1875 - 1889Other Shakespeare performances
29 June 1889


Location Royal Lyceum Theatre, London, UK
Plays performed Macbeth


Date 29 June 1889
Play(s) Macbeth
Production Date(s) Saturday June 29th 1889
Venue Royal Lyceum Theatre
Time of performance 8pm
Stage Manager H. J. Loveday
Scene Designer Hawes Craven, J. Harker, T. W. Hall, W. Hann, W. Perkins, R. Caney, W. Telbin
Music Director Meredith Ball
Document ID ET-D102 Original record
Held by The British Library
Notes Benefit for Ellen Terry; 151st performance; last night of the season. Includes article Macbeth Revisited by Edward R. Russell. Music composed by Arthur Sullivan.
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Macbeth, 29 June 1889, Image 1 of 9


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Macbeth, 29 June 1889, Image 2 of 9

THIS EVENING, SATURDAY, JUNE 29, 1889, AT EIGHT O'CLOCK, WILL BE PRESENTED, FOR THE FIRST TIME UNDER THIS MANAGEMENT, Shakespeare's Tragedy of MACBETH. --- Duncan : Mr. HAVILAND. Malcomlm, Donalbain: Mr. WEBSTER, Mr. HARVEY. Macbeth : Mr. HENRY IRVING. Banquo: Mr. WENMAN. Macduff: Mr. ALEXANDER. Lennox: Mr. OUTRAM. Ross: Mr. TYARS. Monteith: Mr. ARCHER. Angus: Mr. LACY. Caithness: Mr. LEVERTON. Fleance: Master HARWOOD. Siward: Mr. HOWE. Seyton: Mr. FENTON. Two other Officers: Mr. HEMSTOCK, Mr. CASS. A Doctor: Mr. STUART. A Sergeant: Mr. RAYNOR. A Porter: Mr. JOHNSON. A Messenger: Mr. COVENEY. An Attendant: Mr. ROE. Murderers: Mr. LACK, Mr. CARTER. Gentlewoman: Miss COLERIDGE. A Servant: Miss FOSTER. AND Lady Macbeth (for the first time) Miss ELLEN TERRY. Hecate: Miss IVOR. 1st Witch: Miss MARRIOTT. 2nd Witch: Miss DESBOROUGH. 3rd Witch: Miss SEAMAN. Apparitions, Mr. BAIRD, Miss HARWOOD and Miss HOLLAND. Lords, Ladies, Officers, Soldiers, Attendants Messengers, Apparitions, &c. The Overture, Preludes, and incidental Music composed expressly by ARTHUR SULLIVAN. Overture. Act I. Incidental Music. Act II. Prelude. Act III. Prelude and incidental Music. Act IV. Incidental Music with Chorus. Act V. Prelude. Act VI. Prelude and incidental Music --- During the intervals will be performed:- Between Acts I. and II. Scherzo, "Scotch Symphony" Mendelssohn., Between Acts II.and III. ... March, "Fest" ... Raff. ---. Synopsis of Scenery. ACT I. SCENE 1.-An Open Place : Hawes Craven SCENE 2.- Near Forres-a Camp: Hawes Craven SCENE 3.-A Heath Hawes Craven SCENE 4.-Forres-the Palace: Craven & Harker SCENE 5.-Inverness-Macbeth's Castle: Hawes Craven SCENE 6.-Inverness-before the Castle: Hawes Craven SCENE 7.-Inverness-Lobby in the Castle : Craven & Harker ACT II. SCENE.-lnverness-Court of Macbeth's Castle : Hawes Craven ACT III. SCENE I.-Forres-Hall in the Palace : T.W. Hall SCENE 2.-Forres-Room in" the Palace : W.Hann. SCENE 3.-Forres-Hall in the Palace : T.W. Hall ACT IV. SCENE 1.-A Cavern ... Hawes Craven. SCENE 2.-" Over woods, high rock~, and mountains: Hawes Craven. ACT V. SCENE 1.-England-a Country Lane ... Hawes Craven. SCENE 2.-Dunsinane-Ante-room in the Castle - Craven & Harker ACT VI. SCENE !.-Country near Dunsinane - J.Harker. SCENE 2.-Dunsinane-the Castle - Craven & Harker SCENE 3.-The Wood of Birnam - W.Hann SCENE 4.-Dunsinane-the Castle - Craven & Harker SCENE 5.-Dunsinane-Plain before the Castle - Perkins & Caney. SCENE 6.-Dunsinane-another part of the Plain - Perkins & Caney. Period: 11th Century. The Act Drop by Mr. WILLIAM TELBIN.

