Page images

Act V., Sc. 2. "Absent thee from felicity awhile,

And in this harsh world draw thy breath of pain."

We could multiply examples; but those we have given are sufficient, we think, to show that we have internal evidence that the original sketch, and the augmented and perfect copy of Hamlet. were written under different influences and habits of thought. But there are differences between the first and second copies which address themselves more distinctly to the understanding, in corroboration of our opinion that there was a considerable interval between the production of the sketch and the perfect play.

We will first take the passage relating to the "tragedians of the city," placing the text of the first and second quartos in apposition :

[Quarto of 1603.]

Ham." Players, what players be they?

Ros. My lord, the tragedians of the city, those that you took delight to see so often.

Ham. How comes it that they travel? Do they grow restie?
Gil. No, my lord, their reputation holds as it was wont.
Ham. How then?

Gil. Yfaith, my lord, novelty carries it away; for the principal public audience that came to them are turned to private plays, and to the humour of children."

[ocr errors]

[Quarto of 1604.]

Ham. "What players are they?

Ros. Even those you were wont to take such delight in, the tragedians of the city.

Ham. How chances it they travel? their residence, both in reputation and profit, was better both ways.

Ros. I think their inhibition comes by the means of the late innovation.

Ham. Do they hold the same estimation they did when I was in the city? are they so followed!

Ros. No, indeed, they are not."

We thus see that in the original play the "tragedians of the city," by which are unquestionably meant certain players of Shakspere's own day, were not adequately rewarded, because the public audience "turned to private plays, and to the humour of children." On the contrary, in the augmented play, published in the following year, they were not so followed-they were inhibited in consequence of a late innovation. The words "inhibition," and "innovation," point to some public proceeding; "novelty," on the other hand, "private plays," and "the humour of children," would seem to have reference to some popular caprice. "The humour of children," in the first copy, points to a period when plays were acted by children; when the novelty of such performances diminishing the attractions of the tragedians of the city, compelled them to travel. The children of Paul's represented plays in their singing school at a very early period. Several of Lyly's pieces were presented by them subsequent to 1584, according to Mr. Collier; but in 1591 we find these performances suppressed. In the address of the printer before Lyly's 'Endymion,' published in 1591, the suppression is mentioned as a recent event:-"Since the plays in Paul's were dissolved, there are certain comedies come to my hand." In 1596 the interdict was not taken off; for Nash, in his Have with you to Saffron Waldon,' printed in that year, wishes to see the "plays at Paul's up again." But in 1600 we find a private play, attributed to Lyly, "acted by the children of Powles." In 'Jack Drum's Entertainment,' 1601, we find the performances of these children described, with the observation, "The apes in time will do it handsomely." The audience is mentioned as a "good gentle audience." Our belief, founded upon this passage, is, that the first copy of 1603 refers to the period before 1591, when "the humour of children” prevailed; and that the "innovation" mentioned in the second copy, refers to the removal of the interdict, which removal occasioned the revival of plays at Paul's, about 1600. In that year came the inhibition." On the 22nd of June, 1600, an order of the Privy Council appeared, "for the restraint of the immoderate use of play-houses;" and it is here prescribed "that there shall be about the city two houses and no more allowed, to serve for the use of the common stage plays." No restraint was, however, laid upon the children of Paul's. It appears to us, therefore, that the inhibition and innovation are distinctly connected in Shakspere's mind. The passage is to us decisive, as fixing the date of the augmented play about 1600; as it is equally clear to us that the passage of the first copy has reference to an earlier period. The text, as we now have it, -"There is, Sir, an ayrie of children," who "so berattle the common stages,"-belongs to a later period, when the children of Paul's acted the plays of Marston, Dekker, and other writers of repute; and the Blackfriars' Theatre was in the possession of a company of boys. In 1612 the performances of children had been made the vehicle for scurrility, and they were again suppressed, (See Mr. Collier's Annals of the Stage,' Vol. I., pp. 279, 282; and Malone's Historical Account of the English Stage,' Boswell's edition, pp. 62 and 453.)


