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Cladius, king of Denmark.
Hamlet,1 son to the former, and nephew to the present,
Polonius, lord chamberlain.
Horatio, friend to Hamlet.
Gertrude, queen of Denmark, and mother of Hamlet.
Lords, ladies, officers, soldiers, players, grave-diggers, sailors, messengers, and other attendants.
1 Hamlet,] i. e. Amleth. The h transferred from the end to the beginning of the name. Steevens.
PRINCE OF DENMARK.
ACT I....SCENE I.
Elsinore. A Platform before the Castle.
FRANCISCO on his Post.
Ber. Who's there?
Ber. Long live the king!3
Nay, answer me :2 stand, and unfold
Fran. You come most carefully upon your hour.
Ber. 'Tis now' struck twelve;4 get thee to bed, Fran- new
Fran. For this relief, much thanks: 'tis bitter cold,
And I am sick at heart.
Ber. Have you had quiet guard?
Not a mouse stirring.
Ber. Well, good night.
If you do meet Horatio and Marcellus,
me: ]i. e. me who am already on the watch, and have a right to demand the watch-word. Steevens.
3 Long live the king!] This sentence appears to have been the watch-word. Malone.
4'Tis now struck twelve;] I strongly suspect that the true reading is—new struck &c. So, in Romeo and Juliet, Act I, sc.i: "But new struck nine." Steevens.
5 The rivals of my watch,] Rivals for partners. Warburton. Rival is constantly used by Shakspeare for a partner or associate. Malone.
Enter HORATIO and MARCELLUS.
Fran. I think, I hear them.-Stand, ho! Who is there?
And liegemen to the Dane.
O, farewel, honest soldier:
Who hath reliev'd you?
Give you good night.
Bernardo hath my place.
What, is Horatio there?
A piece of him."
Ber. Welcome, Horatio; welcome, good Marcellus. Hor. What, has this thing appeared 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:
With us to watch the minutes of this night;8
6 Hor. A piece of him.] But why a piece? He says this as he gives his hand. Which direction should be marked. Warburton.
A piece of him, is, I believe, no more than a cant expression. It is used, however, on a serious occasion in Pericles:
"Take in your arms this piece of your dead queen."
this approves her letter,
"That she would soon be here."
7 Hor. What, &c.] Thus the quarto, 1604. Steevens. These words are in the folio given to Marcellus. Malone. the minutes of this night;] This seems to have been an expression common in Shakspeare's time. I find it in one of Ford's plays, The Fancies chaste and noble, Act V:
"I promise ere the minutes of the night." Steevens.
9 approve our eyes,] Add a new testimony to that of our eyes. Johnson.
So, in King Lear:
See Antony and Cleopatra, Act I, sc. i. Steevens.
He may approve our eyes,] He may make good the testimony of our eyes; be assured by his own experience of the truth of that which we have related, in consequence of having been eye
Hor. Tush! tush! 'twill not appear.
And let us once again assail your ears,
And let us hear Bernardo speak of this.
Ber. Last night of all,
When yon same star, that 's westward from the pole,
Mar. Peace, break thee off; look, where it comes again!
Ber. In the same figure, like the king that's dead.
Well, sit we down,
Sit down awhile;
witnesses to it. To approve, in Shakspeare's age, signified to make good, or establish, and is so defined in Cawdrey's Alphabetical Table of hard English Words, 8vo. 1604. So, in King Lear: "Good king that must approve the common saw! "Thou out of heaven's benediction com'st "To the warm sun." Malone.
1 What we two nights have seen.] This line is by Sir Thomas Hanmer given to Marcellus, but without necessity. Johnson.
2 Thou art a scholar, speak to it, Horatio.] It has always been a vulgar notion, that spirits and supernatural beings can only be spoken to with propriety or effect by persons of learning. Thus, Toby, in The Night-walker, by Beaumont and Fletcher, says:
It grows still longer,
""Tis steeple-high now; and it sails away, nurse.
Milton has adopted this phrase in his Comus:
In like manner the honest butler, in Mr. Addison's Drummer, recommends the steward to speak Latin to the ghost in that play.
it harrows me &c.] To harrow is to conquer, to subdue. The word is of Saxon origin. So, in the old black letter romance of Syr Eglamoure of Artoys:
"He swore by him that harrowed hell."
"Amaz'd I stood, harrowed with grief and fear!" Steevens.
Ber. It would be spoke to.
Speak to it, Horatio. Hor. What art thou, that usurp'st this time of night, Together with that fair and warlike form In which the majesty of buried Denmark
Did sometimes march? by heaven I charge thee, speak. Mar. It is offended.
See! it stalks away.
Hor. Stay; speak: speak; I charge thee, speak.
Mar. 'Tis gone, and will not answer.
Ber. How now, Horatio? you tremble, and look pale: Is not this something more than fantasy? "What think you of it?
Hor. Before my God, I might not this believe,
Of mine own eyes.
Is it not like the king?
Hor. As thou art to thyself:
4 an angry parle,] This is one of the affected words introduced by Lyly. So, in The Two wise Men and all the rest Fools, 1619:
that you told me at our last parle.” Steevens.
sledded-] A sled, or sledge, is a carriage without wheels, made use of in the cold countries. So, in Tamburlaine, or the Scythian Shepherd, 1590:
upon an ivory sled
"Thou shalt be drawn among the frozen poles." Steevens. 6 He smote the sledded Polack on the ice.] Pole-ax in the common editions. He speaks of a prince of Poland whom he slew in battle. He uses the word Polack again, Act II, sc. iv. Pope. Polack was, in that age, the term for an inhabitant of Poland: Polaque, French. As in F. Davison's translation of Passeratius's epitaph on Henry III of France, published by Camden:
"Whether thy chance or choice thee hither brings,