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Ham.' My lord, I have news to tell you; When Roscius was an actor in Rome,
Pol. The actors are come hither, my lord.
Pol. The best actors in the world, either for tragedy, comedy, history, pastoral, pastoral-comical, historical-pastoral (tragical-historical, tragicalcomical-historical-pastoral]50, scene individable, or poem unlimited:–Seneca cannot be too heavy, nor Plautus too light for the law of writ 51 and the liberty :—these are the only men.
Ham. O Jephthah, judge of Israel,—what a treasure hadst thou ! Pol. What a treasure had he,
lord ? Ham. Why— One fair daughter, and no more,
The which he loved passing well52. Pol. Still on my daughter.
[Aside. Ham. Am I not i'the right, old Jephthah?
Pol. If you call me Jephthah, my lord, I have a daughter, that I love passing well.
49 Surely the commentators' need not have expended their ingenuity on this common interjection. 50 The words within crotchets are not in the quartos.
51 Writ for writing, a common abbreviation, which is not yet obsolete: we still say holy writ, for the sacred writings. I should not have noticed this, but that there have been editors who thought that we should read,' the law of wit. The quarto of 1603 reads, for the law hath writ. The modern editions have pointed this passage in the following manner :- Scene individable, or poem unlimited; Seneca cannot be too heavy nor Plautus too light. For the law of writ, and the liberty, these are the only men.' I have adhered to the pointing of the quarto, because it appears to me that the law and the liberty of writing relates to Seneca and Plautus, and not to the players.
52 An imperfect copy of this ballad, of 'Jephtha, Judge of Israel,' was given to Dr. Percy by Steevens. See Reliques, ed. 1794, vol. i. p. 189. There is a more correct copy in Mr. Evans's Old Ballads, vol. i. p. 7, ed. 1810.
Ham. Nay, that follows not.
lord ? Ham. Why, As by lot, God wot, and then, you know, It came to pass, As most like it was,—The first row of the pious chanson 53 . will show you more; for look, my abridgment 54 comes.
Enter Four or Five Players. Your are welcome, masters; welcome, all :- I am glad to see thee well :-welcome, good friends.0, old friend !. Why, thy face is valanced 55 since I saw thee last; Com'st thou to beard me in Denmark?— What! my young lady and mistress ! By-'r-lady, your ladyship is nearer to heaven, than when I saw you last, by the altitude of a chopine 56.
53 Pons chanson is the reading of the first folio; three of the quartos read pious ; and the newly discovered quarto of 1603,
the godly ballad ;' which puts an end to controversy upon the subject. The first row is the first column. Every one is ac. quainted with the form of these old carols and ballads.
54 The folio reads, ' abridgments come. My abridgment, i, e who come to abridge my talk.
55 i. e. fringed with a beard.
56 A chopine, a kind of high shoe, or rather clog, worn by the Spanish and Italian ladies, and adopted at one time as a fashion by the English. Coriate describes those worn by the Venetians as some of them half a yard high.' Bulwer, in his Artificial Changeling, complains of this fashion, as a monstrous affectation,' wherein our ladies imitate the Venetian and Persian ladies.' That the fashion was originally of oriental origin seems very probable: there is a figure of a Turkish lady with chopines in Sandy's Travels ; and another of a Venetian courtesan in the Habiti Antichi, &c. di Cesare Vecellio. The annexed cut is reduced from one in Mr. Douce's Illustrations, copied from a real Venetian chopine.
Chapin is the Spanish name; and Cobarruvias countenances honest Tom Coriate's account of the preposterous height to which some ladies carried them. He tells an old tale of their being invented to prevent women's gadding, being first made of wood, and very heavy; and that the ingenuity of the women
'Pray God, your voice, like a piece of uncurrent gold, be not cracked within the ring 57 -Masters, you are all welcome. We'll e'en to't like French falconers, fly at any thing we see: We'll have a speech straight: Come, give us a taste of your quality; come, a passionate speech.
1 Play. What speech, my lord?
Ham. I heard thee speak me a speech once, but it was never acted; or, if it was, not above once: for the play, I remember, pleased not the million 58 ; 'twas caviare to the general 59 : but it was (as I received it, and others, whose judgments, in such matters, cried in the top of mine), an excellent play: well digested in the scenes, set down with as much modesty as cunning. I remember, one said, there were no sallets in the lines 6o, to make the matter savoury: nor no matter in the phrase, that might indite the author of affection 61; but called it, an honest method, as wholesome as sweet, and by very much more handsome than fine. One speech in it I chiefly loved: 'twas Æneas' tale to Dido; and thereabout of it especially, where he speaks of Priam's slaughter: If it live in your memory, begin at this line; let me see, let me see;
overcame this inconvenience by substituting cork. Though they are mentioned under the name of cioppini by those who saw them in use in Venice, the dictionaries record them under the title of zoccoli. Cobbaravias asserts that they were made of zapino (deal) in Italy, and not of cork; and hence their name. But the Spanish doctors differ about the etymology. Perhaps Hamlet may have some allusion to the boy having grown so as to fill the place of a tragedy heroine, and so assumed the cothurnus; which Puttenham described as “high corked shoes, or pantofles, which now they call in Spaine and Italy shoppini.'
