« ÎnapoiContinuați »
" That I, the son of the dear murthered.”
what may appear to the present age preferable. I have, This is the reading of the folio. Some of the quartos, therefore, though with some reluctance, adhered to the followed by most modern editors, read
old copies, however unpleasing this word may be to the “That I, the son of a dear father murthered.”
ear. On the stage, without doubt, an actor is at liberty
to substitute a less offensive word. To the ears of our But the word father is omitted in others of the quartos; ancestors it probably conveyed no unpleasing sound, so that the weight of evidence is much in favour of the for we find it used by Chaucer and others.” reading here preferred, while I think that there can be The same remark applies to many other old English no comparison in the beauty and expressiveness of the words used by the poets, divines, and scholars of two. “The dear murthered”—the loved and mourned, Shakespeare's age. They had a general sense, which whose revenge fills all Hamlet's thoughts. How is this modern use has narrowed down to some ludicrous or weakened and diluted, by the general words, “ a dear coarse meaning. Thus,“guts” for “ entrails,” and many father!"
others. “I'll tent him to the quick; if he but blench.” “ Who would these fardels bear ?”—This reading of Tent, to probe, a phrase of ancient surgery. Blench,
the folios is here preferred to that of the other edi.
tions, as giving a more natural connection to the whole to start, or shrink; as, in Fletcher, “ Blench at no
passage. It resumes the thought of the preceding sendanger."
tence—“ Who would bear the whips and scorns of ACT III.-SCENE I.
time," &c., and asks, Who would bear these burdens,
“the oppressor's wrong," “ the proud man's contume“ Affront Ophelia."-Not in our modern sense of the ly," &c., “were it not for the dread of an hereafter ?” phrase, but, as confront, meet her.
The common reading, founded on the quartos, (Who “ To take up arms against a sea of troubles."
would fardels bear ?) merely asks, Who would bear any
of the loads of life, were it not for this reason? The The fastidious criticism of the last century was
continuity of thought, the evolution of the sentence shocked by this confusion of metaphor. Warburton
from the preceding, effected by the insertion of “these,” proposed to remedy it by reading “an assail ;” and an
is very characteristic of Shakespeare. other editor (I ain sorry that it was Pope !) conjectured “ a siege of troubles.” The poet and the divine appear
“Ham. Ha, ha! are you honest ?” but small critics here, contrasted with David Garrick, Every lover of Shakespeare is familiar with the who, in his Oration at the Shakespeare Jubilee, 1769, doubts, speculations, and controversies excited by the rises from the explanation and defence of the passage to startling harshness of Hamlet towards Ophelia. The a bold strain of lofty criticism and philosophical elo- solution this difficulty involves another more radical quence.
and equally disputed question, whether Hamlet's mad“ His language, like his conceptions, is strongly ness is real or pretended. Among the most ingenious marked with the characteristic of nature; it is bold, modes of reconciling Hamlet's sanity with his conduct figurative, and significant; his terms, rather than his in this scene, is that of Coleridge, “that the penetrating sentences are metaphorical; he calls an endless multi- prince perceives, from the strange and forced manner tude A SEA, by a happy allusion to the perpetual suc- of Ophelia, that the sweet girl was not acting a part cession of wave to wave; and he immediately expresses of her own, but was a decoy, and his after speeches opposition by taking up arms, which, being fit in itself, are not so much directed to her as to the listeners and he was not solicitous to accommodate to his first image. spies.” The other theory, maintained by some English This is the language in which a figurative and rapid writers, and recently adopted and enforced by M. Villeconception will always be expressed : this is the lan- main, in France, is, that Hamlet is really insane; while, guage both of the prophet and the poet, of native elo- with the craft of lunacy, he also counterfeits a different quence and divine inspiration.”
madness; and that his treatment of Ophelia is one of In cast of thought and attic elegance of style, this the suspicious and causeless sudden antipathies not unoration strongly resembles the contemporary discourses common in some forms of mental derangement. of Reynolds on the arts of design; and if, as has been The necessary limits of commentary imposed by the conjectured, Garrick, though a wit and a scholar, feel- plan of this edition, preclude the editor from entering ing his inadequacy to his task, had recourse to some into any full or controversial examination of these opinfriendly hand for aid, that aid was probably contributed ions. I must content myself with stating my own view by Reynolds. Yet I would rather believe that venera- of the author's intent, in which I can make no claim to tion for “the god of his idolatry," whose works had originality, since I believe that it corresponds with the been the study of his life, raised the great actor above common understanding of the matter by the great mahis ordinary powers as an author.
jority of readers as well as some of the ablest critics. “ The pronu man's contumely."
