Macbeth: Act 4, Scene 3

          Enter MALCOLM and MACDUFF.

  1    Let us seek out some desolate shade, and there
  2    Weep our sad bosoms empty.

                                                  Let us rather
3. mortal:  deadly.
  3    Hold fast the mortal sword, and like good men
4. Bestride:  stand astride of. Macduff envisions Scotland as a fallen soldier, which he and Malcolm should defend. birthdom: fatherland. 6. that:  so that.
  4    Bestride our down-fall'n birthdom. Each new morn
  5    New widows howl, new orphans cry, new sorrows
  6    Strike heaven on the face, that it resounds
  7    As if it felt with Scotland and yell'd out
8. Like syllable of dolour: a similar cry of pain.
  8    Like syllable of dolour.

8-10. What I believe ... I will: Malcolm is being very cautious. He says he'll grieve for what he believes are the sorrows of Scotland, but believe only what he knows for sure is true, and redress the wrongs done to Scotland only when the time is right. 12. sole: mere.
                                            What I believe I'll wail,
  9    What know believe, and what I can redress,
 10    As I shall find the time to friend, I will.
 11    What you have spoke, it may be so perchance.
 12    This tyrant, whose sole name blisters our tongues,
13. honest: honorable.
 13    Was once thought honest; you have loved him well;
14. touch'd: harmed. young: i.e., inexperienced. Though Malcolm admits that he is "young," he makes it clear that he's not going to be fooled. 14-16.but something ... innocent lamb: however, you may hope to earn something from Macbeth by betraying me and by having the worldly wisdom to offer me up as a sacrificial lamb.
 14    He hath not touch'd you yet. I am young, but something
 15    You may deserve of him through me, and wisdom
 16    To offer up a weak poor innocent lamb
 17    To appease an angry god.

 18    I am not treacherous.

                                          But Macbeth is.
19-20. recoil / In an imperial charge: turn back [towards evil] under the pressure of an assault by a king. 21. thoughts: i.e., suspicions. transpose: change [into its opposite]. 22. the brightest: i.e., Lucifer [who rebelled against God, fell from grace, and became Satan]. 23-24. Though all ... look so: i.e., though all foul things want to disguise themselves as fair and good, goodness itself still looks fair and good.
 19    A good and virtuous nature may recoil
 20    In an imperial charge. But I shall crave your pardon;
 21    That which you are my thoughts cannot transpose:
 22    Angels are bright still, though the brightest fell;
 23    Though all things foul would wear the brows of grace,
 24    Yet grace must still look so.

24. my hopes: i.e., his hopes of enlisting Malcolm's aid in a campaign against Macbeth.
                                                   I have lost my hopes.

25. Perchance ... doubts: i.e., maybe you lost your hopes in in the same place that I found my suspicions. Malcolm goes on to ask why, if Macduff really does fear Macbeth's savagery, he has left his wife and children unprotected ("in that rawness"). 27. motives: persons who you would be naturally motivated to protect. 29-30. Let not ... safeties: don't attribute my suspicions to your dishonor, but to my own desire to protect myself. 30. rightly just: truly honorable.
 25    Perchance even there where I did find my doubts.
 26    Why in that rawness left you wife and child,
 27    Those precious motives, those strong knots of love,
 28    Without leave-taking? I pray you,
 29    Let not my jealousies be your dishonours,
 30    But mine own safeties. You may be rightly just,
 31    Whatever I shall think.

                                           Bleed, bleed, poor country!
32. lay thou thy basis sure: be assured that you, "Great tyranny," have a strong foundation. 33. check: oppose. 33-34. wear ... affeer'd: wear your wrongful gains, "Great tyranny," [because] your title to them is confirmed. The word "wear" suggests that Macduff imagines Macbeth parading about in the royal garments that rightly belong to the true King of Scotland.
 32    Great tyranny, lay thou thy basis sure,
 33    For goodness dare not check thee; wear thou thy wrongs,
 34    The title is affeer'd! Fare thee well, lord:
 35    I would not be the villain that thou think'st
 36    For the whole space that's in the tyrant's grasp,
 37    And the rich East to boot.

