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Bradley, A. C. Shakespearean Tragedy: Lectures on Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, Macbeth.
2nd ed. London: Macmillan, 1905.
PAGE 421

behaviour at the grave, he can hardly say, I suppose, 'You ranted so abominably that you put me into a towering passion.' Whatever he said, it would have to be more or less untrue.

     Next, what moral difference is there between feigning insanity and asserting it? If we are to blame Hamlet for the second, why not equally for the first?

     And, finally, even if he were referring simply to his behaviour at the grave, his excuse, besides falling in with his whole plan of feigning insanity, would be as near the truth as any he could devise. For we are not to take the account he gives to Horatio, that he was put in a passion by the bravery of Laertes' grief, as the whole truth. His raving over the grave is not mere acting. On the contrary, that passage is the best card that the believers in Hamlet's madness have to play. He is really almost beside himself with grief as well as anger, half-maddened by the impossibility of explaining to Laertes how he has come to do what he has done, full of wild rage and then of sick despair at this wretched world which drives him to such deeds and such misery. It is the same rage and despair that mingle with other feelings in his outbreak to Ophelia in the Nunnery-scene. But of all this, even if he were clearly conscious of it, he cannot speak to Horatio; for his love to Ophelia is a subject on which he has never opened his lips to his friend.

     If we realize the situation, then, we shall, I think, repress the wish that Hamlet had 'made some other defence' than that of madness. We shall feel only tragic sympathy.

     As I have referred to Hamlet's apology, I will add a remark on it from a different point of view. It forms another refutation of the theory that Hamlet has delayed his vengeance till he could publicly convict the King, and that he has come back to Denmark because now, with the evidence of the commission in his pocket, he can safely accuse him. If that were so, what better opportunity could he possibly find than this occasion, where he has to express his sorrow to Laertes for the grievous wrongs which he has unintentionally inflicted on him?

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