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“ nobleness of fraternal grief,” which, indeed, he ought rather to have applauded than condemned.”
For his intemperance and want of self command, in which Laertes repeatedly set him the example, he does, indeed, reproach himself; but, though curses were imprecated also upon his head by Laertes, he does no more than insist upon the title, which the character of a lover gave him, to indulge in wilder transports than any that the affection of a brother could raise ; and, instead of condemning that expression of passion, he in terms applauds the “ nobleness” of the source from which it sprang
7. “ Dr. Johnson has observed, that to bring about a reconciliation with Laertes, he has availed himself of a dishonest fallacy; and to conclude, it is obvious to the most careless spectator or reader, that he kills the King at last to, revenge himself, and not his father.”
The “ dishonest fallacy” imputed was, that “ he was visited with a sore distraction.” The principle of self-preservation had long dictated to Hamlet that he must not allow that his conduct was under the guidance of sober reason; and as he knew, from the expected return of the ambassadors from England, that his time was short, now, and in the presence of the king, it became more than ever necessary that he should continue to wear this mask : and as this character had been long before assumed by Hamlet, the charge of dishonesty had with much more propriety have been preferred against the adoption of it at all, than at so late an hour against this apology: for nothing, no new device, dishonest or fallacious towards Laertes, exists in any part of Hamlet's conduct.
Then as to the remaining part of the charge, as no reason is offered, the reader must be equally at a loss with ourselves to conceive why Hamlet, how much soever alive to his own personal wrongs, should not also have been actuated by a sense of those of his father. But that a sense of those of his father was uppermost in his thoughts at the moment of taking his revenge, his words
“ Here, thou incestuous, murderous, damned Dane" speak unanswerably. These point solely to his father's cause and injuries; and are in direct correspondence with what he had just said to Horatio ; when, enumerating the various consideracions that constitute a justification of this act, he classes these first :
“ He, that hath kill'd my father, whor'd my mother." Much the same view is taken of this subject by Mr. Richardson, in his Essays upon Shakespeare's dramatic Characters, 8vo. 1797, p. 101.
He says, “ engaged in a dangerous enterprize, agitated by impetuous emotions, desirous of concealing them, and, for that reason, feigning his understanding disordered; to confirm and
publish this report, seemingly so hurtful to his reputation, he would act in direct opposition to his former conduct, and inconsistently with the genuine sentiments and affections of his soul. He would seem frivolous, when the occasion required him to be sedate : and, celebrated for the wisdom and propriety of his conduct, he would assume appearances of impropriety. Full of honour and affection, he would seem inconsistent: of elegant and agreeable manners, and possessing a complacent temper, he would put on the semblance of rudeness. To Ophelia he would shew dislike and indifference; because a change of this nature would be, of all others, the most remarkable, and because his affection for her was passionate and sincere.”
He adds, " let Hamlet be represented as delivering himself in a light, airy, unconcerned and thoughtless manner, and the rudeness, so much complained of, will disappear."
NOTES TO HAMLET.
(1) 'Tis now struck twelve-'tis bitter cold] Although, as confounding time past and present, this use of 'tis for 'thas is anomalous, yet, as familiar language, it is common and allowed. We also say, “ It is gone twelve." The instance in the text recurs in the opening of Sc. 4. “ It is struck twelve.” And in M. ado &c. we have - “ Don Pedro is approached." I. 1. Messenger. As to “ bitter cold,” see “ bitter business," at the end of Act III. Hamlet's soliloquy. (2) The rivals of my watch] Associates, partners. Dru,
6 Thus to heave
“ His rivall in the empire !” Sejanus, Act I. 4to. 1605. Mr. Steevens instances Heywood's Rape of Lucrece, 1636 :
“ Tullia. Aruns, associate him !
brother. Our author uses rivality in the same sense, in Anth. and Cleop. III. 5. Eros; corrival in t H. IV. Hotsp. I. 3, and IV. 3, Archb.: and competitor throughout his works.
Mr. Todd, whose useful labours increase the stock, as well as facilitate and open the avenues to our literature, shews the primary sense of this word from ridus, in Morin's Dict. Etym. Fr. and Gr. “ Rivalis designe proprement ceux qui ont droit d'usage dans une même ruisseau ; et comme cet usage est souvent pour eux un sujet de contestations, on a transporté cette sig. nification de rivalis à ceux qui ont les mêmes prétentions à une chose.”
(3) liegemen to the Dane] Lige, Fr. bound, owing allegiance. Minshieu says, Liege or liefe man, is he that oweth legeancie (from liga, Ital, a band or obligation) to his liege lord ;