(145,2) This play is printed both in the folio of 1623, and in the quarto of 1637, more correctly, than almost any other of the works of Shakespeare.
I.i.29 (147,7) approve our eyes] Add a new testimony to that of our eyes.
I.i.33 (147,8) What we two nights have seen] This line is by Hanmer given to Marcellus, but without necessity.
I.i.63 (149,9) He smote the sledded Polack on the ice] Polack was, in that age, the term for an inhabitant of Poland: Polaque, French. As in a translation of Passeratius's epitaph on Henry III. of France, published by Camden:
"Whether thy chance or choice thee hither brings, "Stay, passenger, and wail the best of kings. "this little stone a great king's heart doth hold, "Who rul'd the fickle French and Polacks bold: "So frail are even the highest earthly things, "Go, passenger, and wail the hap of kings." (rev. 1776, I, 174,3)
I.i.65 (149,2) and just at this dead hour] The old reading is, jump at this same hour; same is a kind of correlative to jump; just is in the oldest folio. The correction was probably made by the author.
I.i.68 (149,4) gross and scope] General thoughts, and tendency at large. (1773)
I.i.93 (151,7) And carriage of the articles design'd] Carriage, is import; design'd, is formed, drawn up between them.
I.i.96 (151,8) Of unimproved mettle hot and full] Full of unimproved mettle, is full of spirit not regulated or guided by knowledge or experience.
I.i.100 (151,1) That hath a stomach in't] Stomach, in the time of our author, was used for constancy, resolution.
I.i.107 (152,3) romage] Tumultous hurry. (1773)
I.i.108-125 (152,3) These, and all other lines confin'd within crotchets throughout this play, are omitted in the folio edition of 1623. The omissions leave the play sometimes better and sometimes worse, and seen made only for the sake of abbreviation.
I.i.109 (152,4) Well may it sort] The cause and the effect are proportionate and suitable. (1773)
I.i.121 (152,7) Was even the like precurse of fierce events] Not only such prodigies have been seen in Rome, but the elements have shewn our countrymen like forerunners and foretokens of violent events. (1773)
I.i.128 (153,1) If thou hast any sound] The speech of Horatio to the spectre is very elegant and noble, and congruous to the common traditions of the causes of apparitions.
Whether in sea or fire, in earth or air, The extravagant and erring spirit hies To his confine]
According to the pneumatology of that tine, every element was inhabited by its peculiar order of spirits, who had dispositions different, according to their various places of abode. The meaning therefore is, that all spirits extravagant, wandering out of their element, whether aerial spirits visiting earth, or earthly spirits ranging the air, return to their station, to their proper limits in which they are confined. We might read,
"--And at his warning "Th' extravagant and erring spirit hies "To his confine, whether in sea or air, "Or earth, or fire. And of, &c.
But this change, tho' it would smooth the construction, is not necessary, and being unnecessary, should not be made against authority.
I.i.163 (154,5) No fairy takes] No fairy strikes, with lameness or diseases. This sense of take is frequent in this author.
I.ii.37 (156,8) more than the scope/Of these dilated articles allows] More than is comprised in the general design of these articles, which you may explain in a more diffuse and dilated stile. (1773)
The head is not more native to the heart, The hand more instrumental to the mouth, Than to the throne of Denmark is thy father]
[W: The blood ... Than to the throne] Part of this emendation I have received, but cannot discern why the head is not as much native to the heart, as the blood, that is, natural and congenial to it, born with it, and co-operating with it. The relation is likewise by this reading better preserved, the counsellor being to the king as the head to the heart.
Take thy fair hour, Laertes; time be thine, And thy best graces spend it at thy will]
I rather think this line is in want of emendation. I read,
--Time is thine, And my best graces; spend it at thy will.
I.ii.65 (158,2) A little more than kin, and less than kind] Kind is the Teutonick word for child. Hamlet therefore answers with propriety, to the titles of cousin and son, which the king had given him, that he was somewhat more than cousin, and less than son.
I.ii.67 (159,3) too much i' the sun] He perhaps alludes to the proverb, Out of heaven's blessing into the warm sun.
I.ii.70 (159,4) veiled lids] With lowering eyes, cast down eyes. (1773)
I.ii.89 (160,5) your father lost a father;/That father lost, lost his] I do not admire the repetition of the word, but it has so much of our author's manner, that I find no temptation to recede from the old copies.
I.ii.92 (160,6) obsequious sorrow] Obsequious is here from obsequies, or funeral ceremonies.
I.ii.103 (161,9) To reason most absurd] Reason is here used in its common sense, for the faculty by which we form conclusions from arguments.
I.ii.110 (161,1) And with no less nobility of love] [Nobility, for magnitude. WARBURTON.] Nobility is rather generosity.
I.ii.112 (161,2) Do I impart toward you] I believe impart is, impart myself, communicate whatever I can bestow.
I.ii.125 (162,4) No jocund health] The king's intemperance is very strongly impressed; every thing that happens to him gives him occasion to drink.
I.ii.163 (164,9) I'll change that name] I'll be your servant, you shall be my friend. (1773)
I.ii.164 (164,1) what make you] A familiar phrase for what are you doing.
I.ii.167 (164,2) good Even, Sir] So the copies. Sir Th. Hanmer and Dr. Warburton put it, good morning. The alteration is of no importance, but all licence is dangerous. There is no need of any change. Between the first and eighth scene of this act it is apparent, that a natural day must pass, and how much of it is already over, there is nothing that can determine. The king has held a council. It may now as well be evening as morning.
I.ii.182 (165,3) 'Would I had met my dearest foe in heaven] Dearest, for direst, most dreadful, most dangerous.
I.ii.192 (165,5) Season your admiration] That is, temper it.
I.ii.204 (166,6) they, distill'd/Almost to jelly with the act of fear,/Stand dumb] [W: th' effect of] Here is an affectation of subtilty without accuracy. Fear is every day considered as an agent. Fear laid hold on him; fear drove him away. If it were proper to be rigorous in examining trifles, it might be replied, that Shakespeare would write more erroneously, if he wrote by the direction of this critick; they were not distilled, whatever the word may mean, by the effect of fear; for that distillation was itself the effect; fear was the cause, the active cause, that distilled them by that force of operation which we strictly call act involuntary, and power in involuntary agents, but popularly call act in both. But of this too much.
I.iii.15 (169,9) The virtue of his will] Virtue seems here to comprise both excellence and power, and may be explained the pure effect.
I.iii.21 (169,1) The sanity and health of the whole state] [W: safety] HANMER reads very rightly, sanity. Sanctity is elsewhere printed for sanity, in the old edition of this play.
I.iii.32 (170,2) unmaster'd] i.e. licentious. (1773)
I.iii.34 (170,3) keep you in the rear of your affection] That is, do not advance so far as your affection would lead you.
I.iii.49 (170,4) Whilst, like a puft and reckless libertine] [W: Whilest he] The emendation is not amiss, but the reason for it is very inconclusive; we use the same mode of speaking on many occasions. When I say of one, he squanders like a spendthrift, of another, he robbed me like a thief, the phrase produces no ambiguity; it is understood that the one is a spendthrift, and the other a thief.
