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which are to befall him; but finding no satisfaction from his own thoughts, he grows impatient of reflection, and resolves to wait the close without harassing himself with conjectures,

-Come what come may.

But to shorten the pain of suspense, he calls upon time in the usual style of ardent desire, to quicken his motion,

Time! on!

He then comforts himself with the reflection that all his perplexity must have an end,

-The hour runs thro' the roughest day.

This conjecture is supported by the passage in the letter to his lady, in which he says, They referred me to the coming on of time, with Hail

King that shall be.


Malcolm. Nothing in his life
Became him like the leaving it. He died,
As one that had been studied in his death,
To throw away the dearest thing he ow'd,
As 'twere a careless trifle.

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Which the next transcriber observing to be
wrong, and yet not being able to discover the
real fault, altered to the present reading.

-Thou'dst have, great Glamis,

As the word ow'd affords here no sense but such as is forced and unnatural, it cannot be doubted that it was originally written, The That which cries, "thus thou must do if thou have it, dearest thing he own'd; a reading which needs And that," &c. neither defence nor explication.

-Our duties

Are to your throne and state, children and servants,
Which do but what they should, in doing every thing
Fiefs to your love and honour.

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As the object of Macbeth's desire is here introduced speaking of itself, it is necessary to read,

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This expression signifies not the thoughts of mortals, but murtherous, deadly, or destructive designs. So in Act 5th.

Hold fast the mortal sword.

And in another place,

With twenty mortal murthers. --Nor keep pace between Th' effect and it.

The intent of Lady Macbeth, evidently is to wish that no womanish tenderness, or conscien

tious remorse, may hinder her purpose from proceeding to effect; but neither this, nor indeed any other sense, is expressed by the present reading, and therefore it cannot be doubted that Shakspeare wrote differently, perhaps thus:

That no compunctious visitings of nature
Shake my fell purpose, nor keep pace between
Th' effect and it.

This topic, which has been always employed with too much success, is used in this scene with peculiar propriety, to a soldier by a woman. Courage is the distinguishing virtue of a soldier, and the reproach of cowardice cannot be borne by any man from a woman, without great impatience.

To keep pace between, may signify to pass between, to intervene. Pace is on many occasions a favourite of Shakspeare. This phrase is indeed not usual in this sense, but was it not its She then urges the oaths by which he had novelty that gave occasion to the present corrup-bound himself to murder Duncan, another art of tion?

sophistry by which men have sometimes deluded their consciences, and persuaded themselves 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.


King. This castle hath a pleasant seat; the air,
Nimbly and sweetly recommends itself
Unto our gentle senses.

Banquo. This guest of summer,

The temple-haunting Martlet, does approve,
By his lov'd mansionary, that heaven's breath
Smells wooingly here. No jutting frieze,
Buttrice, nor coigne of vantage, but this bird
Hath made his pendent bed, and procreant cradle :
Where they most breed and haunt, I have observ'd
The air is delicate.

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The arguments by which Lady Macbeth per. suades her husband to commit the murder, afford a proof of Shakspeare's knowledge of human nature. She urges the excellence and dignity of courage, a glittering idea which has dazzled mankind from age to age, and animated sometimes the housebreaker, and sometimes the conqueror: but this sophism Macbeth has for ever destroyed by distinguishing true from false fortitude, in a line and a half; of which it may almost be said, that they ought to bestow immor

tality on the author, though all his other productions had been lost.

In this short scene, I propose a slight altera-dares not wet her foot,

tion to be made, by substituting site for seat, as, the ancient word for situation; and sense for senses, as more agreeable to the measure; for which reason likewise I have endeavoured to adjust this passage,

Those who have perused books printed at the time of the first editions of Shakspeare, know that greater alterations than these are necessary almost in every page, even where it is not to be doubted that the copy was correct.

I dare do all that may become a man,
Who dares do more is none.


Letting I dare not, wait upon I would,
Like the poor cat i' th' adage.

The adage alluded to is, The cat loves fish, but

Catus amat pisces, sed non vult tingere plantas.

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Will I with wine and wassel so convince

To convince, is in Shakspeare to over-power or subdue, as in this play,

Their malady convinces

The great assay of art.


Who shall bear the guilt
Of our great quell.

Quell is murder, manquellers being in the old language the term for which murderers is now used.


Now o'er one half the world

(1) Nature seems dead, and wicked dreams abuse
The curtain'd sleep; now witchcraft celebrates
Pale Hecat's offerings: and wither'd murder,
(Alarum'd by his sentinel, the wolf,

Whose howl's his watch) thus with his stealthy pace,
With (2) Tarquin's ravishing sides tow'rds his design
Moves likes a ghost-Thou sound and firm-set earth,
Hear not my steps which way they walk, for fear
Thy very stones prate of my where-about,
And (3) take the present horror from the time,
That now suits with it

(1) Now o'er one half the world Nature seems dead.

