Against the which, a moiety competent
Was gaged by our king; which had return'd
To the inheritance of Fortinbras,
Had he been vanquisher; as, by the same covenant,
And carriage of the article design,
His fell to Hamlet. Now, sir, young Fortinbras,
Of unimproved mettle hot and full,
Hath in the skirts of Norway here and there
Shark'd up a list of lawless resolutes,
For food and diet, to some enterprise
That hath a stomach in't; which is no other--
As it doth well appear unto our state--
But to recover of us, by strong hand
And terms compulsatory, those foresaid lands
So by his father lost: and this, I take it,
Is the main motive of our preparations,
The source of this our watch and the chief head
Of this post-haste and romage in the land.
I think it be no other but e'en so:
Well may it sort that this portentous figure
Comes armed through our watch; so like the king
That was and is the question of these wars.
1599 - A Year in the Life of Shakespeare
Of all the biographies and studies of Shakespeare that I have read to date, this is probably my favourite. It's by James Shapiro, a professor at Columbia in New York. It's an astonishingly rich and comprehensive read, full of juicy details and very sensible ideas. Best of all, if you feel bereft when it finishes, there's a companion volume called 1606 - The Year of Lear to read next!
Paradoxes of Defence
George Silver published this book in 1599, as a means of challenging the ever-increasing popularity of Italian fighting styles in London. It's worth noting this likely influence on Shakespeare at the time he created Hamlet, since of all the plays it is the one with the most detailed, specific description of hand-to-hand combat. This contrast between old and new forms of fighting is also echoed in the description of Old Hamlet and his combat with Old Fortinbras.
As discussed in an earlier episode, there were several versions and published versions of the play even in Shakespeare's time. The most substantial of them is the Second Quarto, which is the primary source for this podcast. The Sixth Quarto has little else of note but since a suggestion from it cropped up in this episode I felt it worth a little reference here!