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Pol. It is back'd like a weasel.
Ham. Or, like a whale?
Pol. Very like a whale.

Ham. Then will I come to my mother by and by.-
They fool me to the top of my bent. I will come by
and by.
Pol. I will say so.

[Exit Pon. Ham. By and by is easily said.-Leave me,


(Exeunt Ros. Guil. Hor. &c. "Tis now the very witching time of night; When churchyards yawn, and hell itself breathes out Contagion to this world: Now could I drink hot blood, And do such business as the bitter day3 Would quake to look on. Soft; now to my mother... O, heart, lose not thy nature; let not ever The soul of Nero enter this firm bosom: Let me be cruel, not unnatural: I will speak daggers to her, but use none; My tongue and soul in this be hypocrites:

Ham. Methinks, it is like a camel.

Pol. It is backed like a camel. The protuberant back of a camel seems more to resemble a cloud, than the back of a weazel does. Malone.

They fool me to the top of my bent.] They compel me to play the fool, till I can endure it no longer. Johnson.

Perhaps a term in archery; i. e. as far as the bow will admit of being bent without breaking Douce.

3 And do such business as the bitter day -] Thus the quarto. The folio reads :

And do such bitter business as the day &c. Malone. The expression bitter business is still in use, and though at present a vulgar phrase, might not have been such in the age of Shakspeare. The bitter day is the day rendered hateful or bitter by the commission of some act of mischief.

Watts, in bis Logick, says, Bitter is an equivocal word; there is bitter wormwood, there are bitter words, there are bitter ene. mies, and a bitter cold morning.” It is, in short, any thing unpleasing or hurtful. Steevens.

-* I will speak daggers to her,] A similar expression occurs in The Return from Parnassus, 1606: “ They are pestilent fellows, they speak nothing but bodkins.” It has been already observed, that a bodkin anciently signified a short dagger.

It may, however, be observed, that in the Aulularia of Plautus, Act II, sc. i, a phrase not less singular occurs :

“Me. Quia mitri misero cerebrum excutiunt

“ Tua dicta, soror: lapides loqueris.Steevens. VOL. XV.

How in my words soever she be shent,5
To give them sealsó never, my soul, consent!



A Room in the same.

King. I like him not; nor stands it safe with us,
"To let his madness range. Therefore, prepare you;
I your commission will forthwith despatch,
And he to England shall along with you :)
The terms of our estate may not endure
Hazard so near us, as doth hourly grow
Out of his lunes.8


be shent, ] To shend, is to reprove harshly, to treat with rough language. So, in The Coxcomb of Beaumont and Fletcher:

We shall be shent soundly.” Steevens. See Coriolanus, Act V, sc. ii, Vol. XIII. Malone. Shent seems to mean something more than reproof, by the following passage from The Mirror for Magistrates : Thomas Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk, is the speaker, and he relates his having betrayed the Duke of Gloucester and his confederates to the King," for which (says he) they were all tane and shent.

Hamlet surely means, “however my mother may be hurt, wounded, or punish’d, by my words, let me never consent” &c.

Henderson. 6 To give them seals -] i.e. put them in execution. Warburton. 7 I like him not; nor stands it safe with us,

To let his madness range. Therefore, prepare you ;
I your commission will forthwith despatch,

And he to England shall along with you :] In The Hystory of Hamblett, bl. 1. the king does not adopt this scheme of sending Hamlet to England till after the death of Polonius; and though he is described as doubtful whether Polonius was slain by Hamlet, his apprehension lest he might himself meet the same fate as the old courtier, is assigned as the motive for his wishing the Prince out of the kingdom. This at first inclined me to think that this short scene, either from the negligence of the copyist or the printer, might have been misplaced ; but it is certainly printed as the author intended, for in the next scene Hamlet says to his mother, “I must to England; you know that,” before the King could have heard of the death of Polonius. Malone.

8 Out of his lunes.] [The folio reads-Out of his lunacies.] The old quartos:

Out of his brows. This was from the ignorance of the first editors; as is this unne


We will ourselves provide : Most holy and religious fear it is,

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cessary Alexandrine, which we owe to the players. The poet, I am persuaded wrote:

as doth hourly grow

Out of his lunes. i. e. his madness, frenzy. Theobald.

I take brows to be, properly read, frows, which, I think, is a provincial word for perverse humours; which being, I suppose, not understood, was changed to lunacies. But of this I am not confident. Johnson.

I would receive Theobald's emendation, because Shakspeare uses the word lunes in the same sense in The Merry Wives of Windsor, and The Winter's Tale.

I have met, however, with an instance in support of Dr. Johnson's conjecture : were you but as favourable as you are frowish —."

Tully's Love, by Greene, 1616. Froes is also used by Chapman, in his version of the Sixth Iliad, for furious women:

ungodly fears ** He put the froes in, seiz'd their god --." Perhaps, however, Shakspeare designed a metaphor from horned cattle, whose powers of being dangerous increase with the growth of their brows. Steevens.

