« PreviousContinue »
There 's a divinity that shapes our ends,
That is most certain.
Is 't possible? Ham. Here's the commission; read it at more leisure.
2 There's a divinity that shapes our ends,
Rough-hew them how we will.] Dr. Farmer informs me, that these words are merely technical. A wool-man, butcher, and dealer in skewers, lately observed to him, that his nephew, (an idle lad) could only assist him in making them; “. he could rough-hew them, but I was obliged to shape their ends.” To shape the
ends of wool-skewers, i. e. to point them, requires a degree of skill; any one can rough-hew them. Whoever recollects the profession of Shakspeare's father, will admit that his son might be no stranger to such terms. I have frequently seen packages of wool pin'd up with skewers. Steevens.
3 Larded with many several sorts of reasons,] I am afraid here is a very poor conceit, founded on an equivoque between reasons and raisins, which in Shakspeare's time were undoubtedly pronounced alike. Sorts of raisins, sugars, &c. is a common phraseology of shops. We have the same quibble in another play.
Malone. I suspect no quibble or conceit in these words of Hamlet. In one of Ophelia's songs a similar phrase has already occurred: “ Larded all with sweet flowers." To lard any thing with raisins, however, was a practice unknown to ancient cookery. Steevens.
4 With, ho ! such bugs and goblins in my life,] With such causes of terror, rising from my character and designs. Johnson.
A bug was no less a terrifick being than a goblin. So, in Spenser's Fairy Queen, Book II, c. ii:
“ As ghastly bug their haire an end does reare,” We call it at present a bugbear. Steevens,
But wilt thou hear now how I did proceed? .
Hor. Ay, 'beseech you.
Ham. Being thus benetted round with villanięs,
Ay, gooet my lord.
5 Or I could make -- ] Or in old English signified before.
Malone. 6 Being thus benetted round with villanies,
Or I could make a prologue to my brains,
They had begun the play;] Hamlet is telling how luckily every thing fell out; he groped out their commission in the dark, without waking them; he found himself doomed to immediate destruction. Something was to be done for his preservation. An expedient occurred, not produced by the comparison of one me. thod with another, or by a regular deduction of consequences, but before he could make a prologue to his brains, they had begun the play. Before he could summon his faculties, and propose to himself what should be done, a complete scheme of action presented itself to him. His mind operated before he had excited it. This appears to me to be the meaning. Johnson.
as our statists do,] A statist is a statesman. So, in Shir. ley's Humorous Gourtier, 1640:
that he is wise, a statist." Again, in Ben Jonson's Magnetick Lady:
“Will screw you out a secret from a statist.” Steevens. Most of the great men of Shakspeare's times, whose autographs have been preserved, wrote very bad hands; their secretaries very neat ones.
Blackstone. 8 I once did hold it, as our statists do,
A baseness to write fair,] “ I have in my time, (says Man. taigne) seene some, who by writing did earnestly get both their titles and living, to disavow their apprentissage, marre their pen, and affect the ignorance of so vulgar a qualitie.” Florio’s translation, 1603, p. 125. Ritson.
yeoman's service:] The meaning, I believe, is, This yeomanly qualification was a most useful servant, or yeoman, to me; i. e. did me eminent service. The ancient yeomen were famous for their military valour. “These were the good archers in times past, (says Sir Thomas Smith) and the stable troop of footmen that affraide all France.” Steevens.
Ham. An earnest conjuration from the king,
should still her wheaten garland wear,
like the palm might flourish;] This comparison is scriptural: “ The righteous shall flourish like a palm-tree.”
Psalm xcii. 11. Steevens. 2 As peace should still her wheaten garland wear,
And stand a comma 'tween their amities ;] The expression of our author is, like many of his phrases, sufficiently constrained and affected, but it is not incapable of explanation. The comma is the note of connection and continuity of sentences; the period is the note of abruption and disjunction. Shakspeare had it perhaps in his mind to write,—That unless England complied with the mandate, war should put a period to their amity; he altered his mode of diction, and thought that, in an opposite sense, he might put, that peace should stand a comma between their amities. This is not an easy style; but is it not the style of Shakspeare? Johnson.
as's of great charge,] Asses heavily loaded. A quibble is intended between as the conditional particle, and ass the beast of burthen. That charg’d anciently signified loaded, may be proved from the following passage in The Widow's Tears, by Chapman, 1612: “ Thou must be the ass charg'd with crowns, to make way.”
