A sailor’s wife had chestnuts in her lap,And munch’d, and munch’d, and munch’d:–‘Give me,’ quoth I:’Aroint thee, witch!’ the rump-fed ronyon 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,I’ll do, I’ll do, and I’ll do. speaker: First Witchcontext: introduction of the witchessignificance: We learn that the witches can control winds, and that they are petty – first witch is going to go bother a woman’s husband just because she wouldn’t share her chestnuts. This passage reveals that the witches are vengeful creatures that don’t necessarily mind where their revenge falls. Despite the fact that the wife is the one who does not give the chestnuts, the husband is the one to suffer, which points to the global nature of all of the problems in the play.
I myself have all the other,And the very ports they blow,All the quarters that they knowI’ the shipman’s card.I will drain him dry as hay:Sleep shall neither night nor dayHang upon his pent-house lid;He shall live a man forbid:Weary se’nnights nine times nineShall he dwindle, peak and pine:Though his bark cannot be lost,Yet it shall be tempest-tost. speaker: first witchcontext: The first witch describes the revenge she will take upon the sailor whose wife would not give her chestnuts.significance: The witches can also control sleep. What implications does this have about Macbeth’s lack of sleep and Lady Macbeth’s sleepwalking later in the play? Men’s lives are implicated by women’s actions.
Two truths are told,As happy prologues to the swelling actOf the imperial theme.–I thank you, gentlemen.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:If good, why do I yield to that suggestionWhose horrid image doth unfix my hairAnd make my seated heart knock at my ribs, Against the use of nature? Present fearsAre less than horrible imaginings:My thought, whose murder yet is but fantastical,Shakes so my single state of man that functionIs smother’d in surmise, and nothing isBut what is not. speaker: Macbethcontext: Macbeth has just learned that one of the witches’ predictions has come truesignificance: He is happy that he is thane of Cawdor, but the thought of becoming King (by murdering the current king) is terrifying to him. Murder is, as of now, just a fantasy–and a scary one. As an addition, no one told Macbeth he had to murder Duncan; he comes up with that idea himself. His immediate thoughts of murder bring into question how much of this play is controlled by magic/fates and how much of it is controlled by Macbeth and his actions. The phrase, “and nothing is / But what is not” also points to the disruptions of nature and politics that his future actions will cause.
That croaks the fatal entrance of DuncanUnder my battlements. Come, you spiritsThat tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here,And fill me from the crown to the toe top-fullOf direst cruelty! make thick my blood;Stop up the access and passage to remorse,That no compunctious visitings of natureShake my fell purpose, nor keep peace betweenThe effect and it! Come to my woman’s breasts,And take my milk for gall, you murdering ministers,Wherever in your sightless substancesYou wait on nature’s mischief! speaker: Lady Macbethcontext: soliloquy before Macbeth enterssignificance: Lady Macbeth calls on evil spirits to possess her and make her evil enough to do what she believes must be done (murder). Was she successful?? Possible that all her actions from this point on are those of evil spirits. What is the significance of “unsex”?Lady Macbeth calls on spirits (not necessarily evil, although the implication is clear), and asks them to unsex her (not to make her a man). This turns her into one of the “monstrous” in-between genders, which might allow her to perform monstrous acts such as murder. This sort of invocation is common to Lady Macbeth’s pattern of voicing threats without being able to act on them as seen throughout the play. This passage contributes to the play’s overarching themes regarding gender and the role of magic and spirits in controlling a person’s actions (as far as we know, the spirits do not come).
