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Hor. You will lose this wager, my lord.31
Ham. I do not think so: since he went into France, I have been in continual practice ; I shall win at the odds. Thou would'st not think, how ill all's here about my heart ; but it is no matter.
Hor. Nay, good my lord,
Ham. It is but foolery ; but it is such a kind of gain-giving, as would, perhaps, trouble a woman.
Hor. If your mind dislike any thing, obey it : I will forestall their repair hither, and say you are not fit.
Ham. Not a whit, we defy augury: there is a special providence in the fall of a sparrow. If it be now, 'tis not to come ; if it be not to come, it will be now; if it be not now, yet it will come: the readiness is all. Since no man of aught he leaves knows, what is't to leave betimes ? 33 Let be.
31 The words, “this wager," are wanting in the quartos.
32 The folio has gain-giving; the quartos, gam-giving and game-giving. Gain-giving is misgiving or giving-against ; here meaning a dim prognostic or presentiment of evil. --" Shakespeare,” says Coleridge, “ seems to mean all Hamlet's character to be brought together before his final disappearance from the scene ; - his meditative excess in the grave-digging, his yielding to passion with Laertes, his love for Ophelia blazing out, his tendency to generalize on all occasions in the dialogue with Horatio, his fine gentlemanly manners with Osrick, and bis and Shakespeare's own fondness for presentiment.”
33 This is the reading of the quartos : the folio reads, “Since no man has aught of what he leaves, what is't to leave betimes ?” Johnson thus interprets the passage : “Since no man knows aught of the state which he leaves ; since he cannot judge what other years may produce; why should we be afraid of leaving life betimes ?” Warburton's explanation is very ingenious, but perhaps strains the Poet's meaning : “ It is true that by death we lose all the goods of life ; yet seeing this loss is no otherwise an evil than as we are sensible of it; and since death removes all sense of it; what matters it how soon we lose them ?”
Enter the King, the Queen, LAERTES, Lords, Os
RICK, and Attendants, with Foils, foc. King. Come, Hamlet, come, and take this hand from me.
[He puts the hand of LAERTES
into that of HAMLET. Ham. Give me your pardon, sir : I've done you
wrong; But pardon 't, as you are a gentleman. This presence
I am satisfied in nature,
34 This hemstitch is in the folio only. In what follows, the folio misprints mother for brother, and ungorg'd for ungor'd.
I do receive your offer'd love like love,
I embrace it freely ;
Your skill shall, like a star i'the darkest night,
You mock me, sir.
in Hamlet, You know the wager ? Ham.
Very well, my lord : Your grace hath laid the odds o'the weaker side.3
King. I do not fear it: I have seen you both ; But since he's better'd, we have therefore odds.
Laer. This is too heavy ; let me see another. Ham. This likes me well. These foils have all a length ?
[They prepare to play. Osr. Ay, my good lord. King. Set me the stoops of wine upon
that table. If Hamlet give the first or second hit, Or quit in answer of the third exchange, Let all the battlements their ordnance fire : The king shall drink to Hamlet's better breath ; And in the cup an union shall he throw, 37
35 The words, “come on,” are not in the quartos.
36 The King had wagered six Barbary horses to a few rapiers, poniards, &c.; that is, about twenty to one. These are the odds here meant. The odds the King means in the next speech were twelve to nine in favour of Hamlet, by Laertes giving him three.
37 The folio has union ; the quartos, unice and onix. Union
Richer than that which four successive kings
Give me the cups ;
Ham. Come on, sir.
is thine ; Here's to thy health. — Give him the cup.
[Trumpets sound; and Cannons shot off within. Ham. I'll play this bout first; set it by awhile. Come. - [They play.) Another bit; what say you ?
Laer. A touch, a touch ; I do confess.38
is a name for large and precious pearls. Afterwards, on finding out what the King's union was, Hamlet tauntingly asks, “Is thy union bere ?” According to Rondeletus, pearls were thought 10 have an exhilarating quality. To swallow them in a draught, was esteemed a high strain of magnificence. Thus in If You know not Me You know Nobody :
“ Here sixteen thousand pound at one clap goes,
Instead of sugar: Gresham drinks this pearl
Unto the queen his mistress.” 38 The words, “ A touch, a touch,” are not in the quartos.
39 This speaking of Hamlet as “fat and scant of breath” is greatly at odds with the idea we are apt to form of him ; though
Herc, Hamlet, take my napkin, rub thy brows :
Ham. Good madam,
Gertrude, do not drink. Queen. I will, my lord : I pray you, pardon me. King. [Aside. It is the poison'd cup! it is too
late. Ham. I dare not drink yet, madam ; by and by. Queen. Come, let me wipe thy face. Laer. My lord, I'll hit him now. King.
I do not think it. Laer. [Aside.] And yet it is almost 'gainst my
conscience. Ham. Come, for the third, Laertes. You but
Laer. Say you so ? come on. [They play.
(LAERTES wounds HAMLET; then, in scuf-
there is no good reason why the being somewhat fat should in any point take off from his excellences as a man or a prince. It is thought by some, however, and seems indeed likely enough to have been true, that the expression was used with special reference to Burbage, the original actor of Hamlet's part. Burbage died in 1619; and in a manuscript elegy upon his death, sold, not many years since, among Heber's books, are the following lines, which both ascertain his original performance of the part, and also render it probable that the words in question had reference to him :
“ No more young Hamlet, though but scant of breath,
Shall cry • Revenge !' for his dear father's death." 40 That is, that you trifle with me as if I were a child, or one not worth “ your best violence." - The quartos have sure instead of a feard. VOL. X.