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Hamlet

Hamlet Translation Act 1, Scene 5

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The GHOST and HAMLET enter.

HAMLET

Where wilt thou lead me? Speak, I’ll go no further.

HAMLET

Where are you leading me? Speak. I’m not going any farther.

GHOST

Mark me.

GHOST

Listen to me.

HAMLET

I will.

HAMLET

I will.

GHOST

My hour is almost comeWhen I to sulfurous and tormenting flamesMust render up myself.

GHOST

The hour has almost come when I must return to the torment of the flames of purgatory.

HAMLET

Alas, poor ghost!

HAMLET

Oh no, poor ghost!

GHOST

Pity me not, but lend thy serious hearingTo what I shall unfold.

GHOST

Don’t pity me. But listen carefully to what I have to say.

HAMLET

Speak. I am bound to hear.

HAMLET

Speak. I promise to listen.

GHOST

So art thou to revenge when thou shalt hear.

GHOST

Then you must promise to avenge my death, too, when you hear what I say.

HAMLET

What?

HAMLET

What?

GHOST

I am thy father’s spirit, Doomed for a certain term to walk the night And for the day confined to fast in fires, Till the foul crimes done in my days of nature Are burnt and purged away. But that I am forbid To tell the secrets of my prison house, I could a tale unfold whose lightest word Would harrow up thy soul, freeze thy young blood, Make thy two eyes, like stars, start from their spheres, Thy knotted and combinèd locks to part And each particular hair to stand on end, Like quills upon the fearful porpentine. But this eternal blazon must not be To ears of flesh and blood. List, list, O, list! If thou didst ever thy dear father love—

GHOST

I’m the ghost of your father, doomed for a certain time to walk the earth at night. During the day, I’m confined in the fires of purgatory, until those flames have burned away the sins I committed in my life. If I weren’t forbidden to tell you the secrets of purgatory, I could tell you stories that would cut up your soul, freeze your blood, make your eyes bulge from their sockets, and your hair stand on end like the quills of a frightened porcupine. But the secrets of purgatory must not be told to mortals. Listen, listen, oh, listen! If you ever loved your dear father—

HAMLET

O God!

HAMLET

Oh God!

GHOST

Revenge his foul and most unnatural murder.

GHOST

Take revenge for his awful and horrible murder.

HAMLET

Murder?

HAMLET

Murder?

GHOST

Murder most foul, as in the best it is.But this most foul, strange and unnatural.

GHOST

His most awful murder. All murder is awful, but this one was even more awful, startling, and unnatural.

HAMLET

Haste me to know ’t, that I, with wings as swiftAs meditation or the thoughts of love,May sweep to my revenge.

HAMLET

Tell me quickly about it, so that I can rush to take revenge, even faster than a person can think thoughts of love.

GHOST

I find thee apt, And duller shouldst thou be than the fat weed That roots itself in ease on Lethe wharf, Wouldst thou not stir in this. Now, Hamlet, hear. ‘Tis given out that, sleeping in my orchard, A serpent stung me. So the whole ear of Denmark Is by a forgèd process of my death Rankly abused. But know, thou noble youth, The serpent that did sting thy father’s life Now wears his crown.

GHOST

I like your words. You’d have to be as slow and dull as a weed growing on the banks of Lethe not to be brought to anger by my story. Now, Hamlet, listen. The official story is that a poisonous snake bit me while I was sleeping in the orchard. That is a lie that deceives all of Denmark. You noble youth, know that the snake that killed your father is now wearing his crown.

HAMLET

O my prophetic soul! My uncle?

HAMLET

Oh, my far-seeing soul! My uncle?

