Page images
PDF
EPUB

vated above measure, aspires to fovereignty.

II. Every variation of character and passion is accompanied with correspond. 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 justly honoured and esteemed. But the diftraction which ensues from the conflict between vitious and virtuous principles render him the object of compassion mixed with disapprobation, The chief obstacle in the

way felfish defires proceeds from the opposition of our moral faculties. Invested, by nature, with supreme authority, to judge concerning the passions of mankind, they exert themselves in restraining their impetuofity, and in preserving the harmony of the internal system. Accordingly, when the notion of seizing the crown is

fug

of our

DA

suggested to Macbeth, he appears shocked and astonished. Justice and humanity shudder at the design: 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, Why hath it given me earnest of success, Commencing in a truth? I am Thane of Cawdor. If good, why do I yield to that suggestion, Whose horrid image doth unfix my hair, And make my seated heart knock at my ribs, Against the use of nature ?

Though virtuous principles appear in this instance to predominate, his ambition is not repulsed. The means of gratifying it seem shocking and impracticable : And he abandons the enterprize, without renouncing the passion. The paflion continues vehement: It perseveres with obstinacy : It harrasses and importunes him. He still desires : But, deterred by his moral feelings, he is unable to proceed directly, and indulges romantic wishes.

If

If chance will have me King, why, chance may

crown me, Without my ftir.

It appears from this and some following passages, that, in agony, and distracted with contending principles, hesitating and irresolute, anxious for the event, but fearful of promoting it, he had abandoned the design of murdering Duncan, and had formed fome extravagant expectation of inheriting the crown by right of succesfion. Thus he recovers fome portion of his tranquillity.

Come what come may,
Time and the hour runs thro' the roughest day.

He enjoys an interval of composure till an unexpected obstacle rouzes and alarms him.

Kirg. My plenteous joys,
Wanton in fulness, seek to hide themselves
In drops of forrow.-Sons, kinsmen, Thanes,
And you whose places are the neareft, know,
We will establish our estate upon
Our eldest, Malcolm ; whom we name hereafter
The prince of Cumberland,

The The surprize, and the uneasy sensation 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 must fall down, or else o'erleap, For in my way it lies.

But conscience and his humanity are again alarmed, again interfere, and few hinx the horror of his designs.

Stars, hide your fires,
Let not light see my black and deep desires.

Habituated passions possess superior advantages over those opposite principles which operate by a violent and sudden impulse. For, so delicate is the constitution of the human mind, that lively feelings, unless they form the temper by being confirmed by action, are enfeebied by repetition and frequent exercise. The horror and averfion excited by enormous wickedness, un

less life, * Butler's Analogy, part I. chap. v.

[ocr errors]

less we act in conformity to them, “* are

mere paffive impressions, which, by “ being repeated, grow weaker ;” and though their resistance against an habituated paffion be animated, it is of short duration. They subside: They are overwhelmed ; but not extinguished, Macbeth, in the following conference, appears reconciled to the idea of treason: He can think of it calmly, and without abhorrence: And all the opposition he has henceforth to encounter, will arise, not from his feelings, but from reflection.

Macb. My dearest love!
Duncan comes here to night.

La. Macb. And when goes hence ?
Macb. To-morrow, as he purposes.

La. Macb. O, never
Shall sun that morrow see,

Macb. We shall speak further. Inward contention of mind naturally provokes soliloquy. The reason of this appearance is obvious. In the beginning of

« PreviousContinue »