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Having said this, the chain of ideas led him to reflect upon the argument which libertines bring against Providence from the circumstance of abounding evil. In the next speech, therefore, he endeavours to answer that objection, and vindicate Providence, even on a supposition of the fact that almost all men were wicked. His argument in the two lines in question is to this purpose,-But why need we wonder at this abounding of evil ? For if the sun breed maggots in a dead dog, which though a god, yet shedding its heat and influence upon carrion-Here he stops short, lest talking too consequentially the hearer should suspect his madness to be feigned ; and so turns him off from the subject, by enquiring of his daughter. But the inference which he intended to make, was a very noble one, and to this purpose. If this (says he) be the case, that the effect follows the thing operated upon [carrion] and not the thing operating [a god,] why need we wonder, that the supreine cause of all things diffusing its blessings on mankind, who is, as it were, a dead carrion, dead in original sin, man, instead of a proper return of duty, should breed only corruption and vices? This is the argument at length ; and is as noble a one in behalf of Providence as could come from the schools of divinity. But this wonderful man had an art not only of acquainting the audience with what his actors say, but with what they think. The sentiment too is altogether in character, for Hamlet is perpetually moralizing, and his circumstances make this reflection very natural. The same thought, something di- . versified, as on a different occasion, he uses again in Measure for Measure, which will serve to confirin these observations :
“ The tempter or the tempted, who sins most?
“ Corrupt by virtuous season.”
“ Common-kissing Titan.” WARBURTON, This is a noble emendation, which almost sets the critick on a level with the author. Johnson.
The wish of Dr. Johnson, expressed upon other comments of this writer, would not have been out of place here : a wish, that it had been true.
(23) — shadow of a dream] Shakspeare has accidentally inverted an expression of Pindar, that the state of humanity is was orag, the dream of a shndow. Johnson.
“ Man's life is but a dreame, nay, less than so,
Lord Sterling's Darius, 1603. STEEVEXS.
(24) — this most ercellent canopy, the air,--this majestical roof fretted with golden fire)
“ As those gold candles, fix'd in heaven's air." Sonn. XX7.
Look, how the floor of heaven
M. of Ven. V. 1. Lor. MALONE. And in imitation of the majestical roof of the firmament the magnificent rooms in our places and lofty chapels had their roofs stellated at that time ; and so continued till after the middle of the last century.
(25) lenten entertainment-] i. e. sparing, like the entertainments given in Lent.
to maintain you with bisket,
Shirley's Duke's Mistress, 1638. STEEVENS. (26) we coated them on the way] Overtook. marry we presently coled and outstript them."
Return from Parnassus, 1606. In the laws of coursing, says Mr. Tollett, “ a cote is when a greyhound goes endways by the side of his fellow, and gives the hare a turn." This quotation seems to point out the etymology of the verb to be from the French coté, the side. Steevens.
We shall add, “ he costed and posted with such lightfoote speede, that coting and bording all, &c." Brian Melbancke's Philistinus, 4to. 1583. Brit. Bibliogr. 8vo. 1812. II. 443. “ With that Hippomenes coted (præterit, v. 668.) her."
A. Golding's Ov. Met. B. X. 1593. Signat. S. 3. " Coted farre."
Chapm. II. 23. Tagadaw. v. 527.' “ Let it bee farre from us to let our idle knowledge content itselfe with naked' contemplation, like a barren womb in a monasterie. Default of speedie order and direction maketh us to be thus coated by the Spaniard.” Capt. Lord Kemys's 2d Voyage to Guinea, 4to. 1596. Pref, to Reader.
(27) laugh, whose lungs are tickled o' the sere] Of, or by the sere, or a parched affection of the throat.
Mr. Steevens, who says that laughing is very uneasy to asthmatical patients, adds, that “ such is the case, as he is told, with those whose lungs are tickled by serum;" and Mr. Douce (Illustr. II. 230.) says, that “ every one has felt that dry tickling in the throat and lungs, which excites coughing;” and he instances the use of this phrase in Howard's Defensative against the poyson of supposed prophecies, fo. 1620. “ discovering the moods and humors of the vulgar sort to be so loose and tickle of the seare.” The sense, to which we are led, seems to be in conformity with the ideas above stated; and the passage may be rendered, “ By his merriment make even those whose haske or huskiness sub
jects them to incessant coughing, involuntarily yield to laughter." Steevens produces an instance of the substantive and adjective use of the word in a still less intelligible sense:
“ And wyll byde whysperynge in the eare ;
“ Thynk'ye her tayle is not light of the seare ?” An antient Dialogue between the Comen Secretary and Jelowsy, touchynge the unstableness of Harlottes. bl. I. no date.
“ Hector, thou onely pestilence in all mortalitie
, p. 304.
(28) the lady shall say her mind freely] « Shall have free scope for the expression of her passion, shall not be prevented from doing justice to-her part, how false soever her recital, or whatever the fate of the poet's numbers :" or, as Mr. Henderson, shall “mar the measure of the verse rather than not express herself freely and fully."
(29) their inhibition comes by means of the late innovation] Hamlet represents the conduct of the players in quitting the capital and strolling, as every way injudicious; considering it as having been altogether matter of election and choice in them. Rosencrantz, on the contrary, being of opinion, that with hardly any election given, they had yielded to circumstances, to the changes of fashion and of the times, replies; that he “conceives their inhibition (i.e. their forbiddance or cause of removal from the capital) is to be ascribed to the late innovation;” i. e. a license granted to a new description of actors; and though they, the old company, had not relaxed in their efforts, that fashion was capricious, and the new candidates for public favour had met with the most extravagant applauses and success : and that the old company, like almanacs out of date, and so, as it were inhibited or forbidden, had been superseded and dislodged. Harlequin had never, at a later period, made such inroads upon the stage, as the children of St. Paul's had then made upon the old company.
