
Which might deprive your sovereignty of reason[348]
And draw you into madness? Think of it:
663.1The very place puts toys of desperation,[349]
Without more motive, into every brain
That looks so many fathoms[350] to the sea
And hears it roar beneath.
[The Ghost beckons Hamlet.]

It wafts me still.–Go on, I’ll follow thee.

You shall not go, my lord.
[They attempt to restrain him.]

Hold off your hands!

Be ruled. You shall not go.

My fate cries out[351]
And makes each petty[352] artery in this body
670As hardy as the Nemean lion’s nerve.[353]
[The Ghost beckons Hamlet.]
Still am I called. Unhand me, gentlemen!
By heav’n, I’ll make a ghost of him that lets me.
I say, away!–Go on, I’ll follow thee.
Exeunt Ghost and Hamlet.

He waxes desperate with imagination.

Let’s follow. ‘Tis not fit thus to obey him.

Have after.[354] To what issue[355] will this come?

Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.

Heaven will direct[356] it.

Nay, let’s follow him.

Scene 5

Enter[357] Ghost and Hamlet.

Whither wilt thou lead me? Speak. I’ll go no further.

Mark me.

I will.

My hour is almost come
When I to sulf’rous and tormenting flames
Must render up myself.

Alas, poor ghost!

Pity me not, but lend thy serious hearing
690To what I shall unfold.

Speak. I am bound[358] to hear.

So art thou to revenge, when thou shalt hear.


I am thy father’s spirit,
695Doomed for a certain term to walk the night,
And for the day confined to fast[359] in fires,
Till the foul crimes[360] done in my days of nature[361]
Are burnt and purged[362] away. But that[363] I am forbid
To tell the secrets of my prison house,
700I could a tale unfold whose lightest word
Would harrow up[364] thy soul, freeze thy young blood,
Make thy two eyes like stars start from their spheres,[365]
Thy knotted and combinèd locks[366] to part,
And each particular hair to stand on end[367]
705Like quills upon the fretful[368] porpentine.[369]
But this eternal blazon[370] must not be
To ears of flesh and blood. List, Hamlet, oh, list:[371]
If thou didst ever thy dear father love–

O God!

Revenge his foul and most unnatural murder.


Murder most foul, as in the best it is,[372]
But this most foul, strange, and unnatural.

715Haste me to know’t, that I with wings as swift
As meditation or the thoughts of love
May sweep to my revenge.

I find thee apt,
And duller shouldst thou be than the fat[373] weed
720That rots itself in ease on Lethe[374] wharf
Wouldst thou[375] not stir in this. Now, Hamlet, hear:
‘Tis given out[376] that, sleeping in my orchard,[377]
A serpent stung me. So the whole ear of Denmark
Is by a forgèd process[378] of my death
725Rankly abused.[379] But know, thou noble youth,
The serpent that did sting[380] thy father’s life
Now wears his crown.

Oh, my prophetic soul! My uncle?

Ay, that incestuous,[381] that adulterate[382] beast,
730With witchcraft of his wits, with traitorous gifts[383]
Oh, wicked wit and gifts, that have the power
So to seduce!–won to his shameful lust
The will of my most seeming virtuous queen.
Oh, Hamlet, what a falling off was there!
735From me, whose love was of that dignity
That it went hand in hand even with the vow[384]
I made to her in marriage, and to decline
Upon a wretch whose natural gifts were poor
To[385] those of mine. But virtue, as it never will be moved,
740Though lewdness court it in a shape of heaven,
So lust, though to a radiant angel linked,
Will sate itself[386] in a celestial bed
And prey on garbage.[387]
But soft,[388] methinks I scent the morning’s air.[389]
Brief let me be. Sleeping within my orchard,
745My custom always of the afternoon,
Upon my secure hour,[390] thy uncle stole
With juice of cursèd hebona[391] in a vial,
And in the porches of my ears[392] did pour
The leperous distillment,[393] whose effect
750Holds such an enmity with blood of man
That swift as quicksilver[394] it courses through
The natural gates and alleys of the body,
And with a sudden vigor it doth posset
And curd[395] like eager[396] droppings into milk
755The thin and wholesome blood; so did it mine,
And a most instant tetter[397] barked about,
Most lazarlike[398] with vile and loathsome crust,[399]
All my smooth body.
Thus was I sleeping by a brother’s hand
760Of life, of crown, of queen at once dispatched,[400]
Cut off even in the blossoms of my sin,[401]
Unhousled, disappointed, unaneled,[402]
No reck’ning[403] made, but sent to my account
With all my imperfections on my head.
765Oh, horrible, oh, horrible, most horrible!
If thou hast nature[404] in thee, bear it not.
Let not the royal bed of Denmark be
A couch for luxury[405] and damnèd incest.[406]
But howsomever thou pursues this act,
770Taint not thy mind, nor let thy soul contrive
Against thy mother aught;[407] leave her to heaven
And to those thorns that in her bosom lodge
To prick and sting her. Fare thee well at once.
The glow-worm shows the matin[408] to be near
775And ‘gins to pale his[409] uneffectual fire.
Adieu, adieu, Hamlet! Remember me.

