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Ros. To think, my lord, if you delight not in man, what lenten entertainment the players shall receive from you: we coted them on the
and hither are they coming to offer you
service. Ham. He that plays the king shall be welcome ; his majesty shall have tribute of me: the adventurous knight shall use his foil and target; the lover shall not sigh gratis; the humorous man shall end his part in peace ; the clown shall make those laugh, whose lungs are tickled o’the sere; the lady shall say her mind freely, or the blank verse shall halt for't. — What players are they? ?
Ros. Even those you were wont to take such delight in, the tragedians of the city.
Ham. How chances it, they travel ? their residence, both in reputation and profit, was better both ways.
Ros. I think, their inhibition comes by the means of the late innovation.?
27 « Lenten entertainment” is entertainment for the season of Lent, when players were not allowed to perform in public. See Twelfth Night, Act i. sc. 5, note 1. — To cote is to pass alongside, lo pass by, or overtake. So in The Return from Parnassus : “ Marry, presently coted and outstript them."
28 The meaning appears to be, the clown shall make even those laugh whose lungs are tickled with a dry cough, or huskiness ; by his merriment shall convert even their coughing into laughter. The same expression occurs in Howard's Defensative against the Poyson of supposed Prophecies, 1620 : “ Discovering the moods and humours of the vulgar sort to be so loose and tickle of the seare.” The words are found only in the folio. The first quarto has, “ make them laugh that are tickled in the lungs."
29 Referring, no doubt, to the order of the Privy Council, June, 1600, quoted in our Introduction to Twelfth Night, Vol i., page 337. By this order, the players were inhibited from acting in or near the city during the season of Lent, besides being very much restricted at all other seasons, and hence “chances it they travel,” or stroll into the country. - As the matter involves some curious points as to the time or limes when this play was written, it may be well to add the corresponding passage from the quarto of 1603 :
Ham. Do they hold the same estimation they did when I was in the city ? Are they so follow'd ?
Ros. No, indeed, they are not.
Ros. Nay, their endeavour keeps in the wonted pace : but there is, sir, an aiery of children, little eyases, that cry out on the top of question, 30 and are most tyrannically clapp'd for't: these are now the fashion ; and so berattle the common stages, (so they call them,) that many, wearing rapiers, are afraid of goose quills, and dare scarce come thither.
Ham. What! are they children? who maintains them ? how are they escoted ? 31 Will they pursue
6 Ham. Players ? what players be they ?
“ Ros. My lord, the tragedians of the city; those that you took delight to see so often.
“ Ham. How comes it that they travel ? Do they grow restie ? “ Guil. No, my lord ; their reputation holds as it was wont. « Ham. How then ?
“ Guil. I 'faith, my lord, novelty carries it away ; for the principal public audience that came to them are turned to private plays, and the humour of children."
30 Aiery, from eyren, eggs, properly means a brood, but sometimes a nest. See King Richard III., Act i. sc. 3, note 20. — Eyas is a name for an unfledged hawk. See The Merry Wives of Windsor, Act iii. sc. 3, note 2. – Top of question” probably means, top of their voice ; question being often used for speech. The allusion is to the children of St. Paul's and of the Revels, whose performing of plays was much in fashion at the time this play was written. From an early date, the choir-boys of St. Paul's, Westminster, Windsor, and the Chapel Royal, were engaged in such performances, and sometimes played at Court. The complaint here is, that these juveniles so abuse “ the common stages,” that is, the theatres, as to deter many from visiting them. In Jack Drum's Entertainment, 1601, one of the speakers says they were heard “ with much applause ;” and another speaks thus : “I sawe the children of Powles last night, and, troth, they pleas'd me pret. tie, prettie well : the apes in time will do it handsomely."
31 Escoted is paid; from the French escot, a shot or reckoning. - Quality is profession or calling; often so used. -“No longer than they can sing," means, no longer than they keep the voices
the quality no longer than they can sing? will they not say' afterwards, if they should grow themselves to common players, (as it is most like, if their means are no better,) their writers do them wrong, to make them exclaim against their own succession ?
