« PreviousContinue »
and love and grief together rend and shatter the frail
“ They say, the owl was a baker's daughter."
daughter, who, insisting that the piece of dough was (Danish lutes.)
too large, reduced it to a very small size : the dough,
however, immediately began to swell, and presently beHer sweet mind lies in fragments before us—a pitiful
came of a most enormous size; whereupon the baker's spectacle! Her wild, rambling fancies; her aimless,
daughter cried out, Heugh, heugh, heụgh,' which owlbroken speeches; her quick transitions from gayety to
like noise probably induced our Saviour to transform sadness—each equally purposeless and causeless; her
her into that bird, for her wickedness.” The story is snatches of old ballads, such as perhaps her nurse sang related to deter children froin illiberal behaviour to the her to sleep with in her infancy—are all so true to the
poor. life, that we forget to wonder, and can only weep. It belonged to Shakespeare alone, so to temper such a
“Which bewept to the grave did not go.”—The quarto, picture that we can endure to dwell upon it
1603, and the folio have “grave," the other quartos “Thought and affliction, passion, hell itself,
ground; but all authorities read “ did not go,” which She turns to favour and to preitiness.”
Pope considered an error; but she alters the song in
reference to her father's “obscure funeral," as menThat in her madness she should exchange her bash
tioned by Laertes and the King. ful silence for empty babbling, her sweet maidenly demeanour for the impatient restlessness that spurns at “ In HUGGER-MUGGER.”—This word, now used only straws, and say and sing precisely what she never in a ludicrous sense, was formerly employed to express would or could have uttered had she been in possession | any hurried or clandestine manner. of her reason, is so far from being an impropriety, that
“The ocean, overpeering of his list.” it is an additional stroke of nature. It is one of the symptoms of this species of insanity, as we are assured
Breaking over his boundary. The phrase is used by physicians. I have myself' known one instance, in and explained in Henry IV.the case of a young Quaker girl, whose character re
“The very list, the very utmost bound
Of all our fortunes.” sembled that of Ophelia, and whose malady arose from a similar cause.”—MRS. JAMESON.
“O! this is COUNTER”—To hunt “counter,” is to
hunt contrary to the proper course. “ Where is the beauteous majesty of Denmark ?” Sir Joshua Reynolds observes that there is no part of
“0, how the WHEEL.”--Stevens and Singer have this play, in its representation on the stage, more pa
shown that the wheel is the burthen of the song or
ballad. thetic than this scene; which he supposes to arise from the utter insensibility of Ophelia to her own misfortunes.
SCENE VII. “A great sensibility or none at all, (says he,) seems to
“Of the unworthiest siege.”—Siege is here used as produce the same effect. In the latter case, the audience supply what is wanting; and with the former
in Othello, (act i. scene 2, &c.,) for seat ; and denotes
place or rank, as in other poets of that age. they sympathize."
Over her, “the sweet Ophelia,” even Johnson de “ — the SCRIMERS of their nation”—Escrimeur is scends from his stern censorship to mourn, as “the French for a fencer; and hence “scrimer.” young, the beautiful, the harmless, and the pious;" while
“A suord UNBATED”-i. e, not blunted : in Love's Hazlitt, in a strain of passionate eloquence, exclaims :
Labour Lost, (act i. scene 1,) we meet with the word “Ophelia is a character almost too exquisitely touching
“ bate” for bluntto be dwelt upon. "Oh, rose of May! oh, flower too soon faded! Her love, her madness, her death, are described
“That honour, which shall bate his scythe's keen edge.” with the truest touches of tenderness and pathos. It “A wager on your cuNNINGS”-On the skill of each is a character which nobody but Shakespeare could of you ; as in our English Bible—“ Let my right hand have drawn in the way he has done; and to the con forget her cunning.” ception of which there is not the smallest approach,
" — your venom'd STUCK—So all the copies, exceptexcept in some of the old romantic ballads."
