Act One Scene Three Macbeth Analysis Essays

Act 1, Scene 1

On a heath in Scotland, three witches, the Weird Sisters, wait to meet Macbeth amidst thunder and lightning. Their conversation is filled with paradox and equivocation: they say that they will meet Macbeth "when the battle's lost and won" and when "fair is foul and foul is fair" (10).

Act 1, Scene 2

The Scottish army is at war with the Norwegian army. Duncan, king of Scotland, meets a captain returning from battle. The captain informs them of Macbeth and Banquo's bravery in battle. He also describes Macbeth's attack on the castle of the treacherous Macdonald, in which Macbeth triumphed and planted Macdonald’s head on the battlements of the castle. The Thanes of Ross and Angus enter with the news that the Thane of Cawdor has sided with Norway. Duncan decides to execute the disloyal thane and give the title of Cawdor to Macbeth.

Act 1, Scene 3

The Weird Sisters meet on the heath and wait for Macbeth. He arrives with Banquo, repeating the witches' paradoxical phrase by stating "So foul and fair a day I have not seen" (36). The witches hail him as "Thane of Glamis" (his present title), "Thane of Cawdor" (the title he will soon receive officially), and "king hereafter" (46-48). Their greeting startles and seems to frighten Macbeth. When Banquo questions the witches as to who they are, they greet him with the phrases "Lesser than Macbeth and greater," "Not so happy, yet much happier," and a man who "shall get kings, though [he] be none" (63-65).

When Macbeth questions them further, the witches vanish into thin air. Almost as soon as they disappear, Ross and Angus appear with the news that the king has granted Macbeth the title of Thane of Cawdor. Macbeth and Banquo step aside to discuss this news; Banquo is of the opinion that the title of Thane of Cawdor might "enkindle" Macbeth to seek the crown as well (119). Macbeth questions why such happy news causes his "seated heart [to] knock at [his] ribs / Against the use of nature," and his thoughts turn immediately and with terror to murdering the king in order to fulfill the witches' second prophesy (135-36). When Ross and Angus notice Macbeth's distraught state, Banquo dismisses it as Macbeth's unfamiliarity with his new title.

Act 1, Scene 4

Duncan demands to know whether the former Thane of Cawdor has been executed. His son Malcolm assures him that he has witnessed the former Thane’s becoming death. While Duncan muses about the fact that he placed "absolute trust" in the treacherous Thane, Macbeth enters. Duncan thanks Macbeth and Banquo for their loyalty and bravery. He consequently announces his decision to make his son Malcolm the heir to the throne of Scotland (something that would not have happened automatically, since his position was elected and not inherited). Duncan then states that he plans to visit Macbeth at his home in Inverness. Macbeth leaves to prepare his home for the royal visit, pondering the stumbling block of Malcolm that now hinders his ascension to the throne. The king follows with Banquo.

Act 1, Scene 5

At Inverness, Lady Macbeth reads a letter from Macbeth that describes his meeting with the witches. She fears that his nature is not ruthless enough-- he's "too full o' th' milk of human kindness” (15)—to murder Duncan and assure the completion of the witches' prophesy. He has ambition enough, she claims, but lacks the gumption to act on it. She then implores him to hurry home so that she can "pour [her] spirits in [his] ear" (24)—in other words, goad him on to the murder he must commit. When a messenger arrives with the news that Duncan is coming, Lady Macbeth calls on the heavenly powers to "unsex me here" and fill her with cruelty, taking from her all natural womanly compassion (39). When Macbeth arrives, she greets him as Glamis and Cawdor and urges him to "look like the innocent flower, / but be the serpent under’t" (63-64). She then says that she will make all the preparations for the king's visit and subsequent murder.

Act 1, Scene 6

Duncan arrives at Inverness with Banquo and exchanges pleasantries with Lady Macbeth. The king inquires after Macbeth's whereabouts and she offers to bring him to where Macbeth awaits.

