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The moral perfection of this character has been called in question, we think, by those who did not understand it. 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 rennement in those who are shocked at the want of refinement in Hamlet. The want of punctilious exactness 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 his 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 in it; he gives the other as a mere courtier, a busybody, 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 makes 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 od variety.
racter of Hamlet is made up of undulating lipes; it has the yielding flexibility of a a wave oth' sea."
Mr. Kemble plays it like a man in armour, with a determined inveteracy of purpose, in one undeviating straight line, which is as remote from the natural grace and refined susceptibility of the character, as the sharp angles and abrupt starts which Mr. Kean introduces into the part. Mr. Kean's Hamlet is as much to splenetick and rash as Mr. Kemble's is too deliberate and formal. His manner is too strong and pointed. He throws a severity, approaching to virulence, into the common observations and answers. There is nothing of this in Hamlet. He is, as it were, wrapped up in his reflections, and only thinks aloud. There should therefore be 'no attempt to impress what he says upon others by a studied exaggeration of emphasis or manner; no talking at his hearers. There should be as much of the gentleman and scholar as possible infused into the part, and as little of the actor. A pensive air of sadness should sit reluctantly upon his brow, but no appearance of fixed and sullen gloom. He is full of weakness and melan. choly, but there is no harshness in his nature. He is the most amiable of misanthropes.
HERE can be little doubt that Shakspeare was the most universal genius that ever lived. “ Either for tragedy, comedy, history, pastoral, pastoral.comical, historical-pastoral, scene individable, or poem unlimited, he is the only man. Seneca cannot be too heavy, por Plautus too light for him.” He has not only the same absolute command over our laughter and our tears, all the resources of passion, of wit, of thought, of observation, but he has the most un. bounded range of fanciful invention, whether terrible or playful, the same insight into the world of imagination that he has into the world of reality; and over all there presides the same truth of character and nature, and the same spirit of humanity. His ideal beings are as true and natural as his real characters; that is, as consistent with themselves, or if we suppose such beings to exist at all, they could not act, speak, or feel otherwise than as he makes them. He has invented for them a language, manners, and sentiments of their own, from the tremendous imprecations of the Witches in Macbeth,