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heart has therefore been eased, from time to time, by unloading its weight of wo; while she, on the contrary, has perseveringly endured in silence the uttermost anguish of a wounded spirit.
• The grief that does not speak
“ Her feminine nature, her delicate structure, it is too e vin dent, are soon overwhelmed by the enormous pressure of her crimes. Yet it will be granted, that she gives proofs of a naturally higher-toned mind than that of Mucbeth. The different physical powers of the two sexes are finely delineated, in the different effects which their mutual crimes produce. Her frailer frame, and keener feelings, have now sunk under the struggle-his robust and less sensitive constitution has not only resisted it, but bears him on to deeper wickedness, and to experience the fatal fecundity of crime.
• For mine own good-all causes shall give way.
Henceforth, accordingly, he perpetrates horrors to the day of his doom.
" In one point of view, at least, this guilty pair extort from us, in spite of ourselves, a certain respect and approbation. Their grandeur of character sustains them both above recrimination (the despicable accustomed resort of vulgar minds) in adversity; for the wretched husband, though almost impelled into this gulf of destruction by the instigations of his wife, feels no abatement of his love for her, while she, on her part, appears to have known no tenderness for him, till, with a heart bleeding at every pore, she beholds in him the miserable vie tim of their mutual ambition. Unlike the first frail pair in Paradise, they spent not the fruitless hours in mutual accusațion.”
Mrs. Siddons had played Lady Macbeth in the provincial theatres many years before she attempted the character in London. Adverting to
Adverting to the first time this part was allotted to her, she
says, " It was my custom to study my characters at night, when all the domestic cares and business of the day
On the night preceding that in which I was to ap pear 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 never can 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 panicstruck 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 the candle out ; and I threw myself on my bed, without daring to stay even to take off my clothes. At peep of day I rose to resume my task; but so little did I know of my part when I appeared in it at night, that my shame and confusion cured me of procrastinating my business for the remainder of lise.
“ About six years afterward I was called upon to act the same character in London. By this time I had perceived the difficulty of assuming a personage with whom no one feeling of common general nature was congenial or assistant. One's own heart could prompt one to express, with some degree of truth, the sentiments of a mother, a daughter, a wise, a lover, a sister, &c., but to adopt this character must be an effort of the judgment alone.
" Therefore it was with the utmost diffidence, nay, terror, that I undertook it, and with the additional fear of Mrs. Pritchard's reputation in it before my eyes. The dreaded first night at length arrived, when, just as I had finished my toilet, and was pondering with fearfulness my first appearance in the grand fiendish part, comes Mr. Sheridan, knocking at my door, and insisting, in spite of all my entreaties not to be interrupted at this to me tremendous moment, to be admitted. He would not be denied admittance ; for he protested he must speak to me-on a circumstance which so deeply concerned my own interest, that it was of the most serious nature. Well, after much squabbling, I was compelled to admit him, that I might dismiss him the
sooner, and compose myself before the play began. But, what was my distress and astonishment, when I
found that he wanted me, even at this moment of anxiety and terror, to adopt another mode of acting the sleeping scene. He told me he had heard with the greatest surprise and concern that I meant to act it without holding the candle in my hand; and, when I urged the impracticability of washing out that damned spot,' with the vehemence that was certainly implied by both her own words and by those of her gentlewoman, he insisted, that if I did put the candle out of my hand, it would be thought a presumptuous innovation, as Mrs. Pritchard had always retained it in hers. My mind, however, was made up, and it was then too late to make me alter it; for it was too agitated to adopt another method. My deference for Mr. Sheridan's taste and judgment was, however, so great, that, had he proposed the alteration while it was possible for me to change my own plan, I should have yielded to his suggestion ; though, even then, it would have been against my own opinion, and my observation of the accuracy with which somnambulists perform all the acts of waking persons. The scene, of course, was acted as I had myself conceived it; and the innovation, as Mr. Sheridan called it, was received with approbation. Mr. Sheridan himself came to me, after the play, and most ingenuously congratulated me on my obstinacy. When he was gone out of the room, I began to undress; and, while standing up before my glass, and taking off my mantle, a diverting circumstance occurred to chase away the feelings of this anxious night; for, while I was repeating, and endeavouring to call to mind the appropriate tone and action to the following words, • Here's the smell of blood still ! my dresser innocently exclaimed, • Dear me, ma'am, how very hysterical you are tonight; I protest and vow, ma'am, it was not blood, but rosepink and water; for I saw the property-man mix it up with my own eyes.””
