Scene 4

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Synopsis

Hamlet, Horatio, and Marcellus arrive at the sentinel post on the platform, soon after midnight. They're startled by an abrupt noise of cannon fire, while Claudius celebrates. Hamlet criticizes such behavior, and speaks of why some men do foolish things.

The Ghost appears, and beckons to Hamlet. After argument with Horatio and Marcellus, Hamlet follows the Ghost into the darkness, alone. Horatio and Marcellus hesitate, then decide to follow after Hamlet.

Characters

The Scene 4 Characters are: Hamlet, Horatio, Marcellus, Ghost.

Passage Links

Ghost entry #040-SD

Jump down to the Notes.


Dialogue

Scene 4      [~ Rotten in Denmark ~]      (Act 1 Scene 4)

#04-Setting: the guard post at the platform;
            Just after midnight;
            The sky is partly cloudy, the moon shows intermittently.

#04-000-SD  (Hamlet, Horatio and Marcellus enter)

#04-001  Hamlet:  The air bites shroudly, is it very cold?
                        The air enwraps me like a death shroud, does it seem so very cold to you?
#04-002  Horatio:  It is nipping, and an eager air.
                        It's nippy, and the air is sourly unpleasant.
#04-003  Hamlet:  What hour now?
                        What time is it?
#04-004  Horatio:  I think it lacks of twelve.
                        I don't think it's twelve o'clock yet.
#04-005  Marcellus:  No, it is struck.
                        No, the midnight bell has already struck.
#04-006  Horatio:  Indeed, I heard it not; it then draws near the season
                        Oh, I didn't hear it.  Then it's getting close to the time
#04-007        Wherein the spirit held his wont to walk.
                        When the ghost has been inclined to walk by.

#04-007-SD  (trumpets and drums sound; cannons fire)

(Horatio continues):
#04-008        What does this mean, my Lord?
                        What does all that sudden noise mean, my Lord?
#04-009  Hamlet:  The King doth wake tonight, and takes his rouse;
                        The King is up late tonight, and carousing.
#04-010        Keeps wassail, and the swaggering upspring reels;
                        He toasts, and the overbearing upwell of noise is staggering.
#04-011        And as he drains his drafts of Rhenish down,
                        As he drinks down his mugs of Rhenish wine,
#04-012        The kettle drum and trumpet thus bray out
                        He has the kettle drums boom, and the trumpets blare, like that, to sound
#04-013        The triumph of his pledge.
                        The public display of his toasts.
#04-014  Horatio:  Is it a custom?
                        Is that a custom here at the Castle?
#04-015  Hamlet:  Aye, marry, is't,
                        Yes, goodness, it is.
#04-016        But to my mind, though I am native here,
                        But in my opinion - although I was born here at the castle
#04-017        And to the manner born, it is a custom
                        And inherited the royal way of doing things - it's a custom
#04-018        More honored in the breach than the observance;
                        That brings more honor when it isn't done, than when it's observed.
#04-019        This heavy-headed 'reveal', east and west,
                        This disclosure of stupidity, heard both east and west,
#04-020        Makes us traduced and taxed of other nations;
                        Defames us, and burdens our reputation among nations.
#04-021        They clepe us drunkards, and with swinish phrase
                        They call us drunkards, and by using the term "pig," they
#04-022        Soil our addition, and indeed, it takes
                        Besmirch our designation, and indeed, it detracts
#04-023        From our achievements; though performed at height:
                        From our attainments.  Although, when celebration is done at the height of accomplishment,
#04-024        The pith and marrow of our attribute;
                        It's essential and intrinsic to our character as a people.
#04-025        So oft' it chances in particular men,
                        It happens so often, in certain men,
#04-026        That for some vicious mole of nature in them,
                        That because of some immoral flaw of personality in them,
#04-027        As in their birth wherein they are not guilty,
                        As they may have from birth, so they're not personally to blame,
#04-028        (Since nature cannot choose his origin,)
                        (Since no living man can choose his own origin,)
#04-029        By their o'ergrowth of some complexion
                        They have an overdevelopment of some natural tendency, which,
#04-030        Oft' breaking down the pales and forts of reason,
                        Often breaking through the boundaries and defenses of good sense -
#04-031        Or, by some habit, that too much o'erleavens
                        Or, because of some personal habit, that expands too much beyond
#04-032        The form of plausive manners, that these men
                        The standards of praiseworthy behavior - that these men
#04-033        Carrying, I say, the stamp of one defect
                        Who carry, as I said, the mark of that one defect,
#04-034        Being nature's livery, or fortune's star,
                        (Whether the defect is in how nature "clothed" them, or where fortune led them,) but
#04-035        His virtues else, be they as pure as grace,
                        With virtues otherwise as pure as grace, itself, and
#04-036        As infinite as man may undergo,
                        As boundless as any man can experience,
#04-037        Shall in the general censure take corruption
                        Will, in the eyes of the public, be judged as corrupt
#04-038        From that particular fault; the dram of 'eale'
                        Because of that single fault.  The small amount that's contemptible
#04-039        Doth all the noble substance of a doubt,
                        Places all his noble qualities under suspicion,
#04-040        To his own scandal.
                        To his own discredit.

#04-040-SD  (the Ghost enters)

#04-041  Horatio:  Look, my Lord, it comes!
                        Look, my Lord, here it comes!
#04-042  Hamlet:  Angels and ministers of grace, defend us!
                        Angels, and other servants of God, protect us!
#04-043        Be thou a spirit of health, or goblin damned?
                        Are you a wholesome spirit, or a damned goblin?
#04-044        Bring with thee airs from Heaven, or blasts from Hell?
                        Do you bring with you sweet airs from Heaven, or foul blasts from Hell?
#04-045        Be thy intents wicked, or charitable?
                        Are your intentions evil, or kindly?
#04-046        Thou comest in such a questionable shape
                        You come in a shape that raises so many questions
#04-047        That I will speak to thee; I'll call thee Hamlet,
                        That I will speak to you.  I will call you Hamlet,
#04-048        King, father, royal Dane!  Oh, answer me,
                        King, father, royal Dane.  Oh, answer me,
#04-049        Let me not burst in ignorance, but tell
                        Let me not burst with curiosity, but tell me
#04-050        Why thy canonized bones, hearsed in death,
                        Why your blessed remains, that were carried off in death,
#04-051        Have burst their cerements?  Why the sepulcher,
                        Have burst out of their burial shrouds.  Why has the sepulcher
#04-052        Wherein we saw thee quietly enurned,
                        In which we saw you peacefully entombed
#04-053        Hath op'd his ponderous and marble jaws
                        Opened its massive marble doors
#04-054        To cast thee up again?  What may this mean
                        To send you out again?  What can this mean
#04-055        That thou dead corpse, again in complete steel,
                        That your dead body, again in a complete suit of armor,
#04-056        Revisits thus the glimpses of the moon,
                        Revisits, in such a way, the glimmering moonlight,
#04-057        Making night hideous, and we fools of nature
                        Making the night frightful, and making us living fools
#04-058        So horridly to shake our disposition
                        So hair-raisingly to shudder in our states of mind,
#04-059        With thoughts beyond the reaches of our souls?
                        As our thoughts go beyond the limits of our own spirits?
#04-060        Say why is this, wherefore, what should we do?
                        Tell why this has happened, to what end, and what should we do?

