(392) Most of the notes which the present editor has subjoined to this play were published by him in a small pamphlet in 1745.
I.i (393,*) Enter three Witches] In order to make a true estimate of the abilities and merit of a writer, it it always necessary to examine the genius of his age, and the opinions of his contemporaries. A poet who should now make the whole action of his tragedy depend upon enchantment, and produce the chief events by the assistance of supernatural agents, would be censured as transgressing the bounds of probability, be banished from the theatre to the nursery, and condemned to write fairy tales instead of tragedies; but a survey of the notions that prevailed at the time when this play was written, will prove that Shakespeare was in no danger of such censures, since he only turned the system that was then universally admitted, to his advantage, and was far from overburthening the credulity of his audience.
The reality of witchcraft or enchantment, which, though not strictly the same, are confounded in this play, has in all ages and countries been credited by the common people, and in most, by the learned themselves. These phantoms have indeed appeared more frequently, in proportion as the darkness of ignorance has been more gross; but it cannot be shown, that the brightest gleams of knowledge have at any time been sufficient to drive them out of the world. The time in which this kind of credulity was at its height, seems to have been that of the holy war, in which the Christians imputed all their defeats to enchantments or diabolical opposition, as they ascribed their success to the assistance of their military saints; and the learned Dr. Warburton appears to believe (Suppl. to the Introduction to Don Quixote) that the first accounts of enchantments were brought into this part of the world by those who returned from their eastern expeditions. But there is always some distance between the birth and maturity of folly as of wickedness: this opinion had long existed, though perhaps the application of it had in no foregoing age been so frequent, nor the reception so general. Olympiodorus, in Photius's extracts, tells us of one Libanius, who practised this kind of military magic, and having promised [Greek: choris opliton kata barbaron energein] to perform great things against the Barbarians without soldiers, was, at the instances of the empress Placidia, put to death, when he was about to have given proofs of his abilities. The empress shewed some kindness in her anger by cutting him off at a time so convenient for his reputation.
But a more remarkable proof of the antiquity of this notion may be found in St. Chrysostom's book de Sacerdotia, which exhibits a scene of enchantments not exceeded by any romance of the middle age: he supposes a spectator overlooking a field of battle attended by one that points out all the various objects of horror, the engines of destruction, and the arts of slaughter. [Greek: Deichnuto de eti para tois enantiois kai petomenous hippous dia tinos magganeias, kai oplitas di' aeros pheromenous, kai pasaen goaeteias dunomin kai idean.] Let him then proceed to shew him in the opposite armies horses flying by enchantment, armed men transported through the air, and every power and form of magic. Whether St. Chrysostom believed that such performances were really to be seen in a day of battle, or only endeavoured to enliven his description, by adopting the notions of the vulgar, it is equally certain, that such nations were in his time received, and that therefore they were not imported from the Saracens in a later age; the wars with the Saracens however gave occasion to their propagation, not only as bigotry naturally discovers prodigies, but as the scene of action was removed to a great distance.
The Reformation did not immediately arrive at its meridian, and though day was gradually encreasing upon us, the goblins of witchcraft still continued to hover in the twilight. In the time of queen Elizabeth was the remarkable trial of the witches of Warbois, whose conviction is still commemorated in an annual sermon at Huntingdon. But in the reign of king James, in which this tragedy was written, many circumstances concurred to propagate and confirm this opinion. The king, who was much celebrated for his knowledge, had, before his arrival in England, not only examined in person a woman accused of witchcraft, but had given a very formal account of the practices and illusions of evil spirits, the compacts of witches, the ceremonies used by them, the manner of detecting them, and the justice of punishing them, in his dialogues of Daemonologie, written in the Scottish dialect, and published at Edinburgh. This book was, soon after his accession, reprinted at London, and as the ready way to gain king James's favour was to flatter his speculations, the system of Daemonologie was immediately adopted by all who desired either to gain preferment or not to lose it. Thus the doctrine of witchcraft was very powerfully inculcated; and as the greatest part of mankind have no other reason for their opinions than that they are in fashion, it cannot be doubted but this persuasion made a rapid progress, since vanity and credulity co-operated in its favour. The infection soon reached the parliament, who, in the first year of king James, made a law, by which it was enacted, chap. xii. "That if any person shall use any invocation or conjuration of any evil or wicked spirit; 2. or shall consult, covenant with, entertain, employ, feed or reward any evil or cursed spirit to or for any intent or purpose; 3. or take up any dead man, woman or child out of the grave,--or the skin, bone, or any part of the dead person, to be employed or used in any manner of witchcraft, sorcery, charm, or enchantment; 4. or shall use, practise or exercise any sort of witchcraft, sorcery, charm, or enchantment; 5. whereby any person shall be destroyed, killed, wasted, consumed, pined, or lamed in any part of the body; 6. That every such person being convicted shall suffer death." This law was repealed in our own time.
Thus, in the time of Shakespeare, was the doctrine of witchcraft at once established by law and by the fashion, and it became not only unpolite, but criminal, to doubt it; and as prodigies are always seen in proportion as they are expected, witches were every day discovered, and multiplied as fast in some places, that bishop Hall mentions a village in Lancashire, where their number was greater than that of the houses. The jesuits and sectaries took advantage of this universal error, and endeavoured to promote the interest of their parties by pretended cures of persons afflicted by evil spirits; but they were detected and exposed by the clergy of the established church.
Upon this general infatuation Shakespeare might be easily allowed to found a play, especially since he has followed with great exactness such histories as were then thought true; nor can it be doubted that the scenes of enchantment, however they may now be ridiculed, were both by himself and his audience thought awful and affecting.
I.i.10 (396,5) Fair is foul, and foul is fair] I believe the meaning is, that to us, perverse and malignant as we are, fair is foul, and foul is fair.
I.ii.14 (398,9) And Fortune, on his damned quarry smiling] Thus the old copy; but I am inclined to read quarrel. Quarrel was formerly used for cause, or for the occasion of a quarrel, and is to be found in that sense in Hollingshed's account of the story of Macbeth, who, upon the creation of the prince of Cumberland, thought, says the historian, that he had a just quarrel, to endeavour after the crown. The sense therefore is, Fortune smiling on his excrable cause, &c. This is followed by Dr. Warburten. (see 1765, VI, 373, 4).
I.ii.28 (400,4) Discomfort swells] Discomfort the natural opposite to comfort. Well'd, for flawed, was an emendation. The common copies have, discomfort swells.
