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pray you.

King. Follow her close! give her good watch, I
O! this is the poison of deep grief; it springs
All from her father's death: And now behold,
O Gertrude, Gertrude 17,

When sorrows come, they come not single spies,
But in battalions! First, her father slain;

Next, your son gone; and he most violent author
Of his own just remove: The people muddied,
Thick and unwholesome in their thoughts and whis-

For good Polonius' death; and we have done but greenly 18,

In hugger-mugger 19 to inter him: Poor Ophelia
Divided from herself, and her fair judgment;
Without the which we are pictures, or mere beasts.
Last, and as much containing as all these,

Her brother is in secret come from France:
Feeds on his wonder 20, keeps himself in clouds,
And wants not buzzers to infect his ear
With pestilent speeches of his father's death;

17 In the quarto 1603 the King says :—

'Ah pretty wretch! this is a change indeed:
O time, how swiftly runs our joys away?
Content on earth was never certain bred,
To-day we laugh and live, to-morrow dead.'

18 Greenly is unskilfully, with inexperience.

19 i. e. secretly. 'Clandestinare, to hide or conceal by stealth, or in hugger mugger.-Florio. Thus in North's translation of Plutarch: Antonius, thinking that his body should be honourably buried, and not in hugger mugger.' Pope, offended at this strange phrase, changed it to private, and was followed by others. Upon which Johnson remarks: If phraseology is to be changed as words grow uncouth by disuse, or gross by vulgarity, the history of every language will be lost: we shall no longer have the words of any author: and, as these alterations will be often unskilfully made, we shall in time have very little of his meaning.'

20 The quarto reads 'Keeps on his wonder.' The folio'Feeds on this wonder.'

Wherein necessity, of matter beggar'd,
Will nothing stick our person to arraign
In ear and ear. O my dear Gertrude, this,
Like to a murdering piece 21, in many places
Gives me superfluous death!


[A noise within. Alack! what noise is this ???

Enter a Gentleman.

King. Attend.

Where are my Switzers 23? Let them guard the door: What is the matter?


Save yourself, my lord;

The ocean, overpeering of his list,

Eats not the flats with more impetuous haste,
Than young Laertes, in a riotous head,

O'erbears your officers! The rabble call him lord;
And, as the world were now but to begin,
Antiquity forgot, custom not known,
The ratifiers and props of every word,

They cry, Choose we; Laertes shall be king 24!

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21 A murdering-piece, or murderer, was a small piece of artillery; in French meurtrière. It took its name from the loopholes and embrasures in towers and fortifications, which were so called. The portholes in the forecastle of a ship were also thus denominated. Meurtriere, c'est un petit canonniere, comme celles des tours et murailles, ainsi appellé, parceque tirant par icelle a desceu, ceux ausquels on tire sont facilement meurtri.'Nicot. Visiere meurtriere, a port-hole for a murthering-piece in the forecastle of a ship.'-Cotgrave. Case shot, filled with small bullets, nails, old iron, &c. was often used in these murderers. This accounts for the raking fire attributed to them in the text, and in Beaumont and Fletcher's Double Marriage :

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like a murdering-piece, aims not at me,

But all that stand within the dangerous level.' 22 The speech of the queen is omitted in the quartos.

23 Switzers, for royal guards. The Swiss were then, as since, mercenary soldiers of any nation that could afford to pay them.

24 The meaning of this contested passage appears to me this: The rabble call him lord; and (as if the world were now but to

Caps, hands, and tongues, applaud it to the clouds, Laertes shall be king, Laertes king!

Queen. How cheerfully on the false trail they cry! O, this is counter 25, you false Danish dogs.

King. The doors are broke.

[Noise within.

Enter LAERTES, armed; Danes following.

Laer. Where is this king?-Sirs, stand you all


Dan. No, let's come in.


I pray you, give me leave.

[They retire without the door.

Dan. We will, we will.

Laer. I thank you :-keep the door. O thou vile


Give me my father.


Calmly, good Laertes.