#04-060-SD  (the Ghost beckons to Hamlet)

#04-061  Horatio:  It beckons you to go away with it,
                        It beckons you to go with it,
#04-062        As if it some impartment did desire
                        As if it wanted to tell something
#04-063        To you alone.
                        To you, alone.
#04-064  Marcellus:  Look with what courteous action
                        Look how politely
#04-065        It wafts you to a more removed ground;
                        It waves you toward some more distant area.
#04-066        But do not go with it.
                        But don't go with it.
#04-067  Horatio:  No, by no means.
                        No, by no means!
#04-068  Hamlet:  It will not speak, then will I follow it.
                        It will not speak here, so, should I follow it . . .
#04-069  Horatio:  Do not, my Lord!
                        Don't do it, my Lord!
#04-070  Hamlet:  Why, what should be the fear?
                        Why not, why should I be afraid?
#04-071        I do not set my life at a pin's fee,
                        I don't value my life at the cost of a pin.
#04-072        And for my soul, what can it do to that,
                        And as for my soul, what could it do to that,
#04-073        Being a thing immortal as itself?
                        Since my soul is a thing as immortal as it is?
#04-074        It waves me forth, again; I'll follow it.
                        It waves for me to follow, again. I'll follow it.
#04-075  Horatio:  What if it tempt you toward the flood, my Lord,
                        What if it lures you toward the flooding tide, my Lord?
#04-076        Or to the dreadful sonnet of the cliff
                        Or to the awe-inspiring siren song of the cliff
#04-077        That beetles o'er his base into the sea,
                        That extends out above the sea,
#04-078        And there assumes some other horrible form
                        And there assumes some other shape, a horrible one,
#04-079        Which might deprive your sovereignty of reason
                        Which might take away your control of your own rational mind
#04-080        And draw you into madness?  Think of it;
                        And lead you into doing something mad?  Think of that cliff;
#04-081        The very place puts toys of desperation,
                        Just being at that place puts idle thoughts of jumping, even
#04-082        Without any motive, into every brain
                        Without any reason, into everyone
#04-083        That looks so many fathoms to the sea
                        Who looks so far down to the ocean,
#04-084        And hears it roar beneath.
                        And hears the waves roaring below.
#04-085  Hamlet:  It waves me still;
                        It still waves to me.
#04-086        Go on, I'll follow thee.
                        Lead on, I'll follow you.
#04-087  Marcellus:  You shall not go, my Lord.
                        You shall not go, my Lord.
#04-088  Hamlet:  Hold off your hands!
                        Remove your hands from me!
#04-089  Horatio:  Be ruled, you shall not go!
                        Obey us, you shall not go!
#04-090  Hamlet:  My fate cries out,
                        My destiny calls out to me,
#04-091        And makes each petty arture in this body
                        And makes each little joint in my body
#04-092        As hardy as the Nemean lion's nerve;
                        As tough as the Nemean lion's sinews.
#04-093        Still am I called; unhand me, gentlemen;
                        It still beckons me.  Release me, gentlemen!
#04-094        By Heaven, I'll make a ghost of him that lets me;
                        By God, I'll make a ghost of the man who obstructs me!
#04-095        I say, away!  Go on, I'll follow thee.
                        Get away from me, I say!  Go on, Ghost, I'll follow you.

#04-095-SD  (the Ghost and Hamlet exit)

#04-096  Horatio:  He waxes desperate with imagion.
                        He grows desperate as a result of the image.
#04-097  Marcellus:  Let's follow, 'tis not fit thus to obey him.
                        Let's follow, it isn't proper to obey him.
#04-098  Horatio:  Have after; to what issue will this come?
                        Let's go!  To what result will this lead?
#04-099  Marcellus:  Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.
                        I smell death in the state of Denmark.
#04-100  Horatio:  Heaven will direct it.
                        God will guide it.
#04-101  Marcellus:  Nay, let's follow him.
                        There's no time to pray, let's follow him.

#04-101-SD  (Horatio and Marcellus exit)

End of Scene 4

Scene Links

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


Notes

Jump up to the start of the Dialogue.

04-Setting
the Kronborg Castle platform, actually Flag Bastion
  • Place - The platform. We know that because it was explicit in the dialogue.
  • Time of Day - Explicitly from just after midnight until dawn. In time of day, this Scene corresponds closely to the time, and duration, of Scene 1.
  • Weather - Hamlet will mention "glimpses of the moon," which implies the moon is not full; see the Note for line 056. No rain is mentioned, no wind is mentioned. There might be a light overcast, to dim the moonlight, but thinking about that is probably too meteorological.
  • Calendar Time - Day two of the administration of King Claudius.

Return: #Setting - or - Set Decoration

04-000-SD

(Hamlet, Horatio and Marcellus enter)

Bernardo is not present. We will soon hear the cannons fire. Bernardo has probably been reassigned to cannon duty, since he was already on night duty, and that may be to his disappointment, or it may not, after we saw how much the Ghost was troubling him. It takes someone to fire the cannons, of course.

The actual order of arrival at the platform is apparently different from the simple stage direction to begin the Scene. Marcellus arrives first, and relieves Francisco. Then, in a bit, Hamlet and Horatio arrive, and the Scene begins. So it appears, from the dialogue, and from the simple fact we don't see Francisco this time.

Return: #000-SD

04-001
The Second Quarto word "shroudly"

Hamlet: The air bites shroudly, is it very cold?

bites - envelops; enwraps. When you bite something, you envelop it, or enwrap it, in your mouth. Here, enwraps is probably the best for paraphrase.

shroudly - like a shroud (of death.) This word is a Shakespeare coinage. There's no doubt it's the word from Shakespeare's hand, since it is such a perfect word to begin this Scene where Hamlet will see the Ghost, and where Hamlet will speak of cerements (cerecloth) which is the cloth used for wrapping a corpse. Hamlet has on his mind the trappings of death.

In action, Hamlet wraps his cloak around himself, of course.

is it very cold? - Hamlet is asking Horatio if it seems as cold to Horatio as it does to him. We see in the play that Hamlet tends to turn to Horatio for verification. Hamlet is aware that there are other reasons than temperature for why he might feel so shivery. Hamlet wants to know, is it just me?

Return: #001 - or - Extended Note - or - Folio Difference

04-002
"eager" in the Century Dictionary

Horatio: It is nipping, and an eager air.

nipping - nippy. Jack Frost is nipping at his nose. Horatio is not saying it's all that cold, but yes, the cold is easily noticeable.

an eager air - sourly unpleasant. Horatio is not commenting on the temperature again, he is remarking that the air has a sharply sour smell.

Later in the Scene, Hamlet will ask the Ghost if it brings "airs from Heaven, or blasts from Hell." Going by what Horatio says here, the air is not sweet.

Return: #002

04-003

Hamlet: What hour now?

hour - time. Hamlet means a bit more than just asking the time, on the rule that there are different hours for doing different things. He wants to know how close the "Ghost's hour" is. So to speak. Is it the Ghost's hour yet?

Return: #003

04-004

Horatio: I think it lacks of twelve.

it lacks of - it is not quite.

