William Shakespeare. Hamlet (in prose, read online)

Part 6. Disturbing News

The king then left the hall accompanied by the queen. Prince Hamlet was left alone, standing with his head bent low and eyes fixed onto the ground. He knew that he had lost the battle, that he would be forced to stay at Elsinore — the place so dear to him when he remembered his happy childhood and so hateful to him at present. What was left to him at Elsinore now— to be the passive witness of his uncle’s fame and of his mother’s frailty; to be the blind instrument in the hands of the king, reduced to the rank of the common courtier; to take part in the corrupt court life which he despised? All this seemed so intolerable to him that he even began to desire death:

«Oh! that this too too solid flesh would melt, thaw and, resolve itself into a dew!»1he thought. Had he not known that religion forbade suicide, he would readily agree to leave the world, which now appeared to him an unweeded garden, that grows to seed.2 What else could he expect of the world, in which greediness and lust were the main factors determining the behaviour of the people. At any rate, he was sure those were the factors which determined the actions of king Claudius and queen Gertrude, who had agreed to be married so soon after king Hamlet’s death.

«Heaven and earth! Must I remember?» Hamlet said to himself. «Within a monthl Nay, a month had hardly passed, since she, like Niobe, all tears,3 had followed my poor fa­ther’s body; now married with my uncle, my father’s brother, who is no more like my father than I to Hercules.4 Oh, most wicked speed — a beast would have mourned longer!5 It is not, nor it cannot come to good.»6

These sad thoughts of Hamlet were interrupted by the appearance of .Horatio and the officers, who had come to tell him about the ghost. Though still absorbed in his thoughts, Hamlet greeted them cordially — he was really glad to see his fellow-student from Wittenberg. After the greetings were exchanged, Hamlet asked his friend:

«What brought you here from Wittenberg, Horatio?»

Horatio, seeing that the prince was in low spirits, gave an evasive answer:

«A truant disposition, good my lord.»7

«I would not hear your enemy say so, much less your own report against yourself,»8 said Hamlet. «I know you are not truant. So, what is your affair in Elsinore? We’ll teach you to drink deep9 before you depart.»

«My lord, I came to see your father’s funeral,» Horatio said. In return, Hamlet smiled bitterly.

«I pray you, do not mock me, fellow-student. I think you came to see my mother’s wedding.»

«Indeed, my lord, it followed very soon,» agreed Horatio.

«Thrift, thrift, Horatio!» exclaimed Hamlet. «The meals that had been served for the funeral table, were still good enough to serve the marriage feast. Oh, I would I had never seen that day, Horatio! My father, — methinks10 I see my father.»

Hamlet’s last words excited all three men greatly. Was it possible that the ghost had appeared before the prince too? And all three cried: «Oh, where, my lord?»

Hamlet seemed not to notice their excitement.

«In my mind’s eyes, Horatio,»11 he said and fell silent. For some time his friends were silent too, and then Horatio said in a low voice:

«My lord, I think I saw him yesterday night.» Hamlet was so absorbed in his thoughts, that at first he did not catch the meaning of those words. Then asked doubtfully:

«Saw? Whom?»

Horatio gave a detailed account of what he and his friends had seen the previous night. Hamlet listened attentively, growing more and more serious.

«Where was it?» he asked slowly.

«My lord, upon the platform where we watched.»

«Did you not speak to it?»

«My lord, I did; but it did not answer,» said Horatio. «Only once he made a motion with his hand, as though wish­ing to speak, but at that moment the cock crowed. On hear­ing the cock crow, the ghost quickly moved away and van­ished from our sight.»

«Tis very strange,» Hamlet said doubtfully.

The three men began to assure him that all that they had said was quite true. More and more convinced, the prince asked them some more questions, what the ghost looked like, what was its armour and the look of his face. At last he decided:

«I shall keep watch with you to-night, perhaps the apparition will come again.»

«It will, my lord, assure you, it will,» Horatio said.

«And if the apparition has my father’s person,» said Hamlet, «I’ll speak to it, though hell itself should try to interfere.»

It was agreed that Hamlet would come to the platform between eleven and twelve o’clock. The prince asked his friends to tell nobody what they had seen and would probably see on the following night. Then he let his friends go.

The news Hamlet had just heard disturbed him greatly. For some time he walked about the hall restlessly.

«My father’s spirit in arms!» he said to himself again and again. «All is not well. I doubt some foul play.12 Would the night were come! Till then sit still, my soul.»

Comments to Hamlet in prose in Russian:

  1. (казался ему) бесплодным садом, прораставшим в семя
  2. слезами обливаясь, как Ниобея (в греческой мифологии – титан, обладавший невероятной силой)
  3. и дикий зверь оплакивал бы дольше!
  4. Нет, не видать от этого добра.
  5. Склонность к безделью, мой добрый лорд.
  6. а еще меньше вашим собственным наговорам на самого себя
  7. Мы к пьянству вас приучим
  8. мне кажется
  9. В очах души моей
  10. Нечисто что-то здесь
  11. Хоть бы ночь пришла скорее!

Part 7. The Ghost’s Revelation

All day Hamlet waited impatiently for the coming of night. He thought of his dead father and of the offence done him by the queen, his mother. He had little doubt that the appearance of his father’s ghost was in some way connected with her hasty marriage.

At last the night came. At about midnight he joined the small group of sentries on the platform. The night was as cold as the previous one. A fierce wind blew. The wailing of the wind and the monotonous beating of the waves below were interrupted from time to time by cannon shots and the sounds bf trumpets behind the castle walls.

«What does this mean, my lord?» asked Horatio, listen­ing to these sounds.

«The king is feasting to-night,» answered Hamlet, «and every time he drinks a deep draught of wine, all the trumpets and cannons in the fortress announce it to the Danes.»

