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the part he has assumed. True to his artificiality, and to the external manners which he hath put on, with a slight remembrance of how Touchstone worsted him in the forest, he sneers at the motley and his wife, saying,
“And you to wrangling; for thy loving voyage
On the Duke's command of “Stay, Jaques, stay,” he answers,
“To see no pastime I: what you would have
"I'll stay to know at your abandon'd cave.” The catastrophe is brought about most satisfactorily, and the comedy ends most happily. The good duke's patrimony is restored, his daughter firmly fixed with the son of his bosom friend, “the good Sir Rowland,”— his niece, enlinkt in the same bonds with Oliver, whom she hath won from his evil ways; and in the same tangled web are also enmeshed Silvius and Phæbe, Touchstone and his Audrey, their hands and hearts in fond communion joined, by
“Hymen! god of every town.” Throughout the whole of the comedy, the poetry existing in human nature is shown forth by the master's hand. The natural is placed above the artificial; and it requires but a slight effort of the imagination, while under the influence of this charming work, once more to revel in golden dreams amid the scenes of a golden age.
The date of the production of this tragedy is usually given in the last ten years of the author's life, about the year 1606, and it was printed for the first time in the folio of 1623. The reasons assigned by Malone for its earlier production are very vague and unsatisfactory, nor do they militate against the year now generally accepted. The materials of this tragedy were derived by Shakspere from the chronicles of Holinshed, and though he and the chronicler are occasionally at variance, yet the main incidents of the tragedy are to be found in the pages of the chronicle. The meeting of the witches, the murder of Duncan, also that of Banquo, the attempt to slay Macduff, and the death of the usurper at the hands of Macduff, are all related by Holinshed. In Shakspere taking up these incidents, he has so interwoven them in his tragedy, has so re-clothed them in the true language of poetry, and endowed them with the power of his own genius, that the truthfulness and beauty which the lines convey will never die, nor will the incidents be forgotten. In 1673, Sir W. Davenant altered, added and otherwise amended and improved this tragedy,--so at least it was said at the time,--but a greater mistake was never made. In 1731, it was again altered by Mr. Nahum Tate, who had some time before tried his “prentice hand” upon the tragedy of Lear, to the detriment of the text and the action of the play. In 1748, a special version was produced by Garrick, who pretended to restore the original text by omitting the additions and removing the mutilations of Davenant. This, however, he did not do, for though he left out many of the additions which had been made, he was guilty of many interpolations of his own, which in no way added to the grandeur and beauty of the tragedy, nor to the strength and sweetness of the poetic diction. So thoroughly did Garrick appear to understand Shakspere's intent and meaning in this tragedy, that he added a most contemptible dying speech to the part of Macbeth.
In this tragedy we see the difference between the man of genius and he of mediocrity. With the latter, this tragedy would have been but a mere chamber of horrors, producing a strong state of excitement, from which both reader and spectator would have shrank with disgust. On the other hand, Shakspere has so made use of them, even in their most striking forms, in association with the beautiful and pure, that under no circumstances do they create any emotions which are not of a healthful and pleasurable kind. It is in this power, that Shakspere stands so pre-eminent; it is this art which places him above all others, for in no other, but in him alone, is seen its pure development.
The opening of this tragedy is wonderfully finely conceived. Amidst thunder, lightning, hail and rain, the weird-sisters big with fate, prepare the reader or spectator for the supernatural influences which are
to follow. The bleeding soldier, his tale of fighting, the blasted heath, the wild prophecies all serve to pave the way for the perpetration of crimes of a deeper hue and deeds of a more deadly character...
The scene in which Lady Macbeth appears, completes what the opening scenes have already foreshadowed. Her allusions to the killing of Duncan, to the natural influences by which her husband is surrounded, and to the aid which the supernatural part of the story gives him, produces that peculiar state of the brain, that it becomes prepared to receive without wonderment all the results which follow. It is in this, that the great dramatic skill of Shakspere is shown. He passes not from one extreme to the other abruptly, everything is prepared, for the interest gradually accumulates, and the brain drinks in, without the power of refusing, the deeds and actions of the character of the tragedy.
Several writers upon this tragedy have contended that the witches, whose introduction into the play takes us out of the course of ordinary life, their supernatural influence determining the action of the play, should be represented by young and pretty women on the stage, but the whys and wherefores which are urged, “pale their ineffectual fire ” before the description given of them by Banquo :
“So wither'd, and so wild in their attire,
The expressions “ withered,” “choppy finger," and “ skinny lips,” are refutations of the notion of their being young and pretty, while the more forcibly to point out the external character of these haggards of the night, their beards are alluded to as a reason that they are hardly women at all. This surely ought to suffice as a refutation of such an opinion, but still further, in A. IV. s. 1., they are called by Macbeth, “ black and midnight hags,” an expression that can not be possibly applied, nor in any way construed to apply to young and pretty women.
The tragedy of Macbeth furnishes a splendid contrast to the tragedy of Hamlet. In the latter, action scarcely advances, so slow is the movement of the principal character, who is continually resolving to act, yet never acting upon his resolution. In Macbeth, the action marches rapidly and grandly on; there is no standing still, no halting by the way, for the progress of events is swift and the catastrophe is speedily arrived at. Every character tends to develope the catastrophe and lend its aid in magnifying the qualities and nature of its completeness. The little as well as the great all help towards working out the result, which is in itself most complete.
Macbeth is made up of action, for he is the representative of activity, while Hamlet is exceedingly passive. Macbeth is all physical strength while Hamlet is physically weak. There is but little room for thought in Macbeth, he has to do, not to reason and reflect. In him, manly audacity and human might are strained to the utmost when he has resolved; for he dares a contest with fate having no dread or fear of the result. In the opening scene Macbeth is described