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-- Philip Weller, November 13, 1941 - February 1, 2021
Dr. Weller, an Eastern Washington University professor of English and Shakespearean scholar for more than 50 years.

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Bradley, A. C. Shakespearean Tragedy: Lectures on Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, Macbeth.
2nd ed. London: Macmillan, 1905.
PAGE 470
NOTES ON MACBETH

NOTE BB.

THE DATE OF MACBETH. METRICAL TESTS.

     Dr. Forman saw Macbeth performed at the Globe in 1610. The question is how much earlier its composition or first appearance is to be put.

     It is agreed that the date is not earlier than that of the accession of James I. in 1603. The style and versification would make an earlier date almost impossible. And we have the allusions to 'two-fold balls and treble sceptres' and to the descent of Scottish kings from Banquo; the undramatic description of touching for the King's Evil (James performed this ceremony); and the dramatic use of witchcraft, a matter on which James considered himself an authority.

     Some of these references would have their fullest effect early in James's reign. And on this ground, and on account both of resemblances in the characters of Hamlet and Macbeth, and of the use of the supernatural in the two plays, it has been held that Macbeth was the tragedy that came next after Hamlet, or, at any rate, next after Othello.

     These arguments seem to me to have no force when set against those that point to a later date (about 1606) and place Macbeth after King Lear.1 And, as I have already observed, the probability is that it also comes after Shakespeare's part of Timon, and immediately before Antony and Cleopatra and Coriolanus.

     I will first refer briefly to some of the older arguments in favour of this later date, and then more at length to those based on versification.

     (1) In II. iii. 4-5, 'Here's a farmer that hang'd himself on the expectation of plenty,' Malone found a reference to the exceptionally low price of wheat in 1606.

     (2) In the reference in the same speech to the equivocator who could swear in both scales and committed treason enough for God's sake, he found an allusion to the trial of the Jesuit Garnet, in the spring of 1606, for complicity in the Gunpowder Treason and Plot. Garnet protested on his soul and salvation

   1The fact that King Lear was performed at Court on 26 December 1606, is of course very far from showing that it had never been performed before.

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