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MacBeth Quotes &
Other Miscellaneous Information

A curse is laid upon Macbeth by the first witch "Sleep shall neither night nor day Hang upon his penthouse lid; He shall live a man forbid: Weary . . ."
--- Act 1, Scene 3, Lines 18 - 22

Macbeth desires to be the King, a position currently held by the person he is speaking to in humbleness. The King establishes a crown prince: "We will establish our estate upon Our eldest, Malcolm, whom we name hereafter The Prince of Cumberland"
--- Act 1, Scene 4, Lines 37 - 39

Macbeth once again shows his great desire for the throne. After Malcolm is instated, Macbeth says, "The Prince of Cumberland! That is a step On which I must fall down, or else o'erleap, For in my way it lies. Stars, hide your fires; Let not light see my black and deep desires"
--- Act 1, Scene 4, Lines 48 - 51

Lady Macbeth begins the play with great desire, saying "[you (Macbeth)] shalt be / What though art promised" (lines 16 - 17). She questions Macbeth's character: "Yet do I fear nature; It is too full o' th' milk of human kindness To catch the nearest way"
--- Act 1, Scene 5, Lines 17 - 19

Later on in the same Scene Lady Mcbeth says, "Out, damned spot! Out, I say! One: two: why, then 'tis time to do't. Hell is murky. Fie, my lord, fie! A soldier, and afeard? What need we fear who knows it, when none can call our pow'r to accompt? Yet who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him?"
--- Act 1, Scene 5, Lines 34 - 39

About Act 2, Scene 2. Religion (Christianity) is mentioned in this scene. In lines 21 to 32, Macbeth tells Lady Macbeth how the servants [that were drugged] in Duncan's chamber said "God bless us!" and "Amen", but that he couldn't say it. "But where fore could not I pronounce 'Amen'? / I had most need of blessing, and 'Amen' / Stuck in my throat" (lines 30 - 32). This symbolizes the great guilt that he feels. He has alienated himself from God, even though he needed to be blessed by God.

A good line in this scene comes from the Old Man "God's benison go with you, and with those That would make good of bad, and friends of foes!"
--- Act 2, Scene 4, Lines 40 - 41

The Three Witches enter the scene, a witches' haunt. They begin their ritual, adding many foul things to a bubbling cauldron ("scale of dragon, tooth of wolf/ witch's mummy, maw and gulf/ of the ravined salt-sea shark, root of hemlock digged i'th' dark/ liver of a blaspheming Jew", etc.), chanting what are probably the most famous lines in Macbeth: "Double, double, toil and trouble; Fire burn and cauldron bubble."
--- Act 4, Scene 1, Lines 22 - 26

As the second witch pours in babboon's blood to cool the mixture, Hecate and three other witches enter. Hecate commends the witches for their excellent work, and incites the witches to sing and dance 'round the caldron, to enchant it. Hecate and the other three witches exit after the song, just as Macbeth enters, heralded by the second witch: "By the pricking of my thumbs,/ something wicked this way comes:/open, locks,/whoever knocks!" (lines 44-47). Macbeth inquires of the witches as to what they are doing. They say that it is a deed without a name. He then challenges the witches to answer him, almost in effect saying that he can be more evil than they. "I conjure you, by that which you profess, howe'er you come to know it, answer me: though you untie the winds and let them fight against the churches; though the yesty waves confound and swallow navigation up; though bladed corn be lodged and trees blown down; though castles topple on their warders' heads; though palaces and pyramids do slope their heads to their heads to their foundations; though the treasure of nature's germens tunble all together, even till destruction sicken, answer me to what I ask you."
--- Act 4, Scene 1, Lines 50 - 61

The witches implore him to speak, saying that they will answer. Then first witch then asks Macbeth if he would rather hear it from their masters or from them. Macbeth tells them to call their masters. They throw in sow's blood to complete the conjuration. Thunder rolls and the first apparition appears: an armed head. Macbeth begins to speak to it, but is stopped by the first witch, who tells him to listen, that the apparition does not know him. The apparition gives Macbeth a warning: "Macbeth! Macbeth! Macbeth! Beware Macduff! Beware the Thane of Fife. Dismiss me: enough."
--- Act 4, Scene 1, Lines 71 - 72

The apparition descends into the cauldron. Macbeth attempts to speak to it, and is again shushed by the first witch. The witch then speaks of the coming of a second apparition, more powerful than the first. More thunder, and the second apparition rises from the cauldron: a bloody child. The apparition speaks to Macbeth: "Be bloody, bold, and resolute! Laugh to scorn The pow'r of man, for none of woman born Shall harm Macbeth."
--- Act 4, Scene 1, Lines 79 - 81

