A line-by-line translation

Hamlet

Hamlet Translation Act 1, Scene 1

Line Map Clear Line Map Add

Two watchmen, BARNARDO and FRANCISCO, enter.

BARNARDO

Who’s there?

BARNARDO

Who’s there?

FRANCISCO

Nay, answer me. Stand and unfold yourself.

FRANCISCO

No, you answer me. Stop and reveal yourself.

BARNARDO

Long live the king!

BARNARDO

Long live the king!

FRANCISCO

Barnardo?

FRANCISCO

Barnardo?

BARNARDO

He.

BARNARDO

Yes, me.

FRANCISCO

You come most carefully upon your hour.

FRANCISCO

You arrived right on schedule.

BARNARDO

‘Tis now struck twelve. Get thee to bed, Francisco.

BARNARDO

The clock just struck twelve. Go to bed, Francisco.

FRANCISCO

For this relief much thanks. ‘Tis bitter cold,And I am sick at heart.

FRANCISCO

Thanks for relieving me. It’s bitterly cold, and I’m miserable.

BARNARDO

Have you had quiet guard?

BARNARDO

Has your guard duty been quiet?

FRANCISCO

Not a mouse stirring.

FRANCISCO

Not a mouse stirred.

BARNARDO

Well, good night.If you do meet Horatio and Marcellus,The rivals of my watch, bid them make haste.

BARNARDO

Well, good night. If you see Horatio and Marcellus—who are going to stand guard with me—tell them to hurry.

FRANCISCO

I think I hear them.—Stand, ho! Who’s there?

FRANCISCO

I think I hear them. Stop! Who’s there?

HORATIO and MARCELLUS enter.

HORATIO

Friends to this ground.

HORATIO

Friends of this country.

MARCELLUS

And liegemen to the Dane.

MARCELLUS

And loyal servants of the Danish king.

FRANCISCO

Give you good night.

FRANCISCO

Good night to you.

MARCELLUS

O, farewell, honest soldier. Who hath relieved you?

MARCELLUS

Oh, goodbye, honorable soldier. Who’s relieved you?

FRANCISCO

Barnardo has my place. Give you good night.

FRANCISCO

Barnardo’s taken my place. Good night.

FRANCISCO exits.

MARCELLUS

Holla, Barnardo.

MARCELLUS

Hello, Barnardo.

BARNARDO

Say what, is Horatio there?

BARNARDO

Say, is Horatio here too?

HORATIO

A piece of him.

HORATIO

More or less.

BARNARDO

Welcome, Horatio.—Welcome, good Marcellus.

BARNARDO

Welcome, Horatio. Welcome, Marcellus.

MARCELLUS

What, has this thing appeared again tonight?

MARCELLUS

So, has the thing appeared again tonight?

BARNARDO

I have seen nothing.

BARNARDO

I haven’t seen anything.

MARCELLUS

Horatio says ’tis but our fantasy And will not let belief take hold of him Touching this dreaded sight twice seen of us. Therefore I have entreated him along With us to watch the minutes of this night, That if again this apparition come He may approve our eyes and speak to it.

MARCELLUS

Horatio says it’s all our imagination, and he won’t let himself believe in this awful thing we’ve now seen twice. I asked him to join us in our guard duty tonight, so that if the ghost appears he can confirm what we see and speak to it.

HORATIO

Tush, tush, ’twill not appear.

HORATIO

Oh, come now. It’s not going to appear.

BARNARDO

Sit down a while And let us once again assail your ears, That are so fortified against our story, What we have two nights seen.

BARNARDO

Sit down for a while, and let us tell you again the story you refuse to believe, about what we’ve seen the last two nights.

HORATIO

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

HORATIO

Sure, let’s sit down and listen to Barnardo tell us about it.

BARNARDO

Last night of all, When yond same star that’s westward from the pole Had made his course t’ illume that part of heaven Where now it burns, Marcellus and myself, The bell then beating one—

BARNARDO

Last night, when that star to the west of the North Star had moved across the heavens to brighten that spot in the sky where it’s shining now, at precisely one o’clock, Marcellus and I—

The GHOST enters.

