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How much it were to be wished in playing Macbeth, that an attempt should be made to introduce the flexile character-mask of the ancient pantomime;that Flaxman would contribute his genius to the embodying and making sensuously perceptible that of Shakspeare!The style and rhythm of the Captain's speeches in the.with the easily satisfied mind of the self-uninterested Banquo: The earth hath bubbles, as the water has, And these are of them: Whither are they vanished? Shakspeare's fondness for children is every where shown;in Prince Arthur, in King John; in the sweet scene in the Winter's Tale between Hermione and her son; nay, even in honest Evans's examination of Mrs. To the objection that Shakspeare wounds the moral sense by the unsubdued, undisguised description of the most hateful atrocitythat he tears the feelings without mercy, and even outrages the eye itself with scenes of insupportable horror I, omitting Titus Andronicus, as not genuine, and excepting the scene of Gloster's blinding in Lear, answer boldly in the name of Shakspeare, not guilty. This is correctness in the only philosophical sense.
The true reason for the first appearance of the Witches is to strike the key-note of the character of the whole drama, as is proved by their reappearance in the third scene, after such an order of the king's as establishes their supernatural power of informa-tion.
I say information,for so it only is as to Glamis and Cawdor; the 'king hereafter' was still contingent, still in Macbeth's moral will; although, if he should yield to the temptation, and thus forfeit his free agency, the link of cause and effect more physico would then commence.
But Macbeth, lost in thought, raises himself to speech only by the Witches being about to depart: Stay, you imperfect speakers, tell me more: and all that follows is reasoning on a problem already discussed in his mind,on a hope which he welcomes, and the doubts concerning the attainment of which he wishes to have cleared up. This scene, dreadful as it is, is still a relief, because a variety, because domestic, and therefore soothing, as associated with the only real pleasures of life. Malcolm's speech: Better Macbeth, Than such a one to reign.
Compare his eagerness,the keen eye with which he has pursued the Witches' evanishing Speak, I charge you! The conversation between Lady Macduff and her child heightens the pathos, and is preparatory for the deep tragedy of their assassination. The moral isthe dreadful effects even on the best minds of the soul-sickening sense of insecurity. How admirably Macduff's grief is in harmony with the whole play! 'The tune of it goes manly.' Thus is Shakspeare always master of himself and of his subject,a genuine Proteus:we see all things in him, as images in a calm lake, most distinct, most accurate,only more splendid, more glorified.
Lost in the prospective of his guilt, he turns round alarmed lest others may suspect what is passing in his own mind, and instantly vents the lie of ambition: My dull brain was wrought With things forgotten; And immediately after pours forth the promising courtesies of a usurper in intention: Kind gentlemen, your pains Are register'd where every day I turn The leaf to read them. Macbeth's speech: Present fears Are less than horrible imaginings. And here in contrast with Duncan's 'plenteous joys,' Macbeth has nothing but the common-places of loyalty, in which he hides himself with 'our duties.' Note the exceeding effort of Macbeth's addresses to the king, his reasoning on his allegiance, and then especially when a new difficulty, the designation of a successor, suggests a new crime.
Warburton's note, and substitution of 'feats' for 'fears.' Mercy on this most wilful ingenuity of blundering, which, nevertheless, was the very Warburton of Warburton his inmost being! This, however, seems the first distinct notion, as to the plan of realizing his wishes; and here, therefore, with great propriety, Macbeth's cowardice of his own conscience discloses itself. Macbeth is described by Lady Macbeth so as at the same time to reveal her own character. Compare Macbeth's mode of working on the murderers in this place with Schiller's mistaken scene between Butler, Devereux, and Macdonald in Wallenstein. whilst Macbeth persists in recurring to the self-concerning: Your children shall be kings. I doubt whether 'enkindle' has not another sense than that of 'stimulating;' I mean of 'kind' and 'kin,' as when rabbits are said to 'kindle.' However Macbeth no longer hears any thing ab extra: Two truths are told, As happy prologues to the swelling act Of the imperial theme. Macbeth's speech: But let the frame of things disjoint, both the worlds suffer. It will have blood, they say; blood will have blood: Stones have been known to move, and trees to speak; Augurs, and understood relations, have By magot-pies, and choughs, and rooks, brought forth The secret'st man of blood. His wife, the only being who could have had any seat in his affections, dies; he puts on despondency, the final heart-armour of the wretched, and would fain think every thing shadowy and unsubstantial, as indeed all things are to those who cannot regard them as symbols of goodness: Out out, brief candle!Then in the necessity of recollecting himself I thank you, gentlemen. Ere we will eat our meal in fear, and sleep In the affliction of these terrible dreams That shake us nightly. The deed is done; but Macbeth receives no comfort, no additional security. Life's but a walking shadow; a poor player, That struts and frets his hour upon the stage, And then is heard no more; it is a tale Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing.In the first it is connected with the best and holiest feelings; in the second with the shadowy, turbulent, and unsanctified cravings of the individual will.Nor is the purpose the same; in the one the object is to excite, whilst in the other it is to mark a mind already excited.In the latter, there is a gradual ascent from the simplest forms of conversation to the language of impassioned intellect,yet the intellect still remaining the seat of passion: in the former, the invocation is at once made to the imagination and the emotions connected therewith.Hence the movement throughout is the most rapid of all Shakspeare's plays; and hence also, with the exception of the disgusting passage of the Porter (Act ii. 3), which I dare pledge myself to demonstrate to be an interpolation of the actors, there is not, to the best of my remembrance, a single pun or play on words in the whole drama.They are wholly different from any representation of witches in the contemporary writers, and yet presented a sufficient external resemblance to the creatures of vulgar prejudice to act immediately on the audience.Their character consists in the imagina-tive disconnected from the good; they are the shadowy obscure and fearfully anomalous of physical nature, the lawless of human nature,elemental avengers without sex or kin: Fair is foul, and foul is fair; Hover thro' the fog and filthy air.I have previously given an answer to the thousand times repeated charge against Shakspeare upon the subject of his punning, and I here merely mention the fact of the absence of any puns in Macbeth, as justifying a candid doubt at least, whether even in these figures of speech and fanciful modifications of language, Shakspeare may not have followed rules and principles that merit and would stand the test of philosophic examination.And hence, also, there is an entire absence of comedy, nay, even of irony and philosophic contemplation in Macbeth,the play being wholly and purely tragic.