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With turbulent and dangerous lunacy?
Ros. He does confess, he feels himself distracted, But from what cause he will by no means speak.
Guil, Nor do we find him forward to be sounded; But, with a crafty madness, keeps aloof, When we would bring him on to some confession Of his true state. Queen. Did he receive
well? Ros. Most like a gentleman. Guil, But with much forcing of his disposition.
Ros. Niggard of question; but, of our demands,
Did you assay him
Ros. Madam, it so fell out, that certain players
8 Niggard of question; but, of our demands,
Most free in his reply.] This is given as the description of the conversation of a man whom the speaker found not forward to be sounded; and who kept aloof when they would bring him to confession: but such a description can never pass but at cross-purposes. Shakspeare certainly wrote it just the other way:
Most free of question; but, of our demands,
Niggard in his reply. That this is the true reading, we need but turn back to the preceding scene, for Hamlet's conduct, to be satisfied. Warburton.
Warburton forgets that by question, Shakspeare does not usually mean interrogatory, but discourse; yet in which ever sense the word be taken, this account given by Rosencrantz agrees but ill with the scene between him and Hamlet, as actually represented.
M. Mason. Slow to begin conversation, but free enough in his answers to our demands. Guildenstern has just said that Hamlet kept aloof when they wished to bring him to confess the cause of his distraction: Rosencrantz therefore here must mean, that up to that point, till they touch'd on that, he was free enough in his answers.
Malone. o'er-raught on the way:] O'er-raught is over-reached, that is, over-took. Johnson. So, in Spenser's Fairy Queen, B. VI, c. iii:
Having by chance a close advantage view'd,
“ He over-raught him," &c. Again, in the 5th Book of Gawin Douglas's translation of the Æneid :
“War not the samyn mysfortoun me over-raucht.” Steevens.
And, as I think, they have already order
'Tis most true': And he beseech'd me to entreat your majesties, To hear and see the matter.
King. With all my heart; and it doth much content me To hear him so inclin'd. Good gentlemen, give him a further edge, And drive his purpose on to these delights.
Ros. We shall, my lord. [Exeunt Ros. and Guil. King.
Sweet Gertrude, leave us too:
I shall obey you:
Madam, I wish it may. [Exit Queen.
may here --] The folio, (I suppose by an error of the press) reads-may there Steevens.
Affront Ophelia:] To affront, is only to meet directly. Johnson.
“ Affronting that port where proud Charles should enter." Again, in Sir W. D'Avenant's Cruel Brother, 1630 :
“ In sufferance affronts the winter's rage ?" Steevens. espials] i. e. spies. So, in King Henry VI, P. I:
as he march'd along,
“ Two mightier troops."
Steevens. And, for your part,] Thus the quarto, 1604, and the folio. The modern editors, following a quarto of no authority, read for my part. Malone.
Pol. Ophelia, walk you here :-Gracious, so please you,
0, 'tis too true! how smart
[Aside. Pol. I hear him coming; let 's withdraw, my lord.
[Exeunt King and Pol.
5 Your loneliness.] Thus the folio. The first and second quartos read lowliness. Steevens. 6'Tis too much prood,] It is found by too frequent experience.
Fohnson. 1- more ugly to the thing that helps it,] That is, compared with the thing that helps it. Fohnson So, Ben Jonson:
“ All that they did was piety to this." Steevens. 8 To be, or not to be,] Of this celebrated soliloquy, which bursting from a man distracted with contrariety of desires, and overwhelmed with the magnitude of his own purposes, is connected rather in the speaker's mind, than on his tongue, I shall endeavour to discover the train, and to show how one sentiment produces another.
