Shakespearean Tragedy - Lectures on Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, Macbeth
by A. C. Bradley
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I doubt if the second and third of these arguments, taken alone, would justify a very serious suspicion of interpolation; but the fact, mentioned under (1), that the play has here been meddled with, trebles their weight. And it gives some weight to the further fact that these passages resemble one another, and differ from the bulk of the other Witch passages, in being iambic in rhythm. (It must, however, be remembered that, supposing Shakespeare did mean to introduce Hecate, he might naturally use a special rhythm for the parts where she appeared.)

The same rhythm appears in a third passage which has been doubted: IV. i. 125-132. But this is not quite on a level with the other two; for (1), though it is possible to suppose the Witches, as well as the Apparitions, to vanish at 124, and Macbeth's speech to run straight on to 133, the cut is not so clean as in the other cases; (2) it is not at all clear that Hecate (the most suspicious element) is supposed to be present. The original stage-direction at 133 is merely 'The Witches Dance, and vanish'; and even if Hecate had been present before, she might have vanished at 43, as Dyce makes her do.


[Footnote 280: E.g. Mr. Chambers's excellent little edition in the Warwick series.]



Macbeth is a very short play, the shortest of all Shakespeare's except the Comedy of Errors. It contains only 1993 lines, while King Lear contains 3298, Othello 3324, and Hamlet 3924. The next shortest of the tragedies is Julius Caesar, which has 2440 lines. (The figures are Mr. Fleay's. I may remark that for our present purpose we want the number of the lines in the first Folio, not those in modern composite texts.)

Is there any reason to think that the play has been shortened? I will briefly consider this question, so far as it can be considered apart from the wider one whether Shakespeare's play was re-handled by Middleton or some one else.

That the play, as we have it, is slightly shorter than the play Shakespeare wrote seems not improbable. (1) We have no Quarto of Macbeth; and generally, where we have a Quarto or Quartos of a play, we find them longer than the Folio text. (2) There are perhaps a few signs of omission in our text (over and above the plentiful signs of corruption). I will give one example (I. iv. 33-43). Macbeth and Banquo, returning from their victories, enter the presence of Duncan (14), who receives them with compliments and thanks, which they acknowledge. He then speaks as follows:

My plenteous joys, Wanton in fulness, seek to hide themselves In drops of sorrow. Sons, kinsmen, thanes, And you whose places are the nearest, know, We will establish our estate upon Our eldest, Malcolm, whom we name hereafter The Prince of Cumberland; which honour must Not unaccompanied invest him only, But signs of nobleness, like stars, shall shine On all deservers. From hence to Inverness, And bind us further to you.

Here the transition to the naming of Malcolm, for which there has been no preparation, is extremely sudden; and the matter, considering its importance, is disposed of very briefly. But the abruptness and brevity of the sentence in which Duncan invites himself to Macbeth's castle are still more striking. For not a word has yet been said on the subject; nor is it possible to suppose that Duncan had conveyed his intention by message, for in that case Macbeth would of course have informed his wife of it in his letter (written in the interval between scenes iii. and iv.). It is difficult not to suspect some omission or curtailment here. On the other hand Shakespeare may have determined to sacrifice everything possible to the effect of rapidity in the First Act; and he may also have wished, by the suddenness and brevity of Duncan's self-invitation, to startle both Macbeth and the audience, and to make the latter feel that Fate is hurrying the King and the murderer to their doom.

And that any extensive omissions have been made seems not likely. (1) There is no internal evidence of the omission of anything essential to the plot. (2) Forman, who saw the play in 1610, mentions nothing which we do not find in our play; for his statement that Macbeth was made Duke of Northumberland is obviously due to a confused recollection of Malcolm's being made Duke of Cumberland. (3) Whereabouts could such omissions occur? Only in the first part, for the rest is full enough. And surely anyone who wanted to cut the play down would have operated, say, on Macbeth's talk with Banquo's murderers, or on III. vi., or on the very long dialogue of Malcolm and Macduff, instead of reducing the most exciting part of the drama. We might indeed suppose that Shakespeare himself originally wrote the first part more at length, and made the murder of Duncan come in the Third Act, and then himself reduced his matter so as to bring the murder back to its present place, perceiving in a flash of genius the extraordinary effect that might thus be produced. But, even if this idea suited those who believe in a rehandling of the play, what probability is there in it?

Thus it seems most likely that the play always was an extremely short one. Can we, then, at all account for its shortness? It is possible, in the first place, that it was not composed originally for the public stage, but for some private, perhaps royal, occasion, when time was limited. And the presence of the passage about touching for the evil (IV. iii. 140 ff.) supports this idea. We must remember, secondly, that some of the scenes would take longer to perform than ordinary scenes of mere dialogue and action; e.g. the Witch-scenes, and the Battle-scenes in the last Act, for a broad-sword combat was an occasion for an exhibition of skill.[281] And, lastly, Shakespeare may well have felt that a play constructed and written like Macbeth, a play in which a kind of fever-heat is felt almost from beginning to end, and which offers very little relief by means of humorous or pathetic scenes, ought to be short, and would be unbearable if it lasted so long as Hamlet or even King Lear. And in fact I do not think that, in reading, we feel Macbeth to be short: certainly we are astonished when we hear that it is about half as long as Hamlet. Perhaps in the Shakespearean theatre too it appeared to occupy a longer time than the clock recorded.


[Footnote 281: These two considerations should also be borne in mind in regard to the exceptional shortness of the Midsummer Night's Dream and the Tempest. Both contain scenes which, even on the Elizabethan stage, would take an unusual time to perform. And it has been supposed of each that it was composed to grace some wedding.]



Dr. Forman saw Macbeth performed at the Globe in 1610. The question is how much earlier its composition or first appearance is to be put.

It is agreed that the date is not earlier than that of the accession of James I. in 1603. The style and versification would make an earlier date almost impossible. And we have the allusions to 'two-fold balls and treble sceptres' and to the descent of Scottish kings from Banquo; the undramatic description of touching for the King's Evil (James performed this ceremony); and the dramatic use of witchcraft, a matter on which James considered himself an authority.

Some of these references would have their fullest effect early in James's reign. And on this ground, and on account both of resemblances in the characters of Hamlet and Macbeth, and of the use of the supernatural in the two plays, it has been held that Macbeth was the tragedy that came next after Hamlet, or, at any rate, next after Othello.

These arguments seem to me to have no force when set against those that point to a later date (about 1606) and place Macbeth after King Lear.[282] And, as I have already observed, the probability is that it also comes after Shakespeare's part of Timon, and immediately before Antony and Cleopatra and Coriolanus.

I will first refer briefly to some of the older arguments in favour of this later date, and then more at length to those based on versification.

(1) In II. iii. 4-5, 'Here's a farmer that hang'd himself on the expectation of plenty,' Malone found a reference to the exceptionally low price of wheat in 1606.

(2) In the reference in the same speech to the equivocator who could swear in both scales and committed treason enough for God's sake, he found an allusion to the trial of the Jesuit Garnet, in the spring of 1606, for complicity in the Gunpowder Treason and Plot. Garnet protested on his soul and salvation that he had not held a certain conversation, then was obliged to confess that he had, and thereupon 'fell into a large discourse defending equivocation.' This argument, which I have barely sketched, seems to me much weightier than the first; and its weight is increased by the further references to perjury and treason pointed out on p. 397.

(3) Halliwell observed what appears to be an allusion to Macbeth in the comedy of the Puritan, 4to, 1607: 'we'll ha' the ghost i' th' white sheet sit at upper end o' th' table'; and Malone had referred to a less striking parallel in Caesar and Pompey, also pub. 1607:

Why, think you, lords, that 'tis ambition's spur That pricketh Caesar to these high attempts?

He also found a significance in the references in Macbeth to the genius of Mark Antony being rebuked by Caesar, and to the insane root that takes the reason prisoner, as showing that Shakespeare, while writing Macbeth, was reading Plutarch's Lives, with a view to his next play Antony and Cleopatra (S.R. 1608).

(4) To these last arguments, which by themselves would be of little weight, I may add another, of which the same may be said. Marston's reminiscences of Shakespeare are only too obvious. In his Dutch Courtezan, 1605, I have noticed passages which recall Othello and King Lear, but nothing that even faintly recalls Macbeth. But in reading Sophonisba, 1606, I was several times reminded of Macbeth (as well as, more decidedly, of Othello). I note the parallels for what they are worth.

With Sophonisba, Act I. Sc. ii.:

Upon whose tops the Roman eagles stretch'd Their large spread wings, which fann'd the evening aire To us cold breath,

cf. Macbeth I. ii. 49:

Where the Norweyan banners flout the sky And fan our people cold.

