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Bufo Vitro inclusus, a great Toad shut in a Vial, upon which those that prosecuted him Veneficium exprobrabant, charged him, I suppose, with witchcraft.
Fillet of a fenny snake,
For a charm, &c. The propriety of these ingredients may be known by consulting the books de Viribus Animalium and de Mirabilibus Mundi, ascribed to Albertus Magnus, in which the reader, who has time and credulity, may discover wonderful secrets.
Finger of birth-strangled babes,
Ditch-deliver'd by a drab ; It has been already mentioned in the law against witches, that they are supposed to take up dead bodies to use in enchantments, which was confessed by the woman whom King James examined, and who had of a dead body that was divided in one of their assemblies, two fingers for her share. It is observable that Shakespeare, on this great occasion, which involves the fate of a king, multiplies all the circumstances of horror. The babe, whose finger is used, must be strangled in its birth; the grease must not only be human, but must have dropped from a gibbet, the gibbet of a murderer; and even the sow, whose blood is used, must have offended nature by devouring her own farrow. These are touches of judgment and genius.
And now about the cauldron sing-
Blue spirits and grey,
rou that mingle may.
And in a former part,
weyward sisters, hand in hand,-
And thrice again to make up nine ! These two passages I have brought together, because they both seem subject to the objection of too much levity for the solemnity of enchantment, and may both be shown, by one quotation from Camden's account of Ireland, to be founded upon a practice really observed by the uncivilised natives of that country “When any one gets a fall, says the informer of Camden, he starts up, and turning three times to the right digs a hole in the earth; for they imagine that there is spirit in the ground, and if he falls sick in two or three days, they send one of their women that is skilled in that way to the place, where she says, I call thee from the east, west, north and south, from the groves, the woods, the rivers, and the fens, from the fairies red, black, white.” There was likewise a book written before the time of Shakespeare, describing, amongst other properties, the colours of spirits.
Many other circumstances might be particularised, in which Shakespeare has shown his judgment and his knowledge. Acr V. SCENE iii. (v. iii. 8.) English Epicures.
The reproach of epicurism, on which Mr. Theobald has bestowed a note, is nothing more than a natural invective uttered by an inhabitant of a barren country, against those who have more opportunities of luxury. Act V. SCENE viü. (v. vč. 77-9.)
Had I as many sons as I have bairs,
And so bis knell is knoll'd.
don by Camden in his Remains, from which the authour probably copied it.
When Seyward, the martial earl of Northumberland, understood that his son, whom he had sent in service against the Scotchmen, was slain, he demanded whether his wounds were in the fore part or hinder part of his body. When it was answered, in the fore part, he replied, “I am right glad ; neither wish I any other death to me or mine.
This play is deservedly celebrated for the propriety of its fictions, and solemnity, grandeur, and variety of its action; but it has no nice discriminations of character, the events are too great to admit the influence of particular dispositions, and the course of the action necessarily determines the conduct of the agents.
The danger of ambition is well described ; and I know not whether it may not be said in defence of some parts which now seem improbable, that, in Shakespeare's time, it was necessary to warn credulity against vain and illusive predictions.
The passions are directed to their true end. Lady Macbeth is merely detested ; and though the courage of Macbeth preserves some esteem, yet every reader rejoices at his fall.
Have tbe power still
Your ignorance, which finds noi, 'rill it feels, &c. Still retain the power of banishing your defenders, 'till your undiscerning folly, which can foresee no consequences, leave none in the city but yourselves, who are always labouring your own destruction.
It is remarkable, that, among the political maxims of the speculative Harrington, there is one which he might have borrowed from this speech. The people, says he, cannot see, but they can feel. It is not much to the honour of the people, that they have the same character of stupidity from their enemy and their friend. Such was the power of our authour's mind, that he looked through life in all its relations private and civil. Act IV. SCENE i. (iv. i. 7-9.)
A noble cunning. The sense is, When fortune strikes her hardest blows, to be wounded, and yet continue calm, requires a generous policy. He calls this calmness cunning, because it is the effect of reflection and philosophy. Perhaps the first emotions of nature are nearly uniform, and one man differs from another in the power of endurance, as he is better regulated by precept and instruction.
They bore as heroes, but they felt as man. Act IV. Scene vi. (1v. vi. 99.) The breath of garlick eaters.
To smell of garlick was once such a brand of vulgarity, that garlick was a food forbidden to an ancient order of Spanish knights, mentioned by Guevara. Act IV. SCENE vü. (iv. vii. 51-3.)
And Power, unto itself most commendable,
T'extol what it batb done. This is a common thought, but miserably illexpressed. The sense is, the virtue which delights to commend itself, will find the surest Tomb in that Chair wherein it holds forth its own commendations.
The Tragedy of Coriolanus is one of the most amusing of our authour's performances. The old man's merriment in Menenius; the lofty lady's dignity in Volumnia; the bridal modesty in Virgilia ; the patrician and military haughtiness in Coriolanus; the plebeian malignity and tribunition insolence in Brutus and Sicinius, make a very pleasing and interesting variety : and the various revolutions of the hero's fortune fill the mind with anxious curiosity. There is, perhaps too much bustle in the first act, and too little in the last.
Of this tragedy many particular passages deserve regard, and the contention and reconcilement of Brutus and Cassius is universally celebrated; but I have never been strongly agitated in perusing it, and think it somewhat cold and unaffecting, compared with some other of Shakespeare's plays; his adherence to the real story, and to Roman manners, seems to have impeded the natural vigour of his genius.
ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA.
Act III. SCENE X. (11. xi. 126–8.)
O that I were
Tbe borned berd. It is not without pity and indignation that the reader of this great Poet meets so often with this low jest, which is too much a favourite to be left out of either mirth or fury.