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So tell him, with the occurrents, more or less, 9 Which have folicited. The rest is silence. [Dies. Hor. ' Now cracks a noble heart. Good night,
sweet prince; And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest! Why does the drum come hither?
9 Which have solicited.] Solicited, for brought on the event. WARBURTON. · Now cracks a noble heart. Good night, sweet prince;
And flights of angels fing thee to thy reft!] Let us review for a moment the behaviour of Hamlet, on the ftrength of which Horatio founds this eulogy, and recommends him to the patronage of angels.
Hamlet, at the command of his father's ghost, undertakes with seeming alacrity to revenge the murder; and declares he will banish all other thoughts from his mind. He makes, however, but one effort to keep his word; and on another occasion, defers his purpose till he can find an opportunity of taking the murderer when he is lealt prepared for death, that
may insure damnation to his soul. Though he may be said to have assassinated Polonius by accident, yet he deliberately procures the execution of Rosencrantz and Guildenitern, who appear to have been unacquainted with the treacherous purposes of the mandate which they were employed to carry. Their death (as he declares in a subsequent conversation with Horatio) gives him no concern, for they obtruded themselves into the service, and he thought he had a right to destroy them. He is not less accountable for the distraction and death of Ophelia. He comes to interrupt the funeral designed in honour of this lady, at which both the king and queen were present; and, by such an outrage to decency, renders it ftill more necesary for the usurper to lay a second stratagem for his life, though the first had proved abortive. He comes to infult the brother of the dead, and to boait of an affection for his sister, which, before, he had denied to her face ; and yet at this very time must be considered as desirous of supporting the character of a madman, so that the openness of his conseilion must not be imputed to him as a virtue. He apologizes to Horatio afterwards for the absurdity of this behaviour, to which, he fays, he was provoked by that nobleness of fraternal grief, which, indeed, he ought rather to have applauded than condemned. Dr. Johnson has observed, that to bring about a reconciliation with Laertes, he has availed himself of a dihonest fallacy; and to conclude, it is obvious to the most careless
Enter Fortinbras, the English Ambassadors, and others. Fort. Where is this fight?
Hor. What is it you would see?
Anib. The light is dismal,
Hor. Not from his mouth,
fpectator or reader, that he kills the king at last to revenge himself, and not his father.
Hamlet cannot be said to have pursued his ends by very warrantable means; and if the poet, when he sacrificed him at last, meant to have enforced such a moral, it is not the worst that can be deduced from the play.
I have dwelt the longer on this subject, because Hamlet seems to have been hitherto regarded as a hero, not undeserving the pity of the audience, and because no writer on Shakespeare has taken the pains to point out the immoral tendency of his character. STEEVENS. 2 This quarry cries, on havock ! ] Hanmer reads,
-cries out, havock!!
was to exclaim against. I suppose, when unfair sportsmen destroyed more quarry or game than was reasonable, the censure was to cry, Havock. JOHNSON.
To cry on,
How these things came about. So shall you hear
Fort. Let us haste to hear it,
Hor. 3 Of that I shall have allo cause to speak, 4 And from his mouth whose voice will draw on more:
3 Of that I fall have also cause to speak,] Voltaire's first remark on this play is, that the old king had been poison'd by Claudius, and his own queen Gertrude, which is far from being certain, as the ghoit himself does not accuse her as an accessary to the deed, but, on the contrary, recommends her to the mercy of her son. His concluding observation has no less veracity to boaf of, for (lays he) all the actors in the piece are now destroyed, and one Montieur Fort-en-bras is introduced to conclude the play ; whereas Horatio, the friend of Hanilet, survives as well as Ofrick; nor do we hear of any accident that has befallen Voltimand and Cornelius, who, as well as the whole court of Denmark, may be supposed to be present at the catastrophe. Even Mons. D'Alembert, a puny whipster, in comparison to the bard of Geneva, has had the insolence to declare, that there is more sterling sense in ten French verses, than can be found in any thirty Italian or English ones. STEEVENS.
