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means of security, are detected by supernatural directions.
Augurs, that understand relations, &c. By the word relation is understood the connexion of effects with causes; to understand relations as an angur is to know how those things relate to each other which have no visible combination or dependence.
Enter Lenox and another Lord. As this tragedy like the rest of Shakespeare's, is perhaps overstocked with personages, it is not easy to assign a reason, why a nameless character should be introduced here, since nothing is said that might not with equal propriety have been put into the mouth of any other disaffected man. I believe, therefore, that in the original copy, it was written with a very common form of contraction, Lenox and An, for which the transcriber instead of Lenox and Angus, set down Lenox and another Lord. The author had indeed been more indebted to the transcriber's fidelity and diligence, had he committed no errors of greater importance.
As this is the chief scene of enchantment in the play, it is proper in this place to observe, with how ruch judgment Shakespeare has selected all the
circumstances of his infernal ceremonies, and how exactly he has conformed to common opinions and traditions.
Thrice the brinded cat hath mew'd. The usual form in which familiar spirits are reported to converse with witches, is that of a cat. A witch who was tried about half a century before the time of Shakespeare, had a cat named Rutterkin, as the spirit of one of those witches was Grimalkin ; and when any mischief was to be done, she used to bid Rutterkin go and fly; but once when she would have sent Rutterkin to torment a daughter of the countess of Rutland, instead of going or flying, he only cried mew, from which she discovered that the lady was out of his power, the power of witches being not universal, but limited, as Shakespeare has taken care to inculcate.
Though his bark cannot be lost,
Yet it shall be tempest tost. The common afflictions which the malice of witches produced were melancholy, fits, and loss of flesh, which are threatened by one of Shakespeare's witches.
Weary sev’nnights nine times nine
Shall he dwindle, peak, and pine. It was likewise their practice to destroy the cattle of their neighbours, and the farmers have to this day many ceremonies to secure their cows and other cattle from witchcraft ; but they seem to have been most suspected of malice against swine. Shakespeare has accordingly made one of his witches declare that she has been killing swine ; and Dr. Harsénet observes, that about that time a sowo could not be ill of the measles, nor a girl of the sullens, but some old woman was charged with witchcraft.
Toad, that under the cold stone
Boil thou first i' the charmed pot. Toads have likewise long lain under the reproach of being by some means necessary to witchcraft, for which reason Shakespeare, in the first scene of this play, calls one of the spirits padocke or toad, and now takes care to put a toad first into the pot. When Vaninus was seized at Thoulouse, there was found at his lodgings ingens bufo vitro inclusus, a great toad shut in a vial, upon which those that prosecuted him veneficium exprobrabant, charged him, I suppose, with witchcraft.
Fillet of a fenny snake
For a charm, fc. The propriety of these ingredients may be known by consulting the books de Viribus Animalium and de Mirabilibus Mundi, ascribed to Albertus Magnus, in which the reader, who has time and credulity, may discover very wonderful secrets.
Finger of birth-strangled babe,
Ditch-deliver'd by a drab;It has been already mentioned in the law against witches, that they are supposed to take up dead bodies to use in enchantments, which was confessed by the woman whom King James examined, and who had of a dead body, that was divided in one of their assemblies, two fingers for her share. It is observable, that Shakespeare, on this great occasion which involves the fate of a king, multiplies all the circumstances of horrour. The babe whose finger is used, must be strangled in its birth; the grease must not only be human, but must have dropped from a gibbet, the gibbet of a murderer: and even the sow whose blood is used, must have offended nature by devouring her own farrow. These are touches of judgment and genius.
And now about the cauldron sing
Blue spirits and white,
You that mingle may.
Weird sisters hand in hand
And thrice again to make up nine. These two passages I have brought together, be cause they both seem subject to the objection of too much levity for the solemnity of enchantment, and may both be shown, by one quotation from Camden's account of Ireland, to be founded upon a practice really observed by the uncivilized natives of that country. “ When any one gets a fall, says the informer of Camden, he starts up, and turning three times to the right, digs a hole in the earth; for they imagine that there is a spirit in the ground; and if he falls sick in two or three days, they send one of their women that is skilled in that way to the place, where she says, I call thee from the east, west, north, and south, from the groves, the woods, the rivers, and the fens, from the fairies, red, black, white.” There was likewise a book written before the time of Shakespeare, describing amongst other properties, the colours of spirits.
Many other circumstances might be particularized, in which Shakespeare has shown his judgment and his knowledge.
Macbeth. Thou art too like the spirit of Banquo, down, Thy crown does (1) sear my eye-balls, and thy (2) hair, Thou other gold-bound brow, is like the first, A third is like the former.
(1) The expression of Macbeth, that the crown sears his eye-balls, is taken from the method formerly practised of destroying the sight of captives or competitors, by holding a burning bason before the eye, which dried up its humidity.
(2) As Macbeth expected to see a train of kings, and was only enquiring from what race they would proceed, he could not be surprised that the hair of the second was bound with gold like that of the first; he was offended only that the second resembled the first, as ihe first resembled Banquo, and therefore said
And thy air Thou other gold-bound brow, is like the first.