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Abfent thee from felicity a while,

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And in this harsh world draw thy breath in pain,
To tel my ftory.- [March afar off, and shot within.
What warlike noife is this?

Ofr. Young Fortinbras, with conqueft come from
Poland,

To the embaffadors of England gives

This warlike volley.

Ham. O, I die, Horatio;

The potent poifon quite.o'er-grows my spirit ;
I cannot live to hear the news from England:
But I do prophefy, the election lights

On Fortinbras; he has my dying voice;

So tell him, with the occurrents, more and lefs, Which have folicited,-The reft is filence. [Dies. Hor. Now cracks a noble heart-Good night, fweet prince;

And

4 The potent poifon quite o'er-grows my jpirit;] The first quarto and the first folio read,

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o'er crows my fpirit;

alluding perhaps to a victorious cock exulting over his conquered
antagonist. The fame word occurs in Lingua, &c. 1607;
"Shall I? th' embaffadrefs of gods and men,

"That pull'd proud Phoebe from her brightfome sphere,
"And dark'd Apollo's countenance with a word,
"Be over-craw'd, and breathe without revenge?"

Again, in Hall's Satires, lib v. fat. ii:

"Like the vain bubble of Iberian pride,

"That over-croweth all the world befide."

This phrafe often occurs in the controverfial pieces of Gabriel Harvey, 1593, &c. STEEVENS.

5 the occurrents-] i. e. incidents. The word is now dif ufed. So, in The Hog hath loft his Pearl, 1614:

"Such ftrange occurrents of my fore-paft life."

Again, in the Baron's Wars, by Drayton, Canto 1.

"With each occurrent right in his degree." STEEVENS. • Which have folicited-] Solicited, for brought on the event. WARBURTON.

7 Now cracks a noble heart. Good night, fweet prince; And flights of angels fing thee to thy reft!] Let us review for a moment the behaviour of Hamlet, on the ftrength of which

Horatio

And flights of angels fing thee to thy reft!-
Why does the drum come hither?

Enter

Horatio founds this eulogy, and recommends him to the patronage of angels.

Hamlet, at the command of his father's ghoft, undertakes with feeming alacrity to revenge the murder; and declares he will banish all other thoughts from his mind. He makes, however, but one effort to keep his word, and that is, when he mistakes Polonius for the king. On another occafion, he defers his purpofe till he can find an opportunity of taking his uncle when he is leaft prepared for death, that he may infure damnation to his foul. Though he affaffinated Polonius by accident, yet he deliberately procures the execution of his fchool-fellows, Rofencrantz and Guieldenftern, who appear to have been unacquainted with the treacherous purposes of the mandate which they were employed to carry. Their death (as he declares in a fubfequent converfation with Horatio) gives him no concern, for they obtruded themselves into the fervice, and he thought he had right to deftroy them. He is not lefs accountable for the diftraction and death of Ophelia. He comes to interrupt the fune ral defigned in honour of this lady, at which both the king and queen were prefent; and, by fuch an outrage to decency, renders it fill more neceffary for the ufurper to lay a second stratagem for his life, though the firft had proved abortive. He comes to infult the brother of the dead, and to boast of an affection for his fifter, which, before, he had denied to her face; and yet at this very time must be confidered as defirous of fupporting the character of a madman, fo that the opennefs of his confeffion is not to be imputed to him as a virtue. He apologizes to Horatio afterwards for the abfurdity of this behaviour, to which, he fays, he was provoked by that nobleness of fraternal grief, which, indeed, he ought rather to have applauded than condemned. Dr. Johnfon has obferved, that to bring about a reconciliation with Laertes, he has availed himfelf of a difhoneft fallacy; and to conclude, it is obvious to the most carelefs fpectator or reader, that he kills the king at last to revenge himfelf, and not his fa

ther.

Hamlet cannot be faid to have purfued his ends by very warrantable means; and if the poet, when he facrificed him at last, meant to have enforced fuch a moral, it is not the worst that can be deduced from the play; for, as Maximus, in Beaumont and Fletcher's Valentinian, fays,

"Although his juftice were as white as truth,

"His way was crooked to it; that condemns him." The late Dr. Akentide once obferved to me, that the conduct of Hamlet was every way unnatural and indefenfible, unless he

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Enter Fortinbras, the English Embassadors, and others. Fort. Where is this fight?

Hor What is it, you would fee ?

8

If aught of woe, or wonder, ceafe your fearch. Fort. This quarry cries, on havock!-O proud death!

What feaft is toward in thine infernal cell",
That thou fo many princes, at a shot,
So bloodily haft ftruck?

Amb. The fight is difinal;

And our affairs from England come too late :
The ears are fenfelefs, that fhould give us hearing,
To tell him, his commandment is fulfill'd,
That Rofencrantz and Guildenftern are dead :
Where fhould we have our thanks?

were to be regarded as a young man whofe intellects were in fome degree impaired by his own misfortunes; by the death of his father, the lofs of expected fovereignty, and a fense of shame refulting from the hafty and incestuous marriage of his mother.

