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Hamlet

Hamlet Translation Act 1, Scene 2

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CLAUDIUS, the king of Denmark, enters, as do GERTRUDE the queen, HAMLET, POLONIUS, POLONIUS ’s son LAERTES and daughter OPHELIA, and LORDS of Claudius’s court.

CLAUDIUS

Though yet of Hamlet our dear brother’s death The memory be green, and that it us befitted To bear our hearts in grief and our whole kingdom To be contracted in one brow of woe, Yet so far hath discretion fought with nature That we with wisest sorrow think on him Together with remembrance of ourselves. Therefore our sometime sister, now our queen, Th’ imperial jointress to this warlike state, Have we—as ’twere with a defeated joy, With an auspicious and a dropping eye, With mirth in funeral and with dirge in marriage, In equal scale weighing delight and dole— Taken to wife. Nor have we herein barred Your better wisdoms, which have freely gone With this affair along. For all, our thanks. Now follows that you know. Young Fortinbras, Holding a weak supposal of our worth Or thinking by our late dear brother’s death Our state to be disjoint and out of frame, Colleaguèd with the dream of his advantage, He hath not failed to pester us with message Importing the surrender of those lands Lost by his father, with all bonds of law, To our most valiant brother. So much for him.

CLAUDIUS

Though my memories of my brother Hamlet are still fresh—and though it was proper for me and our entire kingdom to grieve for him—life doesn’t stop. And so while we must remember to mourn for him, it is also wise to remember our own happiness. Therefore—with a sad joy; with one eye merry and the other crying; with laughter at a funeral and grieving at a wedding; with equal measures of happiness and sadness—I have married my former sister-in-law and made her my queen. In this marriage, I know I’ve done exactly what all of you have been advising me to do all along. To all of you, my thanks. Now, let’s move on to news that you all know: young Fortinbras, dreaming of glory and thinking that I am weak—or perhaps that the death of my brother has thrown our country into chaos—continues to bother me with demands that I surrender the lands that his father lost to my brother when he was alive. That’s the news on Fortinbras.

VOLTEMAND and CORNELIUS enter.

CLAUDIUS

Now for ourself and for this time of meeting Thus much the business is: we have here writ To Norway, uncle of young Fortinbras— Who, impotent and bedrid, scarcely hears Of this his nephew’s purpose —to suppress His further gait herein, in that the levies, The lists, and full proportions are all made Out of his subject; and we here dispatch You, good Cornelius, and you, Voltemand, For bearers of this greeting to old Norway, Giving to you no further personal power To business with the king more than the scope Of these dilated articles allow. [gives them a paper] Farewell, and let your haste commend your duty.

CLAUDIUS

As for me and this meeting, here’s the story: [He holds up a letter] I’ve written to the King of Norway—Fortinbras’ uncle—a weak and bedridden old man who’s barely heard a thing about his nephew’s aims. I’ve told the Norwegian King to put a halt to Fortinbras’ plans, since all of Fortinbras’ troops are Norwegian. 

[To CORNELIUS and VOLTEMAND] You, good Cornelius, and you, Voltemand, we send you to carry this letter to the old King of Norway, but give you no more power to negotiate with the Norwegian King beyond what is outlined in this letter. [He gives them the letter] Goodbye, and may you show your loyalty through the speed with which you bring this letter to Norway.

CORNELIUS, VOLTEMAND

In that and all things will we show our duty.

CORNELIUS, VOLTEMAND

We’ll show our loyalty to you in that and all other ways.

CLAUDIUS

We doubt it nothing. Heartily farewell.

CLAUDIUS

I do not doubt it. A fond goodbye to you.

CORNELIUS and VOLTEMAND exit.

CLAUDIUS

And now, Laertes, what’s the news with you? You told us of some suit. What is ’t, Laertes? You cannot speak of reason to the Dane And lose your voice. What wouldst thou beg, Laertes, That shall not be my offer, not thy asking? The head is not more native to the heart, The hand more instrumental to the mouth, Than is the throne of Denmark to thy father. What wouldst thou have, Laertes?

CLAUDIUS

And now, Laertes, what’s your news? You mentioned that you have a favor to ask of me. What is it, Laertes? You’ll never be wasting your words by making a reasonable request of the King of Denmark. What could you possibly ask for that I wouldn’t give you? Your father is as vital to the Danish throne as the head is to the heart, or the hand to the mouth. What do you want, Laertes?

LAERTES

My dread lord, Your leave and favor to return to France, From whence though willingly I came to Denmark To show my duty in your coronation, Yet now, I must confess, that duty done, My thoughts and wishes bend again toward France And bow them to your gracious leave and pardon.

