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With Tarquin's ravishing strides, towards his design
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. JOHNSON.
Line 75. And take the present horror from the time,
Which now suits with it.] Whether to take horror from the time means not rather to catch it as communicated, than to deprive the time of horror, deserves to be considered. JOHNS.
ACT II. SCENE II.
Line 123. As they had seen me,] i. e. as if they had seen me. -124. Listening their fear.] i. e. Listening to their fear, the particle omitted. This is common in our author. STEEVENS. Line 136. the ravell'd sleave of care,] A skein of unwrought silk is called a sleave of silk, as I learned from Mr. Seward, the ingenious editor of Beaumont and Fletcher. JOHNSON.
gild the faces of the grooms withal,
sibly mean to
For it must seem their guilt.] Could Shakspeare posplay upon the similitude of gild and guilt? JOHNS. Line 168. The multitudinous seas incarnardine,] To incarnardine, is to stain any thing of a flesh colour. STEEVENS.
Line 182. To know my deed,—'twere best not know myself.] i.e. While I have the thoughts of this deed it were best not know, or be lost to, myself. WARBURTON.
ACT II. SCENE III.
napkins enough-] i. e. handkerchiefs. STEEV. -here's an equivocator,-who committed treason enough for God's sake,] Meaning a jesuit: an order so troublesome to the state in queen Elizabeth and king James the first's time. The inventors of the execrable doctrine of equivocation. WARB.
Line 198. here's an English tailor come hither, for stealing out of a French hose:] The archness of the joke consists in this, that a French hose being very short and strait, a tailor must be master of his trade who could steal any thing from thence. WARB.
Line 230. I made a shift to cast him.] To cast him up, to ease my stomach of him. The equivocation is between cast or throw, as a term of wrestling, and cast or cast up. JOHNSON.
Line 345. For 'tis my limited service,] Limited, for appointed. WARBURTON.
Tongue, nor heart,
Cannot conceive, &c.] The use of two negatives, not to make an affirmative, but to deny more strongly, is very common in our author. STEEVENS.
Line 292. What, in our house?] This is very fine. Had she been innocent, nothing but the murder itself, and not any of its aggravating circumstances, would naturally have affected her. WARBURTON.
-badg'd with blood;] i. e. marked.
His silver skin lac'd with his golden blood;] It is not improbable, that Shakspeare put these forced and unnatural metaphors into the mouth of Macbeth as a mark of artifice and dissimulation, to shew the difference between the studied language of hypocrisy, and the natural outcries of sudden passion. This whole speech so considered, is a remarkable instance of judgment, as it consists entirely of antithesis and metaphor. JOHNSON.
Line 327. Unmannerly breech'd with gore:] The expression may mean, that the daggers were covered with blood, quite to the breeches, i. e. their hilts or handles. The lower end of a cannon is called the breech of it. STEEVENS.
Line 310. -322.
In the great hand of God I stand; and, thence,
Of treasonous malice.] Pretence is simulation; a pretence of the traitor, whoever he might be, to suspect some other of the murder. I here fly to the protector of innocence from any charge which, yet undivulg'd, the traitor may pretend to fix upon JOHNSON.
Line 362. This murderous shaft that's shot,
Hath not yet lighted ;] The design to fix the murder upon some innocent person has not yet taken effect. JOHNSON
ACT II. SCENE IV.
Line 384. in her pride of place,] Finely express'd, for confidence in its quality. WARBURTON.
Line 403. What good could they pretend?] To pretend is here to propose to themselves, to set before themselves as a motive of action. JOHNSON.
ACT III. SCENE 1.
Line 8. (As upon thee, Macbeth, their speeches shine-)] Shine, for prosper. WARBURTON.
Shine, for appear with all the lustre of conspicuous truth. JOHNS. Line 74. For Banquo's issue have I fil'd my mind;] We should read, 'filed my mind; i. e. defiled. WARBURTON. This mark of contraction is not necessary. To file is in the bishop's Bible. JOHNSON.
Line 78. -the common enemy of man,] It is always an entertainment to an inquisitive reader, to trace a sentiment to its original source; and therefore, though the term enemy of man, applied to the devil, is in itself natural and obvious, yet some may be pleased with being informed, that Shakspeare probably borrowed it from the first lines of the Destruction of Troy, a book which he is known to have read. This expression, however, he might have had in many other places. The word fiend signifies enemy.