[ocr errors]

The speech from the play that was never acted, or not above once," that " pleased not the

million,"--is found, with very slight alteration, in the quarto of 1603; and so is Hamlet's commen. dation of it. We agree with Coleridge, that "the fancy that a burlesque was intended sinks below criticisin." Warburton expressed the same opinion, in opposition to Dryden and Pope. Coleridge very justly says, that the diction of these lines was authorized by the actual style of the tragedies before Shakspere's time. Ritson, we think, has hit the truth: "It appears to me not only that Shakspere had the favourable opinion of these lines which he makes Hamlet express, but that they were extracted from some play which he, at a more early period, had either produced or projected upon the story of Dido and Æneas. The verses recited are far superior to those of any coeval writer: the parallel passage in Marlowe and Nash's Dido will not bear the comparison. Possibly, indeed, it might have been his first attempt, before the divinity that lodged within him had instructed him to despise the tumid an unnatural style so much and so unjustly admired in his predecessors or contemporaries." The introduction of these lines, we think, cannot be accounted for upon any other supposition but that they were written by Shakspere himself; and he is so thoroughly in earnest in his criticism upon the play, and his complaint of its want of success is so apparently sincere, that it is impossible to imagine that the passage had reference to something non-existent. But would Shakspere, then, have produced such a play, except in his very early career, before he anderstood his own peculiar powers and would he have written so sensitively about it, except under the immediate influence of the disappointment occasioned by its failure? The dates of the first copy of Hamlet, and of the play which contained the description of "Priam's slaughter," are certainly not far removed.

Lastly, we are of opinion that the directions to the players, especially as given in the first copy, point to a state of the stage anterior to the period when Shakspere had himself reformed it. The mention of "Termagant" and "Herod" has reference to the time when these characters possessed the stage in pageants and mysteries. Again, the reproof of the extemporal clowns,-the injunction that they should speak no more than is set down for them,-applied to the infancy of the stage. Shakspere had reformed the clowns before the date usually assigned to Hamlet. In a book, called 'Tarleton's Jeasts,' published in 1611, we have some specimens of the license which this prince of clowns was wont to take. The author, Lowever, adds, "But would I see our clowns in these days do the like? No, I warrant ye." In the original copy of Hamlet, the reproof of the clowns is more diffuse than in the augmented copy; and the following passage distinctly shows one of the evils which Shakspere had to contend with, and which he probably had overcome before the end of the sixteenth century:-"And then you have some again that keeps one suit of jests, as a man is known by one suit of apparel; and gentlemen quote his jests down in their tables before they come to the play, as thus: Cannot you stay till I eat my porridge and, you owe me a quarter's wages; and, my coat wants a cullison; and, your beer is sour; and, blabbering with his lips, and thus keeping in his cinkapase of jests, when, God knows, the warm clown cannot make a jest unless by chance, as the blind man catcheth a hare: Masters, tell him of it." The additions to these directions to the players, in the augmented copy, are, on the other hand, such as bespeak a consciousness of the elevation which the stage had attained in its "high and palmy state," a little before the death of Elizabeth, when its purpose, as realised by Shakspere and Jonson especially, was "to hold, as 't were, the mirror up to nature; to show virtue her own feature, scoru her own image, and the very age and body of the time, his form and pressure."


THE history of Hamlet, or Hamleth, is found in the Danish historian, Saxo Grammaticus, who died about 1204. The works of Saxo Grammaticus are in Latin, and in Shakspere's time had not been translated into any modern language. It was inferred, therefore, by Dr. Grey, and Mr. Whalley, that Shakspere must have read the original. The story, however, is to be found in Belleforest's collection of novels, begun in 1564; and an English translation of this particular story was published as a quarto tract, entitled The Hystorie of Hamblet, Prince of Denmarke.' Capell, in his 'School of Shakspere,' has given some extracts from an edition of this very rare book, dated 1608; but he conjectures that it first appeared about 1570. Mr. Collier has since reprinted this tract, from the only copy known, which is preserved amongst Capell's collection at Cambridge. Horvendile, in the novel, is the name of Hamlet's father, Fengon that of his uncle, and Guruth that of his mother. Fengon traitorously alays Horvendile,