ing the quarto, 1637, which has tuck, a word sometimes Mrs. Jameson, after having pourtrayed with great
used for a sword; but " stuck” is warranted by its etybeauty and truth the effect of Ophelia's character, has
mology, stoccata, a term in the art of fencing: “venwith equal delicacy of discrimination, shown the prin
om'd stuck” is equivalent to “ venom'd thrust."-COL. ciple by which that effect is produced :-“ It is the helplessness of Ophelia, arising merely from her inno
“ There is a willow grows aslant a brook.” cence, and pictured without any indication of weak In this exquisite passage, I have, with the correction ness, which melts us with such profound pity. She is of two literal errors, and one word from the quartos, so young, that neither her mind nor her person have followed the folio reading. The ordinary text is from attained maturity; she is not aware of the nature of the quartos, with a conjectural emendation of “Thereher own feelings; they are prematurely developed in with fantastic garlands did she make,” for “ There, their full force before she has strength to bear them; with fantastic garlands did she make," as it appears in
all the quartos. Independently of the external evi in his use of matter so rich in absurd ingenuity as dence, the sense is clearer; and the passage has, to my Dame Hales's case, but in the careless variety and Ear, especially in the repetition of “there," a more playful abundance of his technical allusions, indicating touching melody than in the other readings.
a familiarity rarely acquired except by professional Instead, however, of “the snatches of old tunes," of studies. In these he is invariably accurate, and his the folio and modern editions, I have restored the read knowledge is far beyond the general information acing of the quarto, “old lauds," i. e. hymns of praise, l; quired by men of property and business, in their ordinary psalms, canticles, or chants of thanksgiving. This word affairs, even at this day. It is the more remarkable in could not have crept accidentally into all the earlier an age when the legal mysteries were much more jealeditions; while tunes, as more familiar, may well have ously guarded than now from lay intrusion. Junius been afterwards substituted in the playhouse copies. has been shown by a learned lawyer (Charles Butler) Besides, this is more congruous to the next line; chant not to have been a law-bred man, from an error in aling harmonizes best with lauds ; and the “chanting lusion to the law of real property, although he was snatches of lauds," would indicate one “incapable of competent to discuss constitutional questions. In any her own distress ;” while tunes might have been wild — particular point, reading and inquiry may protect the expressive of sorrow and lament.
mere literary man from error as to any legal subject « Liberal” is here used, as in Othello and elsewhere, selected for literary use; though Lord Coke denies even for “free in language.”
that as to the clergy. It is the transient and careless
allusion that proves habitual familiarity, and would inACT V.-SCENE I.
dicate the great poet to have been, in some way or
other, at some early period of life, connected with the “Crowner's quest-law.”--Sir John Hawkins originally law. pointed out that this ludicrous description of “ crowner's quest-law” was, in all probability, “a ridicule on
“ Eren Christian.”—As, we now say, “Fellow. the case of Dame Hales, reported by Plowden. This
Christian." was a case regarding the forfeiture of a lease, in consequence of the suicide of Sir James Hales. The pre
“ To play at loggats with them.”'_“Loggats" is a cise thing, however, ridiculed, is in the speech of one
game still much used in some parts of England, partiof the counsel in the case :
cularly Norwich, and its vicinity. A stake is fixed in “ Walsh said that the act consists of three parts.
the ground, at which the loggats (sinall logs or pieces The first is the imagination, which is a reflection or
of wood) are thrown. The sport may be considered a meditation of the mind, whether or no it is convenient
rude kind of quoits.-Illust. Shak. for him to destroy himself, and what way it can be “ W'hy may not that be the skull of a lawyer ?”—Here done. The second is the resolution, which is a deter is a profusion of legal lore, much of which has become mination of the mind to destroy himself, and to do it in obsolete in the progress of legal reform, even in Engthis or that particular way. The third is the perfection, land. Ritson, who was a lawyer, may explain :—“A which is the execution of what the mind has resolved recovery with double roucher is the one usually sufferto do. And this perfection consists of two parts, the ed, and is so called from two persons being successively beginning and the end. The beginning is the doing roucher, or called upon to warrant the tenant's title. Both of the act which causes the death, and the end is the
fines and recoveries are fictions of law, used to convert an death, which is only a sequel to the act.”