57 The old gold coin was thin and liable to crack. There was a ring or circle on it, within which the sovereign's head, &c. was placed; if the crack extended beyond this ring, it was rendered uncurrent: it was therefore a simile applied to any other debased or injured object. There is some humour in applying it to a cracked voice.
58 The quarto of 1603 vulgar.
59 • 'Twas caviare to the general. Caviare is said to be the pickled roes of certain fish of the sturgeon kind, called in Italy caviale, and much used there and in other Catholic countries. Great quantities were prepared on the river Volga formerly. As a dish of high seasoning and peculiar flavour it was not relished by the many, i. e. the general. A fantastic fellow, described in Jonson's Cynthia's Revels, is said to be learning to eat macaroni, periwinkles, French beans, and caviare, and pretending to like them.
The rugged Pyrrhus, like the Hyrcanian beast,'tis not so; it begins with Pyrrhus.
The rugged Pyrrhus,-he, whose sable arms,
When he lay couched in the ominous horse, 60 • There were no sallets in the lines. The force of this phrase will appear from the following passage, cited by Steevens, from A Banquet of Jests, 1665 :— For junkets joci, and for sallets sales.' Sal. Salte, a pleasante and mery word, that maketh folke to laugh, and sometimes pricketh.'— Baret.
61 i. e. impeach the author with affectation in his style. In Love's Labour's Lost, Nathaniel tells the Pedant that his reasons have been witty without affection. In the Preface to George Chapman's Banquet of Sence, 1595, obscuritie in affection of words and indigested conceits is pedanticall and childish. The folio indeed reads affectation. The poet has probably put into the mouth of Hamlet his own genuine opinion of this speech, and the play from whence it was derived; whether it was one of his own juvenile performances, or one of those inform dramas which he had polished, it is now vain to inquire. There are words and passages which were evidently coined in his mint.
Schlegel considers it as one example of the many niceties of Shakspeare which have never been understood. He observes, that this speech must not be judged by itself, but in connexion with the place where it is introduced. To distinguish it as dramatic poetry in the play itself, it was necessary that it should rise above the dignified poetry of that in the same proportion that the theatrical elevation does above simple nature. Hence Shakspeare bas composed the play in Hamlet altogether in sententious rhymes, full of antithesis. But this solemn and measured tone did not suit a speech in which violent emotion ought to prevail ; and the poet had no other expedient than the one of which he made use, overcharging the pathos.'
Hath now his dread and black complexion smear'd With heraldry more dismal; head to foot
, Now he is total gules; horridly trick'd 62 With blood of fathers, mothers, daughters, sons ; Bak'd and impasted with the parching streets, That lend a tyrannous and a damned light To their lord's murder: Roasted in wrath, and fire, And thus o’er-sized with coagulate gore, With eyes like carbuncles, the hellish Pyrrhus Old grandsire Priam seeks ;—So you.
Pol. 'Fore God, my lord, well spoken; with good accent, and good discretion.
1 Play. Anon he finds him Striking too short at Greeks; his antique sword, Rebellious to his arm, lies where it falls, Repugnant to command: Unequal match'd, Pyrrhus at Priam drives; in rage, strikes wide; But with the whiff and wind of his fell sword The unnerved father falls. Then senseless Ilium, Seeming to feel this blow, with flaming top Stoops to his base; and with a hideous crash Takes prisoner Pyrrhus' ear: for, lo! his sword Which was declining on the milky head Of reverend Priam, seem'd i' the air to stick: So, as a painted tyrant, Pyrrhus stood; And, like a neutral to his will and matter, Did nothing. But, as we often see, against some storm, A silence in the heavens, the rack 63 stand still,
62 Gules, i. e. red, in the language of heraldry: to trick is to colour. • With man's blood paint the ground; gules, gules.'
Timon of Athens. 63 The rack is the clouds, formed by vaporous exhalation. Johnson has chosen this passage and one in Dryden of the same import to exemplify the word which he explains, ` the clouds as they are driven by the winds.'