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Act 1, Scene 5


hamlet original play and modern translation
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Original Play

Modern Translation

Enter GHOST and HAMLET

The GHOST and HAMLET enter.

HAMLET
Where wilt thou lead me? Speak, I'll go no further.

HAMLET
Where are you leading me? Speak. I'm not going any farther.

GHOST
Mark me.

GHOST
Listen to me.

HAMLET
I will.

HAMLET
I will.

GHOST
My hour is almost come
When I to sulfurous and tormenting flames
Must render up myself.

GHOST
The hour has almost come when I must return to the torment of the flames of purgatory.

HAMLET
Alas, poor ghost!

HAMLET
Oh no, poor ghost!

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GHOST
Pity me not, but lend thy serious hearing
To what I shall unfold.

GHOST
Don't pity me. But listen carefully to what I have to say.

HAMLET
Speak. I am bound to hear.

HAMLET
Speak. I promise to listen.

GHOST
So art thou to revenge when thou shalt hear.

GHOST
Then you must promise to revenge me, too, when you hear what I say.

HAMLET
What?

HAMLET
What?

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GHOST
I am thy father's spirit,
Doomed for a certain term to walk the night
And for the day confined to fast in fires,
Till the foul crimes done in my days of nature
Are burnt and purged away. But that I am forbid
To tell the secrets of my prison house,
I could a tale unfold whose lightest word
Would harrow up thy soul, freeze thy young blood,
Make thy two eyes, like stars, start from their spheres,
Thy knotted and combinèd locks to part
And each particular hair to stand on end,
Like quills upon the fearful porpentine.
But this eternal blazon must not be
To ears of flesh and blood. List, list, O, list!
If thou didst ever thy dear father love—

GHOST
I'm the ghost of your father, doomed for a certain time to walk the earth at night, while during the day I'm confined in the fires of purgatory until those flames have burned away the sins I committed in my life. If I weren't forbidden to tell you the secrets of purgatory, I could tell you stories that would cut up your soul, freeze your blood, make your eyes bulge from their sockets, and your hair stand on end like the quills of a frightened porcupine. But the secrets of purgatory must not be told to mortals. Listen, listen, O, listen! If you ever loved your dear father—

HAMLET
O God!

HAMLET
Oh God!

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GHOST
Revenge his foul and most unnatural murder.

GHOST
Take revenge for his awful and horrible murder.

HAMLET
Murder?

HAMLET
Murder?

GHOST
Murder most foul, as in the best it is.
But this most foul, strange and unnatural.

GHOST
His most awful murder. All murder is awful, but this one was even more awful and unnatural.

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HAMLET
Haste me to know 't, that I, with wings as swift
As meditation or the thoughts of love,
May sweep to my revenge.

HAMLET
Tell me quickly about it, so that faster even than a person can think thoughts of love, I can rush to take revenge.

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GHOST
I find thee apt,
And duller shouldst thou be than the fat weed
That roots itself in ease on Lethe wharf,
Wouldst thou not stir in this. Now, Hamlet, hear.
'Tis given out that, sleeping in my orchard,
A serpent stung me. So the whole ear of Denmark
Is by a forgèd process of my death
Rankly abused. But know, thou noble youth,
The serpent that did sting thy father's life
Now wears his crown.

GHOST
I like your words. You'd have to be as slow and dull as a weed growing on the banks of Lethe, the legendary river of forgetfulness, not to be brought to anger by my story. Now, Hamlet, listen. The official line is that a poisonous snake bit me while I was sleeping in the orchard. That is a lie that deceives all of Denmark. Know, my noble son, the snake that killed your father is now wearing his crown.

HAMLET
O my prophetic soul! My uncle?

HAMLET
Oh, I knew it! My uncle?

