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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 supreme 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 diversified, as on a different occasion, he uses again in Measure for Measure, which will serve to confirm these observations:

The tempter or the tempted, who sins most?
Not she; nor doth she tempt; but it is I

That lying by the violet in the sun,

Do as the carrion does, not as the flower,
Corrupt by virtuous season.

And the same kind of expression is in Cymbeline:


Common-kissing Titan.



This is a noble emendation, which almost sets the critic on a level with the author. 40-what lenten entertainment, &c.] i. e. sparing, like the entertainments given in Lent. STEEVENS. an aiery of children, little eyases, &c.] The poet here steps out of his subject to give a lash at home, and sneer at the prevailing fashion of following plays performed by the children of the chapel, and abandoning the established theatres.

THEOBALD. 42-escoted?] Paid. From the French escot,a shot or reckoning.


to tarre them on

-] To provoke any animal to rage, is to tarre him. The word is said to come from the Greek ταράσσω.


44 - Hercules and his load too.] i. e. they not only 'carry away the world, but the world-bearer too: alluding to the story of Hercules's relieving Atlas. This is humorous.


The allusion may be to the Globe playhouse, on the Bankside, the sign of which was Hercules carrying the Globe.


45 -I know a hawk from a handsaw.] This was a common proverb.

46 Why, as by lot, God wot,-&c.] The old song from which these quotations are taken I communicated to Dr. Percy, who has honoured it with a place in the second and third editions of his Reliques of ancient English Poetry. In the books belonging to the Sta

tioners' Company, there is a late entry of this ballad among others." Jeffa Judge of Israel," p. 93. vol. iii. Dec. 14, 1624.


47my abridgement comes.] He calls the players afterwards, the brief chronicles of the time; but I think he now means only those who will shorten my talk.


48-a chopine-] A chioppine is a high shoe worn by the Italians.


-'twas caviare to the general:] Caviare is the spawn of sturgeon pickled, and is imported hither from Russia.


The general means here the vulgar. Caviare to the general is therefore of the same import as the scripture expression, casting pearls before swine.

50 there were no sallets in the lines,] Mr. Pope reads salt.

51-affection:] for affectation.

52-mobled queen-] Mobled signifies huddled, grossly covered.

"The mobbled queen."


I meet with this word in Shirley's Gentleman of Venice: "The moon does mobble up herself."

53 With bisson rheum;] Bisson, is blind.


54 Like John a-dreams,] Perhaps this name is cor rupted. John-a-droynes seems to have been some well-known character, as I have met with more than one allusion to him. So, in Have with you to Saffron Walden, or Gabriel Harvey's Hunt is up, by Nashe,

1596: "The description of that poor John-a-droynes his man, whom he had hired," &c. John-a-Droynes is likewise a foolish character in Whetstone's Promos and Cassandra, 1578, who is seized by informers, has not much to say in his defence, and is cheated out of his money. 55 I'll tent him to the quick; if he do blench,] Search his wounds. If he shrink or start.


56 Niggard of question; but, of our demands,

Most free in his reply.] This is given as the description of the conversation of a man whom the speaker found not forward to be sounded; and who kept aloof when they would bring him to confession: but such a description can never pass but at cross-purposes. Shakspeare certainly wrote it just the other way:

Most free of question; but, of our demands,

Niggard in his reply.

That this is the true reading, we need but turn back to the preceding scene, for Hamlet's conduct, to be satisfied.


57 Affront Ophelia:] To affront is, to meet face to face.

58-coil,] Is bustle, turmoil.

59-Nymph, in thy orisons-] 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.


60 make your wantonness your ignorance:] You mis

take by wanton affectation, and pretend to mistake by ignorance.

61 Blasted with ecstasy:] The word ecstasy was anciently used to signify some degree of alienation of mind.


62 the groundlings;] The meaner people then seem to have sat below, as they now sit in the upper gallery, who, not well understanding poetical lan guage, were sometimes gratified by a mimical and mute representation of the drama, previous to the dialogue.


63 Termagant;] Termagant was a Saracen deity, very clamorous and violent in the old moralities.


64 - the pregnant hinges of the knee,] I believe the sense of pregnant in this place is, quick, ready, prompt.


65 -Vulcan's stithy.] Stithy is a smith's anvil.

66 O! your only jig-maker.] A jig was not in Shakspeare's time a dance, but a ludicrous dialogue in metre, and of the lowest kind, like Hamlet's conversation with Ophelia. Many of these jiggs are entered in the books of the Stationers' Company:-" Philips his Jigg of the Slyppers, 1595. Kempe's Jigg of the Kitchen-stuff-woman, 1595."

67 - a suit of sables.] The conceit of these words is not taken. They are an ironical apology for his mother's cheerful looks: two months was long enough in conscience to make any dead husband forgotten. But the editors, in their nonsensical blunder; have

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