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SHAKSPEARE is supposed to have taken the Plot of this Play, from "the History of Hamlet," as it is found narrated in Saxo Grammaticus, the Danish Historian. An English translation of this particular story was published during the Poet's life, entitled "Historie of Hamblet, Prince of Denmark," and from this version, it is conjectured that Shakspeare drew the materials, which have assisted him in this master-piece of tragic composition. As this Play is the most finished and the most popular of our Author's productions, we have incorporated into our selections nearly all the prominent scenes.

We cannot better introduce the youthful student into a just discrimination of the leading characteristics of Hamlet, than by furnishing the following clear analysis from the pen of Goethe. He says-

"It is clear to me that Shakspeare's intention was to exhibit the effects of a great action imposed as a duty upon a mind too feeble for its accomplishment.

"In this sense, I find the character consistent throughout. There is an oak planted in a china vase, proper only to receive the most delicate flowers; the roots strike out, and the vessel flies to pieces. A pure, noble, highly moral disposition, but without that energy of soul which constitutes the hero, sinks under a load which it can neither support nor resolve to abandon altogether. All his obligations are sacred to him; but this alone is above his powers.

"An impossibility is required at his hands; not an impossibility in itself, but that which is so to him. Observe how he shifts, turns, hesitates, advances, and recedes; how he is continually reminded and reminding himself of his great commission, which he, nevertheless, in the end, seems almost entirely to lose sight of; and this without ever recovering his former tranquillity."


CLAUDIUS, King of Denmark.

HAMLET, son to the former, and nephew to the present King.

POLONIUS, Lord Chamberlain.

HORATIO, friend to Hamlet.

LAERTES, son to Polonius.

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GERTRUDE, Queen of Denmark, and mother of Hamlet.
OPHELIA, daughter of Polonius.

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



SCENE I.-Elsinore. A Platform before the Castle.
FRANCISCO on his post. Enter to him BERNARDO.

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Fran. You come most carefully upon your hour.

Ber. 'Tis now struck twelve; get thee to bed, Francisco.
Fran. For this relief, much thanks: 'tis bitter cold,

And I am sick at heart.

Ber. Have you had quiet guard?


Ber. Well, good night.

If you do meet Horatio and Marcellus,

Not a mouse stirring.

The rivals of my watch, bid them make haste.


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

Hor. Friends to this ground.


Fran. Give you good night.

Who hath reliev'd you?

And liegemen to the Dane.

O, farewell, honest soldier:

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A piece of him.


Ber. Welcome, Horatio; welcome, good Marcellus.
Hor. What, has this thing appear'd again to-night?
Ber. I have seen nothing.

Mar. Horatio says, 'tis but our fantasy;

And will not let belief take hold of him,

Touching this dreaded sight, twice seen of us:
Therefore I have entreated him, along

With us to watch the minutes of this night;
That, if again this apparition come,
He may approve our eyes, and speak to it.
Hor. Tush! tush! 'twill not appear.

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


Sit down awhile;

Well, sit we down,

And let us hear Bernardo speak of this.

Ber. Last night of all,

When yon same star, that's westward from the pole,
Had made his course to illume that part of heaven
Where now it burns, Marcellus, and myself,

The bell then beating one,

Mar. Peace, break thee off; look, where it comes again!

Enter Ghost.

Ber. In the same figure, like the king that's dead.
Mar. Thou art a scholar, speak to it, Horatio.
Ber. Looks it not like the king? mark it, Horatio.
Hor. Most like it harrows me with fear, and wonder.
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.

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Hor. Stay; speak: speak,I charge thee, speak.

Mar. "Tis gone, and will not answer.

[Exit Ghost.

Ber. How now, Horatio? you tremble, and look pale :

Is not this something more than fantasy?

What think you of it?


I might not this believe,

Without the sensible and true avouch

Of mine own eyes.

Is it not like the king?

Hor. As thou art to thyself:

Such was the very armour le had on,

When he the ambitious Norway combated;

So frown'd he once, when, in an angry parle,

He smote the sledded Polack on the ice.

'Tis strange.

Mar. Thus, twice before, and jump at this dead hour, With martial stalk hath he gone by our watch.

Hor. In what particular thought to work, I know not;
But, in the gross and scope of mine opinion,
This bodes some strange eruption to our state.
In the most high and palmy state of Rome,
A little ere the mightiest Junius fell,

The graves stood tenantless, and the sheeted dead
Did squeak and gibber in the Roman streets.
As, stars with trains of fire shed dews of blood,
Disaster's dimm'd the sun; and the moist star,
Upon whose influence Neptune's empire stands,
Was sick almost to dooms-day with eclipse.
And even the like precurse of fierce events,-
As harbingers preceding still the fates,
And prologue to the omen coming on,-
Have heaven and earth together demonstrated
Unto our climates and countrymen.—

Re-enter Ghost.

But, soft; behold! lo, where it comes again!
I'll cross it, though it blast me.-Stay, illusion!
If thou hast any sound, or use of voice,

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O, speak!

Or, if thou hast uphoarded in thy life

Extorted treasure from the depths of earth,

For which, they say, you spirits oft walk in death:

Speak of it-stay, and speak.

Mar. 'Tis gone!

We do it wrong, being so majestical,

To offer it the show of violence.

[Exit Ghost.

Ber. It was about to speak, when the cock crew.
Hor. And then it 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,
The extravagant and erring spirit hies
To his confine: and of the truth herein
This present object made probation.

Mar. It faded on the crowing of the cock.
Some say, that ever 'gainst that season comes
Wherein our Saviour's birth is celebrated,
This bird of dawning singeth all night long:
And then, they say, no spirit dares stir abroad;
The nights are wholesome; then no planets strike,
No fairy takes, nor witch hath power to harm,
So hallow'd and so gracious is the time.

Hor. So have I heard, and do in part believe it.
But, look, the morn, in russet mantle clad,
Walks o'er the dew of yon high eastern hill:
Break we our watch up; and, by my advice,
Let us impart what we have seen to-night
Unto young Hamlet: for, upon my life,
This spirit, dumb to us, will speak to him:
Do you consent we shall acquaint him with it,
As needful in our loves, fitting our duty?

Mar. Let's do't, I pray; and I this morning know
Where we shall find him most convenient.


SCENE II.-The same. A Room of State in the same.

Enter the KING, QUEEN, HAMLET, POLONIUS, LAERTES, Lords, and Attendants.

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,
That we with wisest sorrow think on him,
Together with remembrance of ourselves.
Therefore our sometime sister, now our queen,
The imperial jointress of this warlike state,
Have we, as 'twere, with a defeated joy,—
Taken to wife: nor have we herein barr'd
Your better wisdoms, which have freely gone
With this affair along:-For all, our thanks.
And now, Laertes, what's the news with you?
You told us of some suit? What is't, Laertes?
Laertes. My dread lord,

Your leave and favor to return to France;

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