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the Irish form, Amlethus, as a word, is maintained to be an educt, lived,
claiming for himself the title of king, both in Northumberland and Ireland.' Dr Latham thinks that Havelock the Dane is the same as Higelac, and that 'the narrative properly due to Higelac has been transferred to Amlethus, and in Saxo's fourth book it is to be found under that name.
This means that in the fourth book we may read Higelac for Amlethus.' 'Higelac and Havelock are the same names. It has long been known that the name of Havelock appears in the story of the famous Guy, Earl of Warwick, who, by killing the Norwegian giant, Colbrad, freed 'Northumberland from its allegiance to the Danes.' 'It must not seem strange that notwithstanding all the associations which connect Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, and a Scandinavian,
the result should be that, of all countries in the world, Ireland is the one to which the Amlethus of Saxo must be directly referred.'*
'Hamlet is a name;t his speeches and sayings but the idle * Dr R. G. Latham's Two Dissertations on Hamlet, part i.
+ Among the multitudes of commentaries on Shakespeare has it ever been hinted that the poet may have conceived his characters of Hamlet from Essex, and Horatio from Southampton ? If not, might it not be well to consider the indications which would point to such a conclusion? They are not few, perhaps, whether regard be paid to the external or the personal facts. It will suffice here to suggest a line of inquiry. To the common people, Essex was a prince. He was descended, through his father, from Edward III, and through his mother was the immediate kinsman of Elizabeth. Many persons, most absurdly, imagined his title to the throne a better one than the queen's. In person, for he had his father's beauty, he was all that Shakespeare has described the Prince of Denmark to have been. Then, again, his mother had been tempted from her duty while her gracious and noble husband was alive. That handsome and generous husband was supposed to have been poisoned by the guilty pair. After the father's murder, the seducer had married the mother. That father had not perished in his prime without feeling and expressing some doubts that foul play had been used against him, yet sending his forgiveness to the guilty woman who had sacrificed his honour, perhaps taken away his life. There is indeed singularity of agreement in the facts of the case and the incidents of the play: The relations of Claudius to Hamlet are the same as those of Leicester to Essex; under pretence of fatherly friendship he was suspicious of his motives, jealous of his actions, kept him much in the country and at college, let him see little of his mother, and clouded his prospects in the world by an appear.
coinage of the poet's brain. What then, are they not real? They are as real as our own thoughts. Their reality is in the reader's mind.
The character of Hamlet stands quite by itself. It is not a character marked by strength of will or even of passion, but by refinement of thought and sentiment. Hamlet is as little of the hero as a man can well be; but he is a young and princely novice, full of high enthusiasm and quick sensibility, the sport of circumstances, questioning with fortune, and refining on his own feelings, and forced from the habitual bias of his disposition by the stratagems of his situation.
He is the prince of philosophical speculators.
His ruling passion is to think, not to act.
His habitual principles of action are unhinged and out of joint with the time.' 'In Hamlet Shakespeare seems to have wished to exemplify the moral necessity of a due balance between our attention to the objects of our senses, and our meditation on the workings of our minds—an equilibrium between the real and the imaginary worlds. In Hamlet this balance is disturbed ; his thoughts and the images of his fancy are far more vivid than his actual perceptions; and his very perceptions, instantly passing through the medium of his contemplations, acquire, as they pass, a form and a colour not naturally their own. Hence we see a great, an almost enormous intellectual activity, and a proportionate aversion to real action consequent upon it,
ance of benignant favour. Gertrude's relations with her son were much like those of Lettice to Robert Devereux.
Then, again, in his moodiness, in his college bearing, in his love for the theatre and the players, in his desire for the fiery action for which his nature was most unfit, there are many kinds of hints calling up an image of the Danish prince'—Court and Society from Elizabeth to Anne, by the Duke of Manchester, vol. i, p. 297. 'The puzzle of history called Essex was well calculated to become that problem of the critic called Hamlet. ... It strikes me that the subject of Hamlet was forced on Shakespeare as a curious study from the life of his own times rather than chosen from a rude remote age for its dramatic aptitude. For the character is undramatic in its very nature, a passive contemplative part rather than an acting one. It has no
native hue of Norse “ resolution," but is sicklied o'er “ with the pale cast” of modern thought. As with Essex, the life is hollow at heart, dramatic only in externals. It is tragic permissively, not compulsorily. The drama does not solve any riddle of life for us, it is the represented riddle of a life that to this day remains unread'-Gerald Massey's Shakespeare's Sonnets, p. 485.
* William Hazlitt's Characters of Shakespeare's Plays.
with all its symptoms and accompanying qualities. This character Shakespeare places in circumstances under which it is obliged to act on the spur of the moment. Hamlet is brave and regardless of death; but he vacillates from sensibility, and procrastinates from thought, and loses the power of action in the energy of resolve.'*
3. HORATIO.—The friend of Prince Hamlet, an Italian form of the Latin Horatius, which may have been suggested by Shakespeare's memory of the Venusian bard; for whom friendship and literature had the ghest charms, who regarded intercourse with the great as a delight, but scorned to purchase it with unworthy compliances, who yielded his will to his superiors with freedom, or dissented with modesty and self-respect. The type of the familiar friend of a prince and the frequenter of a court who held his mind clear from its baseness. G. Russell French has suggested that Sir Fulke Greville (Lord Brooke) may have given the model frame for this portrait of friendship unremoved.'
