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ACT I SCENE II A room of state in the castle. 
KING CLAUDIUSThough yet of Hamlet our dear brother's death
The memory be green, and that it us befitted
To bear our hearts in grief and our whole kingdom
To be contracted in one brow of woe,
Yet so far hath discretion fought with nature5
That we with wisest sorrow think on him,
Together with remembrance of ourselves.
Therefore our sometime sister, now our queen,
The imperial jointress to this warlike state,
Have we, as 'twere with a defeated joy,--10
With an auspicious and a dropping eye,
With mirth in funeral and with dirge in marriage,
In equal scale weighing delight and dole,--
Taken to wife: nor have we herein barr'd
Your better wisdoms, which have freely gone15
With this affair along. For all, our thanks.
Now follows, that you know, young Fortinbras,
Holding a weak supposal of our worth,
Or thinking by our late dear brother's death
Our state to be disjoint and out of frame,20
Colleagued with the dream of his advantage,
He hath not fail'd to pester us with message,
Importing the surrender of those lands
Lost by his father, with all bonds of law,
To our most valiant brother. So much for him.25
Now for ourself and for this time of meeting:
Thus much the business is: we have here writ
To Norway, uncle of young Fortinbras,--
Who, impotent and bed-rid, scarcely hears
Of this his nephew's purpose,--to suppress30
His further gait herein; in that the levies,
The lists and full proportions, are all made
Out of his subject: and we here dispatch
You, good Cornelius, and you, Voltimand,
For bearers of this greeting to old Norway;35
Giving to you no further personal power
To business with the king, more than the scope
Of these delated articles allow.
Farewell, and let your haste commend your duty.
VOLTIMAND and CorneliusIn that and all things will we show our duty.40
KING CLAUDIUSWe doubt it nothing: heartily farewell.
And now, Laertes, what's the news with you?
You told us of some suit; what is't, Laertes?
You cannot speak of reason to the Dane,
And lose your voice: what wouldst thou beg, Laertes,45
That shall not be my offer, not thy asking?
The head is not more native to the heart,
The hand more instrumental to the mouth,
Than is the throne of Denmark to thy father.
What wouldst thou have, Laertes?50
LAERTESMy dread lord,
Your leave and favour to return to France;
From whence though willingly I came to Denmark,
To show my duty in your coronation,
Yet now, I must confess, that duty done,55
My thoughts and wishes bend again toward France
And bow them to your gracious leave and pardon.
KING CLAUDIUSHave you your father's leave? What says Polonius?
LORD POLONIUSHe hath, my lord, wrung from me my slow leave
By laboursome petition, and at last60
Upon his will I seal'd my hard consent:
I do beseech you, give him leave to go.
KING CLAUDIUSTake thy fair hour, Laertes; time be thine,
And thy best graces spend it at thy will!
But now, my cousin Hamlet, and my son,--65
HAMLET[Aside] A little more than kin, and less than kind.
KING CLAUDIUSHow is it that the clouds still hang on you?
HAMLETNot so, my lord; I am too much i' the sun.
QUEEN GERTRUDEGood Hamlet, cast thy nighted colour off,
And let thine eye look like a friend on Denmark.70
Do not for ever with thy vailed lids
Seek for thy noble father in the dust:
Thou know'st 'tis common; all that lives must die,
Passing through nature to eternity.
HAMLETAy, madam, 'tis common.75
Why seems it so particular with thee?
HAMLETSeems, madam! nay it is; I know not 'seems.'
'Tis not alone my inky cloak, good mother,
Nor customary suits of solemn black,80
Nor windy suspiration of forced breath,
No, nor the fruitful river in the eye,
Nor the dejected 'haviour of the visage,
Together with all forms, modes, shapes of grief,
That can denote me truly: these indeed seem,
For they are actions that a man might play:
But I have that within which passeth show;
These but the trappings and the suits of woe.
KING CLAUDIUS'Tis sweet and commendable in your nature, Hamlet,
To give these mourning duties to your father:
But, you must know, your father lost a father;
That father lost, lost his, and the survivor bound90
In filial obligation for some term
To do obsequious sorrow: but to persever
In obstinate condolement is a course
Of impious stubbornness; 'tis unmanly grief;
It shows a will most incorrect to heaven,
A heart unfortified, a mind impatient,
An understanding simple and unschool'd:
For what we know must be and is as common
As any the most vulgar thing to sense,
Why should we in our peevish opposition100
Take it to heart? Fie! 'tis a fault to heaven,
A fault against the dead, a fault to nature,
To reason most absurd: whose common theme
Is death of fathers, and who still hath cried,
From the first corse till he that died to-day,
'This must be so.' We pray you, throw to earth
This unprevailing woe, and think of us
As of a father: for let the world take note,
You are the most immediate to our throne;
And with no less nobility of love110
Than that which dearest father bears his son,
Do I impart toward you. For your intent
In going back to school in Wittenberg,
It is most retrograde to our desire:
And we beseech you, bend you to remain
Here, in the cheer and comfort of our eye,
Our chiefest courtier, cousin, and our son.
QUEEN GERTRUDELet not thy mother lose her prayers, Hamlet:
I pray thee, stay with us; go not to Wittenberg.
HAMLETI shall in all my best obey you, madam.120
KING CLAUDIUSWhy, 'tis a loving and a fair reply:
Be as ourself in Denmark. Madam, come;

