Table of ContentsPrevious PageNext Page

Bradley, A. C. Shakespearean Tragedy: Lectures on Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, Macbeth.
2nd ed. London: Macmillan, 1905.
PAGE 486

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.

Table of ContentsPrevious PageNext Page