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Conceit in weakest bodies strongest works.18
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 th' incorporal air do hold discourse ?
Forth at your eyes your spirits wildly peep;
And, as the sleeping soldiers in th' alarm,
Your bedded hair, like life in excrements,19
Starts up, and stands on end. O, gentle son !
Upon the heat and flame of thy distemper
Sprinkle cool patience. Whereon do you look ?
Ham. On him! on him! - Look you, how pale

he glares ! His form and cause conjoin'd, preaching to stones, Would make them capable.2' — Do not look upon

Lest with this piteous action you convert
My stern affects : 21 then what I have to do
Will want true colour; tears, perchance, for blood.

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 ?


18 Conceit for conception, imagination. This was the common force of the word in the Poet's time.

19 That is, like excrements alive, or having life in them. Hair, nails, feathers, &c., were called excrements, as being without life. See The Winter's Tale, Act iv. sc. 3, note 47.

20 That is, would put sense and understanding into them. The use of capable for susceptible, intelligent, is not peculiar to Shakespeare.

H. * 21 Affects was often used for affections ; as in Othello, “the young affects in me defunct." The old copies read effects, which was a frequent misprint for affects. Singer justly remarks, that “ the piteous action' of the Ghost could not alter things already effected, but might move Hamlet to a less stern mood of mind.



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

away! My father, in his habit as he liv'd! 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 22 Is very cunning in.

Ham. Ecstacy! My pulse, as yours, doth temperately keep time, And makes as healthful music. 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.23 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,
Whiles 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,
To make them ranker.24 Forgive me this my virtue:
For in the fatness of these pursy times,
Virtue itself of vice must pardon beg;
Yea, curb 25 and woo, for leave to do him good.

22 This word has occurred in the same sense before. See scene 1, of this Act, note 22.

H. 23 Science has found the Poet's test a correct one. Dr. Ray, of Providence, in his work on the Jurisprudence of Insanity, thus states the point : “ In simulated mania, the impostor, when requested to repeat his disordered idea, will generally do it correctly ; while the genuine patient will be apt to wander from the track, or introduce ideas that had not presented themselves before." H.

24 That is, do not by any new indulgence heighten your former offences.

25 That is, bow. Courber, Fr., to bow, crook, or curb.”

Queen. O, Hamlet! thou hast cleft my heart in

twain. 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 habits devil, is angel yet in this, 26 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 ; For use almost can change the stamp of nature, And master the devil or throw him out 27 With wondrous potency. Once more, good night! And when you are desirous to be bless'd,

26 A very obscure and elliptical passage, if indeed it be not corrupt. We bave adopted Caldecott's pointing, which gives the meaning somewhat thus : " That monster, custom, who devours or eats out all sensibility or feeling as to what we do, though he be the devil or evil genius of our habits, is yet our good angel in this." Collier and Verplanck order the pointing thus : “Who all sense doth eat of habits, devil, is angel yet in this." Where the meaving is, -" That monster, custom, who takes away all sense of habits, devil though he be, is still an angel in this respect." This also pleads a fair title to preference, and we find it not easy to choose between the two. Dr. Thirlby proposed to read, “Of habits evil ; " which would give the clear and natural sense, that by custom we lose all feeling or perception of bad habits, and become reconciled to them as if they were nature. The probability, however, that an antithesis was meant between devil and angel, is against this reading; otherwise, we should incline to think it right. - The whole sentence is omitted in the folio; as is also the passage beginning with “the next more easy,” and ending with “ wondrous potency."

27 So the undated quarto and that of 1611; the others have either instead of master. Some editors, probably not knowing or not consulting the copies first mentioned, have supplied curb or quell after either.


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I'll blessing beg of you. — For this same lord,

[Pointing to POLONIUS. I do repent : but heaven hath pleas’d it so, To punish me with this, and this with me, That I must be their scourge and minister. 28 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 : Thus bad begins, and worse remains behind. — But one word more, good lady: 39 Queen.

What shall I do ? Ham. Not this, by no means, that I bid you do : Let the bloat king tempt you again to bed ; Pinch wanton on your cheek; call you his mouse ; 30 And let him, for a pair of reechy kisses, 31 Or paddling in your neck with his damn'd fingers, Make you to ravel all this matter out, That I essentially am not in madness, But mad in craft. 'Twere good, you let him know ; For who, that's but a queen, fair, sober, wise, Would from a paddock, from a bat, a gib, 32 Such dear concernings hide? who would do so ? No, in despite of sense and secrecy, Unpeg the basket on the house's top, Let the birds fly, and, like the famous ape,

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28 The pronoun their refers, apparently, to heaven, which is here a collective noun, put for the heavenly powers.

29 The words “ But one word more, good lady,” are not in the folio. And in the next line but one, the folio has blunt instead of bloat.

30 Mouse was a term of endearment. Thus Burton, in his Anatomy of Melancholy : “ Pleasant names may be invented, bird, mouse, lamb, puss, pigeon."

31 Reeky and reechy are the same word, and always applied to any vapourous exhalation, even to the fumes of a dunghill. See Coriolanus, Act ii. sc. 1, note 18.

32 A paddock is a toad; a gib, a cat. See Macbeth, Act i. sc. 1, note 3; and 1 Henry IV., Act i. sc. 2, note 6.


To try conclusions in the basket creep,33
And break your own neck down.
Queen. Be thou assur'd, if words be made of

And breath of life, I have no life to breathe
What thou hast said to me.34

Ham. I must to England ; you know that,

Alack !
I had forgot: 'tis so concluded on.
Ham. There's letters seal'd; and my two school

fellows, Whom I will trust, as I will adders fang'd, They bear the mandate; they must sweep my way, And marshal me to knavery. Let it work ; For 'tis the sport, to have the engineer Hoist with his own petar ; 35 and it shall go hard,

33 To try conclusions is to put to proof, or try experiments. See Antony and Cleopatra, Act v. sc. 2, note 33. Sir John Suckling possibly alludes to the same story in one of his letters : “ It is the story after all of the jackanapes and the partridges; thou starest after a beauty till it be lost to thee, and then let'st out another, and starest after that till it is gone too.”

34 “ I confess," says Coleridge, “that Shakespeare has left the character of the Queen in an unpleasant perplexity. Was she, or was she not, conscious of the fratricide ?This “ perplexity," whatever it be, was doubtless designed by the Poet ; for in the original form of the play she stood perfectly clear on this score; as appears from several passages in the quarto of 1603, which were afterwards disciplined out of the text. Thus, in one place of this scene, she says to Hamlet, —

“But, as I have a soul, I swear to Heaven,

I never knew of this most horrid murder." And in this place she speaks thus:

“ Hamlet, I vow by that Majesty,

That knows our thoughts and looks into our hearts,
I will conceal, consent, and do my best,
What stratagem soe'er thou shalt devise."

H. 35 Hoist for hoised. To hoyse was the old verb. A petar was a kind of mortar used to blow up gates.


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