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Pol. That did I, my lord; and was accounted a good actor.
Ham. And what did you enact ?
Pol. I did enact Julius Cæsar 8: I was killed i'the Capitol'; Brutus killed me.
played before her majesty, when she visited the university of Cambridge. The exhibition was in the body or nave of the chapel of King's college, which was lighted by the royal guards, each of whom bore a staff-torch in his hand. See Peck's Desider. Cur. p. 36, n. x. The actors of this piece were all of that college. The author of the tragedy, who in the Latin account of this royal visit, in the Museum, (MSS. Baker, 7037, p. 203, is said to have been Regalis Collegii olim socius, was, I believe, John Rightwise, who was elected a fellow of King's College, in 1507, and according to Anthony Wood,“ made the tragedy of Dido out of Virgil, and acted the same with the scholars of his school (St. Paul's, of which he was appointed master in 1522,] before Cardinal Wolsey with great applause." In 1583, the same play was performed at Oxford, in Christ-Church hall, before Albertus de Alasco, a Polish prince Palatine, as was William Gager's Latin comedy, entitled Rivales. On Elizabeth's second visit to Oxford, in 1592, a few years before the writing of the present play, she was entertained on the 24th and 26th of September, with the representation of the last-mentioned play, and another Latin comedy, called Bellum Grammaticale.
MALONE. 8 I did enact Julius CÆSAR :) A Latin play on the subject of Cæsar's death was performed at Christ-Church in Oxford, in 1582 ; and several years before, a Latin play on the same subject, written by Jacques Grevin, was acted in the college of Beauvais, at Paris. I suspect that there was likewise an English play on the story of Cæsar before the time of Shakspeare. See Julius Cæsar, Preliminary Remarks, and the Essay on the Order of Shakspeare's Plays. Malone.
9 - I was killed i'the Capitol ;] This, it is well known, was not the case ; for Cæsar, we are expressly told by Plutarch, was killed in Pompey's portico. But our poet followed the received opinion, and probably the representation of his own time, in a play on the subject of Cæsar's death, previous to that which he wrote. The notion that Julius Cæsar was killed in the Capitol is as old as the time of Chaucer:
“ This Julius to the capitolie wente
Ham. It was a brute part of him ', to kill so capital a calf there.—Be the players ready ?
Ros. Ay, my lord; they stay upon your patience ?. Queen. Come hither, my dear * Hamlet, sit by
Ham. No, good mother, here's metal more attractive.
Pol. O ho! do you mark that ? [To the King. Ham. Lady, shall I lie in your lap ?
[Lying down at Ophelia's Feet Oph. No, my lord. Ham, I mean, my head upon your lap“? Oph. Ay, my lord. Ham. Do you think, I meant country matters ? Oph. I think nothing, my lord.
HAM. That's a fair thought to lie between maids' legs.
Oph. What is, my lord ?
* First folio, good.
Tyrwhitt's edit. vol. ii. p. 31. Malone. ' It was a BRUTE Part of him,] Sir John Harrington in his Metamorphosis of Ajax, 1596, has the same quibble : "O braveminded Brutus! but this I must truly say, they were two brutish parts both of him and you ; one to kill his sons for treason, the other to kill his father in treason.” Steevens.
- they stay upon your patience.) May it not be read more intelligibly,
they stay upon your pleasure?' In Macbeth it is : “Noble Macbeth, we stay upon your leisure." Johnson. 3 -- at Ophelia's feet.) To lie at the feet of a mistress during any dramatick representation, seems to have been a common act of gallantry. So, in The Queen of Corinth, by Beaumont and
“ Ushers her to her couch, lies at her feet
" At solemn masques, applauding what she laughs at." Again, in Gascoigne's Greene Knight's Farewell to Fancie:
“ To lie along in ladies lappes.” Steevens.
-I mean, &c.] This speech and Ophelia’s reply to it are omitted in the quartos. Steevens.
Oph. You are merry, my lord.
Ham. O! your only jig-maker 6. What should a man do, but be merry ? for, look you, how cheerfully my mother looks, and my father died within these two hours.
Oph. Nay, 'tis twice two months, my lord.
Ham. So long? Nay, then let the devil wear black, for I'll have a suit of sables 7. O heavens !
-your only JiG-MAKER.] There may have been some humour in this passage, the force of which is now diminished:
They cannot with their honour, call for after
Changes, or Love in a Maze, by Shirley, 1632. In The Hog hath Lost his Pearl, 1614, one of the players comes to solicit a gentleman to write a jig for him. A jig was not in Shakspeare's time only a dance, but a ludicrous dialogue in metre, and of the lowest kind, like Hamlet's conversation with Ophelia. Many of these jigs are entered in the books of the Stationers' Company :-" Philips his Jigg of the Slyppers, 1595. Kempe's Jigg of the Kitchen-stuff Woman, 1595." STEEVENS.
The following lines in the prologue to Fletcher's Love's Pilgrimage, confirms Mr. Steevens's remark :
“ Prais'd and applauded by a clamorous chime.” A jig was not always in the form of a dialogue. Many historical ballads were formerly called jigs. See also, p. 308, n. 4; and the Historical Account of the English Theatres. MALONE.
