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CLAUDIUS, King of Denmark.
HAMLET, his Nephew, Son of the former King.
POLONIUS, Lord Chamberlain.
GERTRUDE, Mother of Hamlet, and Queen.
Lords, Ladies, Officers, Soldiers, Players, Sailors, Messengers, and Attendants.
THE TRAGEDY OF HAMLET.
SCENE I. Elsinore.
A Platform before the Castle.
FRANCISCO on his Post. Enter to him BERNARDO.
Ber. WHO's there?
Fran. Nay, answer me:1 stand, and unfold your-
Ber. Long live the king!
1 That is, answer me, as I have the right to challenge you. Bernardo then gives in answer the watch-word, "Long live the king! Compare," says Coleridge, "the easy language of common life, in which this drama commences, with the direful music and wild wayward rhythm and abrupt lyrics of the opening of Macbeth. The tone is quite familiar: there is no poetic description of night, no elaborate information conveyed by one speaker to another of what both had immediately before their senses; and yet nothing bordering on the comic on the one hand, nor any striving of the intellect on the other. It is precisely the language of sensation among men who feared no charge of effeminacy for feeling what they had no want of resolution to bear. Yet the armour, the dead silence, the watchfulness that first interrupts it, the welcome relief of the guard, the cold, the broken expressions of compelled attention to bodily feelings still under control, all excellently accord with, and prepare for, the after gradual rise into tragedy; but, above all, into a tragedy, the interest of which is as eminently ad et apud intra, as that of Macbeth is directly ad extra."
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?
Not a mouse stirring.
Ber. Well, good night.
If you do meet Horatio and Marcellus,
The rivals of my watch, bid them make haste.
Enter HORATIO and MARCELLUS.
Fran. I think I hear them. -Stand, ho! Who is there?
Hor. Friends to this ground.
Give you good night.3
What is Horatio there?
And liegemen to the Dane.
O, farewell, honest soldier!
Bernardo has my place. [Exit.
A piece of him.
Ber. Welcome, Horatio: welcome, good Marcellus.
2 Rivals are associates or partners. A brook, rivulet, or river, rivus, being a natural boundary between different proprietors, was owned by them in common; that is, they were partners in the right and use of it. From the strifes thus engendered, the partners came to be contenders: hence the ordinary sense of rival. See Antony and Cleopatra, Act iii. sc. 5, note 1.
3 This salutation is an abbreviated form of, "May God give you a good night;" which has been still further abbreviated in the phrase, "Good night."
Hor. What! has this thing appear'd again to
Ber. I have seen nothing.
Mar. Horatio says 'tis but our fantasy,
4 The folio assigns this speech to Marcellus. The quartos are probably right, as Horatio comes on purpose to try his own eyes on the Ghost. We quote from Coleridge again: "Bernardo's inquiry after Horatio, and the repetition of his name in his own presence indicate a respect or an eagerness that implies him as one of the persons who are in the foreground; and the scepticism attributed to him prepares us for Hamlet's after eulogy on him as one whose blood and judgment were happily commingled. Now, observe the admirable indefiniteness of the first opening out of the occasion of all this anxiety. The preparative information of the audience is just as much as was precisely necessary, and no more; -it begins with the uncertainty appertaining to a question: 'What! has this thing appear'd again to-night?' Even the word again has its credibilizing effect. Then Horatio, the representative of the ignorance of the audience, not himself, but by Marcellus to Bernardo, anticipates the common solution, 'Tis but our fantasy;' upon which Marcellus rises into,-This dreaded sight twice seen of us;' which immediately afterwards becomes this apparition,' and that, too, an intelligent spirit that is to be spoken to!"
5 That is, make good our vision, or prove our eyes to be true. Approve was often thus used in the sense of confirm. —Coleridge continues his comments on the scene thus: "Then comes the confirmation of Horatio's disbelief,-Tush, tush! 'twill not appear;'
and the silence with which the scene opened is again restored in the shivering feeling of Horatio sitting down, at such a time, and with the two eye-witnesses, to hear a story of a ghost, and that, too, of a ghost which had appeared twice before at the very same hour. In the deep feeling which Bernardo has of the solemn nature of what he is about to relate, he makes an effort to master his own imaginative terrors by an elevation of style, itself a continuation of the effort, and by turning off from the apparition, as from something which would force him too deeply into himself,
Hor. Tush, tush! 'twill not appear.
Sit down awhile;
And let us hear Bernardo speak of this.
Ber. Last night of all,
When yond' same star, that's westward from the
Well, sit we down,
Had made his course t' illume that part of heaven
Mar. Peace! break thee off: look, where it comes again!
Enter the Ghost.
Ber. In the same figure, like the king that's dead. Mar. Thou art a scholar; speak to it, Horatio.'
to the outward objects, the realities of nature, which had accompanied it."
6 This passage seems to contradict the critical law, that what is told makes a faint impression compared with what is beholden; for it does indeed convey to the mind more than the eye can see; whilst the interruption of the narrative at the very moment when we are most intensely listening for the sequel, and have our thoughts diverted from the dreaded sight in expectation of the desired, yet almost dreaded, tale, this gives all the suddenness and surprise of the original appearance: "Peace! break thee off: look, where it comes again!" Note the judgment displayed in having the two persons present, who, as having seen the Ghost before, are naturally eager in confirming their former opinions; whilst the sceptic is silent, and, after having been twice addressed by his friends, answers with two hasty syllables, - -"Most like," - and a confession of horror: "It harrows me with fear and wonder." - COLE
7 It was believed that a supernatural being could only be spoken to with effect by persons of learning; exorcisms being usually practised by the clergy in Latin. So in The Night Walker of Beaumont and Fletcher :