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TID

LUI 116 Sit

Introduction.

• The Tragedie of Macbeth' was first published in the folio collection of 1623. Its place in that edition is between : Julius Cæsar' and ' Hamlet.' And yet, in the modern reprints of the text of Shakspere, · Macbeth' is placed the first amongst the Histories. This is to convey a wrong notion of the character of this great drama. Shakspere's Chronicle-histories are essentially conducted upon a different principle. The interest of · Macbeth' is not an bistorical interest. It matters not yhether the action is true, or has been related as true : it belongs to the realms of poetry altogether. We might as well call · Lear' or · Hamlet' historical plays, because the outlines of the story of each are to be found in old records of the past. Our text is, with very few exceptions, a restoration of the text of the original folio.

In Coleridge's early sonnet to the Author of the Robbers,' his imagination is enchained to the most terrible scene of that play; disregarding, as it were, all the accessaries by which its horrors are mitigated and rendered endurable :

“ Schiller! that hour I would have wish'd to die,
If through the shuddering midnight I had sent
From the dark dungeon of the tower time-rent
That fearful voice, a famish'd father's cry-
Lest in some after moment aught more mean
Might stamp me mortal! A triumphant shout
Black Horror scream'a, and all her goblin rout
Dirninish'd shrunk from the more withering sceno!"

It was in a somewhat similar manner that Shakspere's representation of the murder of Duncan affected the imagination of Mrs. Siddons :-“ It was my custom to study my characters at night, when all the domestic cares and business of the day were over. On the night preceding that on which I was to appear in this part for the first time, I shut myself up, as usual, when all the family were retired, and commenced my study of Lady Macbeth. As the character is very short, I thought I should soon accomplish it. Being then only twenty years of age, I believed, as many others do believe, that little more was necessary than to get the words into my head; for the necessity of discrimination, and the development of character, at that time of my life, had scarcely entered into my imagination. But, to proceed. I went on with tolerable composure, in the silence of the night, (a night I can never forget,) till I came to the assassination scene, when the horrors of the scene rose to a degree that made it impossible for me to get farther. I snatched up my candle, and hurried out of the room in a paroxysm of terror. My dress was of silk, and the rustling of it, as I ascended the stairs to go to bed, seemed to my panic-struck fancy like the movement of a spectre pursuing me. At last I reached my chamber, where I found my husband fast asleep. I clapped my candlestick down upon the table, without the power of putting it out; and I threw myself on my bed, without daring to stay even to take off my clothes."* If the drama of Macbeth' were to produce the same

• Memoranda by Mrs. Siddons, inserted in her 'Life' by Mr. Campbell.

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