See the page Interscene 1 - 2 for a description of the probable events between Scene 1 and Scene 2.
Claudius, the newly-elected King, is holding his first session of regular state business, in the Throne Room. He announces that the mourning period for his brother is over, with his assumption of the throne. He goes through the formalities, of mentioning that he has married Gertrude (a fact everyone already knows,) and thanking his supporters.
Claudius sends a diplomatic mission to King Norway, to try to deal with the threat from Fortinbrasse.
Claudius then gives Laertes permission to return to France.
Claudius then speaks to Hamlet, who responds aside, "a little more than kin and less than kind." Gertrude speaks to Hamlet, trying to persuade him not to be so downhearted, and Hamlet responds that his grief is not just a show. Claudius then lectures Hamlet at considerable length, and although Claudius puts on a show of concern, it's clear enough that he hates Hamlet and fears him. Gertrude asks Hamlet to stay at Elsinore Castle, and he agrees to do so, despite his desire to return to school in Wittenberg. Claudius says he'll celebrate Hamlet's agreement to stay, and ends his first court session. All except Hamlet exit, and Hamlet speaks his "sallied flesh" soliloquy.
Marcellus, Horatio, and Bernardo enter, tell Hamlet about the Ghost, and he decides to go with them that night to see it.
|Claudius first speaks to Hamlet #065,||Hamlet's "sallied flesh" soliloquy #131,||Marcellus, Horatio and Bernardo enter #161-SD|
Jump down to the Notes.
Scene 2 [ ~ Too Too Sallied ~ ] (Act 1 Scene 2)
#02-Setting: Inside the Castle; The Throne Room; Daytime, morning.
#02-000-SD (a flourish of trumpets sounds; King Claudius and Queen Gertrude enter, with their royal entourage; Cornelius and Voltemand enter; Polonius and Laertes enter; Hamlet enters)
#02-001 Claudius: Though yet of Hamlet, our dear brother's, death, Although, still, the death of my dear brother, King Hamlet, #02-002 The memory be green, and that it us befitted Is a fresh memory, and given that it suited us all #02-003 To bear our hearts in grief, and our whole kingdom To have hearts heavy with grief, and for our entire kingdom #02-004 To be contracted in one brow of woe, To act as one in showing the face of woe, #02-005 Yet, so far hath discretion fought with nature, Yet, to this extent judgment has fought against natural feeling: #02-006 That we with wisest sorrow think on him That I think about him with the wisest kind of sorrow, #02-007 Together with remembrance of ourselves; Combined with remembering the people of Denmark. #02-008 Therefore, our sometime sister, now our Queen, Therefore, my former sister-in-law, who is now my Queen, #02-009 The imperial jointress to this warlike state, The royal partner in this warlike situation, #02-010 Have we, as 'twere, with a defeated joy, I have with - as it were - a defeated joy, #02-011 With an auspicious, and a dropping eye, With eyes looking both upward in anticipation and down in grief, #02-012 With mirth in funeral, and with dirge in marriage, With glee at the funeral, and with sorrow in marriage, #02-013 In equal scale weighing delight and dole, Equally considering both joy and grief, #02-014 Taken to wife; nor have we herein barred Taken her to be my wife. Nor have I, in all this, disregarded #02-015 Your better wisdoms, which have freely gone Your better advice and counsel, which have readily gone #02-016 With this affair along (for all, our thanks;) Along with this sequence of events (for all of which, I thank you all.) #02-017 Now follows that you know young Fortinbrasse, Now, following what you already know: young Fortinbrasse #02-018 Holding a weak supposal of our worth, Who holds a low opinion of my quality as a leader, #02-019 Or thinking by our late, dear brother's death, Or who thinks that because of my dear brother's death #02-020 Our state to be disjoint, and out of frame, Our nation is divided and not securely bordered, #02-021 Colleagued with this dream of his advantage, In league with this fantasy that he has an advantage, #02-022 He hath not failed to pester us with message He has succeeded in pestering me with a message #02-023 Importing the surrender of those lands Bringing up the surrender to him of the land that was #02-024 Lost by his father, with all bands of law, Lost by his father, with all its ties under the law, #02-025 To our most valiant brother, so much for him; To my most valiant brother. That's enough about him. #02-026 Now, for ourself, and for this time of meeting, Now, for what I, myself, will do, and at this time of the meeting, #02-027 Thus much the business is: we have here writ This is the current business: I have written this official letter #02-028 To Norway, uncle of young Fortinbrasse, To the King of Norway (the uncle of young Fortinbrasse) #02-029 Who, impotent and bedrid, scarcely hears Who, since he is disabled and sick in bed, has hardly heard #02-030 Of this, his nephew's purpose, to suppress About this, his nephew's intentions, to have him forbid #02-031 His further gate herein, in that the levies, Fortinbrasse's further entry into Denmark, because the taxes are levied, #02-032 The lists, and full proportions are all made A census taken, and administrative districts have been drawn #02-033 Out of his subject, and we here dispatch Out of the land, as a part of Denmark; and I hereby dispatch #02-034 You, good Cornelius, and you, Voltemand, You, good Cornelius, and you, Voltemand, #02-035 For bearing of this greeting to old Norway, As ambassadors to carry this letter to old King Norway, and #02-036 Giving to you no further personal power I give you no further personal authority #02-037 To business with the King, more than the scope To do business with the King of Norway, beyond the scope #02-038 Of these 'delated' articles allow; #02-038-SD (Claudius hands his letter to C. and V., Of what these denunciatory articles permit. and a copy to Polonius) #02-039 Farewell, and let your haste commend your duty. Farewell, and let your dutifulness be shown by your speed. #02-040 Cornelius and Voltemand both: In that, and all things, will we show our duty. In that, and in all things we will show our duty. #02-041 Claudius: We doubt it nothing; heartily farewell. #02-041-SD (Cornelius and Voltemand exit) I do not doubt it at all, and bid you a hearty farewell. #02-042 And now, Laertes, what's the news with you? And now, Laertes, what's new with you? #02-043 You told us of some suit, what is it, Laertes? You had mentioned some request to the King, what is it, Laertes? #02-044 You cannot speak of reason to the Dane, You cannot speak your reasons to the King of Denmark #02-045 And lose your voice; what would'st thou beg, Laertes, If you lose your voice. So, what would you beg for, Laertes, #02-046 That shall not be my offer, not thy asking? That won't be my offer to you, rather than your request? #02-047 The head is not more native to the heart, The head is as naturally connected to the heart, and #02-048 The hand more instrumental to the mouth, The hand is as much of service in feeding the mouth, #02-049 Than is the throne of Denmark to thy father; As the throne of Denmark is connected to, and of service to, your father. #02-050 What would'st thou have, Laertes? What do you wish, Laertes? #02-051 Laertes: Dread my Lord: My revered lord, #02-052 Your leave and favor to return to France, I request your kind permission that I may return to France, #02-053 From whence, though willingly I came to Denmark, From where, although I willingly came back to Denmark, #02-054 To show my duty in your coronation, To show my duty at your coronation, #02-055 Yet now I must confess, that duty done, Yet, now I must admit, after I have done that duty, #02-056 My thoughts and wishes bend again toward France, My wishful thoughts yearn again for France, #02-057 And bow them to your gracious leave and pardon. And submit themselves to your tolerant permission and your pardon. #02-058 Claudius: Have you your father's leave, what says Polonius? Do you have your father's permission? What do you say, Polonius? #02-059 Polonius: He hath, my Lord, wrung from me my slow leave, My lord, my son has extracted, from me, my reluctant permission, #02-060 By laborsome petition, and at last, Through tedious, repeated requests, until at last #02-061 Upon his will I sealed my hard consent; To his desire I confirmed my hard and fast approval. #02-062 I do beseech you, give him leave to go. I do solicit you, give him permission to leave. #02-063 Claudius: Take thy fair hour, Laertes, time be thine, Take your holiday, Laertes, the time is yours, #02-064 And thy best graces spend it at thy will; #02-064-SD (Laertes exits) And, on your best behavior, spend it as you please. #02-065 But now, my cousin Hamlet, and my son . . . But now, my kinsman Hamlet, and my son. . . #02-066 Hamlet: A little more than kin, and less than kind. "Son" is a little closer than our actual kinship, and you're less than my kind. #02-067 Claudius: How is it that the clouds still hang on you? How can it be that you are still gloomy? #02-068 Hamlet: Not so, my Lord, I am too much in the sun. It isn't that I'm gloomy, my Lord, I'm dazzled by your brilliance. #02-069 Gertrude: Good Hamlet, cast they nightly color off, Good Hamlet, cast off your dark mood #02-070 And let thine eye look like a friend on Denmark; And let your eyes look in a friendly way toward Denmark. #02-071 Do not forever with thy vailed lids Do not always look with downcast eyes #02-072 Seek for thy noble father in the dust; As if seeking your noble father in the dust. #02-073 Thou know'st 'tis common all that lives must die, You know it is universal for all who live to die, inevitably, #02-074 Passing through nature to eternity. As they go through the natural world on the way to eternity. #02-075 Hamlet: Aye, Madam, it is common. Yes, Madam, it is normal and universal. #02-076 Gertrude: If it be, Since it is, #02-077 Why seems it so particular with thee? Why does this instance of death appear so singular to you? #02-078 Hamlet: "Seems," Madam? Nay, it is; I know not "seems." "Appear," Madam? No, it really is. I don't know how "appear" applies. #02-079 'Tis not alone my inky cloak, cooled mother, It isn't only my black cloak, insensitive mother, #02-080 Nor customary suits of solemn black, Nor is it these traditional clothes of black for mourning, #02-081 Nor windy suspiration of forced breath, Nor my deep, involuntary sighs, #02-082 No, nor the fruitful river in the eye, No, nor is it the copious tears flowing from my eyes, #02-083 Nor the dejected havior of the visage, Nor the dispirited expression on my face, #02-084 Together with all forms, moods, chapes of grief, Joined with all the styles, apparent frames of mind, and coverings of grief, #02-085 That can devote me truly; these indeed "seem," That can truly show my devotion. These indeed "appear," #02-086 For they are actions that a man might play, Since they are actions that a man might put on, #02-087 But I have that within which passes show; But I do have, within me, feelings that surpass this show. #02-088 These, but the trappings and the suits of woe. These outward things are only the trappings and costuming of my heartfelt woe. #02-089 Claudius: 'Tis sweet and commendable in your nature, Hamlet, It's kind and praiseworthy in your personality, Hamlet, #02-090 To give these mourning duties to your father, That you do the duty of mourning for your father. #02-091 But you must know your father lost a father, But, you must know, that your father lost his father, #02-092 That father lost, lost his, and the survivor bound That father who was lost, also lost his father, and always the surviving son was obliged #02-093 In filial obligation for some term By his filial duty, for some time #02-094 To do obsequious sorrow; but to persevere To compliantly show sorrow, but to continue, beyond that time, #02-095 In obstinate condolement is a course In a stubborn expression of grief is a course of action #02-096 Of impious stubbornness, 'tis unmanly grief; Of disloyal obstinacy. It is an unmanly grief. #02-097 It shows a will most incorrect to Heaven, It shows a willfulness which is highly disobedient to God, #02-098 A heart unfortified, a mind impatient, A soft heart, an unbearable memory, #02-099 An understanding simple and unschooled, A foolish and uneducated grasp of the situation. #02-100 For what we know, must be, and is as common For what we know for a fact, it must be true, and it's as commonplace #02-101 As any the most vulgar thing to sense; As even the most vulgar thing we can perceive. #02-102 Why should we, in our peevish opposition, Why should we, in mad rebellion, #02-103 Take it to heart? Fie, 'tis a fault to Heaven, Take it to heart? For shame, it's a failing in God's eyes, #02-104 A fault against the dead, a fault to nature, An offense against the dead, a crime against nature, #02-105 To reason most absurd, whose common theme Most absurd to reason, since the common theme of nature #02-106 Is death of fathers, and who still hath cried Is that fathers always die, and everyone has always cried, #02-107 From the first course till he that died today; From the first coursing of tears, in human history, up until whoever died today. #02-108 This must be so; we pray you throw to earth It has to be like that. Please cast aside #02-109 This unprevailing woe, and think of us That sorrow which cannot prevail, and think of me #02-110 As of a father, for, let the world take note, The way you think of a father, because, let everyone take note as I announce, #02-111 You are the most immediate to our throne, You are the next in line for the throne, #02-112 And with no less nobility of love And, with no less high-mindedness in my love, #02-113 Than that which dearest father bears his son, Than that which the most affectionate father has for his son, #02-114 Do I impart toward you, for your intent I do tell you, concerning your plan #02-115 In going back to school in Wittenberg, Of going back to school in Wittenberg, that #02-116 It is most retrograde to our desire, It is highly contradictory to my will, #02-117 And we beseech you, bend you to remain And I entreat you, incline yourself to remain #02-118 Here in the cheer and comfort of our eye, Here, where I can happily and comfortably look upon you, as #02-119 Our chiefest courtier, cousin, and our son. My highest courtier, my kinsman, and my legally adopted son. #02-120 Gertrude: Let not thy mother lose her prayers, Hamlet, Don't let your mother's prayers go unanswered, Hamlet. #02-121 I pray thee, stay with us, go not to Wittenberg. Please stay with us, do not go to Wittenberg. #02-122 Hamlet: I shall, in all my best, obey you, Madam. I shall obey you in all the best ways I can, Madam. #02-123 Claudius: Why, 'tis a loving and a fair reply, Why, it is a loving and a handsome reply. #02-124 Be as ourself, in Denmark; Madam, come, Be like me, in Denmark. Madam, come with me. #02-125 This gentle and unforced accord of Hamlet This polite and voluntary agreement by Hamlet #02-126 Sits smiling to my heart, in grace whereof, Makes my heart glad. In thanks of which, #02-127 No jocund health that Denmark drinks today, At every cheerful toast that I drink today #02-128 But the great cannon to the clouds shall tell; I'll order our powerful cannons to "speak" to the clouds, #02-129 And the King's rouse the heaven shall bruit again, And the King's carousing shall make the heavens boom, again, #02-130 Respeaking earthly thunder; come away. As they recount the earthly thunder. Let's go. #02-130-SD (a flourish of trumpets sounds; Hamlet stays; everyone else exits) #02-131 Hamlet: Oh, that this too too sallied flesh would melt, Oh, if only my too-much-assailed substance could melt away like snow, #02-132 Thaw, and resolve itself into a dew; Thaw like ice, and dissolve itself into a dew, which would rise above all this, #02-133 Or that the everlasting had not fixed Or, that the Eternal Power had not secured #02-134 His cannon 'gainst 'seal' slaughter; God, God, Claudius's cannons against him slaughtering himself with them. Good lord, good lord, #02-135 How wary, stale, flat and unprofitable How mercenary, prostituted, unaspiring, and unrewarding #02-136 Seem to me all the uses of this world; It seems to me, are all the employments in this world. #02-137 Fie on it, ah fie, 'tis an unweeded garden Shame on that kind of thinking, ah, shame. The world is an unweeded garden #02-138 That grows to seed; things rank and gross in nature That has gone to seed. Things of a coarse and vulgar kind #02-139 Possess it, merely, that it should come thus; Have possession of this world, purely that, so that it's become this way. #02-140 But two months dead, nay, not so much, not two; Only two months dead. No, not that long, not even two. #02-141 So excellent a King, that was to this, He was such an excellent King; compared to this one, like an #02-142 Hyperion to a satire; so loving to my mother, Ideal sun king versus a mockery of a king, and so loving to my mother, #02-143 That he might not beteem the winds of heaven That he would not permit the winds of fortune #02-144 Visit her face too roughly; heaven and earth, To afflict her composure too greatly. By heaven and earth, #02-145 Must I remember, why, she should hang on him I must remember. Why, she was compelled to cling to him #02-146 As if increase of appetite had grown As if greater appetite came from #02-147 By what it fed on, and yet within a month . . . More feeding. And yet within a month . . . #02-148 Let me not think on it; frailty, thy name is woman; Oh, I don't want to think about it. Unreliability, is the word for a woman. #02-149 A little month, or ere those shoes were old Only a short month it was, even before the shoes were scuffed #02-150 With which she followed my poor father's body, That she wore when she followed my poor father's body. #02-151 Like Niobe, all tears; why she, even she - She was all tears then, like Niobe. Why would she, even she - #02-152 Oh, God, a beast that wants discourse of reason Oh, God, a beast that lacks the ability of rational expression #02-153 Would have mourned longer - married with my uncle, Would have mourned longer - marry my uncle? He's #02-154 My father's brother, but no more like my father My father's brother, but no more like my father #02-155 Than I to Hercules; within a month, Than I'm like Hercules. Within a month, #02-156 Ere yet the salt of most unrighteous tears While still the salt of her highly unvirtuous tears #02-157 Had left the flushing in her galled eyes, Had left the redness in her irritated eyes, #02-158 She married - oh, most wicked speed - to post She married - oh, with most wicked speed - to haste #02-159 With such dexterity to incestuous sheets; With such ease into an incestuous bed. #02-160 It is not, nor it cannot come to good, It is not good, and cannot lead to anything good. #02-161 But break my heart, for I must hold my tongue. But my heart must break, because I have to be quiet and accept it. #02-161-SD (Marcellus, Horatio, and Bernardo enter) #02-162 Horatio: Hail to your Lordship. Hail to your Lordship! #02-163 Hamlet: I am glad to see you well; Horatio - or I do forget my self. I'm glad to see you well - Horatio! - unless I've forgotten myself. #02-164 Horatio: The same, my Lord, and your poor servant ever. That's me, my Lord, and I'm your poor servant, as always. #02-165 Hamlet: Sir, my good friend, I'll change that name with you; Sir, my good friend, I'd trade names with you, so you can be Hamlet and I'll be Horatio. #02-166 And what make you from Wittenberg, Horatio? And what events bring you here from Wittenberg, Horatio? #02-167 Marcellus. Hello, Marcellus. #02-168 Marcellus: My good Lord. Hello, my good Lord. #02-169 Hamlet: I am very glad to see you; (good even, sir.) I am very glad to see you. And, good evening, sir. #02-170 But what, in faith, make you from Wittenberg? But again, Horatio, really, what brings you from Wittenberg? #02-171 Horatio: A truant disposition, good my Lord. I felt like playing hooky, my good Lord. #02-172 Hamlet: I would not hear your enemy say so, I'd never hear your enemy say such a thing. #02-173 Nor shall you do my ear that violence Nor must you do such abuse to my ear #02-174 To make it truster of your own report To force it to believe your own revelation #02-175 Against yourself; I know you are no truant, Against yourself. I know you're not the kind to be truant, #02-176 But what is your affair in Elsinore? But what are you doing at Elsinore? #02-177 We'll teach you to drink deep ere you depart. By the way, we'll teach you how to get drunk before you leave. #02-178 Horatio: My Lord, I came to see your father's funeral. My Lord, I came to attend your father's funeral. #02-179 Hamlet: I prithee, do not mock me, fellow student; Please don't tease me, my fellow student, #02-180 I think it was to see my mother's wedding. I think it was to attend my mother's wedding. #02-181 Horatio: Indeed, my Lord, it followed hard upon. Indeed, my Lord, that quickly followed. #02-182 Hamlet: Thrift, thrift, Horatio: The funeral baked meats Thrift, Horatio, thrift: The food that was baked for the funeral #02-183 Did coldly furnish forth the marriage tables; Supplied leftovers for the marriage banquet. #02-184 Would I had met my dearest foe in Heaven, I'd rather have met my worst enemy in Heaven, #02-185 Ere ever I had seen that day, Horatio; Before I had ever seen the day of that marriage, Horatio. #02-186 My father, methinks I see my father. My father, I think I see my father. #02-187 Horatio: Oh? Where, my Lord? Oh? Where, my Lord?! #02-188 Hamlet: In my mind's eye, Horatio. In my imagination, Horatio. #02-189 Horatio: I saw him once; he was a goodly King. I met him in person once. He was a great King. #02-190 Hamlet: He was a man, take him for all in all; He was a man among men, take him for all that a man can be, overall. #02-191 I shall not look upon his like again. I will not see anybody like him again. #02-192 Horatio: My Lord, I think I saw him yesternight. My Lord, I think I saw him last night. #02-193 Hamlet: Saw, who? Saw who? #02-194 Horatio: My Lord, the King, your father. My Lord - the King, your father. #02-195 Hamlet: The King, my father? The King, my father? #02-196 Horatio: Season your admiration for a while Delay your wondering about it for a while, #02-197 With an attent ear, 'til I may deliver, And listen with an attentive ear, until I can impart, #02-198 Upon the witness of these gentlemen, Supported by the confirmation of these gentlemen, #02-199 This marvel to you. This marvelous event to you. #02-200 Hamlet: For God's love, let me hear! For god's sake, let's hear it! #02-201 Horatio: Two nights together had these gentlemen, For two nights in a row these gentlemen, #02-202 Marcellus and Bernardo, on their watch, Marcellus and Bernardo, during their watch, #02-203 In the dead waste and middle of the night, In the desolate, silent, middle of the night, #02-204 Been thus encountered: a figure like your father Encountered this: a figure like your father, #02-205 Armed at all points exactly cap-a-pe, Armored in all details, precisely, head to foot, #02-206 Appears before them, and with solemn march, Appeared before them. It marched solemnly, and #02-207 Goes slow and stately by them; thrice he walked Went by them slowly and regally. Three times he walked #02-208 By their oppressed and fear-surprised eyes, By, in sight of their overpowered eyes seized by fear, as #02-209 Within his truncheon's length, whil'st they, distilled Close as the length of his royal scepter, while they, turned #02-210 Almost to jelly with the act of fear, Almost to jelly with the shivering of their fear, #02-211 Stand dumb and speak not to him; this to me Stood silent and could not speak to him. This #02-212 In dreadful secrecy impart they did, They told me in fearful secrecy, #02-213 And I with them the third night kept the watch; And I went with them the third night to keep watch. #02-214 Whereas they had delivered both in time, Whereupon, I saw they had spoken accurately about the time, and the #02-215 Form of the thing, each word made true and good; Shape of the thing. All their words proved true and valid. #02-216 The apparition comes; I knew your father, The apparition does appear. I recognized your father. #02-217 These hands are not more like. It's more like your father than my hands are like each other. #02-218 Hamlet: But where was this? But, where did this happen? #02-219 Marcellus: My Lord, upon the platform where we watch. My Lord, at the platform where we're assigned to keep watch. #02-220 Hamlet: Did you not speak to it? You didn't speak to it? #02-221 Horatio: My Lord, I did, I did, my Lord, #02-222 But answer, it made none; yet once methought But it made no answer. Yet once, I thought, #02-223 It lifted up its head, and did address It raised its head, and did begin #02-224 Itself to motion like as it would speak, To do the motions as if it would speak #02-225 But even then, the morning cock crew loud, But just then a rooster crowed loudly, #02-226 And at the sound it shrunk in haste away, And at that sound, the ghost withdrew quickly, away from us, #02-227 And vanished from our sight. And disappeared from our sight. #02-228 Hamlet: 'Tis very strange. That is very strange. #02-229 Horatio: As I do live, my honored Lord, 'tis true, Upon the oath of my life, my honored Lord, it is true. #02-230 And we did think it writ down in our duty And we thought it must be dictated, as part of our duty, #02-231 To let you know of it. To tell you about it. #02-232 Hamlet: Indeed; Indeed, sirs, but this troubles me; Yes, of course, gentlemen, but it troubles me. #02-233 Hold you the watch tonight? Do you have the watch duty tonight? #02-234 (All): We do, my Lord. We do, my Lord. #02-235 Hamlet: Armed, say you? You say that it was in armor? #02-236 (All): Armed, my Lord. Yes, in armor, my Lord. #02-237 Hamlet: From top to toe? From the top of the head down to the toes? #02-238 (All): My Lord, from head to foot. Yes, my Lord, from head to foot. #02-239 Hamlet: Then saw you not his face. Then you didn't see its face. #02-240 Horatio: Oh, yes, my Lord, he wore his beaver up. Oh yes, my Lord, it wore its helmet with the visor raised. #02-241 Hamlet: What looked he, frowningly? What was the facial expression - frowning? #02-242 Horatio: A countenance more in sorrow than in anger. A facial expression more sorrowful than angry. #02-243 Hamlet: Pale, or red? Were the eyes wide, to show the whites, or squinted? #02-244 Horatio: Nay, very pale. Not squinted, very wide-eyed. #02-245 Hamlet: And fixed his eyes upon you? And did it look intently at you? #02-246 Horatio: Most constantly. Yes, very unwaveringly. #02-247 Hamlet: I would I had been there. I wish I had been there. #02-248 Horatio: It would have much amazed you. It would have greatly perplexed you. #02-249 Hamlet: Very like, very like; stayed it long? Yes, very likely it would have. Did it remain long? #02-250 Horatio: While one, with moderate haste, might tell a hundredth. Long enough to count to a hundred fairly fast. #02-251 (Marcellus and Bernardo, both): Longer, longer. No, longer, longer than that. #02-252 Horatio: Not when I saw it. Not when I saw it. #02-253 Hamlet: His beard was grizzled, no? Its beard was grizzled, or was it not? #02-254 Horatio: It was as I have seen it in his life: It was like I saw it when he was alive: #02-255 A sable, silvered. Black with some silver. #02-256 Hamlet: I will watch 'to nigh', I will watch with you tonight. #02-257 Perchance 'twill wake again. Perhaps it will be active again. #02-258 Horatio: I warrant it will. I'd guarantee it will. #02-259 Hamlet: If it assume my noble father's person Should it take on the form of my noble father's figure, #02-260 I'll speak to it, though hell, itself, should gape, I'll speak to it, even if Hell, itself, should open wide its mouth #02-261 And bid me hold my peace; I pray you all, And order me to be quiet. Please, all of you, #02-262 If you have hitherto concealed this sight, If you have not, so far, told anybody else what you saw, #02-263 Let it be tenable in your silence, still; Let it be kept as your secret, still. #02-264 And whatsomever else shall hap' tonight, And whatever else may happen tonight, #02-265 Give it an understanding, but no tongue; Apply yourselves to understanding it, but don't speak of it. #02-266 I will requite your loves, so fare you well; I will reward your friendship with me, but now I'll say farewell. #02-267 Upon the platform, 'twixt eleven and twelve, At the platform guard post, between eleven and twelve o'clock, #02-268 I'll visit you. I'll see you then. #02-269 (All): Our duty to your honor. #02-269-SD (Horatio, Marcellus and Bernardo Our duty to your honor. proceed to their exits) #02-270 Hamlet: Your loves, as mine to you, farewell; Your friendships, and mine to you, farewell. #02-271 My father's spirit (in arms;) all is not well; My father's spirit, in armor... All is not well. #02-272 I doubt some foul play; would the night were come, I suspect some offensive deed. I wish tonight were already here, #02-273 'Til then, sit still, my soul; fond deeds will rise Until then, be patient, my soul. Foolish deeds will rise into view #02-274 Though all the earth o'erwhelm them to men's eyes. Even though the whole earth buried them from sight. #02-274-SD (Hamlet exits)
End of Scene 2
Go to: Scene 1 - Scene 2 - Scene 3 - Scene 4 - Scene 5 - Scene 6 - Scene 7 - Scene 8 - Scene 9 - Scene 10
Scene 11 - Scene 12 - Scene 13 - Scene 14 - Scene 15 - Scene 16 - Scene 17 - Scene 18 - Scene 19 - Scene 20
Jump up to the start of the Dialogue.
