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Ham. The mobled queen?
Pel. That's good; mobled queen is good. 1 Play. Run barefoot up and down, threat'ning the
With bisson rheum ;9 a clout upon that head, Where late the diadem stood; and, for a robe, About her lank and all o'er-teemed loins, A blanket, in the alarm of fear caught ufi;Who this had seen, with tongue in venom steefi'd, 'Gainst fortune's state would treason have fironounc'd: But if the gods themselves did see her then, When she saw Pyrrhus make malicious sport In mincing with his sword her husband's limbs;The instant burst of clamour that she made, (Unless things mortal move them not at all) Would have made milch1 the burning eye of heaven, And passion in the gods. Pol. Look, whether he has not turned his colour, and has tears in's eyes.—Pr'ythee, no more.
Ham. 'Tis well; I '11 have thee speak out the rest of this soon.—Good my lord, will you see the players well bestowed? Do you hear, let them be well used; for they are the abstract, and brief chronicles, of the time: After your death you were better have a bad epitaph, than their ill report while you live.
Pol. My lord, I will use them according to their desert.
Ham. Odd's bodikin, man, much better: Use every man after his desert, and who shall 'scape whipping?
The ordinary morning head-dress of ladies continued to be distinguished by the name of a mab, to almost the end of the reign of George the Second. The folio reads—the inobled queen.
In the counties of Essex and Middlesex, this morning cap has always been called—a mob, and not a mab. My spelling of the word therefore agrees with its most familiar pronunciation.
6 With bisson rheum;] Bisson or beesen, i. e. blind. A word still in use in some parts of the North of England.
So, in Coriolanm: " What harm can your bisson conspectuities glean out of this character?" Steevens.
7—— made milch — ] Drayton in the 13th Song of his Polyoliion gives this epithet to dew: "Exhaling the milch dew,'' &c.
Use them after your own honour and dignity t The less they deserve, the more merit is in your bounty. Take them in.
Pol. Come, sirs. [Exit Pol. with some of the Players.
Ham. Follow him, friends: we '11 hear a play to-morrow.—Dost thou hear me, old friend; can you play the murder of Gonzago?1 Play. Ay, my lord.
Ham. We '11 have it to-morrow night. You could, for a need, study a speech of some dozen or sixteen lines, which I would set down, and insert in't? could you not?
1 Play. Ay, my lord.
Ham. Very well.—Follow that lord; and look you mock him not. [Exit Player.] My good friends, [to Ros. and Guil.] I '11 leave you till night: you are welcome to lilsinore.
Ros. Good my lord! [Exeunt Ros. and Guil.
Ham. Ay, so, God be wi' you:—Now 1 am alone.
• Is it not monstrous, that this player here,] It should seem from the complicated nature of such parts as Hamlet, Lear, &c. that the time of Shakspeare had produced some excellent performers. He would scarce have taken the pains to form characters which he had no prospect of seeing represented with force and propriety on the stage.
His plays indeed, by their own power, must have given a different turn to acting, and almost new-created the performers of his age. Mysteries, Moralities, and Enterludes, afforded no materials for art to work on, no discriminations of character or variety of appropriated language. From tragedies like Cambyses, Tamburlaine, and Jeronymo, nature was wholly banished; and the comedies of Gammer Gurton, Common Condycyons, and The Old Wives Tale, might have had justice done to them by the lowest order of human beings.
Sanctius his animal, mentisque capacius alt* Was wanting, when the dramas of Shakspeare made their first appearance ; and to these we were certainly indebted for the excellence of actors who could never have improved so long as their sensibilities were unawakened, their memories burthened only by pedantick or puritanical declamation, and their manners vulgarized by pleasantry of as low an origin. Steerens.
That, from her working, all his visage wann'd;t
o__ all hisvieage wann'd;] [The folio—warm'd.] This might do, did not the old quarto lead us to a more exact and pertinent reading, which is—visage wan'd; i. e. turned pale or wan. For so the visage appears when the mind is thus an'ectioned, and not warm'd or ttush'd Warburton.
1 That, from her working, all his visage wann'd;Tears in his eyes, distraction ire's aspe"ct,] Wand (wann'd it should have been spelt) is the reading of the quarto, which Dr. Warburton, I think rightly, restored. The folio reads warm'd, for which Mr. Steevens contends in the following note:
"The working of the soul, and the effort to shed tears, will give a colour to the actor's face, instead of taking it away. The visage is always warm'd, and flush'd by any unusual exertion in a passionate speech; but no performer was ever yet found, I believe, whose feelings were of such exquisite sensibility as to produce paleness in any situation in which the drama could place him. But if players were indeed possessed of that power, there is no such circumstance in the speech uttered before Hamlet, as could introduce the wanness for which Dr. Warburton contends." The same expression, however, is found in the fourth Book of Stanyhurst's translation of the JEneid:
"And eke all her visage waning with murther approaching."