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Macbeth, 29 June 1889, Image 3 of 9

At Mr. SIMS REEVES'S MORNING CONCERT ST. JAMES'S HALL, SATURDAY, 6 JULY, 1889, Mr. HENRY IRVING will recite HOOD'S "THE DREAM OF EUGENE ARAM." --- The intervals between the Acts are- After 1st Act, 14 minutes; after 2nd Act, 14 minutes; after 3rd Act, 8 minutes; after 4th Act, 6 minutes; after 5th Act, 5 minutes. --- Stage Manager - Mr. H. J. LOVEDAY. Musical Director - Mr MEREDITH BALL. Acting Manager - Mr. BRAM STOKER. --- The Bill of the Play is in every part of the House supplied without charge. --- DOORS OPEN AT 7.30, OVERTURE COMMENCES 8. CARRIAGES AT 11. --- The only authorized book of Mr. Irving's acting version of "MACBETH" is to be had in the Theatre, Price One Shilling. --- SOUVENIR OF MACBETH, PRICE 1s., WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY CHARLES CATTERMOLE, R.I., AND J. BERNARD PARTRIDGE. To be had at the Theatre, or post free by letter. --- Opera Glasses can be had on Hire from the Cloak-room Attendants, One Shilling each, in all parts of the House. --- Stalls, 10s 6d.; Dress Circle, 6s.6d.; Upper Circle, 4s.; Amphitheatre, 2s.6d.; Pit, 2s.; Gallery, 1s. Private Boxes, £2 2S. to £4 4s. --- Box Office open 10 till 5, under tbe direction of Mr. JOSEPH HURST, of whom seats can be booked One Month in advance, also by Letter. IN SEPTEMBER, WILL BE PRODUCED THE DEAD HEART BY WATTS PHILLIPS, IN WHICH WILL APPEAR Mr. IRVING Mr. A. STIRLING Mr. HAVILAND Mr. ARCHER Miss KATE PHILLIPS Mr. BANCROFT Mr. RIGHTON Mr. TYARS Mr. GORDON CRAIG, &c. Mrs. JOHN CARTER, &c. AND Miss ELLEN TERRY.

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Macbeth, 29 June 1889, Image 4 of 9

LYCEUM THEATRE. ITALIAN OPERA SEASON. Sole Manager: Mr. M.L.MAYER. OTELLO, Grand Opera, in Four Acts (first time in London), by VERDI. Mr. M.L.MAYER begs to announce thta he will produce, at this Theatre, VERDI'S latest work, "OTELLO," on FRIDAY, JULY 5th, next. --- Signor TAMAGNO as Otello Signor MAUREL as Iago. Signora CATANEO as Desdemona. --- Entire Company, Orchestra and Chorus of La Scala, Milan. --- New Scenery, New Dresses, Properties, &c. &c. The dates fixed for the performances of "Otello" are as follows: Friday, July 5th. Saturday, " 6th. Monday, " 8th. Thursday, " 11th. Monday, " 15th. Wednesday, July 17th. Friday " 19th. Tuesday, " 23rd. Wednesday, " 24th. Friday " 26th. Saturday, " 27th. Special Matinee of "Otello" Saturday, July 20th. --- BOX OFFICE OPEN DAILY FROM TEN TO FIVE. --- Seats may be booked by Letter or Telegram. --- Mdme. SARAH BERNHARDT Will appear on Tuesday, JULY 9th in LENA, Adapted from F.C.Phillips' Novel ("As in a Looking Glass"). "Macbeth" Revisited. The reproduction of "Macbeth" by Mr. Irving has revived the old controversy as to the type of Macbeth's courage; it has presented to the world a new and quite unforseen Lady Macbeth; and it has lent especial interest to the question, upon which much of the meaning of the play must turn, whether Macbeth and his wife had discussed with each other the murder of King Duncan before the appearance of the Witches. There is no occasion to "write ethical and psychological harmonies" into Shakespeare. The proper attitude of mind towards him is to hold in high respect and carefully to study the subtleties of character and the operations of circumstance in his plays, having first become convinced, by a general and particular observation of them, that they are certain to be even better worth studying, and that they are more efficiently laid open to discerning study than the majority of real characters, either bygone or contemporary. The fact, as I hold it to be, that Macbeth and his wife have entertained the idea of murdering King Duncan before the play begins, is of interest, because it gives sense and intensity to the soliloquy in which Lady Macbeth at the outset stamps her individuality on the audience, and to the dialogue between her and her husband which takes place on his arrival at the castle. When you assume that the pair have already talked about the murder, all is plain sailing. Lady Macbeth could scarcely have sprung so rapidly to the idea upon the mere report of what the Witches had said. Unless Shakespeare was a sort of inspired scribbler, writing beautiful language without purpose or continuity, the letter about the Witches could not possibly have been the breaking of the enterprise to her, which she mentions in the conversation when Macbeth begins to be fainthearted. It is clear enough that this is not the first time his courage has failed, for the first soliloquy shows traces of the impression – a false one, as I believe – which Macbeth has at an earlier date left on his wife's mind by what she takes to have been moral and gentle scruples; but it is also plain that these earlier conversations have exhibited in Macbeth that same impulsive proneness to murder as a method of ambition which, in spite of qualms and tremors, characterises him throughout the play. He has certainly been vigorous and eager enough in his original conception of the deed – "Nor time, nor place, did then adhere, and yet you would make both." For the moment, Macbeth is now in a far other mood. Time and place, by the arrival of Duncan as his guest – "They've made themselves, and that their fitness now does unmake you." We are then destined to see a sudden revival of the murderous Thane's spirits, and curiously enough, by one of those incidental practical arguments which often tell more than higher reason, but whose success with Macbeth is the best possible proof of how thoroughly Lady Macbeth has misconceived the source of her husband's hesitancy in evil courses. The scene is most instructively acted at the Lyceum. Macbeth is a picture of quailing indecision and ineptitude, while his wife plies him with those arguments which she must have thought fittest to induce him to catch.

