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I Now proceed to offer some remarks on the character of Hamlet, and to consider whether he is in any degree entitled to the high encomiums, which some of the commentators, particularly Richardson, in his Analysis, have lavished upon him.

On a full review of the whole drama, I am unable to discover a single trait of conduct, calculated to excite respect for the qualities of his head, or esteem for those of his heart—nothing that becomes the hero of a drama—nothing that can rescue him from contempt for his imbecility, or abhorrence for his turpitude.

He in various instances proves himself devoid of truth, justice, honour, and courage—those sterling qualities, the want of any one of which sinks, in public estimation, the character of him who labours under the deficiency. What a hideous object must he be, who is deficient in the whole?

That Hamlet has no pretensions to courage is apparent in almost every scene of the play wherein he appears. But it may be replied that a mere want of courage is much more a misfortune, than a crime—more calculated to excite pity, than any other sentiment. While a free assent is given to this observation, it cannot be denied, that when a man covers a radical and incurable cowardice, under the most bombastic threats—when he excites himself to the most violent rage, and is constantly vowing vengeance, without the slightest effort to carry his threats into execution, he loses all claim to pity, and becomes an object of contempt.

That this is the conduct of Hamlet, a slight examination of the drama will evince. Never did Achilles vent his rage in stronger terms, or more solemnly pledge himself to be avenged of Agamemnon, than the prince of Denmark does to be avenged of his uncle. It might be supposed that myriads of embattled heroes would not appal him, or make him hesitate in the accomplishment of this grand object.

Ham. Haste me to know it; that I, with wings as swift
As meditation, or the thoughts of love,
May sweep to my revenge.

Vol. IV. 3 C


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

Would quake to look on.

Ham. O, all you host of heaven! O earth! What else?
And shall I couple hell?–0 fie!-Hold, hold, my heart;
And you, my sinews, grow not instant old,

But bear me stiffly up! But all these sounding threats evaporate into thin air. They are all“ sound and fury,” totally without meaning, or producing any effect. But, however deficient he may be in courage, he makes ample amends by billingsgate and abuse-he can bellow, and rage and scold, with as much virulence and as much grace, as any of the chaste and refined inhabitants of Billingsgate or St. Giles's.

Bloody, bawdy villain! Remorseless, treacherous, lecherous, kindless villain! A person unacquainted with the denouement of the tragedy, would, in reading the first, second, and third acts, anticipate some magnanimous effort to avenge the wickedness of the usurpersomething that would be worthy of a hero. The circumstances of the case, the solemn injunctions of the ghost, as well as the reiterated pledges of Hamlet, afford strong ground for such a surmise. Hamlet's father had been most basely murdered. He himself had been defrauded of his inheritance. And abase and sanguinary usurper had been foisted upon the Danes, in place of their lawful monarch. He that would not be incited by these circumstances to “ deeds of pith and daring” would be

“ Duller than the fat weed, That rots itself in ease on Lethe's wharf.” And yet there is not one single attempt made throughout the whole drama, to accomplish the object he appeared to have in view.

There were two obvious modes of proceeding. One, boldly to raise an army, and hurl the usurper from the throne, or nobly to perish in the attempt. The other, to have recourse to the stiletto, or to poison.

The first would have been the natural resort of a noble, magnanimous mind. It would have become the hero of a drama, and ex

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cited the reverence of an audience. It would have placed Hamlet
on a level with Alfred, Gustavus Vasa, William Wallace, or Wil-
liam Tell.
But this dignified and magnanimous course never entered into
the mind of Hamlet. He never dared to lisp a word respecting it.
His groveling soul brooded over the stiletto, as the instrument of
his vengeance. Yet when an opportunity offered of availing him-
self of that assassin-like mode of accomplishing his purpose, his
courage failed, and he shrunk from the attempt, not from any

“Compunctious visitings of conscience”—

No such scruple darts across his mind. He is withheld solely by
his fears.—It is true, he assigns a different reason, on which I
shall offer some remarks in the sequel.
Hamlet sees and acknowledges the baseness of his own charac-
This is most brave,
That I, the son of a dear father murder'd,
Prompted to my revenge by heaven, and hell,
Must, like a whore, unpack my heart with words,
And fall a cursing, like a very drab,
A scullion! -
Fie upon't! foll!

