List iconHamlet:
Act 1, scene 1
List icon

Act 1, scene 1



Characters in the Play

Entire Play

Events before the start of Hamlet set the stage for tragedy. When the king of Denmark, Prince Hamlet’s father, suddenly dies, Hamlet’s…

Act 1, scene 1

On the guards’ platform at Elsinore, Horatio waits with Barnardo and Marcellus to question a ghost that has twice before…

Act 1, scene 2

In an audience chamber in Elsinore, Claudius, the new king of Denmark, holds court. After thanking his courtiers for their…

Act 1, scene 3

In Polonius’s chambers, Laertes says good-bye to his sister, Ophelia, and tells her not to trust Hamlet’s promises of love….

Act 1, scene 4

While Claudius drinks away the night, Hamlet, Horatio, and Marcellus are visited by the Ghost. It signals to Hamlet. Hamlet’s…

Act 1, scene 5

The Ghost tells Hamlet a tale of horror. Saying that he is the spirit of Hamlet’s father, he demands that…

Act 2, scene 1

Polonius sends his servant Reynaldo to Paris to question Laertes’s acquaintances. Ophelia enters, deeply disturbed about a visit she has…

Act 2, scene 2

Claudius and Gertrude set Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, two boyhood friends of Hamlet, to spy on him. When Hamlet himself enters,…

Act 3, scene 1

After Rosencrantz and Guildenstern report their failure to find the cause of Hamlet’s madness, Polonius places Ophelia where he and…

Act 3, scene 2

Hamlet gives direction to the actors and asks Horatio to help him observe Claudius’s reaction to the play. When the…

Act 3, scene 3

Claudius orders Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to take Hamlet to England. Polonius tells Claudius of his plans to spy on Hamlet’s…

Act 3, scene 4

In Gertrude’s room, Polonius hides behind a tapestry. Hamlet’s entrance so alarms Gertrude that she cries out for help. Polonius…

Act 4, scene 1

Gertrude reports Polonius’s death to Claudius, who sends Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to find Hamlet and recover the body.

Act 4, scene 2

Hamlet refuses to tell Rosencrantz and Guildenstern where he has put Polonius’s body.

Act 4, scene 3

Hamlet is brought to Claudius, who tells him that he is to leave immediately for England. Alone, Claudius reveals that…

Act 4, scene 4

Fortinbras and his army cross Hamlet’s path on their way to Poland. Hamlet finds in Fortinbras’s vigorous activity a model…

Act 4, scene 5

Reports reach Gertrude that Ophelia is mad. Ophelia enters singing about death and betrayal. After Ophelia has gone, Claudius agonizes…

Act 4, scene 6

Horatio is given a letter from Hamlet telling of the prince’s boarding of a pirate ship and his subsequent return…

Act 4, scene 7

Claudius gets a letter from Hamlet announcing the prince’s return. Claudius enlists Laertes’s willing help in devising another plot against…

Act 5, scene 1

Hamlet, returned from his journey, comes upon a gravedigger singing as he digs. Hamlet tries to find out who the…

Act 5, scene 2

In the hall of the castle, Hamlet tells Horatio how he discovered the king’s plot against him and how he…

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Scene 1
Enter Barnardo and Francisco, two sentinels.

BARNARDO Who’s there?
 Nay, answer me. Stand and unfold yourself.
BARNARDO Long live the King!
 You come most carefully upon your hour.
 ’Tis now struck twelve. Get thee to bed, Francisco.
 For this relief much thanks. ’Tis bitter cold,
 And I am sick at heart.
BARNARDO 10Have you had quiet guard?
FRANCISCO Not a mouse stirring.
BARNARDO Well, good night.
 If you do meet Horatio and Marcellus,
 The rivals of my watch, bid them make haste.

Enter Horatio and Marcellus.

15 I think I hear them.—Stand ho! Who is there?
HORATIO Friends to this ground.

ACT 1. SC. 1

MARCELLUS And liegemen to the Dane.
FRANCISCO Give you good night.
 O farewell, honest soldier. Who hath relieved
20 you?
 Barnardo hath my place. Give you good night.
Francisco exits.
MARCELLUS Holla, Barnardo.
BARNARDO Say, what, is Horatio there?
HORATIO A piece of him.
25 Welcome, Horatio.—Welcome, good Marcellus.
 What, has this thing appeared again tonight?
BARNARDO I have seen nothing.
 Horatio says ’tis but our fantasy
 And will not let belief take hold of him
30 Touching this dreaded sight twice seen of us.
 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.
35 Tush, tush, ’twill not appear.
BARNARDO  Sit down awhile,
 And let us once again assail your ears,
 That are so fortified against our story,
 What we have two nights seen.
HORATIO 40 Well, sit we down,
 And let us hear Barnardo speak of this.
BARNARDO Last night of all,
 When yond same star that’s westward from the pole
 Had made his course t’ illume that part of heaven
45 Where now it burns, Marcellus and myself,
 The bell then beating one—

ACT 1. SC. 1

Enter Ghost.

