Macbeth: Act 1, Scene 2



Alarum within: An "alarum" is a military trumpet call, and "within" means "offstage"; thus we are given the impression that the battle is raging nearby. meeting a bleeding Sergeant: i.e., happening to see a bleeding Sergeant.
          Alarum within. Enter KING DUNCAN,
          MALCOLM, DONALBAIN, LENNOX,
          with Attendants, meeting a bleeding Sergeant.


     DUNCAN
 1   What bloody man is that? He can report,
 2   As seemeth by his plight, of the revolt
 3   The newest state.

     MALCOLM
                                      This is the sergeant
 4   Who like a good and hardy soldier fought
 5   'Gainst my captivity. Hail, brave friend!
6. broil: battle.
 6   Say to the king the knowledge of the broil
 7   As thou didst leave it.

     Sergeant
                                                   Doubtful it stood;
8. spent: exhausted.
 8   As two spent swimmers, that do cling together
9. choke their art: make useless their skill (in swimming).
 9   And choke their art. The merciless Macdonwald—
10. to that: to that purpose. Nature has given Macdonwald so many evil qualities that he's a natural rebel.
10   Worthy to be a rebel, for to that
11   The multiplying villanies of nature
12. Western Isles: Hebrides and Ireland.
12   Do swarm upon him—from the Western Isles
13. Of kerns and gallowglasses is supplied: is reinforced ("supplied") with lightly armed soldiers ("kerns") and axe-wielding special forces ("gallowglasses"). 14. quarrel: cause. 15. Show'd: appeared. all's too weak: i.e., all — Macdonwald, his reinforcements of kerns and gallowglasses, and the favor of Fortune — were too weak to defeat Macbeth. 17. brandish'd steel: swinging sword. 19. minion: favorite.
13   Of kerns and gallowglasses is supplied;
14   And Fortune, on his damned quarrel smiling,
15   Show'd like a rebel's whore. But all's too weak;
16   For brave Macbeth—well he deserves that name—
17   Disdaining Fortune, with his brandish'd steel,
18   Which smoked with bloody execution,
19   Like valour's minion carved out his passage
20   Till he faced the slave;
21. Which: who (i.e.,Macbeth).
21   Which ne'er shook hands, nor bade farewell to him,
22. unseam'd him from the nave to the chops: split him open from the navel to the jaws. 23. fix'd: affixed. In Shakespeare's time the heads of traitors were "fix'd" to the battlements of the London bridge. The heads were mounted on pikes, as is Macbeth's head at the end of the play. 24. cousin: The historical Macbeth and Duncan were sons of sisters.
22   
Till he unseam'd him from the nave to the chops,
23   And fix'd his head upon our battlements.

     DUNCAN
24   O valiant cousin! worthy gentleman!

     Sergeant
25-26. As whence the sun ... thunders break: just as storms and thunders break out from the direction of the sun as it begins to return north. This is the first part of a simile which is completed in the next two lines. The idea of the whole thing is that often just when you expect things to get better, they get worse, as when the first hints of spring bring terrible storms.
25   As whence the sun 'gins his reflection
26   Shipwrecking storms and direful thunders break,
27   So from that spring whence comfort seem'd to come
28   Discomfort swells. Mark, king of Scotland, mark:
29   No sooner justice had with valour arm'd
30   Compell'd these skipping kerns to trust their heels,
31. Norweyan: Norwegian. surveying vantage: seeing an opportunity. 32. furbish'd arms: polished and sharpened weapons.
31   But the Norweyan lord surveying vantage,
32   With furbish'd arms and new supplies of men
33   Began a fresh assault.

     DUNCAN
                                                Dismay'd not this
34   Our captains, Macbeth and Banquo?

     Sergeant
                                                                      Yes,
35. as sparrows eagles, or the hare the lion: as much as sparrows dismay eagles, or the hare dismays the lion.
35   As sparrows eagles, or the hare the lion.
36   If I say sooth, I must report they were
37. cracks: charges of gunpowder.
37   As cannons overcharged with double cracks, so they
38   Doubly redoubled strokes upon the foe:
39-41. Except ... tell—: Unless they meant to bathe themselves in the blood spraying from open wounds or make the field of battle as memorable as Golgotha ("the place of skulls," where Christ was crucified), I cannot tell (how to account for the incredible fury of their fighting) .
39   Except they meant to bathe in reeking wounds,
40   Or memorise another Golgotha,
41   I cannot tell—
42   But I am faint, my gashes cry for help.

     DUNCAN
43   So well thy words become thee as thy wounds;
44   They smack of honour both. Go get him surgeons.

              [Exit Sergeant, attended.]

45   Who comes here?

              Enter ROSS and ANGUS.

     MALCOLM
                                The worthy thane of Ross.

     LENNOX
46   What a haste looks through his eyes! So should he look
47   That seems to speak things strange.

     ROSS
                                                              God save the king!

     DUNCAN
48   Whence camest thou, worthy thane?

     ROSS
                                                            From Fife, great king;     
49-50. Where ... cold: Where the Norwegian battle-flags [used to] mock the sky and blow cold fear into our people.
49   Where the Norweyan banners flout the sky
50   And fan our people cold.
51. Norway himself, with terrible numbers: The King of Norway himself, with a terrifying horde of warriors.
51   Norway himself, with terrible numbers,
52   Assisted by that most disloyal traitor
53. a dismal conflict: an ominous battle, one which it appeared the Scottish forces would lose. 54. Bellona's bridegroom: i.e., Macbeth. Bellona was the Roman goddess of war. lapp'd in proof: wrapped in tested armor. 55. him: i.e., the thane of Cawdor. self-comparisons: qualities which matched his own. 56. point: sword point. 57. lavish: wild.
53   The thane of Cawdor, began a dismal conflict;
54   Till that Bellona's bridegroom, lapp'd in proof,
55   Confronted him with self-comparisons,
56   Point against point, rebellious arm 'gainst arm,
57   Curbing his lavish spirit; and, to conclude,
58   The victory fell on us.

     DUNCAN
                                          Great happiness!

     ROSS
                                                                   That now
59. Norways': Norwegians'. composition: peace terms.
59   Sweno, the Norways' king, craves composition:
60. deign him burial of his men: permit him to bury his men. 61. Saint Colme's inch: Inchcolm (an island in Firth of Forth).
60   Nor would we deign him burial of his men
61   Till he disbursed at Saint Colme's inch
62. dollars: thalers. These Dutch and Spanish coins were first minted in Shakespeare's time, not Macbeth's.
62   Ten thousand dollars to our general use.

     DUNCAN
64. Our bosom interest: concerns closest to my heart. present: immediate.
63   No more that thane of Cawdor shall deceive
64   Our bosom interest: go pronounce his present death,
64. with his former title greet Macbeth: i.e., greet Macbeth with the title of "Thane of Cawdor."
65   And with his former title greet Macbeth.

     ROSS
66   I'll see it done.

     DUNCAN
67   What he hath lost noble Macbeth hath won.

              Exeunt.