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Fancied noises, the throbbings of his own quailing heart, had shaken the constancy of Macbeth. Real sounds, the certain signals of approaching visiters, to whom the situation of Duncan must be revealed, do not intimidate her; she is prepared for all trials, and coolly tells him

I hear a knocking
At the south entry: Retire we to our chamber;
A little water clears us of this deed.

is it then!

The several incidents thrown together in this scene of the murder of Duncan, are of so striking a sort as to need no elucidation; they are better felt than described, and my attempts point at passages of more obscurity, where the touches are thrown into shade, and the art of the author lies more out of sight.

Lady Macbeth being now retired from the scene, we may, in this interval, permit the genius of Æschylus to introduce a rival murderess on the stage.

Clytemnestra has received her husband Agamemnon, on his return from the capture of Troy, with studied rather than cordial congratulations. He opposes the pompous ceremonies she had devised for the display of his entry, with a magnanimous contempt of such adulation

-Sooth me not with strains
Of adulation, as a girl; nor raise
As to some proud barbaric king, that loves

Loud acclamations echoed from the mouths
Of prostrate worshippers, a clamorous welcome :
Spread not the streets with tapestry: 'tis invidious;
These are the honours we should pay the gods;
For mortal men to tread on ornaments
Of rich embroidery- no; I dare not do it:
Respect me as a man, not as a god.


These are heroic sentiments; but in conclusion the persuasions of the wife overcome the modest scruples of the hero, and he enters his palace in the pomp of triumph ; when soon his dying groans are echoed from the interior scene, and the adultress comes forth, besprinkled with the blood of her husband, to avow the murder

-I struck him twice, and twice
He groaned; then died. A third time as he lay
I gor'd him with a wound; a grateful present
To the stern god, that in the realms below
Reigns o'er the dead. There let him take his seat.
He lay; and spouting from his wounds a stream
of blood bedew'd me with these crimson drops.
I glory in them, like the genial earth,
When the warm showers of heav'n descend and wake
The flowrets to unfold their vermeil leaves.
Come then, ye reverend senators of Argos,
Joy with me, if your hearts be turn'd to joy,
And such I wish them.


• The Observer, No. 56. The character of Cly temnestra," observes a periodical critic, "may be weighed without disparagement against that of Lady Macbeth ; but all the other delineations are superior in our Shakspeare : his characters are


more various, more marked, more consistent, more natural, intuitive. The style of Æschylus, if distinguished for a majestic energetic simplicity, greatly preferable to the mixed metaphors and puns of Shakspeare, bas still neither the richness of thought, nor the versatility of diction, which we find displayed in the English tragedy.”—Monthly Review, vol. Ixxxi. p. 120. No. XIV.



RICHARD perpetrates several murders; but as the poet has not marked them with any distinguishing circumstances, they need not be enumerated on this occasion. Some of these he commits in his passage to power, others after he has seated himself on the throne. Ferociousness and hypocrisy are the prevailing features of his character; and as he has no one honourable or humane principle to combat, there is no opening for the poet to develope those secret workings of conscience, which he has so naturally done in the case of Macbeth.

The murder of Clarence, those of the queen's kinsmen and of the young princes in the Tower, are all perpetrated in the same style of hardened cruelty. He takes the ordinary method of hiring ruffians to perform his bloody commissions, and there is nothing which particularly marks the scenes wherein he imparts his purposes and instructions to them: a very little management serves even for Tirrel, who is not a professional murderer, but is reported to be

a discontented gentleman,
Whose humble means match pot his haughty spirit.

With such a spirit Richard does not hold it necessary to use much circumlocution, and seems more in dread of delay than disappointment or discovery :

R. Is thy name Tirrel ?
T. James Tirrel, and your most obedient subject.
R. Art thou indeed?
T. Prove me, my gracious lord.
R. Dar'st thou resolve to kill a friend of mine?
T. Please you, I had rather kill two enemies.
R. Why then thou hast it; two deep enemies,

Foes to my rest, and my sweet sleep's disturbers,
Are they that I would have thee deal upon :
Tirrel, I mean those bastards in the Tower.

If the reader calls to mind by what circumspect and slow degrees King John opens himself to Hubert under a similar situation with this of Richard, he will be convinced that Shakspeare considered preservation of character too important to sacrifice on any occasion to the vanity of fine writing ; for the scene he has given to John, a timorous and wary prince, would ill suit the character of Richard. A close observance of nature is the first excellence of a dramatic poet, and the peculiar property of him we are reviewing.

In these two stages of our comparison, Macbeth appears with far more dramatic effect than Richard, whose first scenes present us with little else than

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