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O'erbears your officers! The rabble call him, lord;
QUEEN. How cheerfully on the false trail they cry! O, this is counter, you false Danish dogs *.
3 The ratifiers and props of every WORD,] By word is here meant a declaration, or proposal. It is determined to this sense, by the inference it hath to what had just preceded :
"The rabble call him lord," &c.
This acclamation, which is the word here spoken of, was made without regard to antiquity, or received custom, whose concurrence, however, is necessarily required to confer validity and stability in every proposal of this kind. HEATH.
Sir T. Hanmer would transpose this line and the next. Dr. Warburton proposes to read, ward; and Dr. Johnson, weal, instead of word. I should be rather for reading, work.
In the first folio there is only a comma at the end of the above line; and will not the passage bear this construction ?—The rabble call him lord, and as if the world were now but to begin, and as if the ancient custom of hereditary succession were unknown, they, the ratifiers and props of every word he utters, cry,—Let us make choice, that Laertes shall be king. TOLLET.
This construction might certainly be admitted, and the ratifiers and props of every word might be understood to be applied to the rabble mentioned in a preceding line, without Sir T. Hanmer's transposition of this and the following line; but there is no authority for what Mr. Tollet adds, "of every word he [Laertes] utters," for the poet has not described Laertes as having uttered a word. If, therefore, the rabble are called the ratifiers and props of every word, we must understand, "of every word uttered by themselves:" which is so tame that it would be unjust to our poet to suppose that to have been his meaning. Ratifiers, &c. refer not to the people, but to custom and antiquity, which the speaker says are the true ratifiers and props of every word. The last word however of the line may well be suspected to be corrupt; and Mr. Tyrwhitt has probably suggested the true reading.
4 O, this is counter, you false Danish dogs.] Hounds run counter when they trace the trail backwards. JOHNSON.
KING. The doors are broke.
Enter LAERTES, armed; Danes following. LAER. Where is this king ?-Sirs, stand you all without.
DAN. No, let's come in.
I pray you, give me leave.
DAN. We will, we will.
[They retire without the Door. LAER. I thank you:-keep the door.-O thou vile king,
Give me my father.
Calmly, good Laertes.
LAER. That drop of blood, that's calm*, proclaims me bastard;
Cries, cuckold, to my father; brands the harlot Even here, between the chaste unsmirched brow Of my true mother.
What is the cause, Laertes, That thy rebellion looks so giant-like?— Let him go, Gertrude; do not fear our person; There's such divinity doth hedge a king, That treason can but peep to what it would, Acts little of his will.-Tell me, Laertes,
*First folio, that calms.
4 UNSMIRCHED brow,] i. e. clean, not defiled. To besmirch, our author uses, Act I. Sc. V. and again in King Henry V. Act IV. Sc. III.
This seems to be an allusion to a proverb often introduced in the old comedies. Thus, in The London Prodigal, 1605: as true as the skin between any man's brows."
The same phrase is also found in Much Ado About Nothing, Act III. Sc. V. STEEVENS.
5 Acts little of his will.-] We may illustrate this passage by an anecdote of Queen Elizabeth, related in Englandes Mourning Garment, by Henry Chettle. While her Majesty was on the river, near Greenwich, a shot was fired by accident, which struck the royal barge, and hurt a waterman near her. "The French ambassador being amazed, and all crying Treason, Treason! yet
Why thou art thus incens'd;-Let him go, Ger
LAER. Where is my father?
But not by him.
I'll not be juggled
KING. Let him demand his fill.
To hell, allegiance! vows, to the blackest devil!
Who shall stay you? LAER. My will, not all the world's *: And, for my means, I'll husband them so well, They shall go far with little.
you desire to know the certainty Of your dear father's death, is't writ in your re
That, sweepstake, you will draw both friend and foe, Winner and loser?
LAER. None but his enemies.
* First folio, world.
she, with an undaunted spirit, came to the open place of the barge, and bad them never feare, for if the shot were made at her, they durst not shoote againe : such majestie had her presence, and such boldnesse her heart, that she despised all feare; and was as all princes are, or should be; so full of divine fullnesse, that guiltie mortalitie durst not beholde her but with dazeled eyes."
BOSWELL. 6 That BOTH THE WORLDS I give to negligence,] So, in Macbeth:
"But let the frame of things disjoint, both the worlds suffer." STEEVENS.
Will you know them then? LAER. To his good friends thus wide I'll ope my
And, like the kind life-rend'ring pelican * 7,
DANES. [Within.] Let her come in.
Enter OPHELIA, fantastically dressed with Straws and Flowers.
O heat, dry up my brains! tears seven times salt, * First folio, politician.
7-life-rend'ring PELICAN,] So, in the ancient Interlude ot Nature, bl. 1. no date :
"Who taught the cok hys watche-howres to observe,
"Who taught the pellycan her tender hart to carve? -
Again, in the play of King Leir, 1605:
"I am as kind as is the pelican,
"That kils itselfe, to save her young ones lives."
It is almost needless to add that this account of the bird is entirely fabulous. STEEVENS.
8 most SENSIBLY-] Thus the quarto 1604. The folio, following the error of a later quarto, reads-most sensible.
to your judgment 'PEAR,] So the quarto. The folio, and all the later editions, read:
"to your judgment pierce,"
less intelligibly. JOHNSON.
This elision of the verb to appear, is common to Beaumont and Fletcher. So, in The Maid in the Mill:
"They 'pear so handsomely, I will go forward."
"And where they 'pear so excellent in little,
Burn out the sense and virtue of mine eye!—
OPH. They bore him barefac'd on the bier2;
*First folio, by.
'Nature is FINE in love: and, where 'tis fine,
It sends some precious instance of itself
After the thing it loves.] These lines are not in the quarto, and might have been omitted in the folio without great loss, for they are obscure and affected; but, I think, they require no emendation. Love (says Laertes) is the passion by which nature is most exalted and refined; and as substances, refined and subtilised, easily obey any impulse, or follow any attraction, some part of nature, so purified and refined, flies off after the attracting object, after the thing it loves:
"As into air the purer spirits flow,
"And separate from their kindred dregs below,
The meaning of the passage may be-That her wits, like the spirit of fine essences, flew off or evaporated. Fine, however, sometimes signifies artful. So, in All's Well that Ends Well: "Thou art too fine in thy evidence." STEEVENS.
So, in Chaucer's
2 They bore him barefac'd on the bier; &c.] Knighte's Tale, Mr. Tyrwhitt's edit. ver. 2879: "He laid him bare the visage on the bere,
"Therwith he wept that pitee was to here." STEEVENS. 3 Hey no nonny, &c.] These words, which were the burthen of a song, are found only in the folio. See King Lear, Act III.
Sc. III. MALONE.
These words are also found in old John Heywood's Play of The Wether:
"Gyve boys wether, quoth a nonny nonny.”
I am informed, that among the common people in Norfolk, to nonny signifies to trifle or play with. STEEVENS.