Page images

por the gait of christian, pagan, nor man, have so strutted, and bellowed, that I have thought some of nature's journeymen had made men, and not made them well, they imitated humanity so abominably.

1 Play. I hope, we have reformed that indifferently with us.

Ham. O, reform it altogether. And let those, that play your clowns, speak no more than is set down for them :' for there be of them, that will themselves laugh, to set on some quantity of barren spectators to laugh too; though, in the mean time, some necessary question of the play be then to be considered: that's villainous; and shows a most

[merged small][ocr errors]
[ocr errors]


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. Fohnson.
So, in Othello :-“he is a most profane and liberal counsellor."

Malone. speak no more than is set down for them:] So, in The Antipodes, by Brome, 1638:

you, sir, are incorrigible, and
“ Take licence to yourself to add unto
Your parts, your own free fancy,” &c.

That is a way, my lord, has been allow'd
* On elder stages, to move mirth and laughter."

Yes, in the days of Tarlton and of Kempe, “Before the stage was purg'd from barbarism,” &c. Stowe informs us, (p. 697, edit. 1615,) that among the twelve players who were sworn the queen's servants in 1583, two rare men, viz. Thomas Wilson, for a quick delicate refined extemporall witte ; and Richard Tarleton, for a wondrous plentifull, pleasant extemporall wit," &c.

Again, in Tarleton's Newes from Purgatory: - I absented myself from all plaies, as wanting that merrye Roscius of plaiers that famosed all comedies so with his pleasant and extemporall invention."

This cause for complaint, however, against low comedians, is still more ancient ; for in The Contention betwyxte Churchyard and Camell, &c. 1560, I find the following passage:

“ But Vices in stage plaies,

“ When theyr matter is gon,
They laugh out the reste

" To the lookers on.
And so wantinge matter,

“ You brynge in my coate,” &c. Steevens.
The clown very often addressed the audience, in the middle
of the play, and entered into a contest of raillery and sarcasm
with such of the audience as chose to engage with him. It is to
this absurd practice that Shakspeare alludes. Malone


pitiful ambition in the fool that uses it. Go, make you ready.

[Exeunt Players. Enter POLONIUS, ROSENCRANTZ, and GUILDENSTERN. How now, my lord? will the king hear this piece of work?

Pol. And the queen too, and that presently.
Ham. Bid the players make haste.-

[Exit Pol. Will you two help to hasten them?

Both. Ay, my lord. [Exeunt Ros. and GUIL.
Ham. What, ho; Horatio !

Hor. Here, sweet lord, at your service.

Ham. Horatio, thou art e’en as just a man
As e'er my conversation cop'd withal.

Hor. O, my dear lord,

Nay, do not think I flatter:
For what advancement may I hope from thee,
That no revenue hast, but thy good spirits,
To feed, and clothe thee? Why should the poor be flat-

ter'd ?
No, let the candied tongue lick absurd pomp;
And crook the pregnant hinges of the knee, 8
Where thrift may follow fawning. Dost thou hear?
Since my dear soul was mistress of her choice,
And could of men distinguish her election,
She hath seal'd thee for herself:1 for thou hast been
As one, in suffering all, that suffers nothing;
A man, that fortune's buffets and rewards
Hast ta’en with equal thanks: and bless'd are those,


the pregnant hinges of the knee,] I believe the sense of pregnant in this place is, quick, ready, prompt. Johnson. See Vol. III, p. 453, n. 7. Steevens.

my dear soul — ] Perhaps-my clear soul. Johnson. Dear soul is an expression equivalent to the pince ysvala, pinar Grog, of Homer. Steevens. 1 And could of men distinguish her election,

She hath seal’d thee for herself:] Thus the quarto. The folio thus :

And could of men distinguish, her election

Hath seald thee &c. Steevens. Mr. Ritson prefers the reading of the quarto, and observes, that to distinguish her election, is no more than to make her election. Distinguish of men, he adds, is exceeding harsh, to say the best of it. Reed.