I.iii.64 (172,7) But do not dull thy palm with entertainment/Of each new-hatch'd, unfledg'd comrade] The literal sense is, Do not make thy palm callous by shaking every man by the hand. The figurative meaning may be, Do not by promiscuous conversation make thy mind insensible to the difference of characters.
I.iii.81 (173,1) my blessing season this in thee!] [Season, for infuse. WARBURTON.] It is more than to infuse, it is to infix it in such a manner as that it never may wear out.
I.iii.83 (173,3) your servants tend] i.e. your servants are waiting for you. (1773)
I.iii.86 (173,4) 'Tis in my memory lock'd,/And you yourself shall keep the key of it] That is, By thinking on you, I shall think on your lessons.
Tender yourself mere dearly; Or (not to crack the wind of the poor phrase) Wronging it thus, you'll tender me a fool]
I believe the word wronging has reference, not to the phrase, but to Ophelia; if you go on wronging it thus, that is, if you continue to go on thus wrong. This is a mode of speaking perhaps not very grammatical, but very common, nor have the best writers refused it.
To sinner it or saint it,
is in Pope. And Rowe,
--Thus to coy it, To one who knows you too.
The folio has it,
--roaming it thus,--
That is, letting yourself loose to such improper liberty. But wronging seems to be more proper.
I.iii.112 (175,7) fashion you may call it] She uses fashion for manner, and he for a transient practice.
I.iii.122 (175,8) Set your intreatments] Intreatments here means company, conversation, from the French entrétien.
I.iii.125 (175,9) larger tether] Tether is that string by which an animal, set to graze in grounds uninclosed, is confined within the proper limits. (1773)
I.iii.132 (176,2) I would not, in plain terms, from this time forth,/ Have you so slander any moment's leisure] [The humour of this is fine. WARBURTON.] Here is another fine passage, of which I take the beauty to be only imaginary. Polonius says, in plain terms, that is, not in language less elevated or embellished than before, but in terms that cannot be misunderstood: I would not have you so disgrace your most idle moments, as not to find better employment for them than lord Hamlet's conversation.
I.iv.9 (177,3) the swaggering up-spring] The blustering upstart.
I.iv.17 (177,4) This heavy-headed revel, east and west] I should not have suspected this passage of ambiguity or obscurity, had I not found my opinion of it differing from that of the learned critic [Warburton]. I construe it thus, This heavy-headed revel makes us traduced east and west, and taxed of other nations.
I.iv.22 (178,5) The pith and marrow of our attribute] The best and most valuable part of the praise that would be otherwise attributed to us.
I.iv.32 (178,7) fortune's scar] In the old quarto of 1637, it is
But I think scar is proper.
I.iv.34 (178,8) As infinite as man may undergo] As large as can be accumulated upon man.
I.iv.39-57 (179,2) Angels and ministers of grace defend us!] Hamlet's speech to the apparition of his father seems to me to consist of three parts. When first he sees the spectre, he fortifies himself with an invocation.
Angel and ministers of grace defend us!
As the spectre approaches, he deliberates with himself, and determines, that whatever it be he will venture to address it.
Be thou a spirit of health, or goblin damn'd, Bring with thee airs from heaven, or blasts from hell, Be thy intents wicked or charitable, Thou com'st in such a questionable shape, That I will speak to thee. I'll call thee, &c.
This he says while his father is advancing; he then, as he had determined, speaks to him, and calls him--Hamlet, King, Father, Royal Dane: oh! answer me. (1773)
I.iv.43 (180,4) questionable shape] [By questionable is meant provoking question. HANMER.] So in Macbeth,
Live you, or are you aught That man may question?
I.iv.46 (180,5) tell,, Why thy canoniz'd bones, hearsed in death, Have burst their cearments?] [W: in earth] It were too long to examine this note period by period, though almost every period seems to me to contain something reprehensible. The critic, in his zeal for change, writes with so little consideration, as to say, that Hamlet cannot call his father canonized, because we are told he was murdered with all his sins fresh upon him. He was not then told it, and had so little the power of knowing it, that he was to be told it by an apparition. The long succession of reasons upon reasons prove nothing, but what every reader discovers, that the king had been buried, which is implied by so many adjuncts of burial, that the direct mention of earth is not necessary. Hamlet, amazed at an apparition, which, though in all ages credited, has in all ages been considered as the most wonderful and most dreadful operation of supernatural agency, enquires of the spectre, in the most emphatic terms, why he breaks the order of nature, by returning from the dead; this he asks in a very confused circumlocution, confounding in his fright the soul and body. Why, says he, have thy bones, which with due ceremonies have been intombed in death, in the common state of departed mortals, burst the folds in which they were embalmed? Why has the tomb, in which we saw thee quietly laid, opened his mouth, that mouth which, by its weight and stability, seemed closed for ever? The whole sentence is this: Why dost thou appear, whom we know to be dead?
Had the change of the word removed any obscurity, or added any beauty, it might have been worth a struggle; but either reading leaves the sense the same.
If there be any asperity in this controversial note, it must be imputed to the contagion of peevishneas, or some resentment of the incivility shewn to the Oxford editor, who is represented as supposing the ground canonized by a funeral, when he only meant to say, that the body has deposited in holy ground, in ground consecrated according to the canon.
I.iv.65 (183,9) I do not set my life at a pin's fee] The value of a pin. (1773)
I.iv.73 (183,1) deprive your sovereignty] I believe deprive in this place signifies simply to take away.
I.iv.77 (184,4) confin'd to fast in fires] I am rather inclined to read, confin'd to lasting fires, to fires unremitted and unconsumed. The change is slight.
I.v.30 (186,7) As meditation or the thoughts of love] The comment [Warburton's] on the word meditation is so ingenious, that I hope it is just.
I.v.77 (188,6) Unhonsel'd, disappointed, unaneal'd] This is a very difficult line. I think Theobald's objection to the sense of unaneal'd, for notified by the bell, must be owned to be very strong. I have not yet by my enquiry satisfied myself. Hanmer's explication of unaneal'd by unprepar'd, because to anneal metals, is to prepare them in manufacture, is too general and vague; there is no resemblance between any funeral ceremony and the practice of annealing metals.
Disappointed is the same as unappointed, and may be properly explained unprepared; a man well furnished with things necessary for any enterprize, was said to be well appointed.
I.v.80 (190,7) Oh, horrible! oh, horrible! most horrible!] It was ingeniously hinted to me by a very learned lady, that this line seems to belong to Hamlet, in whose mouth it is a proper and natural exclamation; and who, according to the practice of the stage, may be supposed to interrupt so long a speech. (1773)
I.v.154 (193,5) Swear by my sword] [Here the poet has preserved the manners of the ancient Danes, with whom it was religion to swear upon their swords. WARBURTON.] I was once inclinable to this opinion, which is likewise well defended by Mr. Upton; but Mr. Garrick produced me a passage, I think, in Brantoms, from which it appeared, that it was common to swear upon the sword, that is, upon the cross which the old swords always had upon the hilt.
II.i.25 (197,8) drinking, fencing, swearing] I suppose, by fencing is meant a too diligent frequentation of the fencing-school, a resort of violent and lawless young men.
