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-lenten entertainment—] i. e. sparing, like
the entertainments given in Lent.
Line 507. take.
STEEVENS. -we coted them on the way;] To cote is to overSTEEVENS.
Line 514. the lady shall say her mind &c.] The lady shall have no obstruction, unless from the lameness of the verse. JOHNSON.
little eyases,] i. e. young nestlings, creatures
Line 529. just out of the egg. Line 529.
cry out on the top of question,] The meaning
seems to be, they ask a common question in the highest note of
-escoted?] Paid. From the French escot, a
shot or reckoning. . Line 545. —to tarre them on to controversy:] To provoke
any animal to rage, is to tarre him.
-in little,] i. e. in miniature.
·587. Buz, buz !] Mere idle talk, the buz of the vulgar.
-611. —my abridgment-] He calls the players afterwards, the brief chronicles of the times; but I think he now means JOHNSON. only those who will shorten my talk.
Line 614. thy face is valanced-] i. e. fringed with a beard. The valance is the fringes or drapery hanging round the tester of a bed. Line 618.
by the altitude of a chopine.] A chioppine is
a high shoe worn by the Italians.
—be not cracked within the ring.] That is, cracked
too much for use. parts of women.
This is said to a young player who acted the
caviare to the general:] Florio, in his Italian Dictionary, 1598, defines, Caviaro, "a kinde of salt meat, used in Italie, like black sope; it is made of the roes of fishes." Lord Clarendon uses the general for the people, in the same manner as it
is used here. Line 631.
cried in the top of mine,] Whose judgment,
in such matters, was in much higher vogue than mine.
the author of being a fantastical affected writer.
-indite the author of affection:] i. e. convict STEEVENS. -an honest method,] Honest, for chaste.
651. Now is he total gules ;] Gules is a term in the barbarous jargon peculiar to heraldry, and signifies red. STEEVENS. trick'd-] i. e. smeared, painted. An herald
Line 695. the mobled queen-] The mabled queen, (or mobled queen, as it is spelt in the quarto,) means, the queen attired in a large, coarse, and careless head-dress. A few lines lower we are told she had "a clout upon that head, where late the diadem stood." MALONE.
Line 701. With bisson rheum;] Bisson or beesen, i. e. blind.
the cue for passion,] This phrase is theatrical, and occurs at least a dozen times in our author's plays. STEEV. Line 761. the general car-] The ear of all mankind. So before,-Caviare to the general, that is, to the multitude.
Line 767. unpregnant of my cause,] i. e. not quickened with a new desire of vengeance; not teeming with revenge.}
Line 770. A damn'd defeat was made.] Defeat for destruction. WARBURTON.
-About my brains !] Wits, to your work. Brain,
go about the present business.
-tent him-] Search his wounds. JOHNSON. -if he do blench,] If he shrink, or start.
ACT III. SCENE I.
o'er-raught on the way:] O'er-raught is overJOHNSON.
reached, that is, over-took.
Line 36. Affront Ophelia :] To affront, is only to meet di
-more ugly to the thing that helps it,] That is,
compared with the thing that helps it.
Line 65. To be, or not to be,] Of this celebrated soliloquy, which, bursting from a man distracted with contrariety of desires, and overwhelmed with the magnitude of his own purposes, is connected rather in the speaker's mind, than on his tongue, I shall endeavour to discover the train, and to show how one sentiment produces another.
Hamlet, knowing himself injured in the most enormous and atrocious degree, and seeing no means of redress, but such as must expose him to the extremity of hazard, meditates on his situation in this manner: Before I can form any rational scheme of action under this pressure of distress, it is necessary to decide, whe ther, after our present state, we are to be, or not to be. That is the question, which, as it shall be answered, will determine, whether 'tis nobler, and more suitable to the dignity of reason, to suffer the outrages of fortune patiently, or to take arms against them, and by opposing end them, though perhaps with the loss of life. If to die, were to sleep, no more, and by a sleep to end the miseries of our nature, such a sleep were devoutly to be wished; but if to sleep in death, be to dream, to retain our powers of sensibility, we must pause to consider, in that sleep of death what dreams may This consideration makes calamity so long endured; for who would bear the vexations of life, which might be ended by a bare bodkin, but that he is afraid of something in unknown futurity? This fear it is that gives efficacy to conscience, which, by turning the mind upon this regard, chills the ardour of resolution, checks the vigour of enterprize, and makes the current of desire stagnate in inactivity.
