The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark is a revenge tragedy by William Shakespeare, and is one of his most well-known and oft-quoted plays. It is uncertain exactly when it was written, but scholars tend to place its composition between 1600 and the summer of 1602. Set in Denmark, the play depicts Prince Hamlet and his revenge against his uncle, Claudius, who has murdered Hamlet's father in order to seize his throne and marry Hamlet's mother.
- You come most carefully upon your hour.
- Francisco, line 6
- And I am sick at heart.
- Not a mouse stirring.
- Francisco, line 10
- And let us once again assail your ears,
That are so fortified against our story,
What we have two nights seen.
- When yond same star that’s westward from the pole
Had made his course t’ illume that part of heaven
Where now it burns, Marcellus and myself,
The bell then beating one—
- It harrows me with fear and wonder.
- What art thou that usurp’st this time of night,
Together with that fair and warlike form
In which the majesty of buried Denmark
Did sometimes march? By heaven I charge thee speak!
- But in the gross and scope of mine opinion
This bodes some strange eruption to our state.
- 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 dead
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 feared events
As harbingers preceding still the fates
And prologue to the omen coming on,
Have heaven and earth together demonstrated
Unto our climatures and countrymen.
- Stay, illusion!
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,
Or if thou hast uphoarded in thy life
Extorted treasure in the womb of earth,
For which, they say, your spirits oft walk in death,
Speak of it, stay and speak!
- And our vain blows malicious mockery.
- And then it [the ghost] started like a guilty thing
Upon a fearful summons. I have heard
The cock, that is the trumpet to the morn,
Doth with his lofty and shrill-sounding throat
Awake the god of day, and at his warning,
Whether in sea or fire, in earth or air,
Th’ extravagant and erring spirit hies
To his confine.
- 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 dare stir abroad,
The nights are wholesome, then no planets strike,
No fairy takes, nor witch hath power to charm,
So hallowed, and so gracious, is that time.
- But look, the morn in russet mantle clad
Walks o’er the dew of yon high eastward hill.
- 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.
- Therefore our sometime sister, now our Queen.
Th' imperial jointress to this warlike state,
Have we, as 'twere with a defeated joy,
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.
- The head is not more native to the heart,
The hand no more instrumental to the mouth,
Than is the throne of Denmark to thy father.
What wouldst thou have, Laertes?
- He hath, my lord, wrung from me my slow leave
By laboursome petition, and at last
Upon his will, I sealed my hard consent.
- Claudius: But now, my cousin Hamlet, and my son,—
Hamlet: [Aside] A little more than kin, and less than kind.
Claudius: How is it that the clouds still hang on you?
Hamlet: Not so, my lord; I am too much i' the sun.
- lines 64 through 67
- Good Hamlet, cast thy nighted color off,
And let thine eye look like a friend on Denmark.
Do not be forever 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.
- Seems, madam! Nay, it is; I know not 'seems.'
- Hamlet, line 76
- 'Tis not alone my inky cloak, good mother,
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, moods, shapes of grief,
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.
- O! that this too too solid flesh would melt,
Thaw and resolve itself into a dew;
- Hamlet, lines 129 and 130
- Note: "Solid" is the word found in the First Folio edition of the plays (1623). Earlier versions (the First and Second Quartos), had used the word "sallied." In some later editions, the word was "sullied."
- How weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable
Seem to me all the uses of this world.
- Hamlet, lines 133 and 134
- Frailty, thy name is woman!
- Hamlet, line 146
- O, God! a beast, that wants discourse of reason,
Would have mourned longer----married with my uncle,
My father's brother.
- But break, my heart, for I must hold my tongue!
- Hamlet, line 159
- O, that this too too solid 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!
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!
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!
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
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
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!
It is not nor it cannot come to good:
But break, my heart; for I must hold my tongue.
- Thrift, thrift, Horatio! the funeral bak'd meats
Did coldly furnish forth the marriage tables.
