« PreviousContinue »
King. I pray you, good Horatio, wait upon him.
[Exit HORATIO. Strengthen your patience in our last night's speech;
To LAERTES. We'll put the matter to the present push.Good Gertrude, set some watch over your son.This grave shall have a living monument : An hour of quiet shortlyshall we see; Till then, in patience our proceeding be. Exeunt.
A Hall in the Castle.
Enter Hamlet and HORATIO. Ham. So much for this, sir : now shall you see *
the other ;
Hon. Remember it, my lord !
ing, That would not let me sleep*: methought, I lay
* First folio, let me see. “ do not be so bitter with me,
“ I evermore did love you, Hermia.” Steevens. 3 — shortly - The first quarto erroneously reads—thirty. The second and third—thereby. The folio—shortly. Steevens. 4 Sir, in my heart there was a kind of fighting,
That would not let me sleep : &c.] So, in Troilus and Cressida:
“ Within my soul there doth commence a fight,
“Of this strange nature,” &c. The Hystorie of Hamblet, bl. I. furnished our author with the scheme of sending the Prince to England, and with most of the circumstances described in this scene :
[After the death of Polonius] “Fengon (the King in the present play) could not content himselfe, but still his mind gave him that the foole (Hamlet] would play him some trick of legerdemaine. And in that conceit, seeking to bee rid of him, deter
Worse than the mutines in the bilboes 5. Rashly, And prais'd be rashness for it, -Let us know,
mined to find the meanes to doe it by the aid of a stranger, making the king of England minister of his massacrous resolution; to whom he purposed to send him, and by letters desire him to put him to death.
“ Now to beare him company, were assigned two of Fengon's faithful ministers, bearing letters ingraved in wood, that contained Hamlet's death, in such sort as he had advertised the king of England. But the subtil Danish prince, (being at sea,) whilst his companions slept, having read the letters, and knowing his uncle's great treason, with the wicked and villainous mindes of the two courtiers, that led him to the slaughter, raced out the letters that concerned his death, and instead thereof graved others, with commission to the king of England to hang his two companions ; and not content to turn the death they had devised against him, upon their own neckes, wrote further, that king Fengon willed him to give his daughter to Hamblet in marriage.” Hyst. of Hamblet, signat. G 2.
From this narrative it appears that the faithful ministers of Fengon were not unacquainted with the import of the letters they bore. Shakspeare, who has followed the story pretty closely, probably meant to describe their representatives, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, as equally guilty; as confederating with the King to deprive Hamlet of his life. So that his procuring their execution, though certainly not absolutely necessary to his own safety, does not appear to have been a wanton and unprovoked cruelty, as Mr. Steevens has supposed in his very ingenious observations on the general character and conduct of the prince throughout this piece.
In the conclusion of his drama the poet has entirely deviated from the fabulous history, which in other places he has frequently followed.
After Hamblet's arrival in England, (for no sea-fight is mentioned,) “the king, (says The Hystory of Hamblet,) admiring the young prince,-gave him his daughter in marriage, according to the counterfeit letters by him devised ; and the next day caused the two servants of Fengon to be executed, to satisfy, as he thought, the king's desire.” Hyst. of Hamb. Ibid.
Hamlet, however, returned to Denmark, without marrying the king of England's daughter, who, it should seem, had only been betrothed to him. When he arrived in his native country, he made the courtiers drunk, and having burnt them to death, by setting fire to the banqueting-room wherein they sat, he went into Fengon's chamber, and killed him, “ giving him (says the
Our indiscretion sometimes serves us well, When our deep plots do pall? : and that should teach * us,
* Quarto, learn. relater) such a violent blowe upon the chine of the neck, that he cut his head clean from the shoulders.” Ibid. signat. F 3. He is afterwards said to have been crowned king of Denmark.
MALONE. I apprehend that a critick and a juryman are bound to form their opinions on what they see and hear in the cause before them, and not to be influenced by extraneous particulars unsupported by legal evidence in open court. I persist, in observing, that from Shakspeare's drama no proofs of the guilt of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern can be collected. They may be convicted by the black letter history; but if the tragedy forbears to criminate, it has no right to sentence them. This is sufficient for the commentator's purpose. It is not his office to interpret the plays of Shakspeare according to the novels on which they are founded, novels which the poet sometimes followed, but as often materially deserted. Perhaps he never confined himself strictly to the plan of any one of his originals. His negligence of poetick justice is notorious ; nor can we expect that he who was content to sacrifice the pious Ophelia, should have been more scrupulous about the worthless lives of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Therefore, I still assert that, in the tragedy before us, their deaths appear both wanton and unprovoked; and the critick, like Bayes, must have recourse to somewhat long before the beginning of this play, to justify the conduct of its hero. Steevens.
