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W. G. CLARK, M. A.
W. A. WRIGHT, M. A.
Librarian of Trinity College, Cambridge
AT THE CLARENDON PRESS
[ All rights reserved]
Macbeth was printed for the first time in the folio of 1623, where it comes between Julius Cæsar and Hamlet, and occupies pages 131-151. It is divided throughout into acts and scenes. The text, though not so corrupt as that of some other plays—Coriolanus for example--is yet in many places very faulty, especially as regards the division of the lines. Probably it was printed from a transcript of the author's MS., which was in great part not copied from the original but written to dictation. This is confirmed by the fact that several of the most palpable blunders are blunders of the ear and not of the eye. Here, as elsewhere, we have great reason to join in the regret expressed by the editors of the first folio, that the author did not live to 'oversee' his own works before they were committed to the press.
With regard to the time at which Macbeth was written, if we had the evidence of style alone to guide us, we should assign it to a period when Shakespeare had attained the full perfection of his powers. From the vision of the eight kings,
iv. 1. 120,
Some I see That two-fold balls and treble sceptres carry,' we learn further that it was produced after the union of the two kingdoms under James I. We do not agree with some critics in thinking that this allusion necessarily implies that the play was produced immediately after that king's accession, because an event of such great moment and such permanent consequences would long continue to be present to the minds of men. In act ii. sc. 3, in the Porter's speech,