Return: #004

04-005

Marcellus: No, it is struck.

Marcellus, the military man, is keeping track of the time. He knows it's after twelve because he relieved Francisco at midnight.

We take it Marcellus arrived first, to relieve Francisco, then Hamlet and Horatio arrived a bit late. They were talking, and let the time get away from them a little. Happens every day.

Return: #005

04-006

Horatio: Indeed, I heard it not; it then draws near the season

I heard it not - Hamlet and Horatio were probably still indoors, talking, when the bell rang.

it then draws near - this phrase implies the Ghost now drawing near, in addition to what the Horatio character, himself, is saying. He's talking about the time approaching. Simultaneously, the time for the Ghost is approaching, and the Ghost is approaching.

the season - the time. One again, the concept being there is a season for everything.

Return: #006

04-007

Wherein the spirit held his wont to walk.

wont - personal custom; personal habit.

It's ironic, and amusing, to hear Horatio speaking of the Ghost's habits, after he was so skeptical of its existence earlier.

Return: #007

04-007-SD

(trumpets and drums sound; cannons fire) - very loudly.

The noise could wake the dead. As they say.

Return: #007-SD

04-008

What does this mean, my Lord?

Last night there was the talk, between Horatio and the sentinels, of the possibility of war, and now it sounds like one. That's why Horatio is questioning Hamlet. Horatio hasn't been informed about the King's scheduled carousing.

If Horatio didn't know about it, neither did the people in town, or across the nearby countryside. How are they going to like that sudden blast of cannon fire? Elsinore Town is quite close to the Castle.

You're a working man in the town, getting a good night's sleep, because you have to get up and work tomorrow, and suddenly, without any warning, totally to your surprise, BOOM! Will you like that?

Later in the play, Laertes will find enough men in the town to follow him, that they take the Castle. One gets a hint of why that could happen.

Return: #008

04-009

Hamlet: The King doth wake tonight, and takes his rouse;

The King doth wake tonight - Hamlet means Claudius, but the same could be said about something else, at least as far as what it looks like.

Hamlet makes that statement just after the noise that could "wake the dead."

Return: #009

04-010

Keeps wassail, and the swaggering upspring reels;

Keeps - observes. Observes the custom of.

wassail - a drinking ceremony. Ceremonial drinking.

the swaggering upspring reels - is a word puzzle. It has two identifiable, relevant meanings (at least.)

  • First,

swaggering = overbearing
upspring = upwelling, of noise ("repercussion" is a proper paraphrase; "upshot" would also do)
reels = staggers, a person.

Hamlet means the overbearing repercussion, from Claudius's carousing, is staggering to those who hear it.

  • Second,

swaggering = arrogant
upspring = upstart
reels = staggers with drunkenness.

For this, Hamlet means the arrogant upstart, Claudius, is staggering with drunkenness.

Both meanings apply, at the same time.

Altogether, Hamlet is saying that the arrogant upstart Claudius is staggering with drunkenness, and also, the overbearing repercussion of Claudius's celebration is staggering to him, and Horatio and Marcellus. There's staggering all around, both Claudius's staggering, from getting drunk, and their staggering, from the noise of Claudius getting drunk. Shakespeare arranged the phrasing to provide both meanings.

Return: #010

04-011

And as he drains his drafts of Rhenish down,

Rhenish - Rhine wine.

Return: #011

04-012

The kettle drum and trumpet thus bray out

bray out - Hamlet is casting Claudius as a jackass, who is using the noise makers to "bray."

Return: #012

04-013

The triumph of his pledge.

triumph - public display. "Show." It's an instance of the Show Theme. The meaning comes from the ancient Roman practice of celebrating victory with a public procession. There's a hint of resentment from Hamlet here, in that Claudius's "victory" is a victory, such as it is, over Hamlet's desire to return to Wittenberg.

pledge - toast, to a person's health. A double meaning can be found, in that pledge in Middle English could denote a person who acted as surety for another, a "surety" being one who took responsibility for someone else. Here, Claudius is doing that, he is taking responsibility for someone else. Hamlet stayed at Elsinore at Gertrude's request. With his celebration, Claudius is pretending it's his achievement, that Hamlet stayed. So, Claudius is "taking responsibility" for (in place of) someone else, Gertrude. Thus, in addition to the "toast" meaning, pledge can also be read as Claudius taking responsibility for something that is not his own.

Return: #013

04-014

Horatio: Is it a custom?

Horatio means, here at the Castle. Horatio is from a different part of Denmark, and is unfamiliar with the King's rouse at the capital. The average inn in Denmark will not have cannons to fire as the patrons imbibe.

Return: #014

04-015

Hamlet: Aye, marry, is't,

marry - by the Virgin Mary. A mild oath, little stronger than saying "golly." It context, it's also like Hamlet saying, "heaven help us."

Return: #015

04-016

But to my mind, though I am native here,

to my mind - in my opinion; in my view. One can compare Hamlet's famous "To be" speech, where he considers what is "nobler in the mind."

I am native here - Hamlet means he was born at the royal Castle. It's his native, natural, home.

Return: #016

04-017

And to the manner born, it is a custom

to the manner born - born into the royal way of doing things, as part of his cultural inheritance, and his status.

There is a pun with "manor" = a lord's estate.

Return: #017

04-018

More honored in the breach than the observance;

breach - not engaging in the custom.

Hamlet is saying that, to preserve the honor of the custom, it should be observed rarely. Try to make every day a holiday, and what you'll end up with, is that no day is any real holiday.

Return: #018

04-019
"reveal" in the Second Quarto

This heavy-headed 'reveal', east and west,

heavy-headed - dull witted. Stupid.

reveal - is the (modernized) spelling in the Second Quarto. For plain reading, the word would apparently be "revel." However, the word reveal can be interpreted as referring to a disclosure. Then, a heavy-headed reveal, east and west can be understood as a stupid disclosure, all around, that the King is a jackass. So I am inclined to think Shakespeare did intend the word "reveal," with that understanding. "Revel" is probably an intended implication, for secondary meaning. It's probably another deliberate double meaning, from Shakespeare.

As the primary meaning, I take it, this heavy-headed reveal = this disclosure of stupidity.

east and west - all around. Particularly, to the west is the body of Denmark, and to the east is the fictional Norway. By that, the phrase can be understood as meaning, "both here in Denmark and abroad."

Return: #019

04-020

Makes us traduced and taxed of other nations;

traduced - exposed to ridicule. From Latin 'traducere' ("expose.") The English word exposé, from the French, is a related word, via the Latin root meaning. "Defamed" is a suitable paraphrase. There is a Talk / gossip / slander Motif in the play.

taxed - burdened. There is a repeated concept of "burden" in the play, which can be considered a Motif. (For a more express example, in Scene 8 Hamlet will ask, "who would fardels bear?") It's also possible to understand taxed of as "censured by," since Latin 'taxare' can mean "censure." The word "tax" apparently goes back to Latin 'tangere' ("to touch,") which is worth mentioning because the concept of "touch" is important in the play.

of other nations - among other nations; by other nations.

Return: #020

04-021

They clepe us drunkards, and with swinish phrase

clepe - name. Call. From Middle English 'clepen' and back to Old English from there.

swinish phrase - "pig."

