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ACT I SCENE V Another part of the platform. 
[Enter GHOST and HAMLET]
HAMLETWhere wilt thou lead me? speak; I'll go no further.
GhostMark me.
GhostMy hour is almost come,
When I to sulphurous and tormenting flames
Must render up myself.
HAMLETAlas, poor ghost!
GhostPity me not, but lend thy serious hearing
To what I shall unfold.
HAMLETSpeak; I am bound to hear.
GhostSo art thou to revenge, when thou shalt hear.
GhostI am thy father's spirit,
Doom'd for a certain term to walk the night,10
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 combined locks to part
And each particular hair to stand on end,
Like quills upon the fretful porpentine:20
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--
GhostRevenge his foul and most unnatural murder.
GhostMurder most foul, as in the best it is;
But this most foul, strange and unnatural.
HAMLETHaste me to know't, that I, with wings as swift
As meditation or the thoughts of love,30
May sweep to my revenge.
GhostI 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 forged process of my death
Rankly abused: but know, thou noble youth,
The serpent that did sting thy father's life
Now wears his crown.
HAMLETO my prophetic soul! My uncle!40
GhostAy, 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 decline50
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 link'd,
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,60
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 vigour doth posset
And curd, like eager droppings into milk,
The thin and wholesome blood: so did it mine;70
And a most instant tetter bark'd 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 dispatch'd:
Cut off even in the blossoms of my sin,
Unhousel'd, disappointed, unanel'd,
No reckoning made, but sent to my account
With all my imperfections on my head:
O, horrible! O, horrible! most horrible!80
If thou hast nature in thee, bear it not;
Let not the royal bed of Denmark be
A couch for luxury and damned 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 glow-worm shows the matin to be near,
And 'gins to pale his uneffectual fire:90
Adieu, adieu! Hamlet, remember me.
HAMLETO all you host of heaven! O earth! what else?
And shall I couple hell? O, fie! Hold, hold, my heart;
And you, my sinews, grow not instant old,
But bear me stiffly up. Remember thee!
Ay, thou poor ghost, while 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,100
That youth and observation copied there;
And thy commandment all alone shall live
Within the book and volume of my brain,
Unmix'd with baser matter: yes, by heaven!
O most pernicious woman!
O villain, villain, smiling, damned 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:
So, uncle, there you are. Now to my word;110
It is 'Adieu, adieu! remember me.'
I have sworn 't.
HORATIO[Within] My lord, my lord,--
MARCELLUS[Within] Lord Hamlet,--
HORATIO[Within] Heaven secure him!
HAMLETSo be it!
HORATIO[Within] Hillo, ho, ho, my lord!
HAMLETHillo, ho, ho, boy! come, bird, come.
MARCELLUSHow is't, my noble lord?
HORATIOWhat news, my lord?
HAMLETO, wonderful!
HORATIOGood my lord, tell it.
HAMLETNo; you'll reveal it.
HORATIONot I, my lord, by heaven.
MARCELLUSNor I, my lord.120
HAMLETHow say you, then; would heart of man once think it?
But you'll be secret?
MARCELLUSAy, by heaven, my lord.
HAMLETThere's ne'er a villain dwelling in all Denmark
But he's an arrant knave.
HORATIOThere needs no ghost, my lord, come from the grave
To tell us this.
HAMLETWhy, right; you are i' 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,130
Such as it is; and for mine own poor part,
Look you, I'll go pray.
HORATIOThese are but wild and whirling words, my lord.
HAMLETI'm sorry they offend you, heartily;
Yes, 'faith heartily.
HORATIOThere's no offence, my lord.
HAMLETYes, by Saint Patrick, but there is, Horatio,
And much offence 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,140
As you are friends, scholars and soldiers,
Give me one poor request.
HORATIOWhat is't, my lord? we will.
HAMLETNever make known what you have seen to-night.
MARCELLUSMy lord, we will not.
HAMLETNay, but swear't.
HORATIOIn faith,
My lord, not I.
MARCELLUSNor I, my lord, in faith.
HAMLETUpon my sword.
MARCELLUSWe have sworn, my lord, already.
HAMLETIndeed, upon my sword, indeed.
Ghost[Beneath] Swear.
HAMLETAh, ha, boy! say'st thou so? art thou there,
Come on--you hear this fellow in the cellarage--
Consent to swear.
HORATIOPropose the oath, my lord.
HAMLETNever to speak of this that you have seen,
Swear by my sword.
Ghost[Beneath] Swear.
HAMLETHic et ubique? then we'll shift our ground.
Come hither, gentlemen,
And lay your hands again upon my sword:
Never to speak of this that you have heard,
Swear by my sword.160
Ghost[Beneath] Swear.
HAMLETWell said, old mole! canst work i' the earth so fast?
A worthy pioner! Once more remove, good friends.
HORATIOO day and night, but this is wondrous strange!
HAMLETAnd 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,170
As I perchance hereafter shall think meet
To put an antic disposition on,
That you, at such times seeing me, never shall,
With arms encumber'd 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.180
Ghost[Beneath] Swear.
HAMLETRest, rest, perturbed spirit!
[They swear]
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 cursed spite,
That ever I was born to set it right!190
Nay, come, let's go together.

