« PreviousContinue »
To outface me with leaping in her grave?
with sowre pocion
“ How Christ for thee tasted eisil and gall.” The word is also found in Minsheu's Dictionary, 1617, and in Cole's Latin Dictionary, 1679.
Our poet, as Dr. Farmer has observed, has again employed the same word in his 111th Sonnet:
like a willing patient I will drink
“ Nor double penance, to correct correction." Mr. Steevens supposes, that a river was meant either the Yssell, or Oesil, or Weisel, a considerable river which falls into the Baltick ocean. The words, drink up, he considers as favourable to his notion. “ Had Shakspeare (he observes) meant to make Hamlet say, Wilt thou drink vinegar ? he probably would not have used the term drink up, which means, totally to exhaust. In King Richard II, Act II, sc. ii, (he adds) a thought in part the same
the task he undertakes, “ Is numb’ring sands, and drinking oceans dry.” But I must remark, in that passage evidently impossibilities are pointed out. Hamlet is only talking of difficult or painful exer. tions. Every man can weep, fight, fast, tear himself, drink a potion of vinegar, and eat a piece of a dissected crocodile, however disagreeable ; for I have no doubt that the poet uses the words eat a crocodile, for eat of a crocodile. We yet use the same phraseology in familiar language.
On the phrase drink up no stress can be laid, for our poet has employed the same expression in his 114th Sonnet, without any idea of entirely exhausting, and merely as synonymous to drink :
“ Or whether doth my mind, being crown'd with you,
“ Drink up the monarch's plague, this flattery?" Again, in the same Sonnet :
- 'tis flattery in my seeing, “ And my great mind most kingly drinks it up." Again, in Timon of Athens :
“ And how his silence drinks up his applause.” In Shakspeare's time, as at present, to drink up, often meant no more than simply to drink. So, in Florio's Italian Dictionary, 1598: Sorbire, to sip or sup up any drink.” In like manner we sometimes say,
“ when you have swallowed down this potion," though we mean no more than-when you have swallowed this potion. Malone.
Mr. Malone's strictures are undoubtedly acute, and though not, in my own opinion, decisive, may still be just. Yet, as I cannot reconcile myself to the idea of a prince's challenging a nobleman to drink what Mrs. Quickly has called “a mess of vinegar,". I have neither changed our former text, nor withdrawn my ori
Be buried quick with her, and so will I:
This is mere madness 4
Hear you, sir;
ginal remarks on it, notwithstanding they are almost recapitulated in those of my opponent.—On the score of such redundan. cy, however, I both need and solicit the indulgence of the reader.
Steevens. 4 This is mere madness : ] This speech in the first folio is given to the King. Malone.
5 When that her golden couplets are disclos'd,] To disclose was anciently used for to hatch. So, in The Booke of Huntynge, Hawkyng, Fyshing, &c. bl. 1. no date: “First they ben eges; and after they ben disclosed, haukes; and commonly goshaukes ben disclosed as sone as the choughes.” To exclude is the technical term at present. During three days after the pigeon has hatched her couplets, (for she lays no more than two eggs) she never quits her nest, except for a few moments in quest of a little food for herself; as all her young require in that early state, is to be kept warm, an office which she never entrusts to the male.
Steevens. The young nestlings of the pigeon, when first disclosed, are callow, only covered with a yellow down: and for that reason stand in need of being cherished by the warmth of the hen, to protect them from the chillness of the ambient air, for a considerable time after they are hatched. Heath.
The word disclose has already occurred in a sense nearly allied to hatch, in this play:
“ And I do doubt, the hatch and the disclose
“ Will be some danger.” Malone. 6 What is the reason that you use me thus ?
I lov'd you ever:] So, in A Midsummer-Night's Dream, Helena says to her rival
do not be so bitter with me,
King. I pray thee, good Horatio, wait upon him.
[Exit Hors Strengthen your patience in our last night's speech;
[To LAER We'll put the matter to the present push.Good Gertrude, set some watch over your son.This grave shall have a living monument: An hour of quiet shortly shall we see; Till then, in patience our proceeding be. Exem
A Hall in the Castle.
Enter HAMLET and HORATIO. Ham. So much for this, sir: now shall you see the
other; You do remember all the circumstance?
Hor. Remember it, my lord!
Ham. Sir, in my heart there was a kind of fighting, That would not let me sleep;8 methought, I lay
shortly -] The first quarto erroneously reads--thirty, The second and third-thereby. The folio-shortly. Steevens. Sir, in
heart there was a kind of fighting, That would not let me sleep; &c.] So, in Troilus and Cressida :
“ Within my soul there doth commence a fight,
“ Of this strange nature,” &c. The Hystorie of Hamblett, bl. 1. furnished our author with the scheme of sending the Prince to England, and with most of the circumstances described in this scene:
[After the death of Polonius] “ Fengon (the King in the present play] could not content himselfe, but still his mind gave him that the foole [Hamlet) would play him some trick of legerdemaine. And in that conceit, seeking to bee rid of him, determined to find the meanes to doe it by the aid of a stranger, making the king of England minister of his massacrous resolution ; to whom he purposed to send him, and by letters desire him to put him to death.
