Folger Hamlet Electronic Text (1992)

Codes: + + = emendation; <> = First Folio; [ ] = Second Quarto only

                Enter Hamlet, Horatio, and Marcellus.

          The air bites shrewdly; it is very cold.
          It is <a> nipping and an eager air.
HAMLET What hour now?
HORATIO   I think it lacks of twelve.
MARCELLUS No, it is struck.                                        5
          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?
          The King doth wake tonight and takes his rouse,
          Keeps wassail, and the swagg'ring upspring reels;       10
          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    Ay, marry, is 't,                                       15
          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
          Makes us traduced and taxed of other nations.           20
          They clepe us drunkards and with swinish phrase
          Soil our addition. And, indeed, it takes
          From our achievements, though performed at
          The pith and marrow of our attribute.                   25
          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                  30
          (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,                35
          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+
          Doth all the noble substance of a doubt                 40
          To his own scandal.]

                          Enter Ghost.

HORATIO                        Look, my lord, it comes.
          Angels and ministers of grace, defend us!
          Be thou a spirit of health or goblin damned,
          Bring with thee airs from heaven or blasts from         45
          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!           50
          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,
          Hath oped his ponderous and marble jaws                 55
          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                    60
          With thoughts beyond the reaches of our souls?
          Say, why is this? Wherefore? What should we do?
                                          <Ghost> beckons.
          It beckons you to go away with it
          As if it some impartment did desire
          To you alone.                                           65
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.
          It will not speak. Then I will follow it.               70
          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,
          Being a thing immortal as itself?                       75
          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               80
          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 fathoms to the sea                   85
          And hears it roar beneath.]
          It waves me still.-- Go on, I'll follow thee.
          You shall not go, my lord. +They hold back Hamlet.+
HAMLET                                  Hold off your hands.

          Be ruled. You shall not go.                             90
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.
          By heaven, I'll make a ghost of him that lets me!       95
          I say, away!--Go on. I'll follow thee.
                             Ghost and Hamlet exit.
          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.           100
          Heaven will direct it.

MARCELLUS                           Nay, let's follow him.
                                         They exit.
                    Enter Ghost and Hamlet.

          Whither wilt thou lead me? Speak. I'll go no
          Mark me.

HAMLET              I will.
GHOST                          My hour is almost come              5
          When I to sulf'rous and tormenting flames
          Must render up myself.
HAMLET                              Alas, poor ghost!
          Pity me not, but lend thy serious hearing
          To what I shall unfold.                                 10

HAMLET Speak. I am bound to hear.

          So art thou to revenge, when thou shalt hear.
GHOST I am thy father's spirit,
          Doomed for a certain term to walk the night             15
          And for the day confined to fast in fires
          Till the foul crimes done in my days of nature
          Are burnt and purged away. But that I am forbid
          To tell the secrets of my prison house,
          I could a tale unfold whose lightest word               20
          Would harrow up thy soul, freeze thy young blood,
          Make thy two eyes, like stars, start from their
          Thy knotted and combinèd locks to part,
          And each particular hair to stand an end,               25
          Like quills upon the fearful porpentine.
          But this eternal blazon must not be
          To ears of flesh and blood. List, list, O list!
          If thou didst ever thy dear father love--
HAMLET    O God!                                                  30
          Revenge his foul and most unnatural murder.
HAMLET Murder?
          Murder most foul, as in the best it is,
          But this most foul, strange, and unnatural.
          Haste me to know 't, that I, with wings as swift        35
          As meditation or the thoughts of love,
          May sweep to my revenge.
GHOST                          I find thee apt;
          And duller shouldst thou be than the fat weed
          That roots itself in ease on Lethe wharf,               40
          Wouldst thou not stir in this. Now, Hamlet, hear.
          'Tis given out that, sleeping in my orchard,
          A serpent stung me. So the whole ear of Denmark
          Is by a forgèd process of my death
          Rankly abused. But know, thou noble youth,              45
          The serpent that did sting thy father's life
          Now wears his crown.
HAMLET    O, my prophetic soul! My uncle!
          Ay, that incestuous, that adulterate beast,
          With witchcraft of his +wit,+ with traitorous gifts--   50
          O wicked wit and gifts, that have the power
          So to seduce!--won to his shameful lust
          The will of my most seeming-virtuous queen.
          O Hamlet, what <a> falling off was there!
          From me, whose love was of that dignity                 55
          That it went hand in hand even with the vow
          I made to her in marriage, and to decline
          Upon a wretch whose natural gifts were poor
          To those of mine.
          But virtue, as it never will be moved,                  60
          Though lewdness court it in a shape of heaven,
          So, <lust,> though to a radiant angel linked,
          Will <sate> itself in a celestial bed
          And prey on garbage.
          But soft, methinks I scent the morning air.             65
          Brief let me be. Sleeping within my orchard,
          My custom always of the afternoon,
          Upon my secure hour thy uncle stole,
          With juice of cursèd hebona in a vial,
          And in the porches of my ears did pour                  70
          The leprous distilment, whose effect
          Holds such an enmity with blood of man
          That swift as quicksilver it courses through
          The natural gates and alleys of the body,
          And with a sudden vigor it doth <posset>                75
          And curd, like eager droppings into milk,
          The thin and wholesome blood. So did it mine,
          And a most instant tetter barked about,
          Most lazar-like, with vile and loathsome crust
          All my smooth body.                                     80
          Thus was I, sleeping, by a brother's hand
          Of life, of crown, of queen at once dispatched,
          Cut off, even in the blossoms of my sin,
          Unhouseled, disappointed, unaneled,
          No reck'ning made, but sent to my account               85
          With all my imperfections on my head.
          O horrible, O horrible, most horrible!
          If thou hast nature in thee, bear it not.
          Let not the royal bed of Denmark be
          A couch for luxury and damnèd incest.                   90
          But, howsomever thou pursues this act,
          Taint not thy mind, nor let thy soul contrive
          Against thy mother aught. Leave her to heaven
          And to those thorns that in her bosom lodge
          To prick and sting her. Fare thee well at once.         95
          The glowworm shows the matin to be near
          And 'gins to pale his uneffectual fire.
          Adieu, adieu, adieu. Remember me.            <He exits.>

