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1. Song: 3.5.36–68, 'Come away, Hecate'

The words of the songs in 3.5 and 4.1 have not hitherto been fully edited; indeed, the first scholarly edition in which they have been given as part of the text is the Oxford Complete Works (1986). Wells and Taylor used the version found in Crane's manuscript of Middleton's play, The Witch, collated with Davenant's version; but there are other early versions to be considered for the first song, 'Come away, Hecate'. Two manuscripts of this survive in collections of lute songs, both tentatively dated c.1630: their words are generally similar to those in The Witch, and to each other, and they give the same melody, but differ substantially in their bass lines for accompaniment. One is in the Fitzwilliam Museum at Cambridge, MU. MS 782, known as the Bull Manuscript; the other is in New York Public Library, Drexel MS 4175. The latter has been edited, with keyboard accompaniment, by Ian Spink in The English Lute Songs, 2nd series, vol. xvii: Robert Johnson (1974), 58–61. He states that it 'seems preferable' to Bull, but does not give reasons; its only substantial difference is in the accompaniment, otherwise it is marginally more careless both with words and music (particularly in marking naturals), but more interestingly seems towards the end to have had difficulty in deciphering its source: its first shot at l. 62 is partially deleted, 'and' becomes 'our', and it then brackets alternative epithets, the upper barely legible but probably 'cristell', the lower 'mistris'. Bull here reads 'and misty', Witch 'our Mistris'.

Neither manuscript refers the song to a play, nor to a composer, and since they offer it for a solo singer, he is left to mimic dialogue as he pleases, without indications for different voices. In both, this song occurs in a group where others are known to be by Robert Johnson, who composed for the King's Men from c.1609 to c.1615 (including music for The Winter's Tale and The Tempest). Another song from The Witch, not part of Macbeth, survives in a setting by Thomas Wilson, who is known to have worked for the company from about 1615. Wilson was only 20 in 1615, so he is hardly likely to have been involved earlier. Spink suggests that Johnson and Wilson collaborated on The Witch in 1615 because of Wilson's inexperience, which is possible; but it is equally possible that Johnson set 'Come away, Hecate' for Macbeth at an earlier date, and that Wilson provided the additional music for The Witch later.

'Come away, Hecate' first appeared in print in a quarto edition of Macbeth in 1673, which also gave additional songs for the witches after pg 2262.2 and 2.3, but did not give words for 'Black Spirits' in 4.1; in all other respects it was a simple reprint of the first Folio. The title-page does not mention Shakespeare, nor Davenant, but does state that it was performed at the Duke's Theatre; it is followed by a cast list which is identical with that in another quarto of 1674, whose text is generally identical with the Yale manuscript of Davenant's version, though he is still not mentioned on the title-page which claims to give 'all the alterations, amendments, additions, and new Songs'. No doubt 1673 was produced to cash in on the celebrated revival of Davenant's version at the new Dorset Garden Theatre in 1672, and 1674 was intended to displace it. The songs in Act 2 appear in Davenant's version as part of an entirely new scene at the end of the act for the Macduffs' encounter with the witches, and in it they are separated by only five lines of dialogue. It seems that the printer of 1673, Cademan, who obviously did not have a full text of Davenant's version, invented his own locations for the songs, for it is absurd to put the first one in 2.2 when it refers to the murder as committed twelve hours before, 'Long ago, long ago'. The only substantial difference in the texts of these songs is that the last quatrain of the second song is not in 1673; this would seem a mere accident of piracy, were it not that it is singularly weak, and the song seems to me complete without it.

