Home  »  The Oxford Shakespeare  »  Hamlet, Prince of Denmark

William Shakespeare (1564–1616). The Oxford Shakespeare. 1914.

Act I. Scene I.

Hamlet, Prince of Denmark

Elsinore.A Platform before the Castle.

FRANCISCO at his post.Enter to him BERNARDO.

Ber.Who’s there?

Fran.Nay, answer me; stand, and unfold yourself.

Ber.Long live the king!



Fran.You come most carefully upon your hour.

Ber.’Tis now struck twelve; get thee to bed, Francisco.

Fran.For this relief much thanks; ’tis bitter cold,

And I am sick at heart.

Ber.Have you had quiet guard?

Fran.Not a mouse stirring.

Ber.Well, good-night.

If you do meet Horatio and Marcellus,

The rivals of my watch, bid them make haste.

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


Hor.Friends to this ground.

Mar.And liegemen to the Dane.

Fran.Give you good-night.

Mar.O! farewell, honest soldier:

Who hath reliev’d you?

Fran.Bernardo has my place.

Give you good-night.[Exit.

Mar.Holla! Bernardo!


What! is Horatio there?

Hor.A piece of him.

Ber.Welcome, Horatio; welcome, good Marcellus.

Mar.What! has this thing appear’d again to-night?

Ber.I have seen nothing.

Mar.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.

Hor.Tush, tush! ’twill not appear.

Ber.Sit down a while,

And let us once again assail your ears,

That are so fortified against our story,

What we two nights have seen.

Hor.Well, sit we down,

And let us hear Bernardo speak of this.

Ber.Last night of all,

When yond same star that’s westward from the pole

Had made his course to illume that part of heaven

Where now it burns, Marcellus and myself,

The bell then beating one,—

Mar.Peace! break thee off; look, where it comes again!

Enter Ghost.

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

Mar.Thou art a scholar; speak to it, Horatio.

Ber.Looks it not like the king? mark it, Horatio.

Hor.Most like: it harrows me with fear and wonder.

Ber.It would be spoke to.

Mar.Question it, Horatio.

Hor.What art thou that usurp’st this time of night,

Together with that fair and war-like form

In which the majesty of buried Denmark

Did sometimes march? by heaven I charge thee, speak!

Mar.It is offended.

Ber.See! it stalks away.

Hor.Stay! speak, speak! I charge thee, speak![Exit Ghost.

Mar.’Tis gone, and will not answer.

Ber.How now, Horatio! you tremble and look pale:

Is not this something more than fantasy?

What think you on ’t?

Hor.Before my God, I might not this believe

Without the sensible and true avouch

Of mine own eyes.

Mar.Is it not like the king?

Hor.As thou art to thyself:

Such was the very armour he had on

When he the ambitious Norway combated;

So frown’d he once, when, in an angry parle,

He smote the sledded Polacks on the ice.

’Tis strange.

Mar.Thus twice before, and jump at this dead hour,

With martial stalk hath he gone by our watch.

Hor.In what particular thought to work I know not;

But in the gross and scope of my opinion,

This bodes some strange eruption to our state.

Mar.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-labourer with the day:

Who is ’t that can inform me?

Hor.That can I;

At least, the whisper goes so. Our last king,

Whose image even but now appear’d to us,

Was, as you know, by Fortinbras of Norway,

Thereto prick’d on by a most emulate pride,

Dar’d to the combat; in which our valiant Hamlet—

For so this side of our known world esteem’d him—

Did slay this Fortinbras; who, by a seal’d compact,

Well ratified by law and heraldry,

Did forfeit with his life all those his lands

Which he stood seiz’d of, to the conqueror;

Against the which, a moiety competent

Was gaged by our king; which had return’d

To the inheritance of Fortinbras,

Had he been vanquisher; as, by the same covenant,

And carriage of the article design’d,

His fell to Hamlet. Now, sir, young Fortinbras,

Of unimproved mettle hot and full,

Hath in the skirts of Norway here and there

Shark’d 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 compulsative, 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 post-haste and romage in the land.

Ber.I think it be no other but e’en so;

Well may it sort that this portentous figure

Comes armed through our watch, so like the king

That was and is the question of these wars.

Hor.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 fierce 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.

But, soft! behold! lo! where it comes again.

Re-enter Ghost.

I’ll cross it, though it blast me. Stay, illusion!

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,

O! 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,[Cock crows.

Speak of it: stay, and speak! Stop it, Marcellus.

Mar.Shall I strike at it with my partisan?

Hor.Do, if it will not stand.

Ber.’Tis here!

Hor.’Tis here![Exit Ghost.

Mar.’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.

Ber.It was about to speak when the cock crew.

Hor.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,

The extravagant and erring spirit hies

To his confine; and of the truth herein

This present object made probation.

Mar.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 can walk abroad;

The nights are wholesome; then no planets strike,

No fairy takes, nor witch hath power to charm,

So hallow’d and so gracious is the time.

Hor.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 eastern hill;

Break we our watch up; and by my advice

Let us impart what we have seen to-night

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?

Mar.Let’s do ’t, I pray; and I this morning know

Where we shall find him most conveniently.[Exeunt.