Cf. Sophonisba, a page later: 'yet doubtful stood the fight,' with Macbeth, I. ii. 7, 'Doubtful it stood' ['Doubtful long it stood'?] In the same scene of Macbeth the hero in fight is compared to an eagle, and his foes to sparrows; and in Soph. III. ii. Massinissa in fight is compared to a falcon, and his foes to fowls and lesser birds. I should not note this were it not that all these reminiscences (if they are such) recall one and the same scene. In Sophonisba also there is a tremendous description of the witch Erictho (IV. i.), who says to the person consulting her, 'I know thy thoughts,' as the Witch says to Macbeth, of the Armed Head, 'He knows thy thought.'

(5) The resemblances between Othello and King Lear pointed out on pp. 244-5 and in Note R. form, when taken in conjunction with other indications, an argument of some strength in favour of the idea that King Lear followed directly on Othello.

(6) There remains the evidence of style and especially of metre. I will not add to what has been said in the text concerning the former; but I wish to refer more fully to the latter, in so far as it can be represented by the application of metrical tests. It is impossible to argue here the whole question of these tests. I will only say that, while I am aware, and quite admit the force, of what can be said against the independent, rash, or incompetent use of them, I am fully convinced of their value when they are properly used.

Of these tests, that of rhyme and that of feminine endings, discreetly employed, are of use in broadly distinguishing Shakespeare's plays into two groups, earlier and later, and also in marking out the very latest dramas; and the feminine-ending test is of service in distinguishing Shakespeare's part in Henry VIII. and the Two Noble Kinsmen. But neither of these tests has any power to separate plays composed within a few years of one another. There is significance in the fact that the Winter's Tale, the Tempest, Henry VIII., contain hardly any rhymed five-foot lines; but none, probably, in the fact that Macbeth shows a higher percentage of such lines than King Lear, Othello, or Hamlet. The percentages of feminine endings, again, in the four tragedies, are almost conclusive against their being early plays, and would tend to show that they were not among the latest; but the differences in their respective percentages, which would place them in the chronological order Hamlet, Macbeth, Othello, King Lear (Koenig), or Macbeth, Hamlet, Othello, King Lear (Hertzberg), are of scarcely any account.[283] Nearly all scholars, I think, would accept these statements.

The really useful tests, in regard to plays which admittedly are not widely separated, are three which concern the endings of speeches and lines. It is practically certain that Shakespeare made his verse progressively less formal, by making the speeches end more and more often within a line and not at the close of it; by making the sense overflow more and more often from one line into another; and, at last, by sometimes placing at the end of a line a word on which scarcely any stress can be laid. The corresponding tests may be called the Speech-ending test, the Overflow test, and the Light and Weak Ending test.

I. The Speech-ending test has been used by Koenig,[284] and I will first give some of his results. But I regret to say that I am unable to discover certainly the rule he has gone by. He omits speeches which are rhymed throughout, or which end with a rhymed couplet. And he counts only speeches which are 'mehrzeilig.' I suppose this means that he counts any speech consisting of two lines or more, but omits not only one-line speeches, but speeches containing more than one line but less than two; but I am not sure.

In the plays admitted by everyone to be early the percentage of speeches ending with an incomplete line is quite small. In the Comedy of Errors, for example, it is only 0.6. It advances to 12.1 in King John, 18.3 in Henry V., and 21.6 in As You Like It. It rises quickly soon after, and in no play written (according to general belief) after about 1600 or 1601 is it less than 30. In the admittedly latest plays it rises much higher, the figures being as follows:—Antony 77.5, Cor. 79, Temp. 84.5, Cym. 85, Win. Tale 87.6, Henry VIII. (parts assigned to Shakespeare by Spedding) 89. Going back, now, to the four tragedies, we find the following figures: Othello 41.4, Hamlet 51.6, Lear 60.9, Macbeth 77.2. These figures place Macbeth decidedly last, with a percentage practically equal to that of Antony, the first of the final group.

I will now give my own figures for these tragedies, as they differ somewhat from Koenig's, probably because my method differs. (1) I have included speeches rhymed or ending with rhymes, mainly because I find that Shakespeare will sometimes (in later plays) end a speech which is partly rhymed with an incomplete line (e.g. Ham. III. ii. 187, and the last words of the play: or Macb. V. i. 87, V. ii. 31). And if such speeches are reckoned, as they surely must be (for they may be, and are, highly significant), those speeches which end with complete rhymed lines must also be reckoned. (2) I have counted any speech exceeding a line in length, however little the excess may be; e.g.

I'll fight till from my bones my flesh be hacked. Give me my armour:

considering that the incomplete line here may be just as significant as an incomplete line ending a longer speech. If a speech begins within a line and ends brokenly, of course I have not counted it when it is equivalent to a five-foot line; e.g.

Wife, children, servants, all That could be found:

but I do count such a speech (they are very rare) as

My lord, I do not know: But truly I do fear it:

for the same reason that I count

You know not Whether it was his wisdom or his fear.

Of the speeches thus counted, those which end somewhere within the line I find to be in Othello about 54 per cent.; in Hamlet about 57; in King Lear about 69; in Macbeth about 75.[285] The order is the same as Koenig's, but the figures differ a good deal. I presume in the last three cases this comes from the difference in method; but I think Koenig's figures for Othello cannot be right, for I have tried several methods and find that the result is in no case far from the result of my own, and I am almost inclined to conjecture that Koenig's 41.4 is really the percentage of speeches ending with the close of a line, which would give 58.6 for the percentage of the broken-ended speeches.[286]

We shall find that other tests also would put Othello before Hamlet, though close to it. This may be due to 'accident'—i.e. a cause or causes unknown to us; but I have sometimes wondered whether the last revision of Hamlet may not have succeeded the composition of Othello. In this connection the following fact may be worth notice. It is well known that the differences of the Second Quarto of Hamlet from the First are much greater in the last three Acts than in the first two—so much so that the editors of the Cambridge Shakespeare suggested that Q1 represents an old play, of which Shakespeare's rehandling had not then proceeded much beyond the Second Act, while Q2 represents his later completed rehandling. If that were so, the composition of the last three Acts would be a good deal later than that of the first two (though of course the first two would be revised at the time of the composition of the last three). Now I find that the percentage of speeches ending with a broken line is about 50 for the first two Acts, but about 62 for the last three. It is lowest in the first Act, and in the first two scenes of it is less than 32. The percentage for the last two Acts is about 65.

II. The Enjambement or Overflow test is also known as the End-stopped and Run-on line test. A line may be called 'end-stopped' when the sense, as well as the metre, would naturally make one pause at its close; 'run-on' when the mere sense would lead one to pass to the next line without any pause.[287] This distinction is in a great majority of cases quite easy to draw: in others it is difficult. The reader cannot judge by rules of grammar, or by marks of punctuation (for there is a distinct pause at the end of many a line where most editors print no stop): he must trust his ear. And readers will differ, one making a distinct pause where another does not. This, however, does not matter greatly, so long as the reader is consistent; for the important point is not the precise number of run-on lines in a play, but the difference in this matter between one play and another. Thus one may disagree with Koenig in his estimate of many instances, but one can see that he is consistent.

In Shakespeare's early plays, 'overflows' are rare. In the Comedy of Errors, for example, their percentage is 12.9 according to Koenig[288] (who excludes rhymed lines and some others). In the generally admitted last plays they are comparatively frequent. Thus, according to Koenig, the percentage in the Winter's Tale is 37.5, in the Tempest 41.5, in Antony 43.3, in Coriolanus 45.9, in Cymbeline 46, in the parts of Henry VIII. assigned by Spedding to Shakespeare 53.18. Koenig's results for the four tragedies are as follows: Othello, 19.5; Hamlet, 23.1; King Lear, 29.3; Macbeth, 36.6; (Timon, the whole play, 32.5). Macbeth here again, therefore, stands decidedly last: indeed it stands near the first of the latest plays.

And no one who has ever attended to the versification of Macbeth will be surprised at these figures. It is almost obvious, I should say, that Shakespeare is passing from one system to another. Some passages show little change, but in others the change is almost complete. If the reader will compare two somewhat similar soliloquies, 'To be or not to be' and 'If it were done when 'tis done,' he will recognise this at once. Or let him search the previous plays, even King Lear, for twelve consecutive lines like these:

If it were done when 'tis done, then 'twere well It were done quickly: if the assassination Could trammel up the consequence, and catch With his surcease success; that but this blow Might be the be-all and the end-all here, But here, upon this bank and shoal of time, We 'ld jump the life to come. But in these cases We still have judgement here; that we but teach Bloody instructions, which, being taught, return To plague the inventor: this even-handed justice Commends the ingredients of our poison'd chalice To our own lips.

Or let him try to parallel the following (III. vi. 37 f.):

and this report Hath so exasperate the king that he Prepares for some attempt of war.

Len. Sent he to Macduff?

