Hamlet: Act 1, Scene 1

           Enter BARNARDO and FRANCISCO,
Opening scene in the 1948 movie starring Laurence OlivierImage Source:
1948 film
starring Laurence Olivier

           two sentinels, [meeting].  

      BARNARDO
  1   Who's there?

      FRANCISCO
  2   Nay, answer me: stand, and unfold yourself.
2. Nay, answer me: stand, and unfold yourself: No [don't you ask me questions], answer me [because I'm the one on guard duty]: stay where you are, and identify yourself.


      BARNARDO
  3   Long live the king!

      FRANCISCO
  4   Barnardo?

      BARNARDO
  5   He.

      FRANCISCO
  6   You come most carefully upon your hour.
6. You come most carefully upon your hour: i.e., you have come exactly when you were supposed to.


      BARNARDO
  7   'Tis now struck twelve; get thee to bed, Francisco.

      FRANCISCO
  8   For this relief much thanks: 'tis bitter cold,
  9   And I am sick at heart.

      BARNARDO
 10   Have you had quiet guard?

      FRANCISCO
                                          Not a mouse stirring.

      BARNARDO
 11   Well, good night.
 12   If you do meet Horatio and Marcellus,
 13   The rivals of my watch, bid them make haste.
13. rivals of my watch: my watchmates.


      FRANCISCO
 14   I think I hear them. Stand, ho! Who's there?

           Enter HORATIO and MARCELLUS.

      HORATIO
 15   Friends to this ground.

      MARCELLUS
                                       And liegemen to the Dane.
15. liegemen to the Dane: loyal subjects to the King of Denmark.


      FRANCISCO
 16   Give you good night.
16. Give: Short for "God give."


      MARCELLUS
                                       O, farewell, honest soldier:
 17   Who hath relieved you?

      FRANCISCO
                                        Barnardo has my place.
 18   Give you good night.

           Exit Francisco.

      MARCELLUS
                                      Holla! Barnardo!

      BARNARDO
                                                                   Say—
 19   What, is Horatio there?

      HORATIO
                                         A piece of him.

      BARNARDO
 20   Welcome, Horatio: welcome, good Marcellus.

      HORATIO
 21   What, has this thing appear'd again tonight?

      BARNARDO
 22   I have seen nothing.

      MARCELLUS
 23   Horatio says 'tis but our fantasy,
23. 'tis but our fantasy: it is only a figment of our imagination.

 24   And will not let belief take hold of him
 25   Touching this dreaded sight, twice seen of us:
 26   Therefore I have entreated him along
 27   With us to watch the minutes of this night;
27. to watch the minutes of this night: i.e., to stand watch with us and observe everything that happens.

 28   That if again this apparition come,
 29   He may approve our eyes and speak to it.
29. approve our eyes : corroborate our account of what we have seen.


      HORATIO
 30   Tush, tush, 'twill not appear.

      BARNARDO
                                                   Sit down awhile;
 31   And let us once again assail your ears,
 32   That are so fortified against our story
 33   What we have two nights seen.

      HORATIO
                                                Well, sit we down,
 34   And let us hear Barnardo speak of this.

      BARNARDO
 35   Last night of all,
 36   When yond same star that's westward from the pole
36. pole: polestar; Polaris, the North Star.

 37   Had made his course to illume that part of heaven
37. his: its.

 38   Where now it burns, Marcellus and myself,
Horatio, Bernardo, and Marcellus see the GhostNorman Wooland as Horatio,
Esmond Knight as Bernardo,
Anthony Quayle as Marcellus.
--1948 film--

 39   The bell then beating one—

           Enter Ghost.

      MARCELLUS
 40   Peace, break thee off; look, where it comes again!

      BARNARDO
 41   In the same figure, like the king that's dead.
41. In the same figure, like the king that's dead: in the exact likeness of the king that's dead.


      MARCELLUS
 42   Thou art a scholar; speak to it, Horatio.
42. a scholar: i.e., an educated person, therefore one who knows what to say to a ghost.


      BARNARDO
 43   Looks 'a not like the king? mark it, Horatio.
43. 'a: he.  mark it: pay close attention to the likeness between the ghost and the dead king.


      HORATIO
 44   Most like: it harrows me with fear and wonder.

      BARNARDO
 45   It would be spoke to.
45. It would be spoke to: Folklore said that a ghost had to be spoken to before it would speak.


      MARCELLUS
                                       Speak to it, Horatio.

      HORATIO
 46   What art thou that usurp'st this time of night,
46.usurp'st: usurps. >>>

 47   Together with that fair and warlike form
 48   In which the majesty of buried Denmark
 49   Did sometimes march? by heaven I charge thee, speak!
47-49. that fair . . .  sometimes march: i.e., the beautiful, terrifying, and majestic image in which the dead King Hamlet of Denmark used to march.


      MARCELLUS
 50   It is offended.