II.i.46 (197,4) Good Sir, or so, or friend, or gentleman] [W: sire] I know not that sire was ever a general word of compliment, as distinct from sir; nor do I conceive why any alteration should be made. It is a common mode of colloquial language to use, or so, as a slight intimation of more of the same, or a like kind, that might be mentioned. We might read, but we need not,
Good sir, forsooth, or friend, or gentleman.
Forsooth, a term of which I do not well know the original meaning, was used to men as well as to women.
II.i.71 (198,5) Observe his inclination in yourself] HANMER reads, e'en yourself, and is followed by Dr. Warburton; but perhaps in yourself means, in your own person, not by spies.
II.i.112 (200,7) I had not quoted him] To quote is, I believe, to reckon, to take an account of, to take the quotient or result of a computation.
it as proper to our age To cast beyond ourselves in our opinions, As it is common for the younger sort To lack discretion]
This is not the remark of a weak man. The vice of age is too much suspicion. Men long accustomed to the wiles of life cast commonly beyond themselves, let their cunning go further than reason can attend it. This is always the fault of a little mind, made artful by long commerce with the world.
For the supply and profit of our hope, Your visitation shall receive such thanks]
That the hope which your arrival has raised may be completed by the desired effect.
II.ii.47 (203,4) the trail of policy] The trail is the course of an animal pursued by the scent.
Il.ii.52 (203,5) My news shall be the fruit of that great feast] The desert after the meat.
II.ii.84 (204,7) at night we'll feast] The king's intemperance is never suffered to be forgotten.
II.ii.86-167 (205,8) My liege, and Madam, to expostulate] This account of the character of Polonius, though it sufficiently reconciles the seeming inconsistency of so much wisdom with so much folly, does not perhaps correspond exactly to the ideas of our author. The commentator Warburton makes the character of Polonius, a character only of manners, discriminated by properties superficial, accidental, and acquired. The poet intended a nobler delineation of a mixed character of manners and of nature. Polonius is a man bred in courts, exercised in business, stored with observations, confident of his knowledge, proud of his eloquence, and declining into dotage. His mode of oratory is truly represented as designed to ridicule the practice of those times, of prefaces that made no introduction, and of method that embarrassed rather than explained. This part of his character is accidental, the rest is natural. Such a man is positive and confident, because he knows that his mind was once strong, and knows not that it is become weak. Such a man excels in general principles, but fails in the particular application. He is knowing in retrospect, and ignorant in foresight. While he depends upon his memory, and can draw from his repositories of knowledge, he utters weighty sentences, and gives useful counsel; but as the mind in its enfeebled state cannot be kept long busy and intent, the old man is subject to sudden dereliction of his faculties, he loses the order of his ideas, and entangles himself in his own thoughts, till he recovers the leading principle, and falls again into his former train. This idea of dotage encroaching upon wisdom, will solve all the phaenomena of the character of Polonius.
II.ii.109 (207,1) To the celestial, and my soul's idol, the most beautified Ophelia] [T: beatified] Both Sir Thomas Hanmer and Dr. Warburton have followed Theobald, but I am in doubt whether beautified, though, as Polonius calls it, a vile phrase, be not the proper word. Beautified seems to be a vile phrase, for the ambiguity of its meaning, (rev. 1778, X, 241, 3)
II.ii.126 (208,2) more above] is, moreover, besides.
II.ii.145 (209,6) she took the fruits of my advice] She took the fruits of advice when she obeyed advice, the advice was then made fruitful.
II.ii.181 (211,9) For if the sun breed maggots in a dead dog,/Being a god, kissing carrion] [This is Warburton's emendation for "a good kissing"] This is a noble emendation, which almost sets the critic on a level with the author.
II.ii.265 (214,2) the shadow of a dream] Shakespeare has accidentally inverted an expression of Pindar, that the state of humanity is the dream of a shadow.
II.ii.269 (215,3) Then are our beggars, bodies] Shakespeare seems here to design a ridicule of these declamations against wealth and greatness, that seem to make happiness consist in poverty.
II.ii.336 (217,7) shall end his part in peace] [After these words the folio adds, the clown shall make those laugh whose lungs are tickled o' th' sere. WARBURTON.] This passage I have omitted, for the same reason, I suppose, as the other editors: I do not understand it.
II.ii.338 (217,8) the lady shall say her mind freely, or the blank verse shall halt for't] The lady shall have no obstruction, unless from the lameness of the verse.
II.ii.346 (217,9) I think, their inhibition comes by the means of the late innovation] I fancy this is transposed: Hamlet enquires not about an inhibition, but an innovation; the answer therefore probably was, I think, their innovation, that is, their new practice of strolling, comes by the means of the late inhibition.
II.ii.352-379 (218,1) Ham. How comes it? do they grow rusty?] The lines marked with commas are in the folio of 1623, but not in the quarto of 1637, nor, I suppose, in any of the quartos.
II.ii.355 (218,2) cry out on the top of question] The meaning seems to be, they ask a common question in the highest notes of the voice.
II.ii.362 (218,3) escoted] Paid.
II.ii.362 (218,4) Will they pursue quality no longer than they can sing?] Will they follow the profession of players no longer than they keep the voices of boys? So afterwards he says to the player, Come, give us a taste of your quality; come, a passionate speech.
II.ii.370 (219,6) to tarre them on to controversy] To provoke any animal to rage, is to tarre him. The word is said to come from the Greek. (1773)
II.ii.380 (219,8) It is not very strange, for mine uncle is king of Denmark] I do not wonder that the new players have so suddenly risen to reputation, my uncle supplies another example of the facility with which honour is conferred upon new claimants.
II.ii.412 (220,2) Buz, buz!] Mere idle talk, the buz of the vulgar.
II.ii.414 (220,3) Then came each actor on his ass] This seems to be a line of a ballad.
II.ii.420 (221,6) For the law of writ, and the liberty, these are the only men] All the modern editions have, the law of wit, and the liberty; but both my old copies have, the law of writ, I believe rightly. Writ, for writing, composition. Wit was not, in our author's time, taken either for imagination, or acuteness, or both together, but for understanding, for the faculty by which we apprehend and judge. Those who wrote of the human mind distinguished its primary powers into wit and will. Ascham distinguishes boys of tardy and of active faculties into quick wits and slow wits.
II.ii.438 (221,8) the first row of the pious chanson] [It is pons chansons in the first folio edition. POPE.] It is pons chansons in the quarto too. I know not whence the rubric has been brought, yet it has not the appearance of an arbitrary addition. The titles of old ballads were never printed red; but perhaps rubric may stand for marginal explanation.
II.ii.439 (222,9) For, look, where my abridgment comes] He calls the players afterwards, the brief chronicles of the time; but I think he now means only those who will shorten my talk.
II.ii.448 (223,2) be not crack'd within the ring] That is, crack'd too much for use. This is said to a young player who acted the parts of women.
II.ii.450 (223,3) like French faulconers] HANMER, who has much illustrated the allusions to falconry, reads, like French falconers. [French falconers is not a correction by Hanmer, but the reading of the first folio. STEEVENS.] (see 1765, VIII, 198, 1)
II.ii.459 (223,5) (as I received it, and others whose judgment in such matters cried in the top of mine)] [i.e. whose judgment I had the highest opinion of. WARBURTON.] I think it means only that were higher than mine.
