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But they did say their prayers, and address them
Again to fleep.
As they had seen me with these hangman's hands.
When they did say, God bless us !
I had most need of blessing, and Amen
Stuck in my throat.
Macbeth doth murder Deep; the innocent Deep.
Macb. I'll go no more.
Look on't again I dare not.
Macb. How is it with me, when every noise appals me?
The poet has contrived to throw a tincture of remorse even into Macbeth's resolution to murder Banquo. He does not proceed in it like a man, who, impenitent in crimes, and wanton in success, gaily goes forward in his violent career ; but seems impelled onward, and stimulated to this additional villany, by an apprehenfion, that, if Banquo's posterity fhould inherit the crown, he has sacrificed his virtue, and defiled his own foul in vain.
Marb. If 'tis fo,
His defire to keep Lady Macbeth innocent of this intended murder, and yet from the fulness of a throbbing heart, uttering what may render suspected the very thing he wishes to conceal, shews how deeply the author enters into human nature in general, and in every circumstance preserves the consistency of the character he exhibits.
How strongly is expressed the great truth, that to a man of courage, the most terrible object is the person he has injured, in the following address to Banquo's ghost.
Macb. What man dare, I dare.
Unreal mock'ry, hence!
Stones have been known to move, and trees to speak;
What is't you do? The unhappy and disconfolate state of the most tri. umphant villany, from a consciousness of mens internal detestation of that flagitious greatness, to which they
are forced to pay external homage, is finely expréffed in
Is fall'n into the fear, the yellow leaf :
Which the poor heart would fain deny; and dare not. Toward the conclusion of the piece, his mind feeins te fink under its load of guilt! Despair and melancholy hang on his words! By his address to the physician, we perceive he has griefs that press harder on him than his eneinies: Macó. Canft thou not minister to a mind diseas'd;
Pluck from the memory a rooted forrow ;
Which weighs upon the heart ? The alacrity with which he attacks young Sirvard, and his reluctance to engage with Macduff, of whose blood he says he has already had too much, compleat a chaFacter uniformly preserved from the opening of the fable, to its conclufion.-We find him ever answering to the first idea, we were made to conceive of him.
The man of honour pierces through the traitor and aflaffin. His mind lofes its tranquillity by guilt, but never its fortitude in danger. His crinies presented to him, even in the unreal mockery of a vilion, or the harınless form of sleeping innocence, terrify him more than all his foes in arms. -It has been very justly observed by a late commentator, that this piece does not abound with those nice discriminations of character, usual in the plays of our author, the events being too great to admit the influence of particular dispolitions. It appears to me, that the character of Macbeth is also represented less particular and special, that his example may be of more universal utility. He has therefore placed him on that line, on which the major part of
mankind may be ranked, just between the extremes of good and bad; a station assailable by various temptations, and standing in need of the guard of cautionary admonition. The supernatural agents, in fome 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 remorfe ; was all that could be required of the tragedian and the moralist. With all the the powers of poetry he elevates a legendary tale, without carrying it beyond the limits of vulgar faith and tradition. The folemn character of the infernal rites would be very striking, if the scene was not made ludicreus by a mob of old women, which the players have added to the three weird sisters.- The incantation is fo confonant with the doctrine of inchantments, 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 feizes the heart of the ignorant, and communicates an irrefistible horror to the imagination even of the more informed spectator.
Shakespear 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 failors 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 no less flattering to that monarch than Virgil's to Auguftus and the Roman people, in making Anchises fhew to Æneas the representations of unborn heroes, that were to adorn his line, and auge ment 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 Ghofs, than the representations of the Julian race in the Æneid; and there is no Ghoft but Banquo's in the whole play; Euripides, in the most philofophic and polite age of the Athenians, brings the shade of Polydorus, Priam's fon, upon the stage, to tell a very long and lamentable tale. Here is therefore produced, by each tragedian, the departed fpirit walking this upper world for causes admitted by popular faith. Among the ancients, the unburied, and with us the murdered, were supposed to do so. The apparitions are therefore equally justifiable or blameable ; fo the laurel must be adjudged to that poet who throws most of the sublime and the marvellous into the supernatural agent; best preferves the credibility of its intervention, and renders it most useful in the drama. There surely can be no difpute of the fuperiority 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 flourifh away, with all the raj dexterity of wit, upon the appearance of a ghoft; but: