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temptations, and standing in need of the guard of cautionary admonition. The supernatural agents, in some measure, take off our attention from the other characters, especially as they are, throughout the piece, what they have a right to be, predominant in the events. They should not interfere, but to weave the fatal web, or to unravel it; they ought ever to be the regents of the fable and artificers of the catastrophe, as the Witches are in this piece. To preserve in Macbeth a just consistency of character; 'to make that character naturally susceptible of those desires, that were to be communicated to it; to render it interesting to the spectator, by some amiable qualities; to make it exemplify the dangers of ambition, and the terrors of remorse; was all that could be required of the tragedian and the moralist. With all the powers of poetry he elevates a legendary tale, without carrying it beyond the limits of vulgar faith and tradition. The solemu character of the infernal rites would be very striking, if the scene was not made ludicrous by a mob of old women, which the players have added to
the three weird sisters.The incantation is so consonant with the doctrine of enchantments, and receives such power by the help of those potent ministers of direful superstition, the Terrible and the Mysterious, that it has not the air of poetical fiction so much as of a discovery of magical secrets; and thus it seizes the heart of the ignorant, and communicates an irresistible horror to the imagination even of the more informed spectator.
Shakspeare was too well read in human nature, not to know, that though Reason may expel the superstitions of the nursery, the imagination does not so entirely free itself from their dominion, as not to re-admit them, if occasion presents them, in the very shape in which they were once revered. The first scene in which the Witches appear, is not so happily executed as the others. He has too exactly followed the vulgar reports of the Lapland witches, of whom our sailors used to imagine they could purchase a fair wind.
The choice of a story that at once gave countenance to King James's doctrine of dæmonology, and shewed the ancient destination of his family to the throne of Great Britain, was noless flattering to that monarch than Virgil's to Augustus and the Roman people, in making Anchises shew to Æneas the representations of unborn heroes, that were to adorn his line, and augment the glory of their commonwealth. It is reported, that a great French wit often laughs at the tragedy of Macbeth, for having a legion of ghosts in it. One would imagine he either had not learnt English, or had forgotten his Latin; for the Spirits of Banquo's line are no more ghosts, than the representations of the Julian race in the Æneid; and there is no ghost but Banquo's in the whole play. Euripides, in the most philosophic and polite age of the Athenians, brings the shade of Polydorus, Priam's son, upon the stage, to tell a very long and lamentable tale. Here is therefore produced, by cach tragedian, the departed* spirit walking this upper world for causes admitted by popular faith. Among the Ancients,
Ancients, the unburied, and with us, the murdered, were supposed to do so. The apparitions are therefore equally justifiable or blameable; so the laurel must be adjudged to that poet who throws most of the sublime and the marvellous into the supernatural agent; best preserves the credibility of its intervention, and renders it most useful in the drama. There surely can be no dispute of the superiority of our countryman in these articles. There are many bombast speeches in the Tragedy of Macbeth; and these are the lawful prize of the critic; but envy, not content to nibble at faults, strikes at its true object, the prime excellencies and perfections of the thing it would depreciate. One should not wonder if a school-boy critic, who neither knows what were the superstitions of former times, or the poet's privileges in all times, should flourish away, with all the rash dexterity of wit, upon the appearance of a ghost; but it is strange, a man of universal learning, a real and just connoisseur, and a true genius, should cite as improper and absurd, what has been practised by the most celebrated artists ir
the dramatic way, when such machinery was authorized by the belief of the people. Is there not reason to suspect from such uncandid treatment of our Poet by this critic, that he
Views him with jealous, yet with scornful eyes,
The difference between a mind naturally prone to evil, and a frail one warped by the violence of temptations, is delicately distinguished in Macbeth and his wife. There are also some touches of the pencil, that mark the male and female character. When they deliberate on the murder of the King, the duties of host and subject strongly plead with him against the deed. She passes over these considerations; goes to Duncan's chamber resolved to kill him, but could not do it, becauus, she says, he resembled her father while he slept. There is something feminine in this, and perfectly agreeable to the nature of the sex; who, even when void of principle, are seldom entirely divested of sentiment; and thus the poet, who, to use