LAERTES

My powerful lord, I’d like your permission to go back to France. Though I came willingly to Denmark to show my loyalty at your coronation, now that my duty is done, I must admit that my thoughts are once more directed toward France. I hope you will give me your permission to go.

CLAUDIUS

Have you your father’s leave? What says Polonius?

CLAUDIUS

Do you have your father’s permission? What does Polonius say?

POLONIUS

He hath, my lord, wrung from me my slow leave By laborsome petition, and at last Upon his will I sealed my hard consent. I do beseech you, give him leave to go.

POLONIUS

My lord, he has won my permission by asking me over and over again so that, finally, I reluctantly gave my approval. I ask you to please give him permission to go.

CLAUDIUS

Take thy fair hour, Laertes. Time be thine,And thy best graces spend it at thy will.—But now, my cousin Hamlet, and my son—

CLAUDIUS

Leave when you like, Laertes. Your time is your own, to be spent however you want. And now, Hamlet, my nephew and my son—

HAMLET

[aside] A little more than kin and less than kind.

HAMLET

[To himself] I’m more closely related to you than I used to be, but without any feelings of affection.

CLAUDIUS

How is it that the clouds still hang on you?

CLAUDIUS

Why are you so gloomy that it seems like you are covered by clouds?

HAMLET

Not so, my lord. I am too much i’ the sun.

HAMLET

Not at all, my lord. The problem is that I am covered in sun.

GERTRUDE

Good Hamlet, cast thy nighted color off, And let thine eye look like a friend on Denmark. Do not forever with thy vailèd lids Seek for thy noble father in the dust. Thou know’st ’tis common. All that lives must die, Passing through nature to eternity.

GERTRUDE

Dearest Hamlet, stop wearing these black clothes, and look upon the King of Denmark as a friend. You can’t spend your whole life with your eyes aimed down at the ground, looking for your noble father in the dust. You know it’s common. Everything that lives must die, passing from nature to heaven.

HAMLET

Ay, madam, it is common.

HAMLET

Yes, madam, it is common.

GERTRUDE

If it be,Why seems it so particular with thee?

GERTRUDE

If that’s so, why does it seem like such an issue to you?

HAMLET

“Seems,” madam? Nay, it is. I know not “seems.” ‘Tis not alone my inky cloak, good mother, Nor customary suits of solemn black, Nor windy suspiration of forced breath, No, nor the fruitful river in the eye, Nor the dejected ‘havior of the visage, Together with all forms, moods, shapes of grief, That can denote me truly. These indeed “seem,” For they are actions that a man might play. But I have that within which passeth show, These but the trappings and the suits of woe.

HAMLET

“Seem,” mother? No, it is. I don’t know the meaning of “seems.” Good mother, the black clothes I wear each day, my heavy sighs, the tears from my eyes, the sadness visible in my face, or any other show of grief cannot capture what I actually feel. All these things “seem” like grief, since they’re just what a person would do to act like they were grieving in a play. But inside of me I have real grief, of which these clothes and displays of grief are just an outward representation.

CLAUDIUS

‘Tis sweet and commendable in your nature, Hamlet, To give these mourning duties to your father. But you must know your father lost a father, That father lost, lost his, and the survivor bound In filial obligation for some term To do obsequious sorrow. But to persever In obstinate condolement is a course Of impious stubbornness. ‘Tis unmanly grief. It shows a will most incorrect to heaven, A heart unfortified, a mind impatient, An understanding simple and unschooled. For what we know must be and is as common As any the most vulgar thing to sense, Why should we in our peevish opposition Take it to heart? Fie! ‘Tis a fault to heaven, A fault against the dead, a fault to nature, To reason most absurd, whose common theme Is death of fathers, and who still hath cried, From the first corse till he that died today, “This must be so.” We pray you, throw to earth This unprevailing woe, and think of us As of a father. For let the world take note, You are the most immediate to our throne, And with no less nobility of love Than that which dearest father bears his son Do I impart toward you. For your intent In going back to school in Wittenberg, It is most retrograde to our desire. And we beseech you, bend you to remain Here in the cheer and comfort of our eye, Our chiefest courtier, cousin, and our son.

