Act I - Scene II

[A room of state in the Castle.]

Flourish. Enter Claudius, King of Denmark, Gertrude the Queen, [Hamlet, Polonius, his son Laertes [his sister Ophelia], Voltimand, Cornelius, Lords Attendant.]

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 kingdom
To be contracted in one brow of woe,
Yet so far hath discretion fought with nature(5)
That we with wisest sorrow think on him
Together with remembrance of ourselves.
Therefore our sometime sister, now our queen,
The imperial jointress to this warlike state,
Have we, as 'twere with a defeated joy,(10)
With an auspicious, and a dropping eye,
With mirth in funeral, and with dirge in marriage,
In equal scale weighing delight and dole,
Taken to wife. Nor have we herein barr'd
Your better wisdoms, which have freely gone(15)
With this affair along. For all, our thanks.
Now follows, that you know, young Fortinbras,
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,(20)
Colleagued with this dream of his advantage,
He hath not fail'd to pester us with message,
Importing the surrender of those lands
Lost by his father, with all bonds of law,
To our most valiant brother. So much for him.(25)
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(30)
His further gait herein, in that the levies,
The lists, and full proportions, are all made
Out of his subject; and we here dispatch
You, good Cornelius, and you, Voltimand,
For bearers of this greeting to old Norway,(35)
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 duty.
CORNELIUS, VOLTIMAND:
In that and all things will we show(40)
our duty.
KING:
We doubt it nothing. Heartily farewell.

[Exit Voltimand and Cornelius.]

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,(45)
And lose your voice. What wouldst thou beg, Laertes,
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.(50)
What wouldst thou have, Laertes?
LAERTES:
Dread my lord,
Your leave and favour to return to France;
From whence though willingly I came to Denmark,
To show my duty in your coronation,(55)
Yet now, I must confess, that duty done,
My thoughts and wishes bend again toward France
And bow them to your gracious leave and pardon.
KING:
Have you your father's leave? What says Polonius?
POLONIUS:
He hath, my lord, wrung from me my slow leave(60)
By laboursome petition, and at last
Upon his will I seal'd my hard consent.
I do beseech you, give him leave to go.
KING:
Take thy fair hour, Laertes. Time be thine,
And thy best graces spend it at thy will!(65)
But now, my cousin Hamlet, and my son,—
HAMLET:
A little more than kin, and less than kind!
KING:
How is it that the clouds still hang on you?
HAMLET:
Not so, my lord: I am too much i' the sun.
QUEEN:
Good Hamlet, cast thy nighted color off,(70)
And let thine eye look like a friend on Denmark.
Do not for ever with thy vailed lids
Seek for thy noble father in the dust.
Thou know'st 'tis common. All that lives must die,
Passing through nature to eternity.(75)
HAMLET:
Ay, madam, it is common.
QUEEN:
If it be,
Why seems it so particular with thee?
HAMLET:
Seems, madam? Nay, it is. I know not seems.
'tis not alone my inky cloak, good mother,(80)
Nor customary suits of solemn black,
Nor windy suspiration of forced breath,
No, nor the fruitful river in the eye,
Nor the dejected havior of the visage,
Together with all forms, modes, shapes of grief,(85)
That can denote me truly. These indeed seem,
For they are actions that a man might play;
But I have that within which passeth show,
These but the trappings and the suits of woe.
KING:
'tis sweet and commendable in your nature, Hamlet,(90)
To give these mourning duties to your father;
But you must know, your father lost a father;
That father lost, lost his, and the survivor bound
In filial obligation for some term
To do obsequious sorrow. But to persever(95)
In obstinate condolement is a course
Of impious stubbornness; 'tis unmanly grief;
It shows a will most incorrect to heaven,
A heart unfortified, a mind impatient,
An understanding simple and unschool'd;(100)
For what we know must be, and is as common
As any the most vulgar thing to sense,
Why should we, in our peevish opposition,
Take it to heart? Fie! 'tis a fault to heaven,
A fault against the dead, a fault to nature,(105)
To reason most absurd, whose common theme
Is death of fathers, and who still hath cried,
From the first corse till he that died today,
This must be so. We pray you throw to earth
This unprevailing woe, and think of us(110)
As of a father; for let the world take note
You are the most immediate to our throne,
And with no less nobility of love
Than that which dearest father bears his son
Do I impart toward you. For your intent(115)
In going back to school in Wittenberg,
It is most retrograde to our desire;
And we beseech you, bend you to remain
Here in the cheer and comfort of our eye,
Our chiefest courtier, cousin, and our son.(120)
QUEEN:
Let not thy mother lose her prayers, Hamlet.
I pray thee, stay with us, go not to Wittenberg.
HAMLET:
I shall in all my best obey you, madam.
KING:
Why, 'tis a loving and a fair reply.
Be as ourself in Denmark. Madam, come.(125)
This gentle and unforced accord of Hamlet
Sits smiling to my heart; in grace whereof,
No jocund health that Denmark drinks today
But the great cannon to the clouds shall tell,
And the King's rouse the heaven shall bruit again,(130)
Re-speaking earthly thunder. Come away.

