From Hamlet, prince of Denmark. Ed. K. Deighton. London: Macmillan.
1. Hamlet, our dear brother's, a many-worded term, as though hyphened together.
2. green, fresh in our minds.
3. To bear ... grief, to show by the way in which we carried
our hearts that they were borne down by a load of sorrow. The
figure is from the carriage of the body when bearing a burden.
3, 4. and our whole ... woe, and that it befitted our subjects
universally to wear the look of woe which the brow wears when
contracted with physical pain; for brow of woe, = mourning
brow, the Cl. Pr. Edd. compare Lear, i. 4. 306, "brow of youth" = youthful brow; M. V. ii. 8. 42, "mind of love" =
loving mind; i. H. IV. iv. 3. 83, "brow of justice."
5. discretion, politic consideration: nature, natural inclination.
6, 7, That we ... ourselves, that we, while thinking of him, do
so in such a way as wisdom dictates, and at the same time with a
recollection of what is for our own well-being.
8. our sometime sister, she who was formerly our sister; see
note on i. 1. 49.
9. The imperial ... state, the king appears to speak as if the kingdom of Denmark became a jointure of the queen on the death of her former husband: but perhaps he merely means that her
rights of sovereignty were equal with his own.
9. jointress, the
possessor of a jointure, short for 'jointuress.'
10. a defeated joy, a joy robbed of its completeness; from F. defaire, to undo; cp. Sonnet. lxi. 11, "Mine own true love that doth my rest defeat."
11. With an auspicious ... eye, with one eye bright with joy,
while from the other tears were falling. Steevens compares
W. T. v. 2. 80, "She had one eye declined for the loss of her
husband, another elevated that the oracle was fulfilled"; cp.
also for dropping, T. A. iii. 1. 19, "O earth, I will befriend thee
with more rain ... the summer's drought I'll drop upon thee still";
auspicious, literally that which has to do with the watching of
birds for the purpose of augury, then used especially of favourable omens.
12. With mirth ... marriage, if the king is to be taken as
speaking literally, this must mean qualifying the sorrow felt at
his brother's funeral with an admixture of joy at the prospect of
marrying his widow, and equally qualifying the mirth at that
wedding by sad rememberance of his brother's death; dirge, a
funeral lament; from Lat. dirige, direct thou, the first word in
the Psalm (v. 8) used by Catholics at the burial of the dead,
"Dirige, Dominus meus, in conspectu tuo vitam mean," "Guide,
O Lord, my life in Thy sight." Moberly remarks, "The studied
antitheses repeated over and over in this speech give it a very
artificial appearance. The king's politic and parliamentary
reasons for marrying the queen remind us of the similar motives
which an eminent writer supposes to have influenced Henry
VIII in his prompt re-marriages."
13. In equal ... dole, — equally balancing joy and grief, not giving
to either advantage over the other; for dole, sorrow, lamentation, cp. A. Y. L. i. 2. 139, "making such pitiful dole over them
that all the beholders take his part with weeping."
14. to wife, for wife, as wife; see Abb. § 189.
14-6. nor have we ... along, nor have I in coming to a decision
in the matter acted without consulting you who, in a matter personal to myself, were likely to show more dispassionate judgement, for I may say that from first to last you have given your
fullest adherence to my action.
16. For all, our thanks, for everything you have done you
have my gratitude.
17. Now follows ... Fortinbras, next I must mention that, etc.
Walker would read 'Now follows that you know': i.e. that
which you already know, an alteration already suggested by
Theobald with a comma only after know.
18. Holding ... worth, having but a contemptuous idea of my
19. by, in consequence of.
20. state, kingdom: disjoint, cp. below, i. 5. 188, "The time
is out of joint"; Macb. iii. 2. 16, "But let the frame of things
disjoint"; and for examples of the omission of -ed in participles
of verbs ending in te, t, and d, see Abb. § 342: out of frame, dislocated, shaken out of its proper form; cp. L. L. L. iii. 1. 193,
"like a German clock, Still a-repairing, ever out of frame."
21. Colleagued ... advantage, having for his only confederate
this advantage which he fondly dreams he will derive from the
unsettled state of our kingdom.
