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resolution, defers his revenge to some more fatal opportunity, when he shall be engaged in some act " that has no relish of salvation in it."
" He kneels and prays,
He is the prince of philosophical speculators, and because he cannot have his revenge perfect, according to the most refined idea his wish can form, he misses it altogether. So he scruples to trust the suggestions of the Ghost, contrives the scene of the play to have surer proof of his uncle's guilt, and then rests satisfied with this confirmation of his suspicions, and the success of his experiment, instead of acting upon
it. Yet he is sensible of his own weakness, taxes himself with it, and tries to reason himself out of it.
" How all cccasions do inform against me,
Why yet I live to say, this thing's to do;
Still he does nothing; and this very speculation on his own infirmity only affords him another occasion for indulging it. It is not for any want of attachment to his father or abhorrence of his murder that Hamlet is thus dilatory, but it is more to his taste to indulge his imagination in reflecting upon the enormity of the crime and refining on his schemes of vengeance, than to put them into immediate practice. His ruling passion is to think, not to act: and any vague pretence that flatters this propensity instantly diverts him from his previous purposes.
The moral perfection of this character has been called in question, we think, by those who did not understand it. is more interesting than according to rules : amiable, though not faultless. The ethical delineations of " that noble and liberal casuist” (as Shakspeare has been well called) do not exhibit the drab-coloured quakerism of morality. His plays are not copied either from The Whole Duty of Man, or from The Academy of Compliments! We confess, we are a little shocked at the want of refinement in those who are shocked at the want of refinement in Hamlet. The want of punctilious exactoess in his behaviour either partakes of the “ license of the time,” or else belongs to the very excess of intellectual refinement in the character, which makes the common rules of life, as well as his own purposes, sit loose upon him. He may be said to be amenable only to the tribunal of his own thoughts, and is too much taken up with the airy world of contemplation to lay as much stress as he ought on the practical consequences of things. His habitual principles of action are unhinged and out of joint with the time. His conduct to Ophelia is quite natural in bis circumstances. It is that of assumed severity only. It
. is the effect of disappointed hope, of bitter regrets, of affection suspended, not obliterated, by the distractions of the scene around him! Amidst the natural and preternatural horrours of his situation, he might be excused in delicacy from carrying on a regular courtship. When “his father's spirit was in arms,” it was not a time for the son to make love in. He could neither marry Ophelia, nor wound her mind by explaining the cause of his alienation, which he durst hardly trust himself to think of. It would have taken him years to have come to a direct explanation on the point. In the harrassed state of his mind, he could not have done otherwise than he did. His conduct does not contradict what he says when he sees her funeral,
“I loved Ophelia : forty thousand brothers Could not with all their quantity of love Make up my sum."
Nothing can be more affecting or beautiful than the Queen's apostrophe to Ophelia on throwing flowers into the grave.
- Sweets to the sweet, farewell.
Shakspeare was thoroughly a master of the mixed motives of human character, and he here shews us the Queen, who was so criminal in some respects, not without sensibility and affection in other relations of life.--Ophelia is a character almost too exquisitely touching to be dwelt upon. Oh rose of May, oh flower too soon faded ! Her love, her madness, her death, are described with the truest touches of tenderness and pathos. It is a character which nobody but Shakspeare could have drawn in the way that he has done, and to the conception of which there is not even the smallest approach, except in some of the old romantick ballads. Her brother, Laertes, is a character we do not like so well : he is too hot and cholerick, and somewhat rodomontade. Polonius is a perfect character in its kind; nor is there any foundation for the objections which have been made to the consistency of this part. It is said that he acts very foolishly and talks, very sensibly. There is no inconsistency in
. that. Again, that he talks wisely at one time and foolishly at another; that his advice to Laertes is very sensible, and his advice to the King and Queen on the subject of Hamlet's madness very ridiculous. But he gives the one as a father, and is sincere ip it; he gives the other as a mere courtier, a busy body, and is accordingly officious, garrulous, and impertinent. In short, Shakspeare has been accused of inconsistency in this and other characters, only because he has kept up the distinction which there is in nature, between the understandings and the moral habits of men, between the absurdity in their ideas and the absurdity of their motives. Polonius is not a fool, but he kes himself so. His folly, whether in his actions or speeches, comes under the head of impropriety of intention.
We do not like to see our author's plays acted, and least of all, HAMLET. There is no play that suffers so much in being transferred to the stage. Hamlet himself seems hardly capable of being acted. Mr. Kemble unavoidably fails in this character from want of ease and variety. The character of Hamlet is made up of undulating lines; it has the yielding flexibility of a a wave o' th' sea."