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defenceless family, though the father of it was the only resona. ble object of his fear.-Can it be a question then which of these two personages would manifest the most determined valour in the field ? Shall we hesitate to bestow the palm of courage on the steady unrepenting Yorkist, in whose bosoin ideas of hereditary greatness, and confidence resulting from success, had fed the flame of glory, and who dies in combat for a crown which had been the early object of his ambition? and shall we allot the same wreath to the wavering'self-convicted Thane, who, educat. ed without hope of royalty, had been suggested into greatness and yet, at last, would forego it all to secure himself by flight, but that flight is become an impossibility ?
To conclude; a picture of conscience encroaching on fortitude of magnanimity once animated by virtue, and afterwards extinguished by guilt, was what Sbakspeare meant to display in the character and conduct of Macbeth. Steevens.
Macbeth was certainly one of Shakspeare's latest produc. tions, and it might possibly have been suggested to him by a little performance on the same subject at Oxford, before king James, 1605. I will transcribe my notice of it from Wake's Rex Platonicus : “Fabulæ ansam dedit antiqua de regiâ prosapiâ historiola apud Scoto-Britannos celebrata, quæ narrat tres olim Sibyllas occurrisse duobus Scotiæ proceribus, Macbetho et Banchoni, et illum prædixisse regem futurum, sed regem nullum geniturum ; hunc regem non futurum, sed reges geniturum multos. Vaticinii veritatem rerum eventus comprobavit. Banchonis enim è stirpe potentissimus Jacobus oriundus." p. 29.
Since I made the observation here quoted, I have been re. peatedly told, that I unwittingly make Shakspeare learned, at least in Latin, as this must have been the language of the performance before king James. One might, perhaps, have plausibly said, that he probably picked up the story at second-hand; but mere accident has thrown a pamphlet in my way, intitled The Oxford Triumph, by one Anthony Nixon, 1605, which explains the whole matter: “ This performance, says Anthony, was first in Latine to the king, then in English to the queene and young prince :” and, as he goes on to tell us, “ the conceipt thereof the kinge did very much applaude." It is likely that the friendly letter, which we are informed king James once wrote to Shakspeare, was on this occasion. Farmer
Dr. Johnson used often to mention an acquaintance of bis, who was for ever boasting what great things he would do, could he but meet with Ascham's Toxophilus, * at a time when
* Ascham's Toxophilus, 7 Mr. Malone is somewhat mistaken in his account of Dr. Johnson's pleasantry, which originated from an observation made by Mr. Theobald in 1733, and repeated by him in 1740. See his note on Much Ado about Nothing, in his 8vo. edition of Shakspeare, Vol. I, P. 410 ; and his duodecimo, Vol. II, p. 12: “ - and had I the convenience ofronsulting Ascham's Toxophilus, I might probably grow better acquainted with his history :" i. e. that of Adam Bell, the celebrated archer.
Ascham's pieces had not been collected, and were very rarely to be found. At length Toxophilus was procured, but-nothing was done. The interlude performed at Oxford in 1605, by the students of Saint John's college, was, for a while, so far my Toxophilus, as to excite my curiosity very strongly on the sub. ject. Whether Shakspeare, in the composition of this noble tragedy, was at all indebted to any preceding performance, through the medium of translation, or in any other way, ap. peared to me well worth ascertaining. The British Museum was examined in vain. Mr. Warton very obligingly made a strict search at St. John's college, but no traces of this literary performance could there be found. At length chance threw into my hands the very verses that were spoken in 1605, by three young gentlemen of that college ; and, being thus at last obtained, “ that no man” (to use the words of Dr. Johnson) “ may ever want them more," I will here transcribe them.
There is some difficulty in reconciling the different accounts of this entertainment. The author of Rex Platonicus says, 66 Tres adolescentes concinno Sibyllarum habitu induti, è collegio (Divi Johannis] prodeuntes, et carmina lepida alternatim canentes, regi se tres esse Sibyllas profitentur, quæ Banchoni olim sobolis imperia prædixerant, &c. Deinde tribus principi. bus suaves felicitatum triplicitates triplicatis carminum vicibus succinentes,-principes ingeniosa fictiuncula delectatos dimit. tunt."