 Peace, break thee off! Look where it comes again.
 In the same figure like the King that’s dead.
MARCELLUS, to Horatio 
 Thou art a scholar. Speak to it, Horatio.
50 Looks he not like the King? Mark it, Horatio.
 Most like. It harrows me with fear and wonder.
 It would be spoke to.
MARCELLUS  Speak to it, Horatio.
 What art thou that usurp’st this time of night,
55 Together with that fair and warlike form
 In which the majesty of buried Denmark
 Did sometimes march? By heaven, I charge thee,
 It is offended.
BARNARDO 60 See, it stalks away.
 Stay! speak! speak! I charge thee, speak!
Ghost exits.
MARCELLUS ’Tis gone and will not answer.
 How now, Horatio, you tremble and look pale.
 Is not this something more than fantasy?
65 What think you on ’t?
 Before my God, I might not this believe
 Without the sensible and true avouch
 Of mine own eyes.

ACT 1. SC. 1

MARCELLUS  Is it not like the King?
HORATIO 70As thou art to thyself.
 Such was the very armor he had on
 When he the ambitious Norway combated.
 So frowned he once when, in an angry parle,
 He smote the sledded Polacks on the ice.
75 ’Tis strange.
 Thus twice before, and jump at this dead hour,
 With martial stalk hath he gone by our watch.
 In what particular thought to work I know not,
 But in the gross and scope of mine opinion
80 This bodes some strange eruption to our state.
 Good now, sit down, and tell me, he that knows,
 Why this same strict and most observant watch
 So nightly toils the subject of the land,
 And why such daily cast of brazen cannon
85 And foreign mart for implements of war,
 Why such impress of shipwrights, whose sore task
 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?
90 Who is ’t that can inform me?
HORATIO  That can I.
 At least the whisper goes so: our last king,
 Whose image even but now appeared to us,
 Was, as you know, by Fortinbras of Norway,
95 Thereto pricked on by a most emulate pride,
 Dared to the combat; in which our valiant Hamlet
 (For so this side of our known world esteemed him)
 Did slay this Fortinbras, who by a sealed compact,
 Well ratified by law and heraldry,
100 Did forfeit, with his life, all those his lands
 Which he stood seized of, to the conqueror.

ACT 1. SC. 1

 Against the which a moiety competent
 Was gagèd by our king, which had returned
 To the inheritance of Fortinbras
105 Had he been vanquisher, as, by the same comart
 And carriage of the article designed,
 His fell to Hamlet. Now, sir, young Fortinbras,
 Of unimprovèd mettle hot and full,
 Hath in the skirts of Norway here and there
110 Sharked up a list of lawless resolutes
 For food and diet to some enterprise
 That hath a stomach in ’t; which is no other
 (As it doth well appear unto our state)
 But to recover of us, by strong hand
115 And terms compulsatory, those foresaid lands
 So by his father lost. And this, I take it,
 Is the main motive of our preparations,
 The source of this our watch, and the chief head
 Of this posthaste and rummage in the land.
120 I think it be no other but e’en so.
 Well may it sort that this portentous figure
 Comes armèd through our watch so like the king
 That was and is the question of these wars.
 A mote it is to trouble the mind’s eye.
125 In the most high and palmy state of Rome,
 A little ere the mightiest Julius fell,
 The graves stood tenantless, and the sheeted dead
 Did squeak and gibber in the Roman streets;
 As stars with trains of fire and dews of blood,
130 Disasters in the sun; and the moist star,
 Upon whose influence Neptune’s empire stands,
 Was sick almost to doomsday with eclipse.
 And even the like precurse of feared events,
 As harbingers preceding still the fates
135 And prologue to the omen coming on,

ACT 1. SC. 1

 Have heaven and Earth together demonstrated
 Unto our climatures and countrymen.]

Enter Ghost.

 But soft, behold! Lo, where it comes again!
 I’ll cross it though it blast me.—Stay, illusion!
It spreads his arms.
140 If thou hast any sound or use of voice,
 Speak to me.
 If there be any good thing to be done
 That may to thee do ease and grace to me,
 Speak to me.
145 If thou art privy to thy country’s fate,
 Which happily foreknowing may avoid,
 O, speak!
 Or if thou hast uphoarded in thy life
 Extorted treasure in the womb of earth,
150 For which, they say, you spirits oft walk in death,
 Speak of it.The cock crows.
 Stay and speak!—Stop it, Marcellus.
 Shall I strike it with my partisan?
HORATIO Do, if it will not stand.
BARNARDO 155’Tis here.
HORATIO ’Tis here.
Ghost exits.
MARCELLUS ’Tis gone.
 We do it wrong, being so majestical,
 To offer it the show of violence,
160 For it is as the air, invulnerable,
 And our vain blows malicious mockery.
 It was about to speak when the cock crew.
 And then it started like a guilty thing
 Upon a fearful summons. I have heard

ACT 1. SC. 1

165 The cock, that is the trumpet to the morn,
 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,
 Th’ extravagant and erring spirit hies
170 To his confine, and of the truth herein
 This present object made probation.
 It faded on the crowing of the cock.
 Some say that ever ’gainst that season comes
 Wherein our Savior’s birth is celebrated,
175 This bird of dawning singeth all night long;
 And then, they say, no spirit dare stir abroad,
 The nights are wholesome; then no planets strike,
 No fairy takes, nor witch hath power to charm,
 So hallowed and so gracious is that time.
180 So have I heard and do in part believe it.
 But look, the morn in russet mantle clad
 Walks o’er the dew of yon high eastward hill.
 Break we our watch up, and by my advice
 Let us impart what we have seen tonight
185 Unto young Hamlet; for, upon my life,
 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?
 Let’s do ’t, I pray, and I this morning know
190 Where we shall find him most convenient.
They exit.