GHOST

Ay, that incestuous, that adulterate beast, With witchcraft of his wit, with traitorous gifts— O wicked wit and gifts, that have the power So to seduce!—won to his shameful lust The will of my most seeming-virtuous queen. O Hamlet, what a falling off was there! From me, whose love was of that dignity That it went hand in hand even with the vow I made to her in marriage, and to decline Upon a wretch whose natural gifts were poor To those of mine. But virtue, as it never will be moved, Though lewdness court it in a shape of heaven, So lust, though to a radiant angel linked, Will sate itself in a celestial bed And prey on garbage. But soft! Methinks I scent the morning air. Brief let me be. Sleeping within my orchard, My custom always of the afternoon, Upon my secure hour thy uncle stole With juice of cursed hebenon in a vial, And in the porches of my ears did pour The leperous distilment, whose effect Holds such an enmity with blood of man That swift as quicksilver it courses through The natural gates and alleys of the body And with a sudden vigor doth posset And curd, like eager droppings into milk, The thin and wholesome blood. So did it mine. And a most instant tetter barked about, Most lazar-like, with vile and loathsome crust All my smooth body. Thus was I, sleeping, by a brother’s hand Of life, of crown, of queen at once dispatched, Cut off even in the blossoms of my sin, Unhouseled, disappointed, unaneled. No reckoning made, but sent to my account With all my imperfections on my head. Oh, horrible, oh, horrible, most horrible! If thou hast nature in thee, bear it not. Let not the royal bed of Denmark be A couch for luxury and damnèd incest. But howsoever thou pursuest this act, Taint not thy mind, nor let thy soul contrive Against thy mother aught. Leave her to heaven And to those thorns that in her bosom lodge To prick and sting her. Fare thee well at once. The glowworm shows the matin to be near, And ‘gins to pale his uneffectual fire. Adieu, adieu, adieu. Remember me.

GHOST

Yes, that incestuous, adulterous beast. With his evil wit and traitorous gifts—oh wicked wit and gifts, that have the power to seduce!—he convinced my seemingly virtuous queen to give in to his lust. Oh, Hamlet, she fell so far! From me, who loved her with the dignity that goes hand in hand with my marriage vows, to a wretch whose natural abilities could not compare to mine. But just as true virtue can’t be corrupted, so will lust show its true nature by satisfying itself first in the blessing of heavenly marriage and then by wallowing in garbage. But wait. I think I smell the morning air. I must speak quickly. As I was sleeping in the orchard—as I used to do every afternoon—your uncle snuck up and poured a vial of henbane poison into my ear. That poison—which is like a natural enemy of blood—spreads like quicksilver through the veins and curdles the blood. So it did to mine. I broke instantly into a rash that covered my smooth body with a revolting crust. And so, as I slept, my brother stole my life, my crown, and my queen. He killed me even as I was still gripped by sin, because I did not get to repent my sins or receive last rites. I was sent to death with all my sins still on my head. Oh, horrible, horrible, most horrible! If you have any natural feelings of a son for a father in you, don’t let this stand. Don’t let the bed of the Danish king be a nest of incest. But however you attempt to get revenge, don’t allow your mind or soul to contemplate harming your mother. Leave her fate to God, and to the sting of her own guilt. Goodbye now. The glow of light on the horizon shows that morning is near. Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye. Remember me.

The GHOST exits.

HAMLET

O all you host of heaven! O earth! What else? And shall I couple hell? Oh, fie! Hold, hold, my heart, And you, my sinews, grow not instant old, But bear me stiffly up. Remember thee! Ay, thou poor ghost, whiles memory holds a seat In this distracted globe. Remember thee! Yea, from the table of my memory I’ll wipe away all trivial fond records, All saws of books, all forms, all pressures past That youth and observation copied there, And thy commandment all alone shall live Within the book and volume of my brain, Unmixed with baser matter. Yes, by heaven! O most pernicious woman! O villain, villain, smiling, damnèd villain! My tables!—Meet it is I set it down That one may smile, and smile, and be a villain. At least I’m sure it may be so in Denmark. [writes] So, uncle, there you are. Now to my word. It is “Adieu, adieu. Remember me.” I have sworn ’t.

