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Carkton, Fi/hh'shcr^ 413 Brmdivay. 

(late RiDP & Carlkton.) 

Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1S63, by 


In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of tlie United States for the Soiilhorn 
District of New York. 


['n liter, Su-ieoiyper, aii(t Klioiruiyper, 

Cnitou Biiiltiing, 

SI, 83, aiui »j Cadre Street. 

New York, MarcJi, 31««, 18G3, 

My Dear Sir — 

I have many thanks to render you for the high compUment you 
have paid me in inscribing to me your very interesting and valuable 
volume on Shakespeare and his characters and critics. 

Your criticisms on the text and views of the characters of the great 
bard are of very great value and originality. On several of them I 
might be tempted to expand if I could write with more facility, but 
the return of an old sprain in the hand makes writing very laborious 
to myself as well as the handwriting obscure to others. The sjorain 
is better to-day, — but as you see, not well. I can only make a single 
remark on Falstafl". 

I have never read Maurice Morgann's Essay on the question of the 
Knight's courage or cowardice ; but your remarks recall to me an ob- 
servation of Col. Burr — a sagacious observer of men — that there were 
two quite distinct kinds of courage, the one purely physical, the other 
arising from moral or intellectual causes. Where the two are com- 
bined, the man is so far a hero. "Where the purely physical or animal 
firmness or insensibility to danger is wanting, the deficiency may be 
supplied by moral or intellectual causes — sometimes of a high order, 
often not so, but still not physical. The sense of duty, patriotism, the 
feeling of personal honour, hate, revenge, party, fanaticism, may give 

Now, your and Shakespeare's Knight seems to me a cool man, but 
he has no moral courage high or low. Duty, patriotism, loyalty, are 
of course out of the question, and he scoffs at the sense of personal 
honour. Not troubled with any nervous trepidation, but utterly sel- 
fish, he skulks from danger nearly as coolly as a brave man would 
meet it. 

In this view Morgann or your own thoughts may have anticipated 

Again thanking you for the honour you have done me, 
I am yours truly, 


1^^ Printed for ;pric ate distribniion only. 


®l)i5 tlolumc 










The Shakesperean Drama, 




rm r^ jT^^^^^^d '6^'% 


The sketches and essays wliicli occupy tlie follow- 
ing pages, necessarily partaking more or less of a 
personal character — the author so often speaking of 
his own experience or observations — there would 
seem to be required no further preface at his hands. 
He cannot, however, neglect to avail himself of the 
time-honored privilege of saying a word to the reader, 
were it only to exchange the customary form of salu- 
tation when meeting. For he would have his book 
regarded not as an elaborate attempt at authorship — 
to which he makes no pretensions — but in the spirit 
of a familiar and friendly, yet earnest conversation, 
when one is listened to with partiality, as he discourses 
upon topics of admitted interest, or revises the traits 
of those whom the world has been accustomed to 

These papers have been written at intervals in the 
course of many and now by-gone years, as the respec- 


tive occasions prompted. In bringing tlicm together 
at the present time, the writer would acknowledge 
his obligations to his accomplished friend, Mr. 
Edward S. Gould, whose judgment he has consulted 
in the general arrangement of the volume, and to 
whose friendly assistance he has been indebted in see- 
ing these pages through the press, during their writer's 
own unavoidable absence from the city. 

James H. Hackett. 

New York, JDecemher, 1862. 




H.vmlet's Soliloquy on Suicide, 13 

Hamlet, .... 63 

King Lear, 93 

PART ly. 

Actors of Hamlet — CoorER, "Wallace, Conway, Ham- 
BLix, Edmund Kean, Young, Macready, Charles 
Kemble, Booth, J. Yandenhoff, Charles Kean, 
G-. Yandenhoff, E. Forrest, 118 


Correspondence on Shakespearean Subjects with John 
Quincy Adams, Washington Irving, James and 
Horace Smith, authors of the " Rejected Addresses," 



Chas. a. Murray, Sir Thomas Noon Talfofrd, Earl 
OF Carlisle, John Payne Collier — " Misconceptions 
OF Shakespeare on the Stage, Personations of the 
Characters of Shakespeare, The Character of 
Desdemona," by J. Q. Adams — Yerplanck's Edition 
OF Hamlet, Shakespearean Verbal Niceties, Har- 
vey AND Shakespeare, Iago, 191 

Falstaff, 313 

Sketch of Jas. H. Hackett, 329 




The classical Dr. Goldsmitli commences his " Six- 
teenth Essay " thus : — Of all the implements of 
poetry, the metaphor is the most generally and suc- 
cessfully "Used, and indeed may be termed the Muse's 
caduceus, by the power of which she enchants all 

nature Over and above an excess of 

figures, a young author is apt to run into a confusion 
of mixed metaphors, which leave the sense disjointed, 
and distract the imagination. Shakespeare himself is 
often guilty of these irregularities. The soliloquy in 
Hamlet^ which we have often heard extolled in terms 
of admiration, is, in our opinion, a heap of absurdi- 
ties, whether we consider the situation, the sentiment, 
the argumentation, or the poetry. Hamlet is informed 
by the Ghost that his father was murdered, and there- 
fore he is tempted to murder himself, even after he 
had promised to take vengeance on the usurper, and 
expressed the utmost eagerness to achieve this enter- 
prise. It does not appear that he had the least reason 
to wish for death ; but every motive which may be 

14 hamlet's soliloquy on suicide. 

supposed to influence the mind of a young prince, 
concurred to render life desirable — revenge toward 
the usurper ; love for the fair Ophelia^ and the ambi 
tion of reigning. Besides, when he had an oppor- 
tunity of dying without being accessory to his own 
death ; when he had nothing to do but, in obedience 
to his uncle's command, to allow himself to be con- 
veyed quietly to England, where he was sure of suffer- 
ing death — instead of amusing himself with medita- 
tions on mortality, he yqvj wisely consulted the means 
of self-preservation, turned the tables upon his attend- 
ants, and returned to Denmark. But granting him 
to have been reduced to the lowest state of despond- 
ence, surrounded with nothing but horror and de- 
spair, sick of this life, and eager to tempt futurity, 
we shall see how far he argues like a philosopher. 

In order to support this general charge against an 
author so universally held in veneration, whose very 
errors have helped to sanctify his character among 
the multitude, we will descend to particulars, and 
analyze this famous soliloquy. 

Hamlet^ having assumed the disguise of madness, 
as a cloak under wdiich he might the more effectu- 
ally revenge his father's death upon the murderer 
and usurper, appears alone upon the stage in a pen- 
sive and melancholy attitude, and communes with 
himself in these words : 

" To be, or not to be ? That is the question. 
Wliethcr 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer 
The shngs and arrows of outrageous fortune, 

hamlet's soliloquy on suicide. 15 

Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, 

And by opposing, end tliem ? — To die — to sleep — 

No more ! and by a sleep, to say, we end 

The heart-ache, and the thousand natural shocks 

That flesh is heir to ; — 'tis a consummation 

Devoutly to be -wished. — To die — to sleep — 

To sleep 1 perchance to dream ; ay, there's the rub ; 

For in that sleep of death what dreams may come, 

When we have shuffled ofif this mortal coil, 

Must give us pause. — There's the respect 

That makes calamity of so long life. 

For who would bear the whips and scorns of time ! 

Th' oppressor's wrong, the proud* man's contumely, 

The pangs of despisedt love, the law's delay, 

The insolence of office, and the spurns 

That patient merit of th' unworthy takes, 

When he himself might his quietus make 

With a bare bodkin ? Who would fardels bear, 

To groan and sweat under a wearj'^ life, 

But that the dread of something after death 

(That undiscovered country, from whose bourne 

No traveller returns) puzzles the will — 

And makes us rather bear those ills we have 

Than fly to others that we know not of. 

Thus conscience does make cowards of us all; 

And thus the native hue of resolution 

Is sickUed o'er with the pale cast of thought ; 

And enterprises of great pith and moment. 

With this regard, their currents turn awry 

And lose the name of action." 

* The Folio reads — '• the poor man's contumely ;" the contumely 
which the poor man is obliged to endure. — Malone. 

\ The Folio reads — "pangs of disprized love;" meanmg a love 
which is found to be unvaliced or disre<?arded. — J. H. Hackeit. 


We have already observed that there is not any 
apparent circumstance in the fate or situation of 
Hamlet^ that should prompt him to harbor one 
thought of self-murder ; and therefore these expres- 
sions of despair imply an impropriety in point of 
character. But supposing his condition was truly 
desperate, and he saw no possibility of repose but 
in the uncertain harbor of death, let us see in what 
manner he argues on that subject. The question is, 
" To be, or not to be ;" to die by my own hand, or 
live and suffer the miseries of life. He proceeds to 
explain the alternative in these terms, " Whether 
'tis nobler in the mind to suffer, or endure the frowns 
of fortune, or to take arms, and, by opposing, end 
them." Here he deviates from his first proposition, 
and death is no longer the question. The only 
doubt is, whether he will stoop to misfortune, or 
exert his faculties in order to surmount it. This, 
surely, is the obvious meaning, and indeed the 
only meaning that can be implied in these words, 
" Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings 
and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take up arms 
against a sea of troubles, and, by opposing, end 
them." He now drops this idea, and reverts to his 
reasoning on death, in the course of which he owns 
himself deterred from suicide by the tliought of 
what may follow death ; " the dread of something 
after death (that undiscovered country, from wliose 
bourne no traveller returns.") This might be a good 
argument in a heathen or pagan, and such indeed 

hamlet's soliloquy on suicide. 17 

Hamlet really was ; but Shakespeare has already 
represented him as a good Catholic, who must have 
been acquainted with the truths of revealed religion, 
and says expressly in this very play — " Had not the 
Everlasting fixed his canon 'gainst self-murder V 
Moreover, he has just been conversing with his 
father's spirit, piping hot from purgatory, which 
we presume is not within the hoicrne of this world. 
The dread of what may happen after death (says he) 

" Makes us rather bear those ills we have, 
Hian fly to others that we know not of," 

This declaration at least implies some knowledge of 
the other w^orld, and expressly asserts, that there 
must be ills in that world, though w^hat kind of ills 
they afe we do not know. The argument, there- 
fore, may be reduced to this lemma : " This world 
abounds with ills which I feel ; the other world 
abounds with ills the nature of which I do not 
know ; therefore, I will rather bear those ills I have, 
" than fly to others which I know^ not of ;" a deduc- 
tion amounting to a certainty, with respect to the 
only circumstance that could create a doubt, mainlj, 
whether in death he should rest from his misery ; 
and if he was certain there were evils in the next 
world, as well as in this, he had no room to reason 
at all about the matter. AYhat alone could justify 
his thinking on this subject, would have been the 
hope of flying from the ills of this world, without 

18 hamlet's soliloquy on suicide. 

encountering any others in the next. Nor is Ilamlet 
more accurate in the following reflection : 

" Thus conscience does make cowards of us all." 

A bad conscience will make us cowards, but a good 
conscience will make us brave. It does not appear 
that anything lay heavy on his conscience : and 
from the premises we cannot help inferring that 
conscience, in this case, was entirely out of the ques- 
tion. Hamlet was deterred from suicide by a full 
conviction that in flying from one sea of troubles 
which he did know, he should ftill into aiwther which 
he did not know. 

His whole chain of reasoning, therefore, seems 
inconsistent and incongruous. " I am doubtful 
whether I should live, or do violence upon fny own 
life ; for, I know not whether 'tis more honorable to 
bear misfortune patiently, than to exert myself 'iw 
opposing misfortune, and by opposing, end it." 'Let 
us throw it into the form of a syllogism ; it will 
stand thus : " I am oppressed with ills ; I know 
not whether 'tis more honorable to bear those ills 
patiently, or to end them by taking arms against 
them ; ergo^ I am doubtful whether I should slay 
myself, or live. To die, is no more than to sleep ; and 
to say that by a sleep we end the heart-ache," etc., 
^' is a consummation devoutly to be wish'd." 

Now, to say it was of no consequence, unless it 
had been true. " I am afraid of the dreams that 

hamlet's soliloquy on suicide. 19 

may liappen in that sleep of cleatli ; and I clioose 
rather to bear those ills I have in this life, than fly 
to otJier ills in that undiscovered country from whose 
bourne no traveller ever returns. I have ills that 
are almost insupportable in this life. I know not 
what is in the next,- because it is an undiscovered 
country ; ergo^ I'd rather bear those ills I have than 
fly to others which I know not of." Here the con- 
clusion is by no means warranted by the premises. 
" I am sore aiiiicted in this life ; but I will rather 
bear the afflictions of this life, than plunge myself 
in the afflictions of another life ; ergo^ conscience 
makes cowards of ns all." But this conclusion 
w^ould justify the logician in saying, negatur conse- 
qioens / for it is entirely detached both from the 
major and the minor proposition. 

The soliloquy is not less exceptionable in the 
propriety of expression than in the chain of argu- 
mentation. " To die — to sleep — no more," contains 
an ambiguity, which all the art of pimctuation can- 
not remove ; for it may signify that " to die," is to 
sleep no more ; or the expression "no more" may bo 
considered as an abrupt apostrophe in thinking, as 
if he meant to say, " no more of that reflection." 

"Ay, there's the rub" — is a vulgarism beneath 
the dignity of Hamlet^s character, and the words 
that follow leave the sense imperfect : 

" For in that sleep of death what dreams may come, 
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil, 
Must give us pause." 

20 hamlet's soliloquy on suicide. 

ISTot the dreams that might come, but the fear of 
^vhat dreams might come, occasioned the pause or 
hesitation. IiesjKct in the same line may be allowed 
to pass for consideration ; but 

" Th' oppressor's wrong, the proud* man's contumely," 

according to tlie invariable acceptation of the words 
wrong and contumely^ can signify nothing but the 
wrong sustained by the oppressor, and the con- 
tumely or abuse thrown upon the proud* man ; 
though it is plain that Shakespeare used them in a 
diflerent sense ; neither is the word spurn\ a sub- 
stantive ; yet as such he has inserted it in these 
lines : 

" The insolence of office, and the spurns 
That patient merit of th' unworthy takes." 

If we consider the metaphors of the soliloquy, we 
shall find them jumbled together in a strange con- 

If the metaphors were reduced to painting, we 
should find it a very diflicult task, if not altogether 
impracticable, to represent with any proj^riety out- 
rageous fortune, with her slings and arrows, between 
which, indeed, there is no sort of analogy in nature. 
Neither can any figure be more ridiculously absurd 
than that of a man taking arms against the sea, ex- 

* The first folio reads ^^poor man's." 

f Also, ngain " gives my soul the greatest spurn." 

[^I'Uus Andron., Act 3, Scene 1. 

hamlet's soliloquy on suicide. 21 

elusive of the incongruous medley of slings, arrows, 
and seas, jostled within the compass of one reflec- 
tion. What follows is a strange rhapsody of broken 
images, of sleeping, dreaming, and shifting off a 
coil^ which last conveys no idea that can be 
represented on canvas. A man may be exhibited 
sliuffliiig off his garments or his chains ; but how 
he should shuffle off a coil^"^ wliich is another term 
£pr noise and tumult, we cannot comprehend. Then 
we have " long-liv'd calamity," and " time armed 
with whips and scorns," and patient " merit spurned 
by unworthiness," and " misery with a bare bodkin 
going to make his own quietus^^ which at best is but 
a mean metaphor. These are followed by figures 
" sweating under fardels of burdens," " puzzled with 
doubts," " shaking with fears," and " flyiug from 
evils." Finally, we see "resolution sicklied o'er with 
pale thought," a conception like that of representing 
health by sickness; and a " current of pitli turned 
away, so as to lose the name of action," which is 
both an error in fancy and a solecism in sense. In 
a word, this soliloquy may be compared to the 
jEgri somnia and the Tabula citjus vanw fiiigoitur 

* A coil, in Shakespeare, means a tumult, hubbub, etc. ; shuffle off 
this mortal coil, rid one's self of this mortal strife and confusion. 

^ ^^ Ay, ihe7-e's the ruli^ — (Dr. Goldsmith remarks) — " is a vulgarism 
beneath the dignity of Hdmlefs character." It might have been tlms 
conventionally considered in Dr. Goldsmith's, but not in Shakespeare's 
day ; and for the reason that besides, in numerous other instances of 

22 haj^ilet's soliloquy on suicide. 

Highly as I have been prepossessed in favor of 
Dr. Goldsmith's taste and purity of style in compo- 
sition,! cannot nnscrupnlonsly swallow such a dose 
of sweeping condemnation, which seems to me 
hypercritical, despite his deprecation at the com- 
mencement of a shock to our sensibilities, founded 
upon a bias toward " an author so universally held 
in veneration, and whose very errors have helped to 
sanctify his character among the multitude." • 

Let us first inquire whether some, at least, of his 
premises are not false — whether some of the errors 
imputed to Shakespeare are not the critic's own 
errors of perception. The reasoning, as well as 
some of the metaphors, have proved stumbling- 
blocks to other learned critics. 

its use in rhythmical measure, the word nib is put into the mouths of, 
namely : 

" To leave no rubs nor botches in tlio work." — Macbeth. 

" Shall blow each dust, each straw, each little r?i&, 
Out of the path," etc. 

^Cardinal Pandulph, {in King John?) 

" 'Twill make me think the world is full of rubs. 
And that my fortune runs against the bias." 

l^The Queo7i, {in Bioha-rd Second.) 

•' Every rub is smoothed in our way." — King Ile/nry V. 

" What r«&, or what impediment, there is." 

\_I)uke of Burgimdy. 

" perceive 

The least rub in your fortunes." 

\_Duke of Buckingham, {Ilenry VIIl.) 

■ "nor has Coriolanus 

Deserved this so dishonored rub, laid falsely." 

[Gomhdm, the Roman Oenerdk 

hamlet's soliloquy on suicide. 23 

Dr. Jolmson remarks : — " Of this celebrated solilo- 
quy, -which, bursting from a man distracted with a 
contrariety of desires, and overwhelmed with the 
magnitude of his own purposes, is connected rather 
in the speaker's mind than on his tongue, I shall 
endeavor to discover the train, and to show how one 
sentiment produces another. 

" Hamlet^ knowing himself injured in the most 
enormous and atrocious degree, and seeing no means 
of redress but such as must expose him to extremity 
of hazard, meditates on his situation in this manner : 
Before I can form any rational scheme of action 
under this pressure of distress^ it is necessary to 
decide, whether, after our present state^ we are to 
be, or not to be. That is the question which, as it 
shall be answered, will determine whether His nohler^ 
and more suitable to the dignity of reason, to suffer 
the outrages of fortune patiently, or take arms 
against thcm^ and by opposing, end them, tlicnigh^ 
perhaps^ with the loss of life. If to die, were to 
slec])^ no niore^ and hy a sleep to end the miseries of 
our nature, such a sleep were devoutly to le icishedj 
but if to sleep in death be to dream^ to retain our 
powers of sensibility, we vcivi^i pause to consider, in 
that sleep of death what dreams may come. This 
consideration makes calamity so long endured ; for 
who would hear the vexations of life, which might 
be ended hy a hare hodJdn^ but that he is afraid of 
something in unknown futurity ? This fear it is that 
gives efficacy to conscience, which, by turning the 

24: hamlet's soliloquy on suicide. 

mind iij3on this regard^ chills tlie ardor of resolution^ 
checks the vigor of enterprise^ and makes the cur- 
rent of desire stagnant in inactivity. - 

" "We may suppose that he would have aj)plied 
these general observations to his own case, but that 
he discovered Oplielia^^ — Johnson. 

Mr. Malone, in his edition of Shakespeare, quotes 
the foregoing, and then adds : — " Dr. Johnson's 
explication of the first five lines of this passage is 
surely wrong. Hamlet is not deliberating whether 
after our present state we are to exist or not, but 
■whether he should continue to live, or put an end to 
his life — as is pointed out by the second and the 
three following lines, which are manifestly a para- 
phrase on the first : — ' Whether 'tis nobler in the 
mind to sufi'er,' etc., ' or to take arms.' The ques- 
tion concerning our existence in a future state is not 
considered till the tenth line : — ' To sleep ! perchance 
to dream^ etc. The train of Ilarnlefs reasoning 
from the middle of the fifth line, 'If to die, were to 
sleep,' etc.. Dr. Johnson has marked out with his 
usual accuracy. In our poet^s ' Rape of Lucrece' 
we find the same question stated, which is proposed 
in the beginning of the present soliloquy : 

' With herself she is in mutiny, 

To live or die, which of the twain were better.' " — Malone. 

A precedent for the figure — " arroios of out- 
rageous fortune^^ — Mr. Steevens finds in one of 
Cicero's Epistles : Fam. v. 16. 

hamlet's soliloquy on suicide. 25 

Mr. Theobald remarks : — " A sea of troubles, 
among the Greeks, grew into a proverbial usage. 
So that the expression figm-atively means the 
troubles of human life, which flow in upon us, and 
encompass us round like a sea." 

Dr. Johnson observes : — " Mr. Pope proposed 
seige. I know not whj there should be so much 
solicitude about this metaphor. Shakespeare breaks 
his metaphors often, and in this desultory speech 
there was less need of preserving them." 

Mr. Steevens sajs : — " A similar phrase occurs 
in Rjharde Morjsine's translation of ' Ludovicus 
Yives's Introduction to Wjsedome,' 154^ : ' how 
great a sea of evills every day over-runneth,' etc." 

And Mr. Malone concludes his notes with — " One 
cannot but wonder that the smallest doubt should 
be entertained concerning an expression which is so 
much in Shakespeare's manner ; yet to preserve the 
integrity of the metaphor. Dr. AYarburton reads 
assail of troubles. Shakespeare might have found 
the very phrase that he has employed, in the tragedy 
of Queen Cordila, 'Mirrour of Magistrates,' 1575, 
which he undoubtedly had read : 

' For lacke of frendes to tell my seas of giltlesse sinarV " 

" Shuffled off this mortal coil — i.e., turmoil, bus- 
tle." — War burton. 

'' A most intelligent Shakespearian critic, Thomas 
Caldecott, remarks upon the word coil: — ' Coil is 
here used in each of its senses — that of turmoil or 

26 hamlet's soliloquy on suicide. 

bustle, and tliat which entwines or wraps round.' 
' This muddy vesture of decay.' Those folds of mor- 
tality that encircle and entangle us. Snakes gene- 
rally lie in folds like the coils of ropes ; and it is 
conceivable that an allusion is here had to the 
struofirle which that animal is obliged to make in 
casting his slough, or extricating himself from the 
skin that forms the exterior of this coil, and which 
he throws off annually.' " — J. H. H. 

" There's the respect — ^.<?., the consideration. See 
Troilus and Cressida, Act 2, sc. 2." — Malone. 

" The whijps and scorns of Time. — The evils here 
complained of are not the product of time or dura- 
tion simply, but of a corrupt age or manners. We 
may be sure, then, that Shakesj^eare wrote : 

' the whips and scorns of th' time.' 

And the description of the evils of a corrupt age, 
which followed, confirms this emendation." — War- 

" It may be remarked, that Hamlet, in his enume- 
ration of miseries, forgets, whether properly or not, 
that he is a prince, and mentions many evils to 
which inferior stations only are exposed." — Johnson, 

I think we might venture to read : — " The whips 
and scorns o' the times''^ — i.e., times satirical as the 
age of Shakespeare, which probably furnished him 
with the idea, etc., etc. 

Whips and scorns are surely as inseparable com- 
panions as public punishment and infamy. 

hamlet's soliloquy on suicide. 27 

Quips, the word which Dr. Johnson wonkl intro- 
duce, is derived, by ail etymologists, from whips. 

Hamlet is introduced as reasoning on a question 
of general concernment. lie therefore takes in all 
such evils as could befall mankind in general, with- 
out considering himself at present as a prince, or 
wishing to avail himself of the few exceptions 
which one in high place might have claimed. 

In part of " King James I.'s Entertainment, pass- 
ing to his Coronation," by Ben Jonson and Decker, 
is the following line, and note on that line : — 

" And first account of years, of months, of time. 
By time we understand the present." 

^' This explanation aftbrds the sense for which I 
have contended, and without change." — Steevens. 

Time.) for the times ^ is used by Jonson in " Every 
Man Out of His Humour :" 

" Oh, how I hate the monstrousness of timeP 

So, in Basse's " Sword and Buckler," 1602 : 

" If I should touch particularly all 
Wherein the moodie spleene of captious Time 
Doth tax our functions " 

So, also, to give a prose instance, in '^ Cardanus 
Comfort," translated by Thomas Bedingfield, 1576, 
we have a description of the miseries of life, strongly 
resembling that in the text : — " Hunger, thurste, 
sleape not so plentiful or quiet as deade men have, 

28 ilvmlet's soliloquy on suicide. 

lieate in soiuiner, colJc iu winter, disorder of tyrtie^ 
tcrroure of warres, controlenient of parentes, cares 
of wedlock, studye for children, sloutlie of servants, 
contention of sutes^ and that (whiche is moste of all) 
the condicion of tyme wherein Jwnestye is disdaynd^ 
and folje and crafte is honoui'ed as wisdome." — 

The word whips is used by Marston in his 
" Satires," 1599, in the sense required here : 

" Ingenious Melancholy, — 
Inthrone thee in my blood ; let me intreat, 
Stay his quick jocund skips, and force him run 
A sad-pac'd course, untill my whips be done." — Malone. 

^' The PKOUD niarCs contumely. — Thus the quarto. 
The folio reads ' the poor man's contumely ;' the con- 
tumely which the poor man is obliged to endure : 

" NH hahet infelix paupertas durius in se, 
Quam quod ridiculos homines facit^ — Malone. 

" Of despis'd love. — The folio reads, of dispri^d 
love. So too, ' Great deal disprizing the knight op- 
posed.' (Troilus and Cressida, Act 4.)" — Steevens. 

Dispriz'd, the word found in the first folio (1623), 
has seemed to me the most suitable adjective in 
such connection ; for the reason that as Love begets 
Love, and Hate his kind, so Love that finds itself 
despised^ instead of returned, by its object, soon 
leaves the heart, and its place is not unapt to be 
filled ])y rank hatred; but, the pangs of disprized 

hamlet's soliloquy on suicide. 29 

love are those of one whose spirit sinks and writhes 
under the pride-stung consciousness that the being 
towards whom their own heart yearns disprizes their 
irresistible affection. It is this species of love which 
dispHzed (unvalued, or unrequited, or- entertained 
with indifference) cannot be diverted or superseded, 
or, as if despised^ find a relief in hatred — but brood- 
ing over its own subtile mortification, produces that 
poignant melancholy, which, rankling within a 
proud soul, may stimulate to suicide. (See my 
quotation from this in my Correspondence with 
Hon. John Quincy Adams, 1839.) 

" Might his quietus make 

With a hare bodkin." — The first expression proba- 
bly alluded to the writ of discharge, which was 
formerly granted to those barons and knights who 
personally attended the king on any foreign expedi- 
tion. This discharge was called a quietus. 

It is at this time the term for the acquittance 
which every sheriff receives on settling his accounts 
at the Exchequer. 

The word is used for the discharge of an account, 
by Webster, in his " Duchess of Malfy," 1623 : 

" And 'cause you shall not come to me in debt, 
(Being now my steward) here upon your lips 
I sign your quietus est.^^ 

Again : 

30 hamlet's soliloquy on suicide. 

" You had the trick in audit time to be sick, 
Till I had sign'd your (juieius." 

A hodkin was tlic ancient term ioY fx small dagger. 
So, in tlie second j^art of the " Mirrour for Kniglit- 
hood,'' quarto, 1598 : — " Not having any more 
weapons but a poor poynado, which usually he did 
bear about him, and taking it in his hand, delivered 
these speeches nnto it. Thou, silly hodhin^ shalt 
finish the piece of work," etc. 

In the margin of " Stowe's Chronicle," edit. 
1614, it is said, that Csesar was slain with 'bodkins ; 
and in " The Muses' Looking-Glass," by Eandolph, 
1638 : 

" A^iho. — A rapier's but a hodhin. 
Deil. — And a hodkin 

Is a most dang'rous weapon ; since I read 
Of Julius Cresar's death, I durst not venture 
Into a taylor's shop, for fear of hodkinsy 

Again, in "The Custom of the Country," by Beau- 
mont and Eletcher : 

" out with your hodkin^ 

Your pocket-dagger, your stiletto." 

Again, in " Saplio and Phao," 1591 : " There will be 
a desperate fray between two, made at all weapons, 
from the brown bill to the lodhm.''^ Again, in 
Chaucer, as he is quoted at the end of a pamphlet, 
called " The Serpent of Division," etc., whereunto 
is annexed the " Tragedy of Gorboduc," etc., 1591 : 


" With bodkins was Caesar Julius 
Murdered at Rome of Brutus Crassus." — Steevens. 

Bj " a hare bodkin," does not perhaps mean, " by 
so little an instrument as a dagger," but " by an 
unslieathed dagger." 

" 111 the account which ]\Ir. Steevens has given 
of the original meaning of the term quietus^ after 
the words, ' who personally attended the king on 
any foreign expedition,' should have been added, 
' and were therefore exempted from the claims of 
scutage, or a tax on every knight's fee.' " — Malone. 

" To GRUNT and sweat. — Thus the old copies. It 
is, undoubtedly, the true reading, but can scarcely 
be borne by modern ears." — Johnson, 

Stanyhurst, in his translation of Yirgil, 1582, for 
suj^vewjum congemuit^ gives us, '^ for sighing it 
gruntsP Again, in Trubervile's tra,nslation of 
Ovid's E^nstle from Canace to Macareus : 

" "What might I wiser do ? greefe forst me grunts 

Again, in the same translator's Hypermnestra to 
Lynceus : 

" round about I heard 

Of dying men the grunts." 

The change made by the editors [to groan'] is, how- 
ever, supported by the following line in " Julius 
Csesar," Act. 4, sc. 1 : 

" He shall but bear them as the ass bears gold ; 
To groan and sweat under the business, 
Either led or driven, as we point the way." 

82 hamlet's soliloquy on suicide. 

I ai>prclicn(l that it is the duty of an eclltor to 
exhibit wluit his author wrote, and not to substitute 
what may appear to the present age preferable ; and 
Dr. Johnson was of the same opinion. See his note 
on the word Irngger^miigger^ Act 4, so. 5. I have, 
therefore, tliougli with some reluctance, adhered to 
the old copies, liowever unpleasing this word may 
be to the ear. On the stage, without doubt, an 
actor is at liberty to substitute a less offensive word. 
To the cai*s of our ancestors it probably conveyed 
no unpleasing sound ; tor we find it used by Chaucer 
and others : 

" But never groni he at n« stroke, but on/' etc., etc. 

The MonJce's Tale. 

Again, in " "Wily Beguiled," written before 1596 : 

" She's never well, but grunting in a corner." — Mdlone. 

" The undiscover'd country, from whose bourn 

N'o TRAVELLER returns^ — This has been cavilled at 
\>y Lord Orrery and others, but without reason. 
The idea of a traveller in Shakespeare's time was, 
of a person who gave an account of his adventures. 
Every voyage was a discovery. John Taylor has 
'' A Discovery by Sea from London to Salisbury." — 

Again, Marston's ^' Insatiate Countess," 1G03 : 

" Wrestled with death. 

From whose stern cave none tracks a backward path." 
" Qui nunc it per iter tenehricosum^ 
I Hue unde negant redire quemquam.'^ — Catullus. 

hamlet's soliloquy on suicide. 83 

Again, in Sandford's translation of " Cornelius 
Agrippa," etc., 1569 (once a book of uncommon 
popularity) : " The count7'ie of the dead is irreme- 
able, that they cannot retoxirne.^ Again, in " Cym- 
beline," says the Gaoler to Posthunms : " How you 
shall speed in your journey's end [after execution], 
I think you'll neve7' return to tell one.^'' — Steevens. 

This passage has been objected to by others on a 
ground which, at first view of it, seems more plausi- 
ble. Hamlet himself, it is objected, has had ocular 
demonstration that travellers do sometimes return 
from this strange country. I formerly thought this 
an inconsistency. But this objection is also founded 
on a mistake. Our poet, without doubt, in the pas- 
sage before us, intended to say, that from the 
unknoion regions of the dead no traveller returns 
with all his corporeal poioers, such as he who goes 
on a voyage of discovery brings back when he 
returns to the port from which he sailed. The tra- 
veller whom Hamlet had seen, though he appeared 
in the same habit which he had worn in his lifetime, 
was nothing but a shadow : " invulnerable as the 
air," and consequently incorporeal. If, says the 
objector, the traveller has reached this coast, it is 
not an undiscovered country. But by undiscovered^ 
Shakespeare meant, not undiscovered by departed 
spirits, but undiscovered, or unknown to " such fel- 
lows as we who crawl between earth and heaven ;" 
superis incognita tellus. In this sense every coun- 
try, of which the traveller does not return alive to 


84 hamlet's soliloquy on suicide. 

give an account^ may be said to be ^undiscovered. 
The GJiost ]ias given ns no account of the region 
from whence lie came, being, a8 he himself informed 
lis, '' fur])id to tell the secrets of his prison-house." 

Marlowe, before our poet, had compared death to 
a journey to an undiscovered country: 

" weep not for Mortimer, 

That scorns the world, and, as a traveller^ 

Goes to discover countries yet unknown. 

— King Edward 11. 1598, {written lefore 1593)' " — Malone. 

Perhaps this is another instance of Shakespeare's 
acquaintance with the Bible : " Afore I goe thither, 
from vjJience I shall not turne agcdne^ even to the 
land of darknesse and shadowe of deathe ; yea, into 
that darke, cloudie lande and deadlye shadowe 
wdierein is no order, but terrible feare as in the 
darknesse." (Job, ch. x.) 

" ' The way that I must goe is at hande, but 
whence I shall 7iot turne againe.'' (Job, ch. xvi.) I 
quote Cramner's Bible." — Douce. 

Thus conscience does make cowards of us all. 

*' I'll not meddle with it ; it maJces a man a coward." 

[Rich. III. : Act 1, so. 4. 
" coward conscience, how dost thou afflict me." 

[Ibid: Act 5, sc. 3." — Blaheway. 

" Great pith."— Thus the folio. Tlie quartos read, 
" of <^rQiit jntcL^^—Steevens. 

" l*itch seems to be the better reading. The allu- 

hamlet's soliloquy on suicide. 35 

sion is to i\\Q pitching or tJirowiiig the har / a manly 
exercise, usual in country villages." — Hitson. 

IS'ot to speak it profanely, Mr. Ritson's idea \^far 
fetched. Pith (as per folio) was tlie word, and 
used in a similar sense, as in — 

"that's my pitJi of business." — Measfor Meas. 

"marked not what's the pith of all." 

[^Taming of the Shrew, 

" the pith and marrow of our attribute." — Hamlet. 

" let it feed even on the pith of life." — Ihid. 

" arms of mine had seven years ^lYA." — Othello. 

Then awey. — Thus the quartos. The folio, " turn 
away.^'' The same printer's error occurs in the old 
copy of "Antony and Cleopatra," where we find, 
"your crown's away^^ instead of "your crown's 
awry.^^ — Steeve7i8. 

Thus have I quoted the most erudite and eminent 
of Shakespeare's commentators upon such words 
and metaphors as are comprised in Hmnlet^s solilo- 
qxty on suicide^ and the meaning or propriety of 
which has suggested their doubts or questions. But, 
as in the early part of this nineteenth century, there 
was discovered, in the library of the Duke of Devon- 
shire, a single edition of " ITamlet," 1603, (the only 
known copy of the play as originally written by 
Shakespeare, and the same which he afterward 
altered and enlarged to that which appears in the 
folio of 1623,) containing many of Shakespeare's ori- 
ginal crude or undigested thoughts, which he after- 

36 hamlet's soliloquy on suicide. 

^vard worked over or elaborated, and among others, 
his previous sketch or draft of this famous soliloquy, 
a reference to it may assist to elucidate some point 
that has been involved in doubt, and also gratify the 
curiosity of any one inclined to discover where 
Shakespeare thought fit to turn critic and improve 
upon his own earlier compositions. 

It should be premised, however, perhaps, to a 
modern reader, that, besides standing as a numeral 
for one^ the ninth letter of the alphabet, /, which in 
later times became confined to signify the pronoun 
of the first person^ was in Shakespeare's day written 
also to express ay or yes. Wherever Shakespeare 
wrote aye^ the word means ever or always. 

Ham. — '' To be, or not to be, I there's the point, 
To die, to sleepe, is that all ? I all : 
No, to sleepe, to dreame, I mary there it goes, 
For in that dreame of death, when wee awake, 
And borne before an everlasting Judge, 
From whence no passenger ever returned, 
The undiscovered country, at whose sight, 
The happy smile, and the accursed damn'd. 
But for this, the joyful hope of this, 
Whoe'd beare the scornes and flattery of the world. 
Scorned by the right rich, the rich curssed of the poore. 
The widow being oppressed, the orphan wrong'd, 
The taste of hunger, or a tirant's raigne. 
And thousand more calamities besides, 
To grunt and sweat under this weary life, 
When that he may his full quietus make, 
With a bare bodkin, who would this indure, 
But for a liope of something after death? 

hamlet's soliloquy on suicide. 37 

Which piisles the braine, and doth confound the sence, 
Which makes vs rather beare those evilles we have, 
Than flie to others that we know not of. 
I that, this conscience makes cowards of vs all, 
Lady in thy orizons, be aU my sinnes remembered." 

Tlie soliloquy here consists of twenty-two lines 
only ; in the folio of 1623 it fills thirty-three lines. 
Shakespeare found occasion in that to introduce 
new or different suhject-matter for reflection. He 
also strengthened many of his original expressions, 
and, indeed, seems to have almost entirely reformed, 
by diifusion and compression alternately, the links 
in the chain of the self-argument. 

In the edition of 1603, preserving the first half of 
the opening line — " To be, or not to be " — the 
author struck out " ay, there's the point," and sub- 
stituted " that is the question." Then he introduces : 

" Whether 'tis nobler in the mind, to suffer 
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, 
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, 
And by opposing, end them ?" 

At this point he falls back upon his second original 


" To die, to sleep, is that all ? ay, all :" 

and resolves \\,for the contimiity : 

'' To die ?— to sleep !— 

No more." 
There Shakespeare stopped to reconnoitre Hamlefs 

88 hamlet's soliloquy ox suicide. 

postulate and the natural consequences, and pursu- 
ing his self-inqairj, added : 

" and, by a sleep, to say, we end 

The heart-ache, and the thousand natural shocks 
That flesh is heir to, — 'tis a consummation 
Devoutly to be wish'd." 

Here he again returns, and resumes his self-debate 
from the third line of the original soliloquy : 

" No, to sleepc, to dreame, ay mary there it goes," 

first reiterating, 

" To die— to sleep—" 

and then suggesting the likelihood of a dream : 

" To sleep ! perchance to dream ; ay, there's the rub," 

he specifies the respective considerations which 
should restrain his impulses or compel him to hesi- 
tate. He changes the expression from dream to 
" sleep of death ;" and substitutes for 

" when we awake 

And borne before an everlasting Judge," 

" what dreams may come, 

When we have shuffled off this mortal coiL" 

Possibly Shakespeare may have considered that 
his own ideas were not quite clear in their inception, 
and had been rather conglomerated in their original 
expression ; as he continued to separate and to arrange 

hamlet's soliloquy on suicide. 39 

tliem in a more logical and intelligible order : for 
example, in place of liis first hypothesis of being 
"in a dream of death, and awakened and borne 
before an everlasting Judge, from whence no j^cis- 
senger ever returned," and also, of the opening to 
'' sight an undiscovered country " which should have 
the effect to make " the happy smile, and the 
accursed (feel) damn'd," we find the author has 
changed the idea to one suggestive of ''^ sleejy of 
death," (which knows no waking,) together with 
that dread — ^^ what'''' (possibly horrid) "dreams" in 
the eternal sleep a suicide might discover as his fate, 
who, aware that the Everlasting had " fixed his 
canon 'gainst self-slaughter," had thus defiantly 
attempted to rid himself of life's turmoils, and had 
hastily " shuffled off this mortal coil," and those 
ill fortunes which Destiny had seen fit to deal out, 
as his lot in this world. 

Keferring to the immediate antecedent — 

" The undiscovered country, at whose sight 
The happy smile," etc., 

the line — 

" But for this, the joyful hope of this " 

is omitted, and, instead of retaining entire, 

" But for the hope of something after death," 

the author thought fit to alter " hope " to " dreads 

40 hamlet's soliloquy on suicide. 

"But that the dread of something after death 
(That undiscovered country, from whose bourn 
No traveller returns) puzzles the will " — 

(not "puzzles the h^aine,^^ as previously written,) 
and, after apostrophizing "conscience" in a line, 
add^^ finally : 

" And thus the native hue of resolution 
Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought ; 
And enterprises of great pith and moment, 
"With this regard, their currents turn awry, 
And lose the name of action." 

Tlie idea connected with the words ^'shuffled off'''' 
may be discovered in its concordance in another 
play : 

" Often good turns 

Are shufled off with such uncurrent pay ; 

But, were my worth, as is my conscience, firm, 

You should find better dealing^ 

[Twelfth Night, Act 3, sc. 3. 

In conchision, with reference to the matter con- 
tained in this soliloquy as it appeared in the earlier 
edition, (1603,) it is highly interesting to imagine 
what thoughts might have originated in the brain of 
such a mighty genius, and what his motives were 
for each change of word, or sentence, or order in 
expression ; but, with what a nice regard to a com- 
bination of poetry with philosophy and human 
nature, Shakespeare has condensed the spirit of his 
first ideas and leas digested reflections in the latest 

hamlet's soliloquy on suicide. 41 

edition of this soliloquy, only such as may have the 
taste, time and patience to investigate for them- 
selves can thoroughly appreciate. 

In March, 1828, happening, when engaged in dis- 
cursive reading, to pick up a volume of " The Bri- 
tish Classics," containing Goldsmith's Essays, I 
quoted the preceding matter, and wrote the previous 
comments and the following remarks upon that jDor- 
tion of Goldsmith's XYIth Essay which relates to 
" Hamlet's Soliloquy on Suicide :" — 

In reference to the first charge preferred against 
Shakespeare, that he has given Hamlet not "the least 
reason to wish for death," it should be recollected, 
that Hcunlefs mind was, upon our first introduction 
to him, strongly operated upon by the recent and 
sudden death of a parent whom he had dearly loved, 
and whose memory he reverenced — that, whilst in 
the full and unabated indulgence of his grief, his 
mother, forgetful of his father's recent decease, and 
in defiance of common decency, had been actually 
won, within a month after that fatal event, to the 
incestuous bed of his paternal uncle. 

Perhaps a touch of disappointed ambition, but 
more apparently the continual recurrence of these 
facts to his sensitive mind, at times disgusted him 
with life ; and, to add to his mortification, his suc- 
cession had been hindered, and the throne usurped, 
by one whose very dethronement, since his marriage 
with his mother, would tend more deeply to dis- 
grace the royal family of Denmark, which, as 

42 hamlet's soliloquy on suicide. 

appears by the catastroplie, consisted of these three 

In the midst of these afflictions, lie is informed 
tliat the ghost of his father has been seen "two 
nights together " upon the platform before the cas- 
tle, where, 

" With martial stalk, hath he gone by our watch;" 

has sought and had an interview aj^^art with, the 
apparition, learned that murder has been joined to 
the crime of incest in obtaining the crown, his own 
by right ; but, though Hmnlet is expected to 
revenge upon his beastly uncle his father's "foul, 
strange and unnatural " murder, his pursuit of it is 
embarrassed by the Ghosfs injunction: 

" Taint not thy mind, nor let thy soul contrive 
Against thy mother aught ; leave her to heaven, 
And to those thorns that in her bosom lodge 
To prick and sting her." 

As soon as Hamlet recovers from the appalling 
effect of that horrid revelation, sufficient of itself to 
overwhelm and prostrate his faculties, without the 
superadded and preternatural agency of his father's 
disembodied spirit to render it still more terrific and 
impressive, he resolves that the preliminary step of 
his policy shall be the semblance of madness ; 
because, such a reputed state of mind will at once 
exempt him from being an object of further machi- 
nations from his murderous uncle, whose security in 

hamlet's soliloquy on suicide. 43 

the throne would be greatly enhanced by Hamlets 
incapability ; and, also, whilst evident insanity 
would protect his life and neutralize any apprehen- 
sion in his uncle's mind of Hamlet^ s attempt to vin- 
dicate his own rights, would afford Hamlet more 
opportunity to reconnoitre his uncle's unguarded 

In order that the story of the Ghost may not get 
currency, and thereby discover any clue to his stra- 
tagem and assumed madness, Hamlet has prayed of 
the only three others who have seen the apparition — 

" If you have hitherto concealed this sight, 
Let it be tenable* in your silence still " — 

and, of the two officers of the watch, particularly, 
and under their oath, not to divulo^e anvthino^ con- 
cerning him, should he " think meet to put an antick 
disposition on." 

One of the most signal traits of Hamlets idiosyn- 
crasy is his fickleness of purpose or irresolution. 
Of that morbid fertility is his imagination, that 
often before he is able to realize to himself an idea 
it has started, another dispels or displaces it, and his 
utterance, incapable of keeping pace with their flow, 
and blending their expression, becomes confused 
and unintelligible without scrutiny. 

* The folio of 1623 reads, " let it be irtbU in your silence still," and, 
although Steevens thinks "tenable" in the quarto "right," I doubt it; 
as the meaning of treble (or triple) may be, "the sight remain known 
to you tliree only," namely, Horatio, Marcellus and Bernardo. 

44 hamlet's soliloquy on suicide. 

Dr. Johnson says : — " Of the feigned madness of 
Hamlti tliere appears no adequate cause, for he does 
nothing he might not have done with the reputation 
of sanity." Granted, that he accomplishes little or 
nothing in any of his plans or objects; but he 
repeatedly purposed to do a great deal ; and it is 
the differing shades of his discrepancy between the 
understandings and moral habits and actions of 
mankind which constitute our peculiarities of cha- 
racter. Hamlet was of an impulsive temperament, 
and very dissimilar to such as are naturally phleg- 
matic, and who resolve, after mature and delib^*ate 
reflection, and steadily execute their purposes. 
Hamlet'' s nature is like the flint-struck steel, which 
" shows a hasty spark, and straight is cold again." 
All his resolutions must be formed out of some 
excitement of the blood. "When the Ghost first inti- 
mates, and calls upon him to revenge, his murder.^ 
he impatiently interjects : 

" Haste me to know it ; that I, with wings as swift 
As meditation, or the thoughts of love, 
May sweej) to my revenge " — 

and could he hnmediately have encountered his 
murderer, whilst his blood was inflamed, would 
unhesitatingly have fulfilled his vow of vengeance 
then, as he did, upon an after-occasion, in " his 
brainish apprehension," kill Polonius. The moment 
his blood cools, he relapses into the philosopher. 
Hardly does one incentive to action present itself to 

hamlet's soliloquy on suicide. 45 

Ills mind, before it is blasted in the bud, or neutral- 
ized by some paralyzing obstacle. His inconsist- 
ency of conduct has in some instances been unde- 
servedly complained of through ignorance of Haiii- 
lefs motives. Once, particularly, he summons all 
his resolution, and fully bent on sacrifice, seeks his 
uncle, whom he then chances to find at prayer : — 
his heart, which revolted even at retributive slaugh- 
ter in cold blood, failed him, and suggested to his 
judgment a parley before procedure, and the 
sophism that it would be "hire and salary — not 

" To take him in the purging of his soul, 
When he is fit and seasoned for his passa^," 

who had killed his brother 

" With all his crimes broad blown, as flush as May;" 

and, under the alleged pretext that slaying his uncle 
then " would be scaun'd " and be regarded as an 
encouraging example to a murderer, Hamlet deter- 
mines with himself that it is inexpedient at that 
juncture to kill King Claudius^ and prefers to 
await some opportunity when his uncle may be 

" about some act 

That has no relish of salvation in't : 
Then trip him, that his heels may kick at heaven : 
And that his soul may be as damn'd, and black, 
As hell, whereto it goes." 

46 hamlet's soliloquy on suicide. 

This obvious subterfuge for bis own irresolntion 
has been harbaronsly misconstrued by some igno- 
rant or superficial critics, who impute to Hamlet the 
possession of a demoniacal spirit of revenge, unsa- 
tisfied with the killing of the body only, and desir- 
ous of extending its gluttonous malignancy to the 
soul after its separation : whereas, the real motive 
which underlies the sophistry ought to be transpa- 
rent to any one reading carefully Hamlet^s conduct 
and character, either before or after. Take, for one 
of the many examples, his own acknowledgment of 
his instability of purpose and self-reproof : 

" How all occasions do inform against me, 
And spur my dull revenge ;" etc. 

Dr. Johnson continues : — " Hamlet plays the mad- 
man most when he treats Ophelia with so much 
rudeness, which seems to be useless and wanton 
cruelty." With regard to its uselessness^ I would 
suggest a reference to the fact, that Hamlet^ having, 
immediately after the Ghost^s revelation, thought fit 
to put an antic disposition on, sought a subject and 
a medium for circulating through the Court a report 
of his insanity / some strange freak of conduct was 
necessary as a preliminary, and Avhat sort of mental 
derangement so likely to be esteemed harmless to 
all, and aflPord perfect security to the suspicious 
mind of the guilty usurper, as the madness proceed- 
ing from unrequited love ? The notoriety of his ten- 
der j)assion for Ophelia, and the fact that she had 

hamlet's soliloquy on suicide. 47 

recently, by the command of her father, returned his 
letters and rejected his visits, afforded a promising 
opportunity to establish such a starting-point with- 
out exciting anyone's suspicion. 

However strongly the current of Hamlefs passion 
for Ophelia had been set previously, it had been 
checked by his then mourning his father's recent 
and sudden death, and, now particularly that he had 
Yowed to remember his perturbed spirit, and 

" Thy commandment aU alone shall hve 
Within the book and volume of my brain," 

his thoughts had been diverted from a course of l(yoe 
and bound in another Q\\2imiQ\^ filial duty. 

K an origination of the report of Hamlefs mad- 
ness, and its apparent cause from the least suspicious 
source (and Hamlefs object was to secure such 
report's ready access to tlie King and Queen), could 
he have selected a more fit, inoffensive, and sure 
course, than through Ojphelia^ who would naturally, 
and dutifully, and forthwith communicate Hamlefs 
behavior to her father, whose propensity would lead 
to its immediate promulgation to the King and the 
Court ? I think the means Hamlet adopted were 
exceedingly well calculated to produce the impres- 
sion he wished to make, and that up to this stage of 
his proceeding, there is no evidence of his rriadnesa 
being other than etsstimccl. His " rudeness," then, 
was not — if it could be so considered at all — " use- 
less and wanton cruelty." But was Hamlet either 

48 hamlet's soliloquy on suicide. 

rude or cruel to Oj)heUaf To judge from her de- 
scription of Hamlefs beliavior, when she had " been 
affrigided^ as she was sewing in her closet," Ophelia 
did not reorard it as either rude or cruel, but 
''' jpiteous^^'' in its effect upon her ; and, in reference 
to his conversation with her, when her father and 
the King had conspired to send for Hamlet, when 
he might, as 'twere by accident, meet Ophelia, 
whilst they, so bestowed as to be unseen by him, 
could thus covertly see and hear what should pass 
between them, and to which esjnonage she has lent 
herself by loalking in Hamlefs w^ay and seeming to 
read a hook, as instructed, it should be premised 
that the text furnishes a reasonable inference that 
Hamlet has acquired, either by a personal glimpse 
of his sp)ies, or other incident of the scene, some 
idea of Ophelia^s duplicity and unfair, not to say 
unfaithful or ungenerous, position with respect to 
him, when he commences to interrogate, and she to 
equivocate — he to animadvert and she at last to 
answer his direct question, "Where's your father?" 
with "At home!" which Hamlet may have known 
to be 2i^ palpable, as she did it was an absolute, y(:^Z^<3- 
hood. Hamlet^ s language, however, though earnest 
and pungent, was neither rude, nor wanton, nor 
cruel ; nor were his sentiments, as it seems, in any 
way offensive. The effect was to impress her, by 
the sudden change, from his habitually mild and 
gentle language and manners to strong and uugallant 
invective, with a belief that he was hopelessly mad. 

hamlet's soliloquy on suicide. 49 

Keaii (Edmuud), as Hamlet^ after concluding his 
words to Ojjhdta — "To a nuniieiy, go!" and de- 
parting abruptly out of sight of his audience, used 
to come on the stage again and approach slowly the 
amazed Oi)lielia still remaining in the centre ; take 
her hand gently, and, after gazing steadily and 
earnestly in her face for a few seconds, and with a 
marked expression of tenderness in his own counte- 
nance, appeared to be choked in his efforts to say 
something, smothered her hand with passionate 
kisses, and rushed wildly and finally from her pre- 
sence. The conception was clearly indicated and 
neatly executed in each point, whether justified by 
the circumstances of the interview or not. A more 
effective bit of serious pantomime by way of episode 
that master of his art never exhibited upon any 
stage. It was a whole history in little ! 

Reverting to the situation of Ilaml-et immediately 
preceding the soliloquy on suicide. He had no 
sooner put on the guise of insanity than he dis-' 
covered that the king had sent for and made spies 
of his two friends, ItosenGrantz and Guildenstern, 
whom he had found bent upon plucking out the very 
heart of his own mysterious behavior, and resolved 
to scrutinize his every movement. It is now that 
the consciousness of the wrongs he has suffered — 
the perplexity he finds in steering the course he has 
adopted — the delicacy of his situation with respect 
to his mother — the uncertainty of the stratagem 
for making his uncle's " occulted guilt" " itself 


50 hamlet's soliloquy on suicide. 

unlvenneV by the effect of tlie play — then the 
melanchuly and bitter satisfaction its success at best 
must afford him, together with its reflections upon 
liis own infirmity of purpose when compared with 
the ability of the player to assume upon an imagin- 
ary occasion — these all conspire to predispose his 
mind to philosopliize concerning the value or worth- 
lessness of human existence, and particularly under 
his own embarrassing circumstances. It is in such 
a frame of thought, that Hamlet enters just before 
the mock-play and commences the soliloquy — " To 
be, or not to be," etc. 

