Imatges de pÓgina

For we will fetters put upon * this fear,
Which now goes too free-footed.

Ros. GUIL.

We will haste us.



Poz. My lord, he's going to his mother's closet: Behind the arras I'll convey myself",

To hear the process; I'll warrant, she'll tax him home:

And, as you said, and wisely was it said,

"Tis meet, that some more audience, than a mother, Since nature makes them partial 3, should o'erhear The speech, of vantage. Fare you well, my liege: I'll call upon you ere you go to bed,

And tell you what I know.



Thanks, dear my

O, my offence is rank, it smells to heaven;
It hath the primal eldest curse upon't,
A brother's murder !-Pray can I not,
Though inclination be as sharp as will 5;

* Quarto, about.

2 Behind the arras I'll convey myself,] The arras-hangings, in Shakspeare's time, were hung at such a distance from the walls, that a person might easily stand behind them unperceived.

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4 of VANTAGE.] By some opportunity of secret observation.


5 Though inclination be as sharp as WILL;] Dr. Warburton would read:


Though inclination be as sharp as th' ill." The old reading is-as sharp as will. STEEVENS.

My stronger guilt defeats my strong intent;
And, like a man to double business bound,
I stand in pause where I shall first begin,
And both neglect. What if this cursed hand
Were thicker than itself with brother's blood?
Is there not rain enough in the sweet heavens,
To wash it white as snow? Whereto serves mercy,
But to confront the visage of offence?

And what's in prayer, but this two-fold force,-
To be forestalled, ere we come to fall,

Or pardon'd*, being down? Then I'll look up;
My fault is past. But, O, what form of prayer
Can serve my turn? Forgive me my foul murder!-
That cannot be; since I am still possess'd
Of those effects for which I did the murder,
My crown, mine own ambition, and my queen.
May one be pardon'd, and retain the offence?

* Quarto, pardon.

I have followed the easier emendation of Mr. Theobald, received by Sir T. Hanmer : i. e. as 'twill. JOHNSON.

Will is command, direction. Thus, Ecclesiasticus, xliii. 16: "—and at his will the south wind bloweth." The King says, his mind is in too great confusion to pray, even though his inclination were as strong as the command which requires that duty.


What the King means to say, is, "That though he was not only willing to pray, but strongly inclined to it, yet his intention was defeated by his guilt."

The distinction I have stated between inclination and will, is supported by the following passage in the Laws of Candy, where Philander says to Erato:



"I have a will, I'm sure, howe'er "May play the coward." M. MASON. The distinction is philosophically correct. I may will to do a thing because my understanding points it out to me as right, although I am not inclined to it. See Locke on the Human Understanding, b. 2, ch. 21, sec. 30. BOSWELL.

May one be pardon'd, and retain the OFFENCE?] He that does not amend what can be amended, retains his offence. The King kept the crown from the right heir. JOHNSON.

A similar passage occurs in Philaster, where the King, who had

In the corrupted currents of this world,
Offence's gilded hand may shove by justice;
And oft 'tis seen, the wicked prize itself
Buys out the law: But 'tis not so above:
There is no shuffling, there the action lies
In his true nature; and we ourselves compell'd,
Even to the teeth and forehead of our faults,
To give in evidence. What then? what rests ?
Try what repentance can: What can it not?
Yet what can it, when one can not repent??
O wretched state! O bosom, black as death!
O limed soul; that struggling to be free,
Art more engag'd! Help, angels, make assay!
Bow, stubborn knees! and, heart, with strings of


Be soft as sinews of the new-born babe ;

All may be well!

[Retires and kneels.


HAM. Now might I do it, pat, now he is praying ';

And now I'll do't;-and so he goes to heaven: And so am I reveng'd? That would be scann'd':

usurped the crown of Sicily, and is praying to heaven for forgive

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"Look to be heard of gods, that must be just,

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Praying upon the ground I hold by wrong?"


