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William Shakespeare (1564–1616). The Oxford Shakespeare. 1914.

Act I. Scene IV.

Hamlet, Prince of Denmark

The Platform.


Ham.The air bites shrewdly; it is very cold.

Hor.It is a nipping and an eager air.

Ham.What hour now?

Hor.I think it lacks of twelve.

Mar.No, it is struck.

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

Wherein the spirit held his wont to walk.[A flourish of trumpets, and ordnance shot off, within.

What does this mean, my lord?

Ham.The king doth wake to-night and takes his rouse,

Keeps wassail, and the swaggering up-spring reels;

And, as he drains his draughts of Rhenish down,

The kettle-drum and trumpet thus bray out

The triumph of his pledge.

Hor.Is it a custom?

Ham.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

Makes us traduc’d and tax’d of other nations;

They clepe 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.

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’er-leavens

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,

Shall in the general censure take corruption

From that particular fault: the dram of eale

Doth all the noble substance of a doubt,

To his own scandal.

Enter GHOST.

Hor.Look, my lord, it comes.

Ham.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,

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

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,

That thou, dead corse, again in complete steel

Revisit’st 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?[The Ghost beckons HAMLET.

Hor.It beckons you to go away with it,

As if it some impartment did desire

To you alone.

Mar.Look, with what courteous action

It waves you to a more removed ground:

But do not go with it.

Hor.No, by no means.

Ham.It will not speak; then, will I follow it.

Hor.Do not, my lord.

Ham.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?

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

Hor.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.

Ham.It waves me still. Go on, I’ll follow thee.

Mar.You shall not go, my lord.

Ham.Hold off your hands!

Hor.Be rul’d; you shall not go.

Ham.My fate cries out,

And makes each petty artery in this body

As hardy as the Nemean lion’s nerve.[Ghost beckons.

Still am I call’d. Unhand me, gentlemen,[Breaking from them.

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.

Hor.He waxes desperate with imagination.

Mar.Let’s follow; ’tis not fit thus to obey him.

Hor.Have after. To what issue will this come?

Mar.Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.

Hor.Heaven will direct it.

Mar.Nay, let’s follow him.[Exeunt.