The assertion that " Hamlet deviates, after the 
first line, from the proposition — to die by his ow^n 
hand, or to live and suffer the miseries of life" — 
when he follows up with, " Whether 'tis nobler in 
the mind to suffer," etc. — is a different construction 
of the metaphor it contains from that w^hich I under- 
stand the passage to convey. Instead of supposing 
him to be debating with himself, " whether he will 
stoop to misfortune, or exert his faculties in order to 
surmount it," thereby (as the critic observes) " giv- 
ing over his reasoning on death, which, he alleges, 
is no longer the question," though he admits that 
" Hamlet instantly reverts to it," I will endeavor to 
show it to be thus far one unbroken continuation of 
the same chain of ideas. The fact is, Hamlet never 
alludes to the alternative of ending his difficulties 
by raising an army or claiming his rights by force 
of arms ; the arm to which he contem}>hitcs the 

hamlet's soliloquy ox suicide. 51 

effect of a recourse is no other than the unsheathed 
dagger — (particularized afterward in the course of 
his reasoning as " a hare hodhin'''') — and hy opjposing 
(it to his heart — the fountain of existence, and com- 
paring it, in its then agitated condition, to '^ a sea 
of trouhles^^) end them. That is the kind of arm, 
and such the sea^ the poet intended to prefigure in 
Ilctmlefs hypothesis. The analogy between the sea^ 
with the ebbing and flowing of its tides, as they are 
propelled and returned back and forth through vari- 
ous branching rivers, channels, and tributary creeks, 
and other passages, and the heart, by whose im- 
pulses the hlood is constantly forced and courses 
through the veins and arteries of the body until it 
returns to its source and is again emitted, must be 
obvious to every one upon reflection ; thus, instead 
of "a ridiculously absurd figure," is the idea beau- 
tifully poetic. Among Shakespeare's numerous 
figures in reference to the heart, he thus associates 

with the sea 

" a Tieartj 

As full of troubles as a sea — of sands." 

\_Two Gent, of Verona. 

Othello, too, in allusion to his heart, calls it — 

'' The fountain from the which my current runs 
Or else dries up." 

Hamlet, in his self -debate on suicide, hy " sea of 
troubles," had only and special reference to his 
heart and its physical functions — namely — 

52 hamlet's soliloquy ox suicide. 

" The tide of blood in me 
^ Halli 2>ro\i(llii flowed in vanity till noiv, 

Now doth it turn and ebb back to the sea." 

[^Second Part of King Henry IV. 

That the word ^' sea," in this context^ is iised as 
figurative or suggestive of the heart, is undeniable ; 
heeause the *' blood" can " turii and ebb back^'' to no 
other " 56'(X." 

Dr. Goldsmith's classical taste discerns and com- 
plains that " Shakespeare himself is often guilty of 
an excess of figures and of running into mixed meta- 
phors, which leave the sense disjointed and distract 
the imagination." As " from tlie fulness of the 
heart the mouth speaketh," so it may be natural to 
a richly endowed poetical genius to be apt to in- 
dulge in a profusion even unto a redundancy, occa- 
sionally, and the breaking unavoidably, sometimes, 
or a mixing of metaphors. It is an evidence of a 
meagre mind when its figures are too continuousi|y 
pursued and attenuated. 

As to there being " nothing analogous in nature 
to Fortune with her slings and arrows,^'' I do not per- 
ceive any special " disjointure of the sense^'' if there 
be any particular transgression of poetical license. 

Among " the thousand natural shocks that flesh is 
heir to," what is there so very absurd or poetically 
unnatural in representing " outrageous Fortune" — 
that blind, and fickle, and inexorable goddess — with 
a sling^ hurling stones and stunning the sense of 
some unlucky victim ? or in her shooting an arroio 

hamlet's soliloquy on suicide. 53 

and lacerating the kind lieart of another unde- 
servedly, and in her wantonness ? Have not slin(/s 
and arrows been primitive instruments of human 
torture, and may they not be used with equal pro- 
priety as symljols of suffering^ as the poisoned bowl 
and the ruthless dagger are 2,^ figurative of death f 

With respect to the flat contradiction chai'ged in 
making Hamlet speak of " ' the undiscovered coun- 
try from whose bourn no traveller returns,' when 
the ghost of his father, piping hot from purgatory 
(a place not within the bourn [or limit] of this 
world), had just been conversing with him," it has 
been freely and ingeniously canvassed by discerning 
commentators, whom I have quoted copiously in a 
former paper. I may add, in the way of remark, 
that Hamlet is constantly wavering in his mind, and 
betwixt the supernatural revelation from the ghost, 
and the irreconcilability of the source of the infor- 
mation with his philosophy, he seems at times to 
doubt even the evidence of his senses, and to 
imagine that his faculty of eyes and ears has been 
fooled by his other senses, and to impute the decep- 
tion to the effect of an overheated imagination : — 

'' The spirit that I have seen 
May be a devil, and the devil hath power 
To assume a pleasing shape ; yea, and, perhaps, 
Out of my weakness and my melancholy^ 
(As he is very potent with suc4i spirits), 
Abuses me to damn me : I'll have grounds 
More relative than this : the play's the thing 
Wherein I'll catch the conscience of the king." 

54 hamlet's soliloquy on suicide. 

The coniinnation his mind receives from the inci- 
dent at the phiv, and the emotion that so conclu- 
sively, to him, betrayed his uncle's guilt, seems to 
be again superseded when the Ghost appears and 
talks to him, yet is invisible and inaudible to his 
mother at the same time. The Ghost^ too, in the 
closet, thus seen only by himself, appears clad in his 
father's habit as he lived^ whilst that which visited 
the glimpses of the moon upon the platform, in 
figure like his father, appeared in armiOT^ was seen 
at the same time by Hamlet'' s three companions, and 
might have been heard, too, had the Ghost not 
beckoned him to a more removed ground ; as 
though the apparition some impartment did desire 
to Hamlet alone. 

Shakespeare may have, however, designed by this 
difference to indicate the turning-point of Hamlets 
brain, where his madness is no longer assumed, but 
has become real and constitutional, and ready to 
burst into paroxysms upon any occasional excite- 
ment, and again to subside and leave to reason an 
interval of temporary sway. Such a self-conviction 
may, in some measure, account for his neglect there- 
after to pursue actively his revenge, and for the fact 
of his seldom alluding to it in subsequent conversa- 
tion. The shock inflicted upon his nervous system 
when mistaking and killing Polonius^ seems to have 
jDroduced a climax touching the subject whereon his 
melancholy had been sitting on brood, and abso- 
lutely deranged his intellect. 

hamlet's soliloquy on suicide. 55 

AVhen Shakespeare needed a gliost to come from 
the grave in order to tell Hamlet what his proplietic 
soul had previously suggested to his imagination, he 
was, I presume, not supposed to be restricted from 
investing each, according to circumstances, with any 
quality requisite for the occasion. Finally, when 
poets have need of the influence of departed spirits 
upon the affairs of this world, and find it expedient 
to their purposes to recall their apparitions to 
scenes familiar in their lives, what may be their 
righteous limits, license, faculties of communicating 
what they know or desire, of perceiving what occurs 
upon this earth, or of rendering themselves only 
visible to certain persons, and at particular hours of 
the night most favorable to the imagination of such 
as they would be noticed by, I have never studied ; 
but have ever yielded the utmost latitude to the 
erratic fancy of an author — never attempting to 
reconcile to my natural jjhiloso^phy a consistency 
^\\\i jpretematural agencies and influences ; because 
such things have strong imagination, and a poet's 
eye, in a fine phrensy rolling, requires space and 
scope for any utility. 

The mystery complained of, contained in the 
lines — 

" But that the dread of something after death 

And makes us rather bear those ills we have, 
Than fly to others that we know not of. 
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;" 

66 hamlet's soliloquy on suicide. 

may be removed at once by admitting Harnlefs 
creed to be, that " there (ire ' ills ' in the next world, 
and I would fly to them, hut that I fear such as 
might be measured out to me as a suicide^ and the 
severity of which ' I know not of,' may be greater 
than the miseries I bear here ; and therefore I am 
deterred from rushing into those of the world to 
come, in order to escape these which I endure in 
ihis life." 

" Thus conscience does make cowards of us all." 

" The logician might be j nstified in saying of such 
a conclusion, negatur consequens^^^ if the significa- 
tion of the word " consciences'^ was confined to this 
critic's understanding of its sense, and had not a 
legitimate latitude of which he does not appear 
aware. The meaning of " conscience " in this con- 
text is, an internal sense of riglit or wrong ^ and 
which modern lexicographers distinguish by tJie 
word (not expressed in Shakespeare's vocabulary, 
though frequejitly implied) consciousness^ (the know- 
ledge of what passes in the mind) whilst they have 
defined conscience to signify — " The faculty within 
us w^hich decides upon the lawfulness or unlawful- 
ness of our actions." 

In Shakespeare's comprehensive use of the word, 
a conscience may be good or bad, according to its 
owner's hnowledge of what passes in his mind, and 
not necessarily implying that he is conscientious or 
scrupulous in obeying its dictates. Conscience, as a 

hamlet's soliloquy on suicide. 57 

synonyme of conscioitsness^ is also used by Bacon, 
Hooker, Pope and other writers. I take Hamlcfs 
meaning to be, as we would with our modern dis- 
tinction of terms express it, " It is the consciousness 
tliat we would merit the ills or condign punishment 
that may be reserved by the Everlasting for such as 
may commit forbidden acts, which " makes cowards 
of us all." 

Then, after recapitulating the points of his pre- 
vious objections. Goldsmith asserts that 

" ' Ay, there's tlie rub ' 

is a vulgarism beneath the dignity of Hamlefs 
character." If the vulgarism consists in the use of 
the word " rub," (a hindrance or obstacle,) it is put 
by Shakespeare repeatedly into the mouths of 
several of his kings and queens and other dignified 
personages ; had its particular quantity for the 
metre of his versification been the cause of its use in 
this context, we should not find the word rulj so 
often elsewhere ; besides, from its frequent use by 
Dryden, Davenant, Swift and others, its conven- 
tional degradation in the vocabulary becomes very 
doubtful ; but how " it leaves the sense imperfect," 
according to the critic's own showing, I am unable 
to comprehend. 

The sense and propriety of " the oppressor's wrong, 
the proud man's contumely," as governed in the 
possessive case by the preceding verb " bear," to me 
are obvious. The objection to the use of the word 


58 hamlet's soliloquy on suicide. 

" spurn " as a substantive is also hypercritical, if 
Milton be allowed as authority. ""What defence 
can properly be used in so desj)erate an encounter as 
this, but either the slap or the sjyurnP — Colasterion. 

Finally, it seems to me that " the strange rhap- 
sody of broken images," of which the critic com- 
plains, is perfectly characteristic of Hamlefs idio- 
syncrasy in his peculiar predicament ; indeed, such 
unprecedented and unrivalled individuality has 
Shakespeare shown in drawing and sustaining each 
of his characters throughout, and so peculiarly 
adapted to the respective situations is their language, 
that any attempt to transpose it, or to change the 
medium of its use, or to disconnect sentences and 
examine certain ideas separately or from an abstract 
point of consideration, must be foreign to the spirit 
and purpose of the bard of Avon. 

Dr. Goldsmith's essay, at least so far as concerns 
the sense of the soliloquy on suicide, I consider weak 
and abortive. It is a proof that a critic may have 
a refined taste, be learned and classical, and yet not 
qualified to fathom the more profound meanings of 
sucli an author as Shakespeare. 

It is a singular fact that, of all the critics I have 
read, Schlegel and Goethe^ with whom Shakespeare's 
was not their vernacular, should seem, by their 
general remark, to have the more clearly penetrated 
his designs. 

Goethe, particularly, has given a key to the cha- 
racter of Hamlet. He says : — 

hamlet's soliloquy on suicide. 59 

" It is clear to me that Shakespeare's intention 
was to exhibit the effects of a great action, imposed 
as a duty upon a mind too feeble for its accomplish- 
ment. In this sense I find the character consistent 
throughout. Here is an oak-tree planted in a china 
vase, proper only to receive the most delicate flow- 
ers. 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 bear, 
nor resolve to abandon altogether. All his obliga- 
tions are sacred to him. Observe how he turns, 
shifts, hesitates, advances, and recedes ! ITow 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 even recovering his former tranquillity." — 
WilJiehn Meister's Apprenticeshvp, 





In Jamiaiy, 1839, 1 spent a few weeks socially at 
Washington^ D.C. — a city wliicli I have very seldom 
visited professionally — and met the Hon. and Ex- 
President John Quincy Adams occasionally. 

In a conversation with him respecting the drama 
in general, and Shakespeare's especially — of which 
he was notoriously a constant reader — I observed to 
him that from boyhood I had read Hamlet with 
great attention, and had interleaved my copy of the 
play, and interspersed copiously annexations, which 
had been regarded by several of our literary friends 
as involvino^ some new and sino'ular ideas of the 
character. I reminded Mr. Adams of the delight 
he had once afforded me as well as a number of his 
friends, by his remarTcs upon that same character, 
after dinner at the table of Mr. Hone (Ex-Mayor 
Philip), of Kew York, and I proposed to send him 

64 hamlet's soliloquy on suicide. 

my MS. notes for 'perusal^ wliicli he politely inti- 
mated lie would '' gladly give them." 

When Mr. Adams returned my noted-co'pj of 
Hamlet^ it was accompanied by a very charming 
and instructive letter, dated, " Washington, 19 Feb., 
1839," commencing : — " I return herewith your 
tragedy of Hamlet^ with many thanks for the peru- 
sal of your manuscript notes, which indicate how 
thoroughly you have delved into the bottomless 
mine of Shakespeare's genius. I well remember 
the conversation, more than seven years by-gone, at 
Mr. Philip Hone's hospitable table, where at the 
casual introduction of Hamlet the Dane, my enthusi- 
astic admiration of the inspired (Muse-inspired) 
Bard of Avon, commenced in childhood, before the 
down had darkened my lip, and continued through 
five of the seven ages of the drama of life, gaining 
upon the judgment as it loses to the imagination, 
seduced me to expatiate at a most intellectual and 
lovely convivial board, upon my views of the 
character of Hamlet^ until I came away ashamed 
of having engrossed an undue proportion of the con- 
versation to myself. I look upon the tragedy of 
Hamlet as the master-piece of Shakespeare — I had 
almost said the master-piece of the human mind. 
But I have never committed to writing the analysis 
of the considerations upon which this deliberate 
judgment has been formed. At the table of Mr. 
Hone I could give nothing but outlines and etchings. 
I can give no more now — snatching, as I do from 

hamlet's soliloquy on suicide. 65 

the morning lamp to commnne with a lover and 
worthy representative of Shakespeare npon tlie 
glories of tlie immortal bard." 

In reference to Mr. Adams' " morning lamj) " of 
February)^ it should be observed that, at his date, 
it was his custom to rise at four o'clock, in order to 
dispatch all his private affairs, that they miglit not 
interfere with his duties of the day in the House of 
Representatives, where he sat as a member from 
Massachusetts. As Mr. Adams complimentarily 
calls me " a lover and worthy representative of 
Shakespeare," I ought, in justice to his judgment, to 
observe also, that he had reference particularly to 
my Falstaff of King Henry IV. and in The Merry 
'Wives of Windsor j because, before loaning him 
my notes upon Hamlet for his perusal, I had men- 
tioned that, " I had never acted^ nor had thought of 
acting that character ; and for the reason that, I 
should probably, owing to the comic department of 
the Drama which I professed, be either neglected or 
laughed at by the puUic, for any attempt to emljody 
my own conception in my own person ; and had, 
therefore, not only noted my own peculiar under- 
standing of various texts., but had elaborately de- 
scrihed how I thought my particular views might be 
illustrated and made jpercejptible upon the stage by a 
good actor of Hamlet. ^"^ 

Mr. Adams' letter continues — ""What is tragedy ?" 
— of which he wrote a classical analysis as a pre- 
face, and then a concise one which lie calls — " a 

66 hamlet's soliloquy on suicide. 

liasty outline of his own view of the character of 
Hamlet y" and conchides his four autographic pages 
of letter-sheet, closely w^ritten, with — 

" I regret that time w411 not allow nie to fill the 
canvas with lights ^nd shades borrowed from the 
incidents and dialogues of the play. Eut after be- 
stowing so much of my own tediousness upon you, 
I can only repeat my thanks for the perusal of your 
own very ingenious comments upon this incompara- 
ble tragedy, and add the assurance of my best 
wishes for your health and happiness, and of my 
cordial sympathies with your devotion to the 
memory of the immortal bard." 

(Signed) John QumcY Adams. 

See this ejjyistle in full ^ on a subsequent ^age. 

Though I considered Mr. Adams' personal com- 
pliments to emanate more from his benevolence and 
acquaintanceship with me than from his unbiassed 
judgment of my pretensions, yet, if an earnest 
desire from my youth to become familiar with 
Shakespeare's dramas — beginning at twelve years 
of age with Macbeth^ which inspired me to peruse 
the others, when I had yet never seen one acted — if 
to explore the vast intellectual magazine which the 
Bard of Avon has bequeathed to posterity — to try 
to penetrate his moral and dramatic designs — dis- 
cover and elucidate even a few of the many poetic 
gems which he has set, and diffused amid his copi- 
ous, and admirable, and unequalled diction — and to 


have become by sncli study enamored, and ambi- 
tions of performing some of his many matchless 
characters upon the stage (for which all were ex- 
pressly designed), and overcoming my constitutional 
and habitual love of ease and my aversion to close 
study or any prolonged physical labor — to have 
attained to be or have been accounted by the puhlio 
gencvally " a good actor " of at least one of his 
greatest characters — if, I repeat, this allowance to 
me of such particular elements may constitute and 
reflect any merit or claim in my favor for even a 
IMSsing notice in this wonder-working age, I can't 
conscientiously deny that I am not insensible to, but 
grateful for its public acknowledgment, expressed or 

When the first letter from Mr. Adams (out of 
which I have quoted) reached my hand at New 
York, I was just embarking for England, whither I 
carried it before I had time to reply. It was 
esteemed so very interesting by several literary 
friends of mine in London, and became so eagerly 
and frequently sought, for the purpose of being 
copied, that at last, to rescue it from further mutila- 
tion, I caused it to be lithographed in fac-siinile^ 
together with my reply ^ and a few hundred of such 
copies presented to certain friends and literary insti- 
tutions there ; also, I sent some of the copies of that 
correspondence to several friends in i^ew York, and 
prior to my return from England (March, 1840), it 
had been obtained by the Neio Yorh Mirror (a 

68 hamlet's soliloquy on suicide. 

weekly), and pnblislied, without regard to the notice 
thereupon — " lithograjyJied far private distrihution 
onlyP The consequence was, Mr. Adams' letter 
and my reply were copied extensively by news- 
papers throughout the United States. After my 
return, and upon visiting Washington, when I met 
Mr. Adams, I mentioned that I had been ver^^ much 
vexed for his sake when I heard of the liberty which 
had been taken in publishing our letters in my 
absence, and without my knowledge or his consent, 
and that I had written Mr. Clay soliciting that gen- 
tleman's explanation of the facts in advance of my 
coming. Mr. Adams laughed, and observed — " I 
told Mr. Clay, when, at your instance, he referred 
to the circumstance and entered your disclaimer, 
that it not only did not offend — it did not surprise 
me — I expected it would be published one day or 
other. Indeed, I never write upon any subject, the 
publication of which at some time or other is unex- 
pected or might prove disagreeable." 

Ml passant^ Mr. Adams writes — " I look upon the 
tragedy of Hamlet as the master-piece of the drama 
— the master-piece of Shakespeare — I had almost 
said the master-piece of the human mind." That 
distinguished litterateur, the present Earl of CajrUsle^ 
whom, as " Lord Morpetli^^ I was accustomed to 
meet occasionally when he visited the United States 
about 1842-43, and to whom in England, in 1844, 1 
carried a special letter of introduction from our 
eminent statesman, the Hon. Henry Clay, and was 

hamlet's soliloquy on suicide. 69 

tliere entertained bj him, and subsequently liave 
enjoyed bis corresjpondence^ in one of his letters, 
referring to that point, observes — ''I sec none of 
your criticisms are addressed to the play of Mac- 
Idh : in my mind the very highest, in order, of all 
the few which seem to me indisputably higher than 
all the rest — Macbeth^ Hamlet^ Othello^ Lear. 
When I say this, however, I never could quarrel 
with a pei*son who puts Hamlet even above Mac- 
hethr — 8ee letter^ on a sitbsequent page. 

Horatio Smith — the hrother of my witty and 
familiar London acquaintance at the Garrick Club, 
James, and the younger of those two — (called " the 
handsomest men in England," and who became 
renowned for their surprising imitations of the dif- 
ferent styles of their various contemporary poets, in 
the little volume entitled " Hejected Addresses,''^ 
which required some tioenty editions to satisfy the 
demand of the reading world), in a letter to me, 
dated at Brighton, where he resided, upon the sub- 
ject of Harnl-et^ coincides with Mr. Adams in the 
rank he allowed that in the order of Shakespeare's 
plays ; and, witli characteristic discernment, refers 
to Goethe\ practically-beautiful comparison of 
Haralet^s character. ("An oak tree planted in a 
china vase, proper only to receive the most delicate 
flowers. Tlie roots strike out, and the vessel flies to 
pieces." — See Wilhehn Meister^s Ajpprenticeship^ B. 
iv. Ch. 13.) 

By the way, I wonder if Mr. Adams ever heard 

70 hamlet's soliloquy on suicide. 

our gentle and amiable friend, and universally 
admired writer and revered countryman, Mr. Wash- 
ington Irving, mention what in his latest letter to 
me, he remarked, referring to his many singular 
and particular reminiscences of the stage, within 
the current century — "I have seen the Ballet of 
Hamlet gravely danced at Yienna." Had 3fr, 
Adams happened to see such a desecration, when 
*' a looker on in Yienna," it would have recalled — 
if it did not realize to him — the reflections of Ham- 
let in the grave-yard. " To what base uses we may 
return, Horatio. Why may not imagination trace 
the noble dust of Alexander till he find it stopping 
a bung-hole V' — because then and there w^as one of 
the most exquisite poetic gems, ever germinated by 
dramatic genius in the brain of the Intellectual 
Minerva and devoted to the special service of Mel- 
pomene, debased, perverted, and sacrificed to sub- 
serve the mazy and meretricious '■'poetry of motion /" 
a province peculiar to tlie fantastic Terpsichore. 

I should perhaps in this connexion note that the 
particular letter of Mr. Irving, from which the fore- 
going sentence is extracted, is dated "I^ew York, 
April IT, 181:8 ;" — for the reason that, this eminent 
author had done me the favor to open a correspond- 
ence with me, " Jan. 3, 1837," in special reference 
to his " Kniclcerhoclt^r'^ s History of J^eio Yor'k,^'' 
when I, in a private and friendly way, had sought 
his opinion of its susceptibility of dramatic effect. 
In 18tl:7 I had mentioned to Mr. Irving socially and 

hamlet's soliloquy ox suicide. 71 

incidentally, that I had been in the practice of 
carefully noting and recording in a manuscript vo- 
lume kept for that special pui'pose, the performance 
and apparent conception of every actor of distinc- 
tion whom I had seen in the character of Hartilet^ 
both in our country and in England, from 1816 to 
184:5 ; which our venerable friend Mr. Adams had 
borrowed for perusal, and, when returning it, had 
written me anotJier and particularly interesting and 
instructive letter ; first thanking me for what he had 
the indulgence to call ''Hhe ^privilege of perusing" 
such notes, and then, " asking my acceptance of a 
few scattered leaves, containing his own remarks 
upon Othello^ Romeo and Juliet^ and Lear^ which 
had been originally written to a friend who thought 
them worthy oi ijiibliGation with his consent, &c.," 
and at same time communicating to me in that 
letter, his own first impressions of the London^ and 
the eiiect of an incident he witnessed on the Paris 
stage, in the time of Louis XYlth. 

Mr. Irving, too, complimented me by soliciting my 
^^ J^otes upon the Actors of HamleV^ for perusal. I 
sent him the volume during the autumn of 1847, and 
he did not return it until the following spring, 
(April 17,) when he premised in his letter — 

" I have detained your manuscript notes an 
unconscionable time, but I could not help it. I 
wished to read them attentively, for they are 
remarkably suggestive, and not to be read in a 
hurry," &c., &c. — See letter^ on a siibsequent jpage. 

72 hamlet's soliloquy on suicide. 

Upon exaniiiiiiig tliercaftcr my returned manu- 
script, I discovered that, as another eminent literary- 
friend, Mr. James Fenimore Cooper, had done, Mr. 
Irving, when struck by my graphic record of the 
personal peculiarities of some well-remembered 
Actor, had stopped occasionally, and upon the mar- 
gin, favored me, by adding his own autographic 
annotations, in " lead-pencillings by the way." 

About the middle of October, 1841, the late 
Edmund Simpson, then Manager of the Park theatre, 
jSTew York, referring to the prevailing interest taken 
by the play-going community in my novel conceits, 
as manifested respecting the character of Hamlet in 
my then recently transpired correspondence with 
the Hon. John Quincy Adams, and which being 
transcribed and published throughout the land, was 
attracting great attention from critical admirers of 
Sliakespeare, suggested, urged, and finally per- 
suaded me to impersonate my own conception and 
as soon as six days thereafter^ when my benefit was 
appointed, assuring me that " my performance under 
the circumstances could not fail to attract greatly." 
The celebrated singer Mrs. Wood (ci-devant Miss 
Paton, the renowned prima donna of Covent Garden 
and Drury Lane, London) then an immense favorite 
at Kew York, as an inducement and encouragement 
to me, generously voluiiteered to act Oj)h£lia^ a part 
she had repeatedly played when Edmund Kean 
acted Hamlet at Drury Lane. 

So far as Shakespeara's text went, I felt sure I 

hAxMlet's soliloquy on suicide. 73 

could become perfect in it; but, when I reflected 
that having never before thought of acting Hamlet, 
there was no time to acquire by practice, which 
alone makes perfect on the stage, the requisite ease 
of a gentleman, the dignity of a prince, appropriate 
action and flexibility of voice, in order to give pro- 
per variety to the vehement passions, weight to the 
declamatory and poignancy to the spirited and sati- 
rical portions ; I became frightfully nervous at the 
responsibility I had undertaken, and was vexed with 
my own want of forethought and circumsj)ection. 

" Fools rush in where angels fear to tread." 

It is true that I had within a month or two pre- 
viously been performing King Lear (some dozen 
times in Philadelphia and ]N"ew York) and had 
acquired a certain confidence in the power and com- 
pass of my voice, and in the accompaniment of natu- 
ral and expressive action and attitude in the 2^(^^- 
si.onate scenes ; but then the physical training for 
Lear included little or nothing towards the adaption 
of my person for representing Hamlet : — 

" Our strange garments cleave not to their mould, 
But with the aid of wse," 

Consequently I passed six days of continuous ner- 
vous excitement, which made my system restless at 
night and my faculties sleepless the greater portion 
of each, and until that of my performance, when in 


74 hamlet's soliloquy on suicide. 

tlic presence of my audience, I endured too a con- 
stant and violent palpitation of the lieart. JSTever- 
tlieless I said I would go on for Hainlet — 

" What ! a soldier, and afeard ?" 

and I felt ashamed afterward to say, " I am afraid !" 
John Kemble, the greatest Hcmilet of his day, is 
reported to have declared that he studied Hamlet 
seven years before he acted it ; and, though he 
had then played it more than thirty years, every 
time lie rejpeated it^ something neio iii it struck Tiim. 
I remembered that I felt alarmed for my own 
temerity, but was resolved to do my best at such 
short notice of requirement, and deprecate public 
exactness. I headed the play-bill of the day with a 
short apology for my attempt to impersonate Ham- 
let, because, though my sock was not, my buskin 
was new, and my habitual study of characters had 
been very systematic and conscientious. At that 
time, I was unsophisticated enough to presume that 
every one who might go to see me act Hamlet would 
be a competent critic, and, that such at least as had 
curiosity excited by reading my letter to Mr. Adams, 
would expect of me some good acting, as well as 
novelty, nicety, and undeniable correctness of per- 
ception of the poet, p]iiloso])her, and dramatist, to 
whose tragedies I generally had riveted my most 
serious attention, and whose Hamlet especially, 
though I had analysed it, I now approached a repre- 
sentation of with a profound awe and reverence, 

hamlet's soliloquy on suicide. 75 

and particularly with apprelicusion before that 
maiij-headed monster, the jpicbUc^ whom I then 
dreaded. To do justice on the stage to my own 
conception in my closet, it was indispensably neces- 
sary that I should revise it minutely, dissect the com- 
ponent parts of the character, and where the text 
seemed unintelligible or ambiguous, and might have 
been corrupted by an editor or printer of the folio 
of 1623, to collate the various editions since, and, if 
a sentence then did not clearly indicate to me a con- 
sistent signification, to find a recourse in the poet 
Koscommon's suggestion — 

" When tilings appear unnatural and hard, 
Consult your author with himself compar'd." 

To avail myself of which, it was necessary to take 
each imjportant wmxl in the sentence, search every 
line in each of Shakespeare's plays where such word 
was incorporated, for the reason that the same 
author would seldom be found to use the same loorcl 
in very different senses, and try to detect a concord- 
ance of sentiment in some one of that word's various 
connexions, settle fully w^ith myself every verbal 
meaning and special point, as well as contexts hav- 
ing a general bearing upon the character ; all which 
seemed to me necessary, prior to re-uniting the dis- 
sected articles or resolved particles into a compen- 
dious, and harmonious, and completely-compounded 
concej^tion^ for the actor to Ijeijin his own peculiar 

76 hamlet's soliloquy on suicide. 

art with reference thereto : " then^ in regular course 
of study, has arrived the time for an artist to apply 
his rhetorical powers to the elucidation of his con- 
ception, and ascertain, to his own satisfaction at 
least, by untiring practice in his chamher^ how far 
nature has qualified him or denied him the requi- 
sites for 2^]jerfect personation of his ow^n ideal, in 
order to make the most of any natural fitness, and 
by art to overcome any physical drawbacks. Such 
I considered for Hamlet requisite in advance of any 
^{iigQ-rehea7'sal ; and then, very essential to the 
effects before an audience^ that such rehear sals 
should be carefully conducted, and frequent enough 
to assure the actor of his own ease, and that the 
others who should support him, might thoroughly 
understand his intentions or objects, and not, 
thi'ough ignorance, defeat them at night. It is a 
mistake to imagine that even a soliloquy can be per- 
fectly studied and delivered without practice on the 
STAGE ; where only, conld I ever acquire the neces- 
sary abstraction and the faculty of identifying 
myself wdth my character assumed, as also the pro- 
per regulation of my voice, and of the action suita- 
ble to a passion according to situation. These 
reflections, after my hasty consent to undertake a 
performance of Hamlet wdth only six days of prepa- 
ration, a novice too in the tragic department of the 

* Refer here to my noted opinion of the habitual difference in this 
respect (study) between Kean and Moxreachj, 1844. 

h^vmlet's soliloquy on suicide. 77 

art, and the responsibility, I began to realize were 
the cause of that ajpologij npon the play-bill, of 
which the folio win 2: is an extract : — 


Mk. Hackett's Benefit, 

on "which occasion the Distinguished Favorite 

Mrs. Wood 

has^ in the Tcindest inanner^ tendered her aid^ as 


With the Original Music. 

Mk. Barry 

has Tcindly volunteered his services j and will also 


Mr. Hackett respectfully informs his friends and 
the public that, encouraged by the gratifying 
approbation bestowed upon each of his persona- 
tions of King Lear., he will attempt, for the first 
time, to embody his own conception of Shake- 
speare's Hamlet^ Prince of DenntarJc, well assured 
that in his native city he can depend upon every 
reasonable allowance for such deficiency of mecha- 
nical manner as can be supplied only by longer 
and more frequent practice in the loftier depart- 
ments of the Drama, than he has yet had opportu- 
nity to acquire. 

78 hamlet's soliloquy on suicide. 

Wednesday Evening, Oct. 21, 1840. 

Ha^ilet (for the first time on any 

stage), Mr. Hackett. 

Ghost of Haimlet's Eathek, . Mr. Barry. 
Ophelia (for tlie first time in this 

country), Mrs. Wood. 

CLAucros, King of Denmark, . 3fr. Gann. 

HoKATio, Mr. Hield. 

Laertes, Mr. Wheatly. 

PoLONirs, Mr. CMj^pendale. 

OsEicK, Mr. Fisher. 

Geeteude, Queen of Denmark, . Mrs, Barry, 

To which will he added the Ludicrous Scene of 


Hateful W. Paekins (an Inde- 
pendent Disorderly), .... 31r. Niclcinsoii. 
The Yankee Majoe, .... Mr. JlacJcett. 
The Militia, by an awhioard squad. 

The Entertainmerd to Conclude with the First Act of 

Col. Nevieod Wildfiee, .... 3fr. HachetL 

The theatre was full, and I was warmly greeted 
on appearance — all my soliloquies were surprisingly 

hamlet's soliloquy on suicide. 79 

well received, and more or less interrupted by 
applause in their course of delivery — my scenes 
generally were marked either by mute applause or 
eloquent approbation, whilst my impassioned utter- 
ance of Hamlet's ^^Z/'-condemnation after witnessing 
what the ])laycr could do " in a dream of passion," 
was applauded to the echo, which, after I had left 
the stage, called me back to acknowledge the com- 
pliment of my audience ; also, the earnestness 
which I manifested in the course of Hamlet's con- 
trivance to detect the " occulted guilt," and the 
happy attitude which I happened to strike, as the 
usurper, at its climax, rushed away conscience- 
stricken, were honored by such loud vociferation 
and thunders of applause as required a long sus- 
pension of the progressive scene. Such portions of 
the play and certain points in the closet-scene (after 
which I was again called before the curtain), proved 
the most effective of any which I attempted to 

In my youth I had read the work called Wilhel- 
meister'^s Ajpiyrenticesliij^^ and been struck with and 
remembered Goethe! s idea of causing, in represen- 
tation, Hamlet's description and comparison of his 
father's and his uncle's respective persons to be 
painted as full length portraits, and suspended in 
the Queen's closet, and, with the aid of Mr. Thomas 
Barry (a most capital stage-director as well as good 
and sound actor), I determined to try such an effect 
on the occasion. Mr. Barry, who acted the GJiost^ 


consented to change the costume {armoicr) worn 
when it was seen upon the plaifonn^ and which, as 
it would seem, was designed to suggest surprise and 
increase Hamlet's wonder — (" My father's spirit — 
in av'ins ! all is not well ! ") — and to adopt one 
similar to tlmt worn by " My father in his hahit as 
he lived^'' ?a\^ painted for the portrait. The canvas 
was so constructed — by Mr. Barry's direction — and 
split, but backed with a spring made from whale- 
bone, which rendered its practicability unperceived 
by the audience, that it enabled him at the proj^er 
juncture, as the ghost behind, to step apparently 
out of it upon the stage ; the rent through wliich 
the figure had passed was closed up again, and the 
canvas, with a light behind it, then looked hlanh 
and illuminated ; but, the instant after the departure 
of the sj)irit from sight of the audience, the light 
was removed, and the painting appeared as before. 
The whole effect proved wonderful and surprising, 
and was vehemently applauded. The audience, at 
the close of the tragedy, as a matter of course, 
called me once more before the curtain, and I 
thanked them cordially for their manifestations of 
satisfaction ; though, in my heart, I attributed their 
apparent enthusiasm more to their own perception 
of what I was earnestly trying to do than to my 
own accomplishments upon the stage ; for I was 
anything but 5<?Z/'-satisfied with my performance. I 
knew — what they did not, or were too kind to seem 
to perceive — my deficiency in that ease and smooth- 


ness wliicli is only acquirable by mucli practice. 
Next day, however, I was warmly congratulated by 
numerous personal friends, and received, through 
the Box-office of the Park Theatre, some verses in 
a female hand, signed " Mbiei^a^'' so complimen- 
tary that I suspected them as designed for a prac- 
tical cjxiiz. Such causes might, and perhaps ougld^ 
to have stimulated me to exert myself and make a 
complete study of the art necessary to act, to my 
own satisfaction, my conceptimi of Hamlet^ as I had 
been, eight years previous, to undertake that of the 
Fahtaf of King Hciiry IV., after I had so far suc- 
ceeded as to be tolerated by an audience in my first 
and very crude attempt to personate that character; 
but I lacked an equally strong motive for Hamlet 
that I had had to elaborate my performance of 
Falstaff. My first representation of the Falstaff of 
Henry I Y. attracted only a moderate audience — not 
equal to the Manager's expenses — whilst my local 
characters, for which I was then and oidy famed, 
produced more than double to the theatre's treasury. 
The Press — such as noticed my delut at all — con- 
demned not only my acting, but my concejption 
and even my readings of the text, and denied me 
both the mind to grasp, and the physical elements 
(for training) to represent the character of Falstaff 
respectably. Of my natural qualifications or im- 
pediments for a " respectable" ^performance I could 
not judge, but, considering that I had on my first 
night succeeded in keeping my audience in good 


liumor tliroiigliont, I was determined to persevere, 
and endeavor to make mj toleration a sort of enter- 
ing-wedge with public opinion, for riving and pros- 
trating wliat I looked upon as a traditionary and 
time-honored but erroneous conventionalism^ and for 
introducing and establishing instead, if not a better, 
at least an original conception of that masterly 
compound of wit and philosophy with vice and 
sensuality. Therefore, when the Manager inquired 
of me (his Star) what I would " act the next night" 
(I was playing alternately with another Star), I 
rejilied — 'Til re'peat Falstaff P^ "Any of your 
other characters would draw hetter P'' observed he, 
and left me evidently vexed. The second night the 
receijyts improved upon the first a little, but still 
were under the expenses^ though the audience 
seemed more attentive and liberal of applause at 
certain points. The next day, however, when the 
Manager feared 1 might persist in again repeating 
Falstaff^ he prevailed upon a certain newspaper 
editor with whom he was intimate and I esteemed 
*' a friend" of mine, to be at the Box Office when I 
should come there (as usual about 10 o'clock a.m.), 
and to suggest the inexpediency of my persistence in 
any further repetition at present of Falstaff. The 
gentleman (and he was a benevolent one, and often 
good-hum oredly afterwards alluded to the conversa- 
tion) intimated that " though the public acknow- 
ledged me to possess wonderful powers of imitation^ 
precedent had proved that no great imitator had 


ever become even a cjood original actor." I asked 
liim if lie was familiar with David Garrick's hegin- 
ning^ as well as liis establisliment of himself as a 
great actor ? and if he was aware that he started by 
playing characters " after the ino/nner of a Mr. 
SmitN^ — then a great favorite in London — and that 
he did not discontinue his imitation until he had 
secured the notice of the town, and extracted their 
acknowledgment of his (Garrick's) original abilities. 
" Well !" added my expostulator, " our public have 
been accustomed, since you adopted the stage a few 
years ago, to see you only in imitat/ions of Kean,* 
and Macready, and Barnes, and Hilson, and per- 
form a Yankee {Solomon Swop), and a Dutchman 
{liij) Van Winkle), or a Kentuckian {Kimrod 
Wildfire), and a Frenchman {lionsieur Morhleit), 
which are (what are technically called) ' character- 
parts ;' but you cannot persuade them now — if ever 
— that you are able to play Fai^staff." Such dis- 
paragement of my ability aroused my indignation, 
and I observed with some warmth — " Look you ! 

Mr. , the Manager has instigated you to put mo 

out of conceit of myself in this part, in order that I 
may fall back — as he prefers — upon my local and 
hackneyed characters to-morrow night, and which 
he thinks would be more attractive. I will play 
nothing hut Falstoff again to-onorro^o night ! With 
reference to your prediction, that I may ' never be 

* In 1826, in my novitiate, I acted Richard III. in imitation of 
Kean repeatedly at New York, and in London in 1827, with applausa 


able,' I say, and mark you my words, lohen I have 
Lad a reasonable time by stage-practice — say tliree 
years — to ripen my acting and become mellowed in 
the part like a second-nature, if then I can't con- 
vince the public generally that I can act it — not 
only to their satisfaction but ^nore so than will any 
rival— I'll forswear my adopted profession, and 
never appear again upon the stage." The third per- 
formance, however, proved an agreeable surprise to 
the Manager, Mr. Simpson, who played the Prince, 
of Wales. When he and myself in our respective 
characters met at " Gadshill," and unavoidably 
noticed the croivd in the pit and boxes, I muttered 
to him in an undertone, " Which of us was right 
about to-night's bill?" He very pleasantly whis- 
pered back — " You ! you understand the monster 
better than I this time !" Often as I repeated the 
part after that, during a series of years, I seldom if 
ever acted it to less than expenses anywhere. 

But times and circumstances (which alter cases) 
were different when I first appeared as Hamlet, In 
1832 I was comparatively young as an actor, and 
ambitious^ and my energies were aroused to coml)at 
prejudice and opposition, and to acquire fame and a 
moderate independence ; besides supporting my 
family and educating three sons, who, after my 
bankruptcy as a merchant of ISTew York, had no 
resources or expectations other than what miglit be 
obtained through my own exertions. In 1840, I 
had acquired an extensive credit for Protean ability 


and a surfeit of tlicatric honors^ which no longer 
fired my ambition. Tlie country had not yet reco- 
vered from the eflects of the monetary revulsion of 
1837, and theatricals generally were at a very low 
ebb, and tragedy especially neglected. I had begun 
to consider the expediency of then loithdrawing 
myself from — as I had in 1826 of adopting — the 
stage, and of returning and resuming some branch 
of mercantile business after that season ; and also, 
only how to make the acting of my most popular of 
established parts most available to my purse. I 
reflected upon the years of practice I had devoted 
to Falstaff^ before I could make it tolerable in my 
own or quite acceptable in general opinion, and I 
apprehended a greater and a longer task to obtain 
the like for Hamlet^ together with a difliculty of 
inspiring in advance various and unfamiliar audi- 
ences (throughout the lands where I might wander 
as a star) with confidence in a candidate for their 
tragic instruction and delight, who had never before 
been heard of by them but as an " irregular come- 
dian," and in order to command an attendance of 
numbers equal to those attracted by my local parts. 
The occasion of my debut in Hamlet being for my 
" benefit and last night of engagement" for some 
time in New York (owing to an interval of some 
months to be occupied with other stars engaged at 
the Park), precluded me from iinraedlately following 
up my comparative success, by frequent repetitions 
of Hamlet upon the stage where I had obtained it, 


and of striking the public-iron whilst hot, and clench- 
ing as well as diffusing and circulating throughout 
the community any strong impression I had made 
in that part. 

ISTot many weeks prior to my first a]3pearance in 
Hamlet at New York, I had been persuaded to per- 
form King Lear at Philadelphia, by Mr. Manager 
Burton (1840), with new scenic appointments which 
he got up with care and liberality. It filled his 
theatre for a weelc^ and gave me a strong foothold 
for tragic promise in that city ; whereupon the ITew 
York Park theatre had imitated Burton's example, 
and incurred considerable expense forthwith to get 
up Lear for me. I played it three nights with great 
applause from the audience and unprecedented 
commendation from the press ; but it did not attract 
expenses either nighty and I then refused ever to jplay 
it at the Parle again, and have kept my word j but 
the town did not go into mourning. That w^as one 
reason I had urged against the policy of trying to 
act Hamlet, but which Manager Simpson overcame, 
by his assurance of a peculiar prestige, viz. : " the 
popularity of my conception as evolved in my 
widely-circulated correspondence with Mr. Adams, 
and also by reason of the play's more general 
favoritism, and consequently greater attraction of 
the masses towards the character of Hamlet than 
that of Lear^^ a fact which he intimated could be 
proved by reference to the latter's smaller treasury- 
receipts of the theatre, and the comparatively few 


rej^etitions King Lear would bear, even when repre- 
sented bj sucli famous actors as George Frederick 
Cooke and Edmund Kean. 

Nevertheless, I allowed my own first and favora- 
ble impression and upon a single audience as Ham- 
let^ to fade out of its memory by neglect and delay ; 
whereas, by immediate and frequent repetition I 
should have endeavored to " bite it in," as engra- 
vers do thei7' work, with aquafortis^ and have tried to 
thoroughly establish it : hence, my glory in it was 
transient, and with the occasion the achievement 
soon passed away from my own mind. My habitual 
love of ease, aversion to extraordinaiy physical or 
mental exertion, together with a consciousness and 
dread of painful effects upon my sensitive nervous 
system, and, from its ready excitability, how much 
and how often it would surely be wrought upon by 
my efforts to push on to fame as an actor of Hamlet^ 

'' Some craven scruple 
Of thinking too precisely on the event, 
A thought, which, quartered hath but one part wisdom. 
And ever three parts cowardj'^ 

combined to discourage my ambition in such pur- 
suit. I resolved rather to continue to act easily and 
quietly and with moderate profit, my former though 
limited number of jpapidar parts, than to embark in 
a struggle at that time against popular prejudice or 
stage-precedent of an acknowledged comedian try- 
ing to make his Hamlet attractive and add that to 
his repertoire. 


Not long after I liacl thus neglected to take at 
" young Hood " the indicated tide of extended poj)u- 
lar favor, for, — 

" There is a tide in the afifairs of men, 
Whichj taken at the flood, leads on to fortune ; 
Omitted, all the voyage of their life 
Is bound in shallows and in miseries," 

my old friend William E. Burton, the manager at 
Philadelphia, sought and chid me for " keeping the 
noiseless tenor of my way," and especially for my 
impolitic and censurable inertness in my profession 
when Fortune had opened to me an opportunity. 
Mr. Burton proposed, and I accepted an engage- 
ment to act at his New National Theatre^ Philadel- 
phia^ in the March following, assuring me that he 
could do with that public what was necessary to 
draw its attention to my pretensions which he pro- 
nounced " extraordinary and constituted unmistaka- 
bly good material." When I visited Philadelphia, 
accordingly, I found indeed that Mr. Burton had not 
forgotten his managerial designs thus intimated, and 
that Philadelphia was pretty generally placarded, 
and all his playbills headed with a pulf-announce- 
ment as follows : — 

New National Theatre, 

W. E. BuETON, Sole Proprietor. 

P. PicniNGS, Stage Manager. 

It^^TuE Manager takes pride in respectfully 
soliciting the attention of the American Public 


generally, to the following rare impersonations of a 
variety of Shakespeare's heroes, and of dissimilar 
American Originals (all of which are to be per- 
formed at this theatre This Week) by one of their 
own distinguished Native actors, viz. : 


who has always been a ])articular favorite in Phila- 
delphia, and is now universally acknowledged to 
combine a higher degree of excellence with versa- 
tility than has been recorded in the annals of the 
Stage of any individual since the days of Garrick. 

Mr. Hackett will appear 

Tuesday — as Falstaff^ in the Merry Wives of Wind- 

Monday — as King Lear, and also in The Kentuck- 

Thursday — as Falstcuff^ in King Henry IV. Part 

Friday — as Hamlet, and also as the Yankee, /Solo- 
mon Swop. 

Saturday — as jRip Van WinJcle, and Horse Shoe 

Monday — as Falstaff, in The Second Part of King 
Henry IV. 

Though I was well received in each of these charac- 
ters by the notoriously cold and reserved audiences 
of Philadelphia, Mr. Burton did not succeed in 

90 ^ HAMLET. 

making my j^erformanco of Hamlet and of King 
Lear nearly as attractive as most of my comic cha- 
racters proved, and without vexation or regret I 
struck them both from my repertoire, and soon 
thereafter studied and produced Sir Pertinax Mac- 
Sycojphant in Macklin's Man of the World, and also 
C Gallaglian^ in Bernard's farce of His Last Legs ; 
in both which parts I have been a favorite with 
every public in either hemisphere. 




" Genius all sunbeams where he throws a smile, 
Impregnates Nature faster than the Nile ; ^ 

Wild and impetuous, high as Heaven aspires, 
All science animates, all virtue fires. 
Creates ideal worlds and there convenes 
Aerial forms and visionary scenes. 
But Tasie^ corrects by one therial touch, 
What seems too little and what seems too much ; > 
Marks the fine point, where each consenting part 
Slides into beauty with the ease of art ; 
This bids to rise, and That with grace to fall. 
And rounds, unites, refines, and heightens all." 



" Ta]^e pains the genuine meaning to explore ; 
There sweat, there strain ; tug the laborious oar ; 
Search every comment that your care can find ; 
Some here, some there, may hit the poet's mind : 
When things appear unnatural and hard. 
Consult your author with himself compar'd." 


King Leak is not a popular play with the million ; 
because the young ^ who constitute the great majority 
of play-goers, are too inexperienced to comprehend 
the dotage of the aged and tender father, and to 
sympathize with his consequent afflictions ; — regard- 
ing Lear^ as they generally do, merely as an old 
despot, and his sorrows and sufferings as measurably 
deserved by his own folly and tyranny ; nor can 
youth have acquired knowledge enough of mankind 
to detect and appreciate Shakespeare's exquisite art 
and profound philosophy in the drawing of Learns 
madness, its origin, progress, and climax ; nor his 
frightfully faithful portraiture towards the fatal 
denouement of nature's last and abortive struggle 


with extreme old age and bodily iniirmitj to restore 
JLear'^s mental balance, and to re-establish his reason : 
therefore, this play is better adapted to the under- 
standing of the sage and philosopher, and the mad 
scenes, especially, to the appreciation of experienced 
and scientific physicians, who have been accustomed 
professionally to witness and contemplate the subtle 
workings of tlie maniac's mind. 

" The proper study of mankind is man." — Pope. 

Coleridge, in his Table Talh^ says : — ^^Lear is the 
most tremendous effort of Shakespeare as a poet, 
Hamlet as a philosopher and meditator, and Othello 
is the union of the two. There is something gigan- 
tic and unformed in the former two ; but in the 
latter {Otkello\ everything assumes its due place 
and proportion, and the whole mature j)Owers of his 
mind are displayed in admirable equilibrium." 

My opinion is, that the difference noticed does 
not arise so much from an inequality in Shake- 
speare's genius for drawing perfectly these three 
distinctive characters, but in the critic's taste for the 
different subjects they respectively comprehend, and 
their several moral spheres of action. 

A critic, in the Edhiburgh Review for July, 
1840, (Article, " Recent ShaTiesjperian Literatures^) 
asserts : — 

" Tlic whole circle of Literature, ancient and 
modern, possesses nothing comparable to that world 


of thoughts, feeliiigSj and images which is disphiyed 
ill the live great tragedies of Shakespeare." ^'^ ^ ^ ^ 

Comparing them with each other the same writer 
remarks : — 

^'Zearis, at once more original in invention, more 
active in imagination, more softly pathetic in feel- 
ing ; Homeo and Juliet has more pm*e feeling ; 
Macleth a closer amalgamation of tragic action 
with thoughts purely ethical ; and Samlet traverses 
a world of thought in which all other existing 
dramas linger at the frontier : but Othello^ above 
every other drama, unites vehemence and nature iu 
tragic emotion, with truth and vigor in the delinea- 
tion of character. Tliis play, above all others, har- 
monizes those two elements, and makes each the 
counterpart, the supplement, the condition of the 
existence of the other." 

The poet, Percy Bysshe Shelley, regarded Lear 
as a drama " universal, ideal, sublime ; and the 
most perfect specimen of dramatic art in existence." 

Philadeljyhia^ December 1, 1840. I saw Mr. 
Forrest as Lear last night, at the Chestnut Street 
Theatre. He and myself often and materially 
differ in our conceptions as well as in our tastes in 
personifying them upon the stage. He exhibits too 
much nerve and too little flexibility of voice and 
countenance generally ; his physical impetuosity in 
the curse, beginning " Hear, ]^ature ! Hear ! " and 
in Learns rage, wheresoever it occurs, seems to me 


overstniiiied and unnatural, whilst his patlios is 
whining and wants intensity, and seems to spring 
more from a cool head than a warm heart. He 
evidently aims to make sternness and the mortified 
pride of the pagan despot Learns strongest charac- 
teristics ; whilst I think they should show only as 
sudden and transient flashes of a consuming heart, 
but most clearly alternate and secondary to the 
philanthropy which pervades the nature of the sen- 
sitive old father. Lear'^s occasional bursts of anger 
certainly require of an actor earnest and forcible 
expression, in order to realize fully to an audience 
Lear''s outraged sensibility ; but anger which can 
find words should, at the same time, acquire a com- 
parative temperance, to give it smoothness ; and 
though a passion torn to tatters may obtain more 
noisy applause from the barren spectators, it is tlie 
innate benevolence of the man, as is seen in his 
calm and reasoning intervals, which afi*ords oppor- 
tunity in acting for those tender strokes of art which 
wake the souls of the reflecting and judicious, and 
stamp the deepest and most enduring impression, 
upon their hearts. 

Mr. Forrest seems to " come tardy off" in all 
Lear's gushes of tenderness, as though his own 
nature was too rough or unrefined to receive the 
im2:)ress, and too sterile to cherish such delicate 
impulses ; the apostrophes, too, he uttered in the 
speculative tone of a stoic and without a touch of 
that plaintiveness which should characterize the 


sententioiisness of a soul overcliarged witli its own 
accumulated wrongs. The gentler emotions of an 
aiHicted bosom beget deeper sympathy in the 
beholder than the most startling paroxysms of rage ; 
for, anger^ duly considered, is one of the lowest 
order of the passions, and just in proportion that any 
man allows it to rise and obtain the mastery does it 
dispel his reason and reduce his nature to that mere 
instinct which is common to the fiercest of the Irute 
creation ; it is a relic of barbarism which social 
refinement has abolished by crowning mildness and 
equanimity with its good graces, and by stigmatiz- 
ing a loss of temper as rudeness and ill-breeding. 

Mr. Forrest recites the text as though it were all 
prose, and not occasionally written in poetic mea- 
sure ; whereas, blank verse can, and always should 
be distinguishable from prose by proper modulations 
of the voice which a listener with a nice ear and a 
cultivated taste could not mistake, nor if confounded 
detect in their respective recitals : else Milton, as 
well as Shakespeare, has toiled to little purpose in. 
the best proportioned numbers. 

