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" For Banquo's issue have I 'fil'd my mind
In the agitation of his thoughts, he envies those whom he has sent to peace.
“ Duncan is in his grave; after life’s fitful fever he sleeps well."--It is true, he becomes more callous as he plunges deeper in guilt, “ direness is thus rendered familiar to his slaughterous thoughts,” and he in the end anticipates his wife in the boldness and bloodiness of his enterprises, while she for want of the same stimulus of action, is “ troubled with thick coming fancies that rob her of her rest,” goes mad and dies. Macbeth endeavours to escape from reflection on his crimes by repelling their consequences, and banishes remorse for the past by the meditation of future mischief.This is not the principle of Richard's cruelty, which resembles the wanton malice of a fiend as much as the frailty of human passion. Macbeth is goaded on to acts of violence and retaliation by necessity ; to Richard, blood is a pastime.-There are other decisive differences inherent in the two characters. Richard may be regarded as a man of the world, a plotting, hardened knave, wholly regardless of every thing but his own ends, and the means to secure them -Not so Macheth. The superstitions of the age, the rude state of society, the local scenery and customs, all give a wildness and imaginary grandeur to his character. From the strangeness of the events that surround him, he is full of amazement and fear; and stands io donht between the world of reality and the world of fancy. He sees sights not shewn to
mortal eye, and hears unearthly musick. All is tumult and disorder within and without his mind; his purposes recoil upon himself, are broken and disjointed; he is the double thrall of his passions and his evil destiny. Richard is not a character either of imagination or pathos, but of pure self-will. There is no conflict of opposite feelings in his breast. The apparitions which he sees haunt him only in his sleep; nor does he live like Macbeth in a waking dream. Macbeth has considerable energy and manliness of character ; but then he is “subject to all the skyey influences." ble is sure of nothing but the present moment. Richard, in the busy turbulence of his projects, never loses his self-possession, and makes use of every circumstance that happens as an instrument of his long reaching designs. In his last extremity can we only regard him as a wild beast taken in the toils : never entirely lose our concern for Macbeth; and he calls back all our sympathy by that fine close of thoughtful melancholy,
" My way of life is fallen into the sear,
X We can conceive a common actor to play Richard
tolerably well; we can conceive no one to ply lacbeth properly, or to look like a man that had encountered the Weïrd Sisters. All the actors that we have ever seen, appear as if they had encountered them on the boards of Covent-garden or Drurylane, but not on the heath at Foris, and as if they did not believe what they had seen. The Witches of MACBETH indeed are ridiculous on the modern stage, and we doubt if the Furies of Æschylus would be more respected. The progress of manners and knowledge has an influence on the stage, and will in time perhaps destroy both tragedy and comedy. Filch's picking pockets in the Beggar's Opera is not so good a jest as it used to be : by the force of the police and of philosophy, Lillo's murders and the ghosts in Shakspeare will become obsolete. At last, there will be nothing left, good nor bad, to be desired or dreaded, on the theatre or in real life. A question has been started with respect to the originality of Shakspeare's Witches, which has been well answered by Mr. Lamb in his notes to the “Specimens of Early Dramatick Poetry.”
Though some resemblance may be traced between the charms in MACBETH, and the incantations in this play, (the Witch of Middleton) which is supposed to have preceded it, this coincidence will not detract much from the originality of Shakspeare. His Witches are distinguished from the Witches of Middleton by essential differences. These are creatures to whom man or woman plotting some dire mischief might resort for occasional consultation. Those originate deeds of blood, and begin bad : impulses to men. From the moment that their eyes first meet with Macbeth's he is spell bound. That meeting sways his destiny. He can never break the fascination. These Witches can hurt the body;
those have power over the soul.--Hecate in Middleton has a son, a low buffoon : the hags of Shakspeare have neither child of their own, nor seem to be descended from any parent. They are foul anomalies, of whom we know not whencė they are sprung, nor whether they have beginning or ending. As they are without human passions, so they seem to be without human relations. They come with thunder and lightning, and vanish to airy musick. This is all we know of them.-Except Hecate, they have no names, which heightens their mysteriousness. The names, and some of the properties which Middleton has given to his hags, excite smiles. The Weïrd Sisters are serious things. Their presence cannot co-exist with mirth. But, in a lesser degree, the Witches of Middleton are fine creations. Their power too is, in some measure, over the mind. They raise jars, jealousies, strifes, like a thick scurf o'er life.”
Julius Cæsar was one of the three principal plays, by different authors, pitched upon by the celebrated Earl of Halifax to be brought out in a splendid manner by subscription, in the year 1707. The other two were the King and No King of Fletcher, and Dryden's Maiden Queen. There perhaps might be political reasons for this selection, as far as regards our author. Otherwise, Shakspeare's JULIUS CÆSAR is not equal, as a whole, to either of his other plays taken from the Roman history. It is inseriour in interest to Coriolanus, and both in interest and power to Antony and Cleopotra. It however abounds in admirable and affecting passages, and is remarkable for the profound knowledge of character, in which Shakspeare could scarcely fail. If there is any exception to this remark, it is in the hero of the piece himself. We do not much admire the representation here given of Julius Cæsar, nor do we think it answers to the portrait given of him in his Commentaries. He makes several vapouring and rather pedantick speeches, and does nothing. Indeed, he has nothing to do. So far, the fault of the character might be the fault of the plot.