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Hamlet
Act 1, scene 2

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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 2
Flourish. Enter Claudius, King of Denmark, Gertrude the
Queen, the Council, as Polonius, and his son Laertes,
Hamlet, with others, among them Voltemand and
Cornelius.


KING 
 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,
5 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,
10 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 barred
15 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
20 Our state to be disjoint and out of frame,
 Colleaguèd with this dream of his advantage,
 He hath not failed to pester us with message
 Importing the surrender of those lands
 Lost by his father, with all bonds of law,
25 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

23
Hamlet
ACT 1. SC. 2

30 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,
35 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 dilated articles allow.
Giving them a paper.
 Farewell, and let your haste commend your duty.
CORNELIUS/VOLTEMAND 
40 In that and all things will we show our duty.
KING 
 We doubt it nothing. Heartily farewell.
Voltemand and Cornelius exit.
 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
45 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,
50 Than is the throne of Denmark to thy father.
 What wouldst thou have, Laertes?
LAERTES  My dread lord,
 Your leave and favor to return to France,
 From whence though willingly I came to Denmark
55 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.
KING 
 Have you your father’s leave? What says Polonius?

25
Hamlet
ACT 1. SC. 2

POLONIUS 
60 Hath, my lord, [wrung from me my slow leave
 By laborsome petition, and at last
 Upon his will I sealed my hard consent.]
 I do beseech you give him leave to go.
KING 
 Take thy fair hour, Laertes. Time be thine,
65 And thy best graces spend it at thy will.—
 But now, my cousin Hamlet and my son—
HAMLET, aside 
 A little more than kin and less than kind.
KING 
 How is it that the clouds still hang on you?
HAMLET 
 Not so, my lord; I am too much in the sun.
QUEEN 
70 Good Hamlet, cast thy nighted color off,
 And let thine eye look like a friend on Denmark.
 Do not forever with thy vailèd lids
 Seek for thy noble father in the dust.
 Thou know’st ’tis common; all that lives must die,
75 Passing through nature to eternity.
HAMLET 
 Ay, madam, it is common.
QUEEN  If it be,
 Why seems it so particular with thee?
HAMLET 
 “Seems,” madam? Nay, it is. I know not “seems.”
80 ’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,
85 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;

27
Hamlet
ACT 1. SC. 2

 But I have that within which passes show,
 These but the trappings and the suits of woe.
KING 
90 ’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
95 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,
100 A heart unfortified, a mind impatient,
 An understanding simple and unschooled.
 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
105 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,
110 “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
115 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
120 Here in the cheer and comfort of our eye,
 Our chiefest courtier, cousin, and our son.

29
Hamlet
ACT 1. SC. 2

QUEEN 
 Let not thy mother lose her prayers, Hamlet.
 I pray thee, stay with us. Go not to Wittenberg.
HAMLET 
 I shall in all my best obey you, madam.
KING 
125 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 today
130 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. All but Hamlet exit.
HAMLET 
 O, that this too, too sullied flesh would melt,
 Thaw, and resolve itself into a dew,
135 Or that the Everlasting had not fixed
 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
140 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
145 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
150 (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,

31
Hamlet
ACT 1. SC. 2

 Like Niobe, all tears—why she, even she
 (O God, a beast that wants discourse of reason
155 Would have mourned 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
160 Had left the flushing in her gallèd 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.

HORATIO 165Hail to your Lordship.
HAMLET I am glad to see you well.
 Horatio—or I do forget myself!
HORATIO 
 The same, my lord, and your poor servant ever.
HAMLET 
 Sir, my good friend. I’ll change that name with you.
170 And what make you from Wittenberg, Horatio?—
 Marcellus?
MARCELLUS My good lord.
HAMLET 
 I am very glad to see you. To Barnardo. Good
 even, sir.—
175 But what, in faith, make you from Wittenberg?
HORATIO 
 A truant disposition, good my lord.
HAMLET 
 I would not hear your enemy say so,
 Nor shall you do my ear that violence
 To make it truster of your own report
180 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.