The two readings of brows and luneswhen taken in connection with the passages referred to by Mr. Steevens, in The Winter's Tale, and The Merry Wives of Windsor, plainly figure forth the image under which the King apprehended danger from Hamlet: -viz. that of a bull, which, in his frenzy, might not only gore, but push him from his throne.-" The hazard that hourly grows out of his brows” (according to the quartos) cor. responds to the shoots from the ROUGH PASH," (that is the TUFTED PROTUBERANCE on the head of a bull, from whence his horns spring,) alluded to in The Winter's Tale; whilst the imputation of impending danger to “his LUNES". (according to the other reading) answers as obviously to the jealous fury of the husband that thinks he has detected the infidelity of his wife. Thus, in The Merry Wives of Windsor : “ Why, woman, your husband is in his old lunes-he so takes on yonder with my hus. band; so rails against all married mankind; so curses all Eve's daughters, and so buffets himself on the forehead, crying peer out! peer out! that any madness, I ever yet beheld, seem'd but tameness, civility, and patience, to this distemper he is now in.”

Henley. Shakspeare probably had here the following passage in The Hystory of Hamblett, bl. 1. in his thoughts: Fengon could not content himselfe, but still his minde gave him that the foole [Hamlet] would play him some trick of legerdemaine. And in that conceit seeking to be rid of him, determined to find the meanes

To keep those many many bodies safe,
That live, and feed, upon your majesty,

Ros. The single and peculiar life is bound,
With all the strength and armour of the mind,
To keep itself from ’noyance; but much more
That spirit, upon whose weal depend and rest
The lives of many. The cease of majesty
Dies not alone; but, like a gulph, doth draw
What's near it, with it: it is a massy wheel,
Fix'd on the summit of the highest mount,
To whose huge spokes ten thousand lesser things
Are mortis'd and adjoin'd; which, when it falls,
Each small annexment, petty consequence,
Attends the boist'rous ruin. Never alone
Did the king sigh, but with a general groan.

King. Arm you, I pray you, to this speedy voyage ;
For we will fetters put upon this fear,
Which now goes too free-footed.
Ros. Guil,

We will haste us.

[Exeunt Ros. and GUIL.

Enter POLONIUS. Pol. My lord, he's going to his mother's closet: Behind the arras I 'll convey myself, To hear the process; I'll warrant, she 'll tax him home: And, as you said, and wisely was it said, 'Tis meet, that some more audience, than a mother, Since nature makes them partial, should o’erhear

to do it, by the aid of a stranger; making the king of England minister of his massacrous resolution, to whom he purposed to send him." Malone.

9 That spirit, upon whose weal -] So the quarto. The folio gives

That spirit, upon whose spirit Steevens. 1

it is a massy wheel,] Thus the folio. The quarto reads Or it is &c. Malone.

2 Behind the arras I'll convey myself,] See Vol. VIII, p. 250, n. 9.

Steevens. The arras-hangings in Shakspeare's time, were hung at such a distance from the walls, that a person might easily stand behind them unperceived. Malone. 3 Since nature makes them partial, &c.]

Matres omnes filiis “ In peccato adjutrices, auxilii in paterna injuria 66 Solent esse - Ter. Heaut. Act V, sc. ï. Steevens

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The speech, of vantage. Fare you well, my liege:
I'll call upon you ere you go to bed,
And tell you what I know.

Thanks, dear my lord. [Exit Pol.
O, my offence is rank, it smells to heaven;
It hath the primal eldest curse upon it,
A brother's murder!--Pray can I not,
Though inclination be as sharp as will;5
My stronger guilt defeats my strong intent;
And, like a man to double business bound,
I stand in pause where I shall first begin,
And both neglect. What if this cursed hand
Were thicker than itself with brother's blood?
Is there not rain enough in the sweet heavens,
To wash it white as snow? Whereto serves mercy,
But to confront the visage of offence?
And what 's in prayer, but this two-fold force,
To be forestalled, ere we come to fall,
Or pardon'd, being down? Then I 'll look up;
My fault is past. But, O, what form of prayer
Can serve my turn? Forgive me my foul murder!
That cannot be; since I am still possess'd
Of those effects for which I did the murder,
My crown, mine own ambition, and my queen.

of vantage.] By some opportunity of secret observation.

Warburton. 5 Though inclination be as sharp as will;] Dr. Warburton would read:

Though inclination be as sharp as th’ill. The old reading is—as sharp as will. Steevens.

I have followed the easier emendation of Mr. Theobald, received by Sir T. Hanmer: i. e, as 'twill. Johnson. Will is command, direction. Thus, Ecclesiasticus, xliii, 16:

and at his will the south wind bloweth.” The King says, his mind is in too great confusion to pray, even though his inclination were as strong as the command which requires that duty.

Steevens. What the King means to say, is, “ That though he was not only willing to pray, but strongly inclined to it, yet his intention was defeated by his guilt.

The distinction I have stated between inclination and will, is supported by the following passage in the Laws of Candy, where Philander says to Erato:

“ I have a will, I 'm sure, howe'er my heart
May play the coward.” M. Mason.


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