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INTRODUCTORY REMARKS.

· The Tragedie of Macbeth' was first published in the folio collection of 1623. Its place in that edition is between Julius Cæsar' and ' Hamlet.' And yet, in the modern reprints of the text of Shakspere, ' Macbeth' is placed the first amongst the Histories. This is to convey a wrong notion of the character of this great drama. Shakspere's Chronicle-histories are essentially conducted upon a different principle. The interest of

Macbeth' is not an historical interest. It matters not whether the action is true, or has been related as true : it belongs to the realms of poetry altogether. We might as well call • Lear' or ' Hamlet' historical plays, because the outlines of the story of each are to be found in old records of the past. Our text is, with very few exceptions, a restoration of the text of the original folio.

In Coleridge's early sonnet to the Author of the Robbers,' his imagination is enchained to the most terrible scene of that play; disregarding, as it the accessaries by which its horrors are mitigated and rendered endurable :

“ Schiller) that hour I would have wish'd to die,

If through the shuddering miduight I had sent
From the dark dungeon of the tower time-rent
That fearful voice, a famish'd father's cry-
Lest in some after-moment aught more mean
Might stamp me mortal! A triumphant shout
Black Horror scream'd, and all her goblin rout
Diminish'd shrunk from the more withering scene!”

B 2

were, all

VOL. IX.

It was in a somewhat similar manner that Shakspere's representation of the murder of Duncan affected the imagination of Mrs. Siddons :—“ It was my custom to study my characters at night, when all the domestic cares and business of the day were over. On the night preceding that on which I was to appear in this part for the first time, I shut myself up, as usual, when all the family were retired, and commenced my study of Lady Macbeth. As the character is very short, I thought I should soon accomplish it. Being then only twenty years of age, I believed, as many others do believe, that little more was necessary than to get the words into my head ; for the necessity of discrimination, and the development of character, at that time of my life, bad scarcely entered into my imagination. But, to proceed. I went on with tolerable composure, in the silence of the night, (a night I can never forget,) till I came to the assassination scene, when the horrors of the scene rose to a degree that made it impossible for me to get farther. I snatched up my candle, and hurried out of the room in a paroxysm of terror. My dress was of silk, and the rustling of it, as I ascended the stairs to go to bed, seemed to my panic-struck fancy like the movement of a spectre pursuing me. At last I reached my chamber, where I found my husband fast asleep. I clapped my candlestick down upon the table, without the power of putting it out; and I threw myself on my bed, without daring to stay even to take off my clothes."* If the drama of 'Macbeth' were to produce the same

* Memoranda by Mrs. Siddons, inserted in her ‘Life' by Mr. Campbell.

effect upon the mind of an imaginative reader as that described by Mrs. Siddons, it would not be the great work of art which it really is. If our poet had resolved, using the words of his own ‘Othello,' to

“ abandon all remorse, On horror's head horrors accumulate," the midnight terrors, such as Mrs. Siddons has described, would have indeed been a tribute to power, but not to the power which has produced • Macbeth.' The paroxysm of fear, the panic-struck fancy, the prostrated senses, so beautifully described by this impassioned actress, were the result of the intensity with which she had fixed her mind upon that part of the play which she was herself to act. In the endeavour to get the words into her head her own fine genius was naturally kindled to behold a complete vision of the wonderful scene. Again, and again, were the words repeated, on that night which she could never forget —in the silence of that night when all about her were sleeping. And then she heard the owl shriek, amidst the hurried steps in the fatal chamber,—and she saw the bloody hands of the assassin,—and, personifying the murderess, she rushed to dip her own hands in the gore of Duncan. It is perfectly evident that this intensity of conception has carried the horrors far beyond the limits of pleasurable emotion, and has produced all the terrors of a real murder. No reader of the play, and no spectator, can regard this play as Mrs. Siddons regarded it. On that night she, probably for the first time, had a strong though imperfect vision of the character of Lady Macbeth, such as she afterwards delineated it; and in that case,

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