We may suppose that he would have applied these general observations to his own case, but that he discovered Ophelia.
Line 76. shuffled off this mortal coil,] i. e. turmoil, bustle. WARBURTON. -There's the respect,] i. e. the consideration.
the whips and scorns of time,] It may be remarked, that Hamlet, in his enumeration of miseries, forgets, whether properly or not, that he is a prince, and mentions many evils to which inferior stations only are exposed. JOHNSON.
Line 84. might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin?] A bodkin was the ancient
term for a small dagger.
Line 86. To grunt and sweat-] Thus the old copies. It is undoubtedly the true reading, but can scarcely be borne by modern ears.
Line 98. -Nymph, in thy orisons &c.] This is a touch of nature. Hamlet, at the sight of Ophelia, does not immediately recollect, that he is to personate madness, but makes her an address grave and solemn, such as the foregoing meditation excited in his thoughts. JOHNSON,
Line 161. make your wantonness your ignorance:] You mistake by wanton affectation, and pretend to mistake by igno
Line 171. -The mould of form,] The model by whom all endeavoured to form themselves.
Line 178. with ecstacy:] The word ecstacy was anciently used to signify some degree of alienation of mind.
Line 202. - -be round with him ;] To be round with a person, is to reprimand him with freedom.
ACT III. SCENE II.
periwig-pated-] This is a ridicule on the STEEVENS.
quantity of false hair worn in Shakspeare's time.
Line 219. -the groundlings;] The meaner people then seem to have sat below, as they now sit in the upper gallery,who, not well understanding poetical language, were sometimes gratified by a mimical and mute representation of the drama, previous to the dialogue. JOHNSON.
Line 223.-out-herods Herod :] The character of Herod in the ancient mysteries, was always a violent one. STEEVENS. Line 235. -pressure.] Resemblance, as in a print.
-241.—not to speak it profanely,] Any gross or indelicate language was formerly called profane.
Line 250. -speak no more than is set down for them:] The clown very often addressed the audience, in the middle
of the play, and entered into a contest of raillery and sarcasm with such of the audience as chose to engage with him. It is to this absurd practice that Shakspeare alludes. See the Historical Account of our Old English Theatres, Vol. IX. MALONE.
Line 283. Whose blood and judgment-] According to the doctrine of the four humours, desire and confidence were seated in the blood, and judgment in the phlegm, and the due mixture of the humours made a perfect character. JOHNSON. Vulcan's stithy.] Stithy is a smith's anvil.
-nor mine now.] A man's words, says the proverb, are his own no longer than he keeps them unspoken.
Line 333. Do you think I meant country matters?] Dr. Johnson, from a casual inadvertence, proposed to read-country manners. The old reading is certainly right. What Shakspeare meant to allude to, must be too obvious to every reader, to require any explanation. MALONE.
-Nay, then let the devil wear black, for I'll have a suit of sables.] Nay then, says Hamlet, if my father be so long dead as you say, let the devil wear black; as for me, so far from wearing a mourning dress, I'll wear the most costly and magnificent suit that can be procured: a suit trimmed with sables.
miching mallecho ;] To mich signifies to lie
hid, or play the truant. In Norfolk michers signify pilferers.
MALONE. Line 363. Be not you ashamed to show, &c.] The conversation of Hamlet with Ophelia, which cannot fail to disgust every modern reader, is probably such as was peculiar to the young and fashionable of the age of Shakspeare, which was, by no means, an age of delicacy.
397. -operant powers-] Operant is active. STEEV. 419. what to ourselves is debt :] The performance
of a resolution, in which only the resolver is interested, is a debt only to himself, which he may therefore remit at pleasure.