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terrors Macbeth expresses in his disordered speech:
It will have blood. They say, blood will have blood. Stones have been known to move, and trees to speak; Augurs, that understand relations, have,
By magpies, and by choughs, and rooks, brought forth The secret'st man of blood.
The perturbation, with which Macbeth again resorts to the Witches, and the tone of resentment and abhorrence with which he addresses them, rather expresses his sense of the crimes, to which their promises excited him, than any satisfaction in the regal condition, those crimes had procured.
How now, you secret, black, and midnight hags!
The unhappy and disconsolate state of the most triumphant villainy, from a consciousness of men's internal detestation of that flagitious greatness, to which they are forced to pay external homage, is finely expressed in the following words:
I have liv'd long enough: my way of life
Toward the conclusion of the piece, his mind seems to sink under its load of guilt; despair and melancholy hang on his words. By his address to the physician, we perceive he has griefs that press harder on him than his enemies :
Canst thou not minister to a mind diseas'd;
Raze out the written troubles of the brain;
And, with some sweet oblivious antidote,
The alacrity with which he attacks young Siward, and his reluctance to engage with Macduff, of whose blood he says he has al
ready had too much, complete a character uniformly preserved from the opening of the fable, to its conclusion.-We find him ever answering to the first idea we were made to conceive of him.
The man of honour pierces through the traitor and the assassin. His mind loses its tranquillity by guilt, but never its fortitude in danger. His crimes presented to him, even in the unreal mockery of a vision, or the harmless form of sleeping innocence, terrify him more than all his foes in arms.
-It has been very justly observed by a late commentator, that this piece does not abound with those nice discriminations of character, usual in the plays of our Author, the events being too great to admit the influence of particular dispositions. It appears to me, that the character of Macbeth is also represented less particular and special, that his example may be of more universal utility. He has therefore placed him on that line, on which the major part of mankind may be ranked, just between the extremes of good and bad; a station assailable by various tempta
temptations, and standing in need of the guard of cautionary admonition. The supernatural agents, in some measure, take off our attention from the other characters, especially as they are, throughout the piece, what they have a right to be, predominant in the events. They should not interfere, but to weave the fatal web, or to unravel it; they ought ever to be the regents of the fable and artificers of the catastrophe, as the Witches are in this piece. To preserve in Macbeth a just consistency of character; to make that character naturally susceptible of those desires, that were to be communicated to it; to render it interesting to the spectator, by some amiable qualities; to make it exemplify the dangers of ambition, and the terrors of remorse; was all that could be required of the tragedian and the moralist. With all the powers of poetry he elevates a legendary tale, without carrying it beyond the limits of vulgar faith and tradition. The solemn character of the infernal rites would be very striking, if the scene was not made ludicrous by a mob of old women, which the players have added to
the three weird sisters.The incantation is so consonant with the doctrine of enchantments, and receives such power by the help of those potent ministers of direful superstition, the Terrible and the Mysterious, that it has not the air of poetical fiction so much as of a discovery of magical secrets; and thus it seizes the heart of the ignorant, and communicates an irresistible horror to the imagination even of the more informed spectator.
Shakspeare was too well read in human nature, not to know, that though Reason may expel the superstitions of the nursery, the imagination does not so entirely free itself from their dominion, as not to re-admit them, if occasion presents them, in the very shape in which they were once revered. The first scene in which the Witches appear, is not so happily executed as the others. He has too exactly followed the vulgar reports of the Lapland witches, of whom our sailors used to imagine they could purchase a fair wind.