Mr. Forrest's countenance, as made up for Lear, is 
inflexible, stern, and forbidding : he has, too, a favorite 
grim scowl : his eyebrows arc made so shaggy and 
willowy, they hide the eyes too much : and his 
beard, though long and picturesque, covers some 
useful and important muscles of the face, making it 
rigid and incapable of depicting efi*ectively the alter- 
nate lights and shades of benevolence and irascibility 




as tliey fluctuate in Learns agitated mind ; nor, do 
I fancy Mr. Forrest's tread of the stage with his toes 
inclined somewhat inward like that of an Indian ; 
for the reason that it renders Lear's personal car- 
riage undignified : there is a want of keeping too in 
the paralytic action of his head and limbs, which at 
times exhibit too firm a repose for a man " fourscore 
and upwards," and then at others a shaking so vio- 
lent and overdone as to verge closely upon carica- 

At the close of the following dialogue, namely — 

" Lear. Dost tliou know me, fellow ? 

Kent. No, Sir! but you have that in your countenance 
which I would fain call master. 
Lear. What's that? 
Kent. Authority I" 

Mr. Forrest paused here some seconds, wagged 
his head about and smiled very significantly as 
though Learns vanity was particularly pleased that 
his features had indicated to a poor-service-beggar, 
an autocratio rule — one to which Lear (be it remem- 
bered !) had been born, ever been used, and then 
had never yet had disputed. 

In the last scene of the first act Mr. Forrest 
adhered to ITahum Tate's injudicious omission of the 
bit of pathos with which Shakespeare has interposed 
before the curse-direct. 

'-'■Lear. What, fifty of my followers at a clap! — within a 
fortnight ? 


ATbany. What's the matter, sir ? 

Lear. I'll tell thee I (Therij with falling tears and cJioJdng 
utterarLce^ turned to Goneril.) Life and death ! I am asham'd 
That thou hast power to shake my manhood thus ; 
That these hot tears which break from me perforce, 
Should make thee worth them. — Blasts and fogs upon thee ! 
The untented woundings of a father's curse 
Pierce every sense about thee ! &c." 

Though it may be judicious to transpose some of 
this matter, as Tate has done — making it antecedent 
instead of subsequent to that terrific invocation which 
begins " Hear, N^ature, hear !" and at tlie end 
whereof, according to Shakespeare, Leai' "rushes 
out " for a few moments and " returns " exclaiming 
as above (quoted in parenthesis), I decidedly disap- 
prove of Tate's rejection of the pathetic portion, and 
have restored it; because, first, it bespeaks the 
sympathy of the audience, breaks the continuity of 
cursing, mitigates the shock and averts its abhorrent 
quality when Lear vents the bitterness of his burst- 
ing heart ; and secondly, because it discovers that 
malevolence, though provokable, is neither upper- 
most, nor wanton, nor gratuitous, nor unremitted in 
Learh nature. 

In the curse, after falling upon his knees, Mr. For- 
rest exhibited Learns nervous system so relaxed, that 
from the commencement to the climax he shook con- 
stantly and from head to toe ; not unlike some poor 
fitful victim of what is called St. Yitus's Dance — 
whereas, according to my observation of Nature, 


old and ordiiuirily nervous men, during a fit of exces- 
sive anger, become comparatively firm and strong 
in their bodily faculties, wliicb sink again as the 
temporary excitement subsides into a proportion- 
ately lower state of debility ; that Shakespeare him- 
self thus regarded man's physique in old age, be it 
remembered that he has made Lea'i\ just before 
breathing his last, recover strength enough to "kill 
the slave that was hanging Cordelia;" — having 
" seen the time he could have make them skip ;" — a 
circumstance not impossible for such an old man, 
but which however Shakespeare's good taste pre- 
ferred Lear'* 8 description^ but which Tate has under- 
taken to bring into effective action upon the stage, 
where I have always seen it fail : indeed, it seemed 
so ludicrous to the spectators that many have 
laughed outright whenever a representation of that 
conceivable feat was attempted. 

" Kent. (In the stocJxS.) Hail, noble master ! 
Lear. How I Mak'st thou this shame thy pastime ?" 

It struck me here that Mr. Forrest descried 
Kenfs condition from his own distance too readily 
for the " dull sight " of which Lear complains after- 
wards ; nor did Mr. Forrest attempt, when Lear dis- 
covered Kenfs disgraceful pastime, to make mani- 
fest through his features and manner the surprise 
an^ indignation occasioned by such a palpable 
insult as he esteems it according to his expressions 
of resentment. 


Mr. Forrest made no point, nor seemed to attach 
any characteristic value to the line, 

" The KI]^a would speak with CornwaU! " 

of which it is susceptible. It can be made to tell 
with an audience, particularly by Lear'^s making a 
short pause before uttering the sentence, gradually 
straighten himself up to his full height, and, with 
majestic pride and bearing, dwell, with deep 
intonation and powerful emphasis, upon the word 

In the menace which Lear orders Gloster to con- 

"bid them come forth and hear me, 

Or, at their chamber door I'll beat the drum, 
'Tin it cry sleep, to death ! " 

The actor of Lear should remain prominently 
forward, near the footlights, as Gloster brings the 
excuses of the Duke and his wife for not deio^nino- 
to s^ealv with him, and, at the climax of Lear'^s 
threat, let Cornwall and Regan come hastily for- 
ward, and appear suddenly at Learns right hand 
{Gloster being on his left side), when, with mingled 
surprise and mock courtesy, and in a loud ironical 
tone, his gibe can be made most effectively : — 

" Oh ! Are you come ! " 

but Mr. Forrest, having finished the threat which 
he had commanded Gloster to convey to his reluc- 


tant son-in-law and delinquent daughter, instead of 
awaiting the eflect of his message, walked 112? the 
stage and met them in their gateway ; a situation 
which precluded Lear the opportunity for a strong 
point — afforded by Tate's arrangement of the break 
and exclamation. 

Mr. Forrest, in articulating the letter " O " in 
" 'bones^'' allowed so little quantity that it sounded 
like " hmw I " also, the double " O " in '''-food " was 
given short, as in '-^ footP 

There was no pungency in Mr. Forrest's tone or 
manner when he taunted Goneril, — 

" I will not trouble thee, mj child ; farewell 1 " 

nor in the rebuke, — 

" But, I'll not chide thee; 
*****! can stay with Regan, 
I and my hundred knights." 

[N'ow, be it observed, that the more boastfully 
Zear is made to utter this last line of his invective, 
the greater must be his confusion, the deeper his 
mortification, and the more intolerable his sense of 
disaj^pointment and degradation, when Regan ab- 
ruptly checks his confident expectations, with — 

" Not altogether so, sir; 
I looked not for you yet, nor am provided 
For your fit welcome : Give ear to my sister," etc. 


Lear, then, with a spirit quite subdued, inter- 

"Is this well spoken, twxv f " 

also, when Itegan concludes, 

" If you wiU come to me, 
(For now I spy a danger) I entreat you 
To bring but live-and-twenty * to no more 
Will I give place or notice," 

it makes Lear's distress and utter helplessness the 
more apparent, and his heart-breaking recollection 
and expression — 

" /gave you ALL 1 " — 

the more natural and sympathy-winning to an 
audience. Lear^ now humbled and embarrassed 
bj his reduced condition and forlorn situation, 
implores Regan to reconsider her edict, and, at the 
same time, deprecates a confirmation of her de- 
grading decree — thus — 

" What, must I come to you 
With five-and-twenty, Regan ? Said you so ? " 

Began answers : — 

" And speak it again, my lord ; no more with me I 
Lear. Those wicked creatures yet do look well-favor' d, 
When others are more wicked ; not being the worst, 
Stands in some rank of praise : I'll go with thee. 

[Turning to QoneriV 


Mr. Forrest liere went unhesitatingly and put liis 
hand iipon Goneril rather affectionately^ which I 
thi.nk morally impossible with such a nature and 
under the circumstances, for Lear to persuade him- 
self to do ; because, though he says to Goneril — 

" Thy fifty yet doth double five and twenty, 
And tliou art twice her love — " 

his is only a choice of two evils, and an alternatiye 
forced by his necessity ; in fact, so poor is the qua- 
lity of GoneriVs love, though " twice " that of 
Hegan^ it could not renew his affection, nor even 
paternal regard for Goneril most particular!}^, 
having cursed her most bitterly, and so recently, 
and on three several occasions ; for this reason, 
instead of saying readily or cordially — 


as Mr. Forrest does to Goneril^ I prefer that Lear 
should hesitate a little — as if self-debating his own 
extremity — and then, only half-turning his person 
towards Goneril^ utter the line (" I'll go with 
thes P\ constrainedly and in a tone of painful 
repuguance; because, after all, Lear^ though shorn 
of his autocratic sway and pride of power, in his 
heart cared less about the number of his retinue 
than these insulting proofs of his two daughters' 
grudging and ungrateful spirit, in thus reducing his 
individual consequence, and an appearance becom- 


" the name alone of Kinff," 


wliicli only remained to liim after partitioning Lis 


" Goneril. Hear me, my lord ! 

"What need you five and twenty, ten or five, 
To follow in a house where twice so many 
Have a command to tend you ? 

Regan. What need one ? 

Lear. [0, reason not the need : our basest beggars 
Are, in the poorest thing, superfluous : 
Allow not Nature more than Xature needs. 
Man's life is cheap as beast's : thou art a lady : 
If only to go warm were gorgeous, 
Why Nature needs not what thou gorgeous wear'st 
Which scarcely keeps thee warm. But for true need, 
You Heavens! give me patience f that, Iiieedf] 
You see me here, you gods, a poor old man, 
As full of grief as age ; wretched in both, 
&c., &c., &c. Oh, fool, I shall go mad!" 

The portion of Zear^s words, quoted above and 
written within my brackets, contains so mncli of 
poetry, philosophy, and character, that in studying 
the part of Zear, I determined to restore what Tate 
had omitted, and render it on the stage in the hope 
that it might please some lover of Sliakespeare in 
his integrity. Apropos, what can be more graphic, 
and at the same time more beautifully poetic, than 
the following description given by the " Gentle- 
man," met by JTent upon the heath and inquired of 
by him when searching for Zea?' amid the storm. 
I esteem it an exquisite morceau — 



" Kent "Where's the king ? 

Gentlemayi. Contending with the fretful elements. 
Bids the wind blow the earth into the sea, 
Or swell the curled waters 'bove the main, 
That things might change or cease : tears his white hair : 
"Which the impetuous blasts with eyeless rage, 
Catch in their fury, and make nothing of : 
Strives in his little world of man to outscorn 
The to-and-fro conflicting wind and rain. 
This night, wherein the cub-drawn bear would couch, 
The lion and the belly-pinched wolf 
Keep their fur dry, unbonneted he runs, 
And bids what will take alV* 

According to my idea, in the defiance of the 

"Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks !" 

Mr. Forrest seemed deficient in that wild energy 
implied by the text and demanded by the circum- 
stances ; also, Mr. Forrest addressed to JS^e7it the 
passage — 

" "What, so kind a father — ay, there's the point," &c., 

which, I think, should be uttered dbstractedly. In- 
stead of the original text — 

" The tempest in my mind 
Doth from my senses take all feeUng else 
Save what beats i/iere," 

Mr. Forrest substituted the word liere (for Shake- 
speare's " there''') and pointed to his hearty whereas, 


I take it, Leav refers to Lis hrain^ an organ wliicli 
beats as sensibly as the heart under violent mental 
excitement, and mentions elsewhere — " lest my 
h'ain tnrn" — " I am cut to the hrain.^'^ Characters 
in other plays of Shakespeare speak of a " troubled 
brain," and " perturbation of the brain," and of the 
" brain fuming." 
Mr. Forrest gave with a smile of idiotic pleasure, 

" The little dogs and all, 
Tray, Blanch, and Sweetheart, see — they bark at me," 

whereas, I understand Lear to be annoyed by some 
disagreeable fancy, w^hich would cause him to start 
and shrink back from the imaginary objects named. 
The context convinces me that Shakespeare intended 
Lear to exhibit great uneasiness just then; because, 
it is Lear's answer to Kenfs question when animad- 
verting upon Lear's ravings — 

(" Kent. pity ! — Sir, where is the patience^ now, 
That you so oft have boasted to retain ?") 

besides that, Edgar evidently understands Lear to 
be troubled by such imagined harking of those 
dogs ; else he would not have taken such pains to 
humor Lear's deranged fancy, and to scare the dogs 
away ; thus — 

" Edgar. Tom will throw his head at them : 
Avaunt, you curs ! &c., &c. 
Lear. Thou hast seen a farmer's dog bark at a beggar ? 
Gloster. Ay, Sir ! 
Lear. And the man ran from the cur .^" 


Mr. Forrest, instead of articulating as antitheses 
" onan " and "• cur,^'' laid the strongest possible 
emphasis npon the ^preposition " from." 

When Lea7\ in a paroxysm, attempts to tear off 
his clothes, saying — 

" Off, off, you lendings : — Come uiibutton here 1" 

Mr. Forrest tore open his dress from his neck to his 
chest and discovered a naked body, without any 
sign of there being or having been a shirt worn 
between, which I consider an unreasonable omis- 
sion ; because, whatever the proper costume of those 
rude times wherein the action of the play is laid 
may have been, and even supposing that history 
could establish a shirt to be a more onodern refine- 
ment, Shakespeare makes the absence of a shirt 
upon Lear an inconsistency ; forasmuch as, Edgar, 
a son of one of Learns dukes and his subject, boasts 
of having formerly rejoiced in half a dozen among 
his wardrobe, viz. — 

" Edgar. Poor Tom, &c., who hath had three suits to his 
back, six shirts to his hocly^ horse to ride," &c. 

In Learns dying speech over the dead Cordelia^ 

" And my poor fool is hang'd ! No, no, no Hfe : 
Why should a dog, a horse, a rat have life, 
And thou no breath at all ? 0, thou wilt come no more. 
Never, never, never, never, never ! 
Pray you, undo this button : thank you. Sir. 
Do you see this? Look on her — look — her lips — 
Look there^ look there ! — (Dies.) 


Mr. Forrest, instead of uttering — 

" And my poor fool is liang'd !" 

By way of an apostrophe to GordelicCs fate, turned 
from the conteniphition of the lifeless object of his 
all-absorbing solicitude and spoke the line interroga- 
tively to Kent, as though Lear could abstract his 
thoughts then from Cordelia to inquire about the 
fate of his professional "fool" or jester, whereas, I 
am confirmed by a careful re-consideration of my 
original conception that by ''^ ])oor fooV in this 
place Lear refers to his C(yrdelia, whom lie in his 
madness just before has refused to believe dead, 
and whom until that moment he has been trying to 
arouse, by saying in the ear of her corpse — 

" I kill'd the slave that was a hanging thee." 

But, at this juncture, having exhausted his ingenuity 
in efforts to discover a sign of life in her, con- 
cludes — 

" And my poor fool is hang'd !" 

or in other words — ' After all, I find that my poor 
innocent is indeed strangled to death. There is " no 
life " in her !' For my part, I cannot imagine how 
any careful student or judicious reader of Shake- 
speare's context here (and elsewhere in connexion 
with the epithet) can doubt that Lear, by "poor 
fool " refers to his unwise in her beginning and 
unfortunate in her ending-daughter, Cordelia, or 


how, if any candid mind had doubted at first, but 
had read and reflected upon the strong and hicid 
arguments of Steevens and of Malone, in opposition 
to the fanciful, but solitarj-thoughted, Sir Joshua 
Reynolds upon this very point, a conviction could 
be avoided that Steevens and Malone were in the 
right; Sir Joshua w^as evidently a clearer-sighted 
genius in the art of painting, than in his penetration 
into the mind's eye of Shakespeare in drawing his 
pictures of humanity. 

"When LeaT in the storm, uses the same words in 
speaking to "his poor" shivering Jester^ he adds 
another epithet which characterizes his vocation, 
viz. : 

" My poor fool and hnave /" « 

N.B. — The foregoing is copied from my original 
M.S. ]!!Totes upon Mr. Forrest^ s performance of Lear 
in Philadelphia^ Dec. 1, 1840. 

Mem. New Yorh, Oct. 26, I860.— I saw Mr. For- 
rest again in this character at ISTiblo's theatre. I 
noticed no material diiference except that he was in 
his physical eftorts comparatively a little less vigor- 


By the way, apropos of Lear'^s " fool," when Mr. 
Macready and myself chanced to sojourn together at 
New Orleans, in 1844, and were taking a walk for 


exercise oae day, that eminent artist observed to 
me — 

" Mr. Hackett, a common friend (David Cadwa- 
lader Golden of JSTew York), lias intimated to me that 
you have been a particular student of Lear^ and I 
should like you much to sec ony Lear j in order to 
have your judgment upon my taste in adapting the 
original to the stage, and most especially upon my 
idea of causing the fool to be personated by a 
woman.) who can look like a hoy of eighteen and also 
siiig to the king upon the heath and during his mad- 
ness those occasional couplets which Shakespeare 
has put into the FooVs mouth, to divert Lear in his 

I did seize the first opportunity to see his perform- 
ance ; one occurred only a few nights afterwards. 
When Mr. Macready and myself met next, he 
inquired how I liked his idea of having Lear'^s Fool 
thus represented. 

I replied — 

" It is a pretty and ingenious conceit, and not 
ineffective at times ; but, L have imagined that this 
Fool was introduced by Shakespeare, not only in 
conformity with the usages of primitive times as an 
attendant of a king, but, in this play and occasion^ as 
a sort of practical cynic / in order that such Fool 
might extract and point the moral of the passing 
scene to the understandings of the audiences of 
Shakespeare's day, composed as they must have 
been mostly of the uneducated populace of an 


unlettered and unrefined Age — sucli scraps of moral 
caustic as a king's " fool and knave " was privileged 
to interject at intervals must reasonably be supposed 
to have originated in tlie fool's mind natiircdly^ and 
to have been the result of an acute observation, 
with previous opportunities and much experience of 
the world I but, Mr. Macreadj, it seems to me that 
such wisdom in thought, and aptitude in expression 
and of apj)lwation to passing events, from the mouth 
of ' a 1)01) of eighteen^ would be more than prodi- 
gious: to the reflecting and judicious of the 
audience such wisdom and satire would seem j^reter- 
natural, or to have been derived from nothing short 
of Inspiration.'^'^ 

Mr. Macready listened to me very attentively, 
and without the least interruption ; and, when I had 
concluded, uttered not a word in defence or support 
or justification of his innovation. 

Mr. Macready's King Lear was in conception very 
generally in accordance with my own, and his per- 
formance scholarly and highly artistic ; the main 
defects, which I detected in his attempt to personate 
Lear and which frequently destroyed the illusion, 
arose from his too-often forgetting, in the carriage 
of his body, and by the quickness and the vigor of 
his movements and action, as well as the occasional 
strength of his lungs, that Lear was " fourscore and 
upwards and a weak and infirm old nianP 

I saw the King Lear of Edmund Kean repeatedly 
when in Ameriba, in 1826. His performance of the 


character was very uneven. lie seemed to have 
contented himself with searching for points suscep- 
tible of brilliant eflect in each of Learns scenes, and 
in making their splendor great enough to either 
blind the mass of his audience towards, or make 
them forgetful of his intervening^ ojid frequent^ and 
pal])cd)le deficiencies. Mr. Kean evidently possessed 
the ability, but had not had, originally, either the 
will or the industry necessary, in both study and 
practice, to make his impersonation of Lectr — like 
his Othello — as a lohole^ transcendent. 

The history and traditions of the stage, to this 
day, point to David Garrick as the greatest actor of 
Lecir that has ever lived. Murphy, his biographer, 
has preserved to us a remarkably full description of 
that performance, and records — ^^ King Lear was 
Garrick's most perfect effort ; — in this part he has 
remained without equal or rival. He was trans- 
formed into a feeble old man, still, however, retain- 
ing an air of royalty. He had no sudden starts, no 
violent gesticulations ; his movements were slow 
and languid ; misery was depicted in every feature 
of his face ; he moved his head in the most delibe- 
rate manner ; his eyes were fixed, or, if they turned 
to any one near him, he made a pause, and fixed 
his look on the person after much delay, \i\^ features 
at the same time expressing lohat he icas going to 
say hefore he utt-ered a wordP Then Mr. Garrick 
did not think it necessary — " as many of our play- 
ers do " — to cover up with thick white hair his fea- 


tares : tliey may tlius be made picturesque, but 
rigid and incapable of expressing occasional alter- 
nations of the countenance. The late Charles 
Young, of Covent Garden, London, for such rea- 
sons wore for Lear a thin and scattered beard upon 
his cheeks, and proportionately short from the chin. 




Hamlet may justly be called one of those beings 
wlio " resolves and re-resolves, yet dies the same." 

Some analytical and instructive notices of the 
character may be found in the following literary 
works, viz. ; — 

Schlegel's Lectures. 

Goethe's Wilhelmeister^ s Apprenticeship. 

Davies' Life of Garriclc. 

Boaden's Life of John P. Kemhle. 

I have become fully convinced of the truth of 
what Schlegel says of the character of Hamlet^ viz. 
'' Many of his traits are too nice and too delicate 
for the stage, and can only be seized by a great 
actor and understood by an acute audience." 

A critic, contemporary with Garrick, remarks : — 
" Among the requisites for a perfect delineation of 
this difficult character are — the ease of a gentleman, 
the dignity of a prince, symmetry of features, 


expression of countenance, and flexibility of voice 
— to give proper variety to the vehement passions, 
weight to the declamation, and poignancy to the 
spirited and satirical parts — -joined with originality 
and sound judgment." 

Among the various performers of any pretension 
to eminence in the character of Hamlet^ whom I 
remember in my youth, the earliest was 

Thomas A. Cooper, 

From 1816 to 1818, at the ParTc Theatre^ New 


Mr. Cooper was noted, at that time, for a hand- 
some face and a commanding and an Apollo-like 
figure, and his Hamlet was a favorite and particu- 
larly attractive with the public ; — indeed, he was 
generally popular in many if not most of the cha- 
racters wherein John Philip Kemble had become 
famous upon the London stage, and Mr. Cooper was 
said to have modelled his own after the style of that 
great actor, with which he had become familiar in 
his youth, and prior to his first visit, his early mar- 
riage into one of the first families at ]^ew York, 
and his subsequent life-long residence in the United 
States.* After the death of George Frederick 

* Mr. Cooper married Miss Mary Fairlie, a daughter of Major 
Fairlie, of the American Revolution ; and Mr. Cooper's daughter 


Cooke, in 1812, and until the first advent of l\[r. 
Wallack, in 1818, and of Edmund Kean, in 1820, 
Mr. Cooper was tlie only theatrical star in our 
Western hemisphere, and ^ew York had — and 
continued to have until 1824 — only the Parli The- 

I was too young when I first saw Mr. Cooper's 
Samlet and had too vague a conception of the cha- 
racter to criticise that performance ; though I well 
remember that his voice was full and of consider- 
able compass, and his articulation was very distinct ; 
his eyes, which were of a pale blue, and habitually 
— perhaps owing to near-siglitedness — somewhat 
contracted, were not effective in his art, and his 
countenance had little flexibility ; his gestures were 
usually formal and sometimes stiff, and the carriage 
of his body was generally heavy and sluggish, and 
occasionally, in action or movement, clumsy and 
ungraceful ; his style was cold and declamatory, and 
sometimes turgid or bombastic ; yet, in some other 
parts, and particularly in Shakespeare's Mark An- 
tony^ and as Brutus^ in J. Howard Payne's adap- 
tation of TTie Fall of Tarquin^ and also in Sheridan 
Knowles's Yirginiiis, and his Damon, when Mr. 
Cooper first performed the latter characters, and 
yet retained enough of his natural impulse to break 

Priscilla, -who had been favorably received by the pubhc as an actress, 
left the stage to become the wife of Mr. Robert Tyler, a son of 
ex-President John Tyler. 


away from tlie trammels of his m'iginal schooling^ 
lie exhibited some very touching and highly effec- 
tive hits of acting. 

Note. — When Mr. Washington Irving, to whom I had 
loaned for perusal, in 1848, my manuscript volume respecting 
my own reminiscences of by-gone actors of Hamlet^ returned 
it, I found that he had done me the favor to note in pencil 
upon the margin as follows : — 

" At this time Cooper had lost the fire and fiesibihty of his 
earlier style of acting. He grew cold, formal, and declamatory 
as he j)assed liis meridian." 

W. I. 

ja:mes w. wallack. 

mw Yorh, 1818-19. 

Me. Wallack then seemed not more than twenty- 
five years of age, came directly from Drmy Lane, 
London, where he had already attained a high rank 
in a profession then graced by many eminent 
artists ; and the season of 1818 was Mr. Wallack's 
first in America. His figure and personal bearing 
on or off the stage were very distingue • his eye was 
sparkling ; his hair dark, curly, and luxuriant ; his 
facial features finely chiselled ; and together with 
the natural conformation of his head, throat, and 
chest, Mr. Wallack presented a remarkable speci- 


men of manly beauty. lie at once became, and 
continued to be, during visits which were repeated, 
occasionally protracted, and were seldom separated 
bv intervals lonsrer than a theatrical season or two 
each, and for a term of more than twenty years, one 
of the greatest and most invariably attractive 
favorites furnished the American by the British 

"With particular reference to Mr. Wallack's Ham- 
let^ which as it has happened I have not had an 
opportunity to witness since my youth^ when my 
ideas of the character were crude and superficial, 
and which, therefore, it would be unjust in me now 
to criticise retrospectively, I did then very well note 
that Mr. Wallack's action was easy and graceful ; 
his voice and articulation were clear and distinct ; 
and though from the impression it made, and which 
I still retain of that early-seen performance, it 
might according to my later and more matured 
ideal have lacked a sufficiency of vjeigJit in the 
philosophical portions, and also of depth and in- 
tensity of meditation in the soliloquies, it was then 
unanimously approved and a special favorite with 
the I^ew York public. 

Mr. Wallack, besides being popular in a number 
of leading tragic parts, was esteemed without an 
equal as Don Felix in the comedy of The Wonder^ 
and throughout the range of genteel and high- 
spirited comedy generally, as also in a number of 
melodramatic characters. His Martin Heywood in 



The Rent Danj^ Massaroni in The Brigand^ and Lis 
Don Gtvsar de Bazan in later years, manifested a 
high and exquisite order of art ; whilst those who 
in Mr. Wallack's early days saw his RoUoj in the 
play of Pizarro can never forget that it was unap- 
proached by any other performer, and the most 
remarkably picturesque, fascinating, and continu- 
ally attractive performance then known to the 
American stage. In versatility of talent, probably 
the stage has never had any other actor capable of 
satisfying the public in such a variety of prominent 
characters : his costumes, too, were remarkably 
characteristic, and always in admirable taste, and 
Mr. Wallack, in every respect, has proved himself 
a complete master of the histrionic art. 


mw TorJc, 1825. 

3fr. Comoay came from England to America 
during the season of 1823. He had been a great 
favorite whilst Miss CNeil shone at Covent Gar- 
den, London, as a tragic star of the first magnitude ; 
he having supported that famous actress in the prin- 
cipal male characters of the dramas wherein she 
appeared. It was reported that ^' Mrs. Siddons had 
pronounced him superior in several respects to any 
actor of that day ;" and it was also said and gene- 


rally believed, too, that "the popularity he was fast 
acquiring had raised up against him a host of ene- 
mies in his own profession, and that the celebrated 
critic Hazlitt by a course of persistent ridicule had 
successfully conspired with them to drive him from 
his position soon after Miss 0'jN"eil had left the 
stage." Mr. Conway being of a retiring and very 
sensitive nature suddenly and spontaneously resigned 
in disgust his situation as an actm' with a good salary 
upon the London stage, and accepted that of a 
pi'omjpter at the Hay market theatre, until he 
resolved to withdraw altogether from the turmoil 
and cabala of the London theatres, and come over 
professionally to the United States. Mr. Conway 
was well received in ^ew York, and also in Phila- 
delphia and Boston, and for a season or two was 
respectably without being at any time greatly 
attractive. His most approved parts were Hamlet, 
Coriolanus, Cato, Jaffier in Venice Prese'i'^ed and 
Lord Townly in The Provoked Husband. 

Mr. Conway was a very tall man, stooped a little 
in the shoulders and had a large foot, the heel of 
which, being habitually put first to the ground in 
stepping, made his tread of the stage rather un- 
seemly ; otherwise his proportions, though inclined 
to the colossal, were good ; he was remarkably clas- 
sic in his style and read Hamlet with nicety and 
strict propriety, and evidently had a good idea of 
the character ; its melancholy and morbid sensitive- 
ness were rendered very prominent, but he lacked 


the occasional liglitness and gaiety recpired by tlie 
satire and also the warmth necessary for the spirited 
parts ; his chief defect conseqnently was a heavi- 
ness, with occasional monotony. His Cato and 
Goriolanics I liked best of all his performances seen 
by me in onr country. 

About the year 1820, Mr. Conway resolved to 
cpit the stage and study Divinity ; and about three 
years thereafter, meeting with some j)ersonal oppo- 
sition from the then Bishop (Ilobart) of Kew York, 
'^froin the fact of his having heen an actor^'^ and 
whilst on his voyage to Savannah for the purpose of 
obtaining of Bishop White there, leave to "take 
orders in the church," in a sudden fit of despondency 
of a fine afternoon when his fellow passengers were 
below at dinner, Mr. Conway jumped from the deck 
of the ship into the sea ofi' Charleston Bar, and, 
refusing to avail himself of the means thrown over- 
board to save him, was drowned. 


New York, 1825. 

Me. Hamblin was in height above the ordinary 
stature of men, and his frame was more bony than 
fleshy ; his head was remarkable for its covering by 
a shock of thick and curly dark-brown hair ; his nose 
was high and thick, and long like his visage ; his 


voice husky ; his breathing asthmatic ; his manner 
stiff and formal ; his eyes were of a dark hazel, 
small, sunken, and set very close to each other and 
not either penetrating or effective, and his other 
facial features were more rigid than plaatic. 

Mr. Ilamblin was announced " from Drury Lane, 
London," where he had held for a season or two a 
respectable but subordinate situation in that Com- 
pany. Rumor, however, said that " upon some 
recent occasion he had obtained an opportunity to 
act Hamlet at the Haymarket, ■s\here the audience 
received his performance with great favor, and re- 
garded it as a very respectable copy of John Kem- 
hlii'^^from lohicJi it a^ppeared to have leen studiecV 
Mr. Hamblin's ideas of the character were strictly 
conventional. lie was always noisy without pas- 
sion, and always seemed to me not unlike a piece of 
animated machinery — incapable of any spontaneous 
impulse. Mr. Hamblin, however, had made him- 
self familiar with all the mechanism of tragic art in 
the Kemble school ; and with his tall figure, which 
he costumed to much advantage, as Shakespeare's 
Brutus and Goriolanus^ and adapted to such artifi- 
cial bearing as has become consonant with our 
modern ideas of the manner of those ancient 
Komans, Mr. Hamblin acquired and maintained 
many years a respectable stand among the trage- 
dians of the city of l^&w York. 



New Yo7% 1826 — the year of his second and last 
advent to the United States of America. 

Of all the attempts to act Hamlet whicli I have 
seen, Mr. Keau's pleased me most. He was a little 
below the middle stature, and not as near the ideal 
" glass of fashion and the mould of form" in person 
as some of his competitors, though he had rather a 
compact and not disproportioned nor ill-formed 
figure ; but his face beamed with intelligence, and 
its muscles were plastic and suggestive of the pas- 
sions ; his eyes were black, large, brilliant, and 
penetrating, and remarkable for the shortness of 
their upper lid, which discovered a clearly-defined 
line of white above the ball, rendering their effect 
when fixed upon an object very searching ; his 
action and " gesticulation, though ever easy and 
natural, were generally quick and energetic, and 
very earnest-like ; his style in colloquy was " fami- 
liar but by no means vulgar :" it conformed to the 
dignity of the occasion, and was most signally con- 
served in the last scene of John Howard Payne's 
play, where, as Lucius Junius Brutus^ the Tribune^ 
he struggles w^ith the nature of the father and con- 
demns his son, and himself gives the signal for the 
axe of the executioner ; his manner, indeed, tlirough- 
out the character, indicated the soul of the patri- 


ciaii unalloyed by that of the plebeian ; his voice, 
when raised or strained, was harsh and dissonant, 
but in level sj^eaking, and especially in poetic mea- 
sure, its undertones were charming, musical, and 
undulating ; verily, the ensemble of Kean's physical 
features was well adapted to depict the 

" flash and outbreak of a fiery mind." 

In Hamlefs advice • to the players and in the 
strictly declamatory portions of the character, Mr. 
Kean did not particularly excel, but he seemed to 
me to have inspired and more ably to illustrate the 
soul of Hamlet than any actor whom I have seen in 
the part ; its intellectuality and sensitiveness were 
wrought into transparent prominency ; every parti- 
cle of its satire was given with extraordinary pun- 
gency ; its sentiment was upon each occasion very 
impressively uttered, and the melancholy was plain- 
tively-toned and sympathy- winning ; the action was 
free and natural and never ungraceful, the passion 
heart-stirring, and the poetry was read with correct 
emphasis and a nice ear to rhythmical measure : 
yet, Kean's Hmnlet, which surprised and enraptured 
me, I discovered, to my surprise, chagrin, and vexa- 
tion, was not j^articulaTly appreciated by the most 
intelligent of our JSTew York audiences. Mr. Kean's 
most popular and invariably-attractive j^^i't was 
Richard the Third ; but his Othello was a far more 
exquisite and intellectual, as also meritorious per- 
formance ; his Sir Giles Over-reach a more terribly- 


energetic, and his ShylocJc his most unexceptionably- 
perfect character. 

One of Kean's most enthusiastic admirers was 
Lord Byron. He pronounced " Kean's third act of 
Othello the perfection of tragic art," and said that 
" acting could go no farther." His Lordship, too, 
is said to have remarked that he " pitied those who 
were not near enouo^h — as he had made it a rule to 
be (seated in the third row of the pit) — to see the 
constant alteriiations and hye-play of Kean^s counte- 
nance'^'' during the dialogue. 

After Lord Byron had left England, and reached 
Italy, he sent Kean a snuif-box, with the following 
lines : 

'' Thou art the Sun's bright cliikl I 

The genius that irradiates thy mind 

Caught all its purity and light from Heaven. 

Thine is the task with mastery most perfect 

To bind the passions caj)tive in thy train. 

Each crystal tear that slumbers in the depth 

Of feeling's fountain, doth obey thy call. 

There's not a joy or sorrow mortals prove 

A feeling to humanity allied 

But tribute of allegiance owes to thee. 

The shrine thou worshippest is Nature's self, 

The only altar Genius deigns to seek : 

Thine offering — a bold and burning mind, 

Whose impulse guides thee to the realms of fame, 

Where crown'd with well earn'd laurels all thine own, 

I herald thee to Immortality." 

I happened to be in London and was in the stage 
box of Covent Garden Theatre the evenins: of the 


25tli of March, 1S33. The phaj was OtMlo. Mr. 
Kean, who was announced to act The Moor^ had been 
so advertised recently, and having proved too unwell 
to appear, fearing another disappointment, compara- 
tively few of the admirers of this " the greatest thea- 
trical genius of the Age," had confidence enough in 
the rej)ort of his convalescence and ability to act 
again, to attend the theatre on this occasion, though 
it offered them an extraordinary inducement, viz. 
" his son, Mr. Charles Kean, would for the first time 
in London appear with him on the stage and sustain 
the character of lago to his father's Othello P The 
curtain rose to an evidently intelligent but only 
about a half-filled auditorium. 

When Kean the father and Charles Kean his son, 
as Othello and lago — entered upon the second scene 
of the tragedy, they were greeted with vociferous 
manifestations of w^elcome which continued until 
each had reached his respective stage-position, right 
and left centre, and had turned and faced and bowed 
once to the audience, whereupon the Pit and Boxes 
rose simultaneously ; the gentlemen cheering and 
clapping their hands, and the ladies waving their 
handkerchiefs ; Mr. Kean, who was on the left side 
of the centre, seemed to appreciate highly the com- 
pliments, and grasping his son's left within his own 
right hand advanced firmly to the footlights and 
gracefully presented his son Charles, by a gentle 
wave of the other hand, and then a grateful smile, 
and their united and modest obeisance. The whole 



audience seemed wild with delight at this little inci- 
dent, and doubly redoubled their significant expres- 
sions of enthusiasm at the occurrence, and the father 
and son were for an uncommonly long interval com- 
l^elled to bow their acknowledgments accordingly 
before they were allowed to return to their relative 
stage-])ositions, and resume their respective charac- 
ters and open the dialogue of the scene. 

Mr. Kean appeared physically feeble and indis- 
posed to make any special efforts even where he had 
long been wont in the first and second acts, and I 
inferred therefrom that he had not confidence in the 
extent of his recovered strength, and was reserving 
that which he thought he could command for the 
first exigency in the third act. 

The same feebleness, however, continued manifest 
to every one until he uttered that famous apostro- 
phe. Act 5, Sg. 1, " Now for ever farewell," &c. 

I had often heard him deliver this favorite apo- 
stroj^he, and seldom receive less than three or four 
rounds of aj)23lause. On this occasion the applause 
was prolonged and renewed, and seemed to occupy 
at least a minute's time by the watch. I never 
before had heard him utter the words with half the 
intense and heart-rending efloct, and I remarked to 
my companion in the stage box : — " Poor fellow ! I 
fear that a consciousness of the applicability to his 
own individual self of ' Othello^ s occupation's goneP 
has unnerved him. I now realize the great critic 
Ilazlitt's observation that ' this apostrophe and its 


termination' — as Kcan delivered it in Lis earlier 
days — ' lingered npon the ear like an eclio of tlie 
last sounds of departing Hope.' " 

During this long protracted applause, Mr. Kean 
stood motionless, his eyes closed, and his chin rest- 
ing upon his chest. "When it had quite subsided, 
and some fifteen or twenty seconds of time had 
elapsed, and Mr. Kean still remained motionless and 
statue-like, loud whisperings prevailed among the 
spectators — " 'Why don't he proceed ? He must be 
ill again ? "What can be the matter with him ?" 
The very silence around him seemed suddenly to 
arouse him to a sense of his own condition. He 
raise'd his head languidly, blinked repeatedly, and 
turning feebly towards lago on his right, instead of 
that articulate vehemency usual with the words, 
Mr. Kean tottered visibly and muttered indistinctly 
— and inaudibly heyond the orcliestro. — " Villain — 
be — sure you — prove — " here he hesitated in his 
approach towards lago^ but stretched out both hands 
and ejaculated, " Oh, God ! I'm dying ! Speak to 
them, Charles !" Whereupon his son sprang for- 
ward and cauQ;ht him in his arms. Several voices 
from the auditorium cried, " Oh, take him off ! 
Send for a surgeon !" &c. Some one from the stage 
entrance on Mr. Kean's left came and assisted, and 
with either arm resting upon those two persons, Mr. 
Kean partly stepped or was borne out of sight of 
the audience whilst bowing his head feebly in token 
of his sense of their kind indulgence. 


The curtain was dro2)j)ed, and after a few mo- 
ments Mr. Bartley, the stage-manager, came for- 
ward and observed that though Mr. Kean was faint, 
he lioped he might be restored by a surgeon who 
had been sent for, and be able to finish his part, and 
craved their indulgence accordingly for fifteen 
minutes. When the time had expired, Mr. Bartley 
re-appeared, and regretted to inform the audience 
that the surgeon had pronounced Mr. Kean utterly 
incapable of resuming his part, which Afr. Warde 
would undertake with the consent of the audience 
to finish in Mr. Kean's stead, and the play was con- 
tinued to its conclusion without further interruption. 

Mr. Kean was carried to the nearest hotel, and 
after a few days removed to his home at Kichmond, 
where he lingered about three wrecks, and expired 
15 April, 1833. 


Covent Garden Theatre^ London^ 1827. 

It was impossible not to be pleased with Mr. 
Young's Hamlet^ as a whole. He had a full, com- 
pact, and a well-proportioned figure, a little above 
the medium height, an intellectual cast of counte- 
nance, with straight, dark hair. His features were 
not remarkable, unless for a Roman nose, which, 
though well formed, was in length a little beyond 
its pro]3ortion, and contributed to make the face 


rather fixed and inflexible ; but his voice was full 
and of great compass, and he seemed to be aware 
and proud of it, inasmncli as he would frequently 
seize occasion to practise it in a sort of clianting 
when delivering poetry ; his articulation and decla- 
mation were good, though a slight lisp could occa- 
sionally be detected in his speech ; his action was 
easy and graceful, indeed very gentleman-like ; his 
readings were sensible, and generally accorded with 
my taste, and his conception of the character of 
Hamlet seemed pretty just in the main — though I 
am bound to take particular exception to Mr. 
Young's marked hauteur in receiving the players, 
and to his dictatorial bearing whilst conversing with 
them ; his utterance especially of, " Com'st thou to 
beard me in Denmark ?" was characterized by a 
tone of rebuke instead of that of a jocose and con- 
descending familiarity, such as Hamlet would be 
likely to use in welcoming " the tragedians of the 
city in whom he was wont to take such delight, and 
who had come expressly to oflTer him their service." 
Mr. Young's general demeanor in the part, how- 
ever, might be said to conform more to the conven- 
tional idea of what is termed '^ princely^'' than did 
Mr. Kean's, but it did not indicate as open a nature 
nor as innate a nobility of soul as Kean's manner 
conveyed, and notwithstanding that Mr. Young had 
greater advantage in personal appearance, and was 
more classic in his style, the impulse of Mr. Kean's 
genius gained for him, in my esteem and com- 


parison, the transcendency in the performance of 

Mr. Young, however, was generally a most admi- 
rable tragic-artist. I saw with unmixed pleasure 
and satisfaction his King John^ Brutus (in Julius 
C(Bsar\ and his Mr. Beverly in the tragedy of Tlie 
Gamester. His Icigo (1827) was very highly esti- 
mated by the London public, and its rendering was 
indeed very artistio / but, though I could not but 
admire Mr. Toung's talent in filling his particularly 
gay, bold faced, and broadly conceived outline, my 
judgment resisted the conviction of the justness of 
his peculiar notions of the character. 'Tis true, 
his jollity of manner created much laughter, and 
was greeted with loud and frequent applause, and 
he capitally worked up his points to his theory, and 
artfully hid its unsoundness ; and applatcse is the 
meed, the goal, the capital every aspiring and un- 
scrupulous actor seeks : because it is generally con- 
sidered the test of merit, and whoever has been 
able to obtain repeatedly and continuously the 
greatest quantity in any j)opular character, has 
seldom failed to become its most attractive and con- 
sequently best remunerated representative. An 
actor, however, may occasionally succeed in sur- 
prising the senses, suspending the judgment of the 
few who thi7iJc in a theatre, or in confounding their 
faculties, whilst he secures the ready applause of 
the excited many who do not stop to consider the 
premises or might discover that the actor was 


sbamefallj pen^erting his author's most obvious 
design ; but the actor in the meantime lias become 
assured of his bootj, and revels in a demonstration 
in his favor which will not be restrained and cannot 
be recalled, and also in the consoling conclusion 
that should any of his victims detect the actor's dis- 
Jionesty in acquiring his own inconsiderate approba- 
tion, such an one would surely lose any vexatious 
sense of his robbery, in admiration of the advoii/riess 
of such moral thief. 

Mr. Young made lago seem constitutionally gay 
and lightsome, and too heartily joyous in certain por- 
tions of his dialogue, and not apparently wretched 
enough in particular soliloquies, where he expresses 
pent up grievances, the cause real and imaginary of 
his secret but malignant hatred to the Moor — for one 
complaining of hating that " which like a poisonous 
mineral gnawed his inwards," and of course had 
cankered all joy in his soul or any sincere inclina- 
tion for gaiety and merriment. lago should indeed 
assume a blunt but cynical humor; certainly not 
provocative in the acting of as much mirth among 
the audience as it would be if rendered in a jolly 
manner, though much more consistent with the 
nature and the circumstances of the character ; but 
these nice and delicate distinctions are very difficult 
for an actor to signalize intelligibly or render trans- 
parent to an audience, yet are worthy of an artist's 
studious efforts. lago'^s manner should naturally 
differ when alone with either Othello^ or Cassia^ or 


Moderigo^ or in liis general intercourse with those 
around him, and appear assumed accordingly ; but, 
in his soliloquies^ the actor should portray his real 
and absolute misery and sufferings without disguise ; 
they constitute the key which unlocks and exposes 
to the audience the secret motives of his envious, 
jealous, cruel, wretched, and revengeful nature, and 
of his mean, base, dishonorable, hypocritical, and 
detestable actions. Mr. Young neglected to disj^lay 
in strong colors the rancor at heart and its original 
complex causes, leaving his villany to seem too gra- 
tuitous and his humor too easy and spontaneous 
instead of forced and unnatural. 

A few days after I had seen Mr. Young perform 
Brutus in Jtdius Cmsar^ I met that gentleman at 
dinner and took occasion to express to him the 
effect his acting that part had had upon me. I 
observed that his manner, after the quarrel with 
Gassms had been ended and when Cassius said — " I 
did not think you could have been so angry !" — of 
slowly turning and facing Cassius and in a melan- 
choly tone uttering — " Oh, Cassius^ I am sick of 
many griefs!" and then slowly approaching him, 
taking one hand within his own and resting the 
other on Gassius^s shoulder and pausing a little and 
fixing his gaze upon the face of Cassius^ and then 
with a faltering voice, and a suffused eye and chok- 
ing utterance, which seemed to me to indicate that 
he was nerving himself in order to impart without 
emotion a heart-rending fact to one whose sympa- 


tliies would be strongly moved and his shock would 
else re-act upon himself and shake his own fortitude 
before he added — ^'Portia — is — deadP'^ and closed 
his eves, had so overcome my sensibilities, as his audi- 
tor and spectator in the stage-box of Covent Garden, 
that I involuntarily fell backwards among those 
behind me — my heart seeming to heave into my 
throat and stop my breath, and, sobbing audibly, I 
became for a few moments quite a spectacle to those 
immediately about me, and had felt quite ashamed 
of my own weakness afterwards. 

Mr. Young thanked me for the compliment I had 
paid to his own a7% but modestly remarked that 
"he deserved no credit for its original conception^ 
inasmuch as he had taken it from the late Mr. Kem- 
ble's performance of Brutus^ whilst he himself had 
frequently acted Cassius with him." 


ds Hamlet^ Neio Yo'rlc^ 1826 and 1843. 

Mr. Macready, in propria persona, minutely sur- 
veyed, is above the middle height ; his port rather 
stiffly erect ; his figure, not stout but very straight, 
and at the hips quite the reverse of en l)on point / 
his ordinary or natural gait is not dignified ; he steps 
short and quick with a sj^ringy action of the knee 
joints, which sometimes trundling his stiff bust — as 
in a rush from the centre to a corner of the stage — 


reminds one of the recoil of a cannon npon its car- 
riage ; in his slow and measured tread of the stage, 
he seems somewhat affected : he sags his body alter- 
nately on either leg, whilst his head waves from side 
to side to balance it : his head, however, is not nn- 
proportioned, and his hair is of a dark brown ; his 
face, though occasionally lighted up by a pleasing 
smile, can hardly have beauty predicated of it : his 
forehead is good, but his 'brow does not — 

^'like to a title leaf 

Foretell the nature of a tragic volume ;" 

being rather high, vacant, and irregularly arched 
though not inflexible ; his eyes are blue, of good 
size, widely set and tolerably effective in his acting ; 
though he has a trick of turning them upward rather 
too frequently and dropping his chin upon his breast; 
half covering the eye-balls with the upper lids and 
leaving the whites below well-defined, looks too 
much aghast when he would express reverential 
awe ; his nose is of ordinary length, rather low and 
straight from his forehead down to beneath its 
bridge, where it abruptly rises ; his mouth is not 
remarkable and his chin is prominent ; his voice is 
tolerably strong, but without volume or much com- 
pass ; when sunk it is sometimes monotonous, and 
when raised often becomes quite reedy ; it rarely 
breaks by accident, but does for effect occasionally 
by intention in the course of his Richelieu and also 
in the utterance of Lear's curse ; his articulation is 


generally distinct and Lis enunciation clear and 
pure, excepting some rare specimens of what seem 
the remains of an early or slight L'ish brogue ; his 
legs are rather long and thin by nature^ but being 
straight are proportioned on the stage by his art^ and 
his arms are more bony than brawny ; his actions 
are generally formal and sometimes more angular 
than graceful ; many of his attitudes are good, but 
he has a habit of sinking his body by bending both 
knees, as though his breast was o'erfraught with a 
heavy weight of matter which he was impatient to 
discharge or utter loudly ; a favorite station of his is 
formed by reclining his weight upon one leg whilst 
his body is steadied by the other leg dragging 
extendedly behind and resting upon its toes: one 
posture of his is particularly uneasy and ungraceful, 
not to say ]3ainful, to behold : in his gladiatorial 
combats, when preparing to give or receive a blow, 
he throws his head and chest so far backward as to 
make himself appear in danger of losing his equili- 
brium : but, with all Mr. Macready's personal dis- 
advantages, his discerning mind and untiring indus- 
try have so disciplined his physique, that, " take 
him for all in all," I consider him by far the most 
intellectual and generally eflective actor of the 
time ; indeed, I doubt whether stage-history can 
furnish another instance of such a signal triumph of 
Mind over the impediments involved in a very 
imperfect physical material. He seems, when form- 
ing his style of acting, to have taken as models and 


compounded the classical dignity of John Kemble 
with the intense earnestness and colloquial fami- 
liarity of Edmund Kean. 

The difference between Kean and Macready 
struck me to be this : — Kean seemed to have far 
greater genius for the stage than Macready, and 
having once fully imbibed the spirit and carefully 
committed to memory the words of his author, 
appeared not to have bestowed much forethouglit in 
his closet upon the precise way in which he would 
act it ; but, aware of his usual power of self-abandon- 
ment, risked the event before his audience, trusting 
mainly to his ready imjpulse to inspire him with all 
the other requisites to produce effect. Kean's early 
and irregular life, too, favors the conjecture that in 
such manner, when, amidst poverty and obscurity, 
after performing his characters in the English Pro- 
vinces, his genius was sometimes quickened by his 
natural ardor, and at others by the bowl of Bacchus, 
and he oi*iginated and accumulated on such occa- 
sions, many of those bold, novel, and splendid points 
which afterwards w^ere transplanted in the metropo- 
lis and electrified the London public. Macready^ by 
his acting, impressed me with the idea of one who 
had begun secimdum artem^ by reading and ponder- 
ing well his author, formed his corporate conception 
of the entire character he would j^lay, dissected and 
elaborated its points, and then had recourse to his 
utmost art to re-unite and incorporate the several 
particles into a unique, complete, and harmonious 


impersonation, but never permitted himself to appear 
in a part before an audience until it had been long 
practised in his closet and sufficiently rehearsed 
upon the stage to become almost second-nature to 
him ; upon sucli an hypothesis, his pictorial and 
mechanical portions having been duly considered by 
himself and thoroughly understood by the corps of 
performers employed to support his scenes in the 
play, his art^ not impulse, his reliance, and the degree 
of earnestness only left to his nature to acquire 
whilst acting, Macready could differ little in the 
quality of his performance of the same character 
though frequently repeated : whilst Kean^ who 
depended more upon the excitability of his nature 
and the inspiration of the occasion to arouse his 
impulses and to aid him before an audience, being 
consequently ever more or less in the vein, was 
sometimes dull, flat, or uneven, but at others was 
gay, energetic, or impetuous, and then his genius 
often became highly inflamed and burst like a 
meteor ; its sparks seeming to ignite the sympathe- 
tic bosom of every spectator, until pit, boxes, and 
gallery reflected one grand blaze of enthusiasm. 

It was in reference to one of these occasions, 
namely, the closing scene of his first performance of 
Bit Giles Over-reach (in A New Way to Pay Old 
DeUs,) at Drury Lane (181^,) 

" When all were fir'd— " 

that upon returning home immediately afterwards 


in his carriage, and without waiting to change his 
stage-costume as Sir Giles^ Kean proudly related to 
his impatient and expectant wife the victory just 
obtained over a whole theatre, crammed, as it was 
that night, with literati, nobility, and gentry, and 
among which, of course, figured his new but 
charmed friend, enthusiastic professional admirer, 
and most zealous and distinguished patron, the Earl 
of Essex — the foremost of the several nobles con- 
spicuous then for their desire to cultivate a social 
intimacy with " the brightest genius " of the stage. 
Mrs. Kean seemed still unsatisfied, because her hus- 
band had neglected even to mention the name of 
an acquaintance of which she was most proud, and 
restlessly interjected : — 

" But, Ned, dear ! what did Lord Essex say ? " 

Kean^s abrupt and emphatic, but very significant 
response was — 

" Oh, d n Lord Essex ! — The Pit rose at 

me ! ! " 

Macready's Bichelieu I regard, as a whole, his 
most artistical assumption of character : his Werner^ 
in his own adaptation of Byron's, is truly sui generis^ 
a masterpiece of that class of tragedy ; but, though 
it may be termed " comparatively faultless," it 
reflects less credit upon him as an artist ; because, 
the manner demanded by the character assimilates 
so closely to his own natural style, that it requires 
but little if any degree of assumption in that respect. 
Mr. Macready being '' elder and abler " than myself, 


gr^at deference is due from me to his discernment 
and judgment or conclusions ; therefore, I have 
reconsidered my own conception of Hamlet^ and, 
finding that I cannot overcome my original objec- 
tions to many portions of that representation, I will 
venture to record the following reasons. 

Mr. Macready continues, after Ilamlefs opening 
scene, to weep and whine too much, and resorts to 
his handkerchief too often ; it is true that the 
memory of his father, then " not two months dead," 
may keep open " the fruitful river in the eye," 
amongst other " forms, modes, shows of grief," 
which he describes, but Hainlet claims to "have 
that within which passeth show ;" therefore an 
actor should observe a nice discretion in his weep- 
ing : because, tears are a rare relief in nature to 
one who has 

" something in his soul, 

O'er which his melancholy sits on brood ; " 

besides, with dejected patients in real life weeping 
is an end and an attaimnent studiously sought by 
their physicians ; because, if it can be superinduced 
copioiosly^ it is known to relieve the o'erfraught 
heart, and to furnish the readiest antidote to " the 
poison of deep grief." 