                                                Be not offended:
38. absolute fear: i.e., complete distrust.
 38    I speak not as in absolute fear of you.
39. I think: i.e., I know.
 39    I think our country sinks beneath the yoke;
 40    It weeps, it bleeds; and each new day a gash
41. withal: also, in addition.
 41    Is added to her wounds. I think withal
42. There would be hands uplifted in my right: i.e., If I were to invade Scotland, men of Scotland would fight in support of my right to the throne. 44. thousands: thousands of soldiers. for all this: despite all this.
 42    There would be hands uplifted in my right;
 43    And here from gracious England have I offer
 44    Of goodly thousands. But, for all this,
 45    When I shall tread upon the tyrant's head,
 46    Or wear it on my sword, yet my poor country
 47    Shall have more vices than it had before,
48-49. More ... succeed: i.e., suffer more and in more ways than ever under the king who will follow Macbeth.
 48    More suffer and more sundry ways than ever,
 49    By him that shall succeed.

49. What should he be?: i.e., Who are you talking about?
                                               What should he be?

 50    It is myself I mean; in whom I know
51. particulars: varieties. grafted: firmly implanted.
 51    All the particulars of vice so grafted
52. open'd: unfolded, made known.
 52    That, when they shall be open'd, black Macbeth
53. the poor state: i.e., Scotland.
 53    Will seem as pure as snow, and the poor state
 54    Esteem him as a lamb, being compared
55. confineless harms: limitless harms [which I will inflict on Scotland and her people].
 55    With my confineless harms.

                                               Not in the legions
 56    Of horrid hell can come a devil more damn'd
57. top: surpass.
 57    In evils to top Macbeth.

                                              I grant him bloody,
58. Luxurious: lecherous.
 58    Luxurious, avaricious, false, deceitful,
59. Sudden: violent, hot-tempered. smacking of: partaking of.
 59    Sudden, malicious, smacking of every sin
 60    That has a name; but there's no bottom, none,
 61    In my voluptuousness. Your wives, your daughters,
 62    Your matrons and your maids, could not fill up
63. cistern: i.e., septic tank. <More.> 63-65. my desire ... my will: i.e., my sexual desire would overwhelm any trace of modesty or chastity in myself or others that might stand in the way of what I wanted.
 63    The cistern of my lust, and my desire
 64    All continent impediments would o'erbear
 65    That did oppose my will. Better Macbeth
 66    Than such an one to reign.

66-69. Boundless intemperance ... many kings: in human nature, sex obsession can overwhelm everything else; it has been the cause of thrones in happy kingdoms suddenly falling empty, and it has caused the destruction of many kings. 69-70. But ... yours: Nevertheless, don't be afraid to take what is rightfully yours. <More.> 70-72. You may ... hoodwink: i.e., you will be able have unlimited gratification of your sexual desires and yet appear to be chaste, because you will be able to blind everyone to your true nature. 74-75. so many / As will to greatness dedicate themselves: 76. Finding it so inclined: finding that it ["greatness"] is willing [to accept a woman's dedication].
                                               Boundless intemperance
 67    In nature is a tyranny; it hath been
 68    The untimely emptying of the happy throne
 69    And fall of many kings. But fear not yet
 70    To take upon you what is yours. You may
 71    Convey your pleasures in a spacious plenty,
 72    And yet seem cold, the time you may so hoodwink.
 73    We have willing dames enough; there cannot be
 74    That vulture in you, to devour so many
 75    As will to greatness dedicate themselves,
 76    Finding it so inclined.

With this: in addition to what I have just described.
                                            With this, there grows
77. ill-composed affection: unbalanced nature.
 77    In my most ill-composed affection such
78. stanchless: insatiable, greedy.
 78    A stanchless avarice that, were I king,
 79    I should cut off the nobles for their lands,
 80    Desire his jewels and this other's house:
 81    And my more-having would be as a sauce
82-83. that I should forge / Quarrels unjust: so that I would pick unjustified quarrels.
 82    To make me hunger more; that I should forge
 83    Quarrels unjust against the good and loyal,
 84    Destroying them for wealth.

