Page images


cowardly miscreant that ever dis. The glass of fashion, and the mould of | graced the human form.

form: Turning from Hamlet, as the per- The observed of all observers ! petrator of acts of aggression, brutality, and cowardice, for which he which is his natural character ; and would be justly execrated, if in pos

when the remembrances are tendered session of his reason at the time he to him, he puts his antic disposition committed them, and contemplating his display, as to show distinctly

on, but so "out-Herods Herod" in away,” acting under the influence of that it is a mere assumption, and not, a masterless infirmity, we see in him,

at the moment, a paroxysm of actual all the noble qualities with which insanity: The King most justly de

scribes itOphelia decks him: Look here, upon this picture, and on this.

What he spake, though it lack'd

form a little, Hamlet, gay and volatile before his Was not like madness. father's death, becomes doubly estimable in the eyes of his observers by. He first addresses Ophelia with an the depression he suffers from the easy and familiar air, until the menloss of such a parent-his occasional tion of past remembrances seems to aberrations from reason, springing raise in his mind suspicions that his from his melancholy, strongly excite known regard for her is about to be our sympathies—his flattering him- made the touchstone to try the na-' self that he can feign a malady which ture of his mystery—that Ophelia is has already made a sad impression but another, though innocent, instruon his mind, is a natural shoot from ment in the hands of her father to the malady itself. In the aggressions accomplish the purpose for which he commits and the imbecility he Rosencrantz and Guildenstern had displays in prosecuting his design been sent to him in vain, and he inagainst the King, we see, with grief, stantly assumes his fantastic characthat he is hurried forward and sway- ter, the more strongly to impress her ed by resistless paroxysms of mental mind, and through her report, the disorder—his declaration to Laertes, King himself, with a notion of his when the paroxysm is over, displays madness. There is no unkindness, all the nobleness of a mind conscious no coarseness of manner unworthy of of its own infirmity, and anxious to a prince or a gentleman, towards atone for the injuries it may have in- Ophelia-he merely acts insanity beflicted in its wanderings; and when fore her, but with so much method, he finally falls a victim to the frank- that he wraps in deeper mystery the ness of his nature and an ingenuous secret endeavoured, through her display of his feelings in a lucid in- means, to be extracted from him. terval, we exclaim with Ophelia

Having collected the evidence of O what a noble mind is here o'erthrown! Hamlet's madness, afforded by bis The courtier's, soldier's, scholar's eye, discourse and conduct in the play, it tongue, sword,

remains to be shown by medical tesTh' expectancy and rose of the fair state, timony that he ought to be proThe glass of fashion, and the mould of nounced insane. Dr. Mason Good,

form ; Th’ observed of all observers, quite, quite Medicine,” treating of Ecphronia Me

in his clever work, “ The Study of down.

lancbolia, says, i Hamlet's celebrated scene with Ophelia, which, from the manner in

Whatever be the existing cause of men.

tal alienation, the symptoms are in every which it has generally been acted, instance greatly modified by the prevailing has provoked censure on his conduct idiosyncrasy, and hence though a love of for barbarity towards the object of solitude, gloom, fear, suspicion, and taci, his affection—the poet, with nice turnity are the ordinary signs of this species discrimination, has distinctly marked of disease, these signs often yield to sympthe three estates of Hamlet - In the toms widely different, and sometimes even celebrated soliloquy, he displays a of an opposite character. morbid sensibility, which is his disease. On the sight of Ophelia, he The disease shows itself, sometimes sudappears

their regret.

denly, but more géneraily by slow and im not “ the fruitful river in the eye, perceptible degrees. There is a desire of nor the dejected 'havior of the vis doing well, but the will is wayward and sage,” that can denote Hamlet truly: unsteady, and produces an inability of These are but shows of grief," firmly pursuing any laudable exertion or

