Page images

writings at which I am so much offended as at this.

LORD CHEDWORTH. 232. “ My words fly up, my thoughts remain .

below.This is the case with Angelo, in Measure for Measure: “- Heaven hath my empty words, While my invention, hearing not my tongue, " Anchors on Isabel.”

SCENE IV. 233. “ I'll silence me, e'en here.

I believe the meaning is, I'll keep silently on the watch here. 238. “ If damned custom have not braz'd it so,

That it be proof.It is only in the first part of this sentence that the verb is subjunctive,“ be,” in the latter part, should be “ is,” and ought, without any scruple, to be set right in the text. "

Such an act, That blurs," &c. This abuse of putting the pronoun for the conjunction, “ that” for “ as," and vice verså, has been noted already; and is, probably, the blunder of the transcriber or reciter. "

Takes off the rose From the fair forehead of an innocent love."

To establish Mr. Steevens's explanation of this passage, we must suppose that it was customary for the woman contracted in marriage to wear

upon her forehead a rose, of which the hand of Hymen was to despoil her: but if conjecture be allowed to fabricate such potent machinery for the nonce, there will be no phenomena in Shakspeare, or any other poet, too abtruse for critical solution. By forehead, I conceive no more is meant than the fore part of the head, the front, the face.

Takes off the rose," &c. I take this to be a metaphorical enlargement of the sentiment contained in the preceding line, notwithstanding Mr. Steevens's opinion to the contrary. Modesty, or its sign, blushing, cannot be understood to be the rose, but rather, the blossom of conscious innocence; neither do I think the word “love" is to be taken as meaning an object, but the passion; to which, as applied to Gertrude, the adjective innocent adds propri. ety. 6 Fair forehead" is certainly, in this place, no more than fair presence. “Unstain'd front,” the sense, to me, consequently is, you have done an act that takes off the blossom of purity from the unstain'd front, which a guiltless affection wears; and, in its stead, set there the corrupt blister of impure desire and wickedness : see Act 4, Scene 6, the same idea : "

Brands the harlot. “ Even here, between the chaste and unsmirch'd

brows Of my true mother.”

B. STRUTT. 240. “ such an act, fc.

Heaven's face doth glow,&c. The text, as here exhibited, is preferable to that of the quarto, as it gives a stronger and more familiar sense. Both heaven and earth, says Ham

let, are affected at the enormity of what you have done; the sun is inflamed with anger, and the earth, contemplating your unnatural crime, is sorrowful and sick, just as she would be at the approach of the general dissolution of the world. 241. “ Look here, upon this picture, and on this.

It is, I think, an egregious misconception, and a wretched device to make Hamlet come prepared with a couple of miniature pictures, for the purpose of expressing his reproaches at the queen's conduct, and to utter these reproaches while he is seated on a chair :—the pictures pointed at are, surely, the portraits at length, of the late king and of the usurper, the latter, Gertrude might naturally enough have introduced into her closet, while prudence and decency still retained the former there : and this representation would materially improve the action of the scene.

" Look here upon this picture,&c. These pictures should, certainly, be whole lengths, hanging in the queen's closet.

LORD CHEDWORTH. 242.“ A station like the herald Mercury."

Bishop Newton has remarked that this passage may have suggested Raphael's graceful posture:

Like Maía's son he stood, “And shook his plumes, that heavenly fragrance

fill'd “The circuit wide. Parad. Lost. B. V. V. 285. " Hic primum paribus nitens Cyllenius alis

Æn. IV. 253.

LORD CHEDWORTH. 243. “ Assurance of a man.




Avouched perfection: the thought occurs again in Julius Cæsar: “ Nature might stand up,

“And say to all the world, this was a man." 944.

Sense, sure, you have, Else, could you not have motion." "Motion” for volition, will, inclination; we still say of a voluntary act, it was of his own motion; sense, here, stands for reason, or the faculty of judging and comparing: 245. “

Sense, to ecstasy was ne'er so thralld, But it reserv'd some quantity of choice,

To serve in such a difference.Thus, in Cymbeline :

“ Ideots, in such a case of difference, would “ Be wisely definite."

" Could not so mope.Some words have been lost; perhaps like these:

Or be deluded thus." 246. “ Gives the charge." Cries on, gives the signal for attack.

O, Hamlet, speak no more.“Hamlet” is a useless hypermeter. . “As will not leave their tinct.

As will not quit their places : it is a quaint expression for permanent stains: spots and tincts are the same thing; or perhaps the poet would require the places where the tincts are to move from the

[ocr errors]


tincts, in the same manner as it is said in Julius Cæsar that: "His coward lips did from their colour fly."

An enseamed bed.Whatever sense may be attached to this word, "enseamed,” I cannot help preferring that which the quarto (1611) exhibits,“ incestuous.” It is an anticlimax to go from so strong an expression as "rank sweat,” to the less forcible one, greasy. 247. “ OO, speak (to me) no more." · This “to me” appears a stupid interpolation. "

And put it in his pocket.I am convinced that Shakspeare, when he was writing in verse, knew how to maintain it; and was tenacious of the measure. A particle is wanting here; perhaps Hamlet was going on:

" - And put it in his pocket, am

No more.”
. What follows wants regulation :
. “ A king of shreds and patches.”

Perhaps, all unseemly. 248. “ Alas ! he's mad.

This is interpolated or an ejaculation of the actor. 249. “ Your bedded hair, like life in excrements,

Starts up, and stands on end.Your hair, which had been composed, as it were, in bed. There is here, I suspect, a coarser image than the editors seem to have recognised :

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »