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And, with a sudden vigour, it doth posset
All saws of books, all forms, all pressures past,
be so in Denmark:
The better to concea his purposes
vengeance, Hamlet feigns madness. Portions of his conduct seem to indicate that he was to some extent also really mad, or at least under that sort of partial derangement which we often see in real life, when intense excitement for some great injury causes a temporary dethronement of reason. The feeling of indignation at the shameless conduct of his mother and uncle seems to have taken complete possession of his soul, to the exclusion of every other consideration. No more striking evidence could be given of his perfect abandonment to this one idea, than his conduct to Ophelia. He had loved her with an affection peculiarly delicate and tender. His whole conduct towards her now becomes changed. At first he behaves towards her only in a wild and incoherent manner, but subsequently he treats her with a cold and cruel mockery which drives her to madness, and withal, from first to last, he does not seek or seem to desire to give her the least explanation of his
conduct. All this is incompatible with his having for the time any regard for her. Love, the great ruling passion of the young, is placed in complete abeyance, and one overpowering, all-pervading sentiment has possession of his breast. His strong natural sense of wrong is lashed into a state of frenzy, by the appear ance and language of his father's ghost, and he presents the singular, but I think intelligible spectacle of a person feigning madness, and at the same time a real mono-maniac.
Enter OPHELIA, and POLONIUS.
Oph. My lord, as I was sewing in my closet,
Pol. Mad for thy love?
My lord, I do not know;
What said he?
goes he to the length of all his arm;
And thrice his head thus waving up and down, -
Hamlet's account of himself to Guildenstern and Rosencrantz, who had been sent by the king to act as spies upon him, and to penetrate if possible the true cause of his strange demeanour:
Ham. I have of late, (but wherefore, I know not,) lost all my mirth; forgone all custom of exercises : and, indeed, it goes so heavily with my disposition, that this goodly frame, the earth, seems to me a steril promontory; this most excellent canopy, the air, look you, this brave o'erhanging firmament, this majestical roof fretted with golden fire, why, it appears no other thing to me, than a foul and pestilent congregation of vapours.
What a piece of work is man! How noble in reason ! how infinite in faculties! in form, and moving, how express and admirable! in action, how like an angel ! in apprehension, how like a god! the beauty of the world! the paragon of animals! And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust?
Hamlet's soliloquy after seeing a player act the pari of Hecuba.
Ham. 0, what a rogue and peasant slave am I!
That, from her working, all his visage wanned;