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Hor. Look, my lord, it comes!
Ham. Angels and ministers of grace defend us! *— Be thou a spirit of health, or goblin damn'd,3 Bring with thee airs from heaven, or blasts from hell, Be thy intents wicked, or charitable, Thou com'st in such a questionable shape,4 That I will speak to thee; I '11 call thee, Hamlet, King, father, royal Dane: O, answer me:
— the noble substance of worth dout, because the idea of worth is comprehended in the epithet—noble.
2 Angels and ministers of grace defend us ! &c.1 Hamlet's speech to the apparition of his father seems to consist of three parts. When first he sees the spectre, he fortifies himself with an invocation:
Angels and ministers of grace defend us! As the spectre approaches, he deliberates with himself, and determines, that whatever it be he will venture to address it. Be thou a spirit of health, or goblin damn'd, Bring with thee airs from heaven, or blasts from hell, Be thy intents wicked, or charitable, Thou com'st in such a questionable shape, That I will speak to thee; 1 '11 call thee, &c. This he says while his father is advancing; he then, as he had determined, speaks to him, and calls him—Hamlet, King, Father, Royal Dane: O! answer me. Johnson.
'Be thou a spirit of health, or goblin damn'd, &c.] So, in Acolastus his After-wit, 1600:
"Art thou a god, a man, or else a ghost?
"Com'st thou from heaven, where bliss and solace dwell!"Or from the airie cold-engendering coast?
"Or from the darksome dungeon-hold of hell?" The first known edition of this play is in 1604. The same question occurs also in the MS. known by the title of William and the Werwolf, in the Library of King's College, Cambridge:
"Whether thou be a gode gost in goddis name that speakest,"Or any foul fiend fourmed in this wise, "And if we schul of the hent harme or gode." p. 36. Again, in Barnaby Googe's Fourth Eglog •
"What soever thou art yt thus dost com,
"Ghoost, hagge, or fende of hell,
* questionable shape,] By (questionable is meant provoking question. Hamner.
Let me not burst in ignorance! but tell,
So, in Macbeth:"Live you, or are you aught "That man may question?" Johnson. Questionab!e, I believe, means only propit&titfto conversation, easy end willing to be conversed with. So, in As you Like it: "An unquestionable spirit, which you have not." Unquestionable in this last instance certainly signifies unwilling to be tatted with. Steevens.
Questionable perhaps only means capable of being conversed with. To question, certainly in our author's time signified to converse. So, in his Rape of Lucrece, 1594:
"For after supper long he questioned "With modest Lucrece —." Again, in Antony and Cleopatra:
"Out of our question wipe him." See also King Lear, Act V, sc. iii, Vol. XIV. Malone
Why thy canoniz'd bones, hearsed in death, Have burst their cerements.'] Hamlet, amazed at an apparition, which, though in all ages credited, has in all ages been considered as the most wonderful and most dreadful operation of supernatural agency, enquires of the spectre, in the most eraphatick terms, why he breaks the order of nature, by returning from the dead; this he asks in a very confused circumlocution, confounding in his fright the soul and body. Why, says he, have thy bones, which with due ceremonies have been entombed in death, in the common state of departed mortals, burst the folds in which they were embalmed! Why has the tomb, in which we saw thee quietly laid, opened his mouth, that mouth which, by its weight and stability, seemed closed for ever? The whole sentence is this: Why dost thou appear, whom we know to be dead?
By the expression hearsed in death is meant, shut up and secured with all those precautions which are usually practised in preparing dead bodies for sepulture, such as the winding-sheet, shrowd, coffin, &c. perhaps embalming into the bargain. So that death is here used, by a metonymy of the antecedent for the consequents, for the rites of death, such as are generally esteemed due, and practised with regard to dead bodies. Consequently, I understand by cerements, the waxed winding-sheet or windingsheets, in which the corpse was enclosed and sown up, in order to preserve it the longer from external impressions from the humidity of the sepulchre, as embalming was intended to preserve it from internal corruption. Heath.
By hearsed death, the poet seems to mean, reposited and confined in the place of the dead. In his Rape of Lucrece he has again used this uncommon participle in nearly the same sense:
Wherein we saw thee quietly in-urn'd,8
Hor. It beckons you to go away with it,
Mar. Look, with what courteous action
It waves you to a more removed ground
"Thy sea within a puddle's womb is hearsed,"And not the puddle in thy sea dispersed." Malone. • — quietly in-urn'd,] The quartos read—interr'd. Steeiiens.
1 That thou, dead corse, again, in complete steel,] Thus also is the adjective complete accented by Chapman in his version of the fifth Iliad:
"And made his complete armour cast a far more completelight." Again, in the nineteenth Iliad:
"Grave silence strook the complete court."