HAMLET

Oh, all you angels of heaven! Oh, everyone on earth! What else? Should I include hell too? Oh, curses! Keep beating, my heart, and muscles, don’t grow suddenly old—hold me upright. Remember you? Yes, you poor ghost, as long as I have any memory in my distracted head. Remember you? Yes, I’ll wipe clean my memory of all unimportant facts, all the wise sayings of books, all images and impressions from my youth, so that your commandment alone will live there. Yes, by heaven! Oh, you wicked woman! Oh, you villain, villain, damned, smiling villain! Where’s my notebook? I should write down that one can smile and smile, and still be a villain. At least it’s possible to do so in Denmark. [He writes] So, uncle, there you are. Now I must fulfill my vow. He said, “Remember me.” I’ve sworn I would.

HORATIO and MARCELLUS enter.

HORATIO

My lord, my lord!

HORATIO

My lord, my lord!

MARCELLUS

Lord Hamlet—

MARCELLUS

Lord Hamlet—

HORATIO

Heaven secure him!

HORATIO

God protect him!

HAMLET

So be it.

HAMLET

So be it.

HORATIO

Illo, ho, ho, my lord!

HORATIO

Hello, hello there, my lord!

HAMLET

Hillo, ho, ho, boy. Come, bird, come.

HAMLET

Hello, hello there, boy! Come to me.

MARCELLUS

How is ’t, my noble lord?

MARCELLUS

What happened, my noble lord?

HORATIO

What news, my lord?

HORATIO

What did you learn, my lord?

HAMLET

Oh, wonderful!

HAMLET

Oh, it was amazing!

HORATIO

Good my lord, tell it.

HORATIO

My lord, tell us.

HAMLET

No. You’ll reveal it.

HAMLET

No. You’ll reveal my secret.

HORATIO

Not I, my lord, by heaven.

HORATIO

I swear to God I won’t, my lord.

MARCELLUS

Nor I, my lord.

MARCELLUS

Nor will I, my lord.

HAMLET

How say you, then? Would heart of man once think it?But you’ll be secret?

HAMLET

You say so, but can you promise you’ll keep the secret?

HORATIO, MARCELLUS

Ay, by heaven, my lord.

HORATIO, MARCELLUS

Yes, I swear to God, my lord.

HAMLET

There’s ne’er a villain dwelling in all DenmarkBut he’s an arrant knave.

HAMLET

There’s not a villain in Denmark who isn’t a complete liar .

HORATIO

There needs no ghost, my lord, come from the graveTo tell us this.

HORATIO

My lord, we didn’t need a ghost returning from the grave to tell us that.

HAMLET

Why, right, you are in the right. And so, without more circumstance at all, I hold it fit that we shake hands and part. You, as your business and desire shall point you— For every man has business and desire, Such as it is—and for my own poor part, Look you, I’ll go pray.

HAMLET

Why, right, you are right. So, with that, I’d say that the best thing would be for us to shake hands and go our separate ways. You go wherever your business takes you—since every man has some business to take care of, whatever it is. As for me,’ll go and pray.

HORATIO

These are but wild and whirling words, my lord.

HORATIO

Your words are wild and meaningless, my lord.

HAMLET

I’m sorry they offend you, heartily.Yes faith, heartily.

HAMLET

I’m very sorry they offended you. Yes, by God, very sorry.

HORATIO

There’s no offense, my lord.

HORATIO

There was no offense, my lord.

HAMLET

Yes, by Saint Patrick, but there is, Horatio, And much offense too. Touching this vision here, It is an honest ghost, that let me tell you. For your desire to know what is between us, O’ermaster ’t as you may. And now, good friends, As you are friends, scholars and soldiers, Give me one poor request.

HAMLET

Ah, but I swear by Saint Patrick that there is, Horatio. A lot of offense. As for this ghost, he’s an honest one, I’ll tell you that. But as for your desire to know what happened between us, control yourself and don’t ask. And now, good friends—and you are friends, scholars, and soldiers—do me one small favor.

HORATIO

What is ’t, my lord? We will.

HORATIO

What is it, my lord? We’ll do it.

HAMLET

Never make known what you have seen tonight.

HAMLET

Never tell anyone what you’ve seen tonight.

HORATIO, MARCELLUS

My lord, we will not.

HORATIO, MARCELLUS

We won’t, my lord.

HAMLET

Nay, but swear ’t.

