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Macb. Hath he asked for me?
Know you not, he has ?
Was the hope drunk, Wherein you dress'd yourself? hath it slept since ? And wakes it now, to look so green and pale At what it did so freely? From this time, Such I account thy love. Art thou afeard To be the same in thine own act and valour, As thou art in desire? Would'st thou have that Which thou esteem'st the ornament of life, And live a coward in thine own esteem; Letting I dare not wait upon I would, Like the poor cat i' the adage ?1
that what would be criminal in others is virtuous in them: this argument Shakspeare, whose plan obliged him to make Macbeth yield, has not confuted, though he might easily have shown that a former obligation could not be vacated by a latter ; that obligations, laid on us by a higher power, could not be over-ruled by obligations which we lay upon ourselves. Johnson.
Part of lady Macbeth's argument is derived from the translation of Hector Boethius. See Dr. Farmer's note, p. 33.
Malone. 8 Was the hope drunk, &c.] The same expression is found in King John:
“0, where hath our intelligence been drunk,
“ Where hath it slept .?” Malone. 9 Woulil'st thou have that Which thou esteem'st the ornament of life,
And live a coward in thine own esteem;] In this there seems to be no reasoning. I should read :
Or live a coward in thine own esteem ; Unless we choose rather:
- Would'st thou leave that. Johnson. Do you wish to obtain the crown, and vet would you remain sucha a coward in your own eyes all your life, as to suffer your paltry fears, which whisper, “ I dare not,” to controul your noble ambia tion, which cries out, “ I would ?" Steevens.
1 Like the poor cat i' the adage?? The adage alluded to is, The cat loves fish, but dares not wet her feet: “Cutus amat pisces, sed non vult tingere plantas." Johnson. Coast
What beast was it then,
2 Privtbee, peace: '&c.] A passage similar to this occurs in Measure for Measure, Act II, se. ji: :
“_ be that you are,
“ That is, a woman : if you 're more, you're none." The old copy, instead of do more, reads no more; but the present reading is undoubtedly right.
The correction (as Mr. Malone observes) was made by Mr. Rowe. Steevens. "
The same sentiment occurs in Beaumont and Fletcher's
“My Rollo, tho' he dares as much as man,
“So noble, that he dares do nothing basely." Henley.
The Merry Wives of Windsor, Mrs. Ford says of Falstaff, that his words and actions “ no more adhere and keep pace together, than” &c. Again, in The Winter's Tale :
“ a shepherd's daughter,
" And what to her adheres ” Steevens.
" In gremio (licet amplexu lachrymisque moretur)
“ Transadigam ferro " Steevens. 5 bad I so sworn,] The latter word is here used as a dissyllable. The editor of the second folio, from his ignorance
Have done to this.
If we should fail,
We fail ! But screw your courage to the sticking-place,
of our author's phraseology and metre, supposed the line defective, and reads—had I but so sworn; which has been followed by all the subsequent editors. Malone.
My regulation of the metre renders it unnecessary to reach sworn as a dissyllable, a pronunciation, of which I believe there is no example. Steevens.
6 We fail!] I am by no means sure that this punctuation is the true one." If we fail, we fail,”-is a colloquial phrase still in frequent usé. Macbeth having casually employed the former part of this sentence, his wife designedly completes it. We fail, and thereby know the extent of our misfortune. Yet our success is certain, if you are resolute.
Lady Macbeth is unwilling to afford her husband time to state any reasons for his doubt, or to expatiate on the obvious consequences of miscarriage in his undertaking. Such an interval for reflection to act in, might have proved unfavourable to her purposes. She therefore cuts him short with the remaining part of a common saying, to which his own words had offered an apt, though accidental introduction.
This replý, at once cool and determined, is sufficiently characteristic of the speaker:-according to the old punctuation, she is represented as rejecting with contempt, (of which she had already manifested enough) the very idea of failure. According to the mode of pointing now suggested, she admits a possibility of miscarriage, but at the same instant shows herself not afraid of the result. Her answer, therefore, communicates no discouragement to her husband.-We fail! is the hasty in. terruption of scornfus impatience. We fail.-is the calm deduction of a mind which, having weighed all circumstances, is prepared, without loss of confidence in itself, for the worst that an happen. So Hotspur:
“ If we fall in, good night:or sink, or swim.” Steevens. 7 But screw your courage to the sticking-place,]. This is a me. taphor from an engine formed by mechanical complication. The sticking-place is the stop which suspends its powers, till they are discharged on their proper object; as in driving piles, &c. So, in Sir W. D'Avenant's Cruel Brother, 1630:
" There is an engine made,
" Will rive an oak.” . Again, in Coriolanus, Act I, sc. viii:
“ Wrench up thy power to the highest." . VOI. VII.
