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making the Prince assume a fictitious insanity, is a sufficient proof, that it was never intended by the poet, that we should impute to Hamlet the character of madness. —Shakspere, deeply versed in the windings of the human heart, well knew, that a reflective melancholy, could be supported, without giving to it, the decided symptoms of insanity ;-the history of past times, also told him, that the counterfeit of " a mind diseased” had often been the result of consummate wisdom, a familiar but remarkable instance of which, we have in Virginius Brutus, who affecting to be mad, eluded the vigilance of the tyrant Tarquin, and by the success of this stratagem, finally established the liberties of ancient Rome ;---the poet therefore, was not unacquainted with the latin proverb,
• Stultiam simulare loco sapientia summa est.”
Of all the characters drawn by Shakspere, Hamlet undoubtedly has excited the greatest interest ;-amid the varied scenes of life, the pen of the immortal poet, has depicted the passions of the human breast, with a power and energy, exceeding the efforts of all other men, but, in the beautiful drama that delineates the career of the Danish Prince a “philosophy of theught," prevails, with which are imbued all the finer sensibilities of the soul ;-in portraying the disposition of Hamlet, Shakspere has presented to us, a correct outline of the moral character of those, whose feelings and actions have been influenced by that temperament denominated the melancholic, but which is often found assuming under different phases, many of those variations that belong to the sanguine ;-susceptible of impressions which with them create deep and profound meditation, men of this class possess a reserve in their demeanor, bordering on distrust, and viewing with suspicion, the actions of their fellow creatures, yet, gentle, generous, and affectionate, they are chagrined by a sense of their condition, and are rendered unhappy by the contemplation of those wrongs which the vices and follies of the world have inflicted upon them ;-like Hamlet, the uses of life are
to them “ stale, flat and unprofitable," and worn out by the bitterness of reflection, their energies become annihilated, in that tempest of moral feeling, which not unfrequently brings them to a premature rest, in the silent recesses of the grave ;-mournful as this picture is, it presents to us however, the history of some of the most illustrious of men, for who can dwell its outline without recalling to remembrance the unhappy and proscribed Tasso,—the elegant but unfortunate Rousseau, with the high-minded and self-exiled Byron :--infinite in his knowledge of the human heart, Shakspere has drawn Hamlet faithful to nature, and though his sentiments are tinged with an aspect of deep melancholy, his reflections pregnant with studied observation upon life and all its concerns, will ever awaken in the breasts of the generous and thoughtful, the same train of ideas, which has always pervaded the pages of those distinguished poets and philosophers, who, as advocates and promoters of human improvement, have encountered fearlessly the prejudices and vices of society ;--incapable of appreciating the character of such men, cold and unthinking critics have not been scrupulous in extending their censure upon those reflections of human life, which are so prevalent in the works of our immortal poet; but possessing that temperament, congenial to men of high genius, Shakspere, kind and gentle in his nature, had felt " the oppressor's wrongs," –" the proud man's contumely,” and gave way to that contemplative sadness which with him reigns predominant, whilst viewing the evils generated by “the vain pomp and false glory of the world.”—The happiness of the human race, impeded by ignorance, and retarded by tyrant custom, has excited in all ages, the sympathies of the good and virtuous ; their philanthrophy mingled with an ardent enthusiasm, have unceasingly led them to prognosticate, that another and a better era will yet arrive, in spite of those smiles of derision, which even in the present day follow such anticipations;happily the destiny of man is now progressive,-the chains which have hitherto kept his intellectual faculties in bondage, are rent asunder, and knowledge with all its advantages, shall at some future day, bring to him the enjoyment of a more improved state of things, free from those scenes of turmoil, care and anxiety, that have too long harrassed his existence; truly has our illustrious bard in his 2nd Part of Henry VI proclaimed,
“ Ignorance is the curse of God, Knowledge the wing, wherewith we fly to heaven (7)."