Lord. He did: and with an absolute 'Sir, not I,' The cloudy messenger turns me his back And hums, as who should say 'You'll rue the time That clogs me with this answer.'

Len. And that well might Advise him to a caution, to hold what distance His wisdom can provide. Some holy angel Fly to the court of England, and unfold His message ere he come, that a swift blessing May soon return to this our suffering country Under a hand accurs'd!

or this (IV. iii. 118 f.):

Macduff, this noble passion, Child of integrity, hath from my soul Wiped the black scruples, reconciled my thoughts To thy good truth and honour. Devilish Macbeth By many of these trains hath sought to win me Into his power, and modest wisdom plucks me From over-credulous haste: but God above Deal between thee and me! for even now I put myself to thy direction, and Unspeak mine own detraction, here abjure The taints and blames I laid upon myself, For strangers to my nature.

I pass to another point. In the last illustration the reader will observe not only that 'overflows' abound, but that they follow one another in an unbroken series of nine lines. So long a series could not, probably, be found outside Macbeth and the last plays. A series of two or three is not uncommon; but a series of more than three is rare in the early plays, and far from common in the plays of the second period (Koenig).

I thought it might be useful for our present purpose, to count the series of four and upwards in the four tragedies, in the parts of Timon attributed by Mr. Fleay to Shakespeare, and in Coriolanus, a play of the last period. I have not excluded rhymed lines in the two places where they occur, and perhaps I may say that my idea of an 'overflow' is more exacting than Koenig's. The reader will understand the following table at once if I say that, according to it, Othello contains three passages where a series of four successive overflowing lines occurs, and two passages where a series of five such lines occurs:

————————————————————————————————- 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 No. of Lines (Fleay). ————————————————————————————————- Othello, 3 2 — — — — — 2,758 Hamlet, 7 — — — — — — 2,571 Lear, 6 2 — — — — — 2,312 Timon, 7 2 1 1 — — — 1,031 (?) Macbeth, 7 5 1 1 — 1 — 1,706 Coriolanus, 16 14 7 1 2 — 1 2,563 ————————————————————————————————-

(The figures for Macbeth and Timon in the last column must be borne in mind. I observed nothing in the non-Shakespeare part of Timon that would come into the table, but I did not make a careful search. I felt some doubt as to two of the four series in Othello and again in Hamlet, and also whether the ten-series in Coriolanus should not be put in column 7).

III. The light and weak ending test.

We have just seen that in some cases a doubt is felt whether there is an 'overflow' or not. The fact is that the 'overflow' has many degrees of intensity. If we take, for example, the passage last quoted, and if with Koenig we consider the line

The taints and blames I laid upon myself

to be run-on (as I do not), we shall at least consider the overflow to be much less distinct than those in the lines

but God above Deal between thee and me! for even now I put myself to thy direction, and Unspeak my own detraction, here abjure

And of these four lines the third runs on into its successor at much the greatest speed.

'Above,' 'now,' 'abjure,' are not light or weak endings: 'and' is a weak ending. Prof. Ingram gave the name weak ending to certain words on which it is scarcely possible to dwell at all, and which, therefore, precipitate the line which they close into the following. Light endings are certain words which have the same effect in a slighter degree. For example, and, from, in, of, are weak endings; am, are, I, he, are light endings.

The test founded on this distinction is, within its limits, the most satisfactory of all, partly because the work of its author can be absolutely trusted. The result of its application is briefly as follows. Until quite a late date light and weak endings occur in Shakespeare's works in such small numbers as hardly to be worth consideration.[289] But in the well-defined group of last plays the numbers both of light and of weak endings increase greatly, and, on the whole, the increase apparently is progressive (I say apparently, because the order in which the last plays are generally placed depends to some extent on the test itself). I give Prof. Ingram's table of these plays, premising that in Pericles, Two Noble Kinsmen, and Henry VIII. he uses only those parts of the plays which are attributed by certain authorities to Shakespeare (New Shakspere Soc. Trans., 1874).

Light Percentage Percentage Percentage endings. Weak. of light in of weak in of verse lines. verse lines. both. Antony & Cleopatra, 71 28 2.53 1. 3.53 Coriolanus, 60 44 2.34 1.71 4.05 Pericles, 20 10 2.78 1.39 4.17 Tempest, 42 25 2.88 1.71 4.59 Cymbeline, 78 52 2.90 1.93 4.83 Winter's Tale, 57 43 3.12 2.36 5.48 Two Noble Kinsmen, 50 34 3.63 2.47 6.10 Henry VIII., 45 37 3.93 3.23 7.16

Now, let us turn to our four tragedies (with Timon). Here again we have one doubtful play, and I give the figures for the whole of Timon, and again for the parts of Timon assigned to Shakespeare by Mr. Fleay, both as they appear in his amended text and as they appear in the Globe (perhaps the better text).

- Light. Weak. - Hamlet, 8 0 Othello, 2 0 Lear, 5 1 Timon (whole), 16 5 (Sh. in Fleay), 14 7 (Sh. in Globe), 13 2 Macbeth, 21 2 -

Now here the figures for the first three plays tell us practically nothing. The tendency to a freer use of these endings is not visible. As to Timon, the number of weak endings, I think, tells us little, for probably only two or three are Shakespeare's; but the rise in the number of light endings is so marked as to be significant. And most significant is this rise in the case of Macbeth, which, like Shakespeare's part of Timon, is much shorter than the preceding plays. It strongly confirms the impression that in Macbeth we have the transition to Shakespeare's last style, and that the play is the latest of the five tragedies.[290]


[Footnote 282: The fact that King Lear was performed at Court on December 26, 1606, is of course very far from showing that it had never been performed before.]

[Footnote 283: I have not tried to discover the source of the difference between these two reckonings.]

[Footnote 284: Der Vers in Shakspere's Dramen, 1888.]

[Footnote 285: In the parts of Timon (Globe text) assigned by Mr. Fleay to Shakespeare, I find the percentage to be about 74.5. Koenig gives 62.8 as the percentage in the whole of the play.]

[Footnote 286: I have noted also what must be a mistake in the case of Pericles. Koenig gives 17.1 as the percentage of the speeches with broken ends. I was astounded to see the figure, considering the style in the undoubtedly Shakespearean parts; and I find that, on my method, in Acts III., IV., V. the percentage is about 71, in the first two Acts (which show very slight, if any, traces of Shakespeare's hand) about 19. I cannot imagine the origin of the mistake here.]

[Footnote 287: I put the matter thus, instead of saying that, with a run-on line, one does pass to the next line without any pause, because, in common with many others, I should not in any case whatever wholly ignore the fact that one line ends and another begins.]

[Footnote 288: These overflows are what Koenig calls 'schroffe Enjambements,' which he considers to correspond with Furnivall's 'run-on lines.']

[Footnote 289: The number of light endings, however, in Julius Caesar (10) and All's Well (12) is worth notice.]

[Footnote 290: The Editors of the Cambridge Shakespeare might appeal in support of their view, that parts of Act V. are not Shakespeare's, to the fact that the last of the light endings occurs at IV. iii. 165.]



A good many readers probably think that, when Macbeth first met the Witches, he was perfectly innocent; but a much larger number would say that he had already harboured a vaguely guilty ambition, though he had not faced the idea of murder. And I think there can be no doubt that this is the obvious and natural interpretation of the scene. Only it is almost necessary to go rather further, and to suppose that his guilty ambition, whatever its precise form, was known to his wife and shared by her. Otherwise, surely, she would not, on reading his letter, so instantaneously assume that the King must be murdered in their castle; nor would Macbeth, as soon as he meets her, be aware (as he evidently is) that this thought is in her mind.

But there is a famous passage in Macbeth which, closely considered, seems to require us to go further still, and to suppose that, at some time before the action of the play begins, the husband and wife had explicitly discussed the idea of murdering Duncan at some favourable opportunity, and had agreed to execute this idea. Attention seems to have been first drawn to this passage by Koester in vol. I. of the Jahrbuecher d. deutschen Shakespeare-gesellschaft, and on it is based the interpretation of the play in Werder's very able Vorlesungen ueber Macbeth.

The passage occurs in I. vii., where Lady Macbeth is urging her husband to the deed:

Macb. Prithee, peace: I dare do all that may become a man; Who dares do more is none.

Lady M. What beast was't, then, That made you break this enterprise to me? When you durst do it, then you were a man; And, to be more than what you were, you would Be so much more the man. Nor time nor place Did then adhere, and yet you would make both: They have made themselves, and that their fitness now Does unmake you. I have given suck, and know How tender 'tis to love the babe that milks me: I would, while it was smiling in my face, Have pluck'd my nipple from his boneless gums, And dash'd the brains out, had I so sworn as you Have done to this.

