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Worse than the mutines in the bilboes 8. Rafhly,
to doe it by the aid of a stranger, making the king of England minifter of his massacreous resolution; to whom he purposed to send him, and by letters desire him to put him to death.
“ Now, to beare him company, were assigned two of Fengon's faithful ministers, bearing letters ingraved in wood, that contained Hamlet's death, in such fort as he had advertised the king of England. But the subtil Danish prince, (being at sea,) whilft his companions Nept, having read the letters, and knowing his uncle's great treason, with the wicked and villainous mindes of the two courtiers that led him to the Naughter, raced out the letters that concerned his death, and instead thereof graved others, with commission to the king of England to hang his two companions; and not content to turn the death they had devised againft him, upon their own neckes, wrote further, that king Fengon willed him to give his daughter to Hamblet in marriage." Hyft. of Hamblet, fignat. G 2.
From this narrative it appears that the faithful ministers of Fengon were not.unacquainted with the import of the letters they bore, Shakspeare, who has followed the story pretty closely, probably meant to describe their representatives, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, as equally guilty; as confederating with the king to deprive Hamlet of his life. So that his procuring their execution, though certainly not abfolutely necessary to his own safety, does not appear to have been a wanton and unprovoked cruelty, as Mr. Steevens has supposed in his very ingenious observations on the general character and conduct of the prince throughout this piece.
In the conclusion of his drama the poet has entirely deviated from the fabulous history, which in other places he has frequently followed.
After Hambler's arrival in England, (for no sea-fight is mentioned,) « the king, (says The Hysory of Hambler) admiring the young prince, gave him his daughter in marriage, according to the counterfeit letters by him devised; and the next day caused the two fervants of Fen. gon to be executed, to satisfy, as he thought, the king's desire." Hyft. of Hamb. Ibid.
Hamlet, however, returned to Denmark, without marrying the king of England's daughter, who, it should seem, had only been beo trorbed to him. When he arrived in his native country, he made the courtiers drunk, and having burnt them to death, by setting fire to the banqueting-room wherein they sat, he went into Fengon's chamber, and killed him, “giving him (says the relater) such a violent blowe upon the chine of the neck, that he cut his head clean from the Thoulders.” Ibid. signat. F 3. He is afterwards said to have been crowned king of Denmark.
MALONI. 8 - mutines in tbe bilboes.] To murine was formerly used for to
Our indiscretion sometime serves us well,
There's mutiny. See p. 337, n. 6. So mutine, for mutiner, or murineer: “un homme mutin,” Fr. a mutinous or feditious person. In The Misfortunes of Artbur, a tragedy, 1587, the adjective is used :
“ Suppresleth mutin force, and practicke fraud," MALONE. The bilboes is a bar of iron with fetters annexed to it, by which mutinous or disorderly failors were anciently linked together. The word is derived from Bilboa, a place in Spain where instruments of steel were fabricated in the utmost perfection. To understand Shakspeare's allusion completely, it should be known, that as these fetters connect the legs of the offenders very close together, their attempts to rehit must be as fruitless as those of Hamlet, in whose mind ibere was a kind of figbring, ibat would not let him Peep. Every motion of one must disturb his partner in confinement. The bilboes are fill shewn in the Tower of London, among the other spoils of the Spanish Armada. The following is the figure of them. STEEVENS.
Wben, &c.] Hamlet, delivering an account of his escape, begins with saying, That he rashly—and then is carried into a reflection upon the weakness of human wisdom. I rafhly praised be rathness for it, -Let us not think these events casual, but let us know, that is, take notice and remember, that we sometimes succeed by indiscretion, when we fail by deep plors, and infer the perpetual superintendance and agency of the Divinity. The observation is juft, and will be allowed by every human being who shall reflect on the course of his own life. Johns. This passage, I think, should be thus distributed.
Rough-hew them how we will;
Ham. Up from my cabin, &c. So that rashly may be joined in conAruction with in the dark grop'd I to find out ibem. TYRWHITT.
Wben our deep plots de pail:) Thus the first quarto, 1604. The editor
There's a divinity that shapes our ends,
Hor. That is most certain.
Ham. Up from my cabin,
No, of the next quarto, for pall, substituted fa!l. The folio reads—when our dear plots do paule.
Mr. Pope and the subsequent editors read--when our deep plots do fail: but pall and fail are by no means likely to have been confound
I have therefore adhered to the old copies. In Antony and Cleopatra our poet has used the participle:
“ I'll never follow thy palld fortunes more.” MALONE. 2 There's a divinity obat shapes our ends,
Rough hew' ibem buw we will.) Dr. Farmer informs me, that these words are merely technical. A wool-man, butcher, and dealer in fkewers, lately observed to him, that his nephew (an idle lad) could only allif him in making them; "he could rough-bew them, but I was obliged to shape their ends." Whoever recollects the profession of Shakspeare's father, will admit that his son might be no stranger to such a term, I have seen packages of wool pinn'd up with skewers. STEEV,
* Larded with many several sorts of reasons, ] I am afraid here is a very poor conceit, founded on an equivoque between reasons and raisins, which in Shakspeare's time were undoubtedly pronounced alike. Sorts of rafins, sugars, &c. is the common phraseology of thops. We have the Tanae quibble in another play. MALONE.
3 Wirb, bo! sucb bugs and goblins in my life;] With sucb causes of terror, rising from my character and designs. JOHNSON.
A bug was no less a terrific being than a goblin. So, in Spenser's Faery Queen, B. 2. c. 3 :
*. As ghaftly bug does unto them affeare." We call it at present a bugbear. STEEVENS, See Vol. VI. p. 373, n.4. MALONE,
— no leisure bated,] Baied, for allowed. To abate, fignifies to dedue; this deduction, when applied to the person in whole favour it is made is called an allowance. Hence he takes the liberty of using boted for allowed. WARBURTON.
No, not to stay the grinding of the axe,
Hor. Is't possible?
Ham. Here's the commission; read it at more leisure. But wilt thou hear now how I did proceed?
Hor. Ay, 'beseech you.
Ham. Being thus benetted round with villanies,
Yor. Ay, good my lord.
Ham. An earneft conjuration from the king,
No leisure bated-means, without any abatement or intermission of time. MALONE,
• Or I could make-] Or in old English fignified before. See Vol. IV. p. 540, n. 9.
MALONE. 5 Being ibus benetled round with villanies,
Or I could make a prologue to my brains,
They bad begun ibeplay :-] Hamlet is telling how luckily every thing fell out; he groped out their commission in the dark without waking them; he found himself doomed to immediate destruction. Something was to be done for his preservation. An expedient occurred, not produced by the comparison of one method with another, or by a regular deduction of consequences, but before he could make a prologue to bis brains, obey bad begun ibe play. Before he could summon his faculties, and propose to himself what should be done, a complete scheme of action presented itself to him. His mind operated before he had excited it. This appears to me to be the meaning. JOHNSON.
0-as our statists do,] Afarist is a faresman. So, in Ben Jonson's Magnetic Lady :
« Will screw you out a secret from a siarift." STEEVENS. Most of the great men of Shakspeare's 'times, whose autographs have been preserved, wrote very bad hands; their secretaries very neac ones. BLACKSTONE.
7 -yeoman's service:) The meaning, I believe is, This yeomanly quelification was a most useful fervant, or geomon, to me; i. e. did me eminent service. The ancient yecmen were famous for their military valour. “These were the good archers in time past (says Sir Tho. Smith), and the stable troop of footmen that affraide all France," STIEV. D d 2
As peace should still her wheaten garland wear,
Hor. How was this seal'd ?
And stand a comma 'tween obeir amities;] The expression of our author is, like many of his phrases, sufficiently constrained and af. fected, but it is not incapable of explanation. The comma is the note of connection and continuity of sentences; the period is the note of ab. ruption and disjunction. Shakspeare had it perhaps in his mind to write, That unleis England complied with the mandate, war foculd put a period to obeir amity; he altered his mode of diction, and thought that, in an opposite senle, he might put, that peace mould fand a comma between their amities. This is not an easy ftile; but is it not the stile of Shakspeare ? JOHNSON.
9 - ases of great charge,] Ajes heavily loaded. A quibble is intended between as the conditional particle, and ass the beast of bura then. That charg’d anciently signified loaded, may be proved from the following patlage in The Widow's Tears, by Chapman, 1612: “ Thou must be the ass cbarg'd with crowns to make way."
JOHNSON, Shakspeare has so many quibbles of his own to answer for, that there are those who think it hard he should be charged with others which he never thought of. STEEVENS.
Though the first and obvious meaning of these words certainly is,
many fimilar adjurations, or monitory injunctions, of great weigbe and importance," yet Dr. Johnson's notion of a quibble being also in the poet's thoughts is fupported by two other pallages of Shakspeare, in which alles are introduced as usually employed in the carriage of gold, a charge of no small weight:
“ He shall but bear them, as the ass bears gold,
" To groan and Tweat under the business." Julius Cæfar. Again, in Measure for Measure:
-like an ass, whose back with ingots bows, " Thou bear'ít thy heavy riches but a journey,
" And death unloads thee." In further support of his observation, it should be remembered, that the letter s in the particle as is in the midland counties usually pronounced hard, as in the pronoun us. Dr. Johnson himself always pronounced the particle as hard, and so I have no doubt did Shakipeare. It is to pronounced in Warwickshire at this day. The first folio accordingly has-mallis. MALONE.