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PRINCE OF DENMARK.
SHAKSPEARE is supposed to have taken the Plot of this Play, from "the History of Hamlet," as it is found narrated in Saxo Grammaticus, the Danish Historian. An English translation of this particular story was published during the Poet's life, entitled "Historie of Hamblet, Prince of Denmark," and from this version, it is conjectured that Shakspeare drew the materials, which have assisted him in this master-piece of tragic composition. As this Play is the most finished and the most popular of our Author's productions, we have incorporated into our selections nearly all the prominent scenes.
We cannot better introduce the youthful student into a just discrimination of the leading characteristics of Hamlet, than by furnishing the following clear analysis from the pen of Goethe. He says-
"It is clear to me that Shakspeare's intention was to exhibit the effects of a great action imposed as a duty upon a mind too feeble for its accomplishment.
"In this sense, I find the character consistent throughout. There is an oak planted in a china vase, proper only to receive the most delicate flowers; the roots strike out, and the vessel flies to pieces. A pure, noble, highly moral disposition, but without that energy of soul which constitutes the hero, sinks under a load which it can neither support nor resolve to abandon altogether. All his obligations are sacred to him; but this alone is above his powers.
"An impossibility is required at his hands; not an impossibility in itself, but that which is so to him. Observe how he shifts, turns, hesitates, advances, and recedes; how he is continually reminded and reminding himself of his great commission, which he, nevertheless, in the end, seems almost entirely to lose sight of; and this without ever recovering his former tranquillity."
CLAUDIUS, King of Denmark.
HAMLET, son to the former, and nephew to the present King.
POLONIUS, Lord Chamberlain.
HORATIO, friend to Hamlet.
LAERTES, son to Polonius.
GERTRUDE, Queen of Denmark, and mother of Hamlet.
Lords, Ladies, Officers, Soldiers, Players, Grave-diggers, Sailors, Measengers, and other Attendants.
SCENE I.-Elsinore. A Platform before the Castle.
Fran. You come most carefully upon your hour.
Ber. 'Tis now struck twelve; get thee to bed, Francisco.
And I am sick at heart.
Ber. Have you had quiet guard?
Ber. Well, good night.
If you do meet Horatio and Marcellus,
Not a mouse stirring.
The rivals of my watch, bid them make haste.
Enter HORATIO and MARCELLUS.
Fran. I think I hear them--Stand, ho! Who is there?
Hor. Friends to this ground.
Fran. Give you good night.
Who hath reliev'd you?
And liegemen to the Dane.
O, farewell, honest soldier:
A piece of him.
Ber. Welcome, Horatio; welcome, good Marcellus.
Mar. Horatio says, 'tis but our fantasy;
And will not let belief take hold of him,
Touching this dreaded sight, twice seen of us:
With us to watch the minutes of this night;
And let us once again assail your ears,
Sit down awhile;
Well, sit we down,
And let us hear Bernardo speak of this.
Ber. Last night of all,
When yon same star, that's westward from the pole,
The bell then beating one,
Mar. Peace, break thee off; look, where it comes again!
Ber. In the same figure, like the king that's dead.
Speak to it, Horatio. Hor. What art thou, that usurp'st this time of night, Together with that fair and warlike form
In which the majesty of buried Denmark
Did sometimes march? by heaven I charge thee, speak.
Hor. Stay; speak: speak,I charge thee, speak.
Mar. "Tis gone, and will not answer.
Ber. How now, Horatio? you tremble, and look pale :
Is not this something more than fantasy?
What think you of it?
I might not this believe,
Without the sensible and true avouch
Of mine own eyes.
Is it not like the king?
Hor. As thou art to thyself:
Such was the very armour le had on,
When he the ambitious Norway combated;
So frown'd he once, when, in an angry parle,
He smote the sledded Polack on the ice.
Mar. Thus, twice before, and jump at this dead hour, With martial stalk hath he gone by our watch.
Hor. In what particular thought to work, I know not;
The graves stood tenantless, and the sheeted dead
But, soft; behold! lo, where it comes again!
Or, if thou hast uphoarded in thy life
Extorted treasure from the depths of earth,
For which, they say, you spirits oft walk in death:
Speak of it-stay, and speak.
Mar. 'Tis gone!
We do it wrong, being so majestical,
To offer it the show of violence.
Ber. It was about to speak, when the cock crew.
Upon a fearful summons. I have heard,
The cock, that is the trumpet to the morn,
Mar. It faded on the crowing of the cock.
Hor. So have I heard, and do in part believe it.
Mar. Let's do't, I pray; and I this morning know
SCENE II.-The same. A Room of State in the same.
Enter the KING, QUEEN, HAMLET, POLONIUS, LAERTES, Lords, and Attendants.
King. Though yet of Hamlet our dear brother's death
The memory be green; and that it us befitted
To bear our hearts in grief, and our whole kingdom
To be contracted in one brow of woe;
Yet so far hath discretion fought with nature,
Your leave and favor to return to France;