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Thy knotted * and combined locks to part,
Ham. O heaven!
murder . HAM. Murder? Ghost. Murder most foul, as in the best it is ;
* First folio, knotty.
“How have mine eyes out of their spheres been fitted,
Malone. 7 — FRETFUL porcupine :) The quartos read--fearful, &c. Either epithet may serve.
This animal is at once irascible and timid. The same image occurs in The Romaunt of the Rose, where Chaucer is describing the personage of danger :
“ Like sharpe urchons his hcere was grow.” An urchin is a hedge-hog.
The old copies, however, have-porpentine, which is frequently written by our ancient poets instead of porcupine. So, in Skialetheia, a collection of Epigrams, Satires, &c. 1598 :
“ Porpentine-backed, for he lies on thornes.” Steevens.
Revenge his foul and most unnatural murder.) As a proof that this play was written before 1597, of which the contrary has been asserted by Mr. Holt in Dr. Johnson's Appendix, I must borrow, as usual, from Dr. Farmer : “ Shakspeare is said to have been no extraordinary actor; and that the top of his performance was the Ghost in his own Hamlet. Yet this chef d'æuvre did not please: I will give you an original stroke at it. Dr. Lodge published in the year 1596, a pamphlet called Wit's Miserie, or the World's Madness, discovering the incarnate Devils of the Age, quarto. One of these devils is, Hate-virtue, or sorrow for another man's good successe, who, says the doctor, is a foule lubber, and looks as pale as the vizard of the Ghost, which cried so miserably at the theatre, Hamlet revenge.” Steevens.
I suspect that this stroke was levelled not at Shakspeare, but at the performer of the Ghost in an older play on this subject, exhibited before 1589. See An Attempt to ascertain the Order of Shakspeare's Plays. Malone. VOL. VII.
But this most foul, strange, and unnatural.
Ham. Haste me * to know it ; that I, with wings
As meditation, or the thoughts of love',
I find thee apt;
* First folio, Haste, haste me. 9 As meditation, or the thoughts of love,] This similitude is extremely beautiful. The word meditation is consecrated, by the mysticks, to signify that stretch and fight of mind which aspires to the enjoyment of the supreme good. So that Hamlet, considering with what to compare the swiftness of his revenge. chooses two of the most rapid things in nature, the ardency of divine and human passion, in an enthusiast and a lover.
WARBURTON. The comment on the word meditation is so ingenious, that I hope it is just. JOHNSON. 1 And duller should'st thou be than the fat weed
That roots itself in ease on Lethe wharf,] Shakspeare, apparently through ignorance, makes Roman Catholicks of these Pagan Danes; and here gives a description of purgatory; but yet mixes it with the Pagan fable of Lethe's wharf. Whether he did it to insinuate to the zealous Protestants of his time, that the Pagan and Popish purgatory stood both upon the same footing of credibility, or whether it was by the same kind of licentious inadvertence that Michael Angelo brought Charon's bark into his picture of the Last Judgment, is not easy to decide. WARBURTON.
“ That roots itself in ease,” &c. Thus the quarto 1604. The folio reads — That rots itself,' &c. I have preferred the reading of the original copy. Indeed in general the readings of the original copies, when not corrupt, ought, in my opinion, not to be departed from, without very strong reason. That roots itself in ease, means, whose sluggish root is idly extended.
The modern editors read—Lethe's wharf; but the reading of the old copy is right. So, in Sir Aston Cockain's Poems, 1658,
"-fearing these great actions might die,
“Neglected cast all into Lethe lake." Malone. “ That rots itself in ease, &c.” The quarto reads—That roots itself. Mr. Pope follows it. Otway has the same thought:
like a coarse and useiess dunghill weed “ Fix'd to oné spot, and rot just as I grow."
Would'st thou not stir in this. Now, Hamlet, hear:
Ham. O, my prophetick soul! my uncle !
