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In the third act we have Macbeth as king, as, according to all Chronicles, he was. But what relates to Banquo, and his murder, is from Holinshed and Boyse, and his imaginative precursors; from these, however, Shakspeare has deviated slightly, in placing the murder of Banquo before the supper ; and thus has introduced the famous banquet, in which the ghost of Banquo appears, and occasions one of the most interesting scenes in the play. It is to be observed that this new crime was planned by Macbeth himself.
“ Macb. O, full of scorpions is my life, dear wife ! Thou know'st that Banquo, and his Fleance, lives.
Lady M. But in them Nature's copy's not eternal.
Macb. There's comfort yet, they are assailable ; Then, be thou jocund. Ere the bat hath flown His cloister'd flight; ere, to black Hecate's summons, The shard-borne beetle with his drowsy hums, Hath rung night's yawning peal, there shall be done A deed of dreadful note.”
The escape of Fleance is in the Chronicle, where the pedigree of the Stuarts, Kings of Scotland, is traced from Walter, the son of Fleance, who becomes Steward of Scotland. I remember hearing that the late Lord Erskine,
sitting one night to see the splendid acting of Kemble and Mrs. Siddons, observed upon the murder scene, that if Fleance had not escaped, he should not be there; alluding to the descent of the Erskines from Robert II.* But the learned in Scottish antiquities say, that this descent of the royal house of Stuart from Banquo is fabulous. All that is known is, that the Stuarts were a considerable family in the time of David I., whose reign began in 1124.
The next incident of which we hear has higher authority.
“Macb. How say'st thou, that Macduff denies his
person At our great bidding ?
Lady M. Did you send to him, sir ?
Macb. I hear it by the way; but I will send :
“ Lenox. From broad words, and 'cause he failed His presence at the tyrant's feast, I hear, Macduff lives in disgrace.”
+ Sc. 6.
* Betham, T'ab. 622.
" Lenox. Sent he to Macduff?
Lud. He did, and with an absolute Sir, not I, The cloudy messenger turns me his back, And hems, as who should say, You'll rue the time That clogs me with this answer.”
The story in Holinshed * is, that Macbeth built a castle at the top of Dunsinane hill, “to the end that he might the more cruelly oppress his subjects with all tyrant-like wrongs.” The work was very expensive, because all the materials were to be carried up the hill, and Macbeth required all his thanes to assist in their turns, by sending their teams, I suppose. Macduff refused, and fled into England, when Macbeth having obtained admittance into his castle, caused his wife and children to be slain.
The story in Wyntown has some interesting particulars.
“Macbeth now, as King of Scotland, made a great stir, and set about building a fortified house on the heights of Dunsinane. He had many oxen collected to draw timber and stone from Fife and Angus. One day, he saw a yoke of oxen fail in their draught; he asked, who owned that yoke, and they answered, Macduff, the Thane of Fife, owned these oxen. Then Macbeth answered spitefully, and said angrily to the thane, that he would put his own neck into the yoke, all writhing in his skin, and make him draw the draught; not doubting his fear of the king. When the thane heard Macbeth say that he would put his neck into the yoke, he said nothing of his thoughts, but privately got out of the crowd, and the steward gave him a loaf for his supper. And as soon as he found time and an opportunity, ran out of the court, and carried that loaf with him to the waters of Erne. That bread he gave to the boatmen to carry him over and land him on the south side without delay. That passage was long afterwards called Portnebaryan, that is, the Haven of bread. He was carried over the water without danger or hindrance.
* P. 275.
“At Dunsinane, that night, so soon as the supper was spread, and his marshal called Macbeth to the hall, the Thane of Fife was missed, and no man knew where he was. But a knight who was sitting near Macbeth at supper, said that he would undertake soon to ascertain where the Thane of Fife then was, for he was a clever man at contrivance, and very cunning in his doings. He said to Macbeth, that he would spare no cost to find out where Macduff was. This highly moved Macbeth to proceed against Macduff.
“ Nevertheless, Macduff, who was landed on the south of the waters of Erne, went on to Kennachy in Fife, where his wife dwelt in a house made for defence, and bade her to maintain that house with
all diligence, and if the king should come thither and command any felony to be committed, she was to hold Macbeth in fair entreaty, while she should see a boat sailing from the north to the south, and when she saw that boat to tell Macbeth that the Thane of Fife was there, and was travelling to Dunsinane to meet Macbeth; for the Thane of Fife thought, that when he came again to Kennachy he should bring with him a lawful king.
“Macbeth soon came to Kennachy, and would have done great injury, but his lady with fair entreaty prevented his purpose from being executed : and soon, when she saw the sail up, she said to Macbeth with little fear, Macbeth, look up and see
-the Thane of Fife is under that sail. Know well, and do not doubt, but that if ever you shall see him again, he will be put into great pain, since you would have set his neck in the yoke. Now, will I speak to you no more, go on your way, either well or ill, as may happen.”
That passage has been since commonly called 66 the Earl's Ferry.” Andrew tells us that there ought by law to be always a boat on either side, and that the fare should be no more than fourpence.
Macbeth is here, and from his accession to the throne, painted by the poet as a tyrant as well as usurper. Holinshed represents him as commencing his administration well, and mak