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racter, 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beautiful, from the unlikeness of his father's character to his own,-a man, kingly and heroic,—not in the least degree withdrawn (as Hamlet was almost altogether) from the vehemence of human passions, but enjoying life in the full power and glory of impassioned nature, Hamlet, who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 in the same degree, for the latter is a prince of the blood royal, brother to the king, and next in consanguinity to the throne after the death of his elder brother the Duke of Clarence: Macbeth, on the contrary, is not in the succession
And to be king Stands not within the prospect of belief. His views, therefore, being further removed and more out of hope, a greater weight of circumstances should be thrown together to tempt and encourage him to an undertaking so much beyond the prospect of his belief. The art of the poet furnishes these circumstances, and the engine which his invention employs, is of a preternatural and prodigious sort.
He introduces in the very opening of his scene a troop of sybils or witches, who salute Macbeth with their divinations, and in three solemn prophetic gratulations hail him Thane of Glamis, Thane of Cawdor, and King hereafter!
By Sinel's death I know I'm thane of Glamis ;
One part of the prophecy, therefore, is true; the remaining promises become more deserving of belief. This is one step in the ladder of his ambition, and mark how artfully the poet has laid it in his way. No time is lost; the wonderful machinery is not suffered to stand still, for behold a verification of the second prediction, and a courtier thus addresses him from the king :
And for an earnest of a greater honour,
The magic now works to his heart, and he cannot wait the departure of the royal messenger before his admiration vents itself aside
Glamis, and thane of Cawdor!
A second time he turns aside, and unable to repress the emotions which this second confirmation of the predictions has excited, repeats the same secret observation
Two truths are told
of the imperial theme. A soliloquy then ensues, in which the poet judiciously opens enough of his character to show the spectator that these preternatural agents are not superfluously set to work upon a disposition prone to evil, but one that will have to combat many compunctious struggles before it can be brought to yield even to oracular influence. This alone would demonstrate (if we needed demonstration) that Shakspeare, without resorting to the ancients, had the judgment of ages as it were instinctively. From this instant we are apprised that Macbeth meditates an attack upon our pity as well as upon our horror, when he puts the following question to his conscience
Why do I yield to that suggestion,