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For brave Macbeth, (well he deserves that name,) Disdaining fortune, with his brandish'd steel,
be found in that sense in Holinshed'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 execrable cause," &c.
Johnson. The word quarrel occurs in Holinshed's relation of this very fact, and may be regarded as a sufficient proof of its having been the term here employed by Shakspeare: “Out of the western isles there came to Macdowald a great multitude of people, to assist him in that rebellious quarrel." Besides, Macdowald's quarry (i. e. game) must have consisted of Duncan's friends, and would the speaker then have applied the epithet—damned to them ? and what have the smiles of fortune to do over a carnage, when we have defeated our enemies? Her business is then at an end. Her smiles or frowns are no longer of any consequence. We only talk of these, while we are pursuing our quarrel, and the event of it is uncertain.
The word-quarrel, in the same sense, occurs also in MS. Harl. 4690: “Thanne sir Edward of Bailoll towke his leve off king Edwarde, and went ayenne into Scottelonde, and was so grete a lorde, and so moche had his wille, that he touke no hede to hem that halpe him in his quarelle ;" &c. STEVENS.
The reading proposed by Dr. Johnson, and his explanation of it, are strongly supported by a passage in our author's King John:
And put his cause and quarrel
“ To the disposing of the cardinal.” Again, in this play of Macbeth :
and the chance, of goodness,
“ Be like our warranted quarrel.” Here we have warranted quarrel, the exact opposite of damned quarrel, as the text is now regulated.
Lord Bacon, in his Essays, uses the word in the same sense : “ Wives are young men's mistresses, companions for middle age, and old men's nurses ; so as a man may have a quarrel to marry, when he will." Malone.
Johnson's emendation is probably right; but it should be recollected that quarry means not only game, but also an arrow, an offensive weapon; we might say without objection, “ that Fortune smiled on a warrior's sword.” Boswell.
s Show'd like a rebel's whore :) I suppose the meaning is, that fortune, while she smiled on him, deceived him. Shakspeare probably alludes to Macdowald's first successful action,
Which smok'd with bloody execution,
elated by which he attempted to pursue his fortune, but lost his life. MALONE. 6 Like valour's minion,
Carv'd out his passage, till he fac'd the slave ;] The old copy reads
“ Like valour's minion, carv'd out his passage
“ Till he fac'd the slave." As an hemistich must be admitted, it seems more favourable to the metre that it should be found where it is now left.-“ Till he fac'd the slave," could never be designed as the beginning of a verse, if harmony were at all attended to in its construction.
STEEVENS. " Like valour's minion." So, in King John :
“ - fortune shall cull forth,
“Out of one side, her happy minion.” Malone. ? And NE'ER shook hands, &c.] The old copy reads—-" Which ner'r."
-shook hands.” So, in King Henry VI. Part III. :
Steevens. Mr. Pope, instead of which, here, and in many other places, reads—who. But there is no need of change. There is scarcely one of our author's plays in which he has not used which for who. So, in The Winter's Tale: “ – the old shepherd, which stands by," &c. Malone.
The old reading—“Which never," appears to indicate that some antecedent words, now irretrievable, were omitted in the playhouse manuscript ; unless the compositor's eye had caught thich from a foregoing line, and printed it instead of And. Which, in the present instance, cannot well have been substituted for who, because it will refer to the slave Macdonwald, instead of his conqueror Macbeth. Steevens.
- he unseam'd him from the nave to the chaps,] We seldom hear of such terrible cross blows given and received but by giants and miscreants in Amadis de Gaule. Besides, it must be a strange aukward stroke that could unrip him upwards from the navel to the chaps. But Shakspeare certainly wrote:
he unseam'd him from the nape to the chaps.". i. e. cut his skull in two ; which might be done by a Highlander's sword. This was a reasonable blow, and very naturally expressed,
And fix'd his head upon our battlements.
