Macbeth Quotes

Fair is foul, and foul is fair;Hover through the fog and filthy air. (1.1.12-13) All of the witches. At the most basic level, it means that appearances can be deceiving: that which seems “fair” and good is actually “foul” and evil. The best example of this motif is Macbeth himself. At the beginning of the play, King Duncan believes Macbeth to be a loyal servant but Macbeth eventually betrays Duncan’s trust and murders him to steal the throne. They gravitate to what is “foul” and shun the “fair”. They depart, to “hover” in the fog, and in the dust and dirt, waiting for their chance to do further evil. The very fact that they incite Macbeth with their ‘prophesies’ of future greatness – which as soon as Lady Macbeth hears of it, incites her to plan to kill Duncan) – is an instance of how they spread evil. Look at how these foul, loathsome, ugly creatures are yet the source of and impart such ‘fair’ tidings to Macbeth in the way of their ‘prophesies’. A day foul, yet fair for Macbeth; for witches, fair is foul and foul is fair” The truth of this paradox is woven throughout the play, in how situations appear to be good when in reality they are evil (or vice versa). All people have the capability of being good and appearing evil as well as being evil and appearing good.
The raven himself is hoarse That croaks the fatal entrance of Duncan Under my battlements. 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. Come to my woman’s breasts, And take my milk for gall, you murd’ring ministers, Wherever in your sightless substances You wait on nature’s mischief. Come, thick night, And pall thee in the dunnest smoke of hell, That my keen knife see not the wound it makes, Nor heaven peep through the blanket of the dark, To cry ‘Hold, hold!’ (1.5.36-52) Lady Macbeth as she awaits the arrival of King Duncan at her castle. We have previously seen Macbeth’s uncertainty about whether he should take the crown by killing Duncan. In this speech, there is no such confusion, as Lady Macbeth is clearly willing to do whatever is necessary to seize the throne. Her strength of purpose is contrasted with her husband’s tendency to waver. This speech shows the audience that Lady Macbeth is the real steel behind Macbeth and that her ambition will be strong enough to drive her husband forward. At the same time, the language of this speech touches on the theme of masculinity— “unsex me here / . . . / . . . Come to my woman’s breasts, / And take my milk for gall,” Lady Macbeth says as she prepares herself to commit murder. The language suggests that her womanhood, represented by breasts and milk, usually symbols of nurture, impedes her from performing acts of violence and cruelty, which she associates with manliness. Later, this sense of the relationship between masculinity and violence will be deepened when Macbeth is unwilling to go through with the murders and his wife tells him, in effect, that he needs to “be a man” and get on with it.
If it were done when ’tis done, then ’twere well It were done quickly. If th’assassination Could trammel up the consequence, and catch With his surcease success: that but this blow Might 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 cases We still have judgement here, that we but teach Bloody instructions which, being taught, return To plague th’inventor. This even-handed justice Commends th’ingredience of our poisoned chalice To our own lips. He’s here in double trust: First, as I am his kinsman and his subject, Strong both against the deed; then, as his host, Who should against his murderer shut the door, Not bear the knife myself. Besides, this Duncan Hath borne his faculties so meek, hath been So clear in his great office, that his virtues Will plead like angels, trumpet-tongued against The deep damnation of his taking-off, And pity, like a naked new-born babe, Striding the blast, or heaven’s cherubin, horsed Upon the sightless couriers of the air, Shall blow the horrid deed in every eye That tears shall drown the wind. I have no spur To prick the sides of my intent, but only Vaulting ambition which o’erleaps itself And falls on th’other. (1.7.1-28) Macbeth debates whether he should kill Duncan. When he lists Duncan’s noble qualities (he “[h]ath borne his faculties so meek”) and the loyalty that he feels toward his king (“I am his kinsman and his subject”), we are reminded of just how grave an outrage it is for the couple to slaughter their ruler while he is a guest in their house. At the same time, Macbeth’s fear that “[w]e still have judgement here, that we but teach / Bloody instructions which, being taught, return / To plague th’inventor,” foreshadows the way that his deeds will eventually come back to haunt him. The imagery in this speech is dark—we hear of “bloody instructions,” “deep damnation,” and a “poisoned chalice”—and suggests that Macbeth is aware of how the murder would open the door to a dark and sinful world. At the same time, he admits that his only reason for committing murder, “ambition,” suddenly seems an insufficient justification for the act. The destruction that comes from unchecked ambition will continue to be explored as one of the play’s themes. As the soliloquy ends, Macbeth seems to resolve not to kill Duncan, but this resolve will only last until his wife returns and once again convinces him, by the strength of her will, to go ahead with their plot.
