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The Tragedie of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark A Study with the Text of the Folio of 1623 online

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should a prince make?']

[Footnote 8: _1st Q._:

For hee doth keep you as an Ape doth nuttes,
In the corner of his Iaw, first mouthes you,
Then swallowes you:]

[Footnote 9: Here most modern editors insert, '_so, haply, slander_'.
But, although I think the Poet left out this obscure passage merely from
dissatisfaction with it, I believe it renders a worthy sense as it
stands. The antecedent to _whose_ is _friends_: _cannon_ is nominative
to _transports_; and the only difficulty is the epithet _poysned_
applied to _shot_, which seems transposed from the idea of an
_unfriendly_ whisper. Perhaps Shakspere wrote _poysed shot_. But taking
this as it stands, the passage might be paraphrased thus: 'Whose
(favourable) whisper over the world's diameter (_from one side of the
world to the other_), as level (_as truly aimed_) as the cannon (of an
evil whisper) transports its poisoned shot to his blank (_the white
centre of the target_), may shoot past our name (so keeping us clear),
and hit only the invulnerable air.' ('_the intrenchant air_': _Macbeth_,
act v. sc. 8). This interpretation rests on the idea of
over-condensation with its tendency to seeming confusion - the only fault
I know in the Poet - a grand fault, peculiarly his own, born of the
beating of his wings against the impossible. It is much as if, able to
think two thoughts at once, he would compel his phrase to utter them at

[Footnote 10:

for the harlot king
Is quite beyond mine arm, out of the blank
And level of my brain, plot-proof;

_The Winter's Tale_, act ii. sc. 3.

My life stands in the level of your dreams,

_Ibid_, act iii. sc. 2.]

[Footnote 11: two _ff_ for two long _ss_.]

[Page 186]

_Ham._ I am glad of it: a knavish speech
sleepes in a foolish eare.

_Rosin._ My Lord, you must tell us where the
body is, and go with us to the King.

_Ham._ The body is with the King, but the King
is not with the body.[1] The King, is a thing - -

_Guild._ A thing my Lord?

_Ham._ Of nothing[2]: bring me to him, hide
Fox, and all after.[3] _Exeunt_[4]

_Enter King._ [Sidenote: _King, and two or three._]

_King._ I have sent to seeke him, and to find the bodie:
How dangerous is it that this man goes loose:[5]
Yet must not we put the strong Law on him:
[Sidenote: 212] Hee's loved of the distracted multitude,[6]
Who like not in their iudgement, but their eyes:
And where 'tis so, th'Offenders scourge is weigh'd
But neerer the offence: to beare all smooth, and euen,
[Sidenote: neuer the]
This sodaine sending him away, must seeme
[Sidenote: 120] Deliberate pause,[7] diseases desperate growne,
By desperate appliance are releeved,
Or not at all. _Enter Rosincrane._
[Sidenote: _Rosencraus and all the rest._]
How now? What hath befalne?

_Rosin._ Where the dead body is bestow'd my Lord,
We cannot get from him.

_King._ But where is he?[8]

_Rosin._ Without my Lord, guarded[9] to know your pleasure.

_King._ Bring him before us.

_Rosin._ Hoa, Guildensterne? Bring in my Lord.
[Sidenote: _Ros._ How, bring in the Lord. _They enter._]

_Enter Hamlet and Guildensterne_[10]

_King._ Now _Hamlet_, where's _Polonius?_

[Footnote 1: 'The body is in the king's house, therefore with the king;
but the king knows not where, therefore the king is not with the body.']

[Footnote 2: 'A thing of nothing' seems to have been a common phrase.]

[Footnote 3: The _Quarto_ has not 'hide Fox, and all after.']

[Footnote 4: Hamlet darts out, with the others after him, as in a hunt.
Possibly there was a game called _Hide fox, and all after_.]

[Footnote 5: He is a hypocrite even to himself.]