CLAUDIUS

Hamlet, it is sweet and good that you mourn like this for your father. But you must also remember that your father lost his father, who in turn lost his father, and each time the son had a duty to mourn for his father for a certain time. But to continue to mourn out of sheer stubbornness is blasphemous. It isn’t manly. It does not fit with God’s desires, and it indicates a too-soft heart, an undisciplined mind, and a general lack of knowledge. When we know that something must eventually happen—and that it happens to everyone—why should we get it into our heads to oppose it? Indeed! Acting this way is a crime against heaven, a crime against the dead, a crime against nature. To a reasonable mind, it is absurd, since the death of fathers—from the first corpse until the most recent—is an inescapable theme of life. I ask you, give up your ceaseless mourning, and think of me as your new father. Let the world understand: you are the next in line for the throne, and I feel as much love for you as any father feels for his son. As for your desire to return to Wittenberg, it’s not what I would want. So I beg you, please give in to my request and remain here, where you can bring joy and comfort—as the highest-ranking member of my court, my nephew, and now my son.

GERTRUDE

Let not thy mother lose her prayers, Hamlet.I pray thee, stay with us. Go not to Wittenberg.

GERTRUDE

Please don’t let my prayers be in vain, Hamlet. I beg you, stay with us. Don’t return to Wittenberg.

HAMLET

I shall in all my best obey you, madam.

HAMLET

I’ll obey you as best I can, madam.

CLAUDIUS

Why, ’tis a loving and a fair reply. Be as ourself in Denmark. —Madam, come. This gentle and unforced accord of Hamlet Sits smiling to my heart, in grace whereof No jocund health that Denmark drinks today But the great cannon to the clouds shall tell, And the king’s rouse the heavens shall bruit again, Respeaking earthly thunder. Come away.

CLAUDIUS

That loving response is what I hoped for: stay with us in Denmark. 

[To GERTRUDE] My dear wife, come. Hamlet’s easy willingness to stay has made me glad, and in honor of it, every happy toast I’ll drink today will sound like cannons up to the clouds above. My drinking will echo against the heavens like thunder. Come on.

Trumpets play. Everyone except HAMLET exits.

HAMLET

Oh, that this too, too sullied flesh would melt, Thaw, and resolve itself into a dew, Or that the Everlasting had not fixed His canon ‘gainst self-slaughter! O God, God! How weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable Seem to me all the uses of this world! Fie on ’t, ah fie! ‘Tis an unweeded garden That grows to seed. Things rank and gross in nature Possess it merely. That it should come to this. But two months dead—nay, not so much, not two. So excellent a king, that was to this Hyperion to a satyr. So loving to my mother That he might not beteem the winds of heaven Visit her face too roughly.—Heaven and earth, Must I remember? Why, she would hang on him As if increase of appetite had grown By what it fed on, and yet, within a month— Let me not think on ’t. Frailty, thy name is woman!— A little month, or ere those shoes were old With which she followed my poor father’s body, Like Niobe, all tears. Why she, even she— O God, a beast that wants discourse of reason Would have mourned longer!—married with my uncle, My father’s brother, but no more like my father Than I to Hercules. Within a month, Ere yet the salt of most unrighteous tears Had left the flushing in her gallèd eyes, She married. O most wicked speed, to post With such dexterity to incestuous sheets! It is not nor it cannot come to good, But break, my heart, for I must hold my tongue.

HAMLET

Oh, if only my dirty flesh would melt and then evaporate into a dew, or that God had not outlawed suicide. Oh God, God! How tired, stale, dull, and worthless all of life seems to me. Curse it! Yes, curse it! It’s like an untended garden, growing wild. Nasty, gross weeds cover it completely. That it has come to this point. My father, dead for just two months—no, not even that much, not two. A king so excellent, in comparison to Claudius he was like a god compared to a goat. My father was so loving toward my mother that he would not let the wind blow too hard on her face. Heaven above, must I remember? She would hang on his arm, as if the more time she spent with him, the more she wanted to be with him. And yet, within a month of my father’s death—no, don’t think about it. Women, curse your weakness!—in just a month, before she had even broken in the shoes she wore to his funeral, weeping endlessly—oh, God, a wild beast would have mourned longer than she did!—she married my uncle, my father’s brother, who’s no more like my father than I’m like Hercules. Within a month of my father’s death—before the salt from her crocodile tears had washed out of her red eyes—she remarried. Oh, what wicked speed! To jump so quickly into a bed of incest! It is not good, and will not lead to any good either. But my heart must break in silence, because I must remain quiet

HORATIO, MARCELLUS, and BARNARDO enter.

HORATIO

Hail to your lordship.

HORATIO

Hello, my lord.

HAMLET

I am glad to see you well.—Horatio? Or I do forget myself?

HAMLET

I’m pleased to see you doing well. You are Horatio, right? Or am I mistaken?

HORATIO

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

HORATIO

I am Horatio, my lord, your loyal servant forever.

HAMLET

Sir, my good friend, I’ll change that name with you.And what make you from Wittenberg, Horatio?—Marcellus!