I have dwelt the longer on this fubject, because Hamlet feems to have been hitherto regarded as a hero not undeferving the pity of the audience; and becaufe no writer on Shakspeare has taken the pains to point out the immoral tendency of his character.

STEEVENS.

The author of The Remarks controverts the justice of these ftrictures on the character of Hamlet, which he undertakes to defend. The arguments he makes ufe of for this purpose are too long to be here inferted, and therefore, I fhall content myfelf with referring to them. See REMARKS, p. 217, to 224. EDITOR.

8 This quarry cries, on havock! Hanmer reads,

cries out, havock!

To cry on, was to exclaim against. I fuppofe, when unfair sportsmen destroyed more quarry or game than was reasonable, the cenfure was to cry, Havock. JOHNSON.

9 What feast is toward in thine infernal cell,] Shakspeare has already employed this allufion to the Choe, or feafts of the dead, which were anciently celebrated at Athens, and are mentioned by Plutarch in the life of Antonius. Our author likewife makes Talbot fay to his fon in the First Part of King Henry VI:

"Now art thou come unto a feaft of death," STEEVENS.

Hor.

Hor. Not from his mouth',

Had it the ability of life to thank you;
He never gave commandment for their death.
But fince, fo jump upon this bloody queftion,
You from the Polack wars, and you from England
Are here arriv'd; give order, that thefe bodies
High on a ftage be placed to the view;

And let me fpeak, to the yet unknowing world,
How these things came about: So fhall you hear
Of carnal, bloody, and unnatural acts;
Of accidental judgments, cafual flaughters;
Of deaths put on by cunning, and forc'd caufe';
And, in this upfhot, purpofes mistook

Fall'n on the inventors' head: all this can I
Truly deliver.

Fort. Let us hafte to hear it,

And call the nobleft to the audience.

For me, with forrow I embrace my fortune;
I have fome rights of memory in this kingdom,
Which now to claim my vantage doth invite me.

Hor. Of that I fhall have alfo cause to speak, * And from his mouth whofe voice will draw on

more:

But

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bis mouth,] i. c. the king's. STEEVENS.

2 Of cruel, &c.] Thus the more modern editors. The first quarto, and the folio, read-Of carnal, &c. referring, I fuppofe, to the ufurper's criminal intercourfe with the mother of Hamlet. COLLINS.

Carnal is, without doubt, the true reading. The word is ufed by Shakspeare as an adjective to carnage. REMARKS. and forc'd caufe.] Thus the folio. The quartos readand for no caufe. STEEVENS.

3

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4 And from his mouth whose voice will draw no more:] This is the reading of the old quartos, but certainly a mistaken one. We fay, a man will no more draw breath; but that a man's voice will draw no more, is, I believe, an expreffion without any authority. I choose to efpoufe the reading of the elder folio:

And from his mouth whose voice will draw no more. And this is the poct's meaning, Hamlet, juft before his death, had faid:

But

But let this fame be prefently perform'd,

Even while men's minds are wild; left more mifchance

On plots, and errors, happen.

Fort. Let four captains

Bear Hamlet, like a foldier, to the stage;
For he was likely, had he been put on,

To have prov'd moft royally: and, for his paffage,
The foldiers' mufic, and the rites of war,

Speak loudly for him.-

Take up the bodies :-Such a fight as this
Becomes the field, but here fhews much amifs.
Go, bid the foldiers fhoot.

[Exeunt: after which, a peal of ordnance is
Shot off

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Accordingly, Horatio here delivers that meffage; and very juftly infers, that Hamlet's voice will be feconded by others, and procure them in favour of Fortinbras's fucceffion. THEOBALD.

New

If the dramas of Shakspeare were to be characterised, each by the particular excellence which diftinguifhes it from the reft, we must allow to the tragedy of Hamlet the praife of variety. The incidents are fo numerous, that the argument of the play would make a long tale. The fcenes are interchangeably diverfified with merriment and folemnity; with merriment that includes judicious and inftructive obfervations; and folemnity, not strained by poetical violence above the natural fentiments of man. characters appear from time to time in continual fucceffion, exhibiting various forms of life and particular modes of converfation. The pretended madnefs of Hamlet caufes much mirth, the mournful distraction of Ophelia fills the heart with tenderness, and every perfonage produces the effect intended, from the apparition that in the first act chills the blood with horror, to the fop in the laft, that expofes affectation to just contempt.

The conduct is perhaps not wholly fecure against objections. The action is indeed for the moft part in continual progreffion, but there are fome fcenes which neither forward nor retard it. Of the feigned madnets of Hamlet there appears no adequate caufe, for he does nothing which he might not have done with the reputation of fanity. He plays the madman moft, when he

treats,

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