Philip Weller caricature
Philip and Weller hugging

Welcome to my web site, now under development for more than twenty years.   
-- Philip Weller, November 13, 1941 - February 1, 2021
Dr. Weller, an Eastern Washington University professor of English and Shakespearean scholar for more than 50 years.


Hamlet: Act 1, Scene 4

           Enter HAMLET, HORATIO,
           and MARCELLUS.  

      HAMLET
1. shrewdly: wickedly.
  1   The air bites shrewdly; it is very cold.

      HORATIO
2. eager: sharp.
  2   It is a nipping and an eager air.

      HAMLET
  3   What hour now?

      HORATIO
  3                                I think it lacks of twelve.

      HAMLET
  4   No, it is struck.

      HORATIO
  5   Indeed? I heard it not: then it draws near the season
  6   Wherein the spirit held his wont to walk.

           A flourish of trumpets,
pieces: cannon.
          and two pieces go off [within].

  7   What does this mean, my lord?

      HAMLET
8. doth  . . .  rouse: stays up and holds revels far into the night. 9. wassail: carousal.  the swaggering up-spring reels: i.e., dances boisterously. 10. Rhenish: Rhine wine.
12. The triumph of his pledge: the celebration of his feat of draining his cup at a single gulp.
  8   The king doth wake tonight and takes his rouse,
  9   Keeps wassail, and the swaggering up-spring reels;
 10   And, as he drains his draughts of Rhenish down,
 11   The kettle-drum and trumpet thus bray out
 12   The triumph of his pledge.

      HORATIO
 12                                          Is it a custom?

      HAMLET
 13   Ay, marry, is't:
 14   But to my mind, though I am native here
15-16. manner: custom (of carousing). a custom / More honor'd in the breach than the observance: a custom which it is more honorable to break than to observe.
 15   And to the manner born, it is a custom
 16   More honor'd in the breach than the observance.
 17   This heavy-headed revel east and west
18. traduced and tax'd of: maligned and censured by.
 18   Makes us traduced and tax'd of other nations:
19-20. clepe: call.  with swinish phrase / Soil our addition: by calling us swine, they stain our reputation.
 19   They clepe us drunkards, and with swinish phrase
 20   Soil our addition; and indeed it takes
21. at height: most excellently.
 21   From our achievements, though perform'd at height,
22. attribute: reputation.
 22   The pith and marrow of our attribute.
23. So, oft it chances in particular men: in a similar way, it often happens in individual men. 24. vicious mole of nature: small natural blemish. 25. birth: i.e., family origins.
 23   So, oft it chances in particular men,
 24   That for some vicious mole of nature in them,
 25   As, in their birth—wherein they are not guilty,
26. his: its.
 26   Since nature cannot choose his origin—
27. By the o'ergrowth of some complexion: by the excess of some natural disposition. 28. pales: fences.
 27   By the o'ergrowth of some complexion,
 28   Oft breaking down the pales and forts of reason,
29. o'er-leavens: i.e., spreads throughout and changes everything, as yeast (leavening) works in bread dough. 30. plausive: pleasing.
 29   Or by some habit that too much o'er-leavens
 30   The form of plausive manners, that these men,
 31   Carrying, I say, the stamp of one defect,
32. Being nature's livery, or fortune's star: i.e., whether they were born with it, or got it by misfortune. 33. Their virtues else: all their other virtues. 34. undergo: carry, have.
 32   Being nature's livery, or fortune's star—
 33   Their virtues else—be they as pure as grace,
 34   As infinite as man may undergo—
35. general censure: popular opinion.
 35   Shall in the general censure take corruption
36. dram: very small amount. 36-38. The dram of eale / Doth all the noble substance often dout / To his own scandal: This is a "crux," a passage which is open to various interpretations. ...more
 36   From that particular fault. The dram of eale
 37   Doth all the noble substance of a doubt
 38   To his own scandal.

      HORATIO
 38                                 Look, my lord, it comes!

           Enter GHOST.

