Elsinore. A room of state in the castle.
(Claudius; Gertrude; Polonius; Laertes; Hamlet; Voltemand; Cornelius; Horatio; Marcellus; Barnardo)
King Claudius explains that he has married his brother’s widow; he then moves on to matters of state and sends Voltemand and Cornelius to Fortinbras’s uncle Norway, detailing the young man’s movements and warning Norway to restrain him. Claudius then gives Laertes permission to return to Parism since Polonius has agreed. Claudius then turns to his stepson Hamlet’s endless mourning for his father. Gertrude attempts to persuade her son to cheer up, but he is unresponsive. At Claudius and Gertrude’s urging, he accepts not to return to university in Wittenberg. Left alone, Hamlet laments his mother’s remarriage, especially as it came within three months of his father’s death; he is disgusted that she married her brother-in-law. Horatio and the soldiers appear and tell him their story; he is disbelieving and tests them, but quickly grows suspicious, and agrees to watch with them that night. (277 lines)
Flourish. Enter Claudius, King of Denmark, Gertrude the Queen; Council: as Polonius; and his son Laertes, Hamlet, cum aliis including Voltemand and Cornelius.
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,
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,
Th’ imperial jointress to this warlike state,
Have we, as ’twere with a defeated joy,
With an auspicious, and a dropping eye,
With mirth in funeral, and with dirge in marriage,
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.
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,
Co-leagued with this 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 bands of law,
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—
Who, impotent and bedrid, scarcely hears
Of this his nephew’s purpose—to suppress
His further gait herein, in that the levies,
The lists, and full proportions are all made
Out of his subject; and we here dispatch
You, good Cornelius, and you, Voltemand,
For bearers of this greeting to old Norway,
Giving to you no further personal power
To business with the King, more than the scope
Of these delated articles allow.
Giving a paper.
Farewell, and let your haste commend your duty.
In that, and all things, will we show our duty.
We doubt it nothing; 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
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,
Than is the throne of Denmark to thy father.
What wouldst thou have, Laertes?
My dread lord,
Your leave and favor to return to France,
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 toward France,
And bow them to your gracious leave and pardon.
Have you your father’s leave? What says Polonius?
H’ath, my lord, wrung from me my slow leave
By laborsome petition, and at last
Upon his will I seal’d my hard consent.
I do beseech you give him leave to go.
Take thy fair hour, Laertes, time be thine,
And thy best graces spend it at thy will!
But now, my cousin Hamlet, and my son—
A little more than kin, and less than kind.
How is it that the clouds still hang on you?
Not so, my lord, I am too much in the sun.
Good Hamlet, cast thy nighted color off,
And let thine eye look like a friend on Denmark.
Do not forever with thy vailed lids
Seek for thy noble father in the dust.
Thou know’st ’tis common, all that lives must die,
Passing through nature to eternity.
Ay, madam, it is common.
If it be,
Why seems it so particular 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,
Nor windy suspiration of forc’d breath,
No, nor the fruitful river in the eye,
Nor the dejected havior of the visage,
Together with all forms, moods, shapes of grief,
That can denote me truly. These indeed seem,
For they are actions that a man might play,
But I have that within which passes show,
These but the trappings and the suits of woe.
’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
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,
It shows a will most incorrect to heaven,
A heart unfortified, or mind impatient,
An understanding simple and unschool’d:
For what we know must be, and is as common
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,
To reason most absurd, whose common theme
Is death of fathers, and who still hath cried,
From the first corse till he that died today,
“This must be so.” We pray you throw to earth
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
Than that which dearest father bears his son
Do I impart toward you. For your intent
In going back to school in Wittenberg,
It is most retrograde to our desire,
And we beseech you bend you 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, Hamlet,
I pray thee stay with us, go not to Wittenberg.
I shall in all my best obey you, madam.
Why, ’tis a loving and a fair reply.
Be as ourself in Denmark. Madam, come.
This gentle and unforc’d accord of Hamlet
Sits smiling to my heart, in grace whereof,
No jocund health that Denmark drinks today,
But the great cannon to the clouds shall tell,
And the King’s rouse the heaven shall bruit again,
Respeaking earthly thunder. Come away.
Flourish. Exeunt all but Hamlet.
O that this too too solid flesh would melt,
Thaw, and resolve itself into a dew!
Or that the Everlasting had not fix’d
His canon ’gainst self-slaughter! O 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
That grows to seed, things rank and gross in nature
Possess it merely. That it should come to this!
But two months dead, nay, not so much, not two.
So excellent a king, that was to this
Hyperion to a satyr, so loving to my mother
That he might not beteem the winds of heaven
Visit her face too roughly. Heaven and earth,
Must I remember? Why, she should 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!—
A little month, or ere 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
Would have mourn’d longer—married with my 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
Had left the flushing in 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,
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.
The same, my lord, and your poor servant ever.
Sir, my good friend—I’ll change that name with you.
And what make you from Wittenberg, Horatio?
My good lord.
I am very glad to see you.
Good even, sir.—
But what, in faith, make you from Wittenberg?
A truant disposition, good my lord.
I would not hear your enemy say so,
Nor shall you do my 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?
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.
Thrift, thrift, Horatio, the funeral bak’d-meats
Did coldly furnish forth the marriage tables.
Would I had met my dearest foe in heaven
Or ever I had seen that day, Horatio!
My father—methinks I see my father.
Where, my lord?
In my mind’s eye, Horatio.
I saw him once, ’a was a goodly king.
’A 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.
My lord, the King your father.
The King my father?
Season your admiration for a while
With an attent ear, till I may deliver,
Upon the witness of these gentlemen,
This 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 and middle of the night,
Been thus encount’red: a figure like your father,
Armed at point exactly, cap-a-pe,
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
Within his truncheon’s length, whilst they, distill’d
Almost to jelly with the act of fear,
Stand dumb and speak not to him. This to me
In dreadful secrecy impart they did,
And I with them the third night kept the watch,
Where, 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.
But where was this?
My lord, upon the platform where we watch.
Did you not speak to it?
My lord, I did,
But answer made it none. Yet once methought
It lifted up it head and did address
Itself to motion like as it would speak;
But even then the morning cock crew loud,
And at the sound it shrunk in haste away
And vanish’d from our sight.
’Tis very strange.
As I do live, my honor’d lord, ’tis true,
And we did think it writ down in our duty
To let you know of it.
Indeed, indeed, sirs. But this troubles me.
Hold you the watch tonight?
We do, my lord.
Arm’d, say you?
Arm’d, my lord.
From top to toe?
My lord, from head to foot.
Then saw you not his face.
O yes, my lord, he wore his beaver up.
What, look’d he frowningly?
A countenance more
In sorrow than in anger.
Pale, or red?
Nay, very pale.
And fix’d his eyes upon you?
I would I had been there.
It would have much amaz’d you.
Very like, very like. Stay’d it long?
While one with moderate haste might tell a hundred.
Not when I saw’t.
His beard was grisl’d, no?
It was, as I have seen it in his life,
A sable silver’d.
I will watch tonight,
Perchance ’twill walk again.
I warr’nt it will.
If it assume my noble father’s person,
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 in your silence still,
And whatsomever else shall hap tonight,
Give it an understanding but no tongue.
I will requite your loves. So fare you well.
Upon the platform ’twixt eleven and twelve
I’ll visit you.
Our duty to your honor.
Your loves, as mine to you; farewell.
Exeunt all but Hamlet.
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.