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occur but rarely. It is a style eminently fitted to express and to awaken terror ; its tone is not altered, but only softened, even in the painfully touching conversation between Lady Macduff and her little son. It is sustained throughout with only one break—the excellent burlesque monologue of the Porter.
The play centres entirely round the two chief characters, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth ; in their minds the essential action takes place. The other personages are only outlined.
The Witches' song, with which the tragedy opens, ends with that admirable line, in which ugliness and beauty are confounded :
'Fair is foul, and foul is fair.'
And it is significant that Macbeth, who has not heard this refrain, recalls it in his very first speech :
"So foul and fair a day I have not seen.'
It seems as if these words were ringing in his ears; and this foreshadows the mysterious bond between him and the Witches. Many of these delicate consonances and contrasts may be noted in the speeches of this tragedy.
After Lady Macbeth, who is introduced to the spectator already perfected in wickedness, has said to herself (i. 5)
The raven himself is hoarse
the next scene opens serenely with the charming pictures of the following dialogue :
'DUNCAN. This castle hath a pleasant seat; the air
This guest of summer,
Then the poet immediately plunges anew into the study of this lean, slight, hard woman, consumed by lust of power and splendour. Though by no means the impassive murderess she fain would be, she yet goads her husband, by the force of her far stronger will, to commit the crime which she declares he has promised her :
'I have given suck, and know
Have done to this.' So coarsely callous is she! And yet she is less hardened than she would make herself out to be ; for when, just after this, she has laid the daggers ready for her husband, she says :
'Had he not resembled My father as he slept, I had done 't.' The absolutely masterly, thrilling scene between husband and wife after the murder, is followed, in horrible, humoristic contrast, by the fantastic interlude 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, To 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
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 :
'MacD. My children too? Ross.
Wife, children, servants, all
And I must be from thence !
I have said.
Be comforted :
MacD. He has no children. All my pretty ones ?
Mal. Dispute it like a man.
I shall do so;
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 :
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,
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