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Bradley, A. C. Shakespearean Tragedy: Lectures on Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, Macbeth.
2nd ed. London: Macmillan, 1905.
PAGE 467

     I doubt if the second and third of these arguments, taken alone, would justify a very serious suspicion of interpolation; but the fact, mentioned under (1), that the play has here been meddled with, trebles their weight. And it gives some weight to the further fact that these passages resemble one another, and differ from the bulk of the other Witch passages, in being iambic in rhythm. (It must, however, be remembered that, supposing Shakespeare did mean to introduce Hecate, he might naturally use a special rhythm for the parts where she appeared.)

     The same rhythm appears in a third passage which has been doubted: IV. i. 125-132. But this is not quite on a level with the other two; for (1), though it is possible to suppose the Witches, as well as the Apparitions, to vanish at 124, and Macbeth's speech to run straight on to 133, the cut is not so clean as in the other cases; (2) it is not at all clear that Hecate (the most suspicious element) is supposed to be present. The original stage-direction at 133 is merely 'The Witches Dance, and vanish'; and even if Hecate had been present before, she might have vanished at 43, as Dyce makes her do.




     Macbeth is a very short play, the shortest of all Shakespeare's except the Comedy of Errors. It contains only 1993 lines, while King Lear contains 3298, Othello 3324, and Hamlet 3924. The next shortest of the tragedies is Julius Caesar, which has 2440 lines. (The figures are Mr. Fleay's. I may remark that for our present purpose we want the number of the lines in the first Folio, not those in modem composite texts.)

     Is there any reason to think that the play has been shortened? I will briefly consider this question, so far as it can be considered apart from the wider one whether Shakespeare's play was rehandled by Middleton or someone else.

     That the play, as we have it, is slightly shorter than the play Shakespeare wrote seems not improbable. (1) We have no Quarto of Macbeth; and generally, where we have a Quarto

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