to ignore these things, or to try to soften the impression which they naturally make on one. That this embitterment, callousness, grossness, brutality, should be induced on a soul so pure and noble is profoundly tragic; and Shakespeare's business was to show this tragedy, not to paint an ideally beautiful soul unstained and undisturbed by the evil of the world and the anguish of conscious failure.1
(4) There remains, finally, that class of view which may be named after Schlegel and Coleridge. According to this, Hamlet is the tragedy of reflection. The cause of the hero's delay is irresolution; and the cause of this irresolution is excess of the reflective or speculative habit of mind. He has a general intention to obey the Ghost, but 'the native hue of resolution is sicklied o'er with the
1I may add here a word on one small matter. It is constantly asserted that Hamlet wept over the body of Polonius. Now, if he did, it would make no difference to my point in the paragraph above; but there is no warrant in the text for the assertion. It is based on some words of the Queen (IV. i. 24), in answer to the King's question, 'Where is he gone?':
To draw apart the body he hath killed:|
O'er whom his very madness, like some ore
Among a mineral of metals base,
Shows itself pure; he weeps for what is done.
But the Queen, as was pointed out by Doering, is trying to screen her son. She has already made the false statement that when Hamlet, crying, 'A rat! a rat!', ran his rapier through the arras, it was because he heard something stir there, whereas we know that what he heard was a man's voice crying, 'What ho! help, help, help!' And in this scene she has come straight from the interview with her son, terribly agitated, shaken with 'sighs' and 'profound heaves,' in the night (line 30). Now we know what Hamlet said to the body and of the body, in that interview; and there is assuredly no sound of tears in the voice that said those things and others. The only sign of relenting is in the words (III. iv. 171):
For this same lord|
I do repent: but heaven hath pleased it so,
To punish me with this and this with me,
That I must be their scourge and minister.
His mother's statement, therefore, is almost certainly untrue, though it may be to her credit. (It is just conceivable that Hamlet wept at III. iv. 130, and that the Queen supposed he was weeping for Polonius.)
Perhaps, however, he may have wept over Polonius's body afterwards? Well, in the next scene (IV. ii.) we see him alone with the body, and are therefore likely to witness his genuine feelings. And his first words are, 'Safely stowed'!