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We are now presented with a character full formed and complete for all the savage purposes of the drama.

Impiger iracundus inexorabilis, acer.


The barriers of conscience are broken down, and the soul, hardened against shame, avows its own depravity:

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Plots have I laid, inductions dangerous,

To set my brother Clarence and the king
In deadly hate the one against the other.

He observes no gradations in guilt, expresses no hesitation, practises no refinements, but plunges into blood with the familiarity of long custom, and gives orders to his assassins to dispatch his brother Clarence with all the unfeeling tranquillity of a Nero or Caligula. Richard, having no longer any scruples to manage with his own conscience, is exactly in the predicament which the dramatic poet Diphilus has described with such beautiful simplicity of expression

Οστις γὰρ αὐτὸς αὑτὸν οὐκ αἰσχύνεται
Συνειδόν αὐτῷ φαῦλα διαπεπραγμένῳ,
Πῶς τόν γε μηδὲν εἰδότ' αἰσχυνθήσεται.

The wretch who knows his own vile deeds, and yet fears not himself, how should he fear another, who knows them not.

It is manifest, therefore, that there is an essential difference in the development of these characters, and that in favour of Macbeth. In his soul, cruelty seems to dawn; it breaks out with faint glimmerings, like a winter morning, and gathers strength by slow degrees. In Richard, it flames forth at once, mounting like the sun between the tropics, and enters boldly on its career without a herald. As the char9


acter of Macbeth has a moral advantage in this distinction, so has the drama of that name a much more interesting and affecting cast. The struggles of a soul, naturally virtuous, whilst it holds the guilty impulse of ambition at bay, affords the noblest theme for the drama, and puts the creative fancy of our poet upon a resource, in which he has been rivalled only by the great father of tragedy, Æschylus, in the prophetic effusions of Cassandra, the incantations of the Persian Magi for raising the ghost of Darius, and the imaginary terrific forms of his furies; with all which our countryman, probably, had no acquaintance, or, at most, a very obscure one.

When I see the names of these two great luminaries of the dramatic sphere, so distant in time but so nearly allied in genius, casually brought in contact by the nature of my subject, I cannot help pausing for awhile in this place to indulge so interesting a contemplation, in which I find my mind balanced between two objects, that seem to have equal claims upon me for my admiration. Eschylus is justly styled the father of tragedy, but this is not to be interpreted as if he was the inventor of it. Shakspeare, with equal justice, claims the same title, and his originality is qualified with the same exception. The Greek tragedy was not more rude and undigested when Eschylus brought it into shape, than the English tragedy was when Shakspeare began to write. If therefore it be granted that he had no aids from the Greek theatre, and I think this is not likely to be disputed, so far these great masters are upon equal ground. Eschylus was a warrior of high repute, of a lofty generous spirit, and deep as it should seem in the erudition of his times. In all these particulars he has great advantage over our countryman, who was humbly born, of the most menial oc

cupation, and as it is generally thought, unlearned. Eschylus had the whole epic of Homer in his hands, the Iliad, Odyssey, and that prolific source of dramatic fable, the Ilias Minor; he had also a great fabulous creation to resort to amongst his own divinities, characters ready defined, and an audience, whose superstition was prepared for every thing he could offer; he had therefore a firmer and broader stage, if I may be allowed the expression, under his feet, than Shakspeare had. His fables in general are Homeric, and yet, it does not follow that we can pronounce for Shakspeare that he is more original in his plots, for I understand that late researches have traced him in all or nearly all. Both poets added so much machinery and invention of their own in the conduct of their fables, that whatever might have been the source, still, their streams had little or no taste of the spring they flowed from. In point of character we have better grounds to decide, and yet it is but justice to observe, that it is not fair to bring a mangled poet in comparison with one who is entire. In his divine personages, Eschylus has the field of heaven, and indeed of hell also, to himself; in his heroic and military characters he has never been excelled; he had too good a model within his own bosom to fail of making those delineations natural. In his imaginary beings also, he will be found at respectable, though not an equal rival of our poet; but in the variety of character, in all the nicer touches of nature, in all the extravagances of caprice and humour, from the boldest feature down to the minutest foible, Shakspeare stands alone. Such persons as he delineates never came into the contemplation of Eschylus as a poet; his tragedy has no dealing with them; the simplicity of the Greek fable, and the great portion of the drama filled up by the

chorus, allow of little variety of character; and the most which can be said of Eschylus in this particular is, that he never offends against nature or propriety, whether his cast is in the terrible or pathetic, the elevated or the simple. His versification with the intermixture of lyric composition is more various than that of Shakspeare; both are lofty and sublime in the extreme, abundantly metaphorical and sometimes extravagant :

-Nubes et inania captat.

This may be said of each poet in his turn; in each the critic, if he is in search for defects, will readily enough discover

In scenam missus magno cum pondere versus.


Both were subject to be hurried on by an uncontrollable impulse, nor could nature alone suffice for either; Eschylus had an apt creation of imaginary beings at command

He could call spirits from the vasty deep,

and they would come - Shakspeare, having no such creation in resource, boldly made one of his own. If Eschylus, therefore, was invincible, he owed it to his armour, and that, like the armour of Æneas, was the work of the gods; but the unassisted invention of Shakspeare seized all and more than superstition supplied to Eschylus.


Ille profectò

Reddere persona scit convenientia cuique.


WE are now to attend Macbeth to the perpetration of the murder, which puts him in possession of the crown of Scotland. And this introduces a new personage on the scene, his accomplice and wife. She thus developes her own character:

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Come, all you spirits,

That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here,
And fill me from the crown to the toe topful
Of direst cruelty; make thick my blood,
Stop up the access and passage to remorse,

That no compunctious visitings of nature

Shake my fell purpose, nor keep peace between
Th' effect and it. Come to my woman's breasts,
And take my milk for gall, you murth'ring ministers,
Wherever in your sightless substances

You wait on nature's mischief: come, thick night,
And pall thee in the dunnest smoke of hell!

Terrible invocation! Tragedy can speak no stronger language, nor could any genius less than Shakspeare's support a character of so lofty a pitch, so sublimely terrible at the very opening.

The part which Lady Macbeth fills in the drama has a relative as well as positive importance, and serves to place the repugnance of Macbeth in the strongest point of view; she is in fact the auxiliary of the witches, and the natural influence, which so high and predominant a spirit asserts over the tamer qualities of her husband, makes those witches but

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