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Macbeth Illustration


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SCENE III. The same.
Knocking within. Enter a Porter
Here's a knocking indeed! If a
man were porter of hell-gate, he should have
old turning the key. (note 27)

Knocking within
knock, knock! Who's there, i' the name of (note 28)
Beelzebub? Here's a farmer, that hanged (note 29)
himself on the expectation of plenty: come in (note 30)
time; have napkins enow about you; here (note 31)
you'll sweat for't.

Knocking within
knock! Who's there, in the other devil's
name? Faith, here's an equivocator, that could (note 32)
swear in both the scales against either scale;
who committed treason enough for God's sake,
yet could not equivocate to heaven: O, come
in, equivocator.

Knocking within
knock, knock! Who's there? Faith, here's an
English tailor come hither, for stealing out of
a French hose: come in, tailor; here you may
roast your goose.

Knocking within
knock; never at quiet! What are you? But
this place is too cold for hell. I'll devil-porter
it no further: I had thought to have let in
some of all professions that go the primrose (note 34)
way to the everlasting bonfire.

Knocking within
Anon, anon! I pray you, remember the porter.

Opens the gate
Was it so late, friend, ere you went to bed,
That you do lie so late?

'Faith sir, we were carousing till the (note 35)
second cock: and drink, sir, is a great
provoker of three things.

What three things does drink especially provoke?

Marry, sir, nose-painting, sleep, and
urine. Lechery, sir, it provokes, and unprovokes;
it provokes the desire, but it takes
away the performance: therefore, much drink
may be said to be an equivocator with lechery:
it makes him, and it mars him; it sets
him on, and it takes him off; it persuades him,
and disheartens him; makes him stand to, and
not stand to; in conclusion, equivocates him
in a sleep, and, giving him the lie, leaves him.

I believe drink gave thee the lie last night. (note 36)

That it did, sir, i' the very throat on
me: but I requited him for his lie; and, I
think, being too strong for him, though he took
up my legs sometime, yet I made a shift to cast
him. (note 37)

Is thy master stirring?

Our knocking has awaked him; here he comes.

Good morrow, noble sir.

Good morrow, both.

Is the king stirring, worthy thane?

Not yet.

He did command me to call timely on him:
I have almost slipp'd the hour.

I'll bring you to him.

I know this is a joyful trouble to you;
But yet 'tis one.

The labour we delight in physics pain.
This is the door. (note 38)

I'll make so bold to call,
For 'tis my limited service. (note 39)

Goes the king hence to-day?

He does: he did appoint so.

The night has been unruly: where we lay,
Our chimneys were blown down; and, as they say,
Lamentings heard i' the air; strange screams of death,
And prophesying with accents terrible
Of dire combustion and confused events
New hatch'd to the woeful time: the obscure bird (note 40)
Clamour'd the livelong night: some say, the earth
Was feverous and did shake.

'Twas a rough night.

My young remembrance cannot parallel
A fellow to it.

Re-enter MACDUFF
O horror, horror, horror! Tongue nor heart
Cannot conceive nor name thee! (note 41)

What's the matter.

Confusion now hath made his masterpiece!
Most sacrilegious murder hath broke ope
The Lord's anointed temple, and stole thence
The life o' the building!

What is 't you say? the life?

Mean you his majesty?

Approach the chamber, and destroy your sight
With a new Gorgon: do not bid me speak; (note 42)
See, and then speak yourselves.

Awake, awake!
Ring the alarum-bell. Murder and treason!
Banquo and Donalbain! Malcolm! awake!
Shake off this downy sleep, death's counterfeit,
And look on death itself! up, up, and see
The great doom's image! Malcolm! Banquo! (note 43)
As from your graves rise up, and walk like sprites,
To countenance this horror! Ring the bell.

Bell rings
What's the business,
That such a hideous trumpet calls to parley
The sleepers of the house? speak, speak!

O gentle lady,
'Tis not for you to hear what I can speak:
The repetition, in a woman's ear,
Would murder as it fell.

O Banquo, Banquo,
Our royal master 's murder'd!

Woe, alas!
What, in our house?

Too cruel any where.
Dear Duff, I prithee, contradict thyself,
And say it is not so.

Re-enter MACBETH and LENNOX, with ROSS
Had I but died an hour before this chance,
I had lived a blessed time; for, from this instant,
There 's nothing serious in mortality:
All is but toys: renown and grace is dead;
The wine of life is drawn, and the mere lees
Is left this vault to brag of.

What is amiss?

You are, and do not know't:
The spring, the head, the fountain of your blood
Is stopp'd; the very source of it is stopp'd.

Your royal father 's murder'd.

O, by whom?

Those of his chamber, as it seem'd, had done 't:
Their hands and faces were an badged with blood;
So were their daggers, which unwiped we found
Upon their pillows:
They stared, and were distracted; no man's life
Was to be trusted with them.

O, yet I do repent me of my fury,
That I did kill them.

Wherefore did you so?

