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Kent. Break, heart; I prythee, break! of Shakspere from the stage, was, as far as Edg.
Look up, my lord. regards the knowledge of the highest efforts Kent. Vex not his ghost: Oh, let him pass! of intellect, a presumptuous, artificial, and he hates him
therefore empty age. Tate was tolerated That would upon the rack of this tough because Shakspere was not read. We have world
arrived, in some degree, to a better judgment, Stretch him out longer.
because we have learnt to judge more
humbly. We have learnt to compare the [Exeunt with a dead march.”
highest works of the highest masters of And why do we ask any one of our readers poetry, not by the pedantic principle of to compare what cannot be compared ?—why considering a modern great only to the do we put one of the most divine conceptions extent in which he is an imitator of an of poetry side by side with the meanest ancient, but by endeavouring to comprehend interpretation of the most unimaginative the idea in which the modern and the ancient feelings-equally remote from the verisi- each worked. The Cordelia of Shakspere and militude of common life, as from the truth the Antigone of Sophocles have many points of ideal beauty? It is, as we have said of similarity ; but they each belong to a before, because we feel unable to impart to different system of art. It is for the highest others our own conceptions of the marvellous minds only to carry their several systems to power of the 'Lear' of Shakspere, without an approach to the perfection to which employing some agency that may give dis- Shakspere and Sophocles have carried them. tinctness to ideas which must be otherwise It was for the feeblest of imitators, in a vague. There is only one mode in which feeble age, to produce such parodies as we such a production as the 'Lear' of Shakspere have exhibited, under the pretence of subcan be understood—by study, and by reve- stituting order for irregularity, but in utter rential reflection.
ich produced ignorance of the principle of order which the miserable parody of 'Lear' that till was too skilfully framed to be visible to the within a few years has banished the 'Lear' grossness of their taste.
The Tragedie of Macbeth' was first pub- | is true, or has been related as true: it belished in the folio collection of 1623. Its longs to the realms of poetry altogether. place in that edition is between Julius We might as well call 'Lear' or ' Hamlet' Cæsar' and 'Hamlet.' In the entry on the historical plays, because the outlines of the Stationers' register, immediately previous to story of each are to be found in old records the publication of the edition of 1623, it is of the past. also classed amongst the Tragedies. And yet,
Malone and Chalmers agree in assigning in modern reprints of the text of Shakspere, this tragedy to the year 1606. Their proofs, • Macbeth' is placed the first amongst the as we apprehend, are entirely frivolous and Histories. This is to convey a wrong no- unsatisfactory. The Porter says, “Here's a tion of the character of this great drama. farmer, that hanged himself on the expectaShakspere's Chronicle-histories are essentially tion of plenty:" the year 1606 was a year of conducted upon a different principle. The plenty, and therefore 'Macbeth' was written interest of "Macbeth' is not an historical in 1606. Again, the same character says, interest. It matters not whether the action “ Here's an equivocator, that could swear
in both the scales, against either scale.” on his hands could not be washed off by any This passage Malone most solemnly tells means, nor from his wife's hands, which handled us, “ without doubt, had a direct reference the bloody daggers in hiding them, by which to the doctrine of equivocation avowed and
means they became both much amazed and maintained by Henry Garnet, superior of the affronted. order of the Jesuits in England, on his trial
“ The murder being known, Duncan's two sons for the Gunpowder Treason, on the 28th of fled, the one to England, the other to Wales, to
save themselves : they being fled, were supposed March, 1606, and to his detestable perjury." There is more of this sort of reasoning, in guilty of the murder of their father, which was
nothing so. the examination of which it appears to us
“ Then was Macbeth crowned king, and then quite unnecessary to occupy the time of our readers. We have two facts as to the he, for fear of Banquo, his old companion, that
he should beget kings but be no king himself, chronology of this play which are indis- he contrived the death of Banquo, and caused putable:—the first is, that it must have him to be murdered on the way that he rode. been written after the crowns of England The night, being at supper with his noblemen, and Scotland were united in one monarch, whom he had bid to a feast (to the which also who was a descendant of Banquo:
Banquo should have come), he began to speak of « Some I see
noble Banquo, and to wish that he were there. That two-fold balls and treble sceptres carry.”
