From Hamlet, prince of Denmark. Ed. K. Deighton. London: Macmillan.
Of this scene Coleridge remarks, "This scene must be regarded
as one of Shakespeare's lyric movements in the play, and the skill
with which it is interwoven with thu dramatic parts is peculiarly
an excellence of our poet. You experience the sensation of a
pause without the sense of a stop."
1. necessaries, luggage or baggage, as we should say: embark'd, put on board the vessel.
2. as the ... benefit, according as (whenever) from time to time
the winds serve, are in a quarter favourable to the sailing of a
vessel. Cp. Cymb. iv. 2. 342, "Lucius. When expect you them? Captain. With the next benefit of the wind."
3. And convoy is assistant, and the means of conveying a letter is at hand: i.e. when there is both a favourable wind and a vessel sailing in that direction: for convoy cp. T. C. i. 1. 107,
"this sailing Pandar, Our doubtful hope, our convoy and our bark": do not sleep, do not be too lazy to write.
5. For Hamlet ... favour, as for Hamlet and the admiration
which he carelessly offers you.
6. Hold it a fashion, regard it as nothing more than a passing
fancy, a thing sure to change as quickly as fashion in dress: a
toy in blood, a mere caprice of impulse; for toy, cp. i. 4. 75. and
Oth. iii. 4. 156, "And no conception nor no jealous toy Concerning you"; for blood, cp. M.A. ii. 1. 187, "beauty is a witch Against whose charms faith melteth into blood."
7. A violet ... nature, as a violet appearing in the early spring
- i.e. before its proper season; primy, belonging to the prime,
early days of the year; not elsewhere found in Shakespeare,
though we have prime = spring, Lucr. 332, Sonnet. xcvii. 2.
8. Forward, not permanent, precocious, but enduring for a
short season only.
9. The perfume ... minute, the perfume which a minute affords
and which with the minute passes away; merely an amplification of the words sweet, not lasting.
10. No more but so? nothing more than that?
11-4. For nature ... withal, for a man's nature, when in a state
of growth, does not show its expansion merely in physical
strength and size; but as the body fills out, the mind and soul
also expand in the service they inwardly perform, extending their
operations to a much wider sphere. In other words, Hamlet as
yet is a mere youth, and the scope of his thoughts being but
narrow, he finds pleasure in making love to you; but, as he grows older, larger interests will occupy his mind, and he will forget all about you: thews, sinews, strength, from A.S. theaw,
habit, custom, behaviour ... the base is thau-, evidently from the
Teut. base THU, to be strong" ... (Skeat, Ety. Dict.); temple,
body; cp. Macb. ii. 3. 73, "murder hath broke ope The Lord's
anointed temple." Caldecott points out that the word is never so
used but on great occasions.
14. Perhaps ... now. Laertes does not mean to charge Hamlet
with insincerity; his love may be real enough, he says, but it
will quickly change.
15, 6. And now ... will, and at present no evil thought or crafty
design stains the essential goodness of his intentions towards you;
cautel, used here and in the Lover's Complaint, 303, only, though
cautelous occurs in Cor. iv. 1. 33; J. C. ii. 1. 129, with the same
bad sense; the Lat. cautela, a term of Roman law, from which
the word ultimately comes, meant nothing more than a precaution, the acquired invidiousness being probably due to the subtlety of such precautions.
16, 7. but you ... own, but what you have to fear is that, his
position in the state being taken into consideration, he is not at
liberty to follow his own inclinations.
18. For he ... birth, for he must submit himself to the conditions of his birth; cp. Cymb. ii. 3. 121-6, "And though it be allow'd in meaner parties ... to knit their souls ... in self-figur'd
knot; Yet you are curbed from that enlargement by The consequence o' the crown."
19, 20. He may not ... himself, it is not possible for him, like
persons of no consequence, to cut out a path for himself in whatever direction pleases him; cp. R. II. ii. 3. 144, "But in this kind to come, in braving arms. Be his own carver and cut out his
way": on his choice, on the choice he makes of a wife.
22-4. And therefore ... head, and therefore must that choice be
restricted in accordance with the approval and consent of the
body politic, whose head he is.
25-7. It fits ... deed, it is incumbent upon you, if you are wise,
to put faith in his professions of love only so far as he, acting as
he must act in the particular conditions of his rank, is able to
give effect to his promises.
27, 8. which is ... withal, and this freedom of action extends
no further than it is in accordance with the general wish of the
people; withal, when used as a preposition, always in Shakespeare at the end of the sentence.
30. credent, readily believing, credulous; used again in this,
its more proper sense in L. C. 279, but in W. T. i. 2. 142, and
M. M. iv. 4. 29 (the only other passages in which it occurs) as =
credible: list his songs, listen to his love songs; cp. M. N. D.
i. 1. 30-3.
