Macbeth: Act 2, Scene 3

PORTER: gatekeeper.
            Enter a PORTER.  Knocking within.

  1   Here's a knocking indeed! If a man were
2. old turning the key: plenty of occasions to turn the key [to let in sinners].
  2   porter of Hell Gate, he should have old turning the
  3   key. (Knock.) Knock, knock, knock! Who's there,
4-5. a farmer ... plenty: i.e., a hoarder.
  4   i' the name of Beelzebub? Here's a farmer, that hang'd
5. Come in time!: you have come at a good time! 6. Have napkins ... for't: i.e., be sure to carry plenty of handkerchiefs because here in hell you'll sweat for what you did. 8-11. an equivocator ... to heaven: i.e., a believable equivocator who couldn't talk his way into heaven. <More.>
  5   himself on th' expectation of plenty. Come in time!
  6   Have napkins enow about you; here you'll sweat for't.
  7   (Knock.) Knock, knock! Who's there, in the other
  8    devil's name? Faith, here's an equivocator, that could
  9   swear in both the scales against either scale, who com-
 10   mitted treason enough for God's sake, yet could
 11   not equivocate to heaven. O, come in, equivocator.
 12   (Knock.) Knock, knock, knock! Who's there? Faith,
13. an English tailor come hither, for stealing out of a French hose: Some types of "French hose" (we would call the garment "breeches") were very baggy; a dishonest tailor might try to steal some of the cloth supplied to him and produce hose that was only baggy instead of extra-baggy. 15. roast your goose: A "tailor's goose" is a type of pressing iron, and "his goose is cooked" is slang for "he's done for."
 13   here's an English tailor come hither, for stealing
 14   out of a French hose: come in, tailor; here you may
 15   roast your goose. (Knock.) Knock, knock! Never
 16   at quiet! What are you? But this place is too
 17   cold for hell. I'll devil-porter it no further: I had
 18   thought to have let in some of all professions that go
 19   the primrose way to the everlasting bonfire. (Knock.)
20. remember the porter: This is a request for a tip.
 20   Anon, anon! [Opens the gate.] I pray you, remember
 21   the porter.
Sydney Bromley as the Porter
Image Source:

            Enter MACDUFF and LENNOX.

 22   Was it so late, friend, ere you went to bed,
 23   That you do lie so late?

24. the second cock: i.e., three a.m..
 24   'Faith sir, we were carousing till the second cock;
 25   and drink, sir, is a great provoker of three things.

 26   What three things does drink especially pro-
 27   voke?

28. Marry: indeed. nose-painting: reddening of the nose through drink.
 28   Marry, sir, nose-painting, sleep, and urine.
 29   Lechery, sir, it provokes, and unprovokes; it provokes
 30   the desire, but it takes away the performance. There-
 31   fore, much drink may be said to be an equivocator
 32   with lechery: it makes him, and it mars him; it sets him  
 33   on, and it takes him off; it persuades him, and dis-
34. stand to: perform [sexually].
 34   heartens him; makes him stand to, and not stand to; in
35. equivocates him in a sleep, and, giving him the lie, leaves him: deceives him [i.e., "lechery"] in a dream, and, telling him that he is a liar, abandons him.
 35   conclusion, equivocates him in a sleep, and, giving him
 36   the lie, leaves him.

37. I believe drink gave thee the lie last night: To "give the lie" is to tell someone that he is a liar, but Macduff probably also means that drinking knocked the porter out, making him lie down in sleep. 38. i' the very throat on me: To "give the lie in the throat" was particularly insulting; we would say "tell him he's a liar to his face." requited him:  paid him back. 40. though he took up my legs sometime, yet I made a shift to cast him: though he put me off balance a few times, I found a trick to throw him. The porter is using wrestling terms. Also, he is probably joking that although drinking made him unsteady on his feet, he solved the problem by throwing up.
 37   I believe drink gave thee the lie last night.

 38   That it did, sir, i' the very throat on me; but I re-
 39   quited him for his lie; and, I think, being too strong
 40   for him, though he took up my legs sometime, yet I
 41   made a shift to cast him.

 42   Is thy master stirring?

            Enter MACBETH.

 43   Our knocking has awaked him; here he comes.

 44   Good morrow, noble sir.

                                                 Good morrow, both.

 45   Is the king stirring, worthy thane?

                                                               Not yet.

46. timely: early.
 46   He did command me to call timely on him:
47. slipp'd the hour: missed the time.
 47   I have almost slipp'd the hour.

