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Act One, Scene Five: Ghost Aftermath

Marcus GeduldMarcus Geduld, Shakespearean director, comput... (more)
1 upvote by Marc Bodnick.
[Within] My lord, my lord,--

--------------------------------------- [Within] Lord Hamlet,--

----------------------------------------------------------------[Within] Heaven secure him!

So be it!

[Within] Hillo, ho, ho, my lord!

Hillo, ho, ho, boy! come, bird, come.
[This is a call used by falconers.]


How is't, my noble lord?

------------------------------------ What news, my lord?

O, wonderful!
[As in "full of wonder" -- not necessarily a good thing.]

---------------------- Good my lord, tell it.

------------------------------------------------------ No.
You'll reveal it.

------------------------ Not I, my lord, by heaven.

Nor I, my lord.

How say you, then; would heart of man once [ever] think it?
But you'll be secret?

[What's that you say? Even though at heart, no man could stop himself from thinking of it, you'll keep secret about it?]

------------------------------ Ay, by heaven, my lord.

There's ne'er a villain dwelling in all Denmark
But he's an arrant [downright] knave [villain].

[Hamlet is speaking tautologically, making a joke and/or being cagy: there's not a single villain in all of Denmark who isn't an absolute villain.

He's also subtly speaking the truth, since 'Denmark' also means 'The king of Denmark.' The villain inside Claudius is an especially evil villain.]

There needs no ghost, my lord, come from the grave
To tell us this.

---------------------- Why, right; you are i' the right;
And so, without more circumstance [details] at all,
I hold it fit [fitting] that we shake hands and part:
You, as your business and desire shall point you;
For every man has business and desire,
Such as it is; and for mine own poor part,
Look you, I'll go pray.

These are but wild and whirling words, my lord.

I'm sorry they offend you, heartily;
Yes, 'faith heartily.

---------------------------- There's no offence, my lord.

Yes, by Saint Patrick, but there is, Horatio,
[Hamlet is purposefully misunderstanding Horatio's words. Horatio means that Hamlet hasn't offended him. Hamlet is saying, 'Yes, there are offensive things in Denmark at the moment.]
And much offence too. Touching this vision here,
It is an honest ghost, that let me tell you:
For your desire to know what is between us,
O'ermaster 't as you may [Overcome it however you can]. And now, good
-------- friends,
As you are friends, scholars and soldiers,
Give me one poor request.

What is't, my lord? we will.

Never make known what you have seen to-night.

My lord, we will not.

Nay, but swear't.

------------------------- In faith, my lord, not I.

Nor I, my lord, in faith.

----------------------------------- Upon my sword.

We have sworn, my lord, already.

Indeed, upon my sword, indeed.

[Beneath] Swear.

Ah, ha, boy! say'st thou so? art thou there, truepenny [honest fellow]?
Come on--you hear this fellow in the cellarage--
[Probably 'under the ground,' but in the original production, the Ghost would have been calling up from below the stage.]
Consent [agree] to swear.

------------------------- Propose the oath, my lord.

Never to speak of this that you have seen,
Swear by my sword.

[Beneath] Swear.

Hic et ubique? [Here and everywhere?] then we'll shift our ground.
[The voice of the ghost seems to be coming from various places. This is reminiscent of  it's first appearance: "Tis here" "Tis here" "Tis gone"]
Come hither [over here], gentlemen,
And lay your hands again upon my sword:
Never to speak of this that you have heard,
Swear by my sword.

[Beneath] Swear.

Well said, old mole [a mole, because his voice seems to be coming from below the ground]!
-------------------------- canst work i' the earth so fast?
[Can you really move from one part of the ground to another so fast?]
A worthy pioner! Once more remove, good friends.

O day and night, but this is wondrous strange!