Who can be wise, amazed, temperate and furious,
Loyal and neutral, in a moment? No man:
The expedition my violent love
Outrun the pauser, reason. Here lay Duncan,
His silver skin laced with his golden blood; (note 44)
And his gash'd stabs look'd like a breach in nature
For ruin's wasteful entrance: there, the murderers,
Steep'd in the colours of their trade, their daggers
Unmannerly breech'd with gore: who could refrain,
That had a heart to love, and in that heart
Courage to make 's love kno wn?

Help me hence, ho!

Look to the lady.

[Aside to DONALBAIN] Why do we hold our tongues,
That most may claim this argument for ours?

[Aside to MALCOLM] What should be spoken here,
where our fate,
Hid in an auger-hole, may rush, and seize us?
Let 's away;
Our tears are not yet brew'd. (note 45)

[Aside to DONALBAIN] Nor our strong sorrow (note 46)
Upon the foot of motion.

Look to the lady:

LADY MACBETH is carried out
And when we have our naked frailties hid, (note 47)
That suffer in exposure, let us meet,
And question this most bloody piece of work, (note 48)
To know it further. Fears and scruples shake us:
In the great hand of God I stand; and thence
Against the undivulged pretence I fight (note 49)
Of treasonous malice.

And so do I.

So all.

Let's briefly put on manly readiness,
And meet i' the hall together.

Well contented.

Exeunt all but Malcolm and Donalbain.
What will you do? Let's not consort with them:
To show an unfelt sorrow is an office
Which the false man does easy. I'll to England.

To Ireland, I; our separated fortune
Shall keep us both the safer: where we are,
There's daggers in men's smiles: the near in blood, (note 50)
The nearer bloody.

This murderous shaft that's shot (note 51)
Hath not yet lighted, and our safest way
Is to avoid the aim. Therefore, to horse;
And let us not be dainty of leave-taking,
But shift away: there's warrant in that theft (note 52)
Which steals itself, when there's no mercy left.