- Place - The Throne Room. The Throne Room is a certainty because King Claudius is doing official state business on behalf of the nation of Denmark.
(I did not find a picture of the Throne Room at Kronborg Castle, so the image is of the Throne Room at Rosenborg Castle in Copenhagen.)
- Time of Day - Early morning, at the start, and probably the mid-day meal break when Claudius exits. The Scene continues a while beyond Claudius's exit, into the afternoon.
We know expressly when the Scene begins, because Marcellus, Horatio and Bernardo left Scene 1 at dawn, to return to the Castle. However, they don't talk to Hamlet at the beginning of this Scene. So, Claudius must have gotten an early start, himself, with his royal court session, for which he has ordered the Throne Room door kept closed. It all indicates early morning, at the Scene start.
The mid-day break is something you'd expect, and that goes along with the next Scene where the ship is ready to sail (as I'll mention there.) The duration of Horatio and the sentinels talking to Hamlet then puts the time in the afternoon, perhaps getting into evening by then.
Shakespeare clearly didn't try to "clock" the play precisely, and trying to do so would have been absurd, but he had to keep it plausible enough so that the audience would never outright laugh. Indeed, it does "clock" reasonably well.
So, early morning at the start, and some time in the afternoon at the end.
- Calendar Time - Day 1 of the administration of King Claudius.
(a flourish of trumpets sounds; King Claudius and Queen Gertrude enter, with their royal entourage; Cornelius and Voltemand enter; Polonius and Laertes enter; Hamlet enters)
The entries of the named characters, and the royal entourage, are all from stage right, the Royal doorway (presuming the "right = royal" mnemonic is in use.)
Certain honored persons who are there by invitation, but who do not have business before the King today, and who are not part of the entourage or the King's council, may enter stage left, the Lobby side. Both the Royal and Lobby doors are then closed and guarded, so the King will not be interrupted while he's holding court. The closing of the doors could be shown, if production facilities allow, or just left to be understood.
The action, or arrangement on stage, of Claudius and Hamlet is vital for a correct presentation. See the Action note.
Hamlet is in black mourning clothes. The others are all in their normal clothing for a session of the royal court. Claudius has spread the word, earlier, that the mourning period for his brother is over. The question was probably asked by someone, of what dress was expected for Claudius's first royal court session, and the answer came back, normal dress. Only Hamlet has disobeyed Claudius's instruction about the clothing he deems appropriate.
By the way, Ophelia is not present. It's takes some explaining, but if she were present in this Scene, she would not be present in the next Scene.
From the beginning in this Scene, all the time Claudius is speaking, up until he speaks to Laertes, Hamlet is correctly positioned in front of Claudius, well within Claudius's field of vision, standing silently, staring at Claudius. Hamlet stands near Laertes, since they both have personal petitions before the royal court. (The King deals first with state business, then he turns to personal petitions. That general order of business is standard: first, state business, then, personal requests.)
Productions that have Hamlet wandering around, or lurking in the back - as you may have seen - like Hamlet's the village idiot, or like the actor playing him is the village idiot - are trashing the Scene. The point is dramatic tension.
Again, all the time Claudius is talking, holding his first session of the royal court, as he goes through some formalities, then does state business, Hamlet is there, unmistakably, just standing there, looking at Claudius. It bothers Claudius. As it continues, it gives him the creeps. Hamlet, standing there motionless and silent, wearing his black mourning clothes, begins to look to Claudius like the Grim Reaper looming before him.
That's the correct setup. It's to be done so that the audience can almost taste the tension between Hamlet and Claudius. Even before the audience knows anything about either Claudius or Hamlet, they should get the feeling, "something is going to happen, things can't go on like this." That's what Shakespeare provided for, and that's what a good production will aim for.
Handle it so that Hamlet, standing before Claudius, as the passage continues, begins to look to Claudius like the Grim Reaper come to pay Claudius a visit. If it's played like Hamlet is some birdbrain pigeon wandering around, that got in by mistake when a window was left open, it throws all that lovely dramatic tension, from Shakespeare's hand, right out the window, for no honest reason at all.
Why do you think Shakespeare specified a black cloak for Hamlet here? For the Hamlet character it's part of his mourning outfit, sure, but symbolically, from Claudius's point of view, it's so that Claudius can start to see Hamlet as the Grim Reaper. It's thematic of Death, to Claudius. Play it that way.
Carry through on this, with Claudius. Bad dreams get mentioned in the play. We understand Claudius is a man, thus he sleeps, perchance to dream.
As Claudius says in Scene 2, and as we later hear in Scene 4, he'll drink and fire the cannons tonight. Eventually he'll make his way to bed, or be helped there. He'll sleep. What dream will he have? He'll dream of this royal court session, with Hamlet standing before him, cloaked in black. As Claudius looks at Hamlet, so motionless and silent in his black cloak, staring at him, suddenly Hamlet changes into the Grim Reaper, steps toward Claudius, and reaches out a bony hand to grab him. Claudius awakens with a "yipe" and reaches, with a shaking hand, toward the decanter on the bedside table, to pour himself a drink and guzzle it down.
Exactly when, in the night, will that nightmare happen? We can guess that, sure. It will happen precisely at the same time the Ghost is telling Hamlet that Claudius murdered King Hamlet, and the Ghost calls for revenge.
Claudius: Though yet of Hamlet, our dear brother's, death,
yet - still. Even yet.
Hamlet, our dear brother's, death - is information that this King is the brother of the late King Hamlet. Claudius, himself, is going through some formalities here. In this part of his speech, he is not informing people of any events they don't already know.
The memory be green, and that it us befitted
green - recent, fresh, like a young, new plant. There is a way that Claudius is speaking of his buried brother as a "recent plant."
There's a Gardening Motif in the play, and instances of it pop up here and there, like primroses in springtime.
us - is the royal us from King Claudius as he speaks for the nation. His plural pronouns, when he speaks as the King, are "national" pronouns. It isn't the same as the average person saying "us." An important point is that Claudius's words, when he's speaking as the King, have the legal power of the nation behind them.
To bear our hearts in grief, and our whole kingdom
our - is the King's royal pronoun he uses where a lesser person would say "my." The King speaks for all, his "my" is our. However, our is simultaneously the usual plural pronoun, since Claudius is speaking of more than one person. The pronoun usage is easier to understand than to describe.
The difference between "my" and our is vitally important in Claudius's speech, when he's speaking as King. The difference has legal importance.
bear our hearts - implies being heavy hearted. One "bears" something heavy.
Claudius Puts on a Show by sagging a little when he says that, with his hands to his heart, we can be sure. Any time a national leader appears in public view, it's at least partly a show for the public.
To be contracted in one brow of woe,
contracted - drawn together. Latin 'com-' ("together") + 'trahere' ("to draw.")
brow of woe - face of woe. Sad face. The brain lies directly behind the brow, so indication of the brow implies the state of mind. Thus brow of woe = sad state of mind.
brow is an embedded stage direction. Claudius briefly puts his hand to his brow, like a mourner. That's why Shakespeare wrote brow instead of "face" or some other word. The line calls for a hand to the brow, as Claudius acts what he says. ("Suit the action to the word.")
The line means both "drawn together in displaying the same sad face," and "drawn together in feeling the same sad state of mind." More meaning could be found by taking contracted in different senses.
Yet, so far hath discretion fought with nature,
discretion - personal judgment; individual choice.
nature - natural feeling. Emotion.
Claudius is speaking of a conflict between the objective and the subjective.
That we with wisest sorrow think on him
wisest sorrow - we will soon learn that Claudius is not sorry his brother is dead. By that, Claudius is equating wisdom with duplicity. For him, it's wise to be dishonest now, if he wants to remain King. The use of wisest to mean something other than being honest will appear again in the play.
Together with remembrance of ourselves;
remembrance of ourselves - is an ominous phrase, since one remembers those of the past, which in a play with a prominent Death Theme implies those who are dead, and not merely absent. Claudius has, unwittingly, implied his own death.
ourselves is both plural and royal, as we see when Claudius goes on immediately to speak of Queen Gertrude in the next line. Here Claudius's ourselves means "our royal selves, your King and Queen."
Therefore, our sometime sister, now our Queen,
sometime - former.
sister - in law.
Hamlet will raise the issue of incest, and it's a point often discussed about the play, probably too often. The marriage is not actually incestuous, by any objective standard, as far as we know. It might be held to conflict with certain Christian tenets, perhaps. There is more of church-state conflict in the play than is generally recognized.
The imperial jointress to this warlike state,
imperial - commanding. A hint there, of the real Gertrude in the play. Claudius, himself, is just using a fancy word for "royal." That's all he's trying to say.
jointress - Claudius uses a legal term to try to show the people that they didn't get stuck with a King who's only an ignorant, worthless drunk. He's trying to sound as if he's conversant with the law. "See people, I know stuff."
He got it wrong. Claudius means "sharer," which is the same meaning as when Bernardo said "rivals" in Scene 1. There, Bernardo meant "sharers." Claudius is trying to say, in an impressive way, that Gertrude is sharing the rule, by being his Queen. He thinks jointress means something like "partner." (He's patronizing Gertrude, by the way, which is not a smart thing for him to do.)
However, a "sharer" or "partner" is not quite what a jointress is. (Shakespeare got jointress right, of course.)
In late Middle English, the term "jointure" referred to a kind of joint holding of property, by a husband and wife, for the duration of their lives, with a view especially to the death of the husband. If the husband died, the widow (now the jointress) would continue to hold the property, until she died (at which time the husband's other heirs would typically inherit.) So, it was a legal arrangement essentially to ensure the wife could continue in legal possession and not be left homeless.
For a woman who has become Queen, by marrying a King, it would mean remaining Queen until she dies, if she had a jointure in that "property" of the monarchy. However, the Crown is not such a "property." So Claudius's use of the word is technically quite wrong.
Alright, there, legalities at you. Hope you remembered to duck. But if you take Shakespeare's use of jointress literally, as applied to the Crown, and boil it down, what does it mean, in Hamlet? I'll tell you what it means.
"Gertrude will be Queen until she dies." Shakespeare used jointress to tell us that. Ookay. Thanks for informing us of that, William. We appreciate it. Cute. Moving along...
No, one more thing. None of the characters knows Gertrude's future, as Claudius speaks. Claudius, with his misuse of the word, has accidentally spoken an "omen." It's a prediction of Gertrude's future, that none of them realizes when Claudius says it. Claudius said an omen, without meaning to, and he didn't know it, and he will never know he did that. The gods laugh.
warlike state - has reference to the military buildup, and the military threat, we've already heard about. However, for Claudius to speak of their marriage, then immediately say warlike state, doesn't sound cuddly.
Have we, as 'twere, with a defeated joy,
defeated - in this particular use, the best paraphrase might be "annulled." However, that is a bit of a long story. Later, on that. Well, in law defeated would be "annulled," but there's more than that. It isn't just Claudius following up with another legal term.
So, make it, defeated - nullified, if you want a different word in a paraphrase. Defeated joy - nullified joy.
Again, though, Claudius just used that legal term jointress. And again, legally, defeated = annulled.
Claudius is speaking in this passage of his marriage. What would be grounds for annulling a marriage, "defeating" it, that is? Could be several possibilities. Lack of consummation, is one that's well known.
Read on. Hamlet is complicated. All shall become clear.
With an auspicious, and a dropping eye,
auspicious - looking ahead, with the simultaneous idea of looking upward. Auspicious comes from a root meaning of looking at birds, which was supposed to be a way of foretelling the future. So auspicious implies both looking up, and looking forward. An upward gaze goes along with cheerful anticipation. This is an implicit instance of the Bird Motif.
dropping - downcast. A downcast gaze goes along with sadness. Dropping can also be read to imply teardrops falling from the eye.
Claudius is using a figurative reference to the eyes as a way of saying he was both happy and sad at the same time.
However, it's a proverbial stereotype that a dishonest person looks up with one eye and down with the other eye. It means the man is "two-faced." The Claudius character is not intending to reveal that about himself, it's that his figure of speech is unintentionally revealing.
With mirth in funeral, and with dirge in marriage,
In equal scale weighing delight and dole,
equal - fair; equally balanced.
scale - figurative reference to the scales of justice. Claudius is trying to sound judicious. A person cannot, however, "weigh" his own emotions judiciously (if he's really feeling those emotions.) One can recognize his emotional state, and analyze it, and account for it, and all that, but feeling an emotion, or not feeling it, is not voluntary. Either you feel grief, or you don't; either you feel love, or you don't, etc.
equal scale - equally balanced scale, implying a fair judgment. Thus, in equal scale = in fair judgment.
dole - grief. From Latin 'dolere' ("grieve.")
Taken to wife; nor have we herein barred
BOOKMARK, more here.
herein - in what I'm saying here.
barred - left out.
Your better wisdoms, which have freely gone
better wisdoms - better judgment (of several persons.) Better than what? Better than choosing Hamlet, in Claudius's opinion. This is a subtle slur of Hamlet by Claudius. Only a very few among those present might notice it. Hamlet is smart enough, and sensitive enough, to notice it.
freely - voluntarily. Claudius disavows any arm twisting, to get the Throne. That is correct, he did not twist any arms. He wouldn't be able to, and he wouldn't know how. But somebody did, or Hamlet would be King. She's sitting there with an enigmatic little smile, like the Mona Lisa, listening to all this.
With this affair along (for all, our thanks;)
this affair - the entirety of events involving Claudius. The whole sequence of events.
Affair goes back to Old French 'à faire' ("to do.") In origin, affair is closely related to "ado." This affair, the way the phrase is used here, means the much ado. The whole business. It wasn't much ado about nothing though, not to Claudius. It got him on the Throne, wearing the Crown.
for all, our thanks - thanks, to all of you, for everything.
This is part of what tells us that we are seeing Claudius conducting his first session of the royal court. The only time a person goes through the formality of thanking his supporters is during his first day on the job.
Now follows that you know young Fortinbrasse,
Now follows that you know - now, moving on from what you already know.
The phrasing in Shakespeare's writing is deliberately ambiguous.
Holding a weak supposal of our worth,
Holding - having (as his opinion.)
weak supposal - low appraisal.
our worth - my worth as a leader. Fortinbrasse thinks Claudius is worthless as a war leader. A "supposal of worth" is an appraisal of value. Claudius has expressed the idea in financial terms.
Or thinking by our late, dear brother's death,
thinking - supposing. Claudius is guessing at what Fortinbrasse must be thinking.
Our state to be disjoint, and out of frame,
disjoint - lacking in cohesion and organization. Divided into factions. Claudius supposes Fortinbrasse must think there's still Norwegian sympathies where his father used to rule. That would not be surprising, if there were.
Further on disjoint - like a dislocated limb, damaged at the joint -> unable to take strong, effective action. Literally dis-joint. Both ideas can be read to apply here.
out of frame - not securely bordered, like a picture that's been removed from its frame.
Colleagued with this dream of his advantage,
Colleagued with - together with. The idea of "in league with" is present, and follows from Claudius's supposition that Fortinbrasse thinks some people on that land are still sentimentally attached to Norway, so they would be in league with Fortinbrasse, in an attempted takeover.
this dream - the fantasy that Fortinbrasse would find support in what is now Denmark. So says Claudius.
of his advantage - indeed, if a significant proportion of the population in that area still considers themselves Norwegian, it would be an advantage for Fortinbrasse.
Claudius is effectively claiming the people on the land King Hamlet won are decisively Danish now, and Fortinbrasse is only dreaming to imagine otherwise.
There's a double meaning in the lines, however.
BOOKMARK for me.
