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Act 1, Scene 1


hamlet original play and modern translation
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Original Play

Modern Translation

Enter BARNARDO and FRANCISCO, two sentinels

Two watchmen, BARNARDO and FRANCISCO, enter.

BARNARDO
Who's there?

BARNARDO
Who's there?

FRANCISCO
Nay, answer me. Stand and unfold yourself.

FRANCISCO
No, you answer me? Stop and reveal yourself.

BARNARDO
Long live the king!

BARNARDO
Long live the king!

FRANCISCO
Barnardo?

FRANCISCO
Barnardo?

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BARNARDO
He.

BARNARDO
Yes, me.

FRANCISCO
You come most carefully upon your hour.

FRANCISCO
You arrived right on schedule.

BARNARDO
'Tis now struck twelve. Get thee to bed, Francisco.

BARNARDO
The clock just struck twelve. Go to bed, Francisco.

FRANCISCO
For this relief much thanks. 'Tis bitter cold,
And I am sick at heart.

FRANCISCO
Thanks for relieving me. It's bitterly cold, and I'm sad and depressed.

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BARNARDO
Have you had quiet guard?

BARNARDO
Has your guard duty been quiet?

FRANCISCO
Not a mouse stirring.

FRANCISCO
Not a mouse stirred.

BARNARDO
Well, good night.
If you do meet Horatio and Marcellus,
The rivals of my watch, bid them make haste.

BARNARDO
Well, good night. If you see Horatio and Marcellus, who are going to stand guard with me, tell them to hurry.

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FRANCISCO
I think I hear them.—Stand, ho! Who's there?

FRANCISCO
I think I hear them. —Stop! Who's there?

Enter HORATIO and MARCELLUS

HORATIO and MARCELLUS enter.

HORATIO
Friends to this ground.

HORATIO
Friends of this country.

MARCELLUS
And liegemen to the Dane.

MARCELLUS
And loyal servants of the Danish king.

FRANCISCO
Give you good night.

FRANCISCO
Good night to you.

MARCELLUS
O, farewell, honest soldier. Who hath relieved you?

MARCELLUS
Good-bye, good soldier. Who's relieved you?

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FRANCISCO
Barnardo has my place. Give you good night.

FRANCISCO
Barnardo's taken my place. Good night.

Exit FRANCISCO

FRANCISCO exits.

MARCELLUS
Holla, Barnardo.

MARCELLUS
Hello, Barnardo.

BARNARDO
Say what, is Horatio there?

BARNARDO
Say, is Horatio here too?

HORATIO
A piece of him.

HORATIO
More or less.

BARNARDO
Welcome, Horatio.—Welcome, good Marcellus.

BARNARDO
Welcome, Horatio. Welcome, Marcellus.

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MARCELLUS
What, has this thing appeared again tonight?

MARCELLUS
So, has the thing appeared again tonight?

BARNARDO
I have seen nothing.

BARNARDO
I haven't seen anything.

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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.

MARCELLUS
Horatio says it's all our imagination, and won't let himself believe in this awful thing we've now seen twice. I asked him to join us in our guard duty tonight, so that if the ghost appears he can confirm what we see and speak to it.

HORATIO
Tush, tush, 'twill not appear.

HORATIO
Oh, come now. It's not going to appear.

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BARNARDO
Sit down a while
And let us once again assail your ears,
That are so fortified against our story,
What we have two nights seen.

BARNARDO
Sit down for a while, and let us tell you again the story you refuse to believe, about what we've seen the last two nights.

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HORATIO
Well, sit we down,
And let us hear Barnardo speak of this.

HORATIO
Sure, let's sit down and listen to Barnardo speak.

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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—

BARNARDO
Last night, when that star to the west of the North Star had moved across the heavens to brighten that spot in the sky where it's shining now, at precisely one o'clock, Marcellus and I—

Enter GHOST

The GHOST enters.

MARCELLUS
Peace, break thee off. Look where it comes again!

