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similitude of person, and precisely in the same dress that they customarily wore when alive. It was for no trite nor trivial matter that the “ canoniz'd bones" of the deceased monarch “ burst their cerements;" that the “
“sepulchre,” wherein his body was “ quietly in-urned,” reop'd its “ponderous and marble jaws,” “ to cast him up again ;" and that he “revisited the glimpses of the moon, making night hideous;" but an affair of deepest consequence, the discovery and punishment of a most horrible crime. The exact resemblance, therefore, of the apparition to the father of Hamlet is pressed into particular notice :
Marcel. Look, where it comes again !
Bern. In the same figure, like the king that's dead.” Horatio demands,
“ What art thou, that usurp'st this time of night,
“ Is it
In reply to the question of Marcellus, not like the king ?” Horatio rejoins,
As thou art to thyself:
When he the ambitious Norway combated ;
And when the Ghost re-appears, in the queen's closet, Hamlet particularly insists on its similitude to the person of the late king:
“Why, look you there! look, how it steals away!
My father, in his habit as he liv'd !" +
In the play of Friar Bacon, by Robert Green, the shade of Pompey is exhibited in the very armour that he wore at the battle of Pharsalia.
It was not often that apparitions took the shortest course to effect their object: Instead of appearing at once to the
person most interested, they usually commenced their operations by presenting themselves to the view of those only remotely, or, sometimes, not at all, concerned in their disclosures. The Danish monarch is first seen by Bernardo and Marcellus ; then by Horatio, and, lastly, by Hamlet himself. The exciting of profound attention was the only object of the preparatory appearances of a Ghost, for his errand was never made known till he came in contact with the party to whom his mission was specifically directed.
Marcellus and Bernardo twice see, but yet learn nothing from the spectre.
Horatio was scholar*, and, as such, his adjuration was particularly potent; in conformity with the principle that assigned an absolute power over the devil to the learned magician, and directed the exorcism of troubled spirits in the Latin language : yet Horatio fails to elicit any information from the mysterious wanderer. The Ghost at length comes in contact with Hamlet himself; but the presence of others still operates as a bar against disclosure, and it is not till the prince is separated from his companions, and left with the apparition, that the portentous secret is revealed.
Nothing was more offensive to apparitions than the neglect to attach importance to their appearance.
Inattention to their admonitions and injunctions was succeeded by discontented, angry, and, at length, infuriated and horrible visitations ; threats to tear the person employed to pieces, and, sometimes, an actual infliction of blows. - The dilatory and undecided Hamlet, ever reasoning instead of acting, makes small progress towards the punishment of his guilty uncle, and he, therefore, anxiously inquires on
*“ Thou art a scholar: speak to it, Horatio.” Act I. sc. 1.
the re-appearance of his father's shade, whether he had not come his
“ tardy son to chide,
and the Ghost solemnly admonishes Hamlet “not to forget,” though the present visitation
“ but to whet his almost blunted purpose.”+
It is in perfect consistency with the belief that all spirits were not only naturally invisible, but that they possessed the power of making themselves visible under their assumed forms to such persons only as they pleased, that the queen sees not the apparition, while the form and voice of his father are perfectly palpable to Hamlet's senses. Being incorporeal, also, they experienced no difficulty in entering into, and passing from, any place they desired, without creating alarm or noise. The entrance of the Ghost into the royal palace, and the chamber of the queen, could only be effected by such a power; and a further illustration of the facility with
* Açt III. sc. 4.
which spirits conveyed themselves from one spot to another, unobstructed by natural impediments, is afforded by the Ghost following under ground as Hamlet removed from place to place to administer the oath of secrecy to his friends. * Another consequence of the immateriality of spirits was their invulnerability, and of this Horatio speaks, in reproof of his own folly of sanctioning the proposition of Marcellus to “ strike at it with his partizan.”
“ We do it wrong, being so majestical,
To offer it the show of violence;
Darkness was an object on which superstition always fastened with avidity, and wherever the doctrine of the opposed principles of good and evil was admitted, the sun, or light, was recognised as the representative of the former, and night, or darkness, as an apt symbol of the latter. Regarding light as a good, and darkness as a bad presage, the Greeks did not hold it lawful to approach their altars till lustration had purified them from the defilements of the night, through which the infernal gods ranged free from all control; and, carrying the prac