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And make my seated heart knock at my ribs
Against the use of nature ?

Now let us turn to Richard, in whose cruel heart no such remorse finds place; he needs no tempter. There is here no dignus vindice nodus, nor indeed any knot at all; for he is already practised in murder : ambition is his ruling passion, and a crown is in view; and he tells you at his very first entrance on the scene

I am determined to be a villain.

We are now presented with a character full formed and complete for all the savage purposes of the drama:

Impiger, iracundus, inexorabilis, acer.

The barriers of conscience are broken down, and the soul, hardened against shame, avows its own depravity :

Plots have I laid, inductions dangerous,
To set my brother Clarence and the king
In deadly hate the one against the other.

He observes no gradations in guilt, expresses no hesitation, practises no refinements, but plunges into blood with the familiarity of long custom, and gives orders to his assassins to dispatch his brother Clarence with all the unfeeling tranquillity of a Nero or Caligula. Richard, having no longer any scruples to manage with his own conscience, is

exactly in the predicament which the dramatic poet Diphilus has described with such beautiful simplicity of expression

Όστις γαρ αυτος αυτον ουκ αισχυνεται,
Συνειδοθ' αυτω φαυλα διαπεπραγμένω,
Πως τον γε μηδεν είδοταίσχυνθησεται

The wretch who knows his own vile deeds, and yet fears not himself, how should he fear another, who knows them not?

It is manifest therefore that there is an essential difference in the developement of these characters, and that in favour of Macbeth. In his soul cruelty seems to dawn; it breaks out with faint glimmerings, like a winter-morning, and gathers strength by slow degrees. In Richard it flames forth at once, mounting like the sun between the tropics, and enters boldly on its career without a herald. As the character of Macbeth has a moral advantage in this distinction, so has the drama of that name a much more interesting and affecting cast. The struggles of a soul naturally virtuous, whilst it holds the guilty impulse of ambition at bay, affords the noblest theme for the drama, and puts the creative fancy of our poet upon a resource, in which he has been rivalled only by the great father of tragedy, Æschylus, in the prophetic effusjons of Cassandra, the incantations of the Persian magi for raising the ghost of Darius, and the imaginary terrific forms of his furies; with all which our countryman probably had no acquaintance, or at most a very obscure one."


• The latter part of this number, here omitted, and which includes a comparison between Æschylus and Shakspeare, will be found in the second part of our volume.

• The Observer, No. 55.




Stop up

We are now to attend Macbeth to the perpetration of the murder which puts him in possession of the crown of Scotland ; and this introduces a new personage on the scene, his accomplice and wife : she thus developes her own character

Come, all you spirits,
That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here,
And fill me from the crown to the toe topful
Of direst cruelty; make thick my blood,

the access and passage to remorse,
That no compunctious visitings of nature
Shake my fell purpose, nor keep peace between
Th' effect and it. Come to my woman's breasts,
And take my milk for gall, you murth’ring ministers,
Wherever in your sightless substances
You wait on nature's mischief: Come, thick pight,

And pall thee in the dunnest smoke of hell ! Terrible invocation! Tragedy can speak no stronger language, nor could any genius less than Shakspeare's support a character of so lofty a pitch, so sublimely terrible at the very opening.

The part which Lady Macbeth fills in the drama, has a relative as well as positive importance, and serves to place the repugnance of Macbeth in the strongest point of view; she is in fact the auxiliary of the witches, and the natural influence which so high and predominant a spirit asserts over the tamer qualities of her husband, makes those witches but secondary agents for bringing about the main action of the drama. This is well worth a remark; for if they, which are only artificial and fantastic instruments, had been made the sole or even principal movers of the great incident of the murder, nature would have been excluded from her share in the drama, and Macbeth would have become the mere machine of an uncontrollable necessity; and his character, being robbed of its free agency, would have left no moral behind. I must take leave therefore to anticipate a remark, which I shall hereafter repeat, that when Lady Macbeth is urging her lord to the murder, not a word is dropped by either, of the witches or their predictions. It is in these instances of his conduct that Shakspeare is so wonderful a study for the dramatic poet. But I proceed

Lady Macbeth, in her first scene, from which I have already extracted a passage, prepares for an attempt upon the conscience of her husband, whose nature she thus describes

-Yet do I fear thy nature;
It is too full o'th' milk of human kindness

To catch the nearest way. He arrives before she quits the scene, and she receives him with consummate address

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