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The soul of Nero enter this firm bosom :
I will speak daggers to her, but use none;
SCENE III. A Room in the Same.
Enter the King, ROSENCRANTZ, and GUILDEN
King. I like him not; nor stands it safe with us, To let his madness range. Therefore, prepare you: I your commission will forthwith despatch, And he to England shall along with you. The terms of our estate may not endure Hazard so dangerous, as doth hourly grow Out of his lunacies.1
Guil. We will ourselves provide. Most holy and religious fear it is, To keep those many many bodies safe, That live, and feed, upon your majesty.
Ros. The single and peculiar life is bound, With all the strength and armour of the mind, To keep itself from 'noyance; but much more That spirit, upon whose weal depend and rest The lives of many. The cease of majesty Dies not alone; but like a gulf doth draw
44 To shend is to injure, whether by reproof, blows, or otherwise. Shakespeare generally uses shent for reproved, threatened with angry words. "To give his words seals" is therefore to carry his punishment beyond reproof. The allusion is the sealing a deed to render it effective.
1 So the folio; the quartos read "so near us" instead of "so dangerous," and brows instead of lunacies.
What's near it with it: it is a massy wheel,
For we will fetters put upon this fear,
We will haste us. [Exeunt.
Pol. My lord, he's going to his mother's closet. Behind the arras I'll convey myself,
To hear the process: I'll warrant, she'll tax him home;
And, as you said, and wisely was it said,
'Tis meet that some more audience than a mother,
Thanks, dear my lord. [Exit POLONIUS. O! my offence is rank, it smells to heaven; It hath the primal eldest curse upon't, A brother's murder! - Pray can I not, Though inclination be as sharp as will: My stronger guilt defeats my strong intent;
2 "Speech of vantage" probably means "speech having the advantage of a mother's partiality."
3 That is, "though I were not only willing, but strongly inclined to pray, my guilt would prevent me.”
And, like a man to double business bound,
And what's in prayer, but this two-fold force,-
Or pardon'd, being down? Then, I'll look up; My fault is past. But, O! what form of prayer Can serve my turn? Forgive me my foul murder! That cannot be; since I am still possess'd
Be soft as sinews of the new-born babe :
Of those effects for which I did the murder,
[Retires and kneels.
4 That is, caught as with birdlime. See 2 Henry VI., Act i. sc. 3, note 6.
This speech well marks the difference between crime and
Ham. Now might I do it, pat, now he is praying; And now I'll do't:- and so he goes to heaven; And so am I reveng'd? That would be scann'd:" A villain kills my father; and, for that, I, his sole son, do this same villain send To heaven.
Why, this is hire and salary, not revenge."
Up, sword; and know thou a more horrid hent:
guilt of habit. The conscience here is still admitted to audience. Nay, even as an audible soliloquy, it is far less improbable than is supposed by such as have watched men only in the beaten road of their feelings. But the final -"All may be well!" is remarkable; the degree of merit attributed by the self-flattering soul to its own struggles, though baffled, and to the indefinite half promise, half command, to persevere in religious duties. — COLE
6 That requires consideration. In the first line of this speech. the quartos read "but now 'a is a praying," instead of "pat, now he is praying." And in the fifth line, the folio has foul instead of sole.
7 Thus the folio; the quartos have "base and silly" instead of "hire and salary."
8 That is, more horrid seizure, grasp, or hold. Hent was often used as a verb in the same sense. See The Winter's Tale, Act iv. sc. 2, note 19.- Dr. Johnson and others have exclaimed against what Hamlet here says, as showing a thorough-paced and unmitigable fiendishness of spirit. Coleridge much more justly regards the motives assigned for sparing the king, as "the marks of reluctance and procrastination." At all events, that they are not Hamlet's real motives, is evident from their very extravagance.
When he is drunk, asleep, or in his rage;
The King rises and advances.
King. My words fly up, my thoughts remain below:
Words, without thoughts, never to heaven go.
SCENE IV. Another Room in the Same.
Enter the Queen and POLONIUS.
Pol. He will come straight. Look, you lay home to him;
Tell him, his pranks have been too broad to bear with;
And that your grace hath screen'd and stood be
Much heat and him. I'll silence me e'en here. 'Pray you, be round with him.
Ham. [Within.] Mother, mother, mother!1
With the full conviction that he ought to kill the king, he joins a deep instinctive moral repugnance to the deed: and he here flies off to an ideal revenge, in order to quiet his filial feelings without violating his conscience; effecting a compromise between them, by adjourning a purpose which, as a man, he dare not execute, nor, as a son, abandon. He afterwards asks Horatio," Is't not perfect conscience, to quit him with this arm?" which confirms the view here taken, as it shows that even then his mind was not at rest on that score.
This speech is found only in the folio.