I.ii.37 (400,5) As cannons overcharg'd with double cracks, So they Doubly redoubled strokes upon the foe]
Mr. Theobald has endeavoured to improve the sense of this passage by altering the punctuation thus:
--they were As cannons overcharg'd, with double cracks So they redoubled strokes--
He declares, with some degree of exultation, that he has no idea of a cannon charged with double cracks; but surely the great author will not gain much by an alteration which makes him say of a hero, that he redoubles strokes with double cracks, an expression not more loudly to be applauded, or more easily pardoned than that which is rejected in its favour. That a cannon is charged with thunder, or with double thunders, may be written, not only without nonsense, but with elegance, and nothing else is here meant by cracks, which in the time of this writer was a word of such emphasis and dignity, that in this play he terms the general dissolution of nature the crack of doom.
The old copy reads,
They doubly redoubled strokes.
I.ii.46 (401,8) So should he look, that seems to speak things strange] The meaning of this passage, as it now stands, is, so should he look, that looks as if he told things strange. But Rosse neither yet told strange things, nor could look as if he told them; Lenox only conjectured from his air that he had strange things to tell, and therefore undoubtedly said,
What haste looks thro' his eyes? So should he look, that teems to speak thinks strange.
He looks like one that is big with something of importance; a metaphor so natural that it is every day used in common discourse.
I.ii.55 (402,1) Confronted him with self-comparisons] [Theobald interpreted "him" as Cawdor; Johnson, in 1745, accused Shakespeare of forgetfulness on the basis of Theobald's error; and Warburton here speaks of "blunder upon blunder."] The second blunderer was the present editor.
I.iii.6 (403,5) Aroint thee, witch!] In one of the folio editions the reading is Anoint thee, in a sense very consistent with the common accounts of witches, who are related to perform many supernatural acts by the means of unguents, and particularly to fly through the air to the places where they meet at their hellish festivals. In this sense, anoint thee, Witch, will mean, Away, Witch, to your infernal assembly. This reading I was inclined to favour, because I had met with the word aroint in no other authour till looking into Hearne's Collections I found it in a very old drawing, that he has published, in which St. Patrick is represented visiting hell, and putting the devils into great confusion by his presence, of whom one that is driving the damned before him with a prong, has a label issuing out of his mouth with these words, OUT OUT ARONGT, of which the last is evidently the same with aroint, and used in the same sense as in this passage.
I.iii.15 (405,8) And the very points they blew] As the word very is here of no other use than to fill up the verse, it is likely that Shakespeare wrote various, which might be easily mistaken for very, being either negligently read, hastily pronounced, or imperfectly heard.
I.iii.21 (405,9) He shall live a man forbid] Mr. Theobald has very justly explained forbid by accursed, but without giving any reason of his interpretation. To bid is originally to pray, as in this Saxon fragment,
De iy piy p bit y bote He is wise that prays and makes amends.
As to forbid therefore implies to prohibit, in opposition to the word bid in its present sense, it signifies by the same kind of opposition to curse, when it is derived from the same word in its primitive meaning.
I.iii.42 (409,3) are you aught/That man may question?] Are ye any beings with which man is permitted to hold converse, or of which it is lawful to ask questions?
I.iii.53 (410,5) Are ye fantastical] By fantastical, he means creatures of fantasy or imagination; the question is, Are these real beings before us, or are we deceived by illusions of fancy?
I.iii.97 (412,8) As thick as tale] [As thick as hail] Was Mr. Pope's correction. The old copy has,
--As thick as tale Can post with post;--
which perhaps is not amiss, meaning that the news came as thick as a tale can travel with the post. Or we may read, perhaps yet better,
--As thick as tale Came post with post;--
That is, posts arrived as fast as they could be counted.
I.iii.130 (414,4) This supernatural solliciting] Solliciting is rather, in my opinion, incitement than information.
I.iii.134 (414,5) why do I yield] To yield is, simply, to give way to.
I.iii.137 (414,6) Present fears/Are less than horrible imaginings] [W: feats] Present fears are fears of things present, which Macbeth declares, and every man has found, to be less than the imagination presents them while the objects are yet distant. Fears is right.
I.iii.140 (415,7) single state of man] The single state of man seems to be used by Shakespeare for an individual, in opposition to a commonwealth, or conjunct body.
I.iii.40 (415,8) function/Is smother'd in surmise; and nothing is,/ But what is not] All powers of action are oppressed and crushed by one overwhelming image in the mind, and nothing is present to me, but that which is really future. Of things now about me I have no perception, being intent wholly on that which has yet no existence.
I.iii.147 (415,9) Time and the hour runs through the roughest day] I suppose every reader is disgusted at the tautology in this passage, Time and the hour, and will therefore willingly believe that Shakespeare wrote it thus,
Come what come may, Time! on!--the hour runs thro' the roughest day.
Macbeth is deliberating upon the events which are to befall him, but finding no satisfaction from his own thoughts, he grows impatient of reflection, and resolves to wait the close without harrassing hinaelf with conjectures.
Come what come may.
But to shorten the pain of suspense, he calls upon Time In the usual stile of ardent desire, to quicken his motion,
Time! on! --
He then comforts himself with the reflection that all his perplexity must have an end,
--the hour runs thro' the roughest day.
This conjecture is supported by the passage in the letter to his lady, in which he says, they referred me to the coming on of time, with Hail, King that shalt be.
I.iii.149 (416,1) My dull brain was wrought] My head was worked, agitated, put into commotion.
I.iv.9 (417,3) studied in his death] Instructed in the art of dying. It was usual to say studied, for learned in science.
I.iv.12 (417,4) To find the mind's construction in the face] The construction of the mind is, I believe, a phrase peculiar to Shakespeare; it implies the frame or disposition of the mind, by which it is determined to good or ill.
I.iv.26 (418,5) Which do but what they should, by doing everything, Safe toward your love and honour] Of the last line of this speech, which is certainly, as it is now read, unintelligible, an emendation has been attempted, which Dr. Warburton and Dr. Theobald once admitted as the true reading:
--our duties Are to your throne and state, children and servants, Which do but what they should, in doing every thing Fiefs to your love and honour.
My esteem for these critics inclines me to believe that they cannot be much pleased with these expressions fiefs to love, or fiefs to honour, and that they have proposed this alteration rather because no other occured to them, than because they approved of it. I shall therefore propose a bolder change, perhaps with no better success, but sua cuique placent. I read thus,
--our duties Are to your throne and state, children and servants Which do but what they should, in doing nothing, Save toward your love and honour.
