One of the most famous plays of all time, the compelling tragedy of the young prince of Denmark who must reconcile his longing for oblivion with his duty to avenge his father’s murder is one of Shakespeare’s greatest works. The ghost, Ophelia’s death and burial, the play within a play, and the breathtaking swordplay are just some of the elements that make Hamlet a masterpiece of the theater.
This great tragedy of unsurpassed intensity and emotion is played out against Renaissance splendor. The doomed marriage of Desdemona to the Moor Othello is the focus of a storm of tension, incited by the consummately evil villain Iago, that culminates in one of the most deeply moving scenes in theatrical history.
Here is the famous and moving tragedy of a king who foolishly divides his kingdom between his two wicked daughters and estranges himself from the young daughter who loves him–a theatrical spectacle of outstanding proportions.
No dramatist has ever seen with more frightening clarity into the heart and mind of a murderer than has Shakespeare in this brilliant and bloody tragedy of evil. Taunted into asserting his “masculinity” by his ambitious wife, Macbeth chooses to embrace the Weird Sisters’ prophecy and kill his king–and thus, seals his own doom.
Each Edition Includes:
• Comprehensive explanatory notes
• Vivid introductions and the most up-to-date scholarship
• Clear, modernized spelling and punctuation, enabling contemporary readers to understand the Elizabethan English
• Completely updated, detailed bibliographies and performance histories
• An interpretive essay on film adaptations of the play, along with an extensive filmography
About the Author
William Shakespeare was born in Stratford-upon-Avon in April 1564, and his birth is traditionally celebrated on April 23. The facts of his life, known from surviving documents, are sparse. He was one of eight children born to John Shakespeare, a merchant of some standing in his community. William probably went to the King’s New School in Stratford, but he had no university education. In November 1582, at the age of eighteen, he married Anne Hathaway, eight years his senior, who was pregnant with their first child, Susanna. She was born on May 26, 1583. Twins, a boy, Hamnet ( who would die at age eleven), and a girl, Judith, were born in 1585. By 1592 Shakespeare had gone to London working as an actor and already known as a playwright. A rival dramatist, Robert Greene, referred to him as “an upstart crow, beautified with our feathers.” Shakespeare became a principal shareholder and playwright of the successful acting troupe, the Lord Chamberlain’s Men (later under James I, called the King’s Men). In 1599 the Lord Chamberlain’s Men built and occupied the Globe Theater in Southwark near the Thames River. Here many of Shakespeare’s plays were performed by the most famous actors of his time, including Richard Burbage, Will Kempe, and Robert Armin. In addition to his 37 plays, Shakespeare had a hand in others, including Sir Thomas More and The Two Noble Kinsmen, and he wrote poems, including Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece. His 154 sonnets were published, probably without his authorization, in 1609. In 1611 or 1612 he gave up his lodgings in London and devoted more and more time to retirement in Stratford, though he continued writing such plays as The Tempest and Henry VII until about 1613. He died on April 23 1616, and was buried in Holy Trinity Church, Stratford. No collected edition of his plays was published during his life-time, but in 1623 two members of his acting company, John Heminges and Henry Condell, put together the great collection now called the First Folio.
Date of Death:2018
Place of Birth:Stratford-upon-Avon, United Kingdom
Place of Death:Stratford-upon-Avon, United Kingdom
Read an Excerpt
ghost of Hamlet, the former King of Denmark
Claudius, King of Denmark, the former King's brother
Gertrude, Queen of Denmark, widow of the former King and now wife of Claudius
Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, son of the late King and of Gertrude
Polonius, Councillor to the King
Laertes, his son
Ophelia, his daughter
Reynaldo, his servant
Horatio, Hamlet's friend and fellow student
Guildenstern, members of the Danish court
Francisco, officers and soldiers on watch
Fortinbras, Prince of Norway
captain in his army
Three or Four players, taking the roles of prologue, player king, player queen, and Lucianus
Two clowns, a gravedigger and his companion
first ambassador from England
Lords, Soldiers, Attendants, Guards, other Players, Followers of Laertes, other Sailors, another Ambassador or Ambassadors from England
[1.1] A Enter Bernardo and Francisco, two sentinels,
Bernardo Who's there?
Nay, answer me. Stand and unfold yourself. 2
Bernardo Long live the King!
You come most carefully upon your hour.
'Tis now struck twelve. Get thee to bed, Francisco.
For this relief much thanks. 'Tis bitter cold,
And I am sick at heart.
Bernardo Have you had quiet guard?
Francisco Not a mouse stirring.
Bernardo Well, good night.
If you do meet Horatio and Marcellus,
The rivals of my watch, bid them make haste. 14
Enter Horatio and Marcellus.
I think I hear them.--Stand, ho! Who is there?
Horatio Friends to this ground. 16
Marcellus And liegemen to the Dane. 17
Francisco Give you good night. 18
Oh, farewell, honest soldier. Who hath relieved you?
Bernardo hath my place. Give you good night.