" actions that a man might play." even purpose, on account of some painful He has “ that within which passeth internal sensation, or the perverseness of the judgment, led astray by false or erroneous

show.ideas, which command a firin conviction on

M. de Sauvage speaks of a dread the mind. (Study of Medicine, vol. iii. of eternal reprobation as one of the p. 81.)

exciting causes of Melancholia Atto

nita; Dr. Johnson, in his Commentary on this play, says:

The dread of something after death, Hamlet is through the whole piece rather The undiscover'd country from whose an instrument than an agent. After he

bourn has by the stratagem of the play convicted No traveller returns, puzzles the will. the king, he makes no attempt to punish Thus conscience does make cowards of us all. him, and his death is at last effected by an accident which Hamlet had no part in pro

The unhappy individuals are, at the ducing.

same time, not only sensible of what they Melancholia Attonita, the FiRST VA- say or do, but occasionally sensible of its RIETY (says the Author of the Study of being wrong, will express their sorrow for it Medicine), most commonly commences with immediately afterwards, and say they will this character, and creeps on so gradually,

not do so again, but the waywardness of that it is for some time mistaken for å the wil and its want of control by the mere attack of hypochondrisni, or loreness judgment urges them forward in spite of of spirits, till the mental alienation is at their desire, and they relapse into the same length decided by the wildness of the pa

state almost as soon as they have expressed tient's eyes, &c. The first stage of the disease (adds Dr. Good) is thus admirably ex- The Study of Medicine, vol. iii, p. 86. pressed by HAMLET:

Hamlet's momentary regret for I have of late, but wherefore I know not,

having killed Polonius, the expression Lost all my mirth, &c. &c.

of his sorrow that to Laertes he Grief (and particularly the loss of did forget himself, and his more exfriends) or long exposure to the direct plicit declaration of repentance berays of the sun, we are told by the fore the King, are striking instances same author, have frequently pro- opinions of Dr. Good. Mr. Locke

of the correctness of the medical duced it. The King (speaking to Hamlet.) How the proper distinction between the

has with great ability pointed out is it that the clouds still hang on

two faculties of the desire and the Hamlet. Not so, my Lord, I'm too much will, and the disease under consii' the sun.

deration is pregnant with examples

of the kind. It is not contended that Hamlet The medical explanations or defiby uttering this line meant to convey nition of the first symptoms of Mean intimation of the nature of his lancholia Attonita, and their promalady, but this line (which is the gression to, and ultimate determinafirst he delivers) when called in aid tion in confirmed madness, are illusof other evidences of the poet's inten- trated with singular exactness in the tion, clearly shows that Shakspeare character of Hamlet; and, it is a had carefully considered all the cha- remarkable coincidence that every racters and exciting causes of the predisposing and exciting cause by disease, and intended to display the which the author, consistently with Prince as actually under their intlu- the story of his play, could denote

an intention of making his hero subThe King had asked Hamlet why ject to paroxyms of insanity, has the clouds were still hanging on him, been clearly developed in the course —and the Prince replies : So far from of the five aets. Indeed, the stages my being clouded, or in a humid at- of the disease are distinctly marked mosphere, I am too much in the sun in regular progression, from the first -I'm actually brain-scorched. It is scene of Hamlet's appearance, when

you ?



he expresses a disrelish of life, until crushed and broken by calamity, are the violent explosion of his madness much more affecting than a long unat the grave of Ophelia. It may not interrupted train of monotonous be unimportant to point attention to Shakspeare well knew how the fact, that feigning madness is to exhibit these successions. He a theory with many persons who are was fully aware that reason cansubject to mental aberrations. not blend or amalgamate with insa

Whether Hamlet ought or not to be nity ; but he had observed, from Nafound lunatic or insane, can never be ture, that they may constitute alterlegally determined, but Mr. Steevens nate strata; and that, at different is certainly right in saying that, seasons, the same intellect may shine “ Those gleams of sunshine, which forth in reason, blaze in madness, serve only to show us the scattered and sink in melancholic depression. fragments of a brilliant imagination,


[ocr errors]



« Take ye the world! I give it ye for ever;

(Said Jove, mankind addressing,) for I mean ye
To hold it as your heritage: so sever