Dun. O, valiant cousin! worthy gentleman !
on supposing it given when the head of the wearied coinbatant was reclining downwards at the latter end of a long duel. For the nape is the hinder part of the neck, where the vertebræ join to the bone of the skull. So, in Coriolanus : “O! that you could turn your eyes towards the napes
The word unseamed likewise becomes very proper, and alludes to the suture which goes cross the crown of the head in that direction called the sutura sagittalis ; and which, consequently, must be opened by such a stroke. It is remarkable, that Milton, who in his youth read and imitated our poet much, particularly in his Comus, was misled by this corrupt reading. For in the manuscript of that poem, in Trinity-College library, the following lines are read thus :
“ Or drag him by the curls, and cleave his scalpe
“ Down to the hippes.” An evident imitation of this corrupted passage. But he altered it with better judgment to
- to a foul death
“ Curs'd as his life.” WARBURTON. The old reading is certainly the true one, being justified by a passage in Dido Queene of Carthage, by Thomas Nash, 1594 :
“ Then from the navel to the throat at once
“ He ript old Priam." So likewise in an ancient MS. entitled The Boke of Huntyng, that is cleped Mayster of Game, cap. v.: “ Som men haue sey hym slitte a man fro the kne up to the brest, and slee hym all starke dede at o strok.” Steevens.
So, in Shadwell's Libertine: “I will rip you from the navel to the chin.” BosWELL.
9 As whence the sun 'gins his reflexion -] The thought is expressed with some obscurity, but the plain meaning is this: “ As the same quarter, whence the blessing of day-light arises, sometimes sends us, by a dreadful reverse, the calamities of storms and tempests : so the glorious event of Macbeth's victory, which promised us the comforts of peace, was immediately succeeded by the alarming news of the Norweyan invasion."' The natural history of the winds, &c. is foreign to the explanation of this passage. Shakspeare does not mean, in conformity to any theory, to say that storms generally come from the east. If it be allowed that they sometimes issue from that quarter, it is sufficient for the purpose of his comparison. Steevens.
Shipwrecking storms and direful thunders break; So from that spring, whence comfort seem'd to
Dismay'd not this
The natural history of the winds, &c. was idly introduced on this occasion by Dr. Warburton. Sir William D'Avenant's reading of this passage, in an alteration of this play, published in quarto, in 1674, affords a reasonably good comment upon it :
“ But then this day-break of our victory
Malone. thunders BREAK ;] The word break is wanting in the oldest copy. The other folios and Rowe read-breaking. Mr. Pope made the emendation. STEEVENS.
Break, which was suggested by the reading of the second folio, is very unlikely to have been the word omitted in the original copy. It agrees with thunders ;—but who ever talked of the breaking of a storm?” Malone.
The phrase, I believe, is sufficiently common. Thus Dryden, in All for Love, &c. Act I. :
the Roman camp
“ Just breaking o'er our heads."
“ Hector o'er all an iron tempest spreads,
STEEVENS. DISCOMFORT swells.] Discomfort, the natural opposite to comfort. Johnson. 3 Our captains, Macbeth and Banquo? Sold.
The reader cannot fail to observe, that some word, necessary to complete
As sparrows, eagles ; or the hare, the lion.
the verse, has been omitted in the old copy. Sir T. Hanmer reads
“Our captains, brave Macbeth,” &c. Steevens. The word [as Mr. Douce has observed,] was probably pronounced capitaine in this instance, as it is frequently in Spenser.
Boswell. * As cannons overcharg'd with double cracks, &c.] That is, with double charges; a meto ny of the effect for the cause.
Heath. Mr. Theobald has endeavoured to improve the sense of this passage, by altering the punctuation thus :
“ 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. Johnson.
Crack is used on a similar occasion by Barnaby Googe, in his Cupido Conquered, 1563 :
“ The canon's cracke begins to roore
“ And darts full thycke they iye,
“ And framde a counter-skye." Barbour, the old Scotch Poet, calls fire-arms—“ crakys of war.”
STEEVENS. Again, in the old play of King John, 1591, and applied, as here, to ordnance :
as harmless and without effect, “ As is the echo of a cannon's crack." Malone. 5 Doubly redoubled strokes, &c.] So, in King Richard II. :