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Being a thing immortal as itself?
It waves me forth again :—I'll follow it.
Hor. What if it tempt you toward the flood, my lord,
Or to the dreadful summit of the cliff,
That beetles o'er his base into the sea,
And there assume some other horrible form,
Which might deprive your sovereignty of rea
And draw you into madness? think of it:
Ham. It waves me still.-Go on, I'll follow thee.
[Ghost beckons. Still am I call'd.-Unhand me, gentlemen; [Breaking from them.
My fate cries out,
13 That is, overhangs his base. Thus in Sidney's Arcadia : "Hills lift up their beetle brows, as if they would overlooke the pleasantnesse of their under prospect." The verb to beetle is apparently of Shakespeare's creation.
14 To "deprive your sovereignty of reason," signifies to take from you the command of reason. We have similar instances of raising the idea of virtues or qualities by giving them rank, in Banquo's "royalty of nature;" and even in this play we have "nobility of love," and "dignity of love." Deprive was often thus used in the sense of take away. Toys, second line after, means whims. The last four lines of this speech are not in the folio.
By Heaven, I'll make a ghost of him that lets
I say, away! Go on, I'll follow thee.
[Exeunt Ghost and HAMLET. Hor. He waxes desperate with imagination. Mar. Let's follow; 'tis not fit thus to obey him. Hor. Have after. - To what issue will this come? Mar. Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.
Hor. Heaven will direct it.16
Nay, let's follow him. [Exeunt.
A more remote Part of the Platform.
Enter the Ghost and HAMLET.
Ham. Whither wilt thou lead me? speak, I'll go no further.
Ghost. Mark me.
My hour is almost come, When I to sulphurous and tormenting flames Must render up myself.
Alas, poor ghost!
Ghost. Pity me not; but lend thy serious hearing To what I shall unfold.
Speak; I am bound to hear. Ghost. So art thou to revenge, when thou shalt
15 To let, in old language, is to hinder, or prevent.
16 Marcellus answers Horatio's question, "To what issue will this come?" and Horatio also answers it himself with pious resignation, "Heaven will direct it."
Ghost. I am thy father's spirit ;
Doom'd for a certain term to walk the night,
I could a tale unfold, whose lightest word
To ears of flesh and blood. —List, list, O list!
If thou didst ever thy dear father love,
Ham. O God!
Ghost. Revenge his foul and most unnatural murder.
Ghost. Murder most foul, as in the best it is; But this most foul, strange, and unnatural.
Ham. Haste me to know't; that I, with wings as swift
The spirit being supposed to feel the same desires and appetites as when clothed in the flesh, the pains and punishments promised by the ancient moral teachers are often of a sensual nature. Chaucer in the Persones Tale says, "The misese of hell shall be in defaute of mete and drinke." So, too, in The Wyll of the Devyll: "Thou shalt lye in frost and fire, with sicknes and hunger." Heath proposed "lasting fires," and such is the change in Collier's second folio.
2 Gawin Douglas really changes the Platonic hell into "the punytion of the saulis in purgatory." "It is a nedeful thyng to suffer paines and torment;-sum in the wyndis, sum under the watter, and in the fire uther sum: thus the mony vices contrakkit in the corpis be done away and purgit."
3 Fretful is the reading of the folio; the quartos read fearful.
As meditation or the thoughts of love,
May sweep to my revenge.
I find thee apt;
And duller should'st thou be than the fat weed
Rankly abus'd: but know, thou noble youth,
Ham. O, my prophetic soul! my uncle!
Ghost. Ay, that incestuous, that adulterate beast, With witchcraft of his wit, with traitorous gifts, (O, wicked wit and gifts, that have the power So to seduce!) won to his shameful lust The will of my most seeming-virtuous queen. O, Hamlet! what a falling-off was there! From me, whose love was of that dignity, That it went hand in hand even with the vow I made to her in marriage; and to decline Upon a wretch, whose natural gifts were poor To those of mine!
But virtue, as it never will be mov'd,
Though lewdness court it in a shape of heaven ;
4 So reads the folio; the quartos all have roots instead of rots. Most editors prefer roots; but, surely, rots is much more consonant to the sense of the passage. To speak of a thing as rotting itself is not indeed common; but we have it in Antony and Cleopatra, thus:
"Like a vagabond flag upon the stream,
Go to and back, lackeying the varying tide,
And prey on garbage.
But, soft! methinks, I scent the morning air:
Thus was I, sleeping, by a brother's hand,
5 So the folio and the quarto of 1603; the other quartos, "of the afternoon." Secure, in the next line, is a Latinism, securus, quiet, unguarded.
6 Hebenon probably derived from henbane, the oil of which, according to Pliny, dropped into the ears, disturbs the brain and there is sufficient evidence that it was held poisonous. So in Anton's Satires, 1606: The poison'd henbane, whose cold juice doth kill." And Drayton, in his Barons' Wars: "The poisoning henbane and the mandrake dread." It is, however, possible that poisonous qualities may have been ascribed to ebony; called ebene, and ebeno, by old English writers. So Marlow, in his Jew of Malta, speaking of noxious things: "The blood of Hydra, Lerna's bane, the juyce of hebon, and cocytus breath." The French word hebenin, which would be applied to any thing made from ebony, comes indeed very close to the hebenon of Shakespeare.
7 In the preceding scene, note 1, we have had eager in the sense of sharp, biting. Baret explains, "Eger, sower, sharp, acidus, nigre." Eager droppings" are drops of acid.
8 So all the quartos; the folio has bak'd instead of bark'd; a misprint, probably, but preferred by some editors. · Instant seems to be here used in its Latin sense; pressing, urgent, harassing.