Ros. 'Faith, there has been much to do on both sides; and the nation holds it no sin, to tarre them on to controversy : there was, for a while, no money bid for argument, unless the poet and the player went to cuffs in the question.
Ham. Is it possible?
Guil. 0! there has been much throwing about of brains.
Ham. Do the boys carry it away?
Ros. Ay, that they do, my lord; Hercules and his load too.3:
Ham. It is not very strange : for my uncle is king of Denmark, and those, that would make mowes at him while my father lived, give twenty, forty, fifty, an hundred ducats a-piece, for his picture in little. 'Sblood, there is something in this more than natural, if philosophy could find it out.
Flourish of Trumpets within. Guil. There are the players.
Ham. Gentlemen, you are welcome to Elsinore. Your hands. Come, then ; the appurtenance of welcome is fashion and ceremony; let me comply
32 That is, set them on; a phrase borrowed from the setting on a dog. See King John, Act iv. sc. 1, note 6.
83 That is, carry all the world before them : there is perhaps an allusion to the Globe theatre, the sign of which is said to have been Hercules carrying the globe. — This speech and what precedes, beginning at, “ Nay, their endeavour keeps,” &c., are found only in ih io.
34 So the folio ; the quartos, mouths ; all but the first, which bas mops and moes.
in this garb; 35 lest my extent to the players (which, I tell you, must show fairly outward) should more appear like entertainment than yours. You are welcome; but my uncle-father and auntmother are deceiv'd.
Guil. In what, my dear lord ?
Ham. I am but mad north-north-west ; when the wind is southerly, I know a hawk from a hand
Re-enter POLONIUS. Pol. Well be with you, gentlemen! Ham. Hark you, Guildenstern ; and you too; at each ear a hearer : that great baby, you see there, is not yet out of his swathing-clouts.
Ros. Haply, he's the second time come to them; for, they say, an old man is twice a child.
Ham. I will prophesy, he comes to tell me of the players; mark it. — You say right, sir : o’Monday morning ; 'twas then, indeed.
Pol. My lord, I have news to tell you.
Ham. My lord, I have news to tell you : When Roscius was an actor in Rome,
Pol. The actors are come hither, my lord.
35 That is, let me embrace you in this fashion ; lest I should seem to give you a less courteous reception than I give the players, to whom I must behave with at least exterior politeness. That comply with was sometimes used in the sense of embrace appears by the following from Herrick :
“Witty Ovid, by
His eye in dew of kisses, while he sleeps." 36 « To know a hawk from a handsaw," was a proverb in Shakespeare's time.
Handsaw is merely a corruption of hernshaw, which means a heron.
Pol. Upon my honour, —
Pol. The best actors in the world, either for tragedy, comedy, history, pastoral, pastoral-comical, historical-pastoral, tragical-historical, tragical-comical-historical-pastoral,7 scene individable, or poem unlimited : Seneca cannot be too heavy, nor Plautus too light. For the law of writ, and the liberty, these are the only men.
Ham. O, Jephthah, judge of Israel, what a treasure hadst thou !
Pol. What a treasure had he, my lord ?
One fair daughter, and no more,
37 The words, “ tragical-historical, tragical-comical-historicalpastoral,” are found only in the first quarto and the folio. H.
“ The meaning,” says Collier, “probably is, that the players were good, whether at written productions or at extemporal plays, where liberty was allowed to the performers to invent the dialogue, in imitation of the Italian commedie al improviso." In Elizabeth's time, it was the custom of the students in the Universities to act Latin plays; and, as Warton remarks, it may have been this that suggested the names of Seneca and Plautus to the Poet. In the next Act, Hamlet says to Polonius, – “My lord, you play'd once in the university, you say."
H. 39 These lines are from an old ballad, entitled “Jephtha, Judge of Israel.” It was first printed in Percy's Reliques, having been “ retrieved from utter oblivion by a lady, who wrote it down from memory, as she had formerly heard it sung by her father.” A more correct copy has since been discovered, and reprinted in Evans' Old Ballads, 1810; where the first stanza runs thus :
" I have read that many years agoe,
When Jephtha, judge of Israel,
As by lot, God wot,
It came to passe, most like it was,