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Underground passage way leading to the dungeons.


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SCENE VII. Macbeth's castle.
Hautboys and torches. Enter a Sewer, (note 107)
and divers Servants with dishes and
service, and pass over the stage. Then enter MACBETH
If it were done when 'tis done, then 'twere well (note 108)
It were done quickly: if the assassination
Could trammel up the consequence, and catch (notes 109, 110)
With his surcease success; that but this blow
Might be the be-all and the end-all here,
But here, upon this bank and shoal of time, (note 111)
We'ld jump the life to come. But in these cases (note 112)
We still have judgment here; that we but teach
Bloody instructions, which, being taught, return
To plague the inventor: this even-handed justice (note 113)
Commends the ingredients of our poison'd chalice (note 114)
To our own lips. He's here in double trust; (note 115)
First, as I am his kinsman and his subject,
Strong both against the deed; then, as his host,
Who should against his murderer shut the door,
Not bear the knife myself. Besides, this Duncan
Hath borne his faculties so meek, hath been (note 116)
So clear in his great office, that his virtues (note 117)
Will plead like angels, trumpet-tongued, against
The deep damnation of his taking-off;
And pity, like a naked new-born babe,
Striding the blast, or heaven's cherubim, horsed
Upon the sightless couriers of the air, (note 118)
Shall blow the horrid deed in every eye,
That tears shall drown the wind. I have no spur (note 119)
To prick the sides of my intent, but only
Vaulting ambition, which o'erleaps itself
And falls on the other. (note 120)

How now! what news?

He has almost supp'd: why have you left the chamber? (note 121)

Hath he ask'd for me?

Know you not he has?

We will proceed no further in this business:
He hath honour'd me of late; and I have bought
Golden opinions from all sorts of people,
Which would be worn now in their newest gloss,
Not cast aside so soon.

Was the hope drunk
Wherein you dress'd yourself? hath it slept since?
And wakes it now, to look so green and pale
At what it did so freely? From this time
Such I account thy love. Art thou afeard
To be the same in thine own act and valour
As thou art in desire? Wouldst thou have that
Which thou esteem'st the ornament of life,
And live a coward in thine own esteem,
Letting 'I dare not' wait upon 'I would,'
Like the poor cat i' the adage? (note 122)

Prithee, peace:
I dare do all that may become a man;
Who dares do more is none. (note 123)

What beast was't, then, (note 124)
That made you break this enterprise to me?
When you durst do it, then you were a man;
And, to be more than what you were, you would
Be so much more the man. Nor time nor place
Did then adhere, and yet you would make both: (note 125)
They have made themselves, and that their fitness now
Does unmake you. I have given suck, and know
How tender 'tis to love the babe that milks me:
I would, while it was smiling in my face,
Have pluck'd my nipple from his boneless gums,
And dash'd the brains out, had I so sworn as you
Have done to this.

If we should fail?

We fail!
But screw your courage to the sticking-place, (note 126)
And we'll not fail. When Duncan is asleep--
Whereto the rather shall his day's hard journey
Soundly invite him--his two chamberlains (note 127)
Will I with wine and wassail so convince (note 128)
That memory, the warder of the brain, (note 129)
Shall be a fume, and the receipt of reason (note 130)
A limbeck only: when in swinish sleep
Their drenched natures lie as in a death,
What cannot you and I perform upon
The unguarded Duncan? what not put upon
His spongy officers, who shall bear the guilt
Of our great quell? (note 131

Bring forth men-children only;
For thy undaunted mettle should compose
Nothing but males. Will it not be received,
When we have mark'd with blood those sleepy two
Of his own chamber and used their very daggers,
That they have done't?

Who dares receive it other,
As we shall make our griefs and clamour roar
Upon his death?

I am settled, and bend up
Each corporal agent to this terrible feat.
Away, and mock the time with fairest show:
False face must hide what the false heart doth know.


