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HE history of the Celtic monarch, Macbeth, has been surrounded with a mass of romantic fable, as well as with a halo of imperishable interest. Buchanan and Milton considered it peculiarly adapted for the purposes of the drama, and Shakespeare devoted to it one of the noblest of all his works. The old chroniclers, however, blackened and distorted the true features and lineaments of the northern ruler. Macbeth did slay Duncan, but not in Duncan's castle; he did not violate the laws of hospitality held sacred by the Celtic tribes. Duncan was the enemy of his house and line; Macbeth attacked the monarch as he journeyed northwards, and slew him—not in the castle of Inverness, but at a spot near Elgin called Bothgouanan, or the smith's dwelling-the smith or armourer being in those days a functionary of considerable importance. At this time Macbeth was maormor or ruler over all Ross and Moray, and was thus in a higher position, as to dignity and power, than any one possessing the Saxon title of thane. He was nearly related to the throne, as was also his wife Gruoch-an unpoetical name which the poet silently dropped—and both had suffered deeply from the party or faction that had placed Duncan on the throne. The nation, accustomed to scenes of violence and bloodshed, manifested no resentment at the 'taking off' of the 'gracious Duncan ;' Macbeth, with his followers, marched to Scone, was crowned king, and reigned seventeen years a popular and prosperous monarch. Winton, the rhyming chronicler, says of him:

All his time was great plenty
Abundant both on land and sea;
He was in justice right lawful,
And to his lieges all, awful.'

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Lord Hailes's brief summary of Macbeth's history may be here quoted: 'In 1034, Duncan succeeded his grandfather Malcolm. In 1039 he was assassinated by Macbeth. By his wife, the sister of Siward, Earl of Northumberland, he left two sons, Malcolm, surnamed Canmore [great head], and Donald, surnamed Bane [white or fair]. Macbeth expelled the sons of Duncan, and usurped the Scottish throne. Malcolm sought refuge in Cumberland, Donald in the Hebrides. When Edward the Confessor succeeded to the crown of England (1043), Earl Siward placed Malcolm under his protection. Malcolm remained long at court, an honourable and neglected exile. The partisans of Malcolm often attempted to procure his restoration, but their efforts, feeble and ill-concerted, only served to establish the dominion of the usurper. At length Macduff, Thane of Fife, excited a formidable revolt in Scotland, while Siward, with the approbation of his sovereign, led the Northumbrians to the aid of his nephew Malcolm. He lived not to see the event of his generous enterprise. Macbeth retreated to the fastnesses of the north, and protracted the war. His people forsook his standard. Malcolm attacked him at Lumphanan, in Aberdeenshire: abandoned by his few remaining followers, Macbeth fell, 5th December 1056.' Shakespeare rendered the death of his hero more striking and dramatic, by making him end his career on the battle-field, in mortal conflict with Macduff, instead of following him in his retreat to the north.

The story of the weird sisters, so conspicuous in the legendary history and in the drama, is related by the classic Buchanan as a dream. The old chroniclers, however, gave it 'a local habitation and a name.' They placed the witches on the blasted heath, created the royal Banquo and Fleance-characters unknown to authentic history-and introduced the incident of the wood of. Birnam advancing to Dunsinane, and the prophecy that Macbeth should never be overcome by one of woman born.' All these marvels-which, as Hailes observes, the last age devoutly believed'-Shakespeare found recorded in his Holinshed, and at his touch they assumed the form-and immeasurably more than

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the form of historical realities. Lady Macbeth, according to Holinshed, was a woman 'very ambitious, burning in unquenchable desire to bear the name of a queen;' and here we have the germ of that character in Shakespeare which has been held to 'throw into the shade the finest works of the Greek tragic writers, those masters of the lofty and terrific.' Along with this history of Macbeth, the poet found in the pages of the old chronicler a striking narrative of the murder of King Duff by Donwald, captain of the Castle of Forres. Donwald is represented as having consented to the crime at the instigation of his wife, although in his heart he abhorred the foul and treacherous act. The arrival of the king at the castle, the distribution of 'great largess' among the officers, the forced intoxication of the chamberlains, and the attempt to fasten upon the latter the guilt of the murder-Donwald slaying them in an assumed frenzy of loyalty—are all described by Holinshed, and ingrafted by Shakespeare on the history of Macbeth. But while the historian makes the servants of the castle, by command of their master, the actual perpetrators of the murder, the poet assigns it to Macbeth himself, thus deepening the horror of the scene and the remorse of the chief actor. In Holinshed, Banquo is drawn as one of Macbeth's friends and allies, consenting to the murder of Duncan; Shakespeare, on the other hand, represents him as eminently loyal, true, and faithful, and the transformation not only affords a fine moral contrast to the guilty, perturbed ambition of Macbeth, but enables the poet to insinuate a delicate compliment to the reigning monarch, King James, who was believed to be lineally descended from Banquo, the traditional founder of the Stuart dynasty. Other instances of the dramatic art of the poet, in dealing with his old materials, might be cited, but such minor details are lost in the splendour of the original conceptions-the delineations of character-the sentiments and description-and, above all, in the awful superstitions and mental struggles embodied in this sublime drama.

