Lectures and Notes on Shakspere and Other English Poets – By Samuel Taylor Coleridge


[531] Hamlet. – “Hamlet’s character is the prevalence of the abstracting and generalizing habit over the practical. He does not want courage, skill, will, or opportunity; but every incident sets him thinking; and it is curious, and at the same time strictly natural, that Hamlet, who all the play seems reason itself, should be impelled, at last, by mere accident, to effect his object. I have a smack of Hamlet myself, if I may say so.” – June 15, 1827.

Polonius. – “A Maxim is a conclusion upon observation of matters of fact, and is merely retrospective; an idea, or, if you like, a Principle, carries knowledge within itself, and is prospective. Polonius is a man of maxims. While he is descanting on matters of past experience, as in that excellent speech to Laertes before he sets out on his travels, he is admirable; but when he comes to advise or project, he is a mere dotard. You see Hamlet, as the man of ideas, despises him. A man of maxims only is like a Cyclops with one eye, and that eye placed in the back of his head.” – June 15, 1827.

Hamlet and Ophelia – “In the scene with Ophelia, in the third act, Hamlet is beginning with great and unfeigned tenderness; but perceiving her reserve and coyness, fancies there are some listeners, and then, to sustain his part, breaks out into all that coarseness.” – June 15 1827.