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Pol. Though this be madness, yet there's method in it. [Aside.] Will you walk out of the air, my lord?
Ham. Into my grave?
Pol. Indeed, that is out o'the air.—How pregnant sometimes his replies are !6 a happiness that often madness hits on, which reason and sanity could not so pros. perously be delivered of. I will leave him, and suddenly' contrive the means of meeting between him and my daughter.-My honourable lord, I will most humbly take my leave of you.
Ham. You cannot, sir, take from me any thing that I will more willingly part withal; except my life, except my life, except my life.
Pol. Fare you well, my lord.
Enter ROSENCRANTZ' and GUILDENSTERN.
Ham. My excellent good friends! How dost thou, Guildenstern? Ah, Rosencrantz! Good lads, how do ye both ?
Ros. As the indifferent children of the earth.
Guil. Happy, in that we are not overhappy ;
Ham. Nor the soles of her shoe?
Ham. Then you live about her waist, or in the middle of her favours?
Guil. 'Faith, her privates we.
Han. In the secret parts of fortune? O, most true; she is a strumpet. What news?
How pregnant &c.] Pregnant is ready, dexterous, apt. So, in Twelfth Night :
and suddenly &c.] This and the greatest part of the two following lines are omitted in the quartos. Steevens.
Rosencrantz - ] There was an embassador of that name in England about the time when this play was written. Steevens.
Ras. None, my lord; but that the world 's grown honest.
Ham. Then is dooms-day near: But your news is not true. (Let me question more in particular: What have you, my good friends, deserved at the hands of fortune, that she sends you to prison hither?
Guil. Prison, my lord!
Ham. A goodly one; in which there are many confines wards, and dungeons; Denmark being one of the worst.
Ros. We think not so, my lord.
Ham. Why, then 'tis none to you; for there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so: to me it is a prison.
Ros. Why, then your ambition makes it one; 'tis too narrow for your mind.
Ham. O God! I could be bounded in a nut-shell, and count myself a king of infinite space; were it not that I have bad dreams.
Guil. Which dreams, indeed, are ambition ; for the very substance of the ambitious is merely the shadow of a dream.1
Ham. A dream itself is but a shadow.
Ros. Truly, and I hold ambition of so airy and light a quality, that it is but a shadow's shadow.
Ham. Then are our beggars, bodies;& and our monarchs, and outstretch'd heroes, the beggars' shadows: Shall we to the court? for, by my fay, I cannot reason.
Ros. Guil. We'll wait upon you.
9[Let me &c.] All within the crotchets is wanting in the quartos. Steevens.
the shadow of a dream.] Shakspeare has accidentally in. verted an expression of Pindar, that the state of humanity is rxsees ovag, the dream of a shadow. Fohnson. So, Davies :
“ Man's life is but a dreame, nay, less than so,
" A shadow of a dreame." Farmer. So, in the tragedy of Darius, 1603, by Lord Sterline:
“ Whose best was but the shadow of a dream.” Steevens.
Then are our beggars, bodies;] Shakspeare seems here to design a ridicule of those declamations against wealth and greatness, that seem to make happiness consist in poverty. Fohnson.
Ham. No such matter: I will not sort you with the rest of my servants ; for, to speak to you like an honest man, I am most dreadfully attended.] But in the beaten way of friendship, what make you at Elsinore?
Ros. To visit you, my lord; no other occasion.
Ham. Beggar that I am, I am even poor in thanks; but I thank you: and sure, dear friends, my thanks are too dear, a halfpenny.* Were you not sent for? Is it your own inclining? Is it a free visitation? Come, come; deal justly with me: come, come; nay, speak.
Guil. What should we say, my lord?
Ham. Any thing but to the purpose. You were sent for; and there is a kind of confession in your looks, which your modesties have not craft enough to colour: I know, the good king and queen have sent for you.
Ros. To what end, my lord ?
Ham. That you must teach me. But let me conjure you, by the rights of our fellowship, by the consonancy of our, youth, by the obligation of our ever-preserved love, and by what more dear a better proposer could charge you withal, be even and direct with me, whether you were sent for, or no? Ros. What say you?
[To Guil. Ham. Nay, then I have an eye of you ;4 [aside]—if you love me, hold not off.
Guil. My lord, we were sent for.
Ham. I will tell you, why; so shall my anticipation prevent your discovery, and your secrecy to the king and queen moult no feather. I have of late, (but, wherefore, I know not,) lost all my mirth, forgone all custom of exercises: and, indeed, it goes so heavily with my disposition, that this goodly frame, the earth, seems to me a steril promontory; this most excellent canopy, the air, look
too dear a halfpenny.) i. e. a halfpenny too dear: they are worth nothing. The modern editors read-at a halfpenny.
