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quo is praying against being tempted to encourage thoughts of guilt, even in his sleep; while Macbeth is hurrying into temptation, and revolving in his mind every scheme, however flagitious, that may assist him to complete his purpose. The one is unwilling to sleep, lest the same phantoms should assail his resolution again; while the other is depriving himself of rest through impatience to commit the murder."
will explain the nature of Macbeth's uneasiness on this occasion :-"Duncan having two sons, he made the elder of them (called Malcolm) Prince of Cumberland, as it was thereby to appoint him his successor in his kingdom, immediately after his decease. Macbeth, sorely troubled therewith, for that he saw by this means his hope sore hindered (where, by the old laws of the realm, the ordinance was, that if he that should succeed was not able of age to take the charge upon himself, he that was next of blood unto him should be admitted), he began to take counsel how he might usurp the kingdom by force, having a just quarrel so to do (as he took the matter), for that Duncan did what in him lay to defraud him of all manner of title and claim which he might, in time to come, pretend to the crown."
“I have drugged their possets."-Act II., Scene 2.
It was a general custom to eat possets just before bed time. Randle Holmes, in his “ ACADEMY OF ARMORY," says, "Posset is hot milk poured on ale or sack, having sugar, grated biscuit, and eggs, with other ingredients, boiled in it, which goes all to a curd."
"Had he not resembled
Act II., Scene 2. This "one touch of nature" in Lady Macbeth, has called forth some able remarks from Warburton.--"This," says he, " is very artful : for, as the poet has drawn the lady and her husband, it would be thought the act should have been done by her. It is likewise highly just: for though ambition had subdued in her all the sentiments of nature towards present objects, yet the likeness of one past, which she had always been accustomed to regard with reverence, made her unnatural passions for a moment give way to the sentiments of instinct and humanity."
“ This castle hath a pleasant scat;" &c.-Act I., Scene 6.
Sir Joshua Reynolds has written a few remarks on this beautiful passage, which exhibit true poetic feeling. " This short dialogue," says he,“ between Duncan and Banquo, as they approach Macbeth's castle, has always appeared to me a striking instance of what in painting is termed repose. Their conversation naturally turns upon the beauty of its situation, and the pleasantness of the air; and Banquo, observing the martlets' nests in every recess of the cornice, remarks that, where these birds most breed and haunt, the air is delicate. The subject of this quiet and easy conversation gives that repose so necessary to the mind after the tumultuous bustle of the preceding scenes, and perfectly contrasts the scene of horror that immediately succeeds. It seems as if Shakspere asked himself, . What is a prince likely to say to his attendants on such an occasion ?' Whereas the modern writers seem, on the contrary, to be always searching for new thoughts, such as would never occur to men in the situation represented. This also is frequently the practice of Homer, who, from the midst of battles and horrors, relieves and refreshes the mind of the reader, by introducing some quiet rural image, or picture of familiar domestic life."
In his “JOURNEY TO THE WESTERN ISLANDS," Dr. Johnson says (speaking of Inverness), “Here is a castle called the Castle of Macbeth, the walls of which are yet standing. It was no very capacious edifice, but stands upon a rock so high and steep, that I think it was once not accessible, but by the help of ladders or a bridge."
“To know my deed, 'l were vest not know myself.”—
Act II., Scene 2. While I have the thought or recollection of this deed, I were better lost to myself; had better not have the consciousness of who I am.
“Enter a Porter."--Act II., Scene 3. In justification of Shakspere for introducing this comical Porter at such a moment, Steevens remarks, "that a glimpse of comedy was expected by our author's audience in the most serious drama; and where else could that merriment be so happily introduced ?"
-"Here lay Duncan,
Act II., Scene 3, It is not improbable that Shakspere 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," observes Dr. Johnson, "so considered, is a remarkable instance of judgment, as it consists entirely of antithesis and metaphor."
“Court within the Castle.--Enter BANQUO & FLEANCE," &c.
Act II., Scene 1. A graphic description of the supposed locality of this scene is given by Capell:-“ A large court, surrounded all or in part by an open gallery; the gallery ascended into by stairs, open likewise; with addition of a college-like gateway, into which opens a porter's lodge-appears to have been the poet's idea of the place of this great action. The circumstances that mark it are scattered through three scenes : in the latter, the hall (which moderns make the scene of this action) is appointed a place of second assembly, in terms that shew it plainly distinct from that assembled in then. Buildings of this description rose in ages of chivalry, when knights rode into their courts, and paid their devoirs to ladies, viewing of their tiltings and them from this open gallery. Fragments of some of them, over the mansions of noblemen, are still subsisting in London, changed to hotels or inns. Shakspere might see them much more entire, and take his notion from them."
"Rosse. Where is Duncan's body?
MacD. Carried to Colm-kill;
Act II., Scene 4. This place (now called Icolm-kill) is the famous Iona, one of the Western Isles described by Dr. Johnson, Kill, in Erse, signifies a cell or chapel.
-"Merciful powers !
