Unique features of the Signet Classic Shakespeare:
- An extensive overview of Shakespeare's life, world, and theater by the genereal editor of the Signet Classic Shakespeare series, Sylvan Barnet, Tufts University
- Special introduction to the play by the editor, Sylvan Barnet
- A note on the three early texts of Hamlet
- Sources from which Shakespeare derived Hamlet
- Dramatic criticism from the past and present: commentaries by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, A. C. Bradley, Maynard Mack, Robert Ornstein, Carolyn Heilbrun, and Catherine Belsey
- A comprehensive stage and screen history of notable actors, directors, and productions of Hamlet, then and now
- Text, notes, and commentaries printed in the clearest, most readable type
- Up-to-date list of recommended readings
Read an Excerpt
Act 1 Scene 1 running scene 1
Enter Barnardo and Francisco, two sentinels Meeting
BARNARDO Who's there?
FRANCISCO Nay, answer me: stand and unfold yourself.
BARNARDO Long live the king!
FRANCISCO You come most carefully upon your hour.
BARNARDO 'Tis now struck twelve: get thee to bed, Francisco.
FRANCISCO For this relief much thanks: 'tis bitter cold,
And I am sick at heart.
BARNARDO Have you had quiet guard?
FRANCISCO Not a mouse stirring.
BARNARDO Well, goodnight.
If you do meet Horatio and Marcellus,
The rivals of my watch, bid them make haste.
Enter Horatio and Marcellus
FRANCISCO I think I hear them.- Stand! Who's there?
HORATIO Friends to this ground.
MARCELLUS And liegemen to the Dane.
FRANCISCO Give you goodnight.
MARCELLUS O, farewell, honest soldier. Who hath relieved you?
FRANCISCO Barnardo has my place. Give you goodnight.
MARCELLUS Holla! Barnardo!
BARNARDO Say, what, is Horatio there?
HORATIO A piece of him.
BARNARDO Welcome, Horatio: welcome, good Marcellus.
MARCELLUS What, has this thing appeared again tonight?
BARNARDO I have seen nothing.
MARCELLUS 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.
HORATIO Tush, tush,'twill not appear.
BARNARDO Sit down awhile,
And let us once again assail your ears,
That are so fortified against our story,
What we two nights have seen.
HORATIO Well, sit we down,
And let us hear Barnardo speak of this.
BARNARDO Last night of all,
When yond same star that's westward from the pole
Had made his course t'illume that part of heaven
Where now it burns, Marcellus and myself,
The bell then beating one-
MARCELLUS Peace, break thee off.
Enter the Ghost
Look where it comes again.
BARNARDO In the same figure like the king that's dead.
MARCELLUS Thou art a scholar; speak to it, Horatio.
BARNARDO Looks it not like the king? Mark it, Horatio.
HORATIO Most like: it harrows me with fear and wonder.
BARNARDO It would be spoke to.
MARCELLUS Question it, Horatio.
HORATIO What art thou that usurp'st this time of night,
Together with that fair and warlike form
In which the majesty of buried Denmark
Did sometimes march? By heaven I charge thee speak!
MARCELLUS It is offended.
BARNARDO See, it stalks away.
HORATIO Stay! Speak, speak! I charge thee, speak! Exit the Ghost
MARCELLUS 'Tis gone and will not answer.
BARNARDO How now, Horatio? You tremble and look pale.
Is not this something more than fantasy?
What think you on't?
HORATIO Before my God, I might not this believe
Without the sensible and true avouch
Of mine own eyes.
MARCELLUS Is it not like the king?
HORATIO As thou art to thyself.
Such was the very armour he had on
When he th'ambitious Norway combated:
So frowned he once when, in an angry parle,
He smote the steelèd pole-axe on the ice.
MARCELLUS Thus twice before, and just at this dead hour,
With martial stalk hath he gone by our watch.
HORATIO 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.
MARCELLUS 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?
