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The fastidious criticism of the last century was shocked by this confusion of metaphor. Warburton proposed to remedy it by reading “an assail;” and another editor (I an sorry that it was Pope') conjectured “a siege of troubles.” The poet and the divine appear but small critics here, contrasted with David Garrick, who, in his Oration at the Shakespeare Jubilee, 1769, rises from the explanation and defence of the passage to a bold strain of lofty criticism and philosophical eloquence.
“His language, like his conceptions, is strongly marked with the characteristic of nature; it is bold, figurative, and significant; his terms, rather than his sentences are metaphorical; he calls an endless multitude A sea, by a happy allusion to the perpetual succession of wave to wave; and he immediately expresses opposition by taking up arms, which, being fit in itself, he was not solicitous to accommodate to his first image. This is the language in which a figurative and rapid conception will always be expressed: this is the language both of the prophet and the poet, of native eloquence and divine inspiration.”
In cast of thought and attic elegance of style, this oration strongly resembles the contemporary discourses of Reynolds on the arts of design; and if, as has been conjectured, Garrick, though a wit and a scholar, feeling his inadequacy to his task, had recourse to some friendly hand for aid, that aid was probably contributed by Reynolds. Yet I would rather believe that veneration for “the god of his idolatry,” whose works had been the study of his life, raised the great actor above his ordinary powers as an author.
“The proud man’s contumely.”
The folio reading is, “the poor man's contumely,” i. e. the contumely endured by poverty. The reading in the text is that of the quartos. They, however, give “the pangs of despised love,” instead of disprized, in the folio;-a phrase more Shakespearian, and conveying a more poetical sense.
“When he himself might his quietus make With a bare bodkin o’’ The word “quietus” signifies, discharge or acquittance. Every sheriff received his “quietus” on settling his accounts at the Exchequer. “Bodkin” was the terrn in use to signify a small dagger. “To grunt and sweat under a weary life.” This is the true reading, according to all the old copies ; “although,” as Johnson observes, “it can scarcely be borne by modern ears.” On this point, Malone remarks, “I apprehend that it is the duty of an editor to exhibit what his author wrote; and not to substitute
what may appear to the present age preferable. I have, therefore, though with some reluctance, adhered to the old copies, however unpleasing this word may be to the ear. On the stage, without doubt, an actor is at liberty to substitute a less offensive word. To the ears of our ancestors it probably conveyed no unpleasing sound, for we find it used by Chaucer and others.”
The same remark applies to many other old English words used by the poets, divines, and scholars of Shakespeare's age. They had a general sense, which modern use has narrowed down to some ludicrous or coarse meaning. Thus, “guts” for “entrails,” and many others.
“Who would these fardels bear *—This reading of the folios is here preferred to that of the other editions, as giving a more natural connection to the whole passage. It resumes the thought of the preceding sentence—“Who would bear the whips and scorns of time,” &c., and asks, Who would bear these burdens, “the oppressor's wrong,” “the proud man's contumely,” &c., “were it not for the dread of an hereafter o’’ The common reading, founded on the quartos, (Who would fardels bear !) merely asks, Who would bear any of the loads of life, were it not for this reason The continuity of thought, the evolution of the sentence from the preceding, effected by the insertion of “these,” is very characteristic of Shakespeare. “HAM. Ha, hat are you honest 2" Every lover of Shakespeare is familiar with the doubts, speculations, and controversies excited by the startling harshness of Hamlet towards Ophelia. The solution of this difficulty involves another more radical and equally disputed question, whether Hamlet’s madness is real or pretended. Among the most ingenious modes of reconciling Hamlet’s sanity with his conduct in this scene, is that of Coleridge, “that the penetrating prince perceives, from the strange and forced manner of Ophelia, that the sweet girl was not acting a part of her own, but was a decoy, and his after speeches are not so much directed to her as to the listeners and spies.” The other theory, maintained by some English writers, and recently adopted and enforced by M. Villemain, in France, is, that Hamlet is really insane; while, with the craft of lunacy, he also counterfeits a different madness; and that his treatment of Ophelia is one of the suspicious and causeless sudden antipathies not uncommon in some forms of mental derangement. The necessary limits of commentary imposed by the plan of this edition, preclude the editor from entering into any full or controversial examination of these opinions. I