Hamlet Commentary provides a comprehensive description
of every act with explanations and translations for
all important quotes.
Act I. Scene I. - Elsinore. A Platform before
Francisco: "'tis bitter cold, / And I am sick
King Hamlet of Denmark has recently died from poisoning.
Denmark is in a state of high alert and preparing for
possible war with Young Fortinbras of Norway. A ghost
resembling the late King Hamlet is spotted on a platform
before Elsinore Castle in Denmark.
The play opens to the solitary scene of Francisco
a soldier on guard duty on a platform before Elsinore
Bernardo, another soldier enters, asking "Who's
there?" (Line 1).
Francisco does not reply, demanding identification
from the intruder. Bernardo supplies this (Line 3) and
Francisco warmly greets Barnardo as his replacement
on guard duty. Barnardo tells us that it is midnight
and advises his friend to"get thee [go to] bed,"
Francisco is happy to do this, thanking Barnardo and
saying "'tis [it is] bitter cold, / And I am sick
at heart" (it is very cold and I am sick at heart),
(Line 8), a line which symbolizes the mood of this play
and the state of tension in Denmark.
Before leaving we learn from Francisco that it has
been a quiet watch with "Not a mouse stirring"
(not a mouse moving), (Line 10).
Francisco hears the approach of two men whom we soon
learn are the soldiers Horatio and Marcellus who identify
themselves as being loyal to Denmark (Lines 15-16).
Before leaving, Francisco tells Marcellus that Barnardo
has relieved him.
Bernardo now meets up with Marcellus and Horatio, Marcellus
asking if a certain apparition (The Ghost) seen before
on a watch has returned.
Marcellus: "What! has this thing appear'd
again to-night?" (Has the thing or the Ghost appeared
again tonight?), (Line 21).
Learning from Bernardo that the apparition (The Ghost)
has not returned, Marcellus explains the apparition
Barnardo explains that "Horatio says 'tis [it
is] but our fantasy, [imagination]" but also that Horatio
has agreed to sit with the men in case it appears again
so Marcellus can prove the apparition is real and not
merely fantasy (Lines 23-29).
Barnardo tells the skeptical Horatio to "sit down
awhile," (Line 31) as Barnardo begins to tell the
story of the apparition (Lines 29-39) when Marcellus
notices the Ghost and cries out "Peace!" (Line
40), telling Horatio and Barnardo to look "where
it [The Ghost] comes again!" (Line 40).
The Ghost now enters, Barnardo noting that this ghost
has "the same figure [appearance], like the king
that's dead" (the recently deceased King Hamlet
of Denmark), (Line 41).
Marcellus tells Horatio to question the Ghost, after
all "Thou [you-Horatio] art [are] a scholar;"
he says (Line 42) .
Horatio is reluctant since he says the Ghost "harrows
me with fear and wonder" (fills me with fear and
wonder), (Line 44), but on Marcellus' urging, Horatio
speaks to the Ghost.
Horatio now questions the Ghost, asking "What
art [are] thou [you] that usurp'st [disturbs / takes]
this time of night, / Together with that fair and war-like
form [appearance] / In which the majesty of buried Denmark
[King Hamlet of Denmark] / Did sometimes march? by heaven
I charge thee [command you], speak!" (Lines 47-
The Ghost does not answer, Marcellus saying it is offended
and Bernardo saying that it "stalks [runs] away"
With the Ghost gone, Marcellus and Bernardo notice
that the unbelieving Horatio is pale and trembling (Line
53). Bernardo asks Horatio "Is not this something
more than fantasy?" (Is this not more than fantasy
as you suggested earlier), (Line 54).
Horatio still trembling, says he would never have believed
in the Ghost had he not seen it with his own eyes (Line
56) and Horatio mentions that the Ghost not only looked
like the now dead King Hamlet but wore the "very
armour" that King Hamlet had on when "he the
ambitious Norway combated;" (he fought the ambitious
Fortinbras, King of Norway) and when King Hamlet "smote
the sledded Polacks [Poles] on the ice" (defeated the
Poles on the ice), (Lines 60-63).
Marcellus reminds Horatio that the Ghost of the King
has appeared twice before, wearing this very armor,
Horatio saying that in his opinion, the appearance of
the Ghost "bodes some strange eruption to our state"
(foretells that something very bad will happen to our
country), (Line 68).
