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that are the most alike are distinguished by positive differences, which accompany and modify the leading principle of the character through its most obscure ramifications, embodying the habits, gestures, and almost the looks of the individual. These touches of nature are often so many, and so minute, that the poet cannot be supposed to have been distinctly aware of the operation of the springs by which his imagination was set at work : yet every one of the results is brought out with a truth and clearness, as if his whole study had been directed to that peculiar trait of character or subordinate train of feeling.
Thus MACBETH and Richard III., King Henry . and Richard II.-characters that, in their general description, and in common hands, and indeed in the hands of any other port, would be merely repetitions of the same general idea, more or less exaggerated-are distinguished by traits as precise, though of course less violent, than those which sparate MACBETH from Henry VI., or Richard III. from Richard II. Shakspeare has with wonderful accuracy, and without the smallest appear. ance of effort, varied the portraits of imbecility and effeminacy in the two deposed monarchs. With still more powerful and masterly strokes he has marked the different effects of ambition and cruelty, operating on different dispositions and in different circumstances, in his Macbetu and Richard III. Both are ty. rants, usurpers, murderers, both violent and ambitious, bwth courageous, cruel, treacherous. Bat Richard is cruel from nature and constitution. Macbeth becomes so from accidental circumstances. Richard is from his birth deformed in body and mind, and naturally incapable of good. Macbeth is full of the milk of human kindness," is frank, sociable, generous. He is urged to the commission of guilt by golden opportunity, by the instigations of his wife, and by prophetic warnings. “Fate and metaphysical aid " conspire against his virtue and his loy. alty. Richard on the cuntrary needs to prompter, but wades through a sering of crimes to the height of his ambition, from the ungovernable sence of his passions and a restless love of mischief. lle is tarver gay but in the proport, or in the sue. cess of his villanirs ; Martuth is full of horror at the the voljes of the murder of Duncan, which he is with difficulty prevailed
on to commit, and of remorse after its perpetration. Richard has no mixture of common humanity in his composition, no regard to kindred or posterity, he owns no fellowship with others, but is "himself alone.” Macbeth is not without feelings of sympathy, is accessible to pity, is even in some measure the dupe of his uxoriousness, ranks the loss of friends, of the love of his followers, and of his good name, among the causes which have made him weary of life, and regrets that he has ever seized the crown by unjust means, since he cannot transmit it to his posterity
“For Banquo's issue have l’fil'd my mindFor them the gracious Duncan have I murtherd, To make them kings, the seed of Banquo kings."
In the agitation of his thoughts, he envies those whom he has sent to peace. “Duncan is in his grave; after life's fitful fever he sleeps well.” It is true, he becomes more callous as he plunges deeper in guilt, “ direness is thus made familiar to his slaughterous thoughts,” and he in the end anticipates his wife in the boldness and bloodiness of his enterprises, while she, for want of the same stimulus of action, is "troubled with thickcoming fancies," walks in her sleep, goes mad and dies. Mać. beth endeavors to escape from reflection on his crimes by repel. ling their consequences, and banishes remorse for the past by the meditation of future mischief. This is not the principle of Richard's cruelty, which resembles the cold malignity, the wanton malice, of a fiend rather than the frailty of human nature. Macbeth is goaded on to acts of violence and retaliation by necessity; to Richard, blood is a pastime. There are other essential differences. Richard is a man of the world, a vulgar, plotting, hardened villain, wholly regardless of everything but his own ends, and the means to accomplish them. Not so Macbeth. The superstitions of the age, the rude state of society, the local scenery and customs, all give a wildness and imaginary grandeur to his character. From the strangeness of the events that surround him, he is full of amazement and fear; and stands in doubt between the world of reality and the world of fancy. He sees sights not shown to mortal eye, and hears un. earthly music. All is tumult and disorder within and without his mind; his purposes recoil upon himself, are broken and disjointed; he is the double thrall of his passions and his evil destiny. He treads upon the brink of fate and grows dizzy with his situation. Richard is not a character either of imagina. tion or pathos, but of pure will. There is no conflict of oppo. site feelings in his breast. The apparitions which he sees only haunt him in his sleep; nor does he live like Macbeth in a wak. ing dream. There is nothing tight or compact in Macbeth, no tenseness of fibre, nor pointed decision of manner. He has in. deed considerable energy and manliness of soul; but then he is " subject to all the skyey influences." He is sure of nothing. All is left at issue. He runs a tilt with fortune, and is baffled with preternatural riddles. The agitation of his mind resem. bles the rolling of the sea in a storm, or he is like a lion in the toils-fierce, impetuous, and ungovernable. Richard, in the busy turbulence of his projects, never loses his sell possession, and makes use of every circumstance that occurs as an instru. ment of his long-reaching designs. In his last extremity we can only regard him as a captured wild beast, but we never entirely lose our concern for Macbeth, and he calls back all our sympathy by that fine close of thoughtful melancholy
