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

• First folio, persons. Thus the true reading is picked out from between them. Sir T. Hanmer reads unnecessarily“ Feeds on his anger

.." Johnson. 7 Wherein necessity, &c.] Sir T. Hanmer reads :

Whence animosity of matter beggar'd." He seems not to have 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 Middleton 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 Grammar, 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. So, in Smith's History of New England, fol. 1630, b. vi. p. 223 : “ Strange they thought it, that a barke of threescore tunnes with foure guns should stand on such termes, they being eighteen expert sea-men in an excellent ship of one hundred and fortie tuns, and thirty-six cast pieces, and murderers.” 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-deck, or steerage of a ship of war, were within this century called murdering pieces. MALONE.

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,

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Perhaps what is now, from the manner of it, called a swivel. It is mentioned in Sir T. Roes Voiage to the East 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 with shot, pieces of old iron, &c. Ritson.

9 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. 2 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. Part I. :

“ 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.

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 ,
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 *.

this sense,


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

• 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 rabble 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: Ratifiers, &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. 4 O, this is counter, you false Danish dogs.] Hounds run counter when they trace the trail backwards. Johnson. VOL. VII.

2 F

King. The doors are broke.

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

without. Dan. No, let's come in. LAER.


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 *, pro

claims me bastard ; Cries, cuckold, to my father ; brands the harlot Even here, between the chaste unsmirched brow Of my true mother. King.

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,


* First folio, that calms.


– UNSMIRCHED brow,] i. e, clean, not defiled. To besmirch, our author uses, Act I. Sc. V. and again in King Henry V. Act IV. Sc. III.

This seems to be an allusion to a proverb often introduced in the old comedies. Thus, in The London Prodigal, 1605 :

as true as the skin between any man's brows." The same phrase is also found in Much Ado About Nothing, Act III. Sc. V. STEEvens.

5 Acts little of his will.-] We may illustrate this passage by an anecdote of Queen Elizabeth, related in Englandes Mourning Garment, by Henry Chettle. While her Majesty was on the river, near Greenwich, a shot was fired by accident, which struck the royal barge, and hurt a waterman near her. “ The French ambassador being amazed, and all crying Treason, Treason! yet


Why thou art thus incens d ;-Let him go, Ger

trude ; 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. King.

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. King.

Good Laertes, If

you desire to know the certainty Of your

dear father's death, is't writ in your re

venge, That, sweepstake, you will draw both friend and foe, Winner and loser ?

LAER. None but his enemies.

* First folio, world.

she, with an undaunted spirit, came to the open place of the barge, and bad them never feare, for if the shot were made at her, they durst not shoote againe : such majestie had her presence, and such boldnesse her heart, that she despised all feare; and was as all princes are, or should be; so full of divine fullnesse, that guiltie mortalitie durst not beholde her but with dazeled eyes.”

Boswell. 6 That both the worlds I give to negligence,] So, in Mac“But let the frame of things disjoint, both the worlds suffer."



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