William Shakespeare: The Critical Heritage - Vol. 6

By Brian Vickers | Go to book overview

On account of the interest being transferred from the action to the agent the moral, taking the same course, is to be drawn rather from the particular conduct of HAMLET than from the general business of the play. But what that particular moral is may be difficult to ascertain. We may say, perhaps, that from the conduct of HAMLET it appears how unfit for the work of revenge are the qualities of a soldier and hero when conjoined with those of a scholar and philosopher; yet we cannot presume to affirm that it was SHAKESPEARE’S object merely to exemplify this, or even to conceive that he limited himself to any single object or moral. Those things which seem to have been uppermost in his mind, and which he has made to shine with most light, are the charms in the personal character of HAMLET. Enamoured with these himself, it seems to have been his chief purpose to raise the same passion in his audiences. That he has intimated this by his interpreter HORATIO, only in one or two lines at the close of the play, is to be ascribed to his judgment. The purpose which the dramatic poet has in view is to be found out by the best of judges, the feelings of the spectators. From a superior skill upon this point RACINE has merited the praises which have been given him, while, from a failure in it the great CORNEILLE has been deservedly blamed. (259-67)


294.

William Richardson, on Falstaff

1788

From Essays on Shakespeare’s Dramatic Character of Sir John Falstaff, and on his Imitation of Female Characters. To which are added, Some General Observations on the Study of Shakespeare (1788). Some copies of this book are dated 1789, others 1788. It was reviewed in the European Magazine (xiv, pp. 422-5), containing ‘The London Review for December 1788’, in the New Annual Register for 1788 (pp. 108-11), and the Critical Review for July-December 1788 (lxvi, pp. 542-5).

On Richardson see the head-note to No. 246.

-490-

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