HAMLET

Sir, my good friend, not my servant. Why are you not at Wittenberg, Horatio? 

[To MARCELLUS] Oh, Marcellus!

MARCELLUS

My good lord.

MARCELLUS

My good lord.

HAMLET

[to MARCELLUS ] I am very glad to see you. [to BARNARDO] Good even, sir. [to HORATIO] —But what, in faith, make you from Wittenberg?

HAMLET

[To MARCELLUS] So nice to see you.

[To BARNARDO] Hello, sir.

[To HORATIO] But what are you doing away from Wittenberg, Horatio?

HORATIO

A truant disposition, good my lord.

HORATIO

I have the heart of a dropout, my good lord.

HAMLET

I would not hear your enemy say so, Nor shall you do mine ear that violence, To make it truster of your own report Against yourself. I know you are no truant. But what is your affair in Elsinore? We’ll teach you to drink deep ere you depart.

HAMLET

I wouldn’t let your enemies say that about you, so I won’t let you say it—or believe you if you did. I know you’d never drop out. So why are you here at Elsinore? I’ll teach you to drink deeply before you leave.

HORATIO

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

HORATIO

My lord, I came to attend your father’s funeral.

HAMLET

I pray thee, do not mock me, fellow student.I think it was to see my mother’s wedding.

HAMLET

Please, don’t make fun of me, my fellow student. I think you came to see my mother’s wedding.

HORATIO

Indeed, my lord, it followed hard upon.

HORATIO

Well, my lord, it’s true the wedding came soon after the funeral.

HAMLET

Thrift, thrift, Horatio! The funeral baked meats Did coldly furnish forth the marriage tables. Would I had met my dearest foe in heaven Or ever I had seen that day, Horatio. My father—methinks I see my father.

HAMLET

It’s called being frugal, Horatio. The leftovers from the funeral dinner made a great cold lunch for the wedding. Horatio, I would rather have met my worst enemy in heaven than have lived to see that awful day! My father—I think I see my father.

HORATIO

Where, my lord?

HORATIO

Where, sir?

HAMLET

In my mind’s eye, Horatio.

HAMLET

In my imagination, Horatio.

HORATIO

I saw him once. He was a goodly king.

HORATIO

I saw him once. He was an impressive king.

HAMLET

He was a man. Take him for all in all.I shall not look upon his like again.

HAMLET

He was a great man, perfect in all things. I’ll never see his equal again.

HORATIO

My lord, I think I saw him yesternight.

HORATIO

My lord, I think I saw him last night.

HAMLET

Saw who?

HAMLET

Saw who?

HORATIO

My lord, the king your father.

HORATIO

The king your father, my lord.

HAMLET

The king my father?!

HAMLET

The king my father?!

HORATIO

Season your admiration for a while With an attent ear, till I may deliver, Upon the witness of these gentlemen, This marvel to you.

HORATIO

Hold back your excitement for a while, and listen while I tell you about this astonishing thing, with these two gentlemen as my witnesses.

HAMLET

For God’s love, let me hear.

HAMLET

For God’s sake, let me hear it.

HORATIO

Two nights together had these gentlemen, Marcellus and Barnardo, on their watch, In the dead waste and middle of the night, Been thus encountered: a figure like your father, Armed at point exactly, cap-à-pie, Appears before them and with solemn march Goes slow and stately by them. Thrice he walked By their oppressed and fear-surprisèd eyes Within his truncheon’s length, whilst they, distilled Almost to jelly with the act of fear, Stand dumb and speak not to him. This to me In dreadful secrecy impart they did, And I with them the third night kept the watch, Where—as they had delivered, both in time, Form of the thing, each word made true and good— The apparition comes. I knew your father. These hands are not more like.

HORATIO

For the last two nights, these two guardsmen—Marcellus and Barnardo—during their watch in the middle of the night, encountered a figure that looked very much like your father, dressed in full armor from head to toe. It appeared in front of them and marched by them, slowly and with dignity, at no greater distance than the length of his staff. He walked by them three times as they stood shaking in fear like jelly, too shocked to speak. They told me all about what they’d seen, swearing me to secrecy. On the third night, I stood guard with them, and the ghost appeared, just when they said it would and looking just as they had described. I knew your father. The ghost looked as much like him as my hands look like each other.

HAMLET

But where was this?

HAMLET

Where did this happen?

MARCELLUS

My lord, upon the platform where we watch.

MARCELLUS

On the platform where we stand guard, my lord.

HAMLET

Did you not speak to it?

HAMLET

Didn’t you talk to it?

