« PreviousContinue »
A. Strange, that when from it one can look abroad into the ocean, its barrenness should be so depressing. But man seems to need some shelter, both from wind and rain.
L. Could he not have found this in the love of Ophelia ?
A. Probably not, since that love had so little power to disen. chant the gloom of this period. She was to him a flower to wear in his bosom, a child to play the lute at his feet. We see the charm of her innocence, her soft credulity, as she answers her brother,
“No more, but so?"
The exquisite grace of her whole being in the two lines
" And I of ladies most deject and wretched
That sucked the honey of his music vows." She cannot be made to misunderstand him; his rude wildness crushes, but cannot deceive her heart. She has no answer to his outbreaks but
"O help him, you sweet Heavens !" But, lovely as she was, and loved by him, this love could have been only the ornament, not, in any wise, the food of his life. The moment he is left alone, his thoughts revert to universal topics; it was the constitution of his mind, no personal relation could have availed il, except in the way of suggestion. He could not have been absorbed in the present moment.
Still it would have been
"I'll call thoc Hamlet,
King, father, royal Dane," so unlike in its order to what would have been in any other mind, as also to the two expressions in the speech so delicately characteristic,
"The glimpecs of the moon." and
" With thoughts beyond the reaches of our souls." I think I have in myself improved, that I feel more than ever what Macready does not, the deep calmness, always apparent be. neath the delicate variations of this soul's atmosphere.
" The readiness is all." This religion from the very first harmonizes all these thrilling notes, and the sweet bells, even when most jangled out of tune, suggest all their silenced melody.
From Hamlet I turned to Timon and Lear; the transition was natural yet surprising, from the indifference and sadness of the heaven-craving soul to the misanthropy of the disappointed affections and wounded trust. Hamlet would well have understood them both, yet what a firmament of spheres lies between his "pangs of despised love," and the anguish of Lear.
"O Regan, Gonerill
“Heaven and earth! Must I remember?"
"I tax you not, you elements, with unkindness; I never gave you kingdom, called you children."
L. Have you been reading the play of lato ?
A. Yes; hearing Macready, one or two points struck me that have not before, and I was inclined to try for my thousandth harvest from a new study of it.
Maoready gave its just emphasis to the oliinax
It rends the heart only; no grief would be possible from a Hamlet, which would not, at the same time, exalt the soul.
The outraged heart of Timon takes refuge at once in action, in curses, and bitter deeds. It needs to be relieved by the native
baseness of Apemantus's misanthropy, baseness of a soul that never knew how to trust, to make it dignified in our eyes. Timon, estranged from men, could only dic ; yet the least shndo of wrong in this heaven-ruled world would have occasioned Hamlet a deep. er pain than Timon was capable of divining. Yet Hamlet could not for a moment have been so deccived as to fancy man worth. less, because many men were ; he knew himself too well, to feel the surprise of Timon when his steward proved true.
“Let mc behold
One honest man." He does not deserve a friend that could draw higher inferences from his story than the steward docs.
" Foor honest lord, brought low by his own heart,
Undone by goolness! Strange, unusual blood,
For bounty that makes gols, doch still mar men.” Timon tastes the dregs of the cup. He persuades himself that he does not believe even in himself.
" His semblablo, even himself, Timon disains."
least likely to find due response from those around him. Yet he is felt, almost in his due sense, by two or three.
Lear has not only one faithful daughter, whom he knew not how to value, but a friend beside.
Timon is prized by the only persons to whom he was good, purely from kindliness of nature, rather than the joy he expected from their gratitude and sympathy, his servants.
Tragedy is always a mistake, and the loneliness of the deepest' thinker, the widest lover, ceases to be pathetic to us, so soon as the sun is high enough above the mountains.
Were I, despite the bright points so numerous in their history and the admonitions of my own conscience, inclined to despiso my fellow men, I should have found abundant argument against it during this lute study of Hamlet. In the streets, saloons, and lecture rooms, we continually hear comments so stupid, insolent, and shallow on great and beautiful works, that we are tempted to think that there is no Public for anything that is good ; that a work of genius can appeal only to the fewest minds in any one age, and that the reputation now awarded to those of former timcs is never felt, but only traditional. Of Shakspeare, so vaunted a name, little wise or worthy has been written, perhaps nothing so adequate as Coleridge's comparison of him to the Pine-apple; yet on reading Hamlet, his greatest work, we find there is not a pregnant sentence, scarce a word that men have not appreciated, have not used in myriad ways. Had we never read the play, we should find the whole of it from quotation and illustration familiar to us as air. That exquisite phraseology, so heavy with meaning, wrought out with such admirable minuteness, has become a part of literary diction, the stock of the literary bank; and what set criticism can tell like this fact how great was the work, and at men were worthy it should be addressed to them ? L. The moon looks in to tell her assent. See, she has just
“Who dares, who dares
So are they all." L. You seem to have fixed your mind, of late, on the subject of misanthropy!
A. I own that my thoughts have turned of late on that low form which despair assumes sometimes even with the well dis. pored. Yet see how inexcusable would it be in any of these be. inge. Hamlet is no misanthrope, but he has those excelling gifts.
An ancient sage had all things docply trie, And, as result, thus to his friends he cried,
"O friends, there are no friends." And to this day Thus twofold moves the strange magnctic sway,
Giving us love which love must take away. Let not the soul for this distrust its right,
Knowing when changeful moons withdraw their light, Then myriad stars, with promiso not less puro,
New loves, now lives to patient hopes arsuro, Bo long as laws that rule the spheres endura.