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Duke. Why, here begins his morning story
which. Ant. E. I came from Corinth, my most gracious
lord. Dro. E. And I with him. Ant. E. Brought to this town by that most
Adr. Which of you two did dine with me to-day?
And are not you my husband? Ant. E. No, I say nay to that.
Ant. S. And so do I, yet did she call me so;
Ang. That is the chain, sir, which you had of me.
Adr. I sent you money, sir, to be your bail,
Dro. E. No, none by me.
• Why, here begins his morning story right:] “ The morning story" is what Ægeon tells the duke in the first scene of this play. Δικνύτο Νίτι παρά τους εναλίοις και πετομίνες ίππος διά τινος μαίγανείες, , και οπλίτας δε αέρα Φερομένες, και πάσης γοητείας δύναμιν και διαν. Let him then proceed to show him in the opposite armies horses flying by enchantment, armed men transported through the air, and every power and form of magic. Whether St. Chrysostom believed that such performances were really to be seen in a day of battle, or only endeavoured to enliven his description, by adopting the notions of the vulgar, it is equally certain, that such notions were in his time received, and that therefore they were not imported from the Saracens in a later age; the wars with the Saracens however gave occasion to their propagation, not only as bigotry naturally discovers prodigies, but as the scene of action was removed to a great distance.
The Reformation did not immediately arrive at its meridian, and though day was gradually increasing upon us, the goblins of witchcraft still continued to hover in the twilight. In the time of Queen Elizabeth was the remarkable trial of the witches of Warbois, whose conviction is still commemorated in an annual sermon "at Huntingdon. But in the reign of King James, in which this tragedy was written, many circumstances concurred to propagate and confirm this opinion. The King, who was much celebrated for his knowledge, had, before his arrival in England, not only examined in person a woman accused of witchcraft
, but had given a very formal account of the practices and illusions of evil spirits, the compacts of witches, the ceremonies used by them, the manner of detecting them, and the justice of punishing them, in his dialogues of Dæmonologie, written in the Scottish dialect, and published at Edinburgh. This book was, soon after his succession, reprinted at London ; and as the ready way to gain King James's favour was to flatter his speculations, the system of Dæmonologie was immediately adopted by all who desired either to gain preferment or not to lose it. Thus the doctrine of witchcraft was very powerfully inculcated; and as the greatest part of mankind have no other reason for their opinions than that they are in fashion, it cannot be doubted but this persuasion made a rapid progress, since vanity and credulity cooperated in its favour. The infection soon reached the parliament, who, in the first year of King James, made a law, by which it was enacted, chap. xii. That" if any person shall use any invocation or conjuration of any evil or wicked spirit; 2. or shall consule, covenant with, entertain, employ, feed or reward any evil or cursed spirit to or for any intent or purpose; 3. or take up my dead man, woman, or 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; 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 re pealed 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 becanje 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 al., lowed 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. I 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. This tragedy was written, I believe, in the year 1606.
the Shrew, (where the same kind of versification is likewise found,) among our author's earliest productions; composed probably at a time when he was imperceptibly infected with the prevailing mode, and before he had completely learned “ to deviate boldly from the common track.” Malonė.