Hamlet, after the interview with his father's spirit, has announced to his friends his probable intent to
“ bear himself strange and odd," and put on an “antic i. e. the contumely endured by poverty. The reading
disposition.” But the poet speaks his own meaning in the text is that of the quartos. They, however, give
through Hamlet's mouth, when he makes the Prince “the pangs of despised love," instead of disprized, in
assure his mother “ It is not madness.” The madness the folio ;-a phrase more Shakespearian, and convey
is but simulated. Still, it is not “ cool reason” that ing a more poetical sense.
directs his conduct and governs his impulses. His “ When he himself might his quietus make
weakness and his melancholy, the weariness of life, the With a bare bodkin ?”
intruding thoughts of suicide, the abrupt transitions, the The word “quietus” signifies, discharge or acquit- towering passion, the wild or scornful levity, the infirmity tance. Every sheriff received his “quietus” on settling
of purpose,—these are not feigned. They indicate crushhis accounts at the Exchequer. « Bodkin” was the
ed affections and blighted hopes. They show the soveterm in use to signify a small dagger.
reign reason,-not overthrown by disease, not captive
to any illusion, not paralyzed in its power of attention “ To grunt and sweat under a weary life.” and coherent thought,—but perplexed, darkened, disThis is the true reading, according to all the old co- tracted by contending and natural emotions from real pies ; " although," as Johnson observes, “ it can scarce- causes. His mind is overwhelmed with the oppressive ly be borne by modern ears. On this point, Malone sense of supernatural horrors, of more horrible earthly remarks, “I apprehend that it is the duty of an editor wrongs, and terrible duties. Such causes would throw to exhibit what his author wrote; and not to substitute any mind from its propriety ; but it is the sensitive,
The folio reading is, as the poor man's contumely," :
meditative, yet excitable and kind-hearted prince, quick of his plot, the unfortunate effect upon Hamlet's mind in feeling, warm in affection, rich in thought, “full of of Ophelia's too-confiding obedience to her father's suslarge discourse, looking before and after,” yet, (perhaps picious caution. The author could not mean that this on account of these very endowments,) feeble in will scene should be regarded as a sudden and causeless outand irresolute in act,-he it is, who
break of passion, unconnected with any prior interview Hath a father killed, and mother stain's,
with Ophelia. He has shown us that, immediately after Excitements of his reason and his blood.
the revelation of the murder, the suspicious policy of Marked and peculiar as is his character, he is yet, in Polonius compels his daughter to “repel Hamlet's letthis, the personification of a general truth of human ters," and deny him access. This leads to that internature, exemplified a thousand times in the biography view, so touchingly described by Ophelia, -of silent but of eminent men. He shows the ordinary incompati- piteous expostulation, of sorrow, suspicion, and unutterbility of high perfection of the meditative mind, whether ed reproach : poetical or philosophical, (and Hamlet's is both,) with
“With his other hand thus, o'er his brow, the strong will, the prompt and steady determination
He falls to such perusal of my face that give energy and success in the active contests of
As he would draw it." life.