This gentle and unforced accord of Hamlet
Sits smiling to my heart: in grace whereof,
No jocund health that Denmark drinks to-day,
But the great cannon to the clouds shall tell,
And the king's rouse the heavens all bruit again,
Re-speaking earthly thunder. Come away.
[Exeunt all but HAMLET]
HAMLETO, that this too too solid flesh would melt
Thaw and resolve itself into a dew!130
Or that the Everlasting had not fix'd
His canon 'gainst self-slaughter! O God! God!
How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable,
Seem to me all the uses of this world!
Fie on't! ah fie! 'tis an unweeded garden,
That grows to seed; things rank and gross in nature
Possess it merely. That it should come to this!
But two months dead: nay, not so much, not two:
So excellent a king; that was, to this,
Hyperion to a satyr; so loving to my mother140
That he might not beteem the winds of heaven
Visit her face too roughly. Heaven and earth!
Must I remember? why, she would hang on him,
As if increase of appetite had grown
By what it fed on: and yet, within a month--
Let me not think on't--Frailty, thy name is woman!--
A little month, or ere those shoes were old
With which she follow'd my poor father's body,
Like Niobe, all tears:--why she, even she--
O, God! a beast, that wants discourse of reason,150
Would have mourn'd longer--married with my uncle,
My father's brother, but no more like my father
Than I to Hercules: within a month:
Ere yet the salt of most unrighteous tears
Had left the flushing in her galled eyes,
She married. O, most wicked speed, to post
With such dexterity to incestuous sheets!
It is not nor it cannot come to good:
But break, my heart; for I must hold my tongue.
HORATIOHail to your lordship!
HAMLETI am glad to see you well:
Horatio,--or I do forget myself.
HORATIOThe same, my lord, and your poor servant ever.165
HAMLETSir, my good friend; I'll change that name with you:
And what make you from Wittenberg, Horatio? Marcellus?
MARCELLUSMy good lord--
HAMLETI am very glad to see you. Good even, sir.
But what, in faith, make you from Wittenberg?
HORATIOA truant disposition, good my lord.
HAMLETI would not hear your enemy say so,170
Nor shall you do mine ear that violence,
To make it truster of your own report
Against yourself: I know you are no truant.
But what is your affair in Elsinore?
We'll teach you to drink deep ere you depart.
HORATIOMy lord, I came to see your father's funeral.
HAMLETI pray thee, do not mock me, fellow-student;
I think it was to see my mother's wedding.
HORATIOIndeed, my lord, it follow'd hard upon.
HAMLETThrift, thrift, Horatio! the funeral baked meats
Did coldly furnish forth the marriage tables.181
Would I had met my dearest foe in heaven
Or ever I had seen that day, Horatio!
My father!--methinks I see my father.
HORATIOWhere, my lord?
HAMLETIn my mind's eye, Horatio.
HORATIOI saw him once; he was a goodly king.
HAMLETHe was a man, take him for all in all,
I shall not look upon his like again.
HORATIOMy lord, I think I saw him yesternight.
HAMLETSaw? who?190
HORATIOMy lord, the king your father.
HAMLETThe king my father!
HORATIOSeason your admiration for awhile
With an attent ear, till I may deliver,
Upon the witness of these gentlemen,
This marvel to you.
HAMLETFor God's love, let me hear.
HORATIOTwo nights together had these gentlemen,
Marcellus and Bernardo, on their watch,
In the dead vast and middle of the night,
Been thus encounter'd. A figure like your father,
Armed at point exactly, cap-a-pe,200
Appears before them, and with solemn march
Goes slow and stately by them: thrice he walk'd
By their oppress'd and fear-surprised eyes,
Within his truncheon's length; whilst they, distilled
Almost to jelly with the act of fear,
Stand dumb and speak not to him. This to me
In dreadful secrecy impart they did;
And I with them the third night kept the watch;
Where, as they had deliver'd, both in time,
Form of the thing, each word made true and good,210
The apparition comes: I knew your father;
These hands are not more like.
HAMLETBut where was this?
MARCELLUSMy lord, upon the platform where we watch'd.
HAMLETDid you not speak to it?
HORATIOMy lord, I did;
But answer made it none: yet once methought
It lifted up its head and did address
Itself to motion, like as it would speak;
But even then the morning cock crew loud,
And at the sound it shrunk in haste away,
And vanish'd from our sight.
HAMLET'Tis very strange.220
HORATIOAs I do live, my honour'd lord, 'tis true;
And we did think it writ down in our duty
To let you know of it.
HAMLETIndeed, indeed, sirs, but this troubles me.
Hold you the watch to-night?
BERNARDOWe do, my lord.
HAMLETArm'd, say you?
BERNARDOArm'd, my lord.
HAMLETFrom top to toe?
BERNARDOMy lord, from head to foot.
HAMLETThen saw you not his face?
HORATIOO, yes, my lord; he wore his beaver up.
HAMLETWhat, look'd he frowningly?
HORATIOA countenance more in sorrow than in anger.230
HAMLETPale or red?
HORATIONay, very pale.
HAMLETAnd fix'd his eyes upon you?
HORATIOMost constantly.
HAMLETI would I had been there.
HORATIOIt would have much amazed you.
HAMLETVery like, very like. Stay'd it long?
HORATIOWhile one with moderate haste might tell a hundred.
BERNARDOLonger, longer.
HORATIONot when I saw't.
HAMLETHis beard was grizzled--no?
HORATIOIt was, as I have seen it in his life,
A sable silver'd.
HAMLETI will watch to-night;240
Perchance 'twill walk again.
HORATIOI warrant it will.
HAMLETIf it assume my noble father's person,
I'll speak to it, though hell itself should gape
And bid me hold my peace. I pray you all,
If you have hitherto conceal'd this sight,
Let it be tenable in your silence still;
And whatsoever else shall hap to-night,
Give it an understanding, but no tongue:
I will requite your loves. So, fare you well:
Upon the platform, 'twixt eleven and twelve,250
I'll visit you.
AllOur duty to your honour.
HAMLETYour loves, as mine to you: farewell.
[Exeunt all but HAMLET]
My father's spirit in arms! all is not well;
I doubt some foul play: would the night were come!
Till then sit still, my soul: foul deeds will rise,
Though all the earth o'erwhelm them, to men's eyes.

Next: Hamlet, Act 1, Scene 3


Explanatory Notes for Act 1, Scene 2

From Hamlet, prince of Denmark. Ed. K. Deighton. London: Macmillan.

1. Hamlet, our dear brother's, a many-worded term, as though hyphened together.

2. green, fresh in our minds.

3. To bear ... grief, to show by the way in which we carried our hearts that they were borne down by a load of sorrow. The figure is from the carriage of the body when bearing a burden.

3, 4. and our whole ... woe, and that it befitted our subjects universally to wear the look of woe which the brow wears when contracted with physical pain; for brow of woe, = mourning brow, the Cl. Pr. Edd. compare Lear, i. 4. 306, "brow of youth" = youthful brow; M. V. ii. 8. 42, "mind of love" = loving mind; i. H. IV. iv. 3. 83, "brow of justice."

5. discretion, politic consideration: nature, natural inclination.

6, 7, That we ... ourselves, that we, while thinking of him, do so in such a way as wisdom dictates, and at the same time with a recollection of what is for our own well-being.

8. our sometime sister, she who was formerly our sister; see note on i. 1. 49.

9. The imperial ... state, the king appears to speak as if the kingdom of Denmark became a jointure of the queen on the death of her former husband: but perhaps he merely means that her rights of sovereignty were equal with his own.

9. jointress, the possessor of a jointure, short for 'jointuress.'

10. a defeated joy, a joy robbed of its completeness; from F. defaire, to undo; cp. Sonnet. lxi. 11, "Mine own true love that doth my rest defeat."

11. With an auspicious ... eye, with one eye bright with joy, while from the other tears were falling. Steevens compares W. T. v. 2. 80, "She had one eye declined for the loss of her husband, another elevated that the oracle was fulfilled"; cp. also for dropping, T. A. iii. 1. 19, "O earth, I will befriend thee with more rain ... the summer's drought I'll drop upon thee still"; auspicious, literally that which has to do with the watching of birds for the purpose of augury, then used especially of favourable omens.

12. With mirth ... marriage, if the king is to be taken as speaking literally, this must mean qualifying the sorrow felt at his brother's funeral with an admixture of joy at the prospect of marrying his widow, and equally qualifying the mirth at that wedding by sad rememberance of his brother's death; dirge, a funeral lament; from Lat. dirige, direct thou, the first word in the Psalm (v. 8) used by Catholics at the burial of the dead, "Dirige, Dominus meus, in conspectu tuo vitam mean," "Guide, O Lord, my life in Thy sight." Moberly remarks, "The studied antitheses repeated over and over in this speech give it a very artificial appearance. The king's politic and parliamentary reasons for marrying the queen remind us of the similar motives which an eminent writer supposes to have influenced Henry VIII in his prompt re-marriages."

13. In equal ... dole, — equally balancing joy and grief, not giving to either advantage over the other; for dole, sorrow, lamentation, cp. A. Y. L. i. 2. 139, "making such pitiful dole over them that all the beholders take his part with weeping."

14. to wife, for wife, as wife; see Abb. § 189.

14-6. nor have we ... along, nor have I in coming to a decision in the matter acted without consulting you who, in a matter personal to myself, were likely to show more dispassionate judgement, for I may say that from first to last you have given your fullest adherence to my action.

16. For all, our thanks, for everything you have done you have my gratitude.

17. Now follows ... Fortinbras, next I must mention that, etc. Walker would read 'Now follows that you know': i.e. that which you already know, an alteration already suggested by Theobald with a comma only after know.

18. Holding ... worth, having but a contemptuous idea of my capacity.

19. by, in consequence of.

20. state, kingdom: disjoint, cp. below, i. 5. 188, "The time is out of joint"; Macb. iii. 2. 16, "But let the frame of things disjoint"; and for examples of the omission of -ed in participles of verbs ending in te, t, and d, see Abb. § 342: out of frame, dislocated, shaken out of its proper form; cp. L. L. L. iii. 1. 193, "like a German clock, Still a-repairing, ever out of frame."

21. Colleagued ... advantage, having for his only confederate this advantage which he fondly dreams he will derive from the unsettled state of our kingdom.

22,3. He hath ... lands, has persistently pestered me with messages the purport of which was that I should surrender, etc.; the distance of the nominative Fortinbras (1. 17) accounts for the pronoun he; for message, as a plural, see Abb. § 471. Possibly importing here = importuning as Abb. (Introd. p, xvi.) takes it, and as important and importance are used by Shakespeare.

24. with ... law, in full accordance with the legal agreement entered into by the two parties.

25. So much for him, of him and his acts I need say no more.

26. this time of meeting, this occasion for which we have called you together.

27. here, sc. in the papers he holds in his hand; writ, for the curtailed form of the participle, see Abb. § 343.

28. Norway, see note on i. 1. 48.

29. bed-rid, from "A.S. bedrida, beddrida, ... A.S. bed, a bed, and ridda, a knight, a rider; thus the sense is a bed-rider, a sarcastic term for a disabled man" ... (Skeat, Ety. Dict.): scarcely hears, has hardly any knowledge of.

