Horatio - ex-guardsman, friend to Hamlet
Fortinbras - prince of Norway and Denmark (presumed)
Captain - to Fortinbras
Hamlet - prince of Denmark
Attendants to Fortinbras
Messenger of Fortinbras
The Court of Denmark
Setting: Elsinore, Denmark.
Night. The castle wall.
[Hor.] I liked myself to an ancient Roman
Ready to part this life like an iron-willed
Emperor, yet when comes the time the step
To take ... I hesitate. Hamlet
My lord lies dead, his killer cold, and all
Concerned brought to bitter yet welcome end.
Wherefore wait I? His final comission
Fulfilled, newly kinged Fortinbras informed
Of his predecessors' sad tale, all things
For me are come to end. A little jump
Finishes my short play in timely manner.
Come, man, the final curtain draws across,
The audience sits expectantly.
I yield this stage, this world, with one last bow.
But hold! What long black shape is this yonder?
It seems a form to me familiar
Yet never thought to have seen in life again,
Or rather, in death. Am I, then, dead already?
I felt it not. Do I dream in afterlife
Or see life after while yet I'm still alive?
If dead, I'll speak it like a haunting brother:
Ho, comrade! It turns! I mistook it not,
'Tis the shade of Hamlet, my lord's father
In peaceful sleep killed by his own brother.
But yet his Hamlet, my lord, took fair revenge,
Killed the usurping uncle, and should
Thus have banished this quickened corpse back to
Its rest eternally. Why walks it here?
Oh, icy blasts of hell! Its look freezes me.
I needs must then live still if hot blood cools.
Leave you so briskly, King? Came you to me?
But this shadow distracted me. I'll to't,
And farewell to ghosts, and kings, and hotted blood.
And yet--damn my shill-shallying! And yet--
If't walks still, 'tis still unavenged. Can't be?
Cursed Claudius I saw dead, steeped in's
Own irreversible poison, an Hamlet,
Gertrude, and Laertes alike strook down by the
Same oil black distillation. 's dead!
But if death old stays unavenged then why
Could not new death yet remain here unclaimed?
The dead see dead awaiting dead tonight;
Quickly I'll learn the matter, and set it right.
The castle, throne room.
[Enter Fortinbras, Captain, Messenger, Guards, Attendants, Court, etc]
[For.] Unlooked-for came I to this country's throne,
Taking her powers merely to satisfy her own people
Who clamored for my leadership and strong protection.
The hand of Providence shows clearly in this
That I happened 'pon Elsinore just as it stood
In great peril of falling to blood and dust
Through foul wickednesses, murder and lust
Which griped its crown and families of high estate.
These having fall'n, so wouldst the country, to chaos,
Rank lawlessness, and all that looks most black
In the eyes of almighty God and 's Son.
Fair fortune, and yourselves, have here crowned me your king,
Whose family, moreover, has claim full fair and sealed
In treaties come down from our fair forefathers
To whose memory we thus do honor today.
Where's my messenger?
[Mes.] Here, my Lord.
[For.] Take you this letter to our dear uncle Norway,
Telling him how we have most happily become
Chosen leader of our mighty neighbor.
A pact we will soon ratify between these nations
Too long and unnatur'ly of land divided.
Once united, what have our good proud Danes to fear
When they'll front with great Norway their enemies? Ask him
To visit me soon in state--Elsinore opens its
White halls to his kingly court and all his train.
A noble festival we'll hold of both our kingdoms
Happily to become one in both law and name.
[For.] Yet mourning must precede the dawn of our
Reign, for the earthly forms of our noble
Predecessors in state lie unburied.
The princely Hamlet, his loving mother,
Crowned uncle, and sometime friend Laertes
Await the burial rites due their high degree.
This we shall do early tomorrow morn;
Until that time, dear friends, I humbly ask you
To spend the hours in prayer for their royal souls.
Leave us now a while.
[Exit Attendants, Court.]
[For.] They seem docile, and yet
Meseems among them lingers still a silence bated
Awaiting the outcome of events yet hatch'd.
[Cap.] This heaviness of th' court is certain,
My lord, the mere result of recent loss.
Dark things and strange have these people seen
If Horatio's tale has even half of truth to't.
[For.] Aye, thou'rt no doubt in th' right of it.
The sun has not yet done its full round
Since dire poison all together ended
The lives of those we will bury tomorrow.
Therefore take we care that all ceremony
Plays rightly in the public eye. Look too't.
[Cap.] All needful things will be attended to.