must content Inyself with stating my own view of the author's intent, in which I can make no claim to originality, since I believe that it corresponds with the common understanding of the matter by the great majority of readers as well as some of the ablest critics. Hamlet, after the interview with his father's spirit, has announced to his friends his probable intent to “bear himself strange and odd,” and put on an “antic disposition.” But the poet speaks his own meaning through Hamlet’s mouth, when he makes the Prince assure his mother “ It is not madness.” The madness is but simulated. Still, it is not “cool reason” that directs his conduct and governs his impulses. His weakness and his melancholy, the weariness of life, the intruding thoughts of suicide, the abrupt transitions, the towering passion, the wild or scornful levity, the infirmity of purpose, these are not feigned. They indicate crushed affections and blighted hopes. They show the sovereign reason, not overthrown by disease, not captive to any illusion, not paralyzed in its power of attention and coherent thought, but perplexed, darkened, distracted by contending and natural emotions from real causes. His mind is overwhelmed with the oppressive sense of supernatural horrors, of more horrible earthly wrongs, and terrible duties. Such causes would throw any mind from its propriety; but it is the sensitive,
meditative, yet excitable and kind-hearted prince, quick in feeling, warm in affection, rich in thought, “full of large discourse, looking before and after,” yet, (perhaps on account of these very endowments,) feeble in will and irresolute in act, he it is, who Hath a father killed, and mother stain’d, Excitements of his reason and his blood. Marked and peculiar as is his character, he is yet, in this, the personification of a general truth of human nature, exemplified a thousand times in the biography of eminent men. He shows the ordinary incompatibility of high perfection of the meditative mind, whether poetical or philosophical, (and Hamlet’s is both,) with the strong will, the prompt and steady determination that give energy and success in the active contests of life. It is thus that, under extraordinary and terrible circumstances impelling him to action, Hamlet's energies are bent up to one great and engrossing object, and still he shrinks back from the execution of his resolves, and would willingly find refuge in the grave, It may be said that, after all, this view of Hamlet’s mental infirmity differs from the theory of his insanity only in words; that the unsettled mind, the morbid melancholy, the inconstancy of purpose, are but in other language the description of a species of madness. In one sense this may be true. Thin partitions divide the excitement of passion, the absorbing pursuit of trifles, the delusions of vanity, the malignity of revenge, in short, any of the follies or vices that “flesh is heir to,”—from that stage of physical or mental disease, which, in the law of every civilized people, causes the sufferer to be regarded as “of unsound mind and memory,” incompetent to discharge the duties of society, and no longer to be trusted with its privileges. It was from the conviction of this truth, that a distinguished and acute physician, of great eminence and experience in the treatment of insanity, (Dr. Haslam,) was led, in the course of a legal inquiry, in reply to the customary question, “Was Miss B– of sound mind f* to astonish his professional audience by asserting that he had “never known any human being of sound mind.” But the poet’s distinction is the plain and ordinary one. It is that between the irregular fevered action of an intellect excited, goaded, oppressed, and disturbed by natural thoughts and real causes, too powerful for its control,-and the same mind, after it has been affected by that change—modern science would say, by that physical change—which may deprive the sufferer of his power of coherent reasoning, or else inflict upon him some self-formed delusion, influencing all his perceptions, opinions, and conduct. If, instead of the conventional reality of the ghostly interview, Hamlet had been painted as acting under the impulses of the self-raised phantoms of an overheated brain, that would be insanity in the customary sense, in which, as a morbid physical affection, it is to be distinguished from the fitful struggles of a wounded spirit, of a noble mind torn with terrible and warring thoughts. This is the difference between Lear, in the agony of intolerable passion from real and adequate causes, and the Lear of the stormy heath, holding an imaginary court of justice upon Goneril and her sister. Now as to this scene with Ophelia. How does it correspond with this understanding of the poet’s intent? Critics, of the highest authority in taste and feeling, have accounted for Hamlet’s conduct solely upon the ground of the absorbing and overwhelming influence of the one paramount thought which renders hopeless and worthless all that formerly occupied his affections. Such is Mrs. Jameson's theory, and that of Caldecott’s note in his excellent unpublished edition of Hamlet; and Kean gave great dramatic effect to the same conception on the stage. The view is, in conception and feeling, worthy of the poet; but it is not directly supported by a single line in his text, while it overlooks
