Page images
PDF
EPUB

Ham. Buz, buz !
Pol. Upon my honour,
Ham. Then came each actor on his ass, b-

Pol. The best actors in the world, either for tragedy, comedy, history, pastoral, pastoral-comical, historicalpastoral, tragical-historical, tragical-comical, historicalpastoral, scene individable, or poem unlimited : Seneca cannot be too heavy, nor Plautus too light. For the law of writ,' and the liberty, these are the only men.

Ham. O Jephthah, judge of Israel,—what a treasure hadst thou ! Pol. What a treasure had he, my

lord ? Ham. Why-One fair daughter, and no more,

The which he loved passing well. Pol. Still on my daughter.

[Aside. Ham. Am I not i'the right, old Jephthah?

Pol. If you can call me Jephthah, my lord, I have a daughter, that I love passing well.

Ham. Nay, that follows not.
Pol. What follows then, my lord ?

Ham. Why, As by lot, God wot, and then, you know, It came to pass, As most like it was,—The first row of the pious chanson' will show you more: for look, my abridgment" comes.

& Bus, buz!] Mere idle talk.-Johnson.

b Then came each actor on his ass,–] This seems to be a line of a ballad. Johnson.

i-writ,] i. e. writing, composition.

* Why, as by lot, God wot, &c.] The old song from which these quotations are taken, has a place in Dr. Percy's Reliques of ancient English PoetrySTEEVENs. The ballad of “Jepha judge of Israel,” which is imperfectly given in Percy's Reliques, I. 189. 1794. is printed in Evans' Old Ballads. 8vo. 1810. 1.7. The first stanza is,

“I have read that many years agoe,

When Jepha, judge of Israel,
Had one fair daughter und no more,

Whom he loved passing well.
And as by lot, God wot,

It came to pusse most like it was,
Great warrs there should be,

And who should be the chiefe but he, but he.” - the pious chanson—] The pious chansons were a kind of Christmas carols, containing some scriptural history thrown into loose rhymes, and sung about the streets by the common people when they went at that season to solicit almg. Hamlet is here repeating some scraps from a song of this kind, and when Polonius enquires what follows them, he refers him to the first row (i, e. division) of one of these, to obtain the information he wanted.-STEEVENS.

- my abridgment-] He calls the players afterwards the brief chronicles

Enter Four or Five Players. You are welcome, masters; welcome all :-I am glad to see thee well :-welcome, good friends.-0, old friend! why, thy face iş valanced" since I saw thee last; Com'st thou to beard meo in Denmark ?-What! my young lady and mistress! By'r-lady, your ladyship is nearer to heaven, than when I saw you last, by the altitude of a chopine. Pray God, your voice, like a piece of uncurrent gold, be not cracked within the ring. Masters, you are all welcome. We'll e'en to't like French falconers, fly at any thing we see: We'll have a speech straight: Come, give us a taste of your quality; come, a passionate speech.

1 Play. What speech my lord ?

Ham. I heard thee speak me a speech once,—but it was never acted; or, if it was, not above once : for the play, I remember, pleased not the million ; 'twas caviare" to the general :* but it was (as I received it, and others, whose judgments, in such matters, cried in the top of mine, 4) an excellent play; well digested in the scenes, set down with as much modesty as cunning. I remember, one said, there were no salts in the lines," to make the matter savoury; nor no matter in the phrase, that might indite the author of affection;but called it, an honesty method, as

of the times ; but I think he now means only those who will shorten my talk. Johnson.

1 - thy face is valanced] i. e. Fringed with a beard. The valance is the fringes or drapery hanging round the tester of a bed.-Malone.

to beard-] i.e. Îo set at defiance. P-a chopine.] A chioppine is a high shoe, or rather, a clog, worn by the Italians.-STEEVENS.

-- cracked within the ring.) Flawed so as to destroy its value. There is here a play upon the word ring; a piece of cracked metal will not ring or sound, in the same manner as a crucked voice loses its tone. The words, it must be remembered, are addressed to a boy who played female parts.

