Page images

Ham. It is not very strange: for my uncle is king of Denmark; and those, that would make mouths at him while my father lived, give twenty, forty, fifty, an hundred ducats a-piece, for his picture in little.? 'Sblood, there is something in this more than natural, if philosophy could find it out. [Flourish of Trumpets within.

Guil. There are the players.

Ham. Gentlemen, you are welcome to Elsinore. Your hands. Come then: the appurtenance of welcome is fashion and ceremony: let me comply with you in this garb;8 lest my extent to the players, which, I tell you, must show fairly outward, should more appear like entertainment than yours. You are welcome: but my unclefather, and aunt-mother, are deceived.

Guil. In what, my dear lord ?

Ham. I am but mad north-north west: when the wind is southerly, I know a hawk from a handsaw.1

The allusion may be to the Globe playhouse on the Bankside, the sign of which was Hercules carrying the Globe. Steevens.

I suppose Shakspeare meant, that the boys drew greater audiences than the elder players of the Globe theatre. Malone.

6 It is not very strange: for my uncle -] I do not wonder that the new players have so suddenly risen to reputation, my uncle supplies another example of the facility with which honour is conferred upon new claimants. Johnson.

It is not very strange: &c. was originally Hamlet's observation, on being informed that the old tragedians of the city were not so followed as they used to be: [see p. 99, n. 7.] but Dr. John. son’s explanation is certainly just, and this passage connects sufficiently well with that which now immediately precedes it.

Malone. in little.] i. e. in miniature. So, in The Noble Soldier, 1634:

“ The perfection of all Spaniards, Mars in little." Again, in Drayton's Shepherd's Sirena:

« Paradise in little done." Again, in Massinger’s New Way to pay Olil Debts :

“ His father's picture in little." Steevens. 8 — let me comply &c.] Sir T. Hanmer reads,-let me compliment with you. Fohnson.

To comply is again apparently used in the sense of-to compliment, in Act V: “ He did comply with his dug, before he sucked it.” Steevens.

when the wind is southerly, &c.] So, in Damon and Pye thias, 1582:

Pol. Well be with you, gentlemen!

Ham. Hark you, Guildenstern ;-and you too ;-at each car a hearer: that great baby, you see there, is not yet out of his swaddling-clouts.

Ros. Hapily, he's the second time come to them; for, they say, an old man is twice a child.

Ham. I will prophecy, he comes to tell me of the players; mark it. You say right, sir: o' Monday morning; 'twas then, indeed.

Pol. My lord, I have news to tell you.

Ham. My lord, I have news to tell you. When Roscius was an actor in Rome,

Pol. The actors are come hither, my lord.
Ham. Buz, buz !

[ocr errors]

“ But I perceive now, either the winde is at the south,
“ Or else your tunge cleaveth to the rooffe of your mouth."

Steevens. I know a hawk from a handsaw.] This was a common proverbial speech. The Oxford editor alters it to, I know a hawk from an hernshaw, as if the other had been a corruption of the players; whereas the poet found the proverb thus corrupted in the mouth of the people: so that the critick's alteration only serves to show us the original of the expression. Warburton.

Similarity of sound is the source of many literary corruptions. In Holborn we have still the sign of the Bull and Gate, which exhibits but an odd combination of images. It was originally (as I learn from the title-page of an old play) the Boulogne Gate, i. e. one of the gates of Boulogne ; designed perhaps as a compliment to Henry VIII, who took the place in 1544.

The Boulogne mouth, now the Bull and Mouth, had probably the same origin, i e. the mouth of the harbour of Boulogne. Steevens.

The Boulogne Gate was not one of the gates of Boulogne, but of Calais; and is frequently mentioned as such by Hall and Ho. linshed. Ritson.

3 Buz, buz!] Mere idle talk, the buz of the vulgar. Fohnson.

Buz, buz! are, I believe, only interjections employed to interrupt Polonius. Ben Jonson uses them often for the same purpose, as well as Middleton in A Mad World, my Masters, 1608.

Steevens. Buz used to be an interjection at Oxford, when any one began a story that was generally known before. Blackstone.

Buzzer, in a subsequent scene in this play, is used for a busy talker:

“ And wants not buzzers, to infect his ear
" With pestilent speeches."


Pol. Upon my honour,
Ham. Then came each actor on his ass, 3

Pol. The best actors in the world, either for tragedy, comedy, history, pastoral, pastoral-comical, historical-pastoral, (tragical-historical, tragical-comical-historical-pastoral,] scene individable, or poem unlimited: Seneca cannot be too heavy, nor Plautus too light. For the law of writ, and the liberty, these are the only men..

Again, in King Lear :

on every dream, “ Each buz, each fancy.” Again, in Trussel's History of England, 1635: “ who, instead of giving redress, suspecting now the truth of the duke of Gloucester's buzz," &c.

It is, therefore, probable from the answer of Polonius, that buz was used, as Dr. Johnson supposes, for an idle rumour without any foundation.

In Ben Jonson's Staple of News, the collector of mercantile intelligence is called Emissary Buz. Malone.

Whatever may be the origin of this phrase, or rather of this interjection, it is not unusual, even at this day, to cry buz to any person who begins to relate what the company had heard before.

M. Mason. 3 Then came &c.] This seems to be a line of a ballad.

Fohnson. tragical-historical, &c.] The words within the crotchets I have recovered from the folio, and see no reason why they were hitherto omitted. There are many plays of the age, if not of Shakspeare, that answer to these descriptions. Steevens.

