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is not surprising that the dropping into the ears should occur, because Shakspeare was perfectly well acquainted with the supposed properties of henbane as recorded in Holland's translation of Pliny and elsewhere, and might apply this mode of use to any other poison,
And curd, like eager droppings into milk.
Many readers may require to be told that eager means sour, from the French aigre. In the preceding scene it is used in the sense of sharp, and is there properly so explained; but the quotation of the present passage on that occasion seems misapplied.
Sc. 5. p. 79.
and sent to my account With all my imperfections on my head.
Heywood, a contemporary writer, has imitated this in his play of A woman kill'd with kindness ;
and send them, laden
With all their scarlet sins upon their backs
Sc. 5. p. 81.
HAM. My tables,-meet it is, I set it down.
It is remarkable that neither public nor private museums should furnish any specimens of these table-books, which seem to have been very common in the time of Shakspeare; nor does any attempt appear to have been made towards ascertaining exactly the materials of which they were composed. Certain it is, however, that they were sometimes made of slate in the form of a small portable book with leaves and clasps. Such a one is fortunately engraved in Gesner's treatise De rerum fossilium figuris, &c. Tigur. 1565, 12mo, which is not to be found in the folio collection of his works on natural history. The learned author thus describes it: "Pugillaris è laminis saxi nigri fissilis, cum stylo ex eodem," His figure of it is here copied.
To such a table-book the Archbishop of York seems thus to allude in The second part of King Henry IV. Act iv. Sc. 1:
"And therefore will he wipe his tables clean
And keep no tell-tale to his memory—"
In the middle ages the leaves of these table-books were made of ivory. Montfaucon has engraved one of them in the third volume of his "Antiquities," plate cxciv., the subject of which clearly shews that the learned writer has committed an error in ascribing them to remoter times. In Chaucer's Sompnour's tale one of the friars is provided with
"A pair of tables all of ivory,
And a pointel ypolished fetishly,
And wrote alway the names, as he stood,
The Roman practice of writing on wax tablets with a stile was continued also during the middle ages, In several of the monastic libraries in France specimens of wooden tables filled with wax and constructed in the fourteenth century were preserved. Some of these contained the household expenses of the sovereigns, &c., and consisted of as many as twenty pages, formed into a book by means of parchment bands glued to the backs of the leaves.
Öne remaining in the Abbey of St. Germain des préz at Paris, recorded the expenses of Philip le Bel, during a journey that he made in the year 1307, on a visit to Pope Clement V. A single leaf of this table book is exhibited in the Nouveau traité de diplomatique, tom. i. p. 468.
Sc. 5. p. 85.
HAM. Swear by my sword.
In consequence of the practice of occasionally swearing by a sword, or rather by the cross or upper end of it, the name of Jesus was sometimes inscribed on the handle or some other part. Such an instance occurs on the monument of a crusader in the vestry of the church at Winchelsea. See likewise the tomb of John duke of Somerset engraved in Sandford's Genealogical history, p. 314, and Gough's Sepulchral monuments, Pref. ccxiii. Introd. cxlviii. vol. i. p. 171, vol. ii. p. 362.
Scene 2. Page 115.
POL. Though this be madness, yet there's method in it.
This is precisely Horace's,
"Insanire paret certo ratione modoque."
Sc. 2. p. 121.
HAM. The clown shall make those laugh whose lungs are tickled o' the sere.
Sere is dry. Thus in Macbeth,
"He is deformed, crooked, old and sere."
Among the Saxons June was called the sere month. In the present instance sere appears tó be used as a substantive. The same expression occurs in Howard's Defensative against the po son of supposed prophecies, 1620, folio. "Dis covering the moods and humors of the vulgar sort to be so loose and tickle of the seare," &c., fo. 31. Every one has felt that dry tickling in the throat and lungs which excites coughing. Hamlet's meaning may therefore be, the clown by his merriment shall convert even their coughing into laughter.
HAM. Buz, buz.
Sc. 2. p. 131.
Minsheu says, "To buzze, or hum as bees, buzze, buzze;" and again, in his Spanish dictionary, "when two standing or kneeling together, holding their hands upon their cheekes and ears, and so cry, buzze buzze, and hitting