Hamlet: Act 1, Scene 2

Flourish: trumpet call announcing the arrival of the King and his entourage.
           Flourish. Enter CLAUDIUS, KING OF
           HAMLET, Councilors, POLONIUS and

cum aliis: with others. Everyone would want to be in court on this important occasion.
           his son LAERTES, cum aliis [including
           VOLTEMAND and CORNELIUS].

1. our: King Claudius uses the royal "we" ...more
  1   Though yet of Hamlet our dear brother's death
2. green: fresh. it us befitted: it would be entirely befitting for us.
  2   The memory be green, and that it us befitted
  3   To bear our hearts in grief and our whole kingdom
4. contracted in one brow of woe: knitted in a single woeful brow.
  4   To be contracted in one brow of woe,
  5   Yet so far hath discretion fought with nature
  6   That we with wisest sorrow think on him,
7. remembrance of ourselves: i.e., due consideration of my own concerns. 8. sometime sister: former sister-in-law.
  7   Together with remembrance of ourselves.
  8   Therefore our sometime sister, now our queen,
9. jointress: i.e., joint holder of royal authority.
  9   The imperial jointress to this warlike state,
10. defeated: subdued.
 10   Have we, as 'twere with a defeated joy,
11. auspicious: cheerful, hopeful.  dropping: mournful, weeping.
 11   With an auspicious and a dropping eye,
 12   With mirth in funeral and with dirge in marriage,
 13   In equal scale weighing delight and dole,
14-15. nor ... wisdoms: i.e., in doing this (marrying Gertrude) I have not ignored your wise advice. 15. freely: fully, without reservation.
 14   Taken to wife: nor have we herein barr'd
 15   Your better wisdoms, which have freely gone
 16   With this affair along. For all, our thanks.
17. Now follows that you know: the next order of business is that you be informed that. 18. Holding a weak supposal of our worth: having a low and mistaken estimate of our readiness and courage.
 17   Now follows that you know young Fortinbras,
 18   Holding a weak supposal of our worth,
 19   Or thinking by our late dear brother's death
 20   Our state to be disjoint and out of frame,
21. Colleagued with: allied with.  dream of his advantage: fantasy that he will be successful. 22. He  . . .  message: i.e., he is always pestering us ...more 23. Importing: pertaining to....more 24. with all bands of law: in accordance with legally binding contracts.
 21   Colleagued with this dream of his advantage,
 22   He hath not fail'd to pester us with message,
 23   Importing the surrender of those lands
 24   Lost by his father, with all bands of law,
 25   To our most valiant brother. So much for him.
 26   Now for ourself and for this time of meeting:
 27   Thus much the business is: we have here writ
 28   To Norway, uncle of young Fortinbras—
29. impotent and bed-rid: feeble and bedridden.
 29   Who, impotent and bed-rid, scarcely hears
 30   Of this his nephew's purpose—to suppress
31. gait: proceeding. 31-33. in that the levies ... Out of his subject: i.e., since all of Fortinbras' troops and supplies have been drawn from the subjects of the King of Norway.
 31   His further gait herein; in that the levies,
 32   The lists and full proportions, are all made
 33   Out of his subject: and we here dispatch
 34   You, good Cornelius, and you, Voltemand,
 35   For bearers of this greeting to old Norway;
 36   Giving to you no further personal power
 37   To business with the king, more than the scope
38. delated articles: detailed instructions.
 38   Of these delated articles allow.

           [Giving a paper.]

39. commend: praise. Perhaps the ambassadors were about to say a few words about their duty to the king, but he tells them that the best way to show their duty is to be quick about carrying out his instructions.
 39   Farewell, and let your haste commend your duty.

 40   In that and all things will we show our duty.

41. nothing: not at all.
 41   We doubt it nothing: heartily farewell.

           [Exeunt VOLTEMAND and CORNELIUS.]

