Near Elsinore. A plain in Denmark.
(Fortinbras; Captain; Hamlet; Rosencrantz; Guildenstern)
Fortinbras’s army waits for its safe-conduct to pass over Danish territory. Hamlet asks a Norwegian captain where they are going, and is told that they are going to fight in Poland for a completely worthless patch of land. Hamlet considers that such a great army should be moving so resolutely for nothing, while he, with great reason, can’t bring himself to do anything about his revenge. He resolves to move to action. (68 lines)
Enter Fortinbras with his army over the stage.
Go, captain, from me greet the Danish king.
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,
And let him know so.
I will do’t, my lord.
Go softly on.
Exeunt all but the Captain.
Enter Hamlet, Rosencrantz, Guildenstern, etc.
Good sir, whose powers are these?
They are of Norway, sir.
How purpos’d, sir, I pray you?
Against some part of Poland.
Who commands them, sir?
The nephew to old Norway, Fortinbras.
Goes it against the main of Poland, sir,
Or for some frontier?
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.
Why then the Polack never will defend it.
Yes, it is already garrison’d.
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
Why the man dies. I humbly thank you, sir.
God buy you, sir.
Will’t please you go, my lord?
I’ll be with you straight—go a little before.
Exeunt all but 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 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—
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 honor’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!