Whether an actor can produce paleness, it is, I think, unnecessary to enquire. That Shakspeare thought he could, and considered the speech in question as likely to produce wanness, is proved decisively by the words which he has put into the mouth of Polonius in this scene; which add such support to the original reading, that I have without hesitation restored it. Immediately after the Player has finished his speech, Polonius exclaims,
"Look, whether he has not turned his colour, and has tears in his eyes." Here we find the effort to shed tears, taking away, not giving a colour. If it be objected, that by turned his colour, Shakspeare meant that the player grew red, a passage in King Richard III, in which the poet is again describing an actor, who is master of his art, will at once answer the objection:
"Rich. Come, cousin, canst thou quake, and change thy colour?
"Murder thy breath in middle of a word;"And then again begin, and stop again,"As if thou wert distraught and mad with terror?
"Buck. Tut, I can counterfeit the deep tragedian, "Tremble and start at wagging of a straw," Stc. The words iniake, and terror, and tremble, as well as the whole context, show, that by "change thy colour," Shakspeare meant grow pale. Malone.
The word aspect [as Dr. Farmer very properly observes! was
A broken voice, and his whole function suiting
What's Hecuba to him, or he to Hecuba,*
A dull and muddy-mettled rascal, peak,
Like John a-dreams.5 unpregnant of my cause,*
in Shakspeare's time accented on the second syllable. The folio exhibits the pasaage as I have printed it. Steevens.
1 What'S Hecuba to him, &c.] It is plain Shakspeare alludes to a story told of Alexander the cruel tyrant of Pherae in Thessalv, who seeing a famous tragedian act in the Troades of Euripides, was so sensibly touched that he left the theatre before the play was ended; being ashamed, as he owned, that he who never pitied those he murdered, should weep at the sufferings of Hecuba and Andromache. See Plutarch in the Life of Pelopidas.
Upton. Shakspeare, it is highly probable, had read the life of Pelopidas, but I see no ground for supposing there is here an allusion to it. Hamlet is not ashamed of being seen to weep at a theatrical exhibition, but mortified that a player, in a dream of passion, should appear more agitated by fictitious sorrow, than the prince was by a real calamity. Malone.
3 the cue for passion,] The hint, the direction. Johnson. This phrase is theatrical, and occurs at least a dozen times in our author's plays. Thus, says Quince to Flute in A MidsummerNight's Dream: "You speak all your part at once, cues and all." See also Vol. IX, p. 295, n. 9. Steevens.
* the general ear — ] The ear of all mankind. So before,
—Caviare to the general, that is, to the multitude, Johnson.
* Like John a-dreams,] John a-dreams, i. e of dreams, means only John the dreamer; a nick-name, I suppose, for am ignorant silly fellow. Thus the puppet formerly thrown at during the season of Lent, was called Jack-a-Lent, and the ignis iatuus Jacka-lanthorn.
At the beginning of Arthur Hall's translation of the second Book of Homer's Iliad, 1581, we are told of Jupiter, that—
"John dreaming God he callde to him, that God, chiefo God of il,
"Common cole carrier of every lye," &c.
And can say nothing; no, not for a king,
Upon whose property, and most dear life, /
A damn'd defeat was made.7 Am I a coward?
Who calls me villain? breaks my pate across?
Plucks off my beard, and blows it in my face?
Tweaks me by the nose? gives me the lie i' the throat,
As deep as to the lungs? Who does me this?
John-a-droynes however, if not a corruption of this nick-name, seems to have been some well-known character, as I have met with more than one allusion to him. So, in Have with you to Saffron Walden, or Gabriel Harvey's Hunt is up, by Nashe, 1596: "The description of that poor John-a-droynes his man, whom he had hired," &c. John-a-Droynes is likewise a foolish character in Whetstone's Promos and Cassandra, 1578, who is seized by informers, has not much to say in his defence, and is cheated out of his money. Steevens.
8 unpregnant of my cause,] Unpregnant, for having no due
tense of. Warburton.
Rather, not quickened with a new desire of vengeance; not teeming with revenge. Johnson.
V A damn'd defeat was made.] Defeat, for destruction. Warburton.
The word defeat, (which certainly means destruction in the pre* sent instance,) is very licentiously used by the old writers. Shakspeare in Othello employs it yet more quaintly:—" Defeat thy favour with an usurped beard;" and Middleton, in his comedy, called Any Thing for a quiet Life, says—" 1 have heard of your defeat made upon a mercer."
Again, in Revenge for Honour, by Chapman:
"That he might meantime make a sure defeat "On our good aged father's life." Again, in The Wits, by Sir W. D'Avenant, 1637: "Not all the skill I have, can pronounce him free of the defeat upon my gold and jewels."
Again, in The Isle of Gulls, 1606: "My late shipwreck has made a defeat both of my friends and treasure." Steevens.
In the passage quoted from Othello, to defeat is used for undo or alter: defaire, Fr. See Minsheu in v. Minsheu considers the substantives defeat and defeature as synonymous. The former he defines an overthrow; the latter, execution or slaughter of men. In King Henry V we have a similar phraseology:
"Making defeat upon the powers of France." And the word is again used in the same sense in the last Act of this play:
"Doth by their own insinuation grow." Malone. VOL. XV. M