Flourish. Exeunt all but Hamlet.

HAMLET:
O, that this too too sullied flesh would melt,
Thaw and resolve itself into a dew,
Or that the Everlasting had not fix'd
His canon 'gainst self-slaughter! O God! God!(135)
How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable
Seem to me all the uses of this world!
Fie on't! ah, fie! 'tis an unweeded garden
That grows to seed; things rank and gross in nature
Possess it merely. That it should come to this!(140)
But two months dead! Nay, not so much, not two;
So excellent a king, that was, to this,
Hyperion to a satyr; so loving to my mother
That he might not beteem the winds of heaven
Visit her face too roughly. Heaven and earth!(145)
Must I remember? Why, she would hang on him
As if increase of appetite had grown
By what it fed on; and yet, within a month—
Let me not think on't! Frailty, thy name is woman—
A little month, or ere those shoes were old(150)
With which she follow'd my poor father's body
Like Niobe, all tears—why she, even she—
O God! a beast that wants discourse of reason
Would have mourn'd longer—married with my uncle,
My father's brother, but no more like my father(155)
Than I to Hercules. Within a month,
Ere yet the salt of most unrighteous tears
Had left the flushing in her galled eyes,
She married. O, most wicked speed, to post
With such dexterity to incestuous sheets!(160)
It is not, nor it cannot come to, good.
But break, my heart, for I must hold my tongue!

Enter Horatio, Marcellus, and Bernardo.

