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times written indifferently, so that he kept into in the text, directing that it should be understood as if it were unto.
Thus the passage was left in 1821; where we have the incongruity (1) of the midnight bell striking the hour of one in the morning; (2) of the hammer of a clock striking on the outside of a bell being presented to the mind by the "iron tongue and brazen mouth," in which, on a little reflection, we cannot but perceive that it was the pendulous clapper, not the hammer striking on the outside of the bell, that must have been in the Poet's mind; and (3) of men steeped in sleep being described by such a poet as Shakespeare by the phrase "the drowsy race of night." Any one of these, if due attention were given to the passage, would have been sufficient to shew that there was something rotten in the state of Denmark.
Let us now see how the latest editor has dealt with the passage.
"We prefer the old reading
Sound on into the drowsy race of night
on all accounts. Many of the commentators would read one instead of on,' which is contradicted by the midnight bell' in a line just preceding. There is more probability in reading ear instead of ‘race,' recollecting that of old ear was spelt eare, and the word might possibly be mistaken by the printer: but still 'race' in the sense of course or passage conveys a fine meaning; the midnight bell with its twelve times repeated strokes may be very poetically said to 'sound on into the drowsy race of night,' one sound produced by the 'iron tongue' driving the other 'on' or forward, until the whole number was complete, and the prolonged vibration of the last blow on the bell only left to fill the empty space of darkness."
Such is the state in 1844.*
*It is not my intention in the progress of these remarks to enter into further examination of the text of Mr. Collier's edition, or of the illustrations which he has given of this author. I have been called to defend my theories respecting some of these plays against Mr. Collier's objections; and, if I am not greatly mistaken, where we could get at the ground of an opinion adverse to mine I have shewn that it was insufficient. As to opinion which is mere opinion, its force is greatly weakened by the proofs which this edition exhibits that Mr. Collier can
Now the Poet certainly had not in his thoughts the striking of a clock at all; and the intervention of this idea has the effect of marring in a very extraordinary degree the beauty and grandeur of the conception.
The King has a horrid purpose to unfold, or rather to stimulate his victim to conceive for himself the horrible design. It happens that their conversation takes place in the open day and in broad sunshine. Such a time is favourable to gay and cheerful thoughts: the night is for the thoughts and deeds of darkness. He seeks therefore to withdraw the mind of Hubert out of the influence of the actual circumstances, and to place him where the influences from external things would be suitable to his purposes. This is not a fit scene, says he, for audience of the thing I was about to say: 66 the sun is in the heavens." Transfer yourself to a scene of the night and darkness, a place where you hear the great bell of a church tolling in the depth of midnight, and imagine that you are pacing the churchyard in the dark midnight amidst the graves of the many dead, and where spirits are sometimes said to wander. Think of yourself as a man much injured by the world, and as given up to an habitual melancholy.
The mere striking of the church clock, whether once, or with twelve times repeated strokes, is a weak, puerile, incongruous conception: but the continuous tolling of the bell
not have been a long and critical student in these writings, with an affluence of materials prepared beforehand for the purpose, when he ventured on the arduous task of preparing an edition which was to claim to be ranked among the standard editions of this great author. It is to be hoped that this edition will not be taken, either as to text or illustration, as an exhibition of the state of Shakesperian knowledge in the reign of Her Majesty Queen Victoria, although the circumstance of Mr. Collier being the Director of the Shakespeare Society, in which so many respectable names are found, may seem to give it that degree of consequence. And with this protest I leave it, recurring to it hereafter as little as may be, either to confirm my own judgments or for the purpose of correcting its misapprehensions.
at midnight, whịch was what Shakespeare meant, adds greatly to the impressiveness of a night scene; and this especially when we recollect on what occasions it was that the church bell would be heard "sounding on " in the darkness of midnight. It might be as a passing-bell, a soul just then taking its flight; but it is more probable that the poet had in his mind the tolling at a midnight funeral, and that the full conception of the passage is this: that Hubert is to be transported in thought to the grave-ground at the foot of some lonely tower, from which is heard the heavy tones of the bell tolling through the darkness of night, while, in the distance, are occasionally discerned the torches about the hearse of some eminent person, who is being borne along to be laid in the vault of his ancestors. In such a scene there was everything to feed melancholy, and put the mind of Hubert into a frame favourable to the King's purposes ;-every thing to stir up in his mind thoughts which the sun should not look upon.
This then, I conceive, to be the true explanation of the passage. "Sound on " is the common phrase in Shakespeare for continuous or repeated blasts of a trumpet, just as here it is for the continuous or repeated strokes of the bell-clapper. "Into the drowsy race of night," if it required any justification, as meaning the step or course of night, would receive it by comparison with the two following passages from other plays,―
And chide the cripple tardy-gaited night,
Who, like a foul and ugly witch, doth limp
So tediously away.-King Henry the Fourth, Chorus to Act iv.
This palpable gross play hath well beguiled
The heavy gait of night.-M. N. D. Act v. sc. 1.
Shakespeare also, it may be observed, has shewn elsewhere that he was sensible to the use which might be made of the
deep tones of the funeral bell. Thus, in the Second Part of King Henry the Fourth
And his tongue
Sounds ever after as a sullen bell
Remembered tolling a departed friend :
and in the Seventy-First of his beautiful Sonnets :
No longer mourn for me when I am dead
From this vile world with vilest worms to dwell.
Nay, if you read this line, remember not
The hand that writ it.—
We have suffered a great deal of the poetry of life and manners to slip away from us; and few, in these times, had ever the opportunity of being placed in such a scene as that which the King conjured up before the mind of Hubert.
There is so much in this Play which shews that the mind of the Poet was intent, when he wrote it, on affairs connected with the church, that it may be submitted as a probability not at once to be rejected, that in thus placing Hubert in imagination in a scene of horror, to prepare him for conceiving and executing a deed of horror, the Poet had in his mind what was alleged to be a practice of the Jesuits of the time. They had their "Chamber of Meditation," as they called it, in which they placed men who were "to undertake some great business of moment, as to kill a King, or the like." "It was a melancholy dark chamber, where he had no light for many days together, no company, little meat, ghastly pictures of devils all about him," and "by this strange usage they made him quite mad, and beside himself."*
The word “Convertite," which occurs in this Play, is an ecclesiastical term, with a peculiar and express meaning,
* Anatomy of Melancholy, 4to. 1621, p. 738.
distinct from "Convert." It denotes a person who, having relapsed, has been recovered, and this, it will be perceived, is the sense in which Shakespeare uses it:
It was my breath that blew the tempest up
My tongue shall hush again this storm of war,
And make fair weather in your blustering land.
Marlowe, with less propriety, uses it as synonymous with
BARABAS.-No, Governor, I will be no convertite.
Owen, in his Running Register, 4to.
Jew of Malta, Act i.
1626, p. 44, speaks call them,” meaning
of "our English Convertites, as they Englishmen originally of the Reformed Church who had been reconciled to the Church at Rome.
We have a passage in this Play which must for ever decide the question whether the Poet, when he wrote it, was a member of the Roman Church, or favourable to any scheme for its regaining its supremacy in England. The passage is this
And blessed shall he be that doth revolt
It is a speech of Pandulf. Shakespeare, it may be said, is only writing in the character of the speaker, as a dramatist ought to do. But if he had been a favourer of the system which many in his day would gladly have seen restored, he would not have put into the mouth of the representative of the Church a doctrine which the enemies of the Church attributed to its authorities, charged them with encouraging, while it is a doctrine which strikes at the root of all personal