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Which would be worn now in their newest gloss,
Was the hope drunk,
Pr’ythee, peace :
What beast was it then,
you durst do it, then you were a man; And, to be more than what you were, you
Would'st thou have that
and yet would you remain such a coward in your own eyes all your life, as to suffer your paltry fears, which whisper, “I daro not,” to controul your noble ambition, which cries out, “I would ?" STEEvens.
5 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."
If we should fail,
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-heil ; 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 wassal 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 nich murderers is now used.
Bring forth men-children only!
Who dares receive it other,
I am settled, and bend up
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 offend 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, bis 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 passage which contains no unapt justification of the changes that happen in the conduct of Macbeth. STEEVENS.
SCENE I. The same.
Court within the Castle.
Enter BANQUo and FLEANCE, and a Servant with a torch
Ban. How goes the night, boy?
I tak’t, 'tis later, sir. Ban. Hold, take my sword :— There's husbandry in
4 Scene I.] The place is not marked in the old edition, nor is it easy to say where this encounter can be. It is not in the hall, as the editors have all supposed it, for Banquo sees the sky; it is not far from the bedchamber, as the conversation shows : it must be in the inner court of the castle, which Banquo might properly cross in bis way to bed. JOHNSON.
There's husbandry in heaven,] Husbandry here means, thrift, frugality.
- Merciful powers ! &c.] It is apparent, from what Banquo says afterwards, that he had been solicited in a dream to attempt something in consequence of the prophecy of the witches, that his waking senses were shocked at ; and Shakspeare has here most exquisitely contrasted his character with that of Macbeth. Banquo is praying against being tempted to encourage thoughts of guilt even in his sleep ; while Macbeth is hurrying into temptation, and revolving in his mind every scheme, however flagitious, that may assist him to complete his purpose. The one is unwilling to sleep, lest the same oms should assail his resolution again, while the other is depriving himself of rest through impatience to commit the murder.
Enter MACBETH, and a Servant with a torch.
Macb. A friend.
Ban. What, sir, not yet at rest ? The king's a-bed:
I think not of them :
At your kind'st leisure. Macb. If you shall cleave to my consent,—when 'tis', It shall make honour for you.
> Sent forth great largess to your offices :) Offices are the rooms appropriated to servants and culinary purposes.
Duncan was pleased with his entertainment, and dispensed his bounty to those who had prepared it. All the modern editors have transferred this largess to the officers of Macbeth, who would more properly have been rewarded in the field, or at their return to court. STEEVENS. Mr. Malone reads, officers.
shut up - ] To shut up, is to conclude. 9 Being unprepar'd, &c.] This is obscurely expressed. The meaning seems to be :- Being unprepared, our entertainment was necessarily defective, and we only had it in our power to show the king our willingness to serve him. Had we received sufficient notice of his coming, our zeal should have been more clearly manifested by our acts.
1 If you shall cleave to my consent,—when ’tis,] Consent for will. So that the sense of the line is, If you shall go into my measures,