Marcellus now sets the context of the play by asking
Horatio why their guard duty watches Denmark by night,
why weapons are being constructed and being bought and
why shipwrights are being made to work on Sunday, against
normal custom (Lines 70-78).
Horatio answers that all these actions are happening
because Denmark is preparing for war.
Horatio explains that the late King Hamlet fought King
Fortinbras of Norway, killing him in single combat and
securing for Denmark, Norwegian territory which by agreement
fell to King Hamlet since he won the fight and killed
King Fortinbras (Lines 80-95).
Now, explains Horatio, Young Fortinbras, the son of
the late King Fortinbras and nephew to the current King
of Norway, has raised a force of "lawless resolutes,"
(lawless men) to help him reclaim the lands his father,
King Fortinbras of Norway lost by losing the fight against
the late King Hamlet of Denmark (Lines 96-100).
Young Fortinbras is not described favorably, being
characterized by Horatio as being "of unimproved
mettle hot and full," (unlearned, hot-blooded and
reckless / rash), (Line 96).
It is this fear of attack, Horatio explains, that
is the main reason their watch guards against intruders
and the main reason for their preparations for war (Lines
Bernardo agrees that it is Young Fortinbras who motivates
their preparations for war, noting that the "portentous
figure" (The Ghost), did come armed and during
their watch (Lines 108-111).
Horatio agrees that it is significant that the Ghost
appears now, saying that it is "trouble to the
mind's eye" (Line 112) and remembering that such
portents did precede Caesar's death, Horatio believing
that the Ghost must be a precursor of things to come
in Denmark. Just as Horatio finishes this thought, he
sees the Ghost reappear (Lines 112-126).
Horatio demands that the illusion stay and not leave
as it did before, asking it to speak to him if it can
and tell them the future "If thou art privy to
thy country's fate," (if you know my country's
future), which Horatio hopes their foreknowledge of
may avoid, and finally why this spirit exists (Line
Unfortunately a cock crows, the Ghost rapidly moving
twice before vanishing once more without saying a word
Bernardo, Horatio and Marcellus all agree the Ghost
was about to speak before the cock crowed, Horatio advising
that they "impart [tell] what we have seen to-night
/ Unto [to] young Hamlet;" since as Horatio says,
"upon my life [on my life], / This spirit, dumb
[silent] to us, will speak to him" (Lines 168-171).
With the morning approaching (daybreak), (Lines 165-168),
the three men agree to speak to young Hamlet, Marcellus
saying he knows where to find the "young Hamlet"
(son of the late King Hamlet and nephew to the current
King "most conveniently" to tell him what
they have seen (Line 174).
Act I. Scene II. - A Room of State in the Castle.
King Claudius: "How is it that the clouds still
hang on you?"
King Claudius who now rules Denmark, has taken King
Hamlet's wife, Queen Gertrude as his wife. King
Claudius fearing that Young Fortinbras of Norway may
invade, has sent ambassadors to Norway to urge the King
of Norway to restrain Young Fortinbras. Young Hamlet
distrusts King Claudius. The King and Queen of Denmark
(Claudius and Gertrude) do not understand why Hamlet
still mourns his father's death over two months
ago. In his first soliloquy, Hamlet explains that he
does not like his mother marrying the next King of Denmark
so quickly within a month of his father's death...
Within Elsinore Castle, the current King of Denmark,
King Claudius (succeeding King Hamlet) Queen Gertrude
(Hamlet's mother), Lord Chamberlain Polonius, his son
Laertes, the courtiers Voltimand and Cornelius, Lords
and Attendants enter.
The King (Claudius) expresses his grief for King Hamlet's
(his predecessor's) death, saying that all in their
kingdom grieve and mourn "our dear brother's
death" (Line 1), adding that "discretion"
(discretion) has "fought with nature" (the
natural desire to mourn a loved one) in their suppressing
their complete grief of King Hamlet's death (Line
King Claudius, the newly appointed King of Denmark
explains that he has taken Hamlet's previous wife,
Gertrude as his wife and as "our queen," whilst
adding that his court in "Your better wisdoms [judgment],"
have "freely gone [allowed] / With this affair
[marriage] along:" (Line 16) or have accepted this
and now receive King Claudius' thanks.
