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'A fashion and a toy in blood,
Polonius thereafter warns her too
· That he is young,
The Ghost speaks of his tale as one that
• Would harrow up thy soul, freeze thy young blood'-1, v, 16;
and subsequently conjures him thus :
• Know, thou noble youth, The serpent that did sting thy father's life Now wears his crown'-I, v, 38-40.
To Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, the king addresses himself, saying:
'I entreat you both,
Ophelia, who is a young maid' (IV, V, 147), sees in him, as perhaps she should,
The expectancy and rose of the fair state,
In these lines Shakespeare excites in us the ideal; in the prosaic statements formerly set forth we find him, conquered by the real, endeavouring to harmonise both by such means as may at once satisfy the latter and gratify the former. The ideal is the real presented in perspective. In Shakespeare's ideal, Hamlet was, and required to be, a young man, not probably more than twenty-one; but as he required to be represented, he, attentive to stage effects, inserted in the acting copy such phrases as might suit the player. Printing has stereotyped what might have been changed at will, and hence a difficulty arises in the perused drama which is not felt in the acted one.
Observe mine III, 11, 73-75.
HAMLET'S •DOZEN OR SIXTEEN LINES.'
(See Act II, sc. ii, 517; Act III, sc. ii, 177-202.) A critical question, first started, we believe, by Dr E. W. Sievers in his Shakespeare's Hamlet fur weitere Kreise bearbeitet, Leipzig, 1851, p. 142, regarding the dozen or sixteen lines' which the Prince of Denmark proposed to 'set down and insert ' in the play of The Murder of Gonzago, has attracted so much attention as to require such an epitome as exceeds the length to which the notes, in such an edition of the play as this, can be advisably extended, and hence we have reserved a place for its discussion in the Appendix.
The hypothesis is, that as Shakespeare makes, or considered it im. portant to make, Hamlet project the insertion of certain original Iines in the old drama, he intended that the prince should prepare them, and the probability is that he did compose them, as he commences his instructions to the players (III, ii) with the words,
Speak the speech, I pray you, as I pronounced it to you ;;' he excitedly asks, as Polonius, Rosencrantz, and Guildenstern enter:
“How now, my lord ! will the king hear this piece of work?'-III, ii, 42; and while he tells Horatio in loving confidence that
* There is a play to-night before the king;
Which I have told thee of my father's death'-III, ii, 70-72; he also conjures him to give 'heedful note' as it goes on:
'I prythee, when thou see'st that act a-foot,
comment of thy soul
These passages supply presumptive evidence that Hamlet had 'altered the manner of the murder in the old play to make it tally precisely with the awfully secret fact,' and his exclamation after the upbreaking of the court play, “Would not this, sir, and a forest of feathers, etc., get me a fellowship in a cry of players, sir' (III, ii, 260-263), implies that he has accomplished his purpose by the projected
The problem thence arises, which are the dozen or sixteen lines' due to Hamlet, as stage-editor of the play performed. Sievers supposed that they were lines 240-245; and Professor Benno Tschischwitz, though carrying the quotation further, in the main agrees with him; while Mr and Mrs Cowden Clarke, to whom the question appears to have suggested itself independently as a matter of exegesis, rather suggest lines 177-202, and thus supported the opinion they had formed :
We have an idea that this is the passage " of some dozen or sixteen lines " which Hamlet has proposed to “set down and in
sert” in the play, asking the player whether he could “study" it for the occasion. The style of the diction is markedly different from the remainder of the dialogue belonging to this acted play of The Murder of Gonzago; and it is signally like Hamlet's own argumentative mode. His motive in writing these additional lines for insertion, and getting the player to deliver them, we take to be a desire that they shall serve to divert attention from the special passages directed at the king, and to make these latter seem less pointed. Observe how exactly the couplet commencing the player-king's speech, “I do believe," etc., and the couplet concluding it, " So think thou wilt," etc., would follow on conjoinedly, were the intervening lines (which we suppose intended to be those written by Hamlet) not inserted '- Illustrated Shakespeare, vol. iii, p. 415.
On the other hand, a distinguished critic of Shakespeare's Versifi. cation, 1857, the late Rev. Charles Bathurst, at p. 70 of his able little work, while investigating this very ‘play acted by the players,' remarks: 'I do not see any symptoms of the lines which Hamlet was to insert.' Thus the question stood for nearly twenty years.