the fact that he has taken pains to mark, as an incident
of his plot, the unfortunate effect upon Hamlet’s mind of Ophelia’s too-confiding obedience to her father’s suspicious caution. The author could not mean that this scene should be regarded as a sudden and causeless outbreak of passion, unconnected with any prior interview with Ophelia. He has shown us that, immediately after the revelation of the murder, the suspicious policy of Polonius compels his daughter to “repel Hamlet’s letters,” and deny him access. This leads to that interview, so touchingly described by Ophelia, of silent but piteous expostulation, of sorrow, suspicion, and unuttered reproach:“With his other hand thus, o'er his brow, He falls to such perusal of my face As he would draw it.” This silence, more eloquent than words, implies a conflict of mixed emotions, which the poet himself was content to suggest, without caring to analyze it in words. Whatever these emotions were, they had no mixture of levity, anger, or indifference. When the Prince again meets Ophelia it is with calm and solemn courtesy. She renews the recollection of her former refusal of his letters, by returning “the remembrances of his that she had longed to re-deliver.” The reader knows that, in the gentle Ophelia, this is an act, not of her will, but of her yielding and helpless obedience. To her lover it must appear as a confirmation of her abrupt and seemingly causeless breaking off of all former ties at a moment when he most needed sympathy and kindness. This surely cannot be received with calmness. Does she, too, repel his confidence, and turn away from his altered fortunes and his broken spirit The deep feelings, that had before choked his utterance, cannot but return. He wraps himself in his cloak of assumed madness. He gives vent to intense emotion in agitated and contradictory expressions, (“I did love you once,”—“I loved you not,”) and in wild invective, not at Ophelia personally, but at her sex’s frailties. In short, as elsewhere, where he fears to repose confidence, he masks, under his assumed “antic disposition,” the deep and real “excitement of his reason and his blood.” This understanding of this famous scene seems to me required by the poet’s marked intention to separate Ophelia from Hamlet’s confidence, by Polonius compelling her— “— To lock herself from his resort; Admit no inessenger, receive no tokens.” All which would otherwise be a useless excrescence on the plot. It besides appears so natural in itself, that the only hesitation I have as to its correctness arises from respect to the differing opinions of some of those who have most reverenced and best understood Shakespeare's genius. The reader who wishes to follow out the literature of this interesting question, will be gratified by turning to the supplementary notice to Hamlet, in Mr. Knight's edition. Some of its conclusions will be sound to resemble those above expressed, though the latter happen to be drawn from different sources of reading and observation.
parts, or equal lights, or offended by an unharmonious Inixture of colours, as we should guard against offending the ear by unharmonious sounds. We may venture to be more confident of the truth of this observation, since we find that Shakespeare, on a parallel occasion, has made Hamlet recommend to the players a precept of the same kind,-never to offend the ear by harsh sounds: In the rery torrent, tempest, and whirlwind of your passion, says he, you must acquire and beget a temperance, that may give it smoothness. And, yet, at the same time, he very justly observes, The end of playing, both at the first and now, was and is, to hold, as 't were, the mirror up to nature. No one can deny, that violent passions will naturally emit harsh and disagreeable tones; yet, this great poet and critic thought that this imitation of nature would cost too much, if purchased at the expense of disagreeable sensations, or, as he expresses it, of splitting the ear.”—REYNolds's Disco URSEs. “To split the ears of the groundlings ; who, for the most part, are capable of nothing but inerplicable dumb shows and noise.” The pit, in the early theatres, had neither floor nor benches, and was frequented by the poorer classes. Ben Jonson speaks with equal contempt of the “understanding gentlemen of the ground.” Of the “dumb shows,” we have a specimen in the play-scene of this tragedy. “The meaner people,” says Dr. Johnson, “ then seem to have sat [stood] below, as they now sit in the upper gallery; who, not well understanding poetical language, were sometimes gratified by a mimi
plot. But here, while he commands our respect and esteem, he never for a moment divides a passing interest with the Prince. He does not break in upon the main current of our feelings. He contributes only to the general effect, so that it requires an effort of the mind to separate him for critical admiration.
