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tutes the essential difference between a work of the highest genius and a work of mediocrity. Without power-by which we here especially mean the ability to produce strong excitement by the display of scenes of horror-no poet of the highest order was ever made; but this alone does not make such a poet. If he is called upon to present such scenes, they must, even in their most striking forms, be associated with the beautiful. The pre-eminence of his art in this particular can alone prevent them affecting the imagination beyond the limits of pleasurable emotion. To keep within these limits, and yet to preserve all the energy which results from the power of dealing with the terrible apart from the beautiful, belongs to few that the world has seen to Shakspere it belongs surpassingly.
That Shakspere found sufficient materials for this great drama in Holinshed's "History of Scotland" is a fact that renders it quite unnecessary for us to enter into any discussion as to the truth of this portion of the history, or to point out the authorities upon which the narrative of Holinshed was founded. Better authorities than Holinshed had access to have shown that the contest for the crown of Scotland between Duncan and Macbeth was a contest of factions, and that Macbeth was raised to the throne by his Norwegian allies after a battle in which Duncan fell; in the same way, after a long rule, was he vanquished and killed by the son of Duncan, supported by his English allies.* But with the differences between the real and apocryphal history it is manifest that we can here have no concern. There is another story told also in the same narrative, which Shakspere with consummate skill has blended with the story of Mac
See Skeene's "Highlanders of Scotland," vol. 11, p. 116.
beth. It is that of the murder of King Duff by Donwald and his wife in Donwald's castle of Forres:
"The king got him into his privy chamber, only with two of his chamberlains, who, having brought him to bed, came forth again, and then fell to banqueting with Donwald and his wife, who had prepared divers delicate dishes and sundry sorts of drinks for their rear-supper or collation, whereat they sat up so long, till they had charged their stomachs with such full gorges, that their heads were no sooner got to the pillow but asleep they were so fast that a man might have removed the chamber over them sooner than to have awakened them out of their drunken sleep.
"Then Donwald, though he abhorred the act greatly in heart, yet through instigation of his wife he called four of his servants unto him (whom he had made privy to his wicked intent before, and framed to his purpose with large gifts), and now declaring unto them after what Sort they should work the feat, they gladly obeyed his instructions, and speedily going about the murder, they enter the chamber (in which the king lay) a little before cock's crow, where they secretly cut his throat as he lay sleeping, without any bustling at all; and immediately by a postern gate they carried forth the dead body into the fields.. Donwald, about the time that the murder was in doing, got him amongst them that kept the watch, and so continued in company with them all the residue of the night. But in the morning, when the noise was raised in the king's chamber how the king was slain, his body conveyed away, and the bed all beraid with blood, he with the watch ran thither, as though he had known nothing of the matter, and breaking into
the chamber, and finding cakes of blood in the bed and on the floor about the sides of it, he forthwith slew the chamberlains as guilty of that heinous murder. . . . For the space of six months together, after this heinous murder thus committed, there appeared no sun by day, nor moon by night, in any part of the realm, but still was the sky covered with continual clouds, and sometimes such outrageous winds arose, with lightnings and tempests, that the people were in great fear of present destruc tion."
SCENE I.-An open Place. Thunder and Lightning.
Enter three Witches.
HEN shall we three meet again
When the battle's lost and won. 3 Witch. That will be ere the set of sun. I Witch. Where the place?
Upon the heath:
Fair is foul, and foul is fair:
SCENE II.-A Camp near Forres. Alarum within.
Enter KING DUNCAN, MALCOLM, DONALBAIN, and LENOX, with Attendants, meeting a bleeding Sol dier.
Dun. What bloody man is that? He can report,
As seemeth by his plight, of the revolt
This is the sergeant,
Doubtful it stood;
Do swarm upon him) from the western isles
And Fortune, on his damned quarrel smil-
Disdaining Fortune, with his brandish'd steel,