And further,

O, what a rogue and peasant slave am I'
Is it not monstrous, that this player here,
But in a fiction, in a dream of passion,
Could force his soul to his own conceit,
That, from her working, all his visage warm’d,
Tears in his eyes, distraction in's aspect,
A broken voice, and his whole function suiting
With forms to his conceit? And all for nothing!
For Hecuba'
What's Hecuba to him, or he to Hecuba,
That he should weep for her? What would he do,
Had he the motive and the cue for passion,
That I have? He would drown the stage with tears,
And cleave the general ear with horrid speech; -
Make mad the guilty, and appal the free,
Confound the ignorant; and amaze, indeed,
The very faculty of eyes and ears.

Yet I,

A dull and muddy-mettled rascal, peak,
Like John-a-clreams, unpregnant of my cause,
And can say nothing; no, not for a king,
Upon whose property, and most dear life,
A damn'd defeat was made. Am I a coward!
Who calls me villain? breaks my pate across?
Plucks off my beard, and blows it in my face?
Tweaks me by the nose? gives me the lie i' the throat,
As deep as to the lungs? Who does me this?
Ha! Why I should take it: for it cannot be,
But I am pigeon-liver’d, and lack gall,
To make oppression bitter: or, ere this,
I should have fatted all the region kites

With this slave's offal. The ghost had used every exhortation to excite him to vengeance.

Thus was I, sleeping, by a brother's hand,
Of life, of crown, of queen, at once despatch'd:
Cut off even in the blossoms of my sin,
Unhousell’d, disappointed, unaneald;
No reckoning made, but sent to my account
With all my imperfections on my head:
0, horrible! O, horrible! most horrible!
Ifthou hast nature in thee, bear it not;
Let not the royal bed of Denmark be
A couch for luxury and damned incest.


Ham. Do you not come your tardy son to chide,
That, laps’d in time and passion, lets go by
The important acting of your dread command?
O, say!
Ghost. Do not forget. This visitation

Is but to whet thy almost blunted purpose. It was all in vain. Into the heart, wherein nature has planted cowardice, reason can never infuse courage. But when Polonius was behind the arras, Hamlet, supposing it was his uncle, thought he had a safe opportunity of sating his vengeance, without endangering his person, and availed himself of it with avidity.

On this trait of Hamlet's character it is needless to add another word. The man who denies that Hamlet was a base coward, devoid of even a spark of courage, would be deaf to any further


ment that might be adduced upon the subject, even though one were to rise from the dead."

There is in the character of Hamlet a distrust and want of confidence utterly incompatible with honour or dignity. He appears to have but one solitary friend, Horatio, on whom he passes this high encomium, that he was

“ E'en as just a man
As e'er his conversation cop'd withal.”
And further,

Since my dear soul was mistress of her choice,
And could of men distinguish, her election
Hath seal'd thee for herself: for thou hast been
As one, in suffering all, that suffers nothing:
A man, that fortune's buffets and rewards
Hast ta’en with equal thanks: and blest are those,
Whose blood and judgment are so well co-mingled,
That they are not a pipe for fortune's finger
To sound what stop she please. Give me that man
That is not passion's slave, and I will wear him
In my heart's core, ay, in my heart of heart,

As I do thee. To this tried, this trusty, this faithful friend, how does Hamlet deport himself? Does he unbosom himself, and disclose the secret workings of his soul? No. After the ghost has disappeared, when Horatio eagerly inquires what has been the result of the interview, Hamlet trifles with him in the most puerile manner.

Mar. How is't, my noble lord?
Hor What news, my lord?
Ham. O wonderful!
Hor. Good my lord, tell it?
Ham. No; you will reveal it.
Hor. Not I, my lord, by heaven.
Mar. Nor I, my

Ham. How say you then; would heart of man once think of it?
But you'll be secret-
Beth. Ay, by heaven, my lord.
Ham. There's ne'er a villain, dwelling in all Denmark,
But he's an arrant knave.
Hor. There needs no ghost, my lord, come from the grave,
To tell us this.
Ham. Why, right; you are in the right;

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