Gives way to in repose."-Act II., Scene 1. “It is apparent," says Steevens, “ from what Banquo says afterwards, that he had been solicited in a dream to do something in consequence of the prophecy of the Witches, that his waking senses were shocked at; and Shakspere has finely contrasted his character with that of Macbeth. Ban
“Ruther than so, come sale into the list,
Act III., Scene 1. The word utterance is of French origin : à l'outrance was a term in the law of arms, used when the combatants engaged with an odium internecinum, an intention to destroy each other. The sense of the passage probably is :---Let fate, that has foredoomed the exaltation of the posterity of Banquo, enter the lists against me with the utmost animosity
in defence of its own decrees, which I will endeavour to inI validate, whatever be the danger.
“FLEANCE and Servant escape."
Act III., Scene 3. Fleance, after the assassination of his father, fled to Wales, where, by the daughter of the prince of that country, he had a son named Walter, who became Lord Steward of Scotland, and thence assumed the name of Walter Steward (or Stuart). Prom him, in a direct line, descended James the First of England: in compliment to whom, Shakspere has chosen to describe Banquo, who was equally concerned with Macbeth in the murder of Duncan, as innocent of that crime.
“ Enter HECATE, meeting the three Witches."
Act III., Scene 5. Scott, in his “ DISCOVERY OF WITCHCRAFT," mentions it as a common opinion that witches were supposed to have "nightly meetings with Herodias and the pagan gods;" and that in the night-time they did ride abroad with Diana, goddess of the pagans." The word “Hecate," as a dissyllable, was introduced by Marlowe, in his “DOCTOR FAUSTUS."
"'T is better thee without, than he within."
Act III., Scene 4. The proper reading would probably be “him within."That is, I am better pleased that Banquo's blood should be on thy face than in his body. Or we may follow the present reading, by supposing the latter part of the sentence to signify “than he in this room.”
"And at the pil of Acheron
Meet me i' the morning."--Act 111., Scene 5. "Shakspere," says Steevens, "seems to have thought it allowable to give the name of Acheron to any fountain, lake, or pit, through which there was vulgarly supposed to be any communication between this and the infernal world. The true original Acheron, was a river in Greece; and yet Virgil gives this name to his lake in the valley of Amsanctus, in Italy."
-" The feast is sold That is not often vouched: while 'lis a making, 'Tis given with welcome."-Act III., Scene 4.
The meaning is, that which is not given freely and cheerfully, cannot properly be called a gift. It is like something which we are expected to pay for.
" U pon the corner of the moon
Act III., Scene 5. This “vaporous drop," seems to be of kin to the virus lunare of the ancients, being a foam which the moon was supposed to shed on particular herbs or other objects, when strongly solicited by enchantments. “Profound," signifies having deep or secret qualities.
" A dark Cave. In the middle, a Cauldron boiling. Thunder.
“Enter the three Witches."-Act IV., Scene 1.
-"O, these flaws and starts (Impostors to true fear)."-Act III., Scene 4. The phrase "impostors to true fear," has been a source of great embarrassment to the commentators. We conceive that the word “to," must be understood in the sense of "compared to," a species of ellipsis of which many instances might be adduced from Shakspere. In the “Two GENTLEMEN OF VERONA," for instance, it is said of Love (act ii., scene 4), “there is no woe to his correction;" that is, compared to his correction. Lady Macbeth's meaning probably is, “True fear, the fear arising from real danger, is a rational thingbut your fears, originating solely in your own fancies are mere impostors," and
Would well become
The same contempt of supernatural feats is expressed by this hardy woman, in the scene of the murder :
- "The sleeping and the dead Are but as pictures : 't is the eye of childhood That fears a painted devil.”
Various commentators have remarked on the judgment shewn by Shakspere in detailing the infernal ceremonies of this scene. A cat was the usual interlocutor between witches and familiar spirits. A witch, who was tried about fifty years before the poet's time, was said to have had a cat named Rutterkin; and when any mischief was to be done, she would bid Rutterkin " go and fly." The common afflictions attributed to the malice of witches, were melancholy, fits, and loss of flesh. They were supposed to be very malicious to swine; one of Shakspere's hags says she has been killing swine; and Dr. Harsnet observes that, in his time, “a sow could not be ill of the measles, nor a girl of the sullens, but some old woman was charged with witchcraft." Toads have long been reproached as the abettors of witchcraft. When Vannius was seized at Toulouse, there was found in his lodgings “a great toad, shut in a phial ;” upon which, those that persecuted him denounced him as a wizard.
The ingredients of Shakspere's cauldron are selected according to the formularies prescribed in books of magic. Witches were supposed to take up bodies to use in enchantments. A passage from Camden explains and justifies our author in some other particulars :-“When any one gets a fall, he stands 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, and white.'"
_" You make me strange Eren to the disposition that I owe."
Act III., Scene 4. You prove to me that I am a stranger even to my own disposition, when I perceive that the very object which steals the colour from my cheek, permits it to remain in yours.
"Augurs, and understood relations.”—Act III., Scene 4.
By the word "relations,” says Johnson, " is understood the connexion of effects with causes. To understand relations, as an augur, is to know how those things relate to each other which have no visible combination or dependence." The word “augurs" in the text, must (according to the suggestion of Mr. Singer), be understood in the sense of *auguries."
