« ElőzőTovább »
men, are not the apparent agents of the imagination. To children and to the people, the unrealizing parts of the apparatus, the dresses, scenery, &c., are sufficiently powerful to wrap the real men from their eyes; and such spectators see before them the personifications of the poet. To them a king is a king. We are past this. To us, a play loses its power by want of its hold on the imagination. Now, the reality of a ghost is measured to that state of imagination in which we ought to be held for the fullest powers of tragedy. The appearance of such a phantom at once throws open those recesses of the inner spirit over which flesh was closing. Magicians, thunder-storms, and demons, produce upon me something of the same effect. I feel myself brought instantaneously back to the creed of childhood. Imagination then seems not a power which I exert, but an impulse which I obey. It would be well for poetry, if more of this kind of imagination remained among us. It would seem that the Greeks preserved it during their highest civilization. Without it, the gods and goddesses of the Greek theatre would have been ludicrous and offensive; but with it they were beautiful, august, glorious--or awful, appalling, terrible. Thus were the Furies of Æschylus too fearful to be looked on; and thus does the Ghost in Hamlet carry us into the presence of eternity.
Never was a more majestic spirit more majestically revealed. The shadow of his kingly grandeur, and his warlike might, rests massily upon him. He passes before us sad, silent, and stately. He brings the whole weight of the tragedy in his disclosures. His speech is ghost-like, and blends with ghost-conceptions. The popular memory of his words proves how profoundly they sink into our souls. The preparation for his first appearance is most solemn. The night-watch-the more common effect on the two soldiers—the deeper effect on the next party, and their speculations --Horatio's communication with the shadow, that seems as it were half-way between their’s and Hamlet's -his adjurations—the degree of impression which they produce on the Ghost's mind, who is about to speak but for the due ghost-like interruption of the bird of morning-all these things lead our minds unto the last pitch of breathless expectation'; and while yet the whole weight of mystery is left hanging over the play, we feel that some dread disclosure is reserved for Hamlet's ear, and that an apparition from the world unknown is still a partaker of the noblest of all earthly affections.*
The depths of Hamlet's heart unclose at the spectral likeness of his father. Henceforth we see in him a personification of filial love. That love had been impressive, had it merely wept over a father's grave. But it assumes a more awful cha
For further observations on this interesting subject, I would refer my readers to a “ Dissertation on the Agency of Spirits and Apparitions, and on the Ghost in Hamlet," in my "Shakspeare and his Times," vol. ii. p. 399 ad p. 418.
rácter, when it at once possesses the tenderness and reverence of filial piety, joined to the superstitious,-the religious fear breathed from the pale countenance of the returning dead. There is, in this strong possession of love, something ideally beautiful, from the unlikeness of his father's character to his own,-a man, kingly and heroic,---not in the least degree withdrawn (as Hamlet was almost altogether) from the vehemence of human passions, but enjoying life in the full power and glory of impassioned nature. Hamlet, who discerns all things in their truth, is not able to avoid saying that he was killed “ full of bread, with all his sins broad blown, as flush as May;" yet, in saying so, he does not in his heart depart from feelings of religious filial reverence. He sees the fine consistency of the whole character, and feels that, “take him for all in all, I shall not look upon his like again.” I think the great beauty of these two lines in part arises from this dissimilitude. There is in Hamlet a kind of speculative consideration of his father's character and being; and yet, in the pride and power of the consciousness of his own intellectual endowments, he does not for one moment doubt that he ought to bow down before the majesty of mere human life in his father, and serve as a mere instrument of his revenge. He thus at once adopts, blindly and instinctively, a feeling which perfectly belonged to his father's human life, but which, for himself, could have no part in his
The effect at first produced by the apparition is ever afterwards wonderfully sustained. I do not merely allude to the touches of realization which, in the poetry of the scenes, pass away from no memory,--such as, “The Star,”
_“ Where now it burns,”—“The sepulchre,”—“The complete steel,”
—“The glimpses of the moon,”—“Making night hideous,”—“Look how pale he glares,”—and other wild expressions, which are like fastenings by which the mind clings to its terror. I rather allude to the whole conduct of the Ghost. We ever behold in it a troubled spirit leaving its place of suffering to revisit the life it had left, to direct and command a retribution that must be accomplished. He speaks of the pain to which he is gone, but that fades away in the purpose of his mission. “Pity me not.”—He bids Hamlet revenge, though there is not the passion of revenge in his discourse. The penal fires have purified the grosser man. The spectre utters but a moral declaration of guilt, and swears its living son to the fulfilment of a righteous vengeance.
Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, vol ii. p 504, et seq.
A DELINEATION OF SHAKSPEARE'S CHARACTERS
OF MACBETH AND RICHARD.
There are two very striking characters delineated by our great dramatic poet, which I am desirous of bringing together under one review; and these are Macbeth and Richard the Third,
The parts which these two persons sustain in their respective dramas, have a remarkable coincidence: both are actuated by the same guilty ambition in the opening of the story; both murder their lawful sovereign in the course of it; and both are defeated and slain in battle at the conclusion of it: yet these two characters, under circumstances so similar, are as strongly distinguished in every passage of their dramatic life by the art of the poet, as any two men ever were by the hand of nature.
Let us contemplate them in the three following periods, viz. : the premeditation of their crime; the perpetration of it; and the catastrophe of their death.
Duncan, the reigning king of Scotland, has two sons : Edward the Fourth of England has also two sons; but these kings and their respective heirs do not affect the usurpers Macbeth and Richard