Here Lady Macbeth asserts (1) that Macbeth proposed the murder to her: (2) that he did so at a time when there was no opportunity to attack Duncan, no 'adherence' of 'time' and 'place': (3) that he declared he wou'd make an opportunity, and swore to carry out the murder.

Now it is possible that Macbeth's 'swearing' might have occurred in an interview off the stage between scenes v. and vi., or scenes vi. and vii.; and, if in that interview Lady Macbeth had with difficulty worked her husband up to a resolution, her irritation at his relapse, in sc. vii., would be very natural. But, as for Macbeth's first proposal of murder, it certainly does not occur in our play, nor could it possibly occur in any interview off the stage; for when Macbeth and his wife first meet, 'time' and 'place' do adhere; 'they have made themselves.' The conclusion would seem to be, either that the proposal of the murder, and probably the oath, occurred in a scene at the very beginning of the play, which scene has been lost or cut out; or else that Macbeth proposed, and swore to execute, the murder at some time prior to the action of the play.[291] The first of these hypotheses is most improbable, and we seem driven to adopt the second, unless we consent to burden Shakespeare with a careless mistake in a very critical passage.

And, apart from unwillingness to do this, we can find a good deal to say in favour of the idea of a plan formed at a past time. It would explain Macbeth's start of fear at the prophecy of the kingdom. It would explain why Lady Macbeth, on receiving his letter, immediately resolves on action; and why, on their meeting, each knows that murder is in the mind of the other. And it is in harmony with her remarks on his probable shrinking from the act, to which, ex hypothesi, she had already thought it necessary to make him pledge himself by an oath.

Yet I find it very difficult to believe in this interpretation. It is not merely that the interest of Macbeth's struggle with himself and with his wife would be seriously diminished if we felt he had been through all this before. I think this would be so; but there are two more important objections. In the first place the violent agitation described in the words,

If good, why do I yield to that suggestion Whose horrid image doth unfix my hair And make my seated heart knock at my ribs,

would surely not be natural, even in Macbeth, if the idea of murder were already quite familiar to him through conversation with his wife, and if he had already done more than 'yield' to it. It is not as if the Witches had told him that Duncan was coming to his house. In that case the perception that the moment had come to execute a merely general design might well appal him. But all that he hears is that he will one day be King—a statement which, supposing this general design, would not point to any immediate action.[292] And, in the second place, it is hard to believe that, if Shakespeare really had imagined the murder planned and sworn to before the action of the play, he would have written the first six scenes in such a manner that practically all readers imagine quite another state of affairs, and continue to imagine it even after they have read in scene vii. the passage which is troubling us. Is it likely, to put it otherwise, that his idea was one which nobody seems to have divined till late in the nineteenth century? And for what possible reason could he refrain from making this idea clear to his audience, as he might so easily have done in the third scene?[293] It seems very much more likely that he himself imagined the matter as nearly all his readers do.

But, in that case, what are we to say of this passage? I will answer first by explaining the way in which I understood it before I was aware that it had caused so much difficulty. I supposed that an interview had taken place after scene v., a scene which shows Macbeth shrinking, and in which his last words were 'we will speak further.' In this interview, I supposed, his wife had so wrought upon him that he had at last yielded and pledged himself by oath to do the murder. As for her statement that he had 'broken the enterprise' to her, I took it to refer to his letter to her,—a letter written when time and place did not adhere, for he did not yet know that Duncan was coming to visit him. In the letter he does not, of course, openly 'break the enterprise' to her, and it is not likely that he would do such a thing in a letter; but if they had had ambitious conversations, in which each felt that some half-formed guilty idea was floating in the mind of the other, she might naturally take the words of the letter as indicating much more than they said; and then in her passionate contempt at his hesitation, and her passionate eagerness to overcome it, she might easily accuse him, doubtless with exaggeration, and probably with conscious exaggeration, of having actually proposed the murder. And Macbeth, knowing that when he wrote the letter he really had been thinking of murder, and indifferent to anything except the question whether murder should be done, would easily let her statement pass unchallenged.

This interpretation still seems to me not unnatural. The alternative (unless we adopt the idea of an agreement prior to the action of the play) is to suppose that Lady Macbeth refers throughout the passage to some interview subsequent to her husband's return, and that, in making her do so, Shakespeare simply forgot her speeches on welcoming Macbeth home, and also forgot that at any such interview 'time' and 'place' did 'adhere.' It is easy to understand such forgetfulness in a spectator and even in a reader; but it is less easy to imagine it in a poet whose conception of the two characters throughout these scenes was evidently so burningly vivid.


[Footnote 291: The 'swearing' might of course, on this view, occur off the stage within the play; but there is no occasion to suppose this if we are obliged to put the proposal outside the play.]

[Footnote 292: To this it might be answered that the effect of the prediction was to make him feel, 'Then I shall succeed if I carry out the plan of murder,' and so make him yield to the idea over again. To which I can only reply, anticipating the next argument, 'How is it that Shakespeare wrote the speech in such a way that practically everybody supposes the idea of murder to be occurring to Macbeth for the first time?']

[Footnote 293: It might be answered here again that the actor, instructed by Shakespeare, could act the start of fear so as to convey quite clearly the idea of definite guilt. And this is true; but we ought to do our best to interpret the text before we have recourse to this kind of suggestion.]



In the scene of confusion where the murder of Duncan is discovered, Macbeth and Lennox return from the royal chamber; Lennox describes the grooms who, as it seemed, had done the deed:

Their hands and faces were all badged with blood; So were their daggers, which unwiped we found Upon their pillows: They stared, and were distracted; no man's life Was to be trusted with them.

Macb. O, yet I do repent me of my fury That I did kill them.

Macd. Wherefore did you so?

Macb. Who can be wise, amazed, temperate and furious, Loyal and neutral, in a moment? No man: The expedition of my violent love Outrun the pauser, reason. Here lay Duncan, His silver skin laced with his golden blood; And his gash'd stabs look'd like a breach in nature For ruin's wasteful entrance: there, the murderers, Steep'd in the colours of their trade, their daggers Unmannerly breech'd with gore: who could refrain, That had a heart to love, and in that heart Courage to make's love known?

At this point Lady Macbeth exclaims, 'Help me hence, ho!' Her husband takes no notice, but Macduff calls out 'Look to the lady.' This, after a few words 'aside' between Malcolm and Donalbain, is repeated by Banquo, and, very shortly after, all except Duncan's sons exeunt. (The stage-direction 'Lady Macbeth is carried out,' after Banquo's exclamation 'Look to the lady,' is not in the Ff. and was introduced by Rowe. If the Ff. are right, she can hardly have fainted away. But the point has no importance here.)

Does Lady Macbeth really turn faint, or does she pretend? The latter seems to have been the general view, and Whately pointed out that Macbeth's indifference betrays his consciousness that the faint was not real. But to this it may be answered that, if he believed it to be real, he would equally show indifference, in order to display his horror at the murder. And Miss Helen Faucit and others have held that there was no pretence.

In favour of the pretence it may be said (1) that Lady Macbeth, who herself took back the daggers, saw the old King in his blood, and smeared the grooms, was not the woman to faint at a mere description; (2) that she saw her husband over-acting his part, and saw the faces of the lords, and wished to end the scene,—which she succeeded in doing.

But to the last argument it may be replied that she would not willingly have run the risk of leaving her husband to act his part alone. And for other reasons (indicated above, p. 373 f.) I decidedly believe that she is meant really to faint. She was no Goneril. She knew that she could not kill the King herself; and she never expected to have to carry back the daggers, see the bloody corpse, and smear the faces and hands of the grooms. But Macbeth's agony greatly alarmed her, and she was driven to the scene of horror to complete his task; and what an impression it made on her we know from that sentence uttered in her sleep, 'Yet who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him?' She had now, further, gone through the ordeal of the discovery. Is it not quite natural that the reaction should come, and that it should come just when Macbeth's description recalls the scene which had cost her the greatest effort? Is it not likely, besides, that the expression on the faces of the lords would force her to realise, what before the murder she had refused to consider, the horror and the suspicion it must excite? It is noticeable, also, that she is far from carrying out her intention of bearing a part in making their 'griefs and clamours roar upon his death' (I. vii. 78). She has left it all to her husband, and, after uttering but two sentences, the second of which is answered very curtly by Banquo, for some time (an interval of 33 lines) she has said nothing. I believe Shakespeare means this interval to be occupied in desperate efforts on her part to prevent herself from giving way, as she sees for the first time something of the truth to which she was formerly so blind, and which will destroy her in the end.

It should be observed that at the close of the Banquet scene, where she has gone through much less, she is evidently exhausted.

Shakespeare, of course, knew whether he meant the faint to be real: but I am not aware if an actor of the part could show the audience whether it was real or pretended. If he could, he would doubtless receive instructions from the author.