                                               I'll bring you to him.

 48   I know this is a joyful trouble to you;
 49   But yet 'tis one.

50. physics pain: takes away the pain.
 50   The labour we delight in physics pain.
 51   This is the door.

                             I'll make so bold to call,
52. limited service: appointed duty.
 52   For 'tis my limited service.

           Exit Macduff.

 53   Goes the king hence today?

53. He did appoint so: i.e., he's already made the schedule.
                                                 He does; he did appoint so.

Ghost Owl
Image Source: Andrew Haynes Wildlife Photography

 54   The night has been unruly: where we lay,
 55   Our chimneys were blown down; and, as they say,
 56   Lamentings heard i' the air; strange screams of death,
 57   And prophesying with accents terrible
58. combustion: tumult.
 58   Of dire combustion and confused events
59. obscure bird: bird of darkness, i.e., the owl. The owl was thought to be a prophet of death and destruction.
 59   New hatch'd to the woeful time: the obscure bird
 60   Clamour'd the livelong night: some say, the earth
61. Was feverous and did shake: had a fever and shook [with chills].
 61   Was feverous and did shake.

                                             'Twas a rough night.

62-63. My young remembrance cannot parallel / A fellow to it: my young memory cannot recall anything like it.

H.C. Selous
 62   My young remembrance cannot parallel
 63   A fellow to it.

           Enter MACDUFF.

 64   O horror, horror, horror! Tongue nor heart
 65   Cannot conceive nor name thee!

                                                       What's the matter?

66. Confusion: chaotic destruction, utter ruin.
 66   Confusion now hath made his masterpiece!
67. ope: open.
 67   Most sacrilegious murder hath broke ope
 68   The Lord's anointed temple, and stole thence
 69   The life o' th' building!

                                             What is 't you say—the life?

 70    Mean you his Majesty?

 71   Approach the chamber, and destroy your sight
Image Source:
72. Gorgon: monster whose look turns the beholder into stone. The most well-known Gorgon is Medusa, who has snakes for hair.
 72   With a new Gorgon: do not bid me speak;
 73   See, and then speak yourselves.

            Exeunt Macbeth and Lennox.

                                                    Awake, awake!
 74   Ring the alarum-bell! Murder and treason!
 75   Banquo and Donalbain! Malcolm! awake!
 76   Shake off this downy sleep, death's counterfeit,
 77   And look on death itself! Up, up, and see
78. The great doom's image: exact image of Doomsday.
 78   The great doom's image! Malcolm! Banquo!
79-80. walk like sprites, / To countenance this horror: walk like ghosts in keeping with the sight of this horror.
 79   As from your graves rise up, and walk like sprites,
 80   To countenance this horror! Ring the bell.

           Bell rings.

 81   What's the business,
 82   That such a hideous trumpet calls to parley
 83   The sleepers of the house? Speak, speak!

                                                                   O gentle lady,
 84   'Tis not for you to hear what I can speak:
85. repetition: report, telling.
 85   The repetition, in a woman's ear,
86. Would murder as it fell: would murder the instant it was heard.
 86   Would murder as it fell.

           Enter BANQUO.

                                             O Banquo, Banquo,
 87   Our royal master's murder'd!

                                                   Woe, alas!
 88   What, in our house?

                                 Too cruel any where.
 89   Dear Duff, I prithee, contradict thyself,
 90   And say it is not so.

           Enter MACBETH, LENNOX, ROSS.

91. chance: stroke of fate.
 91   Had I but died an hour before this chance,
 92   I had lived a blessed time; for, from this instant,
93. serious in mortality: worthwhile in human life.
 93   There 's nothing serious in mortality:
94. toys: trifles.
 94   All is but toys: renown and grace is dead;
95. drawn: emptied out.
 95   The wine of life is drawn, and the mere lees
96. this vault: i.e., this world. The world, with the vaulted sky as its roof, is metaphorically represented as an empty wine-vault.
 96   Is left this vault to brag of.

            Enter MALCOLM and DONALBAIN.

 97   What is amiss?

                           You are, and do not know't:
 98   The spring, the head, the fountain of your blood
 99   Is stopp'd; the very source of it is stopp'd.

100   Your royal father's murder'd.

                                                     O, by whom?

101   Those of his chamber, as it seem'd, had done 't:
102. badged: marked with large spots that look like badges.
102   Their hands and faces were all badged with blood;
103   So were their daggers, which unwiped we found
104   Upon their pillows. They stared, and were distracted;
105   No man's life was to be trusted with them.

