Hamlet, Analysis by J.D. '01,
Act I, scene 5, lines 49-98

Ay, that incestuous, that adulterate beast,

With witchcraft of his wit, with traitorous gifts, --

O wicked wit and gifts, that have the power

So to seduce! -- won to his shameful lust

The will of my most seeming-virtuous queen:

O Hamlet, what a falling-off was there!

From me, whose love was of that dignity

That it went hand in hand even with the vow

I made to her in marriage, and to decline

Upon a wretch whose natural gifts were poor

To those of mine!

But virtue, as it never will be moved,

Though lewdness court it in a shape of heaven,

So lust, though to a radiant angel link'd,

Will sate itself in a celestial bed,

And prey on garbage.

But, soft! methinks I scent the morning air;

Brief let me be. Sleeping within my orchard,

My custom always of the afternoon,

Upon my secure hour thy uncle stole,

With juice of cursed hebenon in a vial,

And in the porches of my ears did pour

The leperous distilment; whose effect

Holds such an enmity with blood of man

That swift as quicksilver it courses through

The natural gates and alleys of the body,

And with a sudden vigour doth posset

And curd, like eager droppings into milk,

The thin and wholesome blood: so did it mine;

And a most instant tetter bark'd about,

Most lazar-like, with vile and loathsome crust,

All my smooth body.

Thus was I, sleeping, by a brother's hand

Of life, of crown, of queen, at once dispatch'd:

Cut off even in the blossoms of my sin,

Unhousel'd, disappointed, unanel'd,

No reckoning made, but sent to my account

With all my imperfections on my head:

O, horrible! O, horrible! most horrible!

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 pursuest 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 sting her. Fare thee well at once!

The glow-worm shows the matin to be near,

And 'gins to pale his uneffectual fire:

Adieu, adieu! Hamlet, remember me.

Up till this point in the tragedy, an apparition has continually appeared but until now has refused to speak. It is during this soliloquy that the ghost informs Hamlet that he is his dead father's spirit. Furthermore, it is revealed that King Hamlet did not die of natural causes, rather he was poisoned by his brother Claudius. In addition, his brother made romantic advances upon his queen who Claudius has married. The ghost cries out for justice for the murder and the relationship of sin between his brother and his queen.

Apparently, King Hamlet was sleeping in the garden when his brother, Claudius poisoned him via his ear. It resulted in a quick but brutally painful death. All the while, Claudius was courting King Hamlet's queen, Gertrude. The two were later married and became King and Queen of Denmark. Claudius's motive was clear: to become the King of Denmark. Now, the spirit of King Hamlet cries out for justice. He wants Prince Hamlet to avenge his death and the humiliation of having his wife remarry so soon after his death. The spirit tells Hamlet to kill Claudius but to spare Queen Gertrude. The spirit says she should suffer over a guilty conscience. It is this speech which gives Hamlet a clear objective in which to channel his energy and the rest of the play's plot can be traced to these words which prompted Hamlet to action.

Look at analyses of other scenes from Hamlet

Return to Mr. Kendall's Hamlet Page