[Footnote 6: This had all along helped to Hamlet's safety.]

[Footnote 7: 'must be made to look the result of deliberate reflection.'
Claudius fears the people may imagine Hamlet treacherously used, driven
to self-defence, and hurried out of sight to be disposed of.]

[Footnote 8: Emphasis on _he_; the point of importance with the king, is
_where he is_, not where the body is.]

[Footnote 9: Henceforward he is guarded, or at least closely watched,
according to the _Folio_ - left much to himself according to the
_Quarto_. 192.]

[Footnote 10: _Not in Quarto._]

[Page 188]

_Ham._ At Supper.

_King._ At Supper? Where?

_Ham._ Not where he eats, but where he is eaten,
[Sidenote: where a is]
a certaine conuocation of wormes are e'ne at him.
[Sidenote: of politique wormes[1]]
Your worm is your onely Emperor for diet. We
fat all creatures else to fat vs, and we fat our selfe
[Sidenote: ourselves]
for Magots. Your fat King, and your leane
Begger is but variable seruice to dishes, but to one
[Sidenote: two dishes]
Table that's the end.


_King._ What dost thou meane by this?[2]

_Ham._ Nothing but to shew you how a King
may go a Progresse[3] through the guts of a Begger.[4]

_King._ Where is _Polonius_.

_Ham._ In heauen, send thither to see. If your
Messenger finde him not there, seeke him i'th other
place your selfe: but indeed, if you finde him not
[Sidenote: but if indeed you find him not within this]
this moneth, you shall nose him as you go vp the
staires into the Lobby.

_King._ Go seeke him there.

_Ham._ He will stay till ye come.
[Sidenote: A will stay till you]

_K._ _Hamlet_, this deed of thine, for thine especial safety
[Sidenote: this deede for thine especiall]
Which we do tender, as we deerely greeue
For that which thou hast done,[5] must send thee hence
With fierie Quicknesse.[6] Therefore prepare thy selfe,
The Barke is readie, and the winde at helpe,[7]
Th'Associates tend,[8] and euery thing at bent [Sidenote: is bent]
For England.

[Footnote A: _Here in the Quarto:_ -

_King_ Alas, alas.[9]

_Ham._ A man may fish with the worme that hath eate of a King, and eate
of the fish that hath fedde of that worme.]

[Footnote 1: - such as Rosincrance and Guildensterne!]

[Footnote 2: I suspect this and the following speech ought by the
printers to have been omitted also: without the preceding two speeches
of the Quarto they are not accounted for.]

[Footnote 3: a royal progress.]

[Footnote 4: Hamlet's philosophy deals much now with the worthlessness
of all human distinctions and affairs.]

[Footnote 5: 'and we care for your safety as much as we grieve for the
death of Polonius.']

[Footnote 6: 'With fierie Quicknesse.' _Not in Quarto._]

[Footnote 7: fair - ready to help.]

[Footnote 8: attend, wait.]

[Footnote 9: pretending despair over his madness.]

[Page 190]

_Ham._ For England?

_King._ I _Hamlet_.

_Ham._ Good.

_King._ So is it, if thou knew'st our purposes.

_Ham._ I see a Cherube that see's him: but [Sidenote: sees them,]
come, for England. Farewell deere Mother.

_King._ Thy louing Father _Hamlet_.

_Hamlet._ My Mother: Father and Mother is
man and wife: man and wife is one flesh, and so [Sidenote: flesh, so my]
my mother.[1] Come, for England. _Exit_

[Sidenote: 195] _King._ Follow him at foote,[2]
Tempt him with speed aboord:
Delay it not, He haue him hence to night.
Away, for euery thing is Seal'd and done
That else leanes on[3] th'Affaire pray you make hast.
And England, if my loue thou holdst at ought,
As my great power thereof may giue thee sense,
Since yet thy Cicatrice lookes raw and red[4]
After the Danish Sword, and thy free awe
Payes homage to vs[5]; thou maist not coldly set[6]
Our Soueraigne Processe,[7] which imports at full
By Letters conjuring to that effect [Sidenote: congruing]
The present death of _Hamlet_. Do it England,
For like the Hecticke[8] in my blood he rages,
And thou must cure me: Till I know 'tis done,
How ere my happes,[9] my ioyes were ne're begun.[10]
[Sidenote: ioyes will nere begin.]