O all you host of heaven! O earth! What else?
And shall I couple[410] hell? Oh, fie! Hold, hold,[411] my heart,
And you, my sinews, grow not instant old,
780But bear me stiffly[412] up. Remember thee?
Ay, thou poor ghost, whiles memory holds a seat
In this distracted globe.[413] Remember thee?
Yea, from the table[414] of my memory
I’ll wipe away all trivial fond[415] records,[416]
785All saws of books, all forms, all pressures past[417]
That youth and observation copied there,[418]
And thy commandment all alone shall live
Within the book and volume[419] of my brain,
Unmixed with baser matter. Yes, yes, by heaven.
790Oh, most pernicious woman!
Oh, villain, villain, smiling damnèd villain!
My tables, my tables–meet[420] it is I set it down[421]
That one may smile, and smile, and be a villain.
At least I am sure it may be so in Denmark.
795So, uncle, there you are. Now to my word.[422]
It is “Adieu, adieu, remember me.”
I have sworn’t.
Enter Horatio and Marcellus [calling first from within].

My lord, my lord!

Lord Hamlet!

Heavens secure him![423]

So be it.

Illo, ho, ho, my lord![424]

Hillo, ho, ho, boy, come, bird, come![425]

How is’t, my noble lord?

What news, my lord?

Oh, wonderful!

Good my lord, tell it.

No, you’ll reveal it.

Not I, my lord, by heaven.

Nor I, my lord.

How say you then, would heart of man once[426] think it–
But you’ll be secret?

Ay, by heaven, my lord.

There’s ne’er a villaindwelling in all Denmark
815But he’s an arrant knave.[427]

There needs no ghost, my lord, come from the grave
To tell us this.

Why, right, you are i’th’ right.
And so, without more circumstance[428] at all
820I hold it fit that we shake hands and part:
You as your business and desires shall point you
(For every man hath business and desire,
Such as it is), and for my own poor part,
Look you, I’ll go pray.

These are but wild and whirling words, my lord.

I am sorry they offend you–heartily,
Yes, faith, heartily.

There’s no offense, my lord.

Yes, by Saint Patrick,[429] but there is, Horatio,
830And much offense[430] too. Touching[431] this vision here,
It is an honest[432] ghost, that let me tell you.
For[433] your desire to know what is between us,
O’ermaster it as you may. And now, good friends,
As you are friends, scholars, and soldiers,
835Give me one poor request.

What is’t, my lord? We will.

Never make known what you have seen tonight.

My lord, we will not.

Nay, but swear’t.

In faith, my lord, not I.[434]

Nor I, my lord, in faith.

Upon my sword.
[He holds out his sword.]

We have sworn, my lord, already.

Indeed, upon my sword, indeed.
845Ghost cries under the stage.


Ha, ha, boy, say’st thou so? Art thou there, truepenny[435]?–
Come on, you hear this fellow in the cellarage.
Consent to swear.

Propose the oath, my lord.

Never to speak of this that you have seen.
Swear by my sword.

[They swear.]

Hic et ubique?[436] Then we’ll shift our ground.[437]
[He moves them to another spot.]
Come hither, gentlemen,
855And lay your hands again upon my sword.
Never to speak of this that you have heard
Swear by my sword.

Swear by his sword.
[They swear.]

Well said, old mole. Canst work i’th’ earth so fast?
860A worthy pioneer![438]–Once more remove,[439] good friends.
[They move once more.]

Oh, day and night, but this is wondrous strange.

And therefore as a stranger give it welcome.
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.[440] But come,
865Here as before: never, so help you mercy,[441]
How strange or odd some’er[442] I bear myself
(As I perchance hereafter shall think meet
To put an antic disposition on),[443]
That you at such times seeing me never shall,
870With arms encumbered[444] thus, or this headshake,[445]
Or by pronouncing of some doubtful[446] phrase
As, “Well, well, we know,” or “We could an if we would,”
Or “If we list[447] to speak,” or “There be, an if they might,”[448]
Or such ambiguous giving out, to note[449]
875That you know aught[450] of me. This not to do,
So grace and mercy at your most need help you,[451]

[They swear.]