It is important to note that this marriage would have
drawn gasps from Shakespeare's audience since such a
marriage would have been viewed as quite incestuous...
Claudius now outlines recent events, reminding all
that Young Fortinbras even now in their time of grief
has sought back the lands his father lost now that King
Hamlet has died (Lines 17-20), Claudius explaining that
"young Fortinbras," may be encouraged by the
belief that Denmark is now in disarray following King
Hamlet's death (Lines 17-28).
Claudius explains that he has written to the leader
of Norway who is currently "impotent and bed-rid,"
(sick and weak / bedridden), (Line 28) to suppress his
nephew Young Fortinbras from pushing this issue. Claudius
has done this by dispatching Cornelius and Voltimand
to Norway, the two men exiting after pledging their
loyalty (Line 40).
We learn also of a parallel in that King Hamlet has
been succeeded by his brother as has the late King Fortinbras
since both their sons are referred to as nephews of
the current rulers of Denmark and of Norway.
Turning his attention to Laertes, King Claudius asks
Laertes to speak his mind to him (Lines 42-50).
Laertes now asks King Claudius for "Your leave
and favour [permission] to return to France;" (Line
52) from where he left willingly and dutifully to witness
King Claudius' coronation as the new King of Denmark.
After the King finds that Polonius, Laertes' father
has given his permission, (Lines 57-61), Claudius gives
his permission for Laertes to leave (Line 63).
Hamlet makes his first observation, suspiciously commenting
in an aside (a speech sharing his private thoughts with
the audience) that Claudius who referred to him as a
"son,-" (Line 64) is "A little more than
kin [family], and less than kind" (a little more
than family and less than kind), (Line 65).
King Claudius now asks how Hamlet who has recently
lost his father (King Hamlet) can still be sad...
King Claudius: "How is it that the clouds still
hang on you?" (How is it that you are still gloomy
as if dark clouds hang over you?), (Line 66).
Hamlet coyly replies that this is "Not so, my
lord;" explaining that "I am too much i' [in]
the sun" (it is not so my Lord. I have been in
the sun too long), (Line 67).
Queen Gertrude, no doubt sensing the tension, tells
her son to "cast thy [your] nighted colour off,
/ And let thine [your] eye look like a friend on Denmark"
(drop your sad outlook and let your eye look like friend
on Denmark), telling her son not to "Seek for thy
noble father in the dust:" (look for your father
in the dust) since Hamlet must realize "all that
live must die, / Passing through nature to eternity"
Hamlet agrees too easily, prompting his mother to ask
why her husband's death "seems it so particular
with thee?" (seems so important to him), (Line
Hamlet now explodes, saying "Seems, madam!"
adding "Nay, it is; I know not 'seems'" (Line
76), explaining that his color or mood are "but
the trappings and the suits of woe (what happens when
you are sad), (Line 86).
It seems only Hamlet appears to be mourning his father's
death whilst those around him go on with life as if
King Hamlet had never lived, let alone died. Even Queen
Gertrude, his mother, feels this way; she married King
Hamlet's replacement (King Claudius) almost immediately
after King Hamlet, her husband, had died!
The King praises Hamlet as being "sweet and commendable
(praiseworthy)" (Line 87) in his nature to mourn
his father, but tells Hamlet that his father lost a
father and this father, his father, explaining that
loss is a part of life (Lines 88-92).
Claudius explains that to grieve for some time is acceptable
but to "persever [carry on] / In obstinate [stubborn]
condolement [grieving] is a course [action] / Of impious
[unbecoming / undignified] stubbornness; " (Line
92) adding that such ongoing grieving is above all else,
"unmanly grief:" (Line 93).
King Claudius develops this theme of grieving being
"unmanly" for some time before telling Hamlet
that his desire to go back to school in Wittenberg will
not be granted since it is "most retrograde [the
opposite] to our [King Claudius' and company's]
desire;" (Lines 112-116).
The Queen (Gertrude, Hamlet's mother) asks Hamlet to
stay as well, Hamlet agreeing by saying, "I shall
in all my best obey you, madam" (Line 119).
The King is pleased that Hamlet will stay, saying "'tis
a loving and a fair reply:" (it is a loving and
fair reply) adding that "This gentle and unforc'd
[unforced] accord [agreement] of Hamlet / Sits smiling
to my heart;" (Line 120-124), the King announcing
that a celebration, complete with drinking and "cannon"
fire will celebrate and mark this change of heart in
The King and Queen now exit, leaving Hamlet alone to
discuss his true feelings in his first soliloquy...
