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Ros. None, my lord; but that the world 's grown honest.
Ham. Then is dooms-day near: But your news is not true. [Let me question more in particular: What have you, my good friends, deserved at the hands of fortune, that she sends you to prison hither?
Guil. Prison, my lord !
Ham. A goodly one; in which there are many confines, wards, and dungeons; Denmark being one of the worst.
Ros. We think not so, my lord.
Ham. Why, then 'tis none to you; for there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so: to me it is a prison.
Ros. Why, then your ambition makes it one ; 'tis too narrow for your mind.
Ham. O God! I could be bounded in a nut-shell, and count myself a king of infinite space; were it not that I have bad dreams.
Guil. Which dreams, indeed, are ambition ; for the very substance of the ambitious is merely the shadow of a dream.
Ham. A dream itself is but a shadow.
Ros. Truly, and I hold ambition of so airy and light a quality, that it is but a shadow's shadow.
Ham. Then are our beggars, bodies;2 and our monarchs, and outstretch'd heroes, the beggars? shadows: Shall we to the court? for, by my fay, I cannot reason.
Ros. Guil. We'll wait upon you.
[Let me &c.] All within the crotchets is wanting in the quartos. Steevens.
the shadow of a dream.] Shakspeare has accidentally inverted an expression of Pindar, that the state of humanity is rxlas "ovaç, the dream of a shadow. Fohnson. So, Davies:
“ Man's life is but a dreame, nay, less than so,
“ A shadow of a dreame." Farmer. So, in the tragedy of Darius, 1603, by Lord Sterline :
“ Whose best was but the shadow of a dream.” Steevens. ? Then are our beggars, bodies ;] Shakspeare seems here to design a ridicule of those declamations against wealth and greatness, that seem to make happiness consist in poverty. Fohnson.
Ham. No such matter: I will not sort you with the rest of my servants; for, to speak to you like an honest man, I am most dreadfully attended.] But in the beaten way of friendship, what make you at Elsinore?
Ros. To visit you, my lord; no other occasion.
Ham. Beggar that I am, I am even poor in thanks; but I thank you: and sure, dear friends, my thanks are too dear, a halfpenny.s Were you not sent for? Is it your own inclining? Is it a free visitation? Come, come; deal justly with me: come, come; nay, speak.
Guil. What should we say, my lord ?
Ham. Any thing—but to the purpose. You were sent for; and there is a kind of confession in your looks, which your modesties have not craft enough to colour: I know, the good king and queen have sent for you.
Ros. To what end, my lord ?
Ham. That you must teach me. But let me conjure you, by the rights of our fellowship, by the consonancy of our youth, by the obligation of our ever-preserved love, and by what more dear a better proposer could charge you withal, be even and direct with me, whether you were sent for, or no? Ros. What say you?
[T. GUIL. Ham. Nay, then I have an eye of you ;4 [asi de]-if you love me, hold not off.
Guil. My lord, we were sent for.
Ham. I will tell you, why; so shall my anticipation prevent your discovery, and your secrecy to the king and queen moult no feather. I have of late,5 (but, wherefore, I know not,) lost all my mirth, forgone all custom of exercises: and, indeed, it goes so heavily with my disposition, that this goodly frame, the earth, seems to me a steril promontory; this most excellent canopy, the air, look
too dear a halfpenny.) i. e. a halfpenny too dear: they are worth nothing. The modern editors read-at a halfpenny.
Malone. Nay, then I have an eye of you ;] An eye of you means, I have a glimpse of your meaning Steevens.
5 I have of late, &c.] This is an admirable description of a rooted melancholy sprung from thickness of blood; and artfully imagined to hide the true cause of his disorder from the penetration of these two friends, who were set over him as spies.
you, this brave oʻerhanging firmament, this majestical roof fretted with golden fire,? why, it appears no other thing to me, than a foul and pestilent congregation of vapours. What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason ! how infinite in faculties ! in form, and moving, how express and admirable! in action, how like an angel! in apprehension, how like a god! the beauty of the world! the paragon of animals! And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust? man delights not me, nor woman neither; though, by your smiling, you seem to say so.
Ros. My lord, there was no such stuff in my thoughts.
Ham. Why did you laugh then, when I said, Man deo" lights not me?
Ros. To think, my lord, if you delight not in man, what lenten entertainments the players shall receive from you: we coted them on the way;' and hither are they coming, to offer you service.
this brave o'erhanging firmament,] Thus the quarto. The folio reads,-this brave o'er-hanging, this &c. Steevens.
this most excellent canopy, the air,-this majestical roof fretted with golden fire,] So, in our author's 21st Sonnet:
“ As those gold candles, fix'd in heaven's air." Again, in The Merchant of Venice :
Look, how the floor of heaven “ Is thick inlaid with patins of bright gold!” Malone.
- lenten entertainment - ] i. e. sparing, like the entertainments given in Lent. So, in The Duke's Mistress, by Shirley, 1631 :
to maintain you with bisket,
we coted them on the way ;] To cote is to overtake. I meet with this word in The Return from Parnassus, a comedy, 1606 :
marry we presently coted and outstript them.” Again, in Golding's Ovid's Metamorphosis, 1587, Book II:
“ With that Hippomenes coted her.” Again, in Warner's Albion's England, 1602, B. VI, chap. XXX:
“ Gods and goddesses for wantonness out-coted." Again, in Drant's translation of Horace's satires, 1567 :
“ For he that thinks to coat all men, and all to overgoe.” Chapman has more than once used the word in his version of the 23d Iliad.