Rest, rest, perturbèd spirit.–So, gentlemen,
880With all my love I do commend me to you,[452]
And what so poor a man as Hamlet is
May do t’express his love and friending[453] to you,
God willing, shall not lack.[454] Let us go in together,
And still[455] your fingers on your lips, I pray.
885The time is out of joint.[456] Oh, cursèd spite,
That ever I was born to set it right!
[They wait for him to leave first.]
Nay, come, let’s go together.[457]

  1. Identify who you are.
  2. Subjects of the Danish king.
  3. Fantastic imaginings.
  4. Regarding, concerning.
  5. To come along with us.
  6. To keep watch with us tonight.
  7. Confirm, corroborate.
  8. In the night just before the present one.
  9. Probably Arcturus, a bright star just to the west of the Big Dipper and the pole star or Polaris that is directly north in the night sky.
  10. To illuminate.
  11. According to a widely held belief, ghosts could not speak until spoken to.
  12. You who wrongfully assert your authority over.
  13. The buried former King of Denmark, Hamlet's dead father.
  14. Formerly.
  15. Of it.
  16. Evident to the senses (especially sight).
  17. Authority, confirmation.
  18. King of Norway.
  19. Parley, conference with the enemy.
  20. Poles traveling on sleds.
  21. Precisely.
  22. Stride.
  23. To organize my thoughts.
  24. In my opinion, as I consider the whole topic.
  25. Foretells.
  26. i.e., I implore you all.
  27. Imposes toil on the subjects, the citizens.
  28. Casting.
  29. Brass.
  30. Shopping abroad.
  31. Impressment, conscription.
  32. i.e., Requires them to work on Sunday just like every other day of the week.
  33. About to happen.
  34. i.e., Demands that work continue all twenty-four hours.
  35. Old Fortinbras, King of Norway (with whom old Hamlet fought as described in lines 64-5 TLN 76-7) above; not young Fortinbras, nephew of this present king.
  36. Competitive, rivalrous.
  37. Challenged to fight, one on one.
  38. i.e., all of Western Europe.
  39. Confirmed by an official seal.
  40. The laws and pageant customs of chivalry.
  41. Possessed of.
  42. In return for which a comparable portion of land was pledged by our King of Denmark.
  43. Which was to have been assigned.
  44. Contractual agreement.
  45. And intent of the contact in question.
  46. Old Fortinbras's lands would have been transferred to old Hamlet.
  47. Full of untested fiery spirits.
  48. Outskirts.
  49. Rounded up a troop of restlessly ambitious younger sons and other gentry without landed title.
  50. To feed and supply a bold enterprise demanding appetite and raw courage for such a venture.
  51. From us.
  52. The old King of Norway, now dead, brother of the present Fortinbras of Norway.
  53. Motivation.
  54. Frenetic activity and bustle.
  55. That could well explain why.
  56. Speck of dust.
  57. Flourishing, prosperous.
  58. Before.
  59. Julius Caesar. Caesar's assassination in Rome on March 15, 44 BC, is dramatized in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, where the event is heralded by many of the same prodigious omens cited in these lines.
  60. Unoccupied.
  61. Shrouded in grave-clothes.
  62. Just as, like.
  63. Comets and their trails drizzling blood.
  64. Unfavorable astrological signs or aspects.
  65. i.e., the moon, governess of tides.
  66. The sea depends. Neptune is the Roman god of the sea.
  67. The moon in eclipse was a foreboding sign of the day of Judgment and second coming of Christ predicted in Matthew 24.29 and Revelation 6.12.
  68. And no less fearful predictions of frightening happenings, serving as prognosticators and prologues incessantly preceding the calamitous events that are fated to come, are the means by which heaven and earth together make manifest to our regions and peoples what they can expect.
  69. i.e., gently, wait, hold on.
  70. Stand in its way, confront it; also, hold up a Christian cross in front of it (as Horatio may do here).
  71. Strike or wither me with a curse.
  72. Are possessed with secret knowledge of.
  73. Haply, perchance.
  74. Long-handled, broad-bladed spear.
  75. Moved suddenly and violently.
  76. Trumpeter, herald.
  77. Wandering, unrestrained.
  78. Hastens.
  79. Proof.
  80. Just before.
  81. The rooster.
  82. No planets exert their baleful influence.
  83. Cast a spell, enchant.
  84. Suffused with divine grace.
  85. Reddish brown.
  86. A trumpet fanfare announcing the arrival of royalty, etc.
  87. The royal "we," seen also in lines 2, 3, 6, 7 (ourselves).
  88. Former
  89. Joint possessor of the throne.
  90. With one eye smiling and the other tear-stained and lowered in grief.
  91. Sorrow.
  92. The sage advice of you elders and statesmen (like Polonius).
  93. Have freely given consent to this marriage.
  94. Recent.
  95. Totally disordered.
  96. Combined with this illusory dream of his having us at a disadvantage.
  97. Concerning, signifying.
  98. Wasted by disease and confined to bed.
