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“ 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 the 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 High borough 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.

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


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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 supersti-
by 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 spere is named with him in a marked Diminish'd shrunk from the more withering 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

Can we

my chamber, where I found my husban 1 fast | the hurried steps in the fatal chamber, and asleep. I clapped my candlestick down upon she saw the bloody hands of the assassin,the table, without the power of putting it and, personifying the murderess, she rushed out; and I threw myself on my bed, without to dip her own hands in the gore of Duncan. daring to stay even to take off my clothes." * It is perfectly evident that this intensity of This most interesting passage appears to us conception has carried the horrors far beyond to involve the consideration of the principles the limits of pleasurable emotion, and has upon which the examination of such a work produced all the terrors of a real murder. No of art as 'Macbeth' can alone be attempted. reader of the play, and no spectator, can To analyse the conduct of the plot, to exhibit regard this play as Mrs. Siddons regarded it. the obvious and the latent features of the On that night she, probably for the first characters, to point out the proprieties and time, had a strong though imperfect vision the splendours of the poetical language, of the character of Lady Macbeth, such as these are duties which, however agreeable she afterwards delineated it; and in that they may be to ourselves, are scarcely case, what to all of us must, under any demanded by the nature of the subject; and circumstances, be a work of art, however they have been so often attempted, that there glorious, was to her almost a reality. It was is manifest danger of being trite and weari- the isolation of the scene, demanded by her some if we should enter into this wide field. own attempt to conceive the character of We shall, therefore, apply ourselves as strictly Lady Macbeth, which made it so terrible to as possible to an inquiry into the nature of Mrs. Siddons. We have to regard it as a that poetical Art by which the horrors of part of a great whole, which combines and this great tragedy are confined within the harmonises with all around it; for which we limits of pleasurable emotion.

are adequately prepared by what has gone If the drama of 'Macbeth' were to pro- before; and which, even if we look at it as a duce the same effect upon the mind of an picture which represents only that one porimaginative reader as that described by Mrs. tion of the action, has still its own repose, Siddons, it would not be the great work of art its own harmony of colouring, its own which it really is. If our poet had resolved, chiaroscuro,—is to be seen under a natural using the words of his own Othello, to light. There was a preternatural light upon “ abandon all remorse,

it when Mrs. Siddons saw it as she has On horror's head horrors accumulate," described. the midnight terrors, such as Mrs. Siddons The assassination scene of the second act has described, would have indeed been a is dimly shadowed out in the first lines of the tribute to power,—but not to the power which drama, when those mysterious beings,has produced Macbeth.' The paroxysm of “So wither'd, and so wild in their attire ; fear, the panic-struck fancy, the prostrated That look not like the inhabitants o' the earth., senses, so beautifully described by this im- And yet are on't," passioned actress, were the result of the have resolved to go intensity with which she had fixed her mind Upon the heath : upon that part of the play which she was There to meet with Macbeth." herself to act. In the endeavour to get the We know there is to be evil. One of the words into her head, her own fine genius was critics of the last age bas observed, “The naturally kindled to behold a complete vision Witches here seem to be introduced for no of the wonderful scene. Again, and again, other purpose than to tell us they are to were the words repeated, on that night which meet again.” If the Witches had not been she could never forget,-in the silence of introduced in the first scene,-if we had not that night when all about her were sleeping. known that they were about “to meet with And then she heard the owl shriek, amidst Macbeth,” . the narrative of Macbeth's * Memoranda by Mrs. Siddons, inserted in her · Life'

prowess in the second scene, and the resohy Mr. Camphell.

lution of Duncan to create him Thane of

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Cawdor, would have been comparatively and not Shakspere’s; and they sing Middlepointless. The ten lines of the first Witch-ton's lyrics, as stolen by D'Avenant, but scene give the key-note of the tragedy. They they are not Shakspere's lyrics. The witches take us out of the course of ordinary life; of Shakspere essentially belong to the action. they tell us there is to be a “supernatural From the moment they exclaim soliciting;” they show us that we are entering

“A drum, a drum : into the empire of the unreal, and that the

Macbeth doth come,” circle of the magician is to be drawn about all their powers are bent up to the accomus. When the Witches “meet again,” their plishment of his ruin. Shakspere gives us agency becomes more clear. There they are, no choruses of gain muttering of their uncouth spells, in

“We dance to the echoes of our feet;" language which sounds neither of earth nor

and heaven. Fortunate are those who have never seen the stage-witches of Macbeth, hag-like

“We fly by night ’mongst troops of spirits." forms, with beards and brooms, singing He makes the superstition tell upon the D'Avenant's travestie of Shakspere's lyrics, action of the tragedy, and not a jot farther ; to music, fine and solemn indeed, but and thus he makes the superstition harmonize which is utterly inadequate to express the with the action, and prepare us for its fatal Shaksperean idea, as it does not follow the progress and consummation. It was an effect Shaksperean words. Fortunate are they; for, of his unequalled skill to render the superwithout the stage recollections, they may

stition essentially poetical. When we hear picture to themselves beings whose“character in imagination the drum upon that wild consists in the imaginative disconnected from heath, and see the victorious generals in the the good; the shadowy obscure and fearfully proper temperament for generating or anomalous of physical nature, the lawless of receiving superstitious impressions,” I we human nature,-elemental avengers without connect with these poetical situations the sex or kin.”* The stage-witches of ‘Macbeth' lofty bearing of the “imperfect speakers," are not much elevated above the Witch of and the loftier words of the “prophetic Edmonton of Rowley and Dekker—" the greeting:” plain traditional old-woman witch of our

"All hail, Macbeth! hail to thee, thane of

Glamis ! ancestors; poor, deformed, and ignorant; the terror of villages, herself amenable to a

All hail, Macbeth ! hail to thee, thane of

Cawdor ! justice." Charles Lamb (from whom we

All hail, Macbeth ! that shalt be king herequote these words) has, with his accustomed

after." discrimination, also shown the essential differences between the witches of Shakspere It is the romance of this situation which and the witches of Middleton: “ These

throws its charm over the subsequent ho (Middleton's) are creatures to whom man or

rors of the realization of the prophecy, and woman plotting some dire mischief might keeps the whole drama within the limits resort for occasional consultation. Those

which separate tragedy from the 'Newgate

Calendar.' If some Tate had laid his hand originate deeds of blood, and begin bad impulses to men. From the moment that upon · Macbeth,' as upon 'Lear' (for D'Avetheir eyes first meet with Macbeth, he is nant, who did manufacture it into something

which spell-bound. That meeting sways his destiny.

up to the time of Quin was played as He can never break the fascination. These Shakspere's

, had yet a smack of the poet in witches hurt the body; those have power

him) — if some matter-of-fact word-monger over the soul.”+ But the witches of the had thought it good service to “ the rising stage Macbeth' are Middleton's witches, generation ” to get rid of the Witches, and



had given the usurper and his wife only * Coleridge's Literary Remains,' vol. ii. p. 238.

their ambition to stimulate their actions, he Specimens of English Dramatic Poets,' vol. i.


p. 187.

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would have produced a George Barnwell in

“Why do I yield to that suggestion stead of a Macbeth.

Whose horrid image doth unfix my hair, It is upon the different reception of the And make my seated heart knock at my ribs, supernatural influence, proceeding out of Against the use of nature ?” the different constitution of their minds, And then comes the refuge of every man by which we must appreciate the striking of unfirm mind upon whom temptation is differences in the characters of Macbeth, laid :Banquo, and Lady Macbeth. These are the

“If chance will have me king, why, chance three who are the sole recipients of the pro

may crown me, phecy of the Witches ; and this considera- Without my stir." tion, as it appears to us, must determine all that has been said upon the question

If he had opposed the chance, he would whether Macbeth was or was not a brave have been safe ; but his will was prostrate man. There can be no doubt of his bravery before the chance, and he perished. It is when he was acting under the force of his perfectly clear that the faint battle had own will. In the contest with the merci- been fought between his principle and his less Macdonwald” he was “ valour's minion.” “ black and deep desires” when he saw some In that with “Norway himself” he was

thing to “o'er-leap” even beyond the life of “ Bellona's bridegroom.'

But when he en

Duncan,—“the prince of Cumberland.” In

the conflict of his mind it is evident that he countered the Witches, and his will was laid prostrate under a belief in destiny, there communicates to his wife the promises of was a new principle introduced into his those who “have more in them than mortal mind. His self-possession and his self-re- knowledge,” not only that she might not liance were gone >

lose the “dues of rejoicing," but that he

might have some power to rely upon stronger “Good sir, why do you start ; and seem to fear than his own will. He was not deceived Things that do sound so fair?”

there. It is clear that Lady Macbeth had But he yet depended upon his reason. With no reliance upon the prophecy working out marvellous art Shakspere at this moment itself. She had no belief that chance would throws on the straw which is to break the make him king without his stir :camel's back :

“Glamis thou art, and Cawdor; and shalt be “The thane of Cawdor lives,

What thou art promised.” A prosperous gentleman; and, to be king, It was not thou mayst be, or thou wilt be, Stands not within the prospect of belief, but thou shalt be. The only fear she had No more than to be Cawdor.”

was of his nature. She would " catch the In a few minutes he knows he is Cawdor :- nearest way.” She instantly saw that way.

The prophecy was to her nothing but as it “Glamis, and thane of Cawdor: The greatest is behind.”

regarded the effect to be produced upon him

who would not play false, and yet would But Banquo receives the partial consumma wrongly win. All that is coming is clear tion of the prophecy with an unsubdued before her, through the force of her will :“ Oftentimes, to win us to our harm,

“The raven himself is hoarse The instruments of darkness tell us truths;

That croaks the fatal entrance of Duncan Win us with honest trifles, to betray us

Under my battlements." In deepest consequence.”

Upon the arrival of Macbeth, the breathless The will of Banquo refuses to be mixed up rapidity with which she subjects him to her with the prophecy. The will of Macbeth resolve is one of the most appalling things becomes the accomplice of the “instruments in the whole drama. Her tremendous will of darkness,” and is subdued to their pur- the real destiny which subjugates his inposes :

decision. Not a word of question or expla

mind >

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