William Shakespeare. Hamlet (in prose, read online)

Part 2. The Untimely Death

This situation, he said, arose in Denmark ever since the untimely death of its former ruler — king Hamlet. The latter had died about two months before under suspicious circumstances, and his death proved to be a great loss to the country.

King Hamlet — a man of great valour and outstanding abilities — had ruled in Denmark for over thirty years. Under his rule the country prospered — its borders were extended in a number of successful wars and its foreign trade developed to an unparalleled degree.

King Hamlet lived happily in Elsinore together with his wife, queen Gertrude, and his son, prince Hamlet. He loved his wife and the queen loved him dearly. He was very kind to prince Hamlet, who, in his turn, adored his father. Loved by his parents, prince Hamlet had spent a happy childhood in Elsinore. On reaching the age of adolescence, he was sent by his parents to Germany, to study at the university of Wittenberg — the best educational centre in Europe in those days.

Prince Hamlet studied philosophy arid natural sciences at Wittenberg, wishing to prepare himself to be a worthy suc­cessor to his noble father. But an evil fate had decided differently.

In his fifth year at the university, he was called back to Elsinore by the news of his father’s sudden death: Another blow awaited him in Elsinore: prince Hamlet’s uncle, Claudius, the younger brother of the late king, was elected king of Denmark.

Claudius was in no way like his elder brother. While living at his brother’s court, he never was really interested in the art of government. However, he was ambitious and always dreamed of becoming king. By bribes and flattery be managed to gain the confidence of the nobility, who subsequently voted for him at the election.

The change of government in Denmark brought about an adverse reaction abroad: the neighbouring countries, Norway and Poland, which had long been kept in obedience bу king Hamlet, decided that the time had come for them to revenge themselves on king Claudius. Young Fortinbras, the son of the late king of Norway and nephew of the present king, had gathered armed forces on the border of Denmark, wishing to regain the lands lost by his father to king Hamlet in a single combat. The threat of foreign invasion forced king Claudius to take measures: the border defence was made stronger, the ship-building and cannon-building industries were hurriedly reconstructed with the aim of increasing the production of warships and cannons, some steps were taken to settle the dispute through diplomatic channels. All these measures did not bring the desired effect: the threat of foreign intervention remained and there was a general feeling of danger all over the country.

Part 3. Stay, Illusion

Horatio told all this to his friends, while the hours of their night watch dragged on. The appearance of the spectre of toe late king assumed special significance in their eyes and made them increase their vigilance. Meanwhile the weather improved: the wind fell and the waves below were beating with less force.

Suddenly the sentries saw the apparition again. The stately figure of the knight in armour appeared out of the mist in the shadow of the castle walls and began its march across the platform. Horatio was the first to recover speech.

«Look!» he cried to his friends. «Here it comes again I’ll cross it, though it blasts me!»1 And he pursued the ghost crying: «Stay, illusion! If thou hast any use of voice, speak to me!2 If there is something to be done that may to thee do ease3, speak to me! If thou art privy of thy country’s fate, which, happily, foreknowing may avoid, oh speak!»4

Hearing the man’s voice, the spectre stopped and raised its head. It even made a step towards Horatio, as if wishing to answer the man’s appeal, but at that moment a cock crowed in the distance. Hearing the cock crow, the ghost drooped its head and hastily moved towards the sea. With loud cries the three men ran after it.

«Stay! Stay, and speak!» cried Horatio, and then turned to Marcellus: «Stop it, Marcellus!»

«Shall I strike at it with my partisan?» the officer asked. «Do, if it will not stand.»

Marcellus and Bernardo ran after the ghost, striking heavy blows with their partisans.

«Tis here! Tis here!» they cried, but their blows met empty space. Invulnerable to their blows, the ghost continued to move towards the sea, and there it vanished.

«Tis gone!» cried Marcellus in despair. «We did it wrong, offering it signs of violence.6 It is, as the air, invul­nerable, and all our blows were but malicious mockery.»

«But it was about to speak when the cock crowed,» remarked Bernardo.

«Yes, it was,» agreed Horatio. «But like a guilty thing it started at the cock’s crow. I have heard people say thai the cock, this trumpet of the morn,7 awakes the god of day, and at his warning the evil spirits hide. And of the truth herein this present object made probation.»8

Meanwhile the pink band in the east became bright crimson and stretched wider and wider over the horizon — a new day was coming.

«Let’s break our watch,» Horatio proposed to his friends, «our time is up.9 And my advice is to tell young Hamlet everything that we have just seen. Upon my life, this spirit, dumb to us, will speak to him.»10

This proposal was met with general approval.

«Let’s do it, I pray,»11 Marcellus said, «and I know where we shall find the prince this morning.»

The three men cast farewell glances at the sea and walked slowly to the castle gates.

Comments to Hamlet in prose in Russian:

  1. Я путь ему закрою, хотя б меня взорвал он!
  2. Коль даром речи обладаешь ты, заговори!
  3. Коль чем-нибудь смогу тебе доставить облегчение.
  4. А если Родины судьба тебя печалит, которую еще возможно избежать, молю скажи!
  5. Его мы оскорбили, применив насилие.
  6. смеется он над нашими ударами
  7. этот певец зари
  8. И истину того нам подтвердило только видение.
  9. Закончим вахту, наше время истекло.
  10. Уверен, этот дух, молчащий с нами, с ним заговорит.

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