Return: #021

04-022
"addition" in the Century Dictionary

Soil our addition, and indeed, it takes

Soil - besmirch. Tarnish. Taint.

addition - designation. In particular, a designation that follows a proper name, as the image shows. Adding a "swinish phrase" to a proper name for Denmark produces "Danish pigs." That is Hamlet's complaint, as he addresses the consequences of Claudius's behavior.

Return: #022

04-023

From our achievements; though performed at height:

achievements - "achieve" is from a root of "chief." So the phrasing (it takes) From our achievements implies literally that it detracts from the "chief." In turn, that understanding means it make the King of Denmark look bad. Hamlet doesn't like it that Claudius is making the King of Denmark look bad, since that perception could reflect back on his father.

though performed at height: - although, when done at the height of achievement. Performed is another "show" word.

Return: #023

04-024
"attribute" in the Century Dictionary

The pith and marrow of our attribute;

pith - essence. Figuratively, "heart" (from the pith being at the center, or core.)

marrow - another way of saying essence. Marrow is associated with "essential strength."

So, pith and marrow - heart and strength. Or, it could be understood as the common phrase, "heart and soul."

our attribute - our reputation; our honor. Our characteristic quality.

Hamlet means, basically, that when such celebration is done for the right reason it expresses the heart and soul of the people, and adds to their honor, instead of taking away from it. But there is no national achievement for Claudius to be celebrating now.

Return: #024

04-025

So oft' it chances in particular men,

particular - certain; specific.

Return: #025

04-026

That for some vicious mole of nature in them,

vicious - a literal reference to vice. There is an implication of corruption. Hamlet sees Claudius as a corrupt man.

mole of nature' - flaw of personality. Mole as in a mole on a face, a flaw. Nature as in a person's individual human nature. Not all flaws are visible, some are within. A flaw within can be likened to a mole in the earth, thus there is a pun between two definitions of mole.

Return: #026

04-027

As in their birth wherein they are not guilty,

As in their birth - as present at their birth. A congenital feature.

not guilty - no person can be said to be "guilty" of how he was born.

One could ponder what Hamlet says in relation to the concept of Original Sin in Christian theology.

Return: #027

04-028

(Since nature cannot choose his origin,)

nature - a living man. This is a figure of speech, where the man's nature stands for the man, himself. It's a kind of synecdoche.

Return: #028

04-029

By their o'ergrowth of some complexion

o'ergrowth - overdevelopment.

complexion - combination of humors. The four humors were understood to be choleric, melancholic, phlegmatic, and sanguine. Those four humors, in however they combined, were supposed to account for a man's disposition.

Hamlet's point is that a man naturally predisposed to be sanguine can develop further that way to an unhealthy degree. Likewise, for the other humors.

Return: #029

04-030

Oft' breaking down the pales and forts of reason,

breaking down - breaking through.

pales and forts - boundaries and defenses.

of reason - of good sense. Of rationality. Of sanity. One keeps the Madness Theme in mind here.

The lines amount to saying that the overdevelopment of some tendency can break through the boundaries of sanity.

Return: #030

04-031

Or, by some habit, that too much o'erleavens

too much o'erleavens - expands too much. The figure of speech is based on the leavening of bread, to make it rise. The idea is of an expansion beyond what is desirable and proper.

Return: #031

04-032

The form of plausive manners, that these men

plausive - deserving of applause.

The form of plausive manners - the "shape" of manners that one can applaud. Form in the philosophy of Plato has reference to an ideal. That deserves mention since Hamlet will speak of philosophy in the next Scene.

So, one can take it as, the form of plausive manners = the ideal of good manners.

Return: #032

04-033

Carrying, I say, the stamp of one defect

stamp - mark. A suggestion of "seal."

the stamp of one defect - the mark of that one flaw. "Sealed" in terms of their fate, by that one flaw.

There is, perhaps, a little hint of the Mark of Cain, as Hamlet speaks of Claudius. It's a notion not to be taken too seriously, however.

Return: #033

04-034

Being nature's livery, or fortune's star,

nature's livery - the way nature has "clothed" a person. Livery is the costume of a servant. So this is reference to how a person "serves" his own nature, the nature he was born with.

fortune's star - from astrology, the idea of having a lucky star, or an unlucky one.

There is little to choose from between those. In either case, one's fate is determined by something other than oneself. The distinction is only technical. (Shakespeare knew that.) There's some satire on the academic discussion of "moot" points, which characterizes Hamlet's education at the university. Hamlet's philosophy is just about to get shaken...

Return: #034

04-035

His virtues else, be they as pure as grace,

virtues - good qualities.

else - otherwise.

pure - unflawed. No mole.

as pure as grace - as unflawed as the ideal of Grace, itself, with a capital-G. Blessed in every way (except that one little flaw.)

Return: #035

04-036

As infinite as man may undergo,

As infinite as man may undergo - as far-reaching as any man can experience. To undergo something is to experience it.

This is a "contrary" use of undergo, since it usually refers to bad experience, but Hamlet here uses it in speaking of being blessed (grace.) Albeit, those who are blessed do undergo experiences.

One interpretation of why the blessed must nevertheless undergo hardship, is that their faith is being tested. That observation is perhaps not off track. Hamlet is about to be severely tested.

The heavens above are infinite. When Hamlet says this line, he extends his arms, and swings them high, indicating the heavens above. The Ghost is about to come on, and the Ghost actor needs a visual cue for timing, in case he can't hear the dialogue on stage in that big Globe Theater, where they had no sound system. Hamlet's "infinite" overhead arm swing gives the Ghost his "ready" signal. The Ghost may look like the late King, but a late Ghost is unacceptable.

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04-037

Shall in the general censure take corruption

general censure - public judgment. Censure, from Latin 'censura' ("judgment.") General, people in general. General is from Latin 'genus' which refers to a class or kind. Thus, in reference to people, general means the entire class, or the entire kind, of people.

take corruption - receive a judgment of being corrupt. To take is to receive. The person receives a judgment of "corruption" from the public.

Take is from Old Norse 'taka' ("grasp," "lay hold of,") so it's another one of those "hold" or "seize" words, of which we've seen quite a few now.

At general censure Hamlet swings his arms wide, and rather high, as if embracing the entire people. It's another visual cue for the Ghost actor, to get his entry timing just right.

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04-038
The Second Quarto word "eale"
"ore-growth" in the Second Quarto
"ore-leavens" in the Second Quarto

From that particular fault; the dram of 'eale'

'From that particular fault - particular means "one;" Hamlet raises an index finger. The Ghost actor again receives visual information about where they are in the dialogue.

dram - small amount.

eale - evil. This actually is the word "evil," but spelled using the same technique as in changing "over" to "ore," a change which occurs more than thirty times in the original Second Quarto of Hamlet, and twice in this speech, as the images show.

The technique, in changing "over" to "ore," consists mostly of dropping the "v" and putting an "e" at the end. Simple enough. The internal "e" is also dropped.

In changing "evil" to eale the "v" was dropped, an "e" was put at the end, but then the vowels were adjusted for sound. By the pronunciation of Shakespeare's time, eale is pronounced like "ail," or "ale."

What I'm saying, is that it is probably another word puzzle, done deliberately for multiplicity of meaning.