      HAMLET
 39   Angels and ministers of grace defend us!
40. spirit of health: wholesome spirit.
 40   Be thou a spirit of health or goblin damn'd,
 41   Bring with thee airs from heaven or blasts from hell,
 42   Be thy intents wicked or charitable,
43. questionable: inviting questions.
 43   Thou comest in such a questionable shape
 44   That I will speak to thee: I'll call thee Hamlet,
 45   King, father, royal Dane: O, answer me!
 46   Let me not burst in ignorance; but tell
47. canoniz'd: buried with the rites authorized by the church.  hearsed: entombed. 48. cerements: grave-clothes, winding sheet (as on a mummy).
 47   Why thy canonized bones, hearsed in death,
 48   Have burst their cerements; why the sepulchre,
 49   Wherein we saw thee quietly inurn'd,
 50   Hath oped his ponderous and marble jaws,
 51   To cast thee up again. What may this mean,
52. corse: corpse.  complete steel: full armor. 53. Revisit'st: revisits.  glimpses  . . .  moon: i.e., the earth by night. 54. fools of nature: i.e., mere men, limited to natural knowledge; baffled by the supernatural. 55. disposition: nature.
 52   That thou, dead corse, again in complete steel
 53   Revisit'st thus the glimpses of the moon,
 54   Making night hideous; and we fools of nature
 55   So horridly to shake our disposition
 56   With thoughts beyond the reaches of our souls?
 57   Say, why is this? wherefore? what should we do?

           [Ghost] beckons [HAMLET].

      HORATIO
 58   It beckons you to go away with it,
59. As if it some impartment did desire / To you alone: as if it desired to impart something to you in private.
 59   As if it some impartment did desire
 60   To you alone.

      MARCELLUS
 60                             Look, with what courteous action
61. more removed ground: i.e., more isolated, private place.
 61   It waves you to a more removed ground:
 62   But do not go with it.

      HORATIO
 62                                     No, by no means.

      HAMLET
 63   It will not speak; then I will follow it.

      HORATIO
 64   Do not, my lord.

      HAMLET
 64                                 Why, what should be the fear?
65. fee: value, worth.
 65   I do not set my life at a pin's fee;
 66   And for my soul, what can it do to that,
 67   Being a thing immortal as itself?
 68   It waves me forth again: I'll follow it.

      HORATIO
69. the flood: the sea.
 69   What if it tempt you toward the flood, my lord,
 70   Or to the dreadful summit of the cliff
71. beetles o'er his base into the sea: threateningly overhangs its base, above the sea. 72. assume  . . .  form: 73. deprive  . . .  reason: deprive reason of the rule over your mind.
 71   That beetles o'er his base into the sea,
 72   And there assume some other horrible form,
 73   Which might deprive your sovereignty of reason
 74   And draw you into madness? think of it:
75. The very place: just the place [i.e., a cliff overhanging the sea].  toys of desperation: mental images of a desperate act. In other words, just looking down into the sea from a high cliff makes a person think about jumping.
 75   The very place puts toys of desperation,
 76   Without more motive, into every brain
 77   That looks so many fathoms to the sea
 78   And hears it roar beneath.

      HAMLET
 78                                        It waves me still.
 79   Go on; I'll follow thee.

      MARCELLUS
 80   You shall not go, my lord.

      HAMLET
 80                                          Hold off your hands.

      HORATIO
 81   Be ruled; you shall not go.

      HAMLET
 81                                             My fate cries out,
82. each petty artery in this body: every tiny ligament and sinew of my body. 83. Nemean lion: A monstrous lion slain by Hercules as one of his twelve labors.  nerve: sinew. 85. lets: hinders.
 82   And makes each petty artery in this body
 83   As hardy as the Nemean lion's nerve.
 84   Still am I call'd. Unhand me, gentlemen.
 85   By heaven, I'll make a ghost of him that lets me!
 86   I say, away! [To the Ghost.] Go on; I'll follow thee.

           Exeunt Ghost and Hamlet.

      HORATIO
87. He waxes desperate with imagination: he grows desperate because of wild ideas.
 87   He waxes desperate with imagination.

      MARCELLUS
88. 'tis not fit thus to obey him: i.e., in these circumstances, it is not fitting to obey him. Marcellus thinks of Hamlet's "away!" (line 86) as an order to stay away from him.
 88   Let's follow; 'tis not fit thus to obey him.

      HORATIO
89. Have after: i.e., go ahead, follow him.  To what issue will this come?: What will be the outcome of this?
 89   Have after. To what issue will this come?

      MARCELLUS
 90   Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.

      HORATIO
89. Heaven will direct it: i.e., Heaven will determine how this all turns out. —Perhaps Horatio is afraid to follow Hamlet into the terrifying presence of the Ghost.
 91   Heaven will direct it.

      MARCELLUS
 91                                       Nay, let's follow him.

           Exeunt.