31. lose your heart, yield up your love: chaste treasure,
treasure consisting in chastity.
32. unmaster'd, which gets the better of him; at a time when
he has no control over his passions.
33. it, sc. the danger of accepting and returning his love.
34. And keep ... affection, do not allow yourself to go so far
in meeting his wishes as your love for him would prompt you to do.
35. Out of ... desire, out of the dangerous aim of passion.
36. 7. The chariest ... moon, even that maiden who is most
chary of allowing her beauty to be gazed upon, and who refuses
to let it be gazed upon except by the chaste moon, is in doing so
quite as prodigal as she ought to be; 'chary' from "A.S. cearu,
caru, care ... thus chary is the adjective of care, and partakes of
its double sense, viz.: (1) sorrow, (2) heedfulness; the former of
these being the older sense" (Skeat, Ety. Dict.).
38. Virtue ... strokes, not even the very impersonation of
virtue is exempt from the shafts of calumny; cp. W. T.. ii. 71-4,
"these petty brands That calunmy doth use- 0, I am out — That
mercy does, for calumny will sear Virtue itself."
39-42. The canker ... imminent, the firstlings of the spring,
even before their buds have opened, are blighted by the canker-worm; and youth while in its first bloom, a flower just washed by the dew of early morning, is most in danger of being withered
by pernicious blasts; in plain language, Ophelia's youth and
innocence render her most liable to danger. The canker, a small worm that eats into and destroys the flower; a doublet of cancer, literally a crab, the disease being so named from eating into the
flesh; galls, literally rubs into a sore; the infants of the spring,
cp. L. L. L. i. 1. 101, "Biron is like an envious sneaping frost
That bites the first-born infants of the spring"; buttons, buds,
the original sense of the word; contagious, pestilential, pernicious, used by Shakespeare of fogs, clouds, darkness, breath, etc.; blastments, the abstract for the concrete.
43. best safety lies in fear, cp. Macb. iii. 5. 32", "And you
all know, security - i.e. a sense of safety - is mortals' chiefest
44. Youth ... near, "in the absence of any tempter, youth
rebels against itself, i.e. the passions of youth revolt from the
power of self-restraint; there is a traitor in the camp. The
substantive verb is similarly omitted in Cymb. iv. 4, 23,"
["Though Cloten then but young"] (Cl. Pr. Edd.).
45, 6. I shall ... heart, I shall keep the purport of this lesson
as a safeguard to my heart; I shall lay your lesson to my heart
and trust it to act as a watch against all inclinations to weakness; for effect, cp. Tim. iii. 5. 97, "'Tis few in words, but spacious in effect"; good, my brother, see Abb. 13. Coleridge remarks,
"You will observe in Ophelia's short and geneial answer to the
long speech of Laertes the natural carelessness of innocence,
which cannot think such a code of cautions and prudences
necessary to its own preservation."
47. ungracious, who have none of that holiness which they
preach to others; cp. R. II. ii. 3. 89. "and that word 'grace'
In an ungracious mouth is but profane. "
49-51. Whiles. ... rede, while, like a debauchee, bloated with
indulgence and heedless of all consequence, you tread the flower-strewn path of wanton folly, and have no thought of following the advice you offer to others. There is a confusion of constructions between Whiles like, etc., you tread the, etc., and reck, etc., and
Whiles you act like, etc.. who treads, etc. For puff'd, cp. Tim.
iv. 3. 180, "whose self-same mettle, Whereof thy proud child,
arrogant man, is puff'd."; for primrose path, Macb. ii. 3. 17,
"I had thought to have let in some of all professions that go the
primrose way to the everlasting bontire; "rede, from A.S. raed,
advice, from which also comes our verb to read.
51. fear me not, do not be anxious on my account.
53. A double ... grace, a double blessing carries with it a double
store of happiness; Polonius has already said good-bye (God be
with you) once.
54. Occasion ... leave, accident is propitious in allowing us a
55. for shame! i.e. you ought to be ashamed of yourself for
having delayed so long.
56. sits ... sail, is already filling your sails. The sail when
blown out looks like a stooping shoulder; cp. T. C. ii. 2. 74, "Your breath of full consent bellied his sails."
57. And you ... for, and your companions are waiting for you:
with thee! go with you!
59. character, inscribe indelibly: cp. T. G. ii. 7. 4, 'I do
conjure thee, Who art the table wherein all my thoughts Are
visibly character'd and engraved"; in both cases the accent
being on the second syllable.
60. Nor any ... act, nor translate into action any ill-regulated
thought; cp. Temp. v. 1. 290. "He is as disproportion'd in his
manners As in his shape"; Oth. iii. 3. 233, "Foul disproportion,
thoughts unnatural"; his act, the act which would be the consequence of the thought; his = its.