HORATIO:
Hail to your lordship!
HAMLET:
I am glad to see you well.
Horatio—or I do forget myself.(165)
HORATIO:
The same, my lord, and your poor servant ever.
HAMLET:
Sir, my good friend; I'll change that name with you.
And what make you from Wittenberg, Horatio?—
Marcellus?
MARCELLUS:
My good lord!(170)
HAMLET:
I am very glad to see you.— [To Bernardo] Good
even, sir.—
But what, in faith, make you from Wittenberg?
HORATIO:
A truant disposition, good my lord.
HAMLET:
I would not hear your enemy say so,(175)
Nor shall you do my ear that violence
To make it truster of your own report
Against yourself. I know you are no truant.
But what is your affair in Elsinore?
We'll teach you to drink deep ere you depart.(180)
HORATIO:
My lord, I came to see your father's funeral.
HAMLET:
I prithee do not mock me, fellow student.
I think it was to see my mother's wedding.
HORATIO:
Indeed, my lord, it followed hard upon.
HAMLET:
Thrift, thrift, Horatio. The funeral baked meats(185)
Did coldly furnish forth the marriage tables.
Would I had met my dearest foe in heaven
Or ever I had seen that day, Horatio!
My father—methinks I see my father.
HORATIO:
O, where, my lord?(190)
HAMLET:
In my mind's eye, Horatio.
HORATIO:
I saw him once. He was a goodly king.
HAMLET:
He was a man, take him for all in all;
I shall not look upon his like again.
HORATIO:
My lord, I think I saw him yesternight.(195)
HAMLET:
Saw? Who?
HORATIO:
My lord, the King your father.
HAMLET:
The King my father?
HORATIO:
Season your admiration for a while
With an attent ear, till I may deliver(200)
Upon the witness of these gentlemen,
This marvel to you.
HAMLET:
For God's love let me hear!
HORATIO:
Two nights together had these gentlemen
Marcellus and Bernardo, on their watch(205)
In the dead vast and middle of the night,
Been thus encountered. A figure like your father,
Armed at point exactly, cap-à-pie,
Appears before them, and with solemn march
Goes slow and stately by them. Thrice he walk'd(210)
By their oppress'd and fear-surprised eyes,
Within his truncheon's length; whilst they, distill'd
Almost to jelly with the act of fear,
Stand dumb and speak not to him. This to me
In dreadful secrecy impart they did,(215)
And I with them the third night kept the watch;
Where, as they had deliver'd, both in time,
Form of the thing, each word made true and good,
The apparition comes. I knew your father.
These hands are not more like.(220)
HAMLET:
But where was this?
MARCELLUS:
My lord, upon the platform where we watch'd.
HAMLET:
Did you not speak to it?
HORATIO:
My lord, I did;
But answer made it none. Yet once methought(225)
It lifted up it head and did address
Itself to motion, like as it would speak;
But, even then, the morning cock crew loud,
And at the sound it shrunk in haste away
And vanish'd from our sight.(230)
HAMLET:
'tis very strange.
HORATIO:
As I do live, my honour'd lord, 'tis true;
And we did think it writ down in our duty
To let you know of it.
HAMLET:
Indeed, indeed, sirs. But this troubles me.(235)
Hold you the watch tonight?
MARCELLUS AND BERNARDO:
We do, my lord.
HAMLET:
Arm'd, say you?
MARCELLUS AND BERNARDO:
Arm'd, my lord.
HAMLET:
From top to toe?(240)
MARCELLUS AND BERNARDO:
My lord, from head to foot.
HAMLET:
Then saw you not his face?
HORATIO:
O, yes, my lord! He wore his beaver up.
HAMLET:
What, look'd he frowningly?
HORATIO:
A countenance more in sorrow than in anger.(245)
HAMLET:
Pale, or red?
HORATIO:
Nay, very pale.
HAMLET:
And fix'd his eyes upon you?
HORATIO:
Most constantly.
HAMLET:
I would I had been there.(250)
HORATIO:
It would have much amazed you.
HAMLET:
Very like, very like. Stay'd it long?
HORATIO:
While one with moderate haste might tell a hundred.
MARCELLUS AND BERNARDO:
Longer, longer.
HORATIO:
Not when I saw't.(255)
HAMLET:
His beard was grizzled, no?
HORATIO:
It was as I have seen it in his life,
A sable silvered.
HAMLET:
I will watch tonight.
Perchance 'twill walk again.(260)
HORATIO:
I warrant it will.
HAMLET:
If it assume my noble father's person,
I'll speak to it, though hell itself should gape
And bid me hold my peace. I pray you all,
If you have hitherto conceal'd this sight,(265)
Let it be tenable in your silence still;
And whatsoever else shall hap tonight,
Give it an understanding, but no tongue.
I will requite your loves. So, fare you well.
Upon the platform, 'twixt eleven and twelve,(270)
I'll visit you.
ALL:
Our duty to your honour.

Exeunt [all but Hamlet.]

HAMLET:
Your loves, as mine to you. Farewell.
My father's spirit in arms! All is not well.
I doubt some foul play. Would the night were come.(275)
Till then sit still, my soul. Foul deeds will rise,
Though all the earth o'erwhelm them, to men's eyes.

Exit.

Footnotes

  1. The Queen is annoyed that Hamlet is still grieving his dead father. She suspects his mourning is a ploy for attention. Hamlet concedes that sorrow can be fabricated, but he has "that within which passeth show:" genuine feelings, which cannot be seen.

