From Hamlet, prince of Denmark. Ed. K. Deighton. London: Macmillan.
2. salvation, the clown's blunder for damnation, as in M. A,
iii. 3. 3.
4, 5. straight, forthwith, without delay: crowner, coroner,
literally merely an officer of the crown, but used specially of one
appointed to hold inquests into the cause of death. Skeat says
that crowner, which has been generally regarded as a corruption of
'coroner,' is a correct form, 'coroner' being from the base coron- of the M.E. verb coronen, to crown, with the suffix -er, and thus = crown-er; finds ... burial, decides that Christian burial may
be granted, she not having committed the felony of suicide; finds, the technical term for the decision of the coroner; cp. A. Y. L. iv. 1. 101, "the foolish coroners of that age found it
was 'Hero of Sestos.'"
9. 'se offendendo,' another blunder of the Clown's for se defendendo, in self defence, "a finding of the jury in justifiable homicide" (Caldecott).
11. three branches, "ridicule on scholastic divisions without
distinction and of distinctions without diiference" (Warburton).
12. argal, a corruption of Lat. ergo, therefore.
13. goodman, a familiar appellation, frequent in Shakespeare, = old fellow; delver, digger, i.e.. grave-digger.
14. Give me leave, allow me to interrupt you.
16. will he, nill he, he goes whether his intention is to do so
or not; nill, = ne will, not will; frequent in old English.
21. quest, inquest. This is supposed to be an allusion to an
inquest in a case of forfeiture of a lease to the crown in consequence of the suicide by drowning of Sir John Hales, a case which Shakespeare may have heard talked about.
22. Will ... on't, do you wish to know the whole truth of the
matter? If so, I will tell you that, etc.
23, 4. out ... burial, i.e. as suicides are buried, sc. in the cross
roads with a stake driven through the heart; cp. M. N. D. iii.
2. 383, "damned spirits all, That in crossways and floods have
25. there thou say'st, there you tell the truth, speak to the
26. should have ... to, should be countenanced in drowning,
etc., by being allowed Christian burial.
27. even Christian, fellow Christian: Come, my spade, come,
let me take my spade, and get to my work.
28. 9. There is ... profession, there are no gentlemen that can
claim anything like old descent except gardeners, etc., and they
alone still keep up the profession of the first of all ancestors,
30. a gentleman, one entitled to the term 'gentle,' as opposed
31. bore arms, used a double sense, (1) carrying arms - in
Adam's case a spade, and (2) having a coat of arms, a symbol of
36. arms, again in a double sense, (1) the arms of the body, (2)
36. to the purpose, in a rational way; confess thyself — an ass,
he was going to add.
37. Go to, pooh.
38. What is he, what kind of person is he.
41. tenants, occupants; as though a man when hanged took a
lease of the gallows.
42, 3. the gallows does well, the gallows, as you well say, do well, though not in the way you say, that of lasting a long time.
Dogberry-like, he patronizingly commends his comrade's good
sense in citing the gallows as doing well, but with his superior
wisdom points out in what their doing well consists.
43, 4. it does ... ill, sc. by putting them out of the way.
46. To't again, come, make another effort to answer my
40. Ay, ... unyoke, yes, answer that, and you may then give
over your work; metaphorically unharness the oxen with which
he is ploughing.
51 To't, go at it, let me hear you answer.
52. Mass, i.e. by the mass; see note on ii. 1. 50.
53, 4. your dull ass, a dull ass like you; for this colloquial use
of your, see Abb. § 220.
56. Yaughan, probalbly the best explanation of this word, about
which there have been so many conjectures, is that suggested by
Nicholson, that it was the name of an ale-house keeper in the
neighbourhood of the Globe Theatre.
57. stoup, flagon; A.S. steap, a cup.
58-61. In youth ... meet, the Clown's version of part of a ballad
in Tottel's Miscellany, Arber's Reprints, p. 173.
