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figure like his father, all armed, which had gone slowly and stately by them: how they had been stricken dumb with dread, so that they spoke no word to it that after they had imparted this to him (Horatio) in dreadful secresy, he had himself, incredulous of their relation, joined their watch on the third night, and with them witnessed the dread apparition. Horatio ends his description by saying

I knew your father;

These hands are not more like.

The whole of the conversation which ensues in this scene must be perused, in order to follow the slow process by which the doubting mind of Hamlet receives this strange and unnatural relation as true. Perhaps it is also indicative of the habitual mistrust and scepticism on his part which is observable in other passages. He inquires where this happened; asks if Horatio spoke to the apparition; and when told that he did, and that "answer made it none," and that it shrunk away as the morning cock crew, the frightful particulars perplex him, and the working

of his inward mind is but shown in the mere won

dering expression, ""Tis very strange :"

to which

Horatio rejoins,

As I do live, my honoured lord, 'tis true.

Hamlet then inquires concerning the persons who are to form the watch on the ensuing night, and finds that they are to be the same. His questioning, however, is still tinged with manifest doubting; and this part of the conversation, relative to minute particulars of the figure of which Horatio had spoken, sometimes misunderstood, indicates both the hold the story had taken of him, and a kind of desire to disprove that the appearance could have been that of his father.

HAM. Indeed, indeed, sirs, but this troubles me. Hold you the watch to-night?

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HOR. O, yes, my lord; he wore his beaver up.

Then saw you not his face?

HAM. What, looked he frowningly?

HOR. A countenance more in sorrow than in anger.


HOR. Nay, very pale.

HOR. Most constantly.


Pale, or red?

And fix'd his eyes upon you?

I would I had been there.

HOR. It would have much amaz'd you.

HAM. Very like, very like stay'd it long?

HOR. While one with moderate haste might tell a hundred.

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HAM. If it assume my noble father's person, I'll speak to it, though hell itself should gape, And bid me hold my peace.

We read these passages so frequently, and to most of us they were so vulgarised by the common declamation taught in schools, that it is not easy so to lend the riper imagination to them as to appreciate all the feelings they express. The idea of a supernatural appearance, assuming the shape of a father,

known, remembered with affection and reverence, and lately dead, is in itself so full of terror that few minds could endure it; and the profound effect of such a representation on the sensitive organisation of Hamlet, tempered as it still is by doubts as to the real assumption of his father's person, seems unquestionably indicated by the wild expression that falls from him as to hell gaping between his father's ghost and himself. His soul is shaken with fearful thoughts and fancies and new suspicions; but for a time his more fantastic woe is scattered; and he displays firmness and feeling in taking leave of his friends, with a promise to meet them upon the platform 'twixt eleven and twelve. He maintains his self-command in the few words which he utters when left alone.

HAM. My father's spirit in arms! all is not well;
I doubt some foul play: 'would the night were come !
Till then sit still, my soul. Foul deeds will rise,
Though all the earth o'erwhelm them, to men's eyes.

These words indicate the first dawn of a suspicion in the mind of Hamlet that his father's death had

not arisen from natural causes. No sign of it occurs previously; but it now springs up, and even takes the precise form which we shall see alluded to afterward, when the ghost is telling his story to Hamlet.

In what meditations the unhappy prince passes the rest of the anxious day, whether in doubt as to the reality of what he has heard, or in framing forms of words adapted to the awful shade he has undertaken to confront, we can only conjecture. By the other

personages of the play the hours are spent in customary avocations. Laertes, about to return to France, takes leave of his sister Ophelia; their talk is affectionate, although Laertes lectures her with a brother's anxiety, not unwisely, but perhaps more severely than brother beseems, concerning "Hamlet and the trifling of his favours." In his turn, Laertes is lectured by his father, Polonius; with intermixture of prolix comment and good advice. The parting injunction of Laertes to his sister, to remember well what he has said to her, awakens the old man's curiosity; and again Hamlet is discussed, and again, by her father, is Ophelia lectured, and more sternly.

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