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But to return to the intended comparifon between the Grecian Shade, and the Danish Ghost. The first propriety in the conduct of this kind of machinery feems to be, that the præternatural perfon be intimately connected with the fable; that he increase the intereft, add to the folemnity of it, and that his efficiency, in bringing on the catastrophe, be in some measure adequate to the violence done to the ordinary course of things, in his visible interpofition. These are points peculiarly important in dramatic poetry, as has been before obferved. To thefe ends it is neceffary, this Being thould stand acknowledged and revered by the national Superftition, and thus every operation that developes the attributes, which vulgar opinion, or the nurse's legend, have taught us to afcribe to him, will augment our pleasure ; whether we give the reins to our imagination, and, as Spectators, willingly yield ourselves up to pleafing delufion, or, as Critics, examine the merit of the compofition. I hope it is not difficult to fhew, that in all these capital L 2 points
points our author has excelled. At the folemn midnight hour, Horatio and Marcellus, the fchoolfellows of young Hamlet, come to the centinels upon guard, excited by a report that a Ghost of their late Monarch had, some preceding nights, appeared to them. Horatio, not being one of the believing vulgar, gives little credit to the story, but bids Bernardo proceed in his #elation.
Laft night of all,
When yon fame ftar, that's weftward from the pole,
The bell then beating one—
Here enters the Ghoft, after you are thus prepared. There is something folemn and fublime in thus regulating the walking of the Spirit, by the courfe of the Star: It intimates a connection and correspondence between things beyond our ken, and above the vifible diurnal fphere. Horatio is affected with that kind of fear, which such an appearance would naturally excite. He trembles, and
and turns pale. When the violence of the emotion fubfides, he reflects, that probably this fupernatural event portends fome danger lurking in the state. This fuggeftion gives importance to the phænomenon, and engages our attention. Horatio's relation of the king's combat with the Norwegian, and of the forces the young Fortinbras is affembling, in order to attack Denmark, seems to point out, from what quarter the apprehended peril is to arife. Such appearances, fays he, preceded the fall of mighty Julius, and the ruin of the great commonwealth; and he adds, fuch have often been the omens of difafters in our own ftate. There is great art in this conduct. The true cause of the royal Dane's discontent could not be gueffed at; it was a fecret which could be only revealed by himself. In the mean time, it was neceffary to captivate our attention, by demonftrating, that the poet was not going to exhibit fuch idle and frivolous gambols, as Ghofts are by the vulgar often reprefented to perform. The historical
teftimony, that, antecedent to the death of Cæfar,
The graves flood tenantless, and the sheeted dead Did fqueak and gibber in the Roman streets, gives credibility and importance to this phænomenon. Horatio's addrefs to the ghoft is brief and pertinent, and the whole purport of it agreeable to the vulgar conceptions of these matters.
If thou haft any found, or use of voice,
If there be any good thing to be done,
If thou art privy to thy country's fate,
Or, if thou haft uphoarded in thy life
Extorted treasure in the womb of earth,
For which, they fay, you spirits oft walk in death,
Its vanishing at the crowing of the Cock, is
Young Hamlet's indignation at his mother's hafty and incestuous marriage, his forrow for his father's death, the character he gives of that prince, prepare the spectator to fympathize with his wrongs and fufferings. The Son, as is natural, with much more vehement emotion than Horatio did, addreffes his Father's fhade. Hamlet's terror, his aftonishment, his vehement defire to know the cause of this vifitation, are irresistibly communicated to the fpectator by the following speech.
Angels and ministers of grace defend us!
Be thou a spirit of health, or goblin damn'd,
Bring with thee airs from heav'n, or blasts from hell,
Be thy intents wicked or charitable,
Thou com'ft in such a questionable shape,
That I will speak to thee. I'll call thee Hamlet,