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Nor would it be easy to find a better parallel for,-"Here lies the water; good: here stands the man; good: if the man go to this water, and drown himself, it is, will he nill he, he goes,--mark you that; but if the water come to him and drown him, he drowns not himself :" &c.-than what follows, in the argument of the judges, viz. Weston, Anthony Brown, and Lord Dyer, "Sir James Hale was dead, and how came he to his death? It may be answered By drowning. And who drowned him? Sir James Hale. And when did he drown him? In his lifetime. So that Sir James Hale being alive, caused Sir James Hale to die; and the act of the living man was the death of the dead man. And then for this offence it is reasonable to punish the living man who committed the offence, and not the dead man,” &c
(2) SCENE I.-In youth when, I did love, did love, fc.) The three stanzas sung by the grave-digger are a barbarous version of a sonnet said to have been written by Lord Vaux, one copy of which, with music, has been discovered by Dr. Rimbault, in MS. Sloane, No. 4900 : another, unaccompanied by music, is in the Harleian MSS. No. 1703. The whole poem, too, may be seen in Tottel's Miscellany, 1557, and has been reprinted in Percy's Reliques, Vol. I. p. 190, Edition 1812, and in Bell's Edition, 1854, where the words are thus given :
“ THE AGED LOVER RENOUNCETH LOVE.
In youth that I thought sweet,
Methinks they are not meet.
My fancies all are fled,
Grey hairs upon my head
Hath clawed me with his cruteh,
As there had been none such.
Me as she did before;
As they have been of yore
This youthly idle rhyme;
* Leave off these toys in time.'
The furrows in my face
Where Youth must give him place.
To me I see him ride,
Doth bid me to provide
And eke a shrouding sheet,
For such a guest most meet.
That knolls the careful knell,
Ere Nature me compel.
That Youth did laugh to scorn,
As I had not been born.
“ Thus must I Youth give up,
Whose badge I long did wear
That better may it bear.
By whose bald sign I know,
Which youthful years did sow.
These crooked cares hath wrought,
From whence I first was brought.
Have ye none other trust,
So shall ye waste to dust.”
(3) SCENE I.-- And must the inheritor himself have no more, ha?] We have something very like these reflections in Thomas Randolph's comedy of " The Jealous Lovers, played before Charles the Second at Cambridge, and published at Oxford, 1668 :-
“ Sexton. [Shewing a skull.] This was a poetical noddle. O the sweet lines, choice language, eloquent figures, besides the jests, half jests, quarter jests, and quibbles that have come out of these chaps that yawn so! He has not so much as a new-coined complement to procure him-a supper. The best friend he has may walk by him now, and yet have ne'er a jeer put upon him. His mistris had a little dog, deceased the other day, and all the wit in his noddle could not pump out an elegie to bewail it. He has been my tenant this seven years, and in all that while I never heard him rail against the times, or complain of the neglect of learning. Melpomene and the rest of the Muses have a good turn on't that he's dead; for while he lived, he ne'er left calling upon 'em. He was buried (as most of the tribe) at the charge of the parish : and is happier dead than alive; for he has now as much money as the best in the company,--and yet has left off the poetical way of begging, called borrowing.”-Act IV. Sc. 3.
Again, in the next scene :
“Sexton. Look here; this is a lawyer's skull. There was a tongue in't once, a damnable eloquent tongue, that would almost have perswaded any man to the gallows. This was a turbulent busie fellow, till Death gave him his Quietus est ; and yet I ventured to rob him of his gown, and the rest of his habiliments, to the very buckram bag, not leaving him so much as a poor halfpeny to pay for his wastage, and yet the good man nere repin'd at it.-Now a man may clap you o'th' coxcomb with his spade, and Dever stand in fear of an action of battery."
