Imatges de pÓgina

Mach. How say'st thou, that Macduff denies his person, At our great bidding?"

Lady M. Did you send to him, sir?

Mach. I hear it by the way; but I will send : There's not a one of them, but in his house

I keep a servant fee'd. I will to-morrow,
(Betimes I will,) unto the weird sisters :

More shall they speak; for now I am bent to know,
By the worst means, the worst: for mine own good,
All causes shall give way; I am in blood
Stept in so far, that, should I wade no more,
Returning were as tedious as go o'er:

Strange things I have in head, that will to hand;
Which must be acted, ere they may be scann'd.'

Lady M. You lack the season of all natures, sleep.* Macb. Come, we'll to sleep: My strange and self-abuse Is the initiate fear, that wants hard use :

We are yet but young in deed.



The Heath. Thunder. Enter HECATE, meeting the three


1 Witch. Why, how now, Hecate ? you look angerly. Hec. Have I not reason, beldams, as you are, Saucy, and overbold? How did you dare

'Fo trade and traffic with Macbeth,

In riddles, and affairs of death;
And I, the mistress of your charms,
The close contriver of all harms,.
Was never call'd to bear my part,
Or show the glory of our art?

[2] Macbeth here asks a question, which the recollection of a moment enables him to answer. Of this forgetfulness, natural to a mind oppressed, there is a beautiful instance in the sacred song of Deborah and Barak-She asked ber wise women counsel, yea, she returned answer to herself."


What Macbeth means to say is this: What do you think of this circumstance, that Macduff denies to come at our great bidding? What do you infer from thence? What is your opinion of the matter? STEEVENS.

[3] To scan is to examine nicely. STEEVENS.

[4] I take the meaning to be, "You want sleep, which seasons, or gives the relish to, all nature. "Indiget somni vita condimenti."


[5] Shakespeare has been censured for introducing Hecate among the vulgar witches, and, consequently, for confounding ancient with modern superstitions. But the Gothic and Pagan fictions were now frequently blended and incorporated. The Lady of the Lake floated in the suit of Neptune before Queen Elizabeth at Kenilworth; Ariel assumes the semblance of a sea nymph, and Hecate, by an easy association, conducts the rites of the weird sisters in Macbeth.


And, which is worse, all you have done,
Hath been but for a wayward son,
Spiteful, and wrathful; who, as others do,
Loves for his own ends, not for you.
But make amends now: Get you gone,
And at the pit of Acheron

Meet me i' th' morning; thither he
Will come to know his destiny.

Your vessels, and your spells, provide,
Your charms, and every thing beside :
I am for th' air; this night I'll spend
Unto a dismal, fatal end.

Great business must be wrought ere noon:
Upon the corner of the moon

There hangs a vaporous drop profound;6
I'll catch it ere it come to ground :
And that, distill'd by magic slights,"
Shall raise such artificial sprights,
As, by the strength of their illusion,
Shall draw him on to his confusion :
He shall spurn fate, scorn death, and bear
His hopes 'bove wisdom, grace, and fear:
And you all know, security

Is mortals' chiefest enemy.

Song. [Within.] Come away, come away, &c.®

Hark, I am call'd; my little spirit, see,

Sits in a foggy cloud, and stays for me.



1 Witch. Come, let's make haste; she'll soon be back



Fores. A Room in the Palace. Enter LENOX and another


Len. My former speeches have but hit your thoughts, Which can interpret further: only, I say,

Things have been strangely borne: The gracious Duncan Was pitied of Macbeth :-marry, he was dead :

[6] This vaporous drop seems to have been meant for the same as 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 enchantment. Lucan introduces Erictho using it. L. 6:

et virus large lunare ministrat."


[7] Slights-arts; subtle actices. JOHNSON. [8] This entire song I found in a MS. dramatic piece, entitled, " A Tragi-Coomodie called The Witch; long since acted, &c. written by Thomas Middleton." STEEVENS.


