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acter of brilliant understanding, lofty determination, and negative decency. That the poet meant us to conceive her more than a piece of august atrocity, or to leave a tacit understanding of her being naturally amiable, I make bold to doubt. Mrs. Siddons, disposed by her own nature to take the most softened views of her heroine, discovers, in her conduct towards Macbeth, a dutiful and unselfish tenderness, which, I own, is far from striking me. Lady Macbeth,” she says,
" seeks out Macbeth, that she may, at least, participate in his wretchedDess.” But is that her real motive ? No; Lady Macbeth, in ahat scene, seems to me to have no other object than their common preservation. She finds that he is shunning society, and is giving himself up to “his sorry fancies.” Her trying to snatch him from these is a matter of policy ;-a proof of her sagacity, and not of her social sensibility. At least, insensitive as we have seen her to the slightest joy at the return of her husband, it seems unnecessary to ascribe to her any newsprung tenderness, when self-interest sufficiently accounts for her conduct.
Both of her fair advocates lay much stress on her abstaining from vituperation towards Macbeth, when she exhorts him to retire to rest after the banquet. But, here I must own, that I can see no proof of her positive tenderness. Repose was necessary to Macbeth's recovery. Their joint fate was hanging by a hair; and she knew that a breath of her reproach, by inflaming him to madness, would break that hair, and plunge them both into exposure and ruin. Common sense is always respectable ; and here it is joined with command of temper and matrimonial faith. But still her object includes her own preservation; and we have no proof of her alleged tenderness and sensibility.
If Lady Macbeth's male critics have dismissed her with ungallant haste and harshness, I think the eloquent authoress of the « Characteristics of Women” has tried rather too elaborately to prove her positive virtues, by speculations which, to say the least of them, if they be true, are not certain. She goes beyond Mrs. Siddons's toleration of the heroine; and, getting absolutely, in love with her, exclaims, “What would not the firmness, the selfcommand, the ardent affections of this woman have performed, if properly directed ?" Why, her firmness and self-command are very evident; but, as to her ardent affections, I would ask, on what other object on earth she bestows them except the crown of Scotland ? We are told, however, that her husband loves her, and that, therefore, she could not be naturally bad. But, in the first place, though we are not directly told so, we may be fairly allowed to imagine her a very beautiful woman; and, with beauty and superior intellect, it is easy to conceive her managing and making herself necessary to Macbeth, a man comparatively weak, and, as we see, facile to wickedness. There are instances of atrocious women having swayed the hearts of more amiable men. What debars me from imagining that Lady Macbeth had obtained this conjugal ascendancy by any thing amiable in her nature, is, that she elicits Macbeth's warmest admiration in the utterance of atrocious feelings ; at least, such I consider those expressions to be which precede his saying to her, “ Bring forth men children only."
But here I am again at issue with the ingenious authoress of the “ Characteristics," who reads in those very expressions that strike me as proofs of atrocity, distinct evidence of Lady Macbeth's amiable character : since, she declares that she had known what it was to have loved the offspring she suckled. The majority of she-wolves, I conceive, would make the same declaration if they could speak, though they would probably omit the addition about dashing out the suckling's brains. Again : she is amiably unable to murder the sleeping king, because, to use Mrs. Jameson's words, “ he brings to her the dear and venerable image of her father.” Yes : but she can send in her husband to do it for her. Did Shakspeare intend us to believe this murderess naturally compassionate?
It seems to me, also, to be far from self-evident, that Lady Macbeth is not naturally cruel, because she calls on all the demons of human thought to'unsex her; or because she dies of what her apologist calls remorse. If by that word we mean true contrition, Shakspeare gives no proof of her having shown such a feeling. Her death is mysterious ; and we generally attribute it to despair and suicide. Even her terrible and thrice-repeated sob of agony, in the sleep-walking scene, shows a conscience haunted indeed by terrors, but not penitent; for she still adheres to her godless old ground of comfort, that · Banquo is in his grave.
