Philip Weller caricature
Philip and Weller hugging

Welcome to my web site, now under development for more than twenty years.   
-- Philip Weller, November 13, 1941 - February 1, 2021
Dr. Weller, an Eastern Washington University professor of English and Shakespearean scholar for more than 50 years.

Hamlet: Act 4, Scene 4

           Enter FORTINBRAS with his army            
          over the stage.
over the stage: While Fortinbras is speaking to the captain, Fortinbras' army marches in one door and out the other.

1   Go, captain, from me greet the Danish king;
  2   Tell him that, by his license, Fortinbras
2. license: permission.

  3   Craves the conveyance of a promised march
3. Craves  . . .  march: asks an escort for a march which the Danish King promised to allow.

  4   Over his kingdom. You know the rendezvous.
4. the rendezvous: i.e., the place where we will rendezvous.

  5   If that his majesty would aught with us,
5. would aught: i.e., has anything to discuss.

  6   We shall express our duty in his eye;
6. in his eye: personally, in his presence.

  7   And let him know so.

                                       I will do't, my lord.

  8   Go softly on.
8. Go softly on: proceed carefully.

           [Exit Fortinbras.]

           Enter HAMLET, ROSENCRANTZ,
           [GUILDENSTERN,] etc.

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

 10   They are of Norway, sir.

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

 12   Against some part of Poland.

 13   Who commands them, sir?

 14   The nephew to old Norway, Fortinbras.

 15   Goes it against the main of Poland, sir,
15. main: main territory.

 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.
19. That . . . name: i.e., that has nothing worthwhile about it except its name. (And we never learn what its name is.)

 20   To pay five ducats, five, I would not farm it;
20. To pay: i.e., for an annual rent of. farm: lease.

 21   Nor will it yield to Norway or the Pole
 22   A ranker rate, should it be sold in fee.
22. ranker: higher. "Rank" also meant, as it still does, "rotten and stinking." in fee: outright.

 23   Why, then the Polack never will defend it.
Jeffery Kissoon as the Captain
"Yes, it is already garrison'd"

 24   Yes, it is already garrison'd.

 25   Two thousand souls and twenty thousand ducats
 26   Will not debate the question of this straw:
26. Will  . . .  straw: i.e., will scarcely be enough to fight out the quarrel over this straw.

 27   This is the imposthume of much wealth and peace,
27. imposthume: abscess.

 28   That inward breaks, and shows no cause without
 29   Why the man dies. I humbly thank you, sir.

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


                                   Wilt please you go, my lord?

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

           [Exeunt all except Hamlet.]

 32   How all occasions do inform against me,
32. all  . . .  me: i.e., everything that happens shows me up. To "inform against" a person was to provide incriminating information about that person.

 33   And spur my dull revenge! What is a man,
 34   If his chief good and market of his time
34. market: profit.

 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   To fust in us unused. Now, whether it be
39. fust: grow moldy.

 40   Bestial oblivion, or some craven scruple
 41   Of thinking too precisely on the event,
40-41. oblivion: forgetfulness.  craven scruple / Of thinking too precisely on the event: cowardly scrupulosity, consisting of thinking too precisely about the outcome. ...more

 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 I have cause and will and strength and means
45. Sith: since.  I have . . . means: At this moment, Hamlet seems not to have means. ...more

 46   To do't. Examples gross as earth exhort me:
46. gross: obvious.

 47   Witness this army of such mass and charge
47. mass and charge: size and expense.

 48   Led by a delicate and tender prince,
48. a delicate and tender prince: i.e., Fortinbras.

 49   Whose spirit with divine ambition puff'd
 50   Makes mouths at the invisible event,
50. Makes mouths at: makes scornful faces at.  the invisible event: i.e., the unknowable outcome (of the campaign against Poland).

 51   Exposing what is mortal and unsure
 52   To all that fortune, death and danger dare,
52. To all that fortune, death and danger dare: i.e., to all the challenges of fortune, death, and danger.

 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,
53-56. Rightly  . . .  stake: I think Hamlet is being extremely sarcastic.

 57   That have a father kill'd, a mother stain'd,
 58   Excitements of my reason and my blood,
58. Excitements of: calls to actions by.

 59   And let all sleep? while, to my shame, I see
 60   The imminent death of twenty thousand men,
 61   That, for a fantasy and trick of fame,
61. fantasy: caprice, whim.  trick: trifle.

 62   Go to their graves like beds, fight for a plot
62. plot: small piece of ground.

 63   Whereon the numbers cannot try the cause,
63. Whereon  . . .  cause: i.e., which isn't large enough to serve as a battlefield for the soldiers.

 64   Which is not tomb enough and continent
64. continent: container.

 65   To hide the slain? O, from this time forth,
 66   My thoughts be bloody, or be nothing worth!