Next: Hamlet, Act 2, Scene 1


Explanatory Notes for Act 1, Scene 5

From Hamlet, prince of Denmark. Ed. K. Deighton. London: Macmillan.

2. My hour, the time at which I must return to the lower regions.

6. bound, Delius points out that Hamlet uses the word in the sense of ready to go [M. E. boun, ready to go], while the Ghost takes it as the past participle of the verb to bind.

8. What? sc. am I to revenge!

10. to walk the night, to spend the night in wandering about the earth.

11. to fast in fires, the commentators quote passages from Chaucer and other old writers in which among the punishments of hell are mentioned hunger, sickness, frost, etc.; and if a spirit can be sensible to fire, as was the ordinary belief in regard to hell, there is no reason why it should not be sensible to hunger.

12. my days of nature, the days of my natural life; or, possibly, the days in which I was subject to the passions of the natural man.

13. But ... forbid, except that I am forbidden; if it were not that I am forbidden; for the curtailed form of the participle, see Abb. § 343.

14. my prison house, sc. purgatory.

16. harrow up, see note on i. 1. 44; up gives an intensive force to the verb.

17. start from their spheres, cp. M. N. D. ii. 1. 153, "And certain stars shot madly from their spheres, To hear the sea-maid's music." Furnivall (Transactions of the N. S. Society, 1877-9, pp. 431, etc.) has shown that in the Ptolemaic system, which Shakespeare followed, round the earth, which was the centre of the system, were nine hollow spheres, consisting of the seven planets, the fixed stars or firmament, and the Primum Mobile; and that in or on each of the seven spheres was a planet fixed, which was whirled by that sphere right round the earth in twenty-four hours, the driving power being the Primum Mobile.

18. knotted and combined, closely interwoven with each other.

19. particular, separate, individual: an end, for a-, representing a preposition, such as in, on, of, and retaining the n for euphony, see Abb. § 24.

20. fretful porpentine, easily irritated porcupine, which in its nervous excitement erects its bristles; Skeat shows that the animal had formerly two very similar names, "(1) porkepyn, shortly porpin, easily lengthened to porpint ... and finally altered to porpentine ... and (2) pork-point, porpoint" ... = "a 'pork' or pig furnished with points or sharp quills," and that the modern porcupine is from the M. E. porkepyn from O. F. porc espin, the pig with spines, ultimately from Lat. spina, a thorn.

21, 2. But this ... blood, but this proclamation of the world beyond must not be made to those still in the flesh: in eternal there is a contrast between the everlasting and spiritual world, and that temporary world in which flesh and blood, i.e. material life exist; blazon, according to Skeat, is a corruption of blaze, in the sense of to blaze abroad, proclaim, the final n being due (1) to M. E. blasen, to trumpet forth, and (2) to confusion with blazon in the purely heraldic sense.