Malone. 4 Nay, then I have an eye of you ;] An eye of you means, I have a glimpse of your meaning. Steevens.
5 I have of late, &c.] This is an admirable description of a Footed melancholy sprung from thickness of blood; and artfully imagined to hide the true cause of his disorder from the penetration of these two friends, who were set over him as spies.
you, this brave o'erhanging firmament, this majestical roof fretted with golden fire,? why, it appears no other thing to me, than a foul and pestilent congregation of vapours. What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason ! how infinite in faculties ! in form, and moving, how express and admirable! in action, how like an angel! in apprehension, how like a god! the beauty of the world! the paragon of animals! And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust? man delights not menor woman neither; though, by your smiling, you seem to say so.
Ros. My lord, there was no such stuff in my thoughts.
Ham. Why did you laugh then, when I said, Man de.' light: not me?
Ros. To think, my lord, if you delight not in man, what lenten entertainments the players shall receive from you: we coted them on the way;' and hither are they coming, to offer you service.
this brave o'erhanging firmament,] Thus the quarto. The folio reads,--this brave o'er-hanging, this &c. Steevens.
this most excellent canopy, the air,--this majestical roof fretted with golden fire,] So, in our author's 21st Sonnet:
“ As those gold candles, fix'd in heaven's air.” Again, in The Merchant of Venice:
Look, how the floor of heaven “ Is thick inlaid with patins of bright gold !” Malone.
- lenten entertainment ] i. e. sparing, like the entertain. ments given in Lent. So, in The Duke's Mistress, by Shirley, 1631:
to maintain you with bisket,
we coted them on the way;] To cote is to overtake. I meet with this word in The Return from Parnassus, a comedy, 1606:
marry we presently coted and outstript them.” Again, in Golding's Ovid’s Metamorphosis, 1587, Book II:
“ With that Hippomenes coted her.” Again, in Warner's Albion's England, 1602, B. VI, chap. xxx:
“ Gods and goddesses for wantonness out-coted." Again, in Drant's translation of Horace's satires, 1567:
“ For he that thinks to coat all men, and all to overgoe.” Chapman has more than once used the word in his version of the 23d Iliad.
See Vol. IV, p. 80, n. 7.
In the laws of coursing, says Mr. Tollet, “ cote is when a greyhound goes endways by the side of his fellow, and gives the hare a turn.” This quotation seems to point out the etymology of the verb to be from the French côté, the side. Steevens.
Ham. He that plays the king, shall be welcome; his majesty shall have tribute of me: the adventurous knight shall use his foil, and target: the lover shall not sigh gratis; the humorous man shall end his part in peace :1 the clown shall make those laugh, whose lungs are tickled o' the sere;' and the lady shall say her mind
shall end his part in peace:] After these words the folio adds—the clown shall make those laugh whose lungs are tickled o’the
the clown shall make those laugh whose lungs are tickled oʻthe sere;] i. e. those who are asthmatical, and to whom laughter is most uneasy. This is the case (as I am told) with those whose lungs are tickled by the sere or serum: but about these words I am neither very confident, nor very solicitous. Will the following passage in The Tempest be of use to any future commentator?
to minister occasion to these gentlemen, who are of such sensible and nimble lungs, that they always use to laugh at
The word seare occurs as unintelligibly in an ancient Dialogue between the Comen Secretary and Felowsy, touchynge the unstableness of Harlottes, bl. 1. no date:
“ And wyll byde whysperynge in the eare,
Thynk ye lier tayle is not light of the seare?” The sense of the adjective sere is not more distinct in Chap. man's version of the 22d Iliad:
“ Hector, thou only pestilence, in all mortalitie,
“ To my sere spirits.” See p. 102, 11. 8. A sere is likewise the talon of a hawk. Steevens.
These words are not in the quarto. I am by no means satis. fied with the explanation given, though I have nothing satisfactory to propose. I believe Hamlet only means, that the clown shall make those laugh who have a disposition to laugh; who are pleased with their entertainment. That no asthmatic disease was in contemplation, may be inferred from both the words used, tickled and lungs ; each of which seems to have a relation to laughter, and the latter to have been considered by Shakspeare, as (if I may so express myself,) its natural seat. So, in Coriolanus :
with a kind of smile,
When I did hear
" My lungs began to crow like chanticleer.” Othe sere or of the sere, means, I think, by the sere; but the word sere I am unable to explain, and suspect it to be corrupt. Perhaps we should read the clown shall inake those laugh whose lungs are tickled o the scene, i. e. by the scene. A similar corrup. VOL. XV.