"Hamlet," Vocabulary from Act 1

Possibly the greatest play ever written, William Shakespeare's "Hamlet" encompasses it all: family, revenge, the relationship between thought and action, and the essence of what it is to be a human being (etext found here).

Learn these word lists for the dramatic tragedy: Act 1, Act 2, Act 3, Act 4, Act 5

Activities for this list:

definitions & notes only words
  1. 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? by heaven I charge thee, speak!
  2. moiety
    one of two basic subdivisions of a tribe
    Against the which, a moiety competent
    Was gaged by our king; which had return'd
    To the inheritance of Fortinbras,
    Had he been vanquisher;
  3. portentous
    of momentous or ominous significance
    I think it be no other but e'en so:
    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.
  4. harbinger
    something indicating the approach of something or someone
    And even the like precurse of fierce events,
    As harbingers preceding still the fates
    And prologue to the omen coming on,
    Have heaven and earth together demonstrated
    Unto our climatures and countrymen.
  5. partisan
    a pike with a long tapering blade with lateral projections
    Shall I strike at it with my partisan?
  6. hallowed
    worthy of religious veneration
    Some say that ever 'gainst that season comes
    Wherein our Saviour's birth is celebrated,
    The bird of dawning singeth all night long:
    And then, they say, no spirit dares stir abroad;
    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.
  7. 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:
  8. filial
    relating to or characteristic of or befitting an offspring
    'Tis sweet and commendable in your nature, Hamlet,
    To give these mourning duties to your father:
    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:
  9. obsequious
    attentive in an ingratiating or servile manner
    'Tis sweet and commendable in your nature, Hamlet,
    To give these mourning duties to your father:
    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: but to persever
    In obstinate condolement is a course
    Of impious stubbornness;
  10. 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.
  11. 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 all bruit again,
    Re-speaking earthly thunder.
  12. 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:
  13. truant
    absent without permission
    A truant disposition, good my lord.
  14. countenance
    the appearance conveyed by a person's face
    A countenance more in sorrow than in anger.
  15. tenable
    based on sound reasoning or evidence
    I pray you all,
    If you have hitherto conceal'd this sight,
    Let it be tenable in your silence still;
    And whatsoever else shall hap to-night,
    Give it an understanding, but no tongue:
  16. 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;
  17. prodigal
    recklessly wasteful
    The chariest maid is prodigal enough,
    If she unmask her beauty to the moon.
  18. 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.
  19. unfledged
    young and inexperienced
    Do not dull thy palm with entertainment
    Of each new-hatch'd, unfledged comrade.
  20. censure
    harsh criticism or disapproval
    Take each man's censure, but reserve thy judgment.
  21. husbandry
    the practice of cultivating the land or raising stock
    Neither a borrower nor a lender be;
    For loan oft loses both itself and friend,
    And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.
  22. parley
    a negotiation between enemies
    Set your entreatments at a higher rate
    Than a command to parley.
  23. beguile
    attract; cause to be enamored
    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.
  24. traduce
    speak unfavorably about
    This heavy-headed revel east and west
    Makes us traduced and tax'd of other nations.
  25. canonize
    treat as a sacred person
    Let me not burst in ignorance; but tell
    Why thy canonized bones, hearsed in death,
    Have burst their cerements.
  26. sovereignty
    royal authority
    What if it tempt you toward the flood, my lord,
    Or to the dreadful summit of the cliff
    That beetles o'er his base into the sea,
    And there assume some other horrible form,
    Which might deprive your sovereignty of reason
    And draw you into madness?
  27. adulterate
    mixed with impurities
    Ay, that incestuous, that adulterate beast.
  28. enmity
    a state of deep-seated ill-will
    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.
  29. pernicious
    exceedingly harmful
    O most pernicious woman!
  30. antic
    ludicrously odd
    How strange or odd soe'er I bear myself,
    As I perchance hereafter shall think meet
    To put an antic disposition on.

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