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of James made Scottish subjects popular in England, and the tale of Macbeth and Banquo would be one of the first to be brought forward, as Banquo was held to be an ancestor of the new king. A Latin “interlude" on this subject was performed at Oxford in 1605, on the occasion of the king's visit to the city ; but there is no reason for supposing, as Farmer did, that Shakespeare got the hint of his tragedy from that source.

It is barely possible that there was an earlier play on the subject of Macbeth. Collier finds in the Registers of the Stationers' Company, under date of August 27, 1596, the entry of a “Ballad of Makdobeth,” which he gives plausible reasons for supposing to have been a drama, and not a “ballad” properly so called. There appears to be a reference to the same piece in Kemp's Nine Days' Wonder, printed in 1600, where it is called a 6 miserable stolne story,” the work of

a penny Poet." Steevens maintained that Shakespeare was indebted, in the supernatural parts of Macbeth, to The Witch, a play by Thomas Middleton, which was discovered in manuscript towards the close of the last century. Malone at first took the same view of the subject, but afterwards came to the conclusion

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“would scarcely have been at the pains to make an elaborate summary of the plot.” But that merely shows that the play was new to him, and that the story made a deep impression upon him.

The same editors find "an obvious allusion to the ghost of Banquo” in Beaumont and Fletcher's Knight of the Burning Pestle, produced in 1611:

“When thou art at the table with thy friends,
Merry in heart and fill'd with swelling wine,
I'll come in midst of all thy pride and mirth,
Invisible to all men but thyself;"

and they think that “this supports the inference that Macbeth was in 1611 a new play, and fresh in the recollection of the audience.” But Mr. Halliwell finds quite as obvious an allusion to Banquo's ghost in the Puritan, printed in 1607: “ we'll ha' the ghost i'th' white sheet sit at upper end o’th' table.”

that Middleton's play was the later production, and that he must therefore be the plagiarist. The Clarendon Press editors take the ground that there are portions of Macbeth which Shakespeare did not write; that these were interpolated after the poet's death, or at least after he had ceased to be connected with the theatre; and that “the interpolator was, not improbably, Thomas Middleton." Mr. F. G. Fleay also, in a paper read before the New Shakspere Society, June 26, 1874, makes this statement : "Macbeth in its present state is an altered copy of the original drama, and the alterations were made by Middleton."*

These views have found little favour with other Shakespearian critics. A more satisfactory explanation of the imperfections of the play ascribes them to the haste with which it was written.† White, who refers its composition to “the period between October, 1604, and August, 1605,” remarks: “I am the more inclined to this opinion from the indications which the play itself affords that it was produced upon an emergency. It exhibits throughout the hasty execution of a grand and clearly conceived design. But the haste is that

* The Clarendon Press editors and Mr. Fleay agree quite closely in regard to the portions of the play which they assign to Middleton. Their criticisms on most of these passages are mentioned in our notes. We may refer those who are interested in the literature of the subject to the C. P. ed. of Macbeth, p. viii. fol., Furness's “New Variorum” ed. of Macbeth, p. 388 fol., Transactions of New Shakspere Society, 1874, p. 339 fol. and 498 fol., and Fleay's Shakespeare Manual, part ii., chap. x.

† Mr. F. J. Furnivall, in his introduction to Gervinus's Commentaries on Shakespeare, translated by Miss Bunnett (London : 1874), referring to Mr. Fleay's criticisms, says: “Mr. Hales thinks that the change to the trochaic metre* in Hecate's speeches, and their inferior quality, point to a different hand, perhaps Middleton's; but that is all of the play that he or I (who still hesitate) can yet surrender. The wonderful pace at which the play was plainly written—a feverish haste drives it on—will account for many weaknesses in detail.”

* This is evidently a slip of the pen. Mr. Furnivall meant to write “to the iambic metre.” The witches, as Mr. Hales remarks, always speak in trochaics, and Hecato always in iambics (Trans. of Now Shaksp. Soc. 1874. P. 507).

of a master of his art, who, with conscious command of its resources, and in the frenzy of a grand inspiration, works out his composition to its minutest detail of essential form, leaving the work of surface finish for the occupation of cooler leisure. What the Sistine Madonna was to Raphael, it seems that Macbeth was to Shakespeare-a magnificent impromptu; that kind of impromptu which results from the application of well-disciplined powers and rich stores of thought to a subject suggested by occasion. I am inclined to regard Macbeth as, for the most part, a specimen of Shakespeare's unelaborated, if not unfinished, writing, in the maturity and highest vitality of his genius. It abounds in instances of extremest compression and most daring ellipsis, while it exhibits in every scene a union of supreme dramatic and poetic power, and in almost every line an imperially irresponsible control of language. Hence, I think, its lack of completeness of versification in certain passages, and also some of the imperfection of the text, the thought in which the compositors were not always able to follow and apprehend."