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Macbeth, 29 June 1889, Image 5 of 9

The nearest way. She makes not the slightest impression on him. He even comes out with one of those bits of tinsel virtue by which, no doubt, in other conversations, he has given her the baseless notion of his moral superiority. He is not in the least concerned about the disgrace of not daring to be the same in act and valour as he is in desire. But presently he reveals himself. "If we should fail." Then his shrewd, quick, "egging" wife takes his measure afresh; finds him, as in a flash of lightening, the argument by which a man of his sort is likely to be pushed into the evil he desires; and – mark – there is never again in the play a suggestion or an indication that she need struggle with his virtuous thoughts or scruples. All she has to do is to convince him that there is nothing to be dreaded in the way of earthly consequences. The moment she has darted into his less resolute intelligence that the crime can be put upon the grooms, Macbeth's features light up, his air of timid apprehension vanishes, he evinces a sprightly and eager interest in the horrible expedient of daubing the innocent attendants of the King with blood, and this noble, honest solider, forsooth, who but now dare do nothing that would not become a man, is ready for the darkest and inhuman deeds conceivable, solely because his ready-witted wife has convinced him that they will never be found out. This is a magnificently conceived and admirably timed piece of acting. Shakespeare would indeed have been inconsequent and feckless if, with this pivot-scene in mind or out of mind, he had represented Macbeth either before it or after it in those colours of honest manliness which were his in the old stage tradition. As a matter of fact, there is not a passage in the play which attributes to Macbeth any courage except courage in the field, and though I may admit that certain scenes during mere court ceremony might be pleasanter in effect if King Macbeth wore a mask of geniality, which Mr. Irving disdains, I can yet think of no other reason – and that is not a good one – why Macbeth should be in aspect other than a man so entirely without good or amiable qualities, and also so devoid of diplomacy, and so blankly dependent on cruelty, espionage and murder, might be expected in such wild times to be. It has been said that "if Duncan is as good as dead from before the commencement of the play, the Witches lose all significance." Nobody ever said that Duncan was as good as dead. On the contrary, Lady Macbeth, who knows most about it, has the liveliest apprehensions, when she hears how the supernatural soliciting's have chimed in with their previous conversations, lest her lord should shrink from the deed; and it is obvious to any one who looks at Mr. Irving in the scene where Macbeth's courage is screwed to the sticking place, that it was quite on the cards that the deed might not have been committed but for that happy, practical, concrete idea of gilding the grooms' faces and daggers, which proved so exactly level to the mean calculations of Macbeth's doubting spirit. Mr. Irving's very fine and expressive facial aspect in the first Witch Scene on the heath is, indeed, one in which strange matters may be read. He is no mere brave general this, but such as one as Napoleon might have been when his marches and strategy of the field were mingling in his mind with the larger intrigues of coming empire, and sallowing his countenance to a hue far other than the bronze of honest soldiership. The word "suggestion" occurs in the soliloquy which follows the Witches' salute, and undoubtedly refers to the regicide he has conceived; but the sense does not require, and, indeed, scarcely can be, that the idea of murder has just been proposed to him, for indeed it has not been. The suggestion could not be of this sudden kind. What it really is, and what makes it so especially horrible us, that the prophecy of the kingship has brought to mind the idea, which, before going to the field, Macbeth had broached to his wife. Well may such a coincidence prove a horrible suggestion, and who that knows the Macbeth of the later scenes can wonder that this suggestion, wherever presented to him, should "unfix his hair and make his seated heart knock at his ribs." It has been well remarked, that when the Witches have given Macbeth the three "Hails," he starts, "because it is a full revelation of his criminal aptitudes, which startles and surprises him into a rapture of meditation." He is getting near what before he has only vaguely and supposingly contemplated. Thought and deed are very different things. It is the screwing-up of his courage to commit the first murder that worries Macbeth. After that, he wades in. The interview with the Witches is the beginning of "the first step which costs." On a point such as this, and with evidence such as is available, I at least can perceive little room for doubt; and it is a great source of strength in the Lyceum representation that the two principal actors, Mr. Irving and Miss Terry, have as truly and vividly thought out the matter from the earliest domestic inception of the project as Macbeth and Lady Macbeth must have done. There are other points more open to discussion, and on which the formation of a true judgment has been more difficult. As law has frequently been much improved, in spite of itself, or by the development of what was best in it, by judges who possessed the genius and instinct of judicial legislation, such as Mansfield and Cockburn, so the standard drama of England has again and again yielded unlooked for treasures to the searching insight and histrionic exploitation of great actors. The vulgar, or some of them, still say, "This may be very interesting, but it is not "Macbeth." Those who are induced to read the tragedy afresh are fain to confess that, except in a few gleams of that mere fighting courage by which a great soldier of a turbulent age was sure to be distinguished, there is no sign of the nobility which a long series of Macbeths erected without basis into a grand tradition. There's no such thing. Who talks of the nobility of Judas? Macbeth, the soldier? Yes, twice in the play, and each time two or three lines. During the rest of the story he is under the influence of superstition, half paralysed by doubts and fears, unmanned by folly, "infirm of purpose," never looking up clear, hesitating, bewildered, sinking miserably rather than manfully – though, certainly, without scruple – into quagmires of cruel and treacherous wickedness, always unlike himself, if his real self was the martial chief and the loyal, true-souled, clear-browed warrior. Never mind how it was that this was so long undiscovered. Do not quarrel either with the author for making Macbeth what he clearly is, or with the great actor for making us at length see Macbeth as he is. Go carefully through the play and see if a line can be found which is inconsistent with Mr. Irving's reading of it, or a reading which conflicts even with any other line or suggestion in any part of the play. To Mrs. Siddons – not as actress, but as epistolary critic – is due the credit of priority in time in suggesting the view of Lady Macbeth's character which Miss Terry has so brilliantly presented. Miss Faucit took a very noble and beautiful mid-position, which many may still think the best and truest, although Miss Faucit was in a minority of one, and it is not the Faucit reading but an utterly improbable gaunt, grandiose, masculine, matron-heroine that people are thinking of when they