    — Sarah St. Albin, Owl Eyes Staff
  2. Horatio's description of Hamlet's father's ghost here clashes with the ghost that Hamlet meets later in the play. Hamlet's father's ghost is enraged when he speaks to Hamlet about his murder. That Hamlet assumes his father's ghost is angry tells us something about the man's countenance when he was living.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Editor
  3. The "mind's eye" is a human's ability to visualize or otherwise experience things within their mind. While Horatio actually did see Hamlet's father's ghost in the previous scene, Hamlet is only imagining his father here. The play can be seen as occurring mostly in Hamlet's "mind's eye" as it explores his internal landscape as he attempts to understand the external world. Shakespeare did not coin this term but he did make it a popular expression.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Editor
  4. Hamlet means that he wants the men to witness and understand this event with him, but he doesn't want them to tell anyone about it. If there's a Ghost that wants to speak to him then there's likely to be something wrong, and Hamlet might well be in danger. To keep his enemies and the King from learning what that is and taking measures against him, he would need to keep this information quiet. He trusts that these men will be loyal to him. We'll see if this trust has been misplaced.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  5. A sable is a species of animal that lives primarily in Russia and Siberia and has become popular for its soft fur, which is made into coats or "sables" for royalty. Today, women typically wear sables to parties and gatherings, and few men, if any, are seen with sable coats outside of cold climates. A silvered sable, then, looks very much like a fine piece of gray fur, though it is, in this case, just King Hamlet's beard.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  6. Hamlet's eagerness to have seen his father's Ghost speaks both to his love of his father and to his generally morbid and brooding character. He hears the description of the Ghost dressed all in armor, walking up and down the ramparts, speaking to no one, and looking fierce, and he longs to have seen it himself. What he intends to do when he meets this Ghost is as of yet unclear, but he certainly intends to take every precaution should the meeting turn sour.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  7. A truncheon is a heavy club that's used by warriors in hand-to-hand battle, and to come within truncheon's length is to come into combat range with the Ghost (just a few feet away). The fact that the Ghost carries a truncheon suggests to Horatio that he's come back to discuss the impending war, but the Ghost's true intentions, and whether or not he will speak to Prince Hamlet, remains to be seen.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  8. That is, dressed in armor from head to toe. Shakespeare went to a great deal of trouble in the first scene to establish that this is, indeed, dead King Hamlet's Ghost, and in so doing makes it easier for the audience to understand what's happening. If he had waited to introduce the Ghost until he spoke with Hamlet, we would've had to spent time awkwardly establishing his character, which would've taken away from the dramatic impact of the scene.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  9. "Truant," or truancy, refer to a student's absence from school. Horatio suggests that he's truant by nature, that it's in his disposition, but, as Hamlet knows, this isn't true. He says so merely in jest, and in this joke we come to understand that the two men are friends and know each other well enough to read between the lines of what the other's saying. Horatio may well be Hamlet's greatest friend in Elsinore, and the only one he thinks he can trust.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  10. Shakespeare uses the long em-dash here to indicate that Hamlet either has been interrupted by or is surprised to see Marcellus, whom he hadn't noticed before. This, and Hamlet's greeting to Bernardo in the following lines, should indicate that Hamlet has been in a state of reverie or introspection and is a little startled to be thrust back into a social situation, unable to get the timing of his greetings quite right. Shakespeare uses this to build his character and set the tone for this conversation.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  11. Hercules, also known as Heracles, was the son of the Greek god Zeus and the mortal Alcmene. He was endowed with enormous strength and is now famous for his Twelve Labors, which included slaying the Nemean Lion, killing a nine-headed Hydra, and capturing the multi-headed hound Cerebrus, who guarded the gates of Hades (Hell). Again Hamlet uses Greek mythology to draw an analogy between ancient heroes and characters in the play.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  12. In Greek mythology, Hyperion was considered the "High One," Lord of the Light and the Titan of the East, one of the twelve Titans that ruled the earth before Zeus and the Olympians fought them for control. Hamlet draws a parallel between Hyperion and a satyr (a lustful, drunken god) and between King Hamlet and Claudius, forming an analogy that makes his father look like a saint and Claudius seem depraved.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  13. The Queen of Thebes, married to Amphion, Niobe is said to have boasted of having fourteen children to the goddess Leto, who had only two, the twins Apollo and Artemis. In response, Apollo and Artemis killed all of Niobe's children, later turning her to stone on Mount Sipylus, where she continued to weep even in her petrified state. Niobe became the prototype for all grieving mothers in Greek tragedies and is here likened to Gertrude to emphasize the other's surprising lack of grief.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  14. In Renaissance England, as in classical Greek and Roman tragedies, women were believed to be inexhaustible in matters of sex and the heart, which in turn led to much strife (see: the Trojan War) and a sharp divide between the sexes. Hamlet's assertion here (that by their nature women are essentially frail and unfaithful) would've been common in Shakespeare's time, though it appears sexist and simplistic from a modern perspective.

    The "[c]onventional wisdom in Renaissance England conformend to the attitude (which can be traced as far back as classical Greek and Rome) that women unlike men, had an inexhaustible capacity for sexual pleasure." Henderson, Katherine Usher and Barbara F. McManus. Half Human Kind: Contexts and Texts of the Contoversy about Women in England 1540-1540. Urbana: University of Illinois Press. 1985. p.56.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  15. In gardening terminology, "rank" things are low-lying vegetation like untended grasses mixed with overgrown weeds. "Gross" things are then tall, individual weeds like milkweeds that grow up in the middle of lawns or walkways. This phenomenon occurs in any untended garden and functions as a metaphor for Halmet's view of the world, in which the masses are "rank," while individuals like Claudius are "gross." Notice, too, how these lines deliberately break the patten of iambic pentameter and contain more than ten syllables, as if to suggest the tangled, disordered, and overgrown condition of a neglected nation or garden.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  16. In Catholic belief, suicide is a mortal sin, that is, such an egregious wrong that it cannot be forgiven by God. To commit suicide condemns a person to Hell and reflects poorly on one's surviving loved ones. This exclamation marks Hamlet's first reference to suicide and the beginning of a downward emotional spiral that some scholars have linked to modern conceptions of depression. For Hamlet even to be considering suicide suggests that something is desperately wrong.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  17. Notice that Claudius has forty lines and Gertrude only has fourteen lines. This disparity speaks to the different gender roles in the play, emphasizing the fact that, though Gertrude is the "imperial jointress," she holds precious little sway over either her husband or her son. In the end, it's the King that Hamlet listens to, in spite of their strained relationship, which tells us as much about Gertrude as it does about Hamlet.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  18. Martin Luther famously posted his "95 Theses" on the front door of All Saints' Church in Wittenberg on Oct. 31, 1517, an act that would lead to the Protestant Reformation. Although the time periods don't coincide (the play takes place in either the 14th or 15th Century), Hamlet will struggle with his traditional Catholic belief system throughout the play and wrestle with the new thinking that he's acquired at university.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  19. This would've been a particular blow to Hamlet, as a scholar at Wittenberg. The young Prince might not know that much about governing a nation, but he does pride himself on being a thoughtful and intelligent young man. Claudius may have miscalculated here in belittling Hamlet's intelligence and masculinity, as that kind of behavior can make an enemy out of a friend and will put strain on their relationship.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  20. In Hamlet's time, masculinity was a far narrower concept than it is today, and being "manly" meant, largely, fighting, conquering, and remaining stoic in the face of grief or danger. Calling Hamlet's grief "unmanly" calls his masculinity into question and undermines his authority in this group of people. This is yet another tactic Claudius uses to sway Hamlet, though ultimately it does more harm than good.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  21. "Impious" means unholy or profane and here suggests that grief and the various performances of grief are in themselves impious acts which run contrary to God's will that all men should die. Grief, then, becomes an indulgence in defiance of God's wishes and is considered impious or inappropriate. This is just one of many tactics Claudius uses to try and get Hamlet to stop mourning his father.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  22. Meaning, dutiful, required. Like Laertes, Hamlet appears at the castle mostly out of a sense of obligation. He'd rather be in Wittenberg, a fact Claudius knows all to well, as he uses this pointed, unpleasant word. Claudius might also be engaging in some clever wordplay, as "obsequey" means "funeral service."