Act 1, Scene 7

Alone on stage, Macbeth agonizes over whether to kill Duncan, recognizing the act of murdering the king as a terrible sin. He struggles in particular with the idea of murdering a man—a relative, no less—who trusts and loves him. He would like the king's murder to be over and regrets the fact that he possesses “vaulting ambition" without the ruthlessness to ensure the attainment of his goals (27).

As Lady Macbeth enters, Macbeth tells her that he "will proceed no further in this business" (31). But Lady Macbeth taunts him for his fears and ambivalence, telling him he will only be a man when he carries out the murder. She states that she herself would go so far as to take her own nursing baby and dash its brains if necessary. She counsels him to "screw [his] courage to the sticking place" and details the way they will murder the king (60). They will wait until he falls asleep, she says, and thereafter intoxicate his bodyguards with drink. This will allow them to murder Duncan and lay the blame on the two drunken bodyguards. Macbeth is astonished by her cruelty but resigns to follow through with her plans.


Fate, Prophecy, and Equivocation

Just as the Porter in Act 2 extemporizes about the sin of equivocation, the play figures equivocation as one of its most important themes. Starting from the Weird Sisters' first words that open the play, audiences quickly ascertain that things are not what they seem. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word "equivocation" has two different meanings—both of which are applicable to this play. The first is:

“The using (a word) in more than one sense; ambiguity or uncertainty of meaning in words; also . . . misapprehension arising from the ambiguity of terms.”

This definition as simple verbal ambiguity is the one that audiences are most familiar with—and one that plays an important role in the play. The Porter’s speech on equivocation in Act 2, however, refers to a more active type of equivocation. The second definition in the OED: reads:

The use of words or expressions that are susceptible of a double signification, with a view to mislead; esp. the expression of a virtual falsehood in the form of a proposition which (in order to satisfy the speaker's conscience) is verbally true.

This kind of equivocation is similar to lying; it is intentionally designed to mislead and confuse.

The intentional ambiguity of terms is what we see in the prophesies of the Weird Sisters. Their speech is full of paradox and confusion, starting with their first assertion that "fair is foul and foul is fair" (I i 10). The witches' prophesies are intentionally ambiguous. The alliteration and rhymed couplets in which they speak also contributes to the effect of instability and confusion in their words. For many readers, more than one reading is required to grasp a sense of what the witches mean. It is not surprising, therefore, that these "imperfect speakers" can easily bedazzle and confuse Macbeth throughout the course of the play (I iii 68).

Just as their words are confusing, it is unclear as to whether the witches merely predict or actually effect the future. Banquo fears, for example, that the witches' words will "enkindle [Macbeth] unto the crown"—in other words, that they will awaken in Macbeth an ambition that is already latent in him (I iii 119). His fears seem well-founded: as soon as the witches mention the crown, Macbeth's thoughts turn to murder. The witches’ power is thus one of prophecy, but prophecy through suggestion. For Macbeth, the witches can be understood as representing the final impetus that drive him to his pre-determined end. The prophecy is in this sense self-fulfilling.

The oracular sisters are in fact connected etymologically to the Fates of Greek mythology. The word "weird" derives from the Old English word "wyrd," meaning "fate." And not all fate is self-fulfilling. In Banquo's case, in contrast to Macbeth’s, the witches seem only to predict the future. For unlike Macbeth, Banquo does not act on the witches' prediction that he will father kings—and yet the witches' prophesy still comes true. The role of the weird sisters in the story, therefore, is difficult to define or determine. Are they agents of fate or a motivating force? And why do they suddenly disappear from the play in the third act?

The ambiguity of the Weird Sisters reflects a greater theme of doubling, mirrors, and schism between inner and outer worlds that permeates the work as a whole. Throughout the play, characters, scenes, and ideas are doubled. As Duncan muses about the treachery of the Thane of Cawdor at the beginning of the play, for example, Macbeth enters the scene:

KING DUNCAN: There's no art
To find the mind's construction in the face.
He was a gentleman on whom I built
An absolute trust.
To MACBETH: O worthiest cousin,
The sin of my ingratitude even now
Was heavy on me! (I iv 11-16)

The dramatic irony of Duncan’s trust is realized only later in the play. Similarly, the captain in Scene 2 makes a battle report that becomes in effect a prophecy:

