Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

PREFACE.

long as Time endures,—so long as there are minds and hearts to appreciate and to thrill at the conceptions of him who was, at once, the mightiest of Dramatists, - the profoundest of Philosophers,—and the most sublime of Poets.

· London, April, 1846.

AN ESSAY

ON THE

CHARACTER OF MACBET H. :

A Writer in the Westminster Review, in an article on Macbeth, draws some very striking and original conclusions, of which, perhaps, the most startling, as it is decidedly the most novel, is his discovery that the character of the chief personage of the Drama has been constantly misrepresented on the stage. The reviewer regards the personations of Macbeth by Garrick, Kemble, Kean, and Macready as being entirely opposed to Shakspeare's conception of the character, while the recorded opinions of

a Siddons on the subject he considers to be erroneous.

The following passages, which are quoted by the reviewer for the purpose of exposing their fallacy, are from a pamphlet by Mr. Thomas Whately.

“The first thought of succeeding to the Throne is suggested, and success in the attempt is promised, to Macbeth by the Witches : he is therefore represented as a man whose natural temper would have deterred him from such a design, if he had not been immediately tempted and strongly impelled to it. Agreeably to these ideas, Macbeth appears to be a man not destitute of the feelings of humanity. His lady gives him that character : : 'I fear thy nature;

It is too full o'the milk of human kindness,

To catch the nearest way.': which apprehension was well founded ; for his reluctance to commit the murder is owing, in a great measure, to reflections which arise from sensibility. . . . . .

“A man of such a disposition will esteem, as they ought to be esteemed, all gentle and amiable qualities in another ; and therefore Macbeth is affected by the mild virtues of Duncan, and reveres them in his Sovereign when he stifles them in himself.” “One who has these feelings," Mr. Whately remarks subsequently, “ though he may have no principles, cannot easily be induced to commit a murder. The intervention of a supernatural cause accounts for his acting so contrary to his disposition. But that alone is not sufficient to prevail entirely over his nature; the insti gations of his wife are also necessary to keep him to his

purpose."

We should not say, as Mr. Whately does, that Macbeth acted, contrary to his dispositìon. There must, necessarily, have been a strong tendency to evil in his nature, or he would have successfully resisted the temptations to which he was exposed.

The following remarks, which are also quoted by the reviewer, are Mrs. Siddons's observations upon Macbeth's character: .. . ..

“On the arrival of the amiable Monarch who had so honoured him of late, his naturally benevolent and good feelings resume their wonted power. He then solemnly communes with his heart, and after much powerful reasoning upon the danger of the undertaking, calling to mind that Duncan his King, of the mildest virtues, and his Kinsman, Jay as his guest, — all those accumulated determents, with the violated rights of sacred hospitality bringing up the rear, rising all at once in terrible array to his awakened conscience, he relinquishes the atrocious purpose, and wisely determines

B 2

to proceed no further in the business. But now, behold, his evil genius, his grave-charm, appears; and by the force of her revilings, her contemptuous taunts, and, above all, by her opprobrious aspersion of cowardice, chases the gathering drops of humanity from his eyes, and drives before her impetuous and destructive career all those kindly charities, those impressions of loyalty, and pity, and gratitude, which, but the moment before, had taken full possession of his mind. She makes her very virtues the means of a taunt to her lord :

you have the milk of human kindness in your heart,' she says (in substance) to him, but ambition, which is my ruling passion, would also be yours if you had courage, With a havkering desire to suppress, if you could, all your weaknesses of sympathy, you are too cowardly to will the đeed, and can only dare to wish it. You speak of sympathies and feelings : I, too, have felt with a tenderness which your sex cannot know; but I am resolute in my ambition to trample on all that obstructs my way to a crown. Look to me, and be ashamed of your weakness.'"

Campbell, most happily we think, terms Macbeth “ weak and facile to wickedness." · Now the idea of a man (the natural instincts of whose heart were benevolent, but who was, yet, unprincipled and weak)-sensitively alive to the opinions of his fellow-men--anxious for their esteem, and yet, withal, ambitious--the idea, we

« AnteriorContinuar »