27, 8. Murder ... unnatural, murder most foul, as it is even in circumstances where there is some palliation, such as long-existing hatred, great provocation; but in my case doubly foul, as being of so strange and unnatural a character, the murder of a brother by a brother to whom nothing but brotherly love had ever been shown.

29. Haste me to know't. let me quickly know it; quickly put me in the position of learning it.

30. meditation, in its original sense, has the idea of pondering, dwelling upon a thing; and if here taken for the process of thought, is somewhat tautological with thoughts of love. Warburton takes the word in the sense given it by the Mystics, "that flight of the mind which aspires to the enjoyment of the supreme Good," — a sense which seems very forced here.

31. sweep, like a whirlwind; apt, ready and fitted for the purpose.

32-4. And duller ... this, and more sluggish would you necessarily prove yourself than that heavy weed whose torpid growth clings to the banks of Lethe, if you were unwilling to bestir yourself in avenging my murder. For roots, the folios give rots, and this reading is preferred by some editors, who compare A. C. i. 4. 47, "To rot itself by motion." No two ideas, however, could be more unlike. In A. C. the "vagabond flag" (i.e. the water-plant, Iris, is represented in mid-stream borne forwards and backwards by each flow and ebb of the tide until at last it is rotted away by its constant action; here the fat weed lazily and securely adheres to the bank. For Lethe ("the river of oblivion," P. L. 583), used as an adjective, see Abb. § 22; for shouldst, § 322, and for wouldst, = were disposed, willing, § 331.

35. given out, currently reported.

36-8. so the whole ... abused, the consequence of which is that every one in Denmark is grossly deceived by a forged story of the manner in which I met my death; cp. R. III. iv. 3. 32, "the process of their death." The Cl. Pr. Edd. think that the word here has perhaps "the sense of an official narrative, coming nearly to the meaning of the French proces verbal."

39. did sting ... life, stung your father to death.

40. prophetic, see above, i. 2. 254.

43. With witchcraft ... gifts, cp. M. N. D. i. 1. 27-35: traitorous in being given for the purpose of winning away her love from her husband.

45. won to, won over to, persuaded her to yield to.

47. falling-off, desertion, act of faithlessness: cp. i. H. IV. 1. 3. 94, "He never did fall off, my sovereign liege, But by the chance of war": Lear. i. 2. 116, "friendship falls off, brothers divide."

48-50. whose love ... marriage, whose love was so worthy of the name that it never for a moment swerved from the vow made to her at the altar; even, exactly, precisely.

50-2. and to decline ... mine! and to think that she should not only forsake me, but forsake me for a miserable creature whose natural gifts could not for a moment compare with mine! For to, = in comparison with, see Abb. § 187.

53, 4. But virtue ... heaven, but just as virtue (i.e. a really virtuous person) will never be led astray even though it be solicited by lewdness (i.e. a lewd person) in the garb of an angel; virtue here is a noun absolute; see Abb. § 417; lewd, originally 'lay,' 'belonging to the laity,' then 'untaught,' 'ignorant,' then 'base,' 'vile.'

55-7. So lust ... garbage, so lust (i.e a lustful person), though linked in marriage with one as white of soul as a radiant angel, will ravenously glut itself with garbage even in a bed of heavenly purity; cp. Cymb. i. 5. 47-50, "The cloyed will, That satiate yet unsatisfied desire, ... ravening first the lamb, Longs after for the garbage": sate, a shortened form of satiate; garbage, offal, refuse.

58. soft! let me pause in these reflections and go on quickly with my story.

59. orchard, garden; as always in Shakespeare; literally ortyard, a yard for orts or worts; now used only for a garden of fruit-trees.

60. My custom, i.e. which, or as, is my custom: of the afternoon, during the afternoon; see Abb. § 176.

61. Upon ... stole, your uncle crept softly upon me in my unguarded hour, at a time when I fancied myself safe.

62. hebenon, probably ebony, though by some thought to be henbane. Both are spoken of as being poisonous, e.g. Marlowe, Jew of Malta, iii. 4. 99, "The juice of hebnon," mentioned in a list of poisons; Drayton, Bacon's Wars (quoted by Steevens), "The pois'ning henbane and the mandrake drad." In regard to the latter, Grey refers to Pliny, who states that the oil made from the seeds of this plant, instilled into the ears, will injure the understanding; and Caldecott points out that "the eminent surgeon, Ambroise Pare, Shakespeare's contemporary, was suspected of having, when he dressed the ear of Francis II., infused poison into it." But the Lat. hebenum, ebony, is so near to hebenon, that it can scarcely be doubted that Shakespeare meant this tree.

