Page images

Or padling in your neck with his damn'd fingers,
Make you to ravel all this matter out,
That I essentially am not in madness,
But mad in craft.3 'Twere good, you let him know:

bade him go
“ And wash his face, he look'd so reechily,

“ Like bacon hanging on the chimney's roof.” Steevens. Reechy properly means steaming with exsudation, and seems to have been selected, to convey, in this place, its grossest import.

Henley. Reechy includes, I believe, heat as well as smoke. The verb to reech, which was once common, was certainly a corruption of -to reek. In a former passage Hamlet has remonstrated with his mother, on her living

“ In the rank sweat of an enseamed bed.” Malone. Reeky most certainly was not designed by our author to convey the idea of heat, being employed by him in Romeo and Juliet, to signify the chill damp of human bones in a sepulchre:

reeky shanks, and yellow chapless sculls.” Steevens. 8 That I essentially am not in madness,

But mad in craft.] The reader will be pleased to see Dr. Farmer's extract from the old quarto Historie of Hamblett, of which he had a fragment only in his possession :-“ It was not without cause, and just occasion, that my gestures, countenances, and words, seeme to proceed from a madman, and that I desire to haue all men esteeme mee wholly depriued of sense and reasonable understanding, bycause I am well assured, that he that hath made no conscience to kill his owne brother, (accustomed to murthers, and allured with desire of gouernement without controll in his treasons) will not spare to saue himselfe with the like crueltie, in the blood and flesh of the loyns of his brother, by bim massacred; and therefore it is better for me to fayne madnesse, then to use my right sences as nature hath bestowed them upon 'me. The bright shining clearnes thereof I am forced to hide vnder this shadow of dissimulation, as the sun doth hir beams under some great cloud, when the wether in summer-time ouercasteth : the face of a madman serueth to couer my gallant countenance, and the gestures of a fool are fit for me, to the end that, guiding myself wisely therein, I may preserue my life for the Danes and the memory of my late deceased father; for that the desire of reuenging his death is so ingraven in my heart, that if I dye not shortly, I hope to take such and so great vengeance, that these countryes shall for euer speake thereof. Neuerthelesse I must stay the time, meanes, and occasion, lest by making ouergreat hast, I be now the cause of mine own sodaine ruine and ouerthrow, and by that meanes end, before I beginne to effect my hearts desire : hee that hath to doe with a wicked, disloyall, cruell, and discourteous man, must vse craft, and politike inuentions, such as a fine witte can best imagine, not to discover his interprise ; for seeing that by force I cannot effect my desire,

For who, that 's but a queen, fair, sober, wise,
Would from a paddock, from a bat, a gib,
Such dear concernings hide? who would do so?
No, in despite of sense, and secrecy,
Unpeg the basket on the house's top,
Let the birds fly;] and, like the famous ape,
To try conclusions, in the basket creep,
And break your own neck down.

Queen. Be thou assur’d, if words be made of breath,
And breath of life, I have no life to breathe
What thou hast said to me.

Ham. I must to England;} you know that?

I had forgot; 'tis so concluded on.
Ham. There 's letters seal'd:4 and my two school-fel-




reason alloweth me by dissimulation, subtiltie, and secret practices to proceed therein.” Steevens.

a gib,] So, in Drayton's Epistle from Elinor Cobham to Duke Humphrey :

“ And call me beldam, gib, witch, night-mare, trot.” Gib was a common name for a cat. So, in Chaucer's Romaunt of the Rose, ver. 6204:

gibbe our cat,
“ That waiteth mice and rats to killen.” Steevens.
Unpeg the basket on the house's top,

Let the birds fly;] Sir John Suckling, in one of his letters, may possibly allude to the same story: “It is the story of the jackanapes and the partridges; thou starest after a beauty till it be lost to thee, and then let'st out another, and starest after that till it is gone too.Warner.

2 To try conclusions,] i. e. experiments. See Vol. IV, p. 336, n. 3. Steevens.

31 must to England;] Shakspeare does not inform us how Hamlet came to know that he was to be sent to England. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern were made acquainted with the King's intentions for the first time in the very last scene; and they do not appear to have had any communication with the Prince since that time. Add to this, that in a subsequent scene, when the King, after the death of Polonius, informs Hamlet he was to go to England, he expresses great surprize, as if he had not heard any thing of įt before. This last, however, may, perhaps, be accounted for, as contributing to his design of passing for a mad.

Malone. 4 There's letters seal’d: &c.] The nine following verses are andded out of the old edition. Pope.


Whom I will trust, as I will adders fang’d,5-
They bear the mandate; they must sweep my way,
And marshal me to knavery: Let it work;
For 'tis the sport, to have the engineer
Hoist with his own petar: and it shall go hard,
But I will delve one yard below their mines,
And blow them at the moon: 0, 'tis most sweet,
When in one line two crafts directly meet.
This man shall set me packing.
I 'll lug the guts into the neighbour room:9
Mother, good night.- Indeed, this counsellor
Is now most still, most secret, and most grave,
Who was in life a foolish prating knave.
Come, sir, to draw toward an end with you:
Good night, mother.

