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Queen. O Hamlet! thou hast cleft my heart in twain.
Ham. O, throw away the worser part of it,
Ecstasy in this place, and many others, means a temporary alienation of mind, a fit. So, in Eliosto Libidinoso, a novel, by John Hinde, 1606: “ that bursting out of an ecstasy wherein she had long stood, like one beholding Medusa’s head, lamenting.” &c. Steevens. See Vol. VII, p. 135, n. 6. Malone.
skin and film the ulcerous place;] The same indelicate allusion occurs in Measure for Measure:
“ That skins the vice o' the top.” Steevens.
do not spread the compost &c.] Do not, by any new indulgence, heighten your former offences. Johnson.
curb – ] That is, bend and truckle, Fr. courber. So, in Pierce Plowman:
“Then I courbid on my knees,” &c. Steevens. 8 That monster, castom, who all sense doth eat
Of habit's devil, is angel yet in this.] This passage is left out in the two elder folios: it is certainly corrupt, and the players did the discreet part to stifle what they did not understand. Habits devil certainly arose from some conceited tamperer with the text, who thought it was necessary, in contrast to angel. The emendation in my text I owe to the sagacity of Dr. Thirlby:
That to the use of actions fair and good
[Pointing to Poz. I do repent; But heaven hath pleas'a it som To punish me with this, and this with me,2
That monster, custom, who all sense doth eat
Of habits evil, is angel &c. Theobald. I think Thirlby's conjecture wrong, though the succeeding editors have followed it; angel and devil are evidently opposed.
Fohnson. I incline to think with Dr. Thirlby; though I have left the text undisturbed. From That monster to put on, is not in the folio.
Malone. I would read-Or habit's devil. The poet first styles custom a monster, and may aggravate and amplify his description by adding, that it is the “ dæmon who presides over habit.”—That monster custom, or habit's devil, is yet an angel in this particular.
Steevens. the next more easy:] This passage, as far as potency, is omitted in the folio. Steevens.
1 And either curb the devil, &c.] In the quarto, where alone this passage is found, some word was accidentally omitted at the press in the line before us. The quarto, 1604, reads:
And either the devil, or throw him out &c. For the insertion of the word curb I am answerable. The printer or corrector of a later quarto, finding the line nonsense, omitted the word either, and substituted master in its place. The modern editors have accepted the substituted word, and yet retain either ; by which the metre is destroyed. The word omitted in the first copy was undoubtedly a monosyllable. Malone.
This very rational conjecture may be countenanced by the same expression in The Merchant of Venice:
“And curb this cruel devil of his will." Steevens. ? To punish me with this, and this with me,] To punish me by making me the instrument of this man's death, and to punish this man by my hand. For this, the reading of both the quarto and folio, Sir T. Hanmer and the subsequent editors have substituted
To punish him with me, and me with him. Malone.
That I must be their scourge and minister.
What shall I do?
I take leave to vindicate the last editor of the octavo Shakspeare from any just share in the foregoing accusation. Whoever looks into the edition 1785, will see the line before us printed exactly as in this and Mr. Malone's text.-In several preceding instances a similar censure on the same gentleman has been as undeservedly implied. Steevens.
3 I must be cruel, only to be kind:] This sentiment resembles the-facto pius, et sceleratus eodem, of Ovid's Metamorphoses, B. III. It is thus translated by Golding: “ For which he might both justly kinde, and cruel called
bee." Steevens. 4 But one word more, &c.] This passage I have restored from the quartos. For the of sake metre, however, I have supplied the conjunction-But Steevens.
5 Let the bloat king - ] i. e. the swollen king. Bloat is the reading of the quarto, 1604. Malone.
This again hints at his intemperance. He had already drank himself into a dropsy. Blackstone. The folio reads-blunt king. Henderson.
his mouse ;] Mouse was once a term of endearment. So, in Warner's Albion's England, 1602, B. II, ch. xvi:
“God bless thee mouse, the bridegroom said,” &c. Again, in the Menæchmi, 1595: “Shall I tell thee, sweet mouse? I never look upon thee, but I am quite out of love with my wife.” Steevens.
