A line-by-line translation

Hamlet

Hamlet Translation Act 1, Scene 4

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HAMLET, HORATIO, and MARCELLUS enter.

HAMLET

The air bites shrewdly. It is very cold.

HAMLET

The air bites wickedly. It is very cold.

HORATIO

It is a nipping and an eager air.

HORATIO

Yes, the air is nipping and sharp.

HAMLET

What hour now?

HAMLET

What time is it now?

HORATIO

I think it lacks of twelve.

HORATIO

Just before twelve, I think.

MARCELLUS

No, it is struck.

MARCELLUS

No, the clock struck twelve.

HORATIO

Indeed? I heard it not. It then draws near the seasonWherein the spirit held his wont to walk.

HORATIO

Really? I didn’t hear it. So it’s getting close to the time when the ghost usually appears.

Trumpets sound, and two cannons fire.

HORATIO

What does this mean, my lord?

HORATIO

What does that mean, sir?

HAMLET

The king doth wake tonight and takes his rouse, Keeps wassail and the swaggering upspring reels, And, as he drains his draughts of Rhenish down, The kettle-drum and trumpet thus bray out The triumph of his pledge.

HAMLET

The king is staying up late partying. And as he carouses, and dances, and guzzles his German wine, the musicians play the drum and trumpet to mark each time he drinks another cup.

HORATIO

Is it a custom?

HORATIO

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HAMLET

Ay, marry, is ’t. But to my mind, though I am native here And to the manner born, it is a custom More honored in the breach than the observance. This heavy-headed revel east and west Makes us traduced and taxed of other nations. They clepe us drunkards and with swinish phrase Soil our addition. And indeed it takes From our achievements, though performed at height, The pith and marrow of our attribute. So oft it chances in particular men That for some vicious mole of nature in them— As in their birth (wherein they are not guilty, Since nature cannot choose his origin), By the o’ergrowth of some complexion, Oft breaking down the pales and forts of reason, Or by some habit that too much o’erleavens The form of plausive manners— that these men, Carrying, I say, the stamp of one defect, Being nature’s livery or fortune’s star, Their virtues else (be they as pure as grace, As infinite as man may undergo) Shall in the general censure take corruption From that particular fault. The dram of evil Doth all the noble substance of a doubt To his own scandal.

HAMLET

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The GHOST enters.

HORATIO

Look, my lord, it comes!

HORATIO

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HAMLET

Angels and ministers of grace defend us! Be thou a spirit of health or goblin damned, Bring with thee airs from heaven or blasts from hell, Be thy intents wicked or charitable, Thou comest in such a questionable shape That I will speak to thee. I’ll call thee “Hamlet,” “King,” “Father,” “royal Dane.” O, answer me! Let me not burst in ignorance, but tell Why thy canonized bones, hearsed in death, Have burst their cerements; why the sepulcher, Wherein we saw thee quietly interred, Hath oped his ponderous and marble jaws To cast thee up again. What may this mean, That thou, dead corse, again in complete steel Revisits thus the glimpses of the moon, Making night hideous and we fools of nature, So horridly to shake our disposition With thoughts beyond the reaches of our souls? Say why is this? Wherefore? What should we do?

HAMLET

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The GHOST motions for HAMLET to follow it.

HORATIO

It beckons you to go away with it,As if it some impartment did desireTo you alone.

HORATIO

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MARCELLUS

Look, with what courteous actionIt waves you to a more removèd ground.But do not go with it.

MARCELLUS

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HORATIO

No, by no means.

HORATIO

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HAMLET

It will not speak. Then I will follow it.

HAMLET

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HORATIO

Do not, my lord.

HORATIO

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HAMLET

Why, what should be the fear? I do not set my life in a pin’s fee, And for my soul—what can it do to that, Being a thing immortal as itself? It waves me forth again. I’ll follow it.

HAMLET

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HORATIO

What if it tempt you toward the flood, my lord, Or to the dreadful summit of the cliff That beetles o’er his base into the sea, And there assume some other horrible form, Which might deprive your sovereignty of reason And draw you into madness? Think of it. The very place puts toys of desperation, Without more motive, into every brain That looks so many fathoms to the sea And hears it roar beneath.

HORATIO

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HAMLET

It waves me still.—Go on. I’ll follow thee.

HAMLET

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MARCELLUS

You shall not go, my lord.

MARCELLUS

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MARCELLUS and HORATIO try to hold HAMLET back.

HAMLET

Hold off your hands.

HAMLET

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HORATIO

Be ruled. You shall not go.

HORATIO

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HAMLET

My fate cries out And makes each petty artery in this body As hardy as the Nemean lion’s nerve. Still am I called.—Unhand me, gentlemen. [draws his sword] By heaven, I’ll make a ghost of him that lets me. I say, away! —Go on. I’ll follow thee.

HAMLET

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The GHOST and HAMLET exit.

HORATIO

He waxes desperate with imagination.

HORATIO

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MARCELLUS

Let’s follow. ‘Tis not fit thus to obey him.

MARCELLUS

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HORATIO

Have after. To what issue will this come?

HORATIO

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MARCELLUS

Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.

MARCELLUS

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HORATIO

Heaven will direct it.

HORATIO

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MARCELLUS

Nay, let’s follow him.

MARCELLUS

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They exit.

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.