[Sidenote: 274] [12]_Enter Fortinbras with an Armie._
[Sidenote: with his Army ouer the stage.]

_For._ Go Captaine, from me greet the Danish King,
Tell him that by his license, _Fortinbras_
[Sidenote: 78] Claimes the conueyance[13] of a promis'd March
[Sidenote: Craues the]
Ouer his Kingdome. You know the Rendeuous:[14]

[Footnote 1: He will not touch the hand of his father's murderer.]

[Footnote 2: 'at his heels.']

[Footnote 3: 'belongs to.']

[Footnote 4: 'as my great power may give thee feeling of its value,
seeing the scar of my vengeance has hardly yet had time to heal.']

[Footnote 5: 'and thy fear uncompelled by our presence, pays homage to

[Footnote 6: 'set down to cool'; 'set in the cold.']

[Footnote 7: _mandate_: 'Where's Fulvia's process?' _Ant. and Cl._, act
i. sc. 1. _Shakespeare Lexicon_.]

[Footnote 8: _hectic fever - habitual_ or constant fever.]

[Footnote 9: 'whatever my fortunes.']

[Footnote 10: The original, the _Quarto_ reading - '_my ioyes will nere
begin_' seems to me in itself better, and the cause of the change to be
as follows.

In the _Quarto_ the next scene stands as in our modern editions, ending
with the rime,

ô from this time forth,
My thoughts be bloody, or be nothing worth. _Exit_.

This was the act-pause, the natural end of act iii.

But when the author struck out all but the commencement of the scene,
leaving only the three little speeches of Fortinbras and his captain,
then plainly the act-pause must fall at the end of the preceding scene.
He therefore altered the end of the last verse to make it rime with the
foregoing, in accordance with his frequent way of using a rime before an
important pause.

It perplexes us to think how on his way to the vessel, Hamlet could fall
in with the Norwegian captain. This may have been one of Shakspere's
reasons for striking the whole scene out - but he had other and more
pregnant reasons.]

[Footnote 11: Here is now the proper close of the _Third Act_.]

[Footnote 12: _Commencement of the Fourth Act._

Between the third and the fourth passes the time Hamlet is away; for the
latter, in which he returns, and whose scenes are _contiguous_, needs no
more than one day.]

[Footnote 13: 'claims a convoy in fulfilment of the king's promise to
allow him to march over his kingdom.' The meaning is made plainer by the
correspondent passage in the _1st Quarto_:

Tell him that _Fortenbrasse_ nephew to old _Norway_,
Craues a free passe and conduct ouer his land,
According to the Articles agreed on:]

[Footnote 14: 'where to rejoin us.']

[Page 192]

If that his Maiesty would ought with vs,
We shall expresse our dutie in his eye,[1]
And let[2] him know so.

_Cap._ I will doo't, my Lord.

_For._ Go safely[3] on. _Exit._ [Sidenote: softly]


[4] _Enter Queene and Horatio_.
[Sidenote: _Enter Horatio, Gertrard, and a Gentleman_.]

_Qu._ I will not speake with her.

_Hor._[5] She is importunate, indeed distract, her [Sidenote: _Gent_.]
moode will needs be pittied.

_Qu_. What would she haue?

_Hor_. She speakes much of her Father; saies she heares
[Sidenote: _Gent_.]

[Footnote A: _Here in the Quarto_: -

_Enter Hamlet, Rosencraus, &c._

_Ham_. Good sir whose powers are these?

_Cap_. They are of _Norway_ sir.