  99. i.e., insisting that the Norwegian king put an end to Fortinbras's proceeding any further in this business, since the raising of troops and supplies is all made up out of the King of Norway's subjects (and are therefore at his disposal for military purposes, not young Fortinbras's). ("The lists" means "The roster of the troops levied.")
  100. To serve as bearers.
  101. Expanded, set out at length.
  102. Let your swift carrying out of my command give testimony of your dutiful obedience.
  103. Not in the slightest.
  104. The Danish king.
  105. Waste your speech.
  106. i.e., That I will offer almost before you ask.
  107. Closely related.
  108. Useful in carrying out what is verbally commanded.
  109. My awe-inspiring lord and master.
  110. Gracious permission.
  111. And submissively ask your gracious permission and forgiveness for my having asked such a favor.
  112. He has.
  113. I gave my reluctant consent, as though affixing a seal to a document of approval.
  114. Seize your opportunity while there is still time, while you are young.
  115. And may you spend your time guided by your best qualities and inclinations.
  116. Anyone related by blood or kinship but not of the immediate family.
  117. i.e., Involved in a family relationship that is at once too close and yet lacking in loving affection. "Kind" puns on the ideas of (1) blood relationship and (2) kindly feeling.
  118. i.e., (1) too closely related as step-son to Claudius (2) too much in the sunshine of royal favor.
  119. (1) dark mourning garments (2) melancholy.
  120. The King of Denmark.
  121. Lowered eyelids.
  122. (1) a common occurrence (2) as Hamlet uses the term in line 74, "vulgar, disgusting."
  123. Personal.
  124. Sighing.
  125. Abundance of tears.
  126. Expression.
  127. Outward manifestations of feeling.
  128. Outward decorative signs.
  129. That father who is now dead.
  130. Appropriate to obsequies or funerals.
  131. For since everything that happens to us must be as common as the most ordinary experience.
  132. Continually, always.
  133. The body of the first human ever to have died, Abel. The murder of Abel at the hands of his brother Cain, depicted in Genesis 4, is the first recorded death in the Bible after the expulsion of Adam and Eve from Eden for their having disobeyed God.
  134. Profitless.
  135. Next in succession.
  136. As for.
  137. The German city on the River Elbe, home to the famous university where in 1517 Martin Luther posted his 95 theses on the door of the Schlosskirke, in what is conventionally regarded as the opening salvo of the Protestant Reformation.
  138. Contrary.
  139. Yield to our wishes.
  140. Fail to achieve the thing she prays for.
  141. To the best of my ability. Hamlet pointedly replies to his mother, not to the King. He uses the formal "you" rather than "thee," as was appropriate in addressing a parent.
  142. Enjoy the privileges and status of royalty. (The plural "ourself" indicates the royal plural; it means "myself, I as king.") The King invites Hamlet to enjoy the same privileges as the King himself.
  143. Pleases.
  144. Honor.
  145. Cheerful, merry, joyful.
  146. The King of Denmark, Claudius. Hamlet's disapproval of heavy drinking among the Danes as "a custom / More honored in the breach than the observance," in 1.4.15 ff., is directed particularly at Claudius, who uses any public ceremony as the opportunity to raise a toast. Drinking is emblematic of his worldly covetousness.
  147. Sound, announce. The firing of artillery is to mark the occasion, as at 1.4.6 ff.
  148. Bout of drinking, ceremonial toast.
  149. Loudly echo.
  150. Echoing our cannon.
  151. Dissolve.
  152. God.
  153. Divine law.
  154. Offensively vigorous in growth and coarse in their very natures.
  155. Completely.
  156. Compared to Claudius.
  157. Titan sun-god in Greek mythology.
  158. Lecherous half-goat, half-human deity of classical mythology.
  159. Would not allow.
  160. As if her desire and love for her husband was augmented by the intense pleasure of that love.
  161. Compare this interval of time with "But two months dead" at line 138 (TLN 322) above.
  162. Even before.
  163. When Niobe boasted that her fourteen children outnumbered those of Leto, Leto's children, Apollo and Artemis, slew all of Niobe's children as a punishment for their mother's hubris or pride. Turned by Zeus into a stone, Niobe never ceased her bitter tears, flowing as a spring from the rock. The story of Niobe and her children is told by (among others) Ovid in his Metamorphoses, 6.146-312.
  164. Lacks the ability to reason.
  165. Hero of classical mythology noted for his twelve "labors," deeds requiring "Herculean" strength.
  166. Inflamed, irritated.
  167. Hasten.
  168. Judaeo-Christian tradition (see Leviticus 18.16 and 20.21), incorporated into the Anglican Book of Common Prayer, forbade a man to marry his brother's wife' as Claudius has done in this play, and, historically as Henry VIII had done by marrying his dead brother Arthur's wife, Katharine of Aragon.