He hath not failed to pester us with message
He hath not failed - Claudius phrases it so he can use the word "fail" when speaking of Fortinbrasse. He doesn't want to use the word "succeed" in connection with Fortinbrasse. Claudius is being neurotically oversensitive with his word choices.
pester - a word one would use when speaking of a child. Claudius is downplaying all this business with Fortinbrasse as much as he can. It's clear, though, he views the situation as a serious threat. Claudius is trying to look, to the people, like "the man in charge."
(By the way, this use of pester does not mean there's been more than one message. Here, there's been only the one message. Claudius is using pester to cast it as childish behavior, as mentioned.)
Claudius is trying to present himself as "man versus boy" against Fortinbrasse, so it's predictable he'll try the same with Hamlet.
message - what does that message say?
Importing the surrender of those lands
Importing - "bringing," in this case, bringing up. To import something is to "bring" it in some way: bring in, bring out, bring up.
those lands - does not mean the lands are geographically elsewhere than Elsinore Castle and its surroundings. Claudius means those lands at issue in the single combat. Compare, a tax law that says, oh, "a levy of 2% shall apply to those houses..." Just because it says "those houses" don't assume yours has escaped taxation. "Those" can sometimes include "these" and "this," depending on what's being discussed, and how.
the surrender of those lands - now we know the message concerns the surrender of the land King Hamlet won (which includes Elsinore Castle.)
How did the message bring that up? At first glance, one might think the message from Fortinbrasse is a threat of war unless the land is surrendered. However, that cannot be right.
The message from Fortinbrasse can't have arrived in this morning's mail. We'll soon see Claudius has arranged a diplomatic mission to try to deal with Fortinbrasse, and it takes some time to do that. The message has to be at least a few days old. Shakespeare was not that careless of "real time" in the play.
Having come in some time ago, if the message were a threat of war, the sentinels could not have been uncertain earlier this morning, in Scene 1. It's impossible Claudius could have said to himself, "oh dear, a threat of war. I'd better not tell the army!" Preposterous. If the message were a threat of war, the sentinels would have been sure of the situation last night. They obviously weren't, though. The message has to be something else.
Recall Horatio saying Fortinbrasse is like his father. What did his father do? Horatio told us that also: Elder Fortinbrasse challenged the King of Denmark to single combat. It follows directly that the message from Fortinbrasse is a challenge to single combat to the King of Denmark, who is now Claudius.
Instead of accepting the challenge, as his brother once did, Claudius is turning it down. Claudius is downplaying the message, and not revealing specifically what it says, because of concern about how it would make him look in comparison to his brother, in the eyes of the public, if it's clear to them he's turning down a challenge like the one his brother once accepted, and won. Claudius doesn't want any comparison between him and his brother on this issue.
Who else knows exactly what that message from Fortinbrasse says? Gertrude does.
Lost by his father, with all bands of law,
bands of law - legal ties. The legal ties to the Fortinbrasse family, and to Norway, were lost when King Hamlet won the single combat, and new legal ties were formed which jointed the land to King Hamlet.
There is a double meaning. A "band" can also be a group of armed men. That would pertain to Fortinbrasse expecting to find support among the men on the land his father once held. Any "lawful band" (of men,) on the land King Hamlet won, owe their loyalty to Denmark now. So, any men there who would support Fortinbrasse are outlaws, not a lawful band, not a "band of law." Shakespeare apparently used bands to imply this further idea of a group of armed men.
For the second meaning, those lands / Lost by his father, with all bands of law = those lands lost by his father, with all its groups of armed men."
Claudius is rightly worried over how much support Fortinbrasse might find among men on the old Fortinbrasse family land.
To our most valiant brother, so much for him;
so much for him - Claudius means Fortinbrasse, "so much for talk about him." However, observe that Claudius says this just after mentioning his brother. Claudius wants to dismiss thoughts of how his brother won a single combat challenge.
Now, for ourself, and for this time of meeting,
Now, for ourself - Claudius turns to thinking about, and talking about, what's he's going to do.
for this time of meeting - at this point in this meeting.
Thus much the business is: we have here writ
we have here writ - can be interpreted either as "I have here written" or as "I have here a writ." That ambiguity is deliberate.
To Norway, uncle of young Fortinbrasse,
Norway, uncle of young Fortinbrasse - is proof conclusive that Fortinbrasse is not the "Prince of Norway," as he is so often misrepresented in Hamlet publications and commentary.
A Prince with a capital-P is the son of the King. A capital-P Prince is not the nephew of a King.
Fortinbrasse is not the Prince of Norway.
(Nor is Hamlet the Prince of Denmark at this point in the play dialogue. Hamlet is merely the King's nephew, at this time.)
Who, impotent and bedrid, scarcely hears
impotent - lacking in physical vitality. Literally, from the root meaning, powerless.
bedrid - confined to his bed. So ill he can't get up. Bedridden. It's interesting that, according to the Century Dictionary, part of the root meaning can be understood as "knight." This is after the Ghost has appeared in the knight armor King Hamlet wore when battling King Norway, as Horatio informed us. The interweaving of concepts in Shakespeare's choice of words is fascinating.
In performance, Claudius gives a funny little smirk when he says this. It isn't a happy expression, but something else. There is something in the idea of being in bed, but impotent, that bothers Claudius.
Of this, his nephew's purpose, to suppress
purpose - aim; goal. Objective, in current military terms.
to suppress - Literally, to press down. See the following note.
His further gate herein, in that the levies,
gate - access; entrance. Gate is the right word, of course, exactly as printed in the original publications.
The reader who has not previously encountered this may be surprised to learn that the simple word gate, as it unmistakably appears in the original publications, has universally been misprinted in Hamlet publications. Elsewhere, you will find it printed as "gait," which is obviously wrong.
There is a long, long story behind that, but briefly, a man named Theobald, in 1729, got himself a little brainstorm, because, apparently, he could not read the simple English word gate. He declared, in a publication of Shakespeare, that the word meant "proceeding" or some such, and those who followed him then took it to be "gait." That has been parroted ever since, as if Hamlet scholars, over the course of their history, have been the world's longest, strangest parade of birdbrains. It is absolutely astonishing that people who have had Ph.D's in literature, and who have occupied high positions in university literature departments, have been unable to read the word "gate" right in front of their faces.
The reader may think I'm kidding. I am not.
The word is, of course, gate. You can see it right there, for yourself. It obviously means what gate actually does mean. It refers to an access, or an entrance. Claudius is obviously saying he wants to "close the gate" to Fortinbrasse, and keep him and his army out of Denmark. Anybody who can read ordinary English, with even the comprehension and retention expected of the average elementary school student, can see that. It is not in doubt.
I've gone on a bit about this as a cautionary tale to the reader. Far, far too much of what you'll encounter in Hamlet publications, historically, is nothing better than one birdbrain parroting another, over the course of more than two centuries, with hardly anybody in that whole long line doing any actual reading of the play for himself, or any actual thinking for himself. That is largely why Hamlet is considered so "puzzling," and why it is such a "problem play." Of course it's going to be puzzling to somebody who can't even read gate, or who never even made an honest effort at reading the play.
What Hamlet editors and publishers have so often done over the years has been to repeat what has previously been written about the play, in whatever way they can find that shouldn't lead to a charge of plagiarism. In this historical gate travesty, for only one small example, Theobald was parroted by Davies, Davies was parroted by Percy, Percy was parroted by Caldecott, Caldecott was parroted by Singer, et al, etc., ad nauseum, right down to publications within the last ten years. They've all printed "gait" and glossed it the same, give or take a syllable or two, when in fact the word is gate.
The reason why they have all made the same blunder is because they have all copied each other, instead of doing their own honest work on the play. Copying is the lazy thing to do. It is also the dishonest thing to do.
Shakespeare used gate in his writings about 60 times, (and of course far more than that when the plural is counted,) with the same spelling as we use now, and with the same meaning, give or take a figurative flurry or two. The word gate goes back to Old English, so it's "native" to the English language. (By the way, "gait" is a much younger import into the language, borrowed from Scots.)
I've not gone on about gate because it, itself, is so important. What it represents is important. Many, many little things you'll find in other Hamlet publications are of the same nature as that ignorant, illiterate change to "gait," just trash that's been thrown at the play, totally wrong, but brainlessly repeated over and over, down the long years, because of laziness and dishonesty, until all those little things have added up to something large indeed, amounting to a total misrepresentation of the play.
It's time, and long past time, for somebody, in some small way, to start trying to do something about all that mess. So, I am trying. Back to annotating the play... the line is...
His further gate herein, in that the levies,
gate - the particular gate Claudius is concerned about is the Elsinore Castle gate. (The traditional castle portcullis is illustrated in the image.)
Return to the word suppress in the previous line. Suppress derives from Latin 'supprimere,' formed from 'sub-' ("down") + 'premere' ("to press.") To suppress is literally to "press down." That is exactly how a portcullis works, it descends from above, it is "pressed down" (by gravity, and by hand if necessary.)
herein - Claudius certainly doesn't want Fortinbrasse gaining access herein to the Throne Room where he's sitting.
further - constitutes an acknowledgment that in earlier times, when the Elder Fortinbrasse was Lord of Elsinore Castle, Fortinbrasse could pass through the Elsinore Castle gate at any time. Claudius doesn't want him to pass through that gate any further.
the levies - refers to taxation by Denmark as the plain reading, but there is a double meaning. The persons on the land King Hamlet won are being taxed as Danes now.
The lists, and full proportions are all made
lists - appointments, of Danish officials, at the various levels of government. (As in Henry VIII Act 4 scene 1, "...the list / Of those that claim their offices this day...") Claudius means that Danish government is now in place in the land King Hamlet won. There is once again a double meaning, however.
full proportions - full shares; full parts. The land King Hamlet won is now incorporated as "full parts" into Denmark. It's been organized into Danish provinces, counties or parishes, or however their exact organization for regular government is. Governmentally, the land is now set up the same as any other Danish land, is the point. Again, double meaning, however.
Out of his subject, and we here dispatch
his subject - Fortinbrasse's subject, the subject of his message, that is, the land. However, there is a deliberate ambiguity in Shakespeare's choice of phrasing here and throughout this passage. See the Extended Note.
Claudius's reasons why King Norway should restrain his nephew are all bureaucratic. Will King Norway just say, okay, that land is all set up as Danish counties now, so I guess that ends that?
Then, what has Claudius said he'll offer King Norway to make it worth his time to involve himself? Nothing. What is King Norway, a charity? Not likely.
There is still the basic point about who's paying for that army Fortinbrasse is recruiting. Fortinbrasse, himself, cannot afford it, without any land income. Fortinbrasse does, however, have a rich uncle. But Claudius isn't thinking about that, so why should we, eh?
You, good Cornelius, and you, Voltemand,
Are Cornelius and Voltemand experienced diplomats? By the odds, no. Claudius wouldn't have retained senior officials from his brother's government. For one thing Claudius wouldn't have trusted his brother's senior officials, and for another thing they would have reminded Claudius of his brother, and he wouldn't have liked that. Cornelius and Voltemand are probably new people Claudius has brought in, so they have little, if any, experience in diplomacy.
For bearing of this greeting to old Norway,
For bearing - for the job of bearing, is what Claudius meant, but he made it sound like "forbearing."
To be "forbearing" of something can mean several things. Put up with it, or do without it, or don't do it, are basically the available meanings. If Cornelius and Voltemand mistake Claudius, and think he said "forbearing" they will think Claudius has told them they have to "put up with" his letter of greeting to King Norway, and also, they mustn't give the letter to him. To forbear is to hold back, to withhold, as one meaning.
If Cornelius and Voltemand mistakenly think Claudius said the word "forbearing" they could end up standing in front of King Norway, with the letter in hand, and telling King Norway they've brought a greeting from the King of Denmark, but they aren't allowed to give it to him. Madness.
Giving to you no further personal power
To business with the King, more than the scope
scope - is from Greek 'skopein' ("look,") so it's a subtle instance of the Vision Motif. In the playscript context, it means the same as scope does in modern usage.
Of these 'delated' articles allow;
delated - observe, in the images, that the Second Quarto of Hamlet shows delated and the First Folio shows dilated.
They are both right. That is why I put the ' marks around delated in the playscript. How can both words be right, you very sensibly ask.
We know how common it is for one person to say something, and a second person thinks he said something else. That happens here.
Claudius, trying to sound impressive, speaks delated, a rare word he picked up somewhere. Delate means to report an offense, or to inform against someone, or to denounce someone. All three of those definitions apply here. Claudius, writing to King Norway, has informed on Fortinbrasse, reported his offense, of recruiting that army, and denounced Fortinbrasse to King Norway. Claudius is pleased with himself, we can be sure, as he demonstrates to his people that he has some degree of intellectual accomplishment, in that he knows some rare words that the average person does not.
Unfortunately, Cornelius and Voltemand do not. They don't know the word delated. The closest word they know is dilated. That's what they think Claudius said. They take dilated to mean "expanded," which is what it does mean. They think Claudius just gave them permission to expand on what he wrote to the King of Norway. They think Claudius has told them they can go beyond what his letter says. Claudius did not mean to tell them that.
We know this from what the ambassadors report later when they return. The agreement they have then, that they happily tell Claudius about in that later passage, is highly contrary to what he expressly tells them here. How could they happily report back with something very different from what he expressly told them? They must have misunderstood somehow. This is it, the point where they misunderstood. After hearing this word, they think they have authority to "expand" on what Claudius wrote, for the sake of getting an agreement.
Claudius, trying to sound smart, has just misled his ambassadors about what he wants them to do. That is not smart. Shakespeare knew all about being smart, or not smart, with words, we can be certain.
(When the ambassadors return, in Scene 7, Claudius doesn't notice anything wrong with what they report because Polonius has just mentioned he's found out something about Hamlet, and Claudius is so distracted with curiosity about Hamlet, he isn't focusing on the ambassadors.)
This is how Fortinbrasse will enter Denmark later, unopposed. If the ambassadors understood Claudius, they would not agree to the proposed treaty they will bring back in Scene 7. It all comes back to one single letter, an 'e' or an 'i' in this single word. For want of a nail, a shoe was lost, for want of a shoe, a horse was lost..."
Shakespeare put this in a play at a time when English spelling was not standardized. Yikes! Well, that didn't make it impossible to "get," but it dam' near did. We press on, onward and upward...
(Claudius hands his letter to C. and V., and a copy to Polonius)
The copy to Polonius is for filing as part of the official Danish government records, in case it's ever needed for review. Claudius, himself, might like to review it later, as a reminder of exactly what he wrote. There is a reason for doing it this way, with the copy to Polonius, as we'll soon see.
The King does not stretch to hand anything, by the way. The others come to him, and they bow both upon approach and departure. A well-supported production would use a page for the simple task of handing papers back and forth. Claudius, then, hands both copies to the page, who quickly distributes them.
Farewell, and let your haste commend your duty.
commend - speak in praise of. Their speediness, in getting the assignment done, will "speak" for how dutiful they are, Claudius says.
Claudius has given Cornelius and Voltemand the impression that speed in getting an agreement is his main concern, rather than abiding by exactly what Claudius wrote in the letter, or by what he just told them here. That goes right along with them thinking he said "dilated."
Claudius knows kings say things like let your haste commend your duty so he tosses it in, and succeeds in misleading his ambassadors even further, as to what he wants them to do. They're left with the idea that they can ignore the specifics of what Claudius told them here, and also the specifics in Claudius's letter, if it means they can get some sort of peace agreement, any kind of peace agreement, quickly. That is not what Claudius meant to tell them.
Cornelius and Voltemand both: In that, and all things, will we show our duty.
It might be "madly" appropriate for them to recite the line in perfect unison. Madness is a theme of the play, so, go with it.
Claudius: We doubt it nothing; heartily farewell.
BOOKMARK for me, original spelling "hartely" - consider deerly. Wordplay. post images
In action, Claudius puts his hand to his heart. This is important. All the "heart" actions in the play are important.
(Cornelius and Voltemand exit)
Away they go, sure that they must get a peace agreement, any kind of peace agreement, as quickly as possible, without much regard for any specifics Claudius told them, or that are in the King's letter. Ideally they'll follows those specifics, but if that isn't possible, they'll agree to pretty much anything, that might keep the peace.
From what they think Claudius said, Cornelius and Voltemand believe that Claudius has appointed them as plenipotentiaries. However, he did not intend to do that.
A suspicious person might see it as a perfect opportunity for old King Norway to take them to the cleaners. But of course King Norway is deathly ill, in bed, and about to die, and knows nothing at all of his own nephew recruiting an army, in King Norway's country, an army his nephew can't afford, and that somebody else must be paying for.
Say that you were appealing to a person who was secretly financing an army, to try to get him to stop the recruitment of that army, and without offering that person anything at all to his benefit. What would the odds of success be?
And now, Laertes, what's the news with you?
And now, Laertes - is a shocking breach of protocol.
Hamlet is the King's blood relative, his nephew, and also the son of the Queen. Hamlet is also, at this time, the former Prince of Denmark (since he is only the King's nephew, Hamlet is not, of course, "the Prince." The Prince with a capital-P would be the King's son.) Hamlet is a member of the royal family. He vastly outranks Laertes. Laertes knows it. Hamlet knows it. Claudius knows it. Everybody knows it. Laertes is not royalty, nor even a Lord.
Personal petitions, in a situation like this, are to be addressed in the order of importance of the petitioners (unless there's intent to insult someone.) There's a pecking order, from highest to lowest, according to social rank. Persons are very sensitive to their social status, especially where they are close to a center of power.
Claudius has just grievously insulted Hamlet, in public, by calling on Laertes first.
what's the news with you? - stated like talking to an old friend, which Laertes is not. Claudius's "show" of close friendship with Laertes is a way of rubbing it in that he's making Hamlet wait. Claudius is petty, which is something to note about his character.
In action, as Claudius turns from state business, with the dismissal of the ambassadors, to personal petitions, Hamlet starts to step forward, naturally taking it that Claudius will deal with his request first. That is certainly the correct protocol.
Then when Claudius calls on Laertes, Hamlet stops, with a look of surprise. Laertes also looks surprised. He hesitates, and glances at Hamlet. Laertes knows this is wrong. He gives Hamlet a quick look of "sorry, this isn't my fault," then steps forward, as Hamlet steps back to his earlier location.
You told us of some suit, what is it, Laertes?
You told us - in writing. Petitioners to the King submit their requests in writing, before appearing before him for his decision. Claudius has read those, and he already knows what both Laertes and Hamlet want.
suit - petition. Formal request.
You cannot speak of reason to the Dane,
reason - essence. See the dictionary definition. (The word "quiddities" appears in Hamlet in Scene 19.) Notice the distinction from "phantasms." A phantasm can be understood as an apparition, and we have already encountered that.
Claudius means Laertes cannot state the essence of his argument, to persuade Claudius that he should be allowed to leave, if Laertes doesn't talk.
Further, reason - premise. See the second dictionary definition. We're going to encounter some logic, as this Scene continues. Claudius is telling Laertes to state his premise, to which Claudius will supply the conclusion, of whether or not he lets Laertes leave.
Both "essence" and "premise" apply to the use of reason here. It is a deliberate double meaning from Shakespeare, of a fantastic kind.
to the Dane - to the King of Denmark. Laertes knows perfectly well who, and what, Claudius is. The phrase is a sign of how pleased with himself Claudius is.
Claudius is striving to present himself to the people as "the man of reason."
And lose your voice; what would'st thou beg, Laertes,
And lose your voice - Claudius has called on Laertes twice now, but has obnoxiously kept on talking, preventing Laertes from speaking. The reason Laertes can't speak is because Claudius is.
And - if. In those days, they sometimes used the word and the same way we use "if."
Claudius's diplomatic mission has left him swelled with pride in his new-found power as the King, and it shows here as he rudely talks over Laertes. Claudius is a real king now, gosh, and he can do real king things, like diplomacy. Claudius is wallowing, and gloating. He likes it that now, when he talks, others have to be quiet and listen. We see more of how petty Claudius is.
what would'st thou beg, Laertes - more rudeness, to speak of Laertes "begging." He is not, he is petitioning, which he has a traditional right to do. Outright calling it "begging" is to put the most uncharitable spin on it. It's rude.
That shall not be my offer, not thy asking?
asking - request.
That shall not be my offer, not thy asking? - That won't be my offer to you, instead of your request. Claudius is making the point that anything he gives Laertes will be because he wants to give it, not because Laertes asked for it. That might sound nice, but it's an assertion of who's in control.
The line can be read different ways. That's par for the course in Hamlet. One approach to interpretation is to turn the line around, or its sentiments, as when interpreting poetry (which this is.) So, putting the asking first, and the offer last, "what could you possibly ask for, that I won't offer you?"
Of course Claudius doesn't really have to ask, he already knows, from the written petition. By this reading, Claudius is playing an imbecilic little game of "I know what you want." It further illustrates how petty he is.
Either way, Claudius's line might sound alright, but underneath, it isn't polite.
The head is not more native to the heart,
Again Claudius keeps talking, which prevents Laertes from replying. We're seeing how much of a "control freak" Claudius can be. It isn't normal.
native - natural. Naturally associated, or naturally connected. A native of a place is naturally associated with the place, or naturally connected with it.
The hand more instrumental to the mouth,
"Nor" is understood at the start of the line: "nor the hand more..."
instrumental - of service to. The hand is of service to the mouth by feeding it. Or, more to the point for Claudius, by giving the mouth something to drink.
The idea of "instrument" suggests a legal document, which is what Claudius will sign to give Laertes permission to leave. Claudius's hand will be instrumental as it were in allowing Laertes to go.