The versions of 'Come away, Hecate' in 1673 and 1674 are very similar verbally (not identical), but the allocation to voices is strikingly different. 1673 uses only numbers to distinguish them, and '2' must be Hecate; the questions in 3.5.41 and 42 are assigned to voice '1', and the responses to '3' and '4'. 1674 uses 'Hec.' for Hecate, and numbers three spirit voices; the questions are assigned to Hecate and the responses to voices '2' and '3'. Thereafter 1673 has no prefix for l. 46 which must be Hecate, as 1674 and Yale agree; all three give l. 48 to voice '1', but differ again in l. 52 which 1674 gives to voice '2', while both 1673 and Yale leave it with voice '1', and both prefix l. 53 with '2'—but in 1673 this should mean Hecate, in Yale it should not. None of the Restoration texts prefixes l. 55, which must be Hecate's, and they all give l. 58 to voice '3'; by this time 1673 seems to be using the same numbering system as 1674 and Yale: its voice '4' never utters after l. 42, but it is alone in marking the last four lines as 'Chorus'. Clearly there is confusion, and the identical numbering in the second half of the song probably does not mean different voices for 1673, though it should; on the other hand, the differences in the first part do appear to be deliberate. If Locke's music was new in 1672, 1673 might be supposed to show traces of an earlier setting, but I do not find conclusive evidence of this. The songs in 1673 appear to be pirated from Davenant's version and not, which would be more interesting, a relic of earlier expansion of the musical additions to the play.

pg 227The question remains where Davenant derived his text of the original songs in 3.5 and 4.1 from. They were certainly part of Macbeth before 1623, and though the Folio printers had no texts for them, the theatre presumably had; Davenant could have seen them when he worked for the King's Men in the 1630s, and in any case he presumably inherited the prompt-book when Macbeth was allocated to his company in late 1660. There is no reasonable doubt that he took the songs as part of Shakespeare's text; his texts differ only trivially from those of the 1620s, and almost entirely in ways that suggest accidents in copying rather than deliberate revision.

For the most part, the minor variations between the six texts are casual, and I can find no pattern to establish a chain or tree relating them. Lines 41 and 42 could relate Davenant to Bull, Drexel to Witch; l. 48 could relate 1673 to Bull, Davenant to Drexel and Witch; in l. 60, 'dance' occurs in Davenant and Witch, but not in either Bull or Drexel; and so on. The one interesting variant is in l. 62, where Drexel shows alternative readings, the less obvious one identical with Witch: Drexel's 'our' replaces a deleted word, probably 'and'; the bracketed alternatives 'cristell'/'mistris' could both be misreadings of 'misty' as in Bull, if it was spelt 'mistie' in Drexel's copy ('cr' and 'm' are very similar in these hands). Drexel seems to be struggling with a difficult manuscript, but one of his offers coincides with Witch ('our mistris'). 'Our mistress'' offers the ingenious conceit of the seas as the moon-goddess's fountains, but the reading presents two problems: 1. that such wit is alien to the bland language of the rest of the song; 2. that whereas Hecate in Macbeth is certainly the goddess, in The Witch she is no more than a superior bawdy witch. Bull's 'misty fountains' is altogether more likely in this context, though it offends principle to attribute the wittier reading to a copyist. 'Crystal' is probably an irrelevance due to Drexel's efforts to decipher his copy, and offering a standard adjective for 'fountains'. 'and misty fountains' recurs in all three Restoration texts, but linked in them to a corruption of 'seas' into 'hills'—presumably a copyist's error at some stage, suggested by 'rocks and mountains' in the line above, producing a mere redundancy. It is difficult to see how Crane could have derived his reading from Drexel even if they had a common source, since elsewhere Drexel agrees with Bull against Witch. In short, speculation on such limited evidence cannot lead to safe conclusions.

I have treated Bull as my copy-text for two reasons: first, that it is marginally superior to Drexel, and both are closer to the music than is Witch; second, that it is slightly closer to the Restoration texts, and so might be associated with Macbeth rather than with The Witch. Variants in the other five texts are all shown in the collation.

pg 2282. Song: 4.1.44–58, 'Black Spirits'

