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Macbeth Illustration


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SCENE IV. The same. Hall in the palace.
A banquet prepared. Enter MACBETH, LADY MACBETH, ROSS, LENNOX, Lords, and Attendants
You know your own degrees; sit down: at first (note 55)
And last the hearty welcome.

Thanks to your majesty.

Ourself will mingle with society,
And play the humble host.
Our hostess keeps her state, but in best time (note 56)
We will require her welcome.

Pronounce it for me, sir, to all our friends;
For my heart speaks they are welcome.

First Murderer appears at the door
See, they encounter thee with their hearts' thanks.
Both sides are even: here I'll sit i' the midst:
Be large in mirth; anon we'll drink a measure
The table round.

Approaching the door
There's blood on thy face.

First Murderer
'Tis Banquo's then.

'Tis better thee without than he within. (note 57)
Is he dispatch'd?

First Murderer
My lord, his throat is cut; that I did for him.

Thou art the best o' the cut-throats: yet he's good (note 58)
That did the like for Fleance: if thou didst it,
Thou art the nonpareil. (note 59)

First Murderer
Most royal sir,
Fleance is 'scaped.

Then comes my fit again: I had else been perfect,
Whole as the marble, founded as the rock,
As broad and general as the casing air:
But now I am cabin'd, cribb'd, confined, bound in
To saucy doubts and fears. But Banquo's safe? (note 60)

First Murderer
Ay, my good lord: safe in a ditch he bides,
With twenty trenched gashes on his head; (note 61)
The least a death to nature.

Thanks for that:
There the grown serpent lies; the worm that's fled (note 62)
Hath nature that in time will venom breed,
No teeth for the present. Get thee gone: to-morrow (note 63)
We'll hear, ourselves, again.

Exit Murderer
My royal lord,
You do not give the cheer: the feast is sold
That is not often vouch'd, while 'tis a-making,
'Tis given with welcome: to feed were best at home;(note 64)
From thence the sauce to meat is ceremony;
Meeting were bare without it.

Sweet remembrancer!
Now, good digestion wait on appetite,
And health on both!

May't please your highness sit.

The GHOST OF BANQUO enters, and sits in MACBETH's place
Here had we now our country's honour roof'd,
Were the graced person of our Banquo present;
Who may I rather challenge for unkindness
Than pity for mischance!

His absence, sir,
Lays blame upon his promise. Please't your highness
To grace us with your royal company.

The table's full. (note 65)

Here is a place reserved, sir.


Here, my good lord. What is't that moves your (note 66) highness?

Which of you have done this? (note 67)

What, my good lord?

Thou canst not say I did it: never shake (note 68)
Thy gory locks at me.

Gentlemen, rise: his highness is not well.

Sit, worthy friends: my lord is often thus,
And hath been from his youth: pray you, keep seat;
The fit is momentary; upon a thought (note 69)
He will again be well: if much you note him,
You shall offend him and extend his passion:
Feed, and regard him not. Are you a man?

Ay, and a bold one, that dare look on that
Which might appal the devil.

O proper stuff!
This is the very painting of your fear:
This is the air-drawn dagger which, you said,
Led you to Duncan. O, these flaws and starts, (note 70)
Impostors to true fear, would well become (note 71)
A woman's story at a winter's fire,
Authorized by her grandam. Shame itself!
Why do you make such faces? When all's done,
You look but on a stool.

Prithee, see there! behold! look! lo!
how say you?
Why, what care I? If thou canst nod, speak too.
If charnel-houses and our graves must send
Those that we bury back, our monuments (note 72)
Shall be the maws of kites.

What, quite unmann'd in folly?

If I stand here, I saw him. (note 73)

Fie, for shame!

Blood hath been shed ere now, i' the olden time, (note 74)
Ere human statute purged the gentle weal; (note 75)
Ay, and since too, murders have been perform'd
Too terrible for the ear: the times have been, (note 76)
That, when the brains were out, the man would die, (note 77)
And there an end; but now they rise again,
With twenty mortal murders on their crowns,
And push us from our stools: this is more strange
Than such a murder is.

My worthy lord,
Your noble friends do lack you.