By the way, we see in this that Laertes is some sort of King's servant. That's why he needs the King's permission to leave. Polonius has probably gotten Laertes a minor position in the government. Nepotism is fine as long as you keep it in the family, as the saying goes.
Than is the throne of Denmark to thy father;
One must ask, why, about this. Why does Claudius feel so obligated to Polonius, that he flatters Polonius here in the course of rubber-stamping leave for Laertes?
We have just seen Claudius dispatch the diplomatic mission to Norway. Then, Claudius ignored protocol to call upon Laertes, and to compliment, and even flatter, Polonius. The reasonable conclusion is, Polonius was the one who advised the diplomatic mission, which Claudius thinks saved his life by getting him out of the challenge to single combat against Fortinbrasse. That would explain it. Claudius is crediting Polonius with showing him an honorable way out, that saved his life. For something at that level, saving his life, Claudius would indeed ignore protocol and flatter Polonius.
In action, Polonius will preen himself at this point, something fierce.
However, there is still no indication that either Polonius or Claudius has given any thought at all to where Fortinbrasse is getting the financing for that army.
What would'st thou have, Laertes?
Let's see, so far Claudius has:
- Gone through the formalities of telling everybody what they already know;
- Talked about King Norway knowing nothing of what his nephew is doing in Norway; yeah, right;
- Badly misled his ambassadors, and sent them off on their mission;
- Committed a severe breach of protocol;
- Wallowed and gloated and been rude to Laertes; and,
- Pandered disgracefully to Polonius.
That's a lot accomplished, in only his first hour of work. Claudius now decides that he will indeed let Laertes talk.
Laertes: Dread my Lord:
Dread - Claudius just asked Laertes what he wanted, and if his line is read literally, Laertes says he wants dread. It's facetious wordplay from the author. Indeed, Laertes does need dread, if it's anything to do with Claudius. His involvement with Claudius will ultimately get him killed. Dread my Lord, applied to Claudius, can further be read to imply Claudius being an individual to be dreaded. The Laertes character, himself, is only using a formal style of address, with no idea of anything else.
Your leave and favor to return to France,
Your leave and favor - your kind permission. Favor is from Latin 'favere' ("show kindness to.") We can be confident of this interpretation because the idea of "kind" anticipates Hamlet's famous line. Spencer got it right in 1980.
The phrasing is a kind of hendiadys, but a substitution of synonym, or meaning, is also required, beyond rearranging the words and adjusting the parts of speech.
leave and favor - can also be read simply as "permission and approval."
From whence, though willingly I came to Denmark,
though willingly I came to Denmark - it didn't quite require a strong rope and a team of mules to drag him back.
Elsinore Castle is a military fortification, and a government administrative center, next to a small town. That's fine, as far as it goes, but from the point of view of a young man like Laertes, the area doesn't offer much in the way of attractions, especially as compared to Paris.
It's not hard to guess that Polonius, his father, ordered Laertes to return for Claudius's coronation, as a show of dutifulness to the new King.
To show my duty in your coronation,
To show my duty - there we see it expressly stated. Left to himself, Laertes would have stayed in Paris, but Polonius knew that his son's absence would reflect on him.
Yet now I must confess, that duty done,
confess - has a religious aura about it, as of a penitent admitting his sins.
Laertes means "admit," as in the trite phrase, "I must admit." Himself, he means nothing more than that.
duty - and he says "duty" again. We're now certain it wasn't his own idea to come back.
My thoughts and wishes bend again toward France,
thoughts and wishes - can be read as "wishful thoughts." If one prefers something else, the cliche "hopes and dreams" would do. That's the idea.
bend - expresses his personal inclination, his yearning. That usage of bend comes from the idea of tensioning a bow, to shoot an arrow. If released by the King, Laertes will "fly like an arrow" back to Paris.
And bow them to your gracious leave and pardon.
bow - follows on "bend," which is nice wordplay. However, Laertes now means bow as in "submit." He bows to the King as he concludes.
them - themselves.
And bow them - and bow themselves. Laertes says, poetically, that his thoughts submit themselves to the King's leave, as if Laertes's thoughts are something separate from himself, and the King's leave is something separate from him. It's a poetic anthropomorphization of sentiments.
gracious - tolerant; indulgent. He begs the King's indulgence.
leave and pardon - is not hendiadys in this case. The King's permission, and the King's pardon, are two different things. Laertes is basically saying, "please give me leave, and excuse me."
The words gracious and pardon also have just a tinge of religious aura, as "confess" did. In those days, the monarch was also head of the Church, the real head of the Church that is, and not simply the titular head, as in modern governments.
Claudius: Have you your father's leave, what says Polonius?
your father's leave - Claudius 'Puts on a Show' of respect for fatherhood, status, and proper procedure. This, after he so mutilated protocol by calling on Laertes before Hamlet. We'll soon see, when Claudius talks to Hamlet, how much respect Claudius has for fatherhood in that case, but it's a special case, since King Hamlet was his brother, and Hamlet his major rival for the Crown.
Polonius: He hath, my Lord, wrung from me my slow leave,
wrung - forced; exacted. Polonius makes it sound like torture.
Polonius has a habit of acting what he says. When he says wrung he wrings what he's holding, which happens to be the official Danish government copy of Claudius's letter to the King of Norway. Claudius does see that Polonius is damaging some papers he's holding, but Claudius doesn't realize Polonius still has his letter. Claudius expected the copy of his letter would go immediately to the file room, but Polonius hasn't handed it off yet.
slow - slowly given. Not quickly given. Grudging.
Polonius is trying to make the point to Claudius that he is extremely well aware of the importance of serving the King, both for himself and his son. As he's destroying Claudius's letter.
By laborsome petition, and at last,
laborsome - tiresome. Troublesome (to Polonius.) The English word "labor" is from Latin 'labor' ("toil," "trouble.")
petition - appeal; plea; entreaty. The idea of "begging," more formally expressed.
Upon his will I sealed my hard consent;
will - desire.
sealed - gave; delivered. As in the idea of "signed, sealed, and delivered."
hard - hard won. Polonius is also suggesting "strict," as he speaks to Claudius, trying to impress the King that he's a strict father (which, to Laertes, he is not.)
I paraphrase hard as "hard and fast" just for the fun of using "fast" in connection with something that was slow. Beggin' your pardon. "Hard and fast" is indeed what Polonius means by hard, though. The meaning is right.
The idea of a "sealed will" as in last will and testament, faintly embodies a death omen for Laertes. Another "omen" that none of the characters notices. The gods laugh.
I do beseech you, give him leave to go.
beseech - beg; entreat; petition. I paraphrase it as "solicit," since that's close enough for a plain reading, and the idea of "soliciting" in its implication of prostitution goes along with Hamlet's view of Polonius, later, as a consequence of the Nunnery Scene, Scene 8.
Claudius: Take thy fair hour, Laertes, time be thine,
fair hour - holiday time. The word fair as in "county fair," the attendance at which means taking time off from work. This word fair is from Latin 'feriae' ("holy days,") because fairs were typically held on holy days. It's a holiday for Laertes.
time be thine - your time is your own. This is Laertes's permission to engage in his private pursuits rather than in public duties.
And thy best graces spend it at thy will;
thy best graces spend it at thy will - includes the typical advice to a young person, "behave yourself."
best graces - recall Horatio saying to the Ghost in Scene 1 that he would do something if it would "to thee do ease, and grace to me." Horatio meant, basically, he would do something for the Ghost only if it's something that would keep him in God's favor. The same sentiment applies here. Laertes isn't supposed to do anything sinful, is what Claudius means. The hypocrite.
Laertes bows to Claudius quickly, then away he goes at a fast walk, not quite running. It would be appropriate in action if he does a little skip as he reaches the door. Free at last! Images of the boulevards of Paris are dancing in his head.
But now, my cousin Hamlet, and my son . . .
Hamlet has been standing there all this time, suffering the insult of Claudius's breach of protocol.
cousin - Claudius is using the term broadly, to mean "kinsman," a blood relative.
my son - it is correct in performance for Claudius to give a little smirk when he says this. Claudius knows something Hamlet doesn't know, yet. Claudius is petty enough to be smug about that.
The phrase my son sounds nice to those assembled. It does not sound nice to Hamlet.
Hamlet: A little more than kin, and less than kind.
That word "son" is a little more than our actual kinship, and you are less than my kind of person (and further, less than kindly to me, with that breach of protocol.) That's what Hamlet means.
Well, it's one thing Hamlet means. The line is deliberately ambiguous from Shakespeare. More can be extracted.
Hamlet speaks the line directly to Claudius, not as an aside. If Claudius tries to claim insult in it, what's he going to point to? Hamlet has phrased it in a way that Claudius can't prove a thing against what Hamlet said. Let Claudius chase the chimera if he wants to, trying to prove who's "more than kin," and who's "less than kind." Hamlet didn't actually say, which leaves him free to claim whatever he pleases about it. If challenged by Claudius, claiming insult, Hamlet could say he meant his great-grandmother and the man in the moon.
Claudius has enough sense not to pursue it.
Claudius: How is it that the clouds still hang on you?
Claudius is obnoxiously asking Hamlet, aren't you happy I'm the King? Why aren't you "sunny?"
It can be interpreted as a caring question, about Hamlet being in a "dark" mood. The figure of speech is, when clouds cover the sun, the day is darker. There is an implicit sun/son pun.
The modern expression is of a person "having a cloud hanging over him." One could further read into it the idea of a person's head being in the clouds, meaning he's out of touch with reality.
Claudius makes it sound like a kind inquiry, but it is not.
Hamlet: Not so, my Lord, I am too much in the sun.
Classically, a king is associated with the sun (and a queen with the moon.) Hamlet is referring to Claudius being king, and also to the stupidity of Claudius's question.
To be too much in the sun is to be dazzled by brilliance. Hamlet is sarcastically speaking of Claudius's "dazzling brilliance" in asking such a stupid question. Claudius knows perfectly well why Hamlet is "in clouds," and Hamlet knows it.
If challenged on his remark, Hamlet could claim he merely meant he had been spending too much time outdoors, in the sun, so he wasn't feeling well. Claudius couldn't prove Hamlet didn't mean that.
Gertrude: Good Hamlet, cast they nightly color off,
nightly color - black, like the color of night. There is a night / knight pun (not intended by Gertrude.) A "black knight" is one who does not show his true colors. We'll see as the play continues that Hamlet's basic nature is pleasant, and he has a good sense of humor. Gertrude wants to see her son like that again, showing the "true colors" of his personality.
So Gertrude, herself, is telling Hamlet not to be so mournful and depressed. Shakespeare, as usual, used the line to tell us more.
And let thine eye look like a friend on Denmark;
Denmark - both the country, and King Claudius. Gertrude means both, simultaneously. She is telling Hamlet that Denmark is really a friendly place for him, although it may not seem so to Hamlet now, since he lost the election to be King.
She is also telling Hamlet to look at Claudius in a friendly way. That is strange.
She knows perfectly well that Hamlet does not feel friendly toward Claudius, and never will. Why does she say such a thing? One might suppose she is merely trying to keep peace in the family. We will learn later, there's considerably more to it than that.
Do not forever with thy vailed lids
vailed - submissive. The word vail is from Middle English, and was used originally in the sense of "lower," as in lowering one's eyes, or one's weapon, or flag, etc., as a sign of submission. It's a reference to surrender.
Gertrude is telling Hamlet not to be submissive to the death of his father. She means he must not surrender to that event, he must not give up because of it. She is trying to encourage him to look forward, to the future. She must think he has something good to look forward to.
A pun with "veiled" exists, simply in connection with the way that downcast eyes are "veiled" by the eyelids.
It was a view in Elizabethan times, going back to ancient writers, that the eye was a source of light. (Anciently, Empedocles, Plato, Ptolemy, and Galen all accepted some version of the "emission theory" of vision.) They interpreted vision as working something like radar, with a person's eye emitting a ray, to light up an object so the person could see it. By that, in telling Hamlet to uplift his gaze, and open his eyes, Gertrude is telling Hamlet to "let his light shine."
Seek for thy noble father in the dust;
dust - ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Gertrude is more inured to death than Hamlet is. We'll soon hear Hamlet speak of how hard hit she was by King Hamlet's death, at first.
There's no sign of Gertrude's parents in the play. Where are they? Dead. There's no sign of any siblings of Gertrude in the play. If she ever had any brothers or sisters, where are they? Dead. Hamlet is her only child, as far as we see in the play. If Gertrude ever had any other children, where are they? Dead.
The death rate in those days was appalling, especially when the Plague, the Black Death, swept through. We can surmise about Gertrude, that when death strikes close to her, she cries and suffers, but she has learned that then, she must keep going. What else is one to do, especially when she still has a son?
King Hamlet's death is the first one in Hamlet's experience that has really "hit home" for him. For Gertrude, not so.
Thou know'st 'tis common all that lives must die,
common - universal; common to everyone. Gertrude is attempting to sympathize with Hamlet. She is pointing to a commonality of experience.
Passing through nature to eternity.
Passing through - there's a way that, in life, we're just "passing through," as we go from one place to another, with our origins, and our destinations, being matters of opinion.
nature - the natural world, the world of the living.
Hamlet: Aye, Madam, it is common.
it is common - but that doesn't mean he has to like it, nor does it mean he has to approve of anyone, even his mother, speaking of his father's death as "common." Hamlet has lost a lot of sympathy for, or empathy with, Gertrude since she married Claudius.
Hamlet is not arguing with Gertrude, not quite, but he is not going to well tolerate her speaking to him as though he were a child. He is in no mood to be coddled, or fussed over.
Gertrude: If it be,
If it be - since it is; because it is.
The clouds gather, on Hamlet. He isn't going to take it well, that his mother is trying to give him a "logical" argument over his father's death.
Why seems it so particular with thee?
so particular - so singular; unique.
Gertrude knows perfectly well why Hamlet's view of his father's death is so singular with him. Why does she ask that?
Hamlet: "Seems," Madam? Nay, it is; I know not "seems."
I know not "seems" - I don't know what "seems" has to do with it. Hamlet is taking off on what Gertrude said.
That is why she said what she did. She was pushing Hamlet to blow off some steam. She accomplished her goal.
She knows Hamlet very well. Over the last few years, he's talked to her, and written to her, about school, and about the logic and philosophy he's learned (which we know about because Hamlet will later mention it to Horatio.)
Gertrude just tossed a little logic at Hamlet, on the subject of death, knowing Hamlet likes logic, to give him something to respond to, so he'd blow off some steam, and it'd help get things off his chest. She'd certainly rather Hamlet do that at her than at Claudius, which could cause serious trouble.
Gertrude has played Hamlet like a fiddle. Gertrude is a clever woman. Hamlet doesn't realize what she just did for him.
'Tis not alone my inky cloak, cooled mother,
not alone - not only. inky - black.
cooled - A mother without a sun (son) would be cooler, since the sun is hot. Hamlet means Gertrude is cooled by having less sun (son.) Hamlet is invoking an implicit son / sun pun, and subtly expressing his alienation from his mother.
There is additionally the simpler point that to be cool to something is to be insensitive or unresponsive to it. Via that, Hamlet can be understood to be calling his mother insensitive, (which is the simple meaning I use for plain reading in the paraphrase.) Gertrude, herself, will use the same idea, insensitive, in Scene 18 (line 18-185) when she speaks of the cull-cold maids (the "insensitive sort" of maids) while reporting the death of Ophelia.
There is further the implication of Gertrude being cold-hearted, in Hamlet's view.
Hamlet is mistaken, though. Gertrude has just proven she's far from insensitive, at least as far as he's concerned.
Nor customary suits of solemn black,
customary - what it says. Traditional. Certainly a fellow might wear mourning clothes just for show, but Hamlet is in the process of insisting he's sincere.
Nor windy suspiration of forced breath,
windy suspiration of forced breath - deep sighs. Hamlet uses a very "showy" way of saying a simple thing, which goes along with what he's talking about, which is a "show" of grief.
forced as in, not natural. Certainly a fellow might do some deep sighs to Put on a Show that he's grieving.
No, nor the fruitful river in the eye,
the fruitful river in the eye - another "showy" phrase, meaning "profuse tears." Hamlet continues to Put on a Show with his phrasing, to go along with what he's talking about.
fruitful = profuse. Abundant; copious. However, there is the point of the tears being fruitful in making the observer believe the person is really grieving, thus the "show" of the tears actually being "fruitful" in achieving the insincere person's objective, of fooling people.
"Profuse" is probably the best paraphrase for fruitful in this case, because the word "profuse" is from Latin 'profundere' = 'pro-' ("forth") + 'fundere' ("pour,") thus "profuse" means "pour forth," which exactly goes along with an abundance of tears.
Later, in Scene 7, the Player's show of tears will be "fruitful" in causing Polonius to react with alarm, by the way.
The "river" of tears is actually "fruitless" in restoring the dead to life, not fruitful. Literally, it is not a fruitful "river," but a fruitless one. Shakespeare used words sometimes in a "contrary" way, to excellent effect.
Nor the dejected havior of the visage,
dejected - dispirited. "Dispirited" is the best paraphrase, because of the Ghost and the concept of "spirit" in the play.
havior - is correct as shown. It is an obsolete word that means the same as "behavior." It's an actual word, not just "behavior" with the "be-" dropped. Behavior, as seen by somebody else, is expression, so I use that word in the paraphrase.
visage - face. Hamlet continues to be "showy" with his language, as he speaks about "Putting on a Show."
Together with all forms, moods, chapes of grief,
Together with - joined with. There is a Joint Motif, or "joining" Motif, in the play, where characters speak of things being connected (or not. For example, "The time is out of joint..." which is a famous quote we'll encounter later.)
forms - shapes; manifestations; molds, in the sense of "styles." Ophelia will speak of Hamlet as the "mold of form."
moods - frames of mind, as inferred from the outward expression. Inferred frames of mind. It's common to infer someone else's mood, and one is not always correct. The word "frame" gets some use in the play; Claudius said it a bit earlier, above.
It is also possible there is some reference to the grammatical term "mood," because one of those is the optative mood, which is used to expresses a wish, or a hope or desire. Grief includes the expression of a desire that the deceased were not gone.
chapes - is the correct word. Hamlet means his black garments, his "coverings of grief." He is using chapes to mean "coverings." That's a figurative use of the word.
chapes of grief - coverings that show grief.
As the dictionary definition shows, in Middle English chape meant the sheath of a sword, or dagger, etc. It's a word related to "cape," the garment. Loosely speaking, or figuratively speaking, a chape is a "cloak" for an item, or person, or it could be poetically applied to any sort of outer covering.
By more literal definition, it implies a sword, or dagger, both of which get mention in the play. The sword, especially, is not only mentioned in the play, it is highly prominent in the events. This assures us that chapes is Shakespeare's word, exactly as originally printed. Obviously, the Shakespeare quote from All's Well... that accompanies the dictionary definition informs us that "chape" is an established word in the Shakespeare vocabulary. He used it again, here.
Notice even further, that "chape" by its #1 definition has to do with the point of a sword being protected. That idea, of a sword point being protected, or not, applies directly to the "unbated" foil we'll hear about for the Fencing Match in the final Scene.
Hamlet, as he speaks, knows nothing of how ominous his implication of "sword" is when he says chapes.
That can devote me truly; these indeed "seem,"
devote me truly - truly show my devotion. To truly set me apart. To formally dedicate me, truly. Any or all of those will grasp the sense of it.
Observe in the Century Dictionary definition that devote can mean "doom." Hamlet is not trying to voice such an ominous statement about himself, but it is possible to read Shakespeare's phrasing as: "that can doom me truly.")
For they are actions that a man might play - indeed, someone might.
In fact, the actor playing Hamlet is required to do exactly that, play it. Hamlet has a point. This is, of course, another instance of the Putting on a Show Theme.
Review this passage. It began with Gertrude giving Hamlet a bit of logic on death, to which she expected him to respond, and work off a little steam by expressing himself, and better he direct it at her than at Claudius. She was right about his reaction. But then, what did Hamlet do?
He cited a number of specifics, all of which are expressive of grief, and then pointed out that the whole was not necessarily the sum of the parts. Even though all the elements were of grief, the man displaying those elements is not necessarily grieving. In logic, that is an example of what's called the Fallacy of Composition. The Fallacy of Composition is a principle in logic that the properties of the parts are not necessarily the property of the whole.
So, Gertrude tossed a little logic at Hamlet. Hamlet replied, to her logic, with an astoundingly "showy" demonstration of a "real-world" Fallacy of Composition. It is masterfully done by the good Gentleman Shakespeare.
But I have that within which passes show;
passes show - exceeds the show, surpasses it. What is subjective, to oneself, cannot be logically proven to others. All one can do is assert.
One must take Hamlet's word for it, that his clothes and manner are explained by his grief over his father's death. It might not be wise to take Hamlet exactly at his word, as if that did explain everything.
No person holds only a single emotion, although one emotion will sometimes dominate. Hamlet is undoubtedly saddened by the death of his father, of course, but he is also disappointed at not becoming King, dismayed by his mother's marriage to Claudius, and disgusted with Claudius. More reflection might add another item or two. We should not think he's simple.
But yes, basically, we should take him at his word, that his garb and behavior are consonant with how he feels. However, grief is not the only factor in his feelings, that's all. It can't be. There's more than one "cloud" over him.
These, but the trappings and the suits of woe.
trappings - decorations. Facades. The word trappings literally refers to an ornamental harness for a horse. Trappings are items that "put on a show" beyond their function. This word trappings is, by the way, an implicit instance of the play's Horse Motif.
suits - costuming.
