[A lookout post at the Royal Danish Castle at Elsinore. It's a cold night and Francisco is on duty. Another soldier, Bernardo, approaches. He stops as if he's heard a sound coming from the audience, then cries out]
Nay, answer me! Stand and unfold yourself!
You come most carefully upon your hour.
'Tis now struck twelve. Get thee to bed, Francisco.
For this relief much thanks. ‘Tis bitter cold,
Have you had quiet guard?
If you do meet Horatio and Marcellus,
The rivals of my watch, bid them make haste.
[Enter Horatio and Marcellus.]
I think I hear them – Stand! Who's there?
And liegemen to the Dane.
Oh, farewell, honest soldier.
Welcome, Horatio. Welcome, good Marcellus.
What, has this thing appeared again tonight?
Horatio says 'tis but our fantasy,
And will not let belief take hold of him
Touching this dreaded sight twice seen of us.
Therefore I have entreated him along
With us to watch the minutes of this night,
That if again this apparition come,
He may approve our eyes and speak to it.
Tush, tush, 'twill not appear.
And let us once again assail your ears,
That are so fortified against our story,
What we two nights have seen.
And let us hear Bernardo speak of this.
When yond same star that's westward from the pole
Had made his course to illume that part of heaven
Where now it burns, Marcellus and myself —
The bell then beating one ...
[Enter a ghostly figure dressed in splendid armor – see note, line 40]
Peace, break thee off! Look where it comes again!
In the same figure like the king that's dead.
Thou art a scholar. Speak to it, Horatio.
Looks it not like the king? Mark it, Horatio.
Most like, it harrows me with fear and wonder.
What art thou that usurp'st this time of night,
Together with that fair and warlike form
In which the majesty of buried Denmark
Did sometimes march? By heaven I charge thee, speak!
Stay! Speak, speak! I charge thee, speak!
'Tis gone and will not answer.
How now, Horatio! You tremble and look pale.
Is not this something more than fantasy?
Before my God, I might not this believe
Without the sensible and true avouch
Such was the very armor he had on
When he the ambitious Norway combated.
So frowned he once when in an angry parle
He smote the sledded Polacks on the ice.
Thus twice before — and just at this dead hour —
With martial stalk has he gone by our watch.
In what particular thought to work, I know not.
But in the gross and scope of my opinion,
This bodes some strange eruption to our state.
Good now. Sit down and tell me, he that knows,
Why this same strict and most observant watch
So nightly toils the subject of the land,
And why such daily cast of brazen cannon
And foreign mart for implements of war,
Why such impress of shipwrights whose sore task
Does not divide the Sunday from the week.
What might be toward, that this sweaty haste
Doth make the night joint-laborer with the day?
Who is't that can inform me?
At least the whisper goes so. Our last king
(Whose image even but now appeared to us)
Was, as you know, by Fortinbras of Norway,
Thereto pricked on by a most emulate pride,
Dared to the combat; in which our valiant Hamlet
(For so this side of our known world esteemed him)
Did slay this Fortinbras who by a sealed compact
Well ratified by law and heraldry,
Did forfeit with his life all those his lands
Which he stood seized of to the conqueror;
Against the which a moiety competent
Was gaged by our king, which had returned
To the inheritance of Fortinbras
Had he been vanquisher; as, by the same covenant
And carriage of the article designed,
His fell to Hamlet. Now, sir, young Fortinbras,
Of unimproved mettle hot and full,
Has in the skirts of Norway, here and there,
Sharked up a list of landless resolutes,
For food and diet to some enterprise
That has a stomach in't, which is no other —
And it doth well appear unto our state —
But to recover of us, by strong hand
And terms compulsatory, those foresaid lands
So by his father lost. And this, I take it,
Is the main motive of our preparations,
The source of this our watch, and the chief head
Of this post-haste and rummage in the land.
[Re-enter the ghost.]
But soft, behold! Lo where it comes again!
I'll cross it though it blast me.
[The ghost spreads its arms.]
If thou hast any sound or use of voice,
If there be any good thing to be done
That may to thee do ease and grace to me,
If thou art privy to thy country's fate
Which, happily foreknowing, may avoid,
Or if thou hast uphoarded in thy life,
Extorted treasure in the womb of earth
For which, they say, you spirits oft walk in death,
Speak of it. Stay and speak! Stop it, Marcellus.
[The cock crows.]
Shall I strike at it with my partisan?
Do, if it will not stand.
[They strike at the Ghost but their spears seem to pass through it without any effect]
We do it wrong, being so majestical,
To offer it the show of violence;
For it is, as the air, invulnerable,
And our vain blows malicious mockery.
It was about to speak when the cock crew.
And then it started like a guilty thing
Upon a fearful summons. I have heard
The cock, that is the trumpet to the morn,
Doth, with his lofty and shrill-sounding throat,
Awake the god of day; and at his warning,
Whether in sea or fire, in earth or air,
The extravagant and erring spirit hies
To his confine; and of the truth herein
This present object made probation.
It faded on the crowing of the cock.
Some say that ever 'gainst that season comes
Wherein our Savior's birth is celebrated,
The bird of dawning singeth all night long;
And then, they say, no spirit dares walk abroad,
The nights are wholesome, then no planets strike,
No fairy takes, nor witch has power to charm,
So hallowed and so gracious is the time.
So have I heard and do in part believe it.
But look, the morn in russet mantle clad
Walks o'er the dew of yon high eastern hill.
Break we our watch up, and by my advice
Let us impart what we have seen tonight
Unto young Hamlet; for upon my life
This spirit, dumb to us, will speak to him.
Do you consent we shall acquaint him with it,
As needful in our loves, fitting our duty?
Let's do't, I pray, and I this morning know
Where we shall find him most conveniently.