Hamlet (Bantam Classic)

Hamlet (Bantam Classic)

Paperback(Mass Market Paperback - Reissue)

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One of the greatest plays of all time, the compelling tragedy of the tormented young prince of Denmark continues to capture the imaginations of modern audiences worldwide. Confronted with evidence that his uncle murdered his father, and with his mother’s infidelity, Hamlet must find a means of reconciling his longing for oblivion with his duty as avenger. The ghost, Hamlet’s feigned madness, Ophelia’s death and burial, the play within a play, the “closet scene” in which Hamlet accuses his mother of complicity in murder, and breathtaking swordplay are just some of the elements that make Hamlet an enduring masterpiece of the theater.

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

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780553212921
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 01/01/1988
Series: Bantam Classics Series
Edition description: Reissue
Pages: 384
Sales rank: 214,619
Product dimensions: 4.20(w) x 6.80(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range: 12 - 18 Years

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:


Place of Birth:

Stratford-upon-Avon, United Kingdom

Place of Death:

Stratford-upon-Avon, United Kingdom

Read an Excerpt

Dramatis Personae


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


a gentleman,

a lord,


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 messengers

first sailor

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

scene: Denmark]



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



Lords, Soldiers, Attendants, Guards, other Players, Followers of Laertes, other Sailors, another Ambassador or Ambassadors from England

SCENE: Denmark]

1.1 Location: Elsinore castle. A guard platform.

2 me (Francisco emphasizes that he is the sentry currently on watch.) unfold yourself reveal your identity.

14 rivals partners

16 ground country land.

17 liegemen to the Dane men sworn to serve the Danish king.

18 Give May God give

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?

27 fantasy imagination

30 along to come along

31 watch keep watch during

33 approve corroborate

39 Last... all i.e., This very last night. (Emphatic.)

40 pole polestar, north star

41 his its. t'illuine to illuminate


Bernardo hath my place. Give you good night.

Exit Francisco.

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— Enter Ghost.

46 scholar one learned enough to know how to question a ghost properly

47 'ahe

49 It... to (It was commonly believed that a ghost could

not speak until spoken to.)

50 usurp'st wrongfully takes over

52 buried Denmark the buried King of Denmark

53 sometimes formerly

59 on't of it.

61 sensible confirmed by the senses. avouch warrant,



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 HORATIO

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 MARCELLUS

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?


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?

65 Norway King of Norway

66 parle parley

67 sledded traveling on sleds. Polacks Poles

69 jump exactly

70 stalk stride

71 to work i.e., to collect my thoughts and try to understand this

72 gross and scope general drift

74 Good now (An expression denoting entreaty or expostulation.)

76 toils causes to toil. subject subjects

77 cast casting

78 mart shopping

79 impress impressment, conscription

81 toward in preparation

87 Thereto... pride (Refers to old Fortinbras, not the Danish King.) pricked on incited. emulate emubus, ambitious

89 this ... world i.e., all Europe, the Western world

90 sealed certified, confirmed

91 heraldry chivalry

93 seized possessed

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

'Tis strange.


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

94 Against the in return for. moiety competent corresponding portion

95 gaged engaged, pledged. had returned would have passed

96 inheritance possession

97 cov'nant i.e., the sealed compact of line 90

98 carriage... designed purport of the artide referred to

100 unimproved mettle untried, undisciplined spirits

101 skirts outlying regions, outskirts

102—4 Sharked... in't rounded up (as a shark scoops up fish) a troop of lawless desperadoes to feed and supply an enterprise of considerable daring

110 head source

111 posthaste and rummage frenetic activity and bustle

113 Well.., sort That would explain why

115 question focus of contention

116 mote speck of dust

117 paliny flourishing

118 Julius Julius Caesar

119 sheeted shrouded

121 As (This abrupt transition suggests that matter is possibly omitted between lines 120 and 121.) trains trails

122 Disasters unfavorable signs or aspects. moist star i.e., moon, governing tides

123 Neptune's ... stands the sea depends

124 Was ... eclipse was eclipsed nearly to the cosmic darkness predicted for the second coming of Christ and the ending of the world. (See Matthew 24:29 and Revelation 6:12.)

125 precurse heralding, foreshadowing

126 harbingers forerunners. still always

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 ioi

Sharked up a list of lawless resolutes i02

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 I 10

Of this posthaste and rummage in the land. iii


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, I 17

A little ere the mightiest Julius fell, I 18

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

127 omen calamitous event

129 climatures dimes, regions

130 soft i.e., enough, break off

131 cross stand in its path, confront. blast wither, strike

with a curse.

131 s.d. his its

137 privy to in on the secret of

138 happily haply perchance

144 partisan long-handled spear.

146—7 'Tis here! / 'Tis here! (Perhaps they attempt to strike at the Ghost, but are baffled by its seeming ability to be here and there and nowhere.)

And prologue to the omen coming on, 127

Have heaven and earth together demonstrated

Unto our climatures and countrymen. 129

Enter Ghost.

But soft, behold! Lo, where it comes again! 130

I'll cross it, though it blast me. (It spreads his arms.) Stay,

illusion! 131

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

Oh, speak!

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, Marcellus.


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.

156 trumpet trumpeter

160 extravagant and erring wandering beyond bounds. (The words have similar meaning.) hies hastens

162 probation proof

164 'gainst just before

168 strike destroy by evil influence

169 takes bewitches. charm cast a spell, control by enchantment

170 gracious full of grace

172 russet reddish brown


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. i 62


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 Location: The castle.

0.2 as i.e., such as, induding.

0.3 cum aijis with others

1 our my (The royal "we"; also in the following lines.)

8 sometime former

9 jointress woman possessing property with her husband

11 With.., eye with one eye smiling and the other weeping

13 dole grief

17 Now... know Next, you need to be informed that

18 weak supposal low estimate

20 disjoint... frame in a state of total disorder

21 Co-leagued... advantage joined to his illusory sense of having the advantage over us and to his vision of future success

23 Importing having for its substance

24 ..... .law (See 1.1.91, "Well ratified by law and heraldry")

[1.2] 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

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

Thimperial jointress to this warlike state, 9

Have we, as 'twere with a defeated joy— With an auspicious and a dropping eye, ii

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-

29 impotent helpless

31 His i.e., Fortinbras'. gait proceeding

31—3 in that.., subject since the levying of troops and supplies is drawn entirely from the King of Norway's own subjects

38 dilated set out at length

39 let... duty let your swift obeying of orders, rather than mere words, express your dutifulness.

41 nothing not at all.

44 the Dane the Danish king

45 lose your voice waste your speech.

47 native dosely connected, related

48 instrumental serviceable

51 leave and favor kind permission

56 bow... pardon entreatingly make a deep bow, asking your permission to depart.

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