The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 9.0582 Wednesday, 24 June 1998.
From: Hope Greenberg <
Date: Friday, 19 Jun 1998 11:24:47 -0400
Subject: A 19th Century View
While going through Godey's Lady's Book, the popular mid-19th century US
magazine, I came across the following which I thought might amuse
Godey's Lady's Book, Vol. 52, June, 1856. p. 499.
HAMLET AND OPHELIA.--ROMEO AND ROSALINE.
"These violent delights have violent ends,
And in their triumph die! like fire and powder,
Which, as they kiss, consume: The sweetest honey
Is loathsome in its own deliciousness:
Therefore, love moderately; long love doth so;
Too swift arrives as tardy as too slow.
HAMLET and Romeo are both introduced to us at the period of their early
youth. In several instances, traits of resemblance are discerned between
them. They are both alike seclusive and contemplative. Hamlet's fondness
for Ophelia was as illusory as the violent love of Romeo for Rosaline,
and in the end proved equally evanescent and unstable. Friar Lawrence,
who was a philosopher as well as sage moralist, ridicules Romeo's
impassioned devotion to Rosaline, pronouncing it "doting, not loving."
Rosaline herself knew full well
"His love did read by rote, and could not spell"
More discreetly than Ophelia, she kept herself in the rear of her
affections, repulsed his addresses by admitting him to no discourse with
"From love's weak, childish bow, she lives unharm'd."
The mother of Hamlet was well pleased to believe her son's fervent
attachment to Ophelia no other than a genuine bud of love, and fondly
hoped it would prove a beauteous flower, and ripen into marriage.
"I hop'd thou should'st have been my Hamlet's wife;
I thought thy bride-bed to have deck'd, sweet maid,
And not have strewn thy grave."
Laertes, the brother of Ophelia, a noble youth, reared in the same court
with Hamlet, more understandingly regarded it as the mere" trifling of
his favor," a toy of the blood, and compares it to
"A violet in the youth of primy nature;
Forward, not permanent; sweet, not lasting;
The perfume and suppliance of a minute,
With great concern, he cautions her not to listen to his songs with
credulous ears, and earnestly charges her to fear his vow of love.
"Fear it, Ophelia; fear it, my dear sister,
And keep you in the rear of your affections,
Out of the shot and danger of desire."
The startling occurrences which followed soon after his father's death
roused him from his dream of passion, and Ophelia, the "young, the
beautiful, the harmless, and the pious," faded from the memory of
Hamlet. The remembrances which he had given her, and with them words of
such sweet breath composed as made the things more rich, now lost their
"For to the noble mind
Rich gifts wax poor when givers prove unkind."
Romeo slays the cousin of Juliet under the like sudden impulse which
hurried Hamlet to shed the blood of Ophelia's father. This was the cruel
and overwhelming blow that divided her from herself and her fair
judgment, and with maimed rites laid her in the earth.
Capulet and Montague were honorable neighboring households in Verona,
both alike in dignity, but at enmity from "ancient grudge;" yet the son
and heir of Montague and the fair daughter and heiress of Capulet had
never seen each other until the eventful night of the masquerade at
Capulet's house. Old Capulet had heard all Verona speak of him as a
virtuous and well-governed youth. When be discovers the son of his enemy
under his roof, among his guests, his bearing towards him is noble,
generous, and magnanimous. The new scene which was unfolded to Romeo at
that masquerade dazzled and bewildered his ardent imagination. From that
moment his thoughts diverged from Rosaline: he straightway "forgot
thatname and that name's woe," and thenceforward
"His heart's dear love was set
On the fair daughter of rich Capulet."