For brave Macbeth—well he deserves that name!—
Disdaining fortune, with his brandished steel
Which smoked with bloody execution,
Like valour’s minion
Carved out his passage till he faced the slave,
Which ne’er shook hands nor bade farewell to him
Till he unseamed him from the nave to th’chops,
And fixed his head upon our battlements. (I i16-23)

The passage can be interpreted as follows: Macbeth “disdains fortune” by disregarding the natural course of action and becomes king through a “bloody execution” of Duncan; Macduff, who was born from a Caesarian section (his mother being “unseamed. . . from the nave to th’chops”) and who “ne’er shook hands nor bade farewell” decapitates Macbeth and hangs his head up in public.

As in all Shakespearean plays, mirroring among characters serves to heighten their differences. Thus Macbeth, the young, valiant, cruel traitor/king has a foil in Duncan, the old, venerable, peaceable, and trusting king. Lady Macbeth, who casts off her femininity and claims to feel no qualms about killing her own children, is doubled in Lady Macduff, who is a model of a good mother and wife. Banquo's failure to act on the witches' prophesy is mirrored in Macbeth's drive to realize all that the witches foresee.

Similarly, much of the play is also concerned with the relation between contrasting inner and outer worlds. Beginning with the equivocal prophecies of the Weird Sisters, appearances seldom align with reality. Lady Macbeth, for example, tells her husband to "look like the innocent flower, / but be the serpent under’t" (63-64). Macbeth appears to be a loyal Thane, but secretly plans revenge. Lady Macbeth appears to be a gentle woman but vows to be "unsexed" and swears on committing bloody deeds. Macbeth is also a play about the inner world of human psychology, as will be illustrated in later acts through nightmares and guilt-ridden hallucinations. Such contrast between "being" and "seeming" serves as another illustration of equivocation.

The Macbeths and The Corruption of Nature

One of the most ambiguous aspects of the play is the character of Macbeth himself. Unlike other Shakespearean villains like Iago or Richard III, Macbeth is not entirely committed to his evil actions. When he swears to commit suicide, he must overcome an enormous resistance from his conscience. At the same time, he sees as his own biggest flaw not a lack of moral values but rather a lack of motivation to carry out his diabolical schemes. In this he resembles Hamlet, who soliloquizes numerous times about his inaction. But unlike Hamlet, Macbeth does not have a good reason to kill, nor is the man he kills evil—far from it. And finally, while Macbeth becomes increasingly devoted to murderous actions, his soliloquies are so full of eloquent speech and pathos that it is not difficult to sympathize with him. Thus at the heart of the play lies a tangle of uncertainty.

If Macbeth is indecisive, Lady Macbeth is just the opposite—a character with such a single vision and drive for advancement that she brings about her own demise. And yet her very ruthlessness brings about another form of ambiguity, for in swearing to help Macbeth realize the Weird Sisters' prophecy, she must cast off her femininity. In a speech at the beginning of Scene 5, she calls on the spirits of the air to take away her womanhood:

Come you spirits
That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here,
And fill me from the crown to the toe top-full
Of direst cruelty. Make thick my blood,
Stop up th'access and passage to remorse,
That no compunctious visitings of nature
Shake my fell purpose, nor keep peace between
Th'effect and it. (I v 38-45)

Lady Macbeth sees "remorse" as one of the names for feminine compassion—of which she must rid herself. Thus she must be "unsexed." This does not mean, however, that in rejecting her femininity she becomes manly. Instead, she becomes a woman devoid of the sexual characteristics and sentimentality that make her a woman. She becomes entirely unnatural and inhuman. Like the supernatural Weird Sisters with their beards, Lady Macbeth becomes something that does not fit into the natural world.

