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And-'would it were not so!5-you are my mother.
Queen. Nay, then I 'll set those to you that can speak. Ham. Come, come, and sit you down; you shall not
budge; You go not, till I set you up a glass Where you may see the inmost part of you.
Queen. What wilt thou do? thou wilt not murder me? Help, help, ho!
Pol. [behind] What, ho! help!
How now! a rat?6 [Draws. Dead, for a ducat, dead.
[HAMLET makes a pass through the Arras. Pol. [behind
0, I am slain. [Falls, and dies. Queen. O me, what last thou done? Ham.
Nay, I know not: Is it the king? [Lifts up the Arras, and draws forth Pol.
Queen. (, what a rash and bloody deed is this!
Ham. A bloody deed;-almost as bad, good mother, As kill a king, and marry with his brother.
Queen. As kill a king !?
sently drawing his sworde, thrust it into the hanging's; which done; pulled the counselloúr (half-deade) out by the heeles, made an ende of killing him; and, being slaine, cut his body in pieces, which he caused to be boyled, and then cast it into an open vault or privie.” Malone. 5 And—'would it were not so!] The folio reads
But would you were not so. Henderson. 6 How now ! a rat?] This (as Dr. Farmer has observed) is an expression borrowed from The History of Hamblet, a translation from the French of Belleforest. Steevens.
? Queen. As kill a king!] This exclamation may be considered as some hint that the Queen had no hand in the murder of Hamlet's father. Steedens.
It has been doubted whether Shakspeare intended to repre. sent the Queen as accessary to the murder of her husband. The surprize she here expresses at the charge seems to tend to her exculpation. Where the variation is not particularly marked, we may presume, I think, that the poet intended to tell his story as it had been told before. The following extract, therefore, from
The Hystory of Hamblett, bl. 1. relative to this point, will probably not be unacceptable to the reader : “ Fengon [the king in the present play] boldened and encouraged by such impunitie, durst venture to couple himself in marriage with her, whom he used as his concubine during good Horvendille's life; in that sort: Ham.
Ay, lady, 'twas my word. Thou wretched, rash, intruding fool, farewel! [To Pol.
spotting his name with a double vice, incestuous adulterie, and paracide murther.- This adulterer and infamous murtherer slaundered his dead brother, that he would have slaine his wife, and that hee by chance finding him on the point ready to do it, in defence of the lady, hud slaine him.--The unfortunate and wicked woman that had received the honour to be the wife of one of the valiantest and wisest princes in the North, imbased herselfe in such vile sort as to falsifie her faith unto him, and, which is worse, to marrie him that had bin the tyrannous mur. therer of her lawful husband; which made diverse men think that she had been the causer of the murther, thereby to live in her adulterie without controle.” H st. of Hamb. sig. C 1.2.
In the conference, however, with her son, on which the present scene is founded, she strongly asserts her innocence with respect to this fact:
“I know well, my sonne, that I have done thee great wrong in marrying with Fengon, the cruel tyrant and murtherer of thy father, and my loyal spouse ; but when thou shalt consider the small means of resistance, and the treason of the palace, with the little cause of confidence we are to expect, or hope for, of the courtiers, all wrought to his will; as also the power he made ready if I should have refused to like him; thou wouldst rather excuse, than accuse me of lasciviousness or inconstancy, much less offer me that wrong to suspect that ever thy mother Geruth once consented to the death and murther of her husband : swearing unto thee by the majestie of the gods, that if it had layne in me to have resisted the tyrant, although it had beene with the losse of my blood, yea and of my life, I would surely have saved the life of my lord and husband.” Ibid. sig. D 4.
It is observable, that in the drama neither the king or queen make so good a defence. Shakspeare wished to render them as odious as he could, and therefore has not in any part of the play furnished them with even the semblance of an excuse for their conduct.
Though the inference already mentioned may be drawn from the surprize which our poet has here made the Queen express at being charged with the murder of her husband, it is observable that when the Player-Queen in the preceding scene says:
“ In second husband let me be accurst!
“None wed the second, but who killd the first.” he has made Hamlet exclaim-“that's wormwood.” The Prince, therefore, both from the expression and the words addressed to his mother in the present scene, must be supposed to think her guilty.- Perhaps after all this investigation, the truth is, that Shakspeare himself meant to leave the matter in doubt. Malone,
I know not in what part of this tragedy the King and Q'leen could have been expected to enter into a vindication of their mutual conduct. The formor indeed is rendered conteinptible as
I took thee for thy better; take thy fortune:
well as guilty; but for the latter our poet seems to have felt all that tenderness which the Ghost recommends to the imitation of her son. Steevens.
Had Shakspeare thought fit to have introduced the topicks I have suggested, can there be a doubt concerning his ability to introduce them? The king's justification, if to justify had been the poet's object, (which it certainly was not) might have been made in a soliloquy; the queen's, in the present interview with her son. Malone.