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GHOST
Ay, that incestuous, that adulterate beast,
With witchcraft of his wit, with traitorous gifts—
O wicked wit and gifts, that have the power
So to seduce!—won to his shameful lust
The will of my most seeming-virtuous queen.
O Hamlet, what a falling off was there!
From me, whose love was of that dignity
That it went hand in hand even with the vow
I made to her in marriage, and to decline
Upon a wretch whose natural gifts were poor
To those of mine.
But virtue, as it never will be moved,
Though lewdness court it in a shape of heaven,
So lust, though to a radiant angel linked,
Will sate itself in a celestial bed
And prey on garbage.
But soft! Methinks I scent the morning air.
Brief let me be. Sleeping within my orchard,
My custom always of the afternoon,
Upon my secure hour thy uncle stole
With juice of cursed hebenon in a vial,
And in the porches of my ears did pour
The leperous distilment, whose effect
Holds such an enmity with blood of man
That swift as quicksilver it courses through
The natural gates and alleys of the body
And with a sudden vigor doth posset
And curd, like eager droppings into milk,
The thin and wholesome blood. So did it mine.
And a most instant tetter barked about,
Most lazar-like, with vile and loathsome crust
All my smooth body.
Thus was I, sleeping, by a brother's hand
Of life, of crown, of queen at once dispatched,
Cut off even in the blossoms of my sin,
Unhouseled, disappointed, unaneled.
No reckoning made, but sent to my account
With all my imperfections on my head.
Oh, horrible, oh, horrible, most horrible!
If thou hast nature in thee, bear it not.
Let not the royal bed of Denmark be
A couch for luxury and damnèd incest.
But howsoever thou pursuest this act,
Taint not thy mind, nor let thy soul contrive
Against thy mother aught. Leave her to heaven
And to those thorns that in her bosom lodge
To prick and sting her. Fare thee well at once.
The glowworm shows the matin to be near,
And 'gins to pale his uneffectual fire.
Adieu, adieu, adieu. Remember me.

GHOST
Yes, that incestuous, adulterous beast. With his evil wit and traitorous gifts—oh wicked wit and gifts, that have the power to seduce!—he convinced my seemingly virtuous queen to give in to his lust. Oh, Hamlet, she fell so far! From me, who loved her with the dignity that goes hand in hand with my marriage vows, to a wretch whose natural abilities could not compare to mine. But just as true virtue can't be corrupted, so will lust show its true nature by satisfying itself first in the blessing of heavenly marriage and then by wallowing in garbage. But wait. I think I smell the morning air. I must speak quickly. As I was sleeping in the orchard, as I did every afternoon, your uncle snuck up and poured a vial of henbane poison into my ear. That poison, which is like a natural enemy of blood, spreads like quicksilver through the veins and curdles the blood. As it did to mine. I broke instantly into a rash that covered my smooth body with a revolting crust. And so, as I slept, my brother stole my life, my crown, and my queen. He killed me even as I was still gripped by sin, because I did not get to repent my sins or receive last rites. I was sent to death with all my sins still on my head. Oh, horrible, horrible, so horrible! If you have any natural feelings of a son for a father in you, don't let this be. Don't let the bed of the Danish king be a nest of incest. But however you attempt to get revenge, don't allow your mind or soul to contemplate harming your mother. Leave her fate to God, and to the sting of her own guilt. Goodbye now. The glow of light on the horizon shows that morning is near. Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye. Remember me.

Exit

The GHOST exits.

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HAMLET
O all you host of heaven! O earth! What else?
And shall I couple hell? Oh, fie! Hold, hold, my heart,
And you, my sinews, grow not instant old,
But bear me stiffly up. Remember thee!
Ay, thou poor ghost, whiles memory holds a seat
In this distracted globe. Remember thee!
Yea, from the table of my memory
I'll wipe away all trivial fond records,
All saws of books, all forms, all pressures past
That youth and observation copied there,
And thy commandment all alone shall live
Within the book and volume of my brain,
Unmixed with baser matter. Yes, by heaven!
O most pernicious woman!
O villain, villain, smiling, damnèd villain!
My tables!—Meet it is I set it down
That one may smile, and smile, and be a villain.
At least I'm sure it may be so in Denmark. (writes)
So, uncle, there you are. Now to my word.
It is "Adieu, adieu. Remember me."
I have sworn 't.

