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28 wine and wassel-] Wassel or wassail is a word still in use in the midland counties, and signifies wbat is sometimes called Lambs Wool, i. e, roasted apples in strong beer, with sugar and spice. See Beggars' Bush, act iv. sc. 4. “ What think you of a wassel ?
thou and Ferret “ And Ginks to sing the song : I for the structure " Which is the bowl, &c.”
Wassel is, however, sometimes used for general riot, intemperance, or festivity. On this occasion I believe it means intemperance.
Ben Jonson personifies wassel thus, Enter Wassel like a neat sempster and songster ; her page bearing a brown bowl drest with ribbands and rosemary, before her.
Merciful powers ! Restrain in me the cursed thoughts, that nature Gives way to in repose !] It is apparent 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 shock'd at; and Shakspeare has here finely contrasted his character with that of Macbeth. Banquo 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.
-gouts of blood,] Or drops, French.
Had he not resembled My father as he slept, I had done't.] This is very artful. For, as the poet has drawn the lady and 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 been accustomed to regard with reverence, made her unnatural passions, for a moment, give way to the sentiments of instinct and humanity.
WAR BURTON. -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.
JOHNSON. Sleep, that knits up the ravellid sleave of care. To confirm the ingenious conjecture that sleave means sleaved, silk ravell’d, it is observable, that a poet of Shakspeare's age, Drayton, has alluded to it likewise in his Quest of Cynthia :
“ At length I on a fountain light,
31 What, in our house ?] This is very fine. Had she been innocent, nothing but the murder itself, and
not any of its aggravating circumstances, would naturally have affected her. As it was, her business was to appear highly disordered at the news. Therefore, like one who has her thoughts about her, she seeks for an aggravating circumstance, that might be supposed most to affect her personally; not considering, that by placing it there, she discovered rather a concern for herself than for the King.
On the contrary, her husband, who had repented the act, and was now a labouring under the horrors of a recent murder, in his
exclamation, gives all the marks of sorrow for the fact itself.
WARBURTON. 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 silver 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 Shakspeare 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.
JOHNSON. 3. And Duncan's horses, &c.) Most of the prodigies
just before mentioned, are related by Holinshed, as accompanying King Duffe's death; and it is in particular asserted, that horses of singular beauty and swiftness did eat their own flesh. Macbeth's killing Duncan's chamberlains is taken from Donwald's killing those of king Duffe.
STELVENS. -as, it is said, Mark Antony's was by Cæsar.] 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 Shakspeare alluded, was not willing that his audience should be less knowing than himself, and has therefore weakened the author's sense by the intrusion of a remote and useless image into a speech bursting from a man wholly possessed 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 Shakspeare 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 Shakspeare's manner, and I do not now think it of much weight; for though the words, which I was once willing to eject, seen interpolated, I believe they may still be genuine, and added by the author in his
revision. The author 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 anapæst, 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.
JOHNSON. -come, fate, into the list, And champion me to the utterance!) This is expressed with great nobleness and sublimity. The metaphor is taken from the ancient combat en champ clos: in which there was a marshal, who presided over, and directed, all the punctilios of the ceremonial. Fate is called upon to discharge this office, and champion him to the utterance; that is, to fight it out to the extremity, which they called combatre à oultrance. But he uses the Scotch word utterance from oultrance, extremity.
WARBURTON. Dr. Warburton has made Fate the marshal, whom I had made the champion, and has left Macbeth to enter the lists without an opponent. JOHNSON.
36 Shoughs,] are probably what we now call shocks, demi-wolves, lyciscæ ; dogs bred between wolves and dogs.
JOHNSON 37 Acquaint you with the perfect spy o'the time,] What