Notes to Macbeth, Act 1, Scene 7

Notes on the notes:

<<  *[stage direction] Hoboys  oboes    SEWER  butler    divers  various    service  knives, spoons, etc.    and pass over the stage (These servants hurriedly enter at one door and exit through the other. A feast in honor of King Duncan is about to start.)

<<     1  If it were done when 'tis done  if it would be over with when it is done

<<     3  trammel up the consequence  catch the consequences [of the assassination] in a net [so that they could never catch up with Macbeth]
     catch / With his surcease success catch [and stop], at the time of the end of the assassination, whatever [dangerous] results [could arise from the assassination]

<<     5  here / But here  here [on earth], only here

<<     6  bank and shoal of time  (The first text of Macbeth reads "school" instead of "shoal"; Lewis Theobald, an 18th-century editor, made the change because he thought that Shakespeare meant that life here on earth is only a sandbar in the river of time. However, "bank" can also mean "bench," and schoolboys sat on benches, so maybe "school" is correct, and the meaning is that life here on earth is meant to teach us the way to life after death.)

<<     7  We'ld jump  I would risk

<<     8  We still have judgment here, that we but teach / Bloody instructions, which, being taught, return / To plague the inventor  we always receive punishment here [in this life], for the reason that [when we attack someone else] we only teach bloody lessons, which, being learned [by our victims], are turned against the one who initiated [the violence]

<<    17  faculties  royal powers

<<    18  clear in his great office  blameless in [carrying out the duties of] his great position [as king]

<<    20  taking-off  murder

<<    22  Striding the blast  striding upon the wind
        horsed  mounted

<<    23  sightless couriers of the air  invisible messengers of the air [i.e., the winds]

<<    25  That tears shall drown the wind  so that tears shall make the wind be still (A downpour of rain was thought to still the wind.)

<<    27  Vaulting ambition, which o'erleaps itself / And falls on the other  (Macbeth compares his ambition to a horseman who tries to vault into the saddle, only to fall to the ground on the other side of the horse.)

<<    28  How now? what news?  what's the matter? what's going on? (One look at his wife tells Macbeth that she's not happy.)

<<    29  supp'd  finished supper

<<    32  bought  won

<<    37  green  sickly

<<    42  the ornament of life  i.e., the crown of Scotland

<<    45  the adage  ("The cat would eat fish, and would not wet her feet.")
        Prithee, peace! please be quiet

<<    47  is none  is not a real man

<<    48  break  broach, bring up [the subject]

<<    50  to be more than what you were, you would / Be so much more the man  i.e., if you would do more than just talk about killing the king, you would be more of a man

<<    51  Nor time nor place / Did then adhere, and yet you would make both  neither the time and place were then suitable [for killing the king], but you wanted to make a suitable time and place (This passage is puzzling because Lady Macbeth seems to speaking of a "then" which has not been mentioned previously in the play.)

<<    53  that their fitness  that fitness of theirs

<<    54  Does unmake you  i.e., makes you weak and indecisive

<<    58  had I so sworn as you / Have done to this  had I sworn to do that [kill her baby] as you have sworn to do this [murder King Duncan] (Again, Lady Macbeth seems to be referring to something which is not in the play; there is no previous scene in which Macbeth swears that he will murder the king. In the scene before last, in which she urged him on and told him to leave everything to her, his last words were noncommittal: "We will speak further." Or perhaps her imagination converts that cautious comment into a solemn vow.)

<<    60  But screw your courage to the sticking-place  only crank up your courage to the point at which you are ready to spring into action (The "sticking-place" is the notch that holds the string of a crossbow when it is ready to fire.)

<<    63  chamberlains  personal attendants

<<    64  wassail  carousing
     convince overpower

<<    65  warder  guardian

<<    66  receipt of reason  receptacle of reason, i.e., the brain

<<    67  limbeck  alembic (The upper part of a still; it's full of fumes when the still is in operation.)

<<    68  drenched  sodden

<<    70  put upon  blame on

<<    71  spongy  soaked, drunken

<<    72  quell  killing

<<    73  mettle  temperament, spirit

<<    74  receiv'd  believed

<<    77  receive it other  believe otherwise

<<    79  settled  determined
     bend up  draw tight [as a bow is bent just before the arrow is shot]

<<    80  each corporal agent  every bodily sense and power

<<    81  mock the time  deceive by acting as is appropriate to the occasion (Macbeth and his wife are planning the murder of King Duncan while a feast in Duncan's honor is going on.)