33
Hamlet
ACT 1. SC. 2

HORATIO 
 My lord, I came to see your father’s funeral.
HAMLET 
 I prithee, do not mock me, fellow student.
185 I think it was to see my mother’s wedding.
HORATIO 
 Indeed, my lord, it followed hard upon.
HAMLET 
 Thrift, thrift, Horatio. The funeral baked meats
 Did coldly furnish forth the marriage tables.
 Would I had met my dearest foe in heaven
190 Or ever I had seen that day, Horatio!
 My father—methinks I see my father.
HORATIO 
 Where, my lord?
HAMLET  In my mind’s eye, Horatio.
HORATIO 
 I saw him once. He was a goodly king.
HAMLET 
195 He was a man. Take him for all in all,
 I shall not look upon his like again.
HORATIO 
 My lord, I think I saw him yesternight.
HAMLET Saw who?
HORATIO 
 My lord, the King your father.
HAMLET 200 The King my father?
HORATIO 
 Season your admiration for a while
 With an attent ear, till I may deliver
 Upon the witness of these gentlemen
 This marvel to you.
HAMLET 205 For God’s love, let me hear!
HORATIO 
 Two nights together had these gentlemen,
 Marcellus and Barnardo, on their watch,

35
Hamlet
ACT 1. SC. 2

 In the dead waste and middle of the night,
 Been thus encountered: a figure like your father,
210 Armed at point exactly, cap-à-pie,
 Appears before them and with solemn march
 Goes slow and stately by them. Thrice he walked
 By their oppressed and fear-surprisèd eyes
 Within his truncheon’s length, whilst they, distilled
215 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,
220 Form of the thing (each word made true and good),
 The apparition comes. I knew your father;
 These hands are not more like.
HAMLET  But where was this?
MARCELLUS 
 My lord, upon the platform where we watch.
HAMLET 
225 Did you not speak to it?
HORATIO  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;
230 But even then the morning cock crew loud,
 And at the sound it shrunk in haste away
 And vanished from our sight.
HAMLET  ’Tis very strange.
HORATIO 
 As I do live, my honored lord, ’tis true.
235 And we did think it writ down in our duty
 To let you know of it.
HAMLET Indeed, sirs, but this troubles me.
 Hold you the watch tonight?
ALL  We do, my lord.
HAMLET 
240 Armed, say you?

37
Hamlet
ACT 1. SC. 2

ALL  Armed, my lord.
HAMLET  From top to toe?
ALL My lord, from head to foot.
HAMLET Then saw you not his face?
HORATIO 
245 O, yes, my lord, he wore his beaver up.
HAMLET What, looked he frowningly?
HORATIO 
 A countenance more in sorrow than in anger.
HAMLET Pale or red?
HORATIO 
 Nay, very pale.
HAMLET 250 And fixed his eyes upon you?
HORATIO 
 Most constantly.
HAMLET  I would I had been there.
HORATIO It would have much amazed you.
HAMLET Very like. Stayed it long?
HORATIO 
255 While one with moderate haste might tell a
 hundred.
BARNARDO/MARCELLUS Longer, longer.
HORATIO 
 Not when I saw ’t.
HAMLET  His beard was grizzled, no?
HORATIO 
260 It was as I have seen it in his life,
 A sable silvered.
HAMLET  I will watch tonight.
 Perchance ’twill walk again.
HORATIO  I warrant it will.
HAMLET 
265 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 concealed this sight,

39
Hamlet
ACT 1. SC. 3

 Let it be tenable in your silence still;
270 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.
ALL 275 Our duty to your Honor.
HAMLET 
 Your loves, as mine to you. Farewell.
All but Hamlet exit.
 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,
280 Though all the earth o’erwhelm them, to men’s
 eyes.
He exits.