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ACT I.....SCENE I.
An open Place.
Thunder and Lightning.
Witch. When shall we three meet again In thunder, lightning, or in rain?
2 Witch. When the hurlyburly 's done,3 When the battle 's lost and won :4
3 Witch. That will be ere set of sun.5
Enter three Witches.
Shakspeare must have been wholly unacquainted:
"And held hyr bathe hys Wyf and Qweyne,
"Til hys Eme Qwene, lyvand
66 Quhen he was Kyng wyth Crowne rygnand:
"For lytyl in honowre than had he
They greys of aflynyte." B. VI, 35.
From the incidents, however, with which Hector Boece has diversified the legend of Macbeth, our poet derived greater advantages than he could have found in the original story, as related by Wyntown.
The 18th chapter of his Cronykil, Book VI, together with observations by its accurate and learned editor, will be subjoined to this tragedy, for the satisfaction of inquisitive readers.
three Witches.] As the play now stands, in Act IV, sc. i, three other witches make their appearance. See note thereon. Steevens.
-burlyburly 's-] However mean this word may seem to modern ears, it came recommended to Shakspeare by the authority of Henry Peacham, who, in the year 1577, published a book professing to treat of the ornaments of language. It is called The Garden of Eloquence, and has this passage: "Onomatopeia, when we invent, devise, fayne, and make a name imitating the sownd of that it signifyeth, as burliburly, for an sprore and tumultuous stirre." Henderson.
So, in a translation of Herodian, 12mo. 1635, p. 26:
66 there was a mighty bulyburly in the campe," &c.
1 Witch. Where the place?
Upon the heath: 3 Witch. There to meet with Macbeth."
Again, p. 324:
great burliburlies being in all parts of the empire," &c. Reed.
4 When the battle's lost and won: :] i. e. the battle, in which Macbeth was then engaged. Warburton. So, in King Richard III:
while we reason here,
"A royal battle might be won and lost."
So also Speed, speaking of the battle of Towton: "
by which only stratagem, as it was constantly averred, the battle and day was lost and won.' Chronicle, 1611. Malone.
ere set of sun.] The old copy unnecessarily and harshly
-ere the set of sun.
6 There to meet with Macbeth.] Thus the old copy. Mr. Pope, and, after him, other editors:
There I go to meet Macbeth.
The insertion, however seems to be injudicious. To meet with Macbeth was the final drift of all the Witches in going to the heath, and not the particular business or motive of any one of them in distinction from the rest; as the interpolated words, 1 in the mouth of the third Witch, would most certainly go, imply.
Somewhat, however, (as the verse is evidently imperfect) must have been left out by the transcriber or printer Mr. Capell has therefore proposed to remedy this defect, by reading
There to meet with brave Macbeth.
But surely, to beings intent only on mischief, a soldier's bravery, in an honest cause, would have been no subject of encomium.
Mr. Malone (omitting all previous remarks, &c. on this passage) assures us, that" There is here used as a dissyllable.” I wish he had supported his assertion by some example. Those however, who can speak the line thus regulated, and suppose, they are reciting a verse, may profit by the direction they have received.
The pronoun" their," having two vowels together, may be split into two syllables; but the adverb "there" can only be used as a monosyllable, unless pronounced as if it were written "the-re," a license in which even Chaucer has not indulged himself.
It was convenient for Shakspeare's introductory scene, that his first Witch should appear uninstructed in her mission. Had she not required information, the audience must have remained ignorant of what it was necessary for them to know. Her
1 Witch. I come, Graymalkin!" All. Paddock calls:-Anon.-8
speeches therefore, proceed in the form of interrogatories; but all on a sudden, an answer is given to a question which had not been asked. Here seems to be a chasm, which I shall attempt to supply by the introduction of a single pronoun, and by distributing the hitherto mutilated line among the three speakers: 3 Witch. There to meet with
Distinct replies have now been afforded to the three necessary inquiries-When-Where-and Whom the Witches were to meet. Their conference receives no injury from my insertion and arrangement. On the contrary, the dialogue becomes more regular and consistent, as each of the hags will now have spoken thrice, (a magical number) before they join in utterance of the conclud. ing words, which relate only to themselves.-I should add, that, in the two prior instances, it is also the second Witch who furnishes decisive and material answers; and that I would give the words" I come, Graymalkin!" to the third. By assistance from such of our author's plays as had been published in quarto, we have often detected more important errors in the folio 1623, which, unluckily, supplies the most ancient copy of Macbeth.
- Graymalkin!] From a little black-letter book, entitled, Beware the Cat, 1584, I find it was permitted to a Witch to take on her a catte's body nine times. Mr. Upton observes, that, to understand this passage, we should suppose one familiar calling with the voice of a cat, and another with the croaking of a toad.