Marcellus Holla! Bernardo!
Bernardo Say, what, is Horatio there?
Horatio A piece of him.
Welcome, Horatio. Welcome, good Marcellus.
What, has this thing appeared again tonight?
Bernardo I have seen nothing.
Horatio says 'tis but our fantasy, 27
And will not let belief take hold of him
Touching this dreaded sight twice seen of us.
Therefore I have entreated him along 30
With us to watch the minutes of this night, 31
That if again this apparition come
He may approve our eyes and speak to it. 33
Tush, tush, 'twill not appear.
Bernardo Sit down awhile
And let us once again assail your ears,
That are so fortified against our story,
What we have two nights seen.
Horatio Well, sit we down,
And let us hear Bernardo speak of this.
Bernardo Last night of all, 39
When yond same star that's westward from the pole 40
Had made his course t'illume that part of heaven 41
Where now it burns, Marcellus and myself,
The bell then beating one--
Peace, break thee off! Look where it comes again!
In the same figure like the King that's dead.
Thou art a scholar. Speak to it, Horatio. 46
Looks 'a not like the King? Mark it, Horatio. 47
Most like. It harrows me with fear and wonder.
It would be spoke to.
Marcellus Speak to it, Horatio. 49
What art thou that usurp'st this time of night, 50
Together with that fair and warlike form
In which the majesty of buried Denmark 52
Did sometimes march? By heaven, I charge thee, speak! 53
It is offended.
Bernardo See, it stalks away.
Stay! Speak, speak! I charge thee, speak! Exit Ghost.
Marcellus 'Tis gone and will not answer.
How now, Horatio? You tremble and look pale.
Is not this something more than fantasy?
What think you on't? 59
Before my God, I might not this believe
Without the sensible and true avouch 61
Of mine own eyes.
Marcellus Is it not like the King?
Horatio As thou art to thyself.
Such was the very armor he had on
When he the ambitious Norway combated. 65
So frowned he once when, in an angry parle, 66
He smote the sledded Polacks on the ice. 67
Thus twice before, and jump at this dead hour, 69
With martial stalk hath he gone by our watch. 70
In what particular thought to work I know not, 71
But in the gross and scope of mine opinion 72
This bodes some strange eruption to our state.
Good now, sit down, and tell me, he that knows, 74
Why this same strict and most observant watch
So nightly toils the subject of the land, 76
And why such daily cast of brazen cannon 77
And foreign mart for implements of war, 78
Why such impress of shipwrights, whose sore task 79
Does not divide the Sunday from the week.
What might be toward, that this sweaty haste 81
Doth make the night joint-laborer with the day?
Who is't that can inform me?
Horatio That can I;
At least, the whisper goes so. Our last king,
Whose image even but now appeared to us,
Was, as you know, by Fortinbras of Norway,
Thereto pricked on by a most emulate pride, 87
Dared to the combat; in which our valiant Hamlet--
For so this side of our known world esteemed him-- 89
Did slay this Fortinbras; who by a sealed compact 90
Well ratified by law and heraldry 91
Did forfeit, with his life, all those his lands
Which he stood seized of, to the conqueror; 93
Against the which a moiety competent 94
Was gaged by our king, which had returned 95
To the inheritance of Fortinbras 96
Had he been vanquisher, as, by the same cov'nant 97
And carriage of the article designed, 98
His fell to Hamlet. Now, sir, young Fortinbras,
Of unimproved mettle hot and full, 100
Hath in the skirts of Norway here and there 101
Sharked up a list of lawless resolutes 102
For food and diet to some enterprise 103
That hath a stomach in't, which is no other-- 104
As it doth well appear unto our state--
But to recover of us, by strong hand
And terms compulsatory, those foresaid lands
So by his father lost. And this, I take it,
Is the main motive of our preparations,
The source of this our watch, and the chief head 110
Of this posthaste and rummage in the land. 111
I think it be no other but e'en so.
Well may it sort that this portentous figure 113
Comes armed through our watch so like the King
That was and is the question of these wars. 115
A mote it is to trouble the mind's eye. 116
In the most high and palmy state of Rome, 117
A little ere the mightiest Julius fell, 118
The graves stood tenantless, and the sheeted dead 119
Did squeak and gibber in the Roman streets;
As stars with trains of fire and dews of blood, 121
Disasters in the sun; and the moist star 122
Upon whose influence Neptune's empire stands 123
Was sick almost to doomsday with eclipse. 124
And even the like precurse of feared events, 125
As harbingers preceding still the fates 126
And prologue to the omen coming on, 127
Have heaven and earth together demonstrated
Unto our climatures and countrymen. 129
But soft, behold! Lo, where it comes again! 130
I'll cross it, though it blast me. (It spreads his arms.) Stay,
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, 137
Which, happily, foreknowing may avoid, 138
Or if thou hast uphoarded in thy life
Extorted treasure in the womb of earth,
For which, they say, you spirits oft walk in death,
Speak of it! (The cock crows.) Stay and speak!--Stop it,
Shall I strike at it with my partisan? 144
Horatio Do, if it will not stand. [They strike at it.]
