ACT 1, SCENE 4: A guard platform.


HAMLET: The air bites shrewdly, it is very cold.

HORATIO: It is a nipping and an eager air.

HAMLET: What hour now?

HORATIO:                           I think it lacks of twelve.

MARCELLUS: No, it is struck.

HORATIO: Indeed? I heard it not. It then draws near the season               [5]
Wherein the spirit held his wont to walk.

A flourish of trumpets, and two pieces goes off.

What does this mean, my lord?

HAMLET: The King doth wake to-night and takes his rouse,
Keeps wassail, and the swaggering up-spring reels;
And as he drains his draughts of Rhenish down,                              [10]
The kettle-drum and trumpet thus bray out
The triumph of his pledge.

HORATIO:                           Is it a custom?

HAMLET: Ay, marry, is't,
But to my mind, though I am native here
And to the manner born, it is a custom                                                [15]
More honoured 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                                                   [20]
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                                     [25]
(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'er-leavens
The form of plausive manners -- that these men,                            [30]
Carrying, I say, the stamp of one defect,
Being nature's livery, or fortune's star,
His virtues else, be they as pure as grace,
As infinite as man may undergo,
Shall in the general censure take corruption                                      [35]
From that particular fault: the dram of evil
Doth all the noble substance of a doubt
To his own scandal.

Enter GHOST.

HORATIO:                          Look, my lord, it comes!

HAMLET: Angels and ministers of grace defend us!
Be thou a spirit of health, or goblin damned,                                      [40]
Bring with thee airs from heaven, or blasts from hell,
Be thy intents wicked, or charitable,
Thou com'st in such a questionable shape
That I will speak to thee. I'll call thee Hamlet,
King, father, royal Dane. O, answer me!                                               [45]
Let me not burst in ignorance, but tell
Why thy canonized bones, hearsed in death,
Have burst their cerements; why the sepulchre,
Wherein we saw thee quietly inurned,
Hath oped his ponderous and marble jaws                                         [50]
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                                                     [55]
With thoughts beyond the reaches of our souls?
Say why is this? wherefore? what should we do?

Ghost beckons HAMLET.

HORATIO: It beckons you to go away with it,
As if it some impartment did desire
To you alone.                                                                                              [60]

MARCELLUS:              Look with what courteous action
It waves you to a more removed ground,
But do not go with it.

HORATIO:                           No, by no means.

HAMLET: It will not speak, then I will follow it.

HORATIO: Do not, my lord.

HAMLET:                           Why, what should be the fear?
I do not set my life at a pin's fee,                                                             [65]
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.

HORATIO: What if it tempt you toward the flood, my lord,
Or to the dreadful summit of the cliff                                                   [70]
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,                                               [75]
Without more motive, into every brain
That looks so many fathoms to the sea
And hears it roar beneath.

HAMLET:                           It waves me still. --
Go on, I'll follow thee.

MARCELLUS: You shall not go, my lord.                                                         [80]

HAMLET:                           Hold off your hands.

HORATIO: Be ruled, you shall not go.

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.
By heaven, I'll make a ghost of him that lets me!                              [85]
I say away! -- Go on, I'll follow thee.

Exeunt GHOST and HAMLET.

HORATIO: He waxes desperate with imagination.

MARCELLUS: Let's follow. 'Tis not fit thus to obey him.

HORATIO: Have after. To what issue will this come?

MARCELLUS: Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.                      [90]

HORATIO: Heaven will direct it.

MARCELLUS: Nay, let's follow him.


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