* My way of life is fallen into the sear,
We can conceive a common actor to play Richard tolerably well; we can conceive no one to play Macbeth properly, or to look like a man wbo had encountered the Weird Sisters. All the actors that we have seen, appear as if they had encountered them on the boards of Covent Garden or Drury Lane, but not on the heath at Foris, and as if they did not believe what they had seen. The Witches of Macugth, indeed, are ridiculous on the modern stage, and we doubt if the Furies of Fachylus would be more respected. The progress of manners and knowledge has an influence on the stage, and will in time perhaps destroy both tragedy and comedy. Filch's picking pockets in the Beg. gar's Opera is not so good a jest as it used to be ; by the force of the police and of philosophy, Lillo's murders and the ghosts in Shakspeare will become obsolete. At last, there will be nothing left, good nor bad, to be desired or dreaded, on the theatre or in real life. The question which has been started with respect to the originality of Shakspeare's Witches, has been well answered by Mr. Lamb in his notes to the “Specimens of Early Dramatic Poetry."
“Though some resemblance may be traced between the charms in Macbeth, and the incantations in this play (the Witch of Middleton), which is supposed to have preceded it, this coinci. dence will not detract much from the originality of Shakspeare. His Witches are distinguished from the Witches of Middleton by essential differences. These are creatures to whom man or woman plotting some dire mischief might resort for occasional consultation. Those originate deeds of blood, and begin bad impulses to men. From the moment that their eyes first meet with Macbeth's, he is spell-bound. That meeting sways his destiny. He can never break the fascination. These Witches cap hurt the body; those have power over the soul. Hecate in Middleton has a son, a low buffoon; the hags of Shakspeare bare neither child of their own, nor seem to be descended from any parent. They are foul anomalies, of whom we know not whence they are sprung, nor whether they have beginning or ending. As they are without human passions, so they seem to be without human relations. They come with thunder and lightmóng, and vanish to airy music. This is all we know of them. Escept Hecate, they have no names, which heightens their wysteriousness. The names, and some of the properties which Middleton has given to his hags, excite smiles. The Weird Sesters are serious things. Their presence cannot co-exist with mirth. But, in a lesser degree, the Witches of Middleton are íne creations. Their power too is, in some measure, over the
They raise jars, jealousies, strifes, like a thick scurf ier life.”
Julius Cesar was one of three principal plays by different authors, pitched upon by the celebrated Earl of Halifax to be brought out, in a splendid manner, by subscription, in the year 1707. The other two were the King and no King of Fletcher, and Dryden's Maiden Qucen. There perhaps might be political reasons for this selection, as far as regards our author. Other. wise Shakspeare's Jours Cesar is not equal, as a whole, to either of bis other plays, taken from the Roman history. It is inferior in interest to Coriolanus, and, both in interest and power, to Antony and Cleopatra. It, however, abounds in admirable and affecting passages, and is remarkable for the profound knowledge of character, in which Sbakspeare could scarcely fail. If there is any exception to this remark, it is in the hero of the piece himself. We do not much admire the representation here given of Julius Cæsar, nor do we think it answers to the portrait given of him in his Commentaries. He makes ses. eral vaporing and rather pedantie speeches, and does nothing Indeed, he has nothing to do. So far the fault of the character might be the fault of the plot.
The spirit with which the poet has entered at once into the manners of the common people, and the jealousies and heart. burnings of the different factions, is shown in the first scene, when Flavius and Marullus, Inbunes of the people, and some citizens of Rome, appear upon the stage.
* Plavit Thou art a coblet, art thea!
CONLER. Truly, Sir, all that I live by, as the anl; I meddle with be trade--an's matters, nor woman's matters, but with al, I am in deed, Si, a surgeon to old sho*; when they are a great danger, I recore them.