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I persuade myself these will appear very natural reasons why the poet did not raise the ghost of the king in preference, though it is reasonable to think it would have been a much more noble incident in his hands than this of Banquo. It now remains to examine whether this is more fully justified by the peculiar situation reserved for Lady Macbeth, to whom I have before adverted.

The intrepidity of her character is so marked, that we may well suppose no waking terrors could shake it; and in this light it must be acknowledged a very natural expedient to make her vent the ågonies of her conscience in sleep. Dreams have been a dramatic expedient ever since there has been a drama. Æschylus recites the dream of Clytemnestra immediately before her son Orestes kills her; she fancies she has given birth to a dragon :

This new-born dragon, like an infant child
Laid in the cradle, seem'd in want of food;
And in her dream she held it to her breast :
The milk he drew was mix'd with clotted blood.

POTTER. This, which is done by Æschylus, has been done by hundreds after him; but to introduce upon the scene the very person, walking in sleep, and giving vent to the horrid fancies that haunt her dream, in broken speeches expressive of her guilt, uttered before witnesses, and accompanied with that natural and expressive action of washing the blood from her defiled hands, was reserved for the

original and bold genius of Shakspeare only. It is an incident so full of tragic horror, so daring, and at the same time so truly characteristic, that it stands out as a prominent feature in the most sublime drama in the world, and fully compensates for any sacrifices the poet might have made in the previous arrangement of his incidents.



c Shakspeare has not thought it necessary to hint to us the repressed yet agonizing struggles which Lady Macbeth must have endured, ere her mind, originally so daringly masculine and fearless, could have been subdued to these terrors of imagination. But it is evident, and it is a management worthy of Shakspeare, that the repression of her feelings in her waking state served but to render her, when volition was weakened by sleep, more assuredly the victim of horror, even unto death ; for, atrocious as her character is, and apparently scarcely, if at all, susceptible of remorse, yet that some portion of humanity lingered in her heart, is placed beyond all doubt from the very striking trait which the poet has thrown in, in order to link her as it were to human nature, that of declining to execute the murder of Duncan herself, when she placed the daggers in his chamber, because he resembled her “ father as he slept.' This touch of tenderness is alone sufficient to render probable the almost unparalleled horror of the scene which precedes her dissolution.

The Observer, No. 57.

No. XV.



prove fatal.

MACBETH now approaches towards his catastrophe. The heir of the crown is in arms, and he must defend valiantly what he has usurped villainously. His natural valour does not suffice for this trial : he resorts to the witches; he conjures them to give answer to what he shall ask, and he again runs into all those pleonasms of speech which I before remarked. The predictions he extorts from the apparitions are so couched as to seem favourable to him; at the same time that they correspond with events which afterwards

The management of this incident has so close a resemblance to what the poet Claudian has done in the instance of Ruffinus's vision the night before his massacre, that I am tempted to insert the passage :

Ecce videt diras alludere protinus umbras,
Quas dedit ipse neci; quarum quæ clarior una
Visa loqui-Proh! surge toro ; quid plurima volvit
Anxius? hæc requiem rebus, finemque labori
Allatura dies: Omne jam plebe redibis
Altior, et læti manibus portabere vulgi-
Has canit ambages. Occulto fallitur ille
Omine, nec capitis fixi præsagia sensit.

A ghastly vision in the dead of night
Of mangled, murder'd ghosts appal his sight;
When hark! a voice from forth the shadowy train
Cries out-Awake! what thoughts perplex thy brain?
Awake, arise! behold the day appears,
That ends thy labours, and dispels thy fears :
To loftier heights thy tow'ring head shall rise,
And the glad crowd shall lift thee to the skies-
Thus spake the voice : He triumphs, nor beneath
Th' ambiguous omen sees the doom of death.

Confiding in his auguries, Macbeth now prepares for battle : by the first of these he is assured

That none of woman born
Shall harm Macbeth.

By the second prediction he is told

Macbeth shall never vanquish'd be, until
Great Birnam-wood to Dunsinane's high hill
Shall come against him.

These he calls sweet boadments! and concludes

To sleep in spite of thunder.

This play is so replete with excellences, that it would exceed all bounds if I were to notice every one ;


pass over, therefore, that incomparable scene between Macbeth, the physician, and Seyton, in which the agitations of his mind are so wonderfully expressed; and, without pausing for the death of Lady Macbeth, I conduct the reader to that crisis, when the messenger has announced the ominous approach of Birnam-wood.—A burst of fury, an exclamation seconded by a blow, is the first natural explosion of a soul so stung with scorpions as Macbeth's. The sudden gust is no sooner discharged than nature speaks her own language; and the still voice of conscience, like reason in the midst of madness, murmurs forth these mournful words :-

I pall in resolution, and begin
To doubt the equivocation of the fiend,
That lies like truth.

With what an exquisite feeling has this darling son of nature here thrown in this touching, this pathetic sentence, amidst the very whirl and eddy of conflicting passions ! Here is a study for dramatic poets; this is a string for an actor's skill to touch; this will discourse sweet music to the human heart, with which it is finely unisoned when struck with the hand of a master.

The next step brings us to the last scene of Macbeth's dramatic existence. Flushed with the blood of Siward, he is encountered by Macduff, who crosses him like his evil genius. Macbeth cries out

Of all men else I have avoided thee.

To the last moment of character the faithful poet supports him. He breaks off from single combat, and in the tremendous pause, so beautifully contrived to hang suspense and terror on the moral scene of his exit, the tyrant driven to bay, and panting with the heat and struggle of the fight, vauntingly exclaims

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