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object of which was to conquer Ulster, or a portion of it, and this expedition of Fortinbras. An unfavourable critic might speak of the members of that adventurous body, of which Walter Devereux was the leader, as 'a list of lawless resolutes without doing them any grievous wrong. Of the apparent value of the country which these brave butchers were to conquer, some idea may be formed from the description given by Froude (vol x., page 554):
"A few years before, Sir Henry Sidney's progress through Ulster had been gravely compared to Alexander's journey into Bactria. The central plains of Australia, the untrodden jungles of Borneo, or the still vacant spaces in our map of Africa, alone now on the globe's surface represent districts as unknown and mysterious as the north-east angle of Ireland in the reign of Elizabeth. Ulster was a desert,' &c.
"One feels on reading this eloquent description that five ducats would have been a high rent to have paid for such a paradise; still the extent of it does not answer to the description in the text. In 1573 Shakespeare was only nine years old; in 1580, when Walter Raleigh joined Grey's force in the attack upon the fort of Smerwick, in Dingle Bay, he was only sixteen: yet both events might have made some impression on his youthful memory. Smerwick, the wretched fort in which the unhappy Spaniards and Italians held out for two days against the English butchers, answers very well to the officer's description of the place against which Fortinbras was leading his lawless resolutes! It was a very small neck of land joined to the shore by a bank of sand' (Froude, vol. xi., page 224). The whole of this scene (with the exception of Fortinbras short speech) has no parallel in the Quarto of 1603; it was evidently added by Shakespeare on the revision of the play, a circumstance which confirms me in the belief that he had some enterprise of that time in his mind."
462. Lines 2-4:
Tell him that by his license Fortinbras
CLAIMS the conveyance of a promis'd march Over his kingdom.
Ff. here read Claims, all the Qq. Craves. The readings have been pretty equally followed by editors; it seems to me that the former is in every way preferable. For one thing, claims agrees better than craves with the expression in the previous line, by his license.
463. Line 6: We shall express our duty IN HIS EYE.-Compare Antony and Cleopatra, ii. 2. 211, 212:
Her gentlewomen, like the Nereides,
And see Hamlet, i. 2. 116. Steevens thinks the expression was the customary formula for "in the presence," i.e. the royal presence. He cites the expression "all such as do service in the Queen's (Prince's) eye" from The Regulations for the Government of the Queen's Household, 1627, and the Establishment of the Household of Prince Henry, 1610.
464. Line 8: Go SOFTLY on.-Softly is used in many other parts of Shakespeare for "gently," "leisurely." The Clarendon Press edd. quote Bacon, Essay vi. (ed. Wright, p. 19): "Like the going softly by one that cannot well see."
Compare the French use of doucement. The Ff., by an obvious misprint, have safely. From here to the end of the scene is omitted in Ff.
465. Line 17: Truly to speak, and with no addition.Pope inserted it and Capell sir after the first clause of this line, which can, however, be read without difficulty.
466. Line 27: This is the IMPOSTHUME of much wealth and peace.-Cotgrave has: "Aposthume: £. An Imposthume; an inward swelling full of corrupt matter" Shakespeare uses the word in two other places, Venus and Adonis, 743, and Troilus and Cressida, v. 1. 24.
467 Line 50: MAKES MOUTHS at the invisible event. See note 256.
ACT IV. SCENE 5.
468. Our text in the first twenty lines of this scene, as regards the personages and distribution of speeches, follows the Ff In the Qq. we have "Enter Horatio, Gertrard, and a Gentleman," and to this Gentleman are given lines 2 and 3 (She is importunate... needs be pitied), and lines 4-13 (She speaks much unhappily); while to Horatio are assigned lines 14-16 ('Twere good Let her come in.), the Queen's third speech being thus reduced to lines 17-20. It has been suggested that the omission in the Ff. of the "Gentleman" was made to avoid the employment of an additional actor, and where, as in this case, his lines could be at least as properly delivered by Horatio, their assignment to him and the suppression of this unknown personage must be considered on every count an improvement in the stage business. Something more, however, must be said with regard to the assignment to the Queen, in the Ff., of the only lines (14-16) given in the Qq. to Horatio. Line 16 (Let her come in.) clearly belongs to the Queen, and we agree with Mr. Grant White that lines 14, 15 [marked "aside"] are most appropriate in the Queen's mouth as a reflection by which she is led to change her determination not to admit Ophelia to her presence. Many varying attempts have been made by modern editors to improve on the Q. arrangement; but none seems to us so satisfactory as that of the F.