HORATIO That can I,
At least, the whisper goes so: our last king,
Whose image even but now appeared to us,
Was, as you know, by Fortinbras of Norway,
Thereto pricked on by a most emulate pride,
Dared to the combat, in which our valiant Hamlet -
For so this side of our known world esteemed him -
Did slay this Fortinbras, who by a sealed compact,
Well ratified by law and heraldry,
Did forfeit, with his life, all those his lands
Which he stood seized on to the conqueror:
Against the which, a moiety competent
Was gagèd by our king, which had returned
To the inheritance of Fortinbras,
Had he been vanquisher, as, by the same cov'nant,
And carriage of the article designed,
His fell to Hamlet. Now, sir, young Fortinbras,
Of unimprovèd mettle hot and full,
Hath in the skirts of Norway here and there
Sharked up a list of landless resolutes
For food and diet to some enterprise
That hath a stomach in't, which is no other -
And 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 rummage in the land.
Enter Ghost again
But soft, behold! Lo, where it comes again!
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, haply, foreknowing may avoid - O, speak!
Or if thou hast uphoarded in thy life
Extorted treasure in the womb of earth - [A cock crows]
For which, they say, you spirits oft walk in death -
Speak of it: stay and speak!- Stop it, Marcellus.
MARCELLUS Shall I strike at it with my partisan?
HORATIO Do, if it will not stand. They attempt to strike it
BARNARDO 'Tis here!
HORATIO 'Tis here!
MARCELLUS 'Tis gone! Exit Ghost
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.
BARNARDO It was about to speak when the cock crew.
HORATIO And then it started like a guilty thing
Upon a fearful summons. I have heard
The cock, that is the trumpet to the day,
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,
Th'extravagant and erring spirit hies
To his confine: and of the truth herein
This present object made probation.
MARCELLUS 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 talks, nor witch hath power to charm,
So hallowed and so gracious is the time.
HORATIO 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 tonight
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?
MARCELLUS Let's do't, I pray, and I this morning know
Where we shall find him most conveniently. Exeunt
Act 1 Scene 2 running scene 2
Enter Claudius King of Denmark, Gertrude the Queen, Hamlet,
Polonius, Laertes and his sister Ophelia, Lords Attendant
KING 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 of this warlike state,
Have we, as 'twere with a defeated joy,
With one auspicious and one 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.
Enter Voltemand and Cornelius
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 bearing 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 a paper]
Farewell, and let your haste commend your duty.
VOLTEMAND In that, and all things, will we show our duty.
KING We doubt it nothing: heartily farewell.-
Exeunt Voltemand and Cornelius
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?
LAERTES Dread my lord,
Your leave and favour 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 towards France
And bow them to your gracious leave and pardon.
KING Have you your father's leave? What says Polonius?
POLONIUS He hath, my lord:
I do beseech you, give him leave to go.
KING 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-
HAMLET A little more than kin and less than kind.
KING How is it that the clouds still hang on you?
HAMLET Not so, my lord:- I am too much i'th'sun. [Aside?]
GERTRUDE Good Hamlet, cast thy nightly colour off,
And let thine eye look like a friend on Denmark.
Do not forever with thy veilèd lids
Seek for thy noble father in the dust:
Thou know'st 'tis common, all that lives must die,
Passing through nature to eternity.
HAMLET Ay, madam, it is common.
GERTRUDE If it be,
Why seems it so particular with thee?
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 'haviour of the visage,
Together with all forms, moods, shows 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.
KING '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 corpse 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 towards 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.
GERTRUDE Let not thy mother lose her prayers, Hamlet:
I prithee stay with us, go not to Wittenberg.
HAMLET I shall in all my best obey you, madam.
KING 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,
Re-speaking earthly thunder. Come away.
Exeunt. Hamlet remains
HAMLET O, that this too too solid flesh would melt,
Thaw and resolve itself into a dew!
Or that the Everlasting had not fixed
His canon gainst self-slaughter! O God, O God!
How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable
Seem to me all the uses of this world!
Fie on't! O, fie, 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, heaven! A beast that wants discourse of reason
Would have mourned longer - married with mine 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 of 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.
Enter Horatio, Barnardo and Marcellus