Page images

And fix'd his head upon our battlements.

Dun. O, valiant cousin! worthy gentleman !

Sold. As whence the sun 'gins his reflexion? Shipwrecking storms and direful thunders break ;3

“Then from the navel to the throat at once

“ He ript old Priam.” So likewise in an ancient MS. entitled The Boke of Huntyng, that is cleped Mayster of Game : Cap. V,“ Som men haue sey hym slitte a man fro the kne up to the brest, and slee hym all starke dede at o strok.” Steevens.

Again, by the following passage in an unpublished play, entit. led The Witch, by Thomas Middleton, in which the same wound is described, though the stroke is reversed:

“ Draw it, or I'll rip thee down from neck to NAVEL,

Though there's small glory in 't." Malone. 9 As wbence the sun'gins bis reflexion ---] The thought is expressed with some obscurity, but the plain meaning is this: As the same quarter, wbence the blessing of day-light arises, sometimes sends us, by a dreadful reverse, the calamities of storms and tempests; 30 the glorious event of Macbetb's victory, which promised us the comforts of peace, was immediately succeeded by the alarming nerus of the Norweyan invasion. The natural history of the winds, &c. is foreign to the explanation of this passage. Shakspeare does not mean, in conformity to any theory, to say that storms generally come from the east. if it be allowed that they sometimes issue from that quarter, it is sufficient for the purpose of his compari. son. Steevens.

The natural history of the winds, &c. was idly introduced on this occasion by Dr. Warburton. Sir William D'Avenant's read. ing of this passage, in an alteartion of this play, published in quarto, in 1674, aftords a reasonably good comment upon it:

“ But then this day-break of our victory
“ Serv'd but to light us into other dangers,
“That spring from whence our hopes did seem to rise.”

3 tbunders break;] The word break is wanting in the
oldest copy. The other folios and Rowe read-breaking. Mr.
Pope made the emendation. Steevens.

Break, which was suggested by the reading of the second folio, is very unlikely to have been the word omitted in the original copy. It agrees with thunders;---but who ever talked of the breaking of a storm 2 Malone.

The phrase, I believe, is sufficiently common. Thus Dryden, in All for Love, &c. Act I:

"— the Roman camp
“ Hangs o’er us black and threat'ning, like a storm

“ Just breaking o'er our heads."
Again, in Ogilby's version of the 17th Iliad:


So from that spring, whence comfort seem'd to come,
Discomfort swells. Mark, king of Scotland, mark:
No sooner justice had, with valour arm’d,
Compell’d these skipping Kernes to trust their heels;
But the Norweyan lord, surveying vantage,
With furbish'd arms, and new supplies of men,
Began a fresh assault.

Dismay'd not this
Our captains, Macbeth and Banquo?

Yes ;6
As sparrows, eagles; or the hare, the lion.
If I say sooth, I must report they were
As cannons overcharg'd with double cracks;6
So they
Doubly redoubled strokes upon the foe:

“ Hector o'er all an iron tempest spreads,
“ Th’impending storm will break upon our heads."

Steevens. 4 Discomfort swells.] Discomfort the natural opposite to comfort. Fohnson. 5 Our captains, Macbeth and Banquo? Sold. :)

Yes,:] The reader can. not fail to observe, that some word, necessary to complete the verse, has been omitted in the old copy. Sir T. Hanmer reads

Our captains, brave Macbeth, &c. Steevens. 6 As cannons overcharg'd with double cracks ; &c.] That is, with double charges, a metonymy of the effect for the cause. Heath..

Mr. Theobald has endeavoured to improve the sense of thisi passage, by altering the punctuation thus:

they were
As cannons overcharg'd; with double cracks

So they redoubled strokes He declares, with some degree of exultation, that he has no idea: of a cannon charged with double cracks; but surely the great author will not gain an alteration which makes him say of a hero, that he redoubles strokes with double cracks, an expression not more loudly to be applauded, or more easily. pardoned, than that which is rejected in its favour.

That a cannon is charged with thunder, or with double thunders, may be written, not only without nonsense, but with elegance, and nothing else is here meant by cracks, which, in the time of this writer, was a word of such emphasis and dignity, that in this play he terms the general dissolution of nature the crack of doom.

Fobison Crack is used on a similar occasion by Barnaby Googe, in his Cupido. Conquered, 1563 ::

Except they meant to bathe in reeking wounds,
Or memorize another Golgotha,8
I cannot tell:-
But I am faint, my gashes cry for help.

Dun. So well thy words become thee, as thy wounds; They smack of honour both:-Go, get him surgeons.

[Exit Sold. attended

Enter Rosse. Who comes here?1

“ The cannon's cracke begins to roore

“ And darts full thycke they flye,
“ And cover'd thycke the armyes both,

“ And framde a counter-skye.” Barbour, the old Scotch Poet, calls fire-arms_“crakys of war."

Steevens. Again, in the old play of King Jobn, 1591, and applied, as here, to ordnance :

" - as harmless and without effect,

“ As is the echo of a cannon's crack.Malone.
7 Doubly redoubled strokes &c.] So, in King Richard II:

“ And let thy blows, doubly redoubled,

“ Fall,” &c. The irregularity of the metre, however, induces me to believe our author wrote

tbey were
As cannons overcbarg'd with double cracks,

Doubly redoubling strokes upon the foe. For this thought, however, Shakspeare might have been in. debted to Caxton's Recujel, &e. “The batayıl was sharp, than the grekes dowblid and redowblid their strokes,” &c. Steevens.

