Hamlet: Act 4, Scene 4

           Enter FORTINBRAS with his army            
          over the stage.

1   Go, captain, from me greet the Danish king;
2. license: permission.
  2   Tell him that, by his license, Fortinbras
3. Craves  . . .  march: asks an escort for a march which the Danish King promised to allow. 4. You know the rendezvous: i.e., you know the place where you ...more
  3   Craves the conveyance of a promised march
  4   Over his kingdom. You know the rendezvous.
  5   If that his majesty would aught with us,
6. in his eye: personally, in his presence.
  6   We shall express our duty in his eye;
  7   And let him know so.

  7                                    I will do't, my lord.

8. Go softly on: proceed slowly. I can't imagine why Fortinbras would say this to his troops, and I believe he may be reminding the Captain to be careful and thoughtful when he speaks to the King of Denmark.
  8   Go softly on.

           [Exit Fortinbras.]

           Enter HAMLET, ROSENCRANTZ,
           [GUILDENSTERN,] etc.

9. powers: forces.
  9   Good sir, whose powers are these?

 10   They are of Norway, sir.

11. How purposed, sir, I pray you?: i.e., could you please tell me their mission?
 11   How purposed, sir, I pray you?

 12   Against some part of Poland.

 13   Who commands them, sir?

 14   The nephew to old Norway, Fortinbras.

15. main: main territory.
 15   Goes it against the main of Poland, sir,
 16   Or for some frontier?

17. addition: exaggeration.
 17   Truly to speak, and with no addition,
 18   We go to gain a little patch of ground
19. That hath in it no profit but the name: i.e., that has nothing worthwhile ...more 20. To pay: i.e., for an annual rent of. farm: lease.

 19   That hath in it no profit but the name.
 20   To pay five ducats, five, I would not farm it;
 21   Nor will it yield to Norway or the Pole
22. ranker: higher. "Rank" also meant, as it still does, "rotten and stinking." in fee: outright.
 22   A ranker rate, should it be sold in fee.

 23   Why, then the Polack never will defend it.

 24   Yes, it is already garrison'd.

 25   Two thousand souls and twenty thousand ducats
26. Will not debate: i.e., will scarcely be enough to fight out.  the  . . .  straw: the quarrel ...more 27. imposthume: abscess.
 26   Will not debate the question of this straw:
 27   This is the imposthume of much wealth and peace,
 28   That inward breaks, and shows no cause without
 29   Why the man dies. I humbly thank you, sir.

30. God buy you: This phrase is short for "God be with you." Eventually "God buy you" became "goodbye."
 30   God buy you, sir.


 30                                Wilt please you go, my lord?

31. I'll be with you straight. Go a little before: I'll join you very soon. Go on ahead a little.
 31   I'll be with you straight. Go a little before.

           [Exeunt all except Hamlet.]

32. all  . . .  me: i.e., everything that happens shows me up. To "inform against" a person was to provide incriminating information about that person. 34-35. market: profit.
 32   How all occasions do inform against me,
 33   And spur my dull revenge! What is a man,
 34   If his chief good and market of his time
 35   Be but to sleep and feed? a beast, no more.
36. discourse: reasoning power.
 36   Sure, He that made us with such large discourse,
 37   Looking before and after, gave us not
 38   That capability and god-like reason
39. fust: grow moldy.
 39   To fust in us unused. Now, whether it be
40-41. oblivion: forgetfulness.  craven scruple / Of thinking too precisely on the event: cowardly scrupulosity, consisting of thinking too precisely about the outcome. ...more
 40   Bestial oblivion, or some craven scruple
 41   Of thinking too precisely on the event,
 42   A thought which, quarter'd, hath but one part wisdom
 43   And ever three parts coward, I do not know
 44   Why yet I live to say "This thing's to do,"
45. Sith: since.  I have . . . means: At this moment, Hamlet seems not to have means ...more 46. gross: obvious.
 45   Sith I have cause and will and strength and means
 46   To do't. Examples gross as earth exhort me:
47. mass and charge: size and expense.
 47   Witness this army of such mass and charge
48. a delicate and tender prince: i.e., Fortinbras. —Apparently Fortinbras is noticably young.
 48   Led by a delicate and tender prince,
 49   Whose spirit with divine ambition puff'd
50. Makes mouths at: makes scornful faces at.  the invisible event: i.e., the unknowable outcome (of the campaign against Poland). 52. To all that fortune, death and danger dare: i.e., to all the challenges of fortune, death, and danger. 53-56. Rightly  . . .  stake: —I think Hamlet is being extremely sarcastic. ...more
 50   Makes mouths at the invisible event,
 51   Exposing what is mortal and unsure
 52   To all that fortune, death and danger dare,
 53   Even for an egg-shell. Rightly to be great
 54   Is not to stir without great argument,
 55   But greatly to find quarrel in a straw
 56   When honor's at the stake. How stand I then,
 57   That have a father kill'd, a mother stain'd,
58. Excitements of: calls to actions by.
 58   Excitements of my reason and my blood,
 59   And let all sleep? while, to my shame, I see
 60   The imminent death of twenty thousand men,
61. fantasy: caprice, whim.  trick: trifle.
 61   That, for a fantasy and trick of fame,
62. plot: small piece of ground.
 62   Go to their graves like beds, fight for a plot
63. Whereon  . . .  cause: i.e., which isn't large enough to serve as a battlefield ...more 64. continent: container.
 63   Whereon the numbers cannot try the cause,
 64   Which is not tomb enough and continent
 65   To hide the slain? O, from this time forth,
 66   My thoughts be bloody, or be nothing worth!