Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

ears.

elevation to his spirits, which may pass for | it, did but prolong his “sickly days.” Polonius his feigned “madness.” He utters whatever falls by an accident, instead of his “betters.” comes uppermost; and the freedoms which The “wretched, rash, intruding fool” was he takes with Ophelia, while they are equally sacrificed to a sudden impulse, which stood remote from bitterness or harshness, are such in the place of a determinate exercise of the as in Shakspere's age would not offend pure will. Hamlet scarcely regrets the accident:

The mixture in his wild speeches of -“ take thy fortune.” His mind is eased by fun and pathos is nevertheless most touching. his colloquy with his mother. The vision “What should a man do, but be merry ?" again appears to whet his “almost blunted comes from the profoundest depths of a purpose;" but nothing is done. His intellect wounded spirit. The test is applied; the is again at its subtleties : King is “frighted with false fire,”—his

“There's letters seal'd: and my two school“occulted” guilt has unkennelled itself. The

fellows,elation of Hamlet's mind is at its height.

Whom I will trust, as I will adders fang'd, His contempt of the King is openly pro They bear the mandate; they must sweep my nounced to his creatures ;-Rosencrantz and

way, Guildenstern quail before his biting sarcasm; And marshal me to knavery: Let it work; -Polonius is his butt. All this is, as he For 't is the sport, to have the engineer thinks, the coruscations of the cloud before Hoist with his own petar: and 't shall go hard, the deadly flash. “Now could I drink hot But I will delve one yard below their mines, blood,” is the feeling that is at the bottom of And blow them at the moon.” all. Then comes the scene in which the King He casts himself like a feather upon the prays, and Hamlet postpones his revenge, great wave of fate ;-he embraces the events with an excuse almost too dreadful to belong that marshalled him“ to knavery.” Dangerous to human motives. They were not his motives.

as they be, they are better than doubt. He Coleridge discriminates between “impetuous, believes that he pierces through the darkness horror-striking fiendishness,” and “the marks of his fate:—“I see a cherub, that sees him.” of reluctance and procrastination;" and it is He leaves for England; not forgetting him sufficient to note this distinction, without whose entering into any refutation of opinions which show that it is easier to write mouthingly or

“Form and cause conjoin'd, preaching to

stones, pertly, as some have done, than to understand

Would make them capable;” Shakspere. It is in the scene with the Queen that Hamlet vindicates his own sanity but still meditating instead of acting. It

would be a curious problem to be solved, “ It is not madness

but it will never be solved, whether Shakspere That I have uttered: bring me to the test,

himself obliterated the scene which only And I the matter will re-word; which madness Would gambol from.”

appears in the second quarto *, in which the

workings of Hamlet's mind at this juncture This is ‘Shakspere's Test of Insanity;'—the are so distinctly revealed to us. That he title of an Essay by Sir H. Halford, in which meant the character to be mysterious, though he illustrates from his experience the ac not inexplicable, there can be no doubt. Does curacy of our great poet's delineations of the it become too plain when Hamlet's meeting phenomena of mental disorder. Our readers with the Norwegian captain leads him into a will find a very able article on this Essay in

train of thought, at first made up of gene“The Quarterly Review, vol. xlix. p. 181. ralizations, but in the end most conclusive as

Hamlet abstained from killing the King to the causes of his indecision ?when he was praying.” This was a part

“ Now, whether it be of his weakness. But he did not abandon

Bestial oblivion, or some craven scruple The forced devotion of the guilty man,the “physic,” as Hamlet calls

66

his purpose.

* Act iv., Scene iv.

Of thinking too precisely on the event, 'indiscretion,” proceeding from sudden and (A thought, which, quarter'd, hath but one indefinable impulses :part wisdom,

“Sir, in my heart there was a kind of fighting And ever, three parts coward),—I do not know That would not let me sleep.” Why yet I live to say, 'This thing 's to do;' Wonderfully, indeed, has Shakspere managed Sith I have cause, and will, and

ngth, and

to follow the old history—“How Fengon means,

devised to send Hamlet to the king of England To do't.”

with secret letters to have him put to death, It was not “bestial oblivion.”-Oh, no. The and how Hamlet, when his companions slept, eternal presence of the thought - “ this read the letters, and, instead of them, thing's to do,” made him incapable of doing counterfeited others, willing the king of it. It was the “thinking too precisely on England to put the two messengers to death,” the event" that destroyed his will. It was

