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fice to constitute a perfect and hap- Can such a simple creature indeed py human creature, Miranda; when love and be beloved by Hamlet ? thrown alone amid harsh and adverse Her brother, Laertes, warns her not destinies, and amid the trammels and to believe in the permanency of the corruptions of society, without ener- Prince's passion, calling it gy to resist, or will to act, or strength
"a toy in blood, to endure, the end must needs be
A violet in the youth of primy nature, desolation, as with Ophelia. Nothing
8 The perfume and suppliance of a minute ; can be more beautiful in its truth
No more." than the following eloquent strain.
And she merely answers, “ Ophelia-poor Ophelia ! O far too
“ No more but so ?" soft, too good, too fair, to be cast among the breirs of this working-day world, and Not that she yields up her faith; but fall and bleed upon the thorns of life! her gentle nature knows no stronger What shall be said of her ? for eloquence denial; and in her humility she is is mute before her! Like a strain of sad not unwilling to admit that it may sweet music which comes floating by us be even so—“sweet, but not lasting.” on the wings of night and silence, and How beautifully are we told of her which we rather feel than hear-like the extreme youth in these lines ! exhalation of the violet dying even upon
« The canker galls the infants of thespring, the sense it charms like the snow-flake
Too oft before their buttons be disclos'd; dissolved in air before it has caught a
And in the morn and liquid dew of youth stain of earth--like the light surf severed from the billow, which a breath disperses
Contagious blastments are most immi-such is the character of Ophelia : so
nent.” exquisitely delicate, it seems as if a touch Yet even the gentle Ophelia speaks would profane it; so sanctified in our to her admonishing brother with the thoughts by the last and worst of human sweet freedom of a sister. woes, that we scarcely dare to consider it
“ But, good my brother, too deeply. The love of Ophelia, which
Do not, as some ungracious pastors do, she never once confesses, is like a secret
Shew me the steep and thorny way to which we have stolen from her, and which
heaven; ought to die upon our hearts as upon her
Whilst, like a gruff and reckless libertine, own. Her sorrow asks not words but
Himself the primrose path of dalliance tears; and her madness has precisely the
treads, same effect that would be produced by the
And recks not his own read." spectacle of real insanity, if brought before us; we feel inclined to turn away and To her father how full of reverence veil our eyes in reverential pity, and too is the child ! painful sympathy."
“ Polonius. What is't, Ophelia, he hath Ophelia, like Cordelia, is not often said to you ? or long before our bodily eye; but
Ophelia. So please you, something she has her abiding-place in our piti
touching the lord Hamlet.” ful heart. From the first, happy as And then, without any disguise, she she is herself in her perfect inno- tells her father all. cence, we encircle her with an air“ He hath, my lord, of late, made many of sadness; and are haunted with
tenders forebodings of a dismal fate. Some of his affection to me. thing sorrowful hangs over her sim- Polonius. Do you believe his tenders, plicity; and we fear for the Bird of as you call them? Calm amid gloom darkening into Ophelia. I do not know, my lord, what tempest. When she is brought to
I should think. the Court, “ she seems,” says Mrs Jameson, with exquisite feeling of My lord, he hath importun'd me with love, her character and condition, “ like a In honourable fashion. seraph that had wandered out of bounds, and yet breathed on earth And hath given countenance to his speech, the air of paradise.” When she is divided from her perfect mind, in. With almost all the holy vows of heaven. supportable almost is the sight of her innocence singing in insanity: I shall obey, my lord.” there is a woful beauty in her These are all the words she utters death; and pathos that « lies too during the time we first see her, and deep for tears,” about her burial. yet, taken in connexion with what
her brother and her father say to Lord Hamlet with his doublet all unher, how they reveal her sweet, soft, braced, gentie, innocent and pious nature ! No hat upon his head, his stockings
foul'd, “ It is the helplessness of Ophelia, ari
a, all. Ungarter'd and down-gyved to his ankles, sing merely from her innocence, and pic- Pale as his shirt, his knees knocking each tured without any indication of weakness,
other, which melts us with such profound pity. And with a look 60 piteous in purport, Ophelia is so young, that neither ner mina As if he had been loosed out of hell, nor her person have attained maturity;
To speak of horrors, he comes before me.
