Hamlet: Act 4, Scene 4
Enter FORTINBRAS with his army
over the stage.
1Go, captain, from me greet the Danish king;
2. license: permission.
2Tell him that, by his license, Fortinbras
3. Craves . . . march: asks an escort for a march which the Danish King promised to allow. 4. the rendezvous: i.e., the place where we will rendezvous. 5. would aught: i.e., has anything to discuss.  6. in his eye: personally, in his presence.
3Craves the conveyance of a promised march
4Over his kingdom. You know the rendezvous.
5If that his majesty would aught with us,
6We shall express our duty in his eye;
7And let him know so.
7I will do't, my lord.
8. Go softly on: proceed carefully.
8Go softly on.
Enter HAMLET, ROSENCRANTZ,
9. powers: forces.
9Good sir, whose powers are these?
10They are of Norway, sir.
11. How purposed, sir, I pray you?: i.e., could you please tell me their mission?
11How purposed, sir, I pray you?
12Against some part of Poland.
13Who commands them, sir?
14The nephew to old Norway, Fortinbras.
15. main: main territory.
15Goes it against the main of Poland, sir,
16Or for some frontier?
17. addition: exaggeration.
17Truly to speak, and with no addition,
18We go to gain a little patch of ground
19. That . . . name: i.e., that has nothing worthwhile about it except its name. ...more 20. To pay: i.e., for an annual rent of. farm: lease.
19That hath in it no profit but the name.
20To pay five ducats, five, I would not farm it;
21Nor will it yield to Norway or the Pole
22. ranker: higher. "Rank" also meant, as it still does, "rotten and stinking." in fee: outright.
22A ranker rate, should it be sold in fee.
23Why, then the Polack never will defend it.
24Yes, it is already garrison'd.
25Two thousand souls and twenty thousand ducats
26. Will . . . straw: i.e., will scarcely be enough to fight out the quarrel over this straw. 27. imposthume: abscess.
26Will not debate the question of this straw:
27This is the imposthume of much wealth and peace,
28That inward breaks, and shows no cause without
29Why 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."
30God buy you, sir.
30Wilt 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.
31I'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. market: profit.
32How all occasions do inform against me,
33And spur my dull revenge! What is a man,
34If his chief good and market of his time
35Be but to sleep and feed? a beast, no more.
36. discourse: reasoning power.
36Sure, He that made us with such large discourse,
37Looking before and after, gave us not
38That capability and god-like reason
39. fust: grow moldy.
39To 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
40Bestial oblivion, or some craven scruple
41Of thinking too precisely on the event,
42A thought which, quarter'd, hath but one part wisdom
43And ever three parts coward, I do not know
44Why 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.
45Sith I have cause and will and strength and means
46To do't. Examples gross as earth exhort me:
47. mass and charge: size and expense.
47Witness this army of such mass and charge
48. a delicate and tender prince: i.e., Fortinbras. Apparently Fortinbras is noticably young.
48Led by a delicate and tender prince,
49Whose 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
50Makes mouths at the invisible event,
51Exposing what is mortal and unsure
52To all that fortune, death and danger dare,
53Even for an egg-shell. Rightly to be great
54Is not to stir without great argument,
55But greatly to find quarrel in a straw
56When honor's at the stake. How stand I then,
57That have a father kill'd, a mother stain'd,
58. Excitements of: calls to actions by.
58Excitements of my reason and my blood,
59And let all sleep? while, to my shame, I see
60The imminent death of twenty thousand men,
61. fantasy: caprice, whim. trick: trifle.
61That, for a fantasy and trick of fame,
62. plot: small piece of ground.
62Go to their graves like beds, fight for a plot
63. Whereon . . . cause: i.e., which isn't large enough to serve as a battlefield for the soldiers in the fight. 64. continent: container.
63Whereon the numbers cannot try the cause,
64Which is not tomb enough and continent
65To hide the slain? O, from this time forth,
66My thoughts be bloody, or be nothing worth!