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, keeps himself in clouds,
And wants not buzzars to infect his ear
With pestilent specches of his father's death;
Wherein necessity, of matter beggar'd,6
Will nothing stick our person to arraign
In ear and ear. O my dear Gertrude, this,
Like to a murdering piece, in many places

5 Feeds on his wonder,] The folio reads

Keeps on his wonder, The quarto

Feeds on this wonder, Thus the true reading is picked out from between them. Sir T. Hanmer reads unnecessarilyFeeds on his anger,

Johnson. 6 Wherein necessity, &c.] Sir T. Hanmer reads:

Whence animosity of matter beggard. He seems not to bave understood the connection. Wherein, that is, in which pestilent speeches, necessity, or the obligation of an accuser to support his charge, will nothing stick, &c. Johnson.

.? Like to a murdering piece,] Such a piece as assassins use, with many barrels. It is necessary to apprehend this, to see the justness of the similitude. Warburton.

The same term occurs in a passage in The Double Marriage of Beaumont and Fletcher:

And like a murdering piece, aims not at one,

“ But all that stand within the dangerous level.” Again, in All's Lost by Lust, a tragedy by Rowley, 1633:

“ If thou fail'st too, the king comes with a murdering piece,

“ In the rear.” Again, in A Fair Quarrel, by Midddleton and Rowley, 1622:

“ There is not such another murdering piece

“ In all the stock of calumny." It appears from a passage in Smith's Sea Grammer, 1627, that it was a piece of ordnance used in ships of war: “ A case-shot is any kinde of small bullets, nailes, old iron, or the like, to put into the case, to shoot out of the ordnances or murderers; these will doe much mischiefe." &c. Steevens.

A murdering-piece was the specifick term in Shakspeare's time for a piece of ordnance, or small cannon. The word is found in Cole’s Latin Dictionary, 1679, and rendered, “tormentum murale."

The small cannon, which are, or were used in the forecastle, half-cleck, or steerage of a ship of war, were within this century, called murdering-pieces. Malone.

Perhaps what is now, from the manner of it, called a swivel.

Gives me superfluous death!

[.A Noise within. Queen.

Alack! what noise is this?

Enter a Gentleman.
King. Attend.
Where are my Switzers ?! 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,2


It is mentioned in Sir T. Roes Voiage to the E. Indies, at the end of Della Valle's Travels, 1665: “. the East India company had a very little pinnace...mann'd she was with ten men, and had only one small murdering-piece within her.” Probably it was never charged with a single ball, but always withi shot, pieces of old iron, &c. Ritson.

8 Alack! &c.] This speech of the Queen is omitted in the quartos. Steevens.

my Switzers?] I have observed in many of our old plays, that the guards attendant on Kings are called Switzers, and that without any regard to the country where the scene lies. Thus, in Beaumont and Fletcher's Noble Gentleman, Act III, sc.i:

was it not
“Some place of gain, as clerk to the great band
“ Of marrow-bones, that the people call the Switzers?

“ Men made of beef and sarcenet?Reed.
The reason is, because the Swiss in the time of our poet, as
at present, were hired to fight the battles of other nations. So,
in Nashe's Christ's Teares over Jerusalem, 4to. 1594: “ Law,
logicke, and the Switzers, may be hired to fight for any body."

Malone. 1. The ocean, overpeering of his list,] The lists are the barriers which the spectators of a tournament must not pass. Johnson.

See note on Othello, Act IV, sc. i. Steevens.

List, in this place, only signifies boundary, i. e. the shore. So, in King Henry IV, P. II:

“ The very list, the very utmost bound

« Of all our fortunes.” The selvage of cloth was in both places, I believe, in our author's thoughts. Malone.

2 The ratifiers and props of every word,] By word is here meant a declaration, or proposal. It is determined to this sense, by the inference it hath to what had just preceded: VOL. XV.



They cry, Choose we; Laertes shall be king!
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, you false Danish dogs.3
King. The doors are broke.

[ Noise within. Enter LAERTES, armed; Danes following. Laer. Where is this king ?-Sirs, stand you all with.

out. Dan. No, let 's come Laer.

