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society.” But, indeed, this entrance of the assassin, with his bloody face, into the apartment where the King is feasting his peers, and the account of the murder, delivered at such a time, appears so unskilful and improbable, that though the scene is not without some colour of our author's manner, I am very dubious as to its authenticity: it has, however, been intimated to me, that, in the great and throng'd halls of our ancient nobility, such an incident might have taken place. "
The feast is sold, “ That is not often vouch'd while 'tis a making, “ 'Tis given with welcome.”—
Neither the sense nor the construction of this passage is very clear: I believe the meaning isthe favour or obligation we confer, when we regale our friends, is cancelled or acquitted, when we omit the frequent and cordial assurances that they are welcome. The embarrassment in the construction arises from the relative “ that,” on which is imposed a weight of inference beyond what it will bear. 176. “ Here had we now our country's honour
roof'd, “ Were the grac'd person of our Banquo
present.” This passage will admit of three different constructions; it may mean
“O that we had here, now, Banquo, the ho.' nour of our country; were he but here!”
Or—" Here should we now have safely shel177. “
tered with us our country's chief ornament and honour, if Banquo were among us.”
Or“ Here should we now have collected under one roof all the prime spirits and glory of the country, if we had but Banquo to complete the list.” This last, I believe, is the true sense.
“Who may I rather challenge ?" &c. “Who,” here, was properly altered to "whom,” by Pope.
The table's full.” In the late representations of this play, at one of the great theatres in the capital, Macbeth is seen
“ To start and tremble at the vacant chair," according to the conception of Mr. Lloyd, in his poem called The Actor. It would be deemed only a waste of criticism to combat an opinion so defenceless, which presumes that Macbeth's agitations are merely the result of phrensy ; whereas there can hardly be a serious doubt that the poet designed the real introduction of the spectre; and the superstition, wherever it prevailed, has been, that though the ghost was sometimes invisible to all except the special object of its visitation, yet it was really and bona fide present.
What I am going to advance will not obtain quite so ready an assent, though I am almost as firmly persuaded of its propriety.
I think two ghosts are seen ; Duncan's first, and afterwards that of Banquo; for what new terror, or what augmented perturbation, is to be
produced by the re-appearance of the same object in the same scene ?. or, if but one dread monitor could gain access to this imperial malefactor, which had the superior claim, or who was the more likely to harrow the remorseful bosom of Macbeth—" the gracious Duncan,” he who had “ borne his faculties so meek,” had been “so clear in his great office,” and in “ the deep damnation of whose taking off,” not only friendship, kindred, and allegiance, but sacred hospitality, had been profaned, -or Banquo, his mere“ partner,” of whom it only could be said, that “ he was brave, and to be feared;" that wisdom guided his valour, and that under him the genius of Macbeth sustained rebuke? Which, I demand, of these two sacrifices to his “vaulting ambition" was the more likely, at the regal banquet, to break in upon and confound the usurper? Besides this obvious general claim to precedence, exhibited by Duncan, how else can we apply these lines ?
“ If charnel houses, and our graves, must send “ Those that we bury back, our monuments “ Shall be the maws of kites."
For they will not suit with Banquo, who had no grave or charnel-house assigned to him, (having been left in a ditch, to find a monument in the maws of kites ;) but must refer to Duncan, who, we may naturally suppose, received the formal ostentatious rites of sepulture. I do not overlook the words
“ Thou canst not say I did it,” &c. which may be urged against my argument ; but if this sentence will stand, in the case of
Banquo, as the subterfuge of one who had, by deputy, and not in person, done the murder, it surely will accord with the casuistry of him, who knows he struck a sleeping victim; and this, with the pains that had been taken to fix the murder on the grooms, may sufficiently defend the application of the remark to the royal spectre. Besides, to whom, except Duncan, can these words refer?
“If I stand here, I saw him.” The ghost being gone, and Macbeth "a man again," he reasons like a man, and gives this answer to his wife, who had reproached him with being “ unmann'd in folly :" but if Banquo were the object alluded to in this declaration, it must be unintelligible to the Lady, who had not yet heard of Banquo's murder. The ghost of Duncan having performed his office, and departed, Macbeth is at leisure to ruminate on the prodigy; and he naturally reflects, that if the grave can thus cast up the form of buried Duncan, Banquo may likewise rise again, regardless of the “ trenched gashes, and twenty mortal murders on liis crown.” The Lady interrupts this leverie, and he proceeds to “ mingle with society ;” and when, insidiously, with the raised goblet in his hand, he invokes the health of his friend whose life he had destroyed, just at that moment his friend's ghost confronts him. All this, indeed, is only conjecture, but conjecture, I trust, on the ground of strong probability; a basis that, in the estimation of those who are best acquainted with the subject, will, I doubt not, be deemed at least as secure as the authority of Messrs. Heminge and Condell, which, unhappily, is the only plot we have yet had to build upon.
178.“ Impostors to true fear."
These impostors have eluded the scrutiny of all the critical inquisitors, and still are undetected. I wish I could bring them to justice. Perhaps the lady, in her displeasure at Macbeth's illtimed disorder, would imply, by “ these flaws and starts, impostors to true fear," theatrical gesticulations, such as might, indeed, become a person who was counterfeiting fear, or who weakly resigned his imagination to the effect of an artificial tale, but are not suitable or natural to the true impression of real fear :-or are we, by impostors, to understand “ mean betrayers,” these flaws and starts, these exterior perturbations, which disclose to the observer the terrors that exist within ? This sense has some support in what was said in a former scene:
66 Look up clear;
Which I interpret thus:-To change countenance, is always a dangerous indication of what is passing in the mind; and it is somewhat remarkable that the passage before us will adınit of a similar construction—" these flaws and starts," which, by betraying what your mind is brooding on, will lead to a consequence tliat is to be feared indeed. 179.“ Blood hath been shed ere now, i'the olden
time, “ Ere human statute purg'd the gentle.
weal." “ Gentle weal (says Dr. Johnson) is the state made quiet and safe by human statutes.” But such a state would not want to be purged. A