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Ghost. (beneath] Swear.
I was once inclinable to this opinion, which is likewise well defended by Mr. Upton ; but Mr. Garrick produced me a passage, I think, in Brantome, from which it appeared that it was common to swear upon the sword, that is, upon the cross which the old swords always had upon the hilt. Fohnson.
Shakspeare, it is more than probable, knew nothing of the ancient Danes, or their manners. Every extract from Dr. Farmer's pamphlet must prove as instructive to the reader as the following: “ In the Passus Primus of Pierce Plowman,
• David in his daies dubbed knightes,
And did them swere on her sword to serve truth ever.' “ And in Hieronymo, the common butt of our author, and the wits of the time, says Lorenzo to Pedringano :
Swear on this cross, that what thou say'st is true :
* Shall be a worker of thy tragedy." To the authorities produced
by Dr. Farmer, the following may be added from Holinshed, p. 664: “Warwick kissed the cross of King Edward's sword, as it were a vow to his promise."
Again, p. 1038, it is said" that Warwick drew out his sword, which other of the honourable and worshipful that were then present likewise did, whom he commanded, that each one should kiss other's sword, according to an ancient custom amongst men of war in time of great danger; and herewith they made a solemn vow,” &c. Again, in Decker's comedy of Old Fortunatus, 1600:
“ He has sworn to me on the cross of his pure Toledo." Again, in his Satiromastix: “ By the cross of this sword and dagger, captain, you shall take it."
In the soliloquy of Roland addressed to his sword, the cross on it is not forgotten: capulo eburneo candidissime, cruce aurea splendidissime,” &c. Turpini Hist. de Gastis Caroli Mag.cap. 22.
Again, in an ancient MS. of which some account is given in a note on the first scene of the first Act of The Merry Wives of Windsor, the oath taken by a master of defence when his degree was conferred on him, is preserved, and runs as follows: "First you shall sweare (so help you God and halidome, and by all the christendome which God gave you at the fount-stone, and by the crosse of this sword which doth represent unto you the crosse which our Saviour sufered his most payneful deathe upon,) that you shall upholde, maynteyne, and kepe to your power all soch articles as shal be heare declared unto you, and receve in the presence of me your maister, and these the rest of the maisters my brethren heare with me at this tyme.” Steevens.
Spenser observes that the Irish in his time used commonly to swear by their sword. See his View of the State of Ireland, writlen in 1596. This custom, indeed, is of the highest antiquity;
Ham. Hic & ubique ? then we 'll shift our ground:-
Ghost. [beneath] Swear by his sword.
fast?. A worthy pioneer ! Once more remove, good friends.
Hor. O day and night, but this is wondrous strange!
Ham. And therefore as a stranger give it welcome.4 There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy. But come; Here, as before, never, so help you mercy! How strange or odd soe'er I bear myself, As I, perchance, hereafter shall think meet To put an antick disposition on, That you, at such times seeing me, never shall, With arms encumber'd thus, or this head-shake, Or by pronouncing of some doublful phrase, As, Well, well, we know ;--or, We could, an if we would ;-or, If we list to speak ;-or, There be, an if they might;5. Or such ambiguous giving out, to note That you know aught of me:6- This do you swear,?
having prevailed, as we learn from Lucian, among the Scythians.
Malone. 4 And therefore as a stranger give it welcome.] i. e. receive it to yourself; take it under your own roof; as much as to say, Keep it secret. Alluding to the laws of hospitality. Warburton.
Warburton refines too much on this passage. Hamlet means merely to request that they would seem not to know it to be unacquainted with it. M. Mason.
5-an if they might;] Thus the quarto. The folio readsman if there might. Malone.
0 Or such ambiguous giving out, to note, That you know aught
of me:] The construction is irregular and elliptical. Swear as before, says Hamlet, that you never shall by folded arms or shaking of your head intimate that a secret is lodged in your breasts; and by no ambiguous phrases denote that you know aught of me.
Shakspeare has in many other places begun to construct a sen. tence in one form, and ended it in another. So, in All's Well that Ends Well: “I would the cutting of my garments would serve
So grace and mercy at your most need help you!
Ghost. [beneath] Swear.
the turn, or the baring of my beard ; and to say it was in stratagem."
Again, in the same play: “ No more of this, Helena;-lest it
" I bade her-if her fortunes ever stood
" I would relieve her.”
“ I have with such provision in mine art
No, not so much perdition as an hair
“ Betid to any creature in the vessel.” See Vol. II, p. 15, n. 4; and Vol. VI, p. 207, n. 9; and p. 306, n. 5.
