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broke the enterprize to her, and so far from having sworn to perform it, he would not in the only interview which we have witnessed, finally make up his mind to the deed. Mrs. Jameson's womanly feelings prompt her to suggest, that although Lady Macbeth was the more determined sinner of the two, her ambition was for her husband more than for herself. This suggestion might be justified by an hundred examples; but I find nothing in Shakspeare's play, either to establish or negative it in the present instance. His authority, we have seen, ascribes to her an insatiable ambition for herself, and the Chronicler from whom Holinshed borrowed, tells us that she was herein like others of her sex.
are, specially where they are desirous of any purpose), gave him great hortation to pursue the third weird, that she might be a queen, calling him ofttimes feeble coward, and not desirous of honours, since he durst not seize the thing with manhood and courage which is offered to him by benevolence of fortune. Howbeit, sundry others have seized such things before with most terrible jeopardies, when they had not such likelihood to succeed in the end of their labours as he had.”*
* Boyse, p. 173, Bellenden's edit. also Bosw. 38.
I have distinguished some passages of this quotation, and of Lady Macbeth's speech, from which it might be inferred that Shakspeare consulted Boethius as well as Holinshed.
I must proceed with this striking scene.
Lady M. We fail !
Macb. Bring forth men-children only!
Lady M. Who dares receive it other ?
Macb. I am settled, and bend up, Each corporal agent to this terrible feat. Awake, and mock the time with fairest show; False face must hide what the false heart doth know."
It has been observed by former commentators,* that this attempt to impute the murder to the king's two chamberlains, is taken from Holinshed's account, not of this King Duncan, but of a King Duffe, who was murdered by order of Donwald, in whose castle he lay, at the instiga. tion of his wife.t The circumstances are almost exactly those which Shakspeare has adopted, even to the killing of the chamberlains.
“ Macb. O! yet I do repent me of my fury, That I did kill them. Macd. Wherefore did you so ? Macb. Who can be wise, amaz’d, temperate, and
furious, Loyal and neutral, in a moment? No man. The expedition of my violent love Outran the pauser, Reason. Here lay Duncan, His silver skin lac'd with his golden blood; And his gash'd stabs look'd like a breach in nature, For ruin's wasteful entrance : there, the murderers, Steep'd in the colours of their trade, their daggers Unmannerly breech'd with gore: who could refrain,
That had a heart to love, and in that heart
In the play, the murder is planned, and the secret kept, between husband and wife. alone, and the strength of the drama would have been greatly injured by the admission of other conspirators. But in order to concentrate his force upon Macbeth and his wife, Shakspeare has wisely departed from Holinshed, who says,
“At length, therefore, and communicating his purposed intent with his trusty friends, among whom Banquo' was the chiefest, upon confidence of their promised aid, he slew the king at Inverness, or, as some say, at Botgosuane, in the sixth year of his reign.” t
The more ancient Chronicles do not even concur in ascribing to Macbeth the murder of Duncan, though they all say that he succeeded him. Of Banquo, not even the existence is mentioned, nor any other accomplice by name, male or female. *
Shakspeare would lead us to believe that the
* Pinkerton, ii. 192; Fordun in Gale, iii. 687; Chron. Mailros in Gale, i. 156. This Chronicle says only that Macbeth usurped Duncan's throne after his death. The “Elegiac Chronicle” interpolated into it, states that he slew him. Gale, i. 597. + Hol., 269.
two sons of Duncan suspected Macbeth or some of the nobles.
“Malcolm. Let's not consort with them : To show an unfelt sorrow, is an office Which the false man does easy: I'll to England.
Donaldbane. To Ireland, I; our separated fortune Shall keep us both the safer : where we are There's daggers in men's smiles : the near in blood, The nearer bloody.”
This voluntary exile of the princes is from Holinshed; but the suspicion thrown upon them is Shakspeare's own. Wyntown says,
“When first Macbeth began to rise, his uncle's two legitimate sons fled out of the kingdom for fear. Malcolm, the third, who was not lawfully born, also went out with his brothers to Prince Edward, who then reigned in England; he received them thankfully, and treated them right courteously.”
This illegitimation of Malcolm I do not find elsewhere.
It has been surmised that Banquo is described as innocent of the murder, because he was the reputed ancestor of King James I., but there is no necessity for seeking any other than dramatic motives.