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Running it thus-you 'll tender me a fool. Oph. My lord, he hath importuned me with

love

In honorable fashion.

110

Pol. Aye, fashion you may call it; go to, go to. Oph. And hath given countenance to his speech, my lord,

With almos all the holy vows of heaven. Pol. Aye, springes to catch woodcocks. I do know,

When the blood burns, how prodigal the soul
Lends the tongue vows: these blazes, daughter,
Giving more light than heat, extinct in both,
Even in their promise, as it is a-making,
You must not take for fire. From this time 120
Be something scanter of your maiden presence;
Set your entreatments at a higher rate

Than a command to parley. For Lord Ham-
let,

Believe so much in him, that he is young,
And with a larger tether may he walk
Than may be given you: in few, Ophelia,
Do not believe his vows; for they are brokers,
Not of that dye which their investments show,
But mere implorators of unholy suits,

109. "Running," Collier's conj.; Qq., "Wrong"; F. 1, "Roaming"; Pope, "Wronging"; Warburton, "Wronging"; Theobald, "Ranging," &c.-I. G.

123. "Than a command to parley"; "be more difficult of access, and let the suits to you for that purpose be of higher respect, than a command to parley."-H. N. H.

125. "larger tether"; that is, with a longer line; a horse, fastened by a string to a stake, is tethered.-H. N. H.

Breathing

The bettke sanctified and pious bawds, 130

The better to beguile. This is for all:

I would not, in plain terms, from this time forth,

Have you so slander any moment leisure,

As to give words or talk with the Lord Hamlet.

Look to 't, I charge you: come your ways. Oph. I shall obey, my lord.

[Exeunt.

SCENE IV

The platform.

Enter Hamlet, Horatio, and Marcellus.

Ham. The air bites shrewdly; it is very cold.
Hor. It is a nipping and an eager air.

130. "bawds"; Theobald's emendation of "bonds," the reading of Qq. and F. 1.—I. G.

135. "come your ways"; I do not believe that in this or any other of the foregoing speeches of Polonius, Shakespeare meant to bring out the senility or weakness of that personage's mind. In the great ever-recurring dangers and duties of life, where to distinguish the fit objects for the application of the maxims collected by the experience of a long life, requires no fineness of tact, as in the admonitions to his son and daughter, Polonius is uniformly made respectable. It is to Hamlet that Polonius is, and is meant to be, contemptible, because, in inwardness and uncontrollable activity of movement, Hamlet's mind is the logical contrary to that of Polonius; and besides, Hamlet dislikes the man as false to his true allegiance in the matter of the succession to the crown (Coleridge).-H. N. H. 2. "The unimportant conversation," says Coleridge, "with which this scene opens, is a proof of Shakespeare's minute knowledge of human nature. It is a well-established fact, that on the brink of any serious enterprise, or event of moment, men almost invariably endeavour to elude the pressure of their own thoughts by turning aside to trivial objects and familiar circumstances. Thus

Humbet

waits to

see

ghosts

Ham. What hour now?
Hor.

Mar. No, it is struck.

I think it lacks of twelve.

Hor. Indeed? I heard it not: it then draws near the

season

Wherein the spirit held his wont to walk.

[A flourish of trumpets, and ordnance shot off within.

What doth this mean, my lord?

Ham. The king doth wake to-night and takes his

rouse,

Keeps wassail, and the swaggering up-spring reels;

And as he drains his draughts of Rhenish
down,

The kettle-drum and trumpet thus bray out
The triumph of his pledge.

Hor.

Is it a custom?