We do but perform our duty when we contract all our views to your service, when we act with no other principle than regard to your love and honour.
It is probable that this passage was first corrupted by writing safe for save, and the lines then stood thus:
--doing nothing Safe toward your love and honour.
which the next transcriber observing to be wrong, and yet not being able to discover the real fault, altered to the present reading.
Dr. Warburton has since changed fiefs to fief'd, and Hanmer has altered safe to shap'd. I am afraid none of us have hit the right word.
I.v.2 (420, 6) by the perfected report] By the best intelligence. Dr. Warburton would read, perfected, and explains report by prediction. Little regard can be paid to an emendation that instead of clearing the sense, makes it more difficult.
I.v.23 (420, 7) thoud'st have, great Glamis, That which cries, Thus thou must do, if thou have it] As the object of Macbeth's desire is here introduced speaking of itself, it is necessary to read,
--thoud'st have, great Glamis, That which cries, thus thou must do, if thou have me.
I.v.39 (422, 8) The raven himself is hoarse] Dr. Warburton reads,
--The raven himself's not hoarse.
Yet I think the present words may stand. The messenger, says the servant, had hardly breath to make up his message; to which the lady answers mentally, that he may well want breath, such a message would add hoarseness to the raven. That even the bird, whose harsh voice is accustomed to predict calamities, could not croak the entrance of Duncan but in a note of unwonted harshness.
I.v.42 (422, 2) mortal thoughts] This expression signifies not the thoughts of mortals, but murtherous, deadly, or destructive designs. So in act 5,
Hold fast the mortal sword.
And in another place,
With twenty mortal murthers.
I.v.47 (422, 3) nor keep peace between/The effect, and it!] The intent of lady Macbeth evidently is to wish that no womanish tenderness, or conscientious remorse, may hinder her purpose from proceeding to effect; but neither this, nor indeed any other sense, is expressed by the present reading, and therefore it cannot be doubted that Shakespeare wrote differently, perhaps thus,
That no compunctious visitings of nature Shake my fell purpose, nor keep pace between Th' effect, and it.--
To keep pace between may signify to pass between, to intervene. Pace is on many occasions a favourite of Shakespeare's. This phrase is indeed not usual in this sease, but was it not its novelty that gave occasion to the present corruption? [The sense is, that no compunctious visitings of nature may prevail upon her, to give place in her mind to peaceful thoughts, or to rest one moment in quiet, from the hour of her purpose to its full completion in the effect. REVISAL.] This writer thought himself perhaps very sagacious that be found a meaning which nobody missed, the difficulty still remains how such a meaning is made by the words. (see 1765, VI, 394, 6)
I.v.49 (423, 5) take my milk for gall] Take away my milk, and put gall into the place.
I.v.51 (423, 6) You wait on nature's mischief!] Nature's mischief is mischief done to nature, violation of nature's order committed by wickedness.
I.v.55 (423,8) To cry, hold, hold!] On this passage there is a long criticism in the Rambler.
I.v.58 (424,1) This ignorant present time] Ignorant has here the signification of unknowing; that it, I feel by anticipation these future hours, of which, according to the process of nature, the present time would be ignorant.
I.vi.3 (425,3) our gentle senses] Senses are nothing more than each man's sense. Gentle senses is very elegant, as it means placid, calm, composed, and intimates the peaceable delight of a fine day. (see 1765, VI,396,2)
I.vi.7 (426,5) coigne of 'vantage] Convenient corner.
I.vi.13 (426,7) How you should bid god-yield as for your pains] I believe yield, or, as it is in the folio of 1623, eyld, is a corrupted contraction of shield. The wish implores not reward but protection.
I.vii.1 (428,1) If it were done] A man of learning recommends another punctuation:
If it were done, when 'tis done, then 'twere well. It were done quickly, if, &c.
I.vii.2 (428,2) If the assassination/Could tramel up the consequence] Of this soliloquy the meaning is not very clear; I have never found the readers of Shakespeare agreeing about it. I understand it thus,
"If that which I am about to do, when it is once done and executed, were done and ended without any following effects, it would then be best to do it quickly; if the murder could terminate in itself, and restrain the regular course of consequences, if its success could secure its surcease, if being once done successfully, without detection, it could fix a period to all vengeance and enquiry, so that this blow might be all that I have to do, and this anxiety all that I have to suffer; if this could be my condition, even here in this world, in this contracted period of temporal existence, on this narrow bank in the ocean of eternity, I would jump the life to come, I would venture upon the deed without care of any future state. But this is one of these cases in which judgment is pronounced and vengeance inflicted upon as here in our present life. We teach others to do as we have done, and are punished by our own example." (1773)
I.vii.4 (428,3) With his surcease, success] I think the reasoning requires that we should read,
With its success surcease.
I.vii.6 (429,4) shoal of time] This is Theobald's emendation, undoubtedly right. The old edition has school, and Dr. Warburton shelve.
I.vii.22 (429,7) or heavens cherubin, hors'd/Upon the sightless couriers of the air] [W: couriers] Courier is only runner. Couriers of air are winds, air in motion. Sightless is invisible.
I.vii.25 (430,8) That tears shall drown the wind] Alluding to the remission of the wind in a shower.
I.vii.28 (430,9) Enter Lady] The arguments by which lady Macbeth persuades her husband to commit the murder, afford a proof of Shakespeare's knowledge of human nature. She urges the excellence and dignity of courage, a glittering idea which has dazzled mankind from age to age, and animated sometimes the house-breaker, and sometimes the conqueror; but this sophism Macbeth has for ever destroyed, by distinguishing true from false fortitude, in a line and a half; of which it may almost be said, that they ought to bestow immortality on the author, though all his other productions had been lost:
I dare do all that become a man, Who dares do more, is none.
This topic, which has been always employed with too much success, is used in this scene with peculiar propriety, to a soldier by a woman. Courage is the distinguishing virtue of a soldier, and the reproach of cowardice cannot be borne by any man from a woman, without great impatience.
She then urges the oaths by which he had bound himself to murder Duncan, another art of sophistry by which men have sometimes deluded their consciences, and persuaded themselves that what would be criminal in others is virtuous in them; this argument Shakespeare, whose plan obliged him to make Macbeth yield, has not confuted, though he might easily have shewn that a former obligation could not be vacated by a latter: that obligations laid on us by a higher power, could not be over-ruled by obligations which we lay upon ourselves.
--Whouldst thou have that, Which then esteem'st the ornament of life, And live a coward in thine own esteem?]
