From Hamlet, prince of Denmark. Ed. K. Deighton. London: Macmillan.
Stage Direction. The platform, sc. in front of the castle.
1. shrewdly, bitterly; shrewd, past participle of M. E. shrewen,
to curse; thence used of anything sharp or bitter, especially of
temper or language.
2. eager, sharp; O. F. aigre, Lat. acer sharp, keen; cp. i. v.
6, and Sonn. cxviii. 2, "With eager compounds we our palate
3. lacks of twelve, is somewhat short of midnight.
6. held ... walk, has been accustomed to walk; wont, "a corruption from woned, from the verb 'wonye', E. E. 'wunnian' A.S. 'to dwell'" (Abb. § 5).
Stage Direction. A flourish of trumpets, a sounding of trumpets in a triumphal manner.
8. doth wake to-night, sits up feasting; is 'making a night of it,' as the slang expression is; hence a wake = a vigil, and then the feast of the dedication of a church (formerly kept by watching all night): rouse, see note on i. 2. 127.
9. wassail, revelry; from waes heal, i,e. be of good health; cp. L. L. L. V. 2. 318, "At wakes and wassails, meetings, markets,
fairs": up-spring, Steevens quotes Chapman's Alphonsus, iii., "We Germans have no changes in our dances: An Almain and an upspring that is all," to show that this was a German dance,
and Eltze further asserts that it was "the Hupfauf" the last and
consequently the wildest dance of the old German merry-makings,
though Schmidt speaks of that dance as "apocryphal"; others
explain the word as 'upstart,' referring it to the king, and with
this explanation the words swaggering and reels seem better to
agree, the latter word being especially used of the movements of
10. Rhenish, Rhine wine.
11. kettle-drum, a drum resembling a kettle in shape; Douce
quotes Cleaveland's Fuscara, "Tuning his draughts with drowsie
hums As Danes carowse by kettledrums": bray, like blare, used
especially of trumpets, clarions, and such like wind instruments.
12. The triumph of his pledge, the victorious deed of drinking
a toast, pledging some one in a toast; Delius points out that the
words are said in the bitterest irony.
14. to my mind, to my thinking; in my opinion.
15. And ... born, and therefore by my birth accustomed to the
fashion; cp. R. J. iv. 1. 109, "Then, as the manner of our
16. More honour'd ... observance, which it is more honourable
to neglect than to observe.
17. heavy-headed revel, revelry that ends in a heavy head, a
headache: or perhaps only 'stupid,' 'doltish'; east and west,
far and wide; from one side of the world to the other.
18. Makes ... nations, causes us to be vilified and reproached by other nations; for tax'd, cp. A. Y. L. ii. 7. 71, "who cries out on pride That can therein tax any private party?"; of, by.
19. clepe, call; A.S. cleopian, clypian, of which the participle
still survives in the archaic y-clept, sometimes affectedly used at
the present day.
19, 20. and with ... addition, brand us with the title of hogs; addition, in this sense is more commonly used by Shakespeare of an honourable title. In 0th. ii. 3. 79-8l, the Dane is coupled
with the German and the Hollander for their love of drinking,
while the Englishman is said to outdo them all in this accomplishment.
21. though ... height, though performed with the loftiest
chivalry and courage; Furness considers at height to be an
instance of the absorption of the definite article between the two
words, Abbott simply a case of omission.
22. The pith ... attribute, the most essential and most valuable
part of our reputation for courage, sc. by making out that courage is inspired by liquor. So, we speak of 'Dutch courage,' meaning courage inspired by hollands gin; and so Lamartine in
his description of the battle of Waterloo accounts for the furious
charges of our cavalry by asserting that they had been drugged
with brandy. For attribute, cp. T. C. ii. 3. 25, "Much attribute he hath, and much the reason Why we ascribe it to him."
23, 4. So, oft ... them, in a similar manner it often happens in
the case of particular men (here opposed to a whole nation) that
in consequence of some natural blemish; .... mole, more commonly used of a physical
mark, as in M. N. D. v. 1. 418, "Never mole, hare-lip, nor
25. As, Walker remarks that the word is here used not in the
sense of 'for instance,' but in that of 'namely,' 'wit.' The particulars enumerated in this passage are 1) in their birth, 2) By the o'ergrowth, etc., 3) by some habit. wherein they are not
guilty, for which defect they cannot be held answerable.
26. Since ... origin, since the nature of a man cannot choose
from what source it will be derived; his, = its.
27, 8. By the ... reason, owing to the fact of some particular
temperament developing itself to excess, and so breaking down the stronghold of reason; the figure is that of a plant, which by being allowed to grow unchecked to an excessive size, breaks
down by its weight the enclosures and barriers by which it ought to be hemmed in. Warburton refers to the different humours, the sanguine, the melancholy, the phlegmatic, etc., by one or other of which each man was of old supposed to be governed.
29, 30. that too much ... manners, which by its excessive admixture viciously affects the form of manners naturally pleasing; for plausive, = worthy of applause, cp. A. W. i. 2. 53, "his
plausive words He scatter'd not in ears": that these men, it
chances, I say, that these men; the construction being continued from 1. 23.
31. Carrying ... defect, bearing about upon them the brand of
some one defect.
