Page images
PDF
EPUB

MACB. The reft is labour, which is not us'd for

you :

I'll be myself the harbinger, and make joyful
The hearing of my wife with your approach;
So, humbly take my leave.

DUN.

My worthy Cawdor!

MACB. The prince of Cumberland ! 5-That is a

step,

On which I must fall down, or elfe o'er-leap,

[Afide.

Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland, that the walls of the caftle of Macbeth, at Inverness, are yet ftanding. STEEVENS.

The circumstance of Duncan's vifiting Macbeth is fupported by hiftory; for, from the Scottish Chronicles, it appears that it was cuftomary for the king to make a progrefs through his

dominions every year. "Inerat ei [Duncano] laudabilis confuetudo regni pertranfire regiones femel in anno." Fordun. Scotichron. Lib. IV. c. xliv.

"Singulis annis ad inopum querelas audiendas perluftrabat provincias." Buchan. Lib. VII. MALONE.

The prince of Cumberland!-] So, Holinfhed, History of Scotland, p. 171: "Duncan having two fonnes, &c. he made the elder of them, called Malcolme, prince of Cumberland, as it was thereby to appoint him fucceffor in his kingdome immediatlie after his decease. Mackbeth forely troubled herewith, for that he faw by this means his hope fore hindered, (where, by the old laws of the realme the ordinance was, that if he that fhould fucceed were not of able age to take the charge upon himfelf, he that was next of bloud unto him fhould be admitted,) he began to take counfel how he might ufurpe the kingdome by force, having a juft quarrel fo to doe (as he tooke the matter,) for that Duncane did what in him lay to defraud him of all manner of title and claime, which he might, in time to come, pretend unto the crowne."

The crown of Scotland was originally not hereditary. When a fucceffor was declared in the life-time of a king, (as was often the cafe,) the title of Prince of Cumberland was immediately bestowed on him as the mark of his defignation. Cumberland was at that time held by Scotland of the crown of England, as a fief. STEEVENS.

For in my way it lies. Stars, hide your fires!
Let not light fee my black and deep defires:

The former part of Mr. Steevens's remark is fupported by Bellenden's tranflation of Hector Boethius : In the mene tyme Kyng Duncane maid his fon Malcolme Prince of Cumbir, to fignify yt he fuld regne eftir hym, quhilk was gret difplefeir to Makbeth; for it maid plane derogatioun to the thrid weird promittit afore to hym be this s weird fifteris. Nochtheles he thoct gif Duncane were flane, he had maift rycht to the croun because he wes nereft of blud yairto, be tenour of ye auld lavis maid eftir the deith of King Fergus, quhen young children wer unable to govern the croun, the nerreft of yair blude fal regne." So allo Buchanan, Rerum Scoticarum Hift. Lib. VII :

thefe

"Duncanus e filia Sibardi reguli Northumbrorum, duos filios genuerat. Ex is Milcolumbum, vixdum puberem, Cumbria præfecit. Id factam ejus Macbethus moleftius, quam credi poterat, tulit, eam videlicet moram fibi ratus injectam, ut, priores jam magiftratus (juxta vifum nocturnum) adeptus, aut omnino a regna excluderetur, aut eo tardius potiretur, cum præfe&tura Cumbria usut aditus ad fupremum magiftratum SEMPER effet habitus. It has been afferted by an anonymous writer [Mr. Ritfon] that the crown of Scotland was always hereditary, and that it fhould feem from the play, that Malcolm was the first who had the title of Prince of Cumberland." Anve extract or two from Hector Boethius will be fufficient relative e to th points. In the tenth chapter of the eleventh Book of his Hiftory we are informed, that fome of the friends of Kenneth III. the eightieth King of Scotland, came among the nobles, defiring. them to choose Malcolm, the fon of Kenneth, to be Lord of Cumbir,yt he mycht be yt way the better cum to ye crown after his faderis deid." Two of the nobles faid, it was in the power of Kenneth to make whom he pleafed Lord of Cumberland; and Malcolm was accordingly appointed. "Sic thingis done, King Kenneth, be advise of his nobles, abrogat ye auld lawis concerning the creation of yair king, and made new lawis in manner as followes: 1. The king beand deceffit, his eldest fon or his eldest nepot, (notwithstanding quhat fumevir age he be of, and youcht he was born efter his faderis death, fal fuccede ye croun," &c. Notwithstanding this precaution, Malcolm, the eldest fon of Kenneth, did not fucceed to the throne after the death of his father; for after Kenneth, reigned Constantine, the son of King Culyne. To him fucceeded Gryme, who was not the fon of Conftantine, but the grandfon of King

The eye wink at the hand! yet let that be,
Which the eye fears, when it is done, to fee.