It would have been extraordinary, if the circumstances of the squabbles between the rival managers of the playhouses, at that time of day licensed, had been delivered down to us minutely, or even altogether intelligibly.
(30) ayrie of children] Aiery, or eyrie, is derived from the same root as eyas, from ey, Teut. ovum q. d. qui recens ex ovo emersit. Skin. Etyniol. and signifies both a young brood of hawks, and the nest itself. Malone.
The children were the young singing men of the chapel royal, or St. Paul's; of the former of whom perhaps the earliest mention occurs in an anonymous puritanical pamphlet, 1569, entitled The Children of the Chapel stript and whipt: “ Plaies will neuer be supprest, while her maiesties unfledged minions flaunt it in silkes and sattens. They had as well be at their popish seruice
in the deuil's garments," &c.—Again, ibid: “Euen in her maiesties chapel do these pretty upstart youthes profane the Lordes day by the lasciuious writhing of their tender limbes, and gorgeous decking of their apparell, in feigning bawdie fables gathered from the idolatrous heathen poets,” &c.
Concerning the performances and success of the latter in attracting the best company, I also find the following passage in Jack Drum's Entertainment, or Pasquil and Katherine, 1601 :
“ I saw the children of Powles last night;
I like the audience that frequenteth there
'Tis a good gentle audience,” &c. It is said in Richard Flecknoe's Short Discourse of the English Slage, 1664, that “ both the children of the chappel and St. Paul's, acted playes, the one in White-Friers, the other behinde the Convocation-house in Paul's; till people growing more precise, and playes more licentious, the theatre of Paul's was quite supprest, and that of the children of the chappel converted to the use of the children of the revels.” Steevens.
The suppression to which Flecknoe alludes took place in the year 1583-4; but afterwards both the children of the chappel and of the Revels played at our author's playhouse in Blackfriars, and elsewhere; and the choir-boys of Št. Paul's at their own house.
See my Account of our old Theatres. A certain number of the children of the Revels, I believe, belonged to each of the principal theatres.
Our author cannot be supposed to direct any satire at those young men, who played occasionally at his own theatre. Ben Jonson's Cynthia's Revels, and his Poetaster, were performed there by the children of Queen Elizabeth's chapel, in 1600 and 1601; and Eastward Hoe by the children of the revels, in 1604 or 1605. I have no doubt, therefore, that the dialogue before us was pointed at the choir-boys of St. Paul's, who in 1601 acted two of Marston's plays, Antonio and Mellida, and Antonio's Revenge. Many of Lyly's plays were represented by them about the same time, and in 1607, Chapman's Bussy d'Ambois was performed by them with great applause. It was probably in this and some other noisy tragedies of the same kind that they cry'd out on the top of question, and were most tyrannically clapped for't.
At a later period indeed, after our poet's death, the Children of the Revels had an established theatre of their own; and some dispute seems to have arisen between them and the king's company. They performed regularly in 1623, and for eight years afterwards, at the Red Bull in St. John's Street; and in 1627 Shakespeare's company obtained an inhibition from the Master
of the Revels to prevent their performing any of his plays at their house: as appears from the following entry in Sir Henry Herbert's Office-book, already mentioned : “ From Mr. Heminge, in their company's name, to forbid the playinge of any of Shakespeare's playes to the Red Bull company, this 11th of Aprill, 1627,-5 0 0." From other passages in the same book, it appears that the Children of the Revels composed the Red
Heywood, in his Apology for Actors, 1612, says, “ Now to speake of some abuse lately crept into the quality, as an inveighing against the state, the court, the law, the citty, and their governments, with the particularizing of private mens humours, yet alive, noblemen and others, I know it distastes many; neither do I any way approve nor dare I by any means excuse it. The liberty which some arrogate to themselves, committing their bitterness and liberal invectives against all estates to the mouthes of children, supposing their juniority to be a priviledge for any rayling, be it never so violent, I could advise all such to curbe, and limit this presumed liberty within the bands of discretion and government. But wise and judicial censurers before whom such complaints shall at any time hereafter come, will not, I hope, impute these abuses to any transgression in us, who have ever been carefull and provident to shun the like.”
Prynne in his Histriomastix, speaking of the state of the stage, about the year 1620, has this passage : “ Not to particularise those late new scandalous invective playes, wherein sundry persons of place and eminence [Gundemore, the late lord admiral, lord treasurer, and others] have been particularly personated, jeared, abused in a gross and scurrilous manner.”
(31) yases] Nestlings, just out of the egg, ey, ovum.“ Eyiesse, Apotrophus. Although she be an Eyiesse, yet she is somewhat coy. Licet domi sit alumnus, manet tamen aliquanto aversior.” Rider's Dict. 1589. “ Tobie Matthew is here; but what with the journey, and what with the affliction he endures-he is grown extreme lean, and looks as sharp as an eyas, i. e, a young hawk just taken out of the nest.” The D. of Buckingham to Lå. Visc. St. Alban, May 29, 1623. st. vet. Birch's Letters of L. Bacon, 8vo. 1763, p. 344. It is sometimes written nyas.
Mr. Steevens just notices the booke of Haukynge, as offering another etymology. “And so bycause the best knowledge is by the eye, they be called eyessed. Ye may also know an eyesse by the paleness of the seres of her legges, or the sere over the beake.”
(32) cry out on the top of question] Recite at the highest pitch of the voice; as in asking a question we generally close with a high note, the key in which children usually declaim throughout; and of course in a tone unrelieved and unvaried. In this scene Hamlet, upon the introduction of the Players,