And as he thus did, standing up to drink a
carouse to him, the ghost of Banquo came and The second is, that Dr. Forman has most
sat down in his chair behind him.
And he, minutely described the representation of this turning about to sit down again, saw the ghost tragedy in the year 1610. The following
of Banquo, which fronted him, so that he fell in extract from his ‘Book of Plays, and Notes
a great passion of fear and fury, uttered many thereof, for common Policy,' is copied by Mr. words about his murder, by which, when they Collier from the manuscript in the Bodleian heard that Banquo was murdered, they suspected Library
Macbeth. “In 'Macbeth,' at the Globe, 1610, the 20th “ Then Macduff fled to England to the king's of April, Saturday, there was to be observed, son, and so they raised an army and came first, how Macbeth and Banquo, two noblemen into Scotland, and at Dunston Anyse overthrew of Scotland, riding through a wood, there stood Macbeth. In the mean time, while Macduff was before them three women, fairies, or nymphs, in England, Macbeth slew Macduff's wife and and saluted Macbeth, saying three times unto children, and after, in the battle, Macduff slew him, Hail, Macbeth, King of Coudor, for thou Macbeth. shalt be a king, but shalt beget no kings, &c. Observe, also, how Macbeth's queen did rise Then said Banquo, What, all to Macbeth and in the night in her sleep and walk, and talked none to me? Yes, said the nymphs, Hail to and confessed all, and the doctor noted her thee, Banquo? thou shalt beget kings, yet be words.” no king. And so they departed, and came to Here, then, the date of this tragedy must the court of Scotland, to Duncan, King of Scots, be fixed after the accession of James I. in and it was in the days of Edward the Con 1603, and before the representation at which fessor. And Duncan bade them both kindly Forman was present in 1610. Mr. Collier is welcome, and made Macbeth forthwith Prince
inclined to believe that the play was a new of Northumberland; and sent him home to his
one when Forman saw it acted. Be that as own castle, and appointed Macbeth to provide it may, we can have no doubt that it befor him, for he would sup with him the next day at night, and did so.
longed to the last ten years of the poet's “ And Macbeth contrived to kill Duncan, and
life. through the persuasion of his wife did that night That Shakspere found sufficient materials murder the king in his own castle, being his for this great drama in Holinshed’s ‘History guest. And there were many prodigies seen
of Scotland' is a fact that renders it quite that night and the day before. And when unnecessary for us to enter into any disMacbeth had murdered the king, the blood cussion as to the truth of this portion of
the history, or to point out the authorities | king's chamber how the king was slain, his upon which the narrative of Holinshed was body conveyed away, and the bed all beraid founded. Better authorities than Holinshed with blood, he with the watch ran thither, as had access to have shown that the contest though he had known nothing of the matter, for the crown of Scotland between Duncan and breaking into the chamber, and finding and Macbeth was a contest of factions, and cakes of blood in the bed and on the floor that Macbeth was raised to the throne by about the sides of it, he forthwith slew the his Norwegian allies after a battle in which
chamberlains as guilty of that heinous murder. Duncan fell: in the same way, after a long
* For the space of six months rule, was he vanquished and killed by the together, after this heinous murder thus com
mitted, there appeared no sun by day, nor moon son of Duncan, supported by his English by night, in any part of the realm, but still allies *. But with the differences between
was the sky covered with continual clouds, and the real and apocryphal history it is ma
sometimes such outrageous winds arose, with nifest that we can here have no concern. lightnings and tempests, that the people were There is another story told also in the same
in great fear of present destruction." narrative, which Shakspere with consummate skill has blended with the story of Macbeth. It was originally the opinion of Steevens It is that of the Murder of King Duff by and Malone that a play by Thomas MiddleDonwald and his wife in Donwald's castle ton, entitled The Witch,' had preceded of Forres
Macbeth,' and that Shakspere was “ The king got him into his privy chamber, sequently indebted to Middleton for the only with two of his chamberlains, who, having general idea of the witch incantations. brought him to bed, came forth again, and then Malone subsequently changed his opinion; fell to banqueting with Donwald and his wife, for in a posthumous edition of his “Essay on who had prepared divers delicate dishes and the Chronological Order,' he has maintained sundry sorts of drinks for their rear-supper or
that "The Witch' was a later production collation, whereat they sat up so long, till they than Macbeth.' had charged their stomachs with such full gorges, There is an interesting point connected that their heads were no sooner got to the pillow with the origin of • Macbeth,' namely, but asleep they were so fast that a man might whether an actual visit to Scotland sughave removed the chamber over them sooner than gested some of the descriptions, and proto have awaked them out of their drunken sleep. bably the very story of this tragedy. The
