« EdellinenJatka »
What majesty should be, what duty is,
“ And pity 'tis, 'tis true: A foolish figure ;
“ But farewel it,”_ And how exquisitely does the poet ridicule the reasoning in fashion, where he makes Polonius remark on Hamlet's madness :
« Though this be madness, yet there's method in 't :" As if method, which the wits of that age thought the most essential quality of a good discourse, would make amends for the madness. It was madness indeed, yet Polonius could comfort himself with this reflection, that at least it was method. It is certain Shakspeare excels in nothing more than in the preservation of his characters; To this life and variety of character (says our great poet [Pope) in his admirable preface to Shakspeare) we must add the wonderful preservation. We have said what is the character of Polonius; and it is allowed on all hands to be drawn with wonderful life and spirit, yet the unity of it has been thought by some to be grossly violated in the excellent precepts and instructions which Shakspeare makes his statesman give his son and servant in the middle of the first, and beginning of the second act. But I will venture to say, these criticks have not entered into the poet's art and address in this particular. He had a mind to ornament his scenes with those fine lessons of social life; but his Polonius was too weak to be author of them, though he was 2ÂÒÂ2Òăti2m2ūẦỈ2/2/2/2/2/2/2/2/2/2/22ņģēmū2\\22\§Â§Â§ÒLẦ ņēti2222 enough to get them by heart, and retail them for his own. And this the poet has finely shewn us was the case, where, in the middle of Polonius's instructions to his servant, he makes him, though without having received any interruption, forget his lesson, and say
“ And then, sir, does he this;
“ I was about to say something where did I leave?" The Servant replies :
At, closes in the consequence. This sets Polonius right, and he goes on
“ At closes in the consequence.
“ He closes thus:-I know the gentleman,” &c. which shews the very words got by heart which he was repeating. Otherwise closes in the consequence, which conveys no particular idea of the subject he was upon, could never have made him recollect where he broke off. This is an extraordinary in. stance of the poet's art, and attention to the preservation of character. Warburton.
This account of the character of Polonius, though it sufficient. ly reconciles the seeming inconsistency of so much wisdom with so much folly, does not perhaps correspond exactly to the ideas of our author. The commentator makes the character of Polonius, a character only of manners, discriminated by properties superficial, accidental, and acquired. The poet intended a nobler.
Why day is day, night, night, and time is time,
Queen. More matter, with less art.
Pol. Madam, I swear, I use no art at all.
delineation of a mixed character of manners and of nature. Polo. nius is a man bred in courts, exercised in business, stored with observation, confident in his knowledge, proud of his eloquence, and declining into dotage. His mode of oratory is truly repre. sented as designed to ridicule the practice of those times, of prefaces that made no introduction, and of method that embarrassed rather than explained. This part of his character is accidental, the rest is natural. Such a man is positive and confident, because he knows that his mind was once strong, and knows not that it is become weak. Such a man excels in general principles but fails in the particular application. He is knowing in retrospect, and ignorant in foresight. While he depends upon his me. mory, and can draw from his repositories of knowledge, he utters weighty sentences, and gives useful counsel; but as the mind in its enfeebled state cannot be kept long busy and intent, the old man is subject to sudden dereliction of his faculties, he loses the order of his ideas, and entangles himself in his own thoughts, till he recovers the leading principle, and falls again into his former train. This idea of dotage encroaching upon wisdom, will solve all the phænomena of the character of Polonius. Johnson.
Nothing can be more just, judicious, and masterly, than John. son's delineation of the character of Polonius; and I cannot read it without heartily regretting that he did not exert his great abi. lities and discriminating powers, in delineating the strange, inconsistent, and indecisive character of Hamlet, to which I con. fess myself unequal. M. Mason.
Who, in her duty and obedience, mark,
In her excellent white bosom, these,* &c.
But never doubt, I love.
7- To the celestial, and my soul's idol, the most beautified Ophélid,] Mr. Theobald for beautified substituted beatified.
Malone. Dr. Warburton has followed Mr. Theobald; but I am in doubt whether beautified, though, as Polonius calls it, a vile phrase, be not the proper word. Beautified 92ms to be a vile phrase, for the ambiguity of its meaning. Fohnson.
