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Yes, Polonius has got one great truth among his copy-book maxims, but it comes in as a little bit of hard, unvital wisdom, like the rest: "Dress well, don't lend or borrow money: to thine own self be true." - DoWDEN's Shakspere His Mind and Art.

81. Tend = attend.

88. Bethought thought of or recollected.

91. Audience, listening or hearing.


92. Put on me, told me.

96. Give me up the truth. Polonius generally employs the most formal and official phrases he can find.

99. Green, inexperienced. Still used in this sense. 100. Unsifted, untried. Circumstance, used as a

collective noun.

104. Tenders (like banknotes), promises to pay.

105. Sterling, a broken-down form of Easterling. Sterling was the name of the English penny-the only legal tender in which payments could be made. Easterlings was the popular name in England for German traders from the Hanse Towns; their money was of the purest quality. Polonius takes the word in its second and

110. Fashion.

lighter sense.

113. Springes, snares.

-Woodcocks were popularly supposed to have no brains, and hence the word became a synonym for a simpleton.

116. Extinct, dead as soon as they are born - gone in the very making of them.

117. A-making. The a is the broken-down form of an, a dialectic form of on.

120. Your entreatments = 125. Brokers, go-betweens. 126. Investments, dress..

127. Implorators, solicitors.

128. For all in short. Cf. the phrase, ' once for all.'

130. Moment for moment's.

the invitations you receive.


Coleridge remarks, 'The unimportant conversation with which this scene opens is a proof of S.'s minute knowledge of human nature. It is a well-established fact that, on the brink of any serious enterprise, or event of moment, men almost invariably endeavor to elude the pressure of their own thoughts by turning aside to trivial objects and familiar circumstances. Thus the dialogue on the platform begins with remarks on the coldness of the air, and inquiries -obliquely connected indeed with the expected hour of the visitation, but thrown out in a seeming vacuity of topics, as to the striking of the clock, and so forth. The same desire to escape from the impending thought is carried on in Hamlet's account of, and moralizing on, the Danish custom of wassailing. Besides this, another purpose is answered; for, by thus entangling the attention of the audience in the nice distinctions and parenthetical sentences of this speech of Hamlet's, S. takes them completely by surprise on the appearance of the Ghost, which comes upon them in all the suddenness of its visionary character.'

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1. Shrewdly, keenly.

2. Eager, sharp. From Fr. aigre; from Lat. acer. Cogs.: Vinegar; acrid.

8. Wake, hold a late revel.

9. Wassail, a drinking-bout. From O. E. was hail = be well! health! Up-spring, the last, and, accordingly, the wildest dance at the old German merry-makings. Upspring is a noun, the object of reels.

10. Rhenish. The wine produced in the Rheingau - between Bonn and Bingen.

12. Pledge, the health pledged or drunk.

18. Traduced, slandered. - Taxed, censured. other form of tax (by metathesis) is task.

19. Clepe, call. S. has the word five times; and Milton


has yclept. - With swinish phrase by calling us


20. Addition, title.

21. At height = at our best, with all our power. the reputation attributed to us. 24. Mole of nature, inherited blemish.

22. Attribute =


27. Some complexion (a quadrisyllable), natural disposition or complexion.' 'There were four, distinguished by the old physicians - the sanguine, the melancholic, the phlegmatic, and the choleric. Men are discredited by some congenital defect, which they can no more cure than they can a mole on their skin, by the overgrowth of some natural temper, which reason cannot control, or by some acquired habit of unmannerliness.' - MOBERLY.

30. Plausive, which is to be applauded. The indiscriminate use of active and passive participles and adjectives was common in S.'s time.

32. Nature's livery or fortune's star, a defect given (livre) by Nature, or a mark got by accident. The star might be a mark like a star.

34. Undergo, carry.

36. E'il. The usual reading is eale. There are forty-seven conjectural readings of this famous passage; and it would take many pages to set them forth and to comment upon them. The sense is plain enough. It is, ' The small admixture of evil constantly destroys the substance, which is intrinsically noble, to the shame and disgrace of the substance.'

37. Ever dout, always destroy or put out.

The above speech is the first instance in the play of the generalizing spirit - predominance of the intellectual which is one of the feelings that keep Hamlet from action.

40. Spirit of health = a healed, that is, saved spirit. 43. Questionable, inviting question.

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47. Hearsed, entombed.

48. Cerements, shroud. From Lat. cera, wax. It was a kind of cloth, dipped in wax, and used to wrap the bodies of the dead in.

53. Glimpses = gleams or glimmers (words which are cognate).

Fools of nature = whom

54. We ought to be us. nature has made fools of.

55. Disposition, constitution, nature.

65. Set


71. Beetles, leans over. brows.

73. Deprive your sovereignty of reason. away the sovereignty or government of your reason. 75. Toys, freaks, fancies of a desperate character. 82. Artery, nerve, and sinew were used interchangeably in S.'s time.

83. Nèmean. The accent is usually on the second syllable. Nemea was the name of a rock in Argolis (in the Peloponnesus), near which Hercules slew a great lion. Nerve, muscle.

85. Lets me

hinders me. Cf. the phrase, without let or hindrance. (There are two words let in English. Let, to allow, is from O. E. lætan; and is the L. Ger. form of the H. Ger. lassen. Let, to hinder, is from O. E. læt, slow, and is connected with late, lazy.)

let us after him.

89. Have after 91. It, the issue.


Beetle-brows are overhanging



And moreover the misese of helle shal be

11. To fast.

in defaute of mete and drink.' - CHAUCER.


Porpentine, the form always used by S. One writer of the eighteenth century has porcuspine.

21. Eternal blazon, revelation of the mysteries of eternity.

33. Lethe wharf, Lethe's banks. In Antony, II. ii., the banks of the Nile are called 'the adjacent wharf.' Lethe, the river of forgetfulness in Hades.

35. Orchard. Orchard and garden were synonymous. 37. Process, account.

38. Rankly, grossly.

40. Prophetic soul. See I. ii. 254, where Hamlet says, 'I doubt some foul-play.'

62. Hebenon, henbane.

63. It was a belief even among medical men in S.'s time that poison could be thus introduced into the system.

68. Posset, coagulate. A posset was a drink composed of hot milk, curdled by some strong infusion, and taken before going to bed.

69. Eager, sour.

71. Instant, instantaneous. Barked about, grew like bark around.

72. Lazar = leper. The name came from Lazarus (see Luke xvi.). Hence Lazaretto, a house for lepers; then any hospital.

75. Dispatched, a case of zeugma. It was the word life that suggested dispatched; and then it was easily joined to the others. This is the only instance in S. of dispatch being followed by of. But the of is = from.

77. Unhouseled. Housel was an O. E. word for offering or sacrifice. The word here is without the eucharist. - Disappointed, without the right appointments or preparations. Unaneled, without having received extreme unction. To anele (O. E. anoilen) was to anoint with oil or ele.

81. Nature = natural feeling. 88. Fare thee well. This thee for thou-is to be explained, says Dr. Abbott, by euphonic reasons.'


Tetter, scab, scurf.

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