60. To contract ... behove, these words probably have no
meaning; the original runs "I lothe that I did love, In youth
that I thought swete; As time requires for my behove Methinkes
they are not mete." Jennens points out that the oh! and the
ah! form no part of the song, but are "only the breath forced
out by the strokes of the mattock. "
61. meet, fitting, suitable.
62. feeling of his business, no sense of the sadness of the task
on which he is engaged.
64. Custom ... easiness, from long habit, his occupation, as
being his own (proper to him) has lost all unpleasant association; has made him callous to the fact of its being of a sad nature.
65, 6. the hand ... sense, the hand which is least employed
(i.e. in any rough work) is always the most delicately sensitive.
69. shipped, carted, as we might say: intil, into; to and til
(till) are equivalent in sense. The original runs, "For age with
steyling steppes, Hath clawed me with his cowche, And lusty life
away she leapes, As there had bene none such."
70. such, as I am; the words being made doubly ludicrous by
his throwing up a skull as he utters them.
72. jowls, dashes; jowl, substantive, is the jaw, and here the
idea is of the skull crashing against the ground as the jaws
crash together if suddenly closed, more especially by a blow; cp.
A. W. i. 3. 59, "they may jowl horns together, like any deer i'
74. politician, plotter, schemer; cp. T. N. iii. 2. 34, "I had
as lief be a Brownist as a politician"; but as the Cl. Pr. Edd.
remark, the word is always used by Shakespeare in a bad sense:
over-reaches, used in a double sense of overtaking, getting hold
of, with his spade, and of getting the better of by cunning.
79. lord Such-a-one, some lord or other whose name is not
specified; Steevens compares Tim. i. 2. 216-8, "you gave Good
words the other day of a bay courser I rode on: it is yours,
because you liked it."
82. my lady Worm's, i.e. the property, perquisite of, etc.:
chapless, with its jaws no longer adhering to the rest of the
83. mazzard, a burlesque word for the head; supposed to be
derived from mazer, or maser, a bowl.
84. revolution, used in a double sense of change, and of being
rolled about: and ... see't, supposing we had the knack to understand it; for and, see Abb. § 93.
85. cost ... breeding, gave no more trouble to breed; for the,
preceding a verbal, see Abb. § 93.
85, 6. but to ... 'em, than that they should be used for playing
at loggats; the Cl. Pr. Edd., abridging a description of the game
sent them by the Revd. G. Gould, say that the game resembled
bowls, but with notable differences. First, it is played not on a
green, but on a floor strewed with ashes. The Jack is a wheel
made of some hard wood, the loggat, of which each player has
three, is a truncated cone, held lightly at the thin end, and the
object, as at bowls, is to pitch them so as to lie as nearly as
possible to the Jack.
88. For and, Byce points out that these words answer to And eke in the original version.
89. for to, see note on iii. 1. 167.
92. quiddities, "Mid. Lat. quiditas, the whatness or distinctive
nature of a thing, brought into a by-word by the nice distinction
of the schools" (Wedgwood, Dict.): quillets, frivolous distinctions; probably from Lat. quidlibet, what do you choose?
93. tricks, legal chicaneries.
94. sconce, properly a small fort, in which sense it is used in
H. V. iii, 6. 76; in C. E. ii. 2. 37, for a helmet; and i. 2. 75,
for a head, as here.
95. of his action of battery, of the action for battery (assault)
which, if he chose, he might bring against him.
97. 8. his statutes ... recoveries, "A recovery with a double voucher is the one usually suffered, and is so denominated from two persons (the latter of whom is always the common crier, or some such inferior person) being successively vouched, or called upon, to warrant the tenant's title. Both 'fines' and 'recoveries' are fictions of law, used to convert an estate tail into a fee simple. 'Statutes' are (not acts of parliament, but) statutes — merchant and staple, particular modes of recognizance or acknowledgment for securing debts, which thereby become a charge upon
the party's land. 'Statutes' and 'recognizances' are constantly mentioned together in the covenants of a purchase deed"
98. fine of his fines, the end of all his legal practice; all that
comes of his long practising as a lawyer.
