Page images
PDF
EPUB

The King rises, and advances. King. My words fly up, my thoughts remain be

low: Words, without thoughts, never to heaven go.

[Erit. SCENE IV.

Another Room in the Same.

Enter Queen and POLONIUS. ,
Pol. He will come straight. Look, you lay

home to him : Tell him, his pranks have been too broad to bear

with ; And that your grace hath screen'd and stood be

tween Much heat and him. I'll silence me e'en here?. Pray you, be round with him *3.

* Quarto omits with him.
“ And let them stink before they ask God pardon,
“ That your revenge may stretch unto their souls.

MALONE. I think it not improbable, that when Shakspeare put this horrid sentiment into the mouth of Hamlet, he might have recollected the following story : “ One of these monsters meeting his enemie unarmed, threatned to kill him, if he denied not God, his power, and essential properties, viz. his mercy, suffrance, &c. the which, when the other, desiring life, pronounced with great horror, kneeling upon his knees; the bravo cried out, nowe will I kill thy body and soule, and at that instant thrust him through with his rapier.” Brief Discourse of the Spanish State, with a Dialogue annexed intitled Philobasilis, 4to. 1590, p. 24. Reed. A similar story is told in The Turkish Spy, vol. iii. p. 243.

MALONE. 3 - I'll silence me e'en here.] I'll silence me even here,” is, “I'll use no more words. Johnson.

3 — be round with him.] Here the folio interposes, improperly, I think, the following speech :

Ham. [Within.] Mother, mother, mother.” Steevens.

QUEEN.

I'll warrant you ; Fear me not :-withdraw, I hear him coming.

[Polonius hides himself 4.

Enter HAMLET. Ham. Now, mother; what's the matter ? Queen. Hamlet, thou hast thy father much ofw

fended. Ham. Mother, you have my father much of

fended. Queen. Come, come, you answer with an idle

tongue. Ham. Go, go, you question with a wicked *

tongue. Queen. Why, how now, Hamlet ?

What's the matter now ?? Queen. Have you forgot me ? HAM.

No, by the rood, not so: You are the queen, your husband's brother's wife;

* First folio, an idle.

Нам.

4 [Polonius hides himself.] The concealment of Polonius in the Queen's chamber, during the conversation between Hamlet and his mother, and the manner of his death, were suggested by the following passage in The Hystory of Hamblet, bl. I. sig. Di: “ The counsellour entered secretly into the queene's chamber, and there hid himselfe behinde the arras, and long before the queene and Hamlet came thither; who being craftie and pollitique, as soone as hee was within the chamber, doubting some treason, and fearing if he should speake severely and wisely to his mother, touching his secret practises, hee should be understood, and by that means intercepted, used his ordinary manner of dissimulation, and began to come like a cocke, beating with his arms (in such manner as cockes use to strike with their wings) upon the hangings of the chamber; whereby feeling something stirring under them, he cried, a rat, a rat, and presently drawing his sworde, thrust it into the hangings; which done ; pulled the counsellour (half-deade) out by the heeles, made an ende of killing him ; and, being slaine, cut his body in pieces, which he caused to be boyled, and then cast it into an open vault or privie.” MALONE.

And,—'would it were not so '!—you are my mo

ther. Queen. Nay, then I'll set those to you that can

speak. Ham. Come, come, and sit you down; you shall

not budge; You go not, till I set you up a glass Where you may see the inmost part of you. Queen. What wilt thou do? thou wilt not mur

der me ? Help, help, ho !

Pol. [Behind.] What, ho! help!
Ham. How now! a rat 6 ? [Draws.] Dead, for a

ducat dead.

[Hamlet makes a pass through the Arras. Pol. s Behind.] 0, I am slain. [Falls and dies. QUEEN.

O me, what hast thou done ? . Ham.

Nay, I know not: Is it the king ?

[Lifts up the Arras, and draws forth POLONIUS. QUEEN. O, what a rash and bloody deed is this ! Ham. A bloody deed :-almost as bad, good

mother, As kill a king, and marry with his brother.

Queen. As kill a king?!

s And,—'would it were not so !] The folio reads

But would you were not so." HENDERSON. 6 How now! a rat ?] This (as Dr. Farmer has observed,) is an expression borrowed from The History of Hamblet, a translation from the French of Belleforest. Steevens.

7 Queen. As kill a king !] This exclamation may be considered as some hint that the Queen had no hand in the murder of Hamlet's father. STBEVENS.