I do forget.
Do not muse at me, my most worthy friends, (note 78)
I have a strange infirmity, which is nothing
To those that know me. Come, love and health to all;
Then I'll sit down. Give me some wine; fill full.
I drink to the general joy o' the whole table,
And to our dear friend Banquo, whom we miss;
Would he were here! to all, and him, we thirst, (note 79)
And all to all.

Our duties, and the pledge.

Avaunt! and quit my sight! let the earth hide thee! (note 80)
Thy bones are marrowless, thy blood is cold;
Thou hast no speculation in those eyes (note 81)
Which thou dost glare with!

Think of this, good peers,
But as a thing of custom: 'tis no other;
Only it spoils the pleasure of the time.

What man dare, I dare:
Approach thou like the rugged Russian bear,
The arm'd rhinoceros, or the Hyrcan tiger; (note 82)
Take any shape but that, and my firm nerves
Shall never tremble: or be alive again,
And dare me to the desert with thy sword;
If trembling I inhabit then, protest me (note 83)
The baby of a girl. Hence, horrible shadow! (note 84)
Unreal mockery, hence!

Why, so: being gone,
I am a man again. Pray you, sit still.

You have displaced the mirth, broke the good meeting,
With most admired disorder. (note 85)

Can such things be,
And overcome us like a summer's cloud, (note 86)
Without our special wonder? You make me strange (note 87)
Even to the disposition that I owe,
When now I think you can behold such sights,
And keep the natural ruby of your cheeks,
When mine is blanched with fear. (note 88)

What sights, my lord?

I pray you, speak not; he grows worse and worse;
Question enrages him. At once, good night:
Stand not upon the order of your going,
But go at once.

Good night; and better health
Attend his majesty!

A kind good night to all!

Exeunt all but MACBETH and LADY MACBETH
It will have blood; they say, blood will have blood:
Stones have been known to move and trees to speak;
Augurs and understood relations have (note 89)
By magot-pies and choughs and rooks brought forth (notes 90, 91, 92)
The secret'st man of blood. What is the night?

Almost at odds with morning, which is which.

How say'st thou, that Macduff denies his person (note 93)
At our great bidding?

Did you send to him, sir? (note 94)

I hear it by the way; but I will send: (note 95)
There's not a one of them but in his house
I keep a servant fee'd. I will to-morrow,
And betimes I will, to the weird sisters:
More shall they speak; for now I am bent to know,
By the worst means, the worst. For mine own good,
All causes shall give way: I am in blood
Stepp'd in so far that, should I wade no more,
Returning were as tedious as go o'er:
Strange things I have in head, that will to hand;
Which must be acted ere they may be scann'd.

You lack the season of all natures, sleep. (note 96)

Come, we'll to sleep. My strange and self-abuse
Is the initiate fear that wants hard use: (note 97)
We are yet but young in deed.