Anyway, eale means "evil" for plain reading. That is the primary meaning, and it is probably a dialectical pronunciation of "evil."

If we keep going, by the Disease Motif, or the "trouble" concept that appears in the play, the "ail" pronunciation of eale can be considered. The dram of eale can then be viewed as a "dram" of what ails a person. In turn, that can be viewed as a dram of trouble, or a dram of disgrace within the "grace" mentioned, or a dram of disease in an otherwise healthy body...

...or a dram of poison added to a cup of wine. Now, there's a dram that would "ail" you. Hamlet earlier spoke of Claudius's "drafts of Rhenish." A dram of evil, or a dram of ail, in a draft of Rhenish, is an ominous idea in terms of the play. Hamlet doesn't know he's speaking ominously.

For now we can just call it "evil" and be glad the Ghost is almost here.

Return: #038

04-039

The "Doth all..." line in the Second Quarto

"do" in the Century Dictionary

Doth all the noble substance of a doubt,

Doth - puts. Places. See the Century Dictionary definition, and discussion, in the image.

noble - kingly. The word noble in general use refers to the aristocracy, or to being high minded, but Hamlet uses it to refer in particular to the King, or to being kingly.

substance - essential nature. Quality.

of a doubt - under suspicion. The phrasing of a doubt is an idiomatic, or dialectical, variant of "in doubt." "Constance was of a doubt as to Mr. Bluebeard's intentions" is the same as "Constance was in doubt as to..." Then in turn, for a person to be "in doubt" is for him to be under suspicion.

Altogether, Doth all the noble substance of a doubt = "Puts all the kingly quality under suspicion."

This line has stimulated an epic amount of discussion in the historical Hamlet commentary, with a glut of suggestions for what Shakespeare supposedly "really" wrote, but in fact, the line is interpretable exactly as it stands in the Second Quarto, leaving no good reason to suppose any mistake in the publication.

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04-040

To his own scandal.

scandal - disgrace. Discredit. Literally, "disgrace" may be what is meant, by contrast with the "grace" stated earlier. According to the Oxford Dictionary online, a Middle English sense of scandal was of a "discredit to religion (by the reprehensible behavior of a religious person.)" I use "discredit" in the paraphrase.

Return: #040

04-040-SD

(the Ghost enters) - walking, again. The fact that Horatio sees it first permits analysis of the positioning on stage. Since Horatio is looking at Hamlet, the Ghost is entering from behind Hamlet, for one thing.

In Scene 1, the Ghost entered from behind Bernardo when he was talking, and now the Ghost enters from behind Hamlet, while he's talking. It appears the Ghost likes coming up behind people, taking them unawares. One might see that as a devilish thing to do.

By the way, the Ghost's entry in this Scene follows line 40, while the Ghost's first entry in Scene 1 followed line 45. We are given to understand the beginning of this Scene is slightly later than that of Scene 1. How much later, in time of night, is the initial entry for this Scene as compared to Scene 1? Five lines. The precision of Shakespeare's line count is the stuff of which legends are made. Just thought I'd mention that.

Return: #040-SD

04-041

Horatio: Look, my Lord, it comes!

Horatio sees it first. As already mentioned, this provides staging information.

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04-042

Hamlet: Angels and ministers of grace, defend us!

ministers of grace - servants of God. Latin 'minister' ("servant.") It can also be taken as "ambassadors" of God. Shakespeare used minister several times in his writings to mean "ambassador." The idea of "ambassador" is significant in the play. God's ambassadors to earth are the clergy in general, and particularly the saints. "Saints preserve us" is a standard exclamation which expresses the same sentiment.

Hamlet is calling upon the forces of God, both in Heaven and on earth.

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04-043

Be thou a spirit of health, or goblin damned?

a spirit of health - a wholesome spirit; a heavenly spirit. Also, "friendly," as in drinking to one's health. We have just heard about, and just heard, Claudius's "healths." (Claudius's "healths" to Hamlet are not sincere, but ordinarily, drinking to one's health is a friendly act.) A healthy spirit is one which should not be feared, one which is not dangerous.

goblin damned - a hellish spirit; a spirit intent on mischief. The question is essentially between Heaven and Hell for the Ghost's origin.

Hamlet will later, in the next Scene, say "he's an arrant knave," and it is possible to read that as a followup to this question from Hamlet, although Hamlet, at that time, will apparently be speaking of Claudius.

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04-044

Bring with thee airs from Heaven, or blasts from Hell?

airs from Heaven - sweet airs. Compare the line in Sonnet 70: "A crow that flies in heaven's sweetest air." Sweet air is pure, and healthy. The "health" question continues. Also, the airs of Heaven are fair, as in standard remarks about "fair skies."

blasts from Hell - blighting gusts; or, pernicious influences. Foul winds; ill winds. The idea is that of disease, the opposite of healthiness. In his "witching time of night" speech in Scene 9, Hamlet will say, "When ... hell itself breathes out / Contagion to this world." A "blast from Hell" is a diseased gust, a foul gust, which is contagious.

The question is not unlike the contrast stated in the famous quotation from Macbeth: "Fair is foul, and foul is fair." Heaven is "fair," Hell is "foul."

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04-045

Be thy intents wicked, or charitable?

intents - intentions. Purposes.

wicked - evil. "Witchy." There is the subtle implication of an ability to cast spells.

charitable - expressive of Christian love. That's the Old English sense of "charity."

The First Folio has the word "events" in this line (instead of intents) which may, indeed, be Shakespeare's final choice for wording. "Event" has a Latin root meaning of "come out" which is in fact what the Ghost has done. The Latin can also be read in reverse, "out come," which raises the issue of what the Ghost will cause. A good argument can be made for the First Folio word. BOOKMARK for me, I may adopt the First Folio word here.

Return: #045 - or - Folio Difference

04-046

Thou comest in such a questionable shape

questionable shape - a shape that raises questions. Also, since the Ghost is in human form, a shape capable of being questioned. There's ambiguity, as usual; one need not dwell on it, here.

Return: #046

04-047

That I will speak to thee; I'll call thee Hamlet,

I will speak to thee - Hamlet now finds himself in Horatio's shoes. Hamlet is somewhat better prepared than Horatio was.

Hamlet decides to address the apparition under the assumption that it's a manifestation of King Hamlet. He hopes it is.

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04-048

(I'll call thee Hamlet,) King, father, royal Dane - none of which is unambiguous.

Hamlet - that is Hamlet's name, too.

King - that is now Claudius.

father - by adoption, that is now Claudius.

Royal Dane - same thing again, that is now Claudius.

So... what the heck to call the Ghost, that is specific to it, in particular? There's nothing. Even if one takes the Ghost to be the spirit of King Hamlet, the Ghost has no unique designation that Hamlet can think of, offhand. It baffles Hamlet, who proceeds anyway. This hints of Shakespeare having a bit of fun here, with the ambiguity he wrote into the play. Shakespeare just baffled his own protagonist, on what would seem to be the very simple point of a name.

Oh, answer me - alright, never mind what to call you, but speak to me.

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04-049

Let me not burst in ignorance, but tell

burst in ignorance - burst with curiosity.