This silence, more eloquent than words, implies a It is thus that, under extraordinary and terrible cir- conflict of mixed emotions, which the poet himself was cumstances impelling him to action, Hamlet's energies content to suggest, without caring to analyze it in words. are bent up to one great and engrossing object, and Whatever these emotions were, they had no mixture of still he shrinks back from the execution of his resolves, levity, anger, or indifference. and would willingly find refuge in the grave,
When the Prince again meets Ophelia it is with calm It may be said that, after all, this view of Hamlet's and solemn courtesy. She renews the recollection of mental infirmity differs from the theory of his insanity her former refusal of his letters, by returning “ the reonly in words ; that the unsettled mind, the morbid me- membrances of his that she had longed to re-deliver.” lancholy, the inconstancy of purpose, are but in other The reader knows that, in the gentle Ophelia, this is an language the description of a species of madness. In act, not of her will, but of her yielding and helpless one sense this may be true. Thin partitions divide obedience. To her lover it must appear as a confirmathe excitement of passion, the absorbing pursuit of tri- tion of her abrupt and seemingly causeless breaking off fles, the delusions of vanity, the malignity of revenge,- of all former ties at a moment when he most needed in short, any of the follies or vices that “flesh is heir sympathy and kindness. This surely cannot be received to,”—from that stage of physical or mental disease, with calmness. Does she, too, repel his confidence, and which, in the law of every civilized people, causes the turn away from his altered fortunes and his broken sufferer to be regarded as of unsound mind and me- spirit? The deep feelings, that had before choked his mory,” incompetent to discharge the duties of society, utterance, cannot but return. He wraps himself in his and no longer to be trusted with its privileges. It was cloak of assumed madness. He gives vent to intense from the conviction of this truth, that a distinguished emotion in agitated and contradictory expressions, (“ I and acute physician, of great eminence and experience did love you once,"_“I loved you not,”') and in wild in the treatment of insanity, (Dr. Haslam,) was led, in invective, not at Ophelia personally, but at her sex's the course of a legal inquiry, in reply to the customary frailties. In short, as elsewhere, where he fears to question, “Was Miss B- of sound mind ?” to aston- repose confidence, he masks, under his assumed “antic ish his professional audience by asserting that he had disposition,” the deep and real “ excitement of his “ never known any human being of sound mind.” reason and his blood." But the poet's distinction is the plain and ordinary This understanding of this famous scene seems to me
It is that between the irregular fevered action of required by the poet's marked intention to separate an intellect excited, goaded, oppressed, and disturbed Ophelia from Hamlet's confidence, by Polonius comby natural thoughts and real causes, too powerful for its pelling hercontrol,—and the same mind, after it has been affected
“To lock berself from his resort; by that change-modern science would say, by that
A dmit no messenger, receive no tokens." physical change-which may deprive the sufferer of his All which would otherwise be a useless excrescence on power of coherent reasoning, or else inflict upon him the plot. It besides appears so natural in itself, that some self-formed delusion, influencing all his percep- the only hesitation I have as to its correctness arises tions, opinions, and conduct. If, instead of the conven- from respect to the differing opinions of some of those tional reality of the ghostly interview, Hamlet had been who have most reverenced and best understood Shakepainted as acting under the impulses of the self-raised speare's genius. phantoms of an overheated brain, that would be in- The reader who wishes to follow out the literature sanity in the customary sense, in which, as a morbid of this interesting question, will be gratified by turning physical affection, it is to be distinguished from the fit- to the supplementary notice to Hamlet, in Mr. Knight's ful struggles of a wounded spirit,-of a noble mind edition. Some of its conclusions will be found to retorn with terrible and warring thoughts.
semble those above expressed, though the latter hapThis is the difference between Lear, in the agony of pen to be drawn froin different sources of reading and intolerable passion from real and adequate causes, and observation. the Lear of the stormy heath, holding an imaginary court of justice upon Goneril and her sister.
“ I hare heard of your paintings,” etc. Now as to this scene with Ophelia. How does it cor
The folios read “I have heard of your pratulings, too; respond with this understanding of the poet's intent ? God hath given you one face, and you make yourself Critics, of the highest authority in taste and feeling,
another.” Both readings may be genuine, and the alhave accounted for Hamlet's conduct solely upon the
teration made for some reason of that day now beyond ground of the absorbing and overwhelming influence
conjecture. of the one paramount thought which renders hopeless
SCENE II. and worthless all that formerly occupied his affections. Such is Mrs. Jameson's theory, and that of Calde
in the very torrent, tempest, and (as I may say) cott's note in his excellent unpublished edition of Ham
whirlwind of passion." let; and Kean gave great dramatic effect to the same “No apology ought to be received for offences comconception on the stage. The view is, in conception mitted against the vehicle (whether it be the organ of and feeling, worthy of the poet; but it is not directly seeing, or of hearing) by which our pleasures are consupported by a single line in his text, while it overlooks veyed to the mind. We must take care that the eye the fact that he has taken pains to mark, as an incident be not perplexed and distracted by a confusion of equal
parts, or equal lights, or offended by an unharmonious plot. But here, while he commands our respect and mixture of colours, as we should guard against offend- esteem, he never for a moment divides a passing intering the ear by unharmonious sounds. We may venture est with the Prince. He does not break in upon the to be more confident of the truth of this observation, main current of our feelings. He contributes only to since we find that Shakespeare, on a parallel occasion, the general effect, so that it requires an effort of the has made Hamlet recommend to the players a precept mind to separate him for critical admiration. of the same kind,-never to offend the ear by harsh
“ Ham. Lady, shall I lie in your lap ? sounds: In the very torrent, tempest, and whirlwind of
“ Oph. No, my lord.” your passion, says he, you must acquire and beget a temperance, that may give it smoothness. And, yet, at
On the publication of the original edition of this play, the same time, he very justly observes, The end of
which had been previously unknown to the public, playing, both at the first and now, was and is, to hold,
some remarks upon it appeared in an English journal, as 'twere, the mirror up to nature. No one can deny,
from which we select the following, as well worthy of that violent passions will naturally emit harsh and dis
attention, in reference to some parts of Shakespeare's agreeable tones; yet, this great poet and critic thought
text, which the reader, without being affectedly delicate, that this imitation of nature would cost too much, if
may be pardoned for wishing away :purchased at the expense of disagreeable sensations, or,
Many striking peculiarities in this edition of Hamas he expresses it, of splitting the ear.”—REYNOLDS's
let tend strongly to confirm our opinion, that no small DISCOURSES.