The earth like brothers, as ye please, between ye!”
All who had hands took what they could: the needy,

Both young and old, most busily employ'd them;
The ploughman had the fields; the lord, more greedy,

Seized on the woods for chase, and he enjoy'd them.
To fill his stores the tradesman took all sly ways;

The abbot had the vineyards in partition ;
The king kept all the bridges and the high-ways,

And claim'd a tenth of all things in addition.
Long after the division was completed,

In came the absent Poet, from a distance;
Alas! 'twas over, not to be repeated ;

All giv'n away as if he'd no existence.
Ah woe is me! 'mid bounty so unbounded,

Shall I, thy truest son, be thus neglected ?
He cried aloud, and his complaint resounded

While he drew near Jove's throne, quite unexpected,
“ If in the land of visions you resided

(Said Jove) and anger feel, to me do’nt show it : Where were you when the world was first divided ?

I was near thee," replied the lack-land Poet.
“ With glory of thy face mine eyes were aching,

And music filla mine ears while gifts were squander'd;
The earthly for the heavenly thus forsaking,

Forgive my spirit that awhile it wandered.”.
“ What's to be done ? (cried Jove,) The world is given,

Fields, chases, towns, circumference, and centre:-
If you're content to dwell with me in heaven,

It shall be open when you please to enter.” J.P.C.

[ocr errors]




[“ My purpose,' says Kant, “is not to pourtray the characters of different nations in detail sketch only a few features, which may express the feeling, in those characters, for the Sublime and the Beautiful. In such a portraiture it is evident that only a tolerable accuracy can be demanded; that the prototypes of the features selected are prominent only in the great crowd of those that make pretensions to refined feelings; and that no nation is entirely wanting in minds which unite the best qualities of both feelings. Any blame, therefore, which may touch the character of a nation in the course of these strictures, ought not to offend any one,—the blame being of such a nature that every man may toss off the ball to his neighbour. Whether these national distinctions are contingently dependent on the colour of the times and the quality of the government, or are bound to the climate by a certain necessity, I do not here inquire.")

Among the nations of our quarter nected with the glittering sublime: of the globe, the Italians and the for this is a mixed feeling composed French are in my opinion those who of the sense for the Beautiful and the are most distinguished for the sense Sublime, in which each considered of the Beautiful--the Germans, the separately is colder—and the mind English, and the Spaniards, for the more at leisure to attend to examples, sense of the Sublime. Holland may and stands more in need of examples be set down as a country in which to excite and support it. The Gerneither feeling is very observable.- man, therefore, has less_feeling for The Beautiful is either fascinating the Beautiful than the Frenchinan, and affecting, or gay and enlivening. and less for the Sublime than the EngThe first contains something of the lishman: but in those cases, where it Sublime ; and the mind, whilst under is necessary that both should appear the influence of this class of beauty, united, the result will be more conis meditative and enraptured ; but genial to his mind; and he will also under the influence of the other, more readily avoid those errors into laughing and joyous. The first kind which an extravagant degree of either of beauty seems to be most congenial feeling exclusively is apt to fall. to the Italian taste; the second to The taste which I have attributed to the French. The Sublime, where it different nations is confirmed by the is expressed by the national charac- choice which they severally make ter, takes either a more terrific cha- amongst the arts and sciences. The racter, which verges a little to the Italian genius has distinguished itself Adventurous and Romantic ; or se- especialsy in Music, Painting, Sculpcondly, it is a feeling for the Noble; ture, and Architecture. All these or thirdly for the Magnificent. Upon fine arts meet with an equally* recertain grounds I feel warranted in fined culture in France, although ascribing the first style of feeling to their beauty is here less touching. the Spaniard, the second to the Eng- Taste, in reference to the poetic or lishman, and the third to the German.' rhetoric ideal, tends in France more The feeling for the Magnificent is not to the Beautiful, in England more to natively so original as the rest : and, the Sublime. Elegant playfulness, although a spirit of imitation may comedy, laughing satire, amorous easily be connected with any other tritling, and the light, cursory, and feeling, yet it is more peculiarly con- fugitive style of writing are in France