—without destroying the unity of his own in the same spirit that his will had been conception of Hamlet. “puzzled” by the “dread of something after Mrs. Jameson, in her delightful 'Characterdeath,”—that his conscience—(conscious- istics of Women,' has sketched the character ness)—"sicklied o'er” his “native hue of of Ophelia with all a woman's truth and resolution.” The “delicate and tender prince” tenderness. One passage only can we venture exposed what was mortal and unsure to to take, for it is an image that to our minds fortune, death, and danger, even for an egg- is far better than many words: “Once at shell. Twenty thousand men, for a fantasy Murano, I saw a dove caught in a tempest; and trick of fame, went to their graves like perhaps it was young, and either lacked beds. But, then, the men and their leader strength of wing to reach its home, or the made “mouths at the invisible event.” The instinct which teaches to shun the brooding “large discourse” of Hamlet, “looking before, storm; but so it was—and I watched it, and after,” absorbed the tangible and present. pitying, as it flitted, poor bird! hither and In actions that appear indirectly to advance thither, with its silver pinions shining against the execution of the great “commandment” | the black thunder-cloud, till, after a few that was laid upon him, he has decision and giddy whirls, it fell, blinded, affrighted, and alacrity enough. His relation to Horatio bewildered, into the turbid wave beneath, (we are somewhat anticipating) of his suc

and was swallowed up for ever. It reminded cessful device against Rosencrantz and

me then of the fate of Ophelia ; and now, Guildenstern would appear to come from a

when I think of her, I see again before me man who is all will. His intellectual activity that poor dove, beating with weary wing, revels in the telling of the story. Coleridge bewildered amid the storm.” And why is it, has admirably pointed out, in "The Friend, when we think upon the fate of the

poor how “ the circumstances of time and place storm-striken Ophelia, that we never reproach are all stated with equal compression and Hamlet ? We are certain that it was no rapidity;” but still, with the relater's general

“ trifling of his favour” that broke her heart. tendency to generalize. The event has We are assured that his seeming harshness happened, and Hamlet does not think too did not sink deep into her spirit. We believe precisely of its consequences. The issue will that he loved her more than “forty thousand be shortly known.

brothers”—though a very ingenious question

has been raised upon that point. And yet “It will be short: the interim is mine; she certainly perished through Hamlet and And a man's life's no more than to say-one.” his actions. But we blame him not; for her

destiny was involved in his. We cannot This looks like decision, growing out of the avoid transcribing a passage from the article narrative of the events in which Hamlet had in Blackwood's Magazine,' which we have exhibited his decision. But, even in his own already mentioned: “Soon as we connect her account, the beginning of this action was his destiny with Hamlet, we know that darkness

is to overshadow her, and that sadness and smiles at the sarcasm of the grave-digger sorrow will step in between her and the who can distinguish between the skull of a ghost-haunted avenger of his father's murder. courtier and a buffoon.” This may be the Soon as our pity is excited for her, it con Hamlet of the theatre; but M. Villemain tinues gradually to deepen; and, when she should have looked at the Hamlet of the appears in her madness, we are not more closet. The conversation of the clowns before prepared to weep over all its most pathetic Hamlet comes upon the scene is indeed movements than we afterwards are to hear pleasantry intermixed with sarcasm; but, the of her death. Perhaps the description of moment that Hamlet opens his lips, the that catastrophe by the Queen is poetical meditative richness of his mind is poured out rather than dramatic; but its exquisite upon us, and he grapples with the most beauty prevails, and Ophelia, dying and dead, familiar and yet the deepest thoughts of is still the same Ophelia that first won our human nature, in a style that is sublime love. Perhaps the very forgetfulness of her, from its very obviousness and simplicity. throughout the remainder of the play, leaves Where is the terror, unless it be terrible to the soul at full liberty to dream of the think of “ the house appointed for all living;” departed. She has passed away from the and what is to provoke the long peals of earth like a beautiful air—a delightful dream. laughter, where the grotesque is altogether There would have been no place for her in subordinate to the solemn and the philothe agitation and tempest of the final sophical ? It is the entire absorption of the catastrophe.”

