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"He show'd him painted in a table plain
The damned ghosts
"Nor damned ghosts cald up with mightie spels."
Epithalamion, st. 19.
Sc. 2. p. 182.
HAM. Lady, shall I lie in your lap?
[Lying down at OPHELIA's feet.]
Mr. Steevens has noticed the practice of lying at the feet of a mistress during dramatic representations; yet we are not to conclude that it prevailed at the public theatres. The instances which have occurred seem to be confined to entertainments at the houses of the nobility and gentry. These were plays, masques, masquerades, balls, concerts, &c. Many old 'pictures and engravings furnish examples of the above custom, the young men being often seen sitting or lying on the ground in conversation with their mistresses, and sometimes in Hamlet's situation. One of these shall be described more particularly. It is an extremely neat little print, belonging to a set designed to contrast the sufferings of Christ with the vanities of the world. The scene is a ball-room. In the back-ground are the musicians and torch-bearers. In front a lady and gentleman are performing a dance before some standing spectators. In various parts of the room pairs of young
gallants and their mistresses are seated on the floor, apparently more attentive to their own concerns than to the dancing; and one youth is sitting on the spread petticoat of his companion. The costume is French, and of the time of Louis the Thirteenth.
Sc. 2. p. 198.
HAM. With two provencial roses on my razed shoes.
The old copies read provincial, which led Mr. Warton to ask, why provincial roses? and to conclude that roses of Provence were meant, on which conclusion the text has been most unnecessarily changed; because the old reading was certainly correct. There is no evidence to show that Provence was ever remarkable for its roses; but it is well known that Provins, in La Basse Brie, about forty miles from Paris, was formerly very celebrated for the growth of this flower, of which the best cataplasms are said to have been made. It was, according to tradition, imported into that country from Syria, by a count De Brie. See Guillemeau Histoire naturelle de la rose. It is probable that this kind of rose, which in our old herbals is called the Great Holland or Province rose, was imported into this
country both from Holland and France, from which latter country the Dutch might have first procured it. There is an elegant cut of the Provins rose, with a good account of it, in the first edition of Pomet Hist. des drogues, 1694, folio, p. 174.
The word that was in the original of Hamlet's quotation would have been too coarse to be ap plied to royalty; and therefore he substitutes another, which there is good reason to suppose was peacock. Dr. Farmer has given proof that this term was proverbial for a fool. Reginald Scot, speaking of Pope Julius the Third, says that he blasphemed Christ, and cursed his mother for a peacock. Disc. of witchcraft, b. 2, ch. viii. The bird in question is at once proud and silly.
Sc. 2. p. 205.
Enter the players with recorders.
says Mr. Steevens, "a kind of large flute." Yet the former note, to which he refers,
vol: v. p. 149, describes this instrument as a small flute. Sir J. Hawkins, in vol. iv. p. 479, of his valuable History of musick, has offered very good proofs that the recorder was a flagelet, and he maintains that the flute was improperly termed a recorder, and that the expressions have been confounded: yet his opinion that the books of instructions entitled 'for the recorder' belong in reality to the flute, seems rather doubtful. The confusion is in having blended the genus with the species. In the Promptuarium parvu lorum, 1516, 4to, a recorder is defined to be a "lytell pype." In Udall's flowres for Latine spekyng selected oute of Terence, 1532, 12mo, the line from Virgil's Bucolics,
"Nec te pœniteat calamo trivisse labellum,"
is rendered, "and thynke it not a smalle thynge to have lerned to playe on the pype or the recorder :" and it is not a little curious that in modern cant language the recorders of corporations are termed flutes. The following story in Wits fits and fancies, 1595, 4to, shows that the pipe and recorder were different; such is the uncertainty of definition among old writers: "A merrie recorder of London mistaking the name of one Pepper, call'd him Piper: whereunto the partie excepting, and
saying Sir, you mistake, my name is Pepper, not Piper: hee answered: Why, what difference is there (I pray thee) between Piper in Latin, and Pepper in English; is it not all one? No, sir (reply'd the other) there is even as much difference betweene them, as is between a Pipe and a Recorder."
Sc. 2. p. 207.
HAM. Do you think I am easier to be play'd on than a pipe? Call me what instrument you will, though you can fret me, you cannot play upon me.
A fret is the stop or key of a musical instrument, and consequently here is a play on words, and a double meaning. Hamlet says, though you can vex me, you cannot impose on me; though you can stop the instrument, you cannot play on it.
Sc. 3. p. 216.
that his soul may be as damn'd and black As hell, whereto it goes.
To the stories collected in the notes that illustrate Hamlet's shocking design of killing the king at his prayers, may be added one in Howel's Parley of the beasts, p. 91, and another related in Chetwind's Historical collections, p. 77.