"It is the strangest coincidence that Dowland was for some time resident musician at the court of Elsinore, upon whose walls Hamlet walked; melancholy indeed was so favored and so familar a theme that in the late sixteenth century it became an English device for which only the barest signification was necessary. The melancholic was a stock figure of tragedy and even, sometimes, of comedy...There was the melancholic of love, like Orsino sighing for music in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, or the melancholic of learning, who like Hamlet enters reading a book...Childhood is foolish, youth vain; maturity a cause of pain, and old age a cause of mourning. Thus Hamlet becomes one of the central figures of English drama."

Albion by Peter Ackroyd

p. 63