"THE best actors in the world," Polonius calls the troop of strolling players who when they arrive on the scene are consciously identified with Shakespeare's own company: "the best actors in the world either for tragedy, comedy, history, pastoral, pastoral-comical, historical-pastoral, tragical-historical, tragical-comical- historical-pastoral, scene individable, or poem unlimited." Polonius was a fool, or so at least he seemed to Hamlet: but he was not, like Patroclus in the play to which I shall presently have occasion to refer, a fool positive. He had a large experience, and the remains of what once had been a good average critical faculty. Sometimes, as in his advice to Laertes and in this passage, he says things that are by no means devoid of good sense and even of insight: the trouble with him is that he has lost all power of applying maxims and definitions, which may be sensible and just in themselves, to the circumstances in hand. Though both Laertes and Ophelia deceased without issue, the family of Polonius is still largely represented among men of letters.
In this curious enumeration Shakespeare no doubt meant to introduce a tinge of burlesque. But it has clearly in view a fact of some importance, namely that the drama, being a mirror and image of life in its whole aspect and working, cannot be sorted out under