« PreviousContinue »
2 It waves you. So all the quartos: the folio has' wafts you,' but a few lines lower has' waves you.'
22 In deed, upon my sword, in deed. The meaning of Hamlet unquestionably is, Not in words only, but in act, in form ; upon the cross of my sword, pledge yourselves. The line, however, is always printed 'Indeed, upon my sword, indeed.-STAUNTON.
i Danskers-Danes. The old writers term Denmark Danske.
2 Down-gyved to his ankle ; that is, hanging down in folds, like gyves, or chains round a felon's ankles.
3 You're a fishmonger. Hamlet's meaning is, as Coleridge observed, that Polonius was sent to fish out the secret. The critic in the Quarterly Review (quoted in our first- note) adds the following remark: "The courtier's non-comprehension of the first sally gives additional point to the second—“Not I, my lord,” protests Polonius; and Hamlet retorts, “ Then I would you were so honest a man”-as honest as the fishmonger you suppose me to mean, for yours is not so respectable a trade,' We add Johnson's character of Polonius—the only valuable contribution to criticism or annotation on Shakespeare made by the eminent moralist : * Polonius is a man bred in courts, exercised in business, stored with observation, confident in his knowledge, proud of his eloquence, and declining into dotage. His mode of oratory is truly represented as designed to ridicule the practice of those times, of prefaces that made no introduction, and of method that embarrassed rather than explained. This part of his character is accidental, the rest is natural. Such a man is positive and confident, because he knows that his mind was once strong, and knows not that it is become weak. Such a man excels in general principles, but fails in the particular application. He is knowing in retrospect, and ignorant in foresight. While he depends upon his memory, and can draw from his repositories of knowledge, he utters weighty sentences, and gives useful counsel; but as the mind in its enfeebled state cannot be kept long busy and intent, the old man is subject to sudden dereliction of his faculties, he loses the order of his ideas, and entangles himself in his own thoughts, till he recovers the leading principle, and falls again into his former train. This idea of dotage encroaching upon wisdom, will solve all the phenomena of the character of Polonius.'
4 For if the sun breed maggots in a dead dog, being a god kissing carrion-Have you a daughter? All the old copies read good kissing ; but Warburton substituted god for'good'—that is, the sun, a god, kissing
carrion--and Johnson called the emendation a noble one, which almost sets the critic on a level with the author !' The original text is thus defended by the Quarterly critic referred to: ‘Hamlet's faith in human virtue, shaken by the marriage of his mother, is destroyed by the revelations of the Ghost, and his mind is constantly brooding over the universal sinfulness of the world. Hence, to the remonstrating interrogatory of Polonius—“Honest, my lord ?”—his misanthropic reply : “Ay, sir; to be honest, as this world goes, is to be one man picked out of ten thousand ;" and he proceeds to assign a reason why it should be so : For if the sun breed maggots in a dead dog, being a good kissing carrion "- Here he breaks off with the sudden question to Polonius : “Have you a daughter ?” He was well aware that the effect of his interview with Ophelia would be to persuade her father that he was distracted with love; and finding that he has got into a logical discussion inconsistent with madness, he turns abruptly to a topic which will confirm Polonius in the delusion. The difficulty is to fill up the reasoning which Hamlet left incomplete. “An honest man ”—we take his meaning to be" is a rare being, one of ten thousand, and it cannot be otherwise in the very nature of things, for if the sun, which good, when it kisses carrion breeds only maggots, what issue is to be expected where both are vile, when man breeds with man, corruption with corruption.” The analogy is somewhat fanciful, but not therefore out of keeping with Hamlet's prevailing humour. He then ingeniously adapts the language of the unfinished argument to the newly started subject of Ophelia : “Let her not walk i’ the sun : conception is a blessing, but as your daughter may conceive-friend, look to’t.” The sun which produces maggots in the dead dog, produces desire in mortals.'
5 Lenten entertainment ; that is, poor, meagre entertainment, such as is given during the season of Lent.
6 We coted them on the way,we came alongside of them. Fr. côté. Afterwards we have escoted, but this, Johnson says, means paid, from the French escot, a shot, or reckoning.
? The clown shall make those laugh whose lungs are tickled o' the sere. The same expression occurs in Howard's Defensative against the Poyson of Supposed Prophecies, 1620 : ‘Discovering the moods and humours of the vulgar sort to be so loose and tickle of the sere. Every one has felt that dry tickling in the throat and lungs which excites coughing. Hamlet's meaning may therefore be, the clown by his merriment shall convert even their coughing into laughter.-DOUCE.
8 An aery of children, little cyases. A whole nest of child-performers, like eyases, or unfledged hawks. These were the choir-boys, children of St Paul's, of the Chapel Royal, &c.
9 Tarre them to controversy. To excite them, as dogs are provoked to fight. We have the expression in King John and Troilus and Cressida.
10 Ham. Do the boys carry it away?
Ros. Ay, that they do, my lord ; Hercules and his load too. By 'Hercules and his load' is meant Shakespeare's own theatre of the Globe, the sign of which was Hercules carrying the Globe. Although the poet was disposed to chide fortune that she did not provide better for him than employment on the stage (Sonnet cxi.), he had enough of the esprit de corps to condemn and satirise the public taste, that preferred these boy-performers to Burbage and his associates at the Globe Theatre.
11 I know a hawk from a handsaw. A common proverb at that time; 'handsaw' is supposed to be a corruption of hernshaw, a heron,
12 0 Jephthah, judge of Israel. The quotations in the text are from an old ballad, included in Percy's Reliques.
13 Thy face is valanced ; that is, fringed with a beard.
14 The altitude of a chopine. The 'chopine' was a high shoe or clog worn by the Italian ladies, and partially introduced into England.