 42   And now, Laertes, what's the news with you?
43. suit: petition, request.
 43   You told us of some suit; what is't, Laertes?
44. You cannot speak of reason to the Dane, / And lose your voice: you cannot make any reasonable request to the Danish king and waste your breath.
 44   You cannot speak of reason to the Dane,
 45   And lose your voice: what wouldst thou beg, Laertes,
 46   That shall not be my offer, not thy asking?
47. native: closely related.
 47   The head is not more native to the heart,
48. instrumental: serviceable.
 48   The hand more instrumental to the mouth,
 49   Than is the throne of Denmark to thy father.
 50   What wouldst thou have, Laertes?

 50                                                   My dread lord,
51. leave: permission.
 51   Your leave and favor to return to France;
 52   From whence though willingly I came to Denmark,
 53   To show my duty in your coronation,
 54   Yet now, I must confess, that duty done,
 55   My thoughts and wishes bend again toward France
56. leave: permission to depart.  pardon: i.e., as in "I beg your pardon." As a member of the court, Laertes has a duty to attend on the king.
 56   And bow them to your gracious leave and pardon.

 57   Have you your father's leave? What says Polonius?

58. H'ath: he has.  slow leave: permission given reluctantly.
 58   H'ath, my lord, wrung from me my slow leave
 59   By laborsome petition, and at last
60. I seal'd: I gave my stamp of approval.  hard: reluctant.
 60   Upon his will I seal'd my hard consent:
 61   I do beseech you, give him leave to go.

 62   Take thy fair hour, Laertes; time be thine,
 63   And thy best graces spend it at thy will!
64. cousin: kinsman. "Cousin" was used of cousins, nephews, nieces, uncles, amd aunts. son: i.e., stepson.
 64   But now, my cousin Hamlet, and my son—

65. A little more than kin, and less than kind: i.e., I am more kin to you than before, since I am now both your nephew and your stepson; and, at the same time, I am no kin to you in natural feelings or affection. This statement is so insulting that editors sometimes mark it as an aside.
 65   A little more than kin, and less than kind.

 66   How is it that the clouds still hang on you?

67. I am too much i' the sun: (1) I am too much in the sunshine of your royal favor; (2) You have called me "son" once too often.
 67   Not so, my lord; I am too much i' the sun.

 68   Good Hamlet, cast thy nighted color off,
69. Denmark: i.e., the King of Denmark. Gertrude is pleading with her son to be nice to her new husband ...more 70. vailèd: downcast.
 69   And let thine eye look like a friend on Denmark.
 70   Do not for ever with thy vailèd lids
 71   Seek for thy noble father in the dust:
72 - 74. common . . . common: Queen Gertrude means that death is a common (general, universal) occurrence. Hamlet's reply probably uses the word "common" in another sense; he seems to mean that what she says is "common" because it is a vulgar cliché. She wants him to get over his feelings of grief about his father's death; he probably means that she is being unfeeling and stupid — "common."
 72   Thou know'st 'tis common; all that lives must die,
 73   Passing through nature to eternity.

 74   Ay, madam, it is common.

 74                                           If it be,
75. particular: individual, personal.
 75   Why seems it so particular with thee?

 76   Seems, madam! nay it is; I know not "seems."
 77   'Tis not alone my inky cloak, good mother,
 78   Nor customary suits of solemn black,
79. suspiration: sighing.
 79   Nor windy suspiration of forced breath,
80. fruitful river in the eye: i.e., copious river of tears.
81. havior of the visage: behavior, expression, of the face.
 80   No, nor the fruitful river in the eye,
 81   Nor the dejected havior of the visage,
 82   Together with all forms, moods, shapes of grief,
 83   That can denote me truly: these indeed seem,
84. play: act, pretend.
 84   For they are actions that a man might play:
 85   But I have that within which passeth show;
86. These: i.e., black clothing, sighs, tears, and "all forms, moods, shapes of grief."  but the trappings and the suits: only the ornaments and the clothes.
 86   These but the trappings and the suits of woe.