Alone, Hamlet expresses his real feelings about King
Claudius and Queen Gertrude, his mother. Hamlet is not
happy and wishes he could commit suicide since the "uses
of this world" have become "weary, stale,
flat, and unprofitable" to him but Hamlet quickly
chides himself for such thoughts, they are like weeds
in a garden and a sin (Lines 132-136).
Hamlet now explains to us that his father (King Hamlet),
unlike the impression we get from King Claudius, is
"But two months dead:" (has only recently
died), (Line 139).
Hamlet now tells us that King Hamlet was "so loving
to my mother / That he might not betweem the winds of
heaven / Visit her face too roughly" and yet within
a month, a mere month, his very own mother remarried
with the current King of Denmark (Claudius), (Line 140).
So angry is Hamlet that he generalizes that all woman
like his mother are weak when he says: "Frailty,
thy [your] name is woman!" (Line 146).
Hamlet sarcastically and bitterly describes his mother
as being "Like Niobe, all tears;" a woman
who shed not a tear for her husband but only for her
dead children, saying that even this woman would have
mourned longer than Gertrude, his mother and the former
wife to the now dead King Hamlet (Line 149).
Hamlet cannot believe this, exclaiming "O God!
a beast, that wants discourse of reason, / Would have
mourn'd longer,-" (O God! a beast that wanted or
needed a reason, would have mourned longer) than his
mother (Line 151), Hamlet still barely believing that
she could so quickly have "married with mine uncle,
[married my uncle, King Claudius]", (Line 151).
Hamlet cannot accept this, and still not believing
his mother could do this, describes King Claudius as
"My father's brother, but no more like my
father / Than I to Hercules [regarded as a great man
in this time]:" and yet "within a month, /
Ere yet the salt of most unrighteous tears / Had left
the flushing in her galled eyes, / She married"
(and yet barely had her tears left her eyes when she
remarried), (Line 153).
He remarks again on his mother's speedy marriage as
being with "most wicked speed, to post / With such
dexterity to incestuous sheets" (Line 157).
Hamlet is sure none of this can come to any good but
decides to keep his opinions to himself.
Hamlet: "It is not nor it cannot come to good;
/ But break, my heart, for I must hold my tongue!"
Horatio, Marcellus and Bernardo arrive, telling Hamlet
of the Ghost they saw.
Before this happens, we get a further insight into
Hamlet's troubled nature when Horatio says he came
to see King Hamlet's funeral (Line 176). Hamlet
sarcastically replies that "I think it was to see
my mother's wedding" since the two events happened
so close to each other (Line 177).
Hamlet gives us more imagery of the speed with which
one ceremony (the funeral) was replaced by the marriage
when he remarks that "the funeral bak'd meats /
Did coldly furnish forth the marriage tables" (the
meat prepared for the funeral did coldly furnish the
marriage tables which followed), (Line 180), a line
sarcastically suggesting that Gertrude's remarriage
following King Hamlet's death was so rapid, the food
prepared for the funeral could have served as food for
the subsequent marriage.
Hamlet now mentions that he believes he has seen his
father in "my mind's eye," (Line 186),
Horatio agreeing that King Hamlet "was a goodly
king" (Line 186).
Hamlet agrees, and now Horatio describes what he, Bernardo
and Marcellus have seen, describing The Ghost as "a
figure like your father [the late King Hamlet], / Armed
at points exactly," (Line 199).
Hamlet questions Horatio and Marcellus further and
decides that if the Ghost is "my noble father's
person," (Line 244) he will speak to it. Hamlet
tells Horatio and company that he will meet them on
the guard platform between eleven and twelve o'clock
to see the Ghost.
Hamlet ends the scene, saying "My father's spirit
in arms!" fearing "all is not well; / I doubt
some foul play:" (Line 255).
Act I. Scene III. - A Room in Polonius' house.
Laertes: "This above all: to thine own self be
Laertes, the son of Lord Chamberlain Polonius, gives
his sister Ophelia some brotherly advice. He warns Ophelia
not to fall in love with Young Hamlet; she will only
be hurt. Polonius tells his daughter Ophelia not to
return Hamlet's affections for her since he fears
Hamlet is only using her...
