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Inverness. A Room in Macbeth's Castle.
Ester Lady MACBETH, reading a letter.
Lady M. They met me in the day of success; and I have learned by the perfectest report, they have more in them than mortal knowledge. When I burned in desire to question them further, they made themselves-air, into which they vanished. Whiles I stood rapt in the wonder of it, came missives from the king, who all-hailed me, Thane of Cawdor; by which title, before, these weird sisters saluted me, and referred me to the coming on of time, with, Hail, king that shalt be! This have I thought good to deliver thee, my dearest partner of greatness; that thou mightest not lose the dues of rejoicing, by being ignorant of what greatness is promised thee. Lay it to thy heart, and farewell,
Glamis thou art, and Cawdor; and shalt be
What thou art promis'd:-Yet do I fear thy nature;
It is too full o' the milk of human kindness,
To catch the nearest way: Thou would'st be great;
The illness should attend it, What thou would'st
That would'st thou holily; would'st not play false,
That which cries, Thus thou must do, if thou have
missives from the king,] i. e. messengers.
And that which rather thou dost fear to do,
Enter an Attendant.
Atten. The king comes here to-night.
Thou'rt mad to say it:
Is not thy master with him? who, wer't so,
Atten. So please you, it is true; our thane is coming:
One of my fellows had the speed of him;
Who, almost dead for breath, had scarcely more Than would make up his message.
Give him tending,
He brings great news. The raven himself is hoarse," Exit Attendant.
4the golden round,
Which fate and metaphysical aid —] The crown to which fate destines thee, and which preternatural agents endeavour to bestow upon thee. The golden round is the diadem.
Metaphysical, which Dr. Warburton has justly observed,, means something supernatural, seems, in our author's time, to have had no other meaning. In the English Dictionary, by H. C. 1655, Metaphysicks are thus explained: "Supernatural arts."
The raven himself is hoarse,] The following is, in my opinion, the sense of this passage:
Give him tending; the news he brings are worth the speed that made him lose his breath. [Exit Attendant.] 'Tis certain nowthe raven himself is spent, is hoarse by croaking this very message, the fatal entrance of Duncan under my battlements.
Lady Macbeth (for she was not yet unsexed) was likelier to be deterred from her design than encouraged in it by the supposed thought that the message and the prophecy (though equally secrets
That croaks the fatal entrance of Duncan
You wait on nature's mischief! Come, thick night,
to the messenger and the raven) had deprived the one of speech, and added harshness to the other's note. Unless we absurdly suppose the messenger acquainted with the hidden import of his message, speed alone had intercepted his breath, as repetition the raven's voice; though the lady considered both as organs of that destiny which hurried Duncan into her meshes. FuSELI.
-mortal thoughts,] This expression signifies not the thoughts of mortals, but murderous, deadly, or destructive designs. 7 remorse;] Remorse, in ancient language, signifies pity. 8 And pall thee] i. e. wrap thyself in a pall.
To pall, however, in the present instance, (as Mr. Douce observes to me,) may simply mean-to wrap, to invest. STEEVENS. 9 That my keen knife] The word knife, which at present has a familiar undignified meaning, was anciently used to express a sword or dagger.
1 Great Glamis! worthy Cawdor!] Shakspeare has supported the character of Lady Macbeth by repeated efforts, and never omits any opportunity of adding a trait of ferocity, or a mark of the want of human feelings, to this monster of his own creation. The softer passions are more obliterated in her than in her husband, in proportion as her ambition is greater. She meets him here on his arrival from an expedition of danger, with such a salutation as would have become one of his friends or vassals; a sakutation apparently fitted rather to raise his thoughts to a level
Greater than both, by the all-hail hereafter!
The future in the instant.
Duncan comes here to-night.
My dearest love,
And when goes hence?
Macb. To-morrow,-as he purposes.
Shall sun that morrow see!
Your face, my thane, is as a book, where men
But be the serpent under it. He that's coming
This night's great business into my despatch;
To alter favour ever is to fear:3
Only look up clear;
with her own purposes, than to testify her joy at his return, or manifest an attachment to his person: nor does any sentiment expressive of love or softness fall from her throughout the play. While Macbeth himself, amidst the horrors of his guilt, still retains a character less fiend-like than that of his queen, talks to her with a degree of tenderness, and pours his complaints and fears into her bosom, accompanied with terms of endearment. STEEVENS.
2 Your face, my thane, is as a book, where men
May read, &c.] That is, thy looks are such as will awaken men's curiosity, excite their attention, and make room for suspicion.
› To alter favour ever is to fear:] Favour is-look, counte
The same. Before the Castle.
Hautboys. Servants of Macbeth attending.
Enter DUNCAN, MALCOLM, DONALBAIN, BANQUo, LENOX, MACDUFF, ROSSE, ANGUS, and Attendants.
Dun. This castle hath a pleasant seat;* the air Nimbly and sweetly recommends itself
Unto our gentle senses.
This guest of summer, The temple-haunting martlet, does approve, By his lov'd mansionry, that the heaven's breath, Smells wooingly here: no jutty, frieze, buttress, Nor coigne of vantage, but this bird hath made
* This castle hath a pleasant seat;] This short dialogue between Duncan and Banquo, whilst they are approaching the gates of Macbeth's castle, has always appeared to me a striking instance of what in painting is termed repose. Their conversation very naturally turns upon the beauty of its situation, and the pleasantness of the air; and Banquo, observing the martlets' nests in every recess of the cornice, remarks, that where those birds most breed and haunt, the air is delicate. The subject of this quiet and easy conversation gives that repose so necessary to the mind after the tumultuous bustle of the preceding scenes, and perfectly contrasts the scene of horror that immediately succeeds. It seems as if Shakspeare asked himself, What is a prince likely to say to his attendants on such an occasion? Whereas the modern writers seem, on the contrary, to be always searching for new thoughts, such as would never occur to men in the situation which is represented.— This also is frequently the practice of Homer, who, from the midst of battles and horrors, relieves and refreshes the mind of the reader, by introducing some quiet rural image, or picture of fami、 liar domestick life. SIR J. REYNOLDS.
coigne of vantage,] Convenient corner.