II.ii.466 (224,8) but called it, an honest method] Hamlet is telling how much his judgment differed from that of others. One said, there was no salt in the lines, &c. but call'd it an honest method. The author probably gave it, But I called it an honest method, &c.
II.ii.525 (226,9) the mobled queen] Mobled signifies huddled, grossly covered.
II.ii.587 (228,5) the cue for passion] The hint, the direction.
II.ii.589 (228,6) the general ear] The ears of all mankind. So before, Caviare to the general, that is, to the multitude.
II.ii.595 (229,7) unpregnant of my cause] [Unpregnant, for having no due sense of. WARBURTON.] Rather, not quickened with a new desire of vengeance; not teeming with revenge.
II.ii.598 (229,8) A damn'd defeat was made] [Defeat, for destruction. WARBURTON.] Rather, dispossession.
II.ii.608 (229,1) kindless] Unnatural.
II.ii.616 (229,3) About, my brain!] Wits, to your work. Brain, go about the present business.
II.ii.625 (230,5) tent him] Search his wounds.
II.ii.632 (230,7) More relative than this] [Relative, for convictive. WARB.] Convictive is only the consequential sense. Relative is, nearly related, closely connected.
III.i.17 (231,2) o'er-raught on the way] Over-raught is over-reached, that is, over-took.
III.i.31 (232,4) Affront Ophelia.] To affront, is only to meet directly.
III.i.47 (233,5) 'Tis too much prov'd] It is found by too frequent experience.
III.i.52 (233,6) more ugly to the thing that helps it] That is, compared with the thing that helps it.
III.i.56-88 (233,7) To be, or not to be?] Of this celebrated soliloquy, which bursting from a man distracted with contrariety of desires, and overwhelmed with the magnitude of his own purposes, is connected rather in the speaker's mind, than on his tongue, I shall endeavour to discover the train, and to shew how one sentiment produces another. Hamlet, knowing himself injured in the most enormous and atrocious degree, and seeing no means of redress, but such as must expose him to the extremity of hazard, meditates on his situation in this manner: Before I can form any rational scheme of action under this pressure of distress, it is necessary to decide, whether, after our present state, we are to be or not to be. That is the question, which, as it shall be answered, will determine, whether 'tis nobler, and more suitable to the dignity of reason, to suffer the outrages of fortune patiently, or to take arms against them, and by opposing end them, though perhaps with the loss of life. If to die, were to sleep, no more, and by a sleep to end the miseries of our nature, such a sleep were devoutly to be wished; but if to sleep in death, be to dream, to retain our powers of sensibility, we must pause to consider, in that sleep of death what dreams may come. This consideration makes calamity so long endured; for who would bear the vexations of life, which might be ended by a bare bodkin, but that he is afraid of something in unknown futurity? This fear it is that gives efficacy to conscience, which, by turning the mind upon this regard, chills the ardour of resolution, checks the vigour of enterprize, and makes the current of desire stagnate in inactivity. We may suppose that he would have applied these general observations to his own case, but that he discovered Ophelia.
III.i.59 (234,8) Or to take arms against a sea of troubles] [W: against assail] Mr. Pope proposed siege. I know not why there should be so much solicitude about this metaphor. Shakespeare breaks his metaphors often, and in this desultory speech there was less need of preserving them.
III.i.70 (235,2) the whips and scorns of time] [W: of th' time] I doubt whether the corruption of this passage is not more than the editor has suspected. Whips and scorns have no great connexion with one another, or with time: whips and scorns are evils of very different magnitude, and though at all times scorn may be endured, yet the times that put men ordinarily in danger of whips, are very rare. Falstaff has said, that the courtiers would whip him with their quick wits; but I know not that whip can be used for a scoff or insult, unless its meaning be fixed by the whole expression.
I am afraid lest I should venture too far in correcting this passage. If whips be retained, we may read,
For who would bear the whips and scorns of tyrant.
But I think that quip, a sneer, a sarcasm, a contemptuous jest, is the proper word, as suiting very exactly with scorn. What then must be done with time? it suits no better with the new reading than with the old, and tyrant is an image too bulky and serious. I read, but not confidently,
For who would bear the quips and scorns of title.
It say be remarked, that Hamlet, in his enumeration of miseries, forgets, whether properly or not, that he is a prince, and mentions many evils to which inferior stations only are exposed.
III.i.77 (236,4) To groan and sweat] All the old copies have, to grunt and sweat. It is undoubtedly the true reading, but can scarcely be borne by modern ears.
III.i.89 (237,5) Nymph, in thy orisons] This is a touch of nature. Hamlet, at the sight of Ophelia, does not immediately recollect, that he is to personate madness, but makes her an address grave and solemn, such as the foregoing meditation excited in his thoughts.
III.i.107 (237,6) That if you be honest and fair, you should admit no discourse to your beauty] This is the reading of all the modern editions, and is copied from the quarto. The folio reads, your honesty should admit no discourse to your beauty. The true reading seems to be this, If you be honest and fair, you should admit your honesty to no discourse with your beauty. This is the sense evidently required by the process of the conversation.
III.i.127 (238,7) I have thoughts to put them in] To put a thing into thought, is to think on it.
III.i.148 (239,8) I have heard of your paintings too, well enough] This is according to the quarto; the folio, for painting, has prattlings, and for face, has pace, which agrees with what follows, you jig, you amble. Probably the author wrote both. I think the common reading best.
III.i.152 (239,9) make your wantonness your ignorance] You mistake by wanton affectation, and pretend to mistake by ignorance.
III.i.161 (239,2) the mould of form] The model by whom all endeavoured to form themselves.
III.ii.12 (241,3) the groundlings] The meaner people then seem to have sat below, as they now sit in the upper gallery, who, not well understanding poetical language, were sometimes gratified by a mimical and mute representation of the drama, previous to the dialogue.
III.ii.14 (242,4) inexplicable dumb shews] I believe the meaning is, shews, without words to explain them.
III.ii.26 (242,6) the very age and body of the time, his form and pressure] The age of the time can hardly pass. May we not read, the face and body, or did the author write, the page? The page suits well with form and pressure, but ill with body.
III.ii.28 (242,7) pressure] Resemblance, as in a print.
III.ii.34 (242,8) (not to speak it profanely)] Profanely seems to relate, not to the praise which he has mentioned, but to the censure which he is about to utter. Any gross or indelicate language was called profane.
III.ii.66 (243,9) the pregnant hinges of the knee] I believe the sense of pregnant in this place is, quick, ready, prompt.
III.ii.68 (244,1) my dear soul] Perhaps, my clear soul.
III.ii.74 (244,2) Whose blood and judgment] According to the doctrine of the four humours, desire and confidence were seated in the blood, and judgment in the phlegm, and the due mixture of the humours made a perfect character.
III.ii.89 (244,3) Vulcan's stithy] Stithy is a smith's anvil.
III.ii.103 (245,4) nor mine now] A man's words, says the proverb, are his own no longer than he keep them unspoken.
III.ii.112 (245,5) 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."
III.ii.123 (245,6) Do you think I meant country matters?] I think we must read, Do you think I meant country manners? Do you imagine that I meant to sit in your lap, with such rough gallantry as clowns use to their lasses?