22,3. He hath ... lands, has persistently pestered me with
messages the purport of which was that I should surrender, etc.;
the distance of the nominative Fortinbras (1. 17) accounts for the
pronoun he; for message, as a plural, see Abb. § 471. Possibly
importing here = importuning as Abb. (Introd. p, xvi.) takes it,
and as important and importance are used by Shakespeare.
24. with ... law, in full accordance with the legal agreement
entered into by the two parties.
25. So much for him, of him and his acts I need say no more.
26. this time of meeting, this occasion for which we have
called you together.
27. here, sc. in the papers he holds in his hand; writ, for the
curtailed form of the participle, see Abb. § 343.
28. Norway, see note on i. 1. 48.
29. bed-rid, from "A.S. bedrida, beddrida, ... A.S. bed, a bed,
and ridda, a knight, a rider; thus the sense is a bed-rider, a
sarcastic term for a disabled man" ... (Skeat, Ety. Dict.): scarcely
hears, has hardly any knowledge of.
30, 1. to suppress ... herein, calling upon him to put a stop to
his nephew's further proceeding in this matter; gait, "a particular use of the M. E. gate, a way ... It is clear that the word was thus used, because popularly connected with the verb to go;
at the same time, the word is not really derived from that verb,
but from the verb to get"... (Skeat, Ety. Dict.): levies, here, as
in ii. 2. 62, of the act of levying troops; in Cymb. iii. 7. 13, of
the troops raised.
32. lists, literally catalogues, hence numbers: proportions,
quotas, contingents, as in H. V. i. 2. 204, "Therefore let our
proportions for these wars Be soon collected."
33. Out of his subject, from among his subjects; for subject,
used collectively, cp. i. 1. 72.
35. For bearers, as bearers.
36-8. Giving ... allow, allowing you no further authority to treat with the king than the limits of these conditions, herein expressly stated, permit; for scope, cp. Lear, i. 4. 314, "But let
his disposition have that scope That dotage gives it. "For the
confusion of proximity, owing to the words intervening between
the nominative and the verb, see Abb. § 412; and for the tenour
of the words, cp. K. J. i. 1. 22, "Then take my king's defiance
from my mouth, The furthest limit of my embassy."
39. let your ... duty, let the haste you make in discharging
your mission call for our approval of your duteous behaviour.
41. nothing, in no way; like 'something,' frequently used by
Shakespeare in an adverbial sense.
42. what's ... you? what have you to tell us about yourself?
43. You told ... suit, you lately spoke to us about some request
you had to prefer.
44. speak of reason, mention any reasonable request.
40. lose your voice, waste your words, speak in vain.
45, 6. what wouldst ... asking? you cannot possibly make any
request of us which we would not grant of our own free will, if
we only knew what its nature was.
47-9 The head ... father, the head and heart, the hand and
mouth, do not work together in more complete sympathy than
do your father and myself. Delius points out that native expresses a connection that is congenital; instrumental, one that is mechanical; for native, = allied by nature, cp. A. W. i. 1. 238,
"To join like likes, and kiss like native things." Also for a
similar line of thought, see the fable of the belly and the bodily
members, Cor. i. 1. 99, etc.
51. Your leave and favour, your gracious permission.
52. From whence, strictly speaking, redundant; the suffix -ce,
= -es, originally a genitive case-ending, meaning 'from.' The
word is further noticeable in that when is used of time, not
place, though the word has in itself no reference to either time
or place, it being, according to Skeat (who compares Lat. quum,
when, from quis, who), originally a case of the interrogative
53. To show ... coronation, to show myself a loyal subject by
attending your coronation.
54. done, being performed.
57. And bow ... pardon, and submit themselves to your gracious
permission; asking, as it were, to be excused for preferring
France to the king's court; pardon, as in iv. 7. 46, and A. C. iii,
6. 60, "whereon I begg'd His pardon for return," meaning little
more than leave, permission.
59. wrung ... leave, extorted from me a permission reluctantly
60. By laboursome petition, by strenuous and persistent begging; laboursome, used again in Cymb. iii 4. 167, "Your laboursome and dainty trims," but in a slightly different sense, trims
over which much labour had been spent.
61. Upon his will ... consent, with the utmost reluctance I
assented to the determination he had so strongly formed; there
is an allusion to putting a seal to a will in order to give it validity, and a play upon the two meanings of Will.