I pray you, give me leave. Dan. We will, we will. [They retire without the Door.

Laer. I thank you:-keep the door.-0 thou vile king, Give me my father. Queen.

Calmly, good Laertes. Laer. That drop of blood, that's calm, proclaims me


“ The rabble call him lord,” &c. This acclamation, which is the word here spoken of, was made without regard to antiquity, or received custom, whose concurrence, however, is necessarily required to confer validity and stability in every proposal of this kind. Heath.

Sir T. Hanmer would transpose this line and the next. Dr. Warburton proposes to read, ward; and Dr. Johnson, weal, instead of word. I should be rather for reading, work. Tyrwhitt.

In the first folio there is only a comma at the end of the above line; and will not the passage bear this construction ?—The rab. ble call him lord, and as if the world were now but to begin, and as if the ancient custom of hereditary succession were unknown, they, the ratifiers and props of every word he utters, cry, Let us make choice, that Laertes shall be king. Tollet.

This construction might certainly be admitted, and the ratifiers and props of every word might be understood to be applied to the rabble mentioned in a preceding line, without Sir T. Hanmer's transposition of this and the following line; but there is no authority for what Mr. Tollet adds, “of every word he [Laertes] utters,” for the poet has not described Laertes as having uttered a word. If, therefore, the rabble are called the ratifiers and props of every word, we must understand, “ of every word uttered by themselves:” which is so tame, that it would be unjust to our poet to suppose that to have been his meaning. Ratifers, &c. refer not to the people, but to custom and antiquity, which the speaker says are the true ratifiers and props of every word. The last word however of the line may well be suspected to be corrupt; and Mr. Tyrwhitt has probably suggested the true reading.

Malone. 3 0, this is counter, you false Danish dogs.] Hounds run counter when they trace the trail backwards. Johnson.

Cries, cuckold, to my father; brands the harlot
Even here, between the chaste unsmirched 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 hedge a king,
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, Gertrude;
Speak, man.
Laer. Where is my father?


But not by him.
King. Let him demand his fill.

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,
Let come what comes; only I 'll be reveng'd
Most throughly 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. King.

Will you know them then?

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unsmirched brow,] i. e. clean, not defiled. To besmirch, our author uses, Act I, sc. v, and again in King Henry V, Act IV,

This seems to be an allusion to a proverb often introduced in the old comedies. Thus, in The London Prodigal, 1605: “ true as the skin between any man's brows."

The same phrase is also found in Much Ado about Nothing, Act Ill, se. v. Steevens. 5 That both the worlds I give to negligence,] So, in Macbeth: “ But let the frame of things disjoint, both the worlds suf.

fer.” Steevens.

Laer. To his good friends thus wide I 'll ope my arms;
And, like the kind life-rend'ring pelican,
Repast them with my blood.

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' in grief for
It shall as level to your judgment ’pear,
As day does to your eye.

Danes. (vithin] Let her come in.

Laer. How now! what noise is that?
Enter OPHELIA, fantastically dressed, with Straws and

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 in love: and, where 'tis fine,
It sends some precious instance of itself


" And syng



life-rend'ring pelican,] So, in the ancient Interlude of Nature, bl. 1. no date : “Who taught the cok hys watche-howres to observe,

corage wyth shryll throte on hye? “Who taught the pellycan her tender hart to carve ?

“ For she nolde suffer her byrdys to dye ?" Again, in the old play of King Leir, 1605 :

“ I am as kind as is the pelican,

“ That kils itselfe, to save her young ones lives.” It is almost needless to add that this account of the bird is ene tirely fabulous. Steevens.

most sensibly - ] Thus the quarto, 1604. The falio, following the error of a later quarto, reads-most sensible.

Malone to your judgment ’pear,] So the quarto. The folio, and all the later editions, read:

to your judgment pierce, less intelligibly. Johnson.

This elision of the verb to appear, is common to Beaumont and Fletcher, So, in The Maid in the Mill:

“ They 'pear so handsomely, I will go forward.” Again :

“ And where they 'pear so excellent in little,
“ They will but flame in great." Steedens.


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