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Macbeth Illustration


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SCENE II. Fife. Macduff's castle. (Both photographs show the ruins of Macduff's Castle)
Enter LADY MACDUFF, her Son, and ROSS
What had he done, to make him fly the land?

You must have patience, madam.

He had none:
His flight was madness: when our actions do not, (note 39)
Our fears do make us traitors.

You know not
Whether it was his wisdom or his fear.

Wisdom! to leave his wife, to leave his babes,
His mansion and his titles in a place
From whence himself does fly? He loves us not;
He wants the natural touch: for the poor wren, (note 40)
The most diminutive of birds, will fight,
Her young ones in her nest, against the owl.
All is the fear and nothing is the love;
As little is the wisdom, where the flight
So runs against all reason.

My dearest coz,
I pray you, school yourself: but for your husband,
He is noble, wise, judicious, and best knows
The fits o' the season. I dare not speak (note 41)
much further;
But cruel are the times, when we are traitors (note 42)
And do not know ourselves, when we hold rumour (note 43)
From what we fear, yet know not what we fear,
But float upon a wild and violent sea
Each way and move. I take my leave of you:
Shall not be long but I'll be here again: (note 44)
Things at the worst will cease, or else climb upward
To what they were before. My pretty cousin,
Blessing upon you!

Father'd he is, and yet he's fatherless.

I am so much a fool, should I stay longer,
It would be my disgrace and your discomfort:
I take my leave at once.

Sirrah, your father's dead; (note 45)
And what will you do now? How will you live?

As birds do, mother.

What, with worms and flies?

With what I get, I mean; and so do they.

Poor bird! thou'ldst never fear the net nor lime,
The pitfall nor the gin.

Why should I, mother? Poor birds they are not set for.
My father is not dead, for all your saying.

Yes, he is dead; how wilt thou do for a father?

Nay, how will you do for a husband?

Why, I can buy me twenty at any market.

Then you'll buy 'em to sell again.

Thou speak'st with all thy wit: and yet, i' faith,
With wit enough for thee.

Was my father a traitor, mother?

Ay, that he was.

What is a traitor?

Why, one that swears and lies.

And be all traitors that do so?

Every one that does so is a traitor, and must be hanged.

And must they all be hanged that swear and lie?

Every one.

Who must hang them?

Why, the honest men.

Then the liars and swearers are fools,
for there are liars and swearers enow to beat
the honest men and hang up them.

Now, God help thee, poor monkey!
But how wilt thou do for a father?

If he were dead, you'ld weep for
him: if you would not, it were a good sign
that I should quickly have a new father.

Poor prattler, how thou talk'st!

Enter a Messenger
Bless you, fair dame! I am not to you known,
Though in your state of honour I am perfect. (note 46)
I doubt some danger does approach you nearly:
If you will take a homely man's advice,
Be not found here; hence, with your little ones.
To fright you thus, methinks, I am too savage;
To do worse to you were fell cruelty,
Which is too nigh your person. Heaven preserve you!
I dare abide no longer.

Whither should I fly?
I have done no harm. But I remember now
I am in this earthly world; where to do harm
Is often laudable, to do good sometime
Accounted dangerous folly: why then, alas,
Do I put up that womanly defence,
To say I have done no harm?

Enter Murderers
What are these faces? (note 47)

First Murderer
Where is your husband?

I hope, in no place so unsanctified
Where such as thou mayst find him.

First Murderer
He's a traitor.

Thou liest, thou shag-hair'd villain! (note 48)

First Murderer
What, you egg!

Stabbing him
Young fry of treachery!

He has kill'd me, mother:
Run away, I pray you! (note 49)

Exit LADY MACDUFF, crying 'Murder!' Exeunt Murderers, following her

(39) When our actions do not, our fears do make us traitors. ' When our actions do not show us to be traitors, by our cowardly flight we make ourselves seem to be traitors.' Shakespeare occasionally uses "make" in phrases so constructed as to give the word 'seem' or 'appear' to be elliptically understood.
(40) He wants the natural touch. 'He is without the divine spark of natural affection.' " Wants" is here used in its sense of 'is wanting in,' 'is without,' 'is unpossessed of' (see Note 103, Act III) and "touch" affords another instance of Shakespeare's employment of the simplest and briefest words with most impressive effect in this grandly poetic drama. See Note 13, Act I.
(41) The fits o' the season. 'The crises of the times.' Shakespeare elsewhere uses the word "fit" to express 'perilous crisis:' 'critical period;' as when a disorder is at its height.
(42) When we are traitors, and do not know ourselves. 'When we are believed to be traitors, yet do not know ourselves to be traitors:' or 'yet know ourselves to be none.'
(43) When we hold rumour from what we fear, yet, &c. ' When we accept rumour according to what we fear maybe in store for us, yet not knowing in ourselves a cause for fear:' or 'yet knowing ourselves to be free from that which should inspire us with fear.'
(44) Shall not be long but I'll be here again. Here 'it' or 't' is elliptically understood before "shall;" as in the passages referred to in Note 68, Act III, "Merchant of Venice."
(45) Sirrah. Sometimes used as a term of affection, or of familiarity. See Note 90, Act I., "Romeo and Juliet."
(46) In your state of honour I am perfect. " State of honour" is here generally explained to mean 'high rank;' but we think it includes the sense of distinguished condition as a lady of honourable nature, no less than as a lady of honourable station. The man sees her in her own castle, and knows her to be its lady mistress: but he also seems to know that she is a virtuous, a kind, a good lady as well as a noble lady, and therefore comes to warn her of approaching danger. The word "perfect" is here used in its sense of 'perfectly acquainted,' 'perfectly informed.'
(47) What are these faces? Only a true poet would have thought of the impressive simplicity of this expression; containing horrible significance to the effect produced upon the speaker by the grim visages of the cut-throats as they enter her presence, and causing us to behold them through her words in their full menace of prospect.
(48) Shag-hair'd. The Folio prints this 'shagge-ear'd;' which seems to be a corruption of shag-hear'd, as "hair" was sometimes formerly written 'heare.' See Note 28, Act V., "King John." "Shag-hair'd" is an abusive epithet frequently used by the early writers; and in Alleyn's "Reports" it is stated that the words, "Where is that long-lock'd, shag-hair'd, murdering rogue?" were actionable. In Lodge's "Incarnate Devils of this Age," 1596, the old form of the word is given, thus: "shag-heard slave." Steevens suggested the correction.
(49) Run away, I pray you. The loving unselfishness of these words, showing the boy's thought for his mother even in the moment of his own assassination, is exactly one of Shakespeare's beautiful touches of humanity; and the whole of this brief but charmingly-written scene forms another of his exquisite delineations of child nature. Witness his portraiture of little York in " Richard III," and Prince Arthur in "King John."

21st Jun 2005


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