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The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark

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Act I, Scene 4

Elsinore. The platform before the Castle.


Enter Hamlet, Horatio, and Marcellus.

  • Hamlet. The air bites shrewdly; it is very cold.
  • Horatio. It is a nipping and an eager air.
  • Horatio. I think it lacks of twelve.
  • 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 go off.]
    What does this mean, my lord?
  • Hamlet. The King doth wake to-night and takes his rouse, 635
    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.
  • Hamlet. Ay, marry, is't;
    But to my mind, though I am native here
    And to the manner born, it is a custom
    More honour'd in the breach than the observance.
    This heavy-headed revel east and west 645
    Makes us traduc'd and tax'd of other nations;
    They clip us drunkards and with swinish phrase
    Soil our addition; and indeed it takes
    From our achievements, though perform'd at height,
    The pith and marrow of our attribute. 650
    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, 655
    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, 660
    Their 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 e'il
    Doth all the noble substance often dout To his own scandal. 665

Enter Ghost.

  • Hamlet. Angels and ministers of grace defend us!
    Be thou a spirit of health or goblin damn'd,
    Bring with thee airs from heaven or blasts from hell, 670
    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?
    Let me not burst in ignorance, but tell 675
    Why thy canoniz'd bones, hearsed in death,
    Have burst their cerements; why the sepulchre
    Wherein we saw thee quietly inurn'd,
    Hath op'd his ponderous and marble jaws
    To cast thee up again. What may this mean 680
    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? 685
    Say, why is this? wherefore? What should we do?

Ghost beckons Hamlet.

  • Horatio. It beckons you to go away with it,
    As if it some impartment did desire
    To you alone. 690
  • Marcellus. Look with what courteous action
    It waves you to a more removed ground.
    But do not go with it!
  • Hamlet. It will not speak. Then will I follow it. 695
  • 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? 700
    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,
    And there assume some other, horrible form 705
    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 fadoms to the sea 710
    And hears it roar beneath.
  • Hamlet. It waves me still.
    Go on. I'll follow thee.
  • Hamlet. Hold off your hands! 715
  • Horatio. Be rul'd. You shall not go.
  • Hamlet. My fate cries out
    And makes each petty artire in this body
    As hardy as the Nemean lion's nerve.
    [Ghost beckons.] 720
    Still am I call'd. Unhand me, gentlemen.
    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.

  • Horatio. He waxes desperate with imagination. 725
  • Marcellus. Let's follow. 'Tis not fit thus to obey him.
  • Horatio. Have after. To what issue will this come?
  • Marcellus. Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.