Page images

A deed of dreadful note.
Lady M.

What's to be done? Macb. Be innocent of the knowledge, dearest chuck, Till thou applaud the deed. Come, seeling night,

Thus, in Hamlet, the Priest says of Ophelia:

Shards, Aints, and pebbles, should be thrown on her.” Would Mr. Tollet say that cows' dung was to be thrown into the grave? It is true, however, that sharded beetle seems scarcely reconcileable to the above explanation. Mr. Steevens may be right; but Dr. Warburton and Mr. Tollet are certainly wrong. Ritson.

The shard-born beetle is the cock.chafer. Sir W. D'Avenant appears not to have understood this epithet, for he has given, instead of it

the sharp-brow'd beetle. Mr. Steevens's interpretation is, I think, the true one, in the passage before us.

Malone. Mr. Steevens's interpretation is no doubt the most suitable to the context. The succeeding passages, however, make in fa. vour of Mr. Tollet's explanation. In A briefe Discourse of the Spanish State, 1590, p. 3, there is, " How that nation rising like the bettle from the cowsbern hurtleth against al things." And in Dryden, The Hind and the Pantber:

“ Such souls as shards produce, such beetle things,

“ As only buzz to heaven with evening wings.” The Beetle and the Chafer are distinct insects. H. Wbite.

dearest chuck,] I meet with this term of endearment, (which is probably corrupted from chick or chicken) in many of our ancient writers. So, in Warner's Albion's England, B. V, c. xxvii:

immortal she-egg chuck of Tyndarus his wife.» It occurs also in our author's Tavelfth Night:

how dost thou chuck 2

Ay, biddy, come with me.” Steevens.

Gome, seeling night,] Seeling, i. e. blinding. It is a term in falconry. Warburton.

So, in The Booke of Hawkyng, Huntyng, &c, bl. 1 no date; “ And he must take wyth hym nedle and threde, to ensyle the haukes that bene taken. And in thys maner they must be ensiled. Take the nedel and thryde, and put it through the over eye lyd, and soe of that other, and make them fast under tbe becke that she se not,” &c. Again, in Chapman's version of the thirteenth Iliad:

did seele 66 Th’assailer's eyes up." Again, in the thirteenth Ol;ssey :

that sleep might sweetly seel " His restful eyes." Steevens,




Skarf up the tender eye of pitiful day;
And, with thy bloody and invisible hand,
Cancel, and tear to pieces, that great bond
Which keeps me pale !6-Light thickens; and the

Makes wing to the rooky wood:

6 Cancel, and tear to pieces, that great bond

Which keeps me pale!). This may be well explained by the following passage in King Richard Iil:

si Cancel bis bond of life, dear God, I pray." Again, in Cymbeline, Act V, sc. iv :

take this life,
" And cancel these cold bonds.Steeoens.

Light thickens; and the crow &c.] By the expression, light thickens, Shakspeare means, the light grows dull or muddy. In this sense he uses it in Antony and Cleopatra:

my lustre thickens 6. When he shines by.”. Edward's MSS. It may be added, that in The Second Part of King Henry IV, Prince John of Lancaster tells Falstaff, that “his desert is too thick to shine.Again, in The Faithful Shepherdess of Fletcher Act I, sc. ult: “ Fold your flocks up,

for the air “ 'Gins to thicken, and the sun

“ Already his great course hath run." Steevens. Again, in Spenser's Calendar, 1579:

the welkin thicks apace,
“ And stouping Phæbus steepes his face ;

“ It 's time to haste us home-ward.” Malone. Makes wing to the rooky wood:] Rooky may mean damp, misty, steaining with exhalations. It is only a North country variation of dialect from reeky. In Coriolanus, Shakspeare mentions

the reek of th' rotten fens.” And in Caltha Poetaruin, &c. 1599 :

Comes in a vapour like a rookish ryme.” Rooky wood, indeed may signify a rookery, the wood that abounts with rooks; yet, merely to say of the crow that he is fly. ing to a wood inhabited by rooks, is to add little immediately pertinent to the succeeding observation, viz. that

things of lay begin to droop and drowse. I cannot, therefore, help supposing our author wrote

makes wing to rook i' th' wood. i. e. to roost in it. Ruck, or Rouke, Sax. So, in K. Henry ýh P. I, Act V, sc. vi:

“ The raven rook'l her on ihe chimney's top." See note on this passage.

“But see,


Good things of day begin to droop and drowse; Whiles night's black agents to their prey do rouse. 'Thou marvell’st at my words: but hold thee still; Things, bad begun, make strong themselves by ill: So, pr’ythee, go with me.


