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PRE-EMINENT, even among the tragic creations of Shakspeare, stands the magnificent “Macbeth;" – its foundations deep in the darkest recesses of the human heart — its every buttress and pinnacle,“ jutty, frieze, and coigne of vantage,” radiant with the golden light that streams in prodigal abundance from the most poetic of imaginations.
All the constituents of a perfect tragedy are here combined, with a degree of success never probably before attained, and certainly not since. In this great drama, we find incident ever changing, congruous, progressive, and interesting; character richly diversified and exquisitely portrayed; dialogue teeming with every species of excellence; and, to crown all, moral teaching of the highest and purest tendency - not obviously obtruded, like the doctor's drench, but rapturously inhaled without an effort of the will, as the infant derives sustenance from the maternal bosom, unknowing of the great results to which its instincts are subservient. Philosophy delights to dwell on the profound thought, the practical wisdom, evolved from the speakers by the various exigences to which the progress of the plot in turn exposes them;
Poetry revels in contemplation of the priceless jewels here collected to enrich her treasury; while Religion, pointing to the guilt-struck murderer,“ listening the fear" of the sleeping grooms (conscious the while that he himself has slept his last), proclaims the poet her beloved ally; and reading her sternest lessons by the hallowed taper of fiction, needs no stronger evidence to warn the waverer from the lures of unholy and inordinate desire.
The great argument” of MACBETH” is derived from Holinshed's “ HISTORY OF SCOTLAND." The story in itself is highly interesting, and has been expressly pointed out by Buchanan, as forming an eligible subject for the drama. The principal incidents on which the play is founded are briefly stated by the commentators, to this effect: - Malcolm II., King of Scotland, had two daughters, the eldest married to Crinan, father of Duncan (thane of the Isles and western parts of Scotland); and on the death of Malcolm without male issue, Duncan succeeded him. The second daughter of Malcolm married Sinel (thane of Glamis), the father of Macbeth. Duncan married either the daughter or sister of Siward, Earl of Northumberland, and was murdered by his cousin-german Macbeth, in the Castle of Inverness. According to Boethius, this event took place in 1045, in the seventh year of Duncan's reign. Macbeth then usurped the crown, and was himself slain by Macduff, in conformity with the play, in 1061 ; having thus reigned during the long period of sixteen years. Dramatic justice, however, required that punishment should overtake his crime with swifter wing. In the chronicle, also, Shakspeare found hints for the terrific character of Lady Macbeth, who is represented as strongly instigating her husband to the destruction of his sovereign, and as a woman “ very ambitious, burning in unquenchable desire to bear the name of a Queen.” With what surpassing power this rough material has been wrought upon, all can feel, but who can hope adequately to describe?
“Macbetu” was first printed in the original folio (1623). It is generally supposed to have been written in or about 1606. Three years previously, James I. ascended the English throne; and this circumstance possibly turned the poet's attention to Scottish history.
SCENE I.—An Open Place. Thunder and And choke their art. The merciless Macdonwald Lightning.
(Worthy to be a rebel; for to that
The multiplying villanies of nature
Do swarm upon him) from the western isles
And Fortune, on his damned quarrel smiling, 2nd Witch. When the hurlyburly's done, Shewed like a rebel's whore. But all's too weak; When the battle's lost and won :
For brave Macbeth (well he deserves that name), 3rd Witch. That will be ere the set of sun. Disdaining fortune, with his brandished steel, 1st Witch. Where the place ?
Which smoked with bloody execution, 2nd Witch. Upon the heath:
Like valor's minion, carved out his passage, 3rd Witch. There to meet with Macbeth. Till he faced the slave; 1st Witch. I come, Graymalkin.
And ne'er shook hands, nor bade farewell to him, AU. Paddock calls : Anon.
Till he unseamed him from the nave to the chaps, Fair is foul, and foul is fair :
And fixed his head upon our battlements. Hover through the fog and filthy air.
