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Hamlet
Act 4, scene 4

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Characters in the Play

Entire Play

Events before the start of Hamlet set the stage for tragedy. When the king of Denmark, Prince Hamlet’s father, suddenly dies, Hamlet’s…

Act 1, scene 1

On the guards’ platform at Elsinore, Horatio waits with Barnardo and Marcellus to question a ghost that has twice before…

Act 1, scene 2

In an audience chamber in Elsinore, Claudius, the new king of Denmark, holds court. After thanking his courtiers for their…

Act 1, scene 3

In Polonius’s chambers, Laertes says good-bye to his sister, Ophelia, and tells her not to trust Hamlet’s promises of love….

Act 1, scene 4

While Claudius drinks away the night, Hamlet, Horatio, and Marcellus are visited by the Ghost. It signals to Hamlet. Hamlet’s…

Act 1, scene 5

The Ghost tells Hamlet a tale of horror. Saying that he is the spirit of Hamlet’s father, he demands that…

Act 2, scene 1

Polonius sends his servant Reynaldo to Paris to question Laertes’s acquaintances. Ophelia enters, deeply disturbed about a visit she has…

Act 2, scene 2

Claudius and Gertrude set Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, two boyhood friends of Hamlet, to spy on him. When Hamlet himself enters,…

Act 3, scene 1

After Rosencrantz and Guildenstern report their failure to find the cause of Hamlet’s madness, Polonius places Ophelia where he and…

Act 3, scene 2

Hamlet gives direction to the actors and asks Horatio to help him observe Claudius’s reaction to the play. When the…

Act 3, scene 3

Claudius orders Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to take Hamlet to England. Polonius tells Claudius of his plans to spy on Hamlet’s…

Act 3, scene 4

In Gertrude’s room, Polonius hides behind a tapestry. Hamlet’s entrance so alarms Gertrude that she cries out for help. Polonius…

Act 4, scene 1

Gertrude reports Polonius’s death to Claudius, who sends Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to find Hamlet and recover the body.

Act 4, scene 2

Hamlet refuses to tell Rosencrantz and Guildenstern where he has put Polonius’s body.

Act 4, scene 3

Hamlet is brought to Claudius, who tells him that he is to leave immediately for England. Alone, Claudius reveals that…

Act 4, scene 4

Fortinbras and his army cross Hamlet’s path on their way to Poland. Hamlet finds in Fortinbras’s vigorous activity a model…

Act 4, scene 5

Reports reach Gertrude that Ophelia is mad. Ophelia enters singing about death and betrayal. After Ophelia has gone, Claudius agonizes…

Act 4, scene 6

Horatio is given a letter from Hamlet telling of the prince’s boarding of a pirate ship and his subsequent return…

Act 4, scene 7

Claudius gets a letter from Hamlet announcing the prince’s return. Claudius enlists Laertes’s willing help in devising another plot against…

Act 5, scene 1

Hamlet, returned from his journey, comes upon a gravedigger singing as he digs. Hamlet tries to find out who the…

Act 5, scene 2

In the hall of the castle, Hamlet tells Horatio how he discovered the king’s plot against him and how he…

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Scene 4
Enter Fortinbras with his army over the stage.

FORTINBRAS 
 Go, Captain, from me greet the Danish king.
 Tell him that by his license Fortinbras
 Craves the conveyance of a promised march
 Over his kingdom. You know the rendezvous.

201
Hamlet
ACT 4. SC. 4

5 If that his Majesty would aught with us,
 We shall express our duty in his eye;
 And let him know so.
CAPTAIN I will do ’t, my lord.
FORTINBRAS Go softly on.All but the Captain exit.

[Enter Hamlet, Rosencrantz, Guildenstern, and others.

HAMLET 10Good sir, whose powers are these?
CAPTAIN They are of Norway, sir.
HAMLET How purposed, sir, I pray you?
CAPTAIN Against some part of Poland.
HAMLET Who commands them, sir?
CAPTAIN 
15 The nephew to old Norway, Fortinbras.
HAMLET 
 Goes it against the main of Poland, sir,
 Or for some frontier?
CAPTAIN 
 Truly to speak, and with no addition,
 We go to gain a little patch of ground
20 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.
CAPTAIN 
25 Yes, it is already garrisoned.
HAMLET 
 Two thousand souls and twenty thousand ducats
 Will not debate the question of this straw.
 This is th’ impostume of much wealth and peace,
 That inward breaks and shows no cause without
30 Why the man dies.—I humbly thank you, sir.
CAPTAIN God be wi’ you, sir.He exits.
ROSENCRANTZ Will ’t please you go, my lord?

203
Hamlet
ACT 4. SC. 4

HAMLET 
 I’ll be with you straight. Go a little before.
All but Hamlet exit.
 How all occasions do inform against me
35 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
40 That capability and godlike reason
 To fust in us unused. Now whether it be
 Bestial oblivion or some craven scruple
 Of thinking too precisely on th’ event
 (A thought which, quartered, hath but one part
45 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:
50 Witness this army of such mass and charge,
 Led by a delicate and tender prince,
 Whose spirit with divine ambition puffed
 Makes mouths at the invisible event,
 Exposing what is mortal and unsure
55 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 honor’s at the stake. How stand I, then,
60 That have a father killed, a mother stained,
 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
65 Go to their graves like beds, fight for a plot
 Whereon the numbers cannot try the cause,

205
Hamlet
ACT 4. SC. 5

 Which is not tomb enough and continent
 To hide the slain? O, from this time forth
 My thoughts be bloody or be nothing worth!
He exits.]