To she is not aware of the nature of her own
Polonius. Mad for thy love? feelings; they are prematurely developed
Ophelia. My lord, I do not know; in their full force before she has strength
But truly I do fear it. to bear them, and love and grief together
I am sorry ; rend and shatter the frail texture of her
What? Have you given him any hard
v existence, like the burning Auid poured
words of late ? into a crystal vase. She says very little,
Ophelia. No, my good lord ! but as you and what she does say seems rather in
did command, tended to hide than to reveal the emo
I did repel his letters, and denied tions of her heart ; yet in those few words
His access to me." we are made as perfectly acquainted with her character, and with what is passing in
Ophelia would not, of her own acher mind, as if she had thrown forth her cord, have attributed Hamlet's appasoul with all the glowing eloquence of rent madness to love of her, had her Juliet. Passion with Juliet seems innate, father not asked the question ; but a part of her being, as dwells the gather questioned, she speaks the truth, heed lightning in the cloud ;' and we never sitatingly and humbly-as if it were fancy her but with the dark splendid eyes presumption even to fear that one so and Titian-like complexion of the south. high could be “sore-distraught" for While in Ophelia we recognize as dis- sake of one so lowly! “Hard words” tinctly the pensive, fair-haired, blue-eyed indeed! Hard words from Ophelia daughter of the north, whose heart seems to Hamlet! O, Polonius, “ shrewd, to vibrate to the passion she has inspired, wary, subtle, pompous, garrulous more conscious of being loved than of old courtier” as thou wast, little didst loving; and yet, alas ! loving in the silent thou know, dear as she was unto thee, depths of her young heart, fär more than of thy daughter's heart! she is loved."
Of all Shakspeare's Female ChaIt is finely remarked by Mrs Jame. racters, not one, says Mrs Jameson, son, that neither to her brother nor ingeniously, could have loved Hamto her father does Ophelia say a let but Ophelia. word of her love for Hamlet; she “Let us for a moment imagine any one but acknowledges the confession of of Shakspeare's most beautiful and striHamlet's love for her; the whole king female characters in immediate conscene is managed with inexpressible nexion with Hamlet; the gentle Desdedelicacy; it is one of those instances mona would never have despatched her common in Shakspeare, in which household cares in haste, to listen to his we are allowed to perceive what is
philosophical speculations, his dark conpassing in the mind of a person with
flicts with his own spirit. Such a woman out any consciousness on their part: as Portia would have studied bim; Juliet only Ophelia herself is unaware, that
would have pitied him; Rosalind would
have turned him over with a smile to the while she is admitting the extent of
melancholy Jacques; Beatrice would have Hamlet's courtship, she is also be
laughed at him outright; Isabel would bave traying how deep is the impression
reasoned with bim; Miranda could but it has made, 'how entire the love with
have wondered at him; but Ophelia loves which it is returned!
him. Ophelia, the young, fair, inexpeNext time we see Ophelia, it is rienced girl, facile to every impression, when she has been alarmed by the fond in her simplicity, and credulous in distracted appearance of Hamlet. her innocence, loves Hamlet; not for wbat “ Ophelia. O, my lord! my lord ! I have he is in himself, but for that which apbeen so affrighted!
pears to her—the gentle, accomplished Polonius. With what, in the name of prince, upon whom she has been accusheaven?
tomed to see all eyes fixed in hope and Ophelia. My lord ! as I was sewing admiration, the expectancy and rose of in my closet,
the fair state,' the star of the court in
whicli she moves, the first who has ever Articles on Shakspeare, gently takes whispered soft vows in her ear; and what us to task for that opinion, and we recan be more natural ?".
