Reference > Anthologies > Warner, et al., eds. > The Library > Verse

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
Scenes from the Tragedies
The Opening Scene of ‘Hamlet’
By William Shakespeare (1564–1616)
From ‘Hamlet

Elsinore.  A platform before the castle.

[Francisco at his post.  Enter to him Bernardo.]

BERNARDO—Who’s there?
  Francisco—Nay, answer me. Stand, and unfold yourself.
  Bernardo—Long live the king!
  Bernardo—He.        5
  Francisco—You come most carefully upon your hour.
  Bernardo—’Tis now struck twelve. Get thee to bed, Francisco.
  Francisco—For this relief much thanks. ’Tis bitter cold,
And I am sick at heart.
  Bernardo—Have you had quiet guard?
  Francisco—                    Not a mouse stirring.
  Bernardo—Well, good-night.
If you do meet Horatio and Marcellus,
The rivals of my watch, bid them make haste.
[Enter Horatio and Marcellus.]
  Francisco—I think I hear them. Stand! Who’s there?
  Horatio—Friends to this ground.
  Marcellus—                        And liegemen to the Dane.
  Francisco—Give you good-night.
  Marcellus—                    O, farewell, honest soldier.
Who hath reliev’d you?
  Francisco—                        Bernardo has my place.
Give you good-night.  [Exit.]
  Marcellus—                        Holla! Bernardo!
  Bernardo—                                Say,
What, is Horatio there?
  Horatio—                        A piece of him.
  Bernardo—Welcome, Horatio; welcome, good Marcellus.        20
  Horatio—What, has this thing appear’d again to-night?
  Bernardo—I have seen nothing.
  Marcellus—Horatio says ’tis but our fantasy,
And will not let belief take hold of him
Touching this dreaded sight, twice seen of us;        25
Therefore I have entreated him along
With us, to watch the minutes of this night,
That if again this apparition come,
He may approve our eyes and speak to it.
  Horatio—Tush, tush, ’twill not appear.
  Bernardo—                        Sit down a while,
And let us once again assail your ears,
That are so fortified against our story,
What we two nights have seen.
  Horatio—                        Well, sit we down,
And let us hear Bernardo speak of this.
  Bernardo—Last night of all,        35
When yond same star that’s westward from the pole
Had made his course to illume that part of heaven
Where now it burns, Marcellus and myself,
The bell then beating one,—
[Enter the Ghost.]
  Marcellus—Peace, break thee off! Look, where it comes again!        40
  Bernardo—In the same figure, like the King that’s dead.
  Marcellus—Thou art a scholar; speak to it, Horatio.
  Bernardo—Looks it not like the King? Mark it, Horatio.
  Horatio—Most like; it harrows me with fear and wonder.
  Bernardo—It would be spoke to.
  Marcellus—                    Question it, Horatio.
  Horatio—What art thou that usurp’st this time of night,
Together with that fair and warlike form
In which the majesty of buried Denmark
Did sometimes march? By heaven I charge thee, speak!
  Marcellus—It is offended.
  Bernardo—            See, it stalks away!
  Horatio—Stay! Speak, speak! I charge thee, speak!  [Exit Ghost.]
  Marcellus—’Tis gone, and will not answer.
  Bernardo—How now, Horatio! you tremble and look pale.
Is not this something more than fantasy?
What think you on’t?        55
  Horatio—Before my God, I might not this believe
Without the sensible and true avouch
Of mine own eyes.
  Marcellus—                Is it not like the King?
  Horatio—As thou art to thyself
Such was the very armor he had on        60
When he the ambitious Norway combated.
So frown’d he once, when, in an angry parle,
He smote the sledded Polacks on the ice.
’Tis strange.
  Marcellus—Thus twice before, and jump at this dead hour,        65
With martial stalk hath he gone by our watch.
  Horatio—In what particular thought to work I know not;
But, in the gross and scope of my opinion,
This bodes some strange eruption to our state.
  Marcellus—Good now, sit down, and tell me, he that knows,        70
Why this same strict and most observant watch
So nightly toils the subject of the land,
And why such daily cast of brazen cannon,
And foreign mart for implements of war;
Why such impress of shipwrights, whose sore task        75
Does not divide the Sunday from the week.
What might be toward, that this sweaty haste
Doth make the night joint-laborer with the day,
Who is’t that can inform me?
