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2 Witch. All hail, Macbeth! hail to thee, thane of

Cawdor 16

3 Witch. All hail, Macbeth! that shalt be king hereafter.

Ban. Good sir, why do you start; and seem to fear Things that do sound so fair?-I' the name of truth, Are ye fantastical, or that indeed

jeopardyis, quhen they had not sic sickernes 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 Angusiæ 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 bail, Macbeth! Hail to thee, thane of Glamis ! 2 Witch. All bail, Macbeth! Hail to thee, thane of Cawdor! 3 Witch. All bail, Macbeth! that shalt be king bereafter! Here too our poet found the equivocal predictions, on which his hero so fatally depended: " He had learned of certaine wysards, 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 bail is a corruption of al-bael, Saxon, i. e. ave, salve. Malone.

5 - thane of Glamis !] The thaneship of Glamis was the ancient inheritance of Macbeth's family. The castle where they lived is still standing, and was lately the magnificent residence of the earl of Strathmore. See a particular description of it in Mr. Gray's Letter to Dr. Wharton, dated from Glames Castle. Steevens.

6 thane of Cawdor!] Dr. Johnson observes, in his Fourney to the Western Islands of Scotland, that part of Calder Castle, from which Macbeth drew his second title, is still remaining. In one of his Letters, Vol. I, p. 122, he takes notice of the same object: "There is one ancient tower with its battlements and winding stairs-the rest of the house is, though not modern, of later erection. Steevens.

7 Are ye fantastical,] By fantastical is not meant, according to the common signification, creatures of his own brain; for he

Which outwardly ye show? My noble partner
You greet with present grace, and great prediction
Of noble having, and of royal hope,

That he seems rapt withal;9 to me you speak not:
If you can look into the seeds of time,

And say, which grain will grow, and which will not;
Speak then to me, who neither beg, nor fear,
Your favours, nor your hate.

1 Witch. Hail!

2 Witch. Hail!

3 Witch. Hail!

1 Witch. Lesser than Macbeth, and greater. 2 Witch. Not so happy, yet much happier.

3 Witch. Thou shalt get kings, though thou be none:

could not be so extravagant as to ask such a question: but it is used for supernatural, spiritual. Warburton.

By fantastical, he means creatures of fantasy or imagination: the question is, Are these real beings before us, or are we deceived by illusions of fancy? Johnson.

So, in Reginald Scott's Discovery of Witchcraft, 1584 :—“ He affirmeth these transubstantiations to be but fantastical, not according to the veritie, but according to the appearance." The same expression occurs in All's lost by Lust, 1633, by Rowley: or is that thing,


"Which would supply the place of soul in thee,
Merely phantastical ?"


Shakspeare, however, took the word from Holinshed, who in his account of the witches, says: "This was reputed at first but some vain fantastical illusion by Macbeth and Banquo."


Of noble having,] Having is estate, possession, fortune. So, in Twelfth Night:


my baving is not much;

"I'll make division of my present store:

"Hold; there is half my coffer."

Again, in the ancient metrical romance of Syr Bewys of Hampton, bl. 1. no date :

"And when he heareth this tydinge,

"He will go theder with great having.”

See also note on The Merry Wives of Windsor, Act III, sc. ii.


9 That he seems rapt withal;] Rapt is rapturously affected extra se raptus. So, in Spenser's Faery Queen, IV, ix. 6: "That, with the sweetness of her rare delight, "The prince half rapt, began on her to dote."

Again, in Cymbeline:

"What, dear sir, thus raps you?" Steevens.

So, all hail, Macbeth, and Banquo!

1 Witch. Banquo, and Macbeth, all hail!

Macb. Stay, you imperfect speakers, tell me more:
By Sinel's death,' I know, I am thane of Glamis;
But how of Cawdor? the thane of Cawdor lives,
A prosperous gentleman; and, to be king,
Stands not within the prospect of belief,

No more than to be Cawdor. Say, from whence
You owe this strange intelligence? or why
Upon this blasted heath2 you stop our way
With such prophetic greeting?-Speak, I charge you.
[Witches vanish.

Ban. The earth hath bubbles, as the water has,
And these are of them :-Whither are they vanish'd?
Macb. Into the air; and what seem'd corporal, melted
As breath into the wind.-'Would they had staid !
Ban. Were such things here, as we do speak about?
Or have we eaten of the insane root,3

1 By Sinel's death,] The father of Macbeth. Pope. His true name, which however appears, but perhaps only typographically, corrupted to Synele in Hector Boethius, from whom, by means of his old Scottish translator, it came to the knowledge of Holinshed, was Finleg. Both Finlay and Macbeath are common surnames in Scotland at this moment.

2 blasted heath -] Paradise Lost, B. I, 615:


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Thus, after Shakspeare, Milton,

their stately growth though bare

"Stands on the blasted heath.” Steevens.

eaten of the insane root,] The insane root is the root which makes insane. Theobald.


