Brief let me be. 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,
And with a sudden vigour doth posset
And curd, like eager droppings into milk,
The thin and wholesome blood: so did it mine;
And a most instant tetter barked about,
Most lazar-like, with vile and loathsome crust,
All my smooth body.
Thus was I, sleeping, by a brother's hand
Of life, of crown, of queen, at once dispatched:
Cut off even in the blossoms of my sin,
Unhouseled, disappointed, unaneled,
No reckoning made, but sent to my account
With all my imperfections on my head:
O, horrible! O, horrible! most horrible!
The basic rhythm of all of Shakespeare's dramatic verse is iambic pentameter - a line of five feet (a pentameter) usually made of five iambs. An iamb is a combination of an unstressed syllable and a stressed syllable. The example used in this episode is 'champagne'. The reverse of an iamb is a trochee - a stressed syllable followed by an unstressed one. The example from this episode was 'never'.
We already discussed feminine endings in an earlier episode, and you can check out the notes for it here.
The Ghost laments that he was sent from this life with "all his imperfections" on his head. Although not one of the official seven sacraments, the group of ceremonial comforts known as the last rites included the opportunity to confess one's sins (and thereby enter a state of grace), the opportunity to receive Holy Communion, and the opportunity to receive extreme unction, also known as the anointing of the sick. This last is one of the seven sacraments, usually only made available to someone in severe medical need. The Ghost makes reference to all of these in his speech. 'Unhouseled' means 'without having received the host' - also known by the archiac word 'housel'. Comparably, 'unaneled' (which appears in various spellings across different editors' texts) means 'without having been anointed'. So, the Ghost was in no way spiritually comforted or prepared for death.
The word vinegar basically means sour wine - having come to English via French and Middle English. (The Latin words vinum and acer - wine and sour - found their way via vin and egre or aigre into the word as we know it today.) In this text Shakespeare expands and contracts the word to be 'eager' - which echoes the violent, mercurial speed of the poison and of course refers to the acidic liquid that will turn milk sour. Rather clever, isn't it?