That is, over our hemisphere all action and motion seem to have ceased. This image, which is, perhaps, the most striking that poetry can produce, has been adopted by Dryden in his "Conquest of Mexico."

All things are hush'd as nature's self lay dead, The mountains seem to nod their drowsy head: The little birds in dreams their songs repeat, And sleeping flowers beneath the night-dews sweat. Even lust and envy sleep!

These lines, though so well known, I have transcribed, that the contrast between them and this passage of Shakspeare may be more accurately observed.

Night is described by two great poets, but one discribes a night of quiet, the other of perturbation. In the night of Dryden, all the disturbers of the world are laid asleep; in that of Shakspeare, nothing but sorcery, lust, and murder is awake. He that reads Dryden, finds himself lulled with serenity, and disposed to solitude and contemplation. He that peruses Shakspeare, looks round alarmed, and starts to

find himself alone. One is the night of a lover,

the other that of a murderer.

so different from strides, that it has been in all ages represented to be, as Milton expresses it,

Smooth sliding without step

This hemistic will afford the true reading of this place, which is, I think, to be corrected thus:


-Wither'd murder,

Thus with his stealthy pace, With Tarquin's ravishing sides tow'rd his design, Moves like a ghost.

This was the reading of this passage in all the editions before that of Mr. Pope, who for sides, inserted in the text strides, which Mr. Theobald has tacitly copied from him, though a more proper alteration might perhaps have been made. A ravishing stride is an action of violence, impetuosity, and tumult, like that of a savage rushing on his prey; whereas the poet is here attempting to exhibit an image of secrecy and caution, of anxious circumspection and guilty timidity, the stealthy pace of a ravisher creeping into the chamber of a virgin, and of an assassin approaching the bed of him whom he proposes to murder, without awaking him; these he describes as moving like ghosts, whose progression is

And wither'd murder
Thus with his stealthy pace,

With Tarquin ravishing, slides tow'rd his design,
Moves like a ghost.

Tarquin is in this place the general name of a ravisher, and the sense is, Now is the time in which every one is asleep, but those who are employed in wickedness, the witch who is sacrificing to Hecate, and the ravisher and the murderer, who, like me, are stealing upon their


When the reading is thus adjusted, he wishes with great propriety, in the following lines, that the earth may not hear his steps.

(3) And take the present horror from the time That now suits with it.

I believe every one that has attentively read this dreadful soliloquy is disappointed at the conclusion, which, if not wholly unintelligible, is at least obscure, nor can be explained into any sense worthy of the author. I shall therefore propose a slight alteration.

--Thou sound and firm-set earth, Hear not my steps, which way they walk, for fear Thy very stones prate of my where-about, And talk-the present horror of the time !— That now suits with it-

Macbeth has, in the foregoing lines, disturbed his imagination by enumerating all the terrors of the night; at length he is wrought up to a degree of frenzy, that makes him afraid of some supernatural discovery of his design, and calls out to the stones not to betray him, not to declare where he walks, nor to talk.-As he is going to say of what, he discovers the absurdity of his suspicion, and pauses, but is again overwhelmed by his guilt, and concludes that such are the horrors of the present night, that the stones may be expected to cry out against him.

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Lamentings heard i' th' air, strange screams of death,
And prophesying with accents terrible
Of dire combustions, and confused events,
New-hatch'd to the woful time.
The obscure bird clamour'd the live-long night,
Some say the earth was fev'rous aud did shake.

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-Prophesying with accents terrible,
Of dire combustions and confused events,
New-hatch'd to the woful time, the obscure bird
Clamour'd the live-long night. Some say the earth
Was fev'rous and did shake.


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Each of these words might easily be confounded with that which I have substituted for it by a hand not exact, a casual blot, or a negli gent inspection.

Mr. Pope has endeavoured to improve one of these lines by substituting goary blood for golden

These lines I think should be rather regulated blood, but it may easily be admitted, that he who

could on such an occasion talk of lacing the
silver skin, would lace it with golden blood. No
amendment can be made to this line, of which
every word is equally faulty, but by a general
blot. X

A prophecy of an event new-hatch'd, seems to be
a prophecy of an event past. The term new-
hatch'd is properly applicable to a bird, and that
birds of ill omen should be new-hatch'd to the
woful time, is very consistent with the rest of
the prodigies here mentioned, and with the
universal disorder into which nature is describ-and metaphors.
ed as thrown by the perpetration of this horrid

Up! up! and see

The great doom's image, Malcolm, Banquo,
As from your graves rise up.--

The second line might have been so easily completed, that it cannot be supposed to have been left imperfect by the author, who probably wrote,

Malcolm! Banquo! rise! As from your graves rise up.—

Many other emendations of the same kind might be made, without any greater deviation from the printed copies, than is found in each of them from the rest.



