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It were done quickly: If the assassination
Could trammel up the consequence, and catch,

Barclay, Ecl. ii. has the following remark on the conduct of these domesticks:

"Slowe be the sewers in serving in alway,

"But swift be they after, taking the meate away." Another part of the sewer's office was, to bring water for the guests to wash their hands with. Thus Chapman, in his version of the Odyssey:


and then the sewre

"Pour'd water from a great and golden ewre,"

The sewer's chief mark of distinction was a towel round his arm. So, in Ben Jonson's Silent Woman: " clap me a clean towel about you, like a sewer." Again: "See, sir Amorous has his towel on already. [He enters like a sewer.]”

It may be worth while to observe, for the sake of preserving an ancient word, that the dishes served in by sewers were called sewes. So, in the old MS. romance of The Sowdon of Babyloyne, p. 66:

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"Lest that lurdeynes come sculkynge out,
"For ever they have bene shrewes,

"Loke ech of them have such a cloute

"That thay never ete moo sewes." STEEVENS.

6 If it were DONE, &c.] A sentiment parallel to this occurs in The Proceedings against Garnet in the Powder Plot. "It would have been commendable, when it had been done, though not before." FARMER.

7- If the assassination, &c.] Of this soliloquy the meaning is not very clear; I have never found the readers of Shakspeare agreeing about it. I understand it thus:

"If that which I am about to do, when it is once done and executed, were done and ended without any following effects, it would then be best to do it quickly: if the murder could terminate in itself, and restrain the regular course of consequences, if its success could secure its surcease, if, being once done successfully, without detection, it could fix a period to all vengeance and inquiry, so that this blow might be all that I have to do, and this anxiety all that I have to suffer; if this could be my condition, even here in this world, in this contracted period of temporal existence, on this narrow bank in the ocean of eternity, I would jump the life to come, I would venture upon the deed without care of any future state. But this is one of those cases in which judgment is pronounced and vengeance inflicted upon us here in our present life. We teach others to do as we have done, and are punished by our own example. JOHNSON.

We are told by Dryden, that "Ben Jonson, in reading some

With his surcease, success; that but this blow Might be the be-all and the end-all here,

bombast speeches in Macbeth, which are not to be understood, used to say that it was horrour."-Perhaps the present passage was one of those thus depreciated. Any person but this envious detractor would have dwelt with pleasure on the transcendent beauties of this sublime tragedy, which, after Othello, is perhaps our author's greatest work; and would have been more apt to have been thrown into "strong shudders" and blood-freezing “agues," by its interesting and high-wrought scenes, than to have been offended by any imaginary hardness of its language; for such, it appears from the context, is what he meant by horrour. That there are difficult passages in this tragedy, cannot be denied; but that there are some bombast speeches in it, which are not to be understood," as Dryden asserts, will not very readily be granted to him. From this assertion, however, and the verbal alterations made by him and Sir W. D'Avenant, in some of our author's plays, I think it clearly appears that Dryden and the other poets of the time of Charles II. were not very deeply skilled in the language of their predecessors, and that Shakspeare was not so well understood fifty years after his death, as he is at this day. MAlone.

Could TRAMMEL Up the consequence, and catch,


With HIS SURCEASE, SUCCESS;] I think the reasoning requires that we should read:

"With its success surcease——.

A trammel is a net in which either birds or fishes are caught. So, in The Isle of Gulls, 1633 :

"Each tree and shrub wears trammels of thy hair." Surcease is cessation, stop. So, in The Valiant Welchman, 1615:

"Surcease brave brother: Fortune hath crown'd our brows." His is used instead of its, in many places. STEEVENS.

The personal pronouns are so frequently used by Shakspeare, instead of the impersonal, that no amendment would be necessary in this passage, even if it were certain that the pronoun his refers to assassination, which seems to be the opinion of Johnson and Steevens; but I think it more probable that it refers to Duncan ; and that by his surcease Macbeth means Duncan's death, which was the object of his contemplation. M. MASON.

His certainly may refer to assassination, (as Dr. Johnson, by his proposed alteration, seems to have thought it did,) for Shakspeare very frequently uses his for its. But in this place perhaps his refers to Duncan; and the meaning may be, "If the assassination, at the same time that it puts an end to the life of Duncan, could procure me unalloyed happiness, promotion to the crown unmolested by the compunctious visitings of conscience, &c. To cease

But here, upon this bank and shoal of time,— We'd jump the life to come '.-But in these cases, We still have judgment here; that we but teach Bloody instructions, which, being taught, return To plague the inventor 2: This even-handed justice

often signifies in these plays, to die. So, in All's Well That Ends Well:

"Or, ere they meet, in me, O nature, cease."

I think, however, it is more probable that his is used for its, and that it relates to assassination. MALONE.


SHOAL of time,] This is Theobald's emendation, undoubtedly right. The old edition has school, and Dr. Warburton shelve. JOHNSON.

By the shoal of time, our author means the shallow ford of life, between us and the abyss of eternity. STEEVENS.

