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lude of the Porter. He conceives himself to be keeping watch at hell-gate, and admitting, amongst others, an equivocating Jesuit, with his casuistry and reservatio mentalis; and his soliloquy is followed by a dialogue with Macduff on the influence of drink upon erotic inclination and capacity. It is well known that Schiller, in accordance with classical prejudices, omitted the monologue in his translation, and replaced it by a pious morning-song. What seems more remarkable is that an English poet like Coleridge should have found its effect disturbing and considered it spurious. Without exactly ranking with Shakespeare's best lowcomedy interludes, it affords a highly effective contrast to what goes before and what follows, and is really an invaluable and indispensable ingredient in the tragedy. A short break in the action was required at this point, to give Macbeth and his wife time to dress themselves in their night-clothes; and what interruption could be more effective than the knocking at the castle gate, which makes them both thrill with terror, and gives occasion to the Porter episode?

Another of the gems of the play is the scene (iv. 2) between Lady Macduff and her wise little son, before the murderers come and kill them both. All the witty child's sayings are interesting, and the mother's bitterly pessimistic speeches are not only wonderfully characteristic of her, but also of the poet's own present frame of mind :

'Whither should I fly?

I have done no harm. But I remember now
I am in this earthly world; where to do harm
Is often laudable, to do good sometime
Accounted dangerous folly: why then, alas,
Do I put up that womanly defence,


say I have done no harm?'

Equally despairing is Macduff's ejaculation when he learns of the slaughter in his home: 'Did heaven look on, and would not take their part?' The beginning of this lengthy scene (iv. 3), with its endless dialogue between Malcolm and Macduff, which Shakespeare has transcribed literally from his Holinshed, is weak and flagging. It presents hardly any point of interest except the far-fetched account of King Edward the Confessor's power of curing the king's evil, evidently dragged in for the sake of paying King James a compliment which the poet knew he would value, in the lines—

""Tis spoken,

To the succeeding royalty he leaves

The healing benediction.'

But the close of the scene is admirable, when Ross breaks the news to Macduff of the attack on his castle and the massacre of his family :

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Let's make us medicines of our great revenge,

To cure this deadly grief.

MACD. He has no children. All my pretty ones? Did you say all? O hell-kite! All?

What, all my pretty chickens and their dam

At one fell swoop?

MAL. Dispute it like a man.

But I must also feel it as a man:

I shall do so;

Did heaven look on,

I cannot but remember such things were,
That were most precious to me.
And would not take their part?'

The voice of revolt makes itself heard in these words, the same voice that sounds later through the despairing philosophy of King Lear: 'As flies to wanton boys, are we to the gods: they kill us for their sport.' But immediately afterwards Macduff falls back on the traditional sentiment :

'Sinful Macduff,

They were all struck for thee! naught that I am,
Not for their own demerits, but for mine,
Fell slaughter on their souls.'

Among these horror-stricken speeches there is one in particular that gives matter for reflection-Macduff's cry, 'He has no children.' At the close of the third part of Henry VI. there is a similar exclamation of quite different import. There, when King Edward, Gloucester, and Clarence have stabbed Margaret of Anjou's son before her eyes, she says:—

'You have no children, butchers! if you had,

The thought of them would have stirr'd up remorse.'

Many interpreters have attributed the same sense to Macduff's cry of agony; but their mistake is plain; for the context undeniably shows that the one thought of the now childless father is the impossibility of an adequate revenge.

But there is another noticeable point about this speech, 'He has no children,' which is, that elsewhere we are led to believe that he has children. Lady Macbeth says, 'I have given suck, and know how tender 'tis to love the babe that milks me'; and we have neither learned that these children are dead nor that they were born of an earlier marriage. Shakespeare never mentions the former marriage of the historical Lady Macbeth. Furthermore, not only does

she talk of children, but Macbeth himself seems to allude to sons. He says (iii. 1):—

'Upon my head they placed a fruitless crown,
And put a barren sceptre in my gripe,

Thence to be wrench'd with an unlineal hand,
No son of mine succeeding. If't be so,

For Banquo's issue have I filed my mind.'

If he had no children of his own, the last line is meaningless. Had Shakespeare forgotten these earlier speeches when he wrote that ejaculation of Macduff's? It is improbable; and, in any case, they must have been constantly brought to his mind again at rehearsals and performances of the play. We have here one of the difficulties which would be solved if we were in possession of a complete and authentic text.

The crown which the Witches promised to Macbeth soon becomes his fixed idea. He murders his kingand sleep. He slays, and sees the slain for ever before him. All that stand between him and his ambition are cut down, and afterwards raise their bloody heads as bodeful visions on his path. He turns Scotland into one great charnel-house. His mind is full of scorpions'; he is sick with the smell of all the blood he has shed. At last life and death become indifferent to him. When, on the day of battle, the tidings of his wife's death are brought to him, he speaks those profound words in which Shakespeare has embodied a whole melancholy life-philosophy:

'She should have died hereafter;

There would have been a time for such a word.

To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day

To the last syllable of recorded time,

And all our yesterdays have lighted fools

The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!

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.'

This is the final result arrived at by Macbeth, the man who staked all to win power and glory. Without any underlining on the part of the poet, a speech like this embodies an absolute moral lesson. We feel its value all the more strongly, as Shakespeare's study of humanity in other parts of this play does not seem to have been totally unbiassed, but rather influenced by the moral impression which he desired to produce on the audience. The drama is even a little marred by the constant insistence on the fabula docet, the recurrent insinuation that 'such is the consequence of grasping at power by the aid of crime.' Macbeth, not

by nature a bad man, might in the drama, as in real life, have tried to reconcile the people to that crime, which, after all, he had reluctantly committed, by making use of his power to rule well.

The moral


purport of the play excludes this possibility. ice-cold, stony Lady Macbeth might be conceived as taking the consequences of her counsel and action as calmly as the high-born Locustas of the Renaissance, Catherine de' Medici, or the Countess of Somerset. But in this case we should have missed the moral lesson conveyed by her ruin, and, what would have been worse, the incomparable sleep-walking scene, which-whether it be perfectly motived or not-shows us in the most admirable manner how the sting of an evil conscience, even though it may be blunted by day, is sharpened again at night, and robs the guilty one of sleep and health.

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