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Elsinore. A Room in the Castle.
Enter Queen and HORATIO.
Hor. She is importunate; indeed, distract;
What would she have? Hor. She speaks much of her father; says, she hears, There's tricks i' the world; and hems, and beats her
heart; Spurns enviously at straws; speaks things in doubt, That carry but half sense: her speech is nothing, Yet the unshaped use of it doth move The hearers to collection;2 they aim at it, And botch the words up fit to their own thoughts; Which, as her winks, and nods, and gestures yield them, Indeed would make one think, there might be thought, Though nothing sure, yet much unhappily.4
Spurns enviously at straws ;] Enoy is much oftener put by our poet (and those of his time) for direct adersion, than for ma.. lignity conceived at the sight of another's excellence or happiness. So, in King Henry VII:
“ You turn the good we offer into envy." Again, in God's Revenge against Murder, 1621, Hist. VI.“ She loves the memory of Sypontus, and envies and detests that of her two husbands.” Steevens. See Vol. X, p. 84, n. 1; and Vol. XI, p. 240, n. 7. Malone.
to collection ;] i. e. to deduce consequences from such premises; or, as Mr. M. Mason observes, “endeavour to collect some meaning from them.” So, in Cymbeline, scene the last:
“ Make no collection of it.”
they aim at it,] The quartos read--they yawn at it. To aim is to guess. So, in Romeo and Juliet:
“ I aim'd so near, when I suppos'd you lov’d.” Steevens. * Though nothing sure, yet much unhappily.] i. e. though her meaning cannot be certainly collected, yet there is enough to put a mischievous interpretation to it. Warburton.
That unhappy once signified mischievous, may be known from P. Holland's translation of Pliny's Natural History, Book XIX, ch. vii: “ the shrewd and unhappie foules which lie upon
Queen. 'Twere good, she were spoken with;s for she
Dangerous conjectures in ill-breeding minds:
Re-enter HORATIo, with OPHELIA.
From another one?
the lands, and eat up the sced new sowne.” We still use unlucky in the same sense. Stçevens.
See Vol. V, p. 286, n. 7; and Vol. XI, p. 235, n. 2. Malone.
5 "Twere good she were spoken with;} These lines are given to the Queen in the folio, and to Horatio in the quarto. Fohnson.
I think the two first lines of Horatio's speech ['Twere good, &c.] belong to him; the rest to the Queen. Blackstone.
In the quarto, the Queen, Horatio, and a Gentleman, enter at the beginning of this scene. The two speeches, “She is importunate," &c. and “She speaks much of her father,” &c. are there given to the Gentleman, and the line now before us, as well as the two following, to Horatio: the remainder of this speech to the Queen. I think it probable that the regulation proposed by Sir W. Blackstone was that intended by Shakspeare. Malone.
to some great amiss :] Shakspeare is not singular in his use of this word as a substantive. So, in The Arraignment of Paris; 1584:
“ Gracious forbearers of this world's amiss." Again in Lyly's Woman in the Moon, 1597 :
“Pale be my looks, to witness my amiss.” Again, in Greene's Disputation between a He Coneycatcher, &c. 1592: “revive in them the memory of my great amiss.” Steevens:
Each toy is, each trifle. Malone.
7 How should I your true love &c.] There is no part of this play in its representation on the stage, more pathetick than this scene; which, I suppose, proceeds from the utter insensibility Ophelia has to her own misfortunes.
A great sensibility, or none at all, seems to produce the same effect. In the latter the audience supply what she wants, and with the former they sympathize. Sir Ž. Reynolds.
Queen. Alas, sweet lady, what imports this song?
At his heels a stone.
Queen. Nay, but Ophelia,
Pray you, mark.
Which bewept to the grave did go,
With true-love showers. King. How do you, pretty lady? Oph. Well, God 'ield you!2 They say, the owl was a
By his cockle hat and staff,
And his sandal shoon.] This is the description of a pilgrim. While this kind of devotion was in favour, love-intrigues were carried on under that mask. Hence the old ballads and novels made pilgrimages the subjects of their plots. The cockle shell hat was one of the essential badges of this vocation : for the chief places of devotion being beyond sea, or on the coasts, the pilgrims were accustomed to put cockle-shells upon their hats, to denote the intention or performance of their devotion. IWarburton. So, in Green's Never too late, 1616:
“ A hat of straw like to a swain,
“With a scallop-shell before,” &c. Again, in The Old Wives T'ale, by George Peele, 1595: “I will give thee a palmer's staff of yvorie, and a scallop-shell of beaten gold.” Steevens.
