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treats Ophelia with fo much rudenefs, which feems to be ufelefs and wanton cruelty.

Hamlet is, through the whole piece, rather an inftrument than an agent. After he has, by the ftratagem of the play, convicted the king, he makes no attempt to punish him; and his death is at laft effected by an incident which Hamlet had no part in producing.

The catastrophe is not very happily produced; the exchange of weapons is rather an expedient of neceffity, than a stroke of A fcheme might eafily be formed to kill Hamlet with the dagger, and Laertes with the bowl.


The poet is accused of having fhewn little regard to poetical juftice, and may be charged with equal neglect of poetical probability. The apparition left the regions of the dead to little purpofe; the revenge which he demands is not obtained, but by the death of him thar was required to take it; and the gratification, which would arife from the deftruction of an ufurper and a murderer, is abated by the untimely death of Ophelia, the young, the beautiful, the harmlefs, and the pious. JOHNSON.

ACT II. Scene 2.

The rugged Pyrrhus, he, &c.] The two greatest poets of this and the last age, Mr. Dryden, in the preface to Troilus and Creffida, and Mr. Pope, in his note on this place, have concurred in thinking that Shakspeare produced this long paffage with defign to ridicule and expofe the bombaft of the play from whence it was taken; and that Hamlet's commendation of it is purely ironical. This is become the general opinion. I think juft otherwife; and that it was given with commendation to upbraid the falfe tale of the audience of that time, which would not fuffer them to do juffice to the fimplicity and fublime of this production. And I reafon, first, from the character Hamlet gives of the play, from whence the paffage is taken. Secondly, from the paffage itself. And thirdly, from the effect it had on the audience.

Let us confider the character Hamlet gives of it, The play I remember, pleafed not the million, 'twas Caviare to the general; but it was (as I received it, and others, whofe judgment in such matters cried in the top of mine) an excellent play, well digefted in the fcenes, fet down with as much modefly as cunning. I remember, one faid, there was no falt in the lines to make the matter favoury; nor no matter in the phrase that might indite the author of affection; but called it an honeft method. They who fuppofe the paffage given to be ridiculed, muft needs fuppofe this character to be purely ironical. But if fo, it is the ftrangest irony that ever was written. It pleafed not the multitude. This we maft conclude to be true,


however ironical the reft be. Now the reafon given of the defigned ridicale is the fuppofed bombaft. But thofe were the very plays, which at that time we know took with the multitude. And Fletcher wrote a kind of Rehearsal purpofely to expose them. But fay it is bombaft, and that therefore it took not with the multitude. Hamlet prefently tells us what it was that displeased them. There was no falt in the lines to make the matter favoury; nor no matter in the phrafe that might indite the author of affection; but called it an honest method. Now whether a person speaks ironically or no, when he quotes others, yet common fenfe requires he fhould quote what they fay. Now it could not be, if this play difpleafed because of the bombaft, that, those whom it difpleafed fhould give this reafon for their diflike. The fame inconfiftencies and abfurdities abound in every other part of Hamlet's fpeech, fuppofing it to be ironical: but take him as speaking his fentiments, the whole is of a piece; and to this purpose. The play, I remember, pleafed not the multitude, and the reafon was, its being wrote on the rules of the ancient drama; to which they were entire ftrangers. But, in my opinion, and in the opinion of thofe for whofe judgment I have the highest efteem, it was an excellent play, well digefted in the feenes, i. e. where the three unities were well preferved. Set down with as much modely as cunning, i. e. where not only the art of compo fition, but the fimplicity of nature, was carefully attended to. The characters were a faithful picture of life and manners, in which nothing was overcharged into farce. But these qualities, which gained my efteem, loft the public's. For I remember, one faid, There was no falt in the lines to make the matter favoury, i. e. there was not, according to the mode of that time, a fool or clown to joke, quibble, and talk freely. Nor no matter in the phrafe that might indite the author of affection, i. e. nor none of thofe paffionate, pathetic love fcenes, fo effential to modern tragedy. But be called it an honeft method i. e. he owned, however taffelefs this method of writing, on the ancient plan, was to our times, yet it was chafte and pure; the distinguishing character of the Greek drama. I need only make one obfervation on all this; that, thus interpreted, it is the jufteft picture of a good tragedy wrote on the ancient rules. And that I have rightly interpreted it, appears farther from what we find in the old quarto, An honeft method, as wholesome as sweet, and by very much more handsome than fine, i. e. it had a natural beauty, but none of the fucus of falfe art.

2 A fecond proof that this fpeech was given to be admired, is from the intrinfic merit of the fpeech itself; which contains the defeription of a circumftance very happily imagined, namely, Ilium and Priam's falling together, with the effect it had on the destroyer.


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So after Pyrrhus' pause.

Now this circumstance, illuftrated with the fine fimilitude of the ftorm, is fo highly worked up, as to have well deferved a place in Virgil's fecond book of the Encid, even though the work had been carried on to that perfection which the Roman poet had conceived.

3. The third proof is, from the effects which followed on the recital. Hamlet, his beft character, approves it; the player is deeply affected in repeating it; and only the foolish Polonius tired with it. We have faid enough before of Hamlet's fentiments. As for the player he changes colour, and the tears start from his eyes. But our author was too good a judge of nature to make bombaft and unnatural fentiment produce fuch an effect. Nature and Horace both infructed him,

Si vis me flere, delendum eft

Primum ipfi tibi, tunc tua me infortunia lædent,
Telephe, vel Peleu.


Aus dormitabo aut ridebo.

