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So wither'd, and so wild in their attire;
That look not like the inhabitants o' the earth,
And yet are on't? Live you? or are you aught
That man may question? You seem to understand

me,

By each at once her choppy finger laying
Upon her skinny lips :-You fhould be women,?
And yet your beards forbid me to interpret
That you are fo.

MACB.

Speak, if you can ;-What are you?

1 WITCH. All hail, Macbeth! hail to thee, thane of Glamis ! 3

That man may question ?] Are ye any beings with which man is permitted to hold converfe, or of whom it is lawful to afk queftions. JOHNSON.

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9You Should be women,] In Pierce Pennileffe his Supplication to the Devill, 1592, there is an enumeration of spirits and their offices; and of certain watry spirits it is faid: —by the help of Alynach a fpirit of the Weft, they will raise stormes, caufe earthquakes, rayne, haile or fnow, in the cleareft day that is; and if ever they appear to anie man, they come in women's apparell." HENDERSON.

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your beards-] Witches were fuppofed always to have hair on their chins. So, in Decker's Honeft Whore, 1635 :

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Some women have beards, marry they are half witches." STEEVENS.

All hail, Macbeth!] It hath lately been repeated from Mr. Guthrie's Effay upon English Tragedy, that the portrait of Macbeth's wife is copied from Buchanan, "whofe fpirit, as well as words, is tranflated into the play of Shakspeare: and it had fignifyed nothing to have pored only on Holinfhed for facts." -Animus etiam, per fe ferox, prope quotidianis conviciis uxoris (quæ omnium confiliorum ei erat confcia) ftimulabatur." -This is the whole that Buchanan fays of the Lady, and truly I fee no more Spirit in the Scotch, than in the English chronicler. "The wordes of the three weird fifters also greatly encouraged him [to the murder of Duncan,] but fpecially his wife lay fore upon him to attempt the thing, as the that was

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2 WITCH. All hail, Macbeth! hail to thee, thane of Cawdor! 4

very ambitious, brenning in unquenchable defire to beare the name of a queene." Edit. 1577, p. 244.

This part of Holinfhed is an abridgement of Johne Bellenden's tranflation of the Noble Clerk, Hector Boece, imprinted at Edinburgh, in fol. 1541. I will give the paffage as it is found there. "His wyfe impacient of lang tary (as all wemen ar) fpecially quhare they are defirus of ony purpos, gaif hym gret artation to perfew the third weird, that sche micht be ane quene, calland hym oft tymis febyl cowart and nocht defyrus of honouris, fen he durft not affailze the thing with manheid and curage, quhilk is offerit to hym be beniuolence of fortoun. Howbeit findry otheris hes affailzeit fic thinges afore with maift terribyl jeopardyis, quhen they had not fic fickernes to fucceid in the end of thair laubouris as he had." p. 173.

But we can demonftrate, that Shakspeare had not the story from Buchanan. According to him, the weird fifters falute Macbeth: "Una Angufi Thanum, altera Moravia, tertia Regem."-Thane of Angus, and of Murray, &c. but according to Holinthed, immediately from Bellenden, as it ftands in Shakfpeare: The first of them fpake and fayde, All bayle Makbeth Thane of Glammis, the second of them fayde, Hayle Makbeth Thane of Cawder; but the third fayde, All hayle Makbeth, that hereafter fhall be King of Scotland." p. 243.

1 Witch. All hail, Macbeth! Hail to thee, thane of Glamis! 2 Witch. All hail, Macbeth! Hail to thee, thane of Cawdor! 3 Witch. All hail, Macbeth! that halt be king hereafter! Here too our poet found the equivocal predictions, on which his hero fo fatally depended: "He had learned of certaine wyfards, how that he ought to take heede of Macduffe:and furely hereupon had he put Macduffe to death, but a certaine witch, whom he had in great truft, had tolde, that he fhould neuer be flain with man borne of any woman, nor vanquifhed till the wood of Bernane came to the caftell of Dunfinane." p. 244, And the scene between Malcolm and Macduff, in the fourth Act, is almoft literally taken from the Chronicle. FARMER,

All hail, Macbeth!] All hail is a corruption of al-hael, Saxon, i. e. ave, falve. MALONE.

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thane of Glamis !] The thanefhip of Glamis was the ancient inheritance of Macbeth's family. The castle where they lived is ftill ftanding, and was lately the magnificent refidence

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3 WITCH. All hail, Macbeth! that shalt be king

hereafter.