30, 1. to suppress ... herein, calling upon him to put a stop to his nephew's further proceeding in this matter; gait, "a particular use of the M. E. gate, a way ... It is clear that the word was thus used, because popularly connected with the verb to go; at the same time, the word is not really derived from that verb, but from the verb to get"... (Skeat, Ety. Dict.): levies, here, as in ii. 2. 62, of the act of levying troops; in Cymb. iii. 7. 13, of the troops raised.

32. lists, literally catalogues, hence numbers: proportions, quotas, contingents, as in H. V. i. 2. 204, "Therefore let our proportions for these wars Be soon collected."

33. Out of his subject, from among his subjects; for subject, used collectively, cp. i. 1. 72.

35. For bearers, as bearers.

36-8. Giving ... allow, allowing you no further authority to treat with the king than the limits of these conditions, herein expressly stated, permit; for scope, cp. Lear, i. 4. 314, "But let his disposition have that scope That dotage gives it. "For the confusion of proximity, owing to the words intervening between the nominative and the verb, see Abb. § 412; and for the tenour of the words, cp. K. J. i. 1. 22, "Then take my king's defiance from my mouth, The furthest limit of my embassy."

39. let your ... duty, let the haste you make in discharging your mission call for our approval of your duteous behaviour.

41. nothing, in no way; like 'something,' frequently used by Shakespeare in an adverbial sense.

42. what's ... you? what have you to tell us about yourself?

43. You told ... suit, you lately spoke to us about some request you had to prefer.

44. speak of reason, mention any reasonable request.

40. lose your voice, waste your words, speak in vain.

45, 6. what wouldst ... asking? you cannot possibly make any request of us which we would not grant of our own free will, if we only knew what its nature was.

47-9 The head ... father, the head and heart, the hand and mouth, do not work together in more complete sympathy than do your father and myself. Delius points out that native expresses a connection that is congenital; instrumental, one that is mechanical; for native, = allied by nature, cp. A. W. i. 1. 238, "To join like likes, and kiss like native things." Also for a similar line of thought, see the fable of the belly and the bodily members, Cor. i. 1. 99, etc.

51. Your leave and favour, your gracious permission.

52. From whence, strictly speaking, redundant; the suffix -ce, = -es, originally a genitive case-ending, meaning 'from.' The word is further noticeable in that when is used of time, not place, though the word has in itself no reference to either time or place, it being, according to Skeat (who compares Lat. quum, when, from quis, who), originally a case of the interrogative pronoun.

53. To show ... coronation, to show myself a loyal subject by attending your coronation.

54. done, being performed.

57. And bow ... pardon, and submit themselves to your gracious permission; asking, as it were, to be excused for preferring France to the king's court; pardon, as in iv. 7. 46, and A. C. iii, 6. 60, "whereon I begg'd His pardon for return," meaning little more than leave, permission.

59. wrung ... leave, extorted from me a permission reluctantly granted.

60. By laboursome petition, by strenuous and persistent begging; laboursome, used again in Cymb. iii 4. 167, "Your laboursome and dainty trims," but in a slightly different sense, trims over which much labour had been spent.

61. Upon his will ... consent, with the utmost reluctance I assented to the determination he had so strongly formed; there is an allusion to putting a seal to a will in order to give it validity, and a play upon the two meanings of Will.

63. Take ... hour, choose the time that may best suit you for your departure: time be thine, consider yourself at liberty to remain away as long as you may think fit.

64. And thy ... will! and may that time be spent by you to the best purpose and in the way most agreeable to you!

65. cousin, used in Shakespeare's time for almost any relationship not in the first degree: son, stepson, the king having married his mother.

65. A little ... kind, the explanation of this line depends in the first place upon whether the words refer to himself or to the king, and secondly upon whether kind means 'kindly,' 'well-disposed,' or 'of the same nature.' Malone, taking the former view, explains, "I am a little more than thy kinsman (for I am thy stepson), and am somewhat less than kind to thee (for I hate thee, as being the person who has incestuously married my mother)." Grant White, following Steevens, and taking the latter view, explains, "In marrying my mother, you have made yourself something more than my kinsman, and, at the same time, have shown yourself unworthy of our race, our kind." To me Grant White's explanation seems undoubtedly the right one. This jingle between 'kin' and 'kind' was a common one.

67. that the clouds ... you, that you are still in such a gloomy mood.

68. too much i' the sun, probably best explained by reference to the old proverb, quoted by Johnson, "Out of heaven's blessing into the warm sun," i.e. passing from a good state into one less favourable. The proverb is quoted in Lear, ii. 2. 168, and Dyce and Caldecott give examples of its use from Heywood to Swift. Some commentators have supposed a pun on 'sun' and 'son,' with an allusion to the king's words in 1. 64, and with the meaning that Hamlet had too much of the son and successor about him without possession of his rights.

69. nighted colour, dark frame of mind; for the general rule that participles formed from an adjective mean 'made of (the adjective),' and derived from a noun, mean 'endowed with, or like (the noun),' see Abb. § 294.

70. like a friend, in a friendly way, as the eye of a friend would look: Denmark, i.e. the king.

72. Do not ... dust, do not for all time go about with your eyes cast upon the ground as if you were looking for your father laid in the earth: for vailed, cp. M. V. i. 1. 28, "Vailing her high-top lower than her ribs."

74. nature, this temporary existence in the natural world.

75. 'tis common, the occurrence of death is something that all equally share; all that lives, everything that has life.

77. Why seems ... thee? why do you behave as though it were something special to you?

80. Nor customary ... black, nor the usual sombre dress of mourners; solemn, literally yearly, occurring annually like a religious rite.

81. Nor windy ... breath, nor the forced sighs of insincere grief; windy, used in the contemptuous sense of that which has nothing real in it; so, of words, R. III. iv. 4. 127, "Windy attorneys to their client woes."