1. The duration of the action cannot well be more than a few months. On the day following the murder of Duncan his sons fly and Macbeth goes to Scone to be invested (II. iv.). Between this scene and Act III. an interval must be supposed, sufficient for news to arrive of Malcolm being in England and Donalbain in Ireland, and for Banquo to have shown himself a good counsellor. But the interval is evidently not long: e.g. Banquo's first words are 'Thou hast it now' (III. i. 1). Banquo is murdered on the day when he speaks these words. Macbeth's visit to the Witches takes place the next day (III. iv. 132). At the end of this visit (IV. i.) he hears of Macduff's flight to England, and determines to have Macduff's wife and children slaughtered without delay; and this is the subject of the next scene (IV. ii.). No great interval, then, can be supposed between this scene and the next, where Macduff, arrived at the English court, hears what has happened at his castle. At the end of that scene (IV. iii. 237) Malcolm says that 'Macbeth is ripe for shaking, and the powers above put on their instruments': and the events of Act V. evidently follow with little delay, and occupy but a short time. Holinshed's Macbeth appears to have reigned seventeen years: Shakespeare's may perhaps be allowed as many weeks.

But, naturally, Shakespeare creates some difficulties through wishing to produce different impressions in different parts of the play. The main effect is that of fiery speed, and it would be impossible to imagine the torment of Macbeth's mind lasting through a number of years, even if Shakespeare had been willing to allow him years of outward success. Hence the brevity of the action. On the other hand time is wanted for the degeneration of his character hinted at in IV. iii. 57 f., for the development of his tyranny, for his attempts to entrap Malcolm (ib. 117 f.), and perhaps for the deepening of his feeling that his life had passed into the sere and yellow leaf. Shakespeare, as we have seen, scarcely provides time for all this, but at certain points he produces an impression that a longer time has elapsed than he has provided for, and he puts most of the indications of this longer time into a scene (IV. iii.) which by its quietness contrasts strongly with almost all the rest of the play.

2. There is no unmistakable indication of the ages of the two principal characters; but the question, though of no great importance, has an interest. I believe most readers imagine Macbeth as a man between forty and fifty, and his wife as younger but not young. In many cases this impression is doubtless due to the custom of the theatre (which, if it can be shown to go back far, should have much weight), but it is shared by readers who have never seen the play performed, and is then presumably due to a number of slight influences probably incapable of complete analysis. Such readers would say, 'The hero and heroine do not speak like young people, nor like old ones'; but, though I think this is so, it can hardly be demonstrated. Perhaps however the following small indications, mostly of a different kind, tend to the same result.

(1) There is no positive sign of youth. (2) A young man would not be likely to lead the army. (3) Macbeth is 'cousin' to an old man.[294] (4) Macbeth calls Malcolm 'young,' and speaks of him scornfully as 'the boy Malcolm.' He is probably therefore considerably his senior. But Malcolm is evidently not really a boy (see I. ii. 3 f. as well as the later Acts). (5) One gets the impression (possibly without reason) that Macbeth and Banquo are of about the same age; and Banquo's son, the boy Fleance, is evidently not a mere child. (On the other hand the children of Macduff, who is clearly a good deal older than Malcolm, are all young; and I do not think there is any sign that Macbeth is older than Macduff.) (6) When Lady Macbeth, in the banquet scene, says,

Sit, worthy friends: my lord is often thus, And hath been from his youth,

we naturally imagine him some way removed from his youth. (7) Lady Macbeth saw a resemblance to her father in the aged king. (8) Macbeth says,

I have lived long enough: my way[295] of life Is fall'n into the sere, the yellow leaf: And that which should accompany old age, As honour, love, obedience, troops of friends, I may not look to have.

It is, surely, of the old age of the soul that he speaks in the second line, but still the lines would hardly be spoken under any circumstances by a man less than middle-aged.

On the other hand I suppose no one ever imagined Macbeth, or on consideration could imagine him, as more than middle-aged when the action begins. And in addition the reader may observe, if he finds it necessary, that Macbeth looks forward to having children (I. vii. 72), and that his terms of endearment ('dearest love,' 'dearest chuck') and his language in public ('sweet remembrancer') do not suggest that his wife and he are old; they even suggest that she at least is scarcely middle-aged. But this discussion tends to grow ludicrous.

For Shakespeare's audience these mysteries were revealed by a glance at the actors, like the fact that Duncan was an old man, which the text, I think, does not disclose till V. i. 44.

3. Whether Macbeth had children or (as seems usually to be supposed) had none, is quite immaterial. But it is material that, if he had none, he looked forward to having one; for otherwise there would be no point in the following words in his soliloquy about Banquo (III. i. 58 f.):

Then prophet-like They hail'd him father to a line of kings: Upon my head they placed a fruitless crown, And put a barren sceptre in my gripe, Thence to be wrench'd with an unlineal hand, No son of mine succeeding. If't be so, For Banquo's issue have I filed my mind.

And he is determined that it shall not 'be so':

Rather than so, come, fate, into the list And champion me to the utterance!

Obviously he contemplates a son of his succeeding, if only he can get rid of Banquo and Fleance. What he fears is that Banquo will kill him; in which case, supposing he has a son, that son will not be allowed to succeed him, and, supposing he has none, he will be unable to beget one.

I hope this is clear; and nothing else matters. Lady Macbeth's child (I. vii. 54) may be alive or may be dead. It may even be, or have been, her child by a former husband; though, if Shakespeare had followed history in making Macbeth marry a widow (as some writers gravely assume) he would probably have told us so. It may be that Macbeth had many children or that he had none. We cannot say, and it does not concern the play. But the interpretation of a statement on which some critics build, 'He has no children,' has an interest of another kind, and I proceed to consider it.

These words occur at IV. iii. 216. Malcolm and Macduff are talking at the English Court, and Ross, arriving from Scotland, brings news to Macduff of Macbeth's revenge on him. It is necessary to quote a good many lines:

Ross. Your castle is surprised; your wife and babes Savagely slaughter'd: to relate the manner, Were, on the quarry of these murder'd deer, To add the death of you.

Mal. Merciful heaven! What, man! ne'er pull your hat upon your brows; Give sorrow words: the grief that does not speak Whispers the o'er-fraught heart and bids it break.

Macd. My children too?

Ross. Wife, children, servants, all That could be found.

Macd. And I must be from thence! My wife kill'd too?

Ross. I have said.

Mal. Be comforted: Let's makes us medicines of our great revenge, To cure this deadly grief.

Macd. He has no children. All my pretty ones? Did you say all? O hell-kite! All? What, all my pretty chickens and their dam At one fell swoop?

Mal. Dispute it like a man.

Macd. I shall do so; But I must also feel it as a man: I cannot but remember such things were, That were most precious to me.—

Three interpretations have been offered of the words 'He has no children.'

(a) They refer to Malcolm, who, if he had children of his own, would not at such a moment suggest revenge, or talk of curing such a grief. Cf. King John, III. iv. 91, where Pandulph says to Constance,

You hold too heinous a respect of grief,

and Constance answers,

He talks to me that never had a son.

(b) They refer to Macbeth, who has no children, and on whom therefore Macduff cannot take an adequate revenge.

(c) They refer to Macbeth, who, if he himself had children, could never have ordered the slaughter of children. Cf. 3 Henry VI. V. v. 63, where Margaret says to the murderers of Prince Edward,

You have no children, butchers! if you had, The thought of them would have stirred up remorse.

I cannot think interpretation (b) the most natural. The whole idea of the passage is that Macduff must feel grief first and before he can feel anything else, e.g. the desire for vengeance. As he says directly after, he cannot at once 'dispute' it like a man, but must 'feel' it as a man; and it is not till ten lines later that he is able to pass to the thought of revenge. Macduff is not the man to conceive at any time the idea of killing children in retaliation; and that he contemplates it here, even as a suggestion, I find it hard to believe.

For the same main reason interpretation (a) seems to me far more probable than (c). What could be more consonant with the natural course of the thought, as developed in the lines which follow, than that Macduff, being told to think of revenge, not grief, should answer, 'No one who was himself a father would ask that of me in the very first moment of loss'? But the thought supposed by interpretation (c) has not this natural connection.

It has been objected to interpretation (a) that, according to it, Macduff would naturally say 'You have no children,' not 'He has no children.' But what Macduff does is precisely what Constance does in the line quoted from King John. And it should be noted that, all through the passage down to this point, and indeed in the fifteen lines which precede our quotation, Macduff listens only to Ross. His questions 'My children too?' 'My wife killed too?' show that he cannot fully realise what he is told. When Malcolm interrupts, therefore, he puts aside his suggestion with four words spoken to himself, or (less probably) to Ross (his relative, who knew his wife and children), and continues his agonised questions and exclamations. Surely it is not likely that at that moment the idea of (c), an idea which there is nothing to suggest, would occur to him.