In this there seems to be no reasoning. I should read,
Or live a coward in thine own esteem?
Unless we choose rather,
--Wouldst thou leave that.
I.vii.45 (431,2) Like the poor cat i' the adage?] The adage alluded to is, The cat loves fish, but dares not wet her feet, Catus amat pisces, sed men vult tingere plantas.
I.vii.64 (432,5) Will I with wine and wassel so convince] To convince is in Shakespeare to overpower or subdue, as in this play,
--Their malady convinces The great assay of art.
I.vii.67 (433,6) A limbeck only] That is, shall be only a vessel to emit fumes or vapours.
I.vii.71 (433,7) our great quell] Quell is murder manquellers being in the old language the term for which murderers is now used.
II.i (434,8) Enter Banquo, and Fleance with a torch before him] The place is not mark'd in the old edition, nor is it easy to say where this encounter can be. It is not in the hall, as the editors have all supposed it, for Banquo sees the sky; it is not far from the bedchamber, as the conversation shews: it must be in the inner court of the castle, which Banquo might properly cross in his way to bed.
II.i.25 (435,2) If you shall cleave to my consent, Then 'tis,/It shall make honour for you] Macbeth expressed his thought with affected obscurity; he does not mention the royalty, though he apparently has it in his mind, If you shall cleave to my consent, if you shall concur with me when I determine to accept the crown, when 'tis, when that happens which the prediction promises, it shall make honour for you.
II.i.49 (437,6) Now o'er the one half world/Nature seems dead] That is, over our hemisphere all action and motion seem to have ceased. This image, which is perhaps the most striking that poetry can produce, has been adopted by Dryden in his Conquest of Mexico:
All things are hush'd as Nature's self lay dead, The mountains seem to nod their drowsy head; The little birds in dreams their song repeat, And sleeping flow'rs beneath the night dews sweat. Even lust and envy sleep!
These lines, though so well known, I have transcribed, that the contrast between them and this passage of Shakespeare may be more accurately observed.
Night is described by two great poets, but one describes a night of quiet, the other of perturbation. In the night of Dryden, all the disturbers of the world are laid asleep; in that of Shakespeare, nothing but sorcery, lust, and murder, is awake. He that reads Dryden, finds himself lull'd with serenity, and disposed to solitude and contemplation. He that peruses Shakspeare looks round alarmed, and starts to find himself alone. One is the night of a lover, the other, of a murderer.
--wither'd Murther, --thus with hia stealthy pace, With Tarquin's ravishing strides, tow'rds his design moves like a ghost.--]
This was the reading of this passage [ravishing sides] in all the editions before that of Mr. Pope, who for sides, inserted in the text strides, which Mr. Theobald has tacitly copied from him, though a more proper alteration might perhaps have been made. A ravishing stride is an action of violence, impetuosity, and tumult, like that of a savage rushing at his prey; whereas the poet is here attempting to exhibit an image of secrecy and caution, of anxious circumspection and guilty timidity, the stealthy pace of a ravisher creeping into the chamber of a virgin, and of an assassin approaching the bed of him whom he proposes to murder, without awaking him; these he describes as moving like ghosts, whose progression is so different from strides, that it has been in all ages represented te be, as Milton expresses it,
Smooth sliding without step.
This hemiatic will afford the true reading of this place, which is, I think, to be corrected thus:
--and wither'd Murder. --thus with his stealthy pace. With Tarquin ravishing, slides tow'rds his design, Moves like a ghost.--
Tarquin is in this place the general name of a ravisher, and the sense is, Now is the time in which every one is a-sleep, but those who are employed in wickedness; the witch who is sacrificing to Hecate, and the ravisher, and the murderer, who, like me, are stealing upon their prey.
When the reading is thus adjusted, he wishes with great propriety, in the following lines, that the earth may not hear his steps.
II.i.59 (439,3) And take the present horrour from the time,/Which now suits with it] Of this passage an alteration was once proposed by me, of which I have now a less favourable opinion, yet will insert it, as it may perhaps give some hint to other critics:
And take the present horrour from the time, Which now suits with it.--
I believe every one that has attentively read this dreadful soliloquy is disappointed at the conclusion, which, if not wholly unintelligible, is, at least, obscure, nor can be explained into any sense worthy of the authour. I shall therefore propose a slight alteration:
--Thou sound and firm-set earth, Hear not my steps, which way they walk, for fear Thy very stones prate of my where-about, And talk--the present horrour of the time! That now suits with it.--
Macbeth has, in the foregoing lines, disturbed his imagination by enumerating all the terrors of the night; at length he is wrought up to a degree of frenzy, that makes him afraid of some supernatural discovery of his design, and calls out to the stones not to betray him, not to declare where he walks, nor to talk.--As he is going to say of what, he discovers the absurdity of his suspicion, and pauses, but is again overwhelmed by his guilt, and concludes, that such are the horrors of the present night, that the stones may be expected to cry out against him:
That now suits with it.--
He observes in a subsequent passage, that on such occasions stones have been known to move. It is now a very just and strong picture of a man about to commit a deliberate murder under the strongest conviction of the wickedness of his design. Of this alteration, however, I do not now see much use, and certainly see no necessity.
Whether to take horrour from the time means not rather to catch it as communicated, than to deprive the time of horrour, deserves te be considered.
II.ii.37 (443,6) sleave of care] A skein of silk is called a sleave of silk, as I learned from Mr. Seward, the ingenious editor of Beaumont and Fletcher.
II.ii.56 (444,8) gild the faces of the grooms withal,/For it must seem their guilt] Could Shakespeare possibly mean to play upon the similitude of gild and guilt.
II.iii.45 (447,5) I made a shift to cast him] To cast him up, to ease my stomach of him. The equivocation is between cast or throw, as a term of wrestling, and cast or cast up.
--strange screams of death; And prophesying, with accents terrible Of dire combustions, and confus'd events, New hatch'd to the woeful time: The obscure bird Clamour'd the live-long night: some say the earth Was feverous, and did shake]
Those lines I think should be rather regulated thus:
--prophecying with accents terrible, Of dire combustions and cosfus'd events. New-hatch'd to th' woful time, the obscure bird Clamour'd the live-long night. Some say the earth Was fev'rous and did shake.