linquish it for her sake. “I do think,” We once said-long ago*--that she eays, “that the love of Hamlet for “ there is nothing in Ophelia which Ophelia is deep, is real, and is precould make her the object of an en- cisely the kind of love which such a grossing passion to so majestic a spi. man as Hamlet would feel for such a rit as Hamlet.” The lady, to whose woman as Ophelia. Our blessed reliwork we are indebted for almost all gion, which has revealed deeper mysthat may give pleasure in these our teries in the human soul than ever
* “ It has often struck me that the behaviour of Hamlet to Ophelia has appeared more incomprehensible than it really is, from an erroneous opinion generally entertained, that his love for her was profound. Though it is impossible to reconcile all parts of his conduct towards her with each other, on almost any theory, yet some great difficulties are got over, by supposing that Shakspeare merely intended to describe a youthful, an accidental, and transient affection on the part of Hainlet. There was nothing in Ophelia that could make her the engrossing object of Passion to so majestic a spirit. It would appear, that what captivated him in her, was, that being a creature of pure, innocent, virgin nature, but still of mere nature only, she yet exhibited, in great beauty, the spiritual tendencies of nature. There is in her frame the ecstasy of animal life, of breathing, light-seeing life betraying itself, even in her disordered mind, in snatches of old songs (not in her own words), of which the associations belong to a kind of innocent voluptuousness. There is, I think, in all we ever see of her, a fancy and character of her affections suitable to this; that is, to the purity and beauty of almost material nature. To a mind like Hamlet's, which is almost perfectly spiritual, but of a spirit loving nature and life, there must have been something touching, and delightful, and captivating in Ophelia, as almost an ideal image of nature and of life. The acts and indications of his love seem to be merely suitable to such a feeling. I see no one mark of that love which goes even into the blood, and possesses all the regions of the soul. Now, the moment that his soul has sickened even unto the death,—that love must cease, and there can remain only tenderness, sorrow, and pity. We should also remember, that the sickness of his soul arose in a great measure from the momentary sight he has had into the depths of the invisible world of female hollowness and iniquity. That other profounder love, which in my opinion he had not, would 110t have been so affected. It would either have resisted and purged off the baser fire victoriously, or it would have driven him raving mad. But he seems to me to part with his love without much pain. It certainly has almost ceased.
“ His whole conduct (at least previous to Ophelia's madness and death), is consis. tent with such feelings. He felt that it became him to crush in Ophelia's heart all hopes of his love. Events had occurred, almost to obliterate that love from his soul. He sought her, therefore, in his assumed madness, to shew her the fatal truth, and that in a way not to humble her spirit by the consciousness of being forsaken, and no more beloved; but to prove that nature herself had set an insuperable bar between them, and that when reason was gone, there must be no thought of love. Accordingly, his first wild interview, as described by her, is of that character,—and afterwards, in that scene when he tells her to go to a nunnery, and in which his language is the assumed language of a mind struggling between pretended indifference and real tenderness, Ophelia feels nothing towards him but pity and grief, a deep melancholy over the prostration of his elevated spirit.
. what a noble mind is here o'erthrown!' “ Here the genius of Kemble seemed to desert him, and he threw an air of fierceness and anger over the mien and gestures of Hamlet, which must have been far indeed from the imagination of Shakspeare. It was reserved for Kean to restore nature from her profanation. In his gesticulations there is nothing insulting towards such an object. There is a kind of wild bitterness, playing towards her in the words merely,—that she might know all was lost,—but, in the manner of delivering those speeches, he follows the manifest intention of the divine Bard, and gives to them that mournful earnestness with which a high intellectual mind, conscious of its superiority, and severed by pain from that world of life to which Ophelia belonged, would, in a situation of extreme distress, speak authoritative counsel to an inferior soul. And when, afraid lest the gentle creature whom he deeply pities--and whom, at that moment, it may well be said, he loves,-might in her heart upbraid him for his cruel
were dreamt of by Philosophy, till which, in darker times, was paid to she went hand in hand with Faith, the manifestations of power; and has taught us to pay that worship to therefore do I think, that the mighty the symbols of purity and innocence intellect, the capacious, soaring, pe
ty, in spite even of the excuse of his apparent madness,--Kean returns to Ophelia, and kisses her hand; we then indeed feel as if a burst of light broke in upon the darkness,—and truth, and nature, and Shakspeare, were at once revealed.
