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Duch. This must be done with speed, dispatched
Hec. I have it for you:
Duch. Can’st thou do this?
Hec. Can I ?
Fire. I know as well as can be when my mother's mad, and our great cat angry; for one spits French then, and th' other spits Latin.
Duch. I did not doubt you, mother.
Hec. No? what did you ?
Duch. Forgive what's past: and now I know th' offensiveness,
Hec. Leave all to me and my five sisters, daughter :
Fire. All at hand, forsooth.
Fire. Whereabouts, sweet mother?
A Charm Song.
Titty, Tiffin, keep it stiff in;
Liard, Robin, you must bob in ;
Round, around, around; about, about ;
1st Witch. Here's the blood of a bat.
This scene, the reader will perceive, must (if written before Macbeth, and generally known amongst the writers of the time,) have been the origin of one of the scenes in that celebrated play. With regard to the witches themselves, an eminent critic (Mr. Charles Lamb) has shewn the difference between Shakspeare's witches and those of Middleton; and he has awarded the palm, perhaps deservedly, in favour of the creations of Shakspeare. * Nevertheless—with deference to
* For the sake of the reader, who may be unacquainted with that delightful volume, the Specimens of the English Dramatic Poets, by Charles Lamb, we transcribe the author's note upon this subject.
“ Though some resemblance may be traced between the charms in Macbeth, and the incantations in this play, which is supposed to have preceded it, this coincidence will not detract much from the originality of Shakspeare. His witches are distinguished from the witches of Middleton by essential differences. These are creatures to whom man or woman, plotting some dire mischief, might resort for occasional consultation. Those originate deeds of blood, and begin bad impulses to men. From the moment that their eyes first meet with Macbeth's, he is spell-bound. That meeting sways his destiny. He can never break the fascination. These witches can hurt the body; those have power over the soul.-Hecate in Middleton has a son, a low buffoon: the hags of Shakspeare have neither child of their own, nor seem to be descended from any parent. They are foul anomalies, of whom we know not whence they are sprung, nor whether they have beginning or ending. As they are without human passions, so they seem to be without human relations. They come with thunder and lightning, and vanish to airy music. This is all we know of them. Except Hecate, they have no names, which heightens their mysteriousness. The 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 wirth. But, in a lesser degree, the witches of Middleton are fine creations. Their power too is, in some measure, over the mind. They raise jars, jealousies, strifes, like a thick scurf o'er life.” VOL. VIII. PART I.
such authority, which, in fact, we are not aware that we materially oppose—we think, that the hags of Middleton, if not so sublime, are, at the least, as true-more true to our pre-conceived notions of those sinful elders, than even the sexless fictions of Shakspeare himself. The witches of our great poet, as pieces of imagination, must rank perhaps above the mere earthy superstitions of Middleton. They have neither sex nor name, parents nor children; they have no occupation but as ministers of evil; no habitation, save the blasted heath and the haunted cavern. They have nothing in common with humanity; but stand forth, phantoms, as false, though less attractive, than the fabled cloud which arrayed itself in shape and dazzling beauty to tempt the raging love of Ixion. The creatures of Shakspeare are like the Furies, or the Fates of Greek mythology. They seem born of cloud and storm : they come with the tempest, freighted and full of evil, and dissolve in lightning and thunder. The witches of Middleton, on the other hand, seem compounded of earth. They are akin to Caliban, though scarcely so romantic, being dwellers in the neighbourhood of villages, blasters of corn and maimers of cattle, as hate or interest or the love of mischief prompts them. Nevertheless, with all their drawbacks, they are excellent people in their way; and the freshness and truth of some of the scenes wherein they figure are—it is a bold word-not inferior to those of Macbeth. They are altogether a Midsummer Night's Dream,-airy as Titania or Oberon,-buoyant as the winds on which they ride. We will give our readers one of these scenes. To us it seems perfect in its way. We have the sense of the “rich evening” upon us--the moonlight—the owl hooting in the copse the mounting into air :-How light is the dialogue between Hecate and her sisters who are aloft :-We hear them shouting and calling-descending and ascendingand loitering for their mistress on the wind :—They speak of the “ dainty pleasure” of riding in the air-in the white moonshine-over woods and hills-steeple-tops and turrets-beyond the sound of bells or the howling of the midnight wolves, and we cannot refuse them our belief.
« Enter Heccate, Stadlin, Hoppo, and other Witches.
Hec. Aye, is't not, wenches,
Hop. Our's will be more to night..
As we came thro' now.
Hec. 'Tis high time for us then.
Stad. There was a bat hung at my lips three times
Hec. You are fortunate still.
Hec. Prepare to flight then :
Stad. Hye then, Heccate:
there to night. If we have not mortality affeared, I'll be hang'd, for they are able to putrify it to infect a whole region. She spies me
Hec. What, Firestone, our sweet son?
Fire. A little sweeter than some of you; or a dunghill were too good for one.
Hec. How much hast there?
Fire. Nineteen, and all brave plump ones; besides six lizards, and three serpentine eggs.
Hec. Dear and sweet boy! What herbs hast thou ?
Fire. Here's pannax too. I thank thee; my pan akes,
Hec. And selago.
Fire. Every blade of 'em, or I am a mooncalf, mother.
Hec. Hie thee home with 'em.
Fire. Aloft, quoth you? I would you would break your neck once, that I might have all quickly. [Aside.]-Hark, hark, mother! they are above the steeple already, flying over your head with a noise of musicians.
Hec. They are indeed, help me! help me! I'm too late else.
[In the air above.] Come away, come away,
Heccate, Heccate, come away.
With all the speed I may;
Where's Stadlin? [Above.] Here.
Hec. Where's Puckle ? [Above.] Here.
And Hoppo too, and Hellwain too:
Come away, make up the count.
A Spirit descends in the shape of a Cat. [Above.] There's one come down to fetch his dues;
A kiss, a coll, a sip of blood;
Since th' air's so sweet and good.
What news, what news?
Either come, or else
Malkin, my sweet spirit, and I.
Or cannon's roar, our height can reach. [Above.] No ring of bells, &c.