Macbeth laughs at the first apparition's warning, thinking that he has nothing to fear from Macduff, and also swearing to kill him, just to insure that the prophecy does not come true. The third apparition arises: a child crowned, with a tree in his hand. Macbeth asks what this means, and is immediately chastised by all three witches and told not to speak to it. The third apparition then gives Macbeth this message: "Be lion-mettled, proud, and take no care who chafes, who frets, or where conspirers are: Macbeth shall never vanquished be until Great Birnam Wood to high Dunsinane Hill Shall come against him."
--- Act 4, Scene 1, Lines 90 - 94

The third apparition descends into the cauldron, as Macbeth gloats over the apparently well-boding prophecies. He claims that the wood will never move, asking "who can impress the forest, bid the tree/ unfix his earthbound root? Sweet bodements, good!" (lines 95-96). He asks one last question of the witches: whether or not Fleance will ever rule the kingdom, but the witches tell him to ask no more questions. Macbeth says that he must know, and says that the witches will be cursed if they do not show him. The witches all cry "Show!", and eight Kings (one with a mirror in hand) and Banquo appear. Macbeth cries out, horrified, as the image of Banquo, blood-stained and battered, smiles at him and points at the other Kings. Macbeth begs of the first witch to know if this is so. Her response is that of course it is so, but asks why he stands there so amazed at this grotesque scene. She implores the other two witches to perform a short dance to cheer him up, and says that "this great king may kindly say/ our duties did his welcome pay.", pointing out that Macbeth learned what he wanted to know, though it was not what he wanted to hear. The witches dance and vanish. Macbeth, thoroughly distraught, cries out, looking for the witches, and condemns the day, saying "Let this pernicious hour/ stand aye accursed in the calendar!" (lines 133-134). He hears someone outside and tells them to enter. Lennox enters the haunt and inquires what Macbeth wants. Macbeth asks him if he saw the weird sisters (the witches), to which the response was no. He then asks if the witches came by him on, but again the answer is no. Macbeth condemns the very air where the witches are ("filthy air" [I,i,11]) and then asks what the hoofbeats were that he heard before. Lennox replies that it was several riders attempting to find him and tell him that Macduff had fled to England. Macbeth, in a short aside , laments that an idea is worth nothing if not acted upon, and that, from that point on, "the very firstlings of my heart shall be the firstlings of my hand." (lines 147-148). He then decides that he will surprise the family of Macduff and destroy his family, thus removing the threat that Macduff represents.

The scene opens with Lady Macduff and Ross speaking of Macduff's flight to England. She calls him[Ross] a traitor and that he fled his family and posessions out of fear. Ross attempts to try to make her realize that he might have had some reason for fleeing ("You know not/whether it was his wisdom or his fear"(lines 4-5)), but Lady Macbeth responds in anger: "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, the most diminutive of birds, will fight, her young ones in the 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."
--- Act 4, Scene 2, Lines 6 - 14

Ross again attempts to calm and comfort her, to try to make her believe that her husband is not a traitor to his family. Lady Macduff continues on, and Ross takes his leave of her, becoming too distraught by Lady Macduff's carrying on to stay without breaking into tears and leaves. At this point, one of the most interesting dialogues in Macbeth takes place: Lady Macduff then inquires of her son how he will live with his father dead. He claims that he will live "like the birds"(line 32), just dealing with what he gets, and then tells his mother that his father is not dead. Lady Macduff claims that, yes, Macduff is dead, and again inquires how her son will live without a father. He deigns to answer and instead asks her how she will do without a husband. She claims that she can "buy [herself] twenty at the market"(line 40), to which the son replies that she'll "buy 'em to sell again"(line 40), i.e. to betray her again. She remarks on her son's sharp wit, quite astute for a child, before the son asks her if his father was a traitor. She replies that he was, and the son asks what a traitor is. Lady Macduff replies that a traitor is one who "swears and lies" (line 47), and the son asks if everyone who does this is a traitor, and again, the mother replies yes, and that all traitors must be hanged. The son askes her if everyone who swears and lies must be hung, and the mother replies, every last one. Finally, the son asks, "who must hang them?" (line 52), to which the mother replies, "the honest men" (line 53). The son then sums up his argument by making one of the most astute observations in all literature: "Then the liars and swearers are fools; for there are liars and swearers enow to beat the honest men and hang up them."
--- Act 4, Scene 2, Lines 54 - 56

His mother is awed by this point, but still inquires what he will do for a father. The son replies that if he were really dead, that Lady Macduff would be weeping for him, and that if she was not weeping, it would be a good sign that he would have a new father very soon. His mother dismisses his very valid point as "prattling" just as a messenger enters. The messenger carries a dire message: "Bless you, fair dame! I am not to you known, Though in your state of honor I am perfect. I doubt[fear] some danger does approach you nearly; if you will take a homely man's adivice, 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."
--- Act 4, Scene 2, Lines 63 - 71

