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rotten cottage, under a hill, by a wood-side, and must be frequently spinning at the door: she must have a black cat, two or three broom-sticks, an imp or two, and two or three diabolical teats to suckle her imps."
or the wonderful feats which the various kinds of witches were supposed capable of performing, Scot has favoured us with the following succinct enumeration : there are three sorts of witches, he tells us,
“ One sort can hurt and not helpe, the second can helpe and not hurt, the third can both belpe and hurt. Among the hurtfull witches there is one sort more beastlie than any kind of beasts, saving wolves : for these usually devour and eate yong children and infants of their owne kind. These be they that raise haile, tempests, and hurlfull weather; as lightening, thunder, etc. These be they that procure barrennesse in man, woman, and beast. These can throwe children in walers, as they walke with their mothers, and not be seene. These can make horsses kicke, till they cast their riders. These can passe from place to place in the aire invisible. These can so alter the mind of judges, that they can have no power to hurt them.
These can procure to themselves and to others, laciturnitie and insensibilitie in their tormenis.
These can bring trembling to the hands, and strike terror into the minds of them that apprehend them. These can manifest unto others, things hidden and lost, and foreshew things to come; and see them as though they were present. These can alter men's minds to inordinate love or hate. These can kill whom they list with lightening and thunder. These can take away man's courage.
- These can make a woman miscarrie in childbirth, and destroie the child in the mother's wombe, without any sensible means either inwardlie or outwardlie applied. These can with their looks kill either man or beast. –
“ Others doo wrile, that they can pull downe the moone and the starres. Some write that with wishing they can send needles into the livers of their enemies. Some that they can transferre corne in the blade from one place to another. Some, that they can cure diseases supernalurallie, fie in the aire, and danse with divels. Some wrile, that they can plaie the part of Sucubus, and contract themselves to Incubus.-Some saie they can transubstantiale themselves and others, and take the forms and shapes of asses, woolves, ferrets, cowes, asses, horsses, hogs, etc. Some say they can keepe divels and spirits in the likenesse of lodes and cats.
“They can raise spirits I (as olbers affirme), drie up springs, inrne the course of running walers, inbibit the sune, and staie both day and night, changing the one into the other. They can go in and out at awger boles, and saile in an egge shell, a cockle or muscle shell, through and under the tempestuous seas. — They can bring soules out of the graves. They can teare snakes in pieces.— They can also bring to pass, that chearne as long as you list, your buller will not come; especiallie, is either the maids have eaten up the creame, or the good-wise have sold the buller before in the market.”
The only material accession which the royal James has made to this curious catalogue of the deeds of witchcraft, consists in informing us, that these aged and decrepit slaves of Satan “make pictures of waxe or clay, that by the roasting thereof, the persons that they beare the name of, may be continually melted or dried away by continuall sicknesse;" + and his mode of explaining how the devil performs this marvel, is a notable instance both of his ingenuity and his eloquence. This deed, he says,
“Is verie possible to their master to performe: for although that instrument of waxe bave no vertue in that turne doing, yet may he not very well, even by the same measure, lhal his conjured slaves melt that waxe at the fire, may hee not, I say, at these same times, subtily, as a spirit, so weaken and scaller the spirits of life of the patient, as may make him on the one part, for faintDesse, to sweat out the humour of his bodie, and on the other part, for the not concurrence of these spirils, which causes his digestion, so debilitale his stomache, that this humour radicall continually sweating out on the one part, and no newe good sucke being put in the place thereof, for lacke of digestion on the other, he at last sball vanish away, even as his picture will doe at the fire? And that knavish and cunning workeman, by troubling him, onely at sometimes, makes a proportion, so neere belwixt the working of the one and the other, that both shall end as it were at one time."
" P. 117. It remains to notice the nature of the compact or bargain, which witches were believed to enter into with their seducer, and the species of homage which they
* Discoverie of Witchcraft, book i. chap. 1. p. 9.
+ James's Works, by Winton,
were compelled to pay him, and here again we must have recourse to Scot, not only as the most compressed, but as the most authentic detailer of this strange credulity of his times.
“ The order of their bargaine or profession,” says he, " is double ; the one solemne and publike; the other secret and private. That which is called solemne or publike, is where witches come together al certaine assemblies, at the times prefixed, and doo not onelie see the divell in visible forme, but confer and talke familiarlie with him. In which conference the divell exhorteth them to observe their fidelitie unto him, promising them long life and prosperitie. Then the wilches assembled, commend a new disciple (whom they call a novice) unto bim : and if the divell find that young wilch apt and forward in renunciation of christian faith, in despising anie of the seven sacraments, in treading upon crosses, in spelting at the time of the elevation, in breaking their sast on fasting daies, and fasting on sundaies : then the divell giveth foorth his hand, and the novice joining hand in hand with him, promiseth lo observe and keepe all the divels commandements.
