Puslapio vaizdai

As a

marriage of his mother There is a yet deeper agony by the discovery to him by the Ghost of his father's murder To satisfy his doubts of the story he devises a play-scene that shall have the double purpose of satisfying his doubts, and (if and when they are satisfied) of setting to work the conscience of the King. The device succeeds. The remorse of the murderer follows. Hamlet allows it time to work, the envenomed foil preventing the conclusion of his plans. reason for the delay in compassing the King's death surely something more than Hamlet's "peculiar frame of mind” is required and in the absence of anything more relevant, I respectfully submit the one here set forth.

How, then, it may be asked, has the notion arisen that Hamlet was dilatory and irresolute? A sufficient explanation is in the great number of soliloquies with which the play is overburdened On every opportunity and on the slightest provocation Hamlet communes with himself. The hasty marriage of his mother brings out "Oh! that this too too solid flesh"; after converse with the players there is "O what a rogue"; awaiting developments we have "To be or not to be"; again, after the play comes “Tis now the very witching time'; while he contrives when being hurried off to England to be alone for a few moments for no other purpose than to recite "How all occasions." These soliloquies, it must be remembered, are of literary excellence, pregnant with deep meaning attractively set out. They impress the mind and appeal strongly to the heart. It is not remarkable that at first the reader or witness of the acting of the tragedy is more affected by the soliloquies than by anything else in the drama. Hamlet's character is thus thrust into the back ground and is much misunderstood. He is regarded as one given to self-communing, a brooding philosopher, without energy. In remembering what he said people are apt to over-look what he did. Reverse the process. Take away the soliloquies and what is left? Hamlet's conduct. Actions speak louder than words, and if we notice what Hamlet did rather than what he said I challenge anyone to find in all Shakespeare (excepting perhaps Macbeth) a character more prompt, resolute and energetic.

I trust I have made by position clear. The command to Hamlet to avenge was not necessarily a command to assassinate. He elected to proceed otherwise and his vengeance was satisfied when by the play he informed the King that he knew of the crimes that had been committed. The killing of the King was natural and necessary though subsidiary to the revenge. There was no dilatoriness in carrying out the plan of revenge, conceived in an instant and achieved with rapidity. Hamlet was true to his promise to the Ghost:

Haste me to know't, that I, with wings as swift
As meditation or the thoughts of love,
May sweep to my revenge.




RISTOTLE'S gift for enunciating the obvious led him to

declare upon occasion that to understand anything one must have some knowledge of its origin. And to-day, as at the time when Aristotle delivered his lectures, it is the obvious which escapes attention. From the historian's point of view, few more striking illustrations of this are to be found than the general character of the discussion which has within the last two years centred round the function and the privileges of the House of Lords. The arguments employed by partisans and opponents alike reveal from time to time a remarkable ignorance of the history of the institution which is being scrutinized. And historical considerations are plainly important, because the Upper House bears even now a stamp impressed upon it by the conditions which governed the early stages of its development. A moment's reflection suffices to make this apparent.

Upon what grounds does a Peer base his claim to a seat in the House? Lords Temporal rely upon the so-called 'Privilege of Peerage,' which means the hereditary right to receive a writ of summons. And almost within living memory this right was supposed to go hand in hand with tenure of land from the Crown 'by barony.'1 In the case of the Lords Spiritual it is impossible (pace Bishop Stubbs)? to deny the accuracy of the orthodox legal view that 'they are Lords of Parliament in virtue of the ancient baronies attached to their dignities. The title, then, of temporal and spiritual peers is plainly based on tenure: in other words, the House itself preserves the leading characteristic of society in the feudal stage.

Again, consider the jurisdictional function of the House. Long usage has rendered this so familiar to many of us that it


1 Lords' Report upon the Dignity of a Peer, ii. 241.

2Constitutional History, § 123. On the contrary. Rotuli Parliamentorum No. 6 of year 11 Ric. II. cf. Pike, History of the House of Lords, 156-160.

has been reserved for continental historians like Gneist and Büdinger to voice due surprise at a fusion so remarkable of the legislative and the judicial sides of government. But this is merely a relic of feudalism, an heritage from the days when a single curia consisting of a suzerain surrounded by the vassals owing him suit and service, constituted the sole source of justice and legislation. Lastly, look at that remarkable privilege still enjoyed by every peer—the right of personal access to the Sovereign. This is nothing else than a visible sign of the intimacy of relation between the feudal monarch and his immediate vassals. Instances such as these might be multiplied, but enough has been said to show first, that certain characteristics of the House of Lords have reference to a condition of society sufficiently remote from our own to make them unintelligible without conscious effort; secondly, that if we desire to investigate the origin of the House, it is to the early history of English feudalism, and in particular to its central point, the early history of the feudal monarchy, that we must turn our attention.

I. At the time when the English commenced their systematic conquest of Britain, kingship was already long established among them. So much is plain from the earliest surviving fragments of their poetry. This kingship was, however, of a peculiar character. Though Child of the Gods and Head of the People, the early monarch found his authority subject to well defined limitations prescribed by custom and etiquette. The tie which binds his subjects to him is one of blood: he is regarded rather as the Leader of the Kin than as their master. There is a very definite conception of the duty owed by the king to his people:* and in the last resort his influence seems largely dependent upon the nature of his relations with the hereditary nobility which constitutes his peod or group of councillors, civil and military. While it is not unlikely that

8Though every member of the Upper House is still entitled to share in this function, it is now "by tacit agreement left in the hands of those members who are past or present holders of high judicial office.”

*Beowulf 3180 seq. Widsith, 11.

royal authority tended to increase during the two centuries of disorder which witnessed the subjugation of the Brythons, yet its early triumph is mainly attributable to three great movements: the conversion of the English; the consolidation of their kingdoms; the coming of the Northmen. I shall proceed to consider each of these three movements, and to indicate in the briefest manner its effects upon the growth of feudal kingship and feudal vassalage.

Under the leadership of St. Augustine and his successors, the Church worked mainly from the upper classes of society downwards to the rank and file. Resting as she did in large measure upon the support of the powers that be, she was prone to extol their authority ; blending with her teaching of royal responsibility a reverence for the royal power which could not fail to become a factor in politics. The tendency was, moreover, strengthened by the impulse towards centralization resulting from the system of ecclesiastical organization. For the first few years, it seems, the boundaries of dioceses and of kingdoms were continuous, but this was soon altered. The great primate Theodore of Tarsus deliberately set himself to counteract the centrifugal tendency by multiplying the prelates and dividing the sees. Thus he compassed that union of peoples under the primacy of Canterbury which prepared the way for a union of kingdoms under the right line of Cerdic.'

The process by which this latter event was brought about deserves attention. From the end of the sixth century onwards there had been a struggle between the various kingdoms for political supremacy. The honorary title of Brytenwealda, which seems to correspond in many ways with the Irish Ard Ri, changed hands with bewildering frequency. But before the end of the seventh century, order commences to emerge from chaos: hegemony is now disputed by three competitors only, the great kingdoms of Northumbria, Mercia, and Wessex. The struggle, however, was not yet over, and before its conclusion, the prevailing political unrest had affected the monarchy

5Cf. Bede, Hist. Eccles. 1. 25. 29. 30. Laws of Alfred, 49. 7. Liebermann, Die Gesetze der Angelsachsen, i. 44.

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