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THE TRAGEDY OF MACBETH
The First Edition.
Macbeth was first printed in the First Folio, where it occupies pp. 131 to 151, and is placed between Julius Cæsar and Hamlet. It is mentioned among the plays registered in the books of the Stationers' Company by the publishers of the Folio as “not formerly entered to other men." The text is perhaps one of the worst printed of all the plays, and textual criticism has been busy emending and explaining away the many difficulties of the play. Even the editors of the Second Folio were struck by the many hopeless corruptions, and attempted to provide a better text. The first printers certainly had before them a very faulty transcript, and critics have attempted to explain the discrepancies by assuming that Shakespeare's original version had been tampered with by another hand. " Macbeth" and Middleton's fi Witch,"
Some striking resemblances in the incantation scenes of Macbeth and Middleton's Witch have led to a somewhat generally accepted belief that Thomas Middleton was answerable for the alleged un-Shakespearian portions of Macbeth, This view has received confirmation from the fact that the stage-directions of Macbeth contain allusions to two songs which are found in Middleton's Witch (viz. “ Come away, come away," III. v.; “ Black Spirits and white," IV. i.). Moreover, these very songs are found in D'Avenant's re-cast of Macbeth (1674). * It is, however, possible that Middleton took Shakespeare's songs and expanded them, and that D'Avenant had before him a copy containing additions transferred from Middleton's cognate scenes. This view is held by the most competent of Middleton's editors, Mr A. H. Bullen, who puts forward strong reasons for assigning the Witch to a later date than Macbeth, and rightly resents the proposals on the part of able scholars to hand over to Middleton some of the finest
* The first of these songs is found in the edition of 1673, which contains also two other songs not found in the Folio version.
passages of the play. * Charles Lamb had already noted the essential differences between Shakespeare's and Middleton's Witches. 6. Their names and some of the properties, which Middleton has given to his hags, excite smiles. The Weird Sisters are serious things. Their presence cannot co-exist with mirth But in a lesser degree, the Witches of Middleton are fine creatures. Their power, too, is in some measure over the mind. They raise jars, jealousies, strifes, like a thick scurf o'er life” (Specimens of English Dramatic Poets).
The Porter's Speech, Among the passages in Macbeth that have been doubted are the soliloquy of the Porter, and the short dialogue that follows between the Porter and Macduff. Even Coleridge objected to " the low soliloquy of the Porter”; he believed them to have been written for the mob by some other hand, perhaps with Shakespeare's consent, though he was willing to make an exception in the case of the Shakespearian words, “ I'll devil-porter it no further : I had thought to let in some of all professions, that go the primose way to the everlasting bonfire." But the Porter's Speech is as essential a part of the design of the play as is the Knocking at the Gate, the effect of which was so subtly analysed by De Quincey in his well-known essay on the subject. 6. The effect was that it reflected back upon the murderer a peculiar awefulness and a depth of solemnity . when the deed is done, when the work of darkness is perfect, then the world of darkness passes away like a pageantry in the clouds; the knocking at the gate is heard; and it makes known audibly that the reaction has commenced; the human has made its reflex upon the fiendish ; the pulses of life are beginning to beat again ; and the re-establishment of the goings-on of the world in which we live first makes us profoundly sensible of the awful parenthesis that had suspended them.”
The introduction of the Porter, a character derived from the Porter of Hell in the old Mysteries, is as dramatically relevant, as are the grotesque words he utters ; and both the character and the speech are thoroughly Shakespearian in conception (op. The Porter in Macbeth, New Shak. Soc., 1874, by Prof. Hales).
* The following are among the chief passages supposed to resemble Middleton's style, and rejected as Shakespeare's by the Clarendon Press editors :-Act I. Sc. ii., iii. 1-37 ; Act II. Sc. i. 61, iii. (Porter's part); Act III. Sc. v.; Act IV. Sc. i. 39-47, 125-132; iii. 140-159; Act V. (?) ii., v. 47-50 ; viii. 32-33, 35-75.
The second scene of the First Act is certainly somewhat disappointing, and it is also inconsistent (cp. 11. 52, 53, with Sc. iii., II. 72, 73, and 112, etc.), but probably the scene represents the compression of a much longer account. The introduction of the superfluous Hecate is perhaps the strongest argument for rejecting certain witch-scenes, viz.: Act III. Sc. v. ; Act IV. Sc. i. 39-47; Act IV. i. 125-132.