« PreviousContinue »
I go, and it is done; the bell invites me.'
horror to the night, as suited well with the bloody deed he was about to perform. Mr. Burke, in his Essay on the Sublime and Beautiful, observes, that " all general privations are great, be. cause they are all terrible;" and, with other things, he gives silence as an instance, illustrating the whole by that remarkable passage in Virgil, where, amidst all the images of terror tbal could be united, the circumstance of silence is particularly dwelt upon:
“ Dii quibus imperium est animarum umbræque silentes,
“ Et Chaos et Phlegethon, loca nocte silentia late." When Statius, in the fifth book of the Thebaid, describes the Lemnian massacre, his frequent notice of the silence and soli. tude, both before and after the deed, is striking in a wonderful degree:
“ Conticuere domus,” &c. and when the same poet enumerates the terrors to which Chi. ron had familiarized his pupil, he subjoinsnec ad vastæ trepidare silentia sylvæ."
Achilleid II, 391. Again, when Tacitus describes the distress of the Roman army, under Cæcina, he concludes by observing, “-ducemque terruit dira yuies." See Annal. I, lxv.
Io all the preceding passages, as Pliny remarks, concerning places of worship, silentia ipsa adoramus. Steevens.
In confirmation of Steevens's ingenious note on this passage, it may be observed, that one of the circumstances of horror enumerated by Macbeth is,- Nature seems dead. M. Mason. So also, in the second Æneid:
“ Horror ubique animos, simul ipsa silentia terrent.". Dryden's well-known lines, which exposed him to so much ridicule,
An horrid stilless first invades the ear,
“ And in that sitence we the tempest hear," show, that he had the same idea of the awfulness of silence as our poet. Malone.
Whiles I threat, be lives; Words to the beat of leeds too cold breath gives. ) Here is evidently a false concord; but it must not be corrected, for it is necessary to the rhyme. Nor is this the only place in which Shakspeare has sacrificed grammar to rhyme. In Cymbeline, the song in Cloten’s serenadle runs thus :
* Huk! hark! the lark at heaven's gate sings,
“ And Pliæhus 'gins to rice,
“ Da chalic'd flowers that lies.”
Hear it not, Duncan; for it is a knell
Enter Lady MACBETH. Lady M. That which hath made them drunk, hath
made me bold: What hath quench'd them, hath given me fire :
Hark! Peace! It was the owl that shriek’d, the fatal bellman, Which gives the stern'st good-night. He is about its
And Romeo says to Friar Lawrence:
- both our remedies “ Within thy help and holy physick lies.” M. Mason
the bell invites me.) So, in Cymbeline: 5 The time inviting thee?” Steevens.
it is a knell That summons tbee to beaven, or to bell.] Thus Raleigh, speaking of love, in England's Helicon, 4to. 1670:
" It is perhaps that sauncing bell,
" That toules all in to beauen or bell." Sauncing is probably a mistake for sacring, or saints' bells originally, perhaps, written (with the Saxon genitive) saintie bell. In Hudibras (as Mr. Ritson observes to me) we find
“ The only saints' bell that rings all in.” Steevens. Saunce bell (still so called at Oxford) is the small bell which hangs in the window of a church tower, and is always rung when the clergyman enters the church, and also at funerals. In some places it is called tolling all in, i. e. into church. Harris. 3 It was the owl that sbrick'd, the fatal bellman,
Wbich gives the stern'st good-night.] Shakspeare has here improved on an image he probably found in Spenser's Fairy Queen, B. V, c. vi, 27:
The native belman of the night,
Steevens It was the owl that sbriek’d; tbe fatal bellman,] So, in King Richard III:
“Out on ye, owlo! nothing but songs of death..." Malave
The doors are open ; and the surfeited grooms
Macb. (Within.] Who's there? --what, ho!
