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Queen. What have I done, that thou dar'st wag thy
tongue In noise so rude against me? Ham.
Such an act, That blurs the grace and blush of modesty; Calls virtue, hypocrite; takes off the roses
takes of the rose, &c.] Alluding to the custom of wear. ing roses on the side of the face. See a note on a passage in King John, Act I. Warburton.
I believe Dr. Warburton is mistaken; for it must be allowed. that there is a material difference between an ornament worn on the forehead, and one exhibited on the side of the face. Some have understood these words to be only a metaphorical enlargement of the sentiment contained in the preceding line :
blurs the grace and blush of modesty :" but as the forehead is no proper situation for a blush to be displayed in, we may have recourse to another explanation.
It was once the custom for those who were betrothed, to wear some flower as an external and conspicuous mark of their mutual engagement. So, in Spenser's Shepherd's Calendar for April:
“ Bring coronations and sops in wine,
“Worn of paramours." Lyte, in his Herbal, 1578, enumerates sops in wine among the smaller kind of single gilliflowers or pinks.
An Address “ To all Judiciall Censurers,” prefixed to The Whipper of the Satyre his Pennance in a White Sheete, or the Beadle's Gonfutation, 1601, begins thus:
" Brave spirited gentles, on whose comely front
“ The rose of favour sits majesticall, Sets a blister there, has the same meaning as in Measure for Measure :
“ Who falling in the flaws of her own youth,
“ Hath blister'd her report.” Steevens. I believe, by the rose was only meant the roseate hue. The forehead certainly appears to us an odd place for the hue of innocence to dwell on, but Shakspeare might place it there with as much propriety as a smile. In Troilus and Cressida we find these lines:
“ So rich advantage of a promis'd glory,
“ As smiles upon the forehead of this action." That part of the forehead which is situated between the eyebrows, seems to have been considered by our poet as the seat of innocence and modesty. So, in a subsequent scene :
brands the harlot, “ Even here, between the chaste and unsmirch'd brow
“ Of my true mother.” Malone. In the foregoing quotation from Troilus and Cressila, I understand that the forehead is smiled upon by advantage, and not tha'. VOL. XV.
From the fair forehead of an innocent love,
the forehead is itself the siniler. Thus, says Laertes in the play before us :
“ Occasion smiles upon a second leave." But it is not the leave that smiles, but occasion that smiles upon it.
In the subsequent passage our author had no choice; for having alluded to that part of the face which was anciently branded with a mark of shame, he was compelled to place his token of innocence in a corresponding situation. Steevens.
- from the body of contraction - ] Contraction for marriage
· Heaven's face doth glow;
Is thought-sick at the act.) If any sense can be found here, it is this. The sun glows (and does it not always ? ) and the very solid mass of earth has a tristful visage, and is thought-sick. All this is sad stuff. The old quarto reads much nearer to the poet's
Heaven's face does glow,
Is thought-sick at the act.
Heaven's face doth glow,
Is thought-sick at the act. This makes a fine sonse, and to this effect. The sun looks upon our globe, the scene of this murder, with an angry and mournful countenance, half hid in eclipse, as at the day of doom. Warburton.
The word heated, 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 Shakspeare, 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. Fohnson.
I am strongly inclined to think that the reading of the quarto,
Ah me, what act, That roars so loud, and thunders in the index ?3
Ham. Look here, upon this picture, and on this;4
1604, is the true one. In Shakspeare's licentious diction, the meaning may be,-The face of heaven doth glow with heated visage over the earth: and heaven as against the day of judgment, is thought-sick at the act.
Had not our poet St. Luke's description of the last day in his thoughts ?—" And there shall be signs in the sun and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring: men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking on those things which are coming on the earth; for the powers of heaven shall be shaken," &c. Matone.
2 That roars so loud,] The meaning is,-What is this act, of which the discovery, or mention, cannot be made, but with this violence of clamour? Fohnson.
and thunders in the index?] Mr. Edwards observes, that the indexes of many old books were at that time inserted at the beginning, instead of the end, as is now the custom. This observation I have often seen confirmed.
So, in Othello, Act II, sc. vii:“ an index and obscure prologue to the history of lust and foul thoughts.” Steevens.
