Page images

King. We will try it.

Enter HAMLET, reading. Queen. But, look, where fadly the poor wretch comes

reading. Pol. Away, I do beseech you, both away ; I'll board him presently :-0, give me leave.[Exeunt King, Queen, and Attendants,

How « Some little time; so by your companies " To draw bim on to pleasures, and to gather ” So much as from occalion you may glean, " Whether aught to us unknown afflicts him thus,

" That open'd lies within our remedy; -" seem to have been formed on the following Night hints in The Hystory of Hambler, bl. let. fig. C. 3: “ They counselled to try and know if possible, how to discover the intent and meaning of the young prince; and they could find no better nor more fic invention to intrap him, then to set some faire and beautiful woman in a secret place, that with Aattering speeches and all the craftieft meanes the could, should purposely seek to allure his mind to have his pleasure of her. To this end, certain courriers were appointed to lead Hamblet into a solitary place, within the woods, where they brought the woman, inciting him to take their pleasures together. And surely the poore prince at this affault had beene in great danger, if a gentleman that in Horvendille's time had been nourished with him, had not showne himselfe more affectioned to the bringing up he had received with Hamblet, than desirous to please the tyrant.-This gentleman bare the courtiers company, making full account that the least Mowe of perfect fence and wisdome that Hamblet should make, would be fuf. ficient to cause him to loose his life; and therefore by certain fignes he gave Hamblet intelligence in what danger he was like to fall, if by any means he seemed to obaye, or once like the wanton toyes and vicious provocations of the gentlewoman fent thither by his uncle: which much abalhed the prince, as then wholly being in affection to the lady. But by her he was likewise informed of the treason, as one that from her infancy loved and favoured him.--The prince in this fort having deceived the courtiers and the ladys expectation, that af. firmed and swore hee never once offered to have his pleasure of the woman, although in subtlety he affirmed the contrary, every man thereupon allured themselves that without doubt he was distraught of his sences;--so that as then Fengon's practise took no effect."

Here we find the rude outlines of the characters of Ophelia, and Horatio,mibe gentleman ibat in ebe time of Horvendille (the father of Hamlet) bad been nourished with him. But in this piece there are no waits of the character of Polonius. There is indeed a counsellor, and


How does my good lord Hamlet?

Ham. Well, god-'a-mercy.
Pol. Do you know me, my lord ?
Ham. Excellent well; you are a fishmonger.
Pol. Not I, my lord.
Ham. Then I would you were fo honeft a man.
Pol. Honest, my lord ?

Ham. Ay, fir; to be honest, as this world goes, is to be one man pick'd out of ten thousand.

Pol. That's very true, my lord.

Ham. For if the fun breed maggots in a dead dog, being a god, kissing carrion",—Have you a daughters


[ocr errors]

he places himself in the queen's chamber behind the arras;- but this is the whole. MALONE.

6 For if the sun breed maggots in a dead dog, being a ged, killing care rion,--&c.] The old copies read —a good kiiling carrion. The emendation was made by Dr. Warburton, who yet in my apprehension did not underitand the passage. I have therefore omitted his laboured comment on it, in which he endeavours to prove that Shakspeare intended it as a vindication of the ways of Providence in permitting evil to abound in the world. He does not indeed pretend that this profound meaning can be drawn from what Hamlet says; but this is what he was tbinking of; for “ this wonderful man (Shakfpeare) had an art not only of acquainting the audience with what his actors say, but with what they ibink !"

Hamlet's observation is, I think, fimply this. He has just remarked that honesty is very rare in the world. To this Polonius aflents. The prince then adds, that since there is so little virtue in the world, fince corruption abounds every where, and maggots are bred by the fun, even in a dead dog, Polonius ought to take care to prevent his daughter from walking in the sun, left the thould prove “ a breeder of finners;" for though conception in general be a blefling, yet as Ophelia (whoin Hamlet fupposes to be as frail as the rest of the world,) might chance to conceive, it might be a calamity. The maggots breeding in a dead dog, seem to have been mentioned merely to introduce the word conception; on which word, as Mr. Strevens has observed, Shakspeare has play'd in King Lear; and provably a fimilar quibble was intended here. The word, however, may have been used in its ordinary sense, for pregnancy, without any double meaning.

The night connection between this and the preceding passage, and Hamlet's abrupt question, bave you a daughters were manifestly intended more strongly to impress Polonius with the belief of the prince's madness.


Pol. I have, my lord.

Ham. Let her not walk i' the fun: conception is a bleffing?; but as your daughter may conceive, — friend, look to't.

Perhaps this passage ought rather to be regulated thus:-“ being god-kiffing carrion ; i. c. a carrion that kisses the sun. The participle being naturally refers to the last antecedent, dog. Had Shakspeare intended that it should be referred to sun, he would probably have written_" be, being a god," &c. We have many similar compound epichets in these plays. Thus in K. Lear, Act II. Sc. i. Kent speaks of "car-kissing arguments."Again, more appolitely in the play before us :

« New lighted on a beaven-killing hin." Again, in Tbe Rape of Lucrece :

“ Threatning cloud-killing Ilion with annoy." However, the instance quoted from Cymbeline by Dr. Warburton,

commor-kiffing Titan," seems in favour of the regulation tbat has been hitherto made; for here we find the poet considered the sun as kifing the carrion, not the carrion as killing the sun. So also in K.Henry IV.P.I.“ Did'it thou never see Titan kiss a dish of butter?" The tollowing lines also in the historical play of King Edward III. 1596, which Shakspeare had certainly seen, are, it must be acknown lesged, adverse to the regulation which I have suggested :

" The freshest summer's day doth sooneit saint

“ The loathed carrion, that it seems to kiss.". In justice to Dr. Johnson, I should add, that the high elogium which he has pronounced on Dr. Warburton's emendation, was founded on the comment which accompanied it; of which however, I think, his judgment must have condemned the reasoning, though his goodness and piety approved its moral tendency. MALONE.