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  23. Hamlet refers to his mourning clothes and his fruitful tears as actions that he can play, meaning, the performance of sorrow rather than the sorrow itself. In this, Shakespeare plays on the fact of this being a tragedy performed in a theatre and emphasizes the difference between pretending to be something and actually being it. This question of performativity will continue throughout the play and become one of Hamlet's primary concerns.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  24. The dejected behavior or the dejected expression of his face. In this passage, Hamlet refers to his black clothes, his heavy sighs ("windy suspiration"), and his tears, their "fruitful river" flowing in the wake of his father's death. His use of the word "fruitful" suggests that the tears are both plentiful and productive, meaning that his grief has a purpose and a meaning. Like many people, he believes that sorrow can teach him something about the world; we'll have to wait and see what that is.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  25. "Vailed lids" recalls the black veils that people sometimes wear in mourning. It suggests that, while Hamlet's eyes are open, he doesn't see the truth of what's happening. This is another pun. "Vail" is in fact a separate word, meaning profit or worth, and refers to Hamlet's value, as the Prince of Denmark. This may be an attempt on Gertrude's part to remind Hamlet of who he is and of who he could be, as the next in line for the throne.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  26. Here Gertrude makes a pun on the word "nighted," using it to suggest that Hamlet is wearing all black and that this someone makes him a knight, or soldier that has declared his loyalty to the king. There's some anxiety in this, because Hamlet disapproves of the new king for not being his father and doesn't appear willing to accept Claudius as the new ruler of the kingdom. Gertrude may be warning her son to stay in line, but her intentions aren't immediately clear.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  27. From this line we can assume that Laertes's request to leave France wasn't originally granted and that he had to ask over and over and over again, not unlike a teenager asking for permission. It's important to note that Laertes, though a college graduate in his early twenties, would still have been considered very young at that time and wouldn't have been given free reign to travel at will. He would've relied on Polonius for money and been forced to beg to leave the castle.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  28. Laertes here reveals his reluctance to remain in the castle after the coronation and marriage have taken place. It's clear that, while loyal to the King, he begrudges having to leave France and would prefer to return immediately. This might be a backhanded critique of the atmosphere in the castle, which seems to promise war and must've been full of gossip about the King marrying his sister-in-law Gertrude. If Laertes feels uncomfortable, it suggests that something is, indeed, rotten in Denmark.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  29. Here meaning to venerate or to regard with awe rather than to fear. The word "dread" derives from the Old English adrædan, a contraction of ondrædan, to "counsel or advise against," with the prefix "on-" meaning "against" and the suffix "rædan" meaning "to advise." By examining the word's etymology, we find that Laertes is in fact expressing his respect for the King and asking his advice.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  30. In this speech, Claudius reminds Laertes that his father is a nobleman who has the King's ear and that it's not becoming of his station to stutter or to show fear in this situation. His tone as he says this becomes increasingly belittling, until he seems to cajole Laertes into speaking. Under other circumstances, this might rankle some characters, but Laertes, being so timid, mistakes this tone for regal graciousness and doesn't feel slighted.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  31. In general, "gait" refers to someone's manner or stride while walking. In this case, it refers to Fortinbras' path or his course of action with regards to war. By Claudius' use of the word "further," we can assume that Fortinbras has already taken steps to fight with the Danes, and that Claudius has some sense of his next moves. From this, we can assume that Clausius is, in fact, worried about a war with Norway, otherwise he wouldn't bother to send this message.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  32. Though the audience's first impulse is to assume that Claudius has already written to Norway, the use of the word "here" indicates that Claudius is holding the letter in his hand (or that one of his servants is). In general, it would be unnecessary for him to announce that he's sending such a letter, which should suggest to the reader that he's making a point of telling people about it, using this performance to bolster his ego and his reputation.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  33. This line perfectly encapsulates Claudius' feelings about young Fortinbras. In four words, he manages to be arrogant, unimpressed, and altogether dismissive, making it seem as though Fortinbras isn't worth his time and won't be a threat. In the next lines, he cements this sentiment by speaking not of Fortinbras himself but of his ailing uncle, whom Claudius actually respects. This is a neat way of both diminishing Fortinbras and making himself seem like a wise and powerful king.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  34. Meaning, disorganized or disarranged. In medieval Europe, a power vacuum was particularly dangerous and made countries far more vulnerable to attack. Claudius knows that, without leadership in place, other countries would view the Danes as weak, and plays on this fact in order to appeal to his audience sense of self-preservation. This makes him very persuasive, but that's not, in fact, the same thing as being a good King.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  35. Another line indicating that the marriage took place shortly after King Hamlet's death. It appears at first that Claudius has gotten it backwards, as "mirth" is typically associated with marriages and "dirges" (funeral songs) are played after a death, but this mistake is very telling of Claudius' true feelings and suggests that he is, in fact, happy about his brother's death. It's unclear whether or not Gertrude also feels this way, which will cause tension between her and her son Hamlet later on in the play.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  36. That is, a woman who holds the right of inheritance. Some critics argue that any jointure agreement in Denmark would raise very real threats to King Hamlet's heirs, and that Shakespeare uses this term both to develop the theme of inheritance in the play and to establish motive for a revenge plot that we'll see later in the play. Though the use of the word "imperial" suggests that Gertrude has all the power over the estate, the reality is that she's helpless and has very little control over what happens.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  37. In Hamlet's day no distinctions were made between in-laws and siblings, and as King Hamlet's wife, Gertrude wouldn't have just been Claudius' sister-in-law, but his actual sister. In this line, "sometime" means "at one time" or "in the past" and "our" means that Gertrude is both Claudius' queen and the queen of the Danish people. By using "our," Claudius invokes the royal "we" in order to position himself as the voice of his people. It's a subtle way of getting his subjects to trust him.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  38. Shakespeare used the word "green" to mean young, as in his play *Antony and Cleopatra," when Cleopatra speaks the famous line about youthful "salad days" (salad being green). This word indicates to the reader that King Hamlet's death is very recent, and that King Claudius has only just ascended to the throne to fill that vacuum of power. Claudius has yet to reveal how he really feels about this.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  39. The dead King Hamlet. This scene is an explanation of the relationship between Claudius, Gertrude, and Hamlet, as they navigate life without King Hamlet, King Claudius' brother. That makes Claudius Hamlet's uncle by blood and stepfather by marriage, because he's now married to Queen Gertrude, his former sister-in-law, widow of the dead King Hamlet. It's a complex serious of relationships that govern the drama of the rest of the play.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  40. Laertes, a student, like Hamlet and Horatio, has been to Wittenberg and will later become a major character in the drama. For the moment however, Claudius and, by extension, Shakespeare have no real use for him, so they send him off to France to take care of some matters. In doing so, Claudius treats this conversation with Laertes like an item he's checking off a list, and indeed it seems that he couldn't care less what Laertes does. It remains to be seen if this is a wise decision.

