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goddesses to hide themselves in animals, assumed the shape of a cat. So Ovid,
Fele soror Phtcbi latuit. Warbdrtojt.
Mr. Theobald reads, trcice and once, Sec. and observes that odd numbers are used in all enchantments and magical operations. The remark is just, but the passage was misunderstood. The second Witch only repeats the number which the first had mentioned, in order to confirm what she had said; and then adds, that the hedge pig had likewise cried, though but once. Or what seems more easy, the hedge-pig had whined thrice, and after an interval had whined once again.
'Tis time, 'tis time,
This familiar does not cry out that it is time for them to begin their enchantments, but cries, i. e. gives them the signal, upon which the third Witch communicates the notice to her sisters -.
Harper cries:—'Tis time, Vw tine. Steevens,
As this is the chief scene of enchantment in the play, k is proper to observe, with how much judgment Shakspeare has selected all the circumstances of his infernal ceremonies, and how exactly he has conformed to common opinions and traditions.
Thrice the brinded cat hath mew'd. The usual form in which familiar spirits are reported to converse with witches, is that of a cat. A witch, who was tried about half a century before the time of Shakspeare, had a cat named Rutterkin, as the spirit of one of those witches was Grimalkin; and when any mischief was to be done she used to bid Rutterkin go andfy: but once when she would have sent Rutterkin to torment a daughter of the countess of Rutland, instead of going or jfying, he only cried mew, from whence she discovered that the lady was out of his power, the power of witches being not universal, but limited, as Shakspeare has taken care to inculcate:
Though his bark cannot be lost,
Yet it shall be tempest-tost.
The common afflictions which the malice of witches produced were melancholy, fits, and loss of flesh, •which are threatened by one of Shakspeare's witches:
Weary sev'n nights, nine times nine,
Shall he dwindle, peak, and pine: It was likewise their practice to destroy the cattle of their neighbours, and the farmers have to this clay many ceremonies to secure their cows and other cattle from witchcraft; but they seem to have been most suspected of malice against swine. Shakspeare has accordingly made one of his witches declare that she has been killing swine, and Dr. Harsenet observes, that about that time, a sow could not be ill of the measles, nor a girl of the sulltns, but some old woman was charged with witchcraft.
Toad, that wider the cold stone,
Days and nights hast thirty-one
Suxlter'd venom sleeping got,
Boil thoujirst fthe charmed pot. Toads have likewise long lain under the reproach of being by some means accessary to witchcraft, for which reason Shakspeare, in the first scene of this play, calls one of the spirits Paddock or Toad, and now takes care to put a toad first into the pot. When Vaninus was seized at Tholouse, there was found at his lodgings ingens Bufo vitro indusus, a great toad shut in a vial, upon which those that prosecuted him Venefirium cxprobrabant, charged him, I suppose, with mtchcrnft.
Fillet of a fenny snake.
In the cauldron boil and bake:
Eye of newt, and toe of frog,
For a cltarm, &c.
The propriety of these ingredients may be known by consulting the books de fr'iribus Animalium and de 'Mirabilibus Mundi, ascribed to Albertus Magnus, in which the reader, who has time and credulity, may discover very wonderful secrets.
Finger of birth-strangled babe,
Ditch-deliver'd by a drab,
It has been already mentioned in the law against witches, that they are supposed to take up dead bodies to use hi enchantments, which was confessed by the woman whom king James examined, and who had of a dead body that was divided in one of their assemblies, two fingers for her share. It is observable that Shakspeare, on this great occasion, which involves the fate of a king, multiplies all the circumstances of horror. The babe, whose finger is used, must be strangled in its birth; the grease must not only be human, but
VOL. VI. K
must have dropped from a gibbet, the gibbet of a
Red spirits and grey;
You that mingle may.
The weird sisters, hand in hand,—— Thus do go about, about; Thrice to thine, and thrice to mine, And thrice again, to make up nine: These two passages I have brought together, because they both seem subject to the objection of too much levity for the solemnity of enchantment, and may both be shewn, by one quotation from Camden's account of Ireland, to be founded upon a practice really observed by the uncivilised natives of that country: "When any one gets a fall," says the informer of Camden, " he starts up, and, turning three times to the "right, digs a hole in the earth; for they imagine "that there is a spirit in the ground, and if he falls "sick in two or three days, they send one of their "women that is skilled in that way to the place, where "she says, I call thee from the east, west, north, and "south, from the groves, the woods, the rivers, and "the fens, from the fairies red, blach, white." Then
tvas likewise a book written before the time of Shakspeare, describing, amongst other properties, the colours of spirits.
Many other circumstances might be particularised, in which Shakspeare has shown his judgment and his knowledge. Johnson.
46 —yesty waves—] boiling as though fermented: Jbamy, frothy.
47 An Apparition of an armed head rises.] The armed, head represents symbolically Macbeth's head cut off and brought to Malcolm by Macduff. The bloody child is Macduff untimely ripp'd from his mother's womb. The child with a crown on his head, and a bough in his hand, is the royal Malcolm; who ordered his soldiers to hew them down a bough, and bear it before them to Dunsinane. This observation I have adopted from Mr. Upton.
• '** Eight kings appear,] It is reported that Voltaire often laughs at the tragedy of Macbeth, for having a legion of ghosts in it. One should imagine he either had not learned English, or had forgot his Latin; for the spirits of Banquo's line are no more ghosts, than the representation* of the Julian race in the ^Eneid; and there is no ghost but Banquo's throughout the play. Essay on the Genius and Writings of Shakspeare.
49 Thy crown does sear mine eye-balls:] The expression of Macbeth, that the crown sears his eye-balls, is taken from the method formerly practised of destroying the sight of captives or competitors, by hold