(27) Old. Here, and elsewhere, used to express 'abundant,' ' excessive.' "This short scene of the Porter has been strongly denounced; Coleridge going so far as to affirm that it is not Shakespeare's writing. Nevertheless, we cannot help thinking that there are many grounds for believing it to have been not only his composition, but his maturedly considered introduction at this point of the tragedy. In the first place, it serves to lengthen out dramatic time, which requires that the period from the king's retiring to rest - the dark hours for the commission of the murder - should be supposed to have elapsed ere the now entrance of Macduff to attend upon the king's awakening; and, in the second place, its repulsively coarse humour serves powerfully to contrast, yet harmonise, with the base and gory crime that has been perpetrated. Shakespeare's subtleties of harmony in contrast are among his most marvellous powers ; and we venture to think that this Porter scene is one of these subtleties.
(28) Knock, knock, knock! Who's there, &c. Here we must suppose the drunken lout to be amusing himself by going through the part, and grotesquely fulfilling the office he has supposed, as "porter of hell-gate." He imagines, in turn, three candidates for admittance there, the "farmer," the "equivocator," and the "tailor."
(29) Here's a farmer, &c. This seems to have been a proverbially- known accusation; for in Hall's" Satires " we find-
" Each muckworme will be rich with lawless gaine,
Altho' he smother up mowes of seven yeares graine,
And hang'd himselfe when come grows cheap againe."
(30) Come in time. We take this to be equivalent to Shakespeare's expression, "Come apace," and to the phrases, 'Be in time, be in time!' or 'Come early, come early!' of the showmen at fairs. See conclusion of chapter xxxii. Of "The Old Curiosity Shop," by Charles Dickens.
(31) Napkins. 'Handkerchiefs.'
(32) An equivocator. This and the phrase explained in Note 29 above are the two passages upon which Malone grounded his theory as to the date at which Shakespeare's "Macbeth" was written. See our opening Note of this play. We are inclined to doubt, however, that the passages in question denote reference to any special year; because the former seems to have been a traditional joke against the greed of farmers, and the latter contains a term ("equivocator") that appears to have been generally applied to and associated with Jesuits, instead of having been thus associated merely on the occasion of Garnet's trial. For instance, Fuller, in his "Holy and Profane State," on "The Liar." says: "Hence it often comes to pass,
' When Jesuits unto us answer Nay,
They do not English speak, 'tis Greek they say.'
Such an equivocator we leave, more needing a book than character to describe him." And Dryden, in "The Hind and the Panther," has the line, "Not only Jesuits can equivocate." Although both the examples we cite were written subsequently to Garnet's trial, we think it quite as probable that they indicate a previous popular consociation of "Jesuit" and "equivocator," as that they allude to the notorious consociation of them which occurred on that occasion. That the passage in the text implies allusion to Jesuitism by the term "equivocator" wears great show of likelihood.
(33) An English tailor come hither, for stealing out of a French hose. Meaning so dexterous a rogue that he could contrive to thieve some surplus stuff even out of a French hose, which was in make so ample as to allow of but very spare cuttings.
(34) The primrose way to the everlasting bonfire. Even Coleridge was compelled to admit that this sentence came from Shakespeare's pen, so evidently is it his phraseology. Compare, in "Hamlet," Act I, sc. 3, " the primrose path of dalliance; " and in "All's Well," Act IV, sc. 5, "the flowery way that leads to the broad gate and the great fire."
(35) The second cock. 'The second cock-crowing.' This seems to have been a familiar expression for an early hour in the morning; and, by the passage referred to in Note 27, Act IV, "Romeo and Juliet," it is defined to be about "three o'clock." Shakespeare also uses the term "the first cock" in " First Part Henry IV.," Act II, sc. 1; and in" Lear," Act III, sc. 4; signifying the earliest hour of morning.
(36) Last night. Malone has a long note here upon the difficulty of ascertaining "precisely the time when Duncan was murdered;" and accuses Shakespeare of being "seldom very exact in his computation of time." The fact is, that the three first scenes of the present Act (divided thus into three scenes in the Folio, and probably by the author's intention, as helping to give effect of prolongation; and therefore should be kept printed as three scenes), which take place on the same spot, and form but one continuous scene of action, afford a signal instance of Shakespeare's artistic system of dramatjc time. He marks its progress, as the action proceeds, with carefullest touches. First, he makes Banquo's inquiry and Fleance's reply mark that the then time is something "later" than "twelve;" then Macbeth's words, "Now o'er the one half world," &c., give the impression of the dark and silent hours that immediately succeed upon midnight; Lady Macbeth's ",It was the owl that shriek' d," &c., still keep the time to night; the "knocking at the south entry" brings the first token of early stirring and the break of day; the Porter's soliloquy aids to prolong the advent of the morning-comers, so that when they enter and question him as to his drowsy delay in opening the gate, and he answers by telling them of his "carousing till the second cock," dawn is fairly brought on, morning is come, and there seems no violation of probability in their asking him about "last night." There is also ingenuity in the subsequent questions - "Is thy master stirring" and "is the king stirring?" marking the likelihood of their not yet being awake; and in Macduff's mention that "he did command me to call timely on him;" thus drawing attention to the point of its being an extremely early hour, and therefore naturally ensuing upon the previously noted dramatic time. So much for the charge of 8hakespeare's "being seldom exact."
(37) To cast him. Here there is a play upon the word "cast " in its sense of 'reject after swallowing', and "throw" as in wrestling .
(38) This is the door. Observe the brief constrained replies of Macbeth, " Good morrow, both," and "Not yet," as though the syllables clove to his parched tongue and "stuck in his throat;" then his offer to accompany Macduff to the king's presence, and finally his incapability of entering, marked by the words, "This is the door."
(39) 'Tis my limited service. "Limited" is here used for 'appointed.'
(40) The obscure bird. 'The owl' Lady Macbeth has once during the night adverted to its continuous cry: " It was the owl that shriek'd," and "I heard the owl scream." The elemental, terrors and portentous signs which accompanied a regicidal act similar to Macbeth's midnight murder of Duncan are recorded by Holinshed; but the adoption and appropriation of the historian's record to suit the purposes of his tragedy were thus judiciously made by the dramatist.
(41) Cannot conceive nor name thee. Instance of double negative, used to give additional force of denial.
(42) A new Gorgon. The Gorgons were three sisters - Stheno, Euryale, and Medusa - so terrific in appearance that they turned to stone all who gazed upon them.
(43) The great doom's image. 'A foreshadowing of the horrors of doomsday.'
(44) His silver skin lac'd with his golden blood. See Note 43, Act II, "King John."
(45) Our tears are not yet brew'd. In contemptuous allusion to the feigned lamentation of the host and hostess, which the young princes evidently see through.
(46) Nor our strong sorrow, &c. .Nor is our deep and real grief able to parade itself. The "are" in the previous speech gives 'is' to be elliptically understood between "nor" and "our" here.
(47) And when we have, &c. 'And when we have fully clothed our half-dressed bodies, that risk danger to health by exposure the open air.' This serves well to denote the hasty summons they have had by the ringing of the alarm-bell, and to indicate the keen northern atmosphere of the castle courtyard, where the scene occurs. The words put into the Porter's mouth have already drawn attention to the same point: "This place is too cold," &c. By such indirect touches as these our dramatist constantly manages to keep the spectator in mind of the localities wherein he desires they should imagine themselves to be
(48) Question. Here used for 'inquire into,' 'examine into.'
(49) Pretence. ' Intention,' 'design,' 'purpose.'
(50) The near in blood, the nearer bloody. Probably "near" is here used for 'nearer.' Donalbain shows by this that he suspects Macbeth, who was next of kin to Duncan and his two sons. See Note 75, Act I. of the present play.
(51) This murderous shaft that's shot hath not yet lighted. Meaning that it has not yet fallen upon all against whom it is directed.
(52) Shift. Here used in the same sense of 'act furtively' which it bears in the sentence where Falstaff says ("Merry Wives," Act I, sc. 3), " I must coney-catch, I must shift."

21st Jun 2005


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