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, 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 Staff
  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 Staff
  4. Hamlet says 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.

    — 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 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 is 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 has come back to discuss the impending war.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  8. To be "armed to the point" means to be 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 is happening. If he had waited to introduce the Ghost until it spoke with Hamlet, it would have lessened the dramatic tension since the audience would not anticipate their meeting or understand its potential significance.

    — 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 is 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 an invulnerable lion and defeating a nine-headed hydra. Hamlet states that Claudius, despite being King Hamlet's brother, is "no more like" Hamlet's father than Hamlet himself is like Hercules. Hamlet idolized his father and uses this comparison to imply that Claudius is not a good person. He also offers some insight into his perception of himself by comparing himself to Hercules as a way of emphasizing the difference in character between Claudius and King Hamlet. He does not perceive himself as heroic and strong, as Hercules was. Instead, he is as unlike the legendary hero as Claudius is unlike his father, foreshadowing Hamlet's struggles later 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 parallels 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 a depraved drunkard.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  13. In Greek mythology, Niobe was a Queen of Thebes. She is said to have boasted about 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 apparent 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 and a sharp divide between the sexes, both socially and in fiction. Hamlet's assertion here (that by their nature women are essentially frail and unfaithful) would have been common in Shakespeare's time, though it appears sexist and simplistic from a modern perspective. 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 Hamlet'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, or something 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 that though Claudius refers to Gertrude as the "imperial jointress," she holds precious little sway over the court. However, it is not Claudius that Hamlet addresses his response to but Gertrude. This emphasizes Hamlet's preoccupation with his mother, who he views as having betrayed both the deceased King and him by entering into an incestuous marriage with Claudius.

    — 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. As a young scholar, being called "simple and unschool'd" would've been a particular blow to Hamlet. He may be young and inexperienced, but he does seem to pride himself on being thoughtful and intelligent. Combined with Claudius' criticisms of his piety and masculinity, Hamlet's continued grief has been thoroughly admonished as ridiculous and unnatural. Keep in mind that this is not a private conversation either. Claudius has made all of these remarks in front of the attendant lords and ladies of the realm, undermining Hamlet on both a personal and social level.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  20. In Hamlet's time, masculinity was a far narrower concept than it is today, and being "manly" primarily meant 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 convince Hamlet to stop mourning his father.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  22. "Obsequious" means to be obedient or attentive to an excessive degree. Claudius accuses Hamlet of being excessive in his mounting for his father and encourages him to move on, stating that everyone loses a parent eventually. He might also be engaging in some clever wordplay, as the noun "obsequies" is another word for funeral rites. 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 to refer to Hamlet's brooding presence.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  23. Hamlet refers to his mourning clothes and his fruitful tears as actions that people can "play," acting out sorrow rather than truly experiencing it. Shakespeare plays on the reality that Hamlet was originally a tragedy performed in a theatre and emphasizes the difference between pretending to be something and actually being it. This question of performance versus reality will continue throughout the play and become one of Hamlet's primary concerns.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  24. The "dejected havior of his visage" refers to the dejected behavior or the dejected expression on Hamlet's 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.

    — 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 while also comparing him to a knight that has declared his loyalty to the deceased King. There's some anxiety in this, because Hamlet disapproves of his mother's marriage and doesn't appear willing to accept Claudius as the new ruler of Denmark. Gertrude takes on the role of an exasperated mother as she chides her son for his stubborn refusal to move past his father's death and encourages him to adopt a more cheerful, friendly bearing.

    — 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 multiple times before his father eventually relented. 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 have been full of gossip about the King marrying his sister-in-law Gertrude.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  29. In this situation, "dread" means to venerate or to regard with awe rather than 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 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 there is nothing he could ask for that Claudius would not grant him. Though addressed to Laertes, the message seems to be more of a glorification of his father, Polonius. Polonius is a stereotypical example of the "new man," who worked his way up in social status and is very concerned with public appearance. Claudius' praise can be read as an appeasement of this side of Polonius.

