Page images

But fcrew your courage to the sticking-place,3
And we'll not fail. When Duncan is asleep,
(Whereto the rather shall his day's hard journey
Soundly invite him,) his two chamberlains
Will I with wine and waffel fo convince,4

pared, without lofs of confidence in itself, for the worst that can happen. So Hotspur:

"If we fall in, good night;-or fink, or swim."


3 But fcrew your courage to the sticking-place,] This is a metaphor from an engine formed by mechanical complication. The fricking-place is the stop which fufpends its powers, till they are discharged on their proper object; as in driving piles, &c. So, in Sir W. D'Avenant's Cruel Brother, 1630:

[ocr errors]

-There is an engine made,

"Which spends its ftrength by force of nimble wheels "For they, once screwed up, in their return

"Will rive an oak."

Again, in Coriolanus, A&t I. fc. viii:

"Wrench up thy power to the higheft."


Again, in Chapman's verfion of the ninth Book of Homer's Ody fey:

[ocr errors]

my wits which to their height

"I ftriv'd to fcrew up ;-"

Again, in the fifteenth Book:

"Come, join we hands, and screw up all their spite." Perhaps, indeed, Shakspeare had a more familiar image in view, and took his metaphor from the Screwing up the chords of ftring-inftruments to their proper degree of tenfion, when the peg remains faft in its sticking-place, i. e. in the place from which it is not to move. Thus, perhaps, in Twelfth-Night: "And that I partly know the inftrument

"That Screws me from my true place," &c. STEEVENS. Mr. Steevens's last interpretation is, in my apprehenfion, the true one. Sir W. D'Avenant mifunderstood this paffage. By the sticking-place, he seems to have thought the poet meant the ftabbing place, the place where Duncan was to be wounded; for he reads,


"Bring but your courage to the fatal place,

"And we'll not fail." MALONE.

his two chamberlains

Will I with wine and waffel fo convince, &c.] The cir

That memory, the warder of the brain,5

cumftance relative to Macbeth's flaughter of Duncan's Chamberlains, (as I obferved fo long ago, as in our edition 1773,) is copied from Holinfhed's account of King Duffe's murder by Donwald.

Mr. Malone has fince transcribed the whole narrative of this event from the Chronicle; but being too long to ftand here as a note, it is given, with other bulky extracts, at the conclufion of the play. STEEVENS.

To convince is, in Shakspeare, to overpower or fubdue, as in this play:

[ocr errors]

Their malady convinces

"The great affay of art.”


So, in the old tragedy of Cambyfes :


"If that your heart addicted be the Egyptians to convince."

"By this his grace, by conqueft great the Egyptians did


Again, in Holinfhed: "thus mortally fought, intending to vanquish and convince the other." Again, in Chapman's verfion of the fixth Iliad:

[ocr errors]

Chymera the invincible he sent him to convince."


and waffel-] What was anciently called was-haile (as appears from Selden's notes on the ninth Song of Drayton's Polyolbion,) was an annual cuftom obferved in the country on the vigil of the new year; and had its beginning, as fome fay, from the words which Ronix, daughter of Hengift, used, when fhe drank to Vortigern, loverd king was-heil; he answering her, by direction of an interpreter, drinc-heile; and then, as Robert of Gloucefter fays,

"Kufte hire and fitte hire adoune and glad dronke hire

"And that was tho in this land the verft was-hail,
"As in langage of Saxoyne that me might evere iwite,
"And fo wel he paith the folc about, that he is not yut


Afterwards it appears that was-haile, and drinc-heil, were the ufual phrases of quaffing among the English, as we may fee from Thomas de la Moore in the Life of Edward II. and in the lines of Hanvil the monk, who preceded him:


Shall be a fume, and the receipt of reafon
A limbeck only: When in fwinish fleep
Their drenched natures lie, as in a death,
What cannot you and I perform upon
The unguarded Duncan? what not put upon

"Ecce vagante cifo diftento gutture wass-heil,
"Ingeminant wafs-heil-

But Selden rather conjectures it to have been a ufual ceremony among the Saxons before Hengift, as a note of health-wifhing, fuppofing the expreffion to be corrupted from wish-heil.