[Exit. DUN. True, worthy Banquo; he is full so va

liant: 6

And in his commendations I am fed ;

It is a banquet to me. Let us after him,
Whofe care is gone before to bid us welcome:
It is a peerless kinfman. [Flourish. Exeunt.

Duffe. Gryme, fays Boethius, came to Scone, "quhare he was crownit by the tenour of the auld lawis." After the death of Gryme, Malcolm, the fon of King Kenneth, whom Boethius frequently calls Prince of Cumberland, became King of Scotland; and to him fucceeded Duncan, the fon of his eldest daughter.

Thefe breaches, however, in the fucceffion, appear to have been occafioned by violence in turbulent times; and though the eldest fon could not fucceed to the throne, if he happened to be a minor at the death of his father, yet, as by the ancient laws the next of blood was to reign, the Scottish monarchy may be faid to have been hereditary, fubject however to peculiar regulations. MALONE.

True, worthy Banquo; he is full fo valiant ;] i. e. he is to the full as valiant as you have defcribed him. We must imagine, that while Macbeth was uttering the fix preceding lines, Duncan and Banquo had been conferring apart. Macbeth's conduct appears to have been their fubject; and to fome encomium fuppofed to have been bestowed on him by Banquo, the reply of Duncan refers. STEEVENS.

SCENE V.

Inverness. A Room in Macbeth's Caftle.

Enter Lady MACBETH, reading a letter.

8

LADY M. They met me in the day of fuccefs; and I have learned by the perfecteft report, they have more in them than mortal knowledge. When I burned in defire to question them further, they made themfelves-air, into which they vanished. Whiles I flood rapt in the wonder of it, came mifsives from the king, who all-hailed me, Thane of Cawdor; by which title, before, these weird fifters faluted me, and referred me to the coming on of time, with, Hail, king that fhalt be! This have I thought good to deliver thee, my dearest partner of greatness; that thou mighteft not lofe the dues of rejoicing, by being ignorant of what greatness is promifed thee. Lay it to thy heart, and farewell.

Glamis thou art, and Cawdor; and fhalt be
What thou art promis'd:-Yet do I fear thy na-
ture;

It is too full o' the milk of human kindness,
To catch the nearest way: Thou would'st be great;
Art not without ambition; but without

The illness fhould attend it. What thou would'ft

7

highly,

•by the perfectest report,] By the best intelligence. JOHNSON.

5miffives from the king,] i. e. meffengers. So, in Antony and Cleopatra :

"Did gibe my missive out of audience." STEEVENS.

That would'st thou holily; would'ft not play false, And yet would'ft wrongly win: thou'd'st have, great Glamis,8

That which cries, Thus thou must do, if thou have it;

I

And that which rather thou doft fear to do,9
Than wifheft fhould be undone. Hie thee hither,
That I may pour my fpirits in thine ear; i
And chaftife with the valour of my tongue
All that impedes thee from the golden round,
Which fate and metaphysical aid doth feem
To have thee crown'd withal.What is your
tidings?

-thou'd fi have, great Glamis,

That which cries, Thus thou must do, if they have it; And that &c.] As the object of Macbeth's defire is bere introduced speaking of itself, it is neceffary to read:

thou'd'ft have, great Glamis,

That which cries, thus thou must do, if thou have me.

JOHNSON.

9 And that which rather thou doft fear to do,] The conftruc tion, perhaps, is, thou would't have that, [i. e. the crown,] which cries unto thee, thou must do thus, if thou wouldst have it, and thou must do that which rather, &c. Sir T. Hanmer, without neceffity, reads And that's what rather→→. The difficulty of this line and the fucceeding hemiftich feems to have arifen from their not being confidered as part of the speech uttered by the object of Macbeth's ambition. As fuch they ap pear to me, and I have therefore diftinguished them by Italicks. MALONE.

This regulation is certainly proper, and I have followed it.

STEEVENS.

1 That I may pour my spirits in thine ear;] I meet with the fame expreffion in Lord Sterline's Julius Cæfar, 1607:

2

Thou in my bofom us'd to pour thy Spright."

the golden round,

Which fate and metaphyfical aid doth seem

MALONE.

To have thee crown'd withal.] For feem, the fense evidently directs us to read feek. The crown to which fate destines

« PreviousContinue »