Dun. O, valiant cousin! worthy gentleman ! [Witches vanish. Sold. As whence the sun 'gins his reflection
Shipwrecking storms and direful thunders break; SCENE II.-A Camp near Fores. Alarum within. So from that spring, whence comfort seemed to
come, Enter King DUNCAN, MALCOLM, DONALBAIN,
Discomfort swells. Mark, King of Scotland, mark : LENOX, with Attendants, meeting a bleeding
No sooner justice had, with valor armed, Soldier.
Compelled these skipping kernes to trust their Dun. What bloody man is that? He can report, heels, As seemeth by his plight, of the revolt
But the Norweyan lord, surveying vantage, The newest state.
With furbished arms and new supplies of men, Mal. This is the sergeant,
Began a fresh assault.
Dun. Dismayed not this
As sparrows, cagles; or the hare, the lion.
If I say sooth, I must report they were As two spent swimmers, that do cling together, | As cannons overcharged with double cracks;
2nd -Witch. Killing swine. Doubly redoubled strokes upon the foe;
3rd Witch. Sister, where thou? Except they meant to bathe in reeking wounds, 1st Witch. A sailor's wife had chestnuts in her Or memorize another Golgotha,
lap, I cannot tell.
And mounched, and mounched, and mounched :But I am faint, my gashes cry for help.
“Give me," quoth I: Dun. So well thy words become thee as thy “ Aroint thee, witch !” the rump-fed ronyon cries. wounds;
Her husband's to Aleppo gone, master o’ the Tiger: They smack of honor both. — Go, get him sur. But in a sieve I 'll thither sail, geons. [Exit Soldier, attended. And, like a rat without a tail,
I'll do, I'll do, and I'll do.
2nd Witch. I'll give thee a wind. Who comes here?
1st Witch. Thou art kind. Mal. The worthy thane of Rosse.
3rd Witch. And I another. Len. What haste looks through his eyes! So
1st Witch. I myself have all the other; should he look
And the very ports they blow, That seems to speak things strange.
All the quarters that they know Rosse. God save the King !
l' the shipman's card. Dun. Whence cam’st thou, worthy thane ?
I will drain him dry as hay: Rosse. From Fife, great king,
Sleep shall, neither night nor day, Where the Norweyan banners flout the sky,
Hang upon his penthouse lid; And fan our people cold.
He shall live a man forbid : Norway himself, with terrible numbers,
Weary seven nights, nine times nine, Assisted by that most disloyal traitor
Shall he dwindle, peak, and pine: The thane of Cawdor, 'gan a dismal conflict;
Though his bark cannot be lost, Till that Bellona’s bridegroom, lapped in proof,
Yet it shall be tempest-tossed, Confronted him with self-comparisons,
Look what I have. Point against point rebellious, arm 'gainst arm,
2nd Witch. Shew me, shew me. Curbing his lavish spirit: and, to conclude,
1st Witch. Here I have a pilot's thumb, The victory fell on us.—
Wrecked as homeward he did come. Dun. Great happiness !
[Drum within. Rosse. That now
3rd Witch. A drum, a drum; Sweno, the Norways' king craves composition;
Macbeth doth come. Nor would we deign him burial of his men,
All. The weird sisters, hand in hand, Till he disburséd, at Saint Colmés’ inch,
Posters of the sea and land, Ten thousand dollars to our general use.
Thus do go about, about: Dun. No more that thane of Cawdor shall
Thrice to thine, and thrice to mine, deceive
And thrice again, to make up nine. Our bosom interest.—Go, pronounce his present
Peace !- the charm's wound up.
Enter MACBBTH and BANQUO.
Macb. So foul and fair a day I have not seen. won.
Ban. How far is't called to Fores?—What are SCENE III.-A Heath.
So withered, and so wild in their attire;
That look not like the inhabitants o' the earth, 1st Witch. Where hast thou been, sister? | And yet are on't?-Live you ? or are you aught