and marries 18 brother's wife. In the second chapter we are informed, "how Hamlet counterfeited the madman, to escape the tyranny of his uncle, and how he was tempted by a woman (through his uncle's procurement), who thereby thought to undermine the Prince, and by that means to find out whether he counterfeited madness or not." In the third chapter we learn, "how Fengon, uncle to Hamlet, a second time to entrap him in his politic madness, caused one of his councillors to be secretly hidden in the Queen's chamber, behind the arras, to hear what speeches past between Hamlet and the Queen; and how Hamlet killed him, and escaped that danger, and what followed." It is in this part of the action that Shakspere's use of this book may be distinctly traced. Capell says, "Amidst this resemblance of persons and circumstances, it is rather strange that none of the relater's expressions have got into the play and yet not one of them is to be found, except the following, in Chapter III., where Hamlet kills the counsellor (who is described as of a greater ach than the rest, and is the Poet's Polonius) behind the arras: here, beating the hangings, and perceiving something to stir under them, he is made to cry out—' a rat, a rat,' and presently drawing his sword thrust it into the hangings, which done, pulled the counsellor (half dead) out by the heels, made an end of killing him." In the fourth chapter Hamlet is sent to England by Fengon, "with secret letters to have him put to death;' " and while his companions slept, Hamlet counterfeits the letters "willing the King of England to put the two messengers to death." Here ends the resemblance between the history and the play. The Hamlet of the history returns to Denmark, slays his uncle, burns his palace, inakes an oration to the Danes, and is elected king. His subsequent adventures are rather extravagant. He goes back to England, kills the king of that country, returns to Denmark with two English wives, and, finally, falls himself through the treachery of one of these ladies.

It is scarcely necessary to point out how little these rude materials have assisted Shakspere in the composition of the great tragedy of Hamlet. He found, in the records of a barbarous period, a tale of adultery and murder and revenge. Here, too, was a rude indication of the character of Hamlet. But what he has given us is so essentially a creation from first to last, that it would be only tedious to point out the lesser resemblances between the drama and the history. That Shakspere adopted the period of the action as related by Saxo Grammaticus, there can be no doub The following passage is decisive:

[ocr errors][merged small]

We have here a distinct indication of the period before the Norman Conquest, when England wae either under the sovereignty of the Northmen, as in the time of Canute, or paid tribute to the Danish power.


THE local illustrations which we have given of this play are from original sketches made by Mr. G. F. Sargent. Those of buildings, have, of course, no association with the period of the action. But they possess an interest; being in some degree connected with the supposed scenes of Hamlet's history, and with the popular traditions which have most likely sprung from the European reputation of Shakspere's Hamlet. For example, we have this passage in Coxe's Travels: "Adjoining to a royal palace, which stands about half a mile from Kronberg, is a garden which curiosity led us to visit: it is called Hamlet's Garden, and is said, by tradition, to be the very spot where the murder of his father was perpetrated." The vignette at the end of the fifth act shows a sequestered part of this garden, which is called "Hamlet's Grave." Mr. Inglis, in an agreeable volume published in Constable's Miscellany, describes his anxiety to see this garden, upon the evening of his arrival at Elsinore. "The sentinel," he says, to whom I addressed myself, laid aside his musket, and himself conducted me to the enclosure." The Castle of Kronborg, or Kronenburg, in the immediate neighbourhood of Elsinore, is a fortification which is invariably associated with Shakspere's Hamlet. Mr. Inglis learnt that very few travellers visited Elsinore; but that "occasionally passengers in English vessels which happened to be lying-to, and sometimes also passengers in French vessels, TRAGEDIES.-VOL L H



landed at the castle, owing to its connexion with Hamlet and Shakspere." A Danish translation of Hamlet, he learnt, was often acted at Elsinore. We present, therefore, to our readers what the few passengers who visit Elsinore land to see, walking up to the castle, as Mr. Inglis did, thinking all the way "of Hamlet and Ophelia, and the murdered King." The engraving at the head of Act I. is a view of the platform at the Castle of Kronborg; that at the head of Act III. the Palace of Kronborg, within the fortifications. We have also given a general view of Elsinore; and a view of an old church and churchyard there. The view of the Palace of Rosenberg, which is at Copenhagen, is introduced to exhibit the residence of a Danish noble in the time of Shakspere.