estate-tail into a fee-simple. Statutes are (not acts of Again, the reasoning of one of the judges is nearly parliament) but statutes merchant, and staple, particuequal to that of the clown :
lar modes of recognizance or acknowledgment for se“Sir James Hales was dead, and how came he to his curing debts, which thereby become a charge upon the death? It may be answered, by drowning; and who
party's land. Statutes and recognizances are constantdrowned him ? Sir James Hales : and when did he ly mentioned together in the covenants of a purchase drown him? In his lifetime. So that Sir James Hales, deed." being alive, caused Sir James Hales to die; and the act
The play upon “parchment" in the next lines, refers of the living man was the death of the dead man. And
to deeds, (always written upon parchment in England,) then for this offence it is reasonable to punish the living being, in legal language, “common assurances." man who committed the offence, and not the dead man. But how can he be said to be punished alive when the “ The card.”—The " seaman's card” of Macbeth ; punishment comes after his death? Sir, this can be a sea chart, done no other way but by divesting out of him, from
“Picked”—Is explained by Minshew, in his dictionthe time of the act done in his life which was the cause
ary, as “trimmed or dressed sprucely." of his death, the title and property of those things which he had in his lifetime."
“ It was that very day that young Hamlet was born."" It is clear that the ridicule here was especially Judge Blackstone remarks on this as a slip of memmeant for the case and argument above cited. Nor is ory in the poet. It appears, from what the Gravedigger there any thing very marvellous in a well-informed subsequently says, that Hamlet must have been at this man, of general curiosity, having looked into and found
period thirty years old ; and yet, in the early part of the matter of mirth in a book of reports published in his play, we are told of his intention to return to school at own time. It is indeed a natural illusion to suppose Wittenberg. In the first quarto, Yorick's skull is said that such a book appeared to Shakespeare as it does to have laid in the ground twelve years, instead of threenow to the unprofessional reader, when seen clad in and-twenty, as at present. the solemn terrors of black letter and the antique mys The editor of the Mustrated edition acutely remarks tery of law French. But the black letter was a cus that “It is probable that, in the reconstruction of the tomary mode of printing in the poet's youth, and the play, Shakespeare perceived that the general depth of French of Westminster-Hall very much resembled the Hamlet's philosophy indicated a mind too mature for Norman-French then still in familiar use as a common the possession of a very young man.” accomplishment. The poet having acquired that, as
« IMPERIAL Cæsar.”_So the folio; the quartos, imhis historical plays show him to have done, it was no
perious : the words were often used indifferently.- COL. more strange for him to look into a remarkable report, pointed out by any of the “ better brothers” of the “ Virgin rites.”_So the folio. The reading of the courts, than for one of our authors to look into the quarto, which is usually followed, is “ crants," which State Trials, or Wheaton's Reports. The difficulty to means garlands. But the “maiden strewments" are be explained in Shakespeare's legal allusions is not the flowers, the garlands, which piety scatters over the
bier of the young and innocent. The “rites” included “ sound and winnowed;"—or Singer's, “fanned and these, and the bringing home of bell and burial,” i. e. winnowed.” with bell and burial.
“ In the cup an Union shall be throun.”-So the folio, Warburton conjectured “ chants;" I think with John
rightly; a union being the most valuable kind of pearl. son that "crants” was the original word, which the au
Some of the quartos read “ onyx.” thor discovering to be provincial and not understood, changed to a term more intelligible. I judge it to be “ He's fat, and scant of breath.”—There are few the author's own correction, both because it is an im- readers among the young of either sex-very few, it is provement for the reasons above stated, and from its to be feared, among the ladies-who are not somewhat analogy to the phrase “rites of war" applied to Ham shocked at this notice of Hamlet's person, slight and let's obsequies, at the end of the play.
transient as it is. In our own day, especially, the “ Woul't drink up Esill ?”—“ Esill” was formerly
shadowy Hamlet of the imagination has been filled up a term in common use for vinegar; and thus some have
and made distinct to the mind's eye by the grand, thought that Hamlet here meant, Will you take a
graceful, and intellectual representation of the Prince draught of something very disagreeable ? There is,
in the Kemble-Hamlet of Sir T. Lawrence, and the exhowever, little doubt that he referred to the river Yssell,
cellent engravings from that majestic portrait. Issell, or Izel, the most northern branch of the Rhine,
The probable, though very unpoetical, explanation and that which is the nearest to Denmark. Stow and
of the apparently needless introduction of these words, Drayton are familiar with the name.
