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Line 103. Are you so gospell'd,] Are you of that degree of precise virtue? Gospeller was a name of contempt given by the Papists to the Lollards, the puritans of early times, and the precursors of protestantism. JOHNSON.
Line 110. Shoughs,] Shoughs are probably what we now call shocks, demi-wolves, lyciscæ; dogs bred between wolves and dogs. JOHNSON.
Line 111. the valued file-] In this speech the word file occurs twice, and seems in both places to have a meaning different from its present use. The expression, valued file, evidently means, a list or catalogue of value. A station in the file, and not in the worst rank, may mean, a place in the list of manhood, and not in the lowest place. But file seems rather to mean in this place, a post of honour; the first rank, in opposition to the last; a meaning which I have not observed in any other place. JOHNSON.
Line 130. So weary with disasters, tugg'd with fortune,] Tugg'd with fortune may be, tugg'd or worried by fortune. JOHNSON.
Line 136. in such bloody distance,] By bloody distance is here meant, such a distance as mortal enemies would stand at from each other when their quarrel must be determined by the sword. STEEVENS.
Line 153. Acquaint you with the perfect spy o'the time.] Perfect is well instructed, or well informed.
That I require a clearness:] i. e. you must manage matters so that, throughout the whole transaction, I may stand clear of all suspicion.
ACT III. SCENE II.
Line 193. In restless extacy.] Extacy, for madness. WARB. Present him eminence,] i. e. do him the highest
-nature's copy not eterne.] (for eternal.) The
copy, the lease, by which they hold their lives from nature, has its time of termination limited.
Line 216. The shard-borne beetle,] i. e. the beetle hatched in
clefts of wood.
term in falconry.
-Come, seeling night,] i. e. blinding. It is a
Line 228. Makes wing to the rooky wood.] Rooky or reeky, means damp, misty, steaming with exhalations. It is only a North country variation of dialect. Rooky wood may, however, mean a rookery, the wood that abounds with rooks. STEEVENS.
ACT III. SCENE III.
Line 234. But who did bid thee join with us?] The meaning of this abrupt dialogue is this. The perfect spy, mentioned by Macbeth in the foregoing scene, has, before they enter upon the stage, given them the directions which were promised at the time of their agreement; yet one of the murderers suborned suspects him of intending to betray them; the other observes, that, by his exact knowledge of what they were to do, he appears to be employed by Macbeth, and needs not be mistrusted. JOHNSON.
-lated] i. e. belated, surprised by the night. -the note of expectation,] i. e. they who are set down in the list of guests, and expected to supper. STEEVENS. Was't not the way?] i. e. the best means we could STEEVENS.
take to evade discovery.
ACT III. SCENE IV.
You know your own degrees, sit down: at first, And last, the hearty welcome.] All of whatever degree, from the highest to the lowest, may be assured that their visit is well received. Line 285. 'Tis better thee without than he within.] The sense requires that this passage should be read thus:
'Tis better thee without, than him within.
That is, I am better pleased that the blood of Banquo should be on thy face than in his body.
The author might mean, It is better that Banquo's blood were on thy face, than he in this room. Expressions thus imperfect are common in his works. JOHNSON.
Line 311. the feast is sold, &c.] Mr. Pope reads, cold. The meaning is,―That which is not given chearfully cannot be called a gift, it is something that must be paid for. JOHNSON. Line 345. extend his passion;] Prolong his suffering;
make his fit longer.
Line 349. O proper stuff!] This speech is rather too long for
the circumstances in which it is spoken. It had begun better at, Shame itself!
Line 352. O, these flaws,] Flaws, are sudden gusts.
·369. Ere human statute purg'd the gentle weal;] The gentle weal, is the peaceable community, the state made quiet and safe by human statutes. JOHNSON.
Line 390. And all to all.] i. e. all good wishes to all: such as he had named above, love, health, and joy. WARBURTON.
Line 406. If trembling I inhibit-] Inhabit is the original reading, which Mr. Pope changed to inhibit, which inhibit Dr. Warburton interprets refuse.
Line 413. Can such things be,
And overcome us like a summer's cloud,
Without our special wonder?] The meaning is not
that these things are like a summer cloud, but can such wonders as these pass over us without wonder, as a casual summer cloud passes over us? JOHNSON. Line 415.
-You make me strange
Even to the disposition that I owe,] You produce in me an alienation of mind, which is probably the expression which our author intended to paraphrase. JOHNSON.
Line 419. are blanch'd-] i. e. made pale with fear.
- 433. Augurs, and understood relations, &c.] By the word relation is understood the connection of effects with causes; to understand relations as an augur, is to know how these things relate to each other, which have no visible combination or dependence. JOHNSON.
Line 444. There's not a one of them,] However uncouth the expression, means an individual.. The circumstance is taken from Holinshed. Theobald would read Thane. STEEVENS.
Line 454. You lack the season of all natures, sleep.] I take the meaning to be, you want sleep, which seasons, or gives the relish to all nature. Indiget somni vitæ condimenti.
ACT III. SCENE V.
-vaporous drop profound;] That is, a drop that
Enter Lenox, and another Lord.] As this tragedy, like the rest of Shakspeare's, is perhaps overstocked with personages, it is not easy to assign a reason why a nameless character should be introduced here, since nothing is said that might not with equal propriety have been put into the mouth of any other disaffected man. I believe therefore that in the original copy it was written with a very common form of contraction Lenox and An. for which the transcriber, instead of Lenox and Angus, set down Lenox and another Lord. The author had indeed been more indebted to the transcriber's fidelity and diligence had he committed no errors of greater importance.
-and receive free honours,] Free, may be either honours freely bestowed, not purchased by crimes; or honours with
out slavery, without dread of a tyrant.
ACT IV. SCENE I.
SCENE I.] As this is the chief scene of enchantment in the play, It is proper, in this place, 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 and fly. But once, when she would have sent Rutterkin to torment a daughter of the Countess of Rutland, instead of going or flying, 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 day 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. Harsnet observes, that, about that time, "a sow could not be ill of the measles, nor a girl of the sullens, but some old woman was charged with witchcraft.”
"Toad, that under the cold stone,
"Boil thou first i'the charmed pot."
Toads have long likewise 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 inclusus, a great toad shut in a vial, upon which those that prosecuted him Veneficium exprobrabant, charged him, I suppose, with witchcraft.
The propriety of these ingredients may be known by consulting the books De Viribus 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,