                                                 This avarice
 85    Sticks deeper, grows with more pernicious root
86. summer-seeming lust: Lust is "summer-seeming" because it seems to be linked with the prime—the summer—of life, and is thus something that will pass. Avarice, in contrast, has a stronger "root," and can last forever. 86-87. it hath been ... kings: avarice has been the sword that has killed our kings [by provoking rebellions which have resulted in the deaths of those greedy kings]. 88-89. Scotland ... own: Scotland has abundance to satisfy all your desires, from your own income [from royal estates]. 89-90. All ... weigh'd: all the faults you have mentioned are bearable when balanced out by other kingly graces.
 86    Than summer-seeming lust, and it hath been
 87    The sword of our slain kings. Yet do not fear;
 88    Scotland hath foisons to fill up your will
 89    Of your mere own. All these are portable,
 90    With other graces weigh'd.

 91    But I have none. The king-becoming graces,
 92    As justice, verity, temperance, stableness,
 93    Bounty, perseverance, mercy, lowliness,
 94    Devotion, patience, courage, fortitude,
95. relish: trace. 95-97. abound ... ways: wallow in the varieties of each separate crime, acting out each one in many ways.
 95    I have no relish of them, but abound
 96    In the division of each several crime,
 97    Acting it many ways. Nay, had I power, I should
98. concord: harmony, peace.
 98    Pour the sweet milk of concord into hell,
99. Uproar the universal peace, confound / All unity on earth: change all peace into chaos, utterly destroy all unity on earth.
 99    Uproar the universal peace, confound
100    All unity on earth.

                                        O Scotland, Scotland!

101    If such a one be fit to govern, speak.
102    I am as I have spoken.

                                          Fit to govern!
103    No, not to live. O nation miserable,
104. untitled: lacking a rightful title. The "untitled tyrant" is Macbeth.
104    With an untitled tyrant bloody-scepter'd,
105    When shalt thou see thy wholesome days again,
106. truest issue of thy throne: most legitimate heir to the throne, i.e., Malcolm. 107. By his own interdiction stands accursed: In church governance, an interdiction is a ruling which prohibits a person from participating in church sacraments; that person is "accursed." Macduff's point is that Malcolm, in saying that he lacks all the kingly graces, has interdicted himself from being king of Scotland. 108. blaspheme his breed: defame his breeding, insult his own parents. 110. upon her knees: i.e., in prayer. 111. Died: i.e., to the world. 112. These evils thou repeat'st upon thyself: these evils of which you repeatedly accuse yourself.
106    Since that the truest issue of thy throne
107    By his own interdiction stands accursed,
108    And does blaspheme his breed? Thy royal father
109    Was a most sainted king; the queen that bore thee,
110    Oftener upon her knees than on her feet,
111    Died every day she lived. Fare thee well!
112    These evils thou repeat'st upon thyself
113    Have banish'd me from Scotland. O my breast,
114    Thy hope ends here!

                                        Macduff, this noble passion,
115    Child of integrity, hath from my soul
116. black scruples: dark doubts.
116    Wiped the black scruples, reconciled my thoughts
117    To thy good truth and honour. Devilish Macbeth
118. trains: plots, traps. Malcolm is saying that Macbeth has sent many double agents to him. Those double agents have used "these trains"—promises of anything and everything—in order to persuade him to return to Scotland, where they could then betray him to Macbeth. 119. modest wisdom: wise prudence.
118    By many of these trains hath sought to win me
119    Into his power, and modest wisdom plucks me
120    From over-credulous haste. But God above
121    Deal between thee and me! for even now
122    I put myself to thy direction, and
123    Unspeak mine own detraction, here abjure
124    The taints and blames I laid upon myself,
125. For: as.
125    For strangers to my nature. I am yet
126    Unknown to woman, never was forsworn,
127    Scarcely have coveted what was mine own,
128    At no time broke my faith, would not betray
129    The devil to his fellow and delight
130    No less in truth than life. My first false speaking
131    Was this upon myself. What I am truly,
132    Is thine and my poor country's to command:
133    Whither indeed, before thy here-approach,
134    Old Siward, with ten thousand warlike men,
135. at a point: fully prepared.
135    Already at a point, was setting forth.
136. we'll together: we will all [go and fight] together. 136-137. the chance of goodness / Be like our warranted quarrel!: may our chances of success be as great as our cause is good!
136    Now we'll together; and the chance of goodness
137    Be like our warranted quarrel! Why are you silent?

138    Such welcome and unwelcome things at once
139    'Tis hard to reconcile.

          Enter a DOCTOR.

140. more anon: we'll speak more of this matter very soon.
140    Well, more anon.—Comes the King forth, I pray you?

141    Ay, sir; there are a crew of wretched souls
142. stay his cure: are waiting for him to cure them. 142-143 Their malady convinces / The great assay of art: their malady defeats the best efforts of medical skill.
142    That stay his cure. Their malady convinces
143    The great assay of art; but at his touch—
144    Such sanctity hath heaven given his hand—
145. presently amend: immediately get well.
145    They presently amend.

                                           I thank you, doctor.

          Exit [Doctor].

146    What's the disease he means?

146. the evil: Scrofula was known as "the king's evil," because it was thought that the touch of a king could cure it. See Wikipedia: Scrofula. This good king: Edward the Confessor.
                                                    'Tis call'd the evil:
147    A most miraculous work in this good king;
148    Which often, since my here-remain in England,
149-150. How ... knows: how he prays to heaven [for a cure], only he knows. 150. strangely-visited: afflicted with strange varieties of the disease. 151. ulcerous: Ulcers are active lesions which leak pus. Today, they are rarely seen on the skin. 152. mere: utter. 153. stamp: coin.
149    I have seen him do. How he solicits heaven,
150    Himself best knows; but strangely-visited people,
151    All swoll'n and ulcerous, pitiful to the eye,
152    The mere despair of surgery, he cures,
153    Hanging a golden stamp about their necks,
154-156. and 'tis spoken ... benediction: and it is said that to the kings who follow him he leaves the power of giving the blessing which heals. 156. With this strange virtue: in addition to this extrordinary power.
154    Put on with holy prayers, and 'tis spoken,
155    To the succeeding royalty he leaves
156    The healing benediction. With this strange virtue,
157    He hath a heavenly gift of prophecy,
158    And sundry blessings hang about his throne,
159    That speak him full of grace.

          Enter ROSS.

                                                    See who comes here.

160. know: recognize. Apparently Malcolm recognizes Ross as a Scotsman by his clothes.
160    My countryman; but yet I know him not.

161. ever-gentle: always noble.
161    My ever-gentle cousin, welcome hither.

162. betimes: quickly.
162    I know him now. Good God betimes remove
163. means: There are two now obsolete meanings of "means" that would make sense here: 1. stratagems, trickery; 2. griefs.
163    The means that makes us strangers!

                                                            Sir, amen.

164    Stands Scotland where it did?

                                                   Alas, poor country!
165    Almost afraid to know itself. It cannot
166-167. where nothing, / But who knows nothing, is once seen to smile: where no one, except those who know nothing about what is going on, is ever seen to smile.
166    Be call'd our mother, but our grave; where nothing,
167    But who knows nothing, is once seen to smile;
168    Where sighs and groans and shrieks that rend the air
169. mark'd: noticed.
169    Are made, not mark'd; where violent sorrow seems
170. modern ecstasy: commonplace hysteria.
170    A modern ecstasy; the dead man's knell
171    Is there scarce ask'd for who; and good men's lives
172    Expire before the flowers in their caps,
173. or ere: way before.
173    Dying or ere they sicken.

relation / Too nice: report too precise.
                                              O, relation
174    Too nice, and yet too true!

                                                What's the newest grief?

175. That of an hour's age doth hiss the speaker: the grief which is only an hour old causes the teller of that grief to be hissed. The "speaker" of the hour-old grief would be hissed because he was telling old news and ignoring all the new griefs. teems: breeds.
175    That of an hour's age doth hiss the speaker;
176    Each minute teems a new one.

                                                     How does my wife?

177    Why, well.

                              And all my children?

                                                                Well too.

178    The tyrant has not batter'd at their peace?

179    No; they were well at peace when I did leave 'em.

180    Be not a niggard of your speech; how goes't?

181. transport the tidings: bring the news.
181    When I came hither to transport the tidings,
182. heavily borne: sorrowfully carried.
182    Which I have heavily borne, there ran a rumour
183. out: armed [and on the move against Macbeth]. 184-185. was to my belief ... a-foot: was made more believable because I saw the tyrant's army on the march.
183    Of many worthy fellows that were out;
184    Which was to my belief witness'd the rather,
185    For that I saw the tyrant's power a-foot.
186. Now is the time of help: now is the time to cure the sickness [of Scotland]. your eye: i.e., your personal presence. 188. doff: rid themselves of.
186    Now is the time of help; your eye in Scotland
187    Would create soldiers, make our women fight,
188    To doff their dire distresses.