" This doone, the divell beginneth to be more bold with hir, telling hir plainlie, that all this will not serve his turne; and therefore requireth homage at hir hands : yea he also telleth hir, that she must grant him both bir bodie and soule lo be tormented in everlasting fire; which she yeeldeth unto. Then he chargelh hir, to procure as manie men, women, and children also, as she can, lo enter into this societie. Then he leachelh them to make ointments of the bowels and members of children, whereby they ride in the aire, and accomplish all their desires. So as, ir there be anie children unbaptized, or not garded with the signe of the crosse, or orisons ; then the witches may and doo calch them from their mothers sides in the night, or out of their cradles, or otherwise kill them with their ceremonies; and after buriall sleale them out of their graves, and seeth them in a caldron, until their flesh be made polable. Of the thickest wbereof they make oinlments, whereby they ride in the aire; but the thinner potion they put into flaggons, whereof wbosoever drinkelh, observing certaine ceremonies, immediatelie becommeth a maister or rather a mistresse in that practise and facultie.
“ Their homage with their oth and bargaine is received for a certeine terme of yeares ; sometimes for ever. Sometimes it consisteth in the deniall of the whole faith, sometimes in part. — And this is doone either by olh, protestation of words, or by obligalion in writing, sometimes sealed with wax, sometimes signed with blood, sometimes by kissing the divels bare bullocks.
“You must also understand, that after they have delicallie bankelled with the divell and the ladie of the fairies; and have eaten up a fat oxe, and emptied a bult of malmesie, and a binne of bread at some noble man's house, in the dead of night, nothing is missed of all this in the morning! For the ladie Sibylla, Minerva, or Diana with a golden rod sriketh the vessel and the bione, and they are fully replenished againe.” Afler mentioning that the bullock is restored in the same magical manner, he states it as an “infallible rule, that everie fortnight, or at the least every monein, each witch must kill one child at the least for hir part." He also relates from Bodin, that “at these magicall assemblies, the witches never faile to danse, and whiles they sing and danse, everie one hath a broome in bir hand, and holdeth it up alost.”
To these circumstances attending the meetings of this unhallowed sisterhood, King James adds, that Satan, in order that “ hee may the more vively counterfeit and scorne God, oft times makes his slaves to conveene in those very places, which are destinate and ordained for the conveening of the servants of God (I meane by churches) :—further, witches oft times confesse, not only his conveening in the church with them, but his occupying of the pulpit.”+ For this piece of information James seems to have been indebted to the confessions of Agnis Tompson ; but he also relates, that the devil, as soon as he has induced his vota-ries to renounce their God and baptism, gives them his marke upon some secret place of their bodie, which remaines soare unhealed, whilst his next meeting with them, and thereafter ever insensible, however it be nipped or pricked by any;" a seal of distinction which, he tells us at the close of his treatise, is of great use in detecting them on their trial, as “the finding of their marke, and the trying the insensiblenes thereof," was considered as a positive proof of their craft. Ilis Majesty, however, proceeds to mention another mode of ascertaining their guilt
Discoverie of Witchcraft, book ii. chap ), 2. p. 10 - 12. + Works apud Winton, p. 112, 113.
terminating the paragraph in a manner not very flattering to his female subjects, or very expressive of his own gallantry.
“ The other is,” he tells us, “their feeting on the water : for as in a secret murther, if the dead carkasse bee at any time thereafter handled by the murtherer, it will gush out of blood, as if the blood were crying to the heaven for revenge of the murtherer, God having appointed that secret supernaturall signe, for triall of that secret unnaturall crime, so it appeares that God hath appointed (for a supernaturall signe of the monstrous impietie of Witches) that the water shall refuse to receive them in her bosome, that have shaken off them the sacred water of Baptisme, and wilfully refused the benefile thereof: No, not so much as their eyes are able to shed teares (threaten and torture them as you please) while first they repent (God not permitting them to dissemble their obstinacie in so horrible a crime) albeit the women-kind especially be able otherwayes to shed teares at every light occasion when they will, yea, although it were dissemblingly like the Crocodiles." *
Such are the chief features of this gross superstition, as detailed by the writers of the period in which it most prevailed in this country. Scot las taken infinite pains in collecting, from every writer on the subject, the minutiæ of Witchcraft, and his book is expanded to a thick quarto, in consequence of his commenting at large on the particulars which he had given in his initiatory chapters, for the purpose of their complete refutation and exposure ; a work of great labour, and which shows, at every step, how deeply this credulity had been impressed on the subjects of Elizabeth. James, on the other hand, though a man of considerable erudition, and, in some respects, of shrewd good sense, wrote in desence of this folly, and, unfortunately for truth and humanity, the doctrine of the monarch was preferred to that of the sage.
