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to maturity; and the same figure is made use of by the Prophet Isaiah, with a reference to the gradual progress of sin and the necessity of crushing it at an early stage.
Fashion it thus; that what he is, augmented
Julius Cæsar, ii. l.
Henry VI., Part III., iv. 8.
As King Lear would fain have done in the case of his " thankless child", Regan, so must the moralist do. He must “anatomize” skilfully, and 6 see what breeds about the heart :” and then, and not till then, will he be able (in the words of Shakspere) to do something more than
Skin and film the ulcerous place:
Hamlet, iii. 4.
The thought in the heart, from which, as the Bible and Shakspere tell us, “all offences come,” 4 gives birth to the act; and his mind alone is pure and unspotted, in which no evil thought, like a traitor in the camp, is lodged and entertained. And so we find Rosalind protesting to her uncle the Duke Frederick, her perfect innocence, in the following words:
If with myself I hold intelligence,
And so speaks Hubert when suspected of the murder of Arthur.
If I in act, consent, or sin of thought
King John, iv. 3. But it is in “ Macbeth” that our Poet displays his wonderful and intimate acquaintance with the dark, subtle, and gradual workings of the human heart. It is there that he depicts with so masterly a hand, the several stages in Macbeth's downward progress ; from the moment when he first conceives the murderous thought of " taking off” Duncan, to the actual perpetration of the bloody deed. When the wicked thought first springs up in his mind, the projected crime appears before him in all its gross and naked deformity; aggravated moreover by the fact that he was the victim's “kinsman and his subject, strong both against the deed; then, as his host, “ who should against his murderer shut the door, not bear the knife himself.” 1 He had then “no spur to prick the sides of his intent, but only vaulting ambition, which o’erleaps itself, and falls on the other.” His wicked thought had as yet assumed no definite shape ; “ the murder yet was but fantastical." (i. 1.) A fierce internal struggle between the powers of good and of evil was being carried on in the hidden recesses of his heart.
Between the acting of a dreadful thing
* i. 7.
? Cf. Romans, vii. 23; Galatians, v. 17.
A short time before Macbeth had said :
Why do I yield to that suggestion
Against the use of nature? i. .
The time has been, my senses would have cool'd
But here I will pause; a few detached and isolated extracts from this marvellous production of Shakspere's genius can no more convey a just and adequate conception of its awful teaching, than a few bricks could be produced as a fair sample and specimen of a gorgeous building. I would rather recommend the reader carefully (I will not say to peruse, but) to study the Tragedy of Macbeth, and in connection with it, the History of the Prophet Balaam contained in the Book of Numbers. The points of resemblance between the moral character of Macbeth and that of Balaam, are very marked and striking. The history of both of them will teach us the same lesson; and the importance of that lesson it is impossible to over-estimate or exaggerate.
I shall now proceed to compare the sentiments of Shakspere with the teaching of Holy Scripture on a subject of very great importance—on Marriage. And first we will consider the light in which that solemn contract is represented in the Bible. The Apostle S. Paul,2 in speaking
1 Job, iv. 15, 16.
2 Ephesians, v. 32,
on the subject of Marriage, connects it with the love of Christ for His Church; and of this love he tells us that marriage is a fitting type and emblem. Hence he takes occasion to enforce (and what higher ground could he take for the precept?) the duty of the husband to love, nourish and cherish his wife; and the corresponding obligation of the wife, to reverence and to obey her husband. He tells us that the husband is the head of the wife ;? and S. Peter directs the husband to give honour to the wife as unto the weaker vessel :2 a man is to leave his father, and his mother, and to concentrate his affections on the new and endearing relationship into which he has entered.
Such is the scriptural account of the duties of the married state ; such is the tenor of
The contract of eternal bond of love,
Twelfth Night, v. 1. In these sad and degenerate days, it is much to be feared that Marriage is too often regarded, not in the light of a solemn and religious ordinance of God, but of a merely civil contract which may be ratified and confirmed as fitly in the office of the Registrar, as in the sanctuary of God: 3 it seems to be too often considered a mere stratagem of worldly policy; a frigid and formal joining of the hands, where there is no warm union of the hearts ; in short, little if anything more than a commercial speculation.
The hearts of old gave hands,
1 Ephesians, v. 23.
2 1 Peter, iii. 7. 3 Get you to church, and have a good priest that can tell you what marriage is : this fellow will but join you together as they join wainscot. -As You Like It, iii. 3.
Unions such as these can be productive only of jars and contentions. Surely (to speak in the words of Shakspere)—
Marriage is a matter of more worth
King Henry VI., Part I., v. 5.
Whose love was of that dignity,
I made to her in marriage.-Hamlet, i. 5. That marriages may be happy and prosperous, there should be (as Shakspere has it) “no misgraffing in respect of years,” neither should they stand “upon the choice of friends ;" but there should be “a sympathy in choice,” if 66 the course of true love” is expected to "run smooth.”— Midsummer Night's Dream, i. 1.
Let us hear our Poet's comment (as it were) upon a passage which we have already quoted from Holy Scripture:
. My noble father,
Due to the Moor, my lord.-Othello, i. 3.
Such duty as the subject owes the prince,
Taming of the Shrew, v. 2.