“HAM. Lady, shall I lie in your lap *
On the publication of the original edition of this play, which had been previously unknown to the public, some remarks upon it appeared in an English journal, from which we select the following, as well worthy of attention, in reference to some parts of Shakespeare's text, which the reader, without being affectedly delicate, may be pardoned for wishing away :—
“Many striking peculiarities in this edition of Hamlet tend strongly to confirm our opinion, that no small portion of the ribaldry to be found in the plays of our great poet is to be assigned to the actors of his time, who flattered the vulgar taste with the constant repetition of many indecent, and not a few stupid jokes, till they came to be considered, and then printed, as part of the genuine text. Of these, the two or three brief but offensive speeches of Hamlet to Ophelia, in the play-scene, (act iii.,) are not to be found in the copy of 1603; and so far are we borne out in our opinion; for
it is not to be supposed that Shakespeare would insert
“ — thou hast been
.1s one, in suffering all, that suffers nothing,” etc.
While every other character of this play, Ophelia, Polonius, and even Osric, has been analyzed and discussed, it is remarkable that no critic has stept forward to notice the great beauty of Horatio’s character, and its exquisite adaptation to the effect of the piece. His is a character of great excellence and accomplishment; but while this is distinctly shown, it is but sketched, not elaborately painted. His qualities are brought out by single and seemingly accidental touches—as here, and in the ghost-scene, “You are a scholar, Horatio,” &c. The whole is toned down to a quiet and unobtrusive beauty that does not tempt the mind to wander from the main interest, which rests alone upon Hamlet; while it is yet distinct enough to increase that interest by showing him worthy to be Hamlet’s trusted friend in life, and the chosen defender of his honour after death. Such a character, in the hands of another author, would have been made the centre of some secondary
them upon cool reslection, three years after the success of his piece had been determined. Still less likely is it that a piratical printer would reject any thing actually belonging to the play, which would prove pleasing to the vulgar bulk of those who were to be the purchasers of his publication.”
“We have no desire to be numbered among those who are in the habit of visiting the sins of Shakespeare, real or imaginary, on the heads of the actors; but there is certainly something in the fact here stated that deserves consideration. In justice both to poet and players, we subjoin Mr. Campbell's judicious comment on the remarks just cited :
“‘ I am inclined, upon the whole, to agree with these remarks, although the subject leaves us beset with uncertainties. This copy of the play was apparently pirated; but the pirate's omission of the improper passages alluded to, is not a perfect proof that they were absent in the first representation of the piece; yet it leads to such a presumption; for, looking at the morality of Shakespeare’s theatre in the main, he is none of your poetical artists who resort to an impure influence over the fancy. Little sallies of indecorum he may have now and then committed; but they are few, and are eccentricities from his general character, partially pardonable on account of the bad taste of his age. What a frightful contrast to his purity is displayed among his nearest dramatic successors—love in relations of life where Nature forbids passion Shakespeare scorns to interest us in any love that is not purely natural.’”— Illust. Shale.
“Oph. 'Tis brief, my lord. “HAM. .1s woman’s love.” I cannot but think that Hamlet’s reply conveys a gentle but reproachful allusion to Ophelia's own conduct, as it appeared to him.
“...An anchor’s cheer.”—The cheer or fare of an anchorite; a customary abbreviation in cla English writers.
“The mouse-trap. Marry how 2 TRopic ALLY.”— Tropically, i. e. in a trope, or figuratively, referring to his own ideas of the play, as the thing, in which he'll “ catch the conscience of the king.”
“You are as good as a chorus,” etc.—This use of the chorus may be seen in Henry W. Every motion or puppet-show was accompanied by an interpreter or showman.-STEVENs.
“Let the devil wear black, for I’ll have a suit of sables.”
Meaning, probably, a suit that shall be expressive of the reverse feeling to sorrow or humiliation. “A suit of sables (says Malone) was, in Shakespeare's time, the richest dress worn by men in England. Wherever his scene might happen to be, the customs of his own country were still in his thoughts.” By the statute of apparel (24 Hen. VIII.) it is ordained that none under the degree of an earl may use sables.
“For O, for O, the hobby-horse is forgot.”