 87   'Tis sweet and commendable in your nature, Hamlet,
 88   To give these mourning duties to your father:
 89   But, you must know, your father lost a father;
 90   That father lost, lost his, and the survivor bound
 91   In filial obligation for some term
92. obsequious: proper to obsequies, the formalities of funerals.  persever: persevere. 93. condolement: expressions of sorrow.  ...more 94. impious: King Claudius calls Hamlet "impious" because Hamlet's ...more 95. a will most incorrect to heaven: a rebellious will.
 92   To do obsequious sorrow: but to persever
 93   In obstinate condolement is a course
 94   Of impious stubbornness; 'tis unmanly grief;
 95   It shows a will most incorrect to heaven,
 96   A heart unfortified, a mind impatient,
 97   An understanding simple and unschool'd:
 98   For what we know must be and is as common
99. any the most vulgar thing to sense: i.e., what is the most obvious to common sense
 99   As any the most vulgar thing to sense,
100   Why should we in our peevish opposition
101   Take it to heart? Fie! 'tis a fault to heaven,
102   A fault against the dead, a fault to nature,
103. absurd: contrary.
103   To reason most absurd: whose common theme
104   Is death of fathers, and who still hath cried,
105. corse: corpse.
105   From the first corse till he that died to-day,
106   "This must be so." We pray you, throw to earth
107. unprevailing: unavailing, useless.
107   This unprevailing woe, and think of us
108   As of a father: for let the world take note,
109. the most immediate to our throne: i.e., the one who will inherit my position as King of Denmark.
109   You are the most immediate to our throne;
110   And with no less nobility of love
111. dearest: most loving.
111   Than that which dearest father bears his son,
112. impart toward you: bestow upon you.
112   Do I impart toward you. For your intent
113. Wittenberg: A famous university in Germany.
113   In going back to school in Wittenberg,
114. retrograde: contrary.
114   It is most retrograde to our desire:
115. bend you: commit yourself.
115   And we beseech you, bend you to remain
116   Here, in the cheer and comfort of our eye,
117   Our chiefest courtier, cousin, and our son.

118. prayers: earnest requests.
118   Let not thy mother lose her prayers, Hamlet:
119   I pray thee, stay with us; go not to Wittenberg.

120   I shall in all my best obey you, madam.

121. fair: pleasing, comely.
121   Why, 'tis a loving and a fair reply:
122   Be as ourself in Denmark. Madam, come;
123   This gentle and unforced accord of Hamlet
124   Sits smiling to my heart: in grace whereof,
125. jocund: joyful, merry.
125   No jocund health that Denmark drinks today,
126   But the great cannon to the clouds shall tell,
127. rouse: bumper, draft of liquor.  bruit again: i.e., echo loudly.
127   And the king's rouse the heavens shall bruit again,
128   Respeaking earthly thunder. Come away.

           Flourish. Exeunt all but HAMLET.

129. solid: In Q2, ...more
129   O, that this too too solid flesh would melt,
130. resolve: i.e., transform.
130   Thaw and resolve itself into a dew!
131   Or that the Everlasting had not fix'd
132. canon: law.
132   His canon 'gainst self-slaughter! O God! God!
133   How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable,
134. uses: customs.
134   Seem to me all the uses of this world!
135   Fie on't! ah fie! 'tis an unweeded garden,
136   That grows to seed; things rank and gross in nature
137. merely: completely, utterly.
137   Possess it merely. That it should come to this!
138   But two months dead: nay, not so much, not two:
139. to: in comparison with.
139   So excellent a king; that was, to this,
140. Hyperion: In Greek mythology, the sun god, ...more 141. beteem: allow.
140   Hyperion to a satyr; so loving to my mother
141   That he might not beteem the winds of heaven
142   Visit her face too roughly. Heaven and earth!
143   Must I remember? why, she would hang on him,
144   As if increase of appetite had grown
145   By what it fed on: and yet, within a month—
146   Let me not think on't—Frailty, thy name is woman!—
147   A little month, or ere those shoes were old
148   With which she follow'd my poor father's body,
149. Niobe: Figure of Greek mythology who wept endlessly for her dead children. 150. wants discourse of reason: lacks the power of reason.
149   Like Niobe, all tears:—why she, even she—
150   O, God! a beast, that wants discourse of reason,
151   Would have mourn'd longer—married with my uncle,
152   My father's brother, but no more like my father
153. Hercules: mythological superhero.
153   Than I to Hercules: within a month:
154. unrighteous: i.e., hypocritical.
154   Ere yet the salt of most unrighteous tears
155. flushing: redness.  galled: inflamed.
155   Had left the flushing in her galled eyes,
156. post: hurry, rush.
156   She married. O, most wicked speed, to post
157. incestuous: Many in Shakespeare's time regarded the marriage of a man to his brother's widow as incestuous.
157   With such dexterity to incestuous sheets!
158   It is not nor it cannot come to good:
159   But break, my heart; for I must hold my tongue.