63. porches, entrances.

64. leperous, producing upon the skin blotches like those in a leper: whose effect, which in its effect.

65. Holds ... man, is so hostile to the, etc.

66. quicksilver, mercury; quick-, in its lively, fluid state, as opposed to solid, though the mineral has really no connection with silver: courses, rushes.

67. The natural ... body, the passages and channels of the body, but here especially of the veins; gates, gateways.

68-70. And with ... blood, and with a sudden energy thickens and curdles with the same effect as that of acids upon milk, when dropped into it, the blood which, while in a healthy state, is thin and fluid; a posset, from which Shakespeare forms the verb, was a drink generally composed of hot milk curdled by being poured upon ale or sack, and was much in vogue at the time; for eager, see note on i. 4. 2.

71-3, And a most ... body, and a most instantaneous eruption spread over my skin, covering it with a loathsome crust such as is seen upon lepers; bark'd, formed as a bark or crust; lazar, a person afflicted with sores such as those of Lazarus in the parable; see Luke, xvi. 20.

75. dispatch'd, suddenly deprived of; more properly belonging to life than to crown or queen: cp. Lear, iv. 5. 12, "Edmund, I think, is gone ... to dispatch His nighted life."

76. even in ... sin, even when my sins were in full blossom.

77. unhousel'd, without having received the sacrament administered to dying persons: from A.S. husel, the eucharist: disappointed, unprepared; not furnished, or appointed, with the religious consolations given to a dying man: so in T. N. K. iii. 6. 136, we have, "like knight appointed," i.e. fully furnished with everything necessary in the way of arms and armour: unaneled, without having received extreme unction, the ceremony in the Catliolic Church of anointing a dying person with holy oil; from A.S. "on, upon, and elan, to oil, ... from ele, substantive, oil" (Skeat, Ety. Dict.).

78. No reckoning made, without having made my reckoning with God by confession of my sins and repentance; sent to my account, sent to answer for my sins before the judgment-seat of God; cp. K. J. iv. 2. 216, "0, when the last account 'twixt heaven and earth Is to be made."

79. imperfections, shortcomings.

81. nature, any feelings of natural affection for me and of natural regard for your mother's honour.

83. luxury, lust; as always in Shakespeare, the adjective and the adverb having the same idea.

84. howsoever ... act, whatever measures you may take to punish the murderer.

85, 6.. Taint not ... aught, do not allow your mind to be in any way poisoned, or your soul to plot any injury, against your mother: leave her to heaven, leave her to he punished by God.

87. thorns, pricks of conscience.

89. matin, morning; not elsewhere found, though we still use matins, i.e. morning prayers; from Lat. matutinus, belonging to the morning.

90. his uneffectual fire, his fire rendered ineffectual by the morning beams; a proleptic sense. Halliwell points out that strictly speaking his should be her, the female only giving the light.

93. shall I couple hell? shall I invoke the powers of hell also?

94. instant, suddenly.

95. stiffly, firmy, unshrinkingly.

96. 7. while memory ... globe, so long as my brain remembers anything; so long as memory is not deposed from her throne in the brain; said as he points to his head; distracted, wracked with agonizing thoughts.

98. table, tablets; cp. T. G. ii. 7. 3, "Who art the table wherein all my thoughts Are visibly character'd and engraved."

99. fond, foolish, frivolous; records, accented on the latter syllable, as more usually in Shakespeare.

100. saws, sayings, maxims; forms, images formed in the mind; pressures, impressions; cp. iii. 2. 27.

101. That youth ... there, that my youthful observation has set down there. i.e. in the tablets of his memory.

102. live, have lasting record.

