List iconHamletList icon

Hamlet
Act 1, scene 4

Synopsis:

Contents

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…

Include links to:

Images
Glosses
Audio
Video
Essays
Quill icon
Scene 4
Enter Hamlet, Horatio, and Marcellus.

HAMLET 
 The air bites shrewdly; it is very cold.
HORATIO 
 It is a nipping and an eager air.
HAMLET What hour now?
HORATIO I think it lacks of twelve.
MARCELLUS 5No, it is struck.
HORATIO 
 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.
 What does this mean, my lord?
HAMLET 
 The King doth wake tonight and takes his rouse,
10 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.
HORATIO Is it a custom?
HAMLET 15Ay, marry, is ’t,
 But, to my mind, though I am native here
 And to the manner born, it is a custom
 More honored in the breach than the observance.
 [This heavy-headed revel east and west
20 Makes us traduced and taxed of other nations.
 They clepe us drunkards and with swinish phrase
 Soil our addition. And, indeed, it takes

51
Hamlet
ACT 1. SC. 4

 From our achievements, though performed at
 height,
25 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),
30 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,
35 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 evil
40 Doth all the noble substance of a doubt
 To his own scandal.]

Enter Ghost.

HORATIO  Look, my lord, it comes.
HAMLET 
 Angels and ministers of grace, defend us!
 Be thou a spirit of health or goblin damned,
45 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,”
50 “King,” “Father,” “Royal Dane.” O, answer me!
 Let me not burst in ignorance, but tell
 Why thy canonized bones, hearsèd in death,
 Have burst their cerements; why the sepulcher,
 Wherein we saw thee quietly interred,
55 Hath oped his ponderous and marble jaws

53
Hamlet
ACT 1. SC. 4

 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
60 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.
HORATIO 
 It beckons you to go away with it
 As if it some impartment did desire
65 To you alone.
MARCELLUS  Look with what courteous action
 It waves you to a more removèd ground.
 But do not go with it.
HORATIO  No, by no means.
HAMLET 
70 It will not speak. Then I will follow it.
HORATIO 
 Do not, my lord.
HAMLET  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,
75 Being a thing immortal as itself?
 It waves me forth again. I’ll follow it.
HORATIO 
 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,
80 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
85 That looks so many fathoms to the sea
 And hears it roar beneath.]

55
Hamlet
ACT 1. SC. 5

HAMLET 
 It waves me still.—Go on, I’ll follow thee.
MARCELLUS 
 You shall not go, my lord.They hold back Hamlet.
HAMLET  Hold off your hands.
HORATIO 
90 Be ruled. You shall not go.
HAMLET  My fate cries out
 And makes each petty arture in this body
 As hardy as the Nemean lion’s nerve.
 Still am I called. Unhand me, gentlemen.
95 By heaven, I’ll make a ghost of him that lets me!
 I say, away!—Go on. I’ll follow thee.
Ghost and Hamlet exit.
HORATIO 
 He waxes desperate with imagination.
MARCELLUS 
 Let’s follow. ’Tis not fit thus to obey him.
HORATIO 
 Have after. To what issue will this come?
MARCELLUS 
100 Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.
HORATIO 
 Heaven will direct it.
MARCELLUS  Nay, let’s follow him.
They exit.