61. Be thou ... vulgar, show yourself ready to be upon intimate
terms with your acquaintances, but do not make yourself too
common: cp. i H. IV. iii. 2. 60, etc., where Henry describes how Richard forfeited all respect by making himself too
62, 3. Those friends ... steel, bind to your very soul those
friends you have, and whose adoption by you has been put to the
proof. On Pope's reading hooks, which has been accepted by Malone
and others, the Cl. Pr. Edd. remark that it "makes the figure
suggested by 'grapple' the very reverse of what Shakespeare
intended; grappling by hooks is the act of an enemy and not of
a friend." To this it might be replied that in H. V. iii. Chor.
18, we have "Grapple your minds to sternage of this navy,"
where, though the idea of grappling-hooks is evidently present,
there is no thought of hostility. But the figure is probably
taken from hooping together the several staves of a cask, etc., so
as to form one compact whole; cp. ii. H. IV. iv. 4. 43-7, "A hoop of gold to bind thy brothers in, That the united vessel of their blood ... shall never leak"; A. C. ii. 2. 117, "Yet if I knew
What hoop should hold us stanch": and their adoption tried, is
taken by Delius as a participial parenthesis, and this seems to
me the most probable construction, since hast is not here an
64, 5. But do not ... comrade, but do not make yourself incapable of judging between the value of one man and another by accepting the offer of friendship made by anyone with whom you
are thrown, however raw and inexperienced in the world he may
be. The figure is that of depriving the sense of touch of that
delicate sensitiveness which enables a man to distinguish with
nicety between different surfaces: cp. v. 1. 65, 6, "The hand of
little employment hath the daintier sense"; Cymb. i. 6. 106,
"join gripes with hands Made hard with hourly falsehood."
65-7. Beware ... thee, be cautious about engaging in a quarrel,
but when once engaged in it, cany matters in such a way that
your enemy may in future hesitate about provoking you.
68. Give ... voice, be ready to listen to what each man has to
say, but be chary of giving your own views.
69. Take ... judgement, hear each man's opinion, but forbear to
deliver your own decision as to its merits; censure, opinion, the
wider and original meaning of the word; the present limited
sense of unfavourable opinion being due to the fact that men are
more ready to blame than to praise.
70. Costly ... buy, let your dress be as costly as your means will
71. But not ... gaudy, but do not let its costliness be shown by
its being fanciful, extravagant; let it be rich looking, but not
72. For the apparel ... man, for his dress is often an indication
of the wearer's character.
73, 4. And they ... that, the quartos give 'Are (or 'Or') of a
most select and generous, chiefe (or cheefe) in that'; the folios,
'Are of a most select and generous cheff in that.' The reading
in the text, which is Rowe's, is adopted by most modern editors,
and gives a certain sense, to wit, the men of highest birth and
rank in France, priding themselves as they do upon their taste,
and addicted as they are to what is rich and noble-looking, show
those tendencies in matters of dress more than in anything else;
chief, as a substantive, in the sense of 'eminence.' 'superiority,'
or in that of 'note,' 'estimation,' commends itself to some
editors: while Staunton and Ingleby, who retain of a, advocate
sheaf, in the sense of 'clique,' 'class,' 'set,' the figure, according
to the former, being borrowed from archery, in the affected
phraseology of the Euphuists, according to the latter, partly
from archery, partly from husbandry.
76. For loan ... friend, for by lending to a friend you often lose
both the money itself and the friendship of him to whom you
lent it, sc. owing to the disputes arising from his not repaying
77. dulls ... husbandry, takes the fine edge off economy; makes
a man less thrifty than he would be if he knew that nobody
would lend him money; for husbandry, cp. Macb. ii. 1. 4,
"There's husbandry in heaven; Their candles are all out," said
of a dark night.
79. as the night, as surely as the night follows.
81. season, give durability; cp. iii. 2. 219. Polonius hopes that his blessing accompanying his advice will make it more lasting than it would otherwise be, just as wood is seasoned by
83. The time invites you, i.e. it is high time that you should; tend, wait for, are expecting, you.
86. And you ... it, and unless you say that it is no longer
necessary for me to keep it safely, it shall ever remain there.
89. So please you, if it so please you (the 'if' being inherent in the subjunctive); a deprecatory form of courtesy.
90. Marry, a corruption of the name Mary, i.e. the Mother of
Christ, in order to avoid the statute against profane swearing;
well bethought, that is fortunately thought of; I am glad you
should have reminded me of the subject.
92. Given ... you, spent upon you in private some of the leisure
at his disposal: the turn of the sentence seems to show that
private comprises the character of the time, i.e. time that Hamlet
could call his own, time that was not needed for public purposes,
and also the manner in which he spent that time, sc. privately
with Ophelia; for thc former sense, cp. H. V. iv. 1. 254, "What
infinite heart's-ease Must kings neglect, that private men enjoy";
for the latter, M. N. D. i. 1. 116, "I have some private schooling
for you both.'
