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For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,s
in the whips and scorns of time,] The evils here complained of are not the product of time or duration simply, but of a corrupted age or manners. We may be sure, then, that Shakspeare wrote:
- the whips and scorns of th' time. and the description of the evils of a corrupt age, which follows, confirms this emendation. Warburton.
It may be remarked, that Hamlet, in his enumeration of mi. series, forgets, whether properly or not, that he is a prince, and mentions many evils to which inferior stations only are exposed.
Fohnson. I think we might venture to read the whips and scorns othe times, i. e. times satirical as the age of Shakspeare, which probably furnished him with the idea.
In the reigns of Elizabeth and James (particularly in the former) there was more illiberal private abuse and peevish satire published, than in any others I ever knew of, except the present one. I have many of these publications, which were almost all pointed at individuals. Daniel, in his Musophilus, 1599, has the same complaint:
“ Do you not see these pamphlets, libels, rhimes,
“ These strange confused tumults of the mind, “ Are grown to be the sickness of these times,
“ The great disease inflicted on mankind ?” Whips and scorns are surely as inseparable companions, as pub. lick punishment and infamy.
Quips, the word which Dr. Johnson would introduce, is de. sived, by all etymologists, from whips.
Hamlet is introduced as reasoning on a question of general concernment. He therefore takes in all such evils as could befall mankind in general, without considering himself at present as a prince, or wishing to avail himself of the few exemptions which high place might once have claimed.
In Part of King James I'st. Entertainment passing to his Coronation, by Ben Jonson and Decker, is the following line, and note on that line :
“ And first account of years, of months, OF TIME.”
By time we understand the present.” This explanation affords the sense for which I have contended, and without change.
Steevens. The word whips is used by Marston in his Satires, 1599, in the sense required here :
“ Ingenuous melancholy,-
The pangs of despis'd love, the law's delay,
reads—the poor man's contumely; the contumely which the poor man is obliged to endure:
“ Nil habet infelix paupertas durius in se,
Steevens. might his quietus make With a bare bodkin!] The first expression probably alluded to the writ of discharge, which was formerly granted to those barons and knights who personally attended the king on any foreign expedition. This discharge was called a quietus.
It is at this time the term for the acquittance which every sheriff receives on settling his accounts at the Exchequer.
The word is used for the discharge of an account, by Webster, in his Duchess of Malfy, 1623:
“ And 'cause you shall not come to me in debt,
(Being now my steward) here upon your lips
“I sign your quietus est.” Again:
“ You had the trick in audit time to be sick,
“ Till I had sign'd your quietus.” A bodkin was the ancient term for a small dagger. So, in the Second Part of The Mirrour for Knighthood, 4to. bl. 1. 1598:
Not having any more weapons but a poor poynado, which usually he did weare about him, and taking it in his hand, delivered these speeches unto it. Thou, silly bodkin, shalt finish the piece of worke,” &c.
In the margin of Stowe's Chronicle, edit. 1614, it is said, that Cæsar was slain with bodkins: and in The Muses' Looking-Glass, by Randolph, 1638:
“ Apho. A rapier's but a bodkin.
“ Into a taylor's shop for fear of bodkins." Again, in The Custom of the Country, by Beaumont and Fletcher:
Out with your bodkin, “ Your pocket dagger, your stilletto." Again, in Sapho and Phao, 1591 : “ there will be a desperate fray between two, made at all weapons, from the brown bill to the bodkin."
Again, in Chaucer, as he is quoted at the end of a pamphlet called The Serpent of Division, &c. wherсunto is annexed the Tragen dy of Gorboduc, &c. 1591 :
To grunt and sweato under a weary life;
« With bodkins was Cæsar Julius
" Murdered at Rome of Brutus Crassus." Steevens. By a bare bodkin, does not perhaps mean, “by so little an instrument as a dagger," but," by an unsheathed dagger."
In the account which Mr. Steevens has given of the original meaning of the term quietus, after the words, “ who personally attended the king on any foreign expedition,” should have been added, and were therefore exempted from the claims of scutage, or a tax on every knight's fee. Malone.
• To grunt and sweat -] Thus the old copies. It is undoubt. edly the true reading, but can scarcely be borne by modern ears.
Johnson. This word occurs in The Death of Zoroas, by Nicholas Grimoald, a translation of a passage in the Alexandreis of Philippe Gualtier, into blank verse, printed at the end of Lord Surrey's Poeins :
none the charge could give : “ Here grunts, here grones, ech where strong youth is
spent.” And Stanyhurst in his translation of Virgil, 1582, for supremum congemuit gives us : for sighing it grunts.” Again, in Turbervile's translation of Ovid's Epistle from Canace to Ma.
