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Act 1, Scene 2


hamlet original play and modern translation
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Original Play

Modern Translation

Enter CLAUDIUS, king of Denmark; GERTRUDE the queen; HAMLET; POLONIUS; his son LAERTES; and his daughter OPHELIA; LORDS attendant

CLAUDIUS, the king of Denmark, enters, as do GERTRUDE the queen, HAMLET, POLONIUS, POLONIUS 's son LAERTES and daughter OPHELIA, and LORDS of Claudius's court.

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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,
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 to this warlike state,
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 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.

CLAUDIUS
Though my memories of my brother Hamlet are still fresh, and though it was proper for me and our entire kingdom to grieve for him, yet life doesn't stop and so while we must remember to mourn for him it is also wisdom to remember our own happiness. Therefore—with a sad joy, with one eye merry and the other crying, with laughter at a funeral and grieving at a wedding, with equal measures of happiness and sadness—I have married my former sister-in-law and made her my queen and assured the continuity of our nation. In this marriage I know I've done exactly what all of you have been advising me to do all along. To all of you, my thanks. Now, let's move on to news that you all know: Young Fortinbras, dreaming of glory and thinking that I am weak or perhaps that the death of my brother has thrown our country into chaos, continues to bother me with demands that I surrender the lands that his father lost to my brother when he was alive. That's the news on Fortinbras.

Enter VOLTEMAND and CORNELIUS

VOLTEMAND and CORNELIUS enter.

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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 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 dilated articles allow. (gives them a paper)
Farewell, and let your haste commend your duty.
As for me and this meeting, here's the story: (holds up a letter) I've written to the King of Norway, Fortinbras's uncle, a weak and bedridden old man who's barely heard a thing about his nephew's aims. I've told the Norwegian King to put a halt to Fortinbras's plans, since all of Fortinbras's troops are Norwegian. You, good Cornelius, and you, Voltemand, carry this letter to the old King of Norway, but giving you no more power to negotiate with the Norwegian King beyond what is outlined in this letter. (he gives them the letter) Good-bye, and may you show your loyalty through the speed with which you bring carry this letter to Norway.

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CORNELIUS, VOLTEMAND
In that and all things will we show our duty.

CORNELIUS, VOLTEMAND
We'll show our loyalty to you in that and all other ways.

CLAUDIUS
We doubt it nothing. Heartily farewell.

CLAUDIUS
I do not doubt it. A fond good-bye to you.

Exeunt VOLTEMAND and CORNELIUS

CORNELIUS and VOLTEMAND exit.

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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?
And now, Laertes, what's your news? You mentioned that you have a favor to ask of me. What is it, Laertes? You'll never be wasting your words by making a reasonable request of the king of Denmark. What could you possibly ask for that I wouldn't give you? Your father is as vital to the Danish throne as the head is to the heart, or the hand to the mouth. What do you want, Laertes?

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LAERTES
My dread lord,
Your leave and favor 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 toward France
And bow them to your gracious leave and pardon.

LAERTES
My powerful lord, I'd like your permission to go back to France. Though I came willingly to Denmark to show my loyalty at your coronation, now that my duty is done I must admit that my thoughts are once more directed to France. I hope you will give me your permission to go.

CLAUDIUS
Have you your father's leave? What says Polonius?

CLAUDIUS
Do you have your father's permission? What does Polonius say?

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POLONIUS
He hath, my lord, wrung from me my slow leave
By laborsome petition, and at last
Upon his will I sealed my hard consent.
I do beseech you, give him leave to go.

POLONIUS
My lord, he has won my permission by asking me over and over again so that, finally, I reluctantly gave my approval. I ask you to please give him permission to go.

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—

CLAUDIUS
Leave when you like, Laertes. Your time is your own, to be spent however you want. And now, Hamlet, my nephew and my son—

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HAMLET
(aside) A little more than kin and less than kind.

HAMLET
(speaking to himself) I'm more closely related to you than I used to be, but without any feelings of affection.

CLAUDIUS
How is it that the clouds still hang on you?

CLAUDIUS
Why iare you so gloomy that it seems like you are covered by clouds?

HAMLET
Not so, my lord. I am too much i' the sun.

HAMLET
Not at all, my lord. The problem is that I am covered in sun. (editors note: Hamlet is punning on the words "sun" and "son," implying that he is gloomy because of the events that have made him Claudius's stepson.)

