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Had I but time, (as this fell sergeant, death,
Never believe it ;
As thou'rt a man,
[March afar off, and Shot within.
What warlike noise is this?
0, I die, Horatio ;
sweet prince ;
6—(as this fell sergeant, ] A serjeant is a bailiff, or sheriff's officer.
* The potent poison quite o'er-crows] Alluding to a victorious cock exulting over his conquered antagonist.
the occurents,] i. e. incidents.
And flights of angels sing thée to thy rest!
Enter FORTINBRAS, the English Ambassadors, and
Others. Fort. Where is this sight? Hor.
What is it, you would see? If aught of woe, or wonder, cease your search. Fort. This quarry cries on havock! - proud
death! What feast is toward in thine eternal cell, That thou so many princes, at a shot, So bloodily hast struck ? 1 Amb.
The sight is dismal; And our affairs from England come too late : The ears are senseless, that should give us hearing, To tell him, his commandment is fulfillid, That Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead: Where should we have our thanks ? Hor.
Not from his mouth, Had it the ability of life to thank you ; He never gave commandment for their death. But since, so jump upon this bloody question, You from the Polack wars, and you from England, Are here arriv'd ; give order, that these bodies High on a stage be placed to the view ; And let me speak, to the yet unknowing world, How these things come about: So shall you hear
* This quarry cries on havock !] To cry on, was to exclaim against. I suppose, when unfair sportsmen destroyed more quarry or game than was reasonable, the censure was to cry, Havock.
Johnson. 2 What feast is toward in thine eternal cell,] An Allusion to the Choæ, or feasts of the dead, which were anciently celebrated at Athens, and are mentioned by Plutarch in The Life of Antonius.
3 his mouth,] i. e. the king's.
Of carnal, bloody, and unnatural acts ;*
Fort. Let us haste to hear it,
Hor. Of that I shall have also cause to speak, And from his mouth whose voice will draw no more: But let this same be presently perform'd, Even while men's minds are wild ; lest more mis.
chance, On plots, and errors, happen. Fort.
Let four captains Bear Hamlet, like a soldier, to the stage ; For he was likely, had he been put on, To have prov'd most royally: and, for his passage, The soldier's musick, and the rites of war, Speak loudly for him.Take up the bodies :-Such a sight as this Becomes the field, but here shows much amiss. Go, bid the soldiers shoot. [A dead March. [Exeunt, bearing off the dead Bodies; after
which, a Peal of Ordnance is shot off??
4 Of carnal, bloody, and unnatural acts ;] Of sanguinary and upnatural acts, to which the perpetrator was instigated by concupiscence, or, to use our poet's own words, by. “ carnal stings.” The speaker alludes to the murder of old Hamlet by his brother, previous to his incestuous union with Gertrude. s Of deaths put on-]. i. e. instigated, produced.,
some rights of memory in this kingdom,] Some rights, which are remembered in this kingdom.
? If the dramas of Shakspeare were to be characterised, each by the particular excellence which distinguishes it from the rest,
we must allow to the tragedy of Hamlet the praise of variety. The incidents are so numerous, that the argument of the play would make a long tale. The scenes are interchangeably diversified with merriment and solemnity: with merriment that includes judicious and instructive observations; and solemnity not strained by poetical violence above the natural sentiments of man. New characters appear from time to time in continual succession, exhibiting various forms of life and particular modes of conversation. The pretended madness of Hamlet causes much mirth, the mournful distraction of Ophelia fills the heart with tenderness, and every personage produces the effect intended, from the apparition that in the first Act chills the blood with horror, to the fop in the last, that exposes affectation to just contempt.
The conduct is perhaps not wholly secure against objections. The action is indeed for the most part in continual progression, but there are some scenes which neither forward nor retard it. Of the feigned madness of Hamlet there appears no adequate cause, for he does nothing which he might not have done with the reputation of sanity. He plays the madman most, when he treats Ophelia with so much rudeness, which seems to be useless and wanton cruelty.
Hamlet is, through the whole piece, rather an instrument than an agent. After he has, by the stratagem of the play, convicted the King, he makes no attempt to punish him; and his death is at last effected by an incident which Hamlet had no part in producing.
The catastrophe is not very happily produced; the exchange of weapons is rather an expedient of necessity, than a stroke of art. A scheme might easily be formed to kill Hainlet with the dagger, and Laertes with the bowl.
The poet is accused of having shown little regard to poetical justice, and may be charged with equal neglect of poetical probability. The apparition left the regions of the dead to little purpose;
revenge which he demands is not obtained, but by the death of him that was required to take it; and the gratification, which would arise from the destruction of an usurper and a murderer, is abated by the untimely death of Ophelia, the young, the beautiful, the harmless, and the pious. JOHNSON.