Macbeth: Act 1, Scene 5

           Enter Macbeth's Wife, alone, with a letter.

      LADY MACBETH  [Reads.]
 1        "They met me in the day of success: and I have
2. perfect'st report: most accurate information.
 2        learned by the perfect'st report, they have more in
 3        them than mortal knowledge. When I burned in desire
 4        to question them further, they made themselves air,
 5        into which they vanished. Whiles I stood rapt in
6. missives: messengers.
 6        the wonder of it, came missives from the king, who
 7        all-hailed me 'Thane of Cawdor'; by which title,
8. referred me to: directed me to for a reward. (As in "she referred her most promising student to the scholarship office.") 10-11. deliver thee: inform you of.
 8        before, these weird sisters saluted me, and referred
 9        me to the coming on of time, with 'Hail, king that
10        shalt be!' This have I thought good to deliver
11        thee, my dearest partner of greatness, that thou
12        mightst not lose the dues of rejoicing, by being
13        ignorant of what greatness is promised thee. Lay it
14        to thy heart, and farewell."
15   Glamis thou art, and Cawdor; and shalt be
16. fear thy nature: am worried about your nature..
16   What thou art promised. Yet do I fear thy nature;
17   It is too full o' the milk of human kindness
18   To catch the nearest way. Thou wouldst be great;
19   Art not without ambition, but without
20. the illness should attend it: the evil which should aid and accompany it.
20   The illness should attend it. What thou wouldst highly,
21   That wouldst thou holily; wouldst not play false,
22   And yet wouldst wrongly win: thou dost have, great Glamis,   
23   That which cries "Thus thou must do, if thou have it";
24   And that which rather thou dost fear to do
25. undone: not done. Hie: hasten.
25   Than wishest should be undone. Hie thee hither,
26   That I may pour my spirits in thine ear;
27   And chastise with the valour of my tongue
28. the golden round: i.e., the royal crown.
28   All that impedes thee from the golden round,
29. metaphysical: supernatural.
29   Which fate and metaphysical aid doth seem
30. withal: with.
30   To have thee crown'd withal.

           Enter Messenger.

                                             What is your tidings?

31   The king comes here tonight.

                                                Thou'rt mad to say it!
32   Is not thy master with him? who, were't so,
33. inform'd for preparation: i.e., sent word ahead so that everything could be prepared for the arrival of the king.
33   Would have inform'd for preparation.

34   So please you, it is true: our thane is coming:
35-37. One ... message: i.e., one of my fellow-servants outdistanced Macbeth, but, by the time the servant got here, he (the servant) was so out of breath that he was almost dead and could barely breathe out his message.
35   One of my fellows had the speed of him,
36   Who, almost dead for breath, had scarcely more
37   Than would make up his message.

37. tending: good care.
                                                  Give him tending;
38   He brings great news.

          Exit Messenger.

38. The raven ... Duncan: The raven was considered to be a bird of ill omen. Lady Macbeth's idea is that everything points so strongly to King Duncan's death that it's as if his arrival were being announced by a raven, hoarse with croaking "die! die! die!"). 40. battlements: <Image>. 41. tend on mortal thoughts: accompany deadly thoughts.
                                  The raven himself is hoarse
39   That croaks the fatal entrance of Duncan
40   Under my battlements. Come, you spirits
41   That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here,
42   And fill me from the crown to the toe top-full
43   Of direst cruelty! make thick my blood;
44. remorse: pity.
44   Stop up the access and passage to remorse,
45. compunctious visitings of nature: guilty feelings that might naturally arise. 46. fell: cruel keep peace between / The effect and it: i.e., come between my intention and my action. 48. take my milk for gall: replace my milk with gall. Gall is an extremely bitter substance. 48-50. you murd'ring ministers ... mischief: you spirits of murder, wherever—with your invisible bodies—you wait to aid and abet the perversion of natural feeling. 51. pall thee in the dunnest smoke of hell: wrap yourself in the blackest smoke of hell. 52. That: so that.
45   That no compunctious visitings of nature
46   Shake my fell purpose, nor keep peace between
47   The effect and it! Come to my woman's breasts,
48   And take my milk for gall, you murd'ring ministers,
49   Wherever in your sightless substances
50   You wait on nature's mischief! Come, thick night,
51   And pall thee in the dunnest smoke of hell,
52   That my keen knife see not the wound it makes,
53   Nor heaven peep through the blanket of the dark,
54   To cry "Hold, hold!"

          Enter MACBETH.

                                Great Glamis! worthy Cawdor!
55   Greater than both, by the all-hail hereafter!
56. letters: i.e., the letter which Lady Macbeth read at the beginning of the scene. 57. ignorant present: i.e., the present, in which we usually have no idea of what the future will bring.
56   Thy letters have transported me beyond
57   This ignorant present, and I feel now
58   The future in the instant.


  Image Source: Lady Macbeth
                                              My dearest love,
59   Duncan comes here tonight.

                                                And when goes hence?

60   Tomorrow, as he purposes.

                                            O, never
61   Shall sun that morrow see!
62   Your face, my thane, is as a book where men
63. To beguile the time, / Look like the time: i.e., to deceive everyone, look and act like everyone else does.
63   May read strange matters. To beguile the time,
64   Look like the time; bear welcome in your eye,
65   Your hand, your tongue: look like the innocent flower,
66   But be the serpent under't. He that's coming
67   Must be provided for: and you shall put
68. dispatch: management.
68   This night's great business into my dispatch;
69   Which shall to all our nights and days to come
70   Give solely sovereign sway and masterdom.

71. We will speak further: we will talk more about this later. Lady Macbeth ignores this attempt of Macbeth to avoid an absolute commitment to murder. look up clear: keep your chin up and look serene .
71   We will speak further.

                                      Only look up clear;
72. To alter favour ever is to fear: i.e., changing one's facial expression is always a sign of fear.
72   To alter favour ever is to fear:
73   Leave all the rest to me.