82. the fruitful river... eye, the tears always ready to fall so copiously; cp, A. C. ii. 5. 24, "Ram thou thy fruitful tidings in mine ears."

83. 'haviour, for examples of dropped prefixes, see Abb, § 460.

84. modes, methods of displaying grief externally [some texts have moods]: shapes, external semblances.

87. passeth show, goes beyond, is incapable of being represented by, any outward demonstration.

88. trappings, ornamental appendages: cp. T. N. v. 1, 10, "Duke. Belong you to the Lady Olivia, friends? Clown. Ay, sir; we are some of her trappings", originally, and in a literal sense always, applied to the ornaments of a horse, such as plates of metal, handsome cloths, etc. Malone compares R. II. iv. 1. 295-8.

87. commendable, probably with the accent on the first syllable, as in Cor. iv. 7. 51, though Abbott (§ 490), in order to avoid the Alexandrine, scans the line "'Tis sweet and | commend | able in | your nat | ure, Hamlet."

88. To give, we should now say 'to pay.'

89. you must know, you must bear in mind.

90. That father ... bound, that father who was lost by your father, lost his father; and the survivor in each case was bound, etc. For the ellipsis in bound, the Cl. Pr. Edd. compare iii. 3. 62.

91. In filial obligation, by the duty he owed as a son.

92. obsequious sorrow, sorrow usual to show at the funeral of some one dear; cp, T. A. v. 3. 152, "To shed obsequious tears upon this trunk"; and for the substantive in the same sense, R. J. v. 3. 16, "The obsequies that I for thee will keep Nightly shall be to strew thy grave and weep"; obsequies. Lat. obsequiae, funeral rites, literally followings after (a dead body); persever, with the accent on the second syllable, as always in Shakespeare.

93. condolement, sorrow for the dead; nowadays we use the verb 'condole' only in the sense of expressing sympathy in sorrow, but in Elizabethan English it is often used as = mourn.

94. impious, in not showing resignation to the divine will.

95. incorrect to heaven, which refuses to bow to the correction, chastisement of heaven, as shown in the bereavement.

96. unfortified, not fortified by the consolations of religion: impatient, rebellious against the sufferings which it should bear with due submission.

97. simple, foolish, ignorant; unschool'd, that has not learnt the lessons which a wise man would lay to heart.

98. what, that which; must be, must happen.

99. As any ... sense, as anything the most palpable to sense; for instances of the transposition of adjectival phrases, see Abb. § 419 a. Francke compares Cymb. i. 4. 65, "any the rarest of our ladies in France"; H. VIII. ii. 4. 48, "was reckon'd one The wisest prince that there had reigned."

100. peevish, childishly querulous; fretful.

101. Take it to heart, cherish it as a wrong done to us: to heaven, towards, against, heaven.

102. nature, that organization to which we belong, are a part of.

103. To reason most absurd, showing an utter deafness to the voice of reason; absurd, from Lat. ab, from, and surdus, deaf; for 'who,' personifying an irrational antecedent, see Abb. § 264.

104. still, ever, constantly.

105. till he, up to the time of him; till, here a preposition; for he, = him, see Abb. § 206.

106. throw to earth, completely cast from you.

107. unprevailing, unavailing; Malone quotes Dryden, Essay on Dramatic Literature, "He may often prevail himself of the same advantages in English." Cp. also R. J. iii. 3. 60, "It helps not, it prevails not": H. V. iii. 2. 16, "If wishes should prevail with me. "

108, 9. for let ... throne, for I call all men to witness my declaration that I regard you as next in succession to the throne. Succession to the throne of Denmark seems to have been elective, though, as appears from the last scene of the play, the recommendation of the previous occupant went for something in the election, and here the king is in effect pronouncing such recommendation beforehand.

110. with no ... love, with a love as full of generous feeling.

111. dearest, fondly loving and beloved.

112. Do I impart toward you, Delius is probably right in thinking that Shakespeare having forgotten, owing to the intermediate clause, that he had written with no less, intended no less nobility of love to be the object of impart; For your intent, as regards, etc.

113. to school, not necessarily in the sense in which we should now use the phrase, Wittenberg being a university. Of course, the mention of Wittenberg is an anachronism, the university not having been founded until A.D. 1502.

114. retrograde, opposed to: literally going back from; an astrological term. Tschischwitz says that when planets were retrograde, going away from the earth's orbit, they were, under certain circumstances, supposed to be hostile to human plans.

115. bend you, incline your mind.

116. in the cheer ... eye, cheered and comforted by our gracious looks; cheer, properly the face, look, as in M. S. D. iii. 2. 96, "pale of cheer," from O. F. chere, chiere, the face, look.

117. chiefest, highest in rank and importance: cousin, in the vocative case.

118. lose, throw them away.

120. I shall best, I promise that I will to the best of my ability; shall, see Abb. 315.

121. Why, 'tis ... reply, well, you could not have answered us in more affectionate and gracious terms.

122. as ourself, i.e. enjoying the same privileges and honours.

123. accord. promise in harmony with our wishes.

124. Sits ... heart, nestles close to my heart, and smiles upon it; i.e. is very dear to my heart, and cheers it by its presence. There is the twofold idea of an object being hugged to the heart, and of that object smiling upon the heart that thus gives it welcome: in grace whereof, and in order to mark my gratitude by doing honour to your concession; grace, honour, as in M. N. D. iv. 1. 139, "Came here in grace, of our solemnity," is probably here used with a reference also to the saying of grace after meals for blessings bestowed.

125. jocund health, joyous toasts to the health of some person: Denmark, I, the king of Denmark.