63. Take ... hour, choose the time that may best suit you for
your departure: time be thine, consider yourself at liberty to
remain away as long as you may think fit.
64. And thy ... will! and may that time be spent by you to the
best purpose and in the way most agreeable to you!
65. cousin, used in Shakespeare's time for almost any relationship not in the first degree: son, stepson, the king having married his mother.
65. A little ... kind, the explanation of this line depends in
the first place upon whether the words refer to himself or to the
king, and secondly upon whether kind means 'kindly,' 'well-disposed,' or 'of the same nature.' Malone, taking the former view, explains, "I am a little more than thy kinsman (for I am
thy stepson), and am somewhat less than kind to thee (for I hate thee, as being the person who has incestuously married my mother)." Grant White, following Steevens, and taking the
latter view, explains, "In marrying my mother, you have made yourself something more than my kinsman, and, at the
same time, have shown yourself unworthy of our race, our kind." To me Grant White's explanation seems undoubtedly
the right one. This jingle between 'kin' and 'kind' was a
67. that the clouds ... you, that you are still in such a gloomy
68. too much i' the sun, probably best explained by reference
to the old proverb, quoted by Johnson, "Out of heaven's blessing into the warm sun," i.e. passing from a good state into one less favourable. The proverb is quoted in Lear, ii. 2. 168, and Dyce and Caldecott give examples of its use from Heywood to Swift. Some commentators have supposed a pun on 'sun' and 'son,' with an allusion to the king's words in 1. 64, and with the meaning that Hamlet had too much of the son and successor
about him without possession of his rights.
69. nighted colour, dark frame of mind; for the general rule
that participles formed from an adjective mean 'made of (the
adjective),' and derived from a noun, mean 'endowed with, or
like (the noun),' see Abb. § 294.
70. like a friend, in a friendly way, as the eye of a friend
would look: Denmark, i.e. the king.
72. Do not ... dust, do not for all time go about with your
eyes cast upon the ground as if you were looking for your father
laid in the earth: for vailed, cp. M. V. i. 1. 28, "Vailing her high-top lower than her ribs."
74. nature, this temporary existence in the natural world.
75. 'tis common, the occurrence of death is something that all
equally share; all that lives, everything that has life.
77. Why seems ... thee? why do you behave as though it
were something special to you?
80. Nor customary ... black, nor the usual sombre dress of
mourners; solemn, literally yearly, occurring annually like a
81. Nor windy ... breath, nor the forced sighs of insincere grief;
windy, used in the contemptuous sense of that which has nothing
real in it; so, of words, R. III. iv. 4. 127, "Windy attorneys to
their client woes."
82. the fruitful river... eye, the tears always ready to fall so
copiously; cp, A. C. ii. 5. 24, "Ram thou thy fruitful tidings in mine ears."
83. 'haviour, for examples of dropped prefixes, see Abb, § 460.
84. modes, methods of displaying grief externally [some texts have moods]: shapes, external semblances.
87. passeth show, goes beyond, is incapable of being represented by, any outward demonstration.
88. trappings, ornamental appendages: cp. T. N. v. 1, 10,
"Duke. Belong you to the Lady Olivia, friends? Clown. Ay,
sir; we are some of her trappings", originally, and in a literal
sense always, applied to the ornaments of a horse, such as plates
of metal, handsome cloths, etc. Malone compares R. II. iv. 1.
87. commendable, probably with the accent on the first
syllable, as in Cor. iv. 7. 51, though Abbott (§ 490), in order to
avoid the Alexandrine, scans the line "'Tis sweet and | commend | able in | your nat | ure, Hamlet."
88. To give, we should now say 'to pay.'
89. you must know, you must bear in mind.
90. That father ... bound, that father who was lost by your
father, lost his father; and the survivor in each case was bound,
etc. For the ellipsis in bound, the Cl. Pr. Edd. compare iii.