BAN. Good fir, why do you ftart; and feem to fear

Things that do found fo fair?-I'the name of truth,
Are ye fantastical,5 or that indeed

Which outwardly ye fhow? My noble partner
You greet with prefent grace, and great prediction
Of noble having, and of royal hope,

of the Earl of Strathmore. See a particular defcription of it in Mr. Gray's Letter to Dr. Wharton, dated from Glames Caftle. STEEVENS,

-thane of Cawdor!] Dr. Johnson obferves, in his Journey to the Western lands of Scotland, that part of Calder Caftle, from which Macbeth drew his fecond title, is still remaining. In one of his Letters, Vol. I. p. 122, he takes notice of the fame object : "There is one ancient tower with its battlements and winding ftairs the rest of the house is, though not modern, of later erection." STEEVENS.

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5 Are ye fantastical,] By fantastical is not meant, according to the common fignification, creatures of his own brain; for he could not be fo extravagant to ask fuch a question: but it is used for fupernatural, Spiritual. WARBURTON.

By fantastical, he means creatures of fantafy or imagination: the queftion is, Are these real beings before us, or are we deceived by illufions of fancy? JOHNSON.

So, in Reginald Scott's Difcovery of Witchcraft, 1584:"He affirmeth thefe tranfubftantiations to be but fantastical, not according to the veritie, but according to the appearance." The fame expreffion occurs in All's loft by Luft, 1633, by Rowley:

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or is that thing,

"Which would fupply the place of foul in thee,
Merely phantaftical?"

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Shakspeare, however, took the word from Holinfhed, who in his account of the witches, fays: "This was reputed at first but fome vain fantastical illufion by Macbeth and Banquo." STEEVENS.

Of noble having,] Having is eftate, poffeffion, fortune. So, in Twelfth-Night:

That he seems rapt withal; to me you speak not:
If you can look into the feeds of time,

And say, which grain will grow, and which will not;
Speak then to me, who neither beg, nor fear,
Your favours, nor your hate.

1 WITCH. Hail!

2 WITCH. Hail!

3 WITCH. Hail!

1 WITCH. Leffer than Macbeth, and greater. 2 WITCH. Not fo happy, yet much happier. 3 WITCH. Thou shalt get kings, though thou be

none:

So, all hail, Macbeth, and Banquo!

1 WITCH. Banquo, and Macbeth, all hail! MACB. Stay, you imperfect speakers, tell me more: By Sinel's death, I know, I am thane of Glamis;

my having is not much;

"I'll make divifion of my present store:
"Hold; there is half my coffer."

Again, in the ancient metrical romance of Syr Bevys of Hampton, bl. 1. no date:

"And when he heareth this tydinge,

"He will go theder with great having."

See also note on The Merry Wives of Windfor, A& III. fc. ii.

STEEVENS.

7 That he feems rapt withal;] Rapt is rapturously affected, extra fe raptus. So, in Spenfer's Fairy Queen, IV. ix. 6: "That, with the fweetness of her rare delight, "The prince half rapt, began on her to dote." Again, in Cymbeline:

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What, dear fir, thus raps you?" STEEVENS. 8 By Sinel's death,] The father of Macbeth.

РОРЕ.

His true name, which however appears, but perhaps only typographically, corrupted to Synele in Hector Boethius, from whom, by means of his old Scottish translator, it came to the knowledge of Holinfhed, was Finleg. Both Finlay and Macbeath are common furnames in Scotland at this moment.

RITSON.

But how of Cawdor? the thane of Cawdor lives,
A profperous gentleman; and, to be king,
Stands not within the profpect of belief,

No more than to be Cawdor. Say, from whence
You owe this ftrange intelligence? or why

Upon this blafted heath you ftop our way With fuch prophetick greeting?-Speak, I charge[Witches vanish.

you.

BAN. The earth hath bubbles, as the water has, And these are of them :-Whither are they vanish'd? MACB. Into the air; and what feem'd corporal, melted

As breath into the wind.-'Would they had staid! BAN. Were fuch things here, as we do fpeak

about?

Or have we eaten of the infane root,'
That takes the reafon prisoner?

9 blafted heath-] Thus, after Shakspeare, Milton, Paradife Loft, B. I. 615:

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their ftately growth though bare

"Stands on the blasted heath." STEEVENS,

eaten of the infane root,] The infane root is the root which makes infane. THEOBALD.

The old copies read-" on the insane root." REED.

Shakspeare alludes to the qualities anciently ascribed to hemlock. So, in Greene's Never too late, 1616: "You gaz'd against the fun, and fo blemished your fight; or else you have eaten of the roots of hemlock, that makes men's eyes conceit unfeen objects." Again, in Ben Jonson's Sejanus:

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they lay that hold upon thy fenfes,

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"As thou hadft fnuft up hemlock. STEEVENS.

The commentators have given themselves much trouble to afcertain the name of this root, but its name was, I believe, unknown to Shakspeare, as it is to his readers; Sir Thomas North's tranflation of Plutarch having probably furnished him with the only knowledge he had of its qualities, without fpecifying its name. In the Life of Antony, (which our author must have diligently read,) the Roman foldiers, while employed in the

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