Whose blood and judgment are so well co-mingled,
That they are not a pipe for fortune's finger
To sound what stop she please : Give me that man
That is not passion's slave, and I will wear him
In my heart's core, ay, in my heart of heart,
As I do thee.--Something too much of this.
There is a play to-night before the king;
One scene of it comes near the circumstance,
Which I have told thee of my father's death.
I pr’ythee, when thou seest that act a-foot,
Even with the very comment of thy soul
Observe my uncle: if his occulted guilt
Do not itself unkennel in one speech,
It is a damned ghost that we have seen;
And my imaginations are as foul
As Vulcan’s stithy." Give him heedful note:
For I mine eyes will rivet to his face;
And, after, we will both our judgments join
In censure of his seeming.

Well, my lord:
If he steal aught, the whilst this play is playing,
And scape detecting, I will pay the theft.

Ham. They are coming to the play; I must be idle:
Get you a place.
Danish March. A Flourish. Enter King, Queen, Polo-



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 inixture of the humours made a perfect character. Johnson.

co-mingled,] Thus the folio. The quarto reads-comedled; which had formerly the same meaning Malone.

my heart's core,] This expression occurs also in Chapman's translation of the sixth Iliad :

he wandred evermore
“ Alone through his Aleian field; and fed upon the core
Of his sad bosome.” Steevens.

Vulcan’s stithy.] Stithy is a smith's anvil. Fohnson.
So, in Troilus and Cressida:

“Now by the forge that stithied Mars's helm." The stith is the anvil, the stithy, the smith's shop. These words are familiar to me, being in constant use at Halifax, my native place. 7. Edwards. VOL. XV.



King. How fares our cousin Hamlet?

Hum. Excellent, i' faith; of the camelion's dish; I eat the air, promise-crammed: You cannot feed capons so.

King. I have nothing with this answer, Hamlet; these words are not mine.

Ham. No, nor mine now.6 My lord, you played once in the university, you say??

[To Pol.



nor mine now.] A man's words, says the proverb, are his own no longer than he keeps them unspoken. Johnson.

you played once in the university, you say?] It should seem from the following passage in Vice Chancellor Hatcher's Letters to Lord Burghley, on June 21, 1580, that the common players were likewise occasionally admitted to perform there : “ Where. as it has pleased your honour to recommend my lorde of Oxenford his players, that they might show their cunning in several plays already practised by ’em before the Queen's majesty": (denied on account of the pestilence and commencement:) " of late we denied the like to the Right Honourable the Lord of Leicester his servants." Farmer.

The practice of acting Latin plays in the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, is very ancient, and continued to near the middle of the last century. They were performed occasionally for the entertainment of princes and other great personages; and regularly at Christmas, at which time a Lord of misrule was appointed at Oxford, to regulate the exhibitions, and a similar of. ficer with the title of Imperator at Cambridge. The most cele. brated actors at Cambridge were the students of St. John's and King's colleges: at Oxford those of Christ Church. In the hall of that college a Latin comedy called Marcus Geminus, and the Latin tragedy of Progre, were performed before Queen Elizabeth in the year 1566; and in 1564, the Latin tragedy of Dido was played before her majesty, when she visited the university of Cainbridge. 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 statt-torch in his band. 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 Rivaies. 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;

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.

Ham. It was a brute part of him,2 to kill so capital a calf there.-Be the players ready?

Ros. Ay, my lord; they stay upon your patience.2
Queen. Come hither, my dear Hamlet, sit by me.
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.3


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 Vol. XIV, p. 2. Malone.

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
“ Upon a day as he was wont to gon,
" And in the capitolie anon him hente
“ This false Brutus, and his other soon,
“ And sticked him with bodekins anon
“ With many a wound,” &c. The Monkes Tale.

Tyrwhitt's edit. Vol. II, p. 31. Malone. 1 It was a brute part of him,] Sir John Harrington in his Me. tamorphosis of Ajax, 1596, has the same quibble : " O brave. minded 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 ? În Macbeth it is:

“ Noble Macbeth, we stay upon your leisure.Johnson.

at Ophelia's feet.] To lie at the feet of a mistress during any dramatick representation, seems to have been a common act



« PreviousContinue »