See Vol. IV, p. 80, n. 7.
In the laws of coursing, says Mr. Tollet, “a cote is when a greyhound goes endways by the side of his fellow, and gives the hare a turn." This quotation seems to point out the etymology of the verb to be from the French côté, the side. Steevens.
Hlan. He that plays the king, shall be welcome; his majesty shall have tribute of me: the adventurous knight shall use his foil, and target: the lover shall not sigh gratis ; the humorous man shall end his part in peace: the clown shall make those laugh, whose lungs are tickled o' the sere;s and the lady shall say her mind
shall end his part in peace :) After these words the folio adds—the clown shall make those laugh whose lungs are tickled oʻthe
the clown shall make those laugh whose lungs are tickled o'the sere;] i. e. those who are asthmatical, and to whom laugh. ter is most uneasy. This is the case (as I am told) with those whose lungs are tickled by the sere or serum: but about these words I am neither very confident, nor very solicitous. Will the following passage in The Tempest be of use to any future com. mentator?
to minister occasion to these gentlemen, who are of such sensible and nimble lungs, that they always use to laugh at nothing
The word seare occurs as unintelligibly in an ancient Dialogue between the Comen Secretary and Felowsy, touchynge the unstableness of Harlottes, bl. 1. no date:
“ And wyll byde whysperynge in the eare,
“ Thynk ye her tayle is not light of the seare ?” The sense of the adjective sere is not more distinct in Chap. man's version of the 22d liad:
“ Hector, thou only pestilence, in all mortalitie,
“ To my sere spirits.” See p. 102, n. 8. A sere is likewise the talon of a hawk. Steevens.
These words are not in the quarto. I am by no means satisfied with the explanation given, though I have nothing satisfactory to propose. I believe Hamlet only means, that the clown shall make those laugh who have a disposition to laugh; who are pleased with their entertainment. That no asthmatic disease was in contemplation, may be inferred from both the words used, tickled and lungs ; each of which seems to have a relation to laughter, and the latter to have been considered by Shakspeare, as (if I may so'express myself,) its natural seat. So, in Coriolanus :
with a kind of smile,
When I did hear
“ My lungs began to crow like chanticleer.” O'the sere or of the sere, means, I think, by the sere ; but the word sere I am unable to explain, and suspect it to be corrupt. Perhaps we should read the clown shall make those laugh whose hings are tickled of the scene, i. e. by the scene. A similar corrupVOL. XV.
freely,' or the blank verse shall halt for it. What players are they?
Ros. Even those you were wont to take such delight in, the tragedians of the city.
Ham. How chances it, they travel ?4 their residence, both in reputation and profit, was better both ways.
Ros. I think, their inhibition comes by the means of the late innovation.
tion has happened in another place, where we find scare for scene,
Malone. - the lady shall say her mind &c.] The lady shall have no obstruction, unless from the lameness of the verse. Johnson. I think, the meaning is,-The lady shall mar the measure of the
rather than not express herself freely or fully. Henderson. 4 How chances it, they travel?) To travel in Shakspeare's time was the technical word, for which we have substituted to stroll. So, in the Office-book of Sir Henry Herbert, Master of the Revels to King Charles the First: “ 1622, Feb. 17, for a certificate for the Palsgrave's servants to travel into the country for six weeks, 10s." Again, in Ben Jonson's Poetaster, 1601: " If he pen for thee once, thou shalt not need to travell, with thy pumps full of gravell, any more, after a blinde jade and a hamper, and stalk upon boords and barrel-heads to an old crackt trumpet.” These words are addressed to a player. Malone.
5 I think, their inhibition &c.] I fancy this is transposed: Hamlet enquires not about an inhibition, but an innovation : the answer therefore probably was,- I think, their innovation, that is, their new practice of sti ing, comes by means of the late inhibition.
Fohnson. The drift of Hamlet's question appears to be this,-How chances it they travel ?-i. e. How happens it that they are become strollers ? —Their residence both in reputation and profit, was better both ways.-i. e. to have remained in a settled theatre, was the more honourable as well as the inore lucrative situation. To this, Rosencrantz replies, -Their inhibition comes by means of the late innovation.-i. e. their permission to act any longer at an established house is taken away, in consequence of the new custom of in. troducing personal abuse into their comedies. Several companies of actors in the time of our author were silenced on account of this licentious practice. Among these (as appears from a passage in Have with you to Saffron Walden, or Gabriel Harvey's hunt is up, &c. 1596,) even the children of St. Paul's : “ Troth, would he might for mee (that's all the harme I wish him) for then we neede never wishe the playes at Powles up againe,” &c. See a dialogue between Comedy and Envy at the conclusion of Mucedorus, 1598, as well as the preludium to Aristippus, or the Fovial Philosopher, 1630, from whence the following passage is taken: " Shews having been long intermitted and forbidden by authority