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And take my milk for gall,' you murd’ring minis
ters, Wherever in your sightless substances You wait on nature's mischief!* Come, thick night, And pall thee in the dunneft smoke of hell ! That my keen knife see not the wound it makes ;
my milk for gall,] Take away my milk, and put gali into the place. JOHNSON.
4 You wait on nature's mischief!) Nature's mischief is mischief done to nature, violation of nature's order committed by wickednefs. JOHNSON.
-Come, thick night, &c.] A fimilar invocation is found in A Warning for faire Women, 1599, a tragedy which was certainly prior to Macbeib:
“ Oh sable night, sit on the eye of heaven,
My guilty soul, burnt with luft's hateful fire,
MALONE. 6 And pall thee) e. wrap thyself in a pall.
WARBURTON. A pall is a robe of state. So, in the ancient black letter romance of Syr Eglamoure of Artoys, no date;
« The knyghtes were clothed in pall." Again, in Milton's Penserofo:
“ Sometime let gorgeous tragedy
“ In scepter'd pall come sweeping by.” Dr. Warburton seems to mean the covering which is thrown over the dead.
To pall, however, in the present instance, (as Mr. Douce observes to me,) may simply mean-to wrap, to inteft. Steevens.
? That my keen knife -] The word knife, which at present has a familiar undignified meaning, was ancientiy used to express a sword or dagger. So, in the old black letter romance Sus Eglamoure of Artoys, no date :
Nor heaven peep through the blanket of the dark, To cry, Hold, bold !!_Great Glamis ! worthy
Through Goddes myght, and his knyfe,
“ There the gyaunte loft his lyfe.” Again, in Spenser's Faery Queen, B. I. c. vi: “ - the red-cross knight was slain with paynim knife.”
STEVENS. To avoid a multitude of examples, which in the present instance do not seem wanted, I shall only observe that Mr. Steevens's remark might be confirmed by quotations without end. Reed.
- the blanket of the dark,] Drayton, in the 26th fong of his Polyolbion, has an expression resembling this: « Thick vapours, that, like
ruggs, still hang the troubled air." STEEVENS. Polyolbion was not published till 1612, after this play had certainly been exhibited; but in an earlier piece Drayton has the same expression : “ The fullen night in mistie rugge is wrapp'd."
Mortimeriados, 4to. 1596. Blanket was perhaps suggested to our poet by the coarse woollen curtain of his own theatre, through which probably, while the house was yet but half-lighted, he had himself often peeped.-In King Henry VI. P. III. we have—" night's coverture.'
A kindred thought is found in our author's Rape of Lucrece, 1594:
“ Were Tarquin night, (as he is but night's child,)
“ The silver-thining queen he would diftain; “ Her twinkling hand-maids too, [the ftars] by him defil'd, Through night's black bofom sould not peep again.”
MALONE. 9 To cry, Hold, hold!] On this passage there is a long criticism in the Rambler, Number 168. JOHNSON.
In this criticism the epithet dun is objected to as a mean one. Milton, however, appears to have been of a different opinion, and has represented Satan as flying
in the dun air sublime.” Gawin Douglas employs dun as a synonyme to fulvus.
STEEVENS. To cry, Hold, hold!] The thought is taken from the old military laws which inflicted capital punishment upon “ whosoever Enter MACBETH.
Greater than both, by the all-hail hereafter!
shall strike stroke at his adversary, either in the heat or otherwise, if a third do cry hold, to the intent to part them; except that they did fight a combat in a place inclosed: and then no man shall be fo hardy as to bid hold, but the general.” P. 264 of Mr. Bellay's Instructions for the Wars, translated in 1589. TOLLET.
Mr. Tollet's note will likewise illustrate the last line in Macbeth's concluding speech : “ And damn'd be him who first cries, bold, enough!”
Steevens. 2 Great Glamis! worthy Cawdor!] Shakspeare has supported the character of lady Macbeth by repeated efforts, and never omits any opportunity of adding a trait of ferocity, or a mark of the want of human feelings, to this monster of his own creation. The softer passions are more obliterated in her than in her husband, in proportion as her ambition is greater. She meets him here on his arrival from an expedition of danger, with such a salutation as would have become one of his friends or vassals; a falutation apparently fitted rather to raise his thoughts to a level with her own purposes, than to testify her joy at his return, or manifest an attachment to his person: nor does any sentiment expressive of love or softness fall from her throughout the play. While Macbeth himself, amidst the horrors of his guilt, ftill retains a character less fiend-like than that of his queen, talks to her with a degree of tenderness, and pours his complaints and fears into her bosom, accompanied with terms of endearment. STEEVENS.
3 This ignorant present,] Ignorant has here the signification of unknowing; that is, I feel by anticipation those future honours, of which, according to the process of nature, the present time would be ignorant. JOHNSON. So, in Cymbeline :
- ignorant fumes that mantle
My dearest love,
hence? MACB. To-morrow,-as he purposes. LADY. M.
O, never Shall fun that morrow fee! Your face, my thane, is as a book, where men May read strange matters: 4-To beguile the time, Look like the time;s bear welcome in your eye,
This ignorant present,] Thus the old copy. Some of our modern editors read : " - present time :” but the phraseology in the text is frequent in our author, as well as other ancient writers. So in the first scene of The Tempeft: “ If you can command these ele. ments to silence, and work the peace of the present, we will not hand a rope more.” The sense does not require the word time, and it is too much for the measure. Again, in Coriolanus :
“ And that you not delay the present; but” &c. Again, in Corinthians I. ch. xv. v. 6:“ – of whom the greater part remain unto this present." Again, in Antony and Cleopatra :
“ Be pleas'd to tell us
« The offer I have fent you." STEEVENS. 4 Your face, my thane, is as a book, where men
May read, &c.] That is, thy looks are such as will awaken men's curiosity, excite their attention, and make room for suspicion. Heath. So, in Pericles Prince of Tyre, 1609:
“ Her face the book of praises, where is read
“ Nothing but curious pleasures." STEVENS, Again, in our author's Rape of Lucrece: “ Poor women's faces are their own faults' books."
“ He draws a traverse 'twixt his grievances ;
Your hand, your tongue: look like the innocent
flower, But be the serpent under it. He that's coming Must be provided for: and you
MACB. We will speak further.
up To alter favour ever is to fear: 6 Leave all the rest to me.
The same. Before the Castle.
Hautboys. Servants of Macbeth attending.
Enter Duncan, Malcolm, DonalBAIN, BANQUO,
Lenox, MACDUFF, Rosse, Angus, and Attendants.
Dun. This castle hath a pleasant seat;? the air Nimbly and sweetly recommends itself
The seventh and eighth books of Daniel's Civil Wars were not published till the year 1609; [see the Epistle Dedicatorie to that edition :] so that, if either poet copied the other, Daniel muft have been indebted to Shakspeare ; for there can be little doubt that Macbeth had been exhibited before that
MALONE. " To alter favour ever is to fear:] So, in Love's Labour's Loft:
“ For blushing cheeks by faults are bred,
“ And fears by pale white shown." Favour ismlook, countenance. So, in Troilus and Cresida:
“ I know your favour, lord Ulysses, well.” Steevens. 7 This castle hath a pleasant feat;] Seat here means fituation. Lord Bacon says, “ He that builds a faire house upon an ill seat, committeth himself to prison. Neither doe I reckon it an ill feat, only