MARCELLUS
Quiet, stop talking! Look, it's come again.

BARNARDO
In the same figure like the king that's dead.

BARNARDO
Looking exactly like the dead king.

MARCELLUS
(to HORATIO) Thou art a scholar. Speak to it, Horatio.

MARCELLUS
(to HORATIO) You're well-educated. Speak to it, Horatio.

BARNARDO
Looks it not like the king? Mark it, Horatio.

BARNARDO
Doesn't he look like the king, Horatio?

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HORATIO
Most like. It harrows me with fear and wonder.

HORATIO
Exactly like him. It fills me with fear and wonder.

BARNARDO
It would be spoke to.

BARNARDO
It wants us to speak to it.

MARCELLUS
Question it, Horatio.

MARCELLUS
Ask it something, Horatio.

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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.

HORATIO
What are you, that you disturb this time of night, appearing just ike the dead king of Denmark dressed in his battle armor? By God, I order you to speak.

MARCELLUS
It is offended.

MARCELLUS
You've offended it.

BARNARDO
See, it stalks away.

BARNARDO
Look, it's moving away.

HORATIO
Stay! Speak, speak! I charge thee, speak!

HORATIO
Stay! Speak! Speak! I order you, speak!

Exit GHOST

The GHOST exits.

MARCELLUS
'Tis gone and will not answer.

MARCELLUS
It's gone, and won't answer.

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BARNARDO
How now, Horatio? You tremble and look pale.
Is not this something more than fantasy?
What think you on 't?

BARNARDO
What now, Horatio? You're pale and trembling. Isn't this something more than just our imagination? What do you think about it?

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HORATIO
Before my God, I might not this believe
Without the sensible and true avouch
Of mine own eyes.

HORATIO
I swear by God, I'd never have believed this had I not seen it with my own eyes.

MARCELLUS
Is it not like the king?

MARCELLUS
Doesn't it look like the king?

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HORATIO
As thou art to thyself.
Such was the very armour he had on
When he the ambitious Norway combated.
So frowned he once when, in an angry parle,
He smote the sledded Polacks on the ice.
'Tis strange.

HORATIO
As much as you look like yourself. That was the same armor the king wore when he fought the ambitious king of Norway. And the ghost frowned just like the king did once when he fought the Poles, who traveled on the ice in sleds. It's weird.

MARCELLUS
Thus twice before, and jump at this dead hour,
With martial stalk hath he gone by our watch.

MARCELLUS
It's happened like this twice before, always at just this time. Dressed like a warrior, he walks by us at our guard post.

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HORATIO
In what particular thought to work I know not,
But in the gross and scope of mine opinion
This bodes some strange eruption to our state.

HORATIO
I don't know exactly what this means, but I have a general feeling it signals that something bad is about to happen to our country.

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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 laborer with the day?
Who is 't that can inform me?

MARCELLUS
Speaking of that, let's sit down so that, whichever of you knows, can tell me why we've been keeping such a strict schedule of nightly watches, and why we've been building so many cannons and buying so many weapons from other countries, and why the shipbuilders are kept so busy that they don't even rest on Sunday. What's coming that forces us to work day and night in this way? Who can tell me?

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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 of 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 covenant
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 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 compulsatory, 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 posthaste and rummage in the land.

HORATIO
I can do that. At least, I can tell you the rumors: the greatness of our former king, whose ghost just now appeared to us, inspired the competitive pride of Fortinbras, king of Norway. Fortinbras dared him to single combat. During that fight, our courageous Hamlet (as we Danes thought of him) killed old King Fortinbras, who—on the basis of a signed and sealed agreement and in full accordance with the law and rules of combat—surrendered, along with his life, all the lands he possessed to his conqueror. By that same agreement, our King bet lands of equal value that he would have had to give up had he been defeated. Now, Fortinbras's son, young Fortinbras, who is daring but has yet to prove himself, has on the outskirts of Norway hastily gathered a group lawless brutes. For no pay other than food, they're willing to give their courage to the effort of forcefully regaining the lands the elder Fortinbras lost. This, I believe, is the reason that we've been set to watch, and the primary source of all the recent hustle and bustle in Denmark.

