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ever injurious it may sometimes prove to the weak and the superstitious.
STEEVENS. 561. Sir, &c.} This passage I have restored from the folio.
STEEVENS. 566. I am satisfied in nature, &c.] This was a piece of satire on fantastical honour. Though nature is satisfied, yet he will ask advice of older men of the sword, whether artificial honour ought to be contented with Hamlet's submission.
There is a passage somewhat similar in the Maid's
" Evad. Will you forgive me then ?
STEVENS. 570. 'Till by some elder masters, of known honour,] This is said in allusion to English custom. I learn from an ancient MS. of which the reader will find a more particular account in a note to the Merry Wives of Windsor, Vol. I. p. 260, that in queen Elizabeth's time there were “ four ancient masters of defence,” in the city of London. They appear to have been the referees in many affairs of honour, and exacted tri. bute from all inferior practitioners of the art of fencing,
STEEVENS. 593. --the stoups of wine] Astoup is a flaggon, . or bowl.
STEEVENS. 598. And in the cup an union shall he 'throw, ] In some editions, And in the cup an onyx shall he throw. * Rij
This is a various reading in several of the old copies; but union seems to me to be the true word. If I am not mistaken, neither the onyx, nor sardonyx, are jewels which ever found place in an imperial crown. An union is the finest sort of pearl, and has its place in all crowns, and coronets. Besides, let us consider what the king says on Hamlet's giving Laertes the first hit:
Stay, give me drink. Hamlet, this pearl is thine;
Here's to thy health. Therefore, if an union be a pearl, and an onyx a gem, or stone, quite differing in its nature from pearls; the king saying, that Hamlet has earn'd the pearl, I think, amounts to a demonstration that it was an union pearl, which he meant to throw into the cup.
THEOBALD. So, in Saliman and Perseda :
“ Ay, were it Cleopatra's union.' The union is thus mentioned in P. Holland's transla. tion of Pliny's Natural History, " And hereupon it is that our dainties and delicates here at Rome, &c. call them unions, as a man would say singular and by themselves alone."
To swallow a pearl in a draught seems to have been
“ Here 16,000 pound at one clap goes.
613. --this pearl is thine ;] Under pretence of throwing a pearl into the cup, the king may be supe posed to drop some poisonous drug into the wine. Hamlet seems to suspect this, when he afterwards dis. covers the effects of the poison, and tauntingly asks him, Is the union here?
STEEVENS. 619. Queen. He's fat, and scant of breath.] It seems that John Lowin, who was the original Falstaff, was no less celebrated for his performance of Henry VIII. and Hamlet. See the Historia Histrionica, &c. If he was adapted, by the corpulence of his figure, to appear with propriety in the two former of these characters, Shakspere might have put this observation in the mouth of her majesty, to apologize for the want of such elegance of person as an audience might expect to meet with in the representative of the youthful Prince of Denmark, whom Ophelia speaks of as " the glass of fishion and the mould of form.” This, however, is mere conjecture, as Joseph Taylor likewise acted Hamlet during the life of Shakspere.
Steevens. 621. The queen carouses to thy fortune, Hamlet.] So, in David and Bethsabe, 1599:
“ With full carouses to his fortune past."
STEEVENS. 633.' ---you make a wanton of me.] ii e. you trifle with me as if you were playing with a child.
So, in Romeo and Juliet :
" I would have thee gone,
REMARKS. 663. Is the union here?] In this place likewise the quarto reads, an onyx.
STEEVENS. 673. That are but mutes or audience to this a&,] That are either mere auditors of this catastrophe, or at most only mute performers, that fill the stage without any part in the action.,
JOHNSON. 685. -shall live behind me?] Thus the folio. The quartos read shall I leave behind me. Steevens.
695. The potent poison quite o'er-grows my spirits ;] The first quarto and the first folio read,
-o'er-crows my spirit; alluding perhaps to a victorious cock exulting over his conquered antagonist. The same word occurs in Lingua, &c. 1607:
“ Shall I ? th' embassadress of gods and men,
“ Be over-crow'd, and breathe without revenge ?" Again, in Hall's Satires, lib. v. sat. ii.
“ Like the vain bubble of Iberian pride,
". That over-croweth all the world beside.” This phrase often occurs in the controversial pieces of Gabriel Harvey, 1593, &c.
699. -the occurrents-] io lo incidents. The word is now disused. So, in The Hog hath lost his Pearl, 1614 :
“ Such strange occurrents of my fore-past life.” Again, in the Baron’s Wars, by Drayton, Canto 1. “ With each occurrent right in his degree.”
STEEVENS. 700. Which have solicited, --] Solicited, for brought on the event.
WARBURTON. 701. Now cracks a noble heart :-Good night, sweet
And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest !] Leins review for a moment the behaviour of Hamlet, on the strength of which Horatio founds this eulogy, and recommends him to the patronage of angels.
Hamlet, at the command of his father's ghost, undertakes with seeming alacrity to revenge the murder; and declares he will banish all other thoughts from his mind. He makes, however, but one effort to keep his word, and that is, when he mistakes Polonius for the king. On another occasion, he defers his purpose till he can find an opportunity of taking his uncle when he is least prepared for death, that he may insure damnation to his soul. Though he assassinated Polonius by accident, yet he deliberately procures the execution of his school-fellows, Rosencrantz and Guieldenstern, who appear to have been unacquainted with the treacherous purposes of the mandate which they were employed to carry. Their death (as he declares in a subsequent conversation with Horatio)