Heywood, in his History of Edward VI, says, “ Katherine Parre, queen dowager to king Henry VIII, was a woman beautified with many excellent virtues." Farmer. So, in The Hog hath lost his Pearl, 1614:
“ A maid of rich endowments, beautified
“ With all the virtues nature could bestow." Again, Nash dedicates his Christ's Tears over Jerusalem, 1594: “ to the most beautified lady, the lady Elizabeth Carey.”
Again, in Greene's Mamillia, 1593: “ although thy per son is so bravely beautified with the dowries of nature.”
Ill and vile as the phrase may be, our author has used it again
“ seeing you are beautified
“ With goodly shape,” &c. Steevens. By beautified Hamlet means beautiful. But Polonius, taking the word in the more strictly grammatical sense of being made beauti. ful, calls it a vile phrase, as implying that his daughter's beauty was the effect of art. M. Mason.
8 In her excellent white bosom these,] So, in The Two Gentlemen of Verona :
“ Thy letters -
“ Even in the milk-white bosom of thy love."
These in her excellent white bosom, these, &c. In our poet's time the word These was usually added at the end of the superscription of letters, but I have never met with it both at the beginning and end. Malone.
O dear Ophelia, I am ill at these numbers; I have not art to reckon my groans : but that I love thee best, o most best,' believe it. Adieu.
Thine evermore, most dear lady, whilst this
machine is to him, Hamlet.
But how hath she
What do you think of me?
Pol. I would fain prove so. But what might you think,
most best, ] So, in Acolastus, a comedy, 1540: “that same most best redresser or reformer, is God.” Steevens.
1- whilst this machine is to him, Hamiet.] These words will not be ill explained by the conclusion of one of the Letters of the Paston Family, Vol. II, p. 43: “ for your pleasure, whyle my wytts be my owne.”
The phrase employed by Hamlet seems to have a French construction. Pendant que cette machine est d lui. To be one's own man is a vulgar expression, but means much the same as Virgil's
Dum memor ipse mei, dum spiritus hos regit artus. Steevens. i- more above,] is, moreover, besides. Johnson. s If I had play'd the desk, or table-book ; Or given my heart a working, mute and dumb; Or look'd upon this love with idle sight;
What might you think?] i, e. If either I had conveyed intelligence between them, and been the confident of their amours (play'd the desk or table-book,] or had connived at it, only obseryed them in secret, without acquainting my daughter with my discovery (giving my heart a mute and dumb working ;] or lastly, had been negligent in observing the intrigue, and overlooked it [looked upon this love with idle sight;] what would you have thought of me? Warburton.
And my young mistress thus did I bespeak;
I doubt whether the first line is rightly explained. It may mean, if I had locked up this secret in my own breast, as closely as if it were confined in a desk or table-book. Malone.
Or given my heart a working, mute and dumb;] The folio reads-a winking. Steevens.
The same pleonasm (mute and dumb] is found in our author's Rape of Lucrece: e " And in my hearing be you mute and dumb.” Malone.
4. round -] i. e. roundly, without reserve. So Polonius says in the third Act: “ - be round with him.” Steevens.
5 Lord Hamlet is a prince out of thy sphere;] The quarto, 1604, and the first folio, for sphere, have star. The correction was made by the editor of the second folio. Malone.
o precepts gave her,] Thus the folio. The two elder quartos read-prescripts. I have chosen the most familiar of the two readings. ' Polonius has already said to his son
“ And these few precepts in thy memory
“ Look thou cháracter.” Steevens. The original copy in my opinion is right. Polonius had ordered his daughter to lock herself from Hamlet's resort, &c. See p. 47.
* I would not, in plain terms, from this time forth,
“Look to’t, I charge you.” Malone. 7 Which done, she took the fruits of my advice;) She took the fruits of advice when she obeyed advice, the advice was then made fruitful. Fohnson. 8 (a short tale to make)
Fell into a sadness; then into a fast; &c.] The ridicule of this character is here admirably sustained. He would not only be thought to have discovered this intrigue by his own sagacity, but to have remarked all the stages of Hamlet's disorder, from his sadness to his raving, as regularly as his physician could have done; when all the while the madness was only feigned. The humour of this is exquisite from a man who tells us, with a con. fidence peculiar to small politicians, that he could find
os Where truth was hid, though it were hid indeed