* To the judicious reader it needs not be said how strikingly in opposition to facts is Kant's judgment on the French taste in the Fine Arts. What the French poetry is most men know: the French music is the jest of Europe : and, if we except the single name of Poussin, there is no other in any of the Fine Arts which can impress any ear with much reverence.

native and original. In England, on devilish forms, is delivered up to the the contrary, the natural product of flames which a hideous bigotry has the national mind are thoughts of lit. It cannot be so properly said that profound meaning, tragedy, epic the Spaniard is prouder or more poetry, and generally the massy gold amorous than those of other nations, of wit, which under the French ham- as that he displays both passions in a mer is beat out to thin leaves of more barbaresque manner. To leave greater surface. In Germany the fine the plow standing still, and to strut thinking of the nation even yet about in a long sword and cloak, until gleams through a covering of false the traveller is past; or in a bulltinsel. Formerly this reproach ex- fight, where the beauties of the land isted to a shocking degree: but lat, are for once seen unveiled, to proterly, by better models, and the good claim the lady of his affections by a sense of the people, the national style special salute—and then to seek to has been raised to a character of do honour to this lady by precipitating higher grace and nobility; but the himself into a dangerous contest with grace has less naïveté than it has

a savage animal, are strange acts, amongst the French, and the nobility and far remote from nature. The not so firm and confident a move. Italian seems to have a mixed temment as it has amongst the English. perament, composed partly of the The tendency of the Dutch taste to French and partly of the Spanish: he a painful elaborateness of arrange has more sensibility to the Beautiful ment and to a prettiness, which is than the Spaniard, and to the Subapt to settle into heaviness and dis- lime than the Frenchman: and by traction, does not allow us to pre- this clue, I am of opinion that the sume much sensibility for the artless other features of his moral character and freer movements of the genius, may be explained.The French the products of which are only disfi- man, in regard to all moral feelings, gured by too anxious a fear of faults. has a domineering sense of the BeauTo all the arts and sciences nothing tiful. He has a fine address, is courcan be more hostile than the romantic teous, and obliging. He readily asor barbaresque taste ; for this distorts sumes a confidential tone; is playful nature itself, which is the universal and unconstrained in conversation ; prototype of the noble and the beau- and he only, who has the polite feel-, tiful: and hence it is that the Spanish ings of a Frenchman, can enter into nation has shown little feeling for the the full meaning of the expression fine arts or the sciences.

a man or a lady of good tone. Even The national mind is in any case the sublimer feelings of a Frenchman, best expounded by the direction of its and he has many such, are subordia moral feelings: I shall therefore next nated to his sense of the Beautiful, consider the feelings of different na- and derive their strength from their tions in relation to the Sublime and fusion with these. He is passionately Beautiful from this point of view. fond of wit, and will make no scruple The Spaniard is serious, reserved, of sacrificing a little truth to a happy and punctiliously faithful to his word. conceit. On the other hand, where There are few more upright mer- there is no opportunity for wit, a chants in the world than the Spanish. Frenchman displays a spirit of as raThe Spaniard has a proud soul, and dical and profound investigation as more sympathy with grandeur in ac- men of any nation whatever : for in-, tions than with those qualities of ac- stance in mathematics, and in the tion which come more under the title other profound and austere sciences. of the beautiful. Not much of be In the metaphysics, however, the nignity or gentleness is to be found in ethics, and the theology of this nahis composition ; and hence he is tion, it is impossible to be too much often harsh and even cruel. The upon one's guard. A delusive glitter Auto da Fe keeps its ground in Spain commonly prevails in such works, not so much through superstition as which cannot stand the test of sober through the national passion for a examination. A Frenchman loves barbaresque grandeur, which is af- the audacious in all his opinions : but fected by the solemnities of a dread- he, who would arrive at the truth, ful procession, in the course of which had need to be not audacious, but the San Benito, painted over with cautious. French history tends na

« PreviousContinue »