portion of the ribaldry to be found in the plays of our “ To split the ears of the groundlings ; who, for the
great poet is to be assigned to the actors of his time,
who flattered the vulgar laste with the constant repemost part, are capable of nothing but inexplicable dumb
tition of many indecent, and not a few stupid jokes, till shows and noise."
they came to be considered, and then printed, as part The pit, in the early theatres, had neither floor nor of the genuine text. Of these, the two or three brief benches, and was frequented by the poorer classes. but offensive speeches of Hamlet to Ophelia, in the Ben Jonson speaks with equal contempt of the “under- play-scene, (act iii.,) are not to be found in the copy of standing gentlemen of the ground.” Of the “ dumb 1603; and so far are we borne out in our opinion ; for shows,” we have a specimen in the play-scene of this it is not to be supposed that Shakespeare would insert tragedy. “ The meaner people,” says Dr. Johnson, them upon cool reflection, three years after the success “then seem to have sat (stood) below, as they now sit of his piece had been determined. Still less likely is it in the upper gallery; who, not well understanding that a piratical printer would reject any thing actually poetical language, were sometimes gratified by a mimi- belonging to the play, which would prove pleasing to cal and mute representation of the drama, previous to the vulgar bulk of those who were to be the purchasers the dialogue."--Hiust, Shak.
of his publication." “ I would hare such a fellow whipped for o'er-doing
“ We have no desire to be numbered among those Termagant; it out-herods Herod.”
who are in the habit of visiting the sins of Shakespeare, Termagant, according to Perey, was a Saracen deity,
real or imaginary, on the heads of the actors ; but very clamorous and violent in the Old Moralities. He
there is certainly something in the fact here stated that roi, also, was a constant character in these entertain
deserves consideration. In justice both to poet and ments, and his outrageous boasting is sometimes highly
players, we subjoin Mr. Campbell's judicious comment amusing. Subjoined are two short specimens. The
on the remarks just cited :first is from the “ Chester Whitsun Plays :"
“I am inclined, upon the whole, to agree with these
remarks, although the subject leaves us beset with un“For I am kinge of all mankinde, I byd, I beate, I loose, I bynde;
certainties. This copy of the play was apparently piI master the moone;-take this in mynde
rated; but the pirate's omission of the improper passages That I am most of mighte.
alluded to, is not a perfect proof that they were absent I am the greatest above degree,
in the first representation of the piece; yet it leads to That is, that was, or ever shall be; The sonne it dare not shine on me,
such a presumption; for, looking at the morality of And I bid him go downe.”
Shakespeare's theatre in the main, he is none of your It appears that this amiable personage had no less
poetical artists who resort to an impure influence over conceit of his “ bewte” than of his “ boldness." In one
the fancy. Little sallies of indecorum he may have of his “ Coventry Plays,” he exclains :
now and then committed; but they are few, and are “Of bewte and of boldness I ber evermor the belle,
eccentricities from his general character, partially parOi mayn and of myght I master every man ;
donable on account of the bad taste of his age. What I dynge with my dowtiness the devil down to helle,
a frightful contrast to his purity is displayed among his For both of hevyn and of earth I am kynge certayn."
nearest dramatic successors- love in relations of life Illust. Shak.
where Nature forbids passion! Shakespeare scorns to 66 — thou hast been
interest us in any love that is not purely natural.'”. As one, in suffering all, that suffers nothing,” etc.
