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by the ghost's imprudence? Unless this was his apprehension, we must tax him with levity, and if it were, he had already begun to be sceptical respecting the nature of the apparition. He afterwards, in order to justify his irresolution, sophisticates with himself, and tries to believe that the ghost might have been a devil, and now while it was boring through the ground under his feet, to give proof of its anxiety for the success of his designs, he fears it might be wanting in policy—a weakness of thought marking the obliquity of Hamlet's character. In his dialogue with the ghost, when the impression made by its disclosure of the murder was fresh upon him, he exclaims :
Haste me to know 't; that I, with wings as swift
When, however, the full revelation has been made, he is stunned by the magnitude of the enterprise, and immediately proceeds to invest his design with doubts and misgivings, which betray him into his habitual procrastination.
Shakespeare found the difficulty of allying the natural with the supernatural all but insurmountable, and, having made the ghost perform his part in a few brilliant scenes, he calls upon it no more save once during the remainder of the tragedy. We may imagine indeed that, as often as it is permitted to revisit earth, it hovers about the last object of its solicitude; for in the scene between Hamlet and his mother the ghost is present, and by an act of volition renders itself visible at the critical moment, to withhold the prince from becoming the rival of Alcmæon and Orestes. Here the ministry of the ghost ends, he has played out his part, and retires to sulphurous and tormenting flames, respecting the duration of which the son is doubtful :
And how his audit stands who knows save heaven ?
I have elsewhere spoken of Ariel, and the fairies which shed so much beauty on The Tempest' and 'A Midsummer Night's Dream.' In 'Antony and Cleopatra,' as well as in Julius Cæsar,' the supernatural is had recourse to, though, instead of being heightened by the poet's imagination, it is, especially in the latter play, tamer and more flat than in history. Brutus, sitting up late in his tent at Sardis, while everything around in the camp was still, is reported by the old priest of Chæronea to have beheld a spectre, which entered the tent door and stood near him. Hearing footsteps, Brutus, who had been reading, looked up, and, beholding the strange figure, inquired whether it were a god or a man. The phantom answered I am thy evil genius, Brutus, and will meet thee again at Philippi.' Then,' replied the general without being at all disturbed, I shall see thee.'
Out of this anecdote, repeated with variations in the life of Cæsar, Shakespeare has fabricated what follows:
Enter the Ghost of Cæsar.
I think it is the weakness of mine eyes
Ghost. Thy evil spirit, Brutus.
Bru. Why comest thou ?
Bru. Well; then I shall see thee again?
Now I have taken heart thou vanishest :
Il spirit, I would hold more talk with thee. Here Shakespeare not only falsifies history, but perverts the doctrine of antiquity that every man had a good and an evil genius—an opinion wholly distinct from anything connected with ghosts.
Just before the final overthrow of Antony, who affected to believe he was descended from Hercules, strange musical sounds were heard by night in the streets of Alexandria, together with the hurried tread of a multitude of persons making towards the gate leading out of the city to the enemy's camp. Having described two soldiers entering to their guard, two other soldiers likewise come in, and the following dialogue takes place:
[Music of the hartboy as under the stage. Fourth Soldier. Peace! what noise ? First Soldier.
Music i' the air.
Under the earth.
Peace, I say! What should this mean! Second Soldier. 'Tis the god Hercules, whom Antony loved,
Now leaves him.
Plutarch's narrative, as Shakespeare read it in North's translation, is to this effect :- The selfsame night, within a little of midnight, when all the city was quiet, full of fear and sorrow, thinking what would be the issue and end of this war, it is said that suddenly they heard a marvellous sweet harmony of sundry sorts of instruments of music, with the cry of a multitude of people as they had been dancing, and had sung as they used in Bacchus' feasts, with movings and turnings after the manner of the satyrs, and it seemed that this dance went through the city unto the gate that opened to the enemy's camp, and that all the troop that made this noise they heard went out of the city there. Now such as in reason sought the depth of the interpretation of this wonder thought that it was the god unto whom Antonius bare singular devotion to counterfeit and resemble, that did forsake him.'
In two other well-known passages Shakespeare again makes use of supernatural machinery—in the death scene of Queen Katherine, and in Posthumus's vision in prison ; but these two passages, especially the latter, have so little merit that they need not be more particularly referred to.
ESOTERIC OPINIONS OF SHAKESPEARE
I HAVE already observed that indications are discoverable in the plays, of the existence in the writer's mind of opinions and beliefs in some respects different from those of his contemporaries. On many occasions he says one thing but apparently means another, not merely different, but subversive of it altogether; so that we appear, while reading, to be engaged in the interpretation of hieroglyphics, scarcely less perplexing, perhaps, than those which torture our curiosity on the monuments of Thebes or Philæ. In this respect, however, he differs from other men only in degree, since every individual that lives, be his intellectual domain great or small, contrives to keep some portions of it involved in Eleusinian darkness, so as to be to that extent an enigma to his friends.
In Shakespeare's case, owing to the greatness of his mental powers, to the clearness and depth of his understanding, to the subtlety of his thoughts, to the boldness of his philosophy, to the immense variety of his acquisitions, to the beauty and soaring nature of his genius, we are stimulated by a more than usually strong desire to lift the thick drapery which he has let fall between his spirit and ours, and extort from him a key to his most hidden convictions. The inscription on the statue of Neith at Sais: 'I am all that has been, is,