In both these places amiss means rather wrong than misfortune, the meaning of the word in the text.
472. Line 21.-Q. 1 has the stage-direction: "Enter Ofelia playing on a Lute, and her haire downe singing." The other Qq. have (after line 16): "Enter Ophelia;" the Ff.: "Enter Ophelia distracted.'
473. Lines 23-26: "How should I your true love know,' &c. The traditional music to this fragment is printed in Chappell's Popular Music of the Olden Time, vol. i. p. 236, and in Furness' Variorum Ed. vol. i. p. 330. Rossetti took this stanza for the first verse of a beautiful little lyric (very modern, however) which he called "An Old Song Ended"' (Poems, 1870, p. 175).
474. Lines 25, 26:
By his COCKLE HAT and staff, And his sandal shoon.
"This," as Warburton remarks, "is the description of a pilgrim. While this kind of devotion was in favour, love intrigues were carried on under that mask. Hence the old ballads and novels made pilgrimages the subjects of their plots. The cockle-shell hat was one of the essential badges of this vocation: for the chief places of devotion being beyond sea, or on the coasts, the pilgrims were accustomed to put cockle-shells upon their hats, to denote the intention or performance of their devotion" (Var. Ed. vol. vii. p. 424). The word shoon occurs only here (in a ballad-fragment) and as used by Jack Cade in II. Henry VI iv. 2. 195. This form of the plural was archaic even in Shakespeare's time.
475. Line 32: The Qq. insert here O, ho! which is probably a piece of gag;" some editors, however, suppose it to represent sobs or sighs.
476. Line 37: LARDED with sweet flowers.-Qq have "Larded all with sweet flowers," a reading which many editors adopt, and which is just as likely to be right as the one followed in the text. Larded is used again, metaphorically, in v. 2. 20 (the only other instance in Shakespeare). Compare Ben Jonson, Sejanus, iii. 2: A quiet and retired life Larded with ease and pleasure.
-Works, ed. Gifford, 1816, p. 86.
477. Line 38: Which bewept to the grave did go.-Qq. Ff. have did not go, which seems plainly an error. Pope was the first to omit the not. Keightley mentions another instance of an intruding negative in the Ff. of Much Ado, iii. 2. 28, where cannot is an evident misprint for can.
478. Line 41: God 'ild you!-This is a corruption of God yield you (used in Antony and Cleopatra, iv. 2. 33), a phrase used in returning thanks, and meaning "God reward you," or "God bless you." Compare As You Like It, iii. 3. 76: "God'ild you for your last company." The phrase is used again in the same play, v. 4. 56, and in Macbeth, i. 6. 13. The Clarendon Press edd. quote Tennyson, Gareth and Lynette, line 18: "Heaven yield her for it."
479. Lines 41, 42: They say the owl was a baker's daughter. -"A legendary story," says Steevens, "which both Dr. Johnson and myself have read, yet in what book at least I cannot recollect. -Our Saviour being refused bread by
the daughter of a baker, is described as punishing her by turning her into an owl." Douce, in a note contributed to Reed's edition, and reprinted in the subsequent Variorum editions, remarks on this:-"This is a common story among the vulgar in Gloucestershire, and is thus related: Our Saviour went into a baker's shop where they were baking, and asked for some bread to eat. The mistress of the shop immediately put a piece of dough into the oven to bake for him, but was reprimanded by her daughter, who, insisting that the piece of dough was too large, reduced it to a very small size. The dough, however, immediately afterwards began to swell, and presently became of a most enormous size. Whereupon the baker's daughter cried out, Heugh, heugh, heugh,' which owl-like noise probably induced our Saviour for her wickedness to transform her into that bird. This story is often related to children, in order to deter them from such illiberal behaviour to poor people." I believe no one has been fortunate enough to discover the book in which Steevens read the story, nor does Douce himself make any mention of it in his subsequent well-known Illustrations of Shakspeare, 1807 and 1839. Mr. C. G. Leland, The English Gipsies and their Language, p. 16, says: "It is, however, really curious that the Gipsy term for an owl is the Mãromengro's Chavi, or Baker's Daughter, and that they are all familiar with the monkish legend which declares that Jesus in a baker's shop once asked for bread. The mistress was about to give him a large cake, when her daughter declared it was too much, and diminished the gift by one half.