Illust. Shak. While every other character of this play, Ophelia,
“Opa. 'Tis brief, my lord. Polonius, and even Osric, has been analyzed and dis
“HAM. As woman's love." cussed, it is remarkable that no critic has stept forward
I cannot but think that Hamlet's reply conveys a to notice the great beauty of Horatio's character, and its exquisite adaptation to the effect of the piece. His
gentle but reproachful allusion to Ophelia's own conis a character of great excellence and accomplishment;
duct, as it appeared to him. but while this is distinctly shown, it is but sketched, 6 An anchor's cheer." --The cheer or fare of an annot elaborately painted. His qualities are brought out chorite; a customary abbreviation in old English wriby single and seemingly accidental touches--as here, ters. and in the ghost-scene, “ You are a scholar, Horatio," &c. The whole is toned down to a quiet and unob
“ The mouse-trap. Marry how ? TROPICALLY.” — trusive beauty that does not tempt the mind to wander Tropically, i. e. in a trope, or figuratively, referring to from the main interest, which rests alone upon Hamlet ;
his own ideas of the play, as the thing, in which he'll while it is yet distinct enough to increase that interest
“catch the conscience of the king." by showing him worthy to be Hamlet's trusted friend in “ You are as good as a chorus,” etc.—This use of life, and the chosen defender of his honour after death. the chorus may be seen in Henry V. Every motion or Such a character, in the hands of another author, puppet-show was accompanied by an interpreter or would have been made the centre of some secondary || showman.-STEVENS.
“ Let the devil wear black, for I'll have a suit of sables.”
Meaning, probably, a suit that shall be expressive of the reverse feeling to sorrow or humiliation. “A suit of sables (says Malone) was, in Shakespeare's time, the richest dress worn by men in England. Wherever his scene might happen to be, the customs of his own country were still in his thoughts.” By the statute of apparel (24 Hen. VIII.) it is ordained that none under the degree of an earl may use sables.
“ For 0, for 0, the hobby-horse is forgot.” The banishment of the hobby-horse from the May games is frequently lamented in the old dramas. The line quoted by Hamlet appears to have been part of a ballad on the subject of poor Hobby. He was driven from his station by the Puritans, as an impious and pagan superstition; but restored on the promulgation of “ The Book of Sports." The hobby-horse was formed of a pasteboard horse's head, and probably a light frame made of wicker-work, to form the hinder parts; this was fastened round the body of a man, and covered with a footcloth which nearly reached the ground, and concealed the legs of the performer. Similar contrivances, in burlesque pieces, are not unusual at this day.
“This is Miching mallecho ; it means mischief.”— The quartos (with the exception of the first of 1603) read “munching mallico :” “ miching," i. e. stealing, is no doubt the right word; and by Minshew's Dictionary, 1617, it appears that “mallecho” is Spanish for a malefaction—any ill deed.—COLLIER.
“ The croaking raven doth bellow for revenge.” This is printed here, as in the old edition, appearing as an expression of Hamlet's own feelings. Most modern editors print it as verse, and consider it as a part of the mock play. So, it is said, Garrick pronounced it, addressing Lucianus. Henderson and Kemble gave it as Hamlet's own reflection; which seems more natural, more poetical, as well as more consonant to the old text. It resembles the poet's own strong figure elsewhere :
" -- the raven himself is hoarse That croaks the entrance of Duncan
Under my battlements." “ Turn Turk.”—This phrase seems to have been equivalent of old to a “ total change," and is found in writers of the time.
“Two PROVINCIAL roses on my razed shoes.”—“Provincial” was erroneously changed to “ Provençal," at the suggestion of Warton. Mr. Douce rectified the error by showing that the Provincial roses took their name in Provins, in Lower Brie, and not from Provence. Razed” shoes are most probably embroidered shoes. The quarto reads, “racd.” To race or rase, was, to stripe.-SINGER.
“ Hor. Half a share.
“ HAM, A whole one, I.” Actors, in Shakespeare's time, had not salaries, as now. The receipts were divided into shares, of which the proprietors of the theatre, or “house-keepers,” as they were called, had some; and each actor had one or more shares, or parts of a share, according to his rank or interest. The custom is retained on the continent of Europe.
A recent antiquarian discovery has shown that, in 1608, the Blackfriars Theatre was held by eleven members of the company, on twenty shares; of which Shakespeare owned four, while some others had but half a share each.