93. Have ... bounteous, have been more ready to listen to him
than you should have been.
94. as so ... me, for so I have been informed; not, I think,
suggested (though the expression is common enough in that sense),
the suggestion here being contained in the next line; cp. M. M.
ii. 2. 133, "Why do you put these sayings upon me?"
95. And that ... caution, and informed with the object of putting
me upon my guard; And that, emphasizes the object with which
he was told; must, cannot help.
96, 7. You do not ... honour, you have not such a clear conception as you ought to have of what becomes you as my daughter and as a modest maiden.
98. What is between you? What understanding or agreement
exists between you?; give ... truth, tell me without keeping anything back.
99. tenders, offers.
101. green, raw, inexperienced, foolish; cp. iv. 5. 99.
102. Unsifted ... circumstance, one that has not been sifted,
tried, by experience of such dangerous matters; cp. ii. H. IV. iv. 1. 194, "We shall be winnowed with so rough a wind That even our coin shall seem as light as chaff. "
104. what I should think, what to believe.
106. 7. That you ... sterling, for having taken as current coin these offers which are of no sterling value; sterling, first applied to the English penny, said to be so called from the Easterlings or
North Germans, who were the first moneyers in England.
107. Tender ... dearly, put a higher value upon yourself.
108. to crack ... phrase, to ride the phrase to death.
109. Running it thus, carrying on the figure of a horse being
ridden till, broken-winded, it comes to a stand-still; Running is
Collier's correction of the reading of the folios, Roaming: tender
me a fool, present me to the world as a fool, show me as a fool;
tender = hold dear, from F. tendre (adj.), Lat. tener, tender;
tender = offer, from F. tendre (vb.), Lat. tendere, to stretch.
110. 1. he hath ... fashion, he has made me urgent proposals of
112. Ay, ... it, you are quite right to use the word fashion, for
his proffers of love are but a mere fashion, something that will
change quickly enough; cp. above, 1. 6: go to, go to, nonsense,
nonsense; a common phrase of contemptuous reproof, or, as
sometimes, of exhortation.
113, 4. And hath ... heaven, and has confirmed his vows by
almost every possible appeal to heaven; countenance, credit,
authority, as in i. H. IV. iii. 2. 65, and the verb, ii. H. IV.
iv. 1. 35.
115. Ay, ... woodcocks, yes (said scornfully), snares to catch
fools. The woodcock, from its being easily snared, or from its
being supposed to have but little brain, was a frequent equivalent
for a fool, simpleton.
116. When the blood burns, when passion is strong, when the
heart is inflamed with passion: prodigal, for adjectives used adverbially, see Abb. § 1.
117-20. these blazes ... fire, these flashes of passion, which give
forth more light than warmth, and of which both the light and
the warmth die out even at the moment of their promise, while
it is yet in the course of being made, you must not mistake for
the fire which burns with steady and comforting warmth;
promise seems to be used with an allusion to its literal meaning,
that which is sent forth, and so perhaps in J. C. iv. 2. 24, "like
horses hot at hand, Make gallant show and promise of their
mettle"; as it is a-making is an expansion of Even in their
promise; for the prefix a-, = on, in, of, before adjectives and
participles used as nouns, see Abb. § 24.
121. Be somewhat ... presence, show the reserve which becomes a maiden by allowing him fewer opportunities of meeting you; maiden, from its position, seems to have this emphatic
122, 3. Set your ... parley, put a higher value upon yourself
than to consider the entreaties you receive from him as a command, which you cannot disregard, to enter into negotiations;
your, used objectively, of which you are the object.
124-6. Believe ... you, so far, and so far only, let your belief in
him go as to bear in mind that he is young, and therefore both
eager and changeable, and that to him, as a man, a larger license
in making love is allowable than to you in accepting love; do
not be over-credulous in trusting him, but remember that his
youth and his sex are both to be considered in estimating his professions of love; in few, to sum up shortly; for adjectives used as nouns, even in the singular, see Abb. § 5.
127, 8. for they ... show, for they are go-betweens that do not
show themselves in their true colours; for investments = dress,
cp. ii. H. IV. iv. 1. 45, "Whose white investments figure innocence."
129. mere... suits, nothing but advocates to urge disgraceful proposals; cp. L. C. 173, "vows were even brokers to defiling."
How to cite the explanatory notes:
Shakespeare, William. Hamlet, prince of Denmark. Ed. K. Deighton. London: Macmillan, 1919. Shakespeare Online. 20 Feb. 2010. (date when you accessed the information) < http://www.shakespeare-online.com/plays/hamlet_1_3.html >.