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The Elder Hamlet
by [?]

“But look; amazement on thy mother sits!
Oh; step between her and her fighting soul
Conceit in weakest bodies strongest works.
Speak to her, Hamlet.”

The call to his son to soothe his wicked mother is the ghost’s last utterance. For a few moments, sadly regardful of the two, he stands–while his son seeks in vain to reveal to his mother the presence of his father–a few moments of piteous action, all but ruining the remnant of his son’s sorely-harassed self-possession–his whole concern his wife’s distress, and neither his own doom nor his son’s duty; then, as if lost in despair at the impassable gulf betwixt them, revealed by her utter incapacity for even the imagination of his proximity, he turns away, and steals out at the portal. Or perhaps he has heard the black cock crow, and is wanted beneath: his turn has come.

Will the fires ever cleanse her? Will his love ever lift him above the pain of its loss? Will eternity ever be bliss, ever be endurable to poor King Hamlet?

Alas! even the memory of the poor ghost is insulted. Night after night on the stage his effigy appears–cadaverous, sepulchral–no longer as Shakspere must have represented him, aerial, shadowy, gracious, the thin corporeal husk of an eternal–shall I say ineffaceable?–sorrow! It is no hollow monotone that can rightly upbear such words as his, but a sound mingled of distance and wind in the pine-tops, of agony and love, of horror and hope and loss and judgment–a voice of endless and sweetest inflection, yet with a shuddering echo in it as from the caves of memory, on whose walls, are written the eternal blazon that must not be to ears of flesh and blood. The spirit that can assume form at will must surely be able to bend that form to completest and most delicate expression, and the part of the ghost in the play offers work worthy of the highest artist. The would-be actor takes from it vitality and motion, endowing it instead with the rigidity of death, as if the soul had resumed its cast-off garment, the stiffened and mouldy corpse–whose frozen deadness it could ill model to the utterance of its lively will!