“ What might I miser do ? greefe forst me grunt." Again, in the same translator's Hypermnestra to Lynceus :
round about I heard “Of dying men the grunts." The change made by the editors [to groan] is however supported by the following line in Julius Cæsar, Act IV, sc. i:
“ To groan and sweat under the business.” Steevens. I apprehend that it is the duty of an editor to exhibit what his author wrote, and not to substitute what may appear to the present age preferable: and Dr. Johnson was of the same opinion. See his note on the word hugger-mugger, Act IV, sc. v. I have therefore, though with some reluctance, adhered to the old copies, however unpleasing this word may be to the ear. On the stage, without doubt, an actor is at liberty to substitute a less offensive word. To the ears of our ancestors it probably conveyed no unpleasing sound; for we find it used by Chaucer and others:
“ But never gront he at no stroke but on,
The Monkes Tale, v. 14,627, Tyrwhitt's edit, Again, in Wily Beguild, written before 1596:
“ She's never well, but grurting in a corner.” Malone.
And makes us rather bear those ills we have, .
1 The undiscover'd country, from whose bourn
No traveller returns,] This has been cavilled at by Lord Orrery and others, but without reason. The idea of a traveller in Shakspeare's time, was of a person who gave an account of his adventures. Every voyage was a Discovery. John Taylor has “ A Discovery by sea from London to Salisbury." Farmer. Again, Marston's Insatiate Countess, 1603:
wrestled with death, “ From whose stern cave none tracks a backward path." “Qui nunc it per iter tenebricosum
“ Illuc unde negant redire quenquam.” Catullus. Again, in Sandford's translation of Cornelius Agrippa, &c. 4to. bl. 1. 1569, (once a book of uncommon popularity) “The countrie of the dead is irremeable, that they cannot retourne.” Sig. Pp. Again, in Cymbeline, says the Gaoler to Posthumus: “How you shall speed in your journey's end [after execution] I think you 'll never return to tell one." Steevens.
This passage has been objected to by others on a ground which, at the first view of it, seems more plausible. Hamlet himself, it is objected, has had ocular demonstration that travellers do sometimes return from this strange country.
I formerly thought this an inconsistency. But this objection is also founded on a mistake. Our poet without doubt in the passage before us intended to say, that from the unknown regions of the dead no traveller returns with all his corporeal powers; such as he who goes on a voyage of discovery brings back, when he returns to the port from which he sailed. The traveller whom Hamlet had seen, though he appeared in the same habit which he had worn in his life time, was nothing but a shadow; “invulnerable as the air,” and consequently incorporeal.
If, says the objector, the traveller has once reached this coast, it is not an undiscovered country. But by undiscovered Shakspeare meant not undiscovered by departed spirits, but, undiscovered, or unknown to " such fellows as us, who crawl beneath earth and heaven;" superis incognita tellus. In this sense every country, of which the traveller does not return alive to give an account, may be said to be undiscovered. The Ghost has given us no account of the region from whence he came, being, as he himself informed us, “ forbid to tell the secrets of his prison-house.”
Marlowe, before our poet, had compared death to a journey to an undiscovered country:
weep not for Mortimer,
King Edward II, 1598 (written before 1593). Malone. Perhaps this is another instance of Shakspeare's acquaintance with the Bible: “ Afore I goe thither, from whence I shall not twne againe, even to the lande of darknesse and shadowe of death;
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Good my lord,
Ham. I humbly thank you; well.
Oph. My lord, I have remembrances of yours,
No, not I;
Oph. My honour'd lord, you know right well, you
Ham. Ha, ha! are you honest?
yea into that darke cloudie lande and deadlye shadowe whereas is no order, but terrible feare as in the darknesse.” Job, ch. x.
“ The way that I must goe is at hande, but whence I shall not turne againe.” Ibid. ch. xvi. I quote Cranmer's Bible. Douce.
great pith --] Thus the folio. The quartos read,-of great pitch. Steevens.
Pitch seems to be the better reading. The allusion is to the pitching or throwing the bar ;-a manly exercise, usual in country villages. Ritson.
turn awry,] Thus the quartos. The folio-turn away. The same printer's error occurs in the old copy of Antony and Cleopatra, where we find—“ Your crown 's away,” instead of - Your crown's awry.” Steevens.
Nymph, in thy orisons &c.] This is a touch of nature. Hamlet, at the sight of Ophelia, does not immediately recollect, that he is to personate madness, but makes her an address grave and solemn, such as the foregoing meditation excited in his thoughts. Johnson. VOL. XV.