Lady M. Alack! I am afraid they have awak'd, And 'tis not done :--the attempt, and not the deed, Confounds us :-Hark!-I laid their daggers ready, He could not miss them.? Had he not resembled
the surfeited grooms Do mock their charge with snores: ] i.e. By going to sleep, they trifle and make light of the trust reposed in them, that of watching by their king; So, in Othello: “O mistress, villainy hath made mocks with love." Malone.
their possets,) It appears from this passage, as well as from many others in our old dramatic performances, that it was the general custom to eat possets just before bed-time. So, in the first part of King Edward W, by Heywood: “ thou shalt be welcome to beef and bacon, and perhaps a bag-pud. ding; and my daughter Nell shall pop a posset upon thee when thou goest to bed." Macbeth has already said:
“Go bid thy mistress when my drink is ready,
“She strike upon the bell.”
“That which hath made them drunk, hath made me bold :> and in Tbe Merry Wives of Windsor, Mrs. Quickly promises Jack Rugby a posset at night. This custom is also mentioned by Froissart. Steevens.
death and nature do contend about them, W berber they live, or die.] Of this image our ancient writers were peculiarly fond. Thus again, in Twine's translation of the story of Prince Appollyn; “ Death strived with life within her, and the conflict was daungerous and doubtfull who should preuaile." Again, in All's Well that Ends Well:
thy blood and virtue
Nature and sickness
Hark!—I laid their daggers ready, He could not miss them.] Compare Euripides, Oresta v. 1291 - where Electra stands centinel at the door of the palace, whilst Orestes is within for the purpose of murdering Helen, The dread of a surprize, and eagerness for the business, mako
My father as he slept, I had done 't.-My husband?
-Didst thou not hear
As I descended?
Electra conclude that the deed must be done ere time enough had elapsed for attempting it. She listens with anxious impa, tience; and hearing nothing, expresses strong fears lest the dag. gers should have failed. Read the whole passage. SW.
Had be not resembled My father as be slept, I bad done 't ] This is very artful. For, as the poet has drawn the lady and her husband, it would be thought the act should have been done by her. It is likewise highly just; for though ambition had subdued in her all the sentiments of nature towards present objects, yet the likeness of one past, which she had been accustomed to regard with reve. rence, made her unnatural passions, for a moment, give way to the sentiments of instinct and humanity. Warburton.
The same circumstance, on a similar occasion, is introduced by Statius, in the fifth Book of his Thebaid, v. 236:
“Ut vero Alcimeden etiamnum in murmure truncos
“ Inferor.” Thoas was the father of Hypsipyle, the speaker. Steevens.
9 This is a sorry sigbt.] This expression might have been bor. rowed fiom Spenser's Fairy Queen, B. V, c. i, st. 14:
“ To whom as they approched, they espide
That they did wake each other; I stood and heard them:
There are two lodg'd together.
Consider it not so deeply. Macb. But wherefore could not I pronoụnce, amen? I had most need of blessing, and amen Stuck in my throat. Lady M.
These deeds must not be thought After these ways; so, it will make us mad.
Macb. Methought, I heard a voice cry, Sleep no more! Macbeth does murder sleep, the innocent sleep; Sleep, that knits up the ravelld sleave of care,
1 As they bad seen me,] i. e. as if. So, in The Winter's Tale:
" As we are mock'd with art.” Steevens. 2. Listening their fear.] i. e. Listening to their fear, the para ticle omitted.' This is common in our author. Thus, in Fulius Cæsar, Act IV, sc. i:
Octavius, “ Listen great things." Contemporary writers took the same liberty. So, in The World toss'd at Tennis, by Middleton and Rowley, 1620:
“ Listen the plaints of thy poor votaries." Again, in Lyly's Maid's Metamorphosis, 1600:
“ There, in rich seats, all wrought of ivory,
"Of warbling birds.” Steevens. 3 When they did say, God bless us.) The words—did say, which render this hemistich too long to unite with the next in forming a verse, persuade me that the passage originally ran thus:
I could not say, amen,
When they, God bless us. i. e. when they could say God bless us. Could say, in the second line, was left to be understood; as before
and, Amen, the other:" i. e. the other cried Amen. But the players, having no idea of the latter ellipsis, supplied the syllables that destroy the mea. sure Steevens.
the rave!!”d sleave of care,] Sleave signifies the ravel led knotty part of the silk, which gives great trouble and en