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of spirits, that lies at the basis of all its complications, its plots and counterplots. It assumes, then, the immortality of the soul. Hamlet's father, having been
“ Cut off e'en in the blossoms of his sin,
Unhouseled, disappointed, unanéled;
With all his imperfections on his head,” Act I., sc. V., 1. 76-79. his unpurged spirit finds no rest in the eternal world. Here we encounter the Papistic doctrine of purgatory. This soul having passed from the confines of earth without the Romish sacraments, is, according to his own account,
“ Doomed for a certain time to walk the night,
And for the day confined to fast in fires,
Are burnt and purged away." Act I., sc. v., l. 10–13. The funeral rites denied the gentle Ophelia, for which Laertes gives vent to that spirited execration ard prophesy,
“I tell thee, churlish priest, A ministering angel shall my sister be,
When thou liest howling," Act v., sc. I, 1. 262–264. as well as the country and age of the story, prove that the particular phase of Christianity disclosed here, is that of the Romish church.
A belief in ghostly apparitions, as above intimated, springs from the doctrine of the soul's immortality, a doctrine which Hamlet directly affirms in the lines :
“ And for my soul, what can it do to that,
Being a thing immortal as itself?” Act I. sc. IV., 1. 66–67. - Though itself a superstition, it yet implies a fundamental truth. And it is interesting to note the well-settled philosophy of the watch, who in that “witching hour” of night are awaiting the reappearance of the spirit that usurps
“ 'That fair and warlike form In which the majesty of buried Denmark
Did sometimes march.” Act 1, sc. I., 1. 47-49. Horatio thus enumerates the probable causes of its unrest :
* If there be any good tlıing to be done,
That may to thee do ease, and grace to me,
If thou art privy to thy country's fate,
Speak of it!" Act I., sc. I., 1. 130–139. Horatio thinks it especially probable that some great political convulsion is at hand; as when
“In the most high and palmy state of Rome,
A little ere the mightiest Julius fell,
Act I., sc. I., l. 112-116. These mysterious visitors have a limited time in which to absent themselves from the abodes of the dead. When
• The cock, that is the trumpet to the morn
Doth with his lofty and shrill-sounding throat,
To his confine." Act 1., sc. I., 1. 150–155. The existence of God, though not many times directly recognized in this play, is everywhere implied. A belief in this doctrine seems to surround the characters like an atmosphere. In his first soliloquy Hamlet speaks of him as “The Everlasting”; and twice exclaims his name in his agony to find relief from the wretchedness which his father's sudden death and his mother's untimely marriage have occasioned him. So, too, in the oaths and imprecations which he employs. When Horatio has begun the account of his encounter with his father's spirit, Hamlet entreats
“For God's love, let me hear!” Act 1., sc. II., 1. 195, And Horatio and Polonius, with slight variation, both employ this form of solemn affirmation, “before my God.”
“Before my God, I could not this believe
Without the sensible and true avouch
Of mine own eyes." Act 1., sc. 1., 1. 56–57. “ 'Fore God, my lord, well spoken, with good accent and good discretion." Act II., sc. II., 1. 489. For a man to take God's name in vain is evidence that he believes in his existence. Even in the horrid curses which fall from human lips, where men imprecate the woes of the lost to rest upon each other's heads, their very language implies God's being and attributes. Profanity is the prayer of the ungodly; a prayer of cursing instead of blessing.
Ophelia, too, when, fantastically dressed in straws and flowers, she has sung that plaintive strain to her father's memory,
“And will he not come again ?" closes it with the line,
“God ha' mercy on his soul,” and adds,
“ And of all Christian souls, I pray God.
God be wi' you.” Act iv., sc. V., 1. 190–200. While Laertes, in his double anguish, lifts up his heart to heaven, as looking at the lovely ruin before him, he inquires, “Do you see this, O God?"
Act iv., sc. V..
1. 201. implying here a belief in his omniscience, his love, his justice.
In his first soliloquy, also, Hamlet recognizes God's authority as his creator. He draws back from the horrible idea of terminating his life with his own hand, because of
His canon 'gainst self-slaughter.” Act I., sc. II., 1. 132. Here, too, as we may note in passing, is an acknowledgment of the inspiration of the Scriptures. For, Hamlet's reference must be to the commandment, “Thou shalt not kill.” Polonius, also, that very model of a courtier, whose conceit of himself and his diplomatic arts betrays him into the sacrifice of his life, thus at one breath, asseverates his loyalty to his to his earthly and to his heavenly King :
“ Assure you, my good liege,
Ad il., sc. II., 1. 44-46.
"For this same lord,
Act II., sc. V., 1. 172-175.
as well as in that oft-quoted passage,
“There's a divinity that shapes our ends,
Rough hew them how we will :" Act v., sc. II., 1. 10–11, as, also, in what he says about meeting Laertes :
“ If it be now, 'tis not to come; if it be not to come, it will be now; if it be not now, yet it will come: the readiness is all: since no man has aught of what he leaves, what is't to leave betimes."
Act v., sc. II., 1. 231-235. So, too, when Hamlet is accounting for his escape from the snare set for his life by his uncle, the same doctrine is recognized. Horatio inquires how the forged commission was sealed, and Hamlet answers :
Why, even in that was heaven ordinant ;
I had my father's signet in my purse.” Act v., sc. II., 1. 48, 49. An overruling providence is taught in such passages as these, when Hamlet's uncle upbraids him for persevering in his grief for his father's loss :
“ To persever
Fie! 'tis a fault to heaven.“
Act 1., sc. II., 1. 92-95 and 101. The hereditary transmission of evil, physical and moral, Hamlet notices in his discourse respecting Danish revels : though he denies personal accountability for this taint.
“So, oft it chances in particular men,
That for some vicious mole of nature in them,
From that particular fault.” Act I., sc. IV., 1. 23–36.
ness is again implied in Hamlet's advice to Ophelia against marriage; while his own actual transgressions he proceeds to enumerate at length :
“I am myself indifferent honest; but yet I could accuse me of such things that it were better my mother had not borne me; I am very proud, revengeful, ambitious; with more offences at my beck, than I have thoughts to put them in, imagination to give them shape, or time to act them in! What should such fellows as I do, crawling between earth and heaven?" Act III., sc. I.. I. 122-130. Evidently Hamlet had very correct views of the doctrine of human depravity.
The ghost, at least, and doubtless Shakespeare himself holds to the Edwardean view of the will; that it is determined by the strongest motive. In recounting to Hamlet the measures of his uncle, this is the language employed :
“Ay, that incestuous, that adulterate beast,
With witchcraft of his wit, with trait'rous gifts,
Act 1., sc V., 1. 41-45. There are many illustrations of the office and power
of conscience, in this play. It is conscience that compels Hamlet's uncle to cry out • O, my offence is rank, it smells to heaven !"
Act III., sc. III., 1. 36. It is conscience that so disturbs him during the play of Gonzago. It is conscience, too, that causes Hamlet's mother to exclaim,
“O Hamlet, speak no more:
As will not leave their tinct." Act III., sc. IV., 1. 88–91. So, too, it is the same divinely-given power within her that makes her fear lest the gentle Ophelia, in her derangement, may drop some hint of something which she would keep concealed. Horatio says:
“ 'T were good she were spoken with ; for she
Act iv., sc. v., 1. 14, 15. To which the Queen replies :
“ To my sick soul, as sin's true nature is,
Each toy seems prologue to some great amiss :