'He nothing said, But by the fire laid down the bread, When lo, as when a blossom blowsTo a vast loaf the manchet rose; In angry wonder, standing by, The girl sent forth a wild, rude cry, And, feathering fast into a fowl, Flew to the woods a wailing owl!'"
480. Line 48: To-morrow is Saint Valentine's day.— Much has been written about the songs of Ophelia, and the inferences one is intended to make from them as to her character. Marshall, Study of Hamlet, pp. 128-151, has a long, interesting, and, I think, conclusive defence of her, though I cannot entirely share his enthusiasm for a somewhat colourless type of jeune fille. Coleridge has said admirably: "Note the conjunction here of these two thoughts that had never subsisted in disjunction, the love for Hamlet, and her filial love, with the guileless floating on the surface of her pure imagination of the cautions so lately expressed, and the fears not too delicately avowed, by her father and brother concerning the dangers to which her honour lay exposed. Thought, affliction, passion, murder itself-she turns to favour and prettiness. This play of association is instanced in the close:-'My brother shall know of it, and I thank you for your good counsel!'” Mrs. Jameson suggested that Ophelia might have been sung to sleep in her infancy by old ballads such as those of which she sings certain snatches. And we should, of course, bear in mind, as Strachey observes (p. 85), "the notorious fact, that, in the dreadful visitation of mental derangement, delicate and refined women will use language so coarse that it is difficult to guess where they can ever have even heard such words, and certain that where
ever heard they would have always lain, unknown of, and innocuous, in the mind, unless the hot-bed of mental fever had quickened them for the first time into life."
The well-known air to the words To-morrow is Saint Valentine's day is given in Chappell, vol. i. p. 227, and in Furness, vol. i. p. 333.
481. Line 53: And DUPP'D the chamber-door.-Steevens quotes Damon and Pythias, 1582: "The porters are drunk; will they not dup the gate to-day?"
482. Lines 57, 58: INDEED, LA, WITHOUT AN OATH, I'll make an end on 't.-Elze (p. 213) notes that "Indeed la and truly la were favourite protestations with the Puritans, and served them instead of oaths. Compare The Puritan, i. 4; ii. 1; iii. 1 (Malone's Supplement, ii. 554, 564, and 573). Ib., v. 4 (Malone's Supplement, ii. 624: 'Where is truly la, indeed la, he that will not swear, but lie; he that will not steal, but rob; pure Nicholas SaintAntlings?'"
486. Line 84: IN HUGGER-MUGGER to inter him.-Florio has: "Dinascoso: secretly, hiddenly, in hugger-mugger;" and the English-French dictionary appended to Cotgrave defines In hugger mugger, "En cachette, à calimini, sous terre." Steevens quotes North's Plutarch (p. 121, ed. Skeat): "Antonius thinking good that his bodie should be honourably buried, and not in hugger-mugger.” Compare Ford, 'Tis Pity She's a Whore, iii. 1: "There's no way but to clap-to a marriage in hugger-mugger;" and The Merry Devil of Edmonton, i. 3. 59, 60:
So neere a wife, and will not tell your friend? But you will to this geere in hugger-mugger. -Ed. Warnke and Proescholdt, p. 15. Scot, Discoverie of Witchcraft, p. 433, uses the expression "doo it in hugger-mugger secretlie," which shows that the two expressions were not regarded as absolute synonyms. Pope chastened the inelegant phrase into the unexceptionable form In private.
487. Line 89: Feeds on his wonder, keeps himself in clouds. This reading (which was first adopted by Johnson) is constructed by the help of Qq. and Ff. Qq. have Feeds on this wonder; Ff. keeps on his wonder; between them the right text is easily arrived at.
488. Line 93: our PERSON to arraign.-Person is the reading of Qq.; Ff. have persons. The king is pretty evidently talking of himself alone.
489. Line 95: Like to a MURDERING-PIECE.-Murderingpiece is used by Beaumont and Fletcher in The Double Marriage, iv. 2. 6, 7:
like a murdering-piece, aim not at one, But all that stand within the dangerous level.