10

the dialogue on the platform begins with remarks on the coldness of the air, and inquiries, obliquely connected indeed with the expected hour of visitation, but thrown out in a seeming vacuity of topics, as to the striking of the clock and so forth. The same desire to escape from the impending thought is carried on in Hamlet's account of, and moralizing on, the Danish custom of wassailing: he runs off from the particular to the universal, and, in his repugnance to personal and individual concerns, escapes, as it were, from himself in generalizations, and smothers the impatience and uneasy feelings of the moment in abstract reasoning. Besides this, another purpose is answered;-for, by thus entangling the attention of the audience in the nice distinctions and parenthetical sentences of this speech of Hamlet, Shakespeare takes them completely by surprise on the appearance of the Ghost, which comes upon them in all the suddenness of its visionary character. Indeed, no modern writer would have dared, like Shakespeare, to have preceded this last visitation by two distinct appearances; or could have contrived that the third should rise upon the former two in impressiveness and solemnity of interest."-H. N. H.

Ham. Aye, marry, is 't:

But to my mind, though I am native here
And to the manner born, it is a custom

More honor'd in the breach than the observance.
This heavy-headed revel east and west

Makes us traduced and tax'd of other nations:
They clepe us drunkards, and with swinish
phrase

Soil our addition; and indeed it takes

20

From our achievements, though perform'd at
height,

The pith and marrow of our attribute.
So, oft it chances in particular men,

That for some vicious mole of nature in them,
As, in their birth,-wherein they are not guilty,
Since nature cannot choose his origin,-
By the o'ergrowth of some complexion,
Oft breaking down the pales and forts of

reason,

Or by some habit that too much o'er-leavens
The form of plausive manners, that these

men,

Carrying, I say, the stamp of one defect,
Being nature's livery, or fortune's star,-
Their virtues else be they as pure as grace,
As infinite as man may undergo—

Shall in the general censure take corruption
From that particular fault: the dram of eale

30

16. "More honor'd in the breach than the observance"; better to break than observe.-C. H. H.

17-38, omitted in F. 1 (also Q. 1).—I. G.

36-38.

"the dram of eale

Doth all the noble substance of a doubt
To his own scandal”;

Doth all the noble substance of a doubt
To his own scandal.

Enter Ghost.

Hor.

Look, my lord, it comes! Ham. Angels and ministers of grace defend us!

this famous crux has taxed the ingenuity of generations of scholars, and some fifty various readings and interpretations have been proposed. The general meaning of the words is clear, emphasizing as they do the previous statement that as a man's virtues, be they as pure as grace, shall in the general censure take corruption from one particular fault, even so "the dram of eale" reduces all the noble substance to its own low level.

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The difficulty of the passage lies in (i.) “eale” ana (ii.) “doth of a doubt"; a simple explanation of (1) is that "eale"= “e'il,” i. e. “evil” (similarly in Q. 2, II. ii. 627, “deale”=“de’ile”— “devil"). The chief objection to this plausible conjecture is that one would expect something rather more definite than "dram of evil"; it is said, however, that "eale" is still used in the sense of "reproach" in the western counties. Theobald proposed "base," probably having in mind the lines in Cymbeline (III. v. 88):

"From whose so many weights of baseness cannot

A dram of worth be drawn.”

As regards (ii.), no very plausible emendation has been proposed; "of a doubt" has been taken to be a printer's error for "often dout,” "off endoubt," "offer doubt," "oft work out," &c. To the many questions which these words have called forth, the present writer is rash enough to add one more:-Could, perhaps, "doth of a doubt”— deprives of the benefit of a doubt? Is there any instance of "do" in XVIth century English "deprive"; the usage is common in modern English slang.-I. G.

38. "In addition to all the other excellences of Hamlet's speech concerning the wassel-music,-so finely revealing the predominant idealism, the ratiocinative meditativeness of his character, it has the advantage of giving nature and probability to the impassioned continuity of the speech instantly directed to the Ghost. The momentum had been given to his mental activity; the full current of the thoughts and words had set in; and the very forgetfulness, in the fervour of his argumentation, of the purpose of which he was there, aided in preventing the appearance from benumbing the mind. Consequently, it acted as a new impulse, a sudden stroke which increased the velocity of the body already in motion, whilst

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