    — William Delaney
  41. This is Claudius' polite way of saying he wants to keep an eye on Hamlet, either because he's worried about him or because he's uncomfortable with their relationship, we don't know yet. "Cheer and comfort" here refers both to the relative comfort Hamlet will experience as Prince in the castle and to the comfort Claudius will take in knowing where Hamlet is and what he's up to. Why Claudius is so concerned about this, and what it means for the future, we'll have to see.

    — William Delaney
  42. Ironic considering that Hamlet, a well-educated scholar, would have to hold his tongue, though he is by far the most eloquent character in the play. Hamlet's soliloquies (performed in private, for the most part) rely on language that's full of allusions, innuendo, deception, and wit, providing insight into humanity that he himself doesn't fully understand, such is the depth of Shakespeare's poetry.

    — William Delaney
  43. Here the audience is primed for Hamlet to see the Ghost of his father, who was introduced in Act I, Scene I. That won't happen in this scene, but Hamlet will be stricken by the grief he feels about his father and speak as though he's "seen his father," either in his dreams or in his memories of the castle. Horatio, at first, thinks Hamlet has seen the Ghost, and this provides a comic situation for the audience that Hamlet isn't aware of and Horatio resolves quickly.

    — Karen P.L. Hardison
  44. Hamlet's bitterness is apparent in this exchange with Horatio. First in his bitter acknowledgement that at Elsinore they teach to "drink deep" of sorrow, and, second, in his bitter ironic retort that he not be mocked for his mother marrying his uncle at this gala wedding Horatio has been forced to attend. Hamlet fully expects Horatio to understand this bitterness, and, thankfully, he does.

    — Karen P.L. Hardison
  45. That the dead king comes back clothed in full armor bodes well for the future of his soul, because popular belief held that a ghost that appears fully clothed is imbued with some angelic virtue or power, just as nakedness in humans is a sign of great weakness and vulnerability. Hamlet would then have no real reason to fear the Ghost, but needs to take precautions in case the Ghost turns out to be an enemy of the state in disguise.

    — Jamie Wheeler
  46. When something is "sullied," it is soiled, tarnished, defiled. Thus, Hamlet's flesh, once pure and innocent, has become defiled and impure because his mother has married her husband's brother and made his uncle into the King. In this, we also find a question of paternity, as it's possible (though never confirmed) that Claudius and Gertrude were having an affair even before King Hamlet's death, and that Prince Hamlet may well be his uncle's son, instead.

    — Karen P.L. Hardison
  47. There are only three theatres in the world in still existence that were constructed in Shakespeare's era:  

    1.  Noh Theatre, Japan, 1581

    2. Teatro Olympico, Italy, 1585

    3. Teatro all'Antica, Italy, 1590

    Source: Carr, David and Ben Crystal. *The Shakespeare Miscellany. *New York: The Overlook Press, 2005. Print. 