III.ii.137 (246,7) Nay, then, let the devil wear black, for I'll have a suit of sables] I know not why our editors should, with such implacable anger, persecute our predecessors. 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 the 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 was 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.
III.ii.147 (249,1) Marry, this is miching maliche; it means mischief] [W: malhechor] I think Hanmer's exposition most likely to be right. Dr. Warburton, to justify his interpretation, must write, miching for malechor, and even then it will be harsh.
III.ii.167 (250,3) sheen] Splendor, lustre.
III.ii.177 (250,4) For women fear too much, even as they love] Here seems to be a line lost, which should have rhymed to love.
III.ii.192 (251,6) The instances, that second marriage move] The motives.
Most necessary 'tis, that we forget To pay ourselves what to ourselves is debt]
The performance of a resolution, in which only the resolver is interested, is a debt only to himself, which he may therefore remit at pleasure.
The violence of either grief or joy, Their own enactures with themselves destroy]
What grief or joy enact or determine in their violence, is revealed in their abatement. Enactures is the word in the quarto; all the modern editions have enactors.
III.ii.229 (252,9) An anchor's cheer in prison be my scope] May my whole liberty and enjoyment be to live on hermit's fare in a prison. Anchor is for anchoret.
III.ii.250 (253,1) Baptista] Baptista is, I think, in Italian, the name always of a man.
III.ii.262 (254,4) So you must take your husbands] Read, So you must take your husbands [in place of "mistake"]; that is, for better, for worse.
III.ii.288 (255,5) with two provencial roses on my rayed shoes] When shoe-strings were worn, they were covered, where they met in the middle, by a ribband, gathered into the form of a rose. So in an old song,
Gil-de-Roy was a bonny boy, Had roses tull his shoen.
Rayed shoes, are shoes braided in lines.
III.ii.304 (256,1) For if the king like not the comedy/Why, then, belike] Hamlet was going on to draw the consequence when the courtiers entered.
III.ii.314 (256,2) With drink, Sir?] Hamlet takes particular care that his uncle's love of drink shall not be forgotten.
III.ii.346 (257,3) further trade] Further business; further dealing.
III.ii.348 (257,4) by these pickers] By these hands.
III.ii.373 (258,6) ventages] The holes of a flute.
III.ii.401 (259,9) they fool me to the top of my bent] They compel me to play the fool, till I can endure to do it no longer.
III.iii.7 (261,4) Out of his lunes] [The old quartos read,
Out of his brows.
This was from the ignorance of the first editors; as is this unnecessary Alexandrine, which we owe to the players. The poet, I am persuaded, wrote,
--us doth hourly grow out of his lunes.
i.e. his madness, frenzy. THEOBALD.]
Lunacies is the reading of the folio.
I take brows to be, properly read, frows, which, I think, is a provincial word for perverse humours; which being, I suppose, not understood, was changed to lunacies. But of this I an not confident. [Steevens adopted Theobald's emendation]
III.iii.33 (262,7) of vantage] By some opportunity of secret observation.
III.iii.56 (263,9) May one be pardon'd, and retain the offence?] He that does not amend what can be amended, retains his offence. The king kept the crown from the right heir.
III.iii.66 (263,1) Yet what can it, when one cannot repent?] What can repentance do for a man that cannot be penitent, for a man who has only part of penitence, distress of conscience, without the other part, resolution of amendment.
III.iii.77 (264,1) I, his sole son, do this same villain send] The folio reads foule son, a reading apparently corrupted from the quarto. The meaning is plain. I, his only son, who am bound to punish his murderer.
III.iii.88 (264,2) Up, sword, and know thou a more horrid hent] [T: bent] This reading is followed by Sir T. HANMER and Dr. WARBURTON; but hent is probably the right vord. To hent is used by Shakespeare for, to seize, to catch, to lay hold on. Hent is, therefore, hold, or seizure. Lay hold on him, sword, at a more horrid time.
III.iii.94 (265,3) his soul may be as damn'd and black/As hell, whereto it goes] This speech, in which Hamlet, represented as a virtuous character, is not content vith taking blood for blood, but contrives damnation for the man that he would punish, is too horrible to be read or to be uttered.
III.iv.4 (266,4) I'll silence me e'en here:/Pray you, be round vith him] Sir T. HANMER, who is folloved by Dr. WARBURTON, reads,
--I'll sconce me here.
Retire to a place of security. They forget that the contrivance of Polonius to overhear the conference, was no more told to the queen than to Hamlet.--I'll silence me even here, is, I'll use no more words.
Heaven's face doth glow; Yea, this solidity and compound mass, With tristful visage, as against the doom, It thought-sick at the act]
[W: O'er this ... visage, and, as 'gainst] The word heated [from the "old quarto"], though it agrees well enough with glow, is, I think, not so striking as tristful, which was, I suppose, chosen at the revisal. I believe the whole passage now stands as the author gave it. Dr. WARBURTON's reading restores two improprieties, which Shakespeare, by his alteration, had removed. In the first, and in the new reading: Heaven's face glows with tristful visage; and, Heaven's face is thought-sick. To the common reading there is no just objection.
III.iv.52 (268,9) what act, That roars so loud, and thunders in the index?] The meaning is, What is this act, of which the discovery, or mention, cannot be made, but with this violence of clamour?
III.iv.82 (270,5) Rebellious hell,/If thou canst mutiny in a matron's bones] I think the present reading right, but cannot admit that HANMER's emendation ["Rebellious heat"] produces nonsense. May not what is said of heat, be said of hell, that it will mutiny wherever it is quartered? Though the emendation be elegant, it is not necessary. (1773)
III.iv.88 (271,6) reason panders will] So the folio, I think rightly; but the reading of the quarto is defensible;
--reason pardons will.
III.iv.90 (271,7) grained] Dyed in grain.
III.iv.92 (271,8) incestuous bed] The folio has enseamed, that is, greasy bed.
III.iv.98 (271,9) vice of kings!] a low mimick of kings. The vice is the fool of a farce; from whom the modern punch is descended.
III.iv.102 (272,2) A king of shreds and patches] This is said, pursuing the idea of the vice of kings. The vice was dressed as a fool, in a coat of party-coloured patches.
III.iv.107 (272,3) lap's in time and passion] That, having suffered time to slip, and passion to cool, lets go, &c.
III.iv.151 (274,6) And do not spread the compost on the weeds/To make them ranker] Do not, by any new indulgence, heighten your former offences.
III.iv.155 (274,7) curb] That is, bend and truckle. Fr. courber.
III.iv.161 (274,8) That monster custom, who all sense doth eat/ Of habits evil, is angel yet in this] [Thirlby: habits evil] I think THIRLBY's conjecture wrong, though the succeeding editors have followed it; angel and devil are evidently opposed. [Steevens accepted "evil"]
III.iv.203 (277,5) adders fang'd] That is, adders with their fangs, or poisonous teeth, undrawn. It has been the practice of mountebanks to boast the efficacy of their antidotes by playing with vipers, but they first disabled their fangs.
IV.i (278,l) A royal apartment. Enter King, Queen, Rosencrantz, and Guildenstern] This play is printed in the old editions without any separation of the acts. The division is modern and arbitrary; and is here not very happy, for the pause is made at a time when there is more continuity of action than in almost any other of the scenes.