It might not unappositely be observed, that every new commentator, like Sir T. Hanmer's Othello, must often “ make the meat he feeds on.” Some slight objection to every opinion al. ready offered, may be found ; and, if in doubtful cases we are to presume that “the poet tells his stories as they have been told before,” we must put new constructions on many of his scenes, as well as new comments on their verbal obscurities.
For instance-touching the manner in which Hamlet disposed of Polonius's body. The black-letter history tells us he “cut it in pieces, which he caused to be boiled, and then cast it into an open vault or privie.” Are we to conclude therefore that he did so in the play before us, because our author has left the matter doubtful? Hamlet is only made to tell us, that this dead counsellor was “safely stowed.” He afterwards adds,“ — you shall nose him” &c.; all which might have been the case, had the direction of the aforesaid history been exactly followed. In this transaction then (which I call a doubtful one, because the remains of Polonius might have been rescued from the forica, and afterwards have received their “hugger-mugger" funeral,) am I at liberty to suppose he had the fate of Heliogabalus, in cloacam missus?
That the Queen (who may still be regarded as innocent of murder) might have offered some apology for her “over-hasty marriage,” can easily be supposed; but Mr. Malone has not suggested what defence could have been set up by the royal fratricide. My acute predecessor, as well as the novelist, must have been aware that though female weakness, and an offence against the forms of the world, will admit of extenuation, such guilt as that of the usurper, could not have been palliated by the dramatick art of Shakspeare ; even if the father of Hamlet had been represented as a wicked instead of a virtuous character.
Queen. What have I done, that thou dar’st wag thy
tongue - In noise so rude against me? Ham.
Such an act, That blurs the grace and blush of modesty; Calls virtue, hypocrite; takes off the roses
8 takes of the rose, &c.] Alluding to the custom of wearing roses on the side of the face. See a note on a passage in King John, Act I. Warburton.
I believe Dr. Warburton is mistaken; for it must be allowed that there is a material difference between an ornament worn on the forehead, and one exhibited on the side of the face. Some have understood these words to be only a metaphorical enlargement of the sentiment contained in the preceding line :
“ blurs the grace and blush of modesty :" but as the forehead is no proper situation for a blush to be displayed in, we may have recourse to another explanation.
It was once the custom for those who were betrothed, to wear some flower as an external and conspicuous mark of their mutual engagement. So, in Spenser's Shepherd's Calendar for April:
“ Bring coronations and sops in wine,
“Worn of paramours." Lyte, in his Herbal, 1578, enumerates sops in wine among the smaller kind of single gilliflowers or pinks.
An Address “ To al Judiciall Censurers,” prefixed to The Whipper of the Satyre his Pennance in a White Sheete, or the Beadle’s Confutation, 1601, begins thus :
“ Brave spirited gentles, on whose comely front
“ The rose of favour sits majesticall, —.” Sets a blister there, has the same meaning as in Measure for Measure :
“ Who falling in the flaws of her own youth,
“ Hath blister'd her report.” Steevens. I believe, by the rose was only meant the roseate hue. The forehead certainly appears to us an odd place for the hue of innocence to dwell on, but Shakspeare might place it there with as much propriety as a smile. In Troilus and Cressida we find these lines :
“ So rich advantage of a promis'd glory,
“ As smiles upon the forehead of this action." That part of the forehead which is situated between the eyebrows, seems to have been considered by our poet as the seat of innocence and modesty. So, in a subsequent scene : “
brands the harlot, “ Even here, between the chaste and unsmirch'd brow
“ Of my true mother.” Malone. In the foregoing quotation from Troilus and Cressida, I understand that the forehead is smiled upon by advantage, and not that
From the fair forehead of an innocent love,
the forehead is itself the smiler. Thus, says Laertes in the play before us :
“ Occasion smiles upon a second leave." But it is not the leave that smiles, but occasion that smiles upon it.
In the subsequent passage our author had no choice; for hav. ing alluded to that part of the face which was anciently branded with a mark of shame, he was compelled to place his token of innocence in a corresponding situation. Steevens.
9_ from the body of contraction – ] Contraction for marriage contract. Warburton.
Heaven's face doth glow;
Is thought-sick at the act.] If any sense can be found here, it is this. The sun glows (and does it not always ?] and the very solid mass of earth has a tristful visage, and is thought-sick. All this is sad stuff. The old quarto reads much nearer to the poet's sense :
Heaven's face does glow,
Is thought-sick at the act.
Heaven's face doth glow,
Is thought-sick at the act. This makes a fine sense, and to this effect. The sun looks upon our globe, the scene of this murder, with an angry and mournful countenance, half hid in eclipse, as at the day of doom. Warburton.
The word heated, though it agrees well enough with glow, is, I think, not so striking as tristful, which was, I suppose, chosen at the revisal. I believe the whole passage now stands as the author gave it. Dr. Warburton's reading restores two improprie. ties, which Shakspeare, by his alteration, had removed. In the first, and in the new reading, Heaven's face glows with tristful visage; and, Heaven's face is thought-sick. To the common reading there is no just objection. Fohnson.
I am strongly inclined to think that the reading of the quarto,