by William Shakespeare

Previous Chapter Next Chapter

ACT I - Scene IV

Elsinore. The platform before the Castle.

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 go off.

What does this mean, my lord?

The King doth wake to-night and takes his rouse,
Keeps wassail, and the swagg'ring upspring reels,
And, as he drains his draughts of Rhenish down,
The kettledrum 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 honour'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 the o'ergrowth of some complexion,
Oft breaking down the pales and forts of reason,
Or by some habit that too much o'erleavens
The form of plausive manners, that these men
Carrying, I say, the stamp of one defect,
Being nature's livery, or fortune's star,
Their 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 e'il
Doth all the noble substance often dout 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 will I 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 fadoms 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 artire in this body
As hardy as the Nemean lion's nerve.

[Ghost beckons.]

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.


Return to the Hamlet Summary Return to the William Shakespeare Library

Anton Chekhov
Nathaniel Hawthorne
Susan Glaspell
Mark Twain
Edgar Allan Poe
Mary E. Wilkins Freeman
Herman Melville
Stephen Leacock
Kate Chopin
Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson