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Act 4, Scene 4


hamlet original play and modern translation
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Original Play

Modern Translation

Enter FORTINBRAS with his army and a CAPTAIN

FORTINBRAS enters with his army and a CAPTAIN.

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5

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.
If that his majesty would aught with us,
We shall express our duty in his eye,
And let him know so.

FORTINBRAS
Go, Captain, bring my greetings to the Danish king. Tell him that, as was promised, Fortinbras asks for permission to march his troops across Denmark. You know the place where you should meet back up with our army. If His Majesty wants anything at all from us, let him know that we will do it.

CAPTAIN
I will do 't, my lord.

CAPTAIN
I'll do that, my lord.

FORTINBRAS
Go softly on.

FORTINBRAS
Go on, then.

Exeunt all except the CAPTAIN

All except the CAPTAIN exits.

Enter HAMLET, ROSENCRANTZ, GUILDENSTERN, and others

HAMLET, ROSENCRANTZ, GUILDENSTERN, and others enter.


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HAMLET
Good sir, whose powers are these?

HAMLET
Sir, whose troops are these?

CAPTAIN
They are of Norway, sir.

CAPTAIN
The are from Norway, sir.

HAMLET
How purposed, sir, I pray you?

HAMLET
What's their goal, sir?

CAPTAIN
Against some part of Poland.

CAPTAIN
They're headed to invade some part of Poland.

HAMLET
Who commands them, sir?

HAMLET
Who commands them, sir?

CAPTAIN
The nephew to old Norway, Fortinbras.

CAPTAIN
The nephew of the old Norwegian king, Fortinbras.

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15

HAMLET
Goes it against the main of Poland, sir,
Or for some frontier?

HAMLET
Is he attacking central Poland, sir, or some frontier?

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20

CAPTAIN
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.

CAPTAIN
To be honest, we're going to fight for a little patch of ground that's not worth anything beyond its name. I wouldn't pay even five dollars for the right to own and farm it. And it give either Norway or the Poles more value than that, even if they sold it.

HAMLET
Why, then the Polack never will defend it.

HAMLET
Well, then the Poles won't even try to defend it.

CAPTAIN
Yes, it is already garrisoned.

CAPTAIN
They will. They've already put soldiers there.

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25

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
Why the man dies.—I humbly thank you, sir.

HAMLET
(to himself) It will take more than two thousand men and twenty-thousand dollars to settle the battle for this pointless bit of land. This is the curse of having too much wealth and peace—it's like an abcess that grows inside someone until it bursts and kills them, without anyone knowing why. (to the CAPTAIN) Thank you, sir.

CAPTAIN
God be wi' you, sir.

CAPTAIN
God be with you, sir.

Exit CAPTAIN

The CAPTAIN exits.

ROSENCRANTZ
Will 't please you go, my lord?

ROSENCRANTZ
Will you please come now, my lord?

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HAMLET
I'll be with you straight. Go a little before.

HAMLET
I'll follow you immediately. Go on ahead of me.

Exeunt all except HAMLET

Everyone exits except HAMLET.

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65

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 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 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 puffed
Makes mouths at the invisible event,
Exposing what is mortal and unsure
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,
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
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? Oh, from this time forth,
My thoughts be bloody, or be nothing worth!

Everything that I see shames me, and spurs me to sharpen my dulled efforts to get revenge. What is a man who does nothing but eat and sleep? A beast, nothing more. God didn't give us such a great and godlike ability to think and reason so that those capabilities would grow moldy from disuse. Now, whether the cause is an animal-like lack of thought or over-thinking exactly how to do it—thoughts which are one part wisdom, three parts cowardice—I can't explain how I could still be alive and yet be able to say "This is something I still have to do." I have the motive, the will, the ability, and the opportunity to do it. Claudius's guilt is as obvious as the ground beneath my feet. Look at this huge, expensive army led by a young and unproven prince, who's so full of divine ambition that he mocks death and exposes his life to all the risks of fortune and danger, for a cause as thin as an eggshell. To be great doesn't require only fighting for a good reason, but rather that you will boldly fight for barely any reason at all if your honor was at stake. So where do I stand, with my father murdered and my mother dishonored, and yet I do nothing in response to all of these slights and insults? Meanwhile, to my shame, I watch twenty thousand men, because of a whim and and wish for fame, march off to death for a tiny bit of land that's not even large enough to hold all their graves. Oh, from this time on, my thoughts will be violent or else I'll think them of no worth.

Exit

He exits.

 

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