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Enter FORTINBRAS, the English Ambassadors, and Others.

Fort, Where is this sight?


What is it, you would see?

If aught of woe, or wonder, cease your search.

Fort. This quarry cries on havock 53 !—O proud death!

What feast is toward in thine eternal cell,

That thou so many princes, at a shot,

So bloodily hast struck?

1 Amb.

The sight is dismal;

And our affairs from England come too late:

The ears are senseless, that should give us hearing,
To tell him, his commandment is fulfill'd,

That Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead:
Where should we have our thanks?



Not from his mouth, Had it the ability of life to thank you; He never gave commandment for their death. But since, so jump upon this bloody question, You from the Polack wars, and you from England, Are here arriv'd; give order, that these bodies High on a stage be placed to the view; And let me speak, to the yet unknowing world, How these things came about: So shall you hear Of carnal, bloody, and unnatural acts 55;

53 This quarry cries on havock!' To cry on was to exclaim against. I suppose when unfair sportsmen destroyed more game than was reasonable, the censure was to call it havock,


Quarry was the term used for a heap of slaughtered game. See Macbeth, Act iv. Sc. 3.

54 It has been already observed that jump and just, or exactly, are synonymous. Vide note on Act i. Sc. 1, p. 160.

55 Of carnal, bloody, and unnatural acts.' Of sanguinary and unnatural acts, to which the perpetrator was instigated by con

Of accidental judgments, casual slaughters;
Of deaths put on 56 by cunning, and forc'd cause;
And, in this upshot, purposes mistook

Fall'n on the inventors' heads: all this can I
Truly deliver.


Let us haste to hear it.

And call the noblest to the audience.

For me, with sorrow I embrace my fortune;
I have some rights of memory 57 in this kingdom,
Which now to claim my vantage doth invite me.

Hor. Of that I shall have also cause to speak, And from his mouth whose voice will draw on more: But let this same be presently perform'd,

Even while men's minds are wild; lest more mis


On plots and errors, happen.


Let four captains

Bear Hamlet, like a soldier, to the stage;
For he was likely, had he been put on,

To have prov'd most royally: and, for his passage,
The soldier's musick, and the rites of war,
Speak loudly for him.-

Take up the bodies:-Such a sight as this

Becomes the field, but here shows much amiss.
Go, bid the soldiers shoot.

[A dead march. [Exeunt, bearing off the dead Bodies; after which, a Peal of Ordnance is shot off.

cupiscence or carnal stings.' The allusion is to the murder of old Hamlet by his brother, previous to his incestuous union with Gertrude.

56 i. e. instigated, produced. Instead of 'forced cause,' the quartos read for no cause.'

57 i. e. some rights which are remembered in this kingdom.

The following scene in the first quarto, 1603, differs so materially from the revised play, that it has been thought it would not be unacceptable to the reader :—

Enter HORATIO and the Queen.

Hor. Madam, your son is safe arriv'd in Denmarke,
This letter I even now receiv'd of him,

Whereas he writes how he escap'd the danger,
And subtle treason that the king had plotted,
Being crossed by the contention of the winds,
He found the packet sent to the king of England,
Wherein he saw himself betray'd to death,
As at his next conversion with your grace
He will relate the circumstance at full.

Queen. Then I perceive there's treason in his looks,
That seem'd to sugar o'er his villanies:
But I will sooth and please him for a time,
For murderous minds are always jealous;
But know not you, Horatio, where he is?

Hor. Yes, madam, and he hath appointed me

To meet him on the east side of the city

To-morrow morning.

Queen. O fail not, good Horatio, and withal commend me A mother's care to him, bid him a while

Be wary of his presence, lest that he

Fail in that he goes about.

Hor. Madam, never make doubt of that:

I think by this the news be come to court

He is arriv'd: observe the king, and you shall

Quickly find, Hamlet being here,

Things fell not to his mind.

Queen. But what became of Gilderstone and Rossencraft?

Hor. He being set ashore, they went for England,

And in the packet there writ down that doom

To be perform'd on them 'pointed for him:

And by great chance he had his father's seal,

So all was done without discovery.

Queen. Thanks be to heaven for blessing of the prince. Horatio, once again I take my leave,

With thousand mother's blessings to my son.

Hor. Madam, adieu!

If the dramas of Shakspeare were to be characterised, each by the particular excellence which distinguishes it from the rest, we must allow to the tragedy of Hamlet the praise of variety. The incidents are so numerous, that the argument of the play would make a long tale. The scenes are interchangeably diversified with merriment and solemnity: with merriment that includes judicious and instructive observations; and solemnity not strained by poetical violence above the natural sentiments of man. New characters appear from time to time in continual succession, exhibiting various forms of life and particular modes of conversation. The pretended madness of Hamlet causes much mirth, the mournful distraction of Ophelia fills the heart with tenderness, and every personage produces the effect intended, from the apparition that in the first Act chills the blood with horror, to the fop in the last, that exposes affectation to just contempt.

The conduct is perhaps not wholly secure against objections. The action is indeed for the most part in continual progression; but there are some scenes which neither forward nor retard it. Of the feigned madness of Hamlet there appears no adequate cause; for he does nothing which he might not have done with the reputation of sanity. He plays the madman most when he treats Ophelia with so much rudeness, which seems to be useless and wanton cruelty.

Hamlet is, through the whole piece, rather an instrument than an agent. After he has, by the stratagem of the play, convicted the King, he makes no attempt to punish him; and his death is at last effected by an incident which Hamlet had no part in producing.

The catastrophe is not very happily produced; the exchange of weapons is rather an expedient of necessity, than a stroke of art. A scheme might easily be formed to kill Hamlet with the dagger, and Laertes with the bowl.

The poet is accused of having shown little regard to poetical justice, and may be charged with equal neglect of poetical probability. The apparition left the regions of the dead to little purpose; the revenge which he demands is not obtained, but by the death of him that was required to take it; and the gratification which would arise from the destruction of an usurper and a murderer, is abated by the untimely death of Ophelia, the young, the beautiful, the harmless, and the pious.


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