Lady Macduff is thoroughly perplexed by this, and first thinks that she has done no one any harm, and does not understand why anyone would wish to harm her or hers. Then she realizes that she is in the real world, where many times, to good is very dangerous, and asks of herself why she should put up such a womanly defense as "I have done no harm", then sees people entering the room that she does not recognize. The first murderer asks her where Macduff is, to which she replies that she would hope in a place where none such as the murderer should find him. The murderer calls Macduff a traitor, and the son calls him a liar. The murderer calls him a "young fry of treachery"(line 82) and stabs him. The child implores Lady Macduff to run away before he dies. Lady Macduff runs out, screaming "Murder!" , but is pursued and overtaken by the murderers.

Ross tells them that he wishes he could answer with news that was as heartening, but that Macduff's family was massacred. Malcolm and Macduff are both shocked by this, and Malcolm says that they must take revenge for this wrong, and that Macduff should take it like a man. Macduff replies: "I shall do so, But I must also feel it as a man. I cannot but remember such things were, that were most precious to me. Did heaven look on, And would not take their part? Sinful Macduff, they were all struck down for thee! Naught that I am, not for their own demerits but for mine fell slaughter on their souls. Heaven rest them now!"
--- Act 4, Scene 3, Lines 220 - 227

Malcolm proceeds to incite him to use this as the "whetstone of his sword" (line 228), to make his grief into anger. Macduff responds that he "could play the woman with [his] eyes,/ and the braggart with [his] tounge" (lines 230-231). He tells them delay no longer, to bring Macbeth within reach of his sword, and that if he should escape, that heaven should forgive him. Malcolm replies that nothing is stopping them from leaving now, and that they should go soon. He tries to instill some confidence in them with his final lines: "Recieve what cheer you may,/ the night is long that never finds the day." (lines 239-240).

Macbethís retainers are leaving him. But he refuses to "sag with doubt nor shake with fear" because he knows no man born of woman can harm him and until that forest shows up he will not show fear. However he knows that his life has not turned out to be what he hoped: "My way of life Is fallen into the sere, the yellow leaf; And that which should accompany old age, As honor, love, obedience, troops of friends, I must not look to have; but in their stead, Curses not loud but deep, mouth-honor, breath, Which the poor heart would fain deny, and dare not."
--- Act 5, Scene 3

In this scene, two pieces of bad news come to Macbeth. The first is that Lady Macbeth dies, most likely of her insanity. Macbeth is sad but doesn't want to have to deal with this at such a bad time for him. The second bad news is that Birnam Wood has come to Dunsinane. Macbeth's whole world is falling apart. He says two important quotations. "Out, out brief candle! Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player That struts and frets his hour upon the stage And then is heard no more. It is a tale Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury Signifying nothing."
--- Act 5, Scene 5, Lines 23 - 28

Although he might feel life is meaningless, he for some reason still fights on. The second quotation comes from lines 49 to 50: "I 'gin to be aweary of the sun, And wish th' estate o' th' world were now undone."
--- Act 5, Scene 5, Lines 49 - 50

In other words, he's sick of things going bad for him, and wishes that the world didn't have to have good prevail all the time.

Having lost his Queen, seeing his hopes turn to ashes, the bitter Macbeth now comments life in caustic words: "Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow Creeps in this petty pace from day to day To the last syllable of recorded time; And all our yesterdays have lighted fools The way to dusty death. Out, out brief candle! Lifeís but a walking shadow, a poor player, That struts and frets his hour upon the stage And then is heard no more. It is a tale Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing."
--- Act 5, Scene 5

Macbeth and Macduff come to their final struggle. Macduff surprises Macbeth by saying: "Despair thy charm, And let the angel whom thou still hast served Tell thee, Macduff was from his mother's womb Untimely ripped."
--- Act 5, Scene 8, Lines 13 - 16

The final part of the apparitions' prophecies have come true! Macbeth says "I'll not fight with thee" (line 22), but Macduff chides him (like Lady Macbeth did in Act I), "Then yield thee, coward" (line 23). All Macbeth has left is his pride, and it is his pride which keeps him fighting: "I will not yield,/To kiss the ground before young Malcolm's feet" (lines 27 - 28).
--- Act 5, Scene 8, Lines 13 - 16

Macbeth is killed by Macduff, ending the struggle between light and dark. Siward finds is son dead. He says, "He's worth no more:/They say he parted well and paid his score:/And so God be with him!" (lines 51 - 53). He doesn't mourn or feel emotion. Is he the true man? The play ends with Malcolm taking the crown. Malcolm gives a speech to close the story. In his speech he thanks his friends who have fought on the side on good and says that Macbeth and Lady Macbeth brought their deaths upon themselves through their evil and selfish deeds. This speech finishes off the play with a note of the moral; it's the last thing that is in our heads as we leave the story so it is a good thing to conclude with a moral.

