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them through and through the most fond and winnowed
through the most ford and v innowed opinions; and do but blow them to their trials, the bubbles are out.] The metaphor is ftrangely mangled by the intrusion of the word fond, which undoubtedly should be read fann'd; the allufion being to corn feparated by the fan from chaff and duft. But the editors feeing from the character of this refly collection, that the opinions, through which they were fo currently carried, were falle opinions; and fann'd and winnow'd opinions, in the most obvious fenfe, fignifying tried and purified opinions; they thought fann'd must needs be wrong, and therefore made it fond, which word fignified, in our author's time, foolish, weak, or childish. They did not confider that fann'd and winnow'd opinions had allo a different fignification: for it may mean the opinions of great men and courtiers, men feparated by their quali ty from the vulgar, as corn is feparated from chaff. This yey collection, fays Hamlet, infinuates itself into people of the higheft quality, as ycft into the finest flour. The courtiers admire him, when he comes to the trial, &c. WARBURTON.
This is a very happy emendation; but I know not why the critie fhould fuppofe that fond was printed for fann'd in confequence of any reafon or reflection. Such errors, to which there is no temptation but idleness, and of which there was no cause but ignorance, are in every page of the old editions. This paffage in the quarto ftands thus: "They have got out of the habit of encoun"ter, a kind of mitty collection, which carries them through and "through the most profane and trennowned opinions." If this printer preferved any traces of the original, our author wrote,
the most fane and renowned opinions," which is better than fann'd and winnow'd.
The meaning is, thefe men have got the cant of the day, a fuperficial readiness of flight and curfory converfation, a kind of frothy collection of fathionable prattle, which yet carried "them through the most select and approving judgments. This
airy facility of talk fometimes impofes upon wife men.” Who has not seen this obfervation verified? JOHNSON. Fond is evidently oppofed to winnowed. Fond, in the language of Shakspeare's age, fignified foolish. So, in the Merchant of
“Thou naughty jailer, why art thou fo find, &c." Winnowed is fitted, examined. The fenfe is then, that their converfation was yet fuccefsful enough to make them paffable not only with the weak, but with thofe of founder judgment. The fame oppofition in terms is vifible in the reading which the quartos offer. Frofane or vulgar, is oppofed to trenowned, or thrice renowned.
nowed opinions; and do but blow them to their trial, the bubbles are out.
Enter a Lord.
Lord. My lord, his majesty commended him to you by young Ofrick, who brings back to him, that you attend him in the hall: He fends to know, if your pleasure hold to play with Laertes, or that you will take longer time.
Ham. I am conftant to my purposes, they follow the king's pleasure: if his fitnefs fpeaks, mine is ready; now, or whenfoever, provided I be fo able
Lord. The king, and queen, and all are coming
Ham. In happy time.
Lord. The queen defires you, to use fome + gentle entertainments to Laertes, before you fall to play. Ham. She well inftructs me. [Exit Lord. Her. You will lofe this wager, my lord.
Fann'd and avinnorw'd feems right to me. Both words winnowed, fand* and dreit, occur together in Markham's English Huf bandman, p. 117. So do fan'd and winnow'd, fanned and winnowed in his Hufbandry, p. 18. 76, and 77. So, Shakspeare mentions together the fan and wind in Troilus and Creffida, a&t v. .fc. TOLLET.
do but blow them, &c.] Thefe men of show, without folidity, are like bubbles raifed from foap and water, which dance, and glitter, and please the eye, but if you extend them, by blowing hard, feparate into a mift; fo if you oblige these fpecious talkers to extend their compafs of converfation, they at once difcover the tenuity of their intellects. JOHNSON.
3 My lord, &c.] All that paffes between Hamlet and this Lord is omitted in the folio. STEEVENS.
4 - gentle entertainment—] Mild and temperate conversation.
So written without the apostrophe, and easily might in MS. be miftaken for fond.
Ham. I do not think fo; fince he went into France, I have been in continual practice; I fhall win at the odds. But thou would'ft 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 fuch a kind of gain-giving, as would, perhaps, trouble a woman. Hor. If your mind diflike any thing, obey it: I will foreftal their repair hither, and fay, you are not fit.
Ham. Not a whit, we defy augury; there is a fpecial providence in the fall of a fparrow. 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 readinefs is all; 7 Since no man knows aught of what he leaves, what is't to leave betimes? Let be.
