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What is meant by the spy of the time, it will be found difficult to explain; and therefore sense will be cheaply gained by a slight alteration.--Macbeth is assuring the assassins that they shall not want directions to find Banquo, and therefore says,
Accordingly a third murderer joins them afterwards at the place of action.
Perfect is well instructed, or well informed, as in this play,
Though in your state of honour I am perfect. Though I am well acquainted with your quality and
2d Murderer. He needs not to mistrust, since he
delivers Our offices and what we have to do, To the direction just.
Mr. Theobald has endeavoured unsuccessfully to amend this passage, in which nothing is faulty but the punctuation. The meaning of this abrupt dialogue is this: The perfect spy, mentioned by Mac
beth in the foregoing scene has, before they enter upon the stage, given them the directions which were promised at the time of their agreement; and therefore one of the murderers observes, that, since he has given them such exact information, he needs not doubt of their performance. Then by way of exhortation to his associates he cries out
To the direction just.
Now nothing remains but that we conform exactly to Macbeth's directions,
Macbeth. You know your own degrees, sit down: At first and last the hearty welcome.
As this passage stands, not only the numbers are very imperfect, but the sense, if any can be found, weak and contemptible. The numbers will be improved by reading
Sit down at first,
But for last should then be written pext. I believe the true reading is,
You know your own degrees, sit down.—To first
All of whatever degree, from the highest to the lowest, may be assured that their visit is well received.
Macbeth. THERE's blood upon thy face.
[To the murtherer aside at the door. Murderer. 'Tis Banquo's then. Macbeth. 'Tis better thee without, than he within.
The sense apparently requires that this passage should be read thus :
'Tis better thee without, than him within.
That is, I am more pleased that the blood of Banquo should be on thy face, than in his body.
Ν Ο Τ Ε ΧΧΧ. .
Lady Macbeth. Proper stuff!
[Aside to Macbeth. This is the air-drawn dagger which you
said Led you to Duncan. Oh, these flaws and starts, Impostures to true fear, would well become A woman's story at a winter's fire, Authoriz'd by her grandam. Shame itself! Why do you make such faces? When all's done You look but on a stool.
As starts can neither with propriety nor sense be called impostures true to fear, something else was, andoubtedly intended by the author, who perhaps wrote
Those flaws and starts, Impostures true to fear, would well become A woman's story
These symptoms of terrour and amazement might better become impostors true only to fear, might become a coward at the reciłal of such falshoods as no man could credit whose understanding was not weakened by his terrours; tales, told by a woman over a fire on the authority of her grandam.
Ν Ο Τ Ε ΧΧΧΙ. .
Macbeth.-Love and health to all! Then I'll sit down: give me some wine, fill fullI drink to the general joy of the whole table, And to our dear friend Banquo whom we miss, Would he were here! to all, and him, we thirst, And all to all.
Though this passage is, as it now stands, capable of more meanings than one, none of them are very satisfactory; and therefore I am inclined to read it thus :
To all, and him, we thirst,
Macbeth, being about to salute his company with a bumper, declares that he includes Banquo, though absent, in this act of kindness, and wishes health to all. Hail or heil for health was in such continual use among the good-fellows of ancient times, that a drinker was called a was-heiler, or a wisher of health, and the liquor was termed was-heil, because health was so often wished over it. Thus in the lines of Hanvil the Monk,
Jamque vagante scypho, discincto gutture was-heil Ingeminant was-heil: labor est plus perdere vini Quam sitis.
These words were afterwards corrupted into wassail and wassailer.
Macbeth..Can such things be, And overcome us like a summer's cloud Without our special wonder? You make me strange Even to the disposition that I owe, When now I think you can behold such sights, And keep the natural ruby of your cheek, When mine is blanched with fear,
This passage, as it now stands, is unintelligible, but may be restored to sense by a very slight alteration,
You make me strange