[blocks in formation]

Ir has been conjectured, and with sufficient reason, by Mr. Strutt and other writers on the subject of costume, that the dress of the Danes during the tenth and eleventh centuries differed little, if anything, in shape from that of the Anglo-Saxons; and although from several scattered passages in the works of the Welsh bards and in the old Danish ballads, we gather that black was a favourite colour, we are expressly told by Arnold of Lubeck, that at the time he wrote (circa 1127), they had become " wearers of scarlet, purple and fine linen;" and by Wallingford, who died in 1214, that "the Danes were effeminately gay in their dress, combed their hair once a day, bathed once a week, and often changed their attire." Of their pride in their long hair, and of the care they took of it, several anecdotes have been preserved. Harold Harfagre, i. e. Fairlocks, derived his name from the beauty of his long-flowing ringlets, which are said to have hung down to his girdle, and to have been like silken or golden threads: and these precious curls he made a vow to his mistress to neglect till he had completed the conquest of Norway for her love. A young Danish warrior going to be beheaded begged of an executioner that his hair might not be touched by a slave, or stained with his blood. In the Anglo-Saxon poem of Beowulf, we find

"The long-haired one, illustrious in battle,
The bright lord of the Danes: "

and the Knyghtlinga Saga describes Canute's hair as profuse.

In a MS. register of Hide Abbey, written in the time of Canute, that monarch is represented in a tunic and mantle, the latter fastened with cords or ribands, and tassels. He wears shoes, and stockings reaching nearly to the knees, with embroidered tops, or it may be chausses or pantaloons, with an embroidered band beneath the knee; for the drawing being uncoloured leaves the matter

Torfæus, Hist. Nor.

↑ Joms winkinga Saga in Bartholinus.

in doubt.

When Canute's body was examined at Winchester in 1766, it was adorned with several gold and silver bands, and a wreath or circlet was round the head. A jewelled ring was upon one finger, and in one of his hands a silver penny." Bracelets of massive gold were worn by al persons of rank, and their most sacred oath before their conversion to christianity was by their "holy bracelet;" a sacred ornament of this kind being kept on the altars of their gods, or worn round the arm of the priest. Scarlet was the colour originally worn by the kings, queens, and princes of Denmark. In the ballad of Childe Axelvold we find that as soon as the young man discovered himself to be of royal race, he "put on the scarlet red;" and in the ballad of "Hero Hogen and the Queen of Danmarck," the queen is said to have rode first "in red scarlet," the word red being used in both these instances to distinguish the peculiar sort of scarlets, as in those times scarlet, like purple, was used to express any gradation of colour formed by red and blue, from indigo to crimson. It thus happens, curiously enough, that the objections of the queen and Claudius to the appearance of Hamlet in black, are authorized, not only by the well-known custom of the early Danes. never to mourn for their nearest and dearest relatives or friends, but also by the fact, that, although black was at least their favourite, + if not, indeed, their national colour, Hamlet, as a prince of the blood, should have been attired in the royal scarlet. Of the armour of the Danes at the close of the tenth century we have several verbal descriptions. By the laws of Gula, said to have been established by Hacon the Good, who died in 963, it is ordered that every possessor of six marks should furnish himself with a red shield of two boards in thickness, a spear, an axe, or a sword. He who was worth twelve marks, in addition to the above, was ordered to procure a steel cap; whilst he who had eighteen marks was obliged to have also a coat of mail, or a tunic of quilted linen or cloth, and all usual military weapons, amongst which the bipennis, or doublebladed axe, was the most national. The Danish helmet, like the Saxon, had the nasal, which in Scandinavia is called nefbiòrg (nose-guard), and to which the collar of the mail-hood, which covered the chin, was frequently hooked up, so as to leave little of the face unguarded except the eyes.

[merged small][merged small][graphic][merged small]
« PreviousContinue »