In 1874 the question assumed a controversial form. In a conversation between Mr F. J. Furnivall and J. R. Seeley, M.A., this question turned up, as one open to inquiry, without their knowing that it had previously been investigated. Mr Seeley remarked he could point to the passage in which the dozen or sixteen lines' occurred; and on trial-after being informed that the lines contained Hamlet's explanation of his own character'—Mr Furnivall laid his finger on the very lines the professor had in view. These lines are 175-204:
On this topic, Mr W. T. Malleson, B.A., Univ. Coll., London, read a paper before the New Shakespeare Society (December 11, 1874), suggesting that 'we should look for Hamlet's addition' in lines 240-245; and that the speech, being in. terrupted by Hamlet, and the king's rising 'frighted by false fire,' was not finished. He objects that the lines referred to by Seeley and Furnivall 'reflect, as Gervinus (in Shakespeare Commentaries, Furnivall's edition, p. 553) points out, not upon the murdering, usurping king, but upon Hamlet himself; so that if they are those Hamlet wrote, we find him turning aside from the immediate purpose of the player's performance, which was to “catch the con. science of the king,” in order to brood over his own character.' Though there would be nothing foreign in Hamlet's character in thus suddenly putting aside action for disquisition, yet', ...it is difficult to believe that he is only anxiously seeking an oppor: tunity of dissertating upon man's feebleness of purpose.' hope was, that his lines might drive the dreadful resemblance home to the very heart of the murderer.' From the speech to the players, . we may gather something of the nature of the lines; there was in them, for certain, the torrent, tempest, and whirlwind of passion.' • In the philosophic lines suggested by Professor Seeley,' can there be found anything of passion with which to split the ears of the
groundlings?' In the sub-play, the one scene coming near the cir. cumstances of Hamlet's father's death, as the Ghost describes it (I, v, 59-64), is that in which Lucianus acts; and Hamlet, in the very agony and fever of his impatience, interrupts him; and therefore he concludes that “Hamlet's addition to the play begins with the speech of Lucianus.' Professor Seeley acknowledges'a good deal of weight in Mr Malleson's objections,' but he supports his own views by stating that—(1) In the long speech of the playerking may be found a passage of 'twelve or sixteen lines,' of which he thinks the speech must consist; (2) ‘This passage can be omitted without damage to the action,' a characteristic which the speech, as an insertion, must, he thinks, show; (3) 'No other such passage can be found in the sub-play, so that those who reject this passage are driven to the shift of supposing that Shakespeare, after promising such a passage and leading us to expect it, has not given it;' (4) “The passage suits Hamlet's character better than any other in the sub-play;' (5) It suits Hamlet's views and feelings at the moment, which are occupied only secondarily with his uncle's guilt, primarily with his mother's misconduct; (6) The insertion of it seems an object of the poet by showing more clearly the doubleness of Hamlet's conduct, and that while he was forced reluctantly by a sense of duty in one direction, his feelings and reflections were flowing irresistibly in another. Mr Malleson replies—(1) Hamlet never says he has written a passage of so many lines and inserted it; (2) The inserted lines need not be such as can be removed without affecting the action of the play, for Hamlet may have inserted his lines in substitution for others which he struck out. Professor Seeley says that 'a passage plainly removable answers Hamlet's description' much better than one which is not.' • But as Shakespeare was in reality author of both text and sermon, he wove them together so much that, though I think he left it quite clear that Hamlet's copy of verses is here, yet he did not make it possible to say, with absolute certainty, where [the insertion] began.'
Mr Furnivall subsequently came to think (1) that in fact the speech is not in the printed play, or (2) that Hamlet had more thoroughly adapted the whole play to his purpose. Mr Simpson points out that the description of these sub-plays never anwsers to their performance' (see The Spanish Tragedy, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Histriomastix, etc.); and Dr Brinsley Nicholson thinks
the speech is Shakespeare's own vindication of his thoughts and mode of expressing them.' Dr C. M. Ingleby holds that ‘a drama is a work of art, a contrivance for imposing upon the spectator.' • It is a rule of dramatic art that a dramatic expedient not essential to the play, introduced for a collateral object, is to be left out of consideration as soon as that object is attained.' 'The court play is but a part of Hamlet.' Shakespeare wrote the whole play, the Murder of Gonzago included, for that was a part of his plan. Shakespeare introduces the phrase, ‘some dozen or sixteen lines'(1) as a preparation for introducing Hamlet's advice to the players;
(2) to lessen the impossibility of Hamlet's finding in the role of the actors just such a drama as would suit Hamlet's proposed aim. Horace Howard Furness decides that 'the discussion that has arisen over these “dozen or sixteen lines" is a tribute to Shakespeare's art. Ingleby, I think, is right in maintaining that Shakespeare did not first write The Murder of Gonzago, and then insert in it certain lines as though written by Hamlet. And Sievers, the Clarkes, Malleson, and others, are also right, I think, in believing that certain lines of the court play—which, we may imagine, are those that Hamlet told the player he would give him—are especially applicable to Claudius. It is the very impression which, I think, Shakespeare wished to convey.' (See Transactions of the New Shakespeare Society, 1874, part ii, pp. 465-498; Furness' Hamlet, vol. i, pp. 247-251.
TIME-ANALYSIS OF THE PLOT OF "HAMLET.'
'The drama being an imitation, a similitude of nature, is not nature itself but a copy, whose excellence depends on the amount of illusion with which the poet can invest it.'
He must, therefore, while copying, idealise nature and compress the space and time of the reality so as to suit the purpose of his ideal creation. Hence the poetic unity differs from the unity of actual life. The strict observance of the actual unities of time and place is dispensed with in the modern drama, and the more reasonable definition of duration of time set forth by Aristotle has either wit. tingly or unwittingly been adopted by the romance dramatists, but especially by Shakespeare, viz., that 'tragedy is a representation of a whole action through all its intermediate parts, that the action represented should be interesting and perspicuous, and that the time of its duration ought to be such as to render it possible that the transitions to be shown taking place could in a probable or necessary order have occurred.'* It may aid the student to comprehend this art of the dramatic poet better if we present a concise time-analysis of the duration of the action in the play of Hamlet, and show the links of time-reference the testing supplies.
‘Dramatic time is a very different thing from natural time.' 'For the complete evolution of a noble and comprehensive action, or for the full and satisfactory development of the human character,' a long time is required. Life has level commonplace periods between those of its crises. Though it requires in our actual experience of the world weeks or months to become acquainted with the whole man, his passions, and his temperament, the dramatist must set before us both plot and character within the narrowest possible bounds. The poet produces his [effects] by a series of (scenes and]
Aristotle's Poetics, chap. vii.