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The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark

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Act IV, Scene 4

Near Elsinore.


Enter Fortinbras with his Army over the stage.

  • Fortinbras. Go, Captain, from me greet the Danish king. 2785
    Tell him that by his license Fortinbras
    Craves 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; 2790
    And let him know so.

Exeunt [all but the Captain].

Enter Hamlet, Rosencrantz, [Guildenstern,] and others.

  • Hamlet. Good sir, whose powers are these?
  • Hamlet. How purpos'd, sir, I pray you?
  • Hamlet. Who commands them, sir? 2800
  • Hamlet. Goes it against the main of Poland, sir,
    Or for some frontier?
  • Norwegian Captain. Truly to speak, and with no addition,
    We go to gain a little patch of ground 2805
    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.
  • Hamlet. Why, then the Polack never will defend it. 2810
  • Hamlet. Two thousand souls and twenty thousand ducats
    Will not debate the question of this straw.
    This is th' imposthume of much wealth and peace,
    That inward breaks, and shows no cause without 2815
    Why the man dies.- I humbly thank you, sir.
  • Hamlet. I'll be with you straight. Go a little before.
    [Exeunt all but Hamlet.] 2820
    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, 2825
    Looking before and after, gave us not
    That capability and godlike reason
    To fust in us unus'd. Now, whether it be
    Bestial oblivion, or some craven scruple
    Of thinking too precisely on th' event,- 2830
    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. 2835
    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 2840
    To all that fortune, death, and danger dare,
    Even for an eggshell. 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, 2845
    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 2850
    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. 2855