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his meaning: it has been preserved, and is thus given by Bishop Percy;
" Great wars there should be,
Is this intended to point to Polonius as a great cause of mischief, while he receives all these allusions with the same blindness as before?
Then follows the scene in question, in which the King is so great a bungler, that one far less acute than Hamlet would immediately perceive that some secret design was at work ; for when Hamlet arrives at the place appointed by the King, there is no one present but Ophelia.
It is remarkable that in the two quarto editions I have had an opportunity of referring to, (those of 1605 and 1611) Hamlet enters before Polonius says, “I hear him coming, let's withdraw, my lord," instead of entering after it, as in the usually received text. This appears to me to have escaped the notice of the commentators. May not Hamlet be supposed to have seen them on his entrance ?
This circumstance, added to his previous knowledge of their schemes, was sufficient to convince him that it was the prearranged meeting; and when we recall all the foregoing circumstances, we should rather have been amazed had he treated her with any show of affection, than at the apparently coldhearted and cruel manner in which he addresses her. First, let us suppose him aware that the King and Polonius were listening behind the arras—but this is by no means all : he has found that Ophelia, who had been to him as a bright green spot in the desert of his existence, whom he had regarded as pure and innocent amid the surrounding corruptions of the court, that she too has lent herself to play a part in this scheme, and has submitted to become a tool and a bait in the hands of his enemies ; for he could neither be aware how far
she was not an artful and a willing tool, nor that her previously
We are oft to blame in this.
We may therefore feel assured that Shakespeare never intended Ophelia to be held utterly blameless, but rather as one so early trained in habits of implicit obedience to her father, as to follow his dictates without looking to any higher principle. Even after Hamlet has quitted her, she has no compunctious visitings, when she laments in such pathetic terms his apparent aberration of mind; and we feel she is not one who would exclaim with Viola
· Disguise, I see thou art a wickedness
Can we then wonder that Hamlet should disclaim all love for her? No! our surprise would rather have been excited had he followed an opposite course ; and the bitter disappointment he has experienced in her is expressed when she remarks on the prologue, “ 'Tis brief, my lord,” and he rejoins, “ As woman's love." This is, I believe, generally supposed to refer
to the Queen, yet the passage can scarcely admit of such an
66 Give me that man
As I do thee.—Something too much of this,
“ I loved Ophelia : forty thousand brothers,
Make up my sum."
“The severity displayed by Hamlet to Ophelia has been the occasion of much discussion. It appears to me, that, on first perceiving her, he approaches her with gentleness and affection— Nymph, in thy orisons be all my sins remembered.' On her returning his gifts, he begins to suspect that, like his schoolfellows, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, she is also an
emissary of the King's, and confederated against him, Perhaps by an accidental glance of the eye he discovers where the King and Polonius are watching the result of the interview, and assumes a severity of manner not only to deceive them, but in punishment of the treachery of Ophelia. The hint of Ophelia's character is taken from a young woman mentioned by Saxo Grammaticus, who was employed to betray Hamlet.”
I am induced, in conclusion, to make a few brief remarks on some of Shakespeare's tragic heroines, who, although represented as endowed with great and noble virtues, or amiable qualities, are nevertheless not intended to be presented to us as perfect ; for, on consideration, we shall find that their sad ends are the consequence of some failing point of conduct, though it is worthy of remark that we have not one example afforded us of attractive female frailty, nor do we even contemplate the possibility of their honour being tainted. Thus, without recapitulating what has been said of Ophelia, that of Cordelia may be traced to her having no small share of pride and obstinacy, for she might in the first instance have replied with more courtesy to her father, without any compromise of her dignity; that of Desdemona to her evasion, and want of openness respecting the loss of the handkerchief, and her wearying importunities in favour of Cassio ; and that of Queen Katherine to the only occasion on which she appears other than the dignified and high-minded Queen-her altercation with Wolsey.
G. M. ZORNLIN.
December 23rd, 1846.
ART. XIX.-The original Patent for the Nursery of Actors
and Actresses in the reign of Charles II.
The document I now furnish is quite as new as that I transmitted about a month ago for insertion in “The Shakespeare Society's Papers," although of a later date-indeed so late, that I am in some doubt whether it does not belong to a period of our stage history not included in the original prospectus. However, perceiving that in the last volume of “Papers ” an article is inserted relating to the year 1667, I send the enclosed, a few years earlier in point of date, at a venture, thinking that its singularity, and the fact that it has never been mentioned anywhere, will warrant its publication. The fact to which it refers was known, but this is the first time the document was ever produced.
It relates mainly to the establishment of what was called " the Nursery” for the education and instruction of performers, male and female, to recruit the companies of the king under Killigrew, and of the Duke of York under Davenant; and in the outset it recites the Patent already granted to those two managers : it also speaks of a third grant to George Jolly, dated 24 December, 1660, which Killigrew and Davenant had purchased, in order to keep a rival out of the field ; and it then proceeds to authorize William Legge, one of the grooms of the bedchamber, (ancestor of the present Earl of Dartmouth) to erect a third theatre, for the performance of “boys and girls,” under the name of “the Nursery,” in which they were to be trained up, and withdrawn from time to time, by Killigrew and Davenant, and transplanted either to the King's theatre, in Drury Lane, or to the Duke's theatre, near Lincoln's Inn Fields.
We know not of whom the young company under Legge consisted, but there can be no doubt that some of our earliest