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" 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.
Enter Banquo and Fleance, with a Torch
before him. It has been suggested to me by my friend Mr. Strutt, that the appearance of Fleance was either a mistake, or some slovenly expedient of the play
Go, bidt inconsisten econcile the this regu
ers; 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?" Fl. “ I've not heard the clock :
“ The moon is down.” Banq. “And she goes down at twelve."
Again, some words seem to have been lost: we might read, Fl. “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.”
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 anxious 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 ambiguum 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 try. “ 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.”
Macbeth now "shuts-up,” or “pulls-in” confidence, 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 ?