There is special providence in the fall of a sparrow
If your mind dislike any thing, obey it. I will forestall
repair hither, and say you are not fit.
Not a whit, we defy augury. There is special providence in
the fall of a sparrow. If it be now, 'tis not to come; if it be not
come, it will be now; if it be not now, yet it will come—the
readiness is all. Since no man, of aught he leaves, knows what
to leave betimes, let be.
Hamlet's stepfather, King Claudius, has arranged a fencing match
between the prince and Laertes. Laertes happens to be the son of
Polonius (whom Hamlet has slain) and the brother of Ophelia (who
has gone mad and committed suicide as a result of Hamlet's
actions). Hamlet and his friend Horatio well know that the king
desperately wants the prince out of the way, and that Laertes is
looking for revenge; the fencing match doesn't promise to be an
entirely playful affair.
Hamlet has agreed to it nonetheless, and refuses Horatio's offer
to excuse him if he thinks better of things. "We defy augury"—that
is, omens mean nothing to him. Hamlet will deliver himself over to
his fate, because he finally realizes that it is out of his
control. Before, he would have thought too precisely on the event,
weighed its implications, and sought into its causes. Now, he is of
the opinion that "there's special providence in the fall of a
sparrow," and therefore a guiding hand behind his own fall,
whenever it comes, now or in the future. Here, Hamlet echoes the
Gospel according to St. Matthew, chapter 10: "And fear not them
which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather
fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell./ Are
not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not
fall on the ground without your Father" (King James version).