126. But the great ... tell, shall be drunk without the cannon announcing it to, etc.

127. rouse, "a drinking-bout ...— Swed. rus, a drunken fit ... That we got the word from Denmark is shown by a curious quotation in Todd's Johnson: 'Thou noblest drunkard Bacchus, teach me how to take the Danish rowza'; Brand's Pop. Antiq. ii. 228" (Skeat, Ety. Dict): bruit again, re-echo with loud report; bruit, F. bruit, a great noise, bruire (verb).

128. Re-speaking earthly thunder, the skies echoing the report of the cannon as with heavenly thunder.

129. this ... flesh, Moberly remarks, "The base affinities of our nature are always present to Hamlet's mind. Here he thinks of the body as hiding from us the freshness, life, and nobleness of God's creation" ...

130. resolve, dissolve; but usually in this sense with the idea of dissolving back into the original constituents. Cp. Tim. iv. 3. 442. "The sea's a thief, whose liquid surge resolves The moon into salt tears."

132. His canon 'gainst self-slaughter, his ordinance forbidding suicide; an ordinance not laid down in Scripture except in the general one against murder.

133. stale, vapid; flat, tasteless, as liquor becomes after standing uncovered for some time.

134. uses, manners, ways, doings: cp. Oth. iv. 3. 105, "heaven me such uses send, Not to pick bad from bad, but by bad mend!"

135, 6. 'tis an ... seed, the world seems to me as a garden in which no care is taken to hoe up the weeds, and in which the plants are left to run to seed (and so become worthless) instead of having their exuberant growth checked by pruning. Cp. R. II. iii. 4. 34-66, where a garden is likened to a commonwealth.

136. things ... nature, things which for want of proper attention have become rank and gross in nature.

137. merely, completely; "Merely (from the Latin merus and mere) means purely, only. It separates that which it designates or qualifies from everything else. But in so doing the chief or most emphatic reference may be made either to that which is included, or to that which is excluded. In modern English it is always to the latter; by 'merely upon myself' [J. C. i. 2. 39] we should now mean upon nothing else except myself; the nothing else is that which makes the merely prominent.

In Shakespeare's day the other reference was the more common, that namely to what was included; and 'merely upon myself' meant upon myself altogether, or without regard to anything else. Myself was that which the merely made prominent. So when Hamlet speaking of the world, says, 'Things rank and gross in nature possess it merely,' he by the merely brings the possession before the mind and characterizes it as complete and absolute; but by the same term now the prominence would be given to something else from which the possession might be conceived to be separable; 'possess it merely would mean have nothing beyond simply the possession of it (have, it might be, no right to it, or no enjoyment of it). It is not necessaiy that that which is included, though thus emphasized, should therefore be more definitely conceived than that with which it is contrasted" ... (Craik, Eng. of Shakespeare, 45). That it ... this! to think that matters should have come to such a scandalous pitch! what a horrible idea!

138. But, only.

139. to this, when compared to the present king.

141. Hyperion to a satyr, what the god of day is to a creature half goat, half man. The penultimate in Hyperion is long in Greek, but English poets from Spenser to modern times have disregarded this fact.

141. That he ... beteem, that he would not allow.

142. Visit, for the omission of to before the infinitive, see Abb. 349.

143. Must I remember? can I not put such thoughts out of my head? must they ever be present there? hang on him, cling to him in fond embrace.

144, 5. As If ... on, as if her loving desire had been made more eager by its mere satisfaction; been strengthened by the food of love it had enjoyed.

146. Let me ... on 't, oh, that I could forget it! Frailty... woman, if we wished to give frailty a descriptive name, no better one could be chosen than 'woman.'

147. A little month, a short month; scarcely a month: or ere, a reduplication, or, in this phrase, = before, from A.S. aer, ere: shoes. Ingleby would read 'shows. '

145. follow d, sc. to the grave.

149. Niobe, daughter of Tantalus, and wife of Amphion. Proud of the number of her children, she boasted her superiority over Leto, mother of Apollo and Artemis, who, indignant at the insult, slew all her children; she herself, according to one tradition, being changed by Zeus at her own request into a stone, which during the summer always shed tears: all tears, a very impersonation of grief.

150. that wants ... reason, that lacks the power of reasoning, the reasoning faculty; cp. T. C. ii. 2. 116, "So madly hot that no discourse of reason ... Can qualify the same?"; and below, iv. 4. 36.

152. but no more ... father, but, though so closely akin in blood, no more akin in disposition to, etc.

154. Ere yet ... tears, even before the salt tears which, with such intention in her mind, were a mere profanation of sorrow, etc.

155. Had left ... eyes, had ceased to flush her eyes with "eye-offending brine" (T. N. i. 1. 30); flushing is here the verbal, and the verb is still used transitively in such expressions as 'to flush the deck," 'to flush the sewers,' meaning to cleanse by dashing water upon or through; for galled, cp. below, iii. 2. 235; the verb means to rub a sore place.

156. to post, to hurry at full speed; from post, a runner, messenger.

157. With such dexterity, so quickly and cleverly. There seems to be here the idea of that combined nimbleness and ingenuity which is essential to success in tricks performed by sleight of hand; not only did she swiftly transfer her affections from one brother to the other, but she showed in doing so a cunning regard to her own interests: incestuous, originally meaning nothing more than unchaste, but used specially of alliances within the forbidden degrees of relationship.

158. nor it cannot, the emphatic double negative, frequent in Shakespeare.

160. Hail, literally health, A.S. hael, health; a common salutation.

161. or do ... myself? or am I making some mistake in fancying you to be Horatio?

162. poor, humble.

163. I'll change ... you, probably exchange that name with you, calling you friend and expecting you to call me so in return, rather than, as Johnson explains, "I'll be your servant, and you shall be my friend."

