Imágenes de páginas
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odious to a woman endowed with Imogen's peculiarly harmonious

grace

of mind as well as person. On the present acting of Posthumus, we shall make no comment-only observing, that all possible dignity of figure, of countenance, and of bearing, should be given to this personation, even in its most impassioned passages, in order to sustain in any adequate degree our sympathy in the interest which this personage possesses in the breast of a heroine so ideally exalted; the more so, as the mental and moral qualities of Leonatus, though not unworthy of Imogen's affection, are yet distinctly portrayed by the dramatistas inferior to her own.

On Mr. Macready's performance of lachimo, however, we venture one word of remark. The actor, we think, has here done his very best: his conception is spirited; his execution, brilliant and effective. The performer seems to have well understood how to adapt the histrionic reading of the part to the displaying of his peculiar capabilities to the best advantage; and so stands professionally absolved for any inevitable deviation from the dramatist's conception into which he may thus have been led. Least of all are we entitled to quarrel with Iachimo's representative because, both in figure and in feature, so far from having anything of an Italian look, he is thoroughly and peculiarly British. Nevertheless, the auditor must not be betrayed, by what he sees on the boards of Drury-Lane, into forgetting that "yellow Iachimo” of whom Posthumus so emphatically tells us in his first soliloquy. This epithet naturally reminds us of that clear, sallow complexion which we see, so transparent and so life-like, in Titian's portraits-that genuine Italian hue with which we commonly associate slenderness of feature and pliancy of figure. It is, above all, in Iachimo's great scene with Imogen, that we feel the want of a truer personation of the artfully insinuating Roman.

That blending of earnestness of devotion with delicacy of feeling, which we have indicated as forming the groundwork of the character of Pisanio, is, we think, rendered with truth in the present performance by Mr. Elton; the actor is well identified with the part he is enacting; so that, of all the greater tragic scenes, that in which Pisanio discloses to Imogen the commission he has received to murder her, is the one most completely brought home to the feelings of the audience.

As affecting the truth and beauty of the scenes where Imogen is wandering in disguise, we must point out a considerable error as to costume in the present acting of the play. Shakespeare's text affords no warrant whatever for representing Belarius and the two young brothers, in their exterior, as a sort of half-naked savages. They inhabit a cave, it is true: but so, for instance, does the banished duke in "As You Like It,' who, the play tells us, was living “like the old Robin Hood of England.” Belarius himself is a noble exile, living, disguised, in the condition of an outlaw. Under the homely but not savage garb in which he ought to be represented, he should preserve the dignified and even graceful bearing of the man who had been long a courtier as well as a distinguished warrior. Only such a man could give to the young princes, even in his now rustic way of life, such a training as could fit them to attract so immediately the affection of a being so peculiarly graceful as Imogen.

IV.

CHARACTERS IN MACBETH.'

[March 1st, 1844.]

1.-MACBETH AND LADY MACBETH, UNTIL THE MURDER

OF DUNCAN.

MACBETH' seems inspired by the very genius of the tempest. This drama shews us the gathering, the discharge, and the dispelling of a domestic and political storm, which takes its peculiar hue from the individual character of the hero. It is not in the spirit of mischief that animates the “ weird sisters," nor in the passionate and strong-willed ambition of Lady Macbeth, that we find the mainspring of this tragedy, but in the disproportioned though poetically tempered soul of Macbeth himself. A character like his, of extreme selfishness, with a most irritable fancy, must produce, even in ordinary circumstances, an excess of morbid apprehensiveness; which, however, as we see in him, is not inconsistent with the greatest physical courage, but generates of necessity the most entire moral cowardice. When, therefore, a man like this, ill enough qualified even for the honest and straightforward transactions of life, has brought himself to snatch at an ambitious object by the commission of one great sanguinary crime, the new and false position in which he finds himself by his very success will but

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startle and exasperate him to escape, as Macbeth says,

, from “horrible imaginings," by the perpetration of greater and greater actual horrors, till inevitable destruction comes upon him, amidst universal execration. Such, briefly, are the story and the moral of • Macbeth. The passionate ambition and indomitable will of his lady, though agents indispensable to urge such a man to the one decisive act which is to compromise him in his own opinion and that of the world, are by no means primary springs of the dramatic action. Nor do 'the weird sisters' themselves do more than aid collaterally in impelling a man, the inherent evil of whose nature and purpose has predisposed him to take their equivocal suggestions in the most mischievous sense. And, finally, the

And, finally, the very thunder-cloud which, from the beginning almost to the ending, wraps this fearful tragedy in physical darkness and lurid glare, does but reflect and harmonize with the moral blackness of the piece. Such is the magic power of creative genius-such the unerring instinct of sovereign art!

On the one hand, such very serious moral considerations are involved in forming a right estimate of each of the two leading characters in this peculiarly romantic and terrific tragedy, and of their mutual relation; while, on the other, so much critical misconception has been circulated respecting them, and so much theatrical misrepresentation still daily falsifies them to the apprehension of the auditor; that we find it incumbent on us to make our examination of the matter very full and elaborate.

It is remarkable enough that, while it has been usual to judge, we think too harshly, regarding the moral dignity of a character like Hamlet's for instance, a sort of respectful sympathy has been got up for Macbeth, such as, we are well persuaded, the dramatist himself never intended to awaken. Misled in this direction, Hazlitt, for example, tells us, in the course of his rapid parallel between the character of Macbeth and that of Richard the Third :" Macbeth is full of

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the milk of human kindness,' is frank, sociable, generous. He is tempted to the commission of guilt by golden opportunities, by the instigations of his wife, and by prophetic warnings. Fate and metaphysical aid conspire against his virtue and his loyalty." Let us proceed to examine, by the very sufficient light of Shakespeare's text, and by that alone, how far this view of Macbeth's character is just, on the one hand, towards the hero himself and to the other leading personages of the drama,-on the other, to the poet's own fame, whether as a dramatist or a moralist.

The very starting-point for an inquiry into the real, inherent, and habitual nature of Macbeth, independent of those particular circumstances which form the action of the play, lies manifestly, though the critics have commonly overlooked it, in the question,— With whom does the scheme of usurping the Scottish crown by the murder of Duncan actually originate? We sometimes find Lady Macbeth talked of as if she were the first contriver of the plot and suggester of the assassination; but this notion is refuted, not only by implication, in the whole tenor of the piece, but most explicitly by that particular passage where the lady, exerting the valour of her tongue” to fortify her husband's wavering purpose, answers his objection

I dare do all that may become a man;

Who dares do more, is none;by saying —

What beast was it, then,
That made you break this enterprise to me?

Nor time nor place
Did then adhere, and yet you would make both, &c.

More commonly, however, the witches (as we find the “ weird sisters” pertinaciously miscalled by all sorts of players and of critics) have borne the imputation of being the first to put this piece of mischief in the hero's mind. Thus, for instance, Hazlitt, in

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