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 ‘sIn deepest consequence. (1.3.124-128) After the Weird Sisters have delivered their predictions to Macbeth and Banquo, Ross informs Macbeth that he is the new Thane of Cawdor. However, when the sisters told Macbeth that this would happen, Macbeth didn’t realize that it already had happened. Duncan gave him this new title in the scene prior, though Macbeth was not yet aware. The Weird Sisters didn’t predict the future; they simply told Macbeth a fact that he didn’t yet know. Therefore, when Ross delivers his news, it does seem to Macbeth and Banquo that the Weird Sisters correctly prophesied the future. Banquo says to Macbeth,Banquo believes that it is possible that the Weird Sisters told Macbeth one small truth (an “honest trifle”) so that they could trick him into believing whatever else they say: that he would become king and that Banquo would father kings. If Macbeth believes that they have told him the truth, as a result of their smaller prediction being confirmed, then the sisters might succeed in “win[ning] [him] to [his] harm” by getting him to act on their second prediction (which is precisely what he does when he kills King Duncan). Such a “betray[al]” in the matter of the “deepest consequence” (Macbeth’s potential to become king) might be the goal of “instruments of darkness”: Banquo suspects that the Weird Sisters might be such instruments because their appearance and manner was so “strange.”
“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. 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” In Shakespeare’s Macbeth, in Act One, scene three, lines 130-137, Macbeth is at war with himself. He is trying to decide whether the witches have spoken the truth about him becoming king. His struggle stems first from this paradoxical statement: Cannot be ill, cannot be good. This reflects his confusion. The witches met Macbeth and Banquo on the heath as they returned from battle, before they know the outcome of the battle—especially the fate of the Thane of Cawdor. Both Macbeth and Banquo are puzzled by what the witches have said to them. However, almost immediately after the weird sisters vanish, Ross and Angus meet Macbeth and Banquo with news; Ross tells Macbeth that the King has commanded that he greet Macbeth with his a new title. Macbeth is perplexed: Macbeth has seen the witch’s prophecy about Cawdor coming true. It stands to reason that the rest might be true as well, but this is very upsetting to Macbeth. He would love to be king, but it means that Duncan must die in order for this to happen, and that (at first) does not sit well with Macbeth. Being Cawdor is a good thing—it seems the witch spoke honestly Being king should be a good thing, too, but Macbeth doesn’t feel good about it. And it is here that he grows fearful; the idea of Duncan dying makes Macbeth’s hair stand on edge, perhaps making his scalp crawl; it makes his heart pound heavily in his chest in an unnatural way. For Macbeth, this entire situation does attract and repel him. He starts out as an honorable man, who loves Duncan—his King, his cousin and his friend. However, his ambition weakens his moral substance—as does the manipulation by the witches who only want to (as the Elizabethans believed) win him to his eternal damnation,
If chance will have me king, why, chance may crown meWithout my stir. This quote comes from act 1, scene 3 in which Macbeth and Banquo have met with the witches and heard their prophecies. While Banquo is reluctant to act the prophecies as fact, Macbeth’s reaction is the opposite. As we see in this quote, the idea that Macbeth will be king is very attractive. He is already starting to think about how this might occur. The quote, therefore, links to the theme of ambition—specifically, Macbeth’s ambition.In addition, notice how Macbeth uses personification here. He depicts “chance” (or Fate) as a person, capable of making him the king of Scotland. The idea that “chance” would choose Macbeth to be king is also important because it links to the theme of fate versus free will. It suggests that Macbeth’s rise to kingship might be the result of factors beyond Macbeth’s control. This is a question which Shakespeare repeatedly explores in the play, prompting the reader to think deeply about Macbeth’s power. Does he become king because he desperately wants it or because fate wills it?
