And finally there are unexplained scenes—the Polonius-Laertes and the Polonius-Reynaldo scenes—for which there is little excuse; these scenes are not in the verse style of Kyd, and not beyond doubt in the style of Shakespeare. Robertson believes to be scenes in the original play of Kyd reworked by a third hand, perhaps Chapman, before Shakespeare touched the play.
And he concludes, with very strong show of reason, that the original play of Kyd was, like certain other revenge plays, in two parts of five acts each. Robertson’s examination is, we believe, irrefragable: that Shakespeare’s , so far as it is Shakespeare’s, is a play dealing with the effect of a mother’s guilt upon her son, and that Shakespeare was unable to impose this motive successfully upon the “intractable” material of the old play. So far from being Shakespeare’s masterpiece, the play is most certainly an artistic failure. The guilt of a mother is an almost intolerable motive for drama, but it had to be maintained and emphasized to supply a psychological solution, or rather a hint of one.” This, however, is by no means the whole story.
For Shakespeare it is less than madness and more than feigned.
The levity of Hamlet, his repetition of phrase, his puns, are not part of a deliberate plan of dissimulation, but a form of emotional relief.
It is thus a feeling which he cannot understand; he cannot objectify it, and it therefore remains to poison life and obstruct action.
None of the possible actions can satisfy it; and nothing that Shakespeare can do with the plot can express Hamlet for him.
And it must be noticed that the very nature of the her character is so negative and insignificant that she arouses in Hamlet the feeling which she is incapable of representing.
The “madness” of Hamlet lay to Shakespeare’s hand; in the earlier play a simple ruse, and to the end, we may presume, understood as a ruse by the audience.
You cannot point to it in the speeches; indeed, if you examine the two famous soliloquies you see the versification of Shakespeare, but a content which might be claimed by another, perhaps by the author of the , Act v, sc. We find Shakespeare’s Hamlet not in the action, not in any quotations that we might select, so much as in an unmistakable tone which is unmistakably not in the earlier play.
The only way of expressing emotion in the form of art is by finding an “objective correlative”; in other words, a set of objects, a situation, a chain of events which shall be the formula of that emotion; such that when the external facts, which must terminate in sensory experience, are given, the emotion is immediately evoked.