Would I had met my dearest foe in heaven
Or ever I had seen that day, Horatio!
- In my mind's eye, Horatio.
- He was a man, take him for all in all,
I shall not look upon his like again.
- A countenance more in sorrow than in anger.
- Horatio, line 231
- If it assume my noble father's person,
I'll speak to it though Hell itself should gape
And bid me hold my peace.
- Give it an understanding, but no tongue.
- My father's spirit in arms! all is not well;
I doubt some foul play: would the night were come!
Till then sit still, my soul: foul deeds will rise,
Though all the earth o'erwhelm them, to men's eyes.
- For Hamlet, and the trifling of his favour,
Hold it a fashion and a toy in blood,
A violet in the youth of primy nature,
Forward, not permanent, sweet, not lasting,
The perfume and suppliance of a minute;
- Laertes, lines 5 through 10
- Do not, as some ungracious pastors do,
Show me the steep and thorny way to heaven,
Whiles, like a puff'd and reckless libertine,
Himself the primrose path of dalliance treads,
And recks not his own rede.
- Ophelia, lines 47 through 51
- Be thou familiar, but by no means vulgar.
- Polonius, line 61
- Give every man thy ear, but few thy voice;
Take each man's censure, but reserve thy judgment.
- Polonius, lines 68 and 69
- Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy,
But not express'd in fancy; rich, not gaudy;
For the apparel oft proclaims the man,
- Polonius, lines 70 through 72
- Neither a borrower nor a lender be;
For loan oft loses both itself and friend,
- Polonius, lines 75 and 76
- This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
- Polonius, lines 78 through 80
- But to my mind, — though I am native here
And to the manner born, — it is a custom
More honour'd in the breach than the observance.
- Hamlet, lines 14 through 16
- Why, what should be the fear?
I do not set my life at a pin's fee;
And for my soul, what can it do to that,
Being a thing immortal as itself?
- Hamlet, lines 64 through 67
- Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.
- Marcellus, line 90
- My hour is almost come,
When I to sulphurous and tormenting flames
Must render up myself.
- And each particular hair to stand on end,
Like quills upon the fretful porpentine:
- Ghost, lines 19 and 20
- Variant: Most modern publications modernize this phrase to "Like quills upon the fretful porcupine."
- Murder most foul, as in the best it is;
But this most foul, strange, and unnatural.
- Ghost, lines 27 and 28
- The serpent that did sting thy father's life
Now wears his crown.
- Ghost, lines 38 and 39
- Cut off even in the blossoms of my sin.
- Ghost, line 76
- O horrible, O horrible! most horrible!
- Ghost, line 80
- O most pernicious woman!
O, villain, villain, smiling, damned villain!
My tables, — meet it is I set it down,
That one may smile, and smile, and be a villain.
- There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
- How strange or odd soe'er I bear myself —
As I perchance hereafter shall think meet
To put an antic disposition on.
- The time is out of joint; O cursed spite,
That ever I was born to set it right!
- Therefore, since brevity is the soul of wit,
And tediousness the limbs and outward flourishes,
I will be brief.
- More matter with less art.
- That he is mad, 'tis true; 'tis true 'tis pity;
And pity 'tis 'tis true: a foolish figure;
But farewell it, for I will use no art.
- Doubt thou the stars are fire;
Doubt that the sun doth move;
Doubt truth to be a liar;
But never doubt I love.
- Hamlet, from a letter read by Polonius
- Polonius: Do you know me, my lord?
Hamlet: Excellent well; you're a fishmonger.
Polonius: Not I, my lord.
Hamlet Then I would you were so honest a man.
Polonius: Honest, my lord!
Hamlet: Ay, sir; to be honest, as this world goes, is to be one man picked out of ten thousand.
Polonius: That's very true, my lord.
Hamlet: [Reads] For if the sun breed maggots in a dead dog, being a god kissing carrion, — Have you a daughter?
