Fiction > Harvard Classics > William Shakespeare > Hamlet
William Shakespeare (1564–1616).  The Tragedy of Hamlet Prince of Denmark.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
Act I
Scene II
[A room of state in the castle]
Flourish. Enter the KING, QUEEN, HAMLET, POLONIUS, LAERTES, OPHELIA, Lords, and Attendants

  King.  Though yet of Hamlet our dear brother’s death
The 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,        4
Yet so far hath discretion fought with nature
That we with wisest sorrow think on him
Together with remembrance of ourselves.
Therefore our sometime sister, now our queen,        8
The imperial jointress of this warlike state,
Have we, as ’twere with a defeated 1 joy,—
With one auspicious and one dropping eye,
With mirth in funeral and with dirge in marriage,        12
In equal scale weighing delight and dole,—
Taken to wife; nor have we herein barr’d
Your better wisdoms, which have freely gone
With this affair along. For all, our thanks.        16
Now follows that you know: young Fortinbras,
Holding a weak supposal of our worth,
Or thinking by our late dear brother’s death
Our state to be disjoint and out of frame,        20
Colleagued with the dream of his advantage,
He hath not fail’d to pester us with message
Importing the surrender of those lands
Lost by his father, with all bonds of law,        24
To our most valiant brother. So much for him.

Now for ourself and for this time of meeting,
Thus much the business is: we have here writ
To Norway, uncle of young Fortinbras,—        28
Who, impotent and bed-rid, scarcely hears
Of this his nephew’s purpose,—to suppress
His further gait 2 herein, in that the levies,
The lists and full proportions, are all made        32
Out of his subject; 3 and we here dispatch
You, good Cornelius, and you, Voltimand,
For bearers of this greeting to old Norway;
Giving to you no further personal power        36
To business with the king, more than the scope
Of these delated 4 articles allow.  [Giving a paper.
Farewell, and let your haste commend your duty.
  [Cor.] & Vol.  In that and all things will we show our duty.        40
  King.  We doubt it nothing; heartily farewell.  Exeunt VOLTIMAND 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,        44
And lose your voice. What wouldst thou beg, Laertes,
That shall not be my offer, not thy asking?
The head is not more native to the heart,
The hand more instrumental to the mouth,        48
Than is the throne of Denmark to thy father.
What wouldst thou have, Laertes?
  Laer.        Dread my lord,
Your leave and favour to return to France;        52
From whence though willingly I came to Denmark
To show my duty in your coronation,
Yet now, I must confess, that duty done,
My thoughts and wishes bend again towards France        56
And bow them to your gracious leave and pardon.
  King.  Have you your father’s leave? What says Polonius?
  Pol.  He hath, my lord, [wrung from me my slow leave
By laboursome petition, and at last        60
Upon his will I seal’d my hard consent.]
I do beseech you, give him leave to go.
  King.  Take thy fair hour, Laertes. Time be thine,
And thy best graces spend it at thy will!        64
But now, my cousin Hamlet, and my son,—
  Ham.  [Aside.]  A little more than kin, and less than kind.
  King.  How is it that the clouds still hang on you?
  Ham.  Not so, my lord; I am too much i’ the sun.        68
  Queen.  Good Hamlet, cast thy nighted colour off,
And let thine eye look like a friend on Denmark.
Do not for ever with thy vailed 5 lids
Seek for thy noble father in the dust.        72
Thou know’st ’tis common; all that lives must die,
Passing through nature to eternity.
  Ham.  Ay, madam, it is common.
  Queen.        If it be,        76
Why seems it so particular with thee?
  Ham.  Seems, madam! Nay, it is; I know not “seems.”
’Tis not alone my inky cloak, good mother,
Nor customary suits of solemn black,        80
Nor windy suspiration of forc’d breath,
No, nor the fruitful river in the eye,
Nor the dejected haviour 6 of the visage,
Together with all forms, moods, shows of grief,        84
That can denote me truly. These indeed seem,
For they are actions that a man might play;
But I have that within which passeth show,
These but the trappings and the suits of woe.        88
  King.  ’Tis sweet and commendable in your nature, Hamlet,
To give these mourning duties to your father.