If it were done when ’tis done, then ’twere wellIt were done quickly: if the assassinationCould trammel up the consequence, and catchWith his surcease success; that but this blowMight be the be-all and the end-all here,But here, upon this bank and shoal of time,We’d jump the life to come. But in these casesWe still have judgment here; that we but teachBloody instructions, which, being taught, returnTo plague the inventor: this even-handed justiceCommends the ingredients of our poison’d chaliceTo our own lips. speaker: Macbethcontext: Duncan has just arrived at Macbeth’s housesignificance: Macbeth says that if killing Duncan would be the end of it, he would have no doubts. However, he is aware that there must be other consequences to the murder of a king. “bloody instructions” will return to plague their inventor. Basically, what goes around comes around; Macbeth is worried about the consequences of his actions
I have thee not, and yet I see thee still.Art thou not, fatal vision, sensibleTo feeling as to sight? or art thou butA dagger of the mind, a false creation,Proceeding from the heat-oppressed brain?I see thee yet, in form as palpableAs this which now I draw.Thou marshall’st me the way that I was going; speaker: Macbethcontext: Macbeth sees a dagger floating in the airsignificance: He is not sure if the dagger is real or not; he interprets it as guiding him towards the murder of Duncan
Methought I heard a voice cry ‘Sleep no more!Macbeth does murder sleep’, the innocent sleep,Sleep that knits up the ravell’d sleeve of care,The death of each day’s life, sore labour’s bath,Balm of hurt minds, great nature’s second course,Chief nourisher in life’s feast,– speaker: Macbethcontext: right after Macbeth has killed Duncansignificance: Macbeth has murdered an innocent man while he was sleeping and therefore he will never sleep again. Is he imagining it or are the witches taking sleep away from him?
The night has been unruly: where we lay,Our chimneys were blown down; and, as they say,Lamentings heard i’ the air; strange screams of death,And prophesying with accents terribleOf dire combustion and confused eventsNew hatch’d to the woeful time: the obscure birdClamour’d the livelong night: some say, the earthWas feverous and did shake. speaker: Lennoxcontext: Lennox describes all of the unnatural events that occurred the previous night, during which Duncan was murdered.significance: This passage demonstrates the connection between the state and the natural world. The disruption in law (murder, lack of guest-right, etc.) leads to disruptions in nature, even to the extent of horses eating each other. Whether the disruption is caused by magic or nature itself is uncertain.
What man dare, I dare:Approach thou like the rugged Russian bear,The arm’d rhinoceros, or the Hyrcan tiger;Take any shape but that, and my firm nervesShall never tremble: or be alive again,And dare me to the desert with thy sword;If trembling I inhabit then, protest meThe baby of a girl. Hence, horrible shadow!Unreal mockery, hence! speaker:Macbethcontext: Macbeth has just seen Banquo’s ghost at banquetsignificance: This is a sign of the cosmos being alive, indicating that men have less control over their actions and are more at the will of other forces.
Time, thou anticipatest my dread exploits:The flighty purpose never is o’ertookUnless the deed go with it; from this momentThe very firstlings of my heart shall beThe firstlings of my hand. And even now,To crown my thoughts with acts, be it thought and done:The castle of Macduff I will surprise;Seize upon Fife; give to the edge o’ the swordHis wife, his babes, and all unfortunate soulsThat trace him in his line. No boasting like a fool;This deed I’ll do before this purpose cool.But no more sights!–Where are these gentlemen?Come, bring me where they are. speaker: Macbethcontext: aside while speaking to Lennox (just before he decides to have Macduff’s son and wife murdered)significance: again Macbeth states that he must act without thinking; he decides to kill Macduff’s wife and children
‘Tis call’d the evil:A most miraculous work in this good king;Which often, since my here-remain in England,I have seen him do. How he solicits heaven,Himself best knows: but strangely-visited people,All swoln and ulcerous, pitiful to the eye,The mere despair of surgery, he cures,Hanging a golden stamp about their necks,Put on with holy prayers: and ’tis spoken,To the succeeding royalty he leavesThe healing benediction. speaker: MalcolmMalcolm and Macduff are discussing Scotland current condition under Macbeth’s rule and what they should do about itsignificance: a disease called the “evil” is going around, and it is believed that the mere touch of Macbeth can heal it
Out, out, brief candle!Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor playerThat struts and frets his hour upon the stageAnd then is heard no more: it is a taleTold by an idiot, full of sound and fury,Signifying nothing. speaker: Macbethcontext:Macbeth has just learned of Lady Macbeth’s deathsignificance: Analogy between actors and their characters. There is no afterlife. Life is a narrative that has no meaning, Macbeth is unable to mourn his closest companion.

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