" To you who are so familiar with this divine drama, I need not quote passages, nor use many arguments to prove my position, that Shakspeare never could have intended to represent Hamlet's love to Ophelia as very profound. If he did, how can we ever account for Hamlet's first exclamation, when in the churchyard he learns that he is standing by her grave, and beholds her coffin ?
• What, the fair Ophelia !' “Was this all that Hamlet would have uttered, when struck into sudden conviction by the ghastliest terrors of death, that all he loved in human life had perished ? We can with difficulty reconcile such a tame ejaculation, even with extreme tenderness and sorrow. But had it been in the soul of Shakspeare, to shew Hamlet in the agony of hopeless despair,--and in hopeless despair he must at that moment have been, had Ophelia been all in all to him,-is there in all his writings so utter a failure in the attempt to give vent to overwhelming passion ? When, afterwards, Hamlet leaps into the grave, do we see in that any power of love ? I am sorry to confess, that the whole of that scene is to me merely painful. It is anger with Laertes, not love for Ophelia, that makes Hamlet leap into the grave. Laertes' conduct, he afterwards tells us, ‘put him into a towering passion,'-a state of mind which is not very easy to reconcile with almost any kind of sorrow for the dead Ophelia. Perhaps, in this, Shakspeare may have departed from nature. But had he been attempting to describe the behaviour of an impassioned lover, at the grave of his beloved, I should be compelled to feel, that he had not merely departed from nature, but that he had offered her the most profane violation and insult.
“Hamlet is afterwards made acquainted with the sad history of Ophelia, -he knows, that to the death of Polonius, and his own imagined madness, is to be attributed her miserable catastrophe. Yet, after the burial scene, he seems utterly to have forgotten that Ophelia ever existed ; nor is there, as far as I recollect, a single allusion to her throughout the rest of the drama. The only way of accounting for this seems to be, that Shakspeare had himself forgotten her,-that with her last rites she vanished from the world of his memory. But this of itself shews, that it was not his intention to represent Ophelia as the dearest of all earthly things or thoughts to Hamlet, or surely there would have been some melancholy, some miserable hauntings of her image. But even as it is, it seems not a little unaccountable, that Hamlet should have been so slightly affected by her death.
“Of the character of Ophelia, and the situation she holds in the action of the play, I need say little. Every thing about her is young, beautiful, artless, innocent, and touching. She comes before us in striking contrast to the Queen, who, fallen as she is, feels the influence of her simple and happy virgin purity. Amid the frivolity, flattery, fawning, and artifice of a corrupted court, she moves in all the unpolluted love. liness of nature. She is like an artless, gladsome, and spotless shepherdess, with the gracefulness of society hanging like a transparent veil over her natural beauty. But we feel from the first, that her lot is to be mournful. The world in which she lives is not worthy of her. And soon as we connect her destiny with Hamlet, we know that darkness is to overshadow her, and that sadness and sorrow will step in between her and the ghost-haunted avenger of his father's murder. Soon as our pity is excited for her, it continues gradually to deepen; and when she appears in her madness, we are not more prepared to weep over all its most pathetic movements, than we afterwards are to hear of her death. Perhaps the description of that catastrophe by the Queen is poetical rather than dramatic; but its exquisite beauty prevails, and Ophelia, dying and dead, is still the same Ophelia that first won our love. Perhaps the very forgetfulness of her, throughout the remainder of the play, leaves the soul at full liberty to dream of the departed. She has passed away from the earth like a beautiful air-a delightful dream. There would have been no place for her in the agitation and tempest of the final catastrophe. We are satisfied that she is in her grave. And in place of beholding her involved in the shocking troubles of the clo. sing scene, we remember that her heart lies at rest, and the remembrance is like the returning voice of melancholy music.”-No. XI., for February 1818.
netrating genius of Hamlet may be Ham.