" Then Donwald, though he abhorred the act question "Did Shakspere visit Scotland ?' greatly in heart, yet through instigation of his
was first raised, in 1767, by William Guthrie, wife he called four of his servants unto him
in his 'General History of Scotland:' “A.D. (whom he had made privy to his wicked intent before, and framed to his purpose with
1599. The King, to prove how thoroughly large gifts), and now declaring unto them after
he was now- emancipated from the tutelage what sort they should work the feat, they gladly
of his clergy, desired Elizabeth to send him obeyed his instructions, and, speedily going
year a company of English comedians. about the murder, they enter the chamber in She complied, and James gave them a liwhich the king lay) a little before cock's crow,
cence to act in his capital and in his court. where they secretly cut his throat as he lay I have great reason to think that the sleeping, without any bustling at all; and im- immortal Shakspere was of the number.” mediately by a postern gate they carried forth Guthrie, a very loose and inaccurate comthe dead body into the fields.
piler, gives no authority for his statement; Donwald, about the time that the murder was but it is evidently founded upon the folin doing, got him amongst them that kept lowing passage in Archbishop Spottiswood's the watch, and so continued in company with History of the Church of Scotland,' which them all the residue of the night. But in the the writer says was “penned at the commorning, when the noise was raised in the mand of King James the Sixth, who bid the * See Skene's 'Highlanders of Scotland,' vol. i. p. 116.
author write the truth and spare not:”
“ In the end of the year (1599) happened | could bestow. He is admitted to this honour some new jars betwixt the King and the in company with a nobleman of France viministers of Edinburgh; because of a com- siting Aberdeen for the gratification of his pany of English comedians, whom the King curiosity, and recommended by the King to had licensed to play within the burgh. The be favourably entertained; as well as with ministers, being offended with the liberty three men of rank, and others, who were given them, did exclaim in their sermons directed by his Majesty to accompany “the against stage-players, their unruliness and said Frenchman.” All the party are described immodest behaviour; and in their sessions in the document as knights and gentlemen. made an act, prohibiting people to resort We have to inquire, then, who was Lawrence unto their plays, under pain of the church Fletcher, comedian to his Majesty ? As
The King, taking this to be a suredly the King had not in his service a discharge of his licence, called the sessions company of Scotch players. In 1599 he had before the council, and ordained them to licensed a company of English comedians to annul their act, and not to restrain the play at Edinburgh. Fond as James was of people from going to these comedies: which theatrical exhibitions, he had not the means they promised, and accordingly performed; of gratifying his taste, except through whereof publication was made the day after, visits of English comedians. Scotland had and all that pleased permitted to repair no drama. unto the same, to the great offence of the “ Lawrence Fletcher, comedian to his ministers.” This account by Spottiswood is Majesty," was undoubtedly an Englishman; abundantly confirmed by some very curious and “The King's servants presently in this entries in the accounts of the Lord Highborough who play comedies and stage-plays” Treasurer and the Acts of the Privy Council, were as certainly English players. There which are preserved in the Register House are not many facts known by which we can at Edinburgh. The Lord High Treasurer's | trace the history of Lawrence Fletcher. He accounts show that in October, November, is not mentioned amongst “ the names of the and December, 1599, the large sum of principal actors in all these plays,” which 426l. was distributed among certain English list is given in the first folio edition of comedians.
Shakspere; but he undoubtedly belonged The fortieth volume of the registers of to Shakspere's company. The patent of the Town Council of Aberdeen contains James I., dated at Westminster on the some remarkable entries which show that nineteenth of May, 1603, in favour of the in October, 1607, a company of players, players acting at the Globe, is headed “Pro specially recommended by the King, were Laurentio Fletcher et Willielmo Shakespeare paid a gratuity from the Corporation of & aliis;" and it licenses and authorises the Aberdeen for their performances in that performances of “Laurence Fletcher, William town, one of them subsequently receiving Shakespeare, Richard Burbage, Augustine the freedom of the borough; that they are Phillippes, John Hemings, Henrie Condel, called the King's servants, who played William Sly, Robert Armin, Richard Cowly, comedies and stage-plays."