But in a manuscript account of the king's visit to Oxford in 1605, in the Museum, (MSS. Baker, 7044,) this interlude is thus described: “This being done, he (the king) rode on un. till he came unto St. John's college, where coming against the gate, three young youths, in habit and attire like N mpbes, confronted him, representing England, Scotland, and Ireland; and talking dialogue-wise each to other of their state, at last concluded, yielding up themselves to his gracious government." With this A. Nixon's account, in The Oxford Triumph, quarto, 1605, in some measure agrees, though it differs in a very ma. terial point; for, if his relation is to be credited, these young men did not alternately recite verses, but pronounced three dis. tinct orations: “ This finished, his Majestie passed along till hee came before Saint John's college, when three little boyes, coming foorth of a castle made all of ivie, drest like three nymphes, (the conceipt whereof the king did very much ap. plaude,) delivered three orations, first in Latine to the king, then in English to the queene and young prince; which being ended, his majestie proceeded towards the east gate of the
Mr. Theobald was certainly no diligent inquirer after ancient books, or was much out of luck, if, in the course of ten years, he conld not procure the treatise he wanted, which was always sufficiently common. I have abune dant reason to remember the foregoing circumstance, having often stood the push of my late coadjutor's merriment, on the same score; for he never heard me lament the scarcity of any old pamphlet, from which I expected to derive information, bnt he instantly roared out — Sir, remember Tib and dis Toxophilus,” Steevens.
citie, where the townesmen againe delivered to him another speech in English.”
From these discordant accounts one might be led to suppose, that there were six actors on this occasion, three of whom personated the Sybills, or rather the Weird Sisters, and addressed the royal visitors in Latin, and that the other three represented England, Scotland, and Ireland, and spoke only in English. I believe, however, that there were but three young men employed; and after reciting the following Latin lines, (which prove that the wierd sisters and the representatives of England, Scotland, and Ireland, were the same persons) they might perhaps, have pronounced some English verses of a similar import, for the entertaininent of the queen and the princes.
To the Latin play of Vertumnus, written by Dr. Mathew Gwynne, which was acted before the king by some of the students of St. John's college on a subsequent day, we are indebted for the long-sought-for interlude, performed at St. John's gate ; for Dr. Gwynne, who was the author of this interlude also, has annexed it to his Vertumnus, printed in 4to. in 1607.
“Ad regis introitum, e Joannensi Collegio extra portam urbis borealem sito, tres quasi Sibyllæ, sic (ut e sylva) salutarunt.
1. Fatidicas olim fama est cecinisse sorores
As that singular curiosity, The Witch, printed by Mr. Reed, and distributed only among his friends, cannot fall in the way of every curious and inquisitive reader of Shakspeare, I am induced to subjoin such portions of it (though some of them are already glanced at) as might have suggested the idea on which our author founded bis unrivalled scene of enchantment, in the fourth Act of the present tragedy.
Let it not be supposed, however, that such coincidences ought any way to diminish the fame of Shakspeare, whose additions and adoptions have, in every instance, manifested the richness of bis own fancy, and the power of his own judgment. Steevens.
ACT I. SCENE II.
Enter Heccat; and other Witches (with Properties, and
Hec. Titty, and Tiffin, Suckin
And Pidgen, Liard, and Robin!
Siad. Here, sweating at the vessel.
Hec. Are the flames blew enough?
Stad. The nipps of Fayries upon maides white hipps,
Hec. Tend it carefully.
Stad. Heere's Stadlin, and the dish.
Hec. There take this un-baptized brat;
Thou know'st it Stadlin?
Stad. Usually that's don.
Hec. Last night thou got'st the Maior of Whelplies son,
Stad. Where be the magicall herbes?
Hec. They're downe his throate.
Stad. Then ther's all Heccat?
Hec. Is the heart of wax Stuck full of magique needles ?
Stad. 'Tis don Heccat.
Hec. And is the Farmer's picture, and his wives Lay'd downe to th' fire yet?
Stad. They are a roasting both too.
Wher's Firestone ? our son Firestone.
Fire. Here am I mother.
Hec. Take in this brazen dish full of deere ware,
Fire. And may you not have one a-clock in to th' doze (Mother)