"she seeming inconsistencies in the conduct and character of Hamlet have long exercised the conjectural ingenuity of critics ; and, as we are always loth to suppose that the cause of defective apprehension is in ourselves, the mystery has been too commonly explained by the very easy process of setting it down as in fact inexplicable, and by resolving the phenomenon into a misgrowth, or lusus, of the capricious and irregular genius of Shakspeare. The shallow and stupid arrogance of these vulgar and indolent decisions, I would fain do my best to expose. I believe the character of Hamlet may be traced to Shakspeare's deep and accurate science in mental philosophy. Indeed, that this character must have some connexion with the common fundamental laws of our nature, may be assumed from the fact, that Hamlet has been the darling of every country in which the literature of England has been fostered. In order to understand him, it is essential that we should reflect on the constitution of our own minds. Man is distinguished from the brute animals in proportion as thought prevails over sense ; but in the healthy processes of the mind, a balance is constantly maintained between the impressions from outward objects and the inward operations of the intellect ;---for if there be an overbalance in the contemplative faculty, man thereby becomes the creature of mere meditation, and loses his natural power of action. Now, one of Shakspeare's modes of creating characters is, to conceive any one intellectual or moral faculty in morbid excess, and then to place himself, Shakspeare, thus mutilated or diseaseri, under given cireumstances. In Hamlet, he seems to have wished to exemplify the moral necessity of a due balance between our attention to the objects of our senses, and our meditation on the workings of our minds,-an equilibrium between the real and the imaginary worlds. In Hamlet, this balance is disturbed ; his thoughts and the images of his fancy are far more vivid than his actual perceptions ; and his very perceptions, instantly passing through the medium of his contemplations, acquire, as they pass, a form and a colour not naturally their own. Hence we see a great, an almost enormous, intellectual activity, and a proportionate aversion to real action consequent upon it, with all its symptoms and accompanying qualities. This character Shakspeare places in circumstances under which it is obliged to act on the spur of the moment. Hamlet is brave and careless of death ; but he vacillates from sensibility, and procrastinates from thought, and loses the power of action in the energy of resolve.
Thus it is that this tragedy presents a direct contrast to that of Macbeth ;' the one proceeds with the utmost slowness, the other with a crowded and breathless rapidity.
* The effect of this overbalance of the imaginative power is beautifully illustrated in the everlasting brood ngs and superfluous activities of Hamlet's mind, which, unseated from its healthy relation, is constantly occupied with the world within, and abstracted from the world without,-giving substance to shadows, and throwing a mist over all common-place actualities. It is the nature of thought to be indefinite ;-definiteness belongs to external imagery alone. Hence it is that the sense of sublimity arises, not from the sight of an outward object; but from the beholder's reflection upon it ;-not from the sensuous impression, but from the imaginative reflex. Few have seen a celebrated waterfall without feeling something akin to disappointment; it is only subsequently that the image comes back full into the mind, and brings with it a train of grand or beautiful associations. Hamlet feels this ; his senses are in a state of trance, and he looks upon external things as hieroglyphics. His soliloquy,
0! that this too too solid flesh would melt,' &c.
springs from that craving after the indefinite--for that which is not which most easily besets men of genius ; and the self-delusion common to this temper of mind is finely exemplified in the character which Hamlet gives of himself,
It cannot be
To make oppression bitter.'
"Hamlet' is singular in its kind ; a tragedy of thought, inspired by continual and never-satisfied meditation on human destiny and the dark perplexity of the events of this world, and calculated to call forth the very same meditation in the minds of the spectators. This enigmatical work resembles those irrational equations in which a fraction of unknown magnitude always remains, that will in no way admit of solution. Much has been said, much written, on this piece, and yet no thinking head, who anew expresses himself on it, will (in his view of the connexion and the signification of all the parts) entirely coincide with his predecessors. What naturally most astonishes us is, the fact that with such hidden purposes—with a foundation laid in such unfathomable depth, the whole should, at a first view, exhibit an extremely popular appearance. The dread appearance of the Ghost takes possession of the mind and the imagination almost at the very commencement; then the play within the play, in which, as in a glass, we see reflected the crime, whose fruitlessly attempted punishment constitutes the subject-matter of the piece; the alarm with which it fills the King ; Hamlet's pretended, and Ophelia's real madness ; her death and burial ; the meeting of Hamlet and Laertes at her grave; their combat, and the grand determination ; lastly, the appearance of the young hero Fortinbras, who, with warlike pomp, pays the last honours to an extinct family of kings; the interspersion of comic characteristic scenes with Polonius, the courtiers, and the gravediggers, which have all of them their signification, -all this fills the stage with an animated and varied movement. The only circumstance from which this piece might be judged to be less theatrical than other tragedies of Shakpeare is, that in the last scenes the main action either stands still or appears to retrograde. This, however, was inevitable, and lay in the nature of the subject. The whole is intended to show that a calculating consideration, which exhausts all the relations and possible consequences of a deed, must cripple the power of acting ; as Hamlet himself expresses it,
