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child, out of the grave, or the skin, bone, or any part of the dead person, to be employed or used in any manner of witchcraft, sorcery, charm, or enchantment; 4. or shall use, practise, or exercise any sort of witchcraft, sorcery, charm, or enchantment; 5. whereby any person shall be destroyed, killed, wasted, consumed, pined, or lamed in any part of the body; 6. That every such person being convicted shall suffer death." This law was repealed in our own time.
Thus, in the time of Shakspeare, was the doctrine of witchcraft at once established by law and by the fashion, and it became not only unpolite, but criminal, to doubt it; and as prodigies are always seen in proportion as they are expected, witches were every day discovered, and multiplied so fast in some places, that Bishop Hall mentions a village in Lancashire,* where their number was greater than that of the houses. The jesuits and sectaries took advantage of this universal error, and endeavoured to promote the interest of their parties by pretended cures of persons afflicted by evil spirits; but they were detected and exposed by the clergy of the established church.
Upon this general infatuation Shakspeare might be easily allowed to found a play, especially since he has followed with great exactness such histories as were then thought true; nor can it be doubted that the scenes of enchantment, however they may now be ridiculed, were both by himself and his audience thought awful and affecting. JOHNSON.
In the concluding paragraph of Dr. Johnson's admirable introduction to this play, he seems apprehensive that the fame of Shakspeare's magic may be endangered by modern ridicule.. shall not hesitate, however, to predict its security, till our national taste is wholly corrupted, and we no longer deserve the first of all dramatic enjoyments; for such, in my opinion at least, is the tragedy of Macbeth. STEEVENS.
Malcolm II. King of Scotland, had two daughters. eldest was married to Crynin, the father of Duncan, Thane of the Isles, and western parts of Scotland; and on the death of Malcolm, without male issue, Duncan succeeded to the throne.
* In Nashe's Lenten Stuff, 1599, it is said, that no less than six hundred witches were executed at one time: 66 it is evident, by the confession of the six hundred Scotch witches executed in Scotland at Bartholomew tide was twelve month, that in Yarmouth road they were all together in a plump on Christmas eve was two years, when the great flood was; and there stirred up such tornadoes and furicanoes of tempests, as will be spoken of there whilst any winds or storms and tempests chafe and puff in the lower region."
Malcolm's second daughter was married to Sinel, Thane of Glamis, the father of Macbeth. Duncan, who married the daughter of Siward, Earl of Northumberland, was murdered by his cousin german, Macbeth, in the castle of Inverness, according to Buchanan, in the year 1040; according to Hector Boethius, in 1045. Boethius, whose History of Scotland was first printed in seventeen books, at Paris, in 1526, thus describes the event which forms the basis of the tragedy before us: "Makbeth, be persuasion of his wyfe, gaderit his frendis to ane counsall at Invernes, quhare kyng Duncane happennit to be for ye time. And because he fand sufficient opportunitie, be support of Banguho and otheris his friendis, he slew kyng Duncane, the vii zeir of his regne." After the murder of Duncan, Macbeth" come with ane gret power to Scone, and tuk the crowne." Chroniclis of Scotland, translated by John Bellenden, folio, 1541. Macbeth was himself slain by Macduff in the year 1061, according to Boethius; according to Buchanan, in 1057; at which time King Edward the Confessor possessed the throne of England. Holinshed copied the history of Boethius, and on Holinshed's relation Shakspeare formed his play.
In the reign of Duncan, Banquo having been plundered by the people of Lochaber of some of the king's revenues, which he had collected, and being dangerously wounded in the affray, the persons concerned in this outrage were summoned to appear at a certain day. But they slew the sergeant at arms who summoned them, and chose one MACDOWALD as their captain. Macdowald speedily collected a considerable body of forces from Ireland and the Western Isles, and in one action gained a victory over the king's army. In this battle Malcolm, a Scottish nobleman, who was (says Boethius) "Lieutenant to Duncan in Lochaber," was slain. Afterwards Macbeth and Banquo were appointed to the command of the army; and Macdowald being obliged to take refuge in a castle in Lochaber, first slew his wife and children, and then himself. Macbeth, on entering the castle, finding his dead body, ordered his head to be cut off, and carried to the king, at the castle of Bertha, and his body to be hung on a high tree.
At a subsequent period, in the last year of Duncan's reign, Sueno, King of Norway, landed a powerful army in Fife, for the purpose of invading Scotland. Duncan immediately assembled an army to oppose him, and gave the command of two divisions of it to Macbeth and Banquo, putting himself at the
* the daughter-] More probably the sister. See note on The Cronykil of Andrew Wyntown, Vol. II. p. 475. STEEVENS.
head of a third. Sueno was successful in one battle, but in a second was routed; and, after a great slaughter of his troops, he escaped with ten persons only, and fled back to Norway. Though there was an interval of time between the rebellion of Macdowald and the invasion of Sueno, our author has woven these two actions together, and immediately after Sueno's defeat the present play commences.
It is remarkable that Buchanan has pointed out Macbeth's history as a subject for the stage. "Multa hic fabulose quidam nostrorum affingunt; sed, quia theatris aut Milesiis fabulis sunt aptiora quam historia, ea omitto." RERUM SCOT. HIST. L. VII. But there was no translation of Buchanan's work till after our author's death.
This tragedy was written, I believe, in the year 1606. See the notes at the end; and An Attempt to ascertain the Order of Shakspeare's Plays, Vol. II. MALONE.
Siward, Earl of Northumberland, General of the
Young Siward, his Son.
Seyton, an Officer attending on Macbeth.
Son to Macduff.
An English Doctor. A Scotch Doctor.
An old Man.
Gentlewoman attending on Lady Macbeth.
Lords, Gentlemen, Officers, Soldiers, Murderers, Attendants, and Messengers.
The Ghost of Banquo, and several other Apparitions.
SCENE, in the End of the fourth Act, lies in England; through the rest of the Play, in Scotland; and, chiefly, at Macbeth's Castle.
1 Lady Macbeth.] Her name was Gruach, filia Bodhe. Lord Hailes's Annals of Scotland, II. 332. RITSON.
Androw of Wyntown, in his Cronykil, informs us that this personage was the widow of Duncan; a circumstance with which Shakspeare must have been wholly unacquainted:
Dame Grwok, hys Emys wyf,
"Tuk, and led wyth hyr hys lyf,
"And held hyr bathe hys Wyf and Qweyne,
"Til hys Eme Qwene, lyvand
"Quhen he was Kyng wyth Crowne rygnand:
"For lytyl in honowre than had he
"The greys of affynyte." B. VI. 35.
From the incidents, however, with which Hector Boece has diversified the legend of Macbeth, our poet derived greater advantages than he could have found in the original story, as related by Wyntown.
The 18th Chapter of his Cronykil, Book VI. together with observations by its accurate and learned editor, will be subjoined to this tragedy, for the satisfaction of inquisitive readers.
three Witches.] As the play now stands, in Act IV. sc. i. three other witches make their appearance. See note thereon.