Mr. Macready moves about the stage too often 
and too briskl}^, and in too clerklike a gait for one 
of a princely education, leisurely habits, and a con- 
templative turn of mind ; his manner, also, is gene- 


rally too luirried and restless, and lie imparts to tlic 
features -of liis countenance a spasmodic expression 
in many of their variations ; indeed, sometimes 
their transitions are as sudden and their contractions 
as violent as though the muscles of his face were 
acted upon by a galvanic battery ; his limbs, too, 
seem incapable of any just medium between mode- 
rate exercise and a paroxysm of action ; — these vio- 
lent contractions and expansions occasionally may 
serve to indicate a very nervous temperament, but, 
if too frequently practised, destroy a chance to 
depict neatly the variety of delicate lights and 
shades which belong to a mind naturally sensitive 
and meditative ; in speaking he seldom used his 
left arm, but kept it under his cloak ; in short, his 
manner generally wanted ease, was seldom graceful, 
and never exhibited the repose characteristic of a 
philosoiDhic mind. 

His arrangement of the scenes wherein Hamlet 
appears denoted generally much forethought and a 
nice taste ; but amongst the exceptions I would 
instance his mode of rendering — 

" Arm'd, say you ? " — 

which, following next in the order of the text to the 
answer given to Hamlets previous inquiry, " Hold 
you the watch to-night ? " was given in such a 
pauseless manner as at least to confuse the auditor's 
understanding that Hamlefs thoughts had reverted 


to and had special reference to the peculiar appear- 
ance of the GJhost — 

" armed at point, exactly cap-a-pi^ ; " 

for example ; after Horatio had finished his descrip- 
tion of the apparition and attendant circumstances, 
and added : — 

" And we did think it writ down in our duty 
To let you know it : " 

Mr. Macready darted up the stage, turned suddenly 
and rushed down to his starting place, and uttered 

" Indeed, indeed, sirs, but this troubles me ; " 

then, standing between Horatio^ on his left hand, 
and Marcellus and Bernardo on his right, he inquired 
of those two officers — 

" Hold you the watch to-night ? " 
who reply — 

" We do, my lord." 

At this juncture Mr. Macready, without turning his 
face or changing his attitude, tone of voice, or 
expression of countenance, or waiting a single 
second of time, proceeded rapidly — 

" Arm'd, say you ? 
AU. Arm'd, my lord ! 
Ham. From top to toe ? 

AU. From head to foot. 
Ham. Then saw you not his face ?" 



"Up to this period, tliese questions and answers were 
pronounced with the utmost rapidity consistent 
with distinct articuhition, and their more immediate 
antecedent having been " Hold you the watch to- 
niglit?" an auditor, though well acquainted with 
the text, might be in the hurried interim misled by 
such a manner of delivery to suppose that by the 
following interrogatory — " Arm'd say you ?" — Ham- 
let meant to inquire connectedly whether those who 
should hold the watch would be arm^d^ until the 
closing part of the context — 

" Then saw you not his face ?" 

brings the listener's thoughts necessarily back to 
the Ghost, to whose appearance " in arms" the in- 
quiry refers : whereas, if, instead of the manner Mr. 
Macready adopted, after addressing the two soldiers 
then on his right hand with — " Hold you the watch 
to-night V he had made a short jpmise^ and with the 
fixed eye of abstract and profound consideration 
turned his face from them towards Horatio standing 
at his left, and sinking his voice into a musing and 
an under tone inquired of Horatio particularly, 
"Arm'd say you?" the most uninformed auditor 
could not have been for a moment misled from this 
special reference to the Ghost. 

In the Fii'st Folio and in the early Quarto edi- 
tions, the ansioers to HamleCs particular inquiries 
are printed differently ; being in one copy ascribed 
to " hotli^'' and in another to " all y" but, whether 



tliese answers properly belong to the tioo officers 
only or to all three wJio were witnesses is quite 
immaterial ; because, in the acting of the scene it is 
right and proper to use the most obvious method to 
convey to an audience and the spectators the dra- 
matist's meaning, and to remove as far as possible 
any obstacle to their ready and perfect comprehen- 
sion, when it may be involved in some obscurity by 
an author's style. In this case, however, there can 
arise no just cause of any confusion in a spectator's 
understanding if the actor of Hamlet will only con- 
fine his questions concerning the Ghost to Horatio^ 
as he ought to do for the reasons that Horatio is 
Hamlefs confidential friend who has sought him for 
the express purpose of communicating these par- 
ticulars, and has already premised that " tliese gen- 
tlemen, Marcellus and Bernardo^^ had stood dumb 
from fear and spoke not to the apparition ; the last 
fact being in itself a sufiicient motive with Hamlet 
for not seeking out nice particulars from thein whose 
"fear-surprised eyes" might render their report 
subject to his suspicion of exaggeration ; though it 
would be quite natural that those soldiers should 
join Horatio in his answers to questions specially 
directed to him by Hamlet : because they had be- 
come privileged, having been eye-witnesses too of 
the " dreaded sight," and also because they would 
naturally be ambitious of an opportunity to confirm 
such important information to one of so high rank 
as Prince Hamlet. 

148 ACTORS OF hamlj:t. 

" His beard was grizzled ? IsTo ?" 

Mr. Macready after "grizzled" allowed the wit- 
nesses not a moment for reflection, but impatiently 
and rather comically stammered, " W — n' — no ?" 

Instead of the nsual entrance of the Ghost with 
Samlet following, Mr. Macready's arrangement for 
their discovery in relative positions was new, effec- 
tive, and picturesque. 

" Polonius. Will you walk out of the air, my lord ? 
Hamlet. Into my grave !" 

Mr. Macready uttered Hcvml&Cs reply interroga- 
tively^ which was new to my ear upon the stage ; 
but, though it is the punctuation of the Folio of 
1623, I would prefer that it should be given as an 

Mr. Macready's style wanted the philosophic sen- 
tentiousness requisite for an harmonious delivery of 
the analysis of " Man ;" besides which he adopted 
the late John Kemble's omission of the indefinite 
article "<2" before ^'^ man f' an omission not war- 
ranted by any of the original and authentic editions: 
the true text is when Hamlet would analyse God's 
animated machine, 

" What a piece of work is a man ?" 

The article "a" prefixed to the word "man" is 
essential here, because Hamlet descants particularly 
upon the male sex and their attributes as constitut- 


ing the '' paragon of animals" and in contra-distinc- 
tion to tlie female portion of human kind enumerates 
the peculiar and highest order of men's intellectual 
gifts combined with a perfection of personal forma- 
tion, and when he has summed them all up, he 
adds — 

" Man delights not me I" 
The courtier then smiles, and he rebukes him with — 

" Nor ivoman neither," &c. 

IN'ow had Hamlet begun with "What a piece of 
work is Tnan f " such a general term — man — in his 
premises would have signified the genus homo^ and 
been understood by the courtier as comprehending 
woman also, and thus the point of Hamlefs rebuke 
at this imagined impertinence been lost. 

Like every other actor of Hamlet whom I have 
seen, Mr. Macready's emphasis and intonation of 
the word '^ Southerly " — " 1 am but mad JsTorth, 
ITorthwest ; — when the wind is Southerly I know a 
hawk from a handsaw" — were such as to imply to a 
listener that when the wind may be from the South 
the atmosphere is clearer than when from the I^orth, 
Northwest ; whereas the very reverse according to 
Shakespeare elsewhere is the fact ; for example, see 
" As You ZiJve It;' Act 3, So. 5. 

'' You foolish shepherd, "wherefore do you follow her, 
Jjike foggy South, pufTing with wind and rain." 


Hamlet^ as I understand the passage, means to 
reflect gently upon the conceited cleverness of those 
clumsy spies, Ttosencrantz and Guildenstcrn, whose 
ill-concealed designs are transparent to him, by 
intimating to them that their employers are de- 
ceived in respect to the point or direction of his 
madness ; that, figuratively, his brain is disordered 
only upon one of the clearest points of the compass, 
to wit, IN'orth, [N'orthwest ; but that even when the 
wind is Soutlierly^ and his intellectual atmosphere 
in consequence most befogged and impenetrable, 
his observation is not so mad or erratic as to be 
unable to distinguish between two such dissimilar 
objects — for example — as ^' a haivh and a hand- 
saw.'''' Whether the form of a handsaw in Shake- 
speare's time may have including its teeth borne 
some remote resemblance to that of a hawk when 
his wings were extended, and the ends of the long 
feathers of his tail also apparently notched^ and sug- 
gested the comparison, may seem a far-fetched as 
well as absurd idea ; but if Shakespeare wrote 
^^ hernshaw''' — as has been suggested — this would 
have been the only occasion of his use of that word 
throughout his works, whereas he has once else- 
where introduced handsaw — " My sword hack'd 
like a handsaw P 

In the soliloquy on suicide, Mr. Macready lacked 
that semblance of profound abstraction and of deep 
meditation — that absence of action and motion — 
I may say that almost statue-like station which is 


natural to a mind absorbed in philosopliical and 
metaph3^sical self-debate, whilst the general physique 
of the man seems in a state of complete repose, 
all of which outward shewing appears to me indis- 
pensably necessary to give the language intensity in 
its delivery upon the stage. It was very inferior in 
effect to the manner of Edmund Kean or of Charles 

In the sentence — 

" To die ? — to sleep, 

No more!" 

Mr. Macready, to my surprise but not satisfaction, 
punctuated by his tone of voice the words — '' IS^o 
more," (?) as an interrogatory and as though they 
involved iliQ continuity of a question, instead of that 
denoting an emphatic and responsive exclamation (!) 
of a conclusive reflection upon his own preceding 
answer to his self-inquiry : in common prose, I 
understand the course of Hamlet's reasoning to be 
thus : — " To live or to die is now the question with 
me ! which of the two is the more noble ? To put 
up with the stunning slings and heart-piercing 
arrows of that blind and fickle goddess, outrageous 
Fortune^ or to take arms against myself and end 
them by suicide ? "What is death f It is merely a 
sleej) : nothing more ! Admitting then, that, by 
thus terminating my existence I could put an end to 
an aching heart and the thousand natural shocks to 
which humanity is subject, would not such a termi- 


nation of oar accumulated miseries be a most 
devoutlj^-desirable attainment? Stay, let me pause 
and reconsider this hypothesis ! Granted, that to 
die is merely to sleep ; pursuing the analogy it may 
be to dreain also, which is often incidental to a 
sleep, or the steeping of our natural senses in tempo- 
rary oblivion and a suspension of the faculties ! Ah, 
in that view of the subject a restraining cause is pre- 
sented ; for, in that everlasting sleep, when all hope 
of awaking — as in the body — and the possibility of 
retracing our rash and suicidal experiment are lost 
in fate, what Mnd of dreams may absorb ns — 
whether happy or miserable ones — must make us 
hesitate ; that nncertainty it is which reconciles us 
to endure the rather a long continuance of calamity : 
otherwise, who would bear a load of heart-sickeniug 
griefs and unmerited annoyances oft-recurring or 
protracted, when it is in his own power to silence 
and to rid himself quickly of them all, by taking the 
most handy of arms^ " a hare hodMn " (the un- 
sheathed dagger) and plunging it into his heart, the 
fountain of life ? 

Observe Shakespeare's sublime and beautiful con- 
cordance in the sentiments expressed in his play of 
Measure for Measure, Act 3, So. 3. 

" Claudio. Oh, Isabel! 

Isabella. "What says my brother ? 

Claudio. Death is a fearful thing. 

Isabella. And shamed life, a hateful. 
Claudio. Aye, but to die and go we know not where; 


To lie in cold obstruction, and to rot ; 
This sensible warm motion* to become 
A kneaded clod ******* 
****** >i[q iqq horrible ! 
The weariest and most loathed worldly hfe, 
That age, ache, penury or imprisonment 
Can lay on nature, is a paradise 
To what we fear of death." 

Mr. Macread J, therefore, by uttering " ISTo more !' 
not with the natural cadence of a response to his 
own inquiry but as a further interrogatory — destroys 
the harmony of Hamlet's course of reflection, and 
prematurely supersedes the enumeration of the many 
consummated conquests promised himself until the 
link in his chain of reasoning is arrested whilst he 
returns to and reconsiders and analyses his crude 
and incipient ideas of suicide. 

With special reference to this soliloquy and to 
that portion of Dr, GoldsmW s XVIth Essay ^ ani- 
madverting upon it as a composition, I remember 
having in 1828 examined the whole subject and dis- 
sected its component parts, and forming my own 
conclusion, that this British Classic's objections were 
hypercritical and founded in a singular misconcep- 
tion of Shakespeare's intention. — Seejp. 58. 

That which Goldsmith complained of as an ^' in- 
congruous metaphor " and proved a stumbling-block 
to Pope and to some other noted critics, viz. : 

* The heart. 


" To take arms against a sea of troubles," 

I understand thus : — the " arms " which Hamlet pro- 
poses to take and end his troubles withal are the 
common implements of suicide ; of which he after- 
wards specifies the Mnd in his disquisition of the sub- 
ject to be "(X hai'e 'bodkin^'' a bodkin being the 
ancient name for a dagger / the " sea of troubles " 
referred to, is figurative of his own hearths swelling 
and unceasing commotion. The integrity of the 
metaphor consists in the particular arm which he 
thought of " opjposing^^ in order thus " to end the 
heart-ache " being no other than " a bare bodkin " 
(unsheathed dagger) wherewith he " might " put an 
end to this life's troubles. Upon searching Shake- 
sjDeare's works I find the word '' Sea^^ often used 
as figurative of a vast quantity ; for examples, " a 
sea of blood — of air — of glory — of j oys — of sorrows ;" 
and, in The Two Gentlemen of Yerona^ in immediate 
connexion with the hearty thus : 

'' a heart 

As fuU of sorrows as a sea " (is) '' of sands." 

In Othello the Moor refers to the heart as — 

" The fountain from the which my current runs 
Or else dries up." 

In the Second Part of King Henry IV. — 

" The tide of blood in me 
Hath proudly flowed in vanity till now, 
Now doth it turn and ebb back to the sea." 


That the word " sea " in this sentence specially 
alludes to the heart is indisputable ; because the 
*' blood " can " turn and ebb back " to no other 
" sea." 

The analogy between the functions of the heart 
and the sea is obvious. The action of the heart 
continually propels the blood, and receives it again 
through the '' channels " (or arteries) and the veins 
of the body, as in like manner does the commotive 
power of the sea^ the flux and reflux of its tides, 
through its estuaries, its rivers, and smaller tribu- 
taries. A more direct and poetic aptitude to me 
seems inconceivable. My theory removes the occa- 
sion for Pope's substitute of siege^ and of Warbur- 
ton's suggestion of the word assail for " sea^^^ and 
permits the whole of Haralefs reasoning faculties 
to flow in a regular and unbroken and undeviating 
course, from the beginning to the end of this incom- 
parable soliloquy.* 

Respecting the propriety of Mr. Macready's con- 
ception of causing both the King and Poloniiis^ 
after their hiding themselves behind the arras, to 
reappear for a moment, and by their sudden retreat 
to their covert be supposed to make some noise or 
momentary exposure of their persons, in order to 
afford Haralet a pretext for his evident suspicion 
that Oj^helia is in a plot against him, which his sud- 
den chano^e of manner and his severe invective 

* See Comments on Dr. GoldsmiWs XVI. JSssay^ pp. 14-59. 


seem to imply,* it strikes me tliat it miglit be expe- 
dient, for the sake of stage-illustration, that Polo- 
nius only should show liimself, stealthily and for an 
instant ; because his so doing would be quite in 
keeping with his obsequiousness to the King^ and 
his characteristic officiousness ; but the juncture of 
his affording Hamlet such a glimpse would seem 
more opportune just when Ophelia is tendering to 
Hamlet his "gifts again," and for the reason that it 
is immediately thereafter that Hamlet changes his 
tone and language from delicate tenderness to bitter 
irony and personal animadversion ; whereas, Mr. 
Macready selects a time when Hamlet has half 
finished his severity upon Ophelia and her sex 
generally, and has arrived at the point of asking his 
pungent question — 

" Where's your father ? " 

Admitting, however, that Mr. Macready's selection 
of the particular time for Hamlet to catch a sight 
of Polonius might be the most fitting, would it not 
be unreasonable that the King should show himself 
at all ? Would he not be too cautious to risk Ham.- 
lefs discovery of his espionage, and whilst, too, he 
could, without even peeping, hear through the arras 
every syllable of their conference ? But, above all, 
it was very inconsistent in Mr. Macready to make 
Hamlet^ who has been striving in various ways to 

* See my letter to Mr. Adams. 


divert tlie King from any suspicion that he was 
watching his proceedings, walk up close to the 
King^s place of concealment, and there vociferate 
his parting speech ; — one evidently intended to be 
but j)artly heard even by Ophelia — the threat 
respecting the King^ contained in the natural pai'en- 
thesis, being to realize to Jiiinself what dramatic 
soliloquists are designed to share with an audience, 
a secret thought^ namely — 

" I say, we will liave no more marriages : those that are 
married already {oil hut one) shall live ; the rest shall keep as 
they are. To a nunnery go. 


Mr. Macready, in the advice to the players.^ wanted 
the familiarity of courteous condescension ; it was 
not easy and graceful, but stiff and formal. The 
piquant sentence — 

" If his occulted guilt 
Do not itself unkennel in one speech," 

was not pronounced with the particular ana requi- 
site emphasis upon the words which imply that it is 
some speech which Hamlet has interpolated where 
the blank verse had been made to " halt for it," or 
one wherein he had expected to " catch the con- 
science of the KingP 

" Hamlet. They are coming to the play ; I must be idle : 
Get you a place." 


By " idle " I understand Hamlet to signify to Hora- 
tio that lie himself must seem to have no fixed 
object by or during the performance; his policy 
dictating that he should appear listless and unoccu- 
pied, in order that the King might disregard his 
presence, confine his attention closely to the play, 
and thus become entrapped into some exhibition of 
compunction or remorse. Mr. Macready, however, 
construes the word " idle " very difi'erently ; inas- 
much as he immediately assumed the manner of an 
idiot, or of a silly and active and impertinent booby, 
by tossing his head right and left, and walking 
rapidly across the stage five or six times before the 
foot-lights and switching his handkerchief — held by 
a corner — over his right and left shoulder alter- 
nately, until the whole court have had time to 
parade and be seated, and Hamlet finds himself 
addressed. Such behavior was ill-calculated to 
indicate an " idle " spectator. 

" Hamlet. It was a brute part of him, — to kill so capital a 
calf there ! " 

Instead of availing Hamlet of the privilege of 
his assumed madness, as a screen behind which to 
insult the old courtier and lord cliamherlain in pre- 
sence of the courts would it not have been in better 
taste if Mr. Macready had spoken the latter part of 
the sentence (aside) as though muttered to himself? 

" Eamlet. Oh, they do but /es^,— POISON in jest ! No 
offence in the world 1" 


Mr. Macread}", nuder a comic guise, bronglit out 
tliat interjection with great pungency and admirable 

" G^uildensiern. The King, Sir, is in his retirement, marvel- 
lously distempered ; 

Mamkt. With di-ink, Sir ?" 

Mr. Macread J instead of as an interrogation uttered 
the words rapidly and in a tone of exclamation 
denoting an unquestionahle conclusion. It was good 
and not objectionable for the reason that the sneer 
at the habits of " the bloat king " is practically con- 
veyed to the listener by either punctuation. 

Like every other actor of Hamlet seen by me, Mr. 
Macready infused no petulancy and seemed to attach 
no special importance to the eepetition of the irrita- 
ble answer when he is interrupted by Polonius's 
unwelcome entrance and abrupt delivery of his 
mother's message. Hamlefs situation at the junc- 
ture is suggestive. 

Whilst suffering already from the intrusion of the 
courtiers Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, whom he 
rebukes with — " Call me what instrument you will, 
though you raaj fret me, you cannot ^?«?/ upon me !" 
he is subjected to another infliction by the unex- 
pected and equally unwelcome approach of Polo- 
nius, whom he salutes with ironical courtesy — 

" God bless you, Sir I 
Polonius. My lord, the queen would speak with you, and 


Hamlet Do you see yonder cloud that's almost in the shape 
of a camel ? 

Polonins. By the mass, and His like a camel, indeed! 

Hamlet. Methinks, it's like a weasel. 

Polonius. It is hacTied like a weasel. 

Hamlet. Or like a whale ? 

Polonius. Very like a whale ! 

Hamlet. Then I will come to my mother by and by. They 
fool me to the top of my bent ! — I will come by and by ! 

Polonius. I will say so. {^ExU Polonius. 

Hamlet. (As Polonius is departing.) By and by is easily 
said ! (Then turning to the Courtiers he dismisses them with 
marked irony.) Leave me, friends I" 

My idea of the proper stage-rmmwOiY of Hamlet^ 
wlien giving Polonius his answer, is derived from 
the fact that Ilamlet is particiilarlj nettled, as his 
words imply ; lie thinks Polonius " a foolish, prating 
knave," and when pestered at this unseasonable time 
by his officious entrance and offensive self-import- 
ance, abruptly assumes to be busily engaged in 
reconnoitring some object aloft, which he describes 
and asks Polonius whether he, too, sees it ; Polo- 
nius readily veers about with the wind of what he 
supposes Hamlefs diseased imagination, and humors 
his crafty whims in three distinct appearances of the 
same impalpable object ; Hamlet, upon finding that 
Polonius will agree to every thing he suggests, 
reciprocates the courtesy and dismisses him with, — 

" Then, I will come to my mother by and by 1" 

and turning away from him, and walking towards 


the other side of the stage, soliloquizes respecting 
his own vexation — 

" They fool me to the top of my bent;" 

and naturally supposing that Polonius^ to whom he 
had already given an answer, had gone with it in 
haste to his mother, Hamlet is about to resume his 
invective agalTist the Courtier when he turns and 
perceives Polonius still standing just where he was 
when he had given him his answer, and also still 
gaping at him in stupid amazement ; whereupon, as 
I conceive, Hamlet ought to approach Polonius and 
repeat loudly^ Siud jpeevishly and syllahicallj-distinct, 
the words : — 

''I win C0:ME hy and BY 1" 

in order that Polonius, now no longer unable to 
comprehend Hanilefs desire for his departure, may 
withdraw, as he does presently, saying — " I will say 
so !" upon which Hamlet abruptly remarks — " By 
and by is easily said !" in a tone and with a brus- 
querie, denoting in plain prose, — 

" If you understood my answer, which is so simple and easily 
carried, why do you continue here instead of dispatching it ?" 

Finally, as respects these delicate traits of Harrv- 
lets character, which I have described as I under- 
stand them, I reiterate that Mr. Macready's negli- 
gent manner in pronouncing — " I will come by and 
by !" w-anted motive. He delivered the next sen- 


tence — '' Tliej fool me to the top of my bent !" with- 
out walking away, or even turning his face enough 
from Poloniics, to realize to the audience the abstrac- 
tion due an " aside " s^^eech, and then hurriedly full- 
facing him again, rejpeated — " I will come by and 
by !" not only without a point but with a listlessness 
which he carried into the subsequent remark, viz. — 
" ^j and by is easily said !'' as though he was quite 
unconcerned whether his words were emphatical, or 
even heard by Polonius whom he is rebuking. 

'Tis true, that very few individuals among even a 
large assemblage might recognise such nice distinc- 
tions in an actor's performance ; but a great artist 
owes it to his own pretensions to study closely, 
discern and try to penetrate, and to develo]) with 
fidelity in his jpoHraiture^ the most delicate recesses 
in Hamlefs mind. No word or line of the lano^ua^fe 
put by Shakespeare in the mouths of any of his lead- 
ing characters is unworthy of the best actor's care- 
ful consideration, or of his art to utter effectively. 

A most thoughtless but outrageous license with 
Shakespeare seems to have become invariable with 
the actors of Hamlet in the application of the lines — 

" I must be cruel only to be kind, 
Thus bad begins and worse remains beliind." 

This couplet in every stage-Qdiiiion of the play is 
arranged to conclude the closet-scene, and every 
actor of Hamlet whom I have seen, has more or less 
perverted the bard's true meaning and more in 


ignorance than cunning, as I hope, joined in casting 
a moral blot upon the character of Hamlet^ totally 
unwarranted by the text or context ; the atrocity 
consists in the reigning fashion of rendering this 
couplet upon the stage^ which is as follows : — After 
the termination of the dialogue between Hamlet and 
his mother, as it is abridged and arranged for repre- 
sentation, when Hamlet utters the words — 

" So again, good night I" 

the Queen is required to approach Hamlet and to 
offer a parting emhrace^ at which Hamlet seems 
shocked, and shudders, and shrinks back with 
averted palms, and pharisee-like refuses to allow 
her I the Queen then seems convulsed, bursts into 
tears, and rushes off one way whilst Hamlet goes in 
the opposite direction, expressing first as an appa- 
rent excuse for such unrelenting hard-heartedness 
the couplet — 

" I must be cruel only to be kind : 
Thus bad begins and worse remains behind." 

"WTiereas, if we carefully examine the original scene 
and the order of Shakespeare's language we find 
that this same couplet does not come in next after 
the last time of Hamlefs saying — " Good night, 
mother !" but, in the m.idst of his advice, reflec- 
tions, and varied expostulations with his mother, 
and when the Ghost of his father — conjured to his 
imaginative vision by the heat of his distemper, in 


" the very witching time of night" — had been dis- 
pelled by some sprinkling of cool patience, and his 
reasoning fticulties had again resumed their sway. 
In the tJdrd line of the speech wherein this couplet 
occurs — after which he utters some fifty more lines 
before he separates from her — he has interjected, 
" Good night !" as if for the purpose of hurrying 
her away, and with the object of securing a chance 
to secrete the body of Polonius / then adding 
some dozen lines of sentiment about " Yirtue," &c., 

says — 

" Again good night I" 

and — as an inducement for a mother to become 
virtuous, and be in a condition to bless her son with 
a good grace — remarks in substance — 

" When you by a reformation evince an anxiety to deserve 
a blessing of Heaven, I will beg a blessing of you !" 

He then alludes to the fate of Polonius — 

" For this same lord, 
I do repent : but Heaven hath pleased it so, 
To punish me with this, and this Avith me. 
That I must be their scourge and minister. 
I will bestow him, and will answer well 
The death I gave him. So again, good night ! 
I must be cruel only to be kind, 
Thus bad begins and worse remains behind. 
But one word more, good lady. 

Queen. "What shall I do ? 

Hamlet. Not this, by no means, that I bid you do : 
Let the bloat king tempt you again to bed, 
&c., &c., &c., &c., &;c." 


From the foregoing context, tlien, the obvious 
meaning of 

" I must be cruel only to be kind," 

is, "I must 'wring your heart,' as I premised to you 
at the opening of this interview would be necessary 
when I peremptorily bade you so ' let me,' and 
added — 

" Come, come, and sit you down ; you shall not budge ; 
You go not, till I set you up a glass 
Where you may see the inmost part of you ;" 

" this seeming cruelty of mine, in ripping up and 
exposing to your own censure your conduct, must 
be committed in order to prove to you by its effect 
the essential kindness of my ulterior object, which is 
your reformation y when I began and put it to you 
roundly you became alarmed, and cried out for 
' Help !' and I — mistaking the voice behind the 
arras for that of another person — slew Polonius 
imintentionally :" " Thus bad begins and worse 
remains behind," id est^ " Thus, you should per- 
ceive, your own bad or wicked beginning, in being 
won to the shameful lust of your husband's brother, 
my uncle, ended in worse consequences, to wit : my 
uncle's murder of my father." (To wliicli murder 
Hamlet must at least have suspected her to have 
been accessory when in reference to her calling his 
killing of Polonius " a rash and bloody deed !" 
Hamlet remarks — 


" Almost as bad, good mother, 
As kill a king aud marry with his brother,") 

'' and now here is another conseqnence following 
that, to wit, my own unhappy mistake here in my 
homicide of PoloniusP 

In reply to the Queen's inquiry 

" What shaU I do ?" 

Haralet ironically puts her upon her guard against 
the probable attempts of his uncle to disclose — 

" That I essentially am not in madness, 
But mad in craft ; 'twere good you let him know," &c. 

The Queen thereupon assures Hamlet^ on her life, 
that she will not 'breathe what he has said to her. 
He then reminds her of what she " had forgot," 
namely, that it has been concluded by a resolve of 
the King that " Hamlet must be sent to England ;" 
acquaints her with the plot against himself in which 
his two schoolfellows conspire, &c., and of his de- 
sign to outwit them ; that this fate of Polonius will 
necessarily precipitate his departure ; again he 

" Mother, good night I" 

as he commences to drag the corpse of Polonius 
into an adjoining room, and moralizes upon his 
character^ and then goes off the scene one way 
hauling the dead body after him, and reiterating — 


" Good iiiglit, mother !" whilst the Queen departs 
simultaueoiisly m another direction. 

Therefore, I contend for the absolute correctness 
of my interpretation of the aforesaid couplet — 

" I must be cruel only to be kind, 
Thus bad begins and worse remains behind ;" 

— and to whom and to loJiat the words refer ; and 
furthermore that they have not only no connexion 
with any imaginary refusal on the part of Hamlet 
to permit his mother to embrace him, but, that, after 
a minute examination of every link in the entire 
chain of the colloquy, there can be discerned no 
loarranty lohatever anywhere for the Queen's offer 
to emhrace Hamlet, either expressed or implied by 
the words or the several situations : but, supposing 
for argument's sake that the Queen, couscience- 
stricken and seeking her son's counsel, would offer 
to embrace Hamlet, would it be consistent with his 
previous character, his frequent acknowledgment 
of his own imperfections, his pre-determination 
when sent for and obediently going to his mother — • 

" Let me be cruel, not unnatural," 

and now especially, having just slain by mistake, in 
his rash haste, the unlucky Polonms, to refuse an 
embrace to his unhappy mother at parting and upon 
the Pharisee's pretext ? " Stand off, I am holier 
than thou!" whenever I have seen this atrocity 


committed npou the stage, I have invoked the shade 
of Shakespeare to forgive the i(jnoranc6 of the actor 
who could not be aware of what he was doing, when 
thus constructively libelling Hainlefs nature, 

" That skull had a tongue in it and could sing once ;" 

Mr. Macready, like every other actor seen by me, 
by his emphasis rendered " tongue " and " sing " 
antithetical, which fails to point to the listener the 
TTwral intended. Hmnlet begins moralizing to Hora- 
tio as they enter the grave-yard, upon the grave-dig- 
ger's habit of singing whilst engaged in so melan- 
choly an employment ; when they have approached 
him more nearly the grave-digger sings a second 
verse, and with his spade at the same time throws 
up a slciill I Hamlet then remarks — "That skull 
had a tongue in it and could sing once !" to convey 
the idea that the skull now so mute and knocked 
about by the rude clowm, once had a tongue in it 
and could do that which he (the grave-digger) is 
then doing, namely, singing ; this raoral-^omimg of 
Hamlets reflection can be most clearly conveyed to 
an auditor's comprehension by special emphasis 
and intonation, rendering the words, " skull " and 
^'' once^'' strongly emphatical as antitheses^ thus — 
" That SKULL — had a tongue in it and could sing 
ONCE ;" but as pronounced by Mr. Macready and 
others, the point of the sentiment is not prominent 
enough, and Hamlet might with equal effect have refer- 


red to either of the other faculties once possessed by 
that now speechless skull in common with tlie grave-dig- 
ger's, as, " that it had an eye and could see once, or 
an ear and could hear once, &c. ;" however, Mr. 
Macready's voice, or his ear, seems not very well 
suited to intonate some of Shakespeare's jprose with 
the most appropriate effect, and evidently is incapa- 
ble of regulating the utterance of his poetry with 
harmonious variety ; his voice seems least disquali- 
fied where his subject affords scope for strong physi- 
cal excitement, or discordant fury ; his taste or his 
ear must be bad, because he frequently destroys the 
rhythm of the line ; sometimes by omitting neces- 
sary syllables, and at others by adding to a word 
what is not in the text. 

In conclusion, to leave Mr. Macready's persona- 
tion, and to treat of the character of Hamlet only, it 
recurs to my mind that much irrelevant learning has 
been displayed, as also abstract and unnecessary 
argument indulged by eminent critics, in attempts 
to prove whether Shakespeare intended that Hamlet 
should be really mad, or throughout only affecting 
insanity. A mature digestion of his text is quite 
sufficient to furnish me abundant and conclusive 
evidence upon that point, and I was very much 
gratified, after our correspondence respecting the 
character, to hear my honorable and learned friend, 
Mr. x\dams, express his coincidence in my opinion. 

After Hamlefs first interview with the aj^parition, 
that \iQ feigns madness — to conceal his secret design 



— cannot be disputed; because, lie adjures his com- 
panions who shared the sight, that — 

" How strange or odd soe'r I bear myself, 
As I, perchance, hereafter shall think meet 
To put an antic disposition on ," 

thej never shall in any way intimate or signify to 
another that they " knoio aught " of him. That 
Hamlet^ however, actually becomes after the play- 
scene the victim of temporary aberration of mind, I 
think a very reasonable inference ; because, his 
violent excitement in the closet-scene with his 
mother — his short soliloquy prior to proceeding 
thither and including — 

" Now could I drink hot blood 
And do such bitter business as the day 
Would quake to look on ;" 

his rash slaughter of Polonius^ there, and the conju- 
ration of his father's spirit through the medium of 
his heated imagination, indicate a gradual tendency 
towards and the reaching of a climax of deliriuin. 

During Hamlefs short cruise his senses seem to 
have been tranquillized, and his ingenuity precipi- 
tated ; but when he was landed stealthily and walks 
casually into the grave-yard he moralizes to Hora- 
tio sensibly enough until the incidental news of the 
death and his presence at the actual obsequies of 
Ophelia shock his sensitive and susceptible nature, 
put a period to his reasoning interval, and produce a 


fresh outbreak of madness ; a predisposition to which 
is accelerated by the ravings and frantic conduct of 
Laertes before he joins him by leaping into Ophelia's 
grave : for, Hamlet says calmly afterwards in con- 
versation with Horatio in reference to Laertes and 
the occasion — 

" But, sure, the bravery of his grief did put me 
Into a towering passion." 

After Hamlefs phrensy in that scene had reached 
the height of verbal and practical extravagance, his 
mother interjects — 

" This is mere madness, 
And thus awhile the fit will work on him ; 
Anon, as patient as the female dove 
When that her golden couplets are disclos'd, 
His silence will sit drooping." 

Hamlefs wild and indecorous behavior, during 
Ophelia^ s obsequies, I regard as stronger and more 
intrinsic proof of his absolute derangement than 
even his own admission; because, it might be 
argued against tJiat^ that he has still an object in 
keeping the fact unknown of his then or upon any 
occasion feigned madness ; and it also might be 
consistently urged that his mother's having then 
pronounced him " mad " was but in virtue of the 
promise he exacted of her in her closet, to keep 
his secret : but, in the denouement, when his mad- 
ness is not doubted by any one and he can have no 


motive for deception, when the king puts the hand 
of Laertes into that of Hamlet after sajing — 

" Come, Hamlet^ come, and take this hand from me," 

if Hamlet is not honest in his vohmtarj apology 
and gratuitous explanation to Laertes^ and does not 
really believe himself "punished with a sore dis- 
traction," such meanness, cowardice, insincerity, 
and inconsistency, should furnish conclusive evi- 
dence that he must be without heing aware 
of it. Mark his words to Laertes — 

" Grive me your pardon. Sir, I have done you wrong, 
But, pardon it, as you are a gentleman. 
This Presence knows, and you must needs have heard, 
How I am punish'd with a sore distraction. 
What I have done. 

That might your nature, honor, and exception, 
Roughly awake, I here proclaim was madness. 
Was't Hamlet wrong'd Laertes ? Never, Hamlet ; 
If Hamlet from himself be ta'en away, 
And, WHEN he's not himself, does wrong Laertes, 
Then Hamlet does it not ; Hamlet denies it. 
Who does it then ? His madness : if 't be so, 
Hamlet is of the faction that is wrong'd ; 
His madness is poor Hamlet's enemy." 

Hamlet then appeals to the feelings of Laertes, who 
hypocritically professes to be " satisfied." 

" Sir, in this audience. 
Let my disclaiming, from a purpose evil. 
Free me so far in your most generous thoughts, 
That I have shot my ariow o'er the house. 
And luirt my brother.''' 


From tliese premises, then, one of two conclnsions 
I deem unavoidably to be drawn by every candid 
and strict investi2:ator of the character, namelv : 
either that Sliakespeare intended to depict in Ham- 
let an unhappy and distracted but honorable gentle- 
man, or a base, degenerate, and contemptible prince. 

Note. — Only three or four nights prior to Mr. Macready's 
final performance and retirement from the stage, he played 
Cassius in Julius Ccesar^ at the Hay market, London, the sea- 
son of 1851-52. Sir Thomas Noon Talfourd was seated by 
my side in a stall during the play, and afterwards we walked 
thence together to the Garrick Club. Sir Thomas was a great 
admirer of Macready, and seemed very much gratified when I 
observed to him that " I had been surprised and delighted at 
witnessing his personification of Cassius^ which I considered 
to be perfectly ShaJcespearean, and that acting could not more 
completely represent such a character." 


Park Theatre, New Yorh, 1832. 

His style of reading Hamlet, though artistical, 
was prosy and measured ; his action and gestures 
were graceful, but never seemed impulsive, and his 
manner — wherein " ars est celare arter)i)^ appeared 
throughout — studied and mechanical ; his voice was 
tenor-like, and never descended into any profundity 
of tone, and whenever elevated was thin and reedy, 
and sometimes became quite shrill ; and notwith- 
standing a characteristic wig, his features denoted 


Ills age to be far in advance of tlie " thirty years" 
whicli the grave-digger reports Hamlet to have 
attained, at the time when iliQJifth ^ct of the tra- 
gedy has commenced. 

Mr. Kemble was tall, and had rather a good hnt 
fixed and elongated visage, and prominent features, 
and his profile j^articularly partook mostly of the 
Grecian order ; his figure was fine and command- 
ing, and the carriage of his person remarkable 
for ease, grace, dignity, and for elegance in high- 
comedy and characters like Lord Townly in The 
Provoked Husband^ which I saw him personate at 
Covent Garden in 1827 (during my first visit to 
England), to the Lady Townly of the celebrated 
and beautiful Miss Foote^ who became afterwards 
Countess of Harrington. Briefly, I can conceive 
of no more refined and admirable personations than 
Mr. C. Kemble gave, in those days, of Benedick in 
Much Ado about Nothing^ Charles Surface in The 
School for Scandal^ Don Felix in The Wonder^ 
Doricourt in The Beliefs Stratagem., and of each of 
the other characters in elegant-comedy wherein 
Miss Foote was then the great feature of the British 

I had often heard Mr. Charles Kemble's Cassio 
highly commended by Londoners, but never had an 
opportunity of seeing him in that part. I saw him 
play Othello once to Charles Young's Lago, but it 
seemed to me passionless, and too stately and courtly 
for the Moor, who deprecates his own deficiencies 


in social and refined education and manners, by 
observing that lie has not " those soft parts of speech 
that cliamberers have," and that — 

'' Since these arms of mine had seven years' pith 
Till now some nine moons wasted they've used 
Their dearest action in the tented field." 

Mr, C. Kemble's Romeo was a very acceptable 
performance, and his Mercntio gay, spirited, and 
thoroughly Shakespearean ; his Falstaff of King 
Henry IV. (First Part) was chaste and sensible, but 
showed no mellowness, nor unctuosity, or rich 
humor — it was very dry and hard ; his Jfark An- 
tony in Julius CcGsar was popular, effective, and 
excellent ; but, of all the characters of the Bard 
of Avon, his personation of Falconbvidge {The Bas- 
tard in King John) was the greatest, most perfect, 
and admirable. 


Chestnut Street Theatre^ Philadelphia^ 1831. 

Mr. Booth read Hamlet with a good degree of 
understanding, and he had a fine intellectual eye 
and cast of countenance ; but his voice was nasal, 
the action of his arms awkward — they seemed as 
though they were pinioned at the elbows ; he was 
below the medium stature and had very bandy legs, 
and his gait and bearing were not susceptible of 


depicting any personal dignity ; indeed sucli vreve 
Mr. Bootirs natural impediments, that no human 
genius could surmount or blind an intelligent spec- 
tator, or cause him to forget them, and esteem his 
personation of Ha7)ilet satisfactory — or tolerable. 
As Richard the Thirds however, Mr. Booth was 
generally popular ; and had been originally brought 
to Covent Garden Theatre, London, from the pro- 
vinces, and pitted as a rival to Edmund Kean, after 
the latter had made a stand and proved so attractive 
in that character at Drury Lane. By many of the 
critics of London Mr. Booth, whose conception and 
manner of representing IticJiard seemed very simi- 
lar to Ivean's, was regarded as an imitator of that 
then new and popular actor, and not allowed the 
credit of that original genius which he appeared to 
me at intervals subsequently to display clearly. 
Some, however, considered his performance of 
Ricliard quite as meritorious as Kean's, and Mr. 
Booth's tent-scene, jpaHicularly ^ was pronounced 
" superior ;" and when I had had an opportunity, 
years afterwards, at E"ew York, to see both and 
compare them, despite my decided preference for 
Kean's general performance, I was bound to esteem 
Booth's tent-scene the most startling and effective : 
but, upon research and reflection in after years, I 
found I had^ike a large portion of play-goers — 
derived my first impression and general conception 
of King Richard the Third — not from received 
history^ nor from Shalcesj>eare' s genuine dra- 


matte portrait^ but that I had canglit it from that 
popular actor's peculiar aucl fascinating style in 
rendering Oiljber^s stage- adaptation of the play ; and, 
much as I admired Edmund Kean, and closely as I 
had studied his manner when I first adopted the 
stage, and applauded as I had been both in London 
and New York, in the year 1827, for my avowed 
hnitation of him throughout that arduous part, sub- 
sequent examination and comparison of reports and 
imitations by contemporaries of the departed but 
famous Cooke's style, convinced me that, though Mr. 
Kean's genius and tact had enabled him to with- 
draw my consideration from many of Richard^ s 
proper and authentic characteristics, and surprise 
and charm me with his own substituted peculiarities, 
yet the late George Frederick Cookers performance 
of that part — at xTew York as late as ISIO — must 
have been much nearer Shakespeare's intention. 


New Tori, 1838. 

Mr. Yandenhoff was not gifted by nature with a 
fine face, its features were so hard as to be incapable 
of any variety of expression ; his figure was indiffe- 
rent ; his action not remarkable for grace, and his 
step tardy and gait heavy ; his blood seemed to be 
too cold and temperate, and his occasional enthu- 



siasm too palpably artificial ; his delivery of the 
text of Hamlet^ though indicating sound sense and 
careful study, was generally prosaic and monoto- 
nous, and sometimes smacked strongly of the con- 
venticle ; he had also a catarrh-like and seemingly- 
organic impediment in his speech, and looked alto- 
gether too old to represent the character. 

In the play-scene, whilst Lucianus was reciting 
his last speech and preparing to poison i\\Q player- 
hing^ Mr. Yandenhoif, who had made Hamlet con- 
spicuous enough by his behavior to withdraw the 
eyes of the whole court from the play, and to fix 
them upon himself — notwithstanding that Hamlet 
had just previously and confidentially observed to 
his friend Horatio that his policy in this play-scene 
dictated his own seeming to be " idle^^ or listless 
and inattentive to the performance, that he might, 
unnoticed^ watch and rivet his own eyes upon his 
U7icle's face — began to creep, cat-like, across the 
stage, and, thus approaching the footstool of his 
U7icle-Hng, just as the actor-murderer had finished 
pronouncing his infernal invocation, and commenced 
pouring the poison into his victim's ear, struck Cla^l' 
dius a smart blow upon his knee with Ophelia''s fan, 
and, rising simultaneously, with violent gesticula- 
tions vociferates — 

" He poisons him in the garden for his estate," etc. 

which sent the JTmg j)acking — as well it might. 
Yet how so discerning and judicious a student as 


Mr. Yaudenhoff could feel himself justified in inno- 
vating such an ^'' ad captcindiLinvulgus^^ display, by 
makincr Hamlet at this staije of the character assault 
with such gross and personal rudeness the reigning 
majesty of Denmark, whilst he was seated quietly 
at a play which had been ostensibly gotten up to 
divert him, and in the midst of his courts I am quite 
puzzled to imagine. Hamlet^ prior to the approach 
of the King and his courts privately communicates 
to Horatio his object in reference to " one action" 
of the play to be represented, and begs his " heedful 
note" of its effect upon his imcle j remarking tliat 
if his hidden guilt may not betray and expose ^^5^?/^, 
particularly when the player shall utter " one 
speech," — alluding of course to those '' lines " which 
Hamlet himself had arranged to " insert " in the 
play — he would conclude that it must have been — 
*' a damned Ghost that we have seen, and my ima- 
ginations are as foul as Vulcan's stithy : " wliereas, 
by such practical rudeness as Mr. Yandenhoff made 
Hamfdet exhibit, the Klng'^s evident surprise and 
abrupt departure might not unreasonably have been 
imputed rather to the offence Ill's) jyerson had taken, 
than his " conscience had caught;" besides being 
highly exceptionable. That Harnlefs manners coidd 
not have been so absolutely outrageous on the occa- 
sion may fairly be inferred from his dialogue with 
Horatio afterwards, when they compared notes, and 
*'both their judgments joined in censure of the 
King^s seeming." 

" Didst perceive, — upon the talk of the poisoning ? " 

Bnt I regret, for the sake of mj estimate hitherto 
of the taste and intelligence of a large audience in 
my native city, to record that Mr. Yandenhoff, 
instead of meeting with that silence which liis own 
intelligence would liave interpreted into their gentle 
rebuke for his temerity, was " most tyrannically 
clapp'd " for this unaccountable innovation. 

Mr. Yandenhoff, however, in Cato, Brutus, 
Coriolanus, and some other characters, was excel- 
lent, and proved himself to be a highly-accom- 
plished tragedian. 


Theatre, Haymarhet, London, 1839. 

Charles Kean evidently possesses remarkable 
talent and considerable genins, though of an order 
quite secondary wdien compared witli that of his 
late father, Edmund Kean, and is also inferior in tlie 
capabilities of the face, and in the lower tones of the 
voice to those of his progenitor ; his hair is as dark 
but straighter and less luxuriant than was his 
father's; his forehead broader; his eyes, though 
black and full, and effective upon the stage, not near 
so piercing and brilliant ; in no otlier respect do I 
perceive any physical resemblance between him 
and his famous and departed sire. Charles has a 


face wliicli is iiniisiially wide across the eyes but 
tapers down to a narrow chin ; his mouth is wide, 
and he has very white teeth irregularly set forward 
in the lower jaw and which impart a sibillatiug 
sound to his enunciation ; his nose is low at its 
bridge, and rather pouty and broad at the end ; his 
figure is less compact, and his height a little greater 
than were those of his father, and his brows are 
thicker and not so flexible : the Elder Kean had a 
straight and well-proportioned nose, and mouth 
which was regular and with lips which were often 
remarkable for their close muscular compression and 
strong expression whenever great firmness or deter- 
mination of purpose were to be indicated. Charles 
Kean's general manner is easy and graceful ; his 
gait, owing to his legs being longer and not so 
straight, but bending slightly outward, and to his 
frame not being so well knit together as was his 
father's, is not so firin^ but the style of his most 
acceptable points, made in either of the characters 
wherein I have seen his father, makes it plainly 
apparent that, by Art or Xature, he follows, as far 
as he is able, in the still well-remembered footsteps 
of his deservedly illustrious predecessor. 

Charles Ivean's Ilainlet^ I regret to record, disco- 
vers various proofs of a defective ear, by sundry 
false emphases, bad cadences, and misplaced pauses ; 
his personation was remarkable also for clap-trap 
efi'ects with which it superabounds ; in short, it was 
a tissue of bustle, rant, and posturing; his person 


underwent unceasing locomotion, and was not in 
repose even during the profoundest meditation of the 
inetaplujsical soliloquies ; lie lias evidently discovered 
that which pleased best the demonstrative ground- 
lings and truckles to it accordingly, and successfully ; 
he seems less bent on trying to inform and convince 
their understandings, than to " amaze their very 
faculty of eyes and ears ;" his philosophy evidently 
teaches him to seek plenty of applause, not by the 
rugged path of patient merit, but by a recourse to 
surprises and slippery tricks in questionable shapes 
and places, and which he may eventually find to be 
as quicksands where he would establish the base of 
his fame as a classic artist, though they may seem 
evidence of growing popularity and be of temporary 

One of his most admired and applauded points 
was, his manner of rendering, ^'' Is it the KingV 
which eifect was produced by Mr. C. Kean by mak- 
ing Hamlet^ after he had thrust violently through 
the arras in 2nd stage entrance left, slide ten or 
twelve feet upon the floor-cloth down to the right- 
centre of the stage, and then and there utter those 
words, " Is it the king V w^ith his loudest possible 
shout of exultation. His tone and manner denoted 
unmistakably an undisguised intention^ and betrayed 
his would-he-secret and concealed jpurjpose^ and was 
utterly at variance with the pretext he had the 
instant before adopted to mislead his mother in 
respect to the person he presumed to be listening 


behind the arras, when, whipping out his rapier and 
thrusting through them, he had " killed the unseen 
good old man," crying out simultaneously — 

'' How now ! a rat ? 
Dead, for a ducat, dead I" 

Of course, when Hcnnlet searches and finds after- 
wards that he has slain Polonius^ and apostro- 
phizes — 

" Thou wretched, rash, intruding fool ! 
I took thee for thy better," 

he admits to himself that he thought Polonius to be 
the king ; but then in order to preserve his consist- 
ency previously, his remark and question — 

" I know not. Is it the king ?" 

and that the horror-stricken queen may still be kept 
in ignorance of his sinister purpose, should be 
uttered with a tone of surprise, natural to a sense of 
one's commission of some incidental and uninten- 
tional mischief; the inquiry of Hamlet should seem 
to his mother to have been caused bv her sudden 
and apparent anguish, as though the idea but then 
had suggested itself, that it might be the Jdncj^ 
whom he had killed by accident, but who could have 
had no honorable motive for hiding there. 

But I have heretofore had ample evidence that 
any strong effect produced upon the stage will be 
certain to be greeted with loud applause by the 


"barren spectators" who constitute the great major- 
ity of any audience, and who are ever read}^ for 
excitement and never stop to reflect whether the 
acting, however good in itself^ is not inappHcable, 
misplaced, and quite inconsistent under the circum- 
stances with the character to be represented. 


Parh Theatre, New Yorh, 1842. 

Mk. G. Yandenhoff (son of Mr. John Yanden- 
hoff, the tragedian) made his deJjut in America as 
Hamlet. Plis complexion is fair, his eyes blue, and 
his natural countenance is pleasing, but not capable 
of much variety of expression, and he had a habit, 
whenever he would appear grave, earnest, or severe, 
of arching and contracting his brows into a sort of 
lacrymose frown, that seems quite artificial, and as 
though it might have been studied before a looking- 
glass. His person is a little above the middle height, 
rather lightly but neatly and proportionately framed, 
and his whole appearance prepossessing ; his voice 
w\ns pure, sonorous, and indicated considerable 
depth, but was too monotoned in level speaking ; 
his gestui'es were easy and rather redundant, though 
they never seemed to mark particularly the senti- 
ment ; and many of his attitudes were graceful and 
somewhat picturesque, as though they had been 
carefully studied and much practised ; his emphasis 


and readings denoted intelligence and a nice articu- 
lation, but his qualities generally seemed more 
suited to the highest order of sentimental comedy ; 
his manner wanted weight and dignity on occasion, 
and he uttered Hamlefs philosophic sentences not 
as though they were spontaneous expressions of 
thoughts originating in his own meditative mind, 
but tlie sentiments of another which he had learned 
and conned by rote, and scanned in his head rhetori- 
cally, but wherein his own heart did not participate, 
nor could his own judgment adopt and assume. 
The declamatory portions of the character were 
acceptably recited, but as a whole, whilst it secured 
general and patient attention and occasional appro- 
bation from the audience, it pretended no neio and 
original idea, but proved at all points thoroiigKly 

I saw Mr. G. Yandenhofl* a few years later per- 
form 2farh Antony in Julius Ccesar very credita- 
bly throughout ; whilst the oration over the dead 
body of Csesar particularly was pronounced in the 
master-like sj)irit of one evidently confident of his 
own abilities, but nevertheless a truly accomplished 


Boioery Theatre^ Neio York^ 1829. 

I was present at Mr. Forrest's original debut as 
Hamlet^ but he seemed out of his element ; his 


spirit seemed incapable of being subdued to the 
normal quality and meditative propensity of Ham- 
lefs pliilosopbic mind ; his iron nerve and powerful 
physique appeared to pant continually for oppor- 
tunity or pretexts to display themselves ; his evident 
uneasiness suggested to me such as I would con- 
ceive natural to a young but full-grown and newly- 
caged lion : indeed, it struck me that could Mr. 
Forrest's Hamlet have been, through some accident, 
allowed to ventilate his own impulses for a few 
moments, as soon as his father's ghost had bidden 
him — " Adieu ! Adieu ! Kemember me !" he would 
have bounded unceremoniously into the presence of 
his uncle Claudius^ and with the impetuosity of an 
enraged and sinewy athlete have driven his rapier 
tlii'ough and through his heart, and by such fore- 
closure have ended the tragedy with his first act : 
in fact, Mr. Forrest's performance of Samlet^ though 
it obtained the applause of the large majority of the 
audience, was very unsatisfactory to me. 

Mr. Forrest's own propria fades is what may be 
classed in its enserrible '' handsome," though the nose 
is a little too small, crooked, and short, to be sym- 
metrical ; Nature has given him pleasing black 
eyes, too, which, however, he seems not to have 
acquired the art to make specially effective on the 
stage — possibly because his inflexible brows, which 
arch low and near the bridge of the nose, impart 
when pursed together a grim severity to his counte- 
nance, thus seemingly rendering it incapable of 


mncli variety, or of sudden alternations, or of light- 
ness of expression ; his person generally, with his 
ample chest, long body, short and Herculean-pro- 
portioned arms and legs, does not conform to 
the ideal of an Apollo; nor is his ease, or grace 
of action, or carriage of body, remarkable or con- 
ventionally well-adapted to represent " the glass of 
fLXshion and the mould of form." Mr. Forrest's 
voice is strong, but appears not susceptible of much 
modulation, though his articulation is good, and his 
general physique denotes extraordinary animal 

Though Mr. Forrest's and my own notions of the 
character of Hamlet differ widely, I have, since the 
date of his original debut therein, repeatedly seen 
portions of his performance of Othello with great 
satisfaction. I rank it as a whole, and excepting 
the late Edmund Keari's, the best I have ever seen 
in either hemisphere. Mr. Forrest may even be 
said to be more "terribly in earnest" in giving effect 
to t\iQ fiercer passions, but is Xean's inferior in por- 
traying the tender qualities of the Moor's nature. 
Mr. Forrest inspires more terror than pity ; though 
I remember on one occasion particularly, at the 
Park Theatre, noticing to a friend that " Mr. Forrest 
had infused into his last act of Othello a degree of 
manly tenderness, refined sensibility, and touching 
melancholy, so true to l^ature and Art, that his per- 
formance therein afforded me exquisite and unal- 
loyed gratification." 





