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436. If it were done, &c.] A man' of learning recommends another punctuation :
If it were done, when 'tis done, then 'twere well.
JOHNSON. A sentiment parallel to this occurs in The Proceedings against Garnet in the Powder Plot. “ It would have been commendable when it had been done, though not before."
-If the assassination] If such atrocious acts did not draw after them a concatenation of cir. cumstances, requiring as much counteraction as the deed itself, I would venture upon it, and jump, (i. e. risk) the life to come.
HENLEY. See Jump, catch-word Alphabet.
439. With his surcease, success ; -] I think the reasoning requires that we should read : With its success surcease.
JOHNSON. A trammel is a net in which either birds or fishes are caught. So, in the Isle of Gulls, 1633:
“Each tree and shrub wears trammels of thy hair." Surcease is cessation, stop. So, in The Valiant Welchman, 1615: “ Surcease, brave brother : Fortune hath crown'd
our brows." His is used instead of its, in many places.
-shoal of time,] This is Theobald's emendation, undoubtedly right. The old edition has school, and Din Warburton, shelve. JOHNSON Eiii
442. We'd jump the life to come. -] So, in Cymbeline, act v. sc. 4. or jump the after-inquiry on your own peril.”
STEEVENS. I suppose the meaning to be We would over-leap, we would make no account of the life to come. So Autolycus in The Winter's Tale: “ For the life to come, I sleep out the thought of it.” 445.
-This even-handed justice] Our poet, apis Matinæ more modoque, would stoop to borrow a sweet from any flower, however humble in its situation.
“ The pricke of conscience (says Holinshed) caused him even to feare, lest he should be served of the same cup as he had minister'd to his predecessor.”
STEEVENS, 452. Hath borne his faculties so meek, -] Faculties, for office, exercise of power, &c. WARBURTON.
Hath borne his faculties so meek, – -] “ Dun can (says Holinshed) was soft and gentle of nature.” -And again : “ Macbeth spoke much against the king's softness, and overmuch slackness in punishing offenders."
-or heaven's cherubin, hors'd
Upon the sightless couriers of the air, ] Courier is only runner. Couriers of air are winds, air in motion, Sightless is invisible.
JOHNSON, So, in Warner's Albion's England, 1602, b. ii. c. 11, “ The scouring winds that sightless in the sounding air do fly."
460. That tears shall drown the wind.] Allud. ing to the remission of the wind in a shower.
JOHNSON So, in King Henry VI. Part III.
For raging wind blows up incessant showers,
And, when the rage allays, the rain begins. 460.
-no spur, &c.] The spur of the occasion is a phrase used by lord Bacon. STEEVENS
I have no spur
To prick the sides of my intent, but only
Vaulting ambition -]
you, lords, that 'tis ambition's spur, “ That pricketh Cæsar to these high attempis!"
MALONE, 463. And falls on the other] The word which Hanmer has on this occasion added, every
reader not fail to add for himself. He would give :
And falls on the other side, But the state of Macbeth's mind is more strongly marked by this break in the speech, than by any continuation of it which the most successful critick can supply.
STEEVENS. 464. Enter Lady.] The arguments by which Lady Macbeth persuades her husband to commit the murder, afford a proof of Shakspere's knowledge of human
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 ;
Who dares do more, is none. 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 hy which men have sometimes deluded their consci. ences, and persuaded themselves that what would be criminal in others, is virtuous in them: this argument Shakspere, whose plan obliged himn to make Macbeth yield, has not confuted, though he might easily have shewn, that a former obligation could not be vacated by a latter; that obligations, laid on us by a higher power, could not be over-ruled by obligations which we lay upon ourselves.
JOHNSON. 482. Like the poor cat i' the adage?] The adage alluded to is, The cat loves fish, but dares not wet het fret : “ Catus amat pisces, sed non vnlt-tingere plantas."
483. Pr'ythee, peace, &c.] A passage similar to this occurs in Measure for Measure, act ii. sc. 2.
be that you are, “ That is, a woman: if you're more, you're
none.” The folio, instead of do more, reads no more, but the present reading is undoubtedly right. SreeVENS.
The same sentiment occurs in Beaumont and Fletcher's Rollo :
“ My Rollo, tho' he dares as much as man,
HENLEY. 491. Did then adhere, -] The old copy reads adhere. In The Merry Wives of Windsor, Mrs. Ford says of Falstaff, that his words and actions “ no more adhere and keep pace together, than," &c.
STEEVENS. 495. I would while it was smiling in my face,] Polyxo, in the fifth book of Statius's Thebais, has a similar sentiment of ferocity :
In gremio (licet amplexu lachrymisque moretur)
STEVENS. 497. had I but so sworn] But is an interpolation made by the editor of the second folio, who was so little acquainted with our author's metre, as to suppose this line defective. There is certainly nothing wanting. Sworn was used as a dissyllable.
MALONE. 501. But screw "your courage to the sticking-place,]