This term of endearment is very ancient, being found in A new and merry interlude, called the Trial of Treasure, 1567 :
“ My mouse, my nobs, my cony sweete;
My hope and joye, my whole de ght.”. Malone.
reechy kisses,] Reechy is smoky. The author meant to convey a coarse idea, and was not very scrupulous in his choice of an epithet. The same, however, is applied with greater propriety to the neck of a cook-maid in Coriolanus. Again, in Hanç Beer Pot's Invisible Comedy, 1618: VOL. XV.
Or padling in your neck with his damn'd fingers,
bade him go
“ Like bacon hanging on the chimney's roof." Steevens. Reechy properly means steaming with exsudation, and seems to have been selected, to convey, in this place, its grossest import.
Henley. Reechy includes, I believe, heat as well as smoke. The verb to reech, which was once common, was certainly a corruption of -to reek. In a former passage Hamlet has remonstrated with his mother, on her living
“ In the rank sweat of an enseamed bed.” Malone. Reeky most certainly was not designed by our author to convey the idea of heat, being employed by him in Romeo and Juliet, to signify the chill damp of human bones in a sepulchre:
reeky shanks, and yellow chapless sculls.” Steevens. 8 That I essentially am not in madness,
But mad in craft.] The reader will be pleased to see Dr. Farmer's extract from the old quarto Historie of Hamblett, of which he had a fragment only in his possession :-" It was not without cause, and just occasion, that my gestures, countenances, and words, seeme to proceed from a madman, and that I desire to haue all men esteeme mee wholly depriued of sense and reasonable understanding, bycause I am well assured, that he that hath made no conscience to kill his owne brother, (accustomed to murthers, and allured with desire of gouernement without controll in his treasons) will not spare to saue himselfe with the like crueltie, in the blood and flesh of the loyns of his brother, by him massacred; and therefore it is better for me to fayne mad. nesse, then to use my right sences as nature hath bestowed them upon me. The bright shining clearnes thereof I am forced to hide vnder this shadow of dissimulation, as the sun doth hir beams under some great cloud, when thewether in summer-time ouercasteth : the face of a madman serueth to couer my gallant countenance, and the gestures of a fool are fit for me, to the end that, guiding myself wisely therein, I may preserue my life for the Danes and the memory of my late deceased father; for that the desire of reuenging his death is so ingraven in my heart, that if I dye not shortly, I hope to take such and so great vengeance, that these countryes shall for euer speake thereof. Neuerthelesse I must stay the time, meanes, and occasion, lest by making ouergreat hast, I be now the cause of mine own sodaine ruine and ouerthrow, and by that meanes end, before I beginne to effect my hearts desire : hee that hath to doe with a wicked, disloyall, cruell, and discourteous man, must vse craft, and politike inuentions, such as a fine witte can best imagine, not to discover his interprise ; for seeing that by force I cannot effect my desire,
For who, that 's but a queen, fair, sober, wise,
Queen. Be thou assur’d, if words be made of breath,
Ham. I must to England;you know that?
reason alloweth me by dissimulation, subtiltie, and secret practices to proceed therein." Steevens.
a gib,] So, in Drayton's Epistle from Elinor Cobham to Duke Humphrey :
“ And call me beldam, gib, witch, night-mare, trot." Gib was a common name for a cat. So, in Chaucer's Romaunt of the Rose, ver. 6204:
gibbe our cat,
Let the birds fly;] Sir John Suckling, in one of his letters, may possibly allude to the same story: “It is the story of the jackanapes and the partridges; thou starest after a beauty till it be lost to thee, and then let'st out another, and starest after that till it is gone too.” Warner. 2 To try conclusions,] i. e. experiments. See Vol. IV, p. 336,
Steevens. 31 must to England;] Shakspeare does not inform us how Hamlet came to know that he was to be sent to England. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern were made acquainted with the King's intentions for the first time in the very last scene; and they do not appear to have had any communication with the Prince since that time. Add to his, that in a subsequent scene, whe
the King, after the death of Polonius, informs Hamlet he was to go to England, he expresses great surprize, as if he had not heard any thing of it before.-This last, however, may, perhaps, be accounted for, as contributing to his design of passing for a mad
Malone. 4 There's letters seald: &c.] The ninę following verses are added out of the old edition. Pode.