(55) At first and last. Johnson proposed to substitute 'to' for "at" here, explaining the sentence to mean, 'All of whatever degree, from the highest to the lowest, may be assured that their visit is well received.' As it stands, it probably is intended to include not only this meaning, but also 'let those who arrive at first as well as at last feel heartily welcome,' while the phrase itself, "at first and last," is very likely an equivalent for the familiar expression, 'once for all.'
(56) Keeps her state. 'Remains in her seat of state.'
(57) 'Tis better thee without than he within. It has been strangely doubted whether this may not mean, 'It is better that Banquo's blood should be on thy face than he in this room;' but surely the . meaning is, 'It is better that Banquo's blood should be outside thee than inside him,' since "he" is sometimes used by Shakespeare according to a grammatical licence of his time, instead of him - See Note 75, Act lII "Romeo and Juliet."
(58) yet he's good. "He's" is here probably an elision for 'he is as,' not for 'he is.'
(59) Nonpare'il. A French word adopted into the English language, meaning 'not equalled,' 'unequalled,' or 'without equal.'
(60) Safe. Here used for' secure from doing harm,' 'securely done for, or despatched,' while immediately after it is used in the sense of 'securely stowed away.' See Note 72. Act I of this play. There is a kind of grim levity in the equivocally-sounding word here used, that horribly enhances the ghastliness of the colloquy.
(61) Trenched. French 'tranche' ; 'cut,' 'sliced.'
(62) The worm. Here used for 'the young serpent.' See Note 4, Act III, " Measure for Measure."
(63) No teeth for the present. 'Hath' before "nature," in the previous line, gives 'but hath' to be elliptically understood before "no teeth."
(64) 'Tis given with welcome. The "that" in the preceding line is elliptically understood as repeated before " 'tis given," the meaning of the entire sentence being, 'That feast is more like a vended entertainment at a tavern than a freely bestowed banquet which is not attended by frequent assurances, while it is in progress, that it is given with hearty welcome; if the object be merely to feed, it were best done at home; away from home, the proper accompaniment to a repast is courteous observance.' "From" is here used in its sense of 'away from,' 'at a distance from.' See Note 28 of the present Act.
(65) The table's full. Very heart-shaking is the effect upon us of these first few unconscious words of Macbeth in the presence of his victim's shade. These show us that he sees the row of guests apparently complete by the some one or some thing that is there in the seat which the rest of the company believe is empty, for he has not yet recognised the figure for what it is.
(66) Here, my good lord. What is't, &c. This is the point between the first sentence and the second of Lennox's speech - where Macbeth first perceives what it is that fills the "place reserv'd" for him.
(67) Which of you have done this? For one single instant 'he thinks that the actual mangled body of his victim has been placed there before him to convict him of his crime.'
(68) Thou canst not say I did it. His next impulse is to deny that his own hand has done the deed, basely flinging the foul blame upon his hired instruments. Shakespeare not unfrequently lays the emphasis on the usually unaccented syllable in his line, as a musician will sometimes throw expressional stress on the unaccented note in a bar, and here the effect of the emphatic "I" is most striking. These are the rightful despotisms of Art.
(69) Upon a thought. 'As quick as thought,' 'with the speed of thought.
(70) Flaws. 'Sudden gusts.'
(71) Impostors to true fear. 'Impostors compared to true fear,' 'impostors in comparison with true fear.'
(72) Monuments. Here used for 'tombs,' 'sepulchres;' not, as now, for the mere exterior structures or tombstones. See the concluding line of the speech referred to in Note 10, Act II, "Henry VIII."
(73) If I stand here, I saw him. Observe, again, the impressive use of the indefinite word "him" here. See Notes 115 and 121 of Act I. Macbeth absolutely cannot name his victim at this awful moment. We may here take occasion to notice that the question has been mooted as to whether the ghost which appears and reappears in this scene may not have been meant for two separate ghosts - those of Duncan and Banquo. In the Folio, the first stage-direction is, "Enter the ghost of Banquo, and sits in Macbeth's place;" and the second is "Enter Ghost." To say nothing of the likelihood that had a different ghost been intended, there would doubtless have been some indication of it in the original stage-direction (as in Act IV, sc.1, the Folio indicates the three several apparitions biy: "1. Apparition, an Armed Head;" "2. Apparition, a Bloody Child;" and "3. Apparition, a Childe Crowned, with a Tree in his hand"), we think that the intrinsic evidence of the text itself clearly shows that but one single ghost is here intended; the one terrible spectre that solely haunts Macbeth's imagination at present, the gashed corpse of him whom he dares to desire might be "present," of him whom he even a second time dares to "drink to," and wish that "he were here!" The mere effort thus twice made by Macbeth in bold defiance of his tortured fancy, excites it into its diseased excess, and brings its horrible creation visibly before him.
(74) I' the olden time. 'Even' is ellipticaly understood before "i' the" (see Note 21 of this Act) ; and "olden" is an antique form of 'old.'
(75) Ere human statute purg'd the gentle weal. 'Before human laws were instituted to restrain the pristine innocence of men in that era when restraint was unneeded. 'The allusion is to the golden age of mankind. See Note 18, Act I, "As You Like It." "Weal" is here used for 'wealth' (as that word is employed in its combination form, ' common-wealth') ; signifying 'national state,' 'collective popular condition.'
(76) The times have been. The First Folio prints here, 'The times has bene;' and the Cambridge Editors read, ' The time has been.' But we think that the reading of the Second Folio, adopted in our text and by the majority of editors, is more probably the original sentence, inasmuch as Macbeth is referring to two former periods, - before human laws existed, and since then.