Polonius: I have, my lord.
Hamlet: Let her not walk i' the sun: conception is a blessing: but not as your daughter may conceive; — friend, look to 't.
Polonius: [Aside] How say you by that? Still harping on my daughter: — yet he knew me not at first; he said I was a fishmonger: he is far gone, far gone: and truly in my youth I suffered much extremity for love; very near this.
- Polonius: What do you read, my lord?
Hamlet: Words, words, words.
- Polonius: [Aside] Though this be madness, yet there is method in 't. — Will you walk out of the air, my lord?
Hamlet: Into my grave.
- Polonius: My honored lord, I will most humbly take my leave of you.
Hamlet: You cannot, sir, take from me anything that I will more willingly part withal — except my life — except my life — except my life.
- Hamlet: My excellent good friends! How dost thou Guildenstern? Ah, Rosencrantz! Good lads, how do you both?
Rosencrantz: As indifferent as children of the earth.
Guildenstern: Happy in that we are not overhappy; on Fortune's cap we are not the very button.
Hamlet: Nor the soles of her shoe?
Rosencrantz: Neither, my lord.
Hamlet: Then you live about her waist, or in the middle of her favours?
Guildenstern: Faith, her privates we.
Hamlet: In the secret parts of Fortune? O, most true! She is a strumpet. What's the news?
Rosencrantz: None, my lord, but that the world's grown honest.
Hamlet: Then is doomsday near.
- There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.
- I could be bounded in a nutshell, and count myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams.
- Which dreams, indeed, are ambition; for the very substance of the ambitious is merely the shadow of a dream.
- Beggar that I am, I am even poor in thanks.
- I have of late, but wherefore I know not, lost all my mirth, forgone all custom of exercises, and indeed it goes so heavily with my disposition that this goodly frame, the earth, seems to me a sterile promontory. This most excellent canopy, the air, look you, this brave o'erhanging firmament, this majestical roof fretted with golden fire, why, it appears no other thing to me then a foul and pestilent congregation of vapours. What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason! how infinite in faculty! in form, in moving, how express and admirable! in action how like an angel! in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the world! the paragon of animals! And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust? man delights not me; no, nor woman neither, though, by your smiling, you seem to say so.
- Use every man after his desert, and who should 'scape whipping?
- O! what a rogue and peasant slave am I!
- What's Hecuba to him, or he to Hecuba,
That he should weep for her?
- That I, the son of a dear father murdered,
Prompted to my revenge by heaven and hell,
Must like a whore unpack my heart with words,
and fall a-cursing like a very drab
- The spirit that I have seen
May be the devil: and the devil hath power
To assume a pleasing shape; yea, and perhaps
Out of my weakness and my melancholy,
As he is very potent with such spirits,
Abuses me to damn me: I'll have grounds
More relative than this: the play's the thing
Wherein I'll catch the conscience of the king.
- I am but mad north-north-west: when the wind is southerly I know a hawk from a handsaw.
- Hamlet, lines 378 and 379
- We are oft to blame in this, —
'Tis too much prov'd, — that with devotion's visage,
And pious action, we do sugar o'er
The devil himself.
- To be, or not to be, — that is the question: —
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? — To die, to sleep, —
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache, and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to, — 'tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish'd. To die, to sleep; —
To sleep, perchance to dream: — ay, there's the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come,
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause: there's the respect
That makes calamity of so long life;
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
The oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely,
The pangs of despis'd love, the law's delay,
The insolence of office, and the spurns
That patient merit of the unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin? who would these fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death, —
The undiscover'd country, from whose bourn
No traveller returns, — puzzles the will,
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know naught of?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought;
And enterprises of great pith and moment,
With this regard, their currents turn awry,
And lose the name of action.
- Soft you now!
The fair Ophelia! — Nymph, in thy orisons
Be all my sins remember'd.