And the right-valiant Banquo walk'd too late;

Whom, you may say, if it please you, Fleance kill'd,
For Fleance fled. Men must not walk too late.
Who cannot want the thought, how monstrous

It was for Malcolm, and for Donalbain,

To kill their gracious father? damned fact !
How it did grieve Macbeth! did he not straight,
In pious rage, the two delinquents tear,

That were the slaves of drink, and thralls of sleep?
Was not that nobly done? Ay, and wisely too;
For 'twould have anger'd any heart alive,
To hear the men deny it. So that, I say,

He has borne all things well: and I do think,
That, had he Duncan's sons under his key,

(As, an't please heaven, he shall not,) they should find What 'twere to kill a father; so should Fleance.

But, peace-for from broad words, and 'cause he fail'd
His presence at the tyrant's feast, I hear,

Macduff lives in disgrace: Sir, can you tell
Where he bestows himself?

Lord. The son of Duncan,

From whom this tyrant holds the due of birth,
Lives in the English court; and is receiv'd
Of the most pious Edward with such grace,
That the malevolence of fortune nothing

Takes from his high respect: Thither Macduff is gone
To pray the holy king, on his aid

To wake Northumberland, and warlike Siward:
That, by the help of these, (with Him above
To ratify the work,) we may again

Give to our tables meat, sleep to our nights;
Free from our feasts and banquets bloody knives;
Do faithful homage, and receive free honours,
All which we pine for now: And this report
Hath so exasperate the king, that he
Prepares for some attempt of war.

Len. Sent he to Macduff?

Lord. He did and with an absolute, Sir not I,
The cloudy messenger turns me his back,

And hums; as who should say, You'll rue the time,
That clogs me with this answer.

Len. And that well might

Advise him to a caution, to hold what distance

His wisdom can provide. Some holy angel

Fly to the court of England, and unfold

His message ere he come; that a swift blessing
May soon return to this our suffering country
Under a hand accurs'd!

Lord. My prayers with him!



SCENE I.-A dark Cave. In the middle a Cauldron boilEnter the three Witches.

ing. Thunder.

1 Witch.

THRICE the brinded cat hath mew'd.

2 Witch. Thrice; and once the hedge-pig whin'd.'
3 Witch. Harper cries :-'Tis time, 'tis time.
1 Witch. Round about the cauldron go:

In the poison'd entrails throw.

[9] Scene I-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 those withes 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 mem, 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 a ainst swine. Shakespeare has accordingly made one of his witches declare that she has been killing swine; and Dr Harsnet 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 nights hast thirty-one "Swelter'd venom sleeping got,

Boil thou ûrst i' th' charmed pot."

Toad, that under coldest stone,
Days and nights hast thirty-one
Swelter'd venom sleeping got,

Boil thou first i' th' charmed pot!

Toads have likewise long lain under the reproach of being by some means accessary to witchcraft, for which reason Shakespeare, in the first scene of this play, calls one of the spirits Paddock or Toad, and now takes care to put a toad first into the pot. When Vaninus was seized at Thoulouse, there was found at his lodgings ingens bufo vitro inclusus, a great toad shut in a vial, upon which those that prosecuted him Veneficium ex probrabant, charged him, I suppose, with witchcraft.

"Fillet of a fenny snake,

"In the cauldron boil and bake:
"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 bad of a dead body, that was divided in one of their assemblies, two fingers for her share. It is observ able, that Shakespeare, on this great occasion, which involves the fate of a king, multiplies all the circumstances 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,

"Red spirits and grey,

"Mingle, mingle, mingle,

"You that mingle may."

And, in a former part:

"weird 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 shown, by one quotation from Camden's account of Ireland, to be founded upon a practice really observed by the uncivilized natives of that country When any one gets a fail," 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 Lend 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. JOHNSON.

[1] The urchin, or hedgehog, from its solitariness, the ugliness of its appearance, and from a popular opinion that it sucke! or poisoned the ndders of cows, was adopted into the demonologic system, and its shape was sometimes supposed to be assumed by mischievous elves. Hence it was one of the plagues of Caliban in The Tempest. T. WARTON.

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