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No. XIV.

ON THE CHARACTERS OF MACBETH AND RICHARD

CONTINUED.

RICHARD perpetrates several murders; but as the poet has not marked them with any distinguishing circumstances, they need not be enumerated on this occasion. Some of these he commits in his passage to power, others after he has seated himself on the throne. Ferociousness and hypocrisy are the prevailing features of his character; and as he has no one honourable or humane principle to combat, there is no opening for the poet to develope those secret workings of conscience, which he has so naturally done in the case of Macbeth.

The murder of Clarence, those of the queen's kinsmen and of the young princes in the Tower, are all perpetrated in the same style of hardened cruelty. He takes the ordinary method of hiring ruffians to perform his bloody commissions, and there is nothing which particularly marks the scenes wherein he imparts his purposes and instructions to them : a very little management serves even for Tirrel, who is not a professional murderer, but is reported to be

a discontented gentleman,
Whose humble means match not his haughty spirit.

With such a spirit Richard does not hold it necessary to use much circumlocution, and seems more in dread of delay than disappointment or discovery:

R. Is thy name Tirrel ?
T. James Tirrel, and your most obedient subjeci.
R. Art thou indeed ?
T. Prove me, my gracious lord.
R. Dar'st thou resolve to kill a friend of mine?
T. Please

you,

I had rather kill two enemies.
R. Why then thou hast it; two deep enemies,

Foes to my rest, and my sweet sleep's disturbers,
Are they that I would have thee deal upon :
Tirrel, I mean those bastards in the Tower.

If the reader calls to mind by what circumspect and slow degrees King John opens himself to Hubert under a similar situation with this of Richard, he will be convinced that Shakspeare considered preservation of character too important to sacrifice on any occasion to the vanity of fine writing; for the scene he has given to John, a timorous and wary prince, would ill suit the character of Richard. A close observance of nature is the first excellence of a dramatic poet, and the peculiar property of him we are reviewing.

In these two stages of our comparison, Macbeth appears with far more dramatic effect than Richard, whose first scenes present us with little else than

traits of perfidiousness, one striking incident of successful hypocrisy practised on the Lady Anne, and an open unreserved display of remorseless cruelty. Impatient of any pause or interruption in his measures, a dangerous friend and a determined foe:

Effera torquebant avidæ præcordia curæ
Effugeret ne quis gladios
Crescebat scelerata sitis; prædæque recentis
Incæstus flagrabat amor nullusque petendi
Cogendive pudor: crebris perjuria nectit
Blanditiis ; sociat perituro fædere dextras:
Si semel e tantis poscenti quisque negasset,
Effera prætumido quatiebat corda furore.

CLAUDIAN.

The sole remorse his greedy heart can feel
Is if one life escapes his murdering steel :
That which should quench, inflames his craving thirst,
The second draught still deepens on the first;
Shameless by force or fraud to work his way,
And no less prompt to flatter than betray:
This hour makes friendships which he breaks the next,
And every breach supplies a vile pretext
Basely to cancel all concessions past,
If in a thousand you deny the last.

Macbeth has now touched the goal of his ambition :

Thou hast it now; King, Cawdor, Glamis, all
The wayward sisters promis'd-

The auguries of the witches, to which no reference had been made in the heat of the main action, are now called to mind with many cireumstances of galling aggravation, not only as to the prophecy, which gave the crown to the posterity of Banquo, but also of his own safety from the gallant and noble nature of that general

Our fears in Banquo
Stick deep, and in his royalty of nature
Reigns that, which would be fear'd.

Assassins are provided to murder Banquo and his son, but this is not decided upon without much previous meditation; and he seems prompted to the act more by desperation and dread than by any settled resolution or natural cruelty. He convenes the assassins, and in a conference of some length works round to his point, by insinuations calculated to persuade them to dispatch Banquo for injuries done to them, rather than from motives which respect himself; in which scene we discover a remarkable preservation of character in Macbeth, who by this artifice strives to blind his own conscience, and throw the guilt upon

theirs. In this, as in the former action, there is nothing kingly in his cruelty: in one he acted under the controlling spirit of his wife; here he plays the sycophant with hired assassins, and confesses himself under awe of the superior genius of Banquo

Under him
My genius is rebuk'd, as it is said

Antony's was by Cæsar.
There 'is not a circumstance ever so minute in

the conduct of this character, which does not point out to a diligent observer how closely the poet has adhered to nature in every part of his delineation. Accordingly we observe a peculiarity in the language of Macbeth, which is highly characteristic; I mean the figurative turn of his expressions, whenever his imagination strikes upon any gloomy subject-

Oh! full of scorpions is my mind, dear wife!

And in this state of self-torment, every object of solemnity, though ever so familiar, becomes an object of terror: night, for instance, is not mentioned by him without an accompaniment of every melancholy attribute which a frighted fancy can annex:

-Ere the bat hath flown
His cloister'd fight, ere to black Hecate's summons
The shard-born beetle with his drowsy hums
Hath rung Night's yawning peal, there shall be done

A deed of dreadful note. It is the darkness of his soul that makes the night so dreadful, the scorpions in his mind convoke these images; but he has not yet done with it

-Come, sealing Night!
Skarf up the tender eye of pitiful day;
And with thy bloody and invisible hand
Cancel and tear to pieces that great bond,
Which keeps me pale. Light thickens, and the crow
Makes wing to the rooky wood.
Good things of day begin to droop and drowse,
Whilst Nigut's black agents to their prey do rouse.

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