When such was the creed of the country, from the throne to the cottage; when even the men of learning, with few + exceptions, ranged themselves on the side of the monologie, it was highly judicious in Shakspeare, in his dramatic capacity, to adopt, as a powerful instrument of terror, the popular belief ; popular both in his own time, and in that to which the reign of Macbeth is referred. And, in doing this, he has shown not less taste than genius; for in the principal authorities to which he has had recourse for particulars ; in the Discoverie of Scot, in the Dæmonologie of James, and even in the Witch of Middleton, a play now allowed to have been anterior to his own drama, the ludicrous and the frivolous are blended, in a very large proportion, with that which is calculated to excite solemnity and awe. With exquisite skill has he separated the latter from the former, exalting it with so many touches of grandeur, and throwing round it such an air of dreadful mystery, that, although the actual superstition on which the machinery is founded, be no more, there remains attached to it, in consequence of passing through the mind of Shakspeare, such a portion of what is naturally inherent in the human mind, in relation to its apprehensions of the invisible world of spirits, such a sublime, though indistinct conception of powers unknown and mightier far than we, that nearly the same degree of grateful terror is experienced from the perusal or representation of Macbeth in modern days, as was felt in the age of its production.
In the very first appearance, indeed, of the Weird Sisters to Macbeth and Banquo on the blasted heath, we discern beings of a more awful and spiritualised character than belongs to the vulgar herd of witches. “What are these," exclaims the astonished Banquo,
King James's Works apud Winton, p. 111, 135, 136. + Among these we find the mighty naine of Bacon, this great man attributing, in the Tenth Century of his Natural History, the achievements and the confessions of witches and wizards to the effects of a morbid imagination.
# To the traditions of Boethius and Holinshed, we may add a modern authority in the person of Sir Joho Sinclair, who tells us that “ In Macbeth's time Witehralt was very prevalent in Scotland, and two of the most famous witches in the kingdom lived on each hand of Macbeth, one at Collace, the other not far from Punsinnan House, at a place called the Cape. Macbeth applied to them for advice, and by their counsel built a lofty Castle upon the top of an adjoining hill, since called Dunsiman. The moor where the Witches met, which is in the parish of St. Martin's, is yet pointed out by the country-people, and there is a store still preserved which is called the Witches Stones." --Statentira! Account of Scotland, vol. xx.
" What are these, So wither'd, and so wild in their attire?” Act i. sc. 3. Even when unattended by any human witnesses, when supporting the dialogue merely among themselves, Shakspeare has placed in the mouths of these agents imagery and diction of a cast so peculiar and mysterious, as to render them objects of alarm and fear, emotions incompatible with any tendency towards the luidicrous. But when, wheeling round the magic cauldron, in the gloomy recesses of their cave, they commence their incantations, chanting in tones wild and unearthly, and heard only during the intervals of a thunder-storm, their metrical charm, while flashes of subterranean fire obscurely light their haggard features, their language seems to breathe of hell, and we shrink back, as from beings at war with all that is good. Yet is the impression capable of augmentation, and is felt to have attained its acme of sublimity and horror, when, in reply to the question of Macbeth,
" How now, you secret, black, and midnight hags ?
What is't you do ?" they reply,
" A deed without a name.” Much, however, of the dread, solemnity, and awe which is experienced in reading this play, from the intervention of the witches, is lost in its repre sentation on the stage, owing to the injudicious custom of bringing them too forward on the scene; where, appearing little better than a group of old women, the effect intended by the poet is not only destroyed, but reversed. Their dignity and grandeur must arise, as evil beings gifted with superhuman powers, from the undefined nature both of their agency and of their external forms. Were they indistinctly seen, though audible, at a distance, and, as it were, through a hazy twilight, celebrating their orgies, and with shadowy and gigantic shape flitting between the pale blue flames of their cauldron and the eager eye of the spectator, sufficient latitude would be given to the imagination, and the finest drama of our author would receive in the theatre that deep tone of supernatural horror with which it is felt to be so highly imbued in the solitude of the closet.
Observations on Julius Cæsar; on Antony and Cleopatra ; on Coriolanus ; on The Winter's Tale ;
on The Tempest - Dissertation on the General Belief of the Times in the Art of Magic, and on Shakspeare's Management of this Superstition as exhibited in The Tempest - Observations on Othello ; on Twelfth Night, and on the Plays ascribed to Shakspeare – Summary of Shakspeare's Dramatic Character.
The Roman tragedy of Shakspeare, including the three pieces of Julius Cesar, Antony and Cleopatra, and Coriolanus, exhibit the poet under a new aspect. We have seen him dramatise the annals of his own country with matchless skill and effect; we have beheld him touching with a discriminative pencil the heroes of ancient Greece, and he now brings before us, clothed in the majesty of republican greatness, or surrounded with the splendour of illimitable power, the most illustrious patriots and warriors of the Roman world.