4 And from his mouth whose voice will dracu no more :) This is the reading of the old quartos, but certainly a mistaken one. We say, a man will no more draw breath ; but that a man's voice will draw no more, is, I believe, an expression without any authority. I choose to espouse the reading of the elder folio:
And from his mouth, whose voice will draw on more. And this is the poet's meaning. Hamlet, just before his death, had said;
But I do prophesy, the eleftion lights
But let this same be presently perform’d,
Fort. Let four captains
[Exeunt : after which a peal of ordnance is
foot off Accordingly, Horatio here delivers that message ; and very juilly insers, that Hamlet's voice will be seconded by others, and procure them in favour of Fortinbras's succession.
THEORALD. If the dramas of Shakespeare were to be characterised, each by the particular excellence which distinguishes it from the rest, we must allow to the tragedy of Hamlet the praise of variety. The incidents are so numerous, that the argument of the play would make a long tale. The scenes are interchangeably diversified with merriment and folemnity; with merriment that includes judicious and instructive observations, and folemnity, not ftrained by poetical violence above the natural sentiments of man. New characters appear from time to time in continual succession, exhibiting various forms of life and particular modes of conversation. The pretended madness of Hamlet causes much mirth, the mournful distraction of Ophelia fills the heart with tenderness, and every personage produces the effe&t intended, from the apparition that in the first act chills the blood with horror, to the fop in the last, that exposes affectation to just contempt.
The conduct is perhaps not wholly secure against objections. The action is indeed for the most part in continual pregresion, but there are some scenes which neither forward nor retard it. of the feigned madness of Hamlet there appears no adequate cause, for he does nothing which he might not have done with the reputation of fanity. He plays the madman moft, when he treats Ophelia with so much rudeness, which seems to be useless and wanton cruelty.
Hamlet is, through the whole play, rather an instrument than an agent. After he has, by the ftratagem of the play,
convicted the king, he makes no attempt to punish him, and his death is at lait effected by an incident which Hamlet had no part in producing.
The catastrophe is not very happily produced; the exchange of weapons is rather an expedient of neceility, than a stroke of art.
A scheme might calily have been formed to kill Hamlet with the dagger, and Laertes with the bowl.
The poet is accused of having thewn little regard to poetical juftice, and may be charged with equal neglect of poetical probability. The apparition left the regions of the dead to little purpose; the revenge
which he deinands is not obtained, but by the death of him that was required to take it ; and the gratification which would arise from the deliruction of an usurper and a murderer, is abated by the untimely death of Ophelia, the young, the beautiful, the harmless, and the pious.
The rugged Pyrrhus, he, &c.] The two greatest poets of this and the last age, Mr. Dryden, in the preface to Troilus and Cressida, and Mr. Pope, in his note on this place, have concurred in thinking that Shakespeare produced this long passage with design to ridicule and expose the bombast of the play from whence it was taken ; and that Hamlet's commendation of it is purely ironical. This is become the general opinion. I think just otherwise ; and that it was given with commendation to upbraid the false taste of the audience of that time, which would not fuffer them to do justice to the simplicity and fublime of this production. And I reason, first, from the character Hamlet gives of the play, from whence the pallage is taken. Secondly, from the passage itself. And thirdly, from the effect it had on the audience.
Let us consider the character Hamlet gives of it, The play, I remember, pleased not the million, 'twas Caviare to the general; but it was (as I received it, and others, whose judgment in such matters cried in ile top of mine) an excellent play, well digested in the scenes, sat down with as much modesty as cunning. I remember, one said, there was no salt in the lines to make the matter Javoury; nor no matter in the phrase that might indite the author of affection ; but called it an honest method. They who suppose the passage given to be ridiculed, must needs suppose this character to be purely ironical. But if so, it is the strangest irony that ever was written. It pleafed not the multitude. This we must conclude to be true, however ironical the rest be.