Page images
PDF
EPUB

inclined to vent his displeasure, but un willing to incur suspicion.

King. But now, my coufin Hamlet, and my font-
Ham. A little more than kin, and lefs than kind.
King. How is it, that the clouds still hang on you?
Ham. Not fo, my Lord, I am too much i'the fun.

Averfion has no reference to any thing amiable or refpectable. Indignation is different. It arifes, as the etymology of the word indicates, from the fenfe of fomething unworthy. But the unworthy in human conduct affects us by contraft: And this contrast is either between the antecedent behaviour or imagined good character of the agent, and the particular actions that expofe him to our present cenfure; or it is between the merits of a fufferer, and the injuries he sustains, We fay, your deed is unworthy, if you act inconfiftently with your ufual good conduct; and that you fuffer unworthily, if behaving honourably you are defamed. The indignation of Hamlet arifes from both of F 3 thefe

thefe fources, both from the merit of his father, and from the behaviour of Gertrude. It is, therefore, vehement. But, as the circumftances of the times render it dangerous for him to difcover his fentiments, and the real ftate of his mind, he governs them, as far as the ardour of his emotions allows him, and disguises their external fymptoms. His indignation labours for utterance: And his reafon ftrives to restrain it. He inveighs with keenness, but obliquely, against the infincerity of Gertrude's forrow; and, in an indirect, but ftinging manner, oppofes her duty to her actual conduct.

Seems, Madam? nay, it is; I know not seems
'Tis not alone my inky cloak, good mother,
Nor customary fuits of folemn black,
Nor windy fufpiration of forc'd breath,
No, nor the fruitful river in the eye,
Nor the dejected 'haviour of the visage,
Together with all forms, modes, fhews of grief,
That can denote me truly.-Thefe, indeed, feem,
For they are actions that a man might play :

I

But

But I have that within, which passeth fhew ;
Thefe, but the trappings, and the suits of woe.

The human mind, poffeffed of diftinguifhed faculties, and actuated by various principles, is, nevertheless, extremely limited. As the understanding is capable of attending but to a certain number of objects at a time; fo the heart is never at the fame time influenced by a number of violent paffions. Perhaps there is a greater difference in the minds of men, in regard to the capacity of the understanding, than in regard to that of the heart: One man, perhaps, may contemplate at the fame moment a wider range of ideas than another, but cannot, at the fame moment, be agitated by a greater number of pasfions. It may, indeed, be a question, how far the capacity of the understanding may not influence the paffions. In governing them, it may have fome effect, as it may enable us to confider the object of our emotions under different afpects. For,

F 4

does

[ocr errors]

does it not often happen, that a partial view of an object renders the paffion it excites more violent? Yet, if the foul is exceedingly moved, our thoughts will not arife in their natural and common order, but will be entirely regulated by the prefent paffion or ftate of mind. It is a certain fact, confirmed by universal experience, and it may be laid down as an important axiom in the ftudy of human nature, that our notions and opinions are ever influenced by our prefent temper. Happy is the man who is often calm and difpaffionate, who, impelled by no eager appetite, nor urged by any reftless affection, fees every object by the unerring light of reafon, and is not impofed upon by the fallacious medium of his defires. Men of a fufceptible nature, the prey of fucceffive emotions, forever happy or miferable in extremes, often capricious and inconfiftent, ought to cherish their lucid intervals, and dwell upon, and treasure

up

up in their minds those maxims of wisdom and of virtue, that, in times of internal tumult, may affuage their diforder, and adminifter peace to their fouls. In confequence of the limited nature of the human heart, ever apt to be engroffed and occupied by prefent emotions, and of the power of paffion to enslave the understanding, and poffefs it with notions fuited to its own complexion; the mind of Hamlet, violently agitated, and filled with displeafing and painful images, lofes all sense of felicity; and he even wishes for a change of being. The appearance is wonderful, and leads us to inquire into the affections and opinions that could render him fo defpondent. The death of his father was a natural evil, and as such he endures it. That he is excluded from fucceeding immediately to the royalty that belongs to him, feems to affect him flightly; for to vehement and vain ambition he appears fuperior. He is moved by

« PreviousContinue »