« FöregåendeFortsätt »
Whether St. Chryfoftom believed that such performances were really to be seen in a day of battle, or only endeavoured ta, enliven his description, by adopting the notions of the vulgar, it is equally certain, that such'notions were in his time received, and that therefore they were not imported from the Saracens in a later age; the wars with the Saracens however gave occasion to their propagation, not only as bigotry naturally discovers prodigies, but as the sceno of action was removed to a great distance.
The Reformation did not immediately arrive at its meridian, and though day was gradually increasing upon us, the goblins of witchcraft ftill continued to hover in the twilight. In the time of queen Elizabeth was the remarkable trial of the witches of Warbois, whose conviction is still commemorated in an annual sermon at Huntingdon. But in the reign of king James, in which this tragedy was written, many circumstances concurred to propagate and confirm this opinion. The king, who was much celebrated for his knowledge, had, before his arrival in England, not only examined in perfon a woman accused of witchcraft, but had given a very formal account of the practices and illusions of evil spirits, the compacts of witches, the ceremonies used by them, the manner of detecting them, and the justice of punishing them, in his dialogues of Dæmonologie, written in the Scottish dialect, and published at Edinburgh. This book was, soon after his fucceflion, reprinted at London, and as the ready way to gain king James's favour was to flatter his speculations, the system of Demonologie was immediately adopted by all who desired either to gain preferment or not to lose it. Thus the doctrine of witchcraft was very powerfully inculcated ; and as the greatest part of mankind have no other reason for their opinions than that they are in fashion, it cannot be doubted but this persuafion made a rapid progress, fince vanity and credulity co-operated in its favour. "The infection soon reached the parliament, who, in the first year of king James, made a law, by which it was enacted, chap. xii. That “ if any person shall use any invocation or conjuration of any evil or wicked spirit; 2. or shall consult, covenant with, entertain, employ, feed or reward any evil or cursed fpirit to or for any intent or purpose; 3. or take up any dead man, woman, or child, out of the grave, or the skin, bone, or any part of the dead person, to be employed or used in any manner of witchcraft, sorcery, charm, or enchantment; 4. or shall use, practise, or exercise any sort of witchcraft, sorcery, charm, or enchantment; 5. whereby any person shall be destroyed, killed, wasted, consumed, pined, or lamed in any part of the body; 6. That every such person being convicted shall suffer death.” This law was repealed in our own time.
Thus, in the time of Shakspeare, was the doctrine of witchcraft at once established by law and by the fashion, and it became not only unpolite, but criminal, to doubt it; and as prodigies are Vol. VII.
always seen in proportion as they are expected, witches were every day disc rered, and multiplied so fast in some places, that bishop Háll mentions a village in Lancashire,* where their number was greater than that of the houses. The jesuits and sectaries took advantage of this universal error, and endeavoured to promote the intereit of their parties by pretended cures of persons afflicted by evil spirits ; but they were detected and exposed by the clergy of the established church.
Upon this general infatuation Shakspeare might be easily allowed to found a play, especially since he has followed with great exactness such histories as were then thought true; nor can it be doubted that the scenes of enchantment, however they may now be ridiculed, were both by himself and his audience thought awful and affecting.
JOHNSON. In the concluding paragraph of Dr. Johnson's admirable introduction to this play, he seems apprehensive that the fame of Shakspeare's magic may be endangered by modern ridicule. I shall not hesitate, however, to predict its secosity, till our national taste is wholly corrupted, and we no longer deserve the first of all dramatic enjoyments; for such, in my opinion at least, is the tragedy of Macbeth. STEEVENS.
Malcolm II. king of Scotland, had two daughters. The eldest was married to Crynin, the father of Duncan, Thane of the Ines, and western parts of Scotland; and on the death of Malcolm, without male issue, Duncan succeeded to the throne. Malcolm's fecond daughter was married to Sinel, Thane of Glamis, the father of Macbeth. Duncan, who married the daughter of Siward, Earl of Northomberland, was murdered by his cousin german, Macbeth, in the castle of Inverness, according to Bachanan, in the year 1040; according to Hector Boethius, in 1045. Boethius, whose history of Scotland was first printed in seventeen books, at Paris, in 1526, thus describes the event which forms the basis of the tragedy before us: “ Makbeth, be persuasion of his wyfe, gaderit his friendis to ane counsall at Invernes, quhare kyng Dancane happennit to be for y tyme. And because he fand sufficient opportunitie, be support of Banqubo and otheris his friendis, he flew kyng Duncane, the vii zeir of his regne." After the murder of Duncan, Macbeth “ come with ane gret power to Scone, and tuk the crowne." Chroniclis of Scotland, translated by John Bellenden, folio, 1541. Macbeth was himself Nain by Macduff in the year 1061, according to Boethius; according to Buchanan, in 1057; at which time King Edward the Confeffor possessed the throne of England. Holinshed copied the hiftory of Boethius, and on Holinshed's relation Shakspeare formed
* In Nashe's Lenten Stuff, 1599, it is said, that no less than fix hundred witches were executed at one time : « - it is cvident by the confeffion of the fix hundred Scotch witches executed in Scotland at Bartholomew cide was twelve month, that in Yarmouth road they were all together in a plump on Christmas eve was two years, when the great food was; and there stirred up such tornadoes and furicanoes of tempefts, as will be spoken of there whilst any winds or storms and tempefts chafe and puff in the lower region." REED.
