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178. “ Impostors to true fear.”
These impostors have eluded the scrutiny of all the critical inquisitors, and still are undetected. I wish I could bring them to justice. Perhaps the lady, in her displeasure at Macbeth's illtimed disorder, would imply, by“ these flaws and starts, impostors to true fear,” theatrical gesticulations, such as might, indeed, become a person who was counterfeiting fear, or who weakly resigned his imagination to the effect of an artificial tale, but are not suitable or natural to the true impression of real fear :-or are we, by impostors, to understand “ mean betrayers,” these flaws and starts, these exterior perturbations, which disclose to the observer the terrors that exist within ? This sense has some support in what was said in a former scene :
Look up clear;
Which I interpret thus:-To change counte. nance, is always a dangerous indication of what is passing in the mind; and it is somewhat remarkable that the passage before us will admit of a similar construction—" these flaws and starts," which, by betraying what your mind is brooding on, will lead to a consequence that is to be feared indeed. 179. “ Blood hath been shed ere now, i'the olden
time, “ Ere human statute purg'd the gentle
weal.” “ Gentle weal (says Dr. Johnson) is the state made quiet and safe by human statutes.” But such a state would not want to be purged. A
strong opposition seems intended between the old and present times; and the former necessarily implying a condition of comparative. purity, “to purge” must have a signification different from the obvious one, and indicative of sophistication or political quackery; and so the sense will be Blood hath been shed ere now, ay, even in those early days, when legal institutions had not yet changed and perverted the simplicity of human society, and when, of course, a murder must have been more sinful and atrocious than at this period, when, it is not the act itself that is at all strange or unusual, but these supernatural consequences of it.
“ Purg'd the gentle weal.” “ Gentle weal” I think wrong, and would read either“ general,” with Capell, or “ungentle.” “ Sylvestres homines sacer interpresque Deorum “ Cædibus & victu fædo deterruit Orpheus “ Dictus ob hoc lenire tigres.” C. LOFFt.
" I'the olden time.” Perhaps "elden.” I believe there is no where to be found such a word as “olden.” 187. “ Augurs, and understood relations."
Sir William Davenant understood relations in the same sense that Dr. Warburton did; for his alteration is,
“ Augurs well read in languages of birds.”
I am not sure that we ought not to read, with the modern editors,
“ Augurs that understood.” &c. Sir William Daventon seems to have read so.
190. “You lack the season of all natures, sleep.”
That, says Dr. Johnson, which gives the relish to all nature; but is it not rather, that which tempers, preserves, and nourishes nature? Mr. Malone's correspondent thinks the meaning is, “ You stand in need of the time or season for sleep;” but the lady would hardly have advised her husband to go to bed while she was remarking that there was no time for doing so.
“My strange and self-abuse,” &c. “Strange," here, does not imply extraordinary or wonderful, but only unpracticed, wanting habit or experience, as in Romeo and Juliet: ." Till strange love, grown bold,
“ Thinks love, true acted, simple modesty.". And in Cymbeline
“ I pray you, sir, desire my man's abode
198. “ Hath so exasperate the king, that he,” &c.
" Exasperate” has here a participial officehath made the king“ exasperate,” or exasperated.
ACT IV. SCENE I.
209. “ I conjure you, by that which you profess,"
This accentuation of “cónjure,” in the sense of solemn adjuration, as well as of the, practising magic, is, I think, invariable throughout these works; I find it also in Warner's Albion's England: “I pray thee, nay I conjure thee, to nourish as
thine owne.” But in A Mad World my Master's, by Middleton, the word occurs with the modern pronunciation:
“I do conjúre thee by that dreadful power." And again : “Devil, I do conjúre thee once again,”
THE INCANTATIONS. It may be amusing to compare Shakspeare's charms with those of other authors, particularly with the witches of Ben Jonson and the Canidia of Horace: I think Shakspeare will lose nothing by the comparison.
LORD CHEDWORTH. 212. “ Had I three ears, I'd hear thee."
This is impatience at the three-fold utterance of his name: Macbeth ! Macbeth ! Macbeth! you need not repeat any thing to my eager attention, for had I a distinct organ of hearing for every word thou utterest, they should all be engaged in listening. 216. “ Thy hair,”
“ Thou other gold-bound brow is like the
This, the old reading, is, I am persuaded, right; besides that “air” has much too moderni an “ air” for Shakspeare, and was, I believe, never used, so early as his time, in that sense: it was the colour of the hair, rather than the gold-binding which Dr. Johnson supposes, that should naturally mark the visions, as the descendants, or stock of Banquo; thus, in Clarence's dream, the ghost of Prince Edward is described as “The shadow of an angel with bright hair.” 218. “ Now I sce'tis true, “For the blood-bolter'd Banquo smiles
upon me, “ And points at then for his," But how came Banquo here in company with the Visions? He is no vision, but a real ghost; and I believe it was beyond the power of these weird women to disturb and conjure-up the noble Banquo at their pleasure ; indeed, the producing him in this manner with the prospective figures of his progeny might almost justify the sarcasm, or mistake of Voltaire, in calling them all a legion of ghosts. It is the suggestion of my ingenious friend Mr. Strutt, that the ghost should by no means be exhibited with the visions as a part of the spectacle, but that he should appear much more forward upon the stage, and of his own motion, just as the last of the visions had gone by, confirming, by his looks and action, the verity of what had been shown. This would abundantly heighten the dramatic effect in the representation, as well as render that justice to the poet's conception and genius, of which I am persuaded he has here been deprived, by the unskilfulness or inattention of Messrs. Heminge and Condell.
he should us as a part