          O all you host of heaven! O earth! What else?
          And shall I couple hell? O fie! Hold, hold, my heart,
          And you, my sinews, grow not instant old,              101
          But bear me <stiffly> up. Remember thee?
          Ay, thou poor ghost, whiles memory holds a seat
          In this distracted globe. Remember thee?
          Yea, from the table of my memory                       105
          I'll wipe away all trivial, fond records,
          All saws of books, all forms, all pressures past,
          That youth and observation copied there,
          And thy commandment all alone shall live
          Within the book and volume of my brain,                110
          Unmixed with baser matter. Yes, by heaven!
          O most pernicious woman!
          O villain, villain, smiling, damnèd villain!
          My tables--meet it is I set it down
          That one may smile and smile and be a villain.         115
          At least I am sure it may be so in Denmark.  +He writes.+
          So, uncle, there you are. Now to my word.
          It is "adieu, adieu, remember me."
          I have sworn 't.
                    Enter Horatio and Marcellus.
HORATIO   My lord, my lord!                                      120
MARCELLUS Lord Hamlet.
HORATIO  Heavens secure him!
HAMLET    So be it.
MARCELLUS Illo, ho, ho, my lord!
HAMLET Hillo, ho, ho, boy! Come, <bird,> come!
          How is 't, my noble lord?                              125
HORATIO                        What news, my lord?
HAMLET O, wonderful!
          Good my lord, tell it.
HAMLET                              No, you will reveal it.      130
          Not I, my lord, by heaven.
MARCELLUS                      Nor I, my lord.
          How say you, then? Would heart of man once think
          But you'll be secret?                                  135
HORATIO / MARCELLUS                 Ay, by heaven, <my lord.>
          There's never a villain dwelling in all Denmark
          But he's an arrant knave.
          There needs no ghost, my lord, come from the grave
          To tell us this.                                       140
HAMLET                     Why, right, you are in the right.
          And so, without more circumstance at all,
          I hold it fit that we shake hands and part,
          You, as your business and desire shall point you
          (For every man hath business and desire,               145
          Such as it is), and for my own poor part,
          I will go pray.
          These are but wild and whirling words, my lord.
          I am sorry they offend you, heartily;
          Yes, faith, heartily.                                  150
HORATIO                        There's no offense, my lord.
          Yes, by Saint Patrick, but there is, Horatio,
          And much offense, too. Touching this vision here,
          It is an honest ghost--that let me tell you.
          For your desire to know what is between us,            155
          O'ermaster 't as you may. And now, good friends,
          As you are friends, scholars, and soldiers,
          Give me one poor request.
HORATIO   What is 't, my lord? We will.
          Never make known what you have seen tonight.           160
HORATIO / MARCELLUS My lord, we will not.
HAMLET    Nay, but swear 't.
HORATIO   In faith, my lord, not I.
MARCELLUS Nor I, my lord, in faith.
          Upon my sword.                                         165
MARCELLUS           We have sworn, my lord, already.
HAMLET    Indeed, upon my sword, indeed.
GHOST cries under the stage Swear.
          Ha, ha, boy, sayst thou so? Art thou there,
               truepenny?                                        170
          Come on, you hear this fellow in the cellarage.
          Consent to swear.
HORATIO                        Propose the oath, my lord.
          Never to speak of this that you have seen,
          Swear by my sword.                                     175
GHOST, +beneath+ Swear.
         Hic et ubique? Then we'll shift our ground.
          Come hither, gentlemen,
          And lay your hands again upon my sword.
          Swear by my sword                                      180
          Never to speak of this that you have heard.
GHOST, +beneath+ Swear by his sword.
          Well said, old mole. Canst work i' th' earth so fast?
          A worthy pioner! Once more remove, good friends.
          O day and night, but this is wondrous strange.         185
          And therefore as a stranger give it welcome.
          There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
          Than are dreamt of in your philosophy. But come.
          Here, as before, never, so help you mercy,
          How strange or odd some'er I bear myself               190
          (As I perchance hereafter shall think meet
          To put an antic disposition on)
          That you, at such times seeing me, never shall,
          With arms encumbered thus, or this headshake,
          Or by pronouncing of some doubtful phrase,             195
          As "Well, well, we know," or "We could an if we
          Or "If we list to speak," or "There be an if they
          Or such ambiguous giving-out, to note                  200
          That you know aught of me--this do swear,
          So grace and mercy at your most need help you.
GHOST, +beneath+ Swear.
          Rest, rest, perturbèd spirit.--So, gentlemen,
          With all my love I do commend me to you,               205
          And what so poor a man as Hamlet is
          May do t' express his love and friending to you,
          God willing, shall not lack. Let us go in together,
          And still your fingers on your lips, I pray.
          The time is out of joint. O cursèd spite               210
          That ever I was born to set it right!
          Nay, come, let's go together.
                                         They exit.


