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animals, which, however, are tailless, and can bring severe pains upon those who displease them. Like the Witch of Endor, also, they can conjure up visions.
Hecate, the mistress of the witches, does not appear in Holinshed, and is supposed by many to have been introduced at a later date than that of the original play. It is pointed out elsewhere that the two songs sung during her scenes are from Middleton's Witch, that a character of the same name occurs in that play, that she has no influence whatever upon the action of the play, and that the metre and allusions of her speeches differ from those of the other witch scenes.
The supernatural is also made use of by Shakespeare in his plays Richard III., Hamlet, A Midsummer Night's Dream, and the Tempest, but only in Macbeth is witchcraft the prominent instrument of the play, though in the Tempest it plays a secondary part.
The Witches and Macbeth.-How far Macbeth's action was the result of the witches' predictions and how far the result of his own blind ambition is best answered by Thomas Campbell, the poet, who says:
“If we could imagine Macbeth conjuring the hags to reappear on the eve of his inevitable death and accusing them of having caused him to murder Duncan, the witches might very well say, We did not oblige you to any such act, we only foretold what would have happened, even if you had not murdered Duncan, namely, that you should be Scotland's king. But you were impatient. You did not consider that, if the prediction was true, it was no duty of yours to bestir yourself in the business; but you had a wife, a fair wife, who goaded you on to the murder.' If the witches had spoken thus, there would be matter in the tragedy itself to bear them out, for Macbeth absolutely says to himself, • If it be thus decreed, it must be, and there is no necessity for me to stir in the affair.'
A Field for Quotations. An old lady is said to have remarked, on first seeing · Macbeth played, that it was an excellent play, but that it was too full of quotations. Certainly from this play more than any other in the language except, possibly, Hamlet, phrases have crept into the common currency, and the student will do well to make a collection of those he recognises. From the first line, “ When shall we three meet again ? through every scene, sentence after sentence will ring familiar, with
“Give sorrow words : the grief that does not speak
IV. iii. 209, 210, as perhaps the most beautiful of all.
The Dramatic Unities.—The Greek drama was not considered perfect unless the action of the play took place in one spot, lasted but one day, and had but one plot. These three requirements form what are known as the dramatic unities. The Elizabethan dramatists gave themselves much greater liberty than this, particularly with regard to place and time, and the scene in Macbeth changes many times. The action also, far from taking only one day, spreads over the period between the murder of Duncan, in 1040 A.D., to the death of Macbeth, in 1057 A.D., a period of seventeen years. The unity of plot, however, is far more important than the other two, and this no play better observes. No subsidiary plots occur to draw the attention from the dramatist's object, the depiction of a great mind dragged by ambition through the horrors of murder and its consequences.
Anachronisms.—It is almost inevitable that a writer, even the most painstaking, when writing of a past period, should fall into the error of introducing matter which was only possible later, and, with a writer so careless as Shakespeare, it is remarkable that so few of these lapses occur. It is pointed out in the Notes that clocks, cannon and gunpowder were unknown until long after the time of Macbeth. Other slips of this kind, such as the mention of French hose, and of equivocation, as a principle of the Jesuits, may also be noticed. Considering the excessive carelessness Shakespeare seems to have exhibited towards this play, it is wonderful that there are not many more.
} generals of the king's army.
DUNCAN, king of Scotland.
noblemen of Scotland.