(77) The man would die. ...but now they rise again. Here the plural pronoun "they," used in reference to the noun singular "man," accords with an occasional practice of Shakespeare's.
(78) Muse. 'Wonder,' 'marvel.'
(79) To all, and him, we thirst, and all to all. 'To all and to him we desire to drink, and desire all good wishes to all.'
(80) Avaunt! 'Away!' 'Hence!' 'Begone!' This exclamation is derived from the Italian word avanti, 'onward;' the exclamation 'Avanti!' being briefly used either to express 'go onward' or 'come forward,' though in strictness they should be andate avanti and venite avantI
(81) Speculation. ' Power of sight,' 'faculty of sight.'
(82) The Hyrcan tiger. " Hyrcan " is an abbreviated form of "Hyrcanian," used by other writers besides Shakespeare.
(83) If trembling I inhabit then. This phrase has been changed by various emendators; but it appears to us to be perfectly in Shakespeare's style, forming direct antithesis with "dare me to the desert." He uses "inhabit" several times as an intransitive verb, signifying 'remain,' 'dwell;' and here the sense is 'remain within doors,' 'stay in any habitation or in any inhabited place when thou challengest me forth.' That daring an opponent to some wild and lonely spot was a form of defiance in use when Shakespeare wrote, we find from several passages in his works.
(84) The baby of a girl. A "baby" was sometimes used for what is now called a 'doll.'
(85) With most admir'd disorder. "Admir'd" is here used for 'wondered at.' The challenge, in "Twelfth Night," Act III, sc. 4, has the expression, "Wonder not, nor admire not in thy mind, why I," &c. The word "admir'd" here, as put into Lady Macbeth's mouth, also includes the effect of being used ironically in the sense of 'admirable.'
(86) And overcome us like a.summer's cloud, &c. 'And pass over us as a summer's cloud passes over us without exciting any particular wonder. 'The use of the word, "overcome" here is especially ingenious; as it not only expresses casually come or pass over us, but it also involves the effect of subdue our spirits, impress our senses, as a sudden dark cloud overspreading the summer sky would do. Shakespeare's skill in his selection of words, so as to combine various and even contrasted images, is perfectly marvellous, and worthy of closest study.
(87) You make me strange even to the disposition that I owe. 'You make me feel strangely even with regard to my own disposition.' You make me feel doubtful and unacquainted even with my own disposition.'
(88) When mine are blanch'd with fear. The Folio prints 'is' for "are" here. Malone's correction.
(89) Augurs, and understood relations. "Augurs," spelt in the Folio' Augres,'probably here means 'auguries'; for in Florio's "Dictionary," 1598, the Italian word Augurio is rendered into English by "an augure, a soothsaying, a Prediction, a signe, a conjecture,. a divination, a bad or ill hap, a wishing of good hap, a foreboding." "Understood relations" means 'comprehended affinities,' 'perceived links of evidence.'
(90) Magot-pies. An old form of 'magpies.'
(91) Choughs. See Note 32, Act III, "Midsummer Night's Dream."
(92) Brought forth the secret'st man of blood. 'Brought to light the most concealed murderer.' Stories of discovered crime, such as Shakespeare here alludes to, are recorded in Lupton's "Thousand Notable Things," and in Goulart's "Admirable Histories."
(93) How say'st thou. Here used to express 'How say you to this?' or 'What think you of this circumstance?'
(94) Did you send to him, sir? The quietness, the almost meekness of Lady Macbeth's tone here, as contrasted with the previous stern and contemptuous roughness of her manner to her husband, in such speeches as the one commencing, "Oh, proper stuff !" has always struck us as thoroughly characteristic and very significant. As long as he required stimulus, urging him to control and suppress his tell-tale agitation, she roused herself to supply it with all requisite strength and energy; but the moment they are alone, the moment there is no longer need for this false vigour, she drops from exertions into apathy, lapsing into her now habitual depression. The fact is, Lady Macbeth, who is always considered a naturally hard, bold, bad woman, is, in truth, a woman who nerves herself to hardness and boldness for the sake of gaining a point upon which she has set her ambitious heart, and for the sake of her husband whom she loves. She is a thoroughly unscrupulous woman; but she is anything but a vicious woman, or a woman without native feeling. Her feelings are strong: even certain of her feelings are fond, but they are made to merge their fondness in the potencies of those of her feelings which take the form of ambition. Witness her knowing "how tender 'tis to love" the babe she has nourished at her breast, but merging that tender experience in the vow that should swear to destroy the babe for fulfilment of an ambition. Witness her being withheld from murdering the old king by a remembrance of her own "father as he slept," yet letting not that remembrance deter her from abetting her husband in destroying Duncan. Witness her crushing resolutely down all her own sufferings from remorse to soothe those of Macbeth; and bearing her own nightly horrors of burdened conscience with so brave a silence that they kill her before she utters one syllable of complaint to him. Her generous and even affectionate courage in this wifely conduct contrasts, with most subtly characteristic effect, against Macbeth's marital confiding to her his affliction of soul, his torture of mind, and those "terrible dreams that shake" him "nightly." The man, the valorous soldier, reposes his griefs in his wife's bosom; the woman, the faithful wife, hardened into fortitude for his sake, keeps her "scorpions" of misery within her own heart, until they sting her to death.
(95) I hear it by the way. "By the way" is here used idiomatically, to express 'by indirect means,' 'by a surreptitious course.'
(96) The season. Here used for 'the preservative.'
(97) The initiate fear. 'The fear that attends the initiative steps in guilt' or 'the first entrance into a course of crime.'

