Imágenes de páginas

Ham. And therefore, as a stranger, give it welcome.
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.--
But come ;
Here, as before, never, so help you mercy!

Ghost. Swear, &c.
Ham. Rest, rest, perturbed spirit!

If we allow that the poet actually intended to represent. Hamlet as feeling some distraction of mind, and was thus led to extravagancies which he affected to render still more extravagant, why, in his apology to Laertes, need we charge him with deviation from truth?

This presence knows, and you must needs have heard,
How I am punish'd with a sore distraction,
What I have done,
That might your nature, honour, and exception,
Roughly awake, I here proclaim was madness.
Was't Hamlet wrong'd Laertes? Never, Hamlet;
If Hamlet from hinself be ta’en away,
And, when he's not himself, does wrong Laertes,
Then Hamlet does it not; Hamlet denies it.

Hamlet, no doubt, put to death Polonius; but without intention, and in the frenzy of tumultuous emotion. He might therefore say, both of that action and of the consequent madness of Ophelia,

Let my disclaiming from a purpos'd evil,
Free me so far in your most generous thoughts,
That I have shot my arrow o'er the house,
And hurt



Neither is his conduct at the funeral of Ophelia to be construed into any design of insulting Laertes. His behaviour was the effect of violent perturbation; and he says so afterwards, not only to Laertes, but to Horatio :

I am very sorry, good Horatio,
That to Laertes I forgot myself, &c.
But sure, the bravery of his grief did put me
Into a tow'ring passion.

To this he alludes in his apology:

If Hamlet from himself be ta'en away,
And, when he's not himself, does wrong Laertes,
Then Hamlet does it not; Hamlet denies it.

The whole of his behaviour at the funeral, shews a mind exceedingly disordered, and thrown into very violent agitation. But his affection for Ophelia appears sincere; and his regard for Laertes genuine. On recovery from his transport, to which, however, Laertes provoked him, how pathetic is the following expostulation:

Hear you, Sir,
What is the reason that you us'd me thus ?
I lov'd you ever.

I have been the more minute in consi. dering those particulars, that not only you, but Commentators of great reputation, have charged Hamlet, in this part of his conduct, with falsehood and inhumanity *.

V. It remains that I should offer a few observations concerning Hamlet's jocularity. You seem to think it strange, that he should affect merriment when his situation is miserable, and when he feels his misery. Alas! it is a symptom, too unambiguous, of his affliction. He is so miserable, that he has no relish for any enjoyment; and is even weary of his existence.

* With high respect and sincere esteem for one of the inost enlightened critics, and most useful moral philosophers that cver appeared in England, this and some other remarks in the Essay on the character of Hanlet, are intended, as the attentive reader will perceive, to remove some strong objections urged by Dr. Johnson against both the play and the character.

O that this too, ton solid flesh would melt,
Thaw, and resolve itself into a dew! &c.

Thinking himself incapable of happiness, he thinks he should be quite unconcerned in any human event. This is another aspect of self-deceit: for in truth he is not unconcerned. Yet acting as if it were so, he affects to regard serious, and even important matters, with a careless indifference. - He would laugh; but his laughter is not that of mirth. Add to this, that in those moments when he fancies himself indifferent or unconcerned, he endeavours to treat those actions which would naturally excite indignation, with scorn or contempt. This, on several occasions, leads him to assume the appearance of an ironical, but melancholy gaiety. This state of mind is exquisitely delineated in the following passage, where his affected melancholy betrays itself; and his gaiety and indifference, notwithstanding his endeavours to preserve them, relapse into his usual mood.

Hor. My Lord, I came to see your father's funeral.

Ham. I pray thee do not mock me, fellow student: I think it was to see my mother's wedding.

Hor. Indeed, my lord, it follow'd hard upon.

Ham. Thrift, thrift, Horatio! the funeral bak'd meats
Did coldly furnish forth the marriage tables.
Would I had met my dearest foe in heaven,
Or ever I had seen that day, Horatio.

If, however, this account of the matter should not seem to you satisfactory, I must refer you to the preceding essay on the character of Hamlet ; for I confess that I think the explanation given in that place is altogether sufficient. Hamlet assumes an air of ease, familiarity, and cheerful unconcern; and therefore jests with his friends, not only to conceal his designs, but that he may suit the complexion of his own mind to that of the unconcerned spectator; nor exhibit in his behaviour, any thing strange, improper, or unbecoming

[blocks in formation]

From these remarks, I hope you will now agree with me, that Hamlet deserves com

« AnteriorContinuar »