Macbeth: Act 4, Scene 3
Enter MALCOLM and MACDUFF.
1Let us seek out some desolate shade, and there
2Weep our sad bosoms empty.
Let us rather
3. mortal: deadly.
3Hold 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.
4Bestride our down-fall'n birthdom. Each new morn
5New widows howl, new orphans cry, new sorrows
6Strike heaven on the face, that it resounds
7As if it felt with Scotland and yell'd out
8. Like syllable of dolour: a similar cry of pain.
8Like 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,
9What know believe, and what I can redress,
10As I shall find the time to friend, I will.
11What you have spoke, it may be so perchance.
12This tyrant, whose sole name blisters our tongues,
13. honest: honorable.
13Was 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.
14He hath not touch'd you yet. I am young, but something
15You may deserve of him through me, and wisdom
16To offer up a weak poor innocent lamb
17To appease an angry god.
18I 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.
19A good and virtuous nature may recoil
20In an imperial charge. But I shall crave your pardon;
21That which you are my thoughts cannot transpose:
22Angels are bright still, though the brightest fell;
23Though all things foul would wear the brows of grace,
24Yet 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.
25Perchance even there where I did find my doubts.
26Why in that rawness left you wife and child,
27Those precious motives, those strong knots of love,
28Without leave-taking? I pray you,
29Let not my jealousies be your dishonours,
30But mine own safeties. You may be rightly just,
31Whatever 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.
32Great tyranny, lay thou thy basis sure,
33For goodness dare not check thee; wear thou thy wrongs,
34The title is affeer'd! Fare thee well, lord:
35I would not be the villain that thou think'st
36For the whole space that's in the tyrant's grasp,
37And the rich East to boot.
Be not offended:
38. absolute fear: i.e., complete distrust.
38I speak not as in absolute fear of you.
39. I think: i.e., I know.
39I think our country sinks beneath the yoke;
40It weeps, it bleeds; and each new day a gash
41. withal: also, in addition.
41Is 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.
42There would be hands uplifted in my right;
43And here from gracious England have I offer
44Of goodly thousands. But, for all this,
45When I shall tread upon the tyrant's head,
46Or wear it on my sword, yet my poor country
47Shall 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.
48More suffer and more sundry ways than ever,
49By him that shall succeed.
49. What should he be?: i.e., Who are you talking about?
What should he be?
50It is myself I mean; in whom I know
51. particulars: varieties. grafted: firmly implanted.
51All the particulars of vice so grafted
52. open'd: unfolded, made known.
52That, when they shall be open'd, black Macbeth
53. the poor state: i.e., Scotland.
53Will seem as pure as snow, and the poor state
54Esteem him as a lamb, being compared
55. confineless harms: limitless harms [which I will inflict on Scotland and her people].
55With my confineless harms.
Not in the legions
56Of horrid hell can come a devil more damn'd
57. top: surpass.
57In evils to top Macbeth.
I grant him bloody,
58. Luxurious: lecherous.
58Luxurious, avaricious, false, deceitful,
59. Sudden: violent, hot-tempered. smacking of: partaking of.
59Sudden, malicious, smacking of every sin
60That has a name; but there's no bottom, none,
61In my voluptuousness. Your wives, your daughters,
62Your 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.
63The cistern of my lust, and my desire
64All continent impediments would o'erbear
65That did oppose my will. Better Macbeth
66Than 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].
67In nature is a tyranny; it hath been
68The untimely emptying of the happy throne
69And fall of many kings. But fear not yet
70To take upon you what is yours. You may
71Convey your pleasures in a spacious plenty,
72And yet seem cold, the time you may so hoodwink.
73We have willing dames enough; there cannot be
74That vulture in you, to devour so many
75As will to greatness dedicate themselves,
76Finding it so inclined.
With this: in addition to what I have just described.
With this, there grows
77. ill-composed affection: unbalanced nature.
77In my most ill-composed affection such
78. stanchless: insatiable, greedy.
78A stanchless avarice that, were I king,
79I should cut off the nobles for their lands,
80Desire his jewels and this other's house:
81And my more-having would be as a sauce
82-83. that I should forge / Quarrels unjust: so that I would pick unjustified quarrels.
82To make me hunger more; that I should forge
83Quarrels unjust against the good and loyal,
84Destroying them for wealth.
85Sticks deeper, grows with more pernicious root
86. summer-seeming lust: Lust is "summer-seeming" because it seems to be linked with the primethe summerof 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.
86Than summer-seeming lust, and it hath been
87The sword of our slain kings. Yet do not fear;
88Scotland hath foisons to fill up your will
89Of your mere own. All these are portable,
90With other graces weigh'd.
91But I have none. The king-becoming graces,
92As justice, verity, temperance, stableness,
93Bounty, perseverance, mercy, lowliness,
94Devotion, 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.
95I have no relish of them, but abound
96In the division of each several crime,
97Acting it many ways. Nay, had I power, I should
98. concord: harmony, peace.
98Pour 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.
99Uproar the universal peace, confound
100All unity on earth.
O Scotland, Scotland!
101If such a one be fit to govern, speak.
102I am as I have spoken.
Fit to govern!
103No, not to live. O nation miserable,
104. untitled: lacking a rightful title. The "untitled tyrant" is Macbeth.
104With an untitled tyrant bloody-scepter'd,
105When 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.
106Since that the truest issue of thy throne
107By his own interdiction stands accursed,
108And does blaspheme his breed? Thy royal father
109Was a most sainted king; the queen that bore thee,
110Oftener upon her knees than on her feet,
111Died every day she lived. Fare thee well!
112These evils thou repeat'st upon thyself
113Have banish'd me from Scotland. O my breast,
114Thy hope ends here!