Within a room in Polonius' house, Laertes (Polonius'
son) is giving Ophelia, Polonius' daughter some brotherly
Laertes warns his sister not to follow her heart with
Hamlet too deeply, for as he says, "his will is
not his own," (Hamlet does not control himself,
King Claudius and Queen Gertrude influence him), owing
to his position as Queen Gertrude's son (Line 16).
Laertes adds that Hamlet cannot as "unvalu'd persons
do," (common people do) carve out a life for himself
"for on his choice depends / The safety and the
health of the whole state;" (Line 20).
"Then if he says he loves you," Laertes warns,
she should remember that the Prince's wife (Hamlet's
wife) will largely be dictated by the King (Claudius),
Laertes therefore reminds Ophelia to be wary and fearful
of the loss of honor she could sustain if she should
lose her heart and be used, warning her to protect her
"chaste treasure" (her virginity), (Line 32).
Laertes now further describes the perils of following
one's heart (Lines 24-52), telling her that the
"best safety lies in fear:" (Line 43).
Ophelia says she will follow Laertes advise, warning
Laertes not to show her the righteous way to live whilst
not following his own advise. Laertes tells his sister
to "fear me not" (Line 51) announcing that
their father, Polonius arrives.
I shall th'effect of this good lesson keep,
/ As watchman to my heart. But, good my brother, / Do
not, as some ungracious pastors do, / Show me the steep
and thorny way to heaven, / Whiles, like a puff'd and
reckless libertine, / Himself the primrose path of dalliance
treads, / And recks not his own rede" (Lines 45-51)
Polonius now gives his daughter advise suggesting that
Ophelia not speak her thoughts (Line 60), nor be vulgar
but rather familiar instead (Line 61).
He tells his daughter to "Give every man thine
[your] ear, but few thy [your] voice:", telling
her to "reserve thy [your] judgment" (Line
Polonius also advises that Ophelia would be wise to
"Neither a borrower, nor a lender be;" because
"For loan oft loses both itself and friend, [in
loans one often loses oneself and friend] / And borrowing
dulls the edge of husbandry" Laertes warns (Line
Famously, Polonius tells his daughter, "This above
all [above all else]: to thine own self be true,"
(be true to yourself), (Line 78), adding that in his
opinion as night follows day, Ophelia "canst not
[cannot] then be false to any man" (Line 80).
Laertes must now leave (Line 85), telling his sister
to "remember well / What I have said to you"
before exiting (Line 85), Polonius wanting to know what
this was (Line 88).
Alone with his daughter, Polonius demands to know the
truth of any relationship between his daughter (Ophelia)
and Prince Hamlet.
Polonius explains that he knows Hamlet has very recently
"Given private time to you;" and Ophelia the
same (Line 92), asking to know what is going on so he
can be sure of his daughter's honor (Lines 88-99).
Ophelia replies that Hamlet has "made many tenders
/ Of his affection to me" (has spoken sweet words
of love to me), (Line 100).
Polonius is not impressed saying "Affection! pooh!
you speak like a green girl [innocent naive girl],"
asking if his daughter believes Hamlet's "tenders,"
(words), (Line 101).
Ophelia replies she is not sure, but her father is.
He is certain Hamlet merely wishes to "use"
his daughter and in doing so Ophelia will "tender
me a fool" (make a fool of Polonius), by being
used (Line 108).
Ophelia defends Hamlet saying he has "importun'd
me with love / In honourable fashion" (Line 111)
but Polonius does not believe a word of it, saying Hamlet's
"holy vows of heaven" (Line 113) are merely
like "springes to catch woodcocks", a lie
to catch or seduce his daughter...
Polonius now lays down the law, telling his daughter
to keep her distance, ordering her to "be somewhat
scanter [less available] of your maiden presence;"
(Line 120), nor to believe Hamlet's vows, "for
they are brokers [lies]," finally telling Ophelia
that he does not want Ophelia to "give words or
talk with the Lord Hamlet" since Polonius obviously
fears his daughter being made a fool and by the culture
of the time, himself being made one as well (Lines 120-134).
Ophelia will not disobey her father saying, "I
shall obey, my lord" (Line 136).
Act I. Scene IV. - The Platform.
