Hamlet Act 1 and 2 quotes
“What might be toward, that this sweaty haste
Doth make it night joint-laborer with the day:
Who is’t that can inform me?”
ACT 1 Scene 1 line 77
Marcellus to Horatio — weapons of war are being imported daily, shipbuilders are working around the clock, an and Marcellus wants to know what all this haste means
“This bodes some strange eruption to our state”
ACT 1 SCENE 1 line 69
Horatio tells Marcellus and Barnardo that he’s pretty sure that the appearance of the ghost in the form of their previous king signals that something is seriously wrong in their country
“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.”
ACT 1 SCENE 1 line 112
Horatio compares the ghost’s appearance to the irritation of having something in your eye (mind’s eye) and goes on to compare the ghost’s presence to the horrifying clamor made by the undead in Rome just before Julius Caesar was assassinated”
“Disasters in the sun; and the moist star,
Upon whose influence Neptune’s empire stands,
Was sick almost to doomsday with eclipse.”
ACT 1 SCENE 1 line 118
Horatio continues to compare the ghost’s appearance to the portents of Caesar’s assassination, which included strange behavior of the sun and moon( which is the “moist star” because it rules the tides). The moon was darkened for a scary length of time, so that people thought doomsday was upon them.
“And then it started like a guilty thing.
Upon a fearful summons.”
ACT 1 SCENE 1 line 148
After the Ghost disappears for the second time, Horatio observes that it was startled by the rooster crowing at dawn.
“It faded on the crowing of the cock.
Some say they ever ‘against that season comes
Wherein our Savior’s birth is celebrated,
The bird of dawning signet all night long:
And the, they say, no spirit dares stir abroad;
The nights are wholesome; then no planet strike,
No fairy takes nor witch hath power to charm.
So hallow’d and so gracious is the time.”
ACT 1 SCENE 1 line 157
Marcellus also comments on the Ghost’s disappearance at dawn, saying that during Christmastime the rooster(“the bird of dawning”) crows all night long, so spirits (including fairies or witches) cannot appear because the time is too holy. As with Horatio’s comment, there is an implication that the Ghost is somehow a “guilty thing.”
“But, look, the morn, in russet mantle clad,
Walks o’er the dew of yon high eastward hill”
ACT 1 SCENE 1 line 166
the bitterly cold night of the Ghost ends with a metaphorical dash of warm color.
“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.
ACT 1 SCENE 2 line 1
The king acknowledges that he is aware that the memory of the death his brother, King Hamlet, is still fresh, and that it’s appropriate for himself (“us”) and the entire kingdom to be in a state of deep grief, but then goes on to say that he is taking the wisest course in getting on with business of taking care of his people and his country (“ourselves”).
“With an auspicious and a dropping eye,
With mirth in funeral and with dirge in marriage,
In equal scale weighing delight and dole”
ACT 1 SCENE 2 line 11
the king justifies his quick marriage to his brother’s widow by saying that he and all of his countrymen both celebrate a marriage and grieve a death.
“A little more than kin, and less than kind.”
ACT 1 SCENE 2 line 65
Punning, Hamlet says that the king is doubly “kin,” as the king is both his uncle and his stepfather, but not “kind,” that is, not his kind of person or one for whom he feels any real kinship.
“Thou know’t ’tis common; all that lives must die,
Passing through nature to eternity.”
ACT 1 SCENE 2 line 72
trying to lift Hamlet’s melancholy over his father’s death, the queen tries to convince him that his father’s death was not unexpected, as all that lives must die.
“Seems, madam! nay it is; I know not “seems.”
“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 savior 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.”
ACT 1 SCENE 2 line 76
Hamlet is differentiating between appearance and reality: he lists some of the usual outward rituals of bereavement, such as black clothing, noisy sighs, depressed behavior and tears. Hamlet implies that anyone can fake these outward signs of grief, but that what he feels is deeper.
In obstinate condolent is a course
Of impious stubbornness; ’tis unmanly grief;
It shows a will most incorrect to heaven,
A heart unfortified, a mind impatient.”
ACT 1 SCENE 2 line 92
The king criticizes Hamlet for persisting in hi grief for his father.
“O, that this too too solid flesh would melt,
Thaw and resolve itself into dew!
