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" Hie thee hither,
This swelling exultation and keen spirit of triumph, this uncontrolable eagerness of anticipation, which seems to dilate her form and take possession of all her faculties, this solid, substantial flesh and blood display of passion, exhibit a striking contrast to the cold, abstractedl, gratuitous, servile malignity of the Witches, who are equally instrumental in urging Macbeth to his fate, for the mere love of mischief, and from a disinterested delight in deformity and cruelty. They are hags of mischief, obscene panders to iniquity, malicious from their impotence of enjoyment, enamoured of destruction, because they are themselves unreal, abortive, half existences, who become sublime from their exemption from all human sympathies and contempt for all human affairs, as Lady Macheth does by the force of passion ! Her fault seems to have been an excess of that strong principle of self-interest and family aggrandisement, not amenable to the common feelings of compassion and justice, which is so marked a feature in barbarous nations and times. A passing reflection of this kind, on the resemblance of the sleeping king to her father, alone prevents her from slaying Duncan with her own hand.
In speaking of the character of Lady Macbeth, we ought not to pass over Mrs. Siddons's manner of
acting that part. We can conceive of nothing grander. It was something above nature. It seemed almost as if a being of a superiour order had dropped from a higher sphere to awe the world with the majesty of her appearance.
Power was seated on her brow, passion emanated from her breast as from a shrine ; she was tragedy personified. In coming on in the sleeping scene, her eyes were open, but their sense was shut. She was like a person bewildered and unconscious of what she did. Her lips moved involuntarily--all her gestures were involuntary and mechanical. She glided on and off the stage like an apparition. To have seen her in that character was an event in every one's life, not to be forgotten.
The dramatick beauty of the character of Duncan, which excites the respect and pity even of his murderers, has been often pointed out. It forms a picture of itself. An instance of the author's power of giving a striking effect to a common reflection, hy the manner of introducing it, occurs in a speech of Duncan, complaining of his having been deceived in his opinion of the Thane of Cawdor, at the very moment that he is expressing the most unhounded confidence in the loyalty and services of Macbeth.
1 There is no art
Another passage to shew that Shakspeare lost sight of nothing that could in any way give relief or
heightening to his subject, is the conversation which takes place between Banquo and Fleance immediately before the murder scene of Duncan.
Banquo. How goes the night, boy ?
Banquo. Hold, take my sword. There's husbandry in heav'n,
In like manner, a fine idea is given of the gloomy coming on of evening, just as Banquo is going to be assassinated.
MACBETH (generally speaking) is done upon a stronger and more systematick principle of contrast than any other of Shakspeare's plays. It moves upon the verge of an abyss, and is a constant struggle between life and death. The action is desperate and the reaction is dreadful. It is a huddling together of fierce extremes, a war of opposite natures which of them shall destroy the other. There is nothing but what has a violent end or violent beginnings. The lights and shades are laid on with a determined hand;
the transitions from triumph to despair, from the height of terrour to the repose of death, are sudden and startling; every passion brings in its fellowcontrary, and the thoughts pitch and jostle against each other as in the dark. The whole play is an unruly chaos of strange and forbidden things, where the ground rocks under our feet. Shakspeare's genius here took its full swing, and trod upon the farthest bounds of nature and passion. This circumstance will account for the abruptness and violent antitheses of the style, the throes and labour which run through the expression, and from defects will turn them into beauties. “ So fair and foul a day I have not seen," &c. " Such welcome and unwelcome news together." “ Men's lives are like the flowers in their caps, dying or ere they sicken." “ Look like the innocent flower, but be the serpent under it.” The scene before the castle gate follows the appearance of the Witches on the heath, and is followed by a midnight murder. Duncan is cut off betimes by treason leagued with witchcraft, and Macduff is ripped untimely from his mother's womb to avenge his death. Macbeth, after the death of Banquo, wishes for his presence in extravagant terms, " To him and all we thirst,” and when his ghost appears, cries out, “ Avaunt and quit my sight,” and being gone, he is "himself again.” Macbeth resolves to get rid of Macduff that he may sleep in spite of thunder;" and cheers his wife on the doubiful intelligence of Banquo's taking oif, with the encouragement-" Then be thon jocunil: ere the bat his flown his cloistered flight; ere to black Hecate's summous the shard-born
beetle has rung night's yawning peal, there shall be done-a deed of dreadful note.” In Lady Macbeth's speech “ Had he not resembled my father as he slept, I had done 't," there is murder and filial piety together, and in urging him to fulfil his vengeance against the defenceless king, her thoughts spare the blood neither of infants por old age. The description of the Witches is full of the same contradictory principle; they “rejoice when good kings bleed," they are neither of the earth nor the air, but both;
they should be women, but their beards forbid it;" they take all the pains possible to lead Macbeth on to the height of bis ambition, only to betray him in deeper consequence, and after shewing him all the pomp of their art, discover their malignant delight in his disappointed hopes, by that bitter taunt, “Why stands Macbeth thus amazedly ?" We might multiply such instances every where.
The leading features in the character of Macbeth are striking enough, and they form what may be thought at first only a hold, rude, Gothick outline. By comparing it with other characters of the same author, we shall perceive the absolute truth and identity which is observed in the midst of the giddy whirl and rapid career of events. Macbeth in Shakspeare no more loses his identity of character in the fiuctu. ations of fortune or the storm of passion, than Macbeth in himself would have lost the identity of his person. Thus he is as distinct a being from Richard III. as it is possible to imagine, though these two characters in common hands, and indeed in the hands of any other poet, would have been a repetition of