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and then she goes on, as conscious of a more resolute purpose in her own breast;
Hie thee hither,
Thereupon a messenger announces to her the unexpected tidings that King Duncan is on his way to spend a night under her roof, when, in an instant, the crime to be perpetrated flashes on her, and she thus soliloquizes :
The raven himself is hoarse That croaks the fatal entrance of Duncan Under my battlements. Come, you spirits That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here, And fill me, from the crown to the toe, topfull Of direst cruelty. Make thick
Make thick my blood. Stop up the access and passage to remorse, That no compunctious visitings of nature Shake my fell purpose, nor keep peace between Th' effect and it. Come to my woman's breasts And take my milk for gall, you murdering ministers, Wherever in your sightless substances You wait on nature's mischief. Come, thick night,
And pall thee in the dunnest smoke of hell,
my keen knife see not the wound it makes, Nor heaven peep through the blanket of the dark, To cry, 'Hold, hold !'
Such is the temptress to whom Macbeth returns home; and in the awful crime of the ensuing night she is the moving spirit. He would have shrunk back, realising the horrible breach of hospitality and remembering the kindness he had received from King Duncan :
We will proceed no further in this business ;
Not cast aside so soon; but she spurs on his laggard purpose, urging him to seize the opportunity placed by fortune in their way. She lays the dagger ready for doing the murderous deed, and says:
Had he not resembled My father, as he slept, I had done it. Her husband, after perpetrating the deed, forgets to leave matters in the chamber of horrors in such a posture as to incriminate the guards and is afraid to go back again; but she cries, “Give me the daggers,” and goes to lay them in the hands of the sleeping
sentinels, while she smears their faces with the murdered King's blood.
Thus have he and she seized the glittering fruit; but no sooner is it snatched than their pleasure turns to ashes in their mouths; for the conscience within them awakes in all its majesty; they eat their meals in fear, and night by night are shaken with terrible dreams. One of the most impressive scenes in the play is that in which Lady Macbeth appears walking in her sleep and repeating to herself the circumstances of the murder. She cannot get the blood washed off : “Here's the smell of the blood still; all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand”.
Macbeth finds that one crime makes another necessary. What would be the profit of sitting on the throne, if the inheritance of it were to pass to another? And the Witches, who had promised him the crown, had promised to Banquo that his descendants should occupy the throne. Therefore Banquo must perish. But, though he added to his great crime this other deed of blood, he failed to secure the murder of Fleance, the son of Banquo, who escaped. In like manner the sons of King Duncan escaped to England, where they were joined by the best of the Scots nobles, and an army was collected to punish the guilty usurper, who meantime plunged deeper and deeper into crime, burning down the castle and massacring the family of Macduff, who had fled to the South.
The wretched man's mind is petrified with images of fear, presented to his eyes by a guilty conscience: he sees the dead Banquo, sitting in his place at the table, and hears a voice saying, “Sleep no more". Lady Macbeth's derangement ends in death; and the lonely man is informed that the avenging army from the South has invaded the kingdom. He pulls himself together for a last effort, but it is with despair in his heart:
I have lived long enough; my way of life
The Witches had promised that, till Birnam should come to Dunsinane, he should not suffer defeat; but, when he saw the enemy advancing with branches plucked from this wood, like a moving forest, he realised how the powers of evil had paltered with him in a double sense, keeping the word of promise to the ear but breaking it to the hope; and, though with reckless valour he plunged into the battle, his end was a foregone conclusion, and he fell by the hand of Macduff, the man whose wife and children he had cruelly murdered,
In Othello, the kindling of the passion of jealousy, till it becomes a devouring fire, consuming everything that comes in its way, is depicted with equal skill. But here what chiefly fascinates is the figure of the tempter behind the principal actor. Lady Macbeth, in spite of her unwomanly ferocity, yet, when the paroxysm of guilty passion is over and the deed done, becomes a woman again, suffering the tortures of remorse, and at last loses her reason and even her life in expiation of her guilt. But Iago is a villain who has no idea what remorse is. He acknowledges the nobleness of Othello's nature and is able to appreciate the sweetness of Desdemona, but, for a slight done him by the former and in order to mount a single step on the ladder of promotion, he is the cause of the death not only of them both, but also of others involved in their downfall. In one passage he attempts to justify his conduct and to argue that he is not a villain ; but it is only in fun: his selfishness is perfect; nothing causes him a moment's compunction; and he does not hesitate to adopt any means to attain his end. Outwardly he wears a mask of good humour so well that those nearest to him do not suspect his hypocrisy ; but his own wife exposes his treachery; and, in spite of the many doublings of the fox, the teeth of the trap close upon him at last.
In Regan and Goneril, the undutiful daughters of King Lear, we have, if possible, still more revolting