7 Yet what can it, when one' CAN NOT repent?] What can repentance do for a man that cannot be penitent, for a man who has only part of penitence, distress of conscience, without the other part, resolution of amendment? JOHNSON.

8 O LIMED Soul;] This alludes to bird-lime. Shakspeare uses the same word again, in King Henry VI. P. II. :

"Madam, myself have lim'd a bush for her." STeevens. 9- PAT, now he is praying;] Thus the folio. The quartos read-but now, &c. STEEVENS.


-That would be scann'd:] i. e. that should be considered, estimated. STEEVENS.

A villain kills my father; and, for that,
I, his sole son, do this same villain send
To heaven.


Why, this is hire and salary 3, not revenge.
He took my father grossly, full of bread;

With all his crimes broad blown, as flush * as

And, how his audit stands, who knows, save heaven"?
But, in our circumstance and course of thought,
"Tis heavy with him: And am I then reveng'd,
To take him in the purging of his soul,
When he is fit and season'd for his passage?

Up, sword; and know thou a more horrid hent":
When he is drunk, asleep, or in his rage;
Or in the incestuous pleasures of his bed';

* First folio, fresh.

2 I, his SOLE Son, do this same villain send-] The folio reads-foule son, a reading apparently corrupted from the quarto. The meaning is plain. I, his only son, who am bound to punish his murderer.' JOHNSON.

Thus the folio. The quartos read

3 - HIRE and SALARY,] "base and silly." STEEVENS.

He took my father grossly, FULL OF BREAD;

With all his crimes broad blown,] The uncommon expression, full of bread, our poet borrowed from the sacred writings : "Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom; pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy." Ezekiel, xvi. 49. MALONE.

5 And, how his audit stands, who knows, save heaven?] As it appears from the Ghost's own relation that he was in purgatory, Hamlet's doubt could only be how long he had to continue there. RITSON.

6 Up, sword; and know thou a more horrid HENT:] To hent is used by Shakspeare for to seize, to catch, to lay hold on. Hent is, therefore, hold, or seizure. Lay hold on him, sword, at a more horrid time.' JOHNSON.

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7 When he is drunk, asleep, or in hes rage;

Or in the incestuous pleasures o' h's bed;] So, in Marston's Insatiate Countess, 1613:

At gaming, swearing; or about some act
That has no relish of salvation in't:

Then trip him, that his heels may kick at heaven":
And that his soul may be as damn'd, and black,
As hell, whereto it goes'. My mother stays:
This physick but prolongs thy sickly days. [Exit.

"Didst thou not kill him drunk?

"Thou should'st, or in th' embraces of his lust.”


8 At gaming, swearing;] Thus the folio. The quarto 1604 reads At game, a swearing," &c. MALONE.


9 that his heels may kick at heaven;] So, in Heywood's Silver Age, 1613:

"Whose heels tript up, kick'd gainst the firmament.” STEEVENS.

As hell, whereto it goes.] This speech, in which Hamlet, represented as a virtuous character, is not content with taking blood for blood, but contrives damnation for the man that he would punish, is too horrible to be read or to be uttered.


This speech of Hamlet's, as Johnson observes, is horrible indeed; yet some moral may be extracted from it, as all his subsequent calamities were owing to this savage refinement of revenge, M. MASON.

That a sentiment so infernal should have met with imitators, may excite surprize; and yet the same fiend-like disposition is shown by Lodowick, in Webster's White Devil, or Vittoria Corombona, 1612:


to have poison'd

"The handle of his racket. O, that, that !-
"That while he had been bandying at tennis,
"He might have sworn himself to hell, and struck
"His soul into the hazard!"

Again, in The Honest Lawyer, by S. S. 1616:

"I then should strike his body with his soul,
"And sink them both together."

Again, in the third of Beaumont and Fletcher's Four Plays in

"No: take him dead drunk now,

without repentance.”


The same horrid thought has been adopted by Lewis Machin, in The Dumb Knight, 1633:


Nay, but be patient, smooth your brow a little,
you shall take them as they clip each other;
"Even in the height of sin; then damn them both,

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