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Wherein necessity, of matter beggar'd,
Alack! what noise is this?
Enter a Gentleman.
Save yourself, my lord;
young Laertes, in a riotous head, O’erbears
officers! The rabble call him lord ; And, as the world were now but to begin, Antiquity forgot, custom not known, The ratifiers and
of They cry, Choose we; Laertes shall be king 24 !
21 A murdering-piece, or murderer, was a small piece of arti! lery; in French meurtrière. It took its name from the loopholes and embrasures in towers and fortifications, which were so called. The portholes in the forecastle of a ship were also thus denominated. • Meurtriere, c'est un petit canonniere, comme celles des tours et murailles, ainsi appellé, parceque tirant par icelle a desceu, ceux ausquels on tire sont facilement meurtri.'Nicot. Visiere meurtriere, a port-hole for a murthering-piece in the forecastle of a ship.'— Cotgrave. Case shot, filled with small bullets, nails, old iron, &c. was often used in these murderers, This accounts for the raking fire attributed to them in the text, and in Beaumont and Fletcher's Double Marriage :
like a murdering-piece, aims not at me, But all that stand within the dangerous level.' 22 The speech of the queen is omitted in the quartos.
23 Switzers, for royal guards. The Swiss were then, as since, mercenary soldiers of any nation that could afford to pay them.
24 The meaning of this contested passage appears to me this : The rabble call him lord; and (us if the world were now but to 25 Hounds are said to run counter when they are upon a false scent, or hunt it by the heel, running backward and mistaking the course of the game. See Comedy of Errors, Act iv. Sc. 2.
Give me my
Caps, hands, and tongues, applaud it to the clouds, Laertes shall be king, Laertes king!
Queen. How cheerfully on the false trail they cry! O, this is counter25, you false Danish dogs. King. The doors are broke. [Noise within.
Enter LAERTES, armed ; Danes following. Laer. Where is this king? -Sirs, stand you all
without. Dan. No, let's come in. Laer.
I pray you, give me leave. Dan. We will, we will.
[They retire without the door. Laer. I thank you :-keep the door.—0 thou vile king,
Calmly, good Laertes. Laer. That drop of blood, that's calm, proclaims
me bastard; Cries, cuckold, to my father; brands the harlot Even here, between the chaste unsmirch'd 26 brow Of my true mother. King.
What is the cause, Laertes, That thy rebellion looks so giant-like?Let him go, Gertrude ; do not fear our person; There's such divinity doth hedge27 a king, begin, as if antiquity were forgot, and custom were unknown) this rabble, the ratifiers and props of every idle word, cry Choose we,' &c.
26 Unsmirched is unsullied, spotless. See Acti. Sc. 3, p. 180, note 4.
27 Quarto 1603—wall. Mr. Boswell has adduced the following anecdote of Queen Elizabeth as an apposite illustration of this passage :—While her majesty was on the Thames, near Greenwich, a shot was fired by accident, which struck the royal barge, and hurt a waterman near her. The French ambassador being amazed, and all crying Treason, Treason! yet she, with
That treason can but peep to what it would,
But not by him.
Laer. How came he dead? I'll not bejuggled with:
Who shall stay you?
Laer. None but his enemies.
know them then ? Laer. To his good friends thus wide I'll ope my
arms; an undaunted spirit, came to the open place of the barge, and bade them never fear, for if the shot were made at her, they durst not shoot again: such majesty had her presence, and such boldness her heart, that she despised fear, and was, as all princes are, or should be, so full of divine fullness, that guiltie mortality durst not behold her but with dazzled eyes.'--Henry Chettle's England's Mourning Garment. 28 • But let the frame of things disjoint, both the worlds suffer.'
And like the kind life-rendering pelican,
Why, now you speak
Let her come in. Laer. How now! what noise is that? Enter OPHELIA, fantastically dressed with Straws
and Flowers. O heat, dry up my brains ! tears seven times salt, Burn out the sense and virtue of mine eye! By heaven, thy madness shall be paid with weight, Till our scale turn the beam. O rose of May ! Dear maid, kind sister, sweet Ophelia ! O heavens! is't possible, a young maid's wits Should be as mortal as an old man's life? Nature is fine 32 in love; and, where 'tis fine,
29 The folio reads politician instead of pelican. This fabulous bird is not unfrequently made use of for purposes of poetical illustration by our elder poets: Shakspeare has again referred to it in King Richard II. and in King Lear :
• 'Twas this flesh begot these pelican daughters.' In the old play of King Leir, 1605, it is also used, but in a different sense :
I am as kind as is the pelican,
That kills itself to save her young ones' lives.' 30 Folio-sensible.
31 Peirce is the reading of the folio. The quarto has 'pear, an awkward contraction of appear. I do not see why appear is more intelligible. Indeed as level is here used for direct, Shakspeare's usual meaning of the word, the reading of the quarto, preferred by Johnson and Steevens, is less proper.
32 « Nature is fine in love. The three concluding lines of this speech are not in the quarto. The meaning appears to be, Nature is refined or subtilised by love, the senses are rendered more ethereal, and being thus refined, some precious portions of the
It sends some precious instance of itself
Hey no nonny, nonny hey nonny :
many a tear ;Fare you well, my
dove ! Laer. Hadst thou thy wits, and didst persuade
revenge, It could not move thus.
Oph. You must sing, Down-a-down, an you call him a-down-a.. O, how the wheel 33 becomes it! it is the false steward, that stole his master's daughter. mental energies fly off, or are sent after the beloved object; when bereft of that object they are lost to us, and we are left in a state of mental privation:
Even so by love the young and tender wit
What is it else ?-a madness,' &c. 33 The wheel is the burthen of a ballad, from the Latin rota, a round, which is usually accompanied with a barthen frequently repeated. Thus also in old French, roterie signified such a round or catch, and rotuenge, or rotruhenge, the burthen or refrain as it is now called. Our old English term refrette, 'the foote of the dittie, a verse often interlaced, or the burden of a song,' was probably from refrain; or from refresteler, to pipe over again. It is used by Chaucer in The Testament of Love. This term was not obsolete in Cotgrave's time, though it would now be as difficult to adduce an instance of its use as of the wheel, at the same time the quotation will sbow that the down of a ballad was another term for the burthen. “Refrain, the refret, burthen, or downe of a ballad. All this discussion is rendered necessary, because Steevens unfortunately forgot to note from whence he made the following extract, though he knew it was from the preface to some black letter collection of songs or sonnets :- The song was accounted a good one, though it was not moche graced with the wheele, which in no wise accorded with the subject matter thereof. Thus also Nicholas Breton, in his Toyes for Idle Head, 1577 :
• That I may sing full merrily
Not heigh bo wele, but care away.' It should be remembered that the old musical instrument called