    — Jamie Wheeler
  48. As is often the case with Hamlet, his words contain multiple meanings. Here, the word "kin" suggests that Claudius is related to Hamlet twice over as both his uncle and his stepfather, while the line "less than kind" refers to the audacity of Claudius marrying Gertrude so soon after King Hamlet's death. Hamlet sees this as an unnatural act unbefitting of either a king or a member of the family and is suspicious of this "o'er hasty marriage."

    — Jamie Wheeler
  49. It's important to note here that it isn't Hamlet's decision whether or not he goes back to Wittenberg. It's Claudius'. Hamlet merely wants to return, and, by asking, requests the King's permission to go, along with the considerable sum required for travel, accommodations, tuition, servants, and food. Without this permission, Hamlet can't leave Elsinore, making him, in effect, a prisoner of his uncle, the King.

    — William Delaney
  50. Shakespeare introduces Hamlet in a crowd in order to emphasize his introversion. Hamlet is dressed entirely in black, communicating the fact that he's a loner who disapproves of the festivities. Many scholars have diagnosed him with depression, and this might explain some of his behavior in this scene, in which he appears both brooding and insufferable, like a scholar who looks down on everyone around him. Notice how he speaks to his mother and how this differs from the way he speaks to the King in this scene.

    — William Delaney
  51. Hamlet stops himself from wondering why, exactly, her mother has had this sudden change of heart. This in itself should suggest that something's wrong, but he can't figure out what. His tragic flaw is thinking too much, being unable to control his own brooding mind long enough to make a decision and act on it quickly. Instead, Hamlet indulges in long soliloquies, allowing his mind to wander as he considers the problem before him. That he solves it in the end is a testament to his remarkable intelligence.

    — William Delaney
  52. With Horatio's witness, the Ghost has been seen by witnesses on three separate occasions, by which time the audience should be thoroughly convinced that this character really is a ghost and is probably the ghost of Hamlet's father. Hamlet himself will not need much additional verification when he finally confronts the Ghost later in the play, though he will become suspicious of other characters, further developing the theme of deceit and suspicion.

    — William Delaney
  53. A subtle and bitter joke. Thrift is the last thing Claudius is concerned about. He's a conspicuously extravagant man trying to arouse good cheer in his new role as king and has just recently thrown both a lavish wedding and a gigantic funeral for the departed King Hamlet. By saying "thrift, thrift," Hamlet remarks upon his stepfather's extravagance and reminds Horatio that they're supposed to still be in mourning for the king.

    — William Delaney
  54. Hamlet cuts right back to talking to Horatio as soon as the pleasantries are over. His repeated question might just be inquisitive, but, in the light of his long speech about Claudius and his mother, it seems like Hamlet is suspicious of Horatio, as he will be of many characters in the play. This should indicate to the reader that Hamlet's mental health has begun to deteriorate.

    — William Delaney
  55. Though Claudius doesn't have Hamlet's education, he's a very perceptive and intelligent man, and uses this speech to manipulate Hamlet and all his listeners into thinking of him as a wise, righteous king. Here, he deliberately ends on the word "son," echoing Hamlet's earlier pun and emphasizing his position while undercutting Hamlet's intelligence, masculinity, and piety. In this way, Claudius pays Hamlet back for his earlier insult and places further strain on their relationship.

    — William Delaney
  56. This pun on the word "sun" has multiple meanings, revealing Hamlet's brilliance and wit while at the same time suggesting that he doesn't like being in the spotlight ("i' the sun," under scrutiny from Claudius and his spies). His words also suggests that he dislikes even being thought of as Claudius' stepson, as this places him in a subordinate role with little power and few people he can turn to that he trusts.

    — William Delaney
  57. The firing of the "great cannon" was a real event that often ocurred at the real-life Elisinore during the reign of King Erik. During banquets, whenever a glass was raised in a toast, trumpets would sound, while on the ramparts outside artillery men responded by firing cannons. It was a noisy and boisterous time, recreated by Shakespeare for Claudius's wedding fete.

    — Jamie Wheeler
  58. In Hamlet's time, unlike our own, for his uncle to wed his mother would've been considered incestuous. This exact topic was hotly debated in English in the 16th Century, as Anne Boleyn, wife of King Henry VIII, was framed for "incestuous" acts with her brother, acts which later led to her beheading. In Shakespeare's time, when England was predominantly a Catholic state, the Church would've frowned upon Gertrude and Claudius' marriage, but would've looked worse upon divorce.

    — Katie Rounds