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greater, according to other writers who speak of thetn. They were the cup-bearers of Odin, and conductors of the dead. They were distinguished by the elegance of their forms, and it would be as just to compare youth and beauty with age and deformity, as the Valkyricc of tie North with the Witches of Shakspeare.
11 All kail, Macbeth.'] It hath lately been repeated from Mr. Guthrie's Essay upon English Tragedy, that the portrait of Macbeth's wife is copied from Buchanan, "whose spirit, as well as words, is translated "into the play of Shakspeare: and it had signified "nothing to have pored only on Holinshed for facts"
"Animus etiam, per se ferox, prope quotidianis
"conviciis uxoris (quae omnium consiliorum ei erat
"conscia) stimulabatur." This is the whole, that
Buchanan says of the Lady, and truly I see no more spirit in the Scotch, than in the English chronicler. "The wordes of the three weird sisters also greatly "encouraged him [to the murder of Duncan], but "specially his wife lay sore upon him to attempt the "thing, as she that was very ambitious, brenning "in unquenchable desire to beare the name of a "queene." Edit. 1577. p. 244.
This part of Holinshed is an abridgment of Johne Bellenden's translation of the noble clerk, Hector Boecef imprinted at Edinburgh, in fol. 1541. I will give the .passage as it is found there. "His wyfe impacient "of lang tary (as all wemen ar) specially quhare "they ar desirus of ony purpos, gaif hym gret arta"tion to pursew the thrid weird, that schemicht be ana "quene, calland hym oft tyrais febyl cowart and "nocht desyrus of honouris, sen he durst not assailze "the thing with manheid and curage, quhilk is offerit "to hym be beniuolence of fortoun. Howbeit sindry "otheris hes assailzeit sic thinges afore with maist "terribyl jeopardyis, quhen thay had not sic sickernes "to succeid in the end of thair laubouris as he had." p. 173.
But we can demonstrate, that Shakspeare had not the story from Buchanan. According to him, the •we'ird-sisters salute Macbeth, "Una Angusiae Tha
'num, alter* Moraviae, tertia Regem." Thane of
Angus, and of Murray, &c. but according to Holinshed, immediately from Bellenden, as it stands in Shakspeare, "The first of them spake and sayde, "All hayle Makbeth Thane of Glammis,—the second "of them sayde, Hayle Makbeth Thane of Cawder; "but the third sayde, All hayle Makbeth, that here"after shall be king of Scotland." p. 243.
1 Witch. All Rail, Macbeih! Hail to thee, Thane of
2 Witch. All hail, Macbeth! Hail to thee, Thane of
3 Witch. All hail, Macbeth! that shalt be king here
Here too our poet found the equivocal predictions, on which his hero so fatally depended, "He had learned "of certain wysards, how that he ought to take heede
"of Macdufte; and surely hereupon had he put
"Macduffe to death, but a certaine witch whom he voi. vi. I
"had in great trust, had tolde, that he should neuer "be slain with man borne of any woman, nor vanquished "till the wood of Bernane came to the castell of "Dunsinane." p. 244. And the scene between Malcolm and Macduff in the fourth act is almost literally taken from the Chronicle. Farmer.
12 Sinel's death,"] The father of Macbeth. Pops.
13 The old copy has
As thich as tale,
Can post mth post;
which perhaps is not amiss, meaning that the news came as thick as a tale can travel with the post. Or we may read, perhaps yet better, ——— As thich as tale,
Came post with post;
That is, posts arrived as fast as they could be counted.
14 that function
Is smother'd in surmise; and nothing is, But what is not."] All powers of action are oppressed and crushed by one overwhelming image in the mind, and nothing is present to me, but that which is really future. Of things now about me I have no perception, being intent wholly on that which has yet no existence. Johnson.
15 But I have spoke
With one that saw him die:] The behaviour of the Thane of Cawdor corresponds in almost every circumstance with that of the unfortunate earl of Essex, as related by Stowe, p. 793. His asking the queen's forgiveness, his confession, repentance, and concern about behaving with propriety on the scaffold, are minutely described by that historian. Such an allusion could not fail of having the desired effect on an audience, many of whom were eye witnesses to the severity of that justice which deprived the age of one of its greatest ornaments, and Southampton, Shakspeare's patron, of his dearest friend. Steevens.
18 The raven himself is hoarse,"] Dr. Warburton reads,
The raven himself's not hoarse, Yet I think the present words may stand. The messenger, says the servant, had hardly breath to make up his message; to which the lady answers mentally, that he may well want breath, such a message would add hoarseness to the raven. That even the bird, whose harsh voice is accustomed to predict calamities, could not croak the entrance of Duncan but in a note of unwonted harshness. Johnson.
17 —mortal thoughts,] This expression signifies not the thoughts of mortals, but murtherous, deadly, or destructive designs. So in act 5.
Hold fast the mortal sword. And in another place,
With twenty mortal murthers. Johnson.
13 —nature's mischief!] Nature's mischief is mischief done to nature, violation of nature's order committed by wickedness. Johnson.
10 To cry, Hold! hold !] On this passage there is a long criticism in the Rambler. Johnson.
To cry, Hold! hold!
The thought is taken from the old military laws, which inflicted capital punishment upon "whosoever shall "strike stroke at his adversary, either in heat or "otherwise, if a third do cry hold, to the intent to "part them; except that they did fight a combat in "a place inclosed: and then no man shall be so "hardy as to bid hold, but the general." P. 264 of Mr. Bellay's Instructions for the Wars, translated in 158g. „ Toi.i.r.T.
80 Great Glamis! -worthy Cawdor .'] Shakspeare has supported the character of lady Macbeth by repeated efforts, and never omits any opportunity of adding a trait of ferocity, or a mark of the want of human feelings, to this monster of his own creation. The softer passions are more obliterated in her than in her husband, in proportion as her ambition is greater. She meets him here on his return from an expedition of danger with such a salutation as would have become one of his friends or vassals; a salutation apparently fitted rather to raise his thoughts to a level with her own purposes, than to testify her joy at his return, or manifest an attachment to his person: nor does any sentiment expressive of love or softness fall from her throughout the play. While Macbeth himself in the midst of the horrors of his guilt still retains a character less fiend-like than that of his queen, talks to her with a degree of tenderness, and pours his complaints and fears into her bosom, accompanied with terms of endearment. ST)'.I.\ LNS.
41 —-coigne of vantage] Convenient corner.