                                                   Be't their comfort
189    We are coming thither. Gracious England hath
190    Lent us good Siward and ten thousand men;
191. An older and a better soldier none / That Christendom gives out: England ("That Christendom") tells of ("gives out") no more experienced ("older") or better soldier.
191    An older and a better soldier none
192    That Christendom gives out.

                                                  Would I could answer
193    This comfort with the like! But I have words
194-195. That would be ... them: i.e., that should be howled out only in the desert air where they could not be heard.
194    That would be howl'd out in the desert air,
195    Where hearing should not latch them.

                                                             What concern they?
196. fee-grief: a grief belonging to just one person.
197. Due to: belonging to.
196    The general cause? or is it a fee-grief
197    Due to some single breast?

honest: loyal, good.
                                                 No mind that's honest
198    But in it shares some woe; though the main part
199    Pertains to you alone.

                                          If it be mine,
200    Keep it not from me, quickly let me have it.

201    Let not your ears despise my tongue for ever,
202    Which shall possess them with the heaviest sound
203    That ever yet they heard.

                                              Humh! I guess at it.

204    Your castle is surprised; your wife and babes
205-207. To relate ... you: to tell exactly how [your wife and children were murdered] would be to add your death to the heap ["quarry'] of these murdered dear prey ["deer"].
205    Savagely slaughter'd. To relate the manner,
206    Were, on the quarry of these murder'd deer,
207    To add the death of you.

                                               Merciful heaven!
208    What, man! ne'er pull your hat upon your brows;
209    Give sorrow words. The grief that does not speak
210. Whispers: whispers to. o'er-fraught: over-burdened.
210    Whispers the o'er-fraught heart and bids it break.

211    My children too?

                                   Wife, children, servants, all
212    That could be found.

212. And I must be from thence!: i.e., and I insisted on being away from them!
                                        And I must be from thence!
213    My wife kill'd too?

                                      I have said.

                                                           Be comforted.
214    Let's make us medicines of our great revenge,
215    To cure this deadly grief.

216. He has no children: If Macduff is referring to Macbeth, perhaps he means that full revenge would mean killing Macbeth and his children, too. 217. hell-kite: A kite is a kind of hawk that was notorious for feeding on fallen soldiers. 219. fell swoop: deadly swoop [of the "hell-kite"].
216    He has no children. All my pretty ones?
217    Did you say all? O hell-kite! All?
218    What, all my pretty chickens and their dam
219    At one fell swoop?

220. Dispute it like a man: "Dispute" means "struggle against." Malcolm probably means that Macduff should struggle against his grief by taking revenge on Macbeth.
220    Dispute it like a man.

                                            I shall do so;
221    But I must also feel it as a man:
222    I cannot but remember such things were,
223    That were most precious to me. Did heaven look on,
224    And would not take their part? Sinful Macduff,
225. naught: wicked or worthless.
225    They were all struck for thee! naught that I am,
226    Not for their own demerits, but for mine,
227    Fell slaughter on their souls. Heaven rest them now!

228    Be this the whetstone of your sword: let grief
229. Convert to: change to.
229    Convert to anger; blunt not the heart, enrage it.

230-231. O, I could play ... tongue!: Macduff is saying that all of his emotions are honest. He could play the part of a woman and weep excessively, or he could be a braggart and boast of the terrible revenge he could take on Macbeth, but he's not doing either. 232. intermission: delay. Front to front: face to face.
230    O, I could play the woman with mine eyes
231    And braggart with my tongue! But, gentle heavens,
232    Cut short all intermission. Front to front
233    Bring thou this fiend of Scotland and myself;
234    Within my sword's length set him; if he 'scape,
235    Heaven forgive him too!

                                            This tune goes manly.
236    Come, go we to the king; our power is ready;
237. Our lack is nothing but our leave: i.e., the only thing left to do [before we leave for Scotland] is to take our leave [of the King of England]. 238-239. the powers ... instruments: the powers above send us [into battle] as agents [of their will]. 239-240. Receive ... day: i.e., whatever happens, there will be a better tomorrow.
237    Our lack is nothing but our leave; Macbeth
238    Is ripe for shaking, and the powers above
239    Put on their instruments. Receive what cheer you may,
240    The night is long that never finds the day.