“A very, very-PEACOCK.”—The word "peacock," is printed in the old quartos “paiock” and “pajocke;"> and “paiocke” also in the folio, 1623, which the folio, 1632, alters to “pajock.” Pope introduced “
“peacock;" but if that were the word intended, it is singular that, being of such common occurrence, it should have been
misprinted at first, and afterwards reiterated in the later impressions of the play. Yet it seems to answer the sense better than any other word.
“By these pickers and stealers.”—Alluding to the phrase of the Anglican church-catechism, “to keep my hands from picking and stealing."
« Recorders.”—Hawkins, in his History of Music, shows the recorder to have answered to the modern flageolet. It was not a flute, since Bacon and Milton speak of both, as distinct :
“ – the Dorian mood
Or flutes and soft recorders." “Though you can fret me,” etc.—The musical allusion is continued. The frets of all instruments of the lute or guitar kind are thick wires, fixed at certain distances across the finger-board, on which the strings are stopped, or pressed by the fingers. Nares thinks that the word is derived from fretum; but the French verb frotter seems the more likely source.-COLLIER.
“ Bitler business,” etc.—Thus the folio. Nine out of ten of the modern editors, with Malone, follow the quartos, and read
66 — such business as the bitter day
Would quake to look on." The epithet bitter has no clear significance here as applied to day; and unless the folio reading is adopted, as I think it should be, I would prefer an ingenious emendation suggested by Mr. E. Forrest—the better day, i. e. better, as contrasted with night.
– she be shENT”-i. e. rebuked, reproved. “To give them seals,” to put them in execution, as the completion of a deed.—COLLIER.
“ Should o’erhear the speech, of rantage.”—Some one besides his mother. “ Vantage” is used as it is defined by Bailey—“ That which is given or allowed over weight, or over measure.”
“SOLE son.”—So all the quartos. The folio has " foul son;" and it may be doubted whether this self-loathing phrase be not the more expressive, as well as truer reading.
“ More horrid Hent.”—To hent, is to seize; “know thou a more horrid hent,” is, have a more horrid grasp.
SCENE IV. “And,—would it were not so !-you are my mother.” The folio reads
“But would you were not so: you are my motherthus making Hamlet wish, not that she was not his mother, but that she was not his uncle's wife. Both readings have their beauty as well as authority. Most editors have preferred the first, which best agrees with the Queen's answer. Mr. Knight has chosen the other; and Henderson, of whose exquisite conception of the character tradition has preserved the fame, seems, from a note contributed by him to the Variorum edition, to have been of the same opinion.
“ Contraction”—for marriage-contract.
“ This solidity.”—The solid earth. « Heaven and earth blush for you.”—KNIGHT.
" And thunders in the index”-i. e. in the commencement, where the indexes of books were formerly placed. COLLIER,
“ Look here, upon this picture, and on this.” Dr. Armstrong thus remarks, on the common stage action which accompanies this passage : “ There is a tame impropriety, or even absurdity, in that action of Hamlet producing the two miniatures of his father and uncle out of his pocket. It seems more natural to suppose, that Hamlet was struck with the comparison he makes between the two brothers, upon casting his eyes
which I thought it proper to ask him, to whom he had left his real property, when these legacies should have been discharged, -in whom did he intend that his estate should be vested after his death, if he died without children? “In the heir-at-law, to be sure,' was the reply. Who is your heir-at-law ? "I do not know.'
“ Thus he .gambolled' from the inatter, and laboured, according to this test, under his madness still.
“ He died, intestate, four days afterwards."
Our American commentator on the “ Jurisprudence of Insanity," Dr. Ray, in his chapter on “Simulated Insanity,” has also incidentally noticed this test. “In simulated mania, the impostor, when requested to repeat his disordered idea, will generally do it correctly; while the genuine patient will be apt to wander from the track, or introduce ideas that had not presented themselves before." This he illustrates from a modern French legal report.
“That monster, custom, who all sense doth eat
Of habits, devil, is angel yet in this." This is the old reading; and not “habits," as in most editions, The punctuation is that adopted by Collier; and the meaning, though harshly expressed from the condensation of the language, is this—“That monster, custom, who devours all sense, (all sensibility or delicacy of feeling,) as to habits, devil as he is, is still an angel in this other regard.”
“ From a PADDOCK, from a bat, a Gib.”—A paddock is a toad; a gib, a cat.
