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“ Apho. A rapier's but a bodkin.
Randolph's Muses Looking-Glass. 1638.
B. & Fl. Custom of the Country. “ there will be a desperate fray between two, made at all weapons, from the brown bill to the bodkin.” Sapho & Phaon, 1591 : and in his comment on “ speaking daggers” at the end of Sc. 2, A. III., he instances from the Return from Parnassus, 1606,“ speaking bodkins." “ From boddiken or small body." SKINNER.
(7) To grunt and sweat] Language is in its nature flux and variable above all things, and of course open to the inroads of fashion and refinement. Were we, because this word, as gripe, crack, &c., has lost its rank and dignity in modern use, to dise place and expunge it from the pages of our earlier writers, we should do injury as well to the character of such author's style, as to the integrity and history of the language itself.
Mr. Steevens shews that this word was heretofore adapted to the expression both of the solemn and the tender.
“ Round about I heard “ Of dying men the grunts."
Turberville's Ov. Canace to Macareus. And Stanyhurst in his Virgil 1512, translates "supremum congemuit," “ sighing it grunts."
And Dr. Johnson in his note on the word, “ hugger-mugger, IV. 5. has justly laid it down, « if phraseology is to be changed, as words grow uncouth by disuse or gross by vulgarity, the history of every language will be lost: we shall no longer have the words of any author; and, as these alterations will be often unskilfully made, we shall in time have very little of his meaning." It had been well if Shakespeare's commentators had uniformly acted upon this maxim.
See "Jug the guts," III. 3. Haml., “ hedge a king," IV. 5, King, and “o'ercrows," V. 1. Haml.
(8) The undiscover'd country, from those bourn
No traveller returns] This has been cavilled at by Lord Orrery and others, but without reason. The idea of a traveller in Shakespeare's time, was of a person who gave an account of his adventures. Every voyage was a Discovery. John Taylor has “ A Discovery by sea from London to Salisbury.”
And never, as it imports here, returns to disclose the mysteries of the world of shades. Bourn is boundary. See Warton's Milt. Com, 313,
(9) Great pith and moment] Vigor. “We have “pith” of life, iv. 1. King. The quartos read pitch; which Mr. Ritson thinks preferable, as an allusion to throwing the bar, a manly exercise, usual in country villages.
(10) Nymph, in thy orisons, &c.) Dr. Johnson thinks that o this' is a touch of nature. Hamlet, at the sight of Ophelia, does not immediately recollect that he is to personate madness, but makes her an address grave and solemn, such as the foregoing meditation excited in his thoughts.” And it may be, that, taken by surprise and struck with the propriety of closing his profound ineditations, he forgets for a moment that he has a part to act. Orison is from oraison, Fr. prayer.
(11) How does your honour for this many a day) We have here a question respecting past time put in the present tense. By no grammatical allowance can does be made to represent has done ; but in familiar discourse, in dramatic dialogue, it may pass, and be classed with such anomalies as in the opening of this play“ 'Tis now struck twelve.”
(12) If you be honest and fair, your honesty should admit no discourse to your beauty] No address, approach to. If you really possess these qualities, chastity and beauty, and mean to support the character of both, your honesty should be so chary of your beauty, as not to suffer a thing so fragile to entertain discourse, or to be parleyed with. The lady, 'tis true, interprets the words otherwise; giving them the turn that best suited her purpose: and nothing is more frequent in our author, or more necessary to the craft of his vocation, than so to shape the phrase of his dialogue, as to accommodate it to the occasions of the succeeding speakers. Instead of “your honesty” the quartos read “you.'
(13) I have heard of your prattlings; God hath given you one pace, and you make yourselves another : you jiy, you amble, you
lisp.] For prattlings the quartos read paintings, and for pace, face. The author, says Dr. Johnson, probably wrote both. In support of the reading of the folios Mr. Douce says, “it has not been observed, that lisp, &c. seems to refer to prattlings, as jig and amble do to pace.' Illustr. II. 241. That the reading of the quartos was no unjust representation of the manners of the age, which Mr. Steevens thinks our author, in the spirit of his contemporaries, meant here to satirize, may be inferred from a
discourse of painting and tincturing women, 4to, 1616. An epigram, prefixed to it, is addressed “ Ad Nigellam, magis rubicundam quam verecundam, summo cundore.'
(14) To a nunnery, go] This part of Ilamlet's conduct has been frequently charged as wantonly and unnecessarily harsh and brutal. It has to us, on the contrary, appeared to grow naturally and necessarily out of the cruel perplexity of his situation. Certainly it was not so felt by her who experienced it: neither does a disposition to such a carriage and conduct any way consist with his first feeling, when here he discovers her; for his language then, says Dr. Johnson, not recollecting that he is to personate madness, " is correct, consonant with his soliloquy, in which no disguise would be worn, and a touch of nature.” His change of tone was then an act of recollection, and was, as is conceived, persisted in as an act of necessity; and that tone probably heightened from the very circumstance of his having previously tripped, and thence under a stronger conviction of this necessity.