103. book and volume, the redundancy gives the idea of completeness; the one thing contained in the whole of the pages.

104. Unmix'd matter, unalloyed by anything of meaner importance.

107. My tables, — let me get out my tablets: set it down, make a memorandum of it.

110. So, uncle, there you are, so, uncle, now I have got my memorandum about you set down in black and white; Now ... word, now for the injunction given me by my father, sc. the words Adieu ... me. For word, used of a phrase, cp. R. II. i. 3. 152. "The hopeless word of 'never to return'"; R. J. i. 4. 40. "Tut, dun's the mouse, the constable's own word." Steevens supposes word to be an allusion to the watch-word, given every day in military service.

113. secure him, protect him from injury.

114. So be it! In the quartos these words are given to Hamlet; in the folios, to Marcellus, and as = 'amen' they seem a natural answer on the part of Marcellus to Horatio's prayer. From Horatio's again calling out (1. 115) it appears that he and Marcellus did not hear Hamlet's reply, if these words are Hamlet's, and consequently Hamlet may not have heard Horatio's exclamation Heaven secure him! which would not have been uttered in the same loud tone as the cry in 1. 113. It follows, therefore, that the words, if Hamlet's, can only refer to some resolution at which he has arrived, or some action he has completed.

116. come, bird, come, "this is the call which falconers use to their hawk in the air, when they would have him come down to them" (Hanmer); Hamlet taking up Horatio's call, as used in falconry, carries on in his reply the language of that pursuit.

121. once, so much as once; ever.

122. But you'll be secret? Hamlet pretends to pause, just as he is about to disclose what had happened, for a further assurance from Horatio and Marcellus that they will never reveal what he may tell them.

124. But he's, without his being; who is not.

127. without ... all, without further ceremony; cp. W. T. v. 1. 90, "his approach So out of circumstance and sudden."

128. I hold ... part, it seems better that we should, etc.; shake and part, subjunctives.

129. You, as ... you, you to occupy yourselves in such a way as, etc.

130. For every ... desire, I say 'business and desire,' for you, like other men, are sure to have some, etc.

131. Such as it is, whatever it may be.

132. go pray, for the omission of 'to,' see Abb. § 349.

133. whirling, extravagant, inconsequent.

136. Saint Patrick, Shakespeare probably named the first saint that came into his head, and had no such subtle intention in choosing the patron saint of Ireland as some commentators suppose. He makes his characters swear by a variety of saints without much regard for their special functions or character. [For a different view on Shakespeare's use of Saint Patrick, please click here.]

137. And much offence too, "Hamlet purposely misunderstands his friend's words in order to evade their inquiries. At first he pretends that his words have given offence, whereas his friends have merely found them vague; and when they reply that there is no offence, he takes 'offence' in a wider sense as a 'crime,' and refers it to the crime of his uncle that had just been divulged to him" (Delius).

138. that let me tell you, so much it is well you should know; said as though he were really confiding something to them.

139. what is between us, the secret between myself and the Ghost.

140. O'ermaster 't as you may, I must recommend you to curb it as best you may.

141. As you are ... soldiers, on your faith as, etc.

146. not I, i.e. I will not divulge it.

147. Upon my sword, it was customary to swear upon a sword, the hilt of which with the blade formed a cross.

149. Indeed, ... indeed, strongly emphasizing his demand. Staunton prints in deed, in deed, and explains, "Not in words only, but in act, in form; upon the cross of my sword swear yourselves."

150. truepenny, according to Collier, "a mining term, signifying a particular indication in the soil of the direction in which ore is to be found"; but the term was evidently used in a wider sense, for in The Return from Pernassus (quoted in the N. S. Society's Transactions for 1877-9, p. 466), we have, "What have we here? old true-penny come to towne, to fetch away the lining in his old greasie slops ... the time hath beene wlien such a fellow medled with nothing but his plowshare, his spade, and his hobnailes, and so to a peece of bread and cheese, and went his way"; from which the word appears to have been nothing more than a familiarly contemptuous term applied to a countryman, much as 'gaffer' (i.e. grandfather) is still used in villages to old men. Marston, The Malcontent, iii. 1. 250, has "Illo, ho, ho, ho! art there, old truepenny," made up of Horatio's words in 1.115 and Hamlet's here, in sarcastically addressing Mendoza.

