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Retreat. Flourish. Re-enter, with Drum and
Colours, Malcolm, old SIWARD, Rosse, Lenox,
arriv'd. Sw. Some must go off: and yet, by these I see, So great a day as this is cheaply bought.
MAL. Macduff is missing, and your noble son.
Then he is dead ?
cause of sorrow
Had he his hurts before ?
Why then, God's soldier be he!
Had I as many sons as I have hairs,
And so his knell is knoll’d.] This incident is thus related from Henry of Huntingdon, by Camden, in his Remains, from which our author probably copied it.
When Siward, the martial earl of Northumberland, understood that his son, whom he had sent in service against the Scotchmen, was slain, he demanded whether his wounds were in the fore part or hinder part of his body. When it was answered, in the fore part, he replied, “I am right glad; neither wish I any other death to me or mine." Johnson.
Our author might have found the same incident recorded by Holinshed, in his Chronicle, vol. i. p. 192. Malone. VOL. XI.
He's worth more sorrow, And that I'll spend for him. Sw.
He's worth no more ; They say, he parted well, and paid his score: And so, God ? be with him !-Here comes newer
Re-enter Macduff, with Macbeti's Head on a
Pole 3 Macd. Hail, king! for so thou art : Behold,
where stands The usurper's cursed head: the time is free: I see thee compass'd with thy kingdom's pearl *,
2 So, God, &c.] The old copy redundantly reads—And so, God, &c. Steevens.
3 — on a Pole.] These words I have added to the stage-direction, from the Chronicle : “ Then cutting his head from his shoulders, he set it upon a pole, and brought it unto Malcolm." This explains the word stands in Macduff's speech.
Many of the stage-directions appear to have been inserted by the players ; and they are often very injudicious. In this scene, (as Mr. Steevens has observed,) according to their direction, Macbeth is slain on the stage, and Macduff immediately afterwards enters with Macbeth's head. Malone.
Our ancient players were not even skilful enough to prevent absurdity in those circumstances which fell immediately under their own management. No bad specimen of their want of common sense, on such occasions, may be found in Heywood's Golden Age, 1611 : “Enter Sybilla lying in childbed, with her child lying by her,” &c. Steevens.
- thy kingdom's Pearl,] This metaphorical expression was excluded by Mr. Rowe, after whom our modern editors were content to read-peers.
The following passage from Ben Jonson's Entertainment of the Queen and Prince at Althorpe, may, however, countenance the old reading, which I have inserted in the text :
“ Queen, prince, duke, and earls,
“ Countesses, ye courtly pearls,” &c. Again, in Shirley's Gentlemen of Venice:
" — he is the very pearl
That speak my salutation in their minds;
Hail, king of Scotland 5!
[Flourish. Mal. We shall not spend a large expence of
time, Before we reckon with your several loves, And make us even with you. My thanes and kins
men, Henceforth be earls, the first that ever Scotland In such an honour nam'd'. What's more to do,
“ Thy kingdom's pearl” means 'thy kingdom's wealth,' or rather ornament. So, J. Sylvester, England's Parnassus, 1600 :
“Honour of cities, pearle of kingdoms all." Again, in Sir Philip Sydney's Ourania, by N. Breton, 1606 :
an earl, “And worthily then termed Albion's pearl." John Florio, in a Sonnet prefixed to his Italian Dictionary, 1598, calls Lord Southampton—“ bright pearle of peers.”
Malone. 3 King of Scotland, HAIL!) Old copy—“ Hail, king of Scotland !” For the sake of metre, and in conformity to a practice of our author, I have transplanted the word—hail, from the beginning to the end of this hemistich. Thus, in the third scene of the play, p. 41 :
“So, all hail, Macbeth, and Banquo!
Banquo, and Macbeth, all hail,” Steevens. 6 We shall not spend a large Expence of time,] To spend an expence, is a phrase with which no reader will be satisfied. We certainly owe it to the mistake of a transcriber, or the negligence of a printer. Perhaps extent was the poet's word. Be it recollected, however, that at the end of the first scene of the third Act of The Comedy of Errors, Antipholus of Ephesus says-“This jest shall cost me some expence." Steevens. 7- the first that ever Scotland
In such an honour nam’d.] “ Malcolm immediately after his coronation called a parlement at Forfair, in the which he rewarded them with lands and livings that had assisted him against Macbeth.-Manie of them that were before thanes, were at this time made earles, as Fife, Menteth, Atholl, Levenox, Murrey, Cathness, Rosse, and Angus.” Ilolinshed's History of Scotland, p. 176.
