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(2) Hyperbole (Gr. hyper=beyond, ballo=I throw), when emphasis is obtained by exaggeration.
Norweyan banners flout the sky
I. ii. 49, 50. (3) Apostrophe (Gr. apo=from, strophera turning).-In this figure, direct address is made to some person or thing either not present or inanimate.
"Come, thick night And pall thee.”
I. v. 48, 49. " Thou sure and firm-set earth."
II. i. 56. (4) Alliteration (L. ad=to; litera=a letter) when the same sound is repeated two or more times in the same passage.
would well become A woman's story at a winter's fire." III. iv. 64, 65. (5) Puns or Plays upon Words.—These can perhaps hardly be classed as figures of speech. They are very frequent in Shakespeare, particularly in his earlier works.
" I'll gild the faces of the grooms withal;
II. ii. 55, 56.
WITCHCRAFT plays so great a part in this tragedy that a brief account of the course of this superstition is almost necessary.
In the childhood of the nations, or in what the Germans call Gotterdämmerung, or the twilight of the gods, when, unchecked by the sobering influence of exact knowledge, imagination was allowed its fullest play-the wonders of the heavens, the mysteries of the wild heath and dark woods, the changing moods of the seas, were explained by each childnation in its own way. Thus arose the various mythologies of Persia, Egypt, Greece and the North, and thus arose also the universal custom of comparing the two principles of good and evil with the natural opposites of heat and cold, or light and darkness. The good Ormuz and the evil Ahriman of the Persians, Brahma and Siva of India, Osiris and Typhon of Egypt, Zeus and Dis of the Greeks, Baldur and Loki of the Norse mythology, are all different types made by imagination from this same fact.
It was natural, too, that these apparently inexplicable wonders should be put down to the power of some beings greater than men, either gods or giants, and that these should be pictured as men of enormous size, and as possessing powers quite beyond human strength.
The murmur of the streams, the weirdness woods, the whisperings of the wind, made the imagination people them with strange and mysterious beings, now satyrs, nymphs, hamadryads, or sylphs as with the Greeks, now elves, hobgoblins, and fairies as in the northern folk-lore, and these, like
the greater gods or giants, were kind and gentle or inimical to mankind, according to the master they were supposed to serve.
Another influence increased and widened the scope of these imaginings. The ravings of the insane and of the epileptic, the wonderful picture-building of times and places long forgotten, and of persons long gone, which a troubled sleep sometimes engenders, the horrible nightmare which most men sometimes suffer, the vague half-balance of the mind which the strongest sometimes feel, the intense longing to know the life beyond the grave, all combined to produce belief in supernatural beings able to influence us in our daily actions. Thus arose the belief in the good and evil genius which the Romans supposed to attend upon every man, and which is alluded to by Macbeth, III. i. 55; and this belief the early Christians merely transformed into a belief in Good and Bad Angels, just as they transformed many heathen rites into Christian festivals.
Of these twin powers of good and evil the untutored mind has ever felt it more necessary to propitiate the latter, to ward off his unwelcome attentions by paying to him those sacrifices which might be supposed to appease him. It was inevitable, therefore, that the more cunning mind should take advantage of this weak desire, and should claim the ability to make these sacrifices more acceptable. Thus arose the witches, and, as the power of darkness was their supposed master, they attempted to heighten their influence by suiting their deeds to their profession. Thus, the secret, black, and midnight hour was their chosen time of meeting, the concoction of potions and poisons made from herbs gathered under the moon's influence their great occupation, the boiling cauldron, the viper, the toad, the bat, or the spiteful cat their accessories, and the weird spell or charm the shibboleth of their trade. Thus, too, they were credited with the power of the evil eye,
to wither and blight the crops, to bring foul diseases upon the cattle, to undermine the health of those who crossed them; and this idea they were no doubt able to strengthen by a
judicious use of the knowledge of poisons they had gained. The viper, cat, or toad which attended them was called their ' familiar," and was the badge of their servitude to the evil power. The popular imagination gave them also many other powers, and these Shakespeare has well described in the witches' scenes.
Such a power and reputation would be esteemed by many a cunning mind, particularly by cunning old women who found themselves pushed out by physical weakness from their places in the world, and who felt flattered by the homage or dread their profession brought, and which they could obtain in no other way.
Gradually, however, a reaction arose against these witches, not from any disbelief in their powers, but from resentment at the injuries they were supposed to work. Soon every evil which befell man
was put down to them, and methods of revenge began to be practised. This reaction canie to a head in the times of James I. When going to Denmark to bring home his bride, Anne of Denmark, his ship was delayed for some days by violent and contrary winds, for causing which a well-known witch of Scotland, Agnes Simpson, or the Wise Wife of Keith, was tried and condemned. James himself took great interest in this trial, and eight years later, in 1598, wrote a book denouncing witchcraft. One of the first acts passed after his accession to the dual throne read as follows:
“If any person shall practise or exercise any invocation or conjuration of any evil or wicked spirit, or shall consult with, feed, or reward any evil and wicked spirit, or take up any dead man, woman, or child out of his, or her grave--or the skin, bone, or any other part of any dead person to be employed or used in any manner of witchcraft, or shall practise any witchcraft whereby any person shall be killed, wasted, pined, or lamed—such persons shall suffer the pains of death as felons, without benefit of clergy."
A Bull, in somewhat similar terms, had been issued by Pope Innocent VIII. at the end of the fourteenth century, but in England the pillory had been the usual penalty.
The act resulted in a great persecution of witches, and in the execution of many who suffered rather from personal enmity and from the misfortune of looking like witches. Up to the year 1682, when the last execution took place, hundreds of persons were condemned to be executed as witches in England, a country which, in this respect, lagged in enlightenment long beyond its neighbour, France, where Louis XIV. abolished the trials in 1672, while the act of James I. was not repealed until 1751. The rabble gave the witches a sharp shrift. Their hands and feet were tied together and they were thrown into the nearest pond. If they sank they were innocent; if they swam they were guilty-on the principle that the devil would not let his witches drown; and the reputation and punishment of a witch usually quickly followed.
In Holinshed the three are not called witches, but are named the weird sisters, and there the only power åttributed to them is one similar to that of the Greek oracles, the power of foretelling future events in ambiguous or paltering phrases. In this respect, therefore, they are more like the Three Fates of the Greek mythology, or the Norns, or sisters of destiny of the Northern Sagas, than they are to the Elizabethan witches, but Shakespeare has transformed them entirely to the popular conception of the witch, and has carefully clothed them with all the witches' attributes. Thus, they meet at the darkest midnight hour, in the dreariest of weather, and the bleakest of places. They are accompanied by a familiar cat or toad, and perform weird incantations round a cauldron into which is thrown a medley of the most repulsive things. They gather potents herbs under the misty moon and distil from these poisons of profound power. They fly through the air, or sail in sieves upon the sea. They can transform themselves into