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GERTRUDE
Good Hamlet, cast thy nighted color off,
And let thine eye look like a friend on Denmark.
Do not forever with thy vailèd lids
Seek for thy noble father in the dust.
Thou know'st 'tis common. All that lives must die,
Passing through nature to eternity.

GERTRUDE
Dearest Hamlet, stop wearing these black clothes, and look upon the king of Denmark as a friend. You can't spend your whole life with your eyes aimed down at the ground, looking for your noble father in the dust. You know it's common. Everything that lives must die, passing from nature to heaven.

HAMLET
Ay, madam, it is common.

HAMLET
Yes, mother, it is common.

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GERTRUDE
If it be,
Why seems it so particular with thee?

GERTRUDE
If that's so, why does it seem like such an issue to you?

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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 'havior of the visage,
Together with all forms, moods, shapes 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.

HAMLET
"Seem," mother? No, it is. I don't know the meaning of "seems." Neither the black clothes I wear each day, mother, nor my heavy sighs, nor the tears from my eyes, nor the sadness visible in my face, nor any other show of grief can capture what I actually feel. All these things "seem" like grief, since they're just what a person would do to act like they were grieving in a play. But inside me I have real grief, of which these these clothes and displays of grief are just a superficial show.

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CLAUDIUS
'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 corse 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 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,
Our chiefest courtier, cousin, and our son.

CLAUDIUS
Hamlet, it is sweet and good that you mourn like this for your father. But you must also remember that your father lost his father, who in turn lost his father, and each time the son had a duty to mourn for his father for a certain time. But to continue to mourn out of sheer stubbornness is blasphemous. It isn't manly. It does not fit with God's desires, and it indicates a too-soft heart, an undisciplined mind, and a general lack of knowledge. When we know that something must eventually happen, and that it happens to everyone, why should we get it into our heads to oppose it? Damn it! Acting this way is a crime against heaven, a crime against the dead, a crime against nature. To a reasonable mind, it is absurd, since the death of fathers, from the first corpse until the most recent, is an inescapable theme of life. I ask you, give up your ceaseless mourning, and think of me as your new father. Let the world understand: you are the next in line for the throne, and I feel for you as much love as any father feels for his son. As for your desire to return to Wittenberg, it's not what I would want. So I beg you, please give in to my request and remain here where you can bring joy and comfort. Be the highest rnaking member of my court, my nephew, and now my son.


GERTRUDE
Let not thy mother lose her prayers, Hamlet.
I pray thee, stay with us. Go not to Wittenberg.

GERTRUDE
Please don't let my prayers be in vain, Hamlet. I beg you, stay with us. Don't return to Wittenberg.

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HAMLET
I shall in all my best obey you, madam.

HAMLET
I'll obey you as best I can, mother.

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CLAUDIUS
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,
Respeaking earthly thunder. Come away.

CLAUDIUS
That loving response is what I hoped you'd say: stay with us in Denmark. My dear wife, come. Hamlet's easy willingness to stay has made me glad, and in honor of it every happy toast I'll drink today will sound like cannons up to the clouds above. My drinking will echo against the heavens like thunder. Come on.

Flourish. Exeunt all but HAMLET

Trumpets play. Everyone except HAMLET exits.

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HAMLET
Oh, that this too, too sullied flesh would melt,
Thaw, and resolve itself into a dew,
Or that the Everlasting had not fixed
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
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 God, a beast that wants discourse of reason
Would have mourned longer!—married with my 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 in 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.

HAMLET
Oh, if only my dirty flesh would melt and then evaporate into a dew, or that God had not outlawed suicide. Oh God, God! How tired, stale, dull, and worthless all of life seems to me. Damn it? Yes, damn it! It's like an untended garden, growing wild. Nasty, gross weeds cover it completely. That it has come to this. My father dead for just two months—no, not even that much, not two. A king so excellent, in comparison to Claudius he was like a god compared to a goat. So loving toward my mother that he would not let the wind blow too hard on her face. Heaven above, must I remember? She would hang on his arm, as if the more time she spent with him the more she wanted to be with him. And yet, within a month of my father's death—No, don't think about it. Women, curse your weakness!—In just a month, before she had even broken in the shoes she wore to his funeral, weeping endlessly—O, God, a wild beast would have mourned longer than she did!—she married my uncle, my father's brother, who's no more like my father than I'm like Hercules. Within a month of my father's death, before the salt from her crocodile tears had washed out of her red eyes, she remarried. Oh what wicked speed! To jump so quickly into a bed of incest! It is not good, and will not lead to any good either. But my heart must break in silence, because I must remain quiet

Enter HORATIO, MARCELLUS, and BARNARDO

HORATIO, MARCELLUS, and BARNARDO enter.