  169. i.e., I know you as well as I know myself. Hamlet, distracted and unhappy, does not recognize at first that Horatio is among those who have just entered and whom he initially greets with the conventional formula, "I am glad to see you well." Compare today's formulaic "How are you?"
  170. Share and exchange mutually the name of "friend" with you, rather than having you address me as your master. If anything, I am your servant.
  171. Are you going away from.
  172. Hamlet, realizing that in his excitement at seeing Horatio he has not observed the social niceties of greeting the others who have just arrived, repairs that little slip by welcoming Marcellus by name and then Barnardo with "Good even, sir," before returning to his question to Horatio.
  173. Nor will I trust my own ears if they tell me you are calling yourself a truant, a delinquent.
  174. Quickly afterwards.
  175. The food left uneaten from the funeral banquet, including meat pies and pastries, provided cold leftovers for the marriage festivities. A bitterly satiric exaggeration.
  176. Direst, most hated, bitterest.
  177. He.
  178. Last night.
  179. Moderate your astonishment.
  180. Attentive.
  181. Lifeless desolation. Perhaps with a pun in "waste" on "waist, middle."
  182. Provided with weapons in every detail.
  183. From head to foot. From old French.
  184. Slowly.
  185. Eyes that show sudden surprise and fear.
  186. A truncheon is a military officer's baton or staff, a sign of his office.
  187. Effect.
  188. Full of dread, dread-inspired.
  189. These two hands of mine are not more like each other than this apparition was like your father.
  190. Battlements of the castle.
  191. Its head.
  192. Moved in such a way as to suggest that it was about to speak.
  193. Just.
  194. Prescribed in the duty we owe you.
  195. i.e., Marcellus, Barnardo, and Horatio.
  196. Visor on the helmet.
  197. Did it appear that he was frowning?
  198. Expression.
  199. I wish.
  200. Very likely.
  201. i.e., Marcellus and Barnardo.
  202. Grey or mingled with grey, was it not?
  203. silvered Black sprinkled with silver-grey. The sable, prized then and now for its fur, is a carnivorous weasel-like mammal.
  204. Stand watch.
  205. Guarantee.
  206. Be silent.
  207. Able to be held.
  208. Repay.
  209. i.e., I accept your "duty" as love, and I pledge my love to you in that same sense.
  210. Location: Polonius's apartment in the castle, or some place nearby.
  211. Loaded on board a sailing vessel.
  212. Whenever.
  213. And as means of transportation are available, do
  214. Without letting
  215. As for Hamlet and the attentions he pays you, which must be regarded as trifling.
  216. A passing fancy prompted by sexual attraction.
  217. i.e., Natural impulses in the springtime of their vigor.
  218. Insistent, eagerly pulsating, early-blooming and soon to fade.
  219. Something sweet to supply the pleasures of a moment.
  220. The body, temple of the soul.
  221. For all living creatures (especially humans), as they mature, grow not in physical strength alone, but as the body ages the inner qualities of mind and soul develop also. ("Thews" are sinews. "Inward service" is the inner life.) Laertes seems to be warning Ophelia that as Hamlet grows older, his interests may change.
  222. Stain or deceit.
  223. The sincerity of his desires and intentions.
  224. When his royal rank is taken into consideration.
  225. Persons of ordinary social standing.
  226. Help himself to the choicest morsel of the roast; i.e., choose for himself.
  227. Expressed opinion and consent.
  228. The body politic, the state.
  229. In the particular circumstances to which he is restricted by his high station.
  230. Than general opinion in Denmark will go along with.
  231. Credulous, trusting.
  232. Listen to.
  233. Uncontrolled urgency of desire.
  234. i.e., Don't let your passionate feelings lead you where you will be vulnerable to his amorous assaults.
  235. Most modest.
  236. Is taking enough of a risk if she merely expose herself to the chaste moon. The moon (Diana, Artemis, Phoebe), as a symbol of chaste affection, was widely associated with Queen Elizabeth I. Elizabethan ladies were careful to mask themselves from the sun; Ophelia is being urged to be even more cautious than that.
  237. Slanderous.
  238. The cankerworm injures the budding flowers of springtime.
  239. Before their buds are open.
  240. In the early time of life, a time that has the freshness and innocence of the dew-sprinkled dawn.
  241. Blightings.
  242. Youth yields to the rebellion of the flesh without any outside promptings.
  243. Guardian over my affections.
  244. Ungodly, lacking in spiritual grace.
  245. Bloated or swollen (presumably with the arrogance of youth).
  246. Pays no heed to his own best advice.
  247. Don't worry about me.
  248. The goddess Occasion or Opportunity has smiled upon me by provided me the chance to say goodbye to my father a second time and thereby receive from him a second blessing. In some modern productions, Laertes (and his sister too) are both rather put off by their father's tedious moralizing. If so, Laertes's speech here is tinged with irony; he thinks he's already been through the business of saying goodbye to his father.