In favour of (c) as against (a) I see no argument except that the words of Macduff almost repeat those of Margaret; and this fact does not seem to me to have much weight. It shows only that Shakespeare might easily use the words in the sense of (c) if that sense were suitable to the occasion. It is not unlikely, again, I think, that the words came to him here because he had used them many years before;[296] but it does not follow that he knew he was repeating them; or that, if he did, he remembered the sense they had previously borne; or that, if he did remember it, he might not use them now in another sense.


[Footnote 294: So in Holinshed, as well as in the play, where however 'cousin' need not have its specific meaning.]

[Footnote 295: 'May,' Johnson conjectured, without necessity.]

[Footnote 296: As this point occurs here, I may observe that Shakespeare's later tragedies contain many such reminiscences of the tragic plays of his young days. For instance, cf. Titus Andronicus, I. i. 150 f.:

In peace and honour rest you here, my sons,

* * * * *

Secure from worldly chances and mishaps! Here lurks no treason, here no envy swells, Here grow no damned drugs: here are no storms, No noise, but silence and eternal sleep,

with Macbeth, III. ii. 22 f.:

Duncan is in his grave; After life's fitful fever he sleeps well; Treason has done his worst: nor steel, nor poison, Malice domestic, foreign levy, nothing, Can touch him further.

In writing IV. i. Shakespeare can hardly have failed to remember the conjuring of the Spirit, and the ambiguous oracles, in 2 Henry VI. I. iv. The 'Hyrcan tiger' of Macbeth III. iv. 101, which is also alluded to in Hamlet, appears first in 3 Henry VI. I. iv. 155. Cf. Richard III. II. i. 92, 'Nearer in bloody thoughts, but not in blood,' with Macbeth II. iii. 146, 'the near in blood, the nearer bloody'; Richard III. IV. ii. 64, 'But I am in So far in blood that sin will pluck on sin,' with Macbeth III. iv. 136, 'I am in blood stepp'd in so far,' etc. These are but a few instances. (It makes no difference whether Shakespeare was author or reviser of Titus and Henry VI.).]



I do not think the suggestions that the Ghost on its first appearance is Banquo's, and on its second Duncan's, or vice versa, are worth discussion. But the question whether Shakespeare meant the Ghost to be real or a mere hallucination, has some interest, and I have not seen it fully examined.

The following reasons may be given for the hallucination view:

(1) We remember that Macbeth has already seen one hallucination, that of the dagger; and if we failed to remember it Lady Macbeth would remind us of it here:

This is the very painting of your fear; This is the air-drawn dagger which, you said, Led you to Duncan.

(2) The Ghost seems to be created by Macbeth's imagination; for his words,

now they rise again With twenty mortal murders on their crowns,

describe it, and they echo what the murderer had said to him a little before,

Safe in a ditch he bides With twenty trenched gashes on his head.

(3) It vanishes the second time on his making a violent effort and asserting its unreality:

Hence, horrible shadow! Unreal mockery, hence!

This is not quite so the first time, but then too its disappearance follows on his defying it:

Why what care I? If thou canst nod, speak too.

So, apparently, the dagger vanishes when he exclaims, 'There's no such thing!'

(4) At the end of the scene Macbeth himself seems to regard it as an illusion:

My strange and self-abuse Is the initiate fear that wants hard use.

(5) It does not speak, like the Ghost in Hamlet even on its last appearance, and like the Ghost in Julius Caesar.

(6) It is visible only to Macbeth.

I should attach no weight to (6) taken alone (see p. 140). Of (3) it may be remarked that Brutus himself seems to attribute the vanishing of Caesar's Ghost to his taking courage: 'now I have taken heart thou vanishest:' yet he certainly holds it to be real. It may also be remarked on (5) that Caesar's Ghost says nothing that Brutus' own forebodings might not have conjured up. And further it may be asked why, if the Ghost of Banquo was meant for an illusion, it was represented on the stage, as the stage-directions and Forman's account show it to have been.

On the whole, and with some doubt, I think that Shakespeare (1) meant the judicious to take the Ghost for an hallucination, but (2) knew that the bulk of the audience would take it for a reality. And I am more sure of (2) than of (1).


The titles of plays are in italics. So are the numbers of the pages containing the main discussion of a character. The titles of the Notes are not repeated in the Index.

Aaron, 200, 211.

Abnormal mental conditions, 13, 398.

Accident, in tragedy, 7, 14-16, 26, 28; in Hamlet, 143, 173; in Othello, 181-2; in King Lear, 253, 325.

Act, difficulty in Fourth, 57-8; the five Acts, 49.

Action, tragic, 11, 12, 31; and character, 12, 19; a conflict, 16-19.

Adversity and prosperity in King Lear, 326-7.

Albany, 297-8.

Antonio, 110, 404.

Antony and Cleopatra, 3, 7, 45, 80; conflict, 17-8; crisis, 53, 55, 66; humour in catastrophe, 62, 395-6; battle-scenes, 62-3; extended catastrophe, 64; faulty construction, 71, 260; passion in, 82; evil in, 83-4; versification, 87, Note BB.

Antony, 22, 29, 63, 83-4.

Arden of Feversham, 9.

Ariel, 264.

Aristotle, 16, 22.

Art, Shakespeare's, conscious, 68-9; defects in, 71-78.

Arthur, 294.

As You Like It, 71, 267, 390.

Atmosphere in tragedy, 333.

Banquo, 343, 379-86.

Barbara, the maid, 175.

Battle-scene, 62, 451, 469; in King Lear, 255, Note X.

Beast and man, in King Lear, 266-8; in Timon, 453.

Bernhardt, Mme., 379.

Biblical ideas, in King Lear, 328.

Bombast, 73, 75-6, 389, Note F.

Brandes, G., 379, 393.

Brutus, 7, 14, 22, 27, 32, 81-2, 101, 364.

Caliban, 264.

Cassio, 211-3, 238-9, 433-4.

Catastrophe, humour before, 61-2; battle-scenes in, 62; false hope before, 63; extended, 62; in Antony and Coriolanus, 83-4. See Hamlet, etc.

Character, and plot, 12; is destiny, 13; tragic, 19-23.

Chaucer, 8, 346.

Children, in the plays, 293-5.

Cleopatra, 7, 20, 84, 178, 208.

Coleridge, 104-5, 107, 109, 127, 165, 200, 201, 209, 223, 226, 228, 249, 343, 353, 362, 389, 391, 392, 397, 412, 413.

Comedy, 15, 41.

Conflict, tragic, 16-9; originates in evil, 34; oscillating movement in, 50; crisis in, 51-5; descending movement of, 55-62.

Conscience. See Hamlet.

Cordelia, 29, 32, 203-6, 250, 290, 314, 315-26, Note W.

Coriolanus, 3, 9, 43, 394-5; crisis, 53; hero off stage, 57; counter-stroke, 58; humour, 61; passion, 82; catastrophe, 83-4; versification, Note BB.

Coriolanus, 20, 29, 83-4, 196.

Cornwall, 298-9.

Crisis. See Conflict.

Curtain, no front, in Shakespeare's theatre, 185, 458.

Cymbeline, 7, 21, 72, 80, Note BB; Queen in, 300.

Desdemona, 32, 165, 179, 193, 197, 201-6, 323, 433, 437-9.

Disillusionment, in tragedies, 175.

Dog, the, Shakespeare and, 268.

Don John, 110, 210.

Double action in King Lear, 255-6, 262.

Dowden, E., 82, 105, 330, 408.

Dragging, 57-8, 64.

Drunkenness, invective against, 238.

Edgar, 305-7, 453, 465.

Edmund, 210, 245, 253, 300-3, Notes P, Q. See Iago.

Emilia, 214-6, 237, 239-42, Note P.

Emotional tension, variations of, 48-9.

Evil, origin of conflict, 34; negative, 35; in earlier and later tragedies, 82-3; poetic portrayal of, 207-8; aspects of, specially impressive to Shakespeare, 232-3; in King Lear, 298, 303-4, 327; in Tempest, 328-30; in Macbeth, 331, 386.

Exposition, 41-7.

Fate, Fatality, 10, 26-30, 45, 59, 177, 181, 287, 340-6.

Fleay, F.G., 419, 424, 445, 467, 479.

Fool in King Lear, the, 258, 311-5, 322, 447, Note V.

Fools, Shakespeare's, 310.

Forman, Dr., 468, 493.

Fortinbras, 90.

Fortune, 9, 10.

Freytag, G., 40, 63.

Furness, H.H., 199, 200.

Garnet and equivocation, 397, 470-1.

Ghost, Banquo's, 332, 335, 338, 361, Note FF.

Ghost, Caesar's, Note FF.

