"The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark" by William Shakespeare, Act I

Shakespeare's famous tragedy tells the story of a Danish prince who must decide whether or not to avenge his father's death. Read the full text here.

Here are links to our lists for the play: Act I, Act II, Act III, Act IV, Act V
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definitions & notes only words
  1. entreat
    ask for or request earnestly
    Therefore I have entreated him along
    With us to watch the minutes of this night;
    That if again this apparition come,
    He may approve our eyes and speak to it.
  2. usurp
    seize and take control without authority
    What art thou that usurp'st this time of night,
    Together with that fair and warlike form
    In which the majesty of buried Denmark
    Did sometimes march?
  3. moiety
    a part or portion of something
    ...our valiant Hamlet—
    For so this side of our known world esteem'd him—
    Did slay this Fortinbras; who by a seal'd compact,
    Well ratified by law and heraldry,
    Did forfeit, with his life, all those his lands
    Which he stood seized of, to the conqueror:
    Against the which, a moiety competent
    Was gaged by our king
  4. portentous
    ominously prophetic
    Well may it sort that this portentous figure
    Comes armed through our watch, so like the king
    That was and is the question of these wars.
  5. harbinger
    something indicating the approach of something or someone
    As harbingers preceding still the fates
    And prologue to the omen coming on,
    Have heaven and earth together demonstrated
    Unto our climatures and countrymen.
  6. partisan
    a pike with a long tapering blade with lateral projections
    Shall I strike at it with my partisan?
  7. hallowed
    worthy of religious veneration
    The nights are wholesome; then no planets strike,
    No fairy takes, nor witch hath power to charm,
    So hallow'd and so gracious is the time.
  8. discretion
    the trait of judging wisely and objectively
    Though yet of Hamlet our dear brother's death
    The memory be green, and that it us befitted
    To bear our hearts in grief and our whole kingdom
    To be contracted in one brow of woe,
    Yet so far hath discretion fought with nature
    That we with wisest sorrow think on him,
    Together with remembrance of ourselves.
  9. auspicious
    auguring favorable circumstances and good luck
    Therefore our sometime sister, now our queen,
    The imperial jointress to this warlike state,
    Have we, as 'twere with a defeated joy,—
    With an auspicious and a dropping eye,
    With mirth in funeral and with dirge in marriage,
    In equal scale weighing delight and dole,—
    Taken to wife
  10. mirth
    great merriment
    Therefore our sometime sister, now our queen,
    The imperial jointress to this warlike state,
    Have we, as 'twere with a defeated joy,—
    With an auspicious and a dropping eye,
    With mirth in funeral and with dirge in marriage,
    In equal scale weighing delight and dole,—
    Taken to wife
  11. beseech
    ask for or request earnestly
    He hath, my lord, wrung from me my slow leave
    By laboursome petition, and at last
    Upon his will I seal'd my hard consent:
    I do beseech you, give him leave to go.
  12. visage
    the appearance conveyed by a person's face
    'Tis not alone my inky cloak, good mother,
    Nor customary suits of solemn black,
    Nor windy suspiration of forced breath,
    No, nor the fruitful river in the eye,
    Nor the dejected 'havior of the visage,
    Together with all forms, moods, shapes of grief,
    That can denote me truly
  13. filial
    relating to or characteristic of or befitting an offspring
    But, you must know, your father lost a father;
    That father lost, lost his, and the survivor bound
    In filial obligation for some term
    To do obsequious sorrow
  14. obsequious
    attentive in an ingratiating or servile manner
    But, you must know, your father lost a father;
    That father lost, lost his, and the survivor bound
    In filial obligation for some term
    To do obsequious sorrow
  15. impious
    lacking due respect or dutifulness
    ...but to persevere
    In obstinate condolement is a course
    Of impious stubbornness; 'tis unmanly grief
  16. retrograde
    moving or directed or tending in a backward direction
    For your intent
    In going back to school in Wittenberg,
    It is most retrograde to our desire:
    And we beseech you, bend you to remain
    Here, in the cheer and comfort of our eye,
    Our chiefest courtier, cousin, and our son.
  17. jocund
