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160. " Noughts had ; all's spent,
“Where our desire is got without content.” When disappointment accompanies the possession of what we sought, we have in effect gained nothing; and we have lost that animating expectation which constitutes our chief happiness. I fully agree with Mr. Steevens here, in supposing that Shakspeare's metre was originally regular; but cannot admit of the offered correction in this place; an opposition is evidently intended between what had been lost and what had been gained, or “ had.” I would propose the rejection of “Madam ;" “ I will,” submissively uttered, is sufficiently expressive of the servant's obedience.
It has been remarked to me, by my ingenious friend Mr. Strutt, that these four lines, "Nought's had," &c. seem to be the property of Macbeth himself, who is supposed to be speaking them as he enters; and who, at the conclusion of them, is addressed by the lady. “ How now, my lord! why do you keep alone ?”
And, indeed, the querulous spirit which they breathe is much more in character with Macbeth than with his wife. 162. “
Better be with the dead, “Whom we, to gain our place, have sent to
peace.” I think it strange that any editor should have made, and still more so that Mr. Steevens should applaud, the alteration from the first copy, of « peace" to " place;" the old reading appears to me not only in itself better, but exactly conformable to the language and turn of thinking by which the author has designated the character of Macbeth: the form of words is not yet arranged in his mind, when he begins,
“ Better be with the dead,
“ Whom we, to gain our peace," (That tranquillity and satisfaction which can only result from Duncan's death,)-have sent to the grave-he was about to say; but catching hold of, according to his fanciful habit, a word already uttered, which will apply in the sequel of the sentence, he says “ to peace.”
“ Better be with the dead;" “ Whom we, (in hope,) to gain our peace, have (actually) sent to peace.” The same sentiment had occurred a little before. " 'Tis better to be that which we destroy, “ Than, by destruction, dwell in doubtful joy."
i. e. It is a condition more secure of peace to be the victim of assassination, than by triumphant murder, to be subject to the perturbations and alarms of conscience.
My friend's conjecture that the liness set down to the lady, in the foregoing part of the scene, should properly belong to Macbeth, may derive support from the passage last quoted.
“ Be bright and jovial
“ Among your guests to-night. Macb.“ So shall I love, “And so, I pray, be you ; let your re
membrance "Apply to Banquo; present him emi
Macbeth, who had heretofore been scrupulous, timid, and rather subordinate in the work of murder, acquiring confidence as he advances in enormity, is now ambitious of surpassing the lady in desperate device; but though he chuses to conceal his object, and reserve to himself the glory of the exploit, he is yet desirous to obtain, by suggestion, the powerful incentive of his wife's concurrence. Nothing can exceed the art by which this is attempted. He had al· ready decreed the death of Banquo; the mortal
instruments were now actually at work: conscious, however, of the boldness of the step he had taken, he wants to fortify his resolution, by the coincidence of that wisdom to which he has habitually looked up; but proud of his new important project, he is unwilling to hazard the credit he expects from it, by the slightest disclosure at present ; and therefore elaborately brings his wife, without any consciousness, on her part, of his covert purpose, to give her thoughts upon it.
- Present him eminence, &c.
Unsafe the while, that we
This is not sufficient; the lady, though prompt enough to concur in mischief, does not perceive his drift; and taking notice only of his disorder, says, “ You must leave this." He now becomes impatient at not being understood, or rather anticipated, and exclaims, “O!- full of scorpions is my mind, dear wife," —
And then advances a little more openly to the point“ Thou know'st that Banquo and his Fleance
live.” The lady, superior to all little scruples, replies at once, with philosophic coolness“ But in them nature's copy's not eterne."
This was all that Macbeth wanted, to plume himself in the pride of consummate policy, and his joy almost intoxicates him. " There's comfort yet ; they are assailable, “ Then be thou jocund, &c.”
There is, perhaps, no one passage in this wonderful drama, that exhibits so complete an evi. dence of the poet's incomparable genius as this does, yet the actors always omit the best part of
168. “ The rooky wood.”
Rooky is dark, gloomy, perhaps corrupted from reeky; teeming with dark and misty exudations. The term is well known in most parts of Norfolk, where a cloudy or gloomy day is called a rooky day. 170.“ Things, bad begun, make strong them
selves by ill.”
171. “ So all men do, from hence to the palace
The measure requires the ejection of the idle particle “ from.”
173. “ Sit down ; at first and last, the hearty
welcome.” The King is willing to wave all ceremony.“ Sit down,” says he," and instead of a formal address, either at the beginning or ending of our feast, I shall only express, once for all, the hearty welcome.” 175. “ I had else been perfect.”
I had been composed, collected, free, independent, completely master of myself.
I had else been perfect.” Perfect here implies " in omnibus muneris abisolutus ;" it is “ totus teres atque rotundus.”
LORD CHEDWORTH. “We'll hear ourselves, again." It is difficult to extract sense from this passage; nothing that has come before me in the form of explanation is at all satisfactory. May I advance a desperate conjecture, in which I own I place but little confidence? Perhaps Macbeth dismisses the murderer with these words :-“ Get thee gone;" and then, conceiving some new purpose, says to himself" To-morrow we will”But suddenly recollecting his guests, and the suspended banquet,' he breaks-off-" Here”-i. e. " Home my thoughts ! I must now mingle with