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Bradley, A. C. Shakespearean Tragedy: Lectures on Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, Macbeth.
2nd ed. London: Macmillan, 1905.
PAGE 487

     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.1 (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

   1So in Holinshed, as well as in the play, where however 'cousin' need not have its specific meaning.

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