is drawn from one of those hard necessities of the stage
which so often mar the delicate creations of the fancy, SCENE II.
by embodying them in the coarser forms of material
imitation. It arose from the necessity of apologizing o Worse than the MUTINES in the BILBOES."-Here
for the personal appearance and action of Richard again we have “mutines” for mutineers, as in “King
Burbage, the “ English Roscius” of his time, who was John.” The “ bilboes” seem to have been so called the original Hamlet. from the place where they were originally made, Bilboa, Mr. Collier has corrected the opinion of former ediand they consisted of an iron bar with rings for con tors that Taylor was the original actor of Hamlet. We fining the hands or legs of oflenders on board ship.
know from the manuscript Elegy upon Burbage, sold “ And stand a comma.”—Caldecott explains this
among Heber's books, that he was the earliest repre“ Continue the passage or intercourse of amity between
sentative of Hamlet ; and there the circumstance of them, and prevent the interposition of a period to it.”
his being “fat and scant of breath,” in the fencing.
scene, is noticed the very words of Shakespeare :“I'N count his favours.—Rowe reads "court” for count,” with very considerable plausibility: however,
“No more young Hamlet, though but scant of breath,
Shall cry · Revenge!' for his dear father's death." “ count” may be the word in the sense of count upon ; or as Singer interprets, “make account of his good
Thus it happened, oddly enough, that the original will."
Hamlet resembled in all respects, the original Orestes
of Racine, (and Orestes is the Hamlet of the classic “ Is it not possible to understand in another tongue ?”
drama,) in which Montfleuri's impassioned declamation Walter Scott has made the reader familiar with the "eu
produced a wonderful effect, “malgré (says the critical phemisms” or finical phraseology of Elizabeth's court,
Geoffroy) l'énormité de son embon point." here ridiculed, as used by Osric, and retorted in a cari Yet it would require no great ingenuity to array a catured extravagance by Hamlet, until Horatio impa- | fair show of reasons (it may, perhaps, already have been tiently asks if it is not possible to understand in another
done in Germany) why this casual speech may not be tongue; i. e. that of common use.
meant as a hint of the poet's own notion of our hero's “ Ere you had done."--Horatio refers to the explana constitution and temperament. His own observation tory comment upon the body of a work, sometimes in had noted that the formidable conspirator, the dangerserted in the margin of the page.
ous enemy, the man of iron will and prompt execution,
resembled the lean and hungry Cassius;" while a ful“It is such a kind of gain-giving as would trouble
ler habit denoted a more indolent will, though it might a woman.”—“Gain-giving," or giving against, is in
be accompanied with an active intellect. But, to conpresent use, misgiving.
sider it so, “ were to consider too curiously.” We Coleridge remarks, “Shakespeare seems to mean all Hamlet's character to be brought together before his
may be content to acquiesce in Mr. Collier's solution.
With this matter-of-fact explanation, these words final disappearance from the scene ; his meditative ex
may be considered as no more than a stage-direction cess in the grave-digging, his yielding to passion with Laertes, his love for Ophelia blazing out, his tendency
for a particular purpose, not a permanent part of the
text; and the reader's imagination may be free to to generalize on all occasions in the dialogue with Horatio, his fine gentlemanly manners with Osric, and his
paint for itself, according to its own tastes and asso
ciations, the ideal presence of him who is elsewhere deand Shakespeare's own fondness for presentiment : scribed as
‘But thou would'st not think, how ill all's here about my heart; but it is no matter.'”
" That unmatch'd form and feature of blown youth," “Since no man, of aught he leaves, knows, what is't
“ The expectancy and rose of this fair state, to leave betimes ? Let be."--We have preferred here
The glass of fashion, and the mould of form." the reading of the quarto, 1601: the folio has, “Since no man has aught of what he leaves, what is't to leave
" -- the occurrents, more and less, betimes ?” omitting “Let be.” Johnson thus para
Which hare solicited.". phrases, “Since no man can tell what other years will
Hooker and Bacon use - occurrents” for events, ocproduce, why should he be afraid of leaving life be currences; as here. “Solicited,” for excited, prompted. times? Why should he dread an early death, of which
Hamlet's conduct was importunately urged on, in the he cannot tell whether it be an exclusion of happiness sense of the “supernatural solliciting," in Macbeth. or an interruption of calamity.”