From the Hon. John Quincy Adams, of the House of Repre" 
sentatives, and an ex- President of the United States. 


Washington, Feb. 19, 1839. 

To James H. Hackett^ Esq.^ Ne%o Yorh : — 

Dear Sir : — I return herewith your tragedy of 
Hamlet^ with many thanks for .the perusal of your 
manuscript notes, which indicate how thoroughly 
you have delved into the bottomless mine of Shake- 
speare's genius. I well remember the conversation, 
more than seven years by-gone, at Mr. Philip Hone's 
hospitable table, where, at the casual introduction 
of the name of Hamlet the Dane^ my enthusiastic 
admiration of the inspired (muse inspired) Bard of 
Avon, commenced in childhood, before the down 
liad darkened my lip, and continued, through live 
of the seven ages of the drama of life, gaining upon 


the judgment as it loses to the imagination, seduced 
me to expatiate, at a most intellectual and lovely 
convivial board, upon my views of the character of 
Hamlet, until I came away ashamed of having en- 
grossed an undue proportion of the conversation to 
myself. That my involuntary effusions and diffu- 
sions of mind on that occasion wxre indulgently 
viewed by Mr. Hone, so as to have remained with 
kindness upon his memory to this day, is a source 
of much gratification to me, and still more pleasing 
is it to me that he should have thought any of the 
observations which fell from me at that time worthy 
of being mentioned to you. 

I look upon the tragedy of Hamlet as the master- 
piece of the drama — the master-piece of Shakespeare 
— I had almost said, the master-piece of the human 
mind. But I have never committed to writing the 
analysis of the considerations upon which this deli- 
berate judgment has been formed. At the table of 
Mr. Hone I could give nothing but outlines and 
etcliings. I can give no more now — snatching, as I 
do, from the ^morning lamp, to commune with a 
lover and worthy representative of Shakespeare 
upon the glories of the immortal bard.* 

What is tragedy ? It is an imitative representa- 
tion of human action and passion, to picrify the 
heart of the spectator through the instrumentality 

* It was Mr. Adams's custom to rise at 4 a.m., and dispatch all his 
private affairs, tliat they might not interfere with his duties of the day 
in the House of Representatives. J. H. H. 


of terror SLudpit/j. Tliis, in substance, is tlie defi- 
nition of Aristotle ; and Pope's most beautiful lines, 
in the prologue to Oato, are but an expansion of the 
same idea. 

Hamlet is the personification of a tnan^ in the 
prime of life, with a mind cultivated by the learning 
acquirable at an university, combining intelligence 
and sensibility in their highest degrees, within a 
step of the highest distinction attainable on earth, 
crushed to extinction by the pressure of calamities 
inflicted, not by nature, but against nature — not by 
physical, but by moral evil. Hamlet is the heart 
and soul of man, in all their perfection and all their 
frailty, in agonizing conflict with human crime, also 
in its highest pre-eminence of guilt. Hamlet is all 
heart and soul. His ruling passions are, filial afi'ec- 
tion — youthful love — manly ambition. His com- 
manding principles are, filial duty — generous friend- 
ship — love disappointed and subdued — ambition and 
life sacrificed to avenge his father. 

Hamlefs right to the throne has been violated, 
and his darkest suspicions roused by the marriage 
of his mother with his uncle so speedily succeeding 
his father's death. His love is first trammelled by 
the confiicting pride of his birth and station operat- 
ing upon his ambition, and although he has ^' made 
many tenders of his aff'ection" to Ophelia^ and 
"hath importun''d her with love in honorable 
fashion," yet he has made no proposal of marriage 
to her — he has promised her nothing but love, and, 



cautioned both bj her brother and her father, slie 
meets the advances of Hamlet with repulsion. In- 
stead of attributing this to its true cause, he thinks 
she spurns his tenderness. In his enumeration 
of the sufferings which stimulate him to suicide, ho 
names " the pangs of despised love," and his first 
experiment of assumed madness is made upon her. 
He treats her with a revolting mixture of ardent 
passion, of gross indelicacy, and of rudeness little 
short of brutality — at one moment he is worshipping 
at her feet — at the next, insulting her with coarse 
indecency — at the third, taunting her with sneering 
and sarcastic advice to go to a nunnery. And is 
this the language of splendid intellect in alliance 
with acute feeling ? Aye — under the unsupportable 
pressure of despised love, combined with a throne 
lost by usurpation, and a father murdered by a 
mother and an uncle, an incestuous marriage 
between the criminals, and the apparition, from 
the eternal world, of his father's spirit, commanding 
him to avenge the deed. 

The revelation from the ghost caps the climax of 
calamity. It unsettles that ardent and meditative 
mind — you see it in the tone of levity instantly 
assumed upon the departure of the " perturbed spirit " 
— you see it in the very determination to " put on an 
antic disposition." It is the expedient of a deadly, 
but irresohde purpose. He w411 execute the com- 
mand of his father, but he will premeditate the time, 
the place, the occasion, and to fore-arrange the most 


convenient 0})portunitj, will feign occasional mad- 
ness with intervals of clear and steady rational con- 
versation. And thus it is that " the native hue of 
resolution is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of 

This perpetual action and reaction between the 
mind and the heart ; the feeling spurring him on, 
and the reflection holding him back, constitute that 
most admirable portrait of human nature, in its 
highest estate little lower than angels, little above 
the Hottentots of the African cape, which pervades 
every part of the character of Hamlet. The habi- 
tual turn of his mind is to profound meditation. He 
reflects upon life, upon death, upon the nature of 
man, upon the physical composition of the universe. 
He indulges in minute criticism upon the perform- 
ance of the players ; he reads and comments upon a 
satire of Juvenal ; he quibbles with a quibbling 
grave-digger ; commemorates the convivial attrac- 
tions of an old jovial table companion, whose bones 
the good man Delver turns up in digging the grave 
for Oj)helia^ and philosophizes upon the dust of 
imperial Csesar, metamorphosed into the bung of a 
beer barrel. During all this time he is charged 
with the command of his father, rising from the 
dead, to take the life of his murderer, to execute 
divine justice, in the punishment of his crime. He 
is firmly resolved to execute this command — has 
frequent opportunities for the execution of it, 
w^hich he suffers to escape him, and is constantly 


reproacliiiig himself for his ddays. He shrewdly 
detects and ingeniously disconcerts the practices of 
the murderers against his life ; discloses to his 
mother his knowledge of her guilt. Kills Polonius 
most ra^^Ay ^ ^pretending to kill a rat, and intending 
to kill the king, whom he supposes to be the person 
behind the arras, and to have been there listening 
and overhearing his terrible expostulations with his 
mother. When he discovers that the person he has 
killed was not the king, but Polonius^ instead of 
compunction and remorse, he begins by a cruel joke 
upon the dead body, and finishes by an apologetic 
burst of indignation at the wretched, rash, intruding 
fool, who had hidden himself behind the arras to 
overhear the interview with his mother. Yet the 
man whom he has killed is the father of Oj)helia^ 
whom he loves to distraction, and w^hose madness 
and death are immediate consequences of this mur- 
der of her father. Shakespeare has taken care not 
to bi-ing Ramlet and Ophelia into the presence of 
each other after this event. He takes no notice at 
the grave-digging scene, that the grave over which 
he so pathetically and humorously disserts upon tlie 
bones of Yorick, the king's jester, was about to 
receive the corpse of Ophelia.* Afterwards, at the 
funeral scene, he treats Laertes as roughly, but 
finally apologizes to him, and desires him to attri- 
bute his violence and unkind treatment to his mad- 

* Hamlet did not tlieu know of it. — J. H. H. 


ness. Tlie reasoning faculty of Hamlet is at once 
sportive, sorrowful, indignant, and melanchol3\ His 
reflections always take tlie tinge of the passion 
under which he is laboring, but his conduct is 
always governed by the iTnjpulse of the moment. 
Hence his madness, as you have remarked, is some- 
times feigned, and sometimes real. His feigned 
madness, Polonius^ w^ithout seeing through it, per- 
ceives has method in it. His real madness is toioer- 
ing passion^ transient — momentary — the furo?' hrevis 
which was the ancient definition of anger. It over- 
wdielms at once the brightest genius, the soundest 
reason, and the kindliest heart that was ever 
exhibited in combination upon the stage. It 
is man in the ideal perfection of his intellectual 
and moral nature, struggling with calamity beyond 
his power to bear, inflicted by the crime of his 
fellow man — struggling w^ith agonizing energy 
against it — sinking under it to extinction. What 
can be more terrific ? What can be more 
piteous ? 

This is the hasty outline of my view of the charac- 
ter of Hamlet. I regret that time will not allow me 
to fill the canvas with lights and shades borrowed 
from the incidents and dialogue of the play. But 
after bestowing so much of my own tediousness 
upon you, I can only repeat my thanks for the peru- 
sal of your own very ingenious comments upon this 
incomparable tragedy, and add the assurance of my 
best wishes for your health and happiness, and of 


my cordial sympatliies with your devotion to the 
memory of the immortal bard. 

.Tr^HN QuiNCY AdA3IS. 

iT. B. AVhen the foregoing reached my hand, I 
was preparing to embark for England. 

Immediately npon receipt of Mr. Adams's letter 
I sent it to Mr. Philip Hone (ex-Mayor of E'ew 
York), and received from him the following : — 

Thursday, 7th March, 1839. 

Dear Sir : — I herewith return to yon the delight- 
ful letter of Mr. Adams, of which (anticipating 
your consent) I have kept a copy. I am fortunate 
in having been, incidentally, the means of furnish- 
ing you with such a treasure. What an astonishing 
man this is ! Engaged in all important public mea- 
sures — never out of his seat in Congress — working 
more laboriouslj" in anything he undertakes than 
any other person I ever knew, acquainted with all 
subjects, and thoroughly with most; and trilling 
like a youthful poet when he first begins to " lisp in 
numbers " with subjects that other wise men disdain 
to stoop to ; such are the pursuits of this truly great 
man. It is like the lordly eagle coming down from 
his '' pride of place " to sip with the humming-bird 
the sweets of every flower. But such subjects as 
this treated of in your letter constitute the relaxa- 


tion of Mr. Adams's mind. I wisli he would frive 
us more of Hamlet and " such like things ! " • 

Your friend and servant, 

Philip Hone. 

James H. Hackett, Esq. 

Mr. Hadceti to Mr. Adams. 

22 Charlotte Street, Bedford Square, ) 
London, 24th July, 1839. ) 

To the Hon. John Quincy Adams, Boston : • 

Dear Sir — I have at length an opportunity to 
acknowledge jour obliging favor of 19th Feb. last, 
which was duly received by me at Kew York, prior 
to my sailing thence for this coimtry. That you 
should have esteemed me worthy of such pains will 
remain graven on my memory as one of the most 
gratifying incidents of my life, and your autograph 
document shall be treasured in my archives. 

The elements of which that matchless character, 
Sliakespeare's Hamlet, is compounded, are generally 
as justly analyzed by you, as they are throughout 
beautifully described ; but there are some causes 
you impute as contributing essentially to his mad- 
ness, about which I beg leave to differ, and quote 
here and there a sentence of yours, the better to 
refresh your memory. '''Love disappointed and 
svhdued^ ]^ow I have always considered filial 
piety, in both Hamlet and Ophelia, the most promi- 
nently developed trait of character ; a father's fate, 


in botli cases, operates so powerfully on their sensi- 
tive natures, as finally to overthrow the seat of 
reason ; their love for each other was quite second- 
ary ; in pursuance of his voluntary oath to the Ghost, 
that " thy remembrance all alone shall live," &c., 
"unmixed with baser matter, Hajnlefs first scheme is 
to feign madness, and he begins " to put an antic 
disposition on" in the presence of Ophelia, for 
whom he was reputed to entertain a tender afi:ec- 
tion, in order, as it seems to me, that she may (as 
she^oes) tell her father, and that Poloniiis's garrulity 
may advertise the whole court of his beiijg mad for 
her love — a cause and efi'ect calculated to mislead 
and calm the apprehensions of the guilty iisurjier, 
and better enable Hamlet to scrutinize his unguarded 
behavior thereafter. 

Had Oj^helia^s love for HaMet been strong, she 
would naturally not have yielded so readily to be- 
come the medium of assisting the espionage of her 
parasitical father and the complotting king, when it 
is proposed, in her presence, to "let her loose to 
Hamlet^^ whilst they watch them behind the arras ; 
and here let me remark upon your sentence — " he 
treats her with a revolting mixture of ardent passion, 
of gross indelicacy, and of rudeness little short of 
hriitaUty " — that from his previous conduct " when 
she .was sewicg in her chamber," he knows she 
esteems him 7nad, and will not feel wounded at any- 
thing lie may say. For example, when he is most 
censorious of her ftither, she prays, " Oh, help him, 


you sweet heavens !" Further extenuation may be 
found in another, and not unreasonable sttpposition^ 
that, at tlie thne^ Hamlet had some hirking sus- 
picion of her unfair position ; else, why change his 
tone so suddenly from the incipient complimentary 
supplication, " Kymph in thy orisons be all my sins 
remembered !" to such pointed rebuke. When 
asked — " Are you honest .^" she evades a categorical 
answer by " My lord !" then he follows — " Are you 
fair .^" and explains to her why, if she is both, and 
would preserve her honesty from the contaminating 
influences of beauty, she should not admit them to 
any discourse with each other, " because the power 
of heauty will sooner transform honesty from what 
it is into a [corrupt] bawd, than the force of honesty 
will translate beauty into his [honesty's] likeness, 
now the time gives proof." (As here is she herself, 
for instance, allowing the effect of her heauty upon 
him to be used by her father for a sinister purpose, 
and at the expense of her honesty.) He " did love 
her once," but upon consideration " loved her not," 
finding that she has inherited so much of her " old 
stock" (viz. her father's courtier-like insincerity), as 
to render her nature incapable of thorough honesty ; 
"for virtue cannot so inoculate our old stock but 
we shall relish of it." " We are arrant knaves 
all !" The aptitude of his epigrammatic sentiments, 
whether from accident or design, evidently embar- 
rasses and betrays her into an absolute falsehood ; 
for when questioned, " Where is your father ?" she 



answers, ^'At liome !" knowing Polonius to be a 
covert listener to them at that moment ; and, by 
the way, be it remembered of thi-s scene, that the 
Mng^ who witnessed it, and was a keen observer, 
remarks — " Love ! — his aftections do not that way 
tend !" and also of her when mad, he says, " This is 
the poison of deep grief; it springs all from the 
father's death." In short, Ophelia never in her 
madness alludes to Hamlet^ nor does he but once, 
subsequently, refer to his love for her^ and then only 
when chance informed him of her death, and had 
brought him to her burial, where, in a fit of tempo- 
rary derangement, he lets the bravery of Laertes^ 
grief " put him into a towering passion," which he 
afterwards, by way of apology to him, " proclaims 
— was madness." 

Permit me to quote you further : — 

" His love is first trammelled hy the confiicting 
pride of his hirth and station operating ivpon his 

As regards Hanilefs ambition— in the course of 
what he stigmatizes to the courtiers " as their trade" 
with him, he certainly pretends to them his cause 
of madness is, " I lack advancement ! " but this he 
says after he has discovered the necessity of having 
an eye of them, and a determination to "trust 
them " only as he would "adders that have fangs ; " 
for in hi^ first interview on their arrival, and before 
he inquires whether they have not been " sent for," 
he welcomes his old schoolfellows with " Excellent 


good friends ! " and nnreservedl j scouts tlicir notions 
of liis being ambitious because he esteems Denmark 
a prison ; and wlien they suggest, " it is too narrow 
for your mind," adds — " oh, God ! I could be 
bounded in a nutshell, and count myself a king of 
iniinite space, but that I have had bad dreams " — 
in fact, had he not had '' bad dreams " concerning 
his father's fate, I doubt if disappointed ambition 
had ever caused him to express regret, much less 
urged him to any active measures about his deferred 
succession to the throne of Denmark. You continue 
— ''' and although he has made i/iany tenders of his 
affection to Ojyhelia^ and hath iynjportuned her vnth 
love^ in honorahle fashion^ yet he has made no pro- 
posal of marriage to her — he horS proinised her 
nothing hut loveP 

To the consummation of his love by marriage^ 
his queen mother refers when scattering flowers 
during OpItelkt'S obsequies — 

" I hop'd thou should' st have been my Hamlet's luife^ 
I thought thy bride-bed to have deck'd, sweet maid ! 
And not have strew' d thy grave ; " 

the inference is, that the only reason for a truce to 
his love pursuit was its interference with a para- 
mount consideration — the performance of his vow 
to his father^ s unrevenged ^ndi perturbed spirit. — 

But you say, " cautioned hoth hy her hrother and 
her father^ she meets tJie advances of Hamlet with 


Her brother's caution arose, not from a suspicion 
that Hamlefs ambitious pride of " birth and sta- 
tion" would hinder their marriage, but that the 
" state " on which it depended might not confirm 
his choice, and adds, 

'' Then weigh what loss your honor may sustain, 
If with too credent ear you hst his songs ; 
Or lose your heart ; or your chaste treasure open 
To his unmaster'd importunity." 

Her father's command, as he afterwards confesses, 
sprang from his " fear that Hamlet did but trifle, 
and meant to wreck thee," therefore his '^ love in 
honorable fashion and countenanced with all the 
holy vows of heaven," Polonius calls " springes to 
catch woodcocks," and charges her, " Do not believe 
his vows," to which she replies, " I shall obey, my 
lord," and so she does — making it evident that hoth 
their loves were subservient to filial duty / but the 
nicest search cannot detect a line indicating that 
his heart contained a scrupulous thought that 
Ojphelia was beneath his station, nor that the 
repulsion of his letters, or denial of his access, or 
attempted return of his gifts, was a source of any 
serious disappointment to him, or, as you think, 
"o/* acute feeling — imder the insupportable pressure 
of despised love j'''' inasmuch as he never subse- 
quently refers to either circumstance ; — you also 
say, " instead of attrihuting his repulsion to its true 
cause, he thinks she spurns his tenderness j in his 


enumeration of the sufferings whieh stimulate to 
suicide^ he names the pangs of desj)ised loveP 

" The pangs of despised love," in my humble 
opinion^ have no more immediate reference to his 
own case than " the law's delay, the insolence of 
office," and the spurns and other vexations to which 
all " flesh is heir ; " and one fact that particularly 
weakens his self-application of this line is, that the 
folio edition of 1623 (now received as the best 
authenticated) reads, not " despised,^'' but " disprized 
love : " a distinction, to my thinking, not without a 
difference, though corrupters of the text since have 
not even deigned an excnse for their license ; — for 
as love begets love, and hate, his kind, so love that 
finds itself despised instead of returned by its object 
soon flies the human breast, and its void hecoraes 
supplied by rank hatred / but the pangs of disprized 
love are those of one whose spirit sinks and writhes 
under the pride-stung consciousness that the being 
towards whom their own heart yearns, disprizes 
their strong affection ; — it is this species of love 
which, unvalued or entertained with indifference, 
cannot be diverted or superseded, or, as if despised^ 
find a relief in hatred — but brooding over its own 
subtile mortification, produces that poignant melan- 
choly which, rankling in a proud soul, may stimu- 
late to suicide. 

A marked characteristic from the outset in Ham- 
let^ is, self-dissatisfaction — 


" The time is out of joint — cursed spite, 
That ever I was born to set it right." 

He is a creature of impulse ; lie cannot take the 
life of the Regicide when in his power ; his hea,rt 
revolts at so cold-hlooded a deed, thongh just ; he 
puts np his sword, and tries to find an excuse to 
himself in the refined notion that it would be " hire 
and salary, not revenge," to kill his uncle whilst 
" praying and purging his soul," who took his 
father's, unprepared, " with all his crimes broad- 
blown ;" without excitement, his nature is prone to 
meditation, and all his philosophical reasoning is 
upon his wrongs and their villanous causer. The 
player, whose whole function readily yielded to his 
conceits — the equanimity of Horatio^ in whose 
nature the "blood and judgment" are so enviably 
" co-mingled" — all contrasts serve but to paralyze 
his own energies, and almost blunt his very purpose, 
instead of arousing him to indignant action. Thus 
" conscience makes a coward" of Hamlet^ who pos- 
sesses the moral principle of a hero, but is deficient 
in physical nerve requisite to avenge coolly and 
resolutely his father's murder — an attainment he 
seems to despair of, after discovering his fatal mis- 
take in killing Polonius / and it is after that event^ 
that the tumult created in his sensitive soul reaches 
its climax ; and the mind, which though hitherto 
predisposed has exhibited but counterfeit frenzy^ 
breaks forth at intervals of sxibsequent excitement^ 
into paroxysms of decided madness. 


But the only excuse I can offer to yon, for permit 
ting my love of the snbject to render me so diffuse ^ 
is, that I, too, " from boyhood," have been " enthusi- 
astic" in relation to this character, and have habitu- 
ated myself for years to ponder over its merits — as 
a miser would over his gold — collating the earliest 
editions of this play, and searching the accurimlated 
annotations of its numerous critics — many of whom, 
in attempting to explain, have often only mystified 
the meaning of a clear original text, by alterations, 
omissions, and substitutions, and shown themselves 
"ignorant as vain," and as wide of the author's 
design, and as vexations to every true lover of the 
bard, as rriiist be some of the actors of our time, 
who exhibit to audiences, seemingly " capable of 
nothing but inexplicable dumb show and noise," a 
sort of coiwentional^ stage-leau-ideal of Hamlet, 
overflowing with hustle^ starts, and rant, and entirely 
destitute of that oneditative and jyhilosophic rejpose, 
which Shahes^eare has made the leading feature of 
the character. 

Hoping at no distant day to have the pleasure of 
a " large discourse" with, you, in person, about 
Samlet, and that your useful life, with continued 
health of body and vigor of mind, may be pro- 
longed for many years, 

I remain, honored sir, 

Your humble servant, ever, 

Jas. H. Hackett. 


I was in the habit of meeting daily at the Gar- 
rick Club, London, Mr. James Smith, one of 
the brothers who were authors of the celebrated 
'''Rejected Addresses^ I submitted to his perusal 
Mr. Adams's letter, dated 19th February, 1839, 
together with my reply, dated 24tli July ensuing, 
which he returned with a note of which what fol- 
lows is a copy. 

27 Craven Street, ) 

Thursday, 15th August, 1839. \ 

Many thanks, my dear sir, for the Lithographic 
Correspondence between yourself and the ex-Presi- 
dent, Mr, Adams, upon the subject of Hamlet. 
That gentleman's notion of the character is inge- 
nious : but yours is (to quote the words of Osric) 
" a palpable hit." 

Yours very truly, 

James Smith. 

Mr. Smith intimated his desire that I should for- 
ward to his brother Horatio at Brighton^ where he 
resided, copies also of the same correspondence, 
which I did accordingly, and received from him the 
folio win 2: letter : 


12 Cavendish Place, 26 September, 1839. 
Dear Sir — ^I feel much flattered by your obliging 
letter and its very interesting inclosures, wdiich w^ill 
be preserved with care as a valuable addition to the 


contents of my portfolio. How inexlianstible are 
tlie j^leasures afforded by our Immortal Bard, since 
the most attractive portions of our current literature 
are the endless study of his characters, and the ex- 
pansion of his illimitable ideas. You must have 
bestowed much thought indeed upon the character 
of Hamlet^ and I incline to side with you, wherever 
you are opposed to the views of the enlightened 
and venerable Mr. Adams. Schlegel's critique upon 
Hamlet is perhaps the most original and conclusive 
that has yet been published, and how happy is his 
image of the delicate vase being shattered by the 
expansion of the plant committed to it ! 

As an ardent admirer of America and its noble 
institutions, I am ever proud to make acquaintance 
with your countrymen, and I much regret that my 
absence from Brighton prevented my paying my 
respects to Mr. Willis during his visit. 

Pray command my services here if they can be 
made available, and believe me with many thanks, 
Your obliged and obedient servant, 

HoEATio Smith. 

James H. Hackett, Esq. 

I was indebted to my friend Mr. James Fenimore 
Cooper, in 18tt4, for an introduction (by letter from 
INew York) to the Hon. Charles Augustus Murray^ 
then Master of the Queen's household. Mr. Murray 
had visited America whilst I was abroad, and by 
his intelligence and very agreeable social manners 


liad made many strong personal friends in the 
United States. He made a tour through the "West- 
ern States, and afterwards wrote his " Prairie 

He is a younger son of the Earl of Dunmore. I 
loaned him for perusal my notes and comments 
upon Hamlet and Lear^ and upon some of their 
stage-representatives, which he returned with a let- 
ter, of which the following is a copy. 

Buckingham Palace, January 30, 1845. 
My deak Sm : — I beg to return you your notes 
on Lear and Hamlet with many thanks : it would 
be impertinent in me to pretend to any opinion on 
the professional peculiarities of most of the parties 
referred to, as I have had few if any opportunities 
of seeing them on the stage ; but I can truly say 
that many of the thoughts and reflections on the 
intention and conception of the Great Dramatist 
seem to me extremely just, discriminating, and well 
defined : I only regret that my early departure* 
will prevent my having the pleasure of seeing them 
embodied in the person of their author next month 
on the boards of Covent Garden. 

Believe me, my dear sir, 

Yery truly yours, 
Chas. a. Muerat. 

* Mr. Murray bad just been appointed by the Queen Her Britannic 
Majesty's Consul to Egypt, and had resigned his position as Eqiierry 
to Prince Albert. 


I originally made the personal acquaintance of 
Serge-ant (afterwards Sir Thomas Noon) Talfourd 
at the Garrick Club, London, where we used to 
meet often and chat familiarly, and whence we 
occasionally proceeded together to one or other of 
the theatres to witness any extraordinary perfor 
mance. He had frequently referred to my cor- 
respondence with ex-President Adams respecting 
Hamlet, and I loaned him my volume of notes, 
comments, and criticisms uj^on the actors, which, as 
I knew his engrossing professional occupation, I 
requested him to retain and look through at his 
entire convenience and intervals of leisure. Upon 
its return it was accompanied by a note, whereof 
the following is a copy. 

Sergeant's Inx, 23cl June, 1845. 
My dear Sir : — I return your manuscript with 
my best thanks. I regret that the very anxious 
trials in which I am engaged at this season has not 
permitted me to contemplate with the attention the 
subject deserves your delightful recollections; but 
I have seen enough of them to feel that they are 
among the most intellectual the stage can give a 

Believe me I remain, my dear sir, 
Yery truly yours, 

T. :^r. Talfoued. 

J. H. Hackett, Esq. 



Copy of the last Letter received from the Honorable John Quincy 
Adams, Ex-President of the United States. 

Quincy, 4 Nov. 1845. 
To James H. Hackett^ JEsq. 

Tkemont House, Boston. 

My Dear Sir — I return herewith the very inte- 
resting vohime of your manuscript notes upon 
Shakespeare, and upon the representation of several 
of the persons of his Drama by sundry eminent per- 
formers of our cotemporaries. 

I thank you for the privilege of perusing these 
notes and for your letter, and, in conformity with 
your request, I inclose herewith and ask your ac- 
ceptance of a few scattered leaves, containing 
remarks of mine upon Othello^ Romeo and Juliet^ 
and Lear.^ They were written in letters to a friend 
who thouglit them worthy of publication with my 
consent, although by many of their readers they 
have been deemed paradoxical, perhaps heretical. 
The remarks upon the character of Desdemona have 
been thought by many of her admirers, unreasona- 
bly severe, and perhaps the opposition they have 
encountered may have tended to confirm me in my 
own opinions. Mrs. Inchbald's almost adoration of 

* Since hound hereinafter. — J. H. H. 


the cuuniiig ^ that's "married to Oiltello^'* 

and Dr. Johnson's grave admiration of the artless 
simplicity of the " super-subtle Yenetian," are 
strangely at variance with my estimation of the 
sound canons of criticism. The same Dr. Johnson, 
in his life of Dryden^ says, that when hard pressed 
by the critics of his time, upon the immorality of his 
comedies, as a last resort he turned upon his accusers 
and denied that a comic poet was under any obliga- 
tion to preach morality. Pope, however, is not of 
the same opinion, with regard to tragedy. 

'* To wake the soul by tender strokes of art, 
To raise the genius and to mend the heart. 
To make mankind in conscious virtue bold, 
Live o'er each scene and be what they behold. 
For this, the Tragic Muse first had the stage, 
Commanding tears to stream thro' every age. 
Tyrants no more their savage nature kept, 
And foes to virtue wondered why they wept." 

Tragedy, then, is, in its nature, pre-eminently 
devoted to Morals ; but when, in one of the inclosed 
papers, I said that in the days of manhood I had 
studied Shakespeare chiefly as a teacher of morals, I 
was answered, after the manner of Dryden, that this 
was degrading Shakespeare to the level of Esop. 

In France, the theatre is sometimes made the 
school of Politics, and in England it would have 

* A word which his daughter could not be expected to write — thero 
fore omitted. 


been made so, but for the counter-check of the Lord 
Chamberlain's license. In the month, I think, of 
April, 1TS5, I was present in the Cathedral church 
of Notre Dame, and witnessed a solemn procession 
of Louis the Sixteenth, then called " Louis le bien 
faisant," with all his Court to return thanks to 
Almighty God in His Holy Temple for the birth of 
the Duke of E^ormandy, his second son, who, not 
long afterwards, by the decease of his elder brother, 
became the Dauphin of France, and was the hapless 
child, who, a few years later, perished an apprentice 
to a shoemaker, under the discipline of Kevolu- 
tionary France. The Bourbon family and their ad- 
herents call him " Louis the Seventeenth," and his 
fate, in the vicissitudes of human life, closely resem- 
bles that of the person called " Edward the Fifth," 
in the History of England. The solemn procession 
of the absolute monarch of France to the Te Deum 
of that day, made a deep impression upon my mind. 
More than six years before I had witnessed the most 
splendid illumination of Paris that my eyes ever 
beheld, upon the birth of the first child of the same 
Louis the Sixteenth, the Duchess of Angouleme. 
On both these occasions it seemed as if there was 
one universal burst of jo}^ throughout the whole 
kingdom of France. But, not many days after the 
Te Deum at the Cathedral church of ISTotre Dame, I 
saw performed at the Theatre Frangais, the tragedy 
of Rhadamisthe et Zenobie, by the elder Crtibillon. 
In that tragedy, the principal character, being him- 


self kiiiior otWrmenia, appears as an ambassador from 
Home at the Court of liis own father, King of Iberia, 
and, after complaining, in the name of the Koman 
Republic, of certain preparations for war on the part 
of the King of Armenia," which had excited the 
jealousy of the Roman Republic, he says in a tone 
of insolent menace — 

" Rome, de tant d'apprets qui s'indigne et se lasse, 
N'a point accoutumer les Reds h. tant d'audace."t 

[CrehillorLS Tragedy of Rhadamisthe et Zenohie. 

N"ever in the course of my attendance upon the- 
atrical performances throughout my life, did I hear 
a more deafening and universal shout of applause, 
than upon the delivery of these two lines, marked 
by the peculiar emphasis with which the actor 
dwelt upon the words " les Rois.^^ I shall never 
forget the eflect of this incident upon my reflections 
at the time. Louis the Sixteenth was yet an abso- 
lute king — he seemed still seated in the affections 
of his people, who still boasted of their attachment 
beyond all other nations to the persons of their 
sovereigns. His reign had been successful and 
glorious ! How often since the Te Deum for the 
birth of the Duke of ISTormandy and the perform- 

* iberia, I think Mr. Adams intended, and dictated to his daughter, 
who at that date was his social amanuensis. — J. H. H. 
f Rome, outraged and weary of such preparations, 
Has never accustomed Kings to such audacity. — J. H. H. 


ance of Crebillon's tragedy — occurring so nearly at 
the same time — have those two incidents reminded 
me of the lines of Gray's bard — 

" Fair laughs the Morn, and soft the Zephyr blows, 
While proudly riding o'er the azure realm 
In gallant trim the gilded vessel goes ; 

Youth on the prow and Pleasure at the helm ; 
Regardless of the sweeping Whirlwind's sway, 
That, hushed in grim repose, expects his evening prey." 

Let me return to Shakespeare. As a teacher of 
morals, you will perceive that, in the inclosed 
papers, I have expressed the opinion that he was 
not sufficiently so considered by the performers 
of his j)ersonages upon the stage. I excepted Mrs. 
Siddons, whose — 

" I say, take heed, my lord !'* 

I shall never forget. When these remarks were 
written, I had never seen you upon the boards, and 
had not the pleasure of your acquaintance. I hope 
that, upon the character of Desdemona — upon the 
absurdity of restoring Lear to his Crown, and upon 
the age of Juliet^ I shall not find myself so wide 
from the coincidence of your judgment as I have 
from that of many other admirers of the Swan of 

Not intending to try your temper with a sermon 
in return for the pleasure which I have received 


from your manuscript, I will close with the assur- 
ance of my grateful and respectful esteem. 

(Signed) John Qulncy Adams. 

Note. — Mr. Adams was born July 11, 1767. Died in the 
Capitol at Washington, Feb. 23, 1848. 



My admiration of Shakespeare, as a profound 
delineator of human nature and a sublime poet, is 
but little short of idolatry. I think he is often mis- 
understood, as performed on the stage. 

The character of Juliet, for example, is travestied 
almost into burlesque, by the alteration of the text 
in the scene where the nurse, with so much pre- 
cision, fixes her age {Act 1, Scene 3). The nurse 
declares she knows it to an hour, and that next Lam- 
mas eve (which Lady Capulet says will be in a fort- 
night and odd days) she will be fourteen. Upon 
this precise age, the character of Juliet,, her dis- 
course, her passion, and the deep pathos of the 
interest that we take in her fate, very largely repose. 
Born under Italian skies, she is at the very moment 
of transition from the child to the woman. Her 



love is the pure impuke of intelligent, sensitive 
nature — -first love — unconscious and undissembled 
nature, childliood expanding into maturity, physical 
and intellectual — all innocence, all ardor, all ecstasy. 
How irresistibly are our sympathies moved at seeing 
the blossom blasted at the very moment while it is 
opening to the sun ! As the play is performed on 
the stage, the nurse, instead of saying that Juliet^ at 
the next Lammas eve, will be fourteen, says she will 
be nineteen. Nineteen ! In what country of the 
world was a young lady of nineteen ever constantly 
attended by a nurse ? Between the ages of thir- 
teen and fourteen, a nurse, in a noble Italian family 
of the middle ages, was not yet^an unnatural com- 
panion. On the verge of nineteen, the nurse is not 
only supernumerary, but very much out of place. 
Take away the age of Juliet, and you take away 
from her all her individuality, all the consistency 
of her character, all that childish simplicity, which, 
blended with the fervor of her passion, constitutes 
her greatest charm. In what but in that, and in 
everythmg which she does and says, congenial to 
that age, does she differ from Yiola^ from Miranda, 
from Ophelia, and indeed from all the lovely daugh- 
ters of Shakespeare's muse ? They are all in love, 
but you can never mistake one of them for another. 
The peculiarities of Juliet all have reference to her 
age ; and that which in her mouth is enchanting, 
would seem but frothy nonsense from a woman five 
years older. Juliet says — 


" And when Romeo dies, 
Take him and cut him up in Httle stans, 
And he shall make the face of Heaven so fine, 
That all the world shall grow in love with night, 
And pay no worship to the garish sun." 

In the incomparable beauty of this passage, as 
spoken by a girl under fourteen, there is something 
too childish for a woman of nineteen, however 
desperately in love. One, who has been accustomed 
to personate Juliet as a young woman of nineteen, 
may see no incongruity with that age in her cha- 
racter ; yet that one, who has herself passed through 
both those stages of life, should not understand the 
difference of maturitv between the as^es of fourteen 
and of nineteen in the female sex, is scarcely con- 
ceivable. Tliat Shakespeare should have con- 
founded them, is impossible. That he intended to 
make the a<je of Juliet an exposition of her character, 
is evident from the special care he has taken to 
make the nurse announce it. If the meanest of dra- 
matists were to undertake to write a tragedy, and 
to draw the character and to repeat the discourse of 
a girl of fourteen, attended throughout the play by 
a nurse, can we imagine that he would change the 
age to nineteen and yet retain the nurse, and give 
to the full-formed woman the same character and 
the same tone of dialogue which he would to 
the ripening child of fourteen ? Such a writer 
would prove himself as poor a proficient in the 


scliool of human nature as in tliat of Shakes- 
peare. "^ 

In that ever memorable delineation of the Life of 
man, and its division into " seven ages," by Jaques, 
in the comedy of " As you Like it," the meditative 
moralist says that each man in his turn plays many 
parts. He says, too, that all the men and women 
are merely players. In coming to the details, he 
exhibits only the seven ages of the Tnan j but there 
was certainly in the mind of the poet a correspond- 
ing division in the ages of the woman / and Juliet, 
at any age short of fourteen, and yet under the care 
of a nurse, partakes at once, in the relation of her 
sex, of the school-boy with his satchel and shining 
morning face, creeping like a snail unwillingly to 
school, and of the lover sighing like a furnace, with 
a woful ballad made to his mistress's eyebrow. 
Shakespeare was not the observer and painter of 

* Th6 history and traditions of the stage do not furnish a single 
instance of an actress who by Nature or Art seemed not more than 
nineteen years of age, and yet was able to perform with adequate 
effect the latter portion of the character of Juliet. The most famous 
representatives have attained to an age of twenty-five or thirty years 
prior to an acquirement of the prerequisites of mind, art, and experi- 
ence upon tlie stage. It has been generally in an actress asking quite 
indulgence enough of an audience to suppose her age not more than 
^^ nineteen;" whereas, had any called it ^^ fourteen,'''' instead of a pass- 
ing wink of silent consent, she would have been very apt to cause a 
general titter, and among the rude spectators some derisive lauglitcr. 
.The alteration of " fourteen " to nineteen, is one of the absolute necessi- 
ties of stage representation. Mrs. Siddons is said to have continued 
acceptable as JuUdvfhQn over forty-three years of age. — J. H. Uackeit. 


nature, to confound them togetlier. If lie had exhi- 
bited in action a school-boy of between thirteen and 
fourteen, think you that he would have given him 
the features, or inspired him with the language and 
ideas of a lover at nineteen ? Our youth at fourteen 
are yet under the age of passing from the school to 
the university ; at nineteen, many of them have 
already closed their career at the university and 
passed into the busy scenes of active life. The 
female mind and person hastens also to maturity in 
advance of the male ; and a woman at nineteen is 
generally more completely formed than a man at 

Shakespeare, with his intuitive sagacity, has also 
marked the characteristics of the change between 
these two of his " seven ages." In the " Merchant 
of Yenice," when Portia proposes to Kerissa that 
they should assume male attire and go to Yenice, 
she says — 

" I'll hold thee any wager, 
When we are both apparell'd like young men, 
I'll prove the prettier fellow of the two, 
And wear my dagger with the braver grace, 
And speak between the change of man and hoy 
With a reed voice ; and turn two mincing steps 
Into a manly stride ; and speak of frays 
Like a fine bragging youth ; and tell quaint lyes 
How honorable ladies sought my love, 
Which I denying, they fell sick and died. 
I could not do withal : then I'll repent, 
And wish, for all that, that I had not kill'd them — 


And twenty of these puny lyes I'll tell, 
That men shall swear I've discontinued school 
Above a twelvemonth^* 

Tragedy, according to the admirable definition of 
Aristotle, is a poem imitative of human life, and the 
object of which is to purify the soul of the spectator 
by the agency of terror and pity. The terror is 
excited by the incidents of the story and the suffer- 
ings of the person represented ; the pity, by the 
interest of sympathy with their characters. Terror 
and pity are moved by the mere aspect of human 
sufferings ; but the sympathy is strong or weak, in 
proportion to the interest that we take in the charac- 
ter of the sufferer. With this definition of tragedy, 
" Romeo and Juliet " is a drama of the highest 
order. The incidents of terror and the sufferings of 
the principal persons of the drama arouse every 
sympathy of the soul, and the interest of sympathy 
with Juliet. She unites all the interest of ecstatic 
love, of unexampled calamity, and of the peculiar 
tenderness which the heart feels for innocence in 
childhood. Most truly, then, says the Prince of Ve- 
rona, at the conclusion of the play — 

" For never was a story of more wo 
Than this of Juliet and her Romeo." 

Tlie age of Juliet seems to be the key to her cha- 
racter throughout the play, an essential ingredient 

* Act 3, Scene 5. 


in tlie intense sympathy wliicli slie inspires ; and 
Shakespeare has marked it, not only in her dis- 
course, but even in her name, the diminutive of ten- 
der affections applied only to childhood. If Shake- 
speare had exhibited upon the stage a woman of 
nineteen, he would have dismissed her nurse and 
called her Julia. She might still have been a very 
interesting character, but the whole color and com- 
plexion of the play must have been changed. An 
intelligent, virtuous woman, in love with a youth of 
assorted age and congenial character, is always a 
person of deep interest in the drama. But that 
interest is heightened and redoubled when, to the 
sympathy with the lover, you add all the kind affec- 
tions with which you share in the joys and sorrows 
of the child. There is childishness in the discourse 
of Juliet, and the poet has shown us why ; because 
she had scarcely ceased to be a child. There is non- 
sense in the alteration of Shakespeare's text upon 
the stage. 

There are several of the most admired plays of 
Shakespeare which give much more pleasure to read 
than to see performed upon the stage. For instance, 
Othello and Lear ; both of which abound in beautv 
of detail, in poetical passages, in highly-wrought and 
consistently preserved characters. But, the pleasure 
that we take in witnessing a performance upon the 
stage, depends much upon the sympathy that we 
feel with the sufferings and enjoyments of the good 
characters represented, and upon the punishment of 


the bad. We never can sympathize much with 
Desdemona or with Leay\ because we never can 
separate them from the estimate that the lady 
is little less than a wanton, and the old king nothing 
less than a dotard. "Who can sympathize with the 
love of Desdemona f — the daughter of a Venetian 
nobleman, born and educated to a splendid and 
lofty station in the community. She falls in love 
and makes a runaway match with a blackamoor, for 
no better reason than that he has told her a brag- 
gart story of his hair-breadth escapes in war. For 
this, she not only violates her duties to her father, 
her family, her sex, and her country, but she makes 
the first advances. She tells Othello she wished 
Heaven had made her such a man, and informs him 
how any friend of his may win her by telling her 
again his story. On that hint, says he, I spoke ; 
and well he might. The blood must circulate 
briskly in the veins of a young woman, so fascinated, 
and so coming to the tale of a rude, unbleached 
African soldier. 

The great moral lesson of the tragedy of Othello 
is, that black and white blood cannot be inter- 
mingled in marriage without a gross outrage upon 
the law of !N"ature ; and that, in such violations, ITa- 
ture will vindicate her laws. The moral of Othello 
is not to beware of jealousy, for jealousy is well 
founded in the character and conduct of his wife, 
though not in the fact of her infidelity with Cassio. 
Desdemona is not false to her husband, but she has 


been false to the purity and delicacy of lier sex ai^d 
condition when she married him ; and the last words 
spoken by her father on parting from them, after he 
has forgiven her and acquiesced in the marriage, 
are — 

" Look to her, Moor; have a quick eye to see: 
She has deceived her father, and may thee." 

And this very idea is that by which the crafty villain 
lago works up into madness the jealousy of Othello. 

Whatever sympathy we feel for the sufferings of 
Desdemona flows from the consideration that she is 
innocent of the particular crime imputed to her, and 
that she is the victim of a treacherous and artful 
intriguer. But, while compassionating her melan- 
choly fate, we cannot forget the vice of her charac- 
ter. Upon the stage, her fondling with Othello is 
disgusting. Who, in real life, would have her for a 
sister, daughter, or wife ? She is not guilty of infi- 
delity to her husband, but she forfeits all the affec- 
tion of her father and all her own filial affection for 
him. When the duke proposes, on the departure of 
Othello for the war, that she should return during 
his absence to her father's house, the father, the 
daughter and the husband all say " ^o !" She pre- 
fers following Othello, to be besieged by the Turks 
in the island of Cyprus. 

The character of Desdemona is admirably drawn 
and faithfully preserved throughout the play. It is 
always deficient in delicacy. Her conversations with 



Mniliamdicsite unsettled principles, even with regard 
to the obligations of the nuptial tie, and she allows 
Jago, almost unrebuked, to banter with her very 
coarsely upon women. This character takes from 
us so much of the sympathetic interest in her sufler- 
incrs, that when Othello smothers her in bed, the ter- 
TOY and the pity subside immediately into the senti- 
ment that she has her deserts.* 

We feel a similar want of interest in the character 
and fortunes oVLear^ as represented upon the stage. 
The story of Lear^ as those of Othello and Romeo 
and Juliet^ was ready-made to the hand of Shake- 
speare. They were not of his invention. King 
Lear and his three daughters form a part of the 
fabulous history of England. The dotage of an abso- 

* I must differ materially with Mr, Adams in his estimate of the 
character of Desdemona. She had frequently seen Othello when invited 
by her father to his domicile — she was struck by his valiant parts, and 
became so infatuated that she saw Othello's visage only in his mind, 
and eventually resolved to consecrate to him her life and fortunes as 
his wife. 

I agree with Mr. Adams respecting the moral which Shakespeare 
designed to convey so far as it involves a caution to fathers that they 
should " never introduce to their domestic hearths where they have a 
daughter, young, warm-hearted, and very susceptible of impression, 
any man, who, from his nature or his conditions in life, might, if such 
daughter happened to fancy him, prove an unsuitable husband for 
her." Because, there is no accounting for differences of taste, and 
often the obstinacy of some women's natures will induce them to 
entertain a man's professions of love and admiration, and yield to his 
fascinations, the more readily from h&m^put upon their guard against 
him as "an improper suitor;" especially certain young girls, with 
whom passion is often stronger than reason. — J. H. ffacJcett. 


lute monarch may be a suitable subject of tragedy ; 
and Shakespeare has made a deep tragedy of it. 
But, as exhibited upon the stage, it is turned into a 
comedy. Lea;i\ the dotard and the madman, is 
restored, to his throne, and Cordelia finishes with a 
wedding. "What can be more absurd ! 

Dotage and madness, in the j^erson of a king, pos- 
sessed of the power to give away his kingdom at 
his pleasure, afford melancholy contemplations of 
human nature. They are not fit subjects for comedy. 
Lear is no more fit to be restored to his kincrdom 
than Christopher Sly is to be metamorphosed into 
a lord."^ Lear is a dotard and a madman from the 
first scene in the play, and his insanity commences 
with such revolting injustice to his only affectionate 
daughter, that we feel but little compassion for 
whatever may afterwards befall him. The interest- 
ing character of the play is Cordelia / and what a 
lovely character it is ! But the restoration of a 
dotard from old age to his senses is as much out of 

* After seeing Edmund Kean perform Lear at New York in 1826, 
I expressed to him my surprise at his choice of Nahum Tate's altera- 
tion to the great OriginaVs conclusion of the tragedy. Mr, Keau 
observed: — '"I do not prefer it, but I first studied Tate's alteration 
and acted accordingly, because it was popular. Afterwards I restored 
Shakespeare's text and conclusion, and acted that ; but, when I had 
ascertained that a large majority of the public — whom we live to 
please, and must please to be popular — liked Tate better than Shake- 
speare, I fell back upon his corruption ; though in my soul I was 
ashamed of the prevaihng taste, and of my professional condition that 
required me to minister unto it." 


nature as the restoration to his throne is prepos- 
terous. Lea)\ as Shakespeare painted him, is the 
wreck of a mighty mind and proud spirit, sunk 
from despotic power into dotage, and maddened 
by the calamitous consequences of his own imbeci- 
lity. His madness, with hicid flashes of intellect, is 
incurable. It is terrible ! it is piteous ! But it is 
its effect on the fortunes and fate of Cordelia that 
constitutes the chief interest of the spectator ; and 
Lear himself, from his first appearance, loses all 
title to compassion.^ 

The chief import of these objections to the man- 
ner in which Shakespeare's plays are represented 
upon the stage, is to vindicate the great " master of 
the drama" from the liberties taken by stage- 
managers with his text. In Romeo and Juliet^ the 
alteration of a single word — the substitution of nine- 
teen for fourteen — changes the whole character of 
the play — makes that, which is a perfect imitation of 
nature, incongruous absurdity, and takes from one of 
the loveliest creations of Shakespeare half her charm. 

* Shakespeare has pointed the moral the more strongly by letting 
Cordelia find suffering in life and eventually share death with her 
father ; when the doting and imbecile Octogenarian despot was in the 
act of dividing his kingdom, and coveted, and expected, and exacted 
of each of his daughters their warmest expressions of filial affection, 
Cordelia, instead of gently and innocently humoring her weak but 
loving and partial father, showed the slight but only fault in lier cha- 
racter, by obstinacy and reserve. To her truth and coldness, and her 
father's rashness and folly, then may be traced the primary causes of 
the sad catastrophe. — J. H. Hackeit. 




I HAVE been, man and boy, a reader of Shakespeare 
at least three score years. A pocket edition of him 
was among the books of my mother's nursery-library, 
and at ten years of age I was as familiarly acquainted 
with his lovers and his clowns, as with Eobinson 
Crusoe, the Pilgrim's Progress, and the Bible. In 
later years I have left Eobinson and the Pilgrim to 
the perusal of the children ; but have continued to 
read the Bible and Sliakespeare, always recognising 
the precedence of veneration due to the holy Scrip- 

I have read Shakespeare as a teacher of morals — 
as a student of human nature — as a painter of life 
and manners — as an anatomical dissecter of the 
passions — as an artificer of imaginary worlds — as 
at once the sublimest and most philosophic of 

"When I say that my admiration of Shakespeare is 
little short of idolatry, I mean to be understood that 
it is not idolatry — that I hold him amenable to the 
common laws of criticism, and feel at liberty to cen- 
sure in him, as well the vices of his age, which 


abound in all Lis plays, as his own faults, from 
wliicli lie is bv no means exempt. Yet, admiring 
him as I do, with all his blemishes, I take no plea- 
sure in dwelling upon them. My remarks were con- 
lined to the different impressions made upon me by 
the true Shakespeare in my closet, and by the spuri- 
ous Shakespeare often exhibited upon the stage. 

I had been more than seven years a reader of 
Shakespeare before I saw any of his plays performed. 
Fifty-two years have passed away since I first saw 
John Kemble, in the vigor of early manhood, per- 
sonate, upon the boards of Drury Lane, the charac- 
ter of Hamlet. It was the first play that I ever saw 
performed in England — the first of Shakespeare's 
plays that I had seen performed anywhere — and I 
was disappointed. I had been much accustomed to 
the theatres of France — far advanced beyond those 
of England in the art of dramatic representation — 
and although John Kemble was then in his prime, 
and Hamlet was one of his favorite parts, in the 
comparison wdiich crowded upon my mind, between 
Drury Lane and the Theatre Fran9ais at Paris, and 
between the Hamlet of John Kemble and the Ham- 
let whicli I had by heart from Shakespeare, the 
Prince of Denmark himself, the most admirable of 
all Shakespeare's jportraits of man^ became to me a 
weary, flat, stale, and unprofitable personage. Such 
was the impression left upon me by the first exhibi- 
tion that I ever witnessed of Shakespeare upon the 
stage ; and that impression, after the lapse of more 


than half a centniy, remains iineifacedj and, while 
meraoiy holds her seat, unefFaceable from my mind. 
I have since then seen almost all the plays of 
Shakespeare that are ever exhibited upon the stage 
— Mrs. Siddons, in the character of Isabella^ of 
Queen Catharine^ of Hamlefs Mother^ and of Lady 
Macbeth / Mrs. Jordan in the characters of Yiola 
and of Ophelia / Miss Wallace and Miss O'Neil in 
that of Juliet / Mrs. Abington in that of Beatrice / 
Miss Foote in that of Imogen • and the parts of 
Hamlet, Lear, Othello, Macbeth, Coriolanus, Richard 
Sd, Falstaff, Mercutio, Benedich, Shyloch, lago, 
Romeo, and Petruchio by John Kemble, Palmer, 
Kean, Cooper, Fawcett, Lewis, Mackliu, and Booth ; 
besides the parts of Hamlet and Cardinal Wolsey 
by Henderson, and the grave-diggers and clowns by 
Parsons, Quick, Munden, and Liston. There was 
scarcely an eminent performer at Drury Lane or 
Co vent Garden, for the space of thirty -five years, 
from 1783 to 1817, but I have seen grapple with 
some of the persons of Shakespeare's drama. The 
female parts I have thought generally well per- 
formed, though that of Jidiet was always disfigured 
by the substitution of that age of nineteen for the 
original fourteen. The consequence of which has 
been that the enchanting mixture of childish frailty 
and innocence, with her burning and hopeless love, 
which constitute the profound pathos of the tragedy, 
is entirely lost. Of all the performers that I have 
ever seen presuming to speak the language, and to 


convey the thoughts of Shakespeare, Mrs. Siddons 
has appeared to me to understand them best. Hen- 
derson's Hamlet and ^Yolsey^ Macklin's Shyloch^ 
Lea Lewis's Mercutio^ John Kemble's Lear and 
Macbeth^ Kean's Richard^ Parsons's Grave-Digger^ 
Liston's Launcelot Gobbo^ Mrs. Jordan's Viola, and 
Mrs. Abington's Beatrice, have been among the 
most renowned of personations of Shakespeare's 
parts since the days of Garrick. But in my, per- 
haps eccentric, judgment, no person can deliver the 
words and ideas of Shakespeare who has not been 
accustomed to study them as a teacher of morals — 
ih^ first of the capacities in which I have looked up 
to him since, in my career of life, I have passed the 
third of his seven ages. As a school-boy, I de- 
lighted in him as a teller of tales and a joker of 
jokes. As a lover, I gazed with ecstasy upon the 
splendors of his imagination, and the heart-cheering, 
heart-rending joys and sorrows of his lovers. J^ever 
as a soldier ; but in the age of active manhood, 
which he allots to that profession, I have resorted 
to him as a pilgrim to the shrine of a saint, for 
moral, ay, and for religious instruction. I have 
found in the story of most of his plays, in the cha- 
racters of most of his personages, in the incidents 
of his fables, in the sentences of unparalleled solem- 
nity and magnificence, delivered as part of the dia- 
logue of his speakers, nay, in the very conceits and 
quibbles of his clowns, lessons of the most elevated 
and comprehensive morality. Some of them have 


at times almost tempted me to believe in tliem as 
of more than poetical inspiration. But, excei3ting 
John Kemble and Mrs. Siddons, I never met with a 
player who appeared to me to have thought of 
Shakespeare as a moralist at all, or to have inquired 
what were the morals that he taught ; and, as I 
have said, John Kemble did not appear to me to 
understand the character of Hamlet.^ Garrick 
himself attempted to strike out the grave-digger 
scene from the tragedy of Hamlet^ and the very 
rabble of London, the gods of the galleries, forced 
him to restore it. There is not, in the compass 
of the drama, a scene of deeper and more philo- 
sophical morality. 

