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* MACBETH. ] In order to make a true estimate of the abilities and merit of a writer, it is always necessary io examine the genius of his age, and the opinions of his contemporaries. A poet who Mould now make the whole ađion of his tragedy depend upon enchantment, and produce the chief events by the aslistance of supernaiural agents, would be censured as transgrefling the bounds of probability, be banished froin the theatre to the nursery, and condemned io wrile fairy tales instead of tragedies ; but a survey of the notions that prevailed at the time when this play was written, will prove that Shakspeare was in no danger of such censures, since he only turned ihe system that was the universally admitted, 10 his advantage, and was far from overburdening the credulity of his audience.

The reality of witchcraft or enchantment, which, though not firialy the same, are confounded in this play, has in all ages and countries been credited by the common people, and in most, by the learned themselves. The phantoms have indeed appeared more frequently, in proportion as the darkness of ignorance has been more gross; but it cannot be shown, that the brightest gleams of knowledge have at any time been sufficient to drive them out of the world. The time in which this kind of credulity was at its heigbt, seems to have been that of the holy war, in which the Christians imputed all their defeats to enchantments or diabolical opposition, as they ascribed their success to the assistance of their military faints ; and the learned Dr. Warburton appears to believe ( Suppl. to the Introduction to Don Quixote) that the first accounts of enchantments were brought into this part of the world by those who returned from their eastern expeditions. But there is always some distance between the birth and maturity of folly as of wickedness: this opinion bad long exifted, though perhaps the application of it had in no foregoing age been fo frequent, nor the reception fo general. Olympiodorus, in Photius's extra&s, tells us of one Libanius, who practised this kind of military magic, and bấving promised Xópos ÓTM7@v metà feep Cápwv évegleiv, to perform great things against the Barbarians without soldiers, was, at the instance of the empress Placidia, put to death, when he was about to have given proofs of his abilities. The empress showed some kindness in her anger, by cutting bim off at a time so convenient for his reputation.

But a more remarkable proof of the antiquity of this notion may be found in St. Chryfoftom's book de Sacerdotio, which exbibits a scene of enchantments not exceeded by any romance of the middlc age: he supposes a spe&ator overlooking a field of battle attended by one that points out all the various obje&s of horror, the engines of deftruction, and the arts of laughter. Δεικνύτο δε έτι παρά τους εναντίοις και πετομένες ιππες διά τινος μαύγανείας, και οπλίτες δι' αέρος φερομένες, και πάσην γοητείας δύναμιν και ιδέαν. Let him then proceed to show him in the opposite armies horses Aying by enchantment, armed men transported through the air, and every power and form of magis.

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Whether St. Chryfoftom believed that such performances were really to be seen in a day of battle, or only endeavoured to enliven his description, by adopting the notions of the vulgar, it is equally certain, that such notions were in his time received, and that therefore they were not imported from the Saracens in a later age, the wars with the Saracens however gave occasion to their propagation, not only as bigotry naturally discovers prodigies, but as the scene of aâion was removed to a great diftance.

The Reformation did not immediately arrive at its meridian, and though day was gradually increasing upon us, the goblins of witchcraft ftill continued to hover in the twilight. In the time of queen Elizabeth was the remarkable trial of the witches of Warbois, whose convi&ion is ftill commemorated in an annual sermon at Huntingdon. But in the reign of king James, in which this tragedy was written, many circumstances concurred to propagate and confirm this opinion. The king, who was much celebrated for his knowledge, had, before his arrival iu England, not only examined in person a woman accused of witchcraft, but had giveu a very formal account of the pra&ices and illusions of evil spirits, the compads of witches, the ceremonies used by them, the manoer of deteāing them, and the justice of punishing them, in his dialogues of Dæmonologie, written in the Scottish diale&, and publithed at Edinburgh. This book was,' soon after his succesfion, reprinted at London, and as the ready way to gain king James's favour was to flatter his speculations, the system of Dæmonologie was immedia ately adopted by all who desired either to gain preferment or not to lose it.

Thus the do&rine of witchcraft was very powerfully inculcated ; and as the greatest part of mankind have no other reason for their opinions than that they are in fathion, it cannot be doubted but this persuasion made a rapid progress, fince vanity and credulity co-operated in its favour. The infe&ion soon reached the parliament, who, in the first year of king James, made a law, by which it was ended, chap. xii. That “ it any person shall use any invocation or conjuration of any evil or wicked spirit; 2. îhall consult, covenant with, entertain, employ, feed or reward any evil or cursed spirit to or for any intent or purpose ; 3 or take up any dead man, woman, or child, out of the grave, - or the skin, bone, or any part of the dead person, to be employed or used in any manner of witchcraft, sorcery, charm, or enchantment; 4. or shall use, pradise, or exercise any sort of witchcraft, sorcery, charm, or enchantment; 5. whereby any person shall be deftroyed, killed, wasted, consumed, pined, or lamed in any part of the body; 6. That every such person being convided shall suffer death." This law was repealed in our own time.

Thus, in the time of Shakspeare, was the do&rine of witchcraft at once established by law and by the fashion, and it became not only unpolite, but criminal, to doubt it; and as prodigies are


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always seen in proportion as they are expe&ed, witches were every day discovered, and multiplied so fast in some places, that bishop Hall mentions a village in Lancashire, * where their 'number was greater than that of the houses. The jesuits and se&aries took ade vantage of this universal error, and endeavoured to promote the interest of their parties by pretended cures of persons affiided by evil spirits ; but they were dete&ed and exposed by the clergy of the established church.