The corruption of nature is a theme that surfaces and resurfaces in the same act. When Duncan greets Macbeth, for example, he states that he has “begun to plant thee and will labor / to make thee full of growing" (I iv 28-29). Following the metaphor of the future as lying in the “seeds of time,” Macbeth is compared to a plant that Duncan will look after (I iii 56). By murdering Duncan, then, Macbeth perverts nature by severing himself effectively from the very "root" that feeds him. For this reason, perhaps, the thought of murdering Duncan causes Macbeth's heart to "knock at [his] ribs / Against the use of nature" (I iii 135-36). Just as the Weird Sisters pervert the normal course of nature by telling their prophecy, Macbeth upsets the course of nature by his regicide.

Reflecting the disruption of nature, the dialogue between Macbeth and Lady in the scene following the murder becomes heavy, graceless, and almost syncopated. Lady Macbeth, for example, says:

What thou wouldst highly,
That wouldst thou holily; wouldst not play false
And yet wouldst wrongly win. Thou'd'st have, great Glamis,
That which cries "Thus thou must do," if thou have it,
And that which rather thou dost fear to do,
Than wishest should be undone. (I v 28-23).

The repetition of the phrase "thou wouldst," in all its permutations, confounds the flow of speech. The speech is clotted with accents, tangling meter and scansion, and the alliteration is almost tongue-twisting, slowing the rhythm of the words. Just as Macbeth and Lady Macbeth have corrupted nature, the language Shakespeare uses in these scenes disrupts the flow of his usually smoothly iambic meter.

Yet another part of the theme of corruption of nature lies in the compression of time that occurs throughout the act. When Lady Macbeth reads Macbeth’s letter, she states: Th[ese] letters have transported me beyond / This ignorant present, and I feel now / The future in the instant" (I v 54-56). By telling the future to Macbeth and Banquo, the Weird Sisters upset the natural course of time and bring the future to the present. Thus when Macbeth vacillates over whether or not to kill Duncan, he wants to leap into the future: "If it were done when ‘tis done, then ‘twere well / It were done quickly" (I vii 1-2). He wants the murder to be over quickly—indeed so quickly that it is over before the audience even registers it. Just as equivocation twists the meaning of words, Macbeth's murderous desires twist the meaning of time.

Thus beginning with the Weird Sisters, equivocation in all its permutations is threaded throughout the fabric of the first act. Over the course of the play, the breach between the worlds of reality and illusion that is the core of equivocation grows ever wider.


Please see the bottom of the page and the highlighted text for full explanatory notes and paraphrases.

ACT I SCENE III A heath near Forres. 
 Thunder. Enter the three Witches. 
First Witch Where hast thou been, sister? 
Second Witch Killing swine. 
Third Witch Sister, where thou? 
First Witch A sailor's wife had chestnuts in her lap,
 And munch'd, and munch'd, and munch'd:--  5
 'Give me,' quoth I: 
 'Aroint thee, witch!' the rump-fedronyon cries. 
 Her husband's to Aleppo gone, master o' the Tiger: 
 But in a sieve I'll thither sail,
 And, like a rat without a tail,  10
 I'll do, I'll do, and I'll do. 
Second Witch I'll give thee a wind. 
First Witch Thou'rt kind. 
Third Witch And I another.
First Witch I myself have all the other,  15
 And the very ports they blow, 
 All the quarters that they know 
 I' the shipman's card. 
 I will drain him dry as hay:
 Sleep shall neither night nor day  20
 Hang upon his pent-house lid; 
 He shall live a man forbid: 
 Weary se'n nights nine times nine 
 Shall he dwindle, peak and pine:
 Though his bark cannot be lost,  25
 Yet it shall be tempest-tost. 
 Look what I have. 
Second Witch Show me, show me. 
First Witch Here I have a pilot's thumb,
 Wreck'd as homeward he did come.  30
 Drum within. 
Third Witch A drum, a drum! 
 Macbeth doth come. 
ALL The weird sisters, hand in hand, 
 Posters of the sea and land,
 Thus do go about, about:  35
 Thrice to thine and thrice to mine 
 And thrice again, to make up nine. 
 Peace! the charm's wound up. 
MACBETH So foul and fair a day I have not seen.
BANQUO How far is't call'd to Forres? What are these  40
 So wither'd and so wild in their attire,

