Table of ContentsPrevious PageNext Page

Bradley, A. C. Shakespearean Tragedy: Lectures on Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, Macbeth.
2nd ed. London: Macmillan, 1905.
PAGE 108

excess of reflectiveness. The direct cause was a state of mind quite abnormal and induced by special circumstances -- a state of profound melancholy. Now, Hamlet's reflectiveness doubtless played a certain part in the production of that melancholy, and was thus one indirect contributory cause of his irresolution. And, again the melancholy, once established, displayed, as one of its symptoms, an excessive reflection on the required deed. But excess of reflection was not, as the theory makes it, the direct cause of the irresolution at all; nor was it the only indirect cause; and in the Hamlet of the last four Acts it is to be considered rather a symptom of his state than a cause of it.

     These assertions may be too brief to be at once clear, but I hope they will presently become so.


     Let us first ask ourselves what we can gather from the play, immediately or by inference, concerning Hamlet as he was just before his father's death. And I begin by observing that the text does not bear out the idea that he was one-sidedly reflective and indisposed to action. Nobody who knew him seems to have noticed this weakness. Nobody regards him as a mere scholar who has 'never formed a resolution or executed a deed.' In a court which certainly would not much admire such a person he is the observed of all observers. Though he has been disappointed of the throne everyone shows him respect; and he is the favourite of the people, who are not given to worship philosophers. Fortinbras, a sufficiently practical man, considered that he was likely, had he been put on, to have proved most royally. He has Hamlet borne by four captains 'like a soldier' to his grave; and Ophelia says that Hamlet was a soldier. If he was fond of acting, an aesthetic

Table of ContentsPrevious PageNext Page