Hamlet's word usages continue to go along with the "show" idea, as he has conceded that a person could play such a role as "grieving son." He is now belittling what he's wearing, and his manner, in comparison to what he really feels inside. That constitutes a strong demonstration of Hamlet's sincerity, in light of typical behavior.
If Hamlet were being deceptive, he'd point to his mourning clothes, and offer a "look at this" kind of argument. That would be typical of a deceptive person, to emphasize his "show," to try to make you think it's the truth. Hamlet is not doing that, he is belittling his "show." Deceptive persons are hardly ever clever enough, or secure enough, to belittle their own "shows" that they've arranged to try to fool people. Deceptive persons make a big deal of their "shows," and don't downplay them.
Claudius: 'Tis sweet and commendable in your nature, Hamlet,
Claudius is uncomfortable that Gertrude and Hamlet, especially Hamlet, are taking over his session of the royal court, and not only that, but doing it in a way that draws attention to the death of his brother. Claudius speaks up to reassert control.
sweet and commendable - can be read as the use of hendiadys, that is, "commendably sweet." The phrase can also be interpreted as it stands: "kind and praiseworthy." The word "kind" is probably best in a paraphrase because of the preceding dialogue.
nature - personality.
Claudius's manner is patronizing. Hamlet will notice that.
To give these mourning duties to your father,
mourning duties - Claudius represents it that Hamlet is only doing his duty by mourning his father, which is the opposite of what Hamlet just said.
We'll soon learn that Claudius was only doing what he had to do when he appeared to be in sorrow over his brother's death.
But you must know your father lost a father,
Claudius now embarks on being reasonable, or logical, on the subject. He begins with a simple truism. One could predict, based on Claudius's self-consciousness that he is now the King, he will try to 'Put on a Show' that he's the most reasonable person in the room. Or, instead of trying to predict, one could read ahead and see that.
your father lost a father - granted. And?
I venture to guess you have not often encountered "the logic of grief" and "the logic of death." Such notions are rather mad, in human terms. Shakespeare knew that.
That father lost, lost his, and the survivor bound
That father lost, lost his - that father who died had previously lost his father.
and the survivor bound - actually not, not bound in the sense of "obliged." Claudius's logic just slipped. It wasn't a question of anyone being bound by any mutual agreement. The only "binding" is that of human nature, and human nature is not what a person agrees to have, it is intrinsic to him.
In filial obligation for some term
filial obligation - the obligation of a son. But again, grief is not a matter of obligation, it is a natural emotion. Claudius is representing Hamlet's grief as a matter of obedience to a parent.
for some term - some fixed period of time. Claudius has presumed authority to set the term. It is ironic that an archaic definition of term is "the length of a person's life."
To do obsequious sorrow; but to persevere
obsequious - compliant. Again, Claudius casts Hamlet's behavior as voluntary. There is wordplay with "obsequies" = funeral rites.
persevere - apparently goes back at root to Latin 'verus' ("true.") The idea of truth vs falsehood is powerful and continual in the play.
In obstinate condolement is a course
obstinate condolement - stubborn expression of grief. With condolement Claudius is speaking of the expression of grief, the "show" of grief. Claudius doesn't like Hamlet's "show" because it draws attention to King Hamlet's death.
a course - a course of action.
Of impious stubbornness, 'tis unmanly grief;
impious - irreverent. Disrespectful. The word pious has an archaic definition of being dutiful especially toward one's parents. With that, Claudius is now trying to have it that what he has called dutifulness to King Hamlet, by Hamlet, is "undutiful" to him.
Claudius's attempt to be reasonable, and logical, is collapsing all over the place. Oh, what he says sounds alright, in a way, very superficially, but on any close examination his logic disintegrates. His speech is disjointed foolishness, like something you might hear from an alcoholic who's been hitting the bottle for too many years.
unmanly - Claudius is lecturing Hamlet on how to be "manly," with a phenomenally long-winded version of "get over it." Claudius had nothing to get over, since he wasn't grieving for his brother in the first place.
Claudius would have it that he is the "man" and Hamlet is the "boy," but from what we've seen here, Claudius is pretty childish.
It shows a will most incorrect to Heaven,
will - willfulness.
most incorrect to Heaven - in Shakespeare's day, when there were state religions, in both England and Denmark, the King, or Queen, was also the head of the state Church. That has apparently now struck Claudius, so he decides to tell Hamlet what God thinks about it.
We will soon be informed that Hamlet has been a student at Wittenberg, the university of Martin Luther, so it's safe to assume Hamlet will not take Claudius's word for it, about what God thinks.
A heart unfortified, a mind impatient,
A heart unfortified - a heart that is not hard, like the thick, hard Castle walls of the fortification around them. But then, are persons supposed to be hard-hearted? This, immediately after Claudius says "Heaven." I was not aware Jesus taught that people were supposed to be hard hearted.
"Real men," in Claudius's view, are hard hearted, we see.
Claudius is throwing everything he can grab into the verbal hash he's cooking up, in hopes people will swallow it. Claudius, himself, spoke of "reason to the Dane," but of reason from the Dane, there's precious little to be seen.
a mind impatient - impatient for what? Impatient for, oh, the reigning King to die? Claudius could understand that.
Going back to root meaning, Latin 'pati,' the word "patient" refers to suffering. So, literally, an "impatient" mind is one that isn't suffering. So then, hm, Hamlet's display of grief is proof that his mind is not suffering. Claudius argues. That is nuts.
Also, in late Middle English, impatient could mean "unbearable." That's more like it, for Claudius's view of Hamlet. We can safely conclude Hamlet returns the favor. So, Claudius says Hamlet has "an unbearable mind." That looks like what psychologists now call projection.
Keep going with the words, even a step further back. The word mind comes from Old English 'gemynd' which could mean "memory." We then get, from the root meanings of both words, a mind impatient = "a memory unbearable," an unbearable memory. The phrase, a mind impatient turns out to be another word puzzle.
Shakespeare, with words, was like a Titan returned to earth. Shakespeare invoked the Muses now and then, and he must have been their favorite child.
Now then, what memory would Claudius find unbearable? We know. It drives Claudius crazy that people remember and honor his brother, because that "unbearable memory" is a threat to him.
For simple paraphrase of a mind impatient just make it "a fanatical mind." Claudius is accusing Hamlet of being a zealot.
An understanding simple and unschooled,
simple and unschooled - simple-minded and ignorant. It is unspeakably obnoxious for Claudius to insult Hamlet as unschooled while, as we'll soon see, refusing his request to return to the university. What kind of "man" would insult a young person as unschooled while forbidding him from going to school?
For what we know, must be, and is as common
what we know - know as fact, that is.
must be - must be true. Sure, but how many honest facts has Claudius cited?
King Hamlet is dead, yes. The question still remains... And?
As any the most vulgar thing to sense;
(and is as common) As any the most vulgar thing to sense - whoops, Claudius very nearly said, "as common as shit." He realized the King isn't supposed to be coarse, caught himself in time, and reeled off some innocuous verbiage.
It is correct for the Claudius actor to pause briefly between As and any. In action, Claudius wrinkles his nose.
Why should we, in our peevish opposition,
peevish - in late Middle English, could mean "insane," according to the Oxford Dictionary online, peevish. The play's Madness Theme tells us that's the idea to use here. There may, however, be a deliberate dual meaning, including "childishly perverse."
A quotation in the Middle English Dictionary online is interesting, in connection with this context. Date of 1591, "The Chester Plays" (aka The Chester Mystery Cycle): Alas, what presumption should move that [peevish] page or any elvish godlinge to take from me my crowne? MED link: The MED entry peivish.
Claudius is indeed worried lest that peevish Hamlet should take from him his crown.
opposition - Claudius is worried about opposition to himself, but he represents Hamlet's conduct as rebellion against everything that's good and holy. The appropriateness of "rebellion" as paraphrase is supported by the uses of "rebel" in the play. Laertes will speak of youth rebelling in the next Scene, Hamlet will exclaim "rebellious hell" to Gertrude in the Closet Scene, Scene 11, and Claudius will speak to Laertes of his "rebellion" in Scene 16.
Take it to heart? Fie, 'tis a fault to Heaven,
Take it to heart - feel it deeply; be deeply affected by it. The phrase has the same meaning as now. In action, Claudius must put a hand to his heart.
Fie - shame. For shame.
a fault to Heaven - a failing in the eyes of God. A religious error. Claudius is speaking for God again.
A fault against the dead, a fault to nature,
A fault against the dead - grieving for the dead offends them, we're told.
a fault to nature - grief is a crime against nature, we're told. Natural feelings offend nature.
Claudius's "logic" has strayed into strange assertions about faults. Claudius knows about faults, in the eyes of God and man, at a personal level.
To reason most absurd, whose common theme
(a fault to nature,) To reason most absurd - a fault to nature most absurd to reason.
To reason, the fault to nature is most absurd. Claudius is being "the voice of reason."
whose - nature's. The word whose follows on the word "nature" at the end of the previous line.
whose common theme - (nature,) whose universal theme...
Theme is from Latin 'thema,' from Greek, and literally means "proposition." By that, Claudius is still into the "logic" of it all, as he pontificates, being "the reasonable man," lecturing Hamlet and everyone on the logic and reason of death and grief. Which is insane. But Claudius's real agenda is not to prove anything logically. As far as that goes, he's blowing smoke. His real agenda is to protect himself.
Is death of fathers, and who still hath cried
Is death of fathers - Yes, fathers always die. And your point is? Just repeating things, like going down a list, doesn't make a point.
who - Everyone. Any "who." Since no particular "who" is specified, the statement applies to any "who," which includes everyone.
who still hath cried - everyone has always cried.
From the first course till he that died today;
course - coursing of tears; running of tears. The word course is from Latin 'cursus' from 'curs-' ("run,") from the verb 'currere.' A course is a "run." Tears run.
Course puns with "corse," and indeed, as the image shows, the word "corse" is an obsolete form of course. They can be seen as the same word. "Corse" is not identical to the modern word "corpse," but "corse" can mean a corpse.
The word "corse" has been displaced in modern English by the word "body." (In the dictionary definitions, the dagger after the definition number, or the word, means "obsolete.")
Anyway, Claudius has said the first course. That can be interpreted as "the first corse." Speaking of a dead body, in Christian tradition, the "first corse" was Abel, who was murdered by his brother, Cain. Claudius, himself, has made the Bible relevant to what he says, by speaking of Heaven.
Claudius has, in a subtle and accidental way he did not intend, referred to the murder of a brother. Claudius, himself, doesn't realize he did that. He was only trying to speak of a "coursing of tears" down the face.
This must be so; we pray you throw to earth
This must be so - Claudius's conclusion has shot him in the foot. Nobody notices, but he has just said Hamlet's grief "must be so," after Claudius has been trying, in such a long-winded way, to argue against it.
Brilliant work by Shakespeare. All that "reason" from Claudius, and how does he wind up? He winds up with an assertion directly against what he was trying to argue.
we pray - Claudius now prays, which is fitting to the subject. But Claudius, himself, doesn't mean that, he's only saying "please."
you throw to earth (This unprevailing woe) - cast aside. The exact expression suggests Claudius is asking Hamlet to bury his sorrow with his father. That is indeed what Claudius would prefer.
All of Claudius's "logic and reason" has ultimately amounted to no more than an expression of personal preference.
This unprevailing woe, and think of us
unprevailing - unprevailing over death. That's what Claudius means, but his personal concern is that Hamlet is trying to gain attention and excite sympathy to prevail over him, Claudius. Claudius is out to put a stop to that, as best he can, and as soon as he can.
(Elsewhere, you may see unprevailing glossed as "unavailing" or "ineffective," but that is incorrect. It means exactly what it says. "Prevail" is from a Latin root meaning "power;" Claudius is conducting a "power struggle" against Hamlet.)
Since by all tradition Hamlet should have been King now, Claudius is very insecure underneath the Crown. Even further, Claudius is worried about Hamlet because he fears Hamlet might be like him, in a particular way that's a threat to the life of the King.
As of a father, for, let the world take note,
(and think of us) As of a father - how is Hamlet thinking of his father? As dead. Claudius has just unintentionally asked Hamlet to think of him the same way, dead. We can be sure Hamlet would be perfectly pleased to think of Claudius as dead. It's the first thing Claudius has said where Hamlet can be in full agreement.
let the world take note - Claudius is making an announcement, straight from the mouth of the King. This is official.
You are the most immediate to our throne,
most immediate - closest to. Immediate is used here in its Latin root sense of "nothing intermediate," nothing in between.
our throne - the throne of the King.
There is now, officially, no third person between Hamlet and Claudius, for succession to the Crown. It's just Claudius and Hamlet, says Claudius, officially.
Denmark does have a kind of elective system, as Hamlet will mention in Scene 20. Historically, Denmark had a kind of elective method for the monarchy, but it didn't amount to much. It was not like modern popular democracy.
This is big news. Only one person, other than Claudius himself, knew Claudius was going to announce that Hamlet is his official choice for a successor to the Crown. It surprises Hamlet, and everyone. Such an announcement is unheard of. (Review the history of Queen Elizabeth I's choice, or alleged choice, of a successor. Basically, they couldn't pry it out of her with a crowbar. There are political reasons not to do what Claudius just did. But his hand was forced. By somebody. Who could force Claudius's hand?)
And with no less nobility of love
with no less nobility of love - how much "nobility" have we seen in Claudius's "love" so far? None to speak of. "No less than nothing" is what that amounts to.
nobility - high mindedness. There is wordplay with "noble" = "king," by which Claudius is claiming his love for Hamlet is as "kingly" as King Hamlet's love was.
So, one may also read nobility - kingliness. Claudius suggests he's "the King of love." Wow, he's both "the man of reason" and "the King of love." What a guy.
Claudius is claiming that his decision, which he'll proceed to announce, is a noble decision, done out of father-like love.
Than that which dearest father bears his son,
dearest - most affectionate; most emotionally close.
The word "dear" is native English, in that it goes back to Old English 'dēore,' and is of Germanic origin. It's related to Dutch 'dier' ("beloved.") A point of interest might be that "dear" is also related to German 'teuer' ("expensive.")
What Claudius means by it is that he's just adorable.
Do I impart toward you, for your intent
impart toward - communicate to. Say to. There is a hint of Claudius "playing a part," that is, not being sincere with his expression of love. He doesn't mean to reveal his insincerity, but it comes out in the wording.
for your intent - Claudius is now, at last, going to deal with Hamlet's petition to the royal court. The word intent tells us that Hamlet expressed his petition in language stating he was going to leave, no "begging" about it. "I hereby inform you that I intend..." Something like that. Yes, Hamlet would do that.
In going back to school in Wittenberg,
school in Wittenberg - we learn that Hamlet is, or has been, a university student at the University of Wittenberg.
The U. of Wittenberg was founded in 1502 by Frederick the Wise. Following on the work of Martin Luther, it became a center of the Protestant Reformation. Denmark become officially Lutheran in 1536. Thus, Hamlet's attendance at the U. of Wittenberg is exactly appropriate for a Dane.
(Topically, for Shakespeare in England, there is a hint of "university wittes" who were a group of university-educated playwrights. "Witte" was a spelling of "wit" sometimes seen at that time.)
It is most retrograde to our desire,
retrograde - contrary; contradictory. The latter is perhaps the better paraphrase when one keeps in mind Claudius is a dictator, and so far it's a war of words, dicta, loosely speaking, between Hamlet's words and Claudius's. Claudius, the higher authority, will win the war of words, for now.
BOOKMARK for me, retrograde, astronomy
Claudius is worried that if Hamlet is out of his sight, Hamlet might not go back to Wittenberg, but instead, may try what Fortinbrasse is doing - according to rumor - that is, the recruitment of an army, without the King's say. In Hamlet's case, Claudius fears an army for use in overthrowing him. It greatly worries Claudius, who is not confident of his support across the country. However, Claudius has not thought about how Fortinbrasse could be paying for that army (which he can't be.)
So, Claudius doesn't want Hamlet around because he has such fatherly love for the dear boy, but because he wants to keep an eye on what Hamlet is doing.
And we beseech you, bend you to remain
beseech - entreat.
bend you - incline yourself; "lean" yourself (this way.) Make it your inclination.
A bend of the body is a bow. Claudius is asking Hamlet to bow to his wishes.
Here in the cheer and comfort of our eye,
cheer and comfort - can be interpreted as hendiadys, if one so pleases. "Comforting cheer." It will comfort and cheer Claudius to know Hamlet isn't somewhere out in the hinterlands assembling an army against him.
of our eye - where I can see you. What Claudius really means is, where I can keep an eye on you.
Our chiefest courtier, cousin, and our son.
chiefest courtier - "courtier in chief." That sounds more impressive than it is, since all the courtiers, even the chiefest of them, are servants of the Crown. It's like Claudius saying Hamlet is his "head servant." Hamlet will notice that.
cousin - back to what Claudius said at first, more than 50 lines ago. "Kinsman." However, following chiefest courtier it means "chiefest" cousin, i.e. closest kinsman.
Then, the bombshell... Here is why Claudius smirked slightly when he said "my son" earlier.
our son - in this situation, where Claudius is doing the official business of the state, acting indeed as the King, there is a vast difference between him saying "my son" and saying our son. The former is a mere personal expression. The latter, our son, is, suddenly, the law of the nation of Denmark, proclaimed by the King of Denmark.
It's a blockbuster conclusion to Claudius's speech. By King's proclamation, Claudius has just adopted Hamlet.
In action, Claudius displays a piece of paper and hands it to a page, or to Polonius, or to whomever the production has available. It's Hamlet's adoption papers, signed and sealed by the King.
Hamlet is now, once again, The Prince of Denmark. (This is how Shakespeare maintained Hamlet's title status. A king's nephew is obviously not "The Prince.")
Was it Claudius's idea, to adopt Hamlet? Can't be. There's no love lost between Claudius and Hamlet. It must have been imposed on Claudius. Now, who would be able to impose such a requirement on Claudius?
Gertrude smiles at this.
Hamlet does not.
Those in attendance applaud. It appears to them to be an extremely kind and loving act by Claudius. Recall how the rivals of a monarch have so often ended up throughout history: exiled, imprisoned, executed. As the crowd sees it, it's amazingly benevolent.
It takes a moment to sink in for Hamlet. Then it strikes him, Claudius has just taken away King Hamlet as his legal father.
Hamlet takes a half step toward Claudius, and Hamlet's hand moves toward his sword. Claudius is startled. He wasn't expecting an aggressive reaction. He shifts on the Throne, glances at his guards, and his tongue moves across his lips. It's a "Grim Reaper" moment for Claudius, with his eyes open.
(If you haven't read the Action note for the initial stage direction, please do so: Scene_2#02-000-SD, above. It's very important to play the dramatic confrontation between Claudius and Hamlet correctly, leading to what follows, especially for Claudius. Hamlet mentions "bad dreams" in the course of the play. Is he the only one who has bad dreams? No. This sudden fear of Hamlet will recur to Claudius in a bad dream. All this motivates Claudius against Hamlet. Claudius would have no fear of a Hamlet who's nothing but a silly freak show goof. Really now. Claudius would simply lock Hamlet up, and who would care? Even his own mother would want him out of sight. Oh, why doesn't Claudius just lock Hamlet up, anyway? Because of that "jointress" sitting beside him. Claudius the same as says so, in Scene 18, when he's talking to Laertes.)
Gertrude quickly interjects.
Gertrude: Let not thy mother lose her prayers, Hamlet,
Don't get yourself killed or locked up over this.
Gertrude's prayers are for Hamlet. He doesn't know that. Gertrude is praying for a certain outcome to these events, according to how she's tried to arrange it. She doesn't want her prayers to be in vain.
The original Second Quarto of Hamlet shows "loose" in this line: Let not thy mother loose her prayers Hamlet. That line is interpretable as it stands. To "loose" something is the opposite of to "hold" it. There is a hold/grip/seize motif in the play, well instanced, already, in Scene 1. Gertrude can be understand as meaning she is "holding fast" to her prayers, and doesn't want to have to let them go, which she would, without Hamlet. (I'm now using the First Folio word, "lose," but may switch to the Second Quarto word, BOOKMARK for me. It deserves further contemplation, Shakespeare may have written "loose" and meant exactly that.)
I pray thee, stay with us, go not to Wittenberg.
I pray thee - please. There's the word pray again.
stay with us - Gertrude, as Queen, is entitled to the "royal" pronouns. Her word us doesn't automatically mean anyone but herself. It sounds as if she's including Claudius, but that isn't necessarily so. One can't tell just from the word.
go not to Wittenberg - she doesn't have the same motive as Claudius to want Hamlet at Elsinore. So, what's her reason? Motherly love, sure. Perhaps she thinks if Hamlet did go back to Wittenberg, he'd only have to turn right around and come back here, soon.
Hamlet: I shall, in all my best, obey you, Madam.
Gertrude has given Hamlet a way out of the confrontation with Claudius, and Hamlet is wise enough to take it.
all my best - to the best of my ability; in the best ways I can. Including "best behavior." It includes the idea of being noble.
The line should be spoken sincerely onstage, with no overtone or undertone. Do not stress obey, do not stress you. Hamlet means exactly what he says, in all seriousness. He bows to the Queen.
Claudius: Why, 'tis a loving and a fair reply,
Is spoken with relief, after Claudius thought, for a moment there, Hamlet was going to stick a sword through his gizzard. Claudius is also jealous of how easily Gertrude controlled Hamlet.
fair - handsome; good sounding. One could read an element of "judicious" in it.
a loving and a fair - could be called hendiadys if there were a point in doing so. "An attractively loving reply."