Hamlet meets the Ghost of his father and follows
it to learn more...
Hamlet, Horatio and Marcellus are all on the platform
before Elsinore Castle, waiting for the apparition (The
Ghost) of King Hamlet to appear once again.
We learn from their conversation that it is just past
midnight and that "The air bites shrewdly";
it is a very cold night (Line 1).
A flourish of trumpets is heard along with ordnance
(canon fire) being shot off, Hamlet explaining that
this noise signals the King's revels or celebrations.
Hamlet describes King Claudius' behavior quite negatively,
remarking at how he drinks too much, saying that it
would be more honorable to ignore the custom of Danish
kings drinking than to maintain such lewd behaviour
out of tradition alone.
Hamlet says this himself with the line, "though
I am native here [born in Denmark] / And to the manner
born,-it is a custom / More honour'd [honored] in the
breach [by not performing it] than the observance [performing
the custom]" (Line 16).
Hamlet also describes what he imagines to be the less
than dignified revels (celebrations) King Claudius and
company are enjoying:
"The king doth wake to-night and takes his rouse,
/ Keeps wassail, and the swaggering up-spring reels;
/ And, as he drains his draughts of Rhenish down, /
The kettle-drum and trumpet thus bray out / The triumph
of his pledge" (The King wakes up and drinks his
toasts in celebration, sings badly and drunkenly dances
around, heavily drinking his alcohol, the trumpets finally
sounding out the triumph of his pledge in a foolish
not triumphant manner), (Lines 8-11).
Hamlet is not impressed with this behavior, arguing
that the dancing and drinking "takes / From our
achievements," (takes something away from our achievements),
giving the Danish a bad name abroad (Line 20).
He likens this to impressive men's reputations, which
are reduced by them having one vice (Lines 23- 36).
At this point the Ghost reappears, Horatio telling
Hamlet, "Look, my lord, it comes" (Line 38).
Hamlet decides that if the Ghost will speak to him,
he will address the Ghost as "Hamlet, / King, father;
royal Dane," and excitedly demands answers (Line
Hamlet wanting to know why his father has returned,
asks "Say, why is this? wherefore? what should
we do?" (Line 58).
The Ghost says nothing, beckoning Hamlet to follow
him to as Marcellus says "a more removed [private]
ground:", Marcellus telling Hamlet not to follow
Hamlet ignores Marcellus, deciding that since "It
[The Ghost] will not speak; then, will I [I will] follow
it" (Line 62).
Horatio also tells Hamlet not to follow the Ghost since
it may tempt him towards a flood or seek to kill him
by leading Hamlet to a cliff (Lines 69-76).
Hamlet however despite the advise of Marcellus (Line
79) and Horatio (Line 81), follows the Ghost since "My
fate cries out, / And makes each petty artery in this
body / As hardy as the Nemean lion's nerve" (my
fate cries out and makes each petty artery in my body
as strong as that of a Nemean lion's nerve, a powerful
Lion encountered by Hercules), (Line 83).
With the Ghost beckoning, Hamlet asks the men to "Unhand
me," (let me go) and Hamlet follows the Ghost,
Marcellus and Horatio deciding to follow him (Line 84-86).
Marcellus now remarks that "Something is rotten
in the state of Denmark" but Horatio is more trusting,
saying "Heaven will direct it" (Heaven will
take care of things), (Lines 90- 91).
Act I. Scene V. - Another Part of the Platform.
King Hamlet's Ghost: "Revenge his foul and
most unnatural murder."
Hamlet learns from his father's Ghost that
he was poisoned by King Claudius, the current ruler
of Denmark. The Ghost tells Hamlet to avenge his death
but not to punish Queen Gertrude for remarrying; it
is not Hamlet's place to do so and her conscience
and heaven will judge her... Hamlet swears Horatio and
Marcellus to silence over Hamlet meeting the Ghost.
The Ghost has now led Hamlet away from Horatio and
Hamlet impatiently tells the Ghost, "speak; / I'll
go no further" (Line 1).
The Ghost now speaks, saying, "Mark me", Hamlet
replying that he will (Line 2).
The Ghost explains that time is short for him (Line
3) and that soon he must render or surrender himself
to "sulphurous and tormenting flames" since
he has been condemned to walk Denmark by night and burn
in the flames of Purgatory by day (Line 3).
