Abbildungen der Seite

murder are stamped indelibly on the imagination of Hamlet. Yet, though vehemently incensed, the gentle and affectionate principles of his nature preserve their influence, and to the unhappy Gertrude he will not be inhuman. His character, in this particular, is finely distinguished from the Orestes either of Sophocles or of Euripides. His gentlew ness is far more natural, and renders him more amiable and more estimable*. His violent resentment against his uncle is contrasted in a very striking manner with the warnings of his moral faculty, and the tenderness of his affection.

'Tis now the very witching time of night,
When church-yards yawn, and hell itself breathes ont
Contagion to this world. Now could I drink hot blood,
And do such bitter business as the day
Would quake to look on. Soft; now to

my mother O heart, lose not thy nature ; let not ever

* In favour of Orestes, it may, however, be argued, that he was compelled to put Clytemnestra to death by religious motives and the voice of an oracle: Hamlet, on the contrary, was deterred by a similar authority from con- i ceiving vengeance against the Queen, and was warned by

the ghust,

Nut to contrive against his mother augbt.

The soul of Nero enter this firm busom :
Let me be cruel, not unnatural :
I will speak daggers to her, but use none.

[ocr errors]

The scene between the Queen and Hamlet has been highly celebrated, and cannot fail, even though less advantageously represented than by a Garrick and a Pritchard, to agitate every audience. The time, the

very witching time of night,' and the state of Hamlet's mind, when he could drink • hot blood, and do such bitter business as

the day would quake to look on,' prepare us for this important conference. The situation, that of a son endeavouring to reclaim a parent, is exceedingly interesting. All the sentiments and emotions are animated, and expressive of character. In the Queen we discern the confidence of a guilty mind, that, by the artifices of self-deceit, has put to silence the upbraidings of conscience. We discern in her the dexterity with which persons perverted by evil habits abuse their own understandings, and conceal from themselves their blemishes. We also perceive in her the anguish and horror of a mind, appalled and confounded by the con

sciousness of its depravity, and its eager soli. citude to be rescued, by any means, from the persecuting and painful feeling. Hamlet, full of affection, studies to secure her tranquillity; and, guided by moral principles, he endeavours to establish it on the foundation of virtue. Animated by every gene

ous and tender sentiment, and convinced of the superior excellence and dignity of an unblemished conduct, he cannot bear that those who are dear to him should be depraved. It is to gratify this amiable temper that he labours to renew, in the misguided Gertrude, a sense of honour and of merit, to turn her attention, without subterfuge or disguise, on her own behaviour; and to restore her to her former fame. He administers his medicine with reluctance: it is harsh; but the disease is desperate. It is not suitable to the agitated state of his mind to enter sedately into a formal and argumentative discussion of the impiety and immorality of her conduct : he mentions these in a summary manner ; and following the impulse of his own mind, he speaks the language of strong emotion, addresses her feelings, and endeavours to convey into her heart some portion of the indignation with which he is himself inflamed.

Look here upon this picture, and on this ;
The counterfeit presentment of Iwo brothers.
See, what a grace was seated on his brow :
Hyperion's curls; the front of Jove himself;
An eye, like Mars, to threaten or command ;
A station, like the Herald Mercury,
New-lighted on a heaven-kissing hill;
A combination, and a form, indeed,

every God did seem to set his seal,
To give the world assurance of a man:
This was your husband.-Look you now, what follows;
Here is your husband ; like a mildew'd ear,
Blasting his wholesome brother. Have you eyes ?
Could you on this fair mountain leave to feed,
And batten on this moor? Ha! have you eyes ?

The contrast in these lines, co-operating with other causes, has a very striking effect. The transition from admiration to abhorrence, in a remarkable degree, heightens the lątter. Hamlet dwells minutely on every circumstance of his father's character : but passing from that to the picture of Claudius, his perturbation is visibly augmented ; his

indignation and abhorrence are almost too excessive for utterance: and the difference between the two characters appearing to him so manifest as to render a particular illustration needless, he reflects with severity on that woful perversion of mind which has blunted the feelings and perceptions of Gertrude.

You cannot call it love ; for, at your age,
The hey day in the blood is tame, it's humble,
And waits upon the judgment; and what judgment
Would step from this to this?

He convinces her of her guilt; but so fallacious and so imposing are evil habits, that, in spite of her recent conviction, she would yield herself to their suggestions: by supposing her son disordered, she would lesa sen the authority of his argument, and so relapse. Hamlet, perceiving the workings of her invention, and anxious for her recovery, touches the distempered part of her soul with a delicate and skilful hand: he infuses such golden instruction, and discovers such penetration and knowledge of human nature, as would have dignified a philosopher. He tempers the severity of his admo.

« ZurückWeiter »