It has been doubted whether Shakspeare intended to represent the Queen as accessary to the murder of her husband. The surprise she here expresses at the charge seems to tend to her exculpation. Where the variation is not particularly marked, we may presume, I think, that the poet intended to tell his story as it had been told before. The following extract, therefore, from VOL. VII.

2c

Hлм.

Ay, lady, 'twas my word. Thou wretched, rash, intruding fool, farewell!

[To POLONIUS.

The Hystory of Hamblet, bl. 1. relative to this point, will probably not be unacceptable to the reader : “ Fengon (the king in the present play] boldened and encouraged by such impunitie, durst venture to couple himself in marriage with her, whom he used as his concubine during good Horvendille's life; in that sort spotting his name with a double vice, incestuous adulterie, and paracide murther.-- This adulterer and infamous murtherer slaundered his dead brother, that he would have slaine his wife, and that hee by chance finding him on the point ready to do it, in defence of the lady, had slaine him.-The unfortunate and wicked woman that had received the honour to be the wife of one of the valiantest and wisest princes in the North, imbased herselfe in such vile sort as to falsifie her faith unto him, and, which is worse, to marrie him that had bin the tyrannous murtherer of her lawful husband; which made diverse men think that she had been the causer of the murther, thereby to live in her adulterie without controle.” Hyst. of Hamb. sig. C 1.2.

In the conference, however, with her son, on which the present scene is founded, she strongly asserts her innocence with respect to this fact :

“I know well, my sonne, that I have done thee great wrong in marrying with Fengon, the cruel tyrant and murtherer of thy father, and my loyal spouse; but when thou shalt consider the small means of resistance, and the treason of the palace, with the little cause of confidence we are to expect, or hope for, of the courtiers, all wrought to his will; as also the power he made ready if I should have refused to like him ; thou wouldst rather excuse, than accuse me of lasciviousness or inconstancy, much less offer me that wrong to suspect that ever thy mother Geruth once consented to the death and murther of her husband : swearing unto thee by the majestie of the gods, that if it had layne in me to have resisted the tyrant, although it had beene with the losse of my blood, yea and of my life, I would surely have saved the life of my lord and husband.” Ibid. sig. D 4.

It is observable, that in the drama neither the king or queen make so good a defence. Shakspeare wished to render them as odious as he could, and therefore has not in any part of the play furnished them with even the semblance of an excuse for their conduct.

Though the inference already mentioned may be drawn from the surprize which our poet has here made the Queen express at being charged with the murder of her husband, it is observable that when the Player-Queen in the preceding scene says :

ewell!

I took thee for thy better *; take thy fortune :
Thou find'st, to be too busy, is some danger.

* First folio, betters.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

“ In second husband let me be accurst!

“ None wed the second, but who killd the first." he has made Hamlet exclaim " that's wormwood." The Prince, therefore, both from the expression and the words addressed to his mother in the present scene, must be supposed to think her guilty.--Perhaps after all this investigation, the truth is, that Shakspeare himself meant to leave the matter in doubt. Malone.

I know not in what part of this tragedy the King and Queen could have been expected to enter into a vindication of their mutual conduct. The former indeed is rendered contemptible as well as guilty ; but for the latter our poet seems to have felt all that tenderness which the Ghost recommends to the imitation of her son. Steevens.

Had Shakspeare thought fit to have introduced the topicks I have suggested, can there be a doubt concerning his ability to introduce them? The king's justificationi, if to justify had been the poet's object, (which it certainly was not,) might have been made in a soliloquy; the queen's, in the present interview with her son. Malone.

It might not unappositely be observed, that every new commentator, like Sir T. Hannier's Othello, must often “ make the meat he feeds on.” Some slight objection to every opinion already offered, may be found; and, if in doubtful cases we are to presume that “the poet tells his stories as they have been told before,” we must put new constructions on many of his scenes, as well as new comments on their verbal obscurities.

For instance-touching the manner in which Hamlet disposed of Polonius's body. The black-letter history tells us he “ cut it in pieces, which he caused to be boiled, and then cast it into an open vault or privie." Are we'to conclude therefore that he did so in the play before us, because our author has left the matter doubtful ? Hamlet is only made to tell us, that this dead counsellor was“ safely stowed.” He afterwards adds, “ — you shall nose him," &c.; all which might have been the case, had the direction of the aforesaid history been exactly followed. In this transaction then (which I call a doubtful one, because the remains of Polonius might have been rescued from the forica, and afterwards have received their “hugger-mugger" funeral) am I at liberty to suppose he had had the fate of Heliogabalus, in cloacam missus ?

That the Queen (who may still be regarded as innocent of murder) might have offered some apology for her “over-hasty

[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]
« PreviousContinue »