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Macbeth, 29 June 1889, Image 6 of 9

talk of the ideal Lady Macbeth. English tragedy does not require the stilted and magnificent gauntness of the stricter classics. It sparkles with the affections, it toys with the trifles of domestic life. Its characters are lifelike and drop little of their day-by-day reality for stage purposes. The period and supernatural surroundings of Macbeth do not extinguish the real life which the characters had to lead. Nor do they – and history shows that with all its wayward and curious power, infatuation by the supernatural never did on any considerably scale – alter the bias or the routine of the men and women who lived under such conditions. Lady Macbeth appears to have regarded her husband's supernaturalism with supreme contempt when it threatened to interfere with important operations, and even when Macbeth assures her by letter that he has learned by the perfectest report that the Witches have more in them that the Witches have more in them than mortal knowledge, she gives no indication of faith or unfaith, or of any interest in any aspect of the matter, except that which relates to the practical determination and tenacity of her husband. This callousness and indifference on the religious side has always seemed to me a much more accurate mark of differentiation than any comparison or contrast of sexual characteristics. It is attended with a strenuous hold on the main chance. The phrase is none the less applicably because Lady Macbeth's meaning is expressed in noble and uncommon diction. Take the passage in which she pursues the instigation of the wavering Macbeth to the murder of Duncan – "Such I account thy love. Art thou afeared to be the same in thine own act and valour as thou art in desire? Would'st thou have that which thou esteem'st the ornament of life, and live a coward in thine own esteem, letting ‘I dare not' wait upon ‘I would,' like the poor cat I' the adage?" Let me repeat my old paraphrase of this speech. "Come," says the wife, "no sentiment, no harking back, and no cowardice! Duncan had been just as good to you yesterday. If there were any sound reason of policy why you should give up the idea of murdering him, you would state it. But you do not. You merely lack courage to do what you desire. Surely you are not so poor a creature as to prize the esteem of men without deserving it! Surely it is better that men should hate you in position, in which you remain, not from virtue, but from cowardice! If you were a good man and had religious scruples – if you were a humane man, as I used to think you, and shrank from cruelty as cruelty, I could understand your objecting. But this mere quaking, without any principle in it, is beneath contempt." An argument such as this, addressed to a man of Macbeth's morale and recent previous history, could only be rebutted in one way – by a confession or manifestation of invincible pusillanimity; and this was exactly how Macbeth did not meet it, until Lady Macbeth brought radiance into his mean visage by the suggestion about the grooms and the daggers. Realizing what this wife has to do, and what she is naturally prone to do, what should be her temperament? This is the question which Ellen Terry has brilliantly answered, I will by no means say to the excursion of every other view of the character, but in such a manner as to pour a flood of strong light on its possibilities. For the first time Lady Macbeth has been boldly thought out on the lines of a Saga-heroine. Now, a Saga-heroine is not, as a rule, grim, vague and weird. She is bold, incisive, impetuous, imperious; ruddy in complexion, and red-haired; dazzling but not mysterious in aspect; chiefly noticeable for her strong hold on her husband and for the resolute fierceness with which she uses her power. "Fair, feminine, nay, perhaps