Bullokar in his Expositor, 8vo. 1616, defines an Index by “A table in a booke.” The table was almost always prefixed to the books of our poet's age. Indexes, in the sense in which we now understand the word, were very uncommon. Malone.
* Look here, upon this picture, and on this ;] It is evident from the following words,
“ A station like the herald Mercury,” &c. that these pictures which are introduced as miniatures on the stage, were meant for whole lengths, being part of the furniture of the Queen's closet:
like Maia's son he stood, “ And shook his plumes.” Paradise Lost, Book V. Hamlet, who, in a former scene, has censured those who gave
forty, fifty, a hundred ducats apiece” for his uncle's “ picture in little,” would hardly have condescended to carry such a thing in his pocket. Steevens.
The introduction of miniatures in this place appears to be a modern innovation. A print prefixed to Rowe's edition of Hamlet, published in 1709, proves this. There, the two royal por. traits are exhibited as half-lengths, hanging in the Queen's closet; and either thus, or as whole-lengths, they probably were exhibited from the time of the original performance of this tragedy to the death of Betterton. To half-lengths, however, the same objection lies, as to miniatures. Malone.
We may also learn, that from this print the trick of kicking the chair down on the appearance of the Ghost, was adopted by modern Hamlets from the practice of their predecessors. Steevens.
The counterfeit presentment of two brothers.
Hyperion's curls ;] It is observable, that Hyperion is used by Spenser with the same error in quantity. Farmer.
I have never met with an earlier edition of Marston's Insatiate Gountess than that in 1613. In this the following lines occur, which bear a close resemblance to Hamlet's description of his father:
“ A donative he hath of every god;
dignos et Apolline crines.” Ovid's Metam. B. III, thus translated by Golding, 1587: “ And haire that one might worthily Apollo's haire it
deeme.” Steevens. 6 A station like the herald Mercury, &c.] Station, in this instance, does not mean the spot where any one is placed, but the act of standing. So, in Antony and Cleopatra, Act III, sc. ii :
“ Her motion and her station are as one." On turning to Mr. Theobald's first edition, I find that he had inade the same remark, and supported it by the same instance. The observation is necessary, for otherwise the compliment de. signed to the attitude of the King, would be bestowed on the place where Mercury is represented as standing. Steevens.
In the first scene of Timon of Athens, the poet, admiring a picture, introduces the same image:
How this grace Speaks his own standing!" Malone. I think it not improbable that Shakspeare caught this image from Phaer's translation of Virgil, (Fourth Æneid,) a book that without doubt he had read: “ And now approaching neere, the top he seeth and
mighty lims “Of Atlas, mountain tough, that heaven on boystrous
shoulders beares ;“There first on ground with wings of might doth Mera
cury arrive, “ Then down from thence right over seas himselfe doth
headlong drive.” In the margin are these words: “ The description of Mercury's journey from heaven, along the mountain Atlas in Afrikę, highest on earth.” Malone.
heaven-kissing hill;] So, in Troilus and Cressida:
“ Yon towers whose wanton tops do buss the clouds." Again, in Chapman's version of the fourteenth Iliad: “ A fir it was that shot past air, and kiss'd the burning
A combination, and a form, indeed,
Look you now, what follows:
like a mildew'd ear, Blasting his wholesome brother.] This alludes to Pharaoh's Dream, in the 41st chapter of Genesis. Steevens.
batten -] i. e. to grow fat. So, in Claudius Tiberius Nero, 1607 :
and for milk “ I batten'd was with blood.” Again, in Marlowe's Few of Malta, 1633:
make her round and plump, “ And batten more than you are aware." Bat is an ancient word for increase. Hence the adjective bat: ful, so often used by Drayton in his Polyolbion. Steevens.
1 The hey-day in the blood - ] This expression occurs in Ford's 'Tis Pity she's a Whore, 1633:
Sense, sure, you have,
Else, could you not have notion. i. e. intellect, reason, &c. This alludes to the famous peripatetic principle of Nil fit in intellectu, quod non fuerit in sensu. And how fond our author was of applying, and alluding to, the principles of this philosophy, we have given several instances. The principle in particular has been since taken for the foundation of one of the noblest works that these latter ages have produced.
Warburton. The whole passage is wanting in the folio; and which soever of the readings be the true one, the poet was not indebted to this boasted philosophy for his choice. Steevens.