Observations on Mrs. Siddons's Estimate of Lady Macbeth's Character,
and on that given by Mrs. Jameson, in her “Characteristics of Women."
THOSE who have read Mrs. Jameson's admirable " Characteristics of Women,” must have remarked the general similarity of her opinions respecting Lady Macbeth's character, to those delivered by Mrs. Siddons in the foregoing critique. If there be any difference, it is that the former goes a shade farther than Mrs. Siddons in her advocacy of Shakspeare's heroine.
Whether Mrs. Jameson heard of Mrs. Siddons's ideas on the subject, which she might by possibility, as the great actress made no secret of them, I have never been in the least anxious to ascertain, because it is plain, from her writings, that Mrs. Jameson has a mind too original to require or to borrow sug. gestions from any one. But, in deprecating all suspicion of obligation on the one side, I have an equal right to exclude the possibility of its being suspected on the other. Mrs. Siddons showed me these Remarks on the Character of Lady Macbeth some nineteen years ago, so that there can be little doubt of their having been earlier written than those of the authoress of 66 The Characteristics."
In a general view, I agree with both of the fair advocates of Lady Macbeth, that the language of preceding critics was rather unmeasured, when they described her as “ thoroughly hateful, invariably savage, and purely demoniac. It is irue, that the ungentlemanly epithet, fiendlike, is applied to her by Shakspeare himself, but then he puts it into the mouth of King Malcolm, who might naturally be incensed.
Lady Macbeth is not thoroughly hateful, for she is not a virago, not an adultress, not impelled by revenge. On the contrary, she expresses no feeling of personal malignity towards any human being in the whole course of her part. Shakspeare could have easily displayed her crimes in a more commonplace and accountable light, by assigning some feudal grudge as a mixed motive of her cruelty to Duncan ; but he makes her a murderess in cold blood, and from the sole motive of ambition, well knowing, that if he had broken up the inhuman serenity of her remorselessness by the ruffling of anger, he would have vulgarized the features of the splendid Titaness.
By this entire absence of petty vice and personal virulence, and by concentrating all the springs of her conduct into the one determined feeling of ambition, the mighty poet has given her character a statue-like simplicity, which, though cold, is spiritstirring, from the wonder it excites, and which is imposing, although its respectability consists, as far as the heart is concerned, in merely negative decencies. How many villains walk the world in credit to their graves, from the mere fulfilment of those negative decencies. Had Lady Macbeth been able to smother her husband's babblings, she might have been one of them.
Shakspeare makes her a great character, by calming down all the pettiness of vice, and by giving her only one ruling passion, which, though criminal, has at least a lofty object, corresponding with the firmness of her will and the force of her intellect. The object of her ambition was a crown, which, in the days in which we suppose her to have lived, was a miniature symbol of divinity. Under the full impression of her in tellectual powers, and with a certain allowance which we make for the illusion of sorcery, the imagination suggests to us something like a half-apology for her ambition. Though I can vaguely imagine the supernatural agency of the spiritual world, yet I know so little precisely about fiends or demons, that I cannot pretend to estimate the relation of their natures to that of Shakspeare's heroine. But, as a human being, Lady Macbeth is too intellectual to be thoroughly hateful. Moreover, I hold it no paradox 10 say, that the strong idea which Shakspeare conveys to us of her intelligence, is heightened by its contrast with that partial shade which is thrown over it by her sinful will giving way to superstitious influences. At times she is deceived, we should say, prosaically speaking, by the infatuation of her own wickedness, or, poetically speaking, by the agency of infernal tempters ; otherwise she could not have imagined for a moment that she could palm upon the world the chamberlains of Duncan for his real murderers. Yet her mind, under the approach of this portentous and unnatural eclipse, in spite of its black illusions, has light enough remaining to show us a reading of Macbeth's character such as Lord Bacon could not have given to us more philosophically, or in fewer words. All this, however, only proves Lady Macbeth to be a char