_Ham_. How purposd sir I pray you?

_Cap_. Against some part of _Poland_.

_Ham_. Who commaunds them sir?

_Cap_. The Nephew to old _Norway, Fortenbrasse_.

_Ham_. Goes it against the maine of _Poland_ sir,
Or for some frontire?

_Cap_. Truly to speake, and with no addition,[6]
We goe to gaine a little patch of ground[7]
That hath in it no profit but the name
To pay fiue duckets, fiue I would not farme it;
Nor will it yeeld to _Norway_ or the _Pole_
A rancker rate, should it be sold in fee.

_Ham_. Why then the Pollacke neuer will defend it.

_Cap_. Yes, it is already garisond.

_Ham_. Two thousand soules, and twenty thousand duckets
Will not debate the question of this straw
This is th'Impostume of much wealth and peace,
That inward breakes, and showes no cause without
Why the man dies.[8] I humbly thanke you sir.

_Cap_. God buy you sir.

_Ros_. Wil't please you goe my Lord?

[Sidenote: 187, 195] _Ham_. Ile be with you straight, goe a little
[10]How all occasions[11] doe informe against me,

[Continued on next text page.]]

[Footnote 1: 'we shall pay our respects, waiting upon his person.']

[Footnote 2: 'let,' _imperative mood_.]

[Footnote 3: 'with proper precaution,' _said to his attendant

[Footnote 4: This was originally intended, I repeat, for the
commencement of the act. But when the greater part of the foregoing
scene was omitted, and the third act made to end with the scene before
that, then the small part left of the all-but-cancelled scene must open
the fourth act.]

[Footnote 5: Hamlet absent, we find his friend looking after Ophelia.
Gertrude seems less friendly towards her.]

[Footnote 6: exaggeration.]

[Footnote 7: - probably a small outlying island or coast-fortress, _not
far off_, else why should Norway care about it at all? If the word
_frontier_ has the meaning, as the _Shakespeare Lexicon_ says, of 'an
outwork in fortification,' its use two lines back would, taken
figuratively, tend to support this.]

[Footnote 8: The meaning may be as in the following paraphrase: 'This
quarrelling about nothing is (the breaking of) the abscess caused by
wealth and peace - which breaking inward (in general corruption), would
show no outward sore in sign of why death came.' Or it might be _forced_
thus: -

This is the imposthume of much wealth and peace.
That (which) inward breaks, and shows no cause without -
Why, the man dies!

But it may mean: - 'The war is an imposthume, which will break within,
and cause much affliction to the people that make the war.' On the other
hand, Hamlet seems to regard it as a process for, almost a sign of

[Footnote 9: Note his freedom.]

[Footnote 10: _See_ 'examples grosse as earth' _below_.]

[Footnote 11: While every word that Shakspere wrote we may well take
pains to grasp thoroughly, my endeavour to cast light on this passage is
made with the distinct understanding in my own mind that the author
himself disapproved of and omitted it, and that good reason is not
wanting why he should have done so. At the same time, if my student, for
this book is for those who would have help and will take pains to the
true understanding of the play, would yet retain the passage, I protest
against the acceptance of Hamlet's judgment of himself, except as
revealing the simplicity and humility of his nature and character. That
as often as a vivid memory of either interview with the Ghost came back
upon him, he should feel rebuked and ashamed, and vexed with himself,
is, in the morally, intellectually, and emotionally troubled state of
his mind, nowise the less natural that he had the best of reasons for
the delay because of which he _here_ so unmercifully abuses himself. A
man of self-satisfied temperament would never in similar circumstances
have done so. But Hamlet was, by nature and education, far from such
self-satisfaction; and there is in him besides such a strife and turmoil
of opposing passions and feelings and apparent duties, as can but rarely
rise in a human soul. With which he ought to side, his conscience is not
sure - sides therefore now with one, now with another. At the same time
it is by no means the long delay the critics imagine of which he is
accusing himself - it is only that the thing _is not done_.