MARCELLUS

Peace, break thee off. Look where it comes again!

MARCELLUS

Quiet, stop talking! Look, it’s come again.

BARNARDO

In the same figure like the king that’s dead.

BARNARDO

Looking exactly like the dead king.

MARCELLUS

[to HORATIO] Thou art a scholar. Speak to it, Horatio.

MARCELLUS

[To HORATIO] You’re well-educated. Speak to it, Horatio.

BARNARDO

Looks it not like the king? Mark it, Horatio.

BARNARDO

Doesn’t he look like the king, Horatio?

HORATIO

Most like. It harrows me with fear and wonder.

HORATIO

Exactly like him. It fills me with fear and wonder.

BARNARDO

It would be spoke to.

BARNARDO

It wants us to speak to it.

MARCELLUS

Question it, Horatio.

MARCELLUS

Ask it something, Horatio.

HORATIO

What art thou that usurp’st this time of night Together with that fair and warlike form In which the majesty of buried Denmark Did sometimes march? By heaven, I charge thee, speak.

HORATIO

Who are you, disturbing this time of night, and appearing just like the dead king of Denmark, dressed in his battle armor? By God, I order you to speak.

MARCELLUS

It is offended.

MARCELLUS

You’ve offended it.

BARNARDO

See, it stalks away.

BARNARDO

Look, it’s moving away.

HORATIO

Stay! Speak, speak! I charge thee, speak!

HORATIO

Stay! Speak! Speak! I order you, speak!

The GHOST exits.

MARCELLUS

‘Tis gone and will not answer.

MARCELLUS

It’s gone, and won’t answer.

BARNARDO

How now, Horatio? You tremble and look pale.Is not this something more than fantasy?What think you on ’t?

BARNARDO

How are you, Horatio? You’re pale and trembling. Isn’t this something more than just our imagination? What do you think about it?

HORATIO

Before my God, I might not this believeWithout the sensible and true avouchOf mine own eyes.

HORATIO

I swear by God, I would never have believed this if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes.

MARCELLUS

Is it not like the king?

MARCELLUS

Doesn’t it look like the king?

HORATIO

As thou art to thyself. Such was the very armour he had on When he the ambitious Norway combated. So frowned he once when, in an angry parle, He smote the sledded Polacks on the ice. ‘Tis strange.

HORATIO

As much as you look like yourself. That was the same armor the king wore when he fought the ambitious king of Norway. And the ghost frowned just like the king did once when he fought the Poles, who traveled on the ice in sleds. It’s eerie.

MARCELLUS

Thus twice before, and jump at this dead hour,With martial stalk hath he gone by our watch.

MARCELLUS

It’s happened like this twice before, always at this time of night. Dressed like a warrior, the ghost walks by us at our guard post.

HORATIO

In what particular thought to work I know not,But in the gross and scope of mine opinionThis bodes some strange eruption to our state.

HORATIO

I don’t know exactly what this means, but I have a general feeling it signals that something bad is about to happen to our country.

MARCELLUS

Good now, sit down and tell me, he that knows, Why this same strict and most observant watch So nightly toils the subject of the land, And why such daily cast of brazen cannon And foreign mart for implements of war, Why such impress of shipwrights, whose sore task Does not divide the Sunday from the week. What might be toward, that this sweaty haste Doth make the night joint laborer with the day? Who is ’t that can inform me?

MARCELLUS

Speaking of that, let’s sit down so that, whoever knows about it, can tell me why we’ve been keeping such a strict schedule of nightly watches. And why we’ve been building so many cannons, and buying so many weapons from other countries. And why the shipbuilders are kept so busy that they don’t even rest on Sunday. What’s coming that forces us to work day and night in this way? Who can tell me?