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BARNARDO
I think it be no other but e'en so.
Well may it sort that this portentous figure
Comes armèd through our watch so like the king
That was and is the question of these wars.

BARNARDO
I think that's right. It makes sense that this ghost of the late king would haunt our guard duty now, since he was such an important part of these wars.

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HORATIO
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 feared 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.

HORATIO
The ghost is definitely something to worry about, like a speck of dust bothering your eye. In the powerful Roman Empire, just before the mighty emperor Julius Caesar was assassinated, the graves stood empty while the ghostly dead ran through the streets of Rome squeaking and delirious. Shooting stars streaked across the sky, blood fell along with the morning dew, and omens of disaster appeared on the sun. The moon, which controls the tides of the sea, was so eclipsed it almost disappeared completely. We've had similar signs of disaster, as if heaven and earth have joined together to warn us of what's to come.

Enter GHOST

The GHOST enters.

But soft, behold! Lo, where it comes again.
I'll cross it though it blast me.—Stay, illusion!
Wait, look! It has returned. I'll meet it if it's the last thing I do. —Stop, you illusion!

GHOST spreads his arms

The GHOST spreads his arms.

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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,
Oh, 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,
Speak of it. Stay and speak!
If you have a voice or can make sounds, speak to me. If there's anything that I can do that might bring you peace and me honor, speak to me. If you know something abut your country's fate, which we could avoid if we knew about it—then, then, oh, speak! Or if you've got a treasure buried somewhere in the earth, which they say often makes ghosts restless, then speak of it. Stay and speak!

The cock crows

A rooster crows.

—Stop it, Marcellus. Don't let it leave, Marcellus.

MARCELLUS
Shall I strike at it with my partisan?

MARCELLUS
Should I hit it with my spear?

HORATIO
Do, if it will not stand.

HORATIO
Yes, if it doesn't stand still.

BARNARDO
'Tis here.

BARNARDO
It's here.

HORATIO
'Tis here.

HORATIO
It's here.

Exit GHOST

The GHOST exits.

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MARCELLUS
'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.

MARCELLUS
It's gone. We were wrong to threaten it with violence, since it looked so kingly. And, like the air, it was beyond our ability to hurt, and our blows were but nasty silliness.

BARNARDO
It was about to speak when the cock crew.

BARNARDO
It was about to say something when the rooster crowed.

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HORATIO
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,
Th' extravagant and erring spirit hies
To his confine, and of the truth herein
This present object made probation.

HORATIO
And then it looked startled, like a guilty person summoned to appear in court. I've heard that the rooster, which calls to signal the coming morning, awakens the god of day and makes all wandering ghosts, wherever they are, hurry back to their hiding places. What we've just seen is proof of that.

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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 dare stir abroad.
The nights are wholesome. Then no planets strike,
No fairy takes, nor witch hath power to charm,
So hallowed and so gracious is that time.

MARCELLUS
It faded away when the rooster crowed. Some people say that just before Christmas the rooster crows all night long, so that no ghost dares go wandering, and the night is safe for all. Then no dark fates control us, no fairy can cast a spell on us, and witches cannot hurt us with their charms. That's how holy and blessed Christmas is.

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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 eastward 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?

HORATIO
I've heard the same thing, and partially believe it. But look, the red glow of morning is breaking beyond that hill in the east. Let's end our watch and go tell young Hamlet what we've seen tonight. I'd bet my life that this ghost, which will not speak to us, will speak to him. Do you agree that we should tell Hamlet, that we owe it to him to him out of our duty and our love?

MARCELLUS
Let's do 't, I pray, and I this morning know
Where we shall find him most conveniently.

MARCELLUS
Let's do it. And I know where we can find him this morning.

Exeunt

They exit.

 

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