fellow who “has no feeling of his business," Garrick omitted the grave-diggers. He by him of “daintier sense ” who considers it had the terror of Voltaire before his eyes. “too curiously,” that makes this scene so The English audience compelled their resto- impressive to the reader. ration. Was it that “the groundlings” could of Hamlet's violence at the grave of Ophelia not endure the loss of the ten waistcoats we think with the critic on Sir Henry Halwhich the clown had divested himself of, ford's Essay, that it was a real aberration, time out of mind ?-or, was there in this and not a simulated frenzy. His apparently scene something that brought Hamlet home cold expression, “What, the fair Ophelia !" to the humblest, in the large reach of his appears to us to have been an effort of universal philosophy ? M. Villemain, in his restraint, which for the moment overmastered Essay on Shakspere, appears to us utterly to his reason. In the interval between this have mistaken this scene* : “Strike not out “ towering passion” and the final catastrophe, from the tragedy of 'Hamlet,' as Garrick Hamlet is thoroughly bimself-meditative had attempted to do, the labours and the to excess with Horatio—most acute, playful, pleasantries of the grave-diggers. Be present but altogether gentlemanly, in the scene at this terrible buffoonery; and you will with the frivolous courtier. But observe behold terror and gaiety rapidly moving an that he forms no plans. He knows the danger immense audience. .... Youth and beauty which surrounds him; and he still feels with contemplate with insatiable curiosity images regard to the usurper as he always felt : of decay, and minute details of death; and then the uncouth pleasantries which are

“ Is’t not perfect conscience, blended with the action of the chief per

To quit him with this arm ?" sonages seem from time to time to relieve But his will is still essentially powerless; and thespectators from the weight which oppresses now he yields to the sense of predestination: them, and shouts of laughter burst from every “ If it be now, 't is not to come; if it be not seat. Attentive to this spectacle, the coldest to come, it will be now; if it be not now, yet countenances alternately manifest their gloom it will come: the readiness is all.” The or their gaiety; and even the statesman catastrophe is perfectly in accordance with * We translate from the last edition of his Essay. Paris,

this prostration of Hamlet's mind. It is the result of an accident, produced we know not

1839.

we

how. Some one has suggested a polite Have we lost anything ? Then we should ceremonial on the part of Hamlet, by which not have had the Hamlet who is “the darling the foils might be exchanged with perfect of every country in which the literature of consistency. We would rather not know how England has been fostered;"* then they were exchanged. “ The catastrophe," should not have had the Hamlet who is “a says Johnson, “is not very happily produced; concentration of all the interests that belong the exchange of weapons is rather an ex to humanity; in whom there is a more intense pedient of necessity than a stroke of art. conception of individual human life than A scheme might easily be formed to kill perhaps in any other human composition : Hamlet with the dagger, and Laertes with that is, a being with springs of thought, and the bowl." No doubt. A tragedy terminated feeling, and action, deeper than we can by chance appears to be a capital thing for search ;'+ then we should not have had the the rule-and-line men to lay hold of. But Hamlet, of whom it has been said, “Hamlet they forget the poet's purpose. Had Hamlet is a name; his speeches and sayings but the been otherwise, his will would have been the idle coinage of the poet's brain. What, then, predominant agent in the catastrophe. The are they not real ? They are as real as our empire of chance would have been over-ruled; own thoughts. Their reality is in the reader's the guilty would have been punished; the mind. It is we who are Hamlet.” I innocent perhaps would have been spared. * Coleridge. + Blackwood, vol. ii.

I Hazlitt.

CHAPTER V.

OTHELLO.

On the 6th of October, 1621, Thomas Walk- it to the general censure. Yours, Thomas ley entered at Stationers' Hall • The Tragedie Walkley." of Othello, the Moore of Venice.' In 1622, The Tragedie of Othello, the Moore of Walkley published the edition for which he Venice, commences on page 310 of the Trahad thus claimed the copy. It is, as was gedies in the first folio collection. It extends usual with the separate plays, a small quarto, to page 339; and after it follow, 'Antony and it bears the following title :- The Tra and Cleopatra,' and 'Cymbeline.' It is not gedy of Othello, the Moore of Venice. As entered at Stationers' Hall by the proprieit hath beene diverse times acted at the tors of the folio edition, which affords some Globe, and at the Black-Friars, by his Majes- presumption that Walkley was legally enties Servants. Written by William Shake titled to his copy. But it is by no means speare.' It contains, also, a prefatory ad certain to our minds that Walkley's edition dress, which is curious :-" The Stationer to was published before the folio. The usual the Reader. To set forth a book without an date of that edition is, as our readers know, Epistle were like to the old English proverb, 1623; but there is a copy in existence beara blue coat without a badge; and the au- ing the date of 1622. We have, however, thor being dead, I thought good to take that no doubt, that the copy of Othello' in the piece of work upon me : to commend it I folio was printed from a manuscript copy, will not : for that which is good, I hope without reference to the quarto ; for there every man will commend, without entreaty: are typographical errors in the folio, arising, and I am the bolder, because the author's no doubt, from illegibility in the manuscript, name is sufficient to vent his work. Thus which would certainly have been avoided leaving every one to the liberty of judgment, had the copy been compared with an edition I have ventured to print this play, and leave printed from another manuscript. The fair

