« PreviousContinue »
man 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 a usurper and a murderer, is abated by the untimely death of Ophelia, the young, the beautiful, the harmlegs, and the pious.'
The sudden death of Hamlet king of Denmark, and the hurried
and indecent nuptials of bis widow witn his brother and successor, fill the mind of the young prince Hamlet with grief and shame, which is speedily exchanged into a desire of revenge at the appearance of his father's spirit, which informs the astonished youth that his end bas been effected by the operation of poison, administered to him in his sleep by his perfidious brother. Doubtful of the truth of this supernatural communication, Hamlet counterfeits madness in order to conceal his designs, and invites the king and his court to witness the performance of a play which bears a striking similarity to the murder detailed by the Ghost. Struck by the reproaches of a wounded conscience, the guilty monarch betrays the emotions of his mind to the vigilance of Hamlet, who is prevented from the prosecution of his revenge by the death of Polonius, the father of Ophelia, who is commissioned by the king to lie in ambush during an interview between the prince and his mother : Hamlet, hearing a noise, and conjecturing that it proceeds from his concealed uncle, stabs the old man to the heart ;a mistake, which deprives Ophelia of reason, and causes her self-destruction; while the unfortunate prince is banished to England by the king, who sends thither secret orders for his death on his arrival. The accomplishment of this cruel mandate is prevented by his captivity by pirates, who land him on the Danish coast. In the mean time, Laertes, the son of Polonius, in his anxiety to revenge the deaths of his father and sister, tarnishes the natural generosity of his character by listening to the insidious suggestions of the king, who accomplishes the destruction of his nephew by means of a poisoned weapon, with which he is wounded in a trial of skill in fencing with Laertes, to which the unsuspecting youth is invited ; and in which his antagonist also becomes the victim of his own fraud. Finding his end fast approaching, Hamlet inflicts on his uncle the just punishment of his atrocities; and soon after expires, after witnessing the untimely deatb of his mother by poison.
king of Denmark.
FRANCISCO, a soldier.
GERTRUDE, queen of Denmark, and mother of Hamlet.
Lords, Ladies, Officers, Soldiers, Players, Gravediggers,
Sailors, Messengers, and other Attendants.
Elsinore. A platform before the castle. FRANCISCO on his post. Enter to him BERNARDO. Ber. Who's there?
Fran. Nay, answer me: stand, and unfold Yourself.
Ber. Long live the king !
hour. Ber. 'Tis now struck twelve; get thee to bed,
Francisco. Fran. For this relief, much thanks : 'tis bitter
Ber. Have you had quiet guard ?
Not a mouse stirring.
you do meet Horatio and Marcellus,
The rivals 1 of my watch, bid them make haste.
Enter HORATIO and MARCELLUS.
Fran. I think, I hear them.-Stand, ho! Who is
there? Ho. Friends to this ground. Mar.
And liegemen to the Dane. Fran. Give you good night. Mar.
O, farewell, honest soldier: Who hath relieved you? Fran.
Bernardo hath my place. Give you good night.
[Exit Francisco. Mar.
Holla! Bernardo !
A piece of him.
cellus. Ho. What, has this thing appear'd again to
Mar. Horatio says, 'tis but our fantasy,