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Weary sev'n-nights, nine times nine,
Mr. Theobald has very juftly explained forbid by accursed, but without giving any reason of his interpretation. To bid is originally to pray, as in this Saxon fragment :
He is fis bit y bore, &c.
He is wife that prays and makes amends, As to forbid therefore implies to prohibit, in opposition to the word bid in its present sense, it signifies by the same kind of opposition to curse, when it is derived from the same word in its primi. tive meaning. Johnson.
A forbcdin fellow, Scot. signifies an unhappy one. STEEVENS.
It may be added that “ bitten and Verbieten, in the German, lignify to pray and to interdict.” S. W.
8 Shall be dwindle, &c.] This mischief was supposed to be put in execution by means of a waxen figure, which represented the person who was to be consumed by now degrees. So, in Webster's Duchess of Malfy, 16233
“ - it west-s me more
« In some foul dunghiil.” So Holined, speaking of the witchcraft practised to destroy king Duff :
"- found one of the witches roasting upon a wooden broch an image of wax at the fire, resembling in each feature the king's person, &c.
" for as the image did waste afore the fire, so did the bodie of the king break forth in sweat. And as for the words of the inchantmeni, they served to keep him still waking from feepe," &c, This may serve to explain the foregoing passage:
“ Sleep shall neither nighi nor day
« Pang upon his penthouse lid." Sce Vol. Ill. p. 215, n. 2. STEEVENS. 9 Though his bark cannot be lojt,
Yet it shall be tempeft-tft.] So, in Newes from Scotland, &c. a pamphlet already quoted. “ Againe it is confessed, that the said christened cat was the cause of the Kinges Majestics shippe, at his
2. Witch. Show me, show me.
1. Witch. Here I have a pilot's thumb, Wreck’d, as homeward he did come.
Drum within. 3. Witch. A drum, a drum ; Macbeth doth come.
ALL. The weird sisters, hand in hand, Posters of the sea and land,
coming forthe of Denmarke, had a contrarie winde to the rest of his Shippes then beeing in his companie, which thing was most straunge and true, as the Kinges Majestie acknowledgeth, for when the rest of the shippes had a faire and good winde, then was the winde contrarie and altogether against his Majestie. And further the fayde witch declared, that his Majestie had never come safely from the sea, if his faith had not prevayled above their ententions." To this circumstance perhaps our author's allusion is sufficiently plain.
Steevens. 2 The weird kijters, hand in hand,] These weird fifters, were the Fates of the northern nations; the three hand-maids of Odin. Hæ nominantur Valkyriæ, quas quodvis ad prælium Odinus mittit. He viros morti deftinant, & victoriam gubernant. Gunna, & Rota, & Parcarum minima Skullda : per aëra & maria equitant semper ad morituros eligendos ; & cædes in poteftate habent. Bartholinus de Caufis contemptæ à Danis adhuc Gentilibus mortis. It is for this reason that Shakspeare makes them three; and calls them,
Posters of the sea and land; and intent only upon death and mischief. However, to give this part of his work the more dignity, he intermixes, with this northern, the Greek and Roman fuperftitions; and puts Hecate at the head of their enchantments. And to make it ftill more familiar to the common audience (which was always his point) he adds, for another ingredient, a sufficient quantity of our own country superstitions concerning witches; their beards, their cats, and their broomsticks. So that his witch-scenes are like the charm they prepare in one of them; where the ingredients are gathered from every thing Shocking in the natural world, as here, from every thing absurd in the moral. But as extravagant as all this is, the play has had the power to charm and bewitch every audience from that time to this.
WARBURTON. Wierd comes from the Anglo-Saxon pynd, fatum, and is used as a substantive signifying a prophecy, by the translator of Hector Boethius
Thus do go about, about ;
Enter Macbeth and Banquo.
Mac. So foul and fair a day I have not seen. Ban. How far is't call'd to Fores? - What are
in the year 1541, as well as for the Definies by Chaucer and Holinshed. Of the weirdis gevyn to Makbeth and Banghuo, is the argument of one of the chapters. Gawin Douglas, in his translation of Virgil, calls the Parcæ the weird fisters; and in Ane verie excel. lent and delectabill Treatise intitulit PHILOTUS, qubairin we may persave the greit inconveniences that fallis out in the Mariage between Age and Zouth, Edinburgh, 1603, the word appears again :
“ How dois the quheill of fortune go,
« Quhat wickit wierd has wrocht our wo." Again :
" Quhat neidis Philotus to think ill,
" Or zit his wierd to warie ?” The other method of spelling, [weyward] was merely a blunder of the transcriber or printer.
'The Valkyriæ, or Valkyriur, were not barely three in number, The learned critick might have found, in Bartholinus, not only Gunna, Rota, et Skullda, but also, Scogula, Hilda, Gondula, and Geiroscogula. Bartholinus adds that their number is yet greater, according to other writers who speak of them. They were the cupbearers of Odin, and conductors of the dead. They were distinguished by the elegance of their forms ; and it would be as just to compare youth and beauty with age and deformity, as the Valkyriæ of the North with the Witches of Shakspeare. STEEVENS.