And therefore as a stranger give it welcome.
[This makes me question Horatio's origins. He's Hamlet's college friend, and their University is in Germany. At one point, Hamlet talks of teaching Horatio how to drink, as if Horatio is a foreigner who is alien to Denmark's customs of drunkenness. On the other hand, Horatio seems to have much knowledge about the Danish court, including the history of Hamlet's father, who he claims to have known.]
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
[In some editions, it's "our philosophy," which may be a reference to Protestantism. In other words, there are more things in heaven and earth (the Ghost now seems to be in the earth) than aren't spoken about by Protestant intellectuals -- e.g. Purgatory]
--------------------------------------- But come [listen];
Here, as before, never, so help you mercy,
How [however] strange or odd soe'er  [soever] I bear myself [I act],
As I perchance [maybe] hereafter [after this] shall think meet [appropriate]
To put an antic disposition on [to act like a crazy person],
That you, at such times seeing me, never shall,
With arms encumber'd [crossed] thus [like this], or this headshake,
Or by pronouncing of some doubtful phrase,
As 'Well, well, we know,' or 'We could, an if we would,'
[Like "Well, well, we know what's going on" or "We could tell you a what's going on with Hamlet if we wanted to"]
Or 'If we list to speak,' or 'There be, an if they might,'
[Or "If we wanted to say something..." or "There might be something up with him"]
Or such ambiguous giving out, to note
That you know aught of [something about] me: this not to do,
So grace and mercy at your most need help you, Swear.
[So that grace and mercy will help you when you must need it, swear!]

[Beneath] Swear.

Rest, rest, perturbed [pronounced perturb-ed] spirit!

They swear

So, gentlemen,
With all my love I do commend me [commend myself] to you:
And what [whatever] so poor a man as Hamlet is
May do, to express his love and friending to you,
God willing, shall not lack [he will not forget to do]. Let us go in together;
And still your fingers on your lips [keep quiet], I pray.
The time is out of joint: O cursed spite,
That ever I was born to set it right!
Nay, come, let's go together.


This is a pretty straightforward section. In the first part, the conflict is between Hamlet, who doesn't want to say what happened, and the other men, who want to know what the Ghost said. Hamlet doesn't trust them -- which means there's growth potential in his relationship with Horatio, who he'll later come to trust -- so he refuses to talk. Meanwhile, the men do what they can to urge him to spill the beans.

Once this conflict is over, Hamlet having won, he insists they swear a vow of silence (about the Ghost and also about Hamlet's plays to fake madness), and the Ghost returns (as a voice) to help coerce them to do so.

The men are reluctant to swear -- at least to the extent Hamlet wants them to -- maybe feeling affronted that they're not considered trustworthy. Eventually, Hamlet and the Ghost scare them into complying.

Both these conflicts are built out of Hamlet's mistrust. This is one of countless examples of mistrust in this play: mistrust, fear of betrayal, actual betrayal -- and rare loyalty.

There are a few of small things in the scene that popped out to me. The first is Hamlet's insistence that the Ghost is honest, which presumably, amongst other things, means that, as far as Hamlet is concerned, it really is his father's spirit. He will be less sure of this, soon, but in this scene, he's convinced.

Second, in many productions, the actor playing Hamlet glosses over these two lines:

The time is out of joint: O cursed spite,
That ever I was born to set it right!

I understand the impulse to steamroll past them, because the rest of the lines are so active, so confident. But I think it's really important that Hamlet switches gears here -- momentarily realizing the huge weight that's been placed on his shoulders. These concerns will hit him full force soon enough. For the moment, he's able to master them:

Nay, come, let's go together.

It's useful for the audience to see the germ of Hamlet's doubts, even in this mostly forward-moving scene.

Finally, this scene contains the very moment Hamlet decides to put on the madman act. Why does he decide to do this?

More thoughts on that, later.

And that, folks, takes us to the end of Act One!

Next: Act Two, Scene One: Polonius Plots


If you want to start from the first post, click...


Marcus Geduld
Marcus Geduld
Shakespearean director, computer programmer, teacher, writer, ...