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What would'st thou have, Laertes ?

My dread lord,
Your leave and favour to return to France ;
From whence though willingly I came to Denmark,
To show my duty in your coronation;
Yet now, I must confess, that duty done,
My thoughts and wishes bend again toward France,
And bow them to your gracious leave and pardon.
King. Have you your father's leave? What says Polo.

Pol. He hath, my lord, [wrung from me my slow leave, 2
By laboursome petition; and, at last,
Upon his will I seald my hard consent:]
I do beseech you, give him leave to go.

King. Take thy fair hour, Laertes ; time be thine,
And thy best graces: spend it at thy will.
But now, my cousin Hamlet, and my son,
Ham. A little more than kin, and less than kind.“



my power is at your father's service. That is, he may command me to the utmost, he may do what he pleases with my kingly authority. Steevens.

By native to the heart Dr. Johnson understands, “natural and congenial to it, born with it, and co-operating with it.”

Formerly the heart was supposed the seat of wisdom ; and hence the poet speaks of the close connection between the heart and head. See Coriolanus, Act I, sc. i, Vol. XIII. Malone.

wrung from me my slow leave,] These words and the two following lines are omitted in the folio. Malone. 3 Take thy fair hour, Laertes ; time be thine,

And thy best graces : spend it at thy will.] The sense is,-You have my leave to go, Laertes ; make the fairest use you please of your time, and spend it at your will with the fairest graces you are master of. Theobald. So, in King Henry VIII:

and bear the inventory “Of your best graces in your mind.” Steevens. I rather think this line is in want of emendation. I read :

time is thine, And my best graces : spend it at thy will. Johnson. 4 Ham. 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.


King. How is it that the clouds still hang on you?
Ham. Not so, my lord, I am too much i' the sun."


In this line, with which Shakspeare introduces Hamlet, Dr.. Johnson has perhaps pointed out a nicer distinction than it can justly boast of. To establish the sense contended for, it should have been proved that kind was ever used by any English writer for child. A little more than kin, is a little more than a common relation. The King was certainly something less than kind, by having betrayed the mother of Hamlet into an indecent and in. cestuous marriage, and obtained the crown by means which he suspects to be unjustifiable. In the fifth Act, the prince accuses his uncle of having popp'd in between the election and his hopes, which obviates Dr. Warburton's objection to the old reading, viz. that “the king had given no occasion for such a reflection."

A jingle of the same sort is found in Mother Bombie, 1594, and seems to have been proverbial, as I have met with it more than once : - the nearer we are in blood, the further we must be from love ; the greater the kindred is, the less the kindness must be.” Again, in Gorboduc, a tragedy, 1561 :

“ In kinde a father, but not kindelyness." In the Battle of Alcazar, 1594, Muly Mahomet is called “ Traitor to kinne and kinde."

As kind, however, signifies nature, Hamlet may mean that his relationship was become an unnatural one, as it was partly founded upon incest. Our author's Julius Cæsar, Antony and Cleopatra, King Richard II, and Titus Andronicus, exhibit instances of kind being used for nature ; and so too in this play of Hamlet, Act II, sc. the last :

“ Remorseless, treacherous, lecherous, kindless villain.” Dr. Farmer, however, observes that kin is still used for cousin in the midland counties. Steevens.

Hamlet does not, I think, mean to say, as Mr. Steevens supposes, that his uncle is a little more than kin, &c. The King had called the Prince--" My cousin Hamlet, and my son.”—His

reply, therefore, is," I am a little more than thy kinsman, [for I am thy step-son;] and somewhat less than kind to thee, [for I hate thee, as being the person who has entered into an incestuous marriage with my mother). Or, if we understand kind in its ancient sense, then the meaning will be,-I am more than thy kinsman, for I am thy step-son ; being such, I am less near to thee than thy natural offspring, and therefore not entitled to the appel. lation of son, which you have now given me. Malone.

too much i' the sun.] He perhaps alludes to the proverb, « Out of heaven's blessing into the warm sun Johnson.

Meaning probably his being sent for from his studies to be exposed at his uncle's marriage as his chiefest courtier, &c. Steevens.

I question whether a quibble between sun and son be not here intended, Farmer.



Queen. Good Hamlet, cast thy nighted colour off,
And let thine eye look like a friend on Denmark.
Do not, for ever, with thy vailed lidso
Seek for thy noble father in the dust:
Thou know'st, 'tis common; all, that live, must die,
Passing through nature to eternity.

Ham. Ay, madam, it is common.
Queen. .

If it be,
Why seems it so particular with thee?

Ham. Seems, madam! nay, it is ; I know not seems.
'Tis not alone my inky cloak, good mother,
Nor customary suits of solemn black,
Nor windy suspiration of forc’d breath,
No, nor the fruitful river in the eye,
Nor the dejected haviour of the visage,
Together with all forms, modes, shows of grief,
That can denote me truly: These, indeed, seem,
For they are actions that a man might play:
But I have that within, which passeth show;
These, but the trappings and the suits of woe.8
King. 'Tis sweet and commendable in your nature,

To give these mourning duties to your father :
But, you must know, your father lost a father;
That father lost, lost his ;9 and the survivor bound

vailed lids ---] With lowering eyes, cast down eyes.