A prophecy of an event new hatch'd, seems to be a prophecy of an event past. And a prophecy new hatch'd is a wry expression. The term new hatch'd is properly applicable to a bird, and that birds of ill omen should be new-hatch'd to the woful time, that is, should appear in uncommon numbers, is very consistent with the rest of the prodigies here mentioned, and with the universal disorder into which nature is described as thrown, by the perpetration of this horrid murder. (see 1765, VI, 413, 7)
II.iii.117 (452,3) Here, lay Duncan,/His silver skin lac'd with his golden blood] Mr. Pope has endeavoured to improve one of these lines by substituting goary blood for golden blood; but it may easily be admitted that he who could on such an occasion talk of lacing the silyer skin, would lace it with golden blood. No amendment can be made to this line, of which every word is equally faulty, but by a general blot.
It is not improbable, that Shakespeare put these forced and unnatural metaphors into the mouth of Macbeth as a mark of artifice and dissimulation, to shew the difference between the studied language of hypocrisy, and the natural outcries of sudden passion. This whole speech so considered, is a remarkable instance of judgment, as it consists entirely of antithesis and metaphor.
II.iii.122 (432,5) Unmannerly breech'd with gore] An unmannerly dagger, and a dagger breech'd, or as in some editions breech'd with, gore, are expressions not easily to be understood. There are undoubtedly two faults in this passage, which I have endeavored to take away by reading,
--daggers Unmanly drench'd with gore:--
I saw drench'd with the King's blood the fatal daggers, not only instruments of murder but evidence of cowardice.
Each of these words might easily be confounded with that which I have substituted for it, by a hand not exact, a casual blot, or a negligent inspection, [W: Unmanly reech'd] Dr. Warburton has, perhaps, rightly put reach'd for breech'd.
In the great hand of God I stand; and thence, Against the undivulg'd pretence I fight Of treasonous malice]
Pretence is not act, but simulation, a pretence of the traitor, whoever he might be, to suspect some other of the murder. I here fly to the protector of innocence from any charge which, yet undivulg'd, the traitor may pretend to fix upon me.
II.iii.147 (454,7) This murtherous shaft that's shot,/Hath not yet lighted] The design to fix the murder opon some innocent person, has not yet taken effect.
II.iv.15 (456,9) minions of their race] Theobald reads,
--minions of the race,
very probably, and very poetically.
II.iv.24 (456,1) What good could they pretend?] To pretend is here to propose to themselves, to set before themselves as a motive of action.
III.i.7 (457,2) As upon thee, Macbeth, their speeches shine] Shine, for appear with all the lustre of conspicuous truth.
III.i.56 (459,4) as, it is said,/Mark Anthony's was by Caesar] Though I would not often assume the critic's privilege of being confident where certainty cannot be obtained, nor indulge myself too far in departing from the established reading; yet I cannot but propose the rejection of this passage, which I believe was an insertion of some player, that having so much learning as to discover to what Shakespeare alluded, was not willing that his audience should be less knowing than himself, and has therefore weakened the authour's sense by the intrusion of a remote and useless image into a speech bursting from a man wholly possess'd with his own present condition, and therefore not at leisure to explain his own allusions to himself. If these words are taken away, by which not only the thought but the numbers are injured, the lines of Shakespeare close together without any traces of a breach.
My genius is rebuk'd. He chid the sisters.
This note was written before I was fully acquainted with Shakespeare's manner, and I do not now think it of much weight; for though the words, which I was once willing to eject, seem interpolated, I believe they may still be genuine, and added by the authour in his revision. The authour of the Revisal cannot admit the measure to be faulty. There is only one foot, he says, put for another. This is one of the effects of literature in minds not naturally perspicacious. Every boy or girl finds the metre imperfect, but the pedant comes to its defence with a tribrachys or an anapaest, and sets it right at once by applying to one language the rules of another. If we may be allowed to change feet, like the old comic writers, it will not be easy to write a line not metrical. To hint this once, is sufficient. (see 1765, VI, 424, 2)
III.i.65 (460,5) For Banquo's issue have I fil'd my mind] [W: 'filed] This mark of contraction is not necessary. To file is in the bishop's Bible.
III.i.69 (460,6) the common enemy of man] It is always an entertainment to an inquisitive reader, to trace a sentiment to its original source; and therefore, though the term enemy of man, applied to the devil, is in itself natural and obvious, yet some may be pleased with being informed, that Shakespeare probably borrowed it from the first lines of the Destruction of Troy, a book which he is known to have read. This expression, however, he might have had in many other places. The word fiend signifies enemy.
III.i.71 (461,7) come, Fate, into the list,/And champion me to the utterance!] This passage will be best explained by translating it into the language from whence the only word of difficulty in it is borrowed, "Que la destinée se rende en lice, et qu'elle me donne un defi a l'outrance." A challenge or a combat a l'outrance, to extremity, was a fix'd term in the law of arms, used when the combatants engaged with an odium internecinum, an intention to destroy each other, in opposition to trials of skill at festivals, or on other occasions, where the contest was only for reputation or a prize. The sense therefore is, Let Fate, that has foredoom'd the exaltation of the sons of Banquo, enter the lists against me, with the utmost animosity, in defence of its own decrees, which I will endeavour to invalidate, whatever be the danger. [Johnson quotes Warburton's note] After the former explication, Dr. Warburton was desirous to seem to do something; and he has therefore made Fate the marshal, whom I had made the champion, and has left Macbeth to enter the lists without an opponent.
III.i.88 (462,9) Are you so gospell'd] Are you of that degree of precise virtue? Gospeller was a name of contempt given by the Papists to the Lollards, the puritans of early times, and the precursors of protestantism.
III.i.94 (463,1) Showghes] Showghes are probably what we now call shocks, demi-wolves, lyciscae; dogs bred between wolves and dogs. (1773)
III.i.95 (463,2) the valued file] In this speech the word file occurs twice, and seems in both places to have a meaning different from its present use. The expression, valued file, evidently means, a list or catalogue of value. A station in the file, and not in the worst rank, may mean, a place in the list of manhood, and not in the lowest place. But file seems rather to mean in this place, a post of honour; the first rank, in opposition to the last; a meaning which I have not observed in any other place. (1773)
III.i.112 (465,2) So weary with disasters, tug'd with fortune] Tug'd with fortune may be, tug'd or worried by fortune.
III.i.130 (465,4) Acquaint you with the perfect spy o' the time] What is meant by the spy of the time, it will be found difficult to explain; and therefore sense will be cheaply gained by a slight alteration.--Macbeth is assuring the assassins that they shall not want directions to find Banquo, and therefore says,
I will-- Acquaint you with a perfect spy o' the time.
Accordingly a third murderer joins them afterwards at the place of action.