Or that the Everlasting had not fix’d
His cannon ‘against self-slaughter! Oh God! Oh God!
How weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable,
Seem to me all the uses of this world!”
ACT 1 SCENE 2 line 129
Hamlet begins his famous soliloquy bemoaning his father’s death and his mother’s swift remarriage after a lifetime of thinking his mother was totally devoted to his father.
“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, they name is woman!”
ACT 1 SCENE 2 line143
Hamlet continues torturing himself with the memories of his mother’s wifely devotion, which seemed to increase with time, yet she married her brother-in-law within a month of her husband’s death. Hamlet groups his mother with all the women and calls her frail, which implies inability to withstand temptation.
“Thrift, thrift, Horatio! the funeral baked 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!”
ACT 1 SCENE 2 line 180
Hamlet tells Horatio that the leftover funeral food also supplied the wedding (because the two events were so close together) and concludes by saying he would prefer meeting his most dreaded dead enemy than witness that hasty celebration.
“‘A was a man, take him for all in all,
I shall not look upon his like again.”
ACT 1 SCENE 2 line 187
Hamlet tells Horatio that he shall never again see someone equal to his father.
“Season your admiration for a while
With an attent ear”
ACT 1 SCENE 2 line 192
Horatio tells Hamlet to hold back his amazement and listen until Horatio can relate all the details of the ghost’s appearances.
“The chariest maid is prodigal enough,
If she unmask her beauty to the moon:
Virtue itself scares not calumnious strokes:
The canker galls the infants of the spring,
Too oft before their buttons be disclosed,
And in the morn and liquid dew of youth
Contagious blastments are most important”
ACT 1 SCENE 3 line 36
Laertes is warning his sister Ophelia to guard her virginity, as it is very easy to lose- just as one flowers succumb to the canker worm or contagious blights before they bloom.
“Do not, as some ungracious pastors do,
Show me the steep and thorny way to heaven,
Whites, like a puff’d and reckless libertine,
Himself the primrose path of dalliance treads, and rocks not his own rede”
ACT 1 SCENE 3 line 47
Ophelia warns her brother in return not to be like pastors who preach about the difficult path to heaven, while they themselves dally and do not take their own advice.
Of entrance to a quarrel, but being in,
Bear’t that the opposed may beware of thee.
Give every man thy ear , but few thy voice;
Take each man’s censure, but reserve they judgement.
Costly thy habit as they purse can buy,
But not express’d in fancy; rich, not gaudy,
For the apparel oft proclaims the man”
ACT 1 SCENE 3 line 65
Polonius is giving unsolicited advice to his son Laertes who is leaving for France; take Polonius’ advice with a grain of salt, as he is called a fool by other characters.
“Neither a borrower nor a lender be;
For loan oft loses both itself and friend,
And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.
This above all: to thine ownself be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not be false to any man”
ACT 1 SCENE 3 line 75
Polonius delivers more parting advice, admonishing his son to neither loan nor borrow, as he may lose both his friends and his money. Laertes is also advised not to be a phony, but genuine so others will find him sincere.
“When blood burns, how prodigal the soul
Lends the tongue vows”
ACT 1 SCENE 3 line 116
Polonius imparts his advice to his daughter Ophelia next, warning her against Hamlet’s advances, saying that sexual desire can overtake the soul and cause men to speak carelessly.
“Why, what should 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 of immortal as itself?
ACT 1 SCENE 4 line 64
Horatio is trying to talk Hamlet out of following his father’s ghost, but Hamlet is fearless, saying that he sets almost no value on his own life and that he has no concern for his soul which cannot be damaged, as it is immortal, just like the apparition itself.
“Something is rotten int he state of Denmark”
ACT 1 SCENE 4 line 90
Marcellus and Horatio decide to follow Hamlet even though he has warned them both not to try to stop him; they are worried for the prince’s safety when Marcellus exclaims that something is amiss in their country, as the appearance of the dead king’s beckoning ghost implies.
“I could a tale unfold whose lightest word
Would harrow up thy soul, freeze thy young blood,
Make thy two eyes, like stars, start from their spheres,
Thy knotted and combined locks to part
And each particular hair to stand on end,
Like quills upon the fretful porpentine:
But this eternal blazon must not be
To ears of flesh and blood”
ACT 1 SCENE 5 line 15
The dead king’s ghost tells Hamlet that he could horrify him with tales of purgatory, but that this information is not for the living.