98, 9. the recovery of his recoveries, all that he recovers, gets
in return for the recoveries in which, when alive, he was engaged: fine dirt, Rushton (Shakespeare as a Lawyer, p. 10) explains fine here, as in 1. 98, in the sense of last. "His fine pate is filled,
not with fine dirt, but with the last dirt which will ever occupy
it, leaving a satirical inference to be drawn, that even in his life-time his head was filled with dirt"; but if this be the primary sense, there must also be play upon the word in its ordinary
100. vouch ... purchases, give him no better title to his purchases, even though those vouchers were double ones.
101. than the ... indentures, than the mere parchment on
which indentures are written. "Indentures were agreements
made out in duplicate, of which each party kept one. Both were
written on the same sheet, which was cut in two in a crooked or
indented line (whence the name), in order that the fitting of the
two parts might prove the genuineness of both in case of dispute" (Cl. Pr. Edd.). Cp. The Knight of the Burning Pestle, iv. 2. 18,9, "prentice to a grocer in the Strand By deed indent, of which I
have one part"; this part was called the 'counterpane.'
102. The very ... lands, the very title-deed by which his lands
were conveyed (in a legal sense), transferred: box, coffin, with a
reference to the boxes in which lawyers keep deeds, etc.
103. inheritor, possessor, owner; cp. L. L. L. ii. 1. 5, "To
parley with the sole inheritor of all perfections"; R. III. iv. 3.
34, "Meantime, but think how I may do thee good, And be inheritor of thy desire. "
103. and of ... too, accurately speaking, it is vellum that is
made of calf skins, parchment of sheep or goat skins.
107, 8. They are ... that, those who trust to parchment are but dolts; "an 'assurance' is the legal evidence of the transfer of
property" (Heard, Shakespeare as a Lawyer).
109. sirrah, sir; a term used more generally to inferiors, or
with disrespect or unbecoming familiarity to superiors; occasionally applied to women.
113. liest, with a play upon the word in its two senses.
114. on 't, of it.
117. the quick, the living.
123. For none, neither, for neither the one nor the other, either.
127. absolute, precise, punctilious about accuracy.
127, 8. by the card, with precision; according to some the
reference is to the mariners' chart; according to others to the
card on which the points of the compass were marked; according
to others again to the card and calendar of etiquette, or book of
manners, of which, says Staunton, several were published in
129. these three years, i.e. for a considerable time past.
130. picked, smart, spruce; cp. K. J. i. 1. 193, "My picked
man of countries."
131. kibe, chilblain; a sore on the hands or feet due to great
133. Of all ... year, if you wish me to be precise as to the exact
day, why, etc. The Cl. Pr. Edd. quote R. J. i. 3. 16, "Even or
odd, of all the days in the year, Come Lammas-eve at night shall
she be fourteen," where the speaker is an illiterate old nurse with
the same passion for being precise.
141. it's ... there, it does not much matter.
143, 4. there ... he, here again Marston, The Malcontent, iii. I.
400, 1, seems to have followed Shakespeare, "Your lordship
shall ever find ... amongst an hundred Englishmen, four-score
and ten madmen."
149. Upon what ground? owing to what cause? The clown in
the next line takes ground in its literal sense.
154. pocky corses, bodies of those who have died of the smallpox.
154, 5. will scarce ... in, will scarcely keep from decomposition
till the funeral: you, thc colloquial dative.
166. A pestilence ... rogue! curses on him, as such a mad rogue
167. Rhenish, Rhine wine.
168. Yorick, said to be the German and Danish Georg, Jorg, our George, the English y representing the foreign j, and having
the same sound.
172. a fellow ... jest, a fellow of inexhaustible wit.
174. it, "used in reference to the idea of having been borne on
the back of him whose skeleton remains are thus suddenly
presented to the speaker's gaze, the idea of having caressed and
been fondled by one whose mouldering fleshless skull is now held
in the speaker's hand" (Clarke).