Mr C. Elliot Browne, however, suggests that 'Horatio is probably the Horatio of the Spanish Tragedy, where he plays the rôle of friend and best man to the hero. Andrea calls him “my other soul, my bosom, my heart's friend." The origin of the association is probably to be found in the legend of the Horatii.'
Horatio is not merely the gentleman and scholar, and therefore worthy to be the companion of Hamlet, but the higher attractions of his honourable nature, his bland and trusting disposition, his prudent mind and steadfastly affectionate heart, have raised him to the highest social rank that man can attain in this world-he is his prince's confidant and bosom friend. The character of Horatio is the spot of sunlight in the play; and he is a cheering, though not a joyous, gleam coming across the dark hemisphere of treachery, mistrust, and unkindness.
In the deportment of Horatio we have the constant recognition of a placid and pensive man, making no protestations, yet constantly prepared for gentle service.
As he adhered to his friend through life, so would he have followed him in death, and only consented to survive him that he might redeem his character with the world. When the final catastrophe has ensued, he comes forward and assumes the prerogative of his position, and as the companion and confidant of his prince, he takes his station by Fortinbras and the ambas.
* Samuel T. Coleridge's Notes and Lectures on Shakespeare,
sadors, and at once assumes the office of moral executor and apologist for his friend.'*
4. POLONIUS.— It is not improbable that the name assigned to the chief of the nobles of the Danish court is intended to indicate that he was a Pole by birth, who had entered the civil service of Denmark, and devoted himself to utilising his political skill for his own advancement and the orderly government of his adopted country. Many of the Polish nobility in Shakespeare's time held office in the states of Europe, and were noted for their administrative talent, their acquirements, and their official zeal. It may be, however, that in imaging to his own mind the character of the Prime Minister of Denmark, the father of Laertes and Ophelia, and the main agent in the peaceful accession of Claudius, Shakespeare had in his mind also the Greek Ilodúalvos, ‘full of wise speech and lore,' and had resolved on exhibiting a Ulysses of culture. 'Polonius is,' as Dr Johnson said, '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 represented 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 has 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 memory, and can draw upon 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.' Sydney W. Walker suggests that Polonius, from his studied rhetorical speeches, probably received his name by corruption from Apollonius, the name of several ancient teachers of the art of speaking.
'Polonius,' as the late George Dawson used to say, 'has always been, at first sight, a puzzle—so foolish at one time, so apparently wise at another; such a silly, garrulous, old man, and yet laying down maxims which all the world has
* Charles Cowden Clarke's Shakespeare Characters, pp. 75-77.
agreed to quote as the best rules for a young man in life. Coleridge has harmonised these things by telling us that Polonius was a man of maxims, never of ideas; where the thing was a matter of experience he was great, but when it was a matter of prescience he was very foolish ; for Coleridge notes that a maxim is very different from an idea-it is dead matter, like the sum-total at the bottom of a number of items. Your maxim can only serve like a foot-rule, while an idea is a generating principle that enables us to prophesy. Polonius never had an idea, and never could have had one ; he had maxims beautiful and true, and laws warranted to apply to cases which he had tried; but a constructive thought-something which, carried with us, shall develop itself into a law, as circumstances demand-he had not ; therefore, where experience carried him, he is wise; where rule of thumb had not taken him, he is a fool—“full of wise saws and modern instances."'*' 'Polonius, the petrifaction of morality, the monument of commonplace,
the echo of ancient wisdom,
the treasury of gabbling aphorisms, the sublime of stupidity! Polonius is not the little, old, dried-up greybeard.
He is solemn, he speaks slowly, he steps squarely. He is dignified, he is official, he is sure of himself.'+
5. LAERTES was the name of the King of Ithaca, the father of Ulysses, who took part in the Calydonian hunt and the expedition of the Argonauts, and survived the fall of Troy. Perhaps as Homer calls him the old hero Laertes' (Odyssey, i, 189), we must look for the originating suggestion of the name elsewhere. It is sufficiently curious to deserve notice that Laertes is the name given in the Historia Naturalis of Ælian, x, 42, to a kind of ant. When we remember that Shakespeare places the character and deportment of Laertes in express contrast to those of Hamlet, may we not, as it were, overhear the author saying to his dilatory hero, "We'll set thee to school to an ant, to teach thee there is no labouring in the winter' (King Lear, II, iv, 67, 68). And in this way we may have gained the secret of the choice of this Greek name.
* Laertes is the cultured young gentleman of the period. He is accomplished, chivalric, gallant; but the accomplishments are superficial, the chivalry theatrical, the gallantry of a showy kind. He is master of events up to a certain
* Notes of a Lecture delivered in 1850.