5 - MUTINES in the bilboes.] Mutines, the French word for seditious or disobedient fellows in the army or fleet. Bilboes, the ship's prison. Johnson.
To mutine was formerly used for to mutiny. See p. 395, n. 6. So mutine, for mutiner, or mutineer: “un homme mutin," Fr, a mutinous or seditious person. In The Misfortunes of Arthur, a tragedy, 1587, the adjective is used :
“ Suppresseth mutin force, and practicke fraud.” Malone. The bilboes is a bar of iron with fetters annexed to it, by which mutinous or disorderly sailors were anciently linked together. The word is derived from Bilboa, a place in Spain where instruments of steel were fabricated in the utmost perfection. To understand Shakspeare's allusion completely, it should be known, that as these fetters connect the legs of the offenders very close together, their attempts to rest must be as fruitless as those of Hamlet, in whose mind there was a kind of fighting that would not let him sleep. Every motion of one must disturb his partner in confine
There's a divinity that shapes our ends,
ment. The bilboes are still shown in the Tower of London, among the other spoils of the Spanish Armada. The following is the figure of them :
When, &c.] Hamlet delivering an account of his escape, begins with saying—That he rashly— and then is carried into a reflection upon the weakness of human wisdom. I rashlypraised be raslıness for it—Let us not think these events casual, but let us know, that is, take notice and remember, that we sometimes succeed by indiscretion when we fail by deep plots, and infer the perpetual superintendance and agency of the Divinity. The observation is just, and will be allowed by every human being, who shall reflect on the course of his own life. Johnson. This passage, I think, should be thus distributed:
-Rashly (And prais'd be rashness, for it lets us know, Our indiscretion sometimes serves us well, When our deep plots do fail; and that should teach us, There's a divinity that shapes our ends, Rough-hew them how we will;
Hor. That is most certain.)
Ham. Up from my cabin, &c. So that rashly ray be joined in construction with—in the dark grop'd I to find out them. TYRWHITT,
1 When our DEEP plots do PALL :) Thus the first quarto, 1604. The editor of the next quarto, for pall, substituted fall. The folio reads,
“ When our dear plots do paule." Mr. Pope and the subsequent editors read,
“ When our deep plots do fail:but pall and fail are by no means likely to have been confounded. I have therefore adhered to the old copies. In Antony and Cleopatra our poet has used the participle :
That is most certain. Ham. Up from my cabin, My sea-gown scarf'd about me, in the dark Grop'd I to find out them : had my desire; Finger'd their packet; and, in fine, withdrew To mine own room again : making so bold, My fears forgetting manners, to unseal * Their grand commission; where I found, Horatio, Af royal knavery; an exact command, Larded with many several sorts of reasons, Importing Denmark's health, and England's too, With, ho! such bugs and goblins in my life '; That, on the supervise, no leisure bated',
“ I'll never follow thy pall'd fortunes more.” MALONE. Again, in one of Barnaby Googe's Sonnets, 1563 :
“ Torment my pauled spryght." STEEVENS. 8 There's a divinity that shAPES OUR ENDS,
Rough-hew them how we will.] Dr. Farmer informs me, that these words are merely technical. A wool-man, butcher, and dealer in skewers, lately observed to him, that his nephew, (an idle lad) could only assist him in making them; “ — he could roughhew them, but I was obliged to shape their ends." To shape the ends of wool-skewers, i. e. to point them, requires a degree of skill; any one can rough-hew them. Whoever recollects the profession of Shakspeare's father, will admit that his son might be no stranger to such terms. I have frequently seen packages of wool pinn'd up with skewers. Steevens.
9 My Sea-Gown scarf'd about me.] This appears to have been the usual dress of seamen in Shakspeare's time. So in the Puritan : “ The excuse stuck upon my tongue like ship-pitch upon a mariner's gown.” So also in Henslowe's MSS. “Lent upon a seagowne of captain Swanes xvs.” MALONE. .' With, ho! such bugs and goblins in my life,] With such causes of terror, rising from my character and designs. Johnson,
A bug was no less a terrifick being than a goblin. So, in Spenser's Fairy Queen, book ii. c. iii. :
“ As ghastly bug their haire an end does reare." We call it at present a bugbear. STEEVENS.
?- no leisure Bated) Bated for allowed. To abate signifies to deduct; this deduction, when applied to the person in whose