Page:Elizabethan People.djvu/415

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GHOSTS—FAIRIES—WITCHES

commit a murder considers his chance of safety from detection to be proportioned to the secrecy with which the crime is committed. But in the time of Shakespeare, every criminal had to reckon with the possibility of a supernatural revelation. However carefully he laid his plans he had to accept the likelihood of defeat through the walking of the ghost of his victim. Claudius must have thought of this before ever he poured poison into his brother's ears. When he is called upon to fathom the almost unaccountable extremity of Hamlet's sullenness, one of the first facts that would have been likely to occur to the king was the possibility of Hamlet's having learned the truth through a ghostly revelation. The play read with this idea in mind makes clear some things that have been otherwise interpreted.


One need but to recall A Midsummer Night's Dream to realise how important and how delicate and pleasing was the charm pertaining to fairy lore. Beauty was the most characteristic attribute of the fairies. Not only were they beautiful in face and form, but also beautiful in all their surroundings. When they rode abroad they were mounted on the best of horses, slenderly shaped and delicately prancing. None of such quality were ever possessed by mortals. In the fields the