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Macbeth now “shuts-up,” or “pulls-in” confia dence, and dismisses Banquo, and every thought of trusting him, with
“ Good repose the while.” 96. “ If you shall cleave to my consent.”
If you will stick closely to my will or purpose : thus in The Tempest:
“Thy thoughts I cleave to.” 99. “Go, bid thy mistress, when my drink is . ready,
“ She strike upon the bell.” Macbeth, perceiving the servant, and desiring now to be alone, gives this message merely for that purpose; he wanted no drink, nor any such mechanical signal as a bell for the performance of the murder : the bell, which afterwards strikes, is the clock, that accidentally, and with much more solemnity, reminds him it is time to dispatch.
“ Is this a dagger,” &c. This is always delivered on the stage with an expression of terror as well as surprise, but I am persuaded it is a misconception: if the vision were indeed terrible, the irresolute spirit of Macbeth would shrink from it; but the effect is confidence and animation, and he tries to lay hold of the dagger; and, indeed, upon what principle of reason, or on what theory of the human mind, can it be presumed, that the appearance of supernatural agency, to effect the immediate object of our wish, should produce dread and not encouragement?
101. “The curtain'd sleep.”
Mr. Steevens's proposed emendation which rejects the offensive repetition of “ now” is very plausible and judicious. “ The curtain'd sleeper; witchcraft celebrates." 102.“ Alarum’d by his centinel, the wolf,
“Whose howl's his watch.” i. e. I believe, whose howl is a signal for murder.—“ Watch,” if I'mistake not, in military language, stands for watch-word.
108. " The surfeited grooms
“ Do mock their charge with snores.” This will admit of two interpretations :-Duncan himself may be the charge, who, snoring, is imitated or mocked by the grooms; or “ their charge” may be the obligation of their duty, (as the king's guards,) which they trifle with, in going to sleep-this latter sense I rather “ cleave to."
“ I have drugg'd their possets,
“ That death and nature do contend.” And again, 111. “ There's one did laugh in his sleep, and one
cried murder, “That they did wake each other." i. e. By an ellipsis taken notice of in the 3d Scene, Act l, so that, or insomuch that “ death and nature do contend,” &c, insomuch that " they did wake,” &c.
“- Listening their fear.” The application thus of the neuteror intransitive verb or participle to an active sense, seems to be vicious idiom, yet Milton is chargeable with it. “ They
-expatiate and confer “ Their state affairs.” Parad. Lost, B. 1. And because the imperfections of great men must be imitated, Thomson amuses us with “Gazing the landscape,”—“The voice warbling the heart," &c. &c. 112.“ Methought I heard a voice cry, sleep no
more! " Macbeth does murder sleep." This is all that the voice is said to have uttered; the rest, “ the innocent sleep,” &c. is Macbeth's own speech, and is falsely put into Italics, as is also, for the same reason, a little lower down, the line and half,
And therefore Cawdor “Shall sleep no more, Macbeth shall sleep no
more.” “Methought I heard a voice,” &c. The distinction above noted is judicious; a similar inaccuracy is to be observed in the following speech of Macbeth, 119: “ Still it cried, 'sleep no more,' to all the house."
If the voice, according to this punctuation, said only, “ sleep no more," the words that follow might be omitted as superfluous, it being sufficiently clear that the sleepers in the house were those addressed; but the natural construction is,
“ Still it cried, sleep no more to all the house; “ Glamis hath murdered sleep.”
i. e. There shall be no sleep any more to all those who are now reposing under this roof; Glamis hath murdered sleep. The following part, which, as it has been justly remarked, is Macbeth's own speech, approaches with a horrid solemnity that is inimitable. “ And therefore Cawdor “Shall sleep no more, Macbeth shall sleep no more.”
B. STRUTT. 115. “Will all great Neptune's ocean wash this
blood “ Clean from my hands ?» A thought resembling this, but with advantage, occurs in Hamlet ' " What if this cursed hand “ Were thicker than itself with brother's blood, “Is there not rain enough in the sweet heavens “ To wash it white as snow.”
120. “Your constancy hath left you unattended.” Hath forsaken you, left you by yourself.
" Show us to be watchers." To have been purposely awake, or on the watch.
SCENE III. 131. “ Had I but died an hour before this
chance, “ I had liv'd a bless'd time." Besides the instance quoted by Mr. Malone,
from The Winter's Tale; this thought occurs again in Othello“ If it were now to die, 'twere now to be most
-The near in blood, “ The nearer bloody.” Thus in K. Richard III. “ Nearer in bloody thoughts though not in blood.”
There's warrant in that theft “Which steals itself when there's no mer
cy left.” Here is a jingle between “steel” and “ steal,” to steal itself away, and to steel or make hard it. self by dismissing the softness of good manners,
“ The heavens, as troubled with man's act,
“ Threaten his bloody stage.” Shakspeare is very profuse of theatrical allusions, 140.“ Duncan's horses
“ broke their stalls, flung out
“ Contending ’gainst obedience.” Churchill has amplified on this prodigy, in the Ghost
“ The horses that were us’d to go