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Ham. The mobled queen?
the flames With bisson 67 rheum; a clout upon that head, Where late the diadem stood; and, for a robe, About her lank and all o'er-teemed loins, A blanket, in the alarm of fear caught up; Who this had seen, with tongue in venom steep'd, 'Gainst fortune's state would treason have pro
nounc'd: But if the gods themselves did see her then, When she saw Pyrrhus make malicious sport In mincing with his sword her husband's limbs ; The instant burst of clamour that she made (Unless things mortal move them not at all), Would have made milch 68 the burning eye of heaven, And passion in the gods.
Pol. Look, whether he has not turn’d his colour, and has tears in's eyes 69.—'Pr’ythee, no more.
67 Bisson is blind; bisen, A. S. Bisson rheum is therefore blinding tears. In Coriolanus we have, “ Bisson conspecuities.'
Would have made milch the burning eye of heaven.' By a hardy poetical licence this expression means, Would have filled with tears the burning eye of heaven.' We have · Lemosus, milch-hearted,' in Huloet’s and in Lyttleton's Dictionaries; and Eliot renders lemosi “those that weepe lightly. It is remarkable that, in old Italian, lattuoso is used for luttuoso, in the same metaphorical manner. To have ‘made passion in the Gods' would have been to move them to sympathy or compassion.
69 • The plays of Shakspeare, by their own power, must have given a different turn to acting, and almost new-created the
performers of his age. Mysteries, moralities, and interludes afford. ed no materials for art to work on, no discriminations of character, or varieties of appropriated language. From tragedies like Cambyses, Tamburlaine, and Jeronymo, nature was wholly banished; and the comedies of Gammer Gurton, Comon Condycyons, and The Old Wives Tale, might have had justice done to them by the lowest order of human beings.
· Sanctius his animal, mentisque capacius altæ, was wanting when the dramas of Shakspeare made their first appearance ;
Ham. 'Tis well; I'll have thee speak out the rest of this soon.-Good my lord, will you see the players well bestowed? Do you hear, let them be well used; for they are the abstract, and brief chronicles, of the time: After
death ter have a bad epitaph, than their ill report while
you were bet
Pol. My lord, I will use them according to their desert.
Ham. Odd's bodikin, man, much better: Use every man after his desert, and who shall 'scape whipping? Use them after your own honour and dignity: The less they deserve, the more merit is in your bounty. Take them in. Pol. Come, sirs.
[Exit POLONIUS, with some of the Players. Ham. Follow him, friends: we'll hear a play tomorrow.–Dost thou hear me, old friend; can you play the murder of Gonzago?
1 Play. Ay, my lord.
Ham. We'll have it to-morrow night. You could, for a need, study a speech of some dozen or sixteen lines, which I would set down, and insert in't? could
not? 1 Play. Ay, my lord.
Ham. Very well.—Follow that lord; and look you mock him not. [Exit Player.] My good friends (To Ros. and Guil.] I'll leave you till night: you are welcome to Elsinore. Ros. Good
lord ! [Exeunt ROSENCRANTZ and GUILDENSTERN.
and to these we were certainly indebted for the excellent actors who could never have improved so long as their sensibilities were unawakened, their memories burthened only by pedantic or puritanical declamation, and their manners vulgarised by pleasantry of as low an origin.'—Steevens. VOL. X.
Ham. Ay, so, good bye to you :-Now I am alone. O what a rogue and peasant slave am I! Is it not monstrous, that this player here, But in a fiction, in a dream of passion, Could force his soul so to his own conceit, That from her working, all his visage wann'd 70 ; Tears in his eyes, distraction in's aspect, A broken voice, and his whole function suiting With forms to his conceit? And all for nothing ! For Hecuba! What's Hecuba to him, or he to Hecuba, That he should weep for her? What would he do, Had he the motive and the cue 71 for passion, That I have? He would drown the stage with tears, And cleave the general ear with horrid speech; Make mad the guilty, and appal the free, Confound the ignorant, and amaze, indeed, The very faculties of
70 The folio reads warm’d, which reading Steevens contended for: he was probably moved by a spirit of opposition ; for surely no one can doubt, who considers the context, that wann'd is the poet's word. Indeed I question whether his visage warm'd, for his face suffused, would have entered into the mind of a writer, or the comprehension of a reader or auditor in Shakspeare's time.
71 i. e. the hint or prompt word, a technical phrase among players; it is the word or sign given by the prompter for a player to enter on his part, to begin to speak or act. “A prompter (says Florio), one who keepes the booke for the plaiers, and teacheth them, or schollers their kue,' i.e. their part; and this will explain why it is used in other places, as in Othello, for part :
• Were it my cue to fight, I should have known it
Without a prompter.' 72 John a dreams, or John a droynes, was a common term for any dreaming or droning simpleton. There is a story told of one John a droynes, a Suffolk simpleton, who played the Devil in a
And can say nothing; no, not for a king,
stage play, in the Hundred Merry Tales. And there is another foolish character of that name in Whetstone's Promos and Cassandra. Unpregnant is not quickened or properly impressed with.
73 Defeat here signifies destruction. It was frequently used in the sense of undo or take away by our old writers. Thus Chapman in his Revenge for Honour :
• That he might meantime make a sure defeat
On our good aged father's life.'
That I the sonne of the Deere murthered.' The quarto of 1604 omits 'Oh vengeance,' and reads,' deere murthered. The quarto of 1603, that I the son of my dear father.'
Fye upon't! foh! About my brains 76! Humph! I
have heard, That guilty creatures, sitting at a play 7, Have, by the very cunning of the scene, Been struck so to the soul, that presently They have proclaim'd their malefactions; For murder, though it have no tongue, will speak With most miraculous organ. I'll have these players Play something like the murder of my father, Before mine uncle; I'll observe his looks; I'll tent him 78 to the quick; if he do blench 79, I know my course, The spirit, that I have seen, May be a devil: and the devil hath To assume a pleasing shape; yea, and, perhaps, Out of my weakness, and my melancholy (As he is very potent with such spirits), Abuses me to damn me: I'll have grounds More relative 80 than this: The play's the thing, Wherein I'll catch the conscience of the king.
76 It seems extraordinary that Mason and Steevens could ever conceive that there was any allusion here to the nautical phrase, about ship.
• About my brains' is nothing more than ' to work my brains.' The common phrase, to go about a thing, is not yet obsolete. Falstaff humours the equivocal use of the word in The Merry Wives of Windsor :
-No quips now, Pistol; indeed I am in the waist too yards about; but I am now about no waste; I am about thrift.' Steevens's quotation from Heywood's Iron Age should have taught him better :-
• My brain about again ! for thou hast found
New projects now to work on,' 77 A number of instances of the kind are collected by Thomas Heywood in his Apology for Actors.
78 To tent was to probe, to search a wound.
79 To blench is to shrink or start. Vide Winter's Tale, Acti. Sc. 2, p. 21.
89 i.e. more near, more immediately connected. The first quarto reads, ' I will have sounder proofs.'