Be as ourself, in Denmark; Madam, come,
Be as ourself in Denmark - relax, take it easy, get by, doing the minimum, don't go out running around raising an army to kill me.
"Be like me," says Claudius. Well, if Hamlet is like Claudius, he will contemplate killing the King. One suspects Claudius didn't intend to voice that implication.
Claudius stands. He's done, for this session. Man, could he use a drink.
Madam, come - Claudius informs Gertrude the session is adjourned. Claudius says Madam to Gertrude, the same as Hamlet just did. That's correct enough, but one might suppose Claudius would have his own way of speaking to Gertrude, so he wouldn't just be echoing Hamlet. It's curious. How can Claudius not have his own way of speaking to Gertrude?
This gentle and unforced accord of Hamlet
Having recovered, Claudius now 'Puts on a Show' that Hamlet yielded to his wishes, instead of to his mother. Claudius must be in charge, he's the King.
gentle and unforced - gentlemanly, and freely given.
accord - official agreement. Like all this has been a diplomatic negotiation, now successfully concluded. Claudius's diplomatic mission to Norway is still on his mind. The root is interesting, Latin 'ad-' ("to") + 'cord-' ("heart.") It's a "heart" word. In action, Claudius puts his hand to his heart.
There is a great deal of "heart" action in the play.
Sits smiling to my heart, in grace whereof,
heart - confirms that the "heart" root of "accord" was something to notice.
(accord) sits smiling to my heart - is rather obscure. It is a legal metaphor. The word sits is used as in speaking of a legal body being in session. It's like the Clown Deputy saying in Scene 19, "the crowner hath sat on her."
Picture the case where Hamlet's accord (heart) is the judge, and Claudius's heart is an appellant. The case has now been heard, and judgment rendered. Hamlet's accord, the judge, now sits smiling to (at) Claudius's heart, having ruled in his favor.
The idea of being on trial is one that preys on Claudius, because he's brand new at being King, and also, something else.
The phrase can be understood simply as "gladdens my heart."
Claudius smiles here, as he smiles throughout this passage, by the way. A man may smile, and smile, and be a villain.
grace - thankfulness, like saying grace at a meal.
in grace whereof - in thankfulness, for Hamlet's ruling in my favor.
Claudius is of course playing it that he's in control and has been all along, except that odd "heart" figure of speech gave him away, where he cast Hamlet's accord as the judge over him.
No jocund health that Denmark drinks today,
jocund - cheerful, as in saying "cheers."
health - a toast, viz. "to your health."
Denmark - I, the King.
drinks today - we see Claudius has himself a habit of that.
Is Hamlet's reluctant agreement to stay at Elsinore really a cause for such rejoicing? No. It seems that, to Claudius, any excuse to get drunk looks like a good excuse.
But the great cannon to the clouds shall tell;
tell - speak, figuratively speaking. This use of tell for the firing of the cannons helps inform us of what Horatio meant, in Scene 1, when he spoke of the "parley" between King Hamlet and the Poles, Scene 1#071. It's the idea of weapons "speaking."
If you can't use cannons as party noise makers, then what good are they?
And the King's rouse the heaven shall bruit again,
rouse - carousing. There is wordplay with "rouse" as in "to awaken." We'll see in Scene 4 that Claudius's rouse could "wake the dead."
the heaven - the sky.
bruit - report. "Boom," for a simple paraphrase. Roar. Bruit is from Old French 'bruire' ("to roar.") This is appropriate from the King of Denmark, in that the lion is a symbol of Denmark. Lions are depicted on the coat of arms of Denmark. Essentially the same design appears on a seal of King Canute VI dating from the 1190s. See the Extended Note. (Certainly this implies Shakespeare knew both the root meaning of bruit, and the Danish coat of arms.)
The exact spelling of bruit in the original Hamlet publications, both the Second Quarto and the First Folio, is "brute," and that might not be just because English spelling was not standardized. The word "brute" is from Latin 'brutus' ("dull," "stupid") which goes along with Claudius's use of the cannons being stupid, as Hamlet will remark in Scene 4. The original spelling, brute, could be intentional, for wordplay (i.e. the idea of "the King's rouse shall be stupid.")
The word bruit has another definition, of "rumor." By that, it's a word compatible with the Talk/gossip/rumor motif in the play. We'll hear Hamlet, in Scene 4, speak of how the noise Claudius makes is heard all around; one could say the same about rumor.
Respeaking earthly thunder; come away.
Respeaking - what it says, figuratively speaking. "Recounting" is a good paraphrase, since "recount" is from Old Northern French 'reconter' ("tell again,") and Claudius just said the cannons would "tell" the clouds.
earthly thunder - King Claudius, the "man of reason," and "the King of love," is now "the thunder god." What's Thor got that he ain't got?
(a flourish of trumpets sounds; Hamlet stays; everyone else exits)
The exit is stage right, which is the direction of the Royal doorway, taking it we're using the R mnemonic.
Hamlet: Oh, that this too too sallied flesh would melt,
too too - much too much.
sallied - is the correct word. It's from the verb "sally" = a sudden rush against an enemy. A near synonym would be "assailed." The words "sally" and "assail" are from the same root, Latin 'salire.' (The word "sullied" that one may see in any number of Hamlet publications is an editorial blunder.)
Hamlet means that he feels attacked by the sudden rush of unhappy events in his life.
flesh - the body, as opposed to the soul or spirit. The idea of the body, as opposed to the spirit, is significant as Hamlet is about to learn of the Ghost.
melt - melt like snow does. When snow melts, it runs. Hamlet would like to run away, melt away, disappear. However, he promised his mother he would stay.
Thaw, and resolve itself into a dew;
Thaw - like ice does. It's much the same idea as "melt." However, the word thaw finds more use in speaking of the human body, or a person's mood. We speak of a person who's emotionally cold as "thawing out" if he smiles, for example.
To Hamlet, being at Elsinore Castle is like being "frozen in place," and he wishes he could melt, and thaw, figuratively speaking, and get away, like ice and snow melt and thaw, to run and get away.
In particular, Hamlet has just seen Laertes get permission to "melt away," and run away to the sea, so to speak. What Hamlet is saying is partly a metaphor based on snow and ice melting in the springtime, to run away to the sea. (The figure of speech is implicitly one of springtime, the time when ice and snow melt and thaw and run to the sea. This is part of the confirmation that the play is set in springtime.) Hamlet has been forbidden by royal command to "run to the sea," like Laertes. Hamlet is "frozen in place," in a manner of speaking, at Elsinore Castle. He would rather that were not so. It's so emotionally cold for him at Elsinore now; Hamlet feels no warmth there.
resolve itself - taken literally means "dissolve itself." However, a person who "resolves himself" is one who makes a decision. Further, in Middle English, resolve could be used in the sense of solving a problem.
a dew - in popular parlance, dew rises. Hamlet wishes he could rise above it all. There is a pun with "adieu."
The phrase, and the pun, anticipate the Ghost, who is vapor, like a dew, and who will tell Hamlet "adieu" in Scene 5.
When ice and snow melt and thaw, one can often see the "dew," the water vapor, rising from them.
There is the undertone that Hamlet wishes he could resolve himself to bid Elsinore adieu, despite his promise to stay. (Oh, what about Ophelia? Take her with him, if only he could.)
Later in the play, Hamlet will indeed get his chance to "run away to the sea" on the voyage to England, but he will discover it isn't that easy.
Or that the everlasting had not fixed
everlasting - God everlasting.
fixed - can be understood as either "written in stone," or as "set firmly." There is a double meaning. By the second meaning, in combination with the next line, Hamlet is wishing Claudius's cannons were not fixed in place, so that when they're fired, they'd turn around and Claudius would shoot himself with them. (This speech is always interpreted as Hamlet wishing to do away with himself, but that interpretation does not do the speech justice.)
His cannon 'gainst 'seal' slaughter; God, God,
As I mention in the previous note, there is a sentiment in the lines of Claudius shooting himself to death with his own cannons. There is wordplay in this line between cannon and "canon."
I put the idea of Claudius shooting himself in the paraphrase not only because it deserves notice, but also because, as the image from the First Folio shows, the word originally published is cannon. The Second Quarto also shows cannon. Since Elizabethan spelling was not standardized, at least not nearly to the degree modern spelling is, a spelling of cannon could mean either the weapon, or the theological law.
I include the word seal in the playscript, with the ' marks around it, for a reason given in the Folio Difference note. Strangely enough, it is indeed the word "self," but spelled in a special way, to convey additional meaning. It is a kind of word puzzle, one that pertains to the play events.
How wary, stale, flat and unprofitable
wary - this word is "ware-y," based on "ware" like a good for sale in a shop. It refers to the importance of money in the world. It can be paraphrased as "mercenary." Hamlet is speaking of the world as a greedy, or materialistic, place. The idea of money, or the lack thereof, is mentioned a few times in the play, enough so that money can be considered a motif. The word wary in this use is apparently a Shakespeare coinage.
That meaning is strongly supported when you "suit the action to the word." Wary is acted simply by rubbing the thumb against the fingers, like rubbing a coin.
Also, an obsolete meaning of wary is "warry" (also obsolete) which refers to a curse. By that, Hamlet is saying it's a cursed, evil world. The multiple meanings, all relevant, are probably deliberate, from the Bard.
stale - prostituted. The idea of women for sale. Hamlet takes a dim view of his mother's behavior with Claudius. Also, Hamlet will later take this view - in a tragic error - toward Ophelia. Compare, in Much Ado About Nothing the speech of Don Pedro in Act 4 scene 1: "I stand dishonoured, that have gone about / To link my dear friend to a common stale."
Stale can also be read in its more usual meaning of no longer being fresh and pleasant. Old, tedious. Hamlet will later, in Scene 7, use the exact expression "tedious old."
flat - unaspiring. A world that does not aspire to higher principles. It's the idea of the world being a place that caters to what we now call the lowest common denominator. "Insipid" would express it. There is the implication of "lacking spirit," which is ingeniously ironic just before Hamlet hears about the Ghost.
unprofitable - unrewarding. Despite all the focus on wealth, Hamlet sees the world as it stands as essentially an unrewarding place. The word "profit" in Middle English had the sense of "advantage" or "benefit," and it derives from Latin 'proficere' ("to advance.") Hamlet will later say, talking to R & G in Scene 9, "I lack advancement."
Seem to me all the uses of this world;
Seem to me - earlier, Hamlet said he "knew not 'seems,'" but he was speaking of how he looked. Here, Hamlet is speaking of his subjective judgment. He does know that, his personal judgment. It is not a contradiction, between earlier and now, it's the use of seem in two different senses.
this world - the world of humanity, particularly as in Hamlet's Denmark.
uses - both "employments" and "treatments." It's a double meaning.
Elsewhere in the play, "use" can mean how one treats another. For example, in Scene 7 Hamlet will tell Polonius to see to it that the Players are "well used" (well treated.)
Also, the word "use" appears in reference to the employment of someone or something. Horatio asked of the Ghost, in Scene 1, whether it had any "sound or use [employment] of voice."
Both meanings can be understood in this line.
- all the uses of this world - all the employments in this world of men; or
- all the uses of this world - all the treatments, of a person, from this world. All the ways the world treats a person.
Following on the previous line, Hamlet views the relationship between himself and his world as greedy and sordid. His youthful idealism threatens to turn to cynicism. He is disenchanted.
Fie on it, ah fie, 'tis an unweeded garden
Fie on it - Shame on it (that cynical way of thinking.) There's a secondary meaning of "shame on the world."
'tis an unweeded garden - a springtime simile. An instance of the Gardening Motif. Hamlet likens the world, of men, to an unweeded garden. The biggest "weed" he's seen, we can be sure, is Claudius. "Weeding out" Claudius is an idea with ominous implications.
That grows to seed; things rank and gross in nature
grows to seed - goes to seed, as we now say. Deteriorates, due to lack of care.
rank and gross - coarse and thick/vulgar/uncultured. Can be read as hendiadys, "grossly rank," "vulgarly coarse."
in nature - in kind. Goes back to Hamlet's first line in the play, where he spoke of "kind." It is still much on Hamlet's mind that Claudius is not his kind.
Possess it, merely, that it should come thus;
Possess it - are in control of it. One can be more specific in interpreting it - particularly, the throne of Denmark. Possess is a "hold" word. It goes back to Latin 'possess-' ("occupied," "held.") The state of Denmark is Claudius's "holding" at this time, so to speak.
merely - only. Purely (that.) Hamlet means the only thing wrong is that the "garden" needs "cultivation."
(The gloss of merely that you will find in most other publications of Hamlet is wrong. Compare, As You Like It Act 3 Scene 2, Rosalind: "Love is merely a madness..." The same meaning of merely applies here: "only.")
The implication continues that, since the only thing wrong with the "garden" is that it needs weeding, it would be much improved if Claudius were weeded out.
it should come thus - "it should come to this," but phrased to fit the meter. "It should become so."
So, on second thought, Hamlet has rejected that "all the uses" of the world are bad, and he has decided that the specific state of the world, at this time, is the problem.
But two months dead, nay, not so much, not two;
But two months dead - we are informed of how long King Hamlet has been dead.
not so much, not two - not quite two months.
It is common when things have been busy, as they have at Elsinore with all the state events, for a person to have to stop and think about an exact lapse of time. One would suppose a longer time should have gone by, for things to have changed so much; that is Hamlet's view.
So excellent a King, that was to this,
So excellent a King - we learn more of Hamlet's admiration for his father, King Hamlet.
that was to this - who was, compared to this one.
Hyperion to a satire; so loving to my mother,
Hyperion - the titan of the sun in Ancient Greek mythology. Hamlet casts King Hamlet as the ideal "sun god," or sun king.
Among ancient writers, Homer equates the sun god Helios with Hyperion. Others identify Helios as Hyperion's son, by his sister Theia. Thus, in the mention of Hyperion there is the hint of incest, as according to theological doctrine there is with Claudius being married to his sister (in law.)
satire - mockery. Hamlet is saying Claudius is a mockery of a real king. Recall the phrase "malicious mockery" in Scene 1. (Scene 1#157) A satire is essentially a mockery.
A double meaning exists. The word can also be taken as "satyr" (and typically has been in the past, as the primary meaning, despite the Second Quarto spelling.)
By the "satyr" reading, Hamlet means that a comparison between King Hamlet and Claudius is like comparing a superhuman to a subhuman. Specific to Claudius's characteristics, the satyrs are classically companions of Bacchus, the god of wine.
That he might not beteem the winds of heaven
might not - would not.
beteem - permit. Tolerate.
The phrase not beteem = not find it fitting (and thus prevent it.) The word "teem" itself carries the meaning, of "befit," and its "be-" prefix is used in forming the verb.
the winds of heaven - the winds of fortune or fate. The "wind" figure of speech is still used in reference to luck, i.e. we say something depends on "which way the wind blows."
See the next note.
Visit her face too roughly; heaven and earth,
Visit - afflict. (The "afflict" idea appears expressly later, in Scene 9, when Guildenstern says to Hamlet, "The Queen your mother in most great affliction of spirit...")
roughly - tempestuously. Perhaps the best paraphrase, because of the play The Tempest.
(not beteem the winds of heaven) Visit her face too roughly - not permit it, that she should have to face the winds of fortune, should they try to afflict her too tempestuously.
Face refers to what Gertrude had to face, when married to King Hamlet. Visit ... roughly refers to tempestuous affliction. Not beteem, as mentioned, means "not permit."
Essentially, the lines mean King Hamlet protected Gertrude from having to face any "tempestuous afflictions" from "the winds of fortune." King Hamlet did a good job of protecting Gertrude from anything bad luck might send her way, is what it boils down to.
It can also be read as in the paraphrase, meaning approximately, that King Hamlet gave Gertrude such support that she was always composed, no matter what happened.
One can also read the lines literally, that when the cold north wind blew, King Hamlet would have Gertrude snuggle her face against his chest. The usual multiple meanings are present.
heaven and earth - a very mild oath: "by heaven, and by earth."
Must I remember, why, she should hang on him
should - was compelled to; was obliged to. Hamlet is saying, in these lines, that the longer they were married, the more affectionate Gertrude became toward King Hamlet. Hamlet saw no decline in Gertrude's affection for King Hamlet that could account for her marrying Claudius so soon after King Hamlet's death.
It's an observation contrary to what one would expect, judging only from the simple fact of Gertrude marrying Claudius soon after King Hamlet's funeral.
As if increase of appetite had grown -
By what it fed on, and yet within a month . . . -
Let me not think on it; frailty, thy name is woman;
frailty - moral fragility. Moral weakness, particularly on the issue of fidelity.
name - synonym, in this usage. Another noun with the same meaning.
frailty, thy name is woman - Hamlet, growing up, idealized his mother, as he did his father. His mother was his "model woman." Therefore, should Gertrude prove frail, it must be a characteristic of any woman. This observation, about Hamlet's attitude, is necessary ahead of Hamlet's encounter with Ophelia in Scene 8, the Nunnery Scene.
It is necessary to remain aware of the obvious, which is that Hamlet does not know everything that's going on. Nobody ever does.
A little month, or ere those shoes were old
A little month - can be understood either as "so little a time as a month," or "a short month" i.e. a little less than a month. The distinction is not important. What is important is that we understand Gertrude married Claudius within a month of King Hamlet's funeral, no longer than that.
ere those shoes were old - Hamlet noticed his mother's shoes because he was downcast at both the funeral and the wedding. So he happened to see the shoes, both times, and took note of them. But this is strange.
In combination with the next line, Hamlet is saying that Gertrude married Claudius before the shoes she wore to the funeral were old, meaning scuffed at all, or looking worn at all. "Old" shoes are in how they look; old shoes are scuffed shoes. We're being told Gertrude wore the same shoes at the wedding that she wore at the funeral.
That is strange. Queen Gertrude is a rich woman. She can buy any shoes she wants. Why did she wear the same shoes to both the funeral and the wedding? Because they were the best shoes to go with both her widow's weeds, and her wedding gown? Ridiculous.
There's that old jingle, something old, something new... But Hamlet just told us the shoes were not old, nor were they new for the wedding. That doesn't work. Borrowed? Gertrude borrowed shoes for both the funeral and her wedding? Ridiculous. Blue? Blue shoes at a funeral? Ridiculous. Blue shoes at the wedding would have been bad enough.
Why, then? What would you think if a rich woman told you that a pair of shoes she already had in her closet was good enough for marrying some fellow? I know what I'd think. But if Gertrude didn't think Claudius was worth a new pair of shoes, why did she marry him?
Hamlet saw the shoes, but he didn't hear the "fashion statement" Gertrude was making with them. Gertrude "said" she didn't think Claudius was worth a new pair of shoes. Further, she wore the shoes as a remembrance of King Hamlet, while she was marrying Claudius.
Suddenly we have a mystery. Hamlet says in the play, "You would pluck out the heart of my mystery." Hamlet says it, but Shakespeare wrote it, so whose mystery is Hamlet?
Why did Gertrude marry Claudius, who she didn't think was worth a new pair of shoes, and as she wore a remembrance of King Hamlet?
With which she followed my poor father's body,
See above. This line is accounted for in the preceding Note.
The way wedding gowns are, Gertrude didn't expect anybody would notice the shoes she chose to wear, the shoes she had worn when she walked beside King Hamlet for the last time.
Like Niobe, all tears; why she, even she -
Niobe - in Greek mythology, Niobe had fourteen children, seven boys and seven girls, and was very proud of that. At a ceremony for Leto, who had only two children, the god Apollo and the goddess Artemis, Niobe mocked Leto, for having only two children when she had fourteen. In retaliation, Leto sent Apollo and Artemis to kill all Leto's children. Niobe fled, and turned to stone, but even as stone she still wept. Niobe is therefore the emblem of inconsolable tears.
So, at the funeral, Gertrude wept inconsolably, as if she would never stop. That's hard to fake. But then, she turned right around and married Claudius.
Let's say, in one case or the other, it's a show. Was she Putting on a Show at the funeral, or is she doing that now, after she's had more time to think about the situation?
Oh, God, a beast that wants discourse of reason
wants - lacks.
discourse of reason - the ability of rational expression. Essentially, the capacity for meaningful speech.
The phrasing can be read in the way of hendiadys: wants discourse of reason = "lacks reasonable discourse."
It's possible to read the phrasing, wants discourse of reason, in reference to "beastly" Claudius, and his attempts at reason which were so inept.
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,
Hercules - Hamlet wishes he had herculean abilities to deal with his problems. Don't we all.
There is an element of madness in the story of Hercules. I mention that because nobody writing about Hamlet ever does mention it. The Labors of Hercules were his atonement for a murderous fit of madness.
Ere yet the salt of most unrighteous tears
Ere yet - While still. There is a double meaning. The second is "before ... yet." See the next Note.
unrighteous - unvirtuous.
Had left the flushing in her galled eyes,
flushing - redness. There is a double meaning, however. The second is "cleansing." Salt is a cleansing agent.
These two lines, 156 & 157, can be read either as the primary meaning...
While still the salt of highly unvirtuous tears
Had left the redness in her irritated eyes
or, as the secondary meaning...
Before the salt of highly unvirtuous tears yet
Had gone from the cleansing of her irritated eyes
The meanings are close enough to being the same.
galled - irritated. Sore. Bloodshot.
Had left the flushing in her galled eyes - is strange.
In addition to the shoes, another thing Hamlet noticed about his mother when she married Claudius is that her eyes were bloodshot, as if she had been weeping profusely only a bit earlier. It would be normal for the bride to shed an emotional tear at her wedding, but crying enough to leave the eyes bloodshot is not normal.
