Prev | Next | Contents


[Footnote 194: See note BB.]

[Footnote 195: 'Hell is murky' (V. i. 35). This, surely, is not meant for a scornful repetition of something said long ago by Macbeth. He would hardly in those days have used an argument or expressed a fear that could provoke nothing but contempt.]

[Footnote 196: Whether Banquo's ghost is a mere illusion, like the dagger, is discussed in Note FF.]

[Footnote 197: In parts of this paragraph I am indebted to Hunter's Illustrations of Shakespeare.]

[Footnote 198: The line is a foot short.]

[Footnote 199: It should be observed that in some cases the irony would escape an audience ignorant of the story and watching the play for the first time,--another indication that Shakespeare did not write solely for immediate stage purposes.]

[Footnote 200: Their influence on spectators is, I believe, very inferior. These scenes, like the Storm-scenes in King Lear, belong properly to the world of imagination.]

[Footnote 201: 'By yea and no, I think the 'oman is a witch indeed: I like not when a 'oman has a great peard' (Merry Wives, IV. ii. 202).]

[Footnote 202: Even the metaphor in the lines (II. iii. 127),

What should be spoken here, where our fate, Hid in an auger-hole, may rush and seize us?

was probably suggested by the words in Scot's first chapter, 'They can go in and out at awger-holes.']

[Footnote 203: Once, 'weird women.' Whether Shakespeare knew that 'weird' signified 'fate' we cannot tell, but it is probable that he did. The word occurs six times in Macbeth (it does not occur elsewhere in Shakespeare). The first three times it is spelt in the Folio weyward, the last three weyard. This may suggest a miswriting or misprinting of wayward; but, as that word is always spelt in the Folio either rightly or waiward, it is more likely that the weyward and weyard of Macbeth are the copyist's or printer's misreading of Shakespeare's weird or weyrd.]

[Footnote 204: The doubt as to these passages (see Note Z) does not arise from the mere appearance of this figure. The idea of Hecate's connection with witches appears also at II. i. 52, and she is mentioned again at III. ii. 41 (cf. Mid. Night's Dream, V. i. 391, for her connection with fairies). It is part of the common traditional notion of the heathen gods being now devils. Scot refers to it several times. See the notes in the Clarendon Press edition on III. v. 1, or those in Furness's Variorum.

Of course in the popular notion the witch's spirits are devils or servants of Satan. If Shakespeare openly introduces this idea only in such phrases as 'the instruments of darkness' and 'what! can the devil speak true?' the reason is probably his unwillingness to give too much prominence to distinctively religious ideas.]

[Footnote 205: If this paragraph is true, some of the statements even of Lamb and of Coleridge about the Witches are, taken literally, incorrect. What these critics, and notably the former, describe so well is the poetic aspect abstracted from the remainder; and in describing this they attribute to the Witches themselves what belongs really to the complex of Witches, Spirits, and Hecate. For the purposes of imagination, no doubt, this inaccuracy is of small consequence; and it is these purposes that matter. [I have not attempted to fulfil them.]]

[Footnote 206: See Note CC.]

[Footnote 207: The proclamation of Malcolm as Duncan's successor (I.

  1. changes the position, but the design of murder is prior to this.]

[Footnote 208: Schlegel's assertion that the first thought of the murder comes from the Witches is thus in flat contradiction with the text. (The sentence in which he asserts this is, I may observe, badly mistranslated in the English version, which, wherever I have consulted the original, shows itself untrustworthy. It ought to be revised, for Schlegel is well worth reading.)]

[Footnote 209: It is noticeable that Dr. Forman, who saw the play in 1610 and wrote a sketch of it in his journal, says nothing about the later prophecies. Perhaps he despised them as mere stuff for the groundlings. The reader will find, I think, that the great poetic effect of Act IV. Sc. i. depends much more on the 'charm' which precedes Macbeth's entrance, and on Macbeth himself, than on the predictions.]

[Footnote 210: This comparison was suggested by a passage in Hegel's Aesthetik, i. 291 ff.]

[Footnote 211: Il. i. 188 ff. (Leaf's translation).]

[Footnote 212: The supernaturalism of the modern poet, indeed, is more 'external' than that of the ancient. We have already had evidence of this, and shall find more when we come to the character of Banquo.]