175. my gorge rises at it, I feel sick at the very idea; the
gorge is the throat, and the 'rising' is that feeling in the throat
which accompanies the inclination to vomit.
178. on a roar, we should now say 'in a roar.'
179. quite chap-fallen, utterly downcast, without so much as
a smile on your face: my lady's, not a particular lady, but any
one to whom the title was applicable.
180. let her paint, even if she should lay on the paint.
181. favour, appearance; used especially of the features.
185. i' the earth, when buried.
189. return, sc. in returning to the dust of which we are made.
192. 'Twere ... so, to follow out the idea would be but idle
speculation, a mere waste of ingenuity.
193, 4. with modesty, without any exaggeration.
196. loam, a mixture of clay and sand.
199. Imperious, imperial; though Shakespeare frequently
uses Imperious, for imperial, he rarely, if ever, uses 'imperial' for imperious, in its modern sense of dictatorial.
202. flaw, sudden gust of wind.
203. aside, let us stand aside.
205. such maimed rites, such incomplete rites.
207. Fordo, destroy; cp. ii. 1. 103: for it = its, see note on i.
2. 216: estate, rank, position.
208. Couch we, let us lie close so as not to be seen; cp. A. W.
iv. 1. 24, "But couch, ho! here he comes."
209. What ceremony else? what further ceremonies have to be
performed? i.e. surely this does not complete the usual rites.
212, 3. Her obsequies ... warranty, we have gone as far in the
matter of ritual observance as we have authority for doing: her
death, the manner of her death.
214. but that ... order, if it were not that the king's command,
which we dure not disobey, over-rules us as regards the proceedings usual in such a case.
216. for, in the place of.
217. Shards, potsherds, pieces of broken crockery.
218. crants, a coronet, or tire for the head; worn by maidens
till they were married; a singular noun, from Ger. krantz. A
writer in the Ed. Rer. for July, 1869, has shown by extracts
from Weber's introduction to the ballad of Child Axe Wold, that
"the burial of a northern maiden is still appropriately marked,
as in the case of Ophelia, by the presence of her virgin crants,
and maiden strewments."
219. Her maiden strewments, the strewing of flowers upon the
bier, such as was common at the funeral of a maid or wife, or on
her grave after burial; cp. H. VIII. iv. 2. 168-70, 'strew me
over With maiden flowers, that all the world may know I was a
chaste wife to my grave": and Cymb. iv. 2. 218-20.
219, 20. and the ... burial, "In these words, reference is still
made to the marriage rites, which in the case of maidens are
sadly parodied in the funeral rites. See R. J. iv. 5. 85-90. As
the bride was brought home to her husband's house with bell
and wedding festivity, so the dead maiden is brought to her last
home with 'bell and burial'" (Cl. Pr. Edd.).
221. Must ... done? is it forbidden to perform any further
rites? In modern English the words would mean 'is it not
necessary to,' etc.: No more be done! I have followed Staunton
and Knight in putting a note of admiration after done, instead of
a semi-colon. The priest seems to be indignantly repeating
Laertes' words, with a special emphasis on more, not to be confirming them.
223. To sing, by singing; if we were to sing; the indefinite
infinitive: requiem, a mass for the repose of the dead, so called
from beginning with the words Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine, grant eternal peace to them, O Lord; cp. dirge i. 2. 12.
224. peace-parted souls, souls which have departed the body in
226. May violets spring! cp. Tennyson, In Memoriam, xviii.
3, 4, "And from his ashes may be made The violet of his native land": churlish, in refusing her the full rites of burial.
228. howling, i.e. in the torments of hell.
230. I hoped ... been ... "in the Elizabethan, as in early English
authors, after verbs of hoping, intending, or verbs signifying that
something ought to have been done, but was not, the complete
present infinitive is used" (Abb. § 360).
231. thought, fondly expected: deck'd, sc. with flowers.
232. t' have, this is the reading of the folios; the quartos omit
the sign of the infinitive.
