A line-by-line translation

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

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CORNELIUS, VOLTEMAND

In that and all things will we show our duty.

CORNELIUS, VOLTEMAND

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CLAUDIUS

We doubt it nothing. Heartily farewell.

CLAUDIUS

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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

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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

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CLAUDIUS

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

CLAUDIUS

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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

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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

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HAMLET

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

HAMLET

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CLAUDIUS

How is it that the clouds still hang on you?

CLAUDIUS

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HAMLET

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

HAMLET

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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

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HAMLET

Ay, madam, it is common.

HAMLET

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GERTRUDE

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

GERTRUDE

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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

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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

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GERTRUDE

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

GERTRUDE

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HAMLET

I shall in all my best obey you, madam.

HAMLET

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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

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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

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HORATIO, MARCELLUS, and BARNARDO enter.

HORATIO

Hail to your lordship.

HORATIO

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HAMLET

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

HAMLET

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HORATIO

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

HORATIO

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HAMLET

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

HAMLET

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MARCELLUS

My good lord.

MARCELLUS

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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

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HORATIO

A truant disposition, good my lord.

HORATIO

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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

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HORATIO

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

HORATIO

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HAMLET

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

HAMLET

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HORATIO

Indeed, my lord, it followed hard upon.

HORATIO

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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

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HORATIO

Where, my lord?

HORATIO

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HAMLET

In my mind’s eye, Horatio.

HAMLET

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HORATIO

I saw him once. He was a goodly king.

HORATIO

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HAMLET

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

HAMLET

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HORATIO

My lord, I think I saw him yesternight.

HORATIO

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HAMLET

Saw who?

HAMLET

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HORATIO

My lord, the king your father.

HORATIO

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HAMLET

The king my father?!

HAMLET

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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

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HAMLET

For God’s love, let me hear.

HAMLET

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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

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HAMLET

But where was this?

HAMLET

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MARCELLUS

My lord, upon the platform where we watch.

MARCELLUS

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HAMLET

Did you not speak to it?

HAMLET

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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

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HAMLET

‘Tis very strange.

HAMLET

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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

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HAMLET

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

HAMLET

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MARCELLUS, BARNARDO

We do, my lord.

MARCELLUS, BARNARDO

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HAMLET

Armed, say you?

HAMLET

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MARCELLUS, BARNARDO

Armed, my lord.

MARCELLUS, BARNARDO

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HAMLET

From top to toe?

HAMLET

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MARCELLUS, BARNARDO

My lord, from head to foot.

MARCELLUS, BARNARDO

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HAMLET

Then saw you not his face?

HAMLET

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HORATIO

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

HORATIO

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HAMLET

What, looked he frowningly?

HAMLET

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HORATIO

A countenance moreIn sorrow than in anger.

HORATIO

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HAMLET

Pale or red?

HAMLET

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HORATIO

Nay, very pale.

HORATIO

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HAMLET

And fixed his eyes upon you?

HAMLET

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HORATIO

Most constantly.

HORATIO

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HAMLET

I would I had been there.

HAMLET

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HORATIO

It would have much amazed you.

HORATIO

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HAMLET

Very like. Stayed it long?

HAMLET

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HORATIO

While one with moderate haste might tell a hundred.

HORATIO

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MARCELLUS, BARNARDO

Longer, longer.

MARCELLUS, BARNARDO

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HORATIO

Not when I saw ’t.

HORATIO

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HAMLET

His beard was grizzled, no?

HAMLET

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HORATIO

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

HORATIO

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HAMLET

I will watch tonight. Perchance‘Twill walk again.

HAMLET

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HORATIO

I warrant it will.

HORATIO

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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

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HORATIO, MARCELLUS, BARNARDO

Our duty to your honor.

HORATIO, MARCELLUS, BARNARDO

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HAMLET

Your loves, as mine to you. Farewell.

HAMLET

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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

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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.