  249. i.e., You have a following wind now, so don't delay.
  250. You are being waited for on board. There now, take my blessing.
  251. See to it that you inscribe.
  252. And do not act upon any thought that is inadequately thought through or miscalculated.
  253. Be sociable but not indiscriminate in your social dealings.
  254. Metal hoops such as would be used to hold together the sides of a barrel.
  255. i.e., shake hands so often as to make the gesture essentially meaningless.
  256. Greeting with a handshake.
  257. Newly hatched in the nest and still unable to fly.
  258. Manage the business so that your adversary.
  259. Opinion, judgment.
  260. Do not abandon your own opinion of what is said.
  261. Clothing, dress.
  262. Extravagant fashion.
  263. We are what we wear.
  264. Are of all people the most refined in manners and in choosing what to wear.
  265. Thrift.
  266. May my blessing enable my advice to mature and ripen in your mind.
  267. Attend, are waiting.
  268. Concerning.
  269. i.e., By the Virgin Mary. (A mild oath.)
  270. Appropriately thought of; I'm glad you mentioned that.
  271. Hearing, attention.
  272. Presented or suggested to me.
  273. Appreciate your situation.
  274. Befits.
  275. Reputation.
  276. Offers.
  277. Inexperienced.
  278. Untried.
  279. Lawful currency.
  280. (1) Take better care of yourself; (2) Hold out for a better bargain, i.e., marriage.
  281. i.e., if I may use a metaphor from horsemanship, at the risk of running it so hard that it is broken-winded.
  282. (1) make me look foolish, and yourself as well; (2) present me with a grandchild. (The word "fool" could be applied to babies, often endearingly.)
  283. Mere form, conventional flattery. (Playing on Ophelia's "fashion" in the previous line in the more usual sense of "manner.")
  284. i.e., What nonsense. (An expression of impatient dismissal).
  285. Traps to catch proverbially gullible birds.
  286. When passionate desire rages, how prodigally the soul prompts the tongue to promise anything to the desired person.
  287. Lacking any real feeling or warmth of affection from the very first moment of the promise-making.
  288. Mistake.
  289. Somewhat.
  290. Do not offer to surrender your chastity simply because he has requested a meeting to discuss terms.
  291. As for.
  292. This much concerning him.
  293. In brief.
  294. Go-betweens, solicitors.
  295. Not truly of the color that their garments seem to show. (The vows are not what they seem.)
  296. Speaking.
  297. This is once for all; I don't want to have to say it again.
  298. Abuse any moment's leisure (or any occasion).
  299. Come along.
  300. Location: The battlements or rampart walls of the castle.
  301. Keenly, sharply.
  302. Biting, keen, sharp. From French "aigre," sour.
  303. Is just short of.
  304. Time.
  305. Was accustomed.
  306. i.e., of cannon, ordnance.
  307. Revels into the night.
  308. Carouses.
  309. Drinks many toasts and drunkenly reels his way through a lively German dance called the "upspring."
  310. Rhine wine.
  311. Raucously celebrate his draining the cup in his many celebratory toasts.
  312. i.e., by the Virgin Mary. (A mild oath.)
  313. Having a lifelong familiarity with this custom.
  314. Better neglected than followed.
  315. This drunken reveling causes us to be defamed and censored everywhere (east and west) by all other nations.
  316. Call.
  317. And tarnish our reputation by calling us swine.
  318. No matter how outstandingly performed.
  319. The very essence of the reputation we should enjoy.
  320. Because of some inborn vicious inclination in them.
  321. The qualities bestowed on them by their parents and ancestors.
  322. its.
  323. i.e., By one element of our constitution gaining undue dominance over the others.
  324. Palisades, barrier fences, serving as a fortification.
  325. i.e., prompts excessive behavior, thereby corrupting what would otherwise be acceptable and pleasing manners (much as too much yeast causes excessive swelling in the dough).
  326. Being the result of an inborn condition or a gift of Fortune, goddess of chance. Whether Nature and Fortune exerted the larger influence on human life was a favorite debating topic in the Renaissance.
  327. Such a person's virtues in other respects.
  328. Sustain.
  329. Shall in the court of public opinion acquire a misconstrued reputation.
  330. i.e., The tiny amount (literally, one eighth of an ounce) of evil qualities often blots or brings disrepute upon the noble substance of the whole. (To "dout" is to extinguish, blot out.)
  331. May angels who minister grace defend us!
  332. Whether you are a good angel or a demon.
  333. Whether you bring gentle breezes from heaven or pestilent gusts.
  334. Whether your intentions are.
  335. Consecrated. Pronounced with the stress on the second of three syllables.
  336. Laid in a coffin.