151. cellarage, not exactly the same as 'cellar,' but underground rooms suitable for cellars; here of course meaning nothing more than undergFound.

153. Never ... seen, i.e. swear never, etc.

156. Hic et ubique, here and everywhere; what, says Hamlet, are you here, there. and everywhere?

158. 9. And lay ... heard, i.e. and swear never, etc.

162. canst ... fast? can you burrow in the earth like a mole so fast that you have already reached the point directly under the spot to which we have moved?

163. A worthy pioner! well done! you are an excellent pioneer; for the form of the word, see Abb. § 492.

164. day ... strange! I call day and night to witness if this be not wondrous strange; i.e. assuredly this is wondrous strange.

165. And therefore ... welcome, if, as you say, it is strange, then treat it with the courteous welcome you would give to a stranger.

166. 7. There are ... philosophy, to you this may seem very strange, but that is only because there are many more things in heaven and earth than the philosophy to which you are so addicted ever conceived; for your, in this colloquial sense, see Abb. § 221.

169. so help you mercy, promise as you hope to find the mercy of God in your hour of need.

170. How strange ... myself, however strange and odd I may be in my manner.

172. an antic disposition, a fantastic behaviour; antic, literally old, then old-fashioned, quaint.

174. encumber'd, locked one with the other, like a man in deep thought; an attitude which Hamlet imitates as he speaks. To encumber is literally to load, hence to impede freedom of action, as would be the case with the arms folded: this head shake, this grave shake of the head assuming intense wisdom; this Lord-Burleigh-like nod of the head.

175. pronouncing of, see Abb. § 178: doubtful, enigmatical.

176. 'Well, well, we know,' sc. but do not care to tell: 'We could ... would,' we could explain all this, if we thought proper to do so; for an if, see Abb. § 103.

177. If we list, if we should so please; list, subjunctive from A.S. lystan, to desire, used impersonally: 'There be ... might ,' there are those who could explain this, if they were allowed to do so; be, used with an affectation of profound wisdom.

178. giving out, declaration; cp. Oth. iv. 1. 131, "This is the monkey's own giving out"; to note, to indicate by the outward signs of manner or speech. The construction of the sentence, which began with you never shall, becomes changed, owing to the long parenthesis, to (never) to note; cp. K. J. v. 2. 37-9, "Where these two Christian armies might combine The blood of malice in a vein of league, And not to spend it so unneighbourly."

179-81. this not to do ... Swear, swear, according as you hope that heaven's grace and mercy may help you in your time of need, not to do this; the oath which Hamlet calls upon them to take would be 'I swear, so help me grace and mercy at my most need, not to do so,' the help of grace and mercy being made by the taker of the oath conditional upon his keeping it; for most, used for greatest, see Abb § 17.

184. With all ... you, with my best love I recommend myself to you; by an avowal of my great love to you I solicit a return of equal love to myself; a polite form of farewell.

185. Hamlet, Clarke notes in this use of the third person the characteristic "of the philosophic man, — reflective, thoughtful, given to moralize and speak in the abstract." In the mouth of Caesar and of Macbeth the frequent use is characteristic of arrogance.

186. friending, friendship shown in action.

187. God willing, if it so please God: shall not lack, shall not be wanting.

188. And still ... lips, and ever be silent of what you have seen; the placing of the finger upon the lips being a sign that silence is to be kept.

189. out of joint, utterly disordered; a metaphor from a bone which has slipped from its proper juncture with another bone, the same metaphor being apparently mixed up with that of setting a clock.

189,90. cursed spite ... right, "Hamlet does not lament that the disjointed time is to be set right by him, but that he ... whose duty it of necessity becomes to set the time right, should have been born" (Seymour).

191. Nay, ... together, said as Horatio and Marcellus are at the point of leaving him, under the idea that he wished to be left alone.


