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hesitates, and then seeks out an excuse for its hesitation.

It may, perhaps, be doing Shakespeare no injustice to suppose, that he sometimes began a play, without having fixed in his mind, in any determined manner, the plan or conduct of his piece. The character of some principal person of the drama might strike his imagination strongly in the opening scenes ; as he went on, this character would continue to impress itself on the conduct, as well as the discourse, of that person, and, it is possible, might affect the situations and incidents, especially in those romantic or legendary subjects, where history did not confine him to certain unchangeable events. In the story of Amleth, the son of Horwondil, told by Saxo-Grammaticus, from which the tragedy of Hamlet is taken, the young prince, who is to revenge the death of his father, murdered by his uncle Fengo, counterfeits madness, that he may be allowed to remain about the court in safety, and without suspicion. He never forgets his purposed vengeance, and acts with much more cunning towards its accomplishment than the Hamlet of Shakespeare. But Shakespeare, wishing to elevate the hero of his tragedy, and at the same time to interest the audience in his behalf, throws around him, from the beginning, the majesty of melancholy, along with that sort of weakness and irresolution which frequently attends it. The incident of the Ghost, which is entirely the poet's own, and not to be found in the Danish legend, not only produces the happiest stage effect, but is also of the greatest advantage in unfolding that character which is stamped on the young prince at the opening of the play. In the communications of such a visionary being, there is an uncertain kind of belief, and a dark unlimited horror, which are aptly suited to display the wavering purpose, and varied emotions, of a mind endowed with a delicacy of feeling that often shakes its fortitude, with sensibility that overpowers its strength.


No. 100. SATURDAY, April 22, 1780.

The view of Hamlet's character, exhibited in my last number, may, perhaps, serve to explain a difficulty, which has always occurred both to the reader and the spectator, on perceiving his madness, at one time, put on the appearance, not of fiction, but of reality ; a difficulty by which some have been induced to suppose the distraction of the prince a strange unaccountable mixture throughout, of real insanity and counterfeit disorder.

The distraction of Hamlet, however, is clearly affected through the whole play; always subject to the controul of his reason, and subservient to the accomplishment of his designs. At the grave of

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Ophelia, indeed, it exhibits some temporary

marks of a real disorder. His mind, subject from nature to all the weakness of sensibility, agitated by the incidental misfortune of Ophelia's death, amidst the dark and permanent impression of his revenge, is thrown for a while off its poise, and, in the paroxysm of the moment, breaks forth into that extravagant rhapsody which he utters to Laertes.

Counterfeited madness, in a person of the character I have ascribed to Hamlet, could not be so uniformly kept up, as not to allow the reigning impressions of his mind to shew themselves in the midst of his affected extravagance. It turned chiefly on his love to Ophelia, which he meant to hold forth as its great subject; but it frequently glanced on the wickedness of his uncle, his knowledge of which it was certainly his business to conceal.

In two of Shakespeare's tragedies are

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