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Room in Glamis Castle


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SCENE I. Dunsinane. Ante-room in the castle.
Enter a Doctor of Physic and a Waiting-Gentlewoman
I have two nights watched with you, but can perceive
no truth in your report. When was it she last walked?

Since his majesty went into the field, I have seen (note 1)
her rise from her bed, throw her night-gown upon
her, unlock her closet, take forth paper, fold it,
write upon't, read it, afterwards seal it, and again
return to bed; yet all this while in a most fast sleep. (note 2)

A great perturbation in nature, to receive at once
the benefit of sleep, and do the effects of
watching! In this slumbery agitation, besides her
walking and other actual performances, what, at any
time, have you heard her say?

That, sir, which I will not report after her.

You may to me: and 'tis most meet you should.

Neither to you nor any one; having no witness to
confirm my speech.

Enter LADY MACBETH, with a taper
Lo you, here she comes! This is her very guise;
and, upon my life, fast asleep. Observe her; stand close.

How came she by that light?

Why, it stood by her: she has light by her
continually; 'tis her command.

You see, her eyes are open.

Ay, but their sense is shut.

What is it she does now? Look, how she rubs her hands.

It is an accustomed action with her, to seem thus
washing her hands: I have known her continue in
this a quarter of an hour.

Yet here's a spot.

Hark! she speaks: I will set down what comes from
her, to satisfy my remembrance the more strongly.

Out, damned spot! out, I say!--One: two: why,
then, 'tis time to do't.--Hell is murky!--Fie, my (note 3)
lord, fie! a soldier, and afeard? What need we
fear who knows it, when none can call our power to
account?--Yet who would have thought the old man
to have had so much blood in him.

Do you mark that?

The thane of Fife had a wife: where is she now?--
What, will these hands ne'er be clean?--No more o'
that, my lord, no more o' that: you mar all with
this starting.

Go to, go to; you have known what you should not.

She has spoke what she should not, I am sure of
that: heaven knows what she has known.

Here's the smell of the blood still: all the
perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little
hand. Oh, oh, oh!

What a sigh is there! The heart is sorely charged.

I would not have such a heart in my bosom for the
dignity of the whole body.

Well, well, well

Pray God it be, sir.

This disease is beyond my practise: yet I have known (note 4)
those which have walked in their sleep who have died
holily in their beds.

Wash your hands, put on your nightgown; look not so
pale.--I tell you yet again, Banquo's buried; he
cannot come out on's grave.

Even so?

To bed, to bed! there's knocking at the gate:
come, come, come, come, give me your hand. What's
done cannot be undone.--To bed, to bed, to bed!

Will she go now to bed?


Foul whisperings are abroad: unnatural deeds
Do breed unnatural troubles: infected minds
To their deaf pillows will discharge their secrets:
More needs she the divine than the physician.
God, God forgive us all! Look after her; (note 5)
Remove from her the means of all annoyance,
And still keep eyes upon her. So, good night:
My mind she has mated, and amazed my sight. (note 6)
I think, but dare not speak.

Good night, good doctor.