Upon this general infatuation Shakspeare might be easily allowed to found a play, especially fince he has followed with great exa&. ness {uch hiftories as were then thought true ; nor can it be doubted that the scenes of enchantment, however they may now be ridiculed, were both by himself and his audience thought awful and affeding.

JOHNSON. In the concluding paragraph of Dr. Johnson's admirable introdu&ion to this play, he seems apprehensive that the fame of Shakspeare's magic may be endangered by modern ridicule. I shall not beftate, however, to predi& its security, till our national taste is wholly corrupted, aud we no longer deserve the first of all dramatic enjoyments; for such, in my opinion at least, is the tragedy of Macbeth. STEEVENS.

Malcolm II. king of Scotland, had two daughters. The eldest was married to Crynin, the father of Duncan, Thane of the Ies, and western parts of Scotland; and on the death of Malcolm, without male issue, Duncan succeeded to the throne. Malcolm's second daughter was married to Sinel, Thane' of Glamis, the father of Macbeth. Duncan, who married the daughter of Siward, Earl of Northumberland, was murdered by his cousin german, Macbeth, in the cattle of Inverness, according to Buchanan, in the year 1040; according to Hedor Boethius, in 1045. Boethius, whose history of Scotland was first printed in seventeen books, at Paris, in 1526, thus describes the event which forms the basis of the tragedy before

Makbeth, be perfuafion of his wyfe, gaderit his friendis to ane counsall at Invernes, quhare kyng Duncane happennit to be for ye tyme. And because he fand fulficient opportunitie, be support of Banquho and otheris his friendis, he flew kyng Duncane, the vii zeir of his regne." After the murder of Duncan, Macbeth “come with ane gret power to Scone, and tuk the crowne." Chroniclis of Scotland, translated by John Bellenden, folio, 1541. Macbeth was


+ In Nashe's Lenten Stuff, 1599, it is said, that no less than fix hundred witches were executed at one time: ".--- itis evident by the confession of the six hundred Scotch witches executed in Scotland at Bartholomew tide was twelve month, that in Yarmouth road they were all together in a plump on Christmas eve was two years, when the great flood was ; and there stirred up such tornadoes and furicanoes of tempefts, as will be spoken of there whilft any winds or storms and tempeits chafe and puff in the lower region.” REED.


himself lain by Macduff in the year 1061, according to Boethius; according to Buchanan, in 1057; at which time King Edward the Confessor possessed the throne of England. Holinshed copied the hiftory of Boethius, on Holinshed's ation Shakspeare formed his play.

In the reign of Duncan, Banquo having been plundered by the people of Lochaber of some of the king's revenues, which he had collc&ed, and being dangeroully wounded in the affray, the persons concerned in this outrage were summoned to appear at a certain day. But they flew the sergeant at arms who summoned them, and chose one MACDOWALD as their captain. Macdowald speedily colleded a considerable body of forces from Ireland and the Western. Isles, and in one a&ion gained a vi&ory over the king's army. In this battle Malcolm, a Scottish nobleman, who was (says Boethius) " Lieutenant to Duocan in Lochaber, was flain. Afterwards Macbeth and Banguo were appointed to the command of the army; and Macdowald being obliged to take refuge in a castle in Lochaber, first flew his wife and children, and then himself. Macbeth on entering the castle finding his dead body, ordered his head to be cut off, and carried to the king, at thc caftle of Bertha, and his body to be hung on a high tree.

At a subsequent period, in the last year of Duncan's reign, Sucna king of Norway, landed a powerful army in Fife, for the purpose of invading Scotland. Duncan immediately assembled an army to oppose him, and gave the command of two divisions of it to Macbetb and Banquo, putting himself at the head of a third. Sueno was successful in one battle, but in a second was routed; and after a great flaughter of his troops he escaped with ten persons 'only, and fled back to Norway. Though there was an interval of time between the rebellion of Macdowald and the invasion of Sueno, our author has woven these two adions together, and immediately after Sueno's defeat the present play commences.

It is remarkable that Buchanan has pointed out Macbeth's hitory as a subje& for the ftage. “ Multa hic fabulofe quidam noftrorum afingunt; fed, quia theatris aut Milefiis fabulis funt aptiora quam hifa toriæ, ea omitto. RERUM Scor. Hist. L. VII. But there was no tranfțation of Buchanan's work till after our author's death.

This tragedy was written, I believe, in the year 1606. See the notes at the end; and An attempt to ascertain the order of Shakspeare's plays, Vol. II. MALONE.

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his fons.

Duncan, King of Scotland: '

Generals of the King's army.

Noblemen of Scotland.
Fleance, Son to Banquo.
Siward, Earl of Northumberland, Géneral of the

English forces: Young Siward, his Son. Seyton, an Officer attending on Macbeth. Son to Macduff. An English Doctor. A Scotch Doctor. A Soldier. A Porter. An old Man. Lady Macbeth. Lady Macduff. Gentlewoman attending on Lady Macbeth. Hecate, and three Witches. Lords, Gentlemen, Officers, Soldiers, Murderers,

Attendants, and Messengers, The Ghost of Banquo, and several other Apparitions. SCENE, in the end of the fourth act, lies in Eng

land; through the rest of the play, in Scotland; and, chiefly, at Macbeth's castle. Lady Macbeth.) Her name was Gruach. See Lord Hailes's Annals of Scotland, ll. 332. RITSON.

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