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I' the shipman's card.2
I will drain him dry as hay:3
"Air, quoth he, thy cheeks may blow;
i. e. blow upon them.
We still say it blows East or West,
without a preposition. Steevens.
The substituted word was first given by Sir W. D'Avenant, who, in his alteration of this play, has retained the old, while at the same time he furnished Mr. Pope with the new, reading: "I myself have all the other.
"And then from every port they blow,
"From all the points that seamen know." Malone.
the shipman's card.] So, in The Microcosmos of John Davies, of Hereford, 4to. 1605:
"Beside the chiefe windes and collaterall
"(Which are the windes indeed of chiefe regard)
"All which are pointed out upon the carde."
The card is the paper on which the winds are marked under the pilot's needle; or perhaps the sea-chart, so called in our author's age. Thus, in The Loyal Subject, by Beaumont and
"The card of goodness in your minds, that shews you "When you sail false."
Again, in Churchyard's Prayse and Reporte of Maister Martyne Forboisher's Voyage to Meta Incognita, &c. 12mo. bl. 1. 1578: "There the generall gaue a speciall card and order to his captaines for the passing of the straites," &c. Steevens.
dry as bay:] So, Spenser, in his Faery Queen, B. III,
"But he is old and withered as hay." Steevens.
4 Sleep shall, neither night nor day,
Hang upon his pent-house lid;] So, in The Miracles of Moses, by Michael Drayton :
"His brows, like two steep pent-houses, hung down
"Over his eye-lids."
There was an edition of this poem in 1604, but I know not whether these lines are found in it. Drayton made additions and alterations in his pieces at every re-impression. Malone.
5 He shall live a man forbid :] i. e. as one under a curse, an interdiction. So, afterwards in this play:
"By his own interdiction stands accurs'd."
So, among the Romans, an outlaw's sentence was, Aquæ et Ignis interdictio; i. e. he was forbid the use of water and fire, which implied the necessity of banishment. Theobald.
Weary sev'n-nights, nine times nine,
Mr. Theobald has very justly 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 pis p bit bote, &c.
He is wise that prays and makes amends.
As to forbid therefore implies to probibit, 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 primitive meaning. Johnson.
To bid, in the sense of to pray, occurs in the ancient MS. romance of The Sordon of Babyloyne, p. 78:
"Kinge Charles kneled adown
"To that lorde that deyde on rode."
A forbodin fellow, Scot. signifies an unhappy one."
It may be added that "bitten and Verbieten, in the German, signify to pray and to interdict." S. W..
6 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 slow degrees.
So, in Webster's Dutchess of Malfy, 1623:
"Than were 't my picture fashion'd out of wax,
So Holinshed, speaking of the witchcraft practised to destroy king Duffe:
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 inchantment, they served to keep him still waking from sleepe," &c.
This may serve to explain the foregoing passage:
Sleep shall neither night nor day "Hang upon his pent-house lid."
7 Though his bark cannot be lost,
Yet it shall be tempest-toss'd.] So, in Newes from Scotland, &c. a pamphlet already quoted: " Againe it is confessed, that
2 Witch. Show me, show me.
1 Witch. Here I have a pilot's thumb, Wreck'd, as homeward he did come. 3 Witch. A drum, a drum; Macbeth doth come.
All. The weird sisters, hand in hand,8 Posters of the sea and land,
Thus do go about, about;
Thrice to thine, and thrice to mine,
the said christened cat was the cause of the Kinges Majesties shippe, at bis 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 sayde 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.
8 The weird sisters, hand in hand,] These weird sisters, were the Fates of the northern nations; the three handmaids of Odin. Hæ nominantur Valkyrie, quas quodvis ad prælium Odinus mittit. Ha viros morti destinant, et victoriam gubernant. Gunna, et Rota, et Parcarum minima Skullda: per aëra et maria equitant semper ad morituros eligendos; et cædes in potestate habent. Bartholinus de Causis 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 superstitions; and puts Hecate at the head of their enchantments. And to make it still 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.
Weird comes from the Anglo-Saxon pind, fatum, and is used as a substantive signifying a prophecy, by the translator of Hector
Enter MACBETH and BANQUO.
Macb. So foul and fair a day I have not seen.
Ban. How far is 't call'd to Fores? What are these, So wither'd, and so wild in their attire;
That look not like the inhabitants o' the earth,
Boethius, in the year 1541, as well as for the Destinies, by Chaucer and Holinshed. Of the weirdis gevyn to Makbeth and Banbquo, is the argument of one of the chapters. Gawin Douglas, in his translation of Virgil, calls the Parce the weird sisters; and in Ane verie excellent and delectabill Treatise intitut PHILO TUS, qubairin we may persave the greit inconveniences that fallis out in the Marriage betweene Age and Zouth, Edinburgh, 1603, the word appears again :
"How dois the quheill of fortune go,
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 Valkyrie, or Valkyriur, were not barely three in number. The learned critic 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 cup-bearers 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 Valkyrie of the North with the Witches of Shakspeare. Steevens.
The old copy has-eyward, 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 sisters." So also Holinshed. Malone.
9 How far is 't call'd to Fores ?] The king at this time resided at Fores, a town in Murray, not far from Inverness. "It fortuned, (says 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 straunge and wild apparell, resembling creatures of the elder world," &c. Steevens.
The old copy reads-Soris. Corrected by Mr. Pope. Malone.
That man may question? You seem to understand me,
Upon her skinny lips :-You should be women,2
Macb. Speak, if you can;-What are you?
1 Witch. All hail, Macbeth!4 hail to thee, thane of Glamis !5
1 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.
2 You should be women,] In Pierce Pennilesse his Supplication to the Divell, 1592, there is an enumeration of spirits and their offices; and of certain watry spirits it is said: "—by the help of Alynach a spirit of the West, they will raise stormes, cause earthquakes, rayne, haile or snow, in the clearest day that is; and if ever they appear to anie man, they come in women's apparell." Henderson.
3 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." Steevens.
4 All bail, Macbeth!] It hath lately been repeated from Mr. Guthrie's Essay upon English Tragedy, that the portrait of Mac. beth's wife is copied from Buchanan, "whose spirit, as well as words, is translated into the play of Shakspeare: and it had signifyed nothing to have pored only on Holinshed for facts.”—“Animus etiam, per se ferox, prope quotidianis conviciis uxoris (quæ omnium consiliorum 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 greatly encouraged him [to the murder of Duncan,] but specially his wife lay sore upon him to attempt the thing, as she 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, Hector 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 desirus of ony purpos, gaif hym gret artation to persew the third weird, that sche micht be ane quene, calland hym oft tymis febyl cowart and nocht desyrus of honouris, sen he durst no assailze the thing with manheid and curage, quhilk is offerit to hym be beniuolence of fortoun. Howbeit, sindry otheris hes assailzeit sic thinges afore with maist terribyl