There’s no artTo find the mind’s construction in the face.He was a gentleman on whom I builtAn absolute trust. This type of irony is called dramatic irony: the audience or the reader knows something important that a character in a play does not. We know what Duncan doesn’t; we know that Macbeth has had treasonous thoughts, thus the iron.In this line from Act I, of Macbeth, King Duncan is explaining to his son, Malcolm that there is no skill to determine what a man is thinking by just looking at his face. These lines are referring to the Thane of Cawdor, whom King Duncan placed “an absolute trust,” but the Thane of Cawdor ended up becoming a traitor, which proves Duncan’s statement true.But now Duncan has rewarded Macbeth with this title for being the hero of the war, so this line is ironic because King Duncan does not know that Macbeth has been thinking about murdering the King after the witches’ prophecy, and who should arrive shortly after Duncan states this, Macbeth.
[Aside] The Prince of Cumberland! That is a stepOn which I must fall down or else o’erleap, For in my way it lies. Stars, hide your fires;Let not light see my black and deep desires. This passage is important because it shows premeditation on Macbeth’s part. Somewhere he suspects that his “black” heart will be revealed, and the universe (God) will know of his crimes. But he is not sure. Hedging his bets, Macbeth hopes that there is no God, and his crimes will go unpunished. Still, he does not want the “stars” to see; he does not want their light (“the fires”) to illuminate either his deed or his soul. His “deep desires” are for power and the throne at whatever cost, even the cost of his immortal soul.It is becoming obvious that Macbeth, having been informed by the witches that he is to be Thane of Cawdor and King of Scotland, is not willing to wait to let that happen. But he does not want anyone to know of his ambition, and wishes to be seen as the loyal vassal of Duncan. This, of course, is for practical reasons, as he obviously wouldn’t want to reveal his plot, but he is also clearly torn between his sense of right and wrong and his considerable ambition. For these reasons, he does not want his thoughts to see the light of day.Shows the double nature he has, and the transition from good to evil; allusion to Bible
This castle hath a pleasant seat. The airNimbly and sweetly recommends itselfUnto our gentle senses. Duncan says this just as he’s entering Macbeth’s castle. The dramatic significance could be how much danger he’s in but has no idea of, like a lamb to the slaughterIronic because Duncan is saying that the castle is so welcoming even though he is unaware that it is the place where he will be dying tonight
Though his bark cannot be lost, yet it can be tempest tossed. (Witch 1 to the other witches) The witches can torture and play with fate, but they cannot kill people.
If you can look into the seeds of time, and say which grain will grow and which will not, speak then to me. Banquo wants his fortune told too. He has disdain for the witches but wants to know. He is a good foil for Macbeth. When Macbeth gets a good prediction, he becomes ruthless. Banquo stays loyal and dies.
“Doubtful it stood, as two spent swimmers that do cling together and choke their art. The merciless Macdonwald (worthy to be a rebel, for to that the multiplying villainies of nature do swarm upon him) from the Western Isles of kerns and gallowglasses is supplied; And Fortune, on his damned quarrel smiling, showed like a rebel’s wh*re. But all’s too weak; for brace Macbeth (well he deserves that name), disdaining Fortune, with his brandished steel, which smoked with bloody execution, like valor’s minion, carved out his passage till he faced the slave; which ne’er shook hands, nor bade farewell to him, till he unseated him from the nave to th’ chops, and fixed his head upon our battlements.” He is recalling the battle and recounting the deaths and explaining how brave MacBeth was in the battle; can relate to his overambitious personality.At the beginning of the play (Act 1, Scene 2) we learn that Macbeth is fiercely loyal and a brave, dauntless, fighter. He will give everything to save his beloved Scotland from the insurrection headed by the Norwegian king, the traitorous Macdonwald, and the thane of Cawdor. An injured soldier gives King Duncan the following report:
Glamis, and thane of Cawdor!The greatest is behind. This fearless, loyal image is, however, soon replaced by the image of an overly ambitious, gullible character who is more than readily impressed by the forces of darkness. When he and Banquo meet the witches, the witches greet Macbeth with the title “thane of Cawdor” and tell him that he will be “king hereafter.” Macbeth is clearly overwhelmed by what they say and is later enraptured when their first prediction is confirmed as true. Macbeth states in an asideThis quote indicates Macbeth’s ambition. He states that gaining the title of Cawdor means that he has overcome the greatest hurdle in his desire to be king. More titles mean greater power, and it will be easier for him to lay claim to the throne should the occasion arise. His desire is further confirmed when he later says, again in an aside:
Two truths are told,As happy prologues to the swelling actOf the imperial theme. Macbeth is in awe about the witches’ predictions and believes that the confirmation of their first prediction must mean that the others will naturally follow. This shows us how gullible he is. His ambition controls his ability to reason. Even Banquo notices that he is enraptured and comments “Look, how our partner’s rapt.”
