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Hor. What 's that, my
lord? Ham. Dost thou think, Alexander looked o'this fashion i' the earth?
Hor. E'en so.
Ham. To what base uses we may return, Horatio! Why may not imagination trace the noble dust of Alexander, till he find it stopping a bung-hole?
Hor. 'Twere to consider too curiously, to consider so. Ham. No, faith, not a jot; but to follow him thither with modesty enough, and likelihood to lead it: As thus; Alexander died, Alexander was buried, Alexander returneth to dust; the dust is earth; of earth we make loam: And why of that loam, whereto he was converted, might they not stop a beer-barrel?
Imperious Cæsar, dead and turn'd to clay,
Should patch a wall to expel the winter's flaw!1
LAERTES, and Mourners following; King, Queen,
their Trains, &c. The queen, the courtiers: Who is this they follow?. And with such maimed rites!2 This doth betoken,
to this favour -] i.e. to this countenance or complexion.
Malone. 9 Imperious Cæsar, ] Thus the quarto, 1604. The editor of the folio substituted imperial, not knowing that imperious was used in the same sense. See Vol. XII, p. 152, n. 9; and Cymbeline, Act IV, sc. ii. There are other instances in the folio of a familiar term being substituted in the room of a more ancient word. See p. 252, n. 7. Malone.
winter's Aaw!] Winter's blast. Johnson. So, in Marius and Sylla, 1594:
no doubt this stormy flaw, “ That Neptune sent to cast us on this shore.” The quartos read-to expel the water's flaw. Steevens.
See Vol. X, p. 191, n. 8. A flaw meant a sudden gust of wind. So, in Florio's Italian Dictionary, 1598: “Groppo, a flaw, or berrie of wind.” See also Cotgrave's Dictionary, 1611: “ Lis de vent, a gust or flaw of wind.” Malone.
maimed rites'] Imperfect obsequies. Johnson.
The corse, they follow, did with desperate hand
Laer. What ceremony else?
That is Laertes,
Laer. What ceremony else?
1 Priest. Her obsequies have been as far enlarg'd
3 Fordo its own life.] To fordo is to undo, to destroy. So, in Othello:
this is the night “ That either makes me, or fordoes me quite." Again, in Acolastus, a comedy, 1529: “ wolde to God it might be leful for me to fordoo myself, or to make an ende of me.”
some estate :) Some person of high rank." Johnson. See Vol. XII. p. 78, n. 5. Malone. 5 1 Priest.] This Priest in the old quarto is called Doctor.
Steevens. 6 Her obsequies have been as far enlarg’d
As we have warranty:] Is there any allusion here to the coroner's warrant, directed to the minister and church-wardens of a parish, and permitting the body of a person, who comes to an untimely end, to receive christian burial? Whulley.
allow'd her virgin crants,] Evidently corrupted from chants, which is the true word. A specific rather than a generic term being here required to answer to maiden strewments.
Warburton. allow'd her virgin crants,] Thus the quarto, 1604. For this unusual word the editor of the first folio substituted rites. By a more attentive examination and comparison of the quarto copies and the folio, Dr. Johnson, I have no doubt, would have been convinced that this and many other changes in the folio were not made by Shakspeare, as iš suggested in the following note. Malone.
I have been informed by an anonymous correspondent, that crants is the German word for garlands, and I suppose it was retained by us from the Saxons. To carry garlands before the bier of a maiden, and to hang them over her grave, is still the practice in rural parishes.
Her maiden strewments, and the bringing home
Laer. Must there no more be done?
No more be done!
Lay her i' the earth;-
What, the fair Ophelia!
O, treble woe
[Leaps into the Gravè.
Crants therefore was the original word, which the author, discovering to be provincial, and perhaps not understood, changed to a term more intelligible, but less proper. Maiden rites give no certain or definitive image. He might have put maiden wreaths, or maiden garlands, but he perhaps bestowed no thought upon it; and neither genius nor practice will always supply a hasty writer with the most proper diction. Fohnson.
