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Nature seems dead, and wicked dreams abuse
ravishing strides, towards his
design Moves like a ghost. -Thou sure and firm-set
earth, Hear not my steps, which way they walk, for fear Thy very stones prate of my
where-about, And take the present horror from the time, Which now suits with it. 4-Whiles I threat, he
lives; Words to the heat of deeds too cold breath gives.
[ A bell rings.
Now o'er the one half world Nature seems dead,] That is, over our hemisphere all action and motion seem to have coased. This image, which is, perhaps, the most striking that poetry can produce, has been adopted by Dryden, in his Conquest of Alexico:
“ All things are hush'd as Nature's self lay dead,
“ Even lust and envy sleep!” These lines, though so well known, I have transcribed, that the contrast between them and this passage of Shakspeare may be more accurately observed.
Night is described by two great poets, but one describes a night of quiet, the other of perturbation. In the night of Dryden, all the disturbers of the world are laid asleep; in that of Shakspeare, nothing but sorcery, lust, and murder, is awake. He that reads Dryden, finds himself lulled with serenity, and disposed to solitude and contemplation. He that peruses Shakspeare, looks round alarmed, and starts to find himself alone. One is the night of a lover; the other, of a murderer. JOHNSON. 4 And take the present horror
from the time, Which now suits with it.] i. e. lest the noise from the stones
I go, and it is done; the bell invites me.
Enter Lady Macbeth. Lady M. That which hath made them drunk,
hath made me bold: What hath quench'd them, hath given me fire:
Hark!--Peace! It was the owl that shriek’d, the fatal bellman, Which gives the stern'st good-night. He is about it: The doors are open; and the surfeited grooms Do mock their charge with snores: I have drugg'd
That death and nature do contend about them,
Macb. [Within.) Who's there?-what, ho!
Lady M. Alack! I am afraid they have awak’d, And ’tis not done:—the attempt, and not the deed, Confounds us:--Hark!-I laid their daggers ready, He could not miss them.-Had he not resembled My father as he slept, I had done't.—My husband?
take away from this midnight season that present horror which suits so well with what is going to be acted in it. What was the horror he means ? Silence, than which nothing can be more horrid to the perpetrator of an atrocious design. This shows a great knowledge of human nature. WARBURTON.
Whiles I threat, he lives; Words to the heat of deeds too cold breath gives.] Here is dently a false concord; but it must not be corrected, for it is necessary to the rhyme. Nor is this the only place in which Shakspeare has sacrificed grammar to rhyme.
Macb. I have done the deed :-Didst thou not
hear a noise? Lady M. I heard the owl scream, and the crick
Did not you speak?
As I descended
[Looking on his hands. Lady M. A foolish thought, to say a sorry sight. Macb. There's one did laugh in his sleep, and one
cried, murder! That they did wake each other; I stood and heard
them: But they did say
prayers, and address’d them Again to sleep
There are two lodg’d together. Macb. One cried, God bless us! and, Amen, the
other; As they had seen me, with these hangman's hands.
Had he not resembled My father as he slept, I had done't.] This is very artful. For, as the poet has drawn the lady and her husband, it would be thought the act should have been done by her. It is likewise highly just; for though ambition had subdued in her all the sentiments of nature towards present objects, yet the likeness of one past, which she had been accustomed to regard with reverence, made her unnatural passions, for a moment, give way to the sentinients of instinct and humanity. WARBURTON. ? As they had seen me,] i. e, as if.
Listening their fear, I could not say, amen,
Consider it not so deeply. Macb. But wherefore could not I pronounce,
amen? I had most need of blessing, and amen Stuck in my throat.
These deeds must not be thought After these ways; so, it will make us mad. Macb. Methought, I heard a voice cry, Sleep no
more! Macbeth does murder sleep, the innocent sleep; Sleep, that knits up the raveli'd sleave of care, The death of each day's life, sore labour's bath, Balm of hurt minds, great nature's second course, Chief nourisher in life's feast ;
mean? Macb. Still it cried, Sleep no more! to all the
the ravelld sleave of care,] Sleave signifies the ravell’d knotty part of the silk, which gives great trouble and embarrassment to the knitter or weaver. 9 Glamis hath murder'd sleep; and therefore Cawdor
Shall sleep no more, Macbeth shall sleep no more !] This triple menace, accommodated to the different titles of Macbeth, is too quaint to be received as the natural ebullition of a guilty mind. Introduce the adjuncts of a modern nobleman in the same manner, and the fault of the passage will become yet more conspicuous : as for instance
Norfolk hath murder'd sleep; and therefore Surrey
They must lie there: Go, carry them; and smear
go no more:
Infirm of purpose!
[Exit. Knocking within. Macb.
Whence is that knocking? How is't with me, when every noise appals me? What hands are here? Ha! they pluck out mine
Will all great Neptune's ocean wash this blood
Re-enter Lady MACBETH. Lady M. My hands are of your colour; but I
shame To wear a heart so white. [Knock.] I hear a
knocking At the south entry:-retire we to our chamber: A little water clears us of this deed: How easy
is it then? Your constancy Hath left you unattended.-[Knocking.] Hark!
* The multitudinous seas incarnardine,] To incarnardine is to stain any thing of a flesh colour, or red. Carnardine is the old term for carnation. By multitudinous, the poet is supposed to mean seas of every denomination : or, the seas which swarm with inhabitants: or, perhaps alludes to the multitude of waves. The commentators are not agreed on this point.