While Claudius drinks away the night, Hamlet, Horatio and Marcellus
are visited by the Ghost.  It signals to Hamlet.  Hamlet's friends
try to stop him from following the Ghost, but Hamlet will not be
held back.

1.4.1     shrewdly: keenly, intensely

1.4.2     eager: sharp (from the French aigre)

1.4.7     held his wont: has been accustomed

1.4.9     doth . . . rouse: stays awake tonight drinking

1.4.10    Keeps wassail: carouses; upspring: a German dance,
particularly associated with heavy drinking.

1.4.11    Rhenish: Rhine wine

1.4.13    triumph of his pledge: his feat of emptying the cup in
                 one draft

1.4.17    to the manner born: destined through birth to accept
                 this custom

1.4.20    taxed of: censured by

1.4.21    clepe: call

1.4.22    addition: titles of honor

1.4.25    pith and marrow: essence; attribute: reputation

1.4.26    So: in the same way; oft it chances in: it often
                 happens with

1.4.27    mole of nature: natural fault

1.4.30    o'ergrowth of some complexion: i.e., the increase of
                one of the four "humors," which were thought to
                control man's physical and emotional being

1.4.31    pales and forts: palings and ramparts

1.4.32    o'erleavens: radically changes

1.4.33    plausive: pleasing

1.4.35    nature's livery: i.e., something by which one is marked
                by nature (as in their birth, or the o'ergrowth
              of some complexion"); fortune's star: something
                determined by luck (as in the accidental forming
                of some habit)

1.4.36    His virtues else: the other virtues of these men

1.4.39-41 The dram . . . scandal: These difficult lines have
           never been satisfactorily repaired, but the general
           sense may be that a small amount of evil makes even
           something admirable seem disreputable

1.4.48    questionable: problematic

1.4.52    canonized: i.e., buried in accord with the canons of
                the church (accent on second syllable)

1.4.59-61 and we . . . our souls: and causing us weak humans to
                agitate our minds with thoughts that go beyond
                what even our souls can reach to

1.4.64    some . . . desire: did desire to impart something

1.4.73    a pin's fee: the cost of a pin

1.4.81    deprive your sovereignty of reason: depose reason as
                ruler of your mind

1.4.83    toys of desperation: desperate impulses

1.4.92    arture: artery (Arteries were believed to be the veins
                that carried the body's invisible "vital spirits.")