It is the same thing as a "murderer" or meurtrière, which Nicot defines as "un petit cannoniere comme celles des tours et murailles, ainsi appellé, parceque tirant par icelle a desceu, ceux ausquels on tire sont facilement meurtri" (quoted by Singer). Cotgrave has "Meurtriere: f. A murthering piece;" and again, “Visiere meurtrière, a port-hole for a murthering Peece in the forecastle of a ship."
490. Line 97: Where are my SWITZERS? Let them guard the door.-In Shakespeare's time the Swiss formed the body-guard of the king of France, as they still do of the pope. The name Switzers came to be indiscriminately used for a king's body-guard. Compare the current French usage of the word suisse. Malone quotes Nash, Christ's Tears over Jerusalem, 1594: "Law, logicke and the Switzers, may be hired to fight for anybody."
491. Line 110: 0, this is COUNTER, you false Danish dogs!—The Clarendon Press edd. quote Randle Holme's Academy of Armory, bk. ii. ch. ix. p. 1871, where counter is defined, "when a hound hunteth backwards, the same way that the chase is come." Compare Comedy of Errors, iv. 2. 39: "A hound that runs counter."
492. Lines 119, 120:
Even here, between the chaste unsmirched BROWS
Ff. and Qq. print brow, which many editors preserve. There seems no reason to suppose it is anything but a misprint.
493. Line 137: My will, not all the WORLD.-This is the reading of Ff.; Qq. have worlds, which, as the Clarendon Press edd. say, may be right in its extravagant hyperbole. 494. Lines 142, 143:
That, SWOOPSTAKE, you will draw both friend and foe, Winner and loser.
Ff. and Qq. have soopstake. The reading in the text is derived from Q. 1, which has swoopstake-like. Swoopstake is of course a gambler who sweeps the stakes indiscriminately.
495. Lines 146, 147:
And, like the kind life-rendering PELICAN, Repast them with my blood.
The belief in this curious fable about the pelican was very wide-spread. Compare Basilius Valentinus, A Practick Treatise, together with the XII. Keys and Appendix of the Great Stone of the Ancient Philosophers, 1670: “And
in its own Essence is so full of blood [he is speaking of the Rose of our Masters wherewith all Metals wanting heat may be revived'], as is the Pellican, when she wounded her own breast, and without prejudice to her body, nourisheth and feedeth many young ones with her own blood" (p. 241). Dr. Sherwen (quoted by Furness, Variorum Ed. p. 342) explains the origin of the superstition by "the pelican's dropping upon its breast its lower bill to enable its young to take from its capacious pouch, lined with a fine flesh-coloured skin." In Richard II. ii. 1. 126, and King Lear, iii. 4. 77, Shakespeare uses the same illustration, but in a contrary sense. F. 1. has a very comic misprint of Politician for pelican. I can fancy that, had not the Qq. preserved the true reading, commentators would have been found to defend the reading of F. 1 even on grounds of sentiment. Might not the politician become a beautiful illustration of the patriot, feeding his country with his own blood? It is still not too late for a German editor to take up the point. 496. Lines 151, 152:
It shall as level to your judgment PIERCE As day does to your eye.
Qq. here read peare, which Johnson took to be the abbreviation of "appear," and printed 'pear. There is very little doubt that the Ff. pierce is the true reading (compare iv. 1. 42: "As level as the cannon to his blank").
497. Line 152: Danes [Within] Let her come in.—Qq. have the stage-direction "A noise within," and give the words Let her come in to Laertes; an evident error, as Laertes could not know who was without. In Ff. the stagedirection is: "A noise within. Let her come in." Capell first as in our text.
498. Lines 165, 166:
Hey non nonny, nonny, hey nonny; And IN his grave RAIN'D many a tear.
The refrain is not given by Qq. In and rain'd, the reading of Qq., are, in the Ff., on and rains. It is very doubtful which text is preferable. The next line, Fare you well, my dove! is printed by Ff. in italics as a part of the song; the Qq. print the whole passage in the same type; Capell, rightly as I think, printed the line as if said, not sung, by Ophelia. On the refrain, see Much Ado, note 150.
499. Lines 170, 171: You must sing, "Down a-down, an you call him a-down-a."-It is not certain whether these two lines should be printed thus, or as two lines of verse. Mrs. Quickly, in the Merry Wives, i. 4. 44, sings: "And down, down, adown-a." Florio has "Filibustacchina, the burden of a countrie song, as we say hay doune a doune douna."