HORATIO

That can I. At least, the whisper goes so: our last king, Whose image even but now appeared to us, Was, as you know, by Fortinbras of Norway, Thereto pricked on by a most emulate pride, Dared to the combat; in which our valiant Hamlet (For so this side of our known world esteemed him) Did slay this Fortinbras, who by a sealed compact Well ratified by law and heraldry, Did forfeit, with his life, all those his lands Which he stood seized of to the conqueror, Against the which a moiety competent Was gagèd by our king, which had returned To the inheritance of Fortinbras Had he been vanquisher, as, by the same covenant And carriage of the article designed, His fell to Hamlet. Now, sir, young Fortinbras, Of unimprovèd mettle hot and full, Hath in the skirts of Norway here and there Sharked up a list of lawless resolutes, For food and diet, to some enterprise That hath a stomach in ’t, which is no other— As it doth well appear unto our state— But to recover of us, by strong hand And terms compulsatory, those foresaid lands So by his father lost. And this, I take it, Is the main motive of our preparations, The source of this our watch, and the chief head Of this posthaste and rummage in the land.

HORATIO

I can do that. At least, I can tell you the rumors: the greatness of our former king—whose ghost just now appeared to us—inspired the competitive pride of King Fortinbras of Norway. Fortinbras challenged him to hand-to-hand combat. During that fight, our courageous Hamlet (as we Danes thought of him) killed old King Fortinbras, who—on the basis of a signed and sealed agreement and in full accordance with the law and rules of combat—surrendered, along with his life, all the lands he possessed to his conqueror. By that same agreement, our king bet lands of equal value that he would have had to give up had he been defeated. Now, Fortinbras’ son, young Fortinbras, who is daring but has yet to prove himself, has hastily gathered a group lawless brutes. For no pay other than food on the outskirts of Norway. They’re willing to give their courage to the effort of forcefully regaining the lands the elder Fortinbras lost. I believe this is the reason that we’ve been sent on guard duty, and the primary source of all the recent hustle and bustle in Denmark.

BARNARDO

I think it be no other but e’en so. Well may it sort that this portentous figure Comes armèd through our watch so like the king That was and is the question of these wars.

BARNARDO

I think that’s right. It makes sense that this ghost of the late king would haunt our guard duty now, since he was such an important part of these wars.

HORATIO

A mote it is to trouble the mind’s eye. In the most high and palmy state of Rome, A little ere the mightiest Julius fell, The graves stood tenantless and the sheeted dead Did squeak and gibber in the Roman streets As stars with trains of fire and dews of blood, Disasters in the sun, and the moist star Upon whose influence Neptune’s empire stands Was sick almost to doomsday with eclipse. And even the like precurse of feared events, As harbingers preceding still the fates And prologue to the omen coming on, Have heaven and earth together demonstrated Unto our climatures and countrymen.

HORATIO

The ghost is definitely something to worry about, like a speck of dust bothering your eye. In the powerful Roman Empire, just before the mighty emperor Julius Caesar was assassinated, the graves stood empty while the ghostly dead ran through the streets of Rome, squeaking and delirious. Shooting stars streaked across the sky, blood fell along with the morning dew, and omens of disaster appeared on the sun. The moon, which controls the tides of the sea, was so eclipsed that it almost disappeared completely. We’ve had similar signs of disaster, as if heaven and earth have joined together to warn us of what’s to come.

The GHOST enters.

HORATIO

But soft, behold! Lo, where it comes again.I’ll cross it though it blast me.—Stay, illusion!

HORATIO

Wait, look! It has returned. I’ll meet it if it’s the last thing I do.

[To GHOST] Stop, you illusion!

The GHOST spreads his arms.

HORATIO

If thou hast any sound or use of voice, Speak to me. If there be any good thing to be done That may to thee do ease and grace to me, Speak to me. If thou art privy to thy country’s fate, Which happily foreknowing may avoid, Oh, speak! Or if thou hast uphoarded in thy life Extorted treasure in the womb of earth, For which, they say, you spirits oft walk in death, Speak of it. Stay and speak!