“I find thee apt;
And duller shouldest thou be than the fat weed
That roots itself un ease on Lethe wharf”
ACT 1 SCENE 5 line 31
The ghost is surprised that Hamlet is catching on so quickly when he expected him to be like weeds along the bank of the Lethe, the river of forgetfulness in Hades.
“But virtue, as it never will be moved,
Though lewdness court it in a shape of heaven.”
ACT 1 SCENE 5 line 53
The ghost tells Hamlet that true virtue (which he thought belonged to his queen) cannot be seduced.
“Cut off even in the blossoms of my sin,
Unhoused’d, disappointed, unanel’d,
No reckoning made, but sent to my account
With all my imperfections on my head
ACT 1 SCENE 5 line 76
His father’s ghost tells Hamlet that he was murdered and sent to eternity without the benefit of the sacrament, unannointed, without extreme unction or spiritual preparation of any kind.
“If thou hast nature in thee, bear it not;
Let not the royal bed of Denmark be
A couch for luxury and damned incest.
But, howsoever thou pursuits this act,
Taint not thy mind nor let thy soul contrive
Against thy mother aught”leave her to heaven
And to those thorns that in her bosom lodge,
To prick and ting her.”
ACT 1 SCENE 5 line 81The ghosts says if Hamlet has the natural affection of a son he will seek revenge to remove lust and incest from the royal bed, but recommends that he not punish his mother, but leave her penalty to heaven and her own conscience.
“Ay, thou poor Ghost, while memory holds a seat
In this distracted globe. Remember thee!
Yea, from the table to my memory
I’ll wipe away all the trivial fond records”
ACT 1 SCENE 5 line 96
Hamlet swears to himself that not only will he remember the ghost’s words, but he will erase former memories and think of nothing else.
“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;
At least I’m sure it may be so in Denmark”
ACT 1 SCENE 5 line 106
Hamlet curses his uncle and his smiles (which give the impression that nothing is wrong). Hamlet then tells himself it is appropriate to write about his uncle’s villainous smiles in tables (tablets), not just the table of his mind.
“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are great of your philosophy.”
ACT 1 SCENE 5 line 166
Hamlet tells Horatio that science (natural philosophy) does not explain, nor come close to recounting all phenomena.
“The time is out of joint: O cursed spite,
That ever I was born to set it right!”
ACT 1 SCENE 5 line 188
Hamlet, speaking to Horatio, Marcellus and himself, acknowledges the wrongness of the time and curses the spite of fate itself that he was born to bring justice.
“Your bait of falsehood takes this carp of truth:
And this do we of wisdom and of reach,
With windlasses and with assays of bias,
By indirections find directions out”
ACT 2 SCENE 1 line 60
Polonius has been advising Reynaldo in devious conversational strategies to find out what Laertes is up to while he is out of the country. Polonius concludes his directions by telling Reynaldo that any lies he may tell about Laertes will only enhance the likelihood that others will reveal truths about Laertes, assuring him that wise and powerful men like himself use these roundabout tactics.
“This is the very ecstasy of love,
Whose violent property fords itself
And leads the will to desperate undertakings”
ACT 2 SCENE 1 line 99
Ophelia has come to her father to relate Hamlet’s strange behavior and Polonius attributes the strangeness to the madness of love and not to disillusionment with women in general because of his mother’s hasty marriage.
“Therefore, since brevity is the soul of wit,
And tediousness the limbs and outward flourishes,
I will be brief.”
ACT 2 SCENE 2 line 90
Polonius has rushed to the king’s side to attribute Hamlet’s strange behavior to the madness induced by love. Polonius says brevity is the soul of eloquence even though Polonius himself is never brief in his pronunciations.
“More matter, with less art”
ACT 2 SCENE 2 line 95
The queen urges Polonius to come to the point he is trying to make about Hamlet’s madness
“Madam, I swear I use no art at all.
That he is mad, ’tis true” ’tis true ’tis pity;
And pity ’tis ’tis true”
ACT 2 SCENE 2 line 96
Polonius swears to the queen he will use no art although he immediately begins to play with his own words instead of getting to the point.
“Though this be madness, yet there is method,
in’t. Will you walk out of the air, my lord?”
