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Oph. Ay, my lord.
Ham. O! your only jig-maker 16. What should a man do, but be merry? for, look you, how cheerfully my mother looks, and my father died within these two hours.
Oph. Nay, 'tis twice two months, my lord.
Ham. So long? Nay, then let the devil wear black, for I'll have a suit of sables 17. O heavens ! die two months ago, and not forgotten yet? Then there's hope, a great man's memory may outlive his life half a year: But, by’r-lady, he must build churches then: or else shall he suffer not thinking on, with the hobby-horse 18; whose epitaph is, For, 0, for, 0, the hobby-horse is forgot.
16 See note on Act ii. Sc. 2, p. 231. It may here be added that a jig sometimes signified a spritely dance, as at present. In addition to the examples before given, take the following from Ford's Love's Sacrifice:- 0 Giacopo! Petrarch was a dunce, Dante a jig-maker, Sannazar a goose, and Ariosto a puck-first to me.'-Act ii. Sc. 2.
17 i. e. a dress, ornamented with the rich fur of that name, said to be the skin of the sable martin. By the statute of apparel, 24 Hen. VIII. c. 13, it is ordained that none under the degree of an earl may use sables. Bishop, in his Blossoms, 1577, speaking of extravagance, says, that a thousand ducates were sometimes given for a face of sables. But Hamlet meant to use the word equivocally.
18 The hobby-horse, whose omission in the morris dance is so pathetically lamented in many of our old dramas, in the very words which Hamlet calls his epitaph, was long a distinguished favourite in the May Games. He was driven from his station by the Puritans, as an impious and Pagan superstition; but restored after the promulgation of the Book of Sports. The hobby-horse was formed of a pasteboard horse's head, and probably a light frame made of wicker-work to form the binder parts; this was fastened round the body of a man, and covered with a footcloth, which nearly reached the ground, and concealed the legs of the performer; who displayed his antic equestrian skill, and performed various juggling tricks, wigh-hie-ing or neighing, to the no small delight of the bystanders.
Trumpets sound. The Dumb Show 19 follows. Enter a King and a Queen, very lovingly: the
Queen embracing him, and he her. She kneels, and makes show of protestation unto him. He takes her up, and declines his head upon
her neck: lays him down upon a bank of flowers; she, seeing him asleep, leaves him. Anon comes in a Fellow, takes off his crown, kisses it, and pours poison in the King's ears, and exit. The Queen returns; finds the King dead, and makes passionate action. The Poisoner, with some two or three Mutes, comes in again, seeming to lament with her. The dead body is carried away.
The Poisoner woos the Queen with gifts; she seems loath and unwilling awhile; but, in the end, accepts his love.
[Exeunt. Oph. What means this, my lord ?
Ham. Marry, this is miching malicho 20; it means mischief.
Oph. Belike, this show imports the argument of the play.
Enter Prologue. Ham. We shall know by this fellow: the players cannot keep counsel; they'll tell all.
19 This dumb show appears to be superfluous, and even incongruous; for as the murder is there circumstantially represented, the King ought to have been struck with it then, without waiting for the dialogue.
20 Miching malicho is lurking mischief, or evil doing. To mich, for to skulk, to lurk, was an old English verb in common use in Shakspeare's timę; and malicho or malhecho, misdeed, he has borrowed from the Spanish. Many stray words of Spanish and Italian were then affectedly used in common conversation, as we have seen French used in more recent times. The quarto spells the word mallico. Our ancestors were not particular in orthography, and often spelt according to the ear.
Oph. Will he tell us what this show meant ?
Ham. Ay, or any show that you'll show him: Be not you ashamed to show, he'll not shame to tell you
what it means 21. Oph. You are naught, you are naught; I'll mark the play, Pro. For us, and for our tragedy,
Here stooping to your clemency,
We beg your hearing patiently. Ham. Is this a prologue, or the posy of a ring? Oph. "Tis brief, my lord, Ham. As woman's love.
Enter a King and a Queen. P. King. Full thirty times hath Phoebus' cart
Neptune's salt wash, and Tellus' orbed ground; And thirty dozen moons, with borrow'd sheen, About the world have times twelve thirties been; Since love our hearts, and Hymen did our hands, Unite commutual in most sacred bands.
21 The conversation with Ophelia, as Steevens remarks, cannot fail to disgust every modern reader. It was no doubt such as was current in society in that age, which had not yet learnt to throw a veil of decency over corrupt manners.
Yet still I think that such discourse would not have been put into the mouth of Hamlet by the poet, had he not meant it to mark the feigned madness of Hamlet the stronger from its inconsistence with his character as a prince and polished gentleman.
22 Cart, car, or chariot, were used indiscriminately for any carriage formerly. Mr. Todd has adduced the following passage from the Comical History of Alphonsus, by R. G. 1599, which, he thinks, Shakspeare meant to burlesque :
• Thrice ten times Phoebus with his golden beames
corne, Since first in priesthood I did lead my life.'
P. Queen. So many journeys may the sun and
Make us again count o’er, ere love be done!
there. P. King. 'Faith, I must leave thee, love, and
shortly too; My operant 25 powers their functions leave to do; And thou shalt live in this fair world behind, Honour’d, belov'd; and, haply, one as kind For husband shalt thouP. Queen.
0, confound the rest!
Ham. That's wormwood.
23 This line is omitted in the folio. There appears to have been a line omitted in the quarto which should have rhymed to this.
24 Cleopatra expresses herself much in the same manner for the loss of Antony :
our size of sorrow
As that which makes it.' 25 i. e. active.
26 Instances are motives. See note on King Richard III. Act iii. Sc. 2, p. 78.
A second time I kill my husband dead,
ourselves what to ourselves is debt:
27 · But thought's the slave of life.'-King Henry IV. Part 1. 28 i. e. their own determinations, what they enact.
29 See note on Act i. Sc. 3, p. 183. “This quaint phrase (says Steevens), infests almost every ancient English composition.' Why infests? Surely it is as forcible and intelligible as many other metaphorical expressions retained in the language. It has been remarked that our ancestors were much better judges of the powers of language than we are, The Latin writers did not scruple to apply their verb condire in the same manner.