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Hamlet

by William Shakespeare

Act 1, Scene 4 Easiest-to-Read Edition

 



Hamlet Act 1, Scene 4

The Platform

Enter HAMLET, HORATIO, and MARCELLUS

Enter HAMLET, HORATIO, and MARCELLUS

HAMLET

The air bites shrewdly. It is very cold.

 

HAMLET

The air bites shrewdly. It is very cold.

 

HORATIO

It is a nipping and an eager air.

 

HORATIO

It is a nipping and an eager air.

 

HAMLET

What hour now?

 

HAMLET

What hour now?

 

HORATIO

I think it lacks of twelve.

 

HORATIO

I think it lacks of twelve.

 

MARCELLUS

No, it is struck.

 

MARCELLUS

No, it is struck.

 

HORATIO

Indeed? I heard it not. It then draws near the season

Wherein the spirit held his wont to walk.

 

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 of ordnance goes off

ordnance=cannons

A flourish of trumpets and two pieces of ordnance goes off

What does this mean, my lord?

What does this mean, my lord?

HAMLET

The king doth wake tonight and takes his rouse,

wake=stay awake

takes his rouse=carouses

Keeps wassail and the swaggering upspring reels,

wassail=ale

upspring reels=lively dances

And, as he drains his draughts of Rhenish down,

Rhenish=Rhenish wine

The kettle-drum and trumpet thus bray out

The triumph of his pledge.

pledge=toast/pledge to empty his wine glass (again and again)

 

HAMLET

The king doth wake tonight and takes his rouse,

Keeps wassail and the swaggering upspring reels,

And, as he drains his draughts of Rhenish down,

The kettle-drum and trumpet thus bray out

The triumph of his pledge.

 

HORATIO

Is it a custom?

 

HORATIO

Is it a custom?

 

HAMLET

Ay, marry, is ’t.

marry=by the Virgin Mary

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.

breach=non-observance

This heavy-headed revel east and west

Makes us traduced and taxed of other nations.

traduced and taxed of=disparaged and censured by

They clepe us drunkards and with swinish phrase

clepe=call

Soil our addition. And indeed it takes

soil our addition=soil our noble titles

takes=takes away

From our achievements, though performed at height,

The pith and marrow of our attribute.

pith and marrow of our attribute=the good attributed to us

So oft it chances in particular men

That for some vicious mole of nature in them—

for some vicious mole=by reason of some defect

As in their birth (wherein they are not guilty,

Since nature cannot choose his origin),

By the o'ergrowth of some complexion,

o’ergrowth of some complexion=excessive development of some incllnation

Oft breaking down the pales and forts of reason,

pales=enclosures

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,

being nature’s livery=by inheritance

fortune’s star=accident

Their virtues else (be they as pure as grace,

else=but for this

As infinite as man may undergo)

Shall in the general censure take corruption

From that particular fault. The dram of evil

dram=small quantity

Doth all the noble substance of a doubt

doth (do-eth)=renders

of a doubt=doubtful

To his own scandal.

scandal=discredit or disgrace

 

HAMLET

Ay, 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

Makes us traduced and taxed of other nations.

They clepe us drunkards and with swinish phrase

Soil our addition. And indeed it takes

From our achievements, though performed at height,

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),

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,

Being nature’s livery or fortune’s star,

Their virtues else (be they as pure as grace,

As infinite as man may undergo)/p>

Shall in the general censure take corruption

From that particular fault. The dram of evil

Doth all the noble substance of a doubt

To his own scandal.

 

Enter GHOST

Enter GHOST

HORATIO

Look, my lord, it comes!

 

HORATIO

Look, my lord, it comes!

 

HAMLET

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 hell,

Be thy intents wicked or charitable,

Thou comest in such a questionable shape

questionable shape=form requiring interrogation

That I will speak to thee. I’ll call thee “Hamlet,”

“King,” “Father,” “royal Dane.” O, answer me!

Let me not burst in ignorance, but tell

Why thy canonized bones, hearsed in death,

canonized=holy

Have burst their cerements; why the sepulcher,

cerements=graveclothes

Wherein we saw thee quietly interred,

Hath oped his ponderous and marble jaws

To cast thee up again. What may this mean,

That thou, dead corse, again in complete steel

corse=corpse

Revisits thus the glimpses of the moon,

revisits . . . =sees the moon again

Making night hideous and we fools of nature,

we, fools of nature=we, unnaturally visited

So horridly to shake our disposition

With thoughts beyond the reaches of our souls?

Say why is this? Wherefore? What should we do?

 

HAMLET

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 hell,

Be thy intents wicked or charitable,

Thou comest in such a questionable shape

That I will speak to thee. I’ll call thee “Hamlet,”

“King,” “Father,” “royal Dane.” O, answer me!

Let me not burst in ignorance, but tell

Why thy canonized bones, hearsed in death,

Have burst their cerements; why the sepulcher,

Wherein we saw thee quietly interred,

Hath oped his ponderous and marble jaws

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

With thoughts beyond the reaches of our souls?

Say why is this? Wherefore? What should we do?

 

 

GHOST beckons HAMLET

GHOST beckons HAMLET

HORATIO

It beckons you to go away with it,

As if it some impartment did desire

impartment=thing to impart

To you alone.

 

HORATIO

It beckons you to go away with it,

As if it some impartment did desire

To you alone.

 

MARCELLUS

  Look, with what courteous action

It waves you to a more removèd ground.

(removed – three syllables)

But do not go with it.

 

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.

 

HORATIO

   No, by no means.

 

HAMLET

It will not speak. Then I will follow it.

 

HAMLET

It will not speak. Then I will follow it.

 

HORATIO

Do not, my lord.

 

HORATIO

Do not, my lord.

 

HAMLET

  Why, what should be the fear?

I do not set my life in a pin’s fee,

in a pin’s fee=at a pin’s value

And for my soul—what can it do to that,

Being a thing immortal as itself?

It waves me forth again. I’ll follow it.

 

HAMLET

  Why, what should be the fear?

I do not set my life in a pin’s fee,

And for my soul—what can it do to that,

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,

(beetles have jutting-out brows)

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,

toys of desperation=suggestions of suicide

Without more motive, into every brain

That looks so many fathoms to the sea

fathoms to the sea=fathoms down to the sea

And hears it roar beneath.

 

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,

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

That looks so many fathoms to the sea

And hears it roar beneath.

 

HAMLET

It waves me still.

—Go on. I’ll follow thee.

 

HAMLET

It waves me still.

—Go on. I’ll follow thee.

 

MARCELLUS

You shall not go, my lord.

 

MARCELLUS

You shall not go, my lord.

 

MARCELLUS and HORATIO try to hold HAMLET back

MARCELLUS and HORATIO try to hold HAMLET back

HAMLET

    Hold off your hands.

 

HAMLET

    Hold off your hands.

 

HORATIO

Be ruled. You shall not go.

 

HORATIO

Be ruled. You shall not go.

 

HAMLET

    My fate cries out

And makes each petty artery in this body

As hardy as the Nemean lion’s nerve.

(Nemean lion - Greek mythological monster with claws sharper than swords)

nerve=sinews

Still am I called.—Unhand me, gentlemen.

(draws his sword)

By heaven, I’ll make a ghost of him that lets me.

lets=stops

I say, away!—Go on. I’ll follow thee.

 

HAMLET

    My fate cries out

And makes each petty artery in this body

As hardy as the Nemean lion’s nerve.

Still am I called.—Unhand me, gentlemen.

(draws his sword)

By heaven, I’ll make a ghost of him that lets me.

I say, away!—Go on. I’ll follow thee.

 

Exeunt GHOST and HAMLET

Exeunt GHOST and HAMLET

HORATIO

He waxes desperate with imagination.

he=Hamlet

 

HORATIO

He waxes desperate with imagination.

 

MARCELLUS

Let’s follow. 'Tis not fit thus to obey him.

 

MARCELLUS

Let’s follow. 'Tis not fit thus to obey him.

 

HORATIO

Have after. To what issue will this come?

have after=follow him

 

HORATIO

Have after. To what issue will this come?

 

MARCELLUS

Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.

 

MARCELLUS

Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.

 

HORATIO

Heaven will direct it.

 

HORATIO

Heaven will direct it.

 

MARCELLUS

  Nay, let’s follow him.

 

MARCELLUS

  Nay, let’s follow him.

 

Exeunt

Exeunt

 

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