Perfect is well instructed, or well informed, as in this play,
Though in your state of honour I am perfect.
though I am well acquainted with your quality and rank. [Warburton explained this as "the critical juncture"] How the critical juncture is the spy o' the time I know not, but I think my own conjecture right.
III.ii.38 (467,1) nature's copy's not eternal] The copy, the lease, by which they hold their lives from nature, has its time of termination limited.
III.iii.1 (469,6) But who did bid thee join with us?] The meaning of this abrupt dialogue is this. The perfect spy, mentioned by Macbeth in the foregoing scene, has, before they enter upon the stage, given them the directions which were promised at the time of their agreement; yet one of the murderers suborned suspects him of intending to betray them; the other observes, that, by his exact knowledge of what they were to do, he appears to be employed by Macbeth, and needs not be mistrusted.
III.iv.1 (470,9) You know your own degrees, sit down: at first,/And last the hearty welcome] As this passage stands [sit down:/At first and last], not only the numbers are very imperfect, but the sense, if any can be found, weak and contemptible. The numbers will be improved by reading,
--sit down at first, And last a hearty welcome.
But for last should then be written next. I believe the true reading is,
You know your own degrees, sit down--To first And last the hearty welcome.
All of whatever degree, from the highest to the lowest, may be assured that their visit is well received.
III.iv.14 (471,1) 'Tis better thee without, than he within] The sense requires that this passage should be read thus:
'Tis better thee without, than him within.
That is, I am better pleased that the blood of Banquo should be on thy face than in his body.
The authour might mean, It is better that Banquo's blood were on thy face, than he in this room. Expressions thus imperfect are common in his works.
III.iv.33 (472,2) the feast is sold] The meaning is,--That which ia not given cheerfully, cannot be called a gift, it is something that must be paid for. (1773)
III.iv.57 (473,3) extend his passion] Prolong his suffering; make his fit longer.
III.iv.60 (473,4) O proper stuff!] This speech is rather too long for the circumstances in which it is spoken. It had begun better at, Shame itself!
Oh, these flaws, and starts, (Impostors to true fear,) would well become A woman's story at a winter's fire, Authoriz'd by her grandam]
Flaws, are sudden gusts. The authour perhaps wrote,
--Those flaws and starts, Impostures true to fear would well become; A woman's story,--
These symptoms of terrour and amazement might better become impostures true only to fear, might become a coward at the recital of such falsehoods as no man could credit, whose understanding was not weaken'd by his terrours; tales told by a woman over a fire on the authority of her grandam.
III.iv.76 (474,6) Ere human statute purg'd the gentle weal] The gentle weal, is, the peaceable community, the state made quiet and safe by human statutes.
Mollia securae peragebant otia gentes.
III.iv.92 (475,7) And all to all] I once thought it should be hail to all, but I now think that the present reading is right.
III.iv.105 (475,8) If trembling I inhabit] This is the original reading, which Mr. Pope changed to inhibit, which inhibit Dr. Warburton interprets refuse. The old reading may stand, at least as well as the emendation. Suppose we read,
If trembling I evade it.
III.iv.110 (476,9) Can such things be,/And overcome us, like a summer's cloud,/Without our special wonder?] [W: Can't] The alteration is introduced by a misinterpretation. The meaning is not that these things are like a summer-cloud, but can such wonders as these pass over us without wonder, as a casual summer cloud passes over us.
III.iv.112 (477,1) You make me strange/Even to the disposition that I owe] You produce in me an alienation of mind, which is probably the expression which our author intended to paraphrase.
III.iv.124 (477,2) Augurs, and understood relations] By the word relation is understood the connection of effects with causes; to understand relations as an angur, is to know how these things relate to each other, which have no visible combination or dependence.
III.iv.141 (479,5) You lack the season of all natures, sleep] I take the meaning to be, you want sleep, which seasons, or gives the relish to all nature. Indiget somni vitae condimenti.
III.v.24 (480,8) vaporous drop, profound] That is, a drop that has profound, deep, or hidden qualities.
III.v.26 (480,9) slights] Arts; subtle practices.
III.vi (481,1) Enter Lenox, and another Lord] As this tragedy, like the rest of Shakespeare's, is perhaps overstocked with personages, it is not easy to assign a reason why a nameless character should be introduced here, since nothing is said that might not with equal propriety have been put into the mouth of any other disaffected man. I believe therefore that in the original copy it was written with a very common form of contraction Lenox and An. for which the transcriber, instead of Lenox and Angus, set down Lenox and another Lord. The author had indeed been more indebted to the transcriber's fidelity and diligence had he committed no errors of greater importance.
III.vi.36 (482,3) and receive free honours] [Free for grateful. WARBURTON.] How can free be grateful? It may be either honours freely bestowed, not purchased by crimes; or honours without slavery, without dread of a tyrant.
IV.i (484,5) As this is the chief scene of enchantment in the play, it is proper in this place to observe, with how much judgment Shakespeare has selected all the circumstances of his infernal ceremonies, and how exactly he has conformed to common opinions and traditions:
Thrice the brinded cat hath mew'd.
The usual form in which familiar spirits are reported to converse with witches, is that of a cat. A witch, who was tried about half a century before the time of Shakespeare, had a cat named Rutterkin, as the spirit of one of these witches was Grimalkin; and when any mischief was to be done she used to bid Rutterkin go and fly, but once when she would have sent Rutterkin to torment a daughter of the countess of Rutland, instead of going or flying, he only cried mew, from whence she discovered that the lady was out of his power, the power of witches being not universal, but limited, as Shakespeare has taken care to inculcate:
Though his bark cannot be lost, Yet it shall be tempest-tost.
The common afflictions which the malice of witches produced were melancholy, fits, and loss of flesh, which are threatened by one of Shakespeare's witches:
Weary sev'n nights, nine times nine, Shall he dwindle, peak, and pine.
It was likewise their practice to destroy the cattle of their neighbours, and the farmers have to this day many ceremonies to secure their cows and other cattle from witchcraft; but they seem to have been most suspected of malice against swine. Shakespeare has accordingly made one of his witches declare that she has been killing swine, and Dr. Harsenet observes, that about that time, a sow could not be ill of the measles, nor a girl of the sullens, but some old woman was charged with witchcraft.
Toad, that under the cold stone, Days and night has, thirty-one, Swelter'd venom sleeping got; Boil thou first i'the charm'd pot.