In certain moods the action a man dislikes will _therefore_ look to him
the more like a duty; and this helps to prevent Hamlet from knowing
always how great a part conscience bears in the omission because of
which he condemns and even contemns himself. The conscience does not
naturally examine itself - is not necessarily self-conscious. In any
soliloquy, a man must speak from his present mood: we who are not
suffering, and who have many of his moods before us, ought to understand
Hamlet better than he understands himself. To himself, sitting in
judgment on himself, it would hardly appear a decent cause of, not to
say reason for, a moment's delay in punishing his uncle, that he was so
weighed down with misery because of his mother and Ophelia, that it
seemed of no use to kill one villain out of the villainous world; it
would seem but 'bestial oblivion'; and, although his reputation as a
prince was deeply concerned, _any_ reflection on the consequences to
himself would at times appear but a 'craven scruple'; while at times
even the whispers of conscience might seem a 'thinking too precisely on
the event.' A conscientious man of changeful mood wilt be very ready in
either mood to condemn the other. The best and rightest men will
sometimes accuse themselves in a manner that seems to those who know
them best, unfounded, unreasonable, almost absurd. We must not, I say,
take the hero's judgment of himself as the author's judgment of him. The
two judgments, that of a man upon himself from within, and that of his
beholder upon him from without, are not congeneric. They are different
in origin and in kind, and cannot be adopted either of them into the
source of the other without most serious and dangerous mistake. So
adopted, each becomes another thing altogether. It is to me probable
that, although it involves other unfitnesses, the Poet omitted the
passage chiefly from coming to see the danger of its giving occasion, or
at least support, to an altogether mistaken and unjust idea of his

[Page 194]

There's trickes i'th'world, and hems, and beats her heart,
Spurnes enuiously at Strawes,[1] speakes things in doubt,[2]
That carry but halfe sense: Her speech is nothing,[3]
Yet the vnshaped vse of it[4] doth moue
The hearers to Collection[5]; they ayme[6] at it,
[Sidenote: they yawne at]
And botch the words[7] vp fit to their owne thoughts

[_Continuation of quote from Quarto from previous text page_: -

And spur my dull reuenge. [8]What is a man
If his chiefe good and market of his time
Be but to sleepe and feede, a beast, no more;
Sure he that made vs with such large discourse[9]
Looking before and after, gaue vs not
That capabilitie and god-like reason
To fust in vs vnvsd,[8] now whether it be
[Sidenote: 52, 120] Bestiall obliuion,[10] or some crauen scruple
Of thinking too precisely on th'euent,[11]
A thought which quarterd hath but one part wisedom,
And euer three parts coward, I doe not know
Why yet I liue to say this thing's to doe,
Sith I haue cause, and will, and strength, and meanes
To doo't;[12] examples grosse as earth exhort me,
Witnes this Army of such masse and charge,
[Sidenote: 235] Led by a delicate and tender Prince,
Whose spirit with diuine ambition puft,
Makes mouthes at the invisible euent,
[Sidenote: 120] Exposing what is mortall, and vnsure,
To all that fortune, death, and danger dare,[13]
Euen for an Egge-shell. Rightly to be great,
Is not to stirre without great argument,
But greatly to find quarrell in a straw
When honour's at the stake, how stand I then
That haue a father kild, a mother staind,
Excytements of my reason, and my blood,
And let all sleepe,[14] while to my shame I see
The iminent death of twenty thousand men,
That for a fantasie and tricke[15] of fame
Goe to their graues like beds, fight for a plot
Whereon the numbers cannot try the cause,[16]
Which is not tombe enough and continent[17]
To hide the slaine,[18] ô from this time forth,
My thoughts be bloody, or be nothing worth.[19] _Exit._]

[Footnote 1: trifles.]

[Footnote 2: doubtfully.]

[Footnote 3: 'there is nothing in her speech.']