fragile," wrote Mrs Siddons of her ideal Lady Macbeth. Certainly not fragile, I should say, for that would be neither Norse nor Shakespearian. Mrs. Siddons said that her combination of "the three f's" was generally allowed to be the type most captivating to men. But it does not follow that captivation was Lady Macbeth's function, or that no other type is prevalent enough with men to account for Lady Macbeth getting her own way. Captivating is certainly not the word to apply to Ellen Terry's Lady Macbeth. Nor is fragile. Feminine it is, wifely it is, but powerful it also is. It seizes the fear-haunted Macbeth in a vice, and uses him by sheer force; all under forms of probably and lifelike conjugal compulsion, pretty to look at, easy-going and hearty, congenial enough if the business in hand were less ghastly, and the husband not visibly prostrated by the most horrible and unnerving apprehensions. Some will remember that Sarah Bernhardt approached very closely to the conception of the Siddon's letter. But she made it amorous. This was quite out of keeping. It was neither Scotch, nor barbaric, nor Saga-like, nor Shakesperian. Perhaps it was not even connubial. Ellen Terry, as Lady Macbeth, is affectionate, but never in the least degree amorous. She is just a determined, managing wife, with a keen sense of her husband's native irresolution in matters of high wickedness; full of prompt, bright, fascinating impulse, until her physical health breaks down under the joint burden of guilt and of her husband's incurable pusillanimity. Till then, she bounds her conceptions unquestioningly within the range of every-day exigency, although the business to be transacted is of life and death – of lives shortened by cruel and treacherous violence, and of deaths multiplied as often as there is a purpose of ambition to be served. But the scope of the exigencies with which Lady Macbeth's daily eggings-on of her husband deal, raises to the highest power the singular and almost shocking force of her cool and ready and deliberately common-place incitements. The effect is greatly heightened by Miss Terry's magnificent and appropriate make-up. Her hair in this part is of a deep red, and it is worn in long, heavily-dependent, snake-like coils, tied spirally round with ribbons, and giving a strange, pre-Raffaellite, Medea-like aspect of sorcery to her, in the midst of all her lively and practical domesticity. Her complexion corresponds with the hair; and she wears a series of most wonderful and admirable dresses – designed with judgment and invention amount to genius – rich in colour and pattern, heavy in weight, not draperies merely veiling the figure, but very noble clothes. In the sleep-walking scene, all is changed, and dreamy tints and floating material ethercalize the picture ; but while Lady Macbeth is herself, her sumptuous garments render to the best advantage in every situation the firm, noble, alert, vigorous physique and carriage of a woman distinctly of the time and society to which the Macbeths belonged – a women such as may be seen in Ford Madox Brown's pictures in the Manchester Town Hall – such as Rossetti might have painted if he could have imbibed the spirit of the Macbeth era – such a red-haired, splendid, fearless, stimulating, unscrupulous woman as must have lived in many a fancy in reading the stories of Norse times. Needless to say that a Lady Macbeth of this type is in marked contrast with all that have preceded her. Miss Helen Faucit attempted to soften the character into wifeliness, but Miss Terry's wifeliness is rather practical and eagerly loyal and helpful than tender, although tenderness, and even demonstration, are not wanting at the proper points, and very prettily they are rendered by the dearest partner of Macbeth's

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Macbeth, 29 June 1889, Image 7 of 9

