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Fores. A Room in the Palace.
Enter Lenox and another Lord. LEN. My former speeches have but hit your
thoughts, Which can interpret further : only, I say, Things have been strangely borne: The gracious
& Enter Lenox, and another Lord.] As this tragedy, like the rest of Shakspeare's, is perhaps overstocked with personages, it is not easy to assign a reason why a nameless character should be introduced here, since nothing is said that might not with equal propriety have been put into the mouth of any other disaffected man. I believe, therefore, that in the original copy it was written with a very common form of contraction, Lenox and An. for which the transcriber, instead of Lenox and Angus, set down, “Lenox and another Lord." The author had, indeed, been more indebted to the transcriber's fidelity and diligence, had he committed no errors of greater importance. Johnson. 9 Who CANNOT want the thought,] The sense requires :
“Who can want the thought.” Yet, I believe, the text is not corrupt. Shakspeare is sometimes incorrect in these minutiæ. Malone. '- monstrous - ] This word is here used as a trisyllable.
Malone. So, in Chapman's version of the 9th book of Homer's Odyssey :
“ A man in shape, immane and monsterous." STEEVENS.
How it did grieve Macbeth! did he not straight,
find What 'twere to kill a father; so should Fleance. But, peace !--for from broad words, and 'cause he
The son of Duncan?,
2 The son of Duncan,] The old copy—sons. Malone.
Theobald corrected it. Johnson. - 3- on his aid -] Old copy-upon. Steevens.
4 Free from our feasts and banquets bloody knives;] 'The construction is-Free our feasts and banquets from bloody knives. Perhaps the words are transposed, and the line originally stood : " Our feasts and banquets free from bloody knives."
MALONE. Aukward transpositions in ancient language are so frequent,
Do faithful homage, and receive free honours",
Sent he to Macduff ?
time That clogs me with this answer. Len.
And that well might Advise him to a caution, to hold what distance His wisdom can provide. Some holy angel Fly to the court of England, and unfold His message ere he come; that a swift blessing
that the passage before us might have passed unsuspected, had there not been a possibility that the compositor's eye caught the word free from the line immediately following. We might read, fright, or fray, (a verb commonly used by old writers,) but any change, perhaps, is needless. STEEVENS.
s and receive free honours,] Free may be either honours freely bestowed, not purchased by crimes ; or honours without slavery, without dread of a tyrant. Johnson.
o exasperate -] i. e. exasperated. So contaminate is used for contaminated in King Henry V. STEEVENS.
1- The king,] i. e. Macbeth. The old copy has, less intelligibly—their. Steevens.
8 Prepares for some attempt op war.] The singularity of this expression, with the apparent redundancy of the metre, almost persuade me to follow Sir T. Hanmer, by the omission of the two last words. STEEVENS.
9 Advise him to a CAUTION] Sir T. Hanmer, to add smoothness to the versification, reads-“to a care."
I suspect, however, the words—to a, are interpolations, designed to render an elliptical expression more clear, according to some player's apprehension. Perhaps the lines originally stood thus :
“ And that well might
May soon return to this our suffering country
1- to this our suffering country
Under a hand accurs'd!] The construction is,-to our country suffering under a hand accursed. Malone.
2 My prayers with him !) The old copy, frigidly, and in defance of measure, reads
“ I'll send my prayers with him." I am aware, that for this, and similar rejections, I shall be censured by those who are disinclined to venture out of the track of the old stage-waggon, though it may occasionally conduct them into a slough. It may soon, therefore, be discovered, that numerous beauties are resident in the discarded words—I'll send ; and that as frequently as the vulgarism-on, has been displaced to make room for-of, a diamond has been exchanged for a pebble. For my own sake, however, let me add, that, throughout the present tragedy, no such liberties have been exercised, without the previous approbation of Dr. Farmer, who fully concurs with me in supposing the irregularities of Shakspeare's text to be oftener occasioned by interpolations, than by omissions.
Steevens. Mr. Steevens has proposed three alterations of the text in twenty-one lines, and has given the rein to his critical boldness in this play, more, perhaps, than in any other. The old stage-waggon may offend the refinement of those who may accuse Shakspeare * Plaustris vexisse poemata :" but his genuine admirers will prefer the vehicle which he himself has chosen to the modern curricle which Mr. Steevens would provide for him. BosWELL.
ACT IV. SCENE I". A dark Cave. In the middle, a Cauldron boiling.
Thunder. Enter the Three Witches. 1 Witch. Thrice the brinded cat hath mew'd'.
3 Scene I.) As this is the chief scene of enchantment in the play, it is proper, in this place, to observe, with how much judgment Shakspeare has selected all the circumstances of his infernal ceremonies, and how exactly he has conformed to common opinions and traditions :
“ Thrice the brinded cat hath mew'd. The usual form in which familiar spirits are reported to converse with witches, is that of a cat. A witch, who was tried about half a century before the time of Shakspeare, had a cat named Rutterkin, as the spirit of one of those witches was Grimalkin; and when any mischief was to be done, she used to bid Rutterkin go and Ay. But once, when she would have sent Rutterkin to torment a daughter of the Countess of Rutland, instead of going or flying, he only cried mew, from whence she discovered that the lady was out of his power, the power of witches being not universal, but limited, as Shakspeare has taken care to inculcate :
“ Though his bark cannot be lost,
“ Yet it shall be tempest-tost." The common afflictions which the malice of witches produced, were melancholy, fits, and loss of flesh, which are threatened by one of Shakspeare's witches :
“ Weary sev'n nights, nine times nine,
“ Shall he dwindle, peak, and pine." It was likewise their practice to destroy the cattle of their neighbours, and the farmers have to this day many ceremonies to secure their cows and other cattle from witchcraft; but they seem to have been most suspected of malice against swine. Shakspeare has accordingly made one of his witches declare that she has been killing swine ; and Dr. Harsnet observes, that, about that time, “a sow could not be ill of the measles, nor a girl of the sullens, but some old woman was charged with witchcraft."
“ Toad, that under the cold stone,
“ Boil thou first i' the charmed pot." Toads have likewise long lain under the reproach of being by · some means accessary to witchcraft, for which reason Shakspeare,