[Footnote 213: The assertion that Lady Macbeth sought a crown for herself, or sought anything for herself, apart from her husband, is absolutely unjustified by anything in the play. It is based on a sentence of Holinshed's which Shakespeare did not use.]

[Footnote 214: The word is used of him (I. ii. 67), but not in a way that decides this question or even bears on it.]

[Footnote 215: This view, thus generally stated, is not original, but I cannot say who first stated it.]

[Footnote 216: The latter, and more important, point was put quite clearly by Coleridge.]

[Footnote 217: It is the consequent insistence on the idea of fear, and the frequent repetition of the word, that have principally led to misinterpretation.]

[Footnote 218: E.g. I. iii. 149, where he excuses his abstraction by saying that his 'dull brain was wrought with things forgotten,' when nothing could be more natural than that he should be thinking of his new honour.]

[Footnote 219: E.g. in I. iv. This is so also in II. iii. 114 ff., though here there is some real imaginative excitement mingled with the rhetorical antitheses and balanced clauses and forced bombast.]

[Footnote 220: III. i. Lady Macbeth herself could not more naturally have introduced at intervals the questions 'Ride you this afternoon?' (l. 19), 'Is't far you ride?' (l. 24), 'Goes Fleance with you?' (l.

  1. .]

[Footnote 221: We feel here, however, an underlying subdued frenzy which awakes some sympathy. There is an almost unendurable impatience expressed even in the rhythm of many of the lines; e.g.:

  Well then, now

Have you consider'd of my speeches? Know That it was he in the times past which held you So under fortune, which you thought had been Our innocent self: this I made good to you In our last conference, pass'd in probation with you, How you were borne in hand, how cross'd, the instruments, Who wrought with them, and all things else that might To half a soul and to a notion crazed Say, 'Thus did Banquo.'

This effect is heard to the end of the play in Macbeth's less poetic speeches, and leaves the same impression of burning energy, though not of imaginative exaltation, as his great speeches. In these we find either violent, huge, sublime imagery, or a torrent of figurative expressions (as in the famous lines about 'the innocent sleep'). Our impressions as to the diction of the play are largely derived from these speeches of the hero, but not wholly so. The writing almost throughout leaves an impression of intense, almost feverish, activity.]

[Footnote 222: See his first words to the Ghost: 'Thou canst not say I did it.']

[Footnote 223:

For only in destroying I find ease To my relentless thoughts.--Paradise Lost, ix. 129.

Milton's portrait of Satan's misery here, and at the beginning of Book IV., might well have been suggested by Macbeth. Coleridge, after quoting Duncan's speech, I. iv. 35 ff., says: 'It is a fancy; but I can never read this, and the following speeches of Macbeth, without involuntarily thinking of the Miltonic Messiah and Satan.' I doubt if it was a mere fancy. (It will be remembered that Milton thought at one time of writing a tragedy on Macbeth.)]

[Footnote 224: The immediate reference in 'But no more sights' is doubtless to the visions called up by the Witches; but one of these, the 'blood-bolter'd Banquo,' recalls to him the vision of the preceding night, of which he had said,

  You make me strange

Even to the disposition that I owe, When now I think you can behold such sights, And keep the natural ruby of your cheeks, When mine is blanch'd with fear.]

[Footnote 225: 'Luxurious' and 'luxury' are used by Shakespeare only in this older sense. It must be remembered that these lines are spoken by Malcolm, but it seems likely that they are meant to be taken as true throughout.]

[Footnote 226: I do not at all suggest that his love for his wife remains what it was when he greeted her with the words 'My dearest love, Duncan comes here to-night.' He has greatly changed; she has ceased to help him, sunk in her own despair; and there is no intensity of anxiety in the questions he puts to the doctor about her. But his love for her was probably never unselfish, never the love of Brutus, who, in somewhat similar circumstances, uses, on the death of Cassius, words which remind us of Macbeth's:

I shall find time, Cassius, I shall find time.

For the opposite strain of feeling cf. Sonnet 90:

Then hate me if thou wilt; if ever, now, Now while the world is bent my deeds to cross.]

Prev | Next | Contents