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GHOST. Do not forget: This visitation
Is but to whet thy almost blunted purpose.
But, look! amazement on thy mother sits:
O, step between her and her fighting soul:
Conceit in weakest bodies strongest works
Speak to her, Hamlet.


How is it with you, lady?
QUEEN. Alas, how is't with you?
That you do bend your eye on vacancy,
And with the incorporal air do hold discourse;
Forth at your eyes your spirits wildly peep;
And, as the sleeping soldiers in the alarm,
Your bedded hair, like life in excrements 7,
Starts up, and stands on end. O gentle son,
Upon the heat and flame of thy distemper
Sprinkle cool patience. Whereon do you look ?

CONCEIT in weakest bodies strongest works ;] Conceit for imagination.

So, in The Rape of Lucrece :

"And the conceited painter was so nice." MALone. See Romeo and Juliet, Act II. Sc. VI. STEEVENS.


like life in EXCREMENTS,] The hairs are excrementitious, that is, without life or sensation; yet those very hairs, as if they had life, start up, &c. POPE.

So, in Macbeth:

66 The time has been

my fell of hair,

"Would at a dismal treatise rouse and stir,
"As life were in't." MALONE.

Not only the hair of animals having neither life nor sensation was called an excrement, but the feathers of birds had the same appellation. Thus, in Izaac Walton's Complete Angler, p. i. ch. i. p. 9, edit. 1766: "I will not undertake to mention the several kinds of fowl by which this is done, and his curious palate pleased by day; and which, with their very excrements, afford him a soft lodging at night. WHALLEY.

8 Upon the heat and flame of thy distemper

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Sprinkle cool patience.] This metaphor seems to have been suggested by an old black letter novel, (already quoted in a note on The Merchant of Venice, Act III. Sc. II.) Green's History of the fair Bellora: "Therefore slake the burning heate of thy flaming affections, with some drops of cooling moderation." STEEVENS.

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HAM. On him! on him!-Look you, how pale he glares!

His form and cause conjoin'd, preaching to stones", Would make them capable '.-Do not look upon


Lest, with this piteous action, you convert
My stern effects: then what I have to do
Will want true colour; tears, perchance, for

QUEEN. To whom do you speak this ?

Do you see nothing there?
QUEEN. Nothing at all; yet all, that is, I see.
HAM. Nor did you nothing hear?


No, nothing, but ourselves. HAM. Why, look you there! look, how it steals


My father, in his habit as he liv'd 3!

9preaching to stones-] Thus, in Sidney's Arcadia, lib. v.: "Their passions then so swelling in them, they would have made auditors of stones, rather than," &c. STEEVENS.

His form and cause conjoin'd, preaching to stones, Would make them CAPABLE.] Capable here signifies intelligent; endued with understanding. So, in King Richard the


O, 'tis a parlous boy,


Bold, quick, ingenious, forward, capable."

We yet use capacity in this sense. See also Henry VIII. Act V. Sc. II. MALone.

2 My stern EFFECTS:] Effects, for actions, deeds effected.



3 My father, in his habit as he liv'd!] If the poet means by this expression, that his father appeared in his own familiar habit, he has either forgot that he had originally introduced him in armour, or must have meant to vary his dress at this his last appearance. Shakspeare's difficulty might perhaps be a little obviated by pointing the line thus:


My father-in his habit-as he liv'd!" STEEVENS. A man's armour, who is used to wear it, may be called his habit, as well as any other kind of clothing. As he lived, probably means- as if he were alive-as if he lived.' M. MASON.


As if is frequently so used in these plays; but this interpreta

Look, where he goes, even now, out at the portal!
[Exit Ghost.
QUEEN. This is the very coinage of your brain:
This bodiless creation ecstasy
Is very cunning in *.

HAM. Ecstasy!

My pulse, as yours, doth temperately keep time,
And makes as healthful musick: It is not madness,
That I have utter'd: bring me to the test,
And I the matter will re-word; which madness
Would gambol from. Mother, for love of grace,
Lay not that* flattering unction to your soul,
That not your trespass, but my madness speaks:
It will but skin and film the ulcerous place;
Whil'st rank corruption, mining all within,
Infects unseen. Confess yourself to heaven;
Repent what's past; avoid what is to come;
And do not spread the compost on the weeds o,
To make them ranker. Forgive me this my virtue :

* First folio, a.

† First folio, ranke.

tion does not entirely remove the difficulty which has been stated. MALone.

4 This is the very COINAGE of your brain :


Is very cunning in.] So, in The Rape of Lucrece:

"Such shadows are the weak brain's forgeries." MALONE. Ecstasy in this place, and many others, means a temporary alienation of mind, a fit. So, in Eliosto Libidinoso, a novel, by John Hinde, 1606: that bursting out of an ecstasy wherein she had long stood, like one beholding Medusa's head, lamenting," &c. STEEVENS.


Minshieu has thus accurately explained this word: “Extasie, or trance. G. extasé, Lat. extasis, abstractio mentis. Est propriè mentis emotio, et quasi ex statione suâ deturbatio, seu furore, seu admiratione, seu timore, aliove casu decidat."

Minshieu, 1617. MALONE. SKIN and film the ulcerous place;] The same indelicate allusion occurs in Measure for Measure:


"That skins the vice o' the top."


6 - do not spread the compost, &c.] Do not, by any new indulgence, heighten your former offences.


For in the fatness of these pursy times,
Virtue itself of vice must pardon beg;
Yea, curb and woo, for leave to do him good.
QUEEN. O Hamlet! thou hast cleft my heart in


HAM. O, throw away the worser part of it,
And live the purer with the other half.
Good night but go not to my uncle's bed;
Assume a virtue, if you have it not.
[That monster, custom, who all sense doth eat
Of habit's devil, is angel yet in this ";
That to the use of actions fair and good
He likewise gives a frock, or livery,
That aptly is put on:] Refrain to-night;
And that shall lend a kind of easiness
To the next abstinence: [the next more easy 9:


7-curb-] That is, bend and truckle, Fr. courber. in Pierce Plowman :

"Then I courbid on my knees," &c. STEEVENS. 8 That monster, custom, who all sense doth eat

OF habit's DEVIL, is angel yet in this.] This passage is left out in the two elder folios: it is certainly corrupt, and the players did the discreet part to stifle what they did not understand. Habit's devil certainly arose from some conceited tamperer with the text, who thought it was necessary, in contrast to angel. The emendation in my text I owe to the sagacity of Dr. Thirlby:

"That monster, custom, who all sense doth eat
"Of habits evil, is angel," &c. THEOBALD.

I think Thirlby's conjecture wrong, though the succeeding editors have followed it; angel and devil are evidently opposed.


I incline to think with Dr. Thirlby; though I have left the text undisturbed. From That monster to put on, is not in the folio. MALONE.

I would read-Or habit's devil. The poet first styles custom amonster, and may aggravate and amplify his description by adding, that it is the "dæmon who presides over habit."-That monster custom, or habit's devil, is yet an angel in this particular. STEEVENS. Of habit's devil, means, I think, a devil in his usual habits.


[the next more easy :] This passage, as far as potency, is omitted in the folio. STEEVENS.



2 D

For use almost can change the stamp of nature,
And either curb the devil', or throw him out
With wondrous potency.] Once more, good

And when you are desirous to be bless'd,
I'll blessing beg of you. For this same lord,
[Pointing to POLONI'S,
I do repent: But heaven hath pleas'd it so,-
To punish me with this, and this with me 2,
That I must be their scourge and minister.
I will bestow him, and will answer well
The death I gave him. So, again, good night!—
I must be cruel, only to be kind 3 :


And either CURB the devil, &c.] In the quarto, where alone this passage is found, some word was accidentally omitted at the press in the line before us. The quarto 1604 reads:

"And either the devil, or throw him out," &c.

For the insertion of the word curb I am answerable. The printer or corrector of a later quarto, finding the line nonsense, omitted the word either, and substituted master in its place. The modern editors have accepted the substituted word, and yet retain either; by which the metre is destroyed. The word omitted in the first copy was undoubtedly a monosyllable. MALONE.


This very rational conjecture may be countenanced by the same expression in The Merchant of Venice:

"And curb this cruel devil of his will." STEEVENS.

2 To punish me with this, and this with me,] To punish me by making me the instrument of this man's death, and to punish this man by my hand. For this, the reading of both the quarto and folio, Sir T. Hanmer and the subsequent editors have substituted

"To punish him with me, and me with him." MALONE. I take leave to vindicate the last editor of the octavo Shakspeare from any just share in the foregoing accusation. Whoever looks into the edition 1785, will see the line before us printed exactly as in this and Mr. Malone's text. In several preceding instances a similar censure on the same gentleman has been as undeservedly implied. STEEVENS.

3 I must be CRUEL, only to be KIND:] This sentiment resembles the-facto pius, et sceleratus eodem, of Ovid's Metamorphosis, b. iii. It is thus translated by Golding :

"For which he might both justly kinde, and cruel called bee.” STERVENS.


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