- Get thee to a nunnery: why wouldst thou be a breeder of sinners? I am myself indifferent honest; but yet I could accuse me of such things that it were better my mother had not borne me. I am very proud, revengeful, ambitious; with more offences at my beck than I have thoughts to put them in, imagination to give them shape, or time to act them in. What should such fellows as I do crawling between earth and heaven? We are arrant knaves all; believe none of us.
- Rich gifts wax poor when givers prove unkind.
- I say, we will have no more marriages: those that are married already, — all but one, — shall live; the rest shall keep as they are.
- O! what a noble mind is here o'erthrown!
- O, woe is me
To have seen what I have seen, see what I see!
- Madness in great ones must not unwatched go.
- Gertrude: Come hither, my dear Hamlet, sit by me.
Hamlet: No, good mother, here's metal more attractive. [Hamlet takes a place near Ophelia.]
- Hamlet: Lady, shall I lie in your lap?
Ophelia: No, my lord.
Hamlet: I mean, my head upon your lap?
Ophelia: Ay, my lord.
Hamlet: Do you think I meant country matters?
- So long? Nay, then, let the devil wear black, for I'll have a suit of sables. Oh heavens! die two months ago, and not forgotten yet? Then there's hope a great man's memory may outlive his life half a year.
- The lady doth protest too much, methinks.
- Claudius: What do you call the play?
Hamlet: “The Mouse-trap.” Marry, how? Tropically: this play is the image of a murder done in Vienna; Gonzago is the duke’s name, his wife, Baptista. You shall see anon. ’Tis a knavish piece of work, but what of that? Your Majesty, and we that have free souls, it touches us not. Let the gall’d jade winch, our withers are unwrung.
- ’A poisons him i’ th’ garden for his estate. His name’s Gonzago, the story is extant, and written in very choice Italian. You shall see anon how the murderer gets the love of Gonzago’s wife.
- Give me some light. Away!
- ' Claudius
- Why, look you now, how unworthy a thing you make of me. You would play upon me; you would seem to know my stops; you would pluck out the heart of my mystery; you would sound me from my lowest note to the top of my compass; and there is much music, excellent voice, in this little organ, yet cannot you make it speak. 'Sblood, do you think I am easier to be played on than a pipe? Call me what instrument you will, though you can fret me, you cannot play upon me.
- Hamlet: Do you see yonder cloud that's almost in shape of a camel?
Polonius: By th' Mass, and 'tis like a camel, indeed.
Hamlet: Methinks it is like a weasel.
Polonius: It is backed like a weasel.
Hamlet: Or like a whale.
Polonius: Very like a whale.
- Tis now the very witching time of night,
When churchyards yawn and hell itself breathes out
Contagion to this world: now could I drink hot blood,
And do such bitter business, as the day
Would quake to look on.
- Let me be cruel, not unnatural;
I will speak daggers to her, but use none.
- O! my offence is rank, it smells to heaven.
- What if this cursed hand
Were thicker than itself with brother's blood, —
Is there not rain enough in the sweet heavens
To wash it white as snow?
- Now might I do it pat, now he is praying;
And now I'll do 't: and so he goes to heaven;
And so am I reveng'd.
- My words fly up, my thoughts remain below;
Words without thoughts never to heaven go.
- Hamlet: How now! a rat? Dead, for a ducat, dead!
Polonius: Oh, I am slain!
- Thou wretched, rash, intruding fool, farewell!
I took thee for thy better.
- Nay, but to live
In the rank sweat of an enseamed bed,
Stew'd in corruption, honeying and making love
Over the nasty sty.
- I must be cruel, only to be kind: Thus bad begins and worse remains behind.
- Be thou assur'd, if words be made of breath,
And breath of life, I have no life to breathe
What thou hast said to me.
- So, haply, slander —
Whose whisper o'er the world's diameter,
As level as the cannon to his blank,
Transports his poisoned shot — may miss our name
And hit the woundless air. — O, come away!
My soul is full of discord and dismay.