    full of or showing high-spirited merriment
    This gentle and unforced accord of Hamlet
    Sits smiling to my heart: in grace whereof,
    No jocund health that Denmark drinks to-day,
    But the great cannon to the clouds shall tell,
    And the king's rouse the heavens shall bruit again,
    Re-speaking earthly thunder.
  18. discourse
    extended verbal expression in speech or writing
    O, God! a beast that wants discourse of reason,
    Would have mourn'd longer—married with my uncle,
    My father's brother, but no more like my father
    Than I to Hercules: within a month
  19. countenance
    the appearance conveyed by a person's face
    A countenance more in sorrow than in anger.
  20. sable
    a very dark black
    It was, as I have seen it in his life,
    A sable silver'd.
  21. besmirch
    smear so as to make dirty or stained
    Perhaps he loves you now,
    And now no soil nor cautel doth besmirch
    The virtue of his will: but you must fear,
    His greatness weigh'd, his will is not his own
    For he himself is subject to his birth
  22. chary
    characterized by great caution
    The chariest maid is prodigal enough,
    If she unmask her beauty to the moon
  23. prodigal
    recklessly wasteful
    The chariest maid is prodigal enough,
    If she unmask her beauty to the moon
  24. canker
    a fungal disease of woody plants that damages the bark
    The canker galls the infants of the spring,
    Too oft before their buttons be disclosed,
    And in the morn and liquid dew of youth
    Contagious blastments are most imminent.
  25. libertine
    a dissolute person
    Do not, as some ungracious pastors do,
    Show me the steep and thorny way to heaven;
    Whiles, like a puff'd and reckless libertine,
    Himself the primrose path of dalliance treads,
    And recks not his own rede.
  26. unfledged
    young and inexperienced
    Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried,
    Grapple them to thy soul with hoops of steel,
    But do not dull thy palm with entertainment
    Of each new-hatch'd, unfledged comrade.
  27. censure
    harsh criticism or disapproval
    Give every man thy ear, but few thy voice;
    Take each man's censure, but reserve thy judgment.
  28. parley
    discuss, as between enemies
    Set your entreatments at a higher rate
    Than a command to parley.
  29. beguile
    influence by slyness
    Do not believe his vows; for they are brokers,
    Not of that dye which their investments show,
    But mere implorators of unholy suits,
    Breathing like sanctified and pious bawds,
    The better to beguile.
  30. traduce
    speak unfavorably about
    This heavy-headed revel east and west
    Makes us traduced and tax'd of other nations
  31. pith
    the choicest or most vital part of some idea or experience
    They clepe us drunkards, and with swinish phrase
    Soil our addition; and indeed it takes
    From our achievements, though perform'd at height,
    The pith and marrow of our attribute.
  32. livery
    uniform worn by some menservants and chauffeurs
    ...these men,
    Carrying, I say, the stamp of one defect,
    Being nature's livery, or fortune's star,—
    Their virtues else—be they as pure as grace,
    As infinite as man may undergo—
    Shall in the general censure take corruption
    From that particular fault
  33. canonize
    declare (a dead person) to be a saint
    King, father, royal Dane: O, answer me!
    Let me not burst in ignorance; but tell
    Why thy canonized bones, hearsed in death,
    Have burst their cerements
  34. adulterate
    mixed with impurities
    Aye, 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!
  35. enmity
    a state of deep-seated ill-will
    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
  36. contrive
    make or work out a plan for; devise
    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.
  37. pernicious
    working or spreading in a hidden and usually injurious way
    O most pernicious woman!
    O villain, villain, smiling, damned villain!
  38. arrant
    without qualification; used informally as intensifiers
    There's ne'er a villain dwelling in all Denmark
    But he's an arrant knave.
  39. knave
    a deceitful and unreliable scoundrel
    There's ne'er a villain dwelling in all Denmark
    But he's an arrant knave.
  40. antic
    ludicrously odd
    Here, as before, never, so help you mercy,
    How strange or odd soe'er I bear myself,
    As I perchance hereafter shall think meet
    To put an antic disposition on,
    That you, at such times seeing me, never shall,
    With arms encumber'd thus, or this headshake

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