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THIS tragedy is supposed to have been written in 1596. The principal incidents were probably drawn from a dramatic piece by one Thomas Ryd, and from a Historie of Hamblet, in black letter, adopted by Belleforest in his collection of novels (published 1564) from the narrative of Saxo-Grammaticus, the old Danish historian. The play has long been accounted a first-rate dramatic production, for, with some egregious blunders, it con tains a variety of unparalleled beauties. As originally written, it consumed four hours in the representation; persons, in Shakspeare's time, visiting the theatre so early as four o'clock, and regarding the quality less than the quantity obtained for their money; this will excuse some of those trifling interlocutions which yet remain. Perhaps none of our poet's undertakings have been subjected to so much erudite and ingenious criticism as this; and none, certainly, after its most severe exercise, have been left with so much to approve. For although it has been observed, with some appearance of justice, that in the management of the piece, Shakspeare has been rather unfortunate, all its most striking circumstances arising so early in the formation, as "not to leave him room for a conclusion suitable to the importance of its beginning;" yet this defect is amply recompensed by the sublimity of conception, the didactic morality of sentiment, the pathetic intenseness of feeling, the power and comprehensiveness of diction, and the delightful diversity of character, which are displayed in almost every scene. Indeed, were each drama of Shakspeare to be characterized by the particular quality which distinguishes it from the rest, the praise of variety must especially be given to the tragedy of Hamlet; as it is interchangeably contrasted "with merriment that includes judicious and instructive observations; and with solemnity not strained by peetical violence above the natural sentiments of man." To those, however, who are mentally capable of appreciating its excellences as a play, the charm of perusing it in the closet will probably be greater than the delight of witnessing its exhibition; since it is rich in the treasures of contemplative and philosophical speculation; divested of the glare and bustle which captivate or bewilder the senses; whilst the principal character, though furnished with abundant materials, is almost the only support of the piece, and seldom meets with a representative in whom the beauties of the original are effectively embodied. Of the plot it may be observed, that it teems with slaughter, and is justly obnoxious to eriticism in many of its parts; but the catastrophe is certainly its most disgusting feature, and can only be tolerated by the known partiality of an English audience for a multiplicity of deaths and bloodshed. “The manner of Hamlet's death (says Dr. Johnson) is not very happily produced; for the exchange of weapons is rather an expedient of necessity, than a stroke of art."

CLAUDIUS, King of Denmark.


FRANCISCO, a Soldier.

GHOST of Hamlet's Father.

HAMLET, Son to the former, and Nephew to REYNALDO, Servant to Polonius.

the present King.

POLONIUS, Lord Chamberlain.

HORATIO, Friend to Hamlet.


LAERTES, Son to Polonius.





OSRIC, a Courtier.




} Officers

FORTINBRAS, Prince of Norway.

GERTRUDE, Queen of Denmark, and Mother of Hamlet.

OPHELIA, Daughter of Polonius.

Lords, Ladies, Officers, Soldiers, Players, Grave-diggers, Sailors, Messengers, and other Attendants.

SCENE, Elsinore.

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Ber. 'Tis now struck twelve; get thee to bed,

Fran. For this relief, much thanks: 'tis bit-
ter cold,

And I am sick at heart.

Ber. Have you had quiet guard ?
Fran. Not a mouse stirring.

Ber. Well, good night.

If you do meet Horatio and Marcellus,

The rivals of my watch, bid them make haste.


Fran. I think, I hear them.-Stand, ho! Who is there?

Hor. Friends to this ground.

Mar. And liegemen to the Dane.
Fran. Give you good night.
Mar. O, farewell, honest soldier:

Who hath reliev'd you?

Fran. Bernardo hath my place.

Give you good night.

Mar. Holla! Bernardo!

Ber. Say.

What, is Horatio there?

Hor. A piece of him.


Ber. Welcome, Horatio; welcome, good Marcellus.

Hor. What, has this thing appear'd again to-night?

Ber. I have seen nothing.

Mar. 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.
Hor. Tush! tush! 'twill not appear.
Ber. Sit down awhile;

And let us once again assail your ears,
That are so fortified against our story,
What we two nights have seen.

Hor. Well, sit we down,

And let us hear Bernardo speak of this.
Ber. Last night of all,

When yon same star, that's westward from the

Had made his course to illume that part of heaven
Where now it burns, Marcellus, and myself,
The bell then beating one,-

Mar. Peace, break thee off-look, where
comes again I

Enter GHOST.

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


Does not divide the Sunday from the week:
What might be toward, that this sweaty haste
Doth make the night joint-labourer with the

Who is't, that can inform me?

Hor. That can I;

At least, the whisper goes so. Our last king,
Whose image even but now appear'd to us,
Was, as you know, by Fortinbras of Norway,
Thereto prick'd on by a most emulate pride,
Dar'd to the combat; in which our valiant
(For so this side of our known world esteem'd
Did slay this Fortinbras; who, by a seal'd com-
Well ratified by law and heraldry,
Did forfeit, with his life, all those his lands
Which he stood seiz'd of, to the conquerer:
Against the which, a moiety competent
Was gaged by our king; which had return'd
To the inheritance of Fortinbras,

Had he been vanquisher; as, by the same co-
mart, *

And carriage of the article design'd, †
His fell to Hamlet: Now, Sir, young Fortin-
Of unimproved mettle hot and full,† [bras,
Hath in the skirts of Norway, here and there,
Shark'd ý up a list of landless resolutes,
For food and diet, to some enterprise
That hath a stomach | in't: which is no other
it (As 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

Ber. In, the same figure like the king that's

Mar. Thou art a scholar, speak to it, Horatio.
Ber. Looks it not like the king? mark it,

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Of this post-haste and romage ¶ in the land.
[Ber. I think it be no other, but even so:
Well may it sort, ** that this portentous figure
Comes armed through our watch; so like the

That was, and is, the question of these wars.
Hor. A mote it is, to trouble the mind's eye.
In the most high and palmy + state of Rome,
A little ere the mightiest Julius fell,
The graves stood tenantless, and the sheeted
Did squeak and gibber in the Roman streets.


As, stars with trains of fire and dews of blood,
Disasters in the sun; and the moist star,
Upon whose influence Neptune's empire stands,
Was sick almost to doomsday with eclipse.
And even the like precurse of fierce events,-
As harbingers preceding still the fates,
And prologue to the omen §§ coming on,
Have heaven and earth together démonstrated
Unto our climatures and countrymen.-]

Re-enter GHOST.

But, soft; behold! lo, where it comes again!
I'll cross it, though it blast me.-Stay, illu-

If thou hast any sound, or use of voice,
Speak to me :

If there be any good thing to be done,
That may to thee do ease, and grace to me,
Speak to me:

If thou art privy to thy country's fate,
Which happily foreknowing may avoid,
O speak!

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,
[Cock crows.

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Speak of it-stay, and speak.-Stop it, Mar-

Mar. Shall I strike at it with my partizan ?
Hor. Do, if it will not stand.
Ber. 'Tis here!
Hor. 'Tis here!

Mar. 'Tis gone!

Now for ourself, and for this time of meeting.
Thus much the business is: We have here writ
To Norway, uncle of young Fortinbras,-
Who, impotent and bed-rid, scarcely hears
Of this his nephew's purpose,-to suppress
His further gait herein; in that the levies,
[Exit GHOST. The lists, and full proportions, are all made
Out of his subject:-and we here despatch
You, good Cornelius, and you Voltimand,
For bearers of this greeting to old Norway;
Giving to you no further personal power
To business with the king, more than the scope
Of these dilated articles allow.
Farewell; and let your haste commend your
Cor. Vol. In that and all things will we show
our duty.
King. We doubt it nothing; heartily fare-

We do it wrong, being so najestical,
To offer it the show of violence;
For it is, as the air, invulnerable,
And our vain blows malicious mockery.
Ber. It was about to speak, when the cock


Hor. And then it started like a guilty thing
Upon a fearful summons. I have heard,
The cock, that is the trumpet of 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. †

Mar. It faded on the crowing of the cock.
Some say, that ever 'gainst that season comes
Wherein our Saviour's birth is celebrated,
This bird of dawning singeth all night long:
And then they say no spirit dares stir abroad;
The nights are wholesome; then no planets

No fairy takes, nor witch hath power to charm ;
So hallow'd and so gracious is the time.
Hor. So I have heard, and do in part believe

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 to night
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?
Mar. Let's do't, I pray; and I this morning

Where we shall find him most convenient.

[Exeunt. SCENE II.-The same.-A Room of State in

the same.


King. Though yet of Hamlet our dear brother's death

The memory be green; and that it us befitted
To bear our hearts in grief, and our whole king-

To be contracted in one brow of woe;
Yet so far hath discretion fought with nature,
That we with wisest sorrow think on him,
Together with remembrance of ourselves.
Therefore our sometime sister, now our queen,
The imperial jointress of this warlike state,
Have we, as 'twere, with a defeated joy,-
With one auspicious, and one dropping eye;
With mirth in funeral, and with dirge in mar-

In equal scale weighing delight and dole,
Taken to wife: nor have we herein barr'd
Your better wisdoms, which have freely gone
With this affair along.-For all, our thanks.
Now follows, that you know, young Fortin-

Holding a weak supposal of our worth;
Or thinking, by our late dear brother's death,
Our state to be disjoint and out of frame,
Colleagued with this dream of his advantage,
He hath not fail'd to pester us with message,
Importing our surrender of those lands
Lost by his father, with all bands of law,
To our most valiant brother.-So much for

• Wandering.

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And now, Laertes, what's the news with you?
You told us of some suit; What is't, Laertes ?
You cannot speak of reason to the Dane,
And lose your voice: What would'st thou beg,

That shall not be my offer, not thy asking?
The head is not more native to the heart,
The hand more instrumental to the mouth,
Than is the throne of Denmark to thy father.
What wouldst thou have, Laertes ?

Laer. My dread lord,

Your leave and favour to return to France;
From whence, though willingly, I came to Den-

To show my duty in your coronation;
Yet now, I must confess, that duty done,
My thoughts and wishes bend again toward

And bow them to your gracious leave and pardon.
King. Have you your father's leave? What
says Polonius ?

Pol. He hath, my lord, [wrung from me my
slow leave,

By laboursome petition; and, at last,
Upon his will 1 seal'd my hard consent:]
I do beseech you, give him leave to go.

King. Take thy fair hour, Laertes; time be


And thy best graces; spend it at thy will.-
But now, my cousin Hamlet, and my son,-
Ham. A little more than kin, and less than

kind. +


King. How is it, that the clouds still hang on you?

Ham. Not so, my lord, I am too much 'the

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+ Proof. Bonds.

: Grief.

• Way-path child.

+ Kin is the Teutonick word for 1 Dejected eyes.

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