IV.i.18 (278,2) out of haunt] I would rather read, out of harm.
his very madness, like some ore among a mineral of metals base, Shews itself pure]
Shakespeare seems to think ore to be or, that is, gold. Base metals have ore no less than precious.
IV.ii.19 (281,5) he keeps them, like an ape, in the corner of his jaw] The quarto has apple, which is generally followed. The folio has ape, which HANMER has received, and illustrated with the following note.
"It is the way of monkeys in eating, to throw that part of their food, which they take up first, into a pouch they are provided with on the side of their jaw, and then they keep it, till they have done with the rest."
IV.ii.28 (281,6) The body is with the king] This answer I do not comprehend. Perhaps it should be, The body is not with the king, for the king is not with the body.
IV.ii.32 (282,7) Of nothing] Should it not be read, Or nothing? When the courtiers remark, that Hamlet has contemptuously called the king a thing, Hamlet defends himself by observing, that the king must be a thing, or nothing.
IV.ii.46 (283,9) the wind at help] I suppose it should be read, The bark is ready, and the wind at helm.
IV.ii.68 (284,3) And thou must cure me: till I know 'tis done,/ Howe'er my haps, my joys will ne'er begin] This being the termination of a scene, should, according to our author's custom, be rhymed. Perhaps he wrote,
Howe'er my hopes, my joys are not begun.
If haps be retained, the meaning will be, 'till I know 'tis done, I shall be miserable, whatever befall me (see 1785, VIII, 257, 3)
What is a man, If his chief good and market of his time Be but to sleep and feed?]
If his highest good, and that for which he sells his time, be to sleep and feed.
IV.iv.36 (286,5) large discourse] Such latitude of comprehension, such power of reviewing the past, and anticipating the future.
IV.iv.53 (286,6) Rightly to be great,/Is not to stir without great argument] This passage I have printed according to the copy. Mr. THEOBALD had regulated it thus:
--'Tis not to be great, Never to stir without great argument; But greatly, &c.
The sentiment of Shakespeare is partly just, and partly romantic.
--Rightly to be great, Is not to stir without great argument;
is exactly philosophical.
But greatly to find quarrel in a straw, When honour is at stake,
is the idea of a modern hero. But then, says he honour is an argument, or subject of debate, sufficiently great, and when honour is at stake, we must find cause of quarrel in a straw.
IV.iv.56 (287,7) Excitements of my reason and my blood] Provocations which excite both my reason and my passions to vengeance.
IV.v.37 (289,4) Larded all with sweet flowers] The expression is taken from cookery. (1773)
IV.v.53 (290,6) And dupt the chamber-door] To dup, is to do up; to lift the latch. It were easy to write,
IV.v.58 (290,7) By Gis] I rather imagine it should be read,
That is, by St. Cecily.
IV.v.83 (291,8) but greenly] But unskilfully; with greenness; that is, without maturity of judgment.
IV.v.84 (291,9) In hugger-mugger to inter him] All the modern editions that I have consulted give it,
In private to inter him;--
That the words now replaced are better, I do not undertake to prove; it is sufficient that they are Shakespeare's: if phraseology is to be changed as words grow uncouth by disuse, or gross by vulgarity, the history of every language will be lost; we shall no longer have the words of any author; and, as these alterations will be often unskilfully made, we shall in time have very little of his meaning.
IV.v.89 (292,1) Feeds on his wonder] The folio reads,
Keeps on his wonder,--
Feeds on this wonder.--
Thus the true reading is picked out from between them. HANMER reads unnecessarily,
Feeds on his anger.--
IV.v.92 (292,2) Wherein necessity, of matter beggar'd,/ Will nothing stick our persons to arraign] HANMER reads,
Whence animosity, of matter beggar'd.
He seems not to have understood the connection. Wherein, that is, in which pestilent speeches, necessity, or, the obligation of an accuser to support his charge, will nothing stick, &c.
IV.v.99 (293,4) The ocean, over-peering of his list] The lists are the barriers which the spectators of a tournament must not pass.
IV.v.105 (293,5) The ratifiers and props of every ward] [W: ward] With this emendation, which was in Theobald's edition, Hanmer was not satisfied. It is indeed harsh. HANMER transposes the lines, and reads,
They cry, "Chuse we Laertes for our king;" The ratifiers and props of every word, Caps, hands, and tongues, applaud it to the clouds.
I think the fault may be mended at less expence, by reading,
Antiquity forgot, custom not known, The ratifiers and props of every weal.
That is, of every government.
IV.v.110 (294,6) Oh, this is counter, you false Danish dogs] Hounds run counter when they trace the trail backwards.
Nature is fine in loves and, where 'tis fine, It sends some precious instance of itself After the thing it loves]
These lines are not in the quarto, and might hare been omitted in the folio without great loss, for they are obscure and affected; but, I think, they require no emendation. Love (says Laertes) is the passion by which nature is most exalted and refined; and as substances refined and subtilised, easily obey any impulse, or follow any attraction, some part of nature, so purified and refined, flies off after the attracting object, after the thing it loves.
As into air the purer spirits f1ow, And separate from their kindred dregs below, So flew her soul.
IV.v.171 (297,1) O how the wheel becomes it!] [W: weal] I do not see why weal is better than wheel. The story alluded to I do not know; but perhaps the lady stolen by the steward was reduced to spin.
IV.v.175 (297,2) There's rosemary, that'll far rememberance. Pray you, love, remember. And there's pansies, that's for thoughts] There is probably some mythology in the choice of these herbs, but I cannot explain it. Pansies is for thoughts, because of its name, Pensées; but rosemary indicates remembrance, except that it is an ever-green, and carried at funerals, I have not discovered.
IV.v.214 (300,7) No trophy, sword, nor batchment] It was the custom, in the times of our author, to hang a sword over the grave of a knight.
IV.v.218 (300,8) And where the offence is, let the great axe fall] [W: tax] Fall corresponds better to axe.
IV.vi.26 (301,9) for the bore of the matter] The bore is the calibier of a gun, or the capacity of the barrel. The matter (says Hamlet) would carry the heavier words.
IV.vii.18 (302,1) the general gender] The common race of the people.
dipping all his faults in their affection, Would, like the spring that turneth wood to stone, Convert his gyves to graces]
This simile is neither very seasonable in the deep interest of this conversation, nor very accurately applied. If the spring had changed base metals to gold, the thought had been more proper.
IV.vii.27 (302,3) if praises may go back again] If I may praise what has been, but is now to be found no more.
IV.vii.77 (304,5) Of the unworthiest siege] Of the lowest rank. Siege, for seat, place.
IV.vii.82 (304,6) Importing health and graveness] [W: wealth] Importing here may be, not inferring by logical consequence, but producing by physical effect. A young man regards show in his dress, an old man, health.
IV.vii.90 (305,7) I, in forgery of shapes and tricks/Come short of what he did] I could not contrive so many proofs of dexterity as he could perform.
IV.vii.98 (305,8) in your defence] That is, in the science of defence.
IV.vii.101 (305,9) The scrimers] The fencers.
IV.vii.112 (305,1) love is begun by time] This is obscure. The meaning may be, love is not innate in us, and co-essential to our nature, but begins at a certain time from some external cause, and being always subject to the operations of time, suffers change and diminution. (1773)
IV.vii.113 (300,2) in passages of proof] In transactions of daily experience.
