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feeble rule of Duncan with ten years of firm and noble government, and that in consequence the ignominy which now falls upon his name is undeserved, and due entirely to the art of the dramatist.
“ As a king the tyrant so much exclaimed against was, in reality, a firm, just, and equitable person.”
In the struggle with Duncan, Banquo was on the side of Macbeth, not doubtful as he is painted in the play, and this change was probably made out of flattery to James, whose ancestor Banquo is declared by the play to be.
The weird sisters are only hinted at slightly in Holinshed, but Shakespeare, encouraged no doubt by the interest which King James I. took in witchcraft, has made them the agents of Macbeth's success and downfall. The character of Hecate does not occur in the chronicle, and takes no real share in the play. It will be noticed that she, in her incantation, refers more often to classical objects, such as Acheron, and that her charms are entirely different from those of the others. The real witchcraft of the play belongs to the three weird sisters alone.
This introduction of Hecate, and the references to the two songs, “ Come away, come away” (IFI. v.), and “Black spirits and white ” (IV. i.), all of which occur in Middleton's Witch, a play probably written scme years after Macbeth, have given rise to the opinion that interpolations were made in Macbeth at a later date. Dr. Herford points out that the scenes in which Hecate appears are written in iambic verse, while the rest of the witch scenes are trochaic. Nor is it without bearing upon this that Dr. Forman, in his account of the play (see “ Date of Play ") describes the witches as fairies or nymphs, showing some possibility of a later change in the character given to them.
It is also pointed out that the disloyalty of Cawdor is related by Ross in I. ii. 52, but is unknown to Macbeth, who is supposed to bave been fighting against him, in I. iii. 72.
Other suggested interpolations are the Porter scene, II. iii., the King's evil scene, IV. iii., and the death of young Siward and the crowning of Malcolm. With the exception of the Hecate scenes, and possibly the sergeant's scene, the arguments are not very strong, although the play, as it appears in the folio of 1623, does not show many signs of careful or accurate editing. The porter scene is certainly Shakespearian in style, and its interpolation allows the necessary time for Macbeth and his wife to regain some degree of composure, heightens by contrast the horrors of the scene which follows, and comes naturally and unforcedly into the action of the play.
Against the sergeant's scene it is argued that the language is too bombastic, that it is improbable that news of victory should be brought to the king by such a messenger, and that the incongruity of Macbeth not knowing, in Scene iii., that Cawdor has been among the rebels, while his subordinate Ross is acquainted with it in Scene ii., makes it certain that the scene is of later date, and probably by another hand.
It is a general opinion among many critics that both additions and omissions have been made, and that possibly Lady Macbeth appeared after the murder in some scenes now lost.
The promise to Banquo that he should beget a future line of kings, a promise which the dramatist has made the cause of Macbeth's hatred of that general, seems to have no foundation either in Holinshed or in fact. According to Trench the Stewarts are descended from one Flaald, who came over with William the Conqueror, and consequently after the date of Macbeth. One of his descendants, Fitz-Alan, became steward to David I. of Scotland, and hence derived the surname Stewart. A member of this family later on married a daughter of Robert Bruce, and their son Robert II. became the first Stewart King of Scotland. The prophecy could much better have applied to Siward of Northumbria, one of whose grandsons became Earl of Huntingdon, and ancestor of Baliol and Bruce.
Story of the Play.
Act I. SCENE I. opens with the three witches, whose predictions are the prompters of Macbeth's evil deed, and the cause of all the evils which follow it. Thunder and lightning make the day terrible, and the wild, open place suits with their purpose. They decide to meet upon the heath ere set of sun, when the hurlyburly's over and the battle ended.
The witches' cat and toad call them away to their work of making fair things foul and foul things fair.