15 Pray God, your voice, like a piece of uncurrent gold, be not cracked within the ring. It must be remembered that Hamlet addresses a young man who acted the female parts. As to the ring, Douce says: 'There was a ring or circle on the coin, within which the sovereign's head was placed; if the crack extended from the edge beyond this ring, the coin was rendered unfit for currency.'
16 Caviare to the general; that is, unpalatable to the common people. Caviare' is the prepared roe of the sturgeon-a Russian delicacy. The roe is salted, dried, and sprinkled with oil.
17 No sallets in the lines—no ribald words or allusions. Pope altered the word to salt, but this was to introduce a different meaning.
18 The mobled queen. The folio has inobled, a phrase which Polonius would scarcely have pronounced 'good.' 'Mobled' is in the quarto of 1603, and the word means hastily muffled up or loosely dressed.
19 Bisson rheum-blinding rheum. Sax. bisen.
20 John-a-dreams. A nickname for a listless, dreamy fellow. His name is John, indeed, says the cynic, but neither John a-nods nor John a-dreams.'-ARMIN's Nest of Ninnies, 1609.
ACT III. 1 Take arms against a sea of troubles. Pope proposed 'a siege of troubles;' Warburton, assail ; Singer, assay, &c. But the metaphor was common with Shakespeare-as a 'sea of joys,' a 'sea of glory,' a 'sea of care,' &c.
Bodkin-Fardels. The term 'bodkin’ was a common term for a dagger; ‘fardels' were burdens or packs.
3 To grunt and sweat under a weary life. All the old copies have 'to grunt,' but the word can scarcely, as Johnson says, be borne by modern ears, and groan is generally substituted. On one other occasion Shakespeare uses the swinish expression, in Midsummer Night's Dream, Act III. sc. 1, but there it is applied, as in the modern sense, to the guttural sound of a hog. It is to be regretted that the poet did not write groan, as in the following passage in Julius Cæsar, Act IV. sc. 1:
“He shall but bear them as the ass bears gold,
To groan and sweat under the business.' * I have heard of your paintings too. In this scene of acted madness, the you and your must be taken as applied to the female sex generally, not personally to Ophelia.
5 O'erdoing Termagant; it out-herods Herod. Termagant and Herod were characters in the old Miracle Plays. Chaucer makes his parishclerk Absolon, in the Miller's Tale, a performer:
"Sometime to shew his lightnesse and maistrie,
He plaieth Herode, on a skaffold hie,' 6 For, 0, for, 0, the hobby-horse is forgot. An allusion to the omission of the hobby-horse in the May-games. See note on Love's Labour's Lost, Act III.
7 Miching mallecho. “Miching' was stealing; ‘mallecho,' from the Spanish, meant malefaction.
8 Two Provincial roses on my razed shoes. Roses, not from Provence, as Warton supposed, but from Provins, in Lower Brie, about forty miles from Paris. This place, Douce says, was formerly very celebrated for the growth of the flower. "Razed shoes' may mean slashed or opened shoes, or the poet's word may have been raised or high shoes.
10 Re-enter Players with Recorders. The 'recorder' was a musical instrument like the flute. Chappell, in his Popular Music, says, “the number of holes for the fingers is the same as the flute, and the scale, the compass, and the manner of playing the same.'
11 Shent--rebuked, or reproached. We have the word again in Coriolanus and Troilus and Cressida ; also in Spenser's Fairy Queen.
12 Hent-seized, taken hold of. Sax. hende.
13 The body of contraction; the force or validity of a contract, the queen's contract of marriage.
14 Thunders in the index. The 'index' was formerly placed at the commencement of books.
15 A vice of kings. An allusion to the vice or buffoon of the old plays. Afterwards, Hamlet designates him'a king of shreds and patches.'
16 From a paddock, from a bat, a gib. The 'paddock’ is a toad or frog (in Scotland, it is a common name for the frog); the 'gib' is a cat-the male cat, often called Gilbert or Gib.
i The body is with the king, but the king is not with the body. The king is a thing. Johnson said he could not comprehend this answer, but thought it might be, 'The body is not with the king, for the king is not with the body.' Steevens suggested that it might mean, The body is in the king's house (that is, the present king's), yet the king (that is, he that should have been king) is not with the body-intimating that the usurper is here, the true king in a better place. The anonymous critic in the Quarterly Review thinks there are two ways in which a meaning may be extracted : first, that Hamlet may, according to his custom, be playing upon words, and under the term of the body'may designate the king. The body of his uncle occupies the throne of Denmark, and in this sense the body is with the king; but he is a usurper, and therefore the king is not with the body. Another interpretation is this : By the body is with the king,' may be meant that the corpse of Polonius is in the king's palace; and by the king is not with the body,' that the usurping murderer is not yet à corpse, as he deserves to be.
? Hide fox, and all after. The old name of the boyish game called Hide and seek.
3 Re-enter Horatio with Ophelia. The quarto of 1603 has a minute stage direction : 'Enter Ophelia, playing on a lute, and her hair down, singing.'
4 God’ield you ! an abbreviation of God yield you, or requite you. 5 Like to a murdering-piece ; a cannon was often so called.
6 The ocean, overpeering of his list; overswelling his bounds. Such expressions distinguish Shakespeare from all his contemporaries. His language, his phraseology, is peculiarly his own, and like no other.
7 Life-rendering pelican. The folio has politician-a ludicrous misprint. The fable that the pelican nourishes her young with her blood, was popular with the old writers and artists, who introduced it into books of emblems, as 'a mystic lesson of maternal love.'
8 The scrimers of their nation; the fencers. Fr. escrimeur, a fencer. 9 A sword unbated; that is, not blunted, as foils are. 10 Venom'd stuck-venom'd thrust; from stoccata, a term in fencing.