SCENE V. A Heath.
Thunder. Enter the three Witches meeting HECATE (note 98)
First Witch
Why, how now, Hecate! you look angerly.

Have I not reason, beldams as you are,
Saucy and overbold? How did you dare
To trade and traffic with Macbeth
In riddles and affairs of death;
And I, the mistress of your charms,
The close contriver of all harms,
Was never call'd to bear my part,
Or show the glory of our art?
And, which is worse, all you have done
Hath been but for a wayward son,
Spiteful and wrathful, who, as others do,
Loves for his own ends, not for you.
But make amends now: get you gone,
And at the pit of Acheron (note 99)
Meet me i' the morning: thither he
Will come to know his destiny:
Your vessels and your spells provide,
Your charms and every thing beside.
I am for the air; this night I'll spend
Unto a dismal and a fatal end:
Great business must be wrought ere noon:
Upon the corner of the moon
There hangs a vaporous drop profound; (note 100)
I'll catch it ere it come to ground:
And that distill'd by magic sleights
Shall raise such artificial sprites
As by the strength of their illusion
Shall draw him on to his confusion:
He shall spurn fate, scorn death, and bear
He hopes 'bove wisdom, grace and fear:
And you all know, security (note 101)
Is mortals' chiefest enemy.

Music and a song within: 'Come away, come away,' & c (note 102)
Hark! I am call'd; my little spirit, see,
Sits in a foggy cloud, and stays for me.

First Witch
Come, let's make haste; she'll soon be back again.


(98) Hecate. Reginald Scot, in his "Discoverie of Witchcraft," mentions it as the common opinion of all writers, that witches were supposed to have nightly "meetings with Herodias and the Pagan gods," and "that in the night-times they side abroad with Diana, the goddess of the Pagans," &c. In Middleton's "Witch", Hecate is the name of one of his witches; and in Ben Jonson's "Sad Shepherd" Maudlin the witch calls Hecate the mistress of witches, "our dame Hecate."
(99) At the pit of Acheron. The witches are poetically made to give this name of one of the rivers in the infernal regions (see Note 69, Act III, "Midsummer Night's Dream") to some foul tarn or gloomy pool in the neighbourhood of Macbeth's castle, where they habitually assemble.
(100) A vaporous drop profound. "Profound" is here used to express 'possessed of occult properties,' 'containing deeply hidden virtues;' and "the vaporous drop profound" appears to have been intended for the same as the virus lunare of the ancients, which was a foam supposed to be shed by the moon upon particular herbs or other objects, when strongly solicited by enchantment.
(101) Security. Here used in the sense of' overconfidence,' 'rash assurance,' 'presumptuous trust,' too great self-reliance.'
(102) "Come away, come away," &c. The entire song, of which this forms the commencing line, is to be found both jn Middleton's "Witch" and in Davenant's version of "Macbeth ;" therefore it was probably Shakespeare's composition, adopted by Middleton and Davenant from some staged copy of the song, as preserved either by itself or in a more complete transcript of the tragedy than the one from which the Folio was printed.

