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On a careful revision of the foregoing scenes, I do not hesitate to pronounce them the composition of two very unequal writers. Shakspeare had undoubtedly a share in them, but that the entire play was no work of his, is an opinion which (as Benedict says) “ fire cannot melt out of me; I will die in it at the stake." Thus, as we are informed by Aulus Gellius, Lib. III. Cap. 3, some plays were absolutely ascribed to Plautus, which in truth had only been (retractatæ et expolitæ) retouched and polished by him.

In this comedy we find more intricacy of plot than distinction of character; and our attention is less forcibly engaged, because we can guess in great measure how the denouement will be brought about. Yet the subject appears to have been reluctantly dismissed, even in this last and unnecessary scene, where the same mistakes are continued, till the power of affording entertainment is entirely lost.


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I have no words,
My voice is in my sword; thou bloodier villain
Than terms can give thee out!

Act v. Sc. 7.




PRELIMINARY REMARKS. Dr. Johnson thought it necessary to prefix to this play an apology for Shakspeare's magic ;-in which he says, “A poet, who should now make the whole action of his tragedy depend upon enchantment, and produce the chief events by the assistance of supernatural agents, would be censured as transgressing the bounds of probability, be banished from the theatre to the nursery, and condemned to write fairy tales instead of tragedies.' He then proceeds to defend this transgression upon the ground of the credulity of the poet's age; when the scenes of enchantment, however they may be now ridiculed, were both by himself and his audience thought awful and affecting. By whom, or when (always excepting French criticism), these sublime conceptions were in danger of ridicule, he has not told us; and I sadly fear that this superfluous apology arose from the misgivings of the great critic's mind. Schlegel has justly remarked that,

Whether the age of Shakspeare still believed in witchcraft and ghosts, is a matter of perfect indifference for the justification of the use which, in Hamlet and Macbeth, he has made of preexisting traditions. No superstition can ever be prevalent and widely diffused through ages and nations without having a foundation in human nature: on this foundation the poet builds; he calls up from their hidden abysses that dread of the unknown, that presage of a dark side of nature, and a world of spirits which philosophy now imagines it has altogether exploded. In this manner he is in some degree both the portrayer and the philosopher of a superstition; that is, not the philosopher who denies and turns into ridicule, but, which is still more difficult, who distinctly exhibits its origin to us in apparently irrational and yet natural opinions.'— In another place the same admirable critic says'Since The Furies of Æschylus, nothing so grand and terrible has VOL. IV.


ever been composed: The Witches, it is true, are not divine Eumenides, and are not intended to be so: they are ignoble and vulgar instruments of hell. They discourse with one another like women of the very lowest class; for this was the class to which witches were supposed to belong. When, however, they address Macbeth their tone assumes more elevation: their predictions have all the obscure brevity, the majestic solemnity, by which oracles have in all times contrived to inspire mortals with reverential awe. We here see that the witches are merely instruments; they are governed by an invisible spirit, or the operation of such great and dreadful events would be above their sphere. Their agency was necessary; for natural motives alone would have seemed inadequate to effect such a change as takes place in the nature and dispositions of Macbeth. By this means the poet has exhibited a more sublime picture to us: an ambitious but noble hero, who yields to a deep laid hellish temptation; and all the crimes to which he is impelled by necessity, to secure the fruits of his first crime, cannot altogether eradicate in him the stamp of native heroism. He has therefore given a threefold division to the guilt of that crime. The first idea comes from that being whose whole activity is guided by a lust of wickedness. The weird sisters surprise Macbeth in the moment of intoxication after his victory, when his love of glory bas been gratified; they cheat his eyes by exhibiting to him as the work of fate what can only in reality be accomplished by his own deed, and gain credence for their words by the immediate fulfilment of the first prediction. The opportunity for murdering the king immediately offers itself; Lady Macbeth conjures him not to let it slip; she urges him on with a fiery eloquence, which has all those sophisms at command that serve to throw a false grandeur over crime. Little more than the mere execution falls to the share of Macbeth; he is driven to it as it were in a state of commotion, in which his mind is bewildered. Repentance immediately follows; nay, even precedes the deed ; and the stings of his conscience leave him no rest either night or day. But he is now fairly entangled in the snares of hell; it is truly frightful to behold that Macbeth, who once as a warrior could spurn at death, now that he dreads the prospect of the life to come, clinging with growing anxiety to his earthly existence, the more miserable it becomes, and pitilessly removing out of his way whatever to his dark and suspicious mind seems to threaten

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