«Is it a custom?» asked Horatio, surprised.

«Yes, it is,» was Hamlet’s bitter answer. «But to my mind, though I am native here and to the manner born,1 this custom greatly mars us in the eyes of other nations. They call us drunkards and swine, and none other deed of ours, however honourable, can efface this swinish label.

A long pause followed. The prince did not say a word and his friends did not dare to break the silence. The officers were watching the dimly-lit platform in front of them.

And then the tower clock within the castle struck twelve. At the last stroke of the clock a bleak figure appeared in the distant corner of the platform. Horatio was the first to recognize it.

«Look, my lord, here it comes again!» he exclaimed.

Hamlet slowly raised his head. In the surrounding mist he saw the figure of a knight in armour, whose pale face was turned to him. The face, adorned with a long gray beard was so familiar to him, that he instinctively made a few steps to meet the spectre.

«Angels and ministers of grace defend us!»2 he exclaimed. «Be thou a spirit of health or goblin damned,3 be thine intentions good or evil, thou lookest so like- my father that I will speak to thee: I’ll call thee Hamlet, king, father; Royal Dane, oh, answer me! Don’t let me perish in ignorance.

Tell, me why thy canonized bones have left their tomb, wherein we placed them with peace. What may this mean, that you, dead corpse, roam about here, making the night hideous. Say, why is this? wherefore? what should we do?»

Horatio and the officers, who were watching the ghost anxiously, noticed that the spirit made a motion with its hand, as if inviting Hamlet to follow it. They felt responsible for the» life and safety of the royal prince, and they warned him against reckless action.

«It beckons you to go away with It, as if it wants to speak to you alone, but do not go with it!» said Marcellus.

«No, by no means!» Horatio supported him.

«It will not speak here, and I will follow it» said Hamlet.

«Do not, my lord!» insisted» Horatio. «What if it tempts you into the open sea, or to the dreadful summit of the cliff, and there assumes some horrible form, which may deprive you of reason and draw you into madness? Think of it!»

«It waves me still!» Hamlet said firmly. Seeing that his friends were surrounding him, determined not to let him go, he cried:

«Hold off your hands! By heaven, I’ll make a ghost of him who holds me! I say, away!»

And he ran to follow the ghost. It was clear to the officers that they would not be able to stop him, and they went after him, ready to give him all possible assistance.

Meanwhile, Hamlet and the ghost had reached the distant corner of the platform. The mist was still more dense there, and the beating of the waves was heard more distinctly. It was Hamlet who stopped first.

«Where wilt thou lead me? speak; I’ll go no further,» he said, .

The ghost stopped and looked attentively in the youth’s face. Then it said:

«My hour is almost come, and I must go back again to that tormenting flame from which I came…»

«Alas, poor ghost!» Hamlet said in pity.

«Pity me not,» the ghost said sternly, «but hear what I shall say. I am thy father’s spirit, doomed for some time to walk in the night, and during the day to burn in flame until all my sins are burnt away. It is not for the ears of a mortal to hear what tortures sinners are subjected, to in the other world, but if thou hast ever loved thy dear father… revenge his foul and most unnatural murder.’

«Murder?» echoed the terrified prince.

«Yes, murder, most foul and most unnatural,» affirmed the ghost.

«Tell me about it,» begged Hamlet, «and with wings as swift as the thoughts of love, I’ll sweep to my revenge!»

«I find thee apt,»4 said, the ghost with satisfaction. «Now, Hamlet, hear: it has been given out5 that a serpent stung me while I was sleeping in my orchard. But I tell you, noble youth, the serpent that deprived your father of life, now wears his crown.»

«Oh, my prophetic soul!» exclaimed Hamlet. «My uncle?»

«Yes, that adulterate beast, who by means of wicked wit and traitorous gifts has won my queen. Oh, Hamlet, what a fall was that! From me, whose love was so deep, she rushed to the bed of a man so much inferior to me!»

Here the voice of the ghost broke. The features of the noble face expressed the torment, even greater than that which might be caused by all the horrors of hell. Suddenly the ghost straightened up and its voice sounded again, even and cold.

«Methinks I scent the morning air,» it said, «so I will be brief. It was my custom to sleep in the orchard after dinner. Thy uncle knew that, and one afternoon, when I was sound asleep, he stole into the orchard with the juice of hebenon in a vial. This juice he poured into my ear, and it had such a cursed effect upon my blood that instantly I died. Thus by my brother’s hand I was deprived of life, of crown and of queen, sent to the other world with all my imperfections and my sins. For this I am bound to burn in eternal fire until all my sins are burnt away. Oh, horrible, most horri­ble! If thou hast heart within, don’t bear it! Don’t let the villain defile the royal bed of Denmark! But however thou do this act,6 spare the life of thy mother, leave her to heav­en’s vengeance. And now fare thee well. I feel the morning is approaching. Adieu, adieu! remember me:»

The spectre faded and then dissolved in the air, leav­ing Hamlet petrified by all he had just heard and seen.

«Remember thee?» he said to himself. «Oh, poor ghost, yes! From the tablets of my memory I’ll wipe out everything that has been inscribed there by all my life’s experience and observation. Only thy sacred command will remain, together with hatred for my uncle. Where are my tablets? There I will inscribe that a man can smile and yet remain a villain! At least it may be so in Denmark.»

Comments to Hamlet in prose in Russian:

  1. хотя я родом из здешних мест и к этому обычаю привычен
  2. Храните нас святые силы неба!
  3. Хоть будь ты добрый дух иль дух нечистый!
  4. Я вижу ты готов
  5. пустили слух
  6. Но как бы ты ни сделал это

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