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Bradley, A. C. Shakespearean Tragedy: Lectures on Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, Macbeth.
2nd ed. London: Macmillan, 1905.
PAGE 393

interest of his family is no less clear. But that does not show that it was wrong; and, even if it were, to represent its consequences as a judgment on him for his want of due consideration is equally monstrous and ludicrous.1 The further question whether he did fail in due consideration, or whether for his country's sake he deliberately risked a danger which he fully realized, would in Shakespeare's theatre have been answered at once by Macduff's expression and demeanour on hearing Malcolm's words,

Why in that rawness left you wife and child,
Those precious motives, those strong knots of love,
Without leave-taking?

It cannot be decided with certainty from the mere text; but, without going into the considerations on each side, I may express the opinion that Macduff knew well what he was doing, and that he fled without leave-taking for fear his purpose should give way. Perhaps he said to himself, with Coriolanus,

Not of a woman's tenderness to be,
Requires nor child nor woman's face to see.

Little Macduff suggests a few words on Shakespeare's boys (there are scarcely any little girls). It is somewhat curious that nearly all of them appear in tragic or semi-tragic dramas. I remember but two exceptions: little William Page, who said

   1It is nothing to the purpose that Macduff himself says,
                              Sinful Macduff
They were all struck for thee! naught that I am,
Not for their own demerits, but for mine,
Fell slaughter on their souls.
There is no reason to suppose that the sin and demerit he speaks of is that of leaving his home. And even if it were, it is Macduff that speaks, not Shakespeare, any more than Shakespeare speaks in the preceding sentence,
                              Did heaven look on,
And would not take their part?
And yet Brandes (ii. 104) hears in these words 'the voice of revolt . . . that sounds later through the despairing philosophy of King Lear.' It sounds a good deal earlier too; e.g. in Titus Andronicus, IV. i. 81, and 2 Henry VI., II. i. 154. The idea is a commonplace of Elizabethan tragedy.

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