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04-050
"hearse" in the Century Dictionary

Why thy canonized bones, hearsed in death,

canonized - blessed. Handled correctly according to established church doctrine.

hearsed - placed on a bier; borne to his tomb. See the definition of "hearse" imaged at right. Ophelia will later, in Scene 16, sing of Polonius being borne on the bier.

Return: #050

04-051

Have burst their cerements? Why the sepulcher,

cerements - cerecloth, the body wrapping. Shroud; shrouding.

sepulcher, - tomb. Vault; crypt. A stone structure above ground level.

There is a point here that since King Hamlet was entombed in a sepulcher his spirit would have no reason to sink into the earth, and then call out from the earth. One might keep that in mind.

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04-052

Wherein we saw thee quietly enurned,

quietly - peacefully, on the idea of "rest in peace."

enurned - further emphasizes that it was a stone vault above ground level. Entombed. "Urn" is figurative for "container, of the dead." Since the 14th century "urn" could be used to refer to a jar, or vase, to preserve the ashes of the dead, and Shakespeare is following on that meaning, but for non-cremated remains.

Return: #052 - or - Folio Difference

04-053

Hath op'd his ponderous and marble jaws

ponderous - massive; weighty.

jaws - doors. The word jaws provides an instance of the Mouth Motif. King Hamlet's tomb has a double door, we learn.

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04-054

To cast thee up again? What may this mean

cast - literally, throw.

cast thee up - implies that the tomb "threw up" King Hamlet. Death couldn't stomach him, apparently. This is a touch of amusement from the Bard.

Casting is also something one does when one is fishing. One casts a bait in hopes of hooking a fish.

The word cast can also be used to mean the employment of magic spells. Cast is a suggestive word, in more than one way.

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04-055

That thou dead corpse, again in complete steel,

dead corpse - informs us, again, of how the Ghost looks like a man. It is not translucent, it looks substantial, like a person.

complete steel - is a costuming note to inform us that the Ghost is, once again, wearing the armor.

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04-056

Revisits thus the glimpses of the moon,

Revisits - what it says. Visits again. "Visit" is a "see" word, from Latin 'visitare' ("go to see,") so this is an instance of the Vision Motif.

glimpses - faint shinings. Glimmers; glimmerings. It refers to faint light. This implies the moon is not full. (Shakespeare apparently never used "glimpse" to mean a quick look at something. He used it to mean "glimmer.")

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04-057

Making night hideous, and we fools of nature

hideous - fearful; frightful. The root meaning of hideous is "fear."

fools of nature - living fools. Nature is the natural world, the world of the living. Hamlet casts himself and the others as "fools" for not believing in ghosts earlier.

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04-058

So horridly to shake our disposition

horridly - hair raisingly. "Horrid" has a root meaning of "bristle," which means the hair standing up. In the next Scene, the Ghost will speak of Hamlet's hair standing on end, and Gertrude will mention the same in the Closet Scene, Scene 11.

to shake our disposition - to shake up our state of mind. One recalls Horatio, in Scene 1, speaking of "some strange eruption to our state." One's disposition is one's "state," one's condition (of health and soundness.)

One is well disposed when everything about oneself is properly "arranged." "Dispose" is from Latin 'disponere' ("arrange.") When one's disposition is shaken one is disarranged.

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04-059

With thoughts beyond the reaches of our souls?

thoughts beyond the reaches of our souls - The "reach" of the soul of a living person is only as far as he can extend his hand, since his soul is confined to his body while he lives. Thoughts that go beyond the "reach" of Hamlet's soul, within his living body, are thoughts about the soul, or spirit, being outside the body. That idea is beyond Hamlet's reach.

Reach is, indirectly, another "grasp" or "seize" word. One cannot grasp that which is beyond one's reach.

Later in the play, Hamlet will use the term "outstretched." Stretch them as he might, Hamlet's thoughts cannot encompass the Ghost.

reaches - I use "limits" in the paraphrase, and also, "extents" would do for simple gloss. "Extend" is from Latin 'extendere' ("stretch out.") One can only believe something to a certain extent. We still use the phrase, "that's a stretch."

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04-060

Say why is this, wherefore, what should we do?

why is this, wherefore, what should we do? - Hamlet does have many questions for that "questionable shape."

wherefore - means for what reason, or to what end.

Return: #060

04-060-SD

(the Ghost beckons to Hamlet)

As Marcellus will soon mention, the Ghost's action is "courteous." That implies a slight bow, or at least a tilt of the head, and an underhand wave, as of someone saying, "this way, please."

Hamlet sees nothing threatening about the Ghost's behavior. The Ghost's action in performance must not be threatening, it must be inviting. Will a fish go to a lure which it sees as a danger?

Return: #060-SD

04-061

Horatio: It beckons you to go away with it,

A dialogue statement of the Ghost's behavior. This surprises and disappoints Horatio. Earlier, the Ghost seemed ready to speak to Horatio, Marcellus, and Bernardo, but now it seems not so. The Ghost has become selective, with Hamlet present.

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04-062

As if it some impartment did desire

impartment - communication. There is a connotation of sharing something. The word base is Latin 'partīre' ("to share.")

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04-063

To you alone.

To you alone - we can take it that Horatio is partly concerned by this, and also, partly disappointed. He'd like to hear what the Ghost has to say, after he tried speaking to it earlier.

We may conclude the Ghost has a secret.

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04-064

Marcellus: Look with what courteous action

what courteous action - very polite, not aggressive, not overly insistent, not threatening. Since the Ghost is dressed so aggressively, in the armor, its genteel deportment is unexpected. The correct stage action is non-threatening, as already mentioned.

Return: #064

04-065

It wafts you to a more removed ground;

wafts - waves. The word "waft" originated in the sense of escorting a ship. A "wafter" was an armed convoy ship. It comes from Dutch 'wachter' ("to guard.") So, the word goes right along with the Ghost being in armor. The Ghost is signaling to Hamlet that it will be his "armed escort." Marcellus, the military man, speaks the "armed escort" word (although there is no reason to suppose that the Marcellus character, himself, is supposed to be seen as aware of that.)

"remove" in the Century Dictionary

removed - By Shakespeare's own word usage elsewhere, removed can be heard to imply death. See the dictionary definition in the image.

a more removed ground - in plain meaning the phrase refers to a more distant place. However, by the "death" meaning of removed, a removed ground would be a place of the dead, a ground of the dead. That would be the cemetery. (In addition to being an unintentional death omen from Marcellus, we are thereby informed of where the next Scene will be set: at the "more dead ground," the graveyard.)

Return: #065 - or - Folio Difference

04-066

But do not go with it.

Return: #066

04-067

Horatio: No, by no means.

Return: #067

04-068

Hamlet: It will not speak, then will I follow it.

It will not speak - here.

then will I follow it - Hamlet is pondering whether he should follow it. It's a rhetorical question to himself.

Return: #068 - or - Folio Difference

04-069

Horatio: Do not, my Lord!

Return: #069

04-070

Hamlet: Why, what should be the fear?

Why - is deliberately ambiguous, between the question and the exclamation. Read it both ways. At the same time. And break your brain and go mad. I believe I've already mentioned Shakespeare was a scamp.

what should be the fear? - what is there to fear?