In the same sense, Milton speaks of resisting Satan's “ Fond and winnowed opinions.”—This is the folio
“ sollicitations,” i. e. his temptations, strong induce
ments to evil. reading, and may well mean that such frothy facility imposes alike on fond (or weak) judgments, and those “Of accidental judgments, casual slaughters." more critical. If this is not satisfactory, we must adopt Several critics (Goëthe among them) have remarked, one of the conjectural emendations; as Mason's, that the catastrophe of this drama resembles those fa
miliar to the Greek tragedy, where royal families, stain pathy, and even of our compassion, by no common ed like that of Denmark, with “carnal, bloody, and share of human weakness, error, and suffering. unnatural acts,” are swept away by the torrent of irre Goëthe has pointed out the leading characteristic of sistible destiny, confounding the innocent with the guilty Hamlet, upon which the interest of the whole drama in one common fate, while the sceptre passes to some mainly depends. unlineal hand. As Shakespeare has here entirely de He says—“ It is clear to me that Shakespeare's inparted from the old legend, which made Hamlet, after tention was to exhibit the effects of a great aciion, impunishing his father's murder, succeed to the throne; posed as a duty, upon a mind too feeble for its accomand as it is not his custom to vary from the popular plishment. In this sense, I find the character consisthistory or fable on which his drama happens to be ent throughout. Here is an oak planted in a china founded, without some cogent reason; it is clear, that vase, proper to receive only the most delicate flowers : this catastrophe seemed to him essential to the great the roots strike out, and the vessel flies to pieces. A end and effect of his poem. But its resemblance with pure, noble, highly moral disposition, but without that the Grecian stage is one of coincidence, not of imitation. energy of soul which constitutes the hero, sinks under His theology or his philosophy holds, instead of ancient a load which it can neither support nor resolve to Destiny, an over-ruling Providence, directing man's abandon altogether. All his obligations are sacred to weak designs to its own wise purposes :
him ; but this alone is above his powers. An impossi" – a divinity, that shapes our ends,
bility is required at his hands; not an impossibility in Rough-hew them how we will."
itself, but that which is so to him. Observe how he It is this, and not fixed fate, that at last nerves Hamlet's shifts, turns, hesitates, advances, and recedes ; how he wavering will to be the instrument of signal judicial is continually reminded and reminding himself of his punishment. But the avenger is made to fall in the great commission, which he, nevertheless, in the end, common ruin. To this the poet was led, neither by seems almost entirely to lose sight of; and this without learned imitation nor by philosophical theory, but from ever recovering his former tranquillity.” his own sympathy with the character he had created. Coleridge's theory of Hamlet's character cannot be He could not but feel, as to this loved child of his fancy, omitted. Without assenting to his intimation that what he has expressed as to Lear; and therefore would Shakespeare drew it with any direct intent to inculcate not
a lesson of intellectual discipline, still we must allow “ – upon the rack of this tough world
the original and profound truth of the criticism ; the Stretch him out longer."
truer, we believe, and the more striking, because the What could prolonged life,—what could power or royal critic drew his theory from his own character and expoinp, do for Hamlet ? Surely nothing, according to perience. Shakespeare's habitual estimate of the worthlessness of Shakespeare, painting from nature, (perhaps from life's empty shows. They could not restore to him the himself,) has given to his hero the endowments and the “freshness of the heart ;" they could only leave him to defects common, in various degrees or proportions, to toil on, and groan under the load of a weary existence. one of the nobler classes of human intellects; and to
To the general mind this might not so appear; and that very class Coleridge himself belonged. He saysfor that very reason it was the more necessary that the “In Hamlet, he (Shakespeare) seems to have wished grand, melancholy effect of the Prince's character and to exemplify the moral necessity of a due balance bestory should not be weakened by any vulgar triumph at tween our attention to the objects of our senses, and the close, confounding him with the common herd of our meditation on the workings of our minds, -an equiromantic and dramatic heroes.