In the reign of Duncan, Banquo having been plundered by the people of Lochaber of some of the king's revenues, which he had collected, and being dangerously wounded in the affray, the persons concerned in this outrage were fummoned to appear at a certain day. But they flew the ferjeant at arms who summoned them, and chose one MACDOWALD as their captain. Macdowald speedily collected a considerable body of forces from Ireland and the Western Iles, and in one action gained a victory over the king's army. In this battle Malcolm, a Scottish nobleman, who was (says Boethius) “ Lieutenant to Duncan in Lochaber," was Nain. Afterwards Macbeth and Banquo were appointed to the command of the army ; and Macdowald being obliged to take refuge in a castle in Lochaber, first New his wife and children, and then himself. Macbeth on entering the castle finding his dead body, ordered his head to be cut off, and carried to the king, at the castle of Bertha, and his body to be hung on a high tree.
At a subsequent period, in the last year of Duncan's reign, Sueno king of Norway, landed a powerful army in Fife, for the purpose of invading Scotland. Duncan immediately assembled an army to oppose him, and gave the command of two divisions of it to Macbeth and Banquo, putting himself at the head of a third. Sueno was successful in one battle, but in a second was routed; and after a great slaughter of his troops he escaped with ten persons only, and Aled back to Norway. Though there was an interval of time between the rebellion of Macdowald and the invasion of Sueno, our author has woven these two actions together, and immediately after Sueno's defeat the present play commences.
It is remarkable that Buchanan has pointed out Macbeth's history as a subject for the stage. “ Multa bic fabulofe quidam noftrorum afingunt ; fed, quia theatris
aut Milefiis fabulis
funt aptiora quam historiæ, ea omitto. RERUM Scor. Hist. L. VII. But there was no translation of Buchanan's work till after our author's death.
This tragedy was written, I believe, in the year 1606. See the potes at the end; and An attempt to ascertain the order of Shakspeare's plays, Vol. I. MALONE.
, }bis fons.
Duncan, King of Scotland :
his Macbeth, Banquo,
Generals of the King's army.
Noblemen of Scotland.
Lords, Gentlemen, Officers, Soldiers, Murderers,
Attendants, and Messengers. The Ghost of Banquo, and several other Apparitions.
SCENE, in the end of the fourth act, lies in Eng
land; through the rest of the play, in Scotland; and, chiefly, at Macbeth's castle.
Lady Macbeth.] Her name was Gruach. See Lord Hailes's Annals of Scotland, II, 332. Ritson.
1. Witch. When shall we three meet again In thunder, lightning, or in rain?
2.Witch. When the hurlyburly's done,' When the battle's loft and won :
3-hurlyburly's—] However mean this word may seem to modern cars, it came recommended to Shakspeare by the authority of Henry Peacham, who in the year 1577 published a book professing to treat of the ornaments of language. It is called the Garden of Eloquence, and has this passage. “ Onomatopeia, when we invent, devise, fayne, and make a name imitating the rownd of that it fignifyeth, as burliburly, for an uprore and tumultuous flirre.” Henderson. So, in a translation of Herodian, 12 mo. 1635, p. 26:
- there was a mighty burlyburly in the campe," &c. Again, p. 324 : - great hurliburlies being in all parts of the empire," &c.
REED. 4 When the battle's loft and won: ] i. e. the battle, in which Macbeth was then engaged. WARBURTON. So, in King Richard III :
while we reason here, “ A royal battle might be won and loft." So also Speed, speaking of the battle of Towton: “ - by which only stratagem, as it was conftantly averred, the battle and day was loft and won." Chronicle, 1611. MALONE.