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(41) Give me the cup,
And let the kettle to the trumpets fpeak,
(41) Give me, &c.] There is in the beginning of the play a pailage like this:
But they that are above
No jocund health that Denmark drinks to-day,
And the King's roufe the heavens fhall bruit again,
Shakespear keeps up the characters of the people where his fcene lies, and therefore dwells much on the Danish drinking: in another place he tells us :
The King doth wake to-night, and takes his rouse,
A cuftom, as Hamlet obferves in the fubfequent lines, greatly to the difcredit of their nation, and more honour'd in the breach than the obfervance.
HE original story on which this play is built, may be found in Saxo Grammaticus the Danish hiítorian. From thence Belleforft adopted it in his collection of novels, in feven volumes, which he began in 1564, and continued to publish through fucceeding years. From this work, The Hyflorie of Hamblett, quarto, bl. 1. was tranflated. I have hitherto met with no earlier edition of the play than one in the year 1604, though it must have been performed before that time, as I have feen a copy of Speght's edition of Chaucer, which formerly belonged to Dr. Gabriel Harvey, (the antagonist of Nefh) who, in his own hand-writing, has fet down the play, as a performance with which he was well acquainted in the year 1598. His words are thefe:
The younger fort take much delight in Shakespear's "Venus and Adonis; but his Lucrece, and his tragedy "of Hamlet Prince of Denmarke, have it in them to "please the wifer fort, 1598."
În 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 fervantes."
In Eafward Hec, by G. Chapman, B. Jorfon, and T. Marston, 1605, is a fling at the hero of this tragedy. A footman named Hamlet enters, and a tankard-bearer afks him" "Sfoote, Hamlet, are you mad?" The following particulars, relative to the date of the piece, are borrowed from Dr. Farmer's Effay on the Learning of Shakespear, p. 85, 86, fecond edition.
"Greene, in the Epiftle prefixed to his Arcadia, hath a lash at fome vine glorious tragedians," and very plainly at Shakespear in particular. I leave all thefe to the mercy of their mother-tongue, that feed on M5
nought but the crums that fall from the tranflator's trencher. That could scarcely latinize their neck verse if they fhould have neede; yet English Seneca read by candlelight yeelds many good fentences-he will afford you whole Hamletts, I should fay, handfuls of tragicall fpeeches."- -I cannot determine exactly when this Epifle was firft published; but, I fancy, it will carry the original Hamlet fomewhat further back than we have hitherto done: and it may be obferved, that the oldest copy now extant, is faid to be "enlarged to almoft as much again as it was." Gabriel Harvey printed at the end of the year 1592, "Foure Letters and certaine Sonnets, efpecially touching Robert Greene:" in one of which his Arcadia is mentioned. Now Naft's Epiftle muft have been previous to thefe, as Gabriel is quoted in it with applause; and the Foure Letters were the beginning of a quarrel. Nah replied, in "Strange news of the intercepting certaine Letters, and a Convoy of Verfes, as they were going privilie to victual the Low Countries, 1593." Harvey rejoined the fame year in "Pierce's Supererogation, or a new praife of the old Affe." And Nah again, in "Have with you to Saffron-Walden, or Gabriell Harvey's Hunt is up; containing a full anfwer to the eldest fonne of the halter-maker, 1596."—Nash died before 1606, as appears from an old comedy called "The Return from Parnaffus." STEEVENS.
THAT piece of Shakespear's, which appears to have moft affected English hearts, and has, perhaps, been oftenest acted of any that have come upon our ftage, is almoft one continued moral; a series of deep reflections drawn from one mouth, upon the subject of one fingle accident and calamity, naturally fitted to move horror and compaffion.
It may be faid of this Play, if I mistake not, that it has properly but one character, or principal part. It contains no adoration or flattery of the fex; no ranting at the gods; no bluftering heroifin; nor any thing of
hat curious mixture of the fierce and tender, which makes the hinge of modern tragedy, and nicely varies it between the points of love and honour."
IF the dramas of Shakespear were to be characterifed, each by the particular excellence which diftinguishes it from the reft, we must allow to the tragedy of Hamlet the praise of variety. The incidents are fo numerous, that the argument of the play would make a long tale. The scenes are interchangeably diverfified with merriment and folemnity; with merriment that includes judicious and instructive obfervations; and folemnity, not ftrained by poetical violence above the natural fentiments of man. New characters appear from time to time in continual fucceffion, exhibiting various forms of life and particular modes of converfation. The pretended madness of Hamlet caufes much mirth, the mournful distraction of Ophelia fills the heart with tenderness, and every perfonage produces the effect intended, from the apparition that in the first act chills the blood with horror, to the fop in the last, that ex-pofes affectation to just contempt.
The conduct is perhaps not wholly fecure against ob-jections. The action is indeed for the moft part in continual progreffion, but there are fome fcenes which neither forward nor retard it. Of the feigned madnes of Hamlet there appears no adequate caufe, for he does nothing which he might not have done with the reputation of fanity. He plays the madman moft, when he treats Ophelia with fo much rudenefs, which feems to be ufelefs and wanton cruelty.
Hamlet is, through the whole piece, rather an inftrument than an agent. After he has, by the ftratagem of the play, convicted the King, he makes no attempt to punifh him; and his death is at laft effected by an incident which Hamlet had no part in producing.
The catastrophe is not very happily produced; the exchange of weapons is rather an expedient of neceff y,
than a ftroke of art. A scheme might easily be formed to kill Hamlet with the dagger, and Laertes with the bowl.
The poet is accufed of having fhewn little regard to poetical juftice, and may be charged with equal neglect of poetical probability. The apparition left the regions of the dead to little purpofe; the revenge which he de mands is not obtained, but by the death of him that was required to take it; and the gratification, which would arise from the deftruction of an ufurper and a a murderer, is abated by the untimely death of Ophelia, the young, the beautiful, the harmlefs, and the pious. JOHNSON.
The rugged Pyrrhus, be, &c.] The two greatest poets of this and the laft age, Mr. Dryden, in the preface to Troilus and Creffida, and Mr. Pope, in his note on this place, have concurred in thinking that Shakespear produced this long paffage with defign to ridicule and expofe the bombaft of the play from whence it was taken; and that Hamlet's commendation of it is purely ironical. This is become the general opinion. I think juft otherwife; and that it was given with commendation to upbraid the falle tafte of the audience of that time, which would not fuffer them to do juftice to the fimplicity and fublime of this production. And I reafon, firft, from the character Hamlet gives of the play, from whence the paffage is taken. Secondly, from the paffage itself. And thirdly, from the effect it had on the audience.
Let us confider the character Hamlet gives of it, The play, I remember, pleafed not the million, 'twas Caviare to the general; but it was (as I received it, and others, whofe judgment in fuch matters cried in the top of mine) an excellent play, well digefied in the fcenes, fet down with as much modefty as cunning. I remember, one faid, there was no falt in the lines to make the matter favoury; nor no matter in the phrafe that might indite the author of affection; but called it an honeft method. They who fuppofe the paffage given to be ridiculed, muft needs