« PreviousContinue »
Hamlet comes back; What would you undertake,
To cut his throat i' the church.
he, being remiss, ] He being not vigilant or cautious.
Johnson. * A sword unbated,] i. e. not blunted as foils are. Or, as one edition has it, embaited or envenomed. Pope.
There is no such reading as embaited in any edition. In Sir Thomas North's translation of Plutarch, it is said of one of the Metelli, that “ shewed the people the cruel fight of fencers, at anrebated swords.” Steevens.
Not blunted, as foils are by a button fixed to the end. So, in Love's Labour's Lost : “ That honour, which shall bate his scythe's keen edge."
Malone. a pass of practice,] Practice is often by Shakspeare, 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.
Fohnson So, in Look about You, 1600:
“ I pray God there be no practice in this change." Again :
the man is like to die:
“ Practice, by the Lord, practice, I see it clear." Again, more appositely, in our author's Twelfth Night, Act V, sc. ult: “ This practice hath most shrewdly pass'd upon thee.”
Steevens. A pass of practice is a favourite pass, one that Laertes was well practised in.-In Much Ado about Nothing, Hero's father says:
“I'll prove it on his body, if he dare,
Requite him for your father.
I will do 't:
be death.6 King.
Let's further think of this; Weigh, what convenience, both of time and means, May fit us to our shape:7 if this should fail, And that our drift look through our bad performance, "Twere better not assay'd; therefore, this project Should have a back, or second, that might hold, If this should blast in proof. Soft;~let me see:We 'll make a solemn wager on your cunnings, I ha't: When in your motion you are hot and dry, (As make your bouts more violent to that end) And that he calls for drink, I 'll have preferr'd him,9
The treachery on this occasion, was his using a sword unbated and envenomed. M. Mason.
6. It may be death.] It is a matter of surprise, that no one of Shakspeare's numerous and able commentators has remarked, with proper warmth and detestation, the villainous assassin-like treachery of Laertes in this horrid plot. There is the more occasion that he should be here pointed out an object of abhorrence, as he is a character we are, in some preceding parts of the play, led to respect and admire. Ritson.
May fit us to our shape:] May enable us to assume proper characters, and to act our part. John on.
blast in proof.] This, I believe, is a metaphor takep from a mine, which, in the proof or execution, sometimes breaks out with an ineffectual blast. Johnson.
The word proof shows the metaphor to be taken from the trying or proving fire-arms or cannon, which often blast or burst in the proof. Steevens.
- I'll have preferr'd bim-] i.e. presented to him. Thus the quarto, 1604. The word indeed is mispelt, prefard. The folio reads—I 'll have prepard him. Malone.
To prefer, (as Mr. Malone observes) certainly means--to pre: sent, offer, or bring forward. Sogin Timon of Athens :
A chalice for the nonce; whereon but sipping,
Queen. One woe doth tread upon another's heel,4 So fast they follow:
-Your sister 's drown'd, Laertes. Laer. Drown'd! 0, where! Queen. There is a willow grows ascaunt the brook, That shows his hoar leaves in the glassy stream; Therewith fantastick garlands did she make
“Why then preferr’d you not your sums and bills ?"
Steevens. 1 If he by chance escape your venom'd stuck,] For stuck, read tuck, a common name for a rapier. Blackstone.
Your venom'd stuck is, your venom'd thrust. Stuck was a term of the fencing-school. So, in Twelfth Night: - and he gives me the stuck with such a mortal motion, ..” Again, in The Re. turn from Parnassus, 1606: “ Here is a fellow, Judicio, that carried the deadly stocke in his pen."-See Florio's Italian Dict. 1598: “ Stoccata, a foyne, a thrust, a stoccado given in fence.”
Malone. But stay, what noise?] I have recovered this from the quartos. Steevens.
3 How now, sweet queen?] These words are not in the quarto. The word now, which appears to have been omitted by the carelessness of the transcriber or compositor, was supplied by the editor of the second folio. Matone.
* One woe doth tread upon another's heel,] A similar thouglit occurs in Pericles, Prince of Tyre, 1609:
“One sorrow never comes, but brings an heir,
“ That may succeed as his inheritor.” Steevens. Again, in Drayton's Mortimeriados, 4to. 1596:
miseries, which seldom come alone, “ Thick on the neck one of another fell.” Again, in Shakspeare's 131st Sonnet :
“ A thousand groans, but thinking on thy fall,
“ One mischief follows on another's neck." And this also is the first line of a queen's speech on a lady's drowning herself. Ritson.
ascaunt the brook,] Thus the quartos. The folio reads aslant. Ascaunce is interpreted in a note of Mr. Tyrwhitt's on Chaucer-askew, aside, sideways. Steevens.
Of crow-flowers, nettles, daisies, and long purples,
and long purples,] By long purples is meant a plant, the modern botanical name of which is orchis morio mas, anciently testiculus morionis. The grosser name by which it passes, is sufficiently known in many parts of England, and particularly in the county where Shakspeare lived. Thus far, Mr. Warner. Mr. Collins adds, that in Sussex it is still called dead men's hands; and that in Lyte’s Herbal, 1578, its various names, too gross for repetition, are preserved.
Dead men's thumbs are mentioned in an ancient bl. 1. ballad, entitled The deceased Maiden Lover :
“ Then round the meddowes did she walke,
Catching each flower by the stalke,
“ As dead mans thumbe, and hare-bell blew.” Steevens. One of the grosser names of this plant Gertrude had a particular reason to avoid :-the rampant widow. Malone.
liberal –] Liberal is free spoken, licentious in language. So, in Othello: “ Is he not a most profane and liberal counsellor ?” Again, in A Woman's a Weathercock, by N. Field, 1612:
Next that, the fame
Malone, 8 Which time, she chanted snatches of old tunes ;] Fletcher, in his Scornful Lady, very invidiously ridicules this incident:
“I will run mad first, and if that get not pity,
“I'll drown myself to a most dismal ditty.” Warburton. The quartos read-snatches of old lauds, i. e. hymns. Steevens.
9 As one incapable of her own distress,] As one having no understanding or knowledge of her danger. See p. 144, n. 1. Malone. That is, insensible. So, in King Richard III:
Incapable and shallow innocents.” Ritson. i Or like a creature native and indu'd
Unto that element:] I do not think the word indued is sense in this place; and believe we should read inured.
Till that her garments, heavy with their drink,
Alas then, she is drown’d?
Laer. Too much of water hast thou, poor Ophelia,
Let's follow, Gertrude: How much I had to do to calm his rage! Now fear I, this will give it start again; Therefore, let 's follow.
Shakspeare seems to have forgot himself in this scene, as there is not a single circumstance in the relation of Ophelia's death, that induces us to think she had drowned herself intentionally.
M. Mason. As we are indued with certain original dispositions and propensities at our birth, Shakspeare here uses indued with great licentiousness, for formed by nature; clothed, endowed, or furnished, with properties suited to the element of water.
Our old writers used indued and endowed indiscriminately. “To indue,” says Minsheu in his Dictionary, “ sepissime refertur ad dotes animo infusas, quibus nimirum ingenium alicujus imbutum et initiatum est, unde et G. instruire est. L. imbuere. Imbuere proprie est inchoare et initiari.”
In Cotgrave’s French Dictionary, 1611, instruire is interpreted, “ to fashion, to furnish with.” Malone.
2 To muddy death.] In the first scene of the next Act we find Ophelia buried with such rites as betoken she foredid her own life. It should be remembered, that the account here given, is that of a friend; and that the Queen could not possibly know what passed in the mind of Ophelia, when she placed herself in so perilous a situation. After the facts had been weighed and considered, the priest in the next Act pronounces, that her death was doubtful. Malone.
3 The woman will be out.] i. e. tears will flow. So, in King Henry V:
“ And all the woman came into my eyes.” Malone. See Vol. IX, p. 343, n. 4. Steevens. 4 But that this folly drowns it.] Thus the quarto, 1604. The folio reads—But that this folly doubts it; i. e. doubts, or extin: guishes it. See p. 51, n. 1. Malone.