First Witch. When shall we three meet again
In thunder, lightning, or in rain? (1-2)
Here the Witches are not asking about the type of weather in which they should next meet, but when they should next meet.
Interestingly, these lines follow the punctuation set by an early editor of the play. In Shakespeare's First Folio (1623), we have instead:
When shall we three meet again?
Allan Park Paton, in The tragedy of Macbeth: according to the first folio explains:
In Thunder, Lightning, or in Rain?
These lines are thus printed in the Folio of 1623, with a mark of interrogation after each, and, having the author's blotless manuscript before them, we cannot think it possible that Heminge and Condell could have allowed a mistake to occur in the printing of the very first line of the work, and must, therefore, believe that it is the
Poet's mark of interrogation, religiously retained through the three succeeding Folios, which stands there. Yet Sir Thomas Hanmer removed it, as if it were a slip on the part of the printer, and in all the modern editions that we are acquainted with, the lines run:
When shall we three meet again
which is a different thing. It seems to us that Shakespeare could not manage without the two marks of interrogation, odd as they look: that he found it necessary so to arrange the lines, to tell his meaning, which was: "All our meetings are in thunder, lightning, or in rain, when shall our next be?" not, "We meet sometimes under
other elemental circumstances, but when shall we meet again in thunder, lightning, or in rain?" and this opportunity may be taken to note the importance of remembering, as we study the 1623 Folio, that, though occasionally confused through obvious misprinting, we have before us there, Shakespeare's pointing, as well as his words.
In thunder, lightning, or in rain?
Back to Macbeth (1.1)
How to cite this article:
Mabillard, Amanda. Macbeth Glossary. Shakespeare Online. 20 Oct. 2013. < http://www.shakespeare-online.com/plays/macbeth/macbethglossary/macbeth1_1/macbethglos_thunderrain.html >.
Shakespeare, William. The tragedy of Macbeth: according to the first folio (spelling modernised). Ed. Allan Park Paton. Edinburgh: Edmonston & Co., 1877.
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