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The sequence is the same with Lady Macbeth, who sees no witches and hears no prophecies.
And in the soliloquy above quoted (p. 160), we have seen that he is already yielding to the idea of murdering Duncan, which had come from within himself, and not from any outward suggestion. He knows, too, not only that "in these cases we still have judgment here,” but precisely how the judgment comes about,
- namely, that he who thrusts himself forward by assassination teaches “ bloody instructions, which being taught return to plague the inventor."
The lesson which is thus clear in Macbeth's case is still clearer in that of his wife. Her soliloquy on receiving his letter shows eloquently that she has long contemplated his grasping at the crown by treachery and violence. No other reason could have led her to make such an appraisal of Macbeth's character, or to estimate his fitness as an instrument for such a purpose. To her, there is no diabolical solicitation, save from within. She sees no Witches and she hears no prophecies. The drama of crime and the punishment which is its natural consequence plays itself out entirely within her own breast. Nobody betrays her; she betrays herself. Shakespeare was perfectly clear that “our acts our angels are, for good, for ill," and that “what we have been makes us what we are."
The vivid visual and auditory imagination of Macbeth leads him always to project his purposes not in terms of abstract conception, but in terms of bodily presences and voices. He actually does see the dagger before him, though he cannot clutch it; and the next moment he sees on thy blade and dudgeon gouts of blood.” After the assassination, he really hears the voice cry, “Sleep no more! Macbeth doth murder sleep!” And if pure delusions are
Macbeth's strong tendency to sensuous imagery.
II i 33 ff.
II ii 35 ff.
thus potent with him, how strongly is his soul moved
What hands are here? ha! They pluck out mine eyes. II ii 59 ff.
Making the green, one red.
It is this tendency to concrete visualizing which This is the makes him at the outset so reluctant an instrument of cause of his
weakness. his own and his wife's purpose. The sensitiveness, which makes his fell of hair" rouse at a dismal V v 11. treatise, causes him to suffer acutely at the contemplation of the horrors which his vaulting ambition must needs occasion. On the other hand, it is the Its absence absence of this kind of anticipatory representation is the cause which makes his wife strong when he is weak; Macbeth's though afterwards the realization of unanticipated strength. horrors breaks her down, when familiarity with what he had foreseen has made Macbeth strong. Hence the tragic reversal of the opening situation, to which we have alluded. At the outset, we pity Macbeth, and look upon his wife with mingled hate and admiration; at the last, we must perforce pity her, whereas for him our admiration grows so great as almost to forget hatred.
nificence of Even apart from the unearthly scope and precision Macbeth at of Macbeth's language in his later speeches, the fig- the close.
ure of the man himself grows so horrent and gigan-
I'll fight till from my bones my flesh be hack'd.
V iii 32.
V viii 1 ff.
Why should I play the Roman fool, and die
Already he has been undeceived by the coming of the wood to Dunsinane, and put to the last test by the news of the death of his wife. His speech upon receiving this intelligence is such a revelation of the indefeasible strength of despair that, with all our familiarity with Shakespeare, we read it for the thousandth time with ever new amazement:
She should have died hereafter;
V v 17 ff.
III iv 134 ff.
I have already hinted at a resemblance between Macbeth and the Satan of Milton. The fancy is prompted chiefly by the bearing and language of Macbeth through the terrific trials of the fifth act. It comes from contemplating how with each new disaster he grows stronger and grander. Hitherto he has relied upon his wife; but, when that crutch fails him, the arm that had grasped it is freed and strengthened. Or he had trusted to the vaticinations of the “midnight hags.” Ere this as yet had played him false, he had resigned himself to the fact that he can hold his position only by the sword. He knows that one crime begets a hundred: and he has whetted the temper of his will by accepting this, with all the terrors that it prophesies:
Now I am bent to know,
Which must be acted ere they may be scann'd.
I have liv'd long enough: my way of life
V iii 22 ff.
But, just as adversity brings out the nobility of a good man, so self-evoked disaster reveals all that is great and heroic in the villain. Macbeth is never so splendid as when he rises above all outward aid, and embraces the utter ruin of his lot. Then it is that he is like Satan, when he, surrounded by the hostile cohorts,
Collecting all his might, dilated stood,
The minor The concentration of interest in the two colossal characters: characters of Macbeth and his wife recalls that ear
lier manner which Shakespeare learned from Marlowe. There is no such definite delineation of the minor personages as we find in Hamlet and Othello. Yet in the mature mastery of Shakespeare's present style he is able by a very few suggestive strokes to
give a vivid impression, even of the least of his (1) Duncan. creatures. Duncan and Banquo are exquisitely in
dividualized. For poetic effect, as we have seen, , Shakespeare has departed from the account of Duncan which he found in Holinshed, and made of him a virtuous and amiable monarch. He has also, to heighten the crime, changed Duncan's age. The original victim was murdered early in life; Shakespeare's character is advanced in years.
“Who Vi35. would have thought the old man to have had so much
blood in him?” says the dreaming Lady Macbeth, who at the time of the assassination had remarked that he resembled her father as he slept. The poet has also taken care to emphasize as strongly as possible the extreme kindliness with which Duncan had treated the Macbeths. The last we hear of him be