HAMLET

No, you must swear it.

HORATIO

In faith, my lord, not I.

HORATIO

I swear to God I won’t.

MARCELLUS

Nor I, my lord, in faith.

MARCELLUS

Nor I, my lord, I swear to God.

HAMLET

Upon my sword.

HAMLET

Swear on my sword.

MARCELLUS

We have sworn, my lord, already.

MARCELLUS

But we swore already, my lord.

HAMLET

Indeed, upon my sword, indeed.

HAMLET

True, but still, swear on my sword.

GHOST

[cries under the stage] Swear!

GHOST

[He calls out from under the stage] Swear!

HAMLET

Ah, ha, boy! Sayst thou so? Art thou there, truepenny?Come on, you hear this fellow in the cellarage.Consent to swear.

HAMLET

Aha, do you say so, boy? Are you down there, my trusty fellow?

[To HORATIO and MARCELLUS] Come on, you heard the man down in the basement. Agree to swear.

HORATIO

Propose the oath, my lord.

HORATIO

Tell us what to swear, my lord.

HAMLET

Never to speak of this that you have seen.Swear by my sword.

HAMLET

Never to speak of what you’ve seen. Swear by my sword.

GHOST

[beneath] Swear.

GHOST

[From under the stage] Swear.

HAMLET

Hic et ubique? Then we’ll shift our ground. Come hither, gentlemen, And lay your hands again upon my sword. Swear by my sword Never to speak of this that you have heard.

HAMLET

You’re everywhere, huh? We’ll move somewhere else. 

[To HORATIO and MARCELLUS] Come over here, gentlemen, and rest your hands once more on my sword. Swear by my sword never to speak of what you’ve heard.

GHOST

[beneath] Swear by his sword.

GHOST

[From under the stage] Swear by his sword.

HAMLET

Well said, old mole! Canst work i’ th’ earth so fast?A worthy pioneer! Once more remove, good friends.

HAMLET

That’s right, old mole. Can you really move through the dirt so quickly? What a miner you are! 

[TO HORATIO and MARCELLUS] Let’s move once more, my friends.

HORATIO

O day and night, but this is wondrous strange!

HORATIO

Oh, by God, this is incredibly strange.

HAMLET

And therefore as a stranger give it welcome. There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy. But come, Here, as before, never, so help you mercy, How strange or odd soe’er I bear myself (As I perchance hereafter shall think meet To put an antic disposition on), That you, at such times seeing me, never shall— With arms encumbered thus, or this headshake, Or by pronouncing of some doubtful phrase, As “Well, well, we know,” or “We could an if we would,” Or “If we list to speak,” or “There be an if they might,” Or such ambiguous giving out— to note That you know aught of me. This not to do, So grace and mercy at your most need help you, Swear.

HAMLET

So welcome it like a stranger. Horatio, there are more things in heaven and earth than you can dream of with all your scientific learning. Now listen: just as you swore before, no matter how strangely I act (since from now on I may find it necessary to act a bit crazy), you must never, ever let on—with a gesture of your arms, or a shake of your head, or by saying something like “well, well, we understand,” or “we’d tell you if we could,” or “if we were allowed to speak,” or anything like that—that you know anything about what happened to me here tonight. Swear you won’t, by all of your hopes of going to heaven.

GHOST

[beneath] Swear!

GHOST

[From under the stage] Swear.

HAMLET

Rest, rest, perturbèd spirit! —So, gentlemen, With all my love I do commend me to you, And what so poor a man as Hamlet is May do, to express his love and friending to you, God willing, shall not lack. Let us go in together, And still your fingers on your lips, I pray. The time is out of joint. O cursèd spite, That ever I was born to set it right! Nay, come, let’s go together.

HAMLET

Rest, rest, unhappy ghost! 

[To HORATIO and MARCELLUS] So, gentlemen, I thank you with all my love, and promise that some day I’ll repay you as fully as I can, God willing. Let’s go back inside together. But keep your lips sealed, please. Everything is wrong these days. Oh, curse the fact that I’m the one who has to set things right! Now come, let’s go.

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.