* Oh, how I would that Mr. Adams had expressed his reasons ! 
John Kemble died at Lausanne, in Switzerland, some six years prior 
to my first visit to England, and therefore having never had an oppor- 
tunity of seeing him, I can only form an idea of his claims to pre- 
eminence in personating Hamlet from tradition or through his con- 
temporary critics ; but, I can more readily impute to Mr, Adams 
hypercriticism or an eccentric taste, than I can believe that John 
Kemble could have been so popular for forty years, and yet not had 
at least a generally good understanding of Hamlet^ s character. — J. H. H. 




Theke are critics who cannot bear to see the vir- 
tue and delicacy of Shakespeare's Desdemona called 
in question ; who defend her on the ground that 
Othello is not an Ethiopian, but a Moor ; that he is 
not black, but only tawny ; and they protest against 
the sable mask of Othello upon the stage, and 
against the pictures of him in which he is always 
painted black. They say that prejudices have been 
taken against Desdemona from the slanders of lago^ 
from the railings of Roderigo^ from the disappointed 
paternal rancor of Brahantio^ and from the despond- 
ing concessions of Othello himself. 

I have said, that since I entered upon the third 
of Shakespeare's seven ages, the first and chief 
capacity in which I have read and studied him is as 
\ka teacher of morals ; and that I had scarcely ever 
seen a player of his parts who regarded him as a 
moralist at all. I further said, that in my judgment 
no man could understand him who did not study 
him pre-eminently as a teacher of morals. These 
critics say they do not incline to put Shakespeare 
on a level with ^sop ! Sure enough they do not 
study Sliakespeare as a teacher of morals. To tliein^ 
therefore, Desdemona is a perfect character ; and 
her love for Othello is not unnatural, because he is 


not a Congo negro but only a sooty Moor, and lias 
royal blood in liis veins. 

My objections to the cliaracter of Desdemona 
arise not from what lago^ or lioderigo^ or Brabantio^ 
or Othello says of lier ; but from what she herself 
does. She absconds from her father's house, in the 
dead of night, to marry a blackamoor. She breaks 
a father's heart, and covers his noble house with 
shame, to gratify — what ? Pure love, like that of 
Juliet or Miranda f No ! unnatural passion ; it 
cannot be named with delicacy. Her admirers now 
say this is criticism of 1835 ; that the color of 
Othello has nothing to do with the passion of Des- 
demona. ISTo ? Why, if Othello had been white, 
what need would there have been for her running 
away with him ? She could have made no better 
match. Her father could have made no reasonable 
objection to it ; and there could have been no 
tragedy. If the color of Othello is not as vital i^- 
the whole tragedy as the age of Juliet is to her 
character and destiny, then have I read Shakespeare 
in vain. The father of Desdemona charges Othello 
with magic arts in obtaining the affections of his 
daughter. Why, but because her passion for him 
is unnatural / and why is it unnatural, but because 
of his color? In the very first scene, in the dia- 
logue between Roderigo and lago^ before they ronse 
Brahantio to inform him of his daughter's elope- 
ment, Icoderigo contemptuously calls Othello *' the 
thick lips." I cannot in decency quote here — bnt 


turn to the book, and see in what language lago 
announces to her father his daughter's shameful 
misconduct. The language of Roderigo is more 
supportable. He is a Yenetian gentleman, himself 
a rejected suitor of Desdetnona ^ and who has been 
forbidden by her father access to his house. E-oused 
from his repose at the dead of night by the loud 
cries of these two men, Brdbantio spurns, with in- 
dignation and scorn, the insulting and beastly lan- 
guage of lago ^ and sharply chides Roderigo^ whom 
he supposes to be hovering about his house in defi- 
ance of his prohibitions and in a state of intoxica- 
tion. He threatens him with punishment. Ro- 
derigo replies — 

" Rod. Sir, I will answer any thing. But I beseech you, 
If t be your pleasure, and most wise consent, 
(As partly, I find, it is), that your fair daughter 
At this odd-even and dull watch o' the night, 
Transported — with no worse nor better guard, 
But with a knave of common hire, a gondolier, — 
To the gross clasps of a lascivious Moor, — 
If this be known to you, and your allowance, 
We then have done you bold and saucy wrongs ; 
But if you know not this, my manners tell me, 
"We have your w^rong rebuke. Do not believe, 
That, from the sense of all civility, 
I thus would play and trifle with your reverence : 
Your daughter — if you have not given her leave, — 
I say again, hath made a gross revolt ; 
Tying her duty, beauty, wit, and fortunes. 
To an extravagant and wheeling stranger. 
Of here and every where : Straight satisfy yourself: 


If she be in her chamber, or your house, 
Let loose on me the justice of the state, 
For thus deluding you." 

Struck by this speech as by a clap of thunder, 
Brabantio calls up his people, remembers a porten- 
tous dream, calls for light, goes and searches with 
his servants, and comes back saying — 

" It is too true an evil : gone she is : 
And what's to come of my despised time, 
Is nought but bitterness." 

The father's heart is broken ; life is no longer of 
any value to him ; he repeats this sentiment time 
after time whenever he appears in the scene ; and 
in the last scene of the play, where Desdemona lies 
dead, her uncle Gratiano says — 

" Poor Desdemona ! I am glad thy father's dead, 
Thy match was mortal to him, and pure grief 
Shore his old thread in twain." 

Indeed ! indeed ! I must Iook at Shakespeare in 
this, as in all his pictures of human life, in the capa- 
city of a teacher of morals. I must believe that, in 
exhibiting a daughter of a Venetian nobleman of 
the highest rank eloping in the dead of the night to 
marry a thick-lipped wool-headed Moor, opening a 
train of consequences which lead to her own de- 
struction by her husband's hands, and to that of her 
father by a broken heart, he did not intend to pre- 
sent her as an example of the perfection of female 


virtue. I must look first at the action, then at the 
motive, then at the consequences, before I inquire 
in what light it is received and represented by the 
other persons of the drama. The first action of 
Desdeinona discards all female delicacy, all filial 
duty, all sense of ingenuous shame. So I consider 
it — and so it is considered by her own father. Her 
ofi'ence is not a mere elopement from her father's 
house for a clandestine marriage. I hope it requires 
no unreasonable rigor of morality to consider even 
that as suited to raise a prepossession rather unfavor- 
able to the character of a young woman of refined 
sensibility and elevated education. But an elope- 
ment for a clandestine marriage with a blackamoor ! 
That is the measure of my estimation of the cha- 
racter of Desdeinona from the beginning ; and when 
I have passed my judgment upon it, and find in the 
play that from the first moment of her father's 
knowledge of the act it made him loathe his life, 
and that it finally broke his heart, I am then in time 
to inquire, what was the deadly venom which in- 
flicted the immedicable wound : — and what is it, 
but the color of Othello f 

"ISTow, Eoderigo, 
Where did'st thou see her ? — Oh, unhappy girl ! — 
With the Moor, say'st thou ? — Who would be a father ?" 

These are the disjointed lamentations of the 
wretched parent when the first disclosure of his 
daughter's shame is made known to him. This 


scene is one of tlie iuimitable pictures of liuman 

passion in the hands of Shakespeare, and that half 


" With the Moor, say'st thou ?" 

comes from the deepest recesses of the soul. 

Again, when Brahaiitio first meets Othello^ he 
breaks out : 

" 0, tliou foul thief, where hast thou stow'd my daughter? 
Damn'd as thou art, thou hast enchanted her : 
For I'll refer me to all things of sense, 
If she, in chains of magic were not bound, 
Whether a maid so tender, fair, and happy, 
So opposite to marriage that she shunn'd 
The wealthy curled darlings of our nation. 
Would ever have to incur our general mock. 
Run from her guardage to the sooty hosom 
Of such a thing as thou ; to fear, not to delight." 

Several of the English commentators have puz- 
zled themselves with the inquiry why the epithet 
" curled" is here applied to the wealthy darlings of 
the nation ; and Dr. Johnson thinks it has no refer- 
ence to the hair ; but it evidently has. The curled 
hair is in antithetic contrast to the sooty bosom, the 
thick lips, and the woolly head.^ The contrast of 

* " Wealthy cttrled darUngs."^ 

The negro's hair curled like wool naturally ; the Yenetians' locks of 
hair were curled artificially, and betrayed vanity and effeminacy in 
their desire to become the " darlings" of the ladies, whose curls adorn 
their countenance, and in many of the sex are not produced by nature^ 
but also by the art of the toilette. — J. H. H. 


color is the very hinge upon which Bralantio founds 
his charge of magic, counteracting the impulse of 

At the close of the same scene (the second of the 
first act), Brdbantio^ hearing that the duke is in 
council upon public business of the State, deter- 
mines to carry Othello before him for trial upon the 
charge of magic. " Mine," says he, 

" Mine's not a middle cause ; the duke himself 
Or any of my brothers of the State 
Cannot but feel the wrong, as 'twere their own : 
For if such actions may have passage free, 
Bond slaves and Pagans shall our statesmen be." 

And Steevens, in his note on this passage, says, " He 
alludes to the common condition of all blacks who 
come from their own country, both slaves and 
pagans I and uses the word in contempt of Othello 
and his complexion. If this Moor is now suffered 
to escape with impunity, it will be such an encou- 
ragement to his black countrymen, that we may 
expect to see all the first ofiices of our state filled 
up by the Pagans and bond-slaves of Africa." 
Othello himself in his narrative says that he had 
been taken by the insolent foe and sold to slavery. 
He had heen a slave. 

Once more — When Desdemona pleads to the 
Duke and the Council for permission to go with 
Othello to Cyprus, she says. 


" That I did love the Moor, to Uve with him, 
My downright violence and storm of fortune 
May trumpet to the world ; my heart's subdued, 
Even to the very quality of my lord; 
I saw Othello's visage in his mind ; 
And to his honours and his valiant parts 
Did I my soul and fortunes consecrate." 

In commenting upon this passage, Mr. Henley 
says, " That qicality here signifies the Moorish com- 
jylexioii of Othello, and not his military profession 
(as Malone had supposed), is obvious from what 
immediately follows : ' I saw Othello's visage in his 
mind ;' and also from what the Duke says to Bror 
hantio — 

" If virtue no dehghted beauty lack 
Your son-in-law is far more fair than black." 

The characters of Othello and lago in this play 
are evidently intended as contrasted pictures of 
human nature, each setting off the other. They ara , 
national portraits of man — the Italiak and the 
MooK. The Italian is vMte^ crafty^ and cruel '^ a 
consummate villain ; yet, as often happens in the 
realities of that description whom we occasionally 
meet in the intercourse of life, so vain of his own 
artifices that he betrays himself by boasting of them 
and their success. Accordingly, in the very first 
scene he reveals to Roderigo the treachery of his 
own character : 



" For when my outward action cloth demonstrate 
The native act and figure of my heart 
In comphment extern, 'tis not long after 
But I will wear my heart upon my sleeve 
For daws to peck at : I am not what I am." 

There is a seeming inconsistency in the fact that a 
clonble- dealer should disclose his own secret, which 
must necessarily put others upon their guard against 
him ; but the inconsistency is in human nature, and 
not in the poet. 

The double-dealing Italian is a very intelligent 
man, a keen and penetrating, observer, and full of 
ingenuity to devise and contrive base expedients. 
His language is coarse, rude, and obscene : his 
humor is caustic and bitter. Conscious of no honest 
principle in himself, he believes not in the existence 
of honesty in others. He is jealous and suspicious ; 
quick to note every trifle light as air, and to draw 
from it inferences of evil as confirmed circumstances. 
In his dealings with the Moor, while he is even 
harping upon his honesty, he oflfers to commit any 
murder from extreme attachment to his person and 
interests. In all that lago says of others, and espe- 
cially of Desde7)iona^ there is a mixture of truth 
and falsehood, blended together, in which the truth 
itself serves to accredit the lie ; and such is the ordi- 
nary character of malicious slanders. Doctor John- 
son speaks of " the soft simplicity," the " innocence," 
the " artlessness " of Desdemona. lago speaks of 
her as a supersiibtle Yenetiau ; and. when kindling 


tlie sparks of jealousy in tlie soul of Othello^ lie 

" She did deceive her father, marrying you : 
And when she seemed to shake and fear your looks, 
She loved them most." 

" And so she did," answers Othello. This charge, 
then, was true ; and Ia(jo replies : 

" Why, go to, then ; 
She that so young could give out such a seeming 
To seal her father's eyes up, close as oak. — 
He thought 'twas witchcraft." 

It was not witchcraft ; but surely as little was it 
simplicity, innocence, artlessness. The eflect of this 
suggestion upon Othello is terrible only because he 
knows it is true. Brcibantio^ on parting from him, 
had just given him the same warning, to which he 
had not then paid the slightest heed. But soon his 
suspicions are roused — he tries to repel them ; they 
are fermenting in his brain : he appears vehemently 
moved and yet unwilling to acknowledge it. lago^ 
with fiend-like sagacity, seizes upon the paroxysm 
of emotion, and then comes the following dia- 
loirue : — 


" lago. My lord, I see you are mov'd. 
OtheUo. No, not much mov'd : — 

I do not think but Desdemona's honest, 
lago. Long live she so ! and long live you to think so f 
OtheUo. And yet, how nature erring from itself, — 


lago. Ay, there's the point : — As, — to be bold with you, — 
Not to affect many proposed matches, 
Of her own chme, complexion, or degree ; 
Whereto, we see, in all things nature tends : 
Foh ! one may smell, in such, a w411 most rank 
Foul disproportion, thoughts unnatural" — 

The deadly venom of these imputations, worKmg 
up to frenzy the suspicions of the Moor, consist not 
in their falsehood but in their truth. 

I have said the character of Desdemona was defi- 
cient in delicacy. Besides the instances to which I 
referred in proof of this charge, observe what she 
says in pleading for the restoration of Cassio to his 
office, from which he had been cashiered by Othello 
for beastly drunkenness and a consequent night- 
brawl, in which he had stabbed Montano — the pre- 
decessor of Othello as Governor of Cyprus — and 
nearly killed him ; yet in urging Othello to restore 
Cassio to his office and to favor, Desdemona says — 

" — in faith, he's penitent ; 
And yet his trespass, in our common reason, 
(Save that, they say, the wars must make examples 
Out of their best,) is not almost a fault 
To incur a private check." 

]S"ow, to palliate the two crimes of Cassio — his 
drunken fit and his stabbing of Montano — the reader 
knows that he has been inveigled to the commission 
of them by the accursed artifices of lago / but Des- 
demona knows nothiug of this ; she has no excuse 


for Cassio — nothing to plead for him but his pbni- 
tence. And is this the character for a woman of 
delicate sentiment to give of such a complicated and 
heinous offence as that of which Cassio had been 
guilty, even when pleading for his pardon ? No ! it 
is not for female delicacy to extenuate the crimes of 
drunkenness and bloodshed, even when performing 
the appropriate office of raising the soul-subduing 
voice for mercy. 

Afterwards, in the same speech, she says — 

" What ! Michael Cassio, 
That came a-wooing with you; and many a time, 
When I have spoke of you dispraisingly, 
Hath ta'en your part; to have so much to do 
To bring him in !" 

I will not inquire how far this avowal that she had 
been in the frequent habit of speaking dispraisingly 
of Othello at the very time when she was so deej^ly 
enamored with his honors and his valiant parts, 
was consistent with sincerity. Young ladies must 
be allowed a little concealment and a little disguise, 
even for passions of which they have no need to be 
ashamed. It is the rosy pudency — the irresistible 
charm of the sex ; but the exercise of it in satirical 
censure upon the very object of their most ardent 
affections is certainly no indication of innocence, 
simplicity, or artlessness. 

I still retain, tlien, the opinion — 
\' First. That the passion of Desdcmona for Othello 


is Mnnatural^ solely and exclusively because of liis 

'M Second. That lier elopement to him, and secret 
marriage with him, indicate a personal character not 
only very deficient in delicacy, but totally regard- 
less of filial duty, of female modesty, and of ingenu- 
ous shame. 

XiThird. That her deficiency in delicacy is discerni- 
ble in her conduct and discourse throughout the 

I perceive and acknowledge, indeed, the admira- 
ble address with wdiich the part has been contrived 
to inspire and to warm the breast of the spectator 
with a deep interest in her fate ; and I am well 
aware that my ow^n comparative insensibility to it is 
not in unison with the general impression which it 
produces upon the stage. I shrink from the thought 
of slandering even a creature of the imagination. 
When the spectator or reader follows, on the stage 
or in the closet, the infernal thread of duplicity and 
of execrable devices with which lacjo entangles his 
victims, it is the purpose of the dramatist to merge 
all the faults and vices of the sufi'erers in the over- 
whelming flood of their calamities, and in the 
nnmingled detestation of the inhuman devil, their 
betrayer and destroyer. And in all this, 1 see not 
only the skill of the artist, but the power of the 
moral operator, the purifier of the spectator's heart 
by the agency of terror and pity. 

The characters of Othello and Desdemona^ like all 


tlie characters of men and women in real life, are of 
" miDgled yarn," with qualities of good and bad — 
of virtues and vices in proportion diii'erentlj com- 
posed. Icujo^ with a high order of intellect, is, in 
moral principle, the very si^irit of evil. I have said 
the moral of the tragedy is, that the intermarriage 
of black and white blood is a violation of the law^ of 
nature. That is the lesson to be learned from the 
play. To exhibit all the natural consequences of 
their act, the poet is compelled to make the marriage 
secret. It must commence by an elopement, and 
by an outrage upon the decorum of social inter- 
course. He must therefore assume, for the perform- 
ance of this act, persons of moral character suffi- 
ciently frail and imperfect to be capable of perform- 
ing it, but in other respects endowed with pleasing 
and estimable qualities. Thus, the Moor is repre- 
sented as of a free, and open, and generous nature ; 
as a Christian ; as a distinguished military com- 
mander in the service of the republic of Venice ; — 
as having rendered important service to the State, 
and as being in the enjoyment of a splendid reputa- 
tion as a warrior. The other party to the marriage 
is a maiden, fair, gentle, and accomplished; born 
and educated in the proudest rank of Yenetian 

Othello^ setting aside his color, has every quality 
to fascinate and charm the female heart. Desde- 
QiKnia^ apart from the grossness of her fault 
in being accessible to such a passion for such an 


object, is amiable and lovelj ; among the most 
attractive of lier sex and condition. Tlie faults of 
their characters are never brought into action 
excepting as they illustrate the moral principle of 
the whole story. Othello is not jealous by nature. 
On the contrary, with a strong natural understand- 
ing, and all the vigilance essential to an experienced 
commander, he is of a disposition so unsuspicious 
and confiding, that he believes in the exceeding 
honesty of lago long after he has ample cause to 
suspect and distrust him. Desdertwna^ sujyersid^tle 
as she is in the management of her amour with 
Othello ^ deeply as she dissembles to deceive her 
father ; and forward as she is in inviting the court- 
ship of the Moor ; discovers neither artifice nor 
duplicity from the moment that she is Othello's wife. 
Her innocence, in all her relations with him, is pure 
and spotless ; her kindness for Cassio is mere un- 
tainted benevolence ; and, though unguarded in her 
personal deportment towards him, it is far from the 
slightest soil of culpable impropriety. Guiltless of 
all conscious reproach in this part of her conduct, 
she never uses any of the artifices to which she had 
resorted to accomplish her marriage with Othello. 
Always feeling that she has given him no cause of 
suspicion, her endurance of his cruel treatment and 
brutal abuse of her through all its stages of violence, 
till he murders her in bed, is always marked with 
the most affecting sweetness of temper, the most 
perfect artlessness, and the most endeai'ing resigna- 


tion. The defects of her cliaracter have here no 
room for development, and the poet carefully keeps 
them out of sight. Hence it is that the general 
reader and spectator, with Dr. Johnson, give lier 
imqualified credit for soft simplicity, artlessness, and 
innocence — forgetful of the qualities of a different 
and opposite character, stamped upon the transac- 
tions by which she effected her marriage with the 
Moor. The marriage, however, is the source of all 
her calamities ; it is the primitive cause of all the 
tragic incidents of the play, and of its terrible cata- 
strophe. That the moral lesson to be learned from it 
is of no practical utility in England, where there are 
no valiant Moors to steal the affections of fair and 
high-born dames, may be true ; the lesson, however, 
is not the less, couched under the form of an admi- 
rable drama ; nor needs it any laborious effort of the 
imagination to extend the moral precept resulting 
from the story to a salutary admonition against all 
ill-assorted, clandestine, and unnatural mari*iages. 

J. Q. A. 

From Mr. Washington Irving. 

New York, April 17, 1848. 

My Dear Sir : — I have detained your manuscript 
notes an unconscionable time, but I could not help 
it. I wished to read them attentively, for they are 
remarkably suggestive, and not to be read in a 



huiTj ; "but for the last two or tliree months spent 
among my friends and relatives in my native city 
after an absence of several years, I have been kept 
in such a round of engagements, and such constant 
excitement, that I have only now and then been 
able to command a little leisure and quiet for read- 
ing and reflection. At such moments I have perused 
your manuscripts by piecemeal, and now return you 
my many thanks for the great pleasure they have 
afforded me. I will not pretend to enter at j^resent 
into any discussion of the topics they embrace, for I 
have not sufficient faith in my critical acumen to 
commit my thoughts to paper, but when I have the 
pleasure of meeting with you personally, we will 
talk over these matters as largely as you please. I 
have seen all the leading characters of Shakespeare 
played by the best actors in America and England 
during the present century ; some of them too, 
admirably performed in Germany : I have heard 
some of them chanted in the Italian Opera, and I 
have seen the Ballet of Hamlet gravely danced at 
Yienna. Yet with all this experience, I feel that I 
am an amateur rather than a connoisseur ; prone to 
receive great pleasure without nicely analysing the 
source, and sometimes apt to clap my hands when 
grave critics shake their heads. 

Excuse this scrawl, written in a hurried moment, 
and believe me, wdth great respect and regard. 
Your obliged friend and servant, 

Washington Irving. 

James H. Hackett, Esq. 


Mr. to the Earl of CtLrlisle. 

43 St, jAiiEs's Place, Loxdox, i 
December 26, 1851. ( 

My Loed : — In compliance with your compliinen- 
taiy request, and in tlie hope of furnishing a little 
discursive and desultory entertainment, I submit 
herewith to your lordship's convenient perusal 
copies of my correspondence respecting Hcmilet and 
other Shakespearean subjects, together with com- 
ments thereupon by certain literati. 

The " manuscript volume " of mine referred to in 
the letter of Mr. Washington Irving, and also in 
the later of the two letters of the late Hon. John 
Quincy Adams, I would hesitate — had I it with me 
— to obtrude upon your time and notice ; as — though 
copiously mingled with explanations of points 
mootable by a professed Shakespearean student and 
critic — much of the matter involved having special 
reference to the different stvles of renderino: the 
text by certain actors whom I have seen (and noted) 
witliin the last thirty years represent Hamlet and 
King Lear^ it might prove too didactic to be inte- 
resting to the general and unprofessional reader. 

The latest intelligence from Washington respect- 
ing our venerated friend, Mr. Clay^ announces a fear- 
fully rapid and visible decline of health in that per- 
sonally beloved and nationally respected statesman. 

Your lordship's obliged and obedient servant, 


Jas. H. Hackett. 

R. H. the Earl of Carlisle. 


Lord Carlisle's Reply, 

Grosvenor Place, February 9, 1852. 

My deae Mr. Hackett : — I am afraid I have kept 
your volume longer than I ought to have done, as I 
had not leisure for some time to render justice to 
its contents, but I have now perused them with 
great pleasure and interest. 

The meanings and characters of Shakespeare 
supply matter for reflexion that can never be ex- 
hausted. I must be allowed to think that upon the 
points in controversy between you and Mr. Adams 
on the character of Hamlet I am disposed to side 
entirely with you. I know the great respect and 
deference which are due to a person so really emi- 
nent as Mr. Adams. I think him probably quite in 
the right about Juliet^ but you must excuse me for 
observing, with respect to his views upon Othello^ 
that I feel assured there is not a single man in 
Europe who would coincide in his views of what 
the chief moral is, that is to be deduced from that 
surpassing tragedy. I see none of your criticisms 
are addressed to the play of Macbeth^ in my mind 
the very highest in order of all the^ few which seem 
to me indisjDutably higher than all the rest — Macbeth^ 
Hamlet^ Othello^ Lear. When I say this, however, 
I never could quarrel with a person who puts Hain- 
let even above Macbeth. 


Again tlianking you for the perusal of this very 
interesting vohime, 

Believe me, dear sir, 

Your very faithful servant, 


' 44 St. James Place, July 1, 1845. 

To John Payne Collier^ JEsq.^ 

My Dear Slr — As you expressed a desire not 
only to read my ]S^ote-Book, but to see a specimen 
of our American edition of Shakespeare, I send 
you herewith " Ko. 4," an odd part, but the only 
one which I happened to have with me in your 
country. It contains some scenes of Hamlet ^\\i\\ 
original and selected notes by our American editor, 
Mr. Yerplanck, to wdiich have been added by my- 
self some very cursory and detached marginal scrib- 
blings of my own ideas, as I glanced over the w^ork. 

* Mr. Collier had been often met by me at the Garrick Club, of 
which he was an original, and I whenever visiting England elected an 
honorary member. He was distinguished at that time as an anti- 
quarian of great research, and has since published an edition of Shake- 
speare, and subsequently a volume of " Notes and Emendations to the 
Text of Shakespeare's Plays."' — J. II. H.^ 1854. 



" In the dead ivast and middle of the night" — Folio 1623. 
" " waist '" " — Malone's edit. 

" * waste " " — VerplancJc's" 

I think, " The dead waist of the night," is simj)ly 
what we term " the dead of night," viz. midnight ; 
tliat part of the night which the poet refers to in 
another place — 

" Thus twice before and jump at this dead hour," 

because, then — 

" O'er the one half world 
Nature seems dead," 

the w^ord " dead," prefixed to the w^ord '* waist " in 
the above quotation, therefore, means, the exact 
waist and middle of the night ; the use of the word 
" waist " is figurative ; I^ight, in various places, by 
poetic license, being invested with human shape, for 
examples — 

" Beshrew the witch ! with venomous wights she stays." 

[^Troil. a7id Cressida. 
" Blackbrow'd Night." — Mids. NigMs Dream. 
" Night, whose black contagious breath." — King John. 

"' whose pitchy mantle over- veiled the earth." 

[1 K. Henry VI. 

Respecting tlie ancient orthography of the word 
which we now write " waist,^'' Shakespeare, in the 


Folio 1G23, spells it " wast " and '' 'waste^^ promiscu- 
ously ; but his context admits of no question as to 
his meaning ; for examples — 

*'His neck will come to your wast; a cord, Sir." 

[J/eas. f6r Meas. 
" Then you live about her waste or in the middle of her 
favours." — Ham. 

In another play he puns upon wast and waste^ thus — 

" Indeed, I am in the luaste two yards about, but now I am 
about no waste, I am about thrift." — Merry Wives of Windsor. 

That Shakespeare confounded, in his spelling, 
" vast^'' with what he means where he writes " wast " 
or " waste^'' I cannot admit ; wherever I have found 
them in the Folio^ these words are used in distinct 
senses, and never seem intended as synonymous. It 
is true, as Mr. Yerplanck remarks, that " "oast " is 
" taken in its primitive Latin sense, for desolate, 
void," which might pass for a synonyme of the 
modern word, " waste^'' but certainly not for waist '^ 

for examples — 

" urchins 

Shall, for that vast of night that they may work, 
All exercise on thee." — Tempest, Act 1, Sc. 1. 

which sentence, I take it, means that these tormen- 
tors (the urchins) shall, for that open or vacant S2yace 
during the night time wherein they are, by witch- 
craft, privileged to be mischievous, practise alto- 
gether upon Caliban. 


Ao:ain — 


" Though absent, shook hands as over a vast, and embraced, 
&c."— Wintei^'s Tale, Act I, Sc. 1. 

Again — 

" I can call spirits from the vasty deep." — Henry IV. 

the adjective " vasty " partaking of the same quality 
as Vastwm^ its Latin radix — " In gurgite Vasto " — 

It seems to me, therefore, that vast, and luast or 
waste, could not reasonably have been written by 
Shakespeare to express one and the same idea; 
besides, to call any part of the night time, between 
the hours of twelve and one, a " dead waste," or 
iiseless superfluity, or barren desert, as Mr. Yer- 
planck seems to understand it, is a far-fetched figure 
Ynjpoetry whilst it is an absurdity vn fact 'j because, 
in the economy of Nature, the darkest hour of the 
niglit is no more a Ijarren loaste than the lightest one 
of the day I inasmuch as Time proceeds at the same 
pace in each alternation, and, whether night or day, 
one is the sequence of the other, and both together 
consummate the natural day. 

" I boarded the king's ship : now on tlie beak, 
Now in the waste, the deck, in every cabin." — Tempest. 

Yet notwithstanding this and the numerous other 
instances of the signification obviously attached to 


Shakespeare, when he spelled the word " wade^'' 
Mr. Yerplanck says — 

" To suppose that the poet meant waistj for middle, as seve- 
ral editors have maintained, and many printed the text, seems 
ludicrously absurd." — See Yerplanck' s Hamlet. 

whereas, I must contend for its strict propriety in 
this particular line, whetlier considered in its simple 
and ordinary, or its lateral and figurative sense ; if 
it be argued against waist^ that the addition (" and 
Qniddle''^) makes palpable tautology, let it be ob- 
served that these pleonasms, or doitble expressions 
of a single idea, are not uncommon to Shakespeare's 
style, and more deeply impress and powerfully 
enforce a sentiment ; for examples — 

" Or given my heart a working, mute and diimhy — Hamlet. 
" Many a time and oft." — Mercliant of Venice. 
" Time and the hour run through the roughest day." — Macb. 
" Then you live about the vmist or in the middle of her fa- 
vours." — Hamlet. 

The same gain of strength in expression, may be 
imputed, however ungrammatical to modern taste, to 
Shakespeare's double comparatives, as — 

*' Your wisdom would shew itself more riclierU'' — Hamlet, 
" 0, throw away the worser part of it." — Hamlet. 
" The unkindest beast more Jcinder than mankind." 

[Ti7non of Athens. 

" Polonius. Do you know me, my lord ? 
Hamlet. Excellent well ! you are a fishmonger." 


'■'You are sent to fisli out this secret. That is Hamlet's 
meaning." — Coleridge. 

With due reference to Coleridge, and to Mr. Yer- 
planck's taste in adopting his idea, I beg leave to 
diifer ; because, if such hadhQQn Hartilefs meaning, 
Sliakespeare would have selected the word, fisher^ 
or fisherinan j the former he nses in his Comedy of 
Errors^ and in Romeo and Juliet / and the latter in 
King Lear / a fisTitnonger is a dealer in fish ; one 
who buys to sell again, and Hamlet calls Polonius 
" a fishmonger," not because he thinks he is " sent 
to fish out this secret," but because of his habitual 
importunity to procure a stock of news and then to 
hasten to the king, his ready customer, and deal it 
out to him before the commodity, fish-like^ can 
become stale on his hands ; the same pregnancy of 
reply is discernible afterwards when Samlet com- 
pares Kozencrantz to a sponge^ 

" that soaks up the king's countenance, 
His rewards, his authorities." 

'' I know a hawk from a handsaw." 

See my comment on this passage, in l^otice of 
Macreadi/s Hamlet. 

" The croaking raven doth bellow for revenge." 

Mr. Yerplanck says — 

" It resembles the poet's own strong figure elsewhere.''' 


Of course, the figure referred to elsewhere, can be 
no other than — 

" the raven himself is hoarse 

That croaks the fatal entrance of Duncan 
Under my battlements." 

Tliere may be some analogy in the sentiment, but 
not the least in the occasion / the figure in Macbeth 
has special reference to the inessenger — 

" Who, almost dead for breath, had scarcely more 
Than would make up his message," 

and who is therefore compared by Ladj Macbeth to 
a raven^ because he could only croalc out his news. 

" jSTow could I drink hot blood, 
And do such hitter business as the day 
Would quake to look on." 

I fully concur with Mr. Yerplanck in his prefer- 
ence to this reading, which is that of the Folio^ 
because, the meaning of " bitter " is obvious, when 
applied to " business," which it qualifies in concord- 
ance with — 

" the bloody book of law 

You shall yourself read in the hitter letter." — Othelh. 


" My spirit and my place have in them power 
To make this hitter to thee." — Ihiclem. 


Reply from J. Payne CoUier, F.S.A. 

Victoria Road, Kensington, 10 Jul}', 1845. 
My Dear Sir — I return your E'otes with my best 
thanks. Of course you do not expect any man to 
go all lengths with you, but I have been much grati- 
fied by the novelty^ ingenuity, and acuteness, of 
some of your views, even when I did not agree in 

I return you also the number of the American 
Shakespeare with your MS. notes thereupon. I 
perceive that you do not always accord with Mr. 
Yerj)lanck, and I am of your mind in several 

I remain, my dear sir. 

Yours very sincerely and much obliged, 

J. Patne Collier. 

James H. Hackett, Esq. 


Some of my fellow-members of the Union Club, 
having had a very nice discussion, and been unable 
to agree, sought the favor of my written opinion on 
the subject. 

The point to be settled was : which of two words 
— difiering widely in their sense, though slightly in 
their orthography — was intended by Shakespeare, in 


that line oiMacbetJu ^vliich, in t\\Q first edition of his 
plays, is printed, 

" Sleep — that knits up the ravell'd sleeve of care," 

but by modern editors has had the word " sleav6 " 
substituted for that of " sleeve " in the original. 
I replied to the foregoing inquiry, thus : 

" When tilings appear unnatural and hard, 
Consult your author with himself compar'd." 


In order to satisfy one's self of Shakespeare's 
meaning in the line, 

" Sleep — that knits up the raveU'd sleeve of care," 

it is expedient to examine minutely every context, 
in his range of plays, wherein either of the following 
words are used by him — viz. sleeve^ sleejp^ hiit up, 
ravel, and care; because, connected with one or 
other of these w^ords, some concordance may be 
detected which would render clear the poet's inten- 

Ifrs. Gowden Clarhe^s comjplete Yerbal Index to 
Shakespeare, furnishes a very ready medium for 
reference to every context of each of the above 
words. She gives the word " sleave " but once as a 
noun, throughout Shakespeare's works, and that in 
the passage quoted above — being so spelled in 
Knight's (modern) " Pictorial Edition," to which her 


compilation expressly refers ; slie finds however the 
word " sleeve" in some twenty-live other places and 
where its s^pecial reference to " a covering for the 
human arm " is palpable and indisputable. ITow, 
though many of the modern editions have printed in 
this text, " sleave," the Fii'st Folio^ commonly 
called " The Players' edition," has no such orthogra- 
23hy of the word as " sleave " — being in this passage, 
as in all others,, " sleeve ;" however, that, ^er se^ is 
not conclusive evidence that a distinct meaning may 
not have been designed ; forasmuch as, in that 
same old edition, published in 1623, wast^ waste, and 
waist, are printed indiscriminately for the human 
waist ; but, as it is unusual for any author to use the 
same word to express two such very distinct and 
dissimilar things as " a knitted covering for the arm," 
and a " skein of unwrought silk," and, as Shake- 
speare in no othej' place out of twenty-five examples, 
uses " sleeve " or " sleave," where it can possibly 
be intended to mean skein, it seems singular that if 
he so intended he should not have written " skein" 
instead ; being a word used by him elsewhere in his 
writings. The metre of the line too would have 
stood the same, and the sense of the reader, and es- 
pecially the andience — for which he specially wrote 
— would not then have been so naturally confounded. 
The only approximation throughout Shakespeare to 
any form of the word " sleave," (" a skein or knot of 
silk,") may be seen in a line of "Troilus and 
Cressida," which (in the folio of 1623) reads thus, 


-thou immaterial shein of sleyed silk j 

and again in " Pericles," 

"weaved the sleided silk." 

These references to nnwroiiglit silk, are so clear and 
distinct, that it seems very incongrnous that the 
nonn " sleave " should have been made a solitary 
nse of, in the whole course of his works, to indicate 
" skein or knot of silk," though it is proved satisfac- 
torily by lexicography that such a word as " sleave," 
and in such sense, was used by other writers of 
Shakespeare's time — see TodcFs Jolinsori^s Diction- 
ary^ 3 "cols. 4:to.^ London^ 1827, for definition of, and 
authorities for " sleeve " and " sleave ;" also, the 
" litotes " of various commentators upon this passage, 
in Malone's edition of Shakespeare, 21 vols. 8vo., 
London, 1821." 

* Extracts from Commentators' notes upon Macbeth. Malone's edi- 
tion, 21 vols. 8vo.. London, 1821. 

" the ravell'd sleave of care." 

Sleave signifies the " ravelled knotty part of the silk, which gives 
great trouble and embarrassment to the knitter or weaver." — Heath. 

Dayton, a Poet of Shakespeare's age, has likewise alluded to 
"sleaved" or "ravelled" silk, in his Quest of Cynthia: 

" At length I on a fountain light, 
Whose brim with pinks was platted. 
The banks with daffodillies dight 
With grass, like sleave was matted/' — Langton. 

Sleave is properly silk which has not been twisted. It is mentioned 


After a patient search tlirouglioiit Shakespeare 
for, and a deliberate consideration of, every word 
elsewhere, which relates to either in the line — 

" Sleep that knits up the ravell'd sleeve of care," 

I am inclined to the opinion that the metaphor it 
contains specially refers to some ancient, and now 
perhaps by-gone use, or possibly manufacture, of 
the covering for the human arm, called a " sleeve," 
of which history may not have conserved to us any 
precise description : consequently, the figure may 
seem somewhat obscure when first presented to the 
mind ; and hence, the proposed emendation of 
" sleeve " into " sleave," but too readily commends 

in Hollinshed's History of England, p. 835 : " Eight wild men all ap- 
parelled in green moss made with skved silk." 
Again, in Muse's Elizine by Drayton, 

" thrumVd ■with grass 

As soft as sleave or sarcenet ever was." 

Again Ibid. 

"That in the handling feels as soft as any sleave." — Steevens. 

Sleave appears to have signified coarse, soft, unwrought sUk, Seta 
grassolana, Ital. See also Elorio's Italian Dictionary, 1598 : " Sjilazza, 
any kind of ravelled stufie, or skave silk." " Capitone, a kind of coarse 
silk, called sleave silV^ Cotgrave, in his Dictionary, 1612, renders 
soyeflosche '^sleave siUc.^^ See also. Ibid: " Cadarce, pour faire capi- 
ton. The tow or coarsest part of silke, whereof sleave is made." In 
Troilus and Cressida we have — 

"Thou idle immaterial skein oi sleave^ silk."— Malone. 
1 Sle'v'd silk. Folio. 


itself to our adoption, and involves the idea that — 
Sleep knits up the skein of care^ the fibres of which 
had heen ravelled in the weaving / a solution very 
plausible, if not satisfactory. 

It seems, however, from various references to the 
fact in Shakespeare, that it was customary, when 
any object was near any one's heart, to " pin it 
upon his sleeve," where it would be sure to be con- 
stantly under his eye ; as — 

" The gallant pins the wenches on his sleeved 

Love's Labour's Lost. 

Also, to hang out or expose his secret motives, lago 

'• I'll wear my heart upon my sleeve." — Othello. 

Further, among Shakespeare's poetic figures of care 

are these — 

" Golden care 
That kcep'st the ports of slumber open wide." 

Henry the Fourth, Part Secotid. 

" Care keeps his watch in every old man's eye, 
And where ca7'e lodge&j. sleep will never lie." 

Romeo and Juliet. 

In connection, too, with the though tfuln ess of care, 
the following quotation is not irrelevant : 

" Then your hose should be ungarter'd, your bonnet un- 
handed, your sleeve unhuttoned, your shoe untied, and every- 
thing about you demonstrating a careless desolation." 

As You Like It Act 3. 


E'ow, if Care's " sleeve " was a " skein of silk," 
he was unworthy of his name to let it become 
" ravell'd " at all. In conclusion, I would submit 
whether the following is a far-fetched or an incon- 
gruous comprehension of the line in question : 

" Gare^'' who is called " husy^^^ and whose sleeve 
from habitual use has 'been '^ ravelV d,^'' finds it 
restored hy sleejp : the ravelled meshes of his " sleeve^"^ 
having heen " hnit uj> " whilst husy Care's senses 
were steeped in forgetfulness^ and afforded the requi- 
site ojpportunity. J. H. H. 

Ravelled means entangled. So, in the Two Gen- 
tlemen of Verona^ Thurio says to Proteus., speaking 
of Sylvia, 

" Therefore as you unwived her love from him, 
Lest it should ravel^ and be good to none, 
You must provide to bottom it on me." — M, Mason. 

Among other significations confirmed by quota- 
tions from standard authors in Todd's edition of 
Johnson's Dictionary, 3 vols. 4:to. London, 1827, 
are found the following, under the word 

" Sleeve, — In some provinces signifies a knot, or 
skein of silk, which is by some very probably sup- 
posed to be its meaning in the following passage, 

" Sleep that knits up the ravell'd sleeve of care." — Macbeth. 


Under the caption of Sleaye, Dr. Johnson says : 
" Of this word I know not well the meaning 
sleave-silh is explained by GoxMui^in Jiocmcs serious 
— a lock of silk ; and the women still say, ' sleave 
the silk ' for untwist it. Ainsworth calls a weaver's 
shuttle or reed, a slaie^ or sley. To sley is to part a 
twist into single fibres." 

Yarious other authorities are also quoted. See 
TodcVs Johnson, 

A ruGrriYE Is^ote. 

"Nor the gait of Christian, Pagan, or Norman^ 

Folio, 1623. Hamlet. 

Modern editors have altered " or Gorman " to 
" nor man," by striking out the conjunction and 
dividing the word. 

Irajprimis. — As Christians and Pagans^ too, were 
men, the change is pointless and nonsensical : — and 
I would submit whether Shakespeare did not write 
u ^y, Norman f " When one takes the pains to 
search, and discover, and reflect upon the follovtdng 
reference to " a JS'orman .*" — 

" King. Two months since, 

Here was a gentleman from Normandy, — 
I have seen myself, and serv'd against the French, 
And they ran ^e\\ on horseback : but this gallant 
Had witchcraft in't ;* he grew into his seat ; 

* Mr. Sieevens says : — "This is from Sidney's Arcadia, book 2. As 
if) Ceutaur-Hke, the rider had been one piece with his horse." 


And to such wondrous doing brought his Jiorse, 

As he had been incorps'd and demi-natured 

With the brave beast :* so far he passed my thought, 

That I, in forgery of shapes and tricks, 

Come short of what he did. 

Laertes. A Norman, was't? 

King. A Norman." Samlet, Ad 4, Sc. 7. 

I furnislied the Editor of the JS^ew York Evening 
Post certain matter respecting Harvey and Shalce- 
sjpeare^s Jcnoidedge of the circulation of the hlood^ 
and what follows appeared in the columns of that 
public journal, Wednesday, Oct. 19, 1861. 



Two papers on the " Medical Knowledge of Shake- 
speare," from the pen of Mr. James H. Hackett, the 
actor, have been handed us for publication. In the 
first of these papers, which is given below, Mr. 

* Witchcraft inH: that is, in his movement on ^^ horseback.''^ Is it 
not reasonable that Shakespeare, in characterizing an unnatural gait, 
could find neither among Christianized nor pagan man, nor even in 
the half-horse Norman, such a gait as certain players had when "they 
strutted and bellowed," and that it caused him to conclude that, 
" Nature's journeymen had made such men ; " because they imitated 
humanity so abominably? — See Amer. edit. (Redfield, N. T.), 1853, 
p. 452. 


Ilackett takes issue witli the biographers of Dr. 
Harvey, who claim for him the honor of the dis- 
covery of the circuLation of the blood, and makes 
numerous citations from Shakespeare's plays in 
order to prove that the bard knew the secret before 
the physician. Mr. Ilackett's speculations are cer- 
tainly curious. Our readers will judge for them- 
selves whether he has established his case. 

shakespeaee's knowledge of the circulation of 

the blood. 

Bellevue Mound, Carlisle, Illinois, Sept., 1859. 
- During the last summer I noticed in the London 
newspapers a paragraph referring to " a recent 
exhumation of the corporal remains of "William 
Harvey, the hnmortal discoverer of the circulation 
of the hloodr My recollections of Shakespeare's 
writings suggested doubts whether Harvey could be 
truly and exclusively entitled to the distinction, for 
the reason that I had been early in life deeply im- 
pressed with the idea that at least a knowledge of 
the circulation of the blood had been conceded to 
Shakespeare by his readers, and that most if not all 
his plays had been written either prior to Harvey's 
birth, or to the period when he might have grown 
into contemporary manhood, or become profession- 
ally — like Shakespeare — known to fame. 

By reference to chronology I ascertain that Shake- 
speare was born (1564) fourteen years prior to Har- 


vey ; and tliat when he began to write his plays 
(1589) Harvey, who was born in 1578, could have 
been only about eleven years of age, and that the 
majority of them were completed during Harvey's 
adolescence, and the residue wdiile he was still a 
young man. Shakespeare died in 1616, and had 
retired some years from dramatic composition and 
all connection with a theatre, and had resided at 
'New Place, Stratford-upon-Avon. His plays, how- 
ever, or most of them, had been printed and pub- 
lished, singly and severally, soon after they were 
respectively written and performed upon the stage, 
and may have been seen by Harvey, and have sug- 
gested a motive for his professional study and de- 
monstration of such theory. 

Four years after Shakespeare's death, viz. in 1620, 
Harvey (then about forty-two years of age), " from 
his chair as Professor of Anatomy and Surgery in 
London, announced to the College his conviction of 
the fact of the circulation of the blood ; and, as is 
also recorded, then began to investigate the subject 
minutely" — and (as I have been informed), " dis- 
covered and commenced his work to demonstrate 
the valves which prevented the return of the blood 
to the heart through the same channel whence it 
had issued and been propelled into the arteries." 
Harvey finished and published his book in 1628. 
Hence, it is obvious that if Shakespeare had any 
idea of the circulation of the blood he could not 
reasonably have obtained it from Harvey. 


Without intending to detract in the slightest de- 
gree from the merit and scientific value of any of 
Harvey's investigations and elucidation of a subject 
so important to the practice of surgery and medi- 
cine, I must contend for the internal evidence fur- 
nished in Shakespeare's writings of his having, prior 
to Harvey's imputed discovery and laborious in- 
vestigations, a clear conception of the propulsory 
action of the heart in forcing its 

'■'■ courses tlirough 

The natural gates and alleys of the body." 

It should be premised and ever remembered, in 
one's search into Shakespeare's writings for any 
intrinsic evidence of his theory upon any scientific 
subject, that it was not his^;rc/'^55^(?7l to teach that 
of anatomy or surgeiy, but to dramatize humanity ; 
and that only in so far as the moral action of man's 
heart, or its influence upon his passions, became 
necessary to his purpose of blending, truly and con- 
sistently with nature, his philosophic ideas with 
dramatic poetry, did he refer to that conservative 
fountain of life. 

Among the great variety of references to the 
hloocl — named within more than five hundred of 
Shakespeare's sentences — I have selected the follow- 
ing, as indicating to me most clearly his under- 
standing of the tact that the blood circulated. His 
choice, too, of the word " gate " (" gates and alleys 
of the body ") would seem to involve his idea of the 


valves and their use in stopping the blood; else, 
why use such word? — a gate being a mechanical 
contrivance for opening or closing to any thing 
inclined to pass, according to occasion. 

" The leperous distilment, whose effect 
Holds such an enmity with blood of man 
That, swift as quicksilver, it courses through 
The natural gates and alleys of the hody.^' 

[Hamlet, Act 1. 

" This does make some obstruction in the blood — this cross- 
gartering." — Twelfth Night, Act 3, Scene 4. 

" As dear to me as are the ruddy drops 

That visit my sad heart." — Julius Ccesar, Act 2. 

" Lord Angelo scarce confesses 
That his blood floivs — a man whose blood 
Is very snow-broth ; one who never feels 
The wanton stings and motions of the sense." 

[Afeasure for Measure, Act 1. 

" The resolute acting of your bloods 
" Why docs my blood thus miunter to my heart?" 

[Ibid, Act 2. 

" Ruv^ not this speech like iron through your blood ?" 

[Mti/ih Ado About Nothing, Act 5. 

"All the conduits of m3r blood froze up." 

[Comedy of Errors, (1592.) 

" make thick my blood, 

Stop up the access and passage to remorse." — Macbeth. 

" The spring, the head, the fountain of your blood 
Is stopp'd — the very source of it is stopp'd." — Ibid, 


if that surly spirit, melancholy, 

Had baked my hhocl and made it heavy, thick, 
(Which else runs tickling up and down the veins') 

[King John^ Act 2. 

" The tide of blood in me 
Hath proudly flowed in vanity, till now — 
Now doth it turn and ebb back to the sea." 

\2d Part Henrij IV., Act 5. 

" Where 1 have garner'd up my heart; 
The fountain from the which my current runs, 
Or else dries up." — Othello, Act 4. 

" A good sherris-sack hath a two-fold operation in it," &c. 
'•' The second property of your excellent sherry is — the warm- 
ing of the blood, which before cold and settled, left the liver 
white and pale," &c. ; " but the sherris warms it, and makes it 
course from the inwards to the parts extreme," &c., &c. : " and 
then the vital commoners and inland petty spirits muster me all 
to their captain, the heart," &c. — 2cZ Part Henry IV., Act 4, 
Scene 4, 

Further quotations seem to me needless to con- 
vince him who reflects that Shakespeare must at 
least have theoreticall}^ conceived, if lie had not heen 
informed or learned, that the blood circulated ; but 
let him who doubts inspect his entire works, wherein 
may be found in various connections, the word heart, 
mentioned more than a thousand times ; and in many 
passages combining concordant confirmation of such 
a conclusion, Whether the word circulation (which 
is compounded of the Latin preposition circum and 
[Fero, Ferre, Tuli] latnm, and signifies carried 



around^ was not in Shakespeare's time yet adopted in 
the vernacular, or not considered suitable for his 
rhythm or to express his prose sentiments, I am not 
philologist enough to decide ; but as I can find neither 
of the words circulate^ circulated^ or circulation any- 
where in his language, I infer that they had not then 
been included in his already copious vocabulary ; else 
he would probably have chosen, if deemed more ex- 
pressive, circulation (for " the course^^^ and circulates 
(instead of " courses''^) in some one or other of the 
numerous references to the movements of the blood. 
His text, however, seems to me quite sufficient for 
conveying the idea of the circulation, 

James H. Hackett. 

P.S. — An intelligent friend in l^ew York, to 
whom I applied for chronological records of Harvey 
(not among my limited biblical collection here) has 
furnished some which tend to confirm my opinion 
that William Harvey could not have imparted to 
Shakespeare what the latter knew concerning the 
action or movements of the venous and arterial 
blood, and referred to in his plays. 

" William Harvey did not return from Italy 
(where he studied) to England until 1602." (He 
was then aged twenty -four, and Shakespeare had 
already written twenty of his thirty-four dramas.) 
Kor " was he appointed Professor in the Royal Col- 
lege of Physicians until 1615,'' (several years after 
the retirement of Shakespeare, and only one prior 


to the poet's death.) Also, " about or between the 
years 1616 and 1619 Harvey first publicly announced 
his discovery, which met with universal ridicule — 
nor did he print his work until 1628," (twelve years 
after Shakespeare's death.) It was entitled " Exer- 
citatio Anatoviia cle tnotu cordis et sanguinis circu- 

Hence, as Harvey could not have taught him, 
may not Shakespeare have received his impressions 
intuitively, perhaps when reading Hunter's theory 
respecting the blood, which, I think, without refer- 
ence to chronology, had appeared prior to Shake- 
speare's commencement as a dramatist ? My intel- 
ligent New York friend writes : " From the few 
passages in Shakespeare's plays which I can now 
recall, and which bear upon this subject [the circu- 
lation of the blood,] I incline to think that if they 
had been written by Shakespeare as prose observa- 
tions, and not as poetic illustrations, we should 
resolve that he had, without anatomical knowledge, 
reached a conclusion which Harvey afterwards so 
carefully and triumphantly demonstrated." 

The fact that Hume and Hallam, the historians, 
as well as all modern medical writers, with very 
few exceptions, yield Harvey the credit of the dis- 
cove'i'y claimed for him, weighs little in the scale of 
my opinions. Historiographers referring to events 
which have transpired long before their own time, 
are not apt to question or to hesitate to record the 
then undisputed iiuthorities of a former age, and 


more especially upon subjects not within their own 
province to investigate and compare ; and with 
regard to modern medical writers, they would 
hardly consider their time profitably occupied in 
sifting and analyzing the poetry of a dramatist of 
the Elizabethan age, to find what elements of the 
healing art may have been amalgamated even by 
the genius of a Shakespeare. 

J. H. H. 

A Reply to Mr. Hackett. 

October 30, 1861. 

To the Editors of The Evening Post : 

I was somewhat surprised by reading in your 
issue of the 19th instant a paper w^ritten by Mr. 
Hackett, endeavoring to render to Shakespeare the 
honor which for two centuries has been conceded to 
the immortal Harvey, viz. the discovery of the cir- 
culation of the blood. Had Mr. Hackett been as 
well acquainted with the literature of the profession 
to wdiicli Harvey belonged as with the numbers of 
the bard, he would have probably hesitated ere he 
endeavored to pluck from the great physician's brow 
a single leaf of his undying crown. 