Nonetheless, the Ghost tells Hamlet to "Pity me
not, but lend thy serious hearing / To what I shall
unfold" (pity me not Hamlet but listen carefully
to what I am about to tell you), (Line 5).
Hamlet now tells the Ghost to "Speak; I am bound
to hear" (Line 6).
The Ghost agrees, saying "So art thou to revenge,
when thou shalt hear" (so you are to revenge when
you hear what I have to say), (Line 7).
The Ghost now announces that "I am thy [your]
father's spirit;" (Line 9) explaining that
he is "Doom'd [doomed] for a certain term [time]
to walk the night, / And for the day confin'd [confined]
to fast in fires, / Till the foul crimes done in my
days of nature [life] / Are burnt and purg'd away"
The Ghost explains that because he is forbidden, he
cannot fully describe the "secrets of my prison-house,"
The Ghost of King Claudius tells Hamlet to "List,
list, O list! [Listen] If thou [you] didst [did] ever
thy [your] dear father love-" (Line 23).
Hamlet, listening, hears the Ghost tell Hamlet to,
"Revenge his foul and most unnatural murder"
The Ghost goes on to describe his murder as "Murder
most foul, as in the best it is; / But this most foul,
strange and unnatural" (Line 28).
Hamlet pledges to make his revenge if told more (Line
29), the Ghost explaining that as he slept in his orchard,
"A serpent stung me; so the whole ear of Denmark"
was abused, Hamlet explaining that this "serpent"
now wears the crown of the man (King Hamlet) he had
killed (Lines 33-39).
Hamlet immediately realizes that this is his uncle,
now King Claudius, and the Ghost explains that as he
was "Sleeping within mine orchard," (Line
60) in the afternoon as he always did, King Claudius
referred to as "thy [your] uncle" secured
a poison, pouring it into his ears (Line 64) killing
him (Lines 64-73).
The Ghost explains that "Thus was I, sleeping,
by a brother's hand, / Of life, of crown, of queen,
at once dispatch'd;" (thus as I was sleeping, by
my brother's hand was I murdered and deprived of
my life, my crown and my wife, Queen Gertrude), (Line
The Ghost tells Hamlet to do something about this,
telling Hamlet, "Let not the royal bed of Denmark
be / A couch for luxury and damned incest" (let
not the royal rule of Denmark remain a place of luxury
and incest), (Line 84).
The Ghost also tells Hamlet to "Taint not thy
mind, nor let thy soul contrive / Against thy mother
aught;" (do not let your mind be tainted into seeking
revenge against your mother), advising Hamlet instead
to leave her punishment to heaven and her own conscience
Running out of time (Lines 89-91), the Ghost tells
Hamlet "Hamlet, remember me" before exiting
Hamlet resolves to remember the Ghost and to avenge
his father's death as asked, saying that he put aside
all else but this "commandment" (to avenge
his father's death) which he says he will devote
his entire "brain," or time to (Lines 92-112).
Hamlet also scorns his mother, calling her "O
most pernicious woman!" (Line 105), also scorning
King Claudius' behaviour.
Horatio and Marcellus now join Hamlet who continuously
refuses to answer their questions as to what has happened
Horatio also notes that Hamlet speaks now in "wild
and whirling words," (Line 133).
Hamlet apologizes for this and asks his friends Marcellus
and Horatio to not tell anyone "what you have seen
to-night" (Line 144), Hamlet wanting them too swear
this upon his sword, taking an oath not to tell (Lines
Marcellus and Horatio will not agree to this until
the Ghost from beneath the platform says "Swear"
(Line 149), Horatio quickly saying "Propose the
oath, my lord" (Line 152).
Telling Marcellus and Horatio to swear on his sword
not to tell anyone what they have seen, Hamlet again
is helped by the Ghost saying "Swear" (Line
155), the Ghost repeating this again (Line 161).
Hamlet now decides that should he appear mad, the two
men should not give any reason explaining his behaviour
Upon hearing the Ghost say "Swear" again
(Line 181), Marcellus and Horatio swear to keep what
they have seen a secret (Line 180).
Thanking his friends, Hamlet, Horatio and Marcellus
depart, Hamlet reminding the men not to say a word and
lamenting that his fate now is to avenge his father's
death (Lines 181-188).