Hamlet* by William Shakespeare § 1.2

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ACT I
SCENE II. A room of state in the castle.
[Enter KING CLAUDIUS, QUEEN GERTRUDE, HAMLET, POLONIUS, LAERTES, VOLTIMAND, CORNELIUS, Lords, and Attendants]
260 KING CLAUDIUS.
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,
265 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, [164]
The imperial jointress to this warlike state,
270 Have we, as 'twere with a defeated joy,--
With an auspicious and a 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 barr'd
275 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
280 Our state to be disjoint and out of frame,
Colleagued with the dream of his advantage,
He hath not fail'd to pester us with message,
Importing the surrender of those lands
Lost by his father, with all bonds of law,
285 To our most valiant brother. So much for him.
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 bed-rid, scarcely hears
290 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, Voltimand,
295 For bearers of this greeting to old Norway;
Giving to you no further personal power
To business with the king, more than the scope
Of these delated articles allow.
Farewell, and let your haste commend your duty.
300 CORNELIUS.
VOLTIMAND. [143]
In that and all things will we show our duty.
KING CLAUDIUS.
We doubt it nothing: heartily farewell.
305 [Exeunt VOLTIMAND and CORNELIUS]
And now, Laertes, what's the news with you? [165]
You told us of some suit; what is't, Laertes?
You cannot speak of reason to the Dane,
And loose your voice: what wouldst thou beg, Laertes,
310 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?
315 LAERTES.
My dread lord,
Your leave and favour to return to France;
From whence though willingly I came to Denmark,
To show my duty in your coronation,
320 Yet now, I must confess, that duty done,
My thoughts and wishes bend again toward France
And bow them to your gracious leave and pardon.
KING CLAUDIUS.
Have you your father's leave? What says Polonius?
325 LORD POLONIUS. [166]
He hath, my lord, wrung from me my slow leave
By laboursome petition, and at last
Upon his will I seal'd my hard consent:
I do beseech you, give him leave to go.
330 KING CLAUDIUS.
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.
335 [Aside] A little more than kin, and less than kind.
KING CLAUDIUS.
How is it that the clouds still hang on you?
HAMLET.
Not so, my lord; I am too much i' the sun.
340 QUEEN GERTRUDE.
Good Hamlet, cast thy nighted colour off,
And let thine eye look like a friend on Denmark.
Do not for ever with thy vailed lids
Seek for thy noble father in the dust:
345 Thou know'st 'tis common; all that lives must die,
Passing through nature to eternity.
HAMLET.
Ay, madam, it is common.
QUEEN GERTRUDE.
350 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,
355 Nor customary suits of solemn black,
Nor windy suspiration of forced breath,
No, nor the fruitful river in the eye,
Nor the dejected 'havior of the visage,
Together with all forms, moods, shapes of grief,
360 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 CLAUDIUS.
365 '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
370 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,
375 An understanding simple and unschool'd:
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,
380 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 corse till he that died to-day,
'This must be so.' We pray you, throw to earth
385 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,
390 Do I impart toward 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,
395 Our chiefest courtier, cousin, and our son.
QUEEN GERTRUDE.
Let not thy mother lose her prayers, Hamlet:
I pray thee, stay with us; go not to Wittenberg.
HAMLET.
400 I shall in all my best obey you, madam.
KING CLAUDIUS.
Why, 'tis a loving and a fair reply:
Be as ourself in Denmark. Madam, come;
This gentle and unforced accord of Hamlet
405 Sits smiling to my heart: in grace whereof,
No jocund health that Denmark drinks to-day,
But the great cannon to the clouds shall tell,
And the king's rouse the heavens all bruit again,
Re-speaking earthly thunder. Come away.
410 [Exeunt all but HAMLET]
HAMLET.
O, that this too too solid flesh would melt
Thaw and resolve itself into a dew!
Or that the Everlasting had not fix'd
415 His canon 'gainst self-slaughter! O God! God!
How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable,
Seem to me all the uses of this world!
Fie on't! ah fie! 'tis an unweeded garden,
That grows to seed; things rank and gross in nature
420 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
425 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!--
430 A little month, or ere those shoes were old
With which she follow'd my poor father's body,
Like Niobe, all tears:--why she, even she--
O, God! a beast, that wants discourse of reason,
Would have mourn'd longer--married with my uncle,
435 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 in her galled eyes,
She married. O, most wicked speed, to post
440 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, MARCELLUS, and BERNARDO]
HORATIO.
445 Hail to your lordship!
HAMLET.
I am glad to see you well:
Horatio,--or I do forget myself.
HORATIO.
450 The same, my lord, and your poor servant ever.
HAMLET.
Sir, my good friend; I'll change that name with you:
And what make you from Wittenberg, Horatio? Marcellus?
MARCELLUS.
455 My good lord--
HAMLET.
I am very glad to see you. Good even, sir.
But what, in faith, make you from Wittenberg?