Again, in Chaucer's Nonnes Preestes Tale:

“O false morderour, rucking in thy den.". Again, in the 15th Book of A. Golding's translation of Ovid's Metamorphosis :

“ He rucketh down upon the same, and in the spices dies." Again, in The Contention betwyxte Church yeard and Camell, &c. 1560:

“ All day to rucken on my taile, and poren on a booke.” The harmless crow, that merely flew to the rooky wood, for aught we are conscious of on this occasion, might bave taken a second flight from it; but the same bird, when become drowsy, would naturally ruck or roost where it settled, while the agente of nocturnal mischief were hastening to their prey The quiescent state of innoxious birds is thus forcibly contrasted with the active vigilance of destructive beings. So Milton, in the concluding lines of the first Book of his Paradise Regained:

for now began
“ Night with her sullen wings to double-shade
“ The desert; fowls in their clay nests were coucb'd;

And now wild beasts came forth the woods to roam. Should this attempt to reform the passage before us be condemned, “ the substance which underwent the operation, at the very worst, is but where it was."

Such an unfamiliar verb as rook, might, (especially in a play. house copy) become easily corrupted. Steevens.

9 Whiles night's black agents to their prey do rouse.) This appears to be said with reference to those dæmons who were supposed to remain in their several places of confinement all day, but at the close of it were released; such, indeed, as are men. tioned in The Tempest, as rejoicing “To hear the solemn curfew,” because it announced the hour of their freedom. So also, in Sydney's Astrophel and Stella:

“ In night, of sprites the ghastly powers do stir.” Thus also in Ascham's Toxophilus, edit. 1589, p. 13: “For on the night time and in corners, spirites and theeves, &c. &c. use most styrring, when in the day light, and in open aces which be ordeyned of God for honest things, they dare not once come; which thing Euripides noteth very well, sayingIpb. in Taur : “ Ill thyngs the nyght, good thyngs the day doth bauny

and use."
The old copy reads-prey's. Stepuere.


The same.

A Park or Lawn, with a Gate leading to the


Enter Three Murderers.

1 Mur. But who did bid thee join with us ?1 3 Mur.

Macbeth % Mur. He needs not our mistrust; since he delivers Our offices, and what we have to do, To the direction just. 1 Mur.

Then stand with us. The west yet glimmers with some streaks of day: Now spurs the lated? traveller apace, To gain the timely inn; and near approaches The subject of our watch. 3 Mur.

Hark! I hear horses. Ban. [within] Give us a light there, ho ! 2 Mur.

Then it is he; the rest That are within the note of expectation,


1 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 ap. pears to be employed by Macbeth, and needs not to be mistrusted. Yohnson.

The third assassin seems to have been sent to join the others, from Macbeth's superabundant caution. From the following dialogue it appears that some conversation has passed between them

before their present entry on the stage. Malone. The third Murderer enters only to tell them where they should place themselves. Steevens.

lated - ] i, e. belated, benighted. So, again, in Ano tony and Cleopatra:

“ I am so lated in the world, that I
“ Have lost my way for ever.” Steevens,

the note of expectation,] i. e. they who are set down in the list of guests, and expected to supper. Steevens.


Already are i' the court.* 1 Mur.

His horses go about: 3 Mur. Almost a mile : but he does usually, So all men do, from hence to the palace gate Make it their walk. Enter Banguo and FLEANCE, c Servant with a torch

preceding them. 2 Mur.

A light, a light!
3 Mur.

'Tis he.
1 Mur. Stand to 't.
Ban. It will be rain to-night.
I Mur,

Let it come down.5

[sửaults BA N. Ban, O, treachery! Fly, good Fleance, fly, fly, fly; Thou may'st revenge.- slave!

[Dies. FLE. and Serv. escape.

4 Then it is he; the rest
That are within the note of expectation,

Already are i' the court.) Perhaps this passage, before it fell into the bands of the players, stood thus :

Then it is be;
The rest within the note of expectation,

Are ' the court. The hasty recurrence of are, in the last line, and the redundancy of the metre, seem to support my conjecture. Number. less are the instances in which the player editors would not permit the necessary something to be supplied by the reader. They appear to have been utterly unacquainted with an ellipsis.

Steevens. 5 Stand to't. It will be rain to-nigbt.

Let it come down.] For the sake of metre, we should certainly read

Stand to 't.
'Twill rain to-night.

Let it come down. Steevens, 6 Fléance &c. escape.] Fleance, after the assassination of his father, fled into Wales, where, by the daughter of the prince of that country, he had a son named Walter, who afterwards became lord High Steward of Scotland, and from thence assumed the name of Walter Steward. From hiin, in a direct line, king James I was descended; in compliment to whom our author has chosen to describe Banquo, who was equally concerned with Macbeth in the murder of Duncan, as innocent of that crime. Malone.

« PreviousContinue »