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Truly on the pshot,
But since, so jump upon this bloody question,
Fort. Let us haste to hear it,
Hor. Of that I shall have also cause to speak,
Let four captains
[A Dead March. [Exeunt, bearing off the dead Bodies; after
which a Peal of Ordnance is shot off!
. Of carnal, bloody, and unnatural acts;] Of sanguinary and unnatural acts, to which the perpetrator was instigated by concupiscence, or, to use our poet's Own words, by a carnal stings.” The speaker alludes to the murder of old Hamlet by his brother, previous to his incestuous union with Gertrude.MALONE. P p ut on-) i.e. Instigated, produced.
9 — some rights of memory in this kingdom,] Some rights, which are remembered in this kingdom.-MALONE.
" If the dramas of Shakspeare were to be characterised, each by the particular excellence which distinguishes it from the rest, we must allow to the
tragedy of Hamlet the praise of variety. The incidents are so numerous, that the argument of the play would make a long tale. The scenes are interchangeably diversified with merriment and solemnity: with merriment that includes judicious and instructive observations; and solemnity not strained by poetical violence above the natural sentiments of man. New characters appear from time to time in continual succession, exhibiting various forms of life, and particular modes of conversation. The pretended madness of Hamlet causes much mirth, the mournful distraction of Ophelia fills the heart with tenderness, and every personage produces the effect intended, from the apparition that in the first act chills the blood with horror, to the fop in the last, that exposes affectation to just contempt.
The conduct is perhaps not wholly secure against objections. The action is indeed for the most part in continual progression, but there are some scenes which neither forward nor retard it. Of the feigned madness of Hamlet there appears no adequate cause, for he does nothing which he might not have done with the reputation of sanity. He plays the madman most, when he treats Ophelia with so much rudeness, which seems to be useless and wanton cruelty.
Hamlet is, through the whole piece, rather an instrument than an agent. After he has, by the stratagem of the play, convicted the king, he makes no attempt to punish him; and his death is at last effected by an incident which Hamlet had no part in producing.
The catastrophe is not very happily produced; the exchange of weapons is rather an expedient of necessity, than a stroke of art. A scheme might easily be formed to kill Hamlet with the dagger, and Laertes with the bowi.
The poet is accused of having shown little regard to poetical justice, and may be charged with equal neglect of poetical probability. The apparition left the regions of the dead to little purpose; the revenge which he demands is not obtained, but by the death of him that was required to take it; and the gratification, which would arise from the destruction of an usurper and a murderer, is abated by the untimely death of Ophelia, the young, the beautiful, the harmless, and the pious.-Johnson.
* In a note on the scene an attempt is made to show that this seperity of conduct was neither wanton or cruel on the part of Hamlet. The following remarks by Dr. Ferriar, Essay on Apparitions, p. 114, are so ingenious, and shed so much light on the character of Hamlet, that I cannot forbear inserting them.“Shakspeare's character of Hamlet can only be understood on the supposition of latent lunacy. He feigns madness for political purposes, while the poet means to represent his understanding as really (and unconsciously to himself) uphinged by the cruel circumstances in which he is placed. The horror of the communication made by his father's spectre; the necessity of belying his attachment to an innocent and deserving object; the certainty of his mother's guilt; and the supernatural impulse by which he is goaded to an act of assassination, abhorrent to his nature; are causes sufficient to overwhelm and distract a mind previously disposed to weakness and melancholy,' and originally full of tenderness and natural affection. By referring to the play, it will be seen, that his real insanity is only developed after the mock play. Then, in place of a systematic conduct, conducive to his purposes, he becomes irresolute, inconsequent, and the plot appears to stand unaccountably still. Instead of striking at his object, he resigns himself to the current of events, and sinks at length, ignobly, under the stream.” This opinion of Dr. Ferriar's coincides with that of Goethe, who in William Meister's Apprenticeship, b, iv. c. 13, says, " It is clear to me that Shakspeare's intention was to exhibit the effects of a great action, imposed as a duty on a mind too feeble for its accomplishment. In this sense, I find the character consistent throughout. Here is an oak tree planted in a china vase, proper only to receive the most delicate flowers. The roots strike out and the vessel flies to pieces."
This tragedy, which Malone supposes to have been written so early as 1604, was first entered at Stationers' Hall, Oct. 6, 1621, and printed the year following.
The story is taken from the seventh tale, in the third decad, of Cynthio's Novels ; a work, of which it is not believed that any English translation existed in Shakspeare's time; and with the contents of which he must have become acquainted by his knowledge either of the Italian or the French language.
“The time of this play," says Reed,“ may be ascertained from the following circumstances : Selymus the Second formed his design against Cyprus in 1569, and took it in 1571. This was the only attempt the Turks ever made upon that island after it came into the hands of the Venetians, (which was in the year 1473,) wherefore the time must fall in with some part of that interval. We learn from the play that there was a junction of the Turkish fleet at Rhodes, in order for the invasion of Cyprus, that it first came sailing towards Cyprus, then went to Rhodes, there met another squadron, and then resumed its way to Cyprus. These are real historical facts which happened when Mustapha, Selymus's general, attacked Cyprus in May, 1570, which therefore is the true period of this performance. See Kolles's History of the Turks, p. 838.846. 867.”
Duke of Venice.
Desdemona, daughter to Brabantio, and wife to Othello.
Play, at a Sea-Port in Cyprus.
a Though the rank which Montano held in Cyprus cannot be exactly ascertained, yet from many circumstances, we are sure he had not the powers with which Othello was subsequently invested.
Perhaps we do not receive any one of the Personæ Dramatis to Shakspeare's plays, as it was originally drawn up by himself. These appendages are wanting to all the quartos, and are very rarely given in the folio. At the end of this play, however, the following enumeration of persons occurs :
“The names of the actors.-Othello, the Moore.-Brabantio, Father to Desdemona.-Cassio, an Honourable Lieutenant.-Iago, a Villaine.-Rodorigo, a gulld Gentleman.Duke of Venice.-Senators.-Montano, Governour of Cyprus.Gentlemen of Cyprus.—Lodovico, and Gratiano, two noble Venetians.-Saylors.Clowne.-Desdemona, Wife to Othello.- Æmilia, Wife to Iago.---Bianca, a Curtezan.”-STEEVENS.
THE MOOR OF VENICE.
Scene I.–Venice. A Street.
Enter Roderigo and IAGO. Rod. Tush, never tell me, I take it much unkindly, That thou, Iago,—who hast had my purse, As if the strings were thine,-should'st know of this.
lago. 'Sblood, but you will not hear me :If ever I did dream of such a matter, Abhor me.
Rod. Thou told'st me, thou did’st hold him in thy hate.
Iago. Despise me, if I do not. Three great ones of the In personal suit to make me his lieutenant, [city, Off-capp'd' to him :-and, by the faith of man, I know my price, I am worth no worse a place : But he, as loving his own pride and purposes, Evades them, with a bombast circumstance, Horribly stuff'd with epithets of war; And, in conclusion, nonsuits My mediators; for certes, says he, I have already chose my officer. And what was he? Forsooth, a great ariti.matis a, One Michael Cassio, a Florentine,
a Off-cappd-] This is the reading of the folio.
circunstance, here signifies circumlocution.--REED.
certes, 1 i. e. Certainly, in truth. Obsolete. d a Florentine,) It appears from many passages of this play, rightly understood, that Cassio was a Florentine, and lago a Venetian.-HANMER.