  337. Grave clothes.
  338. Entombed, placed in an urn for ashes of the dead.
  339. Full armor.
  340. The sublunary world, all that is fitfully lit by pale moonlight.
  341. We mere mortals, limited to natural knowledge and subject to nature.
  342. To unsettle our mental composure so horrendously.
  343. The capacities.
  344. The value of a pin.
  345. As for.
  346. Sea.
  347. Threateningly overhangs its base like bushy eyebrows.
  348. Take away from you the supremacy of reason over passion. "Your sovereignty" also hints at the fact that Hamlet is Prince of Denmark and heir to the throne.
  349. Imaginings of desperate acts, such as suicide.
  350. Units of depth measurement at sea of about six feet.
  351. My destiny summons me.
  352. Even the most insignificant.
  353. A sinew of the huge lion (from Nemea, near Corinth in Greece) slain by Hercules in the first of his twelve labors.
  354. Let's go after him.
  355. Outcome.
  356. i.e., the "issue" or outcome.
  357. Location: The battlements of the castle, as before. The scene is virtually continuous, though the stage is momentarily bare and we are to understand that the Ghost and Hamlet have moved to a new location on the battlements.
  358. (1) destined, ready; (2) obligated, duty-bound. The Ghost replies to the second of these meanings.
  359. Do penance by fasting. A conventional punishment in Purgatory.
  360. Sins.
  361. My days on earth as a mortal.
  362. In Roman Catholic doctrine, Purgatory (not actually mentioned by name in this play) is an intermediate state after death for the purging of sins. If an individual has died in God's grace but has committed sins not yet pardoned (owing, as in this present instance, to a sudden death leaving no time for confessing those sins to a priest), the soul can make satisfaction in Purgatory for those sins and thus become fit for heaven.
  363. Were it not that.
  364. Lacerate, tear up, uproot.
  365. Eye-sockets, compared here to the crystalline spheres or orbits in which, according to Ptolemaic astronomy, the heavenly bodies moved around the earth.
  366. Hair neatly combed and arranged in its proper place.
  367. The eighteenth-century actor-manager, David Garrick, wore a trick wig that would stand its hairs on end as a sign of fright. See 3.4.124-5 below, where the Queen sees Hamlet's hair standing on end; the effect is caused there by the appearance of the Ghost, though the Queen in unable to see that.
  368. Peevish.
  369. Shakespeare's usual spelling of "porcupine."
  370. Revelation of the secrets of the supernatural world.
  371. Listen.
  372. Murder is foul even under the best of circumstances.
  373. Torpid, lethargic, gross, bloated.
  374. The river of forgetfulness in Hades.
  375. If you would not.
  376. The official story goes.
  377. My garden.
  378. Fabricated account.
  379. Grossly deceived.
  380. Elizabethans generally believed that poisonous snakes attacked their victims with their tongues rather than their fangs.
  381. See 1.2.157 (TLN 341) and note above.
  382. Adulterous. Whether the Ghost suspects or knows that his brother had been involved with Queen Gertrude in an adulterous affair before the murder is not clear, though the Ghost's insistence later in this speech that the Queen is to be spared and left to the workings of her conscience (lines 84-8 below, TLN 769-73) tends to suggest that he does not regard her as guilty to such a heinous degree.
  383. (1) with perfidious natural gifts; (2) with seductive presents.
  384. With the very vow.
  385. Compared with.
  386. Satisfy its craving.
  387. But just as true virtue will remain steadfast even when tempted by unchaste desire disguising itself as an angel, lust conversely will attempt to glut its insatiable appetite even in a heavenly bed, and then, unsatisfied with that, turn to prey on filth.
  388. Wait a minute, hold on.
  389. he Ghost here confirms the tradition that Horatio has reported at 1.1.148 ff. (TLN 155 ff.): ghosts who visit the world of the living at night are supposed to return to their confines by dawn.
  390. A time free from worries, and a safe time when one can relax one's guard.
  391. A poison. The name of this unidentified poison may be related to henbane, of the nightshade family.
  392. i.e., the entranceways to my head.
  393. A distillation causing a leprosy-like disfigurement.
  394. Mercury.
  395. Thicken and curdle (causing the blood to clot like sour cream).
  396. Sour, acid.
  397. Eruption of scabs or blisters.
  398. Leper-like. When Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, the man had died of a grievous sickness and had lain in the earth four days, so that his body was loathsome (John 11). Traditionally, his putrid condition came to be associated with leprosy.
  399. Enveloped with a loathsome scaly crust, like the bark of a tree-trunk.
  400. Deprived.
  401. When my sins were at their height.