The circum- and the rest of their associates." The constance that they are recommended by the nection in 1603 of Fletcher and Shakspere King's special letter is not so important cannot be more distinctly established than as the description of them as the King's by this document. servants. Thirteen days after the entry of The patent of James the First of England the 9th of October, at which first period directed to Lawrence Fletcher, William these servants of the King had played Shakspere, and others, eighteen months some of their comedies, Lawrence Fletcher, after the performances at Aberdeen, is dicomedian to his Majesty, is admitted a rected to those persons as
our servants." burgess of Guild of the borough of Aberdeen It does not appoint them the King's servants, -the greatest honour which the Corporation but recognises the appointment as already
existing. Can there be a reasonable doubt of the peculiarities of the witchcraft imagery that the appointment was originally made might have been found in Scottish superstiby the King in Scotland, and subsisted when tions, more especially in those which are the same King ascended the English throne? known to have been rife at Aberdeen at the Lawrence Fletcher was admitted a burgess beginning of the seventeenth century. of Guild of the borough of Aberdeen as comedian to his Majesty, in company with In Coleridge's early sonnet'to the Author other persons who were servitors to his of the Robbers,' his imagination is enchained Majesty. He received that honour, we may to the most terrible scene of that play; conclude, as the head of the company, also disregarding, as it were, all the accessories the King's servants. We know not how he by which its horrors are mitigated and attained this distinction amongst his fellows, rendered endurable : but it is impossible to imagine that accident “Schiller! that hour I would have wish'd to die, so favoured him in two instances. The
If through the shuddering midnight I had sent King's servant who was most favoured at From the dark dungeon of the tower time-rent Aberdeen, and the King's servant who is That fearful voice, a famish'd father's cryfirst in the patent in 1603, was surely placed Lest in some after-moment aught more mean in that position by the voice of his fellows, Might stamp me mortal! A triumphant shout the other King's servants. William Shak Black Horror scream'd, and all her goblin rout is named with him in a marked
Diminish'd shrunk from the more withering spere manner in the heading of the patent. Seven
scene!” of their fellows are also named, as dis- It was in a somewhat similar manner that tinguished from “the rest of their associates." Shakspere's representation of the murder of There can be no doubt of the identity of the Duncan affected the imagination of Mrs. Lawrence Fletcher, the servant of James VI. Siddons :~"It was my custom to study my of Scotland, and the Lawrence Fletcher, the characters at night, when all the domestic servant of James I. of England.
cares and business of the day were over. On doubt that the King's servants who played the night preceding that on which I was to comedies and stage-plays in Aberdeen, in appear in this part for the first time, I shut 1601, were, taken as a company, the King's myself up, as usual, when all the family were servants who were licensed to exercise the retired, and commenced my study of Lady art and faculty of playing, throughout all Macbeth. As the character is very short, I the' realm, in 1603 ?
If these points are thought I should soon accomplish it. Being evident, what reason have we to doubt that then only twenty years of age, I believed, as William Shakspere, the second named in many others do believe, that little more was the licence of 1603, was amongst the King's necessary than to get the words into my servants at Aberdeen in 1601 ? Every cir- head; for the necessity of discrimination, cumstance concurs in the likelihood that he and the development of character, at that was of that number recommended by the time of my life, had scarcely entered into King's special letter; and his position in the my imagination. But to proceed. I went licence, even before Burbage, was, we may on with tolerable composure, in the silence well believe, a compliment to him who in of the night, (a night I can never forget,) till 1601 had taught “our James ” something of I came to the assassination scene, when the the power and riches of the English drama. horrors of the scene rose to a degree that
These circumstances give us, we think, made it impossible for me to get farther. I warranty to conclude that the story of snatched up my candle, and hurried out of Macbeth might have been suggested to the room in a paroxysm of terror. My dress Shakspere upon Scottish ground; that the was of silk, and the rustling of it, as I accuracy displayed in the local descriptions ascended the stairs to go to bed, seemed to and allusions might have been derived from my panic-struck fancy like the movement of a rapid personal observation; and that some a spectre pursuing me. At last I reached