Ghost in Hamlet, 97, 100, 118, 120, 125, 126, 134, 136, 138-40, 173-4.

Ghosts, not hallucinations because appearing only to one in a company, 140.

Gloster, 272, 293-6, 447.

Gnomic speeches, 74, 453.

Goethe, 101, 127, 165, 208.

Goneril, 245, 299-300, 331, 370, 447-8.

Greek tragedy, 7, 16, 30, 33, 182, 276-9, 282.

Greene, 409.

Hales, J.W., 397.

Hamlet, exposition, 43-7; conflict, 17, 47, 50-1; crisis and counter-stroke, 52, 58-60, 136-7; dragging, 57; humour, and false hope, before catastrophe, 61, 63; obscurities, 73; undramatic passages, 72, 74; place among tragedies, 80-8; position of hero, 89-92; not simply tragedy of thought, 82, 113, 127; in the Romantic Revival, 92, 127-8; lapse of time in, 129, 141; accident, 15, 143, 173; religious ideas, 144-5, 147-8, 172-4; player's speech, 389-90, Note F; grave-digger, 395-6; last scene, 256. See Notes A to H, and BB.

Hamlet, only tragic character in play, 90; contrasted with Laertes and Fortinbras, 90, 106; failure of early criticism of, 91; supposed unintelligible, 93-4; external view, 94-7; 'conscience' view, 97-101; sentimental view, 101-4; Schlegel-Coleridge view, 104-8, 116, 123, 126-7; temperament, 109-10; moral idealism, 110-3; reflective genius, 113-5; connection of this with inaction, 115-7; origin of melancholy, 117-20; its nature and effects, 120-7, 103, 158; its diminution, 143-4; his 'insanity,' 121-2, 421; in Act II. 129-31, 155-6; in III. i. 131-3, 157, 421; in play-scene, 133-4; spares King, 134-6, 100, 439; with Queen, 136-8; kills Polonius, 136-7, 104; with Ghost, 138-40; leaving Denmark, 140-1; state after return, 143-5, 421; in grave-yard, 145-6, 153, 158, 421-2; in catastrophe, 102, 146-8, 151, 420-1; and Ophelia, 103, 112, 119, 145-6, 152-9, 402, 420-1; letter to Ophelia, 150, 403; trick of repetition, 148-9; word-play and humour, 149-52, 411; aesthetic feeling, 133, 415; and Iago, 208, 217, 222, 226; other references, 9, 14, 20, 22, 28, 316, 353, Notes A to H.

Hanmer, 91.

Hazlitt, 209, 223, 228, 231, 243, 248.

Hecate, 342, Note Z.

Hegel, 16, 348.

2 Henry VI., 492.

3 Henry VI., 222, 418, 490, 492.

Henry VIII., 80, 472, 479.

Heredity, 30, 266, 303.

Hero, tragic, 7; of 'high degree,' 9-11; contributes to catastrophe, 12; nature of, 19-23, 37; error of, 21, 34; unlucky, 28; place of, in construction, 53-55; absence of, from stage, 57; in earlier and later plays, 81-2, 176; in King Lear, 280; feeling at death of, 147-8, 174, 198, 324.

Heywood, 140, 419.

Historical tragedies, 3, 53, 71.

Homer, 348.

Horatio, 99, 112, 310, Notes A, B, C.

Humour, constructional use of, 61; Hamlet's, 149-52; in Othello, 177; in Macbeth, 395.

Hunter, J., 199, 338.

Iachimo, 21, 210.

Iago, and evil, 207, 232-3; false views of, 208-11, 223-7; danger of accepting his own evidence, 211-2, 222-5; how he appeared to others, 213-5; and to Emilia, 215-6, 439-40; inferences hence, 217-8; further analysis, 218-22; source of his action, 222-31; his tragedy, 218, 222, 232; not merely evil, 233-5; nor of supreme intellect, 236; cause of failure, 236-7; and Edmund, 245, 300-1, 464; and Hamlet, 208, 217, 222, 226; other references, 21, 28, 32, 192, 193, 196, 364, Notes L, M, P, Q.

Improbability, not always a defect, 69; in King Lear, 249, 256-7.

Inconsistencies, 73; real or supposed, in Hamlet, 408; in Othello, Note I; in King Lear, 256, Note T; in Macbeth, Notes CC, EE.

Ingram, Prof., 478.

Insanity in tragedy, 13; Ophelia's, 164-5, 399; Lear's, 288-90.

Intrigue in tragedy, 12, 67, 179.

Irony, 182, 338.

Isabella, 316, 317, 321.

Jameson, Mrs., 165, 204, 379.

Jealousy in Othello, 178, 194, Note L.

Job, 11.

Johnson, 31, 91, 294, 298, 304, 377, 420.

Jonson, 69, 282, 389.

Juliet, 7, 204, 210.

Julius Caesar, 3, 7, 9, 33, 34, 479; conflict, 17-8; exposition, 43-5; crisis, 52; dragging, 57; counter-stroke, 58; quarrel-scene, 60-1; battle-scenes, 62; and Hamlet, 80-2; style, 85-6.

Justice in tragedy, idea of, 31-33, 279, 318.

Kean, 99, 243-4.

Kent, 307-10, 314, 321, 447, Note W.

King Claudius, 28, 102, 133, 137, 142, 168-72, 402, 422.

King John, 394, 490-1.

King Lear, exposition, 44, 46-7; conflict, 17, 53-4; scenes of high and low tension, 49; dragging, 57; false hope before catastrophe, 63; battle-scene, 62, 456-8; soliloquy in, 72, 222; place among tragedies, 82, 88, see Tate; Tate's, 243-4; two-fold character, 244-6; not wholly dramatic, 247; opening scene, 71, 249-51, 258, 319-21, 447; blinding of Gloster, 185, 251; catastrophe, 250-4, 271, 290-3, 309, 322-6; structural defects, 254-6; improbabilities, etc., 256-8; vagueness of locality, 259-60; poetic value of defects, 261; double action, 262; characterisation, 263; tendency to symbolism, 264-5; idea of monstrosity, 265-6; beast and man, 266-8; storm-scenes, 269-70, 286-7, 315; question of government of world, in, 271-3; supposed pessimism, 273-9, 284-5, 303-4, 322-30; accident and fatality, 15, 250-4, 287-8; intrigue in, 179; evil in, 298, 303-4; preaching patience, 330; and Othello, 176-7, 179, 181, 244-5, 441-3; and Timon, 245-7, 310, 326-7, 443-5; other references, 8, 10, 61, 181, Notes R to Y, and BB.

Koenig, G., Note BB.

Koppel, R., 306, 450, 453, 462.

Laertes, 90, 111, 142, 422.

Lamb, 202, 243, 248, 253, 255, 269, 343.

Language, Shakespeare's, defects of, 73, 75, 416.

Lear, 13, 14, 20, 28, 29, 32, 249-51, 280-93, 293-5, Note W.

Leontes, 21, 194.

Macbeth, exposition, 43, 45-6; conflict, 17-9, 48, 52; crisis, 59, 60; pathos and humour, 61, 391, 395-7; battle-scenes, 62; extended catastrophe, 64; defects in construction, 57, 71; place among tragedies, 82, 87-8, Note BB; religious ideas, 172-4; atmosphere of, 333; effects of darkness, 333-4, colour, 334-6, storm, 336-7, supernatural, etc., 337-8, irony, 338-40; Witches, 340-9, 362, 379-86; imagery, 336, 357; minor characters, 387; simplicity, 388; Senecan effect, 389-90; bombast, 389, 417; prose, 388, 397-400; relief-scenes, 391; sleep-walking scene, 378, 398, 400; references to Gunpowder Plot, 397, 470-1; all genuine? 388, 391, 395-7, Note Z; and Hamlet, 331-2; and Richard III., 338, 390, 395, 492; other references, 7, 8, 386, and Notes Z to FF.

Macbeth, 13, 14, 20, 22, 28, 32, 63, 172, 343-5, 349-65, 380, 383, 386, Notes CC, EE.

Macbeth, Lady, 13, 28, 32, 349-50, 358, 364, 366-79, 398-400, Notes CC, DD.

Macduff, 387, 391-2, 490-1.

Macduff, Lady, 61, 387, 391-2.

Macduff, little, 393-5.

Mackenzie, 91.

Marlowe, 211, 415-6.

Marston's possible reminiscences of Shakespeare's plays, 471-2.

Measure for Measure, 76, 78, 275, 397.

Mediaeval idea of tragedy, 8, 9.

Melancholy, Shakespeare's representations of, 110, 121. See Hamlet.

Mephistopheles, 208.

Merchant of Venice, 21, 200.

Metrical tests, Notes S, BB.

Middleton, 466.

Midsummer Night's Dream, 390, 469.

Milton, 207, 362, 418.