      BARNARDO
                                   See, it stalks away!

      HORATIO
 51   Stay! speak, speak! I charge thee, speak!

           Exit Ghost.

      MARCELLUS
 52   'Tis gone, and will not answer.

      BARNARDO
 53   How now, Horatio! you tremble and look pale:
 54   Is not this something more than fantasy?
 55   What think you on't?

      HORATIO
 56   Before my God, I might not this believe
 57   Without the sensible and true avouch
57. sensible: i.e., confirmed by the senses.  avouch: guarantee.

 58   Of mine own eyes.

      MARCELLUS
                                   Is it not like the king?

      HORATIO
 59   As thou art to thyself:
 60   Such was the very armor he had on
 61   When he the ambitious Norway combated;
61. Norway: i.e., the King of Norway.

 62   So frown'd he once, when, in an angry parle,
62. parle: parley.

 63   He smote the sledded Polacks on the ice.
63. sledded: using sleds.  Polacks: Poles. >>>

 64   'Tis strange.

      MARCELLUS
 65   Thus twice before, and jump at this dead hour,
65. jump: precisely.

 66   With martial stalk hath he gone by our watch.
66. With martial stalk: i.e., with a military bearing.


      HORATIO
 67   In what particular thought to work I know not;
 68   But in the gross and scope of my opinion,
 69   This bodes some strange eruption to our state.
67-69. In what ... our state: i.e., I don't know how to work out the details, but considering everything, it seems to me that this foretells some strange upheaval in the state of Denmark.


      MARCELLUS
 70   Good now, sit down, and tell me, he that knows,
 71   Why this same strict and most observant watch
71. this same ... watch: i.e., this high security alert.

 72   So nightly toils the subject of the land,
72. toils . . . land: i.e., puts a heavy burden of toil on the people of Denmark.

 73   And why such daily cast of brazen cannon,
73. brazen cannon: bronze cannons.

 74   And foreign mart for implements of war;
74. foreign mart: dealing in foreign markets.

 75   Why such impress of shipwrights, whose sore task
75. impress: forced service.

 76   Does not divide the Sunday from the week;
 77   What might be toward, that this sweaty haste
77. toward: in preparation.

 78   Doth make the night joint-laborer with the day:
 79   Who is't that can inform me?

      HORATIO
                                                That can I;
 80   At least, the whisper goes so. Our last king,
 81   Whose image even but now appear'd to us,
 82   Was, as you know, by Fortinbras of Norway,
 83   Thereto prick'd on by a most emulate pride,
83. prick'd on: prodded, incited.  most emulate: extremely competitive.

 84   Dared to the combat; in which our valiant Hamlet—
 85   For so this side of our known world esteem'd him—
 86   Did slay this Fortinbras; who by a seal'd compact,
86. seal'd compact: i.e., a signed and sealed agreement.

 87   Well ratified by law and heraldry,
87. Well ratified by law and heraldry: i.e., in full accordance with law and the rules of combat.

 88   Did forfeit, with his life, all those his lands
 89   Which he stood seized of, to the conqueror:
89. seiz'd of: possessed of. >>>

 90   Against the which, a moiety competent
 91   Was gaged by our king; which had return'd
90-91. Against ... gaged by our king: i.e., King Hamlet matched the wager of King Fortinbras.  had: would have.

 92   To the inheritance of Fortinbras,
92. inheritance: permanent possession.

 93   Had he been vanquisher; as, by the same comart,
93. comart: joint bargain.

 94   And carriage of the article design'd,
94. carriage: tenor.  article design'd: agreement drawn up.

 95   His fell to Hamlet. Now, sir, young Fortinbras,
 96   Of unimproved mettle hot and full,
96. unimproved mettle: desperate and untested temperament.

 97   Hath in the skirts of Norway here and there
97. skirts: outlying territories.

 98   Shark'd up a list of lawless resolutes,
98. Shark'd up a list of lawless resolutes: i.e., hastily rounded up a gang of desperadoes.

 99   For food and diet, to some enterprise
100   That hath a stomach in't; which is no other—
99-100. For food and diet, to some enterprise / That hath a stomach in't (1) for no pay except their keep, to engage in some enterprise that requires courage; (2) as cannon-fodder, to engage in some enterprise that will devour them.

101   As it doth well appear unto our state—
102   But to recover of us, by strong hand
103   And terms compulsatory, those foresaid lands
104   So by his father lost: and this, I take it,
105   Is the main motive of our preparations,
106   The source of this our watch and the chief head
106. head: main cause.

107   Of this post-haste and romage in the land.
107. post-haste and romage: i.e., hustle and bustle. "Romage" is an older spelling of "rummage."


      BARNARDO
108   I think it be no other but e'en so:
109   Well may it sort that this portentous figure
109. portentous: ominous.

110   Comes armed through our watch; so like the king
109-110. Well . . . armed: i.e., Because King Hamlet was a warrior, it may be suitable that his ghost appears in armor.