91. In filial obligation, by the duty he owed as a son.
92. obsequious sorrow, sorrow usual to show at the funeral of
some one dear; cp, T. A. v. 3. 152, "To shed obsequious tears
upon this trunk"; and for the substantive in the same sense,
R. J. v. 3. 16, "The obsequies that I for thee will keep Nightly
shall be to strew thy grave and weep"; obsequies. Lat.
obsequiae, funeral rites, literally followings after (a dead body);
persever, with the accent on the second syllable, as always in
93. condolement, sorrow for the dead; nowadays we use the verb 'condole' only in the sense of expressing sympathy in
sorrow, but in Elizabethan English it is often used as = mourn.
94. impious, in not showing resignation to the divine will.
95. incorrect to heaven, which refuses to bow to the correction, chastisement of heaven, as shown in the bereavement.
96. unfortified, not fortified by the consolations of religion: impatient, rebellious against the sufferings which it should bear
with due submission.
97. simple, foolish, ignorant; unschool'd, that has not learnt
the lessons which a wise man would lay to heart.
98. what, that which; must be, must happen.
99. As any ... sense, as anything the most palpable to sense;
for instances of the transposition of adjectival phrases, see Abb.
§ 419 a. Francke compares Cymb. i. 4. 65, "any the rarest of
our ladies in France"; H. VIII. ii. 4. 48, "was reckon'd one The wisest prince that there had reigned."
100. peevish, childishly querulous; fretful.
101. Take it to heart, cherish it as a wrong done to us: to
heaven, towards, against, heaven.
102. nature, that organization to which we belong, are a part
103. To reason most absurd, showing an utter deafness to the
voice of reason; absurd, from Lat. ab, from, and surdus, deaf; for 'who,' personifying an irrational antecedent, see Abb. § 264.
104. still, ever, constantly.
105. till he, up to the time of him; till, here a preposition; for he, = him, see Abb. § 206.
106. throw to earth, completely cast from you.
107. unprevailing, unavailing; Malone quotes Dryden, Essay on Dramatic Literature, "He may often prevail himself of the
same advantages in English." Cp. also R. J. iii. 3. 60, "It helps not, it prevails not": H. V. iii. 2. 16, "If wishes should prevail with me. "
108, 9. for let ... throne, for I call all men to witness my declaration that I regard you as next in succession to the throne. Succession to the throne of Denmark seems to have been elective,
though, as appears from the last scene of the play, the recommendation of the previous occupant went for something in the
election, and here the king is in effect pronouncing such recommendation beforehand.
110. with no ... love, with a love as full of generous feeling.
111. dearest, fondly loving and beloved.
112. Do I impart toward you, Delius is probably right in thinking
that Shakespeare having forgotten, owing to the intermediate clause, that he had written withno less, intended no less nobility of love to be the object of impart; For your intent, as regards,
113. to school, not necessarily in the sense in which we should
now use the phrase, Wittenberg being a university. Of course,
the mention of Wittenberg is an anachronism, the university
not having been founded until A.D. 1502.
114. retrograde, opposed to: literally going back from; an
astrological term. Tschischwitz says that when planets were retrograde, going away from the earth's orbit, they were, under certain circumstances, supposed to be hostile to human plans.
115. bend you, incline your mind.
116. in the cheer ... eye, cheered and comforted by our
gracious looks; cheer, properly the face, look, as in M. S. D.
iii. 2. 96, "pale of cheer," from O. F. chere, chiere, the face,
117. chiefest, highest in rank and importance: cousin, in the
118. lose, throw them away.
120. I shall best, I promise that I will to the best of my
ability; shall, see Abb. 315.
121. Why, 'tis ... reply, well, you could not have answered us
in more affectionate and gracious terms.
122. as ourself, i.e. enjoying the same privileges and honours.
123. accord. promise in harmony with our wishes.
124. Sits ... heart, nestles close to my heart, and smiles upon
it; i.e. is very dear to my heart, and cheers it by its presence.
There is the twofold idea of an object being hugged to the heart,
and of that object smiling upon the heart that thus gives it welcome: in grace whereof, and in order to mark my gratitude by doing honour to your concession; grace, honour, as in M. N. D. iv. 1. 139, "Came here in grace, of our solemnity," is probably
here used with a reference also to the saying of grace after meals
for blessings bestowed.
125. jocund health, joyous toasts to the health of some person: Denmark, I, the king of Denmark.
126. But the great ... tell, shall be drunk without the cannon
announcing it to, etc.