 That look not like the inhabitants o' the earth, 
 And yet are on't? Live you? or are you aught 
 That man may question? You seem to understand me,
 By each at once her choppy finger laying  45
 Upon her skinny lips: you should be women, 
 And yet your beards forbid me to interpret 
 That you are so. 
MACBETH Speak, if you can: what are you?
First Witch All hail, Macbeth! hail to thee, thane of Glamis!  50
Second Witch All hail, Macbeth, hail to thee, thane of Cawdor! 
Third Witch All hail, Macbeth, thou shalt be king hereafter! 
BANQUO Good sir, why do you start; and seem to fear 
 Things that do sound so fair? I' the name of truth,
 Are ye fantastical, or that indeed  55
 Which outwardly ye show? My noble partner 
 You greet with present grace and great prediction 
 Of noble having and of royal hope, 
 That he seems rapt withal: to me you speak not.
 If you can look into the seeds of time,  60
 And say which grain will grow and which will not, 
 Speak then to me, who neither beg nor fear 
 Your favours nor your hate. 
First Witch Hail!
Second Witch Hail!  65
Third Witch Hail! 
First Witch Lesser than Macbeth, and greater. 
Second Witch Not so happy, yet much happier. 
Third Witch Thou shalt get kings, though thou be none:
 So all hail, Macbeth and Banquo!  70
First Witch Banquo and Macbeth, all hail! 
MACBETH Stay, you imperfect speakers, tell me more: 
 By Sinel's death I know I am thane of Glamis; 
 But how of Cawdor? the thane of Cawdor lives,
 A prosperous gentleman; and to be king  75
 Stands not within the prospect of belief, 
 No more than to be Cawdor. Say from whence 
 You owe this strange intelligence? or why 
 Upon this blasted heath you stop our way
 With such prophetic greeting? Speak, I charge you.  80
 Witches vanish. 
BANQUO The earth hath bubbles, as the water has, 
 And these are of them. Whither are they vanish'd? 
MACBETH Into the air; and what seem'd corporal melted 
 As breath into the wind. Would they had stay'd!
BANQUO Were such things here as we do speak about?  85
 Or have we eaten on the insane root 
 That takes the reason prisoner? 
MACBETH Your children shall be kings. 
BANQUO You shall be king.
MACBETH And thane of Cawdor too: went it not so? 
BANQUO To the selfsame tune and words. Who's here? 
 Enter ROSS and ANGUS. 
ROSS The king hath happily received, Macbeth, 
 The news of thy success; and when he reads 
 Thy personal venture in the rebels' fight,
 His wonders and his praises do contend  95
 Which should be thine or his: silenced with that, 
 In viewing o'er the rest o' the selfsame day, 
 He finds thee in the stout Norweyan ranks, 
 Nothing afeard of what thyself didst make,
 Strange images of death. As thick as tale 
 Came post with post; and every one did bear 
 Thy praises in his kingdom's great defence, 
 And pour'd them down before him. 
ANGUS We are sent
 To give thee from our royal master thanks;  105
 Only to herald thee into his sight, 
 Not pay thee. 
ROSS And, for an earnest of a greater honour, 
 He bade me, from him, call thee thane of Cawdor:
 In which addition, hail, most worthy thane! 
 For it is thine. 
BANQUO What, can the devil speak true? 
MACBETH The thane of Cawdor lives: why do you dress me 
 In borrow'd robes?
ANGUS Who was the thane lives yet;  115
 But under heavy judgment bears that life 
 Which he deserves to lose. Whether he was combined 
 With those of Norway, or did line the rebel 
 With hidden help and vantage, or that with both
 He labour'd in his country's wrack, I know not; 
 But treasons capital, confess'd and proved, 
 Have overthrown him. 
 Glamis, and Thane of Cawdor: 
 The greatest is behind. 
 To ROSS and ANGUS. 
 Thanks for your pains.
 To BANQUO.  125
 Do you not hope your children shall be kings, 
 When those that gave the thane of Cawdor to me 
 Promised no less to them? 
BANQUO That trusted home 
 Might yet enkindle you unto the crown,
 Besides the thane of Cawdor. But 'tis strange: 
 And oftentimes, to win us to our harm, 
 The instruments of darkness tell us truths, 
 Win us with honest trifles, to betray's 
 In deepest consequence.
 Cousins, a word, I pray you.  135
 Two truths are told, 
 As happy prologues to the swelling act 
 Of the imperial theme. -- I thank you, gentlemen. 
 This supernatural soliciting 
 Cannot be ill, cannot be good: if ill, 
 Why hath it given me earnest of success,
 Commencing in a truth? I am thane of Cawdor:  140
 If good, why do I yield to that suggestion 
 Whose horrid image doth unfix my hair 
 And make my seated heart knock at my ribs, 
 Against the use of nature? Present fears
 Are less than horrible imaginings: 
 My thought, whose murder yet is but fantastical, 
 Shakes so my single state of man that function 
 Is smother'd in surmise, and nothing is 
 But what is not.
BANQUO Look, how our partner's rapt.  150
 If chance will have me king, why, chance may crown me, 
 Without my stir. 
BANQUO New honors come upon him, 
 Like our strange garments, cleave not to their mould 
 But with the aid of use.
MACBETH Aside.  155
 Come what come may, 
 Time and the hour runs through the roughest day. 
BANQUO Worthy Macbeth, we stay upon your leisure. 
MACBETH Give me your favour: my dull brain was wrought 
 With things forgotten. Kind gentlemen, your pains 
 Are register'd where every day I turn
 The leaf to read them. Let us toward the king.  160
 Think upon what hath chanced, and, at more time, 
 The interim having weigh'd it, let us speak 
 Our free hearts each to other. 
BANQUO Very gladly.
MACBETH Till then, enough. Come, friends. 