Hamlet, knowing himself injured in the most enormous and atrocious degree, and seeing no means of redress, but such as must expose him to the extremity of hazard, meditates on his situation in this manner: Before I can form any rational scheme of action under this pressure of distress, it is necessary to decide, whether, after our present state, we are to be, or not to be. That is the question, which, as it shall be answered, will determine, whether 'tis nobler, and more suitable to the dignity of reason, to suffer the outrages of fortune patiently, or to take arms against them, and by opposing end them, though perhaps with the loss of life. If to die, were to sleep, no more, and by a sleep to end the miseries of our nature, such a sleep were devoutly to be wished; but if to sleep in death, be to dream, to retain our powers of sensibility, we must pause to consider, in that sleep of death what dreams may come. This consideration makes calamity so long endured; for who would
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind, to suffer
bear the vexations of life, which might be ended by a bare bodkin, but that he is afraid of something in unknown futurity? This fear it is that gives efficacy to conscience, which, by turning the mind upon this regard, chills the ardour of resolution, checks the vigour of enterprize, and makes the current of desire stagnate in inactivity.
We may suppose that he would have applied these general observations to his own case, but that he discovered Ophelia.
Johnson Dr. Johnson's explication of the first five lines of this passage is surely wrong. Hamlet is not deliberating whether after our present state we are to exist or not, but whether he should continue to live, or put an end to his life: as is pointed out by the second and the three following lines, which are manifestly a pa. raphrase on the first : “ whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer, &c. or to take arms.” The question concerning our existence in a future state is not considered till the tenth line :-" To sleep! perchance, to dream;" &c. The train of Hamlet's reasoning from the middle of the fifth line, “ If to die, were to sleep,” &c. Dr. Johnson has marked out with his usual accuracy.
In our poet's Rape of Lucrece we find the same question stated, which is proposed in the beginning of the present soliloquy:
with herself she is in mutiny, “ To live or die, which of the twain were better." Malone. 9-arrows of outrageous fortune ;] “ Homines nos ut esse meminerimus, ex lege natos, ut omnibus telis fortunæ proposita sit vita nostra.” Cic. Epist. Fam, v. 16. Steevens.
1 Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,] A sea of troubles among the Greeks grew into a proverbial usage ; xaxãy Janarod, xaxãv tpixuríd. So that the expression figuratively means, the troubles of human life, which flow in upon us, and encompass us. round, like a sea. Theobald.
Mr. Pope proposed siege. I know not why there should be so much solicitude about this metaphor. Shakspeare breaks his metaphors often, and in this desultory speech there was less need of preserving them. Johnson.
A similar phrase occurs in Rycharde Morysine's translation of Ludovicus Vives's Introduction to Wysedome, 1544: “ - how great a sea of euils euery day ouerunneth" &c.
The change, however, which Mr. Pope would recommend, may be justified from a passage in Romeo and Juliet, scene the last:
“ You-to remove that siege of grief from her --" Steevens. One cannot but wonder that the smallest doubt should be entertained concerning an expression which is so much in Shak
And, by opposing, end them!--To dieto sleep,
speare's manner; yet, to preserve the integrity of the metaphor, Dr. Warburton reads assail of troubles. In the Prometheus Vinctus of Æschylus, a similar imagery is found:
Δυσχειμερον γε πελαγος ατηρας δυης.”
“ The stormy sea of dire calamity.” and in the same play, as an anonymous writer has observed, (Gent. Magazine, Aug. 1772,) we have a metaphor no less harsh than that of the text: Θολεροι
Against the waves of hateful misery." Shakspeare might have found the very phrase that he has employed, in The Tragedy of Queen Cordila, MIRROUR FOR MAGisTRATES, 1575, which undoubtedly he read: “ For lacke of frendes to tell my seas of giltlesse smart."
Malone. Menander uses this very expression. Fragm. p. 22. Amstel. 12mo. 1719 :
« Εις πελαγος αντον εμβαλεις γαρ πραγματων.
To dien-to sleep,] This passage is ridiculed in The Scornful Lady of Beaumont and Fletcher, as follows:
be deceased, that is, asleep, for so the word is taken. To sleep, to die; to die, to sleepy a very figure, sir,” &c. &c. Steevens. shuffled off this mortal coil,] i. e. turmoil, bustle.
Warburton. A passage resembling this, occurs in a poem entitled A dolfull Discours of two Strangers, a Lady and a Knight, published by Churchyard, among his Chippes, 1575:
“ Yea, shaking off this sinfull soyle,
" Me thincke in cloudes I see,
“ A place preparde for mee.” Steevens.
There's the respect,] i. e. the consideration. See Vol. XII, p. 66, n. 3. Malone.