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Could trammel up the consequence, and catch,
would then be best to do it quickly: if the murder could terminate in itself, and restrain the regular course of consequences, if its success would secure its surcease, if, being once done successfully, without detection, it could fix a period to all vengeance and enquiry, so that this blow might be all that I have to do, and this anxiety all that I have to suffer; if this could be my condition, even here in this world, in this contracted period of temporal exa istence, on this narrow bank in the ocean of eternity, I would jump the life to come, I would venture upon the deed without care of any future state. But this is one of those cases in which judge ment is pronounced and vengeance inflicted upon us here in our present life. We teach others to do as we have done, and are punished by our own example. JOHNSON.
* Hath borne his faculties so meek,] Faculties, for office, exercise of power, &e.
Vaulting ambition, which o'er-leaps itself,
Enter Lady: MACBETH.
left the chamber?
Know you not, he has? Macb. We will proceed no further in this busi
He hath honour'd me of late ; and I have bought
Was the hope drunk,
3 Enter Lady -] The arguments by which Lady Macbeth persuades her husband to commit the murder, afford a proof of Shakspeare's knowledge of human nature. She urges the excellence and dignity of courage, a glittering idea which has dazzled mankind from age to age, and animated sometimes the house. breaker, and sometimes the conqueror; but this sophism Macbeth has for ever destroyed, by distinguishing true from false fortitude in a line and a half; of which it may almost be said, that they ought to bestow immortality on the author, though all his other productions had been lost:
I dare do all that may become a man,
Who dures do more, is none. This topick, which has been always employed with too much success, is used in this scene, with peculiar propriety, to a soldier by a woman. Courage is the distinguishing virtue of a soldier ; and the reproach of cowardice cannot be borne by any man from a woman, without great impatience.
She then urges the oaths by which he had bound himself to murder Duncan; another art of sophistry by which men have sometimes deluded their consciences, and persuaded themselves what would be criminal in others is virtuous in them: this argus' ment Shakspeare, whose plan obliged him to make Macbeth yield, has not confuted, though he might easily have shown that à for mer obligation could not be vacated by a latter; that obligations, laid on us by a higher power, could not be over-ruled by obligaţions which we lay upon ourselves. JOHNSON.
Wherein you dress’d yourself? hath it slept since?:
Pr’ythee, peace :
What beast was it then, That made you break this enterprize to me? When you durst do it, then you were a man; And, to be more than what you were, you would Be so much more the man. Nor time, nor place, Did then adhere, and yet you would make both : They have made themselves, and that their fitness now Does unmake you. I have given suck; and know How tender 'tis, to love the babe that milks me: I would, while it was smiling in my face, Have pluck’d my nipple from his boneless gums, And dash'd the brains out, had I so sworn, as you Have done to this. Macb. If we should fail,
We fail !
Would'st thou have that
And live a coward in thine own esteem;] Do you wish to obtain the crown, and yet would
remain such a coward in your own eyes all your life, as to suffer your paltry fears, which whisper, « I dare not, » to controul your
noble ambition, which cries out, “ I would ?” STEEVENS.
s Like the poor cat i' the adage?] The adage alluded to is, The cat loves fish, but dares not wet her feet : “Catus amat pisces, sed non vult tingere plantas."
But screw your courage to the stieking place,
Bring forth men-children only!
6 But screw your courage to the sticking-place,] This is a metaphor from an engine formed by mechanical complication. The sticking-place is the stop which suspends its powers, till they are discharged on their proper object; as in driving piles, &c.
7 Will I with wine and wassal so convince, &c.] To convince is, in Shakspeare, to overpower, or subdue. What was anciently called was-haile, (as appears from Selden's notes on the ninth Song of Drayton's Polyolbion ) was an annual custom observed in the country on the vigil of the new year; and had its beginning, as some say, from the words which Ronix, daughter of Hengist, used, when she drank to Vortigern, loverd king was
he answering her, by direction of an interpreter, drinc-heile. Afterwards it appears that was-haile, and drinc-heil, were the usual phrases of quaffing among the English ; but wassel is sometimes used for general riot, intemperance, or festivity. On the present occasion I believe it means intemperance. STEEVENS.
8-the warder of the brain -] A warder is a guard, a sentinel. 'the receipt of reason,] i. e. the receptacle.
A limbeck only :] The limbeck is the vessel through which distilled liquors pass into the recipient. So shall it be with memory; through which every thing shall pass, and nothing remain.
who shall bear the guilt Of our great quell?] Quell is murder, manquellers being, in the old language, the term for which murderers is now used.
Of his own chamber, and us'd their very daggers, That they have done't?
Who dares receive it other, As we shall make our griefs and clamour roar Upon his death? Macb. I am settled, and bend
up Each corporal agent to this terrible feat. Away, and mock the time with fairest show: False face must hide what the false heart doth know.
3 Till this instant the mind of Macbeth has been in a state of uncertainty and fluctuation. He has hitherto proved neither resolutely good, nor obstinately wicked. Though a bloody idea had arisen in his mind, after he had heard the prophecy in his favour, yet he contentedly leaves the completion of his hopes to
chance. At the conclusion, however, of his interview with *Duncan, he inclines to hasten the decree of fate, and quits the stage with an apparent resolution to murder his sovereign. But no sooner is the king under his roof, than, reflecting on the peculiarities of his own relative situation, he determines not to of fend against the laws of hospitality, or the ties of subjection, kindred, and gratitude. His wife then assails his constancy afresh. He yields to her suggestions, and, with his integrity, his happiness is destroyed.
I have enumerated these particulars, because the waverings of Macbeth have, by some criticks, been regarded as unnatural and contradictory circumstances in his character; not remembering that nemo repente fuit turpissimus, or that (as Angelo observes)
when once our grace we have forgot,
Nothing goes right; we would, and we would not-" a pass which contains no unapt justification of the changes that happen in the conduct of Macbeth. STEEVENS.