SCENE VI. Forres. The palace.
Enter LENNOX and another Lord
My former speeches have but hit your thoughts,
Which can interpret further: only, I say,
Things have been strangely borne. The
gracious Duncan
Was pitied of Macbeth: marry, he was dead:
And the right-valiant Banquo walk'd too late;
Whom, you may say, if't please you, Fleance kill'd,
For Fleance fled: men must not walk too late.
Who cannot want the thought how monstrous (note 103)
It was for Malcolm and for Donalbain
To kill their gracious father? damned fact!
How it did grieve Macbeth! did he not straight
In pious rage the two delinquents tear,
That were the slaves of drink and thralls of sleep?
Was not that nobly done? Ay, and wisely too;
For 'twould have anger'd any heart alive
To hear the men deny't. So that, I say,
He has borne all things well: and I do think
That had he Duncan's sons under his key--
As, an't please heaven, he shall not--they
should find
What 'twere to kill a father; so should Fleance.
But, peace! for from broad words and 'cause he fail'd
His presence at the tyrant's feast, I hear
Macduff lives in disgrace: sir, can you tell
Where he bestows himself?

The son of Duncan, (note 104)
From whom this tyrant holds the due of birth
Lives in the English court, and is received
Of the most pious Edward with such grace
That the malevolence of fortune nothing
Takes from his high respect: thither Macduff
Is gone to pray the holy king, upon his aid
To wake Northumberland and warlike Siward:
That, by the help of these--with Him above
To ratify the work--we may again
Give to our tables meat, sleep to our nights,
Free from our feasts and banquets bloody knives, (note 105)
Do faithful homage and receive free honours: (note 106)
All which we pine for now: and this report
Hath so exasperate the king that he (note 107)
Prepares for some attempt of war.

Sent he to Macduff?

He did: and with an absolute 'Sir, not I,'
The cloudy messenger turns me his back,
And hums, as who should say 'You'll rue the time
That clogs me with this answer.'

And that well might
Advise him to a caution, to hold what distance
His wisdom can provide. Some holy angel
Fly to the court of England and unfold
His message ere he come, that a swift blessing
May soon return to this our suffering country (note 108)
Under a hand accursed!

I'll send my prayers with him.


(103) Who cannot want the thought, &c. The superficjal effect of this sentence is tantamount to 'Who can fail to have the thought how monstrously wicked it was,' &c. ; but, in reaJity, it means, 'Who cannot be without the thought that Malcolm and Donalbain could be so monstrously wicked as to kill,' &c. We have before shown (see Notes 62, Act II, and 22, Act V, " Henry V.III.") that in the construction of questions Shakespeare is sometimes purposedly peculiar, for the sake of producing double effect; and in the present instance, the ambiguity of the mode of expression harmonises completely with the strain of irony and mocking question throughout this speech. "Want" is here used in the sense of 'be without,' 'be unpossessed of.'
(104) The son of Duncan. The Folio misprints 'sonnes' here for "son." Theobald's correction.
(105) Free from our feasts and banquets bloody knives: 'Free our feasts and banquets from bloody knives.' Instance of, transposed construction.
(106) Receive free honours. "Free" is here used to express 'free' from pollution in the hand that confers them,' 'free from taint of servility in us that accept them', and 'free from fear and constraint in their possession.' "Free," as used in the present passage, affords an example of Shakespeare's elliptically used epithets and of his words which include various combined meanings.
(107) Hath so exasperate the king. "Exasperate" is here used for 'exasperated;' and Shakespeare has employed the same abbreviated form of the word in "Troilus and Cressida," Act V, sc.1, where Thersites asks, " Why art thou, then, exasperate, thou," &c
(108) Our suffering country under a hand accurs'd .Our country suffering under an accursed hand!

21st Jun 2005


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