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William Shakespeare (1564–1616). The Oxford Shakespeare. 1914.

Act IV. Scene IV.

Hamlet, Prince of Denmark

A Plain in Denmark.

Enter FORTINBRAS, a Captain, and Soldiers, marching.

For.Go, captain, from me greet the Danish king;

Tell him that, by his licence, Fortinbras

Claims the conveyance of a promis’d march

Over his kingdom. You know the rendezvous.

If that his majesty would aught with us,

We shall express our duty in his eye,

And let him know so.

Cap.I will do ’t, my lord.

For.Go softly on.[Exeunt FORTINBRAS and Soldiers.


Ham.Good sir, whose powers are these?

Cap.They are of Norway, sir.

Ham.How purpos’d, sir, I pray you?

Cap.Against some part of Poland.

Ham.Who commands them, sir?

Cap.The nephew to old Norway, Fortinbras.

Ham.Goes it against the main of Poland, sir,

Or for some frontier?

Cap.Truly to speak, and with no addition,

We go to gain a little patch of ground

That hath in it no profit but the name.

To pay five ducats, five, I would not farm it;

Nor will it yield to Norway or the Pole

A ranker rate, should it be sold in fee.

Ham.Why, then the Polack never will defend it.

Cap.Yes, ’tis already garrison’d.

Ham.Two thousand souls and twenty thousand ducats

Will not debate the question of this straw:

This is the imposthume of much wealth and peace,

That inward breaks, and shows no cause without

Why the man dies. I humbly thank you, sir.

Cap.God be wi’ you, sir.[Exit.

Ros.Will ’t please you go, my lord?

Ham.I’ll be with you straight. Go a little before.[Exeunt all except HAMLET.

How all occasions do inform against me,

And spur my dull revenge! What is a man,

If his chief good and market of his time

Be but to sleep and feed? a beast, no more.

Sure he that made us with such large discourse,

Looking before and after, gave us not

That capability and god-like reason

To fust in us unus’d. Now, whe’r it be

Bestial oblivion, or some craven scruple

Of thinking too precisely on the event,

A thought, which, quarter’d, hath but one part wisdom,

And ever three parts coward, I do not know

Why yet I live to say ‘This thing’s to do;’

Sith I have cause and will and strength and means

To do ’t. Examples gross as earth exhort me:

Witness this army of such mass and charge

Led by a delicate and tender prince,

Whose spirit with divine ambition puff’d

Makes mouths at the invisible event,

Exposing what is mortal and unsure

To all that fortune, death and danger dare,

Even for an egg-shell. Rightly to be great

Is not to stir without great argument,

But greatly to find quarrel in a straw

When honour’s at the stake. How stand I then,

That have a father kill’d, a mother stain’d,

Excitements of my reason and my blood,

And let all sleep, while, to my shame, I see

The imminent death of twenty thousand men,

That, for a fantasy and trick of fame,

Go to their graves like beds, fight for a plot

Whereon the numbers cannot try the cause,

Which is not tomb enough and continent

To hide the slain? O! from this time forth,

My thoughts be bloody, or be nothing worth![Exit.