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by the horrible design, which has probably been suggested to her by his letters, as to have entirely forgotten both the one and the other. It is very remarkable that Macbeth is frequent in expressions of tenderness to his wife, while she never betrays one symptom of affection towards him, till, in the fiery furnace of affliction, her iron heart is melted down to softness. For the present, she flies to welcome the venerable gracious Duncan, with such a show of eagerness as if allegiance in her bosom sat crowned with devotion and gratitude.
The Second Act. 66 There can be no doubt that Macbeth, in the first instance, suggested his design of assassinating the king, and it is probable that he has invited his gracious sovereign to his castle, in order the more speedily and expeditiously to realize those thoughts, whose murder, though but yet fantastical, so shook his single state of man. Yet, on the arrival of the amiable monarch who had so honoured him of late, his naturally benevolent and good feelings resume their wonted power. He then solemly communes with his heart, and after much powerful reasoning upon the danger of the undertaking, calling to mind that Duncan his king, of the mildest virtues, and his kinsman, lay as his guest. All those accumulated determents, with the violated rights of sacred hospitality bringing up the rear, rising all at once in terrible array to his awakened conscience, he relinquishes the atrocious purpose, and wisely determines to proceed no farther in the business. But, now, behold his evil genius, his grave-charm, appears, and by the force of her revilings, her contemptuous taunts, and, above all, by her opprobrious aspersion of cowardice, chases the gathering drops of humanity from his eyes, and drives before her impetuous and destructive career all those kindly charities, those impressions of loyalty, and pity, and gratitude, which, but the moment before, had taken full possession of his mind. She says,
• I have given suck, and know
have done to this.'
“ Even here, horrific as she is, she shows herself made by ambition, but not by nature, a perfectly savage creature. The very use of such a tender allusion in the midst of her dreadful
language, persuades one unequivocally that she has really felt the maternal yearnings of a mother towards her babe, and that she considered this action the most enormous that ever required the strength of human nerves for its perpetration. Her language to Macbeth is the most potently eloquent that guilt could use. It is only in soliloquy that she invokes the powers of hell to unsex her. To her husband she avows, and the naturalness of her language makes us believe her, that she had felt the instinct of filial as well as maternal love. But she makes her very virtues the means of a taunt to her lord;
- You have the milk of human kindness in your heart,' she says (in substance) to him, but ambition, which is my ruling passion, would be also yours if you had courage. hankering desire to suppress, if you could, all your weaknesses of sympathy, you are too cowardly to will the deed, and can only dare to wish it. You speak of sympathies and feelings. I too have felt with a tenderness which your sex cannot know; but I am resolute in my ambition to trample on all that obstructs my way to a crown. Look to me, and be ashamed of your weakness.' Abashed, perhaps, to find his own courage humbled before this unimaginable instance of female fortitude, he at last screws up his courage to the sticking-place, and binds up each corporal agent to this terrible feat. It is the dead of night. The gracious Duncan, now shut up in measureless content, reposes sweetly, while the restless spirit of wickedness resolves that he shall wake no more.
The daring fiend, whose pernicious potions have stupefied his attendants, and who even laid their daggers ready,--her own spirit, as it seems, exalted by the power of wine,-proceeds, • That which hath made them drunk hath made me bold,' now enters the gallery, in eager expectation of the results of her diabolical diligence. In the tremendous suspense of these moments, while she recollects her habitual humanity, one trait of tender feeling is expressed, ‘Had he not resembled my father as he slept, I had done it.' Her humanity vanishes, however, in the same instant; for when she observes that Macbeth, in the terror and confusion of his faculties, has brought the daggers from the place where they had agreed they should remain for the crimi. nation of the grooms, she exhorts him to return with them to that place, and to smear those attendants of the sovereign with blood. He, shuddering, exclaims, “I'll go no more! I am afear'd to think of what I have done. Look on't again I dare not.'
“ Then instantaneously the solitary particle of her human feeling is swallowed up in her remorseless ambition, and
wrenching the daggers from the feeble grasp of her husband, she finishes the act which the infirm of purpose had not courage to complete, and calmly and steadily returns to her accomplice with the fiend-like boast,
• My hands are of your colour;
"A knocking at the gate interrupts this terrific dialogue ; and all that now occupies her mind is urging him to wash his hands and put on his nightgown, “lest occasion call,' says she, ' and show us to be the watchers.' In a deplorable depravation of all rational knowledge, and lost to every recollection except that of his enormous guilt, she hurries him away to their own chamber.