Waffel or Wafail is a word ftill in use in the midland counties, and fignifies at prefent what is called Lambs'-Wool, i. e. roafted apples in ftrong beer, with fugar and spice. See Beggars Bush, A&t IV. fc. iv:

"What think you of a waffel?

66 thou, and Ferret,

"And Ginks, to fing the fong; I for the structure,
"Which is the bowl."

Ben Jonfon perfonifies waffel thus :-Enter Waffel like a neat fempfter and fongster, her page bearing a brown bowl drest with ribbands and rosemary, before her.

Waffel is, however, fometimes used for general riot, intemperance, or feftivity. On the prefent occafion I believe it means intemperance. STEEVENS.

[merged small][ocr errors]


"Leave thy lafcivious waffels."

See alfo Vol. VII. p. 165, n. 6. MALONE.


the warder of the brain,] A warder is a guard, a fentinel. So, in King Henry VI. P. I:


"Where be these warders, that they wait not here?" STEEVENS.

the receipt of reason,] i. e. the receptacle. MALONE. 7 A limbeck only:] That is, fhall be only a veffel to emit fumes or vapours. JOHNSON.

The limbeck is the veffel, through which diftilled liquors pafs into the recipient. So fhall it be with memory; through which every thing fhall pafs, and nothing remain. A. C.

$ Their drenched natures-] i. e. as we should fay at prefent-foaked, faturated with liquor. STEEVENS.

His fpongy officers; who fhall bear the guilt
Of our great quell? 9


Bring forth men-children only! For thy undaunted mettle should compose

Nothing but males. Will it not be receiv'd,' When we have mark'd with blood those sleepy two Of his own chamber, and us'd their very daggers, That they have don't?


Who dares receive it other,*

As we fhall make our griefs and clamour roar
Upon his death?


I am fettled, and bend up 3

who fhall bear the guilt

Of our great quell?] Quell is murder, manquellers being, in the old language, the term for which murderers is now used. JOHNSON.

So, in Chaucer's Tale of the Nonnes Prieft, v. 15,396, Mr. Tyrwhitt's edit:

"The dokes cryeden as men wold hem quelle.” The word is used in this fenfe by Holinfhed, p. 567: the poor people ran about the streets, calling the capteins and governors murtherers and manquellers."

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]



Will it not be receiv'd,] i. e. understood, apprehended. So, in Twelfth-Night:

[ocr errors][merged small]

To one of your receiving

Enough is thown."

2 Who dares receive it other,] So, in Holinshed: "-he burthen'd the chamberleins, whom he had flaine, with all the fault, they having the keyes of the gates committed to their keeping all the night, and therefore it could not be otherwise (faid he) but that they were of counsel in the committing of that most detestable murther." MALONE.

3 and bend up-] A metaphor from the bow. So, in King Henry V:

[ocr errors]

bend up every spirit

"To his full height."

The fame phrafe occurs in Melvil's Memoirs: " but that rather the fhould bend up her Spirit by a princely, &c. behaviour." Edit. 1735. p. 148.

Each corporal agent to this terrible feat.

Away, and mock the time with fairest show:

Falfe face muft hide what the false heart doth know.


Till this inftant, the mind of Macbeth has been in a state of uncertainty and fluctuation. He has hitherto proved neither refolutely good, nor obftinately wicked. Though a bloody idea had arifen 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 conclufion, however, of his interview with Duncan, he inclines to haften the decree of fate, and quits the ftage with an apparent resolution to murder his fovereign. But no fooner is the king under his roof, than, reflecting on the peculiarities of his own relative fituation, he determines not to offend against the laws of hofpitality, or the ties of fubjection, kindred, and gratitude. His wife then affails his conftancy afresh. He yields to her fuggeftions, 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 circumftances in his character; not remembering that nemo repente fuit turpiffimus, or that (as Angelo obferves) when once our grace we have forgot,

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

'Nothing goes right; we would, and we would not—.” a paffage which contains no unapt juftification of the changes. that happen in the conduct of Macbeth. STEEVENS.

« PreviousContinue »