Macduff, this noble passion,
115Child of integrity, hath from my soul
116. black scruples: dark doubts.
116Wiped the black scruples, reconciled my thoughts
117To 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 everythingin order to persuade him to return to Scotland, where they could then betray him to Macbeth. 119. modest wisdom: wise prudence.
118By many of these trains hath sought to win me
119Into his power, and modest wisdom plucks me
120From over-credulous haste. But God above
121Deal between thee and me! for even now
122I put myself to thy direction, and
123Unspeak mine own detraction, here abjure
124The taints and blames I laid upon myself,
125. For: as.
125For strangers to my nature. I am yet
126Unknown to woman, never was forsworn,
127Scarcely have coveted what was mine own,
128At no time broke my faith, would not betray
129The devil to his fellow and delight
130No less in truth than life. My first false speaking
131Was this upon myself. What I am truly,
132Is thine and my poor country's to command:
133Whither indeed, before thy here-approach,
134Old Siward, with ten thousand warlike men,
135. at a point: fully prepared.
135Already 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!
136Now we'll together; and the chance of goodness
137Be like our warranted quarrel! Why are you silent?
138Such 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.
140Well, more anon.Comes the King forth, I pray you?
141Ay, 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.
142That stay his cure. Their malady convinces
143The great assay of art; but at his touch
144Such sanctity hath heaven given his hand
145. presently amend: immediately get well.
145They presently amend.
I thank you, doctor.
146What'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:
147A most miraculous work in this good king;
148Which 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.
149I have seen him do. How he solicits heaven,
150Himself best knows; but strangely-visited people,
151All swoll'n and ulcerous, pitiful to the eye,
152The mere despair of surgery, he cures,
153Hanging 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.
154Put on with holy prayers, and 'tis spoken,
155To the succeeding royalty he leaves
156The healing benediction. With this strange virtue,
157He hath a heavenly gift of prophecy,
158And sundry blessings hang about his throne,
159That speak him full of grace.
See who comes here.
160. know: recognize. Apparently Malcolm recognizes Ross as a Scotsman by his clothes.
160My countryman; but yet I know him not.
161. ever-gentle: always noble.
161My ever-gentle cousin, welcome hither.
162. betimes: quickly.
162I 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.
163The means that makes us strangers!
164Stands Scotland where it did?
Alas, poor country!
165Almost 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.
166Be call'd our mother, but our grave; where nothing,
167But who knows nothing, is once seen to smile;
168Where sighs and groans and shrieks that rend the air
169. mark'd: noticed.
169Are made, not mark'd; where violent sorrow seems
170. modern ecstasy: commonplace hysteria.
170A modern ecstasy; the dead man's knell
171Is there scarce ask'd for who; and good men's lives
172Expire before the flowers in their caps,
173. or ere: way before.
173Dying or ere they sicken.
relation / Too nice: report too precise.
174Too 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.
175That of an hour's age doth hiss the speaker;
176Each minute teems a new one.
How does my wife?
And all my children?
178The tyrant has not batter'd at their peace?
179No; they were well at peace when I did leave 'em.
180Be not a niggard of your speech; how goes't?
181. transport the tidings: bring the news.
181When I came hither to transport the tidings,
182. heavily borne: sorrowfully carried.
182Which 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.
183Of many worthy fellows that were out;
184Which was to my belief witness'd the rather,
185For 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.
186Now is the time of help; your eye in Scotland
187Would create soldiers, make our women fight,
188To doff their dire distresses.
Be't their comfort
189We are coming thither. Gracious England hath
190Lent 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.
191An older and a better soldier none
192That Christendom gives out.
Would I could answer
193This 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.
194That would be howl'd out in the desert air,
195Where hearing should not latch them.
What concern they?
196. fee-grief: a grief belonging to just one person.
197. Due to: belonging to.
197. Due to: belonging to.
196The general cause? or is it a fee-grief
197Due to some single breast?
honest: loyal, good.
No mind that's honest
198But in it shares some woe; though the main part
199Pertains to you alone.
If it be mine,
200Keep it not from me, quickly let me have it.
201Let not your ears despise my tongue for ever,
202Which shall possess them with the heaviest sound
203That ever yet they heard.
Humh! I guess at it.
204Your 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"].
205Savagely slaughter'd. To relate the manner,
206Were, on the quarry of these murder'd deer,
207To add the death of you.
208What, man! ne'er pull your hat upon your brows;
209Give sorrow words. The grief that does not speak
210. Whispers: whispers to. o'er-fraught: over-burdened.
210Whispers the o'er-fraught heart and bids it break.
211My children too?
Wife, children, servants, all
212That 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!
213My wife kill'd too?
I have said.
214Let's make us medicines of our great revenge,
215To 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"].
216He has no children. All my pretty ones?
217Did you say all? O hell-kite! All?
218What, all my pretty chickens and their dam
219At 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.
220Dispute it like a man.
I shall do so;
221But I must also feel it as a man:
222I cannot but remember such things were,
223That were most precious to me. Did heaven look on,
224And would not take their part? Sinful Macduff,
225. naught: wicked or worthless.
225They were all struck for thee! naught that I am,
226Not for their own demerits, but for mine,
227Fell slaughter on their souls. Heaven rest them now!
228Be this the whetstone of your sword: let grief
229. Convert to: change to.
229Convert 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.
230O, I could play the woman with mine eyes
231And braggart with my tongue! But, gentle heavens,
232Cut short all intermission. Front to front
233Bring thou this fiend of Scotland and myself;
234Within my sword's length set him; if he 'scape,
235Heaven forgive him too!
This tune goes manly.
236Come, 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.
237Our lack is nothing but our leave; Macbeth
238Is ripe for shaking, and the powers above
239Put on their instruments. Receive what cheer you may,
240The night is long that never finds the day.