  Horatio—                        That can I;
At least, the whisper goes so. Our last king,        80
Whose image even but now appear’d to us,
Was, as you know, by Fortinbras of Norway,
Thereto prick’d on by a most emulate pride,
Dar’d to the combat; in which our valiant Hamlet—
For so this side of our known world esteem’d him—        85
Did slay this Fortinbras; who, by a seal’d compact,
Well ratified by law and heraldry,
Did forfeit, with his life, all those his lands
Which he stood seiz’d on, to the conqueror;
Against the which, a moiety competent        90
Was gaged by our king; which had return’d
To the inheritance of Fortinbras,
Had he been vanquisher; as, by the same covenant,
And carriage of the article design’d,
His fell to Hamlet. Now, sir, young Fortinbras,        95
Of unimproved mettle hot and full,
Hath in the skirts of Norway here and there
Shark’d up a list of landless resolutes,
For food and diet, to some enterprise
That hath a stomach in’t; which is no other—        100
As it doth well appear unto our state—
But to recover of us, by strong hand
And terms compulsative, those foresaid lands
So by his father lost; and this, I take it,
Is the main motive of our preparations,        105
The source of this our watch, and the chief head
Of this post-haste and romage in the land.
  Bernardo—I think it be no other but e’en so.
Well may it sort that this portentous figure
Comes armed through our watch, so like the King        110
That was and is the question of these wars.
  Horatio—A mote it is to trouble the mind’s eye.
In the most high and palmy state of Rome,
A little ere the mightiest Julius fell,
The graves stood tenantless and the sheeted dead        115
Did squeak and gibber in the Roman streets.
*        *        *        *        *
As stars with trains of fire and dews of blood,
Disasters in the sun; and the moist star
Upon whose influence Neptune’s empire stands
Was sick almost to doomsday with eclipse.        120
And even the like precurse of fierce events
As harbingers preceding still the fates
And prologue to the omen coming on,
Have heaven and earth together demonstrated
Unto our climatures and countrymen.
[Re-enter Ghost.]
But soft, behold! Lo, where it comes again!
I’ll cross it, though it blast me. Stay, illusion!
If thou hast any sound, or use of voice,
Speak to me;
If there be any good thing to be done        130
That may to thee do ease and grace to me,
Speak to me;
If thou art privy to thy country’s fate,
Which, happily, foreknowing may avoid,
O speak!        135
Or if thou hast uphoarded in thy life
Extorted treasure in the womb of earth,
For which, they say, you spirits oft walk in death,
Speak of it; stay, and speak!  [Cock crows.]  Stop it, Marcellus.
  Marcellus—Shall I strike at it with my partisan?        140
  Horatio—Do, if it will not stand.
  Bernardo—                        ’Tis here!
  Horatio—                            ’Tis here!
  Marcellus—’Tis gone!  [Exit Ghost.]
We do it wrong, being so majestical,
To offer it the show of violence;
For it is, as the air, invulnerable,        145
And our vain blows malicious mockery.
  Bernardo—It was about to speak, when the cock crew.
  Horatio—And then it started like a guilty thing
Upon a fearful summons. I have heard,
The cock, that is the trumpet to the morn,        150
Doth 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,
The extravagant and erring spirit hies
To his confine; and of the truth herein        155
This present object made probation.
  Marcellus—It faded on the crowing of the cock.
Some say that ever ’gainst that season comes
Wherein our Saviour’s birth is celebrated,
The bird of dawning singeth all night long;        160
And then, they say, no spirit can walk abroad;
The nights are wholesome; then no planets strike,
No fairy takes, nor witch hath power to charm,
So hallow’d and so gracious is the time.
  Horatio—So have I heard and do in part believe it.        165
But, look, the morn, in russet mantle clad,
Walks o’er the dew of yon high eastern hill.
Break we our watch up; and, by my advice,
Let us impart what we have seen to-night
Unto young Hamlet; for, upon my life,        170
This 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?
  Marcellus—Let’s do’t, I pray; and I this morning know
Where we shall find him most conveniently.  [Exeunt.]        175

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