  402. Without having partaken of the sacrament of the Mass, unprepared because of not having made deathbed confession and not having received absolution, and not anointed with the holy oil of Extreme Unction. These are specific terms from Roman Catholic practice. "Housel" signifies the host, the bread and wine that are consecrated in the Mass as the body and blood of Christ.
  403. Settling of spiritual accounts, making restitution for sins.
  404. i.e., the natural feelings of a son for his father.
  405. Lechery.
  406. See notes at 1.2.157 (TLN 341) and 1.5.43 (TLN 729) above.
  407. Anything, any punishment.
  408. Morning.
  409. Begins . . . its.
  410. Add.
  411. Hold fast; do not panic; do not waver.
  412. Strongly, vigorously.
  413. As long as memory continues to function in my distracted head.
  414. Wax writing tablet. Compare the use of the plural in "My tables, my tables" in line 107 below.
  415. Foolish.
  416. Stressed on the second syllable.
  417. All wise sayings copied from books, all shapes or images drawn on the tablet of my memory, all past impressions.
  418. That I observed and noted down when I was young.
  419. Voluminous book.
  420. Fitting.
  421. Hamlet may actually have a wax tablet on which he proceeds to note his observation, or he may be speaking metaphorically.
  422. Now to the business of fulfilling what I have promised.
  423. May heaven keep him safe! Horatio and Marcellus have worried, at 1.4.71 (TLN 658), ff., that the Ghost might tempt Hamlet toward the sea or cliff and there deprive him into madness.
  424. Marcellus is hallooing to Hamlet, seeking still to find him. Hamlet has not yet spoken to them to assure them he is safe.
  425. Hamlet halloos in reply, as though he were calling out to a hawk or falcon, commanding it to return to its master. Hamlet may be mocking their halloos, or this may be part of the "wild and whirling words" or "antic disposition" that he begins to adopt.
  426. Ever.
  427. Hamlet seems about ready to tell them what he has learned from the Ghost, but then jestingly turns the matter aside with a self-evident truism: there's no villain in Denmark who is not a thoroughgoing villain.
  428. Elaboration.
  429. The keeper of Purgatory, according to tradition.
  430. See also TLN 830. Horatio in line 140 means "There was no offense in what you just said; no need to apologize." Hamlet, in line 142, changes the meaning of the word to apply to Claudius's crime: "There certainly IS a great offense' against all human decency and law."
  431. Concerning, regarding.
  432. Genuine and truthful.
  433. As for, regarding.
  434. Horatio insists that he will not tell anyone what they have seen this night. In the next speech, Marcellus vows also to keep the secret. They are not refusing to swear; in fact, they both seemingly take the view that they have sworn already by what they just said "in faith." But Hamlet insists that they now swear by his sword, an especially solemn oath since the sword hilt can be held so as to form a crucifix. Hamlet may hold it that way. Mel Gibson, in Franco Zeffirelli's 1990 film Hamlet, holds his sword in such a way that the hilt forms a crucifix to ward off the potential evil of a supernatural visitation.
  435. Honest fellow, as trustworthy as the penny. Compare "sterling," thoroughly excellent, conforming to the highest standard.
  436. Here and everywhere? (Latin). Traditionally, the devil was able to be everywhere at once.
  437. Change where we are standing for another spot.
  438. The small tiny-eyed burrowing mole is here compared to the "pioneer," a foot soldier who dug tunnels and trenches used in warfare.
  439. Move.
  440. This "natural philosophy" (i.e..,science) that people talk about. The "your" is probably impersonal, though Hamlet's jibe does apply to Horatio particularly; the two of them love to argue over issues of natural history and skepticism vs. providential readings of human life on earth.
  441. As you hope for God's mercy.
  442. However strangely or oddly.
  443. To assume the wild and erratic behavior of a madman.
  444. Folded. The folded arms and headshake are intended to suggest that the person has knowledge but dares not speak. Folded arms in particular could suggest love melancholy.
  445. Shaking my head thus.
  446. Ambiguous.
  447. Wished, chose.
  448. There are those (namely, ourselves) who could talk if they so chose.
  449. Indicate.
  450. Anything.
  451. As you hope for God's grace and mercy at your hour of greatest spiritual need.
  452. I give you my best wishes.
  453. Friendliness, friendship.
  454. Be lacking, be left undone.
  455. Always, continually.
  456. Disjointed, lacking coherence. The metaphor is derived from the medical procedure of setting bones that have been broken or separated at the joint.
  457. When Horatio and Marcellus politely defer to Hamlet as of senior rank and thus entitled to go first, he insists on equalizing this business among friends.


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Hamlet: Act 1 Copyright © 2019 by William Shakespeare is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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