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too much reliance on his own devices and strength, now he will rely more upon the aid of Divine Providence.
As soon as the royal attendants, hurrying after Hamlet, had left the King alone, he unbosoms himself of his secret design to murder Hamlet. Unlike Macbeth, who by nature open, direct, and honest, rushes only from impulse into blundering crime, Claudius, by nature malicious, indirect, and feline, reveals himself an undoubted sleek, cunning, calculating, coldblooded, and smiling villain. Panic-stricken by fear, his mind is tortured with anxious doubts whether the tributary king of England will heed his murderous request. The sentence of death contained in the sealed document is, he thinks, clear enough, and direct, and just. The culprit, under pretence of madness, had murdered an innocent old man, the Chancellor of State, and even now breathes forth murder against himself as well as others. Unable, by reason of the murderer's rank and influence, to proceed legally against him at home, he, therefore, on the authority of Denmark's admitted suzerainty, commands England's vassal king to execute the criminal secretly without further shift. To allay his misgivings, Claudius in soliloquy invokes several reasons why the vassal king should not disregard his urgent command. While lives the Prince, his frame shall be racked with feverish fears :
“For like the hectic in my blood he rages,
Howe'er my haps, my joys were ne'er begun.'' The scene shows a notable change in Claudius. His recent attempt at repentance had been prompted more by fear than by compunction of heart; hence, when it brought him face to face with the absolute conditions of forgiveness, he turned his back on heaven, and henceforth, abandoned by divine grace, he proceeds from bad to worse. As Macbeth reached the crisis in the murder of Banquo, so does Claudius in the attempted murder of Hamlet. Both, having determined to retain the crown at any cost, plot other murders without remorse of conscience; and these hurry them on blindly to their doom.
IN MENTAL CONFLICT
The Fourth Scene not found in the Folio, and some claim that, apart from its comparative feebleness, it is false and unnatural. But says Professor Werder:
“Surely not as a prisoner on the brink of exile, surrounded by royal guards, is there a motive for self-reproach. One thing is clear, unless Hamlet planned the subsequent piratical capture, the soliloquy is not only superfluous and contradictory, but even absurd."
The scene, exclusive of the soliloquy, serves, however, a good purpose. If, according to a law of the drama, no new character may be dragged in at the close of a play, it is necessary that Fortinbras in some manner enter into the action of the tragedy. Hence, the young prince, to whom reference has been made in the First Act and again in the Second, is now personally introduced to us, as he leads his Norwegian troops in spectacular march through Elsinore on his way to the confines of Poland. The scene thus prepares us for the important role which, on his return from the war, he is destined to play at the close of the tragedy.
The reply of the captain that Fortinbras with an army of twenty thousand men, is marching against Poland to gain "a little patch of ground that in it has no profit but the name, and for which he would not give five ducats,'' surprises Hamlet greatly, and he philosophizes upon the fact that so many men, tricked by fantasy and fame, fight unto death “for a plot of ground which is not tomb enough to contain the slain;' and that Fortinbras, “puffed up with divine ambition,” exposes himself to death “even for an egg-shell."
Rightly to be great, he concludes, is not to fight for trifles. Fame is but a phantom; “the paths of glory lead but to the grave." His thoughts are those of Joan of Arc:
“Glory is like a circle in the water,
(Henry VI. 1. 1. i.) The project of the Norwegian prince prompts Hamlet to reflect upon his own position. His enforced inactivity compared with Fortinbras' freedom, rouses him again, as in former soliloquies, to violent agitation. In indignation and desire of “revenge,” he is rent by conflicting sentiments. If, as on previous occasions, impassioned emotions breathe instant revenge, and strong contending principles draw him in opposite directions, higher feelings of justice and necessity retard and smother their violence.
This mental conflict is chiefly apparent at moments of great depression like the present, when some circumstance causing the fluctuating fires of passion to flame wildly up in him, he berates himself unduly as a coward of craven scruples, lagging in revenge;" but his deep moral feelings, keen sensibilities, and quick and powerful intellect enable him to put down the passionate rebellion of his lower animal nature. The man in an irrational impulse goads the superman to an instant stroke of revenge, and blindly urges him to throw consequences to the wind, to act as Laertes talks : “To Hell, allegiance! vows, to the blackest devil! conscience and grace to the profoundest pit!”
Hamlet, however, is not a feather-brained and unprin. cipled Laertes, and, precisely because he is not, a fierce, tugging, agonizing conflict rages between his higher and lower nature; and his feelings, terribly insurgent, clamor for the upper hand. To appease his dreadful heart-agony, the man
indulges in overwrought strains of self-reproach in the hope of speedy satisfaction, and, seemingly taking part with his riotous passion, goes to pleading its cause most vehemently! against his higher self; but judgment, nevertheless, keeps the upper hand, and though he cannot silence his insurgent feelings, he can, and does overrule them by the power of his iron will. He differs again from Laertes; the latter, a youth of choleric temperament, is never troubled with scruples and a melancholy which induces apathy or indifference to action. Though Hamlet often does overcome his apathy by native energy of will, he is, nevertheless, confronted on each occasion, as in the present soliloquy, by an actual and greater impediment, which consists in the conscientious obligation of obtaining visible and material proofs of the King's guilt, before he strike the blow of revenge."
In Hamlet, therefore, we here behold another of the many struggles of the man against the superman, which have been already pictured. It is a struggle of the natural against the supernatural man, of the lower animal nature against the higher in a clamorous demand for instant revenge. The natural man, knowing no law but that of blood, spurs him on to immediate action, and charges his reluctance and hesitation to cowardice and irresolution; for the lower or irrational nature, which is actuated solely by blind instincts and passions, can recognize in the superman's moral dictates of wise and prudent judgments, nothing but "craven scruples of thinking too precisely on the event.” Hence, the Prince's torturing, mental conflict arises from his attempts to reconcile two conflicting impulses, and between them to preserve his own liberty of will and action in the pursuit of a just and adequate "revenge." In soliloquy “
In soliloquy he finds “examples gross as earth,” which exhort him to action. There is the Norwegian prince whose martial spirit in a less noble cause