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But, to shorten the pain of suspense, he calls upon time, in the usual style of ardent desire, to quicken his motion,
Time ! on!
He then comforts himself with the reflection that all his perplexity must have an end,
The hour runs thro' the roughest day. This conjecture is supported by the passage in the letter to his lady, in which he says, They referr’d me to the coming on of time with, Hail, King that shall be.
Malcolm. Nothing in his life
As 'twere a careless trifle. As the word ow'd affords here no sense, but such as is forced and unnatural, it cannot be doubted that it was originally written, The dearest thing he own'd; a reading which needs neither defence nor explication.
NOTE X. King. There's no art, To find the mind's construction in the face: The construction of the mind is, I believe, a phrase peculiar to Shakespeare; it implies the frame or disposition of the mind, by which it is determined to good or ill.
Of the last line of this speech, which is certainly, as it is now read, unintelligible, an emendation has been attempted, which Dr. Warburton and Mr. Theobald have admitted as the true reading :
Fiefs to your love and honour. My esteem for these criticks, inclines me to believe, that they cannot be much pleased with the expressions, Fiefs to love, or Fiefs to honour ; and that they have proposed this alteration, rather because no other occurred to them, than because they approved it. I shall, therefore, propose a bolder change, perhaps, with no better success, but “sua cuique placent." I read thus,
Save tow’rd your love and honour. We do but perform our duty, when we contract all our views to your service, when we act with no other principle than regard to your love and honour.
It is probable that this passage was first corrupted by writing safe for save, and the lines then stood thus :
-doing nothing Safe tow'rd your love and honour. Which the next transcriber observing to be wrong, and yet not being able to discover the real fault, altered to the present reading.
-Thou’dst have, great Glamis,
“ And that,” &c. As the object of Macbeth's desire is here introduced speaking of itself, it is necessary to read,
thou’dst have, great Glamis, That which cries, “ thus thou must do, if thou have me.”
For seem, the sense evidently directs us to read seek. The crown to which fate destines thee, and which preternatural agents endeavour to bestow upon thee. The golden round is the diadem.
NO TE XIV.
Lady Macbeth. -Come, all you spirits
purpose, nor keep peace between
Mortal thoughts, This expression signifies not the thoughts of mortals, but murderous, deadly, or destructive designs. So in Act v.
Hold fast the mortal sword.
And in another place,
With twenty mortal murthers.
-Nor keep peace between
The intent of Lady Macbeth evidently is to wish that no womanish tenderness, or conscientious remorse, may hinder her purpose from proceeding to effect; but neither this, nor indeed any other sense, is expressed by the present reading, and, therefore, it cannot be doubted that Shakespeare wrote differently, perhaps, thus :
That no compunctious visitings of nature
purpose, nor keep pace between
To keep pace between, may signify to pass between, to intervene. Pace is, on many occasions, a favourite of Shakespeare. This phrase, is indeed, not usual in this sense ; but was it not its novelty that gave occasion to the present corruption ?
King. This castle hath a pleasant seat ; the air
Ban. This guest of summer,
The air is delicate. In this short scene, I propose a slight alteration to be made, by substituting site for seat, as the ancient word for situation ; and sense for senses, as more agreeable to the measure ; for which reason likewise I have endeavoured to adjust this passage,
-heaven's breath Smells wooingly here. No jutty frieze, by changing the punctuation and adding the syllable thus,
-heaven's breath Smells wooingly. Here is no jutty frieze. Those who have perused books, printed at the time of the first editions of Shakespeare, know that greater alterations than these are necessary almost in every page, even where it is not to be doubted, that the copy was correct.
The arguments by which Lady Macbeth persuades her husband to commit the murder, afford a proof of Shakespeare's knowledge of human nature. She urges the excellence and dignity of courage, a glittering idea which has dazzled mankind from age to age, and animated sometimes the housebreaker, and sometimes the conqueror ; but this sophism Macbeth has for ever destroyed, by distinguishing true from false fortitude, in a line and a half; of which it may almost be said, that they ought to bestow immortality on the author, though all his other productions had been lost :
I dare do all that may become a man ;
This topick, which has been always employed with too much success, is used in this scene, with peculiar propriety, to a soldier by a woman. Courage is the distinguishing virtue of a soldier, and the reproach of cowardice cannot be borne by any man from a woman, without great impatience.
She then urges the oaths by which he had bound himself to murder Duncan, another art of sophistry by which men have sometimes deluded their consciences, and persuaded themselves that what would be criminal in others is virtuous in them: this argument Shakespeare, whose plan obliged him to make Macbeth yield, has not confuted, though he might easily have shown that a former obligation could not be vacated by a latter.
Letting I dare not wait upon I would,
Like the poor cat i’ th' adage. The adage alluded to is, The cat loves fish but dares not wet her foot.
Catus amat pisces, sed non vult tingere plantas.