(107) A sewer. An officer, whose duty it was to place the dishes on the table. From the French asseoir, meaning 'to place.'
(108) If it were done when 'tis done. 'If it were done with when 'tis done,' 'if it were concluded when 'tis accomplished. 'One of Shakespeare's paradoxically framed sentences, replete with meaning. See Notes 55 and 70 of this Act.
(109) Trammel up the consequence. A " trammel " was a net in which birds or fish were caught; and 'trammels ' were shackles in which horses' legs were placed when they were taught to pace ; therefore Shakespeare uses the verb to "trammel" for 'impede' or , obviate.' " Up" is here employed to give an effect of completeness or thoroughness.
(110) And catch, with his surcease, success. "Catch" is here used for 'ensure,' 'securely obtain;' "his" used for 'its' in reference to " assassination' includes the effect of reference to the man who is to be assassinated; '(surcease" means' cessation,' 'stop'; and "success" is here employed in its sense of' that which follows or ensues,' 'issue,' 'consequence,' while also including the sense of 'successful termination' as implying impunity.
(111) This bank and shoal of time. The Folio gives 'schoole' for "shoal" Theobald's correction.
(112) We'd jump the life to come. 'We'd risk the life to come.'
(113) This even-handed justice. It has been proposed to change " this" to 'thus;' but "this" is here used as it is in the passage referred to in Note 42, Act II , " First Part Henry IV ."
(114) Commends. Here used in 'the sense of' commits,' 'directs.'
(115) He' s here in double trust. There has been no mention of any one by name in this speech; yet with what pointed significance of effect the pronoun "he" is here used!
(116) Faculties. Here used for 'sovereign powers,' 'royal prerogatives,' 'rights of dominion.'
(117) So clear in his great office. "Clear" is used in the sense of 'pure,' 'free from blemish,' 'immaculate.'
(118) The sightless couriers of the air. For "sightless" see Note 87 of the present Act. "Couriers of the air" is a poetical term for the winds.
(119) Tears shall drown the wind. A metaphor founded upon the suspension of wind by a shower of rain.
(120) And falls on the other. In the present passage "sides," in the penultimate line, allows 'side' to be elliptically understood after "other;" according to a mode of construction occasionally used by Shakespeare.
(121) He has almost supp'd. Observe here again the dramatic effect of "he" thus used.
(122) Like the poor cat i' the adage; A version of the adage here alluded to is to be found in Heywood's "Proverbs," 1566 : "The cat would eate fishe, but would not wet her feete."
(123) Who dares do more is none. The Folio misprints 'no' for "do." Rowe's correction.
(124) What beast was't, then, that, &c. It has been proposed to change "beast" to 'boast' or 'baseness;' but here, as in more than a dozen other instances, Shakespeare uses "beast" as an antithesis to "man."
(125) Adhere. Employed instead of 'cohere.'
(126) Screw your courage to the sticking-place. A metaphorical phrase, taken from "screwing" up the chords of a stringed instrument to their requisite tension; when the peg remains fast in its "sticking-place," or place whence it is not to recede.
(127) His two chamberlains. This incident is taken from Holinshed's account of King Duffe's murder by Donwald; and, indeed, it is interesting, in reading the old chronicle, to observe from what different portions of the history Shakespeare has here and there culled morsels which he has appropriated, brought together, and turned to choicest account, in his tragedy of "Macbeth."
(128) With wine and wassail so convince.. " Wassail " is here used for 'feasting,' "convince" for 'oyercome,' 'overpower,' 'subdue.'
(129) warder .' Guard,' , sentmel.'
(130) The receipt of reason a limbeck only ." Receipt " is here used for 'recipient' or 'receptacle;' and "limbeck" (a colloquially corrupted form of' alembic ') is a vessel through which distilled liquors pass, in the state of fume or vapour.
(131) Quell. ' Murder;' from the Saxon quellan, to kill.

SCENE I. Court of Macbeth's castle.
Enter BANQUO, and FLEANCE bearing a torch before him
How goes the night, boy?

The moon is down; I have not heard the clock.

And she goes down at twelve.

I take't, 'tis later, sir.

Hold, take my sword. There's husbandry in heaven; (Note 1)
Their candles are all out. Take thee that too. (note 2)
A heavy summons lies like lead upon me,
And yet I would not sleep: merciful powers,
Restrain in me the cursed thoughts that nature
Gives way to in repose!

Enter MACBETH, and a Servant with a torch
Give me my sword.
Who's there?

A friend.

What, sir, not yet at rest? The king's a-bed:
He hath been in unusual pleasure, and
Sent forth great largess to your offices. (note 3)
This diamond he greets your wife withal,
By the name of most kind hostess; and shut up
In measureless content. (note 4)

Being unprepared,
Our will became the servant to defect; (note 5)
Which else should free have wrought.

All's well.
I dreamt last night of the three weird sisters: (note 6)
To you they have show'd some truth.

I think not of them:
Yet, when we can entreat an hour to serve,
We would spend it in some words upon that business,
If you would grant the time.

At your kind'st leisure.

If you shall cleave to my consent, when 'tis, (note 7)
It shall make honour for you.

So I lose none
In seeking to augment it, but still keep
My bosom franchised and allegiance clear,
I shall be counsell'd.

Good repose the while!

Thanks, sir: the like to you!

Go bid thy mistress, when my drink is ready,
She strike upon the bell. Get thee to bed.

Exit Servant
Is this a dagger which I see before me,
The handle toward my hand? Come, let me clutch thee.
I have thee not, and yet I see thee still.
Art thou not, fatal vision, sensible
To feeling as to sight? or art thou but
A dagger of the mind, a false creation,
Proceeding from the heat-oppressed brain?
I see thee yet, in form as palpable
As this which now I draw.
Thou marshall'st me the way that I was going;
And such an instrument I was to use.
Mine eyes are made the fools o' the other senses,
Or else worth all the rest; I see thee still,
And on thy blade and dudgeon gouts of blood, (notes 8, 9)
Which was not so before. There's no such thing: (note 10)
It is the bloody business which informs
Thus to mine eyes. Now o'er the one halfworld
Nature seems dead, and wicked dreams abuse
The curtain'd sleep; witchcraft celebrates (note 11)
Pale Hecate's offerings, and wither'd murder,
Alarum'd by his sentinel, the wolf,
Whose howl's his watch, thus with his stealthy pace.
With Tarquin's ravishing strides, towards his design (note 12)
Moves like a ghost. Thou sure and firm-set earth, (note 13)
Hear not my steps, which way they walk, for fear (note 14)
Thy very stones prate of my whereabout,
And take the present horror from the time,
Which now suits with it. Whiles I threat, he lives:
Words to the heat of deeds too cold breath gives. (note 15)

A bell rings
I go, and it is done; the bell invites me.
Hear it not, Duncan; for it is a knell
That summons thee to heaven or to hell.