106   O, yet I do repent me of my fury,
107   That I did kill them.

                                     Wherefore did you so?

108   Who can be wise, amazed, temperate and furious,
109   Loyal and neutral, in a moment? No man.
110. expedition: haste. violent: passionate.
110   Th' expedition of my violent love
111. Outrun: outran. pauser: that which makes us pause and consider. 112. golden blood: Blood was often referred to as golden. 113. a breach in nature: a gaping wound in all that sustains all life. 114. wasteful: wantonly destructive.
111   Outrun the pauser, reason. Here lay Duncan,
112   His silver skin laced with his golden blood;
113   And his gash'd stabs look'd like a breach in nature
114   For ruin's wasteful entrance: there, the murderers,
115   Steep'd in the colours of their trade, their daggers
116. Unmannerly breech'd with gore: rudely clothed in gore. The bloody gore is imagined as a pair of sloppy breeches on the blades of the daggers. Cleanth Brooks authored a famous study of this image; use this link to view a review of his article.
116   Unmannerly breech'd with gore. Who could refrain,
117   That had a heart to love, and in that heart
118   Courage to make's love known?

                                                   Help me hence, ho!

           [LADY MACBETH swoons.]

119   Look to the lady.

      MALCOLM [Aside to DONALBAIN.]
                             Why do we hold our tongues,
120. argument:topic, reason [for expressing horror and grief]. Malcolm asks his brother why everyone else is making more noise about King Duncan's murder than they are; he may be implying that Macbeth's speech and Lady Macbeth's fainting are suspiciously melodramatic. 122. auger-hole: An auger is a drill. An "auger-hole" is a hole made by an auger, and also, metaphorically, a tiny hiding-place. 124-125. brew'd: i.e., ready to spring forth. our strong sorrow / Upon the foot of motion: our strong sorrow converted into action [to avenge our father's death].
120   That most may claim this argument for ours?

      DONALBAIN [Aside to MALCOLM.]
121    What should be spoken here, where our fate,
122   Hid in an auger-hole, may rush, and seize us?
123   Let's away;
124   Our tears are not yet brew'd.

      MALCOLM [Aside to DONALBAIN.]
                                                 Nor our strong sorrow
125   Upon the foot of motion.

                                           Look to the lady.

           [LADY MACBETH is carried out.]

126-127. when we have our naked frailties hid, / That suffer in exposure: when we have clothed our weak bodies, which suffer from being exposed [to the cold]. Apparently all except Macduff and Lennox are wearing only nightclothes. Although people in Shakespeare's time did sleep in the nude, it seems unlikely that the actors were literally "naked." 128. question: discuss. 129. Fears and scruples shake us: fears and doubts unsettle us. 130-132. In the great hand of God ... malice: under the protection of God I stand, and from there I [will] fight against the secret plot of [whoever had] treasonous enmity [against the dead king].
126   And when we have our naked frailties hid,
127   That suffer in exposure, let us meet,
128   And question this most bloody piece of work,
129   To know it further. Fears and scruples shake us.
130   In the great hand of God I stand; and thence
131   Against the undivulged pretence I fight
132   Of treasonous malice.

                                     And so do I.

                                                         So all.

133. Let's briefly put on manly readiness: let's quickly put on manly clothes [and adopt manly attitudes, suitable for discussing this important matter].
133   Let's briefly put on manly readiness,
134   And meet i' the hall together.

                                               Well contented.

           Exeunt [all but Malcolm and Donalbain].

135. consort with: keep company with.
135   What will you do? Let's not consort with them;
136. office: task.
136   To show an unfelt sorrow is an office
137   Which the false man does easy. I'll to England.

138   To Ireland, I; our separated fortune
139   Shall keep us both the safer. Where we are,
140-141. the near in blood, / The nearer bloody: the nearer in bloodline [anyone is to King Duncan], the nearer they are to being murdered.
140   There's daggers in men's smiles: the near in blood,
141   The nearer bloody.

141. shaft: arrow.
                                       This murderous shaft that's shot
142. lighted: finished its course.
142   Hath not yet lighted, and our safest way
143. avoid the aim: avoid being a taget.
143   Is to avoid the aim. Therefore, to horse;
144. dainty of leave-taking: particular about saying goodbye.
144   And let us not be dainty of leave-taking,
145. shift away: stealthily disappear. warrant: justification.
145   But shift away. There's warrant in that theft
146   Which steals itself, when there's no mercy left.