Curiouser and curiouser.
She married - oh, most wicked speed - to post
post - hurry, which is now an archaic meaning of post. So, post can also be taken as "haste."
With such dexterity to incestuous sheets;
dexterity - adroitness; ease. Hamlet thinks the ease was due to a lack of moral sense.
incestuous - has reference to theological doctrine. Leviticus 18 forbids sexual relations with a brother's wife, however, it apparently presumes a living brother. A later sentence in Leviticus, about a wife's sister, does state "during her life." Be that as it may, Hamlet is indignant about the whole situation.
By the way, there is the simple point that incest is a moot issue when a marriage is not consummated. Just sayin'.
It is not, nor it cannot come to good,
it cannot come to good - probably not.
But what are, or were, the alternatives?
But break my heart, for I must hold my tongue.
hold my tongue. - knowledge of the action is mandatory to understand the meeting between Hamlet and Horatio. Because of that, I will describe the action here in the regular Notes as we go along. Immediately after Hamlet says this, concluding his speech, he does what he says, or that is, he adopts a pose which can be seen like that.
Hamlet is turned toward stage right, toward the Royal doorway through which his mother departed with Claudius. He is pondering her, and Claudius, and the whole situation. Hamlet is standing up, of course.
Playing Hamlet, gently pinch your lower lip between the forefinger and thumb of your right hand. Do that with your left forearm across your midsection, and your right elbow resting on the back of your left hand, or left wrist. Angle your head slightly downward. You will recognize that position as a "thoughtful man" pose, which does, indeed, sort of suggest that you are physically "holding your tongue."
Stay in that pose as the men enter to you, from stage left, the Lobby. Don't turn toward them yet.
(Marcellus, Horatio, and Bernardo enter) - in that order, single file, from the Lobby side, stage left. They approach Hamlet from behind, since he is turned toward the Royal doorway, stage right.
We know Marcellus is leading the way, because he expressly said so, at the end of Scene 1. He said he knew where Hamlet could be found. Ergo, he is leading.
Horatio is behind Marcellus. Then, Bernardo trails by a couple of steps.
Marcellus walks up to within conversational distance of Hamlet. Call it three feet. Marcellus does not "ahem" the Prince of the nation. Heavens, no. Marcellus knows Hamlet heard him approach, and that the Prince will turn to him when the Prince is ready to speak to him. Marcellus strikes his best, most formal "attention" for the Prince, and waits.
Horatio, behind Marcellus, notices "Hamlet hasn't seen me yet." Horatio gets an impish idea.
Horatio: Hail to your Lordship. - Horatio yells that out at the top of his voice, and immediately ducks down behind Marcellus, to hide.
Hamlet almost jumps out of his shoes, and turns. By the time he turns, all he sees is Marcellus standing there, with Bernardo a few steps back.
Hamlet thinks Marcellus did it. He thinks Marcellus walked up to three feet from him and yelled as loud as he could. Hamlet gives Marcellus that sharp, annoyed look that means, "What the devil! Are you crazy?!"
Marcellus wasn't expecting Horatio to do that. Marcellus, who intended to be respectful to his utmost, now finds the Prince staring at him with extreme displeasure. Taken totally by surprise by this, Marcellus has no idea what to say. His face changes as thoughts flicker through his mind.
Marcellus looks blank, and opens his mouth, but unable to think what to say, he closes his mouth.
He gives Hamlet a little dopey smile, the kind that goes with "uh" or "huh."
He frowns and shakes his head. "I don't approve of that, and I would never do that."
He gives Hamlet a smile. "Really, I'm friendly."
That sort of thing, multiple expressions, with multiple meanings, as Marcellus struggles to figure out what he ought to say.
As Hamlet sees it, Marcellus is making faces at him. Hamlet thinks that, first, Marcellus walked up close and yelled at him, and now, Marcellus is making faces at him. Hamlet thinks Marcellus has lost his mind.
Hamlet: I am glad to see you well; Horatio - or I do forget my self.
I am glad to see you well - Hamlet tests Marcellus with a normal kind of greeting. He wants to find out how Marcellus will respond. There's a question behind it, of "are you well, or are you crazy? Can you reply normally to this?" Playing Hamlet, the line is spoken in a slow, stressed way, as if you suspect you might be talking to a lunatic, so maximum clarity is required.
At this point, Horatio quickly stands up and steps out from behind Marcellus. He gives Hamlet a big grin, and a little "hello" wave, and points at Hamlet. "Gotcha!"
Horatio - Hamlet exclaims in surprise and pleasure. He jumps forward to give Horatio a bear hug, then shakes his hand vigorously, with a huge smile, as he speaks the following.
or I do forget my self - I'd forget who I am before I'd forget who you are. Or it can be read as, if you're not Horatio, then I don't know who I am, either. Either way.
There is, additionally, allusion to Hamlet "forgetting himself" in a way that allowed Horatio to sneak up on him like that. He was preoccupied, and not paying attention. He "forgot himself" for a minute.
Horatio: The same, my Lord, and your poor servant ever.
The same - That's me; I'm the same (person) as you said.
and your poor servant ever - and always your poor servant; and your poor servant, as always. Horatio is acknowledging that he "served Hamlet poorly" with that trick. Horatio feels a bit guilty now, that he gave Hamlet such a start.
poor - does not mean impecunious. Horatio is not saying he's impoverished. He is referring to what he now realizes was his poor behavior. He got that mischievous idea, and it seemed too good to pass up.
Albeit, there is an extremely subtle undertone of relative poverty. When Horatio first heard King Hamlet had died, he expected Hamlet to be the next King, which should mean a good position for him, since he's Hamlet's best friend - Shakespeare didn't have to point this out to us, explicitly. We know what to normally expect about people. There's a way that Horatio is subtly sympathizing with Hamlet here. "Had you become King, we'd both be a lot richer." If Hamlet catches that, he won't resent it at all. Their friendship is sincere, as will be proven in the play. Hamlet will wish he could have put Horatio in a good, well-paying government position (and as we see in the play, Horatio looks like a young man who would deserve it, and would do his job well.)
Hamlet: Sir, my good friend, I'll change that name with you;
that name - the name Horatio, the name Hamlet just exclaimed.
I'll change that name with you - I'll let you be Hamlet and I'll be Horatio, instead. Hamlet is saying he'd rather be Horatio than himself, with the way things have gone for him at Elsinore.
There's allusion to a switch of identities. Shakespeare used a switch of identity as a plot device in other plays. In Hamlet, here, he alludes to it, but he didn't use a switch of identity in Hamlet. Instead, he kept the characters the same, but changed how they behaved, as if, at times, they were someone else.
And what make you from Wittenberg, Horatio?
what make you - is idiomatic phrasing that means, in this context, "what brings you." For literalness, make = "do," so, "what do you," which is about the same as "what are you doing."
Hamlet smiles and nods to Marcellus, much to Marcellus's relief. We see that Hamlet knows Marcellus's name, which goes along with Marcellus being, presumably a captain of the guard, as earlier events indicated. Hamlet will know many of the soldiers by sight, but not so many by name.
Marcellus: My good Lord.
Marcellus returns the smile, and salutes sharply, in his best military fashion. We may take it that Hamlet also shakes his hand, in coordination with the next line, since the events of Scene 7 indicate Hamlet favors doing so.
Hamlet: I am very glad to see you; (good even, sir.)
I am very glad to see you - said with a touch of stress on am, after the previous events, when Horatio "got" them both.
(good even, sir.) - is addressed to Bernardo, who salutes sharply, still perhaps three steps away from Hamlet. We see Hamlet does not know Bernardo's name. No handshake with Bernardo is indicated since no introduction is made.
The word even informs us that it is after noon. The Elizabethans used even or "evening" to refer to either the afternoon or the evening, as we now call them. That goes along with Claudius having adjourned the royal court session at the midday meal break.
But what, in faith, make you from Wittenberg?
in faith - truly. An appeal to the faith of a fellow Christian. As a mere item of speech, the phrase is not as pompous as that sounds.
Horatio: A truant disposition, good my Lord.
truant disposition - Horatio teases that he felt like playing truant. He's still feeling guilty that he startled Hamlet so much, so Horatio humorously casts himself as a reprobate.
Hamlet: I would not hear your enemy say so,
Horatio's enemies would be too afraid of him to say anything against him, is the implication in Hamlet's line. Horatio is a tough customer.
The line can further be taken to mean Hamlet would tolerate no talk against Horatio. It's a deliberate double meaning from Shakespeare, with both meanings relevant and informative.
Nor shall you do my ear that violence
violence - abuse. Hamlet casts it as abuse to his ears that Horatio would make such a statement about himself.
The idea of violence to the ear anticipates what the Ghost will tell Hamlet in Scene 5.
In action, it would be correct for Hamlet to cover his ears briefly.
To make it truster of your own report
truster - believer. A truster is one who gives credit to (something.) The usage hints of a financial figure of speech. "Trust" has an archaic definition of "credit." The only other time Shakespeare used truster he meant "creditor." ("Timon of Athens" Act IV scene 1.) Hamlet is speaking of "giving no credit" to Horatio's statement.
report - used in the sense of an item of gossip being repeated. Horatio used the word "whisper" in the same way, gossip that is, when he spoke in Scene 1 about why Fortinbrasse was recruiting an army. Here, Hamlet is facetiously saying that Horatio's claim of being truant can only be a vicious rumor about him.
Against yourself; I know you are no truant,
Informs us that Horatio is a conscientious student.
But what is your affair in Elsinore?
affair - business. From Old French 'à faire' ("to do.")
in Elsinore - Hamlet is the first to state their specific location.
We'll teach you to drink deep ere you depart.
Implies that Horatio is not much of a drinker. He doesn't ordinarily drink deeply, it appears.
Hamlet wants to celebrate Horatio's presence as a special occasion, where he'll see if he can get Horatio to overcome his natural moderation. Let the wine flow, the fire glow, and the stories grow. (It is not a comment on Claudius's alcoholism.)
There is a subtle, long-range irony that at the Fencing Match in the last Scene, Hamlet will insist Horatio not drink at all.
Horatio will indeed "drink in" far too deeply of Elsinore, as events proceed, but none of them knows that now.
Horatio: My Lord, I came to see your father's funeral.
Much has been made of this in the historical Hamlet commentary, on the question of why, if Horatio has been in the area that long, he and Hamlet have not met earlier. It is not a hard question to answer.
There have been three major national events at Elsinore in a relatively short period of time: a state funeral for the King, a state marriage, and a coronation. The place has been packed. Anybody who has attended such a state function knows how overwhelming the crowds can be.
Since King Hamlet was so renowned, and his reign was long, the crowd for his funeral would have been huge. Horatio, from the crowd, might have glimpsed Hamlet, briefly, from a hundred yards away.
Many of the crowd, expecting the coronation of the new King to happen soon, would have remained in the area. When it became known there was to be a state wedding as well, many more would have arrived.
From what we see of Horatio, he is not the type to elbow his way through a huge crowd. If he did, for what? A quick "hi" and handshake would have been the best he and Hamlet could do in the midst of the throng.
Hamlet was a VIP at each event. The crowd is kept away from the VIPs. If Horatio did manage to struggle through the crowd to a guard, and say, "I'm the Prince's best friend," how do you think the guard would react? "Sure you are, buddy, that's only the 100th time today I've heard that one." There are always people who will pretend to be a friend or relative to get closer to an event. The guards would never believe Horatio (and Horatio knows it.)
Horatio has been waiting for the situation to calm, and the crowds to thin out, so he could have a good, long, friendly visit with Hamlet, without the pressure of crowds and social events. That is perfectly understandable, and it isn't something that Shakespeare should have had to tell anybody. It's common knowledge, and common sense.
Hamlet: I prithee, do not mock me, fellow student;
do not mock me - do not tease me. This response from Hamlet informs Horatio that Hamlet doesn't feel like getting too "heavy" now, in talking about his father's death. Hamlet is in a much better mood, seeing Horatio, and he wants to keep it light.
Observe that Horatio mentioned the death of Hamlet's father promptly, at the first good conversational opportunity. Compare that with when Rosencrantz and Guildenstern speak to Hamlet in Scene 7.
I think it was to see my mother's wedding.
Gladdened by Horatio's company, Hamlet can even make a little joke on the subject of his mother's marriage, which Hamlet would have found impossible earlier. We've heard from Hamlet, in his soliloquy just above, how badly he took it.
Horatio: Indeed, my Lord, it followed hard upon.
BOOKMARK follow, galls kibe, note
it followed hard upon - it followed hard on the heels of. Followed very soon after. The idea of one event following on the heels of another appears two more times in the play.
Hamlet: Thrift, thrift, Horatio: The funeral baked meats
Thrift - financial benefit. Again, Hamlet finds that with Horatio, he can joke about his mother's wedding, which would have been impossible for him ten minutes ago.
Shakespeare did a brilliant job in this of illustrating what a difference a friend can make.
The funeral baked meats - the food prepared for the guests at the funeral. In particular, baked meats = meat pies. By the way, the crust for a pie could, in those days, be termed a "coffin." See The Taming of the Shrew Act 4 scene 3, Petruchio, "...it is a paltry cap, / A custard coffin..." There is a "coffin" subtlety in Hamlet's mention of baked meats.
Did coldly furnish forth the marriage tables;
coldly - as leftovers.
did ... furnish forth - supplied, when it was brought forth.
the marriage tables - the marriage banquet.
The logic being, the wedding had to be held soon enough, after the funeral, so that leftovers from the mourners' meal could be served at the wedding banquet, before the leftovers went bad. Thus, money was saved, by letting nothing go to waste. It is facetious, obviously.
Would I had met my dearest foe in Heaven,
Would I had - I would rather I had.
my dearest foe - my archenemy. My most costly foe. Hamlet is speaking of the enemy who "costs him the most," the "cost" being emotional, financial, physical, or whatever it may be. Claudius, Hamlet thinks, has "cost" him the crown. That's a heavy, painful cost to bear.
So, "dear" refers to expense here, expense of whatever kind. Simply observe that dearest follows immediately on Hamlet mentioning "thrift."
Money is on Hamlet's mind. He's human, and can't help it. Prince Hamlet is very well off, by the standards of the common man, but still, he doesn't have the financial resources so that he can just leave, on his own.
(Hamlet does own estates that he has inherited from his father, we can be sure, but since Hamlet is a minor, only 16 years old, those estates are being managed on his behalf, well, technically on his behalf, by the Crown. Which is Claudius. Speaking of a "dear" foe - Claudius controls Hamlet's entire wealth. Claudius did not have to adopt Hamlet for that to be the case. Under the English law of Shakespeare's time, if a nobleman died and left a minor son, the son became a ward of the Crown. Shakespeare presumably applied the same rule to his fictional Denmark. Henry Wriothesley, the 3rd Earl of Southampton, to whom the two Shakespeare poems Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece are dedicated, became a ward of the Crown at age eight when his father, the 2nd Earl, died.)
Ere ever I had seen that day, Horatio;
Ere ever I had - Before I had ever.
The overall sentiment is Hamlet saying he'd rather have died than seen his mother marry Claudius. It's a common enough idea to express, but one doesn't often find it expressed the way Shakespeare could.
My father, methinks I see my father.
methinks I see my father - says Hamlet, only a line after he speaks of "Heaven."
Only a line after Shakespeare had Hamlet say "Heaven," he had Hamlet say he thinks he sees his father. Where is the spirit of King Hamlet? We have just been given a hint.
Horatio: Oh? Where, my Lord?
Horatio, and Marcellus and Bernardo, take a quick glance around, which surprises Hamlet. They are momentarily concerned that the Ghost has somehow showed up here in the Throne Room. The Throne Room is, indeed, a natural place King Hamlet's ghost might be seen.
Hamlet: In my mind's eye, Horatio.
mind's eye - a figure of speech Horatio knows well. Horatio used the exact phrase in Scene 1.
Horatio: I saw him once; he was a goodly King.
I saw him once - in person, Horatio must mean. In life. (By the way, there is no contradiction between this and other statements Horatio makes.)
goodly - handsome, gracious, and fine. Kingly. Recall the words in Scene 1: "majesty" and "majestical."
Hamlet: He was a man, take him for all in all;
He was a man - he was a man's man, a man among men.
take him for all in all - view him as all a man can be, overall. The term in those days was "a man of parts." Hamlet means his father had all the "parts" one could wish for a man.
I shall not look upon his like again.
his like - "anybody like him." Said with a sigh. The phrase his like could also be taken to mean "his likeness," and Horatio proceeds on that idea.
Horatio: My Lord, I think I saw him yesternight.
I think I saw him - Horatio is suggesting more, with this remark, than he intended to report to Hamlet. King Hamlet's death has affected Horatio's emotions also.
Now that Horatio has reestablished emotional contact with Hamlet, he wants the Ghost to be King Hamlet, for his best friend's sake. That is different from Horatio's attitude earlier. What a person believes, and what he is prepared to believe, depend heavily on attitude.
yesternight - last night. The night of yesterday.
Hamlet: Saw, who?
Saw, who? - Hamlet is puzzled by Horatio's remark. Who has been mentioned that Horatio would have seen last night?
Horatio: My Lord, the King, your father.
The King, Hamlet's father, is now legally Claudius. Horatio wasn't present earlier when Claudius proclaimed his adoption of Hamlet. This from Horatio takes Hamlet very much aback. Why on earth would Horatio have seen Claudius last night? Hearing this, Hamlet is more confused than ever. Hamlet gives Horatio a very puzzled look here.
Hamlet: The King, my father?
Claudius?! A joke's a joke, but really now, Horatio. What in the world?
Horatio: Season your admiration for a while
Season - delay. Wait for the right season, the right time. "Euery thinge hath a tyme, yee all that is vnder the heauen, hath his conuenient season" – Ecclesiastes 3, Great Bible, 1540.
(Just by the way, Ecclesiastes also says, "So I perceaued, that in these thinges there is nothing better for a man, then to be mery." Hamlet says to Ophelia at the 'Mousetrap' play, Scene 9, "what should a man do but be merry?")
admiration - wonder. From Latin 'ad-' ("at") + 'mirari' ("wonder.") The "wonder" concept will continue; after Hamlet encounters the Ghost in Scene 5 he will say to Horatio and Marcellus, "Oh, wonderful!"
Horatio is telling Hamlet to delay his wonder until after he hears of the Ghost, which will give Hamlet even more to wonder about, at that later season.
With an attent ear, 'til I may deliver,
attent - attentive; attending. In Middle English, the word "attend" meant "to apply one's mind."
An attent ear is an ear that's paying attention. It's an "open" ear.
deliver - impart. Just plain "tell," if you want. The word is consonant with Horatio earlier saying he was Hamlet's servant. Servants deliver.
Deliver is based on Latin 'de-' ("away") + 'liberare' ("set free.") Free as a bird. The idea of a bird in connection with a secret spreading ("a little bird told me") is that secrets "fly through the air," like a bird flies when it's 'liberare,' "set free."
Horatio is going to tell Hamlet a secret.
Upon the witness of these gentlemen,
Upon - supported by. When an item is upon something, the item is "supported by" it.
witness - confirmation. The meaning tends more toward the religious than the legal, here.
This marvel to you.
marvel - another word for "wonder." From Latin 'mirari' again (as was "admiration.") When Hamlet says, in Scene 5, "it's wonderful," he'll be agreeing with what Horatio says here.
Hamlet: For God's love, let me hear!
For God's love - for the love of god; for god's sake. Enough with the suspense.
Horatio has taken just a bit to get into this, because he isn't sure how to say it. Who would be? It's a unique experience.
Hamlet has realized now that Horatio didn't mean Claudius when he said "father."
Horatio: Two nights together had these gentlemen,
Two nights together - two nights in a row. There is a bit of a pun of "two knights together."
had these gentlemen - the past tense means, "before I was there."
Marcellus and Bernardo, on their watch,
Bernardo - Hamlet now learns Bernardo's name. In action, Hamlet should nod and smile at Bernardo, who nods back.
In the dead waste and middle of the night,
dead waste - like a wasteland. The wee hours, when folks are at home asleep. are as if the world is become a wasteland, where nearly everyone is dead.
But the "dead" only sleep, to rise in the morning. And one of the dead, perhaps, rises in the night.
dead waste and middle of the night - dead, unoccupied, middle of the night. There is a trivial pun of waste/"waist" simply in connection with middle.
Been thus encountered: a figure like your father
Been thus encountered - implies the Ghost took the initiative. As we saw, it did. The Ghost came to the men.
Armed at all points exactly cap-a-pe,
Armed at all points - armored in all details; armored completely.
exactly - precisely. With precision. The phrase is added for stress.
cap-a-pe - is from the Middle French phrase "de cap a pe," meaning "from head to foot."
That describes the armor of a knight. The question arises, why was the Ghost wearing knight armor? The reason is, because it was at night. You wouldn't expect the Ghost to wear his day armor at night, would you? Of course not. He'd wear his day armor in the daytime. At night, he wears his knight armor.
There is more to it than that, however.
Oh, why no horse? Who needs a horse when you can fly.
If the Ghost did have a horse, what color do you suppose it would be? Red? Pale?
And there went out an other horse, that was red, and power was giuen to him that sate thereon, to take peace from the earth, and that they should kill one another, and there was giuen vnto him a great sword.
And when he had opened the fourth seale, I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, Come and see. And I looked, and beholde, a pale horse, and his name that sate on him was Death
(Geneva Bible 1599 wording, Revelation 6.)
One can't help but wonder. Pale, or red?
