« PreviousContinue »
vated above measure, afpires to fove
II. Every variation of character and paffion is accompanied with correfpond-, ing changes in the sentiments of the spectator. Macbeth, engaged in the defence of his country, and pursuing the objects of a laudable ambition, is juftly honoured and esteemed. But the diftraction which enfues from the conflict between vitious and virtuous principles render him the object of compaffion mixed with disapprobation,
The chief obftacle in the way of our felfish defires proceeds from the oppofition of our moral faculties. Invefted, by nature, with fupreme authority, to judge concerning the paffions of mankind, they exert themselves in reftraining their impetuofity, and in preferving the harmony of the internal fyftem. Accordingly, when the notion of feizing the crown is D4 fug
fuggefted to Macbeth, he appears fhocked Juftice and humanity
fhudder at the defign: He regards his own heart with amazement: And recoils with horror from the guilty thought.
This fupernatural folliciting
Cannot be ill; cannot be good. If ill,
Though virtuous principles appear in this inftance to predominate, his ambition is not repulfed. The means of gratifying it feem fhocking and impracticable: And he abandons the enterprize, without renouncing the paffion. The paffion continues vehement: It perfeveres with obftinacy: It harraffes and importunes him. He ftill defires: But, deterred by his moral feelings, he is unable to proceed directly, and indulges romantic wishes.
If chance will have me King, why, chance may
Without my ftir.
It appears from this and fome following paffages, that, in agony, and distracted with contending principles, hesitating and irrefolute, anxious for the event, but fearful of promoting it, he had abandoned the defign of murdering Duncan, and had formed fome extravagant expectation of inheriting the crown by right of fucceffion. Thus he recovers fome portion of his tranquillity.
Come what come may,
Time and the hour runs thro' the rougheft day.
He enjoys an interval of composure till an unexpected obftacle rouzes and alarms him.
King. My plenteous joys,
Wanton in fulness, feek to hide them felves
Our eldeft, Malcolm; whom we name hereafter
The furprize, and the uneafy fenfation excited by the perception of difficulty, agitate the mind of Macbeth, and their emotions coinciding with his ambition, renew and increase its violence.
The prince of Cumberland!-That is a step, On which I muft fall down, or elfe o'erleap, For in my way it lies.
But confcience and his humanity are again alarmed, again interfere, and fhew him the horror of his defigns.
Stars, hide your fires,
Let not light fee my black and deep defires.
Habituated paffions poffefs fuperior advantages over those oppofite principles which operate by a violent and fudden impulse. For, fo delicate is the conftitution of the human mind, that lively feelings, unless they form the temper by being confirmed by action, are enfeebled by repetition and frequent exercife. The horror and averfion excited by enormous wickedness, un
lefs we act in conformity to them, “* are mere paffive impreffions, which, by "being repeated, grow weaker ;" and though their refiftance against an habituated paffion be animated, it is of fhort duration. They fubfide: They are overwhelmed ; but not extinguished. Macbeth, in the following conference, appears reconciled to the idea of treafon : He can think of it calmly, and without abhorrence: And all the oppofition he has henceforth to encounter, will arife, not from his feelings, but from reflection.
Mach. My dearest love!
La. Macb. And when goes hence?
Shall fun that morrow fee.
Mach. We fhall speak further.
Inward contention of mind naturally provokes foliloquy. The reason of this appearance is obvious. In the beginning of life,
* Butler's Analogy, part I. chap. v.