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Excerpt from Hamlet by Shakespeare:

last night of all

Which is of a bigger excerpt from Act 1 Scene 1 as:

Barnardo:Last night of all, When yond same star that's westward from the pole Had made his course t’ illume that part of heaven Where now it burns, Marcellus and myself, The bell then beating one—— [Enter Ghost.]

Why not just last night?

I didn't find an explanation in Internet or dictionary.

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  • It's from Hamlet Act 1, Scene 1. It simply means "Last night". At least, that's how we would say it today. "Last night of all" is just a little more poetic. A bit like saying "on the last night of all nights" which technically would just be last night, regardless of all the nights which preceded it.
    – Billy Kerr
    Commented Jul 18, 2022 at 8:20
  • yes, it's act 1 Scene 1. Commented Jul 18, 2022 at 8:31
  • Also note that the phrase "last of all" is still sometimes used in English even today, it simply means: last, lastly, or finally.
    – Billy Kerr
    Commented Jul 18, 2022 at 8:34
  • thank Billy!"on the last night of all nights" makes sense to me now. Commented Jul 18, 2022 at 8:40
  • @William8964 - I've added it as an answer now.
    – Billy Kerr
    Commented Jul 18, 2022 at 8:54

2 Answers 2

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It's from Hamlet Act 1, Scene 1.

Bernardo. Last night of all, When yond same star that's westward from the pole Had made his course t' illume that part of heaven Where now it burns, Marcellus and myself, The bell then beating one-

It simply means "Last night". At least, that's how we would say it today. "Last night of all" is just a little more poetic. It's a bit like saying "on the last night of all nights" which technically would just be last night, regardless of all the nights which preceded it.

In boring (unpoetic) English, something like this:

Last night, when Marcellus and I saw that star which is west of the pole star, move into that position where it now lights up the sky, the clock struck one.

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  • In even more boring and unpoetic language: Hamlet sees his dead dad's ghost, pretends to go crazy with revenge, actually goes crazy with revenge (debatable), and everyone dies. Commented Jul 18, 2022 at 9:58
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Always remember that the less technical a document's contents the less regularly it need follow language conventions.

Shakespeare, in particular, often uses irregular language forms for reasons of either rhyme or meter. You don't present enough context to tell if that is what is going on with your sample.

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  • thank you for answering.I have added more context above just now. Commented Jul 18, 2022 at 8:34
  • does it mean less restriction in the age of Shakespeare when you refer to less technical? Commented Jul 18, 2022 at 8:38
  • No, it simply means that poems and dramatic works (in Shakespeare's case often a subset of poetry), speech in fiction, etc don't need to closely hue to the norms of language usage. There might not be much 'technical' (in the sense of engineering specifications) from Elizabethan England but certainly things like philosophical disposition would be expected to use much more formal language than a stage play. Commented Jul 18, 2022 at 14:24
  • @SoronelHaetir hew to the norms Commented Jul 19, 2022 at 9:00

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