(I) Since his majesty went into the field. Mr. Steevens brings one of his usual charges against Shakespeare here, declaring that "this is one of his oversights. He forgot that he had shut up Macbeth in Dunsinane, and surrounded hIm with besiegers; adding afterwards, "Our poet, in the haste of finishing his play, forgot his plan." The oversight and forgetfulness are the commentator's, not the author's; for Mr. Steevens overlooked the circumstance that it has been before mentioned how Macbeth "prepares for some attempt of war," and that Rosse says, "I saw the tyrant's power a-foot," and forgot that the warlike usurper would be sure to superintend these military preparations ere he enclosed himself in his stronghold to await the expected assailants.
(2) Yet all this while in a most fast sleep. We have here a marked instance of Shakespeare allowing a nominative to be elliptically understood. Either the previous words, "I have seen her," are understood as repeated before "in" here, or we must understand 'she was' after "while."
(3) Hell is murky! "Murky" means 'dark,' 'gloomily dark.' The sentence, "Hell is murky!" - that grand revealment of the murderess's soul-dread - has been interpreted by some commentators to be a contemptuous reiteration of an exclamation she is supposed to dream she hears her husband make. But those who have heard the great tragic actress Ristori (the writer of the present note, alas, never heard Mrs. Siddons) drop out the equivalent words in the Italian version of the play, from her perturbed yet slumberous breathing, as though her lips could scarce form the shuddering words, will understand how they ought to be interpreted and delivered. The very incoherence and want of sequence in Lady Macbeth's sentences throughout this speech serve to show her disjointed thoughts and broken mind. She first is haunted by the impression of her blood-spotted hands; then she recurs in imagination to the night of the murder, and hears the hour strike when the deed should be done; next her inward soul shivers at the thought of that eternal gloom which shall enshroud it evermore; then she suddenly rouses herself to sustain and inspirit her husband; and finally she lapses into a trembling horror at the image of aged blood streaming from those pitiless wounds.
{4) This disease is beyond my practice: yet I have known, &c. We have the evidence of Dr. Kellogg, in his book upon " Shakespeare's Delineations of Insanity, Imbecility, and Suicide"(1866), that Lady Macbeth's "mental disquietude" in her "state of imperfect sleep," is thoroughly "true to nature." He being Assistant-Physician to the State Lunatic Asylum, Utica, N.Y., his opinion has grave weight on the subject; and it is interesting to note these reite-rated tributes of scientific men to the poet's unerring accuracy in psychological detail. See Note 10, Act II.
(5) God, God forgive us all! It has been conjectured that "God, God" is a misprint for 'Good God;' but to our minds the emphatic and solemn repetition of the Divine name is precisely in Shakespeare's impressive style. Witness, for instance, the exclamation at the commencement of the speech referred to in Note 40, Act III,"Richard II;" and also the fervent iteration pointed out in Note 42, Act IV., "Henry V."
(6) My mind she has mated, and amaz'd my sight. 'She has dismayed my mind, and bewildered my sight.'

SCENE II. The country near Dunsinane.
Drum and colours. Enter MENTEITH, CAITHNESS, ANGUS, LENNOX, and Soldiers
The English power is near, led on by Malcolm,
His uncle Siward and the good Macduff: (note 7)
Revenges burn in them; for their dear causes
Would to the bleeding and the grim alarm
Excite the mortified man. (note 8)

Near Birnam wood
Shall we well meet them; that way are they coming.

Who knows if Donalbain be with his brother?

For certain, sir, he is not: I have a file
Of all the gentry: there is Siward's son,
And many unrough youths that even now (note 9)
Protest their first of manhood.

What does the tyrant?

Great Dunsinane he strongly fortifies:
Some say he's mad; others that lesser hate him
Do call it valiant fury: but, for certain,
He cannot buckle his distemper'd cause (note 10)
Within the belt of rule.

Now does he feel
His secret murders sticking on his hands;
Now minutely revolts upbraid his faith-breach;
Those he commands move only in command,
Nothing in love: now does he feel his title
Hang loose about him, like a giant's robe
Upon a dwarfish thief.

Who then shall blame
His pester'd senses to recoil and start,
When all that is within him does condemn
Itself for being there?

Well, march we on,
To give obedience where 'tis truly owed:
Meet we the medicine of the sickly weal, (note 11)
And with him pour we in our country's purge
Each drop of us.

Or so much as it needs,
To dew the sovereign flower and drown the weeds.
Make we our march towards Birnam.

Exeunt, marching

(7) His uncle Siward Holinshed mentions that Duncan had two sons by his wife, who was the daughter of Siward, Earl of Northumberland.
(8) The mortified man. 'The ascetic;' 'the man who has mortified his passions,' 'the man who is dead to the world and its desires.' See the first line of the speech referred to in Note 5, Act I., "Love's Labour's Lost." The word 'even' is elliptically understood before "the mortified man." See Note 55, Act IV., for an instance of similar ellipsis.
(9) Unrough. 'Unbearded.'
(10) His distemper'd cause. It has been proposed to substitute 'course' for "cause" here; but we think that the present passage affords one of those instances we have pointed out where Shakespeare uses the word "cause" peculiarly, to signify 'course of conduct,' 'motived action,' 'impelled procedure,' 'career.' See Note 85, Act III., "Coriolanus."
(11) The medicine. 'The healer,' 'the physician.' Here used figuratively, in reference to Malcolm.

21st Jun 2005


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