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MONG the numberless exquisite por
traits delineated, for the delight and a instruction of the world, by the hand of the great Dramatic Master, there is one which in a pre-eminent degree solicits and detains the universal gaze ;—"the observed of all observers." It is that of a young and amiable Prince, in whom the traits of in
tellect and of feeling are admirably blended : his fine and varied countenance exhibits humour and sensibility, wit and philosophy, in the justest proportions : yet over all, and through all, there is still visible that “pale cast of thought,” which might lead even the mere unacquainted spectator to infer, that the possessor had been burthened with a weight of mysterious care, which long oppressed, and finally overwhelmed him. This is that interesting and ever-eloquent friend, with whom we have held delightful converse from boyhood, even to the present hour; whose thoughts have penetrated to the innermost parts of our being ; and whom, in despite of his occasional waywardness, weakness, and inconsistency, we have ever loved and
respected as a dear and intimate personal friend.—This, in a word, is Hamlet. Of all human compositions, there is, perhaps, not one which in the same compass contains so much just, original, and profound thought, as this gigantic effort of genius ; none so suggestive, so imaginative, and yet so practical ; none which in an equal degree charms alike the philosopher and the simple rustic,—the poet and the man of the world. From the hour of its first appearance, it has been the especial darling of all classes ; and has thus tended, more than anything else, to shew the high capabilities of the universal human mind ;—to justify the high eulogium which Hamlet himself, “ the general favourite, as the general friend,” pronounces so emphatically on his kindred “quintessence of dust." In reference to this point, it may be appropriately mentioned, that in the most remote eastern minor theatre
-a locality which an inhabitant of more genial theatric climes would be apt to regard as a mere Bæotia, helplessly devoted to Pantomime and Melodrame-even here, the subtile wisdom and poetic beauty of the play before us, drew crowded houses, at a recent period, for upwards of sixty nights in a single season !
The main incidents on which the play of “Hamlet” is founded, are related by Saxo-Grammaticus, the Danish historian. The story is also told in the novels of Belleforest, and in a small black-letter volume, entitled “THE HISTORIE OF HAMBLETT." Shakspere's drama was first printed in 1603 ; a copy of this edition (supposed to be unique), was discovered of late years, and reprinted in 1825. The title runs thus :—“The Tragicall Historie of Hamlet Prince of Denmarke, by William Shake-speare. As it hath beene diverse times acted by his Highnesse servants in the Cittie of London: as also in the two Universities of Cambridge and Oxford, and elsewhere. At London, printed for N. L. and John Trundell.” The title to the second quarto edition, published in 1604, states the play to have been “enlarged to almost as much againe as it was, according to the true and perfect coppie.” It exhibits also some variations, both of plot and in the names of the characters, as compared with the original sketch. There were reprints of the enlarged quarto in 1605, 1609, and 1611; besides another edition without date. These various evidences of the great popularity of the play, were all precursors of the general folio collection, published by the Poet's “ fellows," in 1623. Some further remarks on the different versions of “HAMLET" will be found in the Notes.
Scene I.-Elsinore. A Platform before the Castle. " Fran. You come most carefully upon your hour.
Ber. 'Tis now struck twelve; get thee to bed, Francisco on his post. Enter to him Bernardo.
Francisco. Ber. Who's there?
Fran. For this relief, much thanks : 't is bitter Fran. Nay, answer me : stand, and unfold
And I am sick at heart. Ber. Long live the king !
Ber. Have you had quiet guard ? Fran. Bernardo?
Fran. Not a mouse stirring. Ber. He.
Ber. Well, good night.
If you do meet Horatio and Marcellus,
Mar. It is offended.
Hor. Stay; speak: speak, I charge thee, speak!
[Exit Ghost. Fran. I think I hear them.-Stand, ho? Who
Mar. "T is gone, and will not answer. is there?
Ber. How now, Horatio? you tremble and look Hor. Friends to this ground.
pale: Mar. And liegemen to the Dane.
Is not this something more than fantasy ? Fran. Give you good night.
What think you on 't ? Mar. O, farewell, honest soldier:
Hor. Before my God, I might not this believe, Who hath relieved you?
Without the sensible and true avouch Fran. Bernardo hath my place.
Of mine own eyes. Give you good night.
Mar. Is it not like the king ? Mar. Holla! Bernardo!
Hor. As thou art to thyself: Ber. Say,
Such was the very armour he had on, What, is Horatio there?
When he the ambitious Norway combated; Hor. A piece of him.
So frowned he once, when, in an angry parle, Ber. Welcome, Horatio; welcome, good Mar
He smote the sledded Polacks on the ice. cellus.
'Tis strange. Hor. What, has this thing appeared again to
Mar. Thus twice before, and just at this dead night?
hour, Ber. I have seen nothing.
With martial stalk hath he gone by our watch. Mar. Horatio says, 't is but our fantasy ;
Hor. In what particular thought to work, I And will not let belief take hold of him,
know not; Touching this dreaded sight, twice seen of us: But, in the gross and scope of mine opinion, Therefore I have entreated him along
This bodes some strange eruption to our state. With us to watch the minutes of this night;
Mar. Good now, sit down, and tell me, he that That, if again this apparition come,
knows, He may approve our eyes, and speak to it.
Why this same strict and most observant watch Hor. Tush, tush! 't will not appear.
So nightly toils the subject of the land ? Ber. Sit down awhile;
And why such daily cast of brazen cannon, And let us once again assail your ears,
And foreign mart for implements of war; That are so fortified against our story,
Why such impress of shipwrights, whose sore task What we two nights have seen.
Does not divide the Sunday from the week: Hor. Well, sit we down,
What might be toward, that this sweaty haste And let us hear Bernardo speak of this. .
Doth make the night joint-labourer with the day; Ber. Last night of all,
Who is 't that can inform me? When yon same star, that's westward from the pole,
Hor. That can I; Had made his course to illume that part of heaven
At least, the whisper goes so. Our last king, Where now it burns, Marcellus and myself,
Whose image even but now appeared to us, The bell then beating one,
Was, as you know, by Fortinbras of Norway, Mar. Peace, break thee off; look where it comes
Thereto pricked on by a most emulate pride,
Dared to the combat; in which our valiant Hamlet Enter Ghost.
(For so this side of our known world esteemed him) Ber. In the same figure, like the king that's dead. Did slay this Fortinbras; who, by a sealed compact, Mar. Thou art a scholar; speak to it, Horatio. Well ratified by law and heraldry, Ber. Looks it not like the king?mark it, Horatio. Did forfeit with his life, all those his lands Hor. Most like:--it harrows me with fear and | Which he stood seized of, to the conqueror : wonder.
Against the which, a moiety competent Ber. It would be spoke to.
Was gagéd by our king; which had returned Mar. Question it, Horatio.
To the inheritance of Fortinbras, . lor. What art thou, that usurp'st this time of Had he been vanquisher; as by the same cov'nant, night,
And carriage of the article designed, Together with that fair and warlike form
His fell to Hamlet.-Now, sir, young Fortinbras, In which the inajesty of buried Denmark Of unimprovéd mettle hot and full, Did sometimes march? By heaven I charge thee, i Hath in the skirts of Norway, here and there, speak!
Sharked up a list of landless resolutes,