Fohnson So, in The Merchant of Venice :

Vailing her high-top lower than her ribs.” Steevens. See Vol. IX, p. 15, n. 2. Malone.

7 Thou know'st, 'tis common; all, that live, must die,] Perhaps the semicolon placed in this line, is improper. The sense, elliptically expressed, is, Thou knowest it is common that all that live, must die.-The first that is omitted for the sake of metre, a practice often followed by Shakspeare. Steedens. 8 But I have that within, which passeth show;

These, but the trappings and the suits of woe.] So, in King Richard II:

my grief lies all within ;
" And these external manners of lament
“ Are merely shadows to the unseen grief
" That swells with silence in the tortur'd soul.” Malone.

Tour father lost a father ;


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In filial obligation, for some term
To do obsequious sorrow:1 But to perséver
In obstinate condolement, is a course
Of impious stubbornness; 'tis unmanly grief:
It shows a will most incorrect? to heaven;
A heart unfortified, or mind impatient;
An understanding simple and unschool'd:
For what, we know, must be, and is as common
As any the most vulgar thing to sense,
Why should we, in our peevish opposition,
Take it to heart? Fy! 'tis a fault to heaven,
A fault against the dead, a fault to nature,
To reason most absurd ;3 whose common theme
Is death of fathers, and who still hath cried,


That father lost, lost his ;] Mr. Pope judiciously corrected the faulty copies thus : - your father lost a

a father ; That father, his; On which the editor Mr. Theobald thus descants :- This supposed refinement is from Mr. Pope, but all the editions else, that I have met with, old and modern, read :

That father lost, lost his; The reduplication of which word here gives an energy and an elegance WHICH IS MUCH EASIER TO BE CONCEIVED THAN EX

I believe so: for when explained in terms it comes to this :- That father after he had lost himself, lost his father. But the reading is ex fide codicis, and that is enough.

Warburton. 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. Johnson.

The meaning of the passage is no more than this,—Your father lost a father, i. e. your grandfather, which lost grandfather, also lost his father.

The metre, however, in my opinion, shows that Mr. Pope's correction should be adopted. The sense, though elliptically expressed, will still be the same. Steevens.

obsequious sorrow:] Obsequious is here from obsequies, or funeral ceremonies. Johnson. So, in Titus Andronicus:

“ To shed obsequious tears upon his trunk.” Steevens.

a will most incorrect - ] Not sufficiently regulated by a sense of duty and submission to the dispensations of Providence.

Malone. 3 To reason most absurd ;] Reason is here used in its common sense, for the faculty by which we form conclusions from arguments. Johnson.


From the first corse, till he that died to-day,
This must be so. We pray you, throw to earth
This unprevailing woe; and think of us
As of a father: for let the world take note,
You are the most immediate to our throne;
And, with no less nobility of love, 4
Than that which dearest father bears his son,
Do I impart toward you. For your intent

* And, with no less nobility of love,] Nobility, for magnitude.

Warburton. Nobility is rather generosity. Fohnson. By nobility of love, Mr. Heath understands, eminence and distinction of love. Malone.

So, afterwards, the Ghost, describing his affection for the Queen:

To me, whose love was that of dignity" &c. Steevens. 5 Do I impart toward you.] I believe impart is, impart myself, communicate whatever I can bestow. Johnson.

The crown of Denmark was elective. So, in Sir Clyomon, Knight of the Golden Shield, &c. 1599:

'“ And me possess for spoused wife, who in election am

“To have the crown of Denmark here, as heir unto the same." The king means, that as Hamlet stands the fairest chance to be next elected, he will strive with as much love to ensure the crown to him, as a father would show in the continuance of heirdom to a son. Steevens.

I agree with Mr. Steevens, that the crown of Denmark (as in most of the Gothick kingdoms) was elective, and not hereditary ; though it must be customary, in elections, to pay some attention to the royal blood, which by degrees produced hereditary succession. Why then do the rest of the commentators so often treat Claudius as an usurper, who had deprived young Hamlet of his right by heirship to his father's crown ? Hamlet calls him drunkard, murderer, and villain; one who had carried the election by low and mean practices; had

Popp'd in between the election and my hopes —.” had

From a shelf the precious diadem stole,

“ And put it in his pocket:” but never hints at his being an usurper. His discontent arose from his uncle's being preferred before him, not from any legal right which he pretended to set up to the crown. Some regard was probably had to the recommendation of the preceding prince, in electing the successor. And therefore young Hamlet had “the voice of the king himself for his succession in Denmark ;” and he at his own death prophecies that “the election would light on Fortinbras, who had his dying voice,” conceiving that by the death of his uncle, he himself had been king for

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