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 IV
[The platform]

  Ham.  The air bites shrewdly; it is very cold.
  Hor.  It is a nipping and an eager air.
  Ham.  What hour now?
  Hor.        I think it lacks of twelve.        4
  Mar.  No, it is struck.
  Hor.  Indeed? I heard it not. Then it draws near the season
Wherein the spirit held his wont to walk.  A flourish of trumpets, and two pieces go off [within].
What does this mean, my lord?        8
  Ham.  The King doth wake to-night and takes his rouse,
Keeps wassail, and the swaggering up-spring 1 reels;
And, as he drains his draughts of Rhenish down,
The kettle-drum and trumpet thus bray out        12
The triumph of his pledge.
  Hor.        Is it a custom?
  Ham.  Ay, marry, is ’t,
But to my mind, though I am native here        16
And to the manner born, it is a custom
More honour’d in the breach than the observance.
[This heavy-headed revel east and west
Makes us traduc’d and tax’d 2 of other nations.        20
They clepe 3 us drunkards, and with swinish phrase
Soil our addition; 4 and indeed it takes
From our achievements, though perform’d at height,
The pith and marrow of our attribute.        24
So, oft it chances in particular men,
That for some vicious mole 5 of nature in them,
As, in their birth—wherein they are not guilty,
Since nature cannot choose his origin—        28
By their o’ergrowth of some complexion 6
Oft breaking down the pales and forts of reason,
Or by some habit that too much o’er-leavens
The form of plausive 7 manners, that these men,        32
Carrying, I say, the stamp of one defect,
Being nature’s livery, or fortune’s star, 8
His virtues else—be they as pure as grace,
As infinite as man may undergo—        36
Shall in the general censure 9 take corruption
From that particular fault. The dram of eale 10
Doth all the noble substance often dout 11
To his own scandal.]        40
Enter Ghost

  Hor.  Look, my lord, it comes!
  Ham.  Angels and ministers of grace defend us!
Be thou a spirit of health or goblin damn’d,
Bring with thee airs from heaven or blasts from hell,        44
Be thy intents wicked or charitable,
Thou com’st in such a questionable 12 shape
That I will speak to thee. I’ll call thee Hamlet,
King, father; royal Dane, O, answer me!        48
Let me not burst in ignorance, but tell
Why thy canoniz’d bones, hearsed in death,
Have burst their cerements; 13 why the sepulchre,
Wherein we saw thee quietly inurn’d,        52
Hath op’d his ponderous and marble jaws,
To cast thee up again. What may this mean,
That thou, dead corse, again in complete steel
Revisits thus the glimpses of the moon,        56
Making night hideous, and we fools of nature
So horridly to shake our disposition
With thoughts beyond the reaches of our souls?
Say, why is this? Wherefore? What should we do?  Ghost beckons HAMLET.        60
  Hor.  It beckons you to go away with it,
As if it some impartment did desire
To you alone.
  Mar.        Look, with what courteous action        64
It wafts you to a more removed ground.
But do not go with it.
  Hor.        No, by no means.
  Ham.  It will not speak; then will I follow it.        68
  Hor.  Do not, my lord.
  Ham.        Why, what should be the fear?
I do not set my life at a pin’s fee,
And for my soul, what can it do to that,        72
Being a thing immortal as itself?
It waves me forth again. I’ll follow it.
  Hor.  What if it tempt you toward the flood, my lord,
Or to the dreadful summit of the cliff        76
That beetles o’er his base into the sea,
And there assume some other horrible form,
Which might deprive your sovereignty of reason
And draw you into madness? Think of it.        80
[The very place puts toys of desperation,
Without more motive, into every brain
That looks so many fathoms to the sea
And hears it roar beneath.]        84
  Ham.        It wafts me still.
Go on, I’ll follow thee.
  Mar.  You shall not go, my lord.
  Ham.        Hold off your hand.        88
  Hor.  Be rul’d; you shall not go.
  Ham.        My fate cries out,
And makes each petty artery in this body
As hardly as the Nemean lion’s nerve.        92
Still am I call’d. Unhand me, gentlemen.
By heaven, I’ll make a ghost of him that lets 14 me!
I say, away!—Go on, I’ll follow thee.  Exeunt Ghost and HAMLET.
  Hor.  He waxes desperate with imagination.        96
  Mar.  Let’s follow. ’Tis not fit thus to obey him.
  Hor.  Have after. To what issue will this come?
  Mar.  Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.
  Hor.  Heaven will direct it.        100
  Mar.        Nay, let’s follow him.  Exeunt.
Note 1. A wild dance. [back]
Note 2. Accused. [back]
Note 3. Call. [back]
Note 4. Title. [back]
Note 5. Flaw. [back]
Note 6. Disposition. [back]
Note 7. Pleasing. [back]
Note 8. Whether due to nature or fortune. [back]
Note 9. Opinion. [back]
Note 10. Small quantity of evil (?). [back]
Note 11. Drive out, efface (?). The passage is probably corrupt. [back]
Note 12. Inviting discussion. [back]
Note 13. Waxed shroud. [back]
Note 14. Hinders. [back]


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