           Enter HORATIO, MARCELLUS,
           and BARNARDO.

160   Hail to your lordship!

160                                      I am glad to see you well:
161   Horatio!—or I do forget myself.

162   The same, my lord, and your poor servant ever.

163. change: exchange. ...more
163   Sir, my good friend; I'll change that name with you:
164. what make you from: what are you doing away from.  Wittenberg: Wittenberg is a famous university in Germany.
164   And what make you from Wittenberg, Horatio?
165   —Marcellus.

166   My good lord.

167   I am very glad to see you. [To Barnardo] Good even, sir.—

           [To Horatio.]

168   But what, in faith, make you from Wittenberg?

169. truant disposition: inclination to play truant.
169   A truant disposition, good my lord.

170. I would not hear your enemy say so: I would refuse to listen to your enemy say as you have said.
170   I would not hear your enemy say so,
171   Nor shall you do mine ear that violence,
172   To make it truster of your own report
173   Against yourself: I know you are no truant.
174   But what is your affair in Elsinore?
175   We'll teach you to drink deep ere you depart.

176   My lord, I came to see your father's funeral.

177   I pray thee, do not mock me, fellow-student;
178   I think it was to see my mother's wedding.

179. hard upon.: close behind.
179   Indeed, my lord, it followed hard upon.

180. baked meats: pastries.
180   Thrift, thrift, Horatio! the funeral baked meats
181. coldly: 1) when cold;  2) without feeling.
181   Did coldly furnish forth the marriage tables.
182. dearest: direst; most intensely hated.
182   Would I had met my dearest foe in heaven
183. Or ever I had seen that day: before I had ever seen that day.
183   Or ever I had seen that day, Horatio!
184   My father!—methinks I see my father.

185   Where, my lord?

185                                In my mind's eye, Horatio.

186. 'A: he.
186   I saw him once. 'A was a goodly king.

187   'A was a man, take him for all in all,
188   I shall not look upon his like again.

189   My lord, I think I saw him yesternight.

190   Saw? who?

191   My lord, the king your father.

191                                                The king my father!

192. Season: calm down, restrain.  admiration: wonder, astonishment. 193. attent: attentive.  deliver: report.
192   Season your admiration for a while
193   With an attent ear, till I may deliver,
194. Upon the witness of these gentlemen: i.e., confirmed by what Marcellus and Barnardo have witnessed.
194   Upon the witness of these gentlemen,
195   This marvel to you.

