Abbildungen der Seite
[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

DUNCAN, King of Scotland.



MACBETH, General of the King's Army, afterwards


BANQUO, General of the King's Army.

FLEANCE, son to Banquo.






sons to Duncan.

Noblemen of Scotland.


SIWARD, Earl of Northumberland, General of the English Forces.

Young SIWARD, son to the Earl of Northumberland.
Son to Macduff.

SEYTON, an officer attending on Macbeth when King. An English Doctor; a Scotch Doctor.

A Soldier; a Porter; an old Man.

LADY MACBETH, afterwards Queen.

A Gentlewoman, attending on Lady Macbeth when Queen.


Three Witches.

Lords, Gentlemen, Officers, Soldiers, Murderers,
Attendants, and Messengers.

The Ghost of Banquo, and other Apparitions.

SCENE,-In the end of Act IV. in ENGLAND; through the rest of the Play in SCOTLAND. (6)




IN Coleridge's early sonnet "To the Author of the Robbers," his imagination is enchained to the most terrible scene of that play; disregarding, as it were, all the accessories by which its horrors are mitigated and rendered endurable :


"Schiller! that hour I would have wish'd to die,
If, through the shuddering midnight I had sent,
From the dark dungeon of the tower time-rent,
That fearful voice, a famish'd father's cry-
Lest in some after-moment aught more mean
Might stamp me mortal! A triumphant shout
Black Horror scream'd and all her goblin rout
Diminish'd shrunk from the more witherin scene!"

It was in a somewhat similar manner that Shakspere's representation of the murder of Duncan affected the imagination of Mrs. Siddons :-" It was my custom to study my characters at night, when all the domestic cares and business of the day were over. On the night preceding that on which I was to appear in this part for the first time, I shut myself up, as usual, when all the family were retired, and commenced my study of Lady Macbeth. As the character is very short, I thought I should soon accomplish it. Being then only twenty years of age, I believed, as many others do believe, that

little more was necessary than to get the words into my head; for the necessity of discrimination, and the development of character, at that time of my life, had scarcely entered into my imagination. But, to proceed. I went on with tolerable composure, in the silence of the night, (a night I can never forget,) till I came to the assassination scene, when the horrors of the scene rose to a degree that made it impossible for me to get farther. I snatched up my candle, and hurried out of the room in a paroxysm of terror. My dress was of silk, and the rustling of it, as I ascended the stairs to go to bed, seemed to my panic-struck fancy like the movement of a spectre pursuing me. At last I reached my chamber, where I found my husband fast asleep. I clapped my candlestick down upon the table, without the power of putting it out; and I threw myself on my bed, without daring to stay even to take off my clothes."* If the drama of "Macbeth" were to produce the same effect upon the mind of an imaginative reader as that described by Mrs. Siddons, it would not be the great work of art which it really is. If our poet had resolved, using the words of his own 'Othello," to


"abandon all remorse,
On horror's head horrors accumulate,"

the midnight terrors, such as Mrs. Siddons has described, would have indeed been a tribute to power, but not to the power which has produced "Macbeth." The paroxysm of fear, the panic-struck fancy, the prostrated senses, so beautifully described by this impassioned actress, were the result of the intensity with which she had fixed her mind upon that part of

*Memoranda by Mrs. Siddons, inserted in her "Life" by Mr. Campbell."

the play which she was herself to act. In the endeavor to get the words into her head, her own fine genius was naturally kindled to behold a complete vision of the wonderful scene. Again, and again, were the words repeated, on that night which she could never forget,-in the silence of that night, when all about her were sleeping. And then she heard the owl shriek, amidst the hurried steps in the fatal chamber,and she saw the bloody hands of the assassin, -and, personifying the murderess, she rushed to dip her own hands in the gore of Duncan. It is perfectly evident that this intensity of concep tion has carried the horrors far beyond the limits of pleasurable emotion, and has produced all the terrors of a real murder. No reader of the play, and no spectator, can regard this play as Mrs. Siddons regarded it. On that night she, probably for the first time, had a strong though imperfect vision of the character of Lady Macbeth, such as she afterwards delineated it; and in that case, what to all of us must, under any circumstances, be a work of art, however glorious, was to her almost a reality. It was the isolation of the scene, demanded by her own attempt to conceive the character of Lady Macbeth, which made it so terrible to Mrs. Siddons. The reader has to regard it as a part of a great whole, which combines and harmonizes with all around it; for which he is adequately prepared by what has gone before; and which,-even if we look at it as a picture which represents only that one portion of the action, has still its own repose, its own harmony of coloring, its own chiaroscuro,-is to be seen under a natural light. There was a preternatural light upon it when Mrs. Siddons saw it as she has described.

The leading characteristic of this glorious tragedy is, without doubt, that which consti

« ZurückWeiter »