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HORATIO
Hail to your lordship.

HORATIO
Hello, my lord.

HAMLET
I am glad to see you well.—
Horatio? Or I do forget myself?

HAMLET
I'm pleased to see you doing well. You are Horatio, right? Or am I mistaken?

HORATIO
The same, my lord, and your poor servant ever.

HORATIO
I am Horatio, my lord, your loyal servant.

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HAMLET
Sir, my good friend, I'll change that name with you.
And what make you from Wittenberg, Horatio?—
Marcellus!

HAMLET
Sir, my friend, not my servant. Why are you not at Wittenberg, Horatio? —Oh, Marcellus!

MARCELLUS
My good lord.

MARCELLUS
My lord.


HAMLET
(to MARCELLUS) I am very glad to see you.—(to BARNARDO) Good even, sir.
(to HORATIO)
—But what, in faith, make you from Wittenberg?

HAMLET
(to MARCELLUS) So nice to see you.—(to BARNARDO) Hello, sir.(to HORATIO)—But what are you doing away from Wittenberg, Horatio?

HORATIO
A truant disposition, good my lord.

HORATIO
I have the heart of a dropout, my lord.

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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
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.

HAMLET
I wouldn't let your enemies say that about you, so I won't let you say it or believe you if you did. I know you'd never drop out. So why are you here at Elsinore? I'll teach you to drink deeply before you leave.

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HORATIO
My lord, I came to see your father's funeral.

HORATIO
My lord, I came to see your father's funeral.


HAMLET
I pray thee, do not mock me, fellow student.
I think it was to see my mother's wedding.

HAMLET
Please, don't make fun of me, my fellow student. I think you came to see my mother's wedding.

HORATIO
Indeed, my lord, it followed hard upon.

HORATIO
Well, sir, it's true it came soon after the funeral.

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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.
My father—methinks I see my father.

HAMLET
It's called being economical, Horatio. The leftovers from the funeral dinner made a great cold lunch for the wedding. I'd rather have met my worst enemy in heaven, Horatio, than have lived to see that awful day! My father—I think I see my father.

HORATIO
Where, my lord?

HORATIO
Where, sir?

HAMLET
In my mind's eye, Horatio.

HAMLET
In my imagination, Horatio.

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HORATIO
I saw him once. He was a goodly king.

HORATIO
I saw him once. He was an impressive king.


HAMLET
He was a man. Take him for all in all.
I shall not look upon his like again.

HAMLET
He was a great man, perfect in all tings. I'll never see his equal again.

HORATIO
My lord, I think I saw him yesternight.

HORATIO
My lord, I think I saw him last night.

HAMLET
Saw who?

HAMLET
Saw who?

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HORATIO
My lord, the king your father.

HORATIO
My lord, the king your father.

HAMLET
The king my father?!

HAMLET
The king my father?!

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HORATIO
Season your admiration for a while
With an attent ear, till I may deliver,
Upon the witness of these gentlemen,
This marvel to you.

HORATIO
Hold back your excitement for a while, and listen while I, with these two gentlemen as my witness, tell you about this astonishing thing.

HAMLET
For God's love, let me hear.

HAMLET
For God's sake, let me hear it.

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HORATIO
Two nights together had these gentlemen,
Marcellus and Barnardo, on their watch,
In the dead waste and middle of the night,
Been thus encountered: a figure like your father,
Armed at point exactly, cap-à-pie,
Appears before them and with solemn march
Goes slow and stately by them. Thrice he walked
By their oppressed and fear-surprisèd eyes
Within his truncheon's length, whilst they, distilled
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 delivered, both in time,
Form of the thing, each word made true and good—
The apparition comes. I knew your father.
These hands are not more like.

HORATIO
For the last two nights, these two guardsmen, Marcellus and Barnardo, during their watch in the middle of the night, encountered a figure that looked very much like your father, dressed in full armor from head to toe. It appeared in front of them and marched by them, slowly and with dignity, at no greater distance than the length of his staff. Three times he walked by them as they stood shaking like jelly in fear and too shocked to speak. They told me all about what they'd seen, swearing me to secrecy. On the third night I stood guard with them and the ghost appeared, appearing when they said it would and looking just as they had described. I knew your father. The ghost looked as much like him as my hands look like each other.

HAMLET
But where was this?

HAMLET
Where did this happen?