1.4.93    the Nemean lion's nerve: the sinews of the lion killed
                by Hercules as one of his twelve "labors"

1.4.95    lets me: holds me back


The Ghost tells Hamlet a tale of horror.  Saying that he is the
spirit of Hamlet's father, he demands that Hamlet avenge King
Hamlet's murder at the hands of Claudius.  Hamlet, horrified, vows
to "remember" and swears his friends to secrecy about what they
have seen.

1.5.3      Mark me: pay attention to me

1.5.9      lend thy serious hearing: listen intently

1.5.11    bound: ready (The word also means "in duty bound" and
                "obligated," which is the sense to which the Ghost
                responds in the following line)

1.5.16    for: during

1.5.21    harrow up: tear up (agricultural image)

1.5.22-23 stars . . . spheres: In Ptolemaic astronomy, each
                planet (star) was carried around the earth in a
                crystalline sphere.

1.5.25    an end: on end

1.5.26    fearful porpentine: uneasy (threatened) porcupine

1.5.27    eternal blazon: description of that which is eternal

1.5.39    duller . . . be : you would be duller; fat: thick

1.5.40    Lethe wharf: bank of the river Lethe (the river of

1.5.41    Wouldst thou not: if you did not

1.5.42    orchard: palace garden

1.5.44    forgèd process: false story

1.5.45    Rankly abused: completely misled

1.5.57-58 decline/ Upon: to turn to (with the sense of
                "declining" as falling, bending downward)

1.5.65    soft: "enough" or "wait a minute"

1.5.69    hebona: a poison (The word may be linked to "henbane,"
     a poisonous weed, or to "ebony," the sap of which was
     thought to be poisonous. Marlowe, in The Jew of Malta,
     mentions "the juice of hebon" as deadly.)

1.5.71    leprous distilment: distillation causing a condition
           like leprosy

1.5.75    posset: clot

1.5.76    eager: acid

1.5.78-80 a most instant tetter . . . body: i.e., sores and
     scabs, as on a leper, covered my body with a vile crust
     like the bark of a tree tetter: a skin disease marked
     by sores and scabs lazar-like: like a leper

1.5.82    dispatched: dispossessed

1.5.84    unhousled . . . unaneled: without having received final

1.5.90    luxury: lust

1.5.96    matin: morning

1.5.104   globe: Hamlet perhaps gestures to his head.

1.5.105   table: table-book or slate, used here metaphorically
     (Hamlet wants to wipe his memory clean, as one would
     erase a slate or table-book. Later [lines 114-116), he
     takes out actual "tables.")

1.5.106   fond records: foolish jottings (records accented on the
           second syllable)

1.5.108   youth and observation: youthful observation

1.5.114   meet it is: it is appropriate that

1.5.125   Hillo, ho . . . bird, come: Hamlet mocks Marcellus's
                call, as if it were the call of a falconer.

1.5.138   arrant: complete

1.5.142   circumstance: ceremony

1.5.154   honest: genuine

1.5.165   Upon my sword: an appropriate object on which to swear
                an oath, in that the hilts form a cross

1.5.170   truepenny: honest fellow

1.5.177   Hic et ubique: here and everywhere

1.5.184   pioner: a foot-soldier who marches in advance of the
                army to dig trenches and clear the way; a digger
                or miner; remove: move to another spot

1.5.186   as a stranger give it welcome: welcome it as one should
                welcome a stranger

1.5.188   your philosophy: i.e., philosophy in general

1.189-202 never . . . help you: i.e., swear never to note, even
     through gestures and hints, that you know anything about
     me, no matter how strangely I act

1.5.190   How . . . some'er: howsoever

1.5.191-92 As I . . . on: since I may in the future think it
           appropriate to act bizarrely

1.5.194   With arms . . . headshake: with your arms folded or
                shaking your head in a knowing way

1.5.195   doubtful: ambiguous

1.5.196   an if: if

1.5.198   list: should choose

1.5.200   giving-out: expression; note: indicate

1.5.204   Rest, rest, perturbèd spirit: These words suggest that
     Horatio and Marcellus have sworn the oath demanded by
     Hamlet and the Ghost; Q2 and F give no stage direction
     to indicate when they do so.

Copyright © 1992. The Folger Shakespeare Library. All rights reserved.