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that, I know, the drossy age dotes on,) only got the tune of the time, and outward habit of encounter;5 a kind of yesty collection, which carries them through and through the most fond and winnowed opinions;h and do but blow them to their trial, the bubbles are out.7
Dr. Warburton and the subsequent editors, read-compliment. The verb to compliment was not used, as I think, in the time of Shakspeare. Malone.
I doubt whether any alteration be necessary. Shakspeare seems to have used comply in the sense in which we use the verb compliment. See before, Act II, sc. ii: “- let me comply with you in this garb." Tyrwhitt.
Comply is right. So, in Fuller's Historie of the Holy Warre, p. 80 : “Some weeks were spent in complying, entertainments, and visiting holy places; —" To compliment was, however, by no means, an unusual term in Shakspeare's time. Reed.
Again, ibid. p. 219: “But sure, so cunning a companion had long conversed with-and Princes, as appeareth by his complying carriage,” &c. Steevens.
4 and many more of the same breed,] The first folio has Land mine more of the same beavy. The second folio-and nine more &c. Perhaps the last is the true reading. Steevens.
There may be a propriety in bevy, as he has just called him a lapwing. Tollet.
“Many more of the same breed," is the reading of the quarto, 1604. Malone..
5_ outward habit of encounter;] Thus the folio. The quartos read-out of an habit of encounter. Steevens.
Outward habit of encounter, is exterior politeness of address; in allusion to Osric's last speech. Henley. We should, I think, read-an outward habit, &c. Malone.
6 a kind of yesty collection, which carries them through and through the most fond and winnowed opinions ;] This passage in the quarto stands thus:--" They have got out of the habit of encounter, a kind of misty collection, which carries them through and through the most profane and trennowned opinions.” If this printer preserved any traces of the original, our author wrote “ the most sane and renowned opinions ;” which is better than fanned and winnowed.
The meaning is, “ these men have got the cant of the day, a superficial readiness of slight and cursory conversation, a kind of frothy collection of fashionable prattle, which yet carries them through the most select and approving judgments, This airy facility of talk sometimes imposes upon wise men.”
Who has not seen this observation verified ? Johnson.
The quarto, 1604, reads, “ - dotes on; only got the tune of the time, and out of an habit,” &c. and—not misty, but histy; the folio, rightly, yesty: the same quarto has not trennowned, but
Enter a Lord. Lord. My lord, his majesty commended him to you by young Osric, who brings back to him, that you attend him in the hall: He sends to know, if your pleasure hold to play with Laertes, or that you will take longer time.
Ham. I am constant to my purposes, they follow the king's pleasure: if his fitness speaks, mine is ready; now, or whensoever, provided I be so able as now.
Lord. The king, and queen, and all are coming down. Ham. In happy time.
trennowed (a corruption of winnowed, for which (according to the usual process) the next quarto gave trennowned. Fond and winnowed is the reading of the folio. Malone.
Fond is evidently opposed to winnowed. Fond, in the language of Shakspeare's age, signified foolish. So, in The Merchant of Venice:
“ Thou naughty jailer, why art thou so fond,” &c. Winnowed is sifted, examined. The sense is then, that their conversation was yet successful enough to make them passable not only with the weak, but with those of sounder judgment. The same opposition in terms is visible in the reading which the quartos offer. Profane and vulgar is opposed to trenowned or thrice renowned. Steevens.
Fanned and winnowed seems right to me. Both words, winnowed, fand* and drest, occur together in Markham's English Husbandman, p. 117. So do fan’d and winnow'd, fanned, and winnowed, in his Husbandry, p. 18, 76, and 77. So, Shakspeare mentions together the fan and wind, in Troilus and Cressida, Act V, sc. iii. Tollet.
On considering this passage, it always appeared to me that we ought to read, "the most sound and winnowed opinions :” and I have been confirmed in that conjecture by a passage I lately met with in Howels Letters, where speaking of a man merely contemplative, he says: “Besides he may want judgment in the choice of his authors, and knows not how to turn his hand either in weighing or winnowing the soundest opinions.” Book III, Letter viji. M. Mason.
7- do but blow them &c.] These men of show, without so. lidity, are like bubbles raised from soap and water, which dance, and glitter, and please the eye, but if you extend them, by blowing liard, separate into a mist; so if you oblige these specious talkers to extend their compass of conversation, they at once dis. cover the tenuity of their intellects. Johnson.
8 My lord, &c.] All that passes between Hamlet and this Lord is omitted in the folio. Steevens.
* So written without the apostrophe, and easily might in MS. be mistaken for fond.
· Lord. The queen desires you, to use some gentle entertainment' to Laertes, before you fall to play. Ham. She well instructs me.
* [Exit Lord. Hor. You will lose this wager, my lord.
Ham. I do not think so; since he went into France, I have been in continual practice; I shall win at the odds.1 But thou would'st not think, how ill all's here about my heart: but it is no matter.
Hor. Nay, good my lord,
Ham. It is but foolery ; but it is such a kind of gaingiving, as would, perhaps, trouble a woman.
