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Act 1, Scene 4


hamlet original play and modern translation
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Original Play

Modern Translation

Enter HAMLET, HORATIO, and MARCELLUS

HAMLET, HORATIO, and MARCELLUS enter.

HAMLET
The air bites shrewdly. It is very cold.

HAMLET
The air bites wickedly. It is very cold.

HORATIO
It is a nipping and an eager air.

HORATIO
Yes, the air is nipping and sharp.

HAMLET
What hour now?

HAMLET
What time is it now?

HORATIO
I think it lacks of twelve.

HORATIO
Just before twelve, I think.

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MARCELLUS
No, it is struck.

MARCELLUS
No, the clock struck twelve.

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

HORATIO
Really? I didn't hear it. So it's getting close to the time when the ghost usually appears.

A flourish of trumpets and two pieces of ordnance goes off

Trumpets sound, and two cannons fire.

What does this mean, my lord? What does that mean, sir?

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HAMLET
The king doth wake tonight and takes his rouse,
Keeps wassail and the swaggering upspring reels,
And, as he drains his draughts of Rhenish down,
The kettle-drum and trumpet thus bray out
The triumph of his pledge.

HAMLET
The king is staying up late partying, and as he carouses, and dances, and guzzles his German wine, the musicians play the drum and trumpet to mark each time he drinks another cup.

HORATIO
Is it a custom?

HORATIO
Is that a tradition?

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

HAMLET
It is. But in my opinion, though I was born here and should think it natural, I'd say it's a custom that we'd be better off ignoring rather than observing. Countries to the east and west mock and criticize us for our partying. They call us drunks and pigs, staining our reputation. And they're right—our behavior does reduce our achievements, despite their greatness, because it is a flaw in our core qualities. It's similar to what happens to certain people who are born with some terrible defect (a defect for which they bear no responsibility, since no one can choose his own beginning), or some excess of a more normal trait, or some kind of obsessive compulsion that makes it impossible for them to act in a way that pleases others. For such men as these, even if they are kind or limiltlessly talented, this single defect, whether they were born with it or got it through some misfortune, will result in others always seeing them as corrupt or evil. That tiny bit of evil casts doubt on all their good qualities and wrecks their reputations.

Enter GHOST

The GHOST enters.

HORATIO
Look, my lord, it comes!

HORATIO
Look, my lord, it comes!

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

HAMLET
Angels protect us! Whether you're a good spirit bringing breezes from heaven or an evil demon wielding hell fire, whether your intentions are wicked or friendly, you appear in a shape that invites so many questions that I must speak to you. I'll call you "Hamlet," "King," "Father," "royal Dane." Oh, answer me! Don't make me explode from curiosity. Tell me why your bones, which were blessed and sanctified in burial rites, have burst out of their coffin, and why your tomb, in whose quiet we buried you, has opened up its weighty marble jaws to spit you out again. What does it mean that you, dead corpse, once again walk beneath the moon in full armor, making the night terrifying and forcing on us mere mortals to face thoughts that are beyond our ability to understand? Tell me why? Why? What should we do?

GHOST beckons HAMLET

The GHOST motions for HAMLET to follow it.

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

HORATIO
It motions you to go off with it, as if it wants to say something to you alone.

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

MARCELLUS
Look how politely it's directing you to go to a spot that's farther away. But don't go with it.

HORATIO
No, by no means.

HORATIO
No, by all means do not.

HAMLET
It will not speak. Then I will follow it.

HAMLET
It's not going to speak here. So I will follow it.

HORATIO
Do not, my lord.

HORATIO
Don't, my lord.

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HAMLET
Why, what should be the fear?
I do not set my life in a pin's fee,
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.

HAMLET
Why, what should I fear? I don't value my life at event he price of a pin. And as for my soul, what can the ghost do to that, since it's as immortal as the ghost is? It's waving for me to come after it again. I'll follow it.

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

HORATIO
What if it leads you toward the sea, my lord, or to the high cliff that overhangs the ocean, and then morphs into a beast so horrible that seeing it drives you insane. Think about it. That cliff edge over the sea, with its view into those watery depths and the roar of the crashing waves, makes people feel despair even when they have no reason to.

HAMLET
It waves me still.
—Go on. I'll follow thee.

HAMLET
It's still waving to me. —(to the GHOST) Go on, I'll follow you.

MARCELLUS
You shall not go, my lord.

MARCELLUS
You're not going, sir.

MARCELLUS and HORATIO try to hold HAMLET back

MARCELLUS and HORATIO try to hold HAMLET back.

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HAMLET
Hold off your hands.

HAMLET
Let go of me.

HORATIO
Be ruled. You shall not go.

HORATIO
Listen to us. You must not go.

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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.
(draws his sword)
By heaven, I'll make a ghost of him that lets me.
I say, away!—Go on. I'll follow thee.

HAMLET
My fate calls out to me, making every sinew of my body as taut as those of the legendary Nemean lion. Still it motions for me. Let go of me, gentlemen. (draws his sword) By god, I'll make a ghost of any of you who holds me back! I say, move away!—(to the GHOST) Go on. I'll follow you.

Exeunt GHOST and HAMLET

The GHOST and HAMLET exit.

HORATIO
He waxes desperate with imagination.

HORATIO
His wild thoughts have made him desperate.

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

MARCELLUS
Let's follow him. It's not right for us to obey his orders to stay away.

HORATIO
Have after. To what issue will this come?

HORATIO
Let's go after. But what does all this mean?

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MARCELLUS
Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.

MARCELLUS
That something is rotten in the state of Denmark.

HORATIO
Heaven will direct it.

HORATIO
God will determine what will come of all this.

MARCELLUS
Nay, let's follow him.

MARCELLUS
No, let's follow him.

Exeunt

They exit.

 

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