Line by Line: Act 1, Scene 1, Lines 19-21

BARNARDO: Welcome, Horatio: welcome, good Marcellus. MARCELLUS:What, has this thing appear’d again tonight? BARNARDO: I have seen nothing. Here, we get our first real scholarly (and producerly) crux. Line 20 — the one where Shakespeare uses “thing” as the ultimate deferral of exposition — is attributed to Marcellus in the First Quarto and the First…

Share

Line by Line: Act 1, Scene 1, Lines 17-18

MARCELLUS: Holla! Bernardo! BARNARDO: Say, what, is Horatio there? HORATIO:                                                  A piece of him. This terse exchange serves as a real introduction to Horatio, distinguishing him instantly from the soldiers — who are, let’s face it, fairly flat and interchangeable characters. His acerbic reply falls into the “ask a stupid question” category, since Barnardo was,…

Share

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…

Share

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…

Share

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…

Share

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…

Share

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…

Share

Line by Line: Act 1, Scene 1, Line 3

BARNARDO: Long live the king! FRANCISCO:                                 Barnardo? BARNARDO:                                                    He. Here we have “one line” of shared blank verse — that is, five iambs that happen to be split up between three lines of dialogue. New readers of Shakespeare often get confused when they see lines pushed forward across the page like this, and most editors…

Share

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…

Share

Line by Line: My Life for the Next 4,042 Days

As I’m refining details around the edges of this blog, new ideas occur to me. This one is a doozy, with the potential to hijack the whole project, but it occurred to me as an exciting and possibly even original approach to Hamlet studies — something that would not have been possible prior to the…

Share