Next: Macbeth, Act 1, Scene 4

Explanatory notes below for Act 1, Scene 3
From Macbeth. Ed. Thomas Marc Parrott. New York: American Book Co.
(Line numbers have been altered.)

With this scene the real action of the play begins. The first scene brought the witches before us; the second gave us a noble picture of Macbeth. Now the two parties, the tempters and the tempted, meet, and from their meeting and the witches' prophecy proceed directly all the remaining events of the story. The witches awaken in Macbeth the passion of ambition, which henceforth is the mainspring of his action. But we must not think that they in any way enchant Macbeth or compel him to do their evil will. After the meeting, as before, he is a free man, and can act or refrain from action as he sees fit. This is shown, in part at least, by the fact that Banquo, although also greeted by the witches with prophecies of future honour for his house, is not led on to any crime to make good the prophecy. There is something in Macbeth's own heart that receives and answers the greeting of the witches. This is Shakespeare's way of writing tragedy ; he makes the fate of his men and women depend upon their own characters, not upon chance or outside influences.

In the first thirty-seven lines of the scene, the witches recount to each other the evil deeds in which they have been engaged since their last meeting. It is worth noting that these deeds are petty and vulgar; but just as every good deed — even the giving of a cup of cold water, — is a blessed thing, so every evil deed — even the killing of swine — is a delight to the powers of evil. This conversation, moreover, serves to identify the "weird sisters" of the play with the familiar witches of Elizabethan superstition.

2. Killing swine. One of the commonest charges brought against supposed witches in Shakespeare's day was that they maliciously killed by pestilence, or the evil eye, the domestic animals of those they had a grudge against.

45, 46. By each ... lips. The witches lay their fingers on their lips to hush Banquo into silence. Their business is not with him, but with Macbeth; and they will not speak to Banquo until they have discharged their errand.

47. beards. Witches were generally thought of as bearded women.

49. All hail, Macbeth. The witches, like ghosts, will not speak until they are spoken to; but as soon as Macbeth questions them, they break out in their triple hail.

50. Glamis. an old castle in Scotland, still standing. The title "Thane of Glamis" was hereditary in Macbeth's family. See line [73] of this scene.

53. start. Macbeth starts because the witches' prophecy that he shall be king is an echo of his secret ambition. Indeed it would seem from his wife's words (i. 7. 48-52) that he had on some previous occasion gone so far as to plot the murder of Duncan.