The banishment of the hobby-horse from the May games is frequently lamented in the old dramas. The line quoted by Hamlet appears to have been part of a ballad on the subject of poor Hobby. He was driven from his station by the Puritans, as an impious and pagan superstition; but restored on the promulgation of “The Book of Sports.” The hobby-horse was formed of a pasteboard horse's head, and probably a light frame made of wicker-work, to form the hinder parts; this was fastened round the body of a man, and covered with a footcloth which nearly reached the ground, and concealed the legs of the performer. Similar contrivances, in burlesque pieces, are not unusual at this day.
but if that were the word intended, it is singular that, pose, that Hamlet was struck with the comparison he being of such common occurrence, it should have been || makes between the two brothers, upon casting his eyes
“ Enter Ghost.” “Here Hamlet exclaims— ‘Look how it steals away ! My father, in his habit as he lived '' Malone, Stevens, and Mason, argue the question, whether in this scene the Ghost, as in former scenes, ought to wear armour, or to be dressed in “his own familiar habit;’ and they conclude, either that Shakespeare had “forgotten himself,” or had meant ‘to vary the dress of the Ghost at this his last appearance.” The quarto of 1603, shows how the poet’s intention was carried into effect; for there we meet with the stagedirection, ‘Enter the Ghost in his night-gown.’”— CoLLIER.
“Life in Exck EMENTs.”—Hair, nails, feathers, were called ercrements. Izaak Walton, speaking of fowls, says, “their very excrements afford him a soft lodging at night.”—KNIGHT.
“Exse AMED bed.”—A strong expression of disgust, from seam, grease—greasy, gross, filthy. Some of the quartos read “incestuous,” which, for popular use, is preferable, though the other cannot but be the true reading.
“— vice of kings.”—The rice was the fool, clown, or jester of the older drama, and was frequently dressed in party-coloured clothes; hence Hamlet just afterwards calls the usurper “a king of shreds and patches.”— Collier.
“I the matter will re. word, which madness Would gambol from.”
Sir Henry Halford, the accomplished President of the Royal College of Physicians, (London,) has made this passage the text of one of his “Essays and Orations, read before the College,” and relates a case which occurred in his own practice, to prove the correctness of Shakespeare's test of insanity.
A gentleman of fortune had instructed his solicitor, a personal friend, to prepare a will for him, containing several very proper provisions, and then bequeathing the residue of his estate to this legal friend. He soon after became deranged and highly excited, so as to require coercion. The excitement passed off, leaving him composed, but very weak, so that his life was doubtful. He was now anxious to execute his will, which had been prepared according to his previous instructions, and which Sir Henry, and the other attending physician, were requested to hear read to him and to witness. When read to him, he assented distinctly to the several items. The physicians were perplexed, and retired to consult what was to be done under such questionable circumstances.
“It occurred to me, then, to propose to my colleague to go up again into the sick-room, to see whether our patient could re-word the matter, as a test, on Shakespeare's authority, of his soundness of mind. He repeated the clauses which contained the addition to his mother's jointure, and which made provision for the natural children, with sufficient correctness; but he stated that he had left a namesake, though not a relation, ten thousand pounds, whereas he had left him five thousand pounds only ; and there he paused. After
which I thought it proper to ask him, to whom he had left his real property, when these legacies should have been discharged,—in whom did he intend that his estate should be vested after his death, if he died without children : “In the heir-at-law, to be sure,” was the reply. Who is your heir-at-law “I do not know.”
“Thus he ‘gainbolled’ from the matter, and laboured, according to this test, under his madness still.
“He died, intestate, four days afterwards.”
Our American commentator on the “Jurisprudence of Insanity,” Dr. Ray, in his chapter on “Simulated Insanity,” has also incidentally noticed this test. “In simulated mania, the impostor, when requested to repeat his disordered idea, will generally do it correctly; while the genuine patient will be apt to wander from the track, or introduce ideas that had not presented themselves before.” This he illustrates from a modern French legal report.
“That monster, custom, who all sense doth eat
This is the old reading; and not “habit’s,” as in The punctuation is that adopted by Collier; and the meaning, though harshly expressed from the condensation of the language, is this—“That monster, custom, who devours all sense, (all sensibility or delicacy of feeling,) as to habits, devil as he is, is still an angel in this other regard.”
“From a PADDock, from a bat, a GIB.”—A paddock is a toad; a gib, a cat.
“Hoist with his own PETAR.”—A petard was a small mortar, used to blow up gates. The engineer is hoysed, thrown up, with his own engine.