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passion ; and that Horatio may say of him, with propriety,
Good night, sweet Prince;
The character is consistent. Hamlet is exhibited with good dispositions, and struggling with untoward circumstances. The contest is interesting. As he endeavours to act right, we approve and esteem him. But his original constitution renders him unequal to the contest: he displays the weaknesses and imperfections to which his peculiar character is liable; he is unfortunate ; his misfortunes are in some measure occasioned by his weakness; he thus becomes an object not of blame, but of genuine and
ON THE CHARACTER OF THE MELANCHOLY JAQUES.
JAQUES, in As You LIKE IT, is exhibited to us in extraordinary circumstances, and in a situation
Lord. To-day my Lord of Amiens, and myself, Did steal behind him, as he lay along Under an oak, whose antique root peeps out Upon the brook that brawls along this wood: To the which place a poor sequester'd stag, That from the hunters' aim had ta'n a hurt, Did come to languish; and, indeed, my Lord, The wretched animal heav'd forth such groans That their discharge did stretch his leathern coat Almost to bursting; and the big round tears Cours'd one another down his innocent nose In piteous chace: and thus the hairy fool, Much marked of the melancholy Jaques, Stood on the extremest verge of the swift brook, Augmenting it with tears.
Duke. But what said Jaques ?
Lord. O yes, into a thousand similies.
The most striking character in the mind of Jaques, according to this description, is extreme sensibility. He discovers a heart strongly disposed to compassion, and susceptible of the most tender impressions of friendship: for he who can so feelingly de. plore the absence of kindness and humanity, must be capable of relishing the delight annexed to their exercise. But sensibility is the soil where nature has planted social and sweet affections: by sensibility they are cherished, and matured. Social dispositions produce all those amiable and endearing connections that alleviate the sorrows of human life, adorn our nature, and render us happy. Now Jaques, avoiding society, and burying himself in the lonely forest, seems to act inconsistently with his constitution. He possesses sensibility; sensibility begets affection; and affection begets the love of society. But Jaques is unsocial. Can these inconsistent qualities be reconciled ? or has Shakespeare exhibited a character of wbich the parts are incongruous and discordant? In other words, how happens it that a temper disposed to beneficence, and addicted to social enjoyment, becomes solitary and morose? Changes of this kind are not unfrequent: and, if researches into the origin or cause of a distemper can direct us in the discovery of an antidote, or of a remedy, our present inquiry is of importance. Perhaps, the excess and luxuriancy of benevolent dispositions, blighted by unkindness or ingratitude, is the cause that, instead of yielding us fruits of complacency and friendship, they shed bitter drops of misanthropy.
înefficacy and uncertainty of external plea
Let us consider each of these apart: let us trace the progress by which they established themselves in the mind of Jaques, and gave
temper an unnatural colour.
I. The gratification of our social affections supposes friendship and esteem for others; and these dispositions suppose in their object virtues of a corresponding character: for every one values his own opinion, and fancies the person to whom he testifies esteem actually deserves it. If beneficent affections, ardent and undisciplined, predominate in our constitution, and govern our opinions, we enter into life strongly prepossessed in favour of mankind, and endeavour, by a generous and disinterested conduct, to render ourselves worthy of their regard. That spirit of diffusive goodness, which eloquent and benign philosophy recommends, but without success, to men engaged in the commerce of the world, operates uncontrouled. The heart throbs with astonishment and indignation at every act of injustice, and our bowels yearn to relieve the afflicted. Our