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Ere I could make a prologue to my brains,
They had begun the play; I fat me down;
Devis'd a new commiffion; wrote it fair :
I once did hold it, as our statists do,
A baseness to write fair, and labour'd much
How to forget that learning; but, fir, now
It did me yeoman's fervice: Wilt thou know
The effect of what I wrote ?


Hor. Ay, good my lord.

Ham. An earneft conjuration from the king, As England was his faithful tributary; As love between them like the palm might flourish, 3 As peace should still her wheaten garland wear,


how luckily every thing fell out; he groped out their commiffion in the dark without waking them; he found himself doomed to immediate deftruction. Something was to be done for his prefervation. An expedient occurred, not produced by the comparison of one method with another, or by a regulár deduction of confequences, but before he could make a prologue to his brains, they had begun the play. Before he could fummon his faculties, and propofe to himself what fhould be done, a complete fcheme of action prefented itself to him. His mind operated before he had excited it. This appears to me to be the meaning.

JOHNSON. I-as our statists do,] A ftatift is a fatefman. So, in Shirley's Humorous Courtier, 640:

"that he is wife, a fatift."

Again, in Ben Jonfon's Magnetic Lady:

Will fcrew you out a fecret from a flatift.”


Most of the great men of Shakspeare's times, whofe autographs have been preferved, wrote very bad hands; their fecretaries very neat ones. BLACKSTONE.


---yeoman's fervice :] The meaning, I believe, is, This yeomanly qualification was a most useful fervant, or yeomen, to me; i. c. did me eminent fervice. "The ancient yeomen were famous for their military valour. These were the good archers in times past (fays. Thomas Smith), and the stable troop of footmen that affraide ail France.", STEEVENS.

3. As peace bould fill her wheaten garland wear,

And ftand a comma 'taveen their amities;] Peace is here


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And ftand a comma 'tween their amities;
And many fuch like as's of great charge,-
That, on the view and knowing of these contents,
Without debatement further, more, or lefs,
He should the bearers put to fudden death,
Not fhriving time allow'd.

Hor. How was this feal'd?


Ham. Why, even in that was heaven ordinant
I had my father's fignet in my purse,
Which was the model of that Danish seal :

properly and finely perfonalized as the goddefs of good league and friendship; and very claffically dreffed out. Ovid fays, "Pax Cererem nutrit, pácis alumna Ceres.” And Tibullus,

"At nobis, pax alma! veni, fpicamque teneto.

But the placing her as a comma, or stop, between the amities of two kingdoms, makes her rather stand like a cypher. The poet without doubt wrote;

And fand a commere 'taveen our amities.

The term is taken from a trafficker in love, who brings people together, a procurefs. And this idea is well apropriated to the fatirical turn which the fpeaker gives to this wicked adjuration of the king, who would lay the foundation of the peace of the two kingdoms in the blood of the heir of one of them. Periers, in his vels, ufes the word commere to fignify a fhe-friend. "A tous fes gens, chacun une commere." And Ben Jonfon, in his Devil's an Afs Englishes the word by a middling gofip.


"Or what do you fay to a middling goffip To bring you together? WARBURTON, Hanmer reads,

And ftand a cement

or where

I am again inclined to vindicate the old reading. That the word commere is French, will not be denied; but when was it English?

The expreffion of our author is, like many of his phrafes, fufficiently constrained and affected, but it is not incapable of expla nation. The comma is the note of connection and continuity of fentences; the period is the note of abruption and disjunction. Shakspeare had it perhaps in his mind to write, That unless England complied with the mandate, var fhould put a period to their anity; he altered his mode of diction, and thought that, in an op pofite fenfe, he might put, that Peace should fand a comma between their amities. This is not an eafy ftile; but is it not the tile of Shakspeare? JOHNSON.

Kk 3


Folded the writ up in form of the other; Subfcrib'd it; gave't the impreffion; plac'd it fafely, The changeling never known: Now, the next day Was our fea-fight; and what to this was fequent Thou know'ft already.

Hor. So Guildenstern and Rofencrantz go to't.
Ham. Why, man", they did make love to this

They are not near my confcience; their defeat
Doth by their own infinuation grow:
'Tis dangerous, when the bafer nature comes
Between the pass and fell incenfed points
Of mighty oppofites.

Hor. Why, what a king is this!

Ham. Does it not, think thee, ftand me now upon?