greatness. The majority of Lady Macbeths have resembled more than anything else a mature or even elderly Italian women bent on fomenting a vendetta. Miss Glyn, a very fine Lady Macbeth, who is supposed to have been instructed in the part by Charles Kemble, had the aspect and the manner of a sour Cameronian. Anyone who wishes to appreciate the contrast between the old school and the new should look at the picture of Miss Glyn in the "Popular Shakespeare," which contained so many of the old Sadler's Wells portraits – with her dark, classic robe and her rolled hair, and her clenched fist and her sternly set face – every aspect suited to the seeming of a Puritan prophetess in a solemn ecstasy of Methodistical denunciation. The words she is saying are, "Glaims thou art, and Cawdor, and shalt be what thou art promised," which Ellen Terry utters as she throws herself into a lounging chair, while she discusses to herself the improbability of his having evil enough in him "to catch the nearest way." Often it is small things in great representations which it is most difficult to hand down to after times – such as are incidentally dropped of Garrick in the pages of Fielding. Criticism is now much more abundant than in Garrick's days, and each critic must take his chance of getting his view accepted or even noticed hereafter. If I were writing history or anything that would live I should add to what I have already written a protest against many statements that Miss Terry's representation is girlish, frivolous, trivial. On the other hand, I should try to convey the idea, necessary to any true picture of it in the mind, of the quick, restless, with her husband in the scenes before they are committed to the murder. When that point comes Miss Terry's Lady Macbeth becomes harder with anxiety; the load begins to accumulate ; the responsibility of constant watchfulness over a morally craven husband, who is carrying on tyranny and intrigue as a trade, with a very small capital of self-possession, tells more and more until the crisis of physical collapse is reached. But in the early scenes, the energetic – even fidgetty – constant spurring and prodding of her husband – the determined nudging of the elbow of his resolution, as it were – is characterized by an audacity of realism which in high tragedy has never been seen before. I knew not whether this is meant when we read that "Macbeth" has been "cleverly and ingeniously transposed into the key of domestic drama." The question is whether Miss Terry's actions in egging her husband on are consistent with the probabilities of such relations. She certainly does not lower the key of high tragedy in any passage or episode where "domestic drama" would be inappropriate. The second act is of course the test, and Miss Terry dominates this scene in a most masterly manner. The scene provided is a wonder. The stony, half decorated, half military interior of a castle, with passages and stairs, and corridors and galleries, with glimpses of the nocturnal heavens through upper windows, while the inner lighting is dim and cold, is an ideal place, when all the guests have gone to rest, for such a scene as Macbeth and his wife have to play. I was much affected by the happy touch of the parting words between Macbeth and Banquo. It is thoroughly Irvingesque, that thoughtful arresting of Banquo as he goes upstairs to bed – thoroughly characteristic of Macbeth, that restless but plausible, polite yet adventurous, attempt to get Banquo for a pledged adherent. One quivered with a sense of what was in the man's mind and what was the meaning and stress of the moment to him. One felt how artfully, and yet how probably, Shakespeare had strengthened the feeling of crisis by this effusive appeal and by Banquo's stately, reserved reply. When guests and servants are all departed, Mr. Irving sounds the very depths of Macbeth in the dagger soliloquy. His exit to commit the murder is a living embodiment of the wonderful text, which, as it were, reels and yawns and rocks, a very abyss of moral horror. Then enters Lady Macbeth, with a firm, grave step, making a frank and meaning confession of one source of her courage. She gives the words, "Had he not resembled my father," &c., with the cursory half-sensibility and entire practical freedom proper to her conception. When Macbeth returns, the scene merges, so far as she is concerned, into the solitude of an anxious but cool headed partner. She frets, she gesticulates with vexation, as she almost despairingly beholds her husband's dazed and demoralized condition. There is a curious, common-place practical tone in her question, "Who was it that thus cried?" when Macbeth, more suo, has been maundering on with his spiritual fancy – so fine and fit in the situation – of the "Sleep no more." There is no blenching when she snatches the daggers from him. It is with cool and perfect sincerity that this fierce, firm woman declares that the sleeping and the dead are but as pictures, yet Miss Terry never misses the greatness, the thrill, the suspense, the dread, the indescribable something lofty in the midst of blood and murder, which makes the scene not "domestic drama," but tragedy. This is all felt unremittingly, though her keen, practical perception keeps hold solely of the one great exigency of concealing the crime and what is involved in it, the controlling of her husband's quivering self-betrayal. When she returns with bloody hands from depositing the daggers, it is clear enough that she scorns to wear a heart as white as Macbeth'; and note the curious, curdling touch of detail when she lifts, by the tips of her fingers only, the robe which lies fallen on the ground. The entry of the guests after Macduff's alarm – always a most difficult scene to represent with probability – is at the Lyceum a triumph in that very particular as well as scenically. The incidents are perfectly timed and balanced, so as sufficiently to consult reality at every point. The plunging entrance of the population of the castle by galleries and staircases is not too rapid. The distant alarm bell does not sound too soon. Macbeth's manner before and after the revelation is stolid and plausible, but not, as it has often been in the past, too convincing. The defence of the killing of the grooms is keenly contrived, but yet delivered with a shade of effort and art which the audience are entitled to put down to Macbeth's extraordinary situation. Finest incident of all – the splendid idea of Ellen Terry to stand behind Banquo, nervously and rhythmically assenting by unconscious nods and gestures and rapt, inarticulate lip-movements to her lord's story, until her woman's strength fails her, and the cry is raised, "Look to the lady," and she falls, and is raised and carried out with her fair head thrown back over a thane's shoulder and her red hair streaming in the torchlight. By this scene the Lyceum production must stand or tall, for it contains not only the utmost that can be done by stage furnishing and management, but the boldest and most explicit and most detailed challenge that could possibly be given to those who maintain what is considered the traditional view of the two great characters. After the murder of Duncan and the coming to the throne, things with Macbeth must take one of two lines, his character and temperament being established to us – either he must palter and go back, or he must wade on through blood with constant miseries of half-mundane, half fatalistic apprehensions. The latter is what happens. It constitutes the finest and truest study extant in the grand manner of the