IV.vii.123 (306,4) And then this should is like a spendthrift sigh/ That hurts by easing] [W: sign] This conjecture is so ingenious, that it can hardly be opposed, but with the same reluctance as the bow is drawn against a hero, whose virtues the archer holds in veneration. Here may be applied what Voltaire writes to the empress:
Le genereux Francois-- Te combat & t'admire.
Yet this emendation, however specious, is mistaken. The original reading is, not a spendthrift's sigh, but a spendthrift sigh; a sigh that makes an unnecessary waste of the vital flame. It is a notion very prevalent, that sighs impair the strength, and wear out the animal powers.
IV.vii.135 (307,5) He being remiss] He being not vigilant or cautious.
IV.vii.139 (307,7) a pass of practice] Practice is often by Shakespeare, and other writers, taken for an insidious stratagem, or privy treason, a sense not incongruous to this passage, where yet I rather believe, that nothing more is meant than a thrust for exercise.
IV.vii.151 (308,8) May fit us to our shape] May enable us to assume proper characters, and to act our part.
IV.vii.155 (308,9) blast in proof] This, I believe, is a metaphor taken from a mine, which, in the proof or execution, sometimes breaks out with an ineffectual blast.
V.i.3 (310,1) make her grave straight] Make her grave from east to west in a direct line parallel to the church; not from north to south, athwart the regular line. This, I think, is meant.
V.i.87 (313,1) which this ass now o'er-reaches] In the quarto, for over-offices is, over-reaches, which agrees better with the sentence: it is a strong exaggeration to remark that an ass can over-reach him who would once have tried to circumvent.--I believe both the words were Shakespeare's. An author in revising his work, when his original ideas have faded from his mind, and new observations have produced new sentiments, easily introduces images which have been more newly impressed upon him, without observing their want of congruity to the general texture of his original design.
V.i.96 (314,2) and now my lady Worm's] The scull that was my lord Such a one's, is now my lady Worm's.
V.i.100 (314,3) to play at loggats with 'em?] A play, in which pins are set up to be beaten down with a bowl.
V.i.149 (316,5) by the card] The card is the paper on which the different points of the compass were described. To do any thing by the card, is, to do it with nice observation.
V.i.151 (316,6) the age is grown so picked] So smart, so sharp, says HANMER, very properly; but there was, I think, about that time, a picked shoe, that is, a shoe with a long pointed toe, in fashion, to which the allusion seems likewise to be made. Every man now is smart; and every man now is a man of fashion.
V.i.239 (319,7) winter's flaw!] Winter's blast.
V.i.242 (319,8) maimed rites!] Imperfect obsequies.
V.i.244 (319,9) some estate] Some person of high rank.
V.i.255 (319,2) Yet here she is allow'd her virgin crants] I have been informed by an anonymous correspondent, that crants is the German word for garlands, and I suppose it was retained by us from the Saxons. To carry garlands before the bier of a maiden, and to hang them over her grave, is still the practice in rural parishes.
Crants therefore was the original word, which the author, discovering it to be provincial, and perhaps not understood, changed to a term more intelligible, but less proper. Maiden rites give no certain or definite image. He might have put maiden wreaths, or maiden garlands, but he perhaps bestowed no thought upon it, and neither genius nor practice will always supply a hasty writer with the most proper diction.
V.i.310 (323,6) When that her golden couplets] [W: E'er that] Perhaps it should be,
Yet and that are easily confounded.
V.ii.6 (324,7) mutinies in the bilboes] Mutinies, the French word for seditious or disobedient fellows in the army or fleet. Bilboes, the ship's prison.
V.ii.6 (324,8) Rashly,/And prais'd be rashness for it--Let us know] Both my copies read,
--Rashly, And prais'd be rashness for it, let us know.
Hamlet, delivering an account of his escape, begins with saying, that he rashly--and then is carried into a reflection upon the weakness of human wisdom. I rashly--praised be rashness for it--Let us not think these events casual, but let us know, that is, take notice and remember, that we sometimes succeed by indiscretion, when we fail by deep plots, and infer the perpetual superintendance and agency of the Divinity. The observation is just, and will be allowed by every human being who shall reflect on the course of his own life.
V.ii.22 (325,9) With, ho! such bugs and goblins in my life] With such causes of terror, arising from my character and designs.
V.ii.29 (325,2) Being thus benetted round with villainies,/ Ere I could make a prologue to my brains] [W: mark the prologue ... bane] In my opinion no alteration is necessary. Hamlet is telling how luckily every thing fell out; he groped out their commission in the dark without waking them; he found himself doomed to immediate destruction. Something was to be done for his preservation. An expedient occurred, not produced by the comparison of one method with another, or by a regular deduction of consequences, but before he could make a prologue to his brains, they had begun the play. Before he could summon his faculties, and propose to himself what should be done, a complete scheme of action presented itself to him. His mind operated before he had excited it. This appears to me to be the meaning.
V.ii.41 (326,5) As peace should still her wheaten garland wear,/ And stand a comma 'tween their amities] HANMER reads,
And stand a cement--
I am again inclined to vindicate the old reading.
The expression of our author is, like many of his phrases, sufficiently constrained and affected, but it is not incapable of explanation. The comma is the note of connection and continuity of sentences; the period is the note of abruption and disjunction. Shakespeare had it perhaps in his mind to write, That unless England complied with the mandate, war should put a period to their amity; he altered his mode of diction, and thought that, in an opposite sense, he might put, that Peace should stand a comma between their amities. This is not an easy stile; but is it not the stile of Shakespeare?
V.ii.43 (327,6) as's of great charge] Asses heavily loaded. A quibble is intended between as the conditional particle, and ass the beast of burthen. That charg'd anciently signified leaded, may be proved from the following passage in The Widow's Tears, by Chapman, 1612.
"Thou must be the ass charg'd with crowns to make way." (see 1765, VIII, 294, 2)
V.ii.53 (327,7) The changeling never known] A changeling is a child which the fairies are supposed to leave in the room of that which they steal.
V.ii.68 (328,1) To quit him] To requite him; to pay him his due.
V.ii.84 (329,2) Dost know this water-fly] A water-fly, skips up and down upon the surface of the water, without any apparent purpose or reason, and is thence the proper emblem of a busy trifler.
V.ii.89 (329,3) It is a chough] A kind of jackdaw.
V.ii.112 (330,5) full of most excellent differences] Full of distinguishing excellencies.
V.ii.114 (330,6) the card or calendar of gentry] The general preceptor of elegance; the card by which a gentleman is to direct his course; the calendar by which he is to choose his time, that what he does may be both excellent and seasonable.
V.ii.115 (330,7) for you shall find in him the continent of what part a gentleman would see] You shall find him containing and comprising every quality which a gentleman would desire to contemplate for imitation. I know not but it should be read, You shall find him the continent.
V.ii.119 (330,9) and yet but raw neither in respect of his quick sail] [W: but slow] I believe raw to be the right word; it is a word of great latitude; raw signifies unripe, immature, thence unformed, imperfect, unskilful. The best account of him would be imperfect, in respect of his quick sail. The phrase quick sail was, I suppose, a proverbial term for activity of mind.
