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HAMLET, PRINCE OF DENMARK.
LITERARY AND HISTORICAL NOTICE.
THIS tragedy is supposed to have been written in 1596. The principal incidents were probably drawn from a dramatic piece by one Thomas Ryd, and from a Historie of Hamblet, in black letter, adopted by Belleforest in his collection of novels (published 1564) from the narrative of Saxo-Grammaticus, the old Danish historian. The play has long been accounted a first-rate dramatic production, for, with some egregious blunders, it con tains a variety of unparalleled beauties. As originally written, it consumed four hours in the representation; persons, in Shakspeare's time, visiting the theatre so early as four o'clock, and regarding the quality less than the quantity obtained for their money; this will excuse some of those trifling interlocutions which yet remain. Perhaps none of our poet's undertakings have been subjected to so much erudite and ingenious criticism as this; and none, certainly, after its most severe exercise, have been left with so much to approve. For although it has been observed, with some appearance of justice, that in the management of the piece, Shakspeare has been rather unfortunate, all its most striking circumstances arising so early in the formation, as "not to leave him room for a conclusion suitable to the importance of its beginning;" yet this defect is amply recompensed by the sublimity of conception, the didactic morality of sentiment, the pathetic intenseness of feeling, the power and comprehensiveness of diction, and the delightful diversity of character, which are displayed in almost every scene. Indeed, were each drama of Shakspeare to be characterized by the particular quality which distinguishes it from the rest, the praise of variety must especially be given to the tragedy of Hamlet; as it is interchangeably contrasted "with merriment that includes judicious and instructive observations; and with solemnity not strained by peetical violence above the natural sentiments of man." To those, however, who are mentally capable of appreciating its excellences as a play, the charm of perusing it in the closet will probably be greater than the delight of witnessing its exhibition; since it is rich in the treasures of contemplative and philosophical speculation; divested of the glare and bustle which captivate or bewilder the senses; whilst the principal character, though furnished with abundant materials, is almost the only support of the piece, and seldom meets with a representative in whom the beauties of the original are effectively embodied. Of the plot it may be observed, that it teems with slaughter, and is justly obnoxious to eriticism in many of its parts; but the catastrophe is certainly its most disgusting feature, and can only be tolerated by the known partiality of an English audience for a multiplicity of deaths and bloodshed. “The manner of Hamlet's death (says Dr. Johnson) is not very happily produced; for the exchange of weapons is rather an expedient of necessity, than a stroke of art."
CLAUDIUS, King of Denmark.
FRANCISCO, a Soldier.
A CAPTAIN.-AR AMBASSADOR.
HAMLET, Son to the former, and Nephew to REYNALDO, Servant to Polonius.
the present King.
POLONIUS, Lord Chamberlain.
HORATIO, Friend to Hamlet.
LAERTES, Son to Polonius.
OSRIC, a Courtier.
FORTINBRAS, Prince of Norway.
GERTRUDE, Queen of Denmark, and Mother of Hamlet.
OPHELIA, Daughter of Polonius.
Lords, Ladies, Officers, Soldiers, Players, Grave-diggers, Sailors, Messengers, and other Attendants.
Ber. 'Tis now struck twelve; get thee to bed,
Fran. For this relief, much thanks: 'tis bit-
And I am sick at heart.
Ber. Have you had quiet guard ?
Ber. Well, good night.
If you do meet Horatio and Marcellus,
The rivals of my watch, bid them make haste.
Enter HORATIO and MARCELLUS.
Fran. I think, I hear them.-Stand, ho! Who is there?
Hor. Friends to this ground.
Mar. And liegemen to the Dane.
Who hath reliev'd you?
Fran. Bernardo hath my place.
Give you good night.
Mar. Holla! Bernardo!
What, is Horatio there?
Hor. A piece of him.
Ber. Welcome, Horatio; welcome, good Marcellus.
Hor. What, has this thing appear'd again to-night?
Ber. I have seen nothing.
Mar. Horatio says, 'tis but our fantasy;
And let us once again assail your ears,
Hor. Well, sit we down,
And let us hear Bernardo speak of this.
When yon same star, that's westward from the
Had made his course to illume that part of heaven
Mar. Peace, break thee off-look, where
Why this same strict and most observant watch
Does not divide the Sunday from the week:
Who is't, that can inform me?
Hor. That can I;
At least, the whisper goes so. Our last king,
Had he been vanquisher; as, by the same co-
And carriage of the article design'd, †
Ber. In, the same figure like the king that's
Mar. Thou art a scholar, speak to it, Horatio.
Of this post-haste and romage ¶ in the land.
That was, and is, the question of these wars.
As, stars with trains of fire and dews of blood,
But, soft; behold! lo, where it comes again!
If thou hast any sound, or use of voice,
If there be any good thing to be done,
If thou art privy to thy country's fate,
Or, if thou hast uphoarded in thy life
Speak of it-stay, and speak.-Stop it, Mar-
Mar. Shall I strike at it with my partizan ?
Mar. 'Tis gone!
Now for ourself, and for this time of meeting.
We do it wrong, being so najestical,
Hor. And then it started like a guilty thing
Mar. It faded on the crowing of the cock.
No fairy takes, nor witch hath power to charm ;
But look, the morn, in russet mantle clad,
Where we shall find him most convenient.
[Exeunt. SCENE II.-The same.-A Room of State in
Enter the KING, QUEEN, HAMLET, POLONIUS, LAERTES, VOLTIMAND, CORNELIUS, LORDS, and Attendants.
King. Though yet of Hamlet our dear brother's death
The memory be green; and that it us befitted
To be contracted in one brow of woe;
In equal scale weighing delight and dole,
Holding a weak supposal of our worth;
[Exeunt VOLTIMAND and CORNELIUS.
That shall not be my offer, not thy asking?
Laer. My dread lord,
Your leave and favour to return to France;
To show my duty in your coronation;
And bow them to your gracious leave and pardon.
Pol. He hath, my lord, [wrung from me my
By laboursome petition; and, at last,
King. Take thy fair hour, Laertes; time be
And thy best graces; spend it at thy will.-
King. How is it, that the clouds still hang on you?
Ham. Not so, my lord, I am too much 'the
+ Proof. Bonds.
• Way-path child.
+ Kin is the Teutonick word for 1 Dejected eyes.