(1) Husbandry. Here used for; 'thrift,' 'economy,' 'prudence.'
(2) Their candles are all out. This is the third passage in which Shakespeare uses the homely word "candles " as an epithet for the stars.
(3) Sent forth great largess to your offices. " Largess " means 'bounty, 'donations.' 'Offices' was altered by Rowe to 'officers;' but the "offices" of a mansion are the rooms where the household servants assemble and therefore the phrase conveys effect of the largess being sent to Macbeth's household retainers generally.
(4) And shut up in measureless content. Here "shut up " has been explained to mean either 'closed,' 'concluded,' 'terminated his speech,' or 'retired for the night by shutting himself up into his room;' but we think, considering the manner in which Shakespeare generally uses the expression "shut up," that here it means 'enclosed,' 'enfolded,' 'wrapped,' 'enveloped,' and that 'is' is elliptically understood before "shut up." The phrase appears to us to be a somewhat similarly figurative mode of expressing the king's pleased state of mind by saying' and is wrapped in measureless content; as the phrase, "I am wrapp'd in dismal thinkings" is used in" All's Well," Act V, sc. 3, to express the speaker's uneasy state of mind.
(5) Our will became, etc. 'Our desire to duly welcome the king was made subservient to our defective state of preparation; otherwise our willingness should have more efficiently demonstrated itself.' "Which" refers to "will," not to "defect;" in Shakespeare's mode of allowing a relatively-used pronoun to refer to a not immediately preceding antecedent.
(6) I dreamt last night etc. These words serve to illustrate those which Banquo has just previously said in soliloquy: " And yet I would not sleep," &c. It is evident that his last night's dream has suggested "cursed thoughts" from which his honourable waking sense revolts; and his praying against even the involuntary temptation presented to his mind during sleep presents fine moral contrast with Macbeth's lying words, "I think not of them," and his deliberately pursued purpose in spite of all occasional inward promptings to desist.
(7) If you shall cleave to my consent, - when 'tis. "Consent" is here use in the sense of 'agreement' 'agreed opinion;' the sentence meaning, 'If you will adopt and adhere to my opinion, - when my mind is made up.' Macbeth purposely expresses himself vaguely and imperfectly.
(8) And on thy blade and dudgeon. "Dudgeon" is here used for the 'haft' or 'handle' of a dagger. Bishop Wilkins explains a dudgeon dagger to be "a dagger whose handle is made of the root of box." The Scottish daggers had generally handles made of box-wood. Torriano has "a Scotch or dudgeon haft dagger." Therefore
there is peculiar appropriateness inputting this word into Macbeth's mouth.
(9) Gouts. 'Drops;' French, gouttes.
(10) There's no such thing. Dr. Bucknill, whose professional acquaintance with every variety of excited and diseased brain entitles his opinion on the subject to the highest respect, says in his admirable volume, "The Psychology of Shakespeare" (1859), "The dagger-scene is an illustration of Shakespeare's finest psychological insight: an hallucination of sight resulting from the high-wrought nervous tension of the regicide, and 'the present horror of the time,' and typifying in form the dread purpose of his mind; impressed upon his senses, but rejected by his Judgment ; recognised as a morbid product of mental excitement, and finally its existence altogether repudiated, and the bloody business of the mind made answerable for the foolery of the senses."
(11) The curtain'd sleep; witchcraft celebrates. Davenant, in his altered version of "Macbeth," inserted 'now' before "witchcraft " here; and Steevens proposed to change "sleep" to 'sleeper,' in order that the regular number of feet might be given in this line. But we have pointed out several passages where Shakespeare has lines containing either redundant or defective metre, if Judged by strict metrical rule; and we think that the present may be of them. .
(12) With Tarquin's ravishing strides. The Folio has 'sides' instead of "strides." Pope's correction. The expression, "ravishing strides," is inconformity with Shakespeare's occasionally elliptical mode of using epithets (see Note 28, Act IV, "Henry VIII"), meaning' strides of a ravisher:
(13) Thou sure and firm-set earth. The Folio misprints 'sowre' for "sure."
(14) Which way they walk. The Folio gives 'they may,' instead of "way they," here.
(15) Words to the heat of deeds too cold breath gives. The false grammatical concord, permitted when Shakespeare wrote, here affords scope for the needed rhyme.

21st Jun 2005


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