A room of state in the castle.
Enter KING CLAUDIUS, QUEEN GERTRUDE, HAMLET, POLONIUS, LAERTES, VOLTIMAND, CORNELIUS, Lords, and Attendants
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,
The 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,
Colleagued with the 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 bonds 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 bed-rid, 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, Voltimand,
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.
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 VOLTIMAND 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 loose 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 favour 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?
He hath, my lord, wrung from me my slow leave
By laboursome 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,--
[Aside] 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 i' the sun.
Good Hamlet, cast thy nighted colour off,
And let thine eye look like a friend on Denmark.
Do not for ever 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 forced 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 passeth 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, a 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 to-day,
'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 unforced accord of Hamlet
Sits smiling to my heart: in grace whereof,
No jocund health that Denmark drinks to-day,
But the great cannon to the clouds shall tell,
And the king's rouse the heavens all bruit again,
Re-speaking earthly thunder. Come away.
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 would 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 follow'd 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 BERNARDO
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? Marcellus?
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 mine 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 pray thee, do not mock me, fellow-student;
I think it was to see my mother's wedding.
Indeed, my lord, it follow'd hard upon.
Thrift, thrift, Horatio! the funeral baked 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; he was a goodly king.
He 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 awhile
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 Bernardo, on their watch,
In the dead vast and middle of the night,
Been thus encounter'd. 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, distilled
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 deliver'd, 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'd.
Did you not speak to it?
My lord, I did;
But answer made it none: yet once methought
It lifted up its 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 honour'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 to-night?
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 amazed 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 grizzled--no?
It was, as I have seen it in his life,
A sable silver'd.
I will watch to-night;
Perchance 'twill walk again.
I warrant 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 whatsoever else shall hap to-night,
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 honour.
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.
The following afternoon at the sound of trumpets the court of King Claudius arose and bowed at the entrance of the recently crowned King. The King was followed by his new wife Gertrude, the widow of the late King Hamlet, who was Claudius' brother. Behind the monarchs came the Council members Voltemand and Cornelius, and Polonius who was accompanied by his son Laertes. Hamlet, the mourning son of the late King and Gertrude, was last. He was attired completely in black.
The Queen remained seated as King Claudius addressed his assembled subjects.
"The memory of my dear brother Hamlet's recent death in still fresh in our memory and Denmark has rightly mourned but our sorrow is wise, it takes account of the duties of the living. Therefore I have married my former sister-in-law and she is now our Queen and joint ruler of our country, which is now on a war footing. We did, so to speak, bring joy to the funeral, and wistfulness to the wedding; delight and displeasure shared the scales. Nor have we ignored your better wisdoms, which have openly applauded this alliance. To you all, our thanks."
King Claudius paused craftily, taking measure of the court's reception to his speech. After a few moments he continued.
"Now, something you already know about. Young Fortinbras, whose opinion of us is low and thinking that my late brother's death has left our country disjointed and chaotic, is entertaining his dreams of taking advantage of Denmark. He has pestered us with messages demanding the surrender of those lands lost by his father and legally won by our dead brother. So much for him, now about us. I have called this meeting today to tell you of my response. We have written to the King of Norway, young Fortinbras's uncle, to put a stop to all of this since the forces are his subjects, but from intelligence reports it appears the King is powerless and bedridden and scarcely knows a thing about his nephew's ploys. We send you, good Cornelius, and you, Voltemand, as the bearers of this greeting to the King of Norway, giving you no personal power beyond what is detailed in this letter."
King Claudius handed them the sealed document.
"Farewell, and let your haste command your duty."
"In that, as in all things, we will show our loyalty," said Cornelius and Voltemand together as they left court to pursue their diplomatic errand.
"Now, Laertes," said King Claudius, "what's your news? You spoke of some request. What is it, Laertes? You cannot ask anything reasonable of the King of Denmark and be ignored. What is this wish that you think I won't grant before you ask it? The head is not more in tune with the heart, nor the hand more useful to the mouth, than your father Polonius is to the throne of Denmark. What do you wish, Laertes?"
"Your gracious lord, your permission to return to France, from where I willingly came to show my loyalty at your coronation. But now my duty is done and my thoughts and wishes, leaning towards France as they do, submit themselves to your gracious leave and pardon."