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Macbeth, 29 June 1889, Image 8 of 9

gradual ruin of two lives – not typical lives, nor typically linked, for Shakespeare is scarcely ever purely typical, but always creates individuals rather than types, and lets events lead his characters, rather than manufacture events to show off his characters – two lives associated with each other by common and similar, yet strangely differentiated, guilt, and destined to be more and more, and finally quite separated by the striking and quite original phenomenon of the hopeless non-success of the stronger nature in sustaining on a level of security the fortitude of the weaker nature. Observe how powerfully this is made the key of the later acts of Macbeth, by what fine gradations this original and pregnant story is told, how great is the stroke of genius which makes Lady Macbeth to the last only give evidence in her sleep of the disgust which is killing her, and then merely by a re-enacting, without articulate remorse, the crime which she instigated, and from the consequences of which she has never been able to redeem the life and the being which are more precious to her than her own. This theory and the Lyceum acting give each other mutual support. Macbeth becomes more and more saturnine, has less and less control over his outer aspect, is a readier pray to ghostly and other illusions, while Lady Macbeth slowly but surely imbibes despair – despair of the only things in all the world she cares about, her husband's strength, good credit, and contentment. Shakespeare does not wearisomely carry out this remarkable progression. He marks powerfully a stage or two it is, and then, before the dull, dark biatus of the Queen's illness, occurs the climax at which she retires from the scene. This is in the banqueting hall. Miss terry's acting at this point is full of discernment and proves how thoroughly she has merged herself in the very life and being of the sorely troubled queen she represents. Lady Macbeth's intensity in the management of her husband, and her aptitude in the management and dismissal of the guests, are so rendered as to give the utmost effect to the awful anxiety of such a situation for such a wife. Then comes a reaction in which must be read something little short of despair. When Lady Macbeth, with strong exhortations, has made her guests depart, she remains listless or hopeless on the throne, while her husband completes the rhapsodies of his horror. Presently she soothes him, but it is with as little hope as she showed when she seated herself on the throne. The hand of Nemesis is on her. Spiritually she is impervious and insensible. As a wife she has lived and loved, in her way, and struggled against the inevitable – but inevitable it is. The few remaining words are mechanical. Miss Terry utters the words, "You lack the season of all natures – sleep," not with that tone of comfort in which there is always from a wife to a husband a promise of cherishing and effectual solace, but with an ill-defined relinquishing of all grip on the practical wifehood which has been her very being till now. At last husband and wife proceed to leave the scene together. As he passes, Macbeth takes a torch from behind a pillar, but suddenly, in a paroxysm, hurls it blazing to the ground. He passionately shrouds his face in his robe as he leans rapidly forward and rests against a pillar. The Queen swiftly kneels behind him, and remains clinging to his robe with an upturned tragical, solicitous face. This is a most affecting indication of the wonderful manner in which these two fine artistes, Henry Irving and Ellen Terry, have lived out and thought out the meaning of the poet, which they have so greatly helped to make clear. There must, doubtless, have been other efforts of Lady Macbeth, other paroxysms of her lord. But Shakespeare does not dwell on them. Miserable solitude of mind and being are to fall on Macbeth, and they come. Irving sins deeper and deeper into wretchedness. Every sound alarms him. His whole talk, meanwhile, is a nervous boasting of bravery, and of his charmed life, and his assured fate. Hollowness is in the tone of it, hopelessness in the aspect of the man. It is the intensely thought-out degeneracy of an able, powerful general and sovereign under the blight of combined sin and pusillanimity, and if it be argued that such a tyrant could not have reigned and held his own, go look at the history of many tyrants, and then remember the realistic, blanched, curious faces of the soldiers as they peer in at the door when Macbeth is hearing of Birnam Wood. Remember also the striking passage in which the invaders recite what they have heard of Macbeth and his forlorn condition. The whole of the last act (Act VI. In the Lyceum version) is curiously and rhythmically animated. There is a kind of martial acceleration of the action, cunningly assisted by the freshness of the scenery and a sort of atmosphere of movement. One has seen many attempts to counterfeit war on the stage, but I cannot remember previously experiencing the sensation of stir which, without hurry or confusion or bluster, without even ostentation, above all, without staginess or melodrama, is produced but these closing scenes of the Lyceum tragedy. The painters have gone to nature for their tints and their air. The manager has inspired his troops and all the characters with the exact degree of energy and alertness necessary to create a spirit-stirring illusion of a crescendo crisis in a rough, extempore campaign. As usual with anything that Irving does, you feel the reason of it when you go back to Shakespeare. Read the scene begun by Menteith – "The English power is near, led on by Malcolm." (Act VI., Scene 1, in the Lyceum Book; Act V., Scene 2, in Shakespeare.) Note the briskness of the soldierly dialogue, the blunt description of the tyrant by Angus. Observe how it not only justifies the tone of Mr. Irving's acting in his scenes, but puts the spectators in possession of the very spirit of Macbeth's country during the wane of his rule. The next scene, in which Macbeth himself appears, trying to vaunt and sinking constantly into unconfessed fear, and in which that wonderful characteristic of this thane, the profound poetry of his thought and diction, plumbs every deep of his doom, cannot but be recognized as one of the finest and most saddening renderings ever given. A swift change and we are out of doors again, in the keen air and the bright light in an opening of Birnam Wood, where every soldier hews him down a bough, and where Malcolm tells Siward that only "constrained things" are serving with Macbeth, and their "hearts absent too." Macduff advises "industrious soldiership," and we have a quickening sense that it is in the air. Another moment; back again to the hysteria of the tyrant's castle, with the "constrained things" about him with blanched, anxious faces. And now the announcement by the cry of women of the death of the Queen, and Irving's rapt delivery of the great soliloquy, "To-morrow and to-morrow, and to-morrow." The approach of Birnam wood startles him into his other mood, and Macbeth desperately flounders like a stricken eagle, scarce hoping to baffle "the equivocation of the fiend that lies like truth." Once again into the open, where the combined forces of the enemy are seen, covered with their Birnam boughs and rapidly pacing on to war. Another part of the plain, and many mysterious thrilling sounds of war, especially a melodious, humming, distant war-song or slogan, the effect of which, as it rises and falls and dies away, and hums again into faint and then louder tune as the battle rages this way and that, it indescribable. Nothing has ever given me so thorough a feeling of reality in stage war.