164. what ... Wittenberg? what are you doing here away from Wittenberg (where you ought to be)?

167. Good even, sir, Grant White, the Camb. Ed., and Hudson, take this as addressed to Bernardo.

168. But what ... Wittenberg, but tell me truly what has brought you all the way from Wittenberg.

169. A truant disposition, an idle, roving nature; F. truand, rascally, roguish: good my lord, for the transposition of the pronominal adjective, see Abb. § 13.

170. hear ... so, stand by and hear your enemy say so without defending you against his charge. 171. that, such; see Abb. § 277.

172,3. To make ... yourself, as to make it believe your own report when it is one defaming yourself.

175. We'll teach ... depart, if we cannot do anything else, we will at all events teach, etc. See note on i. 4. 19.

179. hard upon, closely after.

180. Thrift, thrift, pretending to excuse the unseemly haste of the marriage, Hamlet says that was but economy, nothing else: the funeral baked meats, the dishes cooked for the funeral ceremony; the custom of entertaining the relations and friends of deceased persons after the funeral. Douce traces the custom to the cena feralis of the Romans, at which milk, honey, wine, etc., were offered to the spirit of the dead person. Cp. The Old Law, iv. 1. 35-7, "Besides, there will be charges saved too; the same rosemary that serves for the funeral will serve for the wedding."

181. Did coldly ... tables, served, when cold, for the wedding feast; with a play upon coldly.

182. Would I ... heaven, I would rather have met my worst enemy in heaven (instead of his being in hell where I should wish him to be); dearest foe, "'dear' is used of whatever touches us nearly either in love or hate, joy or sorrow" ... (Cl. Pr. Ed.).

183. Or ever, before ever; ever emphasizing the wish.

185. in my mind's eye, Steevens compares Lucr. 1426, "Was left unseen, save to the eye of mind."

186. goodly, fine-looking.

187, 8. He was ... again, he was a man whose equal, looking at him in all his characteristics, I shall never see again; take him, if one regards him; for all in all, for everything about him in every respect; an emphatic way of speaking = in his entirety.

190. Saw? who? both words emphatic; what do you mean by saying you saw him? and whom do you mean by him? Many editors read 'Saw who?', and 'who' for 'whom' is frequently used by Shakespeare.

192,3. Season ... ear, let your wonder be mixed with, qualified by, attention for a time; for season, cp. ii. 1. 28, below; admiration, always used by Shakespeare either as 'wonder' simply, or as 'wonder mingled with veneration,' and so more in accordance with its original sense; attent, attentive; not elsewhere in Shakespeare: deliver, relate.

194. Upon ... gentlemen, resting upon the evidence of these gentlemen which will hear out what I have to say.

197. on their watch, while keeping their watch.

198. In the dead ... the night, in the silent vacancy of midnight; vast, "applied to the darkness of midnight in which the prospect is not bounded in by distinct objects" (Schmidt); cp. Temp. i. 2. 327, "that vast of night." Malone sees a pun here upon vast, or waste, as the folios read, and waist, comparing Marston's Malcontent, ii. 3. 153, "'Tis now about the waist of midnight"; but it is much more probable that Marston, who in that play repeatedly burlesques or parodies passages in Hamlet, should have seized upon this expression in order to pun upon it.

200. Armed at point exactly, in armour complete to the smallest particular; the folios read 'at all points,' as in R. II. i. 3. 2; in Lear, i. 4. 347, "to let hiin keep at point a hundred knights," and Macb. iv. 3. 135, "with ten thousand warlike men Already at a point," the meaning is 'in complete readiness'; cap-a-pe, from head to foot; F. a pied, a being the preposition = to.

202. Goes ... them, passes in front of them in slow and stately manner; slow and stately, adverbs.

204. Within ... length, less than the length of his truncheon away from them; truncheon, short staff, a symbol of kingly (or other) office; what in R. II. i. 3. 118, is called the king's 'warder'; whilst, the genitive case of while, time, used adverbially, with an excrescent t, as in amongst, amidst.

204, 5. distill'd ... fear, dissolved almost into a jelly by the action of fear upon them; i.e. with beads of sweat falling from their foreheads, like jelly melting; unless there is a reference to the tremulous nature of jelly, and its being allowed to drip through a flannel bag when being made; cp. T. A. iii. 1. 17, "with rain That shall distill from these two ancient urns," i.e. his eyes; act, cp. 0th. iii. 3. 328, "poisons Which ... with a little act upon the blood, Burn like the mines of sulphur."

207. dreadful, terror-stricken; impart they did, "this inversion gives formality and solemnity to the speaker's words" (Cl. Pr. Ed.).

209-11. Where, ... comes, and to that spot (sc. where we were keeping watch) the apparition comes at the very time of night and in the very shape described by them, every particular of their narrative being substantiated.

212. These hands ... like, these two hands of mine (holding them up) being not more like each other than was the figure like your father.

214. Did you ... it? you surely did not allow it to pass without questioning it? Steevens has a long note to show, what seems apparent enough, that speak not you is the emphatic word.

216. it head, the first quarto gives 'his head'; it, an early provincial form, = its, occurs in the first folio in fourteen passages; in some of these it is used either in imitation of the language of children, or in a mocking, derisive sense, but in others no such idea is present. Rolfe remarks, "The simple fact is, that Shakespeare wrote in the early part of that transitional period when its was beginning to displace his and her as the possessive of it, and that just at that time the form it and it's were more common than its, though this last was occasionally used even before the end of the 16th century."