V.ii.122 (330,1) a soul of great article] This is obscure. I once thought it might have been, a soul of great altitude; but, I suppose, a soul of great article, means a soul of large comprehension, of many contents; the particulars of an inventory are called articles.
V.ii.122 (331,2) his infusion of such dearth and rareness] Dearth is dearness, value, price. And his internal qualities of such value and rarity.
V.ii.131 (331,3) Is't not possible to understand in another tongue? you will do't, Sir, really] Of this interrogatory remark the sense ie very obscure. The question may mean, Might not all this be understood in plainer language. But then, you will do it, Sir, really, seems to have no use, for who could doubt but plain language would be intelligible? I would therefore read, Is't possible not to be understood in a mother tongue. You will do it, Sir, really.
V.ii.140 (331,4) if you did, it would not much approve me] If you knew I was not ignorant, your esteem would not nuch advance my reputation. To approve, is to recommend to approbation.
V.ii.145 (331,5) I dare not confess that, lest I should compare with him in excellence] I dare not pretend to know him, lest I should pretend to an equality: no man can completely know another, but by knowing himself, which is the utmost extent of human wisdom.
V.ii.149 (332,6) in his meed] In his excellence.
V.ii.156 (332,7) impon'd] Perhaps it should be, depon'd. So Hudibras,
"I would upon this cause depone, "As much as any I have known."
But perhaps imponed is pledged, impawned, so spelt to ridicule the affectation of uttering English words with French pronunciation.
V.ii.165 (332,9) more germane.] Morea-kin.
V.ii.172 (333,1) The king, Sir, hath laid, that in a dozen passes between yourself and him, he shall not exceed you three hits; he hath laid on twelve for nine] This wager I do not understand. In a dozen passes one must exceed the other more or less than three hits. Nor can I comprehend, how, in a dozen, there can be twelve to nine. The passage is of no importance; it is sufficient that there was a wager. The quarto has the passage as it stands. The folio, He hath one twelve for mine.
V.ii.193 (333,2) This lapwing runs away with the shell on his head] I see no particular propriety in the image of the lapwing. Osrick did not run till he had done his business. We may read, This lapwing ran away--That is, this fellow was full of unimportant bustle from his birth.
V.ii.199 (334,4) a kind of yesty collection, which carries them through and through the most fond and winnowed opinions] [W: most fann'd] This is a very happy emendation; but I know not why the critic should suppose that fond was printed for fann'd in consequence of any reason or reflection. Such errors, to which there is no temptation but idleness, and of which there was no cause but ignorance, are in every page of the old editions. This passage in the quarto stands thus: "They have got out of the habit of encounter, a kind of misty collection, which carries them through and through the most profane and renowned opinions." If this printer preserved any traces of the original, our author wrote, "the most fane and renowned opinions," which is better than fann'd and winnow'd.
The meaning is, "these men have got the cant of the day, a superficial readiness of slight and cursory conversation, a kind of frothy collection of fashionable prattle, which yet carried them through the most select and approved judgment. This airy facility of talk sometimes imposes upon wise men."
Who has not seen this observation verified?
V.ii.201 (335,6) and do but blow them to their trials, the bubbles are out] These men of show, without solidity, are like bubbles raised from soap and water, which dance, and glitter, and please the eye, but if you extend them, by blowing hard, separate into a mist; so if you oblige these specious talkers to extend their compass of conversation, they at once discover the tenuity of their intellects.
V.ii.216 (335,7) gentle entertainment] Mild and temperate conversation.
V.ii.234 (336,1) Since no man knows aught of what he leaves, what is't to leave betimes?] The reading of the quarto was right, but in some other copy the harshness of the transposition was softened, and the passage stood thus: Since no man knows aught of what he leaves. For knows was printed in the later copies has, by a slight blunder in such typographers.
I do not think Dr. Warburton's interpretation of the passage the best that it will admit. The meaning may be this, Since no man knows aught of the state of life which he leaves, since he cannot judge what others years may produce, why should he be afraid of leaving life betimes? Why should he dread an early death, of which he cannot tell whether it is an exclusion of happiness, or an interception of calamity. I despise the superstition of augury and omens, which has no ground in reason or piety; my comfort is, that I cannot fall but by the direction of Providence.
Hanmer has, Since no man owes aught, a conjecture not very reprehensible. Since no man can call any possession certain, what is it to leave?
V.ii.237 (337,2) Give me your pardon, Sir] I wish Hamlet had made some other defence; it is unsuitable to the character of a good or a brave man, to shelter himself in falsehood.
V.ii.272 (338,5) Your grace hath laid upon the weaker side] Thus Hanmer. All the others read,
Your grace hath laid the odds o' the weaker side.
When the odds were on the side of Laertes, who was to hit Hamlet twelve times to nine, it was perhaps the author's slip.
V.ii.310 (340,7) you make a wanton of me] A wanton was, a man feeble and effeminate. In Cymbeline, Imogen says,
"I am not so citizen a wanton, To die, ere I be sick."
V.ii.346 (342,8) That are but mutes or audience to this act] That are either mere auditors of this catastrophe, or at most only mute performers, that fill the stage without any part in the action.
V.ii.375 (344,2) This quarry cries, on havock!] Hanmer reads,
--cries out, havock!
To cry on, was to exclaim against. I suppose, when unfair sportsmen destroyed more quarry or game than was reasonable, the censure was to cry, Havock.
(346) General Observation. If the dramas of Shakespeare were to be characterised, each by the particular excellence which distinguishes it from the rest, we must allow to the tragedy of Hamlet the praise of variety. The incidents are so numerous, that the argument of the play would make a long tale. The scenes are interchangeably diversified with merriment and solemnity; with merriment that includes judicious and instructive observations, and solemnity, not strained by poetical violence above the natural sentiments of man. New characters appear from time to time in continual succession, exhibiting various forms of life and particular modes of conversation. The pretended madness of Hamlet causes much mirth, the mournful distraction of Ophelia fills the heart with tenderness, and every personage produces the effect intended, from the apparition that in the first act chills the blood with horror, to the fop in the last, that exposes affectation to just contempt. The conduct is perhaps not wholly secure against objections. The action is indeed for the most part in continual progression, but there are some scenes which neither forward nor retard it. Of the feigned madness of Hamlet there appears no adequate cause, for he does nothing which he might not have done with the reputation of sanity. He plays the madman most, when he treats Ophelia with so much rudeness, which seems to be useless and wanton cruelty.
Hamlet is, through the whole play, rather an instrument than an agent. After he has, by the stratagem of the play, convicted the king, he makes no attempt to punish him, and his death is at last effected by an incident which Hamlet had no part in producing.
The catastrophe is not very happily produced; the exchange of weapons is rather an expedient of necessity, than a stroke of art. A scheme might easily have been formed to kill Hamlet with the dagger, and Laertes with the bowl.
The poet is accused of having shewn little regard to poetical justice, and may be charged with equal neglect of poetical probability. The apparition left the regions of the dead to little purpose; the revenge which he demands is not obtained, but by the death of him that was required to take it; and the gratification which would arise from the destruction of an usurper and a murderer, is abated by the untimely death of Ophelia, the young, the beautiful, the harmless, and the pious.