Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 9: No 2) >> A Review of Simms's ''The Moral Character of Hamlet'' >> Page 33

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Page 33

Secondary Scholarship | 2001, 2002
Transcription Simms remarks that Hamlet's vanity does, in more than one instance, almost give
away his secret. His interviews with Polonius, for instance, are so witty in dialogue
that the counselor replies, "Though this be madness yet there's method in it." Later,
we see this vanity of nature again in the play scene where Hamlet's great
foreknowledge of the player's perfoi mance almost gives the king a warning to
prepare himself. Simms remarks, "If Hamlet's purpose were really to discover the
king's guilt, by the `very cunning of the scene'...his policy would have been to have
kept aloof' not give replies that "are pregnant with signification, and almost seem
intended to prepare the tyrant, and to arm him with composure." Simms believes
that this again hearkens back to Hamlet's desire for the ghost to be proved wrong —
for if the king is not affected by the scene, a playing of a murder much like the
murder of Hamlet's father, then the ghost is a "damned ghost" trying to lead him to
evil. Hamlet would therefore be released from his duty.
Unfortunate for Hamlet, the king's courage fails him during the reenactment
of the murder, revealing conclusively to both Hamlet and Horatio the guilt he feels
in regards to the crime. Yet Hamlet, who says he will now "take the ghost's word
for a thousand pound," is still not spurred to action. Upon passing the king in prayer
with his back turned to him, Hamlet is given the opportunity he has been waiting for
to complete the act of revenge. Hamlet grasps his sword, moves toward the kneeling
figure, then stops. He is again caught up in his own thoughts that again lead to
inaction. Hamlet contemplates:

And now I'll do `t: -- and so he goes to heaven,
And so am I revenged?
A villain kills my father; and for that,
I his sole son, do this same villain send
To Heaven.
Why, this is hire and salary, not revenge.

Simms believes that Hamlet is not truly interested in the soul of his uncle but
says these words, "to conceal the real emotions...to reconcile him to the shame of
foregoing a settled purpose, for the evasion of which, no other present excuse
suggested itself." Simms points out that such considerations of the eternal soul were
not contemplated at the subsequent deaths of Polonius or Rosencrantz and
Guildenstern. The difference, however, lies in the fact that these deaths were
immediate, without time for Hamlet to contemplate. According to Simms, "the
moment that [Hamlet] begins to meditate, he grows mild and forbearing, however
stuffed with fierce epithet his soliloquies may be." Even Shakespeare had Hamlet
say of himself, "The native hue of resolution, / Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of
Of Hamlet's impulsive nature, Simms writes, "Where there is no danger to
himself, Hamlet betrays a recklessness equally striking, or more so" than that of his
contemplative side. For example, the accidental murder of Polonius was "with the
full conviction that his victim was the king" when only a moment before Hamlet
had shirked the same act. Then, upon learning that it is indeed Polonius that is slain