+ + = 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.]
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
Keeps wassail: carouses; upspring:
a German dance,
particularly associated with heavy drinking.
1.4.11 Rhenish: Rhine wine
triumph of his pledge: his feat of emptying the
to the manner born: destined through birth to accept
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
So: in the same way; oft it
chances in: it often
1.4.27 mole of nature: natural fault
o'ergrowth of some complexion: i.e., the increase
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
nature's livery: i.e., something by which one is
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
The dram . . . scandal: These difficult lines
never been satisfactorily repaired, but the general
sense may be that a small amount of evil makes even
something admirable seem disreputable
Copyright © 1992. The Folger Shakespeare Library. All rights reserved.