MARCELLUS
My lord, upon the platform where we watch.

MARCELLUS
On the platform where we stand guard, my lord.

HAMLET
Did you not speak to it?

HAMLET
Didn't you talk to it?

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HORATIO
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,
And at the sound it shrunk in haste away
And vanished from our sight.

HORATIO
I did, my lord, but it didn't answer. Though once I though that it raised its head as if it was about to speak, but just then the rooster began to crow, and at the sound the ghost flinched and then vanished from sight.

HAMLET
'Tis very strange.

HAMLET
That's very strange.

HORATIO
As I do live, my honored lord, 'tis true.
And we did think it writ down in our duty
To let you know of it.

HORATIO
I swear on my life that it's true, my lord. We thought that it was our duty to tell you about it.

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HAMLET
Indeed, indeed, sirs, but this troubles me.
Hold you the watch tonight?

HAMLET
Yes, you're right, but I'm disturbed by this story. Do you have watch duty again tonight?

MARCELLUS, BARNARDO
We do, my lord.

MARCELLUS, BARNARDO
We do, my lord.

HAMLET
Armed, say you?

HAMLET
It was armed, you say?

MARCELLUS, BARNARDO
Armed, my lord.

MARCELLUS, BARNARDO
Armed, sir.

HAMLET
From top to toe?

HAMLET
From head to toe?

MARCELLUS, BARNARDO
My lord, from head to foot.

MARCELLUS, BARNARDO
From head to toe, my lord.

HAMLET
Then saw you not his face?

HAMLET
Then you didn't see his face?

HORATIO
Oh yes, my lord. He wore his beaver up.

HORATIO
Oh, yes, we could, sir. He had his helmet visor up.

HAMLET
What, looked he frowningly?

HAMLET
Did he look mad?

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HORATIO
A countenance more
In sorrow than in anger.

HORATIO
His expression looked more sad than angry.

HAMLET
Pale or red?

HAMLET
Was he pale or flushed?

HORATIO
Nay, very pale.

HORATIO
Very pale.

HAMLET
And fixed his eyes upon you?

HAMLET
Did he look straight at you?

HORATIO
Most constantly.

HORATIO
The entire time.

HAMLET
I would I had been there.

HAMLET
I wish I'd been there.

HORATIO
It would have much amazed you.

HORATIO
You would have been shocked and amazed.

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HAMLET
Very like. Stayed it long?

HAMLET
I'm sure I would have. Did it stay a long time?

HORATIO
While one with moderate haste might tell a hundred.

HORATIO
As long as it would take a person to count at a moderate speed to a hundred.

MARCELLUS, BARNARDO
Longer, longer.

MARCELLUS, BARNARDO
No, longer.

HORATIO
Not when I saw 't.

HORATIO
Not the time I saw it.

HAMLET
His beard was grizzled, no?

HAMLET
His beard was gray, right?

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HORATIO
It was, as I have seen it in his life,
A sable silvered.

HORATIO
It was, just as it looked when I saw it when he was alive: dark brown with silver streaks.

HAMLET
I will watch tonight. Perchance
'Twill walk again.

HAMLET
I'll watch with you tonight. Perhaps it will appear again.

HORATIO
I warrant it will.

HORATIO
I bet it will.

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HAMLET
If it assume my noble father's person,
I'll speak to it, though Hell itself should gape
And bid me hold my peace. I pray you all,
If you have hitherto concealed this sight,
Let it be tenable in your silence still.
And whatsoever else shall hap tonight,
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.

HAMLET
If it looks like my noble father, I'll speak to it, even if Hell itself opens up and tells me to be quiet. I beg all of you, if you've kept this a secret so far, continue to be silent. And whatever happens tonight, think about it but don't discuss it with anyone. I'll do the same. So good-bye. I'll come see you on the guards' platform between eleven and twelve.

HORATIO, MARCELLUS, BARNARDO
Our duty to your honor.

HORATIO, MARCELLUS, BARNARDO
We'll do our duty to you.

HAMLET
Your loves, as mine to you. Farewell.

HAMLET
Instead give me your friendship, just as I give mine to you. Good-bye.

Exeunt all but HAMLET

Everyone but HAMLET exits.

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My father's spirit in arms. All is not well.
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.
My father's ghost, wearing armor. This is not good. I suspect some foul play. I wish it were night already! Until then, I must stay calm. Bad deeds will always be revealed, no matter how deeply they've been buried.

Exit

HAMLET exits.

 

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