HORATIO

If you have a voice or can make sounds, speak to me. If there’s anything that I can do that might bring peace to you and honor to me, speak to me. If you know something abut your country’s fate—which we could avoid if we knew about it—then, oh, speak! Or if you have a treasure buried somewhere in the earth—which they say often makes ghosts restless—then speak of it. Stay and speak!

A rooster crows.

HORATIO

—Stop it, Marcellus.

HORATIO

Don’t let it leave, Marcellus.

MARCELLUS

Shall I strike at it with my partisan?

MARCELLUS

Should I hit it with my spear?

HORATIO

Do, if it will not stand.

HORATIO

Yes, if it doesn’t stand still.

BARNARDO

‘Tis here.

BARNARDO

It’s here.

HORATIO

‘Tis here.

HORATIO

It’s here.

The GHOST exits.

MARCELLUS

‘Tis gone. We do it wrong, being so majestical, To offer it the show of violence, For it is, as the air, invulnerable, And our vain blows malicious mockery.

MARCELLUS

It’s gone. We were wrong to threaten it with violence, since it looked so kingly. And, like the air, we couldn't hurt it. Our useless blows amounted to cruel taunts.

BARNARDO

It was about to speak when the cock crew.

BARNARDO

It was about to say something when the rooster crowed.

HORATIO

And then it started like a guilty thing Upon a fearful summons. I have heard The cock, that is the trumpet to the morn, Doth with his lofty and shrill-sounding throat Awake the god of day, and, at his warning, Whether in sea or fire, in earth or air, Th’ extravagant and erring spirit hies To his confine, and of the truth herein This present object made probation.

HORATIO

And then it looked startled, like a guilty person summoned to appear in court. I’ve heard that the rooster—which calls to signal the coming morning—awakens the god of day, and makes all wandering ghosts—wherever they are—hurry back to their hiding places. What we’ve just seen is proof of that.

MARCELLUS

It faded on the crowing of the cock. Some say that ever ‘gainst that season comes Wherein our Saviour’s birth is celebrated, The bird of dawning singeth all night long. And then, they say, no spirit dare stir abroad. The nights are wholesome. Then no planets strike, No fairy takes, nor witch hath power to charm, So hallowed and so gracious is that time.

MARCELLUS

It faded away when the rooster crowed. Some people say that just before Christmas the rooster crows all night long, so that no ghost dares go wandering, and the night is safe for all. Then, on that night, no dark fates control us, no fairy can cast a spell on us, and witches cannot hurt us with their charms. That’s how holy and blessed Christmas is.

HORATIO

So have I heard and do in part believe it. But look, the morn, in russet mantle clad, Walks o’er the dew of yon high eastward hill. Break we our watch up, and by my advice, Let us impart what we have seen tonight Unto young Hamlet, for, upon my life, This spirit, dumb to us, will speak to him. Do you consent we shall acquaint him with it, As needful in our loves, fitting our duty?

HORATIO

I’ve heard the same thing, and partially believe it. But look, the red glow of morning is breaking beyond that hill in the east. Let’s end our patrol, and go tell young Hamlet what we’ve seen tonight. I’d bet my life that this ghost, which will not speak to us, will speak to him. Do you agree that we should tell Hamlet, that we owe it to him to him out of our duty and our love?

MARCELLUS

Let’s do ’t, I pray, and I this morning knowWhere we shall find him most conveniently.

MARCELLUS

Let’s do it. And I know where we can find him this morning.

They exit.

Hamlet
Join LitCharts A+ and get the entire Hamlet Translation as a printable PDF.
LitCharts A+ members also get exclusive access to:
  • Downloadable translations of every Shakespeare play and sonnet
  • Downloads of 602 LitCharts Lit Guides
  • Explanations and citation info for 15,208 quotes covering 602 books
  • Teacher Editions for every Lit Guide
  • PDFs defining 136 key Lit Terms
Ben florman
About the Translator: Ben Florman

Ben is a co-founder of LitCharts. He holds a BA in English Literature from Harvard University, where as an undergraduate he won the Winthrop Sargent prize for best undergraduate paper on a topic related to Shakespeare.