Having used the word never in the preceding part of the sentence, [that you never shall-] the poet considered the negative implied in what follows; and hence he wrote-"or-to note," instead of nor.
This do you swear, &c.] The folio reads,-this not to do, swear, c. Steevens. Swear is used here, as in many other places, as a dissyllable.
Malone. Here again my untutored ears revolt from a new dissyllable; nor have I scrupled, like my predecessors, to supply the pronoun ---you, which must accidentally have dropped out of a line that is imperfect without it. Steevens.
Rest, rest, perturbed spirit.] The skill displayed in Shakspeare's management of his Ghost, is too considerable to be overlooked. He has rivetted our attention to it by a succession of forcible circumstances :-by the previous report of the terrified centinels,-by the solemnity of the hour at which the phantom walks,-by its martial stride and discriminating armour,
visible only per incertam lunam, by the glimpses of the moon,-by its long taciturnity, -by its preparation to speak, when interrupted by the morning cock, ---by its mysterious reserve throughout its first scene with Hamlet, -by his resolute departure with it, and the subsequent anxiety of his attendants,--by its conducting him to a solitary angle of the platform,--by its voice from beneath the earth, -and by its unexpected burst on us in the closet.
Hamlet's late interview with the spectre, must in particular be regarded as a stroke of dramatick artifice. The phantom might have told his story in the presence of the officers and Horatio, and 'et have rendered itself as inaudible to them, as
With all my love I do commend me to you:
ACT II.....SCENE I.
Enter Polonius and REYNALDO.
Pol. You shall do marvellous wisely, good Reynaldo,
My lord, I did intend it.
afterwards to the Queen. But suspense was our poet's object; and never was it more effectually created, than in the present instance. Six times has the royal semblance appeared, but till now has been withheld from speaking. For this event we have waited with impatient curiosity, unaccompanied by lassitude, or remitted attention.
The Ghost in this tragedy, is allowed to be the genuine product of Shakspeare's strong imagination. When he afterwards avails himself of traditional phantoms, as in Julius Cæsar, and King Richard III, they are but inefficacious pageants ; nay, the apparition of Banquo is a mute exhibitor. Perhaps our poet despaired to equal the vigour of his early conceptions on the subject of preter-natural beings, and therefore allotted them no further eminence in his dramas ; or was unwilling to diminish the power of his principal shade, by an injudicious repetition of congenial images. Steevens.
The verb perturb is used by Holinshed, and by Bacon in his Essay on Superstition : "- therefore atheism did never perturb states.” Malone.
Enter Polonius and Reynaldo,] The quartos read-Enter old Polonius with his man or two. Steevens.
Pol. Marry, well said: very well said.1 Look you, sir, Inquire me first what Danskers: are in Paris; And how, and who, what means, and where they keep, What company, at what expence; and finding, By this encompassment and drift of question, That they do know my son, come you more nearer Than your particular demands will touch it:S Take you, as 'twere, some distant knowledge of him; As thus,--I know his father, and his friends, And, in part, him ;-Do you mark this, Reynaldo?
Rey. Ay, very well, my lord.
Pol. And, in part, him ;-but, you may say,—not well: But, if 't be he I mean, he's very Addicted so and s0;-and there put on him What forgeries you please; marry, none so rank As may dishonour him; take heed of that; But, sir, such wanton, wild, and usual slips, As are companions noted and most known To youth and liberty. Rey.
As gaming, my lord. Pol. Ay, or drinking, fencing, swearing, * quarrelling,
well said: very well said.] Thus also, the weak and tedious Shallow says to Bardolph, in The Second Part of King Henry IV, Act III, sc. ü: “ It is well said, sir ; and it is well said indeed too." Steevens.
Danskers -] Danske (in Warner's Albion's England) is the ancient name of Denmark. Steevens,
come you more nearer Than your particular demands will touch it:] The late editions read, and point, thus :
comie you more nearer; Then your particular demands will touch it: Throughout the old copies the word which we now writethan, is constantly written--then. I have therefore printed--than, which the context seems to me to require, though the old copies have then. There is no point after the word nearer, either in the original quarto, 1604, or the folio. Malone.
drinking, fencing, swearing,] I suppose, by fencing is meant a too diligent frequentation of the fencing-school, a resort of violent and lawless young men. Johnson.
Fencing, I suppose, means, piquing himself on his skill in the use of the sword, and quarrelling and brawling, in consequence of that skill.
“The cunning of fencers, says Gosson, in his Schoole of Abuse, 1579, is now applied to quarrelling: they thinke themselves no men, if for stirring of a straw, they prove not their valure uppon some bodies fleshe.” Malone. VOL. XV.