But, you must know, your father lost a father;
That father lost, lost his; and the survivor bound        92
In filial obligation for some term
To do obsequious sorrow. But to persever
In obstinate condolement is a course
Of impious stubbornness; ’tis unmanly grief;        96
It shows a will most incorrect to heaven,
A heart unfortified, a mind impatient,
An understanding simple and unschool’d;
For what we know must be, and is as common        100
As any the most vulgar thing to sense,
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,        104
To reason most absurd, whose common theme
Is death of fathers, and who still hath cried,
From the first corse till he that died to-day,
“This must be so.” We pray you, throw to earth        108
This unprevailing woe, and think of us
As of a father; for, let the world take note,
You are the most immediate to our throne,
And with no less nobility of love        112
Than that which dearest father bears his son,
Do I impart towards you. For your intent
In going back to school in Wittenberg,
It is most retrograde 7 to our desire;        116
And we beseech you, bend you to remain
Here in the cheer and comfort of our eye,
Our chiefest courtier, cousin, and our son.
  Queen.  Let not thy mother lose her prayers, Hamlet,        120
I prithee, stay with us; go not to Wittenberg.
  Ham.  I shall in all my best obey you, madam.
  King.  Why, ’tis a loving and a fair reply.
Be as ourself in Denmark. Madam, come;        124
This gentle and unforc’d accord of Hamlet
Sits smiling to my heart; in grace whereof,
No jocund health that Denmark drinks to-day,
But the great cannon to the clouds shall tell,        128
And the King’s rouse 8 the heavens shall bruit 9 again,
Re-speaking earthly thunder. Come away.  Flourish. Exeunt all but HAMLET.
  Ham.  O, that this too too solid flesh would melt,
Thaw, and resolve itself into a dew!        132
Or that the Everlasting had not fix’d
His canon ’gainst self-slaughter! O God! God!
How weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable,
Seems to me all the uses of this world!        136
Fie on’t! oh fie, fie! ’Tis an unweeded garden,
That grows to seed; things rank and gross in nature
Possess it merely. 10 That it should come to this!
But two months dead! Nay, not so much, not two.        140
So excellent a king; that was, to this,
Hyperion to a satyr; so loving to my mother
That he might not beteem 11 the winds of heaven
Visit her face too roughly. Heaven and earth!        144
Must I remember? Why, she would hang on him,
As if increase of appetite had grown
By what it fed on; and yet, within a month,—
Let me not think on ’t!—Frailty, thy name is woman!—        148
A little month, or e’er those shoes were old
With which she followed my poor father’s body,
Like Niobe, all tears,—why she, even she—
O God! a beast, that wants discourse of reason, 12        152
Would have mourn’d longer—married with mine uncle,
My father’s brother, but no more like my father
Than I to Hercules; within a month,
Ere yet the salt of most unrighteous tears        156
Had left the flushing 13 of her galled eyes,
She married. O, most wicked speed, to post
With such dexterity to incestuous sheets!
It is not, nor it cannot come to good.—        160
But break, my heart, for I must hold my tongue.

  Hor.  Hail to your lordship!
  Ham.  I am glad to see you well,
Horatio!—or I do forget myself.        164
  Hor.  The same, my lord, and your poor servant ever.
  Ham.  Sir, my good friend; I’ll change that name with you.
And what make you from Wittenberg, Horatio? Marcellus?
  Mar.  My good lord!        168
  Ham.  I am very glad to see you. [To BER.] Good even, sir.—
But what, in faith, make you from Wittenberg?
  Hor.  A truant disposition, good my lord.
  Ham.  I would not hear your enemy say so,        172
Nor shall you do mine ear that violence,
To make it truster of your own report
Against yourself. I know you are no truant.
But what is your affair in Elsinore?        176
We’ll teach you to drink deep ere you depart.
  Hor.  My lord, I came to see your father’s funeral.
  Ham.  I pray thee, do not mock me, fellow-student.
I think it was to see my mother’s wedding.        180
  Hor.  Indeed, my lord, it followed hard upon.
  Ham.  Thrift, thrift, Horatio! The funeral bak’d-meats
Did coldly furnish forth the marriage tables.
Would I had met my dearest foe in heaven        184
Ere I had ever seen that day, Horatio!
My father!—methinks I see my father.
  Hor.  Oh, where, my lord?