127. rouse, "a drinking-bout ...— Swed. rus, a drunken fit ...
That we got the word from Denmark is shown by a curious
quotation in Todd's Johnson: 'Thou noblest drunkard Bacchus, teach me how to take the Danish rowza'; Brand's
Pop. Antiq. ii. 228" (Skeat, Ety. Dict): bruit again, re-echo
with loud report; bruit, F. bruit, a great noise, bruire (verb).
128. Re-speaking earthly thunder, the skies echoing the report
of the cannon as with heavenly thunder.
129. this ... flesh, Moberly remarks, "The base affinities of our
nature are always present to Hamlet's mind. Here he thinks of
the body as hiding from us the freshness, life, and nobleness of
God's creation" ...
130. resolve, dissolve; but usually in this sense with the idea
of dissolving back into the original constituents. Cp. Tim. iv.
3. 442. "The sea's a thief, whose liquid surge resolves The moon
into salt tears."
132. His canon 'gainst self-slaughter, his ordinance forbidding
suicide; an ordinance not laid down in Scripture except in the
general one against murder.
133. stale, vapid; flat, tasteless, as liquor becomes after
standing uncovered for some time.
134. uses, manners, ways, doings: cp. Oth. iv. 3. 105, "heaven
me such uses send, Not to pick bad from bad, but by bad
135, 6. 'tis an ... seed, the world seems to me as a garden in
which no care is taken to hoe up the weeds, and in which the plants are left to run to seed (and so become worthless) instead of having their exuberant growth checked by pruning. Cp. R. II. iii. 4. 34-66, where a garden is likened to a commonwealth.
136. things ... nature, things which for want of proper attention have become rank and gross in nature.
137. merely, completely; "Merely (from the Latin merus and
mere) means purely, only. It separates that which it designates
or qualifies from everything else. But in so doing the chief or
most emphatic reference may be made either to that which is
included, or to that which is excluded. In modern English it is
always to the latter; by 'merely upon myself' [J. C. i. 2. 39] we
should now mean upon nothing else except myself; the nothing else is that which makes the merely prominent.
In Shakespeare's day the other reference was the more common, that namely to
what was included; and 'merely upon myself' meant upon myself altogether, or without regard to anything else. Myself
was that which the merely made prominent. So when Hamlet
speaking of the world, says, 'Things rank and gross in nature
possess it merely,' he by the merely brings the possession before
the mind and characterizes it as complete and absolute; but by
the same term now the prominence would be given to something else from which the possession might be conceived to be separable; 'possess it merely would mean have nothing beyond simply the
possession of it (have, it might be, no right to it, or no enjoyment
of it). It is not necessaiy that that which is included, though
thus emphasized, should therefore be more definitely conceived
than that with which it is contrasted" ... (Craik, Eng. of Shakespeare, 45). That it ... this! to think that matters should have come to such a scandalous pitch! what a horrible idea!
138. But, only.
139. to this, when compared to the present king.
141. Hyperion to a satyr, what the god of day is to a creature
half goat, half man. The penultimate in Hyperion is long in
Greek, but English poets from Spenser to modern times have
disregarded this fact.
141. That he ... beteem, that he would not allow.
142. Visit, for the omission of to before the infinitive, see Abb.
143. Must I remember? can I not put such thoughts out of my
head? must they ever be present there? hang on him, cling to
him in fond embrace.
144, 5. As If ... on, as if her loving desire had been made more
eager by its mere satisfaction; been strengthened by the food of
love it had enjoyed.
146. Let me ... on 't, oh, that I could forget it! Frailty...
woman, if we wished to give frailty a descriptive name, no better
one could be chosen than 'woman.'
147. A little month, a short month; scarcely a month: or ere,
a reduplication, or, in this phrase, = before, from A.S. aer, ere:
shoes. Ingleby would read 'shows. '
145. follow d, sc. to the grave.
149. Niobe, daughter of Tantalus, and wife of Amphion. Proud
of the number of her children, she boasted her superiority over
Leto, mother of Apollo and Artemis, who, indignant at the
insult, slew all her children; she herself, according to one tradition, being changed by Zeus at her own request into a stone, which during the summer always shed tears: all tears, a very
impersonation of grief.