Macbeth was first printed in the folio of 1623. We know, however, that it was on the stage in 1610, for Dr Simon Forman,


in his Diary, gives an account of the tragedy which he saw at the Globe Theatre on the 20th of April in that year. Mr Collier believes that it was not a new play when Forman saw it acted, because the words, 'Some I see

That twofold balls and treble sceptres carry,'

would have had little point if we suppose them to have been delivered after the king who bore the balls and sceptres had been more than seven years on the throne. 'James was proclaimed king of Great Britain and Ireland on the 24th of October 1604, and we may perhaps conclude that Shakespeare wrote Macbeth in the year 1605, and that it was first acted at the Globe, when it was opened for the summer season in the spring of 1606.' Although printed more regularly than many of the plays (being divided into Acts and Scenes), several obvious errors occur in this tragedy, which the commentators have corrected. Thus 'gallowglasses' is misprinted gallowgrosses, 'Forres' is Soris, 'martlet' is barlet, 'bank and shoal of time' is bank and school of time, 'senna' is cyme, &c.

"The majority of readers, I believe, assign to Macbeth, which seems to have been written about 1606, the pre-eminence among the works of Shakespeare; many, however, would rather name Othello, and a few might prefer Lear to either. The great epic drama, as the first may be called, deserves, in my own judgment, the post it has attained, as being, in the language of Drake, "the greatest effort of our author's genius, the most sublime and impressive drama which the world has ever beheld." —HALLAM.

'The weird sisters surprise Macbeth in the moment of intoxication of victory, when his love of glory has been gratified; they cheat his eyes by exhibiting to him as the work of fate what in reality can only be accomplished by his own deed, and gain credence for all their words by the immediate fulfilment of their first prediction. The opportunity of murdering the king immediately offers; the wife of Macbeth conjures him not to

let it slip; she urges him on with a fiery eloquence, which has at command all those sophisms that serve to throw a false splendour over crime. Little more than the mere execution falls to the share of Macbeth; he is driven into it, as it were, in a tumult of fascination. Repentance immediately follows, nay, even precedes the deed, and the stings of conscience leave him rest neither night nor day. But he is now fairly entangled in the snares of hell; truly frightful it is to behold that same Macbeth, who once as a warrior could spurn at death, now that he dreads the prospect of the life to come, clinging with growing anxiety to his earthly existence the more miserable it becomes, and pitilessly removing out of the way whatever to his dark and suspicious mind seems to threaten danger. However much we may abhor his actions, we cannot altogether refuse to compassionate the state of his mind; we lament the ruin of so many noble qualities, and even in his last defence we are compelled to admire the struggle of a brave will with a cowardly conscience. We might believe that we witness in this tragedy the overruling destiny of the ancients represented in perfect accordance with their ideas: the whole originates in a supernatural influence, to which the subsequent events seem inevitably linked. Moreover, we even find here the same ambiguous oracles which, by their literal fulfilment, deceive those who confide in them. Yet it may be easily shewn that the poet has, in his work, displayed more enlightened views. He wishes to shew that the conflict of good and evil in this world can only take place by the permission of Providence, which converts the curse that individual mortals draw down on their heads into a blessing to others. An accurate scale is followed in the retaliation. Lady Macbeth, who of all the human participators in the king's murder is the most guilty, is thrown by the terrors of her conscience into a state of incurable bodily and mental disease; she dies unlamented by her husband, with all the symptoms of reprobation. Macbeth is still found worthy to die the death of a hero on the field of battle. The noble Macduff is allowed the satisfaction of saving his country,

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