She dies,—she is swept away darkly from before us to her great account. I say that we have a tragic satisfaction in her death: and though I grant that we do not exult over her fate, yet I find no argument in this circumstance against her natural enormity. To see a fellow-creature, a beautiful woman, with a bright, bold intellect, thus summoned to her destiny, creates a religious feeling too profound for exultation.
In this terrible swift succession of her punishment to her
3 mese riminal ; reast would be
a genuine relined og to believe Lady Sit noapted for the growth of
- serv unuke his own wisdom in
Continuation of the Season at Drury Lane-Mrs. Siddons plays Desde
mona, Mason's Elfrida, and Rosalind, in “As You Like It”—Mrs. Siddons in Scotland-Season 1785-6—She appears in the “ Jubilee"in Jephson's “ Braganza”—as Mrs. Lovemore, in Murphy's Comedy of "The Way to Keep Him”-as Hermione, in “The Distressed Mother"--a6 Ophelia.
In some of the greatest dramatic characters, Mrs. Siddons needed only to look like her usual majestic self, in order to make you imagine that the poet had written the part for her. Her peculiar element was the sublime and energetic ; and to have seen her Lady Macbeth might well inspire an incredulity as to the possibility of the same individual passing, with felicity, from the terrors of Duncan's murderess to look the gentleness of Desdemona. It is true that the bride of Othello is, with all her gentleness, a great being; and is as resolute in adherence to the noble Moor, as she had before been meekly duteous to her father. Moreover, if it be alleged that love alone makes her bold, be it remembered that her love itself is
high and pure passion, founded on the moral worth of her lord. But still there is a subdued spirit, a lowly, violet-like sweetness in Desdemona, that makes me wonder, at this day, how the august Siddons could have personated her as she did, even to perfect illusion. I can record the fact that she did so, from satisfactory evidence.
Under that head I am far from ranking my own humble testimony ; but, leaving that to be valued at the reader's will, I beg leave to say that whether she might be greater or not, in other parts, I never wondered at her in any character so much as in Desdemona. Miss O'Neil was beautiful in the part, but nothing like Mrs. Siddons. The first time I saw the great actress represent Desdemona was at Edinburgh, when I was a very young man (I think it was in 1798). I had gone into the theatre without a play-bill ; I knew not that she was in the place. I had never seen her before since I was a child of eight years old ; and, though I ought to have recognised her from that circumstance, and from her picture, yet I was for some time not aware that I was looking at the Tragic Queen. crimes, lies one of the master-traits of skill by which Shakspeare contrives to make us blend an awful feeling, somewhat akin to pity, with our satisfaction at her death.
Still I am persuaded that Shakspeare never meant her for any thing better than a character of superb depravity, and a being, with all her decorum and force of mind, naturally cold and remorseless. When Mrs. Jameson asks us, what might not religion have made of such a character ? she puts a question that will equally apply to every other enormous criminal ; for, the worst heart that ever beat in a human breast would be at once rectified, if you could impress it with a genuine religious faith. But if Shakspeare intended us to believe Lady Macbeth's nature a soil peculiarly adapted for the growth of religion, he has chosen a way very unlike his own wisdom in portraying her, for he exhibits her as a practical infidel in a simple age: and he makes her words sum up all the essence of that unnatural irreligion, which cannot spring up to the head without having its root in a callous heart." She holds that
“ The sleeping and the dead Are but as pictures.”
Things without remedy,
There is something hideous in the very strength of her mind, that can dive down, like a wounded monster, to such depths of consolation.
She is a splendid picture of evil, nevertheless,-a sort of sister of Milton's Lucifer; and, like him, we surely imagine her externally majestic and beautiful. Mrs. Siddons's idea of her having been a delicate and blonde beauty, seems to me to be a pure caprice. The public would have ill exchanged such a representative of Lady Macbeth, for the dark locks and the eagle eyes of Mrs. Siddons.
In some other characters which Mrs. Siddons performed, the memory of the old, or the imagination of the young, might possibly conceive her to have had a substitute ; but not in Lady Macbeth. The moment she seized the part, she identified her image with it in the minds of the living generation.