II. THE HISTORICAL SOURCES OF THE PLAY. Shakespeare drew the materials for the plot of Macbeth from Holinshed's “Chronicles of Englande, Scotlande, and Ireland," the first edition of which was published in 1577, and the second (which was doubtless the one the poet used) in 1586–87.* The extracts from Holinshed in our notes will show that the main incidents are taken from his account of

* Rev. C. E. Moberly, in his edition of Macbeth (London : 1872), says that the whole story is told “in Albion's England, published just before Elizabeth's death.” The first edition of Albion's England, containing thirteen “ books” of the poem, appeared in 1586, but the story of Macbeth is in the" Fifteenth Book,” which forms part of the “Continuance,” first published in 1606.

As Shakespeare used the second edition of Holinshed in writing Richard II. (see our edition of that play, p. 14), there can be no doubt that he used it for Macbeth, which was written later.


two separate events—the murder of Duncan by Macbeth, and that of King Duffe, the great-grandfather of Lady Macbeth, by Donwald. It will be seen, too, that Shakespeare has deviated in other respects from the chronicle, especially in the character of Banquo.

Although, as Knight remarks, "the interest of Macbeth is not an historical interest,” so that it matters little whether the action is true or has been related as true, we may add, for the benefit of our younger readers, that the story of the drama is almost wholly apocryphal. The more authentic history is thus summarized by Sir Walter Scott:

Duncan, by his mother Beatrice a grandson of Malcolm II., succeeded to the throne on his grandfather's death, in 1033 : he reigned only six years. Macbeth, his near relation, also a grandchild of Malcolm II., though by the mother's side, was stirred up by ambition to contest the throne with the possessor. The Lady of Macbeth also, whose real name was Graoch, had deadly injuries to avenge on the reigning prince. She was the granddaughter of Kenneth IV., killed 1003, fighting against Malcolm II.; and other causes for revenge animated the mind of her who has been since painted as the sternest of women. The old annalists add some instigations of a supernatural kind to the influence of a vindictive woman over an ambitious husband. Three women, of more than human stature and beauty, appeared to Macbeth in a dream or vision, and hailed him successively by the titles of Thane of Cromarty, Thane of Moray, which the king afterwards bestowed on him, and finally by that of King of Scots; this dream, it is said, inspired him with the seducüve hopes so well expressed in the drama.

“Macbeth broke no law of hospitality in his attempt on Duncan's life. He attacked and slew the king at a place called Bothgowan, or the Smith's House, near Elgin, in 1039, and not, as has been supposed, in his own castle of Inverness. The act was bloody, as was the complexion of the times ; but, in very truth, the claim of Macbeth to the throne, according to the rule of Scottish succession, was better than that of Duncan. As a king, the tyrant so much exclaimed against was, in reality, a firm, just, and equitable prince. * Apprehensions of danger from a party which Malcolm, the eldest son of the slaughtered Duncan, had set on foot in Northumberland, and still maintained in Scotland, seem, in process of time, to have soured the temper of Macbeth, and rendered him formidable to his nobility. Against Macduff, in particular, the powerful Maormor of Fife, he had uttered some threats which occasioned that chief to fly from the court of Scotland. Urged by this new counsellor, Siward, the Danish Earl of Northumberland, invaded Scotland in the year 1954, displaying his banner in behalf of the banished Malcolm. Macbeth engaged the foe in the neighbourhood of his celebrated castle of Dunsinane. He was defeated, but escaped from the battle, and was slain at Lumphanan in 1056."

Whether Shakespeare was ever in Scotland is a question that has been much discussed. Knight (Biography, ed. 1865, p. 420 fol.) endeavours to prove that the poet visited that country in 1589, but most of the editors agree that there is 10 satisfactory evidence of his having ever been there.f


[From Hazlitt's Characters of Shakespeare's Plays.” ] Macbeth (generally speaking) is done upon a stronger and more systematic principle of contrast than any other of

* As Rev. Mr. Moberly remarks, this view is confirmed by Mr. E. A. Freeman (Norman Conquest, ii. p. 55): “All genuine Scottish tradition points to the reign of Macbeth as a period of unusual peace and prosperity in that disturbed land.”

† For a good summary of the discussion see Furness's Macbeth, p.

407 fol.

| Characters of Shakespeare's Plays, by William Hazlitt, edited by W. Carew Hazlitt (London, 1869), p. 17.

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