Toads have likewise long lain under the reproach of being by some means accessory to witchcraft, for which reason Shakespeare, in the first scene of this play, calls one of the spirits Padocke or Toad, and now takes care to put a toad first into the pot. When Vaninus was seized at Theleuse, there was found at his lodgings ingens Bufo Vitro inclusus, a great toad shut in a vial, upon which those that prosecuted him, Veneficium exprebrabent, charged him, I suppose, with witchcraft.
Fillet of fenny snake, In the cauldron boil and bakae: Eye of newt, and toe of frog;-- For a charm, &c.
The propriety of these ingredients may be known by consulting the books de Viribus Animalium and de Mirabilibus Mundi, ascribed to Albertus Magnus, in which the reader, who has time and credulity, may discover very wonderful secrets.
Finger of birth-strangled babe, Ditch deliver'd by a drab--
It has been already mentioned in the law against witches, that they are supposed to take up dead bodies to use in enchantments, which was confessed by the woman whom king James examined, and who had of a dead body that was divided in one of their assemblies, two fingers for her share. It is observable that Shakespeare, on this great occasion, which involves the fate of a king, multiplies all the circumstanaces of horror. The babe, whose finger is used, must be strangled in its birth; the grease must not only be human, but must have dropped from a gibbet, the gibbet of a murderer; and even the sow, whose blood is used, must have offended nature by devouring her own farrow. These are touches of judgment and genius.
And now about the cauldron sing-- Black spirits and white, Blue spirits and grey, Mingle, mingle, mingle, You that mingle say.
And in a former part,
--weyward sisters, hand in hand,-- Thus do go about, about. Thrice to thine, and thrice to mine. And thrice again to make up nine!
These two passages I have brought together, because they both seem subject to the objection of too much levity for the solemnity of enchantment, and may both be shewn, by one quotation from Camden's account of Ireland, to be founded upon a practice really observed by the uncivilised natives of that country: "When any one gets a fall, says the informer of Camden, he starts up, and, turning three times to the right, digs a hole in the earth; for they imagine that there is a spirit in the ground, and if he falls sick in two or three days, they send one of their women that is skilled in that way to the place, where she says, I call thee from the east, west, north, and south, from the groves, the woods, the rivers, and the fens, from the fairies red, black, white." There was likewise a book written before the time of Shakespeare, describing, amongst other properties, the colours of spirits.
Many other circumstances might be particularised, in which Shakespeare has shown his judgment and his knowledge.
IV.i.53 (489,6) yesty waves] That is, foaming or frothy waves.
IV.i.88 (491,1) the round/And top of sovereignty?] This round is that part of the crown that encircles the head. The top is the ornament that rises above it.
IV.i.95 (492,3) Who can impress the forest] i.e. who can command the forest to serve him like a soldier impress'd. (1773)
IV.i.97 (492,4) Rebellious head, rise never] Mr. Theobald, who first proposed this change ["head" for "dead"] rightly observes, that head means host, or power.
--Douglas and the rebels met, A mighty and a fearful head they are.
His divisions--are in three heads.
IV.i.113 (493,6) Thy crown does sear mine eye-balls] The expression of Macbeth, that the crown sears his eye-balls, is taken from the method formerly practised of destroying the sight of captives or competitors, by holding a burning bason before the eye, which dried up its humidity. Whence the Italian, abacinare, to blind.
IV.i.113 (493,7) And thy air,/Thou other gold-bound brow, is like the first:--/A third is like the former] In former editions,
--and thy hair, Thou other gold-bound brow, is like the first:-- A third is like the former:--
As Macbeth expected to see a train of kings, and was only enquiring from what race they would proceed, he could not be surprised that the hair of the second was bound with gold like that of the first; he was offended only that the second resembled the first, as the first resembled Banquo, and therefore said,
--and thy air, Thou other gold-bound brow, is like the first.
This Dr. Warburton has followed.
IV.i.144 (495,2) Time, thou anticipat'st my dread exploits] To anticipate is here to prevent, by taking away the opportunity.
IV.ii.9 (496,3) He wants the natural touch] Natural sensibility. He is not touched with natural affection.
IV.ii.71 (498,7) To do worse to you, were fell cruelty] To do worse is, to let her and her children be destroyed without warning.
IV.iii.2 (500,9) Let us rather/Hold fast the mortal sword; and, like good men,/ Bestride our down-faln birthdom] In former editions,
Let us rather Hold fast the mortal sword; and, like good men, Bestride our downfal birthdoom.--]
He who can discover what is meant by him that earnestly exhorts him to bestride his downfal birth-doom, is at liberty to adhere to the present text; but it is probable that Shakespeare wrote,
--like good men, Bestride our downfaln birthdom--
The allusion is to a man from whom something valuable is about to be taken by violence, and who, that he may defend it without incombrance, lays it on the ground, and stands over it with his weapon in his hand. Our birthdom, or birthright, says he, lies on the ground, let us, like men who are to fight for what is dearest to them, not abandon it, but stand over it and defend it. This is a strong picture of obstinate resolution. So Falstaff says to Hal.
When I am down, if thou wilt bestride me, so.
Birthdom for birthright is formed by the same analogy with masterdom in this play, signifying the privileges or rights of a master.
Perhaps it might be birth-dame for mother; let us stand over our mother that lies bleeding on the ground.
IV.iii.19 (501,4) A good and virtuous nature may recoil/In an imperial charge] A good mind may recede from goodness in the execution of a royal commission.
IV.iii.23 (501,5) Though all things foul would wear the brows of grace,/Yet grace must look still so] This is not very clear. The meaning perhaps is this:--My suspicions cannot injure you, if you be virtuous, by supposing that a traitor may put on your virtuous appearance. I do not say that your virtuous appearance.
proves you a traitor; for virtue must wear its proper form, though that form be often counterfeited by villany.
IV.iii.26 (502,6) Why in that rawness left you wife and children] Without previous provision, without due preparation, without maturity of counsel.
IV.iii.33 (502,7) Wear thou thy wrongs] That is, Poor country, wear thou thy wrongs.
IV.iii.69 (503,1) Sudden, malicious] [Sudden, for capricious. WARBUR.] Rather violent, passionate, hasty.
IV.iii.85 (504,2) Than summer seeming lust] When I was younger and bolder I corrected it thus,
Than fume, or seething lust.
that is, Than angry passion, or boiling lust. (1773)
IV.iii.135 (506,4) All ready at a point] [W: at appoint] There is no need of change.
IV.iii.136 (506,5) and the chance of goodness/Be like our warranted quarrel!] The chance of goodness, as it is commonly read, conveys no sense. If there be not some more important errour in the passage, it should at least be pointed thus:
--and the chance, of goodness, Be like our warranted quarrel!--
That is, may the event be, of the goodness of heaven, [pro justitia divina] answerable to the cause.