The old copy hasweyward, probably in consequence of the transcriber's being deceived by his ear. The correction was made by Mr. Theobald. The following passage in Bellenden's Translation of Hector Boethius, fully supports the emendation: “ Be aventure Makbeth and Banquho were passand to Fores, quhair kyng Duncane hapnit to be for ye tyme, and met be ye gait thre wemen clothit in elrage and uncouth weid. They wer jugit be the pepill to be weird fitters.” So also Holinthed. MALONE. . ? How far is't call'd to Fores?] The king at this time resided at
So wither'd, and so wild in their attire ;
me, By each at once her choppy finger laying Upon her skinny lips :-You should be women, And yet your beards forbid me to interpret That you are so. MACB. Speak, if you can ;-What are you? 1. Witch. All hail, Macbeth !’ hail to thee,
thane of Glamis ! 8
Fores, a town in Murray, not far from Inverness. " It fortuned, (lays Holinshed) as Macbeth and Banquo journeyed towards Fores, where the king then lay, they went sporting by the way, without other company, save only themselves, when suddenly in the midst of a laund there met them three women in strange and wild apparell, resembling creatures of the elder world,” &c. Steevens. The old copy reads Soris. Corrected by Mr. Pope.
MALONE. 4 That man may question?] Are ye any beings with which man is permitted to hold converse, or of whom it is lawful to ask questions ?
JOHNSON, 5-You should be women,) In Pierce Pennilele his Supplication to the Divell, 1592, there is an enumeration of spirits and their offices; and of certain watry fpirits it is said " by the help of Alynach a spirit of the West, they will raise ftormes, cause earthquakes, rayne, haile or snow, in the clearest day that is; and if ever they appeare to anie man, they come in women's apparell.” HENDERSON,
o your beards — Witches were supposed always to have hair on their chins. So, in Decker's Honest Whore, 1635:
“ Some women have beards, marry they are half
witches." STEVENS. * All hail, Macbeth!] It hath lately been repeated from Mr. Guthrie's Essay upon English Tragedy, that the portrait of Macbeth's wife is copied from Buchanan, “ whose fpirit, as well as words, is translated into the play of Shakspeare: and it had signifyed nothing to have pored only on Holinthed for faits."- " Animus etiam, per fe ferox, prope quotidianis conviciis uxoris (quæ omnium
2. WITCH. All hail, Macbeth! hail to thee,
thane of Cawdor ! »
confiliorum ei erat conscia) stimulabatur.”— This is the whole, that Buchanan says of the Lady, and truly I see no more spirit in the Scotch, than in the English chronicler. « The wordes of the three weird sisters also greaily encouraged him to the murder of Duncan,] but specially his wife lay fore upon him to attempt the thing, as the that was very ambitious, brenning in unquenchable desire to beare the name of a queene." Edit. 1577, p. 244.
This part of Holinshed is an abridgment of Johne Bellenden's translation of the noble clerk, Heftor Boece, imprinted at Edinburgh, in fol. 1541. I will give the passage as it is found there. “ His wyfe impacient of lang tary (as all wemen ar) specially quhare they are defirus of ony purpos, gaif hym gret artation to pursew the third weird, that sche micht be ane quene, calland hym oft tymis febyl cowart and nocht defyrus of honouris, sen he durft not assailze the thing with manheid and curage, quhilk is offerit to hym be beniuolence of fortoun. Howbeit findry otheris hes assailzeit fic thinges afore with maist terribyl jeopardyis, quhen they had not fic fickernes to succeid in the end of thair laubouris as he had.” p. 173.
But we can demonstrate, that Shakspeare had not the story from Buchanan. According to him, the weird sisters salute Macbeth: “ Una Angufiæ Thanum, altera Moraviæ, tertia Regem.” Thane of Angus, and of Murray, &c. but according to Holinshed, immediately from Bellenden, as it stands in Shakspeare: “ The first of them spake and sayde, All hayle Makbeth Thane of Glammis,-the second of them sayde, Hayle Makbeth Thane of Cawder; but the third sayde, All hayle Makbeth, that hereafter shall 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 shalt be king hereafter!
Here too our poet found the equivocal predictions, on which his hero so fatally depended : “ He had learned of certaine wyfards, how that he ought to take heede of Macduffe: and surely hereupon had he put Macduffe to death, but a certaine witch, whom he had in great trust, had tolde, that he should neuer be slain with man borne of any woman, nor vanquished till the wood of Bernane came to the castell of Dunsinane.” p. 244. And the scene between Malcolm and Macduff in the fourth act is almost literally taken from the Chronicle. FARMER.
All hail, Macbeth!) All hail is a corruption of al-hael, Sax, i. e, ave, salve. MALONE.