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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.
Lords, Ladies, Officers, Soldiers, Players, Grave-diggers,
Sailors, Messengers, and other Attendants.
PRINCE OF DENMARK.
SCENE I. Elsinore. A Platform before the
FRANCISCO on his Post. Enter to him BERNARDO.
Bernardo. Who's there?
Fran. Nay, answer mel; stand, and unfold Yourself.
Ber. Long live the king !
He. Fran. You come most carefully upon your hour. Ber. 'Tis now struck twelve; get thee to bed;
Ber. Have you had quiet guard?
Not a mouse stirring. Ber. Well, good night.
1 i. e. me who am already on the watch, and have a right to demand the watchword; which appears to have been, · Loog live the king.'
If you do meet Horatio and Marcellus,
Enter HORATIO and MARCELLUS. Fran. I think, I hear them.-Stand, ho! Who
is there! Hor. Friends to this ground. Mar.
And liegemen to the Dane. Fran. Give you good night. Mar.
0, farewell, honest soldier: Who hath reliev'd you? Fran.
Bernardo hath my place. Give you good night. [Exit FRANCISCO. Mar.
Holla! Bernardo ! Ber.
Say. What, is Horatio there? Hor.
A piece of him. Ber. Welcome, Horatio; welcome, good Mar
cellus. Hor. What, has this thing appear'd again to
Mar. Horatio says, 'tis but our fantasy;
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.
That, if again this apparition come,
Hor. Tush! tush! 'twill not appear.
Sit down awhile;
Well, sit we down, And let us hear Bernardo speak of this.
Ber. Last night of all, When yon same star, that's westward from the pole, Had made his course to illume that part of heaven Where now it burns, Marcellus, and myself, The bell then beating one,Mar. Peace, break thee off; look, where it comes
Enter Ghost. Ber. In the same figure like the king that's dead. Mar. Thou art a scholar, speak to it, Horatio *. Ber. Looks it not like the king? mark it, Horatio. Hor. Most like:—it harrows' me with fear, and
wonder. Ber. It would be spoke to. Mar.
Speak to it, Horatio. Hor. What art thou, that usurp’st this time of night, Together with that fair and warlike form
3 To approve or confirm. •Ratum habere aliquid.'- Baret.
4 It was a vulgar notion that a supernatural being could only be spoken to with effect by persons of learning ; exorcisms being usually practiced by the clergy in Latin. Toby, in The Night Walker of Beaumont and Fletcher, says :
* Let's call the butler up, for he speaks Latin,
And that will daunt the devil. The first quarto reads, “it horrors me. To harrow is to distress, to vex, to disturb. To harry and to harass have the same origin, from the Gothic haer, an armed force. Milton has the word in Comus:
• Amaz'd I stood, harrow'd with grief and fear.'