This is a noble emendation, which almoft sets the critick on a level with the author. JOHNSON.

? - conceprion is a bleffing ; &c.] Thus the quarto. The folio reads : “ Conception is a blefling, but not as your daughter may conceive. Friend, look to's." The word not, I have no doubt, was in. lerted by the editor of the folio, in consequence of his not underttanding the pafiage. A little lower we find a similar interpolation in some of the copies, probably from the same cause : “ You cannot, fir, take from me any thing that I will not more willingly part withal, except my life.” MALONE.

The meaning seems to be, conception (i. e, understanding) is a betting; but as your daughter may conceive (i. e. be pregnant), friend leek to's, i. e. have a care of that.' The same quibble occurs in the ört fcene of K. Lear:

Kens. I cannot conceive you, fir.

Gla. Sir, this young follow's mother could." STEEVENS. Vol. IX.



Pol. How say you by that? [Afde.] ftill harping on my daughter :yet he knew me not at first; he said, I was a tithmonger : He is far gone, far gone : and, truly, in my youth I suffer'd much extremity for love; very near this. I'll speak to him again.-What do you read, my lord?

Ham. Words, words, words !
Pol. What is the matter, my lord ?
Ham. Between who?
Pol. I mean, the matter that you read, my lord.

Ham. Slanders, fir: for the satirical rogue says here, that old men have grey beards & ; that their faces are wrinkled; their eyes purging thick amber, and plumtree gum; and that they have a plentiful lack of wit, together with moft weak hams: All which, fir, though I most powerfully and potently believe, yet I hold it not honefty to have it thus set down ; for yourself, fir, shall

8 Slanders, fir : for tbe satirical rogue says bere, tbar old men, &c.) By the satirical rogue he means Juvenal in his tenth satire :

Da spatium vitæ, multos da Jupiter annos :
Hoc recto vultu, folum boc ex pallidus opras.
Sed quàm continuis et quantis longa fene&tus
Plena malis ! deformem, et tetrum ante omnia vultum,

Diffimilemque fui, &c. Nothing could be finer imagined for Hamlet, in his circumstances, than the bringing him in reading a description of the evils of long life.

WARBURTON Had Shakspeare read Juvenal in the original, he had met with De temone Britanno, Excidet Arviragus."—and -"Uxorem, Pofte bume, ducis?" We should not then have had continually in Cymbeline, Arwirāgus and Pofbūmus. Should it be said that the quanriry in the former word might be forgotten, it is clear from the mistake in the latter, that Shakspeare could not possibly have read any one of the Roman poets.

There was a translation of the roth satire of Juvenal by Sir Joha Beaumont, the elder brother of the famous Francis: but I cannot tell whether it was printed in Shakspeare's time. In that age of quotation, every classic might be picked up by piece-meal.

I forgot to mention in its proper place, that another description of Old Age in As you like it, has been called a parody on a passage in a French poem of Garnier. It is trifling to say any thing about this, after the observation I made in Macbeth: but one may remark once for all, that Shakspeare wrote for the people; and could not have been fo absurd as to bring forward any allusion, which had not been familiarized by some accident or other. FARMER,


grow as old as I am, if, like a crab, you could go backward. Pol. Though this be madness, yet there's method in't.

[Afide. Will you walk out of the air, my lord ?

Ham. Into my grave ?

Pol. Indeed, that is out o' the air.How pregnant sometimes his replies are! a happiness that often mad. ness hits on, which reason and fanity could not so prof perously be deliver'd of. I will leave him, and suddenly contrive the means of meeting between him and my daughter.-My honourable lord, I will most humbly take my leave of you.

Ham. You cannot, fir, take from me any thing that I will more willingly part withal; except my life, except my life, except my life. Pol. Fare you well, my lord. Ham. These tedious old fools!

Enter RosenCRANTZ?, and GUILDENSTERN. Pol. You go to seek the lord Hamlet; there he is, Rof. God save you, sir!

sto Pol,

Exit Pol. Guil. My honour'd lordlRof. My most dear lord!

Ham. My excellent good friends! How doft thou, Guildenstern ? Ah, Rosencrantz! Good lads, how do yo both ?

Ros. As the indifferent children of the earth. .

Guil. Happy, in that we are not over-happy; On fortune's cap we are not the very button.

Ham. Nor the foals of her shoe? Ros. Neither, my lord. Ham. Then you live about her waist, or in the middle of her favours?

Guil. 'Faith, her privates we. 9 How pregnant, &c.] Pregnant is ready, dexterous, apt. STEFT.

'-and suddenly, &c.] This, and the greatelt part of the two fole lowing lines, are omitted in the quarcos. STEEVENS.

2 Rosencrantz,] There was an ambassador of that name in England about the time when this play was written. STLEYENS.


S 2

« PreviousContinue »