Seneca cannot be too heavy, nor Plautus too light ] The tragedies of Seneca were translated into English by Thomas Newton, and others, and published first separate, at different times, and afterwards all together in 1581. One comedy of Plau. tus, viz. the Menechmi, was likewise translated and published in 1595. Steevens.

I believe the frequency of plays performed at publick schools, suggested to Shakspeare the names of Seneca and Plautus as dramatıck authors. T. Warton.

Prefixed to a map of Cambridge in the Second Part of Braunii Civitates, &c. is an account of the University, by Gulielmus Soonus, 1575. In this curious memoir we have the following passage : Januarium, Februarium, & Martium menses, ut noctis tædix fallant in spectaculis populo exhibendis ponunt tanta elegantia, tanta actionis dignitate, ea vocis & vultus moderatione, ea magnificentia, ut si Plautus, aut Terentius, aut Seneca revi. visceret mirarentur suas ipsi fabulas, majoremque quam cum in. spectante popul. Rom. agerentur, voluptatem credo caperent, Euripidem vero, Sophoclem & Aristophanem, etiam Athenarum suarum tæderet.” Steevens.

Ham. O Jephthah, judge of Israel,—what a treasure hadst thou !

Pol. What a treasure had he, my lord?
Ham. Why-One fair daughter, and no more,

The which he loved passing well.
Pol. Still on my daughter.

[aside. Ham. Am I not i' the right, old Jephthah?

Pol. If you call me Jephthah, my lord, I have a daughter that I love passing well.

Ham. Nay, that follows not.
Pol. What follows then, my lord ?
Ham. Why, As by lot, God wot, and then, you know,

6 For the law of writ, and the liberty, these are the only men.] All the modern editions have,--the law of wit, and the liberty: but both my old copies have—the law of writ, I believe rightly. Writ, for writing, composition. Wit was not, in our author's time, taken either for imagination, or acuteness, or both together, but for understanding, for the faculty by which we apprehend and judge. Those who wrote of the human mind, distinguished its primary powers into wit and will. Ascham distinguishes boys of tardy and of active faculties into quick wits and slow wits. Fohnson.

That writ is here used for writing, may be proved by the following passage in Titus Andronicus:

“Then all too late I bring this fatal writ.. Steevens. The old copies are certainly right. Writ is used for writing by authors contemporary with Shakspeare. Thus, in The Apologie of Pierce Pennilesse, by Thomas Nashe, 1593 : “ For the lowsie circumstance of his poverty before his death, and sending that miserable writte to his wife, it cannot be but thou liest, learned Gabriel.” Again, in Bishop Earle's Character of a mere dull Physician, 1638: “ Then followes a writ to his drugger, in a strange tongue, which he understands, though he cannot conster." Again, in King Henry VI, P. II:

“ Now, good my lord, let's see the devil's writ.” Malone. 7 Why, As by lot, God wot, - &c.] The old song from which these quotations are taken, I communicated to Dr. Percy, who has honoured it with a place in the second and third editions of his Reliques of ancient English Poetry. In the books belonging to the Stationers' Company, there are two entries of this Ballad among others. “ A ballet intituled the Songe of Jepthah's doughter” &c. 1567, Vol. I, fol. 162. Again: Jeffa Fudge of Israel,p. 93, Vol. III, Dec. 14, 1624.

This story was also one of the favourite subjects of ancient tapestry. Steevens.

There is a Latin tragedy on the subject of Feptha, by John Christopherson, in 1546, and another by Buchanan, in 1554. A third by Du Plessis Mornay, is mentioned by Prynne, in his His.

It came to pass, As most like it was, The first row of the pious chansons will show you more; for look, my abridgmento comes.

Enter Four or Five Players. You are welcome, masters; welcome, alli-I am glad to see thee well :-welcome, good friends.-U, old friend! Why, thy face is valanced? since I saw thee last; Com'st

triomastix. The same subject had probably been introduced on the English stage. Malone.

the pious chanson .] It is pons chansons in the first folio edition. The old ballads sung on bridges, and from thence called Pons chansons. Hamlet is here repeating ends of old songs.

Pope. It is pons chansons in the quarto too. I know not whence the rubrick has been brought, yet it has not the appearance of an ar. bitrary addition. The titles of old ballads were never printed red; but perhaps rubrice may stand for marginal explanation.

Fohnson. There are five large volumes of ballads in Mr. Pepys's collection in Magdalen's Coilege Library, Cambridge, some as ancient as Henry VII's reign, and not one red letter upon any one of the titles. Grey.

The words, of the rubrick, were first inserted by Mr. Rowe, in his edition in 1709. The old quartos in 1604, 1605, and 1611, read, pious chanson, which gives the sense wanted, and I have accordingly inserted it in the text.

The prous chansons were a kind of Christmas carols, containing some scriptural history thrown into loose rhymes, and sụng about the streets by the common people when they went at that season to solicit alms. Hamlet is here repeating some scraps from a song of this kind, and when Polonius enquires what follows them, he refers him to the first row (i. e. division) of one of these, to obtain the information he wanted. Steevens.

my abridgment -] He calls the players afterwards, the brief chronicles of the times; but I think he now means only those who will shorten


talk. Johnson. An abridgment is used for a dramatick piece in A MidsummerNight's Dream, Act V, sc. i:

Say, what abridgment have you for this evening ?” but it does not commodiously apply to this passage. See Vol. II, p. 355, n. S. Steevens.

- thy face is valanced --] i. e. fringed with a beard. The valance is the fringes or drapery hanging round the tester of a bed. Malone. Dryden, in one of his epilogues, has the following line:

" Criticks in plume, and white valancy wig." Steevene.

« PreviousContinue »