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Ham. An earnest conjuration from the king, As England was his faithful tributary; As love between them like the palm might flourish;1 As peace should still her wheaten garland wear, And stand a comma 'tween their amities;2 And many such like as's of great charge, That, on the view and knowing of these contents,
1 like the palm might flourish;] This comparison is scrip. tural: “ The righteous shall flourish like a palm-tree.”
Psalm xcii. 11. Steevens. 2 As peace should still her wheaten garland wear,
And stand a comma 'tween their amities ;] The expression of our author is, like many of his phrases, sufficiently constrained and affected, but it is not incapable of explanation. The comma is the note of connection and continuity of sentences; the period is the note of abruption and disjunction. Shakspeare had it perhaps in his mind to write,–That unless England complied with the mandate, war should put a period to their amity; he altered his mode of diction, and thought that, in an opposite sense, he might put, that peace should stand a comma between their amities. This is not an easy style; but is it not the style of Shakspeare? Fohnson.
3 as's of great charge,] Asses heavily loaded. A quibble is intended between as the conditional particle, and ass the beast of burthen. That charg'd anciently signified loaded, may be proved from the following passage in The Widow's Tears, by Chapman, 1612: “ Thou must be the ass charg'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 perhaps he never thought of. Steevens.
Though the first and obvious meaning of these words certainly is, “ many similar adjurations, or monitory injunctions, of great weight and importance,” yet Dr. Johnson's notion of a quibble being also in the poet's thoughts, is supported by two other passages of Shakspeare, in which asses 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 sweat under the business." Julius Cæsar. Again, in Measure for Measure:
“ like an ass, whose back with ingots bows,
“ And death unloads thee.” In further support of his observation, it should be remembered, that the letter s in the particle as in the midland counties usually pronounced hard, as in the pronoun us. Dr. Johnson himself always pronounced the particle aş hard, and so I have no doubt did Shakspeare. It is so pronounced in Warwickshire at this day. The first folio accordingly hasmassis. Malone.
Without debatement further, more, or less,
How was this seal'd!
Hor. So Guildenstern and Rosencrantz go to 't.
Why, what a king is this! Ham. Does it not, think thee,9 stand me now upon? He that hath kill'd my king, and whor'd my mother; Popp'd in between the election and my hopes; Thrown out his angle for my proper life,
4 Not shriving-time allow'd.] i. e. without time for confession of their sins: another proof of Hamlet's christian-like disposition. See Romeo and Juliet, Act IV, sc. ii. Steevens.
5 the model of that Danish seal:] The anodel is in old language the copy. The signet was formed in imitation of the Danish seal. See Vol. VIII, p. 80, n. 8. Malone.
6 The changeling never known:] A changeling is a child which the fairies are supposed to leave in the room of that which they steal. Johnson.
7 Why, man, &c.] This line is omitted in the quartos. Steevens.
8 — by their own insinuation —] Insinuation, for corruptly obtruding themselves into his service. Warburton.
By their having insinuated or thrust themselves into the employment. Malone.
9_ think thec,] i.e. bethink thee. Malone.
1 Thrown out his angle ] An angle in Shakspeare's time sig. nified a fishing-rod. So, in Lyly's Sappho and Phao, 1591 :
“ Phao. But he may bless fishing, that caught such a one in the sea.
And with such cozenage; is 't not perfect conscience,
Hor. It must be shortly known to him from England, What is the issue of the business there.
Ham. It will be short: the interim is mine;
Peace; who comes here?
Enter Osric. Osr. Your lordship is right welcome back to Denmark
Ham. I humbly thank you, sir.-Dost know this waterfly?4
“ Venus. It was not with an angle, my boy, but with a net.”
Malone. 2 To quit him-] To requite him; to pay him his due. Johnson.
This passage, as well as the three following speeches, is not in the quartos. Steevens.
3 I'll count his favours: ] Thus the folio. Mr. Rowe first made the alteration, which is perhaps unnecessary. I 'll count his favours, may mean-I will make account of them, i. e. reckon upon them, value them. Steevens.
What favours has Hamlet received from Laertes, that he was to make account of ?-I have no doubt but we should read:
I'll court his favour. M. Mason.
Hamlet may refer to former civilities of Laertes, and weigh them against his late intemperance of behaviour; or may count on such kindness as he expected to receive in consequence of a meditated reconciliation.
It should be observed, however, that in ancient language to count and recount were synonymous. So, in the Troy Book, (Caxha ton's edit.) “ I am comen hether unto yow for refuge, and to telle & count my sorowes.” Steevens.