inference, therefore, is, that the Othello' of presume that the dramas represented on the folio was printed off before the quarto these joyous occasions for the amusement of of 1622 appeared. Had it been the last Elizabeth were usually new and popular play in the book, we should have retained performances. “Othello' was unquestionably the same opinion, from internal evidence. popular, and most likely new, in 1602.”* As two plays succeed it in the volume, we are strengthened in the belief that the original When Shakspere first became acquainted quarto and folio editions were printing at with the ‘Moor of Venice' of Giraldi Cinthi one and the same time. The folio edition is (whether in the original Italian, or the regularly divided into acts and scenes ; the French translation, or in one of the little quarto edition has not a single indication of story-books that familiarized the people any subdivision in the acts, and omits the with the romance and the poetry of the division between Acts II. and III. The south), he saw in that novel the scaffolding folio edition contains 163 lines which are of Othello.' There was formerly in Venice not found in the quarto, and these some of a valiant Moor, says the story. It came to the most striking in the play: the number pass that a irtuous lady of wonderful of lines found in the quarto which are not beauty, named Desdemona, became enain the folio do not amount to 10.

moured of his great qualities and noble The date of the first production of “Othello' virtues. The Moor loved her in return, and is settled as near as we can desire it to be. they were married in spite of the opposition The play certainly belongs to the most of the lady's friends. It happened too (says vigorous period of Shakspere's intellect the story) that the senate of Venice ap“at its very point of culmination.” Chal- pointed the Moor to the command of Cyprus, mers, upon the very questionable belief that and that his lady determined to accompany the expression new heraldry refers to the him thither. Amongst the officers who atcreation by James I. of the order of baronets, tended upon the General was an ensign, of gave it to 1614 ; Malone, in the early edi- the most agreeable person, but of the most tions of his 'Essay,' to 1611; Drake, to depraved nature. The wife of this man was 1612. In the later edition of Malone's the friend of Desdemona, and they spent

Essay, published by Boswell, in 1821, much of their time together. The wicked Malone says, without any explanation, we ensign became violently enamoured of Desknow it was acted in 1604, and I have there- demona ; but she, whose thoughts were fore placed it in that year.” Mr. Collier, wholly engrossed by the Moor, was utterly however, has been able most satisfactorily to regardless of the ensign's attentions. His place it two years earlier. There are de- love then became terrible hate, and he retailed accounts preserved at Bridgewater solved to accuse Desdemona to her husband House, in the handwriting of Sir Arthur of infidelity, and to connect with the accusaMainwaring, of the expenses incurred by tion a captain of Cyprus. That officer, having Sir Thomas Egerton, afterwards Lord Elles struck a sentinel, was discharged from his mere, in entertaining Queen Elizabeth and command by the Moor; and Desdemona, her court three days at Harefield. Amongst interested in his favour, endeavoured to rethe entries in these accounts is the follow- instate him in her husband's good opinion. ing :

The Moor said one day to the ensign, that 6 Aug. 1602. Rewardes to the

his wife was so importunate for the restoraVaulters, Players, and

tion of the officer, that he must take him Dauncers. Of this £10

back. “If you would open your eyes, you to Burbidge's players of

would see plainer,” said the ensign. The Othello

64 18 10." romance-writer continues to display the perBurbidge's players were those of the Black- fidious intrigues of the ensign against Desfriars and Globe-Shakspere's company. Mr. demona. He steals a handkerchief which Collier adds,"Perhaps it is not too much to

* New Particulars,' &c.

[ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinuar »