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Prince. A glooming peace this morning with it brings;
The sun, for sorrow, will not show his head :
Some shall be pardon'd, and some punished:
Some shall be pardon'd and some punished :] This line has reference to the novel from which the fable is taken. Here we read that Juliet's female attendant was banished for concealing the marriage ; Romeo's servant set at liberty because he had only acted in obedience to his master's orders; the apothecary taken, tortured, condemned, and hanged; while friar Laurence was permitted to retire to a hermitage in the neighbourhood of Verona, where he ended his life in penitence and tranquillity.-STEEVENS.
• This play is one of the most pleasing of our author's performances. The scenes are busy and various, the incidents are numerous and important, the catastrophe irresistibly affecting, and the process of the action carried on with such probability, at least with such congruity to popular opinions, as tragedy requires.
Here is one of the few attempts of Shakspeare to exhibit the conversation of gentlemen, to represent the airy sprightliness of juvenile elegance. Mr. Dryden mentions a tradition, which might easily reach his time, of a declaration made by Shakspeare, that he was obliged to kill Mercutio in the third act, lest he should have been killed by him. Yet he thinks him no such formidable person, but that he might have lived through the play, and died in his bed, without danger to the poet. Dryden well knew, had he been in quest of truth, in a pointed sentence, that more regard is commonly had to the words than the thought, and that it is very seldom to be rigorously understood. Mercutio's wit, gaiety, and courage, will always procure him friends that wish him a longer life; but his death is not precipitated, he has lived out the time allotted bim in the construction of the play; nor do I doubt the ability of Shakspeare to have continued his existence, though some of his sallies are perhaps out of the reach of Dryden; whose genius was not very fertile of merriment, nor ductile to humour, but acute, argumentative, comprehensive, and sublime.
The Nurse is one of the characters in which the author delighted: he has, with great subtlety of distinction, drawn her at once loquacious and secret, obsequious and insolent, trusty and dishonest.
His comick scenes are happily wrought, but his pathetick strains are always polluted with some unexpected depravations. His persons, however distressed, ħave a conceit left them in their misery, a miserable conceit.* -Joinson.
This quotation is also found in the Preface to Dryden's fables : “ Just John Littlewit in Bartholomew Fuir, who had a conceit (as he tells you) left him in his misery; a miserable conceit."-STEEVENS.
The first edition of this splendid tragedy, which has been recently discovered, was printed in 1603. It was among the earliest of our Author's works; and Steevens saw a copy of Speght's edition of Chaucer, which formerly belonged to Dr. Gabriel Harvey (the antagonist of Nash), who, in his own handwriting, has set down Hamlet, as a performance with which he was well acquainted, in the year 1598. His words are these : “The younger sort take much delight in Shakspeare's Venus and Adonis ; but his Lucrece, and his tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmarke, have it in them to please the wiser sort, 1598."
In the books of the Stationers' Company, this play was entered by James Roberts, July 26, 1602, under the title of “ A booke called The Revenge of Hamlett, Prince of Denmarke, as it was lately acted by the Lord Chamberlain his servantes."
The story on which the play is built, may be found in Saxo Grammaticus, the Danish historian. From thence Belleforest adopted it in his collection of novels; and from this latter work, the Hystorie of Hamblett, quarto, bl. I. was translated.
The frequent allusions of contemporary authors to this play sufficiently show its popularity. Thus, in Decker's Bel-man's Nightwalkes, 4to. 1612, we have“ But if any mad Hamlet, hearing this, smell villainie, and rush in by violence to see what the tawny diuels (gypsies) are dooing, then they excuse the fact, &c. Again, in an old collection of satirical poems, called The Night. Raven, is this couplet :
“I will not cry Hamlet Revenge my greeves,
But I will call Hangman, Revenge on thieves."
CLAUDIUS, king of Denmark.
GERTRUDE, queen of Denmark, and mother of Hamlet.
Lords, Ladies, Officers, Soldiers, Players, Grave-diggers,
Sailors, Messengers, and other Attendants.
PRINCE OF DENMARK.
Scene I. — Elsinore. A Platform before the Castle.
Nay, answer me :a stand, and unfold
cisco. Fran. For this relief, much thanks : 'tis bitter cold, And I am sick at heart.
Ber. Have you had quiet guard ?
Not a mouse stirring.
Enter Horatio and Marcellus. Fran. I think, I hear them.-Stand, ho! Who is there? Hor. Friends to this ground. Mar.
And liegemen to the Dane. Fran. Give you good night. * - me:] i. e. Me who am already on the watch, and have a right to demand the watch-word. STERVENS. b r ivals ] i. e. Partners.
O, farewell, honest soldier: Who hath relieved you? Fran.
Bernardo hath my place. Give you good night..
- [Exit FRANCISCO. Mar.
- Holla! Bernardo!
A piece of him.
Mar. Horatio says, 'tis but our fantasy;
Hor. Tush! tush! 'twill not appear.
. Sit down awhile;
Well, sit we down,
Ber. Last night of all,
o approve our eyes,) i. e. Add a new testimony to that of our eyes. To approve, in Shakspeare's time, signified to make good, or establish.-- JOHNson and MALONE.
d Thou art u scholar, speak to it, Horatio.] Exorcisms were usually performed in Latin.-Douce.