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Image 9 of 9

Macbeth, 29 June 1889, Image 9 of 9

Last scene of all, the deadly combat. Fate has written on the whole aspect of the scene, and especially on the countenance of Macbeth, the doom that impends. Surely this must be right! Surely this must be tragedy! Surely the old Macbeths, with their posturing and their conventionality, and their unbroken accents, and their proud visages, and their air, almost of coming brute victory over Macduff, lacked the very essence of the action, in which Shakespeare clearly intends the last flickering remnants of Macbeth's vital energy to sputter up amid the weird gloom of predestined ruin and death! Irving is bold, but haggard; desperate, but despairing. The conflict is short, sharp, savage. The death of the beaten tyrant is grand, concentrating in his headlong fall and lifeless prostration the climax, moral and physical, of a play in which the greatest genius ever known has lifted the civil broils of a half-barbarous people into the highest regions of tragic art and supernatural mysticism, and yet has not withdrawn an incident or a personage from the realm of the actual. Malcolm is raised on men's shoulders and hailed King of Scotland, and the curtain descends swiftly on the martial and popular tumult of victorious rejoicings. I have said nothing of the admirable – and especially admirable, because modest and unostentatious – music of Sir Arthur Sullivan, which constantly sustains and harmonizes the action, and which in the great Witch Scene completes the triumph of a very wonderful conception. "Over woods, high rocks, and mountains," is the fittest name for it. The splendid bosomy expanse of the mountain tops, the wonderful sky, the effect of soaring upwards produced by the mystic surging array of the white-robed spirits, are all very wonderful, and great judgment as well as sound imagination is showing in making the scene as evanescent as its whole fabric is ethereal. The Witch Scenes are equally remarkable, from the first apparition flashing out of absolute darkness and settling into a strange scene nocturne, till the last great difficult scene of the cauldron never before accomplished with such a perfect and poetical surmounting of the difficulties of the grotesque-supernatural. In its very different vein the Banquet Scene is a similar triumph. There is a low, ruddy glare, which gives barbaric tone to the sumptuous revel. All is magnificent and royal. The tables groan, the guests feast, the attendants serve, the great hall buzzes with the respectful hilarity of Court festivity. All is animation, and rude yet luxurious splendour, and the ghastly appearances of the ghost of Banquo are as impressive as they can be made. One feature of the scenery, new, if I mistake not, deserves to be particularly noticed – I mean the frequent showing of the outer world of field and trees and streams through doors and windows of interior scenes. This, and the beautiful mottled skies, and the rich colouring of meadow foliage and mountain, give the scenic decoration at many points an altogether fresh and most winning power. The text of the Lyceum production has been the meaning of the author, and the expression of it by every resource, and by exquisitely proportioned combination of action, speech, music and picture. All is true at the Lyceum. Every detail enables one better to realize the great story that is being told, and to perceive and trace its little tendrils of human nature, as well as its great roots, in the moral system of things. Only by a method, combining patient study from within the very heart of Shakespeare's characters with a perfect appreciation of detail, and a masterly and artistic lavishing of decoration, and of every aid, musical and other, to the highest presentation of a great theme, can such triumphs be accomplished. Edward R. Russell. Liverpool Daily Post. W. J. Johnson, "Nassau Steam Press." 60, St. Martin's Lane, Charing Cross, W. C.

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Did you know?

Ellen Terry and George Bernard Shaw had a very long correspondence.

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