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obscurely expressed. The meaning seems to be :Being unprepared, our entertainment was necessarily defective, and we only had it in our power to shew the king our willingness to serve him. Had we received sufficient notice of his coming, our zeal should have been more clearly manifested by our acls. Which refers not to the last antecedent (defect) but to will,
MALONE. 30. If you shall cleave to my consent when 'tis ] Macbeth expresses his thought with affected obscurity; he does not mention the royalty, though he apparently had it in his mind. If you shall cleave to my consent, if you shall concur with me when I determine to accept the crown, when 'tis, when that happens which the prediction promises, it shall make honour for you.
JOHNSON. When 'tis, means, when 'tis my leisure to talk with you on this business ; referring to what Banquo had just said, at your
kindest leisure. Macbeth could never mean to give Banquo at this time the most distant or obscure hint of his design upon the crown.
STEEVENS. 53. And on thy blade, and dudgeon, gouts of blood, ] Dudgeon properly means the haft or handle of a dagger, and is used for that particular sort of handle which has some ornament carved on the top of it. Junius explains the dudgeon, i. e. haft, by the Latin expression, manubrium apiatụm, which means a handle of wood, with a grain rough as if the seeds of parsley were strown over it.
Gascoigne confirms this : “ The most knottie piece of box may be wrought to a fayre doogen hafte." Gouts for drops is frequent in old English.
FARMER A gout is still a word in daily use. Gouts in this passage signify the stains left by blood when it issues from a wound, and trickles down the weapon.
-Now o'er the one half world
-] That is, over our hemisphere all actions and motion seem to have ceased. This image, which is perhaps the most striking that poetry can produce, has been adopted by Dryden in his Conquest of Mexico:
“ All things are hush'd as Nature's self lay dead,
sweat. “ Even lust and envy sleep!” These lines, though so well known, I have transcribed, that the contrast between them and this passage of Shakspere 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 Shakspere, nothing but sorcery, lust, and murder, is awake. He that reads Dryden finds himself lull’d with serenity, and disposed to solitude and contemplation.
He that peruses
Shakspere, looks round alarmed, and starts to find himself alone. One is the night of a lover, the other, of a murderer.
JOHNSON. · 59.
-wither'd murder, -thus with his stealthy pace, With Tarquin's ravishing, sides toward his design,
Moves like a ghost. -] This was the reading of this passage in all the editions before that of Mr. Pope, who, for sides, inserted in the text strides, which Mr. Theobald has tacitly copied from him, though a more proper alteration might perhaps have been made. A ravishing stride is an action of violence, impetuosity, and tumult, like that of a savage rushing on his prey ; whereas the poet is here attempting to exhibit an image of secrecy and caution, of anxious circumspection and guilty timidity, the stealthy pace of a ravisher creeping into the chamber of a virgin, and of an assassin approaching the bed of him whom he proposes to murder, without awaking him ; these he describes as moving like ghosts, whose progression is so different from strides, that it has been in all ages represented to be as Milton expresses it :
"Smooth sliding without step.” This hemistich will afford the true reading of this place, which is, I think, to be corrected thus :
-and wither'd murder,
- thus with his stealthy pace, With Tarquin ravishing, slides tow'rds his design,
Moves likes a ghost. Tarquin is in this place the general name of a ravisher, Fiij
and the sense is: Now is the time in which every one is asleep, but those who are employed in wickedness; the witch who is sacrificing to Hecate, and the ravisher, and the murderer, who, like me, are steal. ing upon their prey.
When the reading is thus adjusted, he wishes with great propriety, in the following lines, that the earth may not hear his steps.
JOHNSON. The last words in this note are sufficient to confute the intent of it. Macbeth, that the earth might not hear his steps, naturally takes as few as possible, and therefore advances with stealthy strides, the sooner and the safer to perpetrate his purpose. Though ravishment itself be an act of violence, a ravishing stride, or the stride of a ravisher, is not; and we have Shakspere's word that he did not think it so: for when Iachimo steals upon the sleeping Imogen, he says:
our Tarquin thus
“ The chastity he wounded.”
“ smooth sliding without step,'' it was ridiculous in him to talk of the earth's hearing his steps, and prating of his where-about.
HENLEY I cannot agree with Dr. Johnson, that a stride is al. ways an action of violence, impetuosity, or tumult. Spenser uses the word in his Faery Queen, b. iv. c. 8. and with no idea of violence annexed to it : $* With casy steps so soft as foot could stride."
And as an additional proof that a stride is not always a tumultuous effort, the following instance, from Harrington's Translation of Ariosto, may be brought :
“ He takes a long and leisurable stride,
Orlando Furioso, 28th book, stanza 63, This translation was entered on the books of the Sta. tioners-Company, Dec. 7, 1593.
Whoever has been reduced to the necessity of finding his way about a house in the dark, must know that it is natural to take large strides, in order to feel before us whether we have a safe footing or not. The ravisher and murderer would rally take such strides, not only on the same account, but that their steps might be fewer in number, and the sound of their feet be repeated as seldom as possible. STEEVENS.
63. - Thou sound and firm-set earth,] Though the reading of the folia is corrupt, it will direct us to the true one.
-Thou sowre and firm-set earth, was evidently meant to be:
-Thou sure and firsm-set earth, as I have inserted it in the text. So, in act iv. sc. 3. “ Great tyranny, lay thou thy basis sure."