The second song—'Black Spirits' in 4.1—is less complicated because the only early manuscript is The Witch, and 1673 gives no text. We have therefore only Witch, Yale, and 1674. They are, again, very similar and it is logical to suppose that, as with 'Come away, Hecate', Davenant made few, if any, deliberate alterations. But there is here less guidance as to whether variants should be attributed to corruption in his copy, or in Crane's. Line 56 is given in The Witch to Firestone, but this time it is not an interpolation. Crane's 'Liand' in l. 48 is clearly an error for 'Liard' which is the name of a spirit in Scot, and in the pamphlet he was using: in Davenant it has become an adjective 'liar', a corruption that may have influenced his reduction of the spirits named from six to three. More puzzling is l. 52: Oxford prefers 'a grain', though noting that Crane's 'againe' makes sense, but rejects 'lizard's brain' because it could be a corruption of Crane's 'Libbard's bane'; but it is not clear which is in error, and it is odd that The Witch refers in dialogue just before this song to lizard's brain. Both forms are entirely possible: Leopard's bane is still used of a common woodland plant (also known as Herb Paris) which has a single black berry nestling in dark green leaves, looking sinister though in fact it is not poisonous. Lizards, like snakes, were commonly associated with witchcraft. The fabulous basilisk resembled a lizard, and dispensed death through its eyes, the emanation of its brain; Paracelsus alluded to its generation from menstrual blood, supposed to be 'the greatest impurity of women' (H. Silberer: Hidden Symbolism of Alchemy and the Occult Arts (New York, 1917), 139). Frazer gives an account of a modern gypsy rite in southern Europe, for an annual expulsion of evil spirits, which included dried lizard in a brew largely of herbs. Neither substance is in Scot, and it seems to me likely that 'lizard's brain' in Middleton's text derives, like the names of his witches, from the song. On the whole, then, I think the error probably Crane's, and it is more consistent to follow Davenant for both readings. In l. 54, however, Davenant's 'the charm grow madder' looks like a feeble substitution for Crane's 'younker', doubtless because of the oddity of applying 'younker' to Macbeth. The word is entirely appropriate to The Witch, where the object of the song is to seduce a youth; if it ever stood in Macbeth, its sense must have been ironic. I have retained it because Davenant's line is unconvincing, and it is a likely part of the children's game (see below). In l. 55 again Davenant's line looks like a feeble rationalization of Witch's; but here it must be said that Crane's reading is obscure, all the more so since he has a full stop after 'all'.

The only other question is who sings. Crane gives no prefixes until l. 51 (for 'Put in that'), and from then on he distributes lines between Hecate and two witches, exactly as Davenant does (except for l. 56). This pg 229is plausible in The Witch, but in Macbeth it comes oddly after the direction 'Enter Hecate and the other three Witches'. The number may be an error (see note on l. 38.1), but if it is correct that three enter, why do only two sing? The third cannot be a silent ballerina, since they evidently dance all together round the cauldron. In Macbeth, Hecate commands her witches to sing and dance, and might not be supposed to join in herself. This fits her detached silence throughout the scene until its closure; otherwise she could logically supply the commands in ll. 51, 52, and 55 which Crane attributed to her. Yale gives her these and also ll. 48 and 56 which is less plausible (1674 leaves ll. 47–8 with the First Witch). In Davenant's version, Hecate takes exclusive charge of the predictions which follow, so her participation here is quite likely; there is no trace of such a change in f. Davenant's Hecate can thus be given l. 56, but it is inconsistent to deprive her of the command in l. 55.

I have arranged 'Black Spirits' simply for three voices, presumably the 'three other witches'. They would doubtless be the same singers as for 3.5, quite possibly children 'Like elves and fairies in a ring' (4.1.42).

'Come away, Hecate' was probably written specially for whichever play first used it; the origin of 'Black Spirits' is less certain. Its immediate source appears to be in Discovery of Witchcraft, but Scot's passage has the peculiarity that it is written in a jingle which Scot did not find in his own source: 'he-spirits and she-spirit's, Tittie and Tiffin, Suckin and Pidgin, Liard and Robin, etc.: his white spirits and black spirits, gray spirits and red spirits, devil toad and devil lamb, devil's cat and devil's dam' (ed. Brinsley Nicholson (1886), p. 542). Nicholson, in his monumental edition of Scot, speculated that this passage might have been influenced by a ballad because verse is entirely uncharacteristic of the author. He certainly did not find it in his pamphlet source A true and just Record, of the Information, Examination and Confessions of all the Witches, taken at S.Oses [St Osyth] in the county of Essex (1582). The material of Scot's passage is tabulated (with more detail) in a fold-out sheet at the end:

Tettey a he like a gray cat, Jack a he like a black cat;

Pygin a she like a black frog, and Tyffyn a she like a white lamb;

Suckytt a he like a black frog; and Lyard red like a lion or hare;

two spirits like toads, their names Tom & Robin;

iiii spirits, viz. their names Robin, Jack, Will, Puppet

… wherof two were hes and two shes, like unto black cats.

