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Oph. No, my lord.
of gallantry. So, in The Queen of Corinth, by Beaumont and Fletcher:
“ 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 ladics lappes.” Steevens.
I mean, &c.] This speech and Ophelia's reply to it are omitted in the quartos. Steevens.
5 Do you think I meant country matters ?] Dr. Johnson, from a casual inadvertence, proposed to read-country manners. The old reading is certainly right. What Shakspeare meant to allude to, must be too obvious to every rcader, to require any explana. tion. Malone.
your only jig-maker.] There may have been some hu. mour 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 me. tre, 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 Figs of the slyppers, 1595. Kempe’s Fise of the Kitchin-stuff woman, 1595.” Steevens.
The following lines in the prologue to Fletcher's Love's Pil. grimage, 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. 116, n. 3. Malone.
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. O heavens! die two
A jig, though it signified a ludicrous dialogue in metre, yet it also was used for a dance. In the extract from Stephen Gosson in the next page but one, we have
tumbling, dancing of gigges.” Ritson.
Nay, then let the devil wear black, for I 'N 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. 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 is-Nay, 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 quear 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,---Tou 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 vexpor mein d'obXv8511, 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 meli ; 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 für 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,
months ago, and not forgotten yet? Then there 's hope, a great man's memory may outlive 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;'
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 “ 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 órdained, 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, and yond haberdasher in a velvet gown trimm'd with sables.?"
Florio, in his Italian Dictionary, 1598, thus explains zibilini: 66 The rich furre called sabics."--Sables is the skin of the sable Martin. See Cotgrare's French Dict. 1611: “ Sebilline Martre Sebel. The sable Martin; the beast whose skinne we call sables."
Malone. 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 edinces are no longer known to the vulgar, and are preserved only in antiquarian memoirs.
Steevens. 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, Warburtor.
whose epitaph is, For, O, for, O, the hobby-horse is for. got.
Trumpets sound. The dumb Show follows.? Enter a King and a Queen, very lovingly; the Queen em.
bracing him, and he her. She kneels, and makes show of protestation unto him. He takes her up, and declines his head upon her neck : lays him down upon a bank of flowers ; she, seeing him asleep, leaves him. Anon, comes in a fellow, takes off his crown, kisses it, and pours
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 enumerated in the list of dances: “ For the devil (says this author) beeside the beautie of the houses, and the stages, sendeth in gearish apparell, maskes, vauting, tumbling, dauncing of gigges, galiardes, morisces, hobbi-horses,” &c. and in Green's Tu Quoque, 1614, the same expression occurs : “ The other hobby-horse perceive is not forgotten."
In TEXNO TAMIA, or The Marriage of the Arts, 1618, is the following stage-direction:
“Enter a hobby-horse, dancing the morrice," c. Again, in Beaumont and Fletcher's Women Pleased :
“ Soto. Shall the hobby-horse be forgot then,
The hopeful hobby-horse, shall he lie founder'd ?" The scene in which this passage is, will very amply confirm all that Dr. Warburton has said concerning the hobby-horse.
Again, in Ben Jonson's Entertainment for the Queen and Prince at Althorpe :
• But see the hobby-horse is forgot,
The dumb show follows.] and appears to contain every circumstance of the murder of Hamlet's father. Now there is no apparent reason why the Usurper should not be as much affected by this mute representation of his crimes, as he is afterwards when the same action is accompanied by words.
I once conceived this might have been a kind of direction to the players, which was from mistake inserted in the editions ; but the subsequent conversation between Hamlet and Ophelia, entirely destroys such a notion. Pye.
I cannot reconcile myself to the exhibition in dumb show, preceding the interlude which is injudiciously introduced by the author, and should always be omitted on the stage; as we cannot well conceive why the mute representation of this crime should not affect as much the conscience of the King, as the scene that follows it. M. Mason.
poison in the King's ears, and exit. The Queen returns ; finds the King dead, and makes passionate action. The poisoner, with some two or three Mutes, comes in again, seeming to lament with her. The dead body is carried away. The poisoner wooes the Queen with gifts ; she seems loth and unwilling awhile, but, in the end, accepts his love.
[Exeunt. Oph. What means this, my lord?
Ham. Marry, this is miching mallecho; it means mischief.:
3 Marry, this is miching mallecho; it means mischief.] To mich signified, originally, to keep hid and out of sight; and, as such men generally did it for the purposes of lying in wait, it then signified to rob. And in this sense Shakspeare uses the noun, a micher, when speaking of Prince Henry amongst a gang of rob. bers. Shall the blessed son of heaven prove a micher? Shall the son of England prove a thief? And in this sense it is used by Chaucer, in his translation of Le Roman de la Rose, where he turns the word lierre, (which is larron, voleur,) by micher. Warburton.
Dr. Warburton is right in his explanation of the word miching. So, in The Raging Turk, 1631 :
wilt thou, envious dotard, “ Strangle my greatness in a miching hole?” Again, in Stanyhurst's Virgil, 1582:
wherefore thus vainely in land Lybye mitche you ?" The quarto reads-munching Mallico. Steevens.
The word miching is daily used in the West of England for playing truant, or sculking about in private for some sinister purpose; and malicho, inaccurately written for malheco, signifies Mischief! so that miching malicho is mischief on the watch for opportunity. When Ophelia asks Hamlet_" What means this?” she applies to him for an explanation of what she had not seen in the show: and not as Dr. Warburton would have it, the purpose for which the show was contrived. Besides, malhechor no more signifies a poisoner, than a perpetrator of any other crime. Henley.
miching mallecho;] A secret and wicked contrivance; a concealed wickedness. To mich is a provincial word, and was probably once general; signifying to lie hid, or play the truant. In Norfolk michers signify pilferers. The signification of miching in the present passage may be ascertained by a passage in Deck. er's Wonderful Yeare, 4to. 1603: “ Those that could shift for a time, -went most bitterly miching and muffled, up and downe, with rue and wormwood stuft into their eyes and nostrills.”
See also, Florio's Italian Dictionary, 1598, in v. Acciapinare: “ To miche, to shrug or sneak in some corner, and with powting lips to shew some anger.” In a subsequent passage we find that the murderer before he poisons the king makes damnable faces.