4 Dost know this water-fly?] A water-fly skips up and down upon the surface of the water, without any apparent pur. pose or reason, and is thence the proper emblem of a busy trifter.
Yohnson. VOL. XV.
Hor. No, my good lord.
Ham. Thy state is the more gracious; for 'tis a více to know him: He hath much land, and fertile: let a beast be lord of beasts, and his crib shall stand at the king's mess: 'Tis a chough;5 but, as I say, spacious in the possession of dirt.
Osr. Sweet lord, if your lordship were at leisure, I should impart a thing to you from his majesty.
Ham. I will receive it, sir, with all diligence of spirit: Your bonnet to his right use; 'tis for the head.
Osr. I thank your lordship, 'tis very hot.
Ham. No, believe me, 'tis very cold; the wind is northerly.
Osr. It is indifferent cold, my lord, indeed.
Ham. But yet, methinks, it is very sultry and hot;6 or my complexion?
Osr. Exceedingly, my lord; it is very sultry,8-as 'twere, I cannot tell how.-My lord, his majesty bade me signify to you, that he has laid a great wager on your head: Sir, this is the matter, Ham. I beseech you, remember9
[Ham. moves him to put on his Hat.
Water-fly is in Troilus and Cressida used as a term of reproach, for contemptible from smallness of size : “ How (says Thersites) the poor world is pestered with such water-flies ; diminutives of nature.” Water-flies are gnats. This insect in Chaucer denotes a thing of no value. Canterbury Tales, v. 17,203, Mr. Tyrwhitt's edition:
“ Not worth to thee as in comparison
“ The mountance [value] of a gnat." H. White. 5 'Tis a chough;] A kind of jackdaw. Johnson. See Vol. VIII, p. 208, n. 2. Steevens.
6 But yet, methinks, it is very sultry &c.] Hamlet is here playing over the same farce with Osric, which he had formerly done with Polonius. Steevens.
7- or my complexion - ] The folios read-for my complexion. Steevens. 8 Exceedingly, my lord; it is very sultry, ]
" igniculum brumæ si tempore poscas,
Malone. 9 I beseech you, remember -]“ Remember not your courtesy," I believe, Hamlet would have said, if he had not been interrupted. “ Remember thy courtesy,” he could not possibly have said, and therefore this abrupt sentence may serve to confirm an emen.
Ost. Nay, good my lord; for my ease, in good faith. Sir,2 here is newly come to court, Laertes: believe me, an absolute gentleman, full of most excellent differences,3 of very soft society, and great showing: Indeed, to speak feelinglyt of him, he is the card or calendar of gentry,5 for you shall find in him the continent of what part a gentleman would see..
Ham. Sir, his definement suffers no perdition in you;)
dation which I proposed in Love's Labour's Lost, Vol. IV, p. 105, n. 6, where Armado says,-" I do beseech thee, remember thy courtesy ;-I beseech thee, apparel thy head.” I have no doubt that Shakspeare there wrote, “ - remember not thy courte. sy," and that the negative was omitted by the negligence of the compositor. Malone.
1 Nay, good my lord; for my ease, in good faith.] This seems to have been the affected phrase of the time. Thus, in Marston's Malcontent, 1604: “ I beseech you, sir, be covered. No, in good faith for my ease.” And in other places. Farmer.
It appears to have been the common language of ceremony in our author's time. “ Why do you stand bareheaded? (says one of the speakers in Florio's SECOND FRUTES, 1591,) you do yourself wrong. Pardon me, good sir, (replies his friend ;) I do it for my ease." Again, in A New Way to pay Old Debts, by Massinger, 1633: “
Is 't for your ease “ You keep your hat off?” Malone. 2 Sir, &c.] The folio omits this and the following fourteen speeches; and in their place substitutes only, “ Sir, you are not ignorant of what excellence Laertes is at his weapon.” Steevens.
3 full of most excellent differences,]' Full of distinguishing excellencies. Fohnson.
4- speak feelingly - ] The first quarto reads-sellingly. So, in another of our author's plays :
“To things of sale a seller's praise belongs.” Steevens. 5- the card or calendar of gentry,] The general preceptor of elegance; the card by which a gentleman is to direct his course; the calendar by which he is to choose his time, that what he does may be both excellent and seasonable. Johnson.
6---for you shall find in him the continent of what part a gen. tleman would see.] rou shall find him containing and comprising every quality which a gentleman would desire to contemplate for imitation. I know not but it should be read, You shall find him the continent. Fohnson.
7 Sir, his definement &c.] This is designed as a specimen, and ridicule of the court-jargon amongst the precieux of that time. The sense in English is, “Sir, he suffers nothing in your account of bim, though to enumerate his good qualities particularly