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Scene 4

Elsinore. A platform before Elsinore castle.

(Hamlet; Horatio; Marcellus; Ghost)

Hamlet, Horatio, and Marcellus are on watch. Hamlet discourses against the heavy drinking of the Danes. The ghost appears. Hamlet begs it to speak, but it beckons him to come on alone. The others urge him not to go, afraid that the ghost may be a demon seeking to drive Hamlet mad, and attempt to forcibly restrain the prince, but he breaks free, threatening their lives. He goes after the ghost, and the others follow. (101 lines)

Enter Hamlet, Horatio, and Marcellus.


The air bites shrewdly, it is very cold.


It is a nipping and an eager air.


What hour now?


I think it lacks of twelve.


No, it is struck.


Indeed? I heard it not. It then draws near the season

Wherein the spirit held his wont to walk.

A flourish of trumpets, and two pieces goes off within.

What does this mean, my lord?


The King doth wake tonight and takes his rouse,

Keeps wassail, and the swagg’ring up-spring reels;

And as he drains his draughts of Rhenish down,

The kettle-drum and trumpet thus bray out

The triumph of his pledge.


Is it a custom?


Ay, marry, is’t,

But to my mind, though I am native here

And to the manner born, it is a custom

More honor’d in the breach than the observance.

This heavy-headed revel east and west

Makes us traduc’d and tax’d of other nations.

They clip us drunkards, and with swinish phrase

Soil our addition, and indeed it takes

From our achievements, though perform’d at height,

The pith and marrow of our attribute.

So, oft it chances in particular men,

That for some vicious mole of nature in them,

As in their birth, wherein they are not guilty

(Since nature cannot choose his origin),

By their o’ergrowth of some complexion

Oft breaking down the pales and forts of reason,

Or by some habit, that too much o’er-leavens

The form of plausive manners—that these men,

Carrying, I say, the stamp of one defect,

Being nature’s livery, or fortune’s star,

His virtues else, be they as pure as grace,

As infinite as man may undergo,

Shall in the general censure take corruption

From that particular fault: the dram of ev’l

Doth all the noble substance of a doubt

To his own scandal.

Enter Ghost.


Look, my lord, it comes!


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,

Be thy intents wicked, or charitable,

Thou com’st in such a questionable shape

That I will speak to thee. I’ll call thee Hamlet,

King, father, royal Dane. O, answer me!

Let me not burst in ignorance, but tell

Why thy canoniz’d bones, hearsed in death,

Have burst their cerements; why the sepulchre,

Wherein we saw thee quietly inurn’d,

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,

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.


It beckons you to go away with it,

As if it some impartment did desire

To you alone.


Look with what courteous action

It waves you to a more removed 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,

And for my soul, what can it do to that,

Being a thing immortal as itself?

It waves me forth again, I’ll follow it.


What if it tempt you toward the flood, my lord,

Or to the dreadful summit of the cliff

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.

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.


It waves me still.—

Go on, I’ll follow thee.


You shall not go, my lord.


Hold off your hands.


Be rul’d, you shall not go.


My fate cries out,

And makes each petty artere in this body

As hardy as the Nemean lion’s nerve.

Still am I call’d. Unhand me, gentlemen.

By heaven, 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. To what issue will this come?


Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.


Heaven will direct it.


Nay, let’s follow him.



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