Observe the psychology of the exchange. Hamlet is pondering the question, then Horatio tries to tell him what to do, and Hamlet immediately argues. That is a natural tendency people have, to argue against somebody else's advice, even when it's good advice, and even when you admire and respect the other person. (The Ghost knows this, about human psychology, as we shall see.)

Return: #070

04-071

I do not set my life at a pin's fee,

set my life - value my life; set the value of my life.

at a pin's fee - at the cost of a pin; at the price a pin would fetch if I sold one. Pins are proverbially cheap.

Bold words. Hamlet strongly wants to go with the Ghost, and he's trying to talk himself into it. He doesn't really think the Ghost is a fatal threat.

Again we observe how one is so naturally inclined to argue against what someone else tells him to do, even when the advice is sensible, and the person who offers it is well respected. It is normal human psychology that we have to make up our own minds.

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04-072

And for my soul, what can it do to that,

my soul - Consideration of his life, and his soul, covers everything of highest importance that he has.

Return: #072

04-073

Being a thing immortal as itself?

While the soul is indeed immortal, in theological doctrine it makes a vast difference where the soul ends up. Hamlet knows it, but as he speaks, he has no concern that he would ever commit a mortal sin.

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04-074

It waves me forth, again; I'll follow it.

waves - Hamlet does not say the "armed escort" word "wafts," since he is not military. Hamlet speaks the ordinary "civilian" word. Shakespeare's sensitivity to characterization via vocabulary was phenomenal. The meaning is "beckons."

forth - can be understood with an implication of time. Forth can mean, "forward in time." Hamlet will later speak of time, and especially, in the next Scene he will speak of feeling old. The plain meaning is simply "away" (from here.)

I'll follow it - He has reached a decision.

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04-075

Horatio: What if it tempt you toward the flood, my Lord,

tempt you - leads you; lures you.

the flood - the ocean, poetically the remnant of the great flood at the time of Noah.

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04-076
"sonnet" in the First Folio

Or to the dreadful sonnet of the cliff

sonnet - song. The English word sonnet is either from French 'sonnet,' or directly from Italian 'sonetto' ("little song.")

dreadful sonnet - a song to be dreaded.

the dreadful sonnet of the cliff - is reference to a "siren song," a song that lures men to their deaths (as Horatio goes on to say.) That cliff sings a "siren song." One should dread the siren song of the cliff. (The Sirens of Greek Mythology were part woman, part bird. There is a Bird Motif in the play.)

Return: #076 - or - Folio Difference

04-077

That beetles o'er his base into the sea,

beetles o'er his base - juts out from its base. "Beetle" is from Old English 'bitela' ("biter,") from the base of 'bītan' ("bite.")

By the root meaning, beetles o'er = bites over. Overbites, that is. Horatio means the cliff has an "overbite." It's an analogy to the way the upper teeth extend out farther than the lower teeth when a person has an overbite.

The concept follows on Hamlet's first line in this Scene, where he mentioned the air "biting." It's another instance of the Mouth/bite Motif.

Horatio is worried that Hamlet might get "bitten" at the cliff which has an "overbite." From what Horatio goes on to say, it is apparently well known that that cliff with the "overbite" can "bite" a person to death.

The cliff is likened to a mouth. Recall Hamlet saying late in Scene 2, "I'll speak to it, though Hell, itself, should gape," which was a reference to Hellmouth. One understands that Hellmouth bites.

Pondering that cliff, from what Horatio says about it, one can see that it could be named Suicide Cliff. Horatio hasn't been around Elsinore very long, so if he knows about "Suicide Cliff" then those who have been in the area longer must surely know about it. It sounds like the perfect place for someone to kill herself if she wanted to die by drowning.

We will hear nothing of this cliff again. Why is it mentioned in the first place?

Do we know of any character who dies at Suicide Cliff? No. But we know of one young lady who does not die at Suicide Cliff. Hint, hint. That is why Shakespeare mentioned it.

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04-078

And there assumes some other horrible form

some other horrible form - The Ghost still looks as it did, like King Hamlet. Horatio now calls the Ghost's form horrible because of the effect it is having on Hamlet.

The way something looks depends so greatly upon point of view, and upon one's emotional state. There can sometimes be only a thin emotional line between "majestic" and "horrible."

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04-079

Which might deprive your sovereignty of reason - which might overthrow you as the king of your own mind.

Ordinarily, one rules his own mind. The person, himself, controls what he does, in other words.

If some power takes away self rule, one will do as that power directs, rather than as one would do, himself. Horatio is expressing the idea of the Ghost, in the image of King Hamlet, "dethroning" Hamlet as "the king" of his own mind.

In this context, deprive is virtually synonymous with "usurp." In Scene 1, Horatio accused the Ghost of "usurping" the time of night.

A second meaning can be found, as well. We have the usual deliberate ambiguity. The second meaning is simpler: "which might steal your control of reason," i.e. which might make you do irrational acts. The meanings are compatible.

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04-080

And draw you into madness? Think of it;

draw - lead. That's probably the best paraphrase, since the Ghost is in the image of King Hamlet, and a king is a leader.

madness - mad action. Horatio does not suspect Hamlet may lose his mind in the general way.

it - the cliff. However, there is ye olde deliberate ambiguity again. It can also be taken to mean, "what I just said, about sovereignty of reason."

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04-081

The very place puts toys of desperation,

The very place - the cliff. However, as commonly understood, the term "the very place" means a place which is ideally suitable (for something.) What would the "something" be, for that cliff? Suicide.

toys - thoughts. Whims. Playthings of the mind.

toys of desperation - whims about desperate action. Whims about acts of despair; hopeless acts, i.e. acts done when one is beyond hope. "Desperate" was used in late Middle English in the sense of "in despair," and is from Latin 'desperatus' ("deprived of hope.")

What the phrase toys of desperation amounts to here is, "idle thoughts of jumping," the way a person in despair would jump.

But none of the characters in the play does jump from that cliff.

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04-082

Without any motive, into every brain

motive - reason. "Mover," something that "moves" one.

every brain - the mind of every person.

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04-083

That looks so many fathoms to the sea

fathoms - a term especially appropriate when considering the sea.

Horatio is talking about the supposedly universal phenomenon that when a person looks down a long distance, the idle thought crosses his mind of what it would be like to jump. Perhaps that is indeed universal. I'm not saying he's wrong.

The point is, if a person has an idle thought of jumping, with no reason, then what if he suddenly had a good reason, as he saw it? Well, he'd be sure to jump.

Return: #083

04-084
"rore" in the Second Quarto
"rore" (1) in the Century Dictionary
"rore" (3) in the Century Dictionary

And hears it roar beneath.

roar - like a great mouth roaring, roaring to be fed.

Notice the exact spelling in the Second Quarto, "rore." That is indeed a legitimate spelling of roar, as the Century Dictionary definition shows. Observe, however, that another word spelled "rore" means "dew."

So... a roar... is a rore... is a dew... is "adieu," when you jump. Fun with spelling. Shakespeare knew that "rore" could mean "dew." There is no doubt about it. (P.S. looking at the derivations, observe that "rosemary" is dew-mary. Do marry. Rosemary is mentioned in the play. That's why rosemary is traditional at weddings. "Dew mary.")

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04-085

Hamlet: It waves me still;

The Ghost is persistent. We wouldn't expect it to give up easily, after it's gone to all the trouble.

