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bent upon healing his plague-stricken city, but has not the nerve to apply the cauterising iron. Brutus, with sterner resolve but less insight, heroically strikes the blow and perishes amidst the ruin he has wrought. It is not difficult to imagine how the elements of ineffectual idealism here detached may have gathered in Shakespeare's mind about the character of the Danish prince, who even in the Saga had loitered towards his deed of death, and loved his motley somewhat too well. Transferred to a modern society, as polished on the surface as Brutus' Rome, and as corrupt at the core as the duke's Vienna, new possibilities opened for the legend of the tardy avenger. A brain solely occupied with the business of avenging a particular crime becomes a highly-strung organism acutely sensitive to every harmony of civil refinement, and every jar of moral discord. He sees his personal wrongs on a background of general corruption. Everything in Hamlet converges upon Hamlet, and his complex animosity to evil is thrown into relief by the elementary vindictiveness of his antitypes Fortinbras and Laertes,-Shakespeare's own extraordinarily effective additions to the legend. Fortinbras is not

without a trace of Hamlet's nobleness, or Laertes of his accomplishment. But neither has any thought save of personal vengeance. Hamlet's shafts of invective glance aside from the king to the whole society of which the king is the type. He brings that society to the bar of an idealism as lofty and noble as Brutus', and riddles its pretensions with a poignancy which Jaques cannot approach. His dream of the greatness of man-'infinite in faculty, in action like an angel, in apprehension like a god'—is a Humanist counterpart of the austere Stoic sense of human dignity which nerves the dagger of Brutus against the supposed tyranny of Cæsar. And all the brilliant culture

of Humanism, which we rather presume than recognise in Jaques,-its wit, its various dexterity, its delight in the stage,-are mirrored in his incomparably vivid speech. But his intellect and passion are mysteriously involved in his doom. Brutus' abstract faith in man carries him resolutely to ruin without suffering disillusion; Hamlet's bitter penetration shatters the very bases of that exalted dream, and disillusion paralyses resolve. If he sees the world as an unweeded garden, it is because he alone has eyes for the fretted canopy of heaven. But amid all his pessimism, 'art still has truth'; man is a 'quintessence of dust,' but the next moment he is giving a genial welcome to the strolling players, somewhat as Jaques forgets his melancholy in the delightful discovery of Touchstone. It is not for nothing that he is made the mouthpiece of Shakespeare's ripest convictions about the art of playing; for he wears his own disguise with something of the player's zest, and is allured away from his purpose by the intellectual fascination of his rôle.

The Brutus and the Jaques types are as it were promontories in the sea of Hamlet: promontories which, if not 'sterile,' yet do not carry us within sight of shore. A mysterious residuum always remains, and the history of the attempts to solve it approaches in intellectual fascination, and exceeds in intellectual value, the task of solution itself. Three generations have seen their own philosophic and racial idiosyncrasies in the elusive mirror of Hamlet. To the humanity of Goethe he was a pure and lovely nature; to the speculative idealism of Coleridge the problem lay in his over-reflecting intellect; to the Hegelian religiosity of Ulrici, in his tender conscience; to Schopenhauer, in his world-weariness. With the reaction from the philosophies of pure thought and from the old Germany of pure thinkers, new Hamlets




have arisen, whose difficulties lie in their 'spleen' (Hermann Grimm), their 'temperament' (Gessner), or their sluggish blood' (Loening); or in the restraints imposed by external sanctions of law and politics. If modern psychology lives in Loening's 'lazy Hamlet,' the political Teuton of to-day is reflected in Werder's scornful 'dismissal' of the dreamer Hamlet to limbo in company with the dreaming Germany of which Freytag proclaimed him the type. Finally, to the 'realistic' eyes of our time Hamlet has become a veiled allusion, and his spiritual profile an ineffectual disguise, for Essex,1 Montaigne, or James the First.

1 This is the contention of Hermann Conrad in a series of elaborate articles recently re

printed in his Shakspere's Selbstbekenntnisse, 1897.




SCENE I. Elsinore. A platform before the


FRANCISCO at his post. Enter to him BERNARDO.

Ber. Who's there?

Fran. Nay, answer me: stand, and unfold yourself.

Ber. Long live the king!

Fran. Bernardo ?

Ber. He.

Fran. You come most carefully upon your hour.
Ber. 'Tis now struck twelve; get thee to bed,

Fran. For this relief much thanks: 'tis bitter


And I am sick at heart.

Ber. Have you had quiet guard?


Ber. Well, good night.

Not a mouse stirring.


If you do meet Horatio and Marcellus,

The riyals of my watch, bid them make haste. Fran. I think I hear them. Stand, ho! Who's there ?


Hor. Friends to this ground.

Fran. Give you good night.

Who hath relieved you?


And liegemen to the Dane.

O, farewell, honest soldier :

Give you good night.

Bernardo has my place.

[blocks in formation]

Ber. Welcome, Horatio: welcome, good Mar


Mar. What, has this thing appeared again tonight ?

Ber. I have seen nothing.

Mar. Horatio says 'tis but our fantasy,

And will not let belief take hold of him

Touching this dreaded sight, twice seen of us:
Therefore I have entreated him along

With us to watch the minutes of this night;
That if again this apparition come,

He may approve our eyes and speak to it.
Hor. Tush, tush, 'twill not appear.


Sit down awhile; 30

And let us once again assail your ears,
That are so fortified against our story
What we have two nights seen.


Well, sit we down,

13. rivals, partners.

29. approve, confirm the evidence of.

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