234. thy most ingenious sense, thy sense, that most cunningly-devised creation of God: most shows, I think, that ingenious
here is to be compared rather with its literal sense in Cymb, iv.
2. 186. "My ingenious instrument!" i.e. of curious construction,
said of his harp rather than with Lear, iv. 6, 287, "how stiff is my vile sense That I stand up and have ingenious feeling Of my
235. Hold awhile, do not yet fill up the grave.
238. this flat, this level surface.
239. Pelion, a lofty range of mountains in Thessaly. In
their war with the gods, the giants are said to have attempted
to heap Ossa and Olympus on Pelion, or Pelion and Ossa on
Olympus, in order to scale heaven: skyish, reaching ahnost to
the sky, Olympus being the loftiest of the mountains in Greece.
240. What is he? what manner of man is he?
241. Bears such an emphasis, so mighty a stress laid upon it.
241. 2. whose phrase ... stand, whose utterance of sorrow has
such magic power over the planets as to arrest their motion; an
allusion to the charms of witches who were supposed by them to
be able to arrest the course of the moon and stars.
243. wonder-wounded, paralysed by wonder.
247. splenitive, given to sudden anger; the spleen was of old
supposed to be the seat of anger, hatred, malice.
249. Which ... fear, which it will be prudent in you to fear.
252. theme, subject.
253. wag, "the word had not the grotesque signification which
it now has, and might be used without incongruity in the most
serious passages" ... (Cl. Pr. Edd.).
255. forty thousand, used for an indefinite number.
256, 7, Could not ... sum, could not, however great their love,
vie with me in loving her.
259. forbear him, do not attempt to touch him, for fear of the
260. 'Swounds, see note on ii. 2. 549: do, emphatic; by what
acts are you prepared to show that love which you have professed
in such boastful words?
261. Woo 't, according to Singer, a common contraction in the
northern counties for wouldst thou; used, says Halliwell, in the
western counties for will thee.
262. eisel, the two most probable of the many explanations
given of this word are (1) vinegar, (2) the name of some river;
eisel, or eysell, for vinegar, occurs in Sonn. cxi. 10, and was a
word of no unconnnon occurrence in Elizabethan literature; if it be Shakespeare's word here, drink up will mean 'greedily quaff.'
The advocates of the name of a river cite the Yssel in Flanders,
the Oesil in Denmark, and the Weisel or Vistula, or consider it
identical with Ousel, the diminutive of Ouse, a common name of
rivers in England, and signifying a river or water: eat a crocodile,
the advocates for the name of a river claim that their view is
supported by this expression, which looks as if Hamlet were
challenging Laertes to impossible feats.
264. To outface me, to outdare me; to put me to shame by the
extravagant professions of your love.
266. prate, rant.
268. pate, used in a ridiculous sense.
269. Ossa, see note on 1. 239: like a wart, no bigger than a
wart: mouth, talk big.
271. awhile ... him, for a time his fit of madness will exercise
its power over him.
273. golden couplets, the dove generally sits upon two eggs,
and the young birds when hatched are covered with a yellow
down: disclosed, by the breaking of the eggs; see note on iii. 1 .
274. His ... drooping, he will hang down his head in abashed silence.
277, 8. Let ... day, i.e. nature will take her own course whatever mighty obstacles we may put in its way; it is no use my cavilling at this behaviour of Laertes; 'a dog hath his day' was
a proverbial phrase meaning that every dog will at one time or
another have its good time.
279. wait upon him, attend him to see that he does himself no
280. Strengthen ... speech, let what we talked about last night
encourage you to be patient awhile; in, in the thought of; see
Abb. § 162.
281. We'll put ... push, we will without delay give the matter
a decisive impulse, one that will bring things to a definite issue.
283. This ... monument, i.e. Hamlet's life offered up by
Laertes to his sister's memory shall be a more lasting monument
in men's minds than any material one that could be built.
285. in patience ... be, let us act with patience and control.
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_5_1.html >.