5 -a kind of gain-giving] Gain-giving is the fame as mif giving SrEEVENS.
If your mind diflike any thing, obey it:] With the presages of future evils arifing in the mind, the poet has forerun many events which are to happen at the conclufions of his plays; and fometimes fo particularly, that even the circumstances of calamity are minutely hinted at, as in the inftance of Juliet, who tells her lover from the window, that he appears like one dead in the bottom of a tomb. The fuppofition that the genius of the mind gave the alarm before approaching diffolution, is a very ancient one, and perhaps can never be totally driven out: yet it must be allowed the merit of adding beauty to poetry, however injurious it may fometimes prove to the weak and the fuperftitious.
7 Since no man has ought of what he leaves, what is't to leave betimes ? This the editors called reafoning, I fhould have thought the premises concluded juft otherwife: for fince death ftrips a man of every thing, it is but fit he fhould fhun and avoid the defpoiler. The old quarto reads, Since no man, of ought be leaves, knows, what is't to leave betimes? Let be. This is the true reading. Here the premifes conclude right, and the argument drawn out at length is to this effect: "It is true, that, by death, lofe all the goods of life; yet feeing this lofs is no other"wife an evil than we are fenfible of it, and fince death removes "all fenfe of it, what matters it how foon we lofe them? There
Enter King, Queen, Laertes, Lords, Ofrick, and attendants with foils, &c.
King. Come, Hamlet, come, and take this hand from me.
[The King puts the hand of Laertes into that of Hamlet. Ham. Give me your pardon, fir: I have done you
But pardon it, as you are a gentleman.
This prefence knows, and you must needs have heard,
That might your nature, honour,, and exception, Roughly awake, I here proclaim was madness. Was't Hamlet wrong'd Laertes? Never, Hamlet: If Hamlet from himself be ta'en away,
"fore come what will, I am prepared." But the ill pointing in the old book hindered the editors from feeing Shakspeare's fenfe, and encouraged them to venture at one of their own, though, as ufual, they are come very lamely off... WARBURTON.
The reading of the quarto was right, but in fome other copy the harshness of the tranfpofition was foftened, and the paffage flood thus: Since no man knows aught of what he leaves. For knows was printed in the later copies has, by a flight blunder in fuch typographers.
I do not think Dr. Warburton's interpretation of the paffage the best that it will admit. The meaning may be this, Since no man knows aught of the state of life which he leaves, fince he cannot judge what other years may produce, why should he be afraid of leaving life betimes? Why should he dread an early death, of which he cannot tell whether it is an exclufion of happiness, or an interception of calamity. I defpife the fuperftition of augury and omens, which has no ground in reafon or piety; my comfort is, that I cannot fall but by the direction of Providence..
Hanmer has, Since no man owes aught, a conjecture not very reprehenfible. Since no man can call any poffeffion certain, what is it to leave? JOHNSON.
Give me your pardon, fir:] I wish Hamlet had made fome other defence; it is unfuitable to the character of a good or a brave man, to shelter himself in falfehood. JOHNSON.
And, when he's not himfelf, does wrong Laertes,
Let my disclaiming from a purpos'd evil
Laer. I am fatisfy'd in nature,
Whose motive, in this cafe, fhould ftir me most
2 'Till by fome elder masters, of known honour,
To keep my name ungor'd: But, 'till that time,
And will not wrong it.
Ham. I embrace it freely;
Laer. Come, one for me.
9 Sir, &c.] This paffage I have restored from the folio.
I am fatisfied in nature, &c.] This was a piece of fatire on fantastical honour. Though nature is fatisfied, yet he will afk advice of older men of the fword, whether artificial bonour ought to be contented with Hamlet's fubmiffion.
There is a paffage fomewhat fimiliar in the Maid's Tragedy: "Evad. Will you forgive me then?
"Mel. Stay, I must ask mine honour first." STEEVENS. 2 "Till by fome elder mafters of known honour,] This is faid in allufion to English cuftom. I learn from an ancient MS. of which the reader will find a more particular account in a note to the Merry Wives of Windfor, vol. i. p. 260, that in queen Elizabeth's time there were "four ancient mafiers of defence," in the city of London. They appear to have been the referees in many affairs of honour, and exacted tribute from all inferior practitioners of the art of fencing, &c. STEEVENS,