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and meets Macduff, whom he would have avoided, but who challenges him to personal combat. Macbeth replies that it would be labor lost; that he bears a charmed life, invulnerable to the assaults of any man born of woman. Macduff then reveals the extraordinary circumstances of his birth, and demands that Macbeth fight, or yield. Though appalled by the disclosure, and cursing the "juggling fiends" who had deceived him, Macbeth does not yield, but with the courage of despair will fight to the last, and tells Macduff to do his worst. They encounter. Macbeth is slain ; and Malcolm, the rightful heir to the crown, is proclaimed King of Scotland.

Professor Dowden (“Shakespeare ") remarks of this tragedy: “While in 'Romeo and Juliet,' and in 'Hamlet,' we feel that Shakespeare now began and now left off, and refined upon or brooded over his thoughts, ‘Macbeth' seems as if struck out at a heat, and imagined from first to last with unabated fervor. It is like a sketch by a great master, in which everything is executed with rapidity and power, and a subtlety of workmanship which has become instinctive. The theme of the drama is the gradual ruin, through yielding to evil within and evil without, of a man who, though from the first tainted by base and ambitious thoughts, yet possessed elements in his nature of possible honor and loyalty. The contrast between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, united by their affections, their fortunes, and their crime, is made to illustrate and light up the character of each. Macbeth has physical courage, but moral weakness, and is subject to excited imaginative fears. His faint and intermittent loyalty embarrasses him : he would have the gains of crime without its pains. But when once his hands are dyed in blood, he hardly cares to withdraw them; and the same fears which had tended to hold him back from murder now urge him on to double and treble murders, until slaughter, almost reckless, becomes the habit of his reign. At last the gallant soldier of the opening of the play fights for his life with a wild and brutelike force. His whole existence has become joyless and loveless, and yet he clings to existence.

"Lady Macbeth is of a finer and more delicate nature. Having fixed her eye upon an end, — the attainment for her husband of Duncan's crown,-she accepts the inevitable means; she nerves herself for the terrible night's work by artificial stimulants; yet she cannot strike the sleeping King, who resembles her father. Having sustained her weaker husband, her own strength gives way; and in sleep, when her will cannot control her thoughts, she is piteously afflicted by the memory of one stain of blood upon her little hand. At last her thread of life snaps suddenly. Macbeth, whose affection for her was real, has sunk too far into the apathy of joyless crime to feel deeply her loss.

“Banquo, the loyal soldier, praying for restraint of evil thoughts, which enter his mind as they had entered that of Macbeth, but which work no evil there, is set over against Macbeth, as virtue is set over against disloyalty.

“The witches are the supernatural beings of terror, in harmony with Shakespeare's tragic period, as the fairies of the ‘Midsummer-Night's Dream' are the supernatural beings of his days of fancy and frolic, and as Ariel is the supernatural genius of his later period. There is at once a grossness, a horrible reality about the witches, and a mystery and grandeur of evil influence."

“This tragedy," says Gervinus ("Shakespeare Commentaries,” translation of F. E. Bunnett, London, 1875), “has ever been re


garded and criticised with distinguishing preference among Shakespeare's works. If perhaps no other play can vie with ‘Hamlet' in philosophical insight into the nature and worth of the various powers at work in man; . . if none can compare with ‘Othello' in profoundness of design and careful carrying out of the characters; if none with ‘Lear' in the power of contending passions, and none with 'Cymbeline' in the importance of moral principles, Macbeth' in like manner stands forth uniquely preëminent in the splendor of poetic and picturesque diction and in the living representation of persons, times, and places. How grandly do the mighty forms rise; how naturally do they move in heroic style !

"Locally we are transported into the Highlands of Scotland, where everything appears tinged with superstition, full of tangible intercommunion with the supernatural world and prognostics of the moral life by signs in the animate and inanimate kingdom; while, in uniformity with this, men are credulous in belief, and excitable in fancy; where they speak with strong expression, with highly poetical language, and with unusual imagery. This mastery over the general representation of time and place is rivaled by the pictures of single circumstances and situations. Sir Joshua Reynolds justly admired that description of the martlet's resort to Macbeth's dwelling as a charming image of repose, following, by way of contrast, the lively picture of the fight. More justly still has praise been always lavished on the powerful representation of the horrible in that night wandering of Lady Macbeth, in the banquet scene, and in the dismal creation of the weird sisters. And far above all this is the speaking truth of the scenes at the murder of Duncan; the fearful whispered conference, in the horrible dimness of which the pair arrange and complete their atrocious project; the heartrending portrai

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ture of Macbeth's state of mind at the deed itself; the uneasy, half-waking condition of the sacrificed attendants, one of whom dreams on of the evening's feast, the other, in paralyzed consciousness, seems to anticipate the impending atrocity.

“In the witches, Shakespeare has made use of the popular belief in evil geniuses and in adverse persecutors of mankind, and has produced a similar but darker race of beings, just as he made use of the fairies in ‘Midsummer-Night's Dream.' They are simply the embodiment of inward temptation. ... Macbeth, in meeting them, has to struggle against no external power, but only with his own nature. . . . Within himself the evil spirits dwell which allure him with the delusions of his aspiring mind. They approach him as he stands on the highest step of his fortunes,


power, and his valor. The rebellion he has just crushed places him above the weak Duncan, who is powerless to help himself; the newly attained rank of Thane of Cawdor increases his influence, and suggests to him the consideration of how far more successfully he could have played the part of traitor than the deposed chief who bore the title before him; to this there is added the opportunity of Duncan's visit and the influence of his wife.

"Banquo is opposed to Macbeth as a complementary character, and this contrast is displayed at once in the relations of both to the witches' temptation. Banquo has the same heroic courage, the same merit, and the same claims as Macbeth: it is natural, therefore, that the same ambitious thoughts should arise in one as in the other.

But in Banquo they arise in a calmer nature, susceptible of the finest discretion, and therefore they do not master him as they do Macbeth. Like Macbeth, he has temptations to struggle against; but he withstands them with

more powerful self-government. He has tempting dreams which trouble him; he drives them away by prayer that they may not come again: he does more than pray,-he struggles against sleep itself, that he may escape them. Waking, his spirit masters the 'cursed thoughts,' while in sleep nature pays tribute to the blood by giving way to these dreams. In his unrest he meets Macbeth. The guiltless man confesses his dreams; the guilty denies further thoughts on the weird sisters; he who at first had himself wished for free interchange of thought now avoids it. That Banquo should know what he knows is oppressive to Macbeth; the unconscientious man feels burdened by the presence of the conscientious one, the evil by the good, the envious by the successful. Banquo might have been his good angel; but, avoiding intercourse with him, Macbeth falls under the influence of his evil genius, his wife.

The complete antitype to her husband's irritable and imaginative nature, Lady Macbeth is calm in judgment and cold in blood. No supernatural temptation approaches her, but only the substantial one in her husband's letter. No warning voice of conscience, no forebodings of terrible consequences, alarm her as they did Macbeth before the deed; while it is being perpetrated, she remains circumspect, deliberate, ready for dissimulation; after it, she would have been able speedily to forget what had happened. ... A will of uncommon firmness renders her in a remarkable manner mistress of herself. She knows that by dissimulation, foresight, and cunning, she could commit and conceal the fatal deed in question. She scorns the bare idea that she could fail. She goes through her part so perfectly that no suspicion falls on her. Her husband contents her only when he conceives the idea of creating for himself the opportunity which now offers

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