Monstrosity, idea of, in King Lear, 265-6.

Moral order in tragedy, idea of, 26, 31-9.

Moulton, R.G., 40.

Negro? Othello a, 198-202.

Opening scene in tragedy, 43-4.

Ophelia, 14, 61, 112, 160-5, 204, 399. See Hamlet.

Oswald, 298, 448.

Othello, exposition, 44-5; conflict, 17, 18, 48; peculiar construction, 54-5, 64-7, 177; inconsistencies, 73; place among tragedies, 82, 83, 88; and Hamlet, 175-6; and King Lear, 176-7, 179, 181, 244-5, 441-3; distinctive effect, and its causes, 176-80; accident in, 15, 181-2; objections to, considered, 183-5; point of inferiority to other three tragedies, 185-6; elements of reconciliation in catastrophe, 198, 242; other references, 9, 61, Notes I to R, and BB.

Othello, 9, 20, 21, 22, 28, 29, 32, 176, 178, 179, 186-98, 198-202, 211, 212, Notes K to O.

Pathos, and tragedy, 14, 103, 160, 203, 281-2; constructional use of, 60-1.

Peele, 200.

Pericles, 474.

Period, Shakespeare's tragic, 79-89, 275-6.

Pessimism, supposed, in King Lear, 275-9, 327; in Macbeth, 359, 393.

Plays, Shakespeare's, list of, in periods, 79.

Plot, 12. See Action, Intrigue.

'Poetic justice,' 31-2.

Poor, goodness of the, in King Lear and Timon, 326.

Posthumus, 21.

Problems, probably non-existent for original audience, 73, 157, 159, 315, 393, 483, 486, 488.

Prose, in the tragedies, 388, 397-400.

Queen Gertrude, 104, 118, 134, 136-8, 161, 164, 166-8.

Reconciliation, feeling of, in tragedy, 31, 36, 84, 147-8, 174, 198, 242, 322-6.

Regan, 299-300.

Religion, in Edgar, 306, Horatio, 310, Banquo, 387.

Richard II., 3, 10, 17, 18, 42.

Richard II., 20, 22, 150, 152.

Richard III., 3, 18, 42, 62, 82; and Macbeth, 338, 390, 395, 492.

Richard III., 14, 20, 22, 32, 63, 152, 207, 210, 217, 218, 233, 301.

Romeo and Juliet, 3, 7, 9, 15; conflict, 17, 18, 34; exposition, 41-5; crisis, 52; counter-stroke, 58.

Romeo, 22, 29, 150, 210.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, 137, 405-6.

Rules of drama, Shakespeare's supposed ignorance of, 69.

Salvini, 434.

Satan, Milton's, 207, 362.

Scenery, no, in Shakespeare's theatre, 49, 71, 451.

Scenes, their number, length, tone, 49; wrong divisions of, 451.

Schlegel, 82, 104, 105, 116, 123, 127, 254, 262, 344, 345, 413.

Scot on Witch-craft, 341.

Seneca, 389-90.

Shakespeare the man, 6, 81, 83, 185-6, 246, 275-6, 282, 285, 327-30, 359, 393, 414-5.

Shylock, 21.

Siddons, Mrs., 371, 379.

Soliloquy, 72; of villains, 222; scenes ending with, 451.

Sonnets, Shakespeare's, 264, 364.

Spedding, J., 255, 476, Note X.

Stage-directions, wrong modern, 260, 285, 422, 453-6, 462.

Style in the tragedies, 85-9, 332, 336, 357.

Suffering, tragic, 7, 8, 11.

Supernatural, the, in tragedy, 14, 181, 295-6, 331-2. See Ghost, Witch.

Swinburne, A.C., 80, 179, 191, 209, 218, 223, 228, 231, 276-8, 431.

Symonds, J.A., 10.

Tate's version of King Lear, 243, 251-3, 313.

Temperament, 110, 282, 306.

Tempest, 42, 80, 185, 264, 328-30, 469; Note BB.

Theological ideas in tragedy, 25, 144, 147, 279; in Hamlet and Macbeth, 171-4, 439; not in Othello, 181, 439; in King Lear, 271-3, 296.

Time, short and long, theory of, 426-7.

Timon of Athens, 4, 9, 81-3, 88, 245-7, 266, 270, 275, 310, 326-7, 443-5, 460; Note BB.

Timon, 9, 82, 112.

Titus Andronicus, 4, 200, 211, 411, 491.

Tourgenief, 11, 295.

Toussaint, 198.

Tragedy, Shakespearean; parts, 41, 51; earlier and later, 18, 176; pure and historical, 3, 71. See Accident, Action, Hero, Period, Reconciliation, etc.

Transmigration of souls, 267.

Troilus and Cressida, 7, 185-6, 268, 275-6, 302, 417, 419.

Twelfth Night, 70, 267.

Two Noble Kinsmen, 418, 472, 479.

Ultimate power in tragedy, 24-39, 171-4, 271-9. See Fate, Moral Order, Reconciliation, Theological.

Undramatic speeches, 74, 106.

Versification. See Style and Metrical tests.

Virgilia, 387.

Waste, tragic, 23, 37.

Werder, K., 94, 172, 480.

Winter's Tale, 21, Note BB.

Witches, the, and Macbeth, 340-9, 362; and Banquo, 379-87.

Wittenberg, Hamlet at, 403-6.

Wordsworth, 30, 198.

Yorkshire Tragedy, 10.


8vo. 12s. 6d. net.

Oxford Lectures on Poetry


A.C. BRADLEY, LL.D., Litt.D.

ATHENAEUM.—"A remarkable achievement.... It is probable that this volume will attain a permanence for which critical literature generally cannot hope. Very many of the things that are said here are finally said; they exhaust their subject. Of one thing we are certain—that there is no work in English devoted to the interpretation of poetic experience which can claim the delicacy and sureness of Mr. Bradley's."

SPECTATOR.—"In reviewing Professor Bradley's previous book on Shakespearean Tragedy we declared our opinion that it was probably the best Shakespearean criticism since Coleridge. The new volume shows the same complete sanity of judgment, the same subtlety, the same persuasive and eloquent exposition."

TIMES.—"Nothing higher need be said of the present volume than it is not unworthy to be the sequel to Shakespearean Tragedy."

DAILY TELEGRAPH.—"This is not a book to be written about in a hasty review of a thousand words. It is one to be perused and appreciated at leisure—to be returned to again and again, partly because of its supreme interest, partly because it provokes, as all good books should do, a certain antagonism, partly because it is itself the product of a careful, scholarly mind, basing conclusions on a scrupulous perusal of documents and authorities.... The whole book is so full of good things that it is impossible to make any adequate selection. In an age which is not supposed to be very much interested in literary criticism, a book like Mr. Bradley's is of no little significance and importance."

SATURDAY REVIEW.—"The writer of these admirable lectures may claim what is rare even in this age of criticism—a note of his own. In type he belongs to those critics of the best order, whose view of literature is part and parcel of their view of life. His lectures on poetry are therefore what they profess to be: not scraps of textual comment, nor studies in the craft of verse-making, but broad considerations of poetry as a mode of spiritual revelation. An accomplished style and signs of careful reading we may justly demand from any professor who sets out to lecture in literature. Mr. Bradley has them in full measure. But he has also not a little of that priceless quality so seldom found in the professional or professorial critic—the capacity of naive vision and admiration. Here he is in a line with the really stimulating essayists, the artists in criticism."


Second Edition. Crown 8vo. 5s. 6d. net.

A Commentary on Tennyson's 'In Memoriam'


A.C. BRADLEY, LL.D., Litt.D.

THE SATURDAY REVIEW.—"Here we find a model of what a commentary on a great work should be, every page instinct with thoughtfulness; complete sympathy and appreciation; the most reverent care shown in the attempted interpretation of passages whose meaning to a large degree evades, and will always evade, readers of 'In Memoriam.' It is clear to us that Mr. Bradley has devoted long time and thought to his work, and that he has published the result of his labours simply to help those who, like himself, have been and are in difficulties as to the drift of various passages. He is not of course the first who has addressed himself to the interpretation of 'In Memoriam'—in this spirit ... but Mr. Bradley's commentary is sure to take rank as the most searching and scholarly of any."

THE PILOT.—"In re-studying 'In Memoriam' with Dr. Bradley's aid, we have found his interpretation helpful in numerous passages. The notes are prefaced by a long introduction dealing with the origin, composition, and structure of the poem, the ideas used in it, the metre and the debt to other poems. All of these are good, but more interesting than any of them is a section entitled, 'The Way of the Soul,' reviewing the spiritual experience which 'In Memoriam' records. This is quite admirable throughout, and proves conclusively that Dr. Bradley's keen desire to fathom the exact meaning of every phrase has only quickened his appreciation of the poem as a whole."



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