  Ham.        In my mind’s eye, Horatio,        188
  Hor.  I saw him once; he was a goodly king.
  Ham.  He was a man, take him for all in all,
I shall not look upon his like again.
  Hor.  My lord, I think I saw him yesternight.        192
  Ham.  Saw? Who?
  Hor.  My lord, the King your father.
  Ham.        The King my father!
  Hor.  Season your admiration 14 for a while        196
With an attent ear, till I may deliver,
Upon the witness of these gentlemen,
This marvel to you.
  Ham.        For God’s love, let me hear.        200
  Hor.  Two nights together had these gentlemen,
Marcellus and Bernardo, on their watch,
In the dead waste and middle of the night,
Been thus encount’red. A figure like your father,        204
Arm’d at all points exactly, cap-a-pie,
Appears before them, and with solemn march
Goes slow and stately by them. Thrice he walk’d
By their oppress’d and fear-surprised eyes,        208
Within his truncheon’s length; whilst they, distill’d 15
Almost to jelly with the act of fear,
Stand dumb and speak not to him. This to me
In dreadful secrecy impart they did,        212
And I with them the third night kept the watch;
Where, as they had deliver’d, both in time,
Form of the thing, each word made true and good,
The apparition comes. I knew your father;        216
These hands are not more like.
  Ham.        But where was this!
  Mar.  My lord, upon the platform where we watch’d.
  Ham.  Did you not speak to it?        220
  Hor.        My lord, I did;
But answer made it none. Yet once methought
It lifted up it 16 head and did address
Itself to motion, like as it would speak;        224
But even then the morning cock crew loud,
And at the sound it shrunk in haste away,
And vanish’d from our sight.
  Ham.        ’Tis very strange.        228
  Hor.  As I do live, my honour’d lord, ’tis true,
And we did think it writ down in our duty
To let you know of it.
  Ham.  Indeed, indeed, sirs. But this troubles me.        232
Hold you the watch to-night?
  Mar. & Ber.        We do, my lord.
  Ham.  Arm’d, say you?
  Mar. & Ber.  Arm’d, my lord.        236
  Ham.  From top to toe?
  Mar. & Ber.        My lord, from head to foot.
  Ham.  Then saw you not his face?
  Hor.  O, yes, my lord; he wore his beaver up.        240
  Ham.  What, look’d he frowningly?
  Hor.        A countenance more
In sorrow than in anger.
  Ham.        Pale, or red?        244
  Hor.  Nay, very pale.
  Ham.        And fix’d his eyes upon you?
  Hor.  Most constantly.
  Ham.        I would I had been there.        248
  Hor.  It would have much amaz’d you.
  Ham.  Very like, very like. Stay’d it long?
  Hor.  While one with moderate haste might tell a hundred.
  Mar. & Ber.  Longer, longer.        252
  Hor.  Not when I saw ’t.
  Ham.        His beard was grizzly? No?
  Hor.  It was, as I have seen it in his life,
A sable silver’d.        256
  Ham.        I will watch to-night;
Perchance ’twill walk again.
  Hor.        I warrant you it will.
  Ham.  If it assume my noble father’s person,        260
I’ll speak to it, though hell itself should gape
And bid me hold my peace. I pray you all,
If you have hitherto conceal’d this sight,
Let it be tenable 17 in your silence still;        264
And whatsoever else shall hap to-night,
Give it an understanding, but no tongue.
I will requite your loves. So, fare ye well.
Upon the platform ’twixt eleven and twelve,        268
I’ll visit you.
  All.        Our duty to your honour.
  Ham.  Your love, as mine to you; farewell.  Exeunt [all but HAMLET].
My father’s spirit in arms! All is not well;        272
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.  Exit.
Note 1. Disfigured. [back]
Note 2. Progress. [back]
Note 3. People. [back]
Note 4. Offered. [back]
Note 5. Lowered. [back]
Note 6. Behavior. [back]
Note 7. Opposed. [back]
Note 8. Carouse. [back]
Note 9. Report noisily. [back]
Note 10. Entirely. [back]
Note 11. Allow. [back]
Note 12. Reasoning power. [back]
Note 13. Redness, or filling full. [back]
Note 14. Wonder. [back]
Note 15. Melted. [back]
Note 16. Its. [back]
Note 17. Held. [back]


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