216, 7. and did ... speak, and prepared to speak, as shown by the moving of its lips, made as though it would speak; address, made ready, ultimately from Lat. directus, straight; for motion, cp. i. H. IV. ii. 3. 63, "And in thy face strange motions (i.e. contortions) have appeared, Such as we see when men restrain their breath On some great sudden hest"; like ... speak, i.e. just as it would do if it were about to speak ('if being implied in the subjunctive), would now be accounted a vulgarism.

218. even then, at that very instant; on the difference of emphasis in the use of even, between Elizabethan and modern English, see Abb. § 38.

219. shrunk, i.e. into thin air.

221. As I do live, as surely as I live.

222. writ ... duty, laid down among the items of our duty, as though they had a scroll with the different particulars enumerated; for the curtailed form of the participle, see Abb. § 343.

224. Indeed ... me, assuredly this troubles me; literally, assuredly this does not do anything except trouble me.

226. Arm'd, say you? said with reference to the ghost.

228. beaver, "the lower portion of the face-guard of a helmet, when worn with a visor; but occasionally serving the purposes of both. M. E. baviere O.F. baviere, originally a child's bib, f. bave, saliva" (Murray, Eng. Dict).

230. A countenance ... anger, the expression of his features was that of sorrow rather than anger.

233. constantly, persistently, without taking them off our faces.

234. amazed, bewildered; a-, A.S. intensive prefix.

238. grizzled, of greyish colour; F. gris, grey: no? seems to be said by Hamlet on Horatio shaking his head in dissent.

240. A sable silver'd, a black beard with threads of silver in it; op. Sonn. xii. 4, "And sable curls all silver'd o'er with white"; and in proof that Shakespeare used sable for black, cp. below, ii. 2. 428, "he whose sable arms Black as his purpose." Sable, an animal of the weasel kind, the most highly prized fur of which is black; so sable in blazonry means black.

242. assume ... person, present itself in the form of my father; assume, take upon it, but without any idea of its doing so without right.

243, 4. though hell ... peace, though hell, by opening at my feet, should endeavour to deter me from speaking. Staunton thinks that gape perhaps means yell, howl, roar.

246. Let it ... still, let it be a thing about which you find it still possible to keep silence; tenable, not elsewhere used by Shakespeare.

247. hap, happen.

248. Give it ... tongue, take it well into your minds, let it impress itself firmly upon your minds, but do not utter a word about it.

249. requite, "The word ought rather to be requit ... But just as quite occurs as a variant of quit, so requite is put for requit."

251. Our duty to your honour, we assure your honour (used as a title) of our loyal obedience.

252. Your loves, i.e. it is your affection, not your duty, that I desire, just as it is affection that I feel towards you.

253. in arms! not merely, or so much, that the ghost appears clad in armour, but that it has risen to avenge some injury: all is not well, some wrong has evidently been perpetrated. Hitherto Hamlet, though vigorously condemning his mother's haste in re-marrying, especially as her choice is a so unworthy one, and pouring contempt upon his uncle, has had no suspicion of foul play.

254. doubt, suspect.

255, 6. foul deeds ... eyes, foul deeds will reveal themselves to men's eyes, however thoroughly they may appear to be hidden; cp. Macb. iii. 4. 123-6,

"Stones have been known to move and trees to speak;
Augurs and understood relations have
By magot pies and choughs and rooks brought forth
The secret 'st man of blood."

Corson doubts whether to men's eyes should be connected with rise or with o'erwhelm them.

How to cite the explanatory notes:
Shakespeare, William. Hamlet, prince of Denmark. Ed. K. Deighton. London: Macmillan, 1919. Shakespeare Online. 20 Feb. 2010. < >.
How to cite the scene review questions:
Mabillard, Amanda. Hamlet: Scene Questions for Review. Shakespeare Online. 27 Nov. 2013. < >.

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Scene Questions for Review

microsoft images 1. How does Claudius reveal his strong leadership abilities in this scene?

2. How should the courtiers be dressed?

3. How does this compare to the way Hamlet is dressed (in his nighted colour).

4. Claudius discusses four pressing matters with his court: the state of Denmark, the business with Norway, Laertes' request to return to France, and Hamlet's request to return to Wittenberg. Explain the significance of each.

5. Why would Claudius not want Hamlet to return to Wittenberg?

6. How is this scene connected to Scene 1?

7. Scholar Horace Howard Furness believes the final lines of the scene perfectly explain Hamlet. Do you agree?


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Points to Ponder ... Hamlet's passionate first soliloquy (line 129) provides a striking contrast to the controlled and artificial dialogue that he must exchange with Claudius and his court. The primary function of the soliloquy is to reveal to the audience Hamlet's profound melancholia and the reasons for his despair. In a disjointed outpouring of disgust, anger, sorrow, and grief, Hamlet explains that, without exception, everything in his world is either futile or contemptible. His speech is saturated with suggestions of rot and corruption, as seen in the basic usage of words like "rank" and "gross", and in the metaphor associating the world with "an unweeded garden." Read on...


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Soliloquy Analysis: O, what a rogue and peasant slave am I!... (2.2)
Soliloquy Analysis: To be, or not to be... (3.1)
Soliloquy Analysis: Tis now the very witching time of night... (3.2)
Soliloquy Analysis: Now might I do it pat... (3.3)
Soliloquy Analysis: How all occasions do inform against me... (4.4)

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Did You Know? ... The Theatre was the first London playhouse, built in 1576 by the English actor and entrepreneur James Burbage, father of the great actor and friend of Shakespeare, Richard Burbage. It was located in a northern suburb of London (north of London Wall which bounded the city proper); on the edge of Finsbury Fields, just past Bishopsgate Street, where Shakespeare called home up to 1597. Read on...


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