HAMLET
Ah, all you angels of heaven! Oh, everyone on earth! What else? Should I include hell too? Oh, damn it! Keep beating, my heart, and muscles, don't grow suddenly old—hold me upright. Remember you? Yes, you poor ghost, as long as I have any memory in my distracted head. Remember you? Yes, I'll wipe clean my memory of all unimportant facts, all the wise sayings of books, all images and impressions from my youth so that your commandment alone will live there. Yes, by heaven! Oh, you wicked woman! Oh, you villain, villain, damned, smiling villain! Where's my notebook? I should write down that one can smile and smile, and be a villain. At least it's possible to do so in Denmark. (writes) So, uncle, there you are. Now I must fulfill my vow. He said, "Remember me." I've sworn I would.

Enter HORATIO and MARCELLUS

HORATIO and MARCELLUS enter.

HORATIO
My lord, my lord!

HORATIO
My lord, my lord!

MARCELLUS
Lord Hamlet—

MARCELLUS
Lord Hamlet.—

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HORATIO
Heaven secure him!

HORATIO
God protect him!

HAMLET
So be it.

HAMLET
So be it.

HORATIO
Illo, ho, ho, my lord!

HORATIO
Hello, sir!

HAMLET
Hillo, ho, ho, boy. Come, bird, come.

HAMLET
Hello! Come to me.

MARCELLUS
How is 't, my noble lord?

MARCELLUS
What happened, my noble lord?

HORATIO
What news, my lord?

HORATIO
What did you learn, my lord?

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HAMLET
Oh, wonderful!

HAMLET
It was amazing!

HORATIO
Good my lord, tell it.

HORATIO
My lord, tell us.

HAMLET
No. You'll reveal it.

HAMLET
No. You'll reveal my secret.

HORATIO
Not I, my lord, by heaven.

HORATIO
I swear to God I won't, my lord.

MARCELLUS
Nor I, my lord.

MARCELLUS
Nor I, my lord.

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HAMLET
How say you, then? Would heart of man once think it?
But you'll be secret?

HAMLET
You say so, but can you promise you'll keep the secret?

HORATIO, MARCELLUS
Ay, by heaven, my lord.

HORATIO, MARCELLUS
Yes, I swear to God, my lord.

HAMLET
There's ne'er a villain dwelling in all Denmark
But he's an arrant knave.

HAMLET
There's not a villain in Denmark who isn't a complete liar .

HORATIO
There needs no ghost, my lord, come from the grave
To tell us this.

HORATIO
My lord, we didn't need a ghost returning from the grave to tell us that.

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HAMLET
Why, right, you are in the right.
And so, without more circumstance at all,
I hold it fit that we shake hands and part.
You, as your business and desire shall point you—
For every man has business and desire,
Such as it is—and for my own poor part,
Look you, I'll go pray.

HAMLET
Why, right, you're totally right. So, with that, I'd say that the best thing would be for us to shake hands and go our separate ways. You go wherever your business takes you—since every man has some business to take care of, whatever it is. As for me,'ll go and pray.

HORATIO
These are but wild and whirling words, my lord.

HORATIO
Your words are wild and meaningless, my lord.

HAMLET
I'm sorry they offend you, heartily.
Yes faith, heartily.

HAMLET
I'm very sorry they offended you. Yes, by God, very sorry.

HORATIO
There's no offense, my lord.

HORATIO
There was no offense, my lord.

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HAMLET
Yes, by Saint Patrick, but there is, Horatio,
And much offense too. Touching this vision here,
It is an honest ghost, that let me tell you.
For your desire to know what is between us,
O'ermaster 't as you may. And now, good friends,
As you are friends, scholars and soldiers,
Give me one poor request.

HAMLET
Ah, but I swear by Saint Patrick the keeper of purgatory that there is, Horatio. A lot of offense. As for this ghost, he's an honest one, I'll tell you that. But as for your desire to know what happened between us, control yourself and don't ask. And now, good friends, and you are friends, scholars, and soldiers, do me one small favor.

HORATIO
What is 't, my lord? We will.

HORATIO
What is it, my lord? We'll do it.

HAMLET
Never make known what you have seen tonight.

HAMLET
Never tell anyone what you've seen tonight.