HORATIO

My lord, I did, But answer made it none. Yet once methought It lifted up its head and did address Itself to motion, like as it would speak. But even then the morning cock crew loud, And at the sound it shrunk in haste away And vanished from our sight.

HORATIO

I did, my lord. But it didn’t answer. Though once I thought that it raised its head as if it were about to speak, but just then the rooster began to crow, and at the sound the ghost flinched and then vanished from sight.

HAMLET

‘Tis very strange.

HAMLET

That’s very strange.

HORATIO

As I do live, my honored lord, ’tis true.And we did think it writ down in our dutyTo let you know of it.

HORATIO

I swear on my life that it’s true, my lord. We thought that it was our duty to tell you about it.

HAMLET

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

HAMLET

Yes, you’re right. but I’m disturbed by this story. Do you have guard duty again tonight?

MARCELLUS, BARNARDO

We do, my lord.

MARCELLUS, BARNARDO

We do, my lord.

HAMLET

Armed, say you?

HAMLET

The ghost was armed, you say?

MARCELLUS, BARNARDO

Armed, my lord.

MARCELLUS, BARNARDO

Armed, my lord.

HAMLET

From top to toe?

HAMLET

From head to toe?

MARCELLUS, BARNARDO

My lord, from head to foot.

MARCELLUS, BARNARDO

From head to toe, my lord.

HAMLET

Then saw you not his face?

HAMLET

Then you didn’t see his face?

HORATIO

Oh yes, my lord. He wore his beaver up.

HORATIO

Oh, yes, we could, my lord. He had his helmet visor up.

HAMLET

What, looked he frowningly?

HAMLET

Did he look angry?

HORATIO

A countenance moreIn sorrow than in anger.

HORATIO

His expression looked more sad than angry.

HAMLET

Pale or red?

HAMLET

Was he pale or flushed?

HORATIO

Nay, very pale.

HORATIO

Very pale.

HAMLET

And fixed his eyes upon you?

HAMLET

Did he look straight at you?

HORATIO

Most constantly.

HORATIO

The entire time.

HAMLET

I would I had been there.

HAMLET

I wish I’d been there.

HORATIO

It would have much amazed you.

HORATIO

You would have been shocked and amazed.

HAMLET

Very like. Stayed it long?

HAMLET

I’m sure I would have. Did it stay a long time?

HORATIO

While one with moderate haste might tell a hundred.

HORATIO

As long as it would take a person to count to one hundred at a moderate speed.

MARCELLUS, BARNARDO

Longer, longer.

MARCELLUS, BARNARDO

No, longer.

HORATIO

Not when I saw ’t.

HORATIO

Not the time I saw it.

HAMLET

His beard was grizzled, no?

HAMLET

His beard was gray, right?

HORATIO

It was, as I have seen it in his life,A sable silvered.

HORATIO

It was, just as it looked when I saw it when he was alive: dark brown with silver streaks.

HAMLET

I will watch tonight. Perchance‘Twill walk again.

HAMLET

I’ll join you for guard duty tonight. Perhaps the ghost will appear again.

HORATIO

I warrant it will.

HORATIO

I bet it will.

HAMLET

If it assume my noble father’s person, I’ll speak to it, though Hell itself should gape And bid me hold my peace. I pray you all, If you have hitherto concealed this sight, Let it be tenable in your silence still. And whatsoever else shall hap tonight, Give it an understanding, but no tongue. I will requite your loves. So fare you well. Upon the platform, ’twixt eleven and twelve, I’ll visit you.

HAMLET

If it looks like my noble father, I’ll speak to it, even if Hell itself opens up and tells me to be quiet. I beg all of you, if you’ve kept this a secret so far, continue to be silent. And whatever happens tonight, think about it, but don’t discuss it with anyone. I’ll do the same. So goodbye. I’ll come see you on the guards’ platform between eleven and twelve.

HORATIO, MARCELLUS, BARNARDO

Our duty to your honor.

HORATIO, MARCELLUS, BARNARDO

We’ll do our duty to your Honor.

HAMLET

Your loves, as mine to you. Farewell.

HAMLET

Instead give me your friendship, just as I give mine to you. Goodbye.

Everyone but HAMLET exits.

HAMLET

My father’s spirit in arms. All is not well. I doubt some foul play. Would the night were come! Till then sit still, my soul. Foul deeds will rise, Though all the earth o’erwhelm them, to men’s eyes.

HAMLET

My father’s ghost, wearing armor. This is not good. I suspect some foul play. I wish it were night already! Until then, I must stay calm. Bad deeds will always be revealed, no matter how deeply they’ve been buried.

HAMLET exits.

Hamlet
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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.