The old copies read-" on the same root." Shakspeare alludes to the qualities anciently ascribed to hemlock. So, in Greene's Never too late, 1616: "You gaz'd against the sun, and so blemished your sight; or else you have eaten of the roots af bemlock, that makes men's eyes conceit unseen objects.” Again, in Ben Jonson's Sejanus:


they lay that hold upon thy senses,

"As thou hadst snuft up hemlock." Steevens.

The commentators have given themselves much trouble to ascertain the name of this root, but its name was, I believe, unknown to Shakspeare, as it is to his readers; Sir Thomas North's translation of Plutarch having probably furnished him with the only knowledge he had of its qualities, without specifying its In the Life of Antony, (which our author must have diligently read) the Roman soldiers, while employed in the Parthian war, are said to have suffered great distress for want of


That takes the reason prisoner?

Macb. Your children shall be kings.



You shall be king. Macb. And thane of Cawdor too; went it not so? Ban. To the self-same tune, and words. Who's here? Enter Rosse, and ANGUS.

Rosse. The king hath happily receiv'd, Macbeth,
The news of thy success: and when he reads
Thy personal venture in the rebels' fight,
His wonders and his praises do contend,

Which should be thine, or his: Silenc'd with that,♦
In viewing o'er the rest o' the self-same day,
He finds thee in the stout Norweyan ranks,
Nothing afeard of what thyself didst make,
Strange images of death. As thick as tale,5

provisions. "In the ende (says Plutarch) they were compelled to live of herbs and rootes, but they found few of them that men do commonly eate of, and were enforced to taste of them that were never eaten before; among the which there was one that killed them, and made them out of their wits; for he that had once eaten of it, his memorye was gone from him, and he knew no manner of thing, but only busied himself in digging and hurling of stones from one place to another, as though it had been a matter of great waight, and to be done with all possible speede. Malone.

4 His wonders and his praises do contend,

Which should be thine, or his: &c.] i. e. private admiration of your deeds, and a desire to do them public justice by commendation, contend in his mind for pre-eminence.-Or,— There is a contest in his mind whether he should indulge his desire of publishing to the world the commendations due to your heroism, or whether he should remain in silent admiration of what no words could celebrate in proportion to its desert.

Mr. M. Mason would read wonder, not wonders; for, says he, "I believe the word wonder, in the sense of admiration, has no plural." In modern language it certainly has none; yet I cannot help thinking that, in the present instance, plural was opposed to plural by Shakspeare. Steevens.

Silenc'd with that,] i. e. wrapp'd in silent wonder at the deeds performed by Macbeth, &c. Malone.

5 As thick as tale,] Meaning, that the news came as thick as a tale can travel with the post. Or we may read, perhaps, yet better:

As thick as tale,
Came post with post; --



Came post with post; and every one did bear
Thy praises in his kingdom's great defence,
And pour'd them down before him.

We are sent,
To give thee, from our royal master, thanks;
To herald thee into his sight, not pay thee.
Rosse. And, for an earnest of a greater honour,
He bade me, from him, call thee thane of Cawdor:
In which addition, hail, most worthy thane!

For it is thine.


What, can the devil speak true?
Macb. The thane of Cawdor lives; Why do you

dress me

That is, posts arrived as fast as could be counted. Johnson. So, in King Henry VI, P. III, Act II, sc. i:

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Tidings, as swiftly as the post could run, "Were brought," &c.

Mr. Rowe reads-as thick as bail.

The old copy reads-Can post.


The emendation is Mr. Rowe's. Dr. Johnson's explanation would be less exceptionable, if the old copy had-As quick as tale. Thick applies but ill to tale, and seems rather to favour Mr. Rowe's emendation.

"As thick as hail," as an anonymous correspondent observes to me, is an expression in the old play of King John, 1591: breathe out damned orisons,

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“As thick as bail-stones fore the spring's approach." The emendation of the word can is supported by a passage in King Henry IV, P. II:

"And there are twenty weak and wearied posts

"Come from the north."


Dr. Johnson's explanation is perfectly justifiable. As thick, in ancient language, signified as fast. To speak thick, in our author, does not therefore mean, to have a cloudy indistinct utterance, but to deliver words with rapidity. So, in Cymbeline, Act III, sc. ii: say, and speak thick,


"(Love's counsellor should fill the bores of hearing

"To the smothering of the sense) how far it is

"To this same blessed Milford."

Again, in King Henry IV, P. II, Act II, sc iii:

"And speaking thick, which nature made his blemish,

"Became the accents of the valiant;

"For those that could speak low and tardily,

"Would turn &c.-To seem like him."

Thick therefore is not less applicable to tale, the old reading, than to bail, the alteration of Mr. Rowe. Steevens.

6 To herald thee &c.] The old copy redundantly reads-Only to herald thee &c. Steevens.

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