    — 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 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. This both diminishes Fortinbras and allows Claudius to portray himself as a wise and powerful king.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  34. Claudius states that his brother's death left Denmark disorganized and "out of frame." 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. He plays on this fact in order to appeal to his audience's sense of self-preservation, a very persuasive tactic.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  35. This line indicates that Claudius and Gertrude's marriage took place shortly after King Hamlet's death. Claudius adjectives are backwards, as "mirth" is typically associated with marriages and "dirges" (funeral songs) are played after a death. This diction is very telling of Claudius' true feelings and suggests that he is, in fact, happy about his brother's death. It is unclear whether or not Gertrude also feels this way, which causes tension between her and her son Hamlet.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  36. An "imperial jointress" is a woman who holds the right of inheritance. This jointure agreement in Denmark raises very real threats to King Hamlet's heirs. It also explains why Claudius is King despite Hamlet being old enough to take over. Though the use of the word "imperial" suggests that Gertrude has all the power over the estate, the reality is that her power is quite limited. The agreement simply ensures that her husband holds the throne.

    — 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 he does in Act I Scene V of 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 the vacuum of power that the previous King's death left behind.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  39. "Dear brother" refers to the dead King Hamlet. This scene is an explanation of the relationship between Claudius, Gertrude, and Hamlet, as they navigate life without King Hamlet, Claudius' brother and Prince Hamlet's father. Claudius is Hamlet's uncle by blood and stepfather by marriage, because he's now married to Queen Gertrude, Prince Hamlet's mother and King Hamlet's widow. It is a complex series of relationships that govern the drama of the rest of the play.

    — Sinead, Owl Eyes Contributor
  40. Laertes is a student, like Hamlet and Horatio. His father, Polonius, is the counselor to the King, an important political role. Laertes came back to Denmark from France to honor Claudius' coronation and is now hoping to be given permission to return to his studies. Hamlet and Laertes share similar backgrounds as they both grew up around the Danish court. Their stories offer some interesting parallels later in the play.

    — William Delaney
  41. On the surface, this is Claudius' gentle rejection of Hamlet's intention to go back to Wittenberg, a contrast to the relative ease with which he allowed Laertes to depart. On a more subtextual level, 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. "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.

    — William Delaney
  42. Hamlet is famous for its use of soliloquies, a dramatic device where a character speaks their thoughts out loud. Hamlet's soliloquies (performed in private, for the most part) rely on language that is full of allusions, innuendos, and double-meanings in order to allow an audience access to his inner thoughts. Unlike novels, where the interiority of a character can be explored at length, plays must rely on the actors and dialogue to drive the story. Hamlet's soliloquies provide a break from the action and allow him to express the thoughts he has to hold in around other characters. Interiority versus exteriority is one of the central conflicts of the play, with Hamlet's internal conflict manifesting in his inability to take decisive action.

    — 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 comment that Horatio will learn how to "drink deep" before he is able to leave and then in his bitter acknowledgment about how close together his father's funeral and his mother's wedding were. Hamlet fully expects Horatio to understand this bitterness and Horatio seems to have genuine sympathy for Hamlet, establishing them as close friends and confidants.

    — 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. Hamlet has 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, or 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 Claudius' 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 Claudius' audacity in 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. However, rather than blending in, Hamlet is dressed entirely in black mourning attire, communicating the fact that he disapproves of the festivities and is continuing to mourn his father despite the wedding celebrations. Black was customarily worn for a period after the death of a loved one, but Hamlet is the only one in the court who has continued to dress that way. When Hamlet is performed on the stage, Hamlet's black attire makes him a clear focal point in the crowded court scene.

    — William Delaney
  51. Hamlet stops himself from wondering why his mother has had this sudden change of heart. This suggests that something is 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.

    — William Delaney
  52. With Horatio's witness, the Ghost has been seen 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, Hamlet comments that the funeral and wedding were so close together that the baked meats from the funeral were served cold at the wedding. The bitterness becomes even more apparent in that thriftiness 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 is a very perceptive and intelligent man. He 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 "sun" 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 penchant for wordplay 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, for his paternal uncle to wed his mother would've been considered incestuous, despite the lack of blood relation. This topic was hotly debated in England 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 frowned even more on divorce.

    — Katie Rounds