librium between the real and imaginary worlds. In “ — Let four captains
Hamlet this balance is disturbed : his thoughts, and the Bear Hamlet, like a soldier, to the stage;
images of his fancy, are far more vivid than his actual For he was likely, had he been put on,
perceptions,—and his very perceptions, instantly passTo have prov'd most royally.”
ing through the medium of his contemplations, acquire,
as they pass, a form and colour not naturally their own. Coleridge remarks, that " The character of Hamlet
Hence, we see a great, an almost enormous, intellectual may be traced to Shakespeare's deep and accurate
activity, and a proportionate aversion to real action conscience in mental philosophy; that the character must
sequent upon it, with all its symptoms and accompanyhave some connection with the common fundamental
ing qualities. This character Shakespeare places in cirlaws of nature, may be assumed from the fact that Ham
cumstances under which it is obliged to act on the spur let has been the darling of every country in which the
of the moment :-Hamlet is brave and careless of death; literature of England has been fostered.” Besides the
but he vacillates from sensibility, and procrastinates vexed question of the nature and degree of his mental
from thought, and loses the power of action in the enmalady, the intellectual peculiarities, and the moral
ergy of resolve." cast of his character and conduct, have also afforded matter for much discussion. They have been flippantly assailed by Stevens, and dogmatically pronounced by Schlegel to exhibit a strange mixture of constitutional
The first edition of Hamlet bears the marks of a deceit, and hypocrisy, and universal skepticism; while
pirated and very inaccurate copy; still, it is as manithey have been analyzed in a higher mood of feeling festly not a mutilated abridgment of the piece as we now and eloquence by Coleridge, Lamb, Hazlitt, Mrs. Jam
have it, but an imperfect transcript of the poet's original eson, Hallam, the Pictorial editor, and several anonym
sketch. This appears from the fact, that the difference ous critics of almost equal ability. The very fact and
consists not only in improved dialogue, added poetry of nature of these differing opinions, and the manner they
language and imagery, and more excursive thought, but are entertained by readers according to their own sev
also in some variation of the plot, as well as minor eral habits of thought and life,-all equally attest the
changes as to names, etc.
Polonius is called Corambis. truth and reality of the character which is thus ex
The Queen is made to attest her own innocence of her amined, not as a figment of the imagination, which may
husband's murder. In the closet-scene, as the Ghost be ever so incongruous, but as a real personage, out of
disappears, instead of — and far above the common class of minds, upon whose
“This is the very coinage of your brain"principles, motives, and actions, different men may
the Queen sayscome to different conclusious. It is not a character of
“Alas! it is the weakness of thy hrain ideal perfection, either moral or mental; hut, while it
Which makes thy tongue to blazon thy heart's grief. commands our admiration by brilliant qualities and lofty
But, as I have a soul, I swear to heaven,
I never knew of this most horrid murder. intellect, it is brought down to the level of our sym
But, Hamlet, this is oply fantasy,'' etc.
The following scene also, differs too materially from the revised play to be omitted :
Enter Horatio and the QUEEN.
Queen. Then I perceive there's treason in his looks,
Hor. Yes, madam, and he hath appointed me
Queen. O fail not, good Horatio, and withal commend me
Hor. Madam, never make doubt of that;
He is arrived: observe the King, and you shall
Queen. But what became of Gilderstone and Rossencraft?
Hor. He being set ashore, they went for England,
Queen. Thanks be to heaven for blessing of the prince.
Hor. Madam, adieu ! Coleridge, who had not seen this early sketch, has observed, that “the character of the Queen is left in an unpleasant perplexity. Was she, or was she not, conscious of the fratricide ?” Most readers have felt this doubt; but the early edition shows that this very effect was intended by the poet. In his revision he suppressed the evidence of Gertrude's freedom from the more atrocious guilt; and this was evidently done to heighten the mysterious gloom of the interest, and to leave another cause of horrible suspicion to prey upon his hero's mind.