We'd jump the life to come.] So, in Cymbeline, Act V.

Sc. IV. :



or jump the after-inquiry on your own peril."


We'd jump the life to come," certainly means, We'd hazard or run the risk of what might happen in a future state of being.' So, in Antony and Cleopatra :


Again, in Coriolanus:


Our fortune lies

"Upon this jump."


and wish

"To jump a body with a dangerous physick,
"That's sure of death without it."

See note on this passage, Act III. Sc. I. MALONE.


we but teach

Bloody instructions, which, being taught, return

To plague the inventor:] So, in Bellenden's translation of Hector Boethius : "He [Macbeth] was led be wod furyis, as ye nature of all tyrannis is, quhilks conquessis landis or kingdomes be wrangus titil, ay full of hevy thocht and dredour, and traisting ilk man to do siclik crueltes to hym, as he did afore to othir." MALONE.

3 THIS even-handed justice-] Mr. M. Mason observes, that we might more advantageously read

"Thus even-handed justice," &c. STEEVENS.

The old reading I believe to be the true one, because Shakspeare has very frequently used this mode of expression. So, a little lower: "Besides, this Duncan," &c. Again, in King Henry IV. Part I. :


Commends the ingredients of our poison'd chalice
To our own lips. He's here in double trust:
First, as I am his kinsman and his subject,
Strong both against the deed; then, as his host,
Who should against his murderer shut the door,
Not bear the knife myself. Besides, this Duncan
Hath borne his faculties so meek 7, hath been
So clear in his great office, that his virtues

"That this same child of honour and renown,
"This gallant Hotspur, this all-praised knight—.”

MALONE. 4 COMMENDS the ingredients-] Thus, in a subsequent scene of this play:

"I wish your horses swift, and sure of foot,
"And so I do commend you to their backs."

This verb has many shades of meaning. It seems here to signify-offers, or recommends. STEEVENS.


our poison'd CHALICE

To our own lips.] Our poet, apis Matinæ more modoque, would stoop to borrow a sweet from any flower, however humble in its situation.

"The pricke of conscience (says Holinshed) caused him ever to feare, lest he should be served of the same cup as he had ministered to his predecessor." STEEVENS.

First, as I am HIS KINSMAN-] So, in The Rape of Lucrece:
"But as he is my kinsman and dear friend,
"The shame and fault finds no excuse nor end."

MALONE. A soliloquy not unlike this occurs in Arden of Feversham, 1592:

"Ah, harmeles Arden how, how hast thou misdone,
"That thus thy gentle lyfe is leveld at?

"The many good turnes that thou hast done to me,
"Now must I quitance with betraying thee.
"I that should take the weapon in my
"And buckler thee from ill intending foes,
"Do lead thee with a wicked fraudfull smile,


"As unsuspected, to the slaughterhouse." BoSWELL. 7 Hath borne his FACULTIES SO meek,] Faculties, for office, exercise of power, &c. WARBURTON.

"Duncan (says Holinshed) was soft and gentle of nature." And again: "Macbeth spoke much against the king's softness, and overmuch slackness in punishing offenders." STEEVENS.


Will plead like angels, trumpet-tongued, against
The deep damnation of his taking-off:
And pity, like a naked new-born babe,
Striding the blast, or heaven's cherubin, hors'd
Upon the sightless couriers of the air",
Shall blow the horrid deed in every eye,
That tears shall drown the wind 1.—I have no spur



So, in A Dolfull Discourse of a Lord and a Ladie, by Churchyard, 1593: in state


"Of deepe damnation stood."

I should not have thought this little coincidence worth noting, had I not found it in a poem which it should seem, from other passages, that Shakspeare had read and remembered. STEEVENS.

9 or heaven's cherubin, hors'd

Upon the sightless COURIERS of the air,] Courier is only runCouriers of air are winds, air in motion. Sightless is invisible. JOHNSON.


Again, in this play:

"Wherever in your sightless substances," &c. Again, in Heywood's Brazen Age, 1613:

"The flames of hell and Pluto's sightless fires."

Again :

"Hath any sightless and infernal fire
"Laid hold upon my flesh ?"

Again, in Warner's Albion's England, 1602, b. ii. c. xi. :
"The scouring winds that sightless in the sounding air do fly."


So, in King Henry V.:

"Borne with the invisible and creeping wind." Again, in our author's 51st Sonnet :

"Then should I spur, though mounted on the wind." Again, in the Prologue to King Henry IV. Part II. : "I, from the orient to the drooping west,


Making the wind my post-horse-."


The thought of the cherubin (as has been somewhere observed) seems to have been borrowed from the eighteenth Psalm : rode upon the cherubins and did fly; he came flying upon the wings of the wind." Again, in the book of Job, xxx. 22: "Thou causest me to ride upon the wind." MALONE.

That tears shall drown the wind.] Alluding to the remission of the wind in a shower. JOHNSON.

So, in King Henry VI. Part III. :

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