195                                     For God's love, let me hear.

196   Two nights together had these gentlemen,
197   Marcellus and Barnardo, on their watch,
198. waste: emptiness.
198   In the dead waste and middle of the night,
199   Been thus encount'red: A figure like your father,
200. Armed at point exactly, cap-a-pe: armed [as your father was] exactly in every way, from head to foot.
200   Armed at point exactly, cap-a-pe,
201   Appears before them, and with solemn march
202   Goes slow and stately by them: thrice he walk'd
203. By: before, in front of.  oppress'd: overwhelmed.  204. truncheon's length: Six feet? ...more
203   By their oppress'd and fear-surprised eyes,
204   Within his truncheon's length; whilst they, distilled
205. act: action, effect.
205   Almost to jelly with the act of fear,
206-207. This to me / In dreadful secrecy impart they did: i.e., they told me this as a dreadful secret.
206   Stand dumb and speak not to him. This to me
207   In dreadful secrecy impart they did;
208   And I with them the third night kept the watch;
209. as they had deliver'd: just as they had reported.
209   Where, as they had deliver'd, both in time,
210   Form of the thing, each word made true and good,
211   The apparition comes: I knew your father;
212. These hands are not more like: i.e., my two hands do not resemble each other more closely than the apparition resembled Hamlet's father.
212   These hands are not more like.

212                                             But where was this?

213   My lord, upon the platform where we watch'd.

214   Did you not speak to it?

214                                         My lord, I did;
215   But answer made it none: yet once methought
216. it: its. 216-217. did address / Itself to motion, like as it would speak: began to make a gesture, as if it were about to speak.
216   It lifted up it head and did address
217   Itself to motion, like as it would speak;
218   But even then the morning cock crew loud,
219   And at the sound it shrunk in haste away,
220   And vanish'd from our sight.

220                                            'Tis very strange.

221   As I do live, my honour'd lord, 'tis true;
222   And we did think it writ down in our duty
223   To let you know of it.

224   Indeed, indeed, sirs, but this troubles me.
225   Hold you the watch tonight?

225                                             We do, my lord.

226   Arm'd, say you?

227   Arm'd, my lord.

228   From top to toe?

228                                    My lord, from head to foot.

229   Then saw you not his face?

230. beaver: visor.
230   O, yes, my lord; he wore his beaver up.

231   What, look'd he frowningly?

231                                            A countenance more
232   In sorrow than in anger.

232                                           Pale or red?

233   Nay, very pale.

233                               And fix'd his eyes upon you?

234   Most constantly.

234                                 I would I had been there.

235   It would have much amazed you.

236   Very like, very like. Stay'd it long?

237. tell: count.
237   While one with moderate haste might tell a hundred.

238   Longer, longer.

239   Not when I saw't.

239. grizzled: mixed with grey.
239                                  His beard was grizzled—no?

240   It was, as I have seen it in his life,
241. A sable silver'd: In heraldry, "sable" is the word for black. Hamlet asked if the Ghost's beard was "grizzled," and Horatio says it was, but the words he uses makes the mixture of black and white sound impressively dignified.
241   A sable silver'd.

241                                  I will watch tonight;
242   Perchance 'twill walk again.

242                                             I warrant it will.

243   If it assume my noble father's person,
244. gape: open its mouth wide (as though to swallow him). 245. bid me hold my peace: i.e., tell me to be quiet, shut up.
244   I'll speak to it, though hell itself should gape
245   And bid me hold my peace. I pray you all,
246   If you have hitherto conceal'd this sight,
247. tenable: held close.
247   Let it be tenable in your silence still;
248. hap: happen to happen.
248   And whatsoever else shall hap tonight,
249. Give it an understanding, but no tongue: i.e., pay attention, and remember, but don't say anything. 250. I will requite your loves: I will return your friendship. Hamlet may also mean that he will give them some sort of reward for keeping the secret.
249   Give it an understanding, but no tongue:
250   I will requite your loves. So, fare you well:
251   Upon the platform, 'twixt eleven and twelve,
252   I'll visit you.

252                                Our duty to your honor.

253. Your loves, as mine to you: i.e., what you have done shows more than duty; it shows deep friendship, and I return that friendship.
253   Your loves, as mine to you: farewell.

           Exeunt [all but HAMLET].

254   My father's spirit in arms! all is not well;
255. doubt: suspect.
255   I doubt some foul play: would the night were come!
256   Till then, sit still, my soul. Foul deeds will rise,
257   Though all the earth o'erwhelm them, to men's eyes.