It is very natural in one treating a subject which 
is "not within his own province to investigate and 
compare," whose inquiries must be necessarily crude 
and superficial, and who probably has never read 
Harvey's elaborate treatise, entitled "Z^<? Motu San- 


gui?us,^^ and devoted as little attention to similar 
works written before and since that author's time — 
it is very natural that such an investigator should be 
led into errors which even those more conversant 
with the subject might scarcely have avoided. "A 
little knowledge is a dangerous thing," appears to 
be well exemplified in the article to which I am 
replying. With all due deference to Mr. Hackett's 
superior attainments in other respects, and particu- 
larly in regard to Shakesperean lore, in whose inter- 
pretation he is certainly entitled to the highest 
consideration, allow me to suggest that his argu- 
ments in favor of Shakespeare as a medical disco- 
verer are far from being proved by the passages 
which he quotes, or, in fact, by any others of a 
similar significance occurring in that poet's produc- 

Shakespeare undoubtedly did possess, more than 
any other man who has bequeathed to us his own 
record of intellectual capacity, a most intimate 
acquaintance with all the motives of human action. 
As a student of human nature, his province was the 
anatomy of the mind and the soul — and with a most 
careful and delicate hand did he dissect apart the 
elementary tissues of those complex existences. As 
regards, however, his study and knowledge of the 
more material constituents of the human organism, 
we may be pardoned in entertaining great doubt, 
his works affording us but little enlightenment on 
the subject. In fact, where he displays a strange 


familiarity with many of the other sciences, it seems 
curious that there should be wanting, almost com- 
pletely, any, except mere figurative commonplace 
allusions, to that of anatomy and physiology. It is 
related in his biography that he served for a short 
period of his youth in the office of a country attor- 
ney, and, as a consequence, we find introduced into 
his writings many technical phrases then employed 
only by those of the legal profession, many of whom 
figure quite conspicuously in his plays. 

With the medical profession, however, he meddles 
but little ; a doctor is occasionally introduced, but 
is either as vulgar and devoid of dignity as Dr. 
Caius, or so obscure, even when occupying the posi- 
tion of physician to the king, as to attract no special 
attention. Might we not suppose that had the poet 
been at all conversant with medical science he would 
have employed his knowledge to greater advantage ? 
And certainly, had even superficial inquiries into 
the art led him to so important a discovery as the 
circulation (allowing it to have been unknown 
before), was he a person to have concealed his 
familiarity with such a fact, or merely to have 
thrown out obscure hints here and there ? 

But, letting rest the arguments for or against 
Shakespeare's acquaintance with anatomy or phy- 
siology, it is certain that we need impute to him no 
extraordinary knowledge in that respect, whereby 
to explain the meaning of the passages quoted by 
Mr. Hackett. They only prove that he was cogni- 


zant of a few simple facts wliich had been recog- 
nised and commented upon ages before, and an 
ignorance of whicli would have been impossible in 
a person of so comprehensive a mind. Thej sug- 
gest — 1st : That the blood exists in conduits or ves- 
sels of some sort. 2d : That it moves through these 
vessels from one part of the body to another, though 
without undertaking to explain how or why. 3d : 
That it starts at the heart ; and 4:th (though the 
application seems to me very far fetched) : That 
there are valves through wliich it passes, and whicli 
prevent its reflux. 

l^ow all of these suggestions undoubtedly origi- 
nated in a few facts whicli had been first promul- 
gated many centuries before by the great Galen, 
who was the first to form any correct idea of the 
circulating system. His writings faithfully describe 
the blood as pursuing its course from the heart into 
the arteries, and as being prevented from returning 
by a system of valves, to which he contents himself 
with a mere allusion. Although his ideas upon the 
subject were indefinite, still his observations contain 
enough of plausibility to have produced a deep 
impression upon a reflective and philosophic mind, 
such as Harvey's, and to have led him to those 
investigations which were so prolific in great results. 
Indeed, Harvey even acknowledges these hints in 
referring to the statements of Galen, which he 
quotes as those of ^'vii'i divini patris medicorum.''^ 
From the period of Galen down to that of Harvey, 


the subject remained to a certain degree dormant ; 
tliougli it is said, I know not how truly, that the 
Italian physiologists had demonstrated, many years 
previous to Harvey's time, what is termed " the 
lesser circulation," i. e. from the heart through the 
lungs, and back again to the heart. Such theories 
and facts, therefore, as had previously been enun- 
ciated, we may admit that Shakesj^eare knew and 
hinted at, without any necessity of our considering 
him tlie discoverer of the circulation. 

But now it may be asked : How can Harvey, 
then, ho so regai'ded exclusively, if such and such 
things had been known ages before his birth ? The 
answer is, that if we comprehend by the word " cir- 
culation" merely the movement of the blood through 
the heart and vessels, he is not entitled to the honor 
wdiich posterity has bestowed upon him. But let 
us remember that he took up the subject in the pri- 
mitive condition in which Galen had left it (whose 
suggestions, though given to the world so many 
centuries before, had yet been, curiously enough, 
the foundation of few inquiries) ; that he pursued it 
for years, by means of the most laborious dissections 
and experiments; that he unravelled the com- 
plex construction of the great propelling organ, the 
heart ; that he traced the arteries from their very 
root in the great aorta onward through their gradu- 
ally decreasing ramifications, until he arrived at 
their most minute divisions ; tliat he thence watched 
the course of the blood through various and com- 


plicated tissues, throngli an intricate network of 
capillaries, until, re-collected into the veins, it re- 
turned to its original starting-place. And not only 
this, but he analyzed the mysterious causes of this 
circuit, the powers which start the fluid upon its 
round, and serve to propel it and assist it in its con- 
tinual course. And what was the consequence of 
his herculean labors ? A result, constructed step 
by step upon determined facts and logical conclu- 
sions, grand and comprehensive, the very foundation 
of modern medical science, and remaining almost a 
type of perfection even at the present period, when 
such tremendous strides are being taken in all scien- 
tific research. 

Harvey, therefore, seems to me to bear the same 
relation to Galen that Morse did to Franklin. At 
all events, he was the first to demonstrate the entire 
circxdation y and, therefore, is he not entitled to be 
considered its discoverer ? C. P. R. 

Orchard Place, Yonkers, Nov. 29, 1861. 
To the Editors of the Evening Post : 

Having just returned after some six weeks' busi- 
ness upon my landed estate in Illinois, I have been 
shown in vour issue of October 30 an article 
capped " Harvey and Shakes23eare — A Reply to 
Mr. Hackett ;" wherein the author, signing C. P. 
R., in reference to my own article " ITo. 1 " upon 
that subject, published in your issue of October 19, 
charges me with " endeavoring to render to Shake- 


speare tlie honor which for two centuries has been 
conceded to the immortal Harvey, viz. the discovery 
of the circulation of the hloody 

C. P. E. is wrong in his premises. I did not 
claim for Shakespeare the discovery^ but only that 
by analogy he understood the theory, and could not 
have been ignorant of the fact before Harvey began 
to write. The words in my article were : " I must 
contend for the internal evidence furnislied in 
Shakespeare's writings of his having, prior to Har- 
vey's imputed discovery and laborious investiga- 
tions, a clear conception of the propulsory action of 
the heart in forcing its 

' courses through 

The natural gates and alleys of the body.' " 

My article referred to — jN'o. 1 — was written in 
1859, and was intended rather as prefatory to my 
observations — " No. 2" — made a year after upon a 
book published in London, in 1860, entitled "Shake- 
speare's Medical Knowledge, by John Charles 
Bucknill, M.D. ;" but only so far as its contents 
related to Shakesjyeare' s knowledge of the circulation 
of the hlood. Whenever it may suit the convenience 
of your press to publish said " JS^o. 2," and that of 
your correspondent to peruse it, I would jyrefer to 
be spared further animadversion, and to learn his 
objections to the orthodoxy of my arguments, and 
to refer him to the profound and elaborate medical 
researches in that work of the erudite Dr. Bucknill, 


who, alluding to the late Lord Chancellor Camp- 
bell's interesting work on Shakespeare's legal attain- 
ments, observes that it " convinced him that the 
knowledge of the great dramatist was, in each de- 
partment, so extensive and exact that it required 
the skilled observation of a professional mind fully 
and fairly to appreciate and set it forth." 

Doctor Bucknill, in his preface, continues : 
" Although the author desires explicitly to disavow 
the intention to put forward in behalf of his own 
profession any rival claims for the honor of having 
occupied the unaccounted-for jperiod of Shake- 
sj)eare's early manhood, he must confess that it 
would be gratifying to professional self-esteem if he 
were able to show that the immortal dramatist, who 
bears, as Hallam says, ' the greatest name in all 
literature,' paid an amount of attention to subjects 
of medical interest scarcely if at all inferior to that 
which has served as the basis of the learned and 
ingenious argument, that this intellectual king of 
men had devoted seven good years of his life to the 
practice of laxo. For the honor of tnedicine it would 
be difficult to point to any great author, not himself 
a physician, in whose works the healing art is re- 
ferred to more frequently and more respectfully 
than in those of Shakespeare. The motive, how- 
ever, for writing, and the excuse for publishing the 
following pages, is not to exalt the medical profes- 
sion, by citing in its glorification the favorable 
opinion and special knowledge of the great bard, 


but to contribute to the elucidation of bis universal 
genius, and to prove tliat, among otbers, ' tbe myriad 
mind ' bad paid close attention to tbis most impor- 
tant and personally interesting subject of study." 

I would reiterate my conviction tbat William 
Harvey, tbougb be investigated and practically 
demonstrated, was not tbe original " discoverer of 

tbe circulation of tbe blood." 

James H. IIackett. 

Mr. Hackett's 'No. 2 we sball publisb as soon as 
we can find room for it. — [Eds. Evening Post. 

J/r. Hachett's Second Letter. 

[Tbe following is Mr. Hackett's second letter on 
Sbakespeare and Harvey. — Eds.] 

December 12, 1861. 

To the Editors of the Evening Post : 

As I expected tbat Dr. Jobn Cbarles Bucknill's 
work, entitled " Medical Knowledge of 8hakes])eare^'^ 
publisbed in London, would necessarily involve, in 
a general disquisition of its subject, certain points 
deducible from some of tbe passages wbicb I bad 
quoted in order to prove tbat Sbakespeare could not 
bave been ignorant of tbe fact of tbe circulation of 
tbe blood, tbe discovery of wbicb, after Sbake- 
speare's deatb, bad been claimed for Harvey, I 
eagerly sougbt and obtained a copy of Dr. Bucknill's 


book, and was much entertained and often instructed 
tlirougli the scope of its contents. However, as I, 
from ignorance of the science of surgery or ana- 
tomy, and its origin and progressive advancement, 
am not qualified for its general review, I will con- 
fine mj extracts and comments to such portions as 
may seem to bear upon the specialty of Harvey's 
originality in discovering the circulation of the 

Page 10. — " The world saw nothing of the circulation of the 
blood in Servetus, Columbus, Caesalpinus, or Shakespeare, 
until after William Harvey had taught and written." 

Hallam's Literary History of Europe^ though not 
questioning Harvey's discovery of the dual circula- 
tion, and conceding that the lesser circulation w^as 
known to the ancients, observes : " It may, indeed, 
be thought wonderful that Servetus, Columbus, and 
Csesalpinus should not have more distinctly appre- 
hended the consequences of what they maintained, 
since it seems difiicult to conceive the lesser circu- 
lation without the greater ; but the defectiveness of 
their views is not to be alleged as a counterbalance 
to the more steady sagacity of Harvey ; " and as 
Dr. Bucknill has chosen to add Shakespeare to Hal- 
lam's catalogue, I will proceed with quotations from 
the poet, and leave my readers to judge whether he 
did not comprehend this duality and inter-depen- 
dence of the circulation ; but, previously, let me 
anticipate, for my readers' advantage, what Dj-. 


Euckulll lias reserved in his arrangement ot matter 
until page 201. 

" The flow of blood to the heart was a fact well known and 
recognised in Shakespeare's time. It was the flow of blood 
from the heart, that is, the circulation of the blood, wliich was 
not known to Shakespeare, or to any other person, before 
Harvey's immortal discovery." 

" I send it through the rivers of your blood. 
Even to the court, the heart — to the seat o' the brain ; 
And through the cranks and ofl&ces of man." 

— CoriolanuSj Act 1, Sc. 1. 

Dr. Bucknill, after first referring to the body's 
nutriment being sent " through rivers of blood to 
the court, the heart," — " a fact well known in 
Shakespeare's time," — continues : " The flow of the 
blood ' through the cranks and ofiices of man ' is a 
singular expression. ' Ofiices ' appear to mean func- 
tions, put for their organs, and ' cranks ' mean bend- 
ings or turnings, and, no doubt, refer to the elbows 
or turns in the blood-vessels." I regard the prepo- 
sition " through " as very significant, but, firstly, I 
would suggest whether Shakespeare's choice of the 
word " visit " (by Bridus in his Julius C(Bsar\ and 
which signifies " to go and come," does not imply in 
that connection the flux and reflux of the blood ? 

" As dear to me as are the ruddy drops 
That visit my sad heart." — Act 2. 

— and also, how the propulsory action of the heart 


can be denied, after reading and digesting the fol- 
lowing direct expression of it, independent of many 
lateral ones : 

" My heart, 

Where eitner I must live or bear no life ; 
The fountain from the ivhich my current 7'uns, 
Or else dries up," &c. — Othello, Act 4, Sc. 2. 

Page 12. " — instances appear, and amount not merely to 
evidence, but to proof, that Shakespeare had read widely in 
medical hterature." 

Pages 35, 36. " Shakespeare's eldest daughter, Susanna, 
married Dr. John Hall, a physician of great provincial emi- 
nence, practising at Stratford upon Avon. The registration 
of his marriage stands thus : 

" ' 1607, June 5. John Hall, gentleman, and Susanna Shake- 
speare.' It will be an interesting subject of inquiry whether 
such of the dramas as were written after their author entered 
into terms of intimate relationship with a physician well edu- 
cated in the professional knowledge of his time, bear any 
impression of the mental conduct ; since it is scarcely possible 
but that some influence should have been exercised upon the 
impressible mind of the poet by the husband of his favorite 
daughter — hving with him in the same house." 

It seems reasonable, certainly, between " the 
instances in proof that Shakespeare had read widely 
in medical literature," and the circumstances of an 
eminent physician, his son-in-law, residing, after 
1607, in the same house, and with whom he may 
have been intimate long previous to the marriage, 
that Shakespeare should have made himself ac- 
quainted clearly with every important fact or theory 


relating to such a subject, wliicli had transpired ; 
and, indeed, out of his owu intuitive and compre- 
hensive genius might have originated others, or new 
ones, which 'neither his leisure nor his avocations 
allowed him to explore, prove, or demonstrate, even 
for his own satisfaction. 

Page 74 
" ' Why does my blood thus muster to my heart, 
Making both it unable for itself, 
And dispossessing all my other parts 
Of necessary fitness?' 

Measure for Measure, Ad 2, Sc. 4. 

" This mustering of the blood to the heart is referred to by 
Warwick, in describing the death of John of Gaunt; it is 
perfectly in accordance with modern physiological science, and 
when it is remembered that in Shakespeare's time the cir- 
culation of the blood, and even the relation of the heart to 
the blood, was yet undiscovered, the passage is in every way 

If Dr. BucknilFs premises are true, the passage is 
indeed not only "in every way remarkable," but 
unaccountable, not to say miraculous. 

Page 82. " Shakespeare may, with the intuition of genius, 
have guessed very near the truth respecting the circulation of 
the blood, &c., &c. See also Falstaff's reflections on Prince 
John, part 2 ; King Henry IV., act iv., scene 3." 

Page 123. " The absence of blood in the liver was the sup- 
posed property of a coward. ' The liver white and pale ' is 
Falstaff's pathological badge of pusillanimity and cowardice. 
Fear is called ' pale-hearted ' in Macbeth. Also, Lucio, in Mea- 


sure for Measure (act 4, scene 3), says : ' I am pale at mine 
heart,' &c. : and was not that too (the absence of blood there) 
the supposed property of a coward, according to the old theory 
of the circulation of the blood which (Dr. Bucknill writes) gave 
rise to this opinion ?" 

Page 133. " The expression in King John, act 3, scene 3, 
that ' the blood runs trickling* up and down the veins/ seems to 
point to the thought that there is a flux and reflux of the current." 

Pages 157-158. "Shakespeare follows Hippocrates, &c., &;c., 
and has reference to another theory of Hippocrates, namely, 
that the veins, which were thought the only blood-vessels, had 
their origin in the hver. The Father of Medicine maintained 
that they come from the liver, the arteries from the heart. It 
appears, however, that in different parts of his works he 
expressed different opinions on the relation existing between 
the veins and the heart," &c. 

Dr. Backnill follows up by extracting a lengtliy 
passage from the Sydenham Society's edition of The 
Works of Harvey^ and also quotes " Rabelais, who 
was both a practising physician and a medical 
author," and his translation of the works of both 
Hippocrates and Galen ; and adds, " Rabelais ex- 
presses the doctrine of the function of the liver which 
is implied in Falstaff's disquisition," namely, "that 
the liver conveys blood through the veins for the 
good of the whole body." Indeed, Dr. Bucknill 
continues through several pages afterward to refer to 
" the old opinions," and compares, in an apparently 

* Trickling is Shakespeare's word, alluding to an occasioual sense 
of the motion of the blood in the veins. " To trickle " signifies to " drop 
gently." Shakespeare has only used trickling once, and then as a 
synonyme of tricky, "trickling tears are vain." — Henry IV., Fart 1. 



learned manner, tlie theories wliicli existed among 
the medical professors prior to Harvey, respecting 
the functions of the liver and of the heart. 

" and let my live?' rather heat with wine 

Than my heai^t cool with mortifying groans." 

\Aferchant of Venice. 

Shakespeare, who was neither a medical author 
nor a practising physician, was not bound to ascer- 
tain, and may have confounded the respective func- 
tions of the heart and the liver, and the causes ; but 
at the same time have distinctly understood the fact 
of the circulation of the blood, whicli is simply that 
for which I have thus far contended and been trying 
to convince my readers. 

Page 213 : 

" You are my true and honorable wife, 
As dear to me as are the ruddy drops 
That visit my sad heart." — Julius Ccesar. 

" ' On these three lines,' (writes Dr. Bucknill) ' a short essay, 
the only one bearing upon Shakespeare's physiological opinions 
I have anywhere been able to find, has been written by Mr. 
Thomas Nimmo, and has been published in a second volume of 
the Shakespeare Society Papers. Mr. Nimmo considers that 
this passage (quoted) — ' containing what I cannot view other- 
wise than a distinct reference to the circulation of the hlood, 
which was not announced to the world, as is generally sup- 
posed, until some years after the death of Shakespeare.' " 

Dr. Bucknill remarks : " Assuming the truth of this, Mr, 
Nimmo argues either that the play was not written so early as 
1603 — the date fixed by Mr. Collier — or that ' Shakespeare had 
been made acquainted by Harvey himself with his first notions 


on the subject.' Mr. JSTimmo afterwards speculates thus : ' Is 
it, then, impossible that Harvey, a young medical practitioner, 
may have become acquainted with Shakespeare — may have 
become intimate with him, and may have acquainted liim with 
those great ideas by which also he hoped to become famous?' " 
Dr. Bucknill resumes : " In some comments on the article 
Mr. T. J. Pettigrew satisfactorily disposes of Mr. Nimmo's sug- 
gestion, observing: 'There is no evidence that Shakespeare 
knew Harvey ; and as Shakespeare died in 1G16, when the first 
ideas of Harvey upon the subject were promulgated at the col- 
lege, he could not, through that medium, have been acquainted 
with it ; but if the date of 1603, as given by Mr. Collier as the 
period at which the play of " Juhus Caesar " was written, be 
the correct one, it is quite clear that Shakespeare could not 
have then known Harvey, because he (Harvey) must at that 
time have been abroad (in Italy), and, whatever may have been 
his reflections upon the discovery of the existence of valves in 
the veins, there are no traces in any of his writings to show 
that he had then entertained any particular views upon the 
nature of the circulation.' " 

With regard to my own sentiments concerning 
tlie probability whether Shakespeare was indebted 
to Harvey or Harvey to Shakespeare for their re- 
spective and original ideas of " the circulation," I 
must ask my reader, if he cares to consider them, to 
refer to their expression, in the course of my post- 
script to letter dated 15th September, 1859. 

Dr. Bucknill goes on : 

" Shakespeare might indeed have known Harvey, as he no 
doubt was intimate w^th many of the leading minds of the 
age ; but, in addition to the fact that Harvey's first notice of 
his discovery was made in the year of Shakespeare's decease, 


Mr. Nimmo's suggestion is easily refuted from the other 
writings of the poet, with which it seems probable that Mr. 
Nimmo had not made himself acquainted. There are several 
passages in the plays in which the presence of blood in the 
heart is quite as distinctly referred to as in this speech of Bru- 
tus ; but the passages quoted in these pages from ' Love's 
Labor Lost,' and from the ' Second Part of Henry IV.,' dis- 
tinctly prove that Shakespeare entertained the Galenical doc- 
trine universally prevalent before Harvey's discovery ; that, 
although the right side of the heart was visited by the blood, 
the function of the heart and its proper vessels, the arteries, 
was the distribution of the vital spirits, or, as Byron calls 
them, ' the nimble spirits in the arteries.' Shakespeare be- 
lieved, indeed, in the flow of the blood, ' the rivers of your 
blood' which went eA'en to the court, the heart ;' but he con- 
sidered that it was the liver, and not the heart, which was the 
cause of the flow. There is not, in my opinion, in Shake- 
speare, a trace of any knowledge of the circulation of the 
blood. Surely the temple of his fame needs not to be enriched 
by the spoils of any other reputation." 

Certainly not, good Dr. Bucknill ; nor, as I liope, 
does the temple of Harvey's fame wliich the medi- 
cal profession have constructed need any su2)port to 
be obtained by denying Shakesj^eare his obvious 
intelligence j^rior to " Harvey's discovery." May 
not an effect, like the circulation of the blood, be 
obvious, whilst its cause may be hidden and ob- 
scured, or confounded by one's imputing to the liver 
the distinct propulsory action of the heart ? 

Finally, recommending my readers to ascertain 
precisely Dr. Bucknill's definition of the word cir- 
culation, and to remember that it is not to be found 


ill Sliakespeare, and to satisfy himself whether or 
not the word " course," as used by Shakespeare 
when referring to the blood, is synonymous with 
circulation, I take my leave of the subject ; and 
though I differ with him in many of his interpreta- 
tions of Sliakespeare's text, I have derived much 
pleasure from -his book, and would commend it to 
the attentive perusal of every one who may be 
gratified by perceiving that the immortal dramatist, 
who bears, as Hallam says, " the greatest name in 
all literature," paid an amount of attention to sub- 
jects of medical interest scarcely if at all inferior 
to that which has served as the basis of the learned 
and ingenious argument, that the intellectual king 
of men had devoted seven good years of his life to 

the practice of the law. 

Jas. H. Hackett. 

P. S. — After a deliberate reconsideration of the 
mooted question, whether William Harvey can be 
justly entitled to the fame and honor of having 
been " the immortal discoverer of the circulation 
of the blood," it seems to me that the point of the 
argument after all resolves itself into what may be 
the direct, or lateral, or longitudinal signification of 
the word discover, which literally means — to find 
out, to expose to view, to make known that which 
was unknown before. Kestricted to this sense, 
Columbus w^as unquestionably the first discoverer 
of this Western Continent. Its very existence was 
conceived bv his genius, and ascertained only 


tliroiigli his practical faith, energy, and enterprise, 
having been previously unknown, at least to civil- 
ized Europe ; yet, Americns Yespucius, by reason 
of his secondary efforts, and progressive discern- 
ment in the premises, was enabled to build and to 
perpetuate his own name, and to eclipse, if not 
almost supersede, the fame of Columbus, its original 

Sir Isaac E^ewton, born in 1642, is generally re- 
garded by his enthusiastic eulogists at this day as 
the discoverer of the attraction of gravitation ; 
whereas, absolutely, he only investigated and ex- 
plained the laws which regulate the solar system. 
The solar system of the ancients was that of 
Ptolemy, and is poetically referred to by Shake- 
speare in his play of " Troilus and Cressida," 
(written some fifty years before Sir Isaac was born), 
thus : 
" Ulysses. The heavens themselves, the planets, and this centre. 

Observe degree, priority and place, 

Insisture, course, proportion, season, form, 

Office and custom, in a line of order. 

And therefore is the glorious planet, Sol, 

In noble eminence enthron'd and spher'd 

Amidst the other." — Act 1, Scene 3. 

But, on special reference to the attraction of gra- 
vitation — the discovery of which has been imputed 
to Newton — can any reader of common understand- 
ing doubt Shakespeare's knowledge of that fact 
when perusing the following sentence put into the 
mouth of his heroine ? — 


" Cressida. * * * * Time, force and death, 
Do to this body what extremes you can ^ 
But the strong base and building of my love 
Is as the very centre of the Earth 
Drawing all things to itT — Act 4, Scene 2. 

J. H. H. 


In the year 1828, soon after I had adopted the 
stage as a profession, I studied and attempted to act 
Shakespeare's lago, but although I was received 
encouragingly at the Park Theatre, ]^ew York, a 
few times, and favorably reported by the Press, I 
found it not attractive ; and though the result con- 
firmed me in the correctness of the conception I had 
formed after an elaborate study, I was by no means 
satisfied with my own personation, and for that rea- 
son, and also because the Xew York public had 
seemed to identify my stage-abilities only with Yan- 
kee and other American Originals, and some dialect 
and eccentric characters, and with imitations of 
popular actors, and also inasmuch as I had then 
never attempted any other serious performance with 
the exception oUtichard the Thirds and that in direct 
and avowed imitation oi Edmund Kean, I regarded' 
my lago but as an experiment, and at once resolved 
that it was inexpedient for me in my novitiate to per- 
sist in trying to represent such a very difficult cha- 
racter, and hence abandoned further attempts 


Mr. John Inman, then noted for his literary and 
critical discernment and who afterwards became 
associate editor of the Commercial Advertiser, wit- 
nessed my first effort to personate lago^ and reported 
it for the ]^ew York Evening Post. For the reason 
that Mr. Inman gave a rather minute and careful 
description of what seemed to him to be my under- 
standing of certain points which I had not yet 
acquired art enough to strike out effectively in my act- 
ing^ I will reprint his report herewith as a record of 
my peculiar notions of this character. 


Park, Thursday, April 10, 1828. 

The character of lago has, in our opinion, been 
almost universally mistaken, both by plaj^ers and 
critics. /Actors in general have been struck only 
with the wickedness of the character, and have 
represented him as a monster, a fiend, revelling in 
malevolence and mischief — devoting his time, his 
talents, and his life to the perpetration of gratuitous 
villanies, and actuated by no other motive than the 
lucre love of wickedness/ This is an unnatural con- 
ception; and Shakespeare, who was quite as good a 
pliilosopher as he was a poet, never intended to 
exhibit such a picture. The same error has been 
fallen into even by the first critics in England — 
Hazlitt says, " The general groundwork of the cha- 
racter of lago^ as it appears to us, is not absolute 
malignity but a want of moral principle, or an indif- 


ference to the real consequences of the actions, which 
tlie perversity of his disposition and love of immedi- 
ate excitement lead him to commit. He is an ama- 
teur of tragedy in real life. The character is a com- 
plete abstraction of the intellectual from the moral 
being ; or in other words, consists in an absorption 
of every common feeling in the virulence of his 
understanding, the deliberate wilfulness of his pur- 
poses, and in his restless^ untameable love of 'inis- 
chievous co'iitrivances.^^ Kow it appears to us that 
tlie motives of lacjo's conduct are so plainly described 
even in the very first scene, as to render it almost 
impossible to mistake them. They are, jealousy anav 
disappointed ambition. When Hoderigo adverts to 
the hatred which lago had expressed towards the 
Moor, what is his reply ? 

" Despise me if I do not — Three great ones of the city 
In personal suit to make me his heutenant, 
Oft capped to him ; and by the faith of man, 
I know my price — I'm worth no less a place ; 
But he, as loving his own pride and purposes, 
Evades them, with a bombast circumstance, &c." 

And immediately after, having spoken disparag- 
ingly of the abilities of Cassio, he goes on — , 

" He, sir, had the election, 
And I, (of whom his eye had seen the proof 
At Rhodes, at Cyprus, and on other grounds, 
Christian and Heathen) must be be-leed and calmed 
By deljtor and by creditor ; this counter-caster, 



He, in good time, must his lieutenant be, 

And I, (Heaven bless the mark) his Moorship's ancient—"* 

This is the origin of lagcPs hatred, and for this 
insult, he determines to be revenged. In the third 
scene, we iind that there is another barbed arrow 
rankling in his heart. He says — 

" I hate the Moor ; 
And it is thought abroad, that 'twixt my sheets 
He has done my office." 

To which, referring again, in the first scene of the 
second act, he displays an intensity of feeling, wdiicli 
we consider as the strongest confirmation of our idea 
of his character. 

" For that I do suspect the lusty Moor 
Hath leaped into my seat ; the thought whereof 
Doth, like a jpoisonous mineral, giiaw my inwards / 
And nothing can, or shall content my soul 
Till I am even with him — " 

But his jealousy is not confined to Othello — He 

"fears Cassio with his night-cap too;" 

and it is for this, that he selects Mm,, to be the 
instrument wherewith to work his vengeance upon 

* Mr, Hackett has (very wisely) restored this passage, beginning 
" But he, sir, had the election," which has been heretofore most inju- 
diciously omitted ; it has such a direct and palpable bearing upon the 
character, that we cannot but wonder why it should ever have been 
left out. 


Othello. These passages, if rightly considered, we 
cannot help looking upon as affording redeeming 
points in the character of lago — as tending cona- 
pletelj to do away the imputation of gratuitous villa- 
ny, which has been so generally affixed to it. 

It is from Mr. Ilackett's performance, that we 
have chieHy derived this idea of lago. This we are 
confident is his conception, and for it, we consider 
Mr. Hackett entitled to all praise, although his exe- 
cution was by no means perfect. We have once 
before said, that " with time and practice, Mr. 
Hackett would become a good tragedian," and in. 
that opinion we are confirmed rather than shaken by 
his performance of lago. He has faults, but they 
are such as practice will remove. He wants 
acquaintance with " stage trick " as it is called ; that 
is, with the crossings, the pauses, the minutiae of 
stage business which are so necessary to give the 
greatest effect to an actor's readings — his utterance 
and his action are altogether too quick : and he has 
a habit of keeping his head and his limbs in con- 
tinual motion, which he miost avoid. The intention 
of his lago was evident and excellent, and gave 
proof of the close attention and deep study which, 
we are confident, he has bestowed uj)on the charac- 
ter. He makes lago assume three distinct charac-. 
ters ; to Othello^ that of a frank, blunt, honest-hearted \ 
friend, but withal a close observer, betrayed invo- 
luntarily by his attachment to his general, into the 
revelation of what leads to his destruction — Othello 


often calls him '' honest." " This /^<9n^,925 creature " 
■ — " this fellow's oi. exceeding honesty f^ and here we 
cannot help noticing the strange error into which 
Hazlitt's view of layds character has betrayed him ; 
he says, "He {lagd) is repeatedly called 'honest 
lago^ wdiich looks as if there were something suspi- 
cious in his appearance, which admitted a different 
construction." [N'ow we imagine that Othello calls 
him honest, because he thinks he actually is so. K 
lago w^erc the open nndisguised villain, Hazlitt 
thinks him, Othello must have been a fool, an egre- 
gious blockhead, to be so duped b}^ him. 

\i To Roderigo Mr. Hackett makes lago assume the 
bearing of a light-hearted philosopher (capable, 
however, like all Yenetians, of strono^ feelino^s\ who 
has been deeply injured by Othello^ and good- 
natured enough to take npon him the furtherance 
of his comrade's wishes, while he is w^orkina: his 

M own purpose upon his enemy ; to Cassio he aj^pears 
merely an honest, faithful soldier, and his friend. 
Mr. Hackett's well known versatility is of the most 
essential service to him in the assumption of these 
different cliaracteristics, and still more in the solilo- 
quies, where his feelings and the w^orkings of his 
active mind are exhibited w^ithout diso:uise. Throng-h- 
out the wdiole five acts his scenes w-ith Othello were 
given with very great tact and effect ; but there 
was one ^vhich we do not hesitate to pronounce 
masterly. The first of the third act, from the 
moment in which lago first begins to work upon the 


susceptible nature of tlie Moo7' with his artful insi- 
nuations, to the fine hypocritical burst of indigiuition 
with which he breaks out, 

" Oh grace ! Oh Heaven defend me I 
Are you a man ? Have you a soul or sense ? 
Heaven be Avith you — take mine office — Oh wretched fool, 
That Uv'st to make thine honesty a vice," etc. 

And the half sullen air of honest friendship with 
which he sajs, 

" I should be wise, for honesty's a fool 
And loses that it works for — " 

The whole scene was sustained throughout with 
admirable force and spirit. But our purpose in 
writing this article is not merely to praise Mr. 
Hackett, but rather to point out those particulars 
wherein he has succeeded in presenting something 
original in his performance of a character which 
has been so often and so variously played that 
noyelty would almost seem to be impossible. We 
noticed, then, a point which we haye not seen made 
before — in the second scene, wliere lagd's merry 
conyersation with Cassia is interrupted by the sud- 
den entrance of Othello : 

^^ lago. Faith, he to-night hath boarded a land-carack ; 
If it prove lawful prize, he's made for ever. 
Cassio. I do not understand. 
lago. He's married. 
Cassio. To whom ? 
lago. Marry to — " 


Here lie stops abruptly in his jesting, and seeing 
Othello^ snddenly exclaims, " Come, captain, will 
you go ? " and, in an instant, changes his sneering 
tone and manner to an appearance of the utmost 
cordiality and devotion. This is happily conceived, 
for it is by such touches as these that the Machia- 
velism of lago is most strikingly exemplified. 
Another good idea is the significant look to Hode- 
rigo with which Mr. Ilackett singles him out as his 
opponent in the subsequent scuffle — intimating that 
they two understand each other. Mr. H. makes 
another fine point in the second act, when, after 
making malicious remarks upon the grace of Cassio^s 
manner in saluting Desdemona^ he suddenly bursts 
out, on hearing the trumpet of the Mooi\ with an 
assumption of exultation at his safe arrival. We 
observed a new reading, also, in the first scene of 
this act — 

" I'll have our Michael Cassio on the hip ; 
Abuse him to the Moor in the riglit garb," 

which we have always before heard read '''' ranh 
garl).^'' Mr. H. probably has some authority for 
his correction, and it certainly appears just: the 
" right garb " would signify that very way, which, 
wdiile it seems a palliation, shall, in reality, be an 
aggravation — ranh garb we do not understand at 
all. We think Mr. Ilackett correct, also, in making 

* The Folio of 1623 reads '■'■riglit garb;" all the later editions sub- 
stitute the word ''■ranlH'' for "right." When logo says — 


larjo pretend to be somewhat affected by the liquor 
lie lias drunk in the next scene, where he beguiles 
Ckissio with intoxication. Unless he does this, his 
design upon Cassia is too evident ; and lago is too 
craftj to risk the failure of his contrivance by the 
detection of so clumsy an artifice. The finest point, 
however, that we noticed (and it is new to us), was 
the air of earnest and interested attention with which 
he leaned forward to catch the words of Othello, in 
the second scene, and the involuntary and suddenly 
suppressed start of joy which he gives when he hears 
him pronounce the sentence — " Cassio, I love thee, 
but never more be officer of mine." In the first 
scene of the third act Mr. H. introduces a reading, 
which is certainly new, but which we do not approve. 

" I'll abuse him to the Moor in the right garb," 

he means — " I will assume the right kind of covering to hide any 

nakedness of my sinister purpose, I'll seem at first reluctant when 

ask'd to give Othello my evidence — 

" Othello. Honest lago, that look'st dead with grieving, 
Speak, who began this ? On thy love I charge thee, 

" and then I'll so color my narrative of the brawl, and seem so exceed- 
ingly anxious to excuse Cassia's behavior, as to have forgotten my- 
self and become too hasty and voluble in expressions, and by inter- 
jecting apparently conscientious stops and reflective breaks in my 
specious story, (as, 'Yet surely Cassio — I believe — received,' &c.), I 
shall the more thoroughly criminate Cassio, in proportion to my seem- 
ing earnestness of eftbrt to excuse him to the understanding of Oilidloy 
That such was the '•'■right garb" or cloak to cover his design is proved 
by the succeeding remarks of Othello — 

" Othello. I know, lago, 

Thy honesty and love doth mince this matter, 
Making it light to Cassio." 

J. H. H. 


'■'■ Othello. I do not think but Desdemona's honest. 
lago. Long hvc she so — and long hve you to think so. 
Othello. But yet, how nature, erring from itself — 
lago. Ay, there's the point, as (to be bold with you) 
Not to aflfect," etc. 

Mr. Hackett gives quite a different signification to 
the words in the parenthesis and reads tliem thus, 
" as, to be bold, with yoio " — as if he were referring 
in his own mind to a former observation of her 
father, who says of her, " a maiden never boki," 
and now applied the epithet to her conduct, height- 
ening its force by making it refer particularly to 
Othello. To be bold, with Azm, of all men, whose 
difference of age and complexion should naturally 
have made him an object of dislike or fear to her. 
This reading may be correct enough, but the other 
is quite as good, and has the sanction of long esta- 
blished custom to justify it. 

But it is time to put an end to this notice, which, 
when w^e began it, we had no thought of extending 
to such an unreasonable length. We will therefore 
only mention one more touch in Mr. Hackett's per- 
formance, with which we were much pleased, and 
then conchide with a few words of advice to him — 
which lie will adopt or disregard at his pleasure. 
Tlie point that we like is the manner of his exit 
when Cassia declares that he had found the hand- 
kerchief in his chamber, where it had been dropped 
by Tago. He meets the inquiring eyes of Othello 
(naturally directed to him for confirmation), with a 


significant look and action, expressive of his con- 
tempt for the credulity and weakness of his dnpe ; 
then gazes fixedly and with a look of exultation 
upon Othello and the latal bed, and seems to be 
absorbed in self-gratulating meditation upon the 
successful issue of his villany, from which he is 
roused by a touch upon the shoulder from one of 
the guards, turns, and goes out rapidly and cheer- 
fully, as if content to endure whatever might be in 
store for him. 

The advice we have to give Mr. Hackett is, to 
play lago again as soon as possible, and to turn his 
attention, as much as may be, exclusively to tra- 
gedy. Q. 

These notices were written by Mr. John Inman 
for the N. Y. Even{7ig Post^ where they may be 
found in its files for April, 1828. I did not take his 
advice — " to turn my attention as much as may be 
to tragedy '' — because it did not draio^ as did my 
comedy ^ besides, it demanded continued study and 
constant practice, and brought me, who was a 
novice^ in continual comparison with old stagers 
of stereotyped conventionalities, and before au- 
diences containing scarcely one educated critic 
among them, or capable of discerning and indi- 
cating by applauding or condemning my innova- 
tions of conception and nice subtleties in collating 
the text, however crude my acting might be. 

J. H. H. 


lago has been classified by its players as " a very 
uphill part ;" the reason is obvious. Icujd's vices and 
villany are so fl.agrant that when discovered his 
very presence becomes hideous and repulsive. 
Othello^ on the contrary, displays many ennobliug 
traits of character which enlist and carry along with 
him the sympathies of an audience, and his actor'' s 
pretensions to public favor are promoted accord- 
ingly ; whereas, the 2)layer of lago has not only no 
aid towards winning their partiality by its goodness^ 
but is in some measure bound to partake of the 
demoralizing effect of their indignation at his cha- 
racter's baseness. 

An instance of such effect is said to have occurred 
when King George the Third witnessed the perform- 
ance oi lago by the famous George Frederick Cooke ; 
that simple-minded sovereign remarked, " Cooke 
must be a very bad man at hearty because if he were 
not, he~ could not so well j^erform such a heartless 

When Junius Brutus Booth, who had been 
brought from the Provinces to the British Metropolis 
by the Co vent Garden Manager, for the special pur- 
pose of disputing Edmund Kean's superiority as 
Riehard the Third at Drury Lane, had afforded 
the London public sufficient opportunities for insti- 
tuting comparisons of their respective pretensions in 
the part, and concerning the merits of which the 
great majority appeared in favor of Kean, though 
Booth had many ardent admirers in the same roll, 


Elliston, the Drurv Lane Miuiager, wlio was a wily 
politician in theatricals, tempted Booth to " come 
over from Covent Garden for a night and play lacjo 
to Kean's Othello^'' his most favorite part, and pro- 
nounced by Lord Byron and all the critics '' Kean's 
most intellectual and artistical performance." Booth 
was persuaded, and pitted against Kean, who had 
become thoroughly established in London as " the 
Othello of the age," whilst Booth was comparatively 
a stranger in London. The result was, that many, 
who had previously contended that their style and 
personal peculiarities were very similar and their 
genius equal, upon seeing the two act together, 
agreed there was ^'' no comparisons'' that "Booth 
could not stand by the side of Kean," and the critics 
reported that "Kean had floored Booth and walked 
over him completely." Mr. Booth never recovered 
any position afterward in London, and in reference 
to that event, in conversation with me at Kew York 
some years afterward. Booth said — " Kean's Othello 
smothered Desdemona and my lago too." Edmund 
Kean returned from his second visit to America to 
Drury Lane, where he appeared in January, 1827. 
After performing his established parts repeatedly 
there was great desire expressed to see him play 
lago^ which he had not acted for a number of years, 
his Othello having become his favorite and esta- 
blished as such with the public. Li order to gnitify 
the curious, Mr. James Wallack, then the leading 
tragedian of that theatre, was cast Othello^ and Mr. 


Kean reappeared on the occasioji as lago. Mr. 
"Wallack's Othello^ though accepted by the great 
majority of the audience, especially under the exi- 
gency, was not satisfactory to a few who expressed 
disapprobation at his delivery of certain of Kean's 
points, ungenerously comparing him with Kean's 
standard, when Mr. Wallack had had no ambition, 
and indeed had unwlllmgly consented to play 
Othello with him ; nevertheless Mr. Kean made no 
feature then of his lago^ and I believe never per- 
formed it again. 

During the winter of 1832-33 Captain Polhill, the 
lessee, through Alfred Bunn, his acting-manager, 
engaged Macready to play lago to Kean's Othello^ 
with the understanding that Kean, after a few per- 
formances of Othello^ would appear as lago alter- 
nately to Macready's Othello. Macready's lago was 
generally commended by critics, and seemed to me a 
very creditable performance of his own conception, 
but it was not generally admired as much as Charles 
Young's. Macready, however, could not obtain an 
opportunity to perform Othello wdth Kean, who, 
though urged again and again by the manager, posi- 
tively and repeatedly refused. 

/ The fact is, the conventional idea was then and 

I generally still obtains among the theatrical public 

I that lago should be acted in a black wig and with 

heavy black eyebrows, and betray in his counte- 

vnance throughout, and in all his outward semblance, 

^he characteristics of a barefaced ruffian, whereas 



Xatiire furiiislies black-hearted villains of all com- 
plexions, and the records of crime have shown 
more of light than of a dark complexion ; besides, if 
lagd's villany is mad'e so apparent Vo all around him, 
and not confined as it should be to his soliloquies^ 
and where only by his self-communion the audience 
are let into his secrets as he exposes his subtlet}-, 
Othello could not have been so deceived by him as 
to remark, " this fellow's of exceeding honesty and ^, 
know^s all qualities with a learned spirit of human 
dealings " and repeatedly calling him '^honest, hon- 
est lagoP Though Shakespeare intended lago to 
dupe that silly young gallant Roderigo^ he surely 
never designed that he should make easily and 
readily a fool of Othello / though he apostrophizes 
to himself as such after the denouement, " Oh ! fool, 
fool, fool !" 

The character of Iccgo is composed of such peculiar 
traits, some of his very words in soliloquy have such 
particular significance, and require such marked 
emphasis to make them the more intelligible to his 
audience, his subtlety and hypocrisy, his direct and 
his sinister motives and purposes are so skilfully 
blended, and carefully or more or less artfully con- 
cealed according to his respective objects and the 
difi'erent penetration or circumstances of each one 
with whom he has any intercourse, that the part 
requires to be diligently and patiently studied in all 
its bearings before even the most comprehensive 
genius can clearly perceive the immortal dramatist's 


design ; and then, none but some actor of great talent 
in portraying dissimulation, and of sound judgment 
and long experience, may reasonably hope to pro- 
duce such eflects upon an ordinary audience as will 
prove satisfactory to them generally and to himself 
as an artist particularly. 

lago may indeed be regarded by professional 
actors as one of the most uncertain " and least profita- 
ble of great parts which can be attempted within the 
whole range of Shakespeare's dramas," and if an 
actor would become poj)ular in that character, he 
must, for the sake of efl'ect upon the uninstructed and 
impracticable majority of play-goers, submit to their 
false but settled notions respecting lago^ and sacrifice 
as a condition his own trite judgment and an ortho- 
dox consistency with the poet's words and his 
obvious meaning. 






Late in the month of May, 1831, whilst Charles 
Kean and myself were starring upon alternate nights 
at the Arch Street Theatre, Philadelphia, and were 
fellow-guests in Head's Mansion House — then the 
most favorite hotel of that city — we strolled about 
the town together. 

In the course of our promenade, Charles Kean 
asked me if I had " ever thought of acting Fal- 
staffT^ I replied that "with such object I had par- 
tially studied the character." He observed, " I 
have a strong desire to play Hotsjpiir, and if you 
will undertake to be ready within a week to make 
a first appearance in Falstaff^ I will essay Hotspur 
on the occasion for the first time also." We per- 
formed accordingly, and both were favorably re- 
ceived. May 31, 1832. The weather that evening 
was very warm, and the costume I wore covering a 



heavy piiclding or stuffing of curled hair — to give 
the requisite rotundity to Fat Jack^s large propor- 
tions — together with my anxiety and nervousness 
about the result, caused me to perspire very pro- 
fusely. Towards the conclusion of the play, tlie 
manager, Mr. Duffy, came behind tlie scenes, and 
repeated some complimentary remarks whicli he 
said certain critics among the audience had made to 
him, and inquired, " How do you feel now ?" I 
replied, "Severely punished by the heat of the 
weather, intensified as it is by confined space, the gas- 
lights, and the breath of the audience." "Psha!" 
rejoined Mr. Duffy, "you don't suffer at all when 
compared with Coojper'^ {Thomas -4.), "just such a 
night as this about a year ago. After Falstaff''s 
running away and roaring for ' Mercy,' when sur- 
prised and chased from Gad's Hill by the Prince and 
Poins, Cooper insisted upon having the large double- 
doOrs at the back of the stage — constructed in order 
to admit elephants, horses and cars, on occasion — 
thrown wide open ; and, regardless of the rear being 
upon a public alley, ordered his servant to bring a 
chair, which he placed in that opening and sat him- 
self there, to pant and try to cool himself. Every 
time thereafter, as he came off the stage, he threw 
himself into the chair, and commenced by crying 
aloud to his servant — 'Where's that brandy and 
water ?' * Here, sir !' Having swigged it down, 
Cooper next ordered him, ' Bring here a looking- 
glass !' After reconnoitring his features in the 


mirror — ' There's that bloody-red nose of mine, and 
more characteristic than Bardolph's ; get some chalk 
and whiten it !' Ilis servant had hardly time to 
effect it, when Cooper was called to the stage. 
Upon returning, as before, he called first for ' brandy 
and water !' then for the looking-glass, and, again 
surveying his face, he rebuked his servant — ' Didn't 
I tell you, sirrah, to chalk my nose ?' Ilis man 
replied, ^ I did, sir, but you sweat so much the chalk 
won't stay on it !' ' TTell, then, take a towel and 
wipe my nose dry^ first, and then rub Qnore chalk 
over it.' He was interrupted by the call-hoy — ' Mr. 
Cooper, the stage is waiting for you !' ' Is it ? I'll 

pray to be d d if ever I undertake to act this 

infernal old vas-abond ao^ain !' " 

With respect to my own and peculiar concej^tiou 
and rendition upon the stage of the character of 
Falstaff^ and concerning which I may be expected 
to write something, I would premise, that, as it is 
seldom given to us to see ourselves as others see us, 
perhaps I cannot convey to such as never have and 
never may see my performance of the part an idea 
of it better than by transcribing some of the most 
graphic reports of various critics for the press in 
Great Britain and America, beo-innina: in 184:0. 




As a curious native American, my attention lias 
been occasionally arrested by the labored attempts 
of certain London theatrical critics at what is termed 
" tine writing ;" and as my own debut in Falstaff^ 
at Drury Lane theatre, elicited a critique of this 
species " in the leading journal of Europe," I will 
merely take up and review the writer's J9r<?m^^^^, 
which relate solely to the character itself, in order 
that, as its actor^ I may escape any imputation of an 
unbecoming captiousness towards a professional 
censor about what follows and treats specially of my 
stage readings. 

A critic of the "Times" ^Newspaper of 2d No- 
vember inst., in reporting the representation of the 
''^ First Part of Henry the Fourth^^ advances the 
following characteristics, as constituting his " ideal" 
of Falstaff^ which, by sentences, I will here reca- 
pitulate in italics^ and then attempt, link by link, to 
unravel his concejptions^ coiled with such seeming 
subtlety. After capping his notice with tlie title 
of the play, and some general remarks, he com- 
mences thus : — 

" What an accurate halancing, a nice adjustment 
of qualities^ is necessanj to 2^ortray Falstaff^ 
that he may he the j^roper raixticre of dehaiir 


cMe^ coward^ hully, wit^ and courtier^ loithout 
heing one to the exclusion of the rest^ or an 
unfortunate^ disjointed succession of cdl /" 
Such a problem, I should imagine, would be 
unavoidably solved if the actor justly and accu- 
rately delivers Shakespeare's own ingredients, 
accompanied by such action as may be natural 
to one of his bulk and breeding, in his relative 

" What richness in every word that is to he ut- 
tered T 
Yocal " richness" depends upon each listener's 
own ideas of what is the quality of voice peculiar 
to ohesity / my own observation of human nature 
has determined me that fat men generally have 
either thin voices, or such as are constantly alternat- 
ing between a bass and a falsetto, as if escaping a 
throat partially clogged with a surplus of flesh. 
" What uyictuosity of tongue as well as jperson • 
what an assumption of maudlin uneasiness 
that ever pinches Falstaffinto a sort of repentr 
ance .^" 
7" cannot imagine any, inasmuch as he never exhi- 
bits the slightest proof of a sincere disposition to 
repent of anything. Once, indeed, being " troubled 
by him with vanity," he affectedly threatens the 
Prince with his own amendment, by " giving over 
this life ;" and in almost the same breath, being 
tempted, yields, and relapses " from praying to 
purse-taking." At another time, when apostrophiz- 


ing his loss of flesh — his fear of becoming " out of 
heart shortly " — his forgetfiilness of " what the inside 
of a church is made of," and the spoHatory eifects 
of " villanous company," Bardolph insinuates he is 
" so fretful, he cannot live long ;" whereupon, 
instead of any sign of repentance^ he calls for " a 
bawdy song, to make him merry." 

" What rajndity in the discharge of the apt epi- 
thets whichhegetone another with such astound- 
ing fertility^ " 

Doubtless as much rapidity in articulation as is 
consistent with his physical short-windedness, and a 
zealous desire to return promptly the personalities 
heaped upon him, at one time, by the Prince with 
such exemplary volubility, mutually unrestrained 
(as they are) by any well-bred consideration of the 
presence of their low companions. 

" what courtesy to the heir apparent are 

necessary^ hefore even the m.ost careless peruser 
of Shahespewre can see the Falstaff of his 
What courtesy f Indeed, very little of any sort 
can reasonably be expected from " an impudent, 
embossed rascal," who, w^henever annoyed, is hardly 
restrained by intimidation from pursuing his scur- 
rility towards a prince, not only habituated to his 
familiarities, called "rascalliest," and told to "hang 
himself in his own heir-apparent garters," but such 
an one as, to indulge his " inordinate and low 
desires, barren pleasures — rude society," invites 


general disrespect, by descending (as himself de- 
scribes) to " sonnd tlie very base-string of humility, 
and to become sworn brother to a leash of drawers, 
calling them Tom, Dick, and Francis," and proficient 
enongh to drink " with any tinker, in his own lan- 
guage, the rest of his life." 

Such lold shew of " courtesy " as is compatible 
with his venturing a familiar, if not impertinent, 
joke on AYorcester's defection in the presence of 
Majesty itself; for example when the King animad- 
verts thereon, he interjects — "Rebellion lay in his 
way, and he found it !" 

Such respectful " courtesy^'' under the most trying 
circumstances, as may merit the rebuke of the 
Prince in the heat of the battle, when refused his 
sword, and misled by the offer of his "pistol," he 
(\vQi^^Falstaff''s sach-hottle^ and rushes away angrily, 
exclaiming — " Is it a time to jest and dally now ?" 

" ^Yith all the hold outline and full-facedness of 
a coarsely ])ainted Dutch clocT^^ he has cdl the 
delicate organization of a Geneva vjatch / and 
hard is it for the actor to avoid marring sorne 
jpart of the fine machinery P 

This clock-and- watch figure may be striTcing to 
others^ but to discover the most remote analogy 
between such mechanism and Falstaff^s bodily 
exterior, with its soul's motive shining clearly 
through every action, puzzles me as much as I think 
it would have done the Prince to compare the 
minutes of that " long hour by Shrewsbury clock," 


wherein the dead Percy and the prostrate and 
death-counterfeiting FaUtaff^ " both rose at the 
same instant and fought" so valiantly. 

