Line by Line: Act 1, Scene 1, Line 49

MARCELLUS: It is offended. BARNARDO:                        See, it stalks away! This shared line provides the actor playing the Ghost with a brace of remarkably precise acting tips. More than tips, in fact; if a production retains these two lines, they confine the actor to a specific set of choices. It’s a great example of the dramaturgical…

Line by Line: Act 1, Scene 1, Lines 14-16

FRANCISCO: Give you good night. MARCELLUS:O, farewell, honest soldier; who hath relieved you? FRANCISCO: Bernardo has my place. Give you good night.  Exit. Nothing very spectacular here. Shakespeare is revving up his Revolving Door, the staging technique that kept his big, bare stage feeling busy and populated. Two characters just entered, so it’s time for…

Line by Line: Act 1, Scene 1, Lines 12-13

Enter HORATIO and MARCELLUS. FRANCISCO: I think I hear them. Stand, ho! Who is there? HORATIO: Friends to this ground. MARCELLUS:                                  And liegemen to the Dane. A moment ago, Barnardo supplied the audience with two new names, and speak of the devil, they appear — either a split second before Francisco hears them, or else…

Line by Line: Act 1, Scene 1, Lines 9-11

BARNARDO: Well, goodnight. If you do meet Horatio and Marcellus, The rivals of my watch, bid them make haste. Barnardo wraps up a very modern-feeling exchange with Francisco by offering the most modern of all farewells: “goodnight,” a phrase so understated in this heavily fraught context that it might almost draw a laugh from the…

Line by Line: Act 1, Scene 1, Lines 6-8

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. One of the things I love most about Shakespeare is his instinct for when to use flowering, grandiose imagery, and when to keep things arrestingly ordinary. These lines, which…

Line by Line: Act 1, Scene 1, Lines 4-5

FRANCISCO: You come most carefully upon your hour. BARNARDO: ‘Tis now struck twelve. Get thee to bed, Francisco. With the intensified confusion and fear of the first 3 lines diffused, Francisco speaks the first line which could be considered casual, or at least professional. It is also Shakespeare’s first expository line, unless we feel that…

Line by Line: Act 1, Scene 1, Lines 1-2

BERNARDO: Who’s there? FRANCISCO: Nay, answer me: stand, and unfold yourself. While nowhere near as famous as the first lines of Romeo & Juliet (“Two houses, both alike in dignity…”), Henry V (“O for a muse of fire”), or Richard III (“Now is the winter of our discontent”), the first line of Hamlet has a…