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62

(1887) [MARC] Author: Viktor Rydberg Translator: Alfred Corning Clark With: Hans Anton Westesson Lindehn
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Full resolution (JPEG) - On this page / på denna sida - The Roman Emperors in Marble - 4. Claudius

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62 ROMAN DA YS.
manner and his rolling gait ; but no one has said that he
was ugly. Suetonius, eager collector of everything that
might cast ridicule upon his memory, speaks too, of " a
commanding dignity in his appearance " {autoritas digni-
tasqueformcB) when he stood, sat or reclined.
The statue of Claudius in the rotunda of the Vatican
is a singular work of art. A Hamlet grown old ! That
is the first impression. But Hamlet and Claudius Caesar
—Shakespeare’s refined modern romantic dreamer, and
the ungainly, weak, sensual old man on the throne of
Rome—such a comparison must certainly bring a whole
throng of objections in tow ! True ; and yet I do not
give up the belief that Shakespeare had read of Claudius
before he wrote of Hamlet : that Suetonius’s description
of the unhappy Roman prince, and Saxe’s tradition of the
unhappy Danish, were wedded in the poet’s fancy when
Hamlet was created there, A melancholy youth spent
at court, that forced them to feign madness, was common
to both. And that there lay a Hamlet hidden deep in
the soul of Claudius Caesar, and that the keen eye of
Shakespeare found him there and caused him to emerge
like the butterfly from the formless chrysalis—this, one
seems to see, as one stands in front of the Vatican statue ;
in which the sculptor, so to speak, has wrought in marble
the Greek word by which Augustus hit the chief trait in
Claudius’s nature. The word applied to him needs no
translation : when we hear meteoria, we represent to
ourselves a floating in boundless space, amid clouds and
vapors, an irresolute life in empty dreams, burdened by
regret at the feeble will, and sometimes crossed by lofty
purposes. It was young Hamlet’s life, and it was that
of the old Roman emperor. One reads it with surprising
clearness in every line.

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