He that hath kill'd my king, and whor'd my mother; Popt in between the election and my hopes; Thrown out his angle for my proper life,

And with fuch cozenage; is't not perfect confcience, To quit him with this arm? and is't not to be damn'd,

To let this canker of our nature come

In further evil?

Hor. It must be fhortly known to him from

What is the iffue of the business there.

4The changeling never known :-] A changeling is a child which the fairies are fuppofed to leave in the room of that which they fteal. JOHNSON.

5 Why, man, &c.] This line is omitted in the quartos. STEEVENS,

6 Doth by their own infinuation grow:] Infinuation, for corruptly obtruding themselves into his fervice. WARBURTON. 7 To quit him-] To requite him; to pay him his due.

JOHNSON. This paffage, as well as the three following fpeeches, is not in the quartos. STEEVENS,



Ham. It will be fhort: the interim is mine;
And a man's life's no more than to fay, one.
But I am very forrv, good Horatio,
That to Laertes I forgot myfelf;
For by the image of my caufe, I fee
The portraiture of his: I'll count his favours :
But, fure, the bravery of his grief did put me
Into a towering paffion.

Hor. Peace; who comes here?

Enter Ofrick.

Of. Your lordship is right welcome back to Den


Ham. I humbly thank you, fir.- Doft know this water-fly?

Hor. No, my good lord.

Ham. Thy ftate is the more gracious; for 'tis a vice to know him: He hath much land, and fertile : let a beast be lord of beafts, and his crib fhall stand at the king's mefs: 'Tis a chough; but, as I say, fpacious in the poffeffion of dirt.


Ofr. Sweet lord, if your lordfhip were at leifure, I fhould impart a thing to you from his majefty.

Ham. I will receive it, fir, with all diligence of fpirit: Put your bonnet to his right ufe; 'tis for the head.

Ofr. I thank your lordship, 'tis very hot. Ham. No, believe me, 'tis very cold; the wind is northerly.

8 I'll count his favours:] Thus the folio. Mr. Rowe first made the alteration, which is unneceffary. I'll count his favours is—I will make account of them, i. e. reckon upon them, value them. STEEVENS.


9 - Doft know this water-fly ?] A water-fly skips up and down the furface of the water, without any apparent purpofe or reason, and is thence the proper emblem of a bufy trifler. JOHNSON.

1-It is a chough;-] A kind of jackdaw. JoHNSON.



Ofr. It is indifferent cold, my lord, indeed. Ham. But yet, methinks, it is very fultry and hot; or my complexion +


Ofr. Exceedingly, my lord; it is very fultry,-as 'twere,-I cannot tell how.-My lord, his majefty bade me fignify to you, that he has laid a great wager on your head Sir, this is the matter,

Ham. I beseech you, remember


[Hamlet moves him to put on his hat. Ofr. Nay, good my lord; for my cafes, in good faith.-Sir, here is newly come to court, Laertes: believe me, an abfolute gentleman, full of moft excellent differences, of very foft fociety, and great fhewing: Indeed, to fpeak feelingly of him, he is 19 the card or calendar of gentry; ' for you fhall


3 But yet, methinks, it is very fultry, &c.] Hamlet is here playing over the fame farce with Ofrick, which he had formerly done with Polonius. STEEVENS.


or my complexion.] The folio read-for my complexion. STEEVENS.

5 Nay, in good faith-for mine eafe.] This feems to have been the affected phrafe of the time--Thus in Marion's Male content, I beseech you, fir, be covered.-No, in good faith for my cafe." And in other places. FARMER.

It feems to have been the common language of ceremony in our author's time. "Why do you stand bareheaded? (fays one of the fpeakers in Florio's SECOND FRUTES, 1591) you do yourfelf wrong. Pardon me, good fir (replies his friend); I do it for my ease.


Again, in A New Way to pay old Debts, by Maflinger, 1633:
-Is't for your cafe
"You keep your hat off?" MALONE.


6 Sir, &c.] The folio omits this and the following fourteen fpeeches; and in their place fubftitutes only, Sir, you are not gnorant of what excellence Laertes is at his weapon.


7-full of most excellent differences,-] Full of diftinguishing excellencies. JOHNSON.

-Speak feelingly] The first quarto reads, fellingly.

STEEVENT. the card or calendar of gentry;] The general preceptor


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