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That croaks the fatal entrance of Duncan
now—the raven himself is spent, is boarse by croaking this very message, the fatal entrance of Duncan under
battlements. Lady Macbeth (for she was not yet unsexed) was likelier to be deterred from her design than encouraged in it by the supposed thought that the message and the prophecy (though equally secrets to the messenger and the raven) had deprived: the one of speech, and added harshness to the other's note. Unless we absurdly suppose the messenger acquainted with the hidden import of his message, speed alone had intercepted his breath, as repetition the raven's voice; though the lady con-. sidered both as organs of that destiny which hurried Duncan into her meshes. Fuseli.
Mr. Fuseli's idea, that the raven has croaked till he is boarse with croaking, may receive support from the following passage in Romeo and Juliet:
make her airy tongue more boarse than mine “ With repetition of my Romeo's name.” Again, from one of the Parts of King Henry. VI::
“ Warwick is hoarse with daring thee to arms." Steevens. 8mm. Come, come, you spirits --] For the sake of the metre I have ventured to repeat the word come, which occurs only once in the old copy.
All had been added by Sir William D'Avenant, to supply the same deficiency. Steevens.
mortal thoughts,] This expression signifies not the thoughts of mortals, but murderous, deadly, or destructive designsa. So, in Act V:
“ Hold fast the mortal sword.”. And in another place :
“ With twenty mortal murders." Johnson. In Pierce Penniless his Supplication to the Devil, by T. Nashe, 1592, (a very popular pamphlet of that time,) our author might have found a particular description of these spirits, and of their office.
“ The second kind of devils, which he most employeth, are. those northern Martii, called the spirits of revenge, and the authors of massacres, and seedsmen of mischief; for they have commission to incense men to rapines, sacrilege, theft, murder, wrath, fury, and all manner of cruelties: and they command certain of the southern spirits to wait upon them, as also greate Arioch, that is termed the spirit of revenge." Malone..
That no compunctious visitings of nature
remorse ;) Remorse, in ancient language, signifies pity. So, in King Lear:
“ Thrill'd with remorse, oppus'd against the act.” Again, in Othello :
“ And to obey shall be in me remorse -" See notes on that passage, Act III, sc. iii. Steevens.
- nor keep peace between
The effect, and it!) The intent of lady Macbeth evidently is to wish that no womạnish tenderness, or conscientious re. morse, may hinder her purpose from proceeding to effect; but neither this, nor indeed any other sense, is expressed by the present reading, and therefore it cannot be doubted that Shak. speare wrote differently, perhaps thus:
That no compunctious visitings of nature
The effect and it To keep pace between, may signify to pass between, to intervene. Pace is, on many occasions, a favourite of Shakspeare's. This phrase is, indeed, not usual in this sense ; but was it not its no. velty that gave occasion to the present corruption? Johnson
and it'] The folio reads—and bit. It, in many of our ancient books, is thus spelt. In the first stanza of Churchyard's Discourse of Rebellion, &c. 1570, we have, Hit is a plague-Hit venom castes—Hit poysoneth all-Hit is of kinde Hit staynes the ayre. Steevens.
The correction was made by the editor of the third folio.
Lady Macbeth's purpose was to be effected by action. To keep peace between the effect and purpose, means, to delay the execution of her purpose; to prevent its proceeding to effect. For as long as there should be a peace between the effect and purpose, or, in other words, till hostilities were commenced, till some bloody action should be performed, her purpose [i. e. the murder of Duncan) could not be carried into execution. So, in the following passage in King Fobn, in which a corresponding imagery may be traced:
“Nay, in the body of this fleshly land,
“ Between my conscience and my cousin's death." A similar expression is found in a book which our author is known to have read, The Tragicall Hystorie of Romeus and Juliet, 1562: " In absence of her knight, the lady no way
could Keep truce between ber griefs and ser, though ne’er so:
fayne she would.
And take my milk for gall,3 you murd’ring ministers,
Sir W. D'Avenant's strange alteration of this play sometimes affords a reasonably good comment upon it. Thus, in the present instance :
take my milk for gull,] Take away my milk, and put gall into the place. Johnson.
4 You wait on nature's mischief!] Nature's mischief is mischief done to nature, violation of nature's order committed by wickedness. Fohnson.
Come, thick night, &c.] A similar invocation is found in A Warning for faire Women, 1599, a tragedy which was certainly prior to Macbeth:
“O sable night, sit on the eye of heaven,
My guilty soul, burnt with lust's hateful fire,
“ The light liates me, and I do hate the light.” Malone. 6 And pall thee - ] i. e. wrap thyself in a pall. Warburton.