500. Line 172: O, how the WHEEL becomes it!-Steevens supposed that wheel was an old word for the burden of a song, but neither he nor anyone else has adduced any trustworthy testimony to that effect. Until that is forthcoming it may be quite sufficient to suppose that Ophelia means nothing more than the spinning-wheel, to which old songs are usually sung in romances, as they doubtless were in reality.
501. Line 175: There's rosemary, that's for remembrance. -Rosemary was thought to strengthen the memory, and
was carried, as an emblem of remembrance, at weddings and funerals. Compare Dekker, The Honest Whore, part II., ii. 1:
Bell. O my sweet husband! wert thou in thy grave and art alive again? Oh, welcome, welcome!
Mat. Dost know me? my cloak, prithee, lay 't up. Yes, faith, my winding-sheet was taken out of lavender, to be stuck with rosemary. Steevens and Malone give a number of illustrative quotations from the writings of Shakespeare's time. See A Handfull of Pleasant Delites, 1584 (p. 4 Arber's Reprint): Rosemary is for remembrance Betweene us daie and night;
Wishing that I might always have You present in my sight. Shakespeare has several allusions to rosemary. Compare Winter's Tale, iv. 4. 74-76:
For you there's rosemary and rue; these keep
502. Line 178: A DOCUMENT in madness.-Cotgrave has "Document; m. A document, precept; instruction, admonition; experiment, example." The meaning here is the etymological one of instruction (doceo). The word is not used by Shakespeare in any other place.
503. Line 180: There's FENNEL for you, and COLUMBINES. -Fennel is emblematic of flattery. Compare A Handfull of Pleasant Delites (p. 4), quoted above: "Fenel is for flatterers." Florio has "Dare finocchio, to flatter or giue Fennell." Columbines were perhaps the emblem of thanklessness. Compare Chapman, All Fools, ii. 1:
What's that? a columbine 1
504. Lines 181, 182: there's rue for you, &c.-Compare Richard II. iii. 4. 105-107:
I'll set a bank of rue, sour herb of grace;
See note 250 to that play. The plant is indiscriminately called herb of grace and herb-grace, and both variations are contained in the old copies, the Qq. having the former, and the Ff. the latter. See Furness, Variorum Ed. vol. i. pp. 347, 348 for a long note on the subject.
505. Line 184: There's a DAISY.-Henley quotes Greene, A Quip for an Upstart Courtier (Collier's reprint, p. 11): "Next them grew the dissembling daisie, to warne such light-of-love wenches not to trust every faire promise that amorous bachelors make them."
506. Lines 184-186: I would give you some VIOLETS, but they withered all when my father died.-Compare A Handfull of Pleasant Delites (p. 4), "Violet is for faithfulnesse."
507. Line 187: For bonny sweet Robin is all my joy.This was a well-known song, the music of which is given by Chappell in his Popular Music of the Olden Time, vol. i. p. 334, and by Furness, Variorum Ed. vol. i. p. 349. The song is alluded to by the Gaoler's Daughter in The Two Noble Kinsmen, iv. 1. 107:
I can sing The Broome, And Bonny Robin.
508. Line 190: And will he not come again?—The music usually sung to this song is given in Chappell, vol. i. p 237, and by Furness, vol. i. p. 350.
509. Line 199: GOD HA' MERCY on his soul!-Ff. have Gramercy, which some editors adopt.
510. Line 202: Laertes, I must COMMUNE with your grief.-F. 1 has common, which Boswell erroneously supposed to mean participate, jest in common. It is a mere variation of spelling, and Steevens gives two examples of it, one from Holinshed in speaking of Jack Cade (Holinshed, 1577, vol. ii. p. 1280, col. 1): "Thus this glorious Capitaine enuironed wyth a multitude of euill, rude and rusticall people, came again to the plaine of Blacke heathe, and there strongly encamped himselfe, to whome were sent from the Kyng, the Archbishop of Canterburye, and Humfrey Duke of Buckingham, to common with him of his greeues and requests."
511. Line 213: His means of death, his OBSCURE BURIAL. -Ff. read burial; Qq. funeral, two words of such very similar meaning that there is little to choose between them. I incline to prefer burial as the more poetical word of the two. Obscure is here used with the accent on the first syllable; Shakespeare varies the accent to suit his convenience. In poetry this and similar words are still not unfrequently accentuated on the first syllable, particularly by Browning.
