« PreviousContinue »
or by an overload. See Junius's Etymologicon. It is common in Staffordshire to say, beam in a build. ing sags, or has sagged.”
TOLLET. 131. --loon!] At present this word is only used in Scotland, and signifies a base fellow. STEEVENS. 132. Where got’st thou that
goose look?] So, in Coriolanus :
-ye souls of geese, “ That bear the shape of men, how have ye run " From slaves that apes would beat?"
MALONE. 137 lily-livered boy. -] Chapman thus translates a passage in the 20th Iliad :
- his sword that made a vent for his white
liver's blood, " That caus'd such pitiful effect--Again, Falstaff says, in the Second Part of King Henry IV. “_left the liver white and pale, which is the badge of pusillanimity and cowardice."
STEEVENS. --patch?] An appellation of contempt, alluding to the py’d, patch’d, or parti-coloured coats anciently worn by the fools belonging to noble families.
STEEVENS. 138. -those linen cheeks of thine
Are counsellors to fear.--] The meaning is, they infect others who see them, with cowardice.
WAREURTON. 143. cor disseat me now.] This word occurs in the Two Noble Kinsmen, by Beaumont, Fletcher, and
Shakspere, scene the last, where Perithous is describe ing the fall of Arcite from his horse :
seeks all foul means
“ His lord that kept it bravely."
-my way of life
Is fall’n into the sear, -] As there is no relation between the way of life, and fallen into the sear,
I am inclined to think that the W is only an M inverted, and that it was originally written :
-my May of life. I am now passed from the spring to the autumn of my days: but I am without those comforts that should succeed the sprightliness of bloom, and support one in this melancholy
The author has May in the same sense elsewhere.
JOHNSON -my way of life
Is fall’n into the sear, An anonymous
would have it:
-my May of life: But he did not consider that Macbeth is not here speaking of his rule or government, or of any sudden change; but of the gradual decline of life, as appears from that line :
And that, which should accompany old age. And way is used for course, progress.
To confirm the justness of May of life for way
of life, Mr. Colman quotes from Much Ado about Nothing,
“ May of youth and bloom of lustyhood.” And Henry V.
My puissant liege is in the very May-morn of his youth.”
LANGTON. So, in Sidney's Astrophil and Stella, stanza 21.
“ If now the May of my years much decline.” Again, in The Spanish Curate of Beaumont and Fletcher :
-you met me “ With equal ardour in your May of blood." Again, in The Guardian of Massinger :
“ I am in the May of my abilities,
" And you in your December." And in Claudius Tiberius Nero, 1607 :
“ Had I in this fair May of all my glory,” &c. Again, in The Sea Voyage, by Beaumont and Fletcher:
“ And in their May of youth,” &c. Again, in King John and Matilda, by R. Davenport, 1655 “ Thou art yet in thy green May, twenty-seven
“ Having my heat and May of youth, to plead
STEEVENS. I have now no doubt that Shakspere wrote May and not Way. It is observable in this very play, that the contrary error of the press has happened from a mistake of the saine letters.
“ Hear not my steps which may they walke." Besides, that a similarity of expression in other passages of Shakspere, and the concinnity of the figure, both unite to support the proposed emendation. Thus in his Sonnets :
“Two beauteolis springs to yellow autumns turn'd." Again, in King Richard II.
“ He that hath suffered this disorder'd spring,
“ Hath now himself met with the fall of leaf.” The sentiment in Macbeth I take to be this: The tender leaves of hope, the promise of my greener days, are now in my autumn, wither'd and fruitless: my mellow hangings are all shook down, and I am left bare to the weather.
HENLEY. The old reading is, in my apprehension, the true
The passage in one of our author's Sonnets, quoted by Mr. Steevens, may prove the best comment on the present:
“ That time of year in me you may behold,
“ Upon those boughs,” &c. He who could say that you might behold autumn in him, would not scruple to write that he was fallen into the autumn of his days; and how easy is the transition from this to saying, that the course or progress of his life had reached the autumnal season,
The using “ the sear, the yellow leaf,” simply and absolutely for autumn, or rather autumnal decay, because in autumn the leaves of trees turn yellow, and begin to fall and decay, is certainly a licentious mode
of expression, but it is such a licence as is to be found in almost every page of our author's works. It would also have been more natural for Macbeth to have said, that in the course or progress of life bee had arrived at his autumn, than to say, that the course of his life itself had fallen into autumn or decay ; but this too is much in Shakspere's manner.
With respect to the word fallen, which at first view seems a very singular expression, I strongly suspect that he caught it from the language of conversation: in which we at this day often say, that this or that person is fallen into a decay :" a phrase that might have been current in his time also. It is the very idea here conveyed : Macbeth is fallen into his autumnal decline.
When a passage can be thus easily explained, and the mode of expression is so much in our author's general manner, any attempt at emendation is not only unnecessary but dangerous.
In King Henry VIII, the word way seems to signify (as it does here) course, or tenour.
“ The way of our profession is against it." And in King Richard II. the fall of leaf is used in a sense not very different from that presented by the remaining words in the passage before us :
“ He who hath suffered this disorder'd spring, “ Hath now himself met with the fall of leaf."
MALONE. 145. the sear,-] Sear is dry. Shakspere has the same thought in his 73d sonnet;