Imatges de pÓgina

POL. It is backed 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 bent2.-I will come by and by.

POL. I will say so.

[Exit POLONIUS. HAM. By and by is easily said.-Leave me, friends. [Exeunt Ros. GUIL. HOR. &c. "Tis now the very witching time of night; When churchyards yawn, and hell itself breathes out

"Ham. Methinks, it is like an ouzle.
"Pol. It is black like an ouzle."

The first folio reads," It is like a weazel."

"Pol. It is back'd like a weazel-:" and what occasion for alteration there was, I cannot discover. The weaezl is remarkable for the length of its back; but though I believe a black weasel is not easy to be found, yet it is as likely that the cloud should resemble a weasel in shape, as an ouzle (i. e. black-bird) in colour.

Mr. Tollet observes, that we might read-" it is beck'd like a weasel," i. e. weasel-snouted. So, in Holinshed's Description of England, p. 172: "if he be wesell-becked." Quarles uses this term of reproach in his Virgin Widow: "Go you weazel-snouted, addle-pated," &c. Mr. Tollet adds, that Milton, in his Lycidas, calls a promontory beaked, i. e. prominent like the beak of a bird, or a ship. STEEVENS.

"Ham. Methinks it is like a weazel.

"Pol. It is backed like a weazel." Thus the quarto 1604, and the folio. In a more modern quarto, that of 1611, backed, the original reading, was corrupted into black.

Perhaps, in the original edition, the words camel and weasel were shuffled out of their places. The poet might have intended the dialogue to proceed thus:

“Ham. Do you see yonder cloud, that's almost in the shape of a weasel?

"Pol. By the mass, and 'tis like a weasel, indeed.

"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 weasel does. MALONE.

2 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.

Contagion to this world: Now could I drink hot blood,


And do such business as the bitter day
Would quake to look on.

Soft; now to my mo

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:
How in my words soever she be shent ",
To give them seals never, my soul, consent!



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

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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 his Logick, says, " Bitter is an equivocal word; there is bitter wormwood, there are bitter words, there are bitter enemies, and a bitter cold morning." It is, in short, any thing unpleasing or hurtful. STEEVENS.


4 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.

5 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.


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.



A Room in the Same.

Enter King, ROSENCRANTZ, and GUILDENSTERN. 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 you7: The terms of our estate may not endure Hazard so near us*, as doth hourly grow Out of his lunacies.

*First folio, dangerous.

To give them seals-] i. e. put them in execution.

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 LUNACIES.] I have ventured to restore the reading of the first folio, which affords a meaning about which no one can hesitate, and which the King has employed before:


Grating so harshly all his days of quiet "With turbulent and dangerous lunacy."

instead of lunes, which Mr. Theobald has introduced merely with a view to avoid an Alexandrine. As Mr. Steevens justly observed in his edition of 1778, "from the redundancy of the measure nothing can be inferred:" and we have already had a multitude of lines equally long in this very play. The word brows in the quarto, which was probably changed for one more obviously to be

We will ourselves provide:

Most holy and religious fear it is,

understood, need not to have been amended, as Johnson proposed: The brow seems to have been considered by Shakspeare as the great seat of expression, from which either our virtue or "the head and front of our offending" might be discovered:


Takes off the rose

"From the fair forehead of an innocent love." So again :


Brands the harlot

"Even here between the chaste unsmirched brow


Of my true mother." BOSWELL.

"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 unnecessary 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.


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 lunes-when 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) corresponds to "the shoots

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 weal9 depend and rest
The lives of many. The cease of majesty
Dies not alone; but, like a gulf, 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;

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 husband; 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 Hamblet, 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 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.

it is a massy wheel,] Thus the folio. Or it is, &c. MALONE.

The quarto reads

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