It is probable, that Shakspeare introduced his Ghost in armour, that it might appear more solemn by such a discrimination from the other characters; though it was really the custom of the Danish kings to be buried in that manner. Vide Olaus Wormius, cap. vii:
"Struem regi nec vestibus, nec odoribus cumulant, sua cutque arma, quorundam igni et equus adjicitur."
", sed postquam magnanimus ille Danorum rex collem sibi magnitudinis conspicux extruxisset, (cui post obitum regio diademate exornatum, armis indutum, inferendum esset cadaver," &c. Steevens.
* i\ie fools of nature,] The expression is fine, as intimating we were only kept (as formerly, fools in a great family,) to make sport for nature, who lay hid only to mock and laugh at us, for our vain searches into her mysteries. Warburton.
vie fools of nature,] i. e. making us, who are the sport of nature, whose mysterious operations are beyond the reaches of our souls, &c. Se, in Romeo and Juliet: "O, I am fortune's fool." Malone.
fools of nature,] This phrase is used by Davenant, in the Cruel Brother, 1630, Act V, sc. i. Reed.
9 to shake our disposition,] Dispositioniorframe. Warburton.
1 a more removed ground:] i. e. remote. So, in 4 Midsummer Wight's JJream:
But do not go with it.
Ham. It will not speak; then I will follow it.
Ham. Why, what should be the fear I
I do not set my life at a pin's fee ;*
Hor. What, if it tempt you toward the flood, my lord,
"From Athens is her house remold seven leagues." The first folio reads—remote. Steevens.
3 fin's fee;] The value of a pin. Johnson.
t That beetles o'er his base—] So, in Sidney's Arcadia, B. I: "Hills lifted up their beetle-bro\rs, as if they would overlooke the pleasantnesse of their under prospect." Steevens.
That beetles o'er his base—] That hangs o'er his base, like what is called a beetle-brovi. This verb is, I believe, of our author's coinage. Malone.
4 deprive your sovereignty of reason,] i. e. your ruling
power of reason. When poets wish to invest any quality or virtue with uncommon splendor, they do it by some allusion to regal eminence. Thus, among the excellencies of Banquo's character, our author distinguishes " his royalty of nature," i. e. his natural superiority over others, his independent dignity of mind. I have selected this instance to explain the former, because I am told that " royalty of nature" has been idly supposed to bear some allusion to Banquo's distant prospect of the crown.
To deprive your sovereignty of reason, therefore, does not signify, to deprive your princely mind of rational powers, but, to take awayfrom you the command of reason, by which man is governed.
So, in Chapman's version of the first Iliad: "I come from heaven to see
"Thy anger settled: if thy soul will use her soveraigntie "In fit reflection." Dr. Warburton would read deprave; but several proofs are given in a note to King Lear, Act I, sc. ii, Vol. XIV, of Shakspeare's use of the word deprive, which is the true reading. Steevens. I believe, deprive in this place signifies simply to take away.
Johnson. 56 HAMLET,
And draw you into madness ? think of it:
Ham. It waves me still:—
Go on, I '11 follow thee.
Mar. You shall not go, my lord.
Ham. Hold off your hands.
Hor. Be rul'd, you shall not go.
Ham. My fate cries out,
And makes each petty artery in this body
[Breaking from them.
[Exeunt Ghost and Ham.
Hor. He waxes desperate with imagination.
Mar. Let's follow; 'tis not fit thus to obey him.
Hor. Have after:—To what issue will this come?
* The very place —] The four following lines added from the first edition. Pope.
* puts toys of desperation,] Toys, for whims. Warburton.
1 As hardy as the Nemean lion's nerre.] Shakspeare has again accented the word Nemean in this manner in Love's Labour's Lost:
"Thus dost thou hear the Nemean lion roar." Spenser, however, wrote Nemean, Fairy !$ueen, B. V, c. i:
"Into the preat Nemean lion's grove. Our poet's conforming in this instance to the Latin prosody was certainly accidental, for he, and almost all the poets of his time, disregarded the quantity of Latin names. So, in Locrine, 1595, (though undoubtedly the production of a scholar) we have Amphion instead of Amphion, &c. See also, p. 29, n. 5.
The true quantity of this word was rendered obvious to Shakspeare by Twine's translation of part of the JEneid, and Golding's version of Ovid's Metamorphoses. Steevens
s that lets me. ] To let among our old authors signifies to
prevent, to hinder. It is still a word current in the law, and to be found in almost all leases. Steevens.
So, in No Wit like a Woman's, a comedy, by Middleton, 1657: "That lets her not to be your daughter now." Malone.