The author of the Revisal conceives the sense of the passage to be rather this: And may the success of that goodness, which is about to exert itself in my behalf, be such as may be equal to the justice of my quarrel.
But I am inclined to believe that Shakespeare wrote,
--and the chance, O goodness, Be like our warranted quarrel!--
This some of his transcribers wrote with a small o, which another imagined to mean of. If we adopt this reading, the sense will be, and O thou sovereign Goodness, to whom we now appeal, may our fortune answer to our cause. (see 1765, VI, 462, 7)
IV.iii.170 (508,9) A modern ecstacy] I believe modern is only foolish or trifling.
IV.iii.196 (509,2), fee-grief] A peculiar sorrow; a grief that hath a single owner. The expression is, at least to our ears, very harsh.
IV.iii.216 (511,4) He has no children] It has been observed by an anonymous critic, that this is not said of Macbeth, who had children, but of Malcolm, who having none, supposes a father.
V.i.86 (515,8) My mind she has mated] [Conquer'd or subdued. POPE.] Rather astonished, confounded.
V.ii.24 (516,1) When all that is within him does condemn/Itself, for being there?] That is, when all the faculties of the mind are employed in self-condemnation.
V.iii.1 (516,2) Bring me no more reports] Tell me not any more of desertions--Let all ny subjects leave me--I am safe till, &c.
V.iii.8 (517,3) English Epicures] The reproach of Epicurism, on which Mr. Theobald has bestowed a note, is nothing more than a natural invective uttered by an inhabitant of a barren country, against, those who have more opportunities of luxury.
V.iii.22 (518,6) my way of life/Is fall'n into the sear] As there is no relation between the way of life, and fallen into the sear, I am inclined to think that the W is only an M inverted, and that it was originally written,
--my May of life.
I am now passed from the spring to the autumn of my days, but I am without those comforts that should succeed the spriteliness of bloom, and support me in this melancholy season.
The authour has May in the same sense elsewhere.
V.iv.8 (521,1) the confident tyrant/Keeps still in Dunsinane, and will endure/Our setting down before't] He was confident of success; so confident that he would not fly, but endure their setting down before his castle.
V.iv.11 (521,2) For where there is advantage to be given,/ Both more and less have given him the revolt] The impropriety of the expression, advantage to be given, and the disagreeable repetition of the word given in the next line, incline me to read,
--where there is a 'vantage to be gone, Both more and less have given him the revolt.
Advantage or 'vantage, in the time of Shakespeare, signified opportunity. He shut up himself and his soldiers, (says Malcolm) in the castle, because when there is an opportunity to be gone they all desert him.
More and less is the same with greater and less. So in the interpolated Mandeville, a book of that age, there is a chapter of India the More and the Less.
V.iv.20 (522,4) arbitrate]--arbitrate is determine.
V.v.11 (523,3) fell of hair] My hairy part, my capillitium. Fell is skin.
V.v.17 (523,7) She should have dy'd hereafter; There would have been a time for such a word] This passage has very justly been suspected of being corrupt. It is not apparent for what word there would have been a time, and that there would or would not be a time for any word seems not a consideration of importance sufficient to transport Macbeth into the following exclamation. I read therefore,
She should have dy'd hereafter. There would have been a time for--such a world!-- Tomorrow, &c.
It is a broken speech in which only part of the thought is expressed, and may be paraphrased thus: The queen is dead. Macbeth. Her death should have been deferred to some more peaceful hour; had she liv'd longer, there would at length have been a time for the honours due to her as a queen, and that respect which I owe her for her fidelity and love. Such is the world--such is the condition of human life, that we always think to-morrow will be happier than to-day, but to-morrow and to-morrow steals over us unenjoyed and unregarded, and we still linger in the same expectation to the moment appointed for our end. All these days, which have thus passed away, have sent multitudes of fools to the grave, who were engrossed by the same dream of future felicity, and, when life was departing from them, were, like me, reckoning on to-morrow.
Such was once my conjecture, but I am now less confident. Macbeth might mean, that there would have been a more convenient time for such a word, for such intelligence, and so fall into the following reflection. We say we send word when we give intelligence.
V.v.21 (524,8) To the last syllable of recorded time] Recorded time seems to signify the time fixed in the decrees of Heaven for the period of life. The record of futurity is indeed no accurate expression, but as we only know transactions past or present, the language of men affords no term for the volumes of prescience, in which future events may be supposed to be written.
V.v.23 (524,9) The way to dusty death] Dusty is a very natural epithet. The second folio has,
The way to study death.--
which Mr. Upton prefers, but it is only an errour by an accidental transposition of the types.
V.v.42 (525,2) I pull in resolution, and begin/To doubt the equivocation of the fiend,/ That lies like truth] Though this is the reading of all the editions, yet, as it is a phrase without either example, elegance or propriety, it is surely better to read,
I pall in resolution,-- I languish in my constancy, my confidence begins to forsake as.
It is scarcely necessary to observe how easily pall might be changed into pull by a negligent writer, or mistaken for it by an unskilful printer. With this emendation Dr. Warburton and Mr. Heath concur. (see 1765, VI,478,8)
V.viii.9 (529,3) the intrenchant air] That is, air which cannot be cut.
V.viii.20 (529,5) That palter with us in a double sense] That shuffle with ambiguous expressions.
V.viii.48 (531,7) Had I as many sons as I have hairs, I would not wish them to a fairer death]
This incident is thus related from Henry of Huntingdon by Camden in his Remains, from which our authour probably copied it.
When Seyward, the martial earl of Northumberland, understood that his son, whom he had sent in service against the Scotchmen, was slain, he demanded whether his wounds were in the fore part or hinder part of his body. When it was answered, in the fore part, he replied, "I am right glad; neither wish I any other death to me or mine."
General Observation. This play is deservedly celebrated for the propriety of its fictions, and solemnity, grandeur, and variety of its action; but it has no nice discriminations of character, the events are too great to admit the influence of particular dispositions, and the course of the action necessarily determines the conduct of the agents.
The danger of ambition is well described; and I know not whether it may not be said in defence of some parts which now seem improbable, that, in Shakespeare's time, it was necessary to warn credulity against vain and illusive predictions.
The passions are directed to their true end. Lady Macbeth is merely detested; and though the courage of Macbeth preserves some esteem, yet every reader rejoices at his fall.