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most likely to operate on the hearer; that tender sentiment was not quite extinguished in the breast even of this sanguinary woman, there is a beautiful instance, in the proper place, where, after leaving the daggers by the king's pillow, she says,
" Had he not resembled
“My father as he slept, I had don't.” In an old Collection of Anthems, London, printed by W. G. 1663, I find one, on Psalm 137, set by Henry Lawes, of so much poetic excellence that a judicious friend of mine ascribes it to Milton. There is in it a sentiment not unlike this in ferocity. “ Men shall blesse the hand that tears
“ From the mother's soft embraces “ Sucking infants, and besmears
“ With their brains the rugged faces
“ Of the rocks and stony places.” 87. “ Had I so sworn,” &c.
This is most judiciously put; the savageness of the sentiment is not only mitigated by the idea of the speaker's acting under the obligation of an oath, but the force of that obligation is artfully impressed on Macbeth to incite him to the murder.
“ So sworn." “ Sworn,” says Mr. Malone, is used as a dissyllable, but what ear will recognise it as such? The measure, however, is complete without the word “but” from the second folio; and we might read, " And dash'd the brains out, had I sworn as you “ Have done to this.”
" If we should fail.”
We fail.” 88. “ Screw your courage to the sticking place,
“And we'll not fail.” Apply, with energy, your courage to that place where it will stick, cleave, or be effectual. Macbeth says, in another place :
“ If you shall cleave to my consent.” 90. “ A limbeck.”
Alembic, or alambic, from “al” (Arabic) “the” and ambix (Gr.) a cup or cover of a pot; it properly meant only a part of a distilling apparatus (the head), it now means the whole.
Watson's Chem. Essays. 91. “ I am settled and bend up,” &c.
Those who regard the waverings of Macbeth as unnatural and contradictory are not worthy the name of critics; in my opinion, they constitute one of the greatest excellencies of this play: such tasteless objectors deserve not the answer which Mr. Steevens has condescended to give them.
ACT II. SCENE I.
- before him. It has been suggested to me by my friend Mt. Strutt, that the appearance of Fleance was either a mistake, or some slovenly expedient of the players; he has no other employment than that of a mere attendant; and, indeed, the decorum of the scene seems to require two servants, one attending on Banquo, and the other in the ordinary service of his master; to the latter of these Macbeth says, afterwards, “Go, bid thy mistress, when my drink is ready, “ She strike upon the bell—”. and, having so got rid of him; to the former, who had now returned from lighting Banquo to his chamber, “Get thee to bed :” and this regulation appears necessary to reconcile the seeming contradiction or inconsistency in Macbeth's orders, “Go, bid thy mistress,” &c. and “Get thee to bed.” 93. “ How goes the night, boy ?”
“ The moon is down,” &c. The metre as well as the sense of the context seems to require a different disposition of the sentences here: Bang. “How goes the night, boy?” FI. “ I've not heard the clock:
“The moon is down." Bang. “ And she goes down at twelve.”
Again, some words seem to have been lost: we might read, Fi. “I take't 'tis later, sir.” Bang. “ Hold, take my sword;
“ ('Tis very dark;) there's husbandry in
heaven : “ Take thee that too: (probably his dirk
“ Give me my sword.” Banquo, but the instant before, had desired the
boy to take his sword; and what he could want with it now again, it is not easy to discover; but if we observe that the action is not only useless and improbable, but the words an intrusion on the metre, I think we must regard it as an interpolation.-The passage might stand thus : “ Restrain in me the cursed thoughts that nature “Gives way to in repose.”
Enter Macbeth. “
Who's there?” Macb. “
A friend, 94. “Great largess to your offices."
The latter copies read “ officers,” which appears to be right, but those are not, as Mr. Steevens supposes, officers for the field, but officers of the household. 95. “ Being unprepared,
“ Our will became the servant to defect,
“Which else shou'd free have wrought." Not having expected this visit of the king, the want of due accommodation predominated over my hospitable will; which else should have operated without restraint. Macbeth, always anxi. ous and suspicious, has, to cloak his pernicious policy, adopted a constrained and ambiguous diction, which he cannot throw off, even on occasions where mystery is needless. I know not whether the poet had, here, a glance at the character of Tiberius, as given by Tacitus, but the resemblance is very striking, “Tiberioque etiam in rebus quas non occuleret, seu natura, sive adsuetudine, suspensa semper et obscura verba ; tunc vero nitenti, ut sensus suos penitus abderet, in incertum et ambi
guum magis implicabantur.” As, according to Mr. Malone's catalogue, there was a translation of Tacitus in Shakspeare's time, it is very probable he had read it; although this poet's practical knowledge of human nature might, of itself, sufficiently account for such a coincidence with the philosophic historian.
“ I dreamt, last night, of the three weird sisters: “ To you they have show'd some truth.”
Macbeth, alarmed at words which seem an intrusion upon his “occult guilt,” recovers suddenly from his surprise, and assumes an air of indifference "I think not of them ;" but, finding his “corporal agents" a little unsettled and relaxed, he catches up the design of fortifying his resolution by the co-operation of Banquo: he knows not well what to propose, but something he will
“ Yet when we can entreat an hour to serve, “Would spend it in some words upon that busi
ness, “ If you would grant the time.” Bang. “ At your kind leisure.”
This reply gives encouragement; and he then obscurely hints a bribe to his friend's ambition. “ If you shall cleave to my consent, when 'tis " It shall make honour for you.”
This dawn of hope, however, is at once dissipated when Banquo says, "
So I lose none " In seeking to augment it, but still keep “My bosom franchis'd, and allegiance clear, “ I shall be counsell’d.”