Here is what happened after the it! The ruler of England during this time was James I the first Stuart king. The story goes that Banquo's son, Fleance escaped to Wales and married a princess. Eventually their descendants returned to Scotland and ruled as the Stewart dynasty. This is where James traced his line from. When Elizabeth I died with no children her relative, James VI of Scotland assumed the throne as James I of England. Obviously Shakespeare did not want to offend his king so he had Macbeth alienate himself from Banquo thus Banquo a relative of the king comes out smelling like a rose. This also fits nicely with the witches' prophecy that Banquo would be the father of kings.

Why the Scottish play? There are a lot of people in the theater who believe that Macbeth is a cursed play. Some of this no doubt stems from the subject matter: witchcraft. Superstition holds that when you mess with the forces of evil, even in the arts, evil may decide to take some part. Then there are others who claim James didnít like the play as it reminded him (and any one else who saw it) about some unpopular history in Jamesí own family: Banquo was a relative and supposedly assisted Macbeth in killing Duncan. Whatever the reason, there are scores of stories about accidents happening to people involved with production of the play. To ward off evil many actors ceased to refer to the play by its title and began referring to it as "The Scottish Play."

Wierd or Wyrd? Actually they are identified as three wierd sisters. To be academic this could refer back to the old Anglo Saxon concept of Wyrd meaning fate. A pagan belief predating Christianity. This is the kind of stuff Will would throw in to suck up to James the First, King of England. James had written a book on witchcraft and fancied himself an expert. It is also claimed he persecuted witches and had them hung. Will knew of this and since this play was written in part to honor James why not toss on some stuff Jimbo would know. A little flattery couldn't hurt but in real life Banquo was a distant relative of James' and had assisted in killing Duncan. While Will makes him (Banquo) a noble character in this play, James would know his ancestor didn't have completely clean hands. I can't imagine the royal family would appreciate their dirty laundry up there on stage for all to see.

Fortune was a goddess who would spin her wheel just like Vanna White of The Wheel of Fortune. Depending on where it stopped you had good luck (win some money) or bad (lose a turn). The idea was there was no telling where the wheel might stop once started. The bloody whatever is saying that it seemed Fortune had deserted Duncan and like some cheap "camp follower" was supporting the rebel Macdonwald. Obviously not for long. But I have heard that fortune is fickle.

"The moon is down; I have not heard the clock."(Fleance) This is an anachronism. Formally it's a representation of someone as existing or something as happening in other than the chronological, proper, or historical order. In other words, there were no clocks during Macbethís time so how could one strike.

Who is the third murderer? Who is the third murderer? How many teachers ask that question on a test. Some critics claim itís Macbeth. I donít see why it should be and his anger at finding out Fleance fled seems too real. Is it Lady Macbeth? Again, I doubt it. I canít find anything to suggest itís her and Macbeth didnít tell her about his plan. Remember the line, "Be innocent of the knowledge, dearest chuck,/Till thou applaud the deed." So who is it. Well the director of the Nicol Williamson, heís an actor, version deserves the prize as far as Iím concerned. Itís Seyton? Who is Seyton you ask. Well, he is Macbethís personal servant. Heís the one who dresses him in armor. Heís there on stage with Macbeth, seen but never seen. Being a castle retainer he would know about why Banquo chooses to walk to the castle gate: second murderer, "His horses go about."; third murderer, "Almost a mile, but he does usually,/So all men do, from hence to the palace gate/Make it their walk." Besides if we want to get really clever when the murderers agree to kill Banquo, Macbeth comment: "Your spirits shine through you. Within this hour at most/I will advise you where to plant yourselves/Acquaint you with the perfect spy oí the time, . . ." OK, this is a push but Iím a teacher remember so we like doing this stuff to show off. Anyway, the "spy oí the time" could be a person, it might be the third murderer, it might be Seyton who certainly could act as Macbethís spy. Well? What do you think? I thought so. Well then you donít want to here about my "plant imagery theory" then either. If you can, check out the Williamson production for three scenes. First, Lady Macbeth reading Macbethís letter. Talk about sexual energy. Whoa. Second, the murder of Banquo. Third, I hate to give it away so soon, the murder of Macduffís children. The Lady M scene is just hot. The other two are really clever and the third rather horrible in depiction. No, not blood all over the place but bad enough. It works.

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© Margaret Stewart-Zimmerman
May 22, 1998 - 2010