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So clear in his great office, that his virtues
SCENE X. True Fortitude.
(6) I dare do all that may become a man, Who dares do more, is none.
The murdering Scene.
Is this a dagger which I fee before me,
The handle tow'rd my hand? come let me clutch thee,
I have thee not, and yet I see thee still.
Art thou not, fatal vifion, fenfible
(6) Idare, &c. The whole present scene well deferves a place here, however I fhall only beg leave to refer the reader to it. "The arguments, fays Johnson, by which lady Macbeth perfuades her hufband to commit the murder, afford a proof of Shakespear's knowledge of human nature. She urges the excellence and dignity of courage, a glittering idea, which has dazzled mankind from age to age, and animated fometimes the houfe-breaker, and fometimes the conqueror: but this fophifm Macbeth has forever destroyed, by distinguishing true from false fortitude, in a line and a half, of which it may almost be faid, that they ought to bestow immortality on the author, though his other productions had been loft," &c. See his 16th note:
A dagger of the mind, a falfe creation
Thou marshal'it me the way that I was going?
Mine eyes are made the fools o' th' other fenfes,
Thus to mine eyes.---- (7) Now o'er one half the world
* Gouts, i. e. drops.
(7) Now o'er, &c.] That is, over our hemisphere all action and motion fem to have ceafed. This image, which is, perhaps, the most striking that poetry can produce, has been adopted by Dryden, in his Conqueft of Mexico.
All things are hufh'd as nature's felf lay dead,
Thefe lines, though fo well known, I have tranfcribed, that the contraft between them and this paffage of Shakespear, may be more accurately obferved. Night is defcribed by two great poets, but one defcribes a night of quiet, the other of perturbation. In the night of Dryden, all the disturbers of the world are laid afleep: in that of Shakespear, nothing but forcery, luft, and murder is awake. He that reads Dryden, finds himself lull'd with ferenity, and difpos'd to folitude and contemplation: he that perufes Shakespear, looks round alarmed, and ftarts to find himself alone, One is the night of a lover, the other that of a murderer.
(8) With Tarquin's ravishing strides, tow'rds his defign -(9) Thou found and firm-fet
Moves like a ghost.. earth,
Hear not my steps, which way they walk, for fear
And take the present horror from the time,
Which now fuits with it—whilft I threat, he lives[A bell rings.
I go, and it is done; the bell invites me.
(8) With, &c.] The reading in the old books is, With Tarquin's ravishing sides towards, &c. Which Mr. Pope alter'd to that in the text. Mr. Johnfon is for reading,
With Tarquin ravishing, slides tow'rd, &c.
Because a ravishing fride is an action of violence, impetuofity, and tumult; and because the progreffion of ghofts is fo different from ftrides, that it has been in all ages represented to be as Milton expreffes it,
Smooth fliding without step.
It seems to me, the poet only speaks of the filence, and secrecy wherewith the ghofts were fuppofed to move; and, as when people walk with a stealthy pace, or as it is called on tip-toe, they generally take long ftrides, not ftepping frequently, I fhould judge rides to be the proper reading; befide, I think the two verbs coming in that manner together not entirely elegant; flides towards his design, and moves like a ghoft, feem too near a tautology. I am the more explicit in this paffage, as any remark of fo ingenious a perfon deferves all attention, We may obferve, Shakespear, in his poem of Tarquin and Lucrece, fays of Tarquin entring the lady's chamber.
Into the chamber wickedly he talks.
(9) Thou, &c.] Hear not, O earth, my fteps, left thy very ftones fhould prate, fhould tell of where I am, and what I am about to perpetrate, and by their prating, or making a noife, take away that filence, the prefent horror, from the time, which fo well fuits with it." For what could be more dreadful to fuch a mind as Macbeth's, than fo univerfal a filence, when all nature deeply hush'd, must seem to his guilty mind, as liftening to his purpose, and attending to the act he was about to perform?
Lady. That which hath made them drunk, hath made me bold
What hath quench'd them, hath giv`n me fire. Hark! peace!
It was the owl that shriek'd, the fatal bell-man, Which gives the ftern'ft good night-he is about it-The doors are open; and the furfeited grooms
Do mock their charge with fnores. I've drugg'd their poffets,
That death and nature do contend about them.
Mach. Who's there? what ho ?
Lady. Alack! I am afraid, they have awak'd ; And 'tis not done; th' attempt and not the deed, Confounds us-hark !I laid their daggers ready, He could not mifs 'em-Had he not resembled My father as he slept, I had don't-My husband! Mach. I've done the deed -didft thou not hear a noise ?
Lady. I heard the owl fcream, and the crickets cry. Did not you speak?
Mach. As I defcended?
Macb. Hark-who lies i'th' fecond chamber?
Macb. This is a forry fight.
[Looks on his hands. Lady. A foolish thought, to fay, a forry fight. Macb. There's one did laugh in's fleep, and one cry'd murder !
They wak'd each other; and I ftood and heard them;
But they did fay their prayers, and addrefs them
Lady. There are two lodg'd together.
Macb, One cry'd, God bless us ! and Amen, the
As they had seen me with thefe hangman's hands.
Lady Confider it not fo deeply.
Macb. But wherefore could not I pronounce Amen? I had moft need of bleffing, and Amen Stuck in my throat.
Lady. Thefe deeds must not be thought, After these ways; fo, it will make us mad.
Macb. Methought, I heard a voice cry, fleep no more!
Macbeth doth murder fleep; the innocent sleep;
Lady. What do you mean?
Macb. Still it cry'd, fleep no more, to all the houfe ; Glamis hath murder'd fleep, and therefore Cawdor Shall fleep no more; Macbeth fhall fleep no more! Lady. Who was it, that thus cry'd? why (11) worthy
You do unbend your noble ftrength, to think
(10) The Death, &c.] Shakespear frequently fpeaks of fleep as the image of death: at the end of the 4th Scene in this Act, Macduff calls it death's counterfeit fleep that knits up the ravell'd fleeve of care-alludes to fleav'd filk ravell'd, (11) Why, &c.] Should not this be read,
Why, worthy Thane,
Do you unbend your noble strength?
The interrogation feems not only neceffary, but beautiful.