Return: #085 - or - Folio Difference

04-086

Go on, I'll follow thee.

Go on - lead on. In action, Hamlet does not mean the Ghost should proceed to walk away, so that it disappears from Hamlet's sight.

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04-087

Marcellus: You shall not go, my Lord.

The concerns Horatio expressed may not have convinced Hamlet, but Horatio certainly convinced Marcellus.

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04-088

Hamlet: Hold off your hands!

This line contains a simple example of the kind of "contrary" word usage Shakespeare used so often to good effect. He used hold in this line in the process of saying "un-hold." The way he favored "contrary" usages is something to keep in mind when interpreting more complicated lines.

Hold off - release; remove. The opposite of "hold on."

Return: #088 - or - Folio Difference

04-089

Horatio: Be ruled, you shall not go!

Be ruled - in a great irony, after what Horatio said, Horatio is now trying to deprive Hamlet of his "sovereignty of reason," for his own good.

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04-090

Hamlet: My fate cries out,

My fate cries out - but which Fate? Morta?

fate - destiny. "Fortune" could be a suitable paraphrase, because of the Fortune theme in the play. "Oracle" deserves notice, because an oracle is one who does speak, and could therefore cry out. In Scene 1, Horatio and the sentinels discussed whether the Ghost is an omen, and Hamlet has now interpreted it so.

Hamlet hears his fate crying out to him, in the form of the Ghost, although the Ghost has remained silent, so far.

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04-091

And makes each petty arture in this body

petty - small. From a phonetic spelling of French 'petit.' The connotation is "weak."

The Second Quarto word "arture"

arture - is the correct word. It means "joint." It is a Shakespeare coinage. The word "arthritic" was already in use in Middle English; it entered via Latin from Greek, from 'arthron' ("joint.") This word arture is an instance of the Joint Motif in the play.

A pun on "artery" is possible. The desire for the pun might have guided Shakespeare in coining the word.

The correct meaning of arture was identified by MacDonald in 1885. See the Extended Note. He did not know of the Joint Motif in the play, however, or at least he did not mention it. Had he known of that, and pointed it out, he might have carried the day at that time.

Return: #091 - or - Extended Note - or - Folio Difference

04-092
Visconti-Sforza Strength card, Hercules vs the lion

As hardy as the Nemean lion's nerve;

hardy - robust. Rugged; tough. The word connotes boldness, courage. The Middle English sense of hardy was "bold" or "daring."

Nemean Lion - in Greek mythology, a great lion which roamed the valley of Nemea. It was thought impossible to kill because its skin was impenetrable. As the first of his twelve labors, Hercules killed it by strangling it.

The image is that of the Strength/Fortitude card from the Visconti-Sforza tarot deck, created in the 15th century. The artist used Hercules battling the Lion to symbolize Strength. The artist did Hercules well enough, but he encountered a difficulty with the narrowness of the card when it came to the Lion, so the great Nemean Lion ended up about the size of an English bulldog. So it goes.

nerve - sinew; a tendon or ligament. The nerves as we now know them were not distinguished from connective tissue in those days. Nerve meant a "cord" of the body, a sinew, tendon or ligament. The nerves were thought to be a kind of cord. Anyway, it's a reference to bodily strength. Ligaments occur at joints, so Hamlet is basically speaking of strong joints. There is a Joint Motif in the play, as already mentioned.

Hamlet has steeled himself to "do battle" with the Ghost, in the image of his father, who was a Hercules, as Hamlet told us, even if it kills him.

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04-093

Still am I called; unhand me, gentlemen;

unhand me - don't hold me. It's another instance of the Hold (grip/seize) Motif.

gentlemen - are supposed to be well mannered. Hamlet uses the word to Horatio and Marcellus to remind them of their manners. "Keep your hands to yourself," as our mothers told us. There is a Manner Motif in the play.

Return: #093 - or - Folio Difference

04-094

By Heaven, I'll make a ghost of him that lets me;

him - a man; in context "the man."

lets - is deliberately ambiguous, in context. For plain reading, let has the Middle English sense of "obstruct," or "block." Thematically, the concept is, again, "hold."

"Let" can also be read with the modern meaning of "allow," that is, Hamlet can be heard to mean, "I'll make a ghost of him who allows me to make a ghost of him."

"Let" is from Old English 'lǣtan' ("leave behind.") That is something well worth noting here, because it is exactly what Hamlet does not want, to be left behind when the Ghost departs.

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04-095

I say, away! Go on, I'll follow thee.

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04-096
The Second Quarto word "imagion"

Horatio: He waxes desperate with imagion.

waxes - grows. This is a poetic usage based on the moon being described as waxing when it is increasing toward full.

imagion - is the correct word, a coinage by Shakespeare. Imagion is formed from the root "image" and the suffix "-ion" which means "result." For comparison, "contagion" is the result of something being contagious, and "infection" is the result of something being infectious.

Imagion - the result, or effect, of an image.

Horatio means that Hamlet has grown desperate, as a result of viewing the Ghost which is the image of his father. Hamlet's desperation is an "image result," or "image effect," an imagion.

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04-097

Marcellus: Let's follow, 'tis not fit thus to obey him.

fit - suitable; fitting.

thus - in this case; in a case like this.

It is notable for Marcellus's characterization that his immediate reaction is, he does not think it suitable to obey Hamlet.

If Marcellus knew something like, oh, that Hamlet intended to kill Claudius, but Hamlet asked him to keep that secret, would Marcellus's reaction be that it wasn't suitable to obey Hamlet?

However, there is, once again, the deliberate ambiguity. It can be taken that by him Marcellus means the Ghost.

By the second interpretation, 'tis not fit thus to obey him. = it isn't suitable (for Hamlet) thusly to obey the Ghost.

Return: #097 - or - Extended Note

04-098

Horatio: Have after; to what issue will this come?

Have after - let's go; lead on. After him!

issue - consequence. Ultimate result. Outcome. There is an intentional ambiguity. Shall I spare you? No, I'll be cruel.

Issue is based on Latin 'exitus,' which is the past participle of 'exire' ("go out.") Issue is, at root, an "exit" word. By that, when Horatio asks, to what issue will this come, the answer is, the exit you're about to do, sir.

The ultimate "exit" is death. To what issue will this come? - "To what death will this come?" It is not too much of a stretch to read it that way, especially when one is well aware of the Death Theme in the play. The Horatio character, himself, does not mean that, but Horatio didn't write his own lines.

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04-099

Marcellus: Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.

rotten - the smell of death. Marcellus means he smells death in all this, somewhere, figuratively speaking.

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04-100

Horatio: Heaven will direct it.

Horatio wants to take a moment to pray for Heaven's guidance.

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04-101

Marcellus: Nay, let's follow him.

Marcellus, the military man, doesn't want to wait long enough for even a quick prayer.

Return: #101

04-101-SD

(Horatio and Marcellus exit) - at a fast walk. They both know that running in the dark could only increase the problem if one of them breaks a leg.

Return: #101-SD


Scene Links

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Scene 11 - Scene 12 - Scene 13 - Scene 14 - Scene 15 - Scene 16 - Scene 17 - Scene 18 - Scene 19 - Scene 20


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