I-caviare-] i.e. The spawn of a kind of sturgeon, pickled, salted, and dried. In the time of Shakspeare it was a new and fashionable delicacy, not obtained or relished by the vulgar, and therefore used by him to signify any thing above their comprehension.--NARES.

the general:] i.e. The multitude.
cried in the top of mine,)] Were higher than mine.--Jounson.

salts in the lines,] The old copy sallets, which is a kin to nonsense. The emendation of the text was made by Pope, and is approved by Gifford, Ben Jonson, vol. viii. 177.

indite the author of affection :) i. e. Convict the author of being a fantastical affected writer.-STEEVENS.

y honest -- ) i.e. Chuste.

wholesome as sweet, and by very much more handsome than fine. One speech in it I chiefly loved: 'twas Æneas' tale to Dido; and thereabout of it especially, where he speaks of Priam's slaughter: If it live in your memory, begin at this line; let me see, let me see ;

The rugged Pyrrhus, like the Hyrcanian beast,—'tis not so; it begins with Pyrrhus.

The rugged Pyrrhus,—he, whose sable arms,
Black as his purpose, did the night resemble
When he lay couched in the ominous horse,
Hath now this dread and black complexion smear'd
With heraldry more dismal; head to foot
Now is he total gules ;a horridly trick’d
With blood of fathers, mothers, daughters, sons ;
Bak'd and in pasted with the parching streets,
That lend a tyrannous and a damned light
To their lord's murder: Roasted in wrath, and fire,
And thus o'er-sized with coagulate gore,
With eyes like carbuncles, the hellish Pyrrhus
Old grandsire Priam seeks ;-So proceed you.

Pol. 'Fore God, my lord, well spoken; with good accent, and good discretion.

1 Play. Anon he finds him Striking too short at Greeks ; his antique sword, Rebellious to his arm, lies where it falls, Repugnant to command: Unequal match'd, Pyrrhus at Priam drives; in rage, strikes wide ; But with the whiff and wind of his fell sword The unnerved father falls. Then senseless Ilium, Seeming to feel this blow, with flaming top 2 The rugged Pyrrhus,–] It has been the subject of much controversy among the critics, whether this speech was borrowed from Shakspeare himself or from others, and whether, in the praise of the piece of which it is supposed to be a part, he was speaking seriously, or merely meant to ridicule the tragical bom. bast of his contemporaries. It never occurred to them that this speech must not be judged of by itself, but in connexion with the place where it is introduced. To distinguish it as dramatic poetry in the play itself, it was necessary that it should rise above the dignified poetry of that, in the same proportion that theatrical elevation does above simple nature. Hence Shakspeare composed the play in Hamlet altogether in sententious rhymes full of antithesis. But this solemn and measured tone did not suit a speech in which violent emotion ought to prevail; and the poet had no other expedient than the one of which he made use, overcharging the pathos.--SculEGEL.

gules ;] i. e. Red. The term is heraldick.
trick'd-]i. e. Smeared, painted. An heraldick term.

a

Stoops to his base ; and with a hideous crash
Takes prisoner Pyrrhus' ear: for, lo! his sword
Which was declining on the milky head
Of reverend Priam, seem'd i'the air to stick :
So, as a painted tyrant, Pyrrhus stood ;
And, like a neutral to his will and matter,
Did nothing.
But, as we often see, against some storm,
A silence in the heavens, the rack stand still,
The bold winds speechless, and the orb below
As hush as death : anon the dreadful thunder
Doth rend the region: So, after Pyrrhus' pause,
A roused vengeance sets him new a work:
And never did the Cyclops' hammers fall
On Mars's armour, forg'd for proof enterne,
With less remorse than Pyrrhus' bleeding sword
Now falls on Priam.-
Out, out, thou strumpet, Fortune! All ye gods,
In general synod take away her power ;
Break all the spokes and fellies from her wheel,
And bowl the round nave down the hill of heaven,
As low as to the fiends!
Pol. This is too long.

Ham. It shall to the barber's, with your beard.—Pr’ythee, say on :-He's for a jig, or a tale of bawdry, or he sleeps :say on: come to Hecuba.

1 Play. But who, ah woe! had seen the moblede queen Ham. The mobled queen? Pol. That's good; mobled queen is good. 1 Play. Run barefoot up and down, threatning the

flames
With bissonf 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 ;

rack-Ji.e. A moving body of clouds.-Nares.
a jig.] i. e. A ludicrous metrical composition.
- mobled-] i.e. Veiled.

с

[ocr errors]

e

bisson-] i.e. Blind. A word still in use in some parts of the north of England.-STEEVENS.

f

Who this had seen, with tongue in venom steep'd,
'Gainst fortune's state would treason have pronounc'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 milchs 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.- Pr’ythee, no more.

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 your death you were better have a bad epitaph, than their ill report while

you

live. 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 to-morrow.–Dost thou hear me, old friend; can you play the murder of Gonzago?

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 you 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.

- milch-] i. e. Mild, tender-hearted.-TODD.

« PreviousContinue »