HORATIO.
460 A truant disposition, good my lord.
HAMLET.
I would not hear your enemy say so,
Nor shall you do mine ear that violence,
To make it truster of your own report
465 Against yourself: I know you are no truant.
But what is your affair in Elsinore?
We'll teach you to drink deep ere you depart.
HORATIO.
My lord, I came to see your father's funeral.
470 HAMLET.
I pray thee, do not mock me, fellow-student;
I think it was to see my mother's wedding.
HORATIO.
Indeed, my lord, it follow'd hard upon.
475 HAMLET.
Thrift, thrift, Horatio! the funeral baked meats
Did coldly furnish forth the marriage tables.
Would I had met my dearest foe in heaven
Or ever I had seen that day, Horatio!
480 My father!--methinks I see my father.
HORATIO.
Where, my lord?
HAMLET.
In my mind's eye, Horatio.
485 HORATIO.
I saw him once; he was a goodly king.
HAMLET.
He was a man, take him for all in all,
I shall not look upon his like again.
490 HORATIO.
My lord, I think I saw him yesternight.
HAMLET.
Saw? who?
HORATIO.
495 My lord, the king your father.
HAMLET.
The king my father!
HORATIO.
Season your admiration for awhile
500 With an attent ear, till I may deliver,
Upon the witness of these gentlemen,
This marvel to you.
HAMLET.
For God's love, let me hear.
505 HORATIO.
Two nights together had these gentlemen,
Marcellus and Bernardo, on their watch,
In the dead vast and middle of the night,
Been thus encounter'd. A figure like your father,
510 Armed at point exactly, cap-a-pe,
Appears before them, and with solemn march
Goes slow and stately by them: thrice he walk'd
By their oppress'd and fear-surprised eyes,
Within his truncheon's length; whilst they, distilled
515 Almost to jelly with the act of fear,
Stand dumb and speak not to him. This to me
In dreadful secrecy impart they did;
And I with them the third night kept the watch;
Where, as they had deliver'd, both in time,
520 Form of the thing, each word made true and good,
The apparition comes: I knew your father;
These hands are not more like.
HAMLET.
But where was this?
525 MARCELLUS.
My lord, upon the platform where we watch'd.
HAMLET.
Did you not speak to it?
HORATIO.
530 My lord, I did;
But answer made it none: yet once methought
It lifted up its head and did address
Itself to motion, like as it would speak;
But even then the morning cock crew loud,
535 And at the sound it shrunk in haste away,
And vanish'd from our sight.
HAMLET.
'Tis very strange.
HORATIO.
540 As I do live, my honour'd lord, 'tis true;
And we did think it writ down in our duty
To let you know of it.
HAMLET.
Indeed, indeed, sirs, but this troubles me.
545 Hold you the watch to-night?
MARCELLUS.
BERNARDO.
We do, my lord.
HAMLET.
550 Arm'd, say you?
MARCELLUS.
BERNARDO.
Arm'd, my lord.
HAMLET.
555 From top to toe?
MARCELLUS.
BERNARDO.
My lord, from head to foot.
HAMLET.
560 Then saw you not his face?
HORATIO.
O, yes, my lord; he wore his beaver up.
HAMLET.
What, look'd he frowningly?
565 HORATIO.
A countenance more in sorrow than in anger.
HAMLET.
Pale or red?
HORATIO.
570 Nay, very pale.
HAMLET.
And fix'd his eyes upon you?
HORATIO.
Most constantly.
575 HAMLET.
I would I had been there.
HORATIO.
It would have much amazed you.
HAMLET.
580 Very like, very like. Stay'd it long?
HORATIO.
While one with moderate haste might tell a hundred.
MARCELLUS.
BERNARDO.
585 Longer, longer.
HORATIO.
Not when I saw't.
HAMLET.
His beard was grizzled--no?
590 HORATIO.
It was, as I have seen it in his life,
A sable silver'd.
HAMLET.
I will watch to-night;
595 Perchance 'twill walk again.
HORATIO.
I warrant it will.
HAMLET.
If it assume my noble father's person,
600 I'll speak to it, though hell itself should gape
And bid me hold my peace. I pray you all,
If you have hitherto conceal'd this sight,
Let it be tenable in your silence still;
And whatsoever else shall hap to-night,
605 Give it an understanding, but no tongue:
I will requite your loves. So, fare you well:
Upon the platform, 'twixt eleven and twelve,
I'll visit you.
ALL.
610 Our duty to your honour.
HAMLET.
Your loves, as mine to you: farewell.
[Exeunt all but HAMLET]
My father's spirit in arms! all is not well;
615 I doubt some foul play: would the night were come!
Till then sit still, my soul: foul deeds will rise,
Though all the earth o'erwhelm them, to men's eyes.
[Exit]

By "sometime" Claudius means formerly.

Entirely speculation here, but the name Voltimand appears to be of an anglicized French form. Like "Voldemort" comes from "vol de mort," meaning flight of death, I suspect "Voltimand" may be related to the word "Volte-face" and "main," meaning hand. Or it could be related to the ending in words such as "gourmand." My best guess? It somehow means "at-hand," as in, to be at the beck and call of, say, the king.

Discussion in comments warranted.

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The name Laertes is quite clearly taken from the name of Odysseus's father, but the connection beyond name is quite obscure.

The source and name of Polonius have received quite a bit of attention. To quote Wikipedia:

The literary origins of the character may be traced to the King's counselor found in the Belleforest and William Painter versions of the Hamlet legend. However, at least since the 19th century scholars have also sought to understand the character in terms of Elizabethan court politics.

Polonius was first proposed as a parody of Queen Elizabeth's leading counsellor, Lord Treasurer, and Principal Secretary Wi

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