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tion. By referring to the play it will be seen that his real insanity is only developed after the mock play. Then, in place of a systematic conduct, conducive to his purposes, he becomes irresolute, inconsequent; and the plot appears to stand unaccountably still. Instead of striking at his object, he resigns himself to the current of events, and sinks at length ignobly under the stream*."

A comedian of considerable talents has entered at large into the question of Hamlet's madness, and has endeavoured to show that the poet meant to represent him as insane t. Mr. Boswell, on the contrary, in a very judicious and ingenious review of Hamlet's character, combats the supposition, and thinks it entirely without foundation. He argues that 'the sentiments which fall from Hamlet in his soliloquies, or in confidential communication with Horatio, evince not only a sound but an acute and vigorous understanding. His misfortunes, indeed, and a sense of shame, from the hasty and incestuous marriage of his mother, have sunk him into a state of weakness and melancholy; but though his mind is enfeebled, it is by no means deranged. It would have been little in the manner of Shakspeare to introduce two persons in the same play whose intellects were disordered; but he has rather, in this instance, as in King Lear, a second time effected what, as far as I can recollect, no other writer has ever ventured to attempt-the exhibition on the same scene of real and fictitious madness in contrast with each other. In carrying his design into execution, Hamlet feels no difficulty in imposing upon the King, whom he detests; or upon Polonius, and his schoolfellows, whom he despises: but the case is very different indeed in his interviews with Ophelia; aware of the submissive mildness of her character, which leads her to be subject to the influence of her father and her brother, he cannot venture to entrust her with his secret. In her presence, therefore, he has not only to assume a disguise, but to restrain himself from those expressions of affection which a lover must find it most difficult to repress in the presence of his mistress. In this tumult of conflicting feelings, he is led to overact his part, from a fear of falling below it; and thus gives an appearance of rudeness and harshness to that which is, in fact, a painful struggle to conceal his tenderness +.'

Mr. Richardson, in his Essay on the Character of Hamlet, has well observed that the spirit of that remarkable scene with Ophelia, where he tells her, " get thee to a nunnery," is fre

* Essay on the Theory of Apparitions, p. 111-115. On the Madness of Hamlet, by Mr. W. Farren.-London

Magazine, for April, 1824.

Boswell's edition of Malone's Shakspeare, vol. vii.

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quently misunderstood; and especially by the players. At least it does not appear to have been the poet's intention that the air and manner of Hamlet in this scene should be perfectly grave and serious; nor is there any thing in the dialogue to justify the grave and tragic tone with which it is frequently spoken. Let Hamlet be represented as delivering himself in a light and airy, unconcerned and thoughtless manner, and the rudeness so much complained of will disappear.' His conduct to Ophelia is intended to confirm and publish the notion he would convey of his pretended insanity, which could not be marked by any circumstance so strongly as that of treating her with harshness or indifference. The sincerity and ardour of his passion for her had undergone no change: he could not explain himself to her; and, in the difficult and trying circumstances in which he was placed, had therefore no alternative.

The poet indeed has marked with a master hand the amiable and polished character of Hamlet. Ophelia designates him as having been

the glass of fashion, and the mould of form;'

and though circumstances have unsettled him, and thrown over his natural disposition the clouds of melancholy, the kindness of his disposition and his natural hilarity break through on every occasion which arises to call them forth.

Mr. Boswell has remarked, that the scene with the gravediggers shows, in a striking point of view, his good-natured affability. The reflections which follow afford new proofs of his amiable character. The place where he stands, the frame of his own thoughts, and the objects which surround him, suggest the vanity of all human pursuits; but there is nothing harsh or caustic in his satire; his observations are dictated rather by feelings of sorrow than of anger; and the sprightliness of his wit, which misfortune has repressed, but cannot altogether extinguish, has thrown over the whole a truly pathetic cast of humorous sadness. Those gleams of sunshine, which serve only to show us the scattered fragments of a brilliant imagination, crushed and broken by calamity, are much more affecting than a long uninterrupted train of monotonous woe.'

Ophelia is a character almost too exquisitely touching to be dwelt upon. Oh, rose of May; oh, flower too soon faded! Her Jove, her madness, her death, are described with the truest touches of tenderness and pathos. It is a character which nobody but Shakspeare could have drawn in the way that he has done; and to the conception of which there is not the smallest approach, except in some of the old romantic ballads *.'

* Hazlitt's Characters of Shakspeare's Plays, p. 112.


CLAUDIUS, King of Denmark.

HAMLET, Son to the former, and Nephew to the present King.

POLONIUS, Lord Chamberlain.

HORATIO, Friend to Hamlet.

LAERTES, Son to Polonius.

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FRANCISCO, a Soldier.

REYNALDO, Servant to Polonius.
A Captain. An Ambassador.
Ghost of Hamlet's Father.

FORTINBRAS, Prince of Norway.

GERTRUDE, Queen of Denmark, and Mother to Hamlet.
OPHELIA, Daughter to Polonius.

Lords, Ladies, Officers, Soldiers, Players, Grave-diggers, Sailors, Messengers, and other Attendants.





SCENE I. Elsinore. A Platform before the Castle.

FRANCISCO on his Post. Enter to him BERNARDO.

WHO'S there?


Fran. Nay, answer me1; stand, and unfold Yourself.

Ber. Long live the king!





Fran. You come most carefully upon your hour. Ber. 'Tis now struck twelve; get thee to bed, Francisco.

Fran. For this relief, much thanks: 'tis bitter cold, And I am sick at heart.

Ber. Have you had quiet guard?


Ber. Well, good night.

Not a mouse stirring.

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1 i. e. me who am already on the watch, and have a right to demand the watchword; which appears to have been, Long live the king.'


you do meet Horatio and Marcellus, The rivals of my watch, bid them make haste.


Fran. I think, I hear them.-Stand, ho! Who is there!

Hor. Friends to this ground.

And liegemen to the Dane.

Fran. Give you good night.

Who hath reliev'd you?

Give you good night.

O, farewell, honest soldier:

Bernardo hath my place.


Holla! Bernardo !



What, is Horatio there?


A piece of him.

Ber. Welcome, Horatio; welcome, good Marcellus.

Hor. What, has this thing appear'd again tonight?

Ber. I have seen nothing.

Mar. Horatio says, 'tis but our fantasy; And will not let belief take hold of him, Touching this dreadful sight, twice seen of us; Therefore I have entreated him along,

With us to watch the minutes of this night;

2 Shakspeare uses rivals for associates, partners; and competitor has the same sense throughout these plays. It is the original sense of rivalis. The etymology was pointed out by Acro Grammaticus in his Scholia on Horace: A rivo dicto rivales qui in agris rivum haberent communem, et propter enim sæpe discrepabant.' Hanmer applied this explanation: Rivals, in Latin, being originally applied to proprietors of neighbouring lands parted only by a brook, which belonged equally to both, and so signified partners:' this partnership led to contests; and hence the word came to signify persons contending for the same object.

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