In Minsheu's Dictionary, see Beades, where roosen krants means sertum rosarium; and such is the name of a character in this play. Tollet.
The names-Rosenkrantz and Gyldenstiern occur frequently in Rostgaard's Delicia Poetarum Danorum. Steevens.
bell and burial.] Burial, here signifies interment in consecrated ground. Warburton.
9 To sing a requiem,] A requiem, is a mass performed in
e tumulo, fortunataque favilla,
Now pile your dust upon the quick and dead;
Ham. [advancing What is he, whose grief
[Leaps into the Grave. Laer.
The devil take thy soul!
[Grappling with him.
King. Pluck them asunder,
Good my lord, be quiet.
Grave. Ham. Why, I will fight with him upon this theme, Until my eyelids will no longer wag.
Queen. O my son! what theme?
Ham. I lov’d Ophelia; forty thousand brothers
King. O, he is mad, Laertes.
Ham. 'Zounds, show me what thou ’lt do:
self? Woul't drink up Esil ? eat a crocodile ?3
2 All. &c.] This is restored from the quartos. Steevens. 3 Woult drink up Esil? eat a crocodile?] This word has through all the editions been distinguished by Italick characters, as if it were the proper name of some river; and so, I dare say, all the editors have from time to time understood it to be. But then this must be some river in Denmark; and there is none there so called ; nor is there any near it in name, that I know of but Yssel, froin which the province of Overyssel derives its title in the German Flanders. Besides, Hamlet is not proposing any impossibilities to Laertes, as the drinking up a river would be: but
I 'll do 't-Dost thou come here to whine?
he rather seems to mean,-Wilt thou resolve to do things the most shocking and distasteful to human nature ; and, behold, I am as resolute. I am persuaded the poet wrote:
Wilt drink up Eisel ? eat a crocodile ? i.e. Wilt thou swallow down large draughts of vinegar? The proposition, indeed, is not very grand: but the doing it might be as distasteful and unsavoury as eating the flesh of a crocodile. And now there is neither an impossibility, nor an anticlimax: and the lowness of the idea is in some measure removed by the uncommon term. Theobald. Sir T. Hanmer has,
Wilt drink up Nile? or eat a crocodile ? Hamlet certainly meant (for he says he will rant) to dare Laertes to attempt any thing, however difficult or unnatural; and might safely promise to follow the example his antagonist was to set, in draining the channel of a river, or trying his teeth on an animal whose scales are supposed to be impenetrable. Had Shakspeare meant to make Hamlet say~Wilt thou drink vinegar? he probably would not have used the term drink up; which means, totally to exhaust; neither is that challenge very magnificent, which only provokes an adversary to hazard a fit of the heart-burn or the colick.
The commentator's Yssell would serve Hamlet's turn or mine. This river is twice mentioned by Stowe, p. 735: “ It standeth a good distance from the river Issell, but hath a sconce on Issell of incredible strength.” Again, by Drayton, in the 24th Song of his Polyolbion :
“ The one o'er Isell's banks the ancient Saxons taught;
“ At Over-Isell rests, the other did apply:And in King Richard II, a thought, in part the same, occurs, Act Il, sc. ii :
the task he undertakes “ Is numb’ring sands, and drinking oceans dry.” But in an old Latin account of Denmark and the neighbouring provinces, I find the names of several rivers little differing from Esil, or Eisell, in spelling or pronunciation. Such are the Essa, the Oesil, and some others. The word, like many more, may indeed be irrecoverably corrupted; but, I must add, that few authors later than Chaucer or Skelton made use of eysel for vinegar: nor has Shakspeare employed it in any other of his plays. The poet might have written the Weisel, a considerable river which falls into the Baltick ocean, and could not be unknown to any prince of Denmark. Steevens.
Woult is a contraction of wouldest, [wouldest thou] and perhaps ought rather to be written woul'st. The quarto, 1604, has esil. In the folio the word is spelt esile. Eisil or eisel is vinegar. The word is used by Chaucer, and Skelton, and Sir Thomas More, Works, p. 21, edit. 1557 :