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Macbeth was first printed in the folio of 1623, where it occupies pages 131 to 151 inclusive, in the division of “ Tragedies.” It was registered in the books of the Stationers' Company, on the 8th of November, 1623, by Blount and Jaggard, the publishers of the folio, as one of the plays “not formerly entered to other men. It was written between 1604 and 1610; the former limit being fixed by the allusion to the union of England and Scotland under James I. (iv. I. 120), and the latter by the MS. Diary of Dr. Simon Forman, who saw the play performed "at the Globe, 1610, the 20th of April, Saturday."* It may then have been a
* This MS. is preserved in the Bodleian Library at Oxford. The passage referring to Macbeth is as follows, the spelling being modernized :
"In Macbeth, at the Globe, 1610, the 20th of April, Saturday, there was to be observed first how Macbeth and Banquo, two noblemen of
new play,* but it is more probable, as nearly all the critics agree, that it was written in 1605 or 1606. The accession
Scotland, riding through a wood, there stood before them three women, fairies or nymphs, and saluted Macbeth, saying three times unto him, Hail, Macbeth, king of Codor, for thou shall be a king, but shall beget no kings, etc. Then said Banquo, What, all to Macbeth and nothing to me? Yes, said the nymphs, Hail, to thee, Banquo; thou shall beget kings, yet be no king. And so they departed, and came to the Court of Scotland, to Duncan king of Scots, and it was in the days of Edward the Confessor. And Duncan bade them both kindly welcome, and made Macbeth [sic] forth with Prince of Northumberland, and sent him home to his own castle, and appointed Macbeth to provide for him, for he would sup with him the next day at night, and did so. And Macbeth contrived to kill Duncan, and through the persuasion of his wife did that night murder the king in his own castle, being his guest. And there were many prodigies seen that night and the day before. And when Macbeth had murdered the king, the blood on his hands could not be washed off by any means, nor from his wife's hands, which handled the bloody daggers in hiding them, by which means they became both much amazed and affronted. The murder being known, Duncan's two sons fled, the one to England, the [other to] Wales, to save themselves; they being fled, they were supposed guilty of the murder of their father, which was nothing so. Then was Macbeth crowned king, and then he for fear of Banquo, his old companion, that he should beget kings but be no king himself, he contrived the death of Banquo, and caused him to be murdered on the way as he rode. The next night, being at supper with his noblemen, whom he had bid to a feast, to the which also Banquo should have come, he began to speak of noble Banquo, and to wish that he were there. And as he thus did, standing up to drink a carouse to him, the ghost of Banquo came and sat down in his chair behind him. And he, turning about to sit down again, saw the ghost of Banquo, which fronted him so that he fell in a great passion of sear and fury, uttering many words about his murder, by which, when they hcard that Banquo was murdered, they suspected Macbeth. Then Macduff fled to England to the king's son, and so they raised an army and came into Scotland, and at Dunscenanyse overthrew Macbeth. In the mean time, while Macduff was in England, Macbeth slew Macduff's wife and children, and after, in the battle, Macduff slew Macbeth. Observe also how Macbeth's queen did rise in the night in her sleep, and walked, and talked and confessed all, and the Doctor noted her words.”
* The Clarendon Press editors think it was, since otherwise Forman
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 “miserable stolne story," the work of
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
“would scarcely have been at the pains to make an elaborate summary of the plot.” But that merely shows that the play was new im, 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,
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.f 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 Hecate always in iambics (Trans of New 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 ed on of Holinshed in writing Richard 11. (see our edition of that play, p. 14), there can be no doubt that he used it for Macbeth, which was written later.