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The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark: Act 1

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 1, Act 2, Act 3, Act 4, Act 5
40 words 22,578 learners

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Full list of words from this list:

  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. harrow
    cause to feel distress
    BARNARDO: Looks he not like the King? Mark it, Horatio.
    HORATIO: Most like. It harrows me with fear and wonder.
  3. 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?
  4. moiety
    a part or portion of something
    ...our valiant Hamlet
    (For so this side of our known world esteemed him)
    Did slay this Fortinbras, who by a sealed 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 gagèd by our king
  5. portentous
    ominously prophetic
    Well may it sort that this portentous figure
    Comes armèd through our watch so like the king
    That was and is the question of these wars.
  6. 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.
  7. hallowed
    worthy of religious veneration
    The nights are wholesome; then no planets strike,
    No fairy takes, nor witch hath power to charm,
    So hallowed and so gracious is that 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
    indicating favorable circumstances and good luck
    Therefore our sometime sister, now our queen,
    Th’ 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,
    Th’ 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. dirge
    a song or hymn of mourning as a memorial to a dead person
    Therefore our sometime sister, now our queen,
    Th’ 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.
  12. beseech
    ask for or request earnestly
    I do beseech you, give him leave to go.
  13. visage
    the human 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.
  14. trappings
    ornaments; embellishments to or characteristic signs of
    These indeed “seem,”
    For they are actions that a man might play;
    But I have that within which passes show,
    These but the trappings and the suits of woe.
  15. 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.
  16. impious
    lacking due respect or dutifulness
    But to persever
    In obstinate condolement is a course
    Of impious stubbornness.
  17. 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.
  18. 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 today
    But the great cannon to the clouds shall tell,
    And the King’s rouse the heaven shall bruit again,
    Respeaking earthly thunder.
  19. countenance
    the appearance conveyed by a person's face
    A countenance more in sorrow than in anger.
  20. grizzled
    having gray or partially gray hair
    HAMLET: His beard was grizzled, no?
    HORATIO: It was as I have seen it in his life,
    A sable silvered.
  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
  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. libertine
    a dissolute person
    But, good my brother,
    Do not, as some ungracious pastors do,
    Show me the steep and thorny way to heaven,
    Whiles, like a puffed and reckless libertine,
    Himself the primrose path of dalliance treads
    And recks not his own rede.
  25. dalliance
    the act of delaying and playing instead of working
    But, good my brother,
    Do not, as some ungracious pastors do,
    Show me the steep and thorny way to heaven,
    Whiles, like a puffed 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 unto thy soul with hoops of steel,
    But do not dull thy palm with entertainment
    Of each new-hatched, unfledged courage.
  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. behoove
    be appropriate or necessary
    If it be so (as so ’tis put on me,
    And that in way of caution), I must tell you
    You do not understand yourself so clearly
    As it behooves my daughter and your honor.
  29. parley
    discuss, as between enemies
    Set your entreatments at a higher rate
    Than a command to parle.
  30. beguile
    influence by slyness
    In few, Ophelia,
    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.
  31. traduce
    speak unfavorably about
    This heavy-headed revel east and west
    Makes us traduced and taxed of other nations
  32. pith
    the choicest or most vital part of some idea or experience
    And, indeed, it takes
    From our achievements, though performed at height,
    The pith and marrow of our attribute.
  33. livery
    a uniform, especially worn by servants and chauffeurs
    ...these men,
    Carrying, I say, the stamp of one defect,
    Being nature’s livery or fortune’s star,
    His 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.
  34. ponderous
    having great mass and weight and unwieldiness
    O, answer me!
    Let me not burst in ignorance, but tell
    Why thy canonized bones, hearsèd in death,
    Have burst their cerements; why the sepulcher,
    Wherein we saw thee quietly interred,
    Hath oped his ponderous and marble jaws
    To cast thee up again.
  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 cursèd hebona in a vial
    And in the porches of my ears did pour
    The leprous 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, howsomever thou pursues this act,
    Taint not thy mind, nor let thy soul contrive
    Against thy mother aught.
  37. pernicious
    working or spreading in a hidden and usually injurious way
    O most pernicious woman!
    O villain, villain, smiling, damnèd villain!
  38. arrant
    complete and without qualification
    There's never a villain dwelling in all Denmark
    But he's an arrant knave.
  39. knave
    a deceitful and unreliable scoundrel
    There's never 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 some’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 encumbered thus, or this headshake,
    Or by pronouncing of some doubtful phrase,
    As “Well, well, we know,” or “We could an if we would,”
    Or “If we list to speak,” or “There be an if they might,”
    Or such ambiguous giving-out, to note
    That you know aught of me
Created on April 1, 2013 (updated August 2, 2021)

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