Here lay Duncan,

His silver skin laced with his golden blood,

And his gash'd stabs look'd like a breach in nature,
For ruin's wasteful entrance: there the murtherers
Steep'd in the colours of their trade, their daggers
Unmannerly breech'd with gore.———

An unmannerly dagger, and a dagger breech'd, or as in some editions, breach'd with gore, are expressions not easily to be understood, nor can it be imagined that Shakspeare would reproach the murderer of his king only with want of manThere are undoubtedly two faults in this passage, which I have endeavoured to take away by reading



Unmanly drench'd with gore.

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It is not improbable, that Shakspeare put these forced and unnatural metaphors into the mouth of Macbeth, as a mark of artifice and dissimulation, to show the difference between the studied language of hypocrisy, and the natural outcries of sudden passion. This whole speech, considered in this light, is a remarkable instance of judgment, as it consists entirely of antitheses

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Macbeth. Our fears in Banquo
Stick deep, and in his royalty of nature

Reigns that which would be fear'd. 'Tis much he

And to that dauntless temper of his mind,
He hath a wisdom that doth guide his valour
To act in safety. There is none but he,
Whose being I do fear; and under him,
My genius is rebuked; (1) as it is said,
Anthony's was by Cæsar. He chid the sitters,
When first they put the name of king upon me,
And bade them speak to him; then prophet-like,
They hail'd him father to a line of kings

Upon my head they placed a fruitless crown,
And put a barren sceptre in my gripe,
Thence to be wrench'd with an unlineal hand,
No son of mine succeeding. If 'tis so,
For Banquo's issue have I 'filed my mind,
For them the gracious Duncan have I murder'd,
Put rancours in the vessel of my peace
Only for them, and mine eternal jewel
Given to the (2) common enemy of man,
To make them kings,-the seed of Banquo kings.
Rather than so, come fate into the list,
(3) And champion me to th' utterance-

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(1)- --As it is said,
Anthony's was by Cæsar.

Though I would not often assume the critic's privilege, of being confident where certainty cannot be obtained, nor indulge myself too far I cannot but propose the rejection of this pasin departing from the established reading; yet sage, which I believe was an insertion of some player, that, having so much learning as to discover to what Shakspeare alluded, was not willing that his audience should be less knowing than himself, and has therefore weakened the author's sense by the intrusion of a remote and

I saw drench'd with the king's blood the fatal daggers, not only instruments of murder, but evi-useless image into a speech bursting from a man dences of cowardice. wholly possessed with his own present condition,

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This passage will be best explained by translating it into the language from whence the only word of difficulty in it is borrowed. Que la destinée se rende en lice, et qu'elle me donne un defi a l'outrance. A challenge or a combat a l'outrance, to extremity, was a fixed term in the law of arms, used when the combatants engaged with an odium internecinum, an intention to de

stroy each other, in opposition to trials of skill at festivals, or on other occasions, where the contest was only for reputation or a prize. The sense therefore is, Let fate that has fore-doomed the exaltation of the sons of Banquo, enter the lists against me, with the utmost animosity, in defence of its own decrees, which I will endeavour to invalidate, whatever be the danger.


Macbeth. Ay, in the catalogue, ye go for men,` As hounds and grey-hounds, mongrels, spaniels, curs, Shoughs, water-ruggs, and demi-wolves are clept All by the name of dogs.

Though this is not the most sparkling passage in the play, and though the name of a dog is of no great importance, yet it may not be improper to remark, that there is no such species of dogs

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as shoughs mentioned by Caius de Canibus Britannicis, or any other writer that has fallen into my hands, nor is the word to be found in any dictionary which I have examined. I therefore imagined that it is falsely printed for slouths, a kind of slow hound bred in the southern parts of England, but was informed by a lady, that it is more probably used, either by mistake, or according to the orthography of that time, for shocks.


Macbeth. In this hour at most,

I will advise you where to plant yourselves, Acquaint you with the perfect spy o' th' time, The moment on't, for 't must be done to night, And something from the palace :

What is meant by the spy of the time, it will be found difficult to explain; and therefore sense will be cheaply gained by a slight alteration.Macbeth is assuring the assassins that they shall not want directions to find Banquo, and therefore says,

I will

Acquaint you with a perfect spy o' th' time.

Accordingly a third murderer joins them afterwards at the place of action.

Perfect is well instructed, or well informed, as in this play.

Though in your state of honour I am perfect. Though I am well acquainted with your quality and rank.


2d Murderer. He needs not to mistrust, since he delivers

Our offices and what we have to do,
To the direction just.

Mr. Theobald has endeavoured unsuccessfully but the punctuation. The meaning of this abrupt to amend this passage, in which nothing is faulty dialogue is this: The perfect spy, mentioned by Macbeth in the foregoing scene, has, before they which were promised at the time of their enter upon the stage, given them the directions agree

ment; and therefore one of the murderers ob serves, that since he has given them such exact information, he needs not doubt of their performThen, by way of exhortation to his associates, he cries out,


To the direction just.

Now nothing remains but that we conform exactly to Macbeth's directions.



Macbeth. You know your own degrees, sit down: At first and last the hearty welcome.

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