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to Don Quixote) that the first accounts of enchantments were brought into this part of the world by those who returned from their eastern expeditions. But there is always some distance between the birth and maturity of folly as of wickedness: this opinion had long existed, though perhaps the application of it had in no foregoing age been so frequent, nor the reception so general. Olympiodorus, in Photius's extracts, tells us of one Libanius, who practised this kind of military magic, and having promised χώρες οπλιτών κατά βαρβάρων ενεργείν, το perform great things against the Barbarians without soldiers, was, at the instances of the empress Placidia, put to death, when he was about to have given proofs of bta abilities. The empress shewed some kindness in her anger, by cutting him off at a time so convenient for his reputation.
But a more remarkable proof of the antiquity of this notion may be found in St. Chrysostom's book de Sacerdotio, which exhibits a scene of enchantments not exceeded by any romance of the middle age : he supposes a spectator overlooking a field of battle attended by one that points out all the various objects of horror, the engines of destruction, and the arts of slaughter. Δεικνύτο δε έτι παρά τους εναντίοις και πετομένες ίππες διά τινος μαίγανείας, και οπλίτας δε αέρος φερομένες, και πάσης λοητείας δύναμιν και ιδέαν. . Let him then proceed to shευ him in the opposite armies borses flying by enchantment, armed men transported through the air, and every power and form of magic. Whether St. Chrysostom believed that such performances were really to be seen in a day of battle, or only endeavoured to enliven his description, by adopting the notions of the vulgar, it is equally certain, that such notions were in his time received, and that therefore they were not imported from the Saracens in a later age; the wars with the Saracens however gave occasion to their propagation, not only as bigotry naturally discovers
prodigies, but as the scene of action was removed to a great distance.
The Reformation did not immediately arrive at its meridian, and though day was gradually increasing upon us, the goblins of witchcraft still continued to hover in the twilight. In the time of queen Elizabeth was the remarkable trial of the witches of Warbois, whose conviction is still commemorated in an annual sermon at Huntingdon. But in the reign of king James, in which this tragedy was written, many circumstances concurred to propagate and confirm this opinion. The king, who was much celebrated for his knowiedge, had, before his arrival in England, not only examined in person a woman accused of witchcraft, but had given a very formal account of the practices and illusions of evil spirits, the compacts of witches, the ceremonies used by them, the manner of detecting them, and the justice of punishing them, in his dialogues of Demonologie, written in the Scottish dialect, and published at Edinburgh, This book was, soon after his accession, reprinted at London ; and as the ready way to gain king James's favour was to flatter his speculations, the system of Dæmonologie was immediately adopted by all who desired either to gain preferment or not to lose it. Thus the doctrine of witchcraft was very powerfully inculcated; and as the greatest part of mankind have no other reason for their opinions than that they are in fashion, it cannot be doubted but this persuasion made a rapid progress, since vanity and credulity co-operated in its favour. The infection soon reached the parliament, who, in the firit year of king
James, made a law by which it was enacted, chap. xii. That to “ if any person shalt use any invocation or conjuration of any ia evil or wicked spirit; 2. or shall consult, covenant with, enter1 tain, employ, feed or reward any evil or cursed spirit to or for any intent or purpose; 3. or take up any dead man, woman or A jij
child out of the grave, -or the skin, bone; or any part of the dead person, to be employed or used in any manner of witchcraft, sorcecry, charm, or enchantment; 4. or shall use, practise, or'exercise any sort of witchcraft, sorcery, charm, or enchantment; 5. whereby any person shall be destroyed, killed, wasted, consumed, pined, or lamed in any part of the body; 6. That every such person being convicted shall suffer death." This law was repealed in our own time.
Thus, in the time of Shakspere, was the doctrine of witchcraft at once established by law and by the fashion, and it became not only unpolite, but criminal, to doubt it; and as prodigies are always seen in proportion as they are expected, witches were every day discovered, and multiplied so fast in some places, that bishop Hall mentions a village in Lancashire, where their number was greater than that of the houses. The Jesuits and sectaries took advantage of this universal error, and endeavoured to promote the interest of their parties by pretended cures of persons amicted by evil spirits ; but they were detected and exposed by the clergy of the established church.
Upon this general infatuation Shakspere might be easily allowed to found a play, efpecially since he has followed with great exactness such histories as were then thought true; can it be doubted that the scenes of enchantment, however they may now be ridiculed, were both by himself and his audience thought awful and affecting. JOHNSON.
It may be worth while to remark, that Milton, who left behind him a list of no less than Cildramatic subjects, had fixed on the story of this play among the rest.
His intention was to have begun with the arrival of Malcolm at Macduff's castle. 4. The matter of Duncan (says he) may be expressed by the appearing of his ghost.” It should seem from this last memorandum, that Milton disliked the licence that his
predecessor had taken in comprehending a history of such length within the short compass of a play, and would have new-written the whole on the plan of the ancient drama. He could not surely have indulged so vain a hope, as that ofexcelling Shakspere in the Tragedy of Macbeth. STEEVENS.
Macbeth was certainly one of Shakspere's latest productions, 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 & Banchoni, & illum predixisse 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 repeatedly told, that I unwittingly make Shakspere 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 an old 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 kinge, 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 likelý that the friendly letter, which we are informed king James once wrote to Shakspere, was on this occasion. FARMER.
This play is deservedly celebrated for the propriety of its fica tions, and solemnity, grandeur, and variety of its action, but it has no nice discriminations of character; the events are too great
to admit the influence of particular dispositions, and the course of the action necessarily deterinines the conduct of the agents.
The danger of ambition is well described ; and I know not whether it may not be said in defence of some parts which now seem improbable, that, in Shakspere's time, it was necessary to warn credulity against vain and illusive predictions.
The passions are directed to their true end. Lady Macbeth is merely detested; and though the courage of Macbeth preserves some esteem, yet every reader rejoices at his fall. JOHNSON.
Sons to the King
Noblemen of Scotland.
WOMEN. Lady MACBETH. Lady MACDUFF. Gentlewoman attending on Lady Macbeth. HECATI, and three Witches. Lords, Gentlemen, Officers, Soldiers, Murderers, Attendants,
and Messengers. The Ghost of Banquo, and several other Apparitions. SCENE, in the end of the fourth a£7, lies in England; through the rest of the play, in Scotland; and chiefiy at Macbeth's castle.