150. that wants ... reason, that lacks the power of reasoning,
the reasoning faculty; cp. T. C. ii. 2. 116, "So madly hot that
no discourse of reason ... Can qualify the same?"; and below,
iv. 4. 36.
152. but no more ... father, but, though so closely akin in
blood, no more akin in disposition to, etc.
154. Ere yet ... tears, even before the salt tears which, with
such intention in her mind, were a mere profanation of sorrow, etc.
155. Had left ... eyes, had ceased to flush her eyes with "eye-offending brine" (T. N. i. 1. 30); flushing is here the verbal, and
the verb is still used transitively in such expressions as 'to flush the deck," 'to flush the sewers,' meaning to cleanse by dashing water upon or through; for galled, cp. below, iii. 2. 235; the
verb means to rub a sore place.
156. to post, to hurry at full speed; from post, a runner,
157. With such dexterity, so quickly and cleverly. There seems
to be here the idea of that combined nimbleness and ingenuity which is essential to success in tricks performed by sleight of hand; not only did she swiftly transfer her affections from one brother to the other, but she showed in doing so a cunning regard to her own interests: incestuous, originally meaning
nothing more than unchaste, but used specially of alliances
within the forbidden degrees of relationship.
158. nor it cannot, the emphatic double negative, frequent
160. Hail, literally health, A.S. hael, health; a common salutation.
161. or do ... myself? or am I making some mistake in fancying you to be Horatio?
162. poor, humble.
163. I'll change ... you, probably exchange that name with
you, calling you friend and expecting you to call me so in return, rather than, as Johnson explains, "I'll be your servant, and you shall be my friend."
164. what ... Wittenberg? what are you doing here away from
Wittenberg (where you ought to be)?
167. Good even, sir, Grant White, the Camb. Ed., and Hudson, take this as addressed to Bernardo.
168. But what ... Wittenberg, but tell me truly what has
brought you all the way from Wittenberg.
169. A truant disposition, an idle, roving nature; F. truand,
rascally, roguish: good my lord, for the transposition of the
pronominal adjective, see Abb. § 13.
170. hear ... so, stand by and hear your enemy say so without
defending you against his charge. 171. that, such; see Abb. § 277.
172,3. To make ... yourself, as to make it believe your own
report when it is one defaming yourself.
175. We'll teach ... depart, if we cannot do anything else, we
will at all events teach, etc. See note on i. 4. 19.
179. hard upon, closely after.
180. Thrift, thrift, pretending to excuse the unseemly haste of
the marriage, Hamlet says that was but economy, nothing else:
the funeral baked meats, the dishes cooked for the funeral ceremony; the custom of entertaining the relations and friends of deceased persons after the funeral. Douce traces the custom to the cena feralis of the Romans, at which milk, honey, wine, etc., were offered to the spirit of the
dead person. Cp. The Old Law, iv. 1. 35-7, "Besides, there will
be charges saved too; the same rosemary that serves for the
funeral will serve for the wedding."
181. Did coldly ... tables, served, when cold, for the wedding
feast; with a play upon coldly.
182. Would I ... heaven, I would rather have met my worst
enemy in heaven (instead of his being in hell where I should
wish him to be); dearest foe, "'dear' is used of whatever touches us nearly either in love or hate, joy or sorrow" ... (Cl. Pr. Ed.).
183. Or ever, before ever; ever emphasizing the wish.
185. in my mind's eye, Steevens compares Lucr. 1426, "Was left unseen, save to the eye of mind."
186. goodly, fine-looking.
187, 8. He was ... again, he was a man whose equal, looking at
him in all his characteristics, I shall never see again; take him,
if one regards him; for all in all, for everything about him
in every respect; an emphatic way of speaking = in his
190. Saw? who? both words emphatic; what do you mean by
saying you saw him? and whom do you mean by him? Many
editors read 'Saw who?', and 'who' for 'whom' is frequently
used by Shakespeare.
192,3. Season ... ear, let your wonder be mixed with, qualified
by, attention for a time; for season, cp. ii. 1. 28, below; admiration, always used by Shakespeare either as 'wonder' simply, or as 'wonder mingled with veneration,' and so more in accordance
with its original sense; attent, attentive; not elsewhere in Shakespeare: deliver, relate.