-come, fate, into the list
And champion me to the utterance!] This passage will be best explained by translating it into the language from whence the only word of difficulty in it is borowed. Que la destinée se rende en lice, et qu'elle me donne un defi a l'outrance. A challenge or a combat a l'outrance, to extremity, was a fix'd term in the law of arms, used when the combatants engaged with an odium internecinum, an intention to destroy each other, in opposition to trials of skill at festivals, or on other occasions, where the contest was only for reputation or a prize. The sense therefore is, Let Fate, that has fore-doom'd the exaltation of the sons of Banquo, enter the lists against me, with the utmost animosity, in defence of its own decrees, which I will endeavour to invalidate, whatever be the danger. JOHNSON.
Line 103. Are you so gospell'd,] Are you of that degree of precise virtue? Gospeller was a name of contempt given by the Papists to the Lollards, the puritans of early times, and the precursors of protestantism. JOHNSON.
Line 110. Shoughs,] Shoughs are probably what we now call shocks, demi-wolves, lycisca; dogs bred between wolves and dogs. JOHNSON.
Line 111. the valued file-] In this speech the word file occurs twice, and seems in both places to have a meaning different from its present use. The expression, valued file, evidently means, a list or catalogue of value. A station in the file, and not in the worst rank, may mean, a place in the list of manhood, and not in the lowest place. But file seems rather to mean in this place, a post of honour; the first rank, in opposition to the last; a meaning which I have not observed in any other place. JOHNSON. Line 130. So weary with disasters, tugg'd with fortune,] Tugg'd with fortune may be, tugg'd or worried by fortune. JOHNSON. Line 136. in such bloody distance,] By bloody distance is here meant, such a distance as mortal enemies would stand at from each other when their quarrel must be determined by the sword. STEEVENS.
Line 153. Acquaint you with the perfect spy o'the time.] Perfect is well instructed, or well informed. JOHNSON.
That I require a clearness:] i. e. you must manage matters so that, throughout the whole transaction, I may stand clear of all suspicion. STEEVENS.
ACT III. SCENE II.
Line 193. In restless extacy.] Extacy, for madness. WARB. 203. Present him eminence,] i. e. do him the highest WARBURTON.
Line 211. —nature's copy not eterne.] (for eternal.) The copy, the lease, by which they hold their lives from nature, has its time of termination limited.
Line 216. The shard-borne beetle,] i. e. the beetle hatched in clefts of wood. JOHNSON. -Come, seeling night,] i. e. blinding. It is a WARBURTON.
Line 222. term in falconry.
Line 228. Makes wing to the rooky wood.] Rooky or reeky, means damp, misty, steaming with exhalations. It is only a North country variation of dialect. Rooky wood may, however, mean a rookery, the wood that abounds with rooks.
ACT III. SCENE III.
Line 234. But who did bid thee join with us?] The meaning of this abrupt dialogue is this. The perfect spy, mentioned by Macbeth in the foregoing scene, has, before they enter upon the stage, given them the directions which were promised at the time of their agreement; yet one of the murderers suborned suspects him of intending to betray them; the other observes, that, by his exact knowledge of what they were to do, he appears to be employed by. Macbeth, and needs not be mistrusted. JOHNSON. -lated i. e. belated, surprised by the night. -] -the note of expectation,] i. e. they who are set down in the list of guests, and expected to supper. STEEVENS. Line 263. Was't not the way?] i. e. the best means we could take to evade discovery. STEEVENS.
Line 242. 248.
ACT III. SCENE IV.
You know your own degrees, sit down: at first,
And last, the hearty welcome.] All of whatever degree, from the highest to the lowest, may be assured that their visit is well received. JOHNSON.
Line 285. 'Tis better thee without than he within.] The sense should be read thus: requires that this passage 'Tis better thee without, than him within.
That is, I am better pleased that the blood of Banquo should be on thy face than in his body.
The author might mean, It is better that Banquo's blood were on thy face, than he in this room. Expressions thus imperfect are common in his works. JOHNSON.
Line 311. the feast is sold, &c.] Mr. Pope reads, cold. The meaning is,―That which is not given chearfully cannot be called a gift, it is something that must be paid for. JOHNSON. Line 345. extend his passion;] Prolong his suffering; make his fit longer. JOHNSON. Line 349. O proper stuff!] This speech is rather too long for