Hor. If your mind dislike any thing, obey it:3 I will forestal their repair hither, and say, you are not fit.
Ham. Not a whit, we defy augury; there is a special providence in the fall of a sparrow. If it be now, 'tis not to come; if it be not to come, it will be now; if it be not now, yet it will come: the readiness is all: Since no man, of aught he leaves, knows, what is 't to leave betimes ?4 Let be.
9 gentle entertainment -] Mild and temperate conversation. Johnson.
1 I shall win at the odds.] I shall succeed with the advantage that I am allowed. Malone.
2 — a kind of gain-giving,] Gain-giving is the same as misgiving Steevens. 3 If your mind dislike any thing, obey it:]
Urgent presagia mille Funeris, et nigræ præcedunt nubila mortis. With these presages of future evils arising in the mind, the poet has fore-run many events which are to happen at the conclusions of his plays; and sometimes so particularly, that even the cir. cumstances of calamity are minutely hinted at, as in the instance of Juliet, who tells her lover from the window, that he appears like one dead in the bottom of a tomb. The supposition that the genius of the mind gave an alarm before approaching dissolution, is a very ancient one, and perhaps can never be totally driven out: yet it must be allowed the merit of adding beauty to poetry, however injurious it may sometimes prove to the weak and superstitious. Steevens.
4 Since no man, of aught he leaves, knows, what is 't to leave betimes?] The old quarto reads. Since no man of aught he leaves, knows, what is ’t to leave betimes? Let be. This is the true reading. Here the premises conclude right, and the argument drawn out at length is to this effect: “It is true, that, by death, we lose all the goods of life; yet seeing this loss is no otherwise an evil than as we are sensible of it, and since death removes all sense
Enter King, Queen, LAERTES, Lords, Osric, and Atten
dants with Foils, c. King. Come, Hamlet, come, and take this hand from
me. [The King puts the Hand of Laertes into that of
HAMLET. Ham. Give me your pardon, sir:5 I have done you
wrong; But pardon it, as you are a gentleman. This presence knows, and you must needs have heard, How I am punish'd with a sore distraction. What I have done, That might your nature, honour, and exception, Roughly awake, I here proclaim was madness. Was 't Hamlet wrong'd Laertes? Never, Hamlet : If Hamlet from himself be ta’en away, And, when he's not himself, does wrong Laertes, Then Hamlet does it not, Hamlet denies it. Who does it then? His madness: If 't be so, Hamlet is of the faction that is wrong'd;
of it, what matters it how soon we lose them? Therefore come what will, I am prepared.” Warburton.
The reading of the quarto was right, but in some other copy the harshness of the tranposition was softened, and the passage stood thus:-Since no man knows aught of what he leaves. For knows was printed in the later copies has, by a slight blunder in such typographers.
I do not think Dr. Warburton's interpretation of the passage the best that it will admit. The meaning may be this,-Since no man knows aught of the state of which he leaves, since he cannot judge what other years may produce, why should he be afraid of leaving life betimes? Why should he dread an early death, of which he cannot tell whether it is an exclusion of happiness, or an interception of calamity. I despise the superstition of augury and omens, which has no ground in reason or piety; my comfort is, that I cannot fall but by the direction of Providence.
Sir T. Hanmer has-Since no man owes aught, a conjecture not very reprehensible. Since no man can call any possession certain, what is it to leave? Johnson.
Dr. Warburton has truly stated the reading of the first quarto, 1604. The folió reads,-Since no man has ought of what he leaves, what is 't to leave betimes?
In the late editions neither copy has been followed. Malone.
5 Give me your pardon, sir :] I wish Hamlet had made some other defence; it is unsuitable to the character of a good or a brave man, to shelter himself in falsehood. Johnson,
His madness is poor Hamlet's enemy.
I am satisfied in nature,
I embrace it freely;
Come, one for me.
6 Sir, &c.] This passage I have restored from the folio.
Steevens. 7 I am satisfied in nature, &c.] This was a piece of satire on fantastical honour. Though nature is satisfied, yet he will ask advice of older men of the sword, whether artificial honour ought to be contented with Hamlet's submission. There is a passage somewhat similar in The Maid's Tragedy:
“ Evad. Will you forgive me then ?
“ Mel. Stay, I must ask unine honour first.” Steevens. 8 Till by some elder masters, of known honour,] This is said in allusion to an English custom. I learn from an ancient MS. of which the reader will find a more particular account in a note to The Merry Wives of Windsor, Vol. III, p. 27, n. 9; that in Queen Elizabeth's time there were “ four ancient masters of defence,” in the city of London. They appear to have been the referees in many affairs of honour, and exacted tribute from all inferior practitiovers of the art of fencing, &c. Steevens.
Our poet frequently alludes to English customs, and may have done so here, but I do not believe that gentlemen ever submitted points of honour to persons who exhibited themselves for money as prize-fighters on the publick stage; though they might appeal in certain cases to Raleigh, Essex, or Southampton, who from their high rank, their course of life, and established reputation, might with strict propriety be styled, “ elder masters, of known honour.” Malone. VOL. XV.