6 The Third Act. “ The golden round of royalty now crowns her brow, and royal robes enfold her form; but the peace that passeth all understanding is lost to her for ever, and the worm that never dies already gnaws her heart.
“ Under the impression of her present wretchedness, I, from this moment, have always assumed the dejection of countenance and manners which I thought accordant to such a state of mind; and, though the author of this sublime composition has not, it must be acknowledged, given any direction whatever to authorize this assumption, yet I venture to hope that he would not have disapproved of it. It is evident, indeed, by her conduct in the scene which succeeds the mournful soliloquy, that she is no longer the presumptuous, the determined creature that she was before the assassination of the king : for instance, on the approach of her husband, we behold for the first time striking indications of sensibility, nay, tenderness and sympathy; and I think this conduct is nobly followed up by her during the whole of their subsequent eventful intercourse. It is evident, I think, that the sad and new experience of affliction has subdued the insolence of her pride and the violence of her will ; for she comes now to seek him out, that she may at least participate his misery. She knows, by her own woful experience, the torment which he undergoes, and endeavours to alleviate his sufferings by the following inefficient reasonings :
• How now, my lord—why do you keep alone?
“ Far from her former habits of reproach and contemptuous taunting, you perceive that she now listens to his complaints with sympathizing feelings; and, so far from adding to the weight of his affliction the burthen of her own, she endeavours to conceal it from him with the most delicate and unremitting attention. But it is in vain ; as we may observe in this beautiful and mournful dialogue with the physician on the subject of his cureless malady : • Canst thou not minister to a mind diseased ? &c. You now hear no more of her chidings and reproaches. No; all her thoughts are now directed to divert his from those sorriest fancies, by turning them to the approaching banquet, in exhorting him to conciliate the good will and good thoughts of his guests, by receiving them with a disengaged air, and cordial, bright, and jovial demeanour.
Yes ; smothering her sufferings in the deepest recesses of her own wretched bosom, we cannot but perceive that she devotes herself entirely to the effort of supporting him.
" Let it be here recollected, as some palliation of her former very different deportment, that she had probably from childhood commanded all around her with a high hand; had uninterruptedly, perhaps, in that splendid station, enjoyed all that wealth, all that nature had to bestow; that she had, possibly, no directors, no controllers, and that in womanhood her fascinated lord had never once opposed her inclinations. But now her new-born relentings, under the rod of chastisement, prompt her to make palpable efforts in order to support the spirits of her weaker, and, I must say, more selfish husband. Yes; in gratitude for his unbounded affection, and in commiseration of his sufferings, she suppresses the anguish of her heart, even while that anguish is precipitating her into the grave which at this moment is yawning to receive her.
“ The Banquet. “ Surrounded by their court, in all the apparent ease and self-complacency of which their wretched souls are destitute, they are now seated at the royal banquet ; and although,
through the greater part of this scene, Lady Macbeth affects to resume her wonted domination over her husband, yet, note withstanding all this self-control, her mind must even then be agonized by the complicated pangs of terror and remorse. For, what imagination can conceive her tremors, lest at every succeeding moment Macbeth, in his distraction, may confirm those suspicions, but ill concealed, under the loyal looks and cordial manners of their facile courtiers, when, with smothered terror, yet domineering indignation, she exclaims, upon his agitation at the ghost of Banquo, ' Are you a man? Macbeth answers,
Ay, a bold one-that dare look on that
“ Dying with fear, yet assuming the utmost composure, she returns to her stately canopy; and, with trembling nerves, having tottered up the steps to her throne, that bad eminence, she entertains her wondering guests with frightful smiles, with over-acted attention, and with fitful graciousness; painfully, yet incessantly, labouring to divert their attention from her husband. While writhing thus under her internal agonies, her restless and terrifying glances towards Macbeth, in spite of all her efforts to suppress them, have thrown the whole table into amazement; and the murderer then suddenly breaks up the assembly by the following confession of his horrors :
• Can such things be,
Rosse, •What sight, my lord ?'