Which would be planted newly with the time, -
[Flourish. Exeunt s.
This play is deservedly celebrated for the propriety of its fictions, and solemnity, grandeur, and variety of its action; but it has no nice discriminations of character; the events are too great to admit the influence of particular dispositions, and the course of the action necessarily determines the conduct of the agents.
The danger of ambition is well described ; and I know not whether it may not be said, in defence of some parts which now seem improbable, that, in Shakspeare's time, it was necessary to warn credulity against vain and illusive predictions.
The passions are directed to their true end. Lady Macbeth is merely detested ; and though the courage of Macbeth preserves some esteem, yet every reader rejoices at his fall. Johnson.
How frequent the practice of enquiring into the events of futurity, similar to those of Macbeth, was in Shakspeare's time, may be seen in the following instances : “ The Marshall of Raiz wife hath bin heard to say, that Queen Katherine beeing desirous to know what should become of her children, and who should succeed them, the party which undertooke to assure her, let her see a glasse, representing a hall, in the which either of them made so many turns as he should raigne yeares ; and that King Henry the Third, making his, the Duke of Guise crost him like a flash of lightning ; after which, the Prince of Navarre presented himselfe, and made 22 turnes, and then vanished.” P. Mathieu's Heroyk Life and Deplorable Death of Henry the Fourth, translated by Ed. Grimeston, 4to. 1612, p. 42.-Again : “It is reported that a Duke of Bourgondy had like to have died for feare at the sight of the nine worthies which a magician shewed him.” Ibid. p.
Reed. Mr. Whitaker, in his judicious and spirited Vindication of Mary Queen of Scots, 8vo. p. 486, edit. 1790, has the following reference to the prophecies of one John Lenton : “ All this serves to show the propriety of Shakspeare's scenes of the weird sisters, &c. as adapted to his own age. In the remote period of Macbeth, it might be well presumed, the popular faith mounted up into all the wildest extravagance described by him. In his own age it rose, as in Lady Shrewsbury here, and in Lady Derby, (Camden, Trans. 529, Orig. ii. 129,) into a belief in the verbal predictions of some reputed prophet then alive, or into a reliance upon the written predictions of some dead one. And Shakspeare might well endeavour to expose such a faith, when we see here, that though it could not lay hold of Queen Mary, yet it fastened firmly upon such a woman of the world as Lady Shrewsbury.”
It may be worth while to remark, that Milton, who left behind him a list of no less than CII, dramatic subjects, had fixed on the story of this play among the rest. His intention was to have begun with the arrival of Malcolm at Macduff's castle. “ The matter of Duncan (says he) may be expressed by the appearing of his ghost.” It should seem, from this last memorandum, that Milton disliked the licence his predecessor had taken in comprehending a history of such length within the short compass of a play, and would have new-written the whole, on the plan of the ancient drama. He could not surely have indulged so vain a hope, as that of excelling Shakspeare in the tragedy of Macbeth.
The late Mr. Whateley's Remarks on some of the Characters of Shakspeare, have shown, with the utmost clearness of distinction and felicity of arrangement, that what in Richard III. is fortitude, in Macbeth is no more than resolution. But this judicious critick having imputed the cause of Macbeth's inferiority in courage to his natural disposition, induces me to dissent, in one particular, from an Essay, which otherwise is too comprehensive to need a supplement, and too rational to admit of confutation.
Throughout such parts of this drama as afford opportunities for a display of personal bravery, Macbeth sometimes screws his courage to the sticking place, but never rises into constitutional heroism. Instead of meditating some decisive stroke on the enemy, his restless and self-accusing mind discharges itself in splenetic effusions and personal invectives on the attendants about his person. His genuine intrepidity had forsaken him when he ceased to be a virtuous character. He would now deceive himself into confidence, and depends on forced alacrity, and artificial valour, to extricate him from his present difficulties. Despondency too deep to be rooted out, and fury too irregular to be successful, have, by turns, possession of his mind. Though he has been assured of what he certainly credited, that none of woman born shall hurt him, he has twice given us reason to suppose that he would have fled, but that he cannot, being tied to the stake, and compelled to fight the course. Suicide also has once entered into his thoughts ; though this idea, in a paroxysm of noisy rage, is suppressed. Yet here it must be acknowledged that his apprehen