How to cite the explanatory notes:
Shakespeare, William. Hamlet, prince of Denmark. Ed. K. Deighton. London: Macmillan, 1919. Shakespeare Online. 20 Feb. 2010. < >.
How to cite the scene review questions:
Mabillard, Amanda. Hamlet: Scene Questions for Review. Shakespeare Online. 27 Nov. 2013. < >.

More Resources

 The Chronology of Shakespeare's Plays
 Establishing the Order of the Plays
 How Many Plays Did Shakespeare Write?
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Scene Questions for Review

microsoft images 1. In this pivotal scene Hamlet learns that Uncle Claudius has murdered his father, and so begins the revenge plot. How popular were revenge tragedies in Shakespeare's time?

2. The late King says he was murdered "with all my imperfections on my head" (79). Why is this particularly heinous? How does this revelation relate to Hamlet's soliloquy, Now might I do it pat?

3. The Ghost places two restrictions on Hamlet as he carries out revenge against Claudius. What are they? Is Hamlet able to comply with the Ghost's requests throughout the drama?

4. Hamlet plainly asserts to Horatio that he will feign madness ("an antic disposition") from this point on. How will assuming madness help Hamlet gain time to plan his revenge?

5. Hamlet, by nature, is a judicious intellectual and the enormous task before him is best suited to a man of action. Are there any signs in Scene 5 that point to Hamlet's inability to bear this heavy burden? What would a man like Macbeth do upon hearing the news?


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History Trivia ... "We should certainly think a logic-loving philosopher or an iron-nerved general tainted in his wits, if he allowed his reason to be swayed by a shadowy apparition, or his intrigues to be governed by a trio of vanishing witches; yet Shakespeare was making use of the most powerful motive at his command. Doubtless every person in The Globe play-house shuddered at the appearance of Hamlet's ghost, for it was true, actually true to them, that this might be either Denmark's spirit or the very devil in a pleasing shape." Henry Thew Stephenson. Read on...


 Soliloquy Analysis: O this too too... (1.2)
 Soliloquy Analysis: O, what a rogue and peasant slave am I!... (2.2)
 Soliloquy Analysis: To be, or not to be... (3.1)
 Soliloquy Analysis: Tis now the very witching time of night... (3.2)
 Soliloquy Analysis: Now might I do it pat... (3.3)
 Soliloquy Analysis: How all occasions do inform against me... (4.4)

 The Dumb-Show: Why Hamlet Reveals his Knowledge to Claudius
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 The Death of Polonius and its Impact on Hamlet's Character
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Essential Resources ... Explore our exclusive spelled pronunciation guide to every character Shakespeare created, fantastic for actors and teachers. It includes an in-depth biography of many of Shakespeare's most popular and fascinating creations. Shakespeare's Characters A to Z ...


 Hamlet's Humor: The Wit of Shakespeare's Prince of Denmark
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Do You Agree? ... "The powers outside life send a poor ghost to Hamlet to prompt him to an act of justice. After baffled hours, often interrupted by cock-crow, he gives his message. Hamlet is charged with the double task of executing judgment and showing mercy.... The task set by the dead is a simple one. All tasks are simple to the simple-minded. To the delicate and complex mind so much of life is bound up with every act that any violent act involves not only a large personal sacrifice of ideal, but a tearing-up by the roots of half the order of the world. ... Hamlet is neither 'weak' nor 'unpractical,' as so many call him. What he hesitates to do may be necessary, or even just, as the world goes, but it is a defilement of personal ideals, difficult for a wise mind to justify. It is so great a defilement, and a world so composed is so great a defilement that death seems preferable to action and existence alike." John Masefield. Read on...


 Divine Providence in Hamlet
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The Ghost in the Cellarage ... "[Hamlet] first makes Horatio and Marcellus swear never to make known what they have seen. Then, on shifting his ground, he makes them swear never to speak of what they have heard. Then, moving again, he makes them swear that, if he should think fit to play the antic, they will give no sign of knowing aught of him. The oath is now complete; and, when the Ghost commands them to swear the last time, Hamlet suddenly becomes perfectly serious and bids it rest." A. C. Bradley. Read on...