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be wished; but if to sleep in death, be to dream, to retain our powers of sensibility, we must pause to consider, in that sleep of death what dreams may come. This consideration makes calamity so long endured; for who would bear the vexations of life, which might be ended by a bare bodkin, but that he is afraid of something in unknown futurity? This fear it is that gives efficacy to conscience, which by turning the mind upon this regard, chills the ardour of resolution, checks the vigour of enterprize, and makes the current of desire stagnate in inactivity.
We may suppose that he would have applied these general observations to his own case, but that he discovered Ophelia.
JOHNSON. I cannot but think that Dr. Johnson's explication of this passage, though excellent on the whole, is wrong in the outset.-He explains the words~ To be, or not to beam Whether after our present state, we are to be, or not;" whereas the obvious sense of them- To live, or to put an end to my life, seems clearly to be pointed out by the following words, which are manifestly a paraphrase on the foregoing-Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer, &c. or to take arms--The train of Hamlet's reasoning, which Dr. Johnson has so well explained, is sufficiently clear, which ever way the words are understood.
MALONE. This interpretation of Mr. Malone is indisputably right, as the very notion of a ghost, implies the certainty of an after-existence.
66. Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, ] Shakspere resembles Æschylus in the sudden breaks of his metaphors. To take up arms against a sea of troubles, is in the manner of our author. Were we to admit siege for sea, we might improve the picture; but we should endanger the likeness. lö says, in the Pro. metheus vinctus of Æschylus, v. 885.
“My confused words strike at random against a sea of troubles, or the waves of misery;" by which she means,— I talk confusedly in my misfortunes.
S. W. 67. To die ;--to sleep ;-] This passage is ridi. culed in the Scornful Lady of Beaumont and Fletcher, as follows:
be deceas’d, that is, asleep, for so the word is taken. “ To sleep, to die; to die, to sleep; a very figure, sir.” &c. &c.
STEEVENS, 74. -mortal coil,] i. c. turmoil, bustle.
WARBURTON. 77. —the whips and scorns of time, ] Whips and scorns are as inseparable companions, as publick punishment and infamy.
Hamlet is introduced as reasoning on a question of general concernment. He therefore takes in all such evils as could befall mankind in general, without considering himself at present as a prince, or wishing to avail himself of the few exemptions whicho high place might once have claimed. In part of K. James I.'s Entertainment passing to
his Coronation, by Ben Jonson and Decker, is the fol. lowing line, and note on that line :
" And first account of years, of months, OF TIME." “ By time we understand the present."
Steevens. The word whips is used by Marston in his Satires, 1599, in the sense required here :
Ingenuous melancholy“ Inthrone thee in my blood ; let me entreat, “ Stay 'his quick jocund skips and force him run “ A sad pac'd course, untill my whips be done."
MALONE. -the proud man's contumely,] The folio reads :
-the poor man's contumely, which may be right;-the contumely which the poor man is obliged to endure:
“ Nil habet infelix paupertas durius in se,
MALONE. 79. -of despis'd love,] The folio reads Of dis
STEEVENS. 82. -might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin :-] The first expression probably alluded to the writ of discharge, which was formerly granted to those barons and knights who
personally attended the king on any foreign expedition. This discharge was called a quietus. It is at this time the term for the acquittance which Hij
every sheriff receives on settling his accounts at the exchequer.
The word is used for the discharge of an account, by Webster.
A bodkin was the ancient term for a small dagger.
So, in the Second Part of the Mirrour of Knighthood, 4to. bl. let. 1598: “ Not having any more weapons but a poor poynado, which usually he did weare about him, and taking it in his hand, delivered these speeches unto it : Thou silly bodkin shalt finish the piece of worke,” &c.
In the margin of Stowe's Chronicle, 1614, it is said, that Cæsar was slain with bodkins.
Again, in Chaucer, as he is quoted at the end of a pamphlet called the Serpent of Division, &c. whereunto is annexed the Tragedy of Gorboduc, &c. 1591 :
“ With bodkins was Cæsar Julius
Steevens. 84. To groan and sweat-] All the old copies have, to grunt and sweat. It is undoubtedly the true reading, but can scarcely be borne by modern ears.
JOHNSON. The change made by the editors, is however supported by the following line in Julius Cæsar, act iv.
“ To groan and sweat under the businesse.” This word occurs in the Death of Zoroas, by Nicholas Grimoald, a fragment in blank verse, printed at the end of Lord Surrey's poems :
"none the charge could give; “ Here grunts; here grones; echwhere strong
youth is spent." And Stanyhurst in his translation of Virgil, 1582, for supremum congemuit, gives us : “ --for sighing it grunts.”
STEEVENS 86. The undiscover'd country, from whose bourn
No traveller returns~] This has been cavilled at by Lord Orrery and others, but without reason. The idea of a traveller in Shakspere's time, was of a person who gave an account of his adventures. Every voyage was a Discovery. John Taylor has “A Discovery by sea from London to Salisbury."
FARMER. This passage has been objected to by others on a ground which seems more plausible. Hamlet him. self has just had ocular demonstration that travellers do sometimes return from this strange country. Shakspere, however, appears to have seldom compared the different parts of his plays, and contented himself with general truths. It would have been easy to have written- Few travellers return.
Marlowe had, before our author, compared death to a journey to an undiscovered country. Again, Marston's Insatiate Countess, 1603:
--wrestled with death,