And we 'll not fail. When Duncan is asleep,
Again, in Chapman's version of the ninth Book of Homer's Odyssey:
my wits which to their height “I striv'd to screw up;_", Again, in the fifteenth Book:
" Come, join we hands, and screw up all their spite." Perhaps, indeed, Shakspeare had a more familiar image in view, and took his metaphor from the screwing up the chords of string-instruments to their proper degree of tension, when the peg remains fast in its sticking place, i. e. in the place from which it is not to move. Thus, perhaps, in Twelfth Night:
"And that I partly know the instrument
“That screws me from my true place,” &c. Steevens. Mr. Steevens's last interpretation is, in my apprehension, the true one. Sir W. D'Avenant misunderstood this passage. By the sticking-place, he seems to have thought the poet meant the stabbing place, the place where Duncan was to be wounded; for he reads,
“Bring but your courage to the fatal place,
bis two chamberlains Wile I with wine and wassel so convince, &c.] The circum. stance relative to Macbeth's slaughter of Duncan's Chamber. lains, (as I observed so long ago, as in our edition 1773, is copied from Holinshed's account of King Duffe's murder by Donwald.
Mr. Malone has since transcribed the whole narrative of this event from the Chronicle; but being too long to stand here as a note, it is given, with other bulky extracts, at the conclusion of the play. Steevens.
To convince is, in Shakspeare, to overpower or subdue, as in this play:
os Their malady convinces
“ The great assay of art.” Johnson. So, in the old tragedy of Cambyses :
“ If that your heart addicted be the Egyptians to convince." Again: “ By this his grace, by conquest great the Egyptians did
convince.". Again, in Holinshed : " - thus mortally fought, intending to vanquish and convince the other.” Again, in Chapman's ver. sion of the sixth Iliad:
“ Chymera the invincible he sent him to convince.” Steevens. - and wasse! -] What was anciently called was-baile
That memory, the warder of the brain,
(as appears from Selden's notes on the ninth Song of Drayton's Polyolbion,) was an annual custom observed in the country on the vigil of the new year; and had its beginning, as some say, from the words which Ronix, daughter of Hengist, used, when she drank to Vortigern, loverd king was-heil; he answering her, by direction of an interpreter, drinc-beile; and then, as Robert of Gloucester says, “Kuste hire and sitte hire adoune and glad dronke hire
heil; “ And that was tho in this land the verst was-bail, . “ As in langage of Saxoyne that me might eyere iwite, “ And so wel he paith the folc about, that he is not yut
voryute." Afterwards it appears that was-huile, and drinc-heil, were the nisual phrases of quafing among the English, as we may see from Thomas de la Moore in the Life of Edward II, and in the lines of Hanvil the monk, who preceded him:
“ Ecce vagante cifu distento gutture wass-beil,
“ Ingeminant wass-beil " But Selden rather conjectures it to have been a usual ceremo. ny among the Saxons before Hengist, as a note of bealth-wish. ing, supposing the expression to be corrupted from wisb-beil.
Wassel or Wassail is a word still in use in the midland coun. ties, and signifies at present what is called Lambs’-Wool, i. e. roasted apples in strong beer, with sugar and spice. See Bege gars Bush, Act IV, sc. iv:
“ What think you of a wassel?
“ Which is the bowl.” Ben Jonson personifies wassel thus:--Enter Wassel like a neat sempster and songster, ker page bearing a brown bowl drest with ribands and rosemary, before ber. .
Wassel is, however, sometimes used for general riot, intemperance, or festivity. On the present occasion I believe it means intemperance. Steevens. So, in Antony and Cleopatra:
“ — Antony,
“ Leave thy lascivious wassels.” Malone. 9 t he warder of the brain,] A warder is a guard, a sentinel. So, in King Henry VI, P.I: “Where be these warders, that they wait not here?” Steevens,
1— the receipt of reason, ] i. e. the receptacle. Malone.
2 A limbeck only:] That is, shall be only a vessel to emit fumes or vabours. Fohnson