It has been maintained by some authors, that in the general outline of character which the pen of Shakspere has so admibly depicted, it would be wrong to infer, that he has ever given a delineation of his own personal feelings ; he has no doubt throughout his works, exhibited man acting under all the various motives which influence his nature, but notwithstanding this varied representation, we discover in the poet, on particular occasions, when contemplating the fate of human life, a proneness to indulge in that profound cast of thought, peculiar to all men of his reflective temperament. The aspirations of Shakspere's individual feelings, breathed forth with so much pathos and beauty, are to be found in his sonnets, and we may venture to affirm, that in the portrait which he has so magnificently drawn of Hamlet, he has given utterance to sentiments, that were solely the result of his own impressions, whilst viewing with a penetrating eye, the vices and follies of mankind,
" With this key Shakspere unlock'd his heart.”(8)
Most great authors have in some one of thcir productions, given to the world the impress of their own “form and thought," and characters apparently imaginative, have been faithful portraitures of " their own person, character and views ;” numerous incidents now render it beyond mere conjecture, that in this the greatest production of our bard, he has made it the vehicle to shadow forth his real feelings and great imaginings ;-the drama itself, as it has been justly said, has nothing remarkable in the ingenuity of its plot or in the conciseness of its dramatic
arrangements ;-in these respects it is much behind many of his works, yet it is the play we think of oftenest, and whose passages are as familiar unto us as 6 household words;”-in the development of thought and sentiment we are careless of plot or dramatic arrangement, but we dwell with delight upon the varied truths
- Drawn from philosophy's pure shrine.”
That Shakspere embodied in other characters his own personal feelings is an opinion which the acute and learned Mr. Hallam supports, and who upon this interesting topic offers the following observations. " There seems to have been a period of Shakspere's life, when his heart was ill at ease, and ill content with the world, or his own conscience. The memory of hours mispent, the pang of affection misplaced or unrequited, the experience of man's worser nature, which intercourse, with ill chosen associates, by chance or circumstances peculiarly teaches ;—these as they sank down unto the depths of his great mind, seem not only to have inspired into it the conception of " Lear,” and “ Timun,' but that of one primary character, the censurer of mankind. This type is first seen in the philosophic melancholy of Jacques, gazing with an undiminished serenity, and with a gaiety of fancy, though not of manners, on the follies of the world.'
In viewing the character of Hamlet, if like some authors, we were inclined to consider his melancholy as a species of insanity, we would be unable to appreciate justly, that high and transcendent feeling, for which this drama is distinguished; or were we to look upon his meditations, merely, as the result of a stratagem, formed solely for the purpose of giving support to a fictitious madness, the beauty of those remarkable soliloquies, would be altogether diminished, in which are embodied the impressions of a mind, pregnant with the highest sublimity, and conveying to us, a just delineation of the intellectual and moral nature of man;—the feelings of Hamlet, are to be traced to a more pure and elevated source, emanating from the real temper of a disposition “teeming with the milk of human kindness," but struggling under calamities, against which, he was conscious the energies of his soul, could not controul ;- amidst these perplexities, we no doubt occasionally meet a wildness of fancy, with a waywardness of thought, not corresponding with the general philosophy, which pervades his mind, but whilst we give due consideration to this levity, a line of distinction should be preserved, between a predisposition to mental derangement, and that which constitutes madness itself; without this demarcation, those high and generous qualities so strongly identified in Hamlet, would be thrown into the shade, and that thrilling interest, and deep sympathy, which we feel for the noble Dane, would no longer actuate our bosoms;—the frame of Hamlet's disposition led him to expatiate upon the moral and physical existence of man, whilst his lofty imagination, soaring into the regions of the universe, has given to his character the same complexion, that not unfrequently has been fixed on those individuals, whose exalted ideas, differing from the general mass of mankind, have unjustly been charged with the imputation of insanity ;—but the genius of Shakspere, which could so powerfully delineate the human mind, in its regular state of reason, as well as portray it, in all its varying forms, under the wanderings of delirium, has preserved in Hamlet, that fine and correct distinction, between the predisposition to mania, and that which constitutes an actual state of mental alienation :- though the poet has beautifully maintained this outline in the portrait of the Danish Prince, physiologists have always found it an arduous task to mark precisely the boundaries where a state of disordered reason deemed permanent begins, a consideration that has called forth the following remark from the pen of a very celebrated philosopher, “ to determine with precision, the point at which that aberration of the understanding called insanity commences, is a very difficult problem, which requires the united powers of medecine and philosophy for its solution;"—this problem, complicated as it is, nevertheless leads us to contemplate with sad humiliation the unhappy fate of man, when we know that the causes of mania,