A pall is a robe of state. So, in the ancient black letter romance of Syr Eglamoure of Artoys, no date:
“ The knyghtes were clothed in pall." Again, in Milton's Penseroso:
Sometime let gorgeous tragedy
“ In scepter'd pall come sweeping by." Dr. Warburton seems to mean the covering which is thrown over the dead.
To pall, however, in the present instance, (as Mr. Douce ob. serves to me,) may simply mean-to wrap, to invest. Steevens.
7 That my keen knife –] The word knife, which at present has a familiar undignified meaning, was anciently used to express a sword or, dagger. So, in the old black letter romance of Syr Eglamoure of Artoys, no date :
Through Godles myght, and his knife,
“ There the gyaunte lost his lyfe.” Again, in Spenser's Fairy Queen, B. I, c. vi: the red-cross knight was slain with paynim knife."
Nor heaven peep through the blanket of the dark, To cry, Hold, hold !9. -Great Glamis! worthy Caw
To avoid a multitude of examples, which in the present in. stance do not seem wanted, I shall only observe that Mr. Steevens's remark might be confirmed by quotations without end. Reed.
the blanket of the dark,] Drayton, in the 26th Song of his Polyolbion, has an expression resembling this: “ Thick vapours, that, like ruggs, still hang the troubled
air." Steevens. Polyolbion was not published till 1612, after this play had certainly been exhibited; but in an earlier piece Drayton has the same expression: “The sullen night in mistie rugge is wrapp?d.”
Mortimeriados, 4to. 1596. Blanket was perhaps suggested to our poet by the coarse woollen curtain of his own theatre, through which probably, while the house was yet but half-lighted, he had himself often peeped.-In King Henry VI, P. IIÌ, we have—“ night's cover. ture."
A kindred thought is found in our author's Rape of Lucrece, 1594:
“ Were Tarquin's night, (as he is but night's child,)
“ The silver-shining queen he would distain; “ Her twinkling hand-maids too, (the stars] by him
defil'd, Through nights black bosom should not peep again.”
Malone. • To cry, Hold, hold!] On this passage there is a long criticism in The Rambler, Number 168. Johnson.
In this criticism the epithet dun is objected to as a mean one. Milton, however, appears to have been of a different opinion, and has represented Satan as flying
in the dun air sublime,” And had already told us, in the character of Comus,
“ 'Tis only daylight that makes sin,
“ Which these dun shades will ne'er report.” Gawin Douglas employs dun as a synonyme to fulvus.
Steevens. To cry, Hold, hold !) The thought is taken from the old military laws which inficted capital punishment upon
“ whosoever shall strike stroke at his adversary, either in the heat or otherwise, if a third do cry bold, to the intent to part them; except that they did fight a combat in a place enclosed: and then no man shall be so hardy as to bid bold, but the general.” P. 264 of Mr. Bellay's Instructions for the Wars, translated in 1589.
Mr. Tollet's note will likewise illustrate the last line in Macbeth's concluding speech: “ And damo'd be him who first cries, bold, enough!”
Steevens. 1 Great Glamis ! worthy Cawdor!] Shakspeare has supported the character of lady Macbeth by repeated efforts, and never omits any opportunity of adding a trait of ferocity, or a mark of the want of human feelings, to this monster of his own creation. The softer passions are more obliterated in her than in her husband, in proportion as her ambition is greater. She meets him here on his arrival from an expedition of danger, with such a salutation as would have become one of his friends or vassals; a salutation apparently fitted rather to raise his thoughts to a level with her own purposes, than to testify her joy at his return, or manifest an attachment to his person. nor does any sentiment expressive of love or softness fall from her throughout the play. While Macbeth himself, amidst the horrors of his guilt, still retains a character less fiend-like than that of his queen, talks to her with a degree of tenderness, and pours his complaints and fears into her bosom, accompanied with terms of endearment. Steevens.
2 This ignorant present,] Ignorant has here the signification of unknowing ; that is, I feel by anticipation those future honours, of which, according to the process of nature, the present time would be ignorant. Johnson. So, in Cj mbeline :
his shipping, “ Poor ignorant baubles,” &c. Again, in The Tempest:
ignorant fumes that mantle “ Their clearer reason.” Steevens. This ignorant present, ] Thus the old copy. Some of our modern editors read: “. - present time;" but the phraseology in the text is frequent in our author, as well as other ancient writers. So, in the first scene of The Tempest: “ If you can command these elements to silence, and work the peace of the present, we will not hand a rope more.” The sense does not require the word time, and it is too much for the measure. Again, in Coriolanus :
“And that you not delay the present; but” &c. Again, in Corinthians I, ch. xv, v. 6:" - of whom the greater part remain unto this present.”