'Twere me, and I rode a red horse, or a pale one - of a kind - and I were clever, I might want to keep the horse out of sight, lest someone recognize it for what it was, and thereby know what I was.
Appears before them, and with solemn march,
solemn - grave, is the best synonym, in more ways than one. Solemn as used here can also be taken as "imposing" and/or "grand." "Ceremonial" is another idea to help catch the flavor of it.
Goes slow and stately by them; thrice he walked
stately - is exactly how one would expect a king to go by.
The thrice is significant information for Hamlet. The men didn't see the "figure" only once and momentarily, they saw it repeatedly.
he - not "it." That is, Horatio is saying he and not "it" out of respect for Hamlet, and because Horatio, himself, is now more receptive to the notion that the Ghost is really King Hamlet. (However, lest this be over-analyzed, the word "it" was a recent addition to English in Shakespeare's day.)
By their oppressed and fear-surprised eyes,
oppressed - subservient. Following. One who is oppressed, by a leader, is a follower. Their eyes were "followers" of the Ghost. That is to say, their eyes followed the Ghost, subserviently. It's an amazing way to say that, that their eyes "followed" the Ghost. The Ghost "led" their eyes to "follow" it. I paraphrase it as "overpowered" which catches the sentiment of it.
Oppressed in this usage can also be understood as "impressed," in the sense of being pressed into service. Recall Marcellus, in Scene 1, speaking of the "impress of shipwrights." The Ghost "pressed their eyes into service," and made their eyes "follow" him.
fear-surprised - unexpectedly seized by fear. In origin, "surprise" is a "seize" word. We saw the many "seize," "hold," and "grab" words in Scene 1. The Middle English sense of "surprise" was of an unexpected seizure of a place or person, or an unexpected military attack. "Surprise" came into English via Old French 'surprendre,' from Latin 'superprehendere' ("seize.")
In action, fear-surprised eyes are very wide eyes, and Horatio should look at Hamlet like that.
Within his truncheon's length, whil'st they, distilled
truncheon - the baton symbolizing his office. In the case of a monarch, that is the royal scepter. The image to the left is from a portrait of Queen Elizabeth I, where she is holding her "truncheon." To the right is an image of the Royal Scepter of Denmark.
Within the truncheon's length would be quite close, within three feet. Close enough to reach out and touch.
distilled - rendered. When something is distilled it is rendered down to its essence. In the case of a person, being rendered down to essence means being reduced to instinctive reactions. Instinct does not include the ability of reasonable speech.
The late Middle English view of being rendered included to be "translated" (which can be understood as "moved,") "performed," (a concept which leads to "act of fear" in the next line,) and "melt down," (which is a repeated concept in this Scene.) Later, speaking to Hamlet in Scene 5, the Ghost will say that he must render himself up to flames (thus the interest in the idea of "render" in connection with this line. There are threads of ideas, expressed sometimes in the same word, and sometimes with a different word, that are woven through the play.)
The implication is, Marcellus and Bernardo were ready to melt and thaw away, emit "adieu," and run!
Almost to jelly with the act of fear,
the act of fear - shivering; shuddering. Shivering like jelly.
jelly - at root, goes back to Latin 'gelu' ("frost.") Shivering like jelly, shivering with fear, and shivering from cold, are all the same action. By the way.
However, it is not just by the way that if a person sees a certain action, but lacks the explanation for why it's happening, the person can badly misunderstand it. Here, the action, of Bernardo and Marcellus shivering, is explained. Elsewhere in the play, various actions are not explained to the observer, so he has to guess. He will not always guess right.
Stand dumb and speak not to him; this to me
dumb - struck dumb; dumbfounded. There is implicitly the idea of a "strike" in the sense of an affliction. We heard that expressed in Scene 1 by Marcellus ("no planets strike.")
In dreadful secrecy impart they did,
dreadful - fearful. Highly apprehensive. Worried that people would think they'd gone mad, to claim to be seeing such a thing. (Alternatively, according to archaic definitions, dreadful could be taken as "awed" or "reverent," however, it is not reverence which motivated Bernardo and Marcellus to keep their experience a secret.)
impart - shared, is the most literal synonym. Impart is from Latin 'im-' ("in") + 'partīre' ("to share.") "Relate" is a less literal synonym.
And I with them the third night kept the watch;
kept - has the same meaning as in modern usage. "Keep" is from late Old English 'cēpan' ("seize.") It's another "seize" word, at root.
Whereas they had delivered both in time,
Whereas - is the correct word in the play. For some odd reason, editors of Hamlet have, historically, been inclined to change it. Horatio is being a touch legalistic again.
We expect that a whereas will be followed by a "therefore," a conclusion.
delivered - pronounced; uttered; reported. Horatio is speaking of how he verified what they had reported.
Form of the thing, each word made true and good;
There's that word thing applied to the Ghost, again, by Shakespeare.
The apparition comes; I knew your father,
The apparition comes - is the conclusion we've been watching for, after Horatio said "whereas."
I knew your father - I recognized your father, i.e. I was able to identify your father when I saw him. The point is not whether Horatio ever invited King Hamlet over for pizza and beer, but rather, Horatio's ability to recognize King Hamlet when he saw him. That is what Horatio is affirming.
The word "know" is from Old English 'cnāwan' ("recognize," "identify.")
These hands are not more like.
My hands are no more like each other than the apparition is like your father. The apparition was more like your father than my left hand is like my right.
Horatio holds his hands together (which gives a prayer position of the hands.) This is an instance of the Mirror Motif, from the action with the hands.
Hamlet: But where was this?
Hamlet's been told this happened while they were on watch, but of course Prince Hamlet doesn't keep track of duty assignments for the soldiers.
Marcellus: My Lord, upon the platform where we watch.
Marcellus, the military man in charge, replies to Hamlet.
platform - the first specification of the setting for Scene 1.
watch - keep watch.
Hamlet: Did you not speak to it?
Hamlet has already been told that Bernardo and Marcellus didn't speak to the Ghost, so this line is addressed to Horatio. Hamlet wonders, "did you also not speak to it, like Marcellus and Bernardo?"
Horatio: My Lord, I did,
Just a touch of stress on did.
But answer, it made none; yet once methought
methought - I thought. It appeared to me. It seemed to me.
It lifted up its head, and did address
It lifted up its head - indicates the Ghost had its head inclined downward. That would go along with the facial expression of sorrow Horatio will state.
It is a downcast posture, and a facial expression, with which Hamlet can sympathize. As this is described to Hamlet, it sounds like the Ghost is downcast, like him. This is pulling at Hamlet's emotions.
The description of the Ghost in this Scene is important for correct action of the Ghost in Scene 1.
address - direct. In Middle English address had the sense of "set," "guide," or "direct." Address is based on Latin 'ad-' ("toward") + 'directus.'
In combination with the next line, the meaning is and did address (Itself to motion) = and did direct itself toward motion.
Itself to motion like as it would speak,
motion - the motion was a raised index finger. Horatio should demonstrate that here, to Hamlet.
like as - as if. Literally, such as. A likeness is a "such."
But even then, the morning cock crew loud,
even then - just then.
morning cock - the cock associated with the morning is the rooster.
crew - is still an acceptable past tense of "crow" in British English.
And at the sound it shrunk in haste away,
shrunk - departed; left. Withdrew. The word shrunk is virtually literal in that objects appear smaller as they become farther away. Shrunk also suggests drawing back, recoiling, which was indeed the Ghost's behavior, in response to the rooster.
And vanished from our sight.
It vanished into the darkness, that is, and not because it became too small to see. Of course Hamlet has been informed this was at night.
Hamlet: 'Tis very strange.
Precisely Horatio's sentiment in Scene 1 (Scene 1#073 "'Tis strange.")
Horatio: As I do live, my honored Lord, 'tis true,
As I do live - best played with a hand to the heart.
And we did think it writ down in our duty
duty - however, the military men, Bernardo and Marcellus, owe their highest duty to Claudius. They don't seem at all inclined to approach him, and one cannot blame them.
It is interesting that they bring this to Hamlet as though he were the King.
To let you know of it.
Could the Ghost have anticipated this? If he were smart enough, he could, and diabolical enough.
Hamlet: Indeed; Indeed, sirs, but this troubles me;
As well it should.
troubles - the meaning in Shakespeare's time was much the same as now: "concerns;" "worries." Disturbs.
Hold you the watch tonight?
Hold - is another "seize" or "grasp" word, of which we've seen quite a few. Hamlet means "keep."
The word hold apparently has a "watch" meaning in its ancient ancestry; hold seems to be from a Proto-Germanic word that could mean "watch over." The approximate ancient sense of hold is preserved in the word "behold." Shakespeare knew "behold" and he had to observe that the hold part meant watching something.
(All): We do, my Lord.
(All) - in fact, Horatio does not, he's still a civilian. The watch is not actually his duty. But Horatio is into it now, so he responds along with the sentinels. As far as "watch duty" for the Ghost goes, Horatio has "joined the army."
When Horatio replies, along with them, Marcellus and Bernardo give him a smile. They don't object, they want him along.
Hamlet: Armed, say you?
The armor is indeed a curious point.
(All): Armed, my Lord.
Horatio will probably provide Hamlet more detail later, including what Horatio said about that particular armor. Hamlet may or may not realize it implies hostility with Norway.
Hamlet: From top to toe?
From top to toe? - Completely?
Hamlet will speak of the armor as "complete steel" in Scene 4, so we know what paraphrase to use here.
(All): My Lord, from head to foot.
Repeating the earlier "cap-a-pe" in plain English.
Hamlet: Then saw you not his face.
Good point. Clearly, Hamlet is thinking carefully about all this.
Horatio: Oh, yes, my Lord, he wore his beaver up.
beaver - face guard. From Middle English 'bavier,' which is from Old French 'baviere' (originally, "a child's bib.") The 'bavier' and the 'viser' were originally much different pieces, but helmet design changed, so the term beaver could be used for a movable face guard. Some helmets of the Renaissance era were made so that lifting the face guard would open the entire front of the helmet.
We know from this that the Ghost wanted to be certain it was identified as King Hamlet.
Hamlet: What looked he, frowningly?
frowningly? - Hamlet can't imagine his father would be pleased by the events following his death.
Horatio: A countenance more in sorrow than in anger.
more in sorrow than in anger - Hamlet can relate to this. Horatio may mention the Ghost's brief frown when he talks to Hamlet later, the Ghost's frown just after Horatio said, "by Heaven."
We are informed that for the most part, the Ghost's facial expression was one of sorrow. Also, by the above, line 223, the position of the Ghost's head was at least somewhat downcast. Thus, that is the correct way to play the Ghost on stage, of course.
Walking slowly, downcast, sorrowful. Hamlet finds nothing threatening in what he hears. It doesn't sound threatening in the least.
When one fishes, one strives to present the lure in a non-threatening way. Just a thought.
Hamlet: Pale, or red?
After asking about the facial expression overall, Hamlet is now asking about the eyes in particular. The eyes are an extremely important part of facial expression.
By "pale" Hamlet means wide eyes, that show the whites. By "red" he means squinty, angry eyes, as might be seen when the eyes are sore and bloodshot, or when a person is in a hostile mood.
There are other things that might be pale, or red. Hamlet is only asking about the Ghost's eyes.
Horatio: Nay, very pale.
Nay - not red.
very pale. - The Ghost was very wide eyed, so the whites of his eyes showed well. This is what one would expect to go along with a sorrowful facial expression.
Had Horatio been speaking of something else, we'd have our answer to that, also. Pale. Very pale.
Hamlet: And fixed his eyes upon you?
Hamlet is asking for evidence that the Ghost was aware of the men's presence, also, that Horatio did get a good look at the eyes.
Horatio: Most constantly.
constantly - steadily. Steadfastly. "Unwaveringly," as I paraphrase it. "Purposefully" would be a suitable paraphrase, as well.
The Ghost's gaze was steady, not shifty, and it looked right at him.
Hamlet: I would I had been there.
would - wish. An expression of desire. The concept of desire runs through the play, just as it runs through our lives.
Horatio: It would have much amazed you.
amazed - astonished. Perplexed. "Dumbfounded" would be a possible paraphrase because of the Ghost leaving the men speechless, at first. However, it will not dumbfound Hamlet, he will immediately find words to speak to it, as we shall see.
Hamlet: Very like, very like; stayed it long?
Very like, very like - Hamlet is pondering all this, the way he ponders things.
stayed it long? - did it remain very long? Was it present for very long?
Horatio: While one, with moderate haste, might tell a hundredth.
with moderate haste - fairly fast.
tell - count. Tell is from Old English 'tellan' which was used to mean "relate" or "count" or "estimate." In Shakespeare's day the meaning of "count" was still understood, but the "relate" meaning of tell is dominant, now.
hundredth - is the correct word. In general counting, to one hundred, one stops when one has told (assigned a number to) the hundredth item. This informs us that Shakespeare had a good technical understanding of arithmetic; his word usage was spot on. Horatio is saying that the Ghost was present long enough that he could have counted to the hundredth second that went by, or perhaps, to the hundredth heartbeat.
(Marcellus and Bernardo, both): Longer, longer.
It is correct that the total length of time the Ghost was seen was more than a hundred seconds, or a hundred heartbeats. So, the sentinels interject.
Horatio: Not when I saw it.
Horatio and the sentinels are talking about two different things. Horatio is talking about when the Ghost walked by, with the men only watching, as happened the first time he saw it. There's a bit of miscommunication, that the men may get sorted out later, or not. It's a very minor point.
Quite a lot of miscommunication happens in Hamlet, just as in life.
The reader must not imagine, that because scholars who have worked on Hamlet for centuries can figure out what most of the lines mean, the characters always understand each other perfectly, as they hear the lines go by at conversational speed. No such thing. They do not always understand each other. There is miscommunication in Hamlet, and even some severe and tragic misunderstandings.
This instance of miscommunication / misunderstanding is trivial. Some others are not.
Hamlet: His beard was grizzled, no?
grizzled - dark with white or gray mixed in. "Grizzle" goes back to Middle English, from the French 'gris' ("gray.")
That's how Hamlet saw his father's beard at the funeral, when they bore King Hamlet "bare-faced on the bier."
Horatio: It was as I have seen it in his life:
As Horatio mentioned at line 189, he saw King Hamlet in person once.
A sable, silvered.
sable, silvered - silvered sable. The phrase is a poetic inversion. Horatio is agreeing with Hamlet, while being more specific.
We are now informed both that the Ghost does have a beard, and that the base color of the beard is black, but it has an obvious admixture of silver hairs, which would of course go along with aging.
Hamlet: I will watch 'to nigh',
to nigh - as originally printed in the Second Quarto of Hamlet. See the image. For plain reading, it is certainly supposed to be the word "tonight."
However, since nigh means "near," the exact original printing can be seen to suggest Hamlet will get "too near" the Ghost. I therefore preserve the original form in the dialogue, since it could be Shakespeare's exact phrasing done in order to provide the "too near" interpretation.
Perchance 'twill wake again.
Perchance - maybe. An instance of the Fortune Theme.
wake - awaken, from the "sleep" of death. Be active.
Horatio: I warrant it will.
Horatio knows of no reason the Ghost should stop appearing.
There is some tongue-in-cheek in this line, from Shakespeare. It would take divine intervention to stop the Ghost from appearing to Hamlet, since the Ghost is necessary for the play to continue.
Hamlet: If it assume my noble father's person
If it - should it; if it should happen to.
assume - take on. Assume is, at root, a "take" word. Latin 'assumere' = 'ad-' ("toward") + 'sumere' ("take.") An assumption can be valid, or invalid, as we know. Hamlet has already spoken, pointedly, of "false shows."
person - the appearance of the person; the way the person looks. The "show" of the person.
I'll speak to it, though hell, itself, should gape,
gape - yawn, in the sense of opening the mouth wide. Like speaking of a yawning pit. The idea of "yawn," in this context, suggests in turn, once again, the "sleep of death," or that is, being close to the sleep of death.
though hell, itself, should gape - a reference to Hellmouth, which is an old idea of the entry to Hell being like the great mouth of a horrible beast. The imagery apparently originated in Anglo-Saxon art in Medieval times, and then spread through western culture.
The image at right is of Jesus "harrowing Hell" in a 13th century picture that includes Hellmouth. (Jesus's "Harrowing of Hell" is a legendary descent he made into Hell to rescue souls.)
And bid me hold my peace; I pray you all,
(I'll speak to it, though hell, itself, should ...) bid me hold my peace - well of course Hamlet wouldn't obey any orders from Hell.
If you have hitherto concealed this sight,
hitherto - up until now.
concealed - kept secret. "Conceal" is from Latin 'con-' ("completely") + 'celare' ("hide.")
Let it be tenable in your silence, still;
tenable - held. It's yet another "hold" word. A tenancy is a "holding." Tenable is from French 'tenir' ("to hold.") In context, referring to a secret, the paraphrase for be tenable is "be kept."
And whatsomever else shall hap' tonight,
Hamlet is being sweeping in his instructions. He expects more than that he, and they, will simply see the Ghost, and that's all that will happen.
Give it an understanding, but no tongue;
In action, Hamlet best plays this by sticking out his tongue at Horatio, just after Hamlet says "tongue." That is not pointless frivolity. Recall how Horatio entered to Hamlet. Now Hamlet gets just a little bit of teasing payback, 'nyah!" Shakespeare wrote "tongue," so, play it.
I will requite your loves, so fare you well;
requite - from a root meaning of "quit." Things are "quits" when it's all even. Hamlet is acknowledging that he is indebted to them, and he is pledging to return the favor, to repay the favor, and make it "quits." In Middle English, "quit" was used in the sense of "set free." Simple gloss is "reward" or "repay."
loves - friendship, and certainly not excluding the idea of loyalty.
so fare you well - however much Hamlet might like to talk more with Horatio, he recognizes that Horatio is very tired and sleepy, and Hamlet is polite enough to let further conversation wait until later.
Upon the platform, 'twixt eleven and twelve,
'twixt eleven and twelve - Hamlet takes it that when Horatio earlier spoke of the "middle" of the night he meant midnight. That is correct. (In case the question ever arises of how Hamlet knew the time when he needed to be there.)
I'll visit you.
visit - is a "see" word, from Latin 'visitare' ("go to see,") from 'videre' ("to see.") An instance of the Vision Motif.
(All): Our duty to your honor.
Another explicit instance of the Duty Theme. The men all express duty, albeit, their leave-taking is formal.
(Horatio, Marcellus and Bernardo proceed to their exits)
The men depart to get some much-needed sleep.
Marcellus and Bernardo, especially Marcellus, will arrange to accommodate Horatio at the Castle. Hamlet was so diverted by hearing of the Ghost, it didn't occur to him that Horatio might need a place to stay, at the Castle. Hamlet will think of that later. Nobody can think of everything at once.
It is ironic, however, ahead of Hamlet's lecture of Polonius, in Scene 7, about ensuring the Players are well housed. (Scene 7 line 501) Here, Hamlet didn't think of that for Horatio.
Hamlet: Your loves, as mine to you, farewell;
This line seems to be universally misunderstood in the historical Hamlet commentary.
Servants, or lower class persons, have "duty" to a Prince, and that applies especially to the military personnel, Barnardo and Marcellus. Duty extends from a subordinate to a superior. The others were correct to express duty to their Prince, Hamlet. It's an affirmation of loyalty, an expression of their relationship.
When Hamlet expresses "love" in reply to their "duty" he is using the correct word, with acknowledgment of the respective social status. It would be improper for Hamlet to express "duty" to them. A Lord "loves" his people. Hamlet further extends his expression of "love" to recognize personal friendship, which is quite correct for him to express.
The same pattern of language is seen in the religious context, where a god is said to "love" his people, and the people, in turn, have "duty" to obey their god. Indeed, the more dutiful the people are to their god, the warmer and more intimate the relationship with the god is supposed to become. The English class terms are not much different from religious terms, a fact of significance in Hamlet, to the point one can't tell the difference, sometimes.
Hamlet uses the word "love" in a general way, in the play, to mean not only romantic affection, but also good family feelings, and good friendship.
My father's spirit (in arms;) all is not well;
My father's spirit - Hamlet is pondering the idea, not drawing a final conclusion. He is taking it as a premise.
all is not well - anything so out of the ordinary would lead a person to suspect a problem, and an unusual one.
I doubt some foul play; would the night were come,
doubt - suspect.
some foul play - some offense; some offensive act. A tongue-in-cheek intimation, self deprecating, from the playwright is not at all out of the question.
'Til then, sit still, my soul; fond deeds will rise
sit still - be quiet; be at peace. Be patient.
sit still, my soul - has an amusing undertone of "don't go wandering around, outside my body, like I just heard my father's spirit may be doing."
fond deeds - foolish deeds. Follies. (It is nothing but strange that Hamlet editors, historically, have used the First Folio word "foule" in this line, even though it is such a blatant printing error.)
Though all the earth o'erwhelm them to men's eyes.
A late Medieval, or early Renaissance meaning of overwhelm was "to submerge completely." Overwhelm can still mean, "to bury completely."
With much to think about, and to discover, later, that his attempts to contact Ophelia are rebuffed.
See Interscene 2 - 3 for a description of events between Scenes 2 and 3.
Go to: Scene 1 - Scene 2 - Scene 3 - Scene 4 - Scene 5 - Scene 6 - Scene 7 - Scene 8 - Scene 9 - Scene 10
Scene 11 - Scene 12 - Scene 13 - Scene 14 - Scene 15 - Scene 16 - Scene 17 - Scene 18 - Scene 19 - Scene 20
© 2014 Jeffrey Paul Jordan
All rights reserved. See the Copyright page for further information.