8 Or memorize another Golgotha, ] That is, or make another Golgotha, which should be celebrated and delivered down to Josterity, with as frequent mention as the first. Heath.

The word memorize, which some suppose to have been coined, by Shakspeare, is used by Spenser, in a sonnet to Lord Buck. hurst, prefixed to his Pastorals, 1579:

" In vaine I thinke, right honourable lord,

“ By this rude rime to memorize thy name.” T. Wartou. The word is likewise used by Drayton; and by Chapman, in bis translation of the second Book of Homer, 1598:

" and Clymene, whom fame

“ Hath, for her fair eyes, memoriz'd.And again, in a copy of verses prefixed to Sir Arthur Gorge's translation of Lucan, 1614:

“Of them whose acts they mean to memorize." Steedens. 9 Enter Rosse.] The old copy-Enter Rosse and Angus: but as only the thane of Rosse is spoken to, or speaks any thing in


The worthy thane of Rosse. · Len. What a haste looks through his eyes! So should

he look, That seems to speak things strange.2

the remaining part of this scene, and as Duncan expresses himself in the singular number,

“Whence cam’st thou, worthy thane ?" Angus may be considered as a superfluous character. Had his present appearance been designed, the king would naturally have taken some notice of him. Stecvens:

It is clear, from a subsequent passage, that the entry of Angus was here designed ; for in scene iii, he again enters with Rosse, and says,

" We are sent

“ To give thee from our roval master thanks." Malone. Because Rosse and Angus accompany each other in a subsequent scene, does it folio' they make their entrance together on the present occasion ? Steevens.

1 Who comes here?] The latter word is here employed as a dissyllable. Malone."

Mr. Malone has already directed us to read-There-as. a dissyllable, but without supporting his direction by one example of such a practice. I suspect that the poet wrote Who is 't comes here? or-But who comes here?

Steevens - So should be look, That seems to speak things strange. 7 The meaning of this passage, as it now stands, is, so should be look, that looks as if be told things strange. But Rosse neither yet told strange things, nor could look as if he told them. Lenox only conjectured from his air that he had strange things to tell, and therefore undoubtedly said : - What a baste looks through his eyes!

So should be look, that teems to speak things strange. He looks like one that is big with something of importance; a. metaphor so natural that it is every day used in common dis. course. Johnson.

Mr. M. Mason observes, that the meaning of Lenox is “ So should be look, who seems as if he had strange things to speak."

The following passage in The Tempest seems to afford no unapt comment upon this: “

pr’ythee, say on:
“ The setting of thine eye and cheek, proclaim

"A matter from thee -." Again, in King Richard II:

“ Men judge by the complexion of the sky, &c.
“ So may you, by my dull and heavy eye,
“ My tongue hath but a heavier tale to say." Steevens:

[ocr errors]


God save the king!
Dun. Whence cam’st thou, worthy thane?

From Fife, great king,
Where the Norweyan banners flout the sky,
And fan our people cold.4
Norway himself, with terrible numbers,
Assisted by that most disloyal traitor
The thane of Cawdor, 'gan a dismal conflict:
Till that Bellona's bridegroom, lapt in proof;5

That seems to speak things strange.] i, e. that seems about to speak strange things. Our author himself furnishes us with the best comment on this passage. In Antony and Cleopatra we meet with nearly the same idea:

“ The business of this man looks out of him.Malone. 3 fout the sky,] The banners may be poetically describ. ed as waving in mockery or defiance of the sky. So, in King Edward III, 1599:

“ And new replenish'd pendants cuff the air,
" And beat the wind, that for their gaudiness

“ Struggles to kiss them.” The sense of the passage, however, collectively taken, is this: W bere the triumpbant flutter of the Norweyan standards ventilates or cools the soldiers who had been bented through their efforts to secure such numerous tropbies of victory. Steevens. Again, in King John:

Mocking the air, with colours idly spread.” This passage has perhans been misunderstood. The meaning seems to be, not that the Norweyan banners proudly insulted the sky; but that, the standards being taken by Duncan's forces, and fixed in the ground, the colours idly flapped about, serving only to cool the conquerors, instead of being proudly displayed by their former possessors. The line in King John, therefore, is the most perfect comment on this. Malone,

4 And fan our people cold.) In all probability, some words that rendered this a complete verse have been omitted; a loss more frequently to be deplored in the present tragedy, than perhaps in any other of Shakspeare. Steevens.

5 Till that Bellona's bridegroom, lapt in proof,] This passage may be added to the many others, which show how little Shakspeare knew of ancient mythology. Henley.

Our author might have been misled by Holinshed, who, p. 567, speaking of King Henry V, says: “He declared that the goddesse of battell, called Bellona," &c. &c. Shakspeare, there. fore, hastily coneluded that the Goddess of War was wife to the God of it; or might have been misled by Chapman's version of a line in the 5th Iliad of Homer:

" Mars bimself, match'd with his female mate."! Lape in proof, is, defended by armour of proof. Steevens.

« PreviousContinue »