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one compare the ' scornful filence of Dido's ghost to Aeneas, * the sullen silence of Ajax to Ulyffes, with the majestic filence of Hamlet's ghost, which occafions so much terror and wonder tho all are highly beautiful, yet considering times and circumstances, out poet will appear to the greatest advantage. The centinels break the matter with all it's particularities, to give it an air of probability to the prince, who resolves to watch upon the platform. At the usual hour the ghost enters, and draws Hamlet apart to tell him his dreadful tale, which was improper for the rest to be acquainted with. Our hero determines upon his behaviour, and 'swears the centinels to secrefy. However, upon second
thoughts, -2 Virgil. Aen. VI. Illa folo fixos oculos aversa tenebat. ' 4 Homer, Odyfl. x. 561.
s He swears them on his sword, very soldier-like, and agreeable to the ancient cufton of his country. Nor is this lefs fcholar-like in our poet. Jornandes in his Gothic history mentions this cukom, Sater (gladius) apud Scytharum reges femper habitus. Ammianus Marcellinus relates the same ceremony among the Hunns. L. 31. C. 2. Hence our learned Spencer, B. s. c. 8. f. 14.
And fwearing faith to either on his blade.
The spear was held equally sacred. Ab origine rerum pre diis immortalibus veteres haftas coluere. Justin. L. 43. C. 2.
thoughts, he does not know but the apparition might be the devil, that affumed his father's shape : he will therefore have surer foundations to proceed on, before he puts his intended revenge in execution ; and an expedient offers itself: for certain players, arriving at court, are instructed by him to play somewhat before the king like the murder of his father,
I'll observe bis looks,
I know my course. And here our poet takes an opportunity to pay a fine compliment to his own art, ? P've heard that guilty creatures at a play,
Have by the very cunning of the scene
The spears, they called scepters, so Pausanias informs us : and this explains to us that passage in Homer, where Achilles swears by his scepter, which he hurls to the ground, i. e. his spear. Il. c. 234. and 245.
6 Oreftes, in Euripides, Electr. *. 979, has the very fame doubt, that Hamlet has.
Orestes. 'Ag air' áráswg site' ameixaobeis Deĝo ;
7 'Tis plain Shakespeare alludes to a story told of Alexander the cruel tyrant of Pherae in Theffaly, who seeing à
This making of a play within a play, besides introducing some strokes of fatyre on former tragedians, shews, by the comparison, to what perfection our poet brought tragedy, which after him made no further progress. There was usually in the beginning of every act a dumb shew, being a symbolical representation of what the audience were to expect ; who were well dealt with, if after all they could guess at the poet's meaning inveloped in a figurative and bombast stile.—But why do I enter into a detail of particular beauties, where the whole is beautiful ? Divine justice at length overtakes the tyrant in his securest hours, and the poet is true to the cause of virtue.
The Electra of Sophocles, in many instances, is not very unlike the Hamlet of Shakespeare. Aegysthus and Clytemnestra, having murthered the former king, were in poffession of the crown, when Orestes returned from Phocis, where he
famous tragedian act the Troades of Euripides, was fo sensibly touched, that he left the theatre before the play was ended ; being alhamed, as he owned, that he, who never pitied those he murdered, should weep at the sufferings of HECUBA and Andromache. See Plutarch in the life of Pelopidas.
What's Hecuba to him, or he to HECUBA,
had been privately sent by his fifter Electra. These two contrive, and soon after effect the punishment of the murtherers. Electra is a Grecian woman, of a masculine and generous disposition of mind ; she had been a witness of the wickedness of those two miscreants, who had barbarously plotted the death of her father, the renowned Agamemnon: his ghost called for justice ; and she herself, rather than they shall escape, will be the instrument of vengeance. Thus when Clytemnestra calls out to Orestes, O son, O son, have mercy on thy mother !
(from within. Electra replys,
For thee she felt no mercy, or thy father,
[from within. Elect. Double the blow, Orestes.
There is a vast affectation of lenity in mankind : and I am inclin'd to believe that an English audience would scarcely bear this Grecian character. Soon after Orestes kills Aegysthus, and, that this piece of justice may be a greater expiation to the manes of the murdered king, he kills him in the same place where Aegyfthus had killed Agamemnon.
in high places brought to punishment ; yet are they no less pleased, when the
poet condescends to bring matters home to themselves, by painting the passions of a more domestic nature. Such a passion is Jealoufe ; to the fatal effects of which, the peasant is equally subjétt as the prince.
* An unhappy young woman (for fo her name fignifies) falls in love with a commander in the Venetian service, who had entertain'd her with
i Dido's case seems exactly like that of Desdemona. The Dux Trojanus told her his wonderful adventures by sea and land, of inchantments, monsters, &c. These to bear did Dido seriously incline.
Quis NOVUS bic noflris fucceffit fedibus hofpes !
Heu quibus ille