ACT IV. SCENE 6.
512. Line 2: Sea-faring men.-This is the reading of Qq., much more picturesque than the sailors of Ff. Few editors but the Cambridge seem, however, to have adopted it.
513. Line 31: Come, I will MAKE you way for these your letters.-Ff. have give; Q. 2, Q. 3 omit the word. The reading in the text is introduced from the later Qq., which are followed by the Cambridge and other editors.
ACT IV. SCENE 7.
514. Line 7: crimeful.-This word is not used elsewhere by Shakespeare. The Qq. have criminal, which is less likely than crimeful to have been misprinted.
515. Line 8: As by your safety, wisdom, all things else. -Qq. have safety, GREATNESS, wisdom, which makes the line an Alexandrine. Probably greatness and wisdom were alternative readings, inserted together by mistake.
516. Line 10: unsinew'd. This word is not used by Shakespeare elsewhere; sinewed only in King John, v. 7. 88: "well sinewed to our defence."
517. Line 11: AND yet to me they are strong. This is the reading of Ff., to which is generally preferred the But of Qq., which also favour the needless contraction they're. I think that on the whole And gives a betterlinked sense than But, though either has a very good
518. Line 14: conjunctive.-This word occurs in only one other passage (in which, however, the Qq. have communicative), Othello, i. 3. 374: "Let us be conjunctive in our revenge."
519 Line 18: gender.-This word is used again in Othello, i. 3. 326, in speaking of herbs: "supply it with one gender of herbs."
520. Line 20: WOULD, like the spring that turneth wood to stone.-Qq. have work, which some editors have followed, thus making a different construction, and chang ing convert in the next line into a second indicative. The reading seems to me distinctly inferior, and may well be due to a printer's error. Reed thinks that the spring alluded to is the famous dropping-well at Knaresborough, Elze says: "According to Harrison's Description of England, ed. Furnivall, p. 334 and 349, the 'wonderful vertue' of turning wood to stone was ascribed to several springs, one of them (King's Newnham) being situated in Warwickshire, and therefore, no doubt, well known to the poet." The Clarendon Press edd. quote Lyly's Euphues (p. 63, ed. Arber): "Would I had sipped of that ryuer in Caria, which turneth those that drinke of it to stone." 521. Lines 21, 22:
Too slightly timber'd for so LOUD A WIND. Qq. here have loued arm'd, which is not too obvious and absurd a misprint to have had defenders. Steevens quotes a surely unnecessary corroboration of the Ff. reading from Ascham's Toxophilus: "Weake bowes, and lyghte shaftes can not stande in a rough wynde." A very similar misprint occurs in line 27 below, where Ff. have the impossible reading Who was instead of Whose worth of Qq.
522. Line 45: To-morrow shall I beg leave to see your kingly eyes. See note 463.
523. Line 58-60:
If it be so, Laertes,As how should it be so? how otherwise?— Will you be rul'd by me?
F. A. Marshall, Study of Hamlet, pp. 196, 197, has the following note on these lines: "This passage, as it stands, seems to me almost hopelessly obscure. In Malone's 'Shakespeare' (1821) there is absolutely no note on the passage. Caldecott does not notice it; and even that obstinate illuminator of dark passages, Mr. Collier's old annotator, passes it by without a word of comment.
"The editors of the Clarendon Hamlet' have a note in which they give Keightley's conjecture, 'how should it but be so?' They say we should have expected, 'how should it not be so?'' but they do not give the anonymous conjecture to be found in the foot-notes of the 'Cambridge Shakespeare' (vol. viii., p. 144), 'how shoul't not be so? which I suspect to be the right reading. They suggest an explanation of the passage as it stands-viz. that the first clause refers to Hamlet's return, the second to Laertes' feelings. (See Clarendon Press Series, 'Hamlet,' p. 207.) "I confess that this, the only attempt to explain the words, as they stand, which I can find, does not satisfy me. The fact is, no sense can be made of them, if read as printed in the text. The insertion of the 'not' makes them perfectly intelligible. It has occurred to me, that as there is no authority for this insertion, that if the word 'should' were italicized we might make sense of it, thusIf it be so(i.e., if Hamlet has come back because, on consideration, he did not choose to go to England)
As how should it be so? (ie., how should there be any question about it being so?)