SCENES FOR ACTORS

Iago & Hamlet—Act 1, Scene I


ACT 1, SCENE I 

The tented field:  an army wakes.

Dawn of a bloody day at war. 

IAGO

(to audience)

O for a muse of fire, that would ascend 

The brightest heaven of invention: 

A kingdom for a stage, princes to act, 

And monarchs to behold the swelling scene. 

Then should the warlike Hamlet,  all for love, 

Assume the cost of blood : and at his heels 

(Leashed in, like hounds) should famine, sword, and fire 

Crouch for employment.  

Hamlet, in his tent—roused.

HAMLET

Where is my honest Iago? 

Enter Iago.

IAGO

My learned Lord, we pray you to proceed, 

And justly and religiously unfold, 

For God doth know, how many now in health, 

Shall drop their blood, in approbation 

Of what your reverence shall incite us to. 

Therefore take heed how you impawn our person, 

How you awake our sleeping sword of war; 

We charge you in the name of God take heed: 

For never two such armies did contend, 

Without much fall of blood, whose guiltless drops 

Are every one, a woe, a sore complaint,

'Gainst him, whose wrongs gives edge unto the swords, 

That makes such waste in brief mortality.

Under this conjuration, speak my Prince: 

For we will hear, note, and believe in heart, 

That what you speak, is in your conscience washed, 

As pure as sin with baptism. 

Hamlet sits: sullen, unresolved.

IAGO

(whisper to audience)

How well resembles it the prime of youth,

Trimmed like a younker prancing to his love. 

HAMLET

'Shameful it is; ay, if the fact be known: 

Hateful it is; there is no hate in loving.  

Yet, graceless, hold I disputation 

'Tween frozen conscience and hot-burning will, 

And with good thoughts make dispensation, 

Urging the worser. 

IAGO

Our army's in the field.

We never yet made doubt but Aquitaine 

Was ready to answer —and we shall come too late. 

HAMLET

I fear, too early: for my mind misgives

Some consequence yet hanging in the stars

Shall bitterly begin this fearful date. 

IAGO

We waste our light in vain, like lamps by day. 

HAMLET

The day before my wedding-night hath Death

Lain with my wife? Why, lamb! Why, lady! Fie!

Why, love, I say! Madam! Sweetheart! Why, bride!

O love! O life! Not life, but love in death. 

IAGO

Come, we burn daylight, ho! 

HAMLET

I cannot rest

Until the white rose that I wear be dyed

In the lukewarm blood  of twenty thousand men. 

Tis time to fear when tyrants need to kiss;

That I should lay ope a bed of blackness; 

O brave Iago, honest and just, how 

May I with right and conscience make this claim?

IAGO

Descend unto the daughter, gracious Prince, 

Stand for your own, unwind your bloody flag, 

Look back into your mighty ancestors.

Go my dread Prince; invoke warlike spirit.

Awaken remembrance of valiant deeds, 

And with your puissant arm renew their feats; 

You are their heir, to sit upon their throne: 

The blood and courage that renowned them

Runs in your veins.

(kneels, beseeching)

Your brother kings and monarchs

Do all expect that you should rouse yourself. 

They know your grace hath cause, and means, and might. 

So hath your highness; never Prince of Bohemia

Had nobles richer and more loyal subjects. 

O let their bodies follow, my dread Prince,

With blood, and sword and fire, to win your right. 

HAMLET

In peace, there's nothing so becomes a man, 

As modest stillness, and humility: 

But when the blast of war blows in our ears, 

Then imitate the action of the tiger: 

Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood, 

Disguise fair nature with hard-favored rage: 

Then lend the eye a terrible aspect: 

Let it pry through the portage of the head, 

Like the brass cannon: let the brow o'erwhelm it, 

As fearfully as doth a galled rock 

O'erhang and jutty his confounded base, 

Swilled with the wild and wasteful ocean. 

Now set the teeth, and stretch the nostril wide, 

Hold hard the breath, and bend up every spirit

To his full height. 

With the cue, Iago, on his feet, offers a hand to …

Hamlet: rises.

Good soldier, collect them all: 

I'll be before thee. 

IAGO

I shall do't, my Lord. 

Iago exits, calls to troops.

Strike, drum! 

Din of men called to action; Iago, distant, directs.

HAMLET

Ay, let the country take you to your bed.