Bernardo 'Tis here! 146
Horatio 'Tis here! [Exit Ghost.] 147
Marcellus 'Tis gone.
We do it wrong, being so majestical,
To offer it the show of violence,
For it is as the air invulnerable,
And our vain blows malicious mockery.
It was about to speak when the cock crew.
And then it started like a guilty thing
Upon a fearful summons. I have heard
The cock, that is the trumpet to the morn, 156
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 160
To his confine; and of the truth herein
This present object made probation. 162
It faded on the crowing of the cock.
Some say that ever 'gainst that season comes 164
Wherein our Savior'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, 168
No fairy takes, nor witch hath power to charm, 169
So hallowed and so gracious is that time. 170
So have I heard and do in part believe it.
But, look, the morn in russet mantle clad 172
Walks o'er the dew of yon high eastward hill.
Break we our watch up, and by my advice
Let us impart what we have seen tonight
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?
Let's do't, I pray, and I this morning know
Where we shall find him most conveniently.
[1.2] A Flourish. Enter Claudius, King of Denmark,
Gertrude the Queen, [the] Council, as Polonius
and his son Laertes, Hamlet, cum aliis [including
Voltimand and Cornelius].
Though yet of Hamlet our dear brother's death 1
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, 8
Th'imperial jointress to this warlike state, 9
Have we, as 'twere with a defeated joy--
With an auspicious and a dropping eye, 11
With mirth in funeral and with dirge in marriage,
In equal scale weighing delight and dole-- 13
Taken to wife. Nor have we herein barred
Your better wisdoms, which have freely gone
With this affair along. For all, our thanks.
Now follows that you know young Fortinbras, 17
Holding a weak supposal of our worth, 18
Or thinking by our late dear brother's death
Our state to be disjoint and out of frame, 20
Co-leagued with this dream of his advantage, 21
He hath not failed to pester us with message
Importing the surrender of those lands 23
Lost by his father, with all bonds of law, 24
To our most valiant brother. So much for him.
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 29
Of this his nephew's purpose--to suppress
His further gait herein, in that the levies, 31
The lists, and full proportions are all made 32
Out of his subject; and we here dispatch 33
You, good Cornelius, and you, Voltimand,
For bearers of this greeting to old Norway,
Giving to you no further personal power
To business with the King more than the scope
Of these dilated articles allow. [He gives a paper.] 38
Farewell, and let your haste commend your duty. 39
In that, and all things, will we show our duty.
We doubt it nothing. Heartily farewell. 41
[Exeunt 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 44
And lose your voice. What wouldst thou beg, Laertes, 45
That shall not be my offer, not thy asking?
The head is not more native to the heart, 47
The hand more instrumental to the mouth, 48
Than is the throne of Denmark to thy father.
What wouldst thou have, Laertes?
Laertes My dread lord,
Your leave and favor to return to France, 51
From whence though willingly I came to Denmark
To show my duty in your coronation,
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. 56
Have you your father's leave? What says Polonius?
H'ath, my lord, wrung from me my slow leave 58
By laborsome petition, and at last
Upon his will I sealed my hard consent. 60
I do beseech you, give him leave to go.
Take thy fair hour, Laertes. Time be thine, 62
And thy best graces spend it at thy will. 63
But now, my cousin Hamlet, and my son-- 64
A little more than kin, and less than kind. 65
How is it that the clouds still hang on you?
Not so, my lord. I am too much in the sun. 67
Good Hamlet, cast thy nighted color off, 68
And let thine eye look like a friend on Denmark. 69
Do not forever with thy vailed lids 70
Seek for thy noble father in the dust.
Thou know'st 'tis common, all that lives must die, 72
Passing through nature to eternity.
Ay, madam, it is common.
queen If it be,
Why seems it so particular with thee? 75
Seems, madam? Nay, it is. I know not "seems."
'Tis not alone my inky cloak, good mother,
Nor customary suits of solemn black, 78
Nor windy suspiration of forced breath, 79
No, nor the fruitful river in the eye, 80
Nor the dejected havior of the visage, 81
Together with all forms, moods, shapes of grief, 82
That can denote me truly. These indeed seem,
For they are actions that a man might play.
But I have that within which passes show;
These but the trappings and the suits of woe.
'Tis sweet and commendable in your nature, Hamlet,
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 92
In obstinate condolement is a course 93
Of impious stubbornness. 'Tis unmanly grief.
It shows a will most incorrect to heaven,
A heart unfortified, a mind impatient, 96
An understanding simple and unschooled. 97
For what we know must be and is as common
As any the most vulgar thing to sense, 99
Why should we in our peevish opposition
Take it to heart? Fie, 'tis a fault to heaven,
Excerpted from "Four Tragedies"
Copyright © 1988 William Shakespeare.
Excerpted by permission of Random House Publishing Group.
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