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IN FIVE ACTS;
BY WILLIAM SHAKSPEARE.
AS PERFORMED AT THE THEATRES ROYAL,
COVENT GARDEN AND DRURY LANE.
PRINTED UNDER THE AUTHORITY OF THE MANAGERS
FROM THE PROMPT BOOK.
BY MRS. INCHBALD.
PRINTED FOR LONGMAN, HURST, REES, AND ORME,
In this grand tragic opera is combined that which is terrific, sublime, infernal. Spirits are called from the bottomless pit, to give additional horror to the crimes which are here perpetrated. Yet supernatural agency is produced and conducted by such natural means, that spectators return again to their childish credulity, and tremble, as in the nursery, at a witch
and a goblin.
It is impossible to contemplate the consistent disposition of able actors, of appropriate habiliments, and of picturesque scenery, with which this tragedy is now embellished, at the London theatres, and not boldly demand—where was Garrick's taste, his innovating judgment, his common sense, and common feelings, as a connoisseur in his art, that he could perform this historical tragedy—Macbeth, of ancient Scotland—with the characters dressed in coats, waistcoats, and hats, so as to place the scene in modern times, or every scene in England.
Garrick had taste, it is said; and so, they say, had his admirers : yet, taste like this, would be now exploded.—So, it might be insinuated, perhaps, would be the acting of those days, could it have been preserved, along with the old attire, for the inspection of critics of the present era.
On this impossibility the actor's art triumphs over, yet sinks beneath, every other. He has no rivals to vanquish, but cotemporaries. He has no former artists to excel, but such as cannot come forth to claim the preference, or to crouch to superior skill.
The story of Macbeth is founded on Scottish history, and may be traced in the works of many writers. But, in a production called “ Shakspeare Ilustrated," every event of that usurper's life is collected from different histories, and given at large.
So conspicuous are the various excellencies contained in this tragedy, there is no cause whatever to point them out to the reader; for, if he cannot see them at once, it is vain to direct his sight.
But to those, who are unacquainted with the effect wrought by theatrical action and decoration, it may not be superfluous to say—The huge rocks, the enormous caverns, and blasted heaths of Scotland, in the scenery ;—the highland warrior's dress, of centuries past, worn by the soldiers and their generals ;—the splendid robes and banquet at the royal court held at Fores;--the awful, yet inspiring music, which accompanies words assimilated to each sound;--and, above all—the fear, the terror, the remorse ;—the agonizing throbs and throes, which speak in looks, whispers, sudden starts, and writhings, by Kemble and Mrs. Siddons, all tending to one great precept—Thou shall not murder,--render this play one of the most impressive moral lessons which the stage exhibits.