"Have you sought your father's approval? What does Polonius say?"
"He has, my lord, through constant petition, coaxed me into agreeing. I beseech you to give him leave to go," Polonius said.
"Then seize the day, Laertes! Use your virtues as you see fit! Now to my kinsman, young Hamlet, my son..."
"The nearer in kin, the lesser in kindness," Hamlet muttered under his breath.
"How is it that the clouds still hang over you?" asked the King.
"Not so, my lord, I'm too much in the sun!" His wordplay eluded the King.
"Hamlet, dear," said Queen Gertrude, "throw off your dark moods and look upon the King with a friendly eye. Don't walk around with heavy eyes, looking for your noble father in the dust. You know it's the way things are: everything that lives passes through life to reach eternity."
"Yes, madam, that is so."
"If so, then why does this case of mourning seem so particular with you?" persisted Gertrude.
"Seem, madam? No, it is. It's more than black moods and attire, heavy sighs, rivers in the eyes, mournful expressions and all the other signs of grief. Together all these things denote my feelings, truly. These feelings seem, because they are the sort of feelings some simply pretend to have, to experience. What is within me exceeds any exhibition of mourning, exceeds the traditions and trappings of mourning."
The Queen was visibly hurt by the tone of her son's reply. The King saw this and took over.
"It is sweet and commendable of you, Hamlet, to mourn your father so dutifully but you must know that your father lost a father; and his father in turn lost his; and the survivor is bound, in filial obligation, for some term of sorrow. But to persevere in obstinate condolence is a course of unholy stubbornness. It shows only a wilful disrespect; a lack of stoicness; an impatient mind; an intellect that cannot grasp the things that we know must be. It is as plain as the ordinary things we know through our senses. It is peevish opposition to take these things to heart. No more of this now. It is a fault against Heaven, a fault against the dead and a fault against Nature. To reason otherwise is absurd. The way of Nature is the death of fathers, from the first corpse until today. This must be so! I beg you to throw your pointless grief into the grave and think of me as a father. Let the world take note: you are heir to the throne and it is with a love no less noble than the dearest father that I love you. Your intention to return to your studies in Wittenberg is not what I would wish and I beseech you to remain here in the comfort of the royal court, as its chief courtier, kinsman and son."
"Ensure that you mother's prayers haven't been in vain, Hamlet! Please stay, don't go to Wittenberg," the Queen pleaded.
"I shall do my best to obey you, madam."
"Why, that's a loving and fair reply," said the King, unconvinced. "Be a Royal Prince of the Danes," he continued.
The King, though, was unable to tolerate any more of Hamlet and turned to the Queen: "Madam, come, Hamlet's gentle and unforced consent has put a smile in my heart. I will drink to celebrate and authorise a salute of cannons to tell the clouds. The skies will echo the King's earthly pleasure. Come away!"
The King and Queen left to celebrate what the Queen took to be her son's co-operation. Hamlet stood alone.
"If only this too, too solid flesh would melt, thaw and dissolve into dew! If only the Almighty's commandment did not forbid suicide! Oh, God! God! How weary, stale and pointless everything in this life seems to me! It’s an unweeded garden left to rot and now it grows the rank and gross of nature! That it should come to this! Two months dead-no not even two! So excellent a king! He was to this one what the radiant sun-god is to the farmyard satyr! So loving to my mother that he wouldn't permit the wind to blow too harshly on her face! Heaven and earth! Must I remember! Why, she would hang on to him as if her desire for him kept growing. And yet within a month...don't let me think about it! Frailty, your name is woman! A mere month, her funeral shoes, in which she followed my poor father's body were barely worn. Like ancient Niobe, all tears, only tears. Oh, God! The dumb animals mourn longer. Married to my uncle! My father's brother! But no more like my father than I am to Hercules! Within a month, before those crocodile tears had ceased to flush her eyes red, she married! Oh, the wicked speed of it! To hop between the beds of brothers so willingly! It is not good and no good can come of it. But, heart, you can break; I must hold my tongue."
Hamlet was so gripped by grief and rage he hadn't noticed Horatio, Marcellus and Barnardo had come to see him.