ACT 2 SCENE 2 line 205
Polonius has been talking with Hamlet and makes this comment about the underlying rationality of his madness in an aside that Hamlet cannot hear, similar to a note to oneself.
“These tedious old fools!”
ACT 2 SCENE 2 line 219
As soon as Polonius leaves, Hamlet calls him a fool and groups him with other old fools he has known.
“Rosencranz: As the indifferent children of the earth.
Guildenstern: Happy, in that we are not over-happy, on Fortune’s cap we are not the very button.”
ACT 2 SCENE 2 line 227
Hamlet asks how Rosencrantz and Guildenstern have been and Rosencrantz replies for them both saying they have been so-so. Then Guildenstern also answers Hamlet saying he is glad that he and Rosencrantz are not exuberant.
“Why, then, ’tis none to you; for there is nothing
either good or bad, but thinking makes it so. To me
it is a prison.”
ACT 2 SCENE 2 line 249
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern have disagreed with Hamlet who has just called Denmark a prison, when Hamlet makes this enigmatic declaration that thinking itself determines the goodness or badness of circumstances.
“O God, I could be bounded in a nutshell and count
myself a king of infinite space, were it not that i
have bad dreams.”
ACT 2 SCENE 2 line 254
Hamlet says that he could fool himself into thinking that infinite space existed in a nutshell where he ruled as king were it not for his bad dreams.
“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 overhanging firmament,
this majestical roof fretted with golden fire, why
it appears no other thing to me than a foul and pestilent congregation of vapors. What a piece of work is a man!
How noble in reason, how infinite in faculties,
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- no, nor won neither, though by
your smiling you seem to say so.”
ACT 2 SCENE 2 line 295
Hamlet has just succeeded in extracting the truth from Guildenstern that both he and Rosencrantz have been sent for by the crown. Hamlet immediately confesses to an excess of despondency yet maintains its source mystifies him, although the audience is already privy to his issues with his mother and uncle. Hamlet continues to characterize his own state of mind, saying that he has lost his sense of humor, that he no longer exercises, that the earth and sky have lost their wonder, and that man himself, who he lauds excessively, and women too have lost their charm.
“I am but mad north-north-west: when the wind is
southerly I know a hawk from a handsaw”
ACT 2 SCENE 2 line 378
Guildenstern asks Hamlet what he means when he says that his mother and uncle are deceived. Hamlet replies that he is only partially mad, that he knows what is what most of the time (north by northwest is only one of eight possible directions of the compass).
“Happily he’s the second time come to them; for they
say an old man is twice a child”
ACT 2 SCENE 2 line 384
Rosencrantz joins Hamlet in making fun of Polonius, by calling Polonius a child, as sometimes the elderly need as much care as they did as babies.
“DO you hear, let them be well us’d; for
they are the abstract and brief chronicles of the
time: after your death you were better have a bad
epitaph than their ill report while you live”
ACT 2 SCENE 2 line 523
Hamlet tells Polonius he wants the players treated well, as they have the ability to characterize the individual and the times, although the individual is better off getting a bad epitaph, rather than a bad reputation while alive.
“Use every man after his desert, and who should ‘scape whipping?”
ACT 2 SCENE 2 line 529
Polonius has just told Hamlet that he will use the players according to their desert and Hamlet replies that if men were treated the way they deserved, all would be whipped.
“Now I am alone.
O, what a rogue and peasant slave am I”
ACT 2 SCENE 2 line 550
As soon as the others leave, Hamlet begins to castigatehimself for not taking revenge upon King Claudius sooner.
“But I am pigeon-liver’d and lack gall
To make oppression bitter”
ACT 2 SCENE 2 line 577
Hamlet continues to denigrate himself for not taking his revenge against the king sooner, comparing himself to the pigeon (dove) who is incapable of resenting wrongs.
“We are oft to blame in this-
“Tis too much proved- that with devotion’s visage
And pics action we do sugar o’er
The devil himself”
ACT 3 SCENE 1 line 46
Polonius has convinced the king to eavesdrop upon Ophelia’s next conversation with Hamlet, so they advise Ophelia to read a book to give her an excuse for being alone until Hamlet appears. Then Polonius reflects about how often people who appear pious (innocently reading a book) are providing a cover for their true intentions.