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Dunsinane. A Room in the Castle.

Enter a Doctor of Physick, and a waiting Gentle


DOCT. I have two nights watched with you, but can perceive no truth in your report. When was it she last walked ?

GENT. Since his majesty went into the field, I

their instruments against the tyrant. So, in King Lear, Act I. Sc. IV. vol. x. p. 60:

"That you protect this course, and put it on


By your allowance."

Again, in Chapman's version of the eleventh Iliad :

"For Jove makes Trojans instruments, and virtually then "Wields arms himself." STEEVENS.

5 Since his majesty WENT INTO THE FIELD,] This is one of Shakspeare's oversights. He forgot that he had shut up Macbeth in Dunsinane, and surrounded him with besiegers. That he could not go into the field, is observed by himself with splenetic impa→ tience :


our castle's strength

"Will laugh a siege to scorn.

Here let them lie

"Till famine and the ague eat them up.

"Were they not forc'd with those that should be ours,
"We might have met them dareful, beard to beard,

"And beat them backward home."

It is clear also, from other passages, that Macbeth's motions had long been circumscribed by the walls of his fortress.

The truth may be, that Shakspeare thought the spirit of Lady Macbeth could not be so effectually subdued, and her peace of mind so speedily unsettled by reflection on her guilt, as during the absence of her husband:

deserto jacuit dum frigida lecto, Dum queritur tardos ire relicta dies.

For the present change in her disposition, therefore, our poet

have seen her rise from her bed, throw her nightgown upon her, unlock her closet, take forth paper, fold it, write upon it, read it, afterwards seal it, and again return to bed; yet all this while in a most fast sleep.

DocT. A great perturbation in nature! to receive at once the benefit of sleep, and do the effects of watching. In this slumbry agitation, besides her walking, and other actual performances, what, at any time, have you heard her say?

GENT. That, sir, which I will not report after her.

DOCT. You may, to me; and 'tis most meet you should.

GENT. Neither to you, nor any one; having no witness to confirm my speech.

Enter Lady MACBETH, with a Taper.

Lo you, here she comes! This is her very guise; and, upon my life, fast asleep. Observe her; stand close.

DOCT. How came she by that light?

GENT. Why, it stood by her: she has light by her continually; 'tis her command.

DocT. You see, her eyes are open.

(though in the haste of finishing his play he forgot his plan) might mean to have provided, by allotting her such an interval of solitude as would subject her mind to perturbation, and dispose her thoughts to repentance.

It does not appear, from any circumstance within the compass of this drama, that she had once been separated from her husband, after his return from the victory over Macdonwald, and the King of Norway. STEEVENS.

Yet Rosse says, [p. 232.] that he saw the tyrant's power a-foot.' The strength of his adversaries, and the revolt of his own troops, mentioned in a subsequent scene, might compel him to retreat into his castle. BOSWELL.

GENT. Ay, but their sense are shut ".

DOCT. What is it she does now? Look, how she rubs her hands.

GENT. It is an accustomed action with her, to seem thus washing her hands; I have known her continue in this a quarter of an hour.

LADY M. Yet here's a spot 8.

DocT. Hark, she speaks: I will set down what comes from her, to satisfy my remembrance the more strongly.

LADY M. Out, damned spot! out, I say!One; Two'; Why, then 'tis time to do't:

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her EYES ARE OPEN.] So, in The Tempest:

"This is a strange repose, to be asleep


wide eyes

" &c.



7 Ay, but their sense ARE shut.] Thus the old copy; and so the author certainly wrote, though it sounds very harshly to our So again, in his 112th Sonnet :


"In so profound abysm I throw all care
"Of others' voices, that my adder's sense
"To critick and to flatterer stopped are."


In the Sonnet our author was compelled to sacrifice grammar to the convenience of rhyme. In the passage before us, he was free

from such constraint.


What, therefore, should forbid us to read, as in my text ?Ay, but their sense is shut." STEEVENS. We have the same inaccurate grammar in Julius Cæsar, where no rhyme was required

"The posture of his blows are yet unknown."


8 Yet here's a spot.] A passage somewhat similar occurs in Webster's Vittoria Corombona, &c. 1612:


Here's a white hand! "Can blood so soon be wash'd out?" Webster's play was published in 1612;


Shakspeare's in 1623.

One; Two;] Macbeth does not, previously to the murder, mention the hour at which Lady Macbeth is to strike upon the bell, which was to be the signal for his going into Duncan's chamber to execute his wicked purpose; but it seems that Lady

Hell is murky'!-Fye, my lord, fye! a soldier, and afear'd? What need we fear who knows it, when none can call our power to account?-Yet who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him 2?

DocT. Do you mark that?

LADY M. The thane of Fife had a wife; Where is she now?What, will these hands ne'er be clean ?—No more o' that, my lord, no more o' that: you mar all with this starting 3.


Macbeth is now thinking of the moment when she rang the bell; and that two o'clock was the hour when the deed was perpetrated. This agrees with the scene that immediately precedes the murder, but not with that which follows it. See p. 118, n. 3.

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"The most opportune place," &c.

Lady Macbeth is acting over, in a dream, the business of the murder of Duncan, and encouraging her husband as when awake. She, therefore, would not have even hinted the terrors of hell to one whose conscience she saw was too much alarmed already for her purpose. She certainly imagines herself here talking to Macbeth, who, (she supposes,) had just said, Hell is murky, (i. e. hell is a dismal place to go to in consequence of such a deed,) and repeats his words in contempt of his cowardice.

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"Hell is murky!-Fye, my lord, fye! a soldier, and afear'd? This explanation, I think, gives a spirit to the passage, which has hitherto appeared languid, being perhaps misapprehended by those who placed a full point at the conclusion of it. STEEVENS.


who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him?] Statius, in a passage already quoted, speaking of the sword by which an old man was slain, calls it egentem sanguinis ensem; and Ovid, [Met. 1. vii.] describing a wound inflicted on a superannuated ram, has the same circumstance:


guttura cultro

Fodit, et exiguo maculavit sanguine ferrum.


you mar all with this starting.] Alluding to the terrors of Macbeth, when the Ghost broke in on the festivity of the banquet. STEEVENS.

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DocT. Go to, go to; you have known what you should not.

GENT. She has spoke what she should not, I am sure of that: Heaven knows what she has known. LADY M. Here's the smell of the blood still: all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand. Oh! oh! oh!

DocT. What a sigh is there! The heart is sorely charged.

GENT. I would not have such a heart in my bosom, for the dignity of the whole body.

DOCT. Well, well, well,

GENT. 'Pray God, it be, sir.

DocT. This disease is beyond my practice: Yet I have known those which have walked in their sleep, who have died holily in their beds.

LADY M. Wash your hands, put on your nightgown; look not so pale:-1 tell you yet again, Banquo's buried; he cannot come out of his grave. DocT. Even so?

LADY M. To bed, to bed; there's knocking at the gate. Come, come, come, come, give me your hand; What's done, cannot be undone: To bed, to bed, to bed. [Exit Lady Macbeth. DOCT. Will she go now to bed? GENT. Directly.

DOCT. Foul whisperings are abroad: Unnatural deeds

Do breed unnatural troubles: Infected minds
To their deaf pillows will discharge their secrets.
More needs she the divine, than the physician.—
God, God, forgive us all! Look after her;

4 To bed, to bed; there's knocking at the gate.] Lady Macbeth, in her sleep, is talking of Duncan's murder, and recalls to her mind the circumstance of the knocking at the gate just after it. A. C.

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