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King. Take thy fair hour, Laertes, time be
thine; (3) And thy belt graces spend it at thy will. But now, my cousin Hamlet, and my fon--Ham. A little more than kin, and less than kind.
[ Afide. King. How is it that the clouds still hang on you? Ham. Not so, my Lord, I am too much i' th'
sun. Queen. Good Hamlet, cast thy nighted colour off, And let thine eye look like a friend on Denmark. Do not, for ever, with thy veiled lids, Seek for thy noble father in the dust ; Thou knowelt ’tis common; all that live must die, Passing through nature to eternity.
Ham. Ay, Madam, it is common.
Queen. If it be,
(3) Take thy fair hour, Laertes, time be thine,
And thy fair graces; Spend it at thy will.] This is the pointing in both Mr Pope's editions; but the Poet's meana ing is lost by it, and the close of the sentence miferably flattened. The pointing I have restored, is that of the best copies, and the sense this; “You have my leave to go. Laertes; make the fairelt use you please of your time, and spend it at your will with the fairelt graces you are mafter of.”
But I have that within which passeth shew:
Tbar father his. This supposid refinement is from Mr Pope; but all the editions elle, ibat I have niet wiib, oid and modern, read;
That father loft. lof his. The recluplication of which word here gives an energy and clegance, which is much easer to be conceived thin explained in terms. And erary judicious reader of this Poet must have observed how frequent it is with him to make this reduplication, where he intends either to a fort or deny, augment or diuinill, or add a degree of vehcmenco to his exprchlion.
And with't no less nobility of love, (5).
my best obey you, Madam.
whereof No jocund health that Denmark drinks to-day, But the great cannon to the clouds fball tell;
(5) And, with no less nobility of love
Than that which deareft father bears his fon,
Do limpart towards you.] But what does the King impart? We want the substantive governed of the verb. The King had declared Hamlet his immediate succeffor, and with that declaration, he must mean, he imparts to him as noble a love, as ever fond father tendered to his own son. I have ventured to make the text conform with chis fenfe. (6)
interit In going back to school to Wittenberg ;. The Poet uses a: prolepfis here; for the university at Wittenberg was opened. hy Frederick I11. elector of Saxony, in the year 1502, feve. ral ages later in time than the date of Hamlet. But I defign this remark for another purpose. I would take notice, that a considerable space of years is spent in this tragedy; or Hamlet, as a Prince, should be too old to go to an university. We here find him a scholar refident at that univerfity; but, in aa fitth, we find him plainly thirty years old; for the gravedigger had taken up that occupation the very day on which young Hamlet was born, and had followed it, As he says, thirty years.
And the King's rowse the heaven shall bruit again,
His cannon 'gainst felf-flaughter!) The generality of the edition: read thus, as if the Poet's thoughts were, Or that the Almighty had not planted his artillery, his resentment, or arms of vengeance against self-murder. But the word which I have restored to the text, (and which was espoused by the accurate Mr Hughes, who gave an edition of this play) is the Poet's true reading. i.e. That he had not restrained suicide by his express law, and peremptory prohibition. Misa takes are perpetually made in the old editions of our Poet, betwixt those two words, cannon and canon. I shall now fubjoin my reasons why I think the Poet intended to say Heaven bad fixed its injunétion rather than its artillery. In the first place, I much doubt the propriety of the phrase, fixing cannon, in the meaning here fupposed. The military expression, which imports what would be neecfsary to the sense of the Poet's thought, is mounting or planting cannen; and whenever cannor is said to be fixed, it is when the enemy become masters of it and nail it down. In the next place, to fix a, fanon, or law, is the term of the civilians peculiar to this bufiness. This Virgil had in his mind when he wrote;
-Leges fixit pretio, atque refixit. Æneid. VI. So Cicero, in his Philippic orations; Num figentur rurjus ha Tabula
, quas vos decretis vestris refixijiis? And it was the constant cuftom of the Romans to say, upon this occasion, figere legem, as the Greeks before them used the synonymous term νόμον παραποξαι, and called their ftatues thence παραany pora. But my last reafon, and which fways most with me, is from the Poet's own turn and cast of thought. For, as he has done in a great many more instances, it is the very featinent which he falls into in another of his plays, though he has clothed it-in different expreílion;
-'gainst felf-laughter There is a prohibition fo divine, That cravens my weak hand.
His canon 'gainst self-flaughter! O God! oh God!
That he permitted not the winds of heaven
Visit her face too roughly.) This is a sophisticated reading, copied from the players in fome of the modern editions, for want of understanding the Poet, whose text is corrupt in the old impressions ; all of which that I have had the fortune to fee, concur in readiog;
-fo loving to my mother,
Visit her face too roughly. Betecreis a corruption, without doubt, but not fo inveterate a one, but that, by the change of a sogle letter, and the separation of trvo words inistakenly jumbled tr.gether, I am verily persuaded, I have retrieved the Poet's readingThat he might not let e’en the winds of heaven, &c. (9
-Frailty, thy name is woman!] But that it would displease Mr Pope to have it supposed that satire can have any place in tragedy, (of which I fall have occasion to tpeak fari her anon) I should make no fcruple to pronounce this reflection a fine laconic farcasin. It is as concise in the terms, and, perhaps, more spriglıtly in the thought and image, than that fling of Virgil upon the lux, in his fourth Æneid;
--varium et mutabile semper Famina,