57. present grace, "honour," "honourable distinction," referring to the title of Thane of Glamis, which Macbeth then enjoyed.

58. royal hope, the hope, or expectation, of royalty.

59. rapt, Macbeth is so struck with the greeting of the witches that he stands silent as in a trance, while Banquo speaks.

67-9. Lesser ... none. The ambiguity of the witches' address to Banquo is in marked contrast to the directness of their speeches to Macbeth. He is to be "lesser than Macbeth" in rank, and "greater," because he will never be the slave of guilt; not so "happy," i.e, "fortunate," because he will never be king, "happier" because he will never fall from his estate. The prediction that he shall "get," i.e, "beget," kings, is also vague, since it only asserts that some of his descendants shall be kings. According to tradition, the royal house of Stuart sprang from Banquo's son, Fleance. [Please click here for much more on this subject.]

81. Note the different way in which the sudden vanishing of the witches affects Banquo and Macbeth. The former is only surprised; the latter regrets that they did not remain to tell him more.

88, 89. Your children, etc, Macbeth cannot free his mind from the predictions of the witches, but he carefully avoids mentioning the most startling of them.

112. devil in this line is pronounced as a monosyllable like the Scotch "deil."

113, 114. dress me In borrowed robes, adorn me with honours that are not mine.

115. Who was the thane, he who formerly was the thane. Cawdor had already been deprived of his rank and possessions.

116. under heavy judgement, under sentence of death.

128. trusted home, completely trusted.

134. In deepest consequence, in matters of the greatest importance.

137. the swelling act, the performance developing in my mind.

140. I am in this line should be contracted in reading into "I'm" to preserve the meter.

142. unfix my hair, make my hair stand up in fright.

144. Against the use of nature, unnaturally.

How to cite the explanatory notes:
Shakespeare, William. Macbeth. Ed. Thomas Marc Parrott. New York: American Book Co., 1904. Shakespeare Online. 10 Aug. 2010. < >.

More Resources

 The Chronology of Shakespeare's Plays
 Establishing the Order of the Plays
 How Many Plays Did Shakespeare Write?
 Shakespeare Timeline

 Shakespeare's Reputation in Elizabethan England
 Words Shakespeare Invented
 Quotations About William Shakespeare

 Portraits of Shakespeare
 Shakespeare's Boss: The Master of Revels
 Top 10 Shakespeare Plays

 Shakespeare's Metaphors and Similes
 Shakespeare's Blank Verse
 Shakespeare Timeline

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 What is Tragic Irony?
 Characteristics of Elizabethan Tragedy

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Point to Ponder ..."Much of the dread, solemnity, and awe which is experienced in reading this play, from the intervention of the witches, is lost in its representation on the stage, owing to the injudicious custom of bringing them too forward on the scene; where, appearing little better than a group of old women, the effect intended by the poet is not only destroyed, but reversed." Nathan Drake. Read more...


 Explanatory Notes for the Witches' Chants (4.1)
 Macbeth Plot Summary (Acts 1 and 2)
 Macbeth Plot Summary (Acts 3, 4 and 5)
 How to Stage a Production of Macbeth (Scene Suggestions)

 A Comparison of Macbeth and Hamlet
 The Effect of Lady Macbeth's Death on Macbeth
 The Curse of Macbeth

 Shakespeare's Sources for Macbeth
 Macbeth Q & A
 Essay Topics on Macbeth
 Aesthetic Examination Questions on Macbeth
 What is Tragic Irony?

 Stages of Plot Development in Macbeth
 Time Analysis of the Action in Macbeth
 Macbeth Study Quiz (with detailed answers)
 Quotations from Macbeth (Full)
 Top 10 Quotations from Macbeth

 Crafting a Sympathetic Macbeth
 The Moral Character of Macbeth
 Origin of the Weird Sisters
 Temptation, Sin, Retribution: Lecture Notes on Macbeth
 Untie the winds: Exploring the Witches' Control Over Nature

 Characteristics of Elizabethan Tragedy
 Why Shakespeare is so Important
 Shakespeare's Language
 Shakespeare's Influence on Other Writers

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