“ Hoist with his own PETAR.”—A petard was a small mortar, used to blow up gates. The engineer is hoysed, thrown up, with his own engine.
on their pictures, as they hang up in the apartment where this conference passes with the Queen. There is not only more nature, more elegance, and dignity, in supposing it thus; but it gives occasion to more passionate and more graceful action, and is, of consequence, likelier to be as Shakespeare's imagination had conceived it.”
“ A STATion like the herald Mercury.”—Station is here used, as elsewhere, for attitude, act, or manner of standing. The image has been transplanted by Milton into his Paradise Lost
"like Maia's son he stood."
“ Enter Ghost.” “Here Hamlet exclaims
. Look how it steals away! My father, in his habit as he lived!' Malone, Stevens, and Mason, argue the question, whether in this scene the Ghost, as in former scenes, ought to wear armour, or to be dressed in his own familiar habit;' and they conclude, either that Shakespeare had forgotten himsell,' or had meant to vary the dress of the Ghost at this his last appearance. The quarto of 1603, shows how the poet's intention was carried into effect; for there we meet with the stagedirection, Enter the Ghost in his night-gown." "COLLIER.
“Life in EXCREMENTS.”—Hair, nails, feathers, were called excrements. Izaak Walton, speaking of fowls, says, “their very excrements afford him a soft lodging at night."-KNIGHT.
“ ENSEAMED bed.”—A strong expression of disgust, from seam, grease-greasy, gross, filthy. Some of the quartos read “ incestuous," which, for popular use, is preferable, though the other cannot but be the true reading.
“ – VICE of kings.”—The vice was the fool, clown, or jester of the older drama, and was frequently dressed in party-coloured clothes; hence Hamlet just afterwards calls the usurper “a king of shreds and patches."COLLIER.
“I the matter will re-word, which madness
Would gambol from.” Sir Henry Halford, the accomplished President of the Royal College of Physicians, (London,) has made this passage the text of one of his “Essays and Orations, read before the College,” and relates a case which occurred in his own practice, to prove the correctness of Shakespeare's test of insanity.
A gentleman of fortune had instructed his solicitor, a personal friend, to prepare a will for him, containing several very proper provisions, and then bequeathing the residue of his estate to this legal friend. He soon after became deranged and highly excited, so as to require coercion. The excitement passed off, leaving him composed, but very weak, so that his life was doubtful. He was now anxious to execute his will, which had been prepared according to his previous instructions, and which Sir Henry, and the other attending physician, were requested to hear read to him and to witness. When read to him, he assented distinctly to the several items. The physicians were perplexed, and retired to consult what was to be done under such questionable circumstances.
“ It occurred to me, then, to propose to my colleague to go up again into the sick-room, to see whether our patient could re-word the matter, as a test, on Shakespeare's authority, of his soundness of mind. He repeated the clauses which contained the addition to his mother's jointure, and which made provision for the natural children, with sufficient correctness; but he stated that he had left a namesake, though not a relation, ten thousand pounds, whereas he had left him five thousand pounds only; and there he paused. After
ACT IV.-SCENE I. “ So haply slander.”—This half line is a conjectural insertion of some words to this effect, evidently omitted in the quartos, where only the passage is found.
SCENE II. “ The body is with the king, but the king is not with the body.”—Polonius's body is with the king, in his house, but the king (the true king) is not with the body, i. e. he is a spirit.
“ Hide fox, and all after.”—This is supposed to refer to the boyish game of “ All hid;" and Sir T. Hanmer expressly tells us that it was sometimes called “Hide fox, and all after."-COLLIER.
SCENE IV. “Go safely on.”—Go safely on, under the protection of the promised license—the “quiet pass of safety and allowance.” It is the folio reading, and preferable to the softly of other copies.
“ – such large discourse,
Looking before and afterSuch ample power of reasoning—6 of reviewing the past and anticipating the future.” To fust, in the subsequent line, is “to become mouldy,” a verb long obsolete, though its adjective, fusty, retains its use colloquially,
SCENE V. “ Re-enter Horatio, with Ophelia.” with Ophelia.—The stage-direction in the quarto, 1603, is curiously minute : “ Enter Ophelia, playing on a lute, and her hair down, singing." She therefore accompanied herself in her fragments of ballads.-Col.
“Ophelia's madness is not the suspension, but the utter destruction of the reasoning powers : it is the total imbecility which, as medical people well know, too frequently follows some terrible shock to the spirits. Constance is frantic; Lear is mad; Ophelia is insune.