HORATIO, MARCELLUS
My lord, we will not.

HORATIO, MARCELLUS
We won't, my lord.

HAMLET
Nay, but swear 't.

HAMLET
No, you must swear it.

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HORATIO
In faith, my lord, not I.

HORATIO
I swear to God I won't.

MARCELLUS
Nor I, my lord, in faith.

MARCELLUS
Nor I, my lord, I swear to God.

HAMLET
Upon my sword.

HAMLET
Swear on my sword.

MARCELLUS
We have sworn, my lord, already.

MARCELLUS
But we swore already, my lord.

HAMLET
Indeed, upon my sword, indeed.

HAMLET
True, still, swear on my sword.

GHOST
(cries under the stage) Swear!

GHOST
(calls out from under the stage) Swear!

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HAMLET
Ah, ha, boy! Sayst thou so? Art thou there, truepenny?
Come on, you hear this fellow in the cellarage.
Consent to swear.

HAMLET
Ah ha, do you say so, kid? Are you down there, my trusty fellow?—Come on, you heard the guy down in the basement. Agree to swear.

HORATIO
Propose the oath, my lord.

HORATIO
Tell us what to swear, my lord.

HAMLET
Never to speak of this that you have seen.
Swear by my sword.

HAMLET
Never to speak of what you've seen. Swear by my sword.

GHOST
(beneath) Swear.

GHOST
(from under the stage) Swear.

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HAMLET
Hic et ubique? Then we'll shift our ground.
Come hither, gentlemen,
And lay your hands again upon my sword.
Swear by my sword
Never to speak of this that you have heard.

HAMLET
You're everywhere, huh? We'll move somewhere else. Come over here, gentlemen, and rest your hands once more on my sword. Swear by my sword never to speak of what you've heard.

GHOST
(beneath) Swear by his sword.

GHOST
(from under the stage) Swear by his sword.

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HAMLET
Well said, old mole! Canst work i' th' earth so fast?
A worthy pioneer! Once more remove, good friends.

HAMLET
That's right, old mole. Can you really move through the dirt so quickly? What a miner you are! Let's move once more, my friends.

HORATIO
O day and night, but this is wondrous strange!

HORATIO
Oh geez, this is shockingly strange.

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HAMLET
And therefore as a stranger give it welcome.
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy. But come,
Here, as before, never, so help you mercy,
How strange or odd soe'er I bear myself
(As I perchance hereafter shall think meet
To put an antic disposition on),
That you, at such times seeing me, never shall—
With arms encumbered thus, or this headshake,
Or by pronouncing of some doubtful phrase,
As "Well, well, we know," or "We could an if we would,"
Or "If we list to speak," or "There be an if they might,"
Or such ambiguous giving out—to note
That you know aught of me. This not to do,
So grace and mercy at your most need help you,
Swear.

HAMLET
So welcome it like a stranger. There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than you can dream of with all your scientific learning. Now listen: just as you swore before, no matter how strangely I act (since from now on I may find it necessary to act a bit crazy), you must never, ever let on—with a gesture of your arms, or a shake of your head, or by saying something like "Well, well, we understand," or "We'd tell you if we could," or "If we were allowed to speak," or anything like that—that you know anything about what happened to me here tonight. Swear you won't, by all of your hopes of going to heaven.

GHOST
(beneath) Swear!

GHOST
(from under the stage) Swear.

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HAMLET
Rest, rest, perturbèd spirit!—So, gentlemen,
With all my love I do commend me to you,
And what so poor a man as Hamlet is
May do, to express his love and friending to you,
God willing, shall not lack. Let us go in together,
And still your fingers on your lips, I pray.
The time is out of joint. O cursèd spite,
That ever I was born to set it right!
Nay, come, let's go together.

HAMLET
Rest, rest, unhappy ghost! So, gentlemen, I thank you with all my love, and promise that some day, God willing, I'll repay you as fully as I can. Let's go back inside together, but keep your lips sealed, please. These times are all screwed up, and damn that I'm the one who has to set things right! Now come, let's go.

Exeunt

They exit.

 

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