And it may be worth obferving, that Horace gives this precept particularly to fhew, that bombaft and unnatural fentiments are incapable of moving the tender paffions, which he is directing the poet how to raile. For, in the lines juft before, he gives this rule,

Telephus & Peleus, Projicit Ampullas, Not that I would deny,

cum pauper exul uterque,
fefqu pedalia verba.

that very bad lines in bad tragedies have had this effect. But then it always proceeds from one or other of thefe caufes.

1. Either when the fubject is domestic, and the scene lies at home; the fpectators, in this cafe, become interested in the fortunes of the diftreffed; and their thoughts are so much taken up with the subject, that they are not at liberty to attend to the poet; who, otherwife, by his faulty fentiments and diction, would have ftifled the emotions fpringing up from a fenfe of the diftrefs. But this is nothing to the cafe in hand. For, as Hamlet fays,

"What's Hecuba to him, or he to Hecuba?"

2. When bad lines raife this affection, they are bad in the o ther extreme; low, abject, and groveling, inftead of being highly figurative and fwelling; yet, when attended with a natural fimplicity, they have force enough to ftrike illiterate and fimple minds. The tragedies of Banks will justify both thefe observations.

But if any one will still fay, that Shakspeare intended to reprefent a player unnaturally and fantastically affected, we must.


appeal to Hamlet, that is, to Shakspeare himself in this matter; who, on the reflection he makes upon the player's emotion, in order to excite his own revenge, gives not the leaft hint that the player was unnaturally or injudiciously moved. On the contrary, his fine defcription of the actor's emotion fhews, he thought juft otherwife:


this player here,

"But in a fiction, in a dream of passion,
"Could force his foul fo to his own conceit,
"That from her working all his vifage wan'd:
"Tears in his eyes, deftraction in his afpect,

"A broken voice, &c."

And indeed had Hamlet esteemed this emotion any thing unnatural, it had been a very improper circumftance to fpur him to his purpose.

As Shakspeare has here fhewn the effects which a fine defcription of nature, heightened with all the ornaments of art, had upon an intelligent player, whose business habituates him to enter intimately and deeply into the characters of men and manners, and to give nature its free workings on all occafions; fo he has artfully fhewn what effects the very fame fcene would have upon a quite different man, Polonius; by nature, very weak and very artificial (two qualities, though commonly enough joined in life, yet generally fo much difguifed as not to be feen by common eyes to be together; and which an ordinary poet durst not have brought fo near one another;) by difcipline, practifed in a fpecies of wit and eloquence, which was fliff, forced, and pedantic; and by trade a politician, and therefore, of confequence, without any of the affecting notices of humanity. Such is the man whom Shakspeare has judicioufly chofen to reprefent the falfe taste of that audience which had condemned the play here reciting. When the actor comes to the finest and most pathetic part of the fpeech, Polonius cries out, "This is too long;" on which Hamlet, in contempt of his ill judgment, replies, fhall to the barber's with thy beard" (intimating that, by this judgment, it appeared that all his wifdom lay in his length of beard,) Fry'thee, Jay on. He's for a jig or a tale of bawdry (the common entertainment of that time, as well as this, of the people) or be fleeps, fay on. And yet this man of modern tafte, who ftood all this time perfectly unmoved with the forcible imagery of the relator, no fooner hears, amongst many good things, one quaint and fantaflical word, put in, I fuppofe, purposely for this end, than he profeffes his approbation of the propriety and dignity of it. That's good. Mobled queen is good. On the whole then, I think, it plainly appears, that the long quotation is not given to be ridiculed and laughed at, but to be admired. The character given of the play, by Hamlet, cannot be ironical. The paffage itfelf is extremely beautiful. It has the effect that all pa

thetic relations, naturally written, fhould have; and it is condemned, or regarded with indifference, by one of a wrong, unnatural tafte. From hence (to obferve it by the way) the actors, in their reprefentation of this play, may learn how this fpeech ought to be fpoken, and what appearance Hamlet ought to affume during the recital.

That which fupports the common opinion, concerning this paffage, is the turgid expreffion in fome parts of it; which, they think, could never be given by the poet to be commended. We fhall therefore, in the next place, examine the lines moft obnoxious to cenfure, and fee how much, allowing the charge, this will make for the induction of their conclufion.

"Pyrrhus at Priam drives, in rage firikes wide,
"But with the biff and wind of his fell fword
"The unnerved father-falls."

And again,

"Out, out, thou frumpet fortune! All you gods,
"In general fynod, take away her power:

"Break all the yokes and fellies from her wheel,
"And bowl the round nave down the hill of heaven,
“As low as to the fiends."

Now whether thefe be bombaft or not, is not the question: but whether Shakspeare esteemed them fo. That he did not so esteem them appears from his having ufed the very fame thoughts in the fame expreflions, in his beft plays, and given them to his principal characters, where he aims at the fublime. As in the following paffages.

Troilus, in Troilus and Creffila, far outftrains the execution of Pyrrhus's fword in the character he gives of Hector's:

"When many times the caitive Grecians fall
Even in the fan and wind of your fair fword,
“You bid them rife and live.”

Cleopatra, in dntony and Cleopatra, rails at fortune in the fame



No, let me fpeak, and let me rail fo high,

"That the falle hufwife Fortune break her wheel,

"Provod at my offence."

But another ufe may be made of thefe quotations; a difcovery of this recited play which, letting us into a circumstance of our author's life (as a writer) hitherto unknown, was the reafon I have been fo large upon this question. I think then it appears, from what has been faid, that the play in difpute was Shakspeare's own; and that this was the occafion of writing it. He was defirous, as foon as he had found his firength, of refloring the chafte nefs and regularity of the ancient ftage: and therefore compofed this tragedy on the model of the Greek drama, as may be feen by throwing fo much action into relation. But his attempt proved VOL. X., fruitless;

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