Again, in Newes from Scotland, &c (a pamphlet of which the reader will find the entire title in a future note on this play): "Moreover she confessed, that at the time when his majestie was in Denmarke, shee beeing accompanied with the partics before specially mentioned, tooke a cat and christened it, and afterward bound to each part of that cat the cheefest parte of a dead man, and several joyntes of his bodie, and that in the right following the said cat was convayed into the middest of the sea by all these witches sayling in their riddles or cives as is afore said, and so left the said cat right before the towne of Leith in Scotland. This doone, there did arise such a tempest in the sea, as a greater hath not bene seene," &c. Steevens.
Paddock calls: -&c.] This, with the two following lines, is given in the folio to the three Witches. Some preceding edi. tors have appropriated the first of them to the second Witch.
According to the late Dr. Goldsmith, and some other naturalists, a frog is called a paddock in the North; as in the following instance, in Casar and Pompey, by Chapman, 1607:
Paddockes, todes, and watersnakes.”
Fair is foul, and foul is fair:9
Hover through the fog and filthy air. [Witches vanish.
A Camp near Fores.
Dun. What bloody man is that? He can report,
This is the sergeant,1 Who, like a good and hardy soldier, fought
Again, in Wyntonwn is Cronykil, B. I, c. xiii, 55 : "As ask, or eddyre, tade, or pade."
In Shakspeare, however, it certainly means a toad. The representation of St. James in the witches' house (one of the set of prints taken from the painter called Hellish Breugel, 1566,) exhibits witches flying up and down the chimney on brooms; and before the fire sit grimalkin and paddock, i. e. a cat, and a toad, with several baboons. There is a cauldron boiling, with a witch near it, cutting out the tongue of a snake, as an ingredient for the charm. A representation somewhat similar likewise occurs in Newes from Scotland, &c. a pamphlet already quoted. Steevens. Some say, they [witches] can keepe devils and spirits, in the likeness of todes and cats.' Scot's Discovery of Witchcraft,  Book I, c. iv. Tollet.
9 Fair is foul, and foul is fair:] i. e. we make these sudden changes of the weather. And Macbeth, speaking of this day, soon after says:
So foul and fair a day I have not seen.
The con mon idea of witches has always been, that they had absolute power over the weather, and could raise storms of any kind, or allay them, as they pleased. In conformity to this notion, Macbeth addresses them, in the fourth Act:
Though you untie the winds, &c.
I believe the meaning is, that to us, perverse and malignant as we are, fair is foul, and foul is fair. Johnson.
This expression seems to have been proverbial. Spenser has it in the 4th Book of the Faery Queen:
“Then fair grew foul, and foul grew fair in sight.” Farmer. 1 This is the sergeant,] Holinshed is the best interpreter of Shakspeare in his historical plays; for he not only takes his facts from him, but often his very words and expressions. That historian, in his account of Macdowald's rebellion, mentions, that on the first appearance of a mutinous spirit among the people, the king sent a sergeant at arms into the country, to bring up the
'Gainst my captivity:-Hail, brave friend! Say to the king the knowledge of the broil, As thou didst leave it.
Doubtfully it stood;2 As two spent swimmers, that do cling together, And choke their art. The merciless Macdonwald3 (Worthy to be a rebel; for, to that,
chief offenders to answer the charge preferred against them; but they, instead of obeying, misused the messenger with sundry reproaches, and finally slew bim. This sergeant at arms is certainly the origin of the bleeding sergeant introduced on the present occasion. Shakspeare just caught the name from Holinshed, but the rest of the story not suiting his purpose, he does not adhere to it. The stage-direction of entrance, where the bleeding captain is mentioned, was probably the work of the player editors, and not of the poet.
Sergeant, however, (as the ingenious compiler of the Glossary to A. of Wyntown's Cronykil observes) is "a degree in military service now unknown."
"Of sergeandys thare and knychtis kene
"He gat a gret cumpany." B. VIII, ch. xxvi, v. 396. The same word occurs again in the fourth Poem of Lawrence Minot, p. 19:
"He hasted him to the swin, with sergantes snell,
"To mete with the Normandes that fals war and fell." According to M. le Grand, (says Mr. Ritson) sergeants were a sort of gens d'armes. Steevens.
2 Doubtfully it stood;] Mr. Pope, who introduced the epithet long, to assist the metre, and reads
Doubtful long it stood,
has thereby injured the sense. If the comparison was meant to coincide in all circumstances, the struggle could not be long. I read
Doubtfully it stood;
The old copy has-Doubtfull-so that my addition consists of but a single letter. Steevens.
3 Macdonwald-] Thus the old copy. According to Holinshed we should read-Macdowald. Steevens.
So also the Scottish Chronicles. However, it is possible that Shakspeare might have preferred the name that has been substituted, as better sounding. It appears from a subsequent scene that he had attentively read Holinshed's account of the murder of king Duff, by Donwald, Lieutenant of the castle of Fores; in consequence of which he might, either from inadvertence, or choice, have here written-Macdonwald. Malone.
to that, &c.] i. e. in addition to that. So, in Troilus and Cressida, Act I, sc. i:
"The Greeks are strong, and skilful to their strength, "Fierce to their skill, and to their fierceness valiant."