Johnson. Shakspeare has so many quibbles of his own to answer for, that there are those who think it hard he should be charged with others which perhaps he never thought of. Steevens,
Though the first and obvious meaning of these words certainly is, many similar adjurations, or monitory injunctions, of great weight and importance," yet Dr. Johnson's notion of a quibble being also in the poet's thoughts, is supported by two other passages of Shakspeare, in which asses are introduced as usually employed in the carriage of gold, a charge of no small weight:
“ He shall but bear them, as the ass bears gold,
To groan and sweat under the business." Julius Cæsar, Again, in Measure for Measure:
like an ass, whose back with ingots bows, “ Thou bear’st thy heavy riches but a journey,
" And death unloads thee.” In further support of his observation, it should be remembered, that the letter s in the particle as in the midland counties usually pronounced hard, as in the pronoun us. Dr. Johnson himself always pronounced the particle as hard, and so I have no doubt did Shakspeare. It is so pronounced in Warwickshire at this day.. The first folio accordingly has--assis. Malone.
Without debatement further, more, or less,
How was this seal'd?
Hor. So Guildenstern and Rosencrantz go to 't.
Why, what a king is this! Ham. Does it not, think thee, stand me now upon? He that hath kill'd my king, and whor'd my mother; Popp'd in between the election and my hopes; Thrown out his anglel for my proper life,
4 Not shriving-time allow’d.] i. e. without time for confession of their sins: another proof of Hamlet's christian-like disposition. See Romeo and Juliet, Act IV, sc. ii. Steevens.
the model of that Danish seal:] The model is in old language the copy. The signet was formed in imitation of the Danish seal. See Vol. VIII, p. 80, n. 8. Malone.
6 The changeling never known:] A changeling is a child which the fairies are supposed to leave in the room of that which they steal. Johnson. ? Why, man, &c.] This line is omitted in the quartos. Steevens.
by their own insinuation -] Insinuation, for corruptly obtruding themselves into his service. Warburton.
By their having insinuated or thrust themselves into the employment. Malone.
think thee,] i. e. bethink thee. Malone. 1 Thrown out his angle - ] An angle in Shakspeare's time signified a fishing-rod. So, in Lyly's Sappho and Phao, 1591 :
“ Phao. But he may bless fishing, that caught such a one in the sea.
And with such cozenage; is 't not perfect conscience,
Hor. It must be shortly known to him from England, What is the issue of the business there.
Ham. It will be short: the interim is mine;
Peace; who comes here?
Enter OSRIC. Osr. Your lordship is right welcome back to Denmark.
Ham. I humbly thank you, sir.Dost know this water
“ Venus. It was not with an angle, my boy, but with a net."
Malone. 2 To quit him-] To requite him; to pay him his due. Johnson.
This passage, as well as the three following speeches, is not in the quartos. Steevens.
-I'll count his favours: ] Thus the folio. Mr. Rowe first made the alteration, which is perhaps unnecessary. I 'll count his favours, may mean, I will make account of them, i. e. reckon upon them, value them. Steevens.
What favours has Hamlet received from Laertes, that he was to make account of I have no doubt but we should read:
I'll court his favour. M. Mason.
Hamlet may refer to former civilities of Laertes, and weigh them against his late intemperance of behaviour; or may count on such kindness as he expected to receive in consequence of a meditated reconciliation.
It should be observed, however, that in ancient language to count and recount were synonymous. So, in the Troy Book, (Caxton's edit.) “ I am comen hether unto yow for refuge, and to telle & count my sorowes.” Steevens.
Dest know this water-fly?] A water.fly skips up and down upon the surface of the water, without any apparent purpose or reason, and is thence the proper emblem of a busy trifter.
Fohnson. VOL. XV.