"Greeting to Your Lordship!" said Horatio.
"I glad to see you well," Hamlet said, almost mechanically before recognising his friend. "Horatio, it's you!"
"It’s me, my lord. Your humble servant, as always."
"My good friend, your servant, too. Why aren't you in Wittenberg, Horatio? Ah, Marcellus, too!"
"My good lord," Marcellus said, bowing.
"I'm very glad to see you. Barnardo, good evening, sir! As I said, Horatio, why aren't you in Wittenberg?"
"A truanting disposition, my lord!"
"I wouldn't tolerate your enemy saying that! So I won't offend my ears but having you speak of yourself in this manner! I know you are no truant. What has brought you to Elsinore? We'll teach you to drink deep before you leave!"
"My lord, I came for your father's funeral."
Hamlet's pleasure evaporated.
"Don't make fun of me, friend. I think you were here for my mother's wedding."
"Indeed, my lord, it was so soon after..."
"Thrift, Horatio, thrift. The baked meats at the funeral feast became the cold plate at the wedding. I would have preferred to have met my bitterest foe in Heaven than be there that day, Horatio! My father, I think I can see my father -"
"Where, my lord?"
"In my mind's eye, Horatio."
"I saw him once. He was a just king," Horatio said.
"He was a man, but everything a man could be. I will never see his like again."
"My lord, I think I saw him last night."
"My lord, the King, your father."
"The King, my father?"
"Stay calm for a moment and let me tell you about this marvel. These two gentlemen are my witnesses."
"For the love of God, tell me!"
"For the last two nights Marcellus and Barnardo while on watch at the dead of night have been confronted with the same sight. A figure like your father, armed exactly as he from head to toe, appears before them and marches solemnly at a slow and stately pace. Three times he paced before their stunned eyes, as close as the length of his sword. They stood dumb and speechless, melting like jelly. They told me about this in strictest secrecy and on the third night I stood guard with them. And as they described, the apparition appeared. I knew he was your father as well as I know my hands are mine."
"But where was this?"
"My lord, up on the ramparts where we watch," said Marcellus.
"Didn't you speak to it?"
"My lord, I did" said Horatio, "but it didn't reply. But for a moment it lifted up its head and looked as if it was about to speak but it heard the crowing cock and at that sound it hastily vanished from our sight."
"It’s very strange."
"Upon my life, honoured lord, it's true. We think it our duty to tell you."
"Indeed, sirs. But this troubles me. Are you on watch tonight?" Hamlet asked.
"We are, my lord," Marcellus and Barnardo said in unison.
"Armed? You said the ghost was armed?"
"Armed, my lord." Marcellus and Barnardo said.
"From head to toe?"
"From head to foot, my lord," they said.
"Then you didn't see his face?"
"Oh yes, my lord, his face-guard was up", said Horatio.
"Did he look like a warrior?"
"There seemed to be more sorrow than rage."
"Pale or ruddy?" Hamlet asked.
"No, very pale," Horatio replied.
"And he fixed his eyes upon you?"
"I wish I had been there."
"It would have astounded you."
"Very likely. How long did he stay?"
"You could have counted to a hundred."
"Longer, longer!" chipped in Marcellus and Barnardo.
"Not when I saw it," Horatio said.
"His beard, was it grey?" asked Hamlet.
"It was, as I remember seeing it, like sable," Horatio said.
"I will watch with you tonight. Perhaps it will appear again," Hamlet said.
"I'm sure it will," Horatio replied.
"If it assumes my noble father's person, I shall speak to it even if the gates of hell open and I am told to hold my peace. I will ask you all if you have hitherto concealed this sighting to continue to maintain your silence. Whatever else happens tonight, take it in but keep it sealed. I will reward your trust. So, goodbye. I will visit the watch between eleven and twelve."
"Our duty to your honour!" they said.
"Your love, too, as you have mine. Goodbye."
When they left Hamlet knew his grieving wasn't in vain. His father would relieve him of his torture, but not yet.
"My father's spirit here, but armed! All is not well. I fear foul play. I wish it was dark. Till then, patience, my soul. Foul deeds will become visible, no matter how deeply they are hidden from men's eyes."