- Rosencrantz: I understand you not, my lord.
Hamlet: I am glad of it: a knavish speech sleeps in a foolish ear.
Rosencrantz: My lord, you must tell us where the body is, and go with us to the king.
Hamlet: The body is with the king, but the king is not with the body. The king is a thing —
Guildenstern: A thing, my lord?
Hamlet: Of nothing.
- Hamlet: A man may fish with the worm that hath eat of a king, and eat of the fish that hath fed of that worm.
Claudius: What dost thou mean by this?
Hamlet: Nothing but to show you how a king may go a progress through the guts of a beggar.
- Claudius: Where is Polonius?
Hamlet: In heaven; send thither to see. If your messenger find him not there, seek him i' the other place yourself. But, indeed, if you find him not within this month, you shall nose him as you go up the stairs into the lobby.
- How all occasions do inform against me,
And spur my dull revenge! What is a man,
If his chief good and market of his time
Be but to sleep and feed? A beast, no more.
Sure he that made us with such large discourse,
Looking before and after, gave us not
That capability and godlike reason
To fust in us unused. Now whether it be
Bestial oblivion, or some craven scruple
Of thinking too precisely on th' event -
A thought which, quartered, hath but part
And ever three parts coward - I do not know
Why yet I live to say "This thing's to do,"
Sith I have cause, and will, and strength, and means
- O! from this time forth,
My thoughts be bloody, or be nothing worth!
- We know what we are, but know not what we may be.
- Good-night, ladies; good-night, sweet ladies; good-night, good-night.
- When sorrows come, they come not single spies,
But in battalions.
- I'm lost in it, my lord. But let him come;
It warms the very sickness in my heart,
That I shall live and tell him to his teeth,
'Thus diest thou.'
- Too much of water hast thou, poor Ophelia,
And therefore I forbid my tears.
- Alas! poor Yorick. I knew him, Horatio; a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy; he hath borne me on his back a thousand times; and now, how abhorred in my imagination it is! my gorge rises at it. Here hung those lips that I have kissed I know not how oft. Where be your gibes now? your gambols? your songs? your flashes of merriment, that were wont to set the table on a roar? Not one now, to mock your own grinning? quite chap-fallen? Now get you to my lady's chamber, and tell her, let her paint an inch thick, to this favour she must come; make her laugh at that.
- Lay her i' the earth:
And from her fair and unpolluted flesh
May violets spring!
- This is I,
Hamlet the Dane!
- I lov'd Ophelia: forty thousand brothers
Could not, with all their quantity of love,
Make up my sum.
- Hear you sir;
What is the reason that you use me thus?
I lov'd you ever: but it is no matter.
Let Hercules himself do what he may,
The cat will mew, and dog will have his day.
- There's a divinity that shapes our ends,
Rough-hew them how we will.
- That's two of his weapons: but, well.
- We defy augury; there's a special providence in the fall of a sparrow. If it be now, 'tis not to come; if it be not to come, it will be now; if it be not now, yet it will come: the readiness is all.
- O, I die, Horatio;
The potent poison quite o'er-crows my spirit:
I cannot live to hear the news from England;
But I do prophesy the election lights
On Fortinbras: he has my dying voice;
So tell him, with the occurrents, more and less,
Which have solicited. The rest is silence.
- Hamlet, scene ii; variant, from the First Folio: The rest is silence. O, o, o, o. [Dies]
- If thou didst ever hold me in thy heart,
Absent thee from felicity awhile,
And in this harsh world draw thy breath in pain,
To tell my story.
- Now cracks a noble heart. Good-night, sweet prince;
And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.
- The sight is dismal;
And our affairs from England come too late:
The ears are senseless that should give us hearing,
To tell him his commandment is fulfill'd,
That Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead:
Where should we have our thanks?
- First Ambassador
- Bear Hamlet, like a soldier, to the stage.
- Go, bid the soldiers shoot.