“ Now to beare him company, were assigned two of Fengon's faithful ministers, bearing letters ingraved in wood, that contained Hamlet's death, in such sort as he had advertised the king of England. But the subtil Danish prince, (being at sea) whilst his companions slept, having read the letters, and knowing his uncle's great treason, with the wicked and villainous mindes of the two courtiers that led him to the slaughter, raced out the letters that concerned his death, and instead thereof graved others, with commission to the king of England to hang
Worse than the mutines in bilboes. Rashly,
his two companions; and not content to turn the death they had devised against him, upon their own neckes, wrote further, that king Fengon willed him to give his daughter to Hamblet in mar. riage.” Hyst. of Hamblet, signat. G 2.
From this narrative it appears that the faithful ministers of Fengon were not unacquainted with the import of the letters they bore. Shakspeare, who has followed the story pretty closely, probably meant to describe their representatives, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, as equally guilty; as confederating with the King to deprive Hamlet of his life. So that his procuring their execution, though certainly not absolutely necessary to his own safety, does not appear to have been a wanton and unprovoked cruelty, as Mr. Steevens has supposed in his very ingenious observations on the general character and conduct of the prince throughout the piece.
In the conclusion of his drama the poet has entirely deviated from the fabulous history, which in other places he has frequently followed.
After Hamblet's arrival in England, (for no sea-fight is mentioned) “the king, (says The Hystory of Hamblet) admiring the young prince-gave him his daughter in marriage, according to the counterfeit letters by him devised; and the next day caused the two servants of Fengon to be executed, to satisfy, as he thought, the king's desire.” Hyst. of Hamb. Ibid.
Hamlet, however returned to Denmark, without marrying the king of England's daughter, who, it should seem, had only been betrothed to him. When he arrived in his native country, he made the courtiers drunk, and having burnt them to death, by setting fire to the banqueting-room wherein they sat, he went into Fengon's chamber, and killed him, “giving him (says the relater) such a violent blowe upon the chine of the neck, that he cut his head clean from the shoulders.” Ibid. signat. F 3. . He is afterwards said to have been crowned king of Denmark.
Malone. I apprehend that a critick and a juryman are bound to form their opinions on what they see and hear in the cause before them, and not to be influenced by extraneous particulars unsupported by legal evidence in open court. I persist in observing, that from Shakspeare's drama no proofs of the guilt of Rosen. crantz and Guildenstern can be collected. They may be convicted by the black letter history; but if the tragedy forbears to criminate, it has no right to sentence them. This is sufficient for the commentator's purpose. It is not his office to interpret the plays of Shakspeare according to the novels on which they are founded, novels which the poet sometimes followed, but as often materially deserted. Perhaps he never confined himself strictly to the plan of any one of his originals. His negligence of poetick justice is notorious; nor can we expect that he who was content to sacrifice the pious Ophelia, should have been more scrupulous
And prais'd be rashness for it,~Let us know,
about the worthless lives of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Therefore, I still assert that, in the tragedy before us, their deaths appear both wanton and unprovoked; and the critick, like Bayes, must have recourse to somewhat long before the beginning of this play, to justify the conduct of its hero. Steevens.
mutines in the bilboes.] Mutines, the French word for seditious or disobedient fellows in the army or fleet. Bilboes, the ship's prison. Johnson.
To mutine was formerly used for to mutiny. See p. 186, n. 6. So mutine, for mutiner, or mutineer: “un homme mutin," Fr. a mutinous or seditious person. In The Misfortunes of Arthur, a tragedy, 1587, the adjective is used:
Suppresseth mutin force, and practicke fraud.” Malone. The bilboes is a bar of iron with fetters annexed to it, by which mutinous or disorderly sailors were anciently linked together. The word is derived from Bilboa, a place in Spain where instruments of steel were fabricated in the utmost perfection. To un, derstand Shakspeare's allusion completely, it should be known, that as these fetters connect the legs of the offenders very close together, their attempts to rest must be as fruitless as those of Hamlet, in whose mind there was a kind of fighting that would not let him sleep. Every motion of one must disturb his partner in confinement. The bilboes are still shown in the Tower of London, among the other spoils of the Spanish Armada. Steevens.
When &c.] Hamlet delivering an account of his escape, begins with saying-That he rashli --and then is carried into a reflection upon the weakness of human wisdom. I rashly. praised be rashness for it-Let us not think these events casual, but let us know, that is, take notice and remember, that we sometimes succeed by indiscretion when we fail by deep plots, and infer the perpetual superintendance and agency of the Divinity. The observation is just, and will be allowed by every human being, who shall reflect on the course of his own life. Fohnson. This passage, I think, should be thus distributed:
Hor. That is most certain.)
Ham. Up from my cabin, &c. So that rashly may be joined in construction within the dark grop'd I to find out them. Tyrwhitt.