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Ham. I'll be your foil, Laertes ; in mine ignorance Your fkill fhall, like a ftar i' the darkest night, Stick fiery off indeed.
Laer. You mock me, fir.
King. Give them the foils, young Ofrick.-Coufin
You know the wager?
Ham. Very well, my lord;
Your grace hath laid the odds o' the weaker fide. King. I do not fear it; I have feen you both : But fince he's better'd we have therefore odds.
Laer. This is too heavy, let me fee another.
Ofr. Ay, my good lord.
King. Set me the ftoups + of wine upon that table:If Hamlet give the firft, or fecond hit, Or quit in answer of the third exchange, Let all the battlements their ord'nance fire; The king shall drink to Hamlet's better breath; 5 And in the cup an union fhall he throw,
3 Your grace hath laid upon the weaker fide.] Thus Hanmer. All the others read,
Your grace hath laid the odds o' the weaker fide. When the odds were on the fide of Laertes, who was to hit Hamlet twelve times to nine, it was perhaps the author's flip.
the floups of wine] A foup is a flaggon, or bowl. See vol. iv. p. 195. STEEVENS.
5 And in the cup an union shall he throw,] In fome editions, And in the cup an onyx fhall he throw. This is a various reading in feveral of the old copies; but union feems to me to be the true word. If I am not mistaken, neither the onyx, nor fardonyx, are jewels which ever found place in an imperial crown. An union is the finest fort of pearl, and has its place in all crowns, and coronets. Befides, let us confider what the king fays on Hamlet's giving Laertes the first hit :
Stay, give me drink.
Hamlet, this pearl is thine;
Richer than that which four fucceffive kings
The trumpet to the cannoneer without,
The cannons to the heavens, the heavens to earth, Now the King drinks to Hamlet.-Come, begin ;— And you, the judges, bear a wary eye.
Ham. Come on, fir.
Laer. Come, my lord.
King. Stay, give me drink: Hamlet, this pearl
Here's to thy health.-Give him the cup.
[Trumpets found; fot goes off.
Therefore, if an union be a pearl, and an onyx a gem, or stone, quite differing in its nature from pearls; the king faying, that Hamlet has earn'd the pearl, I think, amounts to a demonftration that it was an union pearl, which he meant to throw into the cup. THEOBALD.
So, in Seliman and Perfeda:
Ay, were it Cleopatra's union."
The union is thus mentioned in P. Holland's tranflation of Pliny's Nat. Hift. And hereupon it is that our dainties and delicates here at Rome, &c. call them unions, as a man would fay fingular and by themfelves alone."
To fwallow a pearl in a draught feems to have been equally common to royal and mercantile prodigality. So, in the second part of If you know not Me, you know No Body, 16.6, Sir Thomas Gresham fays:
Here 16,000 pound at one clap goes.
6- this pearl is thine ;] Under pretence of throwing a pearl into the cup, the king may be fuppofed to drop fome poisonous drug into the wine. Hamlet feems to fufpect this, when he afterwards difcovers the effects of the poifon, and tauntingly afke him,
Is the union here? STEEVENS.
Ham. I'll play this bout first, set it by a while.
Come. Another hit; What say you?
Queen. He's fat, and fcant of breath 7.-
King. Gertrude, do not drink.
Queen. I will, my lord;-I pray you, pardon me.
Laer. My lord, I'll hit him now.
Laer. And yet it is almoft against my confcience.
Ham. Come, for the third, Laertes, You do but dally;
1 pray you, pafs with your beft violence; I am afraid, you make a wanton of me.
7 Queen. He's fat, and fcant of breath.-] It fecms that John Lowin, who was the original Falstaff, was no lefs celebrated for his performance of Henry VIII. and Hamlet. See the Hiftoria Hiftrionica, &c. If he was adapted, by the corpulence of his figure, to appear with propriety in the two former of these characters, Shakspeare might have put this obfervation in the mouth of her majefty, to apologize for the want of fuch elegance of perfon as an audience might expect to meet with in the reprefentative of the youthful Prince of Denmark, whom Ophelia fpeaks of as "the glafs of fashion and the mould of form." This, however, is mere conjecture, as Jofeph Taylor likewife acted Hamlet during the life of Shakspeare. STEEVENS.
8 The queen caroufes to thy fortune, Hamlet.] So, in David and Bethfabe, 1599:
"With full caroufes to his fortune past."
And bind that promise with a full caroufe." Ibid. "Now, lord Urias, one carouse to me." Ib. STEEVENS. 9-you make a wanton of me.] i. e. you trifle with me' as if you were playing with a child.
Laer. Say you fo? come on.
[Laertes wounds Hamlet; then, in fcuffling, they change rapiers, and Hamlet wounds Laertes. King. Part them, they are incens'd. Ham. Nay, come again.
Ofr. Look to the queen there, ho!
[The queen falls. Hor. They bleed on both fides :-How is it, my lord?
Off. How is't, Laertes ?
Laer. Why, as a woodcock to my own springe, Ofrick;
I am justly kill'd with mine own treachery.
Ham. How does the queen?
King. She fwoons to fee them bleed.
Queen. No, no, the drink, the drink,-O my dear Hamlet !
The drink, the drink ;-I am poifon'd
[The queen dies. Ham. O villainy !-Ho! let the door be lock'd ; Treachery! feek it out.
Laer. It is here, Hamlet: Hamlet, thou art flain;
No medicine in the world can do thee good,
So, in Romeo and Juliet:
"I would have thee gone,
"And yet no further than a wanton's bird,
And with a filk thread pulls it back again."
Ham. The point envenom'd too!Then, venom, to thy work,
[Stabs the King
All. Treafon! treafon !
King. O, yet defend me, friends, I am but hurt. Ham. Here, thou incestuous, murd'rous, damned Dane,
Drink off this potion:-Is the union here?
Laer. He is juftly ferv'd;
It is a poifon temper'd by himself.-
Ham. Heaven make thee free of it! I follow thee, I am dead, Horatio :-Wretched queen, adieu !You that look pale and tremble at this chance,
That are but mutes or audience to this act,
Hor. Never believe it;
I ain more an antique Roman than a Dane,
Ham. As thou'rt a man,
Give me the cup; let go, by heaven, I'll have it.-—
me 3 ?
If thou didst ever hold me in thy heart,
Is the union here?] In this place likewife the quarto reads, an onyx. STEEVENS.
2 That are but mutes or audience to this act,] That are either mere auditors of this catastrophe, or at most only mute performers, that fill the stage without any part in the action. JOHNSON, 3-fhall live behind me ] Thus the folio. The quartos read fall I leave behind me. STEEVENS. L14