Indulgent British reader ! Accustomed as we 
AmericanshdiWQ been to reverence the chastening rod 
of London criticism, — once the fiat of each new 
Shakespearean actor's fate, and liallowed, as in by- 
gone days, for its stimulating and restraining influ- 
ence upon many, whose genius then illumined, and 
whose memories still reflect a glimmering glory on 
the British stage, how unavoidably must our esteem 
decline at such specimens of degeneracy ! — and 
when, also, such a journal as the " Morning Chroni- 
cle," (in reference to the same occasion,) after pre- 
mising that " Mr. Hackett is indisputably a good 
comedian," — ^liis " Falstaff about as good as any 
now on the stage," &c., sagely remarks, " there was 
a good deal of jollity about him, but withal, coarse : 
THOUGH Falstaff is a humorist, he is a gentleman.""^ 

Falstaff a gentleman ! ! ! I should like to learn 
in what one respect beyond the ideal quality asso- 
ciated with a hnigJdhood, The Prince sketches to 
him the following picture of himself, — viz. " a devil 
in the likeness of a fat old man — a tun of man — a 
trunk of humors — a l)olthig Jmtch of heasiliness — a 
swoln parcel of dropsies — a huge bombard of sack — 
a reverend vice — grey iniquity, father-rufiian, vanity 
in years — neat and cleanly only in carving a capon 

* Mad Tarn, in King Lear, says " The Prince of darkness is a gen- 
ileinan:'—J. H. H. 


and eating it — villanous in all things, and worthy in 
nothing." Are any of these innate characteristics 
of a gentleman ? Even what prepossessing j9(?r5(9?i«/ 
apjpeojrance does Fahtaff^s own vanity claim ? " A 
good portly man — of a cheerful look, a pleasing eye, 
and a most noble carriao^e !" and admits withal 
that he is " old and merry." What is his conduct f 
Is he not mean, coAvardly, and selfish ? — addicted to 
" incomprehensible lying ?" — lawfully due to the 
gallows for highway robbery ? — guilty of " abusing 
the king's press damnably," by a fraudulent ex- 
change of soldiery, and of cruelty in leading his 
" ragamufiins where they are so well peppered that 
not three out of a hundred and fifty are left alive?" 
Is he not ovei'bearing to his hnmble dependents ? 
Is not the poor hostess, who has trusted him a long 
score for " his diet and by-drinkings, and bought 
him a dozen shirts to his back, and lent him twenty 
pounds besides," slandered most wantonly and 
grossly by him, whom she may well call ''a foul- 
mouthed man ?" If so, the sentiments and feeline^s 
of a gentleman cannot be predicated of his words or 
his actions / nor can any actor who delivers certain 
of his language, and that the least objectionable to 
modern ears polite, as, ''"you lie^ hostess^^^ &c., avoid 
being identified with vulgarity and coarseness. As 
for Falstaff^s disposition to cultivate a dignified and 
court manner^ his ambition in that particular may 
be inferred from his own words, that " to become a 
rare hangman^ jumps with his humor as well as 


waiting in the court;" in fact, except for a few 
moments wlien meeting Westmoreland, there is no 
situation in the acting-play where Faldaff would 
not consider an assumed rejineinent of ina7inei\ use- 
less affectation. 

In conclusion, Shakespeare has invested that phi- 
losophic compound of vice and sensuality, with no 
amiable or tolerable quality to gloss or cover his 
moral deformity, except a surpassingly-brilliant and 
charming wit, and a spontaneous and irresistible flow 
of humor. Tliat the character was designed for 
stage effect is evident from his many practically- 
dramatic situations, and the idea that it is beyond 
the reach of histrionic art to represent him properly 
can only originate in a hypercritical and fantastic 
imagination ; one of that sickly cast, which, like 
unto a peevish child, would not rest satisfied even if 
humored with its own fancies ; therefore, the ends 
of criticism would be far more beneficially gained 
by the public and the performer, if censors for the 
press would occasionally analyze, where they differ 
about prominent traits of character, and particular- 
ize any new candidate's defects, whether of judg- 
ment, art, or physical qualifications ; then could 
every reader judge for himself, instead of being, as 
now, obliged to yield his premises to the ijpse dixit 
of some Sir Oracle, who may confound the faculties 
of his cursory observer, by a sweeping ad-cajptan- 
dwn-vulgus display of pseudo-intelligence, and 
impose also upon the player, who, having made a 


study of cliaracter the business of his life, may pos- 
sibly have forgotten more than such a mere occa- 
sional peruser ever knew of the subject-matter. 

James H. Hackett. 

22 Charlotte Street, Bedford ) 
Square, London, Nov. 5, 1839. ) 

Extract from the London Times, Feb. 7, 1845. 

" 3f/\ Hackett^ the American comedian, has re- 
appeared at Covent Garden as Falstaff in the First 
Part of Henry lY., a character on which, we have 
heard, he has bestowed great study ; and his per- 
formance bears tlie mark of study. There is proba- 
bly not a gesture, look, or motion, on the part of 
Mr. Hackett, which has not in his mind its meaning 
and significance. This is in itself a commendation. 
It is something now-a-days to find an actor desiring 
earnestly to give a view of a character, when it is 
so ordinjtry a plan to learn by rote a few convention- 
alities, and conceive nothing. As for the view 
itself, that is another matter. We should say that 
Mr. Hackett looks upon Falstaff as a slower and 
more deliberate person than he is usually con- 
sidered — less rejoicing in the play of his own fancy, 
more premeditative with his jokes, more seriously 
irascible. The exterior of the character, as he gives 
it, is touchy, fretful, even serious ; it is only on occa- 
sions that the mirth breaks out, and then, by the 
intensity of the laugh, he marks a strong contrast 


with the usual deportment. ^ * If we rightly 
interpret Mr. Ilackett's meaning, as displayed in his 
acting, it is this : that JFalstaff is a man of cynical 
temperament, with the infirmity of age already 
weighing upon him — that he has a kind of mental 
as well as bodily obesity, and that though the inter- 
nal humor of the man is unquestionable, it does not 
readily rise to the top. To this view of the cha- 
racter Mr. Hackett seems to have worked up most 
conscientiously. Two isolated speeches we heard 
with unmingled satisfaction. Falstaff'^s description 
of his ragged regiment was given with a real sense 
of enjoyment at the ridiculous. The " fun" was 
allowed free play — the laugh at the exit was capital. 
The other sj^eech was that on the futility of honor — 
good for a different reason. The deliberate qualities 
of the actor were well placed in this soliloquy, 
which, though comic, is deeply reflective, and in- 
volves the destruction of the whole life of the mid- 
dle ages." 

Memarks upon the Foregoing. 

London, Feb. 7, 1845. 
After many years of stage-practice in the Falstaff 
of toth parts of Kimrj Henry /F., and also in that 
of The Merry Wives of Windsor, I think there was 
not a phase of the character — either as exhibited in 
his own words, or as relatively indicated by their 
context — wliich has escaped my minute observation 
and very careful consideration before I resorted to 


liistrioiiic art to embody and represent it to an audi- 
ence ; still, as I claim no infallibility of judgment, 1 
bold my senses ever open to conviction, and am 
pleased ratlier tban offended wbenever a critic will 
take any reasonable exception to my own under- 
standing^ or will specify bis objections to mj per- 
so7iation of Falstaff. By a critic, I mean one wbo 
at least remembers eacb of tbe plays wberein Sbake- 
speare bas introduced Falstaff. I bave made tbe 
cbaracter a practical study tbe greater portion of 
my professional life, and feel ready to maintain my 
conception witb tbe poet's text and its most obvious 

Every trait of my representation, described by 
"Tbe Times," I contend for, and I am gratified in 
discovering tbat I succeeded in depicting each so 
clearly. . Tbe specific cbaracter oi Falstaff ^s bumor 
cbanges witb tbe circitmstances. Wlien Poins bas 
bidden Falstaff^ s borse bebind tbe bedge, and by 
sucb practical joke bas compelled old Fat Jach 
to clamber Gadsbill owfoot^ Falstaff \^ said to ''^fret 
nice a giimmed velvet /" be also fumes out a long 
soliloquy of splenetic invective, ending witb — " I 
bate it !" 

Tbe "Times" critic cbarges tbat I look upon Fal- 
staff as " more seriously irascible tban be is usually 
considered." I would submit wbetber Falstaff 
would not be in earnest w^ben Poins confesses tbe 
trick be bad put upon liim, and sbelters bimself be- 
hind tbe Prince to escape punisbment, in saying — ■ 


" Now^ can not I strike him if I were to be hanged ;" 
and also, whether it was not Poins's agility or the 
Princess personal interference, or the nrgency of 
their predatory expedition, \n\\\^ jyrevented Falstaff 
from " striking JihiiP 

In Falstaff ''s abuse of the hostess, and when back- 
biting the Prince^ he inteijects — 

" The Prince I He is a Jack ! a sneak-cup ! and if he were 
here and were to say so, I'd cudgel him like a dog IJ 

In fact, the Second Part of Henry lY., and the 
Merry Wives of Windsor, too, furnish many in- 
stances of Falstaff ^s habitual recourse to his " cud- 
gel," and of the indulgence of his " irascible " 
humors. Is not Falstaff' " touchy f " Mark ! When 
BardolpTi^ encouraged to become familiar with him, 
ventures a jest confirming Falstaff'' s own report 
of his condition — " I^ow, I live out of all order,, and 
out of all compass," and remarks, "Why, Sir John, 
you are so fat you must needs be out of all com- 
pass !" Falstaff proves himself " touchy f^ because 
PardoVph finds cause to qualify his observation 
immediately by adding, " out of all reasonable com- 
pass ;" yet, it does not restrain an immediate display 
of Falstaff ''s " cynical temperament,^'' for which 
Bardol^Ns face and appearance furnish a subject. 

I contend that there should be " marked, a strong 
contrast between" the heartiness of Falstaff^ s mirth 
according to circumstances • for example, when he 
is cornered into his wit's end, to escape detection in 


tlie lies which he has just told the PrinGe and 
Poins^ and swears — 

" I hnew ye, as well as he that made ye I" 

the exigency of the occasion (to " hide himself from 
the open and apparent shame") and 2i forced mirth 
ought to be discernible in the acting — in order to 
characterize it distinctly from the unctuous kind, 
and wherever it is the spontaneous and the irresisti- 
ble ebullition of his own exuberant fancy ; as, for 
example, when he is surveying in soliloquy and 
luxuriating upon the features of his own ragged 

That Falstaff feels " the infirmity of age already 
weighing upon him," may be proved from various 
expressions of his at different times ; says he — 
'' There live not three good men unhanged in Eng- 
land, and one of them is fat and grows old !" thus 
insinuating that there exist but tivo / one of course 
being his hing^ and the other himself that king's 
loyal subject. 

Respecting Falstaff'' s ^' mental as well as bodily 
obesity," which the " Times" critic also discovers in 
my rendering on the stage, the Prince tells him, 
when Falstaff inquires the " time of tlie day^ " Thou 
art so fat-witted with drinking of old sack," &c., &c. 

Extract from The Times^ London^ June 27, 1851. 
" Mr. Ilackett^ the American comedian, who 


favors US with visits at very long intervals, comes 
back to us with precisely the same qualities which 
he displayed years ago. There is probably not a 
more conscientious actor on the stage. He has 
evidently studied the speeches of the fat knight, 
whether uttered in Henry IV. or The Merry Wives 
of Windsor^ w^ith a carefulness worthy of a com- 
mentator on Sophocles. He has a definite manner 
of giving every phrase, and of introducing every 
jest. The finest mosaic work could not be more 
carefully laid down. And there is not only care, 
but considerable intelligence evinced in the render- 
ing. The mind of an acute artist has evidently 
been devoted to a character, with the view of dig- 
ging everything out of its hidden recesses, and 
making of it the completest thing in the world. 
And yet there is one deficiency, which prevents the 
Falstaff from producing its full effect on the audi- 
ence. (fThis is, the want of the ars celare arte^n j 
you approve of the result at which the artist has 
arrived, but you always see the pains he takes to 
reach it.'/ 


If this critic, in the subtlety of his penetration, 
could find but " one deficiency" in my making my 
Falstaff " the com/pletest thing in the world^^ and 
that deficiency, too, such a one as none but the 
most unsophisticated of spectators could fail to 


detect to be, after all, no more than acting^ or stage- 
ai% and intended^ by " an acute artist," to only 
represent naturally an imaginary character, under 
the particular circumstances of his varying scenes, 
I can't ask nor expect more from " The Times" news- 
paper — ever notorious for its parsimony of praise 
and its liberality of censure : the rule of that press 
being never to compliment any body or action with- 
out a '' hut^'^ or some qualifying reservation. The 
dignity of its policy on every subject and in every 
department forbids that its editor can be fallible in 
judgment, or ever surprised or instructed on any 


James H. Hackett. 



Chief Justice. What's he that goes there ? 
Attendant. Falstaff, an't please your lordship. 

It has often been said that though the triumphs 
of the actor are immediate, they are not lasting. 
The fruition of his efforts is quickly gathered ; he 
hears the thunder of applauding multitudes while 
he is yet upon the stage, but it is as brief as it is 
boisterous and intoxicatino^. It confers no endurino: 
fame like that which, ripening slowly, rewards the 
authoi*, the painter, the sculptor, and the statesman. 


and lives for ever. Shakespeare himself may have 
been of this opinion, for he likens life to the " poor 
player, that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, 
and then is heard no more." With all due defer- 
ence to the great authorities who have propounded 
this idea, it may well be questioned. The fame of 
the really great actor is not as evanescent as has 
been supposed. His profession is one of the polite 
arts ; and he who elevates and adorns it does not 
merely revel in exquisite applause while upon the 
stage, to sink into oblivion when the curtain falls 
upon this mortal scene. He is the companion of 
those whose pencils write their names upon the 
pedestal of fame, and whose chisels carve out immor- 
tality in indestructible marble. He is the friend of 
the poet and biographer, whose pens illustrate and 
embalm the men and manners of their time for all 
succeeding ages. His fame is but little more evanes- 
cent than their own, than that of most of those who 
win glory in command of armies, or shape the fate 
of nations in the deliberations of senates. Roscius 
is not forgotten. We know as much of Betterton 
as of Bradshaw, the regicide. Garrick's fame will 
survive the memory of the monarch who fed mutton 
npon his own turnips at Kew, and philosophising 
over the baked dumpling, asked, how got the apple 
in? Kean and Kemble will have a name among 
polished nations after the vagaries of "the finest 
gentleman in Europe " are no more remembered ; 
and Talma will go down to later ages in company 


with the " Man of Destiny " and Talleyrand. It is 
very true that the actor leaves nothing of his own 
behind him, by which after generations can revise 
the verdict of his contemporaries, nor is it necessaiy 
to his fame. His finest efforts instantly are "melted 
into air — into thin air ! " but this is nearly so with 
those of the great orator as well. From the neces- 
sities of the case, we accept the judgment of those 
who saw and heard them, as the unquestionable 
guarantee of that genius which commands the admi- 
ration of everv veneration of men. The fame of 
poets, painters, and sculptors does not rest upon the 
judgments of the mass of mankind upon their 
works. How many men in this age have seen a 
fragment from the hand of Phidias ? How many of 
those who hold Raphael to have been the greatest 
of painters have looked at one of his pictures ? 
How many of those who believe in Homer have 
read him, except through the ground and polished 
spectacles of Alexander Pope? I grant that the 
notoriety which some actors mistake for fame is as 
short-lived as, to any man of genius and sensibility, 
it would be unendurable ; but this is also true of 
daubers who think they are artists, of scribblers who 
believe themselves authors, and of charlatans who 
pretend to be statesmen. It scarcely needs the 
investigations of future ages to detect the impos- 
ture. The foolish of Dryden's time thought Settle 
a poet — the wise knew him to be a dunce. Pen- 
sioners and parasites, in all ages, proclaim the minis- 


ter who pays them " a heaven-born statesman ;" but 
the bokl and honest leave it upon record that he is 
a wretched jobber. Everybody knows the brazen- 
faced and brazen-throated mountebanks who pur- 
chase venal praise with little cash and many bibu- 
lous gratuities ; everybody knows the versatile sons 
of genius, for whom no tragedy is too high, no farce 
too low ; everybody knows the admirable men who 
are equally excellent in presenting the almost divine 
creations of Shakespeare, and the delirious concep- 
tions of any fustian rascal who will murder the 
English language, and massacre his characters ex- 
pressly and solely for their use and behoof. For a 
brief sj^ace, and among the green ones (but not in 
the green-room), the fame of such persons seems 
almost to equal, and sometimes to surpass, that of 
the really great actor. While his greatest excel- 
lence is rarely seen in more than two or three cha- 
racters, these fellows are declared by their puffers 
to be line in all. The real difference in kind, how- 
ever, is fully as great as the apparent difference in 
degree. It is a cat's-eye diamond to a ton of coal. 
Both have carbon for a base, but one is constituted 
brilliant, to endure for ever; the other will be dust 
and ashes long before its lucky owner is. In every 
polished age vast numbers of people, and those not 
the least informed, have taken much interest in the 
reminiscences and memoirs of truly great actors. 
They enter into the spirit of their early struggles, 
sympathise with their disappointments, dwell upon 


their triuniplis, and devour the gossip of tne stage 
and its antechambers with avidity. Something of 
one of these great actors I am about briefly to 
sketch. It is a hibor of love, for I believe that 
could Shakespeare see liis plays, as they are per- 
formed in our day, he would esteem Hackett as the 
best exponent of one of the most delightful and 
difiicult of his characters that has trod the stage 
since his bones were laid by Avon side. Nor will 
this actor's fame be evanescent, in my opinion. 
From the very nature and degree of it, he is with- 
out a rival living, he will never be without admirers 
dead. When he, and you, and I, and sixty years 
have gone, old gentlemen will say to the play-goer 
of the day, " I saw Hackett in Falstaff^ sir. He 
was the finest ' Sir John ' that ever enacted the 
character !" And when sixty times sixty years have 
elapsed, I have little doubt but the dramatic critic 
and antiquary will declare, " the real Falstaff died 
with Hackett ; and one of Shakespeare's master- 
pieces is, as yet, no more !" 

James H. Hackett was born in New York, in the 
year 1800. He came of good stock, and is now the 
oldest male lineal descendant of Ilaket^ a Norman 
knight, who crossed the Channel with the Conqueror, 
and whose descendants were, no doubt, men of mark 
among the Hackems and Slashems who followed 
Strongbow to Ireland, and Eichard to the Holy 
Land. The actor is heir to the title long held by the 

* •' .Uackdt, of Hackett's-towrij County Carlow, and Sbelton Abbey, 


Barons Hackett, of Ilackett's Court in Ireland. 
Some of our cotemporary journals have put forth a 
good deal of nonsense about his reasons for not 
asserting his right to the peerage. The story goes, 
that he does not claim the title because being a 
recognized gentleman, the equal of any, in America, 
a British Barony, the third degree in the peerage, 
would degrade him, and make his rank relatively 
below what it is at present. Then follows the old 
formula about " good breeding," " worth makes the 
man," "honor and shame from no condition rise," 
&c. Stuff like this could scarcely have emanated 
from Mr. Hackett ; and it is quite certain that Sir 
John Falstaff would have treated it with sovereign 
contempt. Those who tell the story are not even 
consistent in their nonsense. They begin by prais- 
ing Mr. Hackett for not claiming certain rank, and 
then assert that he does not claim it because it will 
lower the rank and consideration he already enjoys. 
But the absurdity does not stop here. 'No man of 
sense really believes that the descendant of a long 

County Wicklow, derived from Dominus Paganus de Hackett, who 
himself descended from one of the great Norman Barons under the 
Conqueror at Hastings, whose name appears on the Roll of Battle 
Abbey. Paganus, in more than a century afterwards, accompanied 
Henry II. into Ireland, and acquired broad lands and Seignories there ; 
and his descendants, generation after generation, were subsequently 
parliamentary barons and potent magnates in Ireland." — Burke's 
Armorie of England, Scotland, and Ireland. London, 4do. 1844. 


line of valiant and honorable men would be de- 
graded below other gentlemen, anywhere, by reason 
of his succession to the title they bore for centuries. 
Is it any worse for a gentleman to be a baron than 
to be an actor ? Grant that the descendants of i^ell 
G Wynne, and the Duchess of Portsmouth, will have 
precedence of him at Court on certain State occa- 
sions — they have 7iow^ if he goes there. They have 
it over the American Minister, but who declines the 
embassy on that account ? Again, if dukes, mar- 
quises and earls, rank above the Barons Hackett in 
Dod's Peerage and the book of the Court Chamber- 
lain, they do not in the estimation of the English 
people. The baron of ancient degree does not owe 
his patent to the compliances of wantons, or the ser- 
vices of chamberers. The names of his kin are in 
Doomesday Book, and on the roll of Battle Abbey ! 
His ancestors were among those " barons " who 
wrested the Great Charter from John, at Punny- 
mede, after having spilt their martial blood under 
his valiant brother, beneath the walls of Ascalon. 

" The knights are dust — • 
Their swords are rust, 
Their souls with the saints I trust ; 
And honor their names we must." 

The man of fine genius and rare intelligence, 
never talked as this idle tale supposes. It smacks 


of tlie demagogue, who, believing the people to be 
as foolish as he really is himself, endeavors to impose 
upon them by clap-trap as wretched as that shouted 
to clowns in country theatres by buffoons barely fit 
to grin through a horse's collar. Hackett declined 
to claim the title he might have had, because he had 
achieved fame by his own efforts, and because he is 
of a nation which has wisely discarded titles in its 
economy of place and honor. This was sensible, a 
proper respect for principle, which everybody can 
understand ; whereas, nobody can understand how 
the taking of the title could have been degrading in 
any sense of the word.^ 

* The basis of this newspaper-story was constructed out of an 
after-dinner and incidental conversation in England in the autumn of 
1839 ; and Mr. Ilackett was reported, by an American correspondent 
who happened to be a guest also, to have rephed — when asked, 
" Why, possessing an attested pedigree,* he had not claimed the iiile 
of a Baron ?" — " Because, it is now only an lionorary one. It was 
derived originally from a descendant of Haket (whose name is still 
visible upon the Pillar at Battle Abbey near Hastings, as one of the 
Norman nobles and Generals of William the First, that shared richly 
with him in his Conquest of England) who attended Henry the Second 
into Ireland, and obtained large landed estates there, but has become 
extinct, and is now only recognised as having, through many centu- 
ries, lastl}'- and properly belonged to the Peerage of a by-gone and 
since disintegrated Irish Parliament, Hence the title is now only the 
shadow of a departed dignity, and such as could offer no temptation 
to a native and an unostentatious American to parade anywhere as 
an appendage to his family-name." J. 

* Issued in 1834, by the Ulster King at Arms, to the late Edmond — the last 
of the Barons— iZacl'e^^, who died when visiting New Orleans in 1889. 


In 1815, after tlie turbulent star of Talma's friend, 
jN^apoleon, had set in a sea of fire and blood, young 
Hackett was entered at Columbia College. His 
poor health, however, prevented a close and long 
devotion to classical studies. A severe attack of 
sickness compelled him to leave the college, and 
after his recovery he began the study of the law. 
But even thus early, the works of our great drama- 
tists had for him an irresistible charm, and much 
time that might have been devoted to Coke upon 
Lyttletou, and the Commentaries of Mr. Justice 
Blackstone, was given to Shakespeare's plays. He 
began to lay the foundation of that large and accu- 
rate knowledge of these works, which has since 
guided him to truthful conceptions in the closet, and 
borne such splendid fruit upon the stage. He did 
not pursue the study of legal principles and practice 
long, but I dare say he mastered enough of them to 
appreciate the almost marvellous wisdom which 
built up the structure of the Common Law, and then 
devised the maxims and rules of equity to assuage 
the sometime harshness of its strict application. In 
1819 Mr. Hackett was married to Miss Catharine 
Lee Sugg, a young actress of much ability, fine vocal 
talent, and many charms of mind as well as person. 
The young couple settled at Utica, in this State, 
where he embarked in mercantile pursuits. In 
Utica they remained six years, at the end of which 
time, desiring to extend his business operations, Mr. 



Hackett removed to New York. The change was 
unfortunate for tlie merchant, but happy for the 
man. He failed in business, and his wife returned 
to the stage, where she received the welcome emi- 
nently due to her talents and virtues. On the first 
of March, 1826, at the Park Theatre, Mr. Hackett 
made his debut in public, as Justice Woodcock, in 
Love in a Village, his wife playing Rosetta. He 
was not successful, for his efforts were frustrated by 
extreme nervousness. Perhaps his supposed failure 
on this occasion w^as not an unfavorable omen as to 
his future career. There is an order of mind in 
which high powers are joined to a self-possession not 
to be shaken, but it is very rare. There are also 
two or three other things which may enable a man 
to stand such an ordeal without emotion. One is 
stolid insensibility, but he who is preserved from 
nervousness on his first night by that, had better 
quit the stage at once and go to rail-splitting. In 
that case he may, in time, come to be President, 
whereas he can never, under any circumstances, 
become a good actor. Another is a flippant self- 
conceit which keeps its possessor in blissful igno- 
rance of the fact that he is making a fool of himself. 
The first efibrt of such a man is apt to be as good as 
his last, and that is not saying much for either of 

IsTine days after Mr. Hackett's first appearance, he 
availed himself of the opportunity ajfforded by his 


wife's benefit to go before the audience of the Park 
Theatre again. He plajecl Sylvester Daggerwood,, 
witli imitations of Matthews, Kean, Hilson, and 
Barnes. His ejfforts on this occasion were so highly- 
applauded, that his resokition to adopt the profes- 
sion of an actor was confirmed. He soon made 
another " hit," as the bills have it, as Dromio^ in the 
Comedy of Errors^ Barnes playing the other bro- 
ther. Hackett gave such a capital imitation of the 
voice, manner, and peculiarities of Mr. Barnes, that 
the audience were confused as to their identity, and 
convulsed with laughter all through the play. In 
the spring of the following year Mr. Hackett visited 
England. I can imagine the bounding spirit and 
emotion with which such a man treads for the first 
time the boards of Covent Garden and Old Drury, 
and becomes familiar with the haunts of Shake- 
speare and rare Ben Jonson. He first appeared in 
London, at Covent Garden, in Syl'vester Daggerwood^ 
with imitations of Kean and Macready, and stories 
of American life and manners. The latter, no 
doubt, of the old Knickerbocker folk, and of West- 
ern characters, such as those in the Ai'kansaw Tra- 
veller, were vastly amusing ; the imitations of Kean 
were so good, that Jones induced Mr. Hackett to 
play a whole scene from Richard in the style of the 
great tragedian. Hackett, however, soon returned 
to this country, where his excellent performances of 
Dro7nio^ Solomon Swaj)-) Nhnrod Wildfire^ Rip 
Van Winkle^ Monsieur Mallet^ cJ&c, procured him 


many friends and hosts of admirers. At this time 
he was interested in the management of the old 
Chatham and Bowery Theatres, hut did not find the 
treasury of either establishment a Californian placer. 
In the fall of 1832 he again went to England. 
During this sojourn in London he played at Covent 
Garden, Drury Lane, and the Haymarket, conclud- 
ing his engagements by playing Falstaff^ in which 
part he had appeared once before in America. In 
this great and subtle creation of Shakespeare, the 
fame of Hackett w^as mainly won. He may have 
played other characters very well, but they had not 
for him the scope and significance of this. We do 
not see the stars when the sun is shining. Nobody 
cares about Dromio or Solojnon Swap when sweet 
Sir John^ portly, rollicking, full-to-the-brim-and- 
running-over Falstaff^ with his fiashing, many-sided, 
diamond-cutting wit, is in question. This is quite 
natural. Washington may have been an excellent 
surveyor, Jenner may have had a capital salve for 
a cut finger, James Watt may have improved cook- 
ing stoves or candlesticks, but, inasmuch as the first 
wrought the deliverance of America, the second 
discovered vaccination, and the third invented the 
condensing engine, nobody thinks of tlieir minor 
achievements. Hackett's name has become identi- 
fied with the personality of Sir John Falstaff wher- 
ever our language is spoken. To play the part as 
he plays it is to do what no other man, certainly no 
other of this age, has ever done. Falstaff^ one of 


the most glorious creations of our great dramatist, 
was lost to the stage for want of a competent inter- 
preter, and with him sank the lesser lights who 
revolve around him in three plays. Why was 
this ? Fat men were plenty enougli, as models, and 
roguery and wine-bibbing have always been extant. 
Thinking that these are the essentials of the part, 
every low comedy man is persuaded that he could 
play it. The manager, however, who, according to 
said comedian, was once hissed in it himself, 
refuses, out of sheer envy, to let the favorite of the 
gallery appear as Sir John. The judicious are very 
glad of it, for in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred 
we should have all the grossness of Jach Paunch 
and none of the wit of Sir John Falstaff. The 
subtle, mercurial essence which informs the charac- 
ter would escape to no purpose in hands like these. 
Corporeally, Sit John is heavy ; intellectually, he 
is lightsome and nimble as the " tricksy spirit " who 
ministered to Prosjpero^ when he 

" be-dimmed 

The noontide sun, call'd forth the mutinous winds, 
And 'twixt the gr 
Set roarinsr war." 

And 'twixt the green sea and the azure vault 

Hackett is as near perfection as can well be con- 
ceived in this character. It is one of the most diffi- 
cult of those we owe to the immortal author, whose 
genius created it ; and it must have been a favorite 
with him. The marvellous readiness, the rich fancy, 


tlie exuberant wit, the imperturbable self-possession 
in circumstances which would confound a hundred 
others, the manners of the gentleman never departed 
from in the most ludicrous situations, the real good- 
nature which underlies the disposition of the great, 
roguish rojsterer, and, above all, the luscious, unctu- 
ous humor with which Falstaff really " lards the 
lean earth as he walks along," are all admirably 
preserved by Hackett. Sir John^ mark you, drinks 
much sack, but he is never reeling ripe, like Sii' 
Toby and Sw Andrew^ in Twelfth ISTight. " If sack 
and sugar be a fault, God help the wicked !" He 
goes out to commit highway robbery, but he is no 
thief. He offers Bardolpli as security to Master 
Dumhleton^ for a new doublet and slops, but he is 
no swindler. He borrows a thousand pounds of 
Justice Shallow^ but says to him, when he hears that 
the young King has come to the throne, " Choose 
what office thou wilt in the land, 'tis thine !" He 
runs away at Gadshill, but he is not a poltroon. 
" ]^ot John of Gaunt, your grandfather, but yet no 
coward, Hal." The real highwayman ran away too. 
Each took his fellow for an officer. It is true that 
the " instinct " and epicurean pliilosophy of the 
knight, induce him to keep his person out of harm's 
way as mucli as possible, but he had more of it to 
care for than other men. The common notion is, 
that the knight is without courage ; but this is a 
mistake. I will go to the death for it that Sir John 
was no coward. Let us look at the circumstances 


of the time, and what was happening. England 
was streaked tlirough and through with the turl)n- 
lent passions which marked the era of " the roses 
red and white." Tlie fourth prince of the house of 
Tudor had mounted the throne bj violence, and the 
second Kichard had been murdered in his prison, in 
Pontefract Castle, after having stretched four or 
five of his assassins dead at his feet with a pole-axe, 
wrested from one of their number. The Percys, 
JS'evilles, and Douglases, with other of the barons 
who enabled Henry to seize upon the crown, are 
now in arms against him. The dynasty of the 
Tudors is menaced. Hotsjyur rages in the north, 
and marches south to Shrewsbury. The commotion 
about the court of the old king j)enetrates the haunt 
of the Prince and Falstaff in Eastcheap, and young 
Henry ^ taking arms himself, procures a charge of 
foot for Sir John. He must have known whether 
he was fit for it or not. At that time, battles were 
decided at sword point and lance's thrust, and every- 
thing depended upon the conduct and example of 
the leaders. Later than that, Richard of Gloucester 
and the Earl of Warwick won great victories by 
their personal daring and courage. The Tudors, 
father and son, had everything at stake. The 
Prince^ afterwards a great captain, procured a com- 
mand for Falstaff. It is incredible that Shake- 
speare would have permitted young Henry to do 
this, if Sir John had been a poltroon. The latter 
would have disgraced him in the field. Falstaff 


was a captain of his making — the chief of those 
boon companions with whom he " daffed the workl 
aside to let it pass !" It is true the Prince calls him 
a coward ; but Sir John calls him a coward, and 
Poins another. " An' the Prince and Poins be not 
two arrant cowards, there's no equity stirring ! 
there's no more valor in that Poins than in a wild 
duck." Yet Falstaff \w<^\n better. All the epithets 
they applied to each other were but parts of the 
great joke their lives then were. But here is irre- 
fragable testimony, under Shakespeare's own hand, 
that Jack Falstaff was, in real action, a brave and 
doughty soldier. What does he make him say upon 
the field, where there was " no scoring but upon the 
pate ?" " I have led my ragamuffins where they 
are peppered. There's but three of my hundred 
and fifty left alive ; and they are for the town's end, 
to beg during life !" He has led them into the 
very heat of the fray — the current of the heady 
fight ; and now, " hot as molten lead, and as heavy, 
too," he breathes awhile, and jests upon the dangei'S 
and incidents of the fight. Is this the conduct of a 
coward ? would such a one have led the ragamuffins 
where they got peppered 'I Would he not have 
been pale and silent, instead of hot and cracking 
jokes upon the stricken field ? Again, see how 
Palstaff draws upon Pistol and drives him out, 
when the latter vapors and flourishes his sword at 
the Boar's Head in Eastcheap, where the Knight is 
carousing with Doll and Quickly. And then again, 


in the Merry Wives of Windsor, lie puts Pistol and 
Nym down by that authority of courage which they 
know he has, and they have not : 

" Rogues, hence avaunt ! vanish hke hailstones — go 
Trudge, plod away o' the hoof; seek shelter, pack! 
Falstaff will learn the humor of this age, 
French thrift, you rogues ; myself and skirted page." 

Friends ! I beseech you, for tlie credit of Shake- 
speare and the hero of Agincourt, as well as for 
that of the knight himself, never think of sweet 
Jack Falstaff as a coward again. 

At his end, w^e see that the great poet loved him. 
In his last moments he " played with flow- ers," and 
when " his nose was as sharp as a pen, 'a babbled of 
green fields !" Memento mori ! His dependants, 
too, scamps as they were, loved the man, as appears 
in King Henry the Fifth. 

Pistol. for Falstaff he is dead. 

And we must yearn therefore. 
Bardolph. "Would I were with him, wheresome'er he is, 
either in heaven, or in hell ! 

Kym. They say, he cried out of sack. 

QuicJcIy. Ay, that 'a did. 
BardolpJi. And of women. 

Quickly. Nay, that 'a did not. 

Boy. Yes, that 'a did, and said they were devils incarnate. 

QuicMy. 'A could never abide carnation; 'twas a color he 
never hked. 

Boy. 'A said once the devil would have him about women. 



Isone of tliese "base companions" had an end 
like that the poet gave Fcdstaf\ unless it were the 
Boy. Bardolpli is hanged for pix of little price. 
Quicldy is " dead i' th' 'spital of malady of France." 
Pistol, soundly cudgelled, goes home to follow a 
wretched and infamous calling. These contrasts are 
thrown in to mark the superior nature of Sir John. 
The rebuke administered to him in such harsh terms 
by the young King, would have better become the 
lips of Chief Justice Gascoigne. Harry had shared 
his dissolute way of life, and I regard this sermon to 
Sir John, as a sort of vicarious atonement, very con- 
venient, but not very creditable to the King. Some 
think Shakespeare inserted it as a homage to virtue. 
I think it was a homage to that resolute and imperi- 
ous woman, Elizabeth Tudor. For her he made 
Itichard Plantagenet a humj^-backed fiend ; for her 
he made Harry Tudor a saint on his coronation day. 
The Merry Wives, in which Sir John is made a dupe 
and butt, w^as written at her request. Even in this 
play, Falstaf rises superior to w^hat would over- 
whelm another man. Besides, look at the charms 
of the females, Ford and Page, employed to compass 
his undoing. Seductiveness and treachery have 
been the downfall of many a man since Jack gravi- 
tated to the bottom of the Thames, like a whale 
sounding in the shallows of the Antarctic Seas. 

Mr. Hackett, in 1839, had a very interesting cor- 
respondence with John Qnincy Adams, respecting 
the character of Hamlet, and his letters establish his 


critical acumen. lu 1840, lie visited England again, 
and repeatedly performed FaUtaff at Drury Lane, 
with great success. On bis return to this country, 
he played King Lear^ at the Park Theatre, and also 
at Philadelphia and Boston. Two years afterwards 
he appeared as Hamlet at the Park Theatre. His 
success in these characters led him to undertake 
Pichard. In 1845, Mr. Hackett lost his wife, and 
his engagements on the stage became fitful and 
irregular after the sad bereavement. In the winter 
of that year we find him again in London, playing 
Falstaff and Hip Van Winkle^ at Covent Garden. 
He also appeared at the Haymarket, and there, by 
desire of the Queen, enacted Monsieur Mallet^ to the 
great amusement of her Majesty and Prince Albert. 
His experience as a manager, like his walk as an 
actor, has been large. The Howard Athenaeum, at 
Boston, was built for hi^n ; and he was lessee of the 
Astor Place Opera House in 1849, when the 
Macready riots occurred. The circumstances of that 
affair, and those which grew out of it, disgusted him 
so much that he threw up his lease. In 1851, he 
made another visit to England, more for pleasure 
than with a view to acting. He played Sir John, 
however, in Merry ^Yives of Windsor, at the Hay- 
market, and the comedy had a great run. 

Even the brief sketch that has here been given 
will suffice to show how varied, as well as great, are 
the powers of Hackett. Sir John Falstaf^ is all 
his own. Another actor of reputation would be 


insane to afford the opportunity for comparison by 
attempting it. Falstaff^s belt has become like 
Shakespeare's magic — " within that circle none 
durst walk but he !" Hackett is one of the most 
natural actors that ever trod the stage. He affects 
no rant. He " mouths no sentence, as dogs mouth 
a bone." Too many of our players imagine that 
swiftness of utterance is vehemence, and that volume 
of sound is power. In no character did Hackett 
ever make these mistakes. He is not as rapid as a 
mock auctioneer, nor as loud as the town bell-man, 
and yet he moves his audiences as those who rave 
prodigiously can never do. His engagement at 
Niblo's has shown the hold he has upon the taste 
and affections of the public. May it not be his last! 
Mr. Hackett resides in the vicinity of I^ew York. 
With a generous competency, the reward of his own 
exertions, appreciated and cherished for his know- 
ledge and learning, and having but just crowned 
and passed the heights whicli decline gently into the 
vale of years on the farther side, his life must needs 
be happy and dignified ; and when his steps pass 
down, near the clods in the valley, where the long 
shadows, betokening that the sun is about to set, 
still point towards its place of rising for a longer 
and more glorious day, " all that should accompany 
old age, as honor, love, obedience, troops of friends," 
this man may look to have. — Wilkes's Spirit of the 
Times, Feh. 1862. 



As may be perceived by reference to my " Shahe- 
spcrean Tvact^'' P^g® 316, my opinion of Falstaff's 
moral claims to our respect is in direct antagonism 
to that of Mr. Foster, the author of the forefiroins: 

In the latter part of the last century Maurice Mor- 
gann^ Esq.^ the same who had filled the office of 
Under-Secretary of State to the Marquis of Lans- 
down during his first administration, and who 
became afterwards Secretary to the Embassy for 
ratifying the peace with the U. S. of America in 
1783, wrote, as he professes in his Preface, " origi- 
nally to amuse his friends, though he subsequently 
consented to its publication," " An Essay upon the 
DramatiG Character of Sir John FalstaffP Mr. 
Morgann seems to have been so charmed by 
Falstaff that he became blinded to the enormity of 
his immoralities^ and undertook, like some profes- 
sional advocate, to maintain, contrary to the general 
opinion, and apparently against his own conviction, 
" the worse to be the better reason," and that " the 
character was not intended to be shown as a 
coward?'' Though his arguments were palpably 
sophistical, and utterly failed to vindicate Falstaff^s 
courage, I could not but admire the talent he dis- 
played in the effort, and I remember his '' Essay "^"^ 
as one of the most amusing and ingenious which I 


had ever perused. As an actor of tlie character I 
am far from thinking it necessary to dignify it or to 
hide or excuse its moral deformity in order to elevate 
any merit in its personation, or to furnish an audience 
an apology to themselves for being attracted and 
amused whilst instructed by such an old reprobate 
as Sir John Falstaff. 

Shakespeare has been censured, and unjustly, for 
making the Prince, after he became Henry F., dis- 
solve his former intimacy with Falsta-ff^ who had 
been the misleader of his youth, and banish him 
some miles distant from his person ; for had he con- 
tinued him in favor and allowed him near his Court, 
Falstaff would have become a constant cause of 
annoyance, if not an absolute nuisance to him. 
Besides such personal reasons of the King^ Shake- 
speare evidently had a onoral to inculcate. To 
crown Falstaff with Henry the Fifth) s favor would 
have been to reward vice and immorality instead of 
punishing them. According to the history of 
Shakespeare's time, when he wrote " The First Part 
of King Henry lY.^^ the character now known as 
Falstaf was first named Oldcastle^ for which 
ofi*ence, as Sir John Oldcastle had been histori- 
cally a valorous knight and an honorable gentleman, 
the great dramatist was censured, and he therefore 
coined for the character a new and an appropriate 
or indicative name. /The staff upon which Fat Jack 
relied to support him through life was composed of 
his wit and humor and self-assurance, but it proved 


in the end a false staff ; lie died, after the " King 
had Mlled his heart,^^ disgraced and neglected by 
Court friend?, and in the tavern at Eastcheap, 
where he was surrounded only by his hostess, and 
his former lewd and licentious companions or his 
humble dependents. The idea entertained by some 
critics that Shakespeare had, in so changing the 
na7ne, been again unfortunate in selecting that of 
Sir John Fastolf who historically, like Sii' John 
Oldcastle^ had been also a hrave man, is absurd ; he 
intended, when he explained that " Oldcastle died a 
martyr, and this is not the man," to avoid the possi- 
bility of such another personal imputation, and, by 
the new name, to point the moral whilst the character 
should adorn his historical play ; such suggestive 
name^ too, requiring the omission of only two letters 
in its orthography, superfluous to its sound upon the 
ear, whilst its significancy^ when pronounced^ was 
fully preserved — Fal(se)staff. 

Fcdstaff was one of such as had " put their trust 
in princes." The staffs upon which this huge and 
extraordinary mental and physical compound de- 
pended to procure him a secure and prominent posi- 
tion about the Court ^ and to sustain him during his 
latter days in Royal favor ; and indeed, to render 
his own presence near his future king's person so 
indispensable, as a source of continuous pleasure to 
his new majesty, that, after hearing of the death of 
the father, he flattered himself "the young king 
would be sich until he should see him " at his coro- 


nation, consisted of certain ingredients ; such staff 
had been formed by himself out of his natural 
gifts and his artful accomplishments ; a rare wit 
and of an ever-amusing quality, whether pro- 
ceeding from his good or his ill humors ; the culti- 
vation of a social and familiar intercourse, boon 
companionship with the heir apparent^ a common 
fellowship among " barren pleasures and rude so- 
ciety ;" a ready participation even in absolute high- 
way robbery, which had been suggested by Poins, 
and consented to by the Prince as a frolicsome jest^ 
and the basis of a practical joke against Falstaff^ 
and involving some personal danger to him cer- 
tainly ; but all seemingly consistent with his selfish 
policy, and well calculated to establish his special 
favoritism with, and his influence over a wild young 
prince thereafter. Out of such materials was Fat 
Jack's staff constructed, with which he hoped and 
expected to continue to live licentiously, and to defy 
the good ordering of society, but at last he found it 
to be as false as a jack-o'-lantern. 

The great and always moralizing dramatist, Shake- 
speare^ whose immortal mind has made its stores of 
reflections as treasurable to us as they will be 
imperishable throughout all time, teaches, by the 
career of Falstaff^ to Youth the danger of becoming 
corrupted by intimacy with old and vicious com- 
pany, who may have a high order of intellect, yet 
pervert it to base uses ; and also furnishes Courtiers 
a popular example and an instructive caution to 


beware of placing any reliance upon liopes founded 
upon ministering to the vices of great patrons, lest 
tliey too, like Falstaff, be left to die in despair. 

James Henry Hackett. 

New York, April 23, 1862. 




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A hand-book for ladies and gentlemen. Best, wittiest, most en- 
tertaining work on taste and good manners ever printed, 81.50. 

The Cloister and tUe Hearth, 
A magnificent new historical novel, by Charles Reade, author 
of "Peg Woffington," etc., cloth, 81.50, paper covers, 81.25, 

A novel of remarkable power, by Miss A. J. Evans, 81.50. 


Artemus Ward, His Book. 

The racy writings of this humorous author. Illustrated, $1.25. 

Tlie Old Mercliaiits of New York. 
Entertaining reminiscences of ancient mercantile New York 
City, by ** Walter Barrett, clerk." First, Series. 81.50 each. 

liike and Unlike. 
Novel by A. S. Roe, author of "I've been thinking," &c.$l.50. 

Orplieus C. Kerr Papers. 
Second series of letters by this comic military authority. §1.25. 

Marian Grey. 
New domestic novel, by the author of "Lena Rivers," etc. $1.50. 

Lena Rivers. 
A popular American novel, by Mrs. Mary J. Holmes, $1.50. 

A Book about Hoctors. 
An entertaining volume about the medical profession. $1.50.' 

The Adventures of Verdant Green. 
Humorous novel of English College life. Illustrated. $1.25. 

The Culprit Fay. 
Joseph Rodman Drake's taery poem, elegantly printed, 50 cts. 

Doctor Antonio. 
A charming love-tale of Italian life, by G. Ruffini, $1.50. 

A new love-story, by the author of ** Doctor Antonio," $1.50. 

I>ear Experience. 
An amusing Parisian novel, by author "Doctor Antonio," $1.00. 

Tlie liife of Alexander Von Humboldt. 
A new and popular biography of this savant, including his 
travels and labors, with introduction by Bayard Taylor, $1.50. 

liOve (L'Aniour.) 
A remarkable volume, from the French of Michelet. $1.25. 

Woman (La Femme.) 
A continuation of " Love (L'Amour)," by same author, $1.25. 

The Sea (L.a Mer.)] 
New work by Michelet, author " Love" and " Woman," $1.25. 

The Moral History of "^Voman. 
Companion to Michelet's " L'Amour," from the French, $1.25. 

Mother Goose for Gro^vn Folks. 
Humorous and satirical rhymes for grown people, 75 cts. 

The Kelly's and the O'Kelly's. 
Novel by Anthony Trollope, author of" Doctor Thome," $ l .50. 


The Great Tribulation. 

Or, Things coming on the earth, by Rev\ John Gumming, D.D., 
author "Apocalyptic Sketches," etc., two series, each §51.00. 

Tlie Great Preparation. 
Or, Redemption draweth nigh, by Rev. John Gumming, D.D., 
author "The Great Tribulation," etc., two series, each >^i.oo. 

Tbe Great Consnmmation. 
Sequel " Great Tribulation," Dr. Gumming, two series, $1.00. 

Teacli us to Pray. 
A new work on The Lord's Prayer, by Dr. Gumming, 81.00. 

Tlie Slave Power. 
By Jas. E. Cairnes, of Dublin University, Lond. ed. 81.25. 

Game Fisli of the North. 
A sporting work for Northern States and Ganada. Illus., 81.50. 

Drifting: About. 
By Stephen G. Massett ("Jeemes Pipes"), illustrated, $1.25 

The Flyin;^ Dutchman. 
A humorous Poem by John G. Saxe, with illustrations, 50 cts. 

Notes on Shakspeare. 
By Jas. H. Hackett, the American Gomedian (portrait), $1.50. 

The Spirit of HebreAV Poetry. 
By Isaac Taylor, author " History of Enthusiasm," etc., 82.00. 

A Liife of Hugh :?Iiller. 
Author of " Testimony of the Rocks," &c., new edition, 81.50. 

A Woman's Thoughts about Tl^omen, 
By Miss Dinah Mulock, author of " John Halifax," etc., 81.00. 

Curiosities of Natural History. 
An entertaining vol., by F. T. Buckland ; two series, each $1.25. 

The Partisan Lieader. 
Beverley Tucker's notorious Southern Disunion novel, 81.25. 

Cesar Birotteau. 
First of a series of Honore de Balzac's best French novels, 8 1 .00. 

Petty Annoyances of j^Iarried Life. 
The second of the series of Balzac's best French novels, $ 1 .00. 

The Alchemist. 
The third of the series of the best of Balzac's novels, 81.00. 

Eugenie Grandet. 
The fourth of the series of Balzac's best French novels, 8l.oa 

The National School for the Soldier. 
Elementary work for the soldier ; by Gapt. Van Ness, 50 cts. 


Tom Tiddler's Ground. 

Charles Dickens's new Christmas Story, paper cover, 25 cts. 

National Hymns. 
An essay by Richard Grant White. 8vo. embellished, $1.00. 

George Brimley. 
Literary Essays reprinted from the British Quarterlies, $1.25. 

Tliomas Bailey Aldrich. 
First complete collection ofPoems, blue and gold binding, $ 1 .00. 

Out of His Head. 
A strange and eccentric romance by T. B. Aldrich, $1.00. 

Tlie Course of True Love 
Never did run smooth. A Poem by Thomas B. Aldrich, 50 cts. 

Poems of a Year. 
By Thomas B. Aldrich, author of" Babie Bell," &c., 75 cts. 

The King's Bell. 
A Mediaeval Legend in verse, by R. H. Stoddard, 75 cts. 

The Morgesons. 
A clever novel of American Life, by Mrs. R. H. Stoddard, $1.00. 

Beatrice Cenci. 
An historical novel by F. D. Guerrazzi, from the Italian, $1.^0. 

Isabella Orsini. 

An historical novel by the author of "Beatrice Cenci," 81.25. 

A Popular Treatise on Deafness. 

For individuals and families, by E. B. Lighthill, M.D., 81.00. 

Oriental Harems and Scenery. 

A gossipy work, translated from the French of Belgiojoso, 81.25. 

liOla Montez. 
Her lectures and autobiography, with a steel portrait, 81.25. 

John Doe and Richard Roe. 
A novel of New York city hfe, by Edward S. Gould, 81.00. 

Doesticks' Letters. 
The original letters of this great humorist, illustrated, 81.50. 

A comic history of America, by "Doesticks," illas., 81.50. 

The Elephant Club. 
A humorous description of club-life, by " Doesticks," 81.50. 

Vernon Grove. 
A novel by Mrs. Caroline H. Glover, Charleston, S. C, 81.00. 

The Book of Chess liiteratnre. 
A complete Encyclopaedia of this subject, by D. W. Fiske,8i.50. 



Or, Cupid in Shoulder-straps. A West Point love story, $ i .00. 

Sprees and Splashes. 
A volume of humorous sketches, by Henry Morford, 81.00. 

Aronnd the Pyramids. 
A new book of adventure and travel, by Aaron Ward, 81.25. 

Garret Van Horn. 
Or, The Beggar on Horseback, by John S. Sauzade, Si. 25. 

Alfio Balzanl. 
Or, The Diary of a Proscribed Sicilian, by D. Minnelli, 81.25. 

Cbina and tbe Chinese. 
Being recent personal reminiscences, by W. L. G. Smith, $1.25. 

A Memoir of Emma Whiting, by Rev. H. S. Carpenter, $1.00. 

A novel of Life in Washington, by M. T. Walworth, 81.25. 

Ijyrics and Idyls. 
** Diamond Wedding," and other poems, by E. C. Stedman, 7 5 cts. 

Tlie Prince's Ball. 
A humorous poem by Edmund C. Stedman, illustrated, 50 cts. 

Gen. Nathaniel Lyon. 
The life and political writings of the late patriot soldier, 81.00. 

Twenty Years around the \*'orld. 

Volume of travel, by John Guy Vassar, Poughkeepsie, 82.50. 

Philip Thaxter. 

A new novel, with scenes in California, one vol. 1 2mo., 81.00. 

From Hay time to Hoppiag. 
A novel by the author of " Our Farm of Four Acres," 81.00. 

Fast Day Sermons. 
Of 1861, the best Sermons by the prominent Divines, Si. 25. 

Debt and Grace. 
The Doctrine of a Future Life, by Rev. C. F. Hudson, $1.25. 

Fort Liafayette. 
A novel, by the Hon. Benjamin Wood, of New York, 81.00. 

Romance of a Poor Young ITIan. 
A capital novel from the French of Octave Feuillet, Si. 00. 

Sarah Gould. 
Volume of miscellaneous poems, bound in blue and gold, 75 cts. 

The ITIonitor. 
A new book of travel, by .Wm. Hoffman, illustrated, 81.50. 


England in Rhyme. 

A pleasant method for instructing cliildren in History, 50 cts. 

Brown's Carpenter's Assistant. 

A practical work on architecture, with plans, large 4to., $5.00. 


And other miscellaneous poems, by L , 1 zmo., cloth, 75 cts 

"%Va-Wa- Wanda. 
A legend of old Orange Cdunty, New York, in verse, 75 cts. 

Husband vs. IVife. 
A satirical poem, by Henry Clapp, Jr., illus. by Hoppin, 60 cts. 

Travels in Eastern Europe, by J. O. Noyes, illustrated, $1.50. 

The Christmas Tree. 
A volume of miscellany for the young, with illustrations, 75 cts. 

The Captive Nightingale. 
A charming little book for children, many illustrations, 75 cts. 

Sunshine through the Clouds. 

Comprising stories for juveniles, beautifully illustrated, 75 cts. 

Or, the mysteries of creation, by Thomas A. Davies, 81.50. 

An Answer to Hugh ITIiller 
And other kindred geologists, by Thomas A. Davies, $1.25. 

Walter Ashwood. 
A novel by "Paul Siogvolk," author of " Schediasms," $1.00. 

A new society novel by Mrs. LiDie Devereux Umsted, $1.00. 

Ballads of the "War. 
A collection of poems for i86i, by George W. Hewes, 75 cts. 

Hartley Norman. 
A new and striking American novel ; one large i2mo., 1 1.25. 

The Vagabond. 
Sketches on literature, art, and society, by Adam Badeau, $1.00. 

K)dgar Poc and His Critics. 
A hterary critique by Mrs. Sarah Helen Whitman, 75 cts. 

The New and the Old. 
Sketches in California and India, by Dr. J. W. Palmer, 81.25. 

Tip and Do'n'u the Irrawaddi. 
Adventures in the Burman Empire, by J. W. Palmer, $1.00. 

Miles Standish Illustrated. 

With photographs, by J. W. Ehninger, elegant 4to., $6.00. 








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