[Exeunt severally; Ham. dragging in Pol.



adders fang'd,] That is, adders with their fangs or poisonous teeth, undrawn. It has been the practice of mountebanks to boast the efficacy of their antidotes by playing with vipers, but they first disabled their fangs. Johnson.

they must sweep my way, &c.] This phrase occurs again in Antony and Cleopatra:

some friends, that will Sweep your way for you.” Steevens. 7 Hoist &c.] Hoist, for hoised; as past, for passed. Steevens,

8 When in one line two crafts directly meet.] Still alluding to a countermine. Malone.

The same expression has already occurred in K. John, Act IV, speech ult:

Now powers from home, and discontents at home,

Meet in one line." Steevens. 9 I'll lug the guts into the neighbour room:] A line somewhat similar occurs in King Henry VI, P. III:

“ I'll throw thy body in another room, The word guts was not anciently so offensive to delicacy as it is at present; but was used by Lyly (who made the first attempt to polish our language) in his serious compositions. So, in his Mydas, 1592: “ Could not the treasure of Phrygia, nor the tri. butes of Greece, nor mountains in the East; whose guts are gold, satisfy thy mind?” In short, guts was used where we now use entrails. Stanyhurst often has it in his translation of Virgil, 1582:

Pectoribus inhians spirantia consulit exta.

“She weenes her fortune by guts hoate smoakye to conster." Again, in Chapman's version of the sixth Iliad:

in whose guts the king of men imprest “ His ashen lance; Steevens,


The same.
King. There 's matter in these sighs; these profound

You must translate: 'tis fit we understand them:
Where is your son?
Queen. Bestow this place on us a little while.3—,

[To Ros. and Guil. who go out. Ah, my good lord,4 what have I seen to-night!

King. What, Gertrude? How does Hamlet?

Queen. Mad as the sea, and wind, when both contend's
Which is the mightier: In his lawless fit,
Behind the arras hearing something stir,
Whips out his rapier, cries, A rat! a rai!
And, in this brainish apprehension, kills
The unseen good old man.

O heavy deed!
It had been so with us, had we been there:
His liberty is full of threats to all;
To you yourself, to us, to every one.
Alas! how shall this bloody deed be answer'd?
It will be laid to us, whose providence

1 Come, sir, to draw toward an end with you:] Shakspeare has been unfortunate in his management of the story of this play, the most striking circumstances of which arise so early in its formation, as not to leave him room for a conclusion suitable to the importance of its beginning. After this last interview with the Ghost, the character of Hamlet has lost all its consequence.

Steevens. 2 Act IV.] This play is printed in the old editions without any separation of the acts. The division is modern and arbitrary; and is here not very happy, for the pause is made at a time when there is more continuity of action than in almost any other of the scenes. Johnson.

3 Bestow this place on us a little while.] This line is wanting iv the folio. Steevens. - my good lord,] The quartos readmine own lord.

Steevens. 5 Mad as the sea, and wind, when both contend &$.] We have precisely the same image in King Lear, expressed with more brevity:

he was met even now, As mad as the vex'D sea.Malone.

Should have kept short, restrain'd, and out of hauntys
This mad young man: but, so much was our love,
We would not understand what was most fit;
But, like the owner of a foul disease,
To keep it from divulging, let it feed
Even on the pith of life. Where is he gone?

Queen. To draw apart the body he hath kill'd:
O’er whom his very madness, like some ore,?
Among a mineral of metals base,
Shows itself pure; he weeps for what is done."

King. O, Gertrude, come away!
The sun no sooner shall the mountains touch,
But we will ship him hence: and this vile deed
We must, with all our majesty and skill,
Both countenance and excuse. -Ho! Guildenstern!

Friends both, go join you with some further aid:
Hamlet in madness hath Polonius slain,
And from his mother's closet hath he dragg'd him:
Go, seek him out; speak fair, and bring the body
Into the chapel. I pray you, haste in this.

[Exeunt Ros. and Guil. Come, Gertrude, we 'll call up our wisest friends; And let them know, both what we mean to do,

out of haunt, ] I would rather read out of harm.

Fohnson. Out of haunt, means, out of company. So, in Antony and Cleopatra :

“ Dido and her Sichæus shall want troops,

« And all the haunt be ours." Again, in Warner's Albion's England, 1602, B. V, ch. xxvi: " And from the smith of heaven's wife allure the amorous

haunt." The place where men assemble, is often poetically called the haunt of men. So, in Romeo and Juliet:

“ We talk here in the publick haunt of men.” Steevens.

like some ore,] Shakspeare seems to think ore to be or, that is, gold. Base metals have ore no less than precious. Fohnson.


Shakspeare uses the general word ore to express gold, because it was the most excellent of ores. I suppose we should read " of metal base" instead of metals, which much improves the construction of the passage. M. Mason. He has perhaps used ore in the same sense in his Rape of Liis

“ When beauty boasted blushes, in despite
6. Virtue would stain that ore with silver white."


« PreviousContinue »