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THE

TRAGEDY

OF

MACBETH.

TH

HIS piece is perhaps one of the greatest exertions of the tragic and poetic powers, that any age, or any country has produced. Here are opened new fources of terror, new creations of fancy. The agency of Witches and Spirits excites a species of terror, that cannot be effected by the operation of human agency, or by any form or difpofition of human things. For the known limits of their powers and сараcities fet certain bounds to our apprehenhions; mysterious horrors, undefined terrors, are raised by the intervention of beings, whose

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nature we do not understand, whose actions we cannot control, and whofe influence we know not how to escape. Here we feel through all the faculties of the foul, and to the utmost extent of her capacity. The dread of the interpofition of fuch agents is the most falutary of all fears. It keeps up in our minds a fenfe of our connection with awful and invifible fpirits, to whom our moft fecret actions are apparent, and from whose chastisement, Innocence alone can defend us. From many dangers Power will protect; many crimes may be concealed by Art and Hypocrify; but when fupernatural Beings arife, to reveal, and to avenge, Guilt blushes through her mask, and trembles behind her bulwarks.

Shakespear has been fufficiently justified, by the best critics, for availing himself of the popular faith in witchcraft; and he is certainly as defenfible in this point, as Euripides, and other Greek tragedians, for introducing Jupiter, Diana, Minerva, &c. whose perfonal intervention, in the events exhibited

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bited on their stage, had not obtained more credit, with the thinking and the philofophical part of the spectators, than tales of Witchcraft among the Wife and Learned here. Much later than the age in which Macbeth lived, even in Shakespear's own time, there were fevere ftatutes extant against Witchcraft.

Some objections have been made to the Hecate of the Greeks being joined to the witches of our country.

Milton, a more correct writer, has often mixed the Pagan deities, even with the moft facred characters of our religion. Our Witches power was fuppos'd to be exerted only in little and low mischief: this therefore being the only example where their interpofition is recorded, in the revolutions of a kingdom, the poet thought, perhaps, that the story would pafs off better, with the Learned at least, if he added the celebrated Hecate to the weird fifters; and she is introduced, chiding their prefumption, for trading in prophecies and affairs of death.

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The dexterity is admirable, with which the
predictions of the witches (as Macbeth
obferves) prove true to the Ear, but falfe to
the Hope, according to the general condition
of all vain oracles. And it is with great
judgment the poet has given to Macbeth the
very temper to be wrought upon by such
fuggeftions. The bad man is his own Tempt-
er. Richard III. had a heart that prompted
him to do all, that the worst demon could
have fuggested, fo that the Witches would
have been only an idle wonder in his story;
nor did he want fuch a counsellor as Lady
Macbeth: a ready inftrument like Bucking-
ham, to adopt his projects, and execute his
orders, was fufficient. But Macbeth of a
generous difpofition, and good propensities,
but with vehement paffions and aspiring
wishes, was a fubject liable to be feduced by
fplendid profpects, and ambitious counfels.
This appears
from the following character
given of him by his wife :

Yet do I fear thy nature;
It is too full o'th milk of human kindness

To catch the nearest way. Thou wouldst be great;
Art not without ambition; but without

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The illness fhould attend it. What thou wouldst

highly

That wouldst thou holily'; wouldft not play falfe,
And yet wouldft wrongly win.

So much inherent Ambition in a character, without any other vice, and full of the milk of human kindness, though obnoxious to temptation, yet would have great struggles before it yielded, and as violent fits of sub. sequent remorse.

If the mind is to be medicated by the operations of pity and terror, furely no means are fo well adapted to that end, ast a ftrong and lively reprefentation of the agonizing struggles that precede, and the terrible horrors that follow wicked actions. Other poets thought they had fufficiently attended to the moral purpose of the drama, by making the Furies purfue the perpetrated crime. Our author waves their bloody daggers in the Road to guilt, and demonstrates, that fo foon as a man begins to hearken to ill fuggeftions, Terrors environ, M and

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