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and in King John,

And pick strong matter of revolt and wrath
Out of the bloody finger-ends of John;

and in Lucrece,

And, bubbling from her breast, it doth divide
In two slow rivers, that the crimson blood
Circles her body in on every side,

Who, like a late-sack'd island, vastly stood

Bare and unpeopled in this fearful flood.

Some of her blood still pure and red remain'd,

And some look'd black, and that false Tarquin stain'd.

Is it so very unlikely that the poet who wrote thus might, aiming at a peculiarly heightened and passionate style, write the speech of Aeneas?

4. But, pursuing this line of argument, we must go further. There is really scarcely one idea, and there is but little phraseology, in the speech that cannot be paralleled from Shakespeare's own works. He merely exaggerates a little here what he has done elsewhere. I will conclude this Note by showing that this is so as regards almost all the passages most objected to, as well as some others. (1) 'The Hyrcanian beast' is Macbeth's 'Hyrcan tiger' (iii. iv. 101), who also occurs in 3 Hen. VI. i. iv. 155. (2) With 'total gules' Steevens compared Timon iv. iii. 59 (an undoubtedly Shakespearean passage),

With man's blood paint the ground, gules, gules.

(3) With 'baked and impasted' cf. John iii. iii. 42, 'If that surly spirit melancholy Had baked thy blood.' In the questionable Tit. And. v. ii. 201 we have, in that paste let their vile heads be baked' (a paste made of blood and bones, ib. 188), and in the undoubted Richard II. iii. ii. 154 (quoted by Caldecott) Richard refers to the ground

Which serves as paste and cover to our bones.

(4) 'O'er-sized with coagulate gore' finds an exact parallel in the 'blood-siz'd field' of the Two Noble Kinsmen, 1. i. 99, a scene which, whether written by Shakespeare (as I fully believe) or by another poet, was certainly written in all seriousness. (5) 'With eyes like carbuncles' has been much ridiculed, but Milton (P.L. ix. 500) gives 'carbuncle eyes' to Satan turned into a serpent (Steevens), and why are they more outrageous than ruby lips

and cheeks (J.C. iii. i. 260, Macb. iii. iv. 115, Cym. 11. ii. 17)? (6) Priam falling with the mere wind of Pyrrhus's sword is paralleled, not only in Dido Queen of Carthage, but in Tr. and Cr. v. iii. 40 (Warburton). (7) With Pyrrhus standing like a painted tyrant cf. Macb. v. viii. 25 (Delius). (8) The forging of Mars's armour occurs again in Tr. and Cr. iv. v. 255, where Hector swears by the forge that stithied Mars his helm, just as Hamlet himself alludes to Vulcan's stithy (iii. ii. 89). (9) The idea of 'strumpet Fortune' is common: e.g. Macb. 1. ii. 15, 'Fortune . . . show'd like a rebel's whore.' (10) With the 'rant' about her wheel Warburton compares Ant. and Cl. iv. xv. 43, where Cleopatra would

rail so high

That the false huswife Fortune break her wheel.

(11) Pyrrhus minces with his sword Priam's limbs, and Timon (iv. iii. 122) bids Alcibiades 'mince' the babe 'without remorse.'1

1 Steevens observes that Heywood uses the phrase 'guled with slaughter,' and I find in his Iron Age various passages indicating that he knew the speech of Aeneas (cf. p. 140 for another sign that he knew Hamlet). The two parts of the Iron Age were published in 1632, but are said, in the preface to the Second, to have been long since writ.' I refer to the pages of vol. 3 of Pearson's Heywood (1874). (1) p. 329, Troilus 'lyeth imbak'd In his cold blood.' (2) p. 341, of Achilles' armour :

Vulcan that wrought it out of gadds of Steele

With his Ciclopian hammers, never made

Such noise upon his Anvile forging it,

Than these my arm'd fists in Ulisses wracke.


(3) p. 357, 'till Hecub's reverent lockes Be gul'd in slaughter.' (4) p. 357, 'Scamander plaines Ore-spread with intrailes bak'd in blood and dust.' (5) p. 378, 'We'll rost them at the scorching flames of Troy.' (6) p. 379, 'tragicke slaughter, clad in gules and sables' (cf. 'sable arms' in the speech in Hamlet). (7) p. 384, these lockes, now knotted all, As bak't in blood.' Of these, all but (1) and (2) are in Part II. Part I. has many passages which recall Troilus and Cressida. Mr. Fleay's speculation as to its date will be found in his Chronicle History of the English Drama, i. p. 285.

For the same writer's ingenious theory (which is of course incapable of proof) regarding the relation of the player's speech in Hamlet to Marlowe and Nash's Dido, see Furness's Variorum Hamlet.



Johnson, in commenting on the passage (v. ii. 237-255), says: 'I wish Hamlet had made some other defence; it is unsuitable to the character of a good or a brave man to shelter himself in falsehood.' And Seymour (according to Furness) thought the falsehood so ignoble that he rejected lines 239-250 as an interpolation!

I wish first to remark that we are mistaken when we suppose that Hamlet is here apologising specially for his behaviour to Laertes at Ophelia's grave. We naturally suppose this because he has told Horatio that he is sorry he 'forgot himself' on that occasion, and that he will court Laertes' favours (v. ii. 75 ff.). But what he says in that very passage shows that he is thinking chiefly of the greater wrong he has done Laertes by depriving him of his father:

For, by the image of my cause, I see

The portraiture of his.

And it is also evident in the last words of the apology itself that he is referring in it to the deaths of Polonius and Ophelia :

Sir, in this audience,

Let my disclaiming from a purposed evil

Free me so far in your most generous thoughts,
That I have shot mine arrow o'er the house,
And hurt my brother.

The charge as tot to be set

But now, as to the falsehood. aside lightly; and, for my part, I confess that, while rejecting of course Johnson's notion that Shakespeare wanted to paint 'a good man,' I have momentarily shared Johnson's wish that Hamlet had made 'some other defence' than that of madness. But I think the wish proceeds from failure to imagine the situation.

In the first place, what other defence can we wish Hamlet to have made? I can think of none. He cannot tell the truth. He cannot say to Laertes, 'I meant to stab the King, not your father.' He cannot explain why he was unkind to Ophelia. Even on the false supposition that he is referring simply to his

behaviour at the grave, he can hardly say, I suppose, 'You ranted so abominably that you put me into a towering passion.' Whatever he said, it would have to be more or less untrue.

Next, what moral difference is there between feigning insanity and asserting it? If we are to blame Hamlet for the second, why not equally for the first?

And, finally, even if he were referring simply to his behaviour at the grave, his excuse, besides falling in with his whole plan of feigning insanity, would be as near the truth as any he could devise. For we are not to take the account he gives to Horatio, that he was put in a passion by the bravery of Laertes' grief, as the whole truth. His raving over the grave is not mere acting. On the contrary, that passage is the best card that the believers in Hamlet's madness have to play. He is really almost beside himself with grief as well as anger, half-maddened by the impossibility of explaining to Laertes how he has come to do what he has done, full of wild rage and then of sick despair at this wretched world which drives him to such deeds and such misery. It is the same rage and despair that mingle with other feelings in his outbreak to Ophelia in the Nunnery-scene. But of all this, even if he were clearly conscious of it, he cannot speak to Horatio; for his love to Ophelia is a subject on which he has never opened his lips to his friend.

If we realise the situation, then, we shall, I think, repress the I wish that Hamlet had 'made some other defence' than that of madness. We shall feel only tragic sympathy.

As I have referred to Hamlet's apology, I will add a remark on it from a different point of view. It forms another refutation of the theory that Hamlet has delayed his vengeance till he could publicly convict the King, and that he has come back to Den. mark because now, with the evidence of the commission in his pocket, he can safely accuse him. If that were so, what better opportunity could he possibly find than this occasion, where he has to express his sorrow to Laertes for the grievous wrongs which he has unintentionally inflicted on him?



I am not going to discuss the question how this exchange ought to be managed. I wish merely to point out that the stage-direction fails to show the sequence of speeches and events. The passage is as follows (Globe text):


Ham. Come, for the third, Laertes: you but dally;

I pray you, pass with your best violence;

I am afeard you make a wanton of me.

Laer. Say you so? come on.

Osr. Nothing, neither way.

Laer. Have at you now f

[They play.

[Laertes wounds Hamlet; then, in scuffling, they change rapiers, and Hamlet wounds Laertes.1

King. Part them; they are incensed.

Ham. Nay, come, again.


[The Queen falls.2

Look to the Queen there, ho!

Hor. They bleed on both sides. How is it, my lord?
Osr. How is't, Laertes?

The words and Hamlet wounds Laertes' in Rowe's stagedirection destroy the point of the words given to the King in the If Laertes is already wounded, why should the King care whether the fencers are parted or not? What makes him cry out is that, while he sees his purpose effected as regards Hamlet, he also sees Laertes in danger through the exchange of foils in the scuffle. Now it is not to be supposed that Laertes is particularly dear to him; but he sees instantaneously that, if Laertes escapes the poisoned foil, he will certainly hold his tongue about the plot against Hamlet, while, if he is wounded, he may confess the truth; for it is no doubt quite evident to the King that Laertes has fenced tamely because his conscience is greatly troubled by the treachery he is about to practise. The King therefore, as soon as he sees the exchange of foils, cries out, 'Part them; they are incensed.' But Hamlet's blood is up. 'Nay,

1So Rowe. The direction in QI is negligible, the text being different. Q2 etc. have nothing, Ff. simply 'In scuffling they change rapiers.' Capell. The Quartos and Folios have no directions.

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