“What are these,/ so withered, and so wild in their attire,/ That look not like th’inhabitants o’th’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/ Upon her skinny lips. You should be women,/ And yet your beards forbid me to interpret/ That you are so.” (I.iii.40-49) How far is it supposed to be to Forres? (he sees the WITCHES) What are these creatures? They’re so withered-looking and crazily dressed. They don’t look like they belong on this planet, but I see them standing here on Earth. (to the WITCHES) Are you alive? Can you answer questions? You seem to understand me, because each of you has put a gruesome finger to her skinny lips. You look like women, but your beards keep me from believing that you really are. He sees the witches and even though the are woman he thinks they look like men.Shows how looks can be deceiving; epitome of Macbeth and using his valor and status to commit evil.
Assisted by that most disloyal traitor The Thane of Cawdor, began a dismal conflict, Till that Bellona’s bridegroom, lapp’d in proof, Confronted him with self-comparisons,Point against point rebellious, arm ‘gainst arm,Curbing his lavish spirit; and, to conclude, The victory fell on us. By referring to the man (which, as will be seen below, is ambiguous) who faced off against Cawdor as “Bellona’s bridegroom,” Ross means to compare him favorably to a god of war:The problem is that it is not clear who Ross is referring to, since he is describing events that went on at Fife, which is separate from the fight in which Macbeth kills the rebel Macdonwald. Macbeth, as we learn later, does not even know of the defeat and death of Cawdor until Ross tells him about it (thus confirming the witches’ prophecy.) It is possible that Ross is actually not referring to an individual, but speaking metaphorically, saying that Cawdor didn’t possess the military prowess to win the battle on the day. Still another intriguing possibility is that, since the battle occurred at Fife, Cawdor may have been defeated by the Thane of Fife, none other than Macduff, who would have been much displeased that the title of Thane of Cawdor went to Macbeth.Macbeth fought against the traitor Macdonwald, brutally killing and beheading him, and, then, how Macbeth turned to face the Norwegian king’s forces next. After this, Duncan sends the Captain for medical help
‘No more that Thane of Cawdor shall deceiveOur bosom interest. Go pronounce his present death,And with his former title greet Macbeth.’ The irony of Macbeth’s killing Duncan begins here–Duncan ultimately trusts Macbeth and believes that he deserves to be honored, but Macbeth is motivated by personal greed and intends to do whatever he can to further his position.The quote demonstrates that the king has a very high opinion of Macbeth and values qualities such as valor, loyalty, and true friendship. He wants to honor those who exhibit such qualities, and we see him placing his hopes into Macbeth, believing Macbeth is one of his biggest supporters.The tragic tone starts to permeate the play once we realize that Macbeth is ready to abuse the trust which king Duncan has put in him for the sake of fulling his own evil ambitions. Although he has every reason to protect the king, Macbeth dares to create disorder by plotting to kill him so that he can become the king himself. He murders Duncan, but that very action will ultimately result in Macbeth’s own downfall.
Ongoing themes FateNature and the unnaturalAmbitionViolenceManhood
Deeper themes re are the main themes with supporting quotes from Act I of Macbeth:Ambition can subvert reason”Thou wouldst be great; art not without ambition, but without the illness should attend it.”-Act I, Scene 5When supernatural powers represent evil, they should be ignored.”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.”-Act I, Scene 3Appearances do not always reflect reality.”There’s no art to find the mind’s construction in the face. He was a gentleman on whom I built an absolute trust.”-Act I, Scene 4Despite prophecies of the future, people are responsible for their own actions.”If you can look into the seeds of time and say which grain will grow and which will not, speak then to me, who neither beg nor fear your favors nor your hate.”-Act I, Scene 3
Themes Continued Deception:The line “Fair is foul, and foul is fair” adds to this supernatural feel and also introduces another key theme—deception. So, right from Act I, the reader is prepared to understand that not everything is quite as it seems in this story. This theme is also important in Scenes 6 and 7 when Macbeth is preparing to murder King Duncan.Loyalty and ambition:Finally, the theme of loyalty is also significant in the first Act. As we see from the descriptions of Macbeth on the battlefield, he appears to be an extremely loyal and dedicated servant of King Duncan. But, as the act unfolds, we realize that his loyalty is questionable. Again, this feeds into the theme of deception and also establishes the theme of ambition.

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