“Nose of Turk, and Tartar's lips."— Act IV., Scene 1.
These ingredients probably owed their introduction to the detestation in which the Saracens were held, on account of the Crusades.
“How say'st thou, that Macduff denies his person,
Al our great bidding ?"-Act III., Scene 4. “How say'st thou ?" signifies here, what do you say to the circumstance? As in the “Two GENTLEMEN OF VERONA," (act ii., scene 5): “How say'st thou, that my master is become a notable lover?"
“ Black spirits and white," &c.--Act IV., Scene 1.
The right of these four metrical lines to a place in the text is certainly equivocal. Steevens introduced them from Middleton's “WITCH," on the authority of the stage direction in the first folio, which stands thus :-"Music and a Song, Black Spirits, &c." Malone, however, strongly contends that “The Witch” was written subsequently to “MACBETH." The lines themselves have been supposed, with great probability, to be merely of a traditional nature, the production of neither Middleton nor Shakspere.
“He has no children."-Act IV., Scene 3. This is not said of Macbeth, who had children, but of Malcolm, who, having none, supposes a father can be so easily comforted.
“An apparition of an armed Head rises.”-Act IV., Scene 1.
It has been suggested by Mr. Upton, that the armed head represents, symbolically, Macbeth's head cut off, and brought to Malcolm by Macduff. The bloody child is Macduff, untimely ripped from his mother's womb. The child with a crown on his head, and a bough in his hand, is the royal Malcolm, who ordered his soldiers to hew down each a bough, and bear it before them to Dunsinane.
“Hell is murky." —Act V., Scene 1. In this great scene, Lady Macbeth is acting over again the circumstances attending the murder of Duncan. Steevens conceives her to be here addressing Macbeth, who, she supposes, has just said “Hell is murky!" (hell is a dismal place to go to in consequence of such a deed); she repeats his words in contempt:-". Hell is murky!'-Fie, my lord, fie! a soldier, and afеard ?"
“And wears upon his baby brow the round And top of sovereignty.”—Act IV., Scene 1.
“What we shall say we have, and what we owe."
Act V., Scene 4. Meaning, when we are governed by legal kings, we shall know the limits of their claim; shall know what we have of our own, and what they have a right to take from us.
The round is that part of the crown which encircles the head; the top is the ornament that rises above it.
" She should have died hereafler ;
Act V., Scene 5. “Macbeth may mean," says Johnson, “that there would have been a more convenient time for such a word-for such intelligence--and so falls into the following reflection:"To-morrow,'" &c.
" And yet the eighth appears, who bears a glass
Act IV., Scene 1. Magicians professed to have the power of shewing future events by means of a charmed glass, or mirror. In an extract from the penal laws against witches, it is said, “They do answer either by voice, or else do set before their eyes, in glasses, crystal-stones, &c., the pictures or images of persons or things sought for.” Spenser has given a circumstantial account of the glass which Merlin made for King Ryence. A mirror of the same kind was presented to Cambuscan, in * Tue SQUIRE'S TALE" of Chaucer; and in Alday's translation of Boisteau's “THEATRUM MUNDI," it is said, “A certain philosopher did the like to Pompey, the which shewed him in a glass the order of his enemies' march." The allusion, in the above extract, to the "twofold balls and treble sceptres" is a compliment to James the First, who first united the two islands and three kingdoms under one head.
“To the last syllable of recorded time."-Act V., Scene 5.
Recorded time seems to signify the time fixed in the decrees of heaven, for the period of life. The phrase may, however, be used in the sense of recording or recordable time,
“I bear a charmed life."-Act V., Scene 7. " In the days of chivalry," says Steevens, "the champions' arms being ceremoniously blessed, each took an oath that he used no charmed weapons, Macbeth, according to the law of arms, or perhaps only in allusion to this custom, tells Macduff of the security he had in the prediction of the
Act IV., Scene 3. This miraculous power of curing the "king's evil," was claimed for seven centuries by the monarchs of England. In Laneham's account of the Entertainments of Kenilworth, given to Queen Elizabeth, it is said :-"And also, by her highness' accustomed mercy and charity, nine cured of the painful and dangerous disease called the king's evil; for that kings and queens of this realm, without other medicine (save only by handling and prayer), only do it." The practice was continued so late as Queen Anne's time: Dr. Johnson, when an infant, was touched for the evil by that princess.
The golden stamp, alluded to in the text, was the coin called an angel, value ten shillings.
“Had I as many sons as I hare hairs,
I would not wish them to a fairer death :
And so his knell is knolled."-Act V., Scene 7. This incident is thus related from Henry of Huntingdon, by Camden, in his “REMAINS :"-"When Siward, 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.'”
"My thanes and kinsmen, Henceforth be carls."--Act V., Scene 7. Holinshed says, that “Malcolm, immediately after his coronation, called a parliament at Forfar, in which he rewarded them with lands and livings that had assisted him against Macbeth. Many of them, that before were thancs, were at this time made earls ; as Fife, Menteth, Atholl, Lenox, Murray, Cathness, Rosse, and Angus."