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Bradley, A. C. Shakespearean Tragedy: Lectures on Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, Macbeth.
2nd ed. London: Macmillan, 1905.
PAGE 480

tically 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.1




     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. 1 of the Jahrbücher d. deutschen Shakespeare-gesellschaft, and on it is based the interpretation of the play in Werder's very able Vorlesungen über Macbeth.

   1The 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. l65.

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