194. Upon ... gentlemen, resting upon the evidence of these
gentlemen which will hear out what I have to say.
197. on their watch, while keeping their watch.
198. In the dead ... the night, in the silent vacancy of midnight; vast, "applied to the darkness of midnight in which the prospect is not bounded in by distinct objects" (Schmidt); cp.
Temp. i. 2. 327, "that vast of night." Malone sees a pun here upon vast, or waste, as the folios read, and waist, comparing
Marston's Malcontent, ii. 3. 153, "'Tis now about the waist of
midnight"; but it is much more probable that Marston, who in
that play repeatedly burlesques or parodies passages in Hamlet,
should have seized upon this expression in order to pun
200. Armed at point exactly, in armour complete to the
smallest particular; the folios read 'at all points,' as in R. II.
i. 3. 2; in Lear, i. 4. 347, "to let hiin keep at point a hundred
knights," and Macb. iv. 3. 135, "with ten thousand warlike
men Already at a point," the meaning is 'in complete readiness'; cap-a-pe, from head to foot; F. a pied, a being the preposition = to.
202. Goes ... them, passes in front of them in slow and stately
manner; slow and stately, adverbs.
204. Within ... length, less than the length of his truncheon
away from them; truncheon, short staff, a symbol of kingly
(or other) office; what in R. II. i. 3. 118, is called the king's
'warder'; whilst, the genitive case of while, time, used adverbially,
with an excrescent t, as in amongst, amidst.
204, 5. distill'd ... fear, dissolved almost into a jelly by the
action of fear upon them; i.e. with beads of sweat falling from their foreheads, like jelly melting; unless there is a reference to the tremulous nature of jelly, and its being allowed to drip
through a flannel bag when being made; cp. T. A. iii. 1. 17,
"with rain That shall distill from these two ancient urns," i.e. his eyes; act, cp. 0th. iii. 3. 328, "poisons Which ... with a little act upon the blood, Burn like the mines of sulphur."
207. dreadful, terror-stricken; impart they did, "this inversion gives formality and solemnity to the speaker's words" (Cl. Pr. Ed.).
209-11. Where, ... comes, and to that spot (sc. where we were keeping watch) the apparition comes at the very time of night
and in the very shape described by them, every particular of
their narrative being substantiated.
212. These hands ... like, these two hands of mine (holding them up) being not more like each other than was the figure like your father.
214. Did you ... it? you surely did not allow it to pass without
questioning it? Steevens has a long note to show, what seems
apparent enough, that speak not you is the emphatic word.
216. it head, the first quarto gives 'his head'; it, an early
provincial form, = its, occurs in the first folio in fourteen passages;
in some of these it is used either in imitation of the language of
children, or in a mocking, derisive sense, but in others no such
idea is present. Rolfe remarks, "The simple fact is, that
Shakespeare wrote in the early part of that transitional period
when its was beginning to displace his and her as the possessive
of it, and that just at that time the form it and it's were more
common than its, though this last was occasionally used even
before the end of the 16th century."
216, 7. and did ... speak, and prepared to speak, as shown by
the moving of its lips, made as though it would speak; address,
made ready, ultimately from Lat. directus, straight; for motion,
cp. i. H. IV. ii. 3. 63, "And in thy face strange motions (i.e.
contortions) have appeared, Such as we see when men restrain
their breath On some great sudden hest"; like ... speak, i.e. just
as it would do if it were about to speak ('if being implied in the
subjunctive), would now be accounted a vulgarism.
218. even then, at that very instant; on the difference of
emphasis in the use of even, between Elizabethan and modern
English, see Abb. § 38.
219. shrunk, i.e. into thin air.
221. As I do live, as surely as I live.
222. writ ... duty, laid down among the items of our duty, as
though they had a scroll with the different particulars
enumerated; for the curtailed form of the participle, see Abb.
224. Indeed ... me, assuredly this troubles me; literally,
assuredly this does not do anything except trouble me.
226. Arm'd, say you? said with reference to the ghost.
228. beaver, "the lower portion of the face-guard of a helmet,
when worn with a visor; but occasionally serving the purposes
of both. M. E. baviere O.F. baviere, originally a child's
bib, f. bave, saliva" (Murray, Eng. Dict).
230. A countenance ... anger, the expression of his features was
that of sorrow rather than anger.
233. constantly, persistently, without taking them off our
238. grizzled, of greyish colour; F. gris, grey: no? seems to
be said by Hamlet on Horatio shaking his head in dissent.
240. A sable silver'd, a black beard with threads of silver in
it; op. Sonn. xii. 4, "And sable curls all silver'd o'er with
white"; and in proof that Shakespeare used sable for black, cp.
below, ii. 2. 428, "he whose sable arms Black as his purpose."
Sable, an animal of the weasel kind, the most highly prized fur
of which is black; so sable in blazonry means black.
242. assume ... person, present itself in the form of my father; assume, take upon it, but without any idea of its doing so without right.
243, 4. though hell ... peace, though hell, by opening at my
feet, should endeavour to deter me from speaking. Staunton
thinks that gape perhaps means yell, howl, roar.
246. Let it ... still, let it be a thing about which you find it
still possible to keep silence; tenable, not elsewhere used by
247. hap, happen.
248. Give it ... tongue, take it well into your minds, let it
impress itself firmly upon your minds, but do not utter a word
249. requite, "The word ought rather to be requit ... But just
as quite occurs as a variant of quit, so requite is put for requit."
251. Our duty to your honour, we assure your honour (used as a title) of our loyal obedience.
252. Your loves, i.e. it is your affection, not your duty, that I
desire, just as it is affection that I feel towards you.
253. in arms! not merely, or so much, that the ghost appears
clad in armour, but that it has risen to avenge some injury: all is not well, some wrong has evidently been perpetrated.
Hitherto Hamlet, though vigorously condemning his mother's
haste in re-marrying, especially as her choice is a so unworthy
one, and pouring contempt upon his uncle, has had no suspicion
of foul play.
254. doubt, suspect.
255, 6. foul deeds ... eyes, foul deeds will reveal themselves to
men's eyes, however thoroughly they may appear to be hidden;
cp. Macb. iii. 4. 123-6,
"Stones have been known to move and
trees to speak; Augurs and understood relations have By magot pies and choughs and rooks brought forth The secret 'st man of blood."
Corson doubts whether to men's eyes should be connected with rise or with o'erwhelm them.
How to cite the explanatory notes:
Shakespeare, William. Hamlet, prince of Denmark. Ed. K. Deighton. London: Macmillan, 1919. Shakespeare Online. 20 Feb. 2010. < http://www.shakespeare-online.com/plays/hamlet_1_2.html >.
How to cite the scene review questions:
Mabillard, Amanda. Hamlet: Scene Questions for Review. Shakespeare Online. 27 Nov. 2013. < http://www.shakespeare-online.com/plays/hamlet_1_2.html >.
1. How does Claudius reveal his strong leadership abilities in this scene?
2. How should the courtiers be dressed?
3. How does this compare to the way Hamlet is dressed (in his nighted colour).
4. Claudius discusses four pressing matters with his court: the state of Denmark, the business with Norway, Laertes' request to return to France, and Hamlet's request to return to Wittenberg. Explain the significance of each.
5. Why would Claudius not want Hamlet to return to Wittenberg?
6. How is this scene connected to Scene 1?
7. Scholar Horace Howard Furness believes the final lines of the scene perfectly explain Hamlet. Do you agree?
Points to Ponder ... Hamlet's passionate first soliloquy (line 129) provides a striking contrast to the controlled and artificial dialogue that he must exchange with Claudius and his court. The primary function of the soliloquy is to reveal to the audience Hamlet's profound melancholia and the reasons for his despair. In a disjointed outpouring of disgust, anger, sorrow, and grief, Hamlet explains that, without exception, everything in his world is either futile or contemptible. His speech is saturated with suggestions of rot and corruption, as seen in the basic usage of words like "rank" and "gross", and in the metaphor associating the world with "an unweeded garden." Read on...
Did You Know? ... The Theatre was the first London playhouse, built in 1576 by the English actor and entrepreneur James Burbage, father of the great actor and friend of Shakespeare, Richard Burbage. It was located in a northern suburb of London (north of London Wall which bounded the city proper); on the edge of Finsbury Fields, just past Bishopsgate Street, where Shakespeare called home up to 1597. Read on...