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Queen. O, 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 brother2.
Queen. As kill a king!
Ham. Ay, lady, 'twas my word. Thou wretched, rash, intruding fool, farewell!
I took thee for thy better; take thy fortune:
If damned custom have not braz'd it so,
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 rose From the fair forehead of an innocent love, And sets a blister there3; makes marriage vows
2 There is an idle and verbose controversy between Steevens and Malone, whether the poet meant to represent the Queen as guilty or innocent of being accessory to the murder of her husband. Surely there can be no doubt upon the matter. The Queen shows no emotion at the mock play when it is said— In second husband let me be accurst,
None wed the second but who kill'd the first'and now manifests the surprise of conscious innocence upon the subject. It should also be observed that Hamlet never directly accuses her of any guilty participation in that crime. I am happy to find my opinion, so expressed in December, 1823, confirmed by the newly discovered quarto copy of 1603; in which the Queen in a future speech is made to say
'But, as I have a soul, I swear by heaven,
I never knew of this most horrid murder.'
takes off the rose
From the fair forehead of an innocent love,' &c.
One would think by the ludicrous gravity with which Steevens
As false as dicers' oaths: O, such a deed
A rhapsody of words: Heaven's face doth glow;
With tristful visage, as against the doom,
Ah me, what act,
That roars so loud, and thunders in the index 5?
and Malone take this figurative expression in a literal sense, that they were unused to the language of poetry, especially to the adventurous metaphors of Shakspeare. Mr. Boswell's note is short and to the purpose. Rose is put generally for the ornament, the grace of an innocent love.' Ophelia describes Hamlet as
'The expectancy and rose of the fair state.' 4 The quarto of 1604 gives this passage thus: Heaven's face does glow
O'er this solidity and compound mass
The index, or table of contents, was formerly placed at the beginning of books. In Othello, Act ii. Sc. 7, we have-' an index and obscure prologue to the history of foul and lustful thoughts.'
6 It is evident from this passage that whole length pictures of the two kings were formerly introduced. Station does not mean the spot where any one is placed, but the act of standing, the attitude. So in Antony and Cleopatra, Act iii. Sc. 3:
Her motion and her station are as one.'
Without this explanation it might be conceived that the compliment designed for the attitude of the King was bestowed on the place where Mercury is represented as standing.
Where every god did seem to set his seal,
This was your husband.—Look you now, what follows:
Here is your husband; like a mildew'd ear,
O shame! where is thy blush? Rebellious hell,
7 Here the allusion is to Pharaoh's dream. Genesis, xli. 8 i. e. to feed rankly or grossly: it is usually applied to the fattening of animals. Marlowe has it for to grow fat.' Bat is the old word for increase; whence we have battle, batten, batful. 9 Sense here is not used for reason; but for sensation, feeling, or perception: as before in this scene:
'That it be proof and bulwark against sense.' Warburton, misunderstanding the passage, proposed to read notion instead of motion. The whole passage in brackets is omitted in the folio.
10 The hoodwinke play, or hoodman blind, in some place, called blindmanbuf.-Baret. It appears also to have been called blind hob. It is hob-man blind in the quarto of 1603.
11 i. e. could not be so dull and stupid.
If thou canst mutine 12 in a matron's bones,
To flaming youth let virtue be as wax,
And melt in her own fire 13; proclaim no shame,
And reason panders will.
O Hamlet, speak no more :
Thou turn'st mine eyes into my very soul;
Nay, but to live
In the rank sweat of an enseamed 15 bed;
Stew'd in corruption; honeying, and making love
Over the nasty sty;
O, speak to me no more;
These words, like daggers, enter in mine ears:
A murderer, and a villain;
A slave, that is not twentieth part the tithe
12 Mutine for mutiny. This is the old form of the verb. Shakspeare calls mutineers mutines in a subsequent scene; but this is, I believe, peculiar to him: they were called mutiners anciently. 13 Thus in the quarto of 1603 :
'Why appetite with you is in the wane,
Your blood runs backward now from whence it came:
When lust shall dwell within a matron's breast.'
14 Grained spots; that is, dyed in grain, deeply imbued. 15 i. e. greasy, rank, gross. It is a term borrowed from falconry. It is well known that the seam of any animal was the fat or tallow; and a hawk was said to be enseamed when she was too fat or gross for flight. By some confusion of terms, however, to enseam a hawk' was used for to purge her of glut and grease;' by analogy it should have been unseam. Beaumont and Fletcher, in The False One, use inseamed in the same man
'His lechery inseamed upon him.'
It should be remarked, that the quarto of 1603 reads incestuous; as does that of 1611.
Of your precedent lord:-a vice 16 of kings:
Enter Ghost 17.
Of shreds and patches:
Save me, and hover o'er me with your wings,
You heavenly guards!—What would your gracious figure?
Queen. Alas, he's mad.
Ham. Do you not come your tardy son to chide,
Ghost. Do not forget: This visitation
How is it with you, lady? Queen. Alas, how is't with you?
16 i. e. the low mimic, the counterfeit, a dizard, or common vice and jester, counterfeiting the gestures of any man.'-Fleming. Shakspeare afterwards calls him a king of shreds and patches, alluding to the party-coloured habit of the vice or fool in a play. 17 The first quarto adds, ' in his night-gown.'
Laps'd in time and passion.' Johnson explains this— That having suffered time to slip and passion to cool, let's go by,' &c. This explanation is confirmed by the quarto of 1603: 'Do you not come your tardy son to chide, That I thus long have let revenge slip by.'
19 Conceit for conception, imagination. This was the force of the word among our ancestors. Thus in The Rape of Lucrece : And the conceited painter was so nice.'