[Footnote 4: 'the formless mode of it.']

[Footnote 5: 'to gathering things and putting them together.']

[Footnote 6: guess.]

[Footnote 7: Ophelia's words.]

[Footnote 8: I am in doubt whether this passage from 'What is a man'
down to 'unused,' does not refer to the king, and whether Hamlet is not
persuading himself that it can be no such objectionable thing to kill
one hardly above a beast. At all events it is far more applicable to the
king: it was not one of Hamlet's faults, in any case, to fail of using
his reason. But he may just as well accuse himself of that too! At the
same time the worst neglect of reason lies in not carrying out its
conclusions, and if we cannot justify Hamlet in his delay, the passage
is of good application to him. 'Bestiall oblivion' does seem to connect
himself with the reflection; but how thoroughly is the thing intended by
such a phrase alien from the character of Hamlet!]

[Footnote 9: - the mental faculty of running hither and thither: 'We
look before and after.' _Shelley: To a Skylark_.]

[Footnote 10: - the forgetfulness of such a beast as he has just

[Footnote 11: - the _consequences_. The scruples that come of thinking
of the event, Hamlet certainly had: that they were _craven_ scruples,
that his thinking was too precise, I deny to the face of the noble
self-accuser. Is that a craven scruple which, seeing no good to result
from the horrid deed, shrinks from its irretrievableness, and demands at
least absolute assurance of guilt? or that 'a thinking too precisely on
the event,' to desire, as the prince of his people, to leave an un
wounded name behind him?]

[Footnote 12: This passage is the strongest there is on the side of the
ordinary misconception of the character of Hamlet. It comes from
himself; and it is as ungenerous as it is common and unfair to use such
a weapon against a man. Does any but St. Paul himself say he was the
chief of sinners? Consider Hamlet's condition, tormented on all sides,
within and without, and think whether this outbreak against himself be
not as unfair as it is natural. Lest it should be accepted against him,
Shakspere did well to leave it out. In bitter disappointment, both
because of what is and what is not, both because of what he has done and
what he has failed to do, having for the time lost all chance, with the
last vision of the Ghost still haunting his eyes, his last reproachful
words yet ringing in his ears, are we bound to take his judgment of
himself because it is against himself? Are we _bound_ to take any man's
judgment because it is against himself? I answer, 'No more than if it
were for himself.' A good man's judgment, where he is at all perplexed,
especially if his motive comes within his own question, is ready to be
against himself, as a bad man's is sure to be for himself. Or because he
is a philosopher, does it follow that throughout he understands himself?
Were such a man in cool, untroubled conditions, we might feel compelled
to take his judgment, but surely not here! A philosopher in such state
as Hamlet's would understand the quality of his spiritual operations
with no more certainty than another man. In his present mood, Hamlet
forgets the cogency of the reasons that swayed him in the other; forgets
that his uppermost feeling then was doubt, as horror, indignation, and
conviction are uppermost now. Things were never so clear to Hamlet as to

But how can he say he has strength and means - in the position in which
he now finds himself? I am glad to be able to believe, let my defence of
Hamlet against himself be right or wrong, that Shakspere intended the
omission of the passage. I lay nothing on the great lack of logic
throughout the speech, for that would not make it unfit for Hamlet in
such mood, while it makes its omission from the play of less consequence
to my general argument.]

[Footnote 13: _threaten_. This supports my argument as to the great
soliloquy - that it was death as the result of his slaying the king, or
attempting to do so, not death by suicide, he was thinking of: he
expected to die himself in the punishing of his uncle.]

[Footnote 14: He had had no chance but that when the king was on his

[Footnote 15: 'a fancy and illusion.']

[Footnote 16: 'which is too small for those engaged to find room to
fight on it.']

[Footnote 17: 'continent,' _containing space_.]

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Online LibraryGeorge MacDonaldThe Tragedie of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark A Study with the Text of the Folio of 1623 → online text (page 15 of 22)