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.
2learned by the perfect'st report, they have more in
3them than mortal knowledge. When I burned in desire
4to question them further, they made themselves air,
5into which they vanished. Whiles I stood rapt in
6. missives: messengers.
6the wonder of it, came missives from the king, who
7all-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.
8before, these weird sisters saluted me, and referred
9me to the coming on of time, with 'Hail, king that
10shalt be!' This have I thought good to deliver
11thee, my dearest partner of greatness, that thou
12mightst not lose the dues of rejoicing, by being
13ignorant of what greatness is promised thee. Lay it
14to thy heart, and farewell."
15Glamis thou art, and Cawdor; and shalt be
16. fear thy nature: am worried about your nature..
16What thou art promised. Yet do I fear thy nature;
17It is too full o' the milk of human kindness
18To catch the nearest way. Thou wouldst be great;
19Art not without ambition, but without
20. the illness should attend it: the evil which should aid and accompany it.
20The illness should attend it. What thou wouldst highly,
21That wouldst thou holily; wouldst not play false,
22And yet wouldst wrongly win: thou dost have, great Glamis,
23That which cries "Thus thou must do, if thou have it";
24And that which rather thou dost fear to do
25. undone: not done. Hie: hasten.
25Than wishest should be undone. Hie thee hither,
26That I may pour my spirits in thine ear;
27And chastise with the valour of my tongue
28. the golden round: i.e., the royal crown.
28All that impedes thee from the golden round,
29. metaphysical: supernatural.
29Which fate and metaphysical aid doth seem
30. withal: with.
30To have thee crown'd withal.
What is your tidings?
31The king comes here tonight.
Thou'rt mad to say it!
32Is 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.
33Would have inform'd for preparation.
34So 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.
35One of my fellows had the speed of him,
36Who, almost dead for breath, had scarcely more
37Than would make up his message.
37. tending: good care.
Give him tending;
38He brings great news.
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
39That croaks the fatal entrance of Duncan
40Under my battlements. Come, you spirits
41That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here,
42And fill me from the crown to the toe top-full
43Of direst cruelty! make thick my blood;
44. remorse: pity.
44Stop 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, whereverwith your invisible bodiesyou 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.
45That no compunctious visitings of nature
46Shake my fell purpose, nor keep peace between
47The effect and it! Come to my woman's breasts,
48And take my milk for gall, you murd'ring ministers,
49Wherever in your sightless substances
50You wait on nature's mischief! Come, thick night,
51And pall thee in the dunnest smoke of hell,
52That my keen knife see not the wound it makes,
53Nor heaven peep through the blanket of the dark,
54To cry "Hold, hold!"
Great Glamis! worthy Cawdor!
55Greater 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.
56Thy letters have transported me beyond
57This ignorant present, and I feel now
58The future in the instant.
Image Source: Lady Macbeth
My dearest love,
59Duncan comes here tonight.
And when goes hence?
60Tomorrow, as he purposes.
61Shall sun that morrow see!
62Your 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.
63May read strange matters. To beguile the time,
64Look like the time; bear welcome in your eye,
65Your hand, your tongue: look like the innocent flower,
66But be the serpent under't. He that's coming
67Must be provided for: and you shall put
68. dispatch: management.
68This night's great business into my dispatch;
69Which shall to all our nights and days to come
70Give 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 .
71We 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.
72To alter favour ever is to fear:
73Leave all the rest to me.