Act I. SCENE II. Meanwhile at Forres, King Duncan and some of his nobles are eagerly awaiting news of the important battle raging between the merciless Macdonwald and Sweyn of Norway, on the one side, against his army, under Macbeth and Banquo, on the other. A sergeant, tired and bleeding from his labours in the battle, finds scarce sufficient breath to tell his tale. “For some time,” says the sergeant, “the battle hung in the balance. The merciless rebel, Macdonwald, aided by his fierce soldiers from the western isles, seemed at one time to be favoured by fortune; but at last Macbeth, the bravest of the brave, disdaining to be dismayed by this apparent success, carved his way through the opposing force until he met Macdonwald, clave him in two with his sword, and cut off his head to hang upon the battlements. Just when fortune seemed once more to smile upon our arms, the Norweyan king seized his opportunity to attack our wearied soldiers with new-sharpened arms and unbreathed men, only to find Macbeth and Banquo more active still to conquer. With double force and double valour they met their second foe, and filled the field with slaughter.” The worn-out soldier
then faints from the weariness of his wounds, and the story is taken up by Ross, who, with haste looking from his eyes, describes the fierce attack of the Norweyan king, with his countless numbers, aided by the rebel thane of Cawdor, and his final defeat by Macbeth, who met him face to face and compelled him to submit, and to pay 10,000 dollars as a fine. King Duncan pronounces the death sentence on Cawdor, and gives his title to Macbeth.
Act I. SCENE III. The scene now changes to the heath, where the witches are met as agreed. Thunder again resounds, while they recount their evil deeds since their last meeting, and their curse upon a sailor's wife who has offended one of them. Then the drums of Macbeth are heard as he returns from his double battle; the three witches make their charm round the cauldron by three times three turns hand in hand, and are met by Macbeth and Banquo. To Banquo their withered looks and wild garments make them seem somewhat supernatural, and he questions them, but they reply only by placing their cold-chapped and lean fingers upon their thin, drawn lips. Only when Macbeth adjures them do they speak, to give the predictions which are to change his nature and cause his downfall.
“All hail, Macbeth! hail to thee, thane of Glamis !"
Banquo notices Macbeth's surprise at these predictions, questions the witches as to his own future, and receives the contradictory greetings that he is to be less than Macbeth and greater, not so happy yet much happier. These are explained by their third prediction that Banquo, though never to be king himself, shall be father to a line of kings.
Questioned again by Macbeth as to the meaning and origin of their startling predictions, they vanish like breath into the wind. While the two generals are musing on this strange
event, and the jealousy of Macbeth against Banquo seems first to grow, they are met by the thanes of Ross and Angus, who, as heralds of honours to come, startle Macbeth by announcing his new title of thane of Cawdor. The quick fulfilment of the second prediction once more excites Macbeth to ambition and jealousy, and he has to be recalled by Banquo from deep medi. tation on the promised kingship and on the deeds which it will require. He at once begins to consider whether he shall yield to the suggestion of Duncan's murder, or whether, as chance has named him future king, chance may not make him so without
action of his own. The four then proceed towards the king
In Act I. SCENE IV. the action opens with an account of the execution of Cawdor, who died frankly confessing his treason, and repaid somewhat an evil life by a noble and repentant death. King Duncan then receives Macbeth and Banquo, and after nobly and freely proclaiming his debt of gratitude to his two generals, and particularly to Macbeth, he once awakens Macbeth's black thoughts by making his eldest son, Malcolm, a prince of Cumberland, a preferment which Macbeth looks upon as a direct hindrance to his desires. Duncan also promises to honour Macbeth by visiting his castle at Inverness, and Macbeth leaves to hurry to his wife with the news of the king's approach.
In Act I. SCENE V. Lady Macbeth begins by reading Macbeth's letter describing the predictions of the weird sisters, the quick fulfilment of the second one, and the high hope of future greatness promised by the third. Without any hesitation like that of Macbeth, she at once determines to incite him to any deed necessary for its fulfilment in spite of his balancing nature, receives the news of the king's approach, and determines upon the king's murder. The hoarseness of the breathless messenger seems to her an omen of Duncan's death, and she calls upon the evil spirits of murder to take from her all