Scot's antithetic structures might have been suggested by this, but not his doggerel verse. Crane heads this song in The Witch 'A Charm Song: about a Vessel' which is redundant as a direction in the play, though an accurate description: it reads like a singing game such as children play, leading to a girl claiming her own choice of boy. This peculiarity had pg 230

pg 231

15, 16. Robert Johnson's setting of 'Come away, Hecate' in 3.5, from the Bull Manuscript.

15, 16. Robert Johnson's setting of 'Come away, Hecate' in 3.5, from the Bull Manuscript.

pg 232Struck me before I became aware of Nicholson's comments, and led me to wonder whether it had an independent source as a well-known rhyme. That would explain the disconcerting 'younker' in l. 54, and perhaps the definite article of 'the red-haired wench' if that once referred to the Magdalen (see note on this line); otherwise Davenant's modifications must seem to be of The Witch itself, which is hardly probable.

The Bull manuscript of 'Come away, Hecate' is reproduced here in Figs. 15 and 16. A transcription of the Drexel manuscript is in J. P. Cutts, 'Robert Johnson: King's Musician in His Majesty's Entertainment', Music and Letters, 36 (1955), 111–16; Spink's edition is based on Drexel.

Repeats marked in the music appear to have no significance; those marked for the words are clearly required by the music; the values of notes as marked vary, but this does not seem to be confusing. After the first line, the manuscripts diverge substantially in the bass, but for the melody differences are slight, mostly minor preferences of arrangement; in the second bar of the fourth line Drexel is probably correct in reading 'F', since Bull's 'E' is incompatible with 'F' in the bass. I have not attempted a full collation of the score; Spink notes variants when his edition departs from Drexel.

3. Dance:

It has often been suggested that music and choreography for the Witches' dance before they finally disappear might have been taken over from the antimasque of Jonson's 'Masque of Queens', performed at Court in 1609. J. P. Cutts in 'Jacobean Masque and Stage Music', Music and Letters, 35 (1954), 191–3, supports this, asserting that Johnson's music for 'Oberon' was used in The Winter's Tale, and that for the madman's antimasque in 'The Lord's Masque' in The Duchess of Malfi. He goes on to discuss music for the first and second witches' dances which form items 51 and 52 in British Library Additional MS 10444. The first of these was printed in Dowland's Varietie of Lute Lessons in 1610 as 'The Witches' Dance in the Queen's Masque', but there are difficulties in identifying it as Johnson's music: Cutts finds it curiously lacking in unusual rhythmic movement, whereas the second dance is much more vigorous and like Johnson's acknowledged dances for satyrs, etc., in the manuscript. The matter seems to be uncertain, and I have not attempted to reproduce the music for either dance, but Ben Jonson's account of the witches' performance in the 'Masque of Queens' may well give an idea of the choreography in Macbeth:

At which, with a strange and sudden music, they fell into a magical dance, full of preposterous change and gesticulation; but most pg 233applying to their property [i.e. most applicable to their proper nature] who, at their meetings, do all things contrary to the custom of men, dancing back to back, hip to hip, their hands joined, and making their circles backward, to the left hand, with strange fantastic motions of their heads and bodies. All which were excellently imitated by the maker of the dance, Mr. Jerome Herne, whose right it is here to be named.

In the heat of their dance, on the sudden was heard a sound of loud music, as if many instruments had given one blast: with which not only the hags themselves but their Hell, into which they ran, quite vanished—and the whole face of the scene altered, scarce suffering the memory of any such thing … (Works, vii, ed. C. H. Herford and P. and E. Simpson (Oxford, 1941), 301.)

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