Laer. That drop of blood, that's calm, proclaims

me bastard;

Cries, cuckold, to my father; brands the harlot Even here, between the chaste unsmirch'd 26 brow Of my true mother.


What is the cause, Laertes, That thy rebellion looks so giant-like?— Let him go, Gertrude; do not fear our person; There's such divinity doth hedge27 a king,

begin, as if antiquity were forgot, and custom were unknown) this rabble, the ratifiers and props of every idle word, cry Choose we,' &c.

25 Hounds are said to run counter when they are upon a false scent, or hunt it by the heel, running backward and mistaking the course of the game. See Comedy of Errors, Act iv. Sc. 2. 26 Unsmirched is unsullied, spotless. See Acti. Sc. 3, p. 180, note 4.

27 Quarto 1603-wall. Mr. Boswell has adduced the following anecdote of Queen Elizabeth as an apposite illustration of this passage: While her majesty was on the Thames, near Greenwich, a shot was fired by accident, which struck the royal barge, and hurt a waterman near her. The French ambassador being amazed, and all crying Treason, Treason! yet she, with

That treason can but peep to what it would,
Acts little of his will.-Tell me, Laertes,

Why thou art thus incens'd;-Let him go, Ger

trude ;

Speak, man.

Laer. Where is my father?




King. Let him demand his fill.

But not by him.

Laer. How came he dead? I'll not be juggled with: To hell, allegiance! vows, to the blackest devil! Conscience, and grace, to the profoundest pit! I dare damnation: To this point I stand,That both the worlds I give to negligence 28, Let come what comes; only I'll be reveng'd Most thoroughly for my father.


Who shall stay you? Laer. My will, not all the world's:

And, for my means, I'll husband them so well,

They shall go far with little.


Good Laertes,

If you desire to know the certainty

Of your dear father's death, is't writ in your revenge, That, sweepstake, you will draw both friend and foe, Winner and loser?

Laer. None but his enemies.


Will you know them then? Laer. To his good friends thus wide I'll ope my


an undaunted spirit, came to the open place of the barge, and bade them never fear, for if the shot were made at her, they durst not shoot again: such majesty had her presence, and such boldness her heart, that she despised fear, and was, as all princes are, or should be, so full of divine fullness, that guiltie mortality durst not behold her but with dazzled eyes.'-Henry Chettle's England's Mourning Garment.

28 But let the frame of things disjoint, both the worlds suffer.' Macbeth.

And like the kind life-rendering pelican,
Repast them with my blood 29.

King. Why, now you speak Like a good child, and a true gentleman. That I am guiltless of your father's death, And am most sensibly 30 in grief for it, It shall as level to your judgment pierce31 As day does to your eye.

Danes. [Within.]

Let her come in.

Laer. How now! what noise is that?

Enter OPHELIA, fantastically dressed with Straws and Flowers.

O heat, dry up my brains! tears seven times salt, Burn out the sense and virtue of mine eye

By heaven, thy madness shall be paid with weight,
Till our scale turn the beam. O rose of May !
Dear maid, kind sister, sweet Ophelia!

O heavens! is't possible, a young maid's wits
Should be as mortal as an old man's life?
Nature is fine 32 in love; and, where 'tis fine,

29 The folio reads politician instead of pelican. This fabulous bird is not unfrequently made use of for purposes of poetical illustration by our elder poets: Shakspeare has again referred to it in King Richard II. and in King Lear :

"Twas this flesh begot these pelican daughters.' In the old play of King Leir, 1605, it is also used, but in a diffe

rent sense :

'I am as kind as is the pelican,

That kills itself to save her young ones' lives.'

30 Folio-sensible.

31 Peirce is the reading of the folio. The quarto has 'pear, an awkward contraction of appear. I do not see why appear is more intelligible. Indeed as level is here used for direct, Shakspeare's usual meaning of the word, the reading of the quarto, preferred by Johnson and Steevens, is less proper.

32 Nature is fine in love.' The three concluding lines of this speech are not in the quarto. The meaning appears to be, Nature is refined or subtilised by love, the senses are rendered more ethereal, and being thus refined, some precious portions of the

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