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[Vol. vii. COLLIER; vol. ii. Tragedies, Pict. ed. Knight.*]
SCENE 3.-C. p. 104.
"The weird sisters."
As Steevens remarks, Gawin Douglas, in his translation of the Eneid, calls the Parce the weird sisters." COLLIER.
But Steevens also remarked that "weird[s] was used for the Destinies by Chaucer;" and, as perhaps the next editor of Shakespeare may think that so early an instance of the word ought to be cited, I subjoin the passage to which Steevens doubtless referred;
"But o fortune, executrice of wierdes," &c.
Troil. and Cres. b. iii. 618.
I may notice too, that we find in Ortus Vocabulorum; "Cloto anglice, one of the thre wyrde systers," ed. 1514.
SCENE 3.-C. p. 106.
"As thick as tale,
Came post with post."
"The meaning is evident, when we take tale in the sense, not of a narrative, but of an enumeration, from the Sax. telan, to count. Johnson explains the passage correctly in these words:-' Posts arrived as fast as they could be counted.' Rowe read, as thick as hail,' which may be considered a needless alteration of the text; but it is to be observed, nevertheless, that Southern, in his copy of the folio, 1685, the property of Mr. Holgate, made the same change in manuscript." COLLier.
I am strongly inclined to believe that "hail" is the right reading: in the first place, because Johnson's explanation is much less satisfactory to me than to Mr. Collier; secondly,
* See note, p. 158.
because, though a compositor hardly ever mistakes t for h, he sometimes mistakes T for H; and in the first folio (as also in the second) "tale" stands "Tale."
"Out of the towne come quarries thick as haile.”
Drayton's Battaile of Agincourt, p. 20, ed. 1627.
SCENE 3.-C. p. 108.
Macb. Give your favour: my dull brain was wrought
With things forgotten."
Read, with all the old and all the other modern editions,
"Give me your favour," &c.
SCENE 4.-C. p. 109.
"Dun. Is execution done on Cawdor; or not
Those in commission yet return'd?
"The folio of 1632 alters' or' into are, a change which all modern editors have adopted, but without sufficient reason. Duncan asks whether execution has been done on Cawdor, or whether the tidings had not yet been received by the return of those commissioned for the purpose? I owe this restoration to the Rev. Mr. Barry." COLLier.
Away with Mr. Barry's restoration! Could any boardingschool girl read over the speech of Duncan, and not immediately perceive from the arrangement of the words that "or" is a misprint for "are"?
Buttress, nor coigne of vantage, but this bird
Hath made his pendent bed, and procreant cradle :
The air is delicate."
"All the folios have must breed;' and there the passage is thus pointed :
'Where they must breed, and haunt: I have observ'd
The air is delicate.'
Rowe changed must to 'most,' and there is little doubt that it was a misprint in the first folio, which the others implicitly followed. Nevertheless, sense might be made out of the passage as it stands in the old copies, supposing Banquo to mean only, that the swallows must breed in their procreant cradles; adding, in the words, the air is delicate,' his accordance with Duncan's previous remark." COL
This is another instance (see my remark p. 125) of Mr. Collier's unwillingness to reject a gross misprint without saying something in its favour.
If "sense is to be made out of the passage as it stands in the old copies," we must previously suppose that Shakespeare intended Banquo to have very little,-who informs the king "that the swallows must breed in their procreant cradles"!
But screw your courage to the sticking-place,
And we'll not fail."
"This is the punctuation of the folios, 1623, 1632, 1664, and 1685, and in this case, perhaps, we may take it as some evidence of the ancient mode of delivering the two words' We fail?' interrogatively. Malone substituted a mark of admiration, 'We fail!' and Steevens pursued the same course; but it may be doubted by some whether both these modes are not wrong, and that Lady Macbeth means merely to follow up what her husband says, by stating the result of failure, which, however, in the next line, she supposes impossible, if Macbeth be but resolute in his purpose." COLLIER.
Though Mr. Collier makes a distinction between Malone's punctuation and his own, there is in reality no difference: whether the words be pointed "We fail!" or "We fail?" (and I much prefer the former method), they can only be understood as an impatient and contemptuous repetition of Macbeth's "we fail,-"
Mr. Knight gives (what Mr. Collier mentions as perhaps
the right mode of pointing the words), "We fail." He observes, "the quiet self-possession of the punctuation we have adopted appears preferable to the original We fail?"
Steevens was (I believe) the first to suggest that the proper punctuation might be, "We fail": and he commences an elaborate note by informing us that "If we fail, we fail,' is a colloquial phrase still in frequent use," as if fail were the only word so employed, and not any other verb in the language according to the circumstances of the speaker! This form of expression seems to have been originally a Scriptural
"If I be bereaved of my children, I am bereaved." Gen. xliii. 14. "And so will I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law and if I perish, I perish." Esther iv. 16.
Any kind of admission on the part of Lady Macbeth that the attempt might prove unsuccessful, appears to me quite inconsistent with all that she has previously said, and all that she afterwards says, in the present scene. She hastily interrupts her husband, checking the very idea of failure as it rises in his mind.
I recollect, indeed, hearing Mrs. Siddons deliver the words as if (to use Mr. Collier's expression) she was "stating the result of failure;" but there can be no doubt that she had adopted that manner of delivery in consequence of Steevens's note. Nor was this the only passage of Shakespeare in which that incomparable actress refined on the simple meaning of the text (witness her celebrated
in Henry VIII.), while the more critical portion of the audience overlooked the subtlety in the consummate skill of the execution.
SCENE 1.-C. p. 122; K. p. 24.
"thus with his stealthy pace,
With Tarquin's ravishing strides, towards his design
"The folios have sides, out of which it is not easy to extract sense," &c. COLLIER.
Mr. Knight retains "sides" in the text!!-mentions, in a note, that Tieck considers the word to be used here for "the seat of the passions" (which, however, he has some doubt of, though he does not reject the opinion!),—and concludes his observations on the passage by proposing a villanous reading of his own.
That Tieck, a man of fine genius, can fully enter into the spirit of Shakespeare's works, is not to be doubted for a moment but that he (as every foreigner must be, who has not spent many years in this country, conversing daily with the natives) is utterly incompetent to write verbal criticism on the meanest, far less on the greatest of English poets, is most clearly shewn by every one of those remarks on the present play which Mr. Knight has transplanted into his notes. The passage last cited is immediately followed by,
"Thou sure and firm-set earth,
Hear not my steps, which way they walk, for fear
Thy very stones prate of my where-about," &c.
in which the old copies have "which they may walk,"-and Tieck defends the original reading, as "ungrammatical, singular, and perfectly dream-like."
In act i. sc. 3,
"The weird sisters"
is in the folio "The weyward sisters,"-i. e. quoth Tieck, "wayward-wilful."
In act i. sc. 5, where Lady Macbeth wishes to become un
That no compunctious visitings of nature
Shake my fell purpose, nor keep peace between