William Shakespeare: The Critical Heritage - Vol. 6

By Brian Vickers | Go to book overview

245.

William Kenrick, lectures on Shakespeare

1774

From reviews of Kenrick’s lectures in the Monthly Miscellany, February-April 1774. Kenrick also published some of these lectures as Introduction to the School of Shakespeare Held, on Wednesday Evenings, In the Apollo, at the Devil Tavern, Temple Bar. To which Is Added A Retort Courteous On the Criticks, As delivered at the Second and Third Lectures (1774).

On Kenrick see the head-note to Vol. 5, No. 207.


SCHOOL OF SHAKESPEARE

On Wednesday, Feb. 2 the Doctor resumed his task, and chose the tragedy of Hamlet for that evening’s entertainment.—Previous to the lecture, he again replied to others of the Critics who still continued to attack him in the public papers, and then began his evening’s exhibition.

The Doctor took up a general view of the Play, which he premised was one of the most moral and sententious of any of the Poet’s productions. After this (in opposition to general opinion) he urged that the character of Hamlet was much more moral and consistent than his commentators usually allow him; that his madness was real, at least essentially so; and gave it as a plausible reason that it was produced by Ophelia’s inconstancy, and the defeat of his ambition by his mother’s second marriage with his uncle; as well as the unnaturalness of that union.

Though the arguments the Doctor urged for these opinions were some of them scholar-like and entertaining, we must differ from him on many accounts. In the first place, Hamlet himself tells us, after seeing the Ghost, that he means to assume a feigned madness, and enjoins Horatius and Marcellus in consequence to secrecy; now when a man could in cold blood lay so settled a plan of

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