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Your leave and favour to return to France;
King. Have you your father's leave? what says Palonius?
Pol. He hath, my lord, by laboursome petition,
King. Take thy fair hour, Laertes, time be thine ; (3)
[Afde. King. How is it that the clouds still hang on you? Ham. Not fo, my Lord, I am too much i'th' sún.
Queen. Good Hamlet, cast thy nighted colour off, And let thine eye look like a friend on Denmark. Do not, for ever, why thy veiled lids, Seek for thy noble father in the dust; Thou know'st, 'tis common : all, that live, must die ; Palling through nature to eternity.
Ham. Ay, Madam, it is common.
Queen. If it be,
Ham. Seems, Madam ? nay, it is; I know not seems :
(3) Take tby fair bour, Laertes, time be tbine, And tby fair
Graces; Spend it at iby will.] This is the pointing in both Mr. Pope's editions ; but the Poet's meaning is loft by it, and the close of the sentence miserably Aatten'd. The pointing, I have restor'd, is that of the best copies ; and the sense, this; “ You have “ my leave to go, Laertes ; make the faireft use you please of your 16 time, and spend it at your will with the saireft graces you are master of,"
Nor the dejected 'haviour of the visage,
you must know, your father lot a father ; (4)
pray you, throw to earth
(4) But you must know, your father loft a fatber;
Tbat faiber bis.] This suppos'd refinement is from Mr. Pope; but all the editions else, that I have met with, old and modern, read,
That farber loft, loft, bis ; The reduplication of which word here gives an energy and an elegance, which is much eafier to be conceiv'd, than explain'd in terms, And every judicious reader of this Poet muft have observ'd, how frequent it is with him to make this reduplication; where he intends either to alert or deny, augment or diminish, or add a degree of vebemence to his expreflion.
And with't no less nobility of love, (5)
Queen. Let not thy mother lose her prayers, Hamlet:
King. Why, 'tis a loving, and a fair reply ;
Manet Hamlet. Ham. Oh, that this too-too-solid flesh would melt, Thaw, and resolve itself into a dew!
(5) And with no less nobility of love,
Do I impart towards you.] But what does the King impart? We want the substantive governd of the verb. The King had declared Hamle his immediate successor ; and with that declaration, he must mean, be imparts to him as noble a love, as ever fond father tender'd lo his own son. I have ventur'd to make the text conform with this fenfe. (6)
-For your intent In going back to scbool to Wittenberg;] The Poet uses a prolepsia here: for the university at Wittenberg was open'd by Frederick the 3d clector of Saxony in the year 1502, several ages later in time than the date of Hamlet. But I design'd this remark for another purpose. I would take notice, that a considerable space of years is spent in this tragedy ; or Hamlet, as a prince, thould be too old to go to an university. We here find him a scholar resident at that university; but, in Act sth, we find him plainly 30 years old : for the gravedigger had taken up that occupation the very day on which young Hamlet was born, and had follow'd it, as he lays, thirty years.
Or that the Everlasting had not fix'd (7)
That (7) Or that the everlasting had not fix'd
His cannon 'gains Jelf-flaughter! ] The generality of the editions read thus, as if the Poet's thought were, Or that the Almigbry had not planted bis artillery, his resentment, or arms of vengeance against Self-murder. But the word, which I have restor'd to the text, (and which was espous'd by the accurate Mr. Hughes, who gave an edition of this play ;) is the Poet's true reading. i. e. That be bad not reArain’d suicide by his express law, and peremptory prohibition. Mistakes are perpetually made in the old editions of our Poet, betwixt those two words, cannon and canon. I shall now subjoin my reasons why, I think, the Poet intended to say, heaven had fix'd its injunction rather than its artillery. In the first place, I much doubt the propriety of the phrase, fixing cannon, in the meaning here suppos'de The military expression, which imports what would be necessary to the sense of the Poet's thought, is mounting or planting cannon : and whenever cannon is said to be fix'd, it is when the enemy become masters of it and nail it down. In the next place, to fix a canon, or law, is the term of the civilians peculiar to this business. This Virgil had in his mind, when he wrote, -Leges fixit pretio, atque refixit.
Æneid. VI. So Cicero in his Philippic orations : Num figentur rursùs bæ Tabulæ, quas vos decretis veftris refixiftis ? And it was the constant custom of the Romans to say, upon this occasion, figere legem; as the Greeks, before them, used the synonymous term voor Trapagñtai, and call'd their ftatutes thence παραπήγματα. But my last reason, and which lways most with me, is from the Poet's own turn and cast of thought, For, as he has done in a great many more instances, it is the very sentiment which he falls into in another of his plays, tho' he has cloth'd it in different expressions,
'gainst self: Naughter There is a probibition so divine, That cravens my weak hand.
-fo loving to my motber, That be permitted not the winds of beav'n Vifit ber face too roughly.) This is a sophisticated reading, copied
That he might not let e’en the winds of heav'n
-fo loving to my mother,
Vifit ber face too rougbly. Beteene is a corruption, without doubt, but not lo inveterate a one, but that, by the change of a single letter, and the separation of two words mistakenly jumbled together, I am verily perswaded, I have retriev'd the Poet's reading. -Tbat be might not let e'en tbe winds of beav'n, &c. (0)
-Frailty, tby name is woman!] But that it would displease Mr. Pope to have it suppos’d, that satire can have any place in tragedy, (of which I shall have occafion to speak farther anon) I should make no scruple to pronounce this reflection a fine laconic farcalin. It is as concise in the terms, and, perhaps, more sprightly in the thought and image, than that fling of Virgil upon the sex, in his fourth Æneid.
mvarium & mutabile semper Fæmina. Mr. Dryden has remark'd, that this is the sharpest satire in the fewest words, ihat ever was made on womankind; for both the adjectives are neuter, and animal must be understood to make them grammar. 'Tis certain, the design'd contempt is heighten'd by this change of the gender : but, I presume, Mr. Dryden had forgot this passage of Sbukespeare, when he declar'd on the fide of Virgil's hemiftich, as the harpest satire he had met with.