111   That was and is the question of these wars.
111. question: subject, cause.


      HORATIO
112   A mote it is to trouble the mind's eye.
112. mote: speck of dust.

113   In the most high and palmy state of Rome,
113. palmy: flourishing.

114   A little ere the mightiest Julius fell,
115   The graves stood tenantless and the sheeted dead
115. the sheeted dead: the dead in their shrouds.

116   Did squeak and gibber in the Roman streets:
117   As stars with trains of fire and dews of blood,
117. As: ???  trains: tails.  dews: mists.

118   Disasters in the sun; and the moist star,
118. Disasters: ominous signs.  moist star: the moon.

119   Upon whose influence Neptune's empire stands,
119. Upon .  . . stands: i.e.. which governs the tides.

120   Was sick almost to doomsday with eclipse:
120. sick almost to doomsday with eclipse:

121   And even the like precurse of fierce events,
121. precurse: foreshadowing.

122   As harbingers preceding still the fates
122. harbingers: advance messengers. still: always.  the fates: i.e., fateful events.

123   And prologue to the omen coming on,
123. omen: foretold calamity.

124   Have heaven and earth together demonstrated
125   Unto our climatures and countrymen—
125. climatures: regions.
Horatio says,'But soft, behold! lo, where it comes again!'
Illustrator: H.C. Selous


           Enter GHOST.

126   But soft, behold! lo, where it comes again!

           It spreads his arms.
his: its.


127   I'll cross it, though it blast me. Stay, illusion!
127. cross it: cross its path, confront it directly.  blast: wither.

128   If thou hast any sound, or use of voice,
129   Speak to me:
130   If there be any good thing to be done,
131   That may to thee do ease and grace to me,
132   Speak to me:
133   If thou art privy to thy country's fate,
134   Which, happily, foreknowing may avoid,
134. happily: haply, by good chance.

135   O, speak!
136   Or if thou hast uphoarded in thy life
137   Extorted treasure in the womb of earth,
137. Extorted treasure: i.e., ill-gotten gains.

138   For which, they say, you spirits oft walk in death,

           The cock crows.

139   Speak of it: stay, and speak! Stop it, Marcellus.

      MARCELLUS
140   Shall I strike at it with my partisan?
140. partisan: spear with a barbed head.

Marcellus and Barnardo swinging their pikes at the ghost
Illustrator: Kenny Meadows

      HORATIO
141   Do, if it will not stand.

           [They strike at it.]

      BARNARDO
                                          'Tis here!

      HORATIO
                                                        'Tis here!

      MARCELLUS
142   'Tis gone!

           [Exit Ghost.]

143   We do it wrong, being so majestical,
144   To offer it the show of violence;
145   For it is, as the air, invulnerable,
146   And our vain blows malicious mockery.
146. mockery: empty pretense.


      BARNARDO
147   It was about to speak when the cock crew.

      HORATIO
148   And then it started like a guilty thing
148. started: moved suddenly, as though surprised or frightened.

149   Upon a fearful summons. I have heard,
150   The cock, that is the trumpet to the morn,
150. trumpet: trumpeter.

151   Doth with his lofty and shrill-sounding throat
152   Awake the god of day; and, at his warning,
153   Whether in sea or fire, in earth or air,
154   The extravagant and erring spirit hies
154. The: i.e., any.  extravagant: outside its proper bounds.  erring: wandering about.

155   To his confine: and of the truth herein
154-155. hies . . . confine: i.e., hastens to the place where it is usually confined.

156   This present object made probation.

156. This . . . probation: i.e., what we just saw proved that to be true.
      MARCELLUS
157   It faded on the crowing of the cock.
158   Some say that ever 'gainst that season comes
158. ever 'gainst: always just before.

159   Wherein our Savior's birth is celebrated,
160   The bird of dawning singeth all night long:
161   And then, they say, no spirit dares stir abroad;
162   The nights are wholesome; then no planets strike,
162. strike: exert an evil influence.

163   No fairy takes, nor witch hath power to charm,
163. takes: bewitches.

164   So hallow'd and so gracious is the time.
164. gracious: blessed.


      HORATIO
165   So have I heard and do in part believe it.
166   But, look, the morn, in russet mantle clad,
166. russet: coarse cloth, reddish-brown to gray-brown.
the morning in russet mantle clad
"the morn, in russet mantle clad"
--Photo by Michael Wolf--

167   Walks o'er the dew of yon high eastward hill:
168   Break we our watch up; and by my advice,
169   Let us impart what we have seen tonight
170   Unto young Hamlet; for, upon my life,
171   This spirit, dumb to us, will speak to him.
172   Do you consent we shall acquaint him with it,
173   As needful in our loves, fitting our duty?

      MARCELLUS
174   Let's do't, I pray; and I this morning know
175   Where we shall find him most conveniently.

           Exeunt.