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For we will fetters put upon * this fear,
We will haste us. [E.reunt ROSENCRANTZ and GUILDENSTERN.
Enter POLONIUS. 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, Since nature makes them partial", should o'erhear The speech, of vantage *. Fare you well, my liege: I'll call upon you ere you go to bed, And tell you what I know. KING.
Thanks, dear my lord.
[Erit 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 ” ;
* Quarto, about. 2 Behind the arras I'll convey myself,] The arras-hangings, in Shakspeare's time, were hung at such a distance from the walls, that a person might easily stand behind them unperceived.
MALONE. See Henry IV. P. I. Act II. Sc. IV. Steevens. 3 Since nature makes them partial, &c.]
Matres omnes filiis
Steevens. 1- of vantage.] By some opportunity of secret observation.
WARBURTON. s Though inclination be as sharp as will ;] Dr. Warburton would read :
“ Though inclination be as sharp as th' ill.” The old reading is—as sharp as will. Steevens.
My stronger guilt defeats my strong intent ;
* Quarto, pardon.
I have followed the easier emendation of Mr. Theobald, received by Sir T. Hanmer : i. e. as 'twill. Johnson.
Will is command, direction. Thus, Ecclesiasticus, xliii. 16 : ' - and at his will the south wind bloweth.” The King says, his mind is in too great confusion to pray, even though his inclination were as strong as the command which requires that duty.
Steevens. What the King means to say, is, “That though he was not only willing to pray, but strongly inclined to it, yet his intention was defeated by his guilt.”
The distinction I have stated between inclination and will, is supported by the following passage in the Laws of Candy, where Philander says to Erato :
“ I have a will, I'm sure, howe'er my heart
May play the coward.” M. Mason. The distinction is philosophically correct. I may will to do a thing because my understanding points it out to me as right, although I am not inclined to it. See Locke on the Human Understanding, b. 2, ch. 21, sec. 30. Boswell.
6 May one he pardon'd, and retain the offence?] He that does not amend what can be amended, retains his offence. The King kept the crown from the right heir. Johnson.
A similar passage occurs in Philaster, where the King, who had
In the corrupted currents of this world,
[Retires and kneels. Enter HAMLET. Ham. Now might I do it, pat, now he is pray
ingo; And now I'll do't ;-and so he goes to heaven : And so am I reveng'd ? That would be scann'd':
usurped the crown of Sicily, and is praying to heaven for forgiveness, says :
But how can I
M. MASON. 7 Yet what can it, when one can NOT repent?] What can repentance do for a man that cannot be penitent, for a man who has only part of penitence, distress of conscience, without the other part, resolution of amendment ? Johnson.
8 O limed soul;] This alludes to bird-lime. Shakspeare uses the same word again, in King Henry VI. P. II. :
“ Madam, myself have lim'd a bush for her.” Steevens. 9 — PAT, now he is praying ;] Thus the folio. The quartos read—but now, &c. STEEVENS.
1 - That would be scann'd:] i. e. that should be considered, estimated. STEEVENS.
A villain kills my father; and, for that,
* First folio, fresh.
? I, his sole son, do this same villain send -] The folio reads-foule son, a reading apparently corrupted from the quarto. The meaning is plain. •1, his only son, who am bound to punish his murderer.' Johnson.
3 — HIRE and SALARY,] Thus the folio. The quartos read“ base and silly.” Steevens. 4 He took my father grossly, FULL OF BREAD ;
With all his crimes broad blown,] The uncommon expression, full of bread, our poet borrowed from the sacred writings : “ Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom; pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy." Ezekiel, xvi. 49. MALONE.
s And, how his audit stands, who knows, save heaven ?] As it appears from the Ghost's own relation that he was in purgatory, Hamlet's doubt could only be how long he had to continue there.
Ritson. 6 Up, sword; and know thou a more horrid nent:) To hent is used by Shakspeare for to seize, to catch, to lay hold on. Hent is, therefore, hold, or seizure. Lay hold on him, sword, at a more horrid time.' Johnson. i 7 When he is drunk, asleep, or in her age;
Or in the incestuous pleasures o' h's bed ;) So, in Marston's Insatiate Countess, 1613 :
At gaming, swearing ®; or about some act
“ Didst thou not kill him drunk ?
STEEVENS. 8 At gaming, swearing;] Thus the folio. The quarto 1604 reads
game, a swearing,” &c. MALONE.
that his heels may kick at heaven ;] So, in Heywood's Silver Age, 1613 : " Whose heels tript up, kick'd gainst the firmament.”
STEEVENS. 1 As hell, whereto it goes.] This speech, in which Hamlet, represented as a virtuous character, is not content with taking blood for blood, but contrives damnation for the man that he would punish, too horrible to be read or to be uttered.
Johnson. This speech of Hamlet's, as Johnson observes, is horrible indeed; yet some moral may be extracted from it, as all his subsequent calamities were owing to this savage refinement of revenge, M. MASON.
That a sentiment so infernal should have met with imitators, may excite surprize; and yet the same fiend-like disposition is shown by Lodowick, in Webster's White Devil, or Vittoria Corombona, 1612:
to have poison'd
“ His soul into the hazard !"
“ I then should strike his body with his soul,
“ And sink them both together." Again, in the third of Beaumont and Fletcher's Four Plays in One : “ No: take him dead drunk now, without repentance.”
STEEVENS. The same horrid thought has been adopted by Lewis Machin, in The Dumb Knight, 1633 :
“ Nay, but be patient, smooth your brow a little,
you shall take them as they clip each other;