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Turn'd wild in nature, broke their stalls, flung out,
Contending 'gainst obedience, as they would
Make war with mankind.
Old M.

'Tis said they ate each other.
Rosse. They did so, to the amazement of mine eyes,
That look'd upon it.”

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The next victim to the ambition of the usurper is Banquo, whose offence, in the eyes of his murderer, is traceable to the prime movers of the whole tragedy-the weird sisters. They

They 1 prophesied that he should be “ lesser than Macbeth, and greater;" that he should "beget kings, though he be none." It is interesting to notice, in the career of Banquo, how skilfully the poet has avoided a dramatic tautology (if I may so use the term) in bringing about the death of two worthy men immediately upon the heels of each other. Banquo was endowed with those qualities which Lady Macbeth attributes to her husband. Banquo, also, is too "full of the milk of human kindness to catch the nearest way to advancement." He too "would be great; is not without ambition, but without the illness which should attend it. What he would highly, that would he holily.” And these qualities stand all apparent in the course of his brief career. For instance, the prophecy of the witches having been verified in the point of

1 Macbeth's being created “Thane of Cawdor,” the recollection | that “the greatest was yet behind," and to be fulfilled, acted like a spark upon the dormant tinder of Banquo's ambition ; but the singleness of his nature restrained him even from an unjust aspiration. Thus, at the close of the banquet with King Duncan in Macbeth's castle, when he is retiring to rest, and is evidently brooding over his destiny, he says, in soliloquy

A heavy summons lies like lead upon me,

And yet I would not sleep. Merciful powers !

Restrain in me the cursed thoughts that nature
Gives way to in repose."

And immediately after, in conversation with Macbeth, still ruminating upon their scene with the witches, he says :

“ I dreamt last night of the three weird sisters ;

you they have show'd some truth.”

Macbeth, knowing that he is at that moment preparing to murder the king, indifferently replies

“ I think not of them ;
Yet when we can entreat an hour to serve,
We would spend it in some words upon that business,
If you would grant the time.

At your kindest leisure."


Then upon Macbeth's sounding the disposition of his brother soldier, and saying

If you shall cleave to my consent when 'tis,

It shall make honour for you"

Banquo's answer to the insinuation strictly harmonises with his straightforward disposition. He says

"So I lose none—[that is, no 'honour']—

In seeking to augment it, but still keep
My bosom franchis'd and allegiance clear;
I shall be counsell’d.”

The next time we meet with Banquo is in the courtyard, when the household are summoned upon the discovery of Duncan's assassination, an hour or so after the conference just quoted ; and still the transparent frankness of his nature reveals itself. In a spasm of horror at the deed, he exclaims

“When we have our naked frailties hid,

That suffer in exposure, let us meet,
And question this most bloody piece of work,
To know it farther. Fears and scruples shake us.
In the great hand of God I stand; and thence
Against the undivulged pretence I fight
Of treasonous malice.”

Again—the poet brings him to brood over his future fortune, as connected with the fulfilment of the witches' pro. phecy in that of Macbeth. He has just witnessed his coronation at Scone.

“Thou hast it now, King, Cawdor, Glamis, all
As the weird women promised ;-and, I fear,
Thou play'dst most foully for it :-yet it was said,
It should not stand in thy posterity :
But that myself should be the root and father
Of many kings. If there come truth from them,
(As upon thee, Macbeth, their speeches shine,)
Why, by the verities in thee made good,
May they not be my oracles as well,
And set me up in hope ?-But, hush ;—no more.”

This is one out of multitudes of examples, showing the undeviating watchfulness of Shakespeare in preserving the proportion and harmony of his characters this last speech of Banquo is strictly in keeping with his first : he closes his mind against every prompting of a sinister ambition. His whole course of action is a running comment upon his first ejaculation : :

“Merciful powers ! Restrain in me the cursed thoughts that nature Gives way to in repose."

He really is, as the witches said,

"Not so great as Macbeth, yet much greater :"

he has the power to resist temptation, and the courage to fear an unjust act.

It is worthy of notice, too, that Shakespeare impresses us with the one prevailing quality in his characters, quite as much by casual actions or insignificant remarks, as by the most formal display or announcement of them. For instance; true gentleness of heart is rarely unaccompanied by an appreciation of the beauties of nature, animate and inanimate. To Banquo, therefore, with delicate taste and propriety, is given that lovely reflection upon the characteristics of the houseswallow, confirming Duncan's commendation of the pleasant position of Macbeth's castle. He says :

“This guest of summer,
The temple-haunting martlet, does approve,
By his lov'd mansionry, that the heaven's breath
Smells wooingly here. No jutty, frieze, buttress,
Nor coign of vantage, but this bird hath made
His pendent bed, and procreant cradle: where they
Most breed and haunt, I have obsery'd, the air
Is delicate."

Banquo has himself noticed this fact in natural history, and the exquisite polish of his diction displays the man of quality and attainment. Macbeth testifies to the superiority of his nature :

“Our fears in Banquo Stick deep; and in his royalty of nature Reigns that which should be fear'd: 'tis much he dares; And to that dauntless temper of his mind, He hath a wisdom that doth guide his valour To act in safety. There is none but he Whose being I do fear; and under him My genius is rebuk'd, as, it is said, Mark Antony's was by Cæsar.”

It has been objected, as a violation of propriety, the introduction of one of the murderers during the banquet. But, in


the first place, we must bear in mind the different ordination of ceremony, or rather the absence of all ceremony, in that early and rude stage of society, when royalty, in its roughhewn simplicity, sat, as it were, “at the receipt of custom," and was accessible to all comers. Besides, the ruffians in this play were gentlemen of broken fortunes; they had been fellow-soldiers of Macbeth and Banquo, - men “whom the vile blows and buffets of the world had so incensed, that they were reckless what they did to spite the world.” It is with such instruments that such deeds are commonly achieved.

I will dismiss these remarks upon the character of Banquo with one more observation, and that upon the disposition of one of the incidents in this wonderful drama. Of all the appalling situations, and it is brimful of them,) no one makes so powerful an appeal to my own individual feelings as the unprepared introduction of Banquo's spirit at the supper-table. The idea of such a visitation, at such a point of time, is sufficiently ghastly in itself; but the effect is enhanced by the consummate skill and simple power of the poet in causing the murderer to recognise his victim. The Earl of Rosse says to Macbeth

“Please it your highness
To grace us with your royal company?

Macb. The table's full.
Lennox. Here's a place reserv'd, sir.
· Macb.

Lennox. Here, my lord. What is 't that moves
Your highness?

Macb. Which of you have done this?”


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The abrupt and startling force of this incident has, I should suppose, never been surpassed; and it is one which an ordinary writer of plays would have diluted, and spread over pages of talky-talk, and, in consequence, he would have missed his point. Whereas, Shakespeare has simply denoted the action,

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