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[Footnote 227: So Mrs. Siddons is said to have given the passage.]
[Footnote 228: Surely the usual interpretation of 'We fail?' as a question of contemptuous astonishment, is right. 'We fail!' gives practically the same sense, but alters the punctuation of the first two Folios. In either case, 'But,' I think, means 'Only.' On the other hand the proposal to read 'We fail.' with a full stop, as expressive of sublime acceptance of the possibility, seems to me, however attractive at first sight, quite out of harmony with Lady Macbeth's mood throughout these scenes.]
[Footnote 229: See Note DD.]
[Footnote 230: It is not new.]
[Footnote 231: The words about Lady Macduff are of course significant of natural human feeling, and may have been introduced expressly to mark it, but they do not, I think, show any fundamental change in Lady Macbeth, for at no time would she have suggested or approved a purposeless atrocity. It is perhaps characteristic that this human feeling should show itself most clearly in reference to an act for which she was not directly responsible, and in regard to which therefore she does not feel the instinct of self-assertion.]
[Footnote 232: The tendency to sentimentalise Lady Macbeth is partly due to Mrs. Siddons's fancy that she was a small, fair, blue-eyed woman, 'perhaps even fragile.' Dr. Bucknill, who was unaquainted with this fancy, independently determined that she was 'beautiful and delicate,' 'unoppressed by weight of flesh,' 'probably small,' but 'a tawny or brown blonde,' with grey eyes: and Brandes affirms that she was lean, slight, and hard. They know much more than Shakespeare, who tells us absolutely nothing on these subjects. That Lady Macbeth, after taking part in a murder, was so exhausted as to faint, will hardly demonstrate her fragility. That she must have been blue-eyed, fair, or red-haired, because she was a Celt, is a bold inference, and it is an idle dream that Shakespeare had any idea of making her or her husband characteristically Celtic. The only evidence ever offered to prove that she was small is the sentence, 'All the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand'; and Goliath might have called his hand 'little' in contrast with all the perfumes of Arabia. One might as well propose to prove that Othello was a small man by quoting,
|I have seen the day,|
That, with this little arm and this good sword, I have made my way through more impediments Than twenty times your stop.
The reader is at liberty to imagine Lady Macbeth's person in the way that pleases him best, or to leave it, as Shakespeare very likely did, unimagined.
Perhaps it may be well to add that there is not the faintest trace in the play of the idea occasionally met with, and to some extent embodied in Madame Bernhardt's impersonation of Lady Macbeth, that her hold upon her husband lay in seductive attractions deliberately exercised. Shakespeare was not unskilled or squeamish in indicating such ideas.]
[Footnote 233: That it is Macbeth who feels the harmony between the desolation of the heath and the figures who appear on it is a characteristic touch.]
[Footnote 234: So, in Holinshed, 'Banquho jested with him and sayde, now Makbeth thou haste obtayned those things which the twoo former sisters prophesied, there remayneth onely for thee to purchase that which the third sayd should come to passe.']
[Footnote 235: =doubts.]
[Footnote 236: =design.]
|'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.]
[Footnote 238: So when he hears that Fleance has escaped he is not much troubled (III. iv. 29):
|the worm that's fled|
Hath nature that in time will venom breed, No teeth for the present.
I have repeated above what I have said before, because the meaning of Macbeth's soliloquy is frequently misconceived.]
[Footnote 239: Virgilia in Coriolanus is a famous example. She speaks about thirty-five lines.]
[Footnote 240: The percentage of prose is, roughly, in Hamlet 30-2/3, in Othello 16-1/3, in King Lear 27-1/2, in Macbeth 8-1/2.]
[Footnote 241: Cf. Note F. There are also in Macbeth several shorter passages which recall the Player's speech. Cf. 'Fortune ... showed like a rebel's whore' (I. ii. 14) with 'Out! out! thou strumpet Fortune!' The form 'eterne' occurs in Shakespeare only in Macbeth, III. ii. 38, and in the 'proof eterne' of the Player's speech. Cf. 'So, as a painted tyrant, Pyrrhus stood,' with Macbeth, V. viii. 26; 'the rugged Pyrrhus, like the Hyrcanian beast,' with 'the rugged Russian bear ... or the Hyrcan tiger' (Macbeth, III. iv. 100); 'like a neutral to his will and matter' with Macbeth, I. v. 47. The words 'Till he unseam'd him from the nave to the chaps,' in the Serjeant's speech, recall the words 'Then from the navel to the throat at once He ript old Priam,' in Dido Queen of Carthage, where these words follow those others, about Priam falling with the mere wind of Pyrrhus' sword, which seem to have suggested 'the whiff and wind of his fell sword' in the Player's speech.]
[Footnote 242: See Cunliffe, The Influence of Seneca on Elizabethan Tragedy. The most famous of these parallels is that between 'Will all great Neptune's Ocean,' etc., and the following passages:
Quis eluet me Tanais? aut quae barbaris Maeotis undis Pontico incumbens mari? Non ipse toto magnus Oceano pater Tantum expiarit sceleris. (Hipp. 715.)
Quis Tanais, aut quis Nilus, aut quis Persica Violentus unda Tigris, aut Rhenus ferox, Tagusve Ibera turbidus gaza fluens, Abluere dextram poterit? Arctoum licet Maeotis in me gelida transfundat mare, Et tota Tethys per meas currat manus, Haerebit altum facinus. (Herc. Furens, 1323.)
(The reader will remember Othello's 'Pontic sea' with its 'violent pace.') Medea's incantation in Ovid's Metamorphoses, vii. 197 ff., which certainly suggested Prospero's speech, Tempest, V. i. 33 ff., should be compared with Seneca, Herc. Oet., 452 ff., 'Artibus magicis,' etc. It is of course highly probable that Shakespeare read some Seneca at school. I may add that in the Hippolytus, beside the passage quoted above, there are others which might have furnished him with suggestions. Cf. for instance Hipp., 30 ff., with the lines about the Spartan hounds in Mids. Night's Dream, IV. i. 117 ff., and Hippolytus' speech, beginning 483, with the Duke's speech in As You Like It, II. i.]
[Footnote 243: Cf. Coleridge's note on the Lady Macduff scene.]
[Footnote 244: It is nothing to the purpose that Macduff himself says,
They were all struck for thee! naught that I am, Not for their own demerits, but for mine, Fell slaughter on their souls.
There is no reason to suppose that the sin and demerit he speaks of is that of leaving his home. And even if it were, it is Macduff that speaks, not Shakespeare, any more than Shakespeare speaks in the preceding sentence,
|Did heaven look on,|
And would not take their part?
And yet Brandes (ii. 104) hears in these words 'the voice of revolt ... that sounds later through the despairing philosophy of King Lear.' It sounds a good deal earlier too; e.g. in Tit. And., IV. i. 81, and 2 Henry VI., II. i. 154. The idea is a commonplace of Elizabethan tragedy.]
[Footnote 245: And the idea that it was the death of his son Hamnet, aged eleven, that brought this power to maturity is one of the more plausible attempts to find in his dramas a reflection of his private history. It implies however as late a date as 1596 for King John.]
[Footnote 246: Even if this were true, the retort is obvious that neither is there anything resembling the murder-scene in Macbeth.]
[Footnote 247: I have confined myself to the single aspect of this question on which I had what seemed something new to say. Professor Hales's defence of the passage on fuller grounds, in the admirable paper reprinted in his Notes and Essays on Shakespeare, seems to me quite conclusive. I may add two notes. (1) The references in the Porter's speeches to 'equivocation,' which have naturally, and probably rightly, been taken as allusions to the Jesuit Garnet's appeal to the doctrine of equivocation in defence of his perjury when, on trial for participation in the Gunpowder Plot, do not stand alone in Macbeth. The later prophecies of the Witches Macbeth calls 'the equivocation of the fiend That lies like truth' (V. v. 43); and the Porter's remarks about the equivocator who 'could swear in both the scales against either scale, who committed treason enough for God's sake, yet could not equivocate to heaven,' may be compared with the following dialogue (IV. ii. 45):
Son. What is a traitor?
Lady Macduff. Why, one that swears and lies.
Son. And be all traitors that do so?
Lady Macduff. Everyone that does so is a traitor, and must
Garnet, as a matter of fact, was hanged in May, 1606; and it is to be feared that the audience applauded this passage.
[Footnote 248: In the last Act, however, he speaks in verse even in the quarrel with Laertes at Ophelia's grave. It would be plausible to explain this either from his imitating what he thinks the rant of Laertes, or by supposing that his 'towering passion' made him forget to act the madman. But in the final scene also he speaks in verse in the presence of all. This again might be accounted for by saying that he is supposed to be in a lucid interval, as indeed his own language at 239 ff. implies. But the probability is that Shakespeare's real reason for breaking his rule here was simply that he did not choose to deprive Hamlet of verse on his last appearance. I wonder the disuse of prose in these two scenes has not been observed, and used as an argument, by those who think that Hamlet, with the commission in his pocket, is now resolute.]
[Footnote 249: The verse-speech of the Doctor, which closes this scene, lowers the tension towards that of the next scene. His introductory conversation with the Gentlewoman is written in prose (sometimes very near verse), partly, perhaps, from its familiar character, but chiefly because Lady Macbeth is to speak in prose.]
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