No, not I; represented, without detracting from I never gave you aught. its grandeur, as reposing upon the Oph. My honour'd lord, you know tender virgin innocence of Ophelia, right well, you did ; with all that deep delight with which And, with them, words of so sweet breath a superior nature contemplates the
compos'd, goodness which is at once perfect in As made the things more rich : their itself, and of itself unconscious. That perfume lost, Hamlet regards Ophelia with this Take these again; for to the noble mind, kind of tenderness—that he loves Rich gifts wax poor, when givers prove her with a love as intense as can be
unkind. long to a nature in which there is (I
There, my lord. think) much more of contemplation
Ham. Ha, ha! are you honest ?
Oph. My lord ? and sensibility than action and pas.
Ham. Are you fair ? sion-is the feeling and conviction
Oph. What means your lordship? with which I have always read the
Ham. That if you be honest, and fair, play of Hamlet.” It shall henceforth you should admit no discourse to your be the feeling with which we too beauty. read it; and we shall believe Hamlet
Oph. Could beauty, my lord, have when he writes, “ To the celestial and better commerce than with honesty ? my soul's idol, the most beautified Ham. Ay, truly; for the power of
Ophelia.” Nor shall we say with Po- beauty will sooner transform honesty lonius, “ that's an ill phrase, a vile from what it is to a bawd, than the force phrase-beautified is a vile phrase.” of honesty can translate beauty into his He loved her when he wrote “ in likeness; this was some time a paradox, her excellent white bosom, these but now the time gives it proof. • I did “ Doubt thou, the stars are fire;
love you once. Doubt, that the sun doth move ;
Oph. Indeed, my lord, you made me Doubt truth to be a liar;
Ham. You should not have believed But never doubt I love.
me: for virtue cannot so inoculate our “0, dear Ophelia ! I am ill at these old stock, but we shall relish of it: I numbers; I have not art to reckon my loved you not. groans ; but that I love thee best, © Oph. I was the more deceived. most best, believe it. Adieu! Thine Ham. Get thee to a nunnery: Why evermore, most dear Lady, whilst this would'st thou be a breeder of sinners? I machine is to him, HAMLET." And we am myself indifferent honest; but yet I believe him when, with the wildest could accuse me of such things, that it vehemence, he exclaims, on coming
were better, my mother had not borne out of her grave, into which he had
me: I am very proud, revengeful, ambi
tious; with more offences at my beck, leapt
than I have thoughts to put them in, “ I loved Ophelia-forty thousand bro. imagination to give them shape, or time thers
to act them in: What should such fel. Could not, with all their quantity of love, lows as I do crawling between earth and Make up my sum !".
heaven! We are arrant knaves, all; beAlas! what then must have been the lieve none of us : Go thy ways to a nun. misery of Ophelia, on being used as nery
nery. Where's your father? follows by him who loved her better
Oph. At home, my lord.
Ham. Let the doors be shut upon him; than forty thousand brothers!
that he may play the fool nowhere but “ Soft you, now!
in's own bouse. Farewell. The fair Ophelia :-Nymph, in thy ori. Oph. O, help him, you sweet heavens! sons
Ham. If thou dost marry, I'll give Be all my sins remember'd.
thee this plague for thy dowry: Be thou Oph.
Good my lord, as chaste as ice, as pure as snow, thou How does your honour for this many a shalt not escape calumny: Get thee to a day?
nunnery; farewell. Or, if thou wilt Ham. Í humbly thank you ; well. needs marry, marry a fool; for wise men Oph. My lord, I have remembrances know well enough, what monsters you of yours,
make of them. To a nunnery, go ; and That I have longed long to re-deliver ; quickly too. Farewell. I pray you, now receive them.
Oph. Heavenly powers, restore him !