Mr. Steevens has been censured for producing the quotation from Shirley, where the context shows jig to have meant a dance, for the purpose of proving that it was used for a ludicrous dialogue. This is, I think, a mistake; he quotes Shirley with another view, and then remarks what was sometimes the old signification of the word. Boswell.
7 - Nay; then let the devil wear black, For I'll have a suit of SABLEs.] The conceit of these words is not taken. They are an ironical apology for his mother's cheerful looks : two months was long enough in conscience to make any dead husband forgotten.
die two months ago, and not forgotten yet? Then there's hope, a great man's memory may outlive
But the editors, in their nonsensical blunder, have made Hamlet say just the contrary. That the devil and he would both go into mourning, though his mother did not. The true reading isNay, then let the devil wear black, 'fore I'll have a suit of sable. 'Fore, i. e. before. As much as to say,—Let the devil wear black for me, I'll have none. The Oxford editor despises an emendation so easy, and reads it thus,-Nay, then let the devil wear black, for I'll have a suit of ermine. And you could expect no less, when such a critick had the dressing of him. But the blunder was a pleasant one.
The senseless editors had wrote sables, the fur so called, for sable, black. And the critick only changed this fur for that ; by a like figure, the common people say, - You rejoice the cockles of my heart, for the muscles of my heart ; an unlucky mistake of one shell-fish for another.
WARBURTON. I know not why our editors should with such implacable anger persecute their predecessors. Oi vexpoí us deixvesiv, the dead, it is true, can make no resistance, they may be attacked with great security ; but since they can neither feel nor mend, the safety of mauling them seems greater than the pleasure ; nor perhaps would it much misbeseem us to remember, amidst our triumphs over the nonsensical and senseless, that we likewise are men ; that debemur morti, and as Swift observed to Burnet, shall soon be among the dead ourselves.
I cannot find how the common reading is nonsense, nor why Hamlet, when he laid aside his dress of mourning, in a country where it was bitter cold, and the air nipping and eager, should not have a suit of sables. I suppose it is well enough known, that the fur of sables is not black. Johnson.
A suit of sables was the richest dress that could be worn in Denmark. STEEVENS.
Here again is an equivoque. In Massinger's Old Law, we have,
A cunning grief,
“But gawdy-hearted." FARMER. “ – Nay, then let the devil wear black, for I'll have a suit of SABLES.” Nay then, says Hamlet, if my father be so long dead as you say, let the devil wear black ; as for me, so far from wearing a mourning dress, I'll wear the most costly and magnificent suit that can be procured : a suit trimmed with sables.
Our poet furnished Hamlet with a suit of sables on the present occasion, not, as I conceive, because such a dress was suited to
his life half a year: But, by'r-lady, he must build churches then: or else shall he suffer not thinking on, with the hobby-horse'; whose epitaph is, For, 0, for, 0, the hobby-horse is forgot'.
“a country where it was bitter cold, and the air was nipping and eager,” (as Dr. Johnson supposed,) nor because “a suit of sables was the richest dress that could be worn in Denmark,” (as Mr. Steevens has suggested, of which probably he had no knowledge, but because a suit trimmed with sables was in Shakspeare's time the richest dress worn by men in England. We have had again and again occasion to observe, that, wherever his scene might happen to be, the customs of his own country were still in his thoughts.
By the statute of apparel, 24 Henry VIII. c. 13, (article furres,) it is ordained, that none under the degree of an-earl may use sables.
Bishop says in his Blossoms, 1577, speaking of the extravagance of those times, that a thousand ducates were sometimes given for a face of sables."
That a suit of sables was the magnificent dress of our author's time, appears from a passage in Ben Jonson's Discoveries : “Would you not laugh to meet a great counsellor of state, in a flat cap, with his trunk-hose, and a hobby-horse cloak, (See fig. 5, in the plate annexed to King Henry IV. P. I.) and yond haberdasher in a velvet gown trimm'd with sables?"
Florio, in his Italian Dictionary, 1598, thus explains zibilini: “ The rich furre called sables.”_ Sables is the skin of the sable Martin. See also Cotgrave's French Dict. 1611: “Sebilline Martre Sebel. The sable Martin; the beast whose skinne we call sables." Malone.
8 — but—he must build churches then :] Such benefactors to society were sure to be recorded by means of the feast day on which the patron saints and founders of churches were commemorated in every parish. This custom having been long disused, the names of the builders of sacred edifices are no longer known to the vulgar, and are preserved only in antiquarian memoirs.
Steevens. 9 - suffer not thinking on, with the hobby-horse ;) Amongst the country. May-games there was an hobby-horse, which, when the puritanical humour of those times opposed and discredited these games, was brought by the poets and ballad-makers as an instance of the ridiculous zeal of the sectaries : from these ballads Hamlet quotes a line or two. WARBURTON.
1-0, the hobby-horse is forgot.] In Love's Labour's Lost, this line is also introduced. In a small black letter book entitled, Plays Confuted, by Stephen Gosson, I find the hobby-horse enu