Macbeth: Act 3, Scene 5



Hecate

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Greek Mythology

          Thunder. Enter the three WITCHES
          meeting HECATE.

       First Witch
  1    Why, how now, Hecate! you look angerly.

       HECATE
2. beldams: grannies, hags.
  2    Have I not reason, beldams as you are,
  3    Saucy and overbold? How did you dare
  4    To trade and traffic with Macbeth
  5    In riddles and affairs of death;
  6    And I, the mistress of your charms,
7. close: secret.
  7    The close contriver of all harms,
  8    Was never call'd to bear my part,
  9    Or show the glory of our art?
 10    And, which is worse, all you have done
11. wayward son: unreliable disciple. Hecate is referring to Macbeth. The word "wayward" may be an alternate spelling of "wayard," which in modern texts is spelled as "weird" when it describes the "weird" [or 'wayard'] sisters.
 11    Hath been but for a wayward son,
 12    Spiteful and wrathful, who, as others do,
 13    Loves for his own ends, not for you.
 14    But make amends now: get you gone,
15. pit of Acheron: i.e., the bottom of hell. The Acheron is a river in hell.
 15    And at the pit of Acheron
 16    Meet me i' the morning: thither he
 17    Will come to know his destiny:
18. Your vessels and your spells provide: prepare your pots [of mind-altering substances] and your magical charms.
 18    Your vessels and your spells provide,
 19    Your charms and every thing beside.
20-21. this night I'll spend / Unto a dismal and a fatal end: I will spend this night doing something that will have a sinister and fatal outcome.
 20    I am for the air; this night I'll spend
 21    Unto a dismal and a fatal end.
 22    Great business must be wrought ere noon:
 23    Upon the corner of the moon
24. profound: heavy and low; i.e., ready to drop down.
 24    There hangs a vaporous drop profound;
 25    I'll catch it ere it come to ground:
26-29. And that ... confusion: i.e., and the "vaporous drop profound," distilled by magical operations, will raise such spirits, as shall—by the strength of the illusions they create—lure him to his complete destruction.
 26    And that distill'd by magic sleights
 27    Shall raise such artificial sprites
 28    As by the strength of their illusion
 29    Shall draw him on to his confusion.
 30    He shall spurn fate, scorn death, and bear
 31    His hopes 'bove wisdom, grace and fear:
32. security: overconfidence.
 32    And you all know, security
 33    Is mortals' chiefest enemy.

Sing within:
"Come away, come away, etc.":
It is the general opinion of scholars that this is the same song which appears in Thomas Middleton's The Witch, which was performed about 1615. See the song lyrics. 34. my little spirit: In the song, "Come away, come away," the spirit is "like a cat," and its name is Malkin. 35. stays for me: waits for me.
          Music and a song. Sing within:
          "Come away, come away, etc."

 34    Hark! I am call'd; my little spirit, see,
 35    Sits in a foggy cloud, and stays for me.

          [Exit.]

       First Witch
 36    Come, let's make haste; she'll soon be back again.

          Exeunt.