Ghost. Ay, that incestuous, that adulterate beast,
That it went hand in hand even with the vow
Mr. Cowper also, in his version of the seventh Iliad, v. 100, has adopted this phrase of Shakspeare, to express
"Ήμενοι αύθι έκοςοι ακήριοι
“ Rot where you sit." V. 112. In Pope's Essay on Man, Ep. ii. 64, we meet with a similar comparison :
“ Fix'd like a plant on his peculiar spot,
“ To draw nutrition, propagate, and rot.” The superiority of the reading of the folio is to me apparent : to be in a crescent state (i. e. to root itself) affords an idea of activity; to rot better suits with the dulness and inaction to which the Ghost refers. Beaumont and Fletcher have a thought somewhat similar in The Humorous Lieutenant:
“ This dull root pluck'd from Lethe's flood.” Steevens. ? - his wit,] The old copies have wits. The subsequent line shows that it was a misprint. Malone.
And prey on garbage .
* First folio, in.
+ Quarto, hebona.
sate itself in a celestial bed, And PREY ON GARBAGE.] The same image occurs again in Cymbeline :
ravening first “The lamb, longs after for the garbage." STEEVENS. The same sentiment is expressed in a fragment of Euripides, Antiope, v. 86, edit. Barnes :
Κόρος δε πάντων, και γαρ εκ καλλιόνων
mine ORCHARD,] Orchard, for garden. So, in Romeo and Juliet : “ The orchard walls are high, and hard to climb.”
STEEVENS. SLEEPING My custom always of the AFTERNOON,] See the Paston Letters, vol. iii. p. 282: “Written in my sleeping time, at afternoon," &c. See note on this passage. Steevens. So, in Measure for Measure, Act III. Sc. I. :
Thou hast nor youth nor age; “ But as it were an after-dinner's sleep,
"Dreaming on both." So, also, in Turberville's Tragical Tales, in the story of Alboyn, king of the Lumbards, who was murdered by his wife and her paramour :
“ The king, as custome was,
“ Because the day was hotte,
“ Into his chamber gotte.” Malone. 6 With juice of cursed hebenon in a vial,] The word here used was more probably designed by a metathesis, either of the poet or transcriber, for henebon, that is, henbane; of which the most common kind (hyoscyamus niger) is certainly narcotick, and perhaps, if taken in a considerable quantity, might prove poison
Galen calls it cold in the third degree; by which in this, as
And in the porches of mine ears did pour
well as opium, he seems not to mean an actual coldness, but the power it has of benumbing the faculties. Dioscorides ascribes to it the property of producing madness (ύοσκυαμος μανιώδης). These qualities have been confirmed by several cases related in modern observations. In Wepfer we have a good account of the various effects of this root upon most of the members of a convent in Germany, who eat of it for supper by mistake, mixed with succory ;-—"heat in the throat, giddiness, dimness of sight, and delirium.” Cicut. Aquatic. c. xviii. GREY. So, in Drayton's Barons' Wars, p. 51:
“ The pois'ning henbane, and the mandrake drad.” Again, in the Philosopher's 4th Satire of Mars, by Robert Anton, 1616:
“The poison'd henbane, whose cold juice doth kill." In Marlowe's Jew of Malta, 1633, the word is written in a different manner :
the blood of Hydra, Lerna's bane, “ The juice of hebon, and Cocytus' breath.” Steevens. Dr. Grey had ingeniously supposed this word to be a metathesis for henebon or henbane ; but the best part of his note on the subject has been omitted, which is his reference to Pliny, who says that the oil of henbane dropped into the ears disturbs the brain. Yet it does not appear that henbane was ever called henebon. The line cited by Mr. Steevens from Marlowe's Jew of Malta, shows that the juice of hebon, i. e. ebony, was accounted poisonous; and in the English edition by Batman, of Bartholomæus de Proprietatibus Rerum, so often cited in these observations as a Shakspearian book, the article for the wood ebony is entitled, “ Of Ebeno, chap. 52." This comes so near to the text, [particularly that of the quarto,] that it is presumed very little doubt will now remain on the occasion. It is not surprising that the dropping into the ears should accur, because Shakspeare was perfectly well acquainted with the supposed properties of henbane as recorded in Holland's translation of Pliny and elsewhere, and might apply this mode of use to any other poison. Douce.
* The leperous Distilment ;] So, in Painter's Palace of Pleasure, vol. ii. p. 142: “ — which being once possessed, never leaveth the patient till it hath enfeebled his state, like the qualitie of poison distilling through the veins even to the heart." MALONE.
Surely, " the leperous distilment” signifies the water distilled from henbane, that subsequently occasioned leprosy. Steevens.