32. Being ... star, which they owe either to nature or to fortune; in the one case the defect is spoken of as the dress which nature has forced upon them, in the other as some affliction due
to the malignant influence of fortune's stars.
33, 4. Their virtues ... undergo, their virtues in all other
respects, even though they are as pure as grace itself, as infinite
as it is possible for the nature of man to support.
35, 6. Shall ... fault, are certain in the general estimation of
mankind to he looked upon as tainted with evil contracted from
that particular fault; for censure, see note on 1. 69 above; take,
used in the sense of contracting a disease.
40. Be thou ... damn'd. whether you be a good spirit or an evil
one condemned to hell; spirit of health, "a healed or saved
spirit" (Cl. Pr. Edd.).
41. Bring with thee, whether you bring with you.
43. Thou comest ... shape, you appear in a form which so provokes interrogation; cp. Macb. i. 3. 43.
45. King ... Dane. Hamlet in his excitement heaps one title
upon another, expressing his readiness to use any term of address
which may be likely to elicit an answer.
46. burst in ignorance, i.e. in the eager desire to have his
49. inurn'd, entommbed; for urn, = grave, the Cl. Pr. Edd.
compare H. V, i. 2. 228, "Or lay these bones in an unworthy
50. ponderous and marble, ponderous because made of marble.
51. may, can possibly; see Abb. § 307.
52. in complete steel, in panoply, armed from head to foot;
complete, accent on the former syllable. Steevens remarks that
the Ghost is probably introduced in armour for the sake of
greater solemnity; though it was really the custom of the Danish
kings to be buried in that manner.
53. Revisit'st ... moon, revisit the earth at this hour of night
when the moon is struggling to appear from behind the clouds.
54-6. and we ... souls? It is doubtful whether the construction
here is 'making us (we where we should write us) to shake,' or
'that (from 1.52) we should be made to shake'; see Abb. § 216. In either case the general sense is 'so that the mental organization of us who are the sport of nature should be convulsed with
thoughts that our souls cannot grasp; for reaches, see note on i.
1. 173, and cp. below, ii. 1. 62.
57. should, ought.
59, 60. As if ... alone, as if it had some knowledge which it
wished to communicate to you in privacy.
61. waves you, invites you by waving its hand; removed,
distant; cp. W. T. v. 2. 116, "she hath ... visited that removed
63. then, i.e. as it evidently will not speak to me here.
64. should be, can possibly be; see Abb. § 325.
65. I do not ... fee, I do not value my life at the worth of a
pin; set, used in the language of gaming for 'stake'; I would
not stake my life as an equivalent to a pin; fee, property, payment, from A.S. feoh, feo, cattle, property, of which cattle were the earliest form.
66. for, as regards.
69. What if ... flood, suppose it should tempt you to the
ocean: flood, frequently in this sense, e.g. M. N. D. ii. 1. 127,
M. V. i. 1. 10.
71. That beetles ... sea, that hangs frowningly over its base
and dips down into the sea; beetles, ... "the idea was adopted
from the M. E. bitelbrowed, beetle-browed, having projecting or
sharp brows ... M. E. bitel, biting, sharp" ... (Skeat, Ety. Dict.).
73. which might ... reason, the sight of which might take away the controlling principle of your reason; for the construction here of deprive, see Abb. § 200, and for instances while pronominal and other adjectives are placed before a whole compound noun instead of, as they strictly should be, before the
second of the two nouns, see Abb. § 423.
75. toys of desperation, desperate fancies; "an allusion to
what many persons feel when on lofty heights, a desire of
throwing themselves down" (Hunter).
76. Without more motive, though it have no other inducement.
78. waves me still, still invites me, by waving its arms, to follow it.
81. Be ruled, suffer yourself to be controlled, over-persuaded,
by us in this matter; My fate cries out, my destiny calls upon
me to act.
82, 3. And makes ... nerve. Shakespeare seems always to have
used nerve for sinew, tendon (in accordance with its derivation
from Greek), not for a fibre conveying sensation;
and from this passage to have supposed that nerve and artery
were of the same texture, their outward appearance being very
similar, and it not being known in his day that arteries convey
the blood from the heart. Cp. The Faithful Friends, iii. 3, "till
my veins And sinews crack, I'll stretch my utmost strength."
Nemean, with the accent on the first syllable as in L. L. L. iv. 1. 90.
85. I'll make ... me, I'll send him who hinders me to join the
ghost in the regions below; to let, = to hinder, from A.S. laet,
slow; to let, = allow, from A.S. laetan, to allow.
87. He waxes ... imagination, his excited imagination is driving
him into madness; to wax, to grow, increase, become.
89. Have after, let us follow him; frequent in Shakespeare, who
also has 'have at,' 'have to,' 'have through,' 'have with,' 'let me' or 'let us' having to be supplied: issue, conclusion, result.
90. rotten, utterly unsound; in a morbid state.
91. it, "that is, the issue" (Cl. Pr. Edd.): Nay, let us not
leave it to heaven to set things right, but act ourselves.
How to cite the explanatory notes:
Shakespeare, William. Hamlet, prince of Denmark. Ed. K. Deighton. London: Macmillan, 1919. Shakespeare Online. 20 Feb. 2010. (date when you accessed the information) < http://www.shakespeare-online.com/plays/hamlet_1_4.html >.