Take a view of the state of his mind and his situation at this period. While deeply in love with Ophelia, to whom, by letter and otherwise, he had made the strongest protestations of it, his mind is overwhelmed by the sudden and mysterious death of his father, and the mysterious and scarcely less sudden marriage and coronation of his uncle and mother. Agitated, and with his faculties, from the effect of disappointed hope, suspicion, and fear, almost suspended, he sinks into despondence, and grows tired of life. Presently, by the preternatural disclosure made, his vengeance also is roused. Pledged too to the execution of it, and beset with spies, and danger and difficulty increasing round him, he becomes more and more indifferent to life, and even desirous of death. In this distracted and desperate state, and sworn to “bend every corporal agent," to strike that blow which would probably recoil upon himself, an object, the only one in this world that had any power to hold him to it, is thrown in his way. For a moment he forgets his situation; but recollection presently restores it, and, as a necessary precaution, dictates the course he pursues. Yet still, in spite of himself, we find him touching, again and again, the subject nearest his heart. It would have been base so to have trified with her, as to have kept alive a fame which he was assured must soon be fatally extinguished.
We fully approve, therefore, of the feeling of a distinguished modern actor, and fall in with the sentiment of a writer who witnessed it. He says, “ After having gone to the extremity of the stage, from a pang of parting tenderness, Mr. Kean came back to press his lips to Ophelia's hand. It had an electrical effect on the house. It explained the character at once (and such as Shakespeare meant it) as one of disappointed hope, of bitter regret, of affection suspended, but not obliterated, by the
cruelty of his fate, and the distraction of the scene around
(15) The courtier's, soldier's, scholar's, eye, tongue, sword.] Dr. Farmer has shewn, that the collocation of words in exact correspondence with each other, was not insisted upon by our author; and that even Quintilian, a classical and critical author, thought such scrupulous arrangement unnecessary, though writing in prose.
“ Princes are the glass, the school, the book,
Tarq. and Lucrece. And in Quintilian : « Multum agit sexus, ætas, conditio ; ut in fæminis, senibus, pupillis, liberos, parentes, conjuges, alligantibus." (16) That unmatch'd form and feature of blown youth,
Blasted with ecstasy :) That matchless form of blooming youth mildewed and distracted. “ The feature or fashion, or the proportion and figure of the whole body. Conformatio quædam et figura totius oris et corporis, oupijetpia.” Baret's Alvearie, fo. 1580. In the sense of the entire figure it is used in Cymb. V.5. lach.
“ For feature laming
“ Thus when they had the witch disrobed quite,
“ Which the fair feature of her limbs did hide." Ib. III.9. Blown is ripe, out of the bud. For feature the quartos read stature. Ecstasy is being carried out of oneself, distraction, alienation of mind. “ Nor sense to ecstasy was e'er so thrall’d.”
III. 4, Haml. Mr. Steevens quotes Gaw. Dougl.
“ In ecstasy she stood, and mad almaist.” (17) robustious perriwig-pated fellow) Boisterous and pompous: in deportment and dress making a false and extravagant show of passion. Mr. Steevens cites Every Woman in her Humour, 1609: “—as none wear hoods but monks and ladies, and feathers but fore-horses, &c.-none perriwigs but players and pictures."
(18) groundlings] The part of the audience that answered to our upper gallery.
Ben Jonson mentions the groundlings with contempt : “ The understanding gentlemen of the ground here.” And in The Case is Alter'd, 1609: a rude barbarous crew that have no brains, and yet grounded judgements; they will hiss any thing that mounts above their grounded capacities.”
“ Be your stage-curtains artificially drawn, and so covertly shrowded that the squint-eyed groundling may not peep in ?” Lady Alimony, 1659.
In our early play-houses the pit had neither floor nor benches. The groundling, in its primitive signification, means a fish which always keeps at the bottom of the water. STEEVENS.
The groundling and gallery commoner are classed together in Decker's Guls Hornbook, 1609, p. 27.
(19) capable of nothing but inexplicable dumb shows, and noise) i. e. have a capacity for nothing but dumb shows; understand nothing else. So, in Heywood's History of Women, 1621 : “ I have therein imituied our historical and comical poets, that write to the 'stage; who, lest the auditory should be dulled with serious discourses, in every act present some zany, with his mimick gesture, to breed in the less capable mirth and laughter." Malone.
These are shows too confusedly conducted to explain themselves.
In Heywood's play of the Four Prentices of London, 1615, the Presenter says:
“ I must entreat your patience to forbear
“ Their infant fortunes I will soon express :" &c. Then follow the dumb shows, which well deserve the character Hamlet has already given of this species of entertainment, as may be seen from the following passage : “ Enter Tancred, with Bella Franca richly attired, she somewhat affecting him, though she makes no show of it.” Surely this may be called an inerplicable dumb show. STEEVENS.
For the order of these dumb shews Mr. Steevens refers to Gascoigne and Kilwolmersh's Jocasta, 1566.
(20) Termagant] Termagaunt (says Dr. Percy, at the end of K. Estmere, vol. 1.) is the name given in the old romances to the god of the Sarazens ; in which he is constantly linked with Mahound, or Mohammed. Thus, in the legend of SYR Guy, the Soudan swears :
“ So helpe me Mahowne of might,
Hall, Sat. I. And