9. Larded all with sweet flowers ; ] The expression is taken from cookery. Johnson.
did go,] The old editions read did not go. Corrected by Mr. Pope. Steevens.
2 Well, God 'ield you!] i. e. Heaven reward you! So, in Anto. ny and Cleopatra :
“ Tend me to-night two hours, I ask no more,
“ And the Gods yield you for 't!" So, Sir John Grey, in a letter in Ashmole's Appendix to his Account of the Garter, Numb. 46 : “ The king of his gracious lordshipe, God yeld him, hafe chosen me to be owne of his brethrene of the knyghts of the garter.” Theobald:
baker's daughter. Lord, we know what we are, but know not what we may be. God be at your table!
King. Conceit upon her father. Oph. Pray, let us have no words of this; but when they ask you, what it means, say you
All in the morning betime,
To be your Valentine :
the owl was a baker's daughter, ] This was a metamorphosis of the common people, arising from the mealy appear. ance of the owl's feathers, and her guarding the bread from mice.
Warburton. To guard the bread from mice, is rather the office of a cat than an owl. In barns and granaries, indeed, the services of the owl are still acknowledged. This was, however, no metamorphosis of the common people, but a legendary story, which both Dr. Johnson and myself have read, yet in what book at least I cannot recollect.–Our Saviour being refused bread by the daughter of a baker, is described as punishing her by turning her into an owl.
Steevens. This is a common story among the vulgar in Gloucestershire, and is thus related : “ Our Saviour went into a baker's shop where they were baking, and asked for some bread to eat. The mistress of the shop immediately put a piece of dough into the oven to bake for him; but was reprimanded by her daughter, who insisting that the piece of dough was too large, reduced it to a very small size. The dough, however, immediately afterwards began to swell, and presently became of a most enormous size. Whereupon, the baker's daughter cried out 'Heugh, heugh, heugh,' which owl-like noise probably induced our Saviour for her wickedness to transform her into that bird." This story is often related to children, in order to deter them from such illiberal behaviour to poor people. Douce. 4 Good inorrow, 'tis Saint Valentine's day,] Old copies :
To-morrow is &c.
There is a rural tradition that about this time of year birds choose their mates. Bourne, in his Antiquities of the Common People, observes, that “it is a ceremony never omitted among the vulgar, to draw lots, which they term Valentines, on the eve before Valentine-day. The names of a select number of one sex are by an equal number of the other put into some vessel; and after that every one draws a name, which for the present is called their Valentine, and is also look'd upon as a good omen of their being man and wife afterwards." Mr. Brand adds, that he has “searched the legend of St. Valentine, but thinks there is no occurrence in his life, that could give rise to this ceremony."
Then up he rose, and don'd his clothes,
And dupp'd the chamber door ;5
Never departed more.
By Gis, and by Saint Charityy?
Alack, and fy for shame!
By cock, they are to blame.
5 And dupp'd the chamber door ;] To dup, is to do up; to lift the Tatch. It were easy to write-And op’d. Johnson.
To dup, was a common contraction of to do up. So, in Damon and Pythias, 1582: “. the porters are drunk; will they not dup the gate to-day?" Lord Surrey, in his translation of the second Æneid, renders
Panduntur portæ &c.
“ The gates cast up, we issued out to play.” The phrase seems to have been adopted either from doing up the latch, or drawing up the portcullis. So, in the ancient MS. romance of The Sowdon of Babyloyne, p. 40:
“ To the prison she hyed hir swyth,
“ The prison dore up she doth.” Again, in The Cooke's Play, in the Chester collection of mysteries, MS. Harl. 1013, p. 140:
Open up hell-gates anon.” It appears from Martin Mark-all's Apologie to the Bel-man of London, 1610, that in the cant of gypsies, &c. Dup the gigger, signified to open the doore. Steevens. 6 By Gis,] I rather imagine it should be read :
- by Saint Charity,] Saint Charity is a known saint among the Roman Catholicks. Spenser mentions her, Eclog. V, 255:
“ Ah dear lord, and sweet Saint Charity !” Again, in The Downfall of Robert Earl of Huntington, 1601:
“ Therefore, sweet master, for Saint Charity.” Again, in A lytell Geste of Robyn Hode:
“ Lete me go, then sayd the sheryf,
“ For saint Charytè, -" Again, ibid.
Gyve us some of your spendynge,
“ For saynt Charyte.” I find, by Gisse, used as an adjuration, both by Gascoigne in his Poems, by Preston in his Cambyses, and in the comedy of See me and see me not, 1618;