And thus the native hue of resolution
With respect to Hamlet's character : I cannot, as I understand the poet's views, pronounce altogether so favourable a sentence upon it as Goethe does. He is, it is true, of a highly cultivated mind, a prince of royal manners, endowed with the finest sense of propriety, susceptible of noble ambition, and open in the highest degree to an enthusiastic admiration of that excellence in others of which he himself is deficient. He acts the part of madness with unrivalled power, convincing the persons who are sent to examine into his supposed loss of reason, merely by telling them unwelcome truths, and rallying them with the most caustic wit. But in the resolutions which he so often embraces and always leaves unexecuted, his weakness is too apparent: he does himself only justice when he implies that there is no greater dissimilarity than between himself and Hercules. He is not solely impelled by necessity to artifice and dissimulation, he has a natural inclination for crooked ways; he is a hypocrite
towards himself; his far-fetched scruples are often mere pretexts to cover his want of determination : thoughts, as he says on a different occasion, which have
but one part wisdom And ever three parts coward.' He has been chiefly condemned both for his harshness in repulsing the love of Ophelia, which he himself had cherished, and for his insensibility at her death, But he is too much overwhelmed with his own sorrow to have any compassion to spare for others ; besides, his outward indifference gives us by no means the measure of his internal perturbation. 'On the other hand, we evidently perceive in him a malicious joy, when he has succeeded in getting rid of his enemies, more through necessity and accident, which alone are able to impel him to quick and decisive measures, than by the merit of his own courage, as he himself confesses after the murder of Polonius, and with respect to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Hamlet has no firm belief either in himself or in anything else: from expressions of religious confidence he passes over to sceptical doubts; he believes in the Ghost of his father as long as he sees it, but as soon as it has disappeared, it appears to him almost in the light of a deception.* He has even gone so far as to say, 'there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so ;' with him the poet loses himself here in labyrinths of thought, in which neither end nor beginning is discoverable. The stars themselves, from the course of events, afford no answer to the question so urgently proposed to them. A voice from another world, commissioned, it would appear, by heaven, demands vengeance for a monstrous enormity, and the demand remains without effect ; the criminals are at last punished, but, as it were, by an accidental blow, and not in the solemn way requisite to convey to the world a warning example of justice ; irresolute foresight, cunning treachery, and impetuous rage, hurry on to a common destruction; the less guilty and the innocent are equally involved in the general ruin. The destiny of humanity is there exhibited as a gigantic Sphinx, which threatens to precipitate into the abyss of scepticism all who are unable to solve her dreadful enigmas.
" As one example of the many niceties of Shakspeare which have never been understood, I may allude to the style in which the player's speech about Hecuba is conceived. It has been the subject of much controversy among the commentators, whether this was borrowed by Shakspeare from himself or from another, and whether, in the praise of the piece of which it is supposed to be a part, he was speaking seriously, or merely meant to ridicule the tragical bombast of his contemporaries. It seems never to have occurred to them that this speech must not be judged of by itself, but in connexion with the place where it is introduced. To distinguish it in the play itself as dramatic poetry, it was necessary that it should rise above the dignified poetry of the former in the same proportion that generally theatrical elevation soars above simple nature. Hence Shakspeare has composed the play in ‘Hamlet' altogether in sententious rhymes full of antitheses. But this solemn and measured tone did not suit a speech in which violent emotion ought to prevail, and the poet had no other expedient than the one of which he made choice-overcharging the pathos. The language of the speech in question is certainly falsely emphatical; but yet this fault is so mixed up with true grandeur, that a player practised in artificially calling forth in himself the emotion he is imitating, may certainly be carried away by it. Besides, it will hardly be believed that Shakspeare knew so little of his art, as not to be aware that a tragedy in which